Holidays Mixed with Tragedy

The Christmas/summer holiday shut down is in full force around here, which has led us through an event-filled couple weeks.  It has been good because we feel like we belong a lot more this year, and these end of year events are more meaningful and more fun to be a part of for all of us. 

The boys had their last swimming lessons of the year, as the pool shuts down for the next four weeks.  Drew finished his Saturday morning soccer program with a fun session where some kids and coaches wore Santa hats and did Christmas-themed drills.  Zach had his last day at the childcare centre he’s been attending.  We are taking him out for six weeks while Steve is off, because it doesn’t make sense to pay the full rates for that time, and they don’t think they will have a spot for him in January in the older classroom.  I found him a spot at the centre I had hoped to get him into initially when he started last March, so hopefully that will work out well.

Most importantly, Drew had his last day of kindy (preschool).  That was a very emotional day.  We started out skyping with my parents for my Mom’s birthday and she was very touched by the handmade present Drew had sent her, so we all had an emotional conversation around that.  Then he cried signing cards for his teachers, realizing he wouldn’t be seeing them again—it was really tough.  We dropped both boys off at their schools; Steve was off for his first full day of break and I had taken the day off for the occasion, so he and I actually enjoyed a quiet couple hours together in the morning—such a treat!  We all went down to the school at noon for a big party.  They had all the kids perform songs and dances they’d been practicing for us and then they each gave us presents they had made.  Then each of the kids received a nice book as a gift from the school and finally we all enjoyed a potluck lunch (although they don’t use the word potluck here—I think they don’t call parties like that any particular name; they just say ‘bring a plate’ which really threw me the first time I heard it, because I thought I literally was just supposed to bring an actual plate and that was it).  Drew had an ear to ear grin the whole time and was just proud as punch.  It was such a touching experience.

I thanked his teachers for providing such a warm, fun, supportive environment for him and told them it has really helped in our transition to Australia to know he was in a place where he fit in so well and was so comfortable and happy.  I really mean that.  That school has been such a blessing for all of us.  I am so sad that this phase of our lives is over and he will be at fulltime school next year!  I’m not ready for that at all!

We all went to a party on the beach for one of Steve’s wrap ups for his school program—all the employees and their families.  It was another potluck and then they gave each person present a gift—including spouses and children (I have also noticed they don’t use the word spouse here—it is all ‘partner’—boyfriend, husband, spouse, etc.).  I thought that was a very nice touch. Santa gave the gifts out—he showed up in his red coat and hat and his white beard, but had boardies on to be better able to deal with the heat! 

Steve and I also got to attend a dinner party for the teachers from his school.  He had heard some ‘partners’ do go, so I went along only to find out I was the only one there!  It’s funny how we keep making these rookie mistakes.  He had never been to an end of year party for this school or any other, so how was he to know?  I didn’t mind.  I met nice people and enjoyed a night out.

Last night we went to my company’s Christmas party.  And, yes, every gathering is called a Christmas party, not a holiday party.  It is quite ironic the difference:  All the hours that he puts in as a teacher and we had to pay $45/person plus drinks at his party for a government job, and I work 12 hours a week and we had an open bar and all the food provided.  At my party, everyone’s ‘partner’ was there.  It was a really fun night!  Secret Santa seems quite popular here.  I have another funny story related to it:  at one point, a woman I had met that night and I snuck off to a nearby club to try and dance for a few minutes and I ran into someone I knew!  Yeah, downtown Brisbane on a Saturday night, every club crowded with people and I run into someone I know!  That definitely helps make me feel more like a local.  J 

In other news, I finished up a 5-class yoga package and joined an 8 week boot camp.  It seems like it will be a fun new challenge.  I also took another half-day meditation class that I really enjoyed.  That is ironic, too—it was taught from the Buddhist perspective and the topic was on loving others unconditionally.  That’s the same teachings as Jesus, just taught in a different perspective.  I think all religions really stem from the same place and are just expressed in different ways because of all of the different needs people have—so each of us can try and find something that speaks to us and can help guide us.

Of course, as I wrote that section about Drew’s school experience, I kept tearing up thinking of those poor people in Connecticut.  I absolutely cannot fathom dropping my baby off at school one day and then hearing he’d been shot and killed in his first grade classroom.  That is too horrific to digest and mind-numbingly sad.  It is also too sad the way it is presented in the news here:  “another tragedy in America”, “more gun violence in America.”  We tried a Catholic church this morning and the priest said “America is dealing with another round of shootings.” 

It has become commonplace now; people hear these horrific stories and think how crazy it is that “America” deals with so much violence.  It makes me so sad to realize how people here can just disengage with the story, knowing that nothing like that could ever happen here, wondering when Americans are going to wake up and realize that their lack of accessible health care, specifically access to mental health care, as well as the lack of restrictions on guns are killing off an entire country of amazing people.  These types of massacres, of complete disregard for innocent children, DO NOT occur in other countries!  Not even on a smaller scale relative to population.  These latest tragedies have nothing to do with our diversity either.  Something has to change there!  I told Steve yesterday—much as I may want to someday, I CANNOT move back to a place where it is even remotely possibly that my baby might be shot and killed one day after I drop him off at school!  I can’t live with that type of fear.  It’s bad enough to have my heart wrenched out of my body when I turn on the computer in the morning and start trying to digest what just happened while I slept.  I am at least comforted by the knowledge that this type of scene could never be repeated here, where I live now.  I know there are countless other tragedies that could affect me or my loved ones any day.  Those are out of my control.  Keeping my children in a place free of evil madmen with automatic weapons is within my control.

I don’t see how any parent, teacher, or human being period cannot just sit and cry and feel a sense of helplessness and loss when learning about an event like this.  We shouldn’t have to.


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