Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Happy Birthday, Markus!

Today is Markus's birthday!
Every morning when we get dressed, Ellie wants to know where we'll be going. I told her it is Papa's birthday, so we needed to buy groceries for his birthday cake and birthday dinner. We also needed to make decorations. She put her hand up and said, "I'll make the decorations. I'll be in my study." Okay then.
Given my oh-so-prepared nature (ha-ha!), nothing was done in advance. That meant we had a big list to tackle today. We started with the decorations. First we dug out some letters from the foam floor tiles we bought in Qatar and took pictures with them. That can always be an adventure:

In my view, the more random, the better. When we were all done, we had this:

Just so you can see how much things change in 12 months, look at last year's birthday sign:

Amazing! Ellie looks so little! And she was still flying solo in the kiddie department.
Today, she timed her pre-nap-meltdown at such a location and decibel that she ensured baby Stephanie didn't nap at all (tantrum outside baby Stephanie's room 15 minutes after she'd fallen asleep sealed the deal). Instead, Ellie slept soundly while exhausted baby Stephanie fussed and cried for over 2 hours. By the time Ellie woke up ready to party, the house was still a mess, the groceries were still at the store, the cake wasn't baked, and I had one miserable baby in my arms and another wild child to manage. Somehow we made it to and from the grocery store in one sane little package, cleaned up the kitchen, ate a snack, and had the place looking party-ready before Markus came home (just please disregard Stephanie's snack debris under the table).

Papa got his usual huge smiley welcome when he came through the door. He took the girls to the playground while I baked the cake and cooked dinner. By the time they returned, everything was ready and everyone was happy. Dinner was yum, the decorations made him smile, and the birthday was a good one! Happy Birthday, Markus! We love you!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Thank you all for the myriad responses to the Robocop post. You made me feel a little less uptight, and I appreciate it. I thought you might want to know that either the neighbor reads my blog and knew he/she was busted...or someone's parents came home after a week away. Whatever the case, after one week of pot smoking morning and night (and sometimes noon), we haven't caught even the tiniest whiff of it in days. Case closed.

The other update I have for you is knitting-related. I finished Ellie's poncho last week, but I hadn't gotten around to sharing it. It came out so well, and she LOVES it. Every day since I finished, she has asked if it is winter yet so she can wear it. This couldn't make me happier! I got such a high off of completing this project that I wanted to launch into a dozen too-challenging-for-a-beginner projects because I felt so accomplished. After much hemming and hawing and extensive browsing on Ravelry, I finally settled myself down to reality and am working on something simple. Just because it's simple doesn't mean it can't be nice. Ellie's love for her poncho should prove that to me. I guess you could say I've actually made two projects already, because I made a matching poncho for Lolo. It doesn't fit over her massive head, so I have to rip one seam out, sew in elastic and a button, and we'll be in business. When I get around to that, I will post a photo. Meanwhile, here's Ellie in her mama-made poncho glory:

Monday, January 26, 2009

Happy Australia Day!

Today is Australia Day, a national holiday Down Under. It's the Aussie equivalent of the American 4th of July, except it recognizes the founding of Australia rather than independence. On this day in 1788, Captain Phillip arrived with the first fleet of convict ships in Sydney Cove and raised the Union Jack, thereby claiming this far away continent as a dumping ground for unwanted persons from Britain. To celebrate this historic beginning, Australians traditionally toss the barbie and an esky in the back of the ute and head for the beach! Tonight, fireworks will round out the celebrations before everyone heads back to work (or calls in sick) tomorrow. Our teenage neighbors have been partying around their pool for about 8 hours now, which inspired us to take an Australia Day plunge.

The water is still a bit too cold for baby Stephanie, so she wasn't quite sure what the rest of us were doing. After the picture, I took her out of the kiddie boat and held her in the water. She clung to me in true koala fashion, not quite sure she liked the pool but not sure she wanted out either.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

It's raining babies!

We now know of six adults in need of a bit more coffee.
We are so excited to welcome to the world little Aaron Daniel, James Alexander, and Mia Luise Victoria! These three beautiful, delicious new babies were born to friends and family in the past week or so. All babies and mamas are doing well. We only wish we were close enough to share in the new baby snuggles.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Robocop returns

Once upon a time when I was a teacher at a private school, I busted some kids for possession of marijuana on the last day of school. The kids were 13 years old. I saw one pass the bag to the other, the pass-er trying to be smooth and the pass-ee looking completely nervous and very paranoid with a teacher in close proximity (with good reason). I brought them to the office and interrupted the last day staff meeting to get the principal. I was sent back to "duty" (monitoring the remaining kiddos) without being involved in the office at all...and I couldn't help but notice how quickly they were out of there and how it was never mentioned again. Later that night at the staff party, I was repeatedly teased for busting them. Some of the other teachers dubbed me "Robocop" and said I needed to lighten up, that if I didn't want the stash I should have just passed it along to someone who did...
I guess you are getting part of the picture as to why I didn't fit in there.

Here I am years later, and I'm contemplating my Robocop days all over again thanks to a very relaxed neighbor. For the past several days, the smell of marijuana comes strongly wafting into our house through open windows and doors. I didn't smell this much pot in The Netherlands, and it was legal there. I suppose by my self-righteous tone you can tell that I've never smoked it (or even a cigarette for that matter; I'm such a naive little goodie two-shoes). While neighbors on both sides of us have teenage boys, I am no one to parent their kids (heck, it might be the parents smoking for all I know). If I can smell it over here, I know they can smell it over there. It must be fine with them, so why do I care? Contrary to the nickname, it's not the law-breaking that bothers me. I cared when I was a teacher because I cared about those young kids and I care now because I care about my own young kids. I care because the insulation in this house is poor and the insulation in the hastily built addition is nihl. That means that even with all the windows and doors shut (as they are at night), the smell is very strong in the back of the house where baby Stephanie sleeps. The smell is strong enough to make me feel a bit dizzy and vaguely what does that mean for her? She's only 10 months old! I just don't see any good way to handle this. I can't exactly go knocking on doors of the neighbors and ask them about their drug habits, much less make requests they alter them, but seriously, this is not good. Suggestions, anyone? Or maybe if anyone knows something more concrete about the effects of marijuana, could you inform me? Do you have to be the smoker to feel the effects, meaning the second-hand smoke shouldn't be too bad for others? I've been operating under the assumption that it's just like anything else that gets smoked and therefore isn't good for anyone to inhale it, but maybe this isn't so? I think I'll call our doctor in the morning to ask.

I just wish the neighbor(s?) would smoke in their own home. I don't mind them doing it over there, but why do we have to smell it over here?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Markus is a swinger

During their visit, Oma and Tante Ulla wanted to find Markus an early birthday present. They came to me for help, but alas, I could offer none. He is not a stuff guy, which makes gifts rather challenging. His birthday gives me fits every year, so I told them they would have to involve him in selecting the best prezzie. Much to everyone's surprise, he found a gift on the next trip out of the house and has been happy as a clam with it since. He chose a hammock swing, which he promptly rigged up from the jacaranda tree in the backyard.

In the evenings when the shadows are long and the Fremantle Doctor provides glorious temperatures and fresh air, that swing is the swinging place to be. Both of the girls really enjoy it. Markus would happily remain there until the mosquitos come out each night. It's a great spot of reading, knitting, or just simply lounging, swinging to and fro in the breeze.

The other night, Ellie climbed into the swing with Markus to continue a lengthy discussion about the remaining jacaranda flowers on the tree. These days, almost every discussion with Ellie is a lengthy (and almost wholly one-sided) discussion involving fascinating logic and introspection. That night, she was greatly concerned about the remaining flowers being too high for the bees. She felt the need to somehow reach them herself and get them down so the bees could access them to make honey. We think the background logic for this is a new favorite German DVD Tante Ulla brought her called "Biene Maia", about a sweet, friendly young bee and her friends as they are learning how to be bees (they only visit flowers growing out of the ground). As with any conversation of Ellie's, the subject changes often and dialogue is round-about....but it is fun (and often impressive) to listen to her.

Please excuse all the dead-looking grass in the background. About a month ago, the grass was cut too short and the brutal Australian sun fried it to a crisp. With daily watering, it's slowly coming back. Doesn't look too nice in the interim, though.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

I'm a knit-wit

Over the past few years, there has been a general stampede of women returning to their domestic roots. It seems that once the feminist movement had firmly established that we were not required to be domestic to be successful (i.e., limited to domestic skills), we were able to engage in domestic pursuits for enjoyment rather than obligation. Crafting, knitting and sewing have taken off at record levels (apparently), and now more women in their 30s are engaging in those arts than that age group has done for the past 40 years. Don't quote me on the stats (I have very third-hand info), but I think it's interesting to consider it as part of our current sociology.

Anyway, I bring this up because I have joined the stampede and am learning to knit. I took a class to learn the basic skills back in November, and here we are mid-January and I'm nearing completion of my first project! Okay, so it's not the pace I would like, but I'm squeezing it in. I pulled out several attempts at a baby hat before I started a poncho for Ellie, and I know now that I just had the wrong project. The hat involved too much counting, attention to detail and concentration that I lack right now, but the poncho is big, simple and a whole different story! The added benefit is that Ellie really likes watching me knit and she wants to knit too. I gave her a children's knitting set for Christmas, and she has a lot of fun with it. Every day I wind her yarn into a ball and get a project started on her needles, and every day she pulls the project off the needles and unwinds the yarn from the ball, all the while with a look of great concentration and enjoyment as she announces importantly, "I'm doing knitting!" I don't think she has any way to comprehend that the endless rows of pinkish-purplish yarn I'm knitting will eventually be an outer garment she can wear (or probably refuse to wear, if I want to be realistic), but she enjoys it just the same.

When I finished the class, the ladies at the knitting shop told me to try any projects I thought I might like to try. They said they so often see women learn to knit as adults and then limit themselves to the most basic things (and eventually give up) because they want to be perfect and don't think they can move ahead to the next level. They told me the only thing that could limit my skill as a knitter is me. I took their words to heart and already have a dozen projects in mind (okay, more if I'm honest)! Of course, if I apply the reality of my daily life to knitting time, I can't say when any of those projects will be finished...but we won't go there. In terms of time limits, we won't even talk about my taking a sewing class soon too. Dream big and keep it real.

For now, the real question is: Would you like your Christmas/birthday scarf with tassels or not?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A few weeks of firsts

Oh baby Stephanie, how she's a-growin' and a-changin'! It seems only a few short weeks ago that she was a helpless little baby...oh wait, it was only a few weeks ago (though I'm not so sure about the helpless part)! Now, she is one busy little chica! In the past few weeks she has started...




...rapidly followed by the progression to motoring

Lemme tell ya, this one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thing is the discovery of the year! Why on earth would she bother to crawl when she could take off at a run instead? Within a week of standing with pride, Stephanie had figured out forward locomotion. She thinks walking is hilarious! She giggles and shrieks as those chubby little legs propel her forward. Like Ellie was, baby Stephanie is relatively small for her age, which means Markus and I are in for some aching backs as we help her get around to her heart's content. Fortunately, she does love motoring around the coffee table, an adorable scene to witness particularly when you see the pride and exhilaration she experiences when she turns the corner on her own. In the past two days, she has experimented with letting go of the table and making a break for it, only to most unsatisfactorily find herself flat on the floor. It's only a matter of time. I need to get busy baby-proofing to the ceiling, because she is busy, motivated, and she happily throws caution to the wind.

Here you can see one of her first walking attempts. Notice the ever-present tongue sticking out of her little mouth. This has been a common sight for the past two months, a sign of endless teething. I think it adds a look of great concentration to the whole walking thing (plus it's really cute!).

And while I think this deserves a post of its own, the other first to mention is talking. Baby Stephanie has always been and continues to be a highly effective babbler. She babbles in more sounds and with greater variety than any baby I've ever heard. She is clearly talking in a language we don't happen to understand, but it is talking just the same. Most of the time, we can understand exactly what she wants or is trying to say. She gestures to things as she talks, looks you in the eye to be sure you are listening and understanding, waits for you to comment before she is real conversation!
Back in the two languages we use most often in this house, I've been hoping her official first word would be "mama". Ellie was (and is!) such a Papa's girl that there was no way "mama" was making the cut, but Stephanie is my little koala and she has been saying "mam mam mama" for a while now...but I haven't been sure that counted. On Sunday night, I was privileged to witness her first for-sure word, and alas, it wasn't "mama." It was bedtime, and I was snuggling her in her room. We had just wrapped up our bedtime routine, and I put the pacifier in her mouth, the last step before putting her in her crib. She pulled it right back out with her hand, looked me right in the eye, and said, "Nay" with the biggest smile. Since Sunday, she has used the word often and to great effect. "Nay" is the kinder, gentler "no" substitute I picked up in Holland, and yes, it's her first word. I think I'm in trouble.

Lapse in posting

Each day when I check my email, I also pull up our blog to check for comments. Lately, there haven't been many. I pull up the blog, notice that there aren't any new comments, and think to myself, "Well, there haven't been any new postings for a while. Guess that explains it." Of course, for some reason it took some not-so-subtle prodding via email (thank you, Quinn!) to bring my attention to the fact that the person responsible for posting is ME. Whoops!
I'm back!
And I've got a backload of posts to share!
Be prepared for a little time travel into the past few weeks as I bring you (and myself) up to speed.
Without further we go!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Morning portrait session

Just to prove the point I was making in the insomnia post (about needing to sleep, not needing to clean), we were awakened this morning by a persistent voice chanting "Mama!" repeatedly like a little baby birdie, only this voice was coming via the baby monitor and it did not belong to baby Stephanie. Ellie had bypassed us completely (her room is across the hall from ours), trekked to Stephanie's room, climbed into the crib with her (sleeping) sister, and woke everyone up. Hooray! This has been a recurring theme of late. Poor baby Stephanie. She gets this "what did I do to you?" expression on her tired little face, but she's up until naptime strikes a couple of hours later. Dragging as we all were (well, all of us except Ellie, who was energized enough for 10 people), Markus suggested we head to the beach for a portrait session and then go out to breakfast at a cafe we like there. Great idea!

I have been wanting to take pictures of the girls wearing gorgeous Christmas dresses. I missed it pre-Christmas because the summertime just didn't make me feel the season. Still, I like to send a picture with our thank you cards, so we decided to try post-Christmas Christmas portraits. Also, the girls received darling non-holiday matching dresses as a Christmas gift from Mary, so we wanted pictures in those as well. The morning light was beautiful, the temperature was heaven, the wind was light, so off we went!

It started all right. Ellie was feeling lovely in her silk gown.

Baby Stephanie got her Vogue on.

Actually, the ear rub is a sign she's very tired (remember she got an unexpected wake up call this morning). Though she tries to humor me, she's not particularly up to a photo shoot...

Okay, time to speed things up! A quick wardrobe change and a new round of photos:

Or maybe not.
Thank goodness for digital cameras! I managed to snap 40 pictures in less than 3 minutes, and I think we actually have a useable one in the bunch. I won't post it here. It's a special thank you that some special people will be receiving in the mail, hopefully in the next couple of weeks (hey, I need mailing time from Australia, okay?).


It's 12:57am here Down Under, and I am awake.
Not up with the baby.
Not up with the child.
Just up.
After midnight.
For those of you without kids who are shrugging your shoulders thinking, "So?", the answer is my kiddos will still be up at 6am (or close to it), regardless of when I go to bed. My bedtime was hours ago, and I WANT TO GO TO SLEEP. But I can't. Every time I lay down and close my eyes tonight, little alarm bells go off about a million stressful topics I can't really affect right now...but that doesn't make the thoughts go away. Don't you hate insomnia?
Usually when this happens, I get manic-productive and clean something within an inch of its life. The space that most needs attacking is this computer room, my dumping ground. I try to be a decent housekeeper and reduce my clutter for the sake of my marriage (my hubby tries to overlook it and focus on my good points, but lord how my clutter drives him CRAZY)...but he rarely comes back here to this room, so it becomes the dumping ground. When I clean other rooms and move stuff that needs moving, it gets dumped in here. Very effective long as you don't need to find it again. I really need to organize this place!
But alas, we have visitors in the room next door who are sleeping peacefully (boy, am I jealous!). I have to tame my impulses for their sakes, so you are stuck with my insomnia-induced internet confessional about clutter. If that doesn't put you to sleep, I don't know what will. I'll be back to the regular programming sometime after I get some sleep and find the computer cable for my camera. I've got some adorable videos for ya! I just can't find that darn cable.
I really must clean up in here...

p.s. I was up until 3am. I cleaned and no cable. Someone is just messing with my mind.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Summery start to the new year

Welcome to January in the Southern Hemisphere, where it is HOT HOT HOT. This week, temperatures hit 40 degrees for the first time since we've been here, and we've been feeling it! Having spent most of my childhood in the South, I can appreciate that this heat is dry...but heat is heat at the end of the day, and it's been wearing us out. The good news comes each afternoon from the Fremantle Doctor, a good wind that kicks up and cools everything (and everyone!) down considerably. Yesterday, we headed to Peppermint Grove again to play in the river. That same huge tree that gave us a perch for our Christmas photo provides wonderful shade that extends into the water, so we could happily splash around without getting fried in the Australian sun. One lovely bonus to the hot air is that our temperature-sensitive baby girl could finally join in the fun. She got her first chance to play in the water with her Papa and big sister. Although the first touch to cold wet sand provoked an unpleasant reaction, she quickly changed her tune and had a blast! Here are my loves, enjoying the water as they do:

The resident family of black swans came by the see the fun close-up:

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Jumping into 2009!

It's just past lunchtime on January 1st here in Australia, but I thought I'd write a quick post wishing all our friends and family who have yet to hit midnight a very Happy New Year! However you choose to celebrate, embrace the possibilities a new year holds and welcome its joys and challenges! We can say this without being trite because we welcome this new day and new year though the girls took turns waking up six times between midnight and 1:30am, and then Markus was called into work at 4am (where he remains currently). The sun is shining, our needs are met and then some, and everyone is healthy. Joys and challenges. It's what life is all about, and we look forward to another trip around the sun.

For those of you who know this picture was added in a few days past the 1st, know I had intended to post on the day a hilarious action shot of Markus and Ellie jumping in holding hands, but Markus was shy about his girlish figure and made me suppress pool photos until he put on his UV shirt.