Monday, January 31, 2011

I want to read this book

"In a big, big city,
in a tiny, tiny apartment,
lived a tall, tall man
and twelve babies.
All the boys were called Alistair.
All the girls were called Charlene.
One day the door slams shut ... with the Charlenes on one side and the Alistairs on the other. What will the tall man do?"

This book looks like it could be fun. My husband is a (very) tall man so maybe I will buy it for him (us) for his birthday soon.

First day of school done

The boys seem pretty happy with their teachers. I was pretty happy with their teachers. Aidan (Year 3) is in a Year 3/4 composite class which I am hoping might stretch him a bit more academically. Maybe I would have preferred the male Year 1 teacher for Liam, but the lady he has is very experienced as well so I'm not too fussed really. I just think it would be great for the boys to have a good male teacher sometime in their primary school career but don't know if that will end up happening.

All the pencils, coloured pencils, scissors, sharpeners, folders, display/portfolio books, rulers and things now have names written on them. The school actually supplies most of the kids' exercise books which is fantastic since that means I have very little covering to do. Last year I only had to cover a dictionary. That was bad enough since Contact and I don't get on well.

Today was the first time I had actually been to school on the first day to listen to the classroom and teacher allocations getting done. When the boys started Kindergarten they moved in a large herd with all the other Kindergarten kids for the first week prior to getting put into classes. I hadn't realised it was such a big deal until I saw the number of parents hanging around. I was just going to turn around and walk back home, but then I thought maybe I should stay since everyone else was. I said hello to a few people that I knew and liked. It was interesting watching people's reactions to hearing which teacher their child had. Generally I haven't been overly bothered by what classes the kids have been in, but some people clearly were. But maybe I would feel the same if I knew a particular teacher wasn't much good. Most of them at our school are okay. And I'm not one to join the group gossiping at the gate to find out otherwise.

So let the year begin. And now I probably should start thinking about going back to work. Only three more weeks of maternity leave left...

Monday Muppets

For Simone (if you're reading....)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back home

Exhausted. Two days of thinking followed by one day of keeping track of small children while moving large amounts of....well, I thought a lot of it was rubbish but there were others who disagreed.

Not enough energy to think of what to write now. More from me when I recover.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aaahh....I am so not ready....

....for the kids to go back to school next Monday. I haven't looked at what's in their stationery packs, written names on their pencil cases or sorted out who does or doesn't need a new school bag or the next size up in school uniforms. I also want to check out a new after school care service for the boys, although there are still a couple more weeks for me to sort that one out.

All I have managed to achieve is to buy shoes for them to wear and to write names on one child's new socks. And to decide that last year's lunchboxes are probably okay for another year.

And of course I have realised all this as I am about to go to Brisbane for the next three days for a two day professional development thing and then to help Mum and Dad move back into their house post-flood. We get back Saturday night and then I am playing the piano at church the next morning.

Looks like Sunday afternoon and evening are going to involve lots of name-writing and labelling.

Australia Day overkill

Saw way too many of these flags on cars today. Up there with reindeer antlers in the tackiness stakes. And while I'm at it, equally tacky was the guy on the motorised scooter we saw with a green and gold mohawk wig over his motorbike helmet and the inflatable yellow and green kangaroo sitting behind him on the bike.

And let's throw in all the Australia Day merchandise with flags on it as well: tattoos, bikinis, towels, singlet tops, T shirts, stubbie holders etc. This morning I went to buy a public transport GoCard at a local convenience shop. I couldn't get any assistance when I first arrived because the young guy serving (of Indian appearance) was busy getting Australian tattoos put on his face by a crowd of young blonde girls clad in their Australia bikinis and super-short shorts. He couldn't even wait for me to put my card into the EFTPOS machine before he had to go and get them to peel the backing off his left cheek tattoo. Convenience and service were conspicuous in their absence.

You heard it here first: we'll be seeing the bunny ears start appearing on cars next week.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rosie's first word

We've been waiting for a while. I was starting to get a bit worried since all the speechies and the books I read say they should have about forty to fifty words by now. She's almost eighteen months old (well, I guess strictly speaking I should still say sixteen and a half months corrected) and although she's been happily babbling away for ages now, I couldn't say I'd heard a consistent word. She says "Mum-mum-mum" (usually when she's a bit whingey but not always to me) and "Dad-dad" (when she's happier) and I have been thinking lately she is using "Ba-ba-ba" to refer to her special blankey.

But I think this week we do have a definite word.


She loves her shoes and often gets them out when she thinks we are going somewhere. And she has been making a "sh" sound when she is asked to go and get them. But now we have the second half of the word as well.

Hopefully this is the start of many more words to come.

Family time: (yet another) 21st century idol?

I have been thinking about family time lately. Mostly because a family have just moved away from our church to live in a small country town, the chief reason (other than the guy's dodgy job here) being so they can have more "family time." Then I also saw it mentioned on a blog that I sometimes read, where the highly organised blogger was describing how she scheduled "family time" one weekend each month so they wouldn't forget to do it.

Don't get me wrong here. Family time is good. It should be a priority. And I would like to have more of it. Maybe we need to schedule it so it happens but I really don't think I'm up to living a life with that much scheduling involved.

But I also think "family time" can become a bit of avoidance strategy to get out of other stuff that's also important. I may be the only person who has ever done this (hopefully I'm the only sinner but I'd be glad if anyone else would confess to doing this), but there are times when I think to myself, "Oh, we should invite (insert name of friends who could do with some support, that new family at church, someone we might not find it easy to talk to, or anyone else really) around for (insert activity here: meal/afternoon or morning tea/swim in the pool/play with the kids). But we've been pretty busy, so family time is more important this weekend." Then of course, we continue to not catch up with those other people because it becomes convenient to use "family time" as the excuse. And we're encouraged to do this in the wider world, where "family time" almost seems to have acquired holy grail status...thinking here about all that work-life balance literature telling us that if we just had more "family time" the world would be a far better place.

I need to remind myself that it's not all about "me" or "us" as a family. Sure we should do things together as a family, but this shouldn't always come at the expense of others in our wider Christian family. These are the people we're going to be spending eternity with, after all. It makes sense that we should be getting to know them better now.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Muppets

This one's for Liam, our resident lover of vikings...

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Yesterday Chris transferred last week's offering from the church bank account to the Queensland Flood Appeal.

Or so he thought. It turns out that he hit the wrong button on Netbank and transferred the money out of our personal account instead.

Fortunately he realised, it is easily fixed and we have enough money in the bank account to cover it.

After the initial shock (you did WHAT???), it's kind of funny. But it shows how tired we are right now.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Another great word verification....



Guidance...and work....

Chris and I have almost finished our 20 readings from the Briefing about guidance. They were based on the book Guidance and the Voice of God by Phillip Jensen and Tony Payne. We found the first half of them hard going but we battled on and by the end we found ourselves enjoying them more. Possibly part of the hard going related to the fact that the majority of them were done after 11 pm at night. We probably need to find a better time to schedule Bible reading but we figured this was better than doing no reading at all.

The best bit was the last few readings, when we were discussing what were matters of righteousness, matters of good judgement and matters of triviality and relating these to church, work and marriage/family. I think that this is a helpful framework for decision making.

I also think that some of our decisions regarding work and marriage/family might be categorised differently by others. Our decision that I will return to paid work, for example. I think that this is a matter of good judgement. In the past we have made some poor judgements in this area in relation to how much paid work I can realistically cope with, but I think that me returning to work two days a week is now something our family can manage.

I may be wrong here, but I think that there are people who consider that women working outside the home (or perhaps not working outside the home) is a matter of righteousness. Yes, I know that in Titus 2:5 it says that women should be busy at home. And I certainly agree that at this stage of my life, bringing up godly children is my number one priority. I just don't think that these priorities completely exclude the possibility of some participation in the paid workforce.

But time will tell, I guess. I know that when I am working, I tend to become stressed more easily at home. I find it hard to be available for the kids as much when something has happened at work that is bothering me. So I will need to pray for wisdom in how I manage my working life. At least after years of managing different amounts of part time work, I am getting a better understanding of what to expect when I return. And an ever-increasing understanding that work is not the most important and fulfilling thing in life.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Why oh why... a trip to the dentist for three people so expensive, even with private health extras cover that is automatically deducted from the bill at the front counter?

...does the person who has put the least effort into cleaning their teeth for the past six months escape with no decay or holes, while those who have been trying very hard to brush and floss end up needing four fillings and potentially two extractions between them? (Hopefully we will get away without needing the extractions...they are baby teeth so the person in question has been told to get wiggling them straight away).

These are rhetorical rather than genuine questions, but life does seem unfair sometimes. Another situation in which I need to say that at least I am going back to work soon. Then we can afford all this dental work.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sounds of summer

Listening to female tennis players screeching at the Australian Open (on the television) while a thunderstorm passes over our house.

Quintessential summertime.

Movie Review

Today while Rosie was at child care, I took the boys to the movies. We saw Tangled. I enjoyed it but it probably wasn't that memorable. At the beginning I was having doubts but it improved as it went along. Plenty of chasing action and bopping people over the head, which is always what the boys say they like the best after animated movies. I don't think they were so keen on the romantic storyline, but I enjoyed that bit. Rapunzel's hair was impressive.

I'm glad I have a few more years of going to see children's movies, it's always interesting seeing what the kids find funny. I wish they were cheaper though. $34 for the three of us seems an exorbitant amount to pay, particularly when we are reaching the point at which one income is probably not quite enough to afford luxuries like trips to the movies. I keep telling myself it is only another few weeks until I go back to work and then it will all be okay.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Monday Muppets

So much has happened since I last posted a Monday Muppets....I found the music to this yesterday at my parents' house.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lessons learned cleaning up after a flood

1. My parents were VERY blessed not to have mud in their house. A muddy yard is okay. Wet carpets smell but carpet squares are easily removed.
2. Sorting through the possessions of people who hoard things (like my parents) is very difficult. Many of us ended up thinking that in some ways it might have been easier if the floodwaters had come up a bit further because it would have saved lots of decisions on what to keep and what to throw out.
3. Things can become quite tense between hoarders and chuckers. Not exactly a new lesson for me, but more on this in another post. (I am a chucker, by the way).
4. Volunteers bringing free food were much appreciated. Free sandwiches, drinks, sausage sandwiches, muffins, muesli bars, Calippo iceblocks and Lipton iced teas were all consumed during the clean up.
5. There were so many other people who had lost nearly everything. When we had sorted out my parents' cleaning (as opposed to their sorting out stuff) we went to help friends of my sister's who had their home flooded to the top of the windows (the height my parents' home went under in 1974). The mud and mess in and around these people's house was incredible. Since they were largely under control with assistance when we finally got there through the traffic jam, we went to help clean out a nearby high school with a bunch of other volunteers. This school had flooded to just below the ceiling height of all its ground floor classrooms.
6. The muddy mess of a flooded school has to be seen to be believed. Fridges, desks, televisions, DVD players, computers, games, paper resources, filing cabinets, art supplies, musical instruments (although the good news was that at least some of those were saved), the collapsed ceiling of the canteen, sporting equipment.....I won't go on. Hopefully you get the picture.
7. The aftermath of a flood stinks. A combination of rotten fish and what the tip smells like. And it gets worse in humid weather.
8. Big brooms can't clean up mud by themselves. Only gurneys and scrubbing can.
9. Gumboots are very useful when cleaning up in mud. But they get very sweaty inside when worn for long periods of time.
10. Great community spirit comes out at a time like this. I am a child of Brisbane's western suburbs. This is the place where I grew up, played and went to school. I have never seen anything like the camaraderie of the last few days during the time I lived there. It was amazing.

Please continue to pray for endurance for those involved in the clean-up during this stressful time and for us to remember that God is in control of all things.

Friday, January 14, 2011

How close it came

Mum and Dad's house yesterday. This is probably just short of how high the water level was at the flood peak. The latest update is that they think there was around 2-3cms of water inside.

We are going to try to get up there today with cleaning supplies, gumboots and fresh fruit.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


The floodwaters made it to my parents' yard and into their shed but most of the inside of their house was spared last night. All the floor coverings are wet and will need to be replaced but from what I can gather from the texts and facebook updates I have seen this morning, most of the furnishings will be salvaged.

This is relatively minor damage compared with what they had expected. As it panned out, they were right on the very edge of having a lot more water in their home. Their next door neighbours (still in Tasmania on holidays) had water in their house to about knee height. And other friends of theirs in the same suburb also had water in their houses.

I am told the yard is a mess and the shed will need to be cleaned out, but we are all feeling very relieved that they escaped relatively lightly this time around. I have spent the morning buying gumboots (in short supply in Brisbane right now) and other cleaning supplies to take up over the weekend to help with cleaning jobs in their street. We are also trying to get hold of a high pressure cleaner to take with us from down here since I guess they will also be hard to come by at this time.

The above photo was taken at the end of our street yesterday (similar to the place where the photo I posted a few days ago was taken during the 1974 flooding). This is the park I walked past every day coming home from school.

While there is relief for our family this time, my sister is already feeling some "survivor guilt" that she didn't do more for our neighbours or other friends who've experienced more significant flooding. But when they were predicting a peak over 5 metres, all they could do was work with the information they had. Much worse outcomes were predicted this time yesterday.

I feel so grateful to God for His kindness to us. I woke up in the early hours of this morning and couldn't stop thinking about what was happening inside the house where I grew up. Being the middle of the night, the time when everything always seems to be at its worst, all I could imagine was my childhood treasures and memories floating around in a muddy pond. It made me cry.

So this morning when I heard on the radio that houses in a street very close to the one my parents live in had been spared this time I was hopeful. And I cried again when I heard there wasn't a muddy pond inside their house.

Psalm 30:4-5: "Sing praises to the Lord, O You His saints and give thanks to His Holy name. For his anger is but for a moment and his favour is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning." (ESV).

It is not over yet though. We need to continue praying for all those who have been affected by this terrible natural disaster and those who have lost life, loved ones, homes and possessions in it.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Water is up to the house...

....but not in it yet. That was a couple of hours ago. We heard via text message from my brother in law.

So I guess it is going into the house now. The flood predictions have been revised down a little, so we are hoping it might not be quite as high as the 1974 levels now. It will still go inside but maybe some of the things that were moved up high might survive...

The television footage is unbelievable. The river looks so....angry....

To quote a famous Brisbane band....

....."these days turned out nothing like I had planned..."

For the first time in ages, this week I had heaps of things to blog about: Rosie's first day of child care today (we are still going to go, we need to get out and think about something else for a while), going back to work, why Christians don't read Christian books....

None of it seems that important anymore.

I haven't talked to my parents yet (couldn't find them at home anywhere when we phoned around) but it sounds like they are fairly shellshocked by all of this. At least it has now stopped raining so maybe the predicted flood levels might get revised downwards...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Going to go under....

Wow. What a day. The news has been getting worse as the day has gone on.

When I called my sister this morning she was helping my parents pack things. I asked her if she thought it was serious....she said yes. And she is not one to make a big deal if there isn't one.

Now the predictions say that it will be worse than 1974 flood levels. I feel a bit duped. All this time we've been hearing the mantra that Wivenhoe Dam will save Brisbane from ever flooding again as badly as it did in 1974. They were wrong.

My parents' house flooded to the roofline last time around. If it's worse than that, it might not even be visible under floodwaters.

At least they knew early. Having been through the 1974 flood, they knew even late last night they would probably have to get out, so they have been able to prepare and get important things out to higher ground (but probably not heavy stuff like the pianola...). They have also had to grab what they can from their next door neighbours' home as they are on holidays in Tasmania.

I feel useless stuck down here. All we can do is keep on praying. Please pray for everyone in Brisbane who is waiting for the onslaught of floodwaters....


I just found the flood map for my parents' suburb here. The blue tidal overflow seems to go right to the edge of my parents' property. Sounds like they have plenty of help getting things out of the house so that is good. And at least they have advance warning of what is coming so they do have time to move things.

The bad news is that it still seems to be raining there.

And life still seems to be going on as normal elsewhere...I have been keeping an eye on Facebook this morning where my sister in law is providing updates (hopefully she is erring on the side of over rather than under-dramatizing things) and I have been watching friends have conversations about normal stuff like birthdays and playstation games and general chit chat. That is a little bit hard for me to watch so I will go and do some cooking to take my mind off things...


....might get to my parents' house in the next couple of days. Their house in Brisbane went under in a big way in 1974 (up to the top of the windows) so I think they are quietly freaking out. The photo above was taken at the end of their street during the 1974 floods.

My sister and brothers are helping them move their stuff to higher ground just in case. Last time it happened they moved their stuff early when a lot of their neighbours didn't and their fears proved well-founded then. Hopefully it won't be the case this time.

I feel a bit useless here but I suspect arriving with three small children to offer assistance wouldn't be what's required right now.

Praying that all the talk about how Wivenhoe Dam is supposed to prevent Brisbane ever flooding like 1974 again turns out to be the truth and not just grandstanding. If you're reading this please pray for us.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More music to calm the soul

Needed here after a hard day. I have been trying to teach myself to play this.

Monday Muppets

Some sketch comedy...

Toddler destruction

Back into that phase of life with a child between 12 months and 2 years of age, where unless constant supervision is provided, everything within arm's reach gets destroyed. I must have had some sort of selective amnesia going on about how difficult this stage can be. Or maybe it is just worse this time because now we have a lot more older kid possessions that Rosie can get herself into.

This morning she scribbled with a black Texta on the arm of one of our brand-new chair covers. Having sorted that to the best of my ability (Spotless recommended Aerogard and a damp cloth, it sort of worked but we will see how it looks when it comes out of the washing machine), she then went to work on my jigsaw puzzle while I was hanging clothes outside during the few minutes of dry weather and wind we are currently having. Half of the puzzle is now destroyed.

I had to put her into the cot for a few minutes by herself to give myself the space to cope with all of this mess.

Sigh. I remember now. This is the stage of child development where I don't feel as if I could cope with having any more children.

Muppets will be coming later when I recover.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

If you have a spare 9 minutes and 34 seconds

Listen to this. I think it's amazing. Chris has seen the movie but I haven't so I'm going to see if I can find the DVD anywhere so I can watch it over the holidays.

"Sudden public fascination with mass animal death..."

Read about it here. Turtle doves are falling dead from the sky in Italy, blackbirds are falling dead from the sky in the US, 40 000 crabs have washed up dead on a reef in Kent, England.

Where will it end?

No doubt the Third Eagle of the Apocalypse will have something to say about all this....

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Learning to play...

Into My Arms (by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) on the piano.

A relaxing way to spend the evening.

And when I was reading about Nick on Wikipedia, I discovered he is putting out another album this year. Cool.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Monument to materialism and self-absorption

AKA our closest mega-mall. Shops screaming "buy, buy, buy" at every turn. The in-your-face message that we need even more stuff than we currently have. We went today for the annual school shoe shopping trip. Thoughts of this trip never fill me with joy and today it lived up to all expectations.

This particular shopping centre prides itself on having a state of the art carparking system with little lights that tell you whether there are carparks available in it. Green lights mean there is a free spot. Whenever we go there, green lights are few and far between. Generally it's not a comforting beginning since you know in advance how crowded it's going to be inside.

So we found a carpark because someone was leaving, and then entered the fray at David Jones to look for shoes. For the past three years, I have taken the boys there to have school shoes fitted. The reason I have travelled a bit further from home is because the sales assistants measure the kids' shoe size properly, we get individualised service and we usually get a discount on the shoes with the post-Christmas sales. This year it didn't go well. A large sign in the shoe section announced "Please queue here for service" and with it was a little pile of numbers (a bit like deli service at the supermarket). Measurements were taken after a short wait but then the problems began. I wanted black school shoes that double as sports shoes because this saves me buying school shoes and sports shoes for each child. Neither of the sizes my kids took were available. No other options. The saleswoman seemed fairly distracted and it was difficult for her to slow down long enough for me to tell her what I was actually looking for.

So I gave up on that and we ventured further into the shopping frenzy. We had to find a computerised information directory (extra walking to find one of those) to look for other shoe shops. Eventually we found Mathers and a very helpful young girl fitted both the kids with the shoes I was looking for. She even got her supervisor to double check the sizing, and I ended up with a $20 gift voucher as well when I paid for them. This was good, since I need new shoes. In the end, though, all this could have been done closer to home since there are two Mathers stores within five minutes drive of our house.

Back to DJ's for new socks. Success finally. The next challenge on the list was a present for a girl in Liam's class whose birthday party is tomorrow. Spent some time in the DJ's toy section trying to discourage the boys away from "Zhu-zhu pets." She would probably love one but I think they are a pointless toy. Where's the imagination in a fake hamster? As I was trying to get them away from the Zhu-zhu display to the art activity display next to it, a guy and his son were having an in-depth discussion about the Zhu-zhus. From a phone call the guy took while we were all standing there (that I was trying hard to get away from as I was praising the virtues of drawing and creative play to the boys), I assumed he was a doctor since I heard the opening line that must fill everyone listening to doctors with great confidence "Which patient was that again?" After we'd paid for our stuff he came to the counter loaded up with Zhu-zhu accessories (apparently you can buy a hamster run for them to "play" in). We ended up buying a "Fingerprint art set" for the birthday girl.

Escape at last. As we were leaving, I noticed a BMW in the carpark with the personalised plate BMW 4ME. Seriously. Back out on the street we saw a friend from church parking her car in the street parking at the front of the shops and I honked and waved madly at her. She looked straight through our car without noticing who I was.

That just about sums up my feelings in these places really. Insignificant and invisible.

I am over it. I think I will use my ABC gift cards in their online shop. After today, I can see why the rise of online shopping has been so appealing to consumers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Joy is...

....having $120 worth of ABC Shop gift cards to spend.

The hard part is deciding what to choose!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Holiday bookshelf: what we're reading these holidays

Aidan is reading Rowan of Rin: The Journey by Emily Rodda. We bought it today with his school prize book voucher.

Liam is reading The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage (and a couple of others from the Enid Blyton Five Find-Outers series) that he received for his birthday. These were recently re-released in hard cover and I found them in KMart for $6 each. The Five Find-Outers weren't my favourite Enid Blyton crowd, I preferred the Famous Five or the (I think) un-named group that included Roger, Diana, Snubby, Barney and his monkey Miranda (The Rockingdown Mystery was my favourite of those). Liam seems to be enjoying the Find-Outers though. There has also been a re-release in hardback of the Malory Towers series which I noticed at KMart for a pretty cheap price. Might be time to update my old falling to bits paperback versions I think.

Rosie's current favourite for bedtime reading is Tuck Me In. I saw this reviewed on an occupational therapy blog that I look at. Lovely repetition for toddlers and they get to fold the blankets over on each page to tuck all the different animals into bed.

I am reading Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H.Winters. A good read but I'm not enjoying it quite as much as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. On the non-fiction front, I am reading Heart to Heart Parenting by Robin Grille. What he says about parenting makes lots of sense, even though he's not a Christian.

Chris and I both also read Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris, a collection of short stories. This was the first time I had read any of his work. He has a sharp, funny and incisive writing style, but it's not for the faint-hearted. The best story was the first one about being an elf in Santaland. The fiction stories, although still funny, were probably a bit too cutting and cruel for me to like them much. We decided after we'd both read the book that while he was a very clever writer, he doesn't seem to have much compassion for his subjects. But maybe that detachment is part of what makes his writing so amusing.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Monday Muppets

Something to celebrate summer...

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Embarrassing confession

One of my favourite ever movies is Apollo 13. It was repeated again on television last night.

I always cry at the end when they make it safely home. I don't usually get too emotional about films so it's a bit strange that I cry at this one. Even having seen it at least ten times, and knowing that they get back to earth safely, I still cry. The music is very stirring and it's something about all those people celebrating their safe return that brings on the tears, I think.

Weird, isn't it?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

A busy few days here. Liam and I share a birthday on New Year's Eve. Good in some ways. For instance, there are always fireworks on in the evening which we like to pretend are for us (we can see them from our front deck so the first photo is an actual view of what we saw, I just need something better than the railing on the deck to hold the camera still), lots of extended family around because it's holiday time, generally our family don't forget our birthdays and we usually have a family get together at our home for lunch on New Year's Eve to celebrate.

The downsides to all this are that often there is only time to make one cake (Liam's, this year a fighter jet, see above), friends are more likely to forget our birthday (although having all the family around kind of makes up for that), and the planning and work involved in hosting over twenty people at home is exhausting.

After the party, we have given my sister and brother in law the weekend to themselves and now have our two teenaged nieces and nine year old nephew staying with us so we are experiencing what it is like to have a large family. They are fairly low maintenance kids, but if we all want to go somewhere together, both our cars are required. And it is raining options for outdoor fun at home are limited. The Nerf gun (Liam's birthday present) can only be shot so many times inside before everyone is over it.

Fortunately, we are now the owners of a Wii (my birthday present) which everyone is currently upstairs playing. I am still dubious as to whether this will be a worthwhile long term investment, and can see the novelty may wear off quickly but for the short term it is saving our sanity.