Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Because the boys love Thomas, and the tram in Charlotte, I thought I'd take them, and Mum, out for a ride on the train.  Just a quick one - Tuggerah to Woy Woy and back. We were out at Tuggerah at 10ish, later than peak hour.  Shouldn't be a problem right?  Except that it's New Years Eve and every man and his dog is heading to Sydney for the day / night.  The train is packed to the rafters , so we only got as far as Gosford, before we jumped off and came back.  The train back was great, pretty much had the carriage to ourselves as the boys enjoyed the view and the thrill of being on a train.

B, Nanny & L @ Tuggerah Station

We picked up Amy on the way back to Shelley Beach to eat lunch.  A stop at Blythe's Fish n Chip shop (my favourite food place on the planet) had me over order for one last time as we set up on the grass at Shelley.  Uncle Lindsay and Aunty Val also came down to join us.  Here is another activity I'll miss - the luxury of always being so close to the beach.

After lunch we went down to Kincumber, to the Sheargolds, for Lucy's Birthday Party.  Kel and Jase have a great house for hosting and have put on a great do for family, neighbours and friends.  B loved the opportunity to hold some more animals again (hold a crocodile - sure!) while L was in his element on the slip and slide.  King Of The Kids Jason, had everyone entertained all day.  While Kel put on a spread that was fit for kings.  No wonder her business, Yummy In Their Tummy, is a success.

Kel, Lucy, Max & Jason on Lucy's 5th Birthday

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today is Lucy's 5th birthday, so Nan, Mum, and us meet the Sheargolds at the Davistown RSL for lunch, where the kids can play outside.  The kids, especially the birthday girl, had a great time.  A great park for kids to play in, while we sat outside in the shade.  Typical RSL food and good drink prices made for a fun day all round.

Me, Nan & Kel @ Davistown RSL

I have only noticed since being home how different the Pub / Club culture is here compared to the US.  Here the focus is on the family.  Come and have a beer, some food, we'll let the kids play in a dedicated area outside.  I just cant think of anywhere in Charlotte, or Vegas for that matter, that is that way inclined.

The leaving-blues are hitting harder and harder each day, so much so that late this afternoon I got a migraine and had to nap it off.  Meaning little was done in the evening.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today I wanted to spend some time with Nan Fay.  In the last year and a half I've lost Granddad Fay and Nanna Hutch, so any time spent from now on with Nanna Fay is precious.  I drove her out to Palmdale, where Granddad Fay is buried.  I hate that I didn't come home for his funeral, but I wanted to make sure that I got out to see where he is.  It's also a good thing for Nan.  Such a mixed day for feelings.  I miss all my grandparents, alive or not, so to be with Nan (on my own - awesome) where Granddad is laid to rest (sad) made for a emotional day.  We sat at the cafe at Palmdale and just hung out and talked in the good weather.  It will be hard to say goodbye to her when we leave.  We went back to her place and spent the afternoon doing the thing she loved, watching the cricket. A good day for me.

Granddad Fay's Plaque at Palmdale

Late in the afternoon, Amy, the boys and I drove around to have dinner with Dad, Manuia and Kathleen.  I can't believe dad's place.  It is literally on the Wamberal  Beach.  Only 20 yards of grass separate the unit from the sand.  Salmon and a mango salad was a perfect dinner for a summer's eve.  I wish the surf hadn't been so rough so we could have let the boys have a swim.  

Wrapping up this holiday is starting to get hard.  Only a few days left to spend with everyone, and who knows when we'll get to see them again.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Hunters Hill, NSW to Bateau Bay, NSW

After breakfast with Robbie, Linda and Toby we (with Robbie and Toby) headed into Darling Harbour to wander around with the Barnes.  A last catch up before we head home later next week.  A nice day and the kids had fun playing in the park and the water.  We took the train (for the boys sake) over to the shopping area where we had lunch and then walked back over the Pyrmont Bridge to where the car was parked.  It has been great seeing the Upcrofts and The Barnes' and meeting their new families.  The same can be said for everyone on the trip (Besters, Benefiels, Creans, Summers, Marshes), living so far away and not having the opportunity until now to see old friends in a different place in life has been amazing.

L&B @ Darling Harbour

The drive back up the Coast was uneventful, just another trip down memory lane.  The boys napped a bit in the car and were well up for a visit from their cousins in the afternoon at Mums.  We stayed in and ordered Thai.  Kelly stayed for dinner, but the kids went home early, very tired.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW to Hunters Hill, NSW

This morning we drove down to Epping for our biggest adventure of the trip. Epping was the venue for Tex's birthday. A beautiful park where the kids had a blast and we got to catch up with the Besters, Barnes, Matt, Creans, Robbie and Mr & Mrs Uppy (another we hadn't seen since I left Oz in 2000).  

With 2/3's of The Creans
THought we'd run the boys ragged and they might relax as we drove to Reggae and Phil's for a barbie lunch.  But there was no stopping them.  Even Tex powered through with a couple of buddies to run around the backyard with.  It was great to have just some alone time with Phil and Regs.  They've been great friends over the years and nearly 3 years since we'd seen them.  Not quite the same as before, now that there are 3 kids between us, but great fun.
After lunch we drove to Robbie and Linda's, where we are staying tonight.  Amy and Linda are staying at home as the boys are off to the cricket with a large crew.  Wanted Amy to come, but she didn't want to leave Linda to fend for herself, but any excuse for her not to go to the cricket.  We went to the 20/20 match (my first - this format has only come about in the last few years) at ANZ Stadium between the Sydney Thunder and The Sydney Sixers.  Thanks to Paula we have the luxury of the Commonwealth Bank's private box, right behind the bowler's arm.  The irony of being in the best box, owned by Commonwealth Bank, in ANZ Stadium, is not lost on me.  The most phenomenal seats with an awesome crew - Bob, Dave & son, The Fields, The Summer-Kay (including Mrs Summers), Buddah and Panos, and Philby.  The Sixers won by 16 runs, which didn't matter becasue both teams we're from Sydney so we couldn't lose.  Was a great game (11 sixes in a game is pretty impressive), but it was more about the company.

ANZ Stadium. Sixers vs Thunder

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we took the boys down to The Entrance water park. (Now that it was working again). The boys were in the water for ever and then enjoyed rides on the Carousel and slides. Thank goodness Nanny is there to spoil them.  One of the highlights of this trip has been that my Mum has had the time off work to hang out with us the whole time.  Getting time off in retail at Christmas is no mean feat, and I'm appreciative of her bosses giving her this time.  Unfortunately it will cost us her trip to Charlotte in April, but we'll take what we can get.  Not sure I've mentioned this, but it is amazing to see the boys on the carousel with my mum.  Nan used to take me on the same carousel when I was a kid.  And mum used to ride it when they'd come for summer holidays during her childhood.  We don't have anything in the way of family traditions, but this is one that I have a great fondness for.

B&L at The Entrance Water Park

On the way home we had to stop at Lakeside Plaza for some grocery shopping before a quiet afternoon at home.  Later in the day, Amy and I went down to The Bateau to catch up with The Marhes, Steve and Buddah (and his new partner Panos).  Was a great afternoon sitting in the beer garden having a few beers and catching up.  It's been 15 years since I'd seen Steve.  Hard to believe his kids are in high school.  Buddah is as crazy as ever, and Luke and family are doing great.  Loving Melbourne, but enjoying the Coast for Christmas.  Sadly we all showed our age when the kids and partners left, as we all had to move closer to the TV to watch the cricket.  Getting old.  However, the ultimate age insult was that Steve's daughter was the one that drove us home.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today was a great day.  Just hanging out with the family.  Mine, Dad & Kathleen, The Sheargolds, The Coffeys, Mum and Nanna Fay.  We met Archie (and Cameron) for the first time and I loved seeing Kara play mum.  After opening a couple of presents at mums, we spent the best part of the day in Kincumber at Kel & Jason's.

The kids, and some of us adults, spent a ton of time in the pool - the weather did right by us.  While lunch was traditionally as Aussie as we could get.  Barbie, cold cuts, salad, beer, prawns, pavlova.  Man, I've missed this.  I had a great day.  So did Amy and the boys.  This is only my 2nd Christmas at home since 1999.  I gotta get back sooner.

B&L Christmas Morning

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Christmas Eve and, like last time we were in Australia for Christmas, the weather is not nearly as good as it could be.  We started the morning at Toowoon Bay Beach.  Thought it'd be sheltered as always, but a huge wind almost had us blown away, not to mention how rough the water was - It's Toowoon Bay for Christ's sake.  We moved around the beach and found a protected spot which was good for everyone and we stayed until the early afternoon.

Because of the boys love of fire trucks, we stopped at the station at Bay Village so they could see an Aussie fire truck, and we could drop off some Christmas goodies for the good folks who are protecting us and not spending Christmas Eve with their families. We stopped at the Byrnes house on our way to dinner at The Entrance.  Always happy to show off the new favorite children to the old favorite children.  We met Dad and Kathleen in the park and had fish and chips for dinner.  Also had the great fortune of running into Michele and Bowie (again from high school).  It may be 20 years since I'd seen them.  Unfortunately the weather wasn't very Christmassy so we didn't stay for Carols in the Park, but we walked around the carnival before heading over to the ice cream shop, where Caitlyn took care of desert.

Am excited for tomorrow.  The boys first Christmas in Australia.  Hopefully the first of many.  Lets just hope the weather does its best.

L&B getting their fire truck fix at Bateau Bay Fire Department

An informal Christmas Eve dinner setting

At The Entrance Park

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Ahhhh! Vacation at home.  Another easy day today.  Amy and mum went and did some shopping this morning. While they are gone the boys and I walk to up to Crackneck.  They love to see the ocean, and I like the familiarity of being here.  While we were up there I ran into Tanya (from high school).  Hadn't seen her since we left England 13 years ago.  She was back on the coast for Christmas and was out and about with her grandmother.

The rest of the day was spent around mum's place, until dinner time.  We ordered a pizza from Latina  Pizza, a new to me place at Bateau Bay shops.  We took dinner down to Shelly Beach and despite the cool breeze, enjoyed a great pizza overlooking the ocean.  These are the things that will make me homesick when I return to Charlotte.

B&L at Crackneck.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we went down to The Entrance so the boys could play in the water park.  But Wyong Council decided the first day of school holidays would be the perfect time to do maintenance, and therefore it was closed.  We did stay for the carousel and the playground and a few goes on the slides down there.  On the way home we stopped at Lakeside Plaza to do some grocery shopping.

With Mum and Nan we drove to the Sheargolds in the afternoon.  Dad and Kathleen came as well.  After a great swim we had dinner there at the house.  Unfortunately, L took a fall after his swim and has given himself a great shiner for a souvenir.

 The boys ride the carousel with Nanny & Mom.  The same carousel Nanny used to ride as a child.

L's shiner

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we went to Terrigal Haven with Dad and Kathleen, enjoyed the good weather and swam.  We took it pretty easy all afternoon (boys are still napping each afternoon - we wear them out and I'm not sure the jet lag has worn off them either.

Tonight just Dad and I head down to the Entrance to the Water's Edge for dinner.  We tried to sit outside, right on the lake, but the wind was too much and before appetizers came out we retreated inside.  Great meal.  I had oysters and mahi.  Dad enjoyed his too.  The highlight thou was being on the lake.  Really made me feel at home.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

Today is the day we decided to have the boys Baptised.  Thanks to Kelly, the boys are being baptised by the wonderful Tim Goldsmith.  His service was informative while informal, which is a good fit for our crowd.  The boys weren't wrapped in the service, but then again they are 3.  We asked Aunty Kel & Uncle Jason, as well as Robbie and Reggae to act as godparents, to which they were all delighted.  I have to thank Amy for this.  Because we live on the other side of the world, she graciously let Australina friends and family enjoy the boy's milestone today.

B & L

L&B with Reverend Tim

With Godparents

Afterwards we went back to the Sheargold house to celebrate.  Was now an opportunity to catch up with friends and family who have not been seen in 5 years.  A perfect afternoon, time in the pool and 2 incredible cakes made by Kelly's friend Heidi.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we headed out to Mum's work, Target at Tuggerah Westfield.  The boys are well know throughout the store as proud Nanny loves to talk about her grandchildren.  It was important to her to have the boys meet her friends.

Afterwards we headed to Shelly Beach to have some fish and chips and let the boys play on the Big Yellow Bus.  This is an old school bus that has been converted into an indoor / outdoor playground for the kids.  The boys loved it, only by tempting them down to the water could we get them away from it.

Barrett & Leland on the Big Yellow Bus @ Shelly Beach

Weather was really windy and the afternoon was spent at Mum's and dinner saw the Sheargolds and Nanna Fay come around for a barbeque.  It is great to see Mum and Nan revel in having the kids around.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

I know we are visiting family, but we are still on vacation, so doing the minimum is not a bad thing.  This morning we went down to Dads at Wamberal for the morning.  The four of us, Dad and Kathleen walked along the beach, around the lake and to park near a fire station (we were hoping it would be open for the boy).  After playing in the park, we headed back home for the boy's afternoon nap.

That night Mum took us to Bateau Bay Bowling Club with Nan so we could have dinner at Nan's favorite spot.  We were joined by Nan's twin, Aunty Vi, Mum's cousin, Julie, and the Byrnes family. It was great to see Lisa & Mark, and how the favorite children interacted with the boys.  

While not a significant dinner, this was the place my Granddad was vice president of for years and somewhere dear to Nan's heart.  While not the greatest picture below, it is my favorite of the whole trip.  A picture of my 3 year old identical twin boys with their 88 year old great-grandmother and her twin sister.

Barrett, Leland, Aunty Vi(standing) & Nanna Fay

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

What a big day!  Kelly has planned a day at the Australian Reptile Park for the family.  This place is a Central Coast institution - that I've never been to.  When we moved to the coast I was too old to go with school excursions.  So after moving to Bateau Bay in 1987 my first trip is also a first for Amy and the boys.  And this is only 40 minutes from where I grew up.

What Kelly arranged was to have a park ranger show us some of the animals and give us a guided tour around the park.  We got out of the cars and a downpour started.  I couldn't believe weather may ruin this day.  We ran for the shelter of the park's entrance.  Got inside and sorted out our meeting place with the ranger, stepped outside and the rain was gone.  Happily, we didn't see any more rain until the drive home.

We start off at the picnic tables and the ranger brings over some animals for us to handle.  Lucy, Max and the boys love it, and show no fear as they hold a blue-tongue lizard, some sort of dragon, a skink and a snake.  The kids are great with the animals and love all that's going on.

B&L and a Blue-Tongue Lizard

 Me & a dragon

  Leland, Lucy & Barrett hold a snake

After then having a tawny frogmouth perch on our arms and stuffing pine cones with fruit to fed to some birds, we went for a walk around the park.  The kids got to pat a kangaroo, which roam freely around the park.  We went into a lorikeet cage to leave the pine cones.  Leland got bit by a bird here and had all sorts of trouble recovering.  We then went into the koala enclosure and patted a koala.  Again this is a first for me - very un-Australian of me to not ave touched a koala before.  When we went back to the picnic tables, our ranger bought over a wombat for us to hold.  We were then on our own to explore.  We didn't last much longer as the kids tired out.  But needless to say the day was a blast.  The kids could barely contain themselves, and the adults weren't far behind.  What a great day!

  Barrett & Lucy meet kangaroos

With a koala

Mom & the boys hold a wombat

The Australian Reptile Park

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

This morning we drove back to Kelly's and left the boys there while Amy and I went to meet Reverend Tim at St Paul's Anglican Church to discuss this Saturday's baptism of the boys.  I really enjoyed meeting the Reverend - a young guy who has twin 1 year olds, and had spent a some time in various parts of the US.  His friendly demeanor and want to be flexible for the ceremony made me excited for the coming weekend.

Afterwards we pack up the kids and drove to Avoca Beach (Amy's favorite) with Kelly, Lucy and Mum. We ordered lunch from the take away shop at the beach and sat on towels enjoying the outdoors and the kids playing in the water, even though it was pretty cold.  In the end we had to leave because of the rain, much to the adult's relief and kid's disappointment.  I did come at the right time though, as the boys needed a nap.

We spent the afternoon at Mum's and the boys painted on the balcony.  We bought Nan around for the afternoon, and dinner.  One of Mum's lasagnas - an all time favorite of mine.  Dad and Kathleen also came around and spent the evening with us.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bateau Bay, NSW

It is a day of easy recovery today.  As we adjust to the time change, temperature, surroundings and humidity we start the day at Erina Fair.  We do a little bit of shopping (grocery and otherwise).  It was here that I ran into and old school friend, Karen, who I hadn't seen forever.  Was nice to see her and hear that her family, including another school friend Stephen, are doing great and living the good life on the Central Coast.  Running into someone you know was definitely a sign that I was back home.

After a nap for everyone - I see a theme building here - we drive to Lucy's preschool at Green Point and pick her up on our way to the Sheargolds' in Kincumber.  Kelly's house is near Brisbane Water so we take a picnic lunch and walk along the water to a park where the kids can play, and we have an early dinner.

Lucy, Nanny (in her element) and Barrett in Kincumber

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Los Angeles, CA to Bateau Bay, NSW

The flight itself turned out to be pretty uneventful.  Leland and I sat in the bulkhead close to the window, while Amy & Barrett sat across the aisle from us.  Dinner was served once we leveled out and Leland struggled to stay awake (it'd be 12.30am Pacific Time by the time all was cleared away).  And he got a good 5 hours in while I dozed on and off.  It took Barrett a little longer, but I think Amy had the same experience.  Thankfully the flight was smooth all the way. Once the boys woke up, we still had a long way, but they were content with the iPads, playing games and watching movies and episodes of Peppa Pig, Thomas and Word World.  It was a relief to finally land and get out of the plane.  After all the worrying Amy & I did, the boys handled the flight better than I possibly could have imagined.  So proud of them.  Now the test of meeting all and sundry and seeing how they react.  We took a frustrating eternity in immigration, no thanks to me not having the right forms. Finally we get out to the concourse to be greeted by Mum, Dad, Kelly and, surprisingly, Regs,  Phil, Tex and Caryn.  Considering how tired the boys were they did great.  Nanny is a hit and a familiar face, but the boys took to everyone.  I drove back to coast with Mum and Dad, while Amy and the boys went with Kel.  As expected we had a pretty easy day.  A good nap during the day gave us some afternoon energy as Jase, Lucy and Max came over to Mum's (where we will stay for the entirety).

 Kel, Barrett, Me, Leland, Amy, Mum & Dad at the airport

Later that afternoon Nanna Fay came over to join us for dinner at Terrigal Haven, dad bought Kathleen as well.  After losing Granddad Fay and Nanna Hutch this year this was an emotional afternoon, as I know she desperately wanted to meet Barrett and Leland.  If nothing else happens this trip, at least this the boys got to meet their great-grandmother.

Kathleen, Lucy, Barrett & Leland at Terrigal Haven

Friday, December 12, 2014

Oxnard, CA to Los Angeles, CA

Up again at the crack of dawn to some awful weather.  We did a quick run to Target to get some last minute travel needs and by the time we got back AC had returned.  We spent the afternoon with her and in the early evening we left for the 90 minute drive back to LAX.  We gave ourselves plenty of time as we expected the worst with LA traffic, but the drive back was easy.  Returning the car was a breeze and we were at the airport with tons of time.  Thoughts of rest and dinner before we got on the plane disappeared quickly when we couldn't get checked in.  No United staff around to tell us what was going on.  Panic started setting in as boarding time got closer.  Eventually we found out there was problem for international check ins and we were manually checked in and made the gate with enough time to change some diapers and get on the plane.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Oxnard, CA

Thankfully it was an early night as the boys don't adjust to the time change causing a 5am start this morning. Amy has some work to do, so I take the boys out for a while.  Weather is wet and grey, so it's hard to find things for them to do, especially with all the park equipment wet.  We end up at Ventura Beach and play on the sand and walk out on the pier.  We are all starting to tire so I considered heading home only to realize it was only 8.45am. Instead we drove to Carpenteria up the 101.  This is supposed to be a pretty town, but construction at the freeway exits made it near impossible to get around.  Patience was lost early and we turned around and head back to AC's.  An afternoon was spent inside, out of the weather and vacation cooking was done when a pizza was delivered for the boys while mom had dinner out with some work colleagues.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Charlotte, NC to Oxnard, CA

Well here we go. A test I've been dreading for a long time. It's not that I don't want to go home- it's been 5 years and I'm more than ready. Plus the boys get to meet my family. It's the flying. Not only do I not like flying that much, this is a long way. And who knows how the boys will take to it. I am very happy we decided to break the trip up into 2 legs each way. I hope that helps. On the plus side, I can't wait to see everyone, get the boys to meet Lucy & Max - their cousins, the summer weather, and eat the good food I grew up on but can't get here in the US.

One leg of flying down and completely uneventful. It helps we had 1st class in US Airways and were fed and the boys each have an iPad to keep them amused (how did people do this before this technology?). In LA there is a long wait at Hertz before we can get on our way to Oxnard, where we will stay at AC's. Fortunately it's an easy drive to Oxnard and the boys get a nap in. AC is not home until Friday, so we have the run of the place. After take away for dinner from Pirates Bay, it is a early night in for this exhausted family.

Me & Leland

Barrett & Amy