We've been back in Australia for several weeks now, spending 2 weeks in Queensland, and the last week here in Victoria. I thought we'd be avoiding the cold weather in Chicago, but I've been keeping an eye on it, and it has barely dropped below freezing in the time we've been away! In the meantime, our first two weeks in Australia were unseasonably cold. I should be grateful that we came to visit family and not migrate to warmer weather.
Getting here was more hectic than I would have liked. We were supposed to have a 5 hour layover in LA. Instead our flight out of O'Hare was delayed by about 4 and a half hours. You can imagine the stress of wondering if we would make the flight, especially considering that the next flight out wasn't for another 24 hours. That would have been a whole lot of fun with 2 young children. We made it, but only after an amazing sprint with the stroller and carry-on luggage from the far end of terminal 4 to the far end of the International terminal at LAX.
Fortunately, the boys were both very well behaved, and except for nearly slicing off a toe (hurriedly folding up our stroller at an X-ray machine - thank goodness for thick leather shoes) it all went relatively well. With our dash-between-terminals being such a near thing I was concerned about our checked in baggage making it, but it turned up safe and sound.
PresentsWe had each agreed that the flights have cost us so much that we couldn't afford to be extravagant with presents this year. So we decided that the boys and our nephews were the only ones to get presents. We still don't drive in Chicago, so we picked up most of the presents via Amazon, eToys, etc. It might seem strange that we would buy these in America, and drag them to the other side of the world with us, but toys in the States are cheaper, and far more varied. They are also not available for shipment outside of America. I like the idea of getting my nephews things that only their American relatives could get them.
Despite ordering many of these with weeks to spare, the presents for my nephews arrived a mere hour before we were due to leave. We had given up on them at this point, but delightedly packed them away. It wasn't until Christmas day that I discovered that Amazon had sent us the wrong toy!
My nephew Jacob loves puzzles, and with my sister always teasing about what a geek I am, I thought that a 50 piece solar-system floor puzzle looked like a perfect present. I was prepared to pay a reasonable price, but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was quite inexpensive. When I saw a box saying "Solar System" I didn't think twice and happily packed it away.
So on Christmas day Jacob unwrapped his box, and my sister thought, "Isn't an inflatable solar system a bit much for a 4 year old?" I was a little surprised at this, and went back online to check my order. Yes, I'd ordered the right thing. Yes, I'd paid the correct amount. However, the box they shipped was worth nearly 5 times as much! I don't know if my sister will keep it, or eBay it (don't you love verbing nouns?). Either way, I've promised to purchase the correct item as soon as we get back, and ship it myself.
But Jacob's wasn't the only present to cause angst. Despite my promises to the contrary, I couldn't leave my wife without a present for Christmas day. But what to get her?
A good friend of ours named Ann has recently published a book of poetry. I don't know if any of you know how hard it is to get anything published these days, but no matter how hard you may think it is, publishing poetry is harder. So this book is a big deal. Amazon told me that the book would be published after Christmas, but an online chat with Ann's husband told me I could order it from the publisher immediately, and I'd have it in a couple of days.
So I placed my order, and waited nervously. I even arranged to have it signed by Ann the moment I had it. Alas, it never arrived. Fortunately, Ann was a sweetheart, and under the guise of bringing us coffee to calm our nerves, she brought over one of her own copies, which she discretely passed to me.
Despite these efforts, we were quite stressed. Luc had already found one of his presents (which now had to be demoted to being a present from his parents rather than someone else), and we were desperately trying to fit everything into the bags. Factor in the last minute presents for my nephews... and Anne's book was left behind.
Of course, once I was over the horror of learning that I didn't have the present, I was immediately in touch with our neighbor, who kindly sent the present by mail the following morning. It didn't arrive in time for Christmas, but we did get it before leaving to come down to Melbourne.
The end result? Anne loves the book, and thinks I'm crazy for the effort of getting it to her. I owe my neighbor dinner and a bottle of wine, not to mention international postage. And our friend Ann has been laughing herself silly at me.
Glad I could entertain you Ann. ;-)