Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas '06

Welcome to our Christmas letter for 2006!!

Our first year in Newcastle

We’ve been here in Newcastle now for 11 months – it’s amazing how the time has flown! Niall has just been to visit Bathurst (for the first time since we left) for a confirmation service for two of the young people there. Unfortunately the kids and Fiona had to stay behind – but we hope to get back there sometime soon to catch up with everyone again! We’ve had a few visitors drop by on their way north, which has been great, but we really need to go to Bathurst to catch up with everyone!

We are really enjoying all that Newcastle offers – the many activities, beaches, pools, galleries, places to eat, the lake, free bands, picnic spots, and everything in easy reach. The weather is lovely – and lots of rain. Niall has enjoyed getting a garden started (the snow peas were a hit with Connor particularly).

The house is going really well (we love our kitchen additions!) and the kids are having a wonderful time at preschool, playgroup, at nanna’s and gran’s and trying out Grandpa’s pool when we get the chance. Having family around has been so wonderful for us and the rest of the family!

Kids update…

Laura is nearly 5 and is very ready for school next year! She has been to the two orientations at Jesmond Primary School and has her uniform already. It’s a really small school, but is a great setup and all the parents can’t stop saying good things about the school. And it is just down the road – a 5 min walk. She has been attending Jesmond Community Preschool this year two days a week and several of her friends are going to her school next year, which is great. Laura loves preschool and her teachers often comment on how much leadership she demonstrates (they say she’s almost an assistant teacher sometimes!). The teachers there are fabulous – it couldn’t have worked out better for us with the preschool so close to our house too.

Laura has continued with music appreciation classes this year with 5 other girls (lots of giggling!) – they just did their music concert this week. They all did so well – multi-skilling with 3 instruments at once. And then a big party to finish. Laura’s swimming has improved out of sight this year – she is now really confident, showing us all how well she could swim near Gran’s house in the creek – freestyle for a few metres by herself! It’s a big difference from a year ago where she wouldn’t even get her face wet.

Connor is 2½ and finally getting the hang of this talking thing with strings of words now coming out! He’s as cute as ever, and adores his big sister (they play together really well!). Connor is currently going to 3 playgroups – Nanna looks after him on Tuesdays and takes him to Kotara; Dad looks after him on Wednesdays and takes him to Shortland; and Fi takes Laura and Connor on Thursdays to New Lambton playgroup. He loves playing with trains, cars and buses, so quickly migrates towards these! Connor started swimming lessons this term and has quickly progressed from the babies class to the learn to swim classes (although he cries a lot, unless he’s doing swimming!). Connor loves animals (unlike Laura) and being outside, so he loves going to Gran’s and playing with Bonnie (golden retriever) and running around the farm. Poor Yoda (Nanna’s cat) knows Connor all too well (run for your life)! Connor is getting very tall and is still eating lots of food of all sorts.

Christmas '06 continued

And the Parents…

Fiona has gone back to work this year, working part-time from home as a Project Worker for the National Christian Youth Convention (NCYC) for the Uniting Church. The position is 18 hours a week for 12 months. Things have been pretty hectic over the last month as Convention starts on 3 Jan 2007 in Perth, WA! Fi and Niall have been sharing the office downstairs (Niall is looking forward to getting it back soon!), with Fi working Tues/Wed while the kids are being looked after. The work has been interesting and challenging, but a great experience – focussing on recruiting leadership for NCYC and providing resources and training for them. The most challenging bits were researching models of small groups (and writing a paper on it) and also producing a Training DVD for all Community and Small Group Leaders. But it has all worked out in plenty of time and looks fantastic. It has been great working with young people from Newcastle to help make this all happen, and getting to know the next generation of young people (they were all young kids when we were last living in Newcastle)! Fi heads over to Perth in early December to run training and then Niall and Fi go over on 31 December to attend NCYC (without kids!) for 11 days. She’ll have a break from work for a few months until Connor is about 3 (July 2007).

Fi has started doing some walking and jogging (shock horror!) 3 times a week, usually before the kids get up (they are late risers!), balancing out all the hours spent in front of the computer. There hasn’t been much time for singing this year, with only one performance at a Christian Women’s gathering, and otherwise helping out with music once a month at Jesmond Park Uniting’s morning service. But we have had the chance to meet some great young families through the church and have a few get togethers. And we have met a few families through the Thursday playgroup.

Niall has relished the opportunity to work with students at the University – a great passion of his! The UCATSA group (UCA Tertiary Students Association) is very active, having several weekly bible studies with a range of young people involved (including Uni attendees, graduates and TAFE students). They have a great awareness of environmental and social justice issues and work hard to integrate that into their everyday life, including their bible studies. As Chaplain, he has had the opportunity to network with the other denominations and was recently in the Newcastle Herald talking about why he decided to leave secular work to work for the Church – great article! It has been a good year, but a tough year in many respects as the stress of Ministry never completely goes away.

Niall has increased his fitness with more jogging, swimming and riding (we’re really close to the Uni!) and entered a Triathalon in May, placing quite highly in the swimming section particularly! He also joined the church’s Soccer team, although had to withdraw after a knee injury during a game, which has hampered subsequent exercise this year. He had exploratory surgery on his knee in December, which has been very sore ever since. Unfortunately he has to have full blown surgery on it next year sometime. But he has enjoyed some chances to have a jam with various jazz groups through the year and we have managed to get to several concerts at Dungeon Jazz, which we’ve really enjoyed this year.

The extended family…

The big news this year is Dr Ross McKay finished his medical training (and starts his intern year in 2007 in Canberra again). Ross and Sophie are off to Italy for Christmas and a well earned break after a very busy year. And of course, Murray and Yvette are getting married on 27th Jan 2007 in Goulburn, after Murray coordinates the State Summer Camp of course. Hilary (Niall’s mum) and Jeff are enjoying their small farm in Gloucester, working hard in the garden and surrounds. It’s a great spot and the house is set up with some great environmentally friendly features (and some homely comforts). The property runs along a creek and is surrounded by hills – very scenic and quiet. We enjoyed a weekend with all the McKays in late November (an early Christmas!). Jeff has done lots of travelling to PNG still this year and Hilary has come along on two or so trips. Hilary got some casual work with Gloucester hospital and nursing at the local doctor’s surgery.

Fiona’s sister, Angela, has continued her singing, performing in some shows and doing several auditions. She just changed employers, and is now working at Calvary Hospital, Kogarah.

Ros (Fi’s mum) and Hilary have been well – been painting the house and working towards some extensions (in 2007). Hilary hopes to retire in April next year, then work part-time. The kids love going to Nanna and Poppy’s house!

Ren (Fi’s dad) and Glynis are enjoying their retirement. They’ve been working hard on their new house – the latest addition being new lawn. Tim started high school this year and has been going well. His guitar playing is going well and he has started going to youth group this year. Kanella is still in Sydney working and doing well from all accounts.

Aunty Dawn (Fi’s great Aunty) is doing ok, although has gone considerably downhill these past few months as her legs have started to weaken. She loves the visits every Thursday after playgroup from Fi and the kids – and she loves watching them eat all their dinner! It’s been great to see her on a regular basis and help out with her shopping etc.

Every month brings new challenges for us, but we’re looking forward to continuing to face them together. And as the kids get older, we enjoy bringing their input to our family. Laura and Connor have brought us such joy (and frustrations at times!) – we’re blessed to have them. We know God continues to walk with us and gives us strength through the friends we make, through our families and her presence in our midst. We pray that you will know God’s presence with you and your families this Christmas as we celebrate Jesus’ birthday and all that God offers us.

God bless,

Fiona, Niall, Laura and Connor McKay.Posted by Picasa