days of lamb & naptimes…

Last night, a guest at dinner asked if we’d heard about “the phenomenon”. Since living Down Under and learning the lingo could be considered a phenomenon in and of itself, I had to ask “which one?”. Turns out, an alignment of four planets was supposed to be visible at 5am, don’t ask me which ones. I didn’t even know (then) whether they would be visible in the U.S., as well. But two of the girls intended to get up in order to see them, and I figured maybe I should, too. Just to say I had.

Alarm went off at 5, I got up to visit the bathroom, and crawled back into bed. Not a sound in the house. Maybe they forgot. Ten minutes later, several “creatures” were stirring. Blast. I argued with myself and lost, fighting my way back out of my mosquito netting, and threw on some extra layers, as it was in the low 40s outside. So, I was nice and toasty, while one girl had her bathrobe on over here PJs, and the other didn’t have any thing extra. We wandered out past the yard, and down the driveway, where we saw three very bright lights in the sky, but they weren’t lined up like someone said they would be. But where was the fourth? There was a flickering light, lower in the sky, which I figured was a satellite. After a bit, we headed back in, with my flashlight to keep us from falling in any potholes. I wished I knew my constellations better, because I felt like I should recognize some of them, but I wasn’t sure, as I’m now on the “wrong” side of the world.

Later this morning, Mrs. B told me that Mars was hiding behind the shed, which is probably why we didn’t see the fourth planet. Maybe if we go out again, next morning, we’ll find him… er, it out there.

My day went normally, and when nap time for the little girls came around at 1pm, I was thrilled. I have a new appreciation for what mothers do, as I am just the au pair… my day ends around 5pm. A mom and dad’s jobs are never finished, and they don’t just hand off the reins when they’re tired of them. Those kids are theirs for good or ill, and it’s a 24/7 job. Until now, I’d never had the responsibility for several children for this long, and it’s a lot of work. Of course, I knew this already, but it hits home better when you’re actually doing it!

So, nap time arrives, and I’m happy. I love these kids, but everybody needs a breather. My arm muscles should be made of steel, soon, from hauling the baby around, and you have to keep up with a three year old’s thought processes, questions, and everything else. In addition to her not being able to pronounce certain letters, and she has an Australian accent. Her favorite question is “What?”, and her parents are trying to break her of it, and get her to say “I beg your pardon”, instead. I’m trying to keep myself from saying “What?” right back at her, too often, because I often need her to repeat herself.

Occasionally, we have a discussion about what she’s telling me, as she has to figure out how to make this crazy American understand. The other day, she was requesting something, and I had no idea what it was. She got out her stool, opened up the big drawer where all the plastic containers are, and dug around until she found the popsicle molds. Turns out, she was requesting that we make “ice blocks”, which is what they call them down here. And nobody can explain to me WHY they call juice boxes “poppers”.

For a change, during nap time, I got out the instant coffee, which is a normal thing to find down here, more so than ground coffee (or so it seems). Unfortunately, the jar didn’t say how much to put into the hot water, and I overdid it with two spoonfuls. Oy. I had to up the Splenda content, as it was a little strong for me. But it sure smelled good. I’m doing pretty well with all the tea, though. I keep practicing paying attention to the tea flavors, so maybe by the time I leave Australia, I’ll be able to recognize any tea someone hands me.

Right before nap time, Mrs. B came home for lunch, and to start dinner. We were having company, and lamb was on the menu. I was very curious to try lamb, as I’ve only had it in a gyro, and I’ve heard all the pros and cons about it. Apparently you either love it or hate it. Well, I’ve never met a piece of meat that I didn’t like (unless oysters count), so I was ready to try this one. She put it in a pan, picked some rosemary fresh from the garden, to place around the meat, and stuck some holes in the meat, in order to stuff garlic cloves into it. Then, she and the 3 year old rubbed olive oil and salt into the meat, before putting it in the oven. Between the rosemary and garlic, it already smelled good.

Shortly thereafter, the entire house smelled of rosemary, the girls were sound asleep, and I was able to catch up on hanging out the laundry. I picked up all the toys around the house, and picked up some pink and purple “jumpers” (hoodies), to put in the girls’ rooms, later. Oh, the joys of living in a house full of girls. Pink and purple everywhere.

The little ones slept right up until the school kids arrived home, and then it was time for smoko. “Fairy bread” was the order of the day. Does every little girl have a fascination with sprinkles for cake and cookies? Well, fairy bread is bread and butter, with sprinkles added. I had a piece for my smoko, too, and it was good. Just sugar on bread and butter, basically, but it’s very colorful. We sat out on the steps of the veranda (I still tend to call it a porch, but we use both terms in the U.S.), and munched away at our fairy bread, with the warm afternoon sun shining on us.

That warm sun was a welcome change, by the way, after waking up to 40 degree weather (yes, I’m still speaking Fahrenheit), and no central heat. We use space heaters and wear scarves and jackets to breakfast. The kids think it’s dreadfully cold, and I don’t, but then, I’m used to having a heater. So, I guess it goes both ways. And since heat rises, and I have no doors leading outside from where I sleep, my room’s one of the warmest in the house.

Dinner came around, with two families over, with several kids of their own, so as usual, there were shrieking kids running around playing tag, while we readied supper. Ghosts were the order of business, and so, a pink sheet wandered the halls, with at least two kids under it, howling, as they attempted to catch the others. The lamb came out, supper was served, and it was pretty good. I wouldn’t say I’m in love with lamb, but it isn’t bad. It does have a distinctive flavor, and it would’ve tasted better warm (kids got served first), but over all, not bad. All you lamb haters, say what you like, I’ll happily try it again.

Oh, and my random question for the evening, which set them all off laughing… when Friday afternoon arrives, they tell me I can “knock off” for the weekend. So, I cheerfully asked whether I should tell my friends that I’m “knocked off” for the weekend or “knocking off” for the weekend. Oh, it got a huge laugh, but I really did want to know. “Knocking off” sounds correct, but I guess I’ll never know. But now, I can’t say I’m going to knock off for the weekend, because I did that already. There you have it, I already did knock off for the weekend. But when I say it, it sounds like I either hit someone, or I lost my marbles, or something worse.

What else have we been up to? One of the girls requested what sounded like “mallow”, and I was trying to figure out if it was a marshmallow snack, when Mrs. B said it was a sweet drink, made with powder and milk. It wasn’t until we were trying to get the can away from her (she wanted too many scoops of powder) that I realized it was chocolate powder, called Milo, made by Nestle. So, I guess it’s the Australian version of Quik.

And for those of you who know me pretty well, one of the girls requested that I get out my Frisbee, yesterday. She’d heard me talk about it, so I went out with two of the littles to practice with the Frisbee. For their age, they weren’t too bad. I taught them how to use their arms like crocodile jaws, to catch the Frisbee more easily. We were doing pretty well, but it was a little too slow for the four year old, who gave me several suggestions on a different type of game we could play with it. It wasn’t too far a cry from Ultimate, what she was describing, so I told her I’d teach her the proper way to play, eventually. And then, I threw it easily to the other little one, and she caught it beautifully… as at the same time, it bonked her in the nose. So, the game came to a halt, for a while.

After this, the four year old was messing around with me, so I ended up chasing her for a while, and then she challenged me to a race. Once she stopped changing the rules mid-race, she beat me. But please remember, the yard was muddy, and she had home field advantage.

And so, the subversion of the Aussie children has begun.   : )   Eventually, I’ll turn them into Frisbee players, and then they can teach their friends… and so on, and so fifth. I know Ultimate Frisbee already exists in Australia, but it can use all the help it can get, when it has to face off against every form of soccer, football and rugby in existence.

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