Search: label/Paradise

The Coolest Toy I’ve Ever Seen.

by Lori Dwyer on December 17, 2012 · 7 comments

As we’ve discussed many times before, my kids have a thing for trains. Steam trains, in particular.

I consider it some kind of karmic punishment. I hated Thomas as a kid, probably only because my younger brother adored it. The old–school Thomas theme (before words and personalities and whatnot) carries with an unpleasant undertone of cranky sibling nostalgia. Even with that in mind, I’m still slightly suspicious of the Thomas and Friends revamp. With words in the theme song, and trains that have animated faces and each their own individual voices.

And, because I am old, I just really miss Ringo Starr.

Whatever. TV show and merchandise being mostly unrelated, anyway, I held no preconceived grudges against the Fisher Price Thomas Speed n Steam that was delivered to the TinyTrainHouse last weekend. And I’m grateful for that. Because when I say this is the coolest toy I have ever seen in my whole life, you might believe me.

And I mean that- really. This Thomas is truly awesome– everything you hated about remote controlled toys for little ones, Fisher Price has already thought of. And they’ve fixed it.

There’s no annoying, thin metal antennae to snap, bend and render the toy useless. Secondly, the controls are so, so simple. The green arrow goes forward. The blue button changes ’modes’, but only requires one press on it to make Thomas get all piston–happy and shoot off across the floor. The yellow arrow is, technically, ’reverse’– but not. The most frustrating thing for a three year old is attempting to manipulate an RC toy when the concept of a three point turn is many teenaged years away from them. So Thomas doesn’t just reverse, he also spins himself around, so he’s facing back the way he came from. Or any other other direction you like, really– he just keeps doing 360′s until you take your finger off the button.

So ridiculously simple. So damn ingenious.

Thomas Steam n Speed also, as his implies, blows real steam– but cool steam, not hot steam–from his smoke stack. Say what you will about children and imagination and so forth, I do, even from my fantastic plastic standpoint over here, totally get what you’re saying. But the reason Thomas is so very cool is that he’s a steam train. And, unless you happen to live in the TinyTrainTown, you just don’t see them all that often. Filling up his tiny water tank seems to last a very long time, even with only ten ml’s of water in it; and is super easy thanks to the little plastic dropper provided which actually tucks into a compartment underneath Thomas, so it won’t get lost in that draw of batteries, phone cords, paper clips, pens and other junk that I know you have somewhere at home. Because everyone has one. I call it the Basket of Doom. Speaking of, Thomas takes four AA batteries… consider yourself forewarned, and therefore forearmed.

Anyway. The Thomas Speed n Steam is, completely honestly, one of the most awesome battery–powered toys for little kids that I’ve monopolised away from my children. And, of course, the Chop and the Bump love it, too– I can tell by the way they are prepared to fight one another to the death for possession of the remote control.

So this one gets an extraordinary five out five jellybeans on the RRSAHM Ranking Stuff Scale. Well done, Thomas, well done. Cinders and ashes, indeed.

So you can buy your very own Thomas Speed n Speed, I’ve got a $100 Toys’R’Us voucher up for grabs. Fill in the form below and tell me- do you groove on the new, animated Thomas; or are you more of a traditionalist Thomas fan? 
25 words or less-ish, please, and Australian residents only (again, I know, I know…). This one opens Monday 17th November and closes midnight Wednesday 19th Novemeber AEST. You can find the T’s and C’s right here.

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by Lori Dwyer on October 29, 2012 · 8 comments

I took my kids to Paradise this weekend, with their bestest mate Princess Boofhead and her mum.

They ran themselves ragged at the beach. Ate ice cream and drank lemonade and played at the park and argued and fought and had the most awesome time. I think you only have fun like that as a kid, really. You spend your adult life smiling on at it, or, if you happen to have kids of your own, facilitating it.

And I took photos and slept and relaxed and slept more. And I missed my husband with this big, aching chasm of grief that I’ve been unable to shake for weeks now. I don’t know… but the the last month I almost miss him as much as I did the first month. (And I tell myself that, knowing it can’t possibly be true…)

I find myself talking about him more and more, reminiscing over what we did and how we did. And I find myself confronted more and more with big gaps in things I should know. Things I used to know. Little things. The things that make up life (We drive past a bush walking spot on our way to Paradise, and I say to Chop “We went there, your Daddy and I, before I was even pregnant with you. And we saw.. I think… I can’t remember. Was it a wombat, or an echidna…?” And I still don’t know, of course, because there is no Tony here for me to ask.)

Maybe– probably– I’m missing him because the festive season– our festive season, all our birthdays and Christmas rolled into a few short mmonths– has officially already begun.

I’ll be thirty one years old this week.

Or maybe it’s not that. I always prefer to think poetically, it seems to make life prettier... maybe it’s to be blamed on all these holes that seem to forming where memories of him used to be. They have to be filled with something. So it’s layers of tears, a swath of deep blue. All the pain of wishing he were here funneling into them to fill their empty space.

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Spring Cleaning The TinyTrainHouse

by Lori Dwyer on September 28, 2012 · 12 comments

I am one of those truly odd people who take great pleasure in cleaning my house.

It’s right up there with doing laundry in terms of smug satisfaction– while there is no smug satisfaction that competes with bringing in a load of freshly washed, sun dried cloth nappies (diapers, whatever); the cat–in–a–bird–cage–glow that accompanies freshly mopped floors come a very close second place.

It’s Spring Cleaning time in the TinyTrainHouse.

Either by means of brilliant management or the intervention of the gods, I’ve managed to have a spring clean every year since I moved out of home at the age of eighteen. (The years that I remember, anyway– few in my early twenties that remain somewhat hazy.) Back in the BC (Before Children), I had heaps of time, so I cleaned as I wished or as living with flat mates determined. And, being a natural hoarder with minimalist ideologies, I have always taken great pleasure in sorting, culling and storing piles of possessions (which is certainly useful when you have two little kids who own every plastic moulded plaything ever produced).

Being pregnant was awesome for cleaning. Forget nesting in the last few weeks of pregnancy– I had the cleaning bug from about 12 weeks in, and it took a good four months after I gave birth for it to wear off. I remember my husband once telling me that I was going to “mop the damn enamel of the tiles if I attacked them again”, and that was probably not an entirely unfair thing to say. I think, at that point, thirty weeks pregnant and with way too much spare time, I was mopping the kitchen floor of the Purple House on a twice–daily basis.

There was no way I could keep that up. Hello, post natal depression and a massive case of useless anxiety. Pregnant the second time around, I actually relished that fervent, all consuming nesting instinct. ‘Sparkle sparkle’, said the glass doors and the floors and the car and the bathroom and the dog and whatever else would sit still for long enough to be drenched in white vinegar and scrubbed to within an inch of it’s existence.

About this time last year, we moved here, to the TinyTrainTown, from another small town that goes by the name of Paradise. Living in Paradise for six months made the spring clean and un–clutter almost disappointingly easy– anything that I hadn’t used, looked at or thought about in six months was more than likely not useless and could be scrapped, recycled or redistributed. (For those of you who have hoarder tendencies without the ruthlessness minimalism requires, pay careful attention to this next sentence– of everything I got rid of when I moved, I can honestly say I cannot think of one material thing I have genuinely missed or wished I still owned. Really.)

And the year before that… well. Life, into boxes, same as last year. But without nearly as much direction or purpose.

This year, with the weather beginning to warm and the heaven scent garden slowly blooming, it feels as though it’s time to clean. To open windows wide and let warm dry air blow through the house, taking dust and mold and mildew and winter and worries and stress away with it. To shuffle through and pick at boxes of toys and books, to delve into bathroom cupboards and builtin wardrobes and rid the house of the accumulated junk of twelve months worth of day to day in’s and out’s, fifty two weeks worth of life piling up on top of itself.

And it’s just mundane life piling up that leaves the most junk behind. There’s a filing cabinet full of papers to be culled, a storage cupboard stocked with Christmas presents, hoarded over winter like chestnuts, that need of be sorted and eventually wrapped. There’s a hot water main valve that requires relieving, a cat that needs to vaccinated, insurances to be renewed, spiders and other creepy crawlies to be poisoned, a sadly neglected vegetable garden that is just itching to be turned and planted, to stretch tiny seedlings towards the spring sunshine.

I only have myself to blame for so much of that boring doldrum falling right now, all at the same time of year. But, in truth, I don’t mind it at all. It feels like a life reboot, a clearing of the slate. Getting things in order before our birthdays and Christmas– the party season for our small family, all the festivities falling at once– begin and the New Year rolls out again with the best of intentions, before the days trip all over one another and life piles up again.

A thorough clean is a spiritual necessity in order to vacuum up the existential cobwebs and complement the Spring life–refresh.

Force me to choose the task I prefer from all the possible cleaning activities available (laundering of cloth nappies not included), there’d be very little hesitation before I answered ’vacuuming’. There’s something morbidly and perversely fascinating about sucking up particles of dust, dirt and the ever–present Cheerios through an appliance that has more horsepower than my first car. (What is it with small children and Cheerios in every conceivable nook and cranny of the house? Like carrots in vomit; they are omni–present, independent of last consumption).

So I vacuum during a Spring Clean. A lot. I vacuum lounge chairs and picture frames, bookcases and the books within them. I vacuum shelves and drawers and smoke detectors. I even move things, big heavy things like lounges and tables, and vacuum underneath them. I strip sheets and flip mattresses– and vacuum them as well, of course– wash linens and pillows and hang them out in the warm sunshine to dry. If you are of the uninitiated and have never vacuumed a mattress and stared in horrified wonder at the pile of white–grey skin cells formed into the finest powder that results… You should. Likewise if you’ve never machine–washed and line–dried your pillows back to their original fluffy whiteness. The only real drawback being that other people’s inevitably unwashed bedding is going to really start grossing you out.

Being the big suburban hippy I am, I swore off bleaches and chemicals that smelt almost–but–not–quite–like–apples–or fields–of–flowers when I was pregnant for the first time, struck with a sudden awareness that bordered on paranoia at the way bathroom cleaners seemed to literally burn and singe the tiny fine hairs at the back of my nostrils. These days I stick to bi carb soda and
white vinegar, eucalypt and lavender and tea tree for cleansing, deodorizing and most other household purification purposes.

I mop psuedo–wood floors with boiling water and essential oils to make them shine. I scrub my bathroom, removing a ring made up of hundreds of days of the washed off dirt and play of two small children. I wash windows and wipe down a dozen or so random surfaces from sink to shelf to dollhouse.

And I wash. And wash, and wash, and wash. A week’s worth of washing to two days of hard cleaning… I’m guessing that’s why spring cleaning is done in spring.

After all that’s finally been done, after the hidden places of the house are tended to and tided, vacuumed and scrubbed; the actual satisfying part begins. You return things to their respective places, tweaking and reconsidering their arrangement as you go. You stock cupboards with clean linen, fresh from sunshine that feels to be blooming along with the garden’s flowers, a heat too big for itself that spills it’s excess into the deepest layers of your skin.

Light incense. Burn sage. Run an ionizer– ironically, plugged straight into the power source itself– to smooth out the constant electric buzz of your life.

And relax… relish. Feel your soul–self come into some essence of alignment, as if it’s had it own spring clean, subconsciously shuffling away junk no longer needed in sync with the cleaning out of a house.

It’s wholly satisfying and self–congratulatory and feels like dark secrets and baggage that was just beginning to rot… cleared. Everyone needs a fresh start, occasionally. Spring blows in a new one every year.

It’s like life’s Get Out Of Jail Free Card. The Universe’s way of saying all bets are off, table clear… get yourself set and prepared to start all over again.

*And before anyone mentions the FlyLady… we’ve covered her before.

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