[Australian Pelican] [Rainbow Lorikeet (Medindie Lane)] [Overlooking Cape Bruny from just below Mt. Mangan Summit] [Female Tassie Devil]

Australian Journal - February - April 2005

January 31-February 12, 2005 - Melbourne and Back to School: This is the last week of summer vacation for most kids. However, Clara has had to take it easy due to her continuing illness, and Lucy has been rather bored with her number one playmate out of action. Apparently Clara has a virus that hit heavily in the Adelaide Hills (where our doctor's office is) in early to mid-December, and our doctor was a bit surprised to see this virus still hanging around. It is highly contagious, so we are still waiting to see if Lucy gets it.

One impact of this was that we revised the duration of our planned Melbourne trip from several days down to just 24 hours. We had to go to Melbourne to renew the girls' passports (Melbourne is the closest US consulate, and a recent revision of US law states that children must appear in person with their parents before a consular official to get passports). We had intended to turn this necessary chore into a chance to explore the city, but decided not to stress the recovering Clara any more, and risk the chance of Lucy coming down sick on the road. Our decision turned out to be good, but not for the expected reasons! Instead, Melbourne was hit by a "once in a century" storm over the 24 hours we were there! We had checked the weather before leaving, and saw that wind and rain was forecast for both Wednesday and Thursday. We arrived in the midst of gusty winds and rain, and were glad we didn't have to drive ourselves to our St. Kilda apartment. The wind howled all night long, lots of racket from loose things blowing about the streets, heavy rain. We didn't get a lot of sleep! In the morning, we found out that this was the busiest night ever for emergency services in Melbourne, and also the coldest February day on record. Trams were trapped in their depot, a subway flooded, other trains unable to travel due to fallen trees/limbs. In addition, more rain fell in 24 hours than all of January (120 mm - nearly 5 inches). There was even snow in the Victorian Alps! However, by the time we headed out the door to walk to the consulate, there was a bit of blue sky and the rain and wind had subsided. We walked around lots of fallen branches, and found a flooded ground floor at the US consulate. We noticed some staff straggling in late due to traffic troubles. After accomplishing our passport business, we walked out and luckily caught a cab that had just dropped off a passenger (the taxi companies were also overwhelmed, and it was almost impossible to get through on the phones.) The driver warned us traffic was a mess, and it could take an hour get to the airport. However, things had cleared somewhat since his last trip from the airport, and flood waters had drained away. We still noticed lots of cars abandoned along the road, some sunk in mud, all along the road to the airport, where they had been trapped by the rising water overnight. We were quite relieved to get into the airport, although we watched the clouds and some approaching rain and haze while we waited, hoping we'd get out ok (a number of flights had been canceled and delayed already). In the end, all went well, and we made it home safe and sound.

Lucy is still well, but Clara is only slowly shaking off this bug. She continued to improve over the weekend and seemed pretty good on Monday. On Tuesday, she was determined to make it to the first day of school even though she was dragging noticeably. By the end of the day, she was definitely wiped out and took a nap as soon as she arrived home. However, she enjoyed the day - other than the trauma of having to "sit out" recess play time because she didn't have her hat with her. Wilderness has a firm rule that if you don't have your PE hat with you, you can't play outside, due to the high UV radiation much of the year. Lucy was in the same boat, as neither Sandy, Clara or Lucy could find any of the three blue Wilderness PE hats that this family owns after an extended search the night before! So - they have to wait until Wednesday, when the uniform shop opens again so they can get new hats!

This was also the first day back for the national legislature - and one of the events over the summer break was a change in leadership for the Australian Labor Party. Mark Latham, the larrikin leader who was defeated by John Howard in the election a few months ago came down sick with recurrent pancreatitis, and finally decided he needed to retire as an MP and leader of the party. Given the heavy defeat Labor suffered at the polls, they were anxious to avoid any bickering or signs of divisiveness as they chose a new leader, so there was much behind-the-scenes negotiation, and lots of newspaper rumours - but at the end of the day, Labor chose to recycle a previous leader, Kim Beasley, who had also suffered a defeat at the hands of John Howard.

Unfortunately, Wednesday am brought a sicker Clara, and yet another trip to the doctor indicated she now has pneumonia - which means lots of prescriptions and no school for at least the rest of the week! Needless to say, Clara was horrified by the diagnosis and the resultant missing of school, and only partially mollified when she got to pick out a couple of new books at the bookstore while she and Sandy were getting her prescriptions filled. Lucy has been enjoying her first week of Year 3, with increased homework which is making her feel quite grown up. Sandy brought home a bit of homework for Clara along with more reading books from the school library. Clara has quite perked up with the new medicine, and has been busying herself about the house - in addition to reading, she cooked some chocolate muffins one day. Friday, Clara and Lucy discovered the word puzzles in the daily newspaper, and have been having a good time working on those together.

On a more cheerful note, now that Christmas is well past, we can also put up a couple of pictures of a quilted Advent calendar that Sandy made for her sister Cynthia's family for Christmas; see here and here.

And another small batch of pictures has been added to the Tassie Trip pictures page - still a lot more to go, however. Among the pictures is a special page featuring just Tasmania Devils.

February 13-27, 2005 - Valentine's Day and Beyond: The girls surprised us with Valentine's Day cards (and cards for each other as well). Lucy had a good week at school (feeling ever so grown up in Year 3, where the girls have more responsibilities than they did up through Year 2 - such as homework on four evenings each week, participating in next week's Swimming Carnival, writing a journal, being allowed to go to the "tuck shop" during lunch time, etc.) Speaking of the carnival - Clara was disappointed about missing the time trials this week, which determine who gets to swim in each event, but she still gets to swim in the team relays, but not the individual events. She was pleased to receive a get-well card from her class (plus individual cards from some close friends) - and she was very happy to return to school on Thursday. She got an improving bill of health from the doctor on Thursday afternoon, so she returned to school again on Friday and both girls went to their usual swimming lessons on Saturday.

Sandy even got to go to her quilting group for a while on Thursday, and has just about finished the nightgowns she started making for Samantha and Kirsten, Clara's and Lucy's dolls. In fact, she did complete them, but with snaps for the back rather than the easier-to-use velcro closures she had planned to use, due to a lack of availability around here. Clara and Lucy couldn't wait until bedtime, so Kirsten and Samantha spent Sunday lounging around the house in their new nightgowns. Sandy also received the schedule for this year's quilt camp at Roseworthy, so is thinking about what classes to take over how many days.

The new week brought warming weather, and the annual Wilderness Aquatic Carnival on Wednesday for the Junior School girls. Lucy was quite excited, as this is the first time she's been able to participate. Clara's and Lucy's house, Sparaxis, started out doing pretty well, and was in second place after the first couple rounds, but slowly drifted back to finish in last place again. The girls still had a good time, and are now looking forward to Sport's Day in November.

Thursday, Sandy managed to find a little time for quilt group, working on a couple of the "magic" needle cases (which are double-hinged, and fascinate the girls - they were also very popular at the Wilderness fair.) Friday saw Clara and Lucy each having a friend over after school for and dinner. Clara invited Katarina and Lucy invited Letitia. Saturday brought swimming lessons for the girls, and even with the recent bout of pneumonia, Clara was promoted to the next class level! Tim spent most of the day at the second National Australian Malt Whisky Competition where he again served as a judge. The results of the judging (to determine the best single malt whisky, blended whisky, and Australian-made whisky commercially available in Australia) will be announced at the second National Malt Whisky Convention to be held in Sydney in August. The girls also baked Chocolate Chip Cookies while Tim was gone, and have been playing school much of the weekend with Kirsten and Samantha; some of the assignments the dolls get are the ones Clara has to do for school, so Clara gets her homework done as part of the game; for example, typing up one of her research reports on the computer becomes an IT (Information technology) lesson for the dolls!

In addition to adding still more pictures to the Tassie Trip pictures page (and the odd bit of associated text to the text page), we've also added another special page featuring giant Australian Roadside Attractions - shades of America in the 50s and 60s - or Vegas now! Plus, Tim finally caught a reasonable picture of one of the Rainbow Lorikeets which live around our house, along with rather blurry low-light picture of an Australian Magpie-Lark and what we think is a Tawny-Crowned Honeyeater enjoying some Hibiscus nectar. Finally, we've also added a recipe for home-made granola to the recipes page; Sandy and the girls made this over the holidays as gifts for friends and teachers, and it's very good - better than any store-bought types we've found down here.

February 28-March 13, 2005 - Into the Swing: Monday was back to school and the heat - the temps peaked at around 37 (approx 98 F), but Clara's after-school softball practice went on anyway. The girls have also been working on "Shoe boxes of love" - these are boxes containing something to wear, something to do, and something to love (and so on) which are being collected by Wilderness and then forwarded on to appropriately-aged girls in the parts of Indonesia which were heavily hit by the Boxing Day tsunami.

Wednesday was the first Wildy softball game. This year, they have a young woman from Colorado as their coach, and as Clara said after their first practice with her, "she is teaching us more than anyone else has!" Sandy and Tim both went to the game, and Sandy got nominated to keep score, a first for her! At least this way we know the final score - Wilderness 8, St. Andrews 2. Another good start to the year for Wilderness.

Friday brought some excitement for Clara - her violin teacher told her she needed a larger violin (she had been playing a 1/2 size violin). So after school, we headed down to Silver Keys to trade in her 1/2 size Gliga for a 3/4 size Gliga. The larger violin already sounds richer, even though it isn't yet broken in; Clara was quite pleased, and had to play it some more after we got home, and then again after Lucy was in bed, and again in the morning. Saturday brought swimming lessons - Clara has been moved up to the next level, where they start concentrating more on distance and time, swimming laps of the 50 metre pool against the clock. Lucy had a personal lesson, since she was the only girl in her class (apparently due to the very cold weather - it was only in the mid 70s!!), so she also did a lot of swimming. Sunday continued the usual weekend activities - homework and practice.

Another week passed quickly - Clara's softball team lost a very close game 11 to 12 against Walford (who kept their star pitcher in the entire game, rather than rotating as Wilderness does - which may have made the difference). Friday, the girls got to wear their garbage bag outfits in the Come Out parade - the topics of ecological friendliness, recycling, protecting the environment, etc., are a big theme this term! Saturday brought swimming for Lucy and a bike-riding birthday party along the Torrens River for Clara being held by her friend Larissa. Thirteen Year 6 girls and two dads started at one park along the Torrens, and rode to another about a kilometer away, where Larissa's Mom was waiting with the grill fired up to prepare a birthday pancake brunch for the girls. They had a good time riding (including swooping down the hills near the park) and wading in the Torrens trying (unsuccessfully) to catch tadpoles.

Clara is getting quite excited about her approaching school camp - she has a fair bit of preparation to do - organizing, packing, creating a pouch to carry (and getting to use Sandy's sewing machine to help make it!), making a name tag of all natural ingredients, etc. Lucy is a bit jealous, and can't wait until her first camp. And we've finally FINISHED (or at least done as much as we're going to for now!!) the Tassie trip pages. Pictures page here and text page here.

March 14-27, 2005 - Camp and Beyond: Monday, Clara came home from softball with a red, tearing eye; she'd gotten something in it during PE, and it was very irritated. She was pretty uncomfortable all evening, but woke up Tuesday feeling better, although it was still red. Fortunately, it cleared up during the day, so she could come home and finish packing for Year 6 Camp. Wednesday, Sandy took the girls to school, and watched Clara head off to camp.

Friday, Tim, Sandy and Lucy headed out to Tim's workplace together - it was a special day, since the first Wedgetail aircraft had come to Australia for the Avalon Airshow and was making a special stop at Edinburgh RAAF base so that the folks down here who worked on the plane and its systems could see it. In addition, BAE SYSTEMS opened up their campus to family of the team, so Sandy and Lucy (but unfortunately not Clara, who was still at camp) could see where Tim worked, including the lab where he spends most of his time. Then they were bussed to the flightline, where the Wedgetail was waiting, along with a BBQ lunch. Afterwards, the plane took off, did a figure 8, and then a low pass, with wings waggling, over the crowd. Quite a day! The official RAAF website has some more pictures of the Wedgetail over Sydney harbour, showing the plane, bridge and opera house (see here).

Friday afternoon, Clara returned home from camp, in good health and spirits although definitely tired. They were kept so busy that she didn't even do any bedtime reading, which, for her, is extremely unusual! This camp was an "Earthkeepers" camp, with activities associated with learning more about the environment and how to protect it by minimizing your impact on it. These camps are held at the Douglas Scrub area south of Adelaide, near the McLaren Vale wine region; this is a camp maintained by the South Australia Guides association (equivalent of Girl Scouts in the States.) Here is a website describing the overall Earthkeeper's program that this is part of.

We had a fairly quiet but busy weekend, with the usual instrumental practice and odd jobs around the house. The week continued normally, with an Easter breakfast for Year 6 families before school on Wednesday morning, followed by Clara's softball game in the afternoon (another win for Wildy), and then the Easter service/assembly on Thursday, where Lucy's class sang, and Clara had a small speaking role. Clara has also been quite chuffed to be working on the "Environmental" committee of the junior school council - they are planning activities that will benefit the environment - fundraising auctions to buy recycling containers for the junior school. School got out early on Thursday, since this is one of the big holiday weekends in Oz - schools and most businesses close for Friday and Monday (Wildy is also out for Tuesday). In fact nearly everything, even the "bottle shops" (liquor stores) is closed on Good Friday, second only to Christmas Day for a complete shutdown.

On Friday, Clara went off with Katarina and her family to her grandparents house in the hills, where they have a "Hot Cross Bun" get-together for family and neighbors each year - the tradition of making / eating hot cross buns on Good Friday seems pretty widespread in Australia. Tim and Lucy went for a bike ride around Medindie, then did some art, while Sandy puttered. Saturday, the girls spent a lot of time trying to draw and write using their feet, lapsing into hysterics at times. This was prompted by some Easter cards and bookmarks that Grammie had sent to them, which had been drawn/painted by foot and mouth artists. Sunday, after enjoying the extra hour occasioned by the roll-back of Daylight Savings Time in Oz (a week ahead of the US), the girls went on the traditional easter egg hunt, followed by a big breakfast much of which was prepared by Clara. Then the girls continued on with the general theme of playing school with their dolls, helping them do geography, art, math problems, and IT on the computer.

Note: we are in the midst of transitioning to a new web server, this one is back in the US, so there may be some "burbles" as we get everything moved and sorted out.

March 28 - April 23, 2005 - School Break: Another longish interval between updates - Tim was off to the States again on a business trip, while school was entering the last couple weeks of the term for Clara and Lucy. The school week went quickly, and on Saturday, Tim headed for the airport, while Sandy, Clara and Lucy went to the indoor pool in Norwood (since the outdoor pools close down around this time of year). At the pool, a very nice lady evaluated the girls' swimming, and they ended up in basically the same classes that they were in at the Payneham pool. The girls have gotten used to the wonderful outdoor pools in gorgeous settings of old gum trees with multi-colored parrots flitting and sqyawking about - having to go inside, to a smaller, humid, chlorine-rich pool gave them second thoughts - but we'll see how it goes.

Monday, the craft ladies had another post-fair get-together, just to socialize, without any deadlines closer than five years hanging over their heads! The week went quickly, with both girls doing a lot of musical practice (since the homework load has lightened up a bit), and Sandy getting away to her quilting group for a while on Thursday. Saturday, Lucy went to play at her close friend Letitia's house and had a great time.

And then the last week of term arrived! On Tuesday morning, the Year 6 girls all went to the cinema to see Hating Alison Ashley since they had been reading the book in class this term. On Wednesday there was a party at Clara's friend Ellen's house for their softball coach - who unfortunately couldn't make it! But the girls had a great time anyway, swimming and playing games and eating pizza.

Clara has been going to the chess room at lunch twice a week for awhile at school this term, and her friends Kimba and Katerina have been helping her, and she has made it onto the "C" division team. This means that she will be going to the matches in the city once a fortnight during terms 2 and 3. She has really thrown herself into this all on her own, and she says that Mondays and Fridays are really good days because they are the chess days.

Thursday, Lucy played the "walking-in" music at assembly, and did a beautiful job. Jessica and Bella also played. The three girls just kept playing their songs over and over, rotating one girl to the next until the assembly started. They all did well. Friday brought the end of the term. Katerina came for a sleepover with Clara, while Tali came to spend the night with Lucy. This was also an opportunity for Katerina and Clara to get in some more chess practice. They also spent quite a bit of time playing with the electronic circuits kit Clara and Lucy got for Christmas, while Lucy and Tali built a small volcano (and then the big girls made "blue lava" by mixing vinegar, baking soda and blue food coloring!)

Monday saw Tim arrive back home, while the girls continued their holiday routine (including staying up a bit later and supposedly sleeping in a bit later in the mornings - but they tend to get up earlier anyway, as Tim is heading off to work.) Wednesday morning, Allanah and Jessica came to spend the day and stay for a sleepover, which went well. The girls spent most of the time on Wednesday and Thursday am playing school - the older girls being the teachers, and the younger girls the students. Friday, Tim worked from home in order to get a couple car-related appointments done. Saturday brought swimming once again, with the "Indian Summer" continuing - temps in the mid-upper 20s (upper 70s to low 80s) - making everyone wish the outdoor pools had stayed open a bit longer!

This coming Monday is one of the important days in Australian history - ANZAC Day - this marks the 90th anniversary of the landing at Gallipoli, which turned into one of the great disasters of modern warfare, but which also had a large impact on shaping the Australian character. Here is a short article on an Australian government website which describes ANZAC day, and the events which it commemorates. This year, Gallipoli has been in the news even more than usual, due to construction work taking place there, which is feared to be damaging the graves of the fallen soldiers, and in general dishonoring the site as a memorial.

April 24-30, 2005 - More School Break: Sunday was a warm day, spent around the house getting caught up on odds and ends. The girls had an extended paper airplane contest, making and flying them first around the upstairs (the high point was Clara getting one to go the length of her room, out the door, down the hall, down the stairs, around a 180 degree turn and almost into the family room!), then from the upstairs balcony and into the tennis court (and occasionally the trees, or over the fence to the tennis court next door...) Monday was ANZAC Day. We celebrated at home, and with a bike ride around the neighborhood and over to the school - at the end of which Lucy was absolutely certain she wanted a new bike for her birthday, one with multiple speeds, so she can keep up with Tim and Clara more easily, especially on the long hills!

Tuesday Tim headed back to work, and in the afternoon, the girls began a marathon of visits to friends. Tuesday pm they went over to Katarina and Zof's to play. Wednesday, it was a picnic by the Torrens with Donna (from Nebraska) and her daughter Sarah. In the evening, we watched part of the pilot episode of the Star Trek: Voyager - this had been a request of Clara's since Tim had read her the first volume of the book series about Kathryn Janeway, captain of Voyager and her life at Star Fleet Academy. Thursday morning, the girls headed to the doctor for their flu and pneumonia shots (they had their meningococcal shots last week); Sandy had a flu shot as well. In the afternoon, Clara went to Shana's to swim and play, while Shana's sister Alisa stayed to play with Lucy. In the evening, we finished the Voyager episode, and Clara is eager to watch more - maybe we have a Trekkie on our hands! Friday was a fairly quiet day, with Lucy feeling a bit under the weather from her shots. However, she had enough energy to make it through home-made pizza and a movie (Seabiscuit - which we all enjoyed). Saturday morning, Lucy was feeling better - well enough for swimming, which both girls enjoyed as usual.

The local news has been largely quiet, mostly focusing on events in the UK (the upcoming general election - reawakening all the debate about who knew what when amongst the trio of Bush, Howard and Blair, and whether any of them lied to the public - and whether Australia should continue to commit troops to Irag.) Of course, with Footy season in fool swing, the primary sports discussions are focusing on the weekly footy games. Neither the Adelaide Crows or Port Power (last year's Permieres) are doing as well as hoped. The month of April has been the warmest since 1971, but this weekend, as the month draws to a close, the temperatures are dipping (into the mid 50s at night). And with the sun setting early in the evening and leaves falling from the non-native trees, it does feel like autumn is definitely upon us.

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