Back in Sydney

At Mum's grave on the one year anniversary of her death

At Mum’s grave on the one year anniversary of her death

We landed back in Sydney on Tuesday morning this week amidst the worst rain/wind storms in more than a decade. There was a lot of flooding around Sydney which we mostly avoided but it was certainly not the weather we were hoping for.

We arrived back on the one-year anniversary of Mum’s death so we went straight from the airport to the cemetery to pay our respects. Then it was on to Manly Beach where we have an apartment booked for two weeks.

Dad with his three grandkids

Dad with his three grandkids

One of the reasons for the timing of this trip was to meet the new addition to the family, young Sarah Jane Renton who is just two months old. The kids were really excited to meet her and they loved taking turns holding Sarah. She is a very easy going baby and didn’t mind all the attention and camera flashes in her face.

Saying hi to my new niece for the first time

Saying hi to my new niece for the first time

One of the things the kids, particularly Anna, was looking forward to on this trip was the visit to Luna Park, the amusement park that is right on the harbour. When we lived in Sydney in 2012 Anna was too small to go on many of the rides so she was very happy to now be big enough to do the Wild Mouse and other rides.

On the Ferris Wheel at Luna Park

On the Ferris Wheel at Luna Park

While the weather has not been great we have had two nice days in our first week. And we have spent most of those days on the beach. We are literally 50 yards from the sand so it is very convenient. With sand and water Jude and Anna are happy campers and could easily spend all day there. There are a ton of surfboard riders at Manly Beach so Anna decided she wanted to give surfing a shot. We rented a board and she discovered it was a lot more difficult than it looks. The water is also quite cold so she didn’t last long. Jude also gave it a try and did quite well, catching a wave on his knees successfully.

Jude learning how to surf at Manly Beach

Jude learning how to surf at Manly Beach

Larry Summers and Spring Break in Iowa

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Story time with Aunt Mandy and the twins

It has been quite the crazy couple of weeks in the Renton family. The kids have been on Spring Break and so for the second week of their break they took a trip to Iowa to see everyone there. Unfortunately, I was not able to go because I had my big annual LendIt conference this past week.

This was the longest time I have ever been away from the kids: it was 12 days. I left for New York before Marcy and the kids got back to Denver and I didn’t arrive back home until Friday.

Jude loves all the animals in Iowa especially Ozzie

Jude loves all the animals in Iowa especially Ozzie

As always the kids had a fantastic time with their Iowa family. Jude even commented that he wants to go and live in Iowa for six months some time and go to school there with Lily.

Some of the highlights were a trip to the Science Center, Lily took a day off school so they could hang out together and she also had a couple of sleepovers. Most of the time was spent at Baba and Grandpa’s house playing. And just before they left they all went to see Lily’s soccer match.

My last two weeks were very different. I have been totally focused on putting together the LendIt Conference and I have been working around the clock on that along with our great team. We pulled off a truly great conference, almost 2,500 people which was way more than we expected.

Anna watching me give a presentation at LendIt USA 2015 - it was streamed online

Anna watching me give a presentation at LendIt USA 2015 – it was streamed online

The highlight for me was introducing the former Secretary of the Treasury under President Clinton (and President Obama’s chief economic advisor) Larry Summers. He gave a brilliant speech and was very gracious as our keynote speaker. The photographer shot this quick photo right after he came off stage.

With former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers

With former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers at LendIt USA 2015 in New York

As I am writing this we are on a plane bound for Sydney where we will be spending the next couple of weeks. We have taken the kids out of school so we can go visit the Australian family and we can all meet young Sarah, the kids new cousin.

Anna painting her nails while talking on the phone with Baba - a sign of what is to come...

Anna painting her nails while talking on the phone with Baba – a sign of what is to come…

Easter is Finally Here

Jude on the hunt in the backyard for Easter Eggs

Jude on the hunt in the backyard for Easter Eggs

Jude and Anna have been counting down the days until Easter since February. Literally. They both made a paper countdown and every morning since late February they have cut one spiral off their countdown.

So, this weekend was all about Easter. It started yesterday morning with the traditional egg dyeing. Marcy hard boiled 18 eggs and Jude and Anna spent most of the morning coloring and decorating their eggs.

Anna and Jude goofing around as they dyed their Easter Eggs

Anna and Jude goofing around as they dyed their Easter Eggs

Last night they were both so excited as we started getting things ready for the Easter Bunny. We put out a bowl of spinach and carrots and Anna wrote a letter to the Easter Bunny. They also put all their decorated eggs out on the table.

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Getting ready for the Easter Bunny on the night before Easter

This morning Jude woke up early, we think he only had about eight hours sleep, and Anna was up by 6:45am and the Easter festivities began. They each received a few small presents from the Easter Bunny and of course there was chocolate. There were eggs hidden all over the back yard so Jude and Anna grabbed their Easter baskets and filled them as quickly as they could. Inside each egg was either chocolate or a couple of quarters so they both had a stash of money and chocolates after they opened all the eggs.

Anna is ready for bed

Anna is ready for bed

Soccer, Cricket and a Birthday

At the Colorado Rapids home opener

At the Colorado Rapids home opener

We have been blessed with some great weather these past couple of weekends. Last weekend I took the kids to the Colorado Rapids (our professional soccer team) home opener. It was a gorgeous day, it was actually hot sitting in the sun for a couple of hours. Jude was glued to the match, which was a good one, while Anna would have been happy to leave at half time. Her favorite part of going to these games are the treats – she loved the blue cotton candy I bought her.

I had to do another quick trip to New York last week and actually flew back to Denver on my birthday. After the kids got home from school we celebrated with apple pie & ice cream (my favorite) and then we played some soccer in the backyard before heading off to Benny’s, my favorite Mexican restaurant.

My birthday celebration at Benny's

My birthday celebration at Benny’s

For over a month now there has been a major sporting event happening that most of America is oblivious to. I am talking about the Cricket World Cup. This has been played in Australia and New Zealand and included the 16 best cricket playing countries in the world – these are former British colonies for the most part. I have introduced Jude and Anna to the World Cup by having them watch the 5-minute highlights online of every Australian match.

This weekend was the World Cup Final and Australia played New Zealand in Melbourne. I was delighted to see when I woke up this morning that Australia won the game quite convincingly and were world champions. After watching the highlights of the final this morning Jude asked if we could play cricket in the backyard. We just happen to have a kids cricket set from when we lived in Sydney in 2012, so we dusted it off and had a 1-hour family game of backyard cricket.

Playing some backyard cricket

Playing some backyard cricket

Today, Marcy took the kids to the craft store because Jude wanted to make a diorama. Jude spent most of his savings on some caveman and prehistoric animal figures and then proceeded to spend the rest of the afternoon working on his creation. Anna followed Jude’s lead and put together her own diorama.

Jude created this diorama from a cardboard box, some paint and some little animal toys

Jude created this diorama from a cardboard box, paint, clay and some little animal toys. It is a work in progress, he has plans to complete the sides and back tomorrow.

Ringing the Opening Bell at Nasdaq in New York

Ringing the opening bell at Nasdaq with the LendIt team

Ringing the opening bell at Nasdaq with the LendIt team on March 11.

Well the good news this week that I am starting to feel better and I was able to make the trip to New York to ring the opening bell at Nasdaq on Times Square. This was a huge honor for LendIt, a company that has been in existence less than two years, but one that is at the epicenter of the fast growing peer to peer lending industry.

I got back to Denver late on Thursday night and left my suitcase open on the couch. Anna discovered it when she got home from school and thought it would be funny to wear some of my clothes.

Anna trying on some of my work clothes

Anna trying on some of my work clothes

This weekend we worked around the house and got some projects done. We had a short brick wall under our carport that we decided to knock down, so Marcy and the kids went at it on both Saturday and Sunday. The kids worked really hard, they carried every brick down to the sidewalk, and they were able to get the wall demolished by lunch time on Sunday. I was not much help in the process as I spent a good chunk of this weekend working on our taxes.

Jude hard at work demolishing our brick wall

Jude hard at work demolishing our brick wall

Marcy showing Anna how to use a mallet, chisel and hammer

Marcy showing Anna how to use a chisel and hammer

The weather was gorgeous this weekend. Today was the warmest day of the year so far and the kids spent pretty much the whole day outside. After working on the brick wall they played in the backyard and we went up to the playground for some soccer and frisbee. And they also spent some time climbing trees.

Climbing the tree in our front yard

Climbing the tree in our front yard

One Sick Family

It has been quite the week and weekend. I have been sick with the flu since last Sunday, only starting to really feel better today. Marcy and the kids were hit with it as well. The kids both had a couple of days off school although the flu didn’t hit them as hard as it hit Marcy and I. For me, it was the most sick I have ever been as an adult – I lost 7 pounds in less than a week and I am nowhere near 100% recovered eight days later.

The week wasn’t all about sickness thankfully. Anna showed off her yoga style below.

Anna doing the "crow" yoga pose which takes tremendous upper body strength

Anna doing the “crow” yoga pose which takes tremendous upper body strength

I had promised Anna that we would have a special Anna and Daddy date on Saturday. I bought tickets to the Harlem Globetrotters in the afternoon and while Anna enjoyed it somewhat we were both too sick to really get much out of it. We both complained that it was too loud and we left at halftime.

Anna and me at the Harlem Globetrotters at the Pepsi Center

Anna and me at the Harlem Globetrotters at the Pepsi Center

Jude barely left the house all weekend so this afternoon I made them both head to the playground. Jude had enough strength to climb some of the bars and that was about it.

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Butterflies, More Snow and Monopoly

Jude lets a butterfly land on his face at the Butterfly Pavilion

Jude lets a butterfly land on his face at the Butterfly Pavilion

The week before last the kids were off school and we decided to stay in Denver for a change. This is the week we have been going to Mexico for the last couple of years but with our big trip to Australia coming up in April we decided a Mexico trip would be too much.

So, one of the activities that Marcy planned was a trip to the Butterly Pavilion. It had been a while and the kids had a great time. Anna and Jude were both brave in letting the tarantula crawl over their hand. But most impressive was Jude who as you can see in the photo above he let a butterfly land on his face and let it stay there for 10-15 seconds. Marcy was so impressed with how still he stayed for it, something she would not let happen (nor I).

Anna let's Rosie the tarantula crawl over her hand (with adult supervision of course)

Anna lets Rosie the tarantula crawl over her hand (with adult supervision of course)

After a pretty mild January with virtually no snow February hit us with a steady flow of snowstorms. Last week the school had a snow day and it was so cold that Marcy stayed around the house all day with the kids. They ventured outside for shoveling and to build tunnels in the snow.

Jude digging a tunnel in the snow in our front yard

Jude digging a tunnel in the snow in our front yard

The other major pastime of the past couple of weeks has been Monopoly. We have probably played 10 games of Monopoly in the last two weeks and that is saying something given they can last for 3 hours or more. Jude is really into it, he gets so excited that sometimes he can barely control himself. He is quite the competitive game player. But having said that, he is learning to lose graciously, something we have had to work on a lot. Win or lose Jude loves to play often talking about the game for hours afterwards.

Anna likes it as well although she is probably not quite as passionate as Jude. What she has taken to is being the banker. She needs help but she takes the job very seriously and likes to help out in this way. She is also much more fair. If someone has run out of money she will want to give them some so they can stay in the game.

We love Monopoly because it really helps build many important skills. They obviously get to learn math, but with Jude starting to read, he gets to practice reading the Chance and Community Chest cards. Even Anna is starting to try reading for just that reason. It also teaches about spending money and delayed gratification.

Monopoly has been the game of choice in the Renton household lately

Monopoly has been the game of choice in the Renton household lately

With so much inside time the kids can get a bit antsy. So, after our Monopoly game yesterday we said they had to get out of the house and run around the block. Today, they did the same thing. Jude ran 7 laps around the block with is roughly 2 miles and he ran hard and strong. Anna ran the better part of 4 times around, with some rests in between. We are going to continue to encourage this activity.

Anna in full stride running around the block outside our house

Anna in full stride running around the block outside our house

Jude Starts Reading to Anna

Anna just loves it when Jude reads to her

Anna just loves it when Jude reads to her

Jude is starting to learn to read. He can recognize many short words and can sound out longer words. So a couple of times recently Jude has offered to read a book to Anna. The good thing about this is that while Jude is definitely reading the words he also knows these books by heart so he can fill in the gaps of the parts he can’t read.

Jude on his class trip to the zoo

Jude volunteering to answer a question from the zookeeper on his class trip to the zoo in front of the cheetah enclosure

We live less than a mile from the zoo and we are members so we go there a lot. We must have been there well over 100 times since the kids were born. But last week Jude’s 2nd grade class did a field trip to the zoo for the first time. They attended a class given by one of the zookeepers then went to see some of the animals, including a visit to the reptile house.

Anna trying to fly a kite in our backyard

Anna trying to fly a kite in our backyard

For most of the past two weeks the weather has been glorious. It has been over 60 degrees nearly every day and so we have had a lot of outside time. We have played some family football, been to the playground and spent some time in our yard. Anna tried in vain to get her kite airborne during one of these days but there was pretty much no wind so she was unsuccessful. But she had fun trying.

Anna showing off some of her Valentine's Day gifts with grey blankie

Anna showing off some of her Valentine’s Day gifts with grey blankie

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day and the kids were very excited to open up their gift baskets from Baba and dig into the special chocolate bars we gave them. Anna spent the morning putting together some of the crafts that Baba had sent.

Overall, it was a pretty quiet weekend. Anna had a birthday party to go to so I dropped her off there and took Jude to Dave & Buster’s for the first time. He had a blast. He spent most of the time there playing this soccer game where you kicked a real ball against a screen to try and score a goal. He did well at it.

This afternoon we played a family game of Monopoly. I have great memories of playing family games when I was a kid and we want to do the same. And Monopoly is great because we can all enjoy it and no one has a real advantage. Of course, these games take hours and we didn’t quite finish before dinner. We will leave it as is though, and finish one night this week.

January Ski School Finishes and the Superbowl

Jude's official ski school photo

Jude’s official ski school photo

It was a full weekend. Friday afternoon we drove up to Keystone. The kids had the last of their four week ski school lessons. So, it was also the last day Marcy and I got to have our “ski date” with just the two of us skiing. The snow was decent but not great. Marcy and I did our usual 8-9 runs, including 4-5 bump runs, along with a good break for lunch and we were both beat at the end of the day. Speaking of the bumps Marcy has improved dramatically since returning to skiing three years ago and she is flying down the bumps now.

Anna's official ski school photo

Anna’s official ski school photo

We drove home on Saturday night because today we hosted the annual Superbowl party. This morning we awoke to see a decent snowfall overnight. It was a heavy, wet snow that was a real workout to shovel but it left everything sparking white.

The snow covering our backyard table and chair

The snow covering our backyard table and chairs

I made my usual red and green chilis and Marcy made brownies and a coconut/peanut butter dessert. We had a few people over to watch the game and it was a very enjoyable evening. Good to see an exciting game again in the Superbowl.

Jude and Anna licking the spatula clean after Marcy made brownies

Jude and Anna licking the spatulas clean after Marcy made brownies

Anna all dressed up for the Superbowl party

Anna all dressed up for the Superbowl party

Jude Gets Reading Glasses

Jude sporting his new reading glasses for the first time

Jude sporting his new reading glasses for the first time

We have taken Jude to the eye doctor for some tests and it turns out that he needed glasses. It wasn’t just because his vision wasn’t great, in fact the tests came back with 20/20 vision. But he has trouble focusing on the page when he is in school, his two eyes don’t bring an image into one line of focus, and the glasses should help with this. Not only that but he has about 15 minutes of eye exercises he needs to do at least 4 days a week while he attends vision therapy for at least a few months. We started them this weekend while we were in Keystone.

Speaking of Keystone we spent the weekend there again and the kids had their third Saturday of ski school this season. They continue to make great progress with both kids doing their first ski race this weekend and the instructor took Jude’s class down their first bump run.

We had a family ski day earlier today and there was a noticeable improvement from last weekend. Particularly with Anna, who is a real speed demon these days, she likes to race me down the hill.

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After their ski day Jude and Anna snuggle on the couch with a show