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Australian Journal - June-August 2004

May 29 - June 14, 2004 - Memorial Day and the Queen's Birthday : We had another quiet weekend at home. Saturday morning, Tim and the girls went on a wander about the northern parklands with cameras in hand. The day had been forecast as rainy, but turned out sunny. It seems the weather predictions are frequently off a bit here - we were wondering if that was just due to our faded memories of the accuracy of weather forecasting in the US - but apparently it's not just us. Australian reporter John Shovelan is the ABC's (the A is for Australia, not American) reporter in Washington, DC - this past month, he cycled across America from San Diego to Washington, DC in 29 days. On one of the earlier days, he remarked about the accuracy of American weather forecasts - "I'm constantly amazed at how American weather forecasts are so accurate." So perhaps there is a basis for our perception, possibly related to better satellite coverage and more, faster computers available in the US.

Monday was a holiday in the States, but not here, so Tim went off to work (the US team down here follows the Australian holiday calendar rather than the US calendar.) The rest of the week had several sources of excitement for the girls. Thursday, the Year 5 class went to Monarto Wildlife Park. They took a bus tour, and got to see a lot of interesting animals such as African painted dogs (unfortunately, the pups didn't come out), a freshly-arrived rhinoceros, cheetahs, baby giraffes and lion cubs - since Monarto participates in conservation programs for a number of species, it usually has a number of baby animals on hand for viewing.

Lucy's first bit of excitement for the week was getting her new glasses on Thursday afternoon. She came out of the shop and just started reading every sign she could. She wore them to school yesterday, and Sandy had lots of little girls come up to her at school to tell her how much they liked Lucy's glasses, and Lucy was so thrilled about her day when she came home. When Tim went into the same shop on Saturday to see about his new glasses, the lady in the store asked how Lucy was doing. She said it almost brought tears to her eyes when Lucy put on her glasses, her face lit up, and she reached out and touched Sandy's face, saying "Oh, Mom!"

The final bit of excitement for both girls was related to bikes. Clara's birthday is approaching quickly, and while she had already gotten half an American Girls doll, she was really outgrowing her bike - so Saturday, Tim took Clara (and Lucy, Clara's advisor) to look at bikes. Tim had done some scouting earlier in the week, and given that it is very near the end of the Australian fiscal year (which runs July 1 to June 30, rather than January to December as in the US), he didn't expect much luck. However, the first shop had several appropriate models, two of which Clara really liked. Tim was quite happy when she chose the better made of the two (without him influencing the decision). As soon as we got home, Clara had to try it out. She was very happy with her decision. Lucy has also just taken off with bike riding this past week with a couple afternoon practices - and on Friday, with Sandy and Clara's help, was off and riding like a pro without training wheels - and quite excited about it to boot.

Clara also had to write a story this week that will be graded for her report card at the end of the term, but at least they were allowed to write about anything that they wanted to. She wrote a very touching story about a girl who doesn't have any pets (and is the only one in her class who doesn't), but one day when she is at home in her empty house after school, she hears a scratching noise at the front door and finds a little dirty shaggy dog sitting on the doorstep. Of course, the mom and dad say that she can't keep it--they must put up notes around the neighborhood and look for the dog's owners. Finally awhile later, Christmas comes, and the girl opens her first present, and it is the dog, and the mom and dad say, "Merry Christmas." As they say, when someone writes from the heart, it is the most powerful. For years a pet has been the only true longing in Clara's life--maybe when we move back we will have to consider it.

One of the big issues on the local political scene (besides the irritation the Australians are showing over the "US meddling in Australian domestic politics" following Bush's statements condemning the stance of the Australian Labour party over withdrawal of troops from Iraq) has been over the desire for Labour leader Mark Latham's to nominate Peter Garrett, former lead singer for the Australian rock group Midnight Oil for a "guaranteed" Labour seat in Sydney. Thursday, Latham decided to go ahead and force the local Sydney Labour committee to accept Garrett. The issue has received additional coverage, since it turns out to be uncertain whether Garrett has actually voted in the last 10 years - and this in a country with mandatory voting!

Wednesday, Sandy called Tim at work and asked him if her remembered remarking over the weekend that he thought Lucy would be riding Clara's old bike within a month or two - well, Lucy decided to hurry things up, given her new-found love of riding. She hopped on Clara's old bike (with the seat and handlebars still set to max height - so she couldn't reach the ground) and she was off. It's amazing how, in the course of a couple of weeks, she has gone from having no interest in a bike, to being such an avid rider. Thursday was Assembly once again at Wilderness, and the orchestra (with Clara on violin) played two songs. Clara also received a nomination in Assembly for "Narrative Writing" for the story mentioned above. (A "Nomination" is where your name is called, and you get to stand up while your achievement is announced.)

Friday, everyone was glad it was a three day weekend (Monday is when the Australians celebrate the Queen's Birthday - as with President's Day in the US, it doesn't actually coincide with a real birthday.) Tim got home very late from work just in time to give the girls a hug before bed. Saturday morning had the usual errands, plus adapting Clara's old bike to Lucy by making a few adjustments. In the afternoon, we had neighbors George, Tony and Pauline over for coffee and cake. George is in the process of preparing for another solo expedition into the Kimberley (he's in his late 70s and expects this to be his last trip up there.) Since he's gone back to school, he needs to finish up one more term paper before he can finalize his preparations and take off. He will drive his 4x4 from Adelaide up to Alice Springs, across the Tanami Desert to Halls Creek, and then up to Kununurra. The road across the Tanami is more than 1000 km and mostly unsealed. When he reaches the Kimberley, it will be mustering season, and he plans to do what he has done before - get some of the helicopters that are used in mustering the cattle to drop him somewhere remote on their way to mustering, then pick him up the following day. He's certainly an inspiration to us, to be taking solo trips like this, going to school, and volunteering various places (such as at the local family court) and campaigning on various issues such as leash-free zones for dogs in Adelaide. When he gets around Clara and Lucy, you can tell he used to be a teacher as well, since his sense of fun really shows, and he always has a puzzle for them.

The final bit of excitement (besides the usual homework - Clara has a project about endangered species, featuring the Red Panda due at the end of the week - and practice - and rebuilding the girl's computer so it doesn't crash so much!) was that Tim checked out the Neopets website, and decided it would be ok for Clara to have a "virtual" pet, as some of her school friends have. So Sunday night, she created a pet called Chrisie_Jr (with 114 million virtual pets already created, it took a VERY long time to come up with a name that wasn't taken, and which was still acceptable to Clara!)

June 15-29, 2004 - End of term approaching: Second term is winding down at Wilderness, which means finishing up term projects, and end-of-term presentations/concerts, etc. Sandy was surprised to find that a lot of the little girls in Lucy's class came up to her to tell her how nice they thought Lucy's new glasses looked. Lucy herself likes them so much she doesn't even like to take them off at bedtime. Here and here are a couple pictures of her in her new glasses.

On Thursday, Lucy's class presented their "item" at Assembly. They've been studying Indonesia, so they had made a long mural, which some older girls held up behind the Year 2 class as they presented their individual speeches. Lucy and over-the-backyard-fence neighbor Julia were both quite chuffed that they each had two items, whereas the rest of the class had one - Lucy got to do the opening speech, and Julia the closing. In the middle, one of the topics was volcanoes, with a picture of a volcano on the mural. When it was discussed, the older girls behind the mural let off some poppers / streamers, which quite surprised everyone (including the Year One teacher!). Thursday was also the day Clara had to give her Endangered Animals presentation; she had chosen the Red Panda, and researched it well. She borrowed Tim's Beanie Baby Red Panda, named Rusty, to use as part of her presentation. Here is a picture of her practicing her talk.

The highlight of the week for Tim was getting to see the South Australian Wright Flyer Replica and spend an hour and a half talking to it's creator, John Delaney. Some of the BAE SYSTEMS engineers had arranged to have John truck his replica (with 40 foot wingspan) out to the plant and reassemble it in one of the buildings for everyone to look at. John also gave a presentation, and then stayed around talking to those interested. His website is here; however, be warned it is hosted by geocities, which means annoying popups and an override of the "back" button...

Saturday, Lucy was off to a birthday party for twin girls in her class, and got to see the movie Shrek 2 in the bargain. Clara went off to Katarina's for a visit, and then Tim and Sandy went to a "Christmas in July" dinner party held by Barbara, one of Sandy's friends from her regular quilting group. This was quite an enjoyable evening, with a lot of good conversation, delicious food, and a beautiful setting. There was even a decorated Christmas tree at the top of the landing (Barb's husband, Des said they hadn't taken it down yet, so decided to just keep it up for the dinner.) The menu was very elegant and traditional with soup to start, turkey, roast pork, lots of vegetables, and a dark Christmas pudding with custard for dessert. Barb and Des run a funeral business, and they own a beautiful old mansion built by a wealthy Scottish businessman in about 1885. They use the downstairs for the funeral services and offices, and they live in the upstairs. Tim and Sandy had to leave "early" though (before coffee and chocolates), since it was already 11:45 pm, and the babysitters (two Year 11 Wildy girls) needed to get home.

Sunday, one of Sandy's friends from work, Karen, and her sister Lori arrived for a visit. They'd been in Australia for a couple weeks already, seeing Queensland and the Red Centre. Clara really wanted to show them the Maritime Museum, so we headed off to Port Adelaide, and toured the museum with them. Clara had been fascinated with the conditions the early immigrants traveled in, and showed us the replicas (from approx the 1840s) of the bunks (one man, two women or three children per bunk) and the women's and children's loo (the men had to use the topside facilities). These accommodations were free to willing immigrants; part of the conditions of transit were that they were to stay in these rooms (24 people to the room) most of the journey, and were only allowed out on deck once per day. They had to bring their food down to the bunkroom to eat, and if they spilled any, they didn't get any more. A few decades later, the traveling conditions improved somewhat - here are third class bunkrooms from the 1910s - six people (of the same sex) per room, plus a washbasin and a bit of storage and sitting space. By the 1950s, the first class cabins were pretty good - as Clara remarked, much like the cabins we've had on our overnight ferry and other ship adventures. Afterwards we walked along the shore for a bit and climbed up into the lighthouse for a lovely view of the Port River on the sunny afternoon -- but no signs of the dolphins who live in the area.

On the way home, we stopped by Dunstan Park so the girls could show them their favorite play toys (the big slide, etc.) Clara also finished editing the Christmas story we mentioned last time - here is a link to the on-line version.

Monday evening was Clara's Junior School Concert, which went very well. Clara played in the Junior String Orchestra, the Junior Band, and sang in the Year 5 Choir.

Tuesday and Wednesday, Karen and Lori did Kangaroo Island, the Adelaide Hills and Warrawong Wildlife Sanctuary for a nocturnal tour and dinner. Thursday morning they did Cleland Wildlife Park, then Sandy joined them for a tour of historical buildings in Adelaide. This including Ayre's house - Ayre was a former premier (governor) of South Australia, serving 8 terms, and having Ayre's Rock (Uluru) named after him. Meanwhile, Clara was celebrating her birthday at school with cupcakes Sandy had made, and Lucy was off on an excursion to the Central Market to explore Asian culture and cuisine. Thursday evening was Clara's birthday dinner at home. She requested citrus garlic prawns with linguini (and some broccoli). Then we had raspberry mousse cake, candles and presents with Karen and Lori, and played a few games before bed. In the morning, Karen and Lori left on the train for Sydney, the last leg of their first (but hopefully not last) trip to Oz.

Saturday, we went into the city for a few errands - including letting Clara and Lucy do a little shopping with their birthday money. Both ended up with more books, and Clara got yet another stuffed animal - this one an English sheepdog named Herder (here is a picture of her with her three favorite animals - Max the Moose, Spunky the Cocker Spaniel, and Herder the English Sheepdog.) Sunday was a quiet day. Monday, the girls had a day off, because Wilderness was having a special workshop. They invited Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes, to provide a workshop for all the teachers on "Raising Morally Courageous Girls". Monday evening, they had a lecture on the same topic, which was open to the public, so Sandy went along and found it very interesting. Almost a thousand people came which surprised us. Fortunately the new school hall/gymnasium had just been mostly finished a couple of days before the lecture!

June 30-August 14, 2004 - America: Once again, we've been away from the journal for awhile, travelling back to America to visit family and friends. We left the house at 5:15 am on the 30th, and collapsed into the rooms of our Kansas City hotel 31 hours and three flights later (but still on the 30th, thanks to the wonders of the International Date Line). The next morning we headed for Manhattan, to visit Sandy's parents and help them celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Over the next week, the girls got to play with their cousins, set off and watch lots of fireworks, chase fireflies, visit the State Museum of Kansas (along with a few quilt shops with Mom and Mimi, and a bookstore with Dad), help Papa pick beans, cukes and other veggies in the garden, go swimming, and generally have a great time.

From Kansas we continued on to New Hampshire, where we picked up Tim's Mum, and then settled into a cabin in the woods in North Conway. We had another good week exploring the woods and rivers, following a family of wild turkeys through the woods, feeding chipmunks and squirrels on our deck, and wondering if the bears were going to show up and try to get into the trash! After our week in North Conway, we went still further north, to visit Tim's brother and sister-in-law. We made quick forays into Vermont and Maine, where the girls enjoyed watersliding down the river on natural granite slides near Screw Auger Falls (see here and here).

Then it was time to head west to Seattle, and a hectic week of medical appointments and some shopping . We did get a chance for some visits with friends and neighbors, and the girls both had sleepovers with friends. The last couple days were mostly spent packing, followed by a trip to the airport for the long journey home. Coming back to Oz was certainly easier than going, since we flew at night, and the girls got in a good 7-8 hours sleep between LA and Melbourne - a 14 hour flight is much more tolerable if you can sleep through much of it!

We arrived home safely, with all our luggage, had a day to unpack, recover, do laundry, etc. - and then on Monday it was back to work for Tim and back to school for the girls. The big excitement at school this week was new instruments for both girls - a saxophone for Clara, and a 1/8 size violin for Lucy (although Clara and Lucy had gotten a jump on Lucy's violin instruction - Clara had started showing Lucy the basics using her violin the day we arrived back!) The week passed quickly, with everyone settling back into the routine. We ended the week with a family birthday party for Lucy. The weekend was spent catching up on music practice and homework. In addition to practicing violin and saxophone, Clara had a project to do which involved studying and reporting on one of the planets in detail and then building a diorama of the solar system. Clara (with some help from Lucy) painted 10 styrofoam balls of varying size to look like the planets. Hopefully, she'll have it all assembled by next week!

Monday of this week Clara had her first soccer practice and match in rather cold, windy weather (by Adelaide standards). For Sandy, Mondays have continued to focus on the Wilderness craft meetings and preparations are in full swing for the fair in November, and Thursdays are the quilt group gatherings. Tuesday evening Tim had a meeting with the committee organizing the whiskey convention in Sydney in 2005, but he resigned from his active post (staying on as an in-the-wings adviser if needed). The year and a half leadup to the last convention had just taken too much time away from the family, and had also made things whisky-related more of a chore than an occasional fun pastime. Wednesday was the day of the big concert which the Wilderness string orchestras, bands, and choirs put on each year at the University of South Australia. The girls were bussed to the university auditorium during the day for a dress rehearsal, then the concert was in the evening. Fortunately, they schedule the songs involving the Junior School girls before the intermission, so we could get the girls home and in bed only 2 hours late (instead of 3-4!) Clara had already been feeling a little under the weather before the concert, so she stayed home Thursday, and only went in for a couple hours on Friday to take the final part of the national benchmark test she had missed. The Australian government has the students in Years 3, 5 and 7 take assessment tests in reading writing, spelling and math, to track the overall progress of their education (somewhat like the WASL tests in Washington state), and the teachers were very concerned about Clara missing part of the test. Thursday afternoons, the girls (all THREE of them) have been taking tennis lessons here at home. The first week, Libby, our teacher, spent a lot of time getting Sandy started on serves and forehand volleys, and Clara and Lucy were quite upset at being shortchanged with their time on the court.

We'll put a few pictures from our USA trip up on a special page as time allows. Here is the start.

August 14-29, 2004 - America Redux: Another hiatus, since Tim had to turn right around and head back to the US on business, while Sandy and the girls were kept running with lots of activities. Sunday, Tim was off to the airport well before everyone else was up. Sandy and the girls had a busy day with practicing and finishing Clara's solar system project. Monday, Sandy got Clara, Lucy and the solar system model safely off to school, then returned to host the craft ladies. Afternoon came, and with it the weekly soccer practice and intramural game, where Clara did well as the goalie.

The girls have been showing a lot of interest in the Olympics, wanting to watch them in the evenings after their practice and homework is done. Even the sports that didn't seem as though they would interest the girls much, such as weight-lifting, have had appeal for them. Not surprisingly, the Olympics are a major source of interest in Australia - which has the second largest contingent at the games, after America, and has been doing very well.

Next week is the Book Week parade, where the girls have to pick a favorite character from a book and then dress up like that character for the day. The girls have been debating characters, and Clara finally settled on Tock from The Phantom Tollbooth (Tock is the talking "watch dog" with a real clock set into his side). So - Clara declared that she needed furry brown clothes like a dog and some cardboard to make the clock. Lucy settled on Moonface from Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree Stories.

Thursday, Sandy went off to quilt group. Even though there has been an unusual amount of rain and cloudy weather of late, the afternoon turned out to be beautiful and sunny for the family tennis lesson (we were also interested to learn that Libby, who teaches Clara, Lucy and Sandy, also taught the three children of our landlord, on the same tennis court about eight years ago!) In the evening, Clara had a story to write, and she had written quite a bit at school. However, since she has been reading quite a lot of R. L. Stine's "Fear Street" books of late, her story was a rather gruesome mini horror story. Upon re-reading what she had so far, she decided on her own that she didn't like it, and started writing a completely new story.

Friday morning, Lucy's piano teacher did something really fun with Lucy. She had a book with fairly simple parts for Lucy to play and a CD with lots of really jazzy fun music. It was a great way to practice sight reading, and Lucy had to work, but she would get in the groove for each song after a couple of bars, and they just did one right after another, so it was pretty intense - and they did it for the whole lesson.

Later on Friday, after playing a time-telling game in Lucy's math class, Sandy went to a nearby thrift store and office supply store to find a number of the items needed to make up the girls costumes for Book Week. When the girls saw them, they were quite thrilled and appreciative. Clara loved the jacket so much that she said she will wear it even if it's not Book Week. It had been a busy week, and everyone was glad the weekend had arrived. Because Tim was gone, the girls were each getting a "sleepover" - Friday night Lucy got to sleep with Sandy, and on Saturday night, it was Clara's turn.

However, the weekend continued busy as well - in addition to making costumes, practicing, and homework, Sandy and the girls took advantage of Tim's absence to do some spring cleaning in their rooms and their play room - sorting out old school papers, playtime projects, and generally organizing craft stuff and clearing space for new projects! By Monday, the large trash bin was completely full. On Sunday, Lucy had Nikola over for a play (they spent much of the time making very detailed paper dolls and designing bedrooms for them) and Clara had Shana over (they spent some of their time making a batch of muffins--with no assistance from Sandy other than operating the oven). All four of the girls also enjoyed some tennis, pinball on the computer, bike riding and kite flying.

Monday was craft day again (this week the ladies made lovely little draw string jewelry bags with little divided pockets). After school, it was soccer time for Clara, followed by more work on the girls Book Week costumes. Tuesday was a bit of a madhouse at school - photos for all the orchestra girls, a sausage sizzle at noon (Sandy has become a skilled assistant at these events), and in the evening was the annual Junior School art exhibit. The girls had their artwork hung up or displayed about the courtyard for all the other girls, teachers and parents to see, and the Parents/Friends group served champagne, sushi and fresh fruit while everyone mingled and enjoyed all the amazing art done by the girls. Here are pictures of Lucy with pastel of a candle and Clara with the Year 5 projects (Clara's contributions are circled in red).

Thursday was Book Week Parade day. Here are Clara as Tock and Lucy as Moonface. Sandy stayed for the parade, then headed off to quilt group, where she worked on making Christmas stockings for the craft fair. Afternoon again brought gorgeous weather for our tennis lesson.

Last term Lucy's Year 2 class had done an in-depth study of circles and cylinders, and they entered their project in a statewide math competition - and they won! So, the girls whose parents are the class representatives were sent to accept the award on behalf of the class. Therefore, on Friday night, Sandy and the girls headed off after a quick snack to the Education Development Center where Lucy and her classmate, Isobel, received the award. The Year 4 class had also won an award, which meant that Clara's friend Shana and her mom were also there. After the ceremony, all three of the moms decided that they didn't really want to go home and cook. All of the dads were away (Tim was still in the States (actually, in the air on the way back at that point), Isobel's dad was at the hospital operating, and Shana's dad was in Western Australia), so the moms and girls all went out to Zambracca's in North Adelaide for a late supper / get-together. Saturday morning, Tim turned up about 11:30, in reasonable shape after the long trip - and not long after the three girls had gotten out of bed, given their late Friday night out!

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