Sunday, November 30, 2008

Busy November

Christmas has a habit of just sneaking up on one in the States. In Australia, we always seemed to be fully aware that it was imminent with store decorations and Christmas merchandise becoming apparent in October (or even September!) In the States, we are somewhat distracted. First there is Halloween, then Thanksgiving, with Nic’s birthday in between for us. Christmas decorations do not come out until after Thanksgiving - so it has always been a shock for us with so little apparent lead-up to Christmas. 

After Halloween, we had to find time to sneak in a 3rd birthday party for Nicolas before Thanksgiving arrived. Nic was adamant that all he wanted for his birthday was a ‘Batman cake’. This was obviously a response to Luc’s ‘Superman cake’ for his party. We again arranged for a party to be held at Jump Ahead Academy - a place where the boys expend some energy during the cold winter months. Paul organised for a Batman cake to be made at Sweet Mandy B’s - a favourite bakery. As is often the case with excited birthday kids, Nic cried for a large portion of his party: he only wanted to open presents and get his hands on his Batman cake. Other than that, it was another (mostly) stress-free birthday party - thank you to Eme and Katy for all the cleaning up! 

We celebrated Thanksgiving this year at home again. I have flatly refused to cook a turkey and I think Paul took this up as a personal challenge, arriving home from the Supermarket with a small turkey and Thanksgiving provisions. Paul then spent the larger part of Thanksgiving morning preparing and roasting a turkey and making Thanksgiving ‘sides’ (mashed potato, green beans and honeyed sweet potato). Not to mention the preparation he did the night before to ‘brine the bird’. I felt so guilty seeing him go to such great effort without my support, so Luc and I made reparations by whipping up a quick apple pie (so much easier with a pre-prepared pastry case!) We had our dinner as a late afternoon meal (halfway between lunch and dinner). Next year I promise to make more effort and support Paul’s turkey ambitions. Thanksgiving really is a wonderful holiday and I am beginning to appreciate it more and more. It would be so nice to celebrate with family, with no need for presents or any hoo-ha - just time to spend together as a family. I can see why it is THE most popular time for travel throughout the year. 

We are currently becoming very nervous about our impending trip down-under, but otherwise are well. Paul took the boys to the circus yesterday with our neighbour Greg and his daughter Meredith. The boys came home wide-eyed and sugar-fueled. Luc is currently the first to see or hear anything. (e.g. “I hear Mietta crying” with Luc’s response “Oh yes. I heard her first” or “Oh look at the snowman!” with Luc’s “Yes. But I saw it before anyone else”). Nic is going through a superhero phase that requires him to remove his pants - a la the Superhero undies-over-tights-look. Mietta is a happy little baby and a super-strong little girl. She has been able to hold her head up since birth and is now doing push-ups from her tummy, lifting her shoulders off the bed. She has rolled to her side, but has not done a full roll over as yet. She loves responding to smiles with a smile, and she chats away (and can be very noisy at times - trying to get our attention). Mietta LOVES having her nappy changed and will stop crying immediately if she is put down on the changing mat! I explained to Luc this evening that Mietta is always learning - and for example, if he were to speak to her, she would start to learn language. Luc immediately grabbed two small balls (i.e. Earth and the Sun) and began explaining to her how the earth rotates on its axis, and the difference between night and day!  

Photo: Nic, looking a little dejected after his candles have been extinguished

Saturday, November 1, 2008


Last night was Halloween. This is a really BIG event in the States - one that children eagerly anticipate from November 1st each year. It is bigger than Christmas, or any other ‘holiday’ and seems to last a long time. Halloween and Fall festivals, pumpkin patches, haunted houses, markets, parties and performances fill many weekends prior to Halloween Eve. It is really fun to participate in and children are so excited at the prospect of dressing up - for the big trick or treat night, and other organised events. 

Nicolas mentioned that he wanted to dress up as a pumpkin. Luc couldn’t decide between a ghost or a vampire. I thought these were excellent choices, in the spirit of  Halloween and kind of cute. Imagine my disappointment then, when Paul returned from a quick visit to the costume shop, obstensibly to purchase said pumpkin/ghost/vampire suits, with two Transformer-clad (albeit, extremely excited) boys. I realised that Halloween was not going to be all-about-me! Costumes are readily available and there are many seasonal stores set up purely to merchandise Halloween paraphernalia. To not dress up would be a sin! Older children (or their parents) take the time to design and make their own costumes - which can be really funny / elaborate / well-thought-out but sometimes really cumbersome and a little too unwieldy for younger children. (Case in point: the big plate of spaghetti and meatballs and the kitchen I saw walking around trick-or-treating!) 

Luc was desperate to buy a pumpkin to carve into a Jack-o’-lantern. We have learned from experience that carving a pumpkin too early results in a less-than-stellar Jack-o’-lantern. We left it a little late this year and our pumpkin selection was very limited. We settled upon a nice shaped, although lopsided pumpkin. Luc designed the face and I set about carving it. Luc’s enthusiasm for ideas is high, but his enthusiasm for ‘technical involvement’ is very low. He became very squeamish at the thought of scraping out the insides of a pumpkin - and left Mummy to do the dirty work. Great! I remember trying in vain to carve a Jack-o’-lantern from a Queensland Blue pumpkin as a child. I didn’t know then, that there are special varieties of pumpkins grown specifically for carving, that have soft skins and very little flesh. Pumpkin carving is very popular and there are some brilliant examples on display on front steps and porches. A set of pumpkin carving tools we bought for our first Halloween have proven to be invaluable. 

Luc and Nic’s friends, James and William, came to our home for a quick pre-trick-or-treat party. Gabrielle and I intended to fill the boys with some food to ward of the need to imbibe on candy treats. We made some pizzas, and I made some ghoulish coloured beetroot dip and a hummus served with bright red cranberry juice drink (unfortunately I had served a very tart unsweetened version!) and spiced apple cider, all consumed with Halloween cookies that Luc and I had made. (Note: I am still dirty on Paul for ‘discovering’ a set of Halloween cookie cutters and mentioning to Luc that “perhaps Mummy could help you make some cookies”). I had thought the bright red coloured food might have a devilish ‘blood’ connotation - but declined to mention this to the sensitive 2, 3 and 4 year olds! 

We went out trick-or-treating in our neighbourhood. A particular block of a local street, Burling Street, is very popular for trick-or-treaters, with the majority of residents participating in the event and going to great lengths to decorate their houses. The local alderman’s office is on this block, and the street is closed to traffic to cope with the hoards of children that descend on the area. Although exciting and really fun, the popularity of this location has escalated over the years and last night, we found it all a little too stressful, with two, then three parents trying to maintain and control five children in a dark and crowded environment with hyper kids running amok. We called it quits after visiting the houses on one side of the block and concluded that it might be better to go even earlier next year, or stick to some of the less popular streets. 

Photo: some of the Halloween spoils I was coerced into making.