30 September 2005

Never complain about rain

As Lana and I were resting in bed after a long journey we heard a marvellous sound. Rain pitter pattering on the tin roof.
Our water supply is rain. It flows from the roof into one of three large concrete water tanks with 90,000 litres (20,000 gallons) capacity. Australia has been in the grip of a drought for some time - some areas of Victoria have been without much water for 10 years.
If there is too much water we have the happy-sad event of overflowing tanks. Happy because it means we have full capacity, but sad because that precious water is wasted. This photo shows water pouring out of the overflow hole.
Considering that our water is just rain water we need to ensure we are very careful with water and all our devices are very water efficient.
When we visited friends in the US Lana and I would - from habit - turn off taps/faucets when they left them running.

Restarting our Australian Identity

Robert's wife met us an hour from the airport and Lana and the children went to their place to play and settle down after the long journey. Meanwhile I went with Robert and arranged for my Australian licence and transfer our new car registration.
This was pretty straight forward affair. I just had to produce my passport and US license, have Robert be my referee (confirming my address) and within about 20 minutes I had my license.
Then a further 10 minutes or so and the vehicle was now registered in my name too.
The license cost $93 ($70 US) for 3 years, which is more than it was in Georgia ($15 for 4 years), but the Georgia licence took 4 hours.
Compare our experience with Lana's Georgia licence [updated] and the registration of the Suburban.
Once I arrived at Robert's house I fixed up insurance for the new vehicle as well as updated the house and contents insurance.
Not a bad start to getting everything back in place!
We finally arrived home around 5:30pm with fish and chips and ready for bed.
Our return was finally complete.

The Return - Australia

We were last to disembark the plane and made our way to customs clearance.
Step 1: Immigration Control
This involves waiting in a line - one for either Australian or Other passport holders. Each passport was compared to each person and checked on the computer system.

Step 2: Quarantine Check
We passed through to the luggage carousel to collect our bags, using five of the courtesy luggage trolleys. We then showed the officers our immigration forms which showed we had a few things to declare. We had a tanned raccoon skin, some wooden products and some food (candy/lollies). The 'coon skin gathered a lot of interest with about four officers gathered around examining it, one saying, "poor thing." The other thing causing interest was our "train" of carts with me in the lead and Lana bringing up the rear.
An officer asked me to open one of our bags so he could have a look. He told me it was OK and I asked him what made him curious. He pointed to Lana's DMC cross stitch threads and then sheepishly pointed to a bag of Lego blocks. "Couldn't tell what it was on the machine," he grinned.

Step 3: Customs
Our next step was to meet with the customs guy to determine whether we owed duty or GST. Each adult coming into the country is allowed a duty free allowance of $900 and each child $450. As we had 6 children and two adults we had no problems and we were free to go.

Step 4: Find our transport
We exited customs through Exit D. Robert who had arranged to meet us was at exit A - of course. A quick phone call and we were on our way.

Step 5: Buy some Australian chocolates.
Before we left I had to buy a sample of chocolates we have missed for the last few years. A very important step.

The Return - the flight home

At 6:20pm (about 10 minutes before the 4 hour outer limit for checking in) we presented ourselves and checked in our bags. Then we once more did the security thing (no extra screenings this time) and found ourselves in the International area.
We had some Mexican food after taking over a number of tables and took our time. Whilst Lana and I sat and reminisced, the children went for a walk, mostly the wrong way on the travelators/automated walkways. No-one had a problem with the children wandering around as they knew we were in for a long 15 hour flight. We finally made our way to the correct gate and rested.
By the time it came to 10:30pm, the children were pretty tired. It had been over 19 hours since we began that day. Peter fell asleep and James soon followed. Eric's eyes also began to droop. I spoke with the airline staff to see if we could board early considering we had a number of children. They said they would, and then announced that boarding would be by row number - ignoring my request.
It didn't matter. We went up anyway. But first we had to wake the fast asleep Peter and James because we couldn't carry our on board baggage and them.
We finally found our seats and the boys sat down, instantly falling asleep.
Clare's first step was to read the flight safety sheet. Just like Peter did when we had our original journey two years ago. It must be something to do with four year olds!
We all slept for about the next six hours. None of the children remembered the takeoff, even though the takeoff was very bumpy.
Unfortunately, the plane we were on did not have individual video screens, just central screens showing child inappropriate movies and limited audio selections.

29 September 2005

The Return - we made it!

We made it!
I will post in more detail later, but after a long flight we arrived in Sydney at 6:10 am local time yesterday, went through customs pretty efficiently and were met by our friend Robert. About an hour later Lana and the children went with Robert's wife to their house whilst I went with Robert and sorted out my local drivers licence and car registration.
That's right. My new licence will have a photo of me
for the next few years looking decidedly tired after 30 hours of travelling.
We are now busy unpacking and restocking the pantry and obtaining odds and ends which we either left behind or didn't survive our time away.
Now - off to sleep again...

27 September 2005

The Return - Tracking a group

Here the children are watching a movie we just purchased - Indian in the Cupboard.
Note the bright orange T-shirts? That is how we are able to quickly work out where each of the children are located.
I am in my Bright Yellow T-shirt as I wore on our initial trip to the US (shown here). The common bright colours make it very easy to quickly spot members of our party. It also attracts some comments from onlookers as they see four large carts filled with luggage, surrounded by children all wearing bright orange T shirts.
We picked up these shirts at the Scott Hogsed Memorial day figuring that "Hunter Orange" would make a great colour for our trip.

The Return - still waiting

Rose is probably the hardest to keep amused during a long wait. Lana decided to go walkabout (*) with Rose strapped into the backpack.
As you can see here, Lana is trying to appear imperious and aloof, but I think Rose is spoiling the effect somewhat.

(*) Walkabout is an Australian term derived from the Australian Aborigines for a period of time when an aboriginal goes off and wanders the bush and no-one knows when they will return. It is commonly used to refer to someone who goes off without warning and for when the return is unknown.

The Return - Clare succumbs

Clare finally stopped. She awoke at 4:00am after getting to bed the previous night just after 10:00pm. She remained awake on the plane and was awake and alert for a while here.
But once Eric began to read tales from Brer Rabbit, Clare slowed down and stopped.
A couple of hours so far.
We still have 8 hours before we depart.
Hmmm. We have played games, read books, had lunch and gone walkies.
Waiting ... waiting...

The Return - Not all bad news

It was not all bad news so far. In spite of the delays and problems there were many good luck bits.
When we finally had all the luggage and family at Atlanta airport and made it to the check-in desk, there was NO LINE. We got straight to the assistant. Whilst I was doing weight training with the bags, there was a very long line placing the bags through the X Ray unit.
Once the bags were all checked, the X Ray line was clear too! We got straight to the X Ray unit and unloaded the bags - more weight lifting. Total checked bag weight - 886 pounds or 403kg.
So far I have lifted these into the car (Ward got them out), into the shuttle, out of the shuttle on and off check-in, off at X-Ray, off the carousel. So 7 times 886 pounds means a lot of weight training within a short time.
This photo is of our 5 luggage "smarte carte"s gathered around me at Check in.

The Return - Lots of Bags

With Ward's help we were able to cram all of our luggage onto two of the hotel's luggage movers and with some judicious moving, huffing and puffing got them through the door. This photo shows they only just fit into the room. We put them both into the lower room, where the girls would sleep.
To get to the bed furthest from the door, Lana had to squeeze past between the bags and the wall and climb over the first bed.
We went to the room on the fourth floor and watched a DVD on my computer, whilst the boys made some Lego which they had been given as a present. From the time our friend Jane had given the boys some Lego for the trip, James and Eric asked, "Can I play with Lego now?" - in the car, on the plane, anywhere.

The Return - Eric's Soccer farewell

Soccer season began a few weeks ago and we knew we would be unable to participate. Then one of the coaches rang up (*) and asked if Eric could play. We said we were returning home soon, but they said that was fine.
So Eric was able to join in the training sessions and played three games.
On the last game his team gave him a T shirt signed by all of the players and the coach so he could remember his soccer playing in Georgia.

(*) We say "rang up" whilst locals normally say "called".

The Return - Stage 3

Well, here we are at San Francisco airport.
The hotel service didn't improve after the room stuff up. We arranged with the reception for 2 shuttles at 5:00am. They said they would organise it. I rang again at 10:00 to confirm it and they called Lana back at 10:25 that it was OK.
So, sure enough, only one was there at 5:00am. And the "On the go" breakfast bags which they said would be ready weren't. Hopeless!
Anyway with only one shuttle we had to make the trip to the Airport in two trips. The plane which originally was scheduled to depart at 8:00am was now 7:00am which I only discovered by calling United about 2 days ago!
We found our way to checkin and had to play with some bag contents to keep the weights below 70 pounds. Then it was time for security with lots of carry on luggage. Rose had to be detached from the back pack, all shoes off, and - other than Rose and me - the rest had to have additional screening. No profiling donchaknow? Clare certainly shows terrorist potential.
The method of choosing a special screening target is simple. Irregular travellers, one way ticket, foreign passport. 3 out of 3 and you win a special screening.
As the stopover in San Francisco is over 4 hours, our bags couldn't be checked through to Sydney. This means we had to get the bags in San Francisco and then check them in again at the International terminal.
We got to the Terminal (furthest away of course) and went to our seats at the very rear of the plane. There was no space nearby for our carry on luggage, so some was under feet, the stewards placed bags all over the cabin and one went with the checked in luggage.
Once we finally made San Francisco and I had more weight lifting at the carousel, we went towards the International terminal. New rules mean we can't check in greater than 4 hours before the flight so we were stuck with lots of baggage. We had planned on hiring a car and looking around town, but that was now out. So we are limited to the airport.
Other than that, all is going well. The children are all in good spirits.
By the time we board the plane, we will have been up 21 hours. The children should sleep once we board!

26 September 2005

The Return - Stage 2

Today is the stage we move from home to the hotel near Atlanta Airport.
After a tearful farewell to David F and his family we went to Church with two cars - one full of luggage, the other full of family. Lana was still pretty tearful and parishioners we met going in didn't help.
In Church Lana had red eyes and the lady in charge of the choir passed over some tissues. Lana decided to take Rose to the Crying room - for both of them.
Ariel, Eric and James brought up the offertory procession and Lana came back in towards the end. Just prior to the end of Mass, Father Wise announced that this was the last Mass in the US the Bruggemans would be attending before they returned to Australia where they all speak funny. (His sermon included the lesson not to look down on others for any reason - including speaking differently)
He had us all come up to the front and had the congregation join him in giving us a blessing for the journey.
During his announcements Father reminded the congregation that as the Bruggemans were leaving, there were a few holes that needed to be filled - youth choir, altar server, Sunday school and so on.
There were many hugs and tears as we said farewell to lots of people. We had to return home to pick up a few things we forgot - principally some bright orange T shirts for all the children to wear tomorrow!
Then it was meeting Ward and Bretta who would take us down and return home with the cars.
I had booked the hotel some time ago, asking for two adjacent rooms with two beds each. We ended up with a room on the 2nd floor and another on the 4th. So much for speaking to the hotel directly! Now one has all the luggage and the girls and the boys are in the other.
So we went to the lobby and had pizza there. Much more room for the children to run around. Tomorrow we awake at 4:00am, for a 5:00am shuttle trip for a 7:00am flight to San Francisco.

The Return - Stage 1 - Reality hits

We have been so busy that the reality we will be leaving behind our home of over two years has been delayed. An important part of any big move is to prepare both physically and spiritually, so we went to Confession on Saturday afternoon.
Whilst Lana was saying prayers in the Church, all was quiet and she had a time to stop and think. Looking around at our Church home and smelling the familiar smell Lana started to cry. As I came in to say prayers I looked over and immediately wondered what I had done wrong. Ladies - this is always a husband's first thought!
Lana reminisced on the kindness and friendship we have received from all the people at our Church and the way we were made to feel at home so quickly, she realised this was about to change.
As we left the Church, one of the ladies from church saw Lana and gave her a hug and began to cry too! Her husband gave me a hug and they both said they were going to miss our family. We normally sit at the front of the Church so the children can see what is going on and not be too distracted. The downside is that they are on show - for better or worse - and a lot of people that see us are gone before we meet them.
One family shook my hand earlier in the week and said they would miss our family from Church. They saw us each week but I don't think we had actually been introduced!

The Return - Stage 1

With such a big process involved in moving house across countries, we have planned it all in stages. We are limited to 14 bags plus some on board baggage. Although we came here with 9 bags we have accumulated a bit of "really cool stuff". So we had to sort through EVERYTHING, deciding what was to stay and what was to go. Our friends purchased a large portion of the best furniture and equipment and we had a less than successful garage sale for the rest.
We gave away the rest. Our friends had a bonus of much of it and the Thrift stores (called Opportunity shops in Australia) had a huge bonus of clothing.
Friday night was our last night in our beds. I couldn't sleep thinking about what needed to be done so got up at 3:00am and cleaned up my home office, the kitchen and lounge room. It was worth the effort when Lana awoke and gave me a sleepy smile!
Once everyone was up we started packing the beds. I couldn't detach the bed head/head board as we had already given away our tools! Luckily Donald - the first of our friends to arrive - had a set.
By the afternoon all of upstairs and most of the house was done, we only had to pack the last 4 bags. Aaargh! A massive cull was required. Another of our friends, David F, was on hand and we kept giving him more treasures as a gift. Finally we did what we could. It was only stuff. The critical bits were all loaded, but it was a lot of bags. I'll post a photo later.
We stayed overnight at David F's home. We met David F when Ariel and I visited the US in July 2002 on our exploratory visit. Our host stopped by the city park and mentioned that she noticed a homeschooling Dad at the playground so we stopped. Whilst Ariel played we talked and had an enjoyable time discussing faith, life and the universe. This was the only time David F had actually been at the park on his own. Coincidence or Providence? You decide.
After a lovely dinner, the children played, I fixed up David F's computer and then we all finally slept our last night in our US home town.

24 September 2005

The Squirrel sees us off

This morning we awoke to a surprise. A local squirrel was enjoying itself on our balcony.
For the last two years they have hidden and run from us. Now that we are going they have become used to the noise and are less afraid.
Now they'll have to get used to the quiet again!

22 September 2005

Stuck on Stupid

Lt General Russel Honore is assisting with the evacuation of New Orleans in prepapration for Hurricane Katrina. He is very straight talking and his honest discussions with reporters has led to a new catch phrase which is rapidly spreading through the world:

Don't get stuck on stupid

Here is the transcript of the interview and an mp3 of the audio:

21 September 2005

Clare's special day

Yesterday we had quite a busy day. Clare was playing outside and Lana heard a scream. She saw Clare crying and blood everywhere. She had fallen with the rope catching her teeth, ripping them at 45 degree angles. One popped right off when Lana checked. I arrived home about 5 minutes later and we quickly rushed to the local Dentist. Dr Ronnie Dyer in Blairsville was excellent. He quickly analysed the situation and arranged for us to visit the dental sirgeon in Blue Ridge (about an hour away). As they sent us on our way they said, "No charge for today." His practice has always provided us with good service.
After going through the paperwork, xrays, preparation and finally the operation to remove the remaining two teeth, we finally returned home about 5 hours later. Luckily there was no lasting damage to the gums or jaw. The permanent teeth are there waiting to come down - probably in about a year or two.
Whilst Lana and I took care of Clare, friends picked up the children and took them to their house.
Clare was already in good spirits in the early evening and she is running around and happy as usual today. Children's ability to recover from injury is a very good design feature! Other than a slight lisp she has recovered amazingly well.

I had Clare tell me what happened which I have transcribed below. It is interesting that the highlights of her dental surgeon visit are the toy box and the videos in the waiting room.

This is Clare's story:
I was on the ropes and I banged my teeth. The ropes you sit on - I fell to there.
Mum broke one of my tooth out. Dad came home and took me with you and Mum to the dentist. They checked my teeth and we had to go to the other dentist.
We watched a movie when we were waiting. We watched two! Then we went in and checked how tall I was - 40 pounds. I had an exxed ray around my head. The lady got the toy box out and I got stuff from it.
Mum and you took me to a chair and they put a thing on my big toe [monitor] and a thing on my nose. [Nitrous Oxide/Laughing gas]. Mum and Dad had to go out. I felt not very good. When they got my teeth out it made my neck hurt. I told them some stuff about Australia. The lady wanted to come with us to Australia. But we're going to have to go in a plane.
They put some cross-stitch stuff in my mouth [gauze to absorb the bleeding]. I didn't want it in. We then went to the Floyds.

19 September 2005

Why we don't watch TV news

We don't watch television and especially avoid TV news. The bias is one aspect, but also the lack of depth and logical analysis is another.
The Belmont Club is a fine analysis blog and this post links to a good video showing how news is manufactured.
Go to that post and download the wmv file (Warning! It is a large file). Watch it with the children and discuss the role of media and how to be aware that what one sees is not necessarily the full picture.

International Talk like a pirate day

Just to show that there is an International Day for everything, Today, September 19, is International "Talk like a Pirate Day".
This site has instructions for talking like a pirate, generating your own pirate name, downloading a pirate song.
So Arrr, me mateys. 'Ave a look, arrr.

Fast-ish food

In Australia we were used to "Fast Food" being relatively instant. One orders the food, it is assembled into bags and given to you. But it is different here.
One places an order and then it is slowly assembled from core ingredients. You are given a cup/s to fill whilst waiting, get to drink and refill it whilst you wonder what is taking so long and then finally the food arrives.
Tonight we first went to Burger King. We never use the drive through as our accent combined with yelling into a poorly placed speaker guarantees a randomly generated order. The problem with going to the main counter is that drive through customers take priority. There was a lady in front of us, then Lana and I. After a couple of minutes of both of us being ignored I commented loudly, "It looks as though we aren't necessary here. Do you think we should reward poor service?" Lana dutifully replied, "No. They don't want customers, so we should do as they wish." So we left. As did the lady in front of us.
Across the street is McDonalds. At least they served us quickly and gave us the cup to fill. Around the corner the ceiling was dripping water with a sign "Caution. Cleaning in progress" No staff were actually cleaning and the floor was dangerously wet. Customers were expected to duck between drips to get to the drink machine. Lana went to the car to pass the drink around whilst I waited. The six or so staff did their very best to ignore me and any other customer not immediately threatening to order anything or ask a question.
So, what are some of the service rules broken between both establishments?
Burger King:
1. Allowing customers to come into the store and be ignored.
2. Letting customers escape and not even noticing.
3. Avoiding eye contact and not smiling when dealing with a customer.
4. Allowing a dangerous situation (wet floor) to exist with no action.
5. Standing around chatting between any direct customer contact.
6. Ignoring the customer whilst the orders are delayed, not informing him of the order status.
7. Announcing the completion of an order by looking at random customers and saying "Deluxe Grilled Chicken?" I suspect the answer of, "No. I usually go by the name David." wouldn't be understood.
8. Finally delivering a delayed order, avoiding eye contact or a smile, just handing over the bags.
All in all an important lesson for the children in how NOT to provide customer service.
I remember service at home was better than this. We'll let you know in a couple of weeks.

18 September 2005

Family vows

As we prepare for another stressful time, especially for the children, in relocating back to Australia, we say farewell to all of our American friends who have been so welcoming and returning to our family and friends in Australia. It has been over two years and the younger children have fading memories of life in Australia and the friends they had. They are understandably nervous and this leads to irritations and fretfulness, some tiredness and feelings of being lost.

It's not hard to forget wedding vows when everything is easy. For richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, till death do us part. The covenant we made as husband and wife with God and many others as witnesses often fades into the background. But when things start getting difficult or stressful it is time to return to those vows and work out their meaning.

I realised that each of the conditions of the vows (for better, for worse, etc) all relate to the external or physical side of the husband and wife. Despite changes in any of the externals (other than death) we remain married. This permanence or durability also includes our children. We also need to consider our family structure.

We're not an informal democracy with president, vice president and citizens.
We're not a monarchy with King, Queen and subjects.
We're not communism with communal property and no individual rights.
We're a family.
This involves more than a contract - it is a covenant, or a family bond.

This is a big difference. It means that whatever happens, wherever we live, our family remains. We each have a commitment to be part of the family and contribute according to our abilities. The result is that even though stress levels rise, there is a constant base from which to work.

Our children have noticed this view isn't universally acknowledged in some of their conversations with others. Whereby the children would normally describe their doings as "We did this" or "We do that" others more often say "I did this" or "I do that". This is not to say each child doesn't think of themselves or act as an individual. They just have an innate sense of belonging that only a family can give.

I never contemplated this family bond when Lana and I married almost 16 years ago. It is hard to image how a family operates, especially if you have never considered the matter. We have only come to realise this as the children are growing and asking the questions we should have considered a long time ago.

Always growing - always learning.

Home is getting ready

Whilst the Australian house is vacant before we return, we have organised to repaint. The best time is when no-one is actually in the house!

This is one of the lads who is doing the painting. His homeschooling family do a lot of work building, fixing, painting, plastering, and almost anything that needs doing around a house. Other than repainting, they also installed a number of gates - Rose defences. They have a lot of work helping out homeschoolers around the country. They charge a fair price and do great work.

Over two years ago we completed the house using their assistance - finishing the garage, installing gyprock/drywall ceilings on the old part of the house, back deck and awning, front porch, and lots more.

And then we left the country.

Not much of a garage sale

What if you had a garage sale and nobody came? It couldn't really be called a "sale" I suppose. This is the main table, with more items to the side and inside the house too.
As part of our move back to Australia we have had to sell almost everything we have here. Most of the larger things we have managed to sell to our friends who have appreciated the opportunity to get some good items at a good price. It's as if we just rented the furniture and equipment and returned them!
We decided to have a garage/yard/household sale but nobody actually came. So we will chat with the fellow from church organising the housing for lots of Hurricane Katrina refugees in the local area and see if he needs all these essentials.

15 September 2005

My Favourite Library

These two young ladies were the friendly people meeting us on our first visit to the local library. And they have continued smiling and being helpful for the two years we have been visiting the library and borrowing a mountain of books.
The library here is a treasure trove of quality books - not just contemporary rubbish, but a marvellous collection of living history books. There are hundreds of books detailing historical events written in the first person easily read and enjoyed by all ages.
Ariel has read about the journey across the US by Lewis and Clark from the point of view of Lewis, Clark and the Indian girl (whose name I can't pronounce) in three seperate books. We all read about Captain Cook discovering Australia - He was actually a lieutenant at the time and he didn't discover Australia, but he did think it worth claiming for England.
Homeschoolers are frequent users of libraries, not just for a school project, but more for the opportunity of reading new books and discovering new worlds of adventure. We are going to miss the breadth and variety of our local library and the helpful staff who have made our visits so much easier. The children have been encouraged to just go up and ask for any type of book. The librarians eagerly assist the children and help them through the search process. On our first visit they took the time to give us a tour of the library and show us how all the different sections were organised and how their systems worked. Somehow they knew we weren't from around here. :-)
It is always a joy to visit.

12 September 2005

September 11 Memorial

This link is to a very moving memorial of the events of September 11, 2001. It will be quite slow on dial up as it is a 7mb file. It is worth the wait.

America Attacked 9 11

Bob the Builder Scandal!

As part of our Sunday Family day with the children we are watching Bob the Builder - Celebrate with Bob. The children remember watching some of this back home and it was Clare's turn to pick a movie.

Shock! Horror! The local version is dubbed with American voices. No longer do Bob, Wendy and all the gang have fine English accents. They are pronouncing their "R"s like every good American!

Not only the voices are changed, but also some of the words to reflect the local names for things. Also, some of the equipment has changed sex to female or children's voices rather than adult males. All very odd to our ears expecting what we remember.

11 September 2005

Katydid - or didn't

This is a Katydid. After hearing their incessant noise all night each Summer we have been here, we have finally seen one. It looks so like a leaf it isn't surprising that we haven't seen one until now.
In Spring and Summer they start singing to each other in the evenings and seem to say "Katy did... Katy didn't ... Katy did ... " and so on all night.
This was quite a surprise for us. Normally night time is quiet time, but in Spring and Summer it is noisy time here.

10 September 2005

Learn about Identity Theft

Identity theft is a big problem. Criminals obtain details about you and your financial information - especialy your Social Security Number in the US - and then proceed to charge your cards or clear out your bank accounts or get loans in your name. It can take a long time and lots of expense to get it all cleaned up.

A great site to learn about methods these criminals use is http://www.identitytheftsecrets.com/ This fellow has a selection of on line tutorials showing how these tricks are perpetuated.
A great way to learn.


James and Peter have been enjoying themselves playing in the woods and getting dirty. I heard them call to me, "Dad! Look at this!"
And there they were with this big chunk of wood they had excavated from the heart of a tree which had fallen in some old storm.
"What do you have that for?" I asked.
"We're pretending to be woodcutters." they replied.
Of course.
Clare is just there because she wanted to be in a photo with her pretty red dress and pink gum boots.

The joys of moving

As part of the relocation back to Australia we have to sort through everything. It isn't just a matter of throwing everything in boxes and taking it with us. There are several categories
- books and movies to be sent back via boxes (done)
- Stuff that is broken and of no redeemable value (done and continuing)
- things to take with us in suitcases - hopefully about 12 will be enough.
- clothes to donate to thrift stores (opportunity shops)
- the rest is to be sold.
Naturally enough, with two weeks to go, the children are starting to get irritable caused by a combination of excitement, uncertainty, changing surroundings and wondering about the future.
Lana's job has been to sort and pack (with the children volunteering their assistance). My job has been liaising with external parties for shipping, hotel accommodation, getting the house ready at home, organising a car for when we get there, ensuring our banking is straight and so on. And continue to do my job. So we're all pretty busy.
But the biggest challenge is the daily meals using up what is in the pantry. I expect the meals for our last week will be pretty interesting!

9 September 2005

Angel of Mercy - so far

by Lana

This is another Lavender and Lace pattern called "Angel of Mercy". I started this about August last year and I still have about 20% to go. The final piece will be 16.25" x 16". The face and hands are all one over one. Click the picture for more detail and you will see how different the hands and face are.
I normally have a large project which takes a while as well as smaller ones I can do in the car, waiting at Soccer practice and so on.

Important instruction for new parents

I discovered this important instruction for new parents and felt the need to share it with you.

6 September 2005

Children in the Apple Tree

by Lana

These two designs are by Sister Maria Innocentia Hummel.

These are designs based on her paintings created between 1931 and 1946. Aren't they cute?

Immaculate Heart

by Lana

This isn't really a cross stitch - it is a tapestry done in continental stitch using Perle thread. We had the picture scanned by a fellow who converted it to a pattern in sepia tone using 10 shades.

It is an interesting result. Close up most of the detail is lost. Further away and the picture is almost three dimensional with lots of detail. This is quite frustrating to complete as you can't see anything just shades of brown!

Click the picture for more detail and sit back from the computer. You will get the same effect!

Celtic Spring

by Lana

This is Celtic Spring by Lavender and Lace. This company has many lovely patterns with flowing dresses and pretty scenes and fine needlework.
I completed this whilst we were in the US. It is part of a series including Summer, Spring, Autumn, Winter and Christmas. If you look closely you will see that the face and hands are done "one over one" - which means that it is one thread over one thread of the material. Normally crosses are two over two. This gives the completed picture finer hands and faces.

I'll have more to post as I am packing them away ready for the big trip. Once we are home we will frame quite a few and I'll take another photo - without the creases!

Clare's Baby Animal Quilt

posted by Lana

This is a quilt I started just after we moved to our new house in Australia back in 2000. It was an idea my mum and I worked out using nine animal baby cross stitches into a quilt for Clare. The patterns by Ellen Maurer-Stroh were originally free, and now they can be purchased from Patterns Online.
The first pattern was completed when I was in hospital having Clare and others whilst feeding, travelling or watching a movie.
I finally finished the quilt this winter as the children like to sit watching a movie with a blanket across them. Now it is being packed, ready for the trip back home.
Click the photo for a closer look.

5 September 2005

Who needs branches?

Peter has learned how to climb a tree without branches. He just shimmies up with his legs wrapped around the trunk.

Here he is hanging on the lowest branch with me standing underneath him.

Last time he showed us how he climbed I asked him to get down. Whilst he was coming down he said, "I hate it when I wear shorts doing this!"

A Bush Cuppa

Peter was fiddling about inside so Lana told all the boys, "You just need to go outside and play!"
Eric spotted a dip in the ground and thought, "That would be a good place to build a fire." This was the start of a plan. First he cleared everything flammable around the hole, then he filled a bucket with water in case there was any trouble. The other boys gathered bits of leaves and sticks to serve as fuel. We have trained him well in fire safety.
What could they do with a camp fire? Boil a billy! A "Billy" is a tin can for heating water used to make a nice hot cup of tea when camping. (Think of the words to "Waltzing Matilda") Eric found a tin we had just emptied in the kitchen, and fastened a twisted wire handle.

As the children didn't really want tea, they settled on hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. A much nicer alternative!
Once I had shown them how to build a fire where the air would assist the kindling burn, and the appropriate application of blowing the embers (photo 1), the water eventually boiled.
This was carefully poured into the waiting cups by Eric, with James in charge of stirring. (Picture 2) Eric was very careful to use a stick to lift the bottom of the billy tin, and the handle was cool enough to touch.

Finally they were all able to sit around the campfire and sip their hot chocolate. It was a fine execution of a plan.

Hurricane Katrina

We have had a few people ask how we fared with Hurricane Katrina. Only the outer edge brushed past here with some reasonably high winds, but no damage.
The main impact is from the catastrophe to New Orleans and the towns that were destroyed along the gulf coast. There are around one million people now homeless with no hopes of returning to their homes (or what is left of them) for at least six months or longer.

Once more the generosity of Americans is gushing out. Families are being hosted with families here and even further North. Churches are opening their camp sites, families are letting homeless families stay in their houses, one couple even let a family of nine stay in their new house whilst they remained in their old one.

If all you relied upon was the television and newspapers you would have a very distorted picture of what is happening. Try instapundit.com, michellemalkin.com, and the local Brendan Loy, the Interdictor, and many more. These sites link to other blogs giving local information of the bad, the good, the stupid and the ugly. The best article I saw on who or what was to blame for the tragedy put it simply - it appears this big wind storm called Hurricane Katrina had something to do with it!

Update: This is a very good timeline of the fore-knowledge regarding the hurricane risk to New Orleans. http://www.americandaughter.com/timeline.html

4 September 2005

Peter brings in the dough

We have tried lots of different methods in allocating the jobs that need to be done around the house. Our latest method (which seems to be working so far) is to write each task on a piece of cardboard about the size of a playing card, place them all into a bowl, and then have the children select their jobs for the following two weeks.

Currently it is Peter's job to make the bread using the bread machine. He is doing quite a good job as you see. We put in all the ingredients just after breakfast and the bread is ready by lunch time.

Hmmm. Freshly baked bread. Yum.

Web Worms

This is another odd local insect. The Fall Webworm makes a nest at the ends of branches encasing the leaves for its food.

Initially we thought it was a spider web, but we had a closer look at some nests and saw all the worms. Very odd. As they normally only come out in the Fall (Autumn) when the leaves are on the way out, they don't do too much damage.

In some places they are spread across many branches and the trees look very spooky.

Taking the back back seat

When we first arrived in the US this type of thing really amazed us. It is OK under the local law for passengers over 18 years old to ride in the back of a pick up truck (called a Utility truck or "Ute" in Australia).

We have also been surprised that there is even a debate about wearing seat belts. As it has been compulsory in Australia for so many years we always "buckle up". It feels very odd not to have that slight press of the seat belt when sitting in a vehicle. So the option of sitting loose in the back of a truck with nothing between you and the road gives us the shivers!

We saw this fellow last week. It looked as though a baby capsule had his seat in the cab so he got to "relax" in the back.

2 September 2005

Gas/Petrol prices - Hurricane Katrina

Yesterday $2.61 gallon
Today $3.45 gallon
Earlier this year $1.65
July to Sep 2003 $1.35

Australian prices for comparison are $1.20 (aud) litre = $3.49 (US) gallon.

Locals always marvelled at how much Australians pay for petrol. Now we all are about the same but the price change is a bit of a shock! The overnight increases are a direct result of the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The area hit by the Hurricane supplies about 25% of US oil and has a sizable percentage of the oil processing facilities. The port at New Orleans is one of the five largest ports in the world and it is off line.

Over 1 million people are homeless - and many will likely never be able to go back. Their homes are either destroyed by the winds, subsequent flood, fire, looting or the toxic sludge left behind by the waters when the water is pumped out of the area.

It is now time to help those affected by the Hurricane Katrina disaster with prayers and donations.

Homeward bound ...

Well, our time here in the US is coming to an end. Our visa expires at the end of September and after weighing up the costs and hassles of renewing it, we have decided to return home.
So we now start packing. We are only taking with us books, movies, clothes and the electronic stuff we use often that will work on Australian power. The rest we sell.

As you can see the children are getting right into packing! That's Peter checking whether the boxes are strong enough.

We will continue to update this blog when we get home. Bruggie Tales has been a great way for us to keep in touch with our friends and family and now we have lots of US friends too.