Monday, June 29, 2009

Mouse in the house

Oma affectionately dubbed her "Ellie Maus" when she was a baby, and she continues to live up to the name:

Novel idea

I have spent almost an hour catching up on seriously back-logged work on the computer (looking ahead to hours and hours more to get it done!), and I am not a popsicle. Why? This morning, baby Stephanie and I visited an electronics store and purchased a small space heater for this room. Why the heck didn't I do this before now?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A purchase to celebrate!

The deal has been finalized and a move-in date arranged. Next Wednesday, on our fifth anniversary, we will be able to move in to our first new home! It's pre-fab and very basic, but it's ours! Okay, actually, it's the girls'. We bought them a cubby house, which will be delivered next week. But we're still excited! We're going to paint it, make curtains for it, buy little furniture for is still all the joy and excitement of a first home and we'll take it! Happy Anniversary to...them.

No water

On the way home, I drove through a huge puddle at the bottom of our street. It seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds as water gushed from some unseen source into the road. Well, it seems that would be the water that's supposed to be in our taps. No water at home. Nothing like the lack of something to make you appreciate it! I feel so thirsty, just knowing it's not there. I also feel incredibly wasteful, thinking of all the water I used to rinse dishes and handwash laundry this morning without saving any. It's been raining all week, but no water outside either (unless we raid the swimming pool, which is about to overflow anyway). Water. Appreciate it. Respect it.
Hopefully, ours will be back soon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Winter Down Under

Winter has come to Australia, sort of. I say sort of because the sunny days are still glorious! The sun heats the air to a beautiful 70 degrees or so, usually with no wind or a warm breeze. Once the sun sets, temperatures plummet to around 40-50 degrees, though some nights have been even less. The real "wintry" days are the rainy ones (no sun, no warmth!) with the nasty winds coming up from the south. Think about what is south of Australia: Antarctica, and there's nothing warm about that! On those days, dropping Ellie off at school is no picnic. That gorgeous spot across from the beach means exposure to gale force winds first thing in the morning (last Friday brought gusts up to 125 kmph). Yikes! But the worst of it: it's cold inside the house. Australians forgot about seasons when they built houses. Our house is old and beautiful, with wood floors and high ceilings. No sun gets directly in the windows, which keeps it livable in summer...but ooooo the winter! No sun means no warmth, so the average temperature in the house hovers around 60 degrees. That temperature is lovely for sleeping, but not so great for waking hours. We have gas heaters in the kitchen and living room that work wonders (lovely warmth in 5 minutes or less), and the girls have space heaters in their bedrooms. We also installed a safety heater in the bathroom; it doesn't do much, but it does take the bite out. In the other rooms, you'd better grab a sweater and some thick socks. Back here in the "study", the temperature ranges from 57-64 degrees (depending on clouds or sun outside). One of the reasons blog posting has been sporadic lately is that it's just too darn cold! My hands are turning into little popsicles as I type this entry. Oh, woe to me.

I grew up with central heating. We never were one of those families that kept it so warm inside that you could wear short sleeves (too wasteful!), but I never remember being cold in the house either. This has been an adjustment. Long johns have become pajamas. I own my first requisite pair of Uggs, native to Australia and now I know why! (Thank you, Leonie, for tipping me off to their necessity!)

The trickiest part has been dressing our most incredibly determined CEO, who insists not only on dressing herself but dressing herself for summer. You couldn't pay her to wear a sweater or her pink Uggs (thought the pink would work, but NO). For the past several weeks now, she has had an outfit of choice that consists of a long sleeved t-shirt, thin cotton pants (leggings), a thin cotton summer dress, and one of my that order (you can see the ensemble in the posting about mealtime). I knit her a cute little vest-like top, which I've managed to wedge into the daily assembly between the t-shirt and the cotton dress. Witness the peril of the first morning I enforced the wool layer:

You can see the other two layers clutched tightly in her hands. Forget trying to make her wear anything else, and heaven forbid one of the outer pieces is declared too dirty to wear. I have learned stealthy overnight laundering techniques.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Food and Friends

When we went to the Caversham Wildlife Park a few weekends ago, Markus took a lot of short video clips, but I just got around to watching them this weekend. This one of baby Stephanie cracked me up:

She had a fistful of kangaroo food that she'd taken from my hands, but she clearly didn't know what it was. The kangaroo did. Their interaction is pretty funny! It also reminded me of this favorite video of Ellie (shared before but new to you newcomers), a bit younger than Stephanie is now (taken back when we were in Qatar) and on the theme of (almost) sharing food with friends:

Monday, June 15, 2009


We make it a point to eat dinner together as a family. Everyone starts out sitting in his or her own chair, but that doesn't tend to last. Baby Stephanie must motor. She can only sit for so long before she has to get up and wander around. Often, she migrates to Papa's lap. Ellie is quick to follow. They often eat the bulk of their meals there. So, no matter how we start out, our mealtimes often end up looking like this...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Attending a Christening and 1st birthday

Today, we attended the Christening and 1st birthday party of our little friend Connor. The Christening service was apart from a full mass, but there were many families being baptized at the same time. The service lasted about half an hour, which was about 25 minutes too long for our intrepid explorer.

Ellie, much to our great pride and amazement, sat calmly, quietly and paid rapt attention to everything that was happening, even after Papa and baby Stephanie had to go play outside.

Afterwards, the family celebrated Connor's first birthday with a great party at the Subiaco Playgroup. Such a smart choice of location for kids, as there were tons of toys and lots of great playspace outside. Ellie loved the playhouse (called "cubby house" here) and the dolls in prams, but she really loved the birthday cake. She had been waiting patiently for a slice literally all day long, since Mama made Connor's birthday cake. Ellie watched me create the icing, smooth and pipe the different colors onto the cake, asking every once in a while if she could have a bit...and waiting so nicely when the answer was she had to wait for the party later (she did get to eat bits I trimmed off and squeezed icing on for a treat). Oh, was she happy when cake time finally came!

How convenient that the icing matched her dress! Maybe I should plan it that way for parties in the future...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This afternoon, Ellie requested we bake cookies together. She chose peanut butter cookies, and after the first batch was in the oven, we remembered to add chocolate chips to the rest of the dough. As soon as the first batch was cool enough, baby Stephanie happily wandered around the backyard munching on a cookie, but Ellie was determined to wait for one with chocolate chips. Or so she said.
When the girls wandered outside, I went into the laundry room to transfer a load of clothes to the dryer. I looked out the window just as Ellie coaxed the cookie out of baby Stephanie's little fist and took a huge bite. "Ellie! I saw that!" PITUEY! She spat that bite out before starting to chew and began looking around wildly to see where I was while trying to stuff the stolen bite and the remaining cookie back into a bewildered Stephanie's hands.
I wish I had caught that on camera!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Caversham Wildlife Park

On Sunday, we drove out to Whiteman Park to visit the kangaroos at the Caversham Wildlife Park in the Swan Valley. We'd been there once before, and the weather has been so glorious lately that we were happy to do anything outside. At the Caversham Wildlife Park, there are lots of opportunities to see and meet Australian wildlife (including adorable wombats), but the kangaroo pen is the best. You are free to walk around with the kangas, feed and pet them. The kangaroos in the park are very docile, friendly and so so soft! Baby Stephanie loves animals and has no fear, so she had a great time making new friends. On the other hand, Ellie seems to get more and more reserved around animals as she grows older.

Anything bigger than she could comfortably cuddle in her lap is too big in her book, so she didn't seem to enjoy it so much this time. She surprised us by not wanting to pet or feed them, whereas Stephanie pet them, fed them, and ate a bit of their food herself (yuck). Most of the pictures are available for your perusal in the flickr sidebar, but this picture tickles me to bits:

At one point, Stephanie sat down to have a chat with a lounging wallaby, and a large group of Asian tourists rushed over to take her picture. A few of them wanted to pose with her, which caused great distress in our wee one and consternation in the tourists themselves. Not all wildlife enjoys paparazzi.

Feminists, avert your eyes

I might as well come straight out with the worst of it: I just spent nearly an hour scrubbing the kitchen floor on my hands and knees. Not pregnant and not barefoot (it's colder inside the house than outside), but it's still a capital offense, I know. And guess what else? Yesterday I spent two hours raking the yard, gathering leaves and sticks into four huge green waste bags in time for city collection. Sunday night, I finished a knitted top for Ellie. This morning (before the kitchen scrubbing), I signed up for a sewing class. Will the insanity never end?

Okay, calm down, ladies. There's a simple explanation for all of this: I DO IT BECAUSE I LIKE IT. The raking was tremendously satisfying in the beautiful autumn weather. I wish I'd taken before and after photos to prove the accomplishment. You have already heard much about my newfound joy of knitting. The sewing has been a long time interest, one that now feels more important since clothes are ridiculously expensive here and frankly (no offense to any Aussie readers) I don't like the styles or the materials. Ellie is horribly low on cool weather clothes, and I can't bring myself to buy her pants that cost $60 (or more!) or those that are cheaper but won't last for Stephanie too. And scrubbing the kitchen floor...well, I just wanted to feel like it was really clean, and now I do. At least it will be until Stephanie wakes up from her nap and smears her snack around, but that's a story for another post entitled "Cleaning with children in the house is like shoveling snow during a blizzard."

Several months ago, I received a letter from a friend who expressed her extreme distaste for how domestic I've become. I have a Masters degree, I've traveled extensively...and yet I spent my days in a way she cannot comprehend. Essentially, she accused me of chucking my brain along with my placenta. I'm still struggling with an appropriate response. I myself cringe when I read conservative mommy blogs by women who include phrases like "serve my husband and family" (shudder shudder cringe), though when I reflect on my days, that is really what I do. The difference is in the intent. I don't stay home because it is expected of me or because there is nothing else I could do; the truth is quite the opposite. Markus and I have made deliberate choices to put our young family first. He works hard so I can stay home with them and do work that makes our downtime much more like downtime. I have a wonderful partner who respects, appreciates and supports me fully. He does not come home expecting a spotless house and a smiling, freshly made-up wife. Sometimes he comes home to a total mad house and a wife who cannot wait for him to pack the children off to the playground or anywhere for just 2 minutes of peace I tell you I need to have some peace before I go get the idea. But I do try. Being a homemaker (not the most PC term but to the point) is my chosen profession at the moment, and (as with anything I give this much time) I want to be great at it. It involves many thankless tasks (such as scrubbing the floor) and tons of opportunity for personal growth. I don't regret a minute of it, even when I'm losing my nut. Will I do this forever? No, which is even more reason to work at it extra hard while I can. Making a home and raising a family is not about giving up (or worse, devaluing) oneself. It's about using all your talents to make it fulfilling and meaningful. I can cook delicious meals from scratch because I enjoy it and I really enjoy eating good food. I like creating with my hands, and I enjoy seeing the fruits of my labors. I'm pretty crap at spotless housekeeping, but our home is by no means unclean. My days are full of many tasks, many trials, and lots of hugs and love. It's a great life, and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

All that being said, I must stress that I don't believe this is a choice that is appropriate for everyone. I'm not here to judge or say staying home is the best way to parent and I certainly don't believe it's a requirement for every woman. It's really not the best choice for everyone, but it is the right choice for our family. It's a gift, and I appreciate it as such.

Side note: By the way, for another take on the homemaking topic, this post makes a good read.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Laundry sprite

Baby Stephanie likes to help with the laundry. The front loader is a perfect height for her, and it is a sure-fire way to keep her entertained. These days, I always have to check the machine before I wash a load, because you can never be sure what she might have put in there. This weekend, I tried to capture a video of her taking care of the laundry. Alas, the clip is a bit lame since she didn't want to be filmed. You can still get an idea, and you can check out the hysterical socks she is wearing. Enjoy!

This morning

Ellie's school is across a busy road from the beach, which means 5 days a week we start the day in sight of the Indian Ocean. Its beauty never ceases to amaze me. I hope there will never come a point when I take that view for granted. This week, the weather has been patchy transitional autumn weather, meaning rainshowers on and off throughout the day (side note: the temperatures are still quite lovely (low 50s in the morning, 70s in the afternoon), and the wind has died off considerably). With so much sun in the presence of patchy rain, you get RAINBOWS! This is the view that greeted us this morning when we parked the car before school:

The rainbow seemed to enter the ocean somewhere ahead of Rottnest Island. The cargo ships you see are on their way to the port at nearby Fremantle. Ellie hoped to see a ship pass through the rainbow, convinced something amazing would happen when it did. Unfortunately, the rain over the sea stopped and the rainbow faded away before we could test her theory. At least we were treated to a magical view, even for just a few minutes.