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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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celebrations

A collection of little moments

I’ve been getting rather slack with the photo-sharing, and so after some loving hints (“We’d like to see more photos of Arddun, please!”), I thought I’d load up some random photos of Arddun and caption what she’s been up to lately.

Arddun pats Sienna's head
Arddun loves babies. Unfortunately, what she thinks is a loving pat on the cheek often becomes an overenthusiastic head-squish-into-neck thing. My friends have been very patient with us. (Arddun with Sienna, 13 December 2012)
Hanging out with Shannon and Sally
3 grown women, 4 babies and tots = shopping bags + a lot of vehicular real estate. (From left: Shannon with Malia, Sally with Isla, and Arddun with “Ao-wie”.)
Arddun builds big tower
Lately, Arddun’s started building towers with blocks (wooden and life-sized), only to knock them down again in toddler glee. After this block, for instance, she took a running start from stage left and demolished her handiwork. 
First chocolate milk shake
It’s been so stinking hot, we finally relented that one afternoon and allowed a tiny sip of Tony’s milkeshake for the very first time. Boy, did she make that sip last… (Christmas Eve 2012)
Arddun at the aviary
The aviary at Gold Creek allows tiny tots to feed birds apple slices straight from their hot little hands. Unfortunately, this tot had a tendency to entice birds over with her apple slice, let the birds nibble at the edges, before snatching the slice off and scoffing it down. What a tease. (Christmas Eve 2012)
Arddun and Tony share some tea
Here’s Arddun getting a quick tutorial from her daddoh on how to serve high tea like a proper young lady. (Christmas morning 2012)
Mother and daughter
Enjoying a picnic at a playground/park in Albury. It was real hot that day. (New Year’s eve 2012)
Arddun and Alex in bumble bee car
Our nearest neighbour (in our mother’s group) and good pal, Alex.
Arddun pushing Alex in wagon
Here’s a better shot of Alex, with Arddun literally pushing him around. Taken 7 January 2013
Arddun on playmat during worship
We don’t always accomplish this, but most Sundays, Arddun will keep to her playmat and do some drawing or read her books. The challenge lately is to encourage her to do all those things without singing Row Row Row Your Boat. Taken 13 January 2013
Arddun honks Tony's nose
HONK!
Arddun and Charlie sharing apples
This is another of Arddun’s friends, Charlie. They’re trying to share an apple. About 3 photos after this one, the bowl of apples mysteriously moves across to the corner chair behind Arddun… (Taken 19 January)
Charlie and Arddun drawing in the garden
Conversing in the shade while doing some landscape art.
Arddun wears green washing-up glove
Gloving up to wash dishes in sink. She hopes. (Taken today.)
Arddun's plaited hair - front view
Arddun’s hair got plaited today for the very first time! Handiwork by Sarah V. (Taken this afternoon)
Back view of plait
Back view of plaits. Cannot believe the little girl sat through the entire thing, while she’d wriggle around like a fish out of water when I so much as attempt to tie ONE miserable whale spout.

12 Christmas traditions to try out

I’d spoken before about how having a child has totally changed how I see tradition. Suddenly, I want lots. Where there was just me and Tony previously and we were happy to play it by ear for each major holiday, I’ve now gone all “Let Fairy Lights Drip from our Rooftop!!!” when it comes to Christmas and Chinese New Year.

Well, 2 Christmases ago I tried to put together a gingerbread Tardis for Tony – and failed. It seemed a great idea at the time – you know, I get the practice now, I get better over the years and when Arddun is finally old enough to help out, we can Do It Together for Daddy. Gingerbread Tardis – it’d be our thang. Traditional, yet geeky. Perfect.

Completely overlooked the fact that I’ve never baked gingerbread ANYTHING before.

Bought lights for the tree in 2011. They overheated and popped. No lights last year.

Forgot to buy stocking fillers for anyone.

I am still unthwarted. Along with New Year Resolutions, I’m guessing that new Christmas and CNY traditions are also going to be my thing. Inventing them, carrying them out, refining them along the years. Throwing out the ones that make Tony sigh with resignation and long-suffering, keeping the ones that bring genuine joy and require very little cleaning up after.

We went to Melbourne after Christmas last year, which was the centrepiece of our Christmas-New Year holiday. But we also had a combined Christmas lunch with another family which was something we really enjoyed. This year, as Arddun starts to understand even more about the world she’s a part of, I’m compiling a list of traditions that we may or may not try out.

Googled and found the following great suggestions

  1. New pajamas on Christmas Eve
    It’s summer for us during Christmas time, so I’m not sure how this might pan out. Will probably NOT get flannel PJs, but maybe something cool and cotton might work.
  2. Christmas Lights drive by in pajamas. Ice chocolate after
    I have a thing about children (and adults) wearing their home clothes or their sleep clothes out of the house. Never liked it, absolutely will forbid Arddun from doing it, think it’s slightly indecent somehow. BUT along with the new jammies perhaps, we might enjoy a collectively silly session on Christmas Eve of trawling the neighbourhood Christmas lights displays while wearing spanking-new rubber ducky pajama pants. And Monty Python Killer Rabbit Slippers. Of which we already own TWO pairs.
  3. Nativity scene
    I used to be quite weirded out about celebrating Christmas as Jesus’s birthday, because I’ve always been conscious about how Christmas – as we know it – was basically a pagan holiday rebranded around the 4th century. That said, in the spirit of building our own family traditions, I think we can make Christmas anything we want it to be. And if that includes thanking God for sending his Son to us and celebrating such humble yet powerful beginnings, then why not. Some parents buy a nativity set and have their young children reenact the historical event. Others place the nativity scene under the Christmas tree and have the baby Jesus figurine come just a little closer to the manger every day. We haven’t decided what we’d do for Arddun yet, but teaching her about the birth of Christ (and that He wasn’t Anglo-Saxon, contrary to all the nativity scenes in shopping malls!) could be a part of what we do. All the hoopla about it not being the actual date that Jesus was born can come much later.
  4. Christmas tree up on 1 December
    Yeah, that one bombed last year. Better luck this year.
  5. Gingerbread house baking together
    See above regarding Tardis. Down, but perhaps not out yet.
  6. A Christmas Book a night for advent
    I like this one, as it turns a regular part of Arddun’s bedtime routine into something a little more special. I can’t remember where I first saw this suggestion, but Kate did one better and individually wrapped her 12 Christmas books so her children could enjoy the simple pleasure of ripping into a mini-gift each night before Christmas. Will be doing this one with Arddun when she gets older, methinks.
  7. Loose change for charity at the end of the year
    There are a few ideas buzzing around my head regarding our little family and the charities we support. One idea I’ve read recently was to keep a large jar somewhere central in the house where family members could empty loose change over the course of the year, and then have a family conference at the end to use the loose change to support a charity or an individual we know in need.
  8. Christmas Eve board games
    I looooove board games. I hope Arddun does too. Better yet, if we can have another child, then we’ll finally have the numbers for Mahjong. I’m just thinking aloud here.
  9. Christmas Eve movie
    Someone window-shopping at JB Hifi recently asked me if I could recommend a good Christmas movie. Apparently, it was tradition in her family to pick out a movie about Christmas and watch it on Christmas Eve. I suggested Joyeux Noel but they had already done that one.
  10. Christmas family photo
    Cheesy. But necessary. Especially if you’re going to dress up the kid.
  11. Service
    I’d like service for another to become an important part of our Christmas holidays, so apart from flinging money in the general direction of the needy (see No.7 above), I like the idea of bestowing the gift of time. Perhaps something like volunteering our skills to wrap Christmas presents at a shopping mall where proceeds go to a charity. (Because soup kitchens, as we found out, are actually getting difficult to volunteer for.) Still refining this one, but the basic idea is that Christmas should always be about giving, and it’s something we want to teach Arddun through practice.
  12. Scavenger Hunt
    I used to create GREAT scavenger hunts when I was in my teens and had waaay more energy to think up abstract clues in rhyme. Time to dust out this life skill in a few years’ time and get the scavenger hunt going on Christmas Day! This will, of course, involve quite a bit of plotting beforehand, and on-the-spot guidance on the day.

What Christmas traditions do you have? What did you do last year? Can I steal some more ideas?

Merry Christmas, everybody!

I had a good Christmas this year.

A few things made it stand out a little different from previous years.

Having another family to spend Christmas Alone with

Unless we’re in Brisbane or my mum’s in town, Christmas in years past have been the stuff of crickets chirping in the background. We had the occasional lunch with friends during a couple of Christmases before, which has been lovely.

But there’s something about hosting your own Big Christmas Family lunch; doing the shopping, getting prepared, feeding people, opening presents.

Enter New Friends from the States who live 2 minutes from our home, and suddenly there we were – two houses, far away from family, yet close enough to join forces and make pigging out on a whole turkey totally worthwhile.

Shannon and I now have shared bragging rights on cooking our first turkey. The fact that we got the butcher to debone the entire turkey and stuff it with apricots, mango and hazelnuts so that effectively we had a turkey roll that could actually fit in the oven made it all the better. I don’t think that’s cheating. It’s still a whole turkey. It’s still getting roasted. It still tastes the same. Stroke. Of. Genius. For the rest of you who had to saw your turkey in half or stress over drying out your turkey.. well, now you know. Thank you, Lilydale Butchery.

Having a toddler who understands

It’s Arddun’s second Christmas – third, if you count womb time – and I’m starting to understand what the fuss is all about. Now that she’s actually engaging with her toys – instead of ditching the toy to play with the wrapper, ala Christmas 2011 – this Christmas rocks on the present-opening front. I had gifted Arddun with a toy petrol station because she has always made a beeline for the toy cars and ramps in the church building every Sunday. But Daddoh topped it by getting a tea set to go with her new table and chairs (thank you Famiza for the furniture, BTW! It’s a darling set!)

And that’s how Kitty got to have her first taste of plastic tea.

Oooh yes… Brisbane Nanna had also made gorgeous Christmas outfits!

Back view of Christmas dress
Back view
Front view of Christmas Dress
Front view

Arddun is also besotted with her new Little Tikes Trike, which, despite major steering issues, doesn’t dampen her spirits one bit. And as for the petrol station set I got her, it turned out to be rather poorly made so I’m returning the lot and looking for a better one. (There’s a reason sometimes to go for brands you’ve actually heard of.) Still, this little girl was heard making car noises all around the house, only pausing for a quick sip of tea with kitty, before heading off on her new driving adventures with her little black merc.

Which is an encouraging sign for the next bit.

Having a family trip to look forward to

I get massive cabin fever during holidays. I know that a real holiday, by definition, includes getting rested – which is why taking a trip somewhere often defeats this very purpose. But there’s something about staying at home “doing nothing” that drives me absolutely batty when my family has a longish week off together. The mundane can be a terribly wasteful time filler, and a surefire way to get me itchy and grumpy.

So this year, we’re driving to Melbourne to visit long-time friends. The last two days have been a slow build up to a flurry of excitement for the trip ahead. We set off tomorrow. Our very first car trip together!

Speaking of which, I’m gonna call it a night. Plenty of driving to do tomorrow (4 hours each driver!) and we’re aiming to be out of the house by 9am. Optimistic, I know.

But before I go,

Merry Christmas, dearest family and friends – and people who actually read my blog. This has been a tumultous year, but in many ways also, a very rewarding one. I am so glad you are all a part of my life because I have been made richer for it. May the rest of your 2012 be safe and happy and if we don’t get to talk soon, have a great New Year!

XOXO Velle

HALLELUJAH

If Arddun hadn’t woken up an hour earlier than usual, she wouldn’t have suddenly dozed off in the car at 11:15am instead of 1:00pm.

If she hadn’t dozed off at 11:15am, I would have gone to the Canberra Centre as planned, instead of deciding to lengthen the car ride by driving over to Fyshwick.

If I hadn’t headed over to Fyshwick, I wouldn’t have had mobile reception above ground because I would have been parking the car in the basement of the Canberra Centre.

If I hadn’t had mobile reception, I wouldn’t have heard the phone ring.

If Arddun hadn’t been sleeping, I wouldn’t have pulled over to the side of the road to turn the phone off.

If I hadn’t wanted to turn my phone off, I wouldn’t have noticed the caller.

And I wouldn’t have spoken to the director of the childcare centre of our first choice, and learnt that because another family had gotten an overseas posting, there is a vacancy in the toddler’s room. Would I be happy with three days a week next year?

WOULD I?!

I’m not one to view God as a bit of a genie in a bottle, or claim that every path we take in life is a direct result of godly scheming. (I believe more that God has control over everything, but He also created natural law, and He gave us all freedom of choice. He is not arbitrary and whimsical. More on that another time, perhaps.)

But having looked at how elegantly this had fallen in place… I can’t help but marvel.

Happy Daddoh Day

Tony and I aren’t terribly mushy to each other. We have mushy moments, but I think we communicate affection best through humour and reruns of West Wing, rather than in Hallmarkesque prose. Which is why I’ve deliberated over writing this post – for someone who really doesn’t like calling attention to himself, this post could turn out to be the complete opposite of a Nice Father’s Day gesture for Tony.

So as a means of insurance, I’ll also state that this post is primarily for Arddun’s sake. Because I pray she’ll grow up fabulous, and I know she’ll grow up loved by her daddy. And I also know there’s going to be some spots in her life when she will think she hates her parents. And decide she’ll let them know about it in so many words and actions.

So Arddun, if you’re reading this in the future and you’re mad with your father, here’s what your relationship with your father was like when you were 14½ months old.

You are
Your daddy’s girl
And he is the first man in your life.

He is
The first you see when you awake
The last you cuddle before sleep

You reserve
All frantic, excited, whole-body-wave Hellos and Goodbyes
For him alone.

Everyone else
Gets the more muted version.
A non-verbal “Yo. ‘Sup.”

Daddoh was
The second word you learnt, after “Boo”.
(You still don’t call me anything.)

You carry
His ugg boots, and
His going-out boots, and
His work shoes, and
His socks
All. Over. The House.
And then you try and wear them. Sometimes.

You are
The only one who can make your father sing
Repeatedly. Willingly.

Very non-Jimmy Barnes songs.

(Impressive.)

We’re convinced
You’ve started counting up to 3
(Except you say “1… 2… wheee!”)
And it’s only because your Daddoh reads
The Very Hungry Caterpillar
Every night
Because you wouldn’t have him read any other book.

Your eyes
Grow big like the moon
And sparkle like the stars
When the back gate creaks at night
And you’re so excited Daddoh’s home
That you run a victory lap around the kitchen island
Before running into his arms

Every week night.

You’ve made
His eyes go tender
And his heart say things

And both of you have such a way
Of bright’ning up each other’s day

Like no one else can.

Happy Father’s Day, Tony. xx

Photo montage of Arddun and Tony

The second 1st Birthday Party!

I think I’ve told you all quite a few times how my Mother’s Group gets along great. And because all of our bubs’ birthdays fall within a month and a day from the youngest to the oldest, we thought it’d be fantastic if we were to celebrate their first birthday at the midpoint – Saturday 30 June.

Thanks to Lisa, Xav, and the very magnetic personality of Charlie the Bumble Bee, we were able to engage a petting zoo for the afternoon! That being very much the centrepiece of the party, the birthday theme became Farmyard Animals, which meant I scoured ebay to score me a practical-yet-cute Winter costume for Arddun.

Observe:

Arddun in a duck costume
Daddy’s little duckling

There were lots of yummy animal-themed food and decor:

Party decorations and food

And many hilarious moments watching the babies interact with the baby lambs, the kittens, the teenage chickens, the dog… and Arddun’s favourite, the ducks.

She was also quite fascinated with the lambs:

And the rest of them:

Stroking the bunny
Practising her “gentle” strokes on the soft bunny wabbit in Auntie Carrie’s arms.
Lamb feeding time
“Oh look! A lamb!”
Arddun pointing at dog
“Oh look! A dog!”
Lamb sniffs Arddun's hand
“Tee hee! That tickles!”
Arddun stares at chicken
“Why do these fellas remind me of dinner?”
Arddun gets closer to the chickens
“My mommy calls you ‘Tandoori’, but I think you’re beautiful.”
Arddun with the chickens
Duck and chickens
Arddun sitting next to a lamb
“I’m having the best day ever!”

Unfortunately, I was trying to cough up a lung the entire afternoon, and so apart from snapping up a storm during the petting zoo bit, I didn’t take many photos at all. Was trying to keep a safe distance from most of the littlies and their mommies. Quite a bummer, because I had intended to take at least one shot of Arddun with each of her friends – and have some photos of me with the other mothers, too. After all, it isn’t just the babies’ birthdays – it’s a wonderful celebration of our first year as parents.

But the great news is that we had an event photographer on the day, thanks to Carrie’s sister! So yes… watch this space. xx

Sneak Peek

My mother’s group will be celebrating our babies’ first birthday tomorrow afternoon. So here’s what a few of us were up to late this evening…

Party balloons poster

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