Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Starting School: The Pitfalls of Being Small

I started this post a day short of ending our mega eight week summer break. It wasn't quite eight weeks, but no-one quibbles with mums who've been on summer holidays for so long they can't remember what winter looks or feels like but just wishes it would hurry up anyway. After eight weeks, my official mantra to the kids (and occasionally, apologies, to the adults around me) was: Don't argue with me; Please don't all talk at the same time (because I exceeded my week's intake of Nurofen on like, Monday); and please, let's all try NOT to sweat the small stuff ...

That said the holidays were mighty fine and I think we fitted in enough fun things that everyone feels they made the most of it: read lots of good books, watched way too much television, swam in sunshine and rain, and ate enough ice cream to exceed the yearly intake of at least a dozen people.

We thought we were so ready for BIG SCHOOL, which may prove that we'd seen just a bit too much sun. A few days out I casually opened the bag of Size 6 boys uniforms I had been accumulating over several years for Arch. Arch my newly turned 5 year old who still wears size 3 jeans. ACHHHHHHHH! Wincing I made myself put an urgent call for size 4 items on FB. Nothing like outing yourself as an incompetent Mum BEFORE school has even started. Yep, tick that off the bucket list.

So it turns out that size 4 is really hard to find these days. Some stores had size 5 but its difference to size 6 was negligible. The size 6 shirt on Arch resembled a bed sheet and the shorts only just stayed up if he stayed perfectly still and didn't breathe in. So not going to work. Actually it did work for a hilarious dress rehearsal, and then the shorts fell down. Doh.

My lovely Mum, otherwise known as "the sewer" (by that I mean someone who sews, not a drainage system, right? Sorry Mum) swooped in to do the impossible. Yes, she bought a size 7 long sleeved shirt at the shops, and cut it down to a size 4 short sleeved shirt. Then she cut the crest off a size 6 shirt that was looking pretty grey (they're supposed to be white, sadly) and stitched it on to the front pocket. The result can be seen in the photo. Brilliant. A friend lent us shorts. Another friend rang from the shops where she'd found two size 4 shirts for $10! Score!!

Found at Kmart - only $7!
Another day went past, the first school day drawing ever closer. I was loving my friends, and even the world again. My fab new poster art (above!) from Kmart no longer seemed to be mocking me. Then the three older three kids decided to declare, in unison, that their school shoes felt too small. Yes, those same shoes that eight weeks earlier had been declared fine. Were. Suddenly. Too. Damn. Tight. All of them.

Sometimes as Mums, we have no words.


Apologies to all of those people I may have randomly shouted at as I took EVERYONE to the shops and trawled for reasonably priced and sized black school shoes. Which it turned out half of Sydney was also doing on that day. All my bargain hunting powers came to naught as price became irrelevant as we searched in vain for shoes that fit. Some hours after that, we experienced a text book debacle that made for a very stressful Australia Day. But I'll spare you the details.

Suffice to say that by the time School Day #1 came around, I was the one giving loud fake laughs with glazed eyes to anyone who came within 20 metres of me. Days later I ran into a school Mum at the shops who cheerfully asked me what teachers my three primary-aged kids had. I stared at her blankly. Sorry, I really couldn't tell you - I had to reply. But they're all happy! We're all really really happy.
(I think she started backing away at this point.. probably a wise move.)

To alleviate the trauma of my youngest beginning school and the stresses of the older three returning to school, I decided to distract myself at the movies. In retrospect, a comedy or something feel-good would have been a good choice. Instead I chose the often traumatising: Suffragette.

Have you seen it? The struggles of women in early 20th Century England are brought to life in harrowing detail. Carey Mulligan is quite brilliant. The commitment and sacrifice of so many brave women to getting equal representation was immense and magnificent. The living conditions, battles for survival and for basic rights to fair pay and their own children were sobering and heart-breaking. It's easy to forget this part of Western world history that occurred less than a century ago. For significant parts of the world the fight is ongoing.

Easy watching it may not have been. But it was a great way of gaining perspective on my everyday life. Made me so thankful for the many blessings in my life: healthy happy kids and money for school shoes being just some of the big and small blessings that I take for granted every day.

Hope your new starts this year have been full of fun and favour! 

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Gift Ideas: Mugs

Today we visited a favourite piece of retail heaven: Pottery Barn and the associated stores. Mugs were everywhere. This mug tree was taller than Mim. The monogrammed mugs were kind of huge, which is possibly an American thing. I've listed the Robert Gordon version below, which is considerably smaller, but still quite large enough for a decent sized brew.

Mugs make a great gift because pretty much everybody uses them, and there is a shape and style to suit every taste. Christmas is a fine time to give them and use them: Setting up a hot Chocolate station on a sideboard will make you the hostess with the mostest for friendly gatherings and even when unexpected guests drop by (as long as your kids don't snaffle the supplies while you're not looking).

Any old mug simply won't do - and why should it when there's so many adorable (and cheap!) options on offer!?! Here's a few that just might do (all under $20 ea - except for the last one):

This lovely array in Pottery Barn
start at $9 ea.


Don't be a mug - buy some today!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Best Christmas Cushions

Crashing in a Christmas cushion is highly recommended for those struggling between enjoying the magic and fighting the mayhem at this time of the year. I find that burying my head in a cushion when the kids are insisting on telling me who has hurt who and what gifts they'd like and did I know we were out of toilet paper, helps a lot. And if the cushion has something festive printed on it, like BE MERRY, then maybe a bit of merry will rub off. On all of us.

Cushions are certainly an integral part of seasonal decorating and an easy fix for adding instant sparkle and Christmas cheer to your home. I've kept the examples fairly neutral - but if colour is what you crave then an array of brightly coloured velvet cushions will look great all year around. And no, it's not too late to race out and pick out a few (great as a gift idea too).

Hopefully these suggestions might save you a bit of time ('cause, heavens, we're running out of that people!):

I'm a Kmart tragic - they're hard to beat on price and their style cred just keeps getting better.
This delightful pair will set you back $20.

I mentioned these beauties in an earlier post. They are $15 ea at Big W - but you'd better be quick!

Try Adairs - for a bit of joy ($20ea):

Try Etsy - they have something for everyone, and you'll be supporting a crafty person..


Found this great company on Ebay:

Pottery Barn have a gorgeous array all year round and their Christmas range is always special.
Find them online starting at around $25 ea.

So be merry, feel joy and buy a cushion today!

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

When Your Days Are Merry and Bright

As Christmas fast approaches the threats for good behaviour are gathering speed in our household. Bellowing "Lose a Christmas present!" at a recalcitrant child can work wonders in moderating fights over who's been on the computer the longest and who needs to clean their room. It's not the best form of parenting I know, (and you can peak too early, as in don't start yelling this threat in October, it's unsustainable) but it can produce the desired effect - and in that vein new book The Christmas Peg fits quite nicely.

Wal, it seems, is having issues. He doesn't respect nature, up-ending pot plants (quelle horreur!) and has even, possibly, tortured his cat. 

Santa is watching. 

Wal's name is on the naughty list and Wal is about to find out some serious consequences for his actions. Dr Phil would be proud. NO Christmas gift!! Correction, a wooden peg replacing his Christmas gift. How could Santa be so cruel?! (If the peg is an allegory for something else I don't get it.)

Things don't improve as Wal, try as he might, and then by not trying at all - fails to produce the 'nice' behaviour that would make himself a better person and Santa fulfil his role as a decent gift-giver. 

It's best not to overthink this book - obviously we'd like our kids to behave without material gain being the main motivator, right?! And then there's the fact, as the book points out, and as we all know, that it is impossible to be nice (or good) all of the time. (Here's a great chance to explain the gospel of being saved by grace! Just saying..) So treat this book as a light read and a humourous form of coercion. The pictures are cute - though Wal's age seems to vary, but then again it did take him three years to work out that nice = presents. And for that his cat is extremely thankful. 

The Christmas Peg by Cameron Williams and Matthew Martin (illustrator)
Thank you to PenguinRandomHouse for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Random Christmassy shots as we strive to be merry and bright. Christmas tees and coffee and snacks have helped.

Friday, 4 December 2015

A Perfect (Sparkly!) Storm

I have good reasons for only posting once in November, way back on the 4th. It's all to do with the temporary insanity of holding three kids parties in four weeks. Topping that no mean feat off with being chief decorator for my son's year 6 farewell (awesome pic below). So, apologies, but posting fell by the way side. As did house cleaning, Christmas decorating and tree displaying (sob), book reading and sleeping. 
Yep, event-based insomnia is definitely a thing!

It was worth it in the end. Sometimes you have to let the schedule slide in order to throw your everything behind making some one-off things great! The milestones have been gathering speed and I feel like I'm only just keeping up!

So now, on the other side of the perfect storm I find myself tired and slightly confused about where all of the time went. Nothing a strong coffee won't fix and finally the chance to flop on the couch, newly adorned with some gorgeous Christmassy cushions. It's the easiest way to give your living area an instant festive feel - and these beauties are only $15ea at Big W so what's stopping you?!

By Jane Godwin and Anna Walker.

Any book that Jane Godwin and Anna Walker collaborate on is a treasure and this one at Christmas time has me gazing lovingly at every page - I actually seriously thought about (shock! Horror!) ripping out the pages just so I could frame them! With all of Walker's gorgeous illustrations there's delight in the details. The flashes of red, the delicate fine lines, the whimsical wishing tree - it's a visual feast 

Children, wishing and dreaming go together - like strawberries and cream, buckets and spades, parks and play! And that's what is celebrated so gently and joyfully here. 

As we follow little Ruby reminiscing on favourite elements of Christmases past, and of what makes this time of year so magical for her, her friends and family - the reader is caught up in the magic too. Simple pleasures: babies delighted by tinsel; piggy backs with Dad; baking with Mum. 
Not an iPad in sight!! Just saying...

Catch some of the sparkle and do your littlies a favour by reading this book to them, preferably while wrapped in a tartan blankie and drinking hot chocolate with marshmallows on top!

More to come - it's on the way - promise!!

Friday, 6 November 2015

A Royal High Tea

After the emotional turmoil of saying goodbye to the Thomas train set (finally, the one bidder delightedly drove off with our collection) there was hardly time to turn around before we were hit with birthday season. Due to a lack of forethought, I have three (out of four) children's birthdays to celebrate inbetween mid-October and December 20. And as you may be aware, for enthusiastic Christmas-ophiles like myself, it is VERY Difficult to focus on anything other than the impending Christmas season, after mid-October. And yet, as a parent, what I have to do is pretend to be interested in my kid's birthdays, when really all I want to do is get set up the tree and write Season's Greetings on all of the windows in white removable pen.

So first to my beautiful Eleanore turning eleven. Her last big birthday party was when she turned six, it was really great. So great, I never got around to holding another one. So anyway, it felt like a party was called for. But what to do?
Ever since a certain Easter two years ago, when WE HAPPENED TO MEET PRINCE WILLIAM AND KATE Ellie has been Royal crazy. So a Royal High Tea was the obvious answer to any party theme.

I had teacup invitations, sparkly paper crowns and well, a lot of china and glass to pull this off. All I had to do was cook a few sweet things and hang lanterns and bunting. Sweet!

William and Kate addressing the birthday girl and wishing her the best of birthdays.

Red Velvet Cupcakes decorated and delightful. Edible pearls and royal icing, of course. 

And I finally was brave enough to make and master teacup biscuits. It was so easy I'll probably whip them up most afternoons from now on. Not. 

Party activities included a Royal Quiz (prepared by Ellie), Pass the Parcel and the rather (unroyal) pursuit of eating donuts (sans hands) tied with ribbon to the clothesline. My kids request this game every time a party is suggested. Who am I to say No? 

Prizes for the games were fun to buy. I recalled that cheap Chinese-made Royal memorabilia was stocked at Victoria's Basement and so headed to one of their warehouse shops the week before. I was almost reduced to sobbing in to my handbag when I discovered they stocked a jubilee and Royal Baby range of English Burleigh stoneware. The same range I had gleefully bought a piece of via the UK and EBay for Ellie's birthday. While the mug itself was not expensive, the postage was! And to find multiple mugs and plates for $12 - $20 a piece in Western Sydney... Rather humiliating for a dedicated shopper/bargain hunter like myself. Anyway, I rallied and bought some treasures for the girls' party bags. 

And then there was the cake. Birthday cakes are not my forte. However I had found online a super looking sponge cake decorated with fresh berries that had an easy sounding recipe and was best made and eaten on the day. Cue crazed laughing from all of you who know that easy and sponge don't go together. 

Honestly. How did I not know this?!

I followed the directions. Perhaps my oven is a dud (quite likely). Possibly my baking powder is passed the use-by date (more than likely). The resulting cakes were flat. Wooden. Brown. Like frisbees. 

My husband suggested a Royal trifle, which sounded like a good idea but still required the cake to be edible. 
It wasn't!

Luckily the high tea was in the afternoon, so I still had time to do a mad dash to the local shopping centre. I purchased a ready made vanilla cake with jam and cream and beautiful ombre pink swirly rosette icing. The girls gasped with awe and pleasure.  Ellie was amazed. I was pretty darn amazed too - who knew birthday cakes could be so easy and impressive? And instant. 
I couldn't have been more proud. 
Poorer but proud. 

Here it is half eaten. Happy Birthday topper was $2 from Kmart!

We had fun. A royal high tea is hard to beat. William and Kate agree. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

Bye Bye Thomas. Bye Bye Childhood...

The youngest of my darlings has recently declared that "Thomas is for babies". 
I must admit that being the mature and worldly wise parent that I am, I didn't take this statement very well. It felt like a physical blow. I took this blow personally, it seemed to suggest my own children were strangers to me. 

Kind of like the time I presented seven-year-old Mim with a (supermarket bought but still) princess birthday cake and she said: "Oh thanks Mum, but I really wanted an Avenger's Cake!". 


So when Arch declared that "Thomas is for babies" I tried to deal with it rationally. Nah. That wasn't going to work. I felt stabs of irritation or was it resentment? Probably both. 

Irritation at the fickleness of today's youth. I mean he's four. He is still a baby to me. Surely he could have liked Thomas trains for at least another year or two? 

"What will I get him for Christmas now?" I moaned to my husband. 
"He's already asked me for my iphone," mentioned my husband gloomily. 
I snorted. One of the older ones has put him up to this. 

Then there's my justified resentment for all the hours/days/years (and not to mention CASH!) I'd devoted to Thomas. All the time I'd spent searching shops for bargain trains and track. The euphoria (yes, I please easily) at snaffling a genuine Thomas table (not with the drawer, dang) from Ebay for a great price. The excitement at giving Arch the Special Edition Birthday Thomas train with two carriages (he was wrapt!) for his last birthday. The licenced pajamas, rash vests, caps and preschool bags, lunch boxes, drink bottles, pencils and edible cupcake toppers!!! Oh my giddy aunt, we'd had IT ALL!!!!* 

And then there were the nights, too many to count, of battling through reading those overly wordy, annoyingly argumentative, morosely moralistic and exceptionally boring story books by the good Rev Auden. A publisher's dream - never ending, and never out of print! All that time I'd have much rather been watching bad television or being asleep.

* Actually we never HAD IT ALL. Arch (and I) always wanted the covetable Island of Sodor lighthouse with the real light. But we never managed to get it. Doh!
So while struggling not to tear up and howl at the moon at this crushing milestone signifying the end of babyhood and possibly the childhood of a not-yet five-year-old, I decided to face reality and embrace the change. 


Here is my EBAY LISTING. As yet, there are no bidders:

I have a plastic carton of assorted wooden track pieces from the much loved and traditional (ie non electronic form of childhood amusement) Thomas the Tank Engine set including some Brio matching track.

Please note, the Brio set was a collector's space themed box that I was euphoric to get from a toy outlet store many years ago (sob) so some pieces are printed with aliens and there is a plastic moon rock piece for added spacey authenticity.
Box includes:
7x long straight
9x lg med straight (Don't know what the official terminology is, sorry)
3x med straight
4x short straight
8x wavy 
8x runoffs
10x short curves
10x dual track pieces
67x med curves
1x turntable track
Assorted trees and signs and roadblocks and fences
Plus whatever else I can find by this auction's end (Mostly currently underfoot, buried in underwear drawers and lurking in boxes of other games and toys that will no doubt be listed here at a later date).

If you want trains we have a mix of about 50 that have been bought, borrowed, sourced at opshops, stolen from or donated by friends (and if not returned, I am sorry. But, no I will not return them now as I have no way of knowing where they came from and who they once belonged to - yes call me a bad mother.) Apparently some of the colourful characters and very-bad-engines are still close to my son's heart and as i have neither time or energy to deal with the emotions attached to separating my son from Henry, Gordon, James, Cameron and Bertie and Butthead? (sorry Rev Auden) they are not included in this current listing.

Now to the track: If you are going to get upset at a few pieces with missing ends or a scratch or two please don't bid. Most of the collection is in excellent condition, well-loved but clean and looked after. I may have made a mistake in counting the number of each piece exactly (it was an excruciating task I failed in bribing my children to do for me) too so if you are going to be devastated by finding one less piece than i've mentioned (or you may get lucky and get a couple of extras!) then please save yourself angst and don't bid. 

No I am not trying to rip anyone off or deceive you and make your life a misery. I have never been brilliant at maths, which sometimes is a good thing (like if I was able to add up how much most of this train set originally cost us, I'd be crying a lot more than I already am!).

I am merely an at-times overwhelmed mother of multiple children (seemed like a good idea at the time) desperately trying to declutter and keep myself sane and my home off the hoarders program. 

Truth be told I would love to keep this set for the grandchildren but as that is (hopefully) many years off my husband has said we're keeping the train set over his dead body. And frankly there is no room for me to keep his dead body or the train set. And I am too tired to argue anyway on account of all the decluttering that is pretty much a full time job and with Christmas approaching my rising sense of panic needs to be alleviated in a way that doesn't require drugs or therapy (as ain't nobody got time for that!). 

So if you would like to supplement your Thomas set prior to the festive season with enough track to get you from here to Melbourne (depending on your current location, obviously, and only in a very round about way, on account of the glut of curved pieces) then please feel free to bid on this great collection of classic toys!! 

I promise I will not crazily stalk you in ten years time accusing you of denying my grandchildren of a classic wooden (non-electronic) collector's piece set of boyhood memorabilia that really actually belongs to me and could you please sell it back to me at 2015 prices!????

Okay, I can't actually promise that. 

Pick up is from my house. I'll be the one sobbing in the corner and holding on to the box until you drive off.

Questions and comments are welcome and answers may be forthcoming (hey, I could use the distraction!) ... 

too cool for trains and so NOT getting an iphone....