Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Our First Playgroup

This morning, I took Aaron to the Tiny Tots Playgroup at a nearby Police-Citizens Youth Club. It was our very first time at any playgroup.

I don't know what the usual crowd size is like but today there were about 30 kids there. It sounds like a big group but it didn't feel crowded at all. There was plenty of play equipment and the open area was large.

Aaron has had almost no experience in any group play or any form of led activities. So, he really surprised me this morning when he followed all the instructions for dancing, jumping, stomping and tip toeing. And, I'm so glad that we do so much with music and nursury rhymes at home because it helped him to enjoy the singing part of today.

He's in a 14-30 month age group and the cutest thing I noticed today was they don't speak to each other. They communicate with their carers and make all sorts of squealing noises but they don't say a word to each other. Instead, they get face to face, and then just have a staring competition.

I dressed Aaron in one of his "Thomas" shirts this morning and soon after we arrived, another little boy (holding a little train) came up to him for one of their staring sessions. It looks a little like how the betazoids communicate in Star Trek. This cute little guy was trying so hard to make friends. If we moved to another part of the play area, the boy would come looking for Aaron again. They were so cute!

I tried to see if Aaron would respond but he didn't seem to know what to do. In the end, I couldn't help it, I interfered and gave him some step by step instructions on how to play the "make friends" game with the boy.

We're definitely going back for this again next week. I've also been thinking of starting an informal playgroup once I get back to Palembang so I'll need all the ideas I can get from here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Result of Disorganised Baking

We don't have an oven in Palembang so I have been looking forward to trying out a few recipes that call for an oven here in Brisbane. Yes, I've been here nearly 4 weeks but its only now that I got the first one out. (We've had something to do EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!)

Anyway, I had the afternoon free and just wanted to dive straight into things - Banana Bread. I needed 1.5 cups of banana puree but only had enough bananas for 1 cup. Never mind. I'll just cut all the other ingredients out by a third.

No major issues with the big measurements.

Then I needed just 2/3 of the required 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder. Do we have measuring spoons here? Of course not! this could be where my problems started.

And, how do I get 2/3 of 2 eggs yolks? I didn't, I just put two in.

Mix them all up and put it in a muffin tray since we don't have any bread tins here.

Finally, I felt so proud of myself when I finally put it in the oven. The self satisfaction must have been my downfall. I think apart from the questionable measurements, its because I didn't reduce the baking time that caused this to happen:

I'm sure they would have broken the kitchen windows if I threw them that way. Fortunately, there was a tiny bit in the middle of each of those rocks that was edible and Aaron liked it. I was making them for him anyway.

Oh well, I'll try again another day. Or maybe I'll move on to the Blueberry and Lemon Muffins. At least we have a muffin tray.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Photostory Friday - Obsession #3

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Aaron's two big obsessions, up until now, has been Thomas (and ALL his friends) and The Wiggles. Now, we have something to add to the list - Excavators.

When we're in the car and we :

A) See one: He lets out an excited squeal and yells out "Excavator!"

B) Don't see one: He repeats "Where is the excavator?" every 2 seconds until we see one.

We found this little bobcat parked down the street from us and it was good enough to serve as an "excavator" for Aaron. He loved it up there but we didn't have any problems getting him down.

As his itchy little hands were fiddling around with everything, they happened to press the horn. A LOUD one. That got him down nice and quick!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - Brisbane

13 Facts About Brisbane

1) Brisbane is pronounced "Briz-ban"...rhyming with "urban". BTW, if you didn't know, Keith Urban grew up in Caboolture, a place about an hour from Brisbane.

2) England stopped sending convicts to Brisbane in 1842 and that is when the free settlers starting settling in Brisbane.

3) It is the capital city of the state of Queensland.

4) It is Australia's 3rd largest city with a population of 1.8Million.

5) Two nicknames for Brisbane that come to mind are Brissie and Bris Vegas.

6) There is a casino in the city but I don't know if that it the reason for "Bris Vegas"

7) The timezone here is GMT +10.

8) In my opinion, public transport here is efficient and easily accesible. There are trains, buses, the CityCats (catamarans up and down the Brisbane river) and ferries.

9) There are fantastic cycle paths around Brisbane.

10) Average summer temperature is 30 degrees Celsius and average day time temperature in winter is around 15-17 degrees Celsius.

11) As of June 2008, Brisbane's median house price is AUD 495,000.

12) There are still many beautiful Queenslanders around. I'm not referring to the residents of Queensland. This is a type of house has been common in Queensland up to the 1960s. Many of the older suburbs in Brisbane still have many of them and in some areas, it is prohibited to demolish them. These are the types of houses I'm aiming for. Completely out of my budget at the moment but I can dream.

13) Brisbane is a very hilly place. There are some residential streets around here that are literally like a roller coaster ride.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers

I've finally downloaded the photos I took over the weekend. We went to Toowoomba for their annual Carnival of Flowers. This is an event held at the start of spring and has been going on since 1960. Each year, there is a parade, beautiful flowers at two of the main parks in Toowoomba and prize winning gardens.

Toowoomba is a 90min drive from Brisbane. On the day we went, there was road works and it took us over 3 hrs to get there. Aaron was almost like a wild animal in the car before he finally fell asleep. And then, on the way back, there was heavy rain and even hail at some parts. The journey to and fro was definitely trying but it was worth it!

I was completely blown away by the beautiful flowers and gardens. It was my first time at the carnival and it was amazing.

These two photos were taken at Queen's Park and shows just a very small area. I wish they built a taller platform somewhere so I could have captured what the entire place looked like. It truly was magnificent.

This is the 1st Prize winner for small gardens. It was at the home of a couple in their 60s. From the looks of things, I think they must spend every minute of the day out there!

I almost feel like making the trip out there again to see all this without the crowds. But then again, I'd rather not have to deal with wild animals in the car. I'll go again another year.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My children never did that

My mother often says "Nobody will believe it but my children were perfect".

Supposedly, my mother's children never whined, cried or threw any tantrums. They sat quietly in the car and went to sleep whenever they needed to. They also never needed to learn how to sleep and slept whenever they were told to. Nap times were from 10am-12 and then from 2-4pm again. And then bed time was at 6pm. I'm told that this was the schedule until her children started school.

She's right, I don't believe it.

She doesn't say it to make me feel bad or tell me I'm doing things wrong. She's actually just trying to understand why things are so different with Aaron. The only person who can vouch for her is my father but he can't remember ANYTHING from that far back.

My response to her is either "You were lucky" or "Maybe there was something in the formula!"

Sometimes I tell her that there is nothing to be gained by telling me how perfect I was 30 years ago. Every child is different. And, I think Aaron is perfectly normal at this time.

Still, I have noticed (eavesdropped) from conversations my mother has with her peers, that the parents who are around my parents age have memories of children who were much quieter and slept a lot more. I'm guessing that I'll probably be having those same conversations in 2038.

On a side note, she may have had the perfect children but she's getting her fair share of the normal child now :). HA! HA! HA!

Monday, September 22, 2008

The Magic of Sticky Tape

Aaron is often overly enthusiastic about turning the pages on his books and tends to make little tears on them. So, we're often fixing these up with sticky tape.

There have also been a few ancient Lego cars that have become so brittle that they cracked and fell apart. I tried putting those together with sticky tape as well. Don't laugh. It worked....for awhile.

Today, Aaron discovered scabs. (Strange isn't it, he's had them before but never noticed them.) He kicked his shin last week, a small scab formed and today, it started peeling a little.

This was while he was sitting in his stroller and we were walking by the river. I noticed him bent over. He was picking at it (of course!). He got it off and turns it over.

He then says to me "Oh no. This came out."

I told him that the little bit of brown stuff was called a scab and that it meant everything was better now. I'm not sure if he didn't hear me or just didn't understand.

He then insisted on going home so that we could get some sticky tape to fix it back. He believes it is a part of his body that is now broken and wants the scab back there. And, he also believes that sticky tape fixes everything.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Photostory Friday

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

He's growing up (again!)

I know he's growing every day but every so often, something will happen that really reminds me of how much he has grown.

We took Aaron to the beach and he of course ran to the water. That was expected.

Then, he came to me and asked me in a very grown up way "Please, no pants".

After that, he says "Mama, please take nappy off"

Fine. Go ahead. It was a safe environment and he was having so much freedom and so much fun.

What surprised me about the whole thing was that he communicated calmly and without any frustration or whining. Very often, he gets grouchy and frustrated when he can't get things done. And the whining, well, he's not an all day long whiner but definitely has a daily whining episode, a looong episode.

Maybe the freedom he felt somehow got all the frustration out of him for the moment and allowed him to just ask for things normally.

Its amazing what a day at the beach does for everybody's mood....

I've read on a few people's blogs that summer is coming to an end in now for all of you in the northern hemisphere. Its time to come south, summer is only just beginning here!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - 13 Things I Don't Like About Brisbane

It would be easy to make a list of everything I like about Brisbane. So, I won't do that. Let me try to make a list of 13 things that I don't like so much about this place.

1. Eating out is expensive. I think dinner averages out to be about AUD$20-25 per person. Wouldn't be so bad if I earned Australian dollars but thats a lot if I have to do a conversion.

2. Summer here sometimes gets hotter than Indonesia or Malaysia. It sometimes
reaches close to 40 degrees Celsius.

... this is a hard list to come up with....

3. Aha! TV here is really lousy. They are good for current affair programs but not for movies and other 'light entertainment'. They take a long time to show the newer movies.

4. My parents are here but the rest of my family is in Malaysia. This means that family reunions will be expensive.

5. There is a drought going on right now and there are severe water restrictions at the moment.

6. The weather here is very drying on the skin. Makes people get old and wrinkly much faster.

7. I can't get my weekly foot reflexology here.

8. Parking tickets are issued WAY too fast here. We got one on the 2nd day we were back. Guess it takes some getting used to after the park-as-you-please mentality we have in Palembang.

9. There is way too much junk food around here. Its taking a lot of self control for me to stick to my 1 indulgence a week resolution.

...c'mon, just three more...

10. At the moment, it only gets bright after 6am which makes it hard for me to drag myself out of bed when Aaron insists on waking up at 5.30am.

11. I can't take my time to get dressed after a shower because its cold! Everything has to be pulled on in a hurry.

12. The water seems different here and I find that I need to moisturize my hands after each time I wash them. Bit of a hassle....

13. I worry about talking to or helping other little kids in the park. There is always so much concern here about talking to strangers and all sorts of child abuse allegations that I wouldn't want the parents to misinterpret whatever I was doing with their child.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dodging Thomas

Aaron's obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine has received a major boost since coming here to Brisbane. I saw a couple of interesting books, and I got it for him. He really enjoys them and will sit alone looking at them for ages. Thats the good part.

The bad part is that Thomas & Friends products are sold everywhere(as opposed to the single location in Palembang). Every toy section we walk past seems to have Thomas prominently displayed.

Sometimes I let him stay and look at the toys. He's good and just squats there, staring, talking to himself about what he sees. Of course, it takes me too long to get him to leave but he's getting the hang of saying goodbye.

Other times, I have to take long detours around the aisle to avoid that blue tank engine.

Yesterday, I was so relieved when we managed to get in and out of the main part of the store without him noticing any toys but as I was rushing him past the checkouts, those sneaky supermarket people had a small Thomas games placed at toddler eye level where mothers don't notice. D'oh!

Thankfully, we don't yet have the problem of Aaron wanting sweets or junk food. But, if he somehow did develop that, there are these new checkout lanes that are confectionery free:

Now, if only they'll have Thomas free checkouts as well.

I have to admit that I did succumb to the bombardment of Thomas & Friends and bought him a little AUD$3 wind up James. I did it after getting him out and safely with my mother. Don't want him realizing yet that we can actually get some of those toys out of the store.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Picking Fights

I've heard my mother say that for teenagers, you have to pick the fights that you want to have with them. I've also read that for toddlers, you have to do the same thing. Pick the fights worth having. If it doesn't hurt anybody, then just let them do it.

We bought Aaron a new helmet a couple of days ago. And yesterday, he put it on for the first time when we cycled to the city. We kept taking photos of him and telling him how cute he looked.

I'm sure he felt good in it in the first place but all that praise must have gotten to him because he refused to take the helmet off. No matter how we tried to convince him, he insisted on walking through the city with his sparkling blue helmet firmly fasted to his head. I had to get him a pair of sunglasses too so of course, that had to stay on his face too. I wasn't going to fight it. At least he didn't want to wear a shower cap or the banana peel on his head.

Now here's another case of choosing fights (and winning in the end). Well, not so much a fight but more convincing my father that he must get a new helmet. I've tried for years but he always insisted that he was ok with it and that he didn't care that it make him look like he's wearing a tortoise shell on his head. So, I gave up and just sort of looked at the ground whenever we rode past anybody. (Actually, I don't think anybody even bothered to look at him, I was just self conscious)

Yesterday, he suddenly says "I think I'll go get that $11.99 helmet from K-mart. Too many people are staring". YAY!!! He has been the one riding with Aaron and I think the both of them together have attracted more attention than his round helmet can handle.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Brisbane Markets

I've blogged about the markets I visit in Malaysia and Indonesia so, its now Australia's turn. Usually, we shop at the supermarkets or at a Sunday Farmer's Market for organic stuff. Occasionally, we also go to the wholesalers market in Brisbane.

It is opened to the public from Wednesdays to Fridays from 9.30am. This is after the retailers have been in to buy their stuff so by the time the public gets in there, its just the leftovers. And from what I saw, all the leftovers are sold by 11am. There is a fee of AUD$5 per vehicle.

The problem with shopping there is that you have to buy everything by the boxes. Last Friday, we decided to drink more fresh juice and perhaps make some purees to freeze for Aaron. So, off we went.

The produce was definitely fresh and cheap. Take a look at some of these prices. They are for each of those boxes!

We ended up with oranges, carrots, avocados and bananas. You can see that Aaron has already broken into the banana box here.

I think we were a little greedy with that bag of carrots. It was only AUD$12 but I'm worried that we're all going to start looking a little orange soon! :)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My little S.N.A.G

Does anyone remember the word "SNAG"? Sensitive New Age Guy? I don't hear it much these days but it was used a little in the early 90s.

I have no comparison so I have no idea what other little kids are like. Aaron just seems extremely sensitive. I'm not that way and am definitely not an overly emotional person.

Some time ago, my mother bought him a book. She didn't read it before buying and I didn't read it before sitting down with Aaron. So, nobody knew it was about a little mouse whose mother died because he didn't listen to her when she asked him to get her some hard wood. The mother mouse needed the wood to keep her teeth filed down. Without it, her teeth grew so long that she couldn't close her mouth, therefore couldn't chew and subsequently died.

Aaron was very quiet throughout the whole story. He just stared at the book and at me. I thought he was being attentive and attempted to carry on a little bit about how little children should always listen to their parents. This brought him to the brink of tears!

OK. So that was some time ago but he still gets sad whenever we talk about that mouse (or any mouse).

Today, my mother read him another book. It wasn't a sad book at all but it was about a baby wombat who lost his mother. Aaron didn't wait long enough to find out the two were reunited because he was so worried that he would lose me that he came running to find me and wouldn't leave me.

Other times, he would stare intently at my face when I'm not visibly happy. He has to make sure that I'm smiling and laughing and HAPPY before he's satisfied.

I spend all my time with him and we have fun days everyday. He's basically a good boy so there haven't been any time-outs for quite a few weeks. I really wonder why he's so sensitive and worried about losing me. He's never had any reason to feel insecure or abandoned. Or is it because we spend so much time together that he's become super attached?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Photostory Friday

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

This is the view from where I was sitting as I rode home from the city. You can see Aaron and my mother a short distance ahead of me. We live about 2.5km from Brisbane's CBD and there is a beautiful bike path along the river. I couldn't help thinking how old the bike looked. Its rusty all over, the bell doesn't work, and the stand is gone but it is being used more now than when I had it 15 years ago. My university is in the city and occasionally, I did ride my bike in but that didn't happen often once I got my driver's license and a permanent parking space at an uncle's apartment block.

Now, with fuel prices they way they are and parking spaces unaffordable, my parents ride into the city each week for their clogging lessons at the Senior Citizen's center. My father rides my brother's bike and my mother rides mine. It doesn't matter that both bikes are more than 15 years old or that their helmets are also a few years too old to be fashionable. Nobody cares. All that matters is that they really enjoy the ride and the bikes are finally being used as they were meant to be.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday Thirteen - Catch Up

WOW! I've been here a week already. Here are 13 things that have happened arriving.

#1 Aaron and I are officially addicted to Special K. This is something I look forward to every time I'm here and now I've introduced it to Aaron as well. We're also enjoying a lot of other food that we don't get in Palembang. He had his first taste of strawberries yesterday.

#2 We took Aaron to the Southbank Parklands on Saturday. He loved all the grassy areas of course but there was a surprise there for him too - the beach! This is a man made beach and lagoon in the middle of Brisbane city.

#3 Toilet training is going well here. The weather isn't too cold and the change in environment seems to be working positively towards his awareness of needing to 'go'.

#4 I finally got to try my hand at the Wii and Wii Fit. This was a my mother's friends house. All those seniors have been getting together on weekends and having a lot of fun. I WANT ONE!!

#5 We walked the 2.5kms to the city to watch my parents at their Senior Citizen's clogging lesson. On the way back, I traded places with my mother and rode my old bike while she pushed Aaron.

#6 There is a new park in our area with a train, miniature petrol station and mini coffee shop.

#7 We've been to the local library for a story telling session.

#8 At times, Aaron seems confused about how he should communicate with the Australian kids and I've heard him trying to speak Indonesian to them.

#9 Another time, I heard him say "You don't say" with an extremely broad Australian accent when he overheard some Australians talking. The Aussie accent must have been distinct enough in the Wiggles DVDs that he's recognized it around him here and thought "Aha! I can't speak this language!".

#10 Aaron has broken my red pair of glasses. I'm now stuck with the white pair that has a scratch right in my line of vision. Thankfully, the red pair will be fixed by this Friday.

#11 The change in weather and the lingering cold that I had from last week has resulted in me losing my voice. Its definitely not effective just mouthing the words "Aaron, don't do that"

#12 We haven't watched a single minute of TV and haven't missed it either.

#13 On the downside, internet in this house has been slow. Problems with the service provider. I find this a little amusing because Palembang, a place where you'd expect slow internet and lots of problems, actually has very few hiccups with their service. Who knew Brisbane would be the place that I would get frustrated with internet?!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

We're off again

It feels like we've only just returned from Malaysia and now we're off again. Its time for the annual trip to Australia. People wonder why I 'holiday' at the same place every year but I don't really see it as a holiday. Its just somewhere I live for a couple of months each year.

I'm grateful that Richard is so understanding about these trips. I'm also thankful that we are able to afford it. I know I'm lucky to have the life that I have and I don't take it for granted.

So tomorrow, Aaron and I will first fly to Singapore, wait around Changi Airport for about 5 hours, then get on the 7 hr flight to Brisbane. It will be my first time traveling so far with Aaron alone. I've stuffed my hand luggage with snacks, toys, books, extra clothes, a sling, extra diapers.....I think I'd better find a 'surprise' and stuff it in there too.

This is also the first time that I feel I haven't spent enough time in Palembang before leaving again. Like I said before, I finally feel at home here. The trip was booked long ago so, nothing I can do now except look forward to all the things that I can't get in Palembang.

He's old enough now for the story telling and sing-a-longs in the libraries. And of course, there will be all the wonderful parks we can visit. This time I think I'll take him for a walk through the museum too. I'm getting excited!

See you all in a few days!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

When my back was turned....

Usually, when my back is turned, Aaron gets up to all sorts of mischief. He does that even when my back isn't turned so you can imagine what happens when I do have to turn around.

I've blogged before about our morning ritual of checking on my plants and just pottering around the garden. Sometimes, I run into the house to get stuff and when I return, he's usually digging too near my plants or drowning them with too much water. Or worse (remember the rock licking?).

What I normally do is yell out random instructions to him for the few seconds that I can't see him.

"Go look out the gate. There's a dog there."

"Stop digging."

"Don't pour too much water."

"Wear your shoes."

We had a couple of ripe guava this morning and I took them into the house after plucking them off the tree. Imagine my surprise when I came back out again to see this:

He was there muttering to himself and "reading" with his index finger following all the words. He was really concentrating and seemed lost in the paper. I immediately had one of those magical motherhood moments. All at once, I felt surprised, proud and amused. Its funny how something so trivial, and inconsequential to everybody else, brought so much joy to me.

And then he saw me and the moment vanished. At least I managed to get one photo :)

Monday, September 1, 2008

Do men have fat days?

Its been a very mediocre day. It's been raining since 9am and we haven't been out to play. On the upside, I'm having a very rare, skinny day but the fact that I feel skinny today makes me think of fat days.

A friend and I were chatting today about how reaching a target weight brings happiness and how any increase from that number has an inverse relationship with that very happiness. Its stupid and we both know it. Thankfully, neither of us obsesses too much about it.

What I've been wondering about today is not women and their fat days. Its the men. Do men have fat days? Do they try to check reflections in windows to see if their behinds are in proportion to the rest of their bodies? Are they upset if they have to leave the fitting rooms to grab a bigger size?

I have no idea! I never hear my husband mention any of those things. I've never heard my father. I think my brother is working on his physique but thats just because all the women in his life have been commenting (not the only reason though...he knew it wasn't healthy). Maybe men have those thoughts too but they don't gather to discuss this sort of thing with their friends so the thoughts just leave their brains.

In any case, no matter how much of a cliche this is, the important thing is for us all to be healthy. I like to ignore my fat days and just work harder at the gym with the objective of becoming stronger and having more stamina. Everything else should fall into place. Hopefully.

What school does he go to?

None. He's only two.

Over the past few weeks, several people have asked me this question. And this is after they ask me how old he is. So, they already know that he's two so why bother asking me what school he's in?

I know that in Malaysia, there are kids that start going to what I can only call pre-pre-kindergarten when they are about two. And, it looks like for those who can afford it over here in Indonesia, its also something thats very common.

In the west, many children go to daycare and I think one of the main reasons is because both parents have to go to work. Over here, many mothers are the stay at home variety and, a household that can afford to send a two year old to school definitely has a maid (or two). So, the only conclusion I can draw is that these parents want to give their children a head start on the academic ladder. Or maybe, they feel that since all the other toddlers are in class, their child is going to be left behind if they don't start at the same time.

It just seems like a vicious cycle to me. I hope those classes are more learn-through-play rather than sit-and-study but it really wouldn't surprise me to find a very structured class with lots of study packed into the day.

I know I'll be keeping Aaron by my side for a few more years. He has a little group of friends now that he meets daily in the concrete park. Maybe I can set up a play group in our area. It would be fun to organize some weekly activities for those little kids. There are at least 3 other little ones around Aaron's age and a couple that are a little older.

So, no school for now. We'll just stay at home and play all day. Learning is a 24hr a day activity for two year olds anyway so I don't think he'll be missing out on too much if I'm diligent.