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We're an American family living in Australia, where everything seems a little bit turned-upside-down.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Clotheslines are in!

We're back from Bali, and before I can write about our trip, I've got loads and loads of laundry to do... literally!

I'm the type of mom that gets the toddler outside for a play everyday.  I feel guilty if I don't.  Especially if I put him down for a "sleep" (nap) before he's been outside. Today, running through the wet clothes I've hung  on the clothesline will have to count.

Ahh, the clothesline.  A novel thing of the past for most of us American women. 

found this 1950s LA Times picture on this blog:

At first reluctant, I've learned to embrace the practice of hanging our wash out to dry.  It not only conserves energy, but gets me outside for a daily dose of fresh air.  Every Australian household I've seen has a clothesline, and they actually use it.  In fact, look at this ad in a magazine that shows a typical scene at an Aussie BBQ, and notice the clothesline.

Click here to see YouTube video of this funny Aussie Ad.

It's amazing how quickly I've adjusted to this clothesline culture.  I've learned to plan my laundry loads around the weather because I absolutely hate using the clothes dryer.  Other women around here apparently feel the same way as I do.  It was a crisp, sunny, winter morning the other day, and I overheard a mom at the soccer "pitch" (field) utter, "Oh, I wish I had clothes drying on the line" as we all nodded our heads in agreement.  At the heatlhclub, one mom got sympathy from the others when she exclaimed, "Oh no!  It's raining?  I have clothes on the line!"

This may all sound a bit June Cleaver-ish, but what's wrong with that? Afterall, she is the wife my husband fantasizes about... (Read it here).  In all honesty, hanging the wash slows life down.  It's not a fast job, and there's no fast way to get it done.  It's a job that hasn't changed much over time.  I'm hanging wash the same way today as my Grandma did 100 years ago, except her clothespins were different.
Clothespins are called pegs in Australia.
There's no fancy gadgets to figure out, or buttons to press. There are however, a few tricks of the trade.  For instance, hide your undies near the back of the line to save yourself embarrassment at your Aussie backyard BBQ!


Friday, July 27, 2012

Vacationing with Kids: 10 (Less Obvious) Things to Pack for All Inclusive

We leave for vacation tomorrow, less than 24 hours before we have to leave for the airport, and I've done everything in the world this morning...except pack. 

I've made 2 dozen banana cupcakes, an Italian meal is prepared and ready for dinner, two casseroles of chicken enchiladas are in the freezer, I stopped into the dentist office to make an appointment, walked to the store for a couple of items, I've cleaned out the hall closet, wiped out the fridge... like I said, I've done everything except pack!  Why not add blogging to the list?  It may help motivate me.

We've done the all inclusive resort thing three times before, but never with the kids.  To be honest, this resort could be anywhere and I'd be happy.  I'm just so darn excited to not have to cook, chop, clean, wipe, and feed! 

Based on my vast knowledge of traveling with kids, combined with my past experience with all inclusive, I've come up with some packing tips. 

10 Things (you may not think to pack) for an
All Inclusive Family Vacation:

1. Snacks for the plane and boxed milk-
It's no secret the airlines are unlikely to feed you.  I suggest plenty of snacks for the plane, and consider packing milk boxes in your checked bags for your milk loving toddler.  It may be a while before you can pick up some fresh milk.
2. Ziplocs-
I use zipper baggies every time I travel with kids.  Great for leftovers, wet undies, and seashell collections.
3. Plastic Cups & Sippy Cup-
You will need these to transport those "all inclusive" drinks off the resort.  Be sure to fill your toddler's sippy cup with milk in the morning at the breakfast buffet. The bars don't often have fresh milk.
4. Deck of Cards-  
Small, compact, and portable. Great for playing on the airplane and at the resort. So many games to choose from for all ages, even magic tricks.
5. Check Voltage-
Before packing your electronics, be sure you will be able to use them. 
6. Sunscreen, Medicine, Nail Clippers-
These should be a given, but we've had to buy these on vacation before, and they weren't cheap.  Plus, some countries do not have what you're used to.  Be sure to bring fever reducers for the kids, and pray you won't have to use them!
7. Leave space in luggage for purchased items-
When you're at a tropical resort, you will mostly just wear your swimsuit.  Pack lightly, pack lightly, pack lightly!  Think swimsuits and cover-ups with flip flops.  Chances are you will find several dresses and/or t-shirts you'll want to buy anyway.
8. Buy your hat there-
You'll want to do the tourist thing and buy a new hat.  So leave your old, normal, what you wear everyday hat at home!
9. Backpack-
Use a backpack as one of your carry-ons so that you can pack it for day trips while on vacation.
10. DVDs, Ipod & Speakers, DSI-
Bring them if you can't live without them, or if you want to occasionally "plug in" the kids for some alone time with your hubby. Portable Ipod speakers are nice for playing music around your room rather than just one person with headphones enjoying the tunes. 

That's it, no more procrastination.  Time to pack!


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Places We've Played These School Holidays

I was scrolling through my Iphone photos at all the places we've played these school hollies...

Whitfords City- McKinley and I met the winner of The Voice Australia!  We were just about first in line to meet Karise Eden.  She performed 3 songs, we got her autograph, and a picture taken with her.

Joondalup Country Club- Golf lessons for the older two on Saturday mornings.  How beautiful the course looked!

Perth Youth Theatre- McKinley spent one week in Perth Youth Theatre school starring as the wicked queen witch in their production of Snow White.  She was so amazing in her role that it made me cry (as mothers tend todo), you can check out the photos here.

Ikea- a great time for me and the boys after we dropped sister off at theatre school.  I loved looking around for design ideas while the boys romped around the room displays.  Too bad their ages weren't quite right for the free playland, I could have had a peaceful cup of coffee. 
Instead, it was $1 hotdogs and icecream with the boys!

Tokyo Underground- a shop in the city where the boys attended a Gundam model making workshop. Read all about it here.

Heathcote Park- The boys love "Pirate Ship Park", as they call it.  We hung out eating our thirty cent McDonald's cones one afternoon while sister was at theatre school.  It's a little drive to Applecross from where we live, but well worth it! 

The Beach House- An indoor playground for the boys near McKinley's theatre school.  Two hours in the morning was just the perfect amount of time before the place was packed.

Grand Cinemas- Mommy and Everest deserved a Mommy/Son date to the movies after a long week of entertaining Hagen by ourselves while McKinley was at theatre school. We saw Brave and we both gave it a thumbs up!

Mirror Park- We spent a record 5 hours playing with our new friends from South Africa.  We shared a picnic, played cricket, jumped rope, rode bikes on the "BMX" tracks, played tag on the play equipment, and chased after bubbles.

 The Bunny Breeder's House- We dropped Flip Flop off for her date, and had fun cuddling with all the big footed and wittle bitty baby bunnies. Read about breeding our bunny here.

Perth CBD- Lots to do in the city, despite the rain! Here's a whole post about our adventures riding the train, flying planes, joining the circus, and drooling over One Direction.

Bouncer's- McKinley's soccer team met here for a fun, indoor match.  Hagen had a blast kicking the ball between the courts.

Neil Hawkins Park- A soccer team BBQ after Bouncer's.  The girls were more keen to feed the birds than eat their sausages! 

Joondalup Climbing Centre- Climbing the walls here was a great excuse to call a new friend from Perth Youth Theatre. Be sure to read my blog post about it.

Fremantle Winter Festival- Ice Skating was fun, even in the sun!

Little Creatures- Our favorite table and our favorite beer.  We grabbed a table out on the back patio where the kids played in the sandpit while we enjoyed our Little Creatures Bright Ale.

Galaxy Drive In- Our last hoorah!  This just may be the best kept secret in all of Perth.  The Galaxy on Sunday night after church resembled some good old fashioned family fun.  We cuddled with blankets and pillows in the back of our car, and watched a double feature: Ice Age 4 and The Chipmunks.  It may have been just a little too cozy however, because mom and dad both fell asleep! :)

  After a couple of weeks like that and we need a vacation!  Off to Bali next week...
Photo courtesy of Grand Mirage Resort

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Climbing up the walls in Joondalup

A few weeks ago I purchased a Scoopon (coupon/voucher) for rock climbing that was too good to pass up.  It cost just $12.50 for two people to climb at Joondalup Climbing Centre.  I bought two vouchers so that each of my older kids could climb, and bring a friend.

There's a great deal for Joondalup Climbing Centre from Cudo that is current now!!!  Check it out here.  

Safety First:  We were each given harnesses to wear and then had an orientation climb including complete instructions on how to use the ropes and carabiners to climb and belay.  The belayer holds the rope for the climber and it's a big job, as the climber's safety is literally in their hands.  At Joondalup Climbing Centre, you must be 12 to belay, but climbing is for all ages (as long as the harness fits). 

Climbing: After our orientation, we were set free to climb any of the numerous walls that varied in difficulty and structure.  We climbed for an hour, and didn't even begin to climb all of them.

Free Climb Area:  In the middle of the centre there was a "cave" of climbing walls where you climb with no ropes. There were even hand and foot grips on the ceiling so the kids were literally climbing all over the walls!

Next time, I'm anxious to see Everest live up to his name and climb the walls.  I'm thinking of having his 10th birthday party there, as they have a party area available for hire and you can bring your own decorations, food, and drinks. 

What to bring: closed shoes (runners), water bottle, sporty attire. The center had free lockers for  valuables, and a counter with cool drinks and snacks available for purchase. 

Joondalup Climbing Centre has not been open long, but they are off to a terrific start.  The facility was clean, well managed, staff was very helpful and friendly, and we had a ton of fun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hop on that potty train: Toddler Toliet Training Tips

Potty training, like all other milestones, does not come easily for most.  It can be a frustrating time for moms, because it is something we have no control over. During the process, you may think it is never going to end, but then one day your toddler is wearing underpants and using the toilet and you think, "Wow, how did that happen?"

I am by no means an expert, but here are the things that worked best for all three of my potty training tykes...

My Top 10 Tips for Toilet Training:

Helpful tools: a little potty seat and a stack of potty books.

#1- Do not start too early.  Potty training before your toddler is ready is a sure way to fail and cause frustration.  I started too early with my first, and it became an attention getting game that lasted 9 months.  She was so smart and good at following directions, so I thought she would be a breeze to train.  Not the case.  Don't use intelligence as a guide to readiness.  Instead look for signs that they are ready.  Toddlers will often go to a corner and find a place by themselves to do their business.  Early talkers may say things like, "change my diaper", or "I'm going poop."  Another sign that they are ready is when they take an interest in what other family members are doing in the toilet.

#2- Make a commitment and stick to it.  Pick a week when you can stay home all day, all week if possible.  With my youngest we chose to do it over the school break when I wasn't running the older kids all around to their activities.  You don't want to make headway, and then have to put a diaper back on because of an outing.  I find that if you put diapers back on after switching to underpants, it is confusing to the trainee, and they think it's okay to go in their pants.

multi-layer training pants

#3- Ditch the diapers and skip the Pull-ups.  Disposable diapers are so absorbent and comfortable on the little bums, so there is no motivation to keep pants dry.  Your little one needs to feel wet so they understand the cause and effect of it all.

#4- Invest in some multi-layer training pants.  They aren't pretty, but they absorb just enough to save the couch while still allowing the toddler to feel wet.

#5- Skip the tiny tot toilet or "potty".  I like the little seats that fit right over your regular toilet because there is no transitioning from "little potty" to "big toilet".  Also, if a child becomes too attached to their little potty, then you will have trouble getting them to use a public toilet when that time comes. 

#6- Set a timer. With a crazy household like mine, it is easy to forget about taking the toddler to the toilet.  I set a timer for 15 minutes to remind us, 'it's potty time!"  When the timer goes off, stop what you're doing, make a big deal, and get really excited about "potty time!"  The timer going off became something to look forward to.  As they get the hang of it, increase the timer time from 15 to 30 minutes and so on.

#7- Sing a song.  We made up a jingle that we sang at potty time.  Pick a tune your child knows and make up your own potty lyrics.  They really get a kick out of the whole family singing the potty song. 

#8- Give Praise but also expectation and explanation. There is lots and lots of praise and positive reinforcement that goes along with successful potty training.  Go over the top with the praise when they use the toilet.  On the other hand, when they have an accident, let them know that you expect them to use the toilet.  Point out that using the toilet is easier and a lot quicker than having to change wet or dirty pants.

#9- Bribery.  Yep, I bribed all my kids.  Little treats like m&m's and jelly beans for each pee, and a "big chocolate" for the big jobs.  Stickers and small toys worked for my daughter, but candy was the only thing that motivated my two boys.  The big prize at the end of the tunnel was a package of "big boy/girl undies" with their favorite licensed character on the front. I set those aside and told them they could wear those once they kept dry most of the time. 

#10- Have a potty party! Literally. Get out the party hats and horns and wear them whenever your little one uses the potty.  They want to please you, and they want to have fun, so these potty parties are a big motivator. 

Best of luck!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bunny Biology: Breeding Our Mini-Lop Ch. 1

The week of Easter we welcomed the cutest little white bunny into our garden.  We named her Flip Flop because she reminded us of the white sandy beaches in Australia, and cuz her ears are floppy of course.  She has been the sweetest little pet.  She hops around the yard at our feet, gets on her hind legs and begs for a pat, she chases the kids, and she can even "jump" on our trampoline and go down the slide.  She is a multi-talented little bunny. 

When Flip Flop hit about 5 months, her personality seemed to change. The "rabbit people" I talked to for advice said she was in her pubescent teenager stage.  One minute she was her usual sweet self, then the next she was a raging rabbit.  I experienced this personality "flip" first hand when I was hanging wash recently in the backyard.  Flip Flop was hopping seemingly happily at my feet when all of a sudden...BAM! She nudged her head into my legs and started circling me and making grunting sounds.  In a flash, she lunged at me and took a chunk out of my hand when I tried to pet her.  I grabbed a pair of pajama pants off the line and waved them at her to try and scare her away to no avail.  She chased me all the way to the laundry room door and even rammed into the glass door once I was safely inside.  I was scared to death and thought maybe she had gone rabid! A call to my husband made me feel a bit like I had imagined most of it.  He said it sounded like a Monty Python movie.

I heard somewhere that breeding her may calm her down a bit.  I also heard that desexing her would also do the trick.  Since I had never experienced a pet having babies before, and I wanted my kids to be able to, I decided to try breeding her. I wasn't sure how to go about finding her a mate, but I figured the Internet was a great place to start.  I placed a simple ad on a popular site called Gumtree (similar to Craigslist), and received 5 replies right away.  Rabbit owners are the friendliest folks! :)

We chose a woman nearby that said we were welcome to bring our doe to her place for a couple of days to meet with one of her bucks.  Here's a picture of Flip Flop with her suitor.  He was a handsome fellow, but I'm not sure Flip Flop was as thrilled with the idea as he was.

After two nights and three days, I got a text that Flip Flop was ready to come home.  "She's not too phased in him" were the exact words.  By this time we were missing her terribly anyway, so we were more than happy to go pick her up.

Flip Flop seemed so happy to see us, and even crawled up on Hagen's lap in his car seat during the car ride home. She's content back at home now, and we shall see if this lesson in "Bunny Biology" will produce anything.  Let the 31 day count down begin!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Rainy Day School Holiday in the City

The City Playground Pass is an excellent resource to navigate around the CBD with children of all ages in tow.  We visit the city at least once every school holiday to take advantage of the kid friendly activities and discounts.
We traveled to the city by train mostly for the benefit of my 2 year old.  Like most little boys, he absolutely loves the train.  I like it too because I am able to chat and play with the kids rather than concentrate on driving.  Also, I don't need to worry about parking, or maneuvering around all the one way streets and pedestrians in the CBD.  Although the price of a family rider pass has just raised to $11 as of July 1, it's still less than paying for fuel and parking, and it's more fun for the kiddies.   

Hagen loves the train.
Collecting our Playground Pass in the rain.

The City of Perth Library (not to be confused with the much larger State Library) had a a great list of free activities to book during this school holiday.  We booked the "Scitech Flight Show" because it was geared for ages 9-12 and accommodated two out of three of my kids.  Besides, both of my older kids are all about everything science.  It was an interactive show that really got their minds thinking. We will definitely be checking out the school holiday programs at The City of Perth Library again. 

Next, "The Big Top Olympians" entertained us under the big red tent.  The acrobats in this hilarious show managed to pull off amazing stunts in a comical way that amused all three of my kids and especially me.  It was the first time my 2 year old remained seated for an entire show.  Ever.  The show was free, but we had to pick up our tickets in the morning to be sure we got in, as there were no pre-bookings available.

McKinley & Everest ready for the Big Top!
The wet, cold, rainy weather didn't stop this crew. We grabbed discounted kids' meals at Nando's for McKinley & Hagen, and take away sushi handrolls for Everest. Then, we filled our backpacks with purchases from the Australian Geographic and the Reject Shop. Our last stop of the day was the One Direction Store for my crazed 11 year old daughter.  She is nuts about this new boy band.  She pined over which t-shirt to buy while one brother slept in his stroller, and the other shot rubber bands at all the merchandise.

On the train ride home, I looked at the time and was amazed it was 3:30, nearly six hours after we boarded the train in the morning.  Now, I'd call that a successful day in the CBD.