Saturday, 16 August 2014

Flying High with Master Marc

Tomorrow is our second son, Marc's, 8th birthday.  My husband and I have always made a fuss about special occasions like birthdays and Christmas for our kids.  You're only a kid once and we enjoy making each birthday a special time full of excitement and fun.  Well, yesterday was no exception, for Marc had the opportunity to fly to Sydney from our home town of Melbourne, for the day, with his Dad.  Marc is a complete aviation enthusiast, always researching all about planes and flying.  He wants to be a flying instructor 'when he grows up'.  For his last birthday, he had a flying lesson in an ultralight plane, but until yesterday, had not flown in a jet before.  So we thought, what better way to give our Marc a thrill for his birthday but to send him out for the day, flying to another city, experiencing how it feels to fly on a commercial airline, spend some one on one time with his Dad (who also shares his love of flying) and see the sites of Sydney.
It was a very early start for Marc yesterday.  They were catching the 6am flight so had to be up bright and early to make the flight.  We kept the whole day a surprise for Marc, until the very last minute.  So when he went to bed the night before, he knew that he had to be up early for a 'special day', but knew no more than that. He was up and ready far too early, he couldn't go back to sleep or eat his breakfast, he was that excited.  Lucky he didn't know what he would be doing that day as he wouldn't have slept at all!
Marc and his Dad finally boarded the plane and Marc was a bit nervous.  On take off, he was completely overwhelmed by the experience and was very anxious.  The airline staff were wonderful, managing to settle him down in no time and then he could enjoy the flight.  The Captain even wished Marc a happy birthday, as he announced their arrival into Sydney, over the loud speaker and this was lovely.  To top it off, Marc was even allowed to sit in the co pilot's seat before they got off the plane in Sydney.  What wonderful memories for an 8 year old for his first time in a jet!
Once they had arrived his Sydney, Marc and his Dad took it all in, making sure to get a photo of the plane they had travelled on, of course!
They took the train from the airport into the city.  It was a grey and overcast Winter's day, but that didn't stop Marc from having a great time.
You can't go to Sydney without seeing the Opera House. The Sydney Opera House is a performing arts centre, located on Bennelong Point in Sydney Harbour.  It was designed by Danish architect, Jorn Utzon and opened in October 1973.  The Opera House is one of the busiest performing arts centres in the world, hosting over 1,500 performances each year, attended by 1.2 million people.  As one of the most popular visitor attractions in Australia, more than seven million people visit the site each year.  Identified as one of the 20th century's most distinctive buildings and one of the most famous performing arts centres in the world, it is managed by the Sydney Opera House Trust, under the auspices of the New South Wales Ministry of the Arts.
Here is the spectacular Sydney Harbour Bridge.  It is a steel, arch bridge that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney CBD and the North Shore.  The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House, is an iconic image of Sydney, and Australia.  The bridge is nicknamed "The Coathanger" because of its arch-based design.  It was opened in 1932 and is the sixth longest spanning arch in the world, and it is the tallest steel arch bridge, measuring 134 m (440 ft) from top to water level.
Marc was so excited all day, to be in a new place, after flying to get there, that he even forgot all about his stomach!  Marc often tells me that he is hungry and wants something to eat, but all day he was that happy and involved in what he was doing that he forgot all about eating.  He hadn't been to Sydney before so the day was a very special one indeed.
Flights within Australia aren't expensive and when you compare this to the cost of a having a kid's party, there is not much difference in price.  So doing this for Marc's special day was really not that extravagant at all.  Marc's interest in aviation is massive and this is something we want to encourage.  He even loves watching planes as they fly past our home, running outside to watch it fly over when he hears it coming.  He reads about planes, researches all about how to fly, constantly bugs me to get him a flight simulator for our computer so he can learn how to fly, draws planes, builds airports with his toys and never stops talking about it!
It had been a very long day for both Marc and his Dad and I was glad to see them walk back in the door that night.  It had been an amazing day for our second born son and I'm sure, has given him a special childhood memory that he will carry with him forever.  That night, while I was preparing dinner, he said, 'Thank you mum for making my dream come true.  I went on a big plane to a big city', and I knew at that point that we had succeeded in making Marc's 8th birthday one to remember :) xxx

Saturday, 2 August 2014

While you sleep

To my amazing children, Adam, Marc and Julia.

While you sleep, the house is still and quiet and the moon shines bright.  The night is dark and cold but you are safe and warm, tucked into your beds.  While you sleep, the world keeps turning, the garden keeps growing and others do what they have to do.  While you sleep, your mother, in particular, is busy, doing many things to care for you and also for herself.  While you sleep, it is a quiet time for mum, when she can get her work done and prepare for the next day when she will make sure that everything is just right for you.  Yes, my children, while you sleep, much goes on.
While you sleep, your mum can relax, after you have settled down for the day.  She will make sure that you are warm and covered up in your blankets.  She will make sure that you are comfortable, at ease and blissfully unaware of what is going on around you.  While you sleep, your mum will look at your beautiful, soft, innocent faces and be amazed at how much emotion she feels for you as she treasures your peaceful state.  After she is content that you are safe and soundly asleep, your mum will then get on with the rest of her work, for her day is not over yet.
While you sleep, your mum will put her radio on, ever so quietly, light her oil burner and create an atmosphere that she loves.  She is glad that the television if off for the day and she can listen to her music and sing softly to herself.  She is glad that another day is done and that we were all home for dinner.  She is pleased that we are all another day older and that we are well and happy.  While you sleep, your mum starts to tidy up and get the house back into order, ready for you to wake up in the morning and muck it all up again.  She will wash the dishes and feel grateful that we all enjoyed a good meal together, as she washes the plates and pots she is happy that you enjoy her cooking so much.
While you sleep, your mum washes your clothes and then folds them up, ready for you to wear.  She is pleased with her efforts to ensure that you are always well dressed and clean.  While you sleep, your mum thinks about when you were little babies and how you used to keep her up all night, demanding care, attention and love.  She remembers how much she loved having babies and how much joy you have all given her and continue to give her each day.  While you sleep, your mother is always thinking about you and your welfare, she does this all day and all night, every day and every night.
While you sleep, your mum goes through the checklist in her mind.  She makes sure that we have enough of everything for the next day.  She checks that there is enough milk for breakfast, thinks about what to put in your lunch and what to cook you for dinner.  If we have run out of something, she will go to the shops and get what we need so you don't go without.  While you sleep, your mum will make sure that everything is stocked up, where it should be and ready for you in the morning.  While your sleep, many things run through your mother's mind for you are her biggest and most important responsibility, you are the product of her love for your father, you are her life.
While you sleep, your mum also takes a little bit of time out for herself.  This is one of the only times during the day that she is alone.  She will enjoy the solitude, the quiet, the opportunity to relax, think her thoughts and plan her plans.  After her work is done, while you sleep, your mum can write.  She can sit down at her desk and let her imagination run wild and her thoughts and feelings can pour out into her writing.  While you sleep, your mum can enjoy one of her favourite past times, writing, and let her creativity flow.  Yes, while you sleep, many things go on around you, that you know nothing about and probably don't even think about, but your mum does.
While you sleep, the hours pass and your mum gets very tired.  She will finish doing what she has to do and check on you another time.  She will make sure that you are still safe and soundly asleep, that you are warm and comfortable.  Your mum feels satisfied that her work for the day is done and starts thinking about going to bed herself.  While you sleep, the night is still, the stars glisten in the moonlight and your mum is never far away.  While you sleep, your mum also sleeps, but is always awake in a flash if she hears you in the night.  While she sleeps, she still has the ability to be on alert, as she can hear you at the other end of the house and is always ready to kiss you good night again, to tuck you in again or to make the night time nightmares and monsters go away.
My children, while you sleep, many things happen as your mum gets busy.  But she does sleep too, as she lays herself down to rest each night and thanks God for you and your life.  While you sleep, your mum feels so much love and commitment towards you, for you are part of her for all eternity.  While you sleep, the world turns and another day dawns and all is well, your mum will make sure of it :) xxx

Friday, 1 August 2014

Some like it HOT!

It's now August and that means we are two thirds of the way through Winter here in Australia.  Yesterday was the coldest day in ten years in Melbourne, with an arctic cold front hitting the city.  I have to tell you that it was a disgrace, it was that cold, wet and miserable that my muscles and bones felt very stiff and sore, I had absolutely no motivation, couldn't get moving and generally felt lousy.  I don't know how people in other parts of the world cope with below zero temperatures, ice and snow in their Winters, I couldn't handle it.  I know that I clearly love the heat of the sun.......yes, I like it hot!
I love Melbourne.  I was born and raised here.  I have lived here all my life.  We get four seasons in one day and the old line is, 'If you don't like the weather in Melbourne, wait five minutes', because it is so very changeable. You get used to this, this is normal and I guess many people would find this all a bit strange.  But to know Melbourne and live here, is a special and unique thing.  It is a green city in the sense that we can grow almost anything here.  It has cold Winters, spectacular Springs, sensational Summers and mild Autumns.  The way the weather can change in an instant is something that us Melbourne folk accept as 'normal' and have adapted to.
Melbourne has a glorious bay and the Victorian coast line is truly beautiful.  We have lush bush land and amazing wild life, stunning botanical gardens, a very cosmopolitan culture, great sporting facilities, fantastic fashion and shopping, state of the art medical facilities.......to name but a few things.  So, in a nutshell, it has a lot to offer and is a great place to live, work and raise a family.......but, my Lord, does it get cold in Winter!  Sure, we don't get snow and ice in the city, we may get a few frosty mornings and a bit of rain, but you only have to travel about an hour out of the city and there IS snow and ice......and this does absolutely nothing for me.
The best part about Melbourne for me is that it also gets mighty hot in Summer.  Now when I say hot, we may get a few days of extreme heat in a row, but then we get our famous 'cool changes' and the temperature will drop in a matter of minutes to give us all a very welcomed break from the heat.  Living on a bay in Melbourne, means that it is not far to get to the beach, or about an hours drive and you are on the coast and the beaches there are magic.  I love the heat, I thrive on it, I am at my happiest sitting in the sun, feeling it beat down on my skin and filling me with vitamin D, enormous energy and good vibes.  Yes, I have a Southern Italian background that has a reputation for being 'hot blooded', but I kid you not, I like it hot!
I like hot, spicy food, I like hot, sunny days, I have to admit, am hot tempered and hot blooded.  I am just someone who likes heat and I need it like I need food and water to live.  When it is warm and the sun is shining, I am instantly at ease, happy and excited about what the day has to offer.  I can work in my garden, swim in the sea, walk anywhere I like, wear a Summer dress and thongs on my feet, survive on fresh salads and fruit, have my BBQs and my little shin digs any night I please, thrive on the long days and short nights........yes, for me, hot means happiness.
Now I am nearly through Winter and the only way I have managed to keep my morale up this year is by sitting by an open fire in my garden.  My Face book friends are completely over this, I'm sure.  The amount of posts and photos I have put on about this fire of mine is surely getting very boring and repetitive.  But it has been my saviour this year, it has been the only thing that has made me feel hot.  We sit by the fire place and feed the fire to make it burn harder and faster.  The flames jump and dance and radiate immense heat, so much so, that you don't notice just how freezing cold and miserable it is outside.  It is comforting, it is soothing, it is relaxing and I really get a lot of pleasure from feeling warm from the fire.  But now, I am getting over all of this, I am getting sick of smelling like smoke, I am getting sick of having grubby hands all the time from the wood and coals,  I don't want to wear a jacket and three layers of clothing, socks and shoes............I want it all to go away, I want it to be HOT!
As they say, 'patience is a virtue' and I like to think of myself as a patient person.....but sometimes I wonder.  I usually want everything yesterday and am not good at waiting for things to happen, like the changing of the seasons and for time to pass.  I try my best, focusing on other things and just going with the flow.  I try not to think too much about things, believe it or not and just get on with it.  I can do absolutely nothing about the climate I live in and being a human being living on planet Earth means that I have no choice but to follow the rhythm of life and the seasons.  One more month and it will be Spring and I will be jumping for joy.  I'll get there, like we all do and soon, we will all be hot and bothered again and complaining about the heat.........but not this little black duck, I'll be living and loving it a lot........because I like it hot!! :) xxx

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Let's party.......like a 4 year old!

It's right in the middle of Winter, here in Australia, the days are short and the nights are very cold.  It is most certainly a time of the year that I don't look forward to, except that all of my children were born in Winter.  I have Adam in June, Julia in July and Marc in August, so, if anything, this is the best part of the season for me.  Last week, we celebrated our daughter, Julia's, 4th birthday and lots of fun was had by all.  This post is dedicated to our beautiful girl, who is growing up at such a rapid pace and really looked forward to her birthday so very much this year.  I took some lovely photos of her, the family and our friends and I wanted to share these with you and write a memoir about her happy day, her gorgeous smile and her love of a good time.  I often think of Julia as my little 'party girl' :)
Julia's actual birthday fell on a week day, so having a party with our friends was not a good idea on this day, we saved this for later.  But we had our traditional family dinner instead, on the day, so that she could feel special and most importantly, blow out the candle and eat cake!  I started doing these family dinners, on the kids' birthdays, years ago and it kind of stuck.  So now, a year can't go past without having my mum over, and sometimes my husband's family, to enjoy the night together.
No longer a baby anymore, Julia is certainly turning into a bright and bubbly young girl, with constant chatter, big, chubby cheeks and plenty of spunk to keep up with her older brothers.  She has such a colourful personality and always makes me smile.  Being the child I never thought I'd have, also a girl after 2 boys, makes her a special treasure.
Before dinner, her dad spent some time with Julia playing with her new play dough.  She had several, new, bright colours of new play dough, but sure enough, they were all mushed up together to make a lovely, murky grey colour in no time.  But that didn't bother her, she enjoyed squishing it between her fingers and making mystery objects with her dad.
I always like to get a couple of helium balloons on the day and this is another thing my kids have come to expect and look forward to.  They usually fight over them, giving me a major headache and then they bounce them around the house playing games with them.  Here we are sitting down together to enjoy dinner, nothing flash today, beef schnitzels, baked potatoes, green salad, garlic bread and of course, double layered chocolate cake.  Mum enjoyed it and always likes to have dinner with us.
So Julia's actual birthday had passed, but now the following weekend had arrived and it was time to have a party with our friends.  I have had a couple of birthday parties over the years for the kids at home and I was motivated to have one this year for Julia after not having had one at home for a while.  This year, we had a small group of good friends and this worked out well because I could sit all of our little guests at the table for lunch.  When I was a kid, mum always made me set the table and I'm sure that is why, to this day, I still enjoy setting the table and have a lot of fun with it.
I have always liked the idea of having a pinata, so this day we did.  Here is a traditional, colourful bull pinata, hanging precariously outside in the back yard.  I filled it with loads of lollies and it was so bright and cheerful to look at as it swayed in the breeze.  I was sure that this kids would have fun with this later in the day!
Our home is not very big and I often think, just big enough for us.  It is just the right size so that if I have to run around and do a quick tidy up, it doesn't take me long.  Anyway, the more space you have, the more mess you clean up, so I am very happy in my home.  Another thing I love to do is turn the place into a 'party zone' when we have celebrations.  So I managed to pick up many more helium balloons and hang a few more streamers and the place instantly had a party atmosphere.  If you haven't noticed, I love colour and lots of it, so of course, bright and varied colours were the order of the day.
Who doesn't like getting presents?  Especially if you are a four year old!  Julia couldn't wait to see her friends and open up her birthday gifts and she was certainly a very lucky girl on this day.  With plenty of lovely gifts, all wrapped up in birthday paper and ribbon, her smile went from ear to ear.
By now, all of our guests had arrived and it was time to start the party games.  This year, I chose very traditional games that I'm sure have been around for many generations and the first one was 'pass the parcel', always a guaranteed winner for this age group.
I had fun wrapping each layer and I added a small 'prize' in each layer so everyone would get a treat.  Here it is Julia's turn to open a layer and I had to give her a hand because I think I was a bit too 'thorough' with the wrapping.  All the kids enjoyed this first game and it was a chance to listen to some music and wait in eager anticipation for it to 'stop'.
You may have noticed that I love to cook, so preparing some party food for a four year old's birthday was lots of fun.  There was plenty for everyone with lots of sickly sweat treats that all kids love.
Julia was loving her birthday party food as we don't often have sweets at our place.  Today we had honey joys, chocolate crackles, jelly and chocolate frogs, cup cakes and much more.  It was a bit of a sugar fiesta, I'm afraid, but considering, the children weren't too hyped up and were very well behaved all day.
The second game for the day was another standard, classic, 'pin the tail on the donkey'.  Julia had the first turn and managed to pin the tail spot on in the right place, which made we wonder if she was peeking through her blind fold.
All of the children had a turn and  weren't bothered at all with having their eyes covered up.  I pointed them in the right direction and they all had a pretty good aim.
By now, we had almost finished this game and I have to say that this shot was a very honest one, but still on the board.
I thought this was cute, the finished product of our second party game.  You can see that many attempts were pretty good and it was great so see the kids having a go.
Here is a beautiful shot of the party girl and one of my favourite photos.  Julia is so happy and her youthful enthusiasm and bright eyes were a joy to watch.
I'm a bit of a 'party girl' myself, so I've been told and I couldn't resist but brighten myself up with some hot pink feathers and a shiny hat.  I am here with my baby girl who is busy eating her lime green jelly.  I love her and all of my children so very much and having days like this are very special.
Here is a quick shot of some of our guests with Julia and I, enjoying the balloons and streamers.  I enjoy looking after children very much, I couldn't do it for a living and 3 is more than enough, but the beauty and vitality of children is something that I adore and I love to help them have fun.
Getting a load of helium balloons was a wonderful investment for Julia's party as the kids jumped around with them and made up their own balloon games.  We had some young, cheerful music on so the kids had no trouble getting into the party spirit.
Here is another joyful photo of the birthday girl, with a big smile and a balloon in her favourite colour, blue.
Mmm, party food!  What four year old birthday party would be complete without cocktail frankfurts and fries, now I ask you?
We had finished two games and dancing with our balloons and now it was time to sit down and eat.  It was lovely having a full table, filled with such bright and cheerful little people and Julia was having a wonderful time.
After lunch, it was time to get stuck into the pinata.  I like the idea of this, but after watching the kids try to smash it, I was beginning to be a little unsure.  It is not a pleasant concept encouraging children to hit something with a stick and I'm sure it sends a pretty warped message, but they understood that this was a game and couldn't wait to see what was inside.
After all of the much younger children had a couple of turns trying to break the pinata, it was left up to big brother, Adam, to get the job done.  This is the final whack that did the trick!
The pinata is finally broken to pieces and look at what was inside! The kids madly scrambled to pick up as many lollies as they could to fill their lolly boxes to take home.
Julia's fourth birthday party was now winding up and the afternoon had been full of excitement and good times for the children.  The grand finale was ice cream cake and what a cake it was!  Ice cream is always a safe bet and was enjoyed by all.
I like this photo very much of my family as I am lighting Julia's candles and sparklers.  There is something so very special and rewarding about family and nurturing it on special days like today, is what it's all about for me.
We all sang happy birthday to Julia and she blew out yet another set of candles.  We are happy and healthy and have had the honour of sharing her special day with our good friends.  There is plenty of everything, all of our guests had a good time, we have played games, danced, eaten and most importantly, enjoyed each other's company.  I have helped to create some special memories for my family and that I can't do enough of.  Our daughter is now 4 years old and the apple of our eye.  I couldn't really ask for much more in my life as we live a little and love a lot, as always :) xxx