Cat on a cold patio roof.

IMG_4700Anyone who has a cat will tell you that they are experts when it comes to psychological warfare. Whilst you crave their love and attention (because just look at them! Fluffy, purring balls of cute!), they treat you with contempt, tolerating you long enough to provide belly rubs and food on their terms. They often call the shots in the relationship. They can do what they want – they are independent (ish). This is my cat Dwight Kat Shrute. A big, fat, four year old tabby, who only seeks us out for a belly rub, food or to sleep on our legs at night when we fall asleep. He is an indoor cat, his only foray out of the house is when he darts into the garage as we go in and out in the course of putting our washing through the dryer. He will run in, flop on the concrete and then proceeds to roll all over the floor. He has a nosey through the tools and bits and pieces that we have stored in the garage. If we are not quick enough, he will even spring up into the dryer (often on top of the clean clothes fresh out from the washing machine). When he gets in the dryer, he then seems to puff himself up so as to make it hard for us to remove him from the dryer.

Whilst he likes to sit by the window and watch the birds outside, he prefers to be inside where he gets the house, great food and the dryer. We were proud that our cat shunned the great outdoors – look at our cat, being responsible and not out there killing native wildlife. What a great cat we have.

You know sometimes it is bad to get complacent…

Last month my parents were visiting from interstate. My husband and I had turned our young son’s bedroom into the guest room and Mish got to camp out in the home office. In preparing his bedroom for my parents to sleep in, I noticed that the window flyscreen had fallen out and onto the patio roof. We would sort that out later (my dad actually fixed it for us), but at the time we were not too worried as the window was fitted with a safety lock, so the window could only be slid open no more than a gap of 12cm. My husband slid the window open to let fresh air into the room, and I made the comment “maybe we should keep the bedroom door closed whilst the window is open. I don’t want Dwight to get out.” Mike looked at me as if I had two heads, “what? Really? No, he won’t fit through that tiny gap. Look at him, the cat is a tank! Too fat to make that little gap. Plus, he has never shown an interest in getting out. Pffft!” Still, I insisted that the room remained closed off for as long as the window was open.

Later that evening my parents arrived and we spent the night catching up on everything over dinner. The kids were loving being with their Nanny and Poppy. Ripley, our dog, remembered my dad from the last visit and she was all over him like Velcro (he is the bringer of cookies and bones). Our guinea pig, Doctor Who sat in his hutch and kept staring at mum – I believe it was because he recognised a fellow vegan in my mum. Dwight thundered down the stairs and into the lounge. He stopped and stared at us all before going over and giving Ripley a quick cat bath. They had a play fight and Dwight sat on his little armchair and watched us all for a few minutes before heading in to the kitchen for his dinner.

As the night wore on, we decided it was time to all head off to bed. I got Tilly and Mish sorted and tucked up in their beds. My parents changed and settled down in the guest room. Mike went into the study to play a quick game of warships on his computer, whilst I headed back downstairs to do a final check of the doors and windows. As I walked around downstairs I realised that I had not seen Dwight since he wandered out of the lounge room hours earlier. Usually he comes back downstairs to circle me in the hopes I will give him an extra packet of food before bed. I called out for him. Nothing. I searched all of the downstairs, behind furniture. No cat. I went into the garage on the chance that maybe he snuck in as I was changing the laundry over in the dryer. I poked about the tools and boxes. No cat. I turned and looked at the dryer which was thumping away. My heart froze. No! Did he jump in the dryer without me realising? Surely not! Oh my GOD! With my heart pounding and hands trembling, I paused the dryer and opened the door. The warm air rushed out at me. I sniffed, relieved that all I could smell was warm, clean sheets and not singed fur. I began to take the sheets out of the dryer and let out a huge sigh of relief when I saw that Dwight was not in the dryer.

Alright, so not downstairs, he must be in his usual spot – under my bed. I run upstairs and into my bedroom where I called out to him before dropping to my hands and knees to look under the bedframe. He was not there. Home office – nope. Tilly’s room – nope. Mish’s (guest) room – nope. I was getting annoyed. Where was this bloody cat? Mike was not concerned. He continued his computer game, convinced the cat would appear out of thin air as cats so often do. My parents though were just as bewildered as I was as to where he could be, and they came out to help me look for him. We did another search of the house to no avail. The only thing left would be outside. But how? Oh my God, the WINDOW! Mike was still incredulous of my theory that Dwight had managed to slip into the room and squish himself through a 12cm gap and out to freedom.

Mum and I went out to the backyard whilst dad looked out the bedroom window onto the patio roof. He was not on the roof, not in the backyard. Maybe he jumped across to the neighbours’ patio which winds around to a big garden with trees. From there he would climb down and into another yard. I had a vision of my big fat cat wandering around the pool in the yard behind our home. What if he got down, but could not get back up over the fence to come home? I came in to see that Mike had decided to join the search party and had gone out the front to see if he could find this cat of ours. He shook his head at mum and I. So we went out to look for ourselves. I crawled around the communal driveway, peeking under parked cars. Mum poked about in the garden beds. We make clicking and cooing sounds. God knows what the neighbours made of it – two women outside rummaging through the gardens, making weird sounds – at twelve o’clock at night. It was freezing and I began to get upset and angry that Dwight could do this to me. I bought him his favourite food earlier that day, I let him shred my arm as he let me rub his belly, and now he has the audacity to leave me. Break up with me without as much as a post-it-note (a little Sex and the City reference there).

As I stood by the trees, feeling hopeless, rejected and pissed off because it was freezing cold and I was no doubt cementing my neighbours opinion of me as being a bit odd, I heard a rustling. I looked up into the branches and in the dim light I could make out a grey, furry body and a little face with big black eyes and twitching whiskers. “Dwight!” I gasped. Mum heard me and came running over to where I stood. “Oh, not Dwight. Just a possum.” As it sat in the tree peering down at mum and I, we stood with arms outstretched, wriggling our fingers to try and coax it down so we could pat it. Looking back, not a smart move on our part as mum and I have shit night vision, so for all we know, we could have been offering our arms and fingers to a large rabid rat. We were none the wiser.

Possum

Not the possum mum and I encountered (and tried to adopt), but looks exactly like it (image: free stock).

 

It was no use. The possum/rat grew bored with us and climbed over the fence. Mum and I were freezing, we both realised we were out walking around on the cold concrete barefoot. We had to go back inside, there was nothing more we could do. Dwight was gone. Inside, mum and I decided we would camp out in the lounge room so we would hear Dwight if he returned. Mike and Dad did a final look out the upstairs windows overlooking the patio roof, but Dwight was nowhere to be seen. Soon the house was quiet. Kids, Mike and Dad were sound asleep. Mum and I sat up in the lounge room, mum offered me words of comfort. She assured me that Dwight would come back home. If someone found him, they would help him because he is such a lovely cat. We could check with the vet and council in the morning to see if he had been brought in. “He will come home Jassie. I know he will.” In my head I was seeing him being skittled by a car – we are surrounded on all sides by main roads. I saw him being attacked by a dog – he has grown up with our Ripley, but she is such a dope of a love pupper, she would never hurt a fly. I saw him being picked up by a stranger and taken in as their new cat.

*With the help of my mum and  my brother James’ artistic skills, these were my picks for the Lost Cat posters for Dwight.

I was woken around 2.30 am by Ripley sneaking over to Dwight’s food bowl and scoffing the cat treats I had put in the bowl the night before. She was quite loud (she can’t do stealth). I grumbled at her to get out of it. The sound of Ripley eating the cat food carried up the stairs and woke up my dad who came downstairs to check on mum and I. When he returned upstairs to his room, he heard a rage carrying on outside the window. Next minute he runs back down to mum and me, excitedly informing us he had found Dwight. He was outside the bedroom window on the patio roof! Mum and I leapt up and into action. I ran into the kitchen and grabbed a tin of cat food and a sachet of diet shake (thought it was a pouch of cat food). I handed the tin to mum and she grabbed a fork and ran out into the backyard and proceeded to tap on the side of the tin, calling out for Dwight. I ran back up the stairs with dad, where he shone his torch out the window. There was our tank of a cat, Dwight Kat Shrute, sitting there like Jack Nicholson in the final scene of The Shining, glaring at us, it was clear to see he was pissed off with being stuck on the patio roof. Dad tried to coax him over to the window, but Dwight sat and stared at him. I held out the diet shake packet and shook it. Dwight looked offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently.

The Shining

Jack Nicholson kindly re-enacts Dwight’s patio roof discovery scene (stephenking.wikia.com)

 

I then ran into my bedroom to wake up Mike (and I also needed to pee). As he staggered toward me, I quickly informed him “cat is on the roof!” and then I threw the packet of diet shake at his face and bolted into the bathroom. When I finished, I opened the bathroom door to see Mike still standing there holding the packet of diet shake and looking offended – he is quite sensitive about his weight apparently. I explained the packet was for him to shake at the cat, who is almost frozen on the roof. Mike, in his still sleep foggy and offended state could not figure out how the cat got on the roof. “The PATIO ROOF!” I said, and then ran out of our room to head downstairs and out into the yard where mum was still out there, in her pyjamas, barefoot on the cold grass, hopping from one foot to the other, tapping the tin and calling out to Dwight “Dwighty!” *ting, ting, ting* “Dwighty boy!” *ting, ting, ting*.

Dwight let out a really loud and long howl of outrage. Mike had now joined mum and me with a ladder. He set it up and dad steadied it as I climbed up to see Dwight. Mike had gone back upstairs to the window. One of us would get him down. I held out my hands and softly called out to Dwight. He sat, like a big hairy lump and glared at me. He would not budge. Instead he let out another really loud howl. Oh my God our poor neighbours! Mike leaned out the window, he called out to Dwight. Dwight looked at Mike and then back over to me. He wasn’t moving. By now I was getting really impatient and grumbled at the cat “Dwight you fucking womble, get off the roof!”

Meanwhile, Mike was now dangling precariously out over the windows edge, arms outstretched. Dwight finally, FINALLY got up and moved to Mike and for a moment we held our collective breath as Dwight appeared to then hesitate just out of Mike’s grasp. He seemed to be contemplating the neighbours patio roof, and I was waiting to see Mike lose his balance, tip out and over the window and slide on his belly down and over the edge of the patio roof, where he would land in a crumpled heap in the garden bed below; I would have laughed out loud at this thought if I was not cold and tired and desperate to get the cat back in the house.

Dwight moved closer to Mike, however his eyes remained firmly locked on the neighbours’ patio. Just as it looked like he would do the bolt, Mike swooped down and grabbed him and quick as lightening, pulled the cat back inside. Hurrah! Dad, mum and I ran inside and we greeted Mike as he came downstairs with Dwight balled up in his arms. The cat was freezing to the touch, and we were all relieved that we found the shit head and he was back indoors where he belonged after being out on the roof for a good couple of hours.

Since then, we came to the conclusion that Dwight was quite happy outside, it was only when he heard Ripley eating his food that sent him into a panic and he began making noise to come back in. Following his adventure, he spent the next few days hiding under our bed. He has not set paw back outside, obviously for fear of Ripley eating his food on him.

Lesson of the story? I was right, Mike was wrong. I’m gonna sing the I Was Right song! Oh, and our cat is a dick (but we love him!)

 

Until next time!

 

Jasmine x

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A Haunting in the Hawkesbury

 

It was late 2008, during a Friday luncheon at the oldest hotel in Australia, the Macquarie Arms Hotel in Windsor, NSW; when my daughter Tilly (who was two years old at the time) had an encounter with one of the hotel’s residents – of the paranormal kind. But, before I go any further Dear Reader, I will first go into a brief history of the Macquarie Arms Hotel…

 

In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie had granted land to emancipated convict Richard Fitzgerald. The instruction given to Mr Fitzgerald by Governor Macquarie was for him to build a two-story hotel that would service the town of Windsor and provide accommodation to passing gentry. Mr Fitzgerald set to work, and in 1818 the Macquarie Arms was opened to the public. The hotel was also known as the Royal Hotel (1872-1900) and in its early years was occupied by the 73rd Regiment Red Coat Soldiers – who lived in the upper levels while down in the cellar, the convicts lived. The convicts managed to secure themselves access to rum, smuggling it up from the banks of the Hawkesbury River through the aptly named “Rum Smugglers Tunnels” to keep themselves merry and warm whilst living in the cellar.

Later, the Macquarie Arms would become a private residence before reverting back into a hotel.

With such longevity, it goes without saying that the hotel has a life within it. Tales of ghosts are inevitable in a place so old and so worn as the Macquarie Arms. From reports of seeing soldiers on the upper levels, to run-ins down in the cellar with convict brothers Richard and Fitzpatrick, who met an explosive demise in the cellar thanks to an incorrect mix of chemicals in their endeavour to make rum. Then there are the stories of little Mary who lived in the main bedroom on the second floor and at seven years of age, had perished in a fire that had trapped her on the upper floor of the hotel.

Back to late 2008 and the luncheon. I had been to the Macquarie Arms a few times prior to getting married and having children, but this was the first time going there with our daughter. At the time I was also pregnant with our son Mish, and as a stay at home mum with a rambunctious toddler and another bub on the way, I was looking forward to eating a meal that I had not prepared, and spending time in the company of other adults. I love the Macquarie Arms Hotel, as I walked through the gate I looked down at the well-worn steps (it was the last time I was able to see my feet and the ground beneath me before the big belly swell) and found myself wondering about all the people that had stepped through over the 190 years the hotel had been standing. Tilly, holding my hand, leapt up over the big step with ease and she began to try and wrestle herself free of my grip, wanting to march right through the front entrance on her own.

Stepping through the entrance, Tilly and I stood and waited for my husband to arrive. Whilst waiting, I looked at the lunch time menu deciding I would have one of everything (what? I was eating for two!) and when I looked down at Tilly to ask her what she would like from the children’s menu, I found her engaged in chatter with someone off to our right in the dining room. She was smiling, waving and saying “Hi! My name is Tilly!” She would wave again and let out a giggle. She then put her little hand over her eyes and went “peek-a-boo!” Hmmmm…okay. I sidled back so I could see into the dining room to see who she was talking to. I couldn’t see anyone there. I walked over, holding Tilly’s hand and stood in the doorway of the dining room. It was empty save for tables and chairs. Tilly was still chatting away to someone…something…

“Imaginary friend” I thought as my husband arrived and we proceeded upstairs and onto the balcony that faced over towards the Hawkesbury River.

Tilly and I were seated on the end of the table closest to the doorway into the hotel. We were facing the direction toward the far end of the balcony and the river. Tilly, in her high chair looked about and then her gaze settled on the far corner of the balcony. She smiled and immediately began waving and saying “Hello! Hello again man!” I followed her gaze and the corner was empty. I wanted in on this, so I asked her who she was talking to. “That man” she said, pointing over to the corner. “What man?” I asked, the hairs on my arms began to stand up. “The man there in the red coat. See?” No, I didn’t, I didn’t see, couldn’t see, but it did not mean that something was not there. Her face told me that there was something, someone standing right there, and they too were interacting with her.

Then as lunch was served, Tilly, who had been happily chatting away to the “man in the red coat” suddenly waved in the direction of the corner and said “bye-bye!” and that was it. She turned her attention to her food and made a stellar mess of the kid’s serving of spaghetti bolognaise, turning herself orange and smelling of tomato sauce. Over lunch, I quietly informed my husband, who has a very weak disposition when it comes to all things spooky of what had just transpired, and he instead chose to cling to the hope it was just an imaginary friend and she was just being a typical toddler. I decided to think of it as that way too, until it came to her afternoon nap when we got home from the lunch. As I sat on the side of her bed patting her to sleep, she sleepily said; “He was a soldier…” and with that she rolled over and was sound asleep.

BOOM! (or should that be BOOOOO!) Paranormal activity right there!

Fast forward to last Friday evening where after spending all day cooped up in my home office working, decided to drag the kids out and head into Windsor to stock up on candy from the lolly shop and maybe grab some dinner whilst in town. Satisfied with our candy stockpile, we wandered down in the direction of the restaurants that sit adjacent from the Hawkesbury River. We were intending on having stir-fry, but as we approached, I found myself looking across the road at the Macquarie Arms Hotel. I had not been there since that lunch in 2008 and I knew that we had to go there for dinner instead. The kids were immediately sold on the proposal – they know all too well of Tilly’s encounter and the history of the hotel, and they were now hoping to see if the soldier or one of the other ghostly occupants would make themselves known over a chicken schnitzel, fish and chips and a bowl of spaghetti bolognaise, washed down with a few glasses of lemon squash (lemonade for my dear overseas readers) while seated in the exact same place we were sitting in back in 2008.

 

Unfortunately for whatever reason, the ghosties did not feel in the mood to join us for dinner – however this did not stop those of us alive from engaging in a discussion on all things paranormal in the Hawkesbury region. I was telling the kids about other stories I have read regarding the paranormal activities in this area – and there are plenty of stories and first (second, third… ) hand accounts available on line should you wish to investigate it further (I have provided some links on the Hawkesbury region and paranormal accounts for your further reading pleasure).

Although we were stood up by the spirits, I did take the opportunity to take some photos of the upper level of this beautiful building. I will be honest – I was hoping to capture a flash of a human shape or an orb, but no luck (I did get the tip of my shoe in the photo of the staircase, but that does not count). I will however, in the near future be looking at going on a local history/ghost tour of Windsor so you just may never know what I will see then… I will keep you all posted!

Jasmine x

IMG_4738

Sunset over the Hawkesbury River

*All photos are mine, and were taken using my trusty old iPhone 6S Plus – JJ

Links for further reading:

http://www.macquariearms.com.au/history/

http://www.discoverthehawkesbury.com.au/heritage/heritage-trails

https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/85930517

https://www.hawkesburygazette.com.au/story/3905753/the-ghost-of-the-regent/

http://unexplainedaustralia.com/21-ghosts-hauntings/68-wisemans-ferry-ghosts

 

 

First Crush…

Pickles and Squish

As a mum, I get to be there for my kids as they experience their first moments. Most of these –  their first word, first solid belly laugh, first crawl, step, walk, solid food, day of school, etc… have been filled with joy and excitement. However recently, we had some firsts that were not pleasant…

 
A few weeks into the new school year, my 11 (almost 12!)-year-old daughter would greet me after school and tell me all about this new boy in her class. He was nice to her, he was funny, he had the same interests as her (anime, video games and science geeks). It was when she started to mention things like his nice hair, his smile and the colour of his eyes that I tweaked and realised that what I was witnessing was my daughter’s first crush. She was smitten with this boy and to me he sounded like a decent kid. I thought it was cute the way she would blush and go coy when I mentioned his name, and how she would smack her little brother when he teased her about her crush. Watching and listening to her, made me think of my first crush when I was her age. His name was Jeff, and he had come over from America and started year 6 in my class. At the time I, and every other girl in my year 6 class would go all dreamy-eyed whenever he was around. He was to us in 1993, what Johnny Depp was to girls back in the 80’s. Jeff never paid me any attention though – unlike my daughter who bears an uncanny resemblance to Audrey Hepburn and Emma Watson, I was more Pippi Longstocking meets Punky Brewster.

 
But I digress. As time went on, my daughter thought that this boy really liked her, and she started to develop more than a crush on him, until one afternoon when it all fell down.

 
I picked her and her brother up from school, and as I approached where they were sitting, I noticed that my daughter was sitting there looking sad and confused, whilst her little brother was jumping around and playing with the toy dinosaur he had snuck in his bag to school that day. I greeted them and as we walked back to the car I asked her what was wrong. She vented about the day’s event – this boy humiliated her in front of all her friends after she told him that she really liked him. He made fun of her and said that he didn’t like her, he was only hanging around her because he likes her best friend. Mumma Bear was not happy, and I felt my chest tighten as I saw her face crumple. I did my best to cheer her up and she assured me that she was okay and “over it, he is just a jerk anyway”, but I knew. I have had many a heart break over stupid boys who did the exact same thing to me growing up.

pexels-photo-14303.jpeg
Later that night when I was sitting in the lounge room reading, my daughter came downstairs to sit with me. I looked at her and I saw her eyes filled with tears, her bottom lip trembled, and she sobbed “no mum, I am not okay. It hurts. My heart hurts.” I scooped her up and just hugged her as she cried. I wanted to rip into this boy for being so cruel towards my daughter who had been nothing but kind to him, the new kid in the school, in her class. When she settled down, I shared my own experience with “jerk boys” and we had a laugh as we made fun of all these boys. That Friday night we set up a girl’s night, were we ate copious amounts of spaghetti bolognaise, sour candy, ice cream and chocolates as we binged-watched Gilmore Girls on Netflix (my daughter loves Dean, and hopes to one day when she is older find her Dean to her Rory).

 

As we watched the show, we talked about this boy and I supported her decision to have nothing to do with him, or her now former best friend (who had joined in the taunting with this boy – further hurting her). I made it clear to her that I had her back and fully supported anything she wanted to do. Back at school, she stuck to her guns and I stood by her. Her former best friend wanted to know why my daughter didn’t hang around her anymore. The boy wanted to know why she would avoid him like the plague. Her teacher noticed the behaviour and my daughter explained what was going on, and her teacher (who is the coolest teacher ever) supported my daughter too. Soon she had bounced back and was happy.

 
With that “first” now behind me, I was soon confronted with another painful first to deal with – this time being my 9-year-old son. After school we head over to a park to play and burn off extra energy. Whilst my daughter was on the swings, my son on the jungle gym equipment, I sat down on the bench in the shade to keep an eye on the kids. My son though was just out of my vision when his “first” happened. One minute I see him on the platform, the next he comes limping over to me, doubled up, pale and his hands clasped down over his…yep. He had crushed his boy parts for the very first time. I led him over to the bench, tears welled in his eyes, and between gasps, he was able to tell me that he had slipped on the ladder and his legs went either side of the ladder rung. Bang. Whilst I don’t share the anatomy, I do share the agony as I guess it could be likened to that of childbirth.

 
I realised that I could help him through this – the breathing technique you learn in antenatal classes! I admit the breathing technique was not used once during either of my labours (I resorted to yelling, sobbing uncontrollably, pleading for a stand in to take my place and holding my breath in retaliation to being told no to the birth stand in), but now, right here on the park bench I could use it and use it I did! I became my son’s birthing partner – I talked him through the technique and we puffed, puffed, panted until colour returned to his face and he was able to unfurl from the foetal position. He continued the breathing until he was then able to sit upright, and the pain was nothing more than an ebb. I knew he was on the mend when he managed to shoot a glare and a terse “SHUT UP! IT’S NOT FUNNY! I COULD HAVE LOST MY NUTS!” to his sister who was watching the situation from the swing set, amused.

 
The next day I kept him home from school to take things easy and we watched movies and ate pizza shapes, ham and cheese sandwiches and drank lots of milo until he felt back to his normal self.

 
As for me, I have chalked these events up in the growing list of firsts for them, and I consider myself very blessed that I was able to be there for both of them when they needed me, to help them through their situations, and I hope they know that I will be there for them for everything that is yet to come their way.

 
Motherhood is awesome.

The Latest Fad…

Mish has a new obsession. Aliens, or to be more specific, Alien. It is all I hear about now. Friday night whilst trying to piece together my critical reflection piece for my uni subject, I was given the run down of the entire Alien franchise and cost comparisons of Alien figurines. I am pretty sure the odd reference to a xenomorph has made it’s way into my now already submitted piece. 😖

Yesterday the discussion continued as I dropped Mike off to meet up with his coworkers, did a quick grocery shop, and then tried to catch up on tutorials. Aliens, aliens, aliens. I could not catch a break – even when I went to the bathroom, Mish stood outside the door and demonstrated his Alien and Predator sounds. Nice. Meanwhile, Mike was partying up on a boat in the Sydney Harbour and Tilly had barricaded herself in her room to avoid the Aliens obsessed brother of hers.

It was relentless. By the time he went to bed my brain went into survival mode and shut down. Anything I had wanted to work on that day was now not going to happen because my brain could only muster enough cells to enable me to sit and stare at the tv as The Christmas Prince movie played (don’t ask me what it was about, I just saw blobs of colours and spent the movie preparing to scream at the first sight of a xenomorph).

I wake early this morning to fix myself a coffee and to sit and listen to some podcasts in peace and quiet as the family sleep in. I am excited. A break! I let Ripley out (the dog, not the Alien killer) and walk into the lounge with my cup of coffee. My eyes on my phone with the first podcast up and ready to play. Then I saw him. Mish was up. Bright eyed and sitting on the couch, looking at me. I just about died.

Me: “uh…good morning son.”
Mish: “good morning mum.”

I pause and wait for it… nothing…

Me: “would you like some breakfast?”
Mish: “yes please.”

Breakfast made, I sit down with my coffee. I turn the podcast app off because I know my fantasy of alone time whilst still coherent, just like my fantasy of Prince Harry leaving Meghan Markle for me, is never going to happen.

He swallows his first mouthful of cornflakes…

“Mum did you know that the protomorph is bigger than the xenomorph? I also think my request for a twenty nine, ninety five dollar Alien figure is more reasonable than Tilly’s request for the larger Queen Alien figure which retails for over one hundred dollars. Hey, do you know where the eyes are situated on the Alien’s head? Do you know the speed of which the Alien can project out it’s second mouth? Like, this fast…” he swings his arm out to demonstrate.

Oh boy. It is going to be another long day for me…

 

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 5

California Adventure is a step back into the California that Walt Disney arrived at when he first set about his path to Mickey Mouse. Stepping back into 1923 Los Angeles with buildings and characters of the like Walt encountered when he stepped of that tram. It is this side that you will encounter more recent Disney characters along with a theatre, animation studio, at the time of our visit the Tower of Terror was still operating, Cars Land and Bugs Land. Mish was a huge fan of the Cars movie so for him to see Lightning McQueen, Mater, Luigi, and the others driving around and posing for photographs was more than his little heart could bear. The first time he saw Lighting as he slowly drove by, he burst into tears “because he is REAL!” When we went to get our photo with Lightning, Mish slowly approached, gave the car a pat and then a hug. During the day we went on Lugi’s tyre ride, through the underground with the bugs – the 4D Bug’s Life theatre was so much fun. You get sprayed at by termites, “stung” by wasps and have roaches run under your bottom!

There is a water park feature which was fantastic in the Californian summer heat. The kids got absolutely drenched and loved every moment of it. We saw the performance of Aladdin at the theatre, which was AMAZING! The actor who played Genie was so very much like the late and great Robin Williams, he would have been proud of this actor. He had everyone laughing and cheering along. Over near the massive Mickey ferris wheel we jumped on the Little Mermaid ride (located in Pacific Pier) before making our way to meet up with Woody, Buzz and the gang from Andy’s room in Toy World. Jesse spent some time with Tilly and Mish as we waited to meet Woody and Buzz, she took them over to look at the water and the roller coaster that would whoosh past, filled with screaming laughter, and ironically the ride is called California Screamin’.

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Eventually they got to meet and have photos with Buzz and Woody, Mish was a little nervous at first. The Toy Story ride/shoot em’ up laser game is a lot of fun. Mike and Tilly versus Mish and me, we jumped into our carts and made our way through the course, hitting our targets, getting sprayed with water and cold air. Very competitive and the kids got right into it. We stopped for lunch, some more gift shopping and then more rides. We finished off the night with the Radiator Springs Racers ride. Out of all the rides, this one had the longest queue time, and by that stage Mish had fallen asleep in my arms as we slowly made our way down the line to the ride. It was worth the wait though – like Space Mountain, it is a fast ride and it is incredibly fun (all rides as Disney Land are fun). Afterwards we walked through the neon-lit Radiator Springs towards the pier for the World of Colours show. Wow. Absolutely stunning and a spectacular way to wrap up our short stay. Disney never does anything by halves, and I have not seen a light show that comes close to what we watched that night.

At the end of the night, as fireworks lit up the sky, we said goodbye to an amazing experience. A final photo with Pluto, and we walked out of the park. The kids loved every minute of it. Mike and I loved every minute of it. It was definitely money well spent. The memories will last a lifetime. Growing up on Disney movies, as a kid I was forever drawing the characters – telling myself that one day I would be an animator for Disney. Well, I never achieved that, but I did get to go and spend some time at the Happiest Place on Earth, and that is just as good for me. Mike and I have made a vow that we will return one day, and now that the kids are older we will be able to stretch out our visit, taking in more of Anaheim and surrounds.

If you ever get the chance to visit Disneyland I highly recommend it. Especially if you have kids – you get to live the experience through their eyes and it is like reliving your childhood all over again.

Remember:

*Space Mountain is a very fast ride!

*Get a photo pass card. As you go through the park there are photographers with the characters. The photographer scans your card, and takes your photos. At the end of your visit you can log onto your account, select the photos you want and download them or have them sent to you on a CD (this is what we did).

*Hug as many characters as you can!

For more information check out: http://www.disneyland.disney.go.com

The End 🙂

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 4

Sleep we did – we slept through our alarm by an hour and we quickly got up, got the kids showered and dressed for the day and out the door to walk to Disneyland. Even surrounded by shops filled with Disney products and buses driving past us with Disney emblazoned on them, it didn’t twig with the kids as to what was going on. That was, until we actually entered the park and approached the ticket booth to pick up our pre-paid tickets. Standing in the centre, with the original Disney park to our right and on our left the California Adventure park, and in front was the iconic Mickey Mouse flower bed, behind it the train station with people hopping on to the little train, the penny dropped and both kids dissolved in excitement.

 

You really can’t describe the atmosphere – it is truly something else. I found it hard to believe that I was about to enter Disneyland with our kids. Mike had been when he was a kid, but it was a first for me. All of a sudden the jet lag vanished and I was ready to race off and have fun. So were the kids. We headed down Main St U.S.A – Main Street was a hive of activity. Quaint little shops selling various treats and trinkets, abound. We picked up Mickey Ear hats for the kids and some sunscreen. Then it was over the drawbridge of Sleeping Beauty’s castle into Fantasyland, stopping to take a photo of our feet surrounding the first nail to be set in the ground for the park. We stood in the shade and looked at the map, where would we go first? Easy. New Orleans Square! Our first ride at Disneyland was the Pirates of the Caribbean ride – and yes, it had been kitted out with Jack Sparrow animatronics much to the delight of the women (and maybe some men) on the ride!

 

The kids screamed and laughed their way through the first ride. Mike and I gave each other a high five – this was going to be a great day. We walked through New Orleans, looking in the gift shops. Making our way round to the next ride on our list – the Haunted Mansion. This, I think, would be my favourite ride. Walking up through the ghoulish garden that is filled with tombstones of people and pets, something would move out of the corner of your eye. The lines moved very quickly, and we were led through the foyer of the mansion and into the parlour room. Surrounded by portraits, all eyes on you, when all of a sudden the floor drops and you feel yourself going down, down, underground. Lights flicker and dark voices whisper, groan and laugh. Tilly, who has a thing for the macabre laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Mish clung to me, he wasn’t too keen on the falling down. We were then taken from the parlour room and down through the halls to our little carriages. The portraits on the walls began moving now. Faces changed from flesh to skulls as we moved by. Tilly and I jumped into one carriage, Mike and Mish on the one behind us. The carriages led you down through the mansion, past corpses, and talking heads. In one room sits a table with a crystal ball and the gypsy’s head appears within the crystal ball, her glowing green eyes – she looks at you and gives you warning. But you can’t escape, and she laughs as you are whisked further on towards the ballroom. You look down at a large table covered with food and decorations. When you lift your eyes up, dancing high above are ghosts, waltzing around your head. Some will fly past you, howling, talking, laughing and singing.

The guide informs you that you have made it through and you will be out on the other side soon enough. You leave the ballroom and your carriage locks in and you slowly glide past a mirrored wall. Then you see it. Sitting right behind you in your carriage is a hitchhiker of the paranormal kind. Your own ghost who has decided to jump in and try and leave the mansion with you. It was brilliant, and the look on our kids’ faces was priceless!

 

It took us the whole day to cover all the rides in that part of the park. The kids met Disney characters – the Briar Fox pulled Tilly’s hat down over her head and tweaked her nose to the delight of Mish. Winnie the Pooh came up for hugs. Mike quite liked the Princesses. Ride after ride, feeling more and more like a kid again – all the worries of adulthood long gone. Mike and I were immersed in the world of play and imagination with the kids. We hugged every character we came across, we yahooed on every ride. We chowed down on burgers, hot dogs, corn dogs, fairy floss, hot chips and soft drink (with lots of water!) There were carts filled with fresh fruit and bottles of juice and water available. The kids would snack on fruit between rides. When I saw the tea cup ride I lost it – for as long as I can remember I had always wanted to go on the tea cup ride – and we did! You could not wipe the smile off my face.

 

The kids loved the It’s a Small World ride, the little singing dolls from around the world, and by the end of it Tilly and Mish were singing along and continued to sing the song for the rest of the day. Mickey met us in his house and insisted on having his photo taken with us, he was a bit cheeky too, mucking around with the kids.

 

We would have little rest breaks, sunscreen top ups, water refills. There are plenty of benches and quiet places to stop for a rest. We finished the first day off with Tomorrowland. As we were walking in to Tomorrow Land we were approached by a mum and her daughter, they wanted to know if we would go on Space Mountain with them. They had a fast pass but it was for 6 people, they needed another 4 more in order to go. I eagerly agreed, telling Mike as we went with the mum and her daughter to the fast pass line that the ride was nothing more than an optical illusion. That you don’t actually move fast, it is the lighting that makes you feel like you are going fast. Oh my God no. No. It is not an optical illusion. It really does tear you through space and time. I clung to Mish for dear life – it was probably a blessing that he was not tall enough to see over the carriage front (but he was tall enough to go on the ride). Tilly was white-knuckled gripping the safety bar, her eyelids peeled back by the speed of the ride as it zipped us side to side, up and down. Mike sat up straight, stiff upper lip throughout the ordeal.

 

When the ride finished we thanked the mum and her daughter. I was twitching, Tilly’s eyes had dried out so much she couldn’t blink and her eyebrows had been lifted up to her hair line so she looked like she was frozen in a state of surprise. Mish hopped out and looked at Mike and me and squealed “that was fun! Can we go again?” Tilly turned and looked at Mish and he pulled back in horror at her frozen expression. He had his answer.

 

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By the time we left the park on the first day it was just after midnight. On the way out we enjoyed the fireworks over the castle and then popped into a gift shop in Main St and picked up some little souvenirs, and the kind lady behind the counter upon learning that we had just come off Space Mountain, gifted the kids with “badges for their bravery”. It was really lovely. We stopped off at IHOP for a quick late night bite before walking back to the hotel.

 

As we approached the hotel, there were cop cars all over the road, cops out and walking around and a man was sitting on the kerb, hands cuffed behind his back, answering questions from a cop. I won’t lie, in my head I immediately began singing the Bad Cops song, and kept an eye out for a camera crew. This could be our first cameo! No cameras, but as we walked by the suspect and the cop, Mish points to the man on the ground and says “you’re going to jail!” The cop tried not to crack a grin as he motioned for Mish to keep it down. No camera crew. Would have made for great TV. Just sayin’.

The next day was our rest day – all that walking (and remember I had recently broken my toes) had worn us out, so it was to be a day of rest. We stocked up on snacks and games from the little shop nearby and relaxed in our cool hotel room. I indulged in the many television channels, watched the local news, read some magazines. When it got a little cooler outside we walked over to a shopping complex and had a look around. Subway for dinner and an early night in preparation for the second part of our Disney adventure the following day.

To be continued…

 

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 3

It was around midday and we had some time up our sleeve before we could check into our hotel, so Mike wanted to show us Santa Monica (he has been to LA a few times with his work, so he knows his way around). The kids were amazed at the amount of traffic around us. I was enthralled by the art deco buildings around LA and Santa Monica – that old Hollywood vibe. It was a beautiful day for us to arrive into LA, they must’ve known we were coming and they turned on the charm!

We got a car park at Santa Monica pier and we wandered down the boardwalk. We stood at the end of the boardwalk and looked out at the ocean, hard to believe that we were now so far away from Australia, it felt very surreal. The kids were impressed by the “mega seagulls” that plodded along (they are huge over there). We had lunch on the boardwalk and the kids went on their very first rollercoaster rides at Pacific Park. Tilly and I took on the big rollercoaster while Mike and Mish went on the pirate ship one. We played games, explored the big dragon’s head, before making our way over to check into our hotel.

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We had booked a room at the Castle Inn Suite, Anaheim. It is situated across the road from Disneyland, and the rates were really good at the time (August 2012). It was neat, tidy and walking distance to the park. Along the road were restaurants and diners, little convenience stores filled with Disney merchandise too. The kids loved the big knight that stands in the foyer (he is pretty cool). We checked in and went up to our room. The plan was for us to keep ourselves awake until after dinner in an attempt to set our body clocks. The jet lag was kicking in. Yawning, bleary eyed, all four of us made the mistake of flopping down on our beds. Next minute we know it is almost midnight when we are wide awake on Australia time. Noooo!

All I can say is thank goodness for IHOP for being open to serve dinner at midnight. We went in hungry and came out full to the eyeballs – the small portion over there would equal the large here in Australia. What I really loved was the waitress who immediately poured me a cup of coffee – the first one I had had since leaving Townsville. It was amazing, and even more so when she informed me that the refills were FREE! Cue my happy dance! With full bellies and caffeine levels replenished, we headed back to the hotel to try and go back to sleep for a few more hours before we were to head out to Disneyland.

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To be continued…

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 2

I spent that day icing my foot and trying to rest it, which is hard to do when you have to take the eldest to and from school and keep up with a very active 3 year old. I just hoped that it would settle by the time we had to board the first flight the next day. It didn’t. I ended up hobbling onto the plane with my foot strapped up and held in tight by my Converse sneaker. It worked – my foot handled the flights from Townsville to Brisbane, Brisbane to Los Angeles and then Los Angeles to Toronto.

Broken toes aside, the first flight was uneventful. Townsville to Brisbane is a relatively quick flight. Once in Brisbane we collected out luggage and then made the trek over to international terminal. I loved that I wasn’t lugging a baby on the hip, a stroller, booster seat, nappy bags this time round. Both the kids walked with us, holding our hands, on their backs they carried their own little carryon bags. It was definitely less stressful. We checked in for our flight to LA, headed over to the lounge to rest before being called to board the flight. This is where the fun began.

I was seated with the kids on the left side of the cabin. Mike was over on the right side of the cabin, the centre aisle separating us. No biggie, the kids are older, we have our bags, there is inflight entertainment (I was stoked to see that Virgin Australia had gaming consoles in their seats!) I didn’t have to change nappies this time, so bathroom trips would be easy. We can do this. As I settled the kids in their seats, I looked over at Mike who had already set himself up in his seat with his books, crosswords, headphones on and was listening to music. Take off, the kids and I squished our faces into the little window to watch Australia slip away from under us. Mish was thrilled to be on a plane again. Tilly was excited to be on her way to Canada to see the grandies. I set up the inflight entertainment consoles for the kids. Tilly played games and Mish watched cartoons. All was going well. Food was served and they ate their meals, happy, happy – this was easy! Then came the toilet times and the little walks up and down the aisles to stretch legs. As the hours rolled on, sun coming and going, the kids good graces started to wear thin. They wanted out. It was enough now being crammed in such a small space for so long. When they slept, they slept on me which made it hard for me to sleep. I sat under a crumple of kids, looking across the cabin at my husband who was enjoying a snack, cold drink and a movie. Laughing to himself. Then he would be reading. Or sleeping. Lucky him.

We finally started the descent into Los Angeles. As the kids stirred and returned to their seats next to me, I looked out the window and caught my breath. I was actually going to be in Los Angeles! No freaking way! I looked at the highways – bumper to bumper cars. I saw the Hollywood sign. I saw the LAX airport. My red eyes were wide open, my sleep deprived brain was now on hyper alert. We were landing. I looked over at Mike who was waking up now and getting his seat back upright and tucking his belongings back into his bag. He looked nice and fresh as a daisy.

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When we disembarked, I was bursting with excitement. I was looking about in the hope to spot a celebrity – not that I would approach them, I had had no sleep in over 24 hours and looked like I had been dragged through a hedge. I just wanted to see a celebrity in their natural habitat.

LAX is HUGE! We were herded into the lines for customs, dragging our luggage along, passports out and ready with the customs declarations. As we approached the counter, Mish decided he was going to make a break for it and he bolted through the gates and past an armed guard. Mike just about had heart failure and ran after Mish as I handed the passports over to the customs rep, apologising for our son’s attempt to enter their country illegally. Mike returned with Mish under his arm. We were stamped up and welcomed into America. We made our way out of the terminal and into the bright LA sunshine to catch the bus to the car hire company.

Outside the noise hit us. Hustle and bustle on a scale that we were not used to – even coming from Sydney and Brisbane. A limousine pulled up and a smartly dressed chauffer got out and went around to the passenger side to wait for their pick up. He was set upon by photographers and journalists, holding recording devices out at the ready. This was it! I was going to see a celebrity. Would it be a Kardashian? An A-list actor? A musician? Tilly and Mish were standing with me watching the melee going on. Mike was struggling with the luggage trolley. All of a sudden he lost his grip and our luggage spilled out onto the road. In his Canadian-Australian accent, he loudly exclaimed “FARKIN’ HELL!” So loud, I was sure that the gathering crowd over at the limo would hear. I quickly helped him pick up our bags, getting them off the road in time as the bus finally rolled up. On the bus, the kids and I were still watching the limo to see who the fuss was for, but unfortunately we will never know as the bus rounded the corner, leaving the airport before we could see who was stepping out the airport terminal door.

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

 To be continued…

 

Memories of the Happiest Place on Earth Pt 1

It was August 2012. After months of planning, preparing and excitement, Mike and I had booked and were on our way to surprising our kids (then aged 3 and 6 years) with a stopover in LA to visit Disneyland on our way to Canada for a family wedding.

Travelling with kids is an adventure in itself. The amount of careful planning and manoeuvring that is involved in getting a child or children ready for a trip away is an art form that over the years I felt I had had a good grasp on. Prior to this trip overseas, we had been to Canada for our daughter’s first birthday, and we had made numerous flights to Darwin and North Queensland with both kids as babies and toddlers. This time there would be no nappies, no baby food, no bottles, no stroller, no port-a-cot, and no baby bag.

First up we had to get the passports done. Tilly’s baby passport had expired since her previous trip to Canada, and Mish had not had a passport yet. It was like herding cats in the photo shop. Tilly kept tilting her head, posing more like she was sitting for a clothing catalogue shoot than a passport photo. I would lean in and hold her head up and facing forward, yet just as I would let go for the photographer to get the photo, she would tilt her head, drop a shoulder and smile, her fringe flopping down over her eyes. Eventually we got a photo of her that would be suitable. Next was Mish. Now getting a 3 year old to sit and stare down the lens of the camera is near on impossible. After each photo, we would see he was looking up, down, at his sister, eyes closed, mouth open, and tongue sticking out, tears and temper tantrum and the best one – just the top of his head as he slid off the stool to leave the shop as he had had enough. With Mike, myself, the photographer and retail assistant, we managed to pin him still for a photo.

Passports were sent off and processed. Mike had his leave from work approved. I finalised my last lot of freelance articles ready for me to take a little break from work myself. I pulled the suitcases out ready to be filled and we set about booking the airfares to Canada. Now, we were originally looking at just going to Canada, but it just so happened that on Foxtel, the TLC channel was running a series on Disney parks and Mike and I were glued to the show. Maybe? No. But what if we? We couldn’t possibly! How about we? Hmmmm… So we looked into it and crunched the numbers and decided that it would be a nice surprise for the kids to break up the travel over to Canada with a few days in California, in particular at Disneyland. The more we looked into it, the more we watched this show, the more excited about it we became. So we booked our airfares to include the stop in America, we booked accommodation near Disneyland and the hire car for the few days. Much excitement filled the Jarvis house following the bookings.

Two nights out from our flights was when I set about packing the bags – the kids had no idea that we were going to visit Disney Land – I put on You Tube videos of the Disney park experience as I set about sorting, folding and packing everything we would need for the trip over. As I zipped up the last suitcase, I turned the TV off and went to get up and go to bed. I stood up and as I stepped over the suitcase, my right foot connected with the metal bracing at the base of the suitcase. Internally screaming so as not to wake the family, I limped off to bed. The next morning, the day before we were to fly out, my foot was a mess. Swollen, bruised down the outer side and my two little toes were completely mangled. I had broken them! I didn’t think I hit the suitcase that hard, but I did and now I was stressing out over my big fat ugly foot and manky toes. This was not good.

To be continued….