29 January 2009

School Begins 28 January, 2009

It is summer here in the southern hemisphere. Because of that, all the schools have been closed for summer holidays. All that changed on Wednesday, 28 January when the schools in New South Wales resumed holding classes.

I enrolled Clara, Tristan and Zoe at the Copacabana Public School on Tuesday. With the exception of Clara, we were unsure where the children would be placed, so Tristan and Zoe were to be tested on Wednesday.

When we arrived to school on Wednesday, Tristan was placed with Year 3 and 4 students. They took him around and he began the process of making friends. Later in the afternoon, he was tested. On Thursday morning, they moved him to Year 2 - which is equivalent to 2nd Grade in the US - which he would still be attending if we were in Madison. But Tristan is dissatisfied with school now because he believes he's in with younger children. We'll have to see what we can do to help him feel like he's in with peers.

Zoe had a similar experience. Kindergarten started on Thursday, but Zoe went to school on Wednesday with the previous year's kindergarten class. Then she was tested and found to be at Kindy level. Which is no surprise as she only had 2 months of Kindergarten in the US. Fortunately, Zoe has taken everything in stride and is happy with her school and teacher. There are 16 kindergarten students in Zoe's classroom. There are 16 students in the other kindergarten class too. All this could change next week....see below.

Clara has obtained rock star status. Unlike the other two, she was immediately placed in Year 6 - the year she attended in the States. When I looked in on her at lunch time on Wednesday, she was surrounded by 4 girls and 1 guy came through to offer her a high 5. She said she likes the school.

Copacabana Public School is a small school. There were 267 enrolled last year - half the size of Shorewood Elementary school - where the children attended school in Madison. Copa has 1 more grade then Shorewood. Copacabana is located on the other side of the lagoon from Macmasters Beach. It is 35 - 40 minute walk from our house. I have decided that I will drive the children in the morning. On Wednesday, I walked to school to pick them up, taking Neo in the stroller. Part of the walk is on the beach. Taking the stroller across the sand is slow going. But the more difficult part was keeping everyone walking. Zoe and Neo wanted to play. And Tristan and Zoe spent time wading in the lagoon. The walk to/from school for me on Wednesday (which was a hot day) was over 2 hours.

In Australia, all school children, whether Private or Public, must wear uniforms. Zoe's summer uniform is a dress with black shoes and white socks. Tristan's summer uniform is gray shorts and a blue button down shirt. His shoes must be black and socks gray. Clara is a senior so she can chose between the dress or a skirt and blue polo shirt. She also has white socks and black shoes. All students must wear the school hat.

The politics of class size has followed us to Australia. Last year there were 11 classroom teachers. So far the enrollments to support 11 classroom teachers is one child short. There will be a meeting on Monday to discuss options. The official reporting date is 4 February, so they will hope for 1 more and formulate alternative plans. Classes for this year will be created after 4 February, once the official numbers are recorded.

On Friday, the school held a swim carnival for all students who will be 8 years of age in 2009 and older. Clara participated in the freestyle race. Tristan preferred to swim during the Novelty - a time for a swim without racing. The kids swam over and under the buoy lines. Of course this is Australia, and the kids here are really good swimmers and take their swimming to heart.

The students and staff are very welcoming toward me and the kids. Zoe had made a special friend on Wednesday. Even though they are no longer in the same class, they still can be together at lunch time.

I have met several parents in just these last few days. I hope to become more involved with school and make friends. On the first day of school, I suggested to another mom with a 2 year old that we go for coffee. It was nice to chat and let the Noe and Noor play.

28 January 2009

Austrlia Day and Chinese New Year

There was a Chinese New Year celebration as part of the Gosford Summer in the City Celebration. Gosford is a city that is near to us - about 10Kms. The Chinese New Year celebration was on Sunday, 25 January beginning at 8pm. We arrived about 7:15 so we were able to see some of the other performers - supposed to be multi-cultural. It was amazing listening to the aboriginal performers play the didgoridoo. The sound of it vibrates right through you. We wondered that he was able to play for so long. Here's a picture of one being played.

We especially enjoyed the lion dance. It was a little different from the ones we witnessed in the US at the Families with Children from China dinners. The dancers were younger. And there was a "baby" Lion introduced. Finally, they tore the lettuce for good fortune. Then hung the banner on the top of a very tall pole. It took 3 men to hold the pole steady while the "lion" climbed it.

Australia Day is a public holiday very similar to the 4th of July in the US. In preparation for Australia day on Monday, 26 January, the kids and I went to a lantern decorating workshop. The lanterns turned out well. We were invited to carry our lighted lanterns in the evening parade, but Dave wanted us to stay home and get ready for the week. The evening rain convinced us to stay in.

Little Fish going for the bread
Instead we enjoyed a relaxing family day at home. We walked down to Macmasters Beach. Enjoyed playing in the surf and sand. We also fed the ducks at the lagoon. It's a favorite activity for the children.

In the garden at our home, there are several bushes with what we believe are macadamia nuts. The King Parrots like to eat the nuts from the bushes. Clara picked some of the nuts and placed them on the posts of the balcony. To our amazement, and Clara's delight, the parrots landed on the railing and ate the nuts! There were 4 king parrots on the rail at one time eating nuts. And they didn't mind us walking cautiously out to the balcony to have a peek.

On Tuesday, Dave went to work. I took the children over to Copacabana where there is a public school. There is a school in Kincumber too. But the number of children enrolled at Kincumber is almost twice that of the number enrolled in Copa. I thought a smaller school would be better - especially for Zoe. I registered them for school.

22 January 2009

Obama Inauguration

On Wednesday, 21 January, I got up at 3am to watch Barack Obama's inauguration live. It was a moment in history that I wanted to be a part of - even from the land Down Under. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd offered his congratulations to the United States and President Obama. He also offered continued cooperation to the US to help shoulder this economic crisis.

There were live broadcasts of the inauguration on all the stations - some beginning at 2am. I could chose my flavor of coverage: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN or BBC. I chose Katie Couric since it's been a long time since I've seen her on TV.

I'm sure many of you watched it live, too. I recorded it for Dave and Clara to see later. The actual swearing in occurred about 4:20 am our time. I thought the speech was very good. Dave brought home a Souvenir edition of the Sydney Morning Herald which included Obama's speech. The more I read it and hear it again, the more I'm impressed with it.

The coverage of the inauguration actually began in the papers here on Saturday. The Sydney Morning Herald ran several very well written columns about Barack and what his presidency means for the US and the world.

I noticed how Roberts switched the wording of the Oath of Office in the middle of the Swearing In. At the time I wondered about it. As we now know, there was a missed sequence of the words and Barack was sworn in a 2nd time. Another historic moment.

Today is Friday 23 January. Dave has just left for work. Our days begin before dawn. We get to spend a few minutes together in the morning before he leaves at about 6:15. This morning the dawn was pink and beautiful. Kookaburras were really signing at the top of their lungs! Their "song" is very wild and does not sound like a bird at all. We had often wondered about what creature was calling. Finally witnessed it. Amazing.

On Wednesday morning Dave arrived at the train station in time to see the 6:38 train pulling out. At 6:43 another train arrived and as it turns out, this train's schedule is better because he doesn't have to transfer to get to his station.

I have been missing him during the day. Monday is Australia day and a holiday for Telstra, the company he works for, so Dave has a 3 day weekend!

20 January 2009

Skillion Lookout

View from Top of Skillion Lookout

Sunday night I went to grocery store and requested 1/2 a pound of ham from the Deli. The woman gave me a sharp eye and said, you mean kilo. I nodded in agreement, while calculating the difference in my head. By the time I realized that I was getting More then a Pound of ham, she had completed my order.

What do you do when you have more lunch meat then you wanted - go on a picnic!

On Monday, January 19, the kids and I packed a picnic lunch - ham sandwiches - go figure - and drove to the Skillion Lookout at Terrigal. It's been 1 month since we lived over in Terrigal. Dave has been to this lookout, but I was off looking at houses to rent at that time.

The children enjoyed feeding the gulls, who were eager to share in our lunch.

I climbed the hill with Neo on my back. He's beginning to like that, now.

Zoe asked to walk on the rocks. Our explore was shortened by her stumble and fall which resulted in 3 scrapes on her knees.

Peregrine Falcon on rock
We saw a peregrine falcon hovering in the sky. Amazing bird!!

Speaking of an amazing bird, this King Parrot landed on our balcony railing while Clara was there with the camera in hand.

18 January 2009

Maitland Bay

Zoe, Tristan and Clara pose on a rock on the way down to Maitland Bay

We had been told about a discussion about Nurse Sharks at the Maitland Bay Ranger Station on Saturday afternoon. The kids and I planned to go and give Dave some quiet time. When we arrived there, I went to the kiosk to read about where the event was being held. While I was reading aloud, some people asked me about my accent and we chatted a bit. When I turned around the children had all scampered down the hill toward the ocean. I called them, but they were set on going down. So I joined them.

Neo making his way down

The trek down was almost straight down. The sign said it's 1.8km each way and to expect 20 minutes to go down and 30-40 minutes to come back up. Neo loved going down. He would get to the edge of the step and jump to the next step. The steps were the kind where the earth is held in place by a log. When the steps were rocks, I made him stop jumping and hold my hand instead. He made it on his own all the way down.

The View
We stopped at a couple of unguarded lookouts - it was awe inspiring! Although I did worry about the children falling off.

When we were on the beach, the children immediately headed toward the rocks for tidal pool searches. Even Neo scampered around on the rocks.

Finally after an hour at the bay, we made our way back up. I carried Neo on my back. Tristan walked with me and helped me to keep Neo happy.

Unfortunately the pictures aren't that good - they were taken with my cell phone.

Around Home

Zoe and Neo in the backyard of the Macmasters Beach House

I know it's the dead of winter and it's been especially snowy and cold in Wisconsin, so I thought I would share some pictures of our home's garden as a way to brighten your day.

Many of the plants that are cultivated in this garden I recognize as plants that we cultivate in Wisconsin, which makes me wonder where they originate from.....

There's also some plants that I've never seen before:

Check out this plant. It has very large cones but they are not like a pine....they are softer.

Be sure to scroll down and check out additional pictures I posted. There's one for Zoe's birthday. Dave's car. Clara and her painting. Enjoy!

17 January 2009


I have never seen Dave so interested in a sport before. He has been turning on the Cricket World Test games for weeks now. Dave understands more about it then I do because he has been studying it. I won't describe too much for the risk of stating it wrong.

Dave especially likes the Test games which last 5 days. The reason they are called Test is because they test the endurance.

Recently, South Africa beat Australia in a Test match. It was a world upset. Dave watched it all.

There are some similarities to US baseball....but very different. There's a bowler instead of a pitcher. There are "the sticks". The bat is very different - flat. There was commentary on a two sided bat being used for the first time. There seem to be runners. There are only 3 ways to get a batter out - catching a fly ball is one. But it's not unusual for batters to hit 100 times or more. They call 100 hits a century. And there's a half-century.

The bowler's styles are very different. Some take a running start, then throw. The speed that the ball is thrown is recorded like in baseball.

A very interesting sport.

Dave Starts Work

On Wednesday, we bought Dave a brand new 2008 Kia Rio to facilitate his commute. After looking at the alternatives, we thought it would be best for Dave to have a vehicle. Dave didn't want to consider a used vehicle. So we're helping Australia's economy and the car dealer and manufacturer by buying new. It's also a way for us to begin building a credit record here in Australia.

"The Carrot" - Dave's new car

Thursday, 15 January Dave started at his new job in Sydney. He left from our home in Macmasters Beach a little before 7am. He returned home a little after 7pm. It's 1 1/2 hours by train. Plus 20 minutes by car from the house to the train station.

He was tired, but he said it felt good to be working again after 8 weeks of vacation here in Australia.

He said there are many excellent places to eat lunch in Sydney. The train ticket is $8.50 each way. He said the train goes through national parks so there's some beautiful scenery!

His a contractor working for Telstra - the largest phone company in Australia. He is not working in the Telstra building, that is next door. Instead, they have him and other contractors and a few employees set up in rented space. He said the room where he is working has a series of long tables along the wall with computers on it. Each person sits next to his neighbor at this long table. No partitions. He's never been in a work environment like that before.

The contractors are from around the world. He works with a man from the Ukraine. He was hired in October but didn't start until just before Christmas - so others like us with a long time between hire date and start date. He said there's also a man from China.

His supervisor said they'd like to hire 10 more Java Developer Contractors.

We were glad that he had 2 days to adjust to his new work, schedule, and the long commute. This weekend he's been relaxing and gearing up for next week.

14 January 2009

King Tide and Dr. Seuss Trees

Clara with her painting

On Monday, Dave took Clara down to the Japanese Garden and Art Gallery for an art class she was enrolled in - Fantasy Creatures. She made a wonderful painting on canvas. Dave enjoyed the Japanese Gardens while she was in class. The rest of us had visited the gardens on a different day. Wonderful koi pond!

While they were gone, I took Tristan, Zoe and Neo down to MacMasters Beachfront. On this beach, there is a sandbar about 40 feet out. Generally, when the tide is low, there are some very strong rip tides due to this sandbar and the troughs that form. On this day, the tide was so low, that the sandbar was at the beach! I could not believe it. The waves were extremely large and made very erratic patterns. Very strange.

There were several surfers taking advantage of the unusually large crests.

Dave came down to the beach and waded on the sandbar a long way out. He couldn't believe it either. Our neighbor, Arthur, later told us it was a King Tide. That these tides are naturally occurring and that they happen twice a year. This one was notable because of it's size. The high tide in the morning had many scientists photographing and measuring. The theory is that in the future - 2060 or so - this kind of tide will occur more frequently due to global warming and the rise in water.

On Tuesday morning, Dave took the kids to MacMasters beach again. This time they were there for the High Tide and the effects of the King Tide was still evident. They saw many examples of sea life that had been washed ashore because of the large waves and high tides.

These trees are a variety of Eucalyptus Trees (there are some 300 different varieties according to our tree book). To me, they look like the trees that Dr. Seuss drew in his books.

The excerpt below is from the Wisconsin State Journal - the paper in Madison, WI, USA where we are from. It's notable to me because last year's snow fall was a record - and supposed to occur once in a century.....
A total of 3.1 inches of snow fell on Monday, bringing the monthly total up to 7.3 inches and the seasonal total up to 52 inches. During the record snowfall of 2007-08, 38.8 inches of snow had fallen by Jan. 12.

11 January 2009

Bouddi National Park

On the map I posted in the column on the right, you can see where we live: Macmasters Beach.

You'll see that there is a large green area nearby. This is Bouddi National Park. The closest National Beach in this National Park is Little Beach. Little Beach is 2 kilometers up the road from our house. It really is a steep climb uphill on the way to the beach. Once in the parking lot, there's a 200 meter walk downhill to Little Beach. Little Beach also has a camping area.

Zoe, Clara, and Tristan on Rock at Little Beach

It's a beautiful beach. The day we went, it was low tide. There were many rocks to climb on and tidal pools to view. We also found a small mineral leak coming from the rocks above. The children really loved this beach. It's the beach that Zoe requests to go to most often.

The long walk uphill from Little Beach

Dave said that he's been to many beaches in California and elsewhere, but nothing like this one. It's even different then The Entrance - which I posted about above.

On another day, we went to another beach, further up the hill. The drive to this beach had many hairpin curves. This beach is called Pretty Beach. We didn't like this beach as much as Little Beach.

Rocky area at the far end of Pretty Beach

Here's a link to information about Bouddi National Park http://www.pleasetakemeto.com/australia/new-south-wales/central-coast/information/location/bouddi-national-park

10 January 2009

Zoe's Birthday - The Entrance

Zoe's 6th Birthday cake

Zoe turned 6 on 10 January, 2009!

Immediately following breakfast, we sang to her and cut into the cake. She really liked the cake. It had a cream and strawberry jelly filling. Zoe wanted strawberries added to the top. They were a delicious addition.

After lunch, we drove up to The Entrance - where they have pelican feedings daily at 3:30pm. The beach area was so amazing that we almost didn't make it to the pelican feeding.

There is a large body of water that is inland. When we were there, the tide was flowing out and current of the water was fast going out into the ocean. We walked along a waterway where a lot of people were wading and fishing. There were some pelicans hanging out too.

The rock pools between the ocean and the waterway were filled with fish and other life. We saw many crabs, 2 sea slugs and 1 sea cucumber. Clara saw 2 puffer fish and Dave saw a box jellyfish.

The reason for the Pelican Feeding is so the wildlife experts can get a look at the birds to be sure they are not injured. They saw that one bird had a hook in it's leg and fishing wire wrapped around. They waded into the water and grabbed the large wild bird. It was amazing to see. It took all three handlers to hold the bird so the hook could be removed. Afterward, they showed us where the windpipe is inside the large pouch (the Guinness Book of World Records states that the Australian Pelican has the largest beak). To reward the bird for his cooperation, they put 2 fish into his mouth. She really stuffed her hand into his mouth. She said it's like a large shopping bag. After they released the bird, they told the kids that they could come up and throw fish to the pelicans. Clara and Tristan did this.

We ended the day by picking up a couple of pizzas and eating them at home. Zoe said it was her best birthday yet.

Australia Reptile Park

We went to the Reptile Park on Thursday, 8 January. It was a great little family outing. We waited until Thursday because the weather had become cooler and overcast. Earlier in the week it was sunny and in the 90s (33 - 34 degrees).

One of the remarkable things about the reptile park is that they "milk" Red Back spiders and Funnel Web spiders of their poisons to make the antivenom serum. There was a recent news report that the Funnel Web spiders are appearing in larger numbers this year. January and February is the time of year that the males are on the move and they end up in homes. There was a report of a 3 year old stepping on one in his boot.

The highlight of the park was the hands on area. In a large fenced yard, where several kangaroos. In the enclosure you could approach and pet or feed the kangaroos. There were 3 different varieties of kangaroos, 2 grey - one was from Kangaroo Island, and 1 red from the outback. The first kangaroo we approached was a little red one. He was very interested in eating. Neo was really interested in watching this kangaroo. He spent a long time just looking at him.

Tristan immediately went off to find the other kangaroos. We were told that you can buy food, so we did that. One grey kangaroo that I approached really used his forearms to grab and direct. When Zoe approached, he batted her in the shoulder. She was startled, but not hurt. They have long, sharp claws so could have really hurt her or me if he had wanted to. Another kangaroo I was feeding, held my hand steady with his paws.

Other animals were released into that yard later including a Galapagos island turtle. He was amazing. The zoo keeper said he was 85 years old and weighted over 100 kilograms - about 220 lbs. Also an Emu was released.

We saw a wombat, wallabies, and a pond full of American Alligators.

The staff from the park came around with different animals to pet. We petted an American alligator, a snake, and a lizard.

We got to see 3 Tasmanian Devil cubs running and playing in their pen. They had a discussion about the Devils. Told about how a mouth cancer is killing those born in Tasmania. Fortunately, there is a group that is indigenous to Australia and they do not have the cancer.

There were 2 Cassowary Birds. I was really impressed with their size. There was also a duck billed platypus. Unfortunately, it's nocturnal so was asleep on the rock shelf and we really couldn't see it very well. Dave did some research and found out that they only eat underwater...and with their eyes closed. They find their prey by electric charges.

The older kids and I went to see the spiders. They had all of Australia's poison spiders: Red Back and Funnel Web. And White Tailed, which is supposed to give a rash at the bite site. There was also a display of tarantulas. Neo was a little freaked out because of the two larger then life models we had to walk by to get out.

It was a great activity. We really enjoyed going to the Reptile Park.

07 January 2009

Parrots and Lorikeets

There were a lot of Parrots and Lorikeets in the Cheese tree in our front yard today. I managed to get a few pictures - and you can actually see the birds. The Parrot with the Orange head is called the King Parrot. The female King Parrot has the Orange (Red) breast but a Green head (Top Picture). The Rainbow Lorikeet has a blue head and rainbow coloring on his breast. The Rainbow Lorikeets are very loud! The poor Tawny FrogMouth was trying to nap in our Cheese Tree again today - I'm not sure if he'll be back tomorrow after that disturbance.

Zoe pulled out her 2nd tooth today, 7 January. Guess what the tooth fairy left her? A My Little Pony set - good thing she loves ponies!

05 January 2009


Today is Tuesday, 6 January, 2009. We finally have internet connection at our home! The first time we have had our own internet connection since we left Wisconsin on 20 November, 2008! It has been very difficult trying to remain connected with hit or miss connections at the library (and other public locations).

Because we have a new account, I have a new email address: clara1mom@bigpond.com

We have been getting acclimated to our new home and the surrounding area. We are greatly relieved to have a place to call home. The more we look around, the happier we are with our choice too. It's a very nice neighborhood. The streets are level. There are many houses in the area. We've been giving the children the freedom to go on "walk about" because it's very safe and slower moving traffic. It's much cooler here then in the city of Gosford or anywhere else inland.

There's a beautiful lake across the street from our house. It reminds me very much of a lake in Northern Wisconsin. The lake is connected to a lagoon that many people swim in. The lagoon leads up to the beach and the ocean. I've been told that sometimes MacMasters Beach council will drain the lake/lagoon. There are ducks and other waterfowl that live on the lake. There are two pelicans that sit on an old log on the lake. It was amazing to see one eating the other day. We live near a national park. There are reserved, pristine beaches within a few km from our home. The nearest is Little Beach. I'll post about Little Beach in detail.

Zoe lost her first tooth on 5 January 2009. She is about to lose her 2nd tooth any day. It's so loose, I'm surprised it didn't come out with the first one.

Dave and I both have drivers licenses from New South Wales now! No weight is recorded on their licenses. It's a good thing Dave got his license. His Wisconsin driver license expires in May. At least he'll be able to drive with his NSW one.

There is a practice that the Australian government uses that makes a lot of sense to us. For people learning how to drive, they are required to tuck a L under the license plate of the car - so other drivers and police are aware of this. Also for people under probation, there are P plates. These are especially used for young drivers. In Wisconsin, new drivers receive probationary licenses, but nothing the notifies others on the vehicle.

Today, 4 birds that look a little like owls, stopped in our Cheese tree for a snooze. Ian (the person who delivers the Post ie Mail) brought his 11 year old daughter over to say hello. He told us that the birds are Tawny Colored Frog Mouths - related to owls. They are night feeders. So cool to be so near to them - we were right on the balcony about 4 feet away.

Last night some type of night flower opened and the fragrance wafting in through the open windows was thick.

I saw 4 butterflies today that look like Monarchs. One landed in the tree in our front garden (at balcony height), I've attached a photo for your review. Does it look like a Monarch Butterfly?

Australia is awesome. We have been really enjoying the natural beauty of this place - even with all of our personal trials.