Sunday, October 26, 2014

Welcome Arianna, Joey & Lucy!

The night before we flew out to Auckland, our first niece (on both sides of the family!) was born! My youngest brother and his wife, after well over 24 hours of a drug-free, all natural labor...had an adorable little girl named Arianna. We missed getting to see her since it was about 10pm when she was up for visitors and we had a 5am wake up call, but we saw her moments after our return back home. I don't want to post solo pics of her without permission, but I will say she's the spitting image of her daddy when he was her age.

A few days after Arianna arrived, Uncle Joey flew in (first class of course) to meet her and spent time with his nephews! And per 'Rich Uncle Joey'* tradition, he spoiled them (and us) rotten with two suitcases full of gifts & Trader Joe's treats, as well as took them on lots of fun activities (they swam in an ocean front salt water-filled pool, had shaved ice, frozen yogurt, went to see a movie, etc. He even had a welcome home dinner buffet feast for us the night we returned...and breakfast the next morning too! Somehow he manages to spoil us all.'

*This is said more in jest. Uncle Joey lives very well, but he is not rich. (Don't tell him that. He would be so shocked and upset.) I think he really would be rich if he didn't spend all his money on liquor and flight upgrades.

We celebrated my mom's birthday in the middle of Joey's visit...and because we could not mange to get all seven of her kids in one place for a family pic that night...she settled for her four grandchildren instead (which means she ended up with a MUCH nicer pics).
The first official photo with all four of their grandchildren (not including the ones Joey's had that we don't know about).
Letting the boys tear apart and inhale their Halloween haunted gingerbread house (from Uncle Joey).
Last but not least... I've been trying to work up the courage to get Ryan and the boys a dog for ages. I was not raised with pets (unless you count guppies), so I'm not the most comfortable around them. Though Rich grew up with dogs, in my world- culturally (i.e.- finicky OCD Asians), pets and their dirt/fur in your house were a big, fat no-no. I'm also very allergic to animal dander (at least cats, dogs and horses that we're aware of) and kinda OCD about cleanliness. However, after over a year of heavy prodding from Joey (and seeing what a cute dog he has), I finally decided to make the sacrifice for the three boys- who are huge dog lovers.

So a week ago today, Lucy (from KARES, a shelter that recuses animals from the humane society) joined our household. It's been a rough week at times...but I think she's gonna work out. I was initially horrified by finding her baby teeth scattered around the house (I had NO idea they lose them), moping up puddles of pee and learning to pick up poop, etc. I'm trying to get used to the fur in the car (Riki takes her out of the carrier on 'accident') and having to touch all the parts of her body without twitching. It was a strange first week for me, but I've definitely made progress. .

I think previously I stereotyped dogs as large, jumping, licking, long-haired/shedding, barking beasts. But seeing Joey's dog (Kona) over the last year- who is tiny, short haired, and doesn't jump/bark/lick was the start of the breakthrough for me. Once I realized dogs like Kona exist, I felt more inclined to give it a go. Getting a full grown lab would have been like giving me a one-way ticket to a psych unit.

Lucy has become my shuttle companion driving the boys to and from school (mostly I have to take her, because she cries so loudly if I leave her and I worry about waking up the neighbors).
We have no idea what breed she is, but have told she's a terrier mix. I've never heard of. I know she was neglected, from a poor part of town, covered in fleas (and also had tapeworm), with lots and lots of siblings. It couldn't have been an easy six months being black, poor and from the 'hood. I'm not saying Lucy's much better off with a mildly neurotic OCD Asian woman,  but at least she's at least critter free inside and out and eating $372 bowls of food that her foster parent recommended (that's not gonna last...Costco, here we come).

And finally...this gem. I told Ryan on Friday morning how much I missed when he was young, short and with chubby cheeks. He immediately dropped to the ground and tried to recreate the memory for me (and succeeded, definitely. It's exactly the same as when he was two.) ;-)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

NZ & AU Trip Out Takes...

The pics that didn't quite make the blog posts...but that will fill me with great memories for the rest of my life...

The essence of New Zealand to me- rolling green hills that go on forever.
Trying to carry mommy's backpack for more than 10 seconds without falling backwards.
 A carved stairway out of sandstone...
A smile for his teacher, who wanted to see the Sydney Opera House.
Named after the  route nurses walked to the hospital in downtown, historic Sydney (The Rocks).
Bright pink protea at the Bondi Weekend Market
Hyde Park
Trying out the leg irons at the Hyde Barrack Museum
The largest crabs I have EVER seen (Chinatown)

64 years old and still trying out anything new!
This is NOT a carved statue of a bishop, it's a naturally occurring rock formation in the Lucas Cave at Jenolan. :-)


Rather than sleep on his bed...Grandpa made him a tent. :-)

Friday, October 24, 2014

Australia Days 8, 9 & 10 (Katoomba/Sydney)

 Though we hated to leave our warm, cozy cottage with its fireplace, electric blankets and spa like was time to explore a little more of Katoomba. We got up bright and early and headed over to Scenic World, which offers a one-day pass allowing you unlimited rides down into the base of the mountains, where you can explore the forest, waterfall, fauna and an old coal mine below...all connected via a boardwalk. It sounded a bit suspiciously cheesy/touristy to me (and to an extent, it was), but the rides were all phenomenal, uniquely different experiences overlooking a very picturesque area. My mom was worried about getting motion sickness, Rich needed to set up shop in the cafe to access the wifi and map out the rest of our day, so I volunteered to be the chief photographer so I could capture my dad and Ryan having fun together.

First up? The steepest train incline in the world at 52 degrees! Obviously not with the original train cars (for coal mining), but still extremely steep.

I asked my dad to pretend to be hysterical with fear at the moment of descent. He did very well. Ryan tried valiantly to pull his jacket lapels and demanded that he keep it together. :-)
The view from Scenic World and all three rides included the Blue Mountains and the Three Sisters
Next up? The tramway that goes down, down, down to the base of the mountain as well...

This is the view of them descending from a great distance away...kinda creepy.
And last but not least...the skyway tram...this one did not go down, but across over Katoomba Falls.

There they go!
The Katoomba Falls were more like a Katoomba Trickle of Water
Floating mid-air...pretty darn cool.
After the excitement of Scenic World, we still wanted to hike down to Katoomba Trickle. It was very, very anticlimactic, but finding this van in the parking lot upon on return made things much, much better.
From the falls, we drove down to Featherdale Wildlife Sanctuary to check out the kangaroos and koalas. Though there are a variety of options to see them at zoos/private parks/etc, we picked Featherdale partly because its a sanctuary, partly because its a bit outside of the city/crowds and seemed less commercialized than the ones in Sydney. A friend also recommended it to us and boy were we ever glad we went there. It was mind blowing and a definite highlight of our travels to be able to hand feed a kangaroo for the first time and cuddle a koala (carrying one in New South Wales is illegal, which we can understand and support).

He's not feeding the mama and her joey (can you see her peeking out) an ice cream cone. ;-) Silly. That's not very appropriate. (He's feeding them a cone filled with jellybeans!) Just kidding, the cones were filled with dried grasses.
That's my arm feeding two little 'roos while their baby watches.
At times we would get mobbed by 'roos hungry to eat. I think we bought about 4-5 cones in 15 minutes.
This is the 'roo my brother Joey was named after...cause he's being lazy and yet, still finding the strength to eat. :-)
Being happily mobbed in the back of the park where these 'roos are less seen/fed.

Another highlight was getting to pet a few koalas...who couldn't care less about the people. All they seemed to care about getting a replenished supply of fresh eucalyptus.

This frightening large bird appears to be part ostrich, part turkey, part dinosaur. Which is a nice way of saying- she is uuuugly. And for whatever reason, these birds were all over the park. I shrieked inside every time I saw one.
I think he was more determined to hold this owlish-looking bird than any other animal in the park.
This large lizard wasn't his first pick to hold, but he scored in that the lizard had pooped a second before on the person before him. ;-)
That dangling foot kills me.
This little guy (wallaby I think?) looks depressed.

On our last day in Sydney I didn't take any pictures because we spent the day just revisiting some of our favorite shops/restaurants. We stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in North Ryde that night and because our shoes got dusty that day, my mom kept trying to wipe everyone's shoes off. I wouldn't let her do mine, but Rich let her. Which looked wonderful...the little old Asian lady cleaning the white man's shoes by hand. Disgusting! So I snapped a pic of the abuse. (JK. Well, not really. It did happen as described, I just asked Rich to fake yell at her for not doing it good enough...only it appears Ryan wasn't in on the joke for a second!)

We scored an extra seat on our flight on the way home so someone got to stretch out. He slept 8.5 of the 9.5 hour flight (a red-eye) home. The prefect traveler!
Then hopped into the car when Uncle Joey came to pick us up and crashed again. ;-) 

All in all..despite the rocky start- this was a great trip and one for the books. We got to see our dear friends, feed kangaroos and cuddle with koalas. Can't complain! :-) But you're not off the hook yet, I'm sure I'll post my usual trip out takes tomorrow!