My goodness. Has it been so long? So much has happened since my last post. I’m not sure where to begin.
So, I’m sitting here on Friday evening on the 8th of April, enjoying a well earned, cold beer. Ale, actually. James Squire Hop Thief American Pale Ale, made right here in Australia. It’s been a very, very long week. You see, this is the time of year that Teresa is lucky enough to have her company fly to Madison, Wisconsin, USA for a week of training. She’s also lucky enough to have me and my willingness to look after Heather and Brian for a weekend or so on either end of her training. 11 days this time. 11 days of doing the multitude of tasks that Teresa does week in, week out ,on top of my many contributions to taking care of the kids and the house, plus working my normal job. This is also the time of year that I’m reminded of how difficult it must be for single parents who live this way week in and week out. My heart and my admiration goes out to you!
Teresa has been gone now for 9 of the 11 days of her trip. During that time, I’ve acquired new upstairs neighbors who are incredibly noisy and unrepentant about it. Our previous neighbors of the past, what… 6 years, were silent as church mice. I miss them. Now I know how my mom felt when I was a teenager, asking me to turn down the bass on the stereo in my upstairs bedroom. The good news, if you can call it that, is that the building we live in will be demolished in June or July of this year, so we need to leave anyway. The new neighbors will just hasten our departure from here.
Also in that time, Brian and Heather have finished up term one of school. Year three for Heather, and Kindy for Brian. After a pretty rough start of Brian not wanting to go to school, a number of phone calls from the principle about Brian hitting, biting and head butting other kids, it’s turned around and he’s been doing great, in big part due to a reward based system we implemented along with his teacher. Academically, he was doing fantastically well all along, just challenged socially. The final three or 4 weeks of Term 1 breezed by without any more calls from the principle, and nothing but glowing reports about his day from his teacher.
A quick synopsis of what we’ve been up to since my last post, when Brian finished up at preschool…
I began spending way too much time playing the newly released game, Fallout 4 (a big reason for no blog updates, I’m afraid)
My mom (Gram-ma Joyce) came for a 2 month visit, from early December to early Feb
We had a rainy trip to the Hunter Valley, a lovely (when not raining) wine growing region, north-west of Sydney
I got out for some long overdue scuba diving with my favorite dive buddy, Teresa
We celebrated New Years Eve in traditional Sydney fashion, with a picnic, cocktails and fireworks
Brian turned 5
Brian started school (Kindy) at the same school with his sister
Heather was placed in an advanced year three class, combined with year 4 students
Heather joined the school band and took up clarinet
I enjoyed an amazing canyoning adventure, courtesy of a Christmas present from my awesome wife
Brian started playing soccer on a team for the Northbridge Football Club, called The Red Torinos
We went camping for 4 days over the Easter long weekend (Good Friday and Easter Monday are public holidays in Australia!)
I’m sure I’ve missed heaps, but those are most of the highpoints. There are stories attached to each of these highlights and I hope to get the chance to share some of them with you soon!
Here are few recent pics from our camping trip to whet your appetite, that is, if anyone bothers to visit this ghost town of a blog.
Brian recently “graduated” from Max and Millys, his daycare/pre-school, where he’s been going since he was a year old. This is the same daycare that Heather went to, as well.
We attended his graduation ceremony and the following week we went to his Christmas party.
Brian at his pre-school graduation
On Brian’s very last day, at the Christmas party they had in the afternoon, it really hit me right in the feels. I’ve been going there every weekday morning for the past eight years, myself. Many happy moments were had at Max and Millys. For most of that time, I’d spend 30 or 40 minutes at drop off, hanging out and doing things with the kids. Singing Wiggles songs with Heather and her classmates as “The Fifth Wiggle” when she was a year old, spending time drawing with Heather as her art skills blossomed, learning to juggle and practicing while I entertained Heather and Brian and their friends. Teaching Brian to throw and catch with him and his friends or just running around playing with childish abandon or searching the outdoor area for cool bugs. I even took a turn as Santa one year for their Christmas party, donning the suit and beard and giving out the presents to all the kids.
Funny thing on that, both Heather and Brian came right up to “Santa” when I first entered the room and sat down. All the other children were seated nicely, but they came up to me with no hesitation and started to talking to “Santa”. I was wearing some spectacles I’d picked up at the Chemist to help disguise me. They had no idea it was me, thankfully.
Another fond memory for me is taking the bus every morning with Brian and all the highlights between the bus stop and Max and Millys.
The last day, on our final bus trip, I took photos of the major highlights of the trip. These trip highlights had originated as a way to get Brian to go to daycare, back when he didn’t really want to go. Let’s go say hi to the kitty, cool, now lets go say hi to Big Chef and Little Chef, say by to Big and Little Chef, lets go to the Flight Centre and see if they are open yet, let’s go see if Gary is there, or let’s get your haircut, lets see if the motorcycle is parked over there today (that was right across the street from daycare). It was a circuitous route and took a bit of time, but my schedule worked out well with all of it and I figured it was all good time spent together.
On the bus with Brian, on the way to pre-school
The kitty we see, sometimes, behind the Rag and Famish pub
Big Chef, a year or so ago
Little Chef, a year or so ago
One last haircut from Tricia
A haircut from Tricia when Brian was younger
Part of the journey to daycare used to be stopping by Flight Centre where the ladies loved Brian. Sadly, they closed a year ago.
Another older journey to daycare. The ladies knew Brian loved “Ginormous Ships” so they gave him one. :)
Gary, the really nice man at the key/shoe repair shop
The motorcycle that was sometimes parked in the alley across from Brian’s daycare. Nearly there!
His teachers will miss him a lot and Brian already misses them, too. Thankfully, I’ve connected with them on Facebook, so we’ll be able to keep in touch.
Brian and Jae. Jae is really lovely and Brian will miss her and her wonderful loving cuddles very much.
Brian and his teacher, Jenn. She’s been amazing and will stay in Brian’s memory forever.
We also hope to stay in touch with some of his friends that he has grown close to over the past few years.
Brian and Lilly
Brian with Rhys (who graduated last year and was visiting) and his best friend, Josh
I have to say that it hit me hard as we were leaving. I’m pretty sure somebody must’ve been cutting some onions (if you know what I mean) as I said goodbye. We may have to stop by and visit sometime soon.
Brian will be starting Kindy in February at the same school his sister, Heather, attends.
Here he is modeling his new school uniform.
Brian is ready to follow Heather to school
Good luck Brian. God willing, I’ll be right there to help you and guide you along your journey.
Heather earned an award for Public Speaking for when she was chosen to give the debate speech she’d written in a competition between classes. She was also given an award for Creative Thinking, for being generally clever, I think. : ) Go Heather!
Heather with two awards she earned this year at school
Heather also did very well on the standardized ICAS exams that are given across Australia to the year 2 students who elect to take them. She took exams in English, Science and Maths. She earned “Distinction” level (90 to 95 percentile) in Science and Math and “Credit” in English, missing Distinction by one incorrect answer.
In Heather’s school, when students do something well, either in academics or by demonstrating the values of the School Code (respect, personal best and responsibility) they receive a “Code Card”. After they receive 10 Code Cards, they can trade that for a printed award that is worth 10 points. When they have 5 of the ten point awards, they trade that for a Certificate of Achievement that is worth 50 points. When they have 200 points in Certificates of Acheivement, they can earn a School Pennant for Achievement.
Heather earning a school pennant
She’s done so well this year, we are so very proud of her.
November came around and we once again hosting an over the top amazing (in Australian standards) American-Style Halloween Party! It’s always lots of work, and with all the overtime I’ve been doing, this was a massive effort. The Halloween party is something that I’m typically responsible for organizing and getting setup and running it, as well. I think this year we had 23 or so children and their parent(s) here.
We had some new additions this year in the form of some cut out, take your picture with zombies and ghost sort of things.
Brian the Witch!
As we try* to each year, we had bobbing for apples, a major crowd pleaser. * We forgot one year!
Here I am demonstrating proper diving for apples technique!
Heather gets one without using the stem!
Isabella gets one without using the stem!
As always, we included a pumpkin carving demonstration and some of the Aussies brought along a pumpkin to transform into a true Halloween Jack-O-Lantern!
Yummy Pumpkin Guts!
There were games for the kids and grown ups alike
Getting spun 3 times for Pin the Eye on the Monster
Pin the eye on the monster
Getting into the spirit(s) :)
We brought back the massive hit from last year, turning Heather and Brian’s room into a Spooky Haunted House! I really like this one a lot as once it’s setup, it runs itself and the kids love it.
The entrance the Haunted House
Here are some of the characters who helped us enjoy our Halloween party
This year, for the first time we’ve been hosting the party, we were able to have it on Halloween itself. That allowed us to take whoever wished. out with us to go trick or treating. For those outside of Oz, you have to understand that in Australia, Halloween has not been a tradition like it is in the US, far from it, in fact. In Australia, most houses do not participate and many Australians look upon Halloween like Scrooge looked at Christmas before the spirits made him see the light. It does seem to be catching on more and more here each year.
Halloween Party – Sydney, Australia 2015 from Paul Rooney on Vimeo.
Our annual American-Style Halloween party! A quick tour of the setup just before the guests arrived.
Near our house there are a few streets that most of the houses do a bit of decorations, some quite good, really (again, for here), and hand out lollies (candy) to all the visiting goblins and ghouls. In a stark contrast to the US, you’ll find that many people who do give out sweets, leave a bowl of them out the front of their house while they take their own kids out trick or treating. And the thing I love, is, the children take one each from the bowl. I watch this, bemused, and a little ashamed as I think that this unattended bowl of candy sitting in front that house, if it was back in the US, would be cleaned out by the first group to visit. Am I wrong?
I wonder. Do kids even go out anymore for trick or treating back in the US these days? With all the madness and violence, and the accompanying paranoia, do they all have to go to Halloween parties instead?
When I was a kid, once we were, I don’t know… ten or so, we would head out with a group of slightly older kids (no parents) and go door to door for miles gathering massive amounts of candy. Here in Australia, it’s still very light on Halloween night as it’s in our spring time. Back in US, it was pitch black night for trick or treating and we still went off with no supervision. Sure, back then you heard vague tales of razor blades in apples, but I never actually heard of anybody that happened to. Besides, if it wasn’t on a stick, coated with caramel, I wasn’t going to take it!
My amazing, smart, beautiful, adventurous daughter, Heather, turned 8 back in October. We had her birthday party at a place called Attractivity. It sounds like some horrible makeover place, right? Not to worry, I wouldn’t do that to her. I abhor the makeup, handbag and shoe worship scene. Don’t let get me started on that one. I’m all for someone looking their best, but when how you look becomes an obsession, and when clothes, shoes, makeup and the minutiae of the lives of celebrities become an important part of your life, in my opinion, you should seek counseling.
Anyway, this was about Heather’s birthday.
So, Atractivity. It’s a very cool place that has lots of different fun things under one roof. Ten Pin Bowling, A rope adventure course, bumper cars, an amazing 4D movie “ride” where you and 8 people are in chairs that bounce you around while you shoot laser pistols at robot cowboys on the movie screen and compete against each other for points (very fun!), a laser maze challenge (think robbing a museum), and a great arcade full of fun video games. The party was a hit for Heather and her friends.
Heather bowls a strike!
It was my turn to make the birthday cake and Heather wanted a Lego Ninjago cake. Ninjago is one her favourite TV shows. I have to admit, it’s really quite good.
Here’s the cake, below. You don’t think it was bad to feed the kids a super rich, moist chocolate cake that was saturated with espresso coffee, do you? They all seemed to enjoy it. It had chocolate ganache between the layers of cake and buttercream frosting. I’m bucking the trend of smothering the cake with a thick layer of that nasty fondant stuff. Sure, it looks cool and you can be very creative with it, but it’s horrible to eat. Give me real frosting any day.
Ninjago cake by Paul
Next up – Halloween