From the Vault # 2 – Motherhood: Instructions not included

Seeing as it is Mother’s Day today, I thought it would be fitting to share a speech I had written and delivered at a Womens Expo in October 2013.

 

Motherhood: Instructions not included.

23 Oct 2013

Good morning. My name is Mrs. Matilda and Hamish’s mum…or Jasmine for short. I was invited today to share my experience as a stay at home mum.

With my youngest ready to start school next year, I have found myself reflecting on the past seven years as a stay at home mum; what I have learnt, and what is yet to come. It is a bittersweet moment for me as I’ve watched my babies grow and start school. At times testing, motherhood is a very rewarding role. You learn to parent as you go along. There will be many a long day and sleepless nights, but all will be worth it in the long run. All your preconceived notions of parenthood will change – just go with the flow.

During my time as a stay at home mum, I have learnt the following:

Despite your mother-in-law informing you after you find out you are pregnant that all her babies were over nine pounds, your obstetrician will only laugh at you when you request to have an epidural eight months in advance…Oh how he laughed…

Pregnancy and baby books are guides only. Your instincts should be listened to always. No one knows your baby better than you.

Celebrity magazines lie! Your abs will not immediately reappear after giving birth. Don’t pack midriff tops in your hospital bag. Embrace the tummy, for it is there for bub to rest on when feeding and cuddling. Enjoy your new baby and please don’t stress about losing the weight.

If your baby is breast fed, don’t stand with them near busty statues or store mannequins. Babies are very opportunistic!

When you become a mum, you will soon learn to understand the meanings of your baby’s and husband’s cries.

Your clothes make the best wipes for little grubby hands and runny noses.

Teething pain can be eased by biting mum, hard.

Sometimes going out can wait, and it is better to have a feed, nappy change and sleep instead. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

I know every word of every song by The Wiggles, and while I felt bad for Sam, I was secretly happy to see Greg return as the Yellow Wiggle.

I can now speak basic Spanish thanks to Dora the Explorer, and if I am ever in doubt, I sing out for map or backpack. Never trust Swiper the Fox. Ever.

Whilst funny at first, blueberries are not meant to be stuck up nostrils.

If it has shelves, it will be climbed.

If it is a drawer, it will be emptied.

If it makes noise and lots of it, then it is the best thing ever. If it is too quiet, whine at mum before crawling off for the pots and pans cupboard.

If something is broken then get mum to fix it. If you broke it, hide it and blame your sibling when mum finds it.

Walls are great for drawing on. When mum gets cranky just remember that everyone’s a critic and go find another crayon.

As a mum you will get to know the staff at the poisons info hotline on a first name basis. And if your toddler finds and eats six herbal kids’ cold and flu tablets, their poop will be fluorescent green for the next week.

Two words: stain remover.

If your toddler has lost their favorite toy, it will be in your handbag. If you have lost your phone, purse or car keys, they will be in the toilet.

When your toddler no longer requires nap time during the day, they handle the change better than mum!

Nudie runs after bath time are a must. For those of you wanting to have a baby, I recommend you try bathing and worming a feral cat whilst wrestling an octopus to get an understanding of what it is like to bathe and clothe a toddler.

Let your toddler dress themselves. Miss-matched socks, shoes, clashing colours and prints with scruffy hair will all make for some great photos to show on their 18th birthday.

You will never know the excitement like that of when your toddler starts using the potty. I would then also liken the nerves of going shopping with a newly potty trained toddler to that of a bomb squad trying to diffuse a bomb. Only a matter of time before an explosion.

Don’t read Roald Dahl’s The Witches to your toddler. They will begin to publicly accuse every elderly lady of being a witch!

Play-doh, dirt, cat food, shoes and foliage from the botanic gardens are all part of the toddlers essential diet.

Cereal tastes better for dinner.

An audience in the bathroom becomes normal.

“Hide and seek is the greatest game!” said no mum ever.

Mum cuddles and kisses fix everything. Stop and listen to what your children are wanting to tell you. If you listen to your children, they will listen to you.

My daughter believes cleaning gives you wrinkles “Mum you clean all the time and you have lots of wrinkles!” Thank you Tilly, I love you too.

After explaining why the boy guinea pigs need to be spayed, my daughter later informed me that when she gets married she will get the vet to spay her husband. So cute…She thinks we are going to let her get married. We’re not even going to let her date!

Little boys are fearless. When the floors are being mopped, it becomes the perfect opportunity to work on some epic parkour moves. You get bonus points if you can get mum to run across the damp tiles to catch you mid-leap.

Cars and dinosaurs take up shelf space in the fridge on hot days.

Broken collar bones heal in about six weeks. This means that in six weeks your son will be back on the trampoline trying to attempt the same somersault dismount that broke his collar bone in the first place!

Fairies are real, and to get rid of monsters under the bed, spray them with water

Patience is a virtue. Eventually you will all get out of the house…once you find your son’s favorite pair of sneakers. In saying that, you start getting everyone ready to go out hours in advance!

Because I said so! Is a legitimate answer to your child’s constant questions.

Mum’s have superior conflict resolution skills, dispensing firm but fair justice. Also known as the “time out chair”.

Thank goodness for the game Angry Birds.

Your children laughing will make you laugh.

You learn to grocery shop like a ninja – quick enough before the kids realize that they have bypassed the toy aisle.

Saturday nights are the best because it is family movie night and camping in the lounge room.

Head lice are annoying, and treating outbreaks with mayonnaise will not only kill the lice but leave you craving for a salad.

White furniture makes parents uneasy. Delicate décor makes parents neurotic!

Be proud when people compliment your child’s good manners. Imagine how proud my husband and I felt when after dinner, both our children went to take their plates to the kitchen…did I mention we were dining at a restaurant?

Seven year old daughters thrive on drama and four year old sons thrive on causing it.

My motherhood motto has become “I don’t negotiate with terrorists”.

 

And finally…Your babies don’t stay little for long. So cuddle and kiss them often. Play games and laugh. Enjoy being with them. See the world new through their eyes. It goes by so fast. During the testing moments, remind yourself that this to, shall pass. Soon you will find yourself with a child ready to start school, and you will reflect on just how much you have both grown. Every night before you go to sleep, tell them you love them and kiss them good night. Every morning wake them with a kiss and tell them you love them, and just enjoy being a mum.

Thank you for listening.

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Being a mum is…

Every time I have to give Mish his dose of antibiotics I call it Fortnite Juice. He just had another dose…

Me: Cmon buddy! Here it is, Fortnite Juice time!

Mish: Mum. Stop. Stop calling it Fortnite Juice. Call it what it really is.

Me: Fine…

He opens his mouth and I pop the spoon of peach/orange colour medicine into his mouth.

Me: It’s goblin vomit.

Mish: 🤢

From the Vault: The Tooth Fairy

Way before I started this blog, I would post my stories on my personal Facebook page via the Notes application. I have decided that I will share these earlier posts here – one a week. I hope you enjoy!

21 June 2010

Tilly

My goofy girl Tilly – trying to convince the Tooth Fairy to pay up.

Hmmm. Parenting is no easy task and you are often faced with situations which require delicate, yet informative explanations – “cause I said so” does not gel with a three year old and her inquisitive little mind. I was faced with one of those moments the other day and I think I was not too clear on things as you will soon find out…

There is a cute little kid’s show called Charlie and Lola. One of Matilda’s favourite shows, not so for Hamish as there is no monster trucks. This particular episode, Lola had a loose tooth and her big brother Charlie set about explaining the Tooth Fairy. Lola was thrilled about the tooth/money exchange that was to take place, and so was Matilda as she turned to me and proceeded to check her own teeth for gum stability. A “Mum Moment” presented itself, and so I sat on the couch next to her to explain the story. As I opened my mouth, a little light bulb went off and I ran to my room and dug about in my little box of knick knacks where I just so happen to keep my first wisdom tooth in a plastic bio-hazard bag – serious! I returned to Tilly to find her now with one hand in her mouth, the other supporting the wrist and both feet up on either side attempting to get her savings account started. I sat down again and casually waved the bag in front of her eyes. She sat up and squinted at it. “It’s a tooth…my tooth” I explained. Fascinated, her eyes never left it, her little lips had curled back in a somewhat grossed out smile.

I started to explain how the Bank of Tooth Fairy works, that for each tooth that falls out – ON IT’S OWN ACCORD, gets placed under the pillow where the TF collects it, leaving you some money. From the tooth, they make great little portable houses, and despite the GFC, business is booming for TF Home Industries. Matilda asked why I still had my wisdom tooth, and I explained that this one was just for me, and I showed her the upper left side of my mouth from where it was yanked out by the dentist. I explained to her the roots, where the blood went in and how much sits inside the gum. Matilda was fascinated, and what I misinterpreted as excitement – but she was just eager to go to the potty. So with my Mum of the Year badge stuck to the back of my head, I sauntered into the kitchen to my eaves dropping husband. I had done well, we can tick the tooth fairy talk off the list of conversations.

Later that day, Matilda approached me, little hands clasped in front of her, her sweet little smile and crazy baby hair sticking out in all directions. She snuggled up to me on the couch. “Hey mum you know your tooth?” “Hmmmm” “Well can I borrow it to put under my pillow?” “Why?” “I want to buy a rainbow ice cream, but I only have ‘Fairy Money’ (lint from Mike’s belly button) and I need real money”. “Nooooooo. No. Nope. Noo-zaaa. That is mum’s tooth, the tooth fairy can only take YOUR teeth, and sweetie you still have quite some time to go till your baby teeth are ready to jump out”. I gave her a quick hug and she wandered off and Hamish resumed smacking my face with his matchbox car.

Since then, Matilda has come to the conclusion that if she can’t sell her teeth just yet, other things would surely be worth something on the Fairy Property Market and as such I have caught my daughter attempting to sway the TF’s interest with other items. Yesterday afternoon she snuck out of the kitchen, I was hot on her heels catching her out as she placed the organic, free-range egg under her pillow. Other items have been a tub of yogurt, shredded paper, lint, a pair of underwear, Mike’s squadron patches, her brother Hamish, a cat, and a pile of cat hair – all to no avail. In desperation she has taken to asking anyone if their teeth are going to fall out because she really, REALLY needs a rainbow ice cream. I think in lieu of a baby tooth, I am going to loan her my wisdom tooth and let her get that much needed ice cream on Thursday…Job Done!

 

⚠️ Mum’s Post ⚠️

⚠️ Warning: contains gross stuff! ⚠️

I have spent the past week dealing with a sick hubby, and on Wednesday my son joined the Man-Flu club. I am functioning on very little sleep as I am busy measuring out doses of medicine, making sure they are drinking water, encouraging Mish to eat “just one more spoonful of soup”, and soothing post coughing fits.

I have spent the past week camped out on the tiny couch – giving Mike the comfy bed to rest and recover on, and Mish gets the big couch so I can keep watch over him and have the sick bucket at the ready.

Mish has now reached the coughing up gunk stage of this virus and I have got him into the habit of spitting it up in the sick bucket. Last night he was sleeping better and Mike was not coughing and gakking as much so I decided to take my chances and go back to sleeping in our bed. I brought Mish in too so I could still keep an eye on him. I was looking forward to catching a moment of sleep in a natural sleeping position and not the current position of neck bent at 90 degree angle and legs hanging over the arm of the couch.

Sleeeeeeep! Come at meeeeeee!

Mish was tucked in between Mike and I. I settled down, stretched out and began to finally relax. As I started to drift off, Mish sat up straight, his eyes still closed – he turned and slightly leaned in my direction and he…

Spat. On. Me.

He hocked up a great big ball of phlegm right on my torso. As soon as he had cleared it he laid back down as if nothing had happened. Sound asleep. At first I was in disbelief “did he… did he just spit on me? No! Seriously? He did! Oh gross kid, cmon!!!” I jumped up and looked down at my pyjama top that now had a great big spit wad stuck to it. Through some gymnastic moves and twists I was able to remove the top without getting any of the gunk in my hair or on my face. I changed my top and decided to move Mish to the side of the bed with the bucket next to him.

Through all of this Mike just laid there laughing his head off.

Back in bed I was now pinned between Mike and Mish. I didn’t get any sleep. Mish spread himself out, arms and legs akimbo. Mike used me as a wedge – to prop him in a position on his side, so he wouldn’t roll over. My neck now has a crick in it. Mish somehow managed to drool on my face through the night and Mike kept farting on my right thigh.

I am thinking of booking myself a few nights in a hotel to try and catch up on sleep. Feeling and looking like a zombie 🧟‍♀️

Little Charlie Wheeler – A girl and her potter’s wheel.

 

*Rebecca and I met back in 2000 while undertaking our military training together, and despite being posted to different locations during our service careers, to this day we still remain close. I look at her as my sister, and she is Aunty Bec to my children.*

Rebecca is the super woman behind the bespoke farmhouse ceramics business Little Charlie Wheeler Handmade. All pieces are of her own design and made by her own hands in her private studio. Little Charlie Wheeler started up following the birth of her youngest child in 2015, and was initially based in Kallista, nestled in the beautiful Dandenong Ranges, Victoria Australia. Bec and her family have since made the big sea change to a gorgeous little town called Snug in Tasmania. It was no small feat for the move, through her updates I have learned how perilous it can be to relocate a potter’s equipment – it is quite a task to move and deliver a kiln – especially when it is transported over the sea to the Apple Isle!

The kiln arrived along with all her tools and now her husband Mark has been hard at work in refurbishing a shed to become the new Little Charlie Wheeler studio. As soon as it is all set and working, Bec will be back at the potter’s wheel crafting her beautiful farmhouse ceramics, and I for one cannot wait to see her back in her studio. You only have to check out her work on the business’ website to see her undeniable talent. She has an eye and knack for creating beautiful, timeless home wares and décor that will never go out of style, and they make for beautiful family heirlooms. Each piece is hand made, and she makes her own glazes; therefore no two pieces will be the same, so if you are after a unique gift/home wares, this is perfect. Her creations have featured in the Farmer Recipes and Stories from the Land cookbook (which aims to raise funds for our drought-stricken farmers here in Australia), and the Great Vegan Meals for the Carnivorous Family cookbook, and is also featured in the My Goodness Kitchen blog. Her work has also been captured by Patrick Varney Photography.

Now I admit I love event styling. I love everything about it. I started my foray into writing by freelancing for an events company, and I absolutely loved it as it opened the Pandora’s Box for me and I spent my time dreaming up ideas for weddings and parties, following celebrity events and having fun creating the visions for you, the dear reader. Event concept/styling is something I would love to get back into.

What I love with Little Charlie Wheeler is that I look at her work and I can see it, and would LOVE to have it featuring in rustic and farmhouse weddings (which are the current wedding trends right now). Some styling ideas would be: Little Charlie Wheeler’s planters and vases filled with native plants and flowers decorating the guest tables, wedding cake/dessert tables. Candle holders on the guest tables, or marking out the wedding aisle or ceremony table that the newlyweds sit at to sign their wedding certificate. Platters to serve the food; Little Charlie Wheeler spoons, small planter pots and vases could also make for cute and unique wedding favours. Bec’s use of natural, earthy tones and hues give you pieces that can work with any style, creating an understated chic and sophisticated look to any event.

Bec is currently hard at work researching, designing and preparing for when her studio is ready to operate again. Little Charlie Wheeler will be looking at expanding the product range to incorporate linens, handmade timber products, vintage finds (Bec is the Queen of vintage shopping) and she will also be moving into prop hire for stylist projects (any wedding planners and stylists here, raise your hand!). I can see that Bec and Little Charlie Wheeler will only go from strength to strength, and I am incredibly proud of her and what she has created (and I just want to brag and give her and Little Charlie Wheeler a shout out. I love ya Sis!)

 

You can follow Little Charlie Wheeler here on Instagram and Face Book:

Website:

http://littlecharliewheeler.com.au / email: info@littlecharliewheeler.com.au

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/littlecharliewheeler/

Instagram:

https://instagram.com/littlecharliewheeler?utm_source=ig_profile_share&igshid=4u1yfspwa8w9

 

Them new place feels.

We are coming up to two months in the new place since moving from Sydney to Brisbane over the Christmas period. And as usual, with a military move, nothing runs smoothly. The prepack and uplift in Sydney was pretty good, and we headed out on the drive up without any dramas. Doctor Who, our now senior guinea pig, survived the drive up and seemed to enjoy it. The kids had fun and it was an easy move up.

The down lift into the new house was quick. By mid afternoon we had all our belongings in and ready for us to start unpacking and sorting. This was the easiest, drama free move we have ever experienced. For me, growing up an Army brat, we had many a move with dramas – car breaking down, interesting accommodation stops (un-flushable poos in toilets, mounds of pubic hair in the shower drains, neighbouring guests playing the Lost Boys soundtrack on repeat as they sat outside and downed can after can of beer – just to mention a few), myself or one of my three brothers getting sick, my mum suffered hyperemesis gravidarum on our posting from Darwin to Sydney – she was so sick in the temporary accommodation in Sydney as we waited for our house to be ready for us to move into.

The first afternoon in the new place we went and picked Ripley and Dwight up from the pet resort where they had been enjoying their own little holiday as the rest of us drove up to Brisbane. Dwight was quite confident exploring the new home, for a cat he is very un-catlike. Ripley lost her cool when she saw her new massive back yard (our place in Sydney had a yard the size of a postage stamp – it was really small). So, to watch her take off and do zoomies around the big space was awesome. She trotted to the back door, tongue hanging out, tail wagging – a very happy German Shephard!
We had the house sorted out quick, and Mike and I were stoked at how smoothly this move had gone and how nicely we were settling into our new place. We had gone out and bought the school supplies, high-fiving each other at how great this was all turning out.

Then Ripley started scratching at her ears. She started shaking her head a lot. Her head then remained tilted. We took her to the vet where it was discovered she had a severe ear infection in both ears that would require her ears to be flushed out and treated. Okay, nothing too major. We booked her in for the day procedure and the week leading up to it she was on a course of steroids to help open her ear canals in preparation for the procedure. The morning of, I took her in and filled out the paperwork. The vet explained exactly what they would be doing and what the after care will be. Easy. They then took her into the surgery to get her ready and I went back home to wait out for the call to say she was ready to come back home. I got the call, but it wasn’t to say she was ready to come home. Whilst cleaning her right ear, the vet found a large haematoma that would require draining. Alright, drain away. Later that evening we were finally able to go and bring her back home. She was groggy but her ears were now clean, and her right ear had a collection of stents in them to help with the draining out of the haematoma. On the way out of the clinic, the nurse gave us a cone to use on Ripley if she started scratching at her ears – we didn’t want her to pop the stitches in her ear.

Turns out Ripley was the best patient; not once did she scratch at her ears. Dwight on the other hand was proving to be the difficult one. He was determined to get at Ripley’s stitched up ear, and this is where we put the cone to good use – not on Ripley, but we placed the cone over Dwight to contain him – stop him from trying to help clean out Ripley’s ears. It worked!

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The only way we could keep Dwight away from Ripley’s ear.

So, a minor blip on the road to settling in. No big deal. We moved onwards. The kids started school, and as expected there were tears and frustration at missing their friends and school from Sydney. To help them adjust, Mike took them over to a co-worker’s place for a swim in their pool and a barbecue lunch. The co-worker’s son is in the same class as Mish, and his daughter was attending the same high school as Tilly. I stayed at home in order to get the school lunch baking done and to catch up on an assignment. I was going to go out later that night to meet some other military wives, hoping to make some new friends.

I missed the dinner.

Instead I was sitting with Tilly and Mish at the ER waiting for Tilly to be seen.

Whilst at the barbecue lunch, Tilly had managed to face plant the pool wall when she swam right into it. When they walked through the door, I was greeted with my daughter sporting a massive purple honker on the middle of her face, followed close behind by Mishy, whose face had been char grilled as a result of not applying sunscreen. As I was grabbing ice packs, slathering aloe gel onto my son’s face, arguing with my daughter that she will be going to the hospital to have her nose checked out, I was gathering my handbag and googling the address of the local hospital. Less than a month in the new place and we were checking out the emergency department.

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Marcia Brady – Tilly channelled this look following face planting into the swimming pool wall.

Diagnosis: Soft tissue damage, and a slightly crooked nose that will need to be checked out by an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist; we were cleared to head back home to rest. She had a night ahead of her of ice packs and Panadol. When we got home, I remembered that she had her school photos coming up that week too. I looked over at her, her mashed up nose, panda eyes, relaxing on the couch watching You Tube. Next to her was Mishy with a painful looking face – shiny from the layers of aloe gel I kept applying to stop his face from cooking.

Two days later, following our trip to the ER for Marcia Brady and El Scorcho, I sat with what was going to be my first of many coffees for the next few weeks, and watched my husband pack his gear into his car and head off on tasking. No sooner had he driven off, Ripley got up and walked over to the dining room and vomited.

Oh boy. Here we go…

I cleaned up the vomit and put Ripley outside where I then watched her. She wandered around the yard and then went and laid down on her bed. Maybe she overindulged in the kitty litter? Whilst she relaxed outside, I got the kids up ready for school. When I returned from school drop-off, I brought Ripley back inside. She seemed flat. Missing hubby? I offered her one of her favourite treats, she turned her head away and rested her chin on her paws. I called her over to the other side of the room and I noticed she seemed really slow to stand. This wasn’t right. I called the vet (who had only a week earlier taken the final stent and stitches from out of Ripley’s inner ear) and I explained what was happening. They booked her in for that afternoon. In the meantime, I washed her mouth out and thinking to myself could it be she has licked a cane toad? She was drinking water, but not enough.

By the time I got her to her appointment, she was flat. The vet was going to take her in for the afternoon and run bloods and to get her on a drip for hydration. Half an hour after admitting her, I got the call to say Ripley had pancreatitis. This is the first (and hopefully now the last) time this has happened, and my head was spinning. Of course, something like this would happen when my husband is interstate and I am in an area I am not familiar with. Ripley ended up spending two days in hospital undergoing treatment. By the Friday evening, despite her latest test showing her pancreas was still giving her grief, she was stable enough to come home for the weekend. She had a pain med patch on her back leg, and she was much brighter and excited to see us and be back at home than she was when we brought her into the clinic on the Wednesday.
My job over the weekend was to keep her fluids up and serve up several small portions of either boiled chicken breast or specialised dry dog food throughout the day and on Monday morning we would be back for another test, and if still positive, we would have to discuss further testing and examination by a specialist. My mind was trying to work out how I would juggle things if I had to drive across through Brisbane to the specialist with the kids in school – would I have to take them out of school for the day because of appointment/driving times being outside of school hours? I played nurse over that weekend, determined to get my best friend better. The thought of not having her kills me, and when she was in hospital, I felt lost without my side pup.

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Back at the vet – this time with pancreatitis.

Come the Monday morning, after I got the kids to school, Ripley and I were back at the vet for the next blood test. As I sat and waited for the vet and Ripley to return, my stomach was in knots. She had been doing so well over the weekend, I would be gutted if I couldn’t turn it around for her. Eventually Ripley and her vet returned, and the news was the best – NEGATIVE! We did it! We got her pancreas back down to normal levels. We could go home and get on with things – and with a specially modified diet. That afternoon she came with me to pick the kids up from school so she could give them the good news.

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So for the weekend leading up to the final blood test on the Monday, I had to serve up several small portions of boiled chicken and special dry food throughout the day for Ripley. Dwight was so incensed that his sister was getting “special treatment” he decided to protest – refusing to eat his “blah” food in order to get what Ripley was getting. So I had to make up a Dwight-serving (plate on the left) so he felt he wasn’t missing out on what poor Ripley had to eat (bowl on the right).

They say things happen in threes. Since moving in we have had ear surgery, busted nose and sunburn (which cleared up without blisters or peeling) and then pancreatitis. The kids and I have been housebound as Ripley recovered from her ear op and then pancreatitis, and the kids from their own injuries. We have not had a chance to get out and explore the area. This last weekend was the first weekend we were able to go out because Ripley was okay. Saturday, we checked out Springfield and enjoyed a nice long lunch, making the most of the slightly cooler weather that has come over. Yesterday (Sunday), we got up early to check out the local show ground market for breakfast and a scout about. The kids were happy to score a collection of 90’s era Yowie figurines. I enjoyed a fantastic coffee and stocked up on some soy melts from Violets Gifts and Treasures – as I type this I have Lolly Shoppe in the burner and the house smells like a candy store.


It finally feels like everything is now starting to settle (touch wood!) – the kids have made friends and are loving their new schools, and Ripley is back to normal. Dwight is still annoyed I am enforcing his diet, and Doctor Who shows no signs of slowing down despite his age. As for me, I am looking forward to eventually making friends and establishing myself.


This will be a good posting.

A New Adventure for Team J – Coffs Harbour, NSW

So after a good nights rest in our lovely room at the Charlesworth Bay Beach Resort in Coffs Harbour, we were up early to embark on a full day of activities.

Coffs Harbour is one of the largest urban centres on the North Coast of New South Wales. Situated 540km north of Sydney and 390km south of Brisbane, Queensland Coffs Harbour is our favourite holiday spot to relax and unwind. It is probably most known for the tourist attraction and amusement park, the Big Banana – a massive banana, the first of Australia’s Big Things it was built in 1964 on a banana plantation. You can walk through the Big Banana, pose for photos out the front too. It is a popular item on the Aussie tourist to do list. The weather in Coffs is always lovely – even in winter, and there are plenty of accommodation options available.

Up and ready for the day ahead, we started off by grabbing breakfast (and a coffee for me) at the Coffs Central Shopping Centre. Whilst there, I popped in to some shops for some bits and pieces for the day’s activities, and Mike bought the kids a Play Station VR set for Christmas. Whilst walking about the shopping centre we came upon Santa who was handing out candy canes. Caffeine hit, new swimmers (bathing suit), sunscreen, batteries for Tilly’s camera and the first Christmas gift sorted, we set off to our first activity for the day – checking out the Clog Barn Holiday Park.

 

 

This is a cute little attraction and accommodation option, that Mike and I have stayed at previously (December 2004 on our first posting from Sydney to Townsville). Back then the accommodation was clean and comfortable and unique. This time, we took the kids in to walk through the clog shop and model Dutch village before grabbing an ice cream each from Big Oma’s Coffee House (the morning was warming up quite quickly). Whilst eating our ice creams we met a lovely little pup by the name of Katherine who was enjoying her breakfast next to her owner. She had finished her breakfast before him though – for a tiny dog she could eat like Flash Lightning! Meanwhile, her owner was enjoying his big breakfast serving from Big Oma’s and holding conversation with Tilly and Mish. The staff there were all lovely and super friendly. At certain times, they run a clog making demonstration – we were too early for that, but you can still check out the workshop and look at clogs that have been made and are available for sale.

From there the Team headed to Dolphin Marine Magic. This is a fantastic education centre for young and old alike. The team there run shows daily to educate visitors on marine life and the conservation and preservation of our oceans. We arrived in time to catch the dolphin presentation which had a cameo by the lovely sea lion Adelaide. The dolphins, Zippy and Bella flipped and splashed, jumped and called out to the audience. The children were all enthralled by the experience. After the presentation, everyone was invited to come down to the pool where Zippy and Bella were doing the rounds for belly rubs (the LOVE their belly rubs). If you have not had the opportunity to pat a dolphin, they are very soft and smooth. Round and round they went, lapping up the attention. Then it was off to look at the other animals. We hung around the pool for a while, watching Zippy and Bella swim and play. They would come up to the sides to look at people, checking everyone out. Sometimes they would grab one of their balls and push it to the side to who ever was standing there wanting them to play. Mish was one of the lucky ones to be chosen by Zippy to play fetch – and he absolutely loved every minute of it.

Whilst we were still with the dolphins, Mike had snuck off to organise for the kids to meet Ozzie – a great big and beautiful sea lion. Last time we visited the park in 2009, the kids had their photos taken with one of the seals, and here they were going to get to do it all again. Ozzie, as you can see in the photos is a great big beautiful sea puppy. The kids were smitten with him, getting the chance to give him pats, toss the ball with him and feed him. For the photos they decided to poke their tongues out instead of getting a fishy, whiskery smooch from Oz.

Following the meet and greet with Ozzie, we headed up to see the Little Blue Penguins get their lunch. Initially we thought it was to watch the handlers feed them, but they had it all set up and visitors were able to line up and feed the penguins. They were so funny to watch, huddled up waiting for the handler to open the gate. The little wings and tails wiggling in anticipation for the big bucket of fishies. A few of them tried to climb off the little platform to dive right into the feeding bucket, the handler would gently set them back on the platform. They were adorable little characters, and oh boy can they put away their food!

 

The whole experience at Dolphin Magic centres around conservation and preservation of these wonderful creatures and their habitat. They are running an awareness program called Experience. Discover. Act. You can become involved in this program by simply snapping a selfie of you out and about picking up rubbish and tag on your social media it to #EDADMM – in doing so, they hope to spread awareness of the plight our marine life are facing due to pollution.

 

Before we knew it, it was coming up to lunch time and we were heading over to the next attraction – The Big Banana.

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Tilly and Mish letting me take a nice “normal” photo of them…

I don’t think a visit to Coffs Harbour is complete without a visit to the Big Banana. It is a large amusement park, spread out through a banana plantation. Right up behind the Big Banana is the café where you can enjoy coffee, cold drinks, cakes, hot meals and frozen bananas. There is a kids arcade next to the café, and out behind is the ticket counter for the other activities that are on offer. You can choose from tours, theatre (4D experience is coming soon), mini golf, laser tag, tobogganing, and if you are brave enough, you can try the Racer Slide. There is also a water park too cool off in, a cheese shop (for blessed are the cheese makers!) which not only have all things cheese, they run cheese making workshops and have a selection of amazing handmade chocolates to choose from. There is also a candy and opal shop on site too. We bought tickets for the Racer Slide and the toboggan. First up, the Racer… Holy cow it is a big, long slide! The hike to get up to the top can rattle you if you are not a mountaineer, or just fit in general. Mish made it to the top, but upon looking down the slide he went pale and shaky and decided he wasn’t dare devil enough to give it a go. Mike went down the slide twice, I had one go and that was enough for me – self preservation kicked in as I felt my bum lift only so slightly off the slide. I didn’t see anything other than my life flash before my eyes as I screamed all the way down, clutching the carpet sack I was sitting on for dear life. Tilly on the other hand, first go and she was wild about it.

We gave her all the remaining tickets, and she would bolt up the steep incline, carpet sack over her shoulder – without breaking a sweat. She would then take her spot on one of the lanes and as soon as the light turned green, she was off like a shot, arms up in the air and whooping it up in adrenaline. Mike had over estimated our eagerness for the slide and as such had purchased a heap of tickets for it. So much so, that Tilly befriended two other young girls and was only too happy to share the remaining slide tickets with them (we didn’t mind, and we could see the girl’s parents were grateful for the chance to be able to get off their feet and have a cold drink and a rest whilst the kids wore themselves out).

Slide tickets finished, we headed up past the water park to the toboggan ride. Mish was apprehensive about it, but I managed to convince him to come with me on my toboggan. First round, he loved it – I put him in control of the brake, so he felt comfortable. Second go, he wanted to remain with me. The third round and he was ready to take the ride on his own and he and Tilly set off to do the toboggan track with the parentals watching on.

It was getting late in the day, so we wrapped up our visit to the Big Banana with a stop in at the cheese shop to sample some cheese and buy a box of handmade chocolates (yum!). We decided it was time to head back to the resort where we would finish the day with a swim in one of the three lagoon pools at the resort and then a wander down from the resort onto the beach for a spot of shell collecting. Unfortunately, we had to be on the road the next day to head to the next stop in our road trip, so the quiet swim and beach combing was a lovely way to finish up our fleeting visit.

Some other places we wanted to check out but didn’t get round to seeing was the Bunker Cartoon Gallery and the National Marine Science Centre. This just means that we absolutely must and will go back to Coffs!

To be continued…

We were also sad to learn of the passing of a wonderful man, Coffs Harbour local and Australian surfing legend Scott Dillion. We had the absolute honour of meeting him during our 2009 holiday when he was running the Legends Surf Museum. He passed away on the 12 December 18 at 90 years of age. I will always remember our meeting him – he absolutely adored the kids and took us through his museum, finishing with us all sitting on the porch and chatting and goofing around, and before we left, he had gifted us with an autographed poster. A very down to earth Aussie bloke. 

May he rest in peace.  

 

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

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.

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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.