Friday, January 28, 2011

Australia Day

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Wednesday the 26th was Australia Day. What is Australia Day, you are likely asking? Well, here's the brief history lesson.

Australia Day celebrates the day formal possession of the land in New South Wales (the state I am in) in 1788. So, though Australia is still a Commonwealth country of England and doesn't have an independence day, Aussies celebrate the day the first land was taken possession of for colonization.

Now, what do Aussies do to celebrate? Well...there are free concerts with Aussie acts like Altiyan Childs (won the Aussie X factor), Jessica Mauboy and Stan Walker (I think they've won Aussie Idol competitions), and Justice Crew (maybe won Aussie SYTYCD). Plus bands like Gangajang and Cold Chisel. I know, none of these may be familiar to you guys. That's okay. :) Also, new Aussie citizens participate in a ceremony and receive their certificates that they are official citizens. And, the Aussie of the year award is given out.

That's all the public things. What do private citizens do? There is a cricket game to watch, barbies to have. If you saw the Sam Kekovich video I posted on fb, you'll know that lamb is the main barbeque item. Meat pies are common, and some people have pavlovas. Lots of Aussie flags worn around the shoulders of people, temporary tattoos, etc. People have Aussie cups and plates and wear their Aussie flip flops. It's just like the 4th of July atmosphere. Summer day (and it was almost 100F), bbq, family and friends getting together, fireworks and a show of patriotism. Normally Aussies aren't showy about their patriotism but they are on Australia Day.

So, I have Vegemite on my toast, watched the Aussies lose the cricket game, hung out with Mick since he got the day off (yay!), and had meat pie for dinner. Claire had told me their would be fireworks that night, so Mick and I took the kids and our cameras. We drove to Red Hill lookout (I've posted pics from there before- you can see Parliament House, Lake Burley Griffin, and a ton of the city) and scored a nice place on the rock wall to sit or stand and watch the fireworks. Though the kids didn't like the 45 minute wait, we got a key spot and took some fireworks vids. See below!



So my first Australia Day was great and it felt very special. :) Got to spend the day with Mick and the night with the kids and we had a really good day. I'm including a couple of videos and pics. My vid from my camera doesn't have audio, but when the heart shaped fireworks went off, everyone said "Awwwwwww!"

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Two and a half weeks!

Yikes! It's been a long time since I posted.

This post is going to be a mishmash- more of what's been going on personally for me.

The kids are on school holidays until February 8th and the holidays are over. So, Claire is back at work and Mick is back at work. The kids HATE vacation care. That's essentially day care and is not with their friends so they really don't want to go to it. It also costs money so that's another strike against it.

Thus, I have been watching the kids during the week for the past two weeks. We have them during the week and then Claire takes them Friday night, Saturday, and part of Sunday. So I am staying busy during the day. I've been able to talk to a few people, but no time to do a blog. Not that I don't have things to blog about because I do!

Hmm where to start? How about the neighbor kids? I've talked about Reese and Jay before. There have been more developments that I haven't mentioned yet though! Here's my thoughts about them...I think their mom is busy with their 8 month old brother and she doesn't pay any attention to what they do or where they are. I think she probably prefers it when they are out of the house. Now I have no idea what her life is like. I know her hubby is gone all during the week because he drives trucks. My thesis and proposed dissertation covered this type of separation and its effects on both partners. So I do have a little understanding of having to run a household by yourself and what that does to partners. I am trying to cut her some slack. ;)

Yet, since the boys started coming over, they've broken fishing poles, lost some of the parts to Mick's old cameras (we found them later!), destroyed the bottom playroom, have hit Em in the eye with nerf bullets, have gone into Emily and Eddie's rooms when they weren't allowed. Emily has gotten hit in the face with a door, Eddie has nearly gotten pushed down the stairs. Money has gone missing, both from Eddie's room and from my purse. A Christmas gift in an envelope for Mick went missing. They've opened a package that was addressed to the previous tenants (which we only found later in the playroom stuffed behind a couch). They have zero respect for rules, zero respect for other people's stuff. The icing on the cake came this week however.

Reese and Jay came by to play with Eddie this week and they took all of his play guns outside (we'd banished them outside and told them they couldn't play in the house since they didn't respect our rules or our things). I checked up on them and saw them standing on the sidewalk in front of our house. I yelled at Eddie because we have a rule that he can't go past a line on the driveway unless Mick or I are with him. So Eddie came back and was standing on our driveway. Em asked me for a glass of cordial (kind of like kool aid) and I went into the kitchen. As I was walking back, I see the police stopped outside our house. I went outside and they were pulling away. The boys looked toward the house and saw me and instantly knew they were in trouble. Apparently the police knew Reese and he's been "told off" before. They warned the boys that they would be fined $800 each if they kept pretending to shoot at passing cars. Nice. Fantastic. I talked to Eddie about it and he told me Reese is the bad one and Jay really isn't bad. They'd already broken two rules before the police came by so I was done. I told Eddie to come in for lunch and sent the boys home. Jay came back and asked if they could play here while Eddie ate. I said no and sent them home again and told them they were not allowed to come back for the day. Reese wanted to know why and I told him they had three strikes- they broke a rule outside, they were touching items we'd asked them not to touch, and they had the police stop by to chastise and warn them.

Later that afternoon, we went out to the pool. We have an inflatable pool that we set up in the front yard (which has more space and is flatter). The kids were in and Mick and I were watching them. We watched Reese and his mom and the baby get into their car and drive away. Jay, the 8 year old, was on his bike but just sat there watching us in the pool. So there we were. Normally I would have invited Jay to come over...but he and Reese have gotten out their slip n slide and the kids have stood there and watched them play wistfully. Plus, Mick reminded me that Jay was not my responsibility.

So I am now torn between feeling bad for the boys and not wanting them around Eddie. When Eddie is around them, he gets taken advantage of because he's younger and smaller. He wants to prove himself and acts tougher and bigger than he is. He broke out the fly screen of a window in our rental house and was throwing plums at Reese. And Emily hates it when Jay and Reese are around. We banned them from her room first, and they haven't respected that. She sticks to me like glue when they are around and hates it when Reese tries to tickle her (she and Eddie both say he tickles too hard, not in inappropriate spots or anything). So that tells me that the less time Eddie and Em are around Reese and Jay, the better.

Luckily, the boys are supposed to be moving in a few weeks. I am hoping that by the time I get back, they will be out! Maybe a younger boy and a girl will move in. I can always hope!

The next topic- Visas. Wow...lots and lots of requirements, and very costly. I have 32 pages of information to fill out- the basic info, information about my family, information about Mick and his family, numerous statements about my relationship with Mick to complete. Then, I have to provide proof of my citizenship, proof of Mick's citizenship, evidence of our relationship (our lease maybe? joint bank account?) and evidence of our relationship from the past 18 months. I have to provide 4 recent pics of me and Mick has to provide 2 of him. We have to have 2 Aussie citizens write statements about our relationship and prove that we've been together (and we have to prove those two are Aussie citizens). Mick has to provide work statements and tax statements to sponsor me. I may have to have Bruce be a kind of co-sponsor who says he will help support me or pay for any fines I incur (speeding tickets? not sure) while not an Aussie citizen. I have to provide medical records and history and they assess whether I am a health risk. I have to have a physical, get chest x-rays, and take an HIV test. I have to have a character assessment (police background check) and interview. And all these documents have to be certified copies (i.e. notarized).

After all this is done, my application will be reviewed. If approved, I will have a temporary partner visa for 2 years. After 2 years, they will reassess our relationship and application. If we are still together and Mick and I have been able to provide for ourselves, then they will again look at my character and health and will assess me for permanent visa status. While I have a temporary visa, I will get a Medicaid card and will have access to health care. I won't have to leave every 3 months. At that point, though we may not be married, the Aussie gov't will see us as such. 

It's a lengthy process and involves a lot of people and money and time. It can take 5 to 10 months to have a temporary visa once the application is lodged. It's a tough process. And once that is approved, I can work! After I fill out my provisional license application and pay that money too. lol, seeing a pattern? Yeah. Me too. Money and paperwork. Lots and lots of it.

I have pics of the kids swimming in the pool and I want to post those, but I think I will make a separate post for that. I still have many topics I'd like to cover...but I'll get there. :)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Ancestors

Mick is big into genealogy and has been researching his grandmother and her parents. Yesterday, he found a man he thinks is his great grandfather. He found a lot of information about the man's time in the Boer War and WWI. He was reading me some of the war documents as he went along. Mick remembers that his Nana never really talked about her parents. Seems her dad kind of disowned her and her sister. He died when she was around 10 years old but was in the war for a few years before that so she really didn't remember much about him, at least not that she shared with Mick.

Anyhow, I'll get to my point and thoughts. :) Mick was reading out about his great grandfather's alcoholism and I said that didn't surprise me since he was in a couple of wars and we really knew nothing about PTSD at that time. He kept reading and sure enough, the man was discharged for "shell shock" and had neurasthenia and eventually died from complications due to prolonged time in the trenches. Where am I going with this?

It pays to have as much information as possible, and to not make snap judgments. If Mick had stopped reading when he saw that on his great grandfather's military contract he disowned his wife and children, he might have thought less of him. If he had stopped reading after he learned his great grandfather was an alcoholic, he might have thought less of him. When all the pieces are in place, it's much easier to see the whole picture. Judging people on things we read about them, rumors we hear, even actions, is foolish. We can't know people's motivations. We probably don't understand their situation, even if we think we do. Because Mick kept reading, he learned much more about the man, about his struggles and difficulties and maybe glimpses into his motivations. Empathy and impartiality makes such a difference. And we've come a long way in recognizing the struggles of soldiers and in treating PTSD, though there's still lots of work to be done!

Another thought I had about genealogy...what would a descendant find about me? About my parents? My grandparents? Well, my understanding for finding information about genealogy is it relies heavily on war documents, marriage and birth and death certificates, land deeds, and official records like that. What official records do I have? I have a birth certificate of course, and there will be a death certificate. I suppose registration and licenses would pop up, so MFT or psychologist records might be helpful. What would these say about me? What would an unbiased third party gather about me?

I don't think anyone starts digging into their ancestors in the hopes of finding jerks or thugs or liars or cheaters or murderers. We would all love to think that our ancestors were honorable and highly lauded and successful. The truth is, people are people and the decade or lineage doesn't matter. That doesn't mean I don't believe genetics play a role in our lives, but I definitely believe our environment shapes us and we all make our own choices. So Mick has some ancestors that weren't as honorable as he is. I do too. And so do you. The good thing is we all have ancestors who were successful, good people that deserve praise. And we have to decide for ourselves how we live our lives to be good people here and now, and good people for the future as well.

As someone who's lost both sets of grandparents, I recognize the not only have I lost four amazing people that I wish I could have had more time with, I've also lost important bits of history. A couple of years ago I asked my parents to write in journals which I gave them, stories of their past, stories about their families. There are times when my dad or mom will say, "Oh, I wish I could ask so and so about the name of that street or that friend or when that happened." I want to have a record of their stories, their jokes, their lives before and after meeting each other. Obviously, I have my own stories of my friends and my family and my partner and my education. And I try through blogs and journals to keep some records of these stories. So I wonder too if all these electronic records will make it easier or harder to know one's ancestors? In 100 years, will someone be able to read these words still? Will they have been discarded as my travel journal likely will have been? Is the internet a more permanent or less permanent record?

These are just the thoughts I've had while thinking about Mick's searches. :)

New Year's Eve and resolutions

On New Year's Eve, I had an exciting event for me...my first time going out with people other than Mick and the kids. Annie and Mandy, who I met at Christmas, invited me to lunch and a girly day. So I drove in to Manuka (where I took the kids to the movies) and met the girls at the shops. Manuka is a fancy area of Canberra, very posh. Annie made a comment that there were some pretentious people and shops. Still, it was nice to walk around. Restaurants are along Franklin street, interspersed with shops, and some have courtyards that are green and nice.

I got there first and wandered around the shops and the greens. We were meeting at the "green square," which Annie assured me Mick would know. He didn't, lol, but I found it anyway. Annie met me there and we looked around the shops while we waited for Mandy. Annie found a ring and earrings she wanted and since her partner bought her a Swiss Army watch (and Annie's a girlie girl so it wasn't the best gift for her) she called her partner and told him to come find the jewelry and pick something for her. lol She's funny and feisty. While she negotiated with the shop owner about the Spanish pearls, she handed me her phone and I called Mandy since she was late. She'd just arrived so we said we'd meet her at the green square.

When we found Mandy, we chose a Mexican-like restaurant and ordered food.We picked Mexican since Mick doesn't like it and I really do. :) The restaurant they wanted to take me to was closed for the holidays but they told me it is really good. We'll have to hit there again. Regardless, the burrito I got was fancy. It was more Tex-Mex than Mexican, but I'll take what I can get! :)

Lunch conversations consisted of Mandy's upcoming wedding, NYE celebrations, drinking, moving, lessons we've learned throughout life. It was a really interesting conversation. I really enjoyed getting to know the two of them better. I hope that we'll get to go out again soon. After a couple of hours chatting, Annie's partner Branamere arrived to buy her a proper Christmas present. While they did that, Mandy and I looked at shoes for her wedding. I haven't seen her dress, but the shoes we were looking at were very cute. Mandy and I walked back to the parking garage so I could add more coins to the meter. Then we met Annie and Branamere again and had gelato. MMMM, that was delicious. Lemon gelato- perfect. It was quite warm that day, in the 90s, so gelato was a great way to end the day. Mandy and I said goodbye to Annie and Branamere and walked to our cars.

Mick had been watching the kids and I got back a bit before 4pm so we hung out and played. He's building a billycart (sp?) for the kids and Eddie and Emily helped him. Claire arrived and we had a bit of a weird exchange but nothing major. Annie invited me and Mick to her house to celebrate, but we really just felt like relaxing. So instead, we went to the store after Claire and the kids left, bought some champagne and groceries, and came home. We started curry for dinner and just had a nice night relaxing and listening to music and talking. It was a quiet, lovely night.

Ok, this is off topic, but I know some of you will find it amusing and I didn't mention it in my posts about Christmas Eve so I'll tell you now. On Christmas Eve, I wanted to dress up and make myself up to celebrate. Even though it was just me and Mick, sometimes I get that urge to make myself look nice just because. So I walked out to the lounge room all dolled up, and Claire was in the lounge room to pick up the kids. Reese and Jay had been over and gone home. They were coming up the stairs and Mick was standing at the top of the stairs talking to Reese. When I walked over to wish them a Merry Christmas, Reese said, "You look really pretty." I laughed and made a comment about cleaning up nice. Mick hasn't let me live that down and says now Reese has a little crush on me. Is it really a compliment when a 12 year old says you look pretty? LOL

Now, onto New Year's Resolutions. I make some every year, and I try to mix in easy, medium, and harder resolutions. I was 3 for 6 for last year's resolutions. I know some people get discouraged if they don't meet their resolutions. Of the ones I didn't meet, one is an ongoing resolution and two just didn't happen and they were easy and medium ones. So I'm ok with that. I accomplished an easy, medium, and hard resolution.

For 2011, I resolve the following:

To get an MFT job. That's a tough one because it takes lots of steps before actually job hunting, but I know I can do it.

To buy a printer. We need one badly and I am guessing I'll be the driving force for that. :)

To get an Aussie doctor and try to get in better health.

To visit some churches here in Australia.

To make new friends here so I won't be as lonely. I need girlfriends to hang out with, talk to, go to lunch with, go shopping with.

To build stronger relationships with Emily and Eddie.

To finish my America Scrapbook.

That does it for me! I could have picked lots of things because right now it feels like there are so many things I want to accomplish and have completed or settled. Did you guys make resolutions? :)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Fishing Day

We went fishing with the kids a couple of days ago. It was the first time I'd been fishing, and I had fun. It was a beautiful sunny day again, and Mick has four fishing rods so we took those, some bait (the locals recommended corn and cheese and bacon rind), a couple of buckets, and some snacks and water. We also took sunscreen for the kids and everyone had a hat except me. I pulled my hair back in a bun to keep my head from getting sunburned, but I forgot about my neck.

We fished for a couple of hours. The kids liked it at first, Emily more than Eddie. Poor Mick had to deal with three people who needed their lines cast and their lines untangled and wanted advice. :) We didn't catch any fish at all, but we felt nibbles and we tried hard. We had to walk along a path but it hadn't been kept up so there were patches of places where large bushes blocked the path. Most of these were skeleton bushes, which don't have prickles or thorns and are just annoying to push through. However, there were large sections where the path was overgrown with prickle bushes. Imagine a bush that was solely rose thorns, only sharper, and you've got prickle bushes. Em was wearing long pants but the rest of us had shorts on and I think we all had blood drawn. I had cuts on my hands and arms too. Not the most fun part of the day.

There were clouds in the sky, but it was mostly sunny and warm. We fished in a couple of different spots but had no luck. It's hard to go fishing with a 6 and 8 year old because that doesn't keep their attention for very long and they don't want to be quiet of course. I can't say I blame them. :) I enjoyed it, and would go again. It was nice just to be outside, though the flies were killer. And then we get to the sunburn...




Because of the tilt of the earth and its rotation, Australia is closer to the sun during the summer than the US is during the summer. Now, I'm a pale girl anyway, so I should have been wearing sunscreen. But I didn't think about it. I guess I didn't realize the power of the Aussie sun. So, here are a few pics to show my scars. It hurts to raise my hands above my head and to cough or laugh or anything that moves my shoulders. And the blisters are getting worse. But, I will survive and now I know better! :)

Videos of Boxing Day

I am posting videos of the snake, one of the lizard eating the frog, and the lizards who had a fight.

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This one is of the snake
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This next one is also of the snake:
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A final video of the snake:
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This last one is of two lizards as they circle each other and posture for territory:
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Boxing Day pics

Here are the pics from our Boxing Day adventure. :) Oh, and I forgot to mention that we went to Red Hill Lookout before Cotter Dam and had lovely panoramic views of Canberra. Find the lizards and snakes in the pics below. :)