Archive for August, 2009

This is what you call talent

Just yesterday I was lamenting the lack of practical skill in leigh’s and my family. We have a definite shortage of trade qualifications. My father’s a mechanic but he works on trucks so that’s not much use, and beyond that we’re just not that useful unless you want your blood pressure taken or you need someone to write you a speech (really, how often are you looking for that particular skill among your friends and family? never, right?).

There’s not a builder, sparky or plumber in the bunch and so we’re forever paying for jobs that other people can just hit up their families for.

But today. Today was a revelation. It turns out we have a talented cake decorator in the family. Behold the creation my very own sister came up with for my delightful neice’s 13th birthday.

First – the shot from the cook book from whence the inspiration came

Cake should look like


Here are the cakes (yes, the mix came from a box. Only the best).

So far, so good.

cake first


Time to start decorating. It’s not exactly like the recipe book picture, but innovation is the mark of a great artist, surely.

cake 5


Okay, time to stand up the top cake. Should be straightforward, right?


cake 4


Okay, that didn’t exactly go to plan, but she pushed on. A little bit of tizzying up is all it needs.

cake 2


Now we’re talking! It’s looking good! But sis is a perfectionist. She knows there are still a few finishing touches required. The difference between a good cake and a great cake is a row of broken musk sticks.

And so here it is, the final product.

final cake 1


And just one final shot for those of you wondering about the behind-the-scenes magic that holds a spectacular 3D cake like this together. It’s trickier than you think and amateurs probably shouldn’t try it.


Yes, that is a box of aluminium foil providing counter weight to the cake. And if you look closely, you’ll see some carefully placed metal skewers. And, I’m advised, most professionally baked cakes are only iced on the front.

So there you have it. My family is full of surprises.

I’m only sorry we’ve already made arrangements for someone else to make the wedding cake.

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It sucks to be second

The other day Leigh and I were talking about just how differently things go when you’re the second kid.

Hugo has been getting shortchanged since the day he arrived, pretty much. I wanted out of the hospital after one night so I could get home to Hunter. And since then it’s been one long list of brotherly sacrifices.

His sleep gets interrupted just about every day because I need to wake him so we can get to some activity for Hunter, or collect her from preschool. He always gets the second choice of cup, bowl, spoon, towel – everything.

On dancing days he gets dragged out of bed because class is at 3pm, then he has to wait outside the hall and entertain himself while she’s in the lesson.

On transition to school days (actually, dancing and transition are on the same day) he comes along and has to sit and watch while the big kids do all sorts of things that he can’t do. This week they made pictures with their photos in the middle and he had to be content with scribbling on some scrap paper. Last week they made name badges and he had to be content with …. scribbling on some scrap paper.

This is all par for the course when you’re the second kid, of course, but the other day we realised that there was one area where he’s really being ripped off – and that’s in the bathroom.

He has a very annoying habit of running off with his toothbrush and flinging it in places where we can’t find it. For a while we were replacing it pretty much every week.

And then we just stopped replacing it. And he started sharing Hunter’s toothbrush (always second, of course). Yes, that’s gross. But she’s possessive and she kept a close eye on it so it always made it back to the cabinet. So, for maybe two months now, he’s had to queue behind Hunter for access to the one kid’s toothbrush in the house.

Anyway, this week I decided it was time to splash out and get a new toothbrush. Leigh and Hugo were off getting their hair cut and Hunter and I were grocery shopping.

My original intention was to get Hugo a toothbrush of his very own. But Hunter was with me and Hugo wasn’t and she’s good at pestering.

So Hunter got a new toothbrush, and Hugo has Hunter’s hand-me-down.

At least he gets to go first now.

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Thanks for nothing

The Australian Labor Party held its annual conference in Sydney not long ago. One of the topics on the agenda was same sex marriage rights.

There was apparently a lot of behind-the-scenes jousting but the outcome was a large pile of nothing.

The party agreed to remove the reference to ‘one man and one woman’ from its platform but didn’t make any plans to alter the Marriage Act itself.

In the end the agreed position was support for a system to allow same-sex relationships to be recognised, but continued opposition to gay marriage. As I understand it, the PM wants the states to administer consistent schemes that do not allow for either gay marriage or civil union but rather some kind of registered partnership.

There’s been no talk of when or if this scheme will actually be introduced in the states that don’t already have it. And really, I am not sure what the point of it is anyway.

Mind you, we will sign up if it happens, because I don’t want lack of participation in this pathetic scheme to be the excuse for not making further progress.

But it really shits me that we’ll have to accept this pissy second-rate second-class option.

This is not equality. Less is not equal.

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Bad day

Tonight is the first in a several-month-long series of evening classes for leigh. She’s repeating a 4-unit maths professional development course because the fabulous and incredibly organised Teachers’ Institute didn’t get around to accrediting it last year so none of the hours she devoted to it count towards her mandatory PD total. This year it is accredited, but even though the course is *identical*, they won’t backdate.

Leigh could have chosen to make up the hours doing something new, but she found the course so useful last year that she was sure she’d get something out of it again, so we’re back to solo Tuesdays for a while.

So, anyway, I was already kind of dreading today because it meant I’d be on my own for breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. It’s un-fun, but the kids are of course a year older than the last time we did this, so it shouldn’t be so bad.

But, alas, today has so far managed to be even more craptacular than anticipated, right from the get-go.

At about 6.30 am Hunter came into my bed for a snuggle. I opened my eyes and the room spun. So I closed them and tried again. More spinning. Hunter wanted to come out to the loungeroom so I went to open the door for her and was so dizzy I could barely stay upright.

I left her watching TV for half an hour while I went back to bed. I thought the dizzy might have been a woken-suddenly or not-enough-sleep thing, but when Hugo woke me the next time it was still there.

I was also starting to feel clammy and vaguely nauseous and thought maybe I should see if leigh would pull a sickie and stay home. Then I remembered she’d gone swimming and had already left the house.

I managed to get the kids breakfast and let them feed themselves while I flopped on the couch. After a while I told them we might not be able to go to playgroup because mummy didn’t feel well. They both bawled like it was the worst news they ever heard.

‘Fortunately’ for me, I only had time to listen to a few moments of heart wrenching sobs before I had to run off to the bathroom for the puking to begin. When it subsided, I rested my head on the tiled wall and wondered how I was ever going to get through this long day.

As it turned out, I did start to feel better post-puke, and about an hour later I decided we would go to playgroup after all. I wasn’t 100% but I was okay, and I knew playgroup would at least keep them busy for a while.

As the morning wore on I felt much better and was pretty much back to normal by the end of preschool.

Except for my knee.

I started an exercise program last week and while it’s been going well in terms of me being able to keep up and not collapse from sheer lack of fitness, I have been having trouble with my right knee.

First time out was fine. Second time, a little niggle. Third time, pain and tenderness that hasn’t completely subsided after two days.

Fourth day out, Saturday just gone, it was pretty painful by the time I got home and it has been stiff and sore ever since. I can’t say I had seen a lot of improvement between then and now (Tuesday).

So I invested in a $220 pair of running shoes, bought a knee stabiliser, iced my knee several times a day, have been doing all the recommended stretches and applying voltaren.

Today I thought I’d try it out and just see how I went taking it gently. I got through the five minute warm up walk but did not last even 10 seconds into the first run.

I’m really disheartened and don’t know what to do. If I can hurt myself this much with just the introductory week, what’s the point? I can’t walk up two steps without wincing at the moment and bending down to do anything is a special kind of torture.

But I don’t want to quit at the first hurdle either, so now I am torn.

I’m going to give it a few days of real rest and then re-assess.

Meanwhile, it’s time to start the bedtime routine, which is almost guaranteed to be the icing on the cake today.

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Oh, yeah

When I got to the end of my long and boring description of Hunter’s first transition to school session I remembered there was something I actually wanted to write about.

I just could not believe what some of those kids had in their lunchboxes!

The session only goes two hours so there’s not really any need for them to eat anything, but there’s a ‘recess’ built into the session so the kids can get used to going where they’re supposed to sit, being responsible for their bags and lunchboxes, opening their own containers/wrappers and getting rid of any rubbish.

This recess was at about 10.30. My kids got a piece of fruit and some water.

The kid next to Hunter had a packet of chips, a juice box and two cream filled biscuits.

The kid behind her had a full sandwich and four big shortbread biscuits.

Mine were definitely in the minority as the fruit eaters.

Really, what are parents thinking? I just don’t get it. Why would you load up your four year old with a snack that has enough calories to fuel an adult for a whole day?

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The school Hunter will (hopefully) be attending next year runs a transition to school program during terms three and four – and today was our first session.

It’s just a couple of hours one morning a week, with activities, visits to different parts of the school, introductions to the teachers and principal and that kind of thing.

It should have been pretty non-daunting today because it’s held in the room we go to for playgroup every week, the teacher is a playgroup mum and we know her quite well, and one of the kids from Hunter’s dance class is also in the group so she already knows someone.

But if there’s one thing Hunter’s not good at, it’s transitions.

Even though the session today was similar to playgroup (though more structured), Hunter was still pretty nervous right from the start just because it was a different experience.

To begin with she only wanted to be with me. She found herself a spot at the colouring table and wasn’t interested in trying anything else.

Eventually she hooked up with her friend from dancing, which was good – sort of. Her friend was a bit naughty and Hunter just totally went along for the ride. I’m not saying it was the other kid’s fault. Hunter definitely knew she was doing the wrong thing but she’s such a follower. Thankfully that was just a blip and it only lasted a few minutes. I was disappointed, though, because as much as she has me tearing my hair out at home she’s usually impeccably behaved at preschool. I’m hoping that behaviour will wear off completely in the weeks ahead as she gains confidence. .

There was a pretty broad range of ability in the group. Some of the kids were quite switched on, and others seemed to me like they might struggle a bit in kindy. One boy in particular was full of interjections and was really quite disruptive . No, thaat’s understating it. He was a smart-mouthed little pain in the butt who monopolised the teacher’s time and was very frustrating. I’m hoping he won’t be in Hunter’s class next year!

There were also several who really couldn’t follow directions, and one who had a little mini tantrum. Honestly, I don’t know why anyone would choose to work with that age group!

Added fun for us was that we also had Hugo to contend with (lots of other families had younger siblings in tow, thank goodness). For the most part he was really good. He sat with the big kids and listened to instructions and was quiet during story time and was more patient than some of the ones starting school next year. But then he started getting tired and they were doing some activity he wasn’t part of and the wheels came off. Thankfully the screaming crapfest only lasted a few minutes – that was bad enough.

I can’t say I am desperate to get back there next week. It was hard keeping up with Hugo and still trying to be present for Hunter, and now we’re trying to cram lunch and naps and dishes (and blogging…) into the brief pause before we head back to school this afternoon for Hunter’s dance class.

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