September 10, 2014

overheard


Ollie: Mum, I love you. I love you SO MUCH I think my brain is going to turn inside out.
(it was just after I gave him a Haigh's chocolate frog I brought back from Sydney)

Mandy Downes: why did dad put you in time out?
Max: because I punched him in the face.

After his first day of school:
Me: So, Ollie, did you miss your brothers?
Ollie: Yes… no wait... I mean no, not really.

Yesterday I overheard the boys very seriously categorising all the tracks from The Shins 'Chutes Too Narrow' into the genres 'Funky', 'Slow Motion' and 'Jackhammer'.

Hugo's favourite foods:
1.  Ketchup.

Max:  When can we get another bird?
Me: Soon, I hope.
Max: Shall we wait until the dogs have passed away?
Me: I hope to get one sooner than that
Max:  Or we could get a crow.

Ollie looked at me very intently for a couple of seconds today, before asking "mum, why is your skin slightly darker than everyone else's?"

Me:  You can't play video games all the time, you won't have any space for learning the good stuff.
Ollie:  Well, I don't want to go to school anymore.  School's cagey.
Me:  What do you mean?
Ollie:  It's a big cage, I'm trapped there, it's a big grassy field with a cage around it.  I just feel trapped there.

Ollie: Max, I'm building a digger, how does that make you feel?

Ollie:  Max, you know, being a snitch is good, its a bit like being a policeman:  you get to smack robbers with your smelting stick.

Max:  You shouldn’t share food
Me:  (a bit horrified because I’ve always said the opposite) Of course you should!
Max:  No, you shouldn’t share food (pause….) the teachers at kindy told me.
Me:  Well, they’re worried about sharing germs too, but if someone needs food, and you have it, you should share it with them
Max:  Yes, because they might not have any money and they might be charity
Me:  Yes, but mainly because if you have stuff and other people don’t, you share what you have.
Max: One time we were at the shops and you gave that charity man some money
Me:  Yes, because he needed it and I had some to share
Max: And he needed the money to buy stuff he needed, like food
Me:  Yes, that’s right, and he was spending it on things for other people too
Max:  Like toys?
Me:  Not so much toys, you don’t really need toys, you can play without toys, but he was collecting money to spend on things he needed, things other people needed
Max:  Like food.
Me:  Yes.
Max:  And coffee.  People need coffee.


September 8, 2014

a wondrous time


If you were ever cautious before becoming a parent, the risk averse type, the kind of person that could never wing it, it increases tenfold when you procreate.  The children come along and you start making more lists than you ever made before.  The organising itch becomes borderline OCD as you try to control everything, usually without success, thereby making the obsession worse, stressful even, so much so you might not really do anything interesting anymore, for fear of tantrums, or sleepless nights in places that aren't familiar to you or piles of laundry anywhere other than near your own washing machine.  But then you're reminded that you have to live, and make plans, and those plans might have lists, but they're plans nonetheless to do something, anything out of the ordinary and so instead of just a little weekend away, or a trip to the zoo, you spend what feels like YEARS planning a massive, ambitious trip to as far away as you possibly can, to a timezone that screams jet lag and no mercy, on planes that after just a few hours become impossibly uncomfortable and inexplicable to the little people travelling with you...

I imagine everyone does it the way we did.  I expect people spend years if not months planning it, REALLY planning it.  Every dollar and thought that went into that trip was scrutinised, considered carefully, discussed at length... it wasn't promising to be a romantic, seat-of-your-pants whirlwind holiday, more a closely guarded itinerary of places and people to see, with pretty much no room for what-the-heck.  Everyone does that, right? I assume so, because you can't just turn up to a place and expect to wing it and surely everyone spends hours poring over at least four or five spreadsheets (in the one workbook), trawling the internet and googling 'travelling without tears' before embarking on a nutcase holiday as far away from home as is possible, to a place that isn't exactly renowned for its reliably warm weather.

I think I'm being a little unfair on myself.  This wasn't just a holiday.  It was a pilgrimage, something that had to happen, something we had to do NOW otherwise my mental well being was going to suffer because nearly 6 years away from the place I will always call home was eating away at my memories of long summer days, the million shades of green and the smell of real fish and chips, the kind with vinegar.

And so we did it.  We travelled home, with our children, 5, 4 and not quite 2.  Aside from the nearly 6 years of thinking about it and 2 actually planning it, it took 30 hours to get there and a little less to get home.  It wasn't easy, but that's not what I think about when I look back on it.  The stuff I worried most about before the trip is the stuff I can't even remember now.

We stayed in my parents' house, experienced a week of non-stop rain, travelled in double decker buses and shopped for groceries in supermarkets that sell wine.  We saw landmarks and beaches we've only ever seen in books, and we visited places that are etched in my heart and soul, hoping the children would be happy there too (they were).  We saw the best of our friends and family as they welcomed us with open arms and kindness and love and warmth and unending generosity.  We travelled to places we hadn't been to before too, ate food that was new, and saw a side to our family that I am so proud of, the willingness of the children to fit into whatever the day had to offer and to accept the constant moving around without too much of a peep.  We saw people we haven't seen for years, soul mates from another time of my life, when parenthood, love, marriage all seemed so far away, so grown up.  We trashed a hire car (that wasn't in the plan) and experienced GPS, much to the delight of our road obsessed boys, and most of all, we had a real, true, break from the norm and came back feeling like we'd been away forever.

So, the lists, the planning, the itineraries and months and months of meticulous organisation and worrying, it was worth it, though I couldn't have done it any other way.  Every second was worth it.  We did it, our family, and we had a wondrous time.  I can't say we regret a single thing, though at times I didn't find it at all easy and shed tears at times when I'd imagined being happy, but that's life anyway, except on holiday there was always wine and food and nothing and nobody to answer to, except each other.  We spent every moment together, for 7 whole weeks, and that in itself was pretty special.  From Ollie's beautiful little journal to the gazillions of photos we're still sorting through, it was an experience that made us all better and one which made me excited that there'll be a next time. I really hope so.

April 14, 2014

four


It happened.  Another birthday.  This time it was my favourite son's birthday.  He's 4 now.  He still loves birds and I hope he always will, although his views on punishment for people who are mean to birds is a little on the excessive side ('stomp on them!').

He's a good big brother to his little baby brother (my favourite son) and he idolises his big brother (my favourite) and he's tall for his age but quite thin, which is surprising because he can pack away a meal as long as it's either cheesy toast and tomato soup or pasta.  Although he doesn't really like pasta, he just claims he does.  He loves The Octonauts, Shaun the Sheep and of course, is bird crazy, and this includes Angry Birds.  The bird sticker books we've done together are already one of the memories I cherish.  The way he can chuck a tanty over his little brother's inability to understand the concept of sharing, not so much.  He loves socks, especially his new ones with pineapples on them.

Max's birthday party, a small gathering of only 7 families in our local park, was rainbow lorikeet themed at his request.  I imagined this would be a Pinterest frenzied all out bird attack of a party with actual lorikeet waiters serving birdseed cake and favours made out of actual feathers and... but really, it was just a rainbow party.  We asked our guests to come razzed in their brightest colours and to be prepared for the usual food, cake and egg hunt which has become a traditional part of the bird boy's birthdays (he's had four now - FOUR).  The cake had a bird on it.  I tried and succeeded in a frozen butter cream transfer of a bird on a cake.  This cake and frosting, which was all butter and none of that shortening which every recipe seems to call for.  I made the transfer a fortnight in advance and plonked it on the cake the day before the party and put it in the fridge.  It worked fine.  I didn't really follow a process but I did an appropriate amount of googling prior to just winging it so if you're reading this in the hope of some tips on how to do it the right way, I'm not sure it's particularly helpful as I think I lucked out.

Happy birthday Max, you are my favourite middle.

March 29, 2014

captain barnacles


Today, I am so sad.  This morning, the life of our newest and gentlest member of the crew, Captain Barnacles came to a grim end.

I hadn't even had a chance to post about what a sweet little presence he was in this little house of ours, how much he made every one of us happy (have you ever seen a 20 month old in love with his pet bird?), how much we realised we should have brought him home sooner.  His little pitter patter feet, his electric blue cheeks, his bravery, venturing out of his cage in this new place that we were hoping would be his home for many many years... I miss him.

It's all made worse by just how tragic his end was, how careful we'd been with Lola, only for it to be Deeks that would get him, and then how hard it is to forgive Deeks, something I know we need to do.

This afternoon, Hugo ran up to his empty cage and squeaked 'hello?' before realising the cage was empty.

Heartbroken.

January 24, 2014

debrief

Actually I meant THREE months.  So ah... here I am three months later (that last post doesn't count, it's an longstanding entry I scribble the boys' musings to until it's long enough to publish).  In three months plenty has happened, thankfully, there's been reason for my absence.


So Noosa and the triathlon in November last year (which Will participated in, I'm not stupid) was a triumph.  We booked an apartment up at Sunshine Beach which was just right for us.  The kids loved it, asking why we couldn't have a place like that ALL the time (I think it's because it was so tidy).  It was the first holiday in a long long time that felt like a holiday rather than like doing what we do at home but with a different washing machine.  We ate out, giving us a massive rest from the cooking/cleaning doldrums we'd developed, we sat around on the beach, the kids were quite independent, finding things to do on the beach, in the apartment (don't get me wrong, they were massive arse pains too, just interspersed with being excited and enthused beach bums) and I don't know, we just relaxed.  Hugo kind of hated the beach but it didn't matter much, I was happy to walk him around and show him the sights while the boys made Will take them out on their new boogie board again, and again, and again... The triathlon went well, Will made me feel a bit more proud of him than I did before (which was quite a lot) and I thought I might like to do something like a triathlon some day but I didn't say it out loud incase someone was listening and might hold me accountable.

Then, before Christmas, the blue struck again.  It was a difficult time, and I'm not entirely sure what triggered it, but it wasn't my finest hour.  Since then, things have improved significantly thanks in the main to exercise and some herbal supplements that were recommended to me and which seem to have made a difference.  I feel hopeful again and thankful that my husband, who unflinchingly does the work of two parents even on a good day, took it all in his stride and was there for us all.



Christmas itself was good.  Great, even.  Beach time, new bikes, no big travelling or anything to report.  Hugo became more of a little dude than he was before (which is saying something when the little dude is now head honcho of this nuthouse we call home) and the boys reminded themselves after our trip to Noosa earlier in the year (which is when they first suspected it) that they LOVE THE BEACH.  Even Hugo seems pretty happy to dig and splash and chase birdies and squint at the sun.

Of course all this makes me rather apprehensive when I think about going back to England, to live that is, not for a holiday, it's that conversation we keep having, though admittedly it's less often these days.  I mean the kids love it here, they love the beach, the weather, the not wearing shoes, leaving with nothing but a hat and smear of sunscreen.  They love their friends, the beach, the ability to go outside and play pretty much any time they want to.  Of course they could love England and all she has to offer just as much and only being there will tell us that.  More on that financially crippling idea later.

And since Christmas we're now back at work.  I had a pretty sizeable break in the end and it felt good.  Part of the reason for doing that was because big things are happening here this month... like my first born son starting school next week.  School!  We met his teacher, laundered his uniform (inadvertently turning all the whites blue) and put his name in every new bit of school stuff (really, everything) and in just a handful of sleeps, he'll be that kid with the massive hat and oversized backpack, meeting new little dudes and deciding whether he likes this new experience that will span at least the next 12 years.  And I'll need to write about that some other day, because surely it deserves a post all of its own.

And that's it.  Not quite all of it, but the big stuff, although as I said to Will the other day, it's not the big stuff I want on here, at least not JUST the big stuff.  It's good to have that on here, but the big stuff is the stuff you remember, it's the other stuff.  The stuff that seems little but actually isn't, because it's a feeling or a happening or a sound or a taste... not a big thing, but one of the gazillion things that make up this patchwork of nuttiness.  That's the bit that's gone missing lately.  And so while I don't have any resolutions (except maybe to yell at the kids less (failed already)), I would like to get back into the reflecting business and remembering what we eat business and spending a bit of time choosing photos business.  It's all nice time, sitting here, tapping away, musing over photos with Will and then agonising over which to post.  And I reckon the fact that we are now without a telly should help make it happen more than once every three months.  Here's hoping.


overheard (with extra silliness)


('Dad on his bike at the traffic lights on a sunny day' by Ollie.  It has a Quentin Blake quality that I love.)

Will: (after Lolsie lucked out with a piece of chicken that fell off the lunch table) It's raining chicken! Lola's dream scenario. What would your dream rain be?
Me: (without hesitation) red wine!
Will: gin and tonic!
Ollie: bulldozers!
Max: remote controlled hydraulic excavators!

Max: (when he was sitting with the dogs and didn't know I was listening) Ugh Lola... YOU STINK!

Max:  (looking straight up Ollie's nose with a look of absolute disgust)  I can see BOOGERS!  Crusty boogers!  All up in your nose!

Ollie: oh pleeeaase, can someone make me the foooood?!

Ollie: oh look, hugo's walking like a human!

Ollie: oh look mum, hugo's drinking like a little boy!

Max:  (while I was cooking dinner for me and Will after the boys had gone to bed) Can we have what you're having?
Me:  Sure - tomorrow?
Max: it smells like VOMIT
Me: er
Max:  It will taste nice though.  It just smells like vomit.

Max:  (completely seriously) Mum, do the words 'burp' and 'fart' rhyme?

Me: What's your favourite flavour?  
Ollie:  All of them.  All flavours.  In fact all flavours from all countries... but not Greece... I don't like Greece... (thinks for a moment)... What's Greece?
Ollie:  "At kindy, Harry Legg* showed us this trick where you punch yourself in the penis and then say 'ooh, my nuts'." 
(followed by demonstrations and lots of giggling). 
(*apparently that IS his real name)
Ollie (upon hearing Kylie whilst listening to a compilation of music that included Pavement, Joy Division, The Carpenters, Pixies, Red Hot Chillies and Fire Island Pines):  Oh this is the BEST song for doing Lego to (he then rushed over and starting doing Lego)

Hugo:  Hello!


October 30, 2013

five


Yes, it's been two months since I updated the blog and it'll probably be another two months before the next post.  Just like my attitude to the gym (one visit a week is better than none), I'm not going to give myself a hard time for not writing more often, and I'm not going to apologise for it either (hello, is anyone even listening?) because I'm actually totally fine with how things are going, and the last thing I need is to stress about letting this part of my life go.

But, there are still times when it's important for me to reflect a little and to record an event, a feeling, a ridiculous situation so that we don't forget it in the jumble of life, and now is one of those times.  Because Ollie is FIVE TODAY!  Surely that deserves a post.

Aside from all the wise words I should insert here about five years of parenthood, what a marvellous little man Ollie's becoming, our awe at time passing etc, the main thing I wanted to write about was the celebration, which was a little different.  Each birthday so far, we've had a party, some little, most big, with lists, organising, lists, a bit of stress, a lot of fun, but mainly a lot of work.  So this time, I gave Ollie an option. You can have a party, I said, or how about you invite five families (you are going to be five after all) to join us for dinner at your favourite restaurant, we'll take cake for pudding and have a little play in a park before hand.  He jumped at the idea of the dinner party, which was perfect for me as we've had two pretty significant birthday parties already this year and with Christmas coming, I need to conserve energy.



Long story, but his beloved favourite restaurant closed down within just a couple of weeks of the big day, so we opted instead for lunch at a pizza cafe we know of, a really great place with lots of space and good pizzas and the added bonus of being at the university grounds, where there are jacarandas (still in bloom), trees to climb, and plenty of space to fly a kite, hurl a frisbee and kick a football.

We had a brilliant morning.  The kids loved it and made their own entertainment when we saw turtles, lizards and even eels!  The extent of my involvement was to take some fruit and crackers for morning tea, picnic blankets, football, kite and frisbee, cameras and some activities (consisting of pens/paper/stickers/party hats) for the kids to do while we waited for pizza.  Oh and the cake.  The very specifically requested square vanilla cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles, which went down a treat and was particularly enjoyable later that evening with a glass of rosé (for us, not the kids).



Something cute - when we asked Ollie who he wanted to invite, he gave us four suggestions.  "That's nice dear, but you're going to be five, so you can invite a fifth family."  To which he very calmly replied, "No mum, the fifth family will be MY family.  You're all coming too."  At which point it's worth reminding myself that aside from acting like a goofball most of the time, winding me and his brothers up with his bossiness, his inability to eat breakfast and get dressed in less than an hour, he's a little legend.  Heck even with all those things he's a dude I can't help but love with every ounce of my being.

September 1, 2013

a message from the chop busters

Happy Fathers' Day, Dad.  We like to bust your chops and drive you nuts and fight over who gets to sit next to you at dinner.  Now that's love. xxx

August 31, 2013

approximately 13 months of age


At approximately 13 months of age, Hugo dared to take his first unaided steps.  I missed it.  I was at the shops, but Will and Ollie looked up to see Hugo take ten or so zombie style steps before they cheered, the commotion no doubt causing him to plop down onto his padded bottom.

Three days later, he did it for me, a personal show, his little arms outstretched, knees locked, hips swivelling as he lifted his little feet only a couple of inches to shuffle across the floor.

Then about a week after that, he decided being a baby is so passe.  His brothers can kick and scream like the best of them, so why should he miss out?  Especially when his mum is stopping him from climbing into the oven.  That's the time for a face down, fist pumping, snot streaming tantrum.

Then there's absolute blind faced cheek that comes with meal times. Don't like what you've been given to eat?  Fling it across the room and look out of the corner of your eye at your parents before chuckling to oneself that you've discovered yet another way to amuse your brothers/feed your dogs and incite a reaction from your parents, all at the same time.  Now that's multitasking.

No longer a baby is this kid.  He's the third instalment of the saga that is the made-for-tv movie of our nutcase lives.  This week's cliffhanger:  Will Ollie recover from his mega cold and perforated eardrum in time for the local school fete this weekend?






August 1, 2013

green curry


Here is a green curry of pumpkin, mushrooms, spinach, fresh corn and lentils, inspired by the amazing curries at Brisbane's Kitchen Sanitarium, which has become a regular weekday lunch venue. (Which reminds me, we must go to Taro's again soon.)

Fry a finely chopped onion in a little oil.  Add 1/2 jar of Volcom green curry paste (or a sachet of the Mae Ploy brand) and fry for a minute or two.  Add about 1/4 of a butternut squash, chopped into 1" cubes, plus a few smaller pieces (to melt into the curry sauce).  Add in 500ml of coconut milk (the Ayam brand is best) and about a cup of water or stock.  Simmer until the pumpkin is just about tender, then add a handful of chopped mushrooms, cook for a little longer before adding fresh corn kernels, 400g of cooked lentils (tinned is fine, brown/Puy/black lentils work best) and about 200g spinach (frozen would work fine) and a handful of shredded coconut.  Season with fish sauce and palm sugar to taste (I added 1-2 tablespoons of each), a healthy dose of lime juice (I squeezed the bejesus out of one quite juicy one), chopped coriander and serve with steamed rice, topped with fried shallots, coriander leaves and more shredded coconut.

Eat in big, deep bowls, in front of a tv.  Or your significant other if that floats your boat.

Really, really, really tasty.
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