Thursday, June 30, 2011

School Clean Up Day

Every now and again our school has a "Clean Up Day" where families are invited to spend a few hours mucking in with wheelbarrows and general gardening skills to blitz the school grounds. This is usually in advance of a school event. This month our school was having an official ceremony to mark the opening of the new school hall and so we went along last weekend to join in the spring clean. The younger kids normally just run around under everyone's feet and try to avoid any manual labour. This clean up was no exception!

Recently the school used some fundraising money to install a fabulous new adventure playground. The kids love it but it is strictly controlled and only accessed on a roster under teachers supervision during the school day. I asked the principal if I could let the kids burn off a bit of steam on it if I watched over them. He agreed and so we ran through the bush behind the school to where the playground has been installed. It was such a novelty for me to see it in use and for the kids to use it in a less crowded environment. Normally there would be a whole class queuing for a turn but today they just scrambled all over with lots of space to do whatever they liked!

As for the other grown ups. They did a great job wheel-barrowing a mountain of mulch and tearing out and replacing retaining walls while the kids went mad climbing and sliding and generally having fun and I took photos.

It was a hard job but someone had to do it....!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eco Living.

Rhiannon has been learning all about the environment in school this term. As the last week of this school term draws to a close they were asked to design and make an Eco House. They were to incorporate as many Eco friendly concepts as they could.

Rhiannon proudly brought me into her class this morning just before school began. She showed me her creation. It came with rain water tank, compost bin, worm farm, chickens, solar panels, veggie garden and an incredibly realistic looking hairy caterpillar... That moved as I watched it!

Well done Rhiannon. You did such a good job the wildlife is moving in!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Sleeping like a baby...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Monkey nuts!

We had fun last weekend having a meal out at a Texan themed restaurant. We were celebrating the good results that Sian has got in her recent school exams. In one exam she got 74/75 which is pretty much 99% and the top mark in the year! We all know which side of the family her brains came from.... Yeah, Uncle Joe and Auntie Carrie I know it's not me! 

We were the only people there and so we were able to have fun. They gave us a flower pot of monkey nuts that had been oven roasted.Something we figured out as we waited ages for the food to arrive was 

A: That's why they give complimentary un-shelled peanuts, so you won't notice the slow service.

B: Eating out absolutely guarantees you quality family talking time.

As we waited for the food the kids were a captive audience. We realised that at home they sit at the table as I am yelling "Dinner's reaaaaaaady...." and are gone as soon as their plates are empty. While we waited we had some great chatting and it was really nice.

Now all I need to do is win the lotto so we can eat out every night of the week!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

15 years and counting...

17 years ago I went on a girly holiday to Greece. I wasn't looking for romance and was fed up by drunk male holiday-goers trying all sorts of cheesy chat up lines. When I was approached in a nightclub in the early hours of the morning and offered a drink I turned it down flat. Then feeling cheeky I turned back to the man offering and said yes, I was thirsty and would like a bottle of water. I watched him queue at the busy bar and when he returned I drank it down in one, said thanks and walked away. Little did I know that I would meet the same guy the following night in a restaurant and find him quite charming. And that on introducing myself he would look me square in the eye and say he knew who I was, he had bought me the water the night before...

8 months later, living in two different countries and having met only 6 times he proposed. I accepted before he could finish asking me. I was 21 and many people had opinions on how young I was, how little I knew this man. Luckily my parents and close friends thought he was wonderful and told me to ignore the doubters and follow my heart. Following my heart led me down the aisle a year later. The following day I packed everything I owned into the boot of his car. We left my parents home with family and friends crying and waving as we drove away to catch the ferry to the UK. A new beginning in a country where I knew no-one but Byron. It was a leap of faith that I jumped into feet first and eyes tight shut.

The last 15 years have been a whirlwind of adventure. Could I have imagined that we would wake on this Wedding Anniversary on the other side of the world? That three kids would pile into our bed to eat croissants and strawberries with us as we opened cards? That we would drop our 2 youngest kids to their school in the gum trees and then drop a teenager to a big High School nearby? That we would spend the day together, drinking coffee, walking through Newcastle, watching the waves crash to the shore while we toasted each other and the next 15 years!

The last 15 years have brought so much to our lives, wonderful celebrations and heartache too but through it all we have shared those times together, side by side.

I'd like to think that we have honoured our wedding vows and had lots of fun too and that we will continue to do so for many, many years to come.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pure Awesomness!

What do you get when you mix a chalk pen, an 11yr old girl and a big dash of confidence...?

If we could only live our adult lives with the confidence of our youth.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happiness is...

...a hot chocolate on a cold day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A good night was had by all...!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

State of Origin

There is a fierce rivalry between the different states in Australia when it comes to sport. Tonight is the second of three Rugby matches between New South Wales (where we live) and Queensland. I'll be honest with you, I'm not that big on sport on tv. It doesn't really get me excited. I know Byron loves it though so I try to make it look like I'm semi interested but usually end up asleep in the second half.

I was delighted when Byron told me that a couple of his friends had suggested getting together to watch tonight's match. Our house became the venue and in a fit of gratitude that I wouldn't need to watch the match I offered to be the taxi home so that both the friends could relax with a couple of beers. A trip up and down the snack aisle of the local supermarket, a quick surface clean of the downstairs of the house (I stuffed all the laundry behind closed doors and turned lights down and lit candles to hide a multitude!) and Bobs your uncle!
I'm now happily and guilt free writing blogs, updating Facebook and listening to the muffled cheers and roars of advice at the referee from the safety of the another room. 

A perfect result all round!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Band Concert.

Rhiannon came home from school a few weeks ago with news of an exciting band excursion. They were looking for parents to volunteer to drive the kids to it. I used to work every Wednesday and was never available to help with band but now my work days are different and so Rhiannon volunteered me to be a driver. 

When I asked her where I was going to be transporting kids and instruments to she told me "Dubbo" 

Now I am not overly knowledgeable about my Australian geography but I have heard of Dubbo. All 6 hours drive away! So there I am thinking that I might be driving 4 kids and an assortment of instruments 6 hours there and 6 hours back???  Rhiannon came home the next week with a bit more info. Apparently the kids from the Dubbo school were travelling to this area to meet up with our school and another school that was located only about 30mins drive away. The other school were hosting the band workshop day and we were invited to join in. 

Gareth polished up his trumpet and Rhiannon practised the clarinet and off we went to Kotara. The kids had great fun being a part of a much larger group of instruments than they normally have access to. The first half of the day there was a workshop and then after lunch a concert. 
Some of the performance they just sat in amongst the senior kids and listened, other pieces of music they were a part of. From where I sat I had a reasonable view of Gareth but Rhiannon was hidden away from sight. I managed to do a small video clip of Gareth giving it his all. He really seemed to be enjoying himself. It's only a small file and best not to stretch it to full screen but I hope it gives an idea of what fun they had. 

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The day after the night before.

Gareth is bounding with energy. Truly, he can't sit still. He is skipping and humming through the house with a big grin from ear to ear. After a late night last night I would have thought he might be tired and a bit grumpy.

When I asked him what was making him so bubbly he said "Mum, I just think I'm full of the Holy Spirit"

What can I say to that one! I just hope the Holy Spirit keeps up the good work and helps him get his homework done, tidy his bedroom and maybe even helps him score a try on the rugby pitch at training this week!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Gareth's Confirmation.

Tonight Gareth celebrated his Confirmation. As part of his ceremony he got to pick a new name and he chose "Joseph" as it has strong family connections. His Great Grandfather was called Joseph and his Great Grandmother was Josephine. They named their son Joseph. This is my Dad who is known to our kids as Grandad Joe. My Dad called my brother Joe and he in turn used the name Joseph as his sons middle name. Now Gareth has added it to his name too. When Gareth announced his choice he cheerfully decided that his new name Joseph was going to "help unite all our family together like branches on a tree"

He had to chose an adult Catholic to be his Sponsor and he went with his Uncle Joe. The only problem was that Uncle Joe works in Tokyo and wasn't originally going to be in Australia this week. Being a great Uncle he changed his flights and planned to drive up from Sydney with Rhonda and their two little boys so they could be with us. It was a midweek evening service and they did the two hour drive here and back tonight so it was really appreciated.

Gareth was so excited about this evening. We planned a family dinner before the 7pm service. Lasagne, garlic bread and salad with Granny's French Dressing on it. We were all stinking of garlic after it! After a big plateful and a second serving Gareth asked me "Was that the starter or the main course?" I couldn't really throttle him on his special day so I let him away with it! We had a great big chocolate cake for dessert. My brother asked was this my favourite 6 minute chocolate microwave cake? I replied that it was, except that we had tripled the ingredients and cooked it in the oven. This caused lots of laughter because apparently I am known for saying I follow the recipe exactly and then admitting all the small changes I actually did so that it barely resembles the original! This cake had sort of been a disaster. It had cracked into four big pieces as it was turned out of the tin but the kids rescued the situation by announcing it was a volcano cake and needed lots of lava (chocolate fudge sauce) and lava rocks (frozen raspberries) to fill the volcano fissures. Good save kids!
After dinner we all scrubbed up and headed out to church. Gareth looked so chuffed all through the service. He said he thought his Uncle Joe was the smartest dressed Sponsor there. After all the running around and chaos of the family meal in the house the actual church service was lovely. Very calm and relaxed and lots of quiet reflection. It was a beautiful evening and one Gareth is sure to remember.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Granny's French Dressing.

To Make Granny's French Dressing you will need...

Two enthusiastic kids.
One teaspoon of Rock Salt and a clove (or two) of Garlic
Take turns pounding...
Add 1 teaspoon of mustard powder
A tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
Pound some more
...and some more
A touch of freshly milled Black Pepper
And finally 6 tablespoons of Olive Oil
Take turns drizzling it over the salad
And just a bit more for luck!
Bon Appetite!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Images of perfection.

Are we living a lie? Do we project images of ourselves that are not truly representative of who we are? Or do we just try really hard to show the best version of ourselves to the outside world? Glossing over the flaws and hoping they wont be seen. In doing so are we making it hard on each other to be honest and true and real?

Oh, I think my heads gone a bit deep on this one. You see I had a bit of a dilemma last week. It started a year ago when a friend asked me around for a girly lunch. I knew there would be some other friends there too. I didn't expect it to be quite so... professional? The house was gorgeous and clean, the table was set beautifully, the hostess was looking stunning and calm as she welcomed us all in and poured glasses of bubbles. I looked around at this group of women and I thought "Crap, this is really grown up!"

The six of us sat and were served a delicious starter, then main course. The food was amazing, all home prepared. My friend is a really excellent cook but denies it fiercely  She's being modest but I don't think she actually appreciates how really great she is. Then came desert, a home-made cheesecake, coffee and tea. The time flew by and all too soon I was excusing myself and rushing back to collect my kids from school. No more sophisticated chit-chat, back to being a mum who, as always, was running late for swimming lessons with a car full of kids and hoping to God that I had packed the swimming bag in the boot earlier that morning.

Fast forward 6 months and another lunch date was set. This time by a different one of the women at the first get together. I'd never been to her house before. It was just before Christmas and the house looked like something out of "Unbelievably Gorgeous Homes" magazine. You get the picture. Tidy, tasteful, uncluttered perfection. More bubbles, more beautiful place settings, this time a Vietnamese feast. Wonderful conversation between the same group of six women. So different from snatched hellos in the school playground or supermarket car park. I was overawed by this group of intelligent and articulate women who were so much more than the mothers I had grown to view them as.

Fast forward another 6 months. No lunch dates had been offered by any of the remainder of us... The pressure was mounting and so I bit the bullet and volunteered. I texted a quick invite with a potential date and watched the phone dance happily with positive responses. Holy Cow, what had I let myself in for. I looked around my house which I love but all I could see were the sticky hand prints all over the glass doors, the dust-balls that floated under my favourite red chairs in the kitchen and the cobwebs floating in hard to reach corners of the ceilings. My house is not a health and safety disaster but it's not a show home either. There are five of us living in it and no matter how much I try, by the end of a week of getting three kids to and from school in clean clothes, to and from sports activities, working in the hospital part-time and putting hot dinners on the table, it always looks like a work in progress.

And what to serve? I love food, really I do. I bake a mean cake, but savoury food, cooked and served in a room full of women who really know their Entr√©ment from their elbow... I felt out of my depth. All last month I have worried and planned, written lists and had conversations in my head. To be perfect? Or just perfectly flawed? By trying to make my home immaculate was I perpetuating the pressure for us mums to be perfect or was it just a good excuse to move the armchairs and sweep up the mess beneath?

I really struggled. I have often thought that we put huge pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone. The perfect Mum, the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect wife. So often I fall short but then I know that's ok. I'm human. It's allowed. I make mistakes, I apologise. I try harder. Even in the world of blogging there is a real danger of showing only the best bits of our lives. The airbrushed photos, the happy family days. Writing about a messy house or crying with homesickness, or fighting with your spouse? We all have those days but I don't choose to blog them. They are not the bits I want to immortalise and read back on. I want this to be a happy place with the good days remembered in glorious colour photos.

And so I hit the Internet. I searched simple Thai meals. Food that could be chopped and prepared as far in advance as possible. I tested things on my kids and Byron. They told me everything was "brilliant" and "amazing" I realised how much I love my kids! I went into Trade Secrets, a discount end-of-line shop and bought some colourful place mats that I had been meaning to buy for ages to dress the table up on fun occasions. I got out the chop-sticks that my brother Joe bought me in Thailand years ago and sat them on the little white chop-stick rests that I found in a bargain bin for 10cents each! I cleaned my house. But not obsessively. Rooms that I planned to be seen were given a good once over. Other rooms had the doors shut tight. Byron was thrilled. He said I could invite my friends around every week if the house could look so good! The day before the meal I chopped and mixed happily and piled high little plastic boxes of sauces and veggies in my fridge and cleaned away the almighty mess that I had created.

On the day itself I woke feeling calmer than I expected and dressed in jeans and a comfy top. I cleaned the floor but forgot to put on my lipstick! I wrapped my Japanese half-apron around my waist like a lucky charm (it holds in the wobbly bits!) I had a mini panic attack as I heard the cars pull up outside and I fanned my red cheeks with my hands before taking a big deep breath and opening my front door. In walked a group of women who are different ages, cultures and professions. But they all had something in common. They were smiling and they are my friends. Some firm friendships, some new. The next few hours passed in a blur of laughter and eating and talking over one another. I don't know if they noticed the missing cobwebs. I'm not sure they cared. After a couple of glasses of bubbly I'm not sure I did either.

I hope I hit the balance between putting my best foot forward but still being real. Because friendship has got to based on more than what I project on the outside.

Happiness to me this week was in the pile of dirty plates in my sink, the food scraps that had fallen under the table, flopping down in my favourite red chair in an empty kitchen with a cup of tea in my hand and a grin on my face. Knowing I am who I am and with this group of women that's just ok.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Manly beach

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Memory Lane.

Gareth is preparing for his Confirmation next week. He was asked to bring in some photos of his Baptism and to tell the class about his Godparents. We had fun looking through the old photos and picking some to print off. This was our final selection. Doesn't he look gorgeous! If only they stayed so little...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Mad offspring.

I got to the end of my phone contract and was offered an upgraded handset. It came with front facing camera, perfect for taking self-portraits!

Look what gem I got as my first photo on my new gadget...

"Smile kids!"