Friday, April 30, 2010

Is this thing on?

Hard to know these days! I've been writing so irregularly that I bet you haven't been checking as often.
And the longer I go without writing, the harder it is to get started. Worrying trend!
I'm going to try my best to get back on schedule here. Grandmary has talked with me a few times already about the blog (and lack of postings), and her words remind me of its purpose and value. I have definitely found that blogging has been like a habit. While I was doing it regularly, it was easy and obvious. I noticed and even felt the lack when I didn't make the time. After a while, the habit lagged and so did my awareness of it. I missed blogging in a vague way, but I didn't know how to get back on the wagon. In order to get me going tonight, I'll just bring you up to date with us in a nutshell.

Just to let you know, we are here. We are fine. Grandmary arrived safely on Tuesday afternoon, remarkably free of the horrid effects of jet lag. We're in awe of that, actually. She is a trooper and jumped right into WA time. Amazing.
(makes me feel like a terrible wuss for suffering for oh, about three WEEKS after my US trip)

Ellie missed school on Tuesday, went a full day on Wednesday plus after school play with friends that day...and Thursday morning we were right back to the non-Ellie, awful behaviors that worried me so last term (though, in fairness, the awful faded quickly; alas, the tears have not...she was sobbing when I picked her up early today). I was able to schedule an observation for next Tuesday morning, and I have a meeting with her teacher one-on-one the next day. I have got to get to the bottom of this!

Ellie remembers and loves Grandmary, and she was so happy to see her walk off the plane! Stephanie, on the other hand, hasn't seen Grandmary since she was a wee baby in Holland (only a couple of months old), so she doesn't know her. You might recall that Stephanie is very wary of strangers. Since we've been Down Under, we have had next-to-no visitors (Markus's mom and sister came soon after we arrived, but no one since...well over a year). None of us are used to an extra person in the house. The first night, Stephanie had a terrible time resting until I opted to stay the night in her room (with her clutching my finger in her little fist for the first two plus hours). The second day, she seemed happy to see Grandmary for a while...but that didn't last the day. I have to say that I've been amazed she has handled it as well as she has done. She really does have a strong aversion to strangers, and this one is here all the time! Of course, the upswing is that makes this stranger much less of a stranger very quickly. I think everything will be normal soon. Grandmary is bearing it beautifully well. I can't imagine how hard it is for her, since she does know Stephanie and loves her. She is very patient and is letting Stephanie come to her in her own time. That helps a lot!

In order to give Grandmary time to settle (though she doesn't seem to need it!), we are sticking close to home this week. Next week, we will head "down south" for our own long weekend in the Margaret River wine region. In both of our previous trips, we stayed at simple vacation rentals in Dunsborough. I couldn't remember the name of the place, and in my google searching, I discovered Dunsborough Rail Carriages. We opted for their farm house. Their rentals are on a 100 acre property, and they apparently have some wild kangaroos that have become so habituated to humans that the owners leave kangaroo feed in all the rentals. We think the girls (especially animal-lover Stephanie) will be over the moon! Plus, this is Grandmary's first trip Down Under. She needs to see some kangaroos.

Tomorrow morning is my knitting group, so I'm taking Grandmary with me to meet my peeps. It's actually a knitting and crocheting group, so Grandmary (master crocheter) will fit right in! They are really looking forward to meeting her and asked in advance if they can call her "Grandmary" too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chef's assistant

A few weeks ago, I finally made myself sit down and sew a couple of aprons for the girls. I had meant to ever since making them for Ellie's class, and somehow it never reached the top of the priority list until Ellie was invited to a cooking party for a friend's birthday. I am so happy with the Montessori apron pattern on Sew Liberated (thank you, Meg! so kind of you to make it available for free!). The aprons (and their owners) are pretty darn cute, if you ask me.

As much as Ellie loves to feel useful, she has never cared much for cooking (this still surprises me, though I suspect it's the unruly mess factor). Stephanie, on the other hand, is all for it! Just about any time I'm working in the kitchen now, she will wander over and announce, "I need my chair!" She presses the button to start the food processor. She stirs (very carefully) on the stove. This picture was taken during breakfast prep the other morning (sweet potato oatmeal in progress). It's so fun having such a sweet little helper!

Off the needles

I've finished Stephanie's vest, again. I knit Stephanie a Neighborly vest using some gorgeous, soft wool. When it came off the needles, I was so proud and the compliments rolled in...until I tried it on her. Too short! Sigh. I was so ready to do my next project that I decided to get over it. I proceeded to knit Ellie's Neighborly, and (you guessed it) TOO SHORT. It was time to whine to my knitting peeps. Marianne, the lady who taught me to knit, looked me squarely in the eye and asked how short they were.
Just a couple of inches, I said. Both of them. Must be the pattern.
She kept looking me in the eye.
How tall are you, she asked? How long is your torso?
Ah-ha moment! (that's what she was waiting for). My girls have long torsos too! I will always need to add a couple of inches to their handmade garments. Good thing to learn, actually. And thankfully, it's easy to fix with a knitted garment. I had to rip back and add several more rows. Here's the result:

I haven't managed to wriggle her into it yet (as you know, she prefers to be sans clothing), but I'm pretty sure it will be long enough now. Ellie's is still on the needles, but I hope to finish this weekend. Here's what it looks like, blocked but too-short:

Playing hookie

School resumed after Easter holiday this week. Monday was a teacher work day, and the kids went back on Tuesday. Well, most kids went back on Tuesday. Ellie had an extra day off. I just let her play hookie for a day, and it was great! The weather was beautiful, so we had three picnics in the backyard (morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack), replanted her cubby house window boxes and generally enjoyed the day. (The picnic basket was a score from an op-shop visit that morning. Ellie is so proud of it!)

Last term was a difficult one for Ellie. She was so ready to go back after the Christmas/summer break, but over the term, things deteriorated. Although her teacher reported seeing no change in Ellie during the day (perfect behavior as always), we saw some dramatic changes at home. She became very fragile, teary, tantrum-y, and extremely tired. She was a serious handful and didn't even know how to manage herself. She begged to stay home some days and wanted early pick-up on others. She didn't want to learn anymore, which is a big red flag in itself if you know Ellie. Something(s) was really not right, and for the first time ever, I considered pulling her out and homeschooling. I have a lot of theories as to what the problems might be, but Markus keeps reminding me not to jump to conclusions. I hope to do a series of observations soon to see things for myself.

Ellie is an extremely sensitive little soul, and I know interactions with others, whatever the place or occasion, will present challenges for her. It's unlikely we will ever find her The Perfect Place, but to see her attitude toward her school go from sky-high to rock-bottom in weeks was very upsetting to me as her mother (gross understatement there, actually). The good news is the Easter holiday brought her back to herself and let me understand a bit more how to help her. Now, I need to get at the root of the issue(s) and figure out the next steps, if any need taking. No buts about it (sorry, couldn't resist).

Markus is off on Friday and Monday for ANZAC Day, so we're playing hookie again, and again on Tuesday, because Grandmary is coming! Our first visitor from the States (providing she can actually be coaxed into getting on the plane Sunday afternoon)!

Monday, April 19, 2010

New idea(s)

Blogger has a feature that allows me to select who can read this blog. Until this point, I've always had it set so that anyone can read it. To select readers, I have to individually enter approved readers' email addresses. From there, I'm not sure how those readers check in. I'm going to give it a whirl and someone will have to let me know. As of tomorrow, I'm going to restrict access to this blog site and give that a trial run. I had tried a different blog with posterous. Maybe I'm unlucky, but I keep getting so many error messages there that it completely wastes my posting time. I will try keeping this one with all its backlog, but restricting its audience a bit. Please let me know if you'd like to be included, and please be sure I have your best email address, as that is the means by which you will gain access. We'll see how we go!

I'm a bit nervous telling you this, but I have another blog too. In all of my pondering in the past few months, I decided I wanted a space of my own (that's why I'm nervous telling you about it). You can find me at I am happy to have this space. It is public, and I plan to leave it accessible to all. It is the blog I will reference when I comment on other people's posts or give as my blog address in the future. There isn't much there yet, but you are welcome to come have a visit. It would be wonderful to hear your words from time to time, if you are so inclined.

Playing in the park

This morning, we went for second breakfast at Lawley's Bakery (light sourdough toast with jam and babycinos) and then wandered over to the playground near the lake. We were there for ages, enjoying the warm fresh air and the bright morning sun. After a while, we noticed we were being watched...

Rainbow lorikeets are so handsome! I moved in to take his picture, and I heard a little voice behind me saying, "Oh! Oh! Help! Help me!" There was no real urgency in the voice, so I turned around casually to find this:

The sight made me laugh so hard that Ellie came running over to see what was happening. Then, she wanted to try it too:

Do we know how to have fun or what?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beach morning

A few weeks ago, we woke up to the first of many glorious early autumn mornings. It was a weekend, it was early, there was no wind, so we headed to the beach!

(sand wall created by storm surf days before)

(view down Swanbourne Beach towards Cottesloe)

(self-portrait; I'm so long and lanky)

(my loves relaxing; currently my desktop photo)


I spent a lot of time this morning uploading some new posts to the new blog...only to receive error message after error message. This does not inspire confidence in that site or make me at all happy, given that any blogging time I have these days is quite limited. Argh. I just don't know what the solution is. I am very tempted to abandon the whole blogging ordeal...except I really don't want to. I have to find a way to make this work. I don't know how, but I have to find a way. Grrrr.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Note to self

No matter how challenging the day might be, it is not a good idea to eat three large brownies.

Now with password protection

Hi there! Still out waffling about this blog situation, but I have to listen to reason when so many of you suggest password protection. The older the girls get, the more I wonder about how much I should share of their lives in a public forum. On the other hand, I have personally derived so much benefit from access to some truly wonderful blogs out there, and I feel it's only fair to be public in some way myself. I may run two blogs (one public and one private); as I said, I'm still waffling. In the meantime, I just made my first private blog post on a site with password protection. You'll have to drop me a line to gain access. I ask in advance that you please do not "keep me logged in" on a public computer or share the password without first asking me; doing so would defeat the purpose, even if you are sure I would approve. I would like to know who is viewing the private site. That being said, I hope you enjoy! This blog I've had all along will definitely stay live until I post otherwise.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Melbourne Museum

And the most impressive use of technology in a kid-friendly museum goes to:

Autumn has come

The mornings and nighttimes are crisp and cool.
The sun warms the air and the earth during the day.
Autumn has come, and we welcome it!

Friday, April 09, 2010

A few words for Qantas

To date, we've taken four Qantas flights with the girls: round-trip to Sydney and round-trip to Melbourne. On all flights, the in-flight entertainment was shown on the big screens and the screens running along the ceiling in the aisles rather than individual screens with personal options. This is no surprise on any domestic airline, and in itself, is no reason to complain. But the movie choices. There is a problem with those.

On the flight to Sydney, the movie was "Wolverine". It was so violent and scary that it made the girls cry. We did our best to distract them, but it's a bit hard to hide the images when they are projected on a wall-sized screen two seats away (and several smaller screens all around the plane). Thankfully, on the other Sydney flight, they were sleeping for the most part so I don't remember the video at all. On the way to Melbourne, the movie was "Nine". While I personally enjoyed that one, I did not enjoy my four-year-old daughter watching the preludes to sex (no actual sex shown), the scantily clan women of his fantasies and the strip tease/dancing scenes. But our flight home from Melbourne took the cake. That movie was "The Lovely Bones". I was so upset about that one that I complained to the flight manager onboard. I needed to know how the films were selected, given that you have no opportunity to opt out of viewing. This is a movie about a girl who is raped and murdered by her neighbor, and then the fall-out with her family paralleling her own afterlife story. NOT APPROPRIATE. No, the actual scene wasn't shown, but our children are not dumb. Ellie understood (even without access to sound) that something very upsetting was happening and became distressed. There was scene after objectionable scene, not least of which was when the father was brutally beaten with a flashlight and then a baseball bat...all for everyone on the plane to watch in horror. We tried everything we could to keep Ellie's eyes off the (multiple) screens, but she saw far more than I could possibly accept. Only on walking her to the back of the plane were the images out of view, but they were there again as we went back to our seats. At many points, it was bad enough that we physically covered her eyes, but you know how it is with making something forbidden. It became all the more engrossing. Having not seen the movie previously myself (in an active choice to opt out of the content), I was distressed by what I saw and would have wished not to have seen it...and that's from a 33-year-old woman. My daughters are 4 and 2! Qantas, I am appalled. I know you try to be current with movie selections, but how about The Fantastic Mr. Fox for a midday family flight rather than THAT?!

I lodged a formal complaint onboard and have subsequently done so through the customer service site. I have no issue with these movies being shown as options on personal screens. But when there is no way for anyone to opt out, the issue of appropriate content MUST be considered. No amount of editing can make appropriate a movie about the rape and murder of a young girl. Qantas, you messed up big time with that one.

Where have I been?

Hi-ho! It's been a while since I've written in this space. I guess I have reached a strange blog burn-out. Not long after my Perth storm post, I received my first truly unpleasant comments on this blog. While I wasn't offended (they were just nasty with no sense or reason), I was put off from sharing in a way that is accessible to such people. Then, it seemed I came across blog after blog where people were having their content stolen. In the creepiest cases, people were finding their images were stolen and passed off as someone else's children! Very disturbing! Suddenly, putting myself and my family out in this public forum seemed far less appealing. I became unsure of what I wanted to share and with whom I was sharing it. Truth be told, I still don't know. I know our friends and family far away enjoy having this medium for checking in with us and being a part of our lives, and I would hate to lose that connection. I'm not sure what to do about the issues. Anonymity seems obvious, but it's not why I write. For the moment, I'm still pondering. If you have (constructive, appropriate) thoughts on this, please share them!


Over the Easter weekend, we made a family trip to Melbourne. I'd been wanting to visit Melbourne since leaving Sydney. The two cities have a rivalry for best Aussie city, and I wanted to experience the difference for myself. The more I asked around, the more rave reviews I got for Melbourne. The overwhelming answer was Melbourne was a shopping mecca. When I mentioned I might be going to Melbourne solo (Markus doesn't care much for city trips), I can't tell you how many women were quick to offer to join me. Of course, in the end, Markus decided escaping Perth was more important than the actual destination, so off we all went together for a few days in Melbourne (pronounced "Melbun", not "Melburn", if you want to pass the Aussie test).

Before I left, a girlfriend advised me that Melbourne isn't a pretty city, but it has so much on that you could happily be there for a year and not exhaust your options. I think I have to agree. We stayed downtown in a fantastic location in that it was accessible to many desirable spots, but it was like being downtown in any nondescript city. I may upset a lot of locals when I say this, but Melbourne isn't very pretty. It does, however, have so many other draws that you forgive its appearance without a second thought. The public transportation network was awesome! A shuttle service took us from the airport to the central train station ($56 round trip for family of four), and from there a free shuttle took people to their respective hotels. This saved us from the perils of taxis without carseats (and the expense involved), and the girls loved riding the red bus. We were so amazed at the free hotel shuttle. It is offered by the airport shuttle company, not the individual hotels, which is pretty impressive. From our apartment-hotel (the Quest Hero), we easily walked to Parliament and caught the free tourist tram on the City Circle line which took us just about everywhere else we wanted to go.

We arrived on Saturday late afternoon and left early Wednesday morning, so that gave us three full days there, two of which were public holidays due to Easter. Amazingly, that didn't impact us much at all. The museum, aquarium and zoo were open over the holiday (we checked in advance), so the girls were happy. Actually, we didn't make it to the zoo. We went to the museum on day one, the aquarium on day two, and then back to the museum on day three because they enjoyed it so much!

My girlfriend was stunned that I went to Melbourne and didn't do a bit of shopping, but our trip was perfect without it. What I really wanted was some quality family time away from Perth for a while, and we got just that. We were blessed with excellent weather (far from a given in Melbourne, apparently), fantastic food options at hours that suited the kiddos (stunner!), and lots of nice, new things to see and do. So, what's my verdict on the best Aussie city (keeping in mind I've only seen three)? It depends on what you're after. Sydney has a magnificent harbor and no one could argue with its visual appeal as a city, but Melbourne has a diversity, a heart and a soul that we found in the fantastic Sydney neighborhood where we stayed but not in the city overall. While it doesn't look particularly fabulous, Melbourne definitely felt more European, and it reigns superior in art, theater, shopping, and dining. I suggest you visit and decide for yourself.