Monday, March 29, 2010

Lights Off!

Earth Hour
Lights out
Up the stairs
By flashlight
Three in a bed
Watching shadows
Deers and dogs
And monsters battle
Giggles erupt
Cuddles ensue

And one mama monkey falls out of bed

Power saved?
Haven't a clue
Memories made?
You bet you!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Fair Dinkim Adventures

Part of the reason for my lack of recent posts was a terrific six week visit from my Mom. We had such a great time together and I was very sad to see her go home. And no - not just because she felt the need to do 3 or 4 loads of laundry a day or because she insisted on making my kids' lunches for school - she was my partner in adventure!

The dictionary defines adventure as "an exciting or very unusual experience." Well, we certainly went some unusual places and made our own excitement. More importantly, we shared quite a few laughs along the way.

Ipswich - Ipswich is a city just outside of Brisbane. We actually ended up there by accident. My GPS wasn't working that day and I'd just missed the turn-off for the second time to check out New Farm (one of Brisbane's suburbs). Driving down the wrong road, we saw a sign for Ipswich. It was like a beacon calling out to us, inviting us to go somewhere new. We thought - why not? After about 45 minutes, I pulled over at the Ipswich Tourist Information booth. The ladies there seemed very excited to have some Canadian visitors (in hindsight I think they were just happy to have any visitors at all to Ipswich!) Coral, one of the tourist info ladies, seemed extremely intent on getting us to go to Queens Park to see the bilbies (some kind of marsupial that looks like a cross between a rat and a rabbit). I'm sorry, but when a "ratbit" is your main draw you really need to start upgrading your town's attractions! I asked whether there was a cute shopping district. Coral seemed somewhat flustered at first by the question (could have been my accent) but recommended a visit to Brisbane Street. Looking back, we should have noted her hesitation and gotten out of dodge. However, the guide magazine we picked up described the area as a "lovely precinct," a "treasure on your doorstep," with "funky cafes, original heritage architecture, and an array of shopping delights." Deciding to skip the bilbies and instead check out the shopping we found a parking spot and started walking. We had passed a somewhat sketchy looking section of the street looking for a place to park, so we decided to walk in the opposite direction. After a few blocks lacking in any "treasures" I decided to ask someone where the shopping precinct was located. They pointed back up towards the block we had purposefully avoided. Apparently "funky" and "delights" mean something different to Ipswichians - like a parole office and an adult sex shop. We did check out the strip of stores (skipping the "Love Shop" - my Mom said she didn't want to have to explain anything to me... ) to see if we had missed something worthwhile. Let's just say... we should have gone to see the bilbies!

Mom with her stuffed bilbie!

Fair Dinkim Bargain Store

"Fair Dinkim" is Aussie slang for "genuine" or "true". I haven't heard an Australian throw this term into an actual conversation but some stores seem to think it's funny to use it in their advertising. After escaping Ipswich's seedy shopping district we came across Fair Dinkim Bargains. It seems that what Ipswich lacks in quaint shopping it makes up for in bargain stores. If you know my mom and I, you know about our love for a good dollar store! I'm not sure that Fair Dinkim Bargains was quite up to my Dollarama standards (there were things over $2.00) but it was as close as I've found so far. Plus, "fair dinkim" is a term that just makes you giggle. Go ahead, say it a few times and try not to smile! (We also found a salon called "Hair Dinkim". That made us laugh too but I don't think we would've let them touch our hair!)

Wet n' Wild - The kids really wanted to show Granny one of their favourite amusement parks here - Wet n' Wild. My mom was willing to give it a go even though water parks aren't necessarily her favourite thing. Last summer, my mom and I took all the kids to Sylvan Lake's water slide in Alberta. She was brave enough to try a ride with the older kids but fell off her tube and ended up getting crashed into by the woman behind her. After that I think her favourite ride there was the hot tub. In an attempt to break her in gradually, I suggested that we start at Calypso Beach. All you had to do there was lounge on a tube and let the river take you around a gentle winding course. She liked that. Then, Jack wanted her to try Mammoth Falls. Mammoth Falls is a giant tube that 5 or 6 people climb into and ride down a series of water falls. I was a bit worried about my mom's ability to climb up the tower stairs, get in and out of the tube, and how well she'd enjoy a ride that makes you feel like you could tip over at any moment. She loved it! O.k., maybe "love" is too strong a word, but she was laughing for the majority of the ride! Seizing on her excitement, I then dragged her to the River Rapids ride. The kids and I had been on it before and it seemed pretty mild. As a bonus, I remembered that there were no stairs to climb. Unfortunately, I forgot about the big hill you had to scale instead. Part way up my mom offered to skip the ride, but I told her it'd be fine. After finally making it to the top, Caitlyn decided that she wanted to go in one of the covered tubes, and she wanted Granny to go with her. Jack and I opted for our usual open-air slide. Well, who knew that the closed tubes were faster than the open ones? I guess if they don't have to worry about you shooting out the side, they can make you go as fast as possible. My mom was the last one down and I would have loved to have had a camera to capture the look of sheer terror! She shot out of the tube, panicked slightly before realizing the water was only up to her waist, and then gave me "the look." Somehow I knew that I'd better not take her on the Kamikaze next. Though it took her a bit to stop trembling, we had a great afternoon getting wet and wild! I'm sure she'd agree - right mom???

Jumble Sale - While driving past one of the churches near our house, my Mom got all excited. The sign read "Jumble Sale, Wed. 9:15 a.m." I personally have never heard of a jumble sale but apparently in my mom's English mystery novels they're a common occurrence. Perhaps she envisioned herself on Antique Roadshow showing off a vase she'd bought at the jumble sale for pennies and worth thousands, or just for the heck of it - whatever the reason, my mom thought we'd better check this sale out. So, after dropping the kids off at school, we arrived at the church ahead of schedule. There was already a line forming. This was serious business! We took our place in line. My mom chatted with the elderly ladies behind us (who kept inching their walkers forward - ready to make the dash when the doors opened!) Meanwhile, I was deciding on strategy - mom was to check out any furniture and I would head for any mirrors or wall hangings. Our neighbourhood is pretty affluent so we were expecting great things. Well, while I did get Caitlyn a couple of books and a skirt for $2.50, the only thing priceless was the look on our faces when we saw the hall. It was a jumble alright - a jumble of crap! Nothing was sorted and the majority of stuff was still shoved in boxes. Even though we didn't find any treasures, our morning at the jumble sale was rich with laughter.

We had lots of other adventures too. My mom pulling out Jack's first tooth on the beach at Tangalooma, getting knocked over by the waves at Byron Bay, doing the Rainforest Skywalk in the Tamborine Mountains (actually more of a skyrun than walk since Caitlyn turned out to be afraid of heights and bugs), avoiding the giant lizards running around our feet at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, and so many more fun memories. I can't wait till my mom comes back!

So, if you come to visit us here in Brisbane I promise to take you to all the touristy spots and even the not so touristy ones. And if it's laughter you're looking for, there's a fair dinkim chance we'll find it!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Pet Shop Girl

First - there was Rufus the Cat. Rufus was Paul and my first pet together (pre-kids). He seemed docile enough when I picked him out at the pet store (Paul had steered me into the pet shop trying to avoid a "sidewalk sale" - big mistake!). Turns out they must have drugged the cat. By the time we had him in the car going home he was already clawing his way out of the box. And just a day later he was clinging to my bare back like one of those Garfield the Cat car window stuffies. I'd just come out of the shower and was toweling off when he pounced, claws out, onto my back. It took a lot of squealing and twirling before I managed to dislodge Rufus. Yes, Rufus was a feisty cat. Many called him "mean", "psycho", "crazy", and "possessed." I just called him mine and loved him in spite his faults. Although, I admit that at the time I worried that my troubled cat (seriously, he was put on kitty Ritalin) reflected badly on my future parenting skills. Maybe it was because he had been a "latch-key" cat while we were busy working, or maybe it was the name I'd given him - would he have been a nicer cat if I'd called him "Mittens" instead?

Next came Brie. Brie was a yellow lab that I brought home to keep Rufus company. My secretary in Texas had lab puppies. My mistake was to go with her on our lunch breaks to check on them. I couldn't hold a precious little puppy like that and not want to take it home with me. Paul thought it would buy him some time on the baby front. I thought it would be good practice for a baby. We were both wrong. A few months later I was pregnant with Caitlyn. And, if she turned out like Brie - we were in trouble! I took Brie to puppy school where she proceeded to pee in the doggie tunnel (closing it down for the other students), bite through a harness (not even ours), and poop on the floor at graduation. She wasn't much better as she got older. She would only listen to Paul, growled at strangers (I thought labs were supposed to be friendly), and ate anything leather. Where was the "Dog Whisperer" then?

In the end our vet recommended that we have poor Rufus put down because of his aggressiveness. It was a sad day for me but we couldn't risk poor Caitlyn getting bit. And Brie went to live with Paul's parents when we moved into our new house in Calgary since we didn't have a fence. Now she's living on a farm chasing cows around. (When his parents told us they had given her to a farm many of our friends thought that I was being naive and that Brie had actually "bought the farm!") Not true - she is alive and happy.

Our post-children pets have been limited to Siamese Fighting Fish. That is if you can really call those things pets. It's not that I don't like aquariums. I like Nemo and all. It's just that fish are pretty boring. After the first week of excitement, Caitlyn and Jack no longer wanted to clean the tank, feed the fish, or even acknowledge their presence. And in spite of my less than stellar fish care, those suckers refused to die. Once we were finally rid of the last one I decided that avoiding pet shops was the best option. That worked until recently.

After visiting their cousins at Christmas my kids were intent on getting a new pet. Luckily this kind did not involve toilet training, paying for a friend's antibiotics after getting bitten, pooper scooping, or picking pet hair off my butt. And, from what I could tell, they didn't seem to have the long lifespan that I hated with the fish.

Hermit crabs.

My nephew bought three of them with his Christmas money. Unfortunately he was down one crab just three days later. We all attended Pincher the Crab's funeral where he was fittingly eulogized by my nephew, niece, Jack and Caitlyn. Songs were sung and tears were shed as Pinchers was described as a "being like a brother" to Aidan. (I felt bad for Aidan but I admit that I had to stifle a giggle at that part in the ceremony). Jack said that he was sad that it was a closed casket (he'd never had the opportunity to meet Pinchers) and wondered if there would be a cremation. Despite the loss (another one died a week later), both of my children hoped that the pet stores in Australia also stocked hermit crabs. To their delight, my Mom bought them their own two hermit crabs - Link and Zelda.

So far (knock on wood), the two are still alive and well. In fact, Caitlyn is busy organizing their wedding. (I'm not sure if it will be a same-sex one or not as I have no idea how to check out a hermit crab's "parts"). The wedding is scheduled for this week and she's already invited guests and made a chapel.

The kids are older now and have been good about taking responsibility for the crabs. At least I can't be blamed now for any issues with these pets. So, here's hoping that when the crabs exchange their vows on Wednesday the two have a little time together before "till death do they part."