Archive for the ‘thrills and spills’ Category

Wiggles and wobbles

August 17, 2013

There were timtams for morning tea this morning. Yum!  The children were very appreciative.  But half-way through his, Fainjin suddenly pulled something out of his mouth and said, “I think my tooth just fell out!”

“Really?!” I was surprised, because he hadn’t mentioned a wiggly tooth at all.  “Come here, let me see.”

He put the rest of the timtam in his mouth, and came over.  I sighed.  Now he had a mouth full of chocolately caramelly biscuity crumbs.  I gave him a Look, and he giggled and looked abashed.  When he’d finished, I asked him to open his mouth so I could see.  He opened wide and stuck his tongue out – so I couldn’t see his bottom teeth.  The thing in his hand certainly looked like a little tooth.  Eventually I got to see his bottom teeth, and sure enough one of the front ones is missing.

I asked if it had been wiggly, and he said no.  He didn’t seem in the least upset, more amused and rather pleased.  It turns out that lots of other kids in his class have lost several teeth already, and he was feeling left out.  Having lost one now he feels much more grown-up; it is a rite of passage.  I just hope the Tooth Fairy remembers to come tonight.  Ahem.

Meanwhile, things have been a bit shaky around here.  Yesterday at 2:30pm we had a 6.6 “severe” earthquake, which shook our house pretty hard and knocked some light things off shelves.  I was home with a friend visiting, the children were at school, and The Dad was at work.

My friend was very worried about her daughter at kindergarten, so we left almost immediately after the shaking stopped.  That meant we didn’t feel the 5.7 aftershock just a few minutes later – you’re much less likely to feel a quake when you’re moving around.  But more things were on the floor when we got back home!

Pearl hadn’t felt the quake, she was walking somewhere, but Fainjin & Babess had and their classes had done “turtles” very well I’m told.  The school evacuated onto their fields and playground after the shaking, then returned to classrooms to collect their bags and be dismissed at the usual time.  I did notice that there were more parents there earlier than usual – like me!

Our friends came home with us, for the company, and we took refuge in cups of tea for the mums and gingerbread men, lego and children’s TV for the kids.  The Dad had left work early, but didn’t get home for nearly three hours because of traffic chaos in the city as everyone tried to leave at once.  Luckily we were able to keep in contact and knew that we were all safe even if we weren’t together.

At 5:30pm there was another big shake – 6.0 and severe – that had all of us at home back in doorways and under tables being “turtles” again.  The Dad was nearly home at that point, stopped at traffic lights, and felt the car rocking.  He saw a woman in the car ahead of him put on her handbrake and get out of her car, looking very uncertain about what to do.

The children have been remarkably settled.  We had a big shake a month ago, and Babess was very upset by that, refusing to go  to the toilet by herself and waking at night for weeks – she’d only just stopped again, so I was worried we might be back to square one.  But apart from wanting me to escort her to the loo a couple of times, she has been fine.  Pearl woke at 2am and told me there had been another earthquake, but it was a much quieter night than I dared hope.

We expect days and weeks of more aftershocks – and are very thankful that, like last month, there seem to have been no injuries caused by these quakes.  There has been property damage and there will be disruption, but let’s hope this is the worst of it.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

All shook up

July 3, 2012

I was going to write something cute about our day, but just as I settled in to write, we had a rather large earthquake.  Geonet puts it at 7.0 on the Richter scale, and in our house it started with a little shake, then kept going and getting larger, lasting about a minute or so.  The adults were all in doorways and the children even woke up.  I had time to snatch up Babess and cuddle her while the shaking was still going on, and tell the other two to “make a turtle” or get in the doorway.

We’re all ok, everyone else is asleep now but I am still quite awake.  It sounds like there was some small damage (goods off shelves in supermarkets and so on) closer to the epicentre.  The quake was very deep, which will have limited the damage.  There is no tsunami threat, we are told.

So no cute stories tonight.  Stay safe, everyone!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

40c worth of fun

January 8, 2012

Babess and I went to the farmers’ market this morning.  That was mostly a big mistake, as it was raining when we left and only got worse.  In fact, on the way home she told me, “Mummy I do not want to come here when it is raining and it is windy ever ever ever again.  It is horrible.”  We were both soaked to the skin, and were grateful when The Dad met us at the door with a pile of towels, the kettle boiling for warm drinks, and a warm shower ready to go for Babess.

On the other hand, I did get lovely new-season Agria potatoes for tonight’s dinner, and scrumptious yellow-flesh peaches which I roasted with cherries and frangelico to serve with vanilla yogurt…

Ahem.  Back to the story.  On the way to the market, I spotted a couple of coins lying on the footpath and pointed them out to Babess.  She picked them up and we saw that she had two 20c coins.  “Those can be yours,” I said – the street was deserted, and the coins had clearly been there for some time.

Her eyes went wide.  “They can be my moneys?”

“Yes, your money,” I assured her.  I don’t know that she’s ever had her “own” money before, come to think of it.  She carefully put it in her pocket until we got home.

There it was taken out and shown to everyone, then she built a “money shop” to spend her money in, and I think she bought and sold herself several of her toys.  Fainjin joined in the game and they had one coin each for a while.  There was a lot of running about and happy shouting and laughing.

We should all get such good value for money!

© UpsideBackwards 2012.

How to Make Strawberry Jam

November 25, 2011

The plum jam I made earlier this year was a huge hit, so since strawberries are plentiful, relatively cheap and good-tasting at this time of year, I thought I’d have a go at strawberry jam.  Fainjin was home with me today for some one-on-one time, and he had great fun helping.

To make strawberry jam, you need:



lemon juice

jars and lids

a 4-year-old helper wearing an apron

several pots

a smoke alarm

First, sterilise the jars.  While they’re bubbling in the pot, wash and hull the strawberries, chopping them roughly into a large bowl.

About half the strawberries, hulled and roughly chopped

Pass the strawberries to your helper, and give him a masher.  Sound effects are optional, but Fainjin found chanting “Moosh moosh moosh” to be helpful.

Moosh moosh

Keep mooshing until the berries are moderately-well crushed (your helper might need a hand, depending on how squishy the strawberries are to start with).


Note the lovely Moomin apron, appropriated from his little sister’s dress-up box.

Next, measure the crushed berries.  We had 8 cups!  That meant we needed half a cup of lemon juice.  Fainjin was over the moon to have a reason to pick the lemons (he often brings me some just for fun).

Lemons from our tree!

Now, because we had eight cups of berries, we needed eight cups of sugar.  Stop at this point and discuss with the four-year-old: we need eight cups of sugar, and there are two measures in each cup.  So how many measures of sugar do we need?  (Lots of prompting and counting on fingers, and reminders that eighteen is not the number after fifteen might be required). Measure out the sugar, with your helper counting the measures out loud.

Put everything into a large saucepan

Stir over a low heat, until the sugar is dissolved.  Then turn the heat up and bring to a rolling boil.  Allow your helper to stir very carefully.

My little stirrer!

Notice that the jam bubbles up quite high, quite quickly.  Start to worry that it might boil over.  Move the helper out of the way.


I think you know what happens next.  Teach the four-year-old a few new words, and breathe in the delicious aroma of burnt sugar.  Quickly turn off the gas!  (Ooops, not quickly enough).  If you’re unlucky, or slow, the smoke alarm will let your neighbours know you’re cooking.

Decant a portion of the jam into another large pot, and bring to the boil.  Clean the sides and bottom of the first pot, clean the stovetop, and bring the first pot back to the boil.  Don’t be disappointed if your helper decides that making a Lego airplane to take us all to Australia is more important than helping make jam right now.

back on track

Boil for 10 minutes (or more for the larger pot), until jam sets on a cold plate.  Then pour into jars, seal, and so on.

Strawberry jam, and a Lego plane to take us to Australia

When the pot has cooled, scrape a teaspoon along one side and give your helper a taste of the fruit of his labours.  Your reward is his huge grin and judgement: “It’s deeeeelicious!”

Oh, and several jars of jam, and a caramel-scented kitchen, and a huge pile of sticky dishes.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Darling Harbour Playground (updated with photos)

October 19, 2011

Forget climbing the Harbour Bridge, or visiting the Opera House.  If you are visiting Sydney you must go to the playground at Darling Harbour.  If you don’t have kids, borrow some from a friend.

We didn’t even see the whole playground (which is enormous) – we got “stuck” in the water-play area.  After about an hour I suggested to Fainjin that we investigate the rope-climbing, but he tossed “No! I’m having too much fun!” over his shoulder at me as he scampered along the water-course yet again.

scampering and having too much fun

At the top of the slope there are pumps of several descriptions, and a little water-wheel, and some fountains from which the water runs downhill in several channels, never more than ankle-deep.  Children can change the flow  by opening or closing gates or lifting sluice-gates.  There is an Archimedes’ Screw, which I was fascinated to see working, and Babess loved the Water Scoop, about twice as high as she is but she could still turn it.

Babess at the water-scoop - already soaking wet from the waist down!

I think if we had visited this playground on our first day here, the children would have tried to ensure we never went anywhere else.  I’d like to think we could go there every day for a week and play in a different area each time (slides! swings! whirly things! sand and diggers! rope-climbing! the flying fox!) but honestly, I think we’d end up in the water every time.

One of the things I loved was seeing little kids enjoying it so much and parents not worrying about how wet they got.  It was warm enough that it didn’t matter.  Some kids had togs (swimsuits), some had stripped down to their undies, a few were naked, some were soaking wet in their clothes – and no-one minded a bit.  And, as I heard one mother comment, “It doesn’t matter – if you get too wet we’ll just go to the markets and get you an outfit.”  Indeed, we had been to the markets (5 min walk away) that morning and Babess wore her $10 outfit – t-shirt, dress, hat and matching bag – home from the water-play area.

Make sure you have plenty of sun-screen.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.


October 18, 2011

We are in Sydney (Australia) at the moment, visiting family and having a great time.

Today we took a ferry over to Watson’s Bay, where we went for a walk along the cliff-tops of The Gap to look at the surprisingly small entrance to Sydney Harbour, enjoyed the playground (away from the cliff-top!), then had lunch at a delightful cafe in the local library.

While climbing up to the cliff-top, Fainjin noticed the sandstone boulders adjacent to the path, and enthused, “Hey Dad! I can do some rock-climbing!”

He chose a boulder of about his own height, and attempted to scale it, but found it was a bit too smooth at first attempt.  He stood back, regarded it carefully, then tutted.  “Dat’s the wrong rock.”

Luckily, The Dad was more than happy to lend a hand, and the pair of them scaled the “wrong” rock and then the one above it, only to re-join us a few minutes later flushed with their success.

© UpsideBackwards 2011.



September 24, 2011

I was just looking at last year’s birthday post, and it amuses me that we are still using the same giant roll of pink paper to wrap Pearl’s birthday presents this year.

Today was a day of Zhuzhu princesses, books, music lessons, and horse-riding.  I think we covered all her passions quite neatly there.

Our funny, wise, infuriating, kind, wonderful girl is nine today.

Happy Birthday, Pearl.

Look, no hands! (sorry so blurry...)

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

Dangerous things, trees

August 5, 2011

Both the little ones have suffered tree-related injuries today.

This morning Fainjin tried to climb the tree in the car-park, which is admittedly large and temptingly climbable.  Our mouths were still open from asking (telling) him not to climb up there when he cried out and stumbled back, blood coming from his nose.  It was a small scratch on the side of his nose, but it did bleed quite a bit and he was upset.

And this afternoon Babess came home with a sticking plaster on her shin.  We’re not clear on exactly what happened.  She says it was a tree on the street.  It’s possible there’s an explanatory note at daycare that we missed seeing.  Perhaps something happened during their walk today.

Perhaps she was trying to be like her big brother… come what may!

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

This could get noisy…

July 25, 2011

My teenage nephew came for dinner last night.  The children were absolutely thrilled, he is lovely with them and they really look up to him (most people do, he is exceptionally tall).

He and Fainjin are the two boys in a gaggle of local girl-cousins, so they have quite a special bond despite the age difference.  And so, when – while waiting for dinner to be served – my tap-dancer nephew offered to show Fainjin a few steps, my boy was delighted to have a go.

I was instantly transported back in time about 12 years, when my nephew first saw “Riverdance” and had us all in stitches as he cavorted about the living room doing a passable 4-year-old’s version of the dances and falling down regularly.   I think we joked then that he would grow up to be a dancer… we had no idea how right we were.

He only had the TV to show him the steps.  Fainjin got personal instruction from an accomplished performer.  They started off with some very basic tap steps (in their socks), then my nephew showed off some rapid fancy steps.  Fainjin faithfully had a go at copying him, adoration written on his face.

It was still written on his face when he landed on his backside… twice.

Later, I was exclaiming over the cuteness to the Fabulous Auntie B.  She drily advised me to start saving for tap shoes.


© UpsideBackwards 2011.


July 5, 2011

We had quite a shake here today.  Literally – a 6.5 earthquake in the middle of the North Island, widely felt in our area.  I was sitting at the kitchen table (home with Fainjin, who has croup).  I would characterise the shaking as insistent, rather than violent, and it lasted quite a long time, about 30 seconds according to news reports.  For me, it went a bit like this: “something’s wrong… what’s wrong?… the kitchen door is rattling… why is it rattling? Fainjin’s not out there, he’s in the lounge… oh, the table is shaking!  oh everything is shaking! ummmm…”

Fainjin was unconcerned, I don’t think he even really noticed it – or if he did, didn’t realise it was a quake.

Pearl was at after-school care, and when I went to get her I asked whether they had felt it.  “No,” came the reply, “and you’ll never guess why!  We were all outside assembling for an earthquake drill!”

Nice to know they’re prepared!

© UpsideBackwards 2011.

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