Tag Archives: children

Education Frustration

About a week ago, my middle son brought home a letter from school, which, at first glance, made me happy. It started out praising his proficiency in math and writing and then invited him to participate in an extension program for selected students. It described how well known this program is and what a wonderful opportunity it would be for him, such a privilege to be included. Boy, my head was swelling with pride!
But then it said the program would take place at 8:00 a.m., two days a week at school over the next 12 weeks. Hang on. School doesn’t start until 8:45! Why is Zach being “invited” in early twice a week for additional work in these subjects if he’s already doing so well? Knowing my active, sporty, nearly 8-year-old boy, he wasn’t going to see this as a privilege—more like a punishment. Sure enough—he did. He chose not to participate.
Also, it seemed like a punishment for the whole family. How was I going to get him to school that early twice a week and balance that with my other two children and my job? My kids want to participate in almost every program we learn about, so we limit their extracurricular activities. He is signed up for his maximum already this term, as he is every term. If we were going to add in additional learning programs, we would have needed to know about them in advance, and he would have had to cut something else out.
The letter closed by stating how the school greatly looked forward to sharing this special program with my son. No sign-up option was mentioned. So, naturally, we just skipped it. I intended to email his teacher with my displeasure that the program was offered outside school hours and make clear that, in my opinion, any extensions to his learning abilities should be provided for during school hours, not as an extracurricular activity. However, I’ve been dealing with some surprise health issues (more on that next week) and it never happened. I did discuss the letter with my husband, a high school teacher, and another teacher friend of ours, and they both agreed with me.
While I was at work this week, I received a message from his teacher saying the program is compulsory and if he is not going to participate, we need to let the principal know. It is an expensive program for the school to provide, so they need to offer the opportunity to another child. I called her back in between my classes, but of course, she was in class then and couldn’t talk. So…. then the school got my email. And I was even more upset—they can’t force us to be there at 8:00! They have six hours a day, 40 weeks a year with my kids, and any learning they want to provide for them should be done in those hours. The rest of the hours are my husband’s and my responsibility to educate them how we see best.
I told them I hoped the email format would allow my concerns to be passed on to appropriate staff and that I would like follow-up on why they couldn’t extend his learning sufficiently during school hours. I also asked what was being offered for children that are not already proficient in those areas—when are they told to come in early for a special program to allow them to catch up to what is expected? (Do you think they are?! Of course not. And we learned more about why, as we investigated further. But, I digress.)
His teacher emailed a lovely response that she understood my feelings and would pass on my concerns as well as extend his learning in the classroom. I reiterated to her that I don’t doubt she and most teachers are doing just that—my boys have had exceptional, caring, dedicated teachers—but my issue is with this program being offered outside school hours, as if that’s a privilege.
The next day, the head of curriculum called and said she wanted me to know my feedback was appreciated and they will take my concerns into consideration for the future. She mentioned the school’s longstanding relationship with this well-known program, and that since the program is presented by a teacher online with the school’s teachers in the room as support, the time is not flexible. They adhere to the program schedule.
That raised more questions for me and I emailed her asking how many years the school has offered the program, what grade levels it is offered to, and what is offered to lower achieving students outside school hours. I also commented that based on her phone call, I got the impression I was the only parent she’s heard from dissatisfied with the program. She responded that, yes, I was. The school has been involved with this program for several years and this year, the program is offered to grade 3 from January through May. She didn’t address my last question; I asked it again and it remains unanswered.
My husband and I started researching the program. Upon going to the website, it is clear program is designed to raise the kids’ standardized test scores! Coincidence that it is being offered this year (and last year–that’s as far back as I got) to Grade 3, right up until the date that they take their first national standardized tests? Absolutely not! The website states the program designed to raise kids into the “Upper 2 bands”. It takes kids that are already likely to do well on these tests and aims to make them do even better, thereby improving the school’s data. That’s it. It’s all about their numbers. As my husband said, they won’t bother with the low achieving kids, because there’s really no way to raise them and that won’t make the school look as good. Better to focus on getting the higher achievers even higher.
Well, I was about to go crazy mother bear on the school, but he reasoned with me not to. It’s not just their school, he says. It’s all schools. They’re all focused on their data. They must be. And that makes me sad. But still angry. At a system that makes it that way. And that they dupe parents into thinking their kids are being given some sort of prize, when they have instead tricked us into bringing our kids in on our own time and our kids’ own time, to improve their numbers! Damn, they’re clever! We’re all so proud our kids are being labelled as proficient that we just move heaven and earth to get them this “fantastic opportunity.” It’s taking advantage of parents’ good hearts and commitments and it’s disgusting.
To be fair, I checked into it further and the kids that participate do thoroughly enjoy it and some say it’s the favourite part of their week. That heartens me at least to know that if they are being used as pawns for data, they are at least enjoying it and benefiting from it. But still. Not happy.
Then to make matters worse, a few days ago, the boys brought home letters telling us that Christian religion classes would be starting up again at school next week. These lessons are given during school hours; the school is required by federal law to provide them if a church asks to come in and give them. It makes quite clear that kids don’t have to participate, but if they don’t, they are basically given busy work during that time, so the kids attending the religion class don’t miss out.
Cue Kathleen’s blood boiling! In the span of a week, I have just learned that if my kid wants to take advantage of some renowned, exceptional learning opportunity that the school is paying for, he needs to come in outside of school hours. And an hour of his learning time will be wasted each week, while those that choose to learn how to follow the Christian faith during school hours receive that opportunity.
Hello! Am I the only one that sees the problem here?! Religion has No Business in a state school! Not at all and especially not when kids are only given the choice of learning how to be followers of one religion. Um, xenophobia? Here’s my solution—offer classes on how to be a good Christian at 8:00 in the morning. That way parents that feel they can’t educate their kids in their religion of choice adequately on their own time and through their own church, can ease their consciences. Then teachers will have more time to work with all levels of abilities during school hours. I mean—seriously! Parents should be educating their kids on their religion of choice on their own time—every church on every corner offers classes throughout the week where they can satisfy that concern. Or better yet—send them to a faith-based school. Don’t waste my kids’ school hours because of it. Sigh.
This is an imperfect system. It’s tough to find a perfect one. I feel for teachers who are genuinely concerned with reaching each individual student and inspiring them. Instead of being free to do that, they’re stuck teaching to the test, rated on their students’ test scores, focused on the data, and wasting their own time most likely during these religion classes. Their hands are tied. It sucks. For all of us. Ok. Rant over. Glad that’s off my chest!
I will now move on to focus on the positives–that we live in a country where my kids can go to school in a friendly, safe place, that they have the right to a free education, and that my husband and I are free to educate them however we see fit on our own time, without  repercussion.


A Letter to My Son’s Former Childcare

What follows is a letter I recently sent to my son’s childcare centre, in response to the above note I received from them. His last day with them was this week and he moves on next month to the centre his older brother attended, so we are thrilled.

“Dear team:

Firstly, I would like to thank you for the wonderful year my son has spent in your care two days per week. You have been very kind to our whole family and he has been comfortable and happy there–we really appreciate your efforts. We especially appreciate the photos and hand out of his year that you sent home yesterday, the DVD and his teacher’s individual updates on via email throughout the year as to what he’d been up to that day.

One issue I would like to bring to your attention is to please ask that in the future look at your policy on lunchbox notes. A few weeks ago, I received a note in my son’s lunchbox berating me for including potato chips that day. Fortunately for me, I had a day where I felt rested and confident in my parenting abilities and laughed it off. In fact, I took a photo of the note and posted it on Facebook, where I jokingly referred to myself as a “bad mom” sending chips to child care.

However, the comments I received (which I am happy to share with you if you are interested), made plain that the note really touched a nerve with people in several parts of the world, which made me consider the note and its ramifications further.

As I said, I feel fortunate that I was able to find humour in the note. However, what if my husband had been away for work that week? What if I also had a new baby at home and had been up all night with him? What if I sorely needed some respite from my active toddler that day by sending him to childcare, and the only thing I could find in my pantry to send him to childcare with was chips? A note like that could have crushed me.

My excuse happens to be that I was simply tired from my regular daily life of three kids and a part time job, hadn’t been shopping and the best I could think of late in the evening, that was nut-free happened to be chips. I realize that was not the first time my child has eaten chips, and I can assure you it won’t be the last, but I do try my best to offer him healthy foods.

Mothers today are judged and analysed for every decision we make, and we should not be worried about impersonal notes from our children’s caregivers pointing out our faults, not for something as trivial as potato chips. The mental health of mothers today concerns me, and our society needs to be careful to support mothers, not judge them.

I completely understand and respect that your aim is for children to receive proper nutrition while they are in your care, and beyond that, in their homes. The best way for you to know you are achieving that aim would be to provide the food yourselves.

However, I realise that would be quite an undertaking. May I suggest that if the families are responsible for providing food each day, that you quietly keep a record of instances where children bring in unhealthy foods in their lunches, and then, if you notice a pattern, approach the parents in a friendly, non-judgemental, but helpful manner to discuss the issue? A person to person interaction would be much better received, in my opinion, than an impersonal, formalised “mum-shaming” note, with the child’s name and offending food filled into blanks.

You could even extend this practice to other important issues including children’s cleanliness each day, fit of their clothes, health, happiness, etc. Food is only one aspect of many contributing factors towards our children’s wellbeing.

Whatever you decide to do, and please feel free to completely disregard my uneducated suggestions, please endeavour to find a process more mum-friendly than mass-produced notes in the lunchboxes following intermittent offences. I would be happy to discuss this further if you would like.

Thank you again for your wonderful care of my son and kindness towards our family.

Kind Regards,

Kathleen Charles”

Our Kids are Smarter than We are

On Monday I returned from a blissful, 6-day yoga retreat. More on that later, but I realised that at pretty much the exact time that my three children were all gathered around me showering me with love, and my husband was sitting down in peace for the first time in a week, with a smile on his face as he laughed warmly at the scene in front of him, a man was quite literally raining down bullets on hundreds of innocent people on the other side of the world.
What an awful realization—here I sit filled with the love of my family, peace and inspiration from an incredible six days of self-discovery and people are running for their lives, not knowing what’s happening to them as more and more bullets rain from the sky. I was devastated, as we all were.
The next night at dinner, my husband asked the kids if anyone at school had mentioned Vegas. They hadn’t. My oldest said he’d learned something about it on the internet that day—he knew someone got shot in Las Vegas. And this began what made me want to get down in writing the ways this beautiful child has shown he’s smarter than most adults in recent days.
A bit later, as I was washing dishes, he came out and asked me, “Mommy, was the person visiting or was it someone who lived there?” I asked what he was talking about. He said, “The person who got shot in Las Vegas–was he visiting or someone who lived there?” A huge lump formed in my throat and I couldn’t get words out. I didn’t want to scare him; I didn’t want to ruin his innocence, to tell him the truth of what humans are capable of in their times of darkness.
I kept it simple. I needed to. “Honey, more than one person got shot.” “Oh. Well, do you know if they were visiting or if they lived there?” He was really hung up on this point. “I imagine some of them lived there while some were visiting,” inwardly pleading with him not to ask me for more detail as the lump in my throat tightened and tears came to my eyes.
“Oh. Because I just think it would be awful to be visiting a place, having fun, and then get shot. Wouldn’t that be horrible?” I agreed that it would be. That was it. That was all he said. Bless his heart. He gets it.
A week or so before, he and his younger brothers were walking to a post box with me to mail our marriage equality surveys. He was holding the envelopes and asked what they were for. I explained to him that the government wants to know if we believe that boys should only be allowed to marry girls or if boys can marry each other and girls can marry each other, so they can decide what the law should be.
Dumbfounded, he asked, “Why would there be a law about that?!” I answered honestly that I didn’t know. He asked if there is a current law about it and I told him that right now in Australia boys are not allowed to marry other boys and girls cannot marry other girls. That is the law. He said, “That’s so stupid! Why can’t people just marry who they want?”
It seems so simple. Kids are smarter than we are. Why make love subject to law? I told him that people can easily become afraid and they often are most afraid of people who are different than they are. So, a long time ago, some men felt they needed to make a law so they could try and stop people being different from them and they wouldn’t have to feel so afraid. What do I say? How do we teach our kids about the world they live in without taking away their innocence and the beauty they so easily see in others?
My final example today is again from the night I returned from my retreat. I was telling them all what a great experience it was, how I loved learning and how I discovered so much about myself. I said that I wished all people could have that experience and told my husband that I’d support him if he would like to find something in that same vein. (I won’t relate his answer! 😉) But my precious boy came up beside me and said, “Mommy, can I go on a retreat?”
These kids. They’re smarter than we are. We need to pay attention to them. They have much to teach.

Lost & Lonely Musings

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.

My Three Sons

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.

Here we are--all 5!
Here we are–all 5! A bit tired… 😉

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.

Last day of work! June 25, 33 weeks
Last day of work! June 25, 33 weeks

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.

Stradbroke Island weekend
Stradbroke Island weekend
Enjoying special friends from Boulder
Enjoying special friends from Boulder

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”. 😉

Camping with Dad while Mom's at a yoga retreat 7/2
Camping with Dad while Mom’s at a yoga retreat 7/2

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.

Last date for awhile, breakfast out 7/10, 35 weeks
Last date for awhile, breakfast out 7/10, 35 weeks

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.

My cute baby shower
My cute baby shower

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

Love my girlfriends! These are my beautiful hosts.
Love my girlfriends! These are my beautiful hosts.

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.

1st 2k race 7/26
1st 2k race 7/26

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.

Ready for our new addition! Such special decorations
Ready for our new addition! Such special decorations

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.

Here I am, world! July 29, 5:35 p.m.
Here I am, world! July 29, 5:35 p.m.

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.

Happy Daddy! :)
Happy Daddy! 🙂
1st time I get to hold my new baby right away--SO thankful!
1st time I get to hold my new baby right away–SO thankful!

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.

Praying for a safe 1st journey in the car, headed home.
Praying for a safe 1st journey in the car, headed home.

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.

Again....me and my boys--3!!!
Again….me and my boys–3!!!

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.

Good morning from the Charles boys! 8/13
Good morning from the Charles boys! 8/13

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.

Creating Memories

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.

First night's swim
First night’s 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.

Sky Rail to Kuranda
Sky Rail to Kuranda

My tired babies
My tired babies

Hairpin turn on the scenic railway
Hairpin turn on the scenic railway

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! 😉

Snorkeling off the boat
Snorkeling off the boat

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.
Loves the Reef
Loves the Reef


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.

We love Mission Beach!
We love Mission Beach!

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!
Yikes!  Cassowary!
Yikes! Cassowary!

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?!
Don't like seeing these signs all around!!!

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.

At the top of the Big Gumboot, Tully
At the top of the Big Gumboot, Tully

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.

Brave jumper
Brave jumper

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.
Watching the truck dump its load of partially-processed sugar
Watching the truck dump its load of partially-processed sugar

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.
My loves--evening out!
My loves–evening out!

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.
Hiking boys
Hiking boys

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.
Hey there, crocodile!
Hey there, crocodile!

Daintree River Cruise
Daintree River Cruise

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.

Toothless :)
Toothless 🙂

Hooray for a Mommy and Drew Day! 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.
Little Nippers
Little Nippers

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.
Little Athletics
Little Athletics

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!

Take the Leap

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.

Treat stand ready for customers!
Treat stand ready for customers!
Little brothers helping out
Little brothers helping out

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.”

He just wants to Save the Reef.
He just wants 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.

Northwest News article
Northwest News article

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!

Drew’s radio interview

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!

Treats to sell
Treats to sell
The workers are ready!
The workers are ready!

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.

Another sign...
Another sign…
One more fabulous sign
One more fabulous sign

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!

Proud Sea Guardian
Proud Sea Guardian

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.

Just gorgeous--makes me heart swell.
Just gorgeous–makes my heart swell.

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!

Grooving Along…

We have had a pretty groovy, happy, blessed month around here, just enjoying the little things in life and time together. We all seem generally healthy and happy, for which I am so grateful. I have officially taught seven children’s yoga classes as a professional and have been learning SO much! This new business has added significantly to my “busy-ness” and I have spent quite a bit of time over our current 3-day holiday weekend (more coming later on what this particular holiday is) working on promotional materials, feedback forms, signups for classes beginning next term, etc. I could potentially be teaching four classes per week starting next month. Currently, I am teaching two per week. I still feel weird saying “I’m a yoga teacher.” But I am! How incredible this all is!
The weekend after Mother’s Day, I had the fantastic opportunity to take my first girls’ overnight trip since having kids. Three other wonderful women I have met through my kids’ schools and I went down to an awesome little beach town called Byron Bay. We spent the better part of two days relaxing, shopping, chatting, walking and eating. It was great! I feel so blessed to have met such wonderful people here and to feel part of a community.

Ladies' weekend!
Ladies’ weekend!

The following weekend our family enjoyed having absolutely no plans and just getting to hang around. We ended May by meeting up with some fun friends for a rainforest walk in a lovely area where you are allowed to feed lorikeets, parrots and rosellas and they land on you. The boys think that’s just fantastic.
The beautiful Morans Falls that we hiked to on 5/31.
The beautiful Morans Falls that we hiked to on 5/31.

Bird fun!
Bird fun!

A bit more....
A bit more….

I had another full day yoga training last Sunday and we are now wrapping up a 3-day holiday weekend that has been mostly free of plans. Last night we met some friends for a “combined dinner.” We have started just getting together somewhere and just making what we would have made that night anyway. The kids play; we eat and chat; it’s not too much work for anyone and it’s fantastic. To make it even better, one of our friends is French so I am not the only one who doesn’t get most of the jokes and takes a few minutes to figure out what people are saying. 
I have been training diligently for my upcoming half-marathon. It’s on July 20th. I got up to 9 miles yesterday, the farthest I’ve ever run, and I felt pretty good and darn proud! I am really enjoying the time outside, on my own. Yesterday I met a friend for lunch and shopping and rode a boat all by myself! Haha! The ride lasted all of 4 minutes—it was a ferry that brought me from my side of the Brisbane River to hers, but I tell you, those accomplishments are big for this landlubber!
In other news, I have been made redundant at my job. That is the awful Aussie way of saying I have been laid off. I think Aussie terms for many things are just terrible—being told you’re redundant is not nice on the ego at all. Telling a 4-year-old that he’s going in for “his needles” instead of a checkup is downright scary! Anyway, the terminology is the worst thing about it, so once my ego can get past the sad idea of being asked to leave a job because my contribution is “redundant,” we can be happy that this is really a best-case scenario for us.
I have not liked that job at all, but feel so grateful to have had it. It’s helped my family get settled here and be able to do fun things and save money—neither of which we would have been able to do without it. It’s been my first time working in a new country and it’s taught me so much about the Australian workplace, work life and culture in general. For instance, I asked a coworker recently why we are celebrating the Queen’s birthday this weekend, when her birthday was actually back in April. She looked unsure and then told me, “I’m pretty sure it’s because April didn’t suit us. We already have enough going on in April with Easter holidays and ANZAC day, so June just works out better for us.” Only in Australia! That’s just awesome!
The other good part about being made redundant is that not only am I asked to leave my part time job, but I will be paid to leave it as well. They are keeping me on until late August if I want to stay that long and allowing me to look for other jobs during work time to some degree. After I leave they will pay me for six more weeks plus any vacation time I still have. Much different than good ole U.S.A., eh? There, I would have been told, “We don’t need you anymore. You can leave now. Thank you for everything.” And that’d be it!
Steve and I discuss sometimes that the support available in this country to live a family-friendly lifestyle and the lack of gun violence are the main reasons we will likely always live here. The difference is sad and striking. I SO wish the U.S. could offer this high of a quality of life and standard to all citizens!
Although I am a bit panicky about what this job loss will mean for us financially, I honestly think we will come out ahead in time. Our government assistance will increase as our income decreases; I can make up part of the difference through my yoga classes—depending on how well they do, it could be a substantial part. I can put more effort into writing, which I hope should translate into some decent income as well. I may even look into one of those direct/home sales businesses, as a side to yoga and a side to writing. I also may visit some retirement communities and inquire about some super-part-time work.
I teach yoga to kids!!
I teach yoga to kids!!

I don’t think I will look hard for another job outside of these ideas until next year, however. With Zach only in school two days per week and teaching yoga during part of that time, a job would be quite difficult to find I think. Next year he is in school full time (No!!! My baby!), so I will have more flexibility.
Otherwise, everyone around here has been busy and happy. Steve has been getting out quite a bit and is enjoying footy (rugby) season. His job has been a bit stressful, but he thinks he’s through the worst of it and has been handling it all well. He will be looking for a new job later this year and already applied for a couple. He didn’t have any luck, which while not ideal, is not a huge issue because he has a good job and for that we are thankful.
Zach has really been blossoming in kindy and also just loves his Friday morning soccer program. He also is happy just hanging out running errands, visiting friends, going to playgroup, etc. Whatever we are doing, he’s generally happy—unless it’s dinner time and in that case he is an absolute nightmare! Oh well…….We help in Drew’s classroom every other Friday and both boys just love it. Zach acts like one of the big boys and thinks he has arrived and Drew is proud as punch showing off little brother. I love it, too. I get to read one on one with the children and they are just precious. Zach, through the unending patience of Steve, has also been learning how to ride his bike without training wheels! He is doing well, although he has a long way to go. He is our clumsy kid and he is in his own world, which is not great for safety awareness! He desperately wants to keep up with the big boys, so Steve keeps working with him…
Drew has been so busy in school and it is all just amazing. In first grade, at six years old, he had to memorize a poem and recite it in front of the class! Beforehand, he had to write out the poem and add cues to let the teacher know when he would raise/lower his voice, speed up/slow down, etc. Crazy! His reading just blows my mind—he now helps read to Zach at bedtime.
Last week he had Sports Day (the equivalent to Field Day) and was very proud to get a 3rd place ribbon in his 100-meter running race (he ran against four other kids—haha!). He also sang in a school-wide concert, which was super cute. He has been doing gymnastics weekly and he thoroughly enjoys that.
Run, baby, run!
Run, baby, run!

And, of course, they are my sweet, supportive yogis—all three of my boys are my biggest fans and I depend on them more than they know! Life is good.

Humility, Admiration & Progress

The past four weeks have been days of humility, healing, and personal growth for me. It’s been truly eye-opening. Firstly, I know that I am blessed with the most incredible support system of family and friends, near and far, old and new. I have been so touched with the messages of love and kindness I have received, from those closest to me in distance and/or in heart, and by those who I was surprised thought enough of me to reach out.
I have been humbled by their honest expressions of kindness and by the stories of loss and grief that they have told. People go through so much in this world; we have no idea. It has helped me to remember that whenever people act in ways that frustrate me, I need to step back and remember they have a story; they have something going on that I know nothing about and it is in no way my place to judge. This is something I strive to remember, but too easily forget. We never know what people are dealing with on the day that we interact with them and what is spurring their actions and words. I need to remember to bring acceptance and tolerance to any situation.
I heard stories of stillbirths, of amazingly strong women laboring to deliver a recognizable human who would never breathe and who would later be buried. I heard stories of inspiring women waiting to find out news that would be crushing, of finding the strength to try again and move forward. I heard about women who cry decades later remembering their experiences, but are able still to lavish love on their surviving dear ones. The strength and love women are capable of is truly inspiring!
However, I must relate one particularly touching message that was from a man. It sticks out because it was the only message I received from a male unrelated to me. It sticks out also because we last were friends in a face to face way 20 years ago and even then, weren’t close. But it was more meaningful because he told of his own struggle with emotion when his wife miscarried a few years ago. It gave me great pause:
So many of us women, myself included, have said these losses are harder for us. We are the ones who deal with the physical loss, with our changing bodies. This story made me realize that in reality it is unfair of us to think that. It is judging, the way I mentioned above. I tried to think about it from a man’s perspective. Number one, it is less accepted by society for them to cry and be broken up by a miscarriage; they likely feel more pressure to hold their emotions in. Also, they don’t have the support system that we have in each other, other women’s stories of their pain. Again, it is likely harder for them to reach out to other men and seek support in this situation, partly because it is “their wives” who are experiencing it, not them. And sadly, that’s not true! But what hit me most of all, is that men not only have to deal with the loss of the child and of their plans for fatherhood, they also have to watch their wives in physical and emotional pain and feel quite helpless to “make it better”, which is what men need to do. It made me think about it all in a whole new way and I commend and admire the man who reached out to me to share so openly and vulnerably.
As for me, I am doing quite well. I do get sad around pregnant women and new babies and we seem to have been around a lot of both lately. We have put the idea in the back of our minds for now while we wait for my body to get back to a couple months of normalcy. We think we want to try again when we do revisit the topic, but are not firm right now and neither of us wants to pursue this idea much older than we currently are. We’ll see…..
Once I stopped wallowing, I decided to throw myself into my personal goals and dreams and all the things that would have been put on a back burner if there was a baby on the way. I got back into exercising and am playing with the idea of a long race sometime this fall/winter (It still sounds so funny to say that at the end of March! Will it ever feel normal???). I cooked and baked a lot, because feeding my family nutritious food and satisfying our sweet tooths in healthier, more natural ways fuels me. I updated my resume to get serious about moving beyond this part time job that brings me no fulfillment. I reached out to possible mentors and people succeeding in fields I am interested in to get guidance.
And things started to happen! My main freelance writing client wrote me a glowing recommendation on Elance, the site I work with him through. The editor of the magazine that published my first creative article last year gave me fantastic advice and told me she would welcome future article ideas from me anytime. 
But the most exciting news deals with yoga. My insurance and Blue Card (two requirements over here to teach children) came through this month, enabling me to set up meetings at both of my boys’ schools about the possibility of teaching. The meeting at Zach’s school is next week, but Drew’s principal told me yesterday that she supports me launching my own class one afternoon each week after school. WOWowowowweeeeee!!! I can’t believe it! She wants 200 fliers to send home with families and I can start when school resumes after a two-week break late next month. Out of nowhere, I need to finalize a business name, create enrollment forms for the children, devise a pricing structure, design fliers, start a Facebook page and internet marketing……Holy moly, is this real?! Somebody pinch me!
Anyway, I will keep you posted on what develops, but the first day I teach a class that I am paid for, it will be proof that dreams really do come true and it is possible to get paid to follow your passion—completely awesome!
And what’s funny about all that is that I returned home from the meeting, floating on a cloud, to Zach beginning to throw up for the next three hours with a nasty stomach bug. I consider it a gentle reminder not to lose sight of my main and true purpose in life—thank you, Universe, for keeping me grounded!  Poor little man is much better today and while I have felt bad for him, I have been impressed by how sweet and polite he’s been through it all and grateful for the extra snuggles.

Sweet family days out
Sweet family days out

As for the rest of us, Steve and Drew, and all of us, are looking forward to two plus weeks off school as of next Friday. We’ve had a pretty normal, routine month overall. Steve enjoyed a weekend away with his rugby team. We’ve kept up with the usual children’s birthday party circuit. We’ve enjoyed some fun social evenings and some sweet family days together. The week of the miscarriage, Drew seemed off a bit, so he stayed home from school that Friday and I just truly reveled in an opportunity to love on my babies and enjoy slow time together. It was poignant and beautiful.
Zach has started a soccer program and is precious to watch. He loves every minute of it and I can’t stop staring at his face full of concentration, determination and thrill. Steve is taking the boys to their last two swimming lessons until we pick it up again in October, which is giving me an incredible gift (it truly is the little things!) to have a break from that weekly routine.
Most exciting of all is that Drew is beginning to read. He really is! Something just recently clicked for him. It’s weird, realizing our days of spelling things are nearly over, but so awe-inspiring to watch this world open up for my child. Seeing him point out words to me as we drive around and putting sentences together in books is incredible. It drives home that reading does truly open up a whole new world for us. It is an incredible gift to be able to be a part of this process with my child and I am so grateful for it. It really is a beautiful life, when we slow down enough to appreciate it.
I just finished reading “I Am Malala,” the book about the teenage girl who campaigns for education and was shot by the Taliban. It was eye opening—realizing that our world feels so global and connected to me most of the time, yet there are still people out there without access to what we take for granted as basic rights and necessities. It is shocking and sad. It makes me ever more grateful for the life I have and it makes me want to keep working at practicing that acceptance I mentioned earlier and at enjoying the gifts I have been given.

Loss, In the Raw

This week I became a member of a club I never wanted to be in, a sisterhood of loss. Writing has become therapeutic for me, but I am struggling with actually putting this one out there. It’s a good thing that only a handful of people read these crazy thoughts of mine! I apologize that close friends will be finding out this way, but this is the easiest way for me to tell you and I am taking the easy path right now. This week I became one of the “Mothers who have miscarried.”
I know. There are millions of us, all around the world. And I have to applaud those millions and tell you all how much I admire your strength and courage, because I feel like I have none right now. I have so many friends who have miscarried. They tell me so bravely! I am not brave, or strong, or courageous at all right now. I’m crying. A lot. It seems to be the most common thing I’m doing these days.
Poor Steve found me in the bathroom one morning fresh out of the shower, shaking with sobs. I could barely keep it together dropping Zach off at school this morning when I saw another mother holding a baby while she dropped off her child. I’ve cried in doctors’ offices, phlebotomy labs, outside, inside, on Skype, on face time, heck I’m crying right now.
And holy cow the emotions! If the phone rings I get annoyed because I just want to be left alone. When it doesn’t ring, I’m angry and sad that a friend who knows still hasn’t contacted me.
It happened VERY early in the pregnancy. In fact, the doctor said there was hardly even a pregnancy. So shouldn’t I “hardly even” feel sad or disappointed?
I feel old. I feel incompetent. I feel like I failed. I thought I was healthier than I’ve ever been, so why couldn’t I pull off a pregnancy, especially when my body knows how to do it? It’s done it twice before! Steve and I are both healthier right now than ever—what is wrong with us that we couldn’t put together a good combination this time?
I’m angry at myself for trying to have a baby. I already have two—why wasn’t that enough for me? Why, at 37, did I feel the need to try again? I’m ashamed, for trying to have more babies when women out there can’t have even one. I’ve even heard that comment already, put to me by someone else: “You have two. Why are you doing this again?”
I’m also angry that we waited so long. My youngest is already 4. Steve is 40. If we wanted more kids, why didn’t we try earlier, so a loss like this wouldn’t hit so hard? But then I think about it honestly and know we couldn’t have tried any earlier. If we’d stayed in the U.S., this idea couldn’t even have taken form. And we needed time to settle in to this huge change before adding another huge change to our lives. And I believe in my heart that things happen for a reason. We have kept ourselves “open” to the idea of more children for over a year now, leaving it up to God because we couldn’t decide. I felt God thought what we thought—that it wasn’t the right time. But when we got pregnant so easily once we actually tried, I thought we were all in agreement yet again. What happened?
I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed, because I’m even a little bit angry at Steve. He’s been nothing but supportive and helpful and he says he’s sad, too, that it didn’t work. But he can just go to work and seem to be fine all day. He’s not the one who makes the bathroom look at a crime scene and runs around in the morning trying to clean up the blood before the boys wake up and see it. He’s not the one who doesn’t have the energy to leave his bed, who cries when he sees pregnant women or babies. Isn’t that awful? I’m angry at my husband and he hasn’t done anything wrong!
I’m also ashamed at how sad I am. I look at these brave women all around me and wish I could be more like them—stronger, more optimistic. I have two beautiful, perfect children of my own! What right do I have to be sad about miscarrying now?! I have gray hairs and I’m trying to have a baby, too! What was I thinking?
My heart truly aches for all those millions of women, my sisters in this, who have no other children when they miscarry. I wish I could hug each one of you and take your pain away. My kids are the main thing getting me through this right now. Because they don’t know what’s going on, the innocent distraction they provide, their constant demands of me that often make me so frustrated, are my lifeline right now.
Of course they know something’s amiss. My youngest got two cupcakes yesterday at school for two kids’ birthdays and he saved one for me while all the other kids ate both. He was so kind giving it to me. It didn’t matter that his brother and father ate it. It was his precious gesture that warmed my heart. I don’t know what I’d do without those boys.
And that’s why my heart truly reaches out to those women. For any one of us, to open your heart up to the possibility of children of our own and all the emotion and change that brings to our lives and then lose that life before it even gets started is true pain. Those women are mothers in my eyes. They have known the pain of loss. They have opened their hearts to love, filled it up with the coming joy and then lost it. That is a true motherhood journey.
I also feel tremendously for the women who carry their pregnancies longer, who can’t tell something is wrong because they start bleeding, who find out in doctors’ office and have to endure invasive procedures. They are much stronger and braver than I am.
I am in awe at the courage of women. The courage women have to try again, the courage to open themselves up again. I don’t know if I have it. And that’s where I’m even luckier that I have two children already. I guess when you really think about it—loss is loss, however it happens and at whatever stage of life. There’s no shame in feeling it, in allowing the emotions to present themselves however they will.
So sometimes I don’t feel so ashamed. I just feel sad. Maybe in some ways a miscarriage is harder when you have kids already. You truly know what’s ahead and the joy and amazement and hard work and exhaustion that’s to come– and then it’s gone. I admit—before this, I was one of those annoying women who got pregnant at the drop of a hat each time I even thought about it. It happened twice and each time I got a perfect, healthy boy at the end. No one on this earth wanted to be around me when the subject of fertility struggles came up. Yes, I had scary deliveries and one son in the NICU for a while, but my end results were all that you can ask for.
That’s why this time, I truly jumped the gun. I knew I was pregnant when it got to day 31 of my cycle. My mind filled up with thoughts of how I was going to take care of myself and relish every change in my body this last go round. I daydreamed of both my boys with their hands on my belly, feeling the kicks of their coming sibling. I walked them to school, holding each one’s hand, smiling at how in the coming months, there’d be three little ones with me on these walks. I knew exactly what was ahead and I was ready!
And now it’s gone. I feel empty. Empty and gross watching this stuff come out of me, knowing what it could have developed into. Empty and sad and frustrated and ashamed and angry and a little lost. My vision of our changing lives just disappeared.
Unlike a younger woman who’s starting her family journey, I don’t know if we will try again. Maybe this was our sign that our family’s complete. Maybe we’re too old for this. Maybe our kids are too grown up and it’s silly to try in a few more months to throw another one in the mix—would they even know each other? Maybe it’s unkind to the thought of any future child to grow up with two brothers who are peas in a pod and be five years behind them, on his own?
But then maybe this was our sign that I do truly want another child. Who cares about the spacing? My boys would be fantastic big brothers. And heck, I’m only 37! Just because part of this experience has included the mention of menopause doesn’t mean I’m too old to do this (ay yi yi—love those comments!).
I don’t know. I guess I don’t have to decide that now. I’ll just be a baby, crying over my lost baby, for a little while longer. Thankfully, I have an outstanding support system, with those two beautiful boys at the core of it. And they don’t even know the good they are doing for me right now, bless their precious little hearts.