31 August 2009

Piles, Lists and Packing Bags

The countdown is on. This time next week we will be 30,000 feet up, winging our way towards Britain. Six long years and two kids later, we are finally returning to England to visit Mr G's family in Newcastle.

If we survive the 27-hour plane trip (with three active kids - eek!!) we will spend a month in the UK visiting family and friends, introducing our little brood to lots of lovely aunties and uncles and cousins and great-granddads.

We'll take side-trips to Cornwall and Scotland, and a day-trip to London to see the sights. I will get to stay three days with my dear friend and bridesmaid Mrs T and catch up with other great pals V&A in their quaint Midlands village.

Dash will get to visit the Dinosaur Museum, the Newcastle Football Stadium, and go to a match (even though Newcastle United were relegated to the 2nd Division, boohoo).

Princess will be taken out for Tea and Shopping with Grandma and Co.

Scrag will be kissed and cuddled and squeezed and tickled by all.

Grandma is getting excited. She can't wait to show us off to everyone - it's been so long. The last time we were in the UK, Dash was just an 8-month-old baby. Now he's a tall lad of nearly 7 and we have a Princess and a Scrag as well. I am imagining some tearful reunions!

(I'm just glad Princess's fringe is nearly grown to a respectable length)

It's an epic pilgrimage. One for which must be thoroughly prepared. There are piles of clothes waiting to be packed (the end of an English summer... clothes for all weathers!) There are lists to be made, treats to be bought, activity bags to be filled (bribes to help us survive the trip).

We will employ the Token Strategy with the older two. Each hour of good behaviour they'll earn a token. At the end of the journey, the tokens will be converted into pounds. That will be their spending money for the trip. We still have to work out a fair exchange rate for tokens... maybe .5op per token?? As for that Scrag... I'm just hoping the Vallergan will work a treat (I don't want to think about it - 27 hours with him squirming on our knees... argghhh!)

Then there is the house to be cleaned and made ready for our good friends who will be housesitting for us while we are away. I can live with stuff just shoved into cupboards but I think I'd better sort out the linen closet or they'll never find the towels!

Last night Mr G cleaned the oven... gasp!! He also vaccuumed under the couch cushions (eek)and I washed the cushion covers off one couch. I am embarrased to look at the unwashed one and see the shocking difference. Oh Dear. Better get onto washing the other one in a hurry.

The kids will miss three weeks of school. But the educational value to them of visiting places they've only heard about more than makes up for it. And how wonderful to get to see where their funny-talking dad comes from?! And to meet their family on the other side of the world! Amazing.

So, after I finish this post I will start typing the lists. And sorting the piles. And Packing the Bags. Six Days to Go!

P.S. Don't worry I plan to keep posting in England from Grandma's computer... I'm sure you'll be relieved to know that!!
26 August 2009

Out of Me

This afternoon I watched my talented son play football. I watched him dodge and weave, effortlessly his strong agile limbs moved the ball and carried him without hesitation towards the goal. As I stood admiring him, I thought to myself, "Wow he came out of me!"

Later as bedtime preparations were underway I watched my husband towel-dry and powder my littlest one. I marvelled at his sturdy little limbs and perfectly formed frame. Again I found myself thinking: "He came out of me!"

Earlier I watched my daughter laugh and twirl and swing and skip. She throws back her head and laughs with her whole being. Her joy and energy are contagious. Her confidence astounds me. I find myself in awe once again: "She came out of me."

Other things come out of me too, though. Fears. Insecurities. Negative thoughts. I have to fight hard to withstand the magnetic pull of the negative tide. I reach out to grasp onto a life-line before I am swept away in the downpour.

Here's a familar tried and tested Lifeline:

"You created my innermost being. You knit me together in my mother's womb. Your eyes saw my unformed body. Your works are wonderful - I know that full well..."


Just as my children are precious to me, just as they take my breath away, bring a warm glow to my heart and make the pain worthwhile with their sweet kisses... so I am precious to my Creator.

I must remember that my Father dotes over me just as I dote over my kids.

Sure I get mad/frustrated/disappointed with them at times - as I'm sure He does with me. But do I for even a second stop loving them?? Would I trade them? Would I wish them away for all the hard work and pain and tears they bring me? Never.

If you offered me A Million - A Billion - in exchange for one of my children, would I take it?? Never!

They are beyond price.
And so am I. And so are you.

Wordless Wednesday: Ola & Adios!

Saturday adventure down at the wharf. A gorgeous day to be out on the harbour with our lovely cousins from Spain...

...eating gelato...

Self-portrait with Little Brother...

Matching Father'n'Son Goatees...

Self Portrait with Mr G (I love how my self-portraits are turning out!)

The Ferry-boat to Devonport

...Try to convince me it's still winter. I won't believe you. x

The cousins have left now to go and visit Nan and Grandad. The house is quieter, tidier, emptier. But we miss them and are so glad we got to spend a lovely weekend with our lovely family from Spain. Adios!

23 August 2009


Computer time has been hard to come by for me lately, for one reason or another. Not that I haven't wanted to blog... oh no, on the contrary I have stories coming out my ears! But where to start? Right now I may only have minutes before the Working Guy comes to claim the computer back. So the best I can hope for a bunch of Snippets...

Tiger Tiger
Last Saturday I had the fun of taking Scrag to his very first Birthday Party without his big bro and sis. My lovely friend and neighbour Linda had her youngest girl Immy turning two, and our little guy was invited, just him, to her special Tiger Party (because Immy loves Scrag).

He looked so darn cute in his enormous leopard costume (the closest thing to a tiger one I could find to borrow). It was a gorgeous party, very simple but Tiger-y.
The great face painting was done by Immy's clever dad, who also decorated the amazing Birthday Cake to look like "Tigress" from KungFu Panda.

Scrag managed to escape out the front door, find the nearest muddy puddle and then track mud all over Linda's carpet. But Linda is so gracious, she didn't hold it against us (at least I don't think she did??)

All Arty....

Last Sunday me and my great friend Gail took our creative daughters to the Auckland Art Gallery's Kids Club. Gail manages to find out about lots of cool stuff, so me and The Princess tagged along, even though we didn't have a space booked. You know, turn up and hope for the best....?

We got to have lunch together, the girls created fab hat creations, Gail and I explored the Rita Angus Exhibition while the girls were creating and then of course we topped it off with a coffee. I love the age our kids are getting to now, where we can really enjoy doing creative things with them. It was a wonderful afternoon - more especially because we got to do it with our special friends.

Why I Hate Shopping...

In preparation for our trip to the UK I made a feeble half-hearted foray into a couple of clothes shops this week. This is in order to avoid the depressing and discouraging minefield that is UK clothes shops (where I am automatically 2 sizes larger and banished to Big Girl shops!)

It's not much better here in NZ. The reason I dress so boringly is because I hate clothes shopping.

And the reason I hate clothes shopping is because I always come away (a) empty handed and (b) feeling embarrassed and dissatisfied with my wobbly bits. Which I am quite happy to lazily live with on days when I don't have to strip off and stand in front of fun house mirrors in an attempt to liven up my wardrobe. Darn It. That's why I usually shop Ezibuy!!

Cousins from Spain...

On Friday my brother and his family arrived from Spain to visit us on their way to spend a month with mum and dad. It's been two and a half years since we saw each other. We've each had another baby since then, so there were new cousins to meet and lots of squealing and chasing when I took my 4-yr-old nephew to school to pick up the kids. (Here's a pic taken of Princess and my nephew sharing Rice Wheels at the airport last time they visited)

What gives me the biggest kick is seeing my nephew communicating with our kids, including Scrag. Somehow in the middle of the broken English, baby-talk, blowing raspberries, giggling and general silliness, kids manage to communicate beautifully across language and cultural barriers. It's like they don't really need words.

I call it the International Language of Children. They find ways to have fun and find common ground without needing to understand each other's words.

We grown ups could learn a lot from their effortless cross-cultural friend-making. Dontcha think?

19 August 2009

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Phone

10.24pm. All's quiet in Kidville. Suddenly something strange catches my eye - the telephone handset status reads: Line in Use. Strange. There's nobody on the phone, nobody here but me and my associate, Detective G. Someone must have left the other handset "on".

To our consternation the other handset's charger is empty. The phone is nowhere to be seen.

We ponder this anomaly and both jump to the same obvious conclusion: It's got to be The Scrag. This rascal is well known to have a thing for phones. He has often been spotted pushing buttons randomly and wandering through the house gabbling to himself whenever he manages to find a phone within reach.

Immediately I begin my search for the other handset... who knows how long the line has been tied up? Who knows how many important calls we have missed? Who knows which international countries he has called?

Detective G employs his trusty torch: we scour under couch cushions (nothing but crumbs), in toyboxes and under every couch, bed and cabinet in the house. All we manage to find is a missing sippy bottle and a collection of little balls which had been making friends with the local dust bunnies (more evidence of Scrag's involvement).
To catch a Scrag I must think like a Scrag.

I take the torch and go outside... he could have dropped it behind the porch steps in his aimless scragging?

Finally out of desperation (and thoughts of phone calls to China) I pray: "Please help us find that phone!"

Detective G asks, have I checked the Princess's neighbourhood? Sure, a brief foray. But everyone knows Scrags do not hang out there much as she keeps her door shut to prevent his ransacking.

But something seems to tell me to check again. I open her closet. Suddenly I am blinded by a light reflecting off the mirror ball and hear two short sharp beeps which sound suspiciously like... the missing phone! [Cue Twilight Zone Theme music]

My heart starts to beat faster. The phone must be here somewhere! I call in Detective G and he puts his trusty torch to use again. We empty toy boxes, checking everywhere Scrag could have stashed the phone. Tantalisingly we hear two more beeps. It seems to be coming from... a handbag?

Surely not? I open the bag and snatch out... The Missing Phone. Zipped into a handbag that could only belong to The Princess.

We have been chasing the wrong criminal. Shame!
Lesson Learned: Never assume anything. To assume is to make an Ass out of U and Me.

The phone is restored to it's charger. No messages. No calls to China. Phew. Mystery solved.
Only one question remains: If the phone was zipped into the bag, how did the light shine and reflect on the mirror ball??? (Twilight Zone theme music again).

I guess some things will remain a mystery...
18 August 2009

Stealing Moments

I am stealing a moment right now as I sit here in my PJ's with my house falling down around me, dust bunnies cosying up in the corners and piles of things waiting patiently to be cleaned or sorted.
I have some cute things to blog about... a trip to the Art Gallery with my daughter, a Tiger Party attended with Scrag... but actually I am feeling too blah to be cute today.

We had a night visitor (the big boy with nightmares) so me and Mr G had pretty rubbish sleep after that. I am aching all over, my mummy-shaped body is feeling every day of it's nearly 40 years.

I had a disappointment last night. Something hard I had been preparing to face just got a little bit harder when I received an email from someone I had been counting on to support me (sorry can't make it, you'll have to do it without me). I went to sleep on Mr G's chest with tears still in my eyes and feeling the weight of years.

So instead of being bright and perky, I'm offering a window into my tired, sad soul. And sending out a big cyber-hug to anyone else who's feeling overwhelmed.
Here's a verse I am going to cheer myself up with:

"We are hard pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken; perplexed, but we don't give up and quit; persecuted, but God never abandons us; we get knocked down, but we are not destroyed..." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9

God bless!
17 August 2009

Of Dinosaurs and Art

You may have heard stories about my eldest son, Dash. He is the sporty one, he is rarely seen without a ball of some kind, he quotes sports statistics endlessly and has an opinion on which All Blacks rate; he's the one who came second in the cross country just after receiving a blow to the head which required stitches... that's Dash.

Since he shows such an aptitude for sports, you might think he wouldn't mind that Art is not his strongest subject. But No.

He gets quite worked up on Art days. The School Art Exhibition was something like torture for him. We tried to have the well-meaning parent chat, to help him feel better. You know, the one that goes: "Son, it's OK. Not everyone can be good at everything. You are really good at sport. You are doing great at reading. So just try your best at Art and don't worry about it..." Did that help? Nuh-uh.

After another Art-Day meltdown last Monday morning, a lightbulb went on. "Hey", I said to him. "Your mummy is a pretty good artist. Do you know that I used to do art for a job??"

Apparently not.

"Well, why don't I sit down with you after school and do some art with you, maybe show you how to do some stuff... would you like that??"

Would he??? So a dinosaur picture was planned. Because it's all about Dinosaurs at the moment (the class Science Topic). All non-dino toys have been donated to Scrag. All non-dino pictures have been banished from the bedroom walls. A dinosaur picture with a volcano, would be our project.

Monday after school we completed Stage One... painting the volcano, and background. He sketched where he wanted the volcano, the grass and the water. Then I showed him how to hold his brush and mix the colours. He did most of the painting himself with only a little help from me. We used a tissue smeared with paint to create the smoke.

A couple of days later I sketched some trees, and he coloured them, cut them out and stuck them on. Looking good!

Then the next day he turns up with this:

I am amazed. This is the most detailed picture he has ever produced. It fills up the whole page. It is not a stick figure. It's a Stegosaurus. I love it. I ask him, when did you do this, son??

His reply bowls me over: "At Art Club. At Lunchtime."

My soccer boy has of his own free will, spent his lunchtime at Art Club. Yeeehaaaarrr!! (For an arty mum to see her non-arty son enjoying art is magic!!)

We finished the picture off with dinosaurs we found on the internet, carefully chosen, coloured and cut out, by Dash. Finally this morning the completed project was taken to school and shown for News. A proud moment. I made sure I was there...

13 August 2009

The Truth about Supermum...

Twice lately someone has referred to me as a "Supermum". I can tell you right now that I am...

(a) completely uncomfortable to have my name and hers mentioned in the same sentence and

(b) so far from being Supermum that I have more in common with a Goldfish (I actually have the same memory span as our fishy friends).

I am sure those poor misguided individuals just got confused. Maybe blinded by my party doings? or my painting and decorating efforts? Ha! Did they not see the pictures of what I left undone while I spent time on my creative endeavours?? The sinks, benches and washing baskets piled high? The baby wandering around in gumboots with sticky fingers and a snotty nose? The last-minute rehashed dinner menu (a repeating cycle of nachos, spag bol, curry'n'rice and bangers'n'mash with takeaways on the weekend...?)

So here I am putting the record straight. I truly aint no Supermum!
In case you were under any illusions (which can only mean that you have not been reading this blog for very long!)

Now, what I am about to say may come as a shock to some of you, and a relief to others. I don't want to be the one to burst your bubble or shatter your illusions, but I really think someone should tell you this... it's about Supermum...

She. Doesn't. Exist.

I know! I know! I thought she did too! But I have come to realise she is actually a grown-ups version of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy: Made up. An illusion.

Am I sure, you ask?? Well, an article I read the other day put the final nail in Supermum's coffin as far as I'm concerned (a link found in a great post by Gail)

The author, Deborah Hill Cone, said:

"Sisters, we have got to stop buying into all this Superwoman, Supernanny, Yummy Mummy, Alpha Female, MILF, Cougar craziness. It is nonsense. It is killing us, literally.

For too long we have all been complicit in this grand delusion that if you just get more organised or efficient or fitter or focused or a new personal trainer, or life coach, or gluten-free diet, you can control your life.

You can be the hard-arse career woman as well as the mother who makes her own organic baby food, and the designer homemaker and the sexpot wife.
Well I am telling you now: this is utter, utter tosh. Some of these roles are mutually exclusive, for a start.
You simply can't do it all. And we need to stop torturing each other by acting as though it is even an option..."

It's true. She's right. Show me a mum you think has it all together (and I mean all) and I will show you someone who is barely keeping the balls in the air or the plates spinning. At some point you just know that gravity is gonna kick in.
Like the lady Deborah Cone talks about in her article. She had it all together (or looked like she did) and then one day it all got too much and she just... well, I'll let you read the story.

The truth is Supermum is Fiction. She belongs in a comic book. She has nothing to do with real life.

In real life, we have our good days and our bad days. In real life we do some things well and let other things slide. In real life we often make mistakes... sometimes even the same one twice! In real life we can't do it all, can't have it all. Sorry. Them's the facts. Something's gotta give.

Whatever choices we make there are sacrifices. Whatever we prioritise, something else loses out.

I blog. I do it when my kids are at school and my little guy sleeps. Or in the evening when they're all in bed, and hubby's out, like now. I love it. It's a creative outlet for me. But what gives?? The housework, mostly. So sometimes I do a mad spring clean and make up for lost time. On those days I don't get to blog.

I can't do it all.

And neither can you, my friend. So go easy on yourself.

(Pssssst! Supermum doesn't exist... Pass it on!)

Click here for Deborah Cone's Article
Top Image by IdiotGraphic
12 August 2009

Bedroom Makeover: My Space

What have I been up to the last few days? What on earth could possibly have been fascinating enough to keep me away from my blog addiction?

I have been giving my bedroom a makeover. All work on other projects ceased. So did all housework, much to Mr G's annoyance. I painted my bedroom while the baby slept and then raced to make school pickups on time...

...leaving the breakfast dishes in the sink...

...leaving the shopping piled on the table...

...leaving the washing piled up, the floors unswept, the beds unmade (you get the picture)...

But it was worth it. Bit by bit I have transformed my bedroom, painted it even - partly inspired by Melinda's Operation Organisation... and partly by the fact that the clutter and untidy old paintwork was driving me nuts.

This is Phase One completed. Phase Two is Operation Get Hubby Out Of My Sunroom! One of these days, Telecom will figure out a way to give us phone/internet service in our purpose-built outside office. Then I can reclaim the sunroom (attached to our bedroom) and turn it into my Sanctuary, my Art Space, my Reading and Relaxing Space. Ahhhhhh, dreams are free - darn it Telecom!

Well in the meantime, at least I now have lovely freshly painted walls, reorganised closet space and a decided lack of clutter. Yay!
The cluttered cupboard.... Before...

... and After.

Unfortunately Mr G was not impressed when he came home and found his stuff moved and reorganised. He keeps complaining he can't find anything and that it's a waste of space. I think it looks great having the dresser in the cupboard. He is not convinced :(

The walls had not been touched in about 115 years and were a patchy faded yellowy cream. I painted them a lovely soft pale gray - Resene SeaFog. Mr G said after it was done, "What? Have you painted it a different colour??" Blokes!

My new clutter-free bedroom. You can't really see the colour very well... trust me it's a soft restful pale grey!
I switched the bed over to the other wall so we now look out the window, instead of sleeping underneath it (it was Dash's idea, actually!) It's way better - don't know why I didn't have it postioned there all along.
I am working on convincing Mr G that the new wardrobe configuration will work. I just have to tweak a few things on the storage side (and maybe convince him to let me splash out on a new embossed white cotton bedcover...and lift the carpet to expose the wood floors... and purchase a new blind to better show off the gorgeous window...)

Apparently he doesn't take kindly to change. Or surprises. Hmmmm I think I have my work cut out for me!