Sunday, April 26, 2009

Life goes on...

Gosh, April is almost over and so much has been happening in the interim... just haven’t found the time to write about it all. 

At the end of last month we tearfully said à bientôt to Anahera, Max, Kaia, Joanne and Philip, who departed Chicago bound for their hometown of Piha in New Zealand. The ‘girls’ had a lovely brunch to say goodbye to Joanne at North Pond Restaurant (husbands were a little concerned when we didn’t return home until around 2pm). We are going to miss our lovely friends and playmates. However, we now have a stopover on our next visit to Australia ;-) 

At the beginning of April, Mietta and I jetted off to the UK to visit my sister Jenni, her partner Sebastien and their 15 month old daughter Blanche. Paul gave me the trip as a birthday present. The visit to see my sister and her family has been well overdue. Our visits to Australia last year did not coincide so it has been two whole years since I have seen Jenni! We had a wonderful time staying in the lovely and picturesque village of Arnesby and doing some sightseeing in the British East Midlands. It was an amazing experience to see the lock system at Foxton Locks for the long boats (barges). This lock system includes a series of ten locks or ‘steps’ to move boats to higher / lower ground.  This was in complete contrast to the lock system we saw at Sault Ste Marie in Northern Michigan two summers ago that catered for ships larger than ocean liners! Blanche and Mietta were able to play together and responded really well to each other. Mietta decided she would seriously ‘eat’ after sharing mealtime with Blanche. Our week went way too fast. Now I am looking forward to Jenni and family visiting us in Chicago. 

Paul spent a few days in Ithaca New York, in meetings with his colleagues at Cornell University. This is a good form of both respite and socialising for Paul who sometimes feels really isolated working from home. 

Yesterday we all went to an ANZAC service hosted by the Australian Consulate and held at the Elks Grand Lodge. The weather was a little treacherous and rain and gusty winds saw the event hurriedly moved indoors. The boys behaviour during the sombre (but lovely) ceremony was exceptional. We were so proud of them. Mietta however, kept blowing raspberries and making noises so I had to move her away from the noise-amplifying dome. The building is beautiful and very impressive: the ideal venue for such a ceremony.  

Mietta is now 7 and a half months old, has four teeth and started crawling on her hands and knees - just yesterday in pursuit of a ball. She is delightful. Mietta’s tastes are gourmet. She will not eat baby food but is completely happy eating fish cooked in wine, capers and lemon or Guiness beef stew... but refuses anything resembling baby food. She is a definite ‘finger feeder’. We are now trying to work out what traits might be personality and what may be attributed to gender. Mietta does seem to treat things more gently than the boys. Where they would grab at and pull at mobiles and hanging items, Mietta is very gentle and touches without pulling. Magazines, on the other hand, are fair game. Mietta loves destroying these.

Luc’s new ambition is to become an ‘artist’, moving ‘astronaut’ far down the list of potential careers. His drawing is prolific and he is becoming really good. His subject matter changes constantly. Super heroes and robots feature prominently, but he also draws from his imagination and likes to copy things and pictures from books. Today Luc told me the story about the “Mantens”: a series of rock-monster-super-hero-zombie-creatures (bird, crocodile, elephant, rhinoceros, tiger) that fit together to form an invincible being. He had drawn pictures of each creature, individually and in combination, with varying amounts of detail and drama. His story went on for about half an hour. My head was reeling from all the detail he conveyed. 

Nic continues to astound us. He is such an individual and defies any pigeon holing. He has started at preschool for two days a week at the very intimate and supportive Lovebugs. He absolutely loves school and can’t wait to get there on his school days. The staff have been surprised by how fast he managed to fit into their program given he started late in the school year (he took his friend Max’s place). The school is wonderful, staff super-lovely and Nic is visibly gaining confidence and discipline. 

We have had our first taste of summer with some wonderful weather. Our playdate with James, William and Gabrielle on Friday included our first picnic of the season. Gabrielle made my day when she revealed some small bottles of Champagne for the mums! The long cold winter has seen us ill-prepared for the summer weather with all of us showing the effects of sun on white skin. Now, to dig out the shorts and sunscreen... 

Photo: hanging out with the kids, late March. 

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Daughter, sister, friend

Paul and I had been musing on the possibility of another daughter / sister for Mietta.  As we both have sister/s, this seemed like a shortcoming for Mietta - given she has two big brothers. We are obviously still in the ‘absolutely smitten’ stage of Mietta’s development: after all, she has not yet learnt to say “NO!” 

I related this fantasy to friends Gabrielle and Joanne who both gave a resounding “Forget it!” and then listed numerous reasons why being an only girl growing up with two brothers (as they both had) presented some major benefits... And besides, they added, there is no guarantee that we would get a girl and we might end up with yet another boy! With such compelling persuasion, and a recent sickness from Mietta, (with continual night-waking) this fantasy has been dropped. 

Photo: My sister Jenni catches a moment between Mietta and myself. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

Arnesby... he we are!

What a very long day we have had... but such a very short one at the same time. Without much sleep, and a whole heap of travel, Mietta and I have arrived in the UK this morning and now the day is almost done! 

We flew from Chicago to Manchester, caught two trains to Leicester, were collected by my sister Jenni, and now we find ourselves in the very bucolic and beautiful village of Arnesby, about 20 minutes from Leicester. I finally met my very cute niece Blanche for the first time, now 15 months old. We arrived in classic dreary English mist. During the train journey, I was immediately taken by the verdant green of the fields and glassy canals with the richly decorated narrow boats. Rows of attached and semi-detached ‘small-looking’ brick houses all looking the same helped remind me that I was in the UK. 

A crash on the couch and I awoke to a beautiful Spring afternoon with clear blue sky and birdsong. Jenni took us for a walk about the village, stopping to see some chickens, pick up a couple of fresh, free-range eggs, view farmlife, chat to neighbours and see abundant spring daffodils. 

There is something very comforting about being surrounded by English people (!). Who know you really mean “yes, I do want help” when you initially say “no thanks”, who understand immediately that I am an Australian (and all that entails) and possess that underlying sharp wit and sarcasm that I find so heartening. 

Photo: some neighbour horses hanging out in Arnesby