Monday, December 15, 2008


I can't believe how long it's been since I blogged. Well, actually I can. Sorry about that. We've been busy too - spent a couple of weeks sick (so very very sick, and over school holidays too!), then two weeks in Queensland (pics of that on Facebook if you haven't seen them already), then the quick race towards the end of the school year (and a cold and rainy last day of school, darn that climate change). And now it's summer holidays with Christmas just over a week away.

Hannah had her tonsils out the week we got back from Queensland. She was a trouper about it, this pic shows her about six hours after her surgery. She ate well right from the start. No jelly and icecream these days, toast is the preferred first meal. Fortunately, eating has never been a chore for Hannah so she did quite well. Ryan was disgusted when she didn't go back to school the day she got discharged from the hospital! She was under strict doctor's orders to have at least a week off. Now, about six weeks after the surgery I think she might be close to fully recovered. No more snoring, and generally not as cranky as she was before.

Decorating the tree. Feels like it's been up FOREVER. We put it up the weekend of the pageant which is early November. Hannah is about four days post-op in this pic. The rather strained smile is a relic of trying to keep her mouth closed as much as possible.

Hannah at the end of year concert.

Bethany at the end of year concert.

Hannah and Sophie in a Christmas tableau of their own design.

Bethany is learning to put on her own makeup. Not getting many handy hints from her mum sadly...

Sophie's also putting her own makeup on.

For my cuz - they're waiting for you back in Gawler, girl!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ego Tripping

Yesterday I went out with the big boys, on a BikeSA organised mountain bike ride called the Ego Trip. The ride consisted of a 30km route at Cudlee Creek Conservation Park (where I've been a couple of times before with Amanda (sheep and kangaroos attacked, although I saw nothing more exciting than birds this time)). The pros were going to do three laps, making 90km (for some reason they revised it down from the original 99, which sounds much cooler). I was hoping to make it round for 2 laps, but just getting out and having a ride, discovering some new trails, was the main concern.
The route was insane - it's here. All those zigs and zags on the map are up and down mountains. I just discovered that on the top left of that Bikely map there is a 'show' option and you can have a look at the elevation profile. No wonder I seemed to spend a lot of time walking the bike up really steep hills, or white-knuckling it down really steep ones.
My day started off darkly when as the last thing before heading out the door at 7.30am I grabbed the bike to load onto the racks and noticed the front tire was flat. Hooray. Because my favourite thing to do is fix flats early in the morning. I must have punctured it the day before when I went out for a little warm-up ride. So it was easy to find and repair the puncture and I hoped that boded well for a trouble free rest of the day. I made it to Cudlee Creek without getting lost at all which was kind of exciting and got all sorted out just in time for the pre-ride briefing. I started off well and truly as the last rider - I didn't want to get in anyone's way early on. Another guy and I quickly began competing for who could stay right at the back. His excuse though was a 12 year old bike with no shocks. Mine, well, I didn't really have one. Very early on, my hopes of a smooth ride after the early flat vanished when my chain came off and then I started having problems with gear changes. The other slow guy (we rode and chatted together for a long time but I never asked his name, for shame) was very helpful fiddling with things but we couldn't really get it working right. I quickly worked out that I couldn't use the very biggest or very smallest gears. After the ride, the mechanic confirmed the rear derailleur hanger was bent for some reason and that was causing the problems. Of course that was what I suspected all along... sure.
Anyway, the bike was still plenty rideable although there were a few annoying moments with attempted quick gear changes. And I'm sure if I had that one extra gear it would have made all the difference in having to walk up so many hills.
I had my new bike computer to play with as well, which is so advanced that while it was measuring my speed and heart rate I'm pretty sure it was also calculating the trajectory of the next Mars lander. The kilometres seemed to take a long time to tick over though. After I'd been riding for seemingly hours and hours I was surprised to see it said I'd only done about 15km. At about this time I scored a rear flat. Now rear flats suck a lot more than front flats, because to replace the tube you've got to deal with the chain/gears and brake when getting the tyre on and off. I opted to keep everything on, and just patch the tube. It was pretty easy to find the hole because there was a massive piece of wood sticking into it. I took my time fixing the tyre but didn't see any sign of my friend from earlier who I'd left behind a while ago. I headed on alone but soon realised that the tyre was still deflating. I stopped again and proceeded to pull the whole thing off to replace the tube altogether. About this time, my buddy finally caught up, just in time to help me with the tricky bit (putting the wheel back on). I also checked with him that my speedo was working correctly, and unfortunately it was. We'd only done 16km in well over two hours. I'd been hoping to average 10km/hr, so I could achieve two loops in the approximately six hours I had. But anyway, we pressed on, I soon left him behind again (not that I'm competitive of course). I spent the rest of the ride essentially alone, stopping for a chat with the marshall at the refreshment stop (apple juice and fruit cake - sultanas never looked so good), and otherwise only seeing other riders as I pulled over to let them pass me. The leader passed me only a couple of hours in, so he'd done 45km in the time I'd done 15. Great. He was a machine though, second rider was at least an hour behind that. I was heartened to see some of the pros also have to stop and walk their bikes up some of the hills. One guy even picked up his bike and ran up the hill. What's with THAT?! How is it easier to CARRY a bike up a hill rather than push it? They have wheels for a reason.
The route itself was great, though just to scare me it started off in the really difficult stuff, all dark under the pine trees, windy and steep with lots of exposed roots to add some variation. The park has such a diversity of trails, we also went on some nice wide gentle fire trails, and some big clear up and downs (my favourites - you can see what's coming up and so can go REALLY fast down the hills, and get enough momentum to make it almost to the top of the next hill). There was also one incredibly awesome scary downhill that went down for a VERY long time, but not just down straight, there were jumps and bends and little bridges that had been built into the trail just to keep it interesting. I just about strained my braking muscles on that bit, which seemed to go forever (although not quite as long as the incredibly steep uphill that preceded it).
In the park there are lots of downhill trails like that, rather than the cross-country ones we were mostly on, occasionally you'd hear a rustle in the bushes and a downhill rider would silently zoom across the trail at great speed straight down the hill. Those guys have it good, they have a driver at the bottom who loads their bikes back on and takes them back to the top to hoon down again.
It was really nice basically riding alone in the bush, but not having to worry about finding my way as it was very well sign-posted, and with riders passing me at fairly regular intervals so I didn't feel too alone. I had lots of time for contemplation as well as enjoying the scenery, which is spectacular up there. I didn't really come close to falling off that often, but I did come to a deep philosophical realisation about the nature of control... The times I was closest to losing it all together were on the downhills. I'd get up a bit of speed and instead of just enjoying it, maintaining the barest of control, looking out for obstacles and planning my path, I'd try to slow down and regain total control. That's when I'd start to slide... A very similar thing happened while I was skiing. It was the slowing down and trying to regain control that led to disaster. So my lesson? Relax. Go with the flow. I don't have to be in control ALL the time as long as I can see the other end.
Although I can't POSSIBLY see how that could relate to anything in my life other than the bike or skis...
By the time I'd made it around the route once (so 30km) it was getting late-ish (they'd said no new starts after 2pm and it was about 1.30). As I was nearing the end-point I'd intended to stop for something to eat and then head off again, not to do the whole thing over, but just ride for another hour or so, but first I got the mechanic to look at my bike which took a while, and by then I was just ready to get the kids, head home and shower. So I did 30km (or technically 29.8km). This is at least double what I've ever done off-road before. My exciting new (secondhand of course) computer tells me I averaged 7.9km/hr, with a max speed of 42km/hr. I was on the bike for 5hrs exactly with 3hr43 actual ride time. And because it's so technically advanced I know I averaged a heart rate of 144bpm with a max of 175, and also that I burned 2039kcal. Annoyingly, I can't get it to tell me energy used in kJ although everything else will switch metric-imperial. I even uploaded all this data to the internet, where I promptly ignored it.
Hooray for mountains and pushing comfort zones. When's the next ride?

Monday, September 15, 2008

Out riding again

Yesterday we went on the inaugural Gawler Bicycle User Group (GBUG) social ride. The GBUG was founded a few months ago by the energetic Sophia who is keen to encourage cycling as a method of transportation within Gawler as well as liaise with the local council regarding the newly released Cycling and Walking plan (which I was on the reference group for).
The first ride was planned a couple of months ago but the weather was awful so it was put off until this weekend, with the plan being that there will be a meeting every other month and a ride the other month. The weather was a bit touch-and-go for this weekend as well, after a lovely week there was some rain about in the morning and plenty of wind, but it fined up somewhat in the afternoon. There was a decent turnout of people too, some familiar faces (it is Gawler after all) and other people I hadn’t met before. We had a good assortment of bikes there – I didn’t think to bring my camera but someone else did so I might get some photos one day. Not only were there a bunch of kids (including someone from Bethany’s class), and me with the child seat on the back of my bike, but Sophie had her bike with child seat (and much feared son Derek, who Sophie is terrified of at childcare) plus cargo racks adding about an extra metre to the back of her bike, someone had a bike with two children in a trailer, someone else had a bike with tag-a-long child’s bike joined to the back, and there was also a tandem bike. An interesting and very visible group of riders we were! (which is the point, of course). We did a long ride although I’m not sure how long exactly, we covered all of Gawler from Willaston down to Evanston and back again. Sophia said it was going to take about an hour, but it took us two hours, with Hannah being the limiting factor. She was the youngest solo cyclist and did a great job. She persisted and worked hard the whole way around, never coming close to giving up (or falling off!) even though she had to hop off her bike to walk up hills a few times. Everyone was very impressed with her efforts. I could not believe how hard she worked for such a long time. It was nice travelling in a group, as I could hang back with Hannah while the other kids were being watched out for by other adults. Everyone was extremely nice and it will be nice to have it as a regular event. The kids all enjoyed themselves and said they would love to do it again.
Sophie made some new friends, Max and Eliza, who she was scared of first, I think worrying they were like Derek, but then they became her best ever friends. They were being towed in the trailer by their dad and she was forever nagging me to ride next to her new friends. Hopefully seeing Derek outside of the childcare situation was helpful for her as well, although I suspect he’s not actually that much of a problem, he seems very much self-involved and probably doesn’t even pay attention to her at childcare, other than that one fateful time he ‘roared’ at her when face-painted as a tiger. She has a loooong memory for such things.

After an incident free long ride, we stopped at the BMX track on the way home which is right next to the park where we started. Hannah was upset she couldn’t make up any of the hills at the track and in fact had a bad stack, she didn’t quite understand the concept that her legs were exhausted after such a long ride plus we had also gone out the day before for a practice ride, since I hadn’t ridden much with Sophie in the child seat, and wasn’t sure how it would work looking after Hannah and having Sophie, so we’d had a very energetic weekend. Ryan also took a big fall at the BMX track. I just couldn’t believe they were all game to give it a go after already riding so long! After that last burst of energy though, Hannah could not face the 500m ride from the BMX track to the car, so we ended up leaving the bikes (and the two oldest kids still riding) at the track and walked over to get the car. Funny how the last bit of effort is just tooo much.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Two thumbs up!!

I got home today from my trip to Melbourne. Nine days, no kids, Melbourne, Michael, Steve. A lot of fun.
So much happened during the week. First the credits: thanks to mum and dad for having the kids for me and buying my airline tickets, and thanks to great friends Michael and Steve for their generosity, sharing their time, houses and money with me. :)

The trip was every bit as awesome and fun as I anticipated it to be, in fact exceeding my expectations, which is always a good thing. Melbourne turned on the weather for me, certainly in the second half of the week. I always said loving the environment is a good thing, because it loves me back.
My holiday was really two mini-holidays, as I stayed first with Michael and then with Steve. Made the trip seem twice as long (which is a good thing!).

Michael lives out of the city in sunny Ringwood (or as he calls it 'Melbourne's Munno Para'). He had time off while I was there which was really nice, just to hang out for a bunch of time without a lot of plans. We got to visit not one but TWO giant monuments to surburban consumption in mega-shopping centres Knox City and Eastlands - totally appealing to Ms Anti-consumption here, as you can imagine. Michael coaches a kids basketball team so we went to their game and to training (they will be playing in the grand final this weekend - GO BULLS!). We hung out at home a lot, lounging around (and I mean REAL lounging, laying on world's largest lounge chair in the lounge room and listening to lounge music). I caught up on some popular culture I missed out on (how could I survive this long without having seen Zoolander or 40 Year Old Virgin??), and discovered the world of lounge music gone wrong with Richard Cheese.

Photo: this car was just darn sexy I had to take a photo of it

We went up to Mt Dandenong and watched a storm move in across Melbourne towards us. The view from Mt Dandenong was quite spectacular, even with all the clouds. In the photo you can see the rain storm just to right of centre.

Photo: Michael pondering the wishing tree at Mt Dandenong

We stopped for pancakes in world's steepest carpark where Michael achieved world's crookedest carparking.

The pancake place sold pancakes topped with curry and rice! We didn't try those although we did make the foolish mistake of going for savoury pancakes, leaving no room for the delicious sounding sweet ones, darn it.

Photo: So cosmopolitan. Sippin' chai lattes, walking on bridges, overlooking Wallaby Ave. We had it going on.

Michael took me to all his favourite food places, including world's best garlic naan (and pretty darn good butter chicken), and even cooked dinner for me (pics of that are on his Facebook page).

The first half of my holiday ended too quickly and Michael took me into the city on Wednesday where I called into work to undertake some delicate negotiations with my Victorian counterpart (I failed in my mission sadly, he refused to share some extremely valuable information, but it was a useful visit anyway). But before I went there, we went to Southbank and Greco, home of world's best cake fridge (can you tell yet that Michael is fond of superlatives??). As per usual I scoffed at his declarations of awesomeness, but this place exceeded his promises. There were so many great looking choices that, as promised, I found it extremely difficult to decide on just one cake. Finally I chose the honeycomb cheesecake and was not disappointed. Their 'real' food looked pretty good too, but we didn't actually eat any, concentrating instead on the sugar and fat laden goodies.

Photo: These two windows are only half of the cake fridge at Greco.

So on Wednesday, after I was done at work, I headed into the city and met Steve who gave me his house key and pointed me in the direction of the tram to his house. He lives in Carlton which is very close to the city, so it's only about 10 minutes on the tram. On account of having only just started a new job, Steve didn't have any days off while I was there (has he never heard of the aussie tradition of faking illness?!), so I spent a couple of extremely enjoyable days tootling around by myself. I went to St Kilda one day, chatted to the fishermen, saw a penguin swimming in the water, found some starfish, bought a genuine vintage top, and ate lunch at Lentil As Anything, a restaurant which only asks that you pay what you feel the meal is worth. Neat concept and great food. Nice to see that it is doing well.
I soaked up a bunch of culture too, so much so that everything was referred to generically as a POC or place of culture, as I had difficulty remembering exactly where I saw each cool thing. I went to both sites of the National Gallery of Victoria (what's with a state art gallery closing one day a week?), Melbourne Museum (and what's with a state museum charging an entry fee?), the Centre for the Moving Image, and somewhere else I'm not remembering right now. I also walked the streets of Melbourne, discovering chai latte flavoured icecream (yes, as good as it sounds) and Puffy Cookies (deep fried cookie/eclair type things filled with custard, yes also as good as they sound).

Photo: Royal Exhibition Hall, or more particularly, some cool clouds as the sun set

All these things were so cool, I started formulating next year's family holiday, which involves driving over to Melbourne, imposing on friends generosity for free accommodation and showing the kids all this cool stuff. Melbourne is such a great town to visit and I suspect it would be very liveable too. I know there are those who dislike it (hmm, Michael?) but there are also those who absolutely love it (right Steve?). I was so impressed with the public transport (every time and place we needed a train or a tram, it was there) and the amount of bikes and cycling infrastructure.
Steve lives right between Brunswick and Lygon Streets so there was no shortage of interesting shops to look in and great places to eat. There are also extremely high-rise old housing commission flats mixed in with the trendy renovated little terraces so there are an interesting mix of people.

Photo: Me trying to be arty at one of the commission flats

My week quickly came to an end, with Saturday my last full day in Melbourne and the only full day I had with Steve. After finally getting his car working again, (he joined the RACV on Monday specifically because his car hadn't worked for a couple of weeks and he knew he needed to take me to the airport on Sunday), the ideas man came up with an awesome plan for Saturday - SKIING! Lake Mountain is about two hours from Melbourne, and is apparently Victoria's premier Nordic resort, although we didn't actually see any Nords. Steve can ski very well having lived and worked in Canadian ski resorts, and I, well, I've skied for a total of two whole days. Sounds like fun, right? I soon learned that we hadn't actually gone up the mountain to ski together, but just so Steve could laugh at me while I tried to ski. At this place they have cross country skiing, rather than downhill, so there are no lifts, and plenty of hills you are supposed to ski UP. Ha ha. Still, I like to think I did quite well, I probably only fell over twenty times, and only five or six of those times actually hurt, with only one involving a face-plant. It was actually incredibly good fun and hard work (today I am yet to find a single muscle in my body that does not ache). We estimated we did about 25km including some black trails (the most challenging). I even got a bit of technique happening towards the end, rather than just aimless flailing. On this day I refined next year's family holiday plans to include a couple of days in the snow. Which suddenly moves it from budget holiday up into more expensive realms. But, hey, it's SNOW!

Photo: Sunrise through the mist as we drove to the snow at some incredibly early hour

Photo: Steve coming down the black trail. You will notice I am already at the bottom waiting to take the photo. Meaning I finished first. Not that it was a competition or anything. (actually I took a shortcut)

Photo: Snow bunny. The scary thing is these blingful sunnies belong to Steve. He actually BOUGHT them. To wear himself. Although he did confess he wouldn't really mind if I lost them or broke them when I fell over.

Photo: This possum stalked us the whole way around the trails. Apparently.

Photo: The Panorama Lookout. The sign writer was a bit ambitious about what exactly you could see (might need to click to enlarge).

Photo: Note to self - keep sleeves down even if you get hot, especially if you are prone to falling over. Snow isn't all soft and fluffy like it looks.

After we made it back from the mountain, tired and sore and a little sunburned, we headed out to a Japanese bath-house tucked away in the side streets of Collingwood which was very pleasant and a different experience. Nothing quite as satisfying as getting naked in a public place and then getting into a incredibly warm deep bath. And of course after that, what else for dinner but Japanese? Food, not people.
Sunday my flight was relatively early in the morning (11am) but we managed to fit in breakfast at the awesome Sugardough on Lygon Street, before heading to the airport for final farewells.

My flight out was on Qantas, so there was even some free food and drink served on board, oh the novelty. When I got back to Adelaide I was surprised to see mum and dad waiting for me. I'd intended on catching the bus out to Paul's where my car was, but my great parents just dropped by on their 'way' (yeah right) to grandpas for father's day.
Up to Paul's and many hugs and cuddle for the kids, who by all accounts were wonderfully behaved for mum and dad during the week.
Tonight we went out for dinner for mum's birthday and father's day (sadly both bad daughters neglected to organise cake, although I think I at least have a reasonable excuse, since I was in a different city that morning). Fortunately tomorrow there is no school (since I'm stupidly still up writing this at midnight!), so I get to just hang with the kids and unpack, taking it easy.
Thanks again everyone, I had such a great holiday!!

And greenie addendum: I bought some new stuff while I was away - some gloves, which I really needed for the snow (I lost one of my other ones in Adelaide, and these ones will also be great for on the bike) and some gifts for the children.
I made vegetarian choices for a lot of my meals (cake counts as vegetarian, right?) and also did my best to choose food that was not excessively packaged. I worked on brainwashing ahem educating my friends where necessary too.

And late edit: Why am I still writing this at 1am?! My body clock is totally screwed from too many late nights and sleep-ins this past week. Kiddie alarm-clock in the morning though unfortunately...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A new park in the city - it's all giant garden things made of concrete. Here children are balancing on the hose (on the right you can see the nozzle with blue water spilling out, and some giant blades of grass).

In the second photo, the girls are on a giant thong. Of the footwear type.

Sophie and Charlotte with cauliflowers from our garden. Charlotte is holding the one we let grow too long - it kind of started to set seed. But you can see from the one Sophie is holding, that they must be mini-caulis. I kept waiting for the first one to get bigger!

Ryan and Bethany went to the zoo for a Zoo Snooze sleepover which sounded like lots of fun. They got to go into the orangutan's cage at night and hide treats for them to find the next day, plus go on a nocturnal walk and a bunch of other fun stuff. I told them to take plenty of photos, but they are all of animals! I wanted some of the kids too.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Water water everywhere

As I've alluded to in other posts, I had a bit of a plumbing disaster a while ago - over a month, I'd say. We came home one night to the water meter ticking furiously but no gushing taps. I got Tim the friendly neighbourhood plumber to come over and have a look for me (at 6pm on a Sunday night - I'm sure I'm now his favourite neighbour!). He found the leak for me - a huge chunk had blown out of the pipe around the side of the house. The next day he put a temporary fix on it for me but strongly suggested I dig out the pipes so he could replace the old rusty ones with brand new plastic. So I spent a few happy days trench-digging. The kids helped too, for a while... I dug out about 12 m but then sprang another leak through incautious use of the shovel. So Tim decided he would just lay the polypipe over the top of the soil and I could dig the rest of the trench when I had time. From the meter to the house is probably about 30m, the way the pipe runs (and under the concrete path too). But when he went to lay the polypipe, he found that the pipes were already mostly plastic, and it was only the last, oh, 12 metres that were iron. If I'd dug about another 30cm more, I would have found the plastic myself. How cool was that?!
But not so cool was the fact that once he'd replaced the pipes, every tap in the house kept dripping furiously. I finally got another plumber in (one that I could actually PAY, since Tim accepted only some lasagne I cooked for them but no money) after my wimpy girl-arms failed the tap test, much to my disgust. Anyway, the new plumber kindly loosened all the taps for me and started to replace the washers. Only to find lots of little pebbles in the pipes. When the pipe burst and we turned off the mains a whole bunch of gravel and dirt had fallen into the pipes, and now were spread all through the house at each tap. Yay. Oh, and that kitchen spout that's also dripping from the base? Since the screw has seized up, there's no way to change that washer except to hacksaw off the spout and buy a whole new one. Now this story could get really long and colourful from here, or I could keep it short and say that after changing most of the washers myself and cursing at various other things that didn't work properly and spending many weeks living with buckets under every tap, over the weekend Dad and Roman who was visiting from Melbourne came and helped fix it all! Well, except the bathroom taps and shower still drip a little, and the laundry one leaks as much as before, but I'm keeping quiet about that. Actually the extra bonus frustrating thing about it is that when you change the washers and things, more grit and pebbles seem to flow up the pipes and damage the new washers too. Hooray. So we probably need to actually flush the pipes a bit, which could be a very wet experience. One day...

Here is the trench after I started to fill it in. It still looks exactly like this though! It's a tomorrow job...

A bit hard to see, but this is the section of pipe with the hole in it. The hole is pretty much the same size as my thumb.

Also continuing the water theme is that Sophie has started swimming lessons. I took her to the pool before her lessons started as she is pretty timid and I thought she might be scared of the water. She loved it but hates putting her face under the water. Today though (week 4) she actually willingly put her whole face under the water! I bought new goggles too for her, which should help with her confidence. I think I have probably purchased around two dozen pairs of goggles so far. I only have four children! How does that happen? There must be a goggle party happening somewhere where all the goggles laze around the pool getting a suntan and laughing at the foolish humans they have escaped from.

Sophie about to get in the pool for her first ever swimming lesson.

She actually got in the pool! I did have some doubts...

And totally unrelated to water but I had to share this quote which came up for me today in a widget thing:

Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first woman she meets and then teams up with three complete strangers to kill again.
Rick Polito
That was a strange enough quote to make me go look it up. It's a tv listing for "The Wizard of Oz".

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Birthday hijinks

So last week I turned 34. Already! Aren't I only about 24 or so? It was a lovely birthday week - I feel so privileged to have such lovely family, wonderful kids and such nice friends. No surprise party this year, but plenty of other good stuff, mostly just people making me feel all special :)
My actual birthday was on Friday, which was a nice day, Karena stayed over and we spent a fun morning taking photos of me for her to draw or paint (so artistic!) then lunch out as well. Dinner was... Indian of course. What else would I choose? The usual fun and chaos of dinner with all of us out. I had an awesome cake (subtly requested by me to the children many times as we looked through the cake book), an echidna, made of choc chip icecream with choc biscuit fingers stuck in all over it to be the spikes. Yum!
On the Saturday morning, I had heard a whisper that the kids were organising something, which I figured to be breakfast in bed. I was looking forward to the usual soggy cereal and cold toast. My favourite. But it took the kids way longer than usual to make me breakfast. I'd say they started at about 6.45 and it wasn't until 8.30 that breakfast came in. And it was PANCAKES! An amazing stack of 15 fat pancakes, layered with bananas and strawberries and topped with maple syrup and icecream, as well as a banana and strawberry smoothie. Do my kids know me well or what? I was so excited and delighted. They (especially Ryan, whose idea it all was) had worked so hard together. Ryan had organised my mum to buy shaker pancake mix (which he had wisely decided was much easier than to make from scratch as we usually do it), bananas and maple syrup. They had got the electric frypan set up, and Ryan had cooked all these pancakes. He burned his fingers a bit in a few spots, but nothing major. We sat in the bedroom and ate these tasty pancakes, the kids always double-checking and saying thank you every time I offered them a bite. After we finished the pancakes, we went out and faced the kitchen, which wasn't actually too bad. Ryan cooked the rest of the pancake mix (the 15 pancake stack was meant to be all for me, they'd saved some mix to make their own later) and we cleaned up together. It really topped off a lovely few days.
Oh wait, another birthday related thing after that - amongst other things, Paul and the kids bought me a fondue set. So on Saturday after dinner we had caramel toffee fondue, with marshmallows and fruit. YUM! But I forgot to take photos of that. Too busy stuffing my face.
The presents I got were all winners, as usual. I didn't want anything much because I'm in such a non-consumerist mindset at the moment, but the things I got were all welcome. Especially the flights to Melbourne complete with childminding arrangements. Yay! Thank you so much to mum and dad and Nicole and Raff who will take the hard grind of four extra kids while I'm off playing irresponsible single mother in Melbourne. Like I said, I'm privileged to have such fantastic family.

Yay for echidna icecream cake.

Children happily eating curry.

Everyone's favourite nana.

Sibling rivalry is never pretty.

The fabulous pile of pancakes topped with icecream, with the smoothie in its elegant serving jug in the background.

Me eating pancakes. Yes, I am wearing a jumper in bed. It's cold!

The cooks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

More adventures in mountain biking

Amanda and I went out to Cudlee Creek again on the weekend for an eventful ride. It started off well when we only made one or two little side-detours on the way there, cutting our travel time in half compared to last time. Next time I'm sure we'll make it all the way there without one wrong turn! Continuous improvement is the name of the game.
There was no-one in the park again, which I couldn't understand. The sky was clear blue (except for the looming rain clouds), the sun was shining, and it must have been at least, oh, 8 degrees in the sun. We quickly got on the bikes and started moving. Amanda has been in training, after my old legs exposed her lack of fitness last time. She has been making an effort to get out on the bike and actually up some bigger hills, and you could notice the difference. I didn't have to stop and wait quite so often. :P
After hooning around a little bit on a purpose-built downhill (lots of downhill and corners for very little uphill, very good value), we made it to the top of this very high hill and then I started the descent. It was a narrow track, steep and slippery. My back wheel slid out from me a couple of times but I got it under control and made it down. I stopped to watch Amanda, who'd wised up after watching me slide around and rode down in the grass on the side of the track, very clever. When she was nearly down the bottom, I headed off on another downhill, around a corner and out of sight. In the first wildlife sighting of the day, a massive SHEEP bounced across my path. When I made it to the bottom of this downhill, I saw another half a dozen sheep looking down from the top (probably wondering where the other one had disappeared to) and about the same number of kangaroos hopped past. I took a photo of the sheep while I waited for Amanda. And waited. Waiting for too long is not a good sign. Finally I headed back up the downhill, to discover her at the top. She'd stacked it about two seconds after I started off again, going straight over her handlebars and landing on her head and shoulder. Took a large chunk out of her helmet, and hurt her head and her shoulder, as well as somehow ending up with a massive bump on her ankle. She was recovering by the time I made it back and decided to press on. So we headed off the same downhill I'd already been down. Only this time, instead of making it over a fairly large log in the track, my wheel slid along the log, meaning the bike and I went sideways and slid down the hill. Fortunately it was a grassy trail and my backside is reasonably well padded, so it wasn't all that painful, but I collected a LOT of dirt and weeds in many bits of the bike, and my hip is letting me know about it today too.
Later we came to an incredibly steep uphill that there was no way we were going to ride up (or down, for that matter, waaaay too scary), even walking up it was difficult. Note to self: get cycling shoes with some grip. Amanda managed to slip over and land the bike on top of her. I was already at the top and went down to bring her bike the rest of the way up for her. And this time she actually drew blood! On her knee. She bravely cycled on (we passed more sheep or perhaps it was the same gang following us). There were no more adventures, and it didn't even rain on us.
The park is beautiful, lots of panoramic views without very many people at all. Considering both the Mawson and Heysen trails criss-cross the park, that's surprising. We came across one group of about eight walkers, and there were some lads with bikes in the carpark as we were packing up, but that was it. We are starting to get a feel for our location in the park, as it's not really that big. Although there's one whole section to the west that we haven't even ventured in yet... next time perhaps...

Photo: Just to prove it really happened - the blobs near the top of the hill are sheep.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

School holidays

Tonight all the children were asleep by 630pm. It's been a big two weeks! Last night all children were involved in sleepovers, with school friends or cousins, so there were a few late nights. Ryan deserves special mention, for apparently waking up at 1230 and playing Wii with his friend until 530, when I woke up and told them it was too early to get up and to go back to bed. They did go back to bed fortunately but were totally wiped by tonight. He also managed to lose his loose tooth tonight - it's only been loose for a couple of days but he worried at it so much that it's already out, most of the root intact. So different to Bethany, who will just ignore the loose tooth for weeks until it falls out of its own accord.
We did lots of stuff these holidays. Celebrated Ella's birthday, including a visit to a new playhouse cafe in Salisbury which everyone enjoyed.

Photo: Lucy having a ball. Geddit? I'm so funny.

Photo: Hard to see, but at the front table, no 29, Ryan, Nicole and Hannah are reading. It's a play cafe guys! You're supposed to PLAY not read!

Photo: Just Bethany doing her thing.

We had Michael visit from Melbourne again which is always a lot of fun. He even cooked dinner (those photos will be appearing on Facebook).

Photo: Sophie and Michael in funny-face mode post dinner cooking

We went rollerskating, cleverly planning for mum and Michael to come with us, so they could help the kids and Nicole and I could just skate like we were cool again.

Photo: Bethany rollerskating

We met my friend Karena in Adelaide for great Greek lunch and saw a Japanese anime which was very good. There was only one slight problem when we sat down to watch and the movie started. In Japanese. Subtitled fortunately but still made it rather boring for poor Hannah and Sophie. I didn't get to see all the movie but I now am quite familiar with the toilets and corridor of the Palace Cinema.
The kids had a cooking class at Regency TAFE. Nicole and I stayed and helped with the younger ones, but Ryan and Bethany were in a longer class with no parents. They really really enjoyed it - they felt so grown up that they got to fry chicken and various other things to do with high temperatures. And the food they made was yummy.
Ryan attended a cartooning workshop at the library, while the girls and I hung out and read books for an hour and a half (a real chore, that).
We went swimming too, at Starplex, where the pool is heated to about 60 degrees (or at least it feels like that!). Just the thing for a freezing cold day. It was good prep for Sophie too, who starts swimming lessons this term. She is sometimes unexpectedly timid, so I'm not sure whether she'll be too scared to get much out of her lessons. But she got very comfortable in the water, even putting her head under a few times.
So it seems like we had busy holidays, but we did have down time too. We managed to fit in much playing of Sims 2 and the Wii, including the newest game, Rayman Raving Rabbits (thanks Mikey, best houseguest ever!), plenty of jumping on the trampoline, and various other fun things. Oh, and also digging a trench, so the pipe that sprung a huge hole could get dug out and replaced. Hooray for friendly plumber neighbours.

I love school holidays. Tomorrow, it's up early, making lunches, getting everyone organised, rushing to school, every day, for another ten weeks... sigh

Monday, July 07, 2008

Wrong numbers

The last two nights I have been dragged out of bed in the middle of the night by the phone for wrong numbers. On Saturday night, I was all warm (finally!), but fortunately not asleep, after getting home late from the movies (Get Smart rocked, even if dinner didn't). I didn't appreciate racing out of bed for the mobile and a 'private number' that hung up when I answered. Thanks for that. And last night, in bed and warm but also not asleep after staying up way too late discussing the foibles of German women, the home phone rang. FIVE times over the course of half an hour from 1130pm, some woman tried to speak to someone who clearly wasn’t me. In the end I was just answering with 'It's still the wrong person' and she finally gave it up. How rude! Because of course when the phone rings the first time you panic - why on earth is someone ringing in the middle of the night? And then to keep ringing in the hopes I have moved out and the correct person is now going to answer is just totally uncalled for. Fortunately this woman's number came up on the Caller ID. I plan to call her tonight at midnight to see how she likes it (well, perhaps not, but I entertained thoughts of calling her at 530am when I got woken up - I bet SHE was sound asleep then!).

Sunday, July 06, 2008

They grow up WAY too fast

Tonight I had 'the talk' with Ryan. I thought it was about time as I'd read somewhere that puberty starts at around age 10 for boys. I was surprised how little he already knew (nothing, actually) about puberty and sex. He said no-one at school talks about it. I guess his friends are all around his age or younger, so perhaps it's just not something that interests them yet. I think I did okay. He listened with interest, with just a little chuckle when I explained the actual mechanics of how a baby is made (and I agree, it's a pretty funny concept!). I also had a book for him called Puberty Boy (which I bought NEW for the daylight robbery price of $29.95) which looks pretty comprehensive. I told him he might find it interesting now, or it might be something he doesn't want to read or think about for a while yet. He was kind of interested but mostly non-committal. That's okay, I've done my motherly duty now. :)
And as we lay in his bed, me watching him absorb the new and interesting information I'd just given him, I cried. My baby is nearly 10. That little boy who would bravely fight sleep at all cost, loved his Cookie Monster toy, wanted to be a paleontologist at age 3, and is still full of the innocence and joy of childhood, is heading always closer to becoming a man. It's cliched and we say it all the time, but where oh where have those TEN years gone?!

I also see the passing of time in Bethany. As well as 'seven being the hardest age' as I've been told, she is having friendship issues at school. It's very hard to see your sweet innocent little girl having to make choices and begin to understand some of the less pleasant aspects of human nature at seven. She has one friend, who some of her other friends are fond of calling 'fatty pants' and teasing in other ways, and she really doesn't know how to handle it. She doesn't want to speak up against her 'cool friends' but she also likes the 'daggy friend'. She is a great pacifier, one who likes to keep the waters smooth and have everyone like her. She doesn't understand why the others would want to be mean, but is really worried if she says something they will be mean to her as well. On a slightly different level, her two closest friends also take turns being friends with her or being mean to her (although to be fair, I suspect she participates in this as well). There's also another girl who is particularly disruptive to the friendship groups, largely due to jealousy I suspect - but how do you explain these concepts to someone who is seven?

And the thing to look forward to? TWO MORE girls who will have to deal with these problems in the years to come. Anyone want to borrow them for about the next 10 or 12 years?

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Counting the carbons

Kyle over at Green with a Gun has created a spreadsheet to measure consumption, using a unit of measure he calls the carbon.
His post on it contains all the details, but basically he's averaged out what each person in the world should be consuming (in terms of carbons) and then also crunched a bunch of numbers to work out what all sorts of things are worth in carbons.
It's then relatively straightforward, you put in your numbers for the month and it tells you how you compare to the the rest of the world and also to the ultimate goal, which is carbon-neutral.
I had a look at it tonight and put in some guesstimates for July and we come out at -75 carbons per person for the month. The aim is of course to be at 0 or in the black. Average Western consumption is -1000 carbons, average world wide is -312. So we are not doing too badly at all. But mine are very rubbery estimates, particularly on things like food consumption - I bet that ends up way more than I guessed, when I actually measure it. It will be interesting to see how we track.
Of course, keeping my children malnourished and hypothermic sure helps to keep that carbon expenditure down - I knew there was a reason for it!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lucy's birthday

Lucy's birthday and party were today. Everything as expected. Lots of excited children, happy adults, yummy food, a very cute birthday cake and a gorgeous birthday girl.

All the cousins.

And earlier in the day, I sent my kids to play outside. This is what I found them doing. Which is hilarious if you are aware what I spend much of MY free time doing!

Last week I put all the kids hair in little tiny buns to try and make it curly. Even Ryan wanted in on the action. As you can see, it worked! For a while anyway, until it reverted to its normal dead straight.