Back in the USA!

We couldn’t leave Australia without visiting the Great Barrier Reef. 

Goodbye Sydney…

Before we left Sydney, we wanted to get in as much Sydney had to offer as possible…

After Samantha’s Star birthday party in January, I wanted to just do a simple party for Noah at Wizzy World or something, for my sanity… buy James was very against that idea.  He really wants to keep all our kids “equal”. I understand where he’s coming from, but a 5th birthday is very different from a 3rd. I really think Noah would enjoy a Wizzy World birthday more than something at home but James was very adamant… too bad he wasn’t the one planning the party.

So, we changed it from Wizzy World to doing it at the beach… well, because we can. But, at the last minute, we nixed that idea too as it would just add that much more logistical issues for us as well as our guests, so we decided to do it just at home.  So, now, being at home, it couldn’t just be without any decorations or anything, now it had to be just as good as Sam’s, considering there would be a lot of similar guests. So, we (or should I say “I”) decided on a Thomas the Tank Engine theme since Noah is really into these trains and loves Thomas.

I looked high an low for any and all Thomas decor… I found some hats, plates, cups and goodie bags, but no pinata. The kids LOVE pinatas… so guess what? I had to make it myself.  I must be crazy! I started with a basic model using cardstock just to get an idea.. then I went for the real thing. I think it turned out pretty good…what do you think?


The body is a powder detergent box which I slashed a bunch of holes and cuts into to make it easier to break because it was pretty thick. But since it was a box, it was easy to fill it with all the candy and toys. I tried to limit the candy and put in a bunch of toy cars and blowers and toys. I even put in some healthier snacks… well, I tried. Then the front was made of black cardstock and I drew the face just on paper and glued it on. the blue is just blue wrapping papers and the rest was just various cardstock I had on hand for the red and yellow. It took most of 1 night.  My big problem is that I didn’t attach the string before finishing it so at the last minute I had to improvise and punch holes in the top to get string attached so it could hang. Not very pretty, but oh well. Here is the pinata in action:


and then the mad rush for candy…


So, I made the pinata on the Monday before the party and it wasn’t so bad so I had another great idea… let’s make Thomas Trains that the kids could sort of ride… I was inspired by my friend Christine who makes tons of toys for her son Ian with just cardboard and duct tape, so I thought I could do it too… so, starting Tuesday at like 8pm, I began my madness


I did enlist some help of an assistant


a couple hours later, and our creation was complete:


So, silly me, we can’t just have 1 or all the kids will fight over it, so, I made 3…





And then, there was one little detail left call the cake… yup, I made my own Thomas Cake.


I was going to make a 3D Thomas Cake that looks just like the toy - as inspired by my friend Shell who did it for her son a few months earlier. But after all the train making and the amount of work it was going to entail, I decided on just doing Thomas’ face. So, I used fondant for the first time… store bought (I’m not that crazy - well, I did think about making the fondant myself). So, it’s 2 round chocolate cakes with a layer of strawberry preserves in the middle covered in blue fondant. Then the face is made in fondant using black icing gel to outline the face. I think it turned out great, if I do say so myself. Noah seemed quite happy with his birthday party and I was quite happy when it was all over.


So, happy 3rd birthday to my little man…

now, how am I going to top this next year? Maybe Chuck E. Cheese? haha…

 Back in September, James and I attended the Youths Off the Street Charity dinner at the Hilton in downtown Sydney.  Though I wish we had more time to do more charity work, unfortunately, we only get to do the bare minimum.  Luckily, James has been involved with this organization through work where he has helped mentor inner city kids in Sydney.  This dinner was to introduce scholarship winners to those who have been a part of the organization.  Some of these kids’ stories are very inspiring… I felt a bit unaccomplished next to them.  I hope these scholarships make a big impact in their lives… you never know the impact you have on another’s life - you just hope it’s for the positive.

In any case, we went to this dinner to help support this organization and ended up winning a couple silent auctions.  First, we won/bought a dinner at Aria and tickets to see the Australian Ballet’s performance of Edge of Night. Unfortunately, we didn’t find out until after we won the auction that the ballet only performed from Nov. 12 - 24th and the baby was due Nov. 17th… this proved to be a problem.  Luckily, we had friends celebrating their wedding anniversary in that time and were happy to buy the tickets for the ballet off us…

So, what does this all have to do with a photo session? well, we won/bought 2 silent auctions that night. The second being a photography session at Gap Studios in Frenchs Forrest.  Luckily, that is near to us as we had no clue when we bid on it. This would be our first real family photograph since Shanghai and we were excited.  We dressed up in blue jeans and white shirts/dresses and I have to say, the pictures came out great! See for yourself!


I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time… the First Day of School! It’s such a big milestone in a child’s life and I couldn’t believe Samantha was old enough to be starting school.  Unlike some others, I wasn’t really sad about it… I was really excited! I saw it as a great next step for Samantha and for myself.  Unlike preschool, Samantha would now be going to school 5 days a week, learning to be more independent and leaving the sheltered, yet lovely, world of the Children’s Cottage. 

Samantha has been attendng some type of school program since she was 18 months old, beginning in Shanghai at the Portman’s pre-school. That was only 3 days/week and technically 1.5hrs drop-off and another 1.5hrs optional mommy and me playtime but through that and through 2 years at the Children’s Cottage, not once did Samantha ever have any issues leaving me to go off and play - so I figured, kindy would be the same.  Wow, was I way off!  My otherwise independent little girl became the one crying every morning, hanging onto my leg and refusing to go into class.  My extroverted child became the shy mouse that need the extra attention of the class aid to help settle her each morning.  What happened?  I’m not so sure.  She had been so excited to start school since we’d been talking about it for months and she was so excited to wear her new uniform, but once we got to the actual school… she turned into someone I didn’t even recognize.  thank goodness Lolo and Lola were here to watch Annabelle and Noah. I couldn’t even imagine what a scene it would be having to sooth Samantha while chasing Noah all around the campus and probably trying to breastfeed Annabelle at the same time…

So, one problem could have been my fault… she started school about 10 days later than everyone else.  I know, I know… bad mommy. But we had our planned trip to Fiji and I really didn’t think it would make a big difference. The first couple weeks are just a settling in time and I really thought Samantha would have no problems in that department.  I’m still not convinced that was the reason since she started crying the first morning before even realizing that the other kids had already started school the previous week.. so it had to be something else, right?  I think it was just that it was so different from preschool.  It was bigger. There were bigger kids. And she didn’t know a single person even though we had attended the kindy orientation and the afternoon tea to meet some other kids. Also, I think, going from 10 weeks of school holidays and 2 weeks of fun in Fiji straight to a new school was probably a bit jarring.  So, in the end, I was an emotional wreck, not because my little girl was growing up, but because my little girl was so scared. It broke my heart to leave… but I had to.  Of course, when it came time to pick her up, she was a smiles and laughter!

Before the tears:


To come… someday

So, today is June 28, officially more than 5 months since my last post. I think I win the award for worst blogger. I can come up with a litany of excuses which, to me, are all valid, but really… there’s no excuse. I’m not sure why it’s taken so long. I keep telling myself, “hey, I need to update the blog” but then, I just play “words with friends” instead - my new time sucker… damn these smart phones.  I guess I can actually update this from my phone.  I wonder if there is an easy Word Press app… haha.

 So, here is the plan… I will attempt to create blog headings for all those great moments I’ve already forgotten and will, hopefully, go back and pretend I wrote them in real time. We’ll see…

So, it’s not the end of January yet and I’ve already broken my New Year’s Resolution.  My blogging hasn’t been very fruitful.  I’ve been VERY busy!  My mother left last week and I’ve been fending for myself which is going OK, but which also means I have very little time for much else.  Thank goodness Annabelle is a relatively easy baby and Noah is improving everyday.

So, since Samantha’s birthday we’ve done a lot.  We were planning to go to the zoo on the Monday after, but it turned out to be a really HOT and very sunny day. We decided it best not to be out all day so just took it easy. I was still recovering from the weekend. So, instead we went on Tuesday which turned out to be 1000x better as the temperature was almost 10degrees cooler and a bit of cloud cover which is the ideal weather for walking all around a zoo.  I love Taronga Zoo because it is small. You can easily do the whole thing in a few hours and it has the best views of any zoo, anywhere.  I have an annual pass as well as a guest pass so it really only costs me $5 for parking so we try to go as often as we can but this is the first time we took all 3 kids - though Annabelle literally slept the entire time.  Since it was my Mom’s last day, I wanted to do something very Sydney-ish with her.  We watched the seal show, saw the new baby elephants and the new baby hippo.  The kids splashed in the water and rode the sky safari. All in all, a very lovely day.

The next day, not so lovely, as I had to take my mother to the airport and say goodbye.  How the hell did 2 1/2 months go by so fast? and I felt like we did nothing. It was all such a blur. I guess the first week was Halloween and just waiting for the baby to come. The second week the baby was born. The next two weeks was just getting used to it all. Then it was Thanksgiving and James and Sam went to the States. By the time they came back, it was a week before Christmas. Then it was New Years and we went up to Forster. Came back and went to a birthday party the next weekend and the Sam’s birthday, her party and then, that’s it… Crazy! I am just so lucky my mother could be here for as long as she was. Not every mother is so inclined to drop everything and fly to the other side of the world just to help their child so I appreciate her so much.  I don’t know how I would have done it without her.  She is my rock and my role model. I only hope to be as good as she is.

So, Mom left and James and I were all on our own.  On Wednesday, luckily James stayed home in the morning so I could take my mom to the airport alone which was nice. That afternoon, when Sam, Annabelle and I went to pick up Noah from daycare, I realized I totally forgot that Sam had a Kindy playdate at school.  Thank goodness Noah’s daycare is right next to Sam’s school or I would have totally missed it. So, I took all three to introduce Sam to her new schoolmates and to try to meet some new mums.  I actually met a few I liked and got along well so we’ll see how it goes. It was 5pm by the time we got home and I still had to make dinner.  Somehow, I whipped together a lasagna and it came out really great! By the time James came home, I just totally passed out.

Friday was going to be my real test having all 3 kids home all day long but luckily, we went to visit my friend, Shell, who just had a new baby girl a week before.  She’s a trooper and Baby Olivia is adorable.  She’s got to other boys Sam and Noah’s age so it worked out really well. The kids all played really well together with very little issue.  We were there all day.  Shell said she didn’t mind as it kept her kids busy too and we were able to catch up a bit along with our other friend, Rae. So it was a win/win. That made for a pretty easy day.

Then Saturday was a beautifully gorgeous day so we ended up heading out to Jamberoo! A big waterpark about 2 hours south of us.  We went with our friends, Christine and Rene, and their almost 3yr old.  I was really worried how we’d do with all 3 kids and just the two of us at a waterpark but it was actually a really good experience.  We’ve been there twice last yr so we knew what to expect so that helped.  But since it was the last weekend of school holidays, it was packed! But, packed in Australia is not even a light day back in the US.  We set up our tents and picnic baskets under some trees and tag teamed on the rides.  It helped that Christine and Rene only had 1 kid so they could take 1 of ours on the rides while I stayed back with Annabelle.  The weather was warm and comfortable - really the perfect weather.  The kids all had a great time.  Noah listened well and never ran off.  They ate their lunch and played nicely with each other.  It was so wonderful! And then, on cue, they both passed out on the ride home - Noah for the rest of the night.  We love Jamberoo.

We had lofty ambitions of going to another beach on Sunday as the weather was so lovely but I was just dead to the world Sunday morning. I don’t think I got out of bed until 10am (Thank you James).  I was totally pooped. I think the last week totally caught up with me and I was in no condition to do much so we kept it low key and just stayed home - though I did do 5 loads of laundry.  Now, typically, you’d say laundry, no big deal. How hard is it to put clothes in the washer and then in the dryer? But, I’ve become more Australian and am regularly hanging clothes out on the line. So, it’s a lot more work. And I started packing for Fiji since we leave early Wed morning.

So, today is Monday (well, technically early Tuesday morning) and I had a whole list of to do’s and all 3 kids to do them with. I was totally dreading it but I had so much to do.  I had 2 more loads of laundry to do before loading the kids in the car and heading back to Chatswood.  I had to go to the bank to withdraw money. Then go to the post office to order Fiji dollars. Then to the library to return Mom’s books. Over to the shops to reward the kids for being so good on the first three things with a smoothie from Boost and grab lunch. Overall, it actually went really smooth.  I used our double Phil & Ted’s stroller with Annabelle in the front in her carseat and Noah in the back seat. Samantha walked, though she complained almost the whole time.  Annabelle slept the whole time. Noah sat nicely in the stroller and Sam kept up.  And they ate lunch without any chaos and I didn’t have to yell at them even once - wow!  We went to a few stores to buy sunscreen, bug spray, shampoo, etc to get ready for the trip and it wasn’t bad at all. I can totally handle three kids on my own. That is until we got home.  Noah wouldn’t nap and Sam was getting bratty. I haven’t seen Samantha this naughty in a long time. I made her get off the computer (her favorite activity) and she had the biggest tantrum. She ended up in time out pretty much the rest of the afternoon. It was not pretty. And it was loud which then set off Annabelle. Noah was the good one for a change. I was exhausted and fed up and still had to make dinner. Ugh… by the time James got home, I was in a foul mood.  At one point, while I was cooking dinner, I actually drank a bottle of beer. I just needed something to cool me down (it’s super hot and humid today) and something to take the edge off. I haven’t had a beer in years and this one actually tasted pretty good.

And now it’s 12:26am and I’m writing this blog entry instead of sleeping.  Ok, off to bed to do it all again tomorrow. Wish me luck.  Only 2 more sleeps until Fiji…

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