I have to admit that almost three is perhaps my favorite age so far with Elise. Just two was not. But she now is pretty much potty trained and buckles herself in the car. And "reads" herself books. Her most animated conversations are on the play phone to Mimi and Papa and to Grandma, but she's still strangely silent when she actually talks to them. The other day I heard the rustle of cellophane in the kitchen and found her sitting on the stool she'd pulled up to the pantry to get the bag of chips I'd placed out of her reach. "Chips are healthy food." she sunnily announced while nodding her head in hopes that I'd nod mine as well.
We made our monthly trip to the mall that houses the Australian Wal-mart equivalent and the Boffa beauty salon. She sat quietly while I got my hair washed, cut and styled, but insisted on pushing her own buggy once we were done. Trips to the mall are a big occasion for her and something that we've only recently recommenced after a brief outing had me, cursing like a sailor (but only in my head) as I hauled out a squealing, squirming toddler that had fallen to pieces (while holding a lolly) because I simply refused to pay money for her to ride the Wiggles carousel when there was a free and functional escalator right next to it. I grew up going to rodeos that featured the greased pig contest. The object was to catch a piglet they'd poured vegetable oil on, put it in a bag and bring it to the middle of the arena. Who knew such a contest had a practical adult application. Malls are difficult places to have really affirming experiences with your child, and I'd given up for awhile, but eventually, like childbirth the memory faded and we tried again.
And today, generally, went well. She is after all, nearly three. She oooed and aaaahed at the little bunnies, but then seemed content to move on. We even passed by the Wiggles carousel with only the mildest of protestations. She looked overly precocious as she gently pushed her hair out of her way before sipping her baby-chino. But then as a reminder that she is just two, when I gave her half of my muffin, she sank into a tantrum. she wanted the whole thing.
But Caleb came in the other day and instructed me that he could eat pasta, bread, bananas and oranges in his lunch. But not carrots or apples.
He has a wobbly tooth.
I mourned a little, about the same amount when he got the tooth in first place. He got his first tooth at four months and so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that it wobbles and he's barely in kindergarten (and wouldn't be in kindergarten if we were in Texas). I looked at his little kindy (they call it kindy here) picture where he sports a grin of tiny white teeth with equal spaces between them. Pretty soon, he'll have a gap, then his teeth will go through a period where they will look like they could be used to punture tin juice cans. After awhile, the teeth will all grow in and they'll look oh so big for his little body and he'll be in the awkward tween years. He is growing up.
He also scored his first soccer goal this past weekend. I had to be told of the event since I could not make it. Figures. Anyway, he set up a replay in the living room between the couch and chair and showed me just how he "sneaked" it in. He has "sneaked" up on me in so many other ways as well.
Caleb, and Elise for that matter, are sounding more and more Australian. I've wondered how it happens, I was told that Caleb would pick up the accent and now I'm beginning to see the start of it.
For one thing, he is beginning to leave off the r sound when it really should be there. For example, instead of saying Super he might say Supa. This doesn't happen too often at this point, but it does occur. When he doesn't hear what I've said he will often say, Pah-don (pardon). But since that is an expression he has learned here, he says it the way Australians say it. The same for the word Custard. He says Cus-tuhd.
But the strange part is that if we were the Millas, Australians (some, not all) would call us the Millers. Strange. I know. Often after a short a sound they will actually add an r. So Caleb lines up under the Covered Outdoor Learning Area, which is called the C.O.L.A., but he pronounces it Coe-lar. Alisa becomes Alisar, while Samantha becomes Samanthar. But Spencer is Spen-sah, and well, Miller becomes Millah. The added r sound is hardly universal. I was talking about this to an Australian friend of mine who pronounces Miller as Milla, and Lisa as Lisa. She said the r after the short a sounded like a characteristic of the American dialect to her.
Author's Note: I must reveal that I am from Texas, East Texas, and so I do not claim to have a telephone operator's pronunciation of words. Nor do I have a pretty southern lilt. What I have is a drawl, and it is hardly to be admired.
I haven't posted regularly, so I'm not sure anyone will answer, because I'm not sure anyone reads this sight anymore except my mom. Even then, I had to lure her in with new pictures of her grandchildren.
We don't have a T.V. But we do have a laptop computer that can play movies, so on dollar movie day I always go to the movie store and rent a T.V. series to watch when I iron, and a movie to watch on movie night with the kids (this is usually the last night that Eric is away on business). I've struck out recently. We watched Secret Agent Cody Banks and Cheaper by the Dozen. The kids didn't get the humor and for the most part, neither did I. And I was also asked uncomfortable questions about them by my five year old. We've had much better luck with Disney Classics like Robinson Crusoe and Mary Poppins. As you can see, I'm easily amused.
Now, since I'm watching the movie with the kids, I'm more lenient that I might be to a show that I let them watch on their own. For instance, we watched Home Alone, and Caleb was extremely impressed with how self sufficient Culkin's character was. The next day, Caleb made breakfast for both he and Elise and cleared the dishes from the table.
So my question is what movies have you watched that met the following criteria
Not recent (we are only going for dollar movies)
Enjoyable for moms (extra points for movies that can entertain dads as well) and kids
Have something instructive that we might be able to talk about.
On Wednesday at the end of the Climate Change hearings in Washington, Nancy Pelosi, gushingly remarked of Al Gore, "You really are a roll model for us all." Exactly what does she mean by that? Because honestly, the most impressive thing about Al Gore, is that after 20 years of work on Global Warming, after twenty years of believing that global warming is "a crisis that is by far the most serious we've ever faced, dwarfing the post-World War II reconstruction of Europe, the rise of Communism and the ravages of disease and civil war in the developing world." He sees no need to raze one of his four houses for tree plantings, no need to swim in a cold swimming pool, no need to forgo the glitz of the Academy Awards. We certainly wouldn't look at a guy wheeling around an oxygen machine and smoking a cigarette as a roll model. So when Pelosi speaks perhaps she doesn't actually mean that Gore should be a model for me, or you, perhaps "us" meant the politicians in the room. He is quite the role model for them. He has achieved savior status (among some) with no sacrifice. If only she could be so clever.
But let me assume that Pelosi was including me in her "us". if Al Gore were my roll model then what should I do? First, I need to avoid taking private Leer jets and fly commerical when it is convenient. Second, I should go to www.Terrapass.com. There I can begin to calculate my environmental footprint. For example, for about 30 bucks I can cancel out my portion of CO2 emissions being spewed into the atmosphere when I fly from Australia to the States and back. Considering that a ticket costs me about $2000, I'd say that's pretty cheap. I also found that for about $30 a year, I can drive my CO2 emitting car, and it is as if it never happened. As it turns out being an environmentalist with money is pretty easy. I mean, we don't have that much money, but I can always cut down on say, money we'd normally give to compassion international or heifer international. These organizations are designed to save one measly individual, but if I am to believe Al Gore in his film where he predicted, "A future in which temperatures soar, ice sheets melt, seas rise, hurricanes batter the coasts and people die en masse." And then said, “Unless we act boldly, our world will undergo a string of terrible catastrophes.” Forget the kid, I've got a world to save. So little Javier and his starving family who get by on $1 a day will not be getting the cow. I will not give money to allow these poor people to live my Western gas guzzling, CO2 emitting lifestyle. As Al Gore stated, addressing Global warming is more important than addressing the ravages of disease in developing nations.
The really attractive part of Al's message (the message that people will really get, not the one that comes from his mouth) is that I really have to sacrifice very little to do my part. He's told us the dire consequences of global warming, then given the worst offenders a relatively light remedy. I saw the Academy Awards. Their sacrifice? They decided to forgo the fancy $100,000 grab bags for 100,000 lbs. of CO2 reductions and a glass sculpture.
I'm feeling cooler already.
I did a quick calculation, I would need to spend about $100 a year to cancel out my CO2 home emissions. Each star is getting about $400 worth. I have a hard time believing that Al Gore's (much less Tom Cruise's, or George Clooney, or Jenifer Aniston's) 100,000 reductions will bring him into the realm of the average American environmental footprint, and as I'm often reminded, little Javier wouldn't just stumble over that footprint, he'd fall in and wonder if the canyon had a name. If Gore can cancel out his global warming sins with a paper weight and a gift certificate for $400 bucks, my sins are hardly worth examining. To the average car owning, air conditioning enjoying American, watching Al Gore is like watching a physical trainer run five miles then light up a cigarette believing the two cancel one another out.
The truth is inconvenient, or at least it should be, and the truth is that Gore will do more harm than good for the environment. One study that would suggest as much appears In the book Freakonomic's. An Israeli daycare center, in order to encourage parents to pick up their children on time, began applying a $3 fine for those that were more than 10 minutes late. This was to be added on to their monthly bill of about $380. The result? The number of late pick-ups went from an average of 8 to an average of 20. Why? The daycare had substituted an economic incentive (a fine) for a moral incentive (the guilt parents felt when they arrived late to an empty room save one lonely kid, and an impatient daycare worker.) Interestingly though, when they did away with the useless fine, the damage had already been done. The daycare had sent the message to the parents that being late wasn't that big of a deal. So the number of late pick-ups remained high. Gore is also sending a powerful message, but, like the daycare, I'm not sure it is the one he intends.
Gore has recently come under criticism for his alarmist language by scientists who are climate change believers themselves. Their charge is that, An Inconvenient Truth overstates the case. In other words, Gore isn't being exactly truthful. So when beaches don't disappear, when the hurricane season isn't as bad, when tsunamis don't occur, when global warming doesn't turn out to be as bad as WWIII or the curable diseases that we know are ravaging developing nations right now, how will people react? Like the townspeople who'd heard "wolf" yelled one too many times.
Gore should be able to ride the wave of global warming fear for a while longer, but eventually to remain credible he will either need to sell his material possessions and move up to the top of a mountain, or come down off the pedestal where everyone is handing him golden statues. Meanwhile, avoiding a nonexistent apocalypse (at best) or largely unavoidable one (at worst) will have it's consequences, true believers who dismiss Gore's actions and simply listen to what he is saying will make decisions about where they spend their charitable giving, and following their leader's word, they will leave little Javier, who leaves the environmental footprint of a kangaroo rat, out in the cold. That is if they don't unwittingly decide to throw him under a bus.
If you have an Australian child, you are entitled to A$4500 (actually, I believe permanent residence are entitled to this one time payout as well). This is a way of boosting birth rates because, well, birth rates decline in developed nations as women are given more options and more security. Here is an interesting article about other countries desiring to increase their overall birthrates as well. The results might surprise you.
Today I leveled out ground, dug out ground for a soft surface play area for kids, babysat, and then dug some more. Our church held a working bee to put in a new playground. We worked from 9:00-11:30, broke for morning tea, then worked until about 2:00 and broke for beer and pizza. Well, I'm not really much of a beer drinker.
One of the outreach missions our church provides is a playgroup. Stay-at-home moms or dads can come, bring their kids for a couple of hours, socialize while the kids play, or draw, or sculpt (with play dough) or paint, or run amok at someone else's place for awhile. Many of the women who come are new to the area and, like I was, have few connections. The playgroup is bursting at the seams. We've added a day and now see a need to make upgrades to the playground area. Hence a working bee.
Working bees are a staple of life here on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, I can't honestly say if it exists within the whole of Australia to the degree that it does here. Caleb's school has several working bees and working bees are the reason it has landscaping, and beautiful murals on the sides of all it's portable buildings and inside it's bathrooms. I can't imagine a public school in the states handing a bunch of paint brushes out and letting the kindergarten parents paint flowers and beach scenes on the sides of the buildings. Granted, obviously they had some sort of criteria to who was qualified to paint because they did a good job, but it still has just enough of a Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland let's all chip in and do a musical type look to make it look like a bunch of parents got together one day and over pizza and beer painted mermaids all over the girls bathroom, which, in fact, they did.
This sort of volunteer-ism is not only expected, it's demanded. If your child participates in Nippers you are expected to be there in board shorts ready to assist with boards or relay races. My neighbor just informed me that Caleb and her son are on the same soccer team. She also told me that she's the manager/coach. I asked her if she'd coached soccer before, she told me no and that she hadn't volunteered to do so, but neither had anyone else on our team (I'm thinking we may not be in contention for the pee-wee league soccer cup, if there is one.) The idea is that if you want your kid to play soccer, you'll meet and find someone to do so. Good luck.
One Monday a month, I arrive early to school to collect the paper bags that kids drop off with their money for lunch. They write their order on the front, with the total circled, I take their money, tape any change they might get back to the paper bag and put it in a large box. After the kids go to class, I take their orders along with their money across the street to the other campus where the women who are volunteering to work in the canteen fill the orders which are to be taken back across the street by another set of volunteers and distributed in time for lunch. The most popular volunteer job is that of the ice block vendor. For thirty minutes a month it is as if you are a Wiggle--the kids just love ya.
This sort of community didn't exist for me in the suburban Dallas Metroplex (though we lived in a town that was doing it's best to build a sense of community). This type of community reminds me more of my growing up years in Athens, Texas. Pop: 10,000. 4-H clubs, and churches with Wednesday night services that included dinner. It was a one high school town and so people shared a sense of community there. Here we are hardly in a small town, but it certainly seems like it. I think one reason this area retains a sense of community as opposed to many of the suburban communities in the States is because American suburbanites demand a sort of excellence that isn't required here. Regular, everyday people, are a little too intimidated to help out because, well, they can't meet the perceived standard of excellence . Better to bring in professionals and have it done right. Australians, perhaps because things seem a bit more relaxed here, seem willing to forgo a bit of the slick appearances in order to allow people to "have a go" at something--to use a very common Aussie phrase. If it doesn't go as smoothly, "no worries"--there's another. Of course that is probably what they told my friend when they also told her she was the soccer coach.
This week we have begun walking to school from our house. Before we had driven up the hill to a local park and walked from there, but now we make the entire trek. Let me just say--it is a haul, and since I haul Elise in my Super-Light Sherpani backpack (while the backpack is light, Elise is a good 27 lbs.) I mean that quite literally.
To go to school we take a steep "trail"--and that is using the term loosely--that involves clambering over rocks that are part of the Sydney National Park. Once we finish the climb we can turn around and see over the hills of the district, the rocks around fairlight beach in the harbor, and then across to the ferry wharf. A nice treat after a rather grueling climb. Sometimes if the neighbors aren't walking their kids to school, I'll pretend I'm Rocky after he's climbed all those steps leading to the Liberty Bell. The rest of the walk through the neighborhood, past the oval, past the outdoor bowling club and tennis courts and well manicured lawns is easy. And I feel it will be quite pleasant if we leave at 8:25. At 8:30 I find myself barking like a marine drill sergeant at Caleb saying we need to make it up the hill before the long hand gets to the eight to keep on schedule. These are invariably the days he needs to stop every few strides to slay the Sea people with his imaginary light saber. All in all, the walk is worth it. It is a nice walk, different flowers bloom during the different seasons, currently there are some very pretty red ones. Caleb always picks a flower or two for his teacher. We use the time to talk about his memory verse from scripture class or the new Japanese words he's picked up. Sometimes we talk about friends and what happened on the play ground. Elise likes to sing and except that she and the backpack weigh 30 lbs. she's sort of like an IPOD. Well, I'd probably not put Row, Row, Row your Boat onconstant replay though.
Communities in Sydney are designed for more of a walking culture. Actually, city planning in Sydney is, well, it would be hard to drive through Sydney and recognize any city planning. For one thing, the harbor is it's greatest attraction and greatest obstacle. It's beautiful and craggy and has an amazing number of small inlets and private beaches and hills, oh, the hills! But on a map it looks like God gave scissors to a two year old and asked her to cut out a maple leaf. Add to that fact that to Sydney siders heaven means drinking your morning coffee from your outdoor patio with a water view, and well, it makes for crowded living conditions in even the toniest of neighborhoods. Last year a 120m lot of land went for 3.52 A$ in Bondi. At those prices, people are loathe to dedicate patches of land to parking lots. That is what streets are for. And not just neighborhood streets, major thoroughfares will have lanes that are only clear during peak traffic hours leaving a needed six lanes of traffic to make do with four.
Traffic solutions come in all shapes and sizes. The greenies, have put some bikes around Manly, sadly, someone vandalized them. A new twist on the rental car business allows people to pay a fee for the use of cars parked in convenient locations around the city. Of course there are buses and trains and ferries, but my favorite so far is the Hop, Skip and Jump Bus. The buses were part of a plan to accommodate people who had moved close to Balgowlah Shops. Many of the elderly and people without cars generally live in apartments and housing that is close to shops. When Balgowlah Shops closed so that a new shopping mall could be built, temporary buses were brought in to take these people to other shopping centers. The buses run along set routes (though one made a bit of a detour during a slow period to accommodate a couple of elderly women that needed to be a bit closer to their destination) and stop whenever they are waved down. This is nice because you can just start walking and board the bus when it catches up to you. I hope they stay.
I've come to realize a few things by walking. Yes, it takes longer, but loading the kids in the van, buckling the seat belts, finding parking, unloading the kids, walking the rest of the way to the school, then loading and unloading Elise again, all of this takes time as well, especially when Elise decides to play civic protester and resist any attempts at my getting her into or out of the car. By walking we forgo the car hassle. The has taken some getting used to, but for me it is easier to maneuver than a pram and I don't feel the need for a separate exercise time after walking a good couple of miles in the morning. The other thing I've learned is that having a 30 min walk to the school allows for 30 min. walks elsewhere as well. Now I walk to school, then walk to the shops, hop a bus to swim lessons and then a bus back home. I've begun to meet the other mom's on my walking route, I always stop to talk to the guy with the giant sunflowers in the front yard. The bus driver always chats up Elise as we hop on the bus. His name is Bruce and people on the bus use it. "Stop here, Bruce!" "Hi, Bruce." "Thanks, Bruce." It's nice.