Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birthday Boys

This weekend Eliot and Peter had a joint birthday party.  They each invited friends from their classes. Four of Eliot's friends were able to attend, and four of Peter's friends were able to attend, so it actually worked out perfectly.  It was so fun to watch the boys socializing with their little friends.  Eliot was clearly in his element, surrounded by his friends.

Peter, though a little more shy, was equally delighted to see his friends.  He had listed off, by name, all of the little friends he wanted to invite and greeted them each happily as they arrived.

Each boy had his own cake with candles to blow out.

The cakes were also topped with Mighty Machines.

Both boys had asked for a side-loader recycling truck.

Peter could hardly contain his excitement when he discovered that his birthday wish had come true.
Both boys were gracious hosts and I was very proud of them for making their friends feel welcomed and thanking them for the gifts they brought.

This was also the weekend of the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at Riveredge Nature Center.

The boys ate their fill (though considerably less than the one hundred they had been talking about eating on the drive out there) and a little bit of rain could hardly dampen the fun we had.

Later, while hanging out in the nature center they came across a ladybug (or ladybird, as they would have said back in Oz) and Eliot very gently carried it outside and set it free.  They are both sweet, clever, feisty little boys, and we are so proud of them.
Happy Birthday Eliot and Peter!!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Maple Sugarin' Festival

About five miles east of West Bend there is a farm/nature center called Riveredge.  In the early spring they have a maple sugaring festival when you can see where maple syrup comes from and participate in all sorts of fun activities.  The boys started out with some bird watching while waiting for us to get registered.

They had a station where you could assemble your own pancake mix to take home, and another where you tasted two different syrups and had to guess which was real maple syrup and which was fabricated stuff.  The boys guessed correctly.

Then, to their delight, it was time to climb aboard a small shuttle bus that would take us to the sugar bush.  They chose to sit together in the small seat at the back.

The tour through the sugar bush included all sorts of fun experiences to teach about Native American culture and tradition.  At the first station the boys made--or supervised the making of--their very own dream-catcher.

Eliot tried his hand at it and both boys selected their own yarn and feathers.

Peter felt right at home in the wigwam.

Then it was off to see where all this maple syrup comes from.  The bucket hanging from the tree was particularly interesting.

At one of the spiles a woman shared the legend of the little mouse who helped a boy find the sweet  and nourishing sap of the sugar maple during a particularly harsh winter.  The discovery saved the boy, his grandmother, and his people from starvation.

Everyone was invited to try the sap, catching it on their finger or tongue.  Eliot was unimpressed.  He thought it tasted like water (which it sort of did) and Peter was far more interested in the maple sugar that the guide shared with us.

As we wended our way the boys got to try their hand at tapping a tree, and then we found ourselves in a little shed (Peter said it looked like a fire house) where sap was vigorously boiling down into syrup.  It was a great chance to warm up a bit.

The tour ended with a sample of the fresh syrup on a buckwheat pancake.

Both Eliot and Peter gobbled down the pancake.  When, upon returning like Oliver Twist for a second helping, they were informed that it was just one per person tears were shed.  They did serve lunch for a reasonable price (the pulled-pork sandwich with maple bar-b-q sauce was to die for) and apparently next weekend they are holding an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast, so we'll be going back.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Coming Home

When we moved our family back to North America last August I nearly came unglued.  There was so much to do; things to sell, things to pack, things to throw out, things to sort through, accounts to close, people to say goodbye to, movers to schedule, documents to collect.  The list seemed endless, and much of it couldn't be done until about a week before we left.  I remember our final day well.  The movers had already come to pack up our things.  I had arranged to sell our fridge, our bed, our washing machine, and our sofa and have them all picked up the morning of our departure so that we could use them until we left.  Some friends from church came to help haul a few more things to Good Sammy's and then it was time to finish packing up the suitcases and clean the apartment.  I sent Spencer off with the boys and then I cleaned.  Just thinking of that day now gives me a feeling of anxiety.  Night had long fallen by the time I had reduced our little home to an echoing shell with an army of suitcases lined up along the wall near the door.  I took one last look into all of the rooms and thought of how little the boys were when we had first moved in and how much they had grown.  I probably would have shed a couple of tears if I hadn't still had a lot to do before stepping onto an airplane.
Now as we have settled into our new life back here in North America it is bitter-sweet to think back on all of the people and places we left behind.  Eliot's teacher, Miss Taylor (pronounced Tay-lah, as Eliot was wont to remind us) made a huge impact on him.  He loved going to school and learning about the world that was growing larger in his mind every day.

Our next door neighbor, Ju-ee was a wonderful friend to the boys and myself.  She was a delightful neighbor and stepped in to help out right to the very end.
There were so many others who welcomed us into their lives and helped make Australia feel like home.

Peter found a place to get away from the business of packing.

As the movers packed our things up Peter was happy to sit and watch "Bananas in Pajamas" and munch on a Vegemite sandwich.  At this point he had spent more of his life in Australia than in any other place.

While running some last-minute errands we came across these tires used on the monster machines up at the mines.  The boys were pretty impressed.

The feeling of anxiety finally started to lift as our over-weight luggage slipped off to the bowels of the airplane with naught but a wink and a smile from the attendant (Spencer's frequent flyer status was paying off) and we were officially on our way.  There was a short moment of panic when the attendant handed back a Build-a-Bear passport that had somehow made it in with ours.  I had sudden visions of one of us being delayed while a mad race was made to find the missing passport among our  shipped goods.  Fortunately all four passports were there and off we went.

These past few years have been a wonderful adventure.  We're ready to face the next one together.