Campobasso 2004
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Dona Nobis Pacem
(Give us Peace)

Trip to America
The peace and tranquillity of freshly fallen snow on a Christmas morning.  This was what I had hoped would greet my boys as they experienced their first winter, and thankfully white, Christmas. As you can see by the photograph of my childhood home taken just before sunrise on Christmas morning 2003, my Christmas wish came true. When we arrived in Conneaut on that Sunday night there was no snow.  Nor was there any on Monday or Tuesday.  On Christmas Eve we went to 4:00 Mass.  The church was beautifully decorated with hundreds of Poinsettias and, there in front, was the manger scene.  About half-way through the Mass, Frances whispered to me to look outside.   There, large flakes of snow were softly falling.  The snow continued to gently   fall in heavy silent flakes throughout the night and throughout Christmas day.  It was a lovely day with my mother, brothers and sister and their families.  Of course we missed Dad as this was the first Christmas without him, but we know that he was there in spirit. 

On the following Saturday, Aunt Sue held a Christmas party. We had no way of knowing then that this would be her last. There were 42 family members there which almost rivalled the reunion. As usual there was plenty of delicious food to eat and wonderful company to enjoy. 

By the end of the week all of the snow had melted. We took advantage of the break in the weather to embark on a bit of sightseeing.  We headed off to Cleveland.  We visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame where we filled an entire day and had dinner in a local pub that served the most delicious home made root beer.  When we awoke the next morning we discovered that a nearby factory fire prevented us from having showers as the water was cut off.  As I recall, the water came back on before we left so we were able to freshen up.  We did the tourist thing as we explored downtown Cleveland, the mall, the war memorial, the tower and the botanic gardens.  We tried to see a live show but they were all closed for the Christmas season. 

The next day we drove around some more of Cleveland before driving to Mogodore to visit with my cousin Brenda and her family, Doug, Toni and Luke.  They  extended generous hospitality and kindly showed us around their lovely rural community.

We managed a trip to Amish country during that week also where we ate at Mary Yoder's restaurant, bought an Amish cookbook and browsed many shops.  Jeremy got an Amish hat; perhaps we should rename him Jeremiah Yoder.

The next week we were treated to a good old-fashioned blizzard that blocked the roads and closed the schools for two days.  It was great for the kids to experience sub-zero temperatures, blizzarding snow, snow blowers, frozen fingers and toes and all of the other great things about Northern Winters.

(Click on photo thumbnails to enlarge)

All too soon it was time for the second leg of our holiday. Frances, the boys, my mother and I packed up and boarded a  plane to sunny Florida.  We were greeted by my cousin, Diane and her daughter, Kelly at Ft. Lauderdale airport.  As soon as we stepped outside of the airport, into the balmy tropical air, it was as if I never left Florida 17 years ago as the memories came flooding back.  After we unpacked the car, we drove to see my Grandmother at my Aunt's house where my mother was also staying.  While I was there we got a call from my brother Michael,  who lives in Phoenix and was unable to be in Conneaut for Christmas.  It was great talking to him and as I exclaimed that we were having a wonderful time and wished he was there - he walked in the door. 
Diane and Dutch held a family party on the first Saturday night and we got the opportunity to visit with family members that we hadn't seen for at least 10 years.  The celebrations lasted long into the night as we tried to make up for lost time and catch up.

On Monday, it was off to Key West . . .but first we had to make a little nostalgia trip. We stopped at Holiday Isle and the tiki bar - down in Kokomo.  We had our mandatory Rum Runner, explored the tiny island and resort, had a bite to eat and then we were once again on our way.

"Way down in Kokomo"

Just one for the road

It's a hard life

Is it a Coppertone tan?

We arrived at Key West about 5:00 pm and as soon as we checked into our motel we rushed down to Mallory Square to watch the sunset and the buskers.  The 22 dollar man was still there after 20 years, along with sword swallowers and fire eaters.  We walked around the rest of the evening and all of the next day strolling on the beaches and past the southernmost of everything in the USA, watching the chickens cross the road (Key West has hundreds of chickens roaming freely throughout the town), visiting Mel Fisher's museum, Earnest Hemingway's house, the African museum and the Key West Lighthouse.  We sampled the delicious Key Lime Pie (which Jeremy has become an expert at making) before heading back to Boca Raton.

Diane and Dutch's hospitality knew no bounds as they took us to their golf club for lunch as the boys used the putting green.  They also took us out on their beautiful boat.  We cruised past the mansions along the intercoastal waterway before we docked at the restaurant.  The coastal lights provided a beautiful skyline and reference point  as we bounced over the waves in the blackness of the ocean night while returning.  Dominic got the opportunity to practice his driving with little chance of a collision. 

We tried to catch up with as many people as possible.  We were invited for dinner by my cousin Belinda and Mike.  We enjoyed a lovely meal and great conversation as we reminisced about the days of yore when we danced together.  Dixie and Pauline also invited us over for a delicious Jamaican meal and Dixie entertained us on the keyboard after dinner.  We went to West Palm Beach to visit my Godparents and spent an enjoyable day there and were lucky enough to see my cousins Lynne and Michelle while we were there. We also got to visit the boys' American Godparents, Jeannie and Steve and their two talented children, Elicia and Steven. We had a beautiful midnight Italian "cena" in their lovely home as we visited far into the wee hours of the morning.  We met my cousin John and Pam and their daughter Emilee for dinner one night as well.

We also managed to squeeze in an airboat ride through the everglades and a visit to Walt Disney World where we visited the Magic Kingdom and Epcot. 

The airboat through the everglades

M I C - K E Y    M - O - U - S - E

In front of the castle

The poor Horse

The Sorcerer's Apprentice

Hola - Mexico at Epcot

All too soon it was time to leave but not without incident.  First we were treated to a lavish lobster farewell meal at Dutch and Diane's club which would have been the perfect end to the perfect holiday.  But when we finished and were in the parking lot about to go to the airport, we were waiting for my Aunt to get the car for my Grandmother and she stepped backward.  She fell over and cracked her head on the concrete pavers.  My cousins took her to the hospital and while we were checking in at the airport we received news that she was OK, save for the big bump on her head.  We boarded the first of many planes and after stopping in Atlanta, Los Angeles and Auckland, we arrived safe and sound in Sydney, ready to start work the next day.

Our Farewell Lunch

Hosted by Dutch

Au Revoir to the family

Until next time

Good-bye to the USA

Hello Sydney

Getting away from it all.
At Easter, we needed to get Dominic's and Timothy's driving hours up so we let them drive as we drove up to Butterwick to visit Diane and Grant (Frances sister and brother-in-law).  It was a nice weekend and we enjoyed a bonfire and horseback riding.

Diane and Grant offered to let us stay in their time share so in April, Dominic, Timothy, Jeremy and I spent a couple of days in a cabin in the mountains.  It was a very enjoyable couple of days.  We all brought along some work which we able to complete without distraction.  We played some games, listened to music and enjoyed a bit of time roughing it without all the mod cons.

Class Captain
Jeremy was elected Captain of his class this year and, according to his year master, performed the tasks admirably. 

Jeremy year 9

Where has the time gone?
Dominic and Timothy finished 11th grade in September and began 12th grade in October.  They have been working very hard studying and completing all their assignments as they as they tackle this challenging year.  They will graduate at the end of September, 2005, just a day or two before they turn 18.

Dominic year 11

Timothy year 11

We're Cracking Up
Did you hear that?"  "No"  "Something's going on in the family room".   It was 5:00 a.m. and there was a cracking noise.  It sounded as though someone was tossing rocks onto the floor in the family room.  Frances got up to investigate and called me.  "Something's happening!" she said.  I got up and also heard the cracking sound.  Maybe it's a rat in the bottom of the TV cabinet I suggested.  The noise was getting louder and more frequent.  I took a step towards the TV.  The floor felt like a sponge.  "The floor's going to cave in, I shouted.  We both jumped back.  Suddenly, in front of our eyes, the tiles began to lift in a row for about 12 feet, making explosive sounds as they lifted.  "It's an earthquake".  Finally, after about 15 minutes, the noise and the movement stopped.  Frances and I just stood there staring.  We called a builder who suggested we call an engineer who investigated for structural damage but there was none.  The best we could ascertain was that our tiles, which had been laid about 10 years earlier (6 years before we moved in) had been glued incorrectly.  This, coupled with the fact that they were laid too close together and butted against brick walls allowing no room for expansion, only need a catalyst.  That morning was a very cold morning which must have released the glue and the pressure was too great so the tiles lifted.  We ended up having to replace all the tiles on the upstairs level.  It was Jeremy's 14th  birthday (July 22)when this happened and by the time the new tiles were finished and ready to go it was Dominic and Timothy's 17th birthday (September 26th).  It was fun moving all the furniture into the living room and eating in the dining room every night, but it all worked out all right in the end.

The Olympics 2004
Has it really been 4 years since the Sydney Olympics?  We were invited to a midwinter Birthday party with an Olympic theme to help celebrate the Athens games.  We were all given a famous Olympian to represent and had to answer trivia questions about them for which we were rewarded with a laurel wreath (made out of gum leaves).  Some of the people there were surprised to learn that Frances' uncle, Dan Carroll, won two Olympic gold medals in rugby- one for Australia and one for The United States - and was the coach of the team that won the gold at the next Olympics for the US team.  The US is still the Olympic Champion  for Rugby from that game.

This has been a big year for Frances, not only did she make a big hit (or a big splash) in the US this year - in the form of a Hurricane many won't quickly forget - but she has also been been busy over here.  We enjoyed her "end of financial year" party on board a floating restaurant, in July where  we got all dressed up for a fancy night on Darling Harbour. 
Frances had her management conference in Windsor this year for 2 days in September. 

Frances' Workmates at Sothertons

In October, Frances went to Melbourne with 3 of her school friends, Mary, Lynn and Ann.  They stayed in a serviced apartment and enjoyed sightseeing, going to a live show (The Producers), going to restaurants - where Frances got up to belly dance - and other fun activities.

On  December 8th, Frances hit that milestone birthday.  The celebrations were somewhat low-key with a small dinner party.  Although the number was significant, Frances has seemed to cope well, not suffering any depression or any other mental trauma.  All in all Frances holds her age very well.  One would be forgiven for thinking she just turned 35 (although to me she doesn't even look that old).

By the Way

Dominic and his partner came first in the Tennis Competition.

We connected all the computers in the house to a network so now we don't have to fight for the one computer that is connected to the printer and the internet

Dominic's football team made the semi finals this year.  Timothy's and Jeremy's did not.

Dominic and Ryan Girdler of the Penrith Panthers

.Matilda is fine


Timothy, Santa, Jeremy and Dominic

Merry Christmas to all and a happy 2005!