So my baby started school today

By all accounts he loved school and had a great time.
…but my boy has been known to think outside the box, and THIS is what he made within 5 minutes of being in his new classroom….

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I asked him what he had built.
“It’s a prison Mum. See here are the bars, here are the walls, here are the smoke stacks and here is a big candle on the top.”
(the candle bit is probably because we live near a petrol refinery and refer to the elevated flare as “the big candle” but aside from that, references to prison aren’t exactly commonplace in our house ).

I just wonder if my strange, curious 5 year-old boy has come up with his own metaphor for school within 5 minutes of starting???

(and no – none of us have likened school to a “prison”, not do we talk much about prisons).

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Grandad’s tree

The long story behind Grandad’s tree

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Firstly, a bit about Grandad……

My father-in-law (aka “Grandad”) was a wise old farmer who knew how to handle his livestock in a gentle way and he seemed in have an innate understanding of all animals (including native wildlife) and the land he managed.

His cattle were the picture of health and it was often said by a local stock inspector that when he died he wanted to come back as a cow on Bob’s farm.

Grandad raised 5 children with his lovely wife “Nana”. I married one of their sons. Grandad’s daughters? … well one of them is nice…. The other two are in my bad books for the duration.

To cut a long story slightly less long …..

Sadly, Grandad was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2005, which he bravely fought … and actually was cancer free for about a week … and then succumbed in February 2007. He was only 73. He never smoked nor drank, ate healthy food – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and was as fit as a fiddle – he could outwork most men half his age. He was a gentle, happy soul who grew up in a house of horror (he remembers his father flinging a pot of boiling water at his mother when he was a child)…. and yet the cancer still got him.

Grandad’s funeral was held in the small local cemetery.. …so small that most people don’t know it’s there. The funeral was held on my husband’s 43rd birthday – yet another example of his sisters failing to be considerate when dictating How. They. Want. Things. To. Be.  (My husband was trying to be too much of a man at the time to tell the heartless bitches them to make it a day earlier or later).

A traditional wake was held after the funeral at the local CWA hall and then we and the rest of the locals retired to the farm to have a sausage sizzle and general yarn  (this seems a bit odd to some, but when locals don’t get much chance to natter away to each other, nor interstate relatives much chance to talk with their families, a post-wake sausage sizzle is a GOOD thing).

….and here’s where the tree comes in….

The sausage sizzle was held down near the yards as “the boys” had planned to light up the top half of a big gum tree nearby. The bottom few branches of the tree were alive and healthy, but a lightning strike years ago meant that the top third of the tree had died and was just waiting to fall. Basically, branches were hanging precariously over the cattle yards – what we call  “widow makers”.

Grandad had often talked about doing this job but never managed to get around to it.

So, as a tribute, the boys decided to do the job. …and if you’ve ever seen a tree slowly burning at night, it’s quite a beautiful site (a caveat here – we’d had plenty of rain, and the surrounding area was lush and green and not a bushfire risk).

So a scaffold was built on top of one of the farm trucks in order to reach the point at which they wanted to start the burn and the boys set about lighting the top of the tree (using compressed air to really get it going).

They picked a point above the point Grandad had always said he’d choose. The lower branches were fine of course – what real difference would it make?

Much merriment was had on such a sad day as the boys argued about the how and the where but they finally got a decent fire going inside the trunk of the tree.

It was a beautiful site to see and we all sat some distance away, munching sausages and other goodies, yarning away, admiring the tree and toasting Grandad (not literally – perhaps I should say we raised out glasses in tribute).

The tree slowly crackled and burned and lit up the sky. The boys camped down at the yards to monitor the fire, finally dousing the flames at around 3am before getting some sleep.

…and here’s where the bit about life after death comes in…..

The next morning (well technically LATER that same morning) my husband and his brother were surveying their job – the top half of the tree had burned to fine charcoal and  fallen to the ground and the bottom half was still intact.

They congratulated themselves on a Job Well Done.

Or so they thought.

Just as they walked out of the ‘widow-maker’ zone, most of the remaining branches crashed to the ground with a thud, just missing them by metres.

Some say coincidence.

We say Grandad having a laugh and finishing the job properly.

So the following night another bonfire was lit in the base of the tree. Ironically the branch Grandad always intended to retain was (and is) the only branch still alive.  Thriving even.

…and that’s how we know that Grandad lives on and still has his wacky sense of humour!

So it turns out that I do actually love being at the farm…

… I just don’t love being at the farm with inlaws.

We spent a couple of days at the farm after Christmas (and before the sugly isters got in to case the joint).  For a change, we were by ourselves and I really enjoyed it.

I think it was the fact that nobody trying to get me to fire up the wood stove in 30 degree heat to boil the living daylights out of a lump of corned beef, make eleventy billion cups of tea “for the men”, making *grape* jam (for the love of God … why turn grapes into jam????) or generally being bossed about when all I want to do is sit somewhere cool and read a book.

But when we were there by ourselves I had a great time.  The kids rode their bikes around the house paddock and terrorised the house cats and frogs or went about with Mr Fixit as he moved some cows around and generally mucked about.

I snapped off some pics while we were there…

Cows and calves in the house paddock (so lovely and green at the moment 🙂

Where old trucks come to die
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Happy cats (not that I particularly like cats but they do ease the mice problem in the shed)
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Joe Blake came around for a visit…. (sorry for the dodgy colour – quick flash photography at night is never something that works particularly well for me)
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Mind you, when I say that my brother-in-law and his wife are somewhat less than tidy, I’m not kidding. This is what we arrived to in the shared bedroom: none of it belongs to us.

(yes, they are dirty clothes and food wrappers).

…and the kitchen.

I’m itching to set some ground rules over each family selecting a room to keep their own crap in and leaving the bloody place reasonably clean and tidy. As it was, Mr Fixit and I spent about two hours cleaning when we arrived to make it somewhat livable.

Not that I ever want to live there or anything … but I am falling in love with the place 🙂

First win for 2010!

Mr Fixit had to go back to work today after his Christmas break.

His boss came in to the R&D office to see him.  This sort of visit from the boss usually entails a “pep” talk where the boss whinges that Mr Fixit only has the capacity to do the work of 10 men and not 100.

BUT

Today he came in and said “you haven’t had a pay rise in a while, so I’m giving you one”.

It’s not a huge pay rise.  In fact it doesn’t cover the lack of pay rise for the past 3 years.

But it’s a pay rise nonetheless.  …and what’s better, Mr Fixit didn’t have to go in and demand a pay rise.

Knock me over with a feather.

First fail of 2010 … and some good news

We had a fab evening with our neighbours last night. Wine was drunk, merriment had, kids entertained.  Lovely.

…and then I woke up this morning to discover that Mr Fixit had left the freezer door ajar, necessitating a day spent cooking and re-freezing a whole heap of chicken and fish that was in there … and I hate bulk cooking.  So I guess that counts as the first fail of 2010 … but as far as a fail goes, its OK.

Onto the good news – my Dad is going from strength to strength.

I think we left the saga last when, unable to walk, pee, dress, feed without assistance, he went for an MRI on his existing brain tumour only to discover that the brain tumour was just sitting there minding its own business when a whole heap of fluid decided to surround it and start pushing on the bits of brain that help you walk, pee, dress, talk-in-a-way-that-doesn’t-make-your-family-start-to-consider-calling-the-men-in-white-coats etc.  He kept complaining that his feet were stuck to the floor, which is apparently a very common feeling in  people with hydrocephaly (along with the incontinence and dementia symptoms).

So back in November, Dad had a shunt placed in his skull to relieve the pressure.  At first, he was completely loopy.  He was telling me that a chef walked into his hospital room and offered him paella and he really wanted some but then wasn’t allowed to eat any.  He WOULD NOT have it that he saw it on Masterchef  on the tele and got a little confused.  I was a bit worried that he was waaaay worse than before.

Anyhoo … he’s since spent about a month in rehab and is walking, talking, and most importantly *peeing* without assistance and is generally back to his old self (ie grumpy … but mobile).   It hasn’t stopped him from doing dumb stuff like waiting until Mum was out shopping to decide to take a stroll around the block with his walker.

Mum and Dad are starting to venture out of the house together again … going for a coffee, to the neighbours etc.

Hopefully he’ll continue to recover and get his co-ordination and strength back.
All in all, things are looking up 🙂