Thursday, 31 May 2012

Travelling with kids - how much do they remember?

Surely a person would remember this?
The Minx asked me today if she had been on a plane.

I reminded her that we had a trip to Fiji last Christmas and flew in a plane to get there. She stared at me blankly. She was only two at the time.

Nugget said: "I remember Fiji"

Nugget was five, having just finished Kindergarten.

I asked him what he remembered (baring in mind that Nugget is not the most forthcoming child, this list took some time to be generated):

I remember getting blisters from my crocs.

I remember swimming a lot. At the beach and in the swimming pool.

I remember I had to drink a yucky orange drink when my tummy hurt.

I remember playing mini-golf.

I remember we got there by car then plane then bus then boat.

I remember Kids Club and going fishing.

Nothing about the culture. Nothing about the people. Nothing about the music. Nothing about the birthday celebrations. Nothing about the Fijian Santa. Nothing else.

Blisters, "Bula belly" and sporting activities.

I reckon I could have created that at home.

Tell me that the travel was not in vain?! What do you think the benefits of travel for children are?

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Self service at the supermarket

Image from here
What do you think about the self-service check outs at the supermarkets?

Being an ex-check-out chick from way back*, I am quite partial to being able to scan my own items. I am faster than most operators. And I know how to pack a bag (reusable of course). On a good day, I can still remember the fresh produce codes. Tragic but true.

Doo Dah is quite partial too. When we visit the supermarket he insists that we use the self-service check outs. He has to scan the items. He is not faster than most operators. He is most definitely slower than the average check out chick but he loves it. This is how aspirations are born.

I have rules about using the self-service option. I am not dedicated enough to actually queue to scan my own items at the supermarket. But if I can slip straight onto a machine, I go for it. I reckon it saves me a lot of time.

I wish they wouldn't talk though.

I remember a time when someone used to fill up your car for you at the petrol station. I was only a back-seat passenger in those days, but it was nice. A 'drive through' service.

The check-out chick will become extinct, just as the petrol station attendant did. Are you ready?

Do you use the self-service checkouts? Or are you sticking with the professionals?

* I worked part-time at one of the major supermarkets for a few years while doing my Speech Pathology degree.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Raising chickens for the bird phobic

Image from here
For me it started with magpies. I first noticed that I couldn't cope with flapping wing noises after I was attacked by a magpie on my home from school one day. Magpies became a bit scary for me then, but any wing flapping would bring on the same flight/fright response (Ahem!).

My fears generalised to any flappy birds. All flappy birds. Or birds that looked like they might flap soon. Or any bird that was perched above me.

The Geege thought it funny when I raised the idea of getting chickens. I wanted a pet. I wanted the children to have pets. I wanted a pet that was productive. Chickens seemed the logical choice. "They will flap you know" The Geege said. "And you will have to pick them up" he casually added. Hmmm...

So we built the coop. We selected the chickens (2 black, 1 white). The guy at the store handled them into the box to carry them home. He assured us that they would be no trouble.

On the first day we let them free range. They didn't take themselves home to the coop (despite everyone's reassurances on Facebook that they would) and I began to have my doubts. What was I thinking? Birds? This could only end in tears. Tears for fears.

The Geege quickly became the chief chicken relocator. He nominated himself after I simply refused to notice they were still roaming around after dark. He chuckled a little and may have even said "I told you so".

Our white chook "Fluffy" turned out to be a speed demon who is highly asocial. I couldn't catch her even if I really wanted to. Which I don't. Luckily she follows the other chickens, so if I can gain compliance from the black chickens, she will usually follow suit. Eventually. In her own time.

Fluffy is also an accomplished flyer. So we were told when our neighbours were asked to care for the girls when we went to the Blue Mountains for the Geege's race She was the first to discover the wandering dew in our neighbour's yard. She quickly flew over the fence, leading the others in the venture.

These day trips had to be nipped in the bud. This of course would require some handling and with the Geege out of action due to his ankle injury, I had to come up with another plan to avoid actually touching the chickens.

Nugget was my first thought, but I figured that while he is my main helper when the Geege is absent, I didn't think he was up to the task.

So I phoned a friend.

My friend and her husband came to the rescue yesterday to clip the girls' wings and help us contain them in our back yard (our neighbours have probably had enough of their antics).

There is no doubt in my mind that my children know I am scared witless of the three gorgeous critters that I diligently care for each day. I want to set a good example to my kids, facing your fears and all that, but it is so hard for me.

In the past two months I have needed to pick the girls up on two occasions. My heart pounded, but I did it. It is one thing for a bird phobic to feed and water her birds. It is another altogether to spend quality time with them. Watch this space to see how our relationship develops.

Anyone else have a bird phobia?

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Conscious parenting

Image from here
I found myself in the 'parenting' section of the library on my last trip. It was strangely familiar to me.

When I had Nugget, I read every parenting book that was written*. I lapped up every theory on sleep, feeding, discipline and play in children I could find. The poor kid was monitored every second of the day.

I had another spell with the books when the toddler tantrums hit for the first season at our place. While all the kids love(d) a good tantrum, Nugget received the Best Actor Award for his superb efforts in 2007, followed by the 2011 performances by Minx (who is showing promise for a long career).

In addition to the books, The Super Nanny got a work out, as did the House of the Tiny Tearaways. We learnt to ignore tantrums and employ time-out strategies. The thinking spot was used on high rotation and remains a feature in our discipline tool box to this date.

My last serious rendezvous with parenting books was circa 2009 when the twins were babies and I searched high and low for a strategy to get them to sleep. I read every 'twin' parenting book I could find. None of them really helped** but they at least made me feel like I wasn't the only one asking the questions.

So why was I back in the heavily trodden section of the library? We need to make some changes.

The kids are getting feral. When we give an instruction to our children, Noah responds by whining 'why?' and huffing about having 'to do everything' (Yeah right sunshine!).  Doo Dah makes no attempt to follow the instruction until we have repeated it six times (usually in a raised voice by that point). The Minx either responds immediately or chucks a whammy for no apparent reason, reminding me of a Mandrake. And Dew Drop usually does nothing until someone else does.

After weeks of this pattern, the Geege and I have decided that something has to happen. We need to rethink our family routine, family chores and our discipline strategies. Naturally the nerd in me has taken over and is now in search of the 'answer'. I know I won't find it in a parenting book, but what I will do is start to think about our options.

Some conscious parenting never goes astray.

* Possibly an exaggeration but it sure felt like that!
** You'd have thought that I would have learnt that already!

Monday, 21 May 2012

But it's my birthday...

Image from here
I didn't make it to work today.

I was too busy.

Too busy unpacking from the weekend.

Too busy taking The Geege to the Emergency Department to have his ankle checked out*. Fortunately it isn't broken. Unfortunately he is on crutches and 'non-weight baring'.

Too busy discovering that our chickens can now fly and had escaped from our back yard. But I was too busy to deal with that little issue (I did spot them over the back fence and knew they were safe) because I had to pick Doo Dah up from school and head back to the hospital to have his cast removed from his arm.

Too busy meeting up with my oldest friend for coffee and cake (Thank God for old friends) and then buying our new cook top.

Too busy taking care of the patient and whipping up Thai curry before picking up the kids from school and daycare and heading into the usual night-time routine. Unaided by the Geege who is a prisoner on the couch.

Too busy to celebrate my birthday.

I had the day off work on my birthday but it wasn't to have any fun. I was too busy for fun**.

* He informed me 65kms into the North Face 100 that he had a 'bit of a sore ankle'. He completed the race (in just under 22 hours) and, to be honest, after waiting up all night for him, I couldn't get into bed fast enough when we arrived back at our house in Blackheath that I didn't even think to put some ice on his foot. He awoke with a lovely bruise. And then this morning, he couldn't stand on it!

** With the exception of spending time with my family and seeing the gorgeous Trace.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012


Image from here

The Geege is lining up at The North Face 100 this weekend. It is the pinnacle of trail runs in Australia, held in the spectacular Blue Mountains (100kms). He is doing it solo, although there are over 900 competitors in the race (I know!) so hopefully he will be surrounded by others. He will climb the equivalent of 1500 stories. He hopes to complete it in less than 20 hours (the elite guys go under 10 hours).

The Geege has never even run a marathon.

It is how he operates. Extremes. Risk taking. Why do something so 'normal' as a marathon when there is a world of ultra trail running to explore?

I have no idea how anyone runs 100kms, least of all a Dad of four with his own business, but as his little support crew, I guess I will see it all in action on Saturday.

He printed off the 'support crew manual' yesterday. It outlines my duties! I suspect I will spend most of the time between checkpoints navigating my way to the next one. Surely he had someone more capable than me to do this?

It will be a weekend without the kids but unfortunately, instead of laying in and enjoying the quiet, I will be serving the Geege hot soup at 3am in three degree temperature while I patch up his blisters and change his socks! That's love for you.

Wish him luck.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Mother's Day catch up

Image not related to post but how could I resist?
We celebrated Mother's Day today with the Geege's Mum and the rest of his family. Every year we go to the same place (in fact, the restaurant is the same place we go for all the family affairs). It is set in a nursery, has delicious food and a playground for the kids. We all like it there. Lot's of time to chat and enjoy the menu.

We see the Geege's family pretty regularly and I would have thought that they were briefed on all the comings and goings in Casa Four. Today, as my m-i-l gasped when she saw Doo Dah's gappy gums, I realised that maybe I need to communicate more!

So here are the things that we all need to catch up on.

Doo Dah broke his wrist in the first week of the school holidays. It is the second broken bone we have had to deal with. It was the classic "Mrs L., your son Doo Dah fell off the monkey bars and hasn't been himself" apologetic phone call from the vacation care manager, followed by the loooong wait in the ED, topped only by the three hours for our appointment(!) in the Fracture Clinic the following week. He is rocking along just fine and we get the cast off on May 21.

The tooth faery had her third Tour of Duty at our place when Doo Dah lost his first one a couple of weeks ago. We now have the routine down pat and, thanks to a little gift from At Number 32, we have a gorgeous "tooth pouch" for safe keeping.

Since the slumber party, Fluffy, Shadow and Rainbow have each been laying an egg every day. We are loving the freshness of the eggs and the fun of hunting for them in the little garden nests they make for themselves (they free range).

The soccer season* is well underway and despite the fact that Doo Dah can't play (wrist), his Dad has been up at the crack of dawn each Saturday to attend to his coaching duties. Nugget's team wins one and loses one, but the kids are all improving each week and are having such fun! The more we ensconce ourselves in the local community, the more I am impressed with its friendliness and sense of connectedness. This is a lovely place to raise a family.

Splendor in the Heights went off with a bang last night. The thrifty decorations were effective and everyone's costumes were superb. The questions were challenging but good. Our reluctant emcee did a fantastic job as Freddie Mercury (with obligatory groin gropes and sleazy moustache). The air guitar competition which, let's face it could have been a total fizzer, was hilarious and a real crowd pleaser. And we raised over $1000 for the school (thanks largely to the generous sponsors and fines for Smart phone usage!). But the best bit? Our committee of ten became really good friends during the organising process.

But that is enough about us.

What do you and I need to catch up on?

* Note to self: Take some photos of your children at soccer!

Friday, 11 May 2012

Where I reveal what sort of friend I really am

Image from here
Following the shopping trolley incident yesterday, I thought things couldn't get any worse.

We took it easy in the afternoon. The low following the adrenalin high made me subdued. I spent a lot of time holding my pair of three year olds tight, thinking about how quickly life can change.

We picked the boys up from school and attending soccer training. I couldn't actually tell anyone about what had happened. Fearing judgement. Feeling embarrassed.

We got home and the Geege was whipping up dinner. Dew Drop and I were grooving to a few tunes while we created a salad to complete the meal. I was starting to feel like things were going to be okay. We are all alive and well. That is all that matters.

Then we heard a loud cracking noise; an explosion of sorts. I quickly looked over at the Geege, surprised to find that the ceramic cook top had shattered while he was using it. The safety glass was in a million pieces; the element still red hot.

The Geege was remarkably unharmed. No random electric shock. No shards of glass in his eyes or skin.

Dew Drop and I were unscathed too.

Another near miss. Unbelievable.

They say that things happen in threes. I am a bit superstitious like that. Last night I kept expecting something else to happen.

And then it did.

My friend M reiterated a story from his day when we were at our trivia planning meeting last night. His story started with "I nearly had a head on in Galston Gorge this morning". I interjected with a relieved "That is great to hear!"* before he could finish his story.

Everyone stared at me. Not quite the socially acceptable response to a friend's near death experience, right?

It took a bit of explaining but everyone understood in the end. M's story was harrowing, but he had survived. Just like we all had. We had a giggle and closed the door on that trio of near-misses.

Are you a bit superstitious too? Do you think things happen in threes?

* I may have even thrown in an air punch. I am like that. People love being friends with me!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The runaway trolley

Image from here
I got the fright of my life today.

I parked the twins in a supermarket trolley outside the Geege's shop to pick up our bag of library books. I turned my back for all of one minute, heard a squeal from the Minx, turned and started running.

I got back to the door of the shop to find the trolley approximately five metres in front of me; out of control. Racing down the hill in the direction of a busy street.

I shrieked and watched, while I ran as fast as I could to catch the runaway trolley, as it hurdled the gutter and rolled onto the road.

Into a stream of traffic. My heart sunk. My mouth went dry.

I reached the trolley as it was across the first lane of traffic. I whispered 'thank you' to the poor driver who, had fortunately braked his car before he hit the trolley. He looked shocked. He looked overwhelmed.

I pulled the trolley back up the gutter onto the sidewalk, in a state of shock, as I watched the busy road return to action.

The twins were in tears. I was in tears. All I could think was how lucky we were to have survived this ordeal.

I totally dodged a bullet today.

I know you are not reading this, but thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr Driver. Your attentive driving saved my children's lives today. I cannot thank you enough for braking your car. For not harming my kids. For being there for them when I was not. You totally had my back and I thank you sincerely for it.

I am embarrassed that I left my children in a trolley unattended today.

I am so angry with myself  for putting my children in harms way.

Smart people do dumb things.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Where the wild things aren't

Image from here
My day was book ended* today with stories about Maurice Sendak's death (he's the author of Where the wild things are, amongst other things).

On my way to work I heard President Obama reading the story:

And then, this afternoon on my way home, I heard the journalist who wrote this delightful piece being interviewed. He spoke of the ritual of reading Where the Wild Things Are to his son when he was two years old. Over and over. He spoke of the connection the story (and the ritual of reading it) brought to their relationship. I can relate. We love a bedtime story here.

I was excited to hear that Maurice Sendak has other books to explore. Equally awesome and adventurous, apparently, but (perhaps) less well known.

There is In the Night Kitchen, which is the story of a young boy's dream journey through a baker's kitchen where he helps bake a cake. It has been subject to censorship issues over the years because it features a naked boy. Egad!

And there is Outside over there; the story of a young girl who has to babysit her sister and imagines her being taken by goblins.**

We are going to track these babies down!

Rest in peace Mr Sendak. And thanks. We love your work.

Do you have a copy of Where the Wild Things Are? What is your favourite bit?

* Sorry about the pun!
** From the descriptions of the story lines, I can sense that Sendak has a 'style'. 

Friday, 4 May 2012

Boys and bikes - Mother's guilt relief

Image Credit
During the school holidays we had a four-day camping trip. We went up to our friends' farm with two other families. It was the perfect camping trip, although not without its hiccoughs. Of course.

Our tent broke* on the Christmas camping trip, and while we do actually own a camping store, both the Geege and I sort of forgot about that little detail until the week before the trip. The Geege set about finding us a replacement tent**. He found something that met all the criteria, ordered it, but alas it was not available so we headed off on the trip with our broken tent, all the while hoping for clear weather.

It was quite a process to pitch the tent but we managed to squeeze us all in*** and, once she was up, we only had one moment of cussing the wholesaler who didn't have our 'new' tent in supply. That occurred at 3am during the only downpour we had when the tent confirmed it would be her last trip, by leaking. Not the shining moment of the trip.

One of the key goals of the weekend was for our boys to learn to ride their bikes without training wheels. This little issue had quickly crept up as a great source of Mother's guilt for me. I got fixated it. So much so that I had taken to pointing out every training-wheel-less child in the street, much to the joy of the Geege. Many of them were toddlers, I might add.

The farm proved the perfect place for learning to ride a bike. A long dirt driveway on a slight slope. Nugget was off in no time. Doo Dah was close behind. It was love at first ride. We had to peel them off the bikes to insist they eat their lunch on most days. They were up at 5am (when it was still dark) enjoying their bikes and the joy they brought them. Nugget even squeeed****.

It is amazing that all it took was opportunity. The kids were like a scene from BMX Bandits by the end of the weekend. A real gang. On bikes. No training wheels to be seen. 

And with our kids so happily occupied, we parents got on with the relaxing side of camping sans rain; sitting by the fire, reading our books, cooking in the camp oven, having some beers and skittles.

As I watched them zooming down the hill moments before we packed their bikes into the trailer to make our way back down the carpark freeway to home, a giant grin formed on my face. My shoulders were lighter. I felt pride and jubilation. My Mother's Guilt was gone. By Job I think they got it.

 Do you sometimes get fixated on things you think your kids *should* be doing?

* A key pole snapped during deconstruction
** We thought we had to replace the whole tent because we have seriously outgrown our current one by about two children
*** Only really because Nugget decided he was brave enough to share a two-man tent with his buddy so they slept separate to us
**** If you know Nugget that was a site to behold! He is not really one for generous outbursts of enthusiasm or excitement.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The daily grind: Hanging out the washing

Image from here

When I hang my washing on the line, it is a slap dash affair. I grab a garment, give it a shake to flatten out the creases, and peg it up. One - two pegs per item (depending on size of garment and availability of pegs).

My only concern is getting the clothes flat to minimize drying time.

I have had conversations with friends over the years about their washing line fetishes.  It is a fascinating business.

People who have to use matching pegs on a garment ie. two blue not a blue and a white.

People whose pegs need to match the colour of the garment being hung.

People who have to keep colours together on the line ie. black next to black, red next to red

People who have different sections of the line for different categories of clothes - tops, pants, socks 'n' undies, other.

People who have to put their clothes up in size order- ascending or descending

Today whilst doing an 'icebreaker' activity in a training session*, I heard a new one.

A person who has to hang the washing on the hills hoist from outside to inside.

Why outside in? I wondered to myself. It would be a hell of a lot easier to work inside out wouldn't it? I mean, if you had to follow a particular direction that is.

Her admission generated much discussion amongst the group*. And it got me thinking about why people have these habits? How do they start? And why do they continue?

Do you hang out your washing in a particular way? Do you want to share?

* It was a response to a question card about 'quirky habits'
**I think I might just ask people about their washing line habits for my next icebreaker. The rest of the  question cards weren't nearly as successful at bringing the group together and getting them talking. Who knew?

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Sending out an SOS

Image from here

Our kids' school has a trivia night each year. It is a social event, with a small fund-raising agenda.

I have been to the last two and they were lots of fun. This year, because our team stupidly won last year, I am involved in the organisation of the night.

We are having a 'music' theme: Splendor in the Heights. The organisation is coming along nicely. Now. But earlier? We tell ourselves we work best under pressure. It could be true.

To date I have managed to weasel out of most of the 'hard' jobs* . This seemed to go under the radar initially but my gift for delegation was discovered at our last planning meeting. My *actual* participation may be forced to improve henceforth**.

It is interesting working with friends on a project like this. We all have different backgrounds and the usual workplace cultural norms aren't there to facilitate the process. We don't have usual roles that we conform to; like at work or even in a family. It is different. But in a good way.

By Thursday, when we meet again, we have to decide on a costume and crank up the marketing. To date only one table of six has RSVPed. We have 12 days to pull a crowd!

My brief is to focus on the kindy families. The newbies to the school. I am starting with a personal invite via email and an offer to help them create a table of ten (figuring a barrier is that we don't really know each other).

But what else can I do?

What would you do to lure the kindy families to the event? And if you could chose anything musical to go as (idol, character, album name, anything!) what would you choose?

 * Like approaching local businesses for donations; I hate doing that sort of thing. And being emcee.
** Astute readers will realise I am still delegating. Only now to you.

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