Friday, 28 November 2014

The Mapmaker Chronicles Improved my Life. For Real.

Bedtime. If you have had any involvement in getting kids into bed, you know that this event can make or break you.

Trying to get young children into bed takes planning, persistence, patience and often the promise of a bottle of wine at the other end of the ordeal. Sometimes, just the thought of having to go through the process is enough to make you want to get in your car, reverse like a crazy lady out of the driveway and speed off to the local RSL to watch a Roxette Cover Band because surely, it would be more fun.

Parents, I know you hear me. This is not about children being naughty, or not wanting to spend time with them. It's simply about the time and effort involved here. It's about running a bath and remembering to turn it off before you flood the house. It's about convincing the children to get in; then convincing them to get out. Then realising that no child actually used soap.

It's about putting pyjamas on properly, not wearing them as hats. It's about wet towels on floors and life threatening puddles. It's about brushing teeth. With toothpaste. It's about WHY we go to the toilet before bed. Every freakin' time.

It's about turning off the TV, then turning it back on to ensure unfinished show is recording. It's about all of this while breaking up fights, answering the phone (because who doesn't want telemarketers to call?) and trying, just trying, to not lose your shit. And just when you think it's all over, just as you switch out the lights, one kid announces that they need to wear (currently dirty) sports uniform again the following day because "someone said so".

All of this goes on while you anxiously prepare a mental plan of all the things you have to do once they're finally in bed, a plan that now also includes 38 Facebook posts to determine the validity of the uniform announcement, followed by a panicked and unscheduled washing of the freaking sports uniform.

It is exhausting, but we all do it and over time, we all develop our own routines.

Each night in our house, husband reads with Miss 5 and I read with Master 8. To be fair, this is the calmest part of the bed routine and it's the light at the end of the long, repetitive tunnel.  But getting there is so hard that it can be hard to enjoy it.

Master 8 argues relentlessly every night about what we will read. We've attempted many novels together but frankly, he just can't be arsed sticking with it. It's often because he's seen the movies so there's no surprises (Harry Potter) or he just gets bored. And then it's back to Find-a-Words. There's only so many of these I can enjoy in one week.

In October, however, there was a shift in my house. It came in the form of a book.

Admittedly, I built up a little hype at home by announcing to Master 8 that I had pre-ordered a copy of The Mapmaker Chronicles: Race to the End of the World on my kindle for us to read together.

Was it the title of the book or the fact that I would be sharing my beloved Kindle that took his interest? I don't know, but he was dead keen. And on the day the book came out, we settled into bed and began to read.

After an intriguing discussion with him about the length of the prologue (he was impressed by it; I was impressed that he knew what a prologue was) we found ourselves stretching reading time out by a couple of extra minutes.

The following night, I wandered around the house looking for Master 8 at bedtime, only to discover he was in bed, holding my Kindle, waiting for me. I stared at him with caution, asking "Who are you and what have you done with my son?"

The night after that, my husband came into the room to suggest gently to me that our boy needed to sleep now, so engrossed were we in this book. Son and I whined in unison at the unfairness of "book down, lights out".

Soon Master 8 and I were agreeing to go to bed a bit earlier, so we could get a little more story time in.  And so, with The Mapmaker Chronicles, bedtime became something that we both looked forward to. For those few weeks, there were no arguments about lights out, because neither of us wanted to stop reading!

Why's it so good? Well for starters, it's not a diary or comic strip style book. Nothing against Diary of  a Whimpy Kid or any others like it, it's just that, for me, it was good to enjoy a book with my child without pictures.  A nice change of pace.

The story follows Quinn, a boy with an exceptional gift who has been chosen to take part in a race to map the world. It's an adventure story, with plenty of battle scenes, suspense and rich characters you can really fall in love with, along with some you can loathe.

Master 8 liked Quinn "because he was really smart". My favourite character was Zain. I'm not ashamed to say that I suspect I'd fancy him in real life. Just sayin'....

Whilst A.L.Tait's The Mapmaker Chronicles temporarily improved my life, there was one downfall: we finished it. I entered into that phase of grief that follows the completion of a good book, while Master 8 entered into that phase of repetitively asking "when's the next one out?" followed by "I can't wait to see the movie!"

Thank God it's a 3 book series. It's good knowing there's something on the horizon guaranteed to ease the pain of bedtime.

Do you read with your kids? What are you reading?

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Serial Podcast - I'm Hooked - Get Into It

Serial. Have you heard of it?

This isn't the Cornflake kind, this is the podcast kind. Lost?

OK. There is a podcast called Serial.  Each week, a new episode is released. The story unfolds with each episode, much like watching House of Cards or Ray Donovan.

Only this is a podcast, so you're not watching, you're just listening, much like listening to stories on the wireless back in the day. But you don't need to gather around the big brown box to tune in, because iPhone.

So what's it about? Well, Serial is hosted by Sarah Koenig, an American journalist who is investigating a murder case that took place 15 years ago.

When I first tuned in, I knew nothing about Serial and I actually assumed it was fiction. I quickly started wondering, however, if there was truth behind this story and discovered that yes, there is.

Serial is the story of Sarah's investigations into a case that seems to have a lot of loose ends, even though a man has been in jail for the last 15 years, serving a life sentence for murder.

Is he innocent? We don't know. I'm eight episodes in, completely and utterly hooked and dying of suspense to know how this is going to pan out.

But the reality is, we may never know. Apparently, Sarah doesn't know yet - it's an ongoing investigation. Unlike a murder mystery movie or novel, this  may not have an ending, certainly not one that will satisfy.

And yet I can't stop listening and I can't stop forming opinions about what I think SHOULD happen.

This is the first podcast of this kind that I've ever listened to. In fact, I didn't even know there was such a thing until a friend mentioned it to me last week. Since then, I've looked forward to going to work, just so I can tune in to the podcast in the car.

I wouldn't have thought I could listen to something like this without getting utterly bored or distracted by something, anything, shiny. The experience has been quite the opposite, though, as I find myself involved with the characters and praying for Sarah to keep digging, to not give up as you can't listen to her findings and not doubt this guy's guilt.

If he's guilty, sucked in. Do your time, you deserve it.

But what if he's not? What if this guy who has been in prison for nearly half his life, simply didn't do it? Imagine.

Serial. Tune in. Give it a go. It's free (for now at least; I got it from iTunes) and might allow you to join a conversation because I suspect plenty of people will be talking about it.

Are you listening?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

One Good Reason Why You Should ALWAYS Read the School Notes

Wow, this morning was a close call.

I'm usually up and out of bed at 7am, although the hour  prior to that is mostly pretending to sleep while listening to my children argue over any bloody thing they can think of.

I'd had a rough night's sleep (I blame the dog) and because my kids chose today to NOT argue, I didn't wake up until 7:30am. At this point, I joked with my kids that we needed to panic because Mummy had slept in. (7:30am = sleep in. Tragic.)

Husband surfaced and announced he had to go. He knew I was behind the eight-ball (no lunches were made, nobody had eaten breakfast, uniforms weren't out, we were all still in our PJs and everyone was in  slow-mo mode) and offered to help before he left.

I  knew he had to get going, so I said no, I'll be fine. (I actually said "Go. Stop distracting me" but what I meant was "Can you do all this while I go for a walk?").

Just before he walked out the door, I asked him to read Miss 5's school excursion note in case there was something random in there that I needed to know.

That was the smartest thing I've done all day because Miss 5 had to be AT SCHOOL by 8am. It was 7:49am.

Husband and I stared at one another for a split second, each of us thinking "it's her first excursion and we've stuffed it" and then flew into action.

My usually hopeless memory told me EXACTLY where to find each item of required clothing and, after taking the grilled cheese and tomato toast out to cool (which I had earlier agreed to make for her in a blase, yeah-it's-Friday way), proceeded to prepare a full lunch box in record time. A cheese and ham wrap and....well to be honest, I don't know what else went in there, it's all a blur now, but let's just assume it was low GI, high fibre super foods.

Master 8 was summoned to help and to his credit, he did just that without complaint. I must remember to put something that's not a high fibre, low GI super food in his next lunch box.

At 7:55am, she was dressed,  groomed and ready to go. I couldn't help  myself. I let out a "See how quickly you can do it when you try?"  Even I hated me at that moment.

We said our goodbyes and husband and Miss 5 left. It was then that I walked back into the kitchen, about to give myself a much deserved high-five when I saw her toast sitting on the bench.


You do NOT want to be around this child when she's hungry.  Seriously, love her to death but "unreasonable" is the only delicate and acceptable term to describe her when she needs food. This toast was her breakfast. She had not eaten since the night before. This excursion to the zoo was unlikely to end well; I had visions of my daughter fighting a monkey for half a banana. She would win.

So I ran, bra-less I might add, down the driveway, waving a folded slice of cheese and tomato toast in the air like a crazy woman,  desperate to feed my child before she arrived at school. I heard the Chariots of Fire music crescendo as the window came down, the little fingers reached out and the toast went seamlessly into her mouth in one swift move.

I turned to see Mr 8 standing at the front door, nodding approval. Job well done Turners, job well done.

Then I went inside and saw her other slice of toast on the bench.

It was too early for wine.

Is this kind of panic typical in your household?

Thursday, 13 November 2014

How Wine and Facebook Led 4 Women to Coastrek 2015

This is a shout-out to 4 women I know who are doing something cool.

One Friday night, whilst relaxing on their respective lounges with a glass of wine in one hand and preferred device for Facebooking in the other, they made a collective decision.

I'm not sure if it was the wine, the mood, or the "good cause" that seduced them, but somehow, they all agreed to take part in a frighteningly long walk to raise money for the Fred Hollows Foundation.

This is no walk in the park, people. We're talking 55kms here. Fifty-five kilometers.

Just take a minute to consider that distance.

Do you know how long that would take?

We're talking somewhere between 12 and 15 hours, assuming you're keeping a decent pace and, the clincher, you're fit and prepared.

Now think about what you normally do in 12 to 15 hours. I'm tipping you would dress yourself and the little ones, make 3 - 5 meals for yourself (and family), you would eat these meals (fresh, organic, grain fed of course), perhaps do an hour of exercise, drive the kids to and from school, work, do two loads of washing plus dishes, bath the kids, help with homework, make a few phone calls, check in every hour on Facebook and watch Modern Family.

Now imagine WALKING for all that time. Oh. My. God.

One of the people in this photo is not in Team Red and White

Sydney Coastrek, raising money to restore site to people who are needlessly blind, will take place on March 6, 2015. This is 112 days from today. Now I don't know about you, but I certainly couldn't get up tomorrow and walk 55kms. Well, maybe if Season 3 of Ray Donovan was waiting for me at the other end I'd make it, but otherwise, no.

So that means training. Lots and lots of training. Over the past couple of months, these amazing women, now affectionately known as Team Red and White (yep, it all comes back to the wine) have adjusted their schedules and reworked their existing exercise routines to prepare for this event. And man, have they been working hard.

It's not just the fitness work, either. This is a fund raising exercise, so there are hours and hours of behind the scenes activities going on to help raise money, not just from friends and relatives but from the whole local community.

There's a Facebook page where you can follow the journey and get some great insights into how the girls are travelling: Team Red and White Facebook Page

There's also a blog written by one member whose involvement in Sydney Coastrek 2015 has led to personal changes that will ultimately shape her future into one of sustainable health and fitness. This is a great read and I really recommend checking it out: fatgirlcan

Apparently, 4 out of 5 people who are blind don't need to be. Team Red and White are doing what many of us, including me, just talk about. They are actively working to raise money to support this fabulous cause and believe me, it's a big deal.

If you wish to support the girls in their quest to raise funds for the Fred Hollows Foundation, you can do so here: Sponsor Team Red and White

Or tonight, when you're relaxing on the lounge with a wine and your iPad, stop by their Facebook page and leave some words of encouragement for them. I'm sure they'd love to receive it.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Veggie Growing. It's Not That Hard!

We are sooooo sustainable.

Not really, but it's such a buzz word. We are doing our little bit though.

Husband made a veggie patch last year. This is what it first looked like:

Our first crop. 
From that first crop, we ate (albeit  in small quantities) cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce and spinach. As the  cooler weather came on there were peas too and the spinach just kept on coming!  We learnt that if you just break off the leaves, it grows more. Cop that Coles. 

We had a lot of fun and although we didn't exactly fill our plates for 3 months with food, we did get a decent crop for our first go. We learned a lot too, like how much space certain plants take up (and the fruit to space ratio) and how many of each plant you need.

We are hesitant to turn our entire yard into working land, but we did make the decision to give up a little more grass recently.

Those rocks came out of there. Not good.
When husband first dug this, I immediately thought grave, followed by too shallow. But we had no bodies to dispose of and I knew it wasn't meant for me (he's got it too good, my man) so I moved on to the fact that I'm a Virgo, and this plot was NOT PARALLEL TO THE FREAKING FENCE.

Having watched husband dig this out with nothing other than a shovel on an unusually hot day, however, I let it go. Until now. Cue witch-cackle-laugh.

Anyway,  all jazzed up with stuff growing in it, the lack of symmetry is no longer visible or important. Lucky for him. Check it out:

Don't be fooled by the fence. The bitch can jump that in a heartbeat. And did.

We will have tomatoes coming out of our tomatoes and I can't wait. On top of that, the original garden bed is now filled with beans (which we are eating daily), carrots, strawberries (not doing it for me though) and more lettuce. The back corner is another (self-sown) tomato plant and two citrus trees.

Spot the tomato

I must buy some hemp clothing because we are so hippy.

Do you grow stuff?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Storm in Review - How the Dog Ended Up ON MY DESK.

I know, I know, you're sick of hearing about a staffie called Lucy who freaks out in a storm.

Just one more?

I thought I'd take you through a quick sequence of events that I managed to capture on film a couple of days ago.

One may argue that I could have put the camera down and comforted the dog.

Apart from the fact that this was way more entertaining and gave me something to talk about afterwards, I should assure you that it wouldn't have worked. She can't actually get close enough to me in these stormy situations. It's simply not possible and her constant attempts end in anger and sometimes injury (to both of us). So I just watched her instead.

Storm's-a-brewing, so singlet goes on. Her expression is judgemental, like the storm is my fault.

Thunder. It's coming, Human. It's coming.

It's getting closer. She starts fretting and pushes her way past my legs, under my desk. She is squashed in a space that's not quite big enough for chair, human feet and chunky dog. She rubs her nose on my knee, dribbles down my leg and sits on my feet. It's not enough.

If I can just climb onto that lap.....

Lap access is denied and the skies begin to rumble loud enough for my own ears to hear it. Lucy scrambles out from under the desk, huffing and puffing with distress. There's a flash in the sky and she does her best meerkat impersonation before deciding she must see more. It's petrifying, but she MUST SEE MORE.

Oh, I can see a ball....down there, in the yard....Oh Shit, thunder.
I roused on her to get down. She knows the rules about being on the furniture but a momentary lapse of reason is expected in these circumstances. Eleven years of storms has taught us this.

The whole thunder/lightning thing erupted and then it was all on. There was a fury of lounge hopping and chair jumping and an attempt to leap from the lounge onto my back. That was fun.

When she realised that my shoulders were not an accessible or acceptable landing pad, quick thinking led to a total brain explosion on her part.

Maybe human will think twice next time before telling me "it's OK". Idiot.
Yes, that is the 24kg dog, wearing a singlet, sitting on my desk. Old and arthritic maybe, but she can still jump.


Tuesday, 4 November 2014

I Just Want to Write About Kevin Spacey

Kevin Spacey. Yep. Kevin. Spacey.

I've always liked him as an actor. How could you not? He was unforgettable in The Usual Suspects (I'm still scared of Keyser Soze) and, let's face it, shone in everything else he ever did.

Rocks my World
Did you see K-PAX? Now that's a slightly strange movie where Spacey plays the role of a man who claims to be from another planet. He did well. Really well. I think he may actually be from another planet.

He seemed to lay low for a while after K-PAX, although that might be more about me having children and devoting all my attention to The Wiggles for 5 years straight. I can't say.

What I can say is: House of Cards. Quality. Seriously, that's a top notch show. If you're already watching, you know what I'm talking about. If you're not, stop what you're doing and get on board. Like my rant about Ray Donovan a month or two ago, I promise you, House of Cards is worth the investment. Ridiculously good.

It was this week, however, that Kevin Spacey became the number one man in my guys-who-are-tots-cool book. Behind Dave Grohl of course, so I guess that makes Spacey number two, but let's not get caught up in semantics.

Why? He impersonated other celebrities on The Tonight Show. Look, I'm a simple girl and easily impressed, what can I say? It was this five minute clip I caught online yesterday that made my day and impressed me so much that here I am writing about it 24 hours later!

If you want to see it, here's a link:
Wheel of Impressions on The Tonight Show

So, tonight when you're thanking God or the universe for everything that's good in your life, maybe think about adding Kev to your list. He brings us joy.

Who's rocked your world lately?