Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oíche chiúin

I was born in Ireland and it was compulsory to study the Irish language in school all the way through to leaving at the age of 18. I was never very good at it and now would struggle to have a conversation in Gaelic but can read the written word quite easily. At Christmas we sang all the traditional carols but also learned the Irish version of them. Same tune, different words. 

Funny how living on the far side of the world makes me feel nostalgic for all the traditions of my childhood. This week I found myself Googling the words to Silent night and this is what I found...

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé,
Cách 'na suan, dís araon,
Dís is dílse ag faire le spéis,
Naí beag gnaoi-gheal ceanán tais caomh
Críost ina chodladh go séimh,
Críost ina chodladh go séimh.

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé,
Aoirí ar dtús chuala an scéal,
"Aililiuia" aingil ag glaoch
Cantain Shuairc i ngar is i gcéin
Críost ár Slánaitheoir féin,
Críost ár Slánaitheoir féin.

Oíche chiúin, oíche Mhic Dé,
Mac Dé bhí, gáire a bhéil,
Tuar dá rá 's dá lán-chur i gcéill,
Ann gur tháinig tráth chinn a tséin,
Críost a theacht ar an saol,
Críost a theacht ar an saol.

Ah, the nostalgia. It made my eyes well up as I tunelessly sang it in the kitchen while preparing dinner. I thought I would share this tender moment with my English born, Welsh and Irish parented and Australian citizened children. 

We were enjoying our Christmas dinner as I said proudly 
"I can sing Silent Night in Irish... Well, if I have the words"

This was the kids response...

Byron responded with
"I can sing Silent night in Latvian... Well, if I have the words"

Out came the iphone to Google the choice of languages that Silent Night has been translated into and thus started the singing competition. The children's tears of laughter flowed as Byron bellowed the hymn out in languages he had never before spoken, including my beloved Irish. It didn't sound quite the same as I remembered from my childhood. 

I think I'll keep my nostalgic moments to myself from now on!

First food!

Our Veggie patch has produced it's first edible delight! A cucumber. It weighs in at a mighty 49grams and is 10cm long. Just enough for a few tiny slices on each of our sandwiches at lunch today. Although I am very excited I think I am a long way from feeding our family of five from the backyard. Thanks God for supermarkets!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Feeling a trifle tense dear?

Every year we make a Christmas trifle. We use a beautiful Waterford crystal bowl that my brother Joe bought us for our wedding present. This year I managed to find a packet of an instant butterscotch pudding powder in a food shop that specialises in European imports. I was so excited as this was one of the layers that went into my childhood Christmas trifle. Byron was a little less thrilled as it had never been a layer in his childhood trifle and both us us wanted to have one that most closely matched our memories. 

I made it so I won! Italian sponge finger biscuits on the base, raspberry jelly to soak into the sponge and then set, fruit pieces, BUTTERSCOTCH SAUCE, custard and finally whipped cream and sprinkles! Yum!

How do you make your trifle?

And how do you settle disputes if you have different traditions?!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Happy Christmas 2011

To all our friends and family and to all who read our blog. 
We wish you a very Happy Christmas, filled with peace and laughter and time spent in the company of family and friends, good food, a glass to raise and happiness in your heart.
Gina, Byron, Sian, Rhiannon and Gareth

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Gareth got a fantastic "Make your own Volcano" kit from his cousins for his birthday last month.

It was with great excitement that he successfully caused it to erupt!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Goodbye friends.

We said goodbye to Simi and her friends last night as they packed to return to Melbourne. 
We wished them safe onward journey and good luck with getting their Australian qualifications and work. 
As we hugged goodbye Simi gave Sian a beautiful set of Rosary beads to keep and remember her by.
I am sure they will be treasured for many years to come...

Friday, December 16, 2011

Goodbye, Farewell...

What a day we have just had. The word emotional roller-coaster jumps to mind. Rhiannon finished Primary School today and there were lots of tears and laughter combined. Many of my photos had images of kids just too upset to share. Looking at them when I came home I filled up myself as I saw the vulnerability on their little faces.

The day started in church with a lovely Mass where they were given candles as mementoes. They then had a lovely lunch in the school hall and were given an amazing "Clap Out" by the rest of the school.

At the end of the day Rhiannon wanted to catch the school bus home for one last time. As the driver let her out he waved and beeped his horn all the way down our road till he was out of sight...

...and that's when the tears really started to fall...

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Lights Drive By.

At this time of year it is fun driving home in the dark and seeing the light displays on some of the local houses. Because it gets dark so late here in Australia we are not often out driving at that time and so tonight as it got dark Sian decided we should all get into our pj's and go driving around the local streets listening to Christmas music. It sounded like a plan to avoid going to bed on a mid week school night to me but we decided to be fun parents for a change and go with the silliness. It was also the night before Rhiannons final day in Primary School and I thought it would be a good way to distract her from thinking too much about it. We had a lovely time laughing and oohing and aaaghing over the elaborate displays. Its not easy trying to show you here what they looked like. Here's a photo, now multiply the magic by 100!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Touch Rugby 2011

As we head towards the end of the school year we also reached the Grand Final of the Touch Footy season. Gareth's team were unbeaten all through the entire season but lost in their final game getting second place. Rhiannons team were defeated every single game including the semi final and came fourth!

Although the mighty oranges were a bit crestfallen it was nothing a medal and a sausage sizzle couldn't fix!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adventures from abroad.

Our hospital has had some International Nurses working with us over recent weeks. They are doing a course to assess them for Registration in this country. It is almost time for them to get on a plane to Melbourne for the next part of their assessment.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know one of these Nurses in particular. On her first week in this area I was asked to give her a lift to our local church for Mass as she has no car. Through meeting up outside of the hospital I have enjoyed hearing all about her family back in India. I always love the opportunity to hear stories of other cultures. It is fascinating to hear the similarities and the differences. I hope she has enjoyed seeing us and how we live and that she will bring away with her many stories to share with her family on her return.

To wish our friends goodbye we met in Blackbutt Reserve this morning for a breakfast BBQ. It was a glorious day, blue skies and sunscreen. We ate, talked and walked around the park and saw the animals before going our separate ways. It is a wonderful thing to meet people from outside of this country. It makes me stop and look at where I live with new eyes. I get butterflies in my tummy to think that this is our home and makes me appreciate the opportunities we are living every day.
Safe travel everyone and good luck in your next step of your adventure!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

A change is as good a rest...?!

In the midst of all the craziness of Christmas a position came up at work. A temporary post that would involve leaving my ward based work and driving around five Newcastle hospitals, assessing patients for suitability to be admitted to our Rehabilitation unit. It sounded like a change and I was lucky enough to be offered it. And so I find myself working twice my normal hours, learning on the go, enjoying the new challenges and meeting many people I would never otherwise cross paths with.

On the down side it means I have missed many school events that I would normally attend, the Year 8 Award Ceremony, the Primary school Advent Liturgy, the school band concert at the local old folks home. My house  is slowly becoming more chaotic as normal chores are left undone through lack of time. Christmas cards destined for the UK and Ireland are written and ready to post. If only I could remember to put them in the car to bring to the Post Office. I have hardly looked at my regular blogs that I normally enjoy reading and my blog writing here has been sporadic.

There is a saying that the grass is always greener. That you look at someone else's job and see the glamorous side of it but it is not till you actually do it that you have an appreciation for how hard that person might actually work. I'm enjoying the change in scenery but I also know that next week when my colleague returns relaxed and refreshed I will be very happy to swap the car keys for the drug trolley ones once more!

...and yes, I promise I'll get those cards in the post first thing tomorrow morning!

Monday, December 05, 2011

An angel in disguise.

Gareth received a beautiful present in the post this week from his Godmother in England. It was to mark his Communion that he made this year. He was delighted when he saw that it was a boy Willow Angel because we have a few that are girls.

The ones that we have are lined up on a table next to a window on our stairs. He moved them all a little closer to one another to make space for his boy. I stopped to take a photo of it to send back to Cathy.

As I pressed the button on my camera the sun came out from behind a cloud and the shadow behind our boy changed!

It was the shadow of one of the girl angels (complete with wings) that just lined up perfectly with our new arrival.

A bit like our Gareth... An angel in disguise!

Saturday, December 03, 2011

I'm an Auntie again!

Welcome to our family baby Cara. 
You are already so very loved. 
Your cousins are going to have so much fun spoiling you as you grow!

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Getting Christmassy Down Under!

It's December, the first day of summer and we are getting out the Christmas decorations.

I know I've said this before and I'll probably be saying it when I'm sitting in a Nursing Home, but preparing for Christmas in the heat is just plain odd!  

We got a bit silly when we opened the boxes of decorations and all squeezed into the little kiddy dress-up outfits, except for Gareth who stuffed himself and some pillows into the only adult sized Santa suit!

I can only blame the heat!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting at the traffic lights...

...staring into space. 
Then I noticed the registration plates of this truck! 

Luckily the lights stayed red for ages so I could get a photo on my phone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Mr Wilson.

Have you seen the old Dennis the Menace comic strips? The ones where Dennis bugs his neighbour Mr Wilson? Hold this thought...

It is coming to the end of November now, otherwise know as Movember as many men are growing their moustaches and raising money for Prostate Cancer and mens Mental health charities. The principal of our kids school is one of these men prepared to let us have a laugh at his upper lip all in the name of charity.

As the weeks progressed I just knew that he was reminding me of someone and I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then it hit me. Mr Wilson! Not content to giggle inside my own head I felt the urge to share this with him. Being a good sport he had a laugh about it too.

On the recent school Christmas disco I found myself looking after Gareth's fake moustache and then being yelled at by the good principal himself  "Impostor, impostor" as he pointed in my direction. I don't know what he was on about... Do you?!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Let the Moustaches rule!

If you read the comments on the last post about Gareth's Birthday you may wonder what Monica was on about?

Yes there are photos of the moustaches but I felt they deserved their very own post!

As a small version of a birthday party in a crazy busy week during a crazy busy time of the year I came up with a cunning plan. Let Gareth invite a small group of boys to catch the school bus home with him at 3.15pm. Endure the chaos and noise for 2 1/2 hours. Then parcel the sugar rush-hyper-noisy-excited boys into the car and drive to the schools Christmas disco and deliver them safely into the care of their families once more.

Please note I was planning that most of this time would be spent outside in the garden and swimming pool. Quick and simple, not a single parent actually stepping foot in my messy-floors-need-cleaning-don't-mention-the-bathrooms house!

What could possible go wrong? The weather! Who would have guessed that it would POUR rain all week and be cold. It's nearly Australian summer Mr Weather man. So the 2 1/2 hours were spent tearing the house apart and racing around trying not to knock over the two visiting cousins (who had a ball being surrounded by so many other rough and tumble boys!)

The fun began with the school bus pulling up and the driver letting the boys off. Our poor neighbour chose a bad time to walk over and drop off some Christmas lolly bags to the kids. He nearly got flattened by the stampede!

The finale before getting in the car to the disco was the party bags. Brown paper lunch sacks filled with jelly snakes, glo-bands and chocolate and a set of fake moustaches at Gareth's request.

The fun and laughter as they stuck their fake muzzies was hilarious.
We went to the disco and it was with great relief that we saw each mum and handed back her hairy bundle of joy!

Another year over.

Another successful party.

Another happy child!

Another exhausted mum!!!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Gareth!

Today my baby turns 9!

What an amazing 9 years he has had. Born in England to an Irish Mum and a Welsh Dad, he celebrated his 1st Birthday in Sydney as his Uncle Joe married his Auntie Rhonda, back in England for Birthday number 2 and emigrated and living in Australia by Birthday number 3!

Gareth we love you. You know the story of how you were so lucky to be here with us. That I became pregnant with you around our other baby's due date. That if that baby had been born you never would. You know that we were so scared as we went in for your scan, knowing a previous one had ended with such sad news. That your Dad whooped with joy when he learnt that he was having a son. You were so very much wanted and loved.

The delivery didn't go as planned. The nurse told your Dad afterwards that you were so lucky to be alive, that I was too. You scared the living daylights out of us this day 9 years ago. We had to wait for blood cord samples to return to tell us if you might be brain damaged. We felt enormous relief when everything came back clear and you grew and grew into a perfectly happy and healthy baby. I still get a lump in my throat if I see a mentally disabled child being pushed around in a wheelchair as I know that "There but for the grace of God go I" My eyes fill up as I offer a prayer of thanks that you were given the chance of a healthy life.

And what a BIG baby you were! Almost twice the size of your sisters. Always eating and drinking everything around you. You have grown into such a fine young man. You have a wonderful balance between boyish rough and tumble and sweet caring nature. Sometimes too soft for your own good but we wouldn't change a thing about you. As you grow older I think you will become a wonderful strong teenager and adult. Your friends are lucky to have you stand beside them. Whether is is on a rugby pitch or playing Nerf wars with those blasted foam bullets that I find everywhere!

Happy Birthday 9 year old. May there be many many more years of fun and laughter to come.

You make our family complete...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Why do I love Mr B?

Because at 11pm the night before Gareth's Birthday as I ran around stressing and flapping he took the icing pen from me and finished off 36 Ninjabread men for Gareth to bring in to his classmates the next day!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Teachers Day

Rhiannon loves to make cards for anything and everything. She particularly loves to  make 3D cards which are made of layers of coloured paper to build up a scene. It was Teachers Day this term and she spent ages making this great card for her teacher Mrs Parkes. I particularly liked the scissors that could be taken out of the pencil pot and actually opened and closed because of the brad she used to make it, and also the bite out of the apple! 
We made some raspberry friands and sent them in with the kids as a treat for their teachers morning tea.  We really seem to have hit the jackpot every year with each kid getting the teacher that was just right for their nature and personality. It's so hard to think that next January Rhiannon will move to High School with up to ten different teachers in any one week. I don't think they could ever be as nurturing as her lovely Primary School teachers :-(

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canberra here we come...!

It is a nerve wracking week for me. Yesterday our alarms went off at 5.30am and by 6 we were driving Rhiannon to school all packed and ready for her 6 hour coach journey to Canberra, the Capital city of Australia. 

Over the next three days she will travel with her classmates around a multitude of places, the Museum of Australian Democracy, the National Museum of Australia and the Australian War Memorial to name but a few. They will also get to have lots of fun at an amazing place called Questacon and even ten pin bowling. 

There is absolutely no contact with the kids while they are away. No mobile phones allowed and just one mobile number to directly contact the teachers in an emergency. I watched the news this morning and Princess Mary of Denmark will be visiting Parliament House at the same time as the kids are scheduled to be there. I know it didn't truly count as an emergency as such but I did text the teachers to let them know to keep their cameras at the ready...

...I'm still awaiting a response!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The kiss!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


The kids can't get enough of their little cousins and were so excited to spend time with them again this weekend. You really can't beat the fun that they have together. Why is it that a strangers 2 year old can be take-it-or-leave-it but your own cousin is just super adorable?!

Friday, November 18, 2011


At this time of year in Australia there is an explosion of purple. Everywhere you look there are Jacaranda trees in full glorious bloom. As we drove around during my friend Nicola's week here we kept saying that we would stop and take some photos when we found the "perfect" tree. On one of her last days we were running ahead of time to collect the kids from school so we did a detour and found a street lined with these amazing trees. I think of all the memories Nicola will have of her time here in Australia this will be one of her best ones!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Walking with Nicola.

Can you spot the annoying brother...?!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Cookie in a jar

I thought you might like to see one of the gifts I brought to my sister-in-laws Kitchen Tea. It was an idea I found on-line called cookie-in-a-jar. I can't find the original link now but click here for another with a similar idea.

I bought a new glass storage jar and after giving it a good rinse I measured out the ingredients for choc-chip pecan cookies and layered them into the jar and added the recipe ingredients and instructions on a tag tied to the catch.

I thought it was a fun idea and could potentially be something we do for the teachers as we get to the end of the Australian school year in a few weeks time.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Friends reunited!

My friend Nicola has arrived over from Ireland. 
Let the gossip-fest begin!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kitchen Tea.

I had never heard of a Bride-To-Be having a kitchen tea before. It is an Australian tradition that seems to be making a comeback. All the women in the bride and grooms families and close friends gather together for an afternoon of tea, sandwiches and cupcakes. The visitors bring with them a gift that is kitchen related and the theory is that it helps to set up the girl with the contents of her kitchen cupboards for when she gets married.

Nowadays many women have lived away from their family home for many years before tying the knot and so the tradition dwindled. Recently it has become trendy again and that is how I came to have an invitation hanging on my fridge. No boring soggy sandwiches for Tenelle! She was having her get together in Sydney's posh tea house

My friend Nicola is visiting from Ireland and we managed to score an invite for her too. It was wonderful! As we walked in off the bright street and high sunshine of a hot summers day we took a while for our eyes to adjust to the dark, cool interior. All the lights had a soft orange glow and it was like stepping into a different world.
We spent the next 5 hours sipping Earl Grey tea from china cups and saucers and nibbling on tiny sandwiches and cakes. Topped off by a glass of rose champagne, delightful darling!

Here are some photos from our iPhones...
And finally a photo showing you how comfortable I felt in my opulent surroundings!
"More Champagne please waiter..."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gareth the scientist

I think Gareth has added Scientist to list of things he wants to be when he grows up. 
He recently received a crystal growing kit from his Auntie in Ireland and had so much fun mixing and weighing and making sure he followed the instructions to the letter. I even had to bring him home a pair of gloves from the hospital before he started. The funniest thing was seeing him very earnestly putting on the fancy safety goggles. He looked more like he was off for a swim than heading to the kitchen laboratory!
A week later the crystals are grown and he has gone off to school with them in his school bag for show and tell.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A story for Nicola.

Nicola is a good friend in Ireland. She has a positive attitude about her that she rubs off on everyone around her. Because I blog she keeps telling me I should write a story. A real story, not just a rambling account of something that we did in our day to day life. She is coming to visit this week and keeps saying she is looking forward to reading it.

The pressure was on so I sat down and wrote this...

Enjoy it Nicola!

She stood in front of the sink. Her hands immersed in the warm
bubbles. The freshly washed plates were stacked neatly, the water
running off them and dripping onto the silver draining board. She
closed her eyes and inhaled deeply then breathed slowly out as she
tried to shrug the tension from her shoulders. "everything will be
fine, everything will be fine" She chanted the affirmation silently
in her head willing it to be true with every fibre in her body. Her
eyes opened and she smiled as she saw the small crystal bud vase on
the window sill. It had been a wedding present from her Aunt. The
years had passed so quickly. Life had been simple then and full of
hope. The newness of everything, the ring on her finger and the
promise of love and happiness, of a house full of children's laughter
and toys underfoot. Dreams that had not come true. She reached out and
touched the small purple flowers. They were shaped like a bell. She
had called them snapdragons as a child and had picked hundreds and
pinched the end of the bell closed then clapped them between her hands
to hear them pop. They still grew along the hedgerows, a constant in a
world that had changed so much.

His car pulled in to the driveway, the angry crunch of the gravel
shaking her from her thoughts. The driver door slammed and her hands
clenched around the washcloth and she felt a wave of nausea sweep
through her "everything will be fine, everything will be fine"

As the front door opened and he walked into the kitchen she turned to
greet him with a smile. Her voice light and easy hiding the fear below
it as she asked how his day had been while deftly making a coffee and
handing it to him. The same motions that she went through each day.
Every step measured and calm. Doing nothing to rock the boat, nothing
to channel his anger at her. As she passed him the cup her hand shook
and a splash of the hot coffee ran down the side and onto his fingers.
His face turned ugly and before she could raise her hand to protect
herself she felt it. The hard thud against her cheekbone. The stars in
her vision and the world spinning as she fell to her knees. The
whimper that came from her as she saw the hand come back again. To
teach her a lesson. To remind her never again to repeat that mistake.

The next morning she looked in the mirror. Her cheekbone was an angry
florid purple. She felt the swelling tenderly with her fingers. The
tears stung her eyes as she blinked them back. She should have been
more careful. If she could just learn not to make him mad then maybe
she could avoid the cycle of hiding the bruises. She was a stupid
woman. Stupid and worthless. Other women didn't have to hide their
eyes behind sunglasses on a dull day. Wear long sleeves to cover their
arms in the height of summer. Cancel coffee dates because they needed
to stay closer to home until the rainbow of colours faded enough not
to draw questions. She would learn to be better. This would not happen
again. Not if she tried hard enough.

It was a few months later when she once again found herself at the
sink, slowly washing the breakfast dishes when she heard the gravel
crunch under the weight of a car. She glanced at the clock. The
routine was wrong. It was too early for him to be home again.
"everything will be fine, everything will be fine" her heart thumped
loudly in her chest as the doorbell rang. She walked to the door and
could make out two dark shapes behind the frosted glass panels. With
the safety chain in place she opened the door a few inches and saw the
two policemen on the step. She felt the blood drain from her face and
her hand shook as she released the chain.
The younger policeman looked anxious. He held his hat tight in his
hand twisting it nervously as the senior Constable showed his ID and
requested to come in. She led them into the good room and they sat
awkwardly on the edge of the sofa. She offered tea, coffee but they
refused and asked her to sit. She heard words but not sentences. Car
crash. Dry conditions. Veered into field. Passers by. Ambulance. So
sorry. Her hands smoothed the arm protectors. He didn't like them to
be creased. That had been the first time she had learned how important
it was not to make mistakes. It took a while for her to register that
there were not going to be any more mistakes. No more lessons to be
taught. No more bruises to hide.

It had been 15 days since the police had knocked on her door. The
burial had been arranged shortly after the body was released. It was a
quick affair. The small group of family and friends had murmured
sympathy and offers of help and then hurried back to their cars with
relief. All that was left was the formality of the autopsy results.
She held the letter in her hand. The words were long and unfamiliar.
In the summary she saw "unexplained cardiac event" Possibly an unknown
condition carried for years without sign or symptom. A ticking time
bomb that turned a normal car journey to work into his final moments.

She sighed and walked to the kitchen and made herself a cup of tea.
The cup was too full and it left a wet circle on the counter. Her hand
shot out to wipe it clean then stopped frozen midway. She felt a smile
form on her mouth as she left it there. Instead her hand reached out
and gently touched the fresh purple flowers in the vase. She felt the
tension slip away as she thought back to those childhood walks.
Popping the snapdragons but never, ever eating until she had washed
her hands. Because even as a child she knew that snapdragons were
dangerous, the plant that the medicine digoxin was made from. A drug
that even in tiny doses slowed the heart rate down significantly, even
fatally. She cupped the mug of warm tea in her hands and brought it to
her mouth and took a sip.
"everything will be fine, everything will be fine"

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Live, Love, Laugh.

There's been a lot happening in my life that I am not free to share here on the blog. In the interests of being "real" I felt I should say that the happy times are wonderful and I try to blog as much as I can about them but some weeks are harder than others. For the people in my life going through upset right now I don't want to appear heartless by blogging all happy times and yet I know they would not appreciate me sharing their stories here on such a public place. Even my apparently wonderful recent weekend away with friends was tinged with sadness as "stuff" was going on in the background.

And so today I went to the park with the kids my heart heavy with thoughts. The sun was shining and the sky was blue. The sound of laughter was in the air and I could feel the warmth of the sand in between my toes. I tried to deep breath and not let the tension build in my shoulders. Tried not to let another headache take hold. I held my hand up to the sky and watched the green leaves of the trees glow as the sun shone on them. Saw the contrast of the bright green against the vivid blue. I smiled as I saw the words inscribed on my bracelet. A birthday gift from my friend Josie. A simple message, not always easy, but something to aim for and something to put things in balance in my head.

The kids wandered over and laughed at me as I tried to capture a photo on my mobile. They think I'm mad. I probably am. But I'll take mad and happy over sad and sensible any day!