Saturday, August 25, 2012

It's Raining, It's Pouring

This week we had some rain. I know this because CP woke up and announced loudly that it was raining. And then I was annoyed. Not at the rain, only at CP, for waking me up. He then proceded to tell me every 5 minutes that it was still raining, or (if it was no longer raining) then he would speculate on how much rain we had already had, or how much he was still expecting. As it turns out, the storm was all bark and no bite, and sadly, we only ended up with about 1/8th of an inch.
If you live on the east coast of Australia (or in the tropics, or in fact any place where rain is common place) this means bugger all. Firstly, you probably don't even know what an inch is (especially if you are under 50 years of age), or you don't care what an inch is. But essentially, an inch means you hear the gentle pitter patter of rain on your roof for a period of minutes.
If you live where I live, an inch means something else entirely. An inch (or 100 points, or 25 ml) means our tanks and dams get a little fuller, our stock get a little more feed, and our crops get a little much needed watering. An inch also means that if the dirt road into town (all 20km of it to the bitumen) has been recently graded, there is every chance I will need to put the car into 4WD. And compacting this, is the unwritten rule of the bush that you can't complain about rain under any circumstances. Rain is good. Even when it's flooding. And an inch is perfect. Despite any inconvenience that it has caused me personally.
I'm not really complaining. (Oh, who am I kidding? Yes I am.) Friends of mine can't even leave their property with an inch of rain. So I consider myself lucky. But I am a city girl at heart, and the mere thought of engaging in any 4WD activity is enough to put a thin layer of sweat on my brow.
When I was a kid, my Dad was a member of a 4WD club. This seems to give my husband endless hours of pleasure, imagining me and my siblings strapped into the back of a 4WD, high tailing it to some private property; unwilling recipients in my father's quest for excitement. It was actually fun, I think. But now that I am all grown up, it's very different.

Hubby would be rolling his eyes and snickering at my apparent ineptness in the world of driving in the wet. And I consider myself a good driver too. (I should be, my father is a driving instructor. But as it has been pointed out to me before, if my father is a doctor, it doesn't automatically make me a good doctor too.) In fact, hubby probably could have handled the road today without the use of 4WD. But not me. My legs start that uncontrollable "knock knocking", my knuckles turn white,and my brow creases for the duration of the trip. I don't breathe properly, and the mere whisper from a passenger is enough to send me off the deep end. I know some of you reading this actually might even get off on 4WD-ing, but it's not my thing. Not with three children in the back. And not even on my own. And even though I am very grateful for the rain, I prefer it on days when I am staying home.

In the last three years we have been blessed with 'good seasons' (read; lots of rain). Three floods in three years in fact. On nights when it rains, hubby can barely contain his excitement. He's like a little kid at Christmas, and he wants to share it with the world.

And although I am always happy for good seasons, as a mother of three small children, I am just as grateful for a good night sleep.

Monday, August 20, 2012

An Explanation of Size In The Bush...

Let's be clear about something. Size doesn't matter.

When you live out here, things are always bigger. (We're just like Texas). I often have people ask me about 'size related' things when I tell them I live out west. By writing this blog, I hope to better explain 'size' from a country perspective.

Our farm spans 32 000 acres. Or approximately 15 000 hectares. Or if you are from anywhere else in Australia, it's 130 square kilometres. Just to put this in perspective for you, the average property size in Australia (much like those in a city or town) is 0.000325 square kilometres. So basically, we could fit in approximately 250 000-300 000 average 'properties' into our 'block'. And our place is very average in regards to its size for this part of the world. Some properties in rural Australia are much larger. Some are over a million acres. One is even bigger than Belgium.

* I'm not fantastic at maths... if you can actually correct my maths there, please feel free to do so...

I once spoke to an Australia Post employee in Sydney (over the phone), about trying to change my residential address to the town from A to B (as we live smack between the two, and have two separate entries to our property, all I needed to do was place a mailbox out one side to receive mail from the OTHER closest town).  The poor girl could NOT get her head around how it was at all possible to do that. In the end I gave up trying to explain and left our postal address as it was.

I recently blogged about how and why cars are bigger. It's not just that we all like to drive 'luxury' vehicles. You can read about it here.

We drive further distances for things the rest of Australia takes for granted. I have been known to do an 80km round trip for milk. And I'm lucky. Some people could NEVER do a round trip of any discription because of their geographic isolation. Our children's bus stop is 20km away. The school is 40km away. Our mailbox is 3km away. My nearest neighbour is 10km away. And all of this is very 'average' in rural Australian terms. I regularly travel 100km in each direction for groceries, access to a chiropracter and other medical facilities. Our dentist is 250km away. I travel (at least 3 or 4 times a year) for 600km in each direction to visit family and take my children to see specialists in 'the city'.

Thank goodness for social networking!

The cost of living is far greater than anywhere on the east coast of Australia. Everything has to be freighted in and out; fuel, groceries, goods and services. Pretty much, the further west you get, the more you pay. We still need to eat and breathe like everyone else, it just costs us more to do it. I'm not complaining. Not really. Not seriously. Without people like us living out here, food and produce that everyone else takes for granted, would cost even more than it already does. All your fruit, veges, cotton, wool, meat, dairy etc etc. all comes from somewhere. Somewhere like out here.

The only thing that is smaller out here is the population! But thankfully, I get to immerse myself in that when I go about all my other jobs in the city.

It really is the best of both worlds out here. It's only as good as you make it. And size really doesn't matter at all.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Baby Emu

Last week I was driving home after picking the kids up off the bus. We were about half way when I saw something on the middle of the road ahead. As we approached, I could see that it was a family of emus, hit by a car or truck. They were all dead, with the exception of one little emu chick, who stood, possibly in shock, amidst the bodies of its dead family.

I slowed the car to a standstill and told the kids to sit still while I thought about what to do. CP was going to be VERY angry if I took the emu chick home. After three good seasons in a row, emus seem to be in semi-plague proportions out here at the moment. They compete with livestock for food and water, and can be aggressive at times. I wasn't even sure if I could actually pick it up, let alone put it, somewhere, in our car. On the other hand, I couldn't leave it where it was. I just couldn't. There is something about seeing such a tiny creature so vulnerable that really pulled on my heart strings. My heart broke for this tiny bird, and so I made a decision to take it home.

I approached it slowly. It stood very still. It would have been up to my knee in size, but seemed so small, and so precious. I edged closer and closer until eventually it was within my grasp, and then I reached out quickly, grabbing it around its body. I held it out so that its claws couldn't scratch me, and I hoped and prayed it wouldn't bite me.

When I reached the car, the kids (my kids) were in a panic. They were emotional about the family of birds that lay dead on the road, and nervous about what would happen to the baby emu. I opened the back door of our Toyota Prado (our NEW car), and placed the chick on the floor of the vehicle. By now my own children were FREAKING OUT. I didn't have a towel or anything to put him on, so I just made an effort to concentrate on getting home with as little dramas as possible. The baby emu had pooed on my shirt and jeans, and there was a mix of blood on there as well. I asked the kids to check on the bird, and Olivia started yelling that there was a cut on its foot, and that it was 'bleeding everywhere'! I didn't say anything, but remember thinking that I hoped the blood wouldn't permanently stain the carpet in the back of the car.

I tried to think of what on earth I was going to do with the emu chick once we were home.

When we did eventually make it home, I tried to find CP. Once he heard what it was I needed help with, he disappeared quickly, muttering something about me being crazy and stupid and irresponsible. I found a large esky and placed an old towel inside it. I placed the baby emu gently inside and then held the lid open a fraction with books. The emu didn't want to go anywhere. It was still clearly in shock. We found water, and placed it in with the bird, but it didn't drink.

Meanwhile, I was on the phone to Australia Zoo. I had reached the Wildlife Rescue department and was trying to explain what had happened, as well as emphasise that I couldn't possibly keep the emu for a multitude of reasons, but was happy to do whatever I could to ensure it would survive. I also called our local vet, who gave me the number of a woman in a nearby town who might possibly be able to care for it. I called her whilst Australia Zoo went looking for someone who could help me. The lady in the nearby town, Mary, said that as it so happened, she was headed to Miles the following day, where she was meeting an Australia Zoo rep, and she would be happy to take the emu chick if I could meet her in her town early the next morning. Australia Zoo then called back to certify that Mary was legitimate, and that she would indeed help get the emu (eventually) to Australia Zoo.

So now I just had to keep the emu alive until the next morning. I wrapped a bandage around his sore leg, and hoped that it wouldn't get infected. At least then I could monitor the amount of bleeding (which I didn't think was as bad as I had initially thought). When CP came home he brought chicken pellets with him for the emu chick. We talked about all the reasons why this emu couldn't be our new pet. As much as its cuteness was winning us all over.

Before we went to bed, I placed a hot water bottle inside the esky with the baby emu. It snuggled up next to it, and I hoped for the best.

The next morning, I prepared a new box to carry the emu in. It seemed in much better spirits than the night before.

I drove the baby emu to Mary, and she took charge of him after that. I said goodbye to the chick, and was a little sad that I might not ever hear anything about it ever again.

I needn't have worried.

A week later, Australia Zoo contacted me via a picture I'd uploaded (and tagged) on Instagram, stating that "the baby emu was alive and well in the animal hospital, learning to peck and eat with a chicken. There will be a story on him/her on either the Australia Zoo or Wildlife Warriors page in a few days!"

I could have done a little dance.

So here is the link to the story.... (They have called him/her Elmo).

I am one very proud person at the moment!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

My Addiction - And (Finally) 'The Hunger Games' Giveaway

I have always been a reader. More specifically, I have always been a big reader of 'sets'.

First it was Babysitters Club books, and then it was Sweet Valley High books. By the time I'd reached highschool, I was reading (albeit sneakily) Virginia Andrews books (Flowers in The Attic etc.) - and in all honesty, that probably cemented me in my deep seated love for trashy novels. I still like actual REAL, honest to goodness literature too, but I will always have a soft spot for 'easy reading'. Like many books, a television of film version often finds its way to our screens. I also enjoyed the TV series and movies of each of those sets. When I'd made my way through all of the Virginia Andrews books, I spent a few years trying to find something that fit the mould. Bryce Courtney saw me through a few of those years.

I wasn't reading for pleasure as much in my University years, and it was only when 'Twilight' was released that I found my way back to my old trust 'book sets' again. Throw stones all you want. Twilight got me reading again. (Twilight and some other GENUINE books). I resisted at first, because I just didn't think the whole 'vampire thing' would be for me... but it turns out I was wrong. I was addicted. I also am addicted to the movie versions of the books. Go on and laugh. Sometime sI shake my head at myself, but it's a fact. They are my favourite 'sick day' and 'rainy day' movies. (And lets face it, I AM the target audience of desperate housewife). After Twilight I then lunged straight into the True Blood series (mostly because I love the television series, and needed a 'fix' in order to see what might happen in future storylines), and truth be known, I want those hours of my life back. The books are NOTHING like the show. If anyone thinks Twilight is terrible reading, I don't recommend getting your claws anywhere near True Blood (The Sookie Stackhouse books). After Twilight I got into more serious reading; no 'sets' as such, just good, solid novels. 

CP is also a reader. Early in our marriage I discovered his extensive stash of Wilbor Smith, Jeffrey Archer and John Grisham books. They kept me busy for quite some time too, but left me hungry for something a little more 'feminine'.

I started a book club in our little town and once a month a group of awesome ladies would get together to discuss books. I was deeply ingrained in my passion for reading.  I found my way into Dan Brown, Kate Morton, Jodi Picoult, and Ken Follett, Harry Potter and the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series.

I am also a fan of (and am almost ashamed to admit I like) '50 Shades of Grey' (again, I am the target demographic).  I am currently making my way through the 'Game of Thrones' (A Song of Ice and Fire) box set. I am a fan of the series, and wanted to get myself engrossed in the books. It's heavy reading, but I am sure it will be worth it.

More recently I finished reading one of the latest literary phenomenom making its way around the world.

I'm talking about The Hunger Games. It took me a whole three days to go from go to whoa. There are three books in the series. 1. The Hunger Games 2. Catching Fire and 3. The Mockingjay. They are really written for a teenage audience, but I really loved them. The 'Hunger Games' movie was released in cinemas the week I started reading them, but I have always been a fan of reading the book first whenever I can. And so when Roadshow Entertainment contacted me about running a giveaway for 'The Hunger Games' DVD, I jumped at the chance! The movie is every bit as good as the book.

For your chance to win one of 3 copies of the DVD, all you need to do is pop over to my facebook page (or at the bottom of this page if it is more convenient) and leave a comment stating what your favourite book/movie combo is, and why. No word limit.

Winners will be selected randomly. The judges decision is final. Competition closes 21st August at 5pm EST. Australian and New Zealand entrants only please. Winners will be contacted by me directly.

The Hunger Games is available to own on DVD and Blu-Ray 17th August 2012.

* Amended 3 hours after posting. COMPETITION CLOSED!

Things I Said I'd Never Do As A Parent... But Do.

In my life before parenting there were loads of things I said I'd never do. I was a text book expert, who had ideas about everything from birthing to raising a child. Plus I was a teacher, so with my 'wealth of experience' in education, I knew exactly the sort of child I was and was not going to raise.

1. I said I'd never swear in front of my kids.

 Did I really say that? Because I have sworn on many occasions in front of them. Mostly if I am just REALLY PISSED OFF about something, or if I feel like I am the only person in our house who ever listens to me. But also sometimes if I have hurt myself, or if I am in a wildly animated telephone exchange. I do TRY not to swear in front of the kids, and actually, they have become fairly proficient at pulling me up when I do let an f-bomb go. In our house, my kids think that 'stupid', 'fart', 'bum' and 'dumb' are also swear words, and as we refer to all swear words as 'f-words', I sure as heckfire hope that my kids don't run around saying "Mum said the f-word last night!", because chances are I didn't...

2. I said I'd never bribe my kids.

Little did I know that bribing appears to have the greatest success rate in me, as the parent, having a win! I will bribe for silence when I am on the phone. "Yes! Just take a packet of chips/piece of chocolate/popper but take it away from me while I am on the phone!" I will also bribe for good behaviour in public. "If you kids can try not to fight while I am doing the shopping today, and if you don't run a trolley up my ankles, or the ankles of any other person, you can have an ice-cream when we get to the car." I have also been known to bribe in regards to education. "If you can pull 20/20 on every spelling test for the next month, you can get something nice from the newsagent." To which Miss 7 replied, "MUM! Miss Betts would NEVER ask me to get 20/20 in my test! She would just tell me to do my best, and that's all that matters! I wish SHE was my Mum!" To which I speedily rushed into the school to justify my actions before poor Miss Betts thought I was running some sort of sweat factory at home for kids and spelling tests. I now bribe for any result between 18-20/20...

FYI - 'ass whooping' can also mean, 'time out', no toys/games/tv, silent treatment etc...

3. I said I'd never let my kid have a dummy.

Actually, none of my kids have ever had a dummy. However, I do have one thumb sucker (and if anyone has tips on how to get him to stop they would be greatly appreciated). But there was this one time during a long haul car trip where my baby was SCREAMING, so I stopped and tried desperately to shove a dummy in her mouth. We were so close to our destination, and after 6 hours in a car I just wanted to get there. I would have sold my soul to the devil if my baby had taken the dummy for me at that moment, but it lasted only a minute before it was out of her mouth and on the floor. I was not anti-dummies after that.

4. I said I'd never formula feed my babies.

I breast fed all three of my children for varying lengths of time, however there were the odd occasions where I resorted to formula feeds when my poor organisation left me with no expressed milk (or not enough expressed milk) to last while I was away. I once attended a wedding when my first baby was only a few months old. She was strictly breast fed and I had expressed enough milk for what I thought would last for the duration of the wedding. My mother was babysitting her for me. In the first hour all the milk was gone, and after screaming for however long, my poor mother was left with no other option than to go to a pharmacy and buy bottles, formula and the whole kit and caboodle to feed my poor, starving baby. While she dealt with that, I was stuck at the wedding, forced to go and 'hand express' milk into the toilets at regular intervals as my engorged breasts started turning to stone. I'm pretty sure I would have vowed I would never hand express into a toilet at a wedding too, had I known that was a possibility, but it's one of those things we find ourselves doing as first time mothers.

5. I said I'd never let a room full of people see me naked.

The only time I would ever allow that was if I was in labour. That's how you know you're in REAL labour... when a room full of strangers enters the room and you couldn't care less. This happened to me with my first baby. Since then I have had my boobs out on show during breastfeeding,  (pretty much for the whole world to see at times), and now going to the doctors for any number of 'female tests' doesn't bother me at all.

6. I said my kids would never eat a whole bunch of foods.

Mostly my kids are pretty good eaters. They love fruit. One even loves all veges! They will eat almost anything put in front of them (almost...), but here I am, all these years later, and I could tell you what my kids will order from McDonalds when we are there (we lives 250km from the nearest fast food outlet thank goodness), and that they love (ewwww) Nutella. I do draw the line at a large number of foods, but the point I am making is that my kids have tried it all. Thy might not eat it regularly, but they still know what it all is.

7. I said they'd never be able to watch certain movies at certain ages.

I'm still fairly strict about it, but I have probably let them watch more than I said they would at their ages. They love girly movies, so sometimes we have 'rainy day movie days' where we watch soppy love stories like 'Ever After' and 'Mamma Mia'. Recently my 7 year old came into the lounge room while 'Jurassic Park' was on, and looked up just in time to see a man get eaten by a dinosaur. After a quick explanation about how that could NEVER happen in real life and the whole 'it's just a movie' speech, I have endeavoured to be more careful about this now...

8. I said I'd never have an uneven number of kids - specifically 3 - because someone is always left out.

WHY GOD WHY???!!! Here I am with 3 kids... and yes, they fight. Yes... they pick sides against each other and YES, I think constantly that surely 4 must be better than 3. But that boat has long sailed now...

I suppose the point I'm making is that EVERY DAY I break another of my 'I said I'd never do that' rules.

And to be fair, I think I've still done okay as far as parenting goes. These kids have their moments, but mostly they are pretty cool, friendly and likeable street angels. Yes, street angels. You know the ones... they do everything right in public and then the minute you get behind closed doors they spiral down into a mutated version of their former selves. This meltdown usually lasts until they are asleep. But I digress, these kids are almost exactly how I wanted my kids to be. They are happy, healthy, clever little people. We have a lot of love in our house, and eve though I manage to screw up daily, somehow these kids are resilient enough to wear it.

And I love them for it.

Is there anything you said you'd never do, that you do?