Monday, August 31, 2009

Covering the bases

I just checked the weather forecast on the Australian Bureau of Meteorology site, and it reads thus:

Fine apart from a chance of a shower.

Guess that's more official sounding than: We give up; who knows?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fungus amongus

Update on our mushroom situation:
The real estate agent just came out and took a look. She said she has heard of this before and seen it once (not in this house). The mushrooms are non-toxic unless eaten and the spores should be no more harmful than common dust. That's something, at least. Now the fun continues, as appointments are scheduled for them to rip out the carpet and built-in seating, professionally clean, reseal the floor from inside and out, install new flooring, etc. This means days and days (weeks?) of me needing to hang around for these appointments too. Joy. I'm trying to be positive. Throwing a lot of anger and frustration at this won't solve it any faster. On the upside, the room is officially decluttered. There's nothing in there right now except for the mushrooms.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Do, Re, Mi

"The Sound of Music" is one of Ellie's favorite movies, and we listen to the soundtrack in the car all the time. We've never heard it playing in a train station before, though.

We so often went to Antwerp when we were living in The Hague. Wish we'd been there on this day! Thank you, Grandpa, for sharing this wonderful clip!
For those of you wanting to know the "why" behind the happy, this was done to draw attention to a talent competition in Belgium called "Op Zoek Naar Maria" (roughly "On the look-out/search for Maria"). The winner of the competition would play the role of Maria von Trapp in the revival of "The Sound of Music" at the Efteling Theater (info courtesy of wikipedia).

Friday, August 28, 2009

A declaration of war

Titling this post was challenging, because this topic makes me vacillate between wanting to laugh, wanting to cry, wanting to scream, and wanting to walk away (far far away) while shrugging my shoulders. In that vein, please excuse all the run-on sentences and bad grammar that accompany the following rant.

I am an untidy person...make that a very untidy person. I'm big on piles of stuff just about everywhere, because I'm a visual person. If I put something out of sight, it is out of mind until it's in sight I just don't put things away until I'm totally done with them, and I never seem to get around to being totally done with them. I know this is hideous and I'm setting a bad example for my children, yadda yadda yadda, and I'm well aware of all of that...but it seems to be my nature. Untidy just doesn't bother me until it gets really bad, at which point I usually freak out and cry and rail against the fact that I don't have enough time to organize and clean it properly (hours, since it's gotten that bad)...and then maybe I'll tidy one small portion before hiding it all behind some door. The study has been that door. Since it's gotten too cold in the extension to spend any real time there this winter (it's about 57 degrees F in there most days), I tend to dump stuff there and shut the door. Not smart. The hideousness of that room has been preying on my mind for a while now, and I've conveniently ignored it. Though untidy, I am not unclean. I cannot abide funk. The study had papers and whatnot strewn all over the floor and every other surface, but there was no old food in there or anything nasty. Just mess. Nonetheless, it was time to clean. When Markus packed the girls off to the playground last night, I rolled up my sleeves and marched in there, determined.

While we were in Sydney last week enjoying glorious sunshine and heavenly temperatures, the winter weather gods were having their way with Perth. Apparently, there was a whole lotta rain happening. It was sunny when we returned, so we were happy. This week has been busy and not a little manic, so I hadn't gone in the study all week until last night. It seems I was about two weeks too late with my determination to clean up. Somehow, the study (thankfully, only the study) flooded while we were gone. The carpet is damp, which means almost everything on the floor (including various important documents I had sorted into subject piles but not filed) was damp and--you guessed it--starting to become moldy. And the kicker? There are mushrooms growing from the baseboards. MUSHROOMS. Inside my house.

I am a displaced American Katrina person. I know all about flooded spaces, but mushrooms sprouting from the wall in a week's time? I had never heard of that. I am repulsed. I am appalled! I am furious with myself for making it all so much worse for us to clean up because we actually need to keep most of those damp, slightly moldy papers. ARGH!!

Untidy I may be, but unclean I ain't...and mushrooms from the baseboards? That's seriously unclean. This is war. War on my clutter-ous, untidy ways has been declared. I didn't cause the flood or the mushrooms, but they will spur me on to better habits. Never again!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another knitted project done!

Weeks ago, I noticed the girls who work at our local fruit and veg spot were freezing in the mornings, and they kept pulling their sleeves down over their hands. I got the brilliant and generous (if I do say so myself) idea to knit them up matching handwarmers that would help fight off the chill while keeping their fingers as free as they needed. Of course, that was weeks ago. I lost enthusiasm part way through, but I finally finished knitting three pair of fairly simple handwarmers this weekend. While it's still cool (and gloriously so!), it is no longer cold enough to require handwarmers. Guess I'll be saving them as a gift for next year. You get to see them now.

I had a hard time capturing the color accurately in the morning light, but there they are! I used some yarn I bought when I first learned to knit. I had a men's scarf in mind, but I am not wanting to knit scarves at the moment. This use seemed fitting. The pattern was found on ravelry, but can also be found on the designer's blog here. After seeing the pair I knit for myself first, Markus suggested that the wrist cover-up should be longer, so I adapted the pattern to start with 20 rows of stockinette instead of the pattern's 8.

Breakfast monster

Lately, my go-to breakfast is almond butter and Nutella on wholemeal toast. I am not the only one who likes this combination.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Feelin' crunchy

Although sharing this tidbit is going to be too much information for many of you, baby Stephanie weaned herself over the course of our Sydney trip. She has been down to breastfeeding only at bedtime and wake-up for months. I had thought I'd cut her off at around 15 months as I did Ellie, but then I kept it up to get her through flu season. Being a teacher gave me an awesome immune system, and it's a nice thing to share. Over our holiday when she wasn't resting or eating much, she tried to make up the difference with more breastfeeding, and my body just couldn't keep up with her. That made her really mad (she whacked me several times in fury), and so she just gave it up. Her last nursing cleared her ears for the take-off flight returning home. We had 18 good months. Unless the unexpected happens, I will breastfeed no more. Sigh. You mamas out there will understand this. Breastfeeding is such a beautiful thing, and while I never intended to breastfeed for ages and ages, I will miss it.

What's a girl to do now that she won't be having more babies of her own? Nurture other people's babies! Giving birth to Stephanie in The Netherlands, where they strongly urge natural birth, was a life-changing experience. I have always been fascinated with birth. When Mrs. Baggett, my 9th grade biology teacher, showed us the birth video in class, almost everyone was completely grossed out and turned away, but my girlfriend Gina and I were front and center, riveted. If I'd had the stamina to plow through school, medical school and residency (whew!), I would have loved to be an OB. After Stephanie's home birth in Holland, I felt a longing to become a midwife. In Holland, you see a midwife unless you have a known medical complication. They don't view pregnancy as a medical condition in an otherwise healthy person, and it is treated as a natural process. And you know what? The Dutch have far better outcomes for mothers and babies than the States, even though their mothers are on average several years older. The more I read about medical interventions in birth, the more disturbing it seems. And you would not believe how much I love learning about birth.

Unfortunately for me, our lifestyle kind of takes the midwife option out. We move internationally, which means I'd have to retrain to fit the guidelines for every new country, if they'd allow me to practice at all. Also, midwives have very demanding, unpredictable schedules. I have no interest in being a nurse-midwife with hospital hours. I want to know the mothers and travel along their pregnancy journeys with them. I want to support and encourage them. Enter the idea of being a doula.

In truth, I'm still on the fence with this one. I never saw myself as a doula, even when I became so drawn to natural birth. I don't know that I would see myself as a doula now either, but it's a possibility that would allow me to become an integral part of the birth miracle in a way that I could control and continue despite international regulations. Doulas aren't medical. They support the mother in a non-medical way, and they still get to be there to welcome the tiny red scrunchy bundle from the first moments. Not a bad way to go through life! So this morning, I registered for training to become a doula, as well as some additional qualifications to educate before and after birth. I have no idea where this training will lead me, but right now, I'm looking at it as a fun opportunity to learn more on a subject I feel passionate about and maybe open up some new possibilities. I'm not quite to the Birkenstock-wearing, hippie-skirt-sporting, tree-hugging crunchy most people envisage with doulas, but I'm not ruling it out either.

Bucket list item

Do you have a bucket list? It's a list of things you'd like to do before you kick the bucket. I don't really have a formalized list (maybe I should make one?), but if I did, something that would be on it would be attending an opera at the Sydney Opera House. My super-fantastic, wonderful, spoils-me-rotten husband knows this and thus insisted I go while he did kiddie patrol back at the apartment. On the day we booked our flights, he bought me a fantastic seat to attend last Tuesday night's performance of Beethoven's "Fidelio".

I had never been to an opera before, and honestly I don't think I'll become an opera person. Opera does not seem to be my thing...but attending one in the Sydney Opera House, that was really something! I have always been so impressed with that iconic building, and now I know what it looks like inside too! Surprisingly, the opera theater is quite ugly inside. It is exposed cement and plastic-y looking seats. The ceiling is painted black, and it seems to go up and up and up, giving the feeling that one is in the belly of a whale. The stage was set back in a way that left the orchestra uncovered, so the sound traveled up and out into the theater beautifully.

On the day, I started feeling nervous. I had a date with a famous theater! I was afraid I'd be underdressed or inadequately prepared somehow, but I shouldn't have been. Sydney is a casual place. Despite the $200+ pricetag for the best seats, I didn't even see a man in a suit and tie. Many older men wore sport coats and nice trousers, but that's it. Some older ladies wore dressy clothes, but nothing that would pass as appropriate opera wear in Europe. In keeping with Aussie traditional gear, I saw several people wearing flip-flops with their smart clothes. I was really surprised, but also relieved. I fit in just fine.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

More how to "do" Sydney with littles

That last post was already quite long (you know I can't tell the short version), so here's the rest of the week.

Wednesday was zoo day. By Wednesday, we had figured out the bus system and were happy to catch a bus to Circular Quay from a stop quite close to our apartment. From Circular Quay, there is a ferry to the Taronga Zoo.

Unlike the aquarium, the zoo cannot be overrated. It was great! It was in a gorgeous location built into a cliffside overlooking the harbour. From the ferry, you can take a bus or a cable car up to the top entrance, but why would you take the bus?! The cable car was awesome! The zoo was really cool with lots to see. We took so many pictures and some little movies there that I think I'm going to have to work up an iMovie for ya. We typically only last an hour or maybe two in a zoo before the kids are cooked, but we spent four hours there and still didn't see it all. Two big highlights were seeing the 6 week old baby elephant and sharing (unintentionally) our lunch with some assertive lorikeets. The girls had a great time and so did we!

On Thursday morning, we had reserved places to attend Babies Proms at the opera house. In honor of National Children's Book Week, they had put children's books to music with a small orchestra (14-15 pieces?) and a fantastic performer who sang and acted out the stories while the pictures from the book were projected onto a screen. It was so cool! The performer was awesome with the kids. The whole thing was targeted for kids ages 2-5, and Ellie loved it so much that afterwards she asked if we could invite the nice lady to her birthday party. She also declared she wanted a birthday cake shaped like the Sydney Opera House and the nice lady could be inside. Apparently, the Babies Proms happens on and off throughout the year and it's always different. We were so lucky to get spaces at ours. It really was fantastic! We wish they'd made a recording so we could have enjoyed it again at home.
Ellie loved riding the bus too. By Thursday, she was begging to "do it by itself", so we set her up in the front seat near the driver. She tried (unsuccessfully) to engage him in conversation and eventually accepted our explanation that he needed to focus on traffic. Stephanie wanted to sit on the seat by herself too, though she appreciated the reassurance of a hand to hold.

Later that afternoon, the kids enjoyed ice creams as Mama and Papa downed some much-needed coffee.

The weather was gorgeous the whole time we were there, and we later learned we were doubly lucky on that since it had been hideous weather back in Perth all week. Aside from all the challenges we had with sleep, it was a really nice trip overall. We're thankful we got to go!

How to "do" Sydney with littles

You don't.
Sydney is a big city with much to see and do, but littles are well, little. They don't have the stamina or the interest to see and do a bunch of big city stuff, and dragging them around only makes everyone miserable. We learned long ago to target one thing per day, and then not to get too fussed if that one thing doesn't happen. Keep it real so everyone can enjoy.

Monday was our first full day, but we were all tired and adjusting. We used the day to explore a bit. We walked to Central Station (not fun thanks to steep hill between it and our apartment building) and took the train down to Circular Quay. I got my first look at the Sydney Opera House, which I had been longing to see since maybe forever. I cannot remember how long I have wanted to see it, but there it was and I was happy! From Circular Quay, we caught a ferry to Darling Harbour, location of all things touristy (aquarium, wildlife center, maritime museum...), and then we walked back to our apartment. It gave us a good overall layout and wore us all out completely.

On Tuesday, we thought we'd take the tram to Darling Harbour to visit the aquarium, but we couldn't find the stop and ended up walking. The aquarium itself is really quite old and most of it is poorly designed. Several tanks with interesting fish are small and eye-level for adults. Plenty of unthinking adults clustered around them closely and wouldn't move for littles, so actually we ended up bypassing much of what was there. The aquarium has tried to branch into its surrounding space by accessing barges on the harbour, but the passages down to those were so tight and winding that claustrophobic me had more than one panic attack before I abandoned the whole enterprise. The aquarium gets a big raspberry from me, though the girls enjoyed it well enough. Baby Stephanie was fascinated. Ellie got rotten on aquariums during our frequent visits to the zoo/aquarium in Rotterdam, so she was only moderately impressed.
From there, we wandered over toward the opera house and the botanic garden. Did you know the opera house is comprised of 3 separate buildings?

As you can see, Ellie didn't see much of the botanic gardens. Neither did we. Almost as soon as we entered the grounds, baby Stephanie meandered off into the grass and plopped herself down near a lady reading. We quickly got the hint that Stephanie wanted a book too, so we handed her one and she sat happily reading to herself for quite a while.

Isolation does things to people

Here is a letter to the editor copied from the August 22, 2009 edition of the much-beloved-by-me POST Newspaper. Clearly, the author loves poetic imagery, alliteration…and her hometown of Subiaco, Western Australia.

Subi sleeps now—silently she sighs for sunrise. Soon her slumber will end for another night, her eye will open and the solitary silent stranger will cease stalking the streets.

The precursor of Subiaco’s day sounds before dawn with hundreds of POST newspapers hitting verandas and, like the sun, the sounds of Subi will slowly rise and the day begins.

Saturday in Subi sees cyclists arrive like parrots that crave coffee. In their bright colours they circle in chattering, swoop around a café and settle. A cacophony of coffee prattle fills the ears that pass by.

Shoppers slide by these pools of painted parrots. They saunter past in their ones, two and threes. Where they go is unimportant; presently they are in Subi—once they leave they will know it is better to be here.

The cyclists and shopper witness the next arrivals—the buggy brigade. Like bumpercars, they are of all colours—so many shapes, sizes and idiosyncracies.

Then come the cars—the silver Mercedes that never moves is here, so too that yellow sports BMW placed on Subi’s favourite street.

On such a day and on such a street there is a gentle flow of Fords, fastbacks and flatbeds. They pass up and down the street for themselves, but the last pass is for Subi.

Like a great flood, colours wash the streets of our Subi this afternoon. A zoo of spectators descends, converging on the spectacle at the Stadium.

Lifting and falling as a seesaw, their screams tell everyone that football plays in Subi today.

As the sun fades and night beckons, Subiaco’s giant trees stretch their fingers towards heaven, bringing us who are lucky enough to live here closer to a heavenly dream.

--June Hester
Heytesbury Road, Subiaco

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Our trip to Sydney: the accommodation and eateries edition

When we are away from home, a hotel room just isn't practical. All of us sleeping in one room is a recipe for none of us sleeping at all. During the day, if there is to be any prayer of kiddie naps, they have to have a separate space. We really need at least two rooms, but it's really hard to justify the expense. Hotels also are impractical for us because the kids wake up so early and usually want to eat right away (and Ellie is supremely selective about which foods are acceptable). Even if the hotel restaurant were to be open, the process of getting us all dressed and down to the restaurant (where we wait for the food) usually takes so long that everyone is cranky by the time the food arrives. Enter apartment hotels! Sydney has a plethora of apartment hotel options, ranging from the totally basic backpacker place to the super-swank right on Circular Quay (next to the opera house). With options scattered throughout the city and surrounds, other factors are important too. My gorgeous redheaded girlfriend (who is from Sydney) highly recommended a place at Bondi Junction, a prime location with tons of shops and close to the beach (that's the famous "bond-eye" Beach, people; don't ever call it "bond-ee" in front of an Aussie). But we have other priorities, predictably FOOD. If you've been reading this blog for any amount of time, you know me well enough to know that it's all about the food. And where do you go in Sydney if you want to be in the middle of all the good food? Surry Hills.

Surry Hills was pretty seedy until a few years ago when hip yuppies starting taking it over. Now, though a bit run-down, it is full of awesome cafes and restaurants, interesting and fabulous boutiques, and lots of friendly people. The architecture is Victorian townhouses, which reminded us of New Orleans, kind of a cross between the Garden District and the French Quarter. There is a fantastic sustainable structure library and a nice playground for the kiddos. It is so great to have all this at your doorstep when you are done with the transport and the big city chaos. Any lingering seediness didn't affect us since we weren't out past 7pm anyway.

We opted to stay at the Medina on Crown and paid for a two bedroom apartment with a view. Great choice! "bills", restaurant of celebrity chef Bill Granger, was downstairs. They opened every day for breakfast at 7 and stayed open all day until 9:30. It had an arrangement with the hotel that you could take your plates upstairs, which meant Markus and I could have really nice dinners served up on restaurant plates in the apartment while the girls ran around in their pajamas and burned their pre-bedtime energy. Breakfast is bills' speciality, and I highly recommend their ricotta pancakes with honeycomb butter. "Billy Kwong" is another fantastic spot downstairs, but we didn't get to try it this time. One block over is "The Grocer" which kept us supplied with fresh pasta and pesto and some delicious cheeses the night Markus and I opted for a wine and cheese dinner. "Pizza e Birre" further down Crown St. serves up real Italian-style, wood-fired pizza. If you are concerned about environmentally responsible food, the "O Cafe" is your place where everything on the menu is organic; though not vegan or vegetarian, they have great options for people who are. Try their vegan French toast with cinnamon bananas and agave; yum! And don't miss "Bourke Street Bakery" for bread and pastries. They have awesome coffee too, and this comes from someone who generally doesn't care for the taste of coffee.

As for the apartment, we were in Room 417. See for yourself:

The rooms were fully decent, if a bit too black and grey for our sensibilities. There was a laundry room with washer and dryer, two full bathrooms (one with a tub), and a fully stocked (with dishes and pans) kitchen. In the courtyard, there was a large pool and jacuzzi tub, and the hotel had a small gym. Back in our room, the TV was only pay-per-view, which would have really been disappointing if we were TV watchers but we're not. Paying for a room with a view...that worked out so well. We knew it would have a balcony (all of the rooms along the back had tiny balconies), but here was ours:

That's a huge terrace! Not a bad spot to eat, drink, knit and unwind after a long day.

Update from Mary

The heavenly kingdom received a new organist this morning, 22 August 2009 when my sister Gert entered the Church Triumphant. I am confident that all of the heavens rejoiced and the angel choirs sang when our Lord said, "Hit it, Gert."

Thank you for all of your prayers.

Please continue to hold Mary and all of Gert's family in your prayers.

Happy to be home!

I have so much Sydney trip goodness to share, but not today. Today, we are catching up, settling in and are generally happy to be home. As much as I liked Sydney, the trip was really hard on the girls. Neither ate much, drank much or slept well (Stephanie hardly slept at all). They were happy enough during the days that we had a good trip all in all, but oh baby are they happy to be home! Stephanie had a hard time falling asleep last night, but once she did, she slept through and woke up happy as ever. She ate like a horse, guzzled water, played and played...and passed out again for a 3 hour nap. Then she ate, guzzled water, played and played...and passed out again for a 2 hour nap. She's catching up. Ellie too. They watched so many DVDs during the trip (we wanted to let them relax as much as possible when in the apartment) that we declared this weekend TV-free...and there have been surprisingly few complaints. Ellie played with Markus almost all day, inside or outside in the cubby house. They went to the playground, to the grocery store...and just relaxed. It's been a great day, and it's good to be home.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back in WA

We're back! We are freshly returned from a week in...


I wasn't totally honest with you in the last post; by that I mean I was honest, but I didn't give any real details. We were away, yes. I knew I wouldn't be posting while on vacation, and I wanted to give you notice. At the same time, something made me reluctant to tell the internet that we'd be out of our house for a week, so I kept it vague. Now, you'll get the details!

Last Monday, Markus spontaneously booked us for a week in Sydney! We had been saving all our holiday time this whole year (yes, it's been a whole year in WA now!) for our trip to the States. For various reasons that are a separate blog entry, we finally came to the conclusion that a family trip to the States is not in the cards right now. Don't you know it wasn't 24 hours after we realized that that we were booked to go to Sydney. Time to use up some vacation time and get out of isolated WA for a while!

Of course, the other part I didn't detail was the sick kids and tired parents. Don't you know that we hadn't been away for a WHOLE YEAR, and as soon as we book our trip, baby Stephanie gets her first real cold with (blessedly mild) ear infection. Then, Ellie developed a minor infection in her mouth as a side effect to a cold she was getting over. Then, Stephanie cut more molars. And we suspect she had a bizarre, adverse reaction to the antibiotic for her ears, because she became wildly manic and unrestful late at night (after the evening dose was administered). We haven't slept in two days. We have been on holiday, yes. Sydney was awesome, yes. And are we ready for a vacation now? YES.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blog break

I will be away from the blog for a few days, so don't be offended by the lack of posting. It should be back strong again by the end of next week. Right now, we have two sick kiddos, two tired parents, and lots of items on the agenda. The blog will get attention again in due course!
Have a great weekend and week next week!

Prayer request

I know not all of you are the praying-kind, but in case you are, here's a heartfelt request from our dear friend Mary (pictured with three-month-old Ellie):

Please pray for my sister Gert. She is in Mobile Infirmary. She has renal cell carcinoma which has metastasized to the bones in her neck. She was diagnosed with this in July of 08. Her attitude this whole year has been amazing. I have been so proud of her. She continues to meet this foe with still a more amazing attitude. She has lost use of her left hand and arm and her left side is weakening. She has some wonderful doctors and the deepest of faith and belief in the Greatest Healer of all. Please continue to pray.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Roadside find

For over a year now (yes, even before we left Holland), I've been trying to find the perfect kitchen set for the girls. I do not like plastic toy sets, so those are out. My aesthetics demand it be beautiful, simple, and (ideally) wood. My sense demands it not be overly pricey. I have found several online that seem to fit the bill, but of course none of those are available in Australia (or Holland, when we were there). Although I hadn't given up completely on a wood set, I've looked into making our own from reinforced cardboard, even finding some awesome plans on etsy for just that. And then yesterday, I found this on the side of the road (pictured post-repair and installation into cubby house):

It is clearly homemade with love out of MDF and bits from an old stove. It is really well-put-together, and the only thing wrong with it (a bit of rust on the metal bits) was easily remedied with a good scrubbing of a metal brush and a few coats of rust-inhibiting paint. Markus took care of that today, and so for $14 and some elbow grease, we have the perfect kitchen in the cubby house. There are lots of sturdy food containers I've saved from our family groceries over the year. Thanks to IKEA Children's Department, the play kitchen is now fully fitted out with pots, pans, a strainer, and kitchen utensils. There is even a set of plates, cups and utensils in waiting (I had purchased all of those a while ago in hopes of having a kitchen in time for Ellie's birthday, still a few weeks away).

Ellie is over the moon! Baby Stephanie might be...if Ellie would let her anywhere near the play stove. It's hard to share when something is so fun, but we're working on it.

Thank you to whomever put this old play stove by the roadside. You've made two girls (and their fussy mama) very happy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Slow food

We have a little lemon tree in our backyard. For many months, we've been watching as its small white flowers slowly turned into this:

Did you know that it takes lemons almost a full year to grow? Lemons are so cheap and numerous at every market I've ever visited that I admit I've never given them much thought...until now. Almost a full year of work. That's worth pausing to appreciate.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Girls can be catty...

...but also oh-so-funny!
The girls at go fug yourself are generally cranky and quite often hilarious. I am not much of a person for celebrity gossip, but I head to their site for a regular fix of whatever-it-is-they-do because they crack me up! While I'm smiling my way through Tuesday lunchtime, I realize a lot of you are still stuck in Monday, and I bet that means you could benefit from this post.
Hang in there! Monday is almost over!

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Warm Sunday afternoon

This afternoon, the temperature was a balmy 26 degrees (close to 80F), so we enjoyed some fun in the backyard in our bare feet! Markus started sweeping the copius amount of leaves from the patio, and I took a rake to all the jacaranda twigs in the grass. By the time we were done, the backyard looked awesome, so we couldn't resist the temptation to stay and play.

First, the girls bounced a bit on the trampoline with Papa. Then, noting the warmth in the sun, Papa brought out the baby bathtub for some waterplay. The only use this baby tub has ever seen has been as a makeshift splash-pool for baby Stephanie, so it's only logical that she assumed that would be its use today. Not bad for late winter!

After wrangling Stephanie into some dry clothes, we settled down for family art time. Ellie carefully and meticulously covered every inch of her paper in color for a lovely rainbow camouflage. Baby Stephanie wielded her paintbrush like a baby obsessed, scraping into the paint with her fingernails and rubbing her fingers across the paper to get the desired effect. Ellie studies the masters. Baby Stephanie is channeling Jackson Pollock.

Not long thereafter, the cloud cover returned and the temperature began to drop. It seemed to take only minutes for it to drop to 19 degrees (68F or so). Socks and shoes were donned. Later inside, the heater was needed during dinnertime. We enjoyed the warm spell while it lasted!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

After all, she did win the "Best Hair" award in high school...

To help me combat The Crazy that descended on our house this weekend, I escaped for a haircut (peace and quiet with a magazine) on this past Saturday afternoon. Then, on Sunday, my gorgeous redhead girlfriend and I went out for girls' lunch. We always take a photo together at the end, and this time, she said she didn't want to show me. I wondered what hideous expression I must be making, so I asked her why I couldn't see it. She said, "I don't want you to be embarrassed, but with your hair looking so nice, you really look like a movie star!"

I think the only embarrassing part is the idea that such lavish sentiments might be possible more often if I were motivated to blow-dry my own hair.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Images from the morning walk

Baby Stephanie and I have done the morning walk twice this week, and it is a wonderful way to start the day. Although I've been up for a couple of hours by then, the walk allows me to wake up and clear my head, just as beneficial if not more so than the exercise. The view is fantastic, and it would be hard to beat the location. Given all the places in the world we have been and might still go, I need to take advantage this place while I can.

I've found Stephanie's maximum patience with the stroller to be around 30 minutes, which magically gets us from the carpark at Ellie's school to a wonderful cafe in Cottesloe that a friend led us to last week. I get a good 30 minute walk in either direction, and we both get a snack (or second breakfast) during the intermission. Technically, the 30 minutes will also get us to a big playground, but most mornings are so manic trying to get them out the door that I'm eager for that "second breakfast" since I often miss my first. And baby Stephanie really likes the strawberry jam at the cafe...

Most mornings this winter, I have noticed surfers all along the beach. They seem to congregate in some areas, and the best I can figure out is those areas are over reefs so there's a bit of surf. A very wee bit. I'm no surfer, but really, these waves are nothing to write home about. It often makes me giggle to watch them floating out there on their boards, eagerly scanning the horizon for what I can only assume is in hope of a tsunami or at least a storm at sea that will churn up some actual action. On Tuesday, the weather was fantastic and there seemed to be more surfers than usual. Several passed us on their run down (let's not miss the big wave!), and now we understand what it's all about: they are retirees. By and large, the surfers we see out in the mornings are in the 50+ category (though I swear I saw a Japanese man who must be at least 70). These waves must be just the right size to keep their wives and doctors placated and still give a bit of a thrill from time to time. As for the lengthy periods of floating along aimlessly, well, why not? Sounds like a good retirement plan to me!

This last shot was taken at a stoplight on the ride home. She was chatting happily to herself, and I looked back to see this:

Cutie loves hats!

Greetings from the middle of the night

Trying to apply yesterday's lesson, we went to bed early again...and here I am at 3 am. I've been awake for an hour already. When I told a friend that there wouldn't be enough hours in my day to complete all I want to do even if I didn't sleep, I wasn't looking for a test run! I have a feeling this is going to be a long week.

Four hours later...
In the interests of reporting accuracy, I will admit that it's possible I was wrong about that. From 4am - 5:30am, I scrubbed the kitchen floor, cleaned the bathroom, and washed/dried/folded two loads of laundry. Think of what I might have accomplished if I hadn't stayed in bed for that first hour from 2am - 3am hoping to fall back asleep or surfing the internet for the second hour hoping to make myself sleepy. If I never slept again (or just not until the girls were several years older), I might actually complete my unending to-do list. I admit it.
Here's hopin' for a more restful night tonight. Sleep is my friend, sleep is my friend...

What a difference a day makes!

Last night, Markus and I quit while we were ahead and went to bed at 9:15. I woke up first, wide awake in a very dark room. The clock is on Markus's side, but it was blocked by a book, so I had no idea what time it was. I was afraid I was in a repeat of the night before, when I was wide awake from 3am - 5:30am (prompting my sleep-deprived post yesterday)...but then Markus woke up and got up! It was 6:30! We all slept through! Ellie woke up around 15 minutes later and baby Stephanie is still asleep, giving the big people in the house a nice easy start to the day. Hip-hip-hooray! How good quality sleep feels! What a difference a day makes!

And how fabulous to have gotten a good night's sleep, because what a day it has been! Lemme tell ya, when the crazy comes to town, it brings all its relatives!

p.s. Scroll down and revisit the "Little Talker" post. I added a video captured this morning as Stephanie was helping me clean the floor.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Acknowledging the elephant

I try not to complain here, because 1) who wants to read that and 2) this is a record of our family, so why record stuff we'd rather not give more attention. But now we're at the point when I can no longer ignore the elephant in the room, because it is sitting on my head or at least trying very hard to keep balance in my lap. We are horribly sleep-deprived, Markus most of all. Two weeks ago, he had to go to India for four days (two days of flying for two days in the office). He came back midday Saturday, and we had great fun for the rest of the weekend despite his jetlag...but he was back at work on Monday for important meetings. Last week was a very busy week for him, so he didn't get any chance to rest and recoup, and then last Thursday, Ellie got a cold. You probably know by now that when Ellie gets a cold, it is the end of the world (and certainly sleep) as we know it. It was just a little cold, mind you. No fever, nothing extreme. Just a cough and a nose and some extra tiredness...but she cannot/will not nap. Every night since last Thursday, she has woken up many times a night wailing (usually because her nose is stuffy and makes her mad), and unfortunately the wailing continues off and on throughout the days (as an example, right now she's looking out the front curtains wailing "No Mama! Papa come get me! Get me! I need a tissue!" over and over since he's already gone to work and I have committed the sin of asking her to get dressed; the full tissue box is next to her feet). It's wearing us out in a serious way, again Markus most of all because although she wakes us both, she wants Papa to soothe her back to sleep. So often I have lamented baby Stephanie sleeping in the back part of the house instead of the front with the rest of us, but during stretches like these, I'm so thankful. She is the only one who is well-rested.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Artful musings

During an extended baby Stephanie nap this morning, I had the rare opportunity to catch up on some news, and I turned to the online IHT. Skipping right past the latest global trauma (I get the overview from the invaluable BBC World News podcast twice daily), I zeroed in on this article: "At the Louvre, Many Stop to Snap but Few Stay to Focus". This article made me smile, because I am an atypical museum person. I focus on the work other people pass by. My favorite painting in the Mauritshuis in The Hague is not Vermeer's "Girl with the Pearl Earring" that everyone comes to see; rather, it's his panorama of Delft on the opposite wall that keeps my eyes and art-lovin' heart full. At the Louvre, I can give Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo a miss, but I have been in love with the Winged Victory of Samothrace for the past 13 years (she gets some well-deserved screen time in the movie "The Da Vinci Code" when the main characters run down the stairs in front of her to escape the police). Keep Notre Dame and give me St. Chapelle! You get the idea. I'm weird, I know. And I like it, so there.
If you get a chance, have a read through the article. I particularly like the concept of "slow watching." Let's hope it catches on!

Watching the clock

Each morning, Ellie springs from sound asleep to wide awake in an instant. When she wakes up, she is ready to move! Unfortunately, she decided that we must be the same, and so when she is up, we (or if I'm honest, Markus) must be up too. She seems oblivious to our zombie-like state. She generally wakes up around 6:30, but it can be much earlier and her eagerness to get us moving is no different. One of my all-time favorite Ellie Dinglish (German & English) quotes was an early morning wake-up, when Ellie was puzzled as to why we didn't want to get out of bed super-early (the sun rises before 5 in Dutch summertime). She wandered over to the window, pulled the curtains aside to reveal the first colors of dawn light and announced, "It's not hell!" which Markus responded by muttering into his pillow, "No, but I can see it from here."
('hell' is German for 'light'; she meant it wasn't dark)

After years of early morning starts, we have decided Ellie is old enough to stay in her room each morning until 7am. She has plenty of books, a nice little lamp and Lolo for company, so we think she'll be fine. Although I'm a big believer in teaching kids analog, we put a digital clock in her bedroom so there would be no intricate and unending negotiations about the proximity of the big hand to the 7 (top lawyers of the world, you have nothing on our almost 4 year old). The first morning (yesterday) had the expected debate about which position needed to be a 7 (the last digit was a 7 at 6:17, so hey!). This morning, she tried to forget the whole clock business and carry on as usual, taking the extreme of running down the hallway and hiding behind the kitchen table from Mama who returned her to her room as soon as she was captured. After that, I was pleasantly surprised that she fussed no further and didn't attempt to come out even after Markus went down the hall to get ready for work. I could hear her happily reading and talking to Lolo. Hooray! Day 2 is a success! I even managed to pour myself a cup of tea before she came running down the hall at 7:17, proudly grinning from ear to ear, naked as a jaybird, and shouting, "I did it! I stayed until the 7! And I did it just like Cinderella does!"

I have been asked to clarify the Cinderella comment, and really, I can't. I have no idea. I don't remember a nude scene in "Cinderella". I will try to ignore any suggestions that I am the Wicked Stepmother keeping Cinderella/Ellie in her room against her will. Besides, I really think it was more simple than that. Ellie loves to act out her favorite movies, and after she told me she "did it just like Cinderella does", she demonstrated resting her head on a pillow and then stretching up with one arm toward the open window, smiling to greet the day. Who knows where the naked came in, but it was pretty darn funny.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Little talker

Sharing another "Ellie says" reminds me that I really ought to share baby Stephanie's talking too. She has always been a very effective communicator, and her talking is ramping up big-style. While Ellie never used baby talk (she waited until she knew the word perfectly before saying it), baby Stephanie has no such reservations...and she LOVES to talk! Some examples:

"What's THAT?!!" -- no translation necessary, often said with great urgency. This was 4th in line after "no", "go", and "mama".

"Wanna show." -- I want to see. "Schau" {rhymes with cow} is German for "look", and we often say it to draw her attention to something.
also "Wanna go SEE." again with the urgency.
also "Wanna go see Will", the friend across the road. Used to be "Wanna go see Jack-dog (or Dog-Jack)", Will's golden retriever.

"Dog-dog." -- evolution from Jack-dog. applies to all dogs great and small.
"Woof-woof!" -- enthusiastic response to "What does the doggie say?"

"Ooooooooo!" (also "woooo") -- She has spotted a cow (live or image). Cows say "moo". German for cow is "kuh" {pronounced "coo"}. She meets it half-way with "ooo".

"Yie-yie-yie!" with clapping -- She's singing "Old MacDonald" to herself.

"Wanna go singing." --she wants to play on the swings at the playground.

"Tea!" -- She's thirsty. We're not sure if this comes from all the tea we drink or just the last sound in the word.

"Num-num!" -- She has a craving. Often said as we drive past a cafe where she has eaten a treat.

Single words:
no (can mean "yes"; emphatic "no" is "nien nien nien!", always 3 times)
'kay! ("ok", usually meaning enthusiastic "yes")
baby Stephanie (she says this as one word)
Baba or Papa (usually Baba)
Mimi (thank you, iChat!)

This isn't a comprehensive list, but it covers the most frequent sayings. How we love that golden girl!

We can no longer capture movies of baby Stephanie since she now understands she can watch on the camera screen. I tried making a movie of her cleaning the floor, but instead I caught this lovely demonstration of her phrase of choice, and the newest word addition (yes).