Thursday, 29 September 2011

A Wet Thursday Afternoon

How do you pass a stormy late Thursday afternoon during the school holidays whilst fighting the second nasty cold in as many months and after spending a busy morning visiting friends and running errands?

This did for a start...

Murphy thought chewing on her boney was a great option...

J thought playing with his new Ninjago lego worked...

These bright Spring tulips on my dining room table kept reminding me that despite the cool weather today, Spring really has sprung...

I should have been exercising but I ate a home-made Brownie instead, c'est la vie!

Sunday, 25 September 2011

A "J" Day

Term 3 ended on Friday, and as J and I had Saturday to ourselves, I decided to gift him with a day under his direction.  That is a day where he made all the decisions, chose what to do, where to go, and what to eat, when to go to bed provided it didn't cost much money.

To back up a moment though, we celebrated the end of Term 3 on Friday after school with two of our favorite things, cupcakes from one of the iconic cake shops on Acland street in St. Kilda and book browsing.

Ok, back to Saturday though, it started with a 7:00 am wake-up call...groan, quickly followed by Peanut Butter and Jam sandwiches and NO FRUIT!  A game of Ninjago lego versus Harry Potter lego was succeeded by a wand fight between Harry Potter (J) and Lucius Malfoy (me); Harry won, big surprise!

Then we jumped into the car to collect J's bestie Jules and back out to St. Kilda, clearly one of our favorite parts of Melbourne, to the St. Kilda Adventure Park, a community built and run playground not for the faint of heart. 

St. Kilda is a fascinating mix of neighbourhood gentrification, unique cafes, restaurants, and community interests on Acland, Fitzroy, and Barclay streets.  St. Kilda is also a beach community during the long summer months with a fantastic boardwalk and pier.  This neighbourhood can still reflect its' red light history after dark and be just this side of dodgy but it is staunchly individualistic, revels in its' eclectedness, is colourful, has heaps of of character and we love it.  But I make J keep his shoes on whilst playing at the above-mentioned park in case of needles or other undesirables left on the ground.

J loves this park.  It's a no-holds, no-prisoners, and most importantly no-rules venue where the slides are built by locals, go-carts tear down inclines (at your own risk), and the trampoline doesn't have nets.  It's a "check your helicopter-parenting at the door" free-for-all that is reminiscent of the way I played when I was a kid.

J and Jules

Community donations to support the park - ya I know he kinda freaks me out too!

After the park, J requested that we go to Danny's Diner for burgers and coke.  Danny's self-proclaims to have the best burgers in Melbourne.  Well, I don't know about the best but they weren't bad.  Hours of out-burping each other followed leaving me despairing of these two orangutans.

After lunch, we spent a short-time having a fast run-around on the beach before the wind chased us over to the St. Kilda community gardens where we had a fantastic time laughing at the whimsy, marvelling at the colours and size of everything growing, and making wishes at the wishing well.

We staggered home late in the day, popped some popcorn and flopped in front of 'Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix', and a whole lot more burping.  After Jules left, I whipped up J's favorite dinner of Pesto Pasta with shredded chicken which we ate in front of 'Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King'.

"J" Day was a pretty awesome day and funnily enough, not all that different from what I would have chosen had I been in charge.  Except maybe for all the burping.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Two Goats Don't Make a Sheep

When I was pregnant with J, I remember visualizing calmly working in the kitchen while my baby slept peacefully and contentedly in the nearby baby swing; classical music was playing quietly in the background and all was serene.

Reality, J never went into that d*&% swing more than twice without hollering his head off, he always wanted to be held, facing out to confront the world and bellowed his protest the minute we wearily set him down.  Little has changed.

Nobody would describe C2 or I as being placid or hard to ruffle.  We are both loud, opinionated, quick to get a rise from, love to debate, bicker (it's our  thing) and get the final word.  Consquently,  life has always been colourful, interesting, and entertaining for us.  So why should I be surprised that our child is the same.  With him, everything is a debate, a challenge, an often-times sarcastic argument, a reason why it shouldn't be done our way but his way.  Boundaries are continually tested for weak spots and impulse often rules.  Sweet as a Tim Horton's maple donut as long as things are going his way but prepare for a showdown at the OK corral if they're not.  It's exhausting.  But as my darling sister-in-law has reminded me on more than one occasion, two goats don't make a sheep

After another showdown this fairness at 9:00pm after he refused to eat pasta with sauteed kale (can I entirely blame him?), ripped a napkin in protest, and flung a curse from his wand at me (really a chopstick but that's not the point), C2 and I questioned what we were doing wrong.  Are we too lenient, are we not lenient enough, do we coddle him too much, do we give in too easily, do we escalate arguments rather than defuse them because we are just as stubborn as he?

I don't know the answer, but I know it's not always easy being J's parent.  But is parenting ever easy?  This week, I had a friend dub her two seemingly angelic boys whom I have never seen do wrong "Attitude" and "Feral".  I have witnessed other kids disrespecting the sensei at judo or teachers at school; J has never done that.  He has a healthy respect for all authority but us, and, thankfully, a clear command of the right side of wrong.  OK, so maybe it's not just J, maybe it's parenting in a world where we compete for the attention of our children with the Cartoon Network, Wii, DS, on-line games, and other electronic stimuli. A world where role models are not always positive, influences are many, and where the line between child and adult has become blurred.

I don't have the answers, and I don't know if any parent has it all figured out, but once the dust has settled, I am reminded that my little goat makes me laugh, charms me, fascinates me, amazes me, and utterly slays me with the depth of love, pride, joy, and gratitude he makes me feel....when he's not making me want to rip my head off.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Australian Spring

Ah September, the most wonderful time of the year, when children head back to school all bright-eyed and full of summer stories, there is a slight chill in the air heralding the arrival of Fall, glorious colours abound, gardens are being put to bed, we dream of hot apple-crisp with vanilla ice-cream, cozy sweaters, and... STOP THE PRESSES!

Down under in Melbourne, we are coming out of winter, such as it is in Australia.  Children have been in school for 8 months now and are anticipating Spring Break (ok we call it Spring half-term here).  There is warmth in the air heralding the arrival of Summer, trees are budding, our gardens are waking up, Spring flowers are blooming furiously, and we are delightedly shedding our cozy sweaters.

It feels so unnatural to think of Spring in September just as I imagine it will feel terribly odd to decorate our Christmas tree when it's 30c degrees outside and the air-conditioning is cranked up.  Aussies don't do Christmas turkey either, it's shrimp on the barbie all the way mate!

But I digress, back to Spring.  As a Canadian girl, I had never experienced the tropics except briefly on holiday.  The tropics are exotic, not-quite-real places to where us pathetic northerners occasionally hop a chartered Air Canada flight in order to temporarily escape the miseries of howling winds and freezing temperatures.  Real people don't actually live in the tropics do they?

They do now!  Despite the fact that, barring the island of Tasmania, Melbourne is the southernmost and therefore, coldest region in Australia, this is still a place where lemons, limes, and oranges grow madly in winter, olive groves and vineyards abound, there are palm trees, birds of paradise, bromeliads, jasmine, camelias, cacti, yuka, and azaleas pushing wildly on every corner.

I covet the lemon trees groaning with fruit the size of small footballs in the backgardens of all my friends who laugh sympathetically when I confess to having to buy lemons at the grocery store.  During my late evening walks with Murphy, I practically float into the air following the wafting fragrances of jasmine, frangiapane, citrus oil, boronia, and wild freesia.  It's an incredibly heady experience!

Well  hello there little Lorikeet, I see you under the Palm fronds!