Christmas Vacation

It’s back to school time here and as we have eased back into our school schedules and activities it’s been funny to hear people ask how your Christmas break was instead of summer vacation. I’m guessing this must be because weather wise we are nowhere near the end of summer yet it’s time to go back to school. Much like the UK the summer break is much shorter here, only about 6 or 7 weeks, but there are longer breaks throughout the year. We managed to pack as much as possible into those 6 weeks and I think everyone was ready for things to settle down.
Last school year ended the week before Christmas so as soon as the break started we launched right into the holiday madness. The first day we had the Microsoft family Christmas event at Jamie’s office. I don’t think Ella had spent any time with Santa this year before the event so we quickly learned that she is not a fan. Other than some hysterics when forced to get close to Santa it was a fun event but instead of winter themed activities the kids enjoyed a petting zoo and bouncy houses, a very different experience. We had the playgroup holiday party, drinks with some friends we have met through Ella’s ballet and soon enough it was time to start baking for Christmas. This was our 3rd Christmas away from family and I think we have come into our own on Christmas, we now have our own little traditions and it is really nice to have the holiday be a calm day as opposed to packed with commitments. I think we were the only people in Sydney happy to see it rainy and overcast on Christmas morning. Everyone had told me that an Australian Christmas is spent at the beach, lucky for us it was rainy so it felt a little more like a Seattle Christmas watching the kid’s new movies from Santa and indulging on candy from our stockings.
Poor thing was subjected to this by Daddy
Ready to sit down for Christmas Eve dinner
Before we knew it Grandma and Papa’s arrival date was finally here and then the real fun began. The kids were so excited to have Grandma and Papa here, Mom and Dad were definitely old news once they arrived. Patrick and I went to the airport to pick them up as we drove up the driveway when we go home we found Kellen sitting on the deck just waiting for them to get here. His face once he saw Grandma and Papa was priceless, had I know I would have had camera ready because the look of joy on his face was so special. After the initial tour of our immediate area we started venturing a little further out. We did the Opera House, Blue Mountains, a weekend in the Hunter Valley, and even a few evenings out without the kids. It was busy but so nice to have time with them. I like having them see where we live, the places we go, etc. because even though we talk on the phone and Skype regularly it’s hard to give someone the full picture. This way when I talk to my Mom about Ella going to ballet she can picture where we are and what we are doing. It is also interesting to see the kids from their perspective, all three of them are changing so quickly and 6 months really does make a big difference. The kids of course got spoiled with all of the attention, not to mention the constant access to juice. I think it was a real let down when they had to go back to normal life.
Night out to see La Soirée at the Opera House
About to ride down one of the world’s steepest railways in the Blue Mountains
Picnic in the city
I got time with Mom and Dad not just the kids with Grandma and Papa. Headed out to Jonah’s for an experience.
Kellen spotting the Kangaroos outside the cabin
Turns out there was a joey in her pouch!
Success! Papa was on a spending spree while we tasted

It was a great 3 weeks full of activity but also down time taking the kids to the beach or being at the house. I think those were some of the best times. Kellen leading us in a game of Simon Says or Ella showing off her dance moves. Those are the little things that can’t be done from so far away. I also really wanted them to have a brief escape from how difficult things have been back home over the last 6 months. We did have some sad moments and talked a lot about how people are doing and what comes next but overall it really was about enjoying our time together. I would say the trip was perfect although driving back from dropping them off at the airport Kellen told me that next time Grandma and Papa visit they are going to bring AJ, I’m not sure anyone has told them yet.

Hanging with Papa
Then we only had a week and a half left until school started up again. Both boys were excited to be back in school and Ella had been asking for both ballet and playgroup on a daily basis. It feels good to start the year and finally be on schedule. After an extended summer break, starting the school year towards the end and another summer break, it is nice to start on the first day of school and be able to plan a little farther in advance. We’ve just finished our 2ndweek and everyone has fallen back into the routine nicely.
So here we are, we have now lived in Sydney for 7 months and it seems like the time has flown by. I would say that we like it here. It is really beautiful and the weather is just about as perfect as it gets, hot but not uncomfortable, humid but not muggy, etc. Do we love it here? No. It has been surprising and Jamie and I keep checking in with each other and we like it we just don’t love it. It is really similar to the US, I often think this must be what it is like to live in Southern California. In a lot of ways it has made getting settled really easy. There are big box stores, malls, and grocery stores with parking lots. At the same time we feel like if we are going to live so far from family we should be gaining new experiences and maybe it is too similar for the high cost of being so far away. The small issues like pest control are very real but at the same time I think we are adjusting and I have found an exterminator I like so between those two things we have the situation under control or at least tolerable. The cost of living is unbelievably high, I saw a pair of Lee jeans that you can probably buy at Sears at the department store here for $150. But it isn’t the cost of clothing that bothers me it’s the cost of food at the grocery store. Now that I have figured out the brands and prices and have tried different things I have come to the conclusion that we are eating lower quality food at higher prices. The meat in particular I have found really expensive so the proteins that are a slightly more reasonable price tend to be what I go with, we are feeding a family of 5, and most nights I find myself frustrated at the poor quality. Living in the UK for 2 years we have been weaned off of the idea that chicken breast must be 3x it’s natural size so it’s not size or quantity but it really is quality. Really tough, full of gristle meat or chicken that is different then I’m used to, somehow stringy. Yet we are still easily spending the $250 per week at the grocery store that we had planned while budgeting as a worst case scenario. Our first electric bill was a real shock especially considering the fact we don’t use any heat or air conditioning. But we are adjusting, I now only hang dry all laundry and I’m learning to work within my options at the store.
We are also finding it much more difficult to meet people than we did in the UK. I am definitely the overfriendly mom and pick up and drop off but I figure if I’m not proactive I won’t meet anyone… Through school and playgroup I have met quite a few people and see them around town but we still haven’t formed the same kind of social group we had before. This takes time and I think Jamie has had a similar experience at work, he really likes everyone but doesn’t yet have the same kind of relationships he had before. I think this is something we knew going into the move, we had gotten really lucky with the group of friends we formed in the UK and it was going to take time to meet people like that again. I am not sure we expected it to be quite as much like Seattle, everyone is really friendly but it’s hard to move past that stage of politeness.
I really am not complaining this place has so many amazing things about it. We saw kangaroos in the Hunter Valley, we’ve seen wales from our deck, we can walk to the beach and you can pretty much plan for good weather every day. Jamie and I were laughing one night, the best part of moving around is you get to experience the best aspects of each place you live. The worst part of moving around is you experience the worst aspects of each place you live. So we like it here, we are settled in, the kids are doing great and we are having fun. We were told that once we lived here we would never want to leave and would try and live here forever. I don’t think that will be the case for us. We like it well enough that we aren’t feeling rushed to leave but we’ll be open to our next adventure, whenever that may be.
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