Friday, 21 December 2012

My final pre Christmas act of madness

Today in a final act of complete insanity.  We went to the city.  

Yep, totally bonkers.  Told you.

We caught the bus.  That was fun.  We went to Mike's work.  Did some Christmas craft and had a visit from Santa.  Very generous presents were given.  

Then we waved goodbye to Mike and went to David Jones.  

It was utter madness.  I reckon there were 150 people waiting to get into Santa's magic cave.  The vast majority of these people were under 10.  I didn't get a photo but I wish I had.  The queue was just to get into the cave, goodness knows how much longer you waited once you got in.  

Sadly we missed out on visiting David the talking tree, who always is a hit with the kids.  Mainly because his name is David but for some reason he always has a girls voice.  

We left the 6th floor of DJs and headed down to the windows which were beautiful.  Once again it was very busy and it was very easy to lose sight of the kids as they squirmed their way to the front to see.  

With our quest to see Santa unfulfilled, we went for second best and headed to Myer.  Usually we only go there to ride the train and sniff at their Santa set up.  Why?  I have no idea.  

The queue at Myer was this long.  About 1/3 of the size of DJs.  Presumably because I'm not the only one who feels Myer is slightly inferior to David Jones when it comes to Santa Claus.  I must ask one of them why, because now, having done both, I can safely say they both involve unreasonable amounts of waiting time, for a similar experience, including complete rip off prices.  

The kids had time, while we waited, to go on the free train.  Sarah was stoked because she is now 'officially' too big to ride.  Josh was mortified because he is still just small enough and had to accompany his baby sister.  He refused to meet my eye as the train circled the track twice, for a grand journey of approximately 30 seconds.  

Josh refusing to look at me. 
They rejoined me in the queue, which approached Santa, and looked like we were entering a giant mouth, Luna Park style. 

Santa preparing to consume more children.

It's OK kids, he only eats the naughty ones! (thanks J for this excellent one liner)

I whiled away the 45 minutes by texting, talking to the people in front and behind, and telling Josh 800 times that he couldn't have any more Trash Packs.  

Finally we were done.  And I can't show you the photo because the USB version was $45 and that is just ridiculous.  The clever Gen Y photographers superimposed a tray of cookies into Issy's hands and made it look like Josh and Sarah were patting reindeer.

Aah, the wonders of modern technology.  

Finally we went to the food court.  It was 1:30 and we were all starving.  I believe it has been two weeks since I last left the house having consumed breakfast.  Our mornings have become wild frenzies of last minute dashes to the IGA for weetbix or bread.  Breakfast for me, is a thing of the past. Even my morning cup of tea has sat, and sat and sat.  

And today, for the first time ever, I didn't pack them one bite of food.  Just a water bottle.  I knew they'd get fruit and some cakes at the work function and I'd buy them lunch.  And do you know, once they knew I didn't have anything, they didn't even ask.  It was amazing.  So peaceful.  

Anyhoo, the kids and I estimated that 50% of the food court was eating Maccas. We did not join that particular bandwagon (not because I'm a good Mum, but because I need it up my sleeve for tomorrow's road trip). I made them eat sushi and fried rice.  And a cheeky little serve of salt and pepper calamari which went down a treat with all 4 of us.  

The food court.  Is it this busy every day? We will never know.   I am never going back. 
Goodness I really hope that doesn't backfire on us tomorrow in the car.  Surely food poisoning would have manifested itself by 10pm?  

The kids, amazed by all the McDonalds eaters.  

After our experience of mass consumption we headed for the bus to home.  On the way we saw the Martin Place tree and Mike, coming back from his lunchtime run.
Cute no? 

Now we are home, we've packed the car, the kids are asleep and I have to be up in 6 hours.  Shit.  

Monday, 17 December 2012

'tis the season to be worried.

It's a busy time of year.  There's loads of balls in the air.  More than normal, if that's possible.

Tonight the kids ate McDonalds in the car at 8pm on the way back from shopping at Kmart.  Tonight was the only night we could spare for them to do their Christmas shopping for close relatives with the money they've been saving since October.  It's a big moment.  One not to be missed.  So we pushed through.

But Josh had a birthday party first and one thing led to another and everything got later and later.  Yet another late night for the poor little buggers.

I was supposed to be going to dinner with my Mother's Group mums, a bunch of top chicks.  Luckily it got cancelled or I would have been totally late and totally brain dead.  We have made a pact to catch up in January when we get our brains back.

Anyways, enough about that.  It's my particular crap, but it's no crappier than anyone else's.  In the greater scheme of things, it's not even that crappy.

With all that needs to be done, I can't help but worry.  Worry is all I do.  Christmas is the time for worrying, what with all the emotion and expectation invested in one little day.  And I can worry for Australia.

1.  I'm worried Sarah's Heelys (delivered from the USA because even with delivery they're cheaper than Skater HQ) are too small or she'll grow out of them really fast.  They're her main present and she's wanted them for ages.  She is such a darling girl, I want them to be right for her.

2. I'm worried that I can't see a time in the four days ahead where I will have a chance to pack.

3.  I'm worried I won't wake up on time on Saturday and we'll sleep in and miss our traffic free window.

4.  I'm worried I'll worry all night about waking up and not get any sleep and be cactus for the drive to Brisbane.

5.  I'm worried everything is not going to fit in the car.

6.  I'm worried it's going to be cold and rainy in Brisbane for about the 8th Christmas in a row.

7.  I'm worried because we're only staying a week, we won't stay long enough with anyone.

8.  I'm worried the kids have too many presents and don't understand the Real Meaning Of Christmas and it's all my fault.

9.  I'm worried I'm going to/have already drunk too much champagne.

10.  I'm worried the champagne is going to run out.

Are we having fun yet?

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Humble thankfulness.

Thanks to all the kids teachers- we have had the best teachers this year and I am GUTTED that it's over.  And not only their class teachers, all the other ones, science, singing, sport, scripture, the admin staff, support staff, Simon the lollipop man, the whole shebang.

Thanks to all the music teachers, sax, piano, the band conductor and the super amazing Mum who was this year's band parent liaison.  Words fail me.  And we all know that almost never happens.

Thanks to every person who either managed or coached a team any of my children were on.  Netball, rugby, touch football, tball.  You are all mind blowing and amazing.  I have not yet managed or coached a sporting team.  The thought of doing so fills me with dread and I know one day I'll have to stump up.  I don't believe you can ever thank these people enough.

Thanks to the Mum who faithfully organised a joint present for EVERY boy kid in our class who had a party, ensuring many of them received a voucher of excellent value instead of many individual bits of plastic and many of us never had to go shopping for the aforementioned plastic bits.

Thanks to the Mum who picked up my saxophone playing child EVERY Tuesday and Thursday for THE ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR so she (I) didn't have to carry the sax to school.

Thanks to anyone who drove my children anywhere.  Or picked them up, or took them on outings, or were kind to them, or told them off when they deserved it, or had them for a play or a sleepover, or fed them, or comforted them if they were hurt or sad and I wasn't there.

Thanks to my parents in law for spending a weekend with the kids so Mike and I could spend one communicating and looking at each other instead of high fiving one another in and out the door as we shuffled from one activity to another (mostly child related).

Thank you to anyone who drank champagne with me, if you invited me to your house to drink it, thanks for having me (us). If you drank it at my house, thanks for coming.  You know who you are.  I love youse all.

Thanks to anyone who had our family over for any type of social occasion.  Because there are 5 of us and we are loud and noisy.  And we love to get out and about so we usually say yes to all invitations.

Thanks to my kids for being themselves, just as hard as they can, every day without fail.  And for the kisses, hugs and snuggles.

And finally thanks to my husband, because it's our 14th wedding anniversary today and I love him.  And I'm pretty sure he loves me although I'm sure it's hard sometimes.  I gave him a bus roll print with all the places we've lived together.

And finally, thanks for where I live, because I can look at views like this, five minutes walk from my house.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Waiting for the end: A rant

It's December.  Nearly mid December.  The advent calendars are nearly half opened.  Chocolate Santa wrappings litter the carpet, along with the little plastic bags the lego comes in.

The kids have decorated the birds cage.  Poor bird looks terrified, he clearly needs some Christmas spirit.

The bird is the non shiny thing at the back.
82 chocolate Santas have gone into approximately 82 cards and gone to school and preschool.

I have two more purchases to make and I'm done with Christmas shopping.  I intend for this to occur today.

Christmas Day is two seemingly endless weeks away.  We are supposed to be slowing down, but every extra curricular activity my kids do seems to be dragging out as far as possible.

As a result, the fishwifery in this house is appalling.

Homework has finished.  At least there's no morning nagging in that regard.

I'm 99% certain they are not learning a thing at school which is now a glorified babysitting service for parents needing to work or do Christmas shopping (or blog).

Band practice has finished.

But sax lessons continue til this Friday.  Loads of kids finished music lessons at the end of November.  But not us.  Oh no.

Karate, in a mad last burst of enthusiasm, has it's grading day not today but next Tuesday.  It's been an 11 week term, surely we don't need to drag martial arts out any further than this?

Even T ball is carrying on with training and a final game this week.  Why?  Sure, it's been fun, but all the other summer sports have stopped.  Where's the break, the easing off?  

Tennis finishes tomorrow.  Thank goodness.

I've had to take matters into my own hands to some extent, to counteract the mad continuation of extracurricular activities way beyond the limits of exhausted children, parents and I'm sure, teachers.

Swimming goes to the end, closing on 21st December.  I'm not.  But it does.  Last lessons for us should be Wednesday 19th but we are pulling up stumps after tomorrow, and on Wednesday 19th at 5pm I will be enjoying a glass of bubbles and celebrating the last day of school 2012, for all of us, but especially the last day of preschool ever for my youngest.

Gymnastics too, wants Sarah to attend until Thursday 20th.  I cannot tell you how low the chances are of this happening.  But I've paid.  And she's already missing swimming.  So we might make the effort.

Enough already, organisers of gymnastics, karate and swimming lessons.  Give us a break! Give yourselves a break.

Is it just me, or has it been a long year?

In an attempt to influence popular culture I have even slowed this blog down to a couple of posts a week in a nod to the allegedly relaxed ambience of the Christmas Season.

So far, I can't see that my efforts are having a wider effect, although I'm using the spare time to wrap gifts which is pleasant.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Talent Quest Psychosis

Kum bay yah anyone? 

Today is the Year One talent quest.  At lunchtime. It's a big end of year thing at school.  The kids love it.  I hate it.

Josh wanted to perform.  First he wanted to do a karate display, then he wanted to do a gymnastics display, then he wanted to sing.

First he wanted to do it with other kids, then he wanted to go solo.

Finally, he chose 'Battlescars' by Guy Sebastian and Lupe Fiasco.

'Great', I said, knowing the only part of this song he has any familiarity with is the chorus.  'Do you know how to rap?' I asked, already knowing the answer.

'No, Mum, but you can teach me', said my little son, showing me for once and ever that he really does think I am an all powerful, omniscient being.

He was shocked and surprised when I suggested that, not being much of a rapper myself, I would struggle to teach him.  I offered to try, over the weekend.  We had this conversation last Wednesday on the way to swimming in the car.  It seemed reasonable then, that I should be able to teach a 7 year old how to rap complex (probably inappropriate) lyrics for a 3 minute song, in just seven days.

In this promise I failed to consider:

1. As I said, I can't rap.
2. We don't even know what the guy is saying.  And although I'm sure you can Google it, I didn't.
3.  Between tball practice, Xmas markets, tball game, tree decorating, Thanksgiving dinner at a friends, Sunday lunch with several families at ours, there just wasn't any rapping practice time.

On Monday, he quietly suggested that he tell his teacher he wouldn't be performing, cause his mum hadn't helped him prepare.

I took the bullet to the heart and said yes.  Because it's true.

So as I type, many little 6 and 7 year olds are performing their little hearts out in the Year One talent quest. Singing 'Call me Maybe', doing a bit of Gangnam Style, who knows what else.  I am not there.  Josh will be in the audience.  I may be in for a bit of a bollocking when he gets home.

And now: My confession.

I have serious issues with the Talent Quest.  I cannot bear watching it.  And it may indeed be this that caused me to not 'find time' to teach Josh.  As well as having no idea how to rap.

I just get all emotional thinking about all the kids, putting their hearts out there, talented or otherwise.  And it's all very well for the ones in big groups, who are well liked or dare I say it...popular.

But what about the kid who no one wanted to do an act with?  Or the kid that everyone normally ignores?  What about the kid who asked if they could be in an act, and the other kids said no?

For every group or act that goes up, there are more, like Josh's, that just didn't get off the ground.  Some parents are willing to hold rehearsals, take them through their paces and get them prepared.  Others just let them sink or swim.  There maybe be others who, like me, are still haunted by their own childhood issues. For me, the thought of my kids performing just sends me into spasms of fear and loathing.

Yes, I know it's NOT about me.  But it makes me all shaky.

I love their confidence, their faith in themselves, and I don't want to squash that, or ruin it for them.  But honestly, it just makes me want to cry (or laugh inappropriately when I'm supposed to be watching composedly).

Which I think means I take it all too seriously (and I'm the basket case, not them).  But neither of my kids has ever been in a large group performance, they've always done solo stuff or small groups.  Which makes them (in my mind) more vulnerable.  And I've been once, to watch Sarah in Kindy.  And that was enough.

Yep, I've got some serious issues, which I need to deal with before Sarah performs in a play she wrote herself, next week with two friends.  Because I don't think I can sit through it.  And she wants me to.  In fact, I think I need to be at the side of the stage with the script for prompting, proper stage mother that I am.  And my job, as her mum is to support her no matter what.  Oh God.

Maybe I need therapy.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Close encounters with stick insect poo.

Goodbye old friend.

Goodbye terribly expensive parking.

Goodbye amazingly cheap entry fees.

Goodbye dinosaurs and dodgy 40 year old butterfly, birds and bug exhibits.

Goodbye freakish skeleton room and enormous whale skeleton in the foyer.

Yes, it's time to say goodbye to the Australian Museum.

It's OK, the Museum is going nowhere.  It's us that are moving on, for now.

I first discovered the Museum through my mother's group when Sarah was about 3 and Josh 1.  We loved it.  It was so simple, old fashioned and fun.

Sometimes there were cool exhibits.   We used to sign up for workshops.  We came for face painting and craft sessions.

It was the scene of Sarah's biggest ever tantrum when she levitated out of the pram despite being strapped in and nearly ran across William St.

There was a time when we would visit at least once a term.  Now we're lucky if we go twice a year.

Today I took two five year olds.  They looked big.  Too big to be there compared to the little kids.

They played in Kidspace, did some craft, they felt up stuffed birds, they drew pictures of mythological creatures (don't ask).
Craft happiness.
Lots of pods with interesting kid stuff inside.  

They were grossed out by caterpillars and flies.

They were terrified by the dinosaurs.  Is it just me or is that dinosaur exhibit seriously scary?  I remember taking 2 year old Josh and 4 year old Sarah and tiny Issy and the two older ones being so petrified they ran screaming down the stairs.  Where I couldn't follow, because I had a pram.  I had to take Issy out and walk down the stairs to find them, and then coax them back up just long enough to get the pluck out of there via ramp.

Nothing has changed.  The fake roaring and thundering undid them after a few minutes, and the simulation of the Winton stampede was the last straw.  Out we went, to look at enormous models of the huge mammals that used to roam Australia and all the things that can kill you in this fine, wide, brown land.  More scary.

Finally, for something completely non threatening, although a bit weird looking, we went and had a look at the stick insects (phasmids, strictly speaking).  Next to them, on a table was a shallow tray filled with what looked like (and was) a lot of phasmid poo.  So far, so boring.  BUT, caught up in all this excrement were phasmid eggs, and we, the museum visitors were charged with the job of separating the tiny eggs from the crap with tweezers.  There were pictures of the eggs so we knew what they looked like.

This caught the attention of my companions and for at least 15 minutes they sifted through poo, searching for eggs.
Poo sifting.  I wouldn't believe it if I hadn't seen it myself.
They found one egg.  At least we think it was an egg.  They got so excited.  And I added another unexpected activity to the list of things that kids like to do.

And so, we left behind the slightly dodgy displays, the stuffed animals, the eggs, the skeletons and the rocks and crystals and ended another era.

An extremely poor shot of kids feeling 20 year old stuffed birds with hardly any feathers left.
Lately there have been too many last evers.  This last term is very emotional.

Monday, 3 December 2012

A house called Noel.

Decorative and sentimental name baubles, artfully placed.
And so this is Christmas...

And what have you done...?

Well,  put the tree up for one thing.

Well really, the kids did it.  I no longer do very much apart from spending an hour disentangling the lights and swearing a lot.

Unbelieveable. How do they get so tangled in a box for 11 months doing nothing.
We had to wait for Sarah to return from a playdate on Saturday afternoon before we were allowed to start.  Fair enough.

Josh, Issy and I brought up the boxes from the basement.  Issy tipped them all out on the floor.  Like so.

We waited.

I put up the house decorations, my peace letters, the nativity and my NOEL.

Noel lives here. 

When I first put up my NOEL, my father in law, a man I love dearly, came to visit one day and said, "I didn't realise you'd named your house Noel.".

Yeah, Dad's joke.

The nativity is very contentious, with everyone thinking they know how best to arrange it.  At the moment they are in a circle like they're having an important meeting or perhaps dancing a hornpipe around baby Jesus.  Because of the novelty factor, it changes hourly.

So after a bit of waiting, Issy suggested we just get the tree out of the box and put it near it's chosen location so it was easier to assemble when Sarah came.

We did that.  And waited.

Josh suggested we just put the tree up but not put any decorations on it, so we were all ready when Sarah came.

We did that too.  And waited some more.


Issy suggested just maybe putting a bauble on the bottom, tucked in against the trunk, just to get started.

I drew the line.  I already knew we were on thin ice.

Weird headgear helps to pass the time.
We waited a bit longer, and finally she came.  And walked in the door, immediately bursting into floods of tears because we'd "put the tree up and hadn't waited for her at all and it wasn't FAIR".

No it wasn't.  But neither was waiting around in 35 degree heat for the best part of an hour.

We dissembled the tree, and reassembled it.  That seemed to do the trick.

Finally a bit of action.  I'm still untangling the f***ing lights at this point. 
Xmas tree or tinsel monster?  It's a tough call.  
And so we put up the tree.  Yep,  looks like someone's chundered Christmas decos all over the place doesn't it?

I wouldn't change a thing.

PS. We have a fake tree.  We grew up in Queensland, Mike and I, and we have no fond memories of the smell of pine.  Anyone we knew who tried to put up a real tree struggled to keep the poor thing alive until Christmas day.  Plastic is the way to go with an average temperature of 28 and high humidity.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Snow cones at 35 degrees.

Our snow cones looked absolutely NOTHING like these ones.

Friday, in Sydney, was hot.  The hottest day of the year so far.  Until Saturday which was hotter.

Friday was also the day of our school's Christmas Markets.  A fundraiser involving lots of logistics and preparation for the wonderful organisers.  Local artisans who fancy themselves as producers of...something (jewellery, herbs, hair accessories, books- just to name a few), come and set up a stall and flog their wares.

Simultaneously, the school runs several stalls, second hand toys, tombola jars and rides for the kids.  After school care does face painting.  It's kid heaven.  Grown ups, not so much.

The tombola is a concept which is hugely popular, but one I'd never come across until last years fair.  Get a jar, fill it with stuff (lollies, chocolates, necklaces, pens/pencils, whatever).  Every family (theoretically) contributes 1 or 2 jars.  Then each jar gets a raffle ticket stuck to the lid.  The other side of the ticket is given out (normally $3-$5) you match them up and win whatever is in the jar.  It sells out quickly and it was mobbed.  We now have an enormous jar of smarties, a smaller one of beads and string for necklaces and one with a notebook, pen and assorted lollies.   The tombola ladies were completely run off their feet.  At the end one jar was left.  It was filled with wool.  The kid who won it rejected it.  I don't blame them.  Poor little bugger.

Look, no wool.  
Year 1 was in charge of snow cones.  And popcorn.  A roster was sent out and we signed up to work on the stall in half hour blocks.  The week before the markets, there are frantic emails going about everywhere requesting more volunteers, more tombola jars, and more cakes for the cake stall.

But on the day it all miraculously comes together.  The organisers have aged 5 years in a week, but it no longer matters.  Happy children frolic on the grass, out of their tiny minds on sugar, occasionally returning to their harried parents for more money for more sugar or someone else's rejected toys.

I signed up for the first shift from 3-3:30 and arrived at 10 to 3, to find very little snow and about 6 bags of ice which needed to be ground by the machine into the required fluffy snow coney texture.  It was so hot, the ice was melting, then refreezing when it got close to other ice, solidifying into one nasty ice block which wouldn't go into the mouth of the machine.

3:05 ticked closer.  The sun beat down.  We smashed ice frantically.  In the classrooms, hundreds of children thought about icy cool treats with lots of coloured cordial.  They all decided the snow cone machine would be their first port of call.

By 3:07 the line for snow cones was 10 deep, 5 minutes later it was 20.  At it's worst it must have had 40 people, patiently standing there in the sun, melting, waiting for some shaved ice with a bit of cordial poured on it.

Meanwhile, five women, in various stages of hysteria, poured, scooped, pounded and took $4 per cone.    We ran out of dollar coins about every 5 minutes.

2 metres away, the popcorn machine sat forlornly, a thin layer of popped corn at it's base, no queue, no attendant (she had abandoned popcorn and was trying to help the snow coners).   The snow cone line remained consistently long for nearly two hours, as various combinations of Mums served snow cones to an insatiable crowd.

At about 4:30 the ice ran out.  And that was that.  We could have sold more, if we'd known.  But you can't predict these things.  Last year it was bucketing with rain and the markets were held in the school hall.  It was feral. Few snow cones would have sold that day.  Popcorn would have gone off a treat though.

As time went on, our children appeared, tugged at us, demanded money for ridiculous things, and vanished, waving a note or coin, triumphant, knowing we were so distracted we just wanted them to go away.

The only thing I said no to was a build a bear.  For $30!  There was no way I was giving in, no matter how much Issy nagged me.  And oh boy did she try it on.  She kept going back to the lady and watching the other 'lucky' kids building their bears, and then back to me, to beg and plead some more.

When it was all over, we went to someones house for some well earned champagne, pizza and a swim for the kids.  All our snow cone cares washed away.

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.