Rainy Day Fun

We are at our caravan this weekend. It is nice to be away but unfortunately the weather is pretty ordinary.

The kids were starting to be a little bored and restless. I was trying to think of something (besides TV) for them to do in a small space. Then I remembered something I’d seen on Pinterest.

So, we created this race track. My boys loved it and have spent lots of time reinventing it and racing their cars around. Not to mention a pit stop or two. And all it cost me was a couple of rolls of masking tape.

Kids Race Track

Christmas is Coming: Ready or Not!

I was rudely pulled from my sleep this morning by my 2-year-old. He jumped on my bed wearing a flashing Rudolph nose and bright red antlers. His brother was not far behind, donning a Santa hat.

They are bursting with Christmas cheer. I’m not sure that they will be able to wait a whole month until the big day. They have been jabbering on about what Santa will bring for weeks.

I, however, am not feeling the festive cheer.  I have always loved Christmas and eagerly decorated and ready for the day. I have always chastised my partner for being a Scrooge, but this year; Bah Humbug! It’s not even December yet!

Is it just me, or does Christmas seem to start earlier every year? I swear the decorations and carols at my local shopping centre were up far earlier than last year. Soon, they will start in August. The minute my kids see the Christmas decorations, a switch is flicked on in their brains. Suddenly they are catapulted into Christmas mode and can focus on nothing else.

I must admit, they are not only concerned with presents that they might receive (although it is of high importance), they also want to know what food we will have, when we can put up the Christmas tree, when they can start using their advent calendars, what presents we will buy for everyone else and what dress-ups they can wear. It is exhausting.

I usually delight in their joy, but this year there is just so much to do. The work is piling up. In Australia, Christmas is the start of the summer holiday period. Offices close for 2 or 3 weeks and schools are closed for the summer. For me, this means plenty of work but no invoices so I need to get as much paperwork in earlier as possible.

Then there is Christmas shopping to do. Most of my kids’ presents go on lay by during the June toy sales but I never know what to get adults or even which ones I have to buy for. As much as I try to avoid shopping in the weeks leading up to Christmas, inevitably I end up caught in the waves of people, scrounging for last-minute gifts. It is a battle to just find a car park, let alone find stock on the shelves or actually get through a check out.

This year we have the added problem of changing when and where the family gets together. In earlier years, my family has always done our main celebration on Christmas eve. We started this when we were young women and started to have boyfriends. This meant that we could all spend Christmas day with our partners families and still have our own celebration. We would watch the carols on TV and drink champagne, usually resulting in some loud and terrible singing. This year we had to change our plans. With my stepfather being ill, he can’t do night celebrations as he gets too tired. Instead, we are going to do a traditional Christmas lunch. It sounds nice but it has upset my apple cart. What will I do Christmas eve?

At least we haven’t had too many arguments about where to spend Christmas this year. My step-father took priority as it is likely to be his last Christmas. Usually, we end up arguing and fighting about where and when we will celebrate Christmas. It is hard to find times that suit everyone. There are always tears.

I am sure I will find my Christmas spirit soon; at least I hope so. The boys are chomping at the bit and I am just hoping it all goes away. Maybe I will start to get more excited as it gets closer.

In an Instant

There are some moments that change our lives. Sometimes the change is small. Sometimes it is a complete change of direction. In my case it was both, with the biggest change being an indirect result of this catalyst.

We had been living in our new home for a week. I was still getting used to the new locations of my belongings and navigating the nooks and crannies of my new abode.

It was early. My youngest son had a habit of getting up before 7am. By 7.15 the whole house was awake.

In the kitchen, the kettle hissed. Blarey eyed, I pulled the mugs down from the overhead shelf. I needed coffee if I was going to get through the day.

I placed the mugs on the kitchen bench. I filled my coffee plunger. The sweet smell of coffee made me pause for a moment. It was going to be a long day. Then I poured the boiling water into my partner’s tea cup. I would let it soak before pulling out the teabag and adding the milk.

Knowing we were in a hurry, I decided to get breakfast started while I waited. I turned to the pantry to get the bread for my son’s toast.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw my 15 month old son near the bench. I turned back just in time to see him pour the cup with the boiling water and teabag down onto his head. It poured over his blonde hair. Then he seemed to pause for an instance, fright in his eyes, before tilting slightly to the right and pouring the water over his shoulder, arm an torso.

It seemed like the moment happened in slow motion. I felt like my feet were frozen to the floor. My limbs felt heavy as I tried to move to him to knock the cup out of his hands. It didn’t seem real.

After an eternity, time seemed to come back to normal pace as I swooped him up and raced out of the kitchen. At the doorway, I ran straight in to my partner. Screaming, I managed to get out “Hot water!” and “Need to put him in the shower“.

My partner grabbed my baby out of my arms and turned to run. Being a new house, he got disoriented and started heading for the bedroom (which would’ve been the right way if we were in our old house).

“What are you doing?” I screamed.

He quickly realised and raced to the shower. We turned on the cold taps and stood our startled toddler under the cold water. Before long he was shivering and crying from the shock.

As our baby stood in the shower, the skin started to blister. It looked as if the skin was melting away and sliding down his arm. I gulped.

“This is bad,” was all I managed to say.

“You need to call the ambulance,” my partner managed.

I raced to the phone and dialed the emergency number. I was shaking as I tried to explain the situation to the operator.

Returning to the bathroom, I took over holding my trembling baby in the shower. My partner had only been in his dressing gown when the incident occurred and had no clothes underneath. He had removed the dressing gown to hold my son in the shower and was now naked. I sent him to get dressed while I held him in the shower.

I looked in to my baby’s eyes and could see the confusion and terror. I felt awful. It was all my fault.

The ambulance soon arrived and my son and I went to the children’s hospital. Fortunately our quick reactions had saved most of his body and the burns on his head, back and chest were now only superficial. The only problem was his arm.

The emergency staff dressed his arm and we went home. We then had to visit every week for about 6 weeks to have his dressings changed. For the first week, he wasn’t allowed to go to childcare as the sand might have aggravated his wound.

The week off meant that I no longer had any annual leave left for the Christmas period. It also gave me time to re-evaluate. I blamed my tiredness on my work hours and never having time to myself. Not only was I working four days a week in an office, I was also writing from home for two different companies to try and pay the bills. I knew that something had to give.

It was this experience that made me see that I had to slow down. I gave up my office job and decided to work freelance writing training materials. This gave me more flexibility so I could be there for my children.

My son’s arm is now healed and you wouldn’t even know that the incident occurred. There isn’t a mark on him. We were very fortunate. There were many children at the hospital who were less fortunate. Some would be terribly scarred for life.

I still blame myself. I was so focussed on making money and trying to do everything that I wasn’t paying enough attention. My partner blames me as well. He mentioned it the other day. I should have put the cups back further where he couldn’t reach. I see the advertisements on TV and at the health nurse offices all the time.

However I am glad that I took the time to re-evaluate my life. I just wish I didn’t feel so guilty about my catalyst for doing it.

This was written in response to this week’s Writing Challenge. To see more information about the challenge, go to http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/weekly-writing-challenge-in-an-instagram/.

Growing up with the Melbourne Cup

melbourne cup day

melbourne cup day (Photo credit: doublebug)

On the first Tuesday in November, Australia stands still to watch 24 horses race at Flemington. It is a public holiday and if you happen to go anywhere around this time you will find that cafes and shops are deserted as normal life is halted to watch the prestigious race.

For Melbournians, Cup Day is a public holiday. As with all good holidays in Australia, it is celebrated with BBQs and beer. Wether the sun shines or the rain pours (and being Melbourne weather it can go either way), we charcoal sausages and induce hangovers.

Today’s Melbourne Cup got me thinking back to the Melbourne Cup day traditions of my childhood. As a kid, I loved Melbourne Cup day, and it had nothing to do with a horse race.

When I was a small child my parents had a Cup Day tradition. Every year we would go to a friend’s house and a group of my parents friends would get together to bottle wine. They would buy huge casks and spend the day bottling them. Of course, there was still a BBQ and a lot of the wine didn’t make the bottles.

When each cask was emptied, the silver belly would be blown up with air and tossed to us to play with. We would spend the day diving and jumping on the giant casks (in hindsight they weren’t that huge, but it was how I saw them at the time).

Early in the day we would cut out the names of the horses from the newspaper and put them in a hat t be drawn for the sweep. Just before the race we would each pull a horse out of the hat. There were the normal prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. In addition, the last placed horse got their money back. I think we only be $2 each.

At 3pm we would trudge inside to cram around the TV. Back then, household televisions were small boxes in the corner of the room. They were not flat screens that took up a whole wall. We would all squeeze into the tiny family room and squint at the TV trying desperately to find our horse. As they whooshed by, it would be hard to find your horse on the tiny screen.

When I was 10 my parent separated. After that, we no longer spent Cup Day with the same group of friends. However, there was always a BBQ and sweep at my Mum’s house. I used to joke that the 2 biggest religious celebrations in our house were the Melbourne Cup and AFL grand final.

As I got older I started to travel. Whenever that first Tuesday in November came around, I would think about the cup and how it stopped Australia. It would feel strange when 3pm arrived and the world kept turning. In other nations, the Cup was not such a big deal. At most, it was a news story somewhere in the sports bulletin.

After returning to Australia, I met my partner. He took me to my first Melbourne Cup. Strangely enough, before I met my partner I didn’t really think that people went to the races. Sure, I saw them on TV. There were women dressed in beautiful dresses with amazing hats. There were always a few punters in fancy dress and of course, the party in the Flemington Racecourse car park! I don’t know why I didn’t think that real people went to the races. I seemed to have this idea that it was only for the rich and famous.

When I went to Flemington for my first race day I instantly fell in love. I loved the party! I relished the chance to dress up and feel like royalty for the day. The atmosphere was electric and all day I buzzed with excitement.

For the next few years, I was a regular at Flemington for Spring Carnival. My partner worked there so we had the added luxury of getting in and drinking for free. I felt like a princess.

Then children came along. Since then, I have still tried to go to some of the race meets but usually not Cup Day. As it was a public holiday most of my babysitters were away or attending BBQs so I had children to entertain.

Now my partner no longer works at Flemington for the Carnival. This year, we spent the four day weekend at our caravan. My sons rode bikes and laughed with their friends. My oldest son picked his horse out of a hat. We watched the race and he was very excited to see if his horse won. unfortunately it didn’t but seeing him enjoying his day, more for the time with his friends then the love of the horserace, made me start reminiscing.

I am looking forward to spending many more Cup Days with my children. I wonder what they will remember 30 years from now.