17 November 2014

The Pokemon Party

I've watched lots of kids go through phases of intense interests. At mother's group the boys seemed to go through a 'Thomas the Tank Engine'-dinosaur-pirate cycle. My niece has been through a Dora the Explorer obsession. And one of nephews has always had some particular collectible on the go. But my girls haven't really ever had a particular 'thing' they were into - until now. Lily has discovered pokemon and something about them just totally speaks to her.  Kim brought over a tub of pokemon characters she had for her boys when they were little and they have been endless playmates for Lil since.

For those unfamiliar with the pokemon thing, they are creatures with various powers that pokemon trainers (humans) have to catch and tame.  The pokemon live in litle pokeballs and come out to assume their real size, which can be tiny or giant.  Trainers engage in battles using their pokemon and have to chose the characters according to their stengths and abilities.  Pokemon can evole into new beings - the most famous, Pikachu, is the middle evolution of itself, the first being Pichu and the third being Rachu (I think I've got this right.  I'm learning a lot from Lily).  I think we've all embraced it at least in part because it is Lily's own thing, and it is so sweet to see her being thrilled by havig her own thing that she can tell us about as it is so often the other way around.

A few weeks ago Lily was thrilled by coming up with the idea of having a pokemon birthday party.  I knew that in all likelihood no one in her kinder would be at all familiar with pokemon.  They were popular with kids about 15 years ago and now are really a gaming thing, much beyond four and five year olds.  But who cares?

Grace drew a pikachu for the invitations, Nina made pokeball decorations, and all my kids dressed up as characters and did a fanatstic job of running the party.  I don't know how we ever did kids parties without their help, especially at kinder age when the parents mostly stay for the party so Craig was busy playing host.  We played the usual games, I made a terrible hash at decorating cakes to look like pokemon (they are laughably hilarious) and the children were adorable.  Have little kids got nicer or am I more tolerant (unlikely)?  No tantrums, everyone was polite as could be and sweet as pie.  I didn't get a decent photo of the cake but to be honest there wasn't a photo that could be taken to make that cake look decent.  Picture a round icecream cake, covered half in red jelly frogs, half in white marshmallows and with a mint pattie in the middle.  A dentist's dream.

14 November 2014


Lily turned five. It's a big deal, five and takes us well out of the world of very early childhood. There will soon be no more kinder, no more Fridays just the two of us. Before long she'll be reading and making her own bed and expanding her world outside the family. Everything about how I feel about this has already been written - probably throughout the recorded history of humanity -in more eloquent and appropriate words than I could hope to find so I won't indulge my own somewhat divided emotions. Instead I'll record the gorgeous gifts her sisters made for her: Nina a little stuffed bunny that Lily named 'Bunette'; Ruby, who loudly declares that she 'does NOT like sewing' made a little penguin wheat pack, which Lily named 'Penguana'; Grace spent ages constructing a box, with lid, to contain her 'make your own Pikachu necklace' gift. She exhorted Lily several times to 'respect the box'.

I stole the idea for the cake from here and succumbed to Lily's penchent for pokemon with a Pikachu onesie. The big girls made up a treasure hunt for Lily to find their presents - they spent ages coming up with the rhyming clues and the collaboration was not always harmonious, but it paid off in cheap thrills for Lil. It was a kindergarten day so Lily handed out party invitations to her class and we brought in special fruit skewers (cheap thrills for the kinder kids - so easy to please at that age) and she had her little chest puffed out with pleasure and pride. It was a lovely lovely day.

04 November 2014

The Looooooong Weekend

I don't work Fridays and I took Monday as an annual leave day, so combined with Cup Day I had a 5 day holiday.  Hooray.

We didn't go away. Instead we had Halloween and lunch with my oldest friend and her family.  Bruce came by for some help making kitchen curtains for his new house.  We went out for dumplings and took the kids to 'Kiki's Delivery Service' at the Astor.  I don't suppose there was a share house in Melbourne without the Astor program poster on the back of the toilet door in the 90's.  Nothing like knowing something is closing to make you rush out to go again, filled with waves of nostalgia.  I try not to succumb to 'how great things were back when....' thinking, but I do feel a bit sad about all those old cinemas that were so formative and no longer exist - the Genferrie Hoyts on the corner of Dandenong and Glenferrie Road, with foot warmers in front of the seats, where I saw 'Blade Runner' and 'The Muppet Movie' and 'The Elephant Man'.  The Carlton Moviehouse in Faraday Street, where I saw 'Betty Blue', the Metro where we didn't see 'Storm Boy' because it was sold out and had to go to something else instead - can't remember what.  At the Astor I saw 'Agnes of God' with my Mum one afternoon, and 'Casablanca' and a million other films.  Some are still left - the Rivoli, where I saw 'Children of a Lesser God', the Classic, where I saw the first 'Superman' with Christopher Reeves and the Valhalla - now rebadged the Westgarth and thriving, where I saw 'The God's Must be Crazy' and walked to Camberwell with my oldest friend with whom I had lunch last Saturday.

I got Lily some Hansel pants (I guess they are really some form of imitation lederhosen, but in our house they are Hansel pants) at the fete but the straps were a little short and gave her a wedgie, so I lengthened them with ribbon. 

Our pathetic gardening efforts over the winter were rewarded with one small and very sorry cauliflower.  Look how bug eaten those leaves are! I hope to do better (what I mean by that is that I hope Craig does better) with the tomatoes and basil for summer.

I took the three younger girls to the gallery to see the Romance was Born show - fun for the under 8's - and to ride on the golden carousel in the foyer.  We had afternoon tea in the gardens across the road.  I forget, sometimes, how wonderful Melbourne's public gardens are and how much fun kids can have with a police memorial, a fountain, some assorted fallen seeds from nearby trees and a bit of sunshine.  I dosed off in the sun while the kids pretended to join a circus and ride ponies in the ring.

Cup day I forgot to even watch the race.  Some years I get quite into it and enter the sweep and have  a flutter and a BBQ and give a damn and other years I don't.  This was one of the don't years.  I dragged out all the drunkard's path quilt patches I had made way back here and tried to decide what sort of strapping I should use to join them - dark, patterned, bright, neutral.  Sewing has been in a bit of a hiatus, partly because of the fete, partly because we are revamping our dining room/my sewing room (we've actually got a table that can seat not just our family but some friends now too!) and partly because of Breaking Bad which I am very late to get to but which I find quite riveting.  I need to have some handsewing but I'm nursing a minor crafty injury  - overuse of my left thumb, which interferes with hand work.  

Cup night we went to half moon bay for a swim and fish and chips on the beach.  We never go bayside and, if I didn't have family south of the Yarra I'd probably rarely get there which is just ridiculous. The kids were very impressed that this little picturesque place was just a short drive from home. Must explore Melbourne a bit more and stray from the well beaten paths we tread.

And now Lily's fifth birthday is upon us and we are careening toward the end of the year.  I can't believe it's more than 12 months since we departed for America.  A whole year gone and I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

Halloween - an evolving perspective

Once upon a time I would have agreed wholeheartedly with Susan Brown, of Frankston.  I didn't think Halloween had any place in Melbourne.  It certainly was unknown in my childhood (though familiar from TV and movies) and it did seem to me that participating would somehow dilute our 'Australianess'.

It was my friend, Bridget, who changed my view.  For years she has letter-boxed her neighbourhood prior to Halloween, offering people the option of participating in trick or treating.  In this way she has met most of her street and befriended many of her neighbours and they now have Christmas drinks, and street-wide garage sales and ladies nights out.

So the last few years the kids have dressed up and we've wandered the neighbourhood - finding more and more houses with a pumpkin, or some cobwebs decorating their hedge each year.  The kids have absolutely loved it, and increasingly, so have I.

Though it might be an imported event, let's get real - so is Christmas and Easter, and, for goodness sake, the Queen's birthday!  Our uniquely Australian celebrations - Australia day (culturally divisive at best) has no traditions other than a day off work and Melbourne Cup day is really a celebration of gambling and getting pissed (not that I'm rejecting the public holiday mind you).

I reckon there is room in the calendar for something that focuses on kids, fun, and local neighbourhoods (and fancy dress - who doesn't love fancy dress?).  I'm not rapt in the lollies, and it is a bit rich paying $20 for a pumpkin just to carve it up, but Halloween around our neck of the woods is a delight.  It's getting dressed up and painting faces.  It's figuring out how to incorporate Nina's crutches (soccer injury) into her costume.  It's seeing Ruby transformed into a teenager, albeit of the skeleton dias de los muertos kind.  It's groups of kids, with someone's Mum or Dad or both, dressed as pirates and mummies and vampires and princesses, wandering the streets on a balmy evening, running into school friends.  It's people having a glass of wine on their front porch while handing out lollies or chocolates, their dogs dressed as dragons, with panniers full of loot to hand out.  It's a crowd of adults catching up over a beer at the local pub while their kids plundered the street, in a (mostly) polite and gentle fashion.  And it's all over by 7.30.  

There is a minimum of planning, a minimum of fuss.  It's so good to see kids in the streets, feeling confident, feeling like their neighbourhood is a place they belong and a place they can be safe. And maybe it would be nice if we could come up with uniquely Australian thing that incorporated dressing up with wandering the streets - and there'd have to be lollies or the kids wouldn't go for it - but maybe it is uniquely Australian to appropriate everyone else's traditions and refashion them in our own way.  So   I understand Susan, I really do.  But I don't agree.