Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ava and Afternoon Tea

Jason was home on Tuesday afternoon, so I picked Ava up from school and took her out for a bit. They'd been home from Manila since Sunday morning, but we'd been so busy ever since that I hadn't gotten to hear much about her impressions of the trip. I didn't want to let the opportunity to let her share about it get away from me. You read other blogs sometimes where moms share all these warm moments of togetherness that they have with their kids. My attempts of warm moments usually result in someone pushing someone else or someone stealing someone else's seat or someone needing to go to time out. And then none of us are feeling very warm at all and I'm like, "Why don't I just turn on some cartoons for you guys?" Sigh. So I read those blogs and think: Dang it! I need more warm moments!

So, we went up to our local shops and had some afternoon tea together. She was really excited to have a babycino. Actually, I think she was most excited about the marshmallows, which at nearly 7, she still calls "mushrooms".

I started asking her questions about everything they did, and asked her to recount each day for me. I expected her to tell me about how different everything was there, or maybe talk about how seeing the poorer parts of the city affected her. But she didn't really focus on that. It was kind of a funny experience for me. As a parent, you kind of have the urge to manage your child's interpretations of things. (Or at least, I do!) Sometimes I think this can be a good thing. I mean, after all, who else is going to help them understand the world and their place in it? But other times, I know I just need to sit back and let Ava or Nate think what they think.

So here, in no particular order, is what made an impression on Ava:

1. "Street cats": In the neighborhood where they did the Habitat build, as well as in other areas, there were a lot of stray cats roaming around. Ava loved these! She told me all about the different ones she saw. "I wanted to pet the white one--that was my favorite. But I couldn't pet it cause they said I might catch something." Yes, indeed. My heartfelt thanks go out to whomever told her that.

2. Waffles for breakfast: For the first half of the week, they stayed in a very basic motel near the places they were visiting and working. Later in the week, when Jason's conference began, they moved to a very nice hotel. This hotel had a massive breakfast buffet where Ava ate waffles for breakfast for four days straight. This is far and away her favorite part of the trip. Waffles. We can get waffles in Australia too, you know. But this is where I have to remind myself to let her own her experience!

3. Swimming everyday: Once they moved to the nicer hotel, they swam every morning. As it's winter here in Oz, this was a Class A treat in Ava's mind. One she hasn't failed to tell her brother about several times.

4. Visiting someone's home. The group worked with the Real Life Foundation, which among other things, provides college scholarships to students. Most, if not all of these students are the first of their families to attend university. And as they graduate and start careers, they earn enough to put their younger siblings and relatives through school as well. Ava got to meet May, who is soon to graduate from college. They went to May's house and met her family as well. Ava was telling me about how small the house was and how many people lived there, how many little children and babies there were. "Wow," I said, "Think about our house and how big it is--and there are only 5 of us! What did you think when you saw how many people lived in that one small house?" She thought for a minute and said, "I was impressed, actually, that they could find a way for all of them to live there."

Isn't that answer interesting? My responses to situations like that are usually compassion, pity, wanting to help--something like that. But I thought about Ava's answer, and it really is impressive.

The biggest thing she noticed about the house is that, at the top of the stairs was a toilet "with NO door"! Here she is describing going up the stairs and seeing it there:

I thought it was funny how vividly she described seeing it and being shocked by it. We spent a lot of time talking about this toilet! Why there was no door, how the family handled it, what she would've done if she lived there, etc. To a 6 year old, a bathroom with no door is the ultimate in craziness.

I really enjoyed our conversation. It is amazing to see a little person emerge from the baby and toddler and preschooler you've raised. I know that this is the first of many overseas trips for her. And while she didn't come home with a revelation of the need in the world and her role in meeting some of those needs, it's a start! (And no, I didn't really expect her to!) What I did notice and love is the simplicity with which she experienced the whole thing. She just enjoyed where they went, what they did, who they met. It's our prayer that, as they grow, our kids will learn to look for where they can help and serve others.

But in the meantime, waffles and streetcats have their place, too.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reunited, and it feels so good

Yesterday morning we picked Jason and Ava up at Sydney airport. After 8 days apart, we are happy to have our little family back together again. We have had times of separation. Jason has been to the States for 3 weeks at a time on his own, and of course, I went to Atlanta for two and a half weeks in April. But I realized last week that Nate and Ava have never been apart like this before. If Jason and I have both gone away, the kids have always stayed together with someone. Or, if one of us goes, the other stays with all the kids. So, this was the first time they'd been away from each other for more than a day or two.

Nate really missed Ava. And on Sunday, he was so excited to see her again. I joke often and tell stories on here about their bickering and bargaining and getting on each other's nerves, but it does my heart good to see how they love each other.

And, well, it didn't take long for the bickering to start up again. But I think they missed that, too.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This is gonna rock your socks. Or perhaps not.

Friday night, y'all. Nearly a week on my own with 2 of my 3 kiddos. The week has gone really smoothly, actually. We've had fun. I've been pretty busy, which is a good thing--makes the time pass quickly. Anytime Jason is away, I always have a rush of respect for single moms and dads. Being the only one on-call 24/7 is not just physically taxing, it's an emotional and mental strain. So everytime I go it alone, I think: God bless single parents.

So anyhoo. Tonight I wanted to just make an easy pizza for dinner. But I didn't have a pizza base. And, having just gotten home, the thought of putting Nate and Grace back into the car and going out into evening traffic made me all twitchy. You don't want me to be all twitchy.

So I decided to make the dough from scratch. Which I've never done. I have many talents (okay, some talents), but baking is not one of them. Remember the unibrow of cookies? And the Great Cake Fail of 2009? It says something about me that to make pizza dough from scratch was a total novel idea. I mean, y'all probably do it all the time! Not me. I googled "easy pizza dough recipe" and gave it a go.

And here's my point. I made the dough, started to roll it out. Grace was fussing and hugging the backs of my knees, wanting to be picked up. And as I rolled it out into a larger shape, I stopped. "Grace!" I said, "I'm rolling out Australia!" I kid you not, my dough looked like this:

How weird is that? It is totally (almost sorta) Australia. Here's a real map, for comparison:

Okay, so it's not perfect. I left Tasmania off. (Poor Tassie--that happens from time to time.) And the bottom part is a little off, and the top a little, too. But still! My pizza dough rolled out into the shape of the country I live in. How weird is that?

Poor Gracie. She was unimpressed, and continued to cry and wipe her nose on my jeans while I took pictures. Pictures of my half-rolled out, uncooked pizza dough. Several. I was disproportionately excited by it. That's a little pathetic, isn't it? It's okay, you can tell me. But isn't this type of stuff why God created blogs?

I think I've been on my own too much. Next, I'll start looking for hidden messages in my tea leaves.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Loneliest Birdfeeder in the World

When my parents were here last year, my dad bought us a bird feeder. He put it up just outside our kitchen window and we eagerly waited for the birds to, well, flock to it. I mean, I've told y'all about how many birds there are here, right? Heaps, I say--heaps!

Well, for some mysterious reason, birds almost never visit our feeder. It's been pretty much universally dissed by all birds. It's like they've put out a message to all birdkind: Don't eat there. I've mentioned it to Dad during our Skype conversations a few times over the last year, and he tries to give me suggestions of things I could do to make the feeder more appealing. But then I get so bored talking about birdfeeders that I fall asleep and wake up 2 hours later with my face mashed against the keyboard. I am a disappointment to my parents in many ways.

But! Yesterday I was sitting right here in the kitchen, at this here computer and saw a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked and saw this:

Well, hello sir (or madam)! It's a sulphur-crested cockatoo, folks. Now if you read this blog much (or live in Oz) you know that cockatoos are not uncommon birds here. We see them quite a lot. But not, friends, at my birdfeeder. They're big birds--the size of a small cat, I'd say. So it was really interesting to watch him teeter on top of the birdfeeder. He was able to get some seeds though...

...basically by hanging upside down. He stayed for several minutes and then flew off in a hurry. I haven't seen him again, so maybe he wasn't impressed with what we have on offer. What am I, a catering service? Sheesh.

But Dad! Look! A cockatoo at your feeder! Woohoo! Incidentally, you can tell my dad put up the feeder because it's attached with a bungee cord. It's like when you study art history and learn to identify an artist by the technique used. Bungee cords are my dad's medium, his milieu, if you will. All the cars of my childhood had bungee cords coiled up on the floorboards, ready to be stretched and bungeed at a moment's notice. If it cain't be bungeed, it ain't worth havin', ya know.

So there's some Aussie birdlife for your day! If you're so inclined, you can see some rainbow lorikeets, too! They're beautiful--that's worth clicking on. But no bungee cords in that one--sorry.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Because I have no one else to share this with...

Nate's friend Gabe is over today to play. They have spent the last 45 minutes on our front porch, laughing at our neighbor's dog's butt. Did you follow that? It is apparently a really, really funny looking dog butt. I wouldn't know, cause I haven't looked myself.

A few minutes ago, they came in for juice. Then Nate said, "C'mon Gabe! Let's go look at Candy's butt again!" They ran back outside. I can hear them hooting with laughter out there.

They are cheap dates.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Thrilla in Manila

Jason and Ava have spent the day helping to make cinder blocks for a home way, way outside of Manila. Jason called me on the van ride home and said Ava had a great time, and worked really hard. After a day's work in that incredible Philippine humidity, she was exhausted. I'm so proud of her!

Here they are with Doods, the future homeowner. (And I think he wins the Awesome Name of the Day contest, don't you?) The homeowner puts in at least 400 hours of work on building his/her own home, alongside the volunteer teams that come to work. Isn't that amazing? I love Habitat for Humanity. The little boy there is Nathan, the son of some good friends of ours. Nathan and his dad Jason are also on the trip.

Here they are in the van at the start of the day. Traffic in Manila is always an experience. There are 20 million people living in Manila--can you believe that? There's only 21 million people in all of Australia! So, anytime you're on the road, it is absolutely jam-packed with cars, taxis, buses, motorcycles--you name it! A stretch of highway with 3 marked lanes will easily become 6 lanes. You can reach out your car window and touch the other cars as they go by. Yet somehow, you get where you need to go. Well, most of the time! It is really something to see.

After all the craziness to get them there, I am glad they are enjoying the trip! And my little girl is helping cut rebar and make bricks! I think I need to re-think her chore list around the house...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

My Fellow Americans, Don't Fail Me Now: What Happened Next

If you're just joining us, click here to find out what I'm talking about.

So, Ava was sobbing in despair at the Sydney Airport, and Jason and I were discussing our options. There weren't many. He said the customs officials thought that we might be able to get some sort of extension stamp on Ava's passport. I'd never heard of that, but I told him I'd call the US Consulate in Sydney and figure it out.

I had a huge pit in my stomach. Ava was so disappointed--we'd been prepping her for this trip for months! Please God, I prayed, Help us find a way to get her to Manila. I ran over to the computer and started looking for a contact number on the Consulate website. While looking, I read that they would only process passport applications from 8:30-11:30am Monday through Friday. It was now 10:30 on Friday morning. That didn't sound so good. The only number I could find was the "Emergency Contact" number. Before giving you the number, the website was very helpful to tell you what constituted an emergency and what didn't. I guess too many American tourists are calling the emergency line when they can't find any Dr. Pepper anywhere in Australia. (Now that is indeed tragic but not technically, I guess, an emergency.)

Specifically, you had an emergency if an American had died overseas, been implicated in a major crime, or if your passport was lost or stolen and travel was imminent. We didn't exactly fit those criteria, but I figured I'd go for it anyway. It was an emergency to us! (That's so very American of me, isn't it?)

I rang the emergency number and talked to a guy named Rob. I explained our situation and then expected to be told, "Too bad, come in Monday, there's really nothing we can do right now." Something like that, you know? But you know what? He was helpful. God bless us every one, Rob came to the table. "If your husband and daughter can get here from the airport by 11:30, and you can come in too, we can process an emergency passport for her." He told me he'd let security know that we were coming. Gotta love a can-do spirit! I thanked him and called Jason. "Get on the train and head to the Consulate! I'll meet you there. You have to be there in 50 minutes!"

I should add at this point that the Consulate offices are in the middle of downtown. A part of the city that I've never driven to by myself. It's a good 40-45 minutes from our house, surrounded by one way streets, snarly traffic, with nearly impossible parking. I was already sweating, and we hadn't even left the house yet! I grabbed my passport and Ava's birth certificate and dragged a reluctant Nate and sleepy Grace downstairs to the garage. I ran next door to my lovely neighbor Jules, basically tossed Grace into her arms, and Nate and I took off for the city.

(That's where I was trying to go.)

All the way down, Jason and I are calling each other. He and Ava were on the train. Ava was still crying, bless her. We were giving status reports. You have to get new passport photos taken when you get there, I told him. There's a photo place on Level 6 in the same building. You can't turn right on King Street, he told me. It's one way. Later he called me. "We got the photos done, but it's a 1o minute wait. We've got to get upstairs to the consulate. You'll have to pick up the photos when you get here."

Meanwhile, I am in the city, doing a giant, convoluted circle around the building we need. I can't turn the way I need to, cause all the streets are either "no right turn" or "no left turn" or "too bad, sucker!" or "one way" going the other way. I impose a vow of silence on Nate and drive like a maniac. I get honked at a few times. But finally, FINALLY, I find the entrance to the underground parking and we get a spot. Pause and reflect. This in itself is a miracle.

It's 11:30 now. I can't call Jason, cause he's already in the consular offices and you can't take your phone in there. Nate and I run--and I mean run--into the building and take the elevator to Level 6. This is a huge office building, and Level 6 is a food court with lots of stores on the fringes. We run from one side to the other, pick up the passport photos. We run back through the food court and go up two different sets of elevators until we get to the security check for the Consulate.

The security check is on a separate floor from the rest of it. They take your name, you walk through a metal detector and leave your bags, and then you get on another secure elevator that takes you up to, like, the eleventy hundredth floor to the Consulate.

Nate and I join Jason and Ava in there, and we are the only people there. I guess they'd closed for appointments already. Jason had already filled out the application, I handed Rob (I think it was the Rob) Ava's birth certificate and photos, and I signed the application. I was still waiting for something to go wrong. But they said, "Okay this will take about 30 minutes, and then we'll give you guys the passport." Really? You do not require a lock of my hair or something? No eye of newt, or a goose that lays golden eggs? Nope. They were actually going to do it for us.

I took the kids downstairs to eat lunch while Jason waited for the passport. And sure enough, 20 minutes later he came to join us, new passport in hand. I'll fast forward through the rest of our wrangling and cut to the chase. The airline put Ava and Jason on the next day's flight to Manila at no extra charge. Jason said the lady at the desk felt so sorry for Ava that she told her not to worry, that they could come back the next day and she would take care of them. And as I write this, they should have just landed in Manila. A day late, but they made it!

I am so grateful it worked out. I got my Consular Miracle after all. Imagine if I'd called a little later--they would've been closed to appointments already and then we would've had to wait out the weekend. It was just such a pleasant surprise to find a bureaucratic organization that actually helped us. When we needed help. Woo to the hoo!

Now, I don't know if the US Consulate in Sydney has Google Alerts, but guys? You rock. You saved our bacon. And Rob? You're my boo. I just want you to know that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Planes, Trains, and a Major Parenting Fail: The Story of a Morning

This morning, Nate, Grace and I dropped Jason and Ava off at the train station. They were leaving today for a trip to Manila, Philippines for a week. Jason is attending a conference there and for they'll also be doing some work with the Real Life Foundation (which helps disadvantaged children and funds scholarships) and Habitat for Humanity.

Jason and I have always talked about how we want to travel with our kids--for them to see different parts of the world, and understand that not everyone lives the way we do. Ava knows that there is need in the world, but of course up to now it's been a totally abstract concept. We think this will be a great "first step" for her. Mingling with kids about her age, seeing a different culture, and being hosted by some friends and locals there. I am excited for her! And a little nervous. I remember how exhilirating and exhausting my first trip to a developing nation was. The new sights, sounds, the utter differences in way of life, straining to listen to people and understand--I would come home each day and feel totally wiped out. And I was 19 years old!

She is beyond excited, though. And there will be plenty of creature comforts as well, so I know my girl will be able to watch her Barbie dvd's, too! After a few weeks of not-so-subtle bragging to Nate, when it came down to it Ava was sad to leave her brother.

Nate, of course, was being a total goofball. He can't leave a tender moment alone. But that changed once we got back in the car.

Everyone seemed to recover, though and we headed home. Jason texted me at one point and said they were in line to check in for the flight, and that it was a huge line. I put Grace down for a nap, Nate was watching cartoons, and I started trying to get some work done. I'm preaching this weekend, and let's just say my sermon isn't totally together yet.

At 10am, my phone beeped with an incoming text message. From Jason. "Ava's passport is expired. I am not sure what they r going to do yet. They are checking into it."

Crappity crap crap. An hour before the flight is due to go, and Ava has an expired passport. Back in January, when we flew back from the States, I remembered noticing that it was expiring soon. But then I completely forgot--I mean, never gave it another thought. Something completely avoidable was now threatening to sink the whole trip. After berating myself (first things first) I did what I always do when stuff like this happens. I texted a few people and asked them to pray. Pray for friendly, helpful airport staff, pray for mercy, pray for help! I wanted an Airport Immigration Miracle. Is that too much to ask? Some people may feel like something that was their fault to begin with should not be eligible for divine intervention. But I am shameless.

I started scouring the US Consulate website, wondering what we could do if they wouldn't let her through. How fast can I get her a new passport? Do they extend them? Can she travel on Jason's? Maybe I should pray for a Consular Miracle? We'd take what we could get at this point.

Ten minutes later, Jason calls. I answer, and before he even speaks, I can hear Ava crying in the background. "They're not going to let us through," he said. "Call the US Consulate and let's see what we can do."

And then it got crazy, y'all! Tune in tomorrow and I'll let you know how it all panned out. This post has been brought to you courtesy of our sponsors: my poor organization and proclivity to wait until the last minute. (You're welcome.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

I think our fish is kind of stupid.

I am not trying to insult goldfish in general. Or stupid people/animals, for that matter. We all know that my own intellectual capacity is somewhat diminished. I am simply stating what I fear may be a fact: we done got ourselves a stupid goldfish.

The first few times we fed Goldie and Sunshine, it took them awhile to figure out that there was food up there on the surface of the water for them. But my sophomore Psychology of Learning class taught me not to fear! I knew within a few times of it, they would learn to associate the opening of the tank's lid with being fed, and would swim to the top.

So, Pavlov, what to do with Sunshine? Cause she ain't getting it. When we sprinkle their food on the water, Goldie (Nate's fish) immediately swims up and partakes. Sunshine is oblivious. Often, she'll go right up next to the food, and nip at a little air bubble on the surface instead. I guess air tastes way more awesome than, you know, FOOD.

Ava is quite distressed about this. Sunshine is her fish and she takes it quite personally that Sunshine isn't getting her share of vittles. Goldie, clearly the Alpha Fish of the tank, is cleaning up. Fish feeding times have become high drama in our household, with Ava and Nate standing with their noses pressed to the glass, begging Sunshine to eat. "It's right there! No, there! Not the bubbles--the food! Eat it!" "Goldie, you've had yours already! Go away!" Jason has developed some sort of complicated strategy to distract Goldie while he sprinkles more food for Sunshine. (Those of you who know Jason will not be surprised. He loves developing strategies! And if anyone can make a dumb-as-hair goldfish eat, he can.)

Ava turns from the tank, "Call the pet store, Mom!" Sure, Ava--I bet the 17 year old girl who sold us these $5 fish will have plenty of wisdom to dispense.

I know fish brains have to be pretty small. Nevertheless, I'm sad to say that I think Sunshine's is smaller. She's not swimming with a full set of fins. Not fishing with a baited hook. Not diving with a full tank. You get me?

I know you crave fish-related updates. And that, my friends, is what's going on.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Those Wacky Teenagers

Conversation with Ava and Nate from two days ago, as we got out of the car at our local shops...

Nate: Ew, Mom! Look! Somebody left bubble gum on the ground.

Me: (getting Grace out of car seat) Okay, that's fine. Just don't step on it--it's sticky. (Has sudden, terrible thought) You didn't put it in your mouth, did you?

Nate: No. (still staring at gum, which inexplicably holds some fascination for him)

Ava: Teenagers love bubble gum! They're always chewing it.

Me: (Distracted, holding Grace and wrestling the stroller out of the back of the car) They are?

Ava: (Nodding) Yeah. They just love it. They like to chew it a lot. Teenagers are always asking their moms to buy them bubble gum. It's weird!

Me: Wow...I had no idea that they liked it so much.

Ava: (nods wisely) Yeah.

(We start walking toward shops)

Nate: Mom, when I'm a teenager, will you buy me some bubble gum?

Me: Sure, bud.

Nate: (Stopping and looking at me) For real life?

Me: (enjoying the opportunity to appear benevolent) For real life. I will totally buy you some bubble gum when you're a teenager.

Ava: And me?

Me: Sure, why not? You can have some bubble gum too.

Both: Yea!

Oh Lord... if only that was all teenagers wanted! I don't know where they come up with this stuff...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

New Additions

We recently did a behavioral sticker chart with the kids. You know, where you target a specific behavior you want to work on with your children, and for every day (or half day, if it's a particularly rampant behavior!) that they do what you've asked them to, they get a sticker. And when they get a certain number of stickers that you've set as the goal, there's a reward. I know there are some who don't think this is a good way to parent, that children should learn to obey for obedience's sake and not learn to expect rewards for every little thing. I see their point, sort of, but I know that *I* do better sometimes in certain areas of my life if there's an incentive I hold out for myself. For example, because I worked out really hard the other night, I treated myself to a ice cream sundae. It's nice to set small goals and then meet them. Plus, it's fun for the kids to watch that chart fill up with stickers--they're proud of themselves for doing it. I think we should all just relax a little bit sometimes about this parenting thing, don't you?

Anyway! So, when the kids got all their stickers, we'd promised them they could each get a goldfish. This is as far down Pet Avenue that I am willing to travel at this point in my life. We are not ready for a puppy. We said no to a guinea pig that our friends offered us. Goldfish are just about my speed. Dogs, cats and other small mammals? Nah. I do not need to scoop anymore poop than I already have to right now, y'know?

Yesterday was the day to get the goldfish! It was the first day of our 2 week break between Term 2 and 3, and goldfish selecting seemed like a festive way to start the holidays!
Fish-in-a-bag! I was more than a little nervous letting Ava carry it through the mall, but she did just fine, and no fish were harmed in the making of this blog post. We went on from here to get the tank and got it all set up and the water ready before the little guys got too uncomfortable in their ziploc home.

It's funny--I was apprehensive in the whole getting them and bringing them home process. On a much smaller scale, it's the same feeling of responsibility you have when you bring a new baby home from the hospital. (Yes, a much smaller scale--I already said that!) Except, I'm reasonably confident in my ability to care for and nurture a newborn human. Having done it a few times now. Fish, however, are new territory for me. Fingers crossed we keep them alive for awhile at least!

Folks, meet Goldie and Sunshine. Personally, I was hoping for some more exciting names, but Ava and Nate christened them before they were even out of the tank at the pet shop! The kids spent at least an hour last night just sitting there, watching the fish swim around. It was very cute. Ava kept saying, "I can't believe we really have pets now! This is the most exciting day ever." The fact that she was so excited over a little goldfish made me feel a twinge of guilt over not getting them a puppy. (But just a twinge.)

And Ava is already preparing for any outcome of this whole fish ownership thing. While I was making dinner, she spent about 5 minutes typing this into Google:

Worried about the end before the beginning even begins: just like her mama.

It's been about 24 hours, and I'm happy to report that Goldie and Sunshine lived through the night! So far, so good. But in the interests of full disclosure, I must confess. As the kids watched the fish swim last night, I made dinner. It was getting late, and my people were hungry. Without even thinking about it, I made something that would be quick and easy, and that was sure to be eaten. What was it?


Oops. The kids laughed a little about that, but then gobbled it up.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

I will be assimilated.

Who doesn't love a reference to The Borg?

I know I do!

I totally missed that the fact that this Sunday is the Fourth of July. I mean, I was aware that Sunday is the 4th day of July. But it was only today that I read something about a holiday weekend in the States, and I was like, "What holiday....Oh!" This, combined with how I forgot Thanksgiving last year shows how out of touch I am with my Americanness, y'all. My roots! (Except, you have to say it like, "Mah rutes!")

I did a quick online search to see what's going down in Sydney for the Fourth. I mean, there's heaps of Americans here, right? Well, there ain't nothing, not that I could find. There were a couple of invitations to parties that happened in 2008 and 2009, but that was about it. Thank goodness I noticed the year on those invitations! Can you imagine how sad it would've been to show up there on Sunday? "Happy 4th of...guys? Hellooo? Anybody?" I did read that the US Ambassador hosted a party this week at his house in Canberra (our capitol city). I think mostly diplomatic staff attended and they ate hot dogs and tried to play baseball, the article said. Unfortunately, the party was on a really cold day. Canberra is, as we say in my country of birth, butt-cold. So, I bet that wasn't oodles of fun.

One other sign of Aussie assimilation? My abbreviating. Aussies abbreviate lots of words. Not all the time, but very often. Breakfast is brekky, presents are pressies, aggressive is aggro, gossip is goss--you get the idea. Jason and I used to laugh at it, like, "Gosh that extra syllable is soooo exhaust--nevermind!" But I've noticed a sharp increase in my abbreviation-usage. Just a bit ago, for instance, I texted Jason. "What time do you think you'll be home this arvo?", I wrote. Arvo is short for afternoon, and it's an abbreviation I've never used, cause I felt too self-conscious saying it. Like I was trying too hard, y'know? Plus, it seemed silly to me. How do you get arvo from afternoon, anyway? But there it was--I did it, and didn't even realize till after.

It won't be long now.

Resistance is fute-y.

Happy Fourth of July to my American buds, and to everyone else, have a great weekend. xo