Why do I feel lonely and lost these days? Why can’t I seem to figure out what my professional contribution to society can be? Why do I not seem to have friends here that I really connect with, who get me and who I get? Why am I so homesick?
I have three beautiful, happy boys who bring me joy—they truly do. But as any parent knows, they also whine a lot, they seem dissatisfied with much of what I work so hard to do for them; the two older ones argue with almost everything I say and with each other, seemingly constantly sometimes. I find myself stopping to listen and smile when I hear them playing well together—it seems more rare these days and I can’t seem to defuse their frustrations with each other effectively, no matter what parenting articles I read.
Unlike so many mothers whom I have always greatly admired and felt somewhat jealous of, I need more in my life than full time mothering. I lose myself when I only attend to everyone else’s needs. I need appreciation for a job well done. I need recognition, measurable progress in what I’ve accomplished each day. I wish I didn’t, but I can’t really get around the fact that I do.
I think that’s why my work/career/professional struggles are getting me down so much lately. For 14 years before this move to Australia, I worked in retirement communities. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I was respected in my field and I made good money.
Since I’ve come here, I just can’t figure out how to get back into that field. Now, I realize I haven’t tried as hard as I should. Life gets in the way. I’ve sent online enquiries to senior living companies asking about their jobs in marketing and sales, with no response. I’ve sent a few online applications for activities/recreation/volunteer positions, with no response. I’ve called one nearby community and asked to volunteer—no return call. I’ve asked the few people I’ve met who work in the field about the positions, and they don’t seem to know anything about them—maybe they don’t exist here?
I keep telling myself the best way to find out is to just drive around and walk into communities and ask. But, I’ve always had a kid in tow, or was about to have a kid in tow, so I just never got around to it.
Friends at home say I’m awesome for moving to a new country and learning a new profession and starting my own business. But it doesn’t feel very awesome. I learned the new profession partially out of necessity. I never wanted to run my own business. I don’t enjoy it and it’s not going well. In fact, right now, it seems to be failing miserably. I’m paying to do it. Try as I might, I can’t get people interested in it.
I do love yoga—it’s been a passion of mine for years, and the more I learn about it, the more passionate about it I feel. But people in this area, just don’t seem to get it. Yoga is not as popular around here—I don’t even know many people who do it, or who are physically active as a priority at all. I think that’s partly why I feel disconnected from the friends I’ve made. I’ve rarely been to a yoga class here with more than a handful of people in it, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I can’t get many people interested in my classes, much less my classes for their children.
I just have a hard time fitting in with people who don’t prioritize healthy eating for their families, who don’t prioritize fitness on a regular basis and who don’t get the purpose of yoga. I hope that doesn’t make me sound snobby. I don’t intend it to. I’ve made friends for the past 4+ years with people who are different to me in those core areas, but have other things in common—being a mother, living in a foreign country, but I just don’t feel connected, so I’m guessing that’s the reason why…??? I could be totally off base. I do admit I have met a few people who are health and fitness oriented and am still not clicking with them either.
It often seems to me that people don’t like me over here. I never seemed to have that problem before moving. It is very likely all in my head, but I just seem to rub people the wrong way when I don’t intend to…??
I know I could connect well with my husband, but he’s frustrated in his job, too and we don’t see each other until late in the evening when we’re pretty much too tired to talk about much. He is wonderful and we do try. We both know we need time together. But it’s difficult, because that costs money. And when I’m not making any money, I feel bad spending $80 to go out for two hours together and get a drink each and an appetizer to share—bleah!
I keep meditating and reading about creating my own joy, realizing that my life is just as it should be in this moment and to find peace in the present. I’m honestly trying! For whatever reason, it’s meant to be right now that I’m paying to try and teach yoga, that I’m contributing nothing meaningful to my community in terms of professional employment and that I’m working my tail off for no positive outcome. That’s hard to embrace! But I will keep trying…..For now these musings of a crazy person just help me to get it off my chest.
Where do I even start?! I haven’t updated this in over 3 months. I have a good reason—I have a beautiful, 6-week old baby boy. However, I’m getting ahead of myself….first to quickly recap the time leading up to our little Samuel’s birth:
My brain is mush now and it’s hard to remember. My days are filled once again with spit up, dirty diapers, sleepless nights and the smell of a newborn asleep on my chest. It’s hard to remember what they were like before. It’s as if he’s always been here. I feel strongly that we’ve been waiting for him—as hard as this time is, he melds right into our little circle of love, just like he always had a space waiting for him. He has.
Anyway, I digress, again. Get used to it! June was quite uneventful, other than preparing for Sam’s arrival and wrapping up my kids’ yoga classes. That was very bittersweet. It’s always hard to leave behind the known, the routine, and prepare for the unknown, the loss of control. I know at the time it’s happening that I want to return to teaching, but it’s also in the back of my head that I really don’t know what the future holds and I can’t say anything for sure.
We had our last little getaway as a family of four–a weekend in June on beautiful Stradbroke Island with friends. We saw lots of unique wildlife and enjoyed the busy two days immensely. Then we had our treasured friends from Boulder in town visiting their family, and got to spend quality time with them as well.
I had my first three nights and four days ever away from my little crew of men in early July for my yoga teacher training retreat. It was wonderful, although very demanding physically and mentally. It was great to be able to have that time to be away, and the boys enjoyed themselves immensely during their “vegetable-free days”. 😉
The retreat was over the 4th of July weekend, so for the first time in my life, I had to forgo celebrating the holiday, which was also bittersweet. It was a great reason to miss it, but also a little sad. Several people wished me a happy one, though, which is so kind.
We enjoyed a relatively slow paced two weeks of school holidays that included our first Disney on Ice. Also, thanks to the help of dear friends, Steve and I enjoyed our last date for a while—a low key breakfast out in Brisbane one morning. It’s funny—we were both enjoying each other, but could also feel the apprehension in the air as we were well aware of the uncertainty and changes to come, getting ready to meet the new member of our family.
My sweet friends threw a beautiful baby shower for me on the 11th of July. I have missed family incredibly throughout my pregnancy, so it was great to feel such an outpouring of love from my “family” here. It was my first truly girly baby shower, complete with a color scheme, games, fancy food and decorations, and I loved it! I am so humbled by the work they went to and the turnout.
It’s ironic—when I was pregnant with Drew I thought baby showers were completely lame. We bought our house a few months before he was born, so instead we had a combined baby shower/housewarming for all friends, men and women. It was fun! Then Zach was born so soon afterwards that our friends instead organized a meal delivery system, diapers and groceries for us, which was just what we needed. Now I cherish time I can sneak in with girlfriends and relished every minute of that shower. J
On July 23rd, my sweet Drew was officially diagnosed with asthma. It is nice in one sense to finally know for sure and learn how to deal with it, but also always sad to find out your child is less than perfect. I have to wonder if there’s anything I could have done to prevent it, if there have been times I didn’t help him enough when he was struggling to breathe. I am really bad with “What Ifs” and mother’s guilt. I’m working on it…..Hopefully, he will grow out of it, and even if he doesn’t, there are a lot worse things in life and we are very fortunate. It doesn’t slow him down–the two of them ran their 1st 2k race the Sunday before Sam arrived.
As for my pregnancy, it got a bit bumpy in July. On Sunday the 5th at my retreat, I started to worry about the baby’s movement. I remember being paranoid about that in my previous pregnancies so I ignored it, knowing that odds were that everything was fine and I was being psycho. I was still a bit worried at my next appointment that Wednesday, the 8th, which the whole family attended. They put me on some fetal monitoring and then reassured me that everything was fine.
I started to worry about movement again on Friday, the 24th, (37 weeks) and thought I was noticing quite a few painless contractions and feeling very nauseous. I figured labor was starting, but then nothing happened. I was about to call the doctor on Sunday if things hadn’t changed, but then I felt better. Monday and Tuesday were up and down. I was worried about all of the above, but then I’d feel better.
Wednesday morning, the 29th, started out good. I had an appointment and was worried about driving the hour each way alone with how tired I’d been feeling, so offered Zach a special “Mommy and Zach” day before baby came, which thankfully, he agreed to (he almost refused me!). We walked Drew to school and back and then I started feeling sick again. We drove down, had a nice morning tea and then went to the doctor. I told them how I’d been feeling and my doctor saw me have a contraction on the exam table (turned out I’d been having more than I thought I was—some of them, like the one he saw, I just thought were the baby sticking out on one side) and noticed baby’s heartrate was low.
He put me on fetal monitoring, which ended up lasting for about 2 hours, instead of the initial 30 minutes. They told me I was having regular contractions and baby’s heartrate was getting low often enough that we needed to do the C-section now. I was in labor.
Then everything started happening! My doctor’s office is connected to a hospital that I hadn’t planned on going to, because it was so far from home. Steve was near home, at work, and Zach was with me—what to do?! I have to say that in my teens and twenties, I would never have believed someone who said they could find comfort and companionship in a 5-year-old, but I absolutely did. My little Zach was an absolute gem during all this and it was wonderful having him with me. During the monitoring, he found a soccer game on TV (he’s a sports nut) and cuddled up next to me in the hospital bed to watch. When it all got chaotic, he was patient, well-behaved, unquestioning, trusting, helpful and concerned. It was beautiful and I will remember it forever.
Steve got moving and this is when the incredible outpouring of love, support and help from our friends began. It would go on for the next several weeks. I arranged friends to bring Drew home with them from school. My doctor is a friend of ours and his family offered to take Zach and so did one other friend in that area. However, thankfully, we reached our dear friend’s mother, who lives an hour away and who was set to come watch the boys on August 4th, the date my C-section was scheduled. She dropped everything and left right away to come get Zach, and then headed off through rush hour traffic to our house, where Drew met them and she stayed the night. She made them lunches for school the next day and took excellent care of them. The same friends that kept Drew that afternoon, picked up the boys for school the next day as well, and then this dear woman cleaned our house and did our laundry before heading back home. Just incredible!
After Zach left, it wasn’t long until I was prepped for surgery. I have to acknowledge that preparing for the C-section was terrifying. I will never go through that again. With the one I had with Drew, I had been in labor for so long that it was all a blur. This time, I was alert. Everything is so sterile and medical. It doesn’t feel like you’re about to bring life into the world; it feels like something bad and scary is happening—you’re about to be cut open. I hated it. Thankfully, yoga and meditation helped me—the idea of impermanence. I focused on breathing through the scariness, remembering that it was just a brief time and at the end of it I would have my baby.
The surgery itself, body being cut open and stitched up again aside, was the most beautiful, peaceful birth I’ve had. They lowered the sheet so I could see my precious boy just as he came out, and then I was able to watch everything else that happened, including Steve cutting the cord. I didn’t get sick from any of the medications this time and my arms were not strapped down. Therefore, they were able to bring Sam to me and I held him on my chest while I was stitched up. He even started eating! That’s the only time I’ve been able to hold my baby to me so soon after his birth and I will cherish the experience.
The scary part is that our precious Samuel Sullivan Charles was small, too small for so late in the pregnancy. It turns out my placenta was not in good shape—much of it was dead or inflamed, and they were surprised the little man was getting any nutrients at all. He was also covered in meconium. It is just perfect that I had such excellent care and I had my appointment that day and he came out when he did. He is our little miracle and we couldn’t be happier to have him with us.
Because of his size and because he was slightly early, he had a bit of trouble with his blood sugar initially and some jaundice, but nothing major. He was able to stay with me the entire time I was in the hospital and the stay was pretty uneventful. Sam was born at 5:35 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29th and we brought him home on Monday, August 3rd.
We Face-Timed Patti and the boys as soon as we could that evening after Sam’s birth. They were thrilled about their new brother and couldn’t wait for their visit the next evening to meet him. We called the next morning before school as well and she told us that all morning they had been talking about Sam, wondering what he was doing as they got ready, how he felt, etc. Gorgeous.
Several people have asked me to compare the birth and hospital experience here to the ones in the U.S. I received excellent care in both countries and overall it was much the same in each. There were a few minor things that I preferred over there, and a few little things that were better here. We are very fortunate to be able to live and give birth in such safe, wonderful places, so we have nothing to complain about.
I had been worried that by having the baby in this farther away hospital, I would be lonely during the stay with it being too far for friends to visit. I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find out this was not the case. For one, my stay included a weekend, so Steve and the boys were able to be with me more, which was great. We made sure the boys were our first visitors on Thursday evening and Steve and I enjoyed the time before then to get to know our new son. A couple friends did make the hour drive to see us, and then a couple others that we knew in that area were now able to come as well. Steve’s family lives in that area and was able to be more involved this way also.
In the hospital and since we came home, as I said before, we have just been overwhelmed by the kindness and help from friends. We have had numerous home-cooked meals and baked goods brought to us as well as gifts. People have been helping me with the school runs, so I have not actually had to do them too often this term. I have had visitors, friends giving advice, listening to me cry, helping me to get out and run my first errands with Sam and even trying to do my chores. They’ve also watched our big boys for us to give us extra time to rest.
As I said, my friends are now my family and I am so grateful for them. I had been so nervous to have a baby without my parents around and I have really felt their absence. So many little things that we never even realized they were doing at the time to make things easier for us, are now apparent in their absence. Therefore, the fact that we have been so surrounded by love, support, kindness and generosity has been an even bigger blessing.
My Mom isn’t even approved to fly this distance since her hip surgery until sometime this month. I keep hoping they’ll just show up on our doorstep, but I know that won’t happen. Just 12 ½ weeks until we leave for the U.S. and in the meantime we are all so thankful for technology. Face Time and texts get us through.
A positive for me, is that this experience has made me feel like a big girl, a grown up. As with the move overall, having a baby in another country has made me realize that Steve and I are a good team and we can do anything. Our little family (well, not so little anymore!) has become a tight knit unit and we are there for each other and help each other through whatever life brings.
Along this line, I have been so impressed by what big boys my big boys have become. They are so helpful and amazingly understanding about how I need to spend my time right now. And the love! The love they have for this little baby is unbelievable. I have to say that’s been one of my favorite parts so far about having another baby, watching the unconditional love and devotion they show to this little person. They make it clear that he is truly a part of our family that just hadn’t arrived yet. He belongs with us and we love him to bits.
So there we have it. It’s been three months—6 weeks of preparation and anticipation, and 6 weeks of complete whirlwind and adjustment. Sometimes I can’t believe that a vegetarian yoga teacher is a mother of three boys—in 10 years they’ll likely be getting into fights and wanting to eat steak all the time and I’ll be telling them to meditate and offering them green smoothies! 😉 We just don’t know what life will bring us—heck, it’s also hard to believe that I’m even 38-years-old, a mother at all, living in Australia, teaching yoga—all of it—who would have known?! But what a beautiful life it is.
It’s hard to believe that it’s June; it’s winter and that in about two months we’ll have 3 kids. Reality check coming! During the April school holidays, I became quite apprehensive about the month of May. I kept thinking: teaching 6 kids yoga classes each week, 5 full days of adult yoga teacher training, a freelance writing assignment, doctor’s appointments, kids school events, etc., all while growing larger by the day…….Yikes! But it actually all went surprisingly smoothly.
It made me see that I waste too much time working myself up about the future without any real need. Once I sit down, make my to-do list and get cracking, it usually all gets taken care of. I hope I can remember that lesson and stay calmer and be more present.
April wrapped up smoothly and I hit my 1st anniversary as a kids yoga teacher on May 1st. It was fun to think about all that’s happened in one year. It was right around the time of the earthquakes in Nepal, which really upset me. In one sense, I hope they upset everyone. But in another, I feel I sometimes get too upset at these events. It just boggles my mind about how differently people can live within the one world–that we are so global in some ways and yet there are still such extreme differences in quality of life. For instance, with the terrible flooding that Boulder experienced a couple years ago, people’s lives were pretty well back to normal within a few weeks. Whereas many of the Nepalese affected could be homeless and without access to their former ways of earning income or to schools, for literally YEARS. It’s just not right.
Anyway, to move one, I have been very involved in my boys’ classrooms so far this year, knowing that I won’t have much time to be soon. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad idea—I don’t want it to be too much of a shock to them when I’m busier. It’s bothered me that Drew has only had one field trip in more than two years of school, but they must have received funding or changed the curriculum or something, because this year I have been able to accompany Zach’s class on a walking trip to the local library a few months ago, Drew’s class to see the movie Cinderella last week, and I will get to go with Zach’s class to see the theater production of the Gruffalo next week.
What’s ironic is that I vividly remember taking a group of senior citizens to a basketball game years ago and seeing school kids on a trip. I talked with my coworker friend about how I would NEVER want to help take kids on a school field trip—-too chaotic! How life changes, eh? It’s still too chaotic, but now I see that chaos as the norm. 😉
I’ve also been helping in Zach’s class on Tuesday mornings and Drew’s on Friday afternoons. I helped at a P&C (think PTA) fundraiser selling trinkets to the kids for Mother’s Day gifts and I’ve been attending school events: Last Friday Steve and I both got to go watch Drew perform with the school choir at a local daycare. For Mother’s Day, Zach’s class invited the mothers in for a morning of “pampering.” It was such a precious experience! I remember going through it with Drew and loved it just as much with Zach. The teachers taught the kids ahead of time how to give us foot massages, paint our nails, do our hair, etc. Hilarious! Then they served cupcakes and juice and gave us gifts they’d made. Zach was proud as a peacock and it was lovely to have that time with him.
Today I went to their Sports Day (Field Day). Although it’s not really a full day, like what I remember, but rather just a morning, it was lots of fun to watch them participate in little sports games and running races. They are both competitive and put their hearts into whatever they do and it is great to watch and cheer them on. 🙂
My yoga classes have been going really well. The kids are enjoying my pregnancy! We have been talking about gratitude this term and in one class, I had everyone tell the group about something good that happened that day. I started by saying I’d had a good doctor’s appointment and am glad I’ve had a healthy pregnancy thus far. A 6-year-old girl yelled out “You’re pregnant?!” It was hilarious! Every parent cracked up. The kids ask me about the baby regularly and randomly poke my belly. What’s funny is that kids do as I do, not as I say. So with poses I can no longer do, such as where you lie on your belly, I try to get down on my knees and forearms and explain the rest (they’re familiar poses to them already), but they get down exactly like me! They are just gems.
However, teaching kids has helped me realize my kids are normal. I deal with clothing left behind consistently, need to tell them to put away their toys/food for class, stop them fighting over who gets a sticker first at the end of class, etc. It’s good to know my kids aren’t the only ones that do all that!
Yoga teacher training has been busy, amazing and inspiring as well. It’s been lovely to meet like-minded people who share many of the same values and beliefs and fitness and eating habits that I do. Everyone in the group is so nice and the teachers are wonderful. Each training day absolutely wears me out, to the core, but I love it.
And the baby has been doing well! All of my appointments so far have been smooth. I’ve been feeling great. I just am bone tired by the end of each day and struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I so cherish the fact that I can nap almost every day with both boys in school!
I’ve stopped eating meat completely this past month or so and have considerably cut back on animal products overall. I don’t feel too differently, as I never ate much meat to begin with, but I have noticed an improvement in digestion. I know this is gross, but it’s hard to keep things moving smoothly during pregnancy. However, without meat, they move along just fine!
I’ve also been focusing more and more each day on keeping things more real, not only regarding what we eat, but our house as a whole. Of course, I’ve made my own cleaning products and laundry detergent for years, and have always tried to eat healthy, but with so much more time at home, I just keep changing more and more. I’ve stopped buying processed flour and sugar, switching to coconut sugar and a combination of flours instead. I make our peanut butter and ketchup and just tried Nutella last week.
What’s been really fun is making our own home products—hand soap, lotion, lip balm, deodorant…..I never realized this stuff could be made outside a lab, but most of it is surprisingly easy and feels lovely on the skin. Although I worry that it will all come to a grinding halt soon….
Well, with everything going so well and smoothly, I hate to admit that the only thing bringing me down is homesickness. What else is new, eh? I didn’t get to take my trip for my cousin’s wedding in May. I know it was for the best, but it hit me pretty hard. I really miss having my family nearby during my pregnancy and I was SO looking forward to them seeing my big belly. Many factors played into the decision, but the biggest was that my adorable niece and nephew weren’t able to go, which of course meant my brother and sister-in-law weren’t really able to go, unless for a night or two and it just didn’t make sense to fly all that way and not see them. It made more sense to save that money to do something nice for us as a family here, instead of just spend it on me at the sacrifice of them.
Even when I booked the tickets, it never seemed real. I don’t know that I’ll ever feel ready to be on the other side of the world from my boys just for pleasure, without even my husband….?? But I hate that the last time I saw my nephew he was only 4 months old, and my niece 3 ½, and they’ll be 2 ½ and 5 ½ when I see them again. That sucks. My Mom has also been struggling and I hate not being there for her. Her hip replacement went well, but now her shoulder needs an operation and she’s refusing. The selfish part of me wants her to get the surgery as soon as possible so she’s healthy enough to get on a plane and come see her grandchildren next year. But the reasonable part of me knows that she’s been selfless and giving her entire life and it’s her body; she needs to feel free to decide what’s acceptable to undergo.
The bigger I get the more it hits me how much life will change soon and that it will change so much for us, for the first time, without me having my family by my side to go through it with. My parents were SO involved with my little baby boys. It feels weird to be doing it without them. It’s funny—part of the reason I wanted more children was because we are out here on our own and I wanted there to be more of us, more support for my kids as they grow. But now that I’m having more, I want to go back and be closer to extended family. Sigh.
I’m being strongly encouraged to have a C-section as well, which I’m not thrilled about. The idea of my body being sliced into is not a pleasant one, and trying to recover with no family support and 3 kids to take care of does not excite me either. Of course, I don’t want a kid in the NICU again either…..there’s never an easy answer. I just feel so healthy right now and I intend to stay that way, and have a healthy baby, too! So I guess that’s a wrap for now—-time will tell; I just need to keep being and loving and moving and grooving. J
I keep feeling that it must be time to let this blog go by the wayside. I just can’t find time to write it. But for whatever reason, I’m just not ready to completely let it go. Maybe it’s sporadic, but it’s still something I want to do when I can. Anyway, another two months have gone by; a full school term has been completed; I’m now 24-weeks pregnant and life is just grooving along I guess.
Both my boys had birthdays—Zach turned 5 and Drew 7. Zach had croup on his birthday and we had to put his party off for a week. He Really wanted to go to school on his birthday and was so proud to be turning 5. His sweet teacher let him hang in there until his cupcakes were eaten and then she called to let me know he just couldn’t make it through the day. All of his precious friends waited a week and joined us the following weekend for his party—so kind! He was thrilled with it all.
Drew got to bring two friends to a local pool for his birthday celebration and had a ball as well—he thought he was especially cool with his birthday falling on Easter Sunday. Quite the party week!
As of May 1st, I will have been teaching yoga to children for an entire year—can you believe it?! From spending all my time in retirement communities to running my own business related to children’s fitness just seems like a complete 180. To think that I started with one class per week and 12 students, and now teach six times per week to over four times that many kids is pretty incredible.
I really enjoy it, although sometimes the business part brings me down. I honestly had never thought I’d be running my own business—it wasn’t something I ever wanted to do. When I got certified, I just thought people would hire me to teach and that would be that. The business part is very hard for me…….But, I’ll keep at it for now and see how it continues.
I also began the adult teacher training certification program last month. I’m enjoying it immensely, but the weekend trainings wear me out! Whew! It’s ironic, too—all that yoga philosophy I keep learning reiterating that yoga is non-competitive, meets everyone where they are; everyone can do yoga, etc. and I just can’t fully let that side of me go. I get in that room with all those uber-fit young people training to be teachers, and I think my growing baby belly body can keep right up with them! Haha 😉
I also started a pre-natal yoga class a few weeks ago. It runs for six weeks, every Thursday evening, just me as a student, taking a yoga class. I almost didn’t sign up because by 7:00 every evening I just want my jammies and the couch, but I decided to go for it as it’s just six weeks and I thought it would be good for me. Every week it’s an effort to get there, but once I do, I’m So glad! It’s just so nice to be around other adults, to not be teaching and to be in a class that’s geared towards my changing body. I practically heave a sigh of relief each week when I walk in that studio.
To cap off yoga, here’s a funny story—last week I taught a class to adults! By accident! Once a month the studio where I teach offers community classes. They’re just $5/person and intend to bring yoga to a broader audience and make it affordable and a fun community event. All the teachers there take turns teaching the class, because it’s basically volunteer-work. April was my turn and we promoted it in every possible way as a class for kids and families. I planned this fun Under the Sea journey-themed class and showed up to teach, along with my helper, Drew. Well, 3 adults showed up—no kids! They had been to community classes in the past and just hadn’t seen any advertising related to this one being different.
At first, I experienced pure panic. Would I teach them my playful kids’ class? Would I tell them to go home? Or, would I just fake it? Yikes! Finally, I told them all the truth—“I teach kids. I don’t teach adults. I’m not qualified to teach adults. I’ve planned a kids’ class for tonight. I am in training to teach adults, and if you don’t mind being guinea pigs, I’m happy to give it a try and we can see what happens. Otherwise, you can go home, or I can teach you a song and games kids’ class.”
They wanted me to just teach! So, I did! Surprisingly, I think it sort of went ok. Luckily none of them had any extensive yoga experience and also were relatively healthy and in good shape. The best part about it was they actually listened to me! They didn’t interrupt me constantly, whine about the poses we were doing or start running in circles around the room. It was fantastic to have people actually listening to me and respecting me as a teacher! When you tell adults to lie down at the end of class, they do it! And they’ll stay for as long as you tell them to! Incredible! J
All in all the past couple months have been quite smooth. Thankfully, the boys finished their Little Athletics track and field program at the end of March. That ended the torturously boring Friday nights for Steve and I. It’s a great concept, but very poorly organized as it’s completely dependent on parent volunteers. I also felt the parents were very cliquey and it was hard to feel a part of things. And, we’re so tired by Friday evening that the last thing we ever wanted to do was go stand around and measure long jumps or time sprints! I think Drew feels the same, but Zach loved it! We’re just crossing our fingers that he doesn’t want to sign up again in September…..
Drew finished swimming lessons for now and starts tennis next week. I love how he likes to try everything. He is also enjoying the school choir. Zach has settled in to Prep like it’s no big deal at all—definitely harder on me than him. I still miss having my little sidekick around some days.
Steve’s job continues to go well for him and he completed his 2nd triathlon last week. We are all so proud of him! We’ve enjoyed going to cheer him on.
The baby is healthy and squirming and the pregnancy has been smooth since I stopped feeling so nauseous. Our school holidays were lovely and productive and fun. We got in a couple beach days, a couple fun family adventures, and got a lot done around the house.
As far as family back home, a lot has been going on and I’ve really missed everyone. My Mom had a hip replacement last month, the first major health “thing” I’ve missed. I hated not being there for her, especially when my Dad had to fly to Alabama when my aunt died. I’m so glad it all worked out for them—friends checked in on her and he got to support his brother. It’s just hard feeling so uninvolved and separate from it all. Can’t really just jump on a plane to help when it’s needed….
Our highlight of the past couple months was leaving the boys with trusted, dear friends for two whole nights and going down to Byron Bay for a day at the BluesFest a few weeks ago! We hadn’t left them for two nights since just before we moved here when we left them with my parents one last time. Two nights is a lot to ask of people who aren’t related to us! We are so grateful to them and they were wonderful with our boys. They had a blast and so did we. I felt a bit guilty—it was the longest time I’ve been away from them in almost four years and I didn’t miss them!
It came at a time where the two of us just really needed to reconnect and it was fun going to a music festival together and having some time to relax. We got to see Zac Brown Band as the headliner—so fun! The little cabin we stayed in was gorgeous and peaceful, too.
And the following week we got out AGAIN and went to the Michael Franti concert! He is just so fun; we will continue to see him whenever we can. After Brisbane, he toured more in Australia and I saw that he went to Perth for the first time and compared the venue there to Red Rocks! That used to be our backyard and he mentioned it like it’s a place everyone should know—very cool. J
One last highlight (and then I better start dinner!) is that I met a girl from Colorado—just walking down the street! How random! Since moving here I’ve randomly “met” three people from Colorado, but two are in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Noone here! But last month we got a sweet package from my brother’s family and it included a tote bag with the state flag on it. I’ve started carrying it when I walk the boys to school and I was on my way home with a friend and she saw it and stopped me! Isn’t that funny? We met today for coffee and it was so neat to talk face to face with someone who grew up in the same area as me and really “gets” it.
The world works in mysterious ways and we are just trying to enjoy the ride right now and be thankful.
Lately each day that I’ve gotten to the end of, with my family clothed and fed and the house standing, has been a success. Whew—I forgot how tired early pregnancy makes me—especially with a family to take care of already! It’s made me miss those days when I was pregnant and all I had to do was work an 8-5 and then come home to a quiet house each evening. How times have changed!
I can’t believe I haven’t written this in almost 2 months, but I just haven’t had the time or energy. Although I’ve wished there wasn’t such a huge age gap between these kids, it’s actually been very fortunate that my first trimester hit primarily over the summer break when Steve was home, and also a break where we had no plans—just relaxed, easy family days. I felt so nauseous and tired most of the time that I doubt I could have kept up with our crazy work and school schedules.
I did make it through two short camping trips, which I feel proud about. A new symptom with this pregnancy was carsickness, so I was especially worried as we headed off on our 2nd one in mid-January, particularly because the heat and humidity have been tougher for me to take than usual, and these were Very hot days. But the place we went, the Bunya Mountains, actually felt somewhat like being in “real” mountains—the air was crisper and cooler—what a relief! It turned out to be a great little trip.
I also taught my first yoga workshop—a 3-hour class. My typical children’s classes are either 30 or 45 minutes long, so I was a bit nervous for this, but I loved it! I felt like I still couldn’t get it all in and I hope they liked it as well.
My 38th birthday came and went last month. It was perfect. I have still been struggling a lot with homesickness and feeling like we are missing out on all that our family is dealing with—so much going on right now, and much of it sad. I just feel like we’re stuck on some island in the middle of nowhere with no way to participate in any of it. But on my birthday, I felt so much love. My little family here made a great fuss over me. It was actually my first day home alone with both boys in ages, as it was Steve’s first day back at work. They wore me out—holy moly! But they were great and we all went out for a quick dinner that night, which was fun.
Friends and family near and far truly made an effort to make me feel special. I even got one card in the mail! I miss mail. My sweet friends here planned a dinner out that week as well. It was all just lovely—couldn’t ask for more.
At the end of January, Drew began 2nd grade and Zach started Prep, the equivalent of Kindergarten, which is every day, all day here. They are both doing great. We just had Parent-Teacher conferences and Drew’s teacher said he needs to learn to focus—his mind is clearly moving very quickly and handling a lot, but he needs to focus on the task of learning to read and write and follow instructions. She said she’ll likely be moving him to a desk near hers, so she can keep an eye on him. (He lost his 8th tooth this morning! How that beautiful mouth is changing….) 🙂
And Zach’s teacher said he is very easygoing, never bothered by anything and pretty chilled out every day, all day. She said he has his friends he enjoys and other people like to come up and chat with him, but he doesn’t seem too concerned about them. I’m glad both our boys seem to have such good teachers, who have already figured them out after four weeks of school! Ha!
Yoga teaching has been going extremely well. I feel like my teaching improves as the length of time I’ve been teaching increases—makes sense. I’m receiving positive feedback and significant interest. Steve’s new job has been going very well also—keeping him Very busy! He is doing great at it!
My only big surprise has been my lack of time. I work very few hours now (probably less than 2 full days per week if you add it all together) and I have no kids at home for six hours a day, five days a week. I worried I would be lonely and bored, but so far, I can’t find the time to get my home projects done and am turning down social invitations—weird! I don’t get it…..
All I’ve gotten done is kept up with the yoga business, groceries, and family bills. I’ve finally had the energy to cook more these past couple weeks, but I’ve still mainly done that on weekends, like I used to. Even with cleaning, I’ve pretty much stuck to my former “routine” of Friday afternoons and/or weekends.
When I think about it, we’ve had 19 days of school and I’ve had a kid home with me five of those days. Drew’s asthma was really bad two weeks ago and he stayed home for two days. I gave Zach one day off recently because he’s been so tired with his new schedule and then he had croup last week and had to stay home two more days—he was sick on his 5th birthday, poor little man. I’ve had three baby appointments, which have taken up most of those days (incidentally–I’m 15 weeks now and the apple and I are healthy and fine). 🙂 And, I am working two days each week, basically. So, I guess that’s where all the time has gone.
I’ve also been better about knowing my limits and sticking to them with this pregnancy—I guess 3rd time’s the charm! My first day teaching two yoga classes in one afternoon tired me out so much; I didn’t do much outside the house the next day. I’ve been making sure I squeeze in a half an hour nap each day, no matter what, which still doesn’t seem like enough. I’ve cancelled coffee dates or said no to lunches when I just don’t have the energy, particularly after a sleepless night due to nausea (thankfully, those nights have been rare).
We’ve been fortunate this school term that all of our after school childcare needs are taken care of through swaps with friends. It saves us a great deal of money, even though it’s taxing on my energy levels. It’s giving me good practice at having more than two kids in the house! Currently, I watch friends’ kids Monday and Wednesday mornings before school and Wednesday afternoons. I teach Monday, Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. So pretty much all of my energy is spent on children—thankfully, they’re all beautiful! I also walk the kids to and from school as often as I can. Oh, and completely, unrelated, but I do start my adult yoga teaching training next month—I’m very excited about that!
I can’t end this without mentioning what’s been pretty constantly on my mind these last few weeks and that’s the death of my cousin. She was a distant cousin, so don’t think I’m grieving the loss of someone close to me. It’s more that I can’t stop thinking about the sadness of the situation and the unfairness of life. I think pregnancy makes me feel emotions even more deeply and I often find myself imagining how people close the situation feel, to the point where I even seem to “feel” it myself, to some degree I guess. I’m sure that sounds weird, and I think that it’s even more pronounced during pregnancy.
Anyway, the 29-year-old daughter of my Dad’s cousin went into the hospital in late October to give birth to her 2nd baby—a joyous time for all of their extremely close family. They found out she had cancer while she was there and she died last Tuesday. I cry about it so much. I think of her mother, who not only lost two of her own siblings when they were young, but now has lost a daughter. I think of her brothers and sister, who lost one of their closest friends. I think of her husband, a widow at age 30, with two young kids to care for and his life partner gone so quickly, how a celebratory time turned so tragic. I think of those poor babies, aged 3 and 4 months, who lost their mother and they don’t even know it.
I see a life insurance ad on TV and I wonder if she had some. Every time I got up to comfort and help Zach this past week, I would think about how she just has to hope someone else will do that for her babies—get up four times a night to soothe their coughs and fevers and then snuggle with them all the next day, while monitoring their fluid intake. Who does that besides a mother?
As I’ve planned what to serve at Zach’s 5th birthday party and how to make his cake, and watch his delight as he opens his presents, I think about how she has to entrust all of that to others and will never get to see it herself. When I’m trying to sleep at night, I wonder if she knew she was dying, that the treatment didn’t work and there were no more options, before she slipped away from her loved ones. I hope she knew, because I hope she had the chance to tell her loved ones about her hopes and dreams for her children, what songs her daughter likes at bedtime, her favorite outfits. Maybe she got to write them letters to open when they’re older, about what she’d love to tell them if they were old enough to understand—how it was absolutely not her choice to leave them.
I’ve been emailing a lot with another cousin who lost his mother in a car accident when he was a baby. She definitely never had that chance. I hope Angela did.
My husband and I watched a show the other night where a couple dealt with the news that their baby wouldn’t survive birth and had to deal with the loss of their hopes and dreams for a new family. He asked me if I needed to turn it off. I said I was ok, because, when I think about it, if I lost my baby, yes, it would be devastating, but I do have two children and I’d still be around to take care of them, to watch them grow, and we would move on. For two babies to lose their mother, for a mother to have to leave her babies, entrusting their love and care and growth to others, is just worse somehow……it’s heartbreaking.
I know to be thankful for what I have and I am definitely squeezing my babies and my husband tight these days. It’s just that I don’t understand why I get to raise mine and others don’t—who decides that and how? It’s just not fair.
2015. Another year begins. It’s amazing how many differences a year can bring. We rang in 2014 with sweet friends in a little mountain cabin in the snow. We rang in this year with different sweet friends at a poolside BBQ. Wow. We are blessed.
We spent the first 10 days of 2014 in Colorado enjoying the familiar comforts of close family and old, dear friends. The rest of this year afforded us two short camping trips—in April to Girraween National Park and just two weeks ago to Springbrook National Park. It’s wonderful to watch our boys develop the same love for the outdoors and for travel and adventure that we both have.
July gave us a long weekend in Noosa, one of our favorite places on earth, where we enjoyed family time exploring in the sea, on a river and on land—fantastic place. And in September we were able to spend a week up in Cairns, exploring rainforests, beaches and the Great Barrier Reef. That’s pretty incredible, I think, to be able to have getaways like that within one trip around the sun. We are very fortunate.
In March of 2014, I had a miscarriage (it is still tough to say that). In May, I became a children’s yoga teacher (it is still cool to say that). In July I ran a half marathon (who’d have ever thought?!). I also lost my part time job in a construction firm, a job I have not missed for even one day, but the loss of which has raised a slew of uncertainties and financial instability. In October I began teaching yoga at a beautiful studio in Samford, one of my favorite places around here. And in November, I got pregnant.
Yep, we are crazily expecting our 3rd child in August this year. I am only 8 weeks along, but after hearing the heartbeat and seeing my little blueberry at the doctor this week, we are starting to break the news to family and friends. I guess a few of you will find out this way (and I ask you to please only share your feelings about it with us at this time—thank you, dear ones). All 3 boys came to the ultrasound and as I watched Drew look at the screen to decipher what he was seeing, I was overcome with emotion, remembering the 1st time I saw him in those pictures, and thinking about how he now reaches up to my shoulder. A big grin spread over his face and he jumped over to the bed I was in and wrapped me up in a hug—precious little man. Steve was holding Zach, who was overwhelmed and stunned by it all. He’s not too happy to be getting a baby, but if he has to, he at least hopes it’s a boy. Drew wants a girl.
My little Drew turned 6 in 2014. He celebrated with dear and generous friends around him. In June he was hospitalized for asthma—one of the scariest experiences of my life. In September he held a treat stall to raise money to help save the Great Barrier Reef and then he got to snorkel for the first time in the waters he now cares so much about. He’s grown about 6 inches, learned to read and write, and loves to tell us facts about animals—in the water or on land, living now or from prehistoric times. He completed 1st grade, ran his first 1k, has become an excellent swimmer and discovered a great enjoyment of gymnastics. His enthusiasm and love of life inspire me; his energy amazes and exhausts me, and his bossy and sometimes downright nasty side scares me. I love that child.
Zach, our cuddly music man turned 4. Not to be outdone, he also got his first ambulance ride this year, for croup. It’s a wonder my hair’s turning gray. He completed preschool. He loves every sport he can learn about and is pretty much always singing. If there is someone in the room to cuddle with, he is with that person, and he adores learning about anything with a motor. I adore watching the new and imaginative Lego creations he brings out. His big heart and love for his family fill me up; his appreciation of the littlest things humbles me, and his rudeness and tantrums bring me to my breaking point. I love that child.
Steve worked so hard this year, supporting all of us in every way he could. He received a promotion and will head back to school this month as the Head of Special Education. He sure deserves it.
And, to close out our year, we bought a car yesterday! We spent 1 ½ years here as a one-car family with our little Corolla and the year and a half before that as a one and a half car family, with Steve using a scary, loud contraption that I wouldn’t let the kids in, to get around, mainly to work. We now have a modern Subaru outback and are just thrilled. The boys feel like rich men when they push a button and the window goes down! What I find most ironic about it, is that after leaving Boulder, I take up running, become a yoga teacher and buy a Suby—all those “typical Boulder” characteristics and I don’t get them until being out here—crazy!
So, it’s plain to see that we are blessed in every way and lack for nothing. We have just closed out a year full of learning, growth, beauty, family, friendship and love, and 2015 looks to be full of the same, as each year should be.
That is why I’m ashamed to admit that I want to go home. I know my emotions are a mess right now and I’m exhausted just getting through each day, so hopefully this will all pass. But right now, I believe that after a couple more years here, I need to be back in the U.S. I don’t even know what home looks like anymore, or if any place will ever really “feel” like home, which is ok, as long as our family unit is there, healthy and together. I just want that home to be in the U.S. somewhere.
I’m tired. I feel like I’ve done all I can do, worked as hard as I can, and it’s just too hard. It’s too far. Weddings, deaths, new additions, milestones—-sharing them virtually is just not enough. We’ve pretty much decided that the best time for us to visit this year is Christmas, which is two full years since the last visit. That’s too long. I don’t like it. It all makes me too sad.
I guess I just feel like I’ve proven myself—I’ve shown that I’m strong and that I can create a happy life for myself and for my family anywhere. But now I’ve realized that I want that happy life to be in my home country, not on a small island on the opposite side of the world. Can I live here forever? Sure, I can. I’m a mother, a woman. I can do anything. Do I really need to though?
But on the other hand, there’s so much I love about life here and would miss. The slow pace, the naturalness of it all, the time people make for each other–all of that really suits me. It’s a beautiful part of the world. But is it for me forever? If it was closer to the U.S., it very likely could be. Geographically and logistically, though, I unfortunately don’t think it should be.
My feelings worry Steve. And they scare me, too. The economy has improved in the U.S., but we’d still make so much less money and both need to work more and be around our children less to make ends meet. Is it worth it? Plus our children could get shot a school!!! Seriously?! Or have to pass through armed guards every day just to walk in and out of school. Just thinking about that makes me blood pressure increase. Why would I knowingly put my children in that situation, when I can protect them from it? Am I being selfish?
But I also believe they’d have more opportunities over there in several ways, in school and sports and opportunities for learning and exploration. I know they have roots here, but it seems like they have more there, more connections. They’d get to experience all four seasons, the mountains and the beach.
I don’t know. I understand these are the ravings of a hormonal lunatic. And it’s nothing to act on now anyway—I would never deny Steve’s new job opportunity, and have decided with him to evaluate how we both feel about it all in two years. He of course is hoping I’ll change my mind. I’m hoping for gun control and continued improvement in American teacher’s wages!
For now, I just need to get back to living in the moment and treasuring my beautiful life. This year, this month Zach starts Prep, Drew 2nd grade and Steve a new job. Hopefully, I will begin my adult yoga teacher training in March and grow professionally in ways yet unrevealed to me. And, most importantly, I get to enjoy the miracle of new life growing inside me for the last time, and prepare to meet this little one in the flesh later this year. Cheers to 2015!
Wow—ever since I last wrote about our trip (seems like ages ago), all has been well barring major homesickness on my part. I realize this has happened every year at this time, 4 years in a row now—even the very first couple months we were here. Although it was slightly less so last year, because we were planning to head over to the U.S.—we left on the 6th of December.
Fall and the winter holidays are a tough time to be away! SO much to miss! I start out missing college football Saturdays, changing leaves, and visits to pumpkin patches filled with all the wonderful fall crops—like winter squashes, gourds, hay, cornstalks, etc. I miss all those decorations in shops and people’s houses. For some reason missing those intensifies the fact that I miss country music, which is a year round thing….weird.
This year it all intensified the day of my first experience at a school fete. Fete is Australian for carnival or fair, and Drew’s school has one as its major fundraiser every other year (they say every 2nd year here—I’m just going to point some of these out to drive home that SO much is different in the way we talk!). It was a fun, interesting day, which had a great community feel to it. There were rides, unhealthy food booths (called stalls here), contests, entertainment, etc. It was really cute.
Well my head had been itchy for a week or more and we couldn’t figure out why. Steve looked at my hair a couple times and didn’t see anything abnormal, so we kind of just wrote it off to a strangely dry scalp during this very dry season, even though I’ve never had that problem before, living all my life in semi-desert climate. Again….weird. That day it itched really badly, under my hat on an extremely hot, sweaty day. After we got home and Steve was bathing the boys (still pronounced with the short “a” sound over here, which to me makes a noun into a verb and is very odd) and suddenly yelled out that Drew had head lice! He said Drew started scratching his head like crazy after he got out of the tub (a word not used here. Neither is bathe. It’s all bath—for the noun, the verb, where it takes place, etc.), so he checked him and found the bugs. We then discovered them on Zach and of course on me.
Now my only memory of lice as a child in a dry, largely bug-free climate, is waiting in line for some school employee to comb through our hair once early in my school years. That’s it. That’s what my Mom remembered as well. I knew people all around here talk about it A LOT—they’ve all had it, as kids and sometimes as parents as well, and notes have come home in school bags before, but I still naively figured it was something that Really only happened in movies. I’d heard it was more common in girls, because of their often longer hair, so just hoped we’d escape it.
Well, those nasty little bugs are Real and they are Disgusting! That night I actually caught them crawling around in my hair—I could pull one out on its own and watch it wriggling in my fingers! Terrifying! That started my complaining to Steve—he just wanted to sleep and for me to be quiet.
The next day we bought special combs, and read up on treatments online. Steve decided he’d like us to treat it naturally because the most popular treatment is a very scary known carcinogen that apparently should not be used on people under 100 pounds or under 6 years old. Yikes!
We did our treatments and thought we were doing well. Then our neighbor showed us the eggs, called nits, in the boys’ hair. They are tiny, white disgusting things that stick onto the hair shaft and are SO hard to get out! We had Multitudes of them and didn’t even know!! We shaved the boys’ heads. They needed summer haircuts anyway. Steve, too. They were fine after that—thankfully, because searching through hair for those nits plays serious mind games on me.
Mine, however, seemingly would be eradicated, but then come back every few days. I guess in my mass of hair, those nasty little nits could just hide too well and survive the natural treatments. I had an overdue haircut scheduled that I was So looking forward to (I adore getting my hair cut. That’s all I ever have done to it and I go 4 times a year.), but I had to cancel—you are not allowed to come if you have nits.
At the 3-week mark, they reappeared again; my haircut was rescheduled for a few days away and I tearfully begged for the nasty chemicals. That opened the floodgates and the homesickness just unleashed! (By the way, my terrified husband did relent and agree to the chemicals that night, when he couldn’t stop by ocean of tears; I got my hair cut the following week and I have been clear since. He even got them one day as well and used the chemicals on himself immediately. If I never do again, it will be too soon. So, so wrong and gross!)
Halloween came a week after the lice hit and I just don’t like the holiday, my formerly favorite holiday, over here. I miss it in the States A Lot! An American friend here disagrees with me, but my perspective is that it’s much more focused on scary over here and missing the cute parts, which, of course, are my favorite. I don’t like scary. I should be thrilled that it’s taken off so much here, astronomically since we arrived 3 years ago—but I’m not. I just don’t like the direction it’s heading. Most people dress up as something scary (you basically see witches, skeletons and zombies)—even the youngest children. Parents dress up little bitty kids like dead things—zombies with face paint and fake blood and all. I don’t like it.
Our town even started a safe trick-or-treat street last year and we went to that and I would see kids I recognized from school and think, “Oh, how cute—she’s a cowgirl!” Then she’d turn around and be painted like a zombie.
There’s not even much chocolate. The main candy given out now are these horrible gummy disgusting pieces of candy (lollies) shaped like body parts—ears, tongues, teeth, etc.
People still don’t trick-or-treat around their neighborhoods and several parents I talked to opt out “because their kids don’t like scary stuff and they feel they’re too young for it at this point.” These are kids aged 6 and 4 or so—the perfect age to be creative and let their imaginations run wild—the ages I feel Halloween is best for! When it’s done the way I like it anyway….
Of course the schools don’t celebrate it—as they don’t celebrate any holiday really, except for Christmas and Easter. I am sad that my kids don’t get to grow up with classroom parties for Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, etc. I’m sad there’s no such thing as Spirit Week at schools here. And, obviously no history lessons about the pilgrims and plays depicting the first Thanksgiving. They’re having a school experience that is foreign to me and I feel left out and a bit lost. Once that homesick ball starts rolling……
Thanksgiving of course, is right on the heels of Halloween, which, for obvious reasons, is non-existent and then Christmas of course is not long after. It’s a triple holiday punch in the gut! The days are getting longer and hotter, instead of shorter and cooler, but it’s not the weather differences that get to me. Christmas overall is different—from decorations to church services to community celebrations. Some are great. Some bug me. The sports are all different. I even got annoyed the other day at my sons’ new Little Athletics track and field program, just noticing how differently people dress here and the fact that they say Warm up and Warm down instead of Warm up and Cool down. So weird!
I guess the past couple months have just reinforced that I still often feel like a fish out of water (or maybe more appropriately, a marmot out of the mountains?). After three years, I thought I’d feel more like a local, would be more fluent in the language, etc. I really changed everything when we came here—I don’t even work with seniors anymore, the career I had for the 14 years of my previous working life. Sometimes it really feels like I’ve led two different, completely separate lives—there’s the American Kathleen, that no one here has met, and the Australian Mommy to Drew and Zach, that my longtime friends and family have nothing in common with. It’s such a strange feeling.
My boys now tell me when I say things “wrong.” I don’t like that. I served butternut squash the other night at dinner and they told me it’s actually called pumpkin. Bleah! It happens regularly now.
I even pulled out on the right (as in wrong) side of the road the other day—thankfully by myself in a rural area! And I sometimes still fumble with the money—forgetting that I actually have quite a bit of cash because all the $1 and $2 are in coins not bills (a word not used—it’s notes here). It makes me wonder—when do these “new” ways of doing things become ingrained enough in my brain to surpass the “old” ways?
I Really like a Lot about living here, as anyone who’s read my previous crazy ramblings knows. There’s just So much I miss as well. No easy fix.
Thanksgiving, although again bringing feelings of homesickness, was really beautiful for us here last weekend. It’s odd that there’s no public holiday, but we were able to bring together pretty much every other part-American family we’ve met over here to share a traditional dinner and the Saturday evening was just fantastic. It was people who feel just like me and we were all together, making the most of our holiday, despite missing loved ones and traditions. Just gorgeous.
And, overall, things have been really good, and I have nothing to complain about. It’s been a bit tight financially getting this new yoga business going, but not bad as business has grown steadily, and I do really enjoy it as well. Steve earned a temporary promotion that will impact our finances in a big way next year, and allows us to get a 2nd, more spacious car.
The boys are doing really well. Zach finishes preschool next week and is all set to be a big kindergartner (Preppie) next year. They are both becoming great swimmers and Drew had his school swimming carnival yesterday (what we would call a swim meet, but for every kid in the school—it’s just fantastic).
For the most part, I feel I do a better job focusing on the positive and being thankful for the amazing abundance in my life. But it does help just to vent sometimes……of course as parents, we keep a brave, happy face always for our kids, and it’s nice to get it out here in my blog, and then put the smile back on and keep plugging along, working it out as I go.
I need to recap our trip! Late last month, our family had the incredible opportunity to fly to tropical northern Queensland for a weeklong family vacation. I mentioned previously that this probably wasn’t the smartest move for us financially, but the decision brought about incredible beauty thanks to my son’s little fundraiser. Well, when the time actually came to embark on our adventure, we were excited and ready!
First, to catch up—the week following Drew’s fundraiser was great. He gave a follow-up radio interview, which, in my completely unbiased opinion, was super adorable. School wrapped up that Friday for a 2 ½ week break and on Saturday, Drew and Zach ran in their first 1k race with me, while Steve did a 5k. It was a beautiful course, right on the bay, in the evening, and it was an all-around fun day, and a great start to the first time we were ALL actually off together for the school holiday break since our trip to the U.S. last year.
On one of the days we squeezed in a fun little family hike and picnic nearby and otherwise, just enjoyed time to relax, catch up with some friends and prepare.
We were fortunate to have a wonderful friend drive us to and pick us up from the airport, so on Wednesday morning, the 24th of September, we were off! It sounds silly, but one of the purposes of this trip, for me at least, was to show the boys that you can fly in an airplane and arrive at your destination quite quickly; air travel does not necessarily involve saying good-bye to the outside world for 30 hours or so. And I’m glad we did! At the Brisbane airport, Zach asked, “Mommy, will it be nights until we get there?” I replied, “Zach, we will be there by dinnertime!”
Upon landing in Cairns, after the two-hour flight, I told Drew, “Ok, now we’re at this airport for 4 hours and then we get on another plane for 15 hours.” He said, “15 hours?!” I said, “Ha-ha! Nope! We’re here! We’re done! That’s it.” We headed to our little apartment, settled in, shopped for our meals for the next few days and even fit in a short nighttime swim.
The next morning, we got up and out (Zach asked—“Why do we only have one choice of cereal? We’re supposed to have 3!” The child LOVES routine….) and took a Sky Rail ride up over the rainforest, stopping off a few times for short walks and overlooks before arriving in an adorable hilltop rainforest town called Kuranda. We wandered around there awhile, browsing the markets and village and when we were finished, we boarded a scenic railway train for the trip back down into Cairns. Drew had been very excited for one of the hairpin turns the train would make, but the poor boys had been so excited and constantly moving, that the lull of the moving train just sent them to sleep. It was a great day capped off by a quiet dinner in our apartment.
The next day was THE big day! We had to leave by 7:15 that Friday morning to get over to the pier to catch our boat out to Fitzroy Island, a gorgeous tropical island right on the Great Barrier Reef. When we arrived, we took some time to figure out the day’s plan and I found two brochure checklists to give Drew—one on Marine Life and the other on Island Life. What a great find! He spent hours both before and after snorkeling marking which animals he wanted to see, then what he did see. He still has them both and was even using them to type each fish into Google to get an image of it and decide if he saw it or not.
We then boarded another boat, this time with a glass bottom, to head out and see some of this Reef! Our skipper gave us facts along the way and when he asked questions, our little Science Dude, shoots up his hand like he’s in school “Oohoohoohh!” The question was “What’s the difference between a manta ray and a stingray?” The skipper was surprised to see a little guy so excited to answer, and started to answer himself before he stopped and let him. “A manta ray is larger, and doesn’t have a tail with a stinging barb.” You are correct, sir!
We didn’t see much through the glass, but we eventually stopped and were all able to get off and snorkel. Little Drew was so excited and stayed out in the water the entire time. He was absolutely thrilled with all we saw, including a green sea turtle snacking on some plants. Zach kept getting water in his mask and wasn’t much of a fan of snorkeling, but a lovely Frenchman let us borrow a kickboard he’d rented from the dive shop that had a clear viewing section at the top. It allowed me to drag Zach around while he laid on it and looked down at the fish. Lazy boy loved that idea! And of course, for everything anyone else saw, Zach saw 10 of them! 😉
After that trip, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and some relaxing meandering before snorkeling again, this time right off the beach. Again, it was gorgeous! And again, we couldn’t get Drew out of the water. It filled our hearts. It truly was a beautiful day in paradise.
We didn’t get home that evening until 6:30 and after hastily making an easy dinner, we got to bed. Tired out!
The next day, Saturday, we took it a bit easier. The boys and I relaxed at the hotel after a quick morning swim (I’d jogged first along the Esplanade through Cairns, which ran right along the shore—fantastic!) while Steve picked up our rental car for the remainder of the trip. We then leisurely headed down to his cousins’ house, south of Cairns. They were delightful people and made us a big lunch that afternoon and yummy dinners and breakfasts over the two days we stayed with them.
That afternoon we went out exploring a bit and wandered along the stunningly gorgeous Mission Beach. We then drove around a bit and Steve really wanted us all to do a short hike. We found a quiet picnic area with a sign for a 10-minute Children’s Walk and decided to do that. Along the way we had been learning a lot and seeing several signs about cassowaries and hoped to see one, in a safe way, because they sounded scary….
It was about 5:30 in the evening and I’d heard you are more likely to see them (as with most animals) at that time of day, so I was already a bit apprehensive. But a 10-minute walk…..what could go wrong? We hit the trail and I felt like I had walked into a scene from Jurassic Park. The area was called “Licuala,” after the rare palm that grows there. The plant was beautiful, but looked like it would have grown where dinosaurs lived. The foliage was VERY dense, and it seemed to get darker quickly as we got farther along the trail.
Suddenly, Steve heard some rustling and stopped us. About 200 meters down the trail, a cassowary stepped out of the bush! I instinctively grabbed my camera to get a photo before it crossed the trail out of sight again. Well, it didn’t. It turned towards us! Then it started walking towards us! Steve calmly and loudly told us to remain calm and begin backing up. We did and the giant dinosaur-bird kept walking towards us. We kept backing up and gradually picked up speed. So did the cassowary! I don’t know that I will ever get rid of the vision in my head that I can see so clearly when I close my eyes, of a giant, dinosaur-looking bird with a blue head and a crest on the top, taller than me, walking on two legs (no arms! So weird!), its beady eyes looking straight into mine and its beak pointing at me, and then its giant bird feet lifting up higher as it started trotting!! I started babbling like an insane person. We’d gotten the kids behind us, between us and the bird, and I just kept saying, over and over, “It’s ok. We’re not going to hurt you. Don’t touch my babies!” It looked like it understood me! But I couldn’t tell if it agreed or not!
Thankfully, we had only gotten a couple hundred meters down the trail to begin with, so our backing up finally got us back into the small, deserted, dirt parking area. We went the direction of our car and dinosaur-bird went in a different direction. Phew!
I asked Steve if he felt safe taking a photo and he said he did and went back towards it to get one. That’s when Drew finally started crying—“Daddy! Come back!” I have to say how proud I am of my boys. I cannot believe that Drew at least didn’t scream and start running when that thing first walked in our direction. They stayed calm and followed our lead and I am so glad this story ended the way it did!
As we drove back to the house, I cranked up some loud, upbeat music and I could see the tension draining from Drew’s face as he sang. He even closed his eyes and it was clear he was just relishing life at that moment. God love him—the kid just “gets it.”
Steve’s cousins laughed at us that evening. They figured either people feed the cassowary and it was looking for food from us, or it was just headed back to its roost for the evening and bumped into a weird foursome as it made its way. Either way, it traumatized me for the remainder of the trip. I had nightmares that evening (partially because they told me stories of how they’re the only birds known to kill humans and have ripped people apart before with their clawed feet!!), and since, we were now heading into crocodile-country, basically refused to go outside after dark or early in the mornings for the remainder of the trip. Can you blame me?!
Sunday we had another slower day. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast with the family and then they took us exploring their land and the nearby sugar cane farms. Sugar cane is the primary crop in the area. Steve’s cousin drives a train that brings the harvested cane to the sugar mill for processing. We visited the outside of the mill and watched the trains unload the cane. Then we made a short stop to see the Big Gumboot in Tully. For whatever reason, Australian tourist towns like to have a “Big” something. There is a Big Pineapple, a Big Avocado, a Big Prawn, etc. The Big Gumboot is to support Tully’s claim to fame as the town with the most rain in Australia.
We then split off on our own to enjoy a small town pub lunch. I saw an article once written by a young American student who studied in Australia for a year and said American restaurants could learn from Australian restaurants about providing healthy, fresh options. She was clearly not from Boulder and at the time I read her article, I was shocked, because I have been disgusted by children’s menus in this area and so few options in several restaurants that do not involve meat and/or breading. However, this meal reminded me that she is actually correct. Although the menu is small—this was a tiny town, basically in the middle of nowhere, one pub (restaurant), one shop and that’s it—there was one choice of salad and it included roasted pumpkin (squash), fresh avocado and sunflower seeds and was delicious! I realized that if I were to go to a restaurant in the middle of the Midwest or Deep South, with nothing else around, the salad would likely be either a basic green salad, not very enticing, or a fatty Caesar salad. To be able to get this quality of food in the middle of nowhere is a definite treat.
By this time, poor Drew was so tired that he could not get through his lunch. I have not seen him that tired in a long time! We drove around and the boys napped and then we stopped next to a river full of local kids swimming. It was great! Drew followed the big kids who were jumping off the road bridge across the river into the deeper water, while Zach stayed safely with me, cheering. The boys loved it! Easy entertainment.
We then killed some time wandering around a pretty nothing tourist attraction before heading back to the house for a relaxing evening. Once again, Drew was so tired; he started crying just before dinner and couldn’t stop. Instead he fell asleep—for the night. Bless his heart. He goes so hard and then crashes so hard.
After a relaxing Monday morning, we drove off, heading back north of Cairns again, saying good-bye to the sweet family we stayed with. We were advised to visit another family member working at a warehouse where sugar is stored before being exported. It was quite interesting watching the trucks dump their loads of sugar and seeing the giant sugar mountain in storage.
We took it easy the rest of the day, driving around and exploring a couple beach towns before checking into our final apartment and going out to dinner—such a treat! We had a great evening together.
Tuesday was our final full day and our final BIG day. We headed off to a National Park called Mossman Gorge. It was a beautiful, rocky, forested area with creeks flowing through big boulders (reminded me of Colorado in a way). We started a short hike and Drew began to cry and refused to go. He’d seen cassowary signs again and was scared to come across one again on a trail. I told him how I’ve been enjoying hiking in the woods since I was a young girl; it’s one of the only ways to see the most beautiful parts of the world, and I was scared, too (I was!), but determined not to let one giant-dinosaur-bird keep me out of the woods! I told him that when I used to hike in areas where grizzly bears lived, we would sing and make lots of noise on the trails to make sure the animals knew we were there.
Zach readily started singing with me (He didn’t know what the fuss was all about. At the time of the cassowary incident, once we were back in the car, he’d said, “That was cool! I want to see 10 cassowaries!” Spoken like a 4-year-old….). Drew nervously held Steve’s hand and walked ahead with him. A few songs in, he shyly came back to me with his eyes shining with trust and bravery, slipped his hand in mine and started singing. I almost cried! Not much later, he was running around, exploring everything, back to his usual enthusiastic self. It was one of those experiences that made it hit home how much I love parenting, challenges and all. The reality that we get to share life with these beautiful little people and learn and grow with them is a true miracle.
After our successful hike we drove further north and hopped on a boat to cruise down the Daintree River looking for crocodiles. We saw two, one baby and one big one. The overall cruise was fantastic, as our skipper taught us so much about the crocodiles, which are truly amazing animals, and we also saw a brown tree snake, numerous unique birds and more of our absolute favorite blue Ulysses butterfly—gorgeous, sparkling brilliant blue creatures flitting amongst the trees.
We enjoyed a relaxing final night in our apartment. Steve and I both jogged the next morning, attempting to run barefoot, due to a truly interesting book we’ve both recently read called “Born to Run.” I am better in the mornings, so took my turn first. It was a gray day and I was still a wimpy scaredy cat that couldn’t handle being out so early with few people around, near wooded creek areas near the coast and seeing crocodile warning signs. I skittered around nervously for a bit on sore feet and finally found an open stretch of beach with lots of people around and jogged a few kilometers.
After packing up, we visited a mellow “locals” beach in Cairns, where the boys swam, but I refused because the water was sandy and murky and there were signs around about all the different lethal jellyfish. Such a big talker about bravery in front of my kids! Honestly, when it comes to land and water, I am quite comfortable on one and a completely misplaced alien in the other! We enjoyed a picnic lunch and then swam in the free pool in the center of town, which was in a beautiful spot. Then we left for the airport and that was it—what a fantastic trip!
I love that although the kids still have their tantrums and issues traveling, with each trip they are becoming more fun and easier to travel with. We all get crabby and have our moments, but going on adventures with our boys at these ages is quite fun! They love being with us, exploring and seeing new things. It’s great! So what if we’re a bit low on cash now; we just made memories to last our lifetimes.
Since we’ve been back, the boys began their final terms of school—Drew’s last couple months in first grade and Zach’s last in preschool, meaning my last time enjoying three days with him each week before he begins full time school next year. Waahhh! I’ve been quite sappy about my babies growing up so fast. Drew lost tooth #7 last week and because of a student-free day at his school this week, he and I got to enjoy a gorgeous one on one day together. I think we both really cherished that time—just fantastic and more and more rare these days.
Hooray for a Mommy and Drew Day![/caption]
He also has been experimenting with which outside school activity he’d like to do this term, in addition to yoga with me and swimming lessons. He checked out a fantastic program called Little Nippers, where kids aged 6-17 learn ocean survival and swimming skills and how to rescue others, in the hopes that they become lifeguards one day. I learned that ALL Australian coast lifeguards are volunteers—fascinating! Although I don’t fully understand, with such big government, why doesn’t it fund paid lifeguards…?? The program seems great, but more interesting when he’s at least 10 years old, we think.
Both boys also tried out another fascinating program called Little Athletics, where kids aged 3-17 meet weekly to practice track and field events. They loved it! There are at least 100 kids and most of the activities are run by parent volunteers. There is no actual coaching, but it’s a great introduction to sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, etc. They have both signed up for that, which will be a fun adventure. I can’t think of any similar program in the States, to introduce kids to track and field at such young ages, and Steve agreed and wondered why Australia isn’t better in competitions on the world stage in these events. We decided it’s because of high school—in the States, most school have their own track and a dedicated track and field team with paid coaches, practicing at least five days a week, with competitions almost weekly during the season. Here, this program is about it, with just a few additional ways to get more training and coaching as kids get older, partly dependent on where they go to school. That was our answer at least….not sure if we’re right.
I am teaching SEVEN yoga classes per week, a huge increase for me. While I have been a bit panicked this month about low numbers in my classes, they seem to be picking up nicely these past couple weeks, and we have high hopes for this new venture being financially viable and fulfilling one of my passions at the same time—wow, how lucky if we can do that in our lives!
If I ever start to worry about the future of our world, what our children will grow up to live with and deal with, I can look back on this beautiful day and feel at ease again. Today we witnessed everything that is good and beautiful in our world and we saw that with kids like these growing up, it should be a good place, likely better than it is now. We held a fundraiser today to Save the Great Barrier Reef, at the suggestion of my 6-year-old son. This simple treat stand outside our house brought out such beauty and kindness that my heart and soul are simply overflowing and I need to share the story here, so that we never forget.
I am continually reminded that there is a greater being than all of us overseeing everything. Call it the Universe; call it God; call it what you will, but it is there. Steve and I have decided that we want to take one “big” family trip each year and do whatever we can to make that happen. Last year was our beautiful trip back home to Colorado and also sightseeing in Texas. In late July, even though I’d recently been laid off from my part time job, we decided to take the family to Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef. We settled on the September school holidays and started planning a weeklong trip.
My redundancy payout ran out the last week of August and we had a serious budget meeting and started to panic a little bit. I wondered a bit why we were as stupid as to plan a trip when I’d just lost a job. We knew that we’d forgo nonessential shopping, buying decent furniture, some out of the house entertainment, etc., because we’ve decided that experiences are more important to us at this point in our lives. But even with all of that, this still seemed a bit reckless.
However, our excitement mounted, because, when we told the boys the plan, they lit up and Drew started researching it in every way he could. Being part of his thirst for learning can be exhausting at times, but it is also incredible. He checked out books from his school library and asked us to read not bedtime stories to him at night, but rather facts about specific species of fish found near the Reef. He looked up videos and photos on the computer. He read on his own whatever he could find and asked questions. He just can’t learn enough about it.
At one point, he coincidentally saw a bit on the kids’ channel evening news about the Reef being in danger. He asked Steve if this was true and when he learned it was, he said, “Well, we should raise money to save it.” I started making dinner that evening and he burst through the kitchen (everything he does is big and fast and he never stops moving until he crashes hard at the end of each day), grabbed a couple oranges from the fridge and asked where my juicer was. When I told him to settle down, Steve told me to listen to his reason why. Drew said, “I need to make some orange juice to go sell on the corner to raise money to save the Reef.”
Wow. Ok. I told him that while I thought that was an incredible idea, he was not doing it tonight. He wouldn’t make any money and it’d be a waste of time and resources. However, I admired what he was trying to do and said we would follow through on it; we’d sit down in the coming days, have a family meeting and plan out when to hold a stand so that he could raise some money. Steve and I acknowledged that this was a teachable moment—it was a good way for him to learn how to plan and carry out an idea and event, and we wanted him to see that one person can make a difference. Since he often does have a pretty short attention span, and switches often from interest to interest, I thought there was a high probability that he’d forget about the idea now that he wasn’t enacting his plan immediately, and move on.
He didn’t. He kept after me, asking when our family meeting was to plan his treat stand. We sat down together one weekend in late August and picked a weekend. We decided on a Sunday morning at 9:00 because the church across the street held mass at 8:00, and he could get some decent traffic as people walked back to their cars afterward. We assigned jobs to each family member—he and I together wrote letters explaining what he was doing and asking local shops to donate some food and supplies. With the help of a conservationist friend, we researched various groups and picked an organization to donate our funds to. We contacted the Australian Marine Conservation Society (ACMS) to let them know and they were lovely. They got back to us right away and said they’d send some bookmarks, brochures, and stickers for him to pass out. He was thrilled!
We wrote to the local paper, hoping they’d include it in their weekly events section. He and Steve designed fliers; Steve printed them and then they, along with Zach and our gorgeous little neighbor friends, walked around the block putting them in mailboxes. I took him to the shops one afternoon after school and helped him practice what to say, and he handed out his letters and asked for donations. Oboys Fruit & Vegetable shop told him they’d donate some carrots and a young employee took a liking to him and offered to make homemade bliss balls for him to sell (they ended up also giving us potatoes and oranges!). Woolworths, the large chain grocery store got back to us the next day and said they’d donate a $20 gift card for him to buy supplies. He didn’t hear back from the two other shops we tried. That’s ok. He’s learning that you win some; you lose some and you appreciate the kindness people show.
He also brought his fliers to his class at school and his incredible teacher (this woman should make millions—she epitomizes what teachers should strive to be) arranged for him to meet with the school principal to ask about speaking at the school assembly.
The weekend before the event was absolutely crazy for us—it was too much, really, but everyone tolerated it well until Sunday night when, once again, Zach couldn’t stop coughing and we ended up in the Emergency Room. It was a quick visit and we were home with one medication, but everyone was so tired that I decided to not only keep Zach home from school on Monday, but Drew as well, just to give us all a chance to rest.
Well, the paper called that morning. Not only were they going to mention his stand, they wanted to learn more about it, and the fact that he was home that day, allowed them to speak to him directly. The article was printed that Wednesday in the little Northwest News.
And then things blew up and the power of social media reigned supreme! ACMS emailed me again that they’d seen the article and were inspired by his passion. They’d put the article on their Facebook page and were trying to organize a volunteer to come help us on the day—passing out information, answering questions, etc. They told me Fight for the Reef was putting the article on their page as well. I went to those pages out of curiosity and saw they have over 50,000 followers each. Those posts had over 200 “likes” each and over 50 “shares”. I started reading comments from perfect strangers and just sitting on my couch crying, reading all this surprise praise for my son, and even for us as a family. It was mind blowing!
Then the school called. A local AM radio talk show had contacted them and wanted to speak to Drew. He ended up getting to gymnastics late that afternoon because he talked to them first. Then they put the interview and a write up of it on their Facebook page and website!
Steve and I of course started sharing all this stuff as well and so did some of our friends. Then school friends just started offering help. People just would come up to me and tell me they’d bake cookies or muffins and bring them by. Wow—ok–thank you!
On Friday he did speak at his school assembly and, of course I’m biased, but I think he rocked it! I can’t believe his confidence speaking alone in front of people at 6 years old! I sure didn’t have that then. Then those same organizations shared his flier on their Facebook pages, reminding people to show up on Sunday. More friends kept offering baked goods—even the office coordinator at the ACMS emailed that she’d bake muffins and bring them by. At school that afternoon, his whole class along with their 6th grade buddies made signs for the event (of course, coordinated by this extraordinary teacher). We received 22 “Save the Reef” signs to bring home and hang up.
Sunday arrived and it couldn’t have gone better. Our little corner filled up that morning with school friends, homemade baked goods, and fish-themed t-shirts. And signs—so many signs, so much beautiful kid artwork! Friends offered tents and tables and Steve and I both made sure to keep it a kid-led and kid-organized event. ACMS showed up and brought Drew a t-shirt that said “Sea Guardian” on the back! He changed into it immediately!
Strangers kept coming through telling us they’d seen it on Facebook, or some in the local paper. Classmates and their families came by. We had a steady stream of people and about five 6-7-year-olds remained fully focused and committed to their tasks for nearly 2 hours! Adults helped, chatted, met each other, took photos—strangers wanted their photo taken with Drew and his sign! People thanked us for doing something to bring the community together, commented on how beautiful it was seeing kids working together for a good cause. And it was—it was SO, SO good! You just couldn’t help but smile.
He raised over $450! From a treat stand! The ACMS is thrilled and blown away!
We wanted to show our son that one person can make a difference. I think he learned that he can and I hope that stays with him forever and he never becomes cynical and doubtful. But I also hope he learned that it’s the support of the community you are a part of that really make big things happen. He is truly surrounded by an incredible community. I hope he learned that it’s showing kindness to others and really getting involved in the community around you that bring the greatest rewards. I think he knows that. He loves his people. And he knows that it’s not just about what’s local; it’s global. His grandparents in Colorado donated and his uncles and friends in the States also showed tremendous support. A cousin even tried to get him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!
So it’s ok that we planned a trip when we really didn’t have the money to be planning trips. It’s ok, because look what resulted from that reckless act by Steve and I to focus more on experiences than “stuff” and finances! And you know what, the week after our panicked budget discussion, I was able to secure three additional yoga classes per week at a beautiful yoga studio in Samford (my goal was two more per week, as long as each of my classes are well attended—we’ll work on that!). I’ll be part of an incredible, kind team of people who seem as excited to have me and kids classes on their schedule as I am to be there and join them. I also got a new freelance writing project from a client I hadn’t heard from in two months, out of the blue.
Yeah. It’s ok. We took a leap of faith by planning the trip, another one by planning this fundraiser and another one by committing to these yoga classes. Beautiful things can happen when you take that leap, not always, of course, but they can happen. And you never get to witness them unless you actually leap. Life’s not about being careful and scared. It’s about going for it, giving as much as you can and LIVING!
As with previous “big” (to me) races I’ve done since we moved to Australia, finishing my recent half marathon has provoked quite a bit of reflection on my part. I still can’t believe I did it! I ran 21.1 kms/13.2 miles without stopping, in just under 2 hours and 10 minutes—over TWO hours of running without stopping! I feel so proud of myself and it’s made me think a lot about this journey.
I have run on and off throughout my life, but for whatever reason, it never really stuck. I was always more of a gym rat. When we moved here nearly three years ago, jogging was the initial way Steve and I would give each other breaks from our super young kids during that chaotic initial month. I could jog for about 10 minutes and then I’d walk another 20. As I slowly increased to being able to run the entire 30 minutes, I started to really enjoy the feelings of pride and strength that feat brought.
Steve started working and I kept with my jogging, that and my blog becoming the only things over here at that time that were “mine,” what I created, what I did. For whatever reason, running has really stuck this time. It’s saved us money by not joining a gym, but I still pay more for yoga classes than I ever did on a gym membership in the States. Jogging is no longer something I’d want to replace with anything else.
That first Christmas here, feeling so lonely and isolated, I set goals for myself—none of them were about us as a family; they were purely MY goals. I don’t know if that’s bad or good, but I do feel it was related to a feeling of lost identity brought to the forefront by this move.
One of those goals was to run a 10k. Running for an hour at a time sounded so hard and like an incredible accomplishment to me. I not only accomplished it in June, but I did another one in September. They were both amazing, because they both relayed what blessings I had in this new life, blessings that were not really new—I just needed to remember them I think. The first two races I ran (the first 10k and the 5k I did in April as preparation), Steve helped tremendously by getting the boys up super early and driving us all to the start lines, and then watching them for the duration of the race and celebrating all together afterward. As I watched him do all that, I realized what a wonderful sacrifice it was for him to make, and a great way to encourage me in this new venture of ours. He never balked, never questioned it.
And my boys! They are the best cheerleaders ever! Drew, who had just turned 4, was so excited as I came into the home stretch of the 10k, that he jumped out on the track in his jammies and fleece jacket and ran the last 200 meters with me—it was gorgeous! When I finished I hoisted them both into my arms for a photo I will treasure forever. With each subsequent big race, I’ve done the same, although now I can barely get Drew off the ground! It’s just the sentimentality of it….
The 2nd run, I was able to join new friends. In line with the friend stalker I’ve become, I met a woman at a party for my husband’s friend, who told me she was running this upcoming race with her friend, and I asked if I could come along—no shame! This one was in the evening, and again, my boys were there supporting me, but it was special in a different way to be there with someone I knew, a new friend.
I never thought I’d run farther than that, never thought I’d want to, but the next year, I started thinking more and more about it. Another Mom I’d met at a playgroup told me about an 8k she was running with her cousin on Mother’s Day and I again asked if I could join them. That was fun because it was less effort for Steve—he was able to stay home later with the boys and come to see the finish line, because I got to travel to the starting line with the two ladies.
I also told them about the 14k I was planning to sign up for and they decided to join as well, so we got to repeat the experience the following month. That was a fun, gorgeous course through Brisbane and a truly invigorating run! And seeing my boys cheering as I get near the finish just fires up my soul! That year’s experience being planned and coordinated with new friends here felt really good.
I felt so good doing that run that I wondered what a half marathon would take, but I was too tired from that commitment to training to keep it up to try to do one that year. I toyed with the idea once this year started, but just couldn’t decide and we did want to have another baby…..
Well, once I had the miscarriage, that sealed it in my mind. We had to wait a few months before trying again anyway, and it seemed like the perfect time, especially because I needed something that made me feel strong and in control and accomplished. I did the early bird sign up so I wouldn’t change my mind down the road.
The long Sunday training runs are a tough commitment, I think even more so with a young family. However, I truly enjoyed that time out learning more about my local area and being outside exercising, that time to myself to think and process. It became daunting at times, because I realized that, as mothers, we are not really in control of our training schedule. When kids get sick and aren’t sleeping, we aren’t sleeping; we put off our goals to tend to our dear ones and we don’t mind it.
My little Drew’s hospitalization was right in the middle of this training and he is still not himself, so we’ve had some bumpy weeks. I felt a lot of guilt at times, because while I truly wanted to help him and do what was best for him, I also really wanted to finish this race! I imagine that sounds terrible to many mothers I know who completely devote themselves to their children and don’t take up any conflicting hobbies/passions/schedules, but try as I may, I’m just not that kind of mother, and I’ve realized now that I never will be. I think I can be a pretty good mother at times, not so good at other times, but I wouldn’t be good at all if I didn’t have MY stuff to focus on. Now that I know that about myself and own that, I’m more comfortable with it.
I don’t know too many people around here anymore who run. The mother I did the races with last year moved. The few I do know couldn’t do this run, but I did find out my neighbor decided to run it at the last minute. It was fun seeing someone I knew at the starting line, but for the most part, this time it was all me.
We stayed at a hotel near the course the night before, and this time, I was confident enough (although scared, too!) to drive myself to the starting line (only after Steve helped me practice the day before!). After parking and walking over to the race area in the early morning dark, my eyes filled with tears for some reason. I just started thinking about all I’d been through with this move, every step of this journey that had brought me to that starting line, and I filled with pride—in myself! I also thought about my 3 beautiful sleeping boys in the hotel, doing so much to support and encourage me, about my family who was thinking of me far away, and about the friends far away who’d been sending me support and advice online and I was overcome by how loved I felt, and how proud, and how excited.
This was an incredibly beautiful course, right along the water. We got to watch the sun rise during those early kms, and overall I had a great time. My boys were at the 5km mark and when I saw their beautiful bundled up faces, I felt thrilled. After 16kms, I did start feeling really tired. A part of me wishes, that with all the training and preparing I’d done, that I would have felt a big stronger and energized in those final kms. But that’s where parenting comes in and where we can’t control the amount of rest we get, and that’s ok, because that’s my life as well. Together, as a family, we take care of each other; we support each other and we are there for each other when it’s important. None of the 4 of us fell at all in those duties during this venture, and together, we all did it.
At some point, I’d like to record more about what’s going on this month—with my little man’s health and with my new routine now that I’ve been officially made redundant, but now is not the time. Will I ever run another half? Maybe. I think I’d like to someday. Will I ever try a full marathon? Doubtful, but you never know…..I do love to run! I love that time, time just for me, outside, being healthy—in mind, body and spirit. Today has been about a chance to reflect and to celebrate—I did it! I ran a half marathon!!! I am a mother and I am a runner! I am strong! And I have a beautiful, supportive, fun family and group of friends—they fuel me. My cup truly overflows.