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.