Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pictorial fragments from the past week

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

This week's Friday Fragments has, very conveniently, been put off till Saturday which means I didn't have to be incredibly rude and spend part of Christmas Day hiding away behind the laptop in order to participate. Of course just because I didn't have to have net time yesterday doesn't mean I stayed completely away.... I'm so addicted. Head on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time for more fragments from the festive season.

Our camping trip to Fingal Bay last weekend kicked off to a great start with us stuck in a traffic jam on the freeway, we took 2.5 hours to travel about 5km. I was able to get online from my phone and find out that the reason for the jam was a caravan accident, that there was a rescue helicopter on the road and that all lanes were closed. So we resigned ourselves to being late and were very grateful for cool weather, fully charged Nintendo DS's and that it wasn't us who'd managed to flip their huge caravan and have the roof of their 4WD removed (not sure if that was due to the accident or the rescuing). We arrived with just enough time up our sleeves to get the tent all set up before the light faded.

Finished setting up just as the light faded

The next morning Tom was ready to head to the beach at 7am but, as it was still quite overcast and cool and we had shopping that needed doing, we made him wait for a while. By the time we got to the beach there was not a cloud in the sky and we were all well and truly ready to get wet. The water was crystal clear and FREEZING but that didn't stop anyone - not even me, but there are no pictures to prove that ;-)

This was about as big as the waves got.

This was about as big as the waves got

On Christmas Eve we went to Adam's brother's place for lunch. I made a Greek salad and a pear, blue cheese and walnut salad, and we took some prawns along as our contributions to the meal and we sat around eating and talking while the kids played in the swimming pool. It's possible Caitlin may have been in there just a little too long.

Wrinkly fingers!

A little too long in the pool?

Christmas lunch was at my Mum's place and we were very happy that my 99 year old Grandma was able to join us. It was quite an effort for her to be there but she was glad to be there and, as I told her, it's such a wonderful thing for the kids to know their Great Grandma and be able to share special occasions with her. As we sat around the table after the meal Caitlin ran off and grabbed her new sketchbook and Derwent pencils and drew a portrait of Great Grandma which she then gave to her to take home. I think it was a bit of a hit.

Caitlin with Great Grandma

Caitlin and Great Grandma

Caitlin scored big on the art front for Christmas, as well at the set of 72 Derwent watercolour pencils, she got a desk easel with paints, brushes, a palate and a couple of canvases, they seem to have gone down well.

Caitlin painting a dragon

Caitlin painting a dragon


One of Tom's presents was a drawing kit with a book on how to draw mythological creatures, this has been a huge success with Adam and Caitlin getting in on the act as well. This one is a collaborative effort between Tom and Daddy.

Dragon by Tom (with some help from Dad)

Dragon by Tom


Today we have eschewed all the traditional Boxing day pursuits of movie going, sales shopping, cricket or Sydney to Hobart yacht race watching and have spent the day lazing around doing nothing much. Adam did get a bit energetic for a while though and whipped up a loaf of Ginger Beer Bread using the Spiced Ginger Loaf recipe from our bread machine's instruction book and using Lord Nelson Old Admiral beer in place of water. It was pretty damn good.

Bread, cheese, ham and pickles. Perfect.

Ginger beer bread

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The times they are a-changing

When Adam and I married I pretty much co-opted him into our family Christmas traditions, when Christmas lunch was at my mum's place we'd have lunch with his parents and then head over to join my family, if my family were further afield for the day we'd go to them for lunch and see his parents in the evening on the way home. That became less fun when we had small kids - traveling for an hour across Sydney in the heat on Christmas day was pretty hideous and after one particularly bad experience involving visits to three different homes, stifling heat and a blanket of smoke and ash from bushfires over most of Sydney we called it quits. Besides, my siblings and cousins were all starting to have partners' families to see and getting everyone together was getting harder and harder.

Eventually we stopped trying to see my cousins, Aunts and Uncles on Christmas Day, sometimes we manage to see them at a family gathering sometime close to Christmas - perhaps a picnic one weekend in December, or as we did this year at my Grandmother's birthday party - but we don't exchange gifts anymore.

In recent years we've tried to alternate spending Christmas Day with either my family or Adam's. Ideally my brother and sister and their families do the same and we try to synchronise so that we're all together for Christmas lunch in the years when it's my family's turn. It's worked out pretty well a few times, last year we all managed to be together at my Mum's place for lunch - 9 adults and 8 kids. This year I invited Adam's brother and family to our place for Christmas lunch but they decided they'd rather do lunch on Christmas Eve at their place so we're taking my mother-in-law there tomorrow and bringing her to my Mum's place on Christmas Day for a quiet lunch with just us, my Mum and Dad and my Grandma. My brother's family will be up in the Blue Mountains with his in-laws and my sister probably won't be home yet after having had her 3rd baby by c-section on Monday this week. Yep, I'm an aunty again :-)

Adam grew up with a somewhat different experience of Christmas. His family did not travel at all on Christmas Day, they stayed at home and had a traditionally seasonally inappropriate baked dinner and Christmas pudding lunch just for their immediate family with Adam's Grandma sometimes there as a house-guest. Afterwards they would all pile into the car on Boxing Day and head north to Gosford to spend the day with the extended family, but on Christmas Day itself, no going nowhere! So it was quite a shock to the system for Adam to be dragged all over the city on Christmas Day. Lately Adam has been expressing a desire to celebrate Christmas the way he grew up doing it and for ReasonsTM* I've begun to see the merits of the idea.

In fact we're both very much inclined to say that this will be the last year that we go anywhere for Christmas Day, we'll be very happy to have any and everyone come to our house to celebrate the day with us but we're staying put. I'm tired of the dragged out process of deciding who is going to be where and what, if any, presents we're giving each other and not knowing for sure until well into December what I'm expected to do for the big day.

Some things won't change for a good few years yet though. There'll still be fruit mince pies, milk AND beer** for Santa and carrots and a water bucket for the Reindeer - they make a terrible mess every time, water spilled everywhere and carrot fragments all over the front deck - and the kids waking up way too early. It doesn't seem to matter to them that they've known about the whole Santa gig for years, it's just not Christmas unless you play the game!

*the sort which are significant but which I don't propose to elaborate upon.

**milk AND beer?! I hear you cry...Look, I grew up leaving the milk out, Adam's family did the beer thing. When David was old enough to notice Christmas we had a discussion and reached an impasse. So we decided to let Santa choose which he wanted, and would you know, he usually has both! Guess flying around in the heat in those ridiculous clothes works up a serious thirst ;-)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fragments and Linkfest No. 13

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I won't be around to comment on everyone else's Friday Fragments till early next week, we're off camping at the beach for the weekend - wish us good weather and kid-friendly surf!

Monday morning's car trip to school conversation went like this - Tom: Mum, how old do you have to be to mumble mumble mumble? Me: I can't understand what you're asking. Tom: *repeats* Me: It's like you're speaking a foreign language! Tom: How old do you have to be to have sex? Me: *enlightenment dawns, he was spelling S-E-X and I just wasn't parsing it because I wasn't expecting it*

I do love these philosophical challenges pre-caffeine and with only 2 minutes to adequately answer the question. I think I said something about the age of consent in NSW and the fact that even if you're "old enough" it's not whether you're allowed to that matters, it's whether both you and the person you're with really want to and if you both feel ready for the sort of commitment that being that intimate entails - only with smaller words.

David went to his end of Year 6 dinner on Monday night.

Dave all dressed up for the Year 6 dinner

From David's page in his school yearbook
  • People I Most Admire: My dad because he does medieval re-enactment.
  • When I Grow Up I Want To Be: A happy adult.
  • Where I See Myself in 10 Years: Successful.

Caitlin won first prize in the singing section of the school talent quest and Tom came third :-)

We watched The Fifth Element with the kids on Wednesday night, they hadn't seen it before because David has always vociferously protested that he Does. Not. Want. and we've always given in and watched something else instead. It was the same with Star Wars way back when, we practically had to hold him in a headlock on the couch to make him watch it. Apparently if it's something Dad and Mum like it couldn't possibly be good. But on Wednesday Adam and I told him we were watching whether he liked it or not and when he said he'd go sit in the study we were even meaner and told him he had to sit in the lounge room.

When we got to the bit where the Diva is singing and Leeloo starts kicking butt Tom got very excited and said "I love it when the girl is not the damsel in distress!"

Oh, and do believe David quite enjoyed the movie after all. I apologized for making him sit through it and he said "Yes, it was a bit silly."

Linkfest time!

Feeling like doing a virtual culinary tour of Sydney? Check out the list of Sydney food bloggers at the end of Helen's post about the Sydney Food Bloggers' Christmas Party.

I HAVE to cook this sometime: Momofuku Bo Ssäm (slow roasted pork)

Continuing the food theme and adding maths to the mix - The Mobius strip bagel. I don't usually eat bagels but I think I may need to go buy some just for this.

Tim Minchin's White Wine in the Sun is available to purchase as a single and 50% of the proceeds from December sales will be going to Autism research.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I object!

I've been hoping to catch this on video for a while now. Clara has strong opinions about just who should be allowed to sit next to me on the lounge and she's not backwards in letting Adam know that it shouldn't be him.

Click here if you can't see the embedded video

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday



For more Wordless Wednesdays click here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

25 Things You Had No Desire to Know

Meme time. Because I can.

1. Name someone with the same birthday as you. Alfred Matthew "Weird Al" Yankovic (I googled my birthday expecting to be completely uninterested in the result, but that kind of appeals.)

2. Where was your first kiss? Against the outside wall of the church hall during a youth fellowship social event.

3. Have you ever seriously vandalized someone else’s property? No. Nor humorously either.

4. Have you ever hit someone of the opposite sex? Yes, but only for fun :P

5. Have you ever sung in front of a large number of people? Nope Except for the several times I was responsible for getting an entire movie theatre full of Browncoats to do a sing-a-long, including once when Joss was could I forget that?!

6. What’s the first thing you notice about your preferred sex? Smile.

7. What really turns you off? Bigotry.

8. What do you order at Starbucks? I don't. Starbucks would be pretty much my last resort for coffee. But where ever I order it's either a large skim cappuccino or a double shot espresso depending on time of day.

9. What is your biggest mistake? I have a horrible suspicion that the answer to this is not budgeting over the last couple of years.

10. Have you ever hurt yourself on purpose? No.

11. Say something totally random about yourself. I like pickled onions.

12. Has anyone ever said you looked like a celebrity? Nope.

13. Do you still watch kiddie movies or TV shows? Not if I can help it.

14. Did you have braces? No.

15. Are you comfortable with your height? No, I'm unhealthily short but I'm working on it, apparently if I just follow these 5 easy rules for height-gain I can gain 5cm in just a few weeks. It's a scientriffically proven* system! *Results not typical.

16. What is the most romantic thing someone of the preferred sex has done for you? Married me? That was pretty romantic.

17. When do you know it’s love? When you say "I hate you!" and the person you're speaking to laughs and gives you a hug.

18. Do you speak any other languages? I can count to ten in several...

19. Have you ever been to tanning salon? No.

20. Have you ever ridden in a limo? No.

21. What’s something that really annoys you? The sounds of shooting and explosions in computer games.

22. What’s something you really like? Silence.

23. Can you dance? I don't know about can, but I do dance, dancing is good for the soul.

24. Have you ever been rushed by an ambulance into the emergency room? No.

25. Tag 5 people! I stole it, at her suggestion, from Carmen. If you want it, it's all yours.

Party time!

Our Christmas party on Saturday afternoon and evening seemed to go well, I certainly had fun and I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one.

We began the afternoon with the traditional sharing of diseases. What? That's not part of your usual Christmas celebrations?

Viv, aka tigtog, fared particularly badly on the contagion front.


A little later on, just as Adam had been obliged to duck out for a few minutes, this strange man dressed in a completely inappropriate fashion for a summer day in Sydney, turned up carrying a sack full of goodies.

What have I got in this sack?

The kids seemed to know what he was there for!

Santa handing out the pressies

After Santa left we got stuck into serious eating of all manner of munchies brought along by our wonderful guests - delicious dips, munchable veggies, scrumptious fruit, tofu balls of awesomeness, salad, shortbread, brownies, cookies, gingerbread, icecreams - thank you so much to everyone! (I'm not going shopping for at least a week.) Clara had a field day clearing up scraps of ham as it was carved but was saved by the wonderful ZB many, many times over from potentially disastrous encounters with chicken bones from the BBQ chooks.

Margaritas and mango daiquiris were distributed, the children stuffed themselves silly with chips and sugar, and we settled down to party on into the night.

Browncoats sure know how to have a good time!

Partying hard!
(Ok, that may have been a little bit staged...but only a little!)

Eventually it all got too much for Clara, even the screaming slingshot monkey wasn't enough to get her moving.

Worn out puppy

There are photos, and even a video, of the exploits of rather later in the evening, but, as both photographer and subjects were rather worse for wear by then, those images will not be seeing the light of day. Suffice to say there was raucous singing along to Meatloaf and The Blues Brothers and I shall leave the rest to your imagination. We finished up with a viewing of Dr Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, we had to, there was someone who HADN'T SEEN IT!!!

Adam and I got to bed at 4am. It was totally worth it. But I did rather wish I could spend Sunday doing what Clara decided was the best way to deal with the morning after.

Find sunny patch. Flop. Snooze.

Clara the morning after

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Beginner's Guide to Messiah

When Adam announced that he was buying tickets for us to take the kids to a performance of Handel's Messiah at the Sydney Opera House the day after our Christmas party I was a little unsure of the wisdom of such an endeavour. At breakfast this morning, which we were eating at midday on account of Adam and I having gone to bed at 4am, Tom very nearly confirmed all my fears by greeting the news that we were off to the city with a massive attack of the grumps, but after I threatened dire consequences for bad behaviour and Adam promised mango smoothies as a reward for being cooperative he pulled his head in and stopped whinging.

What we went to see was not a full performance of Messiah, instead it was this:

From the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs website:
Beginner’s Guide to Messiah

On Sunday the 13th of December at 2.00pm, we invite you and your whole family to The Beginner’s Guide to Messiah with an entertaining and informational performance of Messiah excerpts. Our Artistic Director Brett Weymark will guide you through the inspiration to the music with insights into the great master, Handel.
It was fantastic! After the overture Tom leaned over to whisper in my ear "This is actually really good, I'm glad you brought us." Brett Weymark, the conductor, did a fabulous job talking about Handel and the music, covering the history of the work and its performances during Handel's life, anecdotes about Handel written by people who had met him, and discussion of the music itself. I think my favourite bit was Brett telling us to listen to the violins to hear how fast the angel's wings were flapping during the bit where they visit the shepherds. It had just the right touch of humour to make it accessible to the kids and at 1.5 hours wasn't too long. The kids would never have lasted through the 3 hours of a full performance of Messiah and I'm not sure I would have either!

In front of the Opera House

In front of the Sydney Opera House

The Harbour Bridge as seen from the Opera House forecourt.

Sydney Harbour Bridge

Inside the Concert Hall with the orchestra and 300-odd choristers.

Concert hall at the Sydney Opera House

My lovely family waiting for the show to start, on one side of me Tom, Adam and David

Tom, Adam and Dave

and on the other side, Caitlin.


Unknown Mami

Friday, December 11, 2009

19th Down Under Feminist Carnival

The 19th Down Under Feminists Carnival is up at mynxii's LJ, The Professional Lapcat. As usual there's bucket loads of fabulous reading on offer, so click on over and get on with it!

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

Things about which I am glad:

Despite my fears I did not have an excruciating back spasm and find myself swearing loudly in the middle of delivering my Parents & Citizens Association President's report to the hall packed with the entire families of nearly every student at my kids' school.

When Caitlin tried to pick the front door lock with a stick this afternoon she broke a piece of stick off inside it thus preventing the key from fitting in the lock. The sliding security door uses the same key as the front door (which was the only key I had with me) and the bolt that slots into the floor on the inside of the glass sliding door was undone. So I could still get into the house. The broken off stick was successfully removed with the aid of a large needle. So I didn't have to pay for a locksmith.

There are just three days of school left.

I remembered to get the kids to make cards for Adam's birthday tomorrow, even if I did have to get them back out of bed to do it.

There are fairy lights all through the trees and shrubs in my front garden - it's like living in a fairy grotto. We don't so much put our Christmas lights up as chuck them semi-randomly into the garden, I like it that way.

Wednesday next week is David's last day in Primary School. I do not anticipate getting teary over this.

My Mum came over this afternoon and helped clean up the house for our Christmas party tomorrow, she supervised the de-chaos-ing of the kids' rooms. I think if I'd had to do that on my own today there'd have been murder done. My Mum is made of awesome, I may have said this before.

Did I mention that school finishes next week? And that it's a short week? Only three days!

Oh, and my back seems to be all better now, I was a bit worried that I would still be in pain when it was time to head off on our camping trip but it looks like I'll be fine.

Things about which I am less thrilled:

My dad, who's bipolar, gave us all a bit of a scare on the weekend when it became apparent that he was a little bit, or possibly even a lot, manic. Thankfully his doctor had already begun adjusting Dad's medication and he'd started to come down again by mid-week. Dad's only had one full on manic episode, it was pretty devastating.

I have not yet managed to find the time or motivation to bake any fruit mince pies. Brendan is going to kill me unless I get my arse into gear tomorrow morning.

The kids all drank huge glasses of milk with their dinner tonight and now there's no milk for the morning.

Tidbits from Tom:

On being given toad in a hole* for breakfast: "No toads were harmed in the making of this hole."

On how he feels about his drama award: "I'm like a cat contemplating its second name** and feeling proud."

*Yeah, I know, the egg version isn't really toad in a hole.

**Referencing T.S. Elliot's The Naming of Cats -
"But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

At Presentation Night tonight one of the two Outstanding Achievement awards given out in each class went to Tom. I may be just a little bit proud of him. Again.

Tom's award
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Sunday, December 06, 2009


I'm not usually a big fan of drama in my life, but there are varieties I quite enjoy. Last night we had a bit of both.

Tom was dropped off at rehearsal for his Drama school's end of year showcase performance at 3:30pm, he was happy and excited and all was well with the world. When we arrived just after 6:00pm he was sitting outside looking somewhat forlorn. I asked if he was ok and he announced he was feeling sick and wanted to go home.

I had a strong suspicion that either something had happened that upset him or that he was simply suffering from stage fright. But there has been a bit of a tummy bug around, David and I had both had it...

During drama classes early in the year he'd several times suddenly decided he'd had enough and up and walked out of the class to lie on the grass outside (much to his teacher's consternation, who would look around the room to find Tom missing). He would say it was because he couldn't stand everyone being so loud - he's like me, too much noise and chaos makes us both feel physically ill.

At in the middle of the year when the drama school did Midnite in an afternoon and evening show we'd had a similar moment in the time between the two performances. Tom insisted he really wanted to go home, I managed to persuade him to stay and at the end of the night he was admitted to being glad he'd stuck it out.

Last night was a little more complicated, all three grandparents had come to see Tom perform and on top of that Adam and I were both committed to taking part in the parents' item. Even if Tom bailed out we couldn't really leave. Eventually, after much negotiation, Tom agreed that we'd sit at the back of the auditorium, near the door, and he could go outside if he needed to. I went to tell his teacher that Adam and I would indeed be there for our performance and the next thing I knew Tom came running up and plonked himself down with his classmates all set to be a part of the show after all. I'd given up trying to persuade him to perform but apparently I'm better at that than I thought.

The show was a series of skits based on Aesop's fables, written and directed by the students and student teachers. The parent's item was a brief introduction to Greek theatre and Aesop leading in to The Tortoise and the Hare. It was narrated by Karyn (Tom's drama teacher) and the parents' job was to ad lib the actions illustrating the narration. We didn't know what parts we were getting and we hadn't seen the script. I ended up with the role of the Tragic Greek, robed in a flannelette sheet toga and armed with a plastic Sting replica. Adam was The Hare, his costume was a ballet skirt and a red scarf (over his blue sun t-shirt, shorts and sneakers), the cause of much hilarity.

The Comic Greek and I were first up, acting out the concepts of Comic and Tragic drama, illustrating the worship of various gods and then throwing Aesop off a cliff at the end of his brief life-story. Then it was time for the fable.

The Tortoise kept removing her shell to take a swing at the Hare, the Hare was having way too much fun playing up to all his female fellow performers and the Tragic Greek completely failed to keep a straight face through it all. Apparently there's a video of the whole thing out there somewhere, hopefully I can get hold of a copy.

Tom's class began their skit by coming on stage dancing and then breaking into small groups to act out fables involving donkeys. Tom was the merchant in The Merchant, The Donkey and The Salt. He was awesome (even if I do say so myself), he stomped in anger when the donkey lost the salt in the river and he cheered in glee when his trick with the sponge caught the donkey out. After the show he was explaining about how he had to do really big gestures and expressions so that the audience would see properly - he certainly got that part right!

After all the performances came the awards, medals for students who had been with the school for 3 years, most popular class member and best actor in class both voted for by the class members, best and fairest chosen by the teachers and student teachers, scholarships, and most improved.

In Tom's class the most improved award went to a "young man who nearly didn't make it on to stage tonight."

Here he is this morning, still as proud of himself as he was last night when he went to collect his award and stood on stage with, as he told me, "a bit of a tear in my eye."

I'm rather proud of him too.

Tom with his Drama award

Friday, December 04, 2009

Pensive puppy

Watching the world go by

Clara spends quite a lot of time in this spot staring out the front window and keeping a look-out for the cats. The lounge has suffered somewhat as a result. Not that it was in particularly good shape to begin with...

Thursday, December 03, 2009

The ghost of Christmas past

Once upon a time my Christmas day started with getting up as early as I thought I could get away with and seeing what was in the pillowslip on the end of my bed. I still have very clear memories of finding books and games in there. The books were my favourite presents. The pillowcase in question was this one. It was bought at a school fete I think, many many moons ago, it must be going on for 30 years old now, I still use it on my bed occasionally.

My Santa sack pillowcase

My tiger used to spend most of the year on my pillow but come December it was booted off in favour of the pillowcase made of Christmas fabric, I think mine had holly sprigs on it but I don't seem to have that one, it must have stayed at my mum's place.

Once my sister and brother were awake, and it was no longer completely stupidly early, we'd haul our pillowslip sacks out to the loungeroom and see what had been left in the stockings (lollies mostly if I remember rightly). The when the whole family was awake it was time to open presents in our pjs, grab a quick breakfast, get dressed and head out to church. I loved going to the Christmas morning service, a lot of my best friends were there and we would exchange Christmas cards and compare Santa loot, it was a wonderful way to start a day of celebrations.

Next up was either a dash home to prepare for the hordes of relatives who would be descending for Christmas lunch, or piling into the car to drive across Sydney to be horde-like ourselves. I can't remember a Christmas Day in Australia as a kid that didn't involve my cousins (we were in the US for 3 Christmases when I was growing up). We'd usually just got back from a week long beach camping holiday with our cousins a day or two before Christmas day too - I might write more about those holidays in a future post. I have no idea how my mother managed it, she must have been way more organised than I ever am.

Even when I was heavily involved in youth fellowship and very consciously celebrating Christmas as being about the birth of Jesus it was still very much all about the connections with people, seeing my friends, giving to charity, finding a gift for someone that was just right, spending time with family. Our Christmas traditions were wonderful and I wanted Christmas to keep being wonderful in exactly the same way forever.

Of course, that wasn't possible, instead Christmas is now wonderful in ways that are sometimes very much like my childhood memories and sometimes in other new ways, and sometimes the things which I wish were still wonderful are not anymore and have had to be left behind and that's hard. But then, we've been making our own traditions over the years and that's pretty wonderful too.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


Tom, aged 3 yrs, in the surf on his own for the first time.
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Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I'm really rather fond of this time of year

Here we are at the beginning of December, my house is strewn with Christmas decorations, the kids have decorated the tree, we have strings of lights ready to festoon the garden, I have all my special Christmas candles out, the Advent calendar is hanging by the dining table, there's Christmas music loaded up on the iPod and I've started my annual re-read of Connie Willis' Miracle and Other Christmas Stories. Yes, I'm an atheist celebrating a pagan mid-winter festival co-opted by the Christian church to commemorate the birth of a man who was was almost certainly not born on the 25th of December and I'm doing so in the middle of summer.

Of course I'm also rather stressed by all the STUFF that has to be done in the next few weeks and when people ask me how I am I tend to reply "A little weary..." and I whinge about being asked to do extra things like make 40-odd jelly cups and cook brownies for a year 6 mufti day on the same night as I'm hosting a P&C executive meeting at my place and having my mother-in-law over for dinner. But I do it any way. Because it matters to the kids. But I made Adam cook the brownies. (That was last night by the way.)

Is there a point to all of this? Well may you ask...there did seem to be one when I started....
(It would help if I wasn't half-way through my second glass of Stanton and Killeen muscat.)

Oh, I know! Christmas, it makes me happy, for lots of reasons that are to do with family and friends and celebrating life and sharing and thinking of others and reconnecting with people we don't see often and good food and drink and silly traditions and memories and endings and beginnings. So what I thought I might try and do through December is write a little about some of those things and try to explain why I, I really like Christmas.

Meanwhile, I'm going to finish this glass of wine and eat another chocolate elf.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Bye, bye November

It's been fun, I've written 12 times as many posts as I did last month making it through my third NaBloPoMo with relative ease and, I think, only minor irritation to my family.

We have 2 and a half weeks of school left for the kids, that's only 12 days of primary school to go for David. I got his high school orientation info pack today, so many pieces of paper, so many forms to fill in, fees to pay (I'm interested to see that these include a voluntary $100 per student donation to the P&C - wonder how many people pay that?), new systems to learn, it's all a bit overwhelming.

There's a nice vague handout about the Religious Education program at the school with references to "inter-denominational" "non-threatening" and "significance of religion" which as far as I can see equates religion with Christianity and completely disappears any other faith, or lack thereof. I'll be interested to see an outline of the lesson program (the handout offers one on request). It's a program that was introduced when I was at the school, I remember it as being monumentally tedious, and that was when I was heavily involved with one of the churches that developed and still financially supports the program. There's a notable lack of references to the optional nature of Special Religious Education and no indication of what kids who opt out would be doing during that time - I'm not surprised by this and I don't believe there are any regulations that require that information to be offered, but it's interesting.

I'm tired. My head is full of little, and not so little, things I have to do, or remember, or talk to people about, or go to, or shop for. I have speeches and reports to write for the P&C. Work is relatively busy. November was a fairly hectic month for us and I really just want to stop for a while, but December promises to be just as full-on. I'm so looking forward to the holidays, I plan on sleeping and reading and playing games and not being in a hurry to do anything.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas is invading my loungeroom

Not that we're putting up much resistance or anything. However, I'm a little concerned that it's not just Christmas that has a foothold in our house...

Click here if you can't see the embedded video.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas party time!

Just a quick note to extend an invitation to the lovely Hoydenizens About Town and also to anyone else I should have contacted already but have by some hideous oversight missed.

We're hosting our usual Christmas party again this year

When: Sat 12th Dec from 4pm till late
Where: At our place
What: Open house - come early, come late, stay a little or a long while, whatever you can manage we'd love to see you!

Santa will arrive a 5:30pm for the kids (don't forget to tell me if your kids will be there at that time).

If you need my address/have any questions email me!

Friday, November 27, 2009

I'm sure Adam will be disappointed

He does after all, have quite a thing for Lizzy Bennet. Oh well.

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Friday Fragments and Linkfest No. 12

Friday Fragments?
Hosted by Mrs4444.

A tossed salad of bits and bobs from the week just gone with a touch of things to come for extra flavour. Be sure to pop over to Mrs4444's place for other fragmentary offerings for today!

1. On Wednesday afternoon my 12 year old walked into the loungeroom , smiled at me and said "Hi Mum, you're awesome." I can live with that.

2. The second dwarf gourami is dead and we're down to one rummy nose tetra in Tom's tank. I'm not buying anymore fish till after Christmas, that should give all the tanks plenty of time to stabilise and I'll have more time to pay proper attention to them after that too.

3. On Wednesday night I had forgotten that Adam's mum was coming for dinner and I had done nothing by way of so much as deciding what we would eat. I think I was leaning towards toasted sandwiches but that wasn't really and option with a guest to feed. Emergency pasta sauce time! One diced onion, 2 heaped teaspoons of minced garlic, a bit butter and a splash olive oil - fry till onion is soft. Add 800g tin of chopped tomatoes, plenty of dried basil and oregano, and a small sprinkle of dried chili flakes and simmer. Slice 2 chorizo and cook in another pan, drain fat and add chorizo to sauce. Serve over spaghetti. YUM.

4. Tonight we went to the school's Band and Choir Christmas concert. Caitlin is in the choir, which sang beautifully and was clearly having lots of fun. They have a wonderful director, she's done such great work with them over the year. The Training and Concert Bands played a few pieces each, I usually manage to hear the bands play early in the year and am always most impressed by how far they've come by the end of the year. I particularly liked the Concert Band's rendition of "Born to be Wild" - I count it a win if I come away from one of these things with an earworm I can actually enjoy!

5. This Saturday we will be attending a rally in the city in support of same sex marriage

6. Linkfest time - a collection of stuff I think is worth sharing.

Does Twilight deserve any "feminist defense"?
from tigtog at Hoyden About Town.

Hoydenizens About Town
- a skills showcase and marketplace for the Hoyden About Town community.

Greta Christina on Atheism and Friendship.

Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy on Giving Thanks.

And to finish off, some light entertainment. No doubt everyone has seen these already but I'm sticking them here anyway 'cause that way I can find them again later!

Muppets Bohemain Rhapsody

Click here if you can't see the embedded video.

Five Star Wars status updates - Star Wars comes to Facebook on

More thoughts on Scripture in schools

I started to respond to comments on my previous post on the subject but it was getting kind of epic, so I thought I'd better chuck it all in a post of its own. This may be a little disjointed! (BTW, Scripture = Special Religious Education, or SRE, but no-one calls it that.)

A couple of people made reference to the thumb-twiddling in the library being not such a bad thing, I must admit I very nearly included a disclaimer in the original post to the effect that I was quite sure the kids were perfectly happy with the thumb-twiddling :-) Actually I believe my kids' school encourages reading which is something I'd have been very keen on as a kid had I been at all aware that Scripture class was optional.

My memories of Scripture are of some poor sodding volunteer coming into a classroom full of kids who saw the lesson as something they were not required to take seriously, like being a substitute teacher, only worse because you have no hope of convincing the kids that anyone cares if they don't do the work. As for the subject matter, it was pretty much exactly the same as we were getting at church in Sunday School, very much of the indoctrination of impressionable minds variety.

From what I see of the stuff my kids do in Scripture now it's also very definitely of the teaching dogma variety and not at all of the comparative religious studies style, and really why would it be anything else? These classes are largely being taught by volunteers who are doing it because they believe it's important to bring the kids into the fold not because they want to equip them to understand the various world religions. When your kindergartner comes home on a Thursday afternoon and tells you very seriously that all the houses in your street were made by God, or that Adam and Eve were the first people, or that the whole world was flooded and wasn't it a good thing that Noah was around it becomes very clear that myth is being taught as fact and that I have a problem with.

It's quite true, as Toni mentioned, that some schools positively encourage kids to visit all the different Scripture classes, my nieces have done a bit of swapping around between Protestant, Catholic and Buddhist classes at their school. Perhaps the nature of the classes is different in other schools, perhaps there are whole cohorts of enlightened Scripture teachers out there delivering lessons that invite a critical analysis of the subject matter, which incidentally is perfectly possible even with 5 year olds. Hey, my Mum has done a bit of Scripture teaching in the past, but the last time she did so (filling in for a friend) she was so disgusted with the curriculum materials and the lesson plans that she was expected to follow that she swore never to do it again.

From St James Ethics Centre on Facebook:
Those schools that have completed an expression of interest in being a pilot school are confirmed as participants in the pilot. They are Darlinghurst, Crown Street, Ferncourt, Rozelle, Hurstville, Bungendore, Neutral Bay and Baulkham Hills North Public Schools. Another school is 80% through the process. There is room for just one more.
Don't suppose there's much hope of grabbing the last spot for our school.

Ariane mentioned one of my big doubts about this whole exercise - where are the volunteers to teach ethics classes going to come from? I know the churches often have a fair bit of trouble filling the volunteer roles to teach scripture and they have a presumably highly motivated pool of people to draw on. I, of course, find myself answering the question in my own head with "perhaps I should..." at which point the other half of me jumps up with a cartoon sledgehammer yelling "don't you DARE think about volunteering for anything else" and squishes the idea flat. It's all very well saying "What a wonderful idea, we should definitely have ethics classes offered in all schools" but that's not going to be much use if there's no-one to teach them.

Mind you, even if there aren't enough teachers to go around, there'll be some no small victory in breaking the anachronistic hold of the churches on that half hour of SRE a week should the trial be deemed successful and the NSW Dept of Education and Training' policy on the matter changed to allow the classes to be offered across the board.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I like lizards

I had just sat down with a cup of tea and a pistachio and cranberry shortbread biscuit (which, incidentally, is rather yummy) when I spotted this intruder perched on the top of my backpack beside the lounge. I love those long toes, so cute!

Teeny little skink

I like lizards

I caught it and took it outside where it promptly ran up my arm, jumped onto my shirt, scurried down my front, slunk around behind me and tried to hide up the leg of my shorts. Fortunately Adam was able to head it off at the pass without hurting it and it's now back in the garden where it belongs.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Ethics classes to be trialed as an alternative to "Scripture"

This is fantastic news. It's about time there was something better for the non-scripture kids to do than go to the library and twiddle their thumbs.

When my oldest first started school I hadn't quite given up on the church, I'd long since moved away from any belief in god but I still saw value in the ethical teaching and the community that a church fosters. So off he went to Scripture classes, as did most of his classmates. It wasn't long before I was rather regretting that decision as I found myself dealing with the some of the less-nuanced ideas that came home from the classes. I console myself with the thought that at least he'll be well equipped to understand any biblical allusions if he ever ends up reading various classic novels and poetry. My other 2 have also gone to Scripture classes and I freely admit it's because it was easier to go with the flow and let them be with their friends. Especially as the alternative was so unsatisfactory.

Every so often I offer my kids the option of not going to Scripture class, none of them have taken me up on it, they'd rather stay with their friends and sit through lessons about things they do not believe than be bored. If something like these proposed ethics classes were available at all schools, not only would I jump at it now, I'd have been thrilled to enroll the kids in them way back in Kindergarten.

From the SMH:
ETHICS classes will be introduced in NSW schools, offering an alternative to religious studies for the first time in 100 years, the Premier, Nathan Rees, will announce today.
The St James Ethics Centre has been working very hard for some time to get this project up and running. "Towards an ethics-based complement to scripture in NSW primary schools" gives an overview of the issues involved and of the proposals being considered.

I am so very pleased to see this trial getting the go-ahead and I will be presenting information about it to our next P&C meeting at school. I only wish there were to be more than 10 schools involved in the trial. Ah well, teaspoons. Hopefully it will be a huge success and we'll see further progress in the near future.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One word meme

I've seen this one floating around in various forms a bit lately and I had it tucked away in the back of my mind for a day like today. It's day 24 of NaBloPoMo and the muse was not visiting. So a meme it is - one word answers to a bunch of questions which may or may not mean something, you decide :P

1. Where is your cell phone? Table

2. Your significant other? Hubby :-)

3. Your hair? Dishevelled

4. Your mother? Awesome

5. Your father? Generous

6. Your favourite thing? Peace

7. Your dream last night? Forgotten

8. Your favourite drink? Water

9. Your dream/goal? Reached

10. The room you are in? Lounge

11. Your hobby? Numerous

12. Your fear? Failure

13. What do you want to be in 10 years? Happy

14. Who did you hang out with last night? Adam

15. What you're not? "Normal"

16. The last thing you did? Therapy

17. What are you wearing? Blue

18. Your favourite book? Many!

19. The last thing you ate? Tacos

20. Your life? Contented

21. Your mood? Drained

22. Your friends? Diverse

23. What are you thinking about right now? Sleep

24. Your car? Battered

25. Favourite gadget? Laptop

26. Your summer? Hot

27. What is on your TV? Nothing

28. When is the last time you laughed? Tonight

29. Last time you cried? Tonight

30. School? Frustrating

Monday, November 23, 2009

Better late than never?

Many moons ago, back in March to be precise, I participated in a blogging meme titled Want a gift from me? I was supposed to deliver those gifts within a month of posting the offer. Here we are almost 8 months later and it hasn't been done - man am I ever slack!

Time to remedy the situation I think. Alix, Mel and Marjorie, I know the gift was supposed to be a surprise but I have these super cute Christmas earrings so I'm kind of hoping that you all have pierced ears and a fondness for Christmas sparkliness, can I interest you in a pair of green or crystal Christmas tree earrings?

Christmas tree earringsChristmas tree earrings

If the Chrissy trees aren't your thing please have a look at the various earrings I've posted on Flickr and pick something that does appeal - and if your ears aren't pierced feel free to browse the bracelets too!

Finally, I'll need you to email me with your mailing address so I can actually get these things sent off to you :-)

Mondays aren't usually this bad

Today I have dealt with more than my fair share of angst.

I got up this morning with some no small effort and went to check on Tom's fish tank. I hadn't done this for nearly a week, Tom had been very responsible with feeding his fish and I've been kind of busy. In Tom's tank I discovered one very ill looking siamese fighting fish lying upside down on the gravel. Tom had to be bundled off to school hoping that his Simo would be ok, I warned him that it didn't look good. After the kids had gone to school I checked on the fish again and Simo was dead. Then I realised I couldn't see one of the rummy nose tetras either (found the corpse tonight when I did a water change).

Then I went to feed my fish and one of the dwarf gouramis was dead with the other looking decidedly unwell.

I did find baby platies in Tom's tank though, just 2 of them, but yeah, baby fish! I think one of Tom's platies was looking kind of plump!

I had a meeting with David's teacher just after lunch all about how worried he is about how David will cope at high school and how he's likely to be a target of bullying and it all so different and how he feels like he's let David down because he hasn't "fixed" him or something. Told me he didn't think David was having a very happy childhood, by which he meant David wasn't happy at school, wasn't enjoying it. Yeah, the only way David could suddenly start loving school would be if he stopped being David. I'm aiming to have him survive it myself. Anyway, he was offering to get in touch with the high school and talk to them about David so that they know what to expect. That part I'm very pleased with, I wasn't expecting it because David doesn't fit into any categories that are eligible for special consideration or help or anything.

Then I was picking the kids up from school and Caitlin came out of class with tears streaming down her cheeks because she'd missed out on being nominated to run in the prefects elections. Followed by Tom who was crying because there'd been a dead baby bird on the oval earlier in the day and as a bonus some other kid had mocked him for caring about the dead bird. And then I had to tell him his fish was dead. Almost ended up in tears in the school playground myself.

As a crowning glory Adam's car got a flat tire on the way home and because he has a silly little car that doesn't have room for a spare he had to wait for a tow truck which he was told could take two hours.

At which point I gave up and went to get fish and chips for dinner, because deep fried potato makes everything better. (Adam was home within the hour, which was nice.)

Know what else makes things better? Kids and puppy dogs having fun.

Clara on the trampoline

Click here if you can't see the embedded video

P.S. I've updated my NaBloPoMo prize offer post with the actual prize options.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Market day

We held Christmas markets at the school today.

In 40 degree heat.

(That's 104F for you non-metric types.)

I shared a stall with a friend, it was our first markets for both of us so we had no idea how it would go. Thank FSM that Simone had organised a table cloth and clever deployment of a box for our display, 'cause I completely dropped the bundle on that aspect of things.

Our stall

My first market stall

It was a bit breezy and the earring displays were exhibiting slight nautical tendencies, sailing across the table every so often. Eventually we managed to arrange and wedge them into place such that they stayed more or less put.

My end of the table

My end of the table

I'd been rather dreading being outside for 6 hours in that hideous heat and I guess I wasn't the only one who felt that way because it was really quiet.

It did get a bit busier than this...but not by much.

It was a little on the quiet side

If I was assessing the day on the basis of financial return I'd have to admit it was a bit of a write-off. But, as I got to spend my time sitting in a comfy chair, in the shade, with just enough breeze to make the heat bearable, in the company of a good friend and chatting to people we knew as they came by and admired our cool stuff, I'm willing to call it a Good Day. Of course I now have a whole heap of stuff made, photographed, priced and ready to put up for sale on-line. Watch this space!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

But wait! There's more...

I'm having that "it's never-ending!" feeling about life just at present. I rather suspect that when I stop I'm going to crash, Monday may be a bit of a write-off.

Yesterday at 7am, after going to bed at 4am (I was working, laptop disaster & database problems legacy), I kicked Adam out of bed to get the kids off to school and went back to sleep. Adam woke me at ten to nine and I hauled myself out of bed, my beading kit out to the car and me, car and kit down to Ariane's for a craft day. I made some more Christmas tree earrings, including some green ones, and a sodalite necklace (photos are a bit ordinary, there's no sunlight at 11pm :P I took some new ones, much better!).

Swarovski crystal and sterling silver Christmas tree earrings

Christmas tree earrings

Sodalite and riverstone necklace
Length ~52cm
Sodalite and riverstone necklace

Then it was back home to meet the kids - I arrived 30 seconds before their bus dropped them off across the road. I did a quick blog post and then abandoned the boys while I popped up the road to the shops to pick up salad supplies for dinner and a few odds and ends for the market stall on Sunday. Then came home and cooked date scones as a present for my Grandma while the boys made the salad.

99 years old and looking good!

Happy 99th birthday Grandma

Dinner last night was a buffet affair at my Grandma's nursing home with pretty much the whole extended family - my Mum, Dad, sister & family and brother & family, my Aunty Liz and Uncle Rob, cousins Warwick, Cameron and Rebecca and her family. Twenty four of us all up. It's not every day the matriarch turns 99 years old!


Nom nom nom

Today was Caitlin's dance concert - matinee and evening performances - which has taken up pretty much the whole day.

Ballet costume

Ballet costume 2009

Song and Dance costume

Song and dance costume 2009

I did manage to grab an hour to finish pricing all my stuff for tomorrow. I'm now tossing up between sleep and making a few more earrings. The markets start at 9am so I'll need to get going pretty early, sleep is sounding pretty good...

Friday, November 20, 2009

Busy day

I'll tell you all about it later, meanwhile have some more Tim Minchin, because he is awesome and it saves Ariane from having to go looking for it.

Click here if you can't see the embedded video.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Jupiter jasper

Another riveting edition of stuff wot I made.

Jupiter jasper, tiger jasper and sterling silver necklace

Jupiter jasper necklace

a couple of bracelets of the same

Jupiter jasper bracelet

Jupiter jasper bracelet

and a bunch of earrings - Jupiter jasper and sterling silver.

Jupiter jasper and sterling silver earrings

Grey skies are making this photography business a bit tricky, wish I'd got around to doing number 3 in my 12 things to do this year list. (Wish I'd got around to doing any of them really...)