Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Party time at Daiso

The Japanese dollar chain DAISO is famous for selling everything for a minuscule price (in Australia that apparently equals $2.80 - not sure whether this rather odd price represents a true exchange rate with a Japanese dollar, or not) is a mecca for finding lots of stuff - craft/kitchenware/makeup/stationery/food.

In my ongoing quest to declutter I generally go in there in a sceptical frame of mind. Telling myself I will find NOTHING there I need. It sometimes helps to stop me from filling up those cute purple baskets. 

But not always.

Last week I bravely ventured into find bits and pieces to fill party bags for a small do I was holding for Eleanore (who was turning TEN - eek! Seems like only yesterday she was turning NINE and EIGHT..) 

Daiso had the goods.

Firstly the party bag itself. There were numerous possibilities in an array of materials. I had briefly toyed with the idea of decorating calico bags myself. But as the invitations went out only days before the actual event, it was easy to remind myself that I'm just not that kind of mother…
Eventually I settled on a set of five printed plastic bags that were pretty and practical. 
Five bags for $2.80 - win!


Then, because the traditional lolly bag to take home from a party is no longer just supposed to hold lollies (after a recent trip with the kids to the dentist, this suits me fine..) I found some very cute notebooks that girls would love. They easily had 50 pages in them and are so nice I'm thinking they'd be great for school friend/teacher Christmas gifts.  

Picture from http://cresantiseema.blogspot.com.au
I didn't take any more photos because, as you may have gathered, I was doing this all sort of last minute. 

Ellie made each girl a chatterbox (remember those?) out of lovely origami paper her aunt had given her. I thought this was such a sweet homemade touch.


and then in keeping with a sweet theme, I did buy a small amount of confectionary, so as not to disappoint expectations. 
What's a party without lollies, after all?

Picture from: http://ff-and-ss.blogspot.com.au

It was heartening  a week out to google ideas for a ten-year-old's party and find sites with so many other dud parents kindred spirits saying: Crap - my child turns ten in three days, what can I do for a party?

The answer my friend, is a movie and pizza night.

A sympathetic friend emailed me a list of "Top Ten movies for Girls" (will post the link asap) from which I googled reviews and then found one in our local video shop. It was Akeelah and the Bee, and it was great. We ordered pizza and I made a cake, which was supposed to be a flower. Enough said.








Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Catching Up

The last month has flown by with its usual car window blur of happy, mundane, scary, happy, headachy, and more happy moments. It's hard to keep track physically and mentally let alone in blog world, but I'll give it a go.

In mid-September we left for a three week holiday to the beach. It's nowhere flash. Just a small coastal town down South where we go to relax and play and recharge, after what has been a more manic year than most.

Except I wasn't feeling too relaxed. Mostly due to the fact that Master Three had broken his humorous bone three days before we were due to leave. The resulting two nights in hospital left me with one day to pack. Not happy Jan. Yes, I know some people are super organised and pack with lists weeks in advance (my husband does this so I know there really are people like that. Unfortunately he only does it for himself. The remainder of the family's packing falls on "last minute" me).

So there I was madly packing for myself and four children. In one day. For three weeks. And it had been freezing. So even though I was throwing in the swimming costumes and tee-shirts with gay abandon, I was also packing tracksuits, jumpers and jackets. Mid-September was feeling like mid-winter and there was every chance the three week break could be cold and rainy. So I needed all weathers.

We also needed the world's largest car luggage pod. My husband found it on ebay. He was deliriously happy with it. We joked it could fit all our luggage and the kids inside. Imagine, a car trip in blissful silence with masses of space?
It wasn't to be.


Setting off turned out to be rather stressful when my husband found that the luggage pod (we named it Big Bertha) was full, and um, so was the car. And we weren't in it yet.  I tried to hold it together while agonising about the ratio of coats per person. And would I need my raincoat from Finland at the beach? The kids tearfully agreed to cull their book collections from infinity to five. We reasoned with them that we could find new books there, and visiting the local library was a great thing to do on a rainy day.

With the engine revving we couldn't work out why Jesse still appeared to have no leg room. Ahh, that would be the stereo he had hidden under the 20 hardcover Agatha Christie novels. To loud protests and my red-faced husband looking increasingly like he needed a BIG holiday, we were off.

And we arrived to this:


Having a three-year-old with a full arm cast wasn't ideal. His balance was off and he lurched around bumping the arm, bruising knees and stubbing toes. I felt ready to book us both into the local hospital as a pre-emptive measure. Me for nervous exhaustion and Arch for an arm bone that had seemingly NO chance of healing without further mishaps.

But things improved. The sun shone. Arch got into the swing of doing everything left-handed, and the rest of the family settled into happy holiday mode.  Okay this still involved numerous arguments over cheating at Uno and general annoyedness (is that a word?) of parents trying to relax while dealing with constant demands for more food/drink/beach trips/stop-itch/new books. We concentrated on the view  and aren't ear plugs a great invention?!

But as the days stretched out to include walks along the beach, swimming (not me - I never did find my costume..) sandcastle building (with a plastic-wrapped arm - all good), bowling, ice creams, library visits and trips to our favourite cafe for coffee and pancakes. We chilled out.

We had to - the sun got boiling as spring started to feel like summer!
Dang all those useless jumpers and coats!




the view never got boring..


holidays are a hoot!


Friday, 12 September 2014

Tales from an unadventurous family

I've always been secretly happy that my kids are not particularly adventurous. They aren't that in to  sports, have a healthy sense of caution when it comes to outside activities (like climbing, riding, running, jumping) and are usually just as happy playing inside or reading a book than bugging me to take them to a park.

Did I mention I'm not a big fan of parks? I'll save that one for another day...

Arch playing near a big scary plant. 
Oh okay i know outside can be nice, what with the sunshine and the green grass and everything. But still. Anyway, I think we make up for it by all the kids loving swimming. They live for our annual (sometimes bi-annual!) beach holidays. We've got one coming up in fact and they've been talking about it flat out for weeks.

However I like to think that our normal everyday life doesn't involve everyone playing multiple sports, extreme situations or the kind of activities that would naturally lead to accidents.

And who wants those hey? (accidents I mean, not the kids..)

It was only this school term that my hazy sense of calm and well-being has been a little shaken. I posted recently about how Eleanore came off her new scooter, and  broke her wrist.
Just like that.

Now, with the end of term almost upon us, a mere eight weeks after Ellie's accident, and two weeks after the cast was removed, we have just been experienced a strange sense of deja vous.

Archie, our three year old, was playing happily on the trampoline with my eldest son. I'd been watching them. Not because I was concerned, just because it was fun to watch the two boys throwing balls and bouncing and laughing.

I stepped back inside. It was 5pm and dinner needed to be dealt with.
Cue the blood curdling screams.

Arch came inside, being half carried by Jesse. He was screaming and crying. There was confused explanations given. Apparently Arch had fallen out of the metre high safety netted trampoline. His crying continued. I could see bruising on his elbow.
I thought a bath might calm Arch down.
It didn't. I dressed him carefully, he was saying the arm hurt. A lot.
I put him on the lounge and looked into his misery filled eyes.
Oh no. I knew what this was. I had been here before. And not that long ago either.

The patient
I now write three days after the event.
We spent two nights at the Children's Hospital and Arch had to have surgery on a broken humerus. Why that bone is called something that sounds like it should be funny, is beyond me.

One thing a Children's Hospital will do for you though, which is not such a bad thing, is give you a bit of life perspective.

We shared a room with three other sick boys and their Mums. Sleep wasn't really an option.
Two toddlers had broken femurs. That meant they each had a leg suspended with weights and pulleys. Sometimes they were happy, and occasionally they were quiet. Much of the time they were wretched. Then there was the ten-year-old boy in the bed next to us. He had been diagnosed with a disease at seven that meant the ball at the top of his leg bone had slowly disintegrated, causing his leg to continually dislocate. He had just had surgery to create a platform from the hip bone to bolt the leg to. If this didn't work, his mum informed me, they would try a hip replacement.

The first morning of being in that room I was feeling pretty bad. We hadn't made it to the room till after 1am. Arch cried himself to sleep, but at least he got sleep. I curled up on the seat next to his bed and listened to the boy next to us moan and writhe. A doctor was called to decide whether he needed further stuff done in the night. The boy went hysterical. He vomited, everywhere - while I sat curled up about 2 metres away from where he lay in bed, behind a flimsy curtain. Then I listened to one of the toddlers with a broken leg scream, for over half an hour at one stage, non-stop. His Mum sounded wretched and exhausted.

Our broken arm is a pain, literally. Arch has had good moments (he actually laughed as he went under the anaesthetic!) but has also been a picture of misery. We're trying to imagine ourselves on our upcoming beach holiday with this non-waterproof cast and orders to stay away from sand.

It could be stressful. But it really isn't, well, not much.
We're blessed. I can feel that.
Okay, two broken limbs in the one school term isn't ideal.
But there are plenty of people out there going through much worse. I just met some of them. And I know on a world scale of suffering, most of us are blessed to be where we are, whatever's happening.

I bought the Mum of the ten-year-old a magazine and a coffee and told her she was doing a great job. She in turn later bought all the boys in our room a cupcake. We chatted together and found reasons to laugh. I could see that each Mum was doing her best to keep their children calm while living in a stressful environment with stressful circumstances.

When Arch and I left I wished the other Mums well.
They were all looking forward to getting out sometime soon. I sure hope they do.

Arch, earlier this year, with his best friend, in a kind of park.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Begone Winter!

Hooray for the first day of Spring.
I know winter doesn't last that long here in Sydney. But it's been cold and wet for a few months now. Well many weeks anyhow. And we're over it.
The busyness of manic August, what with conferences a plenty, National Op Shop week, and the op shop instagram (#restyle2014) challenge (which kept me tied to my Instagram account pretty much 24/7) and rounds of childhood sickness that have just kept going around, and around, and around…tied with winter rain and cold has got us all longing for a new day, a new season.

So I am welcoming September with open arms.
We have a beach holiday planned - the first chance of the year to have a real breather, as a family, and escape from
a) our house with the mouse (he's still around, I think),
b) routines, and
c) everyday life.

NOT that I am against everyday life. In fact I'm a big fan. I have no wish to spend it pining for holidays, which are escapism, and not that real. But I do find that a small break from the everyday, makes you appreciate it more when you return. So that's what I'm hoping for. A chance to escape it, and then return to appreciating it more…

Here's a few photos of things we've been doing these last few weeks.
There appears to be a "b" theme going..which I might run with…

We decorated "birthday" letters to celebrate for a cousin.


Then, because it was a birthday, we got balloons:



Then we rejoiced in the blooms that started appearing in the garden. I seriously found myself walking around the yard muttering: Winter Begone! Winter Begone!
I had to stop. I was scaring the birds.


And then it was time for the Book Week Parade.
Behold!

Pippi Longstocking:


and Anne of Green Gables:


and a dinosaur, which could have come from any number of books (Harry Potter, Eragon, How to train your Dragon..).
I wasn't complaining, the onesie was definitely the costume of choice for many a child (and relieved parent..):


Meanwhile, the weather was cold enough for Arch to wear a beanie. So cute.


And I got all inspired to do some baking. Yum, applesauce and oatmeal muffins. Comfort food if ever there was some…


And now, in case you are (southern hemisphere) and looking for ideas for the upcoming Father's Day. 


This book, (published by a relative of mine), is really creating a real buzz for many would-be beekeepers out there. Find it at any good bookshop.

Maybe your dad has gone all hipster on you? 
I must say that Koorong had a striking display of the Duck Dynasty dvds, books, plastic cups (?) and assorted memorabilia. I'm not entirely sure what it's all about - the blurb says it's Christian values embedded in hilarious Southern humour. 
Whatever. 
The beards are impressive.

www.koorong.com
Or if the hipster thing is not your dad's thing, then beard oil (or shave soap!) may be just what you/he is looking for! Loving the packaging on these great products.

www.applecoreliving.com.au
Be Brave.
Be Bold.
Or just Be (happy!)

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

One Love 2014

Recently I had the privilege of being a little bit involved in helping to come up with ideas for a women's event. That event, called "One Love" was held in Sydney at the beginning of August.

The aim of the day was to encourage, inspire and to challenge women in their everyday life, as Christians or for those wanting to know more about living as a Christian. 

When I turned up to the Redfern Technology Park on the day - I like most of the other delegates, didn't know what to expect. Were expectations high? I was trying to keep mine not too high. 

Women's events, at least in Christian circles, can often factor high on the cringe factor scale. Whether too syrupy sweet or too theoretically and theologically dry - I've often come away from well-meaning events (heck I've helped organise a few) wondering why reality is so far removed from what I've just heard.

I look around at many of the Christian women I know, and everyone is busy, often frantically so. I see breathtaking and admirable focus and determination at keeping all the "balls" high in the air: 


family/work/home/church/relationships/health/friends/study/school.., 

Who has the time to sit around worrying about whether The Lord might have anything to say about this? Or to us? No one has the time to stop and think. If they did, the balls would start dropping! 

People would get hurt. It could get nasty.

And speaking of nasty, there's the whole cynical backlash thing. Why do women need something just aimed at them anyhow? We're all people aren't we? We're not weaklings. 

Or that one about why go to big events? Why not just spend quality time with a small group? People you already know, and trust. Why listen to speakers from overseas? Or to women/men? Why not just read your Bible and get your hair done if you want to feel better about yourself? 

Christians seem to attract a lot of criticism. All those fine qualities and activities we espouse, but don't actually show or do. High standards we hold others to, but fail to keep ourselves?  
We're pretty good at giving it out too, especially to each other. 

Once you start listening to it, it can get sort of paralysing. It certainly leaves little room for the inspirational, or the encouraging, or the challenging…




Women are so often the givers - giving out care and love and nurturing, and time and energy and kindness and discipline and everything in between - in all spheres of life, being all things to all people, making sure everyone in their circle is okay, (which is great, don't get me wrong). But it comes at a cost. The cost of running on empty. Energy-wise - physically and energy-wise - spiritually. 

Sometimes there are spiritual truths that we've forgotten to hear, as if they no longer apply to us. Like the one that says God loves us anyway, no matter what. 

So when Nancy Guthrie was talking from the book of Hosea chapter 1 (a passage that can make you squirm - I was squirming) and said that God tells us:

There is healing. I will always take you back. 
I've written across your life in the red blood of my Son:

Cleansed,

Washed,

Beloved,

Accepted,

Mine.

It was food for the soul.


To get there for a day (a feat in itself for most women I would think) and then to hear talks that spoke to our hearts about how amazing God is.. and about who this God is that we so want to know, if only we had the time to get some peace and quiet and think about Him for a little bit…

…it was the chance to be with a whole group of happy people - all wanting the same thing: challenge, inspiration, and encouragement. Not about selfish naval-gazing. But about looking upward and outward.

We got it all - and great food. 

It was the best use of a day I can remember having in a very long time. 


my cousin and I..

The speakers were Nancy Guthrie, Kathleen Nielson and Bryan Chappell.

The 3 talks from OneLove are now available for free via the KCC app! 

You can download the app and listen to the talks here: http://get.theapp.co/489f


Friday, 1 August 2014

Scooters, Sparks, and Shelfies

Sometimes things don't quite work out the way you've planned.
Take our winter holidays for instance. I was fairly content to fill our days with happy outings, delicious snacks and fellowship with friends. With all that in mind, and the need to get everyone out and about (okay, I'll admit it, we were getting cabin fever) the kids and I did a shop trawl for new scooters. The old ones had been outgrown, given or rusted away.
A few jobs were undertaken by the kids in order to "earn" making a contribution towards the new toys. Sometimes the whinging that accompanies "doing jobs" makes these efforts seem hardly worth the angst. But it is worth it, to make them see that new things should be earned, not always just given.
Life lesson - tick.
It seemed like we were heading for a win-win all round.

Arch was happy with a 3-wheeler CARS scooter from the op shop.

Mim was ecstatic when she found a scooter with flashing-light wheels.

Jesse, showed admirable restraint and chose an inexpensive one that looked sturdy and suited him just fine.

Eleanore, not usually too fussy, couldn't find one that suited. Either the scooters were too small, or too expensive, or sold out, or too green/blue/red…. Eventually, out of desperation (yes, Mum tearing hair out) we bought a whizz bang scooter (on sale, but still overpriced) that was supposed to create sparks from the back wheel.

I should have known that sparking thing was a bad omen.

We had one semi-successful trip to a park with friends and scooters. Mim got a big blister from wearing twinkle toes sneakers on a light-up scooter. She was torn between the physical pain and the visual triumph of her scootering neon lit self. Unfortunately the pain, and moaning, won out.

On the second day of new scooters we walked to our local park with some good friends. There is a semi-steep footpath down in to the park that the big kids were very excited about riding their new scooters on. Apparently by the time I arrived (lagging at the back with Arch, as usual) Ellie had already been down the hill twice.

Oh, did I mention that the sparking thing had failed to produce anything resembling a spark? Who knew if we weren't doing it right, or if the thing was a dud?

As I walked  down the hill I turned to see who was whizzing down the path behind me. It was Ellie.
I had one of those parenting LIGHT BULB moments. Okay, so it would have been way more helpful to have such a moment five minutes earlier, but these things never quite work out that way.

LIGHT BULB MOMENT: Daughter on scooter. Going too fast. Has taken her jacket off. Has no protective clothing or helmet on whatsoever. Is going WAY TOO FAST!

"Oh Ellie." I said, as I added up the risk factors in my mind.
And that was enough.
Ellie looked at me, caught my panicked eye, and lost control.

I think we all know the rest...

If I fast forward the next 11+ hours, which involved endless hours in waiting rooms (you can quiz me on any celebrity and I can tell you the very latest - our magazine reading time was immense!), you would then find Ellie and I finally settling into beds at the children's ward of the hospital the kids were born in. After a night of fitful and limited sleep, Ellie went to theatre the next day - to realign a bone and set a broken wrist.



Anyway, we had another week of holidays to recover from the trauma, lack of sleep, broken dreams. This was good, as the break is in Ellie's writing hand, so the upcoming school term was looking challenging.

Due to the wonders of social media, word about Ellie's accident spread fast. I can't tell you how heart warming it was to receive so many messages of care and concern. Ellie allowed the (above) photos to be shown, in order to keep friends and family updated.

On the Sunday, relieved to be home again, we were delighted to receive a knock at the door from one of Ellie's school teachers. She delivered chocolates, flowers and a card, assuring us that Ellie would be found things to do at school and wishing her a speedy recovery - what a blessing!

And here are the sisters, on a modest outing we took a few days later. We didn't return the scooter  - but  it was tempting!


Other happy snaps:

BOOK SHELFIES - Okay we are trying to win a competition from our favourite Children's Bookshop. You just have to like our photos on their Facebook page.
No pressure.





Oh and a mouse update?
Yes, the mouse says hi. He walked (yes, I said WALKED!) into our TV room the other night while J and I were watching TV. I'm almost positive I saw a look of disappointment in his little brown eyes when he saw that we weren't watching The Voice or some other reality show.

I went to make him a coffee while he wandered (not ran) off behind the lounge before settling into one of his many homes, underneath our immovable television cabinet, for the night.

I continue to clean and declutter, but the mouse has told me not to knock myself out. He's happy with our house just the way it is. He also told J not to bother with the peanut butter and other myriad of culinary snacks we've been placing in the traps. He's fine getting his own food. No, really.

Monday, 7 July 2014

There's A Mouse In My House

Source
Outing your house 
as harbouring a mouse
is kind of like telling your friends you have nits
there are some who are fun
and laugh at your pun
while others say sorry, and take off at a run….

So we have a mouse. Not a pet. And maybe not even just one.
The first sighting was actually around Easter. But we are optimists, and told ourselves we'd imagined it!

Then Jesse turned on his light extra early one morning because he had debating. A mouse ran out from under his bed and disappeared down the hallway.

Hard to pretend this didn't happen.
"Do you have food under your bed?" I demanded to know, knowing the answer already.
"No!" my eleven-year-old declared fervently. I could see in his eyes he didn't believe himself either.

That day I took apart Jesse's room. I removed from under the bed the plastic wrapped packet of sandwiches that had a BIG HOLE GNAWED THROUGH THE MIDDLE OF IT!!

I took pretty much everything out. Moved his bed and vacuumed the carpet within an inch of its life.
I rearranged things so that there were no hidden nooks or crannies for mice to feel at home. I disinfected and wiped everything clean.

Now I just had the rest of the house to attack.

Anyway, we took off for Melbourne for my birthday. There were NO SIGHTINGS while we were away. Then on our return, Jonathan and I were talking late one night in the kitchen. A comfortable silence was suddenly not so silent as we stared in horror/disbelief at our innocent looking freezer. Definite crackly gnawing sounds were coming from it. We were right next to it for pete's sake!

It must be the mouse - I mouthed silently to Jonathan.
You think?
Jonathan got a torch and lay down on the floor.
Brave move, I thought. You know, considering.
Red eyes reflected in the torch light. "He's gnawing on a box of cereal you have stashed beside the freezer." Jonathan said, with an unnecessarily accusing tone I thought.
"Let's face it Sah," he continued, putting the boot in. "This kitchen is like the promised land for a mouse."
Hmph!

J got up and dusted himself off. Okay, so there were crumbs on the floor.
"What did he look like?" I asked tentatively. Aesthetics are important, after all.
"It's a brown one."
Oh a brown one! Suddenly I felt much better about the whole thing.
Brown mice equal Beatrix Potter stories, and cute little pictures of friendly mice in aprons, going about their business.
I wouldn't go so far as to say, that mouse had a right to be there, under our freezer. But I wasn't horrified at the thought.

Source
I mean maybe each night it was doing this. Infact, I could probably find a little bed somewhere in the girl's cupboard we could set aside for this mouse, or mouse family...

Etsy.com

"We have to get a trap."
"What?" I exclaimed, my cute little pictures evaporated in an instant.
Oh right. A trap.

So a week or so later, I bought a trap.
But it didn't come with instructions, and so late one night, I carefully followed the instructions on YouTUbe and set the trap. Off. On my fingers.

Man that hurt.

Then I got worried about Arch finding the trap and putting his fingers in it. I also hated the idea of finding a trap with a dead mouse in it.

I went to the hardware store. I paid $17.50 for a metal box trap that catches them live. Goodness knows what you do with them after that, but at least we wouldn't have mashed mouse to deal with.

We caught ours in ten minutes flat a friend assured me. Just put peanut butter on ham. Can't fail.

Ha!

So for the last week we have been baiting the trap. Gourmet tidbits have included:

  • ham off the bone
  • ham off the bone with crunchy peanut butter
  • aged cheddar from the Riverina District 
  • no-name cheese with peanut butter
  • sourdough loaf
  • wholemeal bread
  • rump steak
  • apple peelings
Whatever the heck mouses like eating, ours is JUST NOT THAT INTO IT!

Then the mouse appeared again. 
This time in the girls' room.
They turned on the light early. Unfortunately for them, and the mouse, their door was closed. So when the mouse attempted to do his mad dash from under their desk and out the door, he couldn't get out. 

I am now able to post on parenting websites with full authority that one great way to make your children physically care for each other, is to lock them in a room with a mouse. Yep, vermin is the answer to sibling bonding. Mim and Ellie screamed and cried and hugged each other in an emotional arm lock that lasted a good ten minutes. 

Meanwhile the mouse ran through the girl's slippers (brand new but now never likely to be worn by their owners EVER AGAIN) and scaled vertical heights up the back of their door. All Ellie's previous smugness about being on the top bunk, and hence safe from any marauding mouse, has now gone. 

Eventually Jesse opened their door, and the mouse headed, again, for greener pastures. 
We don't know where. We can't find him. 
I have been decluttering and cleaning for so long that if it wasn't for, you know, having a mouse and all, Jonathan would be feeling like he'd finally got the Stepford Wife he'd always made a half-hearted effort at pretending he didn't want.
Sorry, bitterness creeping in there.

The trap remains empty and ignored. 
The girls insist the mouse they saw was GREY and NOT BROWN! Which could either mean, the mouse has changed coats, or that, glory be, there's more than one. Heck in the time they've made our house their home, there's probably been time for multiplication on a mass scale.

It's taken some strong will power not to make the decluttering sort of personal. I think the mouse may have been getting some mixed messages around here. Not realising that his presence is no longer welcome.

I'm not getting rid of these childhood treasures just yet, but who knows where this trail will lead…


What else can I say?
So far this year, we've been nit-free!!