Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two more sleeps...

...till the kids are back at school.

I'm not sure I'm ready for everything to start up again, I've been filling in the calendar with all the after school activities and realising that there's a reason I end up slightly frazzled during term time. Caitlin has signed up for 3 dance classes and will be continuing with her singing lessons, Tom is planning on doing karate twice a week, continuing his drama classes and taking up flute lessons in order to play in the school band, David will hopefully continue with sword classes, Adam is doing a pottery course this term, might be taking his mum to French lessons and will do sword with David. Adam's mum will join us for dinner once a week and my Dad will be coming for a meal twice a week.

I will be huddled over here in the corner gibbering slightly.

It's possible I may end up culling some of those activities, we'll see how things go.

We did end up going to the beach, but it was Monday rather than Sunday. We took Adam's mum with us and met up with Adam's brother and family at Terrigal on the Central Coast north of Sydney - about an hours drive from our place.

We set up camp under one of the big pine trees that line the concourse behind the beach, forays to the water were made, fish and chips lunch was consumed, books were read, conversations were had and seagulls were foiled by the hiding of food inside the picnic basket. They were so disappointed, I could practically hear them thinking "But you aren't eating it, why can't we have some?"

Terrigal Beach

Terrigal beach

Adam and Caitlin on the waters edge

Daddy and daughter

The surf was flat as a pancake but Tom still managed to catch a wave, this was taken after it left him beached on the sand.

Bodysurfing optimism

Tom body surfing

Shortly after Caitlin first headed off to swim she came running back up the beach to me full of excitement. She'd been swimming along and saw four fairly decent sized fish in the water with her, on the basis of her description Adam reckons they might have been bream, she saw a whole bunch more during the course of the afternoon too. If only there weren't so many people in the water it might have been worth throwing a line in. Not that we had any fishing gear with us. Tom wanted to see the fish too and spent quite some time with goggles borrowed from Caitlin (he'd forgotten to bring his), head submerged in the water but sadly he searched in vain, didn't see a single fin. It was with some no small effort that he conceded that the beach was still fun even without fish-sightings.

Tom wrestling with disappointment

Tom at Terrigal

On a more domestic note, I will be starting the school term with a tidy pantry and Tupperware cupboard. I've taken photos to preserve the state of order for posterity because I know perfectly well that here in the world of entropy and kids unpacking groceries and dishwashers the degree of organisation will last approximately half a day. And there's no way I'm dispensing with child labour in favour of tidy cupboards :P

This cupboard is the bane of my existence, when the dishwasher is open you can't open the doors to the left hand side and so things that belong in there get piled up on the bench above and no one seems to know where anything goes so the things that belong in the right hand side get added to the piles on the bench as well. And then along comes someone in a hurry who wants to start cooking and the random piles get picked up and shoved in anywhere they'll fit.

The Tupperware cupboard Pt1The Tupperware cupboard Pt2

Maybe if I stuck this picture on the inside of the pantry door people would know where to put stuff back after they've finished with it...


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Picking up the pieces on a Fragmented Friday

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I've been a bit scarce around the blogosphere this week on account of it not having been the greatest week ever, I tend to read but not post or comment when I'm stressed. I don't really have much by way of amusement or fascination to offer today, rather I seem to be dumping a whole lot of whinging out for you instead. For fragments that might be a little more fun to read, head on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time and find out what everyone else has on offer this week.


On Sunday night last weekend I started working on stuff for my paid job at 10:30pm. I finished at 8:30am. Now, I knew I had a lot of work to do but due to not realising that the number of emails showing against my work folder represented about half of what was actually in the folder (I didn't realise how many I'd "read" when moving them from the inbox) I had expected to hit the sack by about 4am. Monday, as you may imagine, was a bit of a write-off.


One of the reasons I didn't start working till 10:30pm was that we'd spent Sunday afternoon and evening at Coogee beach with some blog-friends from the Hoyden About Town community. It was a lovely day, not too hot, the kids swam and played on the beach and I got to sit around chatting for several hours. Then we had fish and chips for dinner and headed off home as the light began to fade. That part of my week was pretty good really.


My wonderful Mum looked after the kids for me on Tuesday morning so I could go in to the office for a few hours. I don't like asking her to have the kids so I can work and I don't do it often, maybe a few times a year, but she assures me they're really quite pleasant to have around. I do think it's a less onerous job now that they're older and more independent.


When I came back from work we all headed down to my Grandma's place for a visit. During the course of conversation I told Grandma that I was expecting things to be much less stressful this year as I would have less stuff on my plate and that I was looking forward to having more time to come and see her. But I didn't say "touch wood" and that may have been a mistake.


On Wednesday I took my Dad for some medical tests (which all turned out fine) and then brought him back to my place for a bit. He was looking rather distressed so I asked if he was ok.

Umm. No. Apparently not.

Turns out he's been in the throes of a manic episode for the last 2 months. I knew he was a bit high, I'd even rung his doctor at one point to express my concern and I'd been reassured by the fact that Dad was seeing his doctor regularly and that his medication was being adjusted and that it was all under control. Well, I'm not sure that I call spending every last cent of your retirement savings and doing a bunch of other stuff which I won't be writing about here counts as being under control. I'm just really thankful that his superannuation pensions are safe and that he decided to tell me and ask for help before he wound up crashing into a major depression as has happened in the past. Bipolar sucks.


I took the kids to Pymble pool today, it was a bit of an effort to leave the lovely air-conditioned comfort of the house and brave the 38°C (100.4F) heat but the prospect of plunging into the cool water made it seem worthwhile. Which it would have been if the pool hadn't been practically lukewarm. Warm chlorinated water is anathema to me, it's why I hate indoor pools and it makes me feel ill. But there was no way I was getting out and sitting in the heat while the kids swam so I stuck it out. The kids tried to drown each other and me for a while until in desperation I invented a new game. We all ducked underwater at the same time and tried to work out what one person was yelling while submerged. Kept them amused for a remarkably long time, especially when I choked while trying to yell "CANDY CANE." We then switched to sea-creature charades, my sea-horse was apparently completely baffling, Caitlin did a very convincing jelly fish, David's starfish was instantly recognisable and Tom was revealed as a moray eel in disguise.


Tonight we've had Dad here at our place, fed him a roast pork dinner, and gone through the figures for his finances. I've been able to convince him that he is not going to end up destitute within the week and that he can actually afford to continue living where he is. He will have to sell his car and cut up his credit cards but it should all work out in the end. He's much, much calmer than he was on Wednesday and I'm hopeful that with the right care he won't end up completely falling apart this time.

I'm taking him grocery shopping in the morning because he's not up to doing that on his own and we'll have him over for a meal at least twice a week for the foreseeable future. My Mum will be helping out too and will drive him to his appointment with his psychiatrist on Monday. I haven't been game to ask how things stand with his girlfriend, they weren't living together so I'm not sure what she knows or how she's reacted to the situation. I am wondering if I ought to be inviting him to come and stay with us for a while, but to be perfectly honest I'm not sure I'd be able to cope with that.


It's supposed to be even hotter tomorrow, we'll probably hit the 40°C mark here. I plan on hiding inside with large quantities of cold drinks. But Sunday is promising to be much more civilized, perhaps we'll head off to the beach again!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Fragments and Linkfest No. 14

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I've less of my own fragments and more of the linkfest stuff to share this week. Don't forget to pop on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time when you're done here and check out all the other Fragmented Friday-ers!


After watching all three extended version Lord Of The Rings movies this week David came to me at bedtime tonight and asked "Where's The Hobbit?" Amazingly enough I actually knew where one of our copies was. A few minutes later I could hear him giggling to himself as he read. To appreciate the true significance of this it's important to understand that David, aged 12 and 3/4, could count on one hand the number of full length novels he has read. And I know for a fact that one of them he started half-way through. I'm holding my breath and hoping this might be a turning point.


At the end of December my good friend Jen and I went out to lunch at The Buddha Belly (the website is a work in progress), a restaurant in Terry Hills. The food was fabulous, we will be going back. Lots. But what I really liked about the place was the surroundings, you sit outside on wide covered verandahs overlooking gardens and a carp pond. A carp pond with the most enormous fish in it.

Carp Pond at The Buddha Belly


Looking to donate towards disaster relief in Haiti? Posts with info on which organisations will do the best with your money can be found at Hoyden About Town, Bitch PhD, Shakesville and Greta Christina's Blog.


Do you visit Astronomy Picture of the Day? I have it in my feed reader but I often leave it unread for weeks on end. Which is silly, because the images are awesome in the true sense of the word. Nebulas are probably my favourite astronomy images, galaxies come in a close second. As a teen I had a poster of the Horsehead Nebula in pride of place on the wall above my bed.
Orion's Horsehead Nebula
The Flame Nebula
Spiral galaxy M94


TED talk - Photographer James Balog shares new image sequences from the Extreme Ice Survey

Click here if you can't see the embedded video
(via my cousin at slightlyodd.com)


There's a lovely interview with Judith Kerr, author of the Mog books and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, at the Guardian.
(via Penthe at life or books?)


Did everyone see the coconut shell carrying octopus? If not, well, you should. Now, I could just embed the video here, but instead I'm going to send you over to Save Your Breath For Running Ponies where you can watch the clip, read a bit about the research behind it and have a good giggle at the story at the end of the post. And then you can lose yourself for several hours rummaging through the archives and following a whole bunch of links to new and exciting places and filling up your feed reader with a whole bunch of new blogs. At any rate, that's what I did.


Squirrel ingenuity at Twin Cities Naturalist.


Ummm...yep, that's all I've got for now, do share your cool interweb finds in the comments!

Arachophobes stay away!

I came home at 2:00am this morning after having spent the evening sitting around with a bunch of lovely friends having a few drinks and talking till we suddenly went "OMG is that the time!" As I walked down our very dark front path I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.

There, strung between the trees at the side of the path was a huge orb weaver's web. If it had been across the path instead of beside it I'd have had spider web all over me from knee to noggin. Not to mention the web's inhabitant, which would have ended up more or less right on my nose.

Garden orb weaving spider

Garden orb weaving spider

She was such a pretty lady* and I was so glad she was still in her web and not on my face. Yep, I stood in our garden at 2 in the morning taking photos of a spider. It was a little difficult because I couldn't see what the camera was aiming at till the flash went off, but I think this one turned out ok.

*Fairly sure it was a female, the size difference between the sexes in garden orb weavers isn't that big but females are still larger and this one was a big 'un, well over an inch in length.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Liz at Eternal Lizdom has given me this adorable little lemonade stand award, thank you so very much Liz! It is of course, a reference to the motto "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" and is given for having a great attitude/showing gratitude.

I'm supposed to pass it on to at least 10 bloggers. I think I might take a page from Alix's book for this one and dole the award out a few at a time, here's the first batch:

Chally, for deciding to challenge people's assumptions about young writers.
Alix, because if there's one thing this woman has it's an abundance of great attitude.
Jay at Two Women Blogging whose generous spirit and love for people shines through in her writing.

*tucks the other 7 away for handing out at a later date*

Monday, January 11, 2010

Making plans

No resolutions, no grand plans for the year, no lists of things to accomplish. Just the intention to plan ahead a little bit at a time and try not to let things get too overwhelming.

By the end of last year I was really not doing too well, I had made too many commitments and left myself stretched way too thin. I kept thinking it should be ok, I wasn't really short of time and other people were managing to do as much and more without crumbling into a heap. But I'm not other people, I'm me and I have limits and when I push myself past those limits it hurts me and my family and things don't get done properly and I end up sobbing violently on the lounge on Christmas Eve and freaking out my 8 year old who gets up to see if I'm ok and has to be bundled back into his bedroom because Santa is all over the lounge room.

I'll be using that little 2 letter word a bit more often this year. I've already said no to Canteen duty at the primary school (though I have signed up for the High School canteen roster). I'll be handing over the job of P&C President when my 2 year term is up in March, and with that my position on School Council. I will be sitting firmly on my hands during the P&C AGM and will not be taking on any role that involves responsibility. I will not say yes to anything without thinking it through properly and double-checking for calendar clashes, I got caught out double booking myself a few times recently, not clever. I will look after myself so that I can be ready and able to look after my family when I need to.

There are a few things I know I need to do by way of the looking after myself thing. The first is to focus on my health. I'm unfit and sleep deprived and have been eating in ways that do not make me feel good and aren't doing much good to our budget either - far too much takeaway and far too many meals at restaurants that aren't even that great. I'd much prefer a once a month visit to somewhere new and fabulous than weekly visits to a place we've been to umpteen times (much as I love our local Chinese restaurant I'm so sick of eating the same dishes all the time because that's what the kids want).

I started writing this post last week just after having written up a meal plan for the week, we pretty much stuck to the plan and ate quite well. Come this week and no plan, the grocery shopping hasn't been done, I haven't had useful food in the house, and we've already had fish and chips at the beach on Saturday because we had nothing suitable to pack for a picnic and takeaway Chinese tonight because my Dad invited himself to dinner and I couldn't very well feed him leftovers scrounged from the fridge and freezer. I absolutely must write a new meal plan every week, the 2 week perpetual plan worked ok for a while but it fell apart whenever there was something unusual happening, and there just don't seem to be that many "usual" weeks in this house! Besides, I got bored.

Meal plan every week, that's the first thing. I also have vague thoughts about making the effort to cook something a bit special, or something new anyway, at least once a fortnight. I might even give myself some blogging material if I get creative, the recipe posts are easily the most visited ones on my blog.

Next up is this sleep thing. I've been struggling with this for years. It doesn't seem to matter that I know exactly what I need to do to fix it - which is get up early each morning come hell or high water so I can't help but want to go to bed earlier. It's not that I can't go to sleep earlier, or that I wake during the night and lie in bed cursing insomnia. I sleep well once I'm there and I don't generally wake till the sun is up (mind you, that can be a little early this time of year). I'm not even sure why I'm sitting here typing this up now instead of going to bed, though I suspect it's something to do with enjoying the solitude of being the only one in the house who's awake.

What I do know is that if I don't sort this out then it won't matter how well I plan, or how good my intentions are, I will simply be unable to follow through on any of it. I'll continue to barely scrape by, always in crisis mode, always feeling like I'm scrambling to catch up and never making any real progress. So despite being in holiday mode I've got my alarm set for rather-earlier-than-I'd-like and I'll keep working on coming up with some way to coerce myself into better sleep patterns. I've got till the end of the month to get the whole family into a good routine before we get hit with the shock of back to school and David having to leave earlier for high school and Tom having band practice at stupid o'clock in the morning before school once a week.

And then last, but by no means least, there's that fitness thing. Damn I hate feeling like there's things I can't do because they're going to make me feel utterly miserable. If I went to Jenolan Caves right now and had to climb all those stairs I'd be a wreck, but it's been 3.5 years since we went and I'd really like to go back now that the kids are older. At Easter we're planning on going back to Cruickshanks for another farmstay holiday and there's a horseriding place nearby which we checked out last time we were there. I was assured that they have horses that would be up to my weight so I've been looking forward to riding for the first time in about 11 years and I'd love to be fit enough to enjoy it properly. Plenty of walking and some weights work would do the trick and I have a treadmill and weights right here at home - not to mention the dog!

So, if I'm no longer snowed under with a multitude of little and not so little commitments, and I sort out the sleep and cooking and eating issues so I actually have a little energy to spare, then getting on the treadmill or taking the dog for a walk at least once a day should become something I look forward to instead of dreading (and yes, I do like the treadmill, especially with a good dvd playing on the TV in front of it). I'll give myself a few days grace to get started on fixing the sleep deprivation and then I'm promising myself 30 minutes walking every day no matter what. That'll do for starters anyway.

There's really no down side here, I'll be healthier, the budget will balance a bit better, the family won't have to deal with me being grumpy mum quite so often, Clara will be happy and the treadmill won't be permanently festooned with laundry. Sounds like a plan to me!

(Wish me luck...)

20th Down Under Feminists Carnival

The 20th Down Under Feminists Carnival is up at Pharaoh Katt's place, Something More Than Sides. The optional theme for the month was feminism and childcare and there's plenty of great reading on that and other topics too - get clicking!

Saturday, January 09, 2010

An afternoon at the beach

This afternoon, just after lunch, Adam decided to bake bread rolls. I do like that he's impulsive sometimes but it would be nice if he didn't so frequently decide that he can do something in x minutes when in actual fact it is going to take x minutes + 1 hour. Anyway, Tom had a great time helping to make the rolls so it was totally worth it!

The bread rolls came with us to the beach, filling the car with the scent of freshly baked bread for the 40 minute drive. I completely failed to take a photo of them because we were in a hurry to get going once they were cooked and by the time we were sitting around the picnic table with dinner laid out before us everyone was way too hungry to allow for such frivolities as blog photography.

We took both Adam's and my mum along with us and, when we arrived at Avalon beach, were able to plonk ourselves down in the shade of one of the huge pine trees that overlook the sand.

Avalon Beach

Avalon beach

Sunscreen was applied and Tom, Caitlin and Grandma made a bee-line for the water. David had decided that being sandy and salty was over-rated and settled down to sit with Nan.

David has engaged his anti-camera device.

Adam, David and Nanna

Adam and I wandered down to the water's edge and stood knee deep in the waves watching the kids in the water with my mum. We ended up staying there, talking about stuff, with only the occasional larger wave interrupting us, for most of an hour. It was probably the best conversation time we've had in weeks. Eventually we thought we'd better go back and be friendly to Nan and Dave. A little later Adam and Tom headed over to the ocean pool and Dave and I followed.

The ocean pool is down where the sand meets the rocks at the base of the headland.

Avalon beach

Ha! Got him before he could engage anti-camera device!


I was planning on just walking in far enough to get the sand out of the legs of my boardies but ended up going in for a swim after all, the water was just too enticing. We swam over to the edge where the waves of the incoming tide were just beginning to slosh over the concrete wall and rested there watching the surf break on the rocks. I'd have taken some photos but my camera was in David's pocket and he'd got fed up with watching us in the pool and had buggered off back to our spot on the beach.

After all that swimming and walking over soft sand and floating in the pool Tom was exhausted.

All worn out

Grandma, David and Caitlin, however, were still going strong.

Grandma, David and Caitlin

Adam and his mum went off in search of dinner while the rest of us lounged about on the beach, Grandma and Tom did go back for one last surf before the food arrived. Fish and chips and prawns and, of course, the rolls. At the end of the meal, after having devoured a huge amount of food including 4 of the, admittedly small, bread rolls, Tom asked "Seeing as we've been so good, can we have ice-cream?"

So we did.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Friday Fragments

Mommy's Idea
Hosted by Mrs4444.

I don't seem to have all that many fragments to share this week despite having missed the weekly brain-dump last Friday. It must be something to do with being on holidays! Well, the kids are on holidays, the main difference for me is I'm doing all my paid work from home, I don't have to drive anyone anywhere in the afternoons, I don't have to argue about homework, and I don't get any time completely alone. All of which is good except that last bit. I'm starting to get weirdly grumpy and I'm pretty sure it's the absence of alone time that does it (no doubt Adam will say "Starting?!").


I spent several hours on Saturday and a few more on Monday standing over Caitlin in her room and helping her clean it up. Yes, it really was that bad. She has now written a list of rules that must be followed by anyone coming into her room and stuck it on the door, it includes the instructions "No food or drink" and "If you use something then put it away afterwards." Amazing, who'd have thought that might be a good idea!


I renewed my driver's license on Thursday, having my license expire on Jan 7th has always been a right royal pain in the bum, if it wasn't having to scrape together enough cash post-Christmas it was having to take all the kids along and being stuck waiting in the interminable queue because it's holidays time and there's no school or pre-school. This time the money thing was ok and the kids are old enough to be left at home while I pop up the hill to the Motor Registry - there's one right near our place - and as it turned out Adam was working from home anyway. The hardest thing about the whole exercise was being told not to smile at the camera, it's a reflex action, I can't help but smile! It's all to do with facial recognition systems needing neutral expressions on faces to work properly apparently - so there you go, the secret to not being identifiable is to grin wildly all the time.


I have a couple of Tribbles. Don't worry, I'm assured they're not fertile. One of them is such a sensitive little soul that if anyone raises their voice a little too much in the lounge room it does its squeal and shiver thing. So I've taken to yelling at the kids when they're getting a bit too carried away "Stop it NOW! (which sets the Tribble off) ...You're upsetting the Tribble!" Which has the rather happy effect of making everyone laugh thus stopping the escalating drama in its tracks.

Sound activated Tribble

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


When the very lovely Richard Tulloch dropped by and left a comment on my post about his play, I clicked through to his travel blog and was instantly hooked. I particularly enjoyed reading about the Pieterpad in Holland, somehow he managed to make walking and biking in a thunderstorm sound almost fun.


And that's the lot for this week, pop on over to Half-Past Kissin' Time for more fragmented fun!

Thursday, January 07, 2010

We need a new car

We went to my mum's place for dinner tonight, my brother's family were also there. Mum had been looking after his 3 kids all day so I offered to provide the meal. My sister-in-law and one of their kids are semi-vegetarian (they eat fish, there's a word for that I'm sure but I can't think of it right now) so I decided to do Mexican because we could have meat and non-meat stuff. We had taco mince with red kidney beans, blue eye cod in fajita seasoning with coleslaw, refried beans with chili, a bean salad, shredded cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, avocado, sour cream, taco shells and tortillas...and then we all asploded.

The bean salad was an impromptu invention, I'm writing it down here mostly so I don't forget because it was actually pretty good.

There wasn't much left over.

Bean salad

420g can red kidney beans, rinsed
420g can sweet corn kernels, drained
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 tspn minced garlic
a few shakes of smoked paprika
a few shakes of ground cumin
a drizzle of olive oil
lemon juice to taste

Mix it all together and eat!

After dinner we sat around talking for a while before facing the fact that there were kids who really needed to be in bed. We said our goodbyes and piled into the car.

Adam started driving down the street and then suddenly pulled over and said "We have an extra passenger on the inside of the car."

Yep, there it was, lurking down in the bottom corner of the windscreen ready to scuttle across the dashboard at a critical moment - a huntsman spider. Not huge, but big enough - about the size of my palm, legs included. Adam was all for killing it but I have a soft spot for huntsmans and besides, if he tried to hit it chances were it'd just end up scuttling off to hide somewhere only to re-appear when you least expect it. Well, that or end up squished all over the windscreen.

So I grabbed a plastic container with left-over lettuce from dinner, tossed out the lettuce and, using my super huntsman removal skills (and an envelope), coaxed it a little further up the window until I could put the container over it, collect it unharmed and chuck it across the road into the bush.

As we headed off again Tom announced that if, as Adam suggested was probable, there were any more spiders living in the car then it was definitely time to get a new one!

As it happens we are planning on looking at cars on Saturday - I can't wait for Tom to explain to the salesperson why we want a new one.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

More or less Wordless Wednesday

I have a new niece. She was born the Monday before Christmas and this photo was taken a week later when we went to my sister's place for morning tea. My mum was holding Adela and had just said something rather outrageous ( I forget what exactly) and Adela's expression was just the perfect reaction of consternation.

Grandma, you're freaking me out!

Grandma is freaky

For more Wordless Wednesdays click here.

Monday, January 04, 2010

The Book of Everything

Yesterday we took the kids to the Belvoir St Theatre to see The Book of Everything, I'd had the tickets tucked away in my diary for more than a year and had completely forgotten what the play was about, all I remembered was that it was meant to be good for ages 8 and up.

From Australian Stage
The Book of Everything | Theatre of Image & Company B Belvoir

book_of_everything_html_m18787390AUNTIE PIE: Have you thought about what you want to be when you grow up, Thomas?

THOMAS: Happy. I want to be happy.

The Book of Everything centres on nine-year old Thomas, a little boy who dreams big. Directed by Neil Armfield, this magical tale follows the story of a child who sees things others cannot imagine, and whose spirit and curiosity wins over those around him.

Thomas is writing a book. His father says all important books are about God. Even so, Thomas writes down all the interesting things he sees that other people seem to ignore - tropical fish in the canal, a deluge of frogs, the Son of God popping in for a chat – and calls it The Book of Everything.

Featuring a colourful cast of characters, including sunny Auntie Pie, the vicious Bumbiter, a beautiful girl with a leather leg, the startling Mrs Van Amersfoort, and Jesus, this play will appeal to adults and families over the holiday season.

Neil Armfield said, ‘The Book of Everything has enormous spirit and celebrates the ability children have to let their imaginations roam. It’s a funny, generous show that will grab your heart and challenge your mind, no matter how old you are’.


The Book of Everything is based on an original novel written by the award-winning Dutch children’s writer Guus Kuijer. It was adapted for the stage by Richard Tulloch, one of Australia’s leadng writers of books, plays and television for young audiences. He was the principal writer of Bananas in Pyjamas and has written numerous children’s books including Danny in the Toybox and Being Bad for the Babysitter. His 2003 Sydney Festival puppet theatre piece Twinkle Twinkle Little Fish went on to play on Broadway. His other children’s plays include Hating Alison Ashley and Talking to Grandma While the World Goes By. He also works as a travel journalist, and speaks fluent Dutch enabling him to write the stage adaptation for The Book of Everything from the original novel.
It was fantastic!

The Belvoir Street theatre is a fairly small venue, the front row of seats is right up against the stage, we were in row C and the kids were quite amused to find that the easiest route to our seats was to walk down the stairs onto the stage and climb up the side of the section to our seats at the far end of the row - much better than climbing over everyone sitting in the rest of the row! The program for the show most unusually included the entire script of the play, Tom has been reading it today. The script is illustrated with the scenery backdrop paintings that were used in the production.

From the script:
This is an ensemble piece; actors not involved in particular scenes sometimes remain on stage, observing, commenting on the action and supplying sound effects and props as required.

(The) design...featured a large copy of Thomas's book, The Book of Everything, standing upstage centre. Pages were turned during the performance to reveal...the different locations.
This worked brilliantly, the movements of the actors flowed beautifully as they came in and out of the centre stage area and turned the giant book's pages to change the settings. The fourth wall was somewhat permeable but the many nods and winks to the audience didn't stop the kids (and me!) from becoming quite involved in the story. There was laughing, gasps of surprise, indrawn breaths of fearful anticipation (that was mostly from Tom) and even tears a couple of times - I had to scrounge a tissue from Adam, rip it in two and give half each to Tom and Caitlin at one point.

During interval the cast went around the audience distributing frogs* for us to throw on stage early in the second act, we were also required to make frog noises - much fun! At the end of the play there was a scene which required rather more people than there were cast members, so audience members were brought on-stage as extras. There were a couple of adults and a handful of kids chosen and the very last to be asked to join in was Caitlin, she didn't have her hand raised or anything so it was a bit of a surprise and I think she was a little overwhelmed but she rose to the occasion :-) It was quite distracting to have my own kid on-stage during the last scene - I kept watching her instead of the actors!

What I really wasn't expecting (and this will teach me not to check for details of what a play is about before arriving at the venue with the kids!) was the somewhat confronting domestic violence part of the plot with both Thomas and his mother being beaten by the father and the 16 year old sister confronting her father with carving knife in hand. But, being a story intended for kids, there was resolution and healing at the end and it certainly led to interesting conversations about relationships on the way home in the car.

There's a rather nice preview article on SMH which includes an interview with the 33 year old actor, Matthew Whittet, who played 9 year old Thomas.

*Green ping pong balls :-) Had you worried there for a moment didn't I?

Friday, January 01, 2010

I was going to write a nice long New Year post

But I've decided to clean fish tanks, cook yummy food and spend some time with the kids instead. I'll be back with thinky thoughts in a day or so.

Happy New Year everyone!