Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tackling: The Big Issue

First blood, and a proper rugby player expression too.  
Josh's rugby team has started tackling.  This means they are allowed (in fact, encouraged) to try to hurt each other in order to get the ball.

Tacking goes against much of what we're trying to teach our boys: don't use your body to hurt others, keep your hands to yourself, don't hurt your sisters etc etc.

I know it's the right forum, they're heavily coached through it and by golly they're keen for it but I'm a bit wary of the whole thing.

Last Saturday I was at the gym comp with Sarah so I missed his game.  I got a text from Mike, telling me he was tackling, and when I rang Mike he told me proudly that Joshie had a gash on his forehead and had a blood nose. I was not to worry, he was ok and had 'only bled for a couple of minutes'.

Hurray!  Only bled for a couple of minutes! My precious son's face.

Joshie got on the phone and said he'd got in the way of someone's rugby shoe.  He and Mike were totally excited.  On the other hand, I am working my way up to not covering my eyes with my hands for the whole game.

One of his team mates decided tripping was a good way to fell the opposition and got sent off for his trouble.  Poor little guy, he was only trying to help.  And it is more efficient, but also against the rules, worse luck.

There were tears from both sides.  Josh made a kid cry in the first 5 minutes.  Mike was shouting encouragement from the sidelines before he realised the poor kid from the opposing team had been taken off in hysterics from the shock of bodily contact.

Tackling is not for everyone.  It's not for me.  But Joshie is keen as mustard.  Thank goodness the season is nearly over and I can forget about it until March when they begin tackling in earnest.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Do you have the mongrel in you?


This last weekend has been very competition focused.  I am not naturally competitive.  I do not have "the mongrel" in me when it comes to the crunch.  I've noticed that having children does create a bit of a "pseudo mongrel", which I feel stirring when they are playing sport.  Sarah and I have been working on awakening her "inner mongrel" for netball as she doesn't have a great deal of it either.

But this Saturday the netball mongrel had to stay asleep and we got out our gymnastics mongrel instead. After a night out with friends to celebrate a birthday and getting up at 5:30 to watch the Olympic opening ceremony with Josh and Issy, I drove out to Homebush for Sarah's second gym comp feeling fresh as a daisy (not).

Gym competition is another world.  It's our first year and it's all very new and exciting, and just a bit quirky.  Luckily I have summarised the major detail in four points so you can understand it as well as me.

Very professional and a bit intimidating. 
1. The kids compete on four apparatus, floor, beam, uneven bars and vault.  As they do their thing, they are immediately given a scored and a corresponding ribbon.  By watching what colour ribbons they have accumulated, you get an idea of what colour they are going to get overall at the end. Blue is best, then red, green, orange and...something.

2. You lose points for touching your hair, and for fishing your undies out of your bum crack.  Lucky it's not real life or I'd be in trouble.

3. Kids are grouped by level and team.  Once everyone has their go on each apparatus the groups sit in a line and the officials call out the winners of overall ribbons.  It's very egalitarian, everyone gets a ribbon.  But you can tell how well they did from the colour.

4.  Every child in our team except mine has a club tracksuit (approx cost $150).  Because I'm a miserly biatch I made her keep warm in her old black dance trousers and school fleece.  This meant at presentation time her entire team had to sit in their leotards ($120 each) because they didn't match (and they must match for some reason- it's a team thing).  Sarah's coach has gently suggested that we get one, so she and all her teammates don't have to freeze while the ribbons are distributed.  So much for me trying not to hemmorhage money.

My child is the fourth blob from the left.  In leotard only holding her red ribbon.  Apparently it was freezing down there. 
5. At the end of competition, you and your children are forced to walk past a stall set up to sell shiny and sequiny gym leotards.  They will beg and implore you to buy them one.  When you say no they will downgrade and nag you for a scrunchie.  It's hard to stay strong.  Luckily I believe scrunchies are a blight on society and should be banished back to the 80's where they belong.

Sarah came home with a swath of brightly coloured ribbons.  She got a red overall and in her individual apparatus she got a blue, two reds and a green.  She did her best and knows it.

Completely happy with self.  
By the time we got home, our Friday night out and early rise got the better of me and I collapsed onto the couch for the rest of the afternoon watching the opening ceremony replay.  More competition, but at least I didn't have to drive any of the Olympic athletes to their venues.  My mongrel had an early night.

This morning (Sunday) we set off once again, bright and early to lovely Randwick, for the NSW Band Festival.  We had to deliver our red shirted darlings to their conductor by 9:15.  In a panic I gave us an hour to get there, which we didn't need, which meant quite a lot of standing around.  The only coffee was perked.  Call me a snob but I simply can't do that.

So, completely uncaffeinated, I stood in the foyer of the auditorium chatting to other band parents, fending off requests for cupcakes from the kiosk and ukeleles from the band festival equivalent of the gym clothes stall.  Mike was out riding, so I had all three.

After a while, even though we had at least 4 bands to go before ours, I made the younger pair come into the auditorium to listen to the competition and to get away from the cupcakes.

You could tell which parents belonged to which band because they were the ones with the iphones in the air, filming.  At the end of each band's performance there was a massive rush for the door, as all the exiting band parents departed and an inrush of new parents would arrive.

There were 10 bands, mostly public schools, 2 private.  One (who's name rhymes with socks) performed just before ours and there were a few Dads near us filming away on their smart phones.  They all had loafers on.  It's lucky Joshie isn't down for these schools as I doubt Mike would ever consent to loafers.  He's more of a Converse guy with RM Williams for special.

Our band is big.  The kids took up all the chairs on the stage. Some bands only took up half of them.  We are a big school and our band program is very good.  Some might say it's an unfair advantage.

I say bollocks to that, the kids work bloody hard and so does the conductor and the parent liaison. (Is that a bit of mongrel?)

Only photo where only my child is recognisable.  Don't you love the red shirts?
When they finished playing, there was a lot of wooing and even a bit of foot stomping from our commensurately large parent contingent.

And we came home with GOLD!  Gold I tell you!! Another band also received gold (it's not like the Olympics where there's just one gold), everyone gets a medal so there were 2 gold, 3 silver and 5 bronze.  Socks got silver.

But I'm not competitive...remember.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

A 15 year old curse has been broken.

Quick lamb curry



I did not blog on Friday because we had our excellent mate M around for dinner on Thursday night.

Yes, the two events are mutually exclusive.  I didn't think so either until it happened.

Due to some last minute playdating (Issy, not me) and another last minute decision to supplement the lamb curry with not just a golden syrup pudding but home made roti bread, any foolish little gaps in time (ie blogging opportunities) vanished into space.

The good news was both last minute decisions worked and we were able to eat both the pudding and the roti.  Which is a miracle because M is my hoodoo where cooking is concerned.

It started, in 1997 (yep, really) in Africa where Mike, M and I and 5 other hapless travellers met in Nairobi for the beginning of our 7 week African overland trip.  This trip is worth about another 5 posts in itself so I will spare you the graphic details (for now).

Our guide, foolish man that he was, had gotten it into his head that women can cook better than men.

With this insane idea in mind he sorted us into a roster of tasks.  As there were 3 girls and 5 boys he put each girl with a boy and then left the spare two boys out of the cooking roster entirely.  They were designated as "bag carriers".  This allowed them to get off the truck at every overnight stop, chuck our backpacks and our tent bags roughly on the same patch of ground and then open a beer.  In the morning they'd chuck our repacked backpacks and tent bags onto the truck and off we'd go (at 40km/hr, from Nairobi to Harare- yep, we needed every minute of those 7 weeks).

Anyways, M (who was travelling alone) got matched with a girl who until I met the most annoying woman in the world from last weeks post, was the most annoying person I've ever come across.  This post is not about her so I will not allow her the limelight but she was only 18, had just booked the trip a week before it started and had it paid for by Daddy (the rest of us had booked months ahead and scrimped and saved for it), was hopelessly underprepared and missing her boyfriend.

Needless to say, she couldn't cook.  Neither could I (without a packet mix sachet from Tescos-we'd just spent 2.5 years in the UK and I'd had to learn to cook for the first time) or M, who's mum (and I know this from experience) is a damn fine cook, he'd really never had the need to.

The truck.  In 1997.  Paul the misguided guide on far left.   Check out those reef sandals! 
When the first evening came and M and Lucy stood there waving sharp knives around in the vague direction of some tomatoes, the guide realised something was wrong and discovered their culinary limitations, reassigned M to Mike and Me to Lucy.

Good Lord.

Over the next 7 weeks Mike gently coaxed M into cooking some pretty good meals.  Because Mike is an excellent, inventive cook and a calm, well ordered personality.  And considering we often were dealing with a pile of vegetables and a freshly slaughtered chicken or worse, just a pile of vegetables, things were dire indeed.

On the flip side, because I am a panicky, anxiety stricken, impulsive person and Lucy was just plain irritating and useless, every time Lucy and I had to cook dinner (every 3 days for 7 weeks), it was a disaster.  Fast forward 15 years to Masterchef: Mike would nail the mystery box every time and I'd be sent home as an imposter before filming began.

Aaah happy pants.  Remember them? 
One night, faced with a selection of vegetables, I came up with the bright idea of cooking sweet and sour veges.  Great idea until I realised I'd only ever cooked sweet and sour with the assistance of a packet or jar and had no idea of what it actually consisted of.  Except pineapple.

Epic fail.  Vegetable sludge, heavy on the pineapple.  

Or the time when all we had was potatoes and tomatoes.  The result wasn't pretty.  It was red and squelchy.  And to be honest, I still wouldn't know what to do with potatoes and tomatoes if they were the only things I had to create a meal with, for 8 people plus the guide and driver.   

I reckon even those Masterchef smart arses would struggle.

We put a stop to any notion of "bag carriers" after about a week and forced them into the cooking roster where they did (unsurprisingly) very well.  The guide was amazed.  He was a Kenyan guy, and pretty traditional.  That Lucy and I were by far the worst cooks on the tour and possibly the best candidates for "bag carriers" blew his mind.

Anyway, the tradition has continued over 15 years and every time I have been responsible for cooking a meal for M, it has failed.  If Mike gets involved or it's a family get together where we all bring something, it's fine.  It only happens when I fly solo.

Luckily M has married a genius cook/chef, who is also an excellent housekeeper.  So he eats well when he's not at our house.

But on Thursday night, I finally broke the curse.  Warm olives to start, hearty lamb curry with cous cous, home made roti bread and golden syrup pudding.  All delightfully edible.

On review it was a bit of a cultural mish mash (nicer people could call it a fusion of flavours), but we could eat it.  The curse is broken.  I am free.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

If you are what you eat, then I'm Tuscan Pulled Pork

My food diary.  Not that I have one.  If I did I think it would spontaneously self combust.

I promise this is not me, but at the rate I'm going, it could be.
No, the subject I plan on banging on about today is not dragging you painfully through my consumptive habits (although it kind of is), it's wondering why my eating days start off beautifully and end up going to hell in a handbasket (or perhaps a picnic basket).

When I did Weight Watchers after Joshie was born I developed a strict breakfast routine.

1 small bowl cereal (with skim milk)
1 piece wholegrain toast with avocado
1 cup tea

This hasn't changed.  Not in 6 years.  Mostly.  Except when I have a hangover or greatly desire CK's Bites bacon and egg wrap with bbq sauce (God those babies are good).

1 CK's large skim flat white with a smidge of sugar.

So far so good.  No cakies, no biskies.

Lunch

4 cruskits with avocado, taramosalata (pink dip- I am addicted), smoked salmon and tomato.

This is where it starts to get hairy, due to to slightly non diet attributes of pink dip and smoked salmon.

Sometimes I add white castello cheese left over from the weekend.  Or hommous, or beetroot dip.

Sometimes I have an extra cruskit just covered in pink dip.

At this point I tell myself I'll have a very small dinner and a cup of tea instead of chocolate.

Still within the bounds of reasonableness.

Then, hell in a handbasket time...


Snippet of roasted Tuscan pulled pork from last nights dinner.  (So totally yummy)

Eclipse mint on way to Dr so I don't knock the poor man out with my Tuscan Pulled Pork garlic breath.

Make afternoon tea for the kids.  Chop up apple.  Eat at least half of one, and half a leftover banana.

Put out Anzac biscuits for kids.

Eat 2 anzac biscuits.  Miraculously home made but still chockas with butter, sugar and golden syrup.


Eat bits of dinner while cooking (because you have to taste what you're serving don't you?)

Eat kids leftovers (otherwise it's waste)

Eat own dinner.  Serving too large.

This is our sugar cupboard.  Appalling isn't it?
Eat at least 6 pieces of chocolate.  Unless it's Maltesers in which case the entire bag, no matter what
size.

And don't even get me started on the red wine.  At least a glass 4 nights a week.  Often more.  And the champs and nibbly bits when we have people over or go out.  Although I don't really class these items as food, they transcend food and are categorised under "having a bloody good time".

Until the next morning.

Suffer torrents of guilt.  Refuse to get on scales or look at self in mirror.  Self loathe.

Go for a run (great for fitness, unlikely to shift the previous afternoon's extravaganza).

Wonder why my jeans are tight.  And wonder why I start off so beautifully every day with a perfect breakfast, and end it with sheer bacchanalian indulgence.

Why can't I finish as well as I start?  Why does my restrain get all wobbly after mid afternoon?  How do I suffocate that little voice that says "aah fuckit, you can start being careful tomorrow".

When is tomorrow?  I hope it's soon.



Tuesday, 24 July 2012

The over the top art of too much maintenance.

So I had the dishwasher man come because the dishwasher wasn't cleaning the dishes.  This renders it slightly less useful than a cupboard.

He said my swirly twirly thingies were blocked and I should rinse everything thoroughly before putting plates in and clean the swirly twirly thingies every week.

Cupboard or useful appliance.  Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. 
I nodded and smiled.

The washing machine man said I needed to only fill each load to 2/3 of the capacity, for better swishing and swashing (my terminology).  He also said to make sure he came back to service it every 12 months, or woe betide its ongoing potential to actually wash clothing.

Poor old girl, but she's Euro and built like an ox so I plan on a few more years of stuffing her full of clothes. 

I took his business card.

The couch cleaner man said he must come back every 6 months or I would risk my couch becoming a foetid brown slime pile, instead of the fetching cream coloured comfort zone it was intended to be.  He recommended purchasing a protective spray.  He also warned against consuming red wine and chocolate while sitting on it.

WHAAATT??

In a dim light, you can't see the stains at all, so we watch TV in the dark. 
I put a reminder in my phone to call him in six months, all the while cursing the stupid, stupid impulse that caused Mike and I to purchase a cream coloured couch in the first place.  With three tiny children aged 4, 2 and just hatched.

I think we were so excited by being out buying furniture without kids (his parents were visiting and babysitting) that we had a collective brain freeze.  Normally one of us plays bad cop, not this day.  And now we are stuck with it.  Large, not very clean, comfortable red wine and chocolate consumption zone that it is.

The running shoe seller told me to buy two pairs and rotate them and to buy special inner soles to correct my "gross pronation".  (Lucky me, I'm a gross pronater!)

The fancy shoe shop sales assistant told me to apply waterproofing spray (available for $29.95) every two weeks to my new boots.
Shabby, unwaterproofed boots.

The school shoe salesperson told me to polish the kids shoes every week for longevity and strength.  My longevity and strength or the shoes?

The hairdresser recommended that I buy overpriced salon shampoo, that any brand of shampoo purchased in a supermarket was like poison for hair, and told me my children should be using the expensive stuff too, to foster good hair habits in their future.

What happened to Johnsons 'No More Tears' for goodness sake?  Back in the 70's we were lucky they'd even thought to make a shampoo that didn't sting like buggery.

All these people are well meaning, dedicated custodians of their particular subject, offering helpful advice to the poor faltering idiot who owns/is buying the product on which they are an expert.

But honestly, if I did all this stuff, to all my stuff, and my kids stuff I'd never have time to do anything else.

So I don't do any of it.

And I'll bet the dishwasher man doesn't waterproof his boots.

And I'll also bet the hairdresser doesn't rinse her plates much.

And so on.

PS. The BBQ salesman told Mike to clean his fancy pants stainless steel grilly things EVERY TIME HE USED THEM. And he does, sometimes even while the guests are still having coffee and tea, just to get a start on.  He is a special kind of husband.

The fucking immaculate BBQ.



Monday, 23 July 2012

Ramping up for 10 weeks of...fun?

Aaaah term time.  Nice to see you again.

Self portrait with timetable.
Nothing like the relentless struggle to remember which child is where, for how long, with what food/accessories.

And of course, which car pool is it today?

AND what the fuck to cook for dinner?
Every day, a new mystery to solve. 
After 2.5 weeks of having (mostly) just my children, who weren't going anywhere without me, all day, I quake slightly at the logistics of sending them all off every day to their own individual adventures and then gathering them all back again at the end of the day to feed, bath and bed.

What if I get it wrong?

Yes, I know the chances of going in to kiss Sarah good night and finding someone else's 9 year old in there is ludicrously unlikely and everyone has the same vested interests in getting their correct offspring back to where they belong everyday, and I know it happens successfully every day with unvarying regularity.  But it still amazes me.

So many kids, so many activities, so many plans that change due to illness, traffic, weather, forgetfulness.

I think I just need a few days to ease back into it.  My confidence is low, after the great gymnastics rebooking failure, which means one of my most ingenious car pool situations is now null and void until Sarah can get back onto Monday gymnastics.

And of course it's all fine and she doesn't mind doing gym on Tuesdays instead for a while, but I just wonder how I dropped the ball?  How could I fail to rebook her?  Of all the things to forget, it's her favourite thing in the world.  Bad mother!  Terrible mother!

I am in a low, a slump, the doldrums.  And really, there's no time for such indulgences so I'd best snap out of it.  And I can't even have a drink.  I decided when we got back from the snow that my drinking wine every night holiday habit had to stop, so I'm drinking a lot of sparkling water and cups of tea instead.

I know I'll get over it, I always do.  And if you are reading this and are in a car pool with me, please don't worry.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Possibly...the most annoying woman in the world.



We went skiing.  It was awesome.  

Snowman building- of course.

We stayed in a lodge.  It was a new experience and wonderfully comfortable after we got used to the concept. 

Lodges, for those of you who possibly haven't stayed in one, are a more communal type of holiday than the usual sterile resort environment.  Basically they make your room so small and basic that you don't want to be there for any other reason than sleeping, thereby forcing you out into the common areas where you have access to breakfast, dinner, endless hot chocolate and a bar from 4pm (hip hip hooray!).  
So gorgeous, it blew my tiny little mind.

At first, proper anti social 21st Century inhabitants that we are, we screwed up our noses and said ewwww, talk to strangers? Converse with some random person at the dinner table or bar?  Good Lord, what's the world coming to?  

Then we said, thank goodness there is a bar, it is the snow after all, and it's handy for social lubrication.

Then we just got on with it.  There were about 20 guests in the lodge (capacity 32) including 8 kids, and about 6 staff, who mingled amongst us and were also well up for a chat.  It was totally excellent.  

Until we met the most annoying woman in the world. 

How was she annoying you ask?  Let me count the ways. 

Enter into a conversation with the most annoying woman in the world (MAWITW) and you soon learned that anything you or anyone else within earshot, at the table, bar, sitting near her in the lounge had ever done, or had happen to them, had happened to her, worse, better (whichever is applicable), bigger, longer, more dramatic.  

This made her an expert on…everything.

Food allergies?  Yep.  Both her kids, worse than anyone she knew, causing her to have to cook everything her children ate from scratch, leading to…

Her being such a fabulous cook, that she did all the cooking for her kids footy clubs and any function they were involved in which led to…

Her kids being extremely excellent sportsmen and particularly one of them being a brilliant gymnast handpicked for national development leading to…

The same child being assessed for being gifted and talented, not in any particular area but ACROSS THE BOARD (repeat 20 times). 

We learned this in a monologue lasting all of entrĂ©e, dinner and half of dessert.  Her husband, who was lovely when you got him on his own and he could talk, just sat quietly.  He, clearly, had learned to keep his trap shut (and possibly to sleep with his eyes open).

Not one other person at the table could get a word in, apart from helpless mm hmm’s, gasps of amazement and the occasional nod. 

We (or should I say, she) covered shoulder reconstruction, babies with reflux, babies with holes in the heart (dreadful, scary and very serious indeed), sleep deprivation, private schools, public schools, the trials of running a small business.  Cutting edge stuff.  Not much chance of us getting on QandA is there?

After a while, I was unconscious with my pupils fixed and dilated, Mike had drunk nearly half a bottle of wine in 15 mins and one of our friends had lost the power of speech.  Not the other, my gorgeous friend G, still had her wits about her.

At this point, Issy approached me to tell me she felt sick, I thought she was a bit flushed.  In our time honoured family tradition which I believe we share with a good portion of the world, I kissed her on the forehead to see if she was warm. 

Immediately MAWITW jumps in (no doubt furious at having her monologue interrupted), and tells me to never ever check the forehead for fever, the ONLY way to reliably check for fever (presumably in the absence of a thermometer because she didn’t mention one of those) was to stick your little finger down the back of the child’s neck.  Her friend was a nurse you see, and this was the ONLY reliable method. 

At this point my darling friend G, who had really had enough of it by then, and who had done extremely well to stay quiet for so long, piped up with:

“Oh but you do know Bec is a pediatrician don’t you?” 

As she had never asked us anything at all about ourselves and had no idea that I was a mere part time freelance copywriter and occasional blogger, that stopped her. 

PS. Actually, that didn’t happen, but I wish it did, and so does G.  The only thing that stopped her was the end of dessert, and us all getting up from the table as quickly as possible and returning to the bar where there was safety in numbers.  

And if you go to the snow, can I please recommend The Royal Coachman.  It was totally tops. www.royalcoachman.com.au

Thursday, 12 July 2012

It's another list! But not about driving or road trips...promise.


Being a parent meant I have to talk a lot.  And then at night I blog.  It's like I can't shut up. 

During the day, I spend a lot of time giving advice, making recommendations and if that fails, shouting orders.  Most of what I'm trying to teach them are simple things that help keep us safe and make the world go round, like using good manners, always holding hands crossing roads etc.  Because many things which adults take as given and obvious, are not nearly so obvious to kids. 


The result: there are an astonishing amount of things I need to tell my kids that I simply never thought I’d have to.

On a daily basis I am amazed at their antics.  Sometimes it’s to have fun, sometimes to annoy a sibling, sometimes it is a unique and brilliant solution to a problem.  I have been faced with death defying feats of bravery and breathtaking acts of stupidity. 

The activities listed below are not all things my kids have done, but a lot of them are, and those that aren’t have been done by the kids of close friends or have been witnessed by me.  This makes me feel certain that by the time you’ve read this, at least 200 more outrageous and unexpected acts will have been performed by small children around Australia. 


1. 7:03am is not a good time to open the fridge and take out a Tim Tam and eat it.  No matter how old you are or how hungry you are. 

            2. You may not stand on the edge of the back deck and attempt to urinate on your sister who is down in the garden below you.
     
3. Before going down the slide at the park you should take off your new roller skates.

4. Please don’t get dressed in your school uniform (tights and all) and then climb a tree.

5. Standing on the edge of the (full) bath and jumping is not a great way to get the flannel off the towel
      rail. 
      
      6. The best place to leave a half eaten tuna nori roll is not wedged in the tiny space between two car 
      seats.
     
        7. Please don’t place your hands tightly around your baby sister’s neck, even if she is being really 
      annoying.  
     
            8.  Running out of the school gate and out onto the road towards your Mum’s moving car at school drop off time is not a good idea, even if you have forgotten your lunch order.

            9.  When you spill milk on the floor, being discovered skating in it is not going to endear you any
      further to your mother when she comes downstairs. 
·     
          10.  Please don’t poo on the ottoman.
·       
          11. Don’t put your sister’s Easter Eggs in a circle on the floor and jump on them one by one, even if she
     did just call you a rude name. 
      

      I guess what I've learned from compiling this and from living day to day with three unpredictable little people, is that you simply cannot be prepared for everything.  You can pad the corners of the coffee table and they will gash open their head on the corner of the kitchen bench.  You can buy an ottoman so there is no coffee table and they will poo on it (true story).  So on one hand I can relax a little because I accept it's impossible to control every part of their environment, but  it also makes me a bit more wary, because when disaster does strike, it's going to come from a completely random and unexpected corner. 
      
      Of this, I can be certain.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

2500km and a world of wisdom

The bright lights of Port Macquarie...not.

We've been in the car a lot this last week. And it's not quite over yet. I sit in the semi dark Of our Port Macquarie hotel room and type this. We still have five hours to home tomorrow.


There's been good times and bad times but the hours spent behind the wheel Have given me plenty of time to observe several truisms of the Christensen long distance driving experience.

1.    Every servo is a potential toilet stop. Just be prepared for some shockers. If you do find a clean one force everyone to go whether they need to or not.
2.    No matter how many times I think I've nailed point 1. Issy will have to wee minutes after we leave a location with nice facilities. Her record for needing to go again is fifteen minutes. She is always busting. There is no middle ground.
3.    No matter what healthy snacks you take for yourself you will crave crap food while driving. And unless you have willpower of steel, you will eat it. I prefer to think of it as any calories consumed in a car as non counting.
4.    Even if the kids are stuffed full of healthy pre prepared food they will still nag you for McDonald's every time the see those damned golden arches.
5.    The DVD will always be scratched and get stuck at a crucial point, requiring removal, intensive cleaning and re finding of the crucial scene by the long suffering 9 year old.
6.    When point 5. gets a bit tedious, Harry Potter 1 & 2 read by the dulcet toned Stephen Fry can be a life saver. 
7.    Joshie mysteriously suffers a complete lobotomy of his manners lobe and shouts orders at me and his sisters during the entire journey, morphing back into his usual self on exiting the car.
8.    Even if you start with (count them) four full water bottles, three of them will be either lost or empty by the first 100 kms, and the final inch of water in the remaining bottle will cause more hysterical screaming than you ever thought possible.
9.    Everything important will slowly filter down to the bottom of the car and become impossible to find. Lost items can include shoes, jatz crackers (we never leave home without them), my phone, the chocolate, the next painfully negotiated DVD and the damned water bottles.
10.  After about 2500 kms, There's no place like home. 

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Architectural diversity Qld style

Final postcard from Brisbane.  First a couple of stunners.  

It's all about the covered balcony/veranda.  
Sorry, it's bin night.
Qld architecture at it's best.  I love it.  But I must leave it tomorrow. 

On the way to today's exciting destination, the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, we drove down the Gold Coast highway, which took us past some more dubious architectural decisions. 

Just before you reach the Gold Coast, the highway takes you past all the theme parks with their twisting tubes and towers.  For about 5 km the view from the highway looks like a demented spider has made it's home, spinning plastic structures designed to be slid down at the steepest, scariest angle possible.  

Of course you have to pay outrageous amounts of money to risk your life in this manner.  Apparently it's fun and completely worth it.  

First, on the left is Dreamworld, with it's Waterworld tube towers sticking out at the front.   Because just being Dreamworld clearly wasn't enough for the profiteers so they added the water park about 8 years ago.  Behind this is Dreamworld proper, where there are enormous mad towers you can drop and fall from, should you be bonkers (or young) enough.  Today the car park was chockers, even though it's drizzling and only NSW are still on holidays. 

Next you pass MovieWorld on the right, sadly lacking in brightly coloured plastic tubestock, but gamely trying it on with a couple of towers.  Further up is Wet n Wild, which just keeps getting bigger and bigger, with more and more enormous waterslides at steeper and steeper angles.  There's even a giant funnel that looks like something from a sci fi movie, meant to transport you to another dimension.  Who knows, perhaps it does?  

And about 20km further on there's Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary.  Certainly a more low key amusement park.  A big park, with random sprinklings of native Australian animals.  A few visible, most hiding.

Much to my surprise, we had loads of fun.  Fed kangaroos, counted crocodiles, spotted Tassie devils, wombats and echidnas.


We visited the hospital where a poor kookaburra with a broken wing was being operated on by a young veterinarian.  In a glass surgery so we could all watch.  Talk about nerves of steel.


The already full kangaroos being force fed some more pellets.
The highlight was the train that took us right around the park, closely followed by kangaroo feeding.

And the f**king gift shop.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Gettin' our kultcha on

Today, we went to the Qld Gallery of Modern Art.  Also known as the GOMA.  It's a fab place.  Last time we went right in the middle of the 2011 January holidays, and it was ultra kid friendly, you could walk through a room full of purple balloons, sit and create at a 50 foot long table stacked with white lego pieces and travel from the second floor to ground via tube slides. 

As the school holidays finished here yesterday it wasn't quite so exciting this time, but it was still pretty cool.  Down in the Kids Centre, we were able to create our own bird out of construction paper and cardboard.  I threw myself into the project with gay abandon, first by helping Issy make a tail for her bird, and then abandoning all pretence of helping and making my own, beautiful bird called the Mummy Bird.  There was an information card you could write and tie to your creation.  

Name: Mummy Bird
Features: Layered clothing, designed for maximum warmth combined with maximum hiding of trouble spots.  
Call: Usually sweet and melodious, very unpleasant and raucous when angry. 
Eats: Chocolate and red wine.  Or cheese, crackers and champagne. 

Creators could choose to leave their bird behind as part of a display, or take it home, to become part of the endless gallery of 'paper recycling' as soon as you weren't looking.  

I chose to leave the Mummy Bird behind, for posterity (whatever that is).  

Cue an industrial strength tantrum by Joshie, because Sarah wanted to leave her bird behind with mine, and he wanted hers to come with us so his wouldn't, and I quote, 'be lonely'.  

In the end, all three kids decided to take theirs home (thanks Sarah the eternal peacemaker), and Issy promptly left the bag containing them at the next display, never to be seen again.  This did not cause anyone to melt down, at all.  Because, and I quote again, 'whatever happens to them, they're all together'. 

So, with a careless shrug of the shoulders, we moved on towards a wall display, with lots of cool fat earphones, each with a music soundtrack relating to a video montage of old movies.  The kids love anything hands on, so we spent about 20 minutes here.  



My favourite display in the gallery was a wall of family photos, taken in the style of the old Madonna and Child paintings from the Italian Renaissance, with an adored child being the centre of each shot.  They were real photos of real families, all of whom had required assistance in conceiving, IVF or similar.  The kids ran up and down, shouting, here's two Daddy's, here's two Mummy's, here's a Mummy on her own, here's a Mummy and a Daddy!  They loved seeing the different types of families and they loved the love which radiated from each picture.  Talk about uplifting.  

Our final stop was in a room that spat out two coloured bits of paper every minute from a printer mounted on the ceiling. Result, loads of kids trying to catch the paper, and lots of bets on what colours were next.  Art?  I'm not so sure.  But what does a Mummy Bird know anyway?   
  

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Covering The Big Topics

It's funny, the things you talk about with your kids.  While we were driving, after the Big Banana they wanted to know what other big things they could see.

So I told them about the Big Pineapple, how cool it was, how I used to go there when I was little.

'So what did you do there Mum?' they asked eagerly? Little tykes, keen to hear about what on earth people did at large fruit related amusement parks.

GiantPineappleNambour.jpg
Not our family- random family from Wikipedia
'Um, well, you could climb up inside the pineapple which had pictures inside showing the history of pineapple farming in the district and had a charming view over the pineapple fields from the little balcony at the top.'

Silence.  Completely unimpressment (yes I just made up a word) radiated from the back seat.

I went on nervously.  'And then you could get on a little train that took you out among the pineapple plants so you could see them closer.  And then you could have an ice-cream or lunch at the cafe and maybe get a souvenier.'

'Aaah souveniers!' they said. 'We so want to go there!'  Clearly it's all about the toy at the end isn't it.  Sort of like a Happy Meal, but more expensive and slightly more nutritious.

I told them I thought it was shut, that being the rumour I'd heard on the large fruit related amusement parks grapevine.

We then spoke of the Big Prawn, and how it used to be in Ballina but the mayor or local council or someone who had the power said it had to be torn down.  I don't think it was an attraction as such, it was just outside a big seafood shop.  They still wanted to see it.   But last time I saw it, it's lovely pinky colour had faded to a sun bleached white.  Not very impressive to generation Z.  They of the multi use devices and nanosecond attention span.

Imagine a prawn cocktail made out of this baby.
But as it turned out, before I could even shout, "look kids, there's the Big Prawn", we had been shunted away from Ballina on the new fancypants bypass.  Another Pacific Highway town facing the dubious pleasure of no more drive through traffic.  No more chance sitings of the Big Prawn for us.  I have no idea whether it's still standing, glinting whitely in the sun, or has been bulldozed.

Ps.  I am very pleased to announce the Big Pineapple is back up and running after a brief closure.  It seems the community got together to save it, and now there are markets every weekend.  The train still runs, and you can still climb it.  I am just gutted we won't have time to visit this trip.  If you're going anywhere near south east Qld in the near future, try to drop in and relive my childhood for me.

Pps.  We have spent the weekend and the last couple of days catching up with some completely fabulous people in Brisbane.  There are lots of other people we haven't caught up with but wish we had.  Brisbane is totally full of excellent people who we love.  That's all.