It has been a quiet start to 2012 for us. A few experiences early in the week continued to make it hit home to me how different it is to celebrate these holidays in a different culture. The first was when Steve relieved me Tuesday morning to do the grocery shopping solo. It was still a public holiday—because the 26th was Boxing Day, the 27th was the holiday for Christmas Day. The shopping center was a madhouse, and I pulled out of my parking spot onto the wrong side of the aisle! I was consciously thinking about getting onto the correct side, so it is amazing how much of driving is really habit. I still get nervous every time I cross a street on foot—-namely because I just can’t get into my head which direction the cars are going to be coming from, but also because Australian drivers will mow you down! There is NO deference to pedestrians here—even a mother walking with a preschooler on a scooter and a toddler in a stroller. If you’re not in a designated crosswalk, look out! Yikes!
Another funny experience came later in the afternoon, when Steve took the boys out with me in a rainstorm to get meat and produce. I took Drew and we walked right into the ‘fruit shop’ because the doors were open and I had seen someone paying at the register, even though something felt odd and the outside containers were moved inside, clogging up the aisles. I figured that was because of the rain. When I realized most of the stock was completely missing and/or cases covered up, I finally asked one of the employees if we were allowed to be in there. He told me they had closed 20 minutes ago at 3:00, because of the public holiday. I felt so stupid! They were nice enough to let us finish our shopping, but it was awkward! Steve and Zach were next door at the butcher, which supposedly was closing at 4:00, but the staff were already mopping the floors, trying to get out as early as possible, so people were slipping and falling over—including poor Drew. An example of how much things shut down here.
On Wednesday, I bravely drove the boys to a huge shopping center in a town farther away that I had been nervous to do on my own—but we needed to get out on our own finally! It went amazingly well, aside from the fact that Zach decided to leave the shopping center walking on his knees—such a crack up! And, thankfully, the post office finally reopened, so we could do some business there as well.
When Steve got home on Thursday, we were again able to enjoy almost 3 full days together, as a family. It felt like almost everyone we knew was on vacation somewhere, but we had a great time, experiencing fun things locally on Steve’s days off during this holiday period. First, we went to some nearby rainforest gardens and walked up to the top of ‘Mount’ Cotton, then enjoyed a picnic in the gardens. We saw great views of the hills, the water and the outlying islands, and enjoyed the beautiful foliage and the cool lizards! (It is worth mentioning that the first place we tried to go to that day—was closed! Closed the 23rd, reopening January 3rd)
On Friday, we drove almost two hours to Lamington National Park, another rainforest area. There are wild birds, commonly called lorikeets, but these two species were Australian King Parrot and Crimson Rosella, that land on your head and arms when you offer them the Park-approved bird seed. They are beautiful green, purple and red birds and it is such a novel experience. I had been there twice, but watching the boys’ delight made it feel like a first experience all over again. We also did a “treetop walk” along suspension bridges hung among the tops of these dense trees. I think I was more nervous than the boys.
On Saturday it felt good to do a last jog along the water for the year, and then Steve made us breakfast on the bbq—an Aussie specialty! We took the boys to a nearby beach for the day and again, they loved playing in the water, as well as in a spray park and playground. I made a lot of picnic lunches this week! Steve surprised me with a comment that it would be nice to do something like this with some friends. It hit me then that he is feeling a bit lonely too. I was always so happy to have him around on his days off, a companion and another adult to talk to, that I had completely missed the fact that we had spent almost all of his off time during these celebratory weeks, JUST the four of us. It will be nice when we have all established more of a network, and can spend more time with others outside of our little unit of four.
We cooked a nice dinner on the bbq that evening and then held an impromptu New Year’s Eve party in the backyard. Steve took a few noisemakers from his parents’ house and we put on music and danced. Drew had me doing somersaults and cartwheels through the yard. Then we counted down to the New Year—at approximately 6:45 p.m.! We danced more, gave a toast, gave each other hugs and kisses, made noise and Steve gave the boys sparklers. It was great fun! One of the things I love about being a parent of children this age, is that you can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, and they just thrill in being a part of it, doing something different and being together. It was beautiful.
Steve and I stayed up too late watching movies two nights in a row, so although I didn’t do any true New Year’s Eve partying, between that and still not getting much sleep due to Zach’s lingering cough (he’s much better, but it’s been waking him up early in the mornings now), I felt exhausted on New Year’s Day, and pretty bored and lonely again while Steve was at work. The boys were challenging, but we all still had fun. I used to always see ideas in magazines that looked fun to try with kids, but was always so busy and crazed, I never could. Now I can! So, that is how I find ways to keep us entertained! We took a nature walk that afternoon and they enjoyed collecting all sorts of leaves, flowers, etc., and I dyed their bath water blue with food coloring, which completely amazed them. Drew pretended they were taking a bath in the sky—how cool is that?!
Steve got home at 10 this morning, and on our way back from grocery shopping and running errands, we saw a bookshelf in a front yard—for free! So, now we have a bookshelf! I cannot express how excited I am to start shopping for our own place and accumulating all the furniture and basics we need to put a home together again—it is such a wonderful feeling. We will start making calls tomorrow on rentals—yippee! We left our house on August 29th, and had to start packing it up and getting rid of things back in June, so it has been a long time of being in other people’s space and not having our own stuff and home. We are ready!