Monday, December 28, 2009

Film synopsis

We rented "Burn After Reading" from Blockbuster.
We spent the first 20 minutes wondering what was going on.
The next 25 minutes starting to think we might see where it was headed.
And then spontaneously started cracking up close to the hour mark.
The movie is crazy and bizarre and yet totally engaging.
And that's what it's like watching a movie by the Coen Brothers.

Practicing writing

When I reemerged from the extension after putting Stephanie to bed tonight, I found Ellie sitting at the table outside, working intently. She had found a pen and a small square of notepaper, and she was "practicing writing."

She wasn't trying to write words, though we know that will come soon. She can write her name (and "Mama"!), but for now, most of the time, she just enjoys the letters themselves. When she ambled off to bed, I deftly whisked this precious paper away for my Mama Treasures stash.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Today is Boxing Day. To Americans, this doesn't mean a whole lot. It's not a day we recognize, but here Down Under, they follow the British model (and European, to some extent), making Boxing Day another big day in the Christmas tradition. So, what is Boxing Day? It is rooted in a tradition of charity and giving to the less fortunate. In the Victorian era, workmen would collect gifts on the day after Christmas (Christmas boxes) in return for good service provided throughout the year. Now, it's a bank holiday and often the start of post-Christmas sales. What does that mean for us? Again, not a whole lot. We try to spread our giving throughout the year, so Boxing Day is just another day off. This doesn't mean we don't make the most of it!

We used the morning to take a leisurely stroll through King's Park. As the four of us lolled in the grass, enjoying the abundant sunshine and refreshing breeze, we once again counted our blessings and realized how fortunate we are to be able to enjoy the goodness that is life in Perth. If you found a climate just like Perth's anywhere else in the world, it would be overrun. Fortunately (and sometimes unfortunately), Perth is so isolated and remote that overcrowding isn't an issue. It's easy to lounge about in the sun and enjoy, because really, that's what you do here. Lucky us!

Although wildflower season has well passed, King's Park is in full bloom. I have a particular affinity for Kangaroo Paws (yellow flowers top right). We also enjoyed the banksia (yellow flowers, second from bottom right) and the red blooms on the Short-Leaved Something-or-Other (sorry, but I don't remember the name)(bottom right). What a gorgeous day!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We hope your Christmas was as fun and carefree as ours was! Warmest wishes to you and yours on this special day!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Deck the halls

...with gastro.
I returned from a movie night with a girlfriend on Sunday night to a sick Markus. We thought it was food poisoning (he consumed questionable jam with dinner) until Ellie got just as sick last night (questionable blueberries?). Joy. So far, Stephanie and I are still okay. At least whatever this is seems to be short-lived. Markus and Ellie are still flat out on the couch, but the actual sickness was a one night only show. Good thing I was planning on a simple, low key Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

On a late December morning...

We awoke to another hot day here Down Under, so what better way to start the day than in the pool?

Wet suits are so cute on a tiny person.

Markus rigged up the outdoor shower to rinse off the pool water. Stephanie loves standing under it. Here she is trying to watch the water pour from her hair...

Happy Sunday, everyone!

Yesterday was the first day Baby Stephanie decided she had no residual fear about the pool. She even worked herself up to (repeatedly) jumping from the side into Papa's arms, after which she will proudly announce in perfect Dinglish, "I schwimmt!". She had a blast! Ellie, ever the water baby, was ready to show her how it should be done.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

New Christmas tradition

Earlier in the week, temperatures dropped unexpectedly due to the smokey layer in the air, and I was prompted to seek a quick playdate alternative to swimming. We had invited over a family with three kids, and I wanted to make sure five kiddos total could stay engaged and happy for a while. We made a quick trip to the local bakery and picked up gingerbread house kits and then to the grocery store to buy some candy decorations. As it turned out, the kids wanted to swim anyway (kids have such different internal thermostats), so we saved the gingerbread house for another day.
Ellie had so much fun decorating it! We think it appeals to her meticulous nature. Baby Stephanie very helpfully ensured we did not have any extra Smarties to wrangle (Smarties are like M&Ms, larger, lacking the M, and made by Nestle).

We know we will be making one every year!

Friday, December 18, 2009

"I thought I had it in reverse!"

AKA Why Markus loves the South


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

School concert

This video will be a bit too lengthy for most viewers, but true Ellie fans will love it. Last Thursday night, Ellie's school presented their end of the year concert. The theme was "peace." Children in the 3-5 year old classes were asked to dress in "national costumes." The variety was fantastic. There are a number of families from different countries, and a lot of those families had extra costumes to share. One African boy was shirtless with traditional paint on his chest and face. Two Greek children in Ellie's class looked amazing. I didn't film the whole concert (there are 4 younger classes and a few more older classes than I captured), but I included the duration of Ellie's class song and the final song with all the classes, as well as brief selections from some middle classes so you can get an idea. The adolescent program included hip-hop dancing in their physical education this term (along with fencing and surfing...I wish I'd gone to this school!), so you get to see a bit of their efforts too. You'll see Stephanie trying to mimic their motions a time or two. Ellie is in the first and last song. She is wearing a long pink dress (which belonged to her Tante Ulla when she was a girl). She is standing six children in from the left in the first song, next to the boy in brown. During the final song, she is standing over toward the right in the front row.

The whole concert was absolutely wonderful. It was a bit too late for the little ones, but they held up really well and everyone had a special time. Here, I'm happy to share it with you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aussie summer

Over the weekend, it was incredibly hot. Temperature in the shade was around 35 degrees (that's close to 100F), and we can only guess how scorching it was in the sun. Frankly, I had no interest in finding out. We opted to stay indoors for the hottest parts of the day, so we did the obvious thing to do on an incredibly hot summer day: we decorated the Christmas tree.

I may never adapt to Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere.

Monday morning dawned hot and slightly humid. It was looking to be another toasty day, so I took the girls out early, hoping to wear them out before the sun really got blazing. Strangely enough, by 10am it was much cooler. When I talked with Markus on the phone at midday, I commented on how there seemed to be a haze blocking sun intensity, "more like bush fire haze than weather haze" I said. I couldn't put my finger on why (it wasn't grey or smokey), but we experienced our first bush fire several weeks ago and it reminded me of that.

That bush fire was a small one. We had taken Ellie to a trial run of a girls' chess club when we noticed smoke blowing across the parking lot. Investigation revealed that the open space near the community center had just gone up in flames. We were evacuated by the fire department. Although it was relatively small, bush fires can be unpredictable and fast-moving, so they sent us on home.

This morning, I noticed how odd the sunlight looked, filtering in through the windows. Then I smelled smoke and hopped out of bed in a hurry. Don't worry, we're fine! There is indeed a massive bush fire, but it is down near Harvey, over 100km away! So, it was the outer fringes of the smoke that cooled things off here yesterday. Right now, the sky outside looks like this:

It is quite smokey out. I can't imagine what it's like for the communities closer to the fire. We are so far from it, and the smoke is pretty strong all the way here in Perth.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


You know I love this.

Reading and singing

My first full week back was Ellie's last week of school for the year. To call it intense would be an understatement and somewhat inaccurate besides; instead, it would best be described in Aussie terms: it has been "full on". I am very behind on blog posting, so I offer this joyful snippet as a placeholder while I gather my thoughts.

Ellie is looking at a farm animal book and singing "Old MacDonald".
Baby Stephanie tells us, "I read" before joining Ellie in finishing the chorus.
Best wishes for a lovely start to your week.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Blessed and lucky

Yesterday, I sat enraptured watching Markus sing German songs with the girls snuggled in his lap. Earlier, I'd watched him lovingly coach Ellie to perfection as they folded laundry together. He took them to the playground and played as hard as they did. He just took care of them solo for 12 days. He is wonderful. I always knew it, but through my jetlag zombie haze, I can watch it with new eyes and appreciate him all the more.

And just when I don't know how I could feel more blessed with my partner, I find myself chatting with another mom on the playground as Markus played with her 3 year old son as well as our girls. This mum was being drained by a huge, fussy baby, and she wore the frazzled look I know so well. She was a woman in need of an outlet and some support. Her husband travels a lot for work, and he'd left that morning for another week away. She told story after story about how hard she was finding the whole parenting-two-busy-boys thing. Her second baby was a colicky bad sleeper, so for the first six months, her husband had slept with earplugs in a separate room so he'd be fresh for work. She and I agreed this was totally fair, since someone had to earn the money around here. Then, she went on to tell me about the morning he'd woken up fresh from nine straight hours of sleep (at a time she was averaging around four broken hours total), popped out his earplugs and danced off to the gym. He came home awake and full of endorphins, showered and sat down for breakfast...and then commented that she looked like she was "in one of [her] moods." All I can think of is that internet joke about how it's a legal defense in Texas to say, "He just needed killin'."

Oh, I am so blessed.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Muppets Bohemian Rhapsody

...because I had to share.