Friday, 26 December 2008

Christmas 2008

Since we went last year to Utah, it seemed only fair this year to invite the chosen frozen down for some slightly warmer Californian weather. Martin, Stacie, their three lovely girls and my youngest brother Donovan have all found time to join us. So for those who could not -- because they had a better weather offer south of the Equator, for instance -- we wish you all a joyous Christmas and a productive 2009.

Christmas Greetings 2007

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Fire Safety II

Just a short note to let people know that we haven't been affected by the most recent fires in southern Californian. Though they were much closer than last year the winds directed them away from our place.

Given their regular recurrence it is easy to be motivated to have emergency plans in place. We discuss them a few times a year with the children and have already organised many things that will be of great help if we are ever in a difficult situation.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

ITIN, you TIN, no TIN

As mentioned previously, one of the main aspects of moving internationally is becoming a part of, and learning new systems. Inevitably, one will encounter the tax system and figuring this one out can be a major achievement. Australian, Dutch and German tax systems were, for me, relatively straightforward. I have pretty simple financial affairs and have always completed and filed my own tax return. In the Netherlands, as in Australia, you can download a computer program (the Dutch have one for Linux, Mac and Windows) which asks you a series of questions, has you report certain numbers and then lets you submit it electronically, usually with a refund showing up in your bank account a few weeks to a month later. Even with my limited Dutch, I needed little help in completing it.

The US seem to have taken a different route, or not travelled there yet. When tax return time rolled around in April, and after looking through a bit of tax documentation, I determined that I needed professional help. I picked the name of a well-known tax agent organisation and gave them a call but because of my immigration status (non-immigrant alien) the average agent couldn't help me and so I was eventually passed onto someone who could prepare my particular tax return form (a 1040NR). Since only I have a US Social Security number and in order to claim Gaynor and the children as dependants, we had to apply for Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN, usually said 'I-TIN') for each of them.

1st application: Rejected due to uncertified proof-of-identity documentation. Needed to reply within 45 days.
* Certification of documentation not so straightforward since Californian public notaries cannot certify copies of documents. Eventually worked around this by having a public notary certify (and receive an oath) of my own affidavit that they are true copies. This appears to be acceptable to the IRS. I think they just care for the stamp. :)
* Before figuring out the workaround with the public notaries, I waited two hours in an IRS office in Laguna Niguel so that they could sight the documentation, thus circumventing the need for a public notary who could not certify document copies. Result: man at the counter told me he didn't know if I was even allowed to apply for ITINs and it was my responsibility to go find out.
* Spoke to the IRS who told me I couldn't get an extension to the 45 days but as long as it was postmarked within that time that it would be acceptable.
* Resubmitted with certified documentation, with letter sent certified mail and postmarked within the 45 day time limit (just).
* Received a letter shortly after stating that I had failed to respond within 45 days and that my return would be sent forward for processing.

2nd application: Spoke with IRS about the 45-day-limit rejection letter. They suggested that the postmark had been ignored and that I should resubmit:.
* I prepare a new submission -- knowing now how to get a public notary to 'certify' the documentation -- but before I send that in (it takes me a few weeks to get everything done) I receive another letter stating that the 1st application has been rejected due to an unknown visa type.
* Letter didn't actually state that it was an unknown visa type -- I found that out after calling the IRS to discuss the letter. Apparently the E3 visa isn't on their books. In all fairness, it has only been around for 3 years.
* IRS suggested that I resubmit the application but leave the visa information part of the form blank. The idea being that the visa information of Gaynor and the children was not needed to establish identity or eligibility to be in the country, only mine mattered.
* 2nd application aborted.

3rd application: Resubmitted all forms and 'certified' documentation for Gaynor and the children, leaving their visa information blank, as suggested. Essentially, this is a completely new application.
* A few weeks later, received rejection notices saying that the application was outside the 45 day time limit and that the tax return would be sent forward for processing.
* Spoke with the IRS who had no real better suggestion than to tell us to make a new application. Could not answer my simple question of "And why would it be treated any differently this time?"
* Thinking I could get to the root of the problem and speak to the IRS Unit who actually handled the applications, I was told by the representative that there was no phone number I could contact them on. And the representative could only guess at the reasons based on the limited information they had access to.
* One IRS representative -- who was the first one who had ever apologised for the difficulties -- asked to speak with Gaynor, who is actually one of the submitters. After explaining most of the above history, Gaynor was put through to the legal department to ascertain her eligibility to actually apply for the ITIN. After speaking with legal, who confirmed her eligibility, she was put through to a representative who was going to make a note on her record so that when we personally went to the IRS to apply we wouldn't be rejected based on the employee there not knowing so much. This final representative then informed Gaynor, when she finally got through, that she (the representative) had no way of knowing that Gaynor had just spoken with legal and could not make any such note.
* A week or so later I received a letter from the IRS stating that I owe them approximately $410 in taxes.

Current status: Have not paid the claimed taxes yet. I distrust the ability of the IRS to return it when the ITINs are finally assigned. Not even sure the IRS can sort out the ITINs :) In what we hope is the last resort, Gaynor and I are planning to visit an IRS office together and make the application personally. Hope springs eternal.

I used to think that Americans didn't like paying taxes and hated the IRS for that reason. Now I'm more of the opinion that they hate paying taxes and hate the IRS because they are incompetent. I used to think that Americans, like most people, decried an increase in taxes but, having personally lived in countries with higher tax rates, I just thought they didn't understand that generally one received more services for those tax dollars (or euros). Now I'm of the opinion that they don't want to hand over more tax dollars because their incompetent bureaucracies have wasted what they already have, so why would you give them more?

These may be harsh opinions -- and they may change as we live here longer -- but I actually feel like we had less difficulties with German bureaucracy (even when done via the Dutch system) than we have had here.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

One Year Here Again

Well it's that time again -- that's right, the one year anniversary[1] of shifting to another new country. The transition this time has been easier in many ways but it's never as plain sailing as one would wish for. Of course there is the fact that you are in a new culture -- and despite the US culture being generally well known abroad -- one must learn a new education system, a new health care system (our experience so far in the US means gives us a liberal interpretation of that last word), make new friends and mostly figure out how things work and where things are. In short, to settle in.

We used the anniversary for a couple of things. Firstly, we celebrated with lunch at BJ's Restaurant followed by a swim in the afternoon at San Onofre beach. BJ's is quickly becoming one of our favourite places. The food is really quite good, the pricing is pretty reasonable and the home-brewed root beer is sublime.

Secondly, we asked the children some of the things they currently like and dislike about where we've been for the past year. We gave each of the children a chance to voice their opinions -- except for Micah, who remained generally self-obsessed.

  • Joshua: Dislikes the politics, the average American IQ. Likes that there are plenty of church kids around.
  • Elijah: Dislikes the chocolate and no rugby. Likes the obsession with other sports and the climate.
  • Mara: Dislikes the chocolate and that the ballet schools have too many people in each class. Likes that school starts later (8:55 instead of the German 7:40) and that everyone likes her accent.
  • Ariana: Dislikes the patriotic hype -- 'the greatest country on Earth' is mentioned every morning along with the Pledge of Allegiance -- and missing some of the German bakery treats. Likes the warm climate and the doughnuts.
  • Bryna: Dislikes walking home from the bus stop (bit too hot some days). Likes kindergarten, doughnuts and the trampoline.
  • Gaynor: Dislikes the chocolate, health care and the sugar content in many foods. Likes the proximity of church, the climate and the cost of clothes.

For myself, there are number of irks about where we are at, some due to being new and others because of the culture and all that entails. I'll probably blog about some of these in the coming months, if nothing else than to get them out of my system a little. On the other hand, there are many great things to enjoy about living here. The general attitude is much more similar to what I am used to in Australia, the weather is a definite bonus (again, much more like Australia) and the availability of many things is a decided boon.

At this stage it is unclear how long we'll be here. Though we will probably stay until at least late 2010, beyond that there are no plans to stay and no plans to leave. We'll continue to make periodic assessments and just see how it goes.

[1] The anniversary was actually end of August but it has taken me this long to get the post finished.

Monday, 15 September 2008

More on Micah

Micah is growing fast. In fact he is probably our largest baby at this stage. He's a good feeder, pretty decent sleep and is already wearing clothes for 3-6 month-olds at his 2 month mark. He's quite strong, doing a good job of supporting himself with his legs, and is also very smiley. He's been grinning back at faces (and sometimes miscellaneous objects) for about 3 weeks now. He's also responding to some kinds of tickling.

Friends and family gathered for Micah's naming and blessing.

Though nigh on 8 weeks old, Micah has already been smiling for a significant portion of his life, as captured in this photo by Ari.

Micah looks down on the lesser people.

Micah considers his future with this thoughtful pose.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Baseball with the Angels

Recently a good friend invited Joshua, Elijah and I to join him at an Anaheim Angels baseball game. Now baseball isn't something I grew up playing with softball being the generally preferred option that is closest. In the past, I've tried to watch the US-based 'World' Series at least twice and found the games like watching paint dry. And considering I don't mind sitting down to watch cricket, saying baseball is boring appears to be an obvious contradiction.

However, I was prepared to give it another go and certainly in a live context. In general, I usually enjoy even mediocre live entertainment as much or more than very good or great 'canned' stuff. And baseball on television definitely comes across to me as canned. So we headed to Angel Stadium on a week night to take in the game against the Tampa Bay Rays. Both the boys prefer the Angels to the other team in LA, as evidenced by their ability to procure hats as needed. And so, true to my expectations, the game, atmosphere and traditions were a lot of fun and very enjoyable. We stumbled through the never-known words to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during an innings change-over and bantered with an ice-cream salesman who was plying his trade throughout the stands. I even predicted the home run by Vlad Guerrero in the fifth innings!

Fenton and the boys at a baseball game.
The boys and I at the game. Note the dopey looks on the faces of the confused Australians. What, no wickets??

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Announcing the Sixth

After almost 8 months of expectation we are very pleased to announce the arrival of our sixth child, Micah Frederick. After a couple of weak false starts, Gaynor went into labour proper Wednesday 16th of July around noon. True to predictability, Gaynor's parents -- who are visiting for a while to help out with the birth -- had left that morning for a few days in Las Vegas and were recalled for active duty after a pleasant lunch in Barstow. Gaynor had called me at work first, suggesting it was time for me to come home and also contacted her midwife. By mid to late afternoon Gaynor's attendants were pretty much assembled.

The birthing team had everything prepared
The birthing team had everything prepared.

Since it was a home birth we'd previously discussed with the children who would like to be there and who would rather not. Joshua and Mara had chosen to stay and both were very helpful during the labour and delivery. Gaynor's father had volunteered to look after the other children, including Elijah's friend visiting from Germany and took them off to a movie. By the end of the movie the boy had not yet shown up and so we arranged for Elijah and his friend to stay overnight with some friends of the family. Ariana and Bryna came home for a quick bite and then off to bed. They were both very excited to think that their new brother would be there by morning.

There was a bit of a wait while the labour progressed but by late evening it was down to business. He was born at 10:02pm but took a few minutes before expressing his displeasure at the world.

Gaynor cuddles her newborn.
Gaynor cuddles her newborn.

Overall the water birth at home worked marvellously well. The midwives were wonderful, the attendees performed well and, above all, Gaynor did great. She got through it with lots of ice crunching, ginger beer and hand squeezing. Both her and Micah are doing very well. After his first feed, he weighed in at 3.876kg (8 pound, 8 and a half ounces) and measured 53cm.

He's currently being loved to death by all his siblings, friends of siblings, grandparents and parents.

Margaret admires the tired little fella.
Margaret admires the tired little fella.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Language Update

Of course, one of the challenges of moving countries is the language barrier. The shift to Germany meant an obvious difficulty but the move to California has brought its own subtle problems. In Germany the challenge was to learn a whole new language, in California it's retention. Retention of both our Australian dialect and our German. The former is not such a large hill but the latter takes a lot more effort.

The retention of our Australian was mostly put on hold while we were in Germany, in favour of them spending more time leanring and speaking German. Besides, there wasn't much competition between the two, being so different. Living in a culture with a different dialect, on the other hand, is much more subtle. Most of the 'replacement words' -- 'vacation' for 'holiday', 'parking lot' for 'car park' -- are generally already known and very easy to understand even if they've never been heard before. Remembering to use them in context when speaking to an American is a bit harder. Americans are less likely to have heard the other version than we are to have heard theirs.

A couple of our children are picking up a few accented words. Bryna has a few and Elijah tends to adapt his accent to his audience. It's most obvious talking with him immediately after picking him following time with his friends. At first, we'd remind him but I'm pretty sure he's not doing it consciously, so now I just let it go.

Watching Australian television shows wasn't something we could do in Germany -- everything is overdubbed there -- but the children have a few they watch religiously here. H2O, The Saddle Club and even Bindi the Jungle Girl all get a regular airing. In addition, we take our sports education very seriously and enjoy many rugby games, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Reds as well as internationals.

And so to German. To be honest, my German has never been that great. I figured out enough to hold a grammatically poor conversation for about 20 minutes. I can read a bit and know plenty of less used words that the rest of the family didn't need to know, like Rechtschutzversicherung (legal insurance) and Ölwannedichtung (oil sump gasket). Gaynor and the children on the other hand did wonderfully. Gaynor could teach a 45 minute lesson at church and each child was passing German as a subject at their school. In the case of Joshua, Elijah and Mara that was at the academic high school. Ariana spoke fluently and without an accent with all her friends and Bryna really only spoke German.

Gaynor and I have spoken a number of times about steps we'd take to help the children retain their fluency in German. Unfortunately for Bryna her only chance was for us to mostly speak German at home and that is something very hard to do when it's your non-native tongue. Bryna now only remembers a few German words and phrases and almost always speaks in English. Her transition was complete within the first six months of our arrival. The retention improves with the older children and Joshua, Elijah and Mara seem to recall virtually all of theirs with Ariana somewhere in between.

However, we are of the firm opinion that without constant practice and opportunities to use it they'd lose it. So to that end, we've tried to bring as many German books and DVDs with us as possible and we've recently had an influx of books and DVDs when one of Elijah's old school mates came to visit for a few weeks. We also have an incentive scheme for them to read and report on German books, we subscribe to a monthly church-related magazine in German, a friend in Germany sends us copies of one of the children's favourite television programs Die Pfefferkörner (English description) and every Wednesday is supposed to be 'Deutschsprechtag' -- 'German speaking day'. I say 'supposed to be' because not everyone remembers for all of the day but we are mostly making an effort! Hopefully these opportunities and ideas will be enough to help them retain the lion's share of their ability.

And finally, speaking of languages, we've set the children the challenge of being fluent in three languages by their eighteenth birthday. Some have picked French and others Spanish but we'll see how they go. By the way, we've been pleased to see that southern California, at least, is very bilingual. Of course there are many people who are native or fluent Spanish speakers but there are also many stores that have signs in both languages. Perhaps 'American' as a synonym for 'monolingual' is on the way out -- much to the chagrin of some US citizens I'm sure.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

More Room to Read

Well not actually more room to read as more more room to place some of our reading material. One of the things about moving internationally with very little is obviously fitting/filling out the new place. Gaynor has had pretty much free reign in this regard, though probably a bit slower than she would have liked. After our initial spending spree -- Gaynor spent a day at IKEA buying the initial essentials like beds, cookware etc. -- we've been slowly acquiring furniture and other bits and pieces.

The most recent piece is for the things we have the most of: books. By volume, they make up about a third of all that we shipped. Though we had picked up a couple of bookcases here and there, all for free, we needed one or two large, main ones. So in a desperate attempt to save money and get what we wanted, it was agreed that I would make them.

Fortunately, a friend and work colleague has a very well equipped woodshop and offered not just it but his expertise as well. The final results can be seen in the accompanying photographs with the final dimensions being 243 x 100 x 32cm, 8 x 3 1/3 x 1 1/12 foot, in the old (and current American) parlance. I'm quite pleased with the way they have turned out and Gaynor is quite pleased to be able to finally start unpacking the last (quite a) few boxes.

Main bookcases
Main bookcases already with a few things on them.

Bookcase detail
Bookcase detail.

Edit: For those who'd like to know, the case is maple -- main pieces are 3/4" plywood and the trim is solid wood -- with a red mahogany stain finished in one coat lacquer, followed by two more coats of semi-gloss acrylic.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Ari and Fenton's Theme Park Trip

One thing southern California doesn't have in short supply is theme parks. Apart the the big and well known ones -- Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm among them -- there are plenty of smaller ones scattered about the place and all seem pretty popular. Recently, Ariana earned herself a free pass, from a Jump Rope for Heart fundraiser, for Castle Park. She gave me plenty of warning (nagging) that the day was coming up and that I was expected to attend with her. So Memorial Day weekend just her and I headed off for an afternoon of thrill rides and follow-on headaches. Ari pretty much picked the rides she wanted to go on and we had a great time, just the two of us. Gaynor and I try hard to make sure the children get individual attention, making time (even scheduling it) so that they don't get lost in the crush.

What is less fun however is removing a china egg cup after it has done the rounds with an in-sink garbage disposal unit. A child, who shall remain nameless, forgot to check the contents of the washing-up sink before draining and then later in the evening the same child threw the switch for the disposal unit instead of the light. Nasty crunching sound and a jammed disposal unit later found myself and some children with slender hands coaxing the remains of the egg cup back to the surface.

Remains of the Egg Cup and some of its friends that helped bring it back from the brink, err sink.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Week 19, 2008

Sorry, no catchy title for this post -- it is simply an update on recent goings on. Remember, you can always check out our published calendar of activities with the "comings and Goings" link on the left hand side of this (and every) page.

Firstly, Gaynor is hanging in there with the pregnancy. She has a little over two months to go and says that is tired and has had enough but the pregnancy is going well. No complications or health concerns and we sometimes wonder why we even bother with ante-natal care. (Yes we do know, so no need to email and remind us). He is kicking well -- vigourously and frequently -- and is already head down.

Mara was a a busy girl this week. She participated in two acts -- one a solo ballet dance and the other singing and dancing with two friends -- in her school talent show. She also spent last Saturday morning at the school district track meet where she ran in the 50 yard shuttle relay with her school placing second.

The boys have been busy preparing for a very large dance festival which will involve youth from the church from all over southern California. It's such a major event they only hold one every 20 years or so. More on that in July when it's finished.

Gaynor and the girls attended an open house at Mara and Ariana's school this past week. The girls were very proud to show off their neat work. Bryna was excited to visit the kindergarten classroom where she will be attending in the new school year, after the summer.

Finally, since Gaynor's interior design plans have outstripped our budget (actually they were never within) I have begun construction of a number of furniture pieces. First on the agenda is a pair of large bookcases -- our books are the last thing really waiting to be unpacked -- and a pair of low modular-type shelving. These will be followed, though the time frame isn't yet fixed, by bedside tables, another coffee table and bar stools. A work colleague with an extensive woodshop has kindly offered it and some advice for my use. So, more on them when I've got something to show.

Monday, 21 April 2008

More Room to Travel

Since we are expecting a new family member our current conveyance -- a Honda Odyssey -- will not be sufficient to fit us all in. So rather than try and find an 8 seater vehicle (seemingly somewhat rare) we thought we'd go the whole hog and have bought an older 10-seater, and as the Americans say, "full-size" van. And when an American says "full size" you know they mean it. The idea was that though we all fit into an 8 seater, there would then be no room for a friend or grandparent or two. And a 10 was just as easy to find as an 8.

This van probably won't get used that much, even though it is the "economical" model at 17mpg (13.8l/100km) -- probably just when we need to go somewhere as a family. There are a number of things to fix on it but it's currently driveable and I do have a few months to get them done before we really need it. Elijah has already given his numerous (and expensive) ideas on how we can best pimp it out.

Elijah and Bryna are modelling our recently acquired 10-seater van -- vehicular expansion for the incoming child.
Elijah and Bryna modelling our recently acquired 10-seater van -- vehicular expansion for the incoming child.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Expecting the Sixth

We are pleased to announce the expected arrival in mid-July of our sixth child. We are all quite excited, the children especially. Bryna, in particular, is thrilled to become a 'big sister' Gaynor traditionally has relatively easy pregnancies and this one is about as well as could be expected for the sixth.

It has been an introduction faster than we would have liked to the US medical system. Gaynor spent some time researching the procedures and attitudes of local hospitals and, unfortunately, found them not in-line with her own. Mostly, they take an 'I am in charge and you are merely the patient' approach, including insisting on monitors, drips and bed confinement. In addition, the two local hospitals only have a limited number of beds where they allow 'rooming in', where the baby stays with the mother. Hospitals further afield are more, in our view at least, enlightened but given the unpredictability of arrival time we'd rather not be attempting to get to one an hour away (and longer if the traffic is heavy). She's therefore engaged a local mid-wife, a profession seemingly not as widespread here in the US as in Australia or Europe. She'll be doing most of Gaynor's antenatal care as well as being there for the actual delivery, which we plan to be a home birth.

Given the results of a recent ultrasound examination, we have a much greater suspicion of the gender of this one than with any of the others -- the first definitive sign being at their birth. It's always been a deliberate choice on our part -- what can I say? We like to have some surprises in our life -- but this time Gaynor peeked and he wasn't being, shall we say, discreet.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Thanks Giving

Ok... I know Thanksgiving was a while ago, but it was fun so I'm going to write about it.
So as you might or might not know we went to San Jose for Thanksgiving which is not far from San Fransisco (about 50 miles or 1 hr). So there is a reason we went there and the reason is a couple of friends we knew from Germany live there. So the drive up there was long about 6 hours. So we get there at 2 am, some might think that is a bit early but really we are morning people. So after waking up our friends and get inside we settle down for another good 5 hours sleep before Ari wakes us all up we had a nice cooked breakfast and it is now Thanksgiving day. We hanged around for a couple of hours before we got too hungry and set off for her sister (his sister in law). They had a semi manchen on a hill not too far away. As you could think their house was big and there were a lot of people visiting from all around the states. They conveniently had a lot of food. We waited around playing pool and other various games while the food finished being prepared. Eating the food was even better than watching it being prepared. The food was good, there was a traditional turkey and a lot more. We played a bit more and nibbled on some food while we waited for the dessert. Finally the desert came there were various desserts such as pecan pie and ice cream. After that we left before the washing up. The next day we went to San Fransisco with our friends and there we met more friends we knew from Australia. We walked across the Golden Gate Bridge. We walked around and found a nice place for lunch. After eating lunch we went to this famous street called : DUNNO We ended up not going all the way up because there was such a long line. After that we split up Dad and I went to the car show and the others wen t o see the fortune cookie factory. The car show was great lots of great cars. And really I don't know much about what went on at the factory. The ones that went to the cookie factory didn't take that long. So went home directly after that. Dad and I stayed at the auto show till about 8pm. We got some take-away on the way home and got home about 8.30. On Saturday we went to big basin Red Wood National Park.
It wasn't that far away. The trees there were really big and wide. We walked a trail there and went home to finish packing before we leave that evening. We ended up leaving at about 6 pm. And
so we drove and drove and drove, till we got home. And that was the trip to San Jose

Sunday, 27 January 2008


It's me again, Joshua. Now I'm here to tell you about a piece of plastic that will give us annual entry to one of California's most famous landmarks and theme parks Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure. We were always hoping that Dad actually meant it when he said "We will probably get Disneyland passes because we will be moving right near it." After we got here Dad started to look into prices for annual passes. We forgot about it for a while until school holidays came around and dad started looking at buying some. But in the first week of the holidays Mara went to Knotts Berry Farm.Which as you can see is a very cool theme park with very intense rides. Mara thought that Disneyland was for little kids and would not have any cool rides. Dad then showed her the Disneyland website, Mara thought that it would still be boring. She then went about convincing mum and dad that we would find Knott's Berry Farm a lot more fun. Eventually Dad gets the e-tickets printed and we organize to go to Disneyland on the 8th of November after a 40 minute car ride we get to Disneyland we pay for parking and catch the tram to the front entrance we show the entrance clerk our e-tickets and to the bank of Disneyland to get our annual passes. We then found a Disneyland replica of a very old car that would take us up to the princess castle. Bryna who had just got her head cut open was breathless she was just pointing at the castle and saying "there lives Cindergrilla". WE walked through the castle and went on the merry-go-round (which Bryna thoroughly enjoyed) We then went to the all famous teacup ride yay w00t!! (it's over rated). We walked around for a while until we found a ride where there wasn't much of a cue. We decided on MATAHORN MOUNTAIN dadadada. which is very fun but you get of with a rather sore bottom and after the second time with a verry rather sore bottom. Mum decided to take us on the Disneyland Railroad so we could see the rest of Disneyland the railroad was pretty cool we went through Splash Mountain and the Grand Canyon. When we arrived back at the station it was time for Princess Story Reading which Bryna loved and listened to every word that Sleeping Beauty said. Ten it was time for lunch, so we went down to Toon Town to eat a bagels. They had cheese on them they were a bit tough, but we managed them. We next went on the Toon Town Roller Coaster, the GO COASTER, it went round and round. We went on several other rides in Toon Town. After some fun in Toon Town we went to California adventure park, Where we first went on the G.R.R. (Grizzly Rapid Run). Luckily we didn't get too wet, but we had some fun laughing at other who did. Next it was nime for the "BIG BOY RIDES". The first of the "BIG BOY RIDES" was the Golden Zeffer, a bunch of space ships flying in a circle (they were not really flying they were on poles). Then we had fun, I mean "FUN" on the Malholland Madness ( or what ever it is called). Sun wheel was kinda hot ..... bum bum bum. (if you know what I mean, there were two different gondolas, swinging or not swinging, Ari being Ari..........FREAKED OUT ....... Bryna of course being tough as she is went in the normal gondola and DIDN'T freak out. Next we wanted some fun, so while Bryna , Mum , and Ari went on the Merry-Go-Round, which Bryna throughly enjoyed, The BIG boys and girl, went on the ................ rollers coaster, CALIFORNIA SCREAMIN'. That was soooooooooooo cool ot had a loop dips hills and all at 90 kmh. (Mara said she had been on better).
That concludes our first visit to Disneyland.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Happy 60th Margaret

Unfortunately, Gaynor was unable to make the big shindig of her mother's 60th birthday. In lieu of her personal appearance we made a video to be shown at the party. Since it features us prominently, I thought it might be nice to make it available to all. So congratulations again Margaret and all our love.

At YouTube

Monday, 7 January 2008

Persistent Goods Track Down Owners

After failing to take the previous hint, our household goods have finally tracked us down all the way from Germany. In our initial plans they were to have joined us only a few weeks after we ourselves had arrived. However, famed German customer service, a missed boat and US Customs and importing procedures conspired to delay our reuniting. In total, 5 months and 11 days, beating their previous record by over a month.

It's good to have many more familiar items around us -- it's really been a second Christmas full of box openings and forgotten surprises. Now we just have to find somewhere to put them all.