Monday, April 14, 2014

The McSimpsons

Following up that last post with something a bit more lighthearted, here's what I got Brian for his birthday in February.

If we were Simpsons characters...

Do you see a resemblance? Would you have said, hey that's Jenn and Brian?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Premature Overdue Departure

Well, here it is. An announcement that I would have expected to make a long time ago and yet one I'm still not entirely ready to make.


Deep breath.

We have decided to return to the US.

Eight years, lots of travel, terrific professional opportunities and two kids later, we are going to make the move back over the big sea to the homeland.

As you'll probably understand, this declaration is both exciting and terrifying. Our lives are here at the moment and the thought of uprooting it all is unsettling and scary. We have loved Canberra and Canberrans. The city, amenities, museums, restaurants, walking tracks, bike paths and nature parks have contributed to a great lifestyle here. We've appreciated the weather, the proximity to beaches, the ease of getting around and the national health care system.

Perhaps the most difficult part of all this is leaving my work behind. This job that I have loved for seven years was created for me as the result of my masters research. I've been privileged to work with the most awesome team of people over the years and I'm proud to have established some pretty great programs. This has been incredibly fulfilling and there is a great sense of identity wrapped up in my work. Announcing our departure has been very difficult and I find myself grieving this loss already. The idea of having to craft a new stage of my career is daunting.

Then of course, there is the beautiful community of people I've been surrounded by. The mothers who shared the experience of early days with a new baby and who over the years have provided a consistent network of support and friendship as we've grown (and had second babies). A handful of notable women who have shared profound joys and daily struggles. Colleagues who've become friends.

We make this decision because it's time. Every additional year we stay sees us becoming more and more entrenched in work, school and the community. When we ask ourselves where we want to be in twenty years, it's not here. For this reason, it makes sense to go sooner rather than later. Riker could start school in the US in September and Brian has business ideas that he can't confidently establish in a place we don't anticipate being for the long haul. Foundations made of sand, he says. The reasons we've stayed for eight years have mostly been for me. Its only fair now that we find the place we might feel more settled so we can launch some longer term endeavors.

Of course, our family is entirely in the US and this is the biggest reason to return. Our parents are getting older and want to spend time with their grandchildren. We've also wanted our kids to grow up with their cousins and have the opportunity to know the importance of family. Brian and I could really use some family support as well and I've often thought we do our children a disservice by living so far from the people best placed to lend us a helping hand.

So, we're moving back to the US after eight profoundly amazing years in Australia. Talk about conflicting emotions. Has it been worth it? Absolutely. Will the change be difficult? Probably. Is it a good decision? I sure hope so.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Family Portrait, Ink on Paper

Riker is really enjoying his new school and has settled in well despite being one of only two new kids in the class. He's reading lots of books, making friends and trying new things. For example, Riker has never been one to do lots of drawing. He likes to write letters but he's never taken to drawing people or houses or horses or stuff that other four year old kids seem to like to draw. Not long after the school year started we were sitting in the car waiting for Brian to come out from an errand and I gave Riker a notepad and pen. When he handed it back, this is what I saw.

Riker's first family portrait! That's Ari and Brian at the top and Riker and I on the bottom in case you were wondering.

At school they've been talking about families and where people were born and the kids were asked to draw a picture of their family. No matter what the activity, the teacher encourages the kids to "have a go" and this was enough to prompt Riker to start drawing pictures. He's kept it up and the drawings have only gotten more sophisticated from here.

His efforts won him a certificate at today's whole school assembly for "always having-a-go at drawing and writing."

He was so proud to finally be one of the kids to get an award at a school assembly! Keep up the good work buddy. I hope that you always love reading and drawing!

Monday, March 31, 2014

A Belated Toast to 2014

I'm pretty sure that 2014 has been trying to get back at me for not staying up to celebrate its arrival. Big decisions, little decisions, work changes for Brian, work overload for me, moving house, illness, arguments and various other dramas have conspired to leave us feeling drained and strained, to say the least.

It's been nearly two months since I've shared a blog post and I can't remember the last time I've gone that long without at least posting a photo of the kids. Photographing moments that might otherwise make me raise my voice sometimes helps, but I've hardly used the camera in the last few months which is always a bad sign. Here's one of those moments...

The kids idea of settling in.

On a positive note, we're in our new place now and it's really nice. The location is terrific and a great addition to our collection of inner north suburbs - O'Connor, Lyneham, Downer and now Turner. It's a shorter ride to work for both of us, Riker can ride or walk to his new school and it's easy for the nanny to collect him on the days she's here with Ari. And, she lives just across the street now so that's handy too!

All in all it's been a very rough couple of months. And this weekend, the rain forced me to cancel the 7th annual ANU Earth Hour event which we've been planning for ages and was going to be amazing. So whaddya say 2014? If I offer up a belated toast, can I get a redo? Or at the very least, a truce? Here's to sunnier months ahead...

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Baby Rats

When Brian lifted up our chicken's nesting box the other day, he got a big surprise. Two rats scurried quickly away and under the box he found that they had left behind four teeny tiny baby rats!

He carefully scooped up all the straw they were laying on and placed it on the lid of a bucket so he could show the kids. Baby rats, we learned are called kittens or pups. Below, Ari peers closely at the quartet.

From what I can tell they weren't more than a couple of days old. Skin still covered their eyes and you could easily see the milk in their stomachs through their translucent skin. They occasionally made high pitched peeping sounds as they squirmed around. How adorable are those little noses and toes?

We happily watched the little fellas for about fifteen minutes and since it was a stifling day, we weren't concerned about them getting chilled. Riker gets a closer look.

We've never noticed rats in our chicken coop or in our yard before so instead of thinking of them as a nuisance, we viewed the close-up look at baby rats as a real privilege. It makes me appreciate the diversity of life that can be found behind the scenes of an urban garden!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Beeswax Bounty

We've just finished processing our second harvest of honey. Brian noticed that the bees had formed honeycomb in the lid of the hive and suspecting that this meant the bees were running out of room, we set to work on extracting the honey. I've gathered that most beekeepers see comb in the lid as a bad thing, but we just thought of it as a bonus supply of liquid gold!

We harvested the top boxes from two of our three hives and got a yield of - you'll never believe this - approximately forty kilos (88 pounds) of honey! The bees are thriving and we're proud bee parents!

I've detailed the extraction of honey in a previous post, so I won't share that process again other than to note that it took an entire day to extract the honey from sixteen frames and then another week to strain the honey from the wax!

A frame of capped honey.

We scrape or cut off the cappings before spinning the frame and then put all the cappings in a strainer overnight to get out the honey. The process would have gone much faster I'm sure if we had more than one strainer!

All of the honey doesn't drip out this way and so you have to separate the remaining honey from the wax. We did this by placing the mixture in the microwave (and watching it very carefully) until the wax had just melted. Then we removed the container and let the whole thing cool. Once cooled, you can simply pick up the chunk of wax as it separates and floats to the top. We then heated the wax once again and poured it through a paper towel filter into a container. We decided to turn all of this batch of beeswax into candles by pouring the filtered hot wax into a mold or a glass jar and then hanging a string down from a stick to act as a wick.

The candles smell amazing and the boys enjoyed the excitement of turning off all the lights and watching the candle flicker and dance in the dark.

We are in absolute awe of bees. Their industriousness, their social organization and their ability to produce two of the most fascinating natural substances I can think of, honey and beeswax (in abundance!) is truly remarkable and utterly intriguing.

Monday, February 03, 2014

First Day of School

It seems not that long ago that Riker was preparing for his first ever day of school. That was an entire year ago and now he looks a little older, but his favorite color is still red, he still loves trains and he's eager to go off to school once again. (Note the red train I painted on his arm as a special treat).

Ari wasn't going to let Riker steal the show this morning though. He donned his blue gum boots and nudged his way to center stage!

Helmet on and ready to ride to school with daddy on his way to work.

See how he's changed from his first day of school at Blue Gum preschool last year.

I hope you have a wonderful day my sweet boy. I can't wait to hear about it.