Sunday, February 23, 2014

Should I stay or should I go?



Lately I’ve been struggling with a feeling of restlessness, which seems kind of ridiculous given we have made 2 international moves in under 3 years. But as we are now settled in Sydney, the boys are in school, Ella has her activities, and the house feels like our home, I can’t help but feel l personally need more. I really do love most parts of being a stay at home mom. When I was working and Kellen was a baby I wished I could stay home and when the opportunity came up I jumped at it. For me the most challenging part of staying home has been trying to make sure I have interests or activities outside of the kids and the house. In England I had a great circle of girlfriends and I would take the occasional evening class so I felt like even though my days are dominated by baby and toddler related tasks I still have brief breaks of conversation or learning something completely removed from them. Here is Sydney I’m having a harder time finding those outside interests. When we first arrived I did some basic research on classes but we don’t live 5 minutes from a university campus like we did before. I have also started to make friends but for the most part still feel fairly isolated out here. So now what? Lately I’ve really been feeling like maybe it’s the right time to go back to work. Right before we left England I had started networking again and thinking about going back. At the time it was really more financially driven and when it became clear that we would be moving again shortly my 1 week job search was over. Now it is more of a personal desire to have interaction outside of the house and the chance to focus on something non child related.

It seems really simple, if I want to work I should find a job and go back to work. The reality is a little more complicated. If I were to go back to a full time job then the kids would need to be in full time day care. That means that Kellen would have to stop going to preschool and both Kellen and Ella wouldn’t be able to continue their activities. That also means I would be gone as often as Jamie is given that where we live is a long commute to almost anywhere an office would be. Do I really want to disrupt them again after having gone through a major move less than a year ago? No. Would I be able to handle only seeing them a few hours a day to get breakfast and dinner in them before they need to go to bed? No. Unless the position was so great that we could afford a nanny to watch the kids and keep their current schedules uninterrupted this doesn’t seem like an option. Even if a great nanny is a possibility do I want to miss things and be away from them that much? I don’t think so. Part of me feels like the reward for being housekeeper, primary potty training, and the target of the tantrums is that I can go to the ballet recitals and school concerts. When you stay at home you get all the worst parts of young kids but the balance is the ability to pick Kellen up from school and have him show me what he’s been working on all day. Ella is 2 ½ now and Jamie questions whether it is just a year or so too early? Next year Ella will be in school 2 days per week, Kellen 5 days and every year after that I will be on my own more so will have more and more flexibility to pursue what I want.

So I’m trying to figure out what does make sense for us. If money were no object I would not hesitate to enrol in Le Cordon Bleu and eventually open a little bakery. Or go back to become a nurse and work in a local family practice. My interests are varied but unfortunately most require going back to school full time so in that scenario we would have full time child care costs, school tuition, and no income. That scenario is easily ruled out for us at this time.

The ideal balance would be a position that would be a contract, it would be part-time, and it would allow me to work remotely. I remember when I was working as a full time recruiter and we would bring contractors on to help with sourcing and I would hear about people who got to work remote from around the US and had flexible schedules, I would always wonder how they managed to work that deal. So that’s what I think I’m trying to do now. I don’t even know if those types of opportunities exist here is Sydney or if you really have to know the teams in order for them to allow that kind of work but I figure it is worth a try. In my head I imagine myself going through our normal morning routine and then spending 3 or 4 hours working while Ella plays and naps, then once they have gone to bed at night I can work another 3 hours or so. As it is I’m sitting next to Jamie on the couch while he is working away, there is no reason I couldn’t either. This might be totally unrealistic and in reality they end up wanting you in the office in person a lot more often or for the amount of money the contracts pay here it isn’t worth trying to find backup childcare on occasion or whatever it might be. But the thought of having a job and a focus outside of our household is really appealing right now.

I miss feeling a sense of accomplishment, while it is a miracle when all the laundry hampers are empty at the same time it’s not quite the same thing. I want to interact with people even if it is primarily via email. An income would be nice too although I can’t imagine part time remote work would be a major windfall. What I don’t want is the daily stress of which one of us can get off work early enough to get the kids from day care. Or when one of them is sick what do I need to cancel and fall behind on to stay home. So really I want all the benefits or both working and staying home.

I can’t imagine I’m the only stay at home mom trying to figure out how long this job lasts. Sometimes I think about how great it is when Patrick gets home and can spend an hour talking about something from school, by dinner he has moved on and is just trying to get excused from the table as fast as he can. So does that mean to have the same experience with Kellen and Ella that you can never go back? I just can’t believe that.

Monday, February 10, 2014

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 2nd week 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.

Friday, December 20, 2013

End of Year Musings


Advance warning: This is Jamie, infiltrating Nicole’s blog. Call it a guest blog. Or borrowing a space to ramble. Or just poor password protection on Nicole’s behalf. I will not be insulted in the least if you decide at this point to return to your typical tablet browsing and save yourself the 5 minutes of nonsense below. 

 
As we approach the final days of 2013 and are inundated with best of music count downs and commemorative glossies of celebrity candids from the last twelve months, I have been trying to make sense of this last year for myself. It has been an interesting one without question. Good and bad, definitely full. There are moments when I feel like more time has transpired over the last year than a calendar twelve months, that life has packed more into this time than reasonably should, and comparatively more than other years. The immediacy no doubt drives this; I suspect each year around this time I have the sense that much has transpired over the previous twelve months. But 2013 has even with this caveat been full. I suspect that my choices will not set me up for a 100+ year lifespan, but perhaps if I can figure out how to cram 80 years’ worth of experience in 70 years of life, this would not be too bad. Or potentially this only contributes to an earlier expiration and those more planful around me would suggest to relax a bit more, slow down. Next year…

I wanted to share a few things from this last year, a top ten’s list of sorts although hardly a prioritized countdown. More a loosely organized compilation of things that have stuck out for me. Here goes.
 

  1. Travel: Although we travelled less than in 2012, this last year saw the Bly’s cover a fair amount of this crazy planet of ours. We celebrated the start of the year in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, wrapped up in scarves and wandering through the Hogmanay madness that is New Year’s in Scotland. We spent a spring week in rural France, exploring the ruins of Normandy and dodging the rain in a centuries old row house lost in the main thoroughfare of some forgotten village. I had an opportunity to hike and distillery tour through the highlands of Scotland with an oldest friend of mine. And Patrick and I headed to the ancestral homeland of Norway with Grandma Bly and cousin Robin, exploring the fjords of Bergen and sampling favourite treats of Grandma’s childhood. The whole troupe made the trip to Seattle to see family and celebrate the little ones’ birthdays this last summer. Little trips in between through Wales and England and France. Castles and Cathedrals and Cheese almost inevitably inspired our journeys. Work took me to Paris and Munich several times, along with a couple of trips to Singapore and of course Seattle again. And then of course there was the one way flight to Australia which I witter on about below (hell of a cliffhanger…). Travel is incredible, and exhausting. I am an anxious mess when the family is trying to deal with transport, pass through security, make a fuss on the plane. But then the other side, regardless of where it is, is a new experience—either somewhere we had not seen in a while or unexperienced altogether. These are moments when I feel that we are cramming more time into the allotment we are given than we would have had we stayed home. Travel is enriching for myself, Nicole and the kids and helps reinforce why we took the leap to begin with and pack up our life for ‘international’ shores. I hope that my children grow up with a wanderlust; Grow to share an eagerness to experience that which is not familiar, meet new people, taste different foods and navigate unfamiliar road signs.

 


  1. Commute: At different points we have lived varying distances from work, with corresponding commutes. In the UK, I could be home within 15 minutes in light traffic. In Australia now, we opted for the Northern Beaches, a beautiful peninsula that seems removed from the troubles of the world - beautiful vistas and beaches at every turn, leafy neighbourhoods of likeminded folks and little villages to walk down into and get a coffee and paper. It surprises you that the barista or the postie does not know your name, but give them time. It is that type of place. I digress. The trade-off for the Northern Beaches lifestyle is a fairly long commute - 33 km each way, at times in excess of 90 minutes to get in. Being a bit of an analytical person, I have logged my journey times each day since we moved - depart and arrive and route, determined to find the sweet spot. Interestingly, I have logged ~125 hours commuting over the last 3 months… [I wanted to insert table but Nicole vetoed].

I have not yet found the sweet spot, but I have stumbled on, or rediscovered, a couple of other things:

 
  • Pandora, specifically on mobile device: As Pandora is not available in the UK, I was very excited to see that in Australia the service is alive and thriving. My old stations were waiting for me - Roots, Wilco, Modest Mouse; I listened when I could at my desk in between meetings as I had a few years ago. But then I discovered the mobile app which combined with inexpensive mobile data at this point brings Pandora to an entirely different level. I ventured into the world of pre-set stations - singer songwriter channel, indie-folk, etc… All enjoyable. But none more than the awkward 90's Alternative station. Any music credibility vanishes once selected, but how could you not run just a bit faster when the opening 'lalalalala' of Offspring's Self-Esteem comes on, or the deafeningly melodic power chords of the Cranberries' Zombie? And the drive is definitely more enjoyable with STP's Big Empty playing, Pearl Jam's Yellow Leadbetter. Songs I had not heard in ten years, maybe more. Call it nostalgia, or just great music, but it will definitely help the drive time go faster. The other big Pandora discovery for me was 'Today's Comedy Radio' which plays tracks from current comedian recordings. The likes of Jim Gaffigan, Louis CK, Dane Cook, Daniel Tosh, etc… An incredible way to pass the drive time, almost makes you wish you chose the town just a bit farther on. And BTW (by the way), if your wife is anything like mine, she will love it if you attempt to explain the best jokes to her that you heard on your drive time home. Absolutely will love it. Good stuff.

 

  • Mitch in the Morning Podcast: There are some really great podcasts out there - Alec Baldwin's Here's the Thing, Ira Glass's This American Life or any of the Ted Talks channels for example.  But with NFL in play and the Hawks marching straight to the Super Bowl, no podcast has been as valuable as KJR Sport's Mitch in the Morning. With regular guest that include Holmgren, Peter King, Rick Neuheisel and Jason LaCanfora, Mitch's program is the best on air, talk radio at its best. And for someone removed from the 206/425 area, the podcast brings you in. There are mornings litening when I forgot that I am all of the way down here in Australia and am excited to be heading to the game Sunday.

 
  1. Wait but Why: Another discovery this year was Tim Urban's blog Wait but Why. In a whimsical manner, he looks at everyday questions and tells a story around this through info graphics, something that I have a strong interest in. A great example is a recent post "How to Name a Baby". Pretty common question, he mentions how all of his friends are having children and he is often asked what do you think of a given name, etc… He then starts to really think about this question - pitfalls to avoid, pros and cons of going timeless vs. going weird, name fads over time and other trends that can be identified in something as simple as what we name our children. How names connect to economics, geography, politics; He is working with large data and drawing great insight, using graphics to help tell the story. This is very similar to what I strive to do at work, although admittedly with much less humor and grace as Tim Urban. A couple of snipbits from the blog below.
 

 

  1. Lens: Another blog (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/) this time from the NY Times, with incredible photojournalism both from current day's events but also guest portfolios from some of the world's greatest. It is telling stories through images at is best, pictures that serve to remind that there is a world beyond the walls of home/car/work. I like taking a peek each morning, it is not really news and not really art, somewhere in between and is always interesting.

 


 

  1. Neil Young's Waging Heavy Peace. Great memoir - rambling, confused, honest and inspiring. A fairly open admission of his weaknesses and some incredible accounts of the moments behind the music. A crazy dream to broadcast at scale high quality digital music via cloud. I love artist biographies - Hemingway, Rothko, Camus, etc…, but this memoir is different. A very selective peek through curtains of what once was, and how it was. I have seen Neil Young live, but not Crazy Horse. Someday. Hopefully.

 

 
  1. Work: I made a bit of a career tract leap with this job move, leaving the world that I knew and was comfortable in, to one in which I did not know nor am comfortable in. A number of reasons why, not relevant now, but I find myself amidst a team of very finance-y people - Chartered CPAs, accounting humour, slacks. It is a strange place for someone with only a Bachelor's in English Literature to find himself, and only time will tell if a good move or not. But it is interesting. I like the idea of being surrounded by people who think differently than me, that approach the same problem from a different angle and who I have to compel to see things from my side. And I have found this in riches here with a move to a traditional finance function team. I appreciate quantified information (data), I like decisions to be data based and enjoy finding interesting insight in this data. This is a very large element of my job here and I am enjoying it. Even wearing slacks on occasion. Maybe I deep down wanted to be an accountant. But it is exhausting. Every day I am confronted with scenarios that are new to me, information that I do not understand, questions that I do not think to ask. This is the reason for the move - advice from a leader whom I admire suggested that you know when you are really growing by the very uncomfortableness of the role, the aches to be compared to pain in the bones during adolescent growth spurts. In this way I am certain that I am growing, but worn out. I am still glad that I made the leap, but this is based on faith that in time I will understand this view, to ask the questions, to find the insight in the unfamiliar.

 

  1. England: When we started to consider moving, whether to go back to US or to pursue something else 'international', we were agreed that we wanted to leave the UK. The miserable rain, the terrible food, the high cost of living. England is old and dark and cold. Yet as we started to pack, England took on a new light. Call it grass is always greener or rose coloured glass in the rear-view mirror, but god do I miss England. What I would do for a pint of 'Pride right now, or the smell of a damp pub, or a drive through the Salisbury plains. All of us do - when asked would we rather move back to US or UK the family resoundingly agrees UK. What happened? We just decided that we wanted to leave, now everyone, even Kellen and Ella, want to move back?? What about the tiny fridge, the stiff upper lips and the miserable rain? Beneath the deep layer of cold, of sarcasm, of alien, is a charm, an English sensibility and immediate familiarity, of shared commiseration of the rain in a cozy pub. A terrible beauty in the desolation of northern Scotland, a forgotten splendour of decaying castles littering the countryside, an energy in an evening out amidst London's bustle. I think what we realized the most was that we made very good friends in England. Friends that go beyond the two years that we were there, friends that we hope to know and see for a long time to come. We also took for granted how easy it was to hop around in England. Sunday drive to Wales. Run down to Belgium for the weekend. Quick flight to Rome to celebrate a kiddo birthday over real pizza. But most of all, England had become my life, all of our lives. Schools, work, grocery, transport, friends, home. I miss home, but it is the UK not US that I think of. This will fade in time of course, but I am not sure I want it to.

 

 

  1. Australia: So we headed down under. Way down under. I think the first thing that really struck me about Australia was the sheer distance from anywhere else. A business trip to Singapore is an 8 hour flight. Return to US is 15 hours or more. Even Fiji which seems close is a few hours flight. In London, we could be wandering the bazaars of Istanbul in less time that it would take us now to visit Perth in Western Australia. As mentioned earlier, after spending the first six weeks in the city of Sydney proper, we decided to lay down our stead up north, along the beaches. We stumbled into a house large enough for the three kids to spread out and run, with views of the ocean out both sides of many rooms. I hear the waves first thing when I wake and last thing before I sleep. The beach below is a quick stroll down the hill, maybe a ten minute walk at toddler pace. There we find one of the most renowned beaches in Sydney, a break that Kelly Slater reputedly calls his favourite when  visiting (he at one time owned a house in the village 500 meters north of us). The community is small and friendly, we can walk to the library or coffee or a nice dinner out of the house. And surrounding us, as we are on an isthmus of sorts, is a gross abundance of beautiful little beaches and parks, on the calm bay side or open ocean depending on your mood. I have been able to surf again for the first time in several years. The kids are natural beach babies and Patrick is having the time of his life meeting up with friends and heading for the beach, all just within a few minutes' walk back in time for dinner. It is almost unreal. But the trade-off is the commute and the bugs and the cost of living. Nicole had a funny example of cheap Maybeline mascara - she took a pic to send her mom of it advertised in a local drugstore for $18.99, when the same package is sold for less than $5 in the US. I am looking for a new pair of weekend shoes, something to beat around town in and decided the Nike Free would be a good fit. They retail around $100 at Nordstrom in the US, whereas here at the local mall I found the same pair for $250. Co-workers try to explain money market dynamics, small population preventing scale distribution, etc… but I believe the prices are set based solely on what people will pay for them. Not distribution or exchange, but with a minimum wage of $17 and very little poverty, the country can afford to shell out $500 for a new tyre (one, not four). Beyond the sticker shock, the place really is Xanadu. Beautiful beyond comprehension, friendly people, temperate and laid back. Nicole admitted that she had only worn socks once since we arrived in Australia. I have not seen Patrick or Kellen in long pants since we arrived. People grocery shop barefoot and a swimsuit is acceptable attire anywhere outside the office. It is like the normal world, just slightly off. It makes you wonder - will the kids grow to under appreciate a sunny day when every day is sunny? Will our kids grow up to be annoyingly happy people, full of optimism and tan lines, without a good sense of scepticism and humour? With any fortune, we will be off again in a few years, get these guys back in the cold somewhere and snap normal life back into them. But until then, this sure is nice.


  
  1. Loss: I remember thinking at the close of 2012 that with Meagan's passing, we had all been through a lot, hoping that 2013 would be absent of grief and loss. A year to try to pick pieces up, to find normalcy again. Unfortunately this year has taken three very special people from us, and left a gap at the Pelaez family table that will never be filled. So many have said so much, I do not know what I could add. But the year has been difficult, watching my wife struggle so much with each passing, knowing what the rest of the family is going through so far from us each day. Nicole's Abuelito had been sick for some time, and the thought that he was re-joining his life's love after so many years apart is comforting. Don Pepe was the first to really open his arms wide and welcome me into this family full of music and laughter and love that has over the years become my own. And Marina now, who was, is my buddy and it seems just a week ago I was teasing her and had her laughing over something unimportant. Marina and Andy welcomed Patrick in as their own grandchild, made him feel like the prince that he really is. Kellen and Ella still expect a call from Tia Mia anytime and will not understand for a long time to come that this beautiful person is no longer in their lives or ours anymore.

 
  1. Bly Family: Somehow this year has made me appreciate how my immediate family is becoming a collective identity, the Blys if you will. You marry, have kids and are a family, but of still fairly individual identities, joined but not one. As the little kiddos get older and develop personalities of their own, through this develops a family identity. Patrick, Kellen and Ella are unquestionably of our family - in sensibility, in identity, in humour (for better or worse). I have never been as proud to be dad, husband, partner in this crazy bunch. I am inspired how the kids blossomed in England, success in school and friends and interests. It seems the kids too grew more than a year in 2013 than 12 months allows. And with Australia, they have embraced the new environment, Patrick arriving home from class the first day beaming about how much he loved it, Kellen excited to turn in early in anticipation of school in the morning where he would learn to take shoes off before going outside, hear a traditional didgeridoo, practice meditation, just play with friends. And Ella in her ballet, playgroups. She has become the force in the house, a little lady as bright as she is beautiful and with determination to match. The kids are resilient, and welcome the new opportunity and experiences. My incredible wife standing beside, leading the race down the beach into the water and making us a home in this foreign land. An international move we were told can either cause collapse or bring the family closer together. Fortunately we have only experienced the latter.