Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gareth's First Day

Another early start today, this time with Gareth already dressed in his crisp new school uniform.

He was more than ready to head off for school with his big sisters!










The school operate a "buddy" system, and this means that a Year 6 pupil is allocated a single Kindergarten pupil to look after and spend time with during recess. It's a great idea and Gareth couldn't wait to meet his buddy Travis again.

All the kindy parents walked around a little awkwardly, squashed into the lovely classroom with dinky chairs and dusty blackboard. Gareth was very excited to show us his name plate on his desk. Parents were "asked" not to hang around for too long in case tears started to flow (from the Mum's not the children) so we said goodbye as he nonchantly waved us away - at least he was happy.

He came home at 3pm saying it was his best day EVER at school. Let's hope the bubble doesn't burst too soon!


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A weight off my mind.....

Gareth starts school in the morning.

Like Sian and Rhiannon he will be one of 50 kids starting that will be divided into two classrooms with a different teacher in each room.

One of my biggest fears was whether he would be put in a class with his closest friends. Although this was also important for the girls earlier on today I feel it is a much bigger deal to Gareth as he starts off in a new and unfamiliar environment. His closest friends are Tommy and Owen. We thought we would have to wait until 9am tomorrow to hear which classes they are in but this afternoon when I went to collect Sian and Rhiannon we had a surprise.

A teacher told us that if we made our way to the Kindy classroom door we would see a poster with the names of the children in that class on it! We ran to the Kindy room to find that not only is Gareth in Tommy and Owens class he is also in with two other boys from Carey Bay Pre-school. He also has a wonderful teacher Mrs Elbourne who is very experienced and very firm but kind.

Gareth ran around his new class for ten minutes with Tommy and they found their desks with their names on. They explored and touched big shells and the books on display and their eyes sparkled with excitement. As we walked to the car Gareth was busy talking about how exciting it will be tomorrow in his new school. I couldn't have asked for a better start to school for him than this.

First day back at School.

Today was Sian and Rhiannons first day back at St Josephs.


They were up at 6.45am and were dressed in their uniforms and in my bed before I made it back up the stairs with a cup of tea! Breakfast was eaten in double quick time and they ran around brushing hair, teeth and putting on their sunscreen without any agro. Oh, the enthusiasm of the first few days of term! How I wish I could bottle it up and keep it in reserve for a few weeks down the track!

We made it out onto the driveway bang on 8.15 and had time for a quick photo as requested by Granny in Dublin! Granny not only wanted a photo, she requested one showing everything from the top of their hats to the bottom of their shoes! Just to be sure they turned around and we took one of their backs too! Hope that is what you wanted Granny! Fingers crossed you will be over here seeing them in the flesh before too long!


We drove off to school and despite leaving early we got one of the last car spaces. The car park was overflowing as lots of parents took time off work to see their kids settled into their first day back. Each year the kids have to wait until after assembly to find out which teacher they have and which group of friends they will be with. There are usually two classes of about 25 kids in each year. Each January they mix them up a little to keep a balance of ages, boy/girl and abilities. Although it makes sense it is unsettling waiting to find out if they will be in the same class as their special friends.

This year both Sian and Rhiannon were so lucky to not only get their favourite of the two potential teachers for year 3 and 5 but also to be in class with their closest friends. I watched them go into their new classrooms with big grins on their faces and drove away from the school feeling very happy that they are in for a great year ahead.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

End of the school holidays....

It's the last day of the girls school holidays.

Tomorrow they return to St Josephs after a six week break. They will be going into years 3 and 5. Both girls will be sitting exams this year in Basic Skills. A government exam that is compulsory and is designed to monitor the level of skills in key subjects at certain stages of schooling.

This year is a big milestone for Rhiannon in particular as she will no longer be an "infant" and can wear a skirt to school as a replacement for the old pinafore dress.

Sian's year 5 have the questionable honour of emptying the school bins every day, something she is not too excited about!

They have had a lovely time over the holidays. They have spent hours in the new swimming pool and have been cycling in the park, blueberry picking, cinema, shopping, had sleepovers and played lots with their friends.

Gareth will start school the following day and that will be a strange mixture of emotions. Pride that he is growing up and fear that he will be happy as he starts his first day of "Big School"

We are just heading into the local shops now to buy him his last few uniform bits and pieces. We may even stop for a milkshake on our way! We will take photos and post them over the next couple of days.

The blog that got away!

One of the activities that Sian and Rhiannon did during the last few weeks that never got blogged was a days art course. It was held in the grounds of Awaba Art Gallery and they were shown how to use pencil, pastels and watercolour to draw a variety of pictures.

The teacher was a local artist who was very nice but politely made sure us Mums were sent away to leave her teach without an audience!

The girls were brought down to the lakes edge and spent time using their new skills to sketch and draw what they could see around them.



I was busy keeping Gareth amused on his bike and managed to sneak a photo on my mobile phone. Rhiannon is in the pink hat and is back to back with Sian in the blue baseball hat. I just downloaded the photo onto the computer today so better late than never!

Cricket at Rathmines

While the Aussies were playing India in the last of the cricket series, a just as competitive match was being played in the local park.

To top off a great weekend, the Connelly's had an open invitation to a game of cricket at Rathmines park.

Every age was represented, and although the umpiring was often a little harsh and erratic, everybody gave their all. There were even a few rising stars....
















Here's "slogger" reaching her 50:

video

Monday, January 28, 2008

Stormbreaker.

Our friend John Newton has two boys that are Gareth and Rhiannon's age. He was raving about a series of books written by Anthony Horowitz about a 14 year old boy called Alex Rider who is a spy for MI6. He has been buying the books and reading them to Tom and Harry in the evenings and they have been captivated by the adventures of this pint sized James Bond.





We went searching for the first book in the series "Stormbreaker" last weekend and found it in a great bookshop called Borders. Before going to pay for it we stopped in the bookshop cafe and had some coffee.

Gareth and Byron read the back of the book together and Gareth was so excited. The description of spy gadgets and dangerous missions had him jumping up and down on his seat.






We have started a new bedtime routine in preparation for going back to school. The kids all have to get into pj's and do their teeth before sitting down upstairs in the game room where Mr B sits in the armchair and reads a new chapter each evening. The chapters always end on a cliffhanger and although we are all dying to find out what happens next Byron shuts the book and hides it away until the following evening! It is a good way of defining bedtime for Gareth and Rhiannon. Sian (who keeps reminding us that she is older) is allowed to sneak back downstairs for an extra half hour before her bed time.

So be warned. If you try ringing us between 7.30 and 8.30 pm the answer machine will be all you get as we are busy listening to stories of dangerous missions, metal melting spot creams, gameboys that turn into fax machines and x-ray machines and devious baddies.

In the words of Alex Rider himself....... "You are never too young to die!"

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Gareth the babe magnet

As the days go by Gareth is growing more and more similar to his Dad. He loves to pretend to shave with shaving foam and a cotton bud. He loves borrowing some of Dads hair gel and smellies. He only lets me cut his hair on the day I cut Byron's.

Today he was invited to Ashley's party. Ashley will be starting school on Thursday with Gareth. We wrapped the present, Gareth signed the card. Gareth's hair was trimmed (after Byron's of course!) and gel and smellies were on. All he needed to do was to get dressed.

I had laid out a nice shirt and shorts on his bed but Gareth had other ideas. He ignored the clothes that were ready for him and started looking through his wardrobe. He stopped at a blue shirt that is getting a little small for him and is on its way to the hand-me-down pile. "This is the one" he said. I tried to show him that it was a little small and that my choice was best but no, stubborn like his Dad he said "This one is handsomer"

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Happy Australia Day!

Today is Australia Day. And we've had such a great time!

It's a national holiday and a day of flocking to the nearest park or beach with Esky and picnic rug for a day of fun, food and family entertainment. Aussie flags abound (including temporary tattoos on faces), fireworks are exploding as I type, barby kicked into action again, suncream, ice cream and lashings of messing around in the swimming pool.

The main part of the day was taken up by a trip to Speer's Point park where we watched a big ceremony of people awarded their Australian Citizenship by the mayor.

Our friends, the Gael family, were the very proud recipients of their new nationality and it was poignant for us as a family because 2008 is the year that we become official Australian citizens too. Congratulations to Clare, Keith and their children!

We spent a superb time at the park enjoying the live music and arcade rides; we all went on a huge ferris wheel, Gina and Sian went on a high-speed rocket ride which was not for the fainthearted.

Rhiannon and Gareth were more than adventurous and dared the rock climbing wall. There was a pool there too which cooled down the children as it was turning into a scorcher.




















Then back home for a swim in the pool (the kids are like fishes), a quick barby washed down with generous portions of wine and wistful thoughts of family and friends back home in the UK and Ireland.


It's days like this that make us glad we now live here.
It's days like this that make us wish you could be here to experience it too.

Here's a video of how the kids finished off their day in the pool:


video


Just for for fun, here are links to our previous two Australian Days:



Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Boys

Life is so uncomplicated for boys.

It's easy being friends.

You invite your friend around for a play.

You run around the garden, come looking for snacks in the kitchen, have a swim, play transformers for a bit. And when you run out of energy you just sit back on the sofa together and play Nintendo!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Rain, rain, rain....

The weather has been a bit damp over the last couple of weeks. Our outdoor playtime has been limited and the mountain of dirty laundry has been growing at a fast rate.

Our just-barely-over 12-months tumble dryer died a sad death on the last week of Byron's parents visit. Maybe it was over work or maybe it died of a broken heart as they packed their cases to leave. It certainly had never been used so much in its short lifetime.

The bottom line is that our clothes are now line dried or not at all. I looked optimistically at the patchy blue sky yesterday and ran upstairs to strip our bed and shove it in the washer. By mid afternoon it was pouring down and the soggy wet linen was draped all around the kitchen. I stubbornly refused to admit defeat and put an older linen on the bed. There had to be a logical way of drying it by bedtime.

As always logic won the day and that night we did fall asleep in freshly washed and dried bed linen. Nothing beats the smell of line dried sheets on a fresh summers day.

...... nothing that is except perhaps oven dried !!!

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Bug Man

For some reason we've experienced a huge increase in the number of spiders in and around the house. Perhaps it's the increased heat and humidity, or maybe because we've disturbed plenty of earth in our garden during landscaping.

Whatever the reason it reached a point where something needed to be done...

Now these aren't your normal spiders you can simply pick up and throw out of the back door. We found dozens of redbacks all over our steps, kitchen chairs and even Gina's ironing board (does that give an insight into how often it gets used if a spider can create a home in it?). Redback bites are very toxic and needs a trip to the hospital.

We also found white tailed spiders. These nasty little things can cause skins ulcerations called necrotising arachnidism.

Anyhow, enough was enough and I called the local bug man to come around and treat the garden. It was a scorching 34C and this poor fella was dressed in overalls and breathing apparatus, and sounded like Darth Vader when he asked me did I have any fish. Any fish?? Apparently, the poison he sprays is fairly powerful and not friendly to pets.

"Stay inside the house sir, and make sure all windows and doors are closed". Ok!!

One hour later and the bug man knocked at the door, soaking in sweat and covered in bug poison droplets. He wanted a drink (I threw his glass in the bin afterwards in case I accidentally used it later). When I asked him how well the massacre went he seemed pretty pleased by his performance, and jokingly referred to the tarantula he found at the top of the garden. I sniggered nervously until I realised that he was deadly serious, he even showed me the dead fiend.

That's right, TARANTULA.










So, do you still want to come and visit?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Back on the Lake

Thanks to our good friends the Scanlons we spent another very enjoyable Sunday in and around the lake just outside their house.



They very kindly provided us with shade and a great location for all the kids to jump in.

The little ones literally spent 5 hours swimming and playing in the water.

As for the big ones?

Well, the last time we also took the Red Dragon around and it meant that I wasn't able to "socialize" quite as much as I would have liked to as I was busy taking the kids out on the boat - while Mrs B had a great old time on the catamaran.

This time I decided that a few "shandies" were in order so we drove around instead. It was my turn on the catamaran and although I have a few bruises it was quite an experience - I couldn't believe how fast it was. I thought I may lose my shoulder at one point (as it has a nasty tendency to pop out at the most inopportune moment) but I hung on in there and had a great time.






Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day trip to Shoal Bay

We did a spur of the moment day trip to Shoal bay today!

We raced around and jumped in the car with beach towels and body boards. Just over an hour later and we were breathing in the smell of the sea and wandering around the pretty seaside shops and coffee bars.

We had brought a picnic for lunch and after a few hours on the beach we went to the Hogs Breath Cafe for tea. When we just getting ready to leave there was a commotion on the balcony. We joined the group of diners who were pointing out a large crane on the nearby jetty. There was a MASSIVE shark at the end of its chain being hauled out of a fishing boat.

Good job it was the end of a lovely day and not the beginning or we may have been a little more squeamish about letting the kids in the water!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

New Job!

I have a job!

Gareth starts school later this month. After a long time out of the workforce and many hints by Mr B I have been wondering what I might do.

Nursing doesn't appeal much. It would be a huge amount of studying to get registered and once I did get work it would be unlikely to fit in with school hours and the kids school holidays.

I have all my Natural therapy qualifications from the UK, Indian Head Massage, Swedish Massage and Reflexology. Although my courses gave me International qualifications unfortunately "International" means everywhere except Australia. So without resitting all the courses again I would not be able to be recognised or insured here in Oz.

A job offer has come a little out of the blue from an unexpected source. I am just coming to the end of my guitar making classes and was getting quite down about returning my workshop key to Strato as it has been a wonderful year pottering around learning new skills and meeting new people. Strato asked me if I would be interested in being his assistant on a Thursday evening.

Normally he has 4 students in a class and it ticks along nicely. He is going to try running Thursday nights class with 5 students and me as his assistant. If it works well then my pair of hands can be used to help out with smaller tasks while Strato moves around more freely offering the more expert help. This way 5 people will leave the end of the course with a finished instrument in the same time as 4 would normally have done. As Strato still has a waiting list of people wanting to start the more people that can be making their instruments at any one time the better.

I left the Guitar workshop as a student for the last time this week and go back as an assistant when the new term stars up in two weeks time.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Blueberry picking... again!

We went back to our local blueberry farm again this week. This time with a group of friends.

We picked loads of berries and I looked into my bucket at one stage to find I had gathered more than I was planning to!



Since we got home we have been pigging out on blueberries with ice-cream, blueberry muffins, and blueberry smoothies!

I had hoped that this trip would have been the one to stock up the freezer with berries but we have eaten most of them and will probably make yet another trip there next week.

Another surprise before we left was when the owner showed Rhiannon a nest in a basket on his porch. It had three eggs in it the last time we were there and today there were three little chicks squawking for their mum!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

New Years Resolutions

We chatted to the kids about New Years Resolutions and what they were all about. How easy it is to say you will do something and how easy it is to forget all about it a few weeks later. We went around the table and all said what we were going to try to do better.

Sian decided she wasn't going to bite her nails anymore (We didn't know she did?!)

Rhiannon is going to try to keep her room tidy (a big thing for her as usually you can't see her carpet for toys and clothes)

Gareth seemed confused by the whole idea and couldn't think of anything other than suggesting he would try to get onto a new level on his computer game!

Byron and myself made the typical resolutions about eating a little healthier especially about trying to eat more fresh fruit, salad and veggies.

My weight in particular has crept up over the last two years since we arrived in Oz. Too many good BBQs I guess. I get reminded about how much my body shape has changed at birthday and Christmas when friends and families send me gifts of clothes in size 8-10 and "petite". I haven't been that for a long while now and am much more a comfortable 12! So my New Years resolution for 2008 is not to gain anymore weight and maybe drop to a 10 so I can start wearing all those lovely clothes that are sitting unused in the back of the wardrobe!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wii Sports extravaganza!

Joe and Rhonda joined us for a BBQ before they finished their Christmas New Year holidays at the lake. We moved on into the TV room afterwards for some virtual sporting action. We made Joe and Rhonda their little Mii characters that looked as similar as possible to them to play the games. We played Bowling, Tennis, Golf, Baseball and finally boxing before Rhonda fell asleep on the sofa!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Citizenship test hits the news....

I read this in the Australian news this morning.....

NEWS.com.au
Citizenship test failures prompts review
From: AAP
January 02, 2008

THE Federal Government will review the operation of the citizenship test after figures showed a fifth of applicants failed to achieve the 60 per cent mark required to become Australian.

Since it was introduced in October last year, 10,636 people have sat the citizenship test across Australia and 2311 have failed it, Fairfax newspapers reported today.

The 20-question multiple choice quiz tests participants on Australian history and values, and determines whether they have adequate English proficiency.


It makes me glad to have passed my test and has Byron "100%" Baynham gloating once again!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!!!

We have just had a wonderful night drinking champagne in our new swimming pool! Gina complained loudly at first that it was 'blinking' cold in the water, but after a few glasses I couldn't drag her out...

Here's to a wonderful 2008, we look forward to seeing some of you visit this year.