Thursday, December 27, 2007

McKay Christmas 2007

It’s been a while since we last updated – sorry! The blog uploading system has changed and it's taken a while to get it sorted out. Since it's Christmas, it’s about time we gave you some news.

Laura turns 6 tomorrow (28/12) and has just finished Kindergarten – with a bang! She got an award for Citizenship (looking out for her classmates and having good values) – the only one for Kindergarten. We are very proud of her achievements through various activities this year including school, swimming, gymnastics, music and more recently piano, and church. Laura celebrated her upcoming 6th birthday early with 14 friends at a rainbow dress-up party at our house. Ice cream cake (home-made with Fi’s new Kitchen-aid – an early Christmas present) was the order of the day along with face painting (thanks Rah!), craft and of course games (pin the cloud at the end of the rainbow, treasure hunt and pass the parcel). Two hours was definitely long enough for us parents! She has lost several teeth including one of her front teeth on boxing day (now she has two front teeth missing and can sing the song - All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth).

Connor is now 3½ and growing up so fast. He’s doing well at swimming (keeps his eyes down in the water now!) and music and now looks forward to going to playgroup to play with his friends (Callum on Tuesdays; Matthew and Ellen on Thursdays). His fascination for Thomas the Tank Engine has grown considerably this year and he is often found playing Thomas games on the internet (another new thing he has achieved), or with his trains or Thomas games on the floor. You can see him very happily opening his "Cranky the Crane" present - the only thing he really wanted!

Connor’s speaking has increased immensely with Laura away at school and has improved throughout the year – if only he’d stop talking now. Next year Connor starts preschool at Jesmond Community PS for 1 day a week. This mummy’s boy will be growing up fast!

Niall has had a busy year with his work with UCATSA at Newcastle University, preaching and committee commitments. More recently he has had to slow down due to knee surgery on his left knee, replacing his ligament which was overstretched from a soccer injury in 2006. Unfortunately the surgery had to be done twice so he was in hospital for 3 extra days (and had a lot more pain the second time). Niall is steadily recovering (no crutches now) and has started some swimming again. He has kept up his fitness with regular swimming at the Uni pool, cycling and jogging. High Distinctions were received for Niall’s studies in Education this year (Dip. Ed) – even when he wrote that one multiple choice question in his exam was ambiguous! Niall has an explanation for everything. Niall is also a grand-final winning Coach of the Jesmond Park Uniting Church Grade 8 Soccer Team.

In my 33rd year I (Fiona) finished my NCYC commitments and have since enjoyed not working. I took on helping out with the church noticesheet once a fortnight and have continued my monthly turn on the music roster. I was on the planning team for a group from Papua New Guinea visiting our church in September – although the plans didn’t quite go as we expected….PNG time is very different to ours (they arrived 2 weeks later than we planned). Unfortunately we weren’t around for their visit as we were in South Africa on holiday (see entry below). I’ve continued my involvement with Playgroup on Thursdays, reading stories and helping out with singing or wherever is needed. And I have really enjoyed getting involved in school activities for Laura (reading, P&C, canteen) and being a part of all the kids activities this year.

I decided to finally join a singing group, so auditioned for the Newcastle University Chamber Choir. I began in September, thrown into the deep end learning a huge repertoire of music, then went away to South Africa for 6 weeks, coming back to learn a whole new repertoire in a week to sing in my first concert at the Art Gallery. At my second concert I sang a solo. I’m really enjoying the challenge of the music we are learning and the high level of competency of the members (and they are really friendly!). The uniforms are interesting – reversible oriental style kimono – made by High Tea with Mrs Woo (a local small business). The choir has won just about every Australian award (check out: ).

I’ve also enjoyed singing with my sister, Ange, at a Waratah Girls Choir concert in September, where the founder/director, Wynette Horne, retired. And in December I sang with some ex-members of WGC in a Christmas Concert conducted by David Banney (an excellent conductor based in Newcastle; his wife and I go to playgroup together and our boys are good friends). I sang several solos at this concert (on the same weekend as the Chamber Choir – busy time). Needless to say after these concerts and all the running around with Niall’s knee, I fell in a heap and was sick for a few days, but have since recovered.

Since we’ve been back from South Africa I’ve been scouting around for work through various contacts in the environment field. We’ll keep you posted.

Here’s a quick rundown of where our family is up to….
Niall’s mum, Hilary, and Jeff are in Gloucester, with Janet (Niall’s dad’s sister) living nearby as well. Hilary is still doing nursing in the hospital and doctor’s surgery. Jeff is still working for UIM, travelling frequently overseas to PNG, Solomon Islands etc. Jeff’s parents, Joy and Wally, came by train from Perth (via Broken Hill twice and a bus trip from Broken Hill to Sydney – track washed away!) to spend Christmas in Gloucester with us all, which was lovely.

Ross and Sophie are still in Canberra – Ross is a doctor and Sophie is a radiographer, both working at different hospitals. Both are well. They both worked over Christmas, so we spent an early Christmas with them at Gloucester - see photo. Yvette has been living with them in Canberra while working at the AMA in marketing and spending weekends with Murray in Bathurst. Murray has finished his degree in Primary Teaching this year and will finish his work as Presbytery Youth Worker in January. Murray and Yvette are heading to England for a while to live and work, so will be packing up all their stuff and renting out their house in Bathurst (with the beautiful landscaping!).

Fi’s dad, Ren, has been volunteering two days a week at the Hunter Wetlands doing maintenance stuff for vehicles and the grounds. Glynis has completed a course in biblical studies this year at a local bible college, which has kept her more than occupied throughout the year. Tim has finished Year 8 at Lambton High and loves spending time at Games Workshop playing games with his figurines. He’s doing really well at school. Kanella is still working as a Speech Therapist in Sydney.

Aunty Dawn (Fi’s dad’s cousin, who is like our grandma) went downhill this year with her legs losing strength and her general health deteriorating. She went into hospital for a few weeks following a fall, and then has been moved into a nursing home at Waratah Amity. Although she hates losing her independence and misses her house and dog Goldie, she is going well, with ups and downs.

Fi’s mum, Ros, and her husband Hilary are doing well. A close friend died of cancer, which shook them up a bit, but they have been focussing their energies on extensions to the house and choosing the furnishings and fittings. It’s almost complete now – in time for Christmas. Ros has continued to take Connor on Tuesdays to Playgroup. Ange is working as an Occupational Therapist in a team at Calvary Hospital, Kogarah. She has had a few auditions for professional musicals, but no call backs yet. She did a recital in December with some friends which went really well. Ange has a new boyfriend, Chris Hartley, who has fitted into the family very well – they’re very happy together.

So that’s everyone now. Read below for more info on our South African holiday in September.
We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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