Thursday, 31 March 2011

Artistic Flair

I have been watching with interest my children's painting skills for some years. Not being at all artistic myself, it is something that I have absolutely no expectations about, but I find it astounding that I can come across a child's painting in the 'wrapping paper basket' and know instantly who the artist was.

Nugget's early paintings were all full page extravaganzas. He would fill every space on the page with strokes and colour usually showing a nice balance, but never pushing any boundaries.

Nugget - Aged almost 3

Nowadays, it is all about small miniscule stick figures doing all manner of activites for Nugget, (usually labelled to assist the viewer) drawn in lead pencil or pen. No colour.

Doo-Dah has had a penchant for large swirls and splashes of colour.

Doo Dah - Aged 3 and a bit
His drawings of people are now starting to have all the appropriate body parts, but he remains an abstract artist at heart.

Dew Drop's paintings are all about lines - horizontal and vertical strokes with barely a wave in them. He is all business.

The Minx loves dots. Her works resemble Aboriginal dot paintings at times, where she splashes the brush persistently against the paper to create a shape (it is rarely recognisable as an object however). She loves her work and paints with vigour and a smile.

Like all other areas of development, my children have shown their different personalities. It is such a wonderful gift to be given the opportunity to watch these unique people grow. Who knows if one of them will become an artist of note but I love that they all think they are now!

I wonder when we become conscious of our artistic talents (or lack there of)? When do we stop painting like no-one is judging?

Do you have a Picasso or perhaps a Dali in your family?

PS: Six items or less update - having trouble getting photos sorted of my six items (probably because I am always wearing some of them and my camera is in hiding). Will continue to try and post stat.

PPS: No photos of the twin's paintings available - will add to post once I find that camera!

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Emotions raised by The Secret History

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The Secret History by Donna Tart has been an interesting read. I found the plot quite disturbing but it is the menacing tone and brooding mood of Henry the book that haunts me long after I have read the last page.

The story is of six scholars of Classic Greek and their teacher, living their own version of college life at Hampden. The narrator, Richard, is a scholarship student hiding his real identity from his rich new friends. His voice is non-intrusive but it is his perspective that dominates the events of the novel.

The book is complex and layered; gripping in its fatalistic simplicity. Although you know the core theme of the drama from the outset, you are no less surprised by the extenuating circumstances when the murder occurs.

The characters slowly unravel as time passes.

I have never found myself in such a fringe group, grappling with the meaning of life, killing people and struggling with the psychology of modern times, nor do I have a preference for extinct languages over modern ones, but I identified with the snowballing craziness of the plot.

It reminded me of times when you get in 'over your head' and while you *know* you are not treading the sensible path, you find yourself drawn along anyway. Your need to belong, to share history with people, is stronger than your ability to make ethical and appropriate decisions.

Like the puzzle of adolescence where you struggle for independence and self awareness and where experimentation is the norm, the characters get caught up in the flow of events without really cognising the consequences. Life is about emotion and the characters live to feel, not think. I liked that about the characterisation.

However, I could tell from early on in the book that their fraught connection was bound to erode. The characters themselves were destined to combust following the killing and their downward spiral was inevitable.

It is certainly one of the most engaging reads I have had in some time. Probably not for the faint hearted, but certainly one for those who appreciate good writing.

Have you read this novel? What were your thoughts on it?

Monday, 28 March 2011

Buy nothing new: six items challenge

**So you remember that I started the "Buy nothing new for a year" challenge on February 1?
So far, the hardest thing that I have had to deal with is presents for others.

When the Geege and I decided to embark on the challenge, we decided that for birthdays and things we would *try* to buy second hand (or re-gift!). And if that wasn't possible for the particular person, we would *try* to buy handmade. And if that wasn't possible, we would *try* to buy ethically and environmentally. And if that wasn't possible, then we would go to one of the local shops and buy something Australian made.

It is pretty hard when you own a camping store, and you are really disorganised a lot of the time, not to just grab something from the store to give as a gift. My sister-in-law's birthday was a prime example and we broke the 'nothing new' challenge by getting her a piece of Icebreaker on the way to her birthday brunch (technically is it 'buying something new' when you steal it?).

I also bought a pair of school socks for Nugget. I tried to get him second hand ones from the clothing pool, but there just weren't any there. He was down a sock so we were rotating 2 pairs and with me going back to work an extra day as of this week, I felt that the purchase of another pair will save him having to wear dirty socks once a week. That seems reasonable? But I'm not sure if it is allowed.

Other than those little digressions from the path, all has gone well and after two months we are (mostly) sticking to the program. I have many questions such as:
  • Are haircuts okay? (not style cuts but genuine get-this-hair-out-of-my-eyes cuts? 
  • What do I do about moisturiser? And skin cleansers? Are they luxuries or necessities?
  • When my paper subscription runs out, can I renew? And if I don't, does that mean I can't buy a paper for the rest of the year?
  • What is the deal with school uniforms? If we can't get stuff second hand, are we breaking the rules to get new things?
So, if you have done this challenge before, and can shed light on these little quandries, please do!

And as of this morning, inspired my by friend Tricia, I am starting my six items or less challenge. It is all about working out needs and wants. Living simply. Buying clothes that last. Reducing the angst of choosing your daily wardrobe. Minimalism. Anti-consumerism. All that good stuff that keeps me ticking, and will definitely help me buy nothing new for my wardrobe this month!

So I will be wearing the same six items of clothing for a whole month*! You can sign up too if you want? But you had better get in quick because today is the last day to enter (and bare with the website, it is somewhat temperamental!)  I will share my wardrobe choices later this week and more about the challenge rules etc.

So tell me, if you are buying nothing new this year, how are you going? And if you know any good, online stores specialising in hand-made and recycled stuff for the purpose of gift shopping, please share!

*Undies, PJs, outerwear (like coats and rainjackets), accessories and workout clothes are excepted.

**For some reason my images are not showing today, so it is all about the text for this one!

Friday, 25 March 2011

This week I'm grateful for...

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I'm not often one to be openly grateful.

My life seems to go by in such a rush of working and parenting and 'wife'-ing that I rarely seem to find time for navel gazing, inward smiles or just being.

I wasn't always like this. Probably just since my Mum role got overwhelmingly unbalanced and the 'me' within didn't have as much time to shine.

So I am really grateful this week for the opportunity provided to me by Maxabella to host this empowering linky of gratefulness and thankfulness. This weekly tribute to contentedness and happiness. It gives me the opportunity to spend my weekend sharing in your stories of appreciation and love and my heart is swelling at the thought.

So for my top three gratefuls this week...

The lovely lady from the florist who has 'old school' customer service and beautiful flowers

My fellow multiple mum who insisted I try out orienteering on Wednesday night and introduced me to another way to make running fun


My gorgeous husband (the Geege) who has given up a lot of his 'me' time to allow me more of my own

So, what are you grateful for this week? Just add your I'm Grateful For post below (or drop us a note in the comments) and please add a link back to me/Maxabella in your post. Then pop over to visit other bloggers who are spreading a little sunshine. Happy weekend to you!

Thanks so much for visiting.

The troublesome twosome

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This is another post about children who won't sleep.

They won't you know.

Yesterday, instead of having a daytime nap, here's what the twins got up to:

1. Learned how to climb in and out of their cots (argh! I hope they will forget again)
2. Knocked their fan over
3. Threw teddy bears all over the room
4. Unpacked and threw the contents of their daycare bags all over the room
5. Requested cups of milk
6. Chatted and giggled amongst themselves
7. Cried and called out that they "need"ed me and
8. Sat in their cots singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star together

I am pretty good at ignoring two year olds who think they know better about their need for sleep than I do, but I have to say that the singing hooked me in. How could I possibly resist two little sopranos, helping each other out through a verse of this beautiful nursery rythme?
They didn't disappoint. They sat facing each other, smiling and singing like no-one was watching. Only I was. I was.
What antics do you have to put up with from your sleep-avoiding children?
PS: I am helping the holidaying Maxabella Loves out this weekend and hosting the Grateful Linky. Drop by later and join in the fun.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The over-compensator

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I love an over-compensator.

You know the type?

When they take too long moving off at the lights and someone nudges them along with a beep of the horn, they suddenly go from zero to 100 in about 6 seconds and break the speed limit getting to their destination?

Or the parents who can't bake to save themselves who show up at the cake stall with a store bought cake the size of Tasmania that must have cost at least $100?

Or the person who is so excited to be included in a group of friends that they assume the role of chief organiser and get stuck event planning the rest of their lives to ensure they remain 'on the list'?

These people pop up all over the place for me. They make me smile. They make me grimace. It takes all types, so they say. I tend to agree.

Are you an over-compensator? Do you love them as much as I do? Give us some examples of how they show themselves in your life.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

The thighs have it

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I started playing five a side indoor soccer last week.

It has been lots of fun, and ever so nice to see some dear friends regularly!

I don't think I am talking out of turn if I admit that we are pretty bloody terrible, by anyone's standards. But we are yet to totally embarass ourselves. Two losses, but only a goal in each game. Not too bad for a bunch of newbies.

I had a brief affair with soccer in my early thirties. I loved it: being part of a team; having a legitimate excuse to unleash my competitiveness; having a weekly romp in the grass. What's not to like?

My last season in 2004 ended abruptly, when I got pregnant with Nugget and dashed my hopes and dreams of being a Masters Australian soccer star. The fact that I couldn't actually play all that well has no bearing in my memory; just the fact that I had to end the season early because my baby bump grew.

While I was feeling a little apprehensive about recommencing my fling with the world game last week, the moment we worked out the rules and got ourselves into position, I was hooked again.

The 30 minute game flew by in a sea of sweat, breathless moments, kicks, laughs and confused looks. It was enough to exhaust me and I was still wearing my tight quads until about Friday last week. Sigh.

And then last night, as I timidly stepped back out for another game against women half my age, those same thigh muscles punished me. After 5 minutes of play I was sore and tight, a lot less flexible and kind of wishing I didn't have to get through the game. Sigh.

Like many aspects of life, it is not like it used to be.

Maybe this cougar hasn't got what it takes to tame the young beast anymore?

Have you experienced team sports lately? How have you found your performance? Still got what it takes? Or, like me, are you needing to rethink your involvement?

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Oh George W!

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I actually realised I miss George W. Bush today.

It isn't what you think. I am no fan of his. But he was funny. Don't you think? Unintentionally so, but funny nonetheless.

I was doing some training today, so last week I was looking for some amusing clips on YouTube to break up the ho-hum. I came across some of those little Bushisms that kept me laughing for all those years. He was just priceless!

"Our breast and brightest..."

"A nation where fish and humans can co-exist"

"If you are a single mother, you have the hardest job in America as far as I am concerned, and you are trying hard to put food on your family..."

I actually feel sorry for his speech writers. To work so hard and then have it go so wrong, so often. You really couldn't be paid enough, could you?

But my absolute favourite Bushism?

"The French don't have a word for entrepreneur".

Oh Bush! I miss the laughs.

What was your favourite Bush moment? Do you think there will ever be another world leader as 'eloquent' as him?

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Blog Bookmarks - The Aussie Bloggers Conference Edition

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I started this blog as a record of life, my thoughts and life's little lessons. Since entering the blogosphere, I have now accumulated more words of wisdom, interesting snippets and 'must-reads' to keep track of. It is a mind-field! Blog Bookmarks is a place to highlight some of my favourite finds for the week.

I didn't write much down while I was at the Aussie Bloggers Conference. I am not sure if it was because I didn't realise until the afternoon session that there was some paper available on the table or the fact that I was busily tweevesdropping over people's shoulders, keeping an eye on the Twitter hilarity as the conference went on?

Either way, I only had the following things jotted in my terrible script on my conference program:

1. It turns out that one of the women I went to school with is a bloody fantastic green blogger. "Tricia from Little eco footprints".  I hadn't come across her world before the conference but I had fun in there today. It is only the second time I have seen her in 20 years (she was present at our school reunion last October) but I look forward to reading about her daily.

2. "Watermark your photos" - I have been meaning to do this and it was mentioned a few times throughout the day but a number of people (including Miscellaneous Mummy who had quite a harrowing story to tell!). There are some instructions here.

3. "Focusbooster" - Nicole from Planning with Kids spoke about her ways of dealing with time management and social networking. She referred to a free software called Focusbooster which is based on the pomodoro technique and helps you stay on top of things when online. She really is the PlanningQueen!

4. "Key words" - I ventured to the SEO session and learnt a bit about Search Engine Optimisation from Kristin Rohan from Sassy SEO. It is a tricky business, and one that is constantly changing. The biggest thing that I took away was the importance of using keywords in your posts and titles. All the cryptic headers that I like to use may have to become a thing of the past if I am to rise to the likes of Retro Mummy or Styling You.

5. Frills in the Hills provided the best quote of the day for me: "Make money because of your blog, not on your blog". Here. Here!

6. "Facebook provides more referrals than Twitter" according to Catherine from SquiggleMum and Christie from Childhood 101. If and when I decide if I want to out that Facebook page together (something on my 52in52 list), I will look forward to that!

So help me out if you were there. What did you learn at the ABC?

Yum Cha Cha

Image sourced here
Dear Lord! What was I thinking? Four kids to a very popular Yum Cha restaurant on a Sunday morning.

The Sunday morning after the night before (Aussie Blog Conference). Oh my! My head hurts...

I thank my m-i-l for new and colouring books.

I thank my b-i-l for taking care of the ordering.

I thank Coke Zero for being my friend*.

Happy Birthday Auntie!

What are you up to on the day after the night before?

*Oh dear, this has turned into a grateful post. Maxabella will be proud.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The feminist fights the funny

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I may have come to terms with the fact that I no longer spell women with a 'y'* but I still have a feminist within. For instance:

It bothers me that women do more of the domestic thought than men ("Fadmin" as Angela Mollard called it in the Sunday magazine yesterday).

It bothers me that working Mums have to have more sick days than their husbands when the children are unable to attend school/daycare.

And it really bothers me to be exposed to sexist jokes.

We went to see Billy Connolly on Saturday night with some friends. I can't say I have ever been a big fan of the Scotsman, but I thought that it would be interesting to see such a big-name comic doing his thing. I was also excited to be ticking another thing off my 52in52 list!

It took me a little while to acclimatise to his show. I don't know if it was the black and white stripey pants he wore or the fact that he kept pacing backwards and forwards along the stage or the fact that a man the same age as my father used more 'f' bombs than you would hear in a high school playground?

Whatever it was, I was feeling pretty uncomfortable initially. I got past the culture shock though and his fart jokes and slap-stick humour was kind of funny for a bit. And then he lost me again.

Was it the part where he was talking about an ex-teacher he had who he called an 'f*n b!tch' repeatedly and loudly?

Or the bit where he inferred that all women are hand-brakes to their husbands who were subsequently feeling repressed and irritated?

Or perhaps there were just too many pelvic thrusts aimed at women to shut them up "Take that b!tch" style?.

But I don't want to unfairly review him. There was some balance to all his misogynist jokes.  He had a go at other groups too. Disabled people. Tick. Children. Tick. Homosexuals. Tick.

But funnily, there wasn't one derogatory joke that involved a man (that I noticed).

I don't want to come across all P.C. but I don't think Billy's show would have lost anything if he'd just left those uncomfortable bits out. In fact, Billy's show would have gained something. A bit of class.

What do you think about sexist jokes? Are we too sensitive these days?

*I stole that line from someone in a book I read recently. I can't quite remember from whom but I loved it.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Here's this week's thing

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1. Apparently people get lost doing Adventure Racing. I can understand. I can't read a map either.
2. Lego is one of life's true joys for little boys.
3. The cleaning fairy seems to have given up at our place.
4. I am still thinking about Born to Run by Christopher McDougall even though I am now half-way through The Secret History by Donna Tart.
5. Mother Nature is seriously pissed. Thinking of you Japan x
6. To the man who stopped his car to give me a serve about 'keeping an eye on' my children: Just keep driving next time, mate. You really didn't help.
7. I am officially giving up cheese when it reaches $7.50 for 500g.
8. Refreshingly, there are still trainers out there who do not use PowerPoint. Yay you, Mel!
9. Effect vs affect - I still don't always get it. Sometimes, when you learn something wrong, no amount of mnemonics helps you unlearn it.
10. I reckon it has to be easier to have quins with another woman than with a man. Just sayin'.

What is your thing this week?

Friday, 11 March 2011

How long 'til a rodent goes crisp?

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We've had a bit of a funny smell in our backyard of late.

At first I thought it was the possums, but the Geege's handy work on the roof seems to have done the trick there.

Then I started to wonder if one of the kids had taken to toileting in the back yard (it wouldn't surprise me). They do love a 'bush wee'.

But on Wednesday, whilst taking the rubbish out to the bins I discovered the real cause of the smell.

A dead rat.

So dead in fact it was stiff and only really recognizable from it's big ratty teeth.

How long do you suppose it takes a rat to go crisp?

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The core of fitness

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I am feeling pretty fit at the moment. Fit for me that is. I mean, I run. I ride. I walk. But, can you really be fit and not able to do a sit-up, do you think?

Cate from Keep Cate Busy wrote a great post yesterday about tummy exercises (she probably called it an ab workout or something equally sporty). I got all inspired by her 10 minute per day workout and told her I would try it this week.

Upon closer examination, I realized that I can't actually *do* any of the exercises. The last successful 'roll up' I did resulted from three months of weekly pilates with my sister-in-law and ended with a whoop of joy that slipped from my mouth before I could check myself. It just wasn't that kind of class.

Does that make me weak? Unfit?

My total lack of stomach muscles post babies means that if I eat excessively at lunch, it shows. There is simply nothing to hold it in anymore. So I wonder about the value of trying to use exercise to improve this problem area. Is there any point?

But if I can't improve it, what will become of me as an older woman? Will my stomach just bulge more and more the more flaccid I become overall?

I am committing to my abs this week. You just never know right? But I do seriously wonder if surgery is the only solution.

What do you think about the role of core strength in fitness?

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

What to name the blogger?

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I am going to the Aussie Mummy Bloggers Conference with Sister A from Life in a Pink Fibro next Saturday. Sister B from Maxabella Loves... won't be joining us, sadly.

I haven't thought too much about it (we bought the tickets 100 years ago), but doing a quick read around Blogland today, bloggers are starting to air their angst about it; what to wear being the primary concern for most.

Not being too fussed about my appearance, I have a different problem.

What to name the blogger?

Do you think I can introduce myself as MultipleMum?

Will you be miffed if I don't blow my cover and reveal my actual name?

If I can't be MultipleMum, what do you think I should call myself for the day?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Two new things after four long years

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When I picked up Doo Dah from daycare yesterday, his teacher made a point of catching my attention.

Of course, being Doo Dah, I thought "What has he done now?"

Nothing bad as it turned out you negative Nellie. She just wanted to tell me a little story.

She said that she had been reading a particular story to groups of children for more than four years. She knew the story by rote and anticipated the children's questions and comments on each and every page as she turned them.

She said that she was surprised that day because Doo Dah had pointed out two new things about the book to her. Two things she had never noticed herself. Two things that no other child, in four years, had ever pointed out.

Pretty amazing huh?

Doo Dah's teacher's comments really made my day yesterday.

What is making your heart sing this week?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

52in52: The family meal

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I am taking a leaf out of Kelly's book and setting myself something new to do each week in 2011. I am going to post about it each week on Saturday. I won't be doing this in any particular order, and will add the link to the post when it is complete. If I don't manage to acheive everything on the list, (highly likely) I will donate $5 for everything I missed to Oxfam for all the amazing work they do. So here goes...

I've written before about the antics that go on at our place at meal times. My children seem to equate 'dinner' with 'chasings' and the whole affair generally degenerates into mixture between a circus and a rant-a-thon.

This was my motivation for adding 'reclaim the dining room table' to my 52in52 list. I thought that if we could sit together and eat as a family, maybe the kids would stop running around and just get on with the business of eating?

There were a lot of obstacles in getting the table back. I wrote about some of them here. The final touches came about a month ago now from a combination of re-purposing the Ikea highchairs for the twins (into booster chairs) and the "DMT* School of Engineering" shelf that I built from a plank of wood and some left-over pavers.

The 'study' was promptly re-configured into said shelf above the glassware cabinet and the table returned to its original form, a dining table for a famiy of six.

I am pleased to report that this move has done the trick. No more dinnertime antics. Just a happy family, eating together and chatting around the dining table each night. There has been no miracle here; the kids have not morphed into brussel sprouts and brocolli eating machines or anything (I still live in hope). But the family meal has been restored to the way I remember it being as a kid.

I'm pretty happy about that.

How do you manage the family meal and all of its challenges?

* DMT is my father, an engineer, and a recycler well before it was cool. When we were kids we all learned to fashion shelves out of wood and bricks.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Here's the thing...

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1. Charlie Sheen is a dick.
2. According to the SMH at the weekend, Princess Mary and Prince Fred have 4 nannies and 16 household staff to manage their lives. No wonder I am so bloody tired!
3. Changing banks is not an easy task. You stay because it is too hard to change even though they suck and they steal your money charge you millions of dollars in fees a year.
4. Black Swan is psycho.
5. Those last few kilos really are harder to shift than the whole 13 kilos before them.
6. Buying nothing new for a year gets more complicated the longer you do it (not really a revelation that one).
7. The development of speech and language in two year old children seems to be proportional to the amount of times they wake at night; the more they develop, the more they wake*. I'm not sure it is worth the effort.
8. Even people you know extremely well can surprise you.
9. "Reply All" should be used sparingly in email correspondence.
10. Life looks good from a bicycle seat.

Do you have a thing today?

*Although I am a trained speech pathologist, this is not an evidence-based statement

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Oh Boy! I think he has got it!

Image credit
We have had a break through these last 10 days.

Nugget is nappy-free at night!

At five years and 10 months of age he has finally cracked it.

We no longer four bottoms lined up in a row at night.

One down, three to go.

What is your crowning parenting joy this week?
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