There is a shopping centre near us that opened a new extention this weekend. It is HUGE. They were laying on the entertainment on Saturday to entice every Tom, Dick and Harry to come inside and have a look. One of the novelties was a huge black wall that they were trying to get the kids to chalk a giant mural on. It became a free for all as the kids gravitated away from the beautiful beach scene and started grafiiting their names on it!
Apparently it is her nick-name "Rio" You learn something new every day!
The Government recently gave millions of dollars out to every school in Australia to build new school halls. It was a plan to keep the country out or recession which technically has worked.
The theory is that the government spend the money on keeping the building industry thriving, which keeps tradesmen working and not claiming benefits. They in turn will then keep the local infrastructure alive as they buy lunches and materials for the construction. Eventually each school will also benefit from this extra amenity in their grounds.
The plan has been controversial. Some people feel that a lot of money has gone to the big builders and not the local tradies. Some people dislike the large halls that are appearing left, right and centre wherever you look. I'm reserving judgement. I know that our kids will benefit from the hall when it is finished. I'd like to think it is a positive thing.
In the short term there is some disruption to the normal car parking at the school. Occasionally the road is closed as large trucks deliver supplies or huge cranes position roof trusses. When this happens the cars are diverted to a conference centre close to the school. The teachers then walk groups of children up through the gum trees twisting and turning and arriving at the classrooms via a scenic route safe from construction machines.
I walked with them today as I help at school on my day off work.
It was fun starting the day with such a beautiful bush-walk!
Today has been a day of celebration.
Mary MacKillop has been made Australia's first saint. She was a Roman Catholic nun who co-founded the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart. This is the religious order that is still involved in the running of our children's school and our Parish Church, St Joseph's.
All over Australia there have been celebrations and in our small St Joseph's parish there was a beautiful mass followed by a breakfast BBQ and lots of dancing and excitement amongst the kids. Their excitement was infectious and I captured some light-hearted snaps on my mobile.
To mark the occasion of Australia's first Saint this coming weekend there was a day of fun at the kids school where they got to do "Old Fashioned" activities.
They needed parent helpers. I volunteered without really knowing what I would do. Somehow my mouth said "Calligraphy" while my brain was zoned out and not quite thinking. My friend Monica's brain was working when she volunteered. She said "Old Fashioned Games"
Monica got to play "Jacks" and "Elastics" using simple things like.... Jacks.... and.... elastic.
Monica's hands were free to take photos (which she kindly shared!)
I got to use black ink, home-made pens made out of wooden sticks, an old fashioned brass letter seal and red hot wax and matches.
My hands were so busy trying to stop the kids destroying the desks with ink and flames that I forgot I had a camera.
Monica's group had a ball.
Monica left afterwards smiling and relaxed.
My group had a ball.
I got to leave afterwards covered in permanent black ink and burnt knuckles from the dripping wax.
Today on the 10th day of the 10th month of 2010 I would like to announce to you that I have achieved my 10kgs weight loss goal!
It has taken 6 months of healthy eating and 71 hours and 40 minutes of exercise but I have finally shed the 10kgs that I put on since starting on a Beta-Blocker to prevent my migraines last year.
My next check-up with the GP is in 3 weeks time and I cannot wait to stand on the scales in his office and show him that I have followed his advice and am now proudly well within the healthy weight range for my height.
Thank-you to everyone who has helped and encouraged me over the last 6 months. To Byron who ate lettuce with me for tea. To the kids who scooted and cycled next to me on our long weekend walks. To my Mum and sister who acted like personal trainers on each long distance phone-call home and to my work colleagues who joined me on my fitness quest and are also weighing in lighter as each week goes by.
And a word of warning to those living in New South Wales Australia. Watch out. I plan on doing number 15 on my Summer Wish-list on a beach near you this coming summer...!
5 years ago today our family of five stepped off an aeroplane onto Australian soil. Byron and myself looked at each other nervously as we tried to keep hold of our three kids aged 7, 5 and 2. We had Gareth strapped in a buggy and the two girls pulled along their mini suitcases on wheels with the books and pencils that had kept them entertained over the previous 24 hour flight. We stood next to the luggage carousel and piled our eight suitcases into a tall wobbly tower. At that moment we had everything and nothing. We had a head full of hopes and dreams of a better future for our kids. We had no house, no mobile phones, no Australian bank account or credit card, no car, no jobs. The rest of our worldly belongings were sitting in boxes on a container ship that was slowly making its way around the world and would take another 3 months to pass into Australian waters. We were starting the biggest adventure of our lives.
Each year on the 5th of October Byron and myself celebrate the anniversary of the beginning of our new lives. We talk through how we feel about the life we are living now. It is a chance to be open about whether we are happy. Whether the dream is still good. We think back to what we hoped for when we first arrived here. Some of those dreams turned into reality and some didn't. We wanted a better quality of life for ourselves and our kids. We wanted to spend more family time in the out doors. We wanted a better work/home balance. We wanted a good family home with a pool in the backyard and not to have a large mortgage hanging around our neck. We wanted to establish new friendships and hold tight to old ones.
Each October 5th is a chance to be grateful for what we have.
We believe that we have a better quality of life here in this small town in New South Wales. It feels like we have taken a step back in time from the social issues of the UK. There are still problems here as there are in any community but it seems like we are a bit protected in our quiet street.
We do spend more time out of doors. The weather helps with being able to plan social get-togethers down the local park. BBQ's don't get called off due to rain as often and even in winter it is generally drier so we can put our fleeces on and get the kids cycling or scooting as we walk along with them.
The work/home balance is the one thing that hasn't worked out. No-one could have known back in 2005 about the economic crisis that was brewing. We could never have foreseen that Byron would lose his good job in the US and that we would spend a number of months with no income before I got a job as a hospital wardsman pushing bins and trolleys around theatre. That Byron would eventually accept a job that paid about half of what we were used to. That I would eventually get my Nursing Registration from the UK transferred to here so I could work as an RN. We believe that this would have happened even if we lived in the UK so we look for the positives. We can pay our bills. We have food in the fridge. I've had to pawn my diamond tiara but hey, life goes on!
As for the home and the pool. We are so lucky to have such a great home for our kids and are eternally grateful that we had finished building it while our income was good.
There have been times it has been hard being away from our families in Ireland and Wales. When there is a birthday and we cant be there, graduations, Mothers day, Fathers day. Days when we would love to be able to pop around with some cakes the kids have made etc. We know that our choices were hard on those we left behind when we chose to follow our dream.
We have made some great new friends. People who we would never had met if we hadn't taken this leap of faith and emigrated. We miss our friends in the UK and Ireland. The really close friends have managed to visit us and although I hand out a blanket apology for being dreadful at regular emails or phonecalls I can honestly say that when we do pick up the phone we can talk for hours! Literally!!!
Would we change a thing?
No. We wake up every day in a beautiful home with our kids safe and happy. We look outside at the lake that never ceases to relax us. We breathe in the warm air and we smile. Stepping on that plane 5 years ago was the biggest risk we ever took. But it was worth it.
This weekend is a long Public Holiday. It is so nice having a stretch of days together as a family. The weather forecast is for scattered showers every day so we have made the most of the gaps between rain. Today we drove to Murray's beach. It's a small development of houses on the lakes edge. The houses have to be built in a strict eco friendly way using no bricks. They blend beautifully into the surrounding trees and it is a really relaxing place to have a picnic breakfast and go for a walk. We just made it into the car as big raindrops were plopping down onto the windscreen!