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The gingerbread house

Once upon a time there was a Great Uncle with no children of his own. He was a kind and fun Uncle and was considered ïmmediate” family. He joined us for Christmas at his Sister’s house and liked to sleep under the stars on his self inflating mattress. He often shared his bed with our dog Jacko, and although not a ‘doggy’person, shed a tear when Jacko left us last year.

Three Christmases ago this Uncle turned up in Mandurah with a gingerbread house he made all on his own. It was dense and full of lollies. It was wonky and yet a work of art. All eight of his nieces and nephews present oohed and aahhed over this house, displayed in cellophane. Uncle Pete as he is known to these children brought with the gingerbread house, his own criteria for choosing one child each year to be given the honour to SMASH the gingerbread house to pieces with cousins looking on in awe. He told these children that they were welcome to try and persuade him as to why he should choose them.

The middling children and the older children started their pleas. Uncle Pete giggled at their stories.

Boxing Day arrived and the announcement was made. Master S was given the honour due to the fact that he had had a difficult year with hospitalisations and was about to endure more blood tests and a sleep study, aged six. He swung that hammer quite timidly at first until egged on by his older cousins and sibling. With one big blow, pieces of gingerbread house went flying. Six cousins dived in for their handfulls of lollies (two cousins were babes in arms and more interested in milk).

Christmas 2010 rolled around and on the evening of Christmas Day Uncle Pete joined us. Much to the children’s delight he had another biscuity creation to admire. Without notice, they knew the drill and started charming their Great Uncle. It was a two day wait this time and Uncle Pete announced that the eldest child, miss i would be given the hammer. His reason was that she was venturing into a new season of her life, starting High School in the new year. She didn’t hesitate and smashed it in one blow. More sweet goodness for most, although miss i and miss e were no longer addicted to sugar and sampled only a piece or two.

This Christmas, the tradition had formed. Uncle Pete was planning to train it to Mandurah and sent his secret parcel down with Granny and Grandad earlier in the week. The cardboard box lay unnoticed until his arrival when all was revealed. Miss e and her 4 week older cousin, master L were starting to get desperate to win Uncle Pete over. First they started with hardships they had faced, challenges they were facing and then miss e offered a foot massage which had him melting literally in her hands. If there was ever a time he was going to change his already made up mind, this would be it.

They shared the title. The announcement was made the next morning and miss e and master L were given a hammer each. Their faces beamed as the other children (minus master x who was sleeping and has yet to experience the magic of the gingerbread house) watched in anticipation for the house to explode. Much laughter was shared as several mouths were filled with lollies and biscuit, and everyone lived happily ever after.

 

 

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Home is where the heart is

We have been living in our teeny tiny house for three years now. That was not the intention when we bought this home. You see, we used to live in a BIG Federation home. On a big block, just under 1000m2. We had sold a small holiday home in the South West of Western Australia and I decided to buy our current house to renovate and either sell off or rent. We decided that we would move into this house for one year, renovate hard and fast and rent out our family home. After a year, we would move back home and look for our next project.

                                                                                                     Our grand home

                                                                                                    Children’s library

My dream laundry was built just two weeks before we moved out. 
One end of our lounge room
 One end of our main bedroom

Our girls weren’t particularly happy with the move. It meant living in a small house under constant renovation, and sharing a room. Miss i in particular was quite angry. She had reached the age of appreciating her own space and did not want to give this up for our dreams.

It was only for one year we promised them. We rented our home to a family from Melbourne who needed a home for 12 months while he completed a year of medical fellowship.

We moved into this house and very few people saw it’s potential. One relative stated that it was like “the house you live in while you are in Uni, with eight other people.”

We hired storage for all of the furniture that would not fit into this house. We bought cheap Ikea wardrobes and bunk beds for the girls. We joked that it would be fun to live with the bare essentials. Miss i missed her books. She was left with just one Billy bookcase to fill with her absolute favourites.

The electrician was first on the list. He rewired the home, moved light switches from awkward positions behind doors, and installed light fittings and ceiling fans on the bare bulbs hanging from each room. All the walls are solid brick which meant with every power point and light switch, the wall wiring had to be chased into the wall. This left gaping channels which needed plastering. Oh, the fine, red dust everywhere.

Next was the painter. Repair and patch walls, and paint neutral throughout, keeping it safe for future buyers. This house consists of just six rooms. Three bedrooms, one bathroom with toilet inside, a lounge room and a dining/kitchen. The laundry was in the condemned building at the rear of the property. We had to shuffle furniture for two weeks to allow him access into each room. We camped on mattresses in the rooms he was not painting at the time. Plaster dust everywhere.

Three months had passed and I had the tradesmen organised to refit the bathroom. Homme was asked to fly to Monaco for work and was allowed to take me, at short notice. Tradesmen were stalled while we escaped for ten days on a whirlwind tour of Nice and Paris. Upon my return the bathroom was stripped. For two weeks we used a portable bathroom which we hired for the back yard. Once the bathroom was completed, we had the shock of our lives.

We were pregnant! We fought hard to conceive our girls (IVF and FET), and had losses trying for a third child. We were elated, I was nauseas. For sixteen weeks it took all my strength to get through each day and renovating was at a standstill. That Summer of my pregnancy though the tradesmen were back to knock out a half wall between the kitchen and dining space and make us a functional kitchen/dining/laundry/study. We propped our discarded sink on tubs in the front yard and ate all of our meals on the new front deck. A kettle, toaster and all of our utensils were located near the bbq which was our Summer kitchen.

In March our baby arrived and we needed to make space for this little person. A bedside table was placed in storage to make room for his bassinet.

By this time our year had just about ended. As a family, we talked about our journey so far. Yes, we missed our space. Our huge garden, our grand home with it’s large bedrooms and the room with just books and chairs. But what we had gained in this little home was a family friendly street. And quiet.

Yes, our grand home was housed on a major street which had become busier and busier in the time we had owned it. While we rented it, we had continued to maintain the gardens and on each visit we were overwhelmed with the amount of labour required to keep the huge garden looking gorgeous. We also noticed that even on Sundays while we gardened, we strained to talk over the traffic noise.

We loved our new location, overlooking  a football oval, with a glimpse of the sea. We loved sitting on our deck and seeing the harbour lights come on in Fremantle. We have fabulous neighbours on all sides and know many families in our street. We have only moved one kilometre but the neighbourhood is so different.

So we decided to stay in this home, and to renovate more extensively by putting on a second storey. We sold our grand home and landscaped our back yard with a pool. We sold the furniture in our storage and made roots here.

We have renovated the condemned building which now sits cutely at the end of our pool. It has a new roof, gutters, floor and now houses a separate toilet and bath as well as a study/craft area. It is a work in progress given that the next unexpected obstacle was a publishing deal for homme (for a book not yet written). He spent his evenings and weekends, for six months,  in the half finished studio, to write his first book.

We have decided to wait another 18 months before moving out to have the major renovations completed. By this time baby number three will be in kindy and I will be able to attend to the builders questions, and to source the items needed for our dream home.

We pass our old home regularly and look at it with fond memories. It was with surprise that we noticed it went on the market a couple of weeks ago. Of course, homme and I went to the first home open to see how it looked. To see if we felt any lingering emotion to this home we had lived in for eight years. I was nervous, what if all I felt was regret at selling it? When I had moved out of this home, it was with the intention of moving back. I had not said my goodbyes.

The home presented beautifully. The owners had painted it white throughout, not to my style, but it looked loved. Their furniture was contemporary, but well styled. I have always had emotional attachments to my homes and I was relieved that it looked like a family who cared for this home lived here. (this is the real estate website – it is the Amherst St address) (Notice the bathroom? Exactly as I renoveted it. Glad they love the black walls and white/chrome fittings.)

Why had this family lived here for only two years? We confessed to the Agent who we were when it was announced at the first home open that the house was already Under Offer. I had my suspicions when I noted the new double glazing on the front entrance leadlights and in the master bedroom. I also noted that they had made the two largest bedrooms, with the most ornate fireplaces, the toy room and a guest room. No one slept in these rooms closest to the main road (house sits on a corner block). The Agent confirmed my suspicions that although the family love the property, they find it too noisy.

Homme and I both left the home open inspection feeling really happy. We adore this house but it no longer felt like our home. We felt proud of the major renovations we had done, and how functional they were. We left with a fire in our belly to make our current home the place we want to live in for a very long time.

Have you ever had seller’s remorse? Do you make emotional attachments to homes?  

 

 

Midweek movie nights

Life has been busy for this family for some time now. Not frantic or unsettling, just always busy. Homme is often away with work, or starting early and finishing late. His publisher is in the US and this means emails start coming through at about 9pm most nights. He is liaising with a company in Mongolia on a project and this means the skype conversations take place at about 10pm.

Our girls are busy with their chosen activities of dance and debating and music.

We have a toddler in the house. This means compromise for all. It means that sometimes we forego our weekend outings while he has his afternoon naps.

No one complains. But when homme text me that he was taking an early mark from work on the one day of the week that we have no after school commitments, I jumped at the chance for a cheeky mid week movie treat. I organised our Uni student baby sitter and went online to find a time and venue to take them to see Mrs Carey’s Concert.

The girls were told to finish homework asap and to be ready for an earlier dinner. The details were announced over dinner and they were excited. You see, we have a no tv rule from Monday to Thursday nights (now that our annual fix of Biggest Loser is over), so to skip tv for a night at the movies was a real treat.

We shared one tub of popcorn and sat in a quiet theatre with about eight other people. The movie is a documentary focussing on the music department of MLC, a private girls’ school in Sydney and their preparations for performing at the Opera House. A few girls’ stories are shared and insight is given into the lead up for such a large scale event.

Both our girls play violin. It is not with high expectations from us, just as a valuable skill to have in life and with the hopes that it brings them happiness in later life. Miss i plays in both the Strings Orchestra and Symphony Orchestra in high school. It is the first opportunity she has had to play in a group situation, and she turns up at 7am on two mornings each week to practice. She has played in two concert performances so far this year. She plays at the most novice level and yet she says it is the only time in her life that she does something and can not so much as let any other thought enter her mind while she is playing, for fear of losing her place. She loves the commeraderie of being around girls from all year levels. She is in awe of the number one and number two violinists.

Miss e has fought with me and her violin. We have had tears and tantrums over practice. We have had broken bows. We have had violin teachers make her commit to contracts about practice and listening to my suggestions, given that I attend all her lessons and receive advice from her teachers. She has fought the demon which can arise in clever kids, who for the first time in their life, find something difficult . She has had to face failure. She has come a long way and has matured beyond belief in the past 18 months. She enjoys playing and although still needs constant reminding to practice, she does it without complaint.

I didn't believe I would ever be able say that. Wow.

What did we take away from the movie? Chatting on the way home, I revealed to the girls that sometimes I worry about them not being involved in team sports. They both stated  that belonging to their small dance school, which performs a full length ballet at the end of each year, meant they were part of a team. They only have each other for costume changes (no parents allowed behind stage), they are buddied up with the most junior dancers to assist with cues. They must perform to their best so as to not let their team down. I was impressed. Miss i also revealed that since she has belonged to the orchestras, she understands what Mrs Carey is saying in the movie. That even as the most novice in the orchestra, she is there to support the soloists. She agrees that it is like being in a team, you turn up for practice, you wear your uniform with pride, and you give your best on finals day.

Both girls were as keen as mustard to pull out their violins and practice after dinner tonight. In fact I have just reminded miss e that she missed her bedtime by 20 minutes. She has reworked her schedule in her head to fit in more violin practice because she tells me that she now knows how talented she could be if she practiced like the lead in the movie.

She kissed me goodnight and said that the main thing she got from the movie was that when the number one violinist in the movie, Emily, played violin, she was with her Dad. (He is deceased and was a musician).

I think she got a whole lot more than that.

So this week, I am grateful for midweek movie nights with my homme and my girls.

Thanks to Maxabella for her Grateful Linky

Injury causes mother of three to withdraw

I had kept it a bit of a secret, but I had registered to run in this Sunday’s HBF Run for a Reason. My first ever fun run. I have entered to run the 4.5km race.

I was nervous, but knew that the distance wasn’t a problem. My second daily appearance on the treadmill told me that my distance in 30 mins had improved to over 5km.

As I was disentangling myself from my two year old post bedtime reading and singing last night, I somehow stubbed the top of my toe on the edge of his bed. I limped into the lounge room where my expletives remained unuttered in front of the babysitter, and willed the tears from appearing.

I had organised a movie night for homme, our two girls and myself so I slipped my feet into my boots and hobbled to the car.

On inspection of sore toe this morning, I found early bruising. So I thought I would share. Walking in shoes is tricky, running I am thinking is off the cards for a few days.

My hopes are dashed at running this Sunday.

Grumpy Girl

*photo by Vintage Pleasure and Agnes Darling

When my girls were much younger, I used to play a cd in the car which had little meaningful stories and catchy sing-a-long tunes. One of the stories was about a little girl who gets out of bed feeling really grumpy. It goes on to describe how her mood and behaviour affects everyone else in her home, her classroom and her entire school. The moral of the story being that if you choose to  be grumpy and spread your grumpy around, then it can affect a lot of people you come into contact with in a day, and no one is happy.

Today (due to the screwed-up school holiday system in WA this year) was miss e’s first day back at school for Term Two. Miss i had started back on Tuesday.

Her holidays had been relaxed but fun. We had enjoyed a wonderful day at her Grandparents yesterday, where she was able to  catch up one-on-one with an Aunty she only sees a couple of days each year. Said Aunty played dominoes with her, cooked cupcakes with her and did puzzles with her while master x slept and I sat back and observed. She chattered animatedly all day with her Aunty and totally got her fill.

This morning I sensed things were going to go awry when I realised that in the time it had taken me to cook and eat my porridge, miss e had been daydreaming on the toilet. As I made school lunches, she was alone at the dining table eating her weetbix. Several times I had to remind her to eat. Fourteen minutes later, breakfast was eaten.

I cursed the no uniform policy at her school when the first outfit she came out in happened to be a BRAND NEW pale pink top I had just bought her. After reminding her that she needed to wear ‘school clothes’ and to Hurry Up, she had her second wardrobe malfunction by attempting to wear her new (*ahem $60 winter boots). By this stage my blood was at a slow simmer and miss i was waiting fully dressed to get to high school.

Let’s say that one thing lead to another as I found her a suitable outfit, she threw her luchbox as I passed it to her and she had an impressive, 10 year old tantrum. Homme, who is rarely home at this hour lost his cool and bellowed at her to get her “act together”. I calmly told her I would be waiting in the car and she was to come down with her school bag, hair brushed and teeth cleaned.

As I stepped outside, miss i announced that a couple walking their dog had stopped to ask her whether she was ok, overhearing the screaming match. Noice!

Miss e made it to the car, albeit with teeth not cleaned, and fumed in the back seat for the 30 minute drive to her school. Miss i made it to her school with only minutes to spare. Her school day starts 30 minutes before her sister’s. Which ultimately is what gets up our collective noses I guess. Miss e’s actions affect her least.

I calmly informed her on the drive that bedtime was half an hour earlier tonight, and that she was to have her clothes for school on the end of her bed. She was bristly for the walk to school and I left for home feeling shite.

On return home, homme had an appointment near home and the plan was that I would drive him to work after it. I used this time to water the back garden beds and do a general tidy up of the garden. This is not a quick chore, as master x likes to “help” with everything I do. Constant filling of his watering can etc. Upon homme’s return, I asked if I could have five more minutes to finish and then I would drive him. The last watering can was filled to water three pots on the verandah and homme decided to assist master x. Next thing I hear an exasperated moan from homme as some of the water hits his work shoes and suit pants. Master x is crying in frustration at not being able to do it his way, and I snap.

For cripes sake, could I just get one job done without someone upsetting the apple cart. Sure, you might be frustrated by a spill, but I spend  hours every goddamm day compromising with little people to get through everyday chores!!!! You have not been home for 7 out of the last 9 nights and twice this morning you have lost the plot.

So with an almightly slam of the front door, homme decided he would rather tackle the mid morning bus service than accept a ride from me.

I continued to get through the washing of clothes, hanging of clothes, stacking dishwasher, making snacks, reading books, and sweeping courtyard with my black cloud following me. During this time, I remembered the cd the kids used to listen to and realised today would be a good day to stay home. If for nothing more that to curb the spread of the grumpy’s any further.

How old are you?

We have had much joy in asking master x this question for the past six days. “Two,” he answers with these two fingers in the air. Too cute.

Yesterday he had his birthday party. We had talked about it all week and he had closely studied the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book and his beloved train cake. No pressure Mum.

So I was a little nervous about making this cake. I have been known to have very late nights mornings when I make novelty birthday cakes. Homme and I had a night out planned on Saturday night, so I had to put together this masterpiece on the morning of his party. Yikes. I must say that this recipe was pretty easy in the end. It all went to plan and the main time consuming thing about making it, was the decorating. Miss i assisted with assembling and I must say, it turned out pretty well. IfIdosaysomyself.

To say the birthday boy loved it is an understatement! We spent most of the party distracting him from sticking his fingers in the blue carriage. We had to bring forward the whole birthday cake celebration. Do you think he loved the attention, and the blue icing?

Although he has practiced all week how to blow out the candles, he piked out at the last minute and needed Mum to help.

Our little man got some really cool presents. He spent the early part of his party pushing around his little wheelbarrow from Granny and Grandad, spent time by the pool with his new tea set, would not put down his replica rubbish truck with its mini wheelie bins. Later he checked out his new dump truck (although he was not interested in actually opening the box until today). It would have to be said that the big boys at the party were most excited by the huge military set.

Finally I want to share the table decorations and party bags I made using my Cricut, to brighten up the party.

We didn’t manage a family photo (not without trying) on the day and homme flew out on the ‘red eye’ to Brisbane so we will have to reinact a photo shoot later in the week.

Only twelve days until the next birthday party….

1.1.11 Happy New Year!

Happy birthday to me, or my blog at least. Exactly one year ago today I started this little blog with no idea where it would take me. I have written 104 entries about our lives, recording everyday moments that are important to us. During the year I have met online blogging friends who have allowed me into their lives and left me some lovely comments, confirming that some people out there actually follow me. I have had the opportunity to keep my sisters, who both live interstate, up to date with our goings on and with photos. I just wish they would start one of their own so that I can have weekly fixes of my nieces and nephews. Oh, and you too J, so I can watch your princesses grow up.

Initially I thought I would use it more as a tool to display my scrapbooking pages, but I have noticed that over the last six months I haven’t shared that many layouts. I know that this is because I don’t scrapbook for any reason other than to keep our family photos and memories stored in a beautiful medium, I am not so much interested in being published for my style or techniques.

I still have so much to learn about the whole blogging thing. Homme bought me a subscription for The Artful Blogger for Christmas and I can’t wait to get my first copy in the mail. I am determined to make the effort to learn some of the technical tricks needed to keep things interesting. The first thing I am going to learn is how to change my font and colour, and how to insert words which are in fact links to other great sites.

I am pretty good at keeping my favourite blog sites up to date on the right hand side of my page -> As I find more which are interesting, I add them here.

I reread my first blog last night and I am so happy we have this journal to look back on, with all of its colourful pictures and all. It is such a great way to keep track of all the stories I want to record with my photos when I get around to scrapbooking them. My word for 2010 was Journey and I have often reflected on this word during the year. I am more relaxed about ‘stages’ the kids go through knowing it is all part of the journey of growing up, I have been less frustrated about the halt to our renovating knowing that our journey was given a large detour when we welcomed another baby into our home, and homme needed to spend every spare moment writing the book he is having published. Even small things like tripping over toys all day don’t seem so annoying when I think of the word and remind myself that life is a journey and not ever completed. Make sense? Hmmm, maybe. Sadly I was reminded of the word Journey and its end at the three funerals we attended in 2010. A 34 year old cousin who followed her dreams to explore the world and made a difference in the lives of many, a 70 something year old Uncle who left his wife suddenly after a heart attack, a 41 year old friend who lost his five year battle with cancer and left behind his wife and three young daughters. And most poignantly, the word journey has kept me awake at nights as I contemplate the death sentence hanging over our 41 year old friend’s life as he and his wife struggle with the knowledge that this will be his last year. What journey would I take with that knowledge?

This year my word is Create. I will continue to create memories for my family in all of the activities we do together, have a creative outlet through my photography, gardening, and scrapbooking, and the biggest task of the year is to plan and create the design for our Big Renovation – adding a second storey to our home. I want to spend the year finalising the plans, sourcing the materials and planning the interior design. I am in the right mental space and ready to tackle it.

The first day of January is always a little melancholy for me as I reminisce and reflect about the year past, and think about the year ahead. I am not big into Resolutions but I do think of all the spokes on the wheel of my life and how I can continue to grow as a person. Health, wealth, spirituality, education, friendships, relationships….

I have some ideas which I will be sharing with my family soon. It should be a great year.

Today we welcomed the New Year with a brunch of  bacon, eggs and croissants and then a trip to the beach.