Tag Archives: birthdays

An Extreme Colour Weekend.

Why is it that we tend to paint ourselves grey, when we were born with such stunning butterfly wings painted in a kaleidoscope of colours? Indeed, why are we so afraid of colour? Could it kill us? Give us cancer? Mentall illness? Possibly even bring on the plague or ebola? Is too much pink, red, turquoise or even periwinkle, is going to kill us? The way we hide away from it, you’d think so. Why is it so hard for us to live as butterflies? Spread our coloured wings out against the sun and radiate magic sparkles across the sky? Or, even colour ourselves in with a thick brush oozing with luscious paint…

“Color possesses me. I don’t have to pursue it. It will possess me always, I know it. That is the meaning of this happy hour: Color and I are one. I am a painter.”

– Paul Klee

“With color one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.”

– Henri Matisse

“Mere color, unspoiled by meaning, and unallied with definite form, can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways”.

-Oscar Wilde

“Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”

-Claude Monet

Rather than embracing colour, we’ve been taught to fold up our wings. Blend in. Don’t stand out.

Yet, how would we feel, if we could only view our world in shades of black & white? As bad as that sounds, if that’s all we’ve ever seen, we wouldn’t even know that the world had any colour in it at all. We’d think that’s all there is. We wouldn’t know that the sky is sometimes blue. That the sun is golden yellow and that the grass comes in many varied shades of green and brown. Unfortunately, I suspect this is how way too humans actually perceive our world and themselves. So, they just stick to the tried and tested black & white and shades of grey or beige and wonder why there is no bounce in their step at all.

Life is like a box of crayons. Most people are the 8 color boxes, but what you’re really looking for are the 64 color boxes with the sharpeners on the back. I fancy myself to be a 64 color box, though I’ve got a few missing. It’s okay though, because I’ve got some more vibrant colors like periwinkle at my disposal. I have a bit of a problem though in that I can only meet the 8 color boxes. Does anyone else have that problem? I mean there are so many different colors of life, of feeling, of articulation. So when I meet someone who’s an 8 color type… I’m like, hey girl, Magenta! and she’s like, oh, you mean purple! and she goes off on her purple thing, and I’m like, no I want Magenta!”

– John Mayer

Perhaps, I should apologize for having this rant about colour. However, this weekend as we celebrated our daughter’s 12th birthday, there was so much shameless colour and it felt so good. Indeed, as I applied a generous layer of mauve lipstick at Sephora and left it on for the rest of the afternoon, I felt quite liberated..like I’d been let out of a vault. Wearing purple lipstick also felt a bit naughty, breaking a tabou and openly flaunting it, but for once it didn’t matter. No one was judging or condemning me or calling me a “weirdo”. I just was. That was a huge step forward for me, although it shouldn’t have been. As an extroverted extrovert, I should be allowed to be me.

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Stepping out there in mauve lipstick.

While I’m not into make up and fashion and it’s taken me awhile to feel comfortable at Saphora, I am starting to love it. This is more than picking up on our daughter’s infectious enthusiasm. Rather, I’m finding my own way, which started out with seeing the eye shadows as palettes of colour, paint for your eyes. Yes, that’s what it is…paint and as with any true artist, you can create a masterpiece. When we were in there yesterday, the staff had made up their faces into national flags. For the Greek flag, one consultant had applied cobalt blue eye shadow with some white eyeliner and paired it up with matching lipstick. It looked so amazing and other worldly and definitely belonged in the category of art.

Not unsurprisingly, I’ve never thought about wearing blue lipstick, but my daughter put it on along with some blue mascara and it looked amazing. Then, just for the hell of it, I put on the mauve one and much to my surprise, I didn’t die and no one mocked me either.

However, the wild colours didn’t end there. My daughter had a Rainbow Cake for her birthday cake. This was very easy as we just bought it from our local Coles Market and saved me from tackling something highly creative and risky in the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book, which is an established Australian birthday tradition, also with all the nail-biting stress.

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Then, there were the home made cup cakes with vienna icing. The girls were all too full to serve them up at the party and I was thinking today that they were going to get tossed Out, when Miss and her last surviving friend, were going to decorate the cupcakes. Although she’d initially asked me to leave the icing white, they ended up mixing so many colours together and being so creative that I was really impressed. There was a blue Cookie Monster wearing a red bow tie, another cupcake became some movie star my daughter has a thing for. All of them, were brightly coloured and I confess, loaded to the hilt with artificial colouring.

It’s not that long ago that artificial colourings were banned in our house and were even banned at school and social activities for our kids. They really responded badly. One holiday camp, they fed our daughter orange cordial and fairy bread and she was speaking like a chipmunk afterwards and was almost flying. That was stopped immediately. Mum was bad cop.

As the kids have grown older, they handle the colours better, but that said, they’re not a part of our diet. I make most of our food from scratch and don’t touch the stuff.

“The soul becomes dyed with the color of its thoughts.”

– Marcus Aurelius

However, like most households, things creep in. Just as she likes bright colours in her make-up, she also adds food colouring, coloured playdoh or paint to the numerous slimes she makes at home. If you don’t know what slime is, consider yourself lucky. Also known as flubber, making this stuff at home’s become a huge crazy and bedrooms around the world are being turned into slime producing labs. The kids add foam balls, glitter and all sorts of stuff to varying the texture and the slime itself is made from a variety of ingredients depending on the desired effect. There’s shaving cream, borax, PVA glue. From where I sit, it’s art meets science which could be considered educational but you also need to be careful in confined spaces or it becomes glue sniffing and bad for the brain.

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However, tomorrow it’s back to the real world and all our colours have been packed up and it’s now raining cats and dogs outside and we’re back to grey skies.

I don’t know how I’m going to maintain a bit of colour from now on. Perhaps, I should get the paints back out and use some of the empty canvases still floating round the house like lost sheep. I also have some beautiful Prismacolour coloured pencils which have really vibrant colour…yum!

Anyway, it’s very late here now. The Internet slowed right down and time ran away.

How do you feel about a little bit of colour? Are you daring or do you prefer to play it safe?

xx Rowena

 

Much More Coffee Required.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share.

Not sure whether more caffeine is required or some herbal tea. Do I shock my body with increasing doses of caffeine until it jolts back into action? Or, do I just go with the flow and fall asleep? While I let my droopy eyes decide, I’ll start writing. Writing releases my inner tensions and the aftermath of a stressful week, better than anything else.

It is now Autumn here. While I might have been complaining about the scorching Summer heat which was continuing unabated, I definitely did not request torrential rain and localised flooding. Moreover, I certainly did not ask to be driving through floodwaters, just to get my son to school around the corner. After all, when it comes to exciting adventures, this wasn’t what Mum’s Taxi had in mind!

Yellow taxi

However, I guess it builds character. Gives me bragging rights. However, I don’t recall signing up for another episode of Survivor!

While these heavy rains made driving around difficult and potentially dangerous, they created some fantastic photographic opportunities.

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Driving home from dropping my daughter at Cub Scouts, I veered home picking up my camera and headed down to the beach. I’d spotted huge billowing clouds over the rooftops and being right on sunset, I dashed off in pursuit of golden glory. I wasn’t disappointed, capturing stunning reflections in the receding surf. Yum! That might sound like a odd description of a sunset but I’m currently watching an interview with the judges from Masterchef and it just seemed to fit. Can something be that beautiful that you can actually taste it? I’m not sure but this had to come close.

I had great fun blogging about my cloud chasing adventures at Clouds! Camera! Action!

However, this week wasn’t all about dashing through floods and cloud chasing.

Monday night, I attended a dinner celebrating International Women’s Day held by Business & Professional Women.  This included a candle-lighting ceremony honouring women around the world. The guest speaker was Mahboba Rawi from international aid organisation organisation, Mahboba’s Promise, which delivers food, shelter, medical attention and education to thousands of women and children whose lives have been destroyed by war in her native Afghanistan. She also tells her story in her book: Mahboba’s Promise.

I was very touched by meeting Mahboba. There was something exceptional about her. A real sense of peace. That if she put her hand on your heart, all those storms and inner turbulence would instantly settle and there would be peace. Unfortunately, this quality is usually borne out of great suffering and incredibly challenging personal experience and subsequent growth. It’s such experience which changes your focus from the everyday and mundune to some kind of different plane.

Not only did Mahboba go through great loses as a refugee but she went on to lose her eldest son in a tragic accident, which subsequently led to the breakdown of her marriage and great financial hardship. So, when it comes to helping others and showing genuine heartfelt compassion, she has been there. You can read more about Mahboba’s Promise Here.

On Thursday, I had a rather intriguing trip down to Sydney to have a neuro-psychological assessment. This tests the functionality of your brain looking at words, numbers, memory, multi-tasking, thought processes, spatial ability and no doubt things I haven’t even considered. It’s a very challenging test. Not in the least because you need to know the name of the Australian Prime Minister and the previous Prime Minister. With the  revolving doors down in Parliament House, this isn’t easy. I’d actually heard that paramedics have removed this question from their neurological tests. In reverse order, we have Turnbull, Abbott, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd. That’s 5 changes in six years. I don’t think anyone could lock you up for getting that mess wrong.

I’m pretty sure the test went well. Struggled a bit on the spatial tests but that didn’t surprise me. After all, reversing Mum’s Taxi isn’t a pretty sight. Indeed, when that rear bumper bar is on the move, entire car parks have evacuated! Sorry, folks!

After surviving heavy rains, floods and neuro-psychological tests, yesterday we finally had our daughter’s belated 10th Birthday Party. For some reason, she kept forgetting to take the invitations to school and also had a few days off with stomach aches. So, we come to Thursday morning and as we’re pulling up at the station, silly me asks whether she has packed the invitations. Why didn’t I think to ask while we were still at home when there was still a chance to pack them? Stupid, Mum. Of course she’d forgotten to pack them. So, I ended up sending her teacher a desperate email asking her to print the invitation out and give it to all the girls in her class. Surely, they wouldn’t all turn up with only 2 days’ notice?!! Besides, I preferred the idea of inviting all the girls anyway and being more inclusive. As you may recall, our daughter moved to a new school this year. It’s a class for bright kids pooled from the regional area and they’re all new and just getting to know each other. Moreover, the parents don’t know each other at all. With the kids taking public transport long distance to get there, we rarely go near the place. So, the party provided a much needed opportunity to help us all get to know each other better.

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As it turned out, the party was a brilliant success! It was held at the Hidden Courtyard Cafe, which is out the back of a florist shop. My Mum and Miss go there for afternoon tea every week when Mum picks her up from the station. It has quite a fusion of flowers, art and up until the party started, a live band. They sang Miss Happy Birthday before they finished up. We invited the kids to “High Tea” and about 12 kids arrived ranging from dressy to pretty casual. That’s one of the things I really like about where we live. While there’s some cloning, you can largely be yourself and that’s just fine. By the way, I should also mention that the cafe is dog-friendly, so Lady came along. (That, of course, meant a bath. We decided to leave Bilbo at home as he can get a little narky around strangers at times).

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Not too sure whether Lady was wondering how many balloons it would take to fly and whether that was from a view of hope or dread?

I have to say that I was exceptionally grateful to the cafe. I’d been in a real spin about where to hold her party without sending us bankrupt. Kids parties can get so expensive and yet they really are such an important part of growing up, making friends and feeling special. Conversely, when they implode the child feels awful and they just reinforce any negative vibe the child has about themselves. Knowing how to navigate your party through those potential minefields, is a serious concern but worth it when you pull it off.

Anyway, given the hectic week and the troubles getting the invitations out, this party ended up flying by the seat of it’s pants but came together exceptionally well. The cafe had covered the tables in drawing paper and I’d also brought textas and some drawing paper. I’d also written out a motivational quote for each child (largely from Dr Suess, Helen Kellar and John Lennon) and left it on their plate. Also, I made name tags or everyone and stuck a glittery smiley face on each one. This was also inspired as I didn’t know most of the kids and there were kids from various activities and it just helped break the ice. Marianne, the Proprietor, is an excellent event manager and helped keep things moving with the appearance of cake plate filled with little morsels, to the chef appearing with milkshakes and then the lighting of the cake. It all had a certain amount of theatre and came across really well. We all had a fabulous time!

Phew!

Phew! Phew!

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Miss and Lady.

Now, my son is asking abut his also belated birthday party but we’ll be heading the Royal Sydney Easter Show next week. So, it can wait. We might have his mates over for a video night. Do they still exist? I wonder. When I turned 13, I had a slumber party and we all watched Grease on video.  Video nights were actually  incredibly trendy at the time, and not the last resort of the desperate and dateless. Oh how things change!

Meanwhile the school work keeps coming. I’ve glossed over my son’s upcoming Maths Exam and am much more interested in my daughter’s assignment. Following on from her project on Natural Disasters, she has to write a newspaper article about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. I am now engrossed in reading a series of personal accounts. They’re riveting: http://www.sfmuseum.net/1906/ew.html

Anyway, that just about sums up last week and by now, it’s Sunday night here and I really don’t feel ready for another week. It’s been bucketing down with rain again tonight and once again, I feel like curling up in my cave and hibernating.

Indeed, the kids have been asking for blankets.

Humph…last week it was Summer!

I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at http://parttimemonster.com/ and please click through to the

xx Rowena

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A mural outside the cafe. It could be my daughter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BB8… Welcome To Our World!

This week, we celebrated our daughter’s 10th Birthday.

Happy Birthday Miss!

So far the celebrations have been fairly low key as she’s just started at a new school and we’re still getting organised.

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However, we did manage to get her BB8, the cute little droid from Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. He’s a fantastic toy, which you control via the touch screen on your iPad. As he glides along the floor, he babbles away in electronic gibberish, similar to R2D2. Not only that. He even writes you text messages:

“Aggressive life forms detected”…This was the dogs.

“Debris detected”. This was the waste paper bin.

“Unidentified humanoid life forms detected”…us.

“Distress signal detected”…BB8’s head had fallen off.

So, just like we welcomed Miss into the world ten years ago, this week she welcomed BB8 into her world.

I don’t know what it is about him but he’s absolutely irresistible…even to a serious technophobe like me, who still goes into daily battle with the TV remote!

Perhaps, it’s because he’s fun…loads of fun. Fun is good.

But is being “fun” enough? Don’t you need to have some sort of purpose, goals, function, destination and ideally all of the above?

I would like to think so but maybe I’ve over-rated their importance. Perhaps, I should thrown away my Clark Kent glasses, roll aimlessly across the floor while chirping incomprehensible nothings and when my sweet little head falls off, just wait for someone else to put me back together again?

Be fun-tabulous!

I don’t know.

After all, is that really how to win friends and influence people?

I didn’t think so.

However, when you compare my popularity with that of BB8, you know who’s winning and it certainly isn’t Madame Smartypants! Oh no! Not at all!

So what makes BB8 so irresistible and please don’t just tell me it’s all just marketing hype. I haven’t been anywhere near any of that !@#$ and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the little guy.

There has to be more to it. Something deep and subliminal and also a bit sneaky so you can’t quite work it out. It’s definitely not a conscious thing. At least, not for me.

Of course, I could go and research how his carefully chosen features somehow trigger some sort of psychological response. He is small, vulnerable and his electronic mutterings do sound quite a lot like a chirping baby bird. All of this might trigger some innate urge to protect him…especially if you, like us,  have pets in the house who could well decide that he’s their kind of toy. After all, if you were a Border Collie obsessed with chasing tennis balls, wouldn’t a robotic ball just be your idea of heaven?

Exactly!

So, BB8 was very astute to flag the dogs as: “Aggressive life forms detected”.

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Bilbo & BB8: “This is NOT a tennis ball!”

Meanwhile, my parents rang up to wish Miss a Happy Birthday. While I chatted with Dad afterwards, he mentioned how amazing it was that a kid could get a robot for their birthday. Then he added, almost apologetically, that when he was ten, we didn’t even have TV in Australia. With that comment, Dad suddenly aged and then I also remembered how the ice man used to get round in a horse and cart when he was a boy. That’s right. There weren’t electric refrigerators in Australia then either. As for computers, the closest thing could well have been the slide rule.

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Miss on the phone to my parents.

I don’t remember a lot about what I received for my 10th birthday but my grandfather gave me an electric blanket for my 9th birthday. These were pretty new back in the 70s. Papa arrived at my party looking so chuffed with this huge box tucked under his arm looking like Santa (he wasn’t exactly slim!) I still remember my incredible excitement! My other grandparents used to send me $5.00 notes through the mail. $5.00 actually bought you something then!

All this reflecting wasn’t doing us any good. Although Miss was the one who’d turned a year older, it was actually my father and I who had suddenly aged, as we were brutally reminded that we’re not children anymore!

Indeed, it was far worse than that!

Somehow, we’d both become living dinosaurs…wonders to modern science.

I have no idea how this came about but it was definitely a good time for my head to fall off so I could bury it in the sand.

Another birthday? I really just don’t want to know!

How about you? Do you have any special birthday stories? Funny presents? Then and now stories? I’d love to hear them!

xx Rowena

Awkward Birthday Negotiations.

My daughter went to so much trouble for my birthday this morning making cards, hanging up streamers. The kitchen looked beautiful and she had gone to so much trouble!

Miss did a fantastic job decorating the kitchen.

Miss did a fantastic job decorating the kitchen.

There was only one problem.

She became quite overwhelmed by this sense that I was going to be lonely spending the day without the family. Feeling almost consumed by this sense of my abject loneliness, she wanted to stay home from school and spend my birthday with me.

These were beautiful sentiments but there was just one problem.

A crown of prawns...yum!

A crown of prawns…yum!

I’d arranged to go out to lunch with my friends. We’ve struggled to get together this year and I think this might be the first time the four of us have managed to get together so it was pretty special and we’d booked into a cafe set among towering gum trees, a contemplative fish pond with intriguing carp and scrumptious food.

I can't exactly remember what it was...banana pudding with caramel and toffee ice cream. I was feeling very indulent and even though I've had a big tummy ache for the rest of the day, there are no regrets!

I can’t exactly remember what it was…banana pudding with caramel and toffee ice cream. I was feeling very indulent and even though I’ve had a big tummy ache for the rest of the day, there are no regrets!

Mummy had plans and …awkward moment…they didn’t involved my daughter tagging along.

Sorry!

Birthday morning at the beach.

Birthday morning at the beach.

After much debate, tempers and tears we compromised and I took the kids and the dogs for a walk along the beach. I often talk to them about the various dogs and humans I meet down at the beach and so it was great to be able to share this world with them and I knew they’d have fun. While detouring to the beach on the way to school might seem a bit naughty, my daughter’s emotions have been quite fraught lately and I felt she needed that together time.

Welcome to Dog Beach!

Welcome to Dog Beach!

Moreover, despite being the middle of Winter with bitterly cold nights, the sun was out and it’s an almost balmy 16 degrees Celsius. It’s absolutely beautiful.

So, off we went kids and dogs in tow.

Bilbo appropriating another dog's ball.

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

Bilbo was in his usual fine form ingratiating himself to other dog owners throwing balls and he has trained the humans to throw the ball for him as well.

Bilbo training another dog's Dad to throw the ball.

Bilbo training another dog’s Dad to throw the ball.

When it comes to tennis balls, Bilbo is totally obsessed and the epitomy of a working dog. Every ounce of his concentration is fixated on that ball. One paw raise, ears cocked, he has absolute tunnel vision and sees nothing else. His entire world is a green sphere and even though we were leaving to go home today, he was still staring at that ball. Fortunately, once I mentioned “car” miraculously the spell was broken and he finally came.

The kids found this huge “stick” and Spitz was lucky not to catch it!

Meanwhile, the kids enjoyed climbing over fallen branches and throwing our mate Spitz a tree trunk of a stick. Spitz was very obliging and did give it a bit of a chew and inspection but that hefty lump of wood wasn’t going anywhere.

I sometimes forget that my dog walking world at the beach has become my own private bubble inhabited by characters which the rest of the family have never met. I am there most weekdays just after school drop off and I meet virtually the same humans and dogs down there everyday and have become a part of that community…that world.

Having down the tough love, terrible mother thing and dropped the kids at school, I am about to head out to lunch. I am even going to wear lipstick so this is what I consider formal.

Meanwhile, I bought myself two bunches of fresh daffodils. My grandfather and I almost share a birthday and he once bought me a daffodil in a pot for my birthday. From my response, you’d think he did it every year but daffodils always remind me of him.

Mister gave me a fabulous cookbook by Masterchef, Matt Preston. I am wondering whether I now need to buy some loud outfits to reproduce the recipes!

Mister gave me a fabulous cookbook by Masterchef, Matt Preston. I am wondering whether I now need to buy some loud outfits to reproduce the recipes!

So my birthday continues. My husband wished sleeping beauty Happy Birthday as he left this morning. My present is on the kitchen table but I’ll wait til he gets home tonight. It’s nice to know he remembered. I almost forgot myself things have been that chaotic and over the last few years, my birthdays have lost the pomp and ceremony they used to have. I feel like a broken down jalopy who just seems to make it to the finish line each year and don’t quite have the zest and enthusiasm leftover for any rah rah!

Just making sure they still love me when I'm 64.

Just making sure they still love me when I’m 64.

Happy Birthday to me!!

My husband gave me this gorgeous platter designed by David Hart, son of artist Pro Hart. Such a thoughtful gift and I just love those bright yellow flowers! So very Rowie!

My husband gave me this gorgeous platter designed by David Hart, son of artist Pro Hart. Such a thoughtful gift and I just love those bright yellow flowers! So very Rowie!

xx Rowena

Paper Planes: Having A Happy Birthday Party at the Movies.

On Sunday, we had a truly fabulous day celebrating our son’s 11th birthday and we even managed to pull off a party!! Given the amount of effort that went into making the cake and the thought that went into the presents, it’s a miracle that I had any energy left for the party.I must have had a second wind because on reflection, I should have needed CPR.

However, that’s where having a party at the movies was fabulous. We just had to turn up and indeed, they would have done the cake too if I hadn’t  been so set in my ways.

With his birthday being on Sunday, I thought we should have his party on the actual day but time was rapidly running away from me and I’d planned nothing. Nothing at all. I usually like to give about a month’s notice for a party but with less than a week to go I found out the Australian Movie, Paper Planes, was showing and then I was madly emailing the cinema and we had a party, guest. and then it was all lights, camera, action!

Phew!

Paper Planes

Paper Planes  was a great movie and the kids loved it. The plot was very loosely based on a 2009 episode of Australian Story called “Fly With Me” which tells the story of paper plane enthusiasts, Dylan Parker and James Norton. Here’s a link through to “Fly With Me”: http://www.abccommercial.com/librarysales/program/australian-story-fly-me-dylan-parker

In the movie, Dylan, a  young boy living in a small, West Australian country town, dreams of attending the Australian Paper Plane Throwing Championships in Sydney. In the process, his interest becomes an all-consuming, passionate obsession as he methodically reworks his designs to make them fly further and further…especially as he goes on to attend the world championships in Japan.

“This is a film that celebrates the idea that one sheet of A4 paper, and your imagination, can be a great source of entertainment.”

Robert Connolly, Director

This quest forms the backbone of the movie but the tragic death of Dylan’s mother in a car accident five months beforehand and his father’s inability to come to terms with it and function at even a very basic level, weaves its way throughout the movie.

Paper Planes not only looks at the hurdles you need to overcome to reach success on the world stage, it also looks at relationships under strain and in particular the relationship between father and son. On one hand, there’s Dylan’s relationship with his dad, which is awkward and strained as his father succumbs to grief and depression and is unable to father his son. On the other hand, there’s the strained relationship between his competitor, Jason,  and his pro-golfer Dad, Patrick.  In this instance, the father is incredibly supportive but the son, Jason, distances himself from his father and persistently calls him by his first name, despite his father’s repeated requests to call him “Dad”.

If you have been following my blog, you will know that I live with an ongoing life-threatening auto-immune disease and we have had numerous very close calls and it has been a very real possibility that our kids would lose their Mum and this would be an issue with the movie.

Therefore, it was quite a shock to realise that we’d taken our 11 year old son to see a movie where the main character was a boy about his age who has lost his mum…especially for his birthday party. Not only that but the Dad was understandably not coping and they were surviving on tinned spaghetti. As if that wasn’t hard enough, there was even a heartbreaking song. I was naturally quite upset by all of this although Mister said he loved the movie and this darker sub-plot seemed to pass him by. Thank goodness!

Of course, I didn’t miss it.

Nothing about the death of the mother was mentioned in the movie trailers or the press and I do think that’s a bit remiss. For me, there were some pretty heart-wrenching moments which I could have done without, especially at our son’s birthday party which was supposed to be all about fun and happiness, not revisiting shadows I’ve been trying to put behind me.

But as I said, those darker aspects of the movie didn’t seem to impact Jonathon. He was as proud as punch sitting in the cinema eating popcorn with his family and friends.

Happy Birthday Mister!

Happy Birthday Mister!

Then, it was off to the courtyard outside to have everyone sing him “Happy Birthday” and two of his friends even gave a speech. Then the kids were bowing bubbles, running around and just having fun.

He said it was the best birthday he had ever had and all the trials and tribulations making and patching up sloshy birthday cakes, stressing out over presents and organising a birthday party at the last minute were well and truly worth it.

However, the birthday wasn’t over yet.

There’s now cupcakes for school tomorrow but this time from the shop!

xx Rowena

Sources

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-15/paper-plane-makers-unexpected-foray-into-film/6017176

The Unspoken Language of Love.

On Sunday, when we celebrated our son’s 11th Birthday, it was about so much more than cake, presents and even the much anticipated party. It was a golden opportunity to show our son how much we love and cherish him and for him to sparkle like a diamond in the candlelight. There’s nothing like your birthday!

If you read my last post, you’ll understand that celebrations have become quite a production and I wouldn’t be surprised if it soon finds its way to Broadway or London’s West End.

I’ve already dealt with the cake.

Now, we’re onto the presents…or THE present, in particular. You see, I gave Mister a second-hand Australian Army uniform, which I chanced upon at a local opportunity or thrift shop.

Choosing gifts is something I take pretty seriously. I really do try to slip inside someone else’s skin, walk around in their shoes, see the world through their eyes and their soul to find that “Wow thing”. That thing which makes their heart sing. Not only because they love it but also because they know I understand. I get them. This gift, therefore, somehow reflects that very special, often concealed inner self or perhaps the seeds of that very precious dream, which are just waiting to germinate, flourish and grow yet are still so tender, tentative and so very embryonic.

To put it simply, gift giving is a great way to show empathy, which is such an important component of love. It is the life-giving force which enables us to grow and reach for the stars.

After all, don’t we all know it when someone gives us something which misses the mark entirely or when our significant other gives us something so impersonal that it could’ve come from a stranger? These gifts affect us in a different way, so often stabbing a knife through the heart. Quite bluntly, they clearly don’t understand you at all!!

A happy birthday boy!

A happy birthday boy!

Although I don’t always find that perfect present which fulfills all these hopes and expectations, I did find the perfect gift for Mister and I couldn’t wait to see his response. As I mentioned, I bought Mister an Australian Army uniform I chanced upon at the op shop. Mister wants to join the army when he grows up and although I’m not keen, I pushed my own feelings aside and supported my son. Of course, the uniform is  way too big but dreams are like that at the start. We have to grow into them.

Having children is my greatest achievement. It was my saviour. It switched my focus from the outside to the inside. My children are gifts, they remind me of what’s important.

Elle Macpherson

More than just being an army uniform, this was a very special birthday present from me to him. It said I can put my values and desires aside to respect and nurture his dreams and encourage him to grow up and be himself, rather than trying to shape and mold him into who or what I think he should be and, in effect, turn him into a bonsai…a pruned and shrunk down version of who he was meant to be.

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

You see, in my youth I was pretty opposed to armies, war and battles. I even took part in protests against Australia’s involvement in the Gulf War and marched through the streets. I wouldn’t describe myself as a pacifist but I’d definitely be of the view: “Make love not war”.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

Miss is dwarfed by the army pants.

I’m also a person who, at least I hope, has principles and have built up something called “character”. This means having values and standing up for what I believe in. Before the kids were born, for example, there were going to be no Barbies, no guns and definitely no signing up and joining the army. But as much as you bring up your children, they also modify you and seeing pure happiness and joy glowing on your child’s precious face does tinker with these values a bit. Or, at least, it does for me.

Hate to admit it but a persistent campaign of incessant nagging by your kids can also make an impact on all you held dear as well!

Mister was thrilled when he opened up his present. He was so happy with such an enormous smile that he was grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. I was happy too.  Both kids held  the uniform up against themselves and it looked ridiculously big, reminding me of a comedy sketch from Wallace & Gromit: The Wrong Trousers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW6gj2n51sU

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

Watching the kids with the army pants reminded me of Wallace & Gromit in the Wrong Trousers.

I’m sure Mister didn’t appreciate what giving him that army uniform represented. Of course, he doesn’t know just what a seismic shift it is for me to embrace his love of the army. While I love any form of history and honour our ex-service people and collect memorabilia and books from WWI and WWII, that’s very different from having your one and only beloved son go and sign up. That possibility, though still a long way off, does trouble me a bit because I was also his age once and that was when I decided to become a writer and I’ve never veered off course. Writing is like breathing and I even write in myself. Actually, truth be told, I’m often writing when I should be asleep!! I knew that’s who I was when I was 10 and it was set in stone.

However, as much as I have marched and protested going to war, I also felt it was important that I support my son in how he sees himself and in pursuing his dreams. Recognising who he is as a person and empowering him to walk in his own shoes instead of trying to impose me or my values on him like an iron on transfer. Just because someone is young, it doesn’t mean their dreams and values aren’t precious and worthy of recognition and respect, even if we would rather they pursued a different path. Our children need to know they can trust us with their dreams and aspirations. After all, they come from the very heart of the soul and are so very, very precious and need to be handled with kid gloves … certainly not ridiculed or rejected. That, would be like stomping on the precious wings of a beautiful butterfly which, having just emerged from its chrysalis and waited for its tender wings to dry, is about to take its first tenuous flight…and this is your child who is so much more worthy than that.

So I gave him the army uniform and made him happy.

So happy that he took the army uniform to school on Monday, particularly to show his teacher whose son is in the army. He was as proud of punch and he truly respects all that the uniform stands for and what it means to fight for your country. Well, as much as you can when you’re an 11 year old kid and war is on the other side of the world and it’s not in your own backyard.

So I managed to get it right.

Or did I?

After all, was it just coincidence that I strayed across that army uniform in the op shop or was it meant to be? Serendipity? God? Destiny fate?

This isn’t just an erroneous question. I am an op shop addict and I have never seen an army uniform for sale in an op shop before and yet there it was just a couple of weeks before Mister’s birthday. As much as I might have decided to stretch myself well beyond my comfort zone to encourage his dreams, I also suspect I was nudged.

Interesting!

Our mothers give us so many gifts. They give us the precious gift of life, of course, but they also leave treasured lessons that can guide us along our journeys even when they are no longer with us.

Maria Shriver

By the way, I should point out that while I was protesting, Geoff’s brother was actually in the Australian army and Mister has grown up with Uncle Terry’s slouch hat in the house. Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French died in France during WWI and we have been down to the Australian War Memorial as a family to honour him and we even participated in a special memorial service they hold each day and we laid down a wreath. Another Great Uncle served in Gallipolli and went on to serve in Beersheba in the Australian Light Horse. So it would seem that joining the Armed Forces are in my son’s blood.

xx Rowena

PS A week after Mister’s birthday while I’m sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send as a post birthday present to my son: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena