Friday, December 18, 2009

Merry Christmas

Hi everyone

It has been another good year for us here in Arizona. We have done a lot and have been very busy as always. We have arrived at the end of the year happy and healthy and for that we are very thankful.

N celebrated his 5th birthday in February with a very spooky Halloween party. He loves the spooky side of Halloween but not the gory, scary stuff (not yet, anyway). We decorated the house, his friends dressed up and I made a very special haunted house cake. N dressed as an Evil Bleeding Mummy Pirate (who was not Evil and not Bleeding) and everyone had a really good time. Also in February we held our inaugural Australia Day party (I know it strictly should have been in January but sometimes you have to be flexible). I loved putting it all together and it really was a lot of fun. The house was decorated with as many Australian and New Zealand things as we could manage and I set up games for both the children and adults. The children played a kangaroo hop game with special clip-on tails, did an outback safari and coloured in kangaroo pictures. For the adults there was a special Australiana quiz with prizes. Our Canadian friends promised payback (and delivered on May Two Four)! We served barbecued lamb, pavlova and other delicacies and everyone went home with a special Australian or New Zealand present. Planning is already underway for the 2010 event.

In April we spent 3 weeks in Australia, renewing our US visa for another 2 years and visiting family and friends. We couldn’t get a visa appointment in Perth so spent Easter in Sydney waiting for our appointment there. Once that was taken care of we flew to Perth and spent 2 weeks there. My mother flew over from New Zealand so we got a grandmother “two-fer” which was wonderful. We took N to swimming lessons almost every day and he regained a lot of the confidence that he had lost from not having any lessons in Bagdad (there are still no formal lessons for children). When we got back to Arizona we made an effort to take him to the pool at least once a week and he now swims independently with confidence which is just fantastic. Like all good holidays ours went by much too quickly and unfortunately we did not get the chance to visit everyone that we would have liked to catch up with. Our next planned visit will be in 2011 to renew our visas again. P celebrated his birthday while we were in Australia and is creeping ever closer to the big Five-Uh-Oh.

When we got back from Australia I built a no-dig vegetable garden in our backyard. It is built up of layers of straw and manure on top of the ground, all contained by surplus firewood logs from last winter (we bought far more firewood than we actually needed so it’s good to be able to make use of it). The garden was extremely successful and we enjoyed a lot of delicious fresh vegetables from it this summer.

We were very lucky to survive the layoffs that happened last year at the mine just before Christmas (about 25% of the workforce was made redundant). We are very grateful to have kept our jobs and to have the opportunity to stay in the US a bit longer. In February I changed roles at work and became the resource engineer (a resource geologist by a different name). It has been an interesting learning experience for me. In June I was promoted to Senior Mine Engineer which came as a complete surprise (a good one, of course). P is still the Mill Manager here and seems to be still enjoying what he’s doing. In July P was lucky enough to get to visit our company’s mines in South America (two in Chile and one in Peru) for 10 days. This was a great experience although we are still waiting to see the photos…

In late June we had a short visit from my Aunt Christine and her two friends from California. Although they were only here for less than 24 hours it was wonderful that they took the time to see us in Bagdad. In September one of my best friends, Jacqui, and her friend Karen, stayed with us for a couple of days on their way back to New Zealand. It’s so nice to have visitors and it was terrific to catch up again.

N started school at the beginning of August. He is in Kindergarten with Miss Jones this year. N has lots of friends in his class and loves going to school. He is doing really well there. His reading and writing have improved out of sight and he is now starting to write simple sentences. He is well ahead of most of the children in his class and we are very proud. He is still determined to become a marine biologist and loves sharks just as much as ever. I’ve started teaching N the piano. Once a week we have Music Night where we do our piano lesson (usually about 15 minutes) then spend another 15 minutes or so doing another musical activity. The children don’t get any music education at school here so this is the alternative we have come up with. N is getting better at the piano – the hardest thing at 5 years of age is sitting still long enough to have a lesson! The success of Music Night has prompted Math Night, Reading Night (both of which Nathan insisted on), Creative Night, Movie Night and Cooking Night – plus my favourite, Night Off.

P is still doing aikido twice a week and recently passed his 3rd Kyu test – he is very dedicated and enjoys his aikido very much. In July I did my first triathlon with a few people that I work with. I came second-to-last but was in it for the personal challenge, not the competition. It was an incredibly rewarding experience and I definitely want to do it again next year. This summer N played tee ball and liked it so much that he wants to play baseball next year. He is going to play basketball this winter so we will see how he likes it. There are not a lot of organized activities in Bagdad for young children so we try to support them when they are offered.

The week of Thanksgiving (late November, for those of you playing at home) we had a holiday in Las Vegas and San Francisco. In Las Vegas we saw the amazing Cirque du Soleil show “O” and took Nathan to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay. San Francisco was fantastic. Good weather and even better seafood and sourdough bread. Our visit to Alcatraz Island was definitely the highlight. It’s such a fascinating place.

We are spending Christmas this year at the Grand Canyon which will be very special. N wrote to Santa to let him know where we’ll be so that he can leave our gifts at home for us. We have visited the Canyon twice before but not in winter so it will be amazing to see it in the snow. It will also be amazingly cold!

We hope that wherever you are you have a safe and joyful Christmas and send you all our best wishes for a very happy and healthy 2010.