My baby is THREE!

Well… almost three. Tomorrow is the big day but we celebrated today since it was a public holiday!

We had a few friends over to our house for a nice low key party and celebration. Kate got to open presents all day starting in her pyjamas.

Eden "Helping" Kate....

Eden “Helping” Kate….

Kate concentrating really hard.

Kate concentrating really hard.

We had some yummy food and it was actually a nice day! We could drink tea mid-morning without sweating (I think around 26 degrees)!

Colour

Colour

Worms in dirt...I think the worms were picked out pretty quickly

Worms in dirt…I think the worms were picked out pretty quickly

Lots of girlies!

Lots of girlies!

The Men

The Men

We had a little scavenger hunt around the yard for hidden bugs (plastic ones…).

Searching for bugs in our pumpkin vine that's taking over.

Searching for bugs in our pumpkin vine that’s taking over.

We also had a piñata, it’s become a bit of a tradition for birthdays in our house! Easy and entertaining!

Kate wanted Daddy help

Kate wanted Daddy help

Danny doesn't need any help!

Danny doesn’t need any help!

Of course we had some cake :)

Creepy crawly garden cake :)

Creepy crawly garden cake :)

3 years old!

3 years old!

She loves spiders

She loves spiders

Mama cuddles

Mama cuddles

Sisters

Sisters

Juice!

Juice!

We have some lovely friends who celebrated with us. This is one of my favourite photos from the day.

Not the most flattering one… sorry Wolf!

Mama and baby love

Mama and baby love

Post party "no more pictures mom..."

Post party “no more pictures mom…”

For Kate this year we decided to get her a new bed. We got it second hand but it was new to her! She has been sleeping on a trundle, basically on the floor and we thought it was time for a big girl bed! I think she liked it and I think a certain big sister was a little jealous from all the gifts.

Not on the floor any more!

Not on the floor any more!

All tucked in after a big day :)

All tucked in after a big day :)

“Change is Good” or “Becoming a School Mum”

One of my friends asked me recently how I was and I honestly said “good, really good”. I told her I felt like I was changing, or that this was the year of change, that I was becoming a “school mum”. She asked me what that meant and to be honest I’m not really sure. I feel like I’m moving beyond the baby phase of parenting, of going to play groups and things, and into a “school mum” phase. To be honest it feels good.

Eden on her first day of Kindy

Eden on her first day of Kindy

When you become a mother, or parent for the first time, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. As much as you prepare for the delivery of your first born you can’t “really” prepare for what parenthood feels like. We are now 4.5 years into this whole parenting gig and I guess it’s starting to feel right. I’m not saying easy, not by any stretch, but I guess we’ve settled into our roles.

Eden in her classroom for the first time. Checking out the activity tables.

Eden in her classroom for the first time. Checking out the activity tables.

I’ve got to say I was emotional taking Eden to school for her first half day. It surprised me because she did go to PreKindy last year and I never really feel like that dropping her off. I think, now that I’ve had time to reflect, that it’s because starting big school is entering into a new phase of life. A phase where Eden learns from others and not just her parents. A time for confidence and resilience. A chance to make new friends and to try new things.

Proud girl :)

Proud girl :)

To be honest we did consider homeschooling for a while. It’s becoming very popular especially in North America. There are a lot of benefits to homeschooling and most arguments against it are often old fashioned and not relevant in most families. We decided though, that this year we weren’t going to go that route. We’re still open to the idea in the future but for this time we feel we’ve made the right decision. I think I wouldn’t have handled it well this year, I’m just getting over a really difficult year for me personally and starting now to feel well. I’ve learned for myself the psychological and spiritual (and of course physical) benefits of exercise and taking care of my one body. I still have low days but I’m feeling a lot better and I think the pressure of being responsible for the education of my children is not something I need right now.

My sweeties

My sweeties

I’m excited for Eden for this new adventure that she’s just begun. She loves it so far, and unlike some of the other kids in her class, hasn’t shed a tear when Kate and I say good bye. I’m excited for her to make new friends, and for me too. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my not so little Kate (I can’t believe she’s almost 3). This is going to be a good year, a year of discovery and change for all of us.

Kate started PreKindy, one day a week :)

Kate started PreKindy, one day a week :)

Here’s to 2015!

!

!

Camping in the Stirling Range – Part Two

As promised, here are some more details on the rest of our camping trip.

Our first full day of camping involved some wildlife…

A pretty good sized Huntsman discovered between the screen and the fly, not poisonous but  do jump...

A pretty good-sized Huntsman discovered between the screen and the fly, not poisonous but they do sometimes jump…

On day two we had to go to Albany for food, since we could really only pack enough food for one day in our little car, along with all the camping gear. First we went to the beach at Frenchman Bay, on the peninsula to the south of Albany. Despite the hot day, the water was surprisingly chilly, not that a bit of cold water would stop my little water babes from jumping in for a splash!

Gorgeous beach

Gorgeous beach

My water babes

My water babes

Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

I didn't get in fully...too cold for me!

I didn’t get in fully…too cold for me!

We also visited a pirate ship (also known as the Brig Amity).

Two Captains

Two Captains

This door was just the right size for the girls!

This door was just the right size for the girls!

Not so great for Tim (or I for that matter)

Not so great for Tim (or I for that matter)

It was a beautiful (but hot, 40+ degrees) day

It was a beautiful (but hot, 40+ degrees) day

There’s lots to see and do in Albany and I’m sure we’ll be back to experience it properly someday. We mostly wanted to get our groceries and get back to the camp ground, so that’s what we did. Young children can only handle so many tourist attractions per day anyway!

We got back to the camp ground, went for a swim, had supper (and toasted marshmallows) and went to bed. The stars that night were fabulous. If you’ve never seen stars with no light pollution dimming them, then you need to do it tonight! It’s seriously amazing how many you can see, including shooting stars if you look long enough. I’ve seen stars like this many times but it always amazes me, and this time I almost felt like the southern sky had more of them than what I remember of the north.

Sleepy heads the next morning

Sleepy heads the next morning

Day 3 was the day I was going to attempt to hike Bluff Knoll. I didn’t really tell my friends that I was planning on doing this beforehand, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Silly maybe, but it is what it is. We probably should have checked the predicted forecast before I set off, as it ended up being another 40 degree day. I didn’t know that though, so I set off from the car park around 8:30 am with two litres of water and a few snacks. I knew there were a few other people on the mountain because of the other cars in the car park, but I was the last one to begin. It would have been ideal if I could have left earlier, but with getting the sleepy girls ready for their day out with Tim and feeding everyone and packing snacks, well… such is life!

Ready? to go

Ready(?) to go

My goal

My goal: that summit!

The beginning of the Stairmaster from hell.

The beginning of the Stairmaster from hell.

It's always good to stop and look around.

It’s always good to stop and look around.

I wasn't alone ;)

I wasn’t alone ;)

I almost stepped on this guy.

I almost stepped on this guy.

I actually loved doing a solo hike. I only had my thoughts to contend with. It was quiet, which meant I got to see some wildlife. Best of all, I didn’t feel like I was slowing anyone down. For me, it was a mental challenge as much as a physical one. Initially I worried about getting lost on my own, but after seeing how well worn and marked out the trail is, I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue, so I just enjoyed the solitude.

Steps

More steps

Only 1.6km to go.....

Only 1.6km to go…..

The car park far below.

The car park far below.

It seems a bit obvious but maybe not for some.

The edge seems a bit obvious to me, but maybe not for some.

Yes I'm leaning on that post like my life depended on it.

Yes I’m leaning on that post like my life depends on it.

Beautiful Views

Beautiful Views – looking north west you can clearly see the boundary between the National Park and the farm land beyond – the so-called “Wheat Belt” 

An eagle just happened to grace me with its company

An eagle just happened to grace me with its presence near the summit

Cool outcrop

Cool outcrop – words and image by Kathryn, not Tim!

The way down was difficult, to put it mildly. My right knee has been a bit dodgy, so I was favouring my left, which means it was doing a lot of work. If you’ve ever climbed a mountain you know that the way down is often harder, which proved to be the case. I didn’t stop nearly as much as I did on way up, but I took it slowly because the rocks were loose and I was afraid of slipping. I did slip at one point, which thankfully only resulted in a scraped ankle, nothing twisted. To make matters worse, it was approaching noon by the time I neared the bottom, which meant the sun was high, shade was scarce, and it was HOT. Despite having sun cream on (which I might have sweated off by this point) I could feel my skin burning. Miraculously I didn’t get more burnt than I did.

It was only when I got back to the camp ground that I I found out it had reached 40 degrees while I was in the sun in peak hours. I think I only sat down twice on the way down. When I started to feel shaky and dizzy I knew a break was in order, so I found a rock that was a bit shaded, sat and rested, drank water and ate a banana. It was a hard slog, but I finally reached the bottom, where I saw Tim and the girls waiting for me. For some reason they have built stairs that you have to climb up to get to the car park at the end… I actually couldn’t speak when they met me, I was so exhausted.

Tim helped me up the steps while the girls asked for cuddles…haha…and I drank more water, as much as we had left. I laid down for a while before I could move to go to the car. I was so exhausted from the physical exertion and the heat. Thankfully I didn’t get heat stroke or anything and only a mild sunburn. We got back to the camp ground and there was no relief from the heat or the flies. I wanted to lay down and rest, but the tent was too hot and stuffy and the pool was too exposed to the sun at midday. Instead, we sat in the communal kitchen, ate some lunch, and I eventually got to go lay in the tent and doze for a bit before joining Tim and the girls in the pool. Floating felt so good. I’ll let Tim recount his adventure with the girls that day….

Colouring in the tent

Colouring in the tent and eating apricots

Tim was the main camp chef

Tim was the main camp chef

Storytime

Storytime

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

While Kathryn was climbing Bluff Knoll, I took the girls down south – about a 40 minute drive – to the Porongurup Range and Castle Rock. This was a shorter hike, 2.2 kilometres each way, gradually to somewhat steeply ascending a large hill, finishing with a steel walkway/lookout area which is apparently pretty cool. I say apparently because we only made it about 1.7 km up the hill before I realised that:

1) The girls had nothing left in them – they’d already put in an amazing effort, especially Eden, and

2) If we didn’t start back soon we weren’t going to get back in time to pick up Kathryn from Bluff Knoll

So we turned around and cheerfully walked back down the track together…….

I mean, it was terrible. I ended up, for at least half a kilometre of the hike back, having a backpack on my back, Eden on my shoulders, and Kate on my front, clinging like a Koala. I had strangers offer to help me, but I didn’t want to pass my self-inflicted burden on to them, so I trudged along as well as I could. In hindsight, I should have let the strangers help me, but I’m a silly man.

We made it back to the car park in time, but we were all knackered. My shoulders were sore from Eden’s bony legs pressing into them (at one point she moaned, “My legs are soooore”, yet she refused my offer to let her walk by herself!) and all of us were pretty hungry and tired out.

Alas, we made it on time, collected the burnt and weary Kathryn, and headed back to camp.

When we set out on this holiday my heart wasn’t set on climbing Bluff Knoll like Kathryn’s was, but she strongly encouraged me to give it a go the day after she had, so I did. I woke up, scarfed down some breakfast, filled a couple of water bottles and set out by myself. The summit was shrouded in pretty white clouds when I arrived in the car park – quite beautiful.

Tim's view of Bluff Knoll when he set out.

Tim’s view of Bluff Knoll when he set out.

Almost immediately when I embarked on the trail I was struck with the beauty of the flora. So much of Australia (WA at least) has been converted to agricultural land, even in some very hostile climates, so we don’t actually see a whole lot of native bush. Walking the Bluff Knoll track was refreshing, because it gave me a picture of what Australia really is. I didn’t see as many animals as Kathryn did, but I caught glimpses of a few small lizards and I also saw that eagle near the summit, as well as a few other small birds.

The temperature was ideal on my day, and since I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling and playing soccer lately, I didn’t find the climb quite as challenging as Kathryn did, but it was still tough! I pushed myself to go quickly, and made it to the summit in about an hour and ten minutes. I spent some time there admiring the view, looking more closely at the interesting variety of flowers and rocks, and sweating. The wind at the top was invigorating, and surprisingly cold for WA in January (at about 1050m elevation) – as a matter of fact, the summit of Bluff Knoll is about the only location where it snows in WA, and even then it’s not on an annual basis, but more of a rare treat. Sorry Canadians, particularly in light of what you’re going through right now in the East…

Found this little beauty hiding under a rock right at the summit

Found this little beauty hiding under a rock right at the summit

The token selfie

The token selfie

The way down was tough, as Kathryn discussed, but my knees weren’t bothering me on that day so I kind of jogged down in the areas with lots of steps (most of the hike!). When you’re climbing up you can sort of fall into the hill, but on the way down you’ve gotta put a lot of effort into holding yourself back, which is why I think descending is so hard on the joints. Anyhow, it was a great hike and I would highly recommend it to anyone living in WA. It’s only a 4 hour drive from Perth, and it’s an ideal break from the city! Also, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Stirling Range Retreat if you’re looking to camp nearby.

What do you reckon is worse - going up or down?

What do you reckon is worse – going up or down?

It’s been a long post, so I’ll leave it at that. I really can’t stress enough how beautiful and unique Australia is. The climate is delightfully suited to human life, the smells and sights are like nothing you’ll ever see in Canada (or most anywhere), and we live here, so what are you waiting for? Come see it for yourself! I know it’s expensive and super far away, but…. #yolo

Camping in the Stirling Range – Part One

This past week we went camping. It was a bit of a last minute decision really, only gave ourselves a few weeks to get ready but it was SO worth it.  We (I) needed to get away from the city, from the busyness of life, from people even (sorry!), and be in nature. I’ve always found the natural world to be a place where God meets me, a place of clarity of thought, a place of peace. I knew I didn’t want to go to a holiday park; even though our last experience at one was good, they’re not really a “natural” place or a peaceful place, particularly during school holidays. We wanted to go the Stirling Range because we wanted to do some hiking. At some point leading up to my 30th last year I said to Tim that I wanted to complete something physically challenging in my 30th year. I wanted to set a benchmark for my 30s of adventure and physical fitness. I wanted to focus and achieve a physical goal, although because it was a bit of a last minute decision to go at this time I didn’t really get much training in, unfortunately.

We booked in at the Stirling Range Retreat, not really knowing what to expect, and made numerous lists of what we would need to bring. We have to pack light because of our small car and there’s always something that ends up on the roof. Here’s how tightly packed in we were.

Tim and Eden

Tim and Eden

Katie and I

Katie and I

We drove for about 2.5 hours and reached Kojonup which is a lovely little town. We packed a picnic lunch and ate at the park where the girls played and ran around for a while.

Swinging like monkeys

Swinging like monkeys

Lunch time!

Lunch time!

Then it was off for another 2 hour drive to the Stirling Range Retreat. The girls travelled well in the car. We had some podcasts/stories that we listened to, they slept some and that was pretty much it. We didn’t bring any DVD/video devices and didn’t need one at all. To you Canadians reading you may be thinking that a 4.5 hour car trip is nothing, to which I would agree, but we rarely drive longer than 30-40 minutes in the car at any one time, so we weren’t sure how the girls would make out. They did well and hopefully we’ll make the trip up to the Ningaloo Reef sometime in the next few years (we may have to upgrade to a 4-wheel-drive for that trip! :))

We arrived at our campsite and first thing we noticed was no grass. We shouldn’t have been surprised really, but it was a bit tricky getting the tent pegs into the hard, dry ground. Growing grass would be such a waste of water in this dry area, so it makes sense. I’m glad we had some good mattresses to sleep on :)

DSCN3409

First things first – Sun cream!

Girlies watching Tim through the tent

Girlies watching Tim through the tent

Eden wanted to take a picture of me!

Eden wanted to take a picture of me!

The camp ground was spacious and perfectly located close to the Stirling range. It had a great little park and really nice swimming pools. It wasn’t that busy – despite being school holidays – and had a great communal kitchen area, and clean bathrooms/showers – as long as you don’t mind a few bugs…

Dry and dusty with the mountains in the background

Dry and dusty with the mountains in the background

Testing out the tyre swings

Testing out the tyre swings

Eden wanted to take a picture of Tim with our tent in the background.

Eden wanted to take a picture of Tim with our tent in the background.

The lovely pools!

The lovely pools!

That first evening after our swim and supper we watched the sun set behind the mountains and knew that we had made the perfect choice for our holiday.

The sun beginning it's descent

The sun beginning it’s descent

Roasting marshmallows

Roasting marshmallows

Pretty sky

Pretty sky

Beauty

Beauty

Sometime in the next few days we’ll write a post specifically about hiking Bluff Knoll, which was the centrepiece of our trip. Until then, hope you’ve enjoyed this look into our holiday.

Proverbs 26:11, or not

“Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”

I’ve always been prone to a touch of drama, but this verse often came to mind over the last 2 years as I considered reactivating my facebook account. For those of you who have previously deactivated your accounts, you’d know that it sends you off with a little farewell message along the lines of “Sorry to see you go. If you ever change your mind, simply log on again with your old details and all your data will be restored.” Kind of creepy, but okay.

I decided a few months ago to take facebook up on that offer but, like most things, it took me a while to get around to it. Last night, after enjoying New Years Eve festivities with a few Aussie (well, ex-pat) friends and their families, followed by a couple good games of Catan, the time seemed right. Some of you may recall reading my blog post called Farewell to Facebook, in which I detailed my reasons for leaving. Looking back on that post, I can’t say I feel much differently now than I did then about Facebook’s capacity to waste time, but I guess I neglected to consider one critical factor: I like my friends.

I’m not a super nostalgic person… I mean, you’ve got to have some capacity to move on in order to uproot and move across the planet with your young family. Lots of ex-pats seem to suffer homesickness more than I do though, which is probably related in part to the fact that many retain mostly old-country interests (e.g. Canadians following ice hockey) instead of trying to get into local interests and culture (e.g. AFL, known affectionately as footy by most West Australians). I have found however, after almost 2 years away, that I’ve been thinking and wondering more about the old friends with whom I’m no longer connected in any way.

The turning point was about 3 months ago, while talking about music and jamming with some colleagues up north. The scene provoked a memory of the 2009 Relay for Life in Lab City and a somewhat ill-fated performance by The Iron Clad Commitment, a trio consisting of me and two IOC colleagues. I managed to develop a case of laryngitis that night, which caused my singing voice to deteriorate rapidly through the course of the set, but we had a blast despite the embarrassing pre-pubescent squeaks I was emitting on most high notes. Preparing for the set had been a lot of fun too, and as I dwelt on that memory I thought to myself, “I miss Louell” – Louell, if you are reading this, you can pretty much take credit for initiating my return to facebook.

There are lots of you out there though, particularly the ones who aren’t friends on facebook with Kathryn, who can share that credit: Radian6 friends, childhood/school friends, geologists and IVCFers, Labradorians and Kiwis. There’s nothing profound here, it’s just that I like you guys and I’ve missed you. Besides, I thought freeing up facebook time would have resulted in better blogging and creativity, but I’ve blogged less and arguably been less creative than ever before in 2014. Instead of my news feed, I’ve sunk more time into ABC, BBC, and CBC news. Rather than clever memes, funny videos, witty comments and (sometimes) valuable insights into my friends’ minds, I’ve read about terrorist plots, tragic murders and fiscal woes the world over.

I can’t say I’m happy to to associate myself with facebook again per se, but as I laid in bed last night in the wee hours of the 2015, scrolling through my news feed and seeing the faces and words of old friends – some with new beards and new babies – I’ve got to admit: it made me happy. I don’t feel like a dog returning to its vomit at all; more like one returning to a buried bone, rediscovering the pleasure of that familiar old flavour (haha, don’t overthink that one). It’s nice to see you all again.

Happy New Year, and keep an eye out for our upcoming annual Year In Review.

Christmas festivities

Over the past week we have been doing a few Christmasy things to get into the holiday spirit. Eden had her pre-Kindy Christmas concert where they sang songs like Aussie Jingle Bells and were generally adorable.

Eden as Mary

Eden as Mary

Santa and his wife in their "rusty holden ute"

Santa and his wife in their “rusty holden ute”

We made a gingerbread house to bring to church for the kids Christmas show.

Eden decorating cookies

Eden decorating cookies

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Kate watching me put the house together

Putting the house together

Putting the house together

A little video of the event.

Katie the sheep

Katie the sheep

Eden as Mary

Eden as Mary

The group of them

The group of them

Tonight we walked around the suburb looking for Christmas lights. There are a few roads in our suburb that are known for their lights and they didn’t disappoint.

Very aussie lights, notice the white boomer on the roof. Apparently 6 white boomers (male kangaroos) pull santa's sleigh in Australia.

Very aussie lights, notice the white boomer on the roof. Apparently 6 white boomers (male kangaroos) pull santa’s sleigh in Australia.

Eden and Kate wrapped in blankets...it was a little chilly. Every house on the street had lights up!

Eden and Kate wrapped in blankets…it was a little chilly. Every house on the street had lights up!

Sweet girls :)

Sweet girls :)

Posing in the love heart!

Posing in the love heart!

We have also set up our tree and this year we are doing Truth in the Tinsel, which consists of a craft, bible passage and discussion every day with the purpose of focusing the Christmas season on Jesus rather then Santa. If you follow me on instagram you will see more photos of our crafts. We’re very excited about Christmas this year as both girls are a great age for the excitement and magic of the season!

The time is always right…

To do what is right.

Apparently Martin Luther King Jr. is the man to attribute this quote to, but I first heard it from a colleague in no particularly inspiring situation. Nevertheless, it stuck in my head:

“The time is always right, to do what is right” -R. Blackall, Geologist

And the right thing for me to do right now is to get off my lazy proverbial butt and write a blog post. It’s a small thing, but it’s something I enjoy doing and I miss sharing my thoughts and experiences with my old buddy WordPress.

It’s been about 4 months since we last posted, which I thought was mostly due to a lack of events worth reading about in our lives, but then I remembered:

1) we’ve actually had a few noteworthy events in our lives recently

2) we live in Australia, so for many of our (former) readers, everyday life is still pretty cool

3) the people who read this blog mostly love us and would read every word I write even if it’s about my toenail, or even merely the cuticle thereof

So, without actually writing about anything yet, I’m going to prepare you mentally – psych you up!! – for the kind of posts that are soon to appear in your WordPress reader, email inbox (subscribers) or whatever other medium you use to access this treasure trove of edutainment.

Of primary importance are some pictures, because my PR agent (Kathryn) tells me that people like pictures. There will be pictures of the Pilbara (wrapping up my third and most spectacular field season yet as I write this), of our fantastic visit from Auntie Sarah, of the girls growing up and experiencing the wonders of life, and of our new house in Atwell and possibly the people who helped us move in to it. Most importantly, there will be no need for toenail pictures as of yet.

Secondly, there will be words. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but so is a thousand words, and you all know how easy it is for me to hit that target. I’ve got some thoughts about science, music, parenting, travel, Facebook (which I plan to rejoin by the way, when I get around to it), career – haha, just kidding, I don’t think about my career – and… well, whatever else comes up as I go.

So are you with me? Do you feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord? Your feedback on this post may be a critical factor in the forthcomingness of these posts, so bring it on. And for the record, to my surprise, autocorrect did not have any problem with the word forthcomingness.

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Come along for the adventure!

Adios.