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Gingerbread House

The girls decorated a gingerbread house on Saturday.  It was a kit one that Mum gave us, because I can barely work with even regular cookie-sized portions of gingerbread dough, what with the sticking and the stretching and the burning of edges and final  breaking on cookie-removal.  Oh, the language that goes on in my kitchen when I try and do something fancy with the rolled cookies. My goodness.

Anyway, I did assemble this one per- the box instructions, melting icing sugar in a frying pan.  I kept stirring and stirring, with an increasingly sore arm, until the contents of Frying Pan of Danger were about 90% molten- and nearly-burnt sugar, and 10% toffee-coated lumps of icing sugar.  At which point I gave up and used it as is, lumps and all, to stick the house together, which worked well and with a minimum of third-degree burns.

Billie and Beetle co-operated very well, considering the awkwardness of the setup at the table, and a good half-a-dozen lollies even made it onto the gingerbread house.

Unfortunately, a very sad thing happened.  I put the house on the wrong side of the kitchen when we were dishing up dinner.  Later that night, when I got back from a bit of late-night shopping, I found about three thousand ants  had descended upon the house with great enthusiasm.

I had to knock the seething mass into the sink and gingerly prod it down the garbage disposal as quickly as possible to avoid becoming covered in ants, and trying hard not to breathe in the crushed ant smell.

Serves me right for putting anything sugary in the Ant Zone of the kitchen.

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Meet Trev

Here is our Trev, our boy child. He’ll be two months old soon and he is beautiful and perfect.

He also has a very large head.  Bear’s family joke about having big head genes but crikey.

I have to tell you a story though, and this is why I’ve been subdued this year and hadn’t introduced Trev yet – I had this story sitting there all heavy and waiting to be told first. So here goes.

(This story contains both cussing and emotions – I don’t do usually do emotions online, and the women in my family are not skilled at cussing, preferring to shout “Shit bum!” when things go wrong, so watch your step)

Early on in my pregnancy I had the regular dating ultrasound. Part of that procedure is measuring the nuchal fold, in order to estimate the risk of Down Syndrome.  The sonographer measured… and measured… and then asked us to sit in the waiting room while she Phoned an Expert. When she called us back in she handed us our scan results and told us that the risk of Trisomy 21 had been increased to 1 in 25, and gave us the information sheet on amniocentesis and CVS testing.  I asked her about the maternal serum test that is now funded in New Zealand, and she didn’t know anything about it.

So we went home, Bear rushed off to pick up Beetle from kindy and pies for lunch, and I went down the bedroom to howl.

The next 2 months were shit, I tell you.  We decided after consideration not to have any invasive testing like the amnio; this little guy was going to be coming to our house regardless of the outcome, and I don’t like big needles, and didn’t want to take the risk of miscarriage for that.  So we had to wait until the time had passed so I could have the maternal blood test on me, and then we had to wait to get the results from that – over a time frame that included both the ongoing house building project and my brothers wedding.

What do you know but the blood test came back with an adjusted risk of 1 in 1250 or something like that – a much better ratio than would be expected for my age.

So that was somewhat a relief but of course we had to wait until our boy was actually born, because even if you have a reputation for Coping you also expect things to go wrong.

And he went overdue a little bit, and then they did another scan and said that there was practically no amniotic fluid (what’s up with that?) so he would have to be induced, and then I went into labour naturally anyway, but collectively Henry and I came to some kind of halt and things weren’t progressing, and his heart rate kept dropping enough to worry everyone but not enough for them to call in the guys with the gumboots and the scalpels.  So they called in the Hurry Up drip instead and I said – fuck this, I want my epidural – and I was just telling my midwife and Bear that I was SCARED about the end of this story, and I wasn’t feeling very energetic or very brave, and some dick of an obstetrician comes in on his rounds and looks at me and says all incredulous “Is she crying?” and tells me “Don’t stress, it doesn’t help.”

Well the epidural perked me up somewhat despite only mostly working, apart from a thick black colouring-book outline of OW that remained on the left-hand-side of my tummy, and Trev and I got our collective A’s-into-G and he was born.

Anyway, as you’ll have gathered, the ending was a happy one. Trev doesn’t have Down syndrome.  He’s a big little guy, 10 lbs 2oz (less than Beetle, by crikey but still big enough to write home about) and he is sleeping really well at night now, feeding like anything and growing and growing and learning to eat his fists and whack at the dangly bits on his play gym, sleeping all snug in the front pack while I do my Christmas shopping and go up to school for carols and a hangi, and so on. It’s lovely.  But I am not going through all this again!

PS: Did I mention that the day I got my blood results back, I rang Bear at work and told him, and the very moment he hung up his boss called to say that the NZ office of his workplace was being shut down?  (He finished work at the end of September)

Sigh.

You said this year was two weeks too long. You’re right.

Before  I go – a big, big thank you to Upside of Down – a lovely, lovely online community of NZ families who were so welcoming and lovely that I was actually kind of  disappointed when my blood test results came back.

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This is the first time we’ve been living in a house we actually owned while having a Pending Baby, so I was very much looking forward to having a chance to decorate a nursery.   As it turned out, our other renovations in the house (creating a space for Billie to move into) meant that Bear (and Grandad) squeaked in with a quick paint-job of the walls a meagre three weeks before my due date.  But that was enough to get some assorted wall decals from Trademe and the $2 Shop up, along with the Twinkle Twinkle Little Star curtains that had recently come down from Beetle’s room.  (Normally those wall stickers shouldn’t actually go up on the walls on so fresh a paint-job, but the nursery is earmarked for Renovations Part Two: The Rest of the House in the not-nearly-distant-enough future)

Spacey nursery

I searched online for space-themed mobiles with little joy, so Beetle and I set to making some planets out of some $2-shop paper lanterns we’d bought earlier for Billie’s room, but only got so far as stringing them up in the kitchen for a birthday party.

Here are our three planets:

Paper-lantern planets

This was a really easy project – all we needed was the lanterns, tissue paper in assorted colours, and some glue.  We used slightly diluted PVA but anything that dries transparent would do.

Ripped up tissue paper

We ripped up some coloured tissue paper into strips and continent-ish blobs.

For our Earthish planet, we used a blue lantern, with tissue paper in white, blue, and two shades of green.

Gluing on the tissue paper

I sat the lantern in a noodle bowl to stop it rolling around, then Beetle brushed on some glue and started sticking the tissue paper on. I think it looks best if the strips have all rough edges and none of their original corners or edges left, but I wasn’t about to be so fussy while Beetle was working on them.  I’m just mentioning it in case you are making a planet by yourself as a grownup 🙂

Woolly planet earth

Keep sticking on bits of tissue paper, overlapping as you go, but leaving some of the original colour of the lantern to show through (if it suits your planet). You will need to rotate the lantern as you go, and may need to turn it upside down partway through the process to ensure both hemispheres get decorated.

This picture shows our Earthish planet when Beetle had finished with it.  I did a quick brush over the top with the diluted glue to smooth down the particularly woolly parts.

Since the first one was a success, I sat down and made a Saturn-ish planet while Beetle decorated one that is kind of like Venus.  I like the stripy planets the best.  Then we hung them up to dry.

Drying planet lanterns

Later on, I added a comically small ring to the Saturn lantern for added flair.  After considering various complicated ways to attach a ring, I settled on making one that was too small to go around the equator, so it wouldn’t fall off.  I just traced around a flattened lantern on the biggest bit of scrap cardboard I had (which wasn’t quite big enough!), cut out a circle somewhat bigger than that tracing, then cut out the hole in the middle to be smaller than the tracing of the lantern.  Anyway, it works.

Paper-lantern planets

They are jaunty wee planets, and they make me happy to see them hanging above the Pending Boychild’s changing table.

We were aiming this project at school holiday fun and decorations in the nursery, but I’m certain a more educational tack could be taken by those with a good reference on planets and a source of different-sized paper lanterns!

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I love it when Beetle goes all experimental

I love it when Beetle goes all experimental, as she did in this painting session.

It’s Beetle’s third week of school now. At first she settled in wonderfully, but then we had some upsets late last week when she realised that we meant it; that she was a School Girl and these long school days were going to keep on happening, even if she missed me during the day and that doing fitness made her so tired she had to come home and have a nap. (Note: this has never happened)

“Mum?”

“Yes Beetle?”

“I hate school”

*sympathetic look*

“Mum?” *eyebrows and sad voice* “I love you Mum.”

Yesterday she mentioned over a (thankfully early) breakfast that if she made a teddy bear and took it for news, she would get a sticker (“nearly like being Star Of The Day”), so with a quick reference back to the latest Kids Craft Weekly (conveniently themed Bears) we managed to throw together a cardboard bear face from some packaging cardboard lying around the place.

Bear face

Beetle took her Bear and proudly wore her sticker until she got too hot and had to take off her sweatshirt. That perked up her yesterday.  She likes school much better on her walk home than at breakfast time… or bed time.

"Dot-to dot window"

"Dot-to dot window"

All in all, I think she is settling in okay. She’s willingly using the toilet at school (a big thing because using the loo is Too Boring and therefore to be avoided as much as possible), eating lunch, rocking her uniform, and very very excited about the junior school production which is on next week. Two evenings!  And of course, starting school means starting to count down to the school holidays: 3 weeks to go 🙂

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Today is Beetle’s 5th birthday. We had a very successful school visit, and she will be starting school for real on Monday. But I’m changing the subject for now… everything is going so nicely I don’t want to talk about it yet.

I woke up early enough to take a quiet moment before the big birthday morning, and join SteadyMom’s afternoon tea and chat (which was at 6am NZ time)  I was telling her about the volcano cake Beetle and I made, just for fun, when the kindy kids were learning all about volcanoes and crystals last term, and I realised I hadn’t posted it here.

We started with a chocolate-and-banana cake baked in a bundt tin…

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covered it in thin chocolate icing….

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…just enough to stick on some coconut-and-green-food-colouring “grass.”

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Then Beetle mixed up some lurid red icing for “lava” (I think there was cocoa in there as well)

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I jammed a plastic cup down the “crater” of the cake to stop things falling down in there and getting lost, and drizzled over the red icing, which looks alarmingly like we’ve been decorating with the tomato sauce bottle…

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Beetle stuck on some lovely, colourful dried fruit for lava. Hooray for the bulk bins! We had dried mango strips, papaya, dried strawberries,  dried cranberries, and some kind of dried apple chunks.  Plus some chocolate coated raisins for “scoria”. Yum!

More applications of the red icing were required. Beetle kept sticking and drizzling icing until she used up all of the dried fruit I’d bought.

It was quite a violent explosion, this little volcano.  Such a lot of molten lava!

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When it was finished, we took it around to  Nanny’s place. Beetle was a little concerned that her aunties and uncles might think it was a real volcano, and be somewhat alarmed by that prospect. She carefully reassured them all that it was just a cake, and we all enjoyed having a slice of not-real volcano for afternoon tea.

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The next week, Beetle took photos and her story about making a volcano cake to kindy and shared them at news time. Everybody was most impressed 🙂

PS: So many of you are enjoying the beach, recently, following the last of summer, or the very first signs of spring in our neck of the woods. I am so jealous…. the sun is shining here, the beach is so, so close, but we have some Dregs Of Poison Pufferfish or something washing up on the shore. Whatever it is, it is killing dogs and prompting stern warnings to keep children off the beach. Poo.

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A heart for a housewarming

Housewarming heart

Beetle is so generous with her artwork.

This afternoon she worked and worked on a crayon heart, which I thought was beautiful and wanted a frame. She then wanted to make a frame out of coloured paper, which we didn’t have (and also, I was trying to make dinner), and then wanted to fold up some white paper.  But she was satisfied when I used a ruler to trace a simple frame around the outside and got out some tempera paints. She decorated the frame and then inside the frame as well, and it was beautiful.

Just then my brother phoned; he and his wife moved house today, and they were inviting us around for coffee-and-dessert after dinner. Immediately Beetle said that she made the heart for them.  It dried in time and I de-framed a previous artwork so I could put it in a wooden frame for them. We lost a bit in the cropping, but we were very happy with it.

She will gladly give away a project she has spent an hour on, to the first visitor who walks in. It is lovely.

One picture that hasn’t yet been given away is hanging on the fridge. She was gazing at it while eating her Weetbix the other morning.  “I’m such an artist!” she said “I’m so glad I don’t scribble.”

Today was bright and sunny, so we went for a test-walk up to Beetle’s new school (she starts in just over a month) to see how long it took.  Pretty much 15 minutes front-door to classroom-door. In anticipation, she got dressed in her uniform, and very proudly walked up the road. We had a good play on the playground equipment and walked back again.

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Fabric marker t-shirts

Fabric marker t-shirt

This activity happened by accident. I was inspired by Tiny Happy’s single-colour painted t-shirts, but when it came to the crunch I thought that Beetle could do the drawing first with a fabric marker, and then we could paint in a few bits and pieces.

I slid the shirt over a bit of cardboard and used a few bits of sticky tape to hold the fabric taut, then handed it over to Beetle with a fat black fabric marker.

Beetle has been doing very detailed pictures recently, with lots of funny little features in them, and she got right into decorating the shirt.

So when she had finally finished the art work (complete with signature in the corner) I decided it didn’t need painting in at all, and was rather striking in just the black ink.  It set in 24 hours too, so we were ready to roll without even ironing it. Sweet as.

This is a good activity for doing towards the end of summer (or winter) when your kids’ plain tshirts start to get a few stains and be a bit worse for wear!  I even had Beetle decorate one for Billie as well.

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