Ally, Ally… One sick little puppy! Part 1

The lead up

Life gets crazy. I intend to do so much in the little time I have throughout my day and things get away from me. I finally get a visa that allows me to work, only to find out I need to go to school in order to work in the field I was in before moving to Australia (my education and experience from New York was not recognized here), so I did… and the blog gets pushed into the back of my mind with a million other things and on the bottom of the to do list where getting to it looks dismal.

Until today. My normally funny posts, which I love writing, have been replaced (hopefully temporarily) with a series that’s ongoing and difficult to write. Trying to write factoids and not a novel, is always a challenge that I usually fail (look a funny!… or not, depending on if your reading this willingly). I will do my best to keep everything up to date for those interested in this unusual journey we find ourselves on.

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First picture as a couple. Mykalyn named Allymare after her character in a novel she has been writing and will someday release.

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Cuddle time with a very tired mommy

So in my last post, I barely introduced my Allymare.. puppy extraordinaire as a new love in my life. I am one of those people who irrationally (some have told me) fall in love with my animals to the point where it’s hard to distinguish much difference between them and the people I love. I have been on the I-want-another-baby-kick, and transferring that need onto Allymare, I know that.

From the first second, I knew I was screwed.. she is everything I didn’t want in a dog.. She is big.. Black (mostly)… She looks scary to everyone else. But she has those eyes which melt your soul. Like I said.. screwed! I wanted another Papillion.. little, cute, always puppy-sized and can be carried everywhere and the food bill would be non-existent (I had one when I lived in New York.. I love you Lizzy! RIP). You know a girl’s dog. Hahaha

Growing up, she was nearly perfect.. no accidents.. barks when she wants in or out. Crate trained at night, right in our master with us, no table food but the occasional carrot or zucchini slice, occasionally getting some broth to sweeten the deal. Obsessed with the ball, loves car rides and gramma’s farm and the really big dog’s there (the cows). She loves all things water…. The pool, lakes, rivers and beaches, so it is a good thing she inherited her mom’s webbed feet. Ally has a best friend named Aurora which we met in puppy school and she loves playing with the crickets in the yard, until she confusingly can’t get them to play because she accidentally killed it. She loves everything and everyone.. perfect.

I only say nearly perfect, because she can be stubborn as hell. If you are not giving her what she wants, she can give you the cold shoulder better than anyone I have ever met. And she sulks.. and makes sure you know it. The love affair she has with Matthew is like no other. I am pretty sure she feels like she is his spouse and I am just that lady who takes care of everything.

On a lovely day in early October of 2014, she had a seizure. We were home and thought she was choking. She came running in to us from outside, fell to the floor and stopped breathing. She was making funny noses and convulsing. We managed to get her to the vets and they ran tests and gave us the diagnosis (which until 6 months ago I was still in denial about). They said “We will watch and see if she has another one. Some dogs only have one and that’s it. Others will have one or 2 a year and act like it’s nothing at all”. So we did…2 months later, nothing… 6 months, nothing.. 9 months, nothing.. they must be crazy.. My dog choked on something..

In late September of this year, she had another and I had to face the truth that the first one was really a seizure. The regular vet said if they are that far apart, they would only go into more watch and wait. They wouldn’t treat it unless they were very regular and frequent, as the medication could cause damage to things like the liver after prolonged use. Then a week later, another one. So back to the doctor and they recommend just that.. on the medication we went. I researched it all, as I always do and was not happy about it. But what do I know, I am not a medical professional. So now Ally was on Phenobarbitone.

The first 2 weeks was quite scary. She was acting drunk and bumping into stuff. Stiff joints and groggy. She knew she was not right so she would always be right with someone. We headed to the vet a couple more times and they said although scary, everything was quite normal because it takes time to work into the system. I’m not feeling great about this as it is.. Now I like it even less. But then as it worked in she slowly shifted back to normal, and I was beginning to feel more at ease with the decision. It only lasted until Thanksgiving though before weird stuff started happening.

First week of December – She started doing the weird, groggy, drunk walk and having trouble getting in the car (it’s a minivan so she needs to jump up to get into it). The medication needs to be given consistently every 12 hours, so we blamed ourselves because the administration of her medication was bouncing a bit from 10 hours apart to 15 hours (7:30am and 7:30pm is not always easy when your children have activities before the end of the year causing you to not always be home at that exact time).

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I’m not feeling so well mom!

Then went her appetite, which we also justified. She used to have moments where she just was not hungry. We joke that she might be part Papillion (They are a very sensitive little breed that are very picky eaters, usually). It was never a bad thing though. Seeing her parents were Golden Retriever and Australian Kelpie (a working farm dog breed that is used to running from sun-up to sun-down to help control livestock), its odd she wouldn’t eat everything in sight. How cool it is to have a dog that eats when she is hungry and doesn’t over indulge. She always ate well, just not gluttonous. It changed when we got the cat. The parental genetics kicked in when she thought the cat might steal her food. So we now needed to be careful not to over feed her. That’s been the norm for the past year. So when she skipped meals or started eating later, we figured she reverted to pre-cat times.

Second Week of December – We however could not justify the puddle on the floor. That was when we booked the appointment, which was 2 days from the call. Then the next day, our bed was wet, while she was still laying in it. She was soaked as well. My alarm bells went from worried to frantic.

Wednesday, December 9th – So off to the regular vet a day early to find out she had a serious temperature. The average Temp for a dog is around 38.5c (101.3f) and hers was 40.3c (104.5f). hey said they get nervous at anything over 39.5c (103.1f). They ran a blood test and a urine analysis and gave her an injection of antibiotics to help reduce the temperature. They also sent us home with a puppy version of electrolyte booster (like the pedialyte you give to kids when they are sick).

Thursday, December 10th – Back to our regular vet to see about her temperature, get another check-up and see what’s going on with her blood test. They ran cultures on both blood and urine which would not be ready until Monday, likely. The blood tests revealed she was completely missing white blood cells in her blood and that her red blood cells were much lower than normal. The doctor looked at a slide of Ally’s blood and could not find even one white blood cell! So where the hell are they?

Ally’s temperature was down and we were booked in for another check the next day and sent home with the antibiotic seeing its doing something to ease whatever this is. Plus with no white blood cells, she needed to have the antibiotic to help fight off anything she could potentially contract. Hopefully they could come up with a reason this is happening over night.

Mind you, every time I am with a doctor, I bring up her anti-seizure medication. I have read up on everything I could find, not knowing what is accurate and what’s not. I get the same answer every time.. It’s highly unlikely so we need to rule the more likely things out first. She is still eating, just not alot and antibiotic needs time to work through the system. If she is no better tomorrow, then more tests will occur to start trying to find a source.

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Cuddling with the couch pillows makes me feel better.

Part 2 should be released in the next day or 2.

 

 

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Chaotic… Here we come…

Life goes from busy to psychotic at the flip of a switch, naturally with no warning what-so-ever. Thanksgiving blurred into Christmas and without even a breathe, we are now moving out of our house, a rental, no thanks to the owners deciding to abruptly sell. This hectic schedule has become a strange new way of life. SO just to make it ready stand out, why not throw a new pet into the mix.

The newest Andrewartha..

The newest Andrewartha..


My sister always says, “Go Big or Go Home” and it’s funny how much I emulate that statement. All the “spare time” I had before has blown out the window along with what little sanity I had left.

With that, I apologize for the delay of writing this next post which is only about 3 months overdue.. I can honestly say that over the last couple of months so much has happened that I have plenty to say to amuse myself and hopefully keep my brain from completely crashing into a babbling pool of slime.

As for now, my new focus in life is to keep a bouncing (seriously, she thinks she is part rabbit), stubborn (and part human toddler), chewing, barking, digging, swimming, happy pile of puppy love from getting out of the house while packing, shifting, lifting and relocating items from one house to another. When I moved here we had very little. After one short year of being here….. where the hell did all this stuff come from? Seriously I have no idea how we managed to obtain so much stuff… x8 people… even Matthew’s daughter has things here.. This is going to be very interesting indeed. So my next adventure seems to begin. Time for a little house hunting.

I am considering contacting a TV network and pitching our life as a reality show to fund this crazy operation!

What you should know before living Australian

Another fun challenge. Yay!

I have only been writing this blog a couple of months. Looking back at the various entries, made me realize that I have yet to tell you all the differences I have learned while living here in Australia. Keep in mind that I always prided myself with being a strong-minded, independent, New Yorker (aka low bullshit tolerance), single mother who found a way to do whatever I needed… done. Also keep in mind this is my first experience with living with a guy, whom I am not related to. Then throw in 4 boys and a couple teenage girls! So here goes.. pull up a chair, grab that cup of coffee and sit a spell.

1. They drive on the wrong side of the road…. on the wrong side of the car…. and these crazy people allow us americans to drive here on an american licence. *smacks head* (trust me it will not be the first time I hit myself!) What’s worse you ask?? The fact that in the states, I drove a 1992 Toyota Corolla, standard (that’s manual for all you Aussie’s), which is a tiny car. Then  I get here and have to drive a huge-ass mini-van. How else are we going to tow around 6 kids? All I have to say is thank god it was not a standard as well. Then the shift would have then been in my left hand, instead of my coffee.

Driving in Melbourne in crazy traffic in the far left lane (the slow lane…. which should be the fast lane!)

2. Now I know Australia is not the only one that says this but when I hear the word “Jumper”, I either think of the movie where the guy was sitting in the sun in egypt taking in the sights, or one of those little girls dresses my mother used to dress me in. Occasionally I think of a one-piece maintenance or mechanic’s uniform. I however, do not think of a coat, bommer-jacket, pull-over, zip-up hoodie, sweater or any thing else you would wear over your clothing before going outside.

Movie Poster for Jumper

 

 

3. “Good-day mate” really is used a lot. So is “No Worries”. The problem is that from where I come from when someone says not to worry about something, it usually means your paying $1000 to fix your car, your hot water tank it going to explode, or your office is “down-sizing”. Naturally “No Worries” is something to worry about. The first time I heard it was from a very nice woman taking a meal order at a restaurant. I asked for whatever sauce it was to go on the side instead of on the food. “No Worries” she said which made me think that not only was it not going on the side but she is going to spit in my food and add more spice so my mouth explodes. Turned out it was just the response used here and I really have “No Worries”. Who knew?

4. “The bench” is something to sit on… either at a picnic table or in the park. A bench is not the space in your kitchen were you prepare your food. That is called a counter. And to my Aussie kiddos…. seriously stop teasing me every time I tell you to put your lunch box on the counter next to the “ketchup” someone left out of the fridge. And yes… it is  “ketchup”, not “tomato sauce” because tomato sauce is what you add meat to, and serve over spaghetti hot. *smacks head*

5. To my new neighbors when you move into the vicinity of my house: please do not run for cover when I, the American, knock on your door. I’m only welcoming you to the neighborhood and handing you a baked good of which is usually made with pumpkin. Yes I said pumpkin seeing you have tons of it here and it tastes good in breads. And I’m sorry if I am confusing you because you eat pumpkin like it is a side of squash or corn here… it’s still good in breads and pies…and no I am not from Canada… but I get that a lot.

Kent Pumpkins remind me of Acorn Squash

6. Now American’s should know that Australian’s do not….. ever….. ride Kangaroo’s to work or school. So seriously stop asking them if they do. Your making us all look rather stupid. And also, they don’t drink Foster’s beer. That’s just some crazy gimmick that silly American’s think is accurate, but you should already know our news, advertisements and reporters are not the most accurate. (Ummm…. speaking of reporters.. did Romney really say that most american’s are idiots?? Relax, I’m paraphrasing! God, I need to sit with my politically charged friends for a coffee break when I come home for a visit!) Here, when you ask for a Foster’s, you will get the following: 1. a dirty look from the wait staff servicing your order. 2. Someone overhearing the conversation that over heard your accent (and yes, I guess when your here you are the one with the accent) will inevitably start laughing 3. The wait staff will probably ask you if your serious and follow it up with “We don’t carry Foster’s”.

Large Red Kangaroo

7. Don’t ask for a hotdog in Australia. Really, you will cry. They are obsessed here with the “Sausage roll” which I like to call in our house as the “Aussie Hot Dog”. It is a beef sausage. Yes, I said beef. And its mixed up with things like carrots and veggies and rolled into a puff pastry so it looking like an over-sided pig in a blanket. They are yum and if you visit you really need to try it. Save the hot dogs for America. They are not very big on cheeseburgers either. I would say the equivalent here would be a beef pie. It looks just like a “Banquet’s” frozen beef pot pie. Tastes a lot like them as well, but the texture of the filling is more like a sloppy joe and they usually eat them with either ketchup (yes I said ketchup! Kids! *smacks forehead*) or BBQ sauce.

Sausage Rolls and Beef Pies

8. Here they have an “American” pizza. Here we go again… *Eyes roll and a smack to the forehead* This pizza is not american and whomever made it and told everyone it was, lied. Now being from NY, I know my pizza. Hot salami is not a substitute for pepperoni. And whatever happened to the cheese?? If your going to coin a pizza as “American” it needs to be thin crust, smothered in mozzarella and topped with greasy pepperoni so that when it’s baked, the oils in the meat and cheese coat the top of the pizza. No, what I would consider an “American Pizza” would not have ham, shredded meat, onions, chili? (Seriously) or anything else. Just pepperoni and cheese. Yes I love other toppings but that makes it something else entirely. I do love the pizza they have here though, just not the one previously mentioned. There are a couple of pizza places near our house they make a mean pizza. (What’s this you say… an egg.. you want to crack an egg on top of my pizza and bake it so the egg is just sitting up there on top of my pizza… seriously? That’s just so wrong on so many levels!)

9. Matthew is not a big seafood eater. Personally, I love it. I have yet to find a fish or shellfish I don’t like. I will admit I have had a decent variety of fish over the years, but some things I have yet to discover… like what it would be like to eat a shrimp (or prawn as they are referred to here) with their little head on. I tried to eat a lobster once like that and made my dad remove the meat because frankly, it freaks me out when my food is looking at me. And when you have a plate of 30 little guys just staring at you, it makes it difficult to eat them. I’ll pass on the shrimp unless you get me the headless kind.

10. Uggs are very unpopular here. Go figure. The only people who wear Uggs here, are tourists. You will get a dirty look from those Aussies around you for being silly enough to buy them. Luckily majority of Australians like us crazy Americans and we can usually get away with little fou-faux like wearing Uggs while living in Australia. Once Aussie’s know your American they usually giggle and forgive you. Mental Note: Wonder what would happen if you walked into a bar and ordered a Foster’s wearing Uggs?? Hmmm. might need to try that one! Hehe

11. And finally, before you visit is over… Where I come from, if you must find the need to gossip about someone who is pregnant, you would normally start out by saying “Did you hear that so and so is pregnant?” Now the first time I heard this one, I almost wet myself from the laughter. I figured it couldn’t be real, and then heard it again, then from my neighbor and even a reporter on the news. Here when you are talking about someone who is pregnant the phrase goes a little like this… “Did you hear that so and so “Fell” pregnant?” Yes I said fell. Like you fall ill from an infectious disease. It is just the Aussie Way.

falling can be an art form..

Now see what happens when you go from working day care for 10 years to being stuck in a quiet house all day. I talk a lot. Yeah I always did but now it is even worse.

I truly enjoyed your visit. And even though I am, and always will be a New Yorker, heart and soul, I really love being in Australia. So if your finished with your coffee, I’m happy to walk you to the door. Just let me go grab a Panadol (Tylenol) for this headache. You can put your coffee cup on the bench, next to the tomato sauce and sausage rolls. Here… you forgot the pumpkin muffins I made you….. Don’t forget to put on your Jumper before you go. Good’ay mate.

You want to come back for another visit? Just add my blog to your followed tabs. No worries! Have an awesome day!

“Easy as Pie”…. who are you kidding??

It’s funny how many times I have heard the phrase “Easy as Pie”. All throughout my childhood I heard that phrase. I grew up in upstate New York near Albany where life seems to be a good mix of city and rural. You have your snobby yuppies, your country simple and everyone in-between. “Easy as Pie” was everywhere.. It wasn’t until this challenge was presented to me, that I would put it to the test. Just how easy was pie anyway? Let’s make one and find out, shall we?

Now in the past I have attempted to make pie. Some came out “Yummo” as Rachel Ray always says, others have been an inedible failure. Funny how it seemed to always shadow things going on in my life at the time. My last pie was pumpkin. The filling was not to bad, but the crust sucked like a child on a melting rocket-pop in the July heat of summer. Funny…. that’s around when I made the pumpkin pie. Hey, life in Australia is ass-backwards from New York where summer is winter and fall is spring. Ever since moving here, my life has been one busy rollercoaster ride from having my daughter and partner one week, to adding 3-4 boys under age 13 (my partner has 4 sons and shares 50/50 custody) the next. Then back to a shockingly quiet house the next (Myki lives on her new iPod, so she creeps around a lot and it is hard to tell she is here).

So back to this pie. Thanks to the pumpkin pie I made a couple of months back, I now have the rolling-pin and pie dishes. Naturally you must have two pie dishes because pie crust recipes usually make enough for a top and bottom crust. Well, what if you have a crumb top or open top pie? Now you have too much crust and if you split the recipe, the crust just does not taste right. So I might as well make 2 pies and freeze the second for a later event. Easy as pie…. bullshit. This pie has already turned into 2.

Now to pick a pie.. Berry? Rock Fruit? Custard? The selection is enough to make you nuts (OOOh , maybe pecan). How is it going to be topped?? Crumb, Crust or Open? Seriously this is supposed to be easy.  So I hit my favorite website. Mrs. Martha, as I fondly refer to her. Her website is essential in my house for most of my favorite recipes and therefore, my first recipe search place. She is probably the only person on the planet who would actually think pie is “Easy As…” So now looking at all these recipes I decide it would be cheaper to make this pie by getting whatever fruit is in season. In ass-backwards Australia, it’s strawberry season, so how about a nice strawberry-rhubarb. My gram used to make them when I was a kid and I have helped before. How hard could it be?

So my challenge started on a Tuesday. Everything above was settled. Luckily I planned grocery shopping for Wednesday. However, this posed more problematic than originally assessed. Shopping for meat and produce is done in 2 different stores, which happen to be side by side. No rhubarb and the strawberries.. not so yummy looking. Pfftt!! Then Myki had her first Softball practice smack in the middle of the day, after all they are on a 2 week break from school. After she had finished a very amusing practice (it’s been almost 4 years since her last softball anything!) we drive to our regular grocery store for everything else… also no rhubarb. Now I’m thinking don’t buy the strawberries until you know you can get the rhubarb.

Leaving the Queen Victoria Market

So Matthew takes the train to and from work on the days I need the car, yes we are still working with only one car… with 6 kids… Yeah it’s fun! But the station happens to be by another grocery store chain…. still no rhubarb. Now I’m just frustrated. Is rhubarb going to be like summer squash? (they don’t have summer squash here… they call it yellow zucchini and I have not found it anywhere!) but I’m not giving up. Matthew works in the city and 3 blocks from his building is the Queen Victoria Market. It is this super huge farmers market, flea market, meat and seafood market and anything else you can think of market…. all rolled into one huge city block. So on Thursday we drive into the city with Matthew and spend the morning between Myki’s favorite bookstore, a yarn store and the market. Guess what… they have rhubarb.. and yummy strawberries along with scallops and shrimp, so hey, let’s bang out some dinner shopping and get some fresh seafood while we are at it.

Myki and Xanthas with their rugby awards

Friday is a bust on pie making seeing I need to prepare the home for the invasion of boys (hiding a rather large Christmas Gift in progress, gluing down anything breakable, bathroom cleansers prepared and filled for the weekend. I’m sure you get the idea). Saturday is also a bust. Softball game, swim lessons, and a rugby presentation for Myki and Xanthas. They got their participation trophies and we ate yummy food in the rain. The presentation was at a zoo, where we had to pay just to get in to the event. It wasn’t cheap so guess what… rain or not we are getting our money’s worth. We walked around and took the bus tour and trudged through the puddles around 5pm. Just in time to cook dinner and die from exhaustion.

Getting ready to leave the rainy zoo..

Sunday morning comes along and now I’m panicking that our lovely strawberries are going to be a moldy mushy mess. This pie needs to be done today. Without fail! I hop online to look up Martha to find the recipe I tabbed. Not only does the link have a recipe but a cute little clip of making this pie with a guest on her show. http://www.marthastewart.com/901101/strawberry-rhubarb-pie

Almost ready to bake.

And well…. I didn’t double the recipe in order to make 2 pies when shopping, so now it’s back down to one! *shakes head and sighs at silly mistakes*

My crust soooo does not look like that! From start to finish it takes me about 7 hours. I know what your thinking…… I had to stop half way through to fix dinner. So the crust took about an hour to make, chill, roll and chill again. The filling and topping took another 30 minutes to put together and layered into the crust. Now that it is ready to go into the oven…. I had to put it in the fridge so I could cook dinner. *another head shake* Homemade calizones for 6 takes an hour when you have the smallest oven on the planet. I have 2 shelves in our tiny oven, therefore can only cook 2 calzones at a time. Once dinner was finally cooked, I put the pie in the oven. The aroma was amazing. The pie was bubblng and turning golden. The house smelled like my gram’s house on 4th of July weekend. The air was sweet and I was salvating like a dog in the hot sunshine. Waiting another 2 hours for it to cool. UGH! I have been looking forward to it since Tuesday, after all.Of course, just as I am getting ready to cut into this yumminess.. the damn phone rings. A quick chat with a new friend who asks about my weekend. I tell her about the game, the zoo and rugby. I tell her about getting kids into the shower, cleaning up dinner, back to school tomorrow and about my pie.  She asks me how in the world do I have enough time to make a pie with my life as hectic as it is. I just smiled and looked at the pie. “My life…” I pause for dramatic effect.. “My life is Easy as Pie”.

And life tastes pretty fantastic!

 

 

Wow! How am I not in a straight jacket after this week?

I have decided that school vacations are simply to remind parents how lucky we are that the kids are not home all the time. A week ago Friday, started the beginning of a 2 week vacation for students in Australia. Here between every term/quarter, the students have a 2 week holiday and then 6 to 7 weeks of summer vacation which starts just before Christmas holidays and runs through January into the first week of February. This is the final vacation break before “the big one”.

The kids arrived Friday night (3 youngest boys) busting through the door…. “I’m starving… when’s dinner??” The whining continues until dinner is completely on the table. Friday nights are always chaotic when the boys arrive. The routine takes a day or so to slip back into those over-stimulated brains which are running as if on a sugar high and an adrenaline rush times 1000!

This Saturday is like any other non-sporting (Rugby season is over and softball has yet to begin) Saturday. Get up, make breakfast, dressed, teeth and hair, beds made, rooms picked up from the trashing the night before. And that’s before 10am. You have one complaining about wanting to go to the park. Another about wanting to use Skype to call New York. It’s enough to do anyone’s head in. Matthew and I just look at each other, shake our heads and smile. This is our life and this is just how we want it (most the time…. a glass of wine, a good book and peace is always good too! but hey, I’ll get plenty of that next week). Hectically happy is what I like to call it. We go about the day wedging in time at the park riding bikes, playing on the playground, running home for drinks and lunch, throw in a few chores, and head back out to do it all over again. Wrapping up the day with showers, a fire out on the patio and the latest episode of Warehouse 13. Damn, after all that I could use a beer. Lucky Matthew is so good to me and got us a 6-pack of Guiness. YUM!

Sunday is Myki’s and my day. This one Sunday a month we adventure on the trains and trams through the city to meet up with our Ravelry.com group. We have done it almost every month since moving here. It’s our chance to do something, just us girls. And it gives Matthew and the boys a chance to “rough it” without us. Matthew is a great cook and this is one of the few times he gets to make dinner. This Sunday is roast beef with veggies in the slow cooker. Yum. No Leftovers. And even better, I come home to find out that the littlest of the clan decided today is the day he was not going back to training wheels on his bike.

Nice and clean… for now.

Monday and Tuesday I was on my own…. deep breath. I can do this.. after all… I ran a daycare for 10+ years. 4 kids busy all day… going back to basics… day care schedule back enforce! Funny how it works on my toddlers in daycare as well as the 14-year-old. Really both days looked a lot like Saturday with a few added meltdowns at the park and an occasional argument from the under 11 boys. Holy crap was I exhausted every night! Monday we rearranged the little boys room. The 3 of us discussed how the room should be arranged and set to work. Luckily it really only took about a half an hour, including vacuuming. We also had a visit from Matthew’s parents. We knew they were coming (they live about a 4 hour drive from us) to spend time with his sister (she is about 10 minutes from us), but I didn’t think they would have time to swing by until later in the week. Now we have plans for Wednesday. Yay!

Tuesday night our favorite neighbors end up in a mess of their own with their youngest child so we take their older daughter (which I love because she balances out the testosterone in the house) and she gets to sleep over for the next couple days. She is 8, gets along great with all the kids and hey… the more the merrier. Bring it on!

Melbourne Zoo, September 26, 2012

Wednesday. Awesome day. Matthew has the rest of the week off work. I love having him around and funny as it may sound, I wish he didn’t have to work so we would have more time together. He works very long hours and sometimes it seems he is only home to sleep so having him home feels wonderful. We manage to get everyone up and ready to run for the day, neighbors daughter included. Matthew leaves to get his oldest son and is back before his parents arrive with his youngest nephew and we are all off. A boatload of kids, 4 adults, 2 cars, a bag full of snacks and homemade pumpkin muffins. We are off to the Melbourne Zoo. Myki and my very first time there. We manage to get through a good chunk before a lunch break and then head off for more. After a good 5 hours of almost non-stop tourist behavior we decide it’s a good time to head home before we all fall over. Matthew tells me we might have gotten through half the zoo. Anyone who has ever been there (or the Bronx Zoo) will understand the sheer size of the place. Matthew and I pull all our strength together to get dinner and the night routine done and put on a movie for the kids. Naturally they are all happy to stay up late, but somehow we manage to get them into bed at normal non-school bedtime.

At the zoo… enjoying a break. Perfect opportunity for a family picture.

Jello.. That’s what my legs felt like for the first hour I was up on Thursday. Coffee.. that’s all I could focus on for that same hour trying not to think about my jello. And the kids slept in. Hallelujah! The zoo worked after all. And to make my legs cry some more, today was planting day…. We are beginning the work on our veggie garden only to find out after running to the store to buy the last of what we need (or so we thought) that our ground is clay… so we switch to getting our container plants pretty and ready to go out front of our house. For now, the seedlings will have to stay in pots until we figure out what to do with our lovely back yard full of clay.

Friday the kids head to their mother’s house and we are off duty….. I’m not cooking so we get to eat out. What a crazy week. To top it all off there are 2 major Grand Final Games this weekend. Australian Football Grand Final is Saturday and the Rugby Grand Final is Sunday. And somewhere in between all that hostility towards our electronic picture machine we still have to wedge in grocery shopping and an appointment to see a lizard enclosure. Sleep, where art thou…… not in the schedule?? Bring it on! I have a full pot of coffee!

If you are interested in more photos from the Melbourne Zoo, I have created an album on the My Crazy Australian Life Page. Enjoy and feel free to share your favorite spots to visit with your family.

Should have been said long ago…

Dearest Grams,

It’s been a while since I have written you anything and I am very sorry for that. I know we talk all the time, but I know how much you like getting something in the mail so I thought I would drop you a line and give you a few updates since we chatted last.

As you know we have new babies in the family. Jaime’s son MJ is the most beautiful bundle of love. I was lucky enough to see him born, the way you where there for Myki’s birth. I couldn’t be prouder of my sister in that moment. She made it look so easy and I know I will have that memory for the rest of my life. I refer to MJ as my ol’ lil’ turtle because he had this old mans face with all these wrinkles that remind me of those huge turtles that can get to be 100+ years old. And of course, your daughter Cyn has added to her family another beautiful little man, Martin, which we prayed for everyday until he was home safe and sound. It was a long road for Martin but like everyone in this family, he is a fighter. They just turned 2 years old and I see pictures of them all the time, and usually can’t believe my eyes at the size of them. I get to hear them on the phone yelling and laughing and Martin even chats with me when I call. They are both very strong happy boys and I frequently joke that Cyn and Jaime wanted to turn the tables a bit and balance the boy/girl numbers.

Mike and Mandy are together and mom tells me they are good. I talk to Mike once in a while but it’s not easy with the time difference and the busy schedules we both have. They have also had another child, naturally a girl. Haha You know my love for girls. Pink dresses and lacy bonnets, little MaryJane’s and all things pink. What’s not to love. So that makes 3 girls for Mike… And a brand new house. Mom says its cute and that he has been working very hard on it. If there is one thing I know, my brother works hard.

So the big stuff that has changed. Remember Matthew? He is the man I would always be talking to on the computer when I would come up to visit. I know I would drive the family crazy walking around with a laptop chatting away half my vacations at your house. Well turns out I made that crazy move to Australia. I will not lie, it was not the easiest move. It took a lot of organizing and time. Lucky I was taught the how’s and when’s by some great women in this family. Other than the organizing and running around to get it all done, when it came down to moving, I was very much at ease with the decision. Matthew is an amazing person and I couldn’t be luckier to have him in my life.

Mykalyn came with me, of course and as funny as it sounds, it has been a very natural progression of going from an only child to one of 6. Matthew’s boys (the younger 3) spend half their time here and consider her just as much family as they do each other. Matthews older 2 are here less frequently but always seem comfortable around Mykalyn so I hope they too will build that relationship, in time. I couldn’t be happier with everyone’s progress. Matthew and Mykalyn act as if they were just always there for each other and Myki brings tears to my eyes when she calls him dad, or refers to the boys as her brothers.

It’s funny, I was ironing Matthew’s shirt for work the other day (god I’ll be happy to be able to work again-I still hate ironing) and there was a stack on handkerchiefs. In moment’s like these I can’t help but think about Gramps. Matthew reminds me so much of him. His soft-spoken, reserved way about him, but when he is engaged he can be laughing with that deep boisterous laugh and teasing someone for something. The way he always went to work looking pristine with his handkerchief in his pocket and the respect of everyone he knows. Those goofy limericks he would sing when the kids weren’t around. Matthew even makes me laugh in that way only Gramps could do. Matthew even did the ultimate…. not intentionally but it brought tears to my eyes and a laugh to my soul. He was in the bedroom messing with the TV while I was in the living room watching some show, and somehow he made our machine go on the fritz and it was changing channels all over the place. Turns out he didn’t know that would happen but it reminded me of when Gramps would tease you by changing your soaps using the remote from the back room. When Matthew did it, I could even hear you yelling out in my head “Bob, would you knock it off and change it back” with a little laugh out of him in satisfaction. Those memories have always made me feel so happy. Just knowing how lucky I was to have been a witness to it. To be part of it. And now having these moments for myself. It’s come full circle.

I wanted to tell you how lucky I am to have you in my life. You will probably never understand the sheer volume of knowledge I have learned from you over the years. Spending almost every vacation and holiday in your presence has been the biggest gift I could have ever gotten in all the years I have been in this world. You taught me to be kind and compassionate. That soft-spoken has its advantages, haha even if I am still the loudest one in the room. You taught me how to cook, to listen, to laugh, all at the same time.  You taught me how to understand, to appreciate those I love and the things I have, to always lend a hand and work hard. How to cry. To be in the moment but plan for my future. You and Gramps taught me how special true love is. What it looks like and how to nurture it. Both within yourself, and each other, but you also showed me how to teach my daughter those same things for her future. You taught me that life is not always as you think it will turn out, but that the living happens every day and that’s whats important. You are my guide and my rock. And I know that if ever I am having a hard time understanding the path of my life, that I can tell you anything and you will be there to listen.

I need to call mom and tell her how lucky I am to have her as a mom as well. Without her driving every dime she could save, into some crap car so we could spend our free time with you. She made huge sacrifices for the 3 of us.. not because she had to, but because that’s how she made it through her day. She lives for her kids, even now that we are all grown with kids of our own. I would have never learned these lessons without her. She has been an amazing mother, and until I moved away from everyone, I would never have understood any of these life lessons.

This hasn’t been the easiest letter to write. I originally sat down to write a letter to my 16-year-old self for a personal project. But in that moment, I felt my time would be better spent writing to you. You have been such an important part of my world and even if I didn’t always show it before, I wanted you to know now. It’s been over 2 years since I have written you, so I felt this was long over due. It’s been 2 years since I have heard your voice. Gotten those amazing hugs that I loved growing up. I wish I could have made it to your funeral, to have said goodbye, but instead I was with Jaime sharing in the moment MJ was born, as I know that’s where you would have wanted me to be. You always had a way to celebrate life, another lesson I hope to understand some day. Until then, we talk every day, sometimes my family thinks I’m going crazy. I frequently blurt out “I love you” and they all yell it back. And I always have a smile on my face when they do because I’m thinking about you and Gramps up in heaven watching over my wonderful family. My only regret in life… that they will never meet you and Gramps in person, to see all the wonderful things that I could see growing up.

I love you always,

Your favorite Granddaughter (Haha, I won’t tell the others, if you don’t)

Kimberly

 

Love you for always.

 

To Cut or Not To Cut……My hair that is…

I get the “What were you thinking, moving here all the way from New York?” a lot. Moving to Australia, the first thing people pick up is my accent even though, I’m pretty sure they are the ones who have it. I tell them all…. it’s just another part of my adventurous life.. Tell that to my hair!

Like any child, my mother took me to her hairdresser. Everyone grows up and gets older, and so does your taste in style. You get over your mother’s “Old School” stylist and move on to one of your own. I’m one of those people who really hates my hair the same for too long. Because of this I regularly change my hair. Since High School I have either had my style changed, or my hair dyed/frosted/high-lighted, whatever, about every 3-4 months. Bangs being the most fun… The tedious growing out the bangs, only to cut them in frustration when they hit that certain length. Each hair-cut would be one frustration after another, because I would never stay with the same hair-stylist twice. They would always do at least one thing I didn’t like and I would move on. I would even, on occasion, go back to my mother’s stylist only to realize why I stopped in the first place. It is the challenge of a lifetime to find someone to be happy with. A hair-dresser soul-mate.

Then comes college… where no one has the money to get an expensive hair-cut. Your to busy making what little money you can so you can drink it away at some bar your friends all like hanging out in. So either it’s never cut, or you hand the scissors to a friend who “has cut hair before”, which is always an interesting fashion statement, to say the least. I can remember my friends and I all sitting around one day  in the middle of the Frat house my boyfriend (at the time) belonged to, just cutting hair. The guys just lined up and sat down. I found out I’m not too bad at it. No one left with a bald spot, at least not a noticeable one. Ha ha ha

As your patience and the years go by, you finally manage to find this one amazing hairdresser, who cuts your hair twice and moves to the other end of the damn country. You get that 6 month bliss of having great hair and then it’s snatched away from you, without even a notice. You just call to make an appointment one day, and they inform you she has moved on and your quest has to start all over again! UGH!

Now, I have a 14-year-old daughter of my own, who through most of her childhood, kept her hair short. She was taught that if she was not going to keep her hair out of her beautiful face, and take care of it properly, then it was to stay short and manageable. So finally at 12, when I was sick to death of seeing it short, I convinced her to grow it out. We made a pact to grow our hair out long enough to donate it for cancer. Mykalyn has this amazingly thick flow of medium red hair. The highlights are all natural, even though I have been accused many times of streaking it. And her curls… They are lively, big, fluffy and soft. The hair all of us straight girls dream of.

A few years ago, in the midst of looking for a back-to-school trim for my daughter (and still not finding a suitable place to keep my business), I decide to walk into a fast-cut place. $12.00 for a kids hair-cut. Typical to any other fast-cut salon, they had 15 different stations, with 10 different hair stylists on duty and they were banging cuts out like an assembly line. My faith was still shattered from the last terrible hair-cut (that cost me $75 and I left in tears) and my anxiety level was at an all time high. Now I know what your thinking… seriously… it’s just a hair-cut. But in my not-so-normal world, it’s just one of those things I feel I need to have the control over. Some people have an obsession with their car, others may need their desk at work to be just sooo. Mine is my hair.

Mykalyn’s name is announced, jolting me out of my dazed confusion that is a busy salon. Almost completely drowned out by the hair dryers, and the obnoxious chatter of the girl sitting next to me on her cell, planning some hot party. So I look up to see where this voice is coming from, and my heart skips a beat. This adorable girl with this perky little voice calls her name again. I’m serious… it was like a sign from above. She was shrouded with bright light and a halo and I could even hear the faint sound of an organ off in the distance somewhere. And that was it.

She cut Mykalyn’s hair to perfection. So much so, that I sat down next and I didn’t even need anything. She proceeded to fix the $75 hair-cut from the week before and did both our heads for half the price of my last. My love affair with my hair had gone to an all-time high. And to top it all off, she has now branched out into her very own salon so I know she isn’t going anywhere. And cancer causes are very near and dear to her as well. She has lost her mother to cancer and from the stories she tells me about her mom, she was a wonderful person. Kristen, my favorite hair stylist, is a master of her trade and I have never cheated. Who would want to when you have the perfect stylist. Compliments became a part of my world and I was never shy to share my secret. My quest was complete. I was one very happy girl.

And…… bang. We up and move to another country. In the 9 months we have lived here I have not gotten even so much as a trim. It is so long now, I could probably donate it twice. I have trimmed Mykalyn’s a couple times so she doesn’t get split ends, but that’s it. Matthew laughs at me every time my hair is unruly and tells me to just go get it trimmed. I just glare at him and he laughs even harder. I give him the same answer every time…. “My stylist is in New York… If you’re not careful, I’ll leave you for her!” Lord, please help me find some money in our budget to book a flight home so I can get my HAIR CUT! I’m not sure if I can handle the hunt for someone new… again. UGH!

 

If you have a special person who provides you a service you can’t live without, feel free to share and don’t forget to tell them you can’t live without them! 🙂

“Free Education”… And how I took it for granted..

In the spirit of heading back to school this week in New York, I thought I would chat about my biggest issue since moving to Australia. Now mind you, this is just an opinion and I’m just a silly mom who wants the best for my child(children, if you count all the crew). From the start of this adventure we have had quite the perplexing dilemma when it comes to a “proper” education, and the more I follow on this journey, the more I am realizing that “proper” is very different from one person to another and more obviously, from country to country.

Mykalyn is 14 and a very bright teenager. In New York, she attended a school in a suburb just outside of Albany, the capital of our state. She left as an 8th grader in middle school with about 600 or so other 8th graders. Academically, she probably fell in the top 25% of her class. She was not in any of the high honors classes, but the regular classes she had straight A’s in, and hitting the high honor roll ever since the middle of 6th grade. She had set a  goal for herself…. to be in those higher classes by the end of this school year (that’s before we decided to move). A very self motivated student (that doesn’t mean she was not nagged at home to do her homework by mom!) she had a natural talent for languages, english and history. Back in 5th grade she did struggle in Math and Science, but I simply highered a tutor, who happened to be a teacher at the school. Mykalyn not only pulled those class grades up, but brought every subject up across the board. That credit I attribute to the tutor who not only instilled the understanding of the subjects, but also took the time to teach her good study habits, and gave her the confidence that she could do everything as long as she stayed focused on her task at hand. And being a single mother with very little spare money, this teacher was willing to tutor her for very little. Naturally, seeing her progress so well in her confidence alone, made it worth the time and money…. I feel bad I couldn’t give more to the teacher who did so much for her.

Anyone from New York can tell you that academics in the state are very competitive from school to school. The surrounding towns were the same, having gone to, and graduated from one of those myself. The advantage of having this competitive nature from school to school…. better teachers, more creative teaching styles to keep the kids interested in what they were learning, and therefore better students. There is always going to be kids who have trouble in classes either from learning issues or behavioral… but all in all, from my viewpoint, it seemed the schools generally do what they can and work hard to keep the masses happy. Our New York school had buses to pick up and drop off our kids. Excellent sports programs, clubs and music programs to help enrich the whole student experience. We had decent, affordable school lunches (under $3.00 in New York and here in Australia.. just a basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich with a drink is $5.00 (nothing else with it).  And as a parent, I was very active and hands on for most of it…. being part of the PTA and helping at every event I had the chance to… and boy did I ever take it all for granted.

So we get ourselves settled into our new life and my first priority is to get Mykalyn into school so she has the least amount of disruption to her life. We get her registered for school, buy the uniform at almost $300 (That was for 1 of each….. skirt, shirt, gym shirt and short and the dress shoes!) Then we get the news that she has the wrong type of visa to attend. For Mykalyn to attend school without the “so-called” right visa, we have an alternative… Pay $220.00 for a school specific application and wait 4 weeks for approval. Then pay the government the fee they pay to send an Australian child threw the education system… $3000.00 per Quarter….. funny how non of that is mentioned when we called the immigration department gathering all the information we could before moving (at least 30 separate calls of being put on hold and reading the information given for hidden messages)… So we decide at the cost of it all, to proceed with our original visa and forgo the potential $12,000.00 for a public education, for one school year.

While we are trying to straighten that whole mess out, Matthew and I decide to home school Myki so she doesn’t fall behind. Where I can’t teach her, we pay a weekly tutor (I still totally suck at Math). Weeks go by…. then months… and finally our visa goes in so she can attend school.

Since she attending her school for the one day, we had many opportunities to meet people in our new area. They all said the same thing…. not a good school. Don’t send her there. But knowing we are already $300 out for the uniform, and it’s halfway through the school year here, and it’s the closest school to our house (there is no school buses, like we are used to in New York), we enroll her there for at least the rest of this school year.

So the way it works here…. you have public schools as well as private ones. You have both that can be zoned for a specific living areas, and ones that are not. The private schools generally tend to be the ones who have school buses and those parents who can afford to pay the fee to use it, will. For the rest of the masses, the students walk (to this school from our house, it’s 45 minutes.. for me. Myki doesn’t walk as fast…) bike, scooter or get rides from parents or carpools. It’s a traffic nightmare! This is a country who grew faster than their roads. This place would be a Road Design Engineer’s wet dream. Circle after, traffic logged circle, sitting in a car for 10 minutes to drive 1 block. Watching the other parents with frazzled hair and white knuckles, music cranked loud enough to drown out the kids bitchin’ in the back seat about how long it takes to get to school. This is now my reality.

The enrollment fee…. yeah they charge a fee… in a public school. They all do, and depending on the school, the fee could be different. We then have to pay for a netbook rental. This area has no book program like they do back home. The books in New York are provided by the schools, which costs are built into the school budget and offset by the government of the state of New York. Your kid goes to school and borrows out a book for each subject for the course of the year and returns them at the end of the year. If they don’t, they buy it. Here however, there is no book program so the parents pay for all of them. One of Matt’s kids books for 1 year alone… over $500 along with the additional netbook charge (this is only 7th grade, mind you). The netbooks vary in charge as well, and the intentions behind them are good. The kids have most, if not all, their text books on the netbook. The netbooks run around $200-$250 for this area’s schools, which is better than the $500 in book fees. And hopefully, you’re the lucky parent who has a child with all the books on the netbook so you’re not paying through the nose just for texts. This netbook also helps the kids… they don’t have all those heavy books to lug around. Seeing many of the schools are without lockers for personal effects, these kids carry everything they have from the minute they leave school in the morning, until they arrive home.

So after all this hassle and expense, Myki heads off for her 2nd… 1st day of school. We take the picture, have a “mom stop crying” moment, and drop her off. To my relief, she has a wonderful first day. A lot of the kids remembered her from her last.. 1st day and she got along well with the other students. She gets home and tells me all about her day. The funny tall kid, the girls who have their snob-on (every school has them, even here) the swarm of kids who just want to hear her talk, even when she states that she is not the one with the accent. She talks about her teachers and the “other” new girl. So I’m on cloud 9 thinking how it was all worth the mess we had to go through to get here.

And now that she is in the swing of things, we now see the reason people have told us not to send her to this school. I now have a better understanding of this system and how it came to be. They have a minimal music and sports program in place.  When I say barely…. the music program is more like a talent show done during school hours. This school can’t keep up with her education level for her grade. They aren’t willing to move her to a higher grade. There is no real place to sit to eat lunch or have recess, so most of the kids sit on the ground or stand up to eat thier meals. And don’t get me started on the Amissions Director and the Principle I have delt with. So the mission for a better school for the next school year has commenced. Which means a new uniform… yay! More money… ugh!

In the hunt for a better school, I came to understand that there is no standard set in place for the education system here. So what one school teaches in grade 2, is not what is taught in another. In New York, we rely on the Department of Education to regulate what our children need to know and will learn from one year to the next. That multi-million dollar program gets hounded for not being better. From here and looking back at our NY Education… I can honestly say I miss it!

So for all my New York friends who are upset that its costing a lot of money to send your kids back to school…. I want you to realize how lucky we all have it, as New Yorkers. Because our free education system might be taxed on our property, but it’s still cheaper than it is even here. $250.00 annual admissions fee. $250.00 annual netbook rental. $300.00 basic uniform parts (mind you it’s one of each and no kid can have only 1 school shirt). And on top of all that, we also have school supplies to by…. lunch boxes and backpacks, notebooks and pens. The whole lot. And mind you, that’s per child. So your education tax of about $1000 annually per household, that covers all your kids, where as here your paying closer to $1000 per year, per child. The fact that I went from a “free” system to a “free” system… a major jolt in reality.

What saddens me the most is that the United States and Australia are amoungst the better education choices and as parents we do nothing but complain about it. Although very different, they are so much better than many of the alternatives. The important lesson here is nothing is ever free and that it’s expensive to educate a child no matter where you are in the world. We take for granted all the work that goes into making sure our kids get what they need in order for them to survive, and hopefully thrive in thier own futures. From the people who actually teach or kids, not just math and science, but also social skills and the correct behavior in public. To the people in our goverments who organize the how’s and what’s our kids are capable of learning. Our education systems will always be a product of the effort put into it, and that ourselves and our children reep those benefits in ways we can’t imagine. In ways that can’t be tagged with a dollar amount.

I feel very blessed to be jolted out of my very narrow-minded view of what life ment to me before I moved. I can see now just how lucky I am to be in a place of more awareness and understanding. How lucky I am to have these new experiences which show me each day how very lucky I truly am.

The adventure begins….What was I thinking?

My head is buzzing with more ideas that one person should possibly deal with.. so here I go blurting out whatever comes to mind. Be kind, this is my first stab at writing in any followed form. And seriously, pre-coffee me loves to misspell!

I have done some crazy things in my life. Nothing so crazy that I couldn’t recover from the shock… and I guess some might even find me rather boring and remedial. To those people I say.. I have had my fun crazy moments, enjoyed most of it, and don’t regret any part of my life. Which brings me to my latest crazy maneuver.

9 months ago, I hopped a plane with my 13-year-old daughter heading half-way across the world to start a whole new adventure. Strange as it seems to my new friends here, I left my comfy life in Upstate New York, leaving behind everyone I know and everything I understood. I climbed out of that final plane after an almost 2 day trip with my daughter babbling like a 2-year-old with a bad case of jet-lag and killer hunger pains… into my new reality. A dream come true move to Australia where the man of my dreams was eagerly awaiting my arrival. More like he was jumpy and nervous about our safe arrival with hair sticking up as if he had been trying to pull it out.

Our first priority… a shower. Next… to a store for a hair dryer and a coffee maker. He just laughed and found it so strange that these 2 items be so very important.. nowadays, he gets this tick to his cheek if the coffee isn’t made when he walks out of the bedroom in the morning.

Walking into our house the first time… bare necessities would be a kind way of putting it. Bachelor pad is more accurate… I have my work cut out for me. I see he didn’t spare much expense on the tv!  Nothing by way of decorations. According to Matthew, the TV is the decoration! That’s usually when I smile and giggle and secretly pull an Ally McBeal and shake him senselessly. Nothing on the walls with only blinds on the windows. And white…. whats up with that horribly bright white people put on new walls. Don’t they know how painfully depressing it is to look at that hospital white wall?

Now, as if the situation wasn’t wacky enough. Dragging my daughter along for the ride as been quite the bonding experience. Now let’s add the rest of the crew to this strange tale. Matthew has 5, yes I said 5.. children. His oldest is now 17 and his only girl. the 4 boys range from 13 to 8. My guess.. I didn’t have enough drama living in New York so …. what the heck, let’s completely change everything as we know it, and do the opposite. Strap on your seat belts people. It’s going to be one crazy ride.

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