Saturday, July 30, 2011

Noteworthy Kinder

We're going on a little day out - we're off to a concert

Listen to the orchestra - blowing on a trumpet
See the girl play the violin - the little boy on the big bass drum
Boom boom boom boom - here it comes

Audrey's daycare had an outing to 'Noteworthy Kinder' which was put on by the Canberra Philharmonic orchestra in the impressive Llewellyn Hall at the Australian National University (ANU).

It was a lovely performance - probably only 4 or 5 pieces, but the conductor (Mark Shiell) was excellent and really entertained the kids. In truth, the main entertainment for most of the children was the bus ride to the ANU and a lot of them seemed to really like playing with the flip up seats more than listening to the music, but it was a nice morning out nonetheless.

I went along for the ride as well, to help out - here's some pictures of our trip.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Audrey's Princess Puppet Show

Fantastic entertainment can be had by cutting out some Disney Princesses from a tissue box, making them into finger puppets and fashioning a stage... thanks Kleenex - the cost of your tissues has been recouped 10 times over!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Out of the mouth of Eli

It's not surprising how much kids pick up on in the way you act and talk. Both Amy and I are always on our best behaviour around them in an effort to encourage them to not pick up our bad habits.

Eli picked up one of our 'slips' a couple of nights ago when we having dinner and repeated "Oh bugger!" over and over at least 20 times (very clearly) while smirking at how clever he was. Audrey filled in for us by trying to encourage him to say "Oh dear", but her requests went unnoticed and the Oh buggers continued. Fortunately by the next morning they'd worn off (for now)

Separated at Birth?

I'm a great fan of Rolf Harris, but there seems to be a growing similarity between one of Australia's cultural icons and one of America's....

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Update on Amy

Well, it's been a while since an update so Trevor said I should write something. I'm always a little reluctant, not because I don't want to share my news, but because the blog is usually filled with stories of our happy outings, the things Audrey and Eli are up to etc and my news is not really uplifting (yet!)

At my last appointment with my medical oncologist (about 6 weeks or so ago) I was told that the hormone treatment I am currently on doesn't seem to be doing the job we hoped it would. The cancer in my bones has spread a little and my tumour markers are still very high. So, the plan - to have more radiation treatment to my left pelvis and to my cervical spine. Then, we check the tumour markers again and if they are still high I go on to a different hormone treatment. I'll have more news on this after my next appointment on 2 August.

I am currently almost halfway through the radiation (10 sessions this time). I have been nauseous again and my saliva glands have been affected so my mouth is a tad dry. Not a good idea to eat dry crackers at the moment as I discovered last night when it took me almost 10 minutes to eat one!

The radiation has also made me really tired this time - twice this week I have been in bed before the children which they find very amusing! The first time, they came into my bed to read me a story but last night I was passed out so no stories for me!

Click go the Shears!

Some of our friends own a huge farm just outside of Canberra. They shear the sheep there twice a year and this was the second time we'd been out to watch.

Eli was a bit spooked by the noise in the shed, but what struck me about the whole thing was how hard the work was and how quickly the shearers worked.

In the comfy society we live it's rare to witness true physical work (unless you include the odd plumber charging you an extortionate amount of money to change a washer) and these guys really went for it. Apparently between the four shearers they could shear upwards of 800-1,000 sheep a day and work between 6.30am-5.30pm.

We have no bananas

Great. So because of the terrible events caused by the cyclone Yasi we're told the Far North Queensland banana crop has been destroyed. As a result since February this year bananas have cost us somewhere between $15-$17 a kilo. If that doesn’t mean anything to you – here’s a cost comparison

Coles (Australia) $17 per kilo
Tesco (UK) $1.38 per kilo (87p)
Walmart (US) 49c per kilo (48USc)

Basically it’s because Australia has a protectionist policy (masquerading as quarantine rules) preventing bananas being brought in from outside of the country and, because the crop has been wrecked, the consumers pay (30 times more than the US).

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that mad Bob Katter, who was an instrumental independent MP who now carries a lot of weight due to Australia’s precarious coalition government, has long supported Australian protectionism on bananas, beef, wheat in fact pretty much everything else. Fortunately he sided with the opposition, but there must be a case for both parities keeping him onside.

Fiji has the ability to build a banana industry able to supply both Australia and New Zealand (which it used to do), or conversely why not ship in bananas from the Windward Islands and support the Commonwealth? The kids love bananas, but at this rate they're going to be have to get jobs before we can afford to buy them any..

* I once spent several months working for JP Bananas in Perry Barr, Birmingham (and on a Thursday you were allowed to take home as many bananas as you could carry) - ah happy days!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Difference Between Boys and Girls

As both Audrey and Eli grow up it's becoming increasingly obvious the differences between boys and girls.

I've always been fascinated in the whole "nature v nurture" thing and as far as I can tell thus far we've brought both children up in pretty much the same way.

We've read them the same books, sung them the same songs, not really given any bias by providing one with Barbies and the other with guns. Despite this (and whilst it's certainly not scientific) it has been amazing to see how much;

Audrey loves cats, Eli loves dogs
Audrey loves fairies, Eli loves Bob the Builder
Audrey likes dancing, Eli likes whacking anything he can find with his toy hammer
Audrey wears pink, Eli wears anything that looks (even vaguely) like something Bob the Builder would wear.

It really struck home last week when we were in a playground and Audrey (who is sometimes a bit slow going forward on those things) was reluctant to climb up a ladder while her brother surged ahead, climbed up part of the climbing frame, fell on his head and then broke into fits of laughter.

They can be the best of friends and also (as I'm sure with all siblings) the worst of enemies. It's early days and obviously there's still time for Audrey to grow up to be a rugby player and Eli to be the next Billy Elliot (not that there's anything wrong with that of course). At the moment though it feels like "nature" is definitely playing a big part in their progress and outlook.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Audrey's first tennis lesson

During school holidays there's a pretty extensive programme of activities for children in Canberra. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that they ran tennis lessons at the (very nice) tennis courts next to Old Parliament House.

Audrey wasn't terribly keen until Amy and I re-badged it 'fairy tennis' and then she was sold - and super excited to go along.

I only signed Audrey up for a short session (2½ hours) as some of the older/bigger kids do full days from 8.30-4pm for the whole week, but I figured it was better to start small.

She really enjoyed herself. Despite being dwarfed by a lot of the kids there (I think the only child younger was the coaches son) she ran and hit pretty well. Fortunately she never questioned the absence of fairies or the lack of wings, wands and fairy paraphernalia, but I expect she's still convinced the game is called 'fairy tennis'

I'm not sure it'll become a regular thing, nor if she'll ever make the top 10 in the World but it was a nice fun morning.

Audrey hitting the ball to the coach

As a footnote to this post Audrey went to sleep with her tennis racquet and ball. A future star in the making!

Eli helping his Mum gather up the leaves

It's feeling pretty wintery here in Canberra at the moment. Things aren't helped by living in a brick-veneer 'house' with limited insulation and relying on a deficient (yet expensive) electric heater as your only source of warmth.

Nevertheless we've been having lovely blue skies recently and (if you can ignore the biting wind which blows of the Snowy Mountains) it's a good time to do impromptu gardening.

On Saturday Amy and Eli gathered up the leaves which had fallen under the apple tree, whilst I fiddled with daffodil bulbs and pretended to look busy (while avoiding the hard work). Following my lead Audrey played in the sandpit.

Another couple of pictures from Tidbinbilla

Michael, me and the kids

Amy and Catherine

Monday, July 4, 2011

Weekend with Catherine and Michael

We spent a busy weekend with Catherine and Michael heading to our local (favourite) haunts of Bungendore and Tidbinbilla.

Initial shyness that Audrey and Eli had of their Auntie and Uncle has given way to rapturous adoration. Eli spends a lot of his time saying "Where’s Michael?" and Audrey enjoys having another slave, in Catherine, to cater for her every whim.

Bungendore has a (very expensive) wood shop with a lovely restaurant attached where we ate lunch with ice creams to follow.

On Sunday we headed out to Tidbinbilla where as well as the usual huge mob of kangaroos we were also lucky enough to spot emus, potoroos and a couple of koalas. Incredibly (given that koalas sleep about 20 hours a day) one of the koalas was awake and it was excellent seeing the potoroos scuttling about on the forest floor as well.

Tidbinbilla is a lovely place, it seems whatever the weather there’s always loads to see and even if the local animals aren’t as generous with their appearances as they were on Sunday the playground is excellent and Audrey and Eli love the slides there. Here’s some pics

Catherine and Amy in Bungendore