30 April 2011

Road Trips are Fun. Yeah Right.

You are standing in your hallway surrounded by bags filled with who-knows-what-they've-packed.
It's meant to be a three night deal but with the mountain of gear you're expected to cram into your people-mover you could be going for ten. Weeks, that is.

Voices shout from all directions...
"I need those bags in the hallway now...!"
"Mum I can't find my..."
"Have you packed your toothbrush...?"
"Are those bags in the hallway yet...?"
"Have you packed warm clothes...?"
"Mum do I have to take shoes...?"
"Where are those bags...?!!"

You finish vacuuming the house, cleaning the bathroom, changing the bedlinen, washing the dishes in preparation for your house sitters - who walk in just as you discover your toddler has left a trail of crumbs behind him clear enough for Hansel and Gretel to follow.

At about which point, you ask yourself, why are we bothering???
Going away is just so much effort.

Ahhh but it's worth the effort for all the fun and good times and family bonding you do while you're away, I hear you optimists say. The memories, Simoney! The memories you are creating!

I don't deny that time together away from the familiar is very beneficial for all those things.
And three hours of I Spy while locked in a people mover packed to the gills with games you won't play and clothes you won't wear is not that bad. It could be worse.

Like... your preschooler could clobber his sister over the head with Buzz Lightyear and pull her hair.
When she clobbers him back World War Three could erupt complete with an air raid siren that screams non-stop for forty minutes... "LET ME OUT LET ME OUT LET ME OUT!"

Peace negotiations are impossible. Isolation is out of the question as the car is packed to the gills with games you won't play and clothes you won't wear.

You might decide to call someone's bluff. You might stop the car and let her out on the side of a country lane, drive up the road a few hundred metres, turn around and come back.

If in that instance, you had hoped that this terrorist might be shocked into compliance... you were wrong.

Does this look like the face of a kid that would ever back down?
She is unperturbed, playing with stones in a lay by. Refusing to re-enter the vehicle.
Unmoved. Unshaken. Unrepentant.

What now? you ask yourselves, remembering too late that this is the child who has never caved when this tactic was used in Kmart's Toy Section but would happily wave you off as you turned the corner of the aisle, not bothered in the least by "OK Mummy's going now..."

We drive off. Turn the corner. Hide the car behind some bushes. Spy on her from behind a fence. Wait it out. Surely by now this kid must be worried?

Eventually we get her back in the car. Oh the joys of family car trips. This was the return leg after a fun-filled memory-creating adventure....

So surely it was all worth it? The memories and warm fuzzies outweighed the shouting and packing and forgotten jackets and lost dollies? Its just the travelling that sucketh, right?

Er, yeah. About that.
The night we arrived somebody started puking. Yep it was the same somebody who made that darn car trip so much fun.
She puked all night.
I held her bucket and tucked her hair behind her ears.
I shushed her and cuddled her. She was an angel.

She puked off and on for two days. We sat on the couch and watched fifty thousand Animated Movies...

...while the boys went out and had memory-making adventures.
Then it was time to come home. And I've just told you how much fun that car trip was!
Adventures can be lotsa fun, but as Dorothy said to Toto, There's No Place Like Home.

29 April 2011

Lovin' Lil Entrepreneurs

Fresh back from a very post-worthy "holiday", Dash is welcomed at the gate by the boys next door. Within minutes, while we unload our car-ful of gear, the lads have cooked up a plan to take over the business world... or at least the neighbourhood.

Unwanted SillyBandz are collected in snaplock bags ready to be sold... Old McD's toys are gathered into groups, ready for the market....

Somebody makes a sign. It says "MINI SALE". Cute.

We down-bags and hang over the garden fence to capture the cuteness. Awwww. They think they're actually gonna sell stuff!! (Don't they remember how last time Dash sat there for an hour and not one person walked past...?)

But wait!!! A pram-pushing Mummy out for a walk! With a preschooler in tow! The boys show her their cute sign, and offer her their wares.

She is a kindhearted soul and offers them her scraps of change.
"I have 90 cents," she says, "What can I get for that?"

Finally, after much negotiating (and loud stage whispered suggestions - Let the little boy pick something!!!) the customers scoot away with a 90 cent Bukagan (bargain!) and a bonus blue SillyBand. "Tell your friends about us!" the boys call as they wave goodbye.

Dollar signs flash before their eyes. A real customer! An actual sale!

("How are they gonna figure out the profit sharing on that one?" Mr G whispers to me as we giggle from the gate.)

Boosted by their success the boys begin waving at passing cars. "TOYS FOR SALE!" they call.

After a bit, they all decide it might be time to branch out. Maybe not everyone driving by is in the market for toys and SillyBandz?
"Lets sell feijoas!" someone shouts. and there is a race to collect and bag some from under our tree.

Mr G even paints them a sign. "How do you spell feijoas?" he asks me.

The sign works a treat. They actually managed to sell three bags for fifty cents each. One to the postie, and two to the lady across the street. (Of course they raided my fruit bowl and also sold the oranges I needed for football tomorrow. Miss Fab's idea. Great.)

These guys are gonna be rivalling Donald Trump soon!

"We need more things to sell!" decide the lil entrepreneurs. They take over the whole path in front of our house, spreading it with old books, rejected toys and who-knows-what-else.

"Somebody better clean all that mess up!" a grown up call. Might have been me. Might not.

As the sun begins to set and nobody else appears (other than a Korean exchange student who walks quickly past on the other side and pretends not to speak any English) the enterpreneurs begin to pack away their stall.

Of course just as the last of the merchandise has been stowed away inside, the sound of stroller wheels sounds from the footpath.

"Ohhhh stink," said Miss Fab, who had joined the boys at their game of shopkeepers.
"Just as we put everything away we get another customer!"

Such is life. Tee Hee.
Love those Lil Entrepreneurs. If they make it big, you'll know this is where it all started *smile*

PS: Linking up with Paisley Jade on Things I'm Loving
25 April 2011

Randomness From Me

Hey. Happy Easter. And Happy Anzac Day.
I just had to show you these cute photos Mr G took on his phone. It's not even an iPhone. Aren't they cool?

This top one was meant to be a silly-faces one of Dash with Daddy. But Dash sneezed right when the shutter clicked. Maybe that's funnier?

Whatever, I think it's cute. I love the way this one captures Scrag's blue eyes and sweet-cheeked smile.

And this one of Miss Fab, reclining on the window seat. Daddy's not bad with the BlackBerry.
And look below. Quintessential Scrag-on-Bike.

This is the Balance Bike that took daddy until 2.30am on the night before Scrag's birthday to put together. The one Scrag looked and then... ignored.
Poor Daddy. Happily Scrag now loves it. Sometimes these things take time, aye?

A friend said to me yesterday, "There's something about your kids. They're not the cutest or the prettiest or the best dressed (!) but there's just something about them."

Um. Yeah. I think they're special too. (But being their mother I think they're also the cutest and the prettiest. The not being the best dressed I'll grant you, but only because they refuse to listen to my advice and insist on wearing their favourite clothes, while the "best" clothes languish ignored in the closet.)

It's raining here. Warm and wet. A grey Easter Monday/Anzac Day.
Dash said, what, it's ANZAC DAY? Mum you should make some Anzac Biscuits!
Yeah, I would son, but we are all out of butter and sugar after our baking frenzy last week.
And being Anzac Day following on the heels of Easter... the cupboards are bare.

So I will revive memories of Anzac Days past, by sharing with you this Recipe for the cookies.
If you don't know what Anzac Day is, you can read this post I wrote last year. It's rather a good one.

I been working hard behind the blog-scenes. And I'm cooking up another bloggy how-to post, which will come to you before the month is out. You'll love it.

In the meantime can I ask you to check out my new rearranged/upgraded Tabs at the top of the page? You know how it is when you've been working hard on something but nobody notices? I hate that. So I thought I'd be blatant and ask you to check it out. And then tell me you love it share your thoughts with me on how its all looking.
There's the redesigned Our Family page.
Which resides next to my simplified Best Posts page.
Next to which you'll find my How To's Page. It's pretty now.
Followed by the new Parenting Fun page. Loaded with ideas that are fun and honest tales.
Skip over the untouched Depression & Me Page (it's fine as it is).
Find yourself on the Life in New Zealand Page. Aint it nice now?
All I need to do now is revamp my About Me page and my job will be complete.
So. What do you think?
{PS Do you use tabs to organise your posts?}
22 April 2011

Beyond Chocolate

Ahem. Hello... hello... is this on?
Testing. Testing.

Hi. Happy Easter!
Hope you've been enjoying the weather.
Eaten much chocolate yet? And how about those Hot Cross Buns, aye?
Love 'em. Eat em every day for breakfast.

So. It's Easter. Good Friday.
And I thought I'd take this opportunity to share with you all what is so special to me about Easter.
After all its one of those "times in the year" where it is almost socially acceptable to mention the J word.
And somewhere in amongst the fluffy chicks and chocolate bunnies is the most meaningful event in the Christian calendar.
Without this weekend there would be no such thing as Christianity.
I know some of you sceptics think that would be a good thing.
Hear me out.
I'm not preaching, just sharing my faith from my heart.

I'm taking this time today not just to share with you, but to refocus my own thoughts on why this weekend is special.

Through the death of Jesus I find comfort.
Strange but true.
I have a God who gets it. Who knows suffering and is "acquainted with grief."
He is not far removed from our human plight; He is not just "watching us from a distance."
He came. He became one of us. He lived a human life and died a hideous death.
He has experienced pain, physical and emotional. He knows what it is to be on top of the world one day and have the crowd baying for his blood the next.
To be betrayed by a close friend. To be abandoned at the time of his greatest need.
To be put on display for his enemies to mock. To be unjustly punished when all he did was try to help others.
He's been rejected, misunderstood, wrongly judged.

This is a God I can call on when I'm in trouble.
This is a God that understands weakness, pain and suffering.
When I am alone, betrayed, rejected, I know he feels what I feel.

This is what means most to me about the death of Jesus.
The worst I can imagine, he has experienced.
It brings him close to me, he shares my world.

And then, because Good Friday in all its horror and violence was only the beginning, there comes Easter Sunday and an empty tomb.

Without the Resurrection, the death of Jesus would just be a sad story of a Good Man wrongly killed.
Without the Resurrection his fearful chicken-hearted disciples would have remained in hiding, returned to their fishing boats.
They would not have had the fires of courage lit within them that turned their world upside down, unless Jesus really had conquered the grave. Because before that, they were running scared.

Sceptics, I can hear your doubts from here.
That's OK.
Even his closest friends had doubts. Remember Thomas? It's OK. God is not scared of our questions or our scepticism. He knows we are only human, remember?

But do you know the part of the resurrection story that touches me most?
Mary Magdalene, crying in the garden.
Mary who loved Jesus and had come to find his tomb empty, and his grave desecrated.
Not even his body remained for her to weep over, so she wept in the garden.
Through her tears she saw someone approach her; thinking he was the gardener, she asked him, "Where have they taken Him?"
And he said one word, "Mary!" and she knew it was Jesus.

Mary, woman with a past. Broken hearted...
Jesus newly resurrected, full of glory, shining with victory over death...

Jesus took time to comfort her, to show her he was alive and give her hope because her tears mattered to him. He didn't go first to Peter or John or one of the other famous blokes. He went first to a woman.
I love that Jesus went against his culture and treated women with respect, dignity, love.

What's not to love about a God like that?

I hope you can find a minute in between the chocolate-eating and bun-munching to ponder the deeper meaning of Easter this weekend.

God himself in human form, dying and conquering death itself so we can have hope, forgiveness and the chance of a Fresh Start and a new connection with him.
It's what gives me hope when everything turns to custard.

Happy Easter

P.S. Photos are from the last two years "Easter dinners" where we dressed up, ate lamb and pita bread, and welcomed some time travellers to tell us about their experiences on the first Easter *smile*
21 April 2011

O Bloggers How I Do Love Thee

{Scroll to the bottom for the linky...}

I've yet to meet a Blogger I didn't like.
And I have met a fair few bloggers by now, I can tell you.

This week I got to have Leonie and her three kids come to stay with us for two nights.
While she was here I threw out the invitation... a Bloggy Party, come one come all!
Of course it rained.

But still they came.

From as far afield as Whangarei, intrepid bloggers braved the wind and rain to come hang out at my house, wish Leonie a happy 40th and say TTFN to Gail, as she heads off to China for seven months *sniff*

Liz and Sima J travelled all the way
from Whangarei to hang out with us

Many pots of tea were downed under the remnants of Pizza Planet.
Hungry kids inhaled cupcakes and popcorn then retreated back to their corners...

The boys playing PS2... or room-trashing...
The girls painting signs...

...and then having to scrub the paint off the floorboards. Yep, they did.

It was fun!
And always a pleasure to meet more bloggers.
Did I mention already that I have yet to meet a blogger I didn't like?

Love the Blog, love the Blogger. That's my theory.

Rebecca from Becca4Love - all the way from Sydney

There's something about Blog friends that goes deeper, faster than RL friendships can.
Is it because we bare our souls to the world so that when we meet for coffee we go quickly beyond the surface chitchat?
I think so.
I now understand how people can meet and fall in love for real on the internet. Totally get it!

I love my bloggy friends.
They are no longer just "bloggers" to me.
They are friends.

Generous, real, down to earth souls. You know who you are, I love you all.

I barely even blog-knew Leonie when she sent my newly gluten-free daughter a parcel of treats all the way from Australia. Who does that? Lovely Bloggers, that's who.

Leonie also organised the Softies for Christchurch, and hundreds of bloggers have sent homemade lovelies for the kids of NZ's earthquake-devastated town. And how about Gail organising the Walk for Christchurch, which has raised thousands for the earthquake victims? The Wellington Bloggers who jumped on board and did it in their town too? Can't wait to meet you girls, I just know I'm gonna love ya.

I don't understand the rumours I hear of blog-nastiness in other places.
Personally I've never seen it.
Is it because here in New Zealand we are so small it would be hard to be anonymously nasty?
Is it because money hasn't come into it here yet because there are no super-bloggers competing for advertising bucks?
Hmmm. Could be.

Whatever the reason, Kiwi Mummy Bloggers are pretty special.
And I love you all. On your blogs, and in Real Life.

I've met so many lovely blog-friends in real life.
Then my favourite of all... A Weekend with Widgey among many others listed somewhere below.

So I am reviving the Bloggy Friends Real Life Hookups Linky.
Not that it went anywhere but it got a bit hidden from view.

RL Bloggy Hookups

Here's a new grabable button. And below is the linky with all the past hookups. I'd love you to add your blog-friend tales to our linky list {grab the button too}
And if you are ever in my town, I'd love to meet you, pour you some tea, offer you a scone... can't wait to meet ya!

19 April 2011

Toy Story Party

The Toy Story films are some of the best kids movies ever. Ever.
In our family the adults love them as much as the kids, and the toddler loves them as much as the big kids.
Our walls echo to shouts of "Reach for the sky!" and "To infinity and beyond!"
Woody and Buzz are at home on Scrag's bed, so much that you'd think his name was Andy.

So the choice of a theme for his third birthday was pretty easy. Great scope there!
Cowboys and space. Pizza and aliens. Perfect.

We started with turning Scrag's room into Andy's room, and recreated Andy's box western town (from Toy Story 1). Throw in our collection of Toy Story characters (Buzz, Woody, Mr & Mrs Potato head, Slinky dog, Barbie, Ken and the green toy soldiers...) hang some bunting and put on the original movie... welcome to Andy's room.

With rain forecast, I decided to turn our dining room into Pizza Planet.
Red cellophane over the windows (it clings on; you don't even have to stick it with tape).
Some giant balls from the $2 shop, hung from the ceiling (make a loop of sellotape all the way round the ball so the string won't pull away)
Paint a ricepaper lamp shade ($3.90) while it's hanging there!
Borrow lava lamps and add some removable wall decals (love that $2 shop!)... and of course my painted Pizza Planet sign.

Loved hearing the "Wows" when people walked in and were transported away from that grey rainy day to... Another Planet.

Pizza Planet food is so simple. Dominos Pizza (with the boxes removed of course), cocktail sausages, watermelon, mini corn cobs, popcorn, chippies and... alien cupcakes!

These guys are too cute... and very simple to make!

  1. Make a nice green butter icing and smooth a round swirl on top of each cupcake (Tip: hold the knife steady and turn the cupcake to get a nice round shape)
  2. Use white mini-marshmallows sliced in half for the eyes. Slice triangular slivers from soft green sweets to create antennae.
  3. I used the squeeze tubes of Queen glitter gel writing icing (silver) for the eyes and mouth (available from the supermarket). Too easy!
A rainy day party with thirteen pre-schoolers plus parents and older siblings called for a rethink of our original plan, which was basically to run around the garden, have hobby-horse races, shoot off pump rockets and rocket balloons, play hide'n'seek and then have a treasure hunt.

To accommodate that many energetic little people, we had to make use of all the spaces in our house...

So we turned Miss Fab's bedroom into a face painting & tattoo parlour, moved furniture and added in star-cookie decorating as an activity.

There was lots of dressing up, with Mr G doing a great job as Sheriff Woody. Like his home-made outfit?

Hat = $3.90; Vest = fabric from Geoffs Emporium $6. Add jeans, a check shirt, a bandana scarf and some boots... We now have one cool Sheriff who is not too shamed to go pick up Pizzas from Dominos looking like that!

And check out Mr Potato Head. Funny huh?

Sheriff Woody wandered around handing out snake lollies...

...and creating Deputies. Like my easy home-made deputy badges???

Then there was the Rocket Cake. Here's how to do it...
  1. Triple-recipe of one-egg chocolate cake, baked in a roasting dish lined with baking paper. Cut off the two corners to form the body of the rocket, then trim the remaining triangles of cake and flip them round to form the rocket fins.
  2. Ice the main body blue (with butter cream icing of course)
  3. Ice the fins red. Use the gel colours to produce vibrant colour.
  4. Slice the bottom off a cuplet ice cream cone and poke into the base of the rocket to create the exhaust
  5. Decorate and make pretty. I used the squeezy Queen icing writing tubes and sweeties.
  6. To create a burst of jet flame, melt orange barley sugar sweets in the oven, on a tray lined with baking paper.
  7. When the sweets melt and run together remove quickly from the oven and use a knife to pull the melted sweets into the shape you want. It will harden and cool quickly; before if becomes brittle use your hands to refine the shape.
  8. Poke into the base of the cake as shown. Simple but very effective!

(and a hit with the birthday boy and his friends)

Finally we finished off with treasure hunt, which was just as easy to do inside as it would have been outside.
I had collected photos of all Scrag's little buddies and Photoshopped their faces onto Woody, Buzz and Jessie's bodies (found on googleimage)

I printed two copies of each image, one to hide, and one to attach to the goody bags.
The kids had to hunt all over the house for their picture and when they found it, bring it to Woody who would exchange it for their treat bag - containing a rocket balloon, a Toy Story stamper and some sweets.

So fun to watch the kids "buzzing" about seeing themselves as Woody, Buzz or Jessie.
Scrag had a great time. His friends had a great time.
I did it without stressing, (even the rain didn't phase me for once cos I planned ahead.)
Another party done and dusted.

Peel the labels off bottles of budget lemonade and replace them with these fun Rocket juice labels
Labels are set up on a portrait (tall) A4 page. Cut the printed page in half, and wrap the label around the bottle; using a glue stick to apply.
Click to download...
[Personalised Toy Story invitation]