Sunday, January 31, 2010

What we did on Sunday

Otherwise entitled, "Why Jennifer Shouldn't Write Blog Posts at the End of a Long Day."

Yes, the day was long, but that was mostly me. I woke up like an old lady with a very bad back, and it hurt me most of the day. I seriously mucked up my left shoulder while Ellie was a baby, and it's only gotten worse over time. I really need to get on that...but that's not what you came here to read. the title says, here's what we did on Sunday.

The girls were up excessively early today (okay, 5:45am but still!), so we went for an early walk in King's Park. It was beautiful! Two days ago, the temperature was 40 degrees (around 100F) but this morning it was only 20 (around 70)! So nice!

Afterwards, I took a little scooter ride on my own. I scooted all along the Swan River, and I came to a nice overlook in Mosman Park/Peppermint Grove that I thought you'd like to see:

Later, instead of Markus's usual solo kayak/sail on the river, we all went together. Stephanie (as always) went native.

Markus thinks this picture pretty much sums up our typical summer day here. Stephanie, buck naked and happy as a clam. Ellie, CEO and calling the shots from a relaxed position...

I did a small paddle in the harbor area and really enjoyed the relaxation...but my back was complaining so I soon brought the kayak back to Markus and we swapped. I took the girls home while he enjoyed a longer outing. Sorry, no pictures to share, but just know it was lovely. Really, you should visit and see for yourself.

On Australia Day, Mama took some me-time and went to see "Nine" at the movies. I went solo, and I'm glad I did because I know Markus would have HATED it. The story was weak at best, but the songs were good, the acting was good, and there was a real stage feel to it that I did enjoy. My favorite was the Fergie scene with the tamborines in the sand. That was fantastic, and I may have to go see it again just to watch that. I don't like her faking an accent, but she nailed the song ("Be Italian") beautifully. Everyone stateside (apparently) is making a huge fuss about Kate Hudson, but I thought they were all fabulous. Daniel Day Lewis has a wonderful voice. Who knew? Anyway, hoping to find a snippet of "Be Italian", I browsed online when I came home from the movies and found the "Cinema Italiano" video. So fun! This song is, as Markus describes it, an "ear worm." Like it for itself or not, it sneaks its way in and you can't get it out of your head. Plus, it's really fun dance music. The first time I played the video on the computer at home, the girls caught me shaking my booty all around the kitchen, and now they think this is the greatest song ever. We have listened to it and watched the video together more times than I care to admit, so consider yourself warned.
This is my LONG STORY VERSION of what we were listening to in the car when I was pulled over for a random breathalizer check this afternoon on the way home from the river. I was wearing my swimsuit and rashguard with no pants (woo-hoo!) and grooving to this dance tune on repeat with the girls. We were held up for several minutes since the two losers ahead of me did not blow clean on their tests (HATE DRUNK DRIVERS!!!), but we were all happily dancing in our seats to "Cinema Italiano", which probably played about four times on iPod repeat while we were stuck there. The poor cop who tested me had to look away to keep a straight face.

What did you do this weekend?

A conversation with Ellie

Jennifer and Markus were walking along in King's Park, talking. Somehow (we can't remember the context), the word "teenagers" was in the conversation. Then, Ellie chimed in:

Ellie: What are teenagers?

Papa: Teenagers are people that are older than you. They are between 13 and 19 years old.

Ellie: Are they scary?

Papa: Yes, they are.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Happy Birthday, Markus!

Today is Markus's birthday, and we are all fired up to celebrate!
Only, he's at work. This has been deemed unacceptable by The Management.
When Ellie wandered down the hall at 6am this morning and discovered his absence, there were tears. "But it's his BIRTHDAY!" she wailed. I am there with ya, girl!
Two hours later, she was fed up with waiting. "Papa is taking too long! Can't we just eat the cake and open the presents NOW?"
We can't wait until he comes home! (in 7 more hours...)

Totally worth the wait!
Happy Birthday, Markus/Papa! We love you!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Why my friend Quinn is awesome

The harassment and endless taunting began in the 9th grade, and he still manages to find new material. After reading yesterday's blog entry, he wrote an email, telling me how tempted he was to photoshop a shark fin into my swim...but was a bit worried I'd never speak to him again. This was his solution:

Sweep the table

Baby Stephanie is a relatively non-picky eater, though she is often specific about her food choices. Lately, she can't get enough of a certain food. Morning, noon and night, we hear urgent requests for "Sweep the table!"

"Sweep the table" is baby Stephanie for "sweet potato".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tough life

Sunday afternoon, the sky clouded over, and thunder drove us out of the pool. It was amazing. I fetched the camera and took pictures!

I was astonished to realize that I cannot remember the last time it rained. I, who lived in Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, three states whose coastal locations pretty much guarantee a heavy shower at some point every afternoon in the summertime--I now live in a place that is so blessed with sunshine that I cannot remember the last time it rained. I was pretty excited.
It didn't actually rain. The clouds moved on and took their thunder with them. I admit I was disappointed.
I also realized it is going to be very hard to leave when they make us move in a few years' time.

Now that we have confirmation that we aren't getting the early boot, we splurged on a fancy pants umbrella and outdoor table. We eat three meals a day outside in the summer, but the evening sun was often too vicious for comfort at dinnertime. No longer! Also, that fancy pants umbrella swivels, so we can sit out in the grass and still have sun protection in the afternoon. Ooo baby! I tell ya, it's gonna be hard to move.

I realize you Northern Hemisphere people are in the throes of the coldest part of winter right now, so just one more reason to make you want to smack me before I sign off. For the past three mornings, I have started the day with a swim in the Indian Ocean. This is no small thing, given my deep-rooted, very real fear of sharks...and the very real presence of sharks in the Indian Ocean. Not three weeks ago, the beaches had to be closed five afternoons in a row because of tiger sharks and hammerheads. Believe me, this was not far from my mind a single moment I was out there. I do better when there are other swimmers nearby to provide more dining options for any unwanted visitors. After I spotted the great white a few months ago, I didn't think I'd be in the ocean at all this year, but for some reason completely unknown to me, I woke up three days ago with a strong urge to swim in the off I went! The first morning was very satisfying, but also quite scary, so Markus brought the girls along so they could play in the sand and he could scan the water for me so I could swim in peace.

Part of the swimming-in-the-sea package is scooting there. Here's what that looks like:

Creature comfort

Perhaps you have noticed the new button on the sidebar for "Craft Hope for Haiti". The ladies who started this hoped to raise $5,000 in donations for Doctors without Borders in Haiti. As of yesterday, the total was $27,500! I am proud and honored to be included in this wonderful project! I submitted a photo of the creature Ellie and I made last week, and it was enthusiastically accepted. I spent most of yesterday and part of today working up four more. I don't know if they will all sell, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have some around for gifts as needed. They really are very cute. The only trick is preserving them from two pairs of eager hands...

If you haven't done so already, take a look at the etsy shop. Almost everything is unique, and etsy is an awesome resource for gifts. All items are handmade, and every penny you pay to the crafthope shop will be donated.

New diver

Yesterday, Markus bought a set of pool rings for Ellie. She swims (now I should say "swam") with floaties, but he noticed how often she tries to duck her head under and hold her breath...and the girl in the Connie books (German series) that Ellie really enjoys has to dive for rings to get her swim certification. He thought Ellie might make the connection and give it a go. We had no idea she would take to it so quickly and with such enthusiasm! Floaties are out; diving rings are in!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I received the following video via email today:

The twisted thing is I have had this stuck in my head all day. So have the girls. There has been a lot of meowing around here.
So, I looked it up on Wikipedia. Apparently, this is a popular piece for sopranos, often performed as a humorous encore. Personally, I'm lovin' the two boys singing it, especially blond kid who is totally deadpan. Given his garb, deadpan makes it even better (in my humble opinion). Apart from the crazy cat business, their voices are stunning. I hope it makes you smile!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

"Wanna show you somethin'!"

**TMI ALERT for the first sentence**
This afternoon, I actually used the toilet alone. I should have known. Stephanie came running into the bathroom, full of excitement, announcing, "Wanna show you somethin'!" She was bursting! I followed and found this:

She was so proud.

Fortunately, she had used a regular pencil. I dug out the big eraser and started clean-up, only to feel her drawing on my back with a large piece of outdoor chalk. Hmm. Time for Plan B!
Ellie and I taped up a long stretch of brown paper on the wall outside, and then we all worked on a mural. The girls had a brilliant time with it, and it kept their attention for at least half an hour (very impressive at that point in the afternoon).

Monday, January 18, 2010

Spider! (?)

Baby Stephanie is normally such a great sleeper that we don't talk about it. We are afraid the karma gods will hear us, think we're bragging, and knock us down a few rungs. For almost a year now, she has slept 12-13 hours a night, plus a daytime nap lasting between 1.5 and 3 hours. Amazing. So it was most noticeable when last night was not like that at all. She woke up every hour (or less) starting around 10pm. The 11:30 call was accompanied by worries of a "Spider!", which we couldn't really follow since her room is quite dark. We assumed it was a dream, snuggled her down, and resumed the pattern. Only the "Spider!" grew more worried, more weepy, and more upsetting. By 3am, I was beyond exhausted and near tears myself. I turned the lights on and sat with her in her room, after looking together for (and not finding) the fearsome spider. In a last attempt to get some semblance of sleep, Markus shifted into Ellie's room, and Stephanie slept in our bed with me. She kept a tense grip on my finger until she fell asleep, but she drifted off without any more worries or tears and slept until 7am.

This morning, Baby Stephanie was a little baby whoopie cushion, so we assumed the problem last night was gas...only maybe it wasn't. At naptime today, she was completely toast...and terrified of her bed. "SPIDER!", she started screaming in terror as soon as I shut the door. For the record, I cannot find a spider. When I ask her to show me the spider, she tells me it's gone. This does not affect the terror, whatever its source. This is so unlike her that I believe there must have been something that triggered this, but what?

Markus and I have decided to use this as the opportunity to change her room set-up. If the spider (or whatever) is in her bed, it's time for that bed to go. When he comes home today, he'll erect the baby gate in her doorway and disassemble her crib. We're going to toss our spare queen-size mattress on the floor instead of a single, so it will be easier for us to snuggle her down while she makes the adjustment (we put it on the floor instead of a frame so there isn't much falling distance just in case).

Ellie has been wonderful today. I have never handled sleep deprivation gracefully, but she has made today seamless for me. She read peacefully to herself in the playroom until Stephanie and I got up at 7 (Ellie was up with Markus before 6). She watched a video quietly in the living room while Stephanie (ever the light sleeper) napped in my bed. She hasn't given me a single moment of fuss, and I am ever so grateful. Today has to be pretty boring and slow for her. It's 40 degrees again (Celsius--that's over 100F), and we are trapped inside in the shade. But she has been fantastic. I am so proud!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Solo swimmer

Look who started swimming on her own this weekend! One month ago, she was afraid of the pool, but going in a little every day has changed that.
We're all so proud!

Friday, January 15, 2010


Living without television in the world's most isolated capital city, news often reaches me late, if at all. I only learned about the earthquake in Haiti this morning. Having been indirect victims of a deadly natural disaster gives events like these a more personal (and painful) impact on our little family, and, like so many, I needed to know what I could do.

The White House is urging people to donate to the International Red Cross (ICRC) or Doctors Without Borders. Within the United States, you can text "HAITI" to the number 90999 to donate $10 to the Red Cross. The donation will be added to your cell phone bill. Outside the US, you should access the ICRC website. As a warning of sorts if you are a sensitive soul, be prepared that when you click to donate to Haiti, it will offer you a choice of donations to the following countries: Afganistan, Chad, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Territories, Kenya, Liberia, Myanmar, North Caucasus of the Russian Federation, Other operations (up to ICRC), Philippines, Water programs, Yemen, and Zimbabwe. That list is a straightforward reminder that the world is a place full of great need...and how blessed we are that our homes are so safe and free.

If you are interested in avoiding the donations glut that often floods large organizations in the wake of a disaster, you may be interested in donating to some of the smaller non-profits that are already in place and have begun relief efforts. There is a good post about them here. One such organization is Yele, which also offers a text message donation option from within the US; simply text "YELE" to 501501 to donate $5.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Special projects

Last week, Ellie was really into doing "special projects" with Mama during Stephanie's naps. One day, we did modeling clay. Another day, we did painting. Then, we tried sewing. Ellie likes to sit on my lap and place her hands on mine while I sew. I recently bought a new softies book, so I thought we'd give that a whirl. She sat with me and looked through the book before selecting a pattern. Then, she learned to trace it and cut it out. The critter in the book was pink, so Ellie was most distressed when I cut mine out of yellow felt. It took some serious doing on my part to convince her that ours do not have to look exactly like the one in the book (she had to have pink anyway). She lost steam after a while, and the project became a two day job. I finished mine first so she could see how different they could be, which renewed her enthusiasm and gave her confidence to adapt hers a bit before the final stuffing. The "creatures" (as Ellie decided we must call them) came out really cute. Stephanie adopted the yellow one straight away, and that little raised arm is the perfect size for a small hand to grip.

All specific design features on the pink creature were Ellie's requests (purple mouth, one purple eye, one pink eye...), and she has loved it. She has also loved the softies book. She has picked it up and "read" it every day since.

Over the weekend, we decided to make new bedding for Lolo. Her crib came with blue and green striped bedding, but we had some lovely fabric scraps that we thought we'd use up. Making two stuffed rectangles is very simple and easy with a child, and Ellie loved doing it.

Unfortunately, Mama misjudged how much the pillows would shrink with copious stuffing, and they are slightly smaller than the crib. This means, of course, that they are not usable. Two lovely doll-sized pillows, tossed to the wayside...but at least they were fun to make.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Checking back in

Yesterday, in the space of one hour, not one but two complaints were lodged with the management about lack of new posts around here. Pardon me! I had no idea we were so in demand! We haven't gone anywhere. Actually, that's probably a lot of why the posting has fallen to the wayside. We are in the rut of the perpetual school holidays. Ellie has been out of school since mid-December (summer holiday). She really misses her friends and the intellectual stimulation. She has had enough of me and Stephanie, and she desperately wants to go back to school. Stephanie also has had enough of Ellie and sharing me with Ellie, and she desperately wants her to go back to school too. Both ask me each morning if we can go there. It's all part of their big spoiled rotten package. The fact that Mama is home with them all the time is a given, so it's not very interesting. Friends and time away from Mama (at least in Ellie's case), now that's very interesting!

In case you think I'm overdramatizing in the "spoiled rotten" department, here's a snippet of yesterday. The girls were up and frazzled early, so I thought I'd pack us off to the beach. It was early enough to avoid the viciousness of the sun, and we hadn't been in ages. My mention of it, though, brought on a big tantrum. "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO THE BEACH! WAAAAAAAAAA!" etc. Ignoring this, I packed up the sand toys, lathered them in sunscreen and buckled us into the car. Ellie asked where we were going and threw another screaming fit when I answered, "The beach." I pulled over, turned around, and asked her why she didn't want to go to the beach. Quite firmly, she stated that she hates "the sand and the color of the water." Well, then. Two reasons. Crazy reasons, but reasons nonetheless. We went to King's Park instead. Now, just to reinforce my spoiled rotten point, the color of the water is this:

Still, I do my best to keep things fun around here! We have been in the pool every single day since Christmas. Due to the vicious Aussie sun, we only last about 15-20 minutes at a time, but it's been great fun. Ellie has always loved launching off the side, and she and Markus have perfected "crazy jumps", most of which involve a complicated ritual resembling in sight and sound some kind of ninja training camp. I will try to catch it on video over the weekend for you. Baby Stephanie has bit by bit worked through the worst of her water fears, and now (despite lingering reservations) she is an avid pool girl. It's really sweet to see. This morning, we discovered an awesome indoor kiddie pool at the Beatty Park Fitness Center in Vincent.

You can see Ellie peeking out from around my friend Meg's legs (standing toward the right, babe on hip). Ellie was right in with her friend from school, and the two of them were happy as clams! Baby Stephanie spent the first fifteen minutes or so wrapped around my leg, but then she too gave in to the joy of it and had a blast! I know we'll be back, maybe as early as tomorrow. It opens at 5:30am! Why had no one told me about this early bird sanctuary before now?

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The kookaburra and the doggie

I haven't told you about my pets. For the past two months, I've had two pets: a magpie-lark and a butcherbird. At first, the magpie-lark would come around our yard to peck for insects because we've got a big space and no cats. Sometimes I would feed her when I saw her out there. Eventually, she made the connection and started calling me when she was there. She lands on our outdoor table and calls me twice, and then she waits for the food. A butcherbird sat in the jacaranda and watched this with interest for about two weeks before he was sure, and then he started doing the same once she was done. They have been my little wild pets since mid-November.

This is Maggie (my magpie-lark friend), photo taken today. She has two feet, but one is damaged and hurts her. I think this is why she likes the easy food at our house. I wasn't able to photograph the butcherbird, because he was avoiding a third new pet who arrived this weekend: a kookaburra.
Kookaburras are members of the kingfisher family, and they are large birds. They are very pretty and VERY loud. They are also quite bold. This morning, this kookaburra was very interested in my breakfast. He was pacing. He flew from our swing to the ground to the roof to the yard and finally to a perch not far from the table. I took the hint and tossed him some of my scrambled eggs, which he went for with gusto.

Later this morning, we had friends over for playtime, swimming and lunch. As I cleaned up outside after they left, I noticed he was back, nibbling up the dropped goodies (pasta and bits of breadstick). While I was inside rinsing dishes, I heard a whoosh of heavy wings and knew he'd gotten on the table. I rushed outside in time to catch his retreat to the swing...with one of Baby Stephanie's favorite toy doggies in his beak. I did what any mama would have done. I marched right outside with one hand on my hip, the other raised and pointing at the bird, saying, "Hey, you cheeky bird! That does not belong to you! You drop it right now!" etc. I seriously wish I had a video of this for you (and for myself; how crazy was that?). And he responded as any bird would have done. He flew away. Across the yard, across the neighbor's yard, and over the large house two yards away. D*** IT!

I was only thankful Stephanie hadn't seen it.
Then, I manically raced around, clearing up all other small toys and anything else I thought he might grab, all the while my inner monologue is running: Dang bird! Can't believe he STOLE that toy! It's relatively big and heavy. He's gonna drop it somewhere and what will happen when Stephanie misses it...grumble grumble grumble...

Several minutes later, I was sitting with the girls in the living room when I heard a loud BANG from outside. I knew it must be him, and I raced out to see what the heck he'd done now...only, there was no sign of him. What was that noise? I slowly began my investigation, carefully stepping along the length of the table, trying to figure out what could have generated that sound...and then I spied the doggie on the patio. As I picked it up, amazed, I looked up and spied the kookaburra directly above me, watching. HE BROUGHT IT BACK.

I am stunned.
I thanked him.

This is the doggie. Stephanie doesn't know about his little adventure today. I certainly won't forget it anytime soon.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Want to paint!

Just because she is under 2 years old doesn't mean she doesn't take art seriously.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

We rang in the new year with a new tradition: the Neujahrsbrezel!

It's common in Germany to consume Neujahrsbrezel for luck on the first day of the year. I have known of this tradition for years, but I've never actually eaten Neujahrsbrezel. Markus, on the other hand, will happily expound upon the joys of the Neujahrsbrezel baked by his uncle, Walter, who owns his own bakery in Germany. After nudging Markus many a time (I'm talking years here, people) to ask Walter to share the recipe, I went closer to the source and got (almost) instant results (Thank you, Sven!). The recipe was emailed to me in English the evening of New Year's Eve, and I immediately got down to business. My first attempt had to be aborted, as the volume of the ingredients was way too much for my equipment. The second attempt with halved ingredients and guestimated proportions (I use dry yeast not fresh, and who knows how different my flour is from his) was an abject failure. The dough was more like batter and was completely unworkable (this is meant to be kneaded and braided). Walter's recipe was unlike other recipes I'd found online in some key ways, and I wasn't sure what to, I did the most obvious thing at 10pm on New Year's Eve after two failed baking attempts: I had a temper tantrum, and then I went to bed.

I awoke on New Year's Day eager to try again, this time combining my own baking experience of (vaguely) similar goods with the prized recipe I had in my inbox. Result? The batter was fully workable. It even smelled good as dough. Markus stuck a spoon in for a taste and proceeded to scrape the bowl clean after I'd dumped the bulk out for kneading. It braided. It went into a pretzel shape. I was on my way...but would the flavor be right? I didn't just want good neujahrsbrezel. I wanted Walter's neujahrsbrezel. Only Markus's taste test would tell. And...

He declared it "97% Walter." I missed 3% for density (kitchen too cool for dough to rise much at all). I can totally live with that. We have a new tradition! Neujahrsbrezel will be eaten every New Year's Day from here on out! The recipe will also be called into service for Easter rings. If Markus has his way, I may call that recipe into service for any other excuse we can think of (definitely on his birthday morning), because he loves it that much. Thank you, Sven and Walter, for getting 2010 off to such a great start!

Wishing you all a happy new year!