Sunday, October 31, 2010

It begins!

Today is the day the movers arrive and start packing! The house looks like a bomb. I abandoned all attempts to get it organized and ready for the move, because frankly, all thoughts of the move were stressing me out. In interests of self-preservation (and preservation of my family), I surrendered and let the bomb explode. Should make packing interesting, but I don't have to do it!

I would like to keep you updated on things as we go, but a fact of technology is that we will soon be without internet for the week. I don't understand this phenomenon, but all utilities except internet can transfer in a moment. Internet will go out here today and not be switched on at the new house until Friday. In the interim, Markus will have email access at work and I will have sporadic access through my phone. The blog will have to wait until the weekend.

We enjoyed a fantastic weekend together as a family this past weekend! Markus's sick grossness finally broke on Saturday evening. It just lifted and was gone. Hallelujah! He was out sick all week from work, and we are sure this will cause all manner of mayhem for him there this week. Oh well. There was nothing to be done about it but wait for the germs to be defeated. Defeated they are, so we are thankful for that. My body abandoned the sick as soon as he came home gross. Although the week was very challenging for all of us, we are all well now! Just in time to move!

Also just in time to move, the outlet for the dryer had a little explosion just this morning! I'm serious. There are black char marks all around it and the smell of melted plastic lingers in the air (don't worry; the circuit is shut down). I was trying to get laundry finished before packing, but that load in the washing machine will have to be air-dried. The dryer is no more. The wiring in this house is CRAP. And IT'S NOT OUR PROBLEM ANYMORE! Yippee! Tra-la-la! The movers start today. Tomorrow night, we sleep in our new house! Away we go!

Thursday, October 28, 2010


This week has been hard. Very hard. Markus and I have been unwell. With no breaks, no babysitter, no family close by to latch onto... Oh, woe to us. Oy.

Thankfully, the girls are fine! With the exception of minor coughs (nothing worrisome), they are a-ok, happy as clams...well, if you also make an exception for the fact that their parents are lame ducks. They are themselves, and we are very pleased they have escaped relatively unscathed from whatever bug we have. The only presence of it in Stephanie we detect is trouble going to bed at night, a common thing with her when she doesn't feel good. She wants someone there until she falls asleep, but she doesn't fall asleep well when someone is there. It tends to drag on for quite a while (6:30 bedtime dragged on til close to 9 some nights), but all in all, that's not so bad.

On Sunday, we made our first ever trip out to Rottnest Island. Our fantastic neighbors and friends across the road had arranged a weekend holiday stay over there, and we missed booking on time to join them. We did take them up on the suggestion of a day trip meeting, and it was lovely.

Rottnest is just a 30 minute ferry ride from Fremantle harbor. The explorers who found it discovered its resident quokkas, small marsupials they mistook for large rats, and thus dubbed it a Rat-nest (Rottnest). Quokkas are awfully darned cute, and our little Jungle Jane adored them (as she does any animal).

Rottnest allows no cars (thus the girls' bike helmets), making it a great vacation spot for young families. It has pristine beaches with crystal clear water that is excellent for snorkeling. Not that we'd know. I got so seasick on the ride over that I barely recovered. I was happy to take the early ferry home again, a truly rough ride back, which was fortunate in that the seas got even rougher later in the day. By the time we got home, my body was so out of whack that I was still rocking and rolling while stationary. I also could not get warm. I burned myself with hot water in the shower but still felt cold. I shivered so much for so long that my abs hurt. It felt like the flu. Perhaps it was. Bad timing for the Rotto trip, I guess. I just hadn't felt that coming.

By Tuesday, I was feverish (all day) and fairly miserable. Thanks to an ENT appointment for Ellie*, I had both girls home with me at a time when I really needed to lie down. Markus promised he would try to come home early to help me, and come home early he did...more ill than I was. Miraculously, I woke up yesterday without this bug in my system, but he hasn't been back to work yet. It has knocked him over.

Add onto this a ridiculous house viewing we had to allow today. We will start our move next week. The owners decided not to renew our lease because they had to do major renovations involving asbestos, thus could not have tenants. Ha. The house is listed online. The estate agent called me Monday, all sweet and lovey, trying to get on my good side before asking for a viewing for particular prospective tenants on Thursday, which she then advertised online as an open house. Grr. That d*mn house viewing sent me over the edge. Proverbial straw, as it were. I won't go into details of my not-so-little breakdown today, but let's all agree that next week will be a good time to get a fresh start and finally do this move!

Anyhoo...the girls are fine. We are doing the best we can to keep life normal for them, despite our own funk and stress levels. Of course they notice and behave accordingly ("climbing the walls" is an expression that comes to mind...), but they are little children and are doing the best they can too. Next week will be different. Next week will be very different! Be sure to note the change of address in the previous post. That will be in effect from Monday onwards.

*While my mom was visiting, the school nurse called to express concern about Ellie's ears. She had participated in a routine eye and ear screening at school, and the nurse found her ears to be "full of fluid". After berating me for ignoring my daughter's health (she made me cry), I took Ellie to our friendly GP who assured me the nurse had gotten a bit carried away. He prescribed a nasal spray to strengthen her eustachian tubes to aid in drainage and told us to come back in a month to follow up, which we did. He referred us to an ENT because one ear was still not clear. The school nurse called two days later, demanding to know why I had ignored her referral to the GP, as she had tested Ellie again and found fluid in both ears. Grr. Anyhoo, the wait for the ENT was nearly two months. I called this week to try to reschedule, and the next day had opened up. Fantastic! Ellie went in to see the ENT. He found no infection though there was indeed fluid in both ears. He wants to try to dry it out with antibiotics before he resorts to inserting grommets. We are to go back in mid-December for a full hearing screen and a follow-up visit, at which point he'll decide about grommets. I'll keep you posted on that. The good news is that there is no infection and Ellie doesn't seem to be bothered about this at all. He says this is really common, and we are lucky to be among the few in whom no infection is present.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We call this "burning the fumes"

This is what pre-bedtime mayhem can look like:

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Update on Stephanie

Some of you have been asking about Stephanie lately. Updates on Stephanie are harder than the rest of us, because Stephanie is harder to capture in words. What words could contain that self-sufficient, tender, hilarious little dynamo? Life with Stephanie looks a lot like this:

  • The first is her very calmly, carefully pushing my sewing pins into the ironing board in a lovely, decorative fashion.
  • Then, there's her ballet class, which she loves with a passion that both amazes and inspires (and makes me giddy with the cuteness).
  • Moving on to the third popsicle of the day. She thinks she's getting away with something; I know all that is in those homemade treats is pureed mango and strawberries.
  • We see Zuzu has found a nice resting space. I think that drawer in our dining table is meant for silverware; Stephanie thinks it is a crib.
  • As for the laundry basket photo, need I say more?
  • That last one was taken this morning. I followed the smell and found her hiding behind my desk, painting her toenails and her feet with my new nail polish (thank goodness it's the least nasty-chemicals one available). Unperturbed at my interruption, she calmly finished the job and set up her toenail drying spot as I hid the polish away. Her feet are propped on a stack of Australian animal books, and she is sitting in a pink basket, reading. This is Stephanie at 7am. Stephanie in a nutshell (and a pink basket).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Update on Ellie

I know this will be someone's mind, so I thought I'd share a little update on Ellie now that school is underway again. I am happy to report so far, so good. She is happy and plowing on with words, though still at a reserved pace for her capabilities. At least she is not asking to stay home, which is where we were before the break and on the first day back.

There was a seriously rocky start. One of my big enticements to lure her back into school excitement was to give her a new lunchbox (fantastic stainless steel by PlanetBox), and she loved the pink bag and rainbow magnets. She could hardly wait to show everyone! Then, on the very first day, her teacher told her that the magnets were not appropriate for school. The Montessori environment prefers realism to fantasy, and there is a winged unicorn on the largest magnet. I scoured the school handbook and did not find any way this was against policy, but the damage had been done. Although Ellie put on a brave face and nodded her assent at the time, she was in tears by the time we reached the car. She was heartbroken that even a small part of her new pride and joy was not allowed. Rules and order are so important to Ellie, so her perceiving that she had somehow violated them even without meaning to...she was devastated. She cried about it multiple times through the evening and again at bedtime. I WAS FURIOUS!!! I had a meeting with her teacher. To her credit, she had no idea how upset Ellie was (again, that brave face). At home, Ellie and I made new magnets for her lunchbox. I bought magnetic printer paper and I scanned one of Ellie's paintings onto it. We cut that up, and that has been fine. I only wish we had done that from the start, because she is very aware that it is an allowed substitution rather than a source of pride.

Anyway, other than that, things are okay for her at school. At home, she has become quite the toilet reader, taking those darned fairy books to the potty with her every time. She is so into them that now Stephanie carries them around too (always wanting to be like the big sister!). Thank goodness for the library. I am not willing to fork out money for this series, but at the same time, I am thankful Ellie has found a series of chapter books that she looks forward to with great anticipation. We go to the library every week, and she is always so thrilled to find new books on the shelf!

Moving day approaches!

After nearly five months of looking, we settled on a house (to rent) in Mosman Park, the same suburb where Ellie's school is located. We think this choice will be even more appreciated next year when I'm taking them both to school, then picking Stephanie up earlier than Ellie. That's six school to's and fro's, five days a week! The commute from Mosman Park to Perth city for Markus is double the time from our house in Claremont, but he only does that twice a day versus six times. It's a drag, but reason wins!

Thus far, I've been pretty displeased with the entire situation. We've been so plagued with issues in our current house, but on the whole, we really like living here. We also really hate moving within a posting unless it's absolutely necessary. It doesn't feel absolutely necessary, so when the owners decided not to renew our lease, I was rather put out. They did so on the pretense that they were going to start the major renovations it will take to get this house in good shape, which they cannot do with tenants because of asbestos (true). We always suspected that they were lying, that this house would be turned around and rented out again (perhaps for more rent) as soon as they can replace the carpet in the mushroom room. It turns out we were right, though the speed is even faster than I'd anticipated. Our house is already listed online on rental websites. It is listed as "available now" (real estate agent lingo for "unoccupied"), which really raised my blood pressure when I saw it Monday morning. I've been infuriated by the injustice of it all. We report things to maintain the house, they don't do it, they don't adjust our rent accordingly, then they kick us out and look for new tenants who won't know...but will soon find out. Grrr. It made my blood boil. I wanted to write a letter to the local paper, naming names and our address just so everyone will know what they are getting with whom.

But that doesn't serve any purpose, other than exponentially increasing bad will (my own included). Markus advised me to let it go, to be happy we are moving to a nice, new house that should (ideally) be relatively problem-free. And I was, sort of. I know he is right, and I want to move on. I am frustrated to be waiting out this move. The new house is unoccupied. We are still here, waiting, but that will end soon. The movers show up on November 1st, and the show will get on the road.

And then, yesterday, it rained. It rained like it hasn't rained in months. It poured cats and dogs! And you know what? The house leaked like a sieve! The kitchen skylight poured water onto the floor. The "repaired" gutters never caught the water, which instead seeped (as always) through the boards, bypassing the drains and sink wells, flooding the backyard. The ceiling of the laundry room was damp. I was overjoyed! VINDICATION!

So thank you, God, for sending that soaking rain. The plants needed it, and so did I. It washed away my frustration and replaced it with gratitude that we have a new place waiting for us. I am really happy about our move now. I am ready.

Incidentally, since this blog is friends and family only, I can share our new address. As of November 1st, our address will be:

Klingbeil family
134 Wellington St
Mosman Park WA 6012

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back to school

Ellie went back to school on Tuesday after two-plus weeks of between term holidays. She didn't much want to go, and truth be told, I didn't much want to send her. We had a great holiday this time! She was so happy to be home, and she started getting excited about learning again.

For much of this year, I've been questioning the decision to send Ellie (and soon Stephanie) to school. I am a Montessori trained teacher, and I have always been a huge advocate of Montessori education for ages 3-6. Sending Ellie to Beehive was an obvious choice. It hasn't played out quite as I anticipated. At first, she took to it like a duck to water. She loved the order, the precision, the detail...and in many ways, those things continue to make it a great fit for her personality. But the precision seems to have taken her natural tendencies of perfectionism to a new level, a level where it interferes with her desire to learn new skills (namely reading and writing) because that would mean making mistakes along the way that she is unwilling to make.

Her school insists on cursive writing at this age, and her teacher requested I discourage printing at home. I did that, so as not to give conflicting messages, but I have regretted it. Cursive just doesn't appeal to Ellie, and she is put off by it. Not being "allowed" to print, she has lost the drive to write at all. In the Montessori environment, writing comes before reading, so she is being held off from reading progression. She is a frustrated and saddened kid. Her love of learning has withered. Her desire to attend school has faded. Her enthusiasm for new skills has disappeared. It hurt me to see it, though it took me until the recent school holidays to figure out all the whys behind it that I just explained.

Once I clearly saw what was happening, I was able to start putting it right for her. She is a clever girl, so although it is against my usual to give mixed messages, I told her she should feel free to write in print at home as long as she remembers to stick to cursive at school. I told her I missed her writing (true!!!) and I wanted to see it again. I told her I didn't care if it was print or cursive, and she should write whatever made her happy to write, as often as she wanted to do it. THIS HAS MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD. Her writing has taken off like wildfire again. I just had to fan that smoldering little flame. I made her a little purse with a notepad and a multi-color ink pen inside, and she keeps that with her in the car to jot down words as she thinks them up. This morning on the way to school, she and Stephanie were taking cafe orders (a favorite game in which they usually draw whatever you order), and Ellie wrote "PESTO" all by herself without even a hint from me! Naturally, this has led to her trying to read more things too. She is regaining confidence and enthusiasm because that pressure for perfection and correctness is off, at least at home. I've also had specific, direct talks with her about how it is okay to make mistakes, that it is part of learning and is no problem at all, that we should expect to make mistakes and learn from them rather than worry about them. Mistakes help us learn, and they shouldn't stop us from trying. Although perfectionism is central facet of her personality, she is a smart girl and my words are getting through. She hears the message and has even transmitted it to others in a loving way when she sees classmates struggle, so I'm thankful I am being heard.

I have been so happy watching her light up again that I almost didn't want to send her back to school at all. I didn't want to see that light get snuffed out again. Ultimately, I figured this is a short term (only 10 weeks or so) followed by a really long holiday (end of school year/summer/Christmas break), so back she went to finish the year. It has only been two days, but hopefully, we will stay on track. I plan to teach her to read myself in my own way over that holiday so as not to conflict with what she's seeing at school or raise her teacher's notice as to why/how Ellie is approaching words differently than expected (I want to avoid the latter more for Ellie's sake, so she never has to be told that's not how it's done). I am far more the wiser for having sussed out the core problem, so I am much more able to help her than I was before. Ellie is such a sensitive soul that we are sure she will always require direct support from us to help her make her way through this world of childhood and adolescence. I am just relieved for now to be able to address the problem she is having and to help her manage it.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Singing and reading

Stephanie is holding a book of German children's songs, singing her version of one she finds. Check out Ellie in the background with a book, reading, rocking, legs crossed... Very cute afternoon moment from today.