Sunday, 25 December 2016

Christmas 2016

Christmas is all about family ... and running through them to score a well-worked rugby try.

White Christmas. Though I've never dreamed of it, Utah does a pretty decent job of making sure it happens.

plus a couple more photos taken this festive season.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Micah's Eighth

We were fortunate to be able to have a number of members of extended family and friends join us for Micah's eighth birthday. Traditionally, in our faith, eight is the age at which children are baptised -- formally joining the faith -- and thus, a significant event for them and family. Though we had moved further away from some family (but closer to others), with enough planning family -- including Rochelle and her family, my parents, Martin and his family, as well as Elijah -- were all able to converge for a few days to help celebrate both events.

We held a loosely-based-on-Star-Wars brunch party for Micah's birthday on the day itself, settling into a favourite spot in Balboa Park. The party itself was a more traditional Australian fare, with homemade food and games that Gaynor and I had enjoyed as children and that we had done at many of the other children's earlier parties. Gaynor baked up cinnamon rolls (a-la Princess Leia's iconic New Hope hair), fruit platter, lolly lightsabers on the cupcakes, and Jabba the Hutt meringues. Ariana and Bryna were great at taking the lead in running the games, including egg and spoons races, pass-the-parcel, lightsaber battles (half pool noodles were a great hit, literally), a water bomb fight, and a homemade Jedi training remote piñata.

Bryna & Micah teach the American children at Micah's 8th birthday party a traditional British/Australia children's game of Pass the Parcel (parcel itself is mid-child, upper left).
The children's homemade lightsabers (blue-painted broom handles with a grip-wrapped & decorated end) were put to good use, beating the snot (or at least candy) out of a homemade Jedi training remote.

The baptism itself was a week later with some local-ish and not-so-usually-local friends (Oliver and Vanessa!) joining us for the service. We try to have this as a seperate event from the birthday as it's significant in it's own right but also so that the out and out fun of a birthday bash doesn't become convoluted with the more solemn but joyful time of the baptism.

It's always good spending time just hanging out, chatting with family, generally catching up, and being in each other's lives again in a more immediate way but attending the LDS temple together draws out another important, spiritual aspect of our relationships. Having the San Diego Temple only twenty minutes drive (plus traffic!) from our home is a marked benefit to living here. Occasions such as these remind me how grateful I am for family and friends and all that they bring to my life!

Some family members who made the trek for Micah's baptism (& 8th birthday celebration) gather outside the LDS San Diego Temple.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Travels and Farewells with the Children

Part of the deal of moving back to the US was that Gaynor -- who I had to do a lot of negotiating with -- would get to see her children at least once a year. For those that we brought with us, that was never going to be a problem. For those that had their own lives already running in Australia, it would be more of a challenge. Josh & Mara flew over to spend some time with us from Thanksgiving through to Gaynor's birthday in mid-January. It coincided with end-of-academic year and summer holidays for them, so it worked out well. Apart from the usual sparkling banter, we enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner with some family on the same continent ...
The also now traditional Thanksgiving Day Dinner. Glad to be had with family!

... played some cricket ...

We couldn't find a nearby cricket field and so a little used baseball diamond with 'natural' wickets was the order of the day.
Micah has a go while Ari is prepared in case he really connects with it. Josh tidies up behind the stumps.

... enjoyed a tour of the Anza-Borrego Desert with friends ...

We tried to stand there and enjoy the grandeur of nature but just couldn't stomach it for very long. We are shallow people.
Just like the Mormon Battalion may have tried, everyone has a go at getting out of the box canyon vertically.

... and spent time together at the beach.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, even daylight. Gaynor's birthday wish was a bit of time together watching the sun set at the beach.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

2015 in Review / 2016 Ahead

Gaynor has been through a bigger year this year than many in recent memory. Apart from the turmoil at the beginning of the year with a husband looking for work and the uncertainty that meant of where she may end up living, Gaynor carried on with quite a few hours of part-time work at the local schools. Then I left for the US and she took on the tasks of organising to ship our goods, selling, throwing or giving away what we weren't taking with us. On top of that, cleaning and final preparations for renting the house kept the stress levels at DefCon 4 until leaving for the US in mid-July. She seemed fairly happy to have me around again and so I took that as a good sign. The rest of the year was re-acclimating to southern California for everything that was the same as last time and acclimating to the new things about San Diego. Drivers licences, getting the children into school and dealing with that bureaucracy, setting up more of the house, unpacking our goods when they arrived, ... you get the idea. This year promises to be not much less eventful than recent ones. Though she'll still have all the children on the forefront of her mind with only three needing immediate, at-hand help she has a little more time available. She expects to fill that, initially, with volunteer work and -- probably around late August, after the children return for the new school year -- will be looking for paid employment. Exactly what is yet to be determined but she's not a great fan of typical US employment practices.

Joshua After a tough last half of 2014, Josh continued working on his comedy, developing and performing various shows at a number of locations around Canberra and Melbourne. He resumed his university studies in the second half of this year, moving in with a couple of friends after we fled the country. I think 2016 will be more of the same with shows at the Canberra Comedy Festival and the Melbourne International Comedy Festival already on his radar, as well as running a room in Canberra that regularly hosts comedy acts. University may also get a look in as well, if nothing else, 'to keep Mum & Dad happy'.

Elijah continued his volunteer missionary work in New Zealand and is set to complete that late June/early July. He has been enjoying his time there and sends almost weekly updates about his activities. We look forward to spending more time with him again when he returns. Unfortunately, my work visa conditions means that he won't be able to stay with us longer than three months unless he decides he wants to stay on his own terms, say as a student. I don't think anything is set in stone at this point, so we'll see how it turns out as the year progresses.

Mara successfully completed her first year of university studies where she is undertaking a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance Performance. She has really enjoyed the learning, the fresh challenges, and the performances. I don't think she has enjoyed the regular early mornings so much, taking strongly after her father in that regard. Her and Josh were both able to join us in the US for Thanksgiving and Christmas and it was just lovely to have them around, enjoying regular interactions again. There's been plenty of laughing to be had. :) Mara is looking at another year of the same -- more challenges, more learning -- as she develops her talents. Contrary to her opinion, I don't think she needs to develop her chocolate eating skill set much further.

Ariana closed out 2015 having starting Year 11 twice, once in Canberra and again in San Diego. As always, she's been taking her studies very seriously -- the common thread between both high schools was the International Baccalaureate program she enrolled in -- and continuing to try her hand at all and sundry extra-curricular activities. In Canberra, outside of her school's purview, she played cricket during the summer, representing the ACT in regional competitions as well as playing in a local boys team. In school in San Diego she's become involved with the academic league (glorified trivia) and improv groups, and helping in the library. Outside of school she's followed in her older brothers' footsteps and has taken up rugby. They have a seven-a-side season first with a few high schools combining to field a team, followed by a full 15-a-side round of games. The latter most depends on how many girls they can recruit to join up. Having watched a lot of rugby over time as well as plenty of backyard mucking about with her siblings, she has a good sense of the game and how it's played. Now she just needs to further develop the skills to go with that. With this year having two weeks away from home at Girl's camp and FSY.

Bryna enjoyed her last semester at her school in Canberra, participating in many sports as well as bringing home a decent report card. Ballet is still her main activity besides schooling and she's keen to take that as far as she can. We loved her dance school in Canberra and part of the challenge of a transition to a new area is re-finding institutions of this nature that will be up to the standard -- not to mention sporting the right kind of culture -- that will enable reaching one's potential. She's been attending two different schools, with a class each, and it looks like one is more our style of place so she'll continue there, picking up more classes.

Micah didn't find the first school we enrolled him in particularly satisfying. Lunch and recess breaks that were too short left him not enough time to make friends. Since Micah is a very sociable, this is, in our opinion, much more of an indictment on the system and format they had at the school. We managed to wrangle him into another nearby charter school that follows principles and guides much more inline with our preferences. They even offer German as the second language, which works well around our house. :)

Fenton mostly feels like he's been doing whatever has been needed to provide for the family. He finds it easier to think of this in the third person. :) I think the new job should work out well on a long term basis -- as long as they don't fire me for incompetence -- with plenty of opportunities in a thriving research environment. So, you know, should be good that way.