An Ode to Uncle Jono

Visiting Australia means catching up with family and I think it’s safe to say that two years apart means very little to Samuel and Thomas when it comes to Uncle Jono. He very quickly jumped to the top of the bedtime story queue and the leg train was a hit (thankful for smooth hardwood floors). Here’s the evidence.

Uncle Jono started the whole leg train thing. I’m pretty sure there was a part of him -mostly his leg muscles – that regretted it by the 20th ride. Kept the floors clean though.

Uncle Jono read bedtime stories two nights in a row – one of them after a very long visit to a winery. Now THAT’S a good Uncle.

Samuel’s smile looks a little out of place in this next photo. I’m pretty sure he’s about to lose a hand.

Jono’s love of fire is the stuff of legend in our family so, when my Dad decided to create a fire pit out of a 20 year old washing machine drum, he immediately earned just a little bit more respect with my youngest brother. And now I present Uncle Jono in his element…

And for a little bit of fun, which of these pics makes you more frightened?

Serious, don’t-mess-with-me arsonist?

Or crazy, reminds-me-a-little-of-the-shining arsonist?

I may keep both of these photos away from my children and just show them this one. Much less intimidating.

Catching Up With Charlie

Visiting Australia means we have a chance to catch up with Charlie – who has grown into a giant since we last saw him just six months ago. He’s now on the verge of walking, talking and taking over the world. The boys have been busy entertaining him part of the time and spending the rest trying to keep him away from their legos (I think Samuel may be developing a nervous tic).

Catching up with cousin Charlie also means we can consolidate bath time. Fine times!

Enjoying the Ordinary

Usually, the first reaction people have when I tell them I am traveling to Australia is “You’re so lucky! I’ve always wanted to go.” But, for me, going to Australia is going home – like a visit to the midwest or the east coast for a number of my US friends. While we definitely plan to make this a true vacation over the new couple of weeks with hikes and visits to museums and walks through the city, we are also enjoying simple things like visits to the playground. In fact, getting the boys outside for at least part of the day is key to our sanity.

This weekend we’ll be enjoying some time as an almost-complete family with my two brothers, sister-in-law and nephew all visiting. The only person missing is Kei but he’ll be with us in spirit from the other side of the world. In fact, I’ll be happy to have a drink on his behalf when we visit a nearby winery tomorrow (we all miss you honey).

In the meantime, I’ll leave you with some photos from a very ordinary visit to the playground a couple of days ago. The only difference between this playground and those we’d find at home was the wombat-shaped bouncy ride.

All Children and Luggage Accounted For

The boys and I made to Australia in one piece. We had a disastrous flight to Australia two years ago that involved delayed flights, being denied boarding, a forced 24 hour delay in San Francisco, having to fly United and, finally, some lost luggage, so I would be lying if I said I wasn’t just a teeny bit nervous this time.

Now that we’re safely in Australia, and I’m not in danger of jinxing myself, I’m thrilled to share the news that this trip was perfect. Every single flight was on time, I packed enough activities and movies to keep everyone relatively happy and the boys even slept for eight hours on the longest leg. I don’t think it could have gone better if I’d planned it.

So here’s the rundown of our trip with mostly iPhone photos, with a couple of DSLR pics thrown in. Most of the time I was too lazy to pull out the DSLR

1. Got to Portland airport at 2pm and stood in line forever to check our bags while people who checked their bags online moved through at a much faster pace. This is the only gripe I have about our trip (oh, and LAX but I’ll get to that). International flyers aren’t not allowed to check bags online, so why should we be forced to stand in a much longer line, with fewer staff to assist? OK, rant over.

2. Said goodbye to Kei at the security line that practically wrapped around the entire airport (slight exaggeration). Made our way to the gate and waited about 30 minutes before we were allowed to board while my children behaved like little angels. Here’s the proof:

3. Boarded plane #1 to LAX. A quick 2.5 hour trip during which my children drew pictures, read books and continued their angelic behaviour. It was nothing short of miraculous.

4. Landed in LAX and discovered that we had to exit the terminal and catch a shuttle bus to the international terminal, check in again at the Air New Zealand counter and then go through security for the second time in less than four hours.

5. Made it through a surprisingly-short security line and browsed the pathetic selection of airport food. Decided on a Pizza and salad from Wolfgang Puck which was as good as you would imagine and then found a place to hunker down for a couple of hours. Side note: I’ve been through a lot of international airports an LAX is arguably the worst. It feels dirty and the amenities are pretty pathetic. Would have definitely preferred to fly through San Francisco but I was lured by the promise of a SkyCouch on the LAX flight (more on that in a moment).

6. Let the kids watch a couple of episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender during which time I was free to read a book (yes, even I am amazed by that last sentence).

7. Boarded our 14 hour flight to New Zealand at about 9pm (on time). The kids were tired, but excited. Samuel kept asking if we were nearly at Australia but I had to break it to him that this was only flight number 2 and most of the trip still lay before us. He seemed a little disappointed but quickly perked up when he spotted his very own TV in the back of the seat in front of him.

8. Thomas was close to passing out from exhaustion immediately after dinner so we set up the SkyCouch. What an amazing stroke of genius to provide children with somewhere to sleep. While it wasn’t without its faults (hard to get to bags stored under seats, lots of kicking and jostling for room), the kids slept for a full eight hours. EIGHT HOURS! I slept for about four in a seated position, but it was enough to keep me going.

9. Kids woke up and watched about 4 hours of television before we landed in Auckland – although Samuel watched The Lion King about 3 times so I don’t think it counts as too much TV. Only hiccup was that I left my favorite water bottle on the plane. I’m a little sad about that but, as far as hiccups go, I’ll take it.

10. Went through security one more time (overkill) where I forgot to empty the kids water bottles like a travel rookie – a move that was quickly fixed with a quick “skull” (Definition: to drink in a single draught without taking a breath). Found our favorite place to hang out in the Airport and the kids played quietly with Lego while I, again, read a book (gasp!).

11. Headed down to the gate about 15 minutes before our flight boarded. I found a strip of relatively unoccupied space and had the kids run races up and down until they called us for boarding. To all the people who gave me dirty looks while I let my kids run around – YOU ARE WELCOME. You just don’t realize how much more pleasant your trip has become.

12. Boarded our final 3.5 hour flight to Melbourne. I managed to watch the end of a movie that I started on our previous flight while the boys watched their own TV for a while. Samuel then took out the lego so I set up the sky couch to catch any dropped pieces (seriously fantastic invention).

13. Finally touched down in Melbourne and this us what happened: flew through the immigration line (we were the only flight that had landed), grabbed both bags that quickly appeared on the the luggage carousel (huge sigh of relief), breezed through customs (even got to pat the sniffer dog) and then walked out the doors to be greeted by my brother and nephew.

All in all, the perfect trip. The boys behaved wonderfully apart from the appearance of Samuel’s “dark side” on a few occasions. A little yelling and demanding due to over-tiredness but thankfully no all out tantrums. Our flight even landed about 20 minutes early.

Of course I have a lingering fear that we used up all of our good luck on the way over and that our trip home will be disastrous but I think it’s always good to maintain a little bit fear. It keeps you on your toes.

Classic New York

Yes, I’m still wading through my New York photos despite the fact that I’ll soon have a bunch more photos to post from the part of the world I’m in right now. I just keep finding images that I want to share. What can I say? It’s an illness.

The thing about photographing New York is that you often find yourself capturing familiar images like the iconic shots of Radio City Music Hall, the LOVE sculpture and the Empire State Building. And, because you’ve seen those photos so many times before, it’s easy to talk yourself into walking past without pulling out the camera. But the thing about the photos I’m about to share, even if they look a little familiar, is that I was there. That makes them more valuable to me, if not to anyone else.

And every now and again I managed to capture something completely fun and unexpected. So, here’s a small collection of classic (and not so classic) photographs that could only have been taken in New York.

Happy Fathers’ Day…Somewhere in the World

His children are on the other side of the world and in a different time zone so I can be fairly certain that the father of my children is enjoying his Fathers’ Day with just the golf to keep him company. We celebrated a day early with brunch – which was especially important since the kids and I literally missed Fathers’ Day. As in we crossed the dateline and Sunday disappeared.

Happy Fathers’ Day to the best Dad I know. We miss you already.

Last Day of Kindergarten

Nine short months ago….

Today. (taken with my iPhone)

Is it just me or does he look like a giant?

To say someone was excited for his last day of school is an understatement. For me, of course, it’s bittersweet.

I tried to maintain my composure while I took one last look around at the kindergarten hallway. And then Thomas’ English teacher came up to me and told me what a joy it was to teach him this year and how she’ll remember our family all year as she looks at the photo desk calendar I gave to her as a gift for Christmas. And then I thanked her for being such a wonderful teacher. And that’s when we both lost it a little bit.

I shouldn’t be allowed to do the last day of school drop off. I’m far too emotional.