[Snow at last!]  [And the games begin]      [Mt Rainier from the air]      [And the games begin]  [Another sax player on the way?]

American Journal
(Last Updated 23-February-2008 - New Pictures!)

Our Australian Journal (2001-2006)
Denny Creek exploration Various US pictures/drawings Colorado - Summer 2007
Chihuly Bridge of Glass - Tacoma NH & Boston - Summer 2007

5-April - 10-September, 2006 - Back in the USA / Summer Vacation: We've been steadily settling back into the US — the last two months of the school year went quickly for the girls. Lucy had a great remainder of 3rd grade with her "nature-mad" teacher; they were doing interesting things and Lucy immediately found some girls in her class that she enjoyed playing with — and there are several nice girls her age here in the neighborhood, so building a new social life has been easy. While Clara adapted to the "more mobile" style of middle school (which is grades 6 and 7 here — and for comparison, the 6th and 7th grades have about 500 kids total — which is as many as Wilderness had in K-12!), it was hard for her at the beginning — she was moving from class to class with lots of different kids in each one, so it was a much larger, more impersonal environment. But, she is a friendly and determined girl, and she never gave up. Gradually she found a group of girls that were in some of her classes and they ate together in the lunch room every day. She also joined the jazz band that met after school for two afternoons each week. That was a very small group, about 12 kids, and she really enjoyed the music and it was very casual and fun. By the end of the year, which was a mere 8 weeks later, she seemed quite happy. One of those last days when all the kids at school were signing yearbooks, a bunch of kids signed one of Clara's notebooks (since she didn't have a yearbook), and they all wrote very sweet notes to her and obviously enjoyed her company. Her teachers all wrote very lovely notes to her as well, and she did enjoy all her classes. Both girls had end of year concerts (most of which Tim missed since he had to make one last trip back to Oz!) He did at least make it back in time for the final concert of the year in mid June, where all of the school bands played. Clara's jazz band was the final group to play, and we thought it was the hit of the evening.

And then the day after school ended, it was off to NH to visit Tim's family, where we had a wonderful time visiting relaxing with Grammie and the rest of the family and enjoying the beauty of the North Country of NH from our base at Lopstick Lodge. The girls had a great time helping Auntie Brenda put up her scarecrow, and helping Uncle Jim with yard chores — and they were over the moon once they discovered Auntie Brenda's stamping kit for making greeting cards, etc. Jim & Brenda's daughter Tammy and her family also came for a few days, and we enjoyed picnics and canoeing and lots of playing with them as well. One evening we went for a dusk drive through "Moose Alley" — basically from Second Connecticut Lake northwards — and saw 18 moose! Quite a change from when Tim was growing up, and moose were very rare. Later in our stay Tanya and her children came and helped celebrate Clara's birthday. It was so good for us all to have a break from the unpacking.

Then it was off to Kansas to visit Sandy's family, where we again had a great time, enjoying homemade ice cream, pitch (the traditional family card game), a front row seat at the fireworks for 4th of July (which Lucy thought was "totally wicked!"), checking out the thorn tree in the backyard and visiting the local turtle pond to gather cat-tails, flying the kite Papa helped the girls make, and so on. The girls had a wonderful time playing with all of their cousins and being doted upon by grandparents and aunts and uncles. Even though we don't live very close to our families, it is great that we will be able to see them more often than we could while we were in Australia. After we returned from Kansas, the girls were a little worried about whether the remainder of the summer would be unbearably boring after the excitement of spending 3 weeks with cousins and grandparents and constant activities! Clara so enjoyed the little cousins that she took the American Red Cross babysitting course this summer, and hopes to occasionally do a bit of babysitting for some of our friends and neighbors.

Once back in Seattle, Tim finished up his job on the Wedgetail program and moved to a new position (same company) which should keep him very busy for the rest of the year, while Sandy and the girls plunged back in to all the tasks of unpacking and sorting, gardening, and some house repairs. Our household belongings in Australia nearly filled a 40-foot container, and then a truck of that same size brought all of the things we had left in storage. Then while we were in Kansas visiting Sandy's parents, she packed a number of boxes of her childhood things and dishes and furniture from her grandmother, so yet another moving van brought all of that a few weeks later. Although we still have a lot to do, we have quite a few rooms that are taking shape. We got all of the piles cleared out of the dining room and managed to eat our first meal at the dining room table for Lucy's birthday. Despite the headway made over the summer, there are still a lot of piles looking for homes, and the garage is not really ready for cars or Tim's shop. And we haven't even thought about the back yard (although the girls have had a great time sliding down the hills on cardboard, building humpies in the woods, climbing the maple trees (something they greatly missed in Oz) and planning what fruits and vegetables they want to plant next year.)

Another big project for the summer has been sorting out music teachers for the girls. We realize now just how carefree it was at Wilderness to arrange lessons for the girls at school for various instruments, but here families are left to make all their own arrangements. Through some neighbors, Sandy managed to find a fantastic violin teacher for Clara. She was the best music teacher Clara has ever had (and Clara absolutely loved her) — her lessons were 1 hour long and she asked Clara to practice one hour every day — and for the first time in her life Clara did exactly that — with no reminding from us. And in just weeks, she had made phenomenal progress. There was a bit of urgency in finding a violin instructor, since we had learned about the "Marrowstone in the City" "summer day camp" put on by the Seattle Youth Symphony and held at a school very near our house. Clara thought this sounded like fun, so she attended and had a great time. It was amazing that after spending three hours there every morning, Clara was happy to practice again in the afternoon. They played ambitious music, and even though she was only a second violin, her music was challenging and interesting — and she was humming it around the house even when she wasn't playing it. The two weeks of Marrowstone ended with some mid-day small ensemble concerts for parents and friends, and then a Friday night concert for (mostly) larger groups. Although that is not quite right — it ended on Friday night for the parents — but the kids got another full day — we dropped Clara off at the school early Saturday morning, and they all climbed on a bus which took them to Bellingham (about 2 1/2 hours north), where they played with the Bellingham Symphony, then had a roller-skating-and-pizza party before coming home and crashing. So between that experience and all the help from her teacher, her playing has improved by leaps and bounds — and she had a lot of fun. In addition, Sandy (and Clara) went through the same process of getting recommendations and checking out saxophone teachers before settling on one. It took a bit longer to find a saxophone teacher that was a good fit for Clara, and at first the one they chose wanted Clara to change some fingering that she had been using, so she thought that seemed boring, but he felt it would help her in the long run. After awhile, they got into a good groove together, so then she was really in a quandary about which instrument.

However, during the school year, the location for the symphony rehearsals is not near our house, so Clara would need to devote about 5 hours each Saturday at the rehearsals, and her violin teacher expects about an hour a day practicing. Clara therefore had a very hard decision to make — it was clear that in order to continue progressing well on either saxophone or violin, she would have to focus on a single instrument. She had two excellent teachers, and was greatly enjoying both. In the end, even though Clara does love her violin, she realized that she would have a hard time managing homework, a sport, and all the demands of the violin (not to mention reading for pleasure or just playing), so she decided that she is going to give it up and continue with the saxophone instead. Ultimately it came down to being able to play saxophone with kids at school (and with whom it will be easier to socialize in general) and having time for other things as well, as opposed to driving 60 miles every Saturday and spending 5 hours every weekend with the orchestra with kids who all live far from us. So she settled on saxophone and has seemed relieved to have made her decision and has been playing duets with Tim as well. (And just this past weekend, she has started teaching Lucy to play sax and now they want a family sax trio!!) She decided that she could have a lot of fun with saxophone playing in the concert and jazz bands at school — and that she wouldn't have to give up a "summer camp" experience, since there is a well-regarded summer camp for band instruments on Vashon Island each summer — and it would be a real overnight camp, not just day sessions!. Further, when Sandy talked to the director of Marrowstone about Clara's decision, he said to have Clara sign up for Marrowstone next year anyway, as they could find some parts for a saxophone in the wind groups and full orchestra!

And of course Lucy is never far behind — Sandy and Lucy checked out several piano teachers before settling on one just in time for school. Lucy has also been busy with art this summer — she attended a two week course on various art media and was particularly taken by charcoal drawing — she did some fantastic portraits and a still life (her teacher said that she was the only one in the class who really "got it"). Clara also attended one week of this art class, but then went to Marrowstone the following week.

Lucy also joined the local Girl Scout troop, and has been quite involved in their activities. It has been quite handy that her troop leader is the mother of Lucy's good friend Sarah, and conveniently located in our neighborhood. We have been quite impressed with the variety of things they work on (from hikes to glassblowing to model rocket building!) and the messages that are part of the activities. One activity was a swimming pool party for the girls and a meeting for the parents, and one of the dads was sitting across the table from Sandy and kept looking at her intently. After awhile he came out and said, "I know you from somewhere." Sandy was at a loss, but a bit later in the evening when the troop leader passed out a list of the girls and their parents, he recognized her name, and said "You were my physics teacher!!" Sandy was shocked — but Lucy was perhaps even more shocked, wondering how her Mom could possibly have been a teacher for the dad of one of her friends! The most recent group activity was a late August family hike to Denny Creek which we have captured in pictures here.

We have had a spectacularly beautiful summer — most of the time the temperatures have been in the 70s during the day and sparkling blue skies with beautiful green trees everywhere. It has also been dry — we had a little rain a few nights ago for the first time in about 2 and a half months! Tim had hoped to take the girls camping, but he just hasn't been able to do that, so we set the tent up in the back yard — one night Sandy slept out there with Clara and another night Clara had a friend from our old neighborhood come and "camp" with her. Lucy prefers her own bed...

It's hard to believe that we've been back for 5 months now — Australia is often in our minds — as we expected, there are many good things about being back home again, and many things about our lives in Australia that we miss. The summer weather has generally been gorgeous, and we often eat our meals out on our deck enjoying the beautiful trees and mountain views. We had one very hot spell (in the 90s for several days), but otherwise the temperatures have been just about perfect. The girls love sliding down the hill in our back yard sitting on a piece of cardboard and playing in the trees. They have also been very enthusiastic gardeners and have been a genuine help to us. Because we are so near mountains and forested areas, we have lots of birds and a bit of wildlife. Occasionally the girls find a dead mouse somewhere in the yard (fortunately none in the house), and one day they came to tell us there was a dead raccoon in the trees. Sandy called the Fish and Wildlife department to ask them if we needed to do something with the body, and they said that we could bury it if we wanted to, but that the coyotes would take care of it for us in a short time. Well sure enough, a couple of days later Clara mentioned that there were only a few white bones and a little fur left....

We are again amazed at all the variety and abundance in the shops and the prices. On the other hand, we miss how close everything was to us there in Medindie. We have taken much delight in having foods that we missed in Australia, and yet conversely we are missing many foods we took for granted in Australia — we find the mangoes here seem to mostly be coming from Chile, and so far they haven't been very tasty. In the five years that we have been away, the use of mobile phones here has skyrocketed, and there are no laws against driving while using a mobile phone, so we have seen some very poor driving. When we listen to the radio or glance through some of the TV channels, the culture often seems alien to us. We have also been reminded how much more Australians dress up than Americans do (and Seattleites are probably the most casual dressers in the country), so when Sandy went to the first concert at Lucy's school, she was shocked at the attire of most of the parents. When we moved to Australia, it took us quite awhile to adjust to only having mail delivered on Monday through Friday, but we became so used to it that we now often forget to empty our mailbox on Saturdays! And the list goes on and on, from big things down to the most mundane little differences that continue to jump out at us. What we miss most of all are the friends we made in 4 1/2 years, and wish that we could just pick up the phone for a chat (without calculating the 1 day plus 7 1/2 hour difference), or stop by for a cup of coffee — at least email allows us to check in from time to time.

We've also been trying to keep up with Australian news — without the Internet, it would be just about impossible! However, we were shocked and saddened at one bit of news that did make it into the mainstream media here — the death of Steve Irwin by a sting ray. He was filming a documentary on the Low Isles (where we went snorkeling just a year ago!) and was snorkeling over a ray, when it struck him with its tail, embedding the barb in his chest. Steve was dead shortly thereafter. It's not surprising that he died from a wild animal, given how much time he spends with the most deadly creatures in the world — but sting rays generally aren't as dangerous as many other creatures, making this even more of a shock. Our hearts go out to his wife and two young kids. And bad news never comes alone — we also learned this week that Colin Thiele, one of Australia's most beloved writers, passed away over the weekend.

Most of the team that worked with Tim in Australia has filtered back to Seattle over the last few months (Tim was "first in" and also first out!) A couple of weeks ago, we organized a barbeque here at our house with three other Boeing families who were in Adelaide and have recently moved back. Even though we see all the work yet to be done at our house whenever we look around, all the other families are just getting started and thought we were in great shape. So even though we get discouraged about all the work yet to do, we have to remind ourselves to look back and realize how much we have accomplished. That is part of the reason we have been so slow at updating this journal — and even trying to finish the Australian version! So we keep at it, and, at the moment, we're putting a few additional pictures up — this time, the Jamestown picture page has been updated.

Labor Day has come and gone, and what seemed a very long summer break to us after the much shorter Australian summer school holidays is now over. Clara and Lucy are back in school — Clara at the same school as last spring, but Lucy at a new school. One of the reasons we moved back here when we did was so the girls could have a couple months in school to get used to the schools, teachers, kids and general system before the summer holidays, rather than starting as two of many "new kids" in the fall, when the teachers are all trying to get to know classrooms full of new kids. That worked pretty well — with the exception that Lucy was only recently tested for the "highly capable" program, and ended up being placed in one of these classes — but it was located at a different elementary school. When Lucy heard that, she really felt like her world had been turned upside down. She really didn't want to have to learn her way around a new school and make new friends yet again. One thing that helped sway her was that one girl from her Girl Scout troop and one from the neighborhood are also in the program, so she at least knows a couple girls to start out. She eventually agreed to humor us and just give it a try, and after about 5 minutes in her new class, she was hooked. She has never really been fully challenged, and for the first time in her little life, she is really being stretched — and so far she absolutely loves it. But she was pretty well knackered by the end of her first week, and really needed the weekend to recover!

Similarly, Clara's first week tuckered her out — she went back to the same school and settled right in, but she was also chosen for an advanced math curriculum, and is now taking algebra. We're just hoping that we remember enough calculus to help her when she gets to it in a couple years! On the flip side, we are sad that the girls aren't able to continue with French or Chinese at school — something else to take up their outside-school hours, depending on how busy their year turns out to be. Swings and roundabouts, as our Australian friends would say...

11-September - 25-November, 2006 - Back to School: It's been five years since that horrible morning when the world changed — five years ago we were in the hotel, ready to leave for Oz in a couple days, and came down to breakfast to discover what had happened in NY, and to try and explain it to the girls.

The girls settled into the routine of school without dramas, and were less worn out by the second week of classes — although Clara was already fighting a cold. Friday night, a couple of Tim's old friends, Bruce and Andy, stopped by on their way from Olympia to North Seattle. Tim hadn't seen Andy in over 5 years, and Bruce for a couple, so they enjoyed a few single malts, while Sandy and the girls wandered down to the neighborhood street party.

Sunday morning we headed off for the Puyallup Fair since we hadn't been to an American fair in over five years, and the girls had no clear recollection of one. We got there right after the gates opened, but there were already a lot of people about. We began walking around, checking out the animal sheds, and then at 11, we headed over to the giant pumpkin carving, where Russ Leno began sizing up a 362 pound pumpkin (tiny in comparison to the 1000 pound plus specimens on display in the agricultural hall!) After watching Dale starting to work for a few minutes, we wandered off for an early lunch of barbecued turkey legs (and as we sat eating them, we think we probably helped sell a lot more from the comments of passers-by!) Then it was back to check out Dale's progress, and then into some other exhibit halls. The girls were fascinated by the crafts on display, and stopped to try their hand at leather stamping at one of the demonstrators stands. The quill making and numismatic exhibits also captured their attention. We all were drawn in by the woman making sushi with a clever kit of plastic forms and tools. Lucy, our resident sushi making expert, exclaimed, "that is so much easier than using a bamboo mat!" So we bought the kit and have been making sushi on a semi-regular basis at home ever since.

Tuesday brought some excitement for Tim, as he had finally signed up for a glass-blowing class - something he has wanted to do ever since he saw a demonstration of scientific glass blowing in college. The additional chances to watch glassblowers at work in their studios in New Zealand had rekindled his interest — and since we are back in Seattle, the glassblowing capital of America, if not the world, he has this opportunity to indulge himself. So he spent an enjoyable four hours making paperweights and tumblers, and can't wait to get back at it next week.

Jazz Band also started for Clara, and she is enjoying that. Even Lucy has been getting interested in band instruments, and the girls have spent some time working out saxophone-piano transcriptions of favorite songs, and Clara even taught Lucy a few basics of the saxophone!

One of Lucy's homework assignments was to design a tee shirt about a place she'd been and enjoyed. Here is her drawing of her New Zealand tee shirt. Another major project for this term is her "Night of the Notables" project — this involves researching the life of a notable person, developing a presentation, making models, etc — and then presenting the results to parents in a few weeks — while dressed in character! Lucy chose Ben Franklin, and has been quite diligent in ferreting out details of his life.

Friday was the "Run, Walk, Read" fundraiser at Clara's school. We were amazed to hear that Clara made 24 laps of the track (6 miles) and didn't seem particularly tired out by the effort. The evening brought a sleepover with Allanah and Jessica — also recently returned from Australia. All the girls have really enjoyed the continuity of having friends they have shared the last four years with here in the US with them again.

Lately Clara has been amused by the fact that this term, Lucy has more homework than she does — the downside is that Lucy is then less available as a playmate around the house! This past weekend Lucy continued working on her "Notables" project and finished up her timeline and got her list of quotes finalized. She's already got 10 pages of autobiographical notes she needs to condense to a single page, and her costume is in pretty good shape. Her model printing press is taking shape, along with bookshelves, pictures and a model of Ben himself for her diorama.

The big news at the moment was that the time had finally come for Lucy to get her braces — she has been dreading this, and trying to eat all of those foods she will be denied for the next 1 1/2 to 2 years — such as corn on the cob, tortilla chips, Tootsie Rolls, etc. First she had to go in for spacers to be inserted, and then a few days later the actual braces were installed. And of course, Friday morning she woke up with one of the wires broken — and that is the day when her orthodontist is closed — so we snipped off the excess wire, and will take her in first thing Monday! Friday evening brought a slight change from the usual Friday Pizza or Sushi and a Movie — since pizza is hard for Lucy with braces, the girls got to make one of the things they missed in Oz (and for which we never found a truly satisfactory substitute) — Pigs in Blankets. Then we watched National Treasure, with Lucy getting excited every time Benjamin Franklin was mentioned (quite often, as it turns out!)

There was a great sigh of relief through the family (biggest of all from Lucy!) when she finally finished her Night of the Notables presentation about Ben Franklin on Saturday. We're hoping the rest of the term won't be quite so demanding of all her free time (and Clara is hoping the same!) so that she will get a reasonable amount of time for play and other normal 9 year old activities! As she was finishing it up, Clara and Tim ran some errands, and came back with big pumpkins (to carve — see here, here, here and here), small pumpkins (to paint for Kirsten and Samantha) and gourds to decorate the dining room table for their Halloween Party coming up on Tuesday. On Sunday, Lucy dressed up in her witch costume and went off with Paula to a Trunk or Treat Halloween party at Paula's church, while Clara and Tim prepared the big pumpkins. Tuesday night Allanah, Jessica, and their parents joined us for an early spaghetti supper and then we went out trick-or-treating with the girls. It was a cold but dry evening, and lots of kids were out. Sandy was amazed at how many houses had elaborate decorations and even orange lights up for Halloween. At one house with a long driveway the girls went to the door and Sandy and Jacquie stayed by the curb. When the girls came back, they all exclaimed, "Mom, there were eyeballs in the trees at that house!" The girls were also so amazed at how much candy they accumulated. Afterwards, we all enjoyed a cup of steaming hot chocolate and a cookie before calling it a night. And then on Wednesday, Lucy got to present her Ben Franklin project, dressed up as Ben himself.

Tim enjoyed his first glassblowing class, working in the "hot shop", (see his results here) and has started a flameworking course to continue his glassworking education. And he really enjoys hearing the girls come into the room the morning after a class and bursting our "Wicked! Awesome" when they see what he brought home from the week before... And Sandy has finally been able to spend a little time on craft projects — she took a short class at her local quilt shop, and snuck in a few hours with Clara's help to get some apples stenciled in the kitchen.

As always, we are still watching the Australian news and browsing Australian odds and ends — and we just discovered a webcam located in Kakadu at the Mamaluka wetlands, the last place we visited before leaving the Top End a year ago — it has both pictures and sounds, and brings back many memories — here is the link.

And another Australian link a little closer to home came about this past election — the local elections for Pierce County in Washington State adopted preference voting as is the norm in Oz. In this type of voting, voters effectively indicate first and second choices — so that you could, for example, cast a protest vote for a candidate with no real chance to win, while not "throwing away" your vote. In Australia, it seems the primary motivation is to avoid revotes and runoffs when you have multiple parties and candidates, and no one gets a clear majority on the first ballot.

While Lucy was diligently working on new school projects (an elaborate pop-up book about the life cycle of a salmon and a "magic book" about a novel she recently read), Clara and Sandy went shopping. Clara had been writing letters to US servicemen and women at school, and now the students were bringing items to school to make care packages for the troops that will be distributed to those who don't get much mail. So Clara went searching the aisles for tea bags, granola bars, popcorn, magazines, sudoku puzzle books, chewing gum, playing cards, etc. We also are filling two stockings that Boeing will distribute to disadvantaged youngsters, and Clara had such fun choosing things for these two little girls as well. At one point she said, "I just love shopping for presents for people!!"

Sandy and Lucy have both been fighting colds and sinus infections, but we didn't let that slow us down when it came to preparations for Thanksgiving — our first one in our new home. Both girls helped Sandy make cinnamon rolls for breakfast and Clara helped make the pumpkin pie. The turkey was one of the best that Sandy had ever made, and we enjoyed the festive meal in the dining room and gave thanks for all the blessings in our lives.

We've also put a few more pictures from our last days in Oz onto the Oz Pictures page (the rest of the 2006 pictures from earlier in the year have been archived on the 2005-2006 Oz Pictures page). And we are putting US pictures on the US Pictures page as well. Latest up are pictures of us "Doin' the Puyallup..."

26-November-2006 - 18-June-2007 - Christmas and the New Year - and Easter as well: Life continued in even more hectic fashion as November turned into December, and the Christmas season truly arrived. We were glad to say good bye to November - the rainiest on record - although it did finish with some snow, which excited the girls out of all proportion - until one remembers they've been down under for the last five Christmases and the closest they've come to snow is seeing it on the peaks of the Snowy Mountains and on New Zealand glaciers, plus a brief taste in NH on our first home leave several years ago. Even though it was barely a dusting where we were (and none at all at the lower elevations), the girls made a snowman, and had a ball sliding down the hill on a sled. So imagine their excitement when it happened again a few days later - and this time we got 4-6 inches! More sliding and snowmen, snowball fights, and general winter play. See here and here.

December continued the excitement and hectic pace. Being back in the states for the holidays after 5 years away has brought a number of "traditions" and annual events back into our lives (and in the case of Lucy, largely introduced them to her). Beyond the novelty of it being cold and snowy at Christmas, another local tradition is that a grocery chain (QFC) holds a contest each fall to select the design it will put on its paper grocery sacks for the Christmas season. The contest is only open to kids - and this year Clara entered a design (see here) - and won first prize for our local store. This brought her a gift certificate to a local art supply store, plus an entry in the chain-wide contest for the grand prize (a family trip to Disneyland). She didn't win the grand prize, but we were all quite excited on her behalf that she won the local contest, and her winning entry hung throughout November and December at the local store. Lucy hadn't thought much of the contest - until Clara won - but now she is already planning on her entry for next year!

Another novelty came one night as we drove into the neighborhood, and saw a firetruck down one cul de sac, with people standing around. We were a bit concerned for our neighbors, wondering what had happened. Shortly after we got into our house, however, we heard an air horn blasting over and over - now what, we thought - is there a problem affecting the entire area? But as we came outside to check, we saw the firetruck making its way into our cul de sac - and what we hadn't noticed before was that it was decorated stem to stern with Christmas lights, and Santa was inside! The truck stopped, and Santa and the firemen got out to wish everyone a Merry Christmas - the girls both enjoyed the excitement (as did we - with Santa joking to Tim that he could take over the job in a couple years when his beard finishes turning white!)

Unfortunately, another recurrent aspect of winter here is that everyone took turns getting sick - and for Sandy it just hung on for weeks, with her trying three different antibiotics before it seemed to start coming under control. And then on top of the wettest November on record - we received the worst wind storm on record in mid-December. Over a million people lost their power, including us. We were relatively lucky, and had our power back after 3 days, and heat after 4 - some people didn't get their power back until nearly Christmas Day. We were doubly anxious to get our power back, as Sandy's parents were coming to spend Christmas with us.

The power and snow disruptions threw the schools into a bit of a disarray as well, but we still made it through the last big projects and the school concert for Clara. And then Christmas was almost upon us - and winter struck in the Colorado region, stranding tens of thousands of Christmas travelers, and ruining the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of others across the country. However, we had good luck once again, and Sandy's parents managed to miss the storm in Denver, and so arrived safely the week before Christmas. Tim's flameworking class finished up just a couple days before Christmas, and he immediately signed up for another class in the hot shop starting in January.

Over Christmas we had a wonderful visit with Sandy's parents - while we enjoyed our various Christmases in Oz - particularly our very first Australian Christmas with Katrina and Shane's family - it was really special to share Christmas with more of our family (and also to have a close-to-white Christmas, with temperatures that felt more appropriate to us than the 90+ norm in Adelaide!) We had originally thought we might do a lot of touring around, seeing exhibits and other things over Christmas, but it turned out that what suited us best was to simply relax at home, play games, do a few around-the-house chores with the expert help of Sandy's parents, and generally enjoy the Christmas spirit.

We celebrated a low-key News Year's Eve with Sandy's parents as well, then they flew home to Kansas a few days later. A couple weeks later, Martin Luther King weekend brought something Tim has been looking forward to for five years - his first Robert Burns party in Spokane since 2001 - he headed over Friday, where he and another bunch of the usual suspects helped get things ready. In the evening, Bruce made his traditional (and excellent) spaghetti carbonara for all the helpers, followed by a vertical tasting of Laphroaig single malt scotch featuring 15 whiskies ranging from the standard 10 year old to the 40 year old. Then the real party took place Saturday night, where Andy and Tim spent several hours bartending (an opportunity for Tim to be guaranteed a chance to renew old acquaintances and meet lots of new faces. Then Sunday he headed home.

Lots of activities continue to keep the girls busy. Lucy continues to enjoy Girls Scouts - and January means the start of the annual Girl Scout cookie season. We weren't certain what Lucy would think about selling girl scout cookies, given her genetic heritage (both Tim and Sandy dislike door to door selling) - however, she dove in with both feet, set herself a reasonable goal, and has quite enjoyed the activity. So far, she has completed the pre-sales, managing a respectable 60 boxes (of course, some of the girls in her troop have managed several hundred!) The open selling (at stands outside grocery stores) starts shortly, and she's looking forward to that as well. In general, she has really enjoyed Girl Scouts and all the activities they've gotten to do. (As a side note, Tim noticed a group in the US seeking to ban the sale of cookies by girl scouts, since they have lots of sugar and are bad for kids, thereby involving the girl scouts in "exacerbating" a problem - and then he noticed a similar group going after the girl guides in Australia! It seems there are always plenty of people who are willing to cure other people's "problems" for them in both countries...)

Lucy has also had an active year in school - perhaps the highlight so far this year has been the day they got to go to the Museum of Flight and participate in simulated space shuttle missions - she got to put in a request for the position she wanted to work (pilot, comm, etc) and got her first choice of communications. She had a great day, doing her tasks, and figuring out how to respond to emergencies. Clara was quite envious, given her desire to go to Space Camp (for which she is saving up money, and is well on the way to achieving.) She also had a marine creature project which involved researching and making a model of a particular northwest sea creature - she got the Dungeness Crab - so Sandy picked up a cleaned-out dungeness crab shell at the seafood counter of our local QFC, and Lucy went to work with clay, skewers and paint (and a few real natural treasures from past expeditions) - and here is the result.

Meanwhile, Clara has also been busier - over Christmas, she took on an extra credit project for her science class, which involved writing a book about cells. She had to research plant and animal cells, compare and contrast them, draw pictures of the cells and their components and representative cells of the major types, etc. She also added a cell terminology crossword puzzle. She was quite pleased to receive an A+ for a beautiful effort.

Following on from the cell project, Clara also decided to do the honors project for this term, which is run by the librarian at her school. The kids are given some minimal guidance, and time during the school day a couple days a week to go to the library and research their project. The objective is pretty broad - to develop a museum type exhibit on a subject of their choice. Clara thought about quite a few, then surprised us with her choice - she wants to make an animated movie! She has always loved drawing (and is always drawing something - frequently characters in stories, cartoon strips, etc. - when we were in Kansas last summer, both she and Lucy spent time with their Uncle Ande - a professional comic book and graphic novel artist - learning some tricks of the trade.) She and Tim did some research on available software, and chose one to download and install and she has started learning how to do it - developing 3D wireframes of the components (characters, props, etc) and then rendering and animating them. Tim is still not sure whether we actually have enough computer power in the house to get it all done in time!

Meanwhile, Sandy and Tim have kept busy settling back into routines, and still working on a few more "moving in" tasks - hanging pictures, stripping wallpaper and repainting the girl's bathroom (accomplished over Christmas with the help of Sandy's parents see here and here), never-ending yard work, etc. Sandy has also started going to our new neighborhood's equivalents of Ladies Night Out - known here as Bunko Night, where the nominal pastime is playing Bunko - but where the real goal is to visit with neighbors. Tim has been continuing with glass blowing (he finished one class in February, and starts the next one in April).

Sandy has been kept very busy just keeping up with Clara and Lucy, and helping them with all of their projects. However, she's been working towards getting her quilting life back on track, and has started going to the local quilt guild meetings - and hopes to locate and join a local weekly sewing group soon, similar to the Colonel Light Gardens group in Adelaide.

Tim has also been traveling a lot - he was in St Louis to present current work at a Boeing conference several weeks ago, followed by a week in Atlanta for a class and more work collaboration - then home for a day and a half and off to Long Beach, CA, for yet another presentation at a Boeing conference and more customer meetings. And finally - back to CA one more time - now he hopes to stay home for a while! Here is a picture of him getting one last hug from the girls before heading off yet again.

The girls are also settling back into the US and their school/neighborhood environment well - Lucy has become practically inseparable from her fellow girls scout Sarah, who lives just down the hill and is the daughter of Lucy's great girl scout troop leader. Clara has also developed a group of friends based around band, and has started trading visits with Shannon (another sax player who lives a few miles away). And of course, they've been spending time with Allanah and Jessica, who shared 4 1/2 years in Oz with them - as we have found with Allanah and Jessica's parents - it is great to have friends nearby who shared this life-changing experience. And the girls (and their parents) are also quite excited that yet another set of "matching" girls are coming from Australia for a visit in April - Clara and Lucy can hardly wait to see Miranda and Izzy, and we are looking forward to seeing Mary and Pete again as well.

School has continued busy for both girls - Lucy has been doing projects lately that don't involve quite as much construction or outside-of-school work; however, Clara has been heavily involved in making a model of Mauna Loa (actually, the whole Big Island of Hawaii) for science, a travel brochure (to Far North Queensland, no surprise there!) for Language Arts, and her ongoing honors project in animation. We also attended the band festival at the high school for all the bands in the district, grades 6-12, a few nights ago. It was quite a sea of bands - and quite a sound when they all played a couple songs together at the end, with all 4 music teachers conducting sections.

Sandy and Tim did manage to get in one little outing in celebration of Tim's birthday - a trip to the Tacoma Museum of Glass - and in particular, the Chihuly Bridge of Glass - see here for some webpages at Chihuly's site describing it, and here for some pictures Tim took - the colors and forms are quite spectacular in spite of the drizzly grayness of the day.

We continue to follow events in Australia, and hear from our friends down under as well - it's been a horrendously dry summer in Adelaide - and over in the Snowy Mountains, the reservoirs are at record low levels - in fact, some of the remains of towns / buildings flooded when the dams were first built and filled are surfacing again, and local tourism authorities are suggesting people might want to visit them! And of course the bushfires have been very active - an unusual and happy note was that at one point during the summer, there was actually snow in Victoria which helped damp down the fires! We can only hope the winter brings much needed rain and snow to improve the situation next year.

Spring break came at last, and everyone needed it. We had all been looking forward to it especially since some our friends from Australia were going to be visiting - Clara and Lucy were quite excited to see Miranda and Isobel again, even though Clara spent much of the week under the weather. Tim and Sandy had a good time visiting with Mary and Peter. We had a number of visits / shared activities with them and also Chris, Jacquie, Allanah and Jessica - and it really was a bit like being back in Oz, with the six girls tearing around as if they had never left each other. We also had the opportunity for the girls to see their first professional basebal game - we all went to Safeco Field to watch the Mariners trounce the Rangers.

The following weekend, we went back into Seattle to spend much of the day at the Pacific Science Center, both so Clara could fulfil one of the requirements of her Honors project, and just so the girls could rediscover the center, which they hadn't been to for 6 years.

And the time has continued to pass at what seems like an ever-increasing rate - the spring has been filled with activities - this past week saw the final activities of the Girl Scout year for Lucy - their family BBQ at KC's house (Tim, Clara and Lucy could attend - but Sandy was in Kansas at a family reunion - since we were in Oz, she has missed the last many years!) And then, on Friday night, as a reward for selling so many cookies, their troop leader arranged a very special outing - first, the girls all went to her house after school, where some of the moms helped them do their hair and nails, get dressed in (relatively) fancy clothes - and then - the doorbell rang - and outside was a huge stretch limo/SUV with chauffeur - Tim was sitting in our study working, when he heard this tremendous shreak - he looked at the clock, noted it was 4:30, and assumed the limo must have arrived! The girls couldn't believe it, and poured into it, chacking out the fireplace (!), disco ball, fancy glasses and sparkling cider waiting for them! The limo then took them to the bowling alley for bowling and pizza, followed by a trip back to the troop leader's house, a movie, sleepover, and then, the next morning a chance to get caught up with their scrapbooking. Looking at Lucy's scrapbook, we realized once again just how busy she had been, and what a great troop leader she has!

Also of great note this past week, Clara finished her Honor's project, and presented it both to the parents and to the other students. It represented a tremendous amount of work - and turned out to not be anything like what she (and we) imagined, when we encouraged her to take it on - but she soldiered through it, and delivered a very good project. We're hoping we can do something along the lines of what she THOUGHT she was getting into over the summer, and make it a little more fun!

The last couple of weeks of school brought the usual end of year parties, plus band / music / talent concerts / shows. Tim and Sandy thought the bands were better this year than last - and it looks like the band programs are growing once again - this year's 7th grade band had perhaps 40 kids in it; next year's should have around 70 if all the current 6th grader's continue on.

19-June - 26-December 2007 - Summer, Fall and the Start of Winter: Summer continued the hectic pace. As soon as schol was out, we headed east for a family reunion with Sandy's family in Colorado, near Winter Park. (A partial set of pictures is here.) We also managed a trip to MA and NH, to spend time with much of Tim's family, as well as seeing some of the sights of Boston (A partial set of pictures is here.) Before, in-between and after, the girls managed to squeeze in drawing classes, tennis for Clara and swimming for Lucy. Lucy continued with piano and Clara on saxophone - with the addition for Clara of auditioning for and joining the Renton Youth Symphoney (as the only saxophone) - in addition to the school band and the school jazz band. School started up with Clara moving to the Junior High (leaving the house at 6:40 am each day - painful for all of us!) while Lucy returned to the Discovery program (5th grade). We continued to make progress sorting through th accumulation of "stuff" from two continents, and making progress with small (and not so small) jobs around the house.

The fall has continued busy, especially for Clara and Lucy, between school, music, Girl Scouts and the all-to-limited time to just play. Sandy has been enjoying the book club which started up in our old neighborhood, and getting together with some of the ladies in our new neighborhood to play bunco once a month. Funny thing is, they lost the box with game over two years ago, so we just have a good time conversing and drinking wine! Then there is helping in Lucy’s classroom and assisting the Girl Scouts. Tim has been continuing to have a great time with his glassblowing. And we've all been looking forward to Christmas with great excitement, as the tentative visit by our Australian friends Pete, Anj, Katarina and Zof firmed up. This of course prompted us to tear into the basement, and finally get the painting done, along with a fair bit of sorting out and disposal of unneeded accumulations - particularly books!

As Christmas approached, the various Christmas concerts for Clara's band and Lucy's piano came and went successfully - the Junior High bands seemed much improved over the previous year, and Lucy produced a beautiful rendition of Joy to the World on the day (she even reprised it over the phone for both grandmothers!) Christmas also brought snow - the girls actually got to experience a white Christmas (even though the heavier snow - along with the sliding and building snowmen and having snowball fights - occurred before Christmas.) Christmas itself was relatively quiet with just the four of us, and Sandy and Tim were amazed that the girls hadn't ferreted out the secret of their big Christmas present, and were caught totally by surprise on the day - it was a trip to DisneyWorld for next April!

27-December 2007 - 23-Feb 2008 - Australian Visitors and Disney World: Preliminary DisneyWorld and Kennedy Space Center pictures are here.

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