Darwin dream baby

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The sea, the sky!

 

 July 2018: a wonderful time of year in Darwin when the days were endlessly sunny and it wasn’t too hot and humid. When there was nothing much nicer than floating around beside the Arafura Sea in one of Australia’s most scenic swimming pools or savouring fresh barramundi and chips on an evening picnic,  as you watched the sun sink in a fiery ball into the sea.

July 2018: and we could finally go to the famous or ‘infamous’ Beer Can Regatta which is held each year on Mindil Beach. We discovered that there was a special protocol which needed to be followed for building and propelling your hand made, beer can vessel.

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Gives a whole new perspective to recycling !

And as well as the main race, the Battle of Mindil,  there were lots of other events to keep those camera phones busy: people watching,  kayak races, tug of war,  an Iron Person competition, Thong Throwing (only in Australia!) and the  Henley on Mindil.

 

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So entertaining!
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Despite the heat, unlike the swimmers behind me, this was as far as my toes went into the water.  I wasn’t convinced that the irukandji jellyfish knew that they were supposed to be taking a holiday away from Mindil Beach

As well as the formal programme, there were lots of entertainment for young and old alike and fabulous stalls to explore at the market.

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Didj players
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and a really cute puppet show among many other acts.

 

July 2018: when we were able to witness a  fabulous star gazing event, a blood red moon caused by the longest, total eclipse this century and accompanied by Mars, which was at it’s brightest and closest for 15 years.

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Obviously, the moon didn’t appear this big to the naked eye, but it was still very impressive. Did you, like me get up early to watch it in the early dawn?

And  most importantly at  11 pm  on the 26th July, 2018, our Darwin Dream baby arrived.

After a delay of a week or two, Ilyssia Claire Black finally made her way into the world following an emergency Caesaraen section and she was just so beautiful!

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That was all a bit much, Mum. Think I’ll just  rest for a bit!

It has been one of the joys in life for Kenn and I to witness each of our children welcoming their own little miracles into the world. Words and images can’t really capture that extraordinary depth of feeling as you experience so many firsts.

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That first sleep on Mummy’s tummy

 

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That first sleep with daddy
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That first meeting with her canine protector, Hannibal.

 

And even though I can see Reece, her father looking out at me, gazing at her asleep takes me back to when Lyndsay was a wee little baby.

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Lyndsay was a little older, perhaps three months old.

Alas, all too soon it was time to share her with other members of the family and we had to fly home to Byron to prepare for our trip to China. But I wasn’t too sad as I had already booked my return ticket to Darwin for a catch up visit.

Early September, and it was feeling a little like deja vu, as I traveled to Brisbane to catch a flight to Darwin. Lys was now 6 weeks old and Lyndsay was finally able to get out and about.

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This is the life, a cruise along the Foreshore and a nap while Mum and Nanna enjoy dinner at the Pop-up Pizza restaurant. Looks yum!
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did we really eat all that by ourselves?

Ilyssia has already become a cafe aficionado. She enjoys acai berries and matcha tea lattes! She is such a good baby: just feeds, sleeps and gurgles. Lyndsay  looked quite rested for a new mum as well. Lys has obviously decided that she’s not a party animal yet. Sleeping for 5 to 6 hours at a stretch through the night, she is being very considerate of her parents.

Luckily for us, four weeks later, Lyndsay had to attend a conference of the Gold Coast and present a paper as part of her PHD and she asked if Kenn and I would like to babysit Ilyssia between sessions. Of course we jumped at the opportunity to spend more time with our Darwin baby. We were staying at Broadbeach, within 5 mins walk from the Crown Casino where the conference was being held. There we went for long walks with Lys along the beachfront.

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Even though it was a little cloudy, the weather agreed with this beach babe.
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And made for very atmospheric skies

A couple of times, Lyndsay was able to join us and we would explore further afield. One such place was the Cascade Gardens. Snuggled close to Mum, Lys  took in the sights.

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I’m just a wee bit squished
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The gardens back onto the canals and are a lovely picnic spot
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And we noticed that there was a Vietnam memorial there .

 

Following the conference, Lyndsay and Lys were able to spend a couple of days in Byron and meet her cousin Hudson. Huddy didn’t really want to share his mummy with Ilyssia but did think Lys was very special, especially when she came on a beach walk with him.

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This is such fun! Soon you’ll be running like me, Ilyssia!
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Even when it’s windy, Byron doesn’t disappoint.

Far too soon, it was time for Lyndsay and Ilyssia to fly home but not before Lys had filled our home with smiles.

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I wonder what she’s thinking?

 

As with our other wonderfully unique and special grandchildren: Genevieve, Francesca and Hudson, little Ilyssia fills our lives with love and hope, such precious gifts.

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas the Tank and B1 and B2 live it up at Huddy’s 2nd birthday party

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‘I’ve got my boiler steaming so come aboard Huddy and I’ll  take you on an adventure,’ whistled Thomas

Hudson turned two on the 16th June and it was time to party. Where has the baby boy gone? Almost surreptitiously Huddy has morphed into an adventurous little boy who has mastered the art of making his desires known (can say ‘No’ in many different languages) and who can put on a turn of speed that forces his grandparents into embarrassing public displays of sprinting. (When I was 13 and participating in the school athletics carnival,  I recall my mother remarking that I ran like a duck and that I should retire from sprint events while the going was good!  Sadly,  I haven’t improved with time. My inner duck has not learnt to fly.)

Like many children, he loves the outdoors, especially finding ‘buff flys’ and birds and picking unsuspecting flowers ‘for Mummy’.  And like most little boys I know, Huddy loves Thomas the Tank engine and the Bananas in Pyjamas, B1 and B2. I must admit to having developed more than a passing regard for them as well. After all, every afternoon after bathtime, they deliver a peaceful half hour or so before Huddy goes home.

Not suprisingly, Thomas and B1 and B2 provided the theme for Huddy’s birthday brunch. It was amazing to see how with just cardboard, masking tape, paint, stripey pyjamas, some imagination and  a smidgen  of time,  a memorable birthday celebration was created that amused and delighted the birthday boy and his guests.

In secret, Ben wrangled cardboard into a tank engine while Melissa slapped on paint and attached  essential accessories such as smoke balloons and a driving wheel complete with sound effects.  Huddy couldn’t believe his eyes when on the party morning, he walked out of his bedroom and saw that Thomas had come to play at his house!

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‘There’s room for two in my cab’ tooted Thomas.

Soon the guests were assembled and the party fun began. A delightful brunch was served complete with Byron Bay coffee.

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While the adults devoured the croissant bar and the cheese platter, the children loved the coconut fruit yogurt pots and the fruit platter. They were such good sharers as well!

 

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Huddy  was almost too busy to eat. After all who wants to eat when you can race with new firetrucks  with my friend Harley?

After brunch, there was a knock at the door. Huddy ran over to the stairs and couldn’t believe his eyes: B1 and B2 were there.

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Are you thinking what I’m thinking B1?  I think I am, B2! It’s chase Huddy time!

B1 and B2 sang, danced, fell over and played games for the children.

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‘It’s bubble. bubble, bubble time B1.’ ‘ That’s right B2. Listen everyone, we have prizes for anyone who can catch a bubble and bring it to us, that’s right isn’t B1?’ ‘Yes that’s right B2!’                    Sadly no bubbles were caught.

They were hilarious. This animation which Google photos created from a video gives you an idea of their performance.

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As you can see, they had a captivated audience.  Even Ninja the dog got into the act.  What a lovely surprise for all. Thank you B1 ( Kenn) and B2 (Helen Jarvis) for your wonderful shenanigans. 

Soon it was time for the Bananas to make their departure to the refrain of

‘Bananas in pyjamas are going down the stairs / Bananas in pyjamas are going down in pairs  / Cause on birthdays, they all  like to escape unawares’ ( apologies to the ABC)

And then it was time for cake, presents and home time.

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This was very tasty, but the cake was so long, Melissa had to use a snowboard  as a cake stand.
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So many thoughtful gifts! Huddy really enjoyed opening his presents. 
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There’s always something special about a party box. 

We had a lovely time and no child dissolved into tears. Always a plus.  With the little ones all headed for an afternoon nap,  and Kenn divested of his B1 costume, we made the most of the beautiful day and walked up to the Lighthouse for some whale spotting. And they were there, just off the point, jumping  and flashing their tails around. Always a special moment. It was a great way to finish a special day. Happy Birthday, Huddy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Condo Reunion: a blast from the past.

Not so long ago, while enjoying breakfast at the Surf Club in Ballina , Kenn and I finalised the route for a week long trip to the Central West of NSW.

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The cafe at the Surf Club is excellent, very reasonable and as you can see has a fabulous view.

We traveled from Byron Bay to Condobolin via Sydney, Leura, Orange, Cowra and Forbes to help celebrate 150 years of Public Education. While it was a very scenic trip (who doesn’t love the country in springtime),  spending time with family and friends who live over 1000 kms away from us, was the highlight. Catching up and reminiscing  about the good times we’ve  shared, the adventures we’ve  had, the things that have made us happy or sad was great. There was also a special bonus: Kenn was invited to launch his second novel, Snow Chains as part of the celebrations.

And so, a few days before the Long weekend, we set off. The Byron to Sydney leg was a little frustrating. Too much traffic and too many roadworks especially between Ballina and Coffs Harbour. Still, we reached Christian and Kelly’s home in Balgowlah Heights with enough time to play with our adorable grand daughters before bed-time and lend a hand the next morning.  Kelly and Christian were getting ready to take the girls on their first camping trip.  While we would have loved to be able to join them, Christian’s pic of Baby Francesca in their tent filled us in on the fun had by all.

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Just love the simple life: just give me my tent and my keys and I’m happy.

While Kelly and Christian headed off to the South Coast, we headed west to the Blue Mountains, stopping in Leura for lunch. The village was awash with blossoms and that almost spearminty green of new leaves on deciduous trees.

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There seemed to lots and lots of tourists trying to capture that perfect shot.
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The banks of Azaleas were lovely as well. Would have loved to have had the time to visit the Everglades. Maybe next time …

A lovely lunch and we were off to Orange where we caught up with my sister Maryanne. We really enjoyed taking her dogs for a walk through the outskirts of Orange but I will admit to some sisterly pangs of jealousy as I admired the lovely collection of spring bulbs in her garden. Tulips! Need I say more?

All too soon, it was time to head for Woodstock via Canowindra along the Cargo road. Travelling this road as the sun set was beautiful: enough clouds  for the sun to watercolour with shades of pink and mauve while the rolling green hills and vineyards seemed to stretch away forever on either side of the road. Magical!

The next day was full of surprises. Firstly, Jenny and I played 9 holes of golf at Cowra Golf Course. It was less of a game and more of a Jenny Dresser masterclass but such fun. Secondly, I ended up enjoying a long lunch with two of my oldest and dearest friends who just happened to be in Cowra that weekend! Serendipity indeed!

Time to head for Condo. We  stopped off briefly in Forbes to meet the latest addition to Kenn’s side of the family, gurgling, cuddly baby Ava before making our way along the South Forbes road to where Kenn’s great grandfather is buried overlooking the river.

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He was killed in a terrible horse accident in 1892
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James is recorded on the side of the grave marker

This little cemetery is very poignant because it’s also where the Fitzgerald children are buried. It reminds us of how difficult life was in those early pioneering days.

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Those poor parents!

Shaking off the past, we arrived at the Condobolin Library to prepare for the book launch.

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The town looks lovely with all the landscaping! 

The Librarian, Theresa and her team had ensured a great afternoon.  So many familiar faces showered us with  country warmth that we were quite overwhelmed and very touched. Some had already read his first novel, Sugarcane Lane and endorsed the general consensus that it’s a very enjoyable read. It was very affirming for Kenn to hear how enthusiastically they were looking forward to Snow Chains and Castles Perilous.

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All the reviews have been great! So proud of Kenn.
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All proved to be very popular. Thanks Condo for all the love and support.

A lively discussion about writing and publishing ensued followed by a delicious afternoon tea. Nothing beats home made scones, jam and cream! I might have had two …or three…  Alas, Kenn was so popular that he missed out on his favourite treat!  I’ve included a snippet from  the Library’s facebook page, which sums up the event.

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Thank you so much Theresa and Bonnie. This wouldn’t have happened without you.

Book launch finished it was time to put on our dancing shoes. We were attending a dinner to celebrate 50 years since the opening of the High School in Condobolin. Again it was wonderful to reconnect with former colleagues and students. Then the music started.  As soon as I heard Steve Still’s ‘Love the one you’re with’, I was back in the past. A first year out teacher dancing the night away at the Golfie.

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And Kenn was in his element singing along with the band!

The organising committee did an amazing job of the whole weekend. We attended the breakfast at the High School the following morning and it was delicious. I wanted to explore the school where I taught for so many years and which my children attended. It was fun to search through the photos in the various historical displays for our children and their friends. They haven’t changed much! The school has grown since I left, a new wing has been added as well as the largest cola I’ve seen. Some respite from the heat for kids in the playground at last. There’s more landscaping and there’s even a learner car!    It’s evident that kids  get a quality education here. There’s much to be said for a country upbringing and education.

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Looking towards the library in the top quad
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My classroom used to be on the right hand side.

Later on, we visited Eryn and Simon Carey’s place on Melrose Hill. They have established a beautiful, very unique garden featuring a breathtaking view of the western plains, so  immortalised by Banjo Paterson in ‘Clancy of the Overflow’. Like Clancy, we saw ‘ the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended’ and could readily imagine ‘at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.’

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This garden features fascinating art sculptures and whimsical retro features like a vintage bathtub and caravan
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How fitting is this for an Outback garden?  Eryn is an accomplished artist who paints and exhibits as Eryn Mullins.  Well worth checking out. 
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Fell in love with the lions. 

Even though, the garden features natives like ironbark and black wattle, there is a beautiful pond area, a little reminiscent of an English garden.

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the goldfish are flourishing
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Lovely formal entrance to the main part of the garden

There are fascinating rock walls and even a boules court.

 

 

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Such a lot of work

Closer to the house, there is a delightful courtyard area which is full of detail and Eryn’s artistic flair.

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So much to enjoy! 
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There was something about the chook that I loved!

 

We could have lingered for ages. All too soon, it was time for the long trek home. Looking forward to returning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Birthday Firsts

It’s been ‘Birthday Season’ of late for the young and not so young in our family.  I love how whether you’re one or ninety one, it’s all about the moment: watching glittery balloons float around above us as our fingertips rustle and rifle through layers of wrapping paper, carefully or not so carefully unveiling our presents. Inhaling the scent of flowers so prettily tied up with string and of melting candle wax, the aroma of wishes. Listening to the good vibrations of “Happy Birthday!” and savouring the last, chocolatey, gooey morsel of a special cake.  What’s not to love? But this year, there’s been so much more.  The little ones’ wonder and joy allowed us to see the world through their eyes as they  experienced  many of these  treats for the first time.

As Pooh bear noted, ‘It’s hard to be uncheered with a balloon.’ Hudson who turned 1 last week was captivated. They were so big and so shiny and there was a Thomas the Tank Engine! He couldn’t wait to pull them down to cuddle them.

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Mum, you can trust me!   I’ve  caught it …nearly! Sealpop …  just … hold me up a little closer … please.

And the delight that two year old Genevieve felt in the early morning light as she took her first bounces  in her new trampoline! A dedicated balloon lover, as the balloons took flight, so did she.

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Which one will I choose to dance with next! The blue or the pale pink? I know, I’ll have the pink with the white dots and then we’ll twirl and whirl  and curl together.

I love the way little ones unwrap their presents, sometimes with a little help from Mum.

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You want me to type? Now?

But then take off to test out the working capabilities of particular gifts.

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Why did this truck decide to tip my teddy out? Mmm … maybe it’s not a taxi afterall.
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I’ve got it! It’s all about the turning circle! Do you think I’m ready for the ‘Tour de France’?
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Hey Dad, the door works great! Thank you for making me such a great cubby for my birthday. And yes, I can play peek a boo with you through the windows.

And what would a birthday be without flowers Genevieve loved hers as much as I loved mine. Must be a girl thing.

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And of course, there’s the birthday cake.  When my children were little, this was a very important part of the celebrations. As they got older, they would  pore over the Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake book and put in their requests. After some negotiation,  I would bake the cake and Kenn would decorate it. So keeping with family tradition, Melissa was determined to make Huddy’s first birthday cake memorable and she certainly succeeded.

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So super cute! And he managed to blow out the candle.

Not only did the cake look good, it tasted great. Huddy was amazed. This was the first time he had been allowed to eat a smartie, chocolate icing and mud cake! It was a revelation! Huddy’s taste buds will never be the same again.

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Please Mum, can I have just one more smartie? On second thoughts make that two or three!
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Thanks Mum, High five?

I even love singing Happy Birthday. Really no matter how musical or unmusical it sounds, it is the sound of love. Christian, Kelly and girls couldn’t be in Byron for my birthday this year, but for the very first time, when they face timed that morning, Genevieve sang Happy Birthday to me and included four very enthusiastic hip hip hoorays. An unforgettable serenade.

The thing about firsts is that they keep coming. It can be as simple as taking Huddy for a walk along Main Beach in Byron. Even when it’s a perfect day,

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a boy has to do what a boy has to do!

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Wait up, my stroller isn’t as light as a feather you know!

And you never know when you’re going to strike it lucky and for the first time get to use the special toddler swing at Main Beach.

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Now Sealpop, just a little higher. I’m a big boy now, I’m 1!

You just have to be ready to lose yourself for a time in the world of the young.