Friday, December 31, 2010

Must have chocolate cake!

Yesterday, I tried to explain to Ellie the concept of New Year's Eve. It's pretty abstract for a child to understand, but she definitely latched onto the idea of celebrating! Ever since we attended a friend's birthday party where there were sparklers on the cake, she has not stopped asking for some sparkler action of her own! We agreed that New Year's would be a great opportunity to enjoy a cake with sparklers. She immediately elaborated that it must be a double layer chocolate cake with chocolate frosting decorated with Smarties and butterfly sprinkles. She woke me up at 5:15 this morning, insisting that it was time to make cake! Yow. It was all I could do to hold her off until this afternoon, when we finally got the cake started. She had a blast!

We had to wait ages for it to fully cool so we could decorate it. I tried to time it so it wouldn't be ready until after dinner, though this pushed the girls' patience to the limit. Ellie took responsibility for the Smarties (those are like M&Ms), and Stephanie was designated sprinkle patrol to finish the cake beautifully.

Of course, once the sparklers were lit, the girls had misgivings...

There were absolutely no misgivings about the chance to eat a HUGE piece of chocolate cake for dessert.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! The morning started before 6 (as usual), but with this cuteness:

We try to keep a small Christmas. From us, the girls received new fairy dresses (fairies are soooo popular here!) and ukuleles! The ukuleles were a last minute idea, inspired by their newfound love of Elizabeth Mitchell's Sunny Day album, and this video in particular. They have had so much fun randomly plucking and strumming away. Now, we need to get ourselves a book on how to play (and how to tune...).

In the afternoon, they made quick work of the gingerbread house they'd helped decorate earlier in the week.

Then, it was time to go back to the beach! Stephanie skipped her nap but fell asleep on the five minute drive to the beach. She stayed asleep despite the hot temps and searing sun. We tried to make her a little shady spot, and we mostly succeeded in keeping her protected as she dozed. What a gorgeous day!

Today (Boxing Day) was searing hot. The thermometer read just over 40C (that over 100F) and the sun was absolutely brutal. None of us wanted to go out this afternoon. When Stephanie and I wandered across the street to the grocery store just before 6pm, she said we should have put on sunscreen so we didn't get burned. It was still midday brutal even then. And tomorrow is supposed to be just as bad if not worse before the weather reverts back to normal. Yow. Christmas Down Under!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Down Under

No pictures today, so those of you in the cold winter won't be tempted to throw things at us.

A cyclone in the north has been giving Australia the strangest weather this week! We've had rain in the summer (never happens!) and Melbourne had SNOW (in the summer!). It's been cool-ish, but the forecast was for nasty heat (39C) and humidity once the clouds moved out. We expected to spend Christmas hiding in the air conditioning. Instead...yes, the humidity came, but nothing New Orleans and Dohot veterans can't handle. The heat wasn't bad at all (closer to 30C), and there was a sea breeze. The sea breeze was so cool that there was a fog over the sea, which I've never before seen on a sunny summer day (Markus had many times in Cape Town). We spent a gorgeous afternoon playing in the beautiful Indian Ocean, jumping waves, splashing about and building sandcastles at the edge of the surf. It was heavenly! We were so aware that fortunate people are able to pay out big money to spend their vacations doing just that...and we live here! We feel very blessed.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Terrible Twos

Well, it has finally happened. Stephanie seems to have officially hit the Terrible Twos. It just took us a while to recognize the syndrome, because the symptoms are very atypical. The massive increase in tantrums, the screaming and wailing and crying and shouting and red-in-the-face meltdowns...just don't happen. She's not an angry character. She's a peaceful, easy long as she is allowed to set all terms. And have 110% of your attention. She won't have a fit if you don't pay attention, but you can bet she'll hop on the chance to get up to a mighty amount of mischief in a hurry.

She is an opportunist. It's like we have to baby-proof the house. She's into everything and using it in a the most devious ways. Although art supplies have been accessible since she was a baby, she is (for the first time) using them to draw on furniture, toys and books. Scissors definitely had to go out of reach, as did paint and glue. Toothpaste has been the #1 target for a few weeks now. We've had to be sure to keep all toothpaste well out of reach. She lets us know when there are weaknesses in our defenses. I thought my medicine cabinet was high enough, but apparently, the bottom shelf was not. One evening, while Markus thought she was with me and I thought she was with him, she was actually redecorating our bedroom with toothpaste.

The scene of the crime. Sigh.
Sugar has also become a major subject of adventurous pursuit now that we have a pantry. We moved the sugar pot to high ground, but she will eat it right out of my teacup before I can pour in the tea. A few nights ago, I was awakened after midnight to a loud crash from the kitchen, followed by Stephanie wailing for "Mama Papa Mama Papa!" I flew down the stairs to find her at the bottom of the pantry (on top of the thankfully unbroken wine bottles; ouch). She had dragged three chairs into the kitchen before finally scaling the shelves unaided. I'm not entirely sure if she was even awake at the time. It's crazy.

Stephanie is happiest when naked, and keeping her clothed in public is a real effort. She has also adopted the Aussie need to be shoeless. When she does wear shoes, they are inevitably on the wrong feet and there will be no correcting them. We have learned to dress her in the only two dresses she owns that zip up the back so she can't strip the moment she gets a chance. Of course, she now recognizes this property of those dresses and lets her extreme aversion to them be known. Fortunately, we are in summertime and it's usually warm enough not to fuss about clothes at home. A recent odd patch of cool weather really pushed us to our limits trying to keep her dressed and healthy, but other than that, we shrug it off and let her enjoy her "nackedei" status.

The only exception to the no-clothing rule is dress up clothes. She has gotten into that phase in a major way! She loves to dress up in princess or ballet clothes. But no underwear is permitted. Ever.

So what makes this abundant cuteness qualify for the "terrible" twos? It's not the behavior. It's the relentlessness. She never lets up, from dawn until well after dark, she craves and requires CONSTANT attention; without it, mayhem ensues and rapidly (Ellie is quick to jump on and increase the speed of the mayhem bandwagon once Stephanie gets it going). Though rarely naughty, she is very mischievous and she does delight in pissing Ellie off when Ellie presents herself as an easy target (her whining and fussing has taken off proportionate to Stephanie's new crazy).

Stephanie's days run from around 5am to 9pm, which is far longer than I like my own days to run. It doesn't leave Markus or myself with any real downtime during the week, and the weekends aren't enough to compensate much of the time. We're exhausted and it's getting harder to keep up. All the things I used to count on doing during her resttime can no longer be counted upon to happen at all. I'm behind on just about everything. The only reason I got this blog post done is that the girls were (mostly) playing together quite well, with the exception of a couple of minutes ago when they used my focus on the computer as an opportunity to try to invade Oma's room during her nap (I had to run at top speed to snatch up Little (naked) Monkeypants and intervene just in time). Oy.

The Terrible Twos are here.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What a week!

It's been nearly two weeks since I've posted, and it's been full! Ellie finished school for the year last Friday. In Australia, the school year follows the calendar year, giving the kids the summer off like everywhere else except summer is over the Christmas holidays here. She'll go back in February and Stephanie won't be far behind her (eek!).

The day before school let out, her school held its annual school concert. It was ridiculously long and poorly planned (yes, the administration is getting a mad mama letter). Someone thought it would be brilliant to combine one song per class with a "graduation" speech night from 2 board members and 5 middle school kids, keeping dozens of 3-5 year olds and their families stuck in an auditorium until well past bedtime. This would have been a recipe for total mayhem anywhere else, but Montessori kids are such troopers. They sat patiently and quietly on the stage floor throughout the whole silly proceeding, from 6pm to 8:30pm (see why I'm unamused?)! Poor Ellie was so exhausted and miserable by the time we got her home, and then she had to go to school again the next day for a half-day. At least she could look forward to it because it was a party day. Otherwise, we would have kept her home. And it's just as well that she wasn't home. Papa had to take the day off to look after me!

Over half-way through the lengthy concert, I felt my leg falling asleep. Stephanie had been in my lap (exhausted too) the whole time, and her weight was getting to me. I thought I'd get up to stretch, not realizing my foot had already fallen asleep. Thank goodness I passed her to Markus before I stood up, because I went down HARD. I'd gotten dressed up for the Christmas theme, so I fell off my heels and torqued my foot between our row and the row of seats in front of us. The pain was searing, but for the sake of all eyes (especially Stephanie's), I just sat down and breathed hard for a long while. I managed to hobble, shoeless, to the car when the concert was over, supporting my weight on Markus's shoulder. He was on his motorcycle, so I drove us home using one big toe on the pedals (thank goodness no emergency braking was required!). Within an hour of that, I couldn't put any weight on it at all. Markus went out to the late-night pharmacy to rent me some crutches, and he had to stay home on Friday to drive Ellie to and from school and me to and from the doctor and the radiology clinic. Woo-hoo!

Fortunately, the x-ray showed nothing interesting. The doctor said it was probably a ligament, but if the damage didn't self-heal within a week, it might be a hairline fracture and I should come back. It's been a week now, but I've been off crutches since Monday. Markus had to be at work this week, so it's good that I could get back to mobility. I overdid it and my foot still hurts (worse today than other days, alas), but it's a lot better. Thank goodness.

This has been Ellie's first week home, and she's been adjusting to the big change in her routine. There has been a lot of whining, crying, and even hitting (hooray for learning from the other kids at school, sigh), and the tantrums have flown a bit too freely for my preference...but we think this will settle down as she does too. Mostly, we can tell she is thrilled to be home! She and Stephanie are great playmates, and Ellie is getting on quite well with Oma too.

Stephanie's sleep may be very slowly returning to normal. The newest development is that she is at the age when dreams become more vivid, and she's been sleeping fitfully. She might even be a sleep-walker. We had a strange episode in the middle of the night last night that makes me wonder, but time will tell. So far, Stephanie and Oma aren't sure of each other. Oma definitely prefers Ellie's orderliness and predictability to Stephanie's bohemian nudity and surprising resolve.

We'll continue to watch their relationship unfold, though I've got a separate blog post ready to go about a particularly funny encounter.

Markus will have a half-day at work today, and then he will only work two days next week before having a good bit of holiday at home himself. We're so happy!

Monday, December 06, 2010


Yesterday morning, I took Ellie to a birthday party. Skipping a shower, I wore my hair in a ponytail, which did not meet Stephanie's approval upon my return home. She insisted I take it out. She stomped. She sulked. She grumped. She wanted that ponytail gone. I, however, refused to cave, seeing it as no major affront to her health and well-being and therefore not a priority issue. Eventually, she stopped mentioning it and I figured we had moved on. I, of course, forgot who I was dealing with.

per·se·ver·ance noun \ˌpər-sə-ˈvir-ən(t)s\
Definition of PERSEVERANCE
: continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition : the action or condition or an instance of persevering : steadfastness

Hours later, as I was cooking dinner, Stephanie started dragging a chair across the floor. We asked what she was doing, and she stated matter-of-factly that she wanted to "get the ponytail." We didn't understand what she meant. Here's what she had in mind:

If you look up "tenacious", you may find this pictorial sequence:

The last photo in the series might also be found under the definition for "stinker."


Today was Nikolastag. In the German tradition, Saint Nikolas visits in the night and leaves treats in the children's shoes. Despite lingering wariness of Santa Claus, Ellie was well-familiar with this tradition via her current adoration of the Conni books and she's been looking forward to Nikolastag for weeks! She was thrilled when she woke up this morning to discover Nikolas had left her and Stephanie matching necklaces and chocolates!

Of course, later Oma arrived and brought with her an extra treat each from Nikolas. What an exciting day!

Oma is here!

Oma arrived today for a 3 month stay. I have to say, the initial introduction could not have gone better! Stephanie is quite shy around strangers, so we weren't sure how it would go. She hasn't seen Oma since she was 6 months old, and Oma doesn't have internet for skype. That effectively makes Oma a stranger, but that's not how it played out at all! Thank goodness Mary and Mimi already visited us this year! Their visits prepped the girls for Oma, and the girls were ready to welcome her with open arms and minds. We all enjoyed a fun, happy dinnertime together before Oma headed to bed. Stephanie is wired and still up, but that's pretty typical these days (alas). Everyone is happy. Hooray!