Monday, June 28, 2010

Nuts and bolts

You are familiar with the expression "wrench in the works", yes? Excuse me while I run with an analogy here.
Over the past several weeks (months, actually), we've been experiencing not so much a wrench in the works (that would shut everything down), but rather a seemingly endless stream of random nuts and bolts being tossed into the gears. They jam things up, cause the gears to grind, break a few cogs here and there, and generally make life flow less smoothly.

The biggest one is a change in jobs for Markus, within the company and current location. He prefers I not share about his job in this space, so I won't go into detail, but there has been a change that has caused a ripple effect in our well-oiled machine here at home. He used to work like a crazy man from before 7am (sometimes well before) so he could be home by 4:30 in the afternoon. He did this so he could spend time with the girls, playing, cycling, whatever fun stuff could be squeezed in to about an hour before dinnertime. They loved it, and without knowing the time on the clock, they could feel when it was time for him to be home. They would watch the door, listen to cars coming down the street, and wait in excited anticipation of their favorite playmate. I loved it too. I could tidy up, have a cuppa to recoup and refresh a bit, and make dinner in peace while knowing my kids (all three of them) were happy as clams. This is gone now. His new job doesn't have the leeway (yet) to allow him to leave at the earlier time, so he stays for breakfast instead and comes home in time for (or sometimes after) dinner. Evening playtime (and downtime) has been cut out. He comes home tired and they are over-hungry for his attention. Squabbles and tantrums ensue. Markus's tension levels are higher, though he is a champ for leaving work at work in every way he can. I am a tension barometer, though, so I feel it and my tension goes sky-high. The girls feel it in both of us and go nuts...which makes us nuts and well...we're all adjusting. We know it will normalize after a while, so there's no point in being drama queens about it.

Other little issues have been Stephanie's sleep (or lack thereof) and now her reversal of potty-training. For weeks, her sleep was an issue. After over a year of her being a champion, angelic sleeper, she was waking early early early (5am is against my religion). The earlier she awoke, the later she fell asleep. Soon, she was in a cycle of overtired that interfered with naps. It was a challenge. Now, winter is upon us and the house is a meatlocker (15 degrees C, 59 degrees F in the bathroom...the only room that has an indoor thermometer for some reason). We suspect that this has caused our three-months-long-fully-potty-trained girl to have no desire to expose her cute little bum for love or money, and she is refusing to use the toilet. Man, has that girl increased my laundry duty of late! These aren't accidents. She can hold it til she bursts (I know, because I set her--with great objections being registered--on the toilet at regular intervals to little result). She really doesn't want to sit on the potty right now; she tells me every time that it's too cold. Today, she peed in the coin compartment in the car while I chatted with a friend. Sigh. At least it was sunny and warm in that spot, yes? Joy. Sometimes, I feel one whizz away from the nuthouse.

Friday is the end of term for Ellie at school. Winter break of two and a half weeks will start, and it doesn't come too soon. Ellie is FRIED. She starts wailing most days the minute I pick her up from school. She wails at high volume intermittently for various reasons throughout each and every day. It's exhausting (and not a little maddening), but we know it's because she's exhausted. She needs a break, and it's coming. We look forward to this time off for her. We need some time off for all of us.

Being in the remote location as we are, obvious holidays (like school being out) are bad times to get away... because EVERYONE tries to get away and they mostly get away to the same places (the closest places). Prices go sky-high and crowds shift from Perth to Margaret River or Bali. With this in mind, we tend to buck the trend and stay home for school holidays. We plan our trips off-season, and we're currently looking into a vacation for early August. Things are slowly falling into place for that, and we're starting to get very excited! We won't be going back to Bali (overrun by Europeans on their summer holidays), but we've found someplace new to us that is also quite fabulous and not too far away. Hooray for holidays!

Anyway, I just wanted you to know why I've fallen off the radar. Who wants to read about how stressed and tense and crazy I am, especially when recording it makes it seem far worse than it really is? Yes, we've been experiencing some bumps along our normally smooth road, but that makes us appreciate how smooth the road has been here thus far. We are all healthy (thank the Lord!), and our little family is a happy, close-knit little bunch. Our weeks are soooo long, but the weekends feel so short as we have lots of fun with each other and soak up the time away from the external stuff that drives us mad. Life is still good. It's just more tiring than it was, leaving me less time than ever to blog or email or call or whatever communication form required because really, the energy just isn't there. It will be again. Please don't feel slighted. Our thoughts are with you. Our hearts are with you. We still love and miss our friends and family far away. We're just clinging to the little energized sane moments and making the most of them right now. We'll be back on track soon, I promise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New bedtime routine (for a while)

A couple of weeks ago, we decided it was time to try something we've been intending to do since we moved in: have the girls share their bedroom. In the layout of this house, our bedroom and Ellie's bedroom are on either side of the center hallway from the front door. When we first moved in, we intended for the girls to share. Unfortunately, we gave up on that idea when we realized that Stephanie would not/could not sleep if there was any noise whatsoever (including long sleepy exhalations by her three year old sister). Stephanie was moved to the extension at the back of the house, where she slept soundly (though uncomfortably far away). Before long, she became a champion sleeper. She slept 12-13 hours per night and took 2-3 hour naps during the day. It was incredible!

Lately, that winning streak has stumbled and fallen. She has a hard time settling. She wakes in the night. She wants to get up before the crack of dawn. I am not a morning person, so any time before 6am is against my religion and she's been waking between 5 and 5:30am for a couple of months now. A few times, it has seemed to us that she is scared, that she just wants someone near. We thought perhaps the time had come to have the girls share a room. They were both keen and very excited. We set up a mattress on the floor for Stephanie and made the bed with her brand-new doggie sheets. Joint bedtime stories were so wonderful, and Stephanie loved having the extra time to hear Papa read!

Alas, all good things must come to an end. Stephanie's room in the extension had a baby gate on the door; Ellie's room does not. The fact that she could come out meant that she did come out..and often. By Friday, she wasn't falling asleep until almost 9pm (normally no later than 7), woke repeatedly in the night, and come in our room by 3am each morning. Amazingly (thankfully!), Ellie slept right through everything, including the dozens of times each night we brought Stephanie in to resettle her. Markus, Stephanie and I, however, were not faring so well. We were all exhausted, and I had a fat lip from Thursday night when she flopped her head back full force onto what she thought was her pillow but was instead my face. Yippee. Back to the extension she went, and back to her routine quickly followed. She still has a hard time settling down, but that's partly due to the lack of schnully (gone as of this week). Maybe when we move, the transition to sharing a room will be more obvious.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Vacation planning

Markus has been granted leave in August, and we're trying to plan our holiday. Tonight he asked the girls, "Who wants to go to Bali?" All of us shouted, "MEEEEEEEEE!" Stephanie took it a step further.
"Go see the elephants. I get my shoes on..."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Over the weekend, we decided to celebrate a little victory by treating ourselves to lunch at the Millbrook Winery and a visit to Araluen Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately, lunch was a bust. Stephanie missed her nap and was too tired to eat, Ellie was just too choosy to eat, and Markus's meal was so unsatisfying that he didn't eat at all. Oh dear. At least there was Araluen afterwards to enjoy, and we were thankful too for their little tearoom.

Stephanie has discovered chips/fries and ketchup. (Ellie still can't understand the appeal.)

Both of them fully understand the appeal of ice cream!

And oh, the sugar high that followed was oh-so-very high!

Good thing there was a lot of space to explore and roam...

...and Papa to climb on as well.

We all had such a great time at Araluen that on our next visit, we plan to pack a picnic and just stick to what we know works! (more pictures in the flickr pool in case you'd like to see)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

to Auntie Awesome

Sorry we're late with the mail, but we're on time with the message!
Hope it's fabulous!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Twinkle toes

Last week, Ellie moved up to the next age group in her Saturday morning ballet class. From a busy, full class of four year olds to a smaller class of well-controlled five year olds has been a step change in skill and practice. It makes her a little nervous, but at the same time, it's a much better fit for her personality. Her teacher suggested the move, and Ellie seems very happy while she's there.

This girl loves animals!

When I joined the girls for breakfast this morning, I was greeted with this sight:

Ellie always liked the Schleich animals, but Stephanie loves them! A small collection attend her wherever she goes. In a purse, in her hands, in a pocket...there are always Schleich animals close by. The amazing thing is that she actually plays with all of them! She chooses different animals each day, and she gives them all attention. She cannot get enough, and they are so beautiful that we are happy to indulge. They should last for ages, and we plan to always keep them.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What's new

There has been a lag in posting again, but not for lack of motivation! This time it has been serious lack of time and opportunity. We've been very busy lately. With the last rain storm, the flood came in through the ceiling instead of the floor. After our inspection, we received two letters from the estate agent. One was the inspection report, which infuriated me with comments about our "relatively clean" oven and the "slightly greasy" hood when there was a freaking flood in one room to contend with. Grr. The other was a letter that infuriated Markus: an official notice that our contract will not be renewed, so we are now officially moving. Grr twice. I haven't moved within a location since high school. At least we aren't changing countries again, but's rather un-fun. So on Friday, I saw four houses. This Wednesday, I saw two more. There just isn't anything out there right now. Most family homes become available in the spring, as family moves tend to happen over the summer while kids are out of school. It's nearly winter now, so most people are staying put. The search continues. Although we have no desire to drag out the process, we also don't feel the need to appease the slack owners with any kind of rush on our part.

On Friday, Ellie's class hosted corroboree, so we were happy to attend that. The name "corroboree" has an Aboriginal origin, and the school uses this word for their school-wide show and tell. Parents are invited on the days their children's class hosts, so Friday was our turn to see. Corroboree is always a bit lengthy but heavy on the cuteness when the hosting class does a presentation. Ellie's class recited poems, painted their faces and shared facts about lions with "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" as background music and sang another song about how Australia is the best place on earth (See, Americans aren't the only ones who go for homeland brainwashing!). Ellie is always so proud to see us there.

This past weekend was beautiful, so we were out and about quite a bit. We did a fair bit of socializing over meals, and then on Monday (Foundation Day in WA), we visited the museum to see the Pompeii exhibit. The entry point was a brief, 3D movie about the destruction of the city. The girls had fun trying to figure out the glasses.

We didn't see much of the exhibit (very small room, lots of people, squirmy kiddos), but we were all affected by the plaster casts of some victims on our way out of the exhibit hall. If you know much about Pompeii, it's likely you have seen images of these plaster casts before. I had. But seeing them in person was incredible. And so sad, in its way. Unbelievable that it happened nearly 2000 years ago, yet these were people so much like us! Incredible.

On Saturday, I had my hair appointment with a new hairdresser to get my color fixed. I just wasn't happy. I wanted her to make it lighter, brighter. I was thinking all over pale, strawberry blonde. She told me there was no good way to get there from how dark I was, so she spent hours (seriously, four hours!) making a very natural-looking transition from what I had to this:

You may not notice much difference (Markus doesn't), but I'm really happy. I don't even feel the need to go back to blonde anytime soon now, which is a pretty big change in me for a pretty small change in hair color. Of course, if you look closer at the photo, you will see this:

Both girls have kicked up the crazy a few notches. For a bonus, Stephanie didn't sleep last night until almost 3am. Ellie was up by 6; Stephanie followed at 6:45. I got about 3 hours of sleep. Then, Stephanie only napped for an hour (usually it's 1.5-3!). Thank goodness the week is short, because it has been intense!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Blessings in the afternoon

Yes, the morning was challenging. I think the most interesting moment was when Ellie pulled out a long strip of toilet paper, wiped her bum and then re-rolled it all (with wiped part somewhere in the middle). But the afternoon brought this...

...and my heart is full of peace and joy and love for these wonderful little people and all their glorious crazy.
I am so blessed.

One of those mornings

The highlights:

Both girls were awake at 5:30 this morning.

It took over 20 minutes, several verbal battles and ultimately a tantrum to get Ellie dressed. All the while, her bare skin was becoming mottled with cold (very cold in our house in the mornings). Now, we just have to wait for the sniffles to set in...

Stephanie insists on "privacy" when using the toilet. I left her alone for four minutes, during which time she dipped the toilet brush in the toilet bowl full of pee and proceeded to "clean" the floor (and her booties and her hands...). As a bonus, she managed to stuff almost an entire roll of toilet paper in the toilet before she started "cleaning". Following her sister's example, she thrashed like an (hysterically giggling) alligator while I tried to get her dressed. (at least she was happy, right?)

Squabbles escalating to high-pitched screaming when Ellie insisted that Stephanie's baby chicks (toy) weren't chicks but were actually guinea pigs that were licking her.

It's 7:30.
May I go back to bed now?