Monday, May 30, 2016

Elijah at Football training

Eli in his flouro football kit. He loves his football (soccer) training.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

It's all in the xes! Separated at Birth

I felt (slightly) bad when I returned from the shop with a ream of xerox copy paper under my arm and Eli asked me excitedly if I had bought him and his sister an xbox....

You can kind of see how he made the mistake though...

National Capital Rally

The National Capital Rally rolled into town this weekend. It's part of the Australian Rally Championships and there are three days of events across the city. 

The event hasn't been widely publicised and when the three of us took a drive out to a stage in nearby Kowen forest I couldn't believe that a) it was free and b) there was only a scattering of people there.

It was a bright and clear morning but there was a real chilly wind blowing from the mountains - heralding signs that the ski season will soon be upon us.

Our excellent vantage point allowed us to watch cars as they tore through the forest, leaped over a humpback bridge and skidded precariously through a switchback corner. We could also see the cars tearing along a long straight in the distance.

The first couple of cars threw big stones from the track towards us (we got covered in dirt and debris) but fortunately the following cars were either going slower or the initial ones had cleared off the loose stuff.

We spent most of the morning watching the cars from various spots until the cold wind got the better of Eli (and me). Audrey loved it all though - especially my running commentary whenever there was a white car that the driving was akin to me trying to get both her and Eli to school before the morning bell goes.

We left as the last couple of cars were going through and drove back along the dirt road to the main highway. Having watched the thrills and spills on the track (one of the competitors had rolled their car on the Friday night) it was tempting to emulate the drivers as we returned home. I tried not to, but perhaps I did skid round one of the corners..just a little bit.

Now without two front teeth!

Audrey the petrolhead?

Close to the action

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Cat Empire

A friend took me along to see famed Australian band 'The Cat Empire'. I'd pretty much missed their entire career - I think they've had six albums now and I've probably heard a couple of their songs. Perhaps it's something to do with mostly listening to the news on the radio interspersed with the kids insisting on an occasional foray into the music of Katy Perry or Justice Crew.

Anyway we headed to Canberra Theatre to watch. They put on a great show and the crowd (who knew a lot more of their tracks than me!) danced and sang along. The support (The Pierce Brothers) were excellent too.

The Cat Empire

The Pierce Brothers

Playing the didgeridoo while holding the harmonica for your twin brother

the Cat Empire

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Mount Stromlo

We're so lucky to have the Mount Stromlo bike track on our doorstep. The kids both learnt to ride their bikes on the Criterium Track at the bottom of the hill, and the area is growing in popularity in part because of the huge numbers of houses being built in nearby Molonglo Valley. The carpark is increasingly full of MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra). 

We drove over with our bikes on Saturday afternoon (which was warm and still) and Eli said how keen he was to 'go on some dirt'.

To satisfy his quest we rode out along a track until we reached 'The Playground'. It's a circular route designed to allow you to test your mountain bike skills on a number of obstacles. There was some fun stuff there like seesaws which you rode your bike on to.

Eli had more nerve than me and Audrey and he took on a few of the challenges. At one point he fell off a beam a couple of feet off the ground and his bike then followed him and landed on him. Undeterred Eli rode over a series of humps (which Audrey and I didn't) but on his second trip he came unstuck despite his bravery and he had a spill which badly grazed his back and broke the brake cable on his bike.

We limped back down the hill. Despite the injuries (I clocked my leg with my pedal) it was still a fun (and free) afternoon out. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Pegasus Open Day

There's a lovely charity in Canberra called Pegasus. They offer riding for the disabled. Their property is on the outskirts of town and the stables and showring there give way to ranging fields and hills. The city is gradually catching up with the place, and before too long it will probably be swallowed up by housing and a shopping centre built on top of it, but for now it's a picturesque piece of town.

Pegasus opens their doors every year to allow you to have a look around. They've got probably 15 or 20 horses and they're really cared for. You don't get a chance to ride them (as they are rightly saved for disabled riders), but there's plenty of patting to be done and the horses are paraded round the show-ring.

This year they also had some miniature horses which you could pat or generally coo over. We visited Pegasus after swimming - it was a sunny autumnal day and the kids had loads of fun.

Audrey patting Tully

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Eli's football training

Eli loves ball sports. Whether it's booting a football or whacking a tennis ball or chucking a rugby ball - he seems to love them all. He's good too - certainly better than I was at his age, I lacked his surfeit of skills and although he might never grace the stages of the Rod Laver Arena or Wembley Stadium he clearly enjoys running around after a ball. (He does occasionally tweak the rules to suit himself!)

Eli played indoor football (soccer) during the summer. He knew most of the players on the team from school and they were a really successful bunch. He tended to hang out as a defensive midfielder - putting in the vital tackle when an opponent was tearing down on goal or playing a nice through pass to his mates to let them score. I always likened him to Paul Ince or maybe a young Paul Cook - well that's what it looked like to an unashamed proud Dad.

In truth when you're 6 or 7 most kids run round after the ball (for most of the game) like seagulls chasing a chip.

Autumn has arrived in Canberra and Eli's friends have now turned their attention to rugby or outdoor football. I had a few chances to sign him up to play in a rugby (league or union) team or commit him to a football team on a Saturday morning. Canberra has lots going on for kids.

In the end he opted for training with a guy running an operation called 'Brilliant Football'. It's skills based and the kids variously dribble/shoot and play tactics in a local park. It's good as he gets a lot more time on the ball than in a match (when nobody aged under 10 passes the ball). We went for his first session on Sunday and he really loved it. Admittedly I do tend to live vicariously through my kids, but he did pretty well and was so enthusiastic about the whole thing.

Somedays though it's sad watching the kids. There were other parents and grandparents (giving parents a break) sat on the banked seating looking out over the playing fields, but sometimes it feels like I'm the only one there. The joy Eli showed kicking the ball reminds me of the life he used to have. His Mum would have been so happy to have seen him play, Amy would have been amazed by how tall Eli has become (even though his new baggy yellow football shorts reach down to the tops of his socks). She would have cheered him on and hugged him at the end. Had she been here Amy would have packed fruit for the kids and maybe a flask of tea for the two of us. My efforts were less than remarkable, although I did get us there in time and managed to remember Eli's water bottle, (but not Audrey's hat). Of course I praised Eli and held his little, warm hand as we walked to the car, and of course I listened to his excited chattering about his session, but sadly despite my best efforts, I'm still the only one here that he has to tell.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Mother's Day Classic 2016

We woke up early to attend this year's Mother's Day Classic. It was (I think) our fifth walk and I think we've done it in virtually every weather condition from freezing cold to warm and hot. Last year was windy/stormy. This year was warm, but drizzly.

Amy had been an Ambassador for the event in 2014 and last year me and some of her friends had raised over $12.5k. I hadn't pulled together a fundraising team this year, but maybe next year...

The kids don't protest about the event and actually quite looked forward to it this year. It takes the form of a 5k walk around Lake Burley Griffin. You can opt to run (5k or 10k) which perhaps we will one year!

It was a nice morning. Mother's Day is tricky for us as a family and I worry about the kids, but it's a nice thing to do on the day and a fitting way to remember Amy as she was a stalwart at the event.

umbrellas at the start!

the kids with their hard earned medals at the end
Our gang

crazy kids

Monday, May 2, 2016


[me to Elijah] "Eat your fish Eli, it'll make you brainy!"
[Elijah to me] "If that's true, how come cats can't do maths?"

Click goes the heating

There's a 'thing' in Canberra that you don't turn the heating on until Anzac Day (25th April). In nearly 8 years of living in Canberra we'd never managed it, usually cracking up in mid April, or coinciding the switch-on with the arrival of the first of the snow on the distant Brindabellas. I guess the only exception is our first winter in the house when we survived with virtually no heating (the house had really dodgy wiring when we bought it).... and have pictures of the kids eating breakfast wearing beanies and jackets. not good.

The weather this year though has been un-seasonally warm and as we approached the 25th I shrugged off the occasional cold morning knowing that the day time temperatures would most likely warm things up.

We made the 25th April easily and my new target was set as May. We made that one too! I was excited(!) to see how far we could get.

Sadly the last couple of nights have been pretty chilly with the outside temperature dropping down to single figures. It lead to a conversation over dinner with me and the kids when they started quizzing me about when the heating would be switched on.

I brought up Ray Mears (of whom we are all fans) and I suggested that he would be able to make a shelter outside and would dispense of the need of the heating. In reply both Audrey and Eli reminded me that he probably sleeps in a warm hotel bed after he's done his filming.

This morning the bedroom was pretty chilly and the kids hands and faces were noticeably cold. I figured I'd probably proved my point. The house feels so much nicer at 21 degrees. Next year we'll get to June.

CMAG on Sunday - Fashioning History

I took Audrey and her friend along to Canberra Museum and Art Gallery (CMAG) for 'Fashioning History' which was one of the excellent monthly Sunday afternoon sessions that CMAG runs.

We don't get along to CMAG too often. It is dominated in Canberra by big national institutions such as the National Gallery and National Museum. In terms of size CMAG would probably just about fill the National Museum's cavernous entry hall. 

Still, there's often really interesting things on there, such as Bush Capital, The Natural History of the ACT exhibit which is there at the moment.

The kids were guided through their artistic endevours by the fabulous Jacqueline Bradley. She was cheerful and great at both asking and handling questions. Jacqueline had run an earlier session with younger kids and I wondered whether this one was easier than the tots (less paint spilled) or harder (more petulance).

The workshop ran for an hour and was a really fun way to spend an afternoon in Canberra. There were probably only a dozen or so kids on the workshop. The kids made some lovely works of art and we'll definitely be back for more.