Tuesday, July 27, 2010

MC Eleanor

Once per term, Ellie's class hosts corroboree at her school. Corroboree, if you don't remember from previous posts, is a school-wide show-and-tell, intended to be an opportunity to show and share work and achievements. A lot of the younger kids use it as a typical show-and-tell, bringing whatever they are allowed from home to show to the masses. Parents are invited only when their child's class is hosting. The hosting class often presents a skit, song or poem. This past Friday, it was Ellie's class hosting, and Ellie was one of the two MCs for the big event.

When Lydia (her teacher) asked her if she'd like the opportunity, she was very surprised to receive a firm negative in response. Ellie was so afraid of making a mistake that she didn't want to do it. After much assurance from Lydia and myself that there were no mistakes to make and Lydia would help her with her role, she embraced it with enthusiasm. On the day, she wasn't nervous at all! She even got up and joined in the show-and-tell portion (notice the thumbs-up from her friend).

I was so proud of her...and she was clearly proud of herself!

Poor man

The weeks are long and take their toll.
Thank goodness the weekends (and sunny, grassy spots and warm weather) are so nice!

Face painting

A few weeks ago, Stephanie decided she needed to have her face painted. That day, I bought the basics: white, red, yellow and blue. We've been doing a lot of mixing, but the actual paint isn't varied much. The most requested do is a butterfly. Last week, Stephanie spotted some tiny vials of even tinier "fairy sparkles" (Aussies seem to be fairy obsessed!). These sparkles will stick to slightly moistened skin. They are probably intended for teenagers on their way out for the night, but Stephanie had to have them for the face paint repertoire. Sparkles have added a whole new dimension, and face paint requests are numerous!

Somehow, it still surprised (and touched) me this morning to find this image in Ellie's coloring book:

Ellie is working on fine motor control at school as part of writing. She often colors in by making lines with a pen. Most of her coloring book is filled in this way, but this is the first image to get butterfly face paint.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What's cookin'

This weekend, Ellie and I attended two birthday parties for her classmates, one on each day. Baby Stephanie was not invited, and she just couldn't understand why. Both times we left, she was very distressed and cried quite a bit at the injustice of it all. By party number two, I felt terrible and offered to make it up to her by baking a cake that afternoon and hosting a birthday party for her and Ellie's babies, Zuzu, Heidi, and Lolo. This was received with great rejoicing, and peace was restored to the universe. Markus caught this little video of us baking the cake together with The Precious:

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Creative solution

As Stephanie's interest in books has increased, her interest in napping has decreased. For the past four days, naptime has been hit and miss (and more miss than hit). On Saturday (her usual catch-up day), she was so quiet that Markus was sure she was asleep until he heard her reading to herself every time he checked in for over 90 minutes! Before you go suggesting she is outgrowing naptime, I assure you that she is not. She is tired! She needs the naps even more than I need her to take a nap, which is saying a lot. She just recognizes that there are lots of interesting alternatives to napping, books being the big keeper. Yesterday, I pulled the plug on that game and removed all but the one chosen storybook from her room. She napped! Hooray!

Today, she was up around 5 am (sigh), so she was really exhausted by mid-morning (10:30am). Most unfortunately, I had an appointment to view a potential house at 11:45. Such is life. I kept her going and she was a trooper...but we missed the window. By the time we got home, she had a second wind of sorts and she didn't want to rest. After reading to her and tucking her in, I went to the front of the house and worked quietly as to provide total naptime silence. Until I heard her cabinets open and close. In the absence of her books, she tried on shoes. All the outgrown Ellie shoes we have stored in the bottom of her closet provided a creative alternative to reading (or napping)...until she passed out on the floor.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beautiful girls

Yesterday afternoon, our friends Danielle and Maddy stopped by for a play while their brother Jack played hockey in Claremont. They live in Freo, so it was a good excuse to get together. Kaye, their mum, is great for a chat, and the girls are almost perfect ages to play together. Maddy and Stephanie were good friends until Maddy started school this past term. Danielle has been in Ellie's class since we arrived, but she is about to move up to the next age group (she's almost exactly a year older than Ellie). I know Ellie will miss her, so we'll make sure to keep arranging playdates when we can.

I caught some great pictures of them in the afternoon light, so I thought I'd share them here:

Serious cuties:

In their natural state:

Popcorn fiends:

Good friends:

Over on the other blog...

Hi there, people I know!
Today, I published a post on my other blog about printmaking with Ellie today. I don't use her name (I did start that one for the girls' privacy after all), but the project went so well that I wanted to share it with the larger blogging community. I could duplicate it here, but that seems unnecessarily redundant. My other blog is heldin im chaos, and you are welcome to take a look any time!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Playing the holiday away

Ellie has two and a half weeks of school holiday for winter break. Last week, she really enjoyed her music workshop taught by the music teacher at school. It was three hours each morning from Tuesday to Friday, and the group gave a little performance on Friday. I uploaded it to YouTube to share with you (because it was incredibly cute), but I received an almost instant notification from YouTube that my video would be banned because the song playing in the background ("Shake a Tail Feather") was copyrighted material. I was a bit stunned since I don't illegally burn movies or music, so it just hadn't occurred to me that the poor audio quality of a song seven kids were dancing to would set off the copyright alarms. Yikes. So, alas, I cannot share that video with you, however much I would like to. Robyn (the music teacher) taught them all a little choreographed dance routine, and Ellie has been thrilled to discover I have the song on my iPod. She has done her best to teach the dance to Stephanie, and the two of them have been dancing to that song at least 10 times a day since!

At the beginning of this week, I sat down with Ellie and asked her what she would like to do with the rest of her holiday. We made a list. The number one request was art every day. She insisted we needed to do THREE art projects per day, but I whittled her down to one. While Ellie is a definite rules girl, Stephanie is more Jackson Pollack freestyle. Paint is applied to (or with) her hands, her face, her belly... Glue is not restricted to paper but is interesting on furniture. Markers can enliven our boring wooden table and chairs. You get the idea. It's all in the name of creativity, but it does deter this mama from art projects that are fun enough to interest either of them. I think some of our projects may be tackled during Stephanie's nap time this week. On our art project list are bean collage, fold over/symmetry paintings, nature sketching, make small accordion books, nature treasure collage, weaving felt strips, salt painting, draw and color "me", mixed media collage, papier mache, and balsa wood sculptures. Over the past three days, we've actually only done one art project, much to my surprise, because she's been in mood for other things at obvious art times (or we've had playmates over who weren't interested).

The activity each day list has been just as interesting: fancy lady tea party, nature treasure walk, build an indoor fort, playdates (with five friends listed!), visit the Cuddly Animal Farm, play at the indoor playground, and swimming at the indoor pool. Thus far, we've checked off the indoor playground (though Ellie sees no need to make that a one-time thing) and three playdates. (To be honest, I could skip many of the playdates. I know she misses her friends from school, but it's hard to coordinate with nap times and schedules and preferred activities.) Counting the weekend, she has six days left, so we're going to make the most of them!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Monkey on the monkey bars

For Ellie, this past term at school was dedicated to the pursuit of one skill and one skill only: mastering the monkey bars.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A Stephanie first

Up until today, my girls have only had mama-cuts. Ellie's hair is quite thin and grows slowly, so she hasn't needed much more than a trim here and there. Stephanie's hair, on the other hand, is a gift from her Granddad. It's thick and amazing, and it was starting to need management. My trim of her bangs was enough to keep it out of her eyes, but it needed shaping. Today, Stephanie got her first haircut in a salon. Being the nutty, obsessed mama that I am, I took lots of pictures and a short movie (I know).

Stephanie was a perfect angel in the chair! She held perfectly still from the moment we sat her down until the moment the drape was taken away. She wasn't nervous. She didn't fidget or fuss. She just sat quietly, patiently cooperating as Amelia cut her hair. Within minutes, everyone there was commenting on how impressive it was, and by the time she was done, Amelia announced that Stephanie behaved much better in the chair and held more still than most of her adult clients. When you're good, you're good! The sweetest thing is now that she has little layers, her heavy hair can't fight its desire to curl anymore, and she has the cutest little flippy 'do!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

That girl

Tuesday dawned an exciting day for Ellie. She could hardly wait to get to her music workshop! She has been talking about it ever since they mentioned it at school, and the day had finally arrived! The wait until 9am seemed so long! "Today, I'm going to music!" over and over and over. With equal excitement, Stephanie gushed about her anticipated delight: "Today, I get facepaint!" Um...what? Hunh? Did I miss something? So, I asked her about it. You're getting your face painted, Stephanie? "YES!!" Oooo, she was excited. I have no idea where the idea started, but it was as fixed as it could be. I had to think fast. After a guess that didn't pan out (only available on weekends), I headed to the party store and bought face paint to don at home. When I asked her what she wanted, she pointed to the paint and said, "That!" Yes, but what would you like me to paint? A lion? A butterfly? A princess? What? "Yes." Um...Stephanie? "I get face paint!" Fair enough. Swirls of paint in every color it is!

She was so proud! So happy! She wanted to show everyone. We went grocery shopping afterwards, and she made sure to tell anyone who paused close to our cart that she had face paint. We even had to go visit Annie at The Dancing Goat cafe to show her...and have a babycino and marshmallow, of course.

Don't you know who else needed face paint when she got home?

Soup for Zoe

Yesterday was the first day of Ellie's winter holidays from school. Today, she will start a music workshop with the school's music teacher, Robyn, that will last for a few hours each day until Friday. Ellie is thrilled about this workshop, but yesterday, that gap Monday with no friends to visit after a wonderful weekend with Papa home...it had potential to go very pear-shaped. Fortunately, it didn't! In the morning, we made our first visit to the Fremantle Maritime Museum (nicely done!). Stephanie was tired so we only lasted about an hour, but it was worth it (kids' entry was free!). After Stephanie's nap, the girls played well in the backyard together. There was a lot of the requisite trampoline time, but closer to dinnertime, it was time to cook!

While all my hard work cooking and preparing foods for my family goes underappreciated by our resident CEO, it clearly does not go unnoticed. I snuck outside with the camera to take a few sneak-shots (they typically stop whatever they are doing when they see the camera), but this time, they didn't notice me at all. I got a bit more bold and took some shots with the camera in full view, and still they worked on. Ellie started explaining to me the detailed process involved in soup preparation, and I flipped to movie mode after about a minute.

Where we are at the moment

I just chatted with my mom for the first time in a while (hard to connect schedules with a 12-hour time difference!), and I realized how much the blog used to keep her up to date. We were on the phone for almost an hour, catching up on all that's happening here...because for the first time in years, she didn't already know from the blog! Since I've privatized and split my content, I just don't get the comprehensive coverage I used to get in here. I thought I'd do a little update of random tidbits, so you have the latest too.

Stephanie's sleeping has improved greatly since we moved her back to her own room. She loves the Sandra Boynton books, just like Ellie did at this age. She can't seem to get enough of "What's Wrong, Little Pookie?" and "Moo, Baa, La La La." We usually read them three times each. She still adores the Carl books by Alexandra Day and "Good Night, Gorilla" by Peggy Rathmann, too. After she and I read her (multiple) stories, she lays down, I turn out the light...and then she pushes snuggly me away, announcing she wants Papa to do her bedtime. This happens almost every night. Sneaky thing! This way, she gets double the storytime, double the lovin' and snuggles. She is awfully cute, and we can't seem to deny her anything. We also remember that Ellie went through this phase too at about the same age.

Ellie was once again worn down and out by school this term. I'm still trying to find the right balance. She loves it and in many ways, it's very good for her...but Ellie's need for perfection will make things hard for her every time. Ever since she was a baby, she hasn't wanted to demonstrate anything until she has mastered it. This makes school stressful for her, but we know trying to protect her from this part of herself is futile and counterproductive. We just have to help her balance. So far, I've been trying to do that by not doing any "teaching" at home. She was so interested in sounds at age 2 that she knew almost half of the alphabet, phonetically, flawlessly. I expected her to take off with reading within weeks of entering the Montessori environment, so I've been surprised that she still isn't a reader. I have been even more surprised that she seems to have lost skill rather than gained it. Her phonemic awareness is less now than it was then, which was a shock to me when I realized it yesterday as we played a game I had made. I think I'm going to shift gears on the way I help her balance, and I'm going to do more "teaching" at home. I didn't do so before because I thought it would push her (not my goal), but now I think she may actually enjoy it because it will help her sense of mastery and satisfy her need for perfection. We'll see. Everything with Ellie can be a grand experiment. She is our first, yes, but she's also quite unique in many ways all her own.

The house move has stagnated. We receive a housing allowance, so we have to get permission to move (not the wording they use, but effectively true). Although Markus submitted the necessary paperwork weeks ago, we were informed after I'd already seen a dozen houses that they would process our information and let us know in four weeks or so...at which point I threw up my hands and tossed in the towel. The current lease doesn't expire until the end of August, and we have tentative permission to stay beyond that date. Yes, we have to move, but we aren't yet allowed to move. It's all kind of crazy, so I've adopted the Scarlett O'Hara approach: I'll think about it tomorrow.
Last week, my girlfriend Nicole found us a great house in Nedlands (a town next to Claremont). The owners seemed very nice, but they were debating whether to sell or continue renting. They assured me that the resolution will be long-term, so if they do continue to rent out, they will use it as an investment property for the next 10+ years. He said he needed time to decide and also to change real estate companies. I plan to give him a call on Wednesday to see what he's thinking.

I think that about covers the broader subjects. What's new with you?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Meanwhile at King's Park...

Watch the little one towards the very end.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Interdependence Day!

My mom tells me that this is the expression my sister always makes when she gets exactly what she really wants.
Happy Anniversary, Elizabeth and Matt!

Sunday adventuring

This morning, we decided to use the beautiful weather as a good excuse to get out of Dodge. We were up so early (we're always up so early!) that we opted to head to Rockingham to visit Penguin Island. We had only been there once before and it was lovely... but very very hot in summer and an hour's drive away, so we hadn't been back. Today seemed the perfect day to go, so go we did!
It's too bad, really, that we didn't call first to be sure they were running the ferry. Penguin Island is closed to visitors until mid-September. Alas. We did enjoy a nice stroll along the beach, looking at it across the bay.

What else can we do when we're already an hour away from Perth? Next, we headed over to the Serpentine Dam in Jarrahdale for a bit of nature walking and exploration.

We stopped at the General Store in Jarrahdale for lunch. The bulk of the menu was burgers, so Markus and I both selected one. One patty of mystery meat each. Ew. We recommend Ellie's lunch of toast with jam instead. After that, we were too afraid to try desserts there, so we headed to the Millbrook Winery nearby for a treat in their patio cafe. We had seen it when we'd visited for lunch, so we hoped they'd have desserts as well as coffees and teas. They actually serve a very light lunch menu out there (too bad we hadn't known before the mystery meat!), so we may have to visit that again. Snacks were good, as was spotting kangaroos lounging in the vineyard.

Stephanie was very distressed when I wouldn't let her pet them. Her tears were heart-breaking. Poor girl. She loves animals so much, and she just cannot grasp that some of them don't need to be loved up close.

We finished the day playing at the playground and strolling near the Swan River in Peppermint Grove close to home. What a beautiful day!
Happy 4th of July, American folks!

Thursday, July 01, 2010


Today is our sixth anniversary, and I'm kind of ridiculously happy about it. Six years ago, I never would have guessed we'd be celebrating our anniversary in Australia (for the second year in a row!). Thus far, we've tackled four countries (and visited over a dozen), survived one really tough year, and have been blessed with two beautiful, healthy girls...
It's hard to believe that has all happened in only six years (surely, it's been more?)! Here's to six-ty more!