Thursday, 29 November 2012

Banding together.

Can you feel the love?  You certainly can't see the band.  

There was a lot of love in the room at the final Band performance of the year.

It was hot.  We were sweaty.

150 odd kids in red shirts with big shiny instruments were hot and sweaty too.  Especially after running around outside screaming before and after their slot.

Junior band was first.  All 72 of them.  They've come a long way in a year.  And together they don't sound half bad.

Then Senior band.  Sarah has been practicing her scales and sight reading for next year's audition into this band.  Entry is NOT guaranteed, although every effort is made to get them through.  There will be some natural attrition too.  This years Senior band (year 4), did a tremendous job.  They sound pretty fabulous for a bunch of 10 year olds.   We clapped and cheered.  There was some wooting.

Finally Concert band.  And here is where I dipped out.  I gathered my flock of three, several times, because they kept escaping and running around with their friends.  So I still got to hear Concert band play because I couldn't leave.  They were sensational.

By this time it was late, nearly 8pm.  Junior band kids start each Thursday at 7:45am for practice.  12 hours later and it's been a long day.  They are only 9.  Many are still 8.  There was lap sitting and shoulder resting from some, and a thin veneer of hysteria brought on by too much excitement, end of year and general nine year old boisterousness from the remainder.  We left.  Just in time I reckon.

It felt good though, being there, watching and listening to these kids, who are truly amazing, with teachers and conductors and parent volunteers who are simply incredible.  I am proud to be part of such a community.  

In a couple of weeks the year 6 cohort will graduate and head off to high school.  Their last term seems to be an endless series of celebrations, ceremonies, dinners, camps and assemblies.  They and their parents must be exhausted.  Our turn is three years away.  I can wait for that.  Yes I can.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Yoga: Making my mind say nothing and act casual, not easy.

Never will I ever look like this.  BUT I will have the inner peace to accept it. 
I have started doing yoga once a week.  For inner sanity and general stretchiness.  Known in the trade as flexibility.

I have tight hamstrings, long legs and a short body (proportionally speaking). Overall, I'm just short.  I can't and have never been able to touch my toes, put my head on my knees, or any of those fancy pants things you see ultra yogic, fit, stretchy, show off people do.

It's tricky stuff, even the slow Hatha style we are doing.  Which involves lots of slow stretching and pose holding.  You have to focus and work really hard to get it right.

And most of the class, my friend C and I have to work really hard at not catching each others eye and falling about laughing.  Because that would really spoil the concentration and karma and peacefulness.

It's held in our little row of shops, our wee local village.  I regularly and happily attend this village to visit the butcher, baker, candlestick maker oops sorry wrong century, coffee shop, newsagency and do yoga.  In the right environment, with the right companions, also do a fair bit of chatting up here.

The yoga studio is in between the bakery and the butcher.  The butcher is next to the coffee shop. It's 10:30am and busy.  For 1 1/4 hours we are inside the studio in the dim light with the door shut and the blinds down getting our bodies into uncomfortable poses.  And during this time you might hear:

  • The butchers chopping the shit out of some poor dead cow (oh the irony).
  • An entire conversation between two people right outside, covering all manner of subjects, some of which you wish you couldn't hear.   
  • An argument between the Australia Post guy and the hapless shopper who parked in the Australia Post designated parking spot without realising it.  
  • Someone's Cavoodle attempting to have intimate relations with someone's labradoodle and both owners frantically trying to pull them apart.   
  • The voice of the person you've been trying to catch at school for ages to give them money for the teachers gift/talk to them about their builders and would they recommend them/ask if their kid wants a playdate with your kid.  And you're trapped and the moment is lost.  And you're supposed to be zen and internally focussed and you're not.  More shame on you (me, actually).
Silencing the inner voice is the hardest part of yoga, add to this difficulty a whole lot of external voices and it can be hard to concentrate.  But bizarrely I love it.   I would like to do it once a week forever.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Soul destroying, ceaseless monotony

Sheer crapness.  No culinary inspiration here.  How's that 70's mission brown? 

I spend far more time than I would like in the kitchen.

If you know me you will know my favourite blogger in the world is the fiendishly clever Mrs Woog from Woogsworld.  Her bio says she can be found "in the laundry, folding laundry, sorting laundry or dropping off the dry cleaning".  The laundry is NOT her happy place.  It's not mine either, but for some reason, perhaps because I am a poor housekeeper, I don't spend much time there.

My laundry visits go like this: descend to basement with full basket, stuff contents of basket into front loader with almost no regard to colour, fabric or state of dirtiness.  Put cup of wash stuff in drawer thingie.  Turn on.  Leave quickly.

Maybe once a week, I might put preen on a garment.  Very occasionally I do a gentle wash.  My washing machine has a hand wash cycle and I believe it, and use it when the label says to.  Nothing has died yet.

But the kitchen.  Oh the kitchen.  I spend hours and hours there.  And I hate them all.

In the mornings I make lunches, I make toast or porridge so no-one scalds or electrocutes themselves because the only place worse than the kitchen is the emergency department of RNS.  I clean up.  Occasionally I eat my own breakfast.  More often not because there's never time.

In the afternoons I cut fruit for afternoon tea, I dole out sweet biscuits and negotiate for popcorn instead of chips.  I make Mike's fruit salad breakfast.  I cut cheese and fruit for the next day's lunches.

Later I make dinner.  Chop veg, steam rice, boil pasta, stir various proteins around in various receptacles.  No matter what I'm cooking it always seems to take forever.  The recipes might say they are quick, easy, no fuss.  It's all a lie.  I make a mess.  And clean up.  More forever.

I grow herbs, which either die, or I forget to use them.

I buy lemons and limes and forget to use them too.

My garlic is always from a jar.

Although yesterday in a rare fit of energy we made pizza dough from scratch instead of using pita breads.  It was kinda fun.

Normally, the kitchen does not make me feel happy, or content.  Partially because it's crap.  And partially because I find the day to day cooking and preparation of food tedious and boring.

Dinner party and social cooking is more fun.  But not in this kitchen as it is.  Nothing is fun in the kitchen as it is.

Because of the layout I can't see the kids when I'm in there, so they are always reading when they should be eating, standing when they should be sitting, drawing when they should be doing homework, terrorising the bird, or just plain AWOL.

And yes, I am only about 6 months away from a big breakfast bar.  And a lovely new kitchen.  But I know, even as I enjoy the space of bench and cabinetry of the new space, I still won't love the time I have to spend ensuring a family of 5 get enough healthy (ish) food to eat every day.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this.  And yes, I know I'm a whinger and should be grateful for my house/food/kids.  But today I'm grumpy.  Sorry.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Old sayings are a load of old bollocks.

Time to question the wisdom of our forebears with a bit of 21st Century common sense. 
Sometimes I think a few of those old sayings need a bit of a revamp.  And some of them I wonder if they were ever true at all.  As I contemplate my navel I can think of several in circulation which could be considered a complete load.

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Bollocks to that.  I've been hurt by words heaps of times.  Words can hurt for years.  They are one serious weapon.  And everyone knows it.  If you've got skin thick enough that words don't hurt you, you are lucky indeed.  Me, I'd take the sticks and stones any day.  Although I reckon they'd hurt you too.

Sarah came home from school the other day miserable because a kid at school had said something nasty to her.  She said "Mum, that old saying isn't true is it, because words do hurt, I hurt now".  She's so right.  And I hurt right along with her, in that spot in the middle of your chest that always seems to ache when they tell you something sad.  It's a helpless ache.

Rolling stones gather no moss.

Now I'm not a huge traveller these days, but in my time, I got about.  We rolled, Mike and I, stonelike, over a decent part of the world.  And we gathered moss.  If by moss you mean lifelong friendships.  Several of the people we met while travelling were in our bridal party.  One is godparent to our eldest.  I can think of three people we met overseas who still live in different states now, who we have made the effort to catch up with in the past few months or will be seeing in the next few.  Not to mention the ones we keep in touch with on Facebook. And the ones who live around the corner.  And I know we are not alone in this.  So what's with the rolling stone palaver?

When the kids get older, much as it will wrench my heart into tiny ragged pieces, I will encourage them to travel overseas, to meet people from other countries, or people from their country who they wouldn't have met, if they didn't share a love of travel.  Which they will have to have, surely, being our children? They can gather some moss of their own.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Yeah right.  Not in this world.  If I went slow and steady I'd never do anything.  The kids go slow and steady in the mornings and if they went much slower we'd be turning up to school at 9:30.

The Mall: no way, it's get in, and get out, do what's on your list and get the pluck out of there.  Slow and steady would just mean I'd get stuck in a mire of indecision or buy a pair of shoes I had no idea I needed.  In this case, it's fast and furious all the way.  Race won, job done.

The grocery shopping:  Seriously, who wants to spend a minute more in the supermarket than is absolutely necessary?  Especially when you have at least one, maybe two and occasionally three preschoolers with you.  No stopping or hesitating here.  Grab trolley, stow preschoolers inside and push 90kg around the aisles, flinging random objects in.  The kids step all over the watermelon and I never stop for more than 3 seconds.

Maybe in some cases, taking it easy is a good thing.  In fact, anything requiring neat presentation or artistic talent probably needs a bit of slowness.  Anyone who has ever read my handwriting knows I do not inhabit this world.

One man's (or person's/family's) trash is another's treasure.  

Yeah, I know, we all love household cleanup time.  We love to look at the stuff other people have chucked out as we drive the local streets and we love stickybeaking at the neighbours reject pile.  We love the cleansing act of chucking out our stuff and going through our toys/garages/husbands stuff looking for things which are no longer needed.  Well, some of us do.  Others, not so much.

Many are the items I have put onto the verge, only to find them mysteriously appear back in the house only hours later.  Occasionally, if I'm feeling persistent, this can turn into a weird stealth mind game, as the 'keeper' hides their treasure in several sneaky spots to stop the 'thrower' from having their way.

I always win.  *evil laugh*

My point: every item I have EVER picked up from someone else's verge has been in my household clean up 6 months later.  Why?  Because it was junk in the first place and it still is.  It is not treasure, it is JUNK.  'nuff said.

And one that's true, proven time and time again?  Say nothing, act casual.  Works every time.  Total winner.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

The Red Rocket's Big Trip To Mollymook.

It's not easy, getting away for a weekend with your husband.  Without the kids.  

Firstly we don't have any local grandparent action.  However, we are lucky enough to have grandparents, or should I say, Mike has parents who are willing and able to travel.  They even come with their own motorhome.  

The (very small) downside of this method of travel is that we then can't go anywhere without hiring or borrowing a car because they can't use the motorhome to ferry the kids around the local suburbs.

And ferry they did, because for some reason the afternoon of 24th November was an epicentre of activity as far as our children's social lives were concerned.  One preschool party, one birthday party, a tball game and a piano concert later, it was time for a Bex and a good lie down for Nana and Poppy.  

Can I just say, we had the weekend away booked and sorted weeks before any of the other commitments rolled in.  We weren't trying to avoid them.  Really.  

So what we did have to do, was borrow a car.  Because I didn't remember to book a hire car until Tuesday and it was proving extremely hard to find one that was A. available and B. not needing to be collected from Penrith and dropped at Campbelltown.  

So we borrowed the 'Red Rocket'.  A 15 year old Subaru hatchback.  A real little goer.  Look at her.  Well her dashboard anyway.  Her generous owners were terrified we wouldn't make it and she would curl up and refuse to travel beyond the city limits.  But she showed a real sense of adventure and never let us down.  Bless her. 

Red safely took us through 5 hours of Sydney, Albion Park and Nowra traffic, and we eventually arrived at our destination.  The first thing I noticed was this contraption in the bathroom.  Mike and both suggested several uses for it (some of them x rated of course), but we still don't know what they are.  

I thought hair curlers but they weren't hot to touch.  I am still mystified.   I would love to know what they are.  

So this was the view from the room.

Yep, pretty awful.

If you couldn't be bothered standing up, you could take this picture from the bed.

It was altogether wonderful.  Delicious food, a cheeky champs or two, and time spent with the man I love.  We go well together.  And we are pretty good at falling back into 'just us' when we get the opportunity.  
And this afternoon, three pairs of arms were very happy to greet us and welcome us home.  We gave Red back to her owners (who were VERY pleased to see her) and re-embraced the concept of a car with air conditioning.   Then we celebrated Mike's Mum's birthday with a family BBQ and all was goodness. 

Grateful I am.  Yes.  

Thursday, 22 November 2012

More than I wanted to know about common garden vermin.

Having been brought up to believe snails to be vermin I was a bit surprised to receive a note from Josh's science teacher asking for materials for a snail house.  

I was even more surprised to read that the sort of things a snail might consider homely consisted of shoeboxes, egg cartons, margarine tubs and loo paper rolls.  

Who knew? 

So this is Jonn (yes Jonn), the snail.  We had to find Jonn ourselves after school, but Josh spent his entire science session creating this snail mansion.  Well, if I were a snail, I'd want to move in immediately yes?

Jonn, as you can see, prefers the margarine container to the toilet roll.  
Now last time I read anything about snails it was because a kid somewhere had become terribly sick from touching a snail because they can ingest phenomenal amounts of snail poison and still live.  And if your kid touches a snail and then puts their hand near their mouth they can ingest the poison too.  

Nasty stuff.  Plus, snails are revolting.  

 And here is the local primary school encouraging interaction with these heinous creatures.  

Jonn with the lid shut.  I prefer him this way.  Even better if he was not there at all.  

We found Jonn while walking to our friends house around the corner to pick up their car.   They have kindly let us borrow their second car to drive to Mollymook for the weekend.  

Because tomorrow, Mike's parents arrive in their way cool motorhome and taking over the reins while we piss off to the south for 48 hours.  

I can't wait.  At least if I wasn't so tired I wouldn't be able to wait.  As it is, I would happily spend 48 hours in a quiet, dark room and be happy.  

I think my travelling companion is fairly weary himself.  It might be a quiet weekend.  Hopefully we can stay awake long enough to um...connect and engage meaningfully with each other.   

Or maybe I can just go to sleep.  

Anyway, I am extremely grateful for the loan of the car, and after handing over our children's complex social lives to Nana and Poppy, I am gettin' in the red rocket and heading south, to collect my husband and spend hours in the carpark otherwise known as the road through Engadine.  

The kids are (rightly) beside themselves with excitement to see their grandparents.  I am pretty excited myself.  

I just hope Jonn survives the weekend.  

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Why this is my favourite photo in the world.

Well, you might say, why wouldn't it be?  How could it not be?  

Look at them.  All four of them.  My loves, my soul, my reasons for getting up every morning.  

Look at them looking at Issy.  See how big Mike's hands are, how carefully he holds her, how he must be saying, gentle, soft, here she is, isn't she beautiful? He holds her tight and keeps her safe, but lets them see her face and touch her little head.  

See Joshie, gently stroking her.  He loves her already, you can tell.  He thinks it's magical.  He turned 2 only 6 weeks before.  He is still a baby himself. 

Sarah is looking intently at Issy's face, taking her in, realising she has a sister.  She turned 4 two days before and has now been made a big sister twice.  She loves Issy already too, it's clear on her face.  

Mike is torn between gazing in wonder at his newborn daughter, and introducing his bigger (but still not very big at all) kids to her so they can see her and feel her and welcome her to our family.  

When they arrived that day she was lying in her little box thing with her head close to the path past the bed.  As they came through they were talking.  Issy's head turned from the door and followed their sound as they walked past her head, to the other side of the room.  She recognised their voices, which, I realised, she'd been listening to for weeks now.   She was 6 hours old, but I saw it.  I did.  

When she arrived that day, it just felt right.  She was the missing puzzle piece.  We were done, we were so incredibly lucky and we knew it.  

This photo sits next to my bed.  I look at it every day.  I can't imagine ever changing it.  

Anyone else got a favourite photo?  

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Four of my best acts of genius.

Sometimes, I surprise myself.  Sadly, not very often.

1. Sarah's Thursday gym drop off coincides perfectly with the end of Josh's t ball practice, only a 10 minute drive away.

2. I convinced Issy that going through the auto car wash and helping me vacuum the car out was one of the 'fun things we're doing together before you go to school' activities.

3. I gave Sarah a key to the house so she can let herself in, because some days she likes to walk home and I get Josh separately.  So if I get caught (chatting), she can go inside and start raiding the pantry her homework.  So far, because of various moments of idiocy, I have needed to sneak up to school three times and take it off her bag to let myself into the house when I've locked myself out.  Two of these times my phone has been inside so I couldn't call my trusty spare key holder friend.  One of these times at least one child was still in pyjamas (it was Thursday, and band is at 7:45am and we were having a shocker).

Act of genius? Perhaps not so much.  More like several acts of stupidity saved by a bit of good luck.

4. One melon baller, three children and one watermelon become a pockmarked watermelon rind very quickly.  And no whinging.  We are trying it tomorrow on honeydew.  Who knew balls of melon were so appealing?

Self serve fruit balls.  
It was supposed to be five, but I just can't think of a fifth.  Clearly I'm dumber than I thought.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Can Your Marriage Survive Pinterest?

I have a man who is fully in touch with his inner interior designer.

We are coming up now to our third renovation.  Me, I am not a renovator.  What I am, is part of a couple who want a house somewhere particular, can't afford a nice one, but can (just) afford a crap one.

So we have a bit of a cycle going on.

We buy a crap house in our preferred location.  After 6 months/a year/five minutes of living in the crap one, we realise this is not sustainable and we start making plans to renovate, this generally takes approximately 2-3 years to get off the ground.  We renovate, are very pleased with the result, which we live in happily for approximately 2-3 more years.  And then we move.  Because we've found a crap house in a location we like better.

Madness, utter madness.

Cute as a button? We didn't even notice there was no oven until we moved in.   
I have lived in a house with no oven.

We made it look nice, albeit a bit dated now.  Check out that blue glass and black granite.  Whew!
I have lived in a house with no sink and washed up in a bucket.

I have lived, eaten, relaxed, and cooked in a 3m x 3m room in our Balmain house for 2 months.

I have suffered horrendous Issy related morning sickness while living in the sunroom of our Balgowlah house.  Sarah (aged 3) drew a picture of a huge mouth with sharp teeth at preschool and called it a grumpy thing.  I asked if it was me and her eyes filled with tears and she nodded.

Cue immeasurably high levels of guilt.

Look! No bathroom!

But slowly, it came together.
And in the end, looked like this.  With added bonus children.  The third one is just below the camera disguised as a 34 week bump.
Now, Mike is a bit of a renovator.  He likes it much more than me.  And he is a more highly driven and motivated person too, so when he renovates, the whole world renovates with him.  Well the Christensen world anyway.

He shows our architectural plans to anyone who ventures past the front door.

He discusses at length with me and anyone close by, the benefits of wood vs aluminium or the pros and cons of hard flooring in high traffic areas, and he loves making a good house, from the ground up, not just the bits that show.  He is not just a renovator, he is a renovator with integrity.

Compared to him, I am a lazy assed tinkerer.

So anyhoo, in my lazy assed tinkering manner, I started a Pinterest Board.  I put some stuff on it, nothing to do with houses and renos, but then I found a few mudroom photos I liked and created a board around it.

One of the best. 
A mudroom, for those of you wondering (probably not many) is a room where you put ALL your crap. It is the first room you enter in the house and before entering the rest of the house you put your shoes, jacket, school bag (sans lunchbox which you keep and put on the kitchen bench- yes it's a daydream OK), tennis racquet, runners...etc.  It is popular in climates where you do have a lot of outer wear and presumably a lot of mud, and keeps the rest of the house clean and free  Theoretically of course.

I am getting a mudroom.  Well, not really.  It's more of a mudhallwaycupboard.  But still.

So as our plans for our third (AND FINAL) reno begn to take shape and we ventured out to start picking materials, I started putting a few more reno ideas on Pinterest, and took some photos at the tile shop and the bathroom fitting shop and the wooden floor shop (after three shops the kids were begging for mercy so we stopped).  These all went up on to the board.

I showed Mike.  He liked it.  He liked it so much he joined Pinterest.

And then he went nuts.

He has now pinned way more stuff than me.  I am his IT helpdesk, and if he gets stuck I have to stop what I am doing and help him.

He now shows his Pinterest boards to anyone foolish enough to cross the threshold (and the plans if they haven't seen them).

He gets upset if someone likes one of my pins and not his.

He even got upset because I had more followers.  I have...wait for it...15.  He has 3.  Me and our two architects.  I have begged a couple of friends to follow him so he feels loved.

Have I created a monster, or a really handy way of keeping all our ideas together?

I think the latter, because last Friday we were able to show our architects our boards, I rang in on Skype and we had a really productive 2 hour meeting.  Talk about your technology.

And honestly, if it wasn't for him and his amazing motivation I'd still be living in the unrenovated house in Balmain with no oven and 1 square metre of bench space and old carpet reminiscent of the previous owner blue cattle dog.  So I embrace my Pinterest loving, obsessive husband, and love him all the more for it.

And maybe, in the not too distant future, his tenacity will help to get rid of this, and wouldn't that be amazing.

Possibly...the crappest kitchen in the world. 

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Another year older, and happy indeed.

This birthday was one of thanksgiving.  Being grateful for the completely marvellous life I have and the people in it.

Firstly my family.  They satisfy my soul.  Having them all with me on my birthday was just the best.

My sister came, with my nephew.  They came for lunch and a sleepover.  Lunch was at a low key cafe with lots of water to look at.  We ate, we drank (French as befits a birthday).

Issy went to a birthday party for a friend, because what weekend goes by without someone having a party to go to.

Finally, thanks to my sister being willing to take on our three single handed, Mike and I went out to dinner a deux.  But we were so knackered, we were home by not long after 8:30.  We all sat on the couch under the throw rugs, and watched The Lord of the Rings.  It was fabulous.

I had phone calls, and texts.  I talked to lots of people I loved.  Family and friends who lift my heart.

This morning we made an early start and did another practice session for Coastrek.  We walked the soft sand of several beaches.  Then we walked steep rocky paths.  It was, frankly, hell on the legs.  But we talked, and talked and talked.

It's completely excellent fun, even if your legs ache like buggery.

Then we went for lunch.  At Hugos.  A girlie lunch with fabulous girls.  More time spent with people I love who enrich my life.

I am one lucky 41 year old.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Winning the fight against thumbsucking. Failing the fight against pool toys.

Ladies and gentlemen, we no longer have a thumbsucker.  It is official.  I thought it would be a screaming, kicking nightmare.  I've been putting it off for ages.  But with the third dentist's appointment looming since we promised to work on it, I knew I could delay no longer.  

So we talked about it.  Endlessly.  She cried.  Gnashed her teeth (sort of).  Refused.  Cried more.  

We made a promise to conquer the thumb by the end of October.  

We discussed our methodology.  First elastoplast or a big bandaid wrapped around it, and if that didn't work, some stop'n'grow stuff painted over that.  And if that didn't work we had no idea.   

We bought the tape and the stop'n'grow and still we waited.  October ticked by.  She still wasn't convinced it was the right thing to do.  I hesitated, then I realised what she needed was an incentive. 

So I let her pick a prize.  Out of a Rebel Sport catalogue of all things.  I think I was worried she'd ask for something pink and plastic.  Plus, this way she picked something for everyone.    

And this is her selection.  

It's like, a little waterslide.  Into the pool.  I know it's obvious from the picture that it is a blow up toy, but the implications of this did not hit me until I had to blow it up.  

For verily in truth, once she had something cool to aim for, she ditched that thumb like a non winning lick a prize paddle pop stick.  

I strapped her with elastoplast.  She cried a bit.  The first night was a bit miserable but she was brave and determined.  Four days later she was done.  No stop'n'grow required.  

Unfortunately, nearly 14 days later, the damn slide still hasn't made it to the pool.  

At first I tried to blow it up by using just the air that resided in my lungs.  The thing is enormous.  I might have finished by Christmas 2013.  Then I found the foot pump we take camping, attached it, and pumped for maybe 30 seconds before losing interest and wandering off.  It then lay, untouched, for a week before I realised that enormity of the task was beyond my powers of breath or foot. 

Luckily at this point, someone offered an electric pump.  Issy and I hooked it up on Tuesday and managed to get it to the point you see below.  Then I realised I had to move it from the spare room where it had spent the last few weeks, to outside, before it got much bigger.  

Note: our house has stupid narrow doors.  No idea why.  

I pushed and shoved that baby through two doorways.  The kids were eating breakfast at the time, and laughed so hard they all sprayed weetbix everywhere.  

Nothing like a mad, swearing mother with a large blow up pool toy to brighten up your morning is there?

Finally it's outside.  On the back deck.  I still need to blow it up a bit more, haul it downstairs to the pool, fill two pouches on either side with water to stabilise it, and attach a hose for water flow so it gets slippery.  

Issy's completely thumb free.  And I haven't fulfilled my part of the bargain.  Best get onto that.  

Wish me luck.  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

10 ways I can tell 2012 is on the way out.

This is a very scary sight. 
1.  The kids are knackered.  And naughty.  And really grumpy.  They are sick of readers, piano and sax practice, homework and sports practice.

2.  I too, am knackered and grumpy and I'm sick of making them do stuff, or taking them to it.

3.  I am only capable of thinking of the day ahead when I wake up.  Not much planning, just a lot of flying by the seat of my pants.  Disaster is very close, I'm sure.  You'll know because I'll blog about it.

4.  It's my birthday soon.  My birthday falls at the tired end of the year, when everyone should be too exhausted to celebrate, but silly season dictates that it's actually an excellent reason to celebrate.  So we do.  Any other behaviour would be churlish.  Bring it on.

5.  It's mid November and I haven't bought any Christmas presents.  Not one.

6.  The school is about to stage it's annual talent quest, and I am about to stage my annual talent quest related nervous breakdown.  I. Just. Can't. Watch.  I'm sorry.  Whether my kid is in an act or not.  It doesn't matter.

7.  Not only have the supermarkets started stocking Christmas related stuff (since like...October) but I went and bought some.  New baubles.  We don't need any, I just have a very persuasive five year old.  You've met her before.

8.  People keep talking about how few weeks of school are left and how fast they are going, causing me to have panic attacks at how much is to be done and how little time there is to do it.

9.  I feel terribly sad because my two school kids have had such excellent teachers this year and I know the odds of all three of them having a good one next year are just too long to contemplate.

10.  Despite all this, I'm excited because in 17 days we put up the Christmas tree and start playing Christmas carols in the car.  I can belt out O Holy Night really badly in the car instead of Adele and I can't wait.

Monday, 12 November 2012

The day I become one of THOSE parents.

The subject of quite a bit of angst.  She has no idea.  Look at that smile! 
Yep, I did it.  I went to see the Principal.  Actually, the Assistant or Deputy Principal.

You see, I was upset about one of my kids.  Funnily enough, the one that hasn't even started school yet.

It's a bit of a story, if you can bear with me.

When you turn up at orientation, your receive three sheets of paper to fill out.

1.  Your point of view of the child, likes/dislikes, strengths/weaknesses, illnesses, allergies, and most importantly, besties they'd like to be in a class with.  There is not exactly a question for this, but it comes under the guise of:

What do you think your child needs to best settle into their school life? (or something similar).
Then you list out a few kids they really like, so starting school is fun and not scary and weird.

2.  The child's point of view.

What they like- Issy: chocolate, rainbows, my sister (I made her also say her brother although sadly she was cross with him at the time and wanted to leave him out), my friends.

What they want their teacher to know about them-  Issy: my name.

What do you think you will learn at school- Issy: eat lunch and find the toilet.

Complex stuff huh?

3.  The Preschool's point of view. From the Director.  About their readiness for school, ability to sit, concentrate, listen, focus and socialise.

Now while I think our director is a dedicated, well trained Early Childhood expert, she doesn't really like Issy.  Issy is annoying, often.  She challenges adults and is cheeky in a way that I find really embarrassing.  I warn her time and time again but she still does it.  And sometimes she does it when I'm not there so I either hear about it later or never.

So Issy's preschool form was not exactly complimentary, and while it said she was fine for social and literary skills, it also said she was a terrible interrupter, distracter, and know it all.

Damn.  I know this.  But I was hoping the school could find out themselves instead of her being identified as a troublemaker before her first day.

It went on to recommend she not be with ANY of her best friends because she would distract them too.

I also found out her name is on several other kid's papers recommending she is not put with them.  Because clearly she is an evil influence who will ruin the other child with her terrible distracting ways, spoiling forever their chance at a good education.

Yes, I am bitter, and slightly unhinged.

I think what she needs is a strict teacher who doesn't take any s**t, but kind of likes her anyway (because she is a perky little thing) and just one good friend so she can enjoy herself and settle in quickly.

I also know that Issy being Issy, she will make a new friend and begin to distract them, if there is not one that she already knows, so any attempt to separate her from distracting influences won't work.

Perhaps she needs a class by herself.

My friends, the other preschool Mum's and friends and other school Mum's etc, have listened and been lovely and supportive and listened to me bang on about it endlessly.  Thanks guys.

So a bit hurt and stung by the rather damning assessment of my precious baby, I went on to write a letter, disputing a good deal of what had been said, and making my own (completely biased and uneducated) recommendations.  I also voiced my displeasure that her name had been put down as a bad influence on so many kids forms and begged them to wait and see for themselves, because she does have some good points and she is a work in progress.

And I gave it to the Assistant/Deputy/Whatever Principal.  She a brilliant person.  She is very kind and down to earth and takes no shit.  She might read it.  She might put it in the bin.  I told her I just wanted to have my say, that I was better at writing than talking, that I didn't want to go on about it any more (cause that's what this blog and about a billion phone calls and conversations since last Friday are for) and left her to it.

I worried all day, and the interaction took 30 seconds.

Fate will decide.  And I keep telling myself whatever happens, Issy'll be right.  Bless her.

We shall not speak of this again.  Promise.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

The early bird. Is very tired now.

Next March I am doing Coastrek.  It's a 50km walk from Palm Beach to Balmoral which raises funds for the Fred Hollows foundation, returning sight to thousands of kids in third world countries.

I like to think I'm not completely unfit.  I run a few times a week (mostly).  But walking 50km.  Jaysus.

We walk in a team of 4.  My team is made up of 4 school Mums, all of whom I love.  They are excellent chicks that I can totally imagine walking 50 km with.  I hope they feel similarly about me.

This morning three of us did a three hour walk around part of the track.  After three hours, my feet hurt, I had mild sunburn on my already damaged d├ęcolletage (growing up in Qld will do that for you) and my left hip was reminding me it existed instead of quietly going about it's business of swinging my left leg back and forth.

Even though I like to think I'm not in bad shape, a 12 hour walk is going to be a real challenge.

What I am not worried about is the view we are going to have when we do the trek.  Here is a sample of what we gazed upon this morning.

From 40 Baskets Beach looking over at Fairlight.  Or thereabouts. 

Up on North Head there is a wall you have to walk through.  They've cut a convenient hole for  this purpose. 

And on the other side of the whole is a view to the ocean.  

And some beaches.  Loads of them.  Coastrek takes us past all of the Northern Beaches.  There's loads of 'em.
Our feet are really going to hurt after this.  I need new shoes now, so I can wear them in.  And the right socks.  And a good sports bra that doesn't rub (sorry any blokes reading this).

Do I take a camel pack (that's a small backpack full of water for those of you wondering)?  Or carry a water bottle?  Or hope I come across enough water bubblers and support stations?  Bum bag?

Can we stop for a coffee?

Mike is taking the day off, to be part of our support crew.  He is dead keen.  He wants to do the Oxfam walk later in the year where I will, in turn, support him.

That's a helluvua lot of walking isn't it?

See!  Pretty flowers!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The weirdest morning ever.

It's been a freakish morning.  Although not in a bad way.  It's like the space-time continuum has given me a break for once.

Please understand, I am not trying to show off, most mornings are an out of control whirlwind of cereal, toast, shouting, homework, sax practice, complaining, birdseed and off milk.

Today it is eerily quiet.  Look.

See! Weird. 
You can't see the detail from the photo but not only are the kids all ready for school with hair done, but the birdcage is clean and I've swept the floor.

It's 8:18am.  What is going on???

I rose early (5:40), made myself a cuppa and worked on a bit of writing until 6:45.  So I didn't get up and frantically do stuff to give myself a head start or anything.

Then, at 6:46 I remembered all the sheets needed changing.  So I did that.  All four beds.  And put on the first wash.

Then, I made three lunches, helped with three breakfasts and ate my own breakfast.

Note: Last week I NEVER once ate breakfast before I took the kids to school.  I never had time.

I'm started to feel afraid.

I've done two lots of hair, made sure Josh has his library books and readers, and am now supervising homework.  Which they are doing, without complaining.

I've taken the meat out of the freezer for tonights dinner.

Josh now has his shoes on and is taking out the recycling.

No nagging was used on the subject of this photo.
This sort of thing happens occasionally, when we have mornings where everything runs beautifully, according to plan, no yelling, no forgetting, all on time.  Then the next day we're all frantic, cranky, running late, missing homework.  But I can't put my finger on why.  It could be any day of the week, there is no pattern.

At least today I am appreciating it.  And recording it forever.  And I've blogged.  Another tick!

It's an uneasy feeling of the calm before the storm.  That's OK.  Because I am completely certain it is only temporary and tomorrow we return to the madness.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

If the Melbourne Cup was an exam, I just failed it.


On Melbourne Cup day, the lines are clearly drawn.  You're either into it, or you're not.  And this year I'm just not.

If you have a 'real' job you get to go to work, join the office sweep, eat a bit of lunch put on for you and your colleagues if you're lucky.  Or go out for the time honoured fail to return luncheon (FTR).

Aaah I remember those days.

You might have a fancier dress on than usual, or funky shoes.  You plan to do very little work, if any and hope the champagne doesn't run out.  

Out in the suburbs, there are still luncheons going on.  I have been to a few.  Last year I even got all excited and hosted one and it was loads of fun.  Hugo's at Manly is (so I've heard) going to be wall-to-wall mums from the school.  Our after school care has been booked out for this afternoon for months.  Based on the vastly diminished number of people at school pick up, they are all somewhere Cupping away.

But today, I just can't be bothered.  I'm taking a year off the Melbourne Cup.  This morning I took Issy to the zoo with a friend from preschool.  It was splendid.  Talk about the clash of the A type personalities.  Her friend's Mum is German and completely disinterested in the Cup so we got along famously.

Confession: I did enter a sweep at my coffee shop.  I bought a horse for each kid.  Mike (a Melbourne Cup humbug if ever there was one) has also bought them one each from his work.

Maybe it's because I just don't enjoy horse racing, or going to the races.  I have been once, in Brisbane.  Based on that experience, if I never go to the races again, I will not be sad.  All that standing around in uncomfortable shoes just doesn't appeal.  I don't understand the odds, how to bet or where to bet.  I don't think I'd be any fun to go with because I'd just stand around with a confused expression.  Plus, I'm afraid of sinking in the grass and doing a Julia Gillard.

God I sound such a grumpy bum.  Sorry.

And finally there's the obvious discrepancy of the race being on EXACTLY when school finishes.  What were they thinking? Who are 'they' anyway?  I know Melbourne gets a public holiday but what about the rest of us?

Does any other city in the WORLD get a public holiday for a horse race? Discuss.

I think Perth would be a fine place to live for Melbourne Cup.  Race at midday, coupla hours of champagne and nibbles and then pick the kids up (obviously not in the car).

I think I may be fundamentally lazy.  I'd rather watch it on TV.  Which is what I just did.  With my 5 year old.  Bah Humbug to me.

PS.  One of my sweep horses was Fiorente.  Might be a free flat white for me!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Children, and their usefulness in daily household tasks.

This could also be titled, who to get your little darlings to do stuff for you so you don't have to do it.

And before you think I'm getting all Mary Poppinsy on you, don't worry, I am not magic, don't carry a freakish carpet bag and neither do my kids enjoy doing mundane tasks.  Happily, I do have occasional success, sadly it's mostly when cash is involved.

Exhibit A.  The self serve checkout.

After a bit of training, she can beep like a champion.
Now this is a kids dream.  The power, the control.  The freedom to beep your own groceries.  Who cares if you're all fighting over who gets to beep the pikelets or making sure everyone individually beeps their own chocolate milk.  And never mind the queue of angry customers watching you call the attendant back again and again.  The kids love it, I don't have to do it, and neither do I have to talk to Elaine in checkout 3 about her upcoming hysterectomy, and that's all that matters surely?

Excellent technique. 
Advice:  Only take one child.  It's much easier because they are completely in charge.  And try not to do it at mad times like Saturday afternoons or straight after school drop off because people will hate you.

Exhibit B.  The dishwasher.

Ok now I'll admit I pay Sarah to empty this, or at least, it's part of her pocket money requirements.  But it works a treat.  Sometimes I'll even come downstairs in the morning to find it empty, with only a few items left on the bench because she can't reach the cupboards they're in.  This is because our kitchen is COMPLETELY CRAP.

Advice: The ideal kitchen layout for this to garner the most benefits is one where none of the dishwasherable items are stored above the benches.  Unlikely and impractical?  Sadly yes.

Exhibit C.  The recycling.

Now the handy part about this one, is that school is really big on environmental stuff.  So for Josh to be responsible for taking out the recycling not only helps me, but makes him a star to his teacher on news day.  Every day or so, he pulls out the two manky old beer cartons from under the sink (one for bottles, one for paper) and dumps them unceremoniously into their appropriate council bins outside.  For this, he receives $2 a week.

Manky beer cartons go with our current kitchen decor.
Advice A: Don't make your child take out the bottle bin on the Monday after a weekend of hosting.  Apart from the wrongness of it, he won't be able to pick it up, so dense with champagne and beer bottles it will be.  Don't give your child back troubles before he's even finished growing, and avoid any tricky questions about the consumption habits of you and your friends, and just do it yourself.  Any other time, when you're only dealing with mineral water bottles, tinned tomato cans, butter tubs and the odd Coke Zero, it's a fabulous way to think globally and act locally.

Advice B: In order to avoid finding a lot of paper in your bottle bin (tricky), or bottles in your paper bin (trickier), make sure the child doing the labour can tell blue from yellow and understands the significance of keeping each type of recycling separate.

Exhibit D.  Bed Making.

This is compulsory from age 5 and there is no cash benefit.  So stop arguing, just do it.  I don't care if your doona fell off in the night, how are you supposed to make your way in the world as a responsible adult if a dropped doona stops you dead?  Pick it up and put it back on.  And don't complain to me if your bed is "crinkly" when you get in it at night, you should have straightened the undersheet properly.

Not bad. 
I am the biggest meany no?

While all this industrious activity goes on, I recline gracefully on the couch, sipping cool drinks and watching, sorry Ellen.

Yeah right.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

A toast to Tasmania.

Tasmania does many things well. 

It does great champagne.  I'd like to offer up a special thanks to Jansz. For being there. 

Friday Lunch.  Yes it was a bit chilly. But check out how happy we are..
And of course, there's an exciting freedom to being without your kids, because there are so many things you don't have to do, like make food for anyone else, clean up after them, hell, you don't even have to clean up after yourself. 

There were four of us, my friend J from Bowral (co namer of this blog) and I flew in from Sydney, my friend K came from Melbourne and K's friend J from Perth. 

NB: You will be happy to know the two J's do not share a first name, only a first initial, which is confusing here for the purposes of privacy but was not at all confusing during the weekend. 

At the beginning we did not all know each other, by the end, we were the richer for having spent time together. Sometimes we did stuff together, other times we went solo. No pressure, no agenda. 

No girlie weekend would be complete without a significant focus on eating and food. And Tassie is a complete winner. It's fresh, and beautifully prepared.  Bacon and egg rolls as big as my head, delicious seafood, a most splendid antipasto plate and perhaps some more champagne. Did I mention Jansz? Yes, I think I did. 

I'll say it again...Jansz. 

Hobart's famous museum, the museum of new and old art (MONA) was closed for some fancy schmanchy festival with $600 tickets.  It had a arty name, Synaesthesia or something. I am suspicious of anything that uses the ae when just an e or an a is required.  Is it really necessary? Is it perhaps, a bit of a wank? Maybe I am just ignorant, and a bit bitter because I didn't get to go and by all accounts, it's a marvellous museum.  

Yachts, trees, water...serenity. 
Anyways, once I got over not going to MONA and moved on, we all went for a seafood lunch near the water and started talking.

And we talked
And talked

Sometimes we ate and talked, or drank and talked, or both at once.  Virtually no subject was out of bounds.  We walked and talked and shopped and talked.  We unpacked our troubles to one another and shared points of view. Sometimes we disagreed, sometimes we challenged a thought process, or gave advice.  Sometimes we said nothing and acted casual.  We shared anecdotes about our kids, showed each other photos, became Facebook friends.  And we laughed.  The best thing about a girls weekend is the laughter. Letting your guard down and spilling your guts, and laughing so hard you can't talk any more. 

There was no agenda, no one had to be anywhere at any particular time.  We paired up, peeled off and went solo.  An hour in a bookshop for two of us.  Heaven. A mission for Tasmanian Snowdomes? The other pair took it on and extreme tackiness is the glorious result. 

Did I mention the cakes?
The Salamanca markets were sensational. We shopped and browsed and oohed and aahed for five hours.  No one came away empty handed, presents were bought, kids trinkets and a bit of Christmas shopping in advance.  The food was excellent, the coffee superb, the buskers (mostly) talented.  

The markets just went on and on and on.  Brilliant. 
To counteract some of the damage I was doing by eating three large restaurant meals a day, I took a constitutional each morning.  On the way my friend K and I were impressed by the beautiful houses of Battery Point, a well to do inner suburb of Hobart.  the gardens were gorgeous.  I have never noticed gardens before much but I noticed these.  

See!  Purdy.
As one of the girls said: There's a lot to do in Tasmania. We didn't do any of it. 

Instead, we played according to our own interests and it couldn't have been better.  

Us, not doing anything in Tasmania.
I will leave you with a sign I saw in one of the market stalls. It made me laugh.  

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Heading south for a cool (child free) change.

  Not my favourite airline, but it will do. 

Sometimes a girl needs a bit of time away.  Away from the grind, the relentless repetition, the neediness.

It will all be there when I come back.  And term four being what it is, it will then multiply.

So before the madness really begins, I'm heading south with two of my most special girls.  All the way to Tasmania.

Whooping cough or no whooping cough I am going.  Mike is 'working from home' tomorrow.  And I wish him all the best.

The tears began when I put them to bed, because I'll be gone before they wake up.  It's not like I'm that nice to them, I just think I'm usually around and they're used to my ways.  I told them the two days I'm gone will whiz by.

This I know for sure.

All I know about Hobart is that we are staying somewhere cool called Salamanca Square (or Place).  There is a market, a museum and a nice hotel to stay in.  There will be coffee, wine and shopping.

I cannot imagine anything else I could want.  It will be slightly colder than here but I'm ok with that.

No one to look after except myself.  No one to please but me.  It took me 10 minutes to pack instead of 3 hours.  I can read on the plane.  Or chat to my mate.  I don't have to open poppers, or butter everyone's bread rolls, or negotiate ipod time.

Heaven.  For about 56 hours.  I'd best appreciate every minute before I return to my beloveds.  And in the weird way of families, I will be missing them terribly by the time I return.