Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sydney Excursion.

The Excursion to Sydney was so much fun. Fifty 8 and 9yr olds, three teachers and eight parent helpers, 2 hours on a coach and multiple singing "Happy Birthday" at the top of their lungs to the three children who were celebrating their birthdays today! By the end I was wishing I had packed my earplugs!

We started at 7am at school. It was calm and quiet. We were one of the first there and the air was still and the sounds of the birds and the wind in the gum trees made it feel like we were the only people awake for miles around. Within 15 minutes the cars were pulling up fast and furious and unloading excited kids with rucksacks full of snacks and rain jackets. The noise had started and it wouldn't get any quieter for the next 9 hours!

I nabbed a seat next to my friend Karen. For our sanity we chose to let our kids sit next to their friends for the two hour trip to Darling Harbour. It was the best choice we made all day!

When we arrived the kids literally jumped off the bus in excitement. First stop was the Sydney Wildlife Centre which is affiliated with Lego to the delight of my group of boys "The Baynham 5" 
Every fibreglass statue was a photo opportunity
Green lighting inside the exhibition was a chance to pretend to be zombies
The exhibits brought tiny moments of calm and wonder
followed closely by opportunities to be crazy and silly!
Not helped by the crazy mother who encouraged the kids to lie on the ground for a photo of the ceiling mirror reflection!
Back in the bus again...
Final stop was the top floor of the Sydney Tower where we had a birds eye view of the city
Made even more fun by the giant binoculars!
And finally the hair-raising walk back through the busy city streets to the bus. Trying hard not to lose anyone...
Back to the bus stop. All kids accounted for. 
and finally homeward bound!

BIG glass of red wine required tonight after the kids are in bed!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A good note...

Gareth came home from school last week with a small crumpled post-it note. He held it tight in his hand and walked slowly up the driveway looking down at his feet. I could see he was fighting back a grin and so I played along.

"Mum, I've got some news from school. It's not so good"
"The school excursion helpers got pulled from a hat today......"
He looked slowly up at me
"...and you DID GET PICKED!"

He grinned from ear to ear and I pretended to be shocked and convinced that he was going to tell me I had not been chosen.

The excursion is tomorrow and we both can't wait!

You know you go to school in the bush when... share your washbasins with the wildlife!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

We're going camping!

A friend suggested that we try going camping over the school holidays. Nothing too fancy or far away. Just a weekend in a camp-site that is about 40mins drive away!

We got together for a cuppa and made our plans while the kids played. We all have small 2 man tents we bought a couple of years ago for the last camping weekend. Someone mentioned a great offer in the local Aldi. For one week only they were selling a 6 man tent for $49! We finished our coffee and decided we would go straight to Aldi to see if we could buy one.

We weren't the only ones to decide this. Our friends the Scanlons had the same plan. Only problem was that they were parked in front of us and were able to make a quicker get away down the driveway. We all pulled in to the supermarket car park together, parked and before the engines were off the doors were sprung open and we were all dashing hell for leather into the store. It was like supermarket dash as we raced around the aisles trying to find a tent. I found one first but fortunately Mark also found one nearby!

We laughed as we queued up to pay. I'm not sure what the man serving us was thinking about us as we paid out of breath and laughing. Then me with my mobile saying "smile" and saying I'd be blogging when I got home! 
The camping weekend is still a few weeks away and so far at least 6 familes are booked in!
I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Dad says YES !!!

Any guess as to what news story this relates to?!

Here's the rest of the story...

Wife says no to an iPad 2… Apple says yes

A man who returned his iPad 2 to Apple along with a note saying "Wife said no" has been given it back free of charge, with a note saying "Apple said yes".

At least that's the story currently doing the rounds after it was posted on MacRumours and picked up by several news outlets.

Apple keep a record of the reasons people give if returning a product to an Apple store and it's claimed this one was circulated by amused employees.

When two Apple VPs heard the story they are said to have decided to ship the iPad 2 back to the customer as gift along with the "Apple said Yes" note.

While it's a great story if true, we're not sure if we believe it… and neither will your wife if you tell her Apple gave you your new toy gratis too.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Pink Temptation.

How can I possibly be expected to ever become a waif like supermodel when the ladies in the hospital kitchen whip up things like this for morning tea?!

Crunchy coco-nutty biscuit base with fluffy sweet marshmallow topping.

I'm hooked. Anyone know a recipe for something similar?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pear and Raspberry bread.

What do you do when you promise to bake banana bread with your kids when you get home from school? 
...only to find the bananas had...well... fermented in the fruit bowl ?!

You look around for ideas and find the next best thing. 

Three soft pears.

Google "Pear Bread" and find the following recipe...

Pear and Raspberry bread

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
Pinch of salt
1/2 tea-spoon bicarbonate of soda
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 egg
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup milk
1 pear, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup raspberries

Preheat oven to 180 C
Sift flour, salt and bi-carb.
Stir in sugar and nuts
Beat the egg and oil together and add to dry ingredients.
Mix well to combine.
Add the milk and stir.
Add pear and raspberries.
Bake in greased loaf tin for approx 60min.
Leave in tin to cool.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Career!

This weekend we travelled down to Sydney to watch a Rugby Union match. 
We were supporting the NSW side The Waratahs. 
Little did I know that this trip would result in a huge change of career for me...
Autographs available on request!

Friday, March 18, 2011

...just when you think it's safe to put away the green!

...someone suggests a St Patrick's Day party at tennis lessons!

Yes, the kids tennis coach Bill thought it would be great fun to have an Irish themed tennis lesson this week. He encouraged all the kids to wear green T-Shirts and he provided green hair spray, green cups and plates and soft drink and a whole load of sausages and bread to have a sausage sizzle party after the lesson ended.
The champagne flowed green for tonight and everyone brought green themed food.
We really have found ourself making the best friends here in Australia. They are so willing to share in and encourage the differences in culture that Byron and myself have brought with us from Ireland and Wales.
There are a mixture of other cultures amongst them too, New Zealand, America, Zimbabwe and of course lots of Aussies and we all seem to get along and enjoy each others peculiarities!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St Patrick's Day 2011

Today is St Patrick's Day. A day of celebration for all Irish and wanna-be-Irish all over the world!

In the lead up to this St Patrick's Day I was feeling tired. My desire to go all out celebrating was low. Byron was leaving early in the morning to go on a work course to Sydney. I was dropping the kids to a friend at 6.45 am so I could go to work. The idea of cooking a big fancy meal at the end of my hospital shift didn't make me break into an Irish jig with excitement.

And then the unexpected happened. The news of the earthquake in Japan, the fear and anxiety waiting to hear from my brother in Tokyo. The emotional reunion when he landed in Australia with his wife and young kids. How could we not celebrate?

And so I went shopping and bought the ingredients for Beef and Guinness pie and put them in the slow-cooker the night before, cleaned and scrubbed the house and set the table at 5.30am before waking the kids and getting them out the door. It was exhausting but worth it when everyone spilled through the door this evening.

The house was noisy and full of green, white and orange balloons from my family in Ireland.

Byron surprised us by getting home a bit earlier from Sydney than expected and joining us for our dinner.
Glasses were raised. Toasts were made and everyone was remembered on this side of the world and of course in Ireland too. It was the perfect way to celebrate, surrounded by noise and mess and food and drink and kids running and playing together. We even lined up a video skype call with my family in Ireland to let them share in the celebration.
Family. Who would have it any other way!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Together again!

It was worth the wait!

We called in to see my brother Joe and his family the evening they arrived back in Australia from Japan.

It was so good to see each other and the kids were so excited to be together once more. I think after all the fear of the news reports on the earthquake my kids really needed to be in the same room as their little cousins to believe me that they were all fine.

They couldn't get enough of each other and the favourite game of the evening quickly became "Who can feed little Tadhg the most blueberries!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

My Brother in Japan.

Since we heard the news about the earthquake in Japan on Friday our family has felt sick to the stomach. Once again we see images of destruction, of death and of human suffering on our tv. This time it is more personal because my brother Joe is living in Tokyo with his family.

It took a while to make contact with him. They were the longest hours of our lives. The phone-lines and power were sporadically on and off. The messages we got were brief but they told us they were safe. Scared and confused but safe. After the initial danger of the quake was passed there were the aftershocks that woke their kids at night. The panic buying in the supermarket and the scare of the nuclear fallout from the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. It didn't take long for them to decide that they wanted to get out of Japan and come home to Australia.

There were messages about flight numbers, then new flight numbers as their flight plans chopped and changed. At the airport many flights were being cancelled and at one point my brother said that the departure screen went blank and then put up messages to the effect that every flight was delayed indefinitely. Luckily this changed again and their flight did take off eventually.

I had no way to contact them except through Anne, Rhonda's mum who was waiting for them at Sydney airport. I rang Anne on my lunch-break in the hospital and was so hoping to hear that all was well. Anne didn't answer her phone. My 4 year old nephew did. It caught me by surprise and the tears welled up and I had a lump the size of an orange in my throat. I spoke to my brother and realised that not only had they landed but they had arrived in Toronto only minutes down the road from the hospital. I went from worry to elation in that short call and when I hung up it got the better of me and I burst into tears with relief, embarrassing in front of work colleagues but they understood under the circumstances.

We have plans to meet up tonight, I think they are in for some very big hugs...

(a photo from the last time the kids got together with their cousins)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Meet my family. By Gareth.

I love Mondays. I get to drop Gareth and Rhiannon to school and hang around their classrooms until the assembly bell rings. Sometimes I catch a glimpse of the latest artwork or activities hanging on the wall. Here's one from Gareth's class captured quickly on my mobile!

Gareth Baynham, I have spent the last 5 years trying to pretend to your teacher you are organically fed, fresh air daily, no tv, no computer games kids and you go and say your hobby is playing on your DS, watching Spongebob and eating cookies?!

My reputation ruined in one worksheet... sigh!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Rugby season starts again...

It's that time of year. 
Rugby season kicked off today with a friendly match that required us to get out of bed early and be driving by 7.30 on a Sunday morning. 
Remind me again why I let my kids play sport...?

This year the rules change as they move up into an older age group. The scrums are contested and they play on the full length of a professional pitch. 
Many times during today's game we could only see little dots running around in the distance. 

They were exhausted when the full time whistle blew!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lexia Completed!

Well Done Rhiannon!

Today she did the final unit of her Lexia program! Over the last few months she has put in many hours on the computer trying to improve her English grammar and spelling. Her teacher has said already that she has seen an improvement in her class work which is really good to hear.

Rhiannon talks about an urban myth, a girl in school who once upon a time asked for nothing more for her birthday than a can of spray cream from the chilled section of the supermarket. And upon getting this can of spray cream she proceeded to eat it all by spraying it into her mouth.... Ever since Rhiannon told me this story she has asked if she could do this. Either for a birthday or Christmas. The answer has always been "Don't be daft"

A few weeks ago when Rhiannon was finding Lexia very hard and her spirits were down she asked again "If I reach the very end of Lexia then can I have a can of spray cream?" Willing to do anything to get her to stick with the program I agreed. The can was bought and sat on the highest shelf of the fridge. Many times someone tried to take it down to use it on hot chocolate or dessert but each time the were told off and it was returned to wait for the special day which was... TODAY!

I cannot put into words her excitement. I hope the following photos will do it justice!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Luke Burgess

Both Rhiannon and Gareth are enjoying the new season of Rugby Union. They train twice a week and will start their weekend matches this coming weekend. This week they were incredibly lucky when a very well known Rugby Union player Luke Burgess turned up to train them. 

Luke normally plays for New South Wales Waratahs and represents Australia in international games. He had them all running around practising their kicks and playing mini games. They were star struck to be throwing a ball back and forth with someone they are more used to seeing on TV or in big Sydney stadiums than on their local pitch! 

He took plenty of time at the end to sign photos, boots, T-shirts etc. He posed for a million photos and looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself. 

In this day and age there are so many role models that are famous for their physical appearance, for their material possessions and the amount of money that they flash around and how often they appear in the paparazzi pages. That made today all the more special for me as a mum. Watching my kids be inspired by a young man that prides himself in his physical fitness and his dedication to a sport he loves, a man who is not so big he can't run around with a bunch of young kids and patiently practise with and encourage them. He is a role model I would be happy to have my kids base themselves on. 

(And of course being mum to a famous International rugby star in the future would be a bonus too!)

Thursday, March 10, 2011


Rhiannon is doing some extra tuition to help her brush up on her English. She is very imaginative but her spellings and grammar often mark down her otherwise great class work. She had a choice between doing Lexia, a computer based program, in school hours (taking her out of class time) or at home. We chose home so it doesn't make her miss out on anything else new that the class are learning.

The first few units were pretty achievable but over many hours and weeks of studying they have got progressively more challenging. She is now up to the final level for Primary school aged kids. The work and words are a bit trickier and I must admit I sometimes have to stop and wonder about the answers myself.

When I heard the computer say "Try Again" multiple times in a row I knew she was struggling. I sat with her and read the screen. For the life of me I could not see what the obvious answer was. We clicked through every possibility on the screen before deciding we were the clever ones and the computer was wrong!

I decided to take a photo of the screen on my mobile so I could show the teacher later in school as I am sure she has had mums say there were mistakes before when it really was just human error. Even she had to agree with us that we weren't gone crazy! Luckily we were able to start the unit again and got a different random mix of possibilities and this time the correct answer was among them!

We think that Rhiannon has probably only got about 2 hours of Lexia left to complete the absolutely final level. She has lined up a very special bribe for herself that she bought in the supermarket a few weeks ago.
I can't wait to tell you about it! Stay tuned over the weekend....

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Happy Birthday Teenager!

Our gorgeous daughter Sian turns 13 today!

Sian, we love you to bits. You are creative and clever, responsible and fun at the same time. I love how you are growing up and taking over in the kitchen. Baking us cookies and muffins and adding your own special ingredients, like red frogs!

Please don't ever change...

In fact maybe you could just stop growing right now and stay 13 for ever!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Birthday preparations.

My kitchen is a mess of chocolate drops and coconut. Birthday cake has been turned down in favour of Cookie Monster muffins!

Your wish is my command oh soon-to-be-teenager!

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Paddlefest: The results!


We came THIRD!

Oh Yes. The eclectic mix of mad people I work with all pulled together and paddled their way across Lake Macquarie to claim 3rd place in this years Paddlefest.

It was a fun day and even though it was a little on the chilly side we wrapped up and had fun.

One last thing I should probably mention... 
How many Dragon boats were in each race?...