Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Kids, My Heroes

"Mommy says I look just like Daddy!"  Damon and Matthew
Khalil Gibran, a Lebanese American artist, writer and philosopher, said it best.

Your children come through you but not from you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life does not go backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as arrows are sent forth.

Krishan Chopra, in his book "Your Life Is In Your Hands: The Path To Lasting Health And Happiness" (from which I also picked up the above quote), explains it this way.

According to the law of karma, a child is born to particular parents and a particular environment because his karma - the accumulated impressions of all his past actions and experiences - requires him to acquire certain physical and mental characteristics and have certain opportunities in this lifetime.  He does not get a good or bad environment because of his parents, but because his own karma places him in a situation in which he can, if he so desires, utilize his accumulated knowledge and abilities and add to them.

I like karma.  It places the responsibility for your life into your own hands.

Krishan is worth listening to.  Not only is his book a fantastic explanation of Hindu beliefs and values, he is obviously no slouch as a parent either.  His son, Deepak Chopra, seemed to turn out okay.

"Uh oh.  Mommy needs pictures for her blog again!"  Aidan and his sight words.

In essence, the concept of karma says that your children chose you as their parent for a reason.

I'm still trying to figure out what my kids are getting from ME, but I sure as heck am learning a lot from them.

This week the peer pressure on Ryan from the girls in her class got so strong that I finally spoke with the vice-principal.  Getting your bra snapped by anyone, even another girl, is bullying.  Although Ryan is no stranger to bullying - it was considered normal and routine in Germany - it was a welcome change to have help from an adult authority figure.  Guess what?  Not okay in Australia.  But even with help from the adults, this situation is not going to go away.  Ryan is not going to conform.  And the pressure - right now it is to join THE GROUP on a 3 day camping trip the school has planned in 5 weeks - is not going to go away.

And so Ryan has decided not to go camping. 

That kind of blew everyone away.

But why would she want to spend time with kids who are trying to control her and tell her what to do, who won't leave her alone, let her do her own thing and be her own person?

Ryan on Jack.  Now THAT's a big horse trying to buck my little girl off!

The adults are worried about her 'missing out' on a school experience. 

The kids will continue to pester her. 

And Ryan will continue to quietly walk away and do her own thing.
I have no idea how this confident, self -assured child came from needy, attention-seeking me. 

But I really couldn't be prouder.

She is so happy with her horses and her riding - this week she was the only one Jack didn't buck off in the field - and with her sketches and well, HERSELF - that she doesn't need the confirmation of others telling her that she is okay. 
Jack figures he might as well listen.

It would have made parenting her for the past few years a heck of a lot easier if she HAD wanted to please me.

From Ryan, I am learning to be my own person, to be less needy and more confident in myself.

Andrew is teaching me to be a better person as well.  And also to stick up for what I believe is right.  Maybe that's why I had to become a mother.  I doubt I would have stuck up for myself the way I will for my children.

This weekend Andrew was placed in goal for both halves, despite the deal we had with the coaches that he would play one half in the position he loves, in the field.   I wasn't there, it was Damon's turn out the door at 7 AM, but they were playing The Pythons, the strongest team in the league, and the pressure was on.  Losing 0-4 after the first half, even with Andrew in goal, the coach coerced Andrew into playing goal again in the second half, while Damon was away signing the volunteer register.

When Andrew protested the coach told him "You HAVE to stay in goal.  You need the practice."

Andrew was in tears, but he did what his coach asked of him.  And he did it well.
Andrew teaches his class about hip-hop.  (Mr. Biri on the right.  AND note the use of whiteboard and computers!  21st century in THIS continent's schools!)

Damon was furious.

I would have pulled Andrew off the field.

The coach isn't a bad person.  He just made a bad decision.  He chose points in a game over the joy of a 9 year old playing that game.  He broke his promise - and the rules of fairness and sportsmanship - in order to look better on a scoreboard.  And- although he doesn't know it yet - he's lost one of his most valuable players for next year.  Go and find yourself a goalie NOW!

What Andrew couldn't understand is how an adult could go back on his word.  But he played on anyway.  What a champ. 
How could I not, as a parent, step in and pull him from this kind of coaching?  He knows what's fair and he knows when he has been let down.  And now he knows he is worthy enough for his parents to stick up for him.

In goal.  But itching to get on the field and run.

I'm actually trying NOT to make waves the past few weeks.  The academic thing flew by with no issues.  The camp thing will have bigger repercussions since now other people are considering withdrawing their children as well.  But, for once, I am not doing any of this to make a statement or because something isn't right or because I can't have it my way.  I am simply doing what is best for MY kids given the present circumstances.  Am I going to change the peer pressure in Ryan's class?  No.  But I can help her not have to deal with it over a three day sleepover.  Do I want to have to struggle with Andrew's coach a second season?  No.  And so we change teams, and leave him to his decisions without trying to change them.

I copied a quote onto a sheet of paper once.  I'll have to credit the author - also of Indian descent I believe -when I find it again.  It goes like this.

You can't always change the circumstances.  But you can change your circumstances.

I was wise enough fifteen years ago to recognize that it should be written down.  But I had no idea what it meant until this week.

I don't have to change the world or fight for what is right in order to quietly make things right for ME, my kids, and our personal circumstances.  Things only change when you make choices for yourself, instead of worrying about making them for everyone else too.

My Brumbies making pizza.

Maybe that's what being a leader really means, not forcing everyone to follow you, but setting an example and allowing them to make their own decisions based on that example.

Ryan and Andrew have taught me to do things for us, for me, and for them.  Without worrying about what everyone else is going to do.  And being their mother - and seeing how strong they are - has made me strong enough to make those decisions.

How this crooked bow has sent out these straight arrows is beyond my compression. 

But I do strive to be more like them.  And am grateful that they chose me to be their mother.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sheep versus Brumby

Although New Zealand is the country most renowned for its sheep in this region - 25 years ago the ratio of sheep to people there was 20:1, a number declining rapidly as sheep numbers drop - Australia actually has 100 million sheep to rival New Zealand's current 35 million.

In comparison, the USA has 5 million sheep, comprising a mere 1% of our livestock.  (We prefer beef - and have the useable acreage to support them.  Nothing like genetically modified, hormonally enhanced American beef.  Sadly, I jest not.  YUM!)

July 2011, Brisbane

But you've got to know me well enough by now to know that I am not talking about those sheep.

I'm talking about me.  (What do you MEAN, it's not about ME?!)  And I'm talking about most of us. 

C'mon.  You know it's true.  For the vast majority of us, life is way more comfortable in the herd, in a familiar field, surrounded by the picket fence we know than alone in the bush without any boundaries.  Bah!

I'm the worst kind of sheep, as it turns out.  I'm a sheep who wants to run around and do her own thing on occasion and then wants the herd to accept her back and love her anyway.  After she's pushed the boundaries and jumped the fences.  Love me.  Love me.  Accept me.  Bah!

So that I actually understand the girls in Ryan's class who are currently having difficulty understanding why she is insisting on doing her own thing.  What do you mean you aren't going to do the same thing as the rest of us?  How can you NOT want to join us on the playground?  You're in our group - if you do what we say.  You're ALLOWED to be with US - if you follow our rules.  How can you be comfortable enough in your own skin to rather sit and sketch horses?  ALONE?! 

Bah!  Bah!  Join the herd.  How can we be comfortable with ourselves if everyone else isn't validating us by doing the exact same thing that we are?

I am not mocking these girls.  I was these girls.

April 2007, Stylin' at Lake Garda, Italy

Ryan tells me the girls are 'the bad girls' and that she doesn't like doing what they do.  She doesn't want to get in trouble.  And, apparently unlike her former best friend, she is not interested in trying to impress these girls by joining them.  Even if they are encouraging her to.

You have to feel sorry for her friend who just doesn't seem to understand how Ryan can NOT want to join up.

I don't get it either.  How did a people-pleaser and joiner like me - BAH, BAH, - raise children who are confident enough to do what THEY want and not what OTHERS want them to do?!

How did a sheep end up raising a Brumby?!  (Wild, Australian ponies, the counterpart to the American mustangs.)

And - as it turns out this week - it's not just Ryan. 

Princess and Pirate, August 2007, Herrenberg

Andrew too, is resisting, not peer pressure, but pressure from figures of authority, figures he respects and has been taught to listen to - ie me and his teachers - and gone his own way.

I couldn't be prouder.  (Although I'm still looking backward at the broken fences and wondering if it wouldn't have been easier to stick with the herd this time.  Bah!  Bah!)

This week Andrew and Ryan both chose sports over an academic program.  (Let's put this in perspective.  Isn't it wonderful that they have too many fantastic after-school options to choose from?!)  Honestly, I'm not sure why the teachers - even the sports teacher - seemed so surprised.  I did all those competitions in school too - but mostly to get out of regular classroom time - and mostly because it was the highest level of achievement there was and I was expected to.  Bah! Thinking back, I don't know that I can say I ever really enjoyed it. 

I was under so much pressure in school - even though I always did well - that I recall the ride home after my last day of fifth grade, sitting in the back seat, up the hill past Nick Rosen's house on the right.  The weight of the world dropped off of my shoudlers at the thought of almost three months summer break.  Literally.  My shoulders must have physically come down at least a couple of centimetres.   Knots unraveled as the tension eased.

Mind you, I was in FIFTH grade.  And a straight A student.

I also hated group work.  Because most of the time noone else got much of anything done and I ended up doing it all myself.  I felt obligated to.  By highschool it was more than self-imposed pressure.  The teachers EXPECTED me to carry the group.  I remembered getting reprimanded by an English teacher in 12th grade because I hadn't given it my usual effort and the project hadn't been up to my usual standards.  (We - horrors of horrors - got a 'B'.)  I told her that I was sick of doing everyone else's work - that I had done my own.  And she said "yeah, and look at how well that turned out." 

I am not making these things up.

March, 2007

So that when the teacher in charge of an extracurricular academic competition that runs for the next six weeks asked Andrew to give up his Wednesday afternoon sports program to join the group, well honestly, who can blame him?

Soccer.  Extra schoolwork.  Soccer.  Extra schoolwork. 

Ryan just met a 14 year old girl who wants someone to ride her 16.2 H, 8 year old Thoroughbred mare with her in the afternoons.  I would have suggested half the days riding and half doing the academic program but when the teachers insisted it was all or nothing on afterschool time, well, again, this was a no brainer for Ryan.  Honestly, I'm not sure I find it healthy to want the kids to spend ALL of their afterschool time on this program anyway, even if it is for only six weeks.  And how am I supposed to just drop all of our other commitments at a moment's notice?

I guess I'm less of a sheep than I used to be too.  Although I do keep looking back at that fence.

In any case, I would have had the kids do the program.  I had it all scheduled out.  Since Andrew has soccer on Tuesdays and sports on Wednesdays then those would also be the days that Ryan could go riding.  That left Mondays and Thursdays for the academic competition.  Fridays were  up for grabs.

It would have been an exhausting, logistical nightmare for the next six weeks - but not something I was strong enough to say 'No' to.  How lucky for me that the teachers insisted on unlimited commitment of our time.  (Once again, WHO can do that?!  And HOW?  I would really LOVE to learn how anyone can be not busy enough to on the spur of the moment just devote six weeks of their time to ONE temporary project unconditionally.  Not anyone I know personally.  It boggles the mind.)
August 2007

I'm obviously still struggling with the decision. 


Who knew that such a little word would be so hard to say?

And so easy to say for my kids?

So that I'm left chasing after my two Brumbies, still uncomfortable with NOT conforming to the expectations of others, but so totally psyched that they are both confident enough in themselves to follow THEIR dreams and not mine, or anyone else's.

August 2007.  Definitely their own people!

It's a wild ride with these Brumbies.  But I am learning more from them than I ever did as a sheep.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My Kids Make Me Sick (Or Ryan's Riding Lessons)

August 2006, Holzgerlingen
I'm actually not thinking about the deep vein thrombosis I got when I was 28 weeks pregnant with Ryan.  That was due to Leiden V Factor deficiency and possible APLS (Antiphospholipid Syndrome), stuff in my genes that affects how I clot, or not, depending on the pregnancy.  With the twins, I was hospitalized for NOT having clotting factors at 35 weeks. 

But I'll blame that on heredity. Gotta blame the parents for SOMETHING, right?!

Funny how it's all in the bleeding though.

November 2006, First Ribbon, Holzgerlingen

Because what I do remember is the beginnings of an essay I had back when we were living in France, before I had a blog, before I was writing regularly or had even joined a writers' group.  I had just read one of the Harry Potters.  Whatever was out when in December 2002.  And I was crossing the park towards home with a huge bag of Christmas toys I had bought for the kids.  (In retrospect, how much could a 9 month old an almost 3 year old possibly NEED?!)

I remember having spent what I considered to be a huge amount of money, considering our financial situation, living on the outskirts of one of the most expensive cities in the world (Geneva) with Damon on an intern's salary.  (Having now seen people spend THOUSANDS on their two toddlers at the pre-Christmas sales here, the couple hundred I had spent was minsiscule in comparison.)
August, 2007, Tripsdrill Animal Park

But it hurt.  The money hurt.  And I remember feeling as if I was hemorrhaging money that I couldn't really afford to lose.  I was bleeding for my children. 

But that that was not only okay, but the way it should be.  That a parent SHOULD bleed for their children, and do so happily.  Because that's what being a parent was.  Just like Harry Potter's mother had given her life for Harry, her sacrifice ( and somehow her blood?) protecing him from Voldemort.

It all made great sense.  And I have it written down on a napkin packed up in a cardboard moving box somewhere downstairs.

June 2008, Holzgerlingen

Let me get back to you on that though.

Because this time I am vomiting.


I was physically ill for over a week after we went to Ryan's new riding stable.  Still am if I allow myself to think about it too much.

She was bouncing around in the seat next to me, radiant and chattering about her new riding program.

I was trying to hide the tears I had streaming down my face.

June 2008, Holzgerlingen

There is no possible way we can afford this riding program for her. 

None at all.

And yet she started this weekend.  The outrageous lesson fees.  The course guides.  The required lesson texts.  New boots and chaps.  Stirrups to follow.  Barn polo shirt and sun hat.  Safety vest optional.  Formal attire and show fees still on the far horizon, but there none the less.  Not to mention 45 minutes each way to get her there.

The 9 seater van we were looking at has turned into a 7 seater second-hand model.  I guess my new glasses and contact lens prescription can wait.  And I saw a dentist in Germany so I'm good.  I'll just line up behind the kids the next time Damon is cutting hair.  And I can get used to sandwiches and homemade pizza.  Even have the kids convinced that homemade fries and chicken nuggets are an acceptable alternative to take-out.

June 2011, The Gap (Brisbane), First Lesson

But it's dull, not having ANY extras AT ALL.  (Would LOVE to see that last Harry Potter!) And a lot of hard work cooking without ANY chance of a night off.  The other kids have sports activities too.  But Andrew's agreed to wait on the hip-hop dance lessons until 2012.  (He's still got soccer.)The twins can swim in the pool so that they don't need formal lessons.  And goodness, looks like replacing that old couch can wait until the kids go to college after all.

We're not living in poverty.

But we have had to make some serious choices about lifestyle - mostly about Damon and I giving one up - in order to get Ryan those riding lessons.  (They were 15 Euros a week in Germany.  Here, all we could find was a nationally certified dressage and show jumping training program, with internationally competing coaches.  All of which is well worth the money, just a lot more than we were counting on.  Kids don't take casual lessons here.  They either have a horse in their backyard or Mum and Dad are wealthy enough to allow them to compete at an international level.)

The horses are getting bigger!

Even as I bleed - and vomit and cry - for Ryan's riding lessons, I don't regret them for a moment.  This week, when I returned to pick her up after three hours, the other girls - all 4 to 5 years older - told me how amazed they were at her riding abilities.

"She stayed on Ace," they told me.  "And he's not so easy to stay on."

We've gone form Welsh and Shetland ponies to Thoroughbreds.

And they threw a couple of jumps at her to see what she can do.  "Um. They didn't jump in Germany"  I told the coach.  Ryan just rolled her eyes and told him she could do it. 

Brave new world.  Jumping.

Then did.  "She'll have no problems getting right into the program." her coach reassured me.

"She's REALLY good." said another girl.  "Wish I could have trained in Germany!"  (And I really gotta credit Stefan Lange's program in Holzgerlingen.  Fantastic foundation.  15 Euros a week.)

Ryan's stepping higher again since she started riding.  She's back in her element.  Calm, centered, focused, balanced, confident. 

She belongs on a horse.

They don't call it 'Wattle Creek' Riding for nothing.  Look at those trees!

And if I have to lose blood to put her there, yeah well, it's not like it's good for much else.  Anitbodies to things I need.  Clotting when it shouldn't.  Not clotting when it should. 

It's all I have to give.  And I look back on that time in France, a time when I was just beginning to understand that a parent would give more than her life for her children...

And shudder to think of how easy I had it then.  And what might still lie ahead! 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Working From Home

On par with trying to get any rest while the kids are home is trying to set up a daily writing schedule.

July 6 at the beach.  A bit nippy.  But not bad for winter!

We've been here 8 months now, we are MOSTLY moved into our new home, Damon has work, the kids are at school from 8:30 to 3:00 and I am still here on a tourist's visa. 

I should be bored out of my mind, right?!

Let's not even get into the fact that Damon is still home until 2:00 most days, and gone all weekend.  He's a good egg.  (I make him take the kids to school in the mornings.)

But that's where the distractions come in.  Budgeting discussions for the new car.  Can we afford to buy all of Ryan's riding manuals first-hand?  (Vomit.  See next essay.)  Do we need to get the twins' hearing assessed right away or is their speech improving? (And does it REALLY matter that they still say "I muss toilet" after 8 months of living here?!)  Should I be there for all the dental appointments?  (Um.  Everyone's teeth were SUPPOSEDLY fine in Germany but I believe the Aussies have other standards.  Perhaps a bit high, but if the state is paying for the capping of milk teeth, then what the heck, right?!)  Who is going to write the letter to the real estate agent about the possums that are taking over the house WE are supposed to have exclusive use of? 

Nintendo DSIs are on sale at Target now for Christmas.  (No kidding.  Layaway in July is like the BEST Aussie tradition EVER!  Not only is the shopping almost done, we are paying it off a month at a time!)


This is life - I like to think of it as LIF after a typo to my mom years ago that just about put it all in perspective.  LIF is..well, if I have to explain, right?!

LIFE would be getting it together to do what I love as well as the daily chores.  Although I have to admit, I am LOVING my new space, the ability to cook curries and peanut sauces due to that space - and the fact that you can get Asian ingredients at Walmart.  (Does anyone know the difference between a Malaysian red curry paste and Thai red curry paste?  I do!)

Still, writing professionally is going to take some dedication, some ability to set aside a space (got it!) and a TIME to take it seriously.  My Bible, Stephen King's book on writing (Funny enough just about the only book of his I enjoy!  GREAT author, as it turns out, just not my style story.) is on the make-shift desk in my bedroom.  And if he can do it with a portable Olivetti typewriter perched on his knees while hiding in the laundry room from his kids....

There's the rub.  But I don't WANT to wait until the kids leave home.


So this past Monday, when I had a day-long appointment in Brisbane that involved a lot of just sitting in waiting rooms in between meetings, I did what Karenne taught me to do through writers' group.  I laid out a plan to write.  When and where.  (Not quite up to GOALS yet, Jim, but once I have the time down, I'll send them to you!  I know, I know, having seven projects in a list doesn't mean they are going to get done!)

I planned to start Tuesday.  9 - 11 AM four days a week.  Since I spend Friday mornings at school and quite a number of afternoons there as well.  (Writing program with the kids on Fridays- yay me - and Optiminds on Wednesdays - and did they really rope me into doing math with the smart kids?!  That doesn't sound too promising, does it?!  Ah well - maybe I'll learn something!)  Someone DOES have to do the grocery shopping and the errands too.  So 9 - 11 sounded doable, if not the 10,000 words a day, six days a week that Stephen suggests.  (Let's remember, HIS kids are OUT of the house!)

Swear to God, Ryan started vomiting on Monday night.  After I cleaned the bathroom and got her tucked back in,  Andrew woke up with a nightmare.  Which wasn't surprising, since the possums living in our walls seemed to have invited friends over for a late night party, without asking our permission of course..  I had a hard time falling back asleep after that since I wasn't sure whether the stomping going on above my head was Ryan vomiting, Andrew panicking, the possums or Damon coming home from work after midnight. 

Ryan.  My fairy, so beautiful!

My biggest regret about myself is that I need sleep.

I enlisted Ryan's help in setting up my writing space - some incense, my Anne Lamott books, Jane Austen, some other inspirations and, of course, Stephen - while Damon took the boys to school.

When Damon came back to tell me about Friday's 8AM pancake breakfast to honor Ms Dance as one of Queensland's "Favourite Teachers" and how Tracy had invited us over for tea on Wednesday afternoon and Aidan had cried because he forgot how to pronounce the word "how" on his reading list (no worries, I have it printed on his palm now and he has to raise it like an American Indian to see it!)and if he should call the rental association and would I like to write a formal letter of complaint about the possums (who, by the way, look NOTHING like American possums, but are actually red and quite cute, and look a bit like foxes)....

I felt a little like I was throwing him to the wolves (with a vomiting child to boot!)

But I shut the door and put words to paper for 2 hours.

The big boys check out the beach conditions.  18C in the water.  (High 60s F)

I got 400 words down that I am reasonably proud of.

And today I plan to do the same.  9 - 11. 

Because, as it turns out, the bathroom isn't going to cheat me out of the pleasure of cleaning it by cleaning itself while I am looking the other way.  The books aren't going to jump out of their moving boxes and arrange themselves on the shelves in the wrong order.  And the laundry will hang on the line until I am ready to take it down.

Am I able to write from home while I still have kids in it?

Absolutely not.

But I'm going to do it anyway!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Afternoon Naps at Our House

"Do they let you lie down and take a nap during the day?"

Does it LOOK like they let me lie down and sleep during the day?!
This from other Mums at Prep comparing the activity levels of our children.

How do these kids come out of six plus hours of school still full of energy and bouncing  around in anticipation for the afternoon's activities?  (How do Germans still believe that kids wouldn't be able to handle more than four hours of school a day?!)

Oh goody.  Some assembly required.
"Can we play on the playground for a bit, huh huh?"   I set down their school bags and slump to the grass.

"And today I got a prize for reading and we made a scarecrow for the garden and then in cooking class we got to..."   The list goes on.

No.  They do not stop.  Thank goodness for the trampoline..

July 1.  Aidan doing a happy dance at Bribey Island.

I did, of course, TRY laying down a couple of times over the school holidays.  Not often. 

Because, while all four of them were more than happy to let me go downstairs to lie down, the concept of uninterrupted sleep still eludes them.

Matthe digging for oil.  Really.  (Now where the heck did he come up with that?!)
I can ignore the herd of elephants trampling overhead in the interests of having a room to myself.  I can forget the forays into the fridge and cupboards, the whispered excitement of being alone without supervision, the doors slamming and the rearranging of toys that goes on as they set up to play.

It is harder to ignore them standing over the bed, breathing heavily, waiting to see what I will do,


I open an eye.

"Oh good.  I was going to let you sleep but..."  This from Andrew.  "Can I play on the computer, play on my Nintendo DS?"   YES.  YES;  YES.  Sneaky little bugger.  It's called blackmail in other settings. 
Andrew.  Looking good.

I close my eyes.  Ignore the fighting and screaming and yelling and crying.  Andrew trying to give Aidan and Matthew a time out.  Ryan telling them how they should behave. 

Sudden quiet.

I open an eye.

The twins are playing strong man with the three pound hand weights I keep in my room.  Nice to see someone using them, I guess.

My budding artist.
Or they've spread a deck if cards out on the carpet and are quietly - ie lots of heavy whispering - playing War.

They spot me with an eye open.  "Mommy,  Can we have chips, candy, soda, granola bars"...anything I've told them they couldn't have fifteen minutes before.  What ever happened to raiding the cupboard behind my back boys?  Why are we asking permission?

They are also literally dying of thirst.  "Can we have some water?"

YES.  YES.  YES.  You know where the faucet is, for crying out loud.

Maybe I catch a few minutes of sleep.

Maybe not.

There's Aidan playing a drum solo at the foot of the bed.

So you wanna be a rock star?
Never mind that he's actually quite good. 

All of this COUILD be solved by turning on the TV, I suppose.

Except then they'd be waking me up to ask about programming.

Do the kids let me lay down?  They are more than happy to.

Do they let me sleep?  They sure as heck think they do. 

An AWW moment on July 4.
Is it touching that their little worlds collapse the minute I shut my eyes, that they miss me for the few minutes I am gone?


Just as touching as it will be in ten years when I wake them up at 6AM to tell them how much I love them!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Day at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

"Hey, guess which one of those groups of people over there are German tourists."

We call this giving Canadians a bad name!  (The boys have their own style.)

We were at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, atop the kangaroo meadow, and Damon couldn't resist asking.

I looked over the group.  There, that group of four adults with two small children between them, the brand-new signature back-packs and rain gear and carrying their own lunch.  Damn can I pick a stereotype.   Nope.  (Although it did turn out that they hailed somewhere from eastern Europe.) 

I looked again.  Aha!  The young couple in the starched blue jeans, the latest photography gear (although put to shame by the Asian tourists who came by the busloads later!), and again, the crisp rain gear, new hiking boots.  Everything just a little bit too perfect.

Yup.  That was them.

Only true Aussies can be this cold when it is 15 C out!

"They're smiling though."  I said to Damon.

"Yeah," said Damon.  "There's another guy with a German accent entertaining a bunch of Australian girls too."

"Must be Swiss"  I replied.  (I was right!)

Too bad the only kids who would pose for me JUSt reach the 'Toilets'  sign!
Later I ran into the cute, young Germans again.  Because they were cute.  They were just so darn happy to be here.  Glowing and smiling, they came running over to the koala enclosure I was standing in front of.  And addressed eachother in English.  "Look at that one!  Look at him!  Did you see THAT?  HE'S MOVING!"

I smiled at them.  "Pretty amazing when they actually move. isnt' it?"

"First one we've seen move all day." they answered.  "And look" - cameras going click-click-click - "THERE HE GOES AGAIN!"

I lef them to their joy.  After all the koala hadn't even left his tree branch.  Just opened his eyes an moved a few limbs a couple of times.

And I'd already run out of battery filming shot after shot of other almost inanimate koalas earlier in the day. 

"Seventeen shots of the exact same pose." says Damon.

C'MON!  Can't have too many shots of this!

Yeah, but they are just so INCREDIBLE to behold.  Even if they aren't moving.  How many shots of the kids do we need anyway?  And unlike the koalas, they move too fast for me to focus.

So that that's really the way you tell a tourist from a bona-fide Aussie at the zoo.  The Aussies are hurrying by looking for something a bit more exciting - like the sheep shearing demonstration or the birds of prey falconry show.  The rest of us are staring in wonder at creatures that will contine to not move, not even open their eyes in fact, for 22 hours out of every day.

But a dog who can walk on sheep is worth photographing.
Um.  I think we have these in the US too boys!
Aussies also like the venomous creatures demonstrations - snakes and lizards and stuff.  Koalas don't kill you if you step on one.  And they actually move fast enough once out of the trees to get out of your way so you DON'T step on one.

Largest eagle in Australia.  Cool.  But I worked with Bald Eagles in Alaska, so I'm a little spoiled.

Sure, the crocs are cool.  The images of kangaroos spread across vast plains.  (All we've seen is really sleepy kangaroos, about on par with the koala for energy levels.  Do those things REALLY hop?!)

But the wombat won't show more than his butt during the daytime.  Keepers actually laugh when you ask about the echidna.  "I've seen him twice - and I've been here three years." said one.  "You do know that they're noctural, don't you?!"

You get laughed at for taking pictures of the local pests - those flocks of cockatoos, lorikeets and gallahs, that hang about.

Local pests. The rainbow lorikeets.

Ah heck.  They keep the tourists happy!
Not only did this guy talk, he spoke with an Aussie accent.  We found that as immensely amusing as the Aussies found us for speaking with hum so long.
Bu Aussies ARE proud of their koalas. 

Um boys.  We have dirt at home.  You're missing the lorikeets.

Just not excited enough to actually stop and take pictures of them.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Winter Break Preview Photos

Well aware most of you didn't REALLY want to hear about Eric Bana and Hugh Jackman.

We've had two weeks of Winter Break AND a July 4th double birthday, so I haven't had a chance to sit AT ALL, let alone sit at the computer.

Right now, the last day of break, the four kids are busy running up and down the stairs, in and out from the porch and locking eachother out of the house.

So this will have to be quick.

I made these collages of Winter Break photos for our great-parents who don've have access to a computer. 

July 1 at the beach and June 30 at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary

Our July 4th Birthday Boys above.  The gang, Matthew with the boys' girlfriend Saphyre and Ryan back on a horse after a 9 month hiatus.
The birthday party was a BLAST!  Aussie good natures making it the hit it was.  (Note: most Germans I know would have walked out in disgust!)  And we spent this past weekend at THE LARGEST MEDIEVAL FEST IN THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE!  (What?!  They don't HAVE medieval fests in Africa and South America?!!!)  Having now been to medieval fests in four countries on three continents - and BOTH hemispheres - bet you can't wait for what I have to say about those!

Let the third school trimester begin!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

An Aussie of My Own!

Did I really not know that Eric Bana is Australian?

Now I know where Hugh Jackman was when he didn't meet me at the airport in November.

Obviously in Eric's backyard drinking beer over the BBQ.

Now THERE's a picture for the Australian Tourist Board! 

MY Aussie!  Honestly, one of only two shots we have of him for June/July.

Melbourne suddenly got a LOT warmer.

It explains how Eric can look THAT good no matter WHAT role he plays, including scruffy full beard and fur-hooded parka.  It's the Aussie shining out of those deep brown eyes.

Only to be rivaled by Hugh leading a line dance through the neighbourhood for some drink commercial. 

Are they showing that one outside of Australia?  I don't know how successful it is.  I, for one, can't take my eyes off of the sparkle in HIS long enough to notice WHAT brand he is holding in his hand.

All of which makes me realize how lucky I am to have been stranded on a really small Caribbean island with an Aussie of my own.

A second sighting!  A rare night at home, reading with Matthew.
 Now, how do I get him invited to that BBQ in Melbourne?!