Archive for February 2006


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From Sydney With Love

27 February 2006

I finally managed to put some photos of my Sydney trip together.
This was Chinatown in some dank underground Chinese fruit and vege marketplace. It was disgusting and sticky and dirty and crowded — Haha, I loved it! However, I kept stepping in tomatoes. It was so alive with colour and noise and Asian madness.

I literally gasped when I shuttled down the hill in the bus towards Bondi Beach. The bay was very pretty. Especially with all the houses perched on the hill. The breaks looked a bit wishy washy – not big enough to surf on, and a little too rough to swim in. No wonder everyone just sat on the beach posing in their string bikinis.

Although I planned to avoid all the touristy places, by the end of my trip I didn’t quite feel like I was back in Sydney. So I took a walk through Darling Harbour and Circular Quay to gawk at the big Sydney icons… again. The place was crawling with tourists and tourist attractions. Walking around with my backpack, a map in my pocket and an Asian face, I blended in quite well.

The big photo above was me standing at the base of the Sydney Opera House looking down into the harbour and spotting these invading ufo-like jellyfish in the water.

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Welcome To My Roller Coaster

26 February 2006

These last few weeks have been rather… turbulent.

Callum has reached that stage of the “Terrible Threes”.

The senseless tantrums, the screaming, shouting and refusing, the sheer stubbornness and disobedience, and then purposely being naughty, difficult and aggressive just for attention. It’s awful!

These are the days where I feel like bashing my head into a brick wall to stop myself from exploding.

And it’s a downhill spiral. Because after three whole days of this behaviour I’m reduced to a bundle of nerves and tears. I run out of motivation. I become disheartened. Confused. Angry. I feel like I’ve been a crap parent. That somehow I’ve gotten it all wrong. That I’ve been too strict, too harsh, too controlling, too rigid. Too much scolding, too many no’s, too many time-outs.

And I swear, kids are smart. They are so sensitive to vibes, moods and feelings.

Because they milk it. They push it. And the moment I give in the tiniest amount, he walks all over me. And I feel like failed parent of the decade.

But other days I literally shake with happiness.

When, oh god, he’s a dream. The perfect little boy. Smart. Funny. Clever. Helpful. Good manners. Always polite. Dresses himself from head to toe. Does his little jobs around the house. Follows instructions quickly and carefully. Graciously accepts when he does something wrong.

He’ll also sit quietly and read while I attend to his younger brother. He’ll do random useful things like sweep the kitchen floor because he found some crumbs and doesn’t want cockroaches to eat them. He’ll tell me jokes, and laughs at them for me. He’ll pick flowers for me and arrange them in a plastic cup. He’ll say things like, “I love you so very much mummy!”.

And these are the days I’m pumped with energy and enthusiasm. Buzzing with excitement. Beaming with confidence. Planning with no limits. Ready to take on the world.

It’s funny isn’t it? Life goes up and life goes down.
A daily battle in a never-ending fairytale.

I know things will get better. The future will be bright. Life is bigger than this. And life will be good.

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Chalk Drawings

23 February 2006

I’m not sure what the standard is for almost-3 year olds, but Callum seems to be doing some awesome chalk drawings!

He can draw figures with a head, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hair! And fingers too, if you look carefully.

The one on the board is Buzz Lightyear with a space helmet. And the black and white one is his grandmother.

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For the Love of Paper

21 February 2006

While I was in Sydney, I picked up this cute bangle from the Paddington Markets. I liked the pattern on it. But I loved it because it was made out of papier mache!

During my “art” days, I used to be a papier mache NUT! I made large sculptures from huge bits of old furniture. I wrapped them up with wire and wood, slopped on papier mache, sculpted it up, then painted and glued stuff on them. It was so much fun!

I made a small table with its legs entwined with morphed human figures. A horse head lamp shade thing (don’t ask). I even made a huge sea creature with octopus-like tentacles that perched on top of my bookshelf in my not very big bedroom.

I can’t believe my mother put up with my arty antics. I used to keep my paints in the fridge. Turps under my bed. Leave my chalks and charcoals lying on the carpet.

And during my papier mache projects… I tore up weeks and weeks of newspapers, soaked them in my mother’s bathtub until the paper began to decompose and the ink stained the sides of the tub. Then I used her hand blender to whizz it all up, added the glue powder, then transported it all, bucket by bucket, into my bedroom where I worked.

Eeek! I was such a nightmare. I hope my sons grow up to be… accountants!!

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The Jellyfish Lesson

19 February 2006

We took a walk by the river. It was a gorgeous afternoon. Everything was moving and swaying and swimming with life. Trees and birds. Bugs and flowers.

Everything except for this huge jellyfish washed up on the shore.

It was amazing. Like some bizarre intricate jelly creature from another planet. Lying splat on the ground like a translucent cow pat. Or a huge phlegm someone coughed up. (Sorry)

Now Callum is quite familiar with dead things. Dead bugs. Dead leaves. Dead mice. Simba’s dad who died in The Lion King. Nemo’s mum who died when he was still an egg. Usually he’s quite indifferent to the concept of “death”, until today.

What’s this jellyfish doing here? Why isn’t it moving? Is he dead? Like Simba’s dad? Why is he dead? Will he wake up? What if a bird comes and eats him? Why doesn’t he just swim away? Can we pick him up?

I’ve never been so stuck for words. Most of the time, I just make up stuff. Like when we’re driving through the SUBURBS and Callum will ask “Mum!! Whoa! Why are these houses here?? Did you see that? Trees! What are they doing here?!?!” I make up long tales about dinosaurs with rubber boots and gardening hats who stomp around the park planting little trees that grow into big trees.

However, we don’t make up stuff about death, or try to shield him from it. And fortunately he’s never had to face the reality of losing someone close to him.

We explain it in a very matter-of-fact way.
“The ant’s body stopped working.”
“Leaves turn brown, die and turn into compost that helps the tree make new leaves.”
“The jellyfish probably got washed up onto the beach and got stuck. Jellyfish need water to make their bodies work. So he probably got really thirsty, fell sick and died.”

And at that moment I felt my damn eyes starting to prickle. I had to hold back a tear!! I had images of a sad jellyfish wife and little, fatherless jellyfish kids. I felt SO stupid. Yet, I was emotionally locked into this moment with my son over this jellyfish. He looked so little as he squatted on the beach. Arms folded over his knees. Little sad pout.

I asked him, “Do you want to ask me anything else?”
“Hmm, yeah…”
“Ok. What would you like to ask me?”
“Um. Can I have an ice cream?”

Phew. I don’t think I’m ready for this part of parenting yet. Teaching someone else about LIFE. Death. Puberty. Sex. Women. Credit cards. Religion. And, why too much ice cream will make you sick.

So just like that, we were skipping back to the car, back to our home, back to showers, dinner, stories and bedtime. And life continues.

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Background Designs for my Google Adsense Ads

17 February 2006

Ok, I wasn’t exactly going to mention them, but my ad background designs on my Google Ads have seemed to have caused a flurry of excitement, discussion and positive feedback over at Problogger.

Background designs for Adsense

Basically, as the popularity of my site rose over the past 7 years, I have been looking for ways to help pay for the bandwidth.

I was unhappy with the LOOK of ads on my blog. Being a graphic designer – and very particular about style, branding, tone and association – I baulked at the thought of those blocky, chunky squares on my site.

So I had an idea : To create some cool backgrounds for the ads, which were in keeping with Google Adsense policies and the look of my blog. I did a bit of research and discovered to my surprise that no one had done it before – or rather, not to the aesthetic level and integration I was aiming for.

I designed a few backgrounds. I put them up on my site. Then I emailed Google for permission and confirmation that I was indeed NOT breaking any of their policies.

They wrote back and said,

The graphic that you added behind the ad block is permissible, I would however remind you as per our Terms and Conditions, that the ad code itself provided to you by Google AdSense may not be altered in any way. Publishers may not:

– Change the way in which the ads themselves appear
– Change where ads link to
– Load ads within a new browser window
– Deliver users indirectly to the URL associated with an ad. For example, the page may not load within a frame for your website
– Alter the ‘Ads by Google’ label
– Associate other ads with the Google ads or the ‘Ads by Google’ label

Thank you for your cooperation. To uphold the quality and reputation of Google AdSense, all publishers who apply are reviewed according to these programme policies.

Since then, I’m aware that lots of people have alerted Google of my ads, and lots of questions about the code, to analyse and share my results, if I could experiment with and without the background etc.

Anyway, I must admit, I am quite proud of them, and hope others are inspired to design their own!

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Major Downgrading Required

16 February 2006

I’ve been drooling over chandeliers lately. I think it’s because our house renovations are almost completed, and it’s making me all excited about buying new house stuff.
I’ve always dreamed of high corniced ceilings with a classic Bohemian crystal chandelier or a Versailles antique bronze one. But goodness, they’re so expensive… and well, we don’t have high ceilings. Then again, we’re not a tall family.

Sigh. For the moment I’ve settled and splurged on some chandelier earrings. Woo. hoo. I am not appeased.

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So Wise For His Age

15 February 2006

The other night, while I was getting dressed to go out, Callum waltzed into my bedroom. He stopped, looked at me with wide eyes, and exclaimed,
“WHOA MUMMY! Look at you! You’re dressed up like a LADY!”
“Do you think I look nice as a lady?”
“Um. No.”
“What?? Aww, how come?!”
“You can’t dress up like a lady. You and daddy are married!!!!”
Ooh I laughed and laughed.

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The sound of a melting heart

14 February 2006

Sean is 11 months and he’s officially walking. Actually it’s more like a strut. A “been on a horse all day” cowboy strut.

He also does this cute arm waving thing as he walks. Imagine a crazy monkey puppet on strings bashing at the air in all directions. Super fast. That’s my son!

I decided that I didn’t have enough photos of Sean – compared to The First Born Child. So I slapped on a video for Callum, and had a nice photo session with Sean. He was a darling! Although, I couldn’t quite capture the essence of his crazy monkey dance.

He’s generally quite grumpy and clingy during the day. Always grizzling and grumbling. I don’t know whether it’s his normal disposition, or because his older brother is always pushing him around. He’s happiest when he’s playing in the sand pit, paddle pool or having a shower.

His saving grace is that he’s a great eater and sleeper. He sleeps 12 hours through the night. Takes two 1.5 hour naps during the day. And eats anything I wave at him. I consider myself blessed!

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Post Shoe Shopping

12 February 2006

I swear this photo pose was entirely engineered by my son!

Callum was very intrigued by the pair of red shoes I brought home from my holiday. I think it had something to do with the ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz. Or maybe it was because I had another pair exactly the same but in a different colour. Or perhaps it was because my husband called them crocodile shoes. To which I had to explain to my son at great lengths that they were really “fake snake skin”. Ugh, he caught onto the rhyme, howled with laughter and now they are my “fake snakes”.

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Hair up or down?

11 February 2006

An internet magazine in the UK is doing a “feature” on my blog or rather my blog design… or something like that, and they asked for a head-shoulder photo of me against a plain background. Eek! Anyway, this is the best I could come up with, while the kids were asleep. Haha, does the funny angle make my head look big? You know, it’s one thing to take 2 second snaps of myself in the bathroom with natural lighting, but having to construct a dodgy photo studio in the corner of the kid’s playroom, with the camera on a tripod, self timer, and then going back and forth to take dozens of pics to make sure I don’t look like a complete goof… it’s hardcore narcissism I tell you. Waaaay too much effort required, even for me.

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Book Worm

10 February 2006

I bought Callum a Buzz Lightyear book. He’ll read it by himself several times a day. And it’s just so cute to watch him wiggle his butt and nestle into the beanbag. And then halfway through the book, he’ll shout out for some popcorn and a drink to keep him going. Funny guy.

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Back from Sydney

8 February 2006

My holiday was FANTASTIC!! I feel like I’ve been away for weeks!! I feel renewed! Refreshed! Rejuvenated! And now radiating with an enthusiasm for some EXCELLENT living. Yeah baby.

I think the key was – balance. I had a nice mix of shopping with the girls + shopping alone; hanging with friends + reading in cafes by myself; sight-seeing the crowded touristy places + strolling through the quiet hilly suburbs; being driven and shown around + exploring places by myself; expensive restaurant dinners + casual bbq dinner; and basically taking it easy and having a good time.

During the days, I managed to visit places like Darling Harbour, Sydney Opera House, The Harbour Bridge, The Rocks, QVB, Chinatown, Market City (fashion factory outlets), Paddy’s Markets, Bondi Beach, Paddington, Chatswood. Pretty good coverage for 4 days (I think), considering that I had nothing planned before I left.

I missed my husband and kids so much! I called back every night. On the third evening, I called a little earlier and spoke to Callum. His voice was so squeaky and tiny and beautiful and he sounded so small and precious… and I melted into a gooey lump and was surprised that I had almost forgotten how to talk to him.

Things that made me extra happy :
1) Being in the company of adults… for FOUR DAYS.
2) Doing irresponsible things like drinking coffee after 5pm.
3) Walking out the door with only keys, sunnies, lip gloss and a credit card – WITHOUT packing nappies, snacks, milk, water, bib, wipes, and two sets of spare clothes.
4) Waking up in the morning and having NO plan and NO goals to achieve for the day.
5) The shopping.
6) Coming home to see the sheer toe-wiggling happiness and uninhibited exuberance on my children’s faces.

Oh and if you’re wondering about the mosaic tile thing in my graphic above… that’s the surface of the Sydney Opera House!

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See you in a five days!

2 February 2006

I’m off to Sydney tomorrow! By myself! I’m staying with friends. No big agenda other than to relax, browse art galleries, book stores, boutiques, eat food, sit in cafes, get a haircut, visit a day spa.

Last time I had this kind of holiday was… 6 years ago! I’m so excited!!