It may not look like much, but this is my favourite Christmas tree to date, and here’s why: Real trees are surprisingly hard to come by in this part of the world, and, due to spending the last two Christmases in Colorado, we haven’t had to buy one since 2014. We set off this year on a two-week family adventure on the 9th of December, knew if we bought a tree before we left, it would die while we were gone, so decided to get one the day after we got back, the 23rd.
What we didn’t realize, however, is that due to the low availability of real trees, you are apparently supposed to order them ahead of time and the few shops that do have them close by the 22nd, Friday.
We learned this on the 20th when we started looking up Christmas tree lots online while on our trip. We found about four places within an hour’s drive of us and struck out completely, on all searches, all phone calls.
On the way home, we told the kids that we likely wouldn’t have a tree this year. On Friday evening, around 8:00, after arriving home and getting the kids to bed, Steve sent one last message to a Scouts group he’d heard was selling trees. They called him back right away and said we could come in Saturday morning and take any of their leftovers for $20 before they brought them to the dump. Score! We got a tree!
Now this tree is actually two “trees” tied together, and we all adore it. Probably the most fun for me was pulling out our ornaments after a 3-year hiatus. Each one tells a story, is attached to a memory, and I thoroughly enjoy just looking at them, reminiscing.
The other reason I love this tree is that it represents our successful hunt upon return from probably the most fun adventure we’ve had together as a family of five. When we were preparing for this trip, I honestly wasn’t that excited. During that last week of school and work, I was looking forward to the break and then thought, “Wait a minute—I’m going on a 12-hour drive with my kids! We’re camping for half of the time! I’ll be listening to whining, fighting, not sleeping in a bed; I’ll be in a noisy campground. This won’t be relaxing and enjoyable!”
But it was. Both. The trip exceeded all expectations and was an absolute blast. So, to come off an experience like that and be able to decorate our perfect little tree the next day—Christmas just can’t get any better.
Of course, I miss my Colorado family like crazy. But we haven’t had a Christmas in our own home for the past two years. This is Sam’s first Christmas at home. It all just feels ok.
So, that’s our tree. That’s our story. And for $20, we spent a fraction of what we would have on a “pretty” tree that we’d bought on time. That all adds up to why I Iove simly sitting at looking at this imperfectly perfect little tree. Merry Christmas to all our loved ones! Wishing you all many small reasons to smile and feel your full heart this year. Much love to you all. 😊 Kathleen and family
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.
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.
Why do I feel lonely and lost these days? Why can’t I seem to figure out what my professional contribution to society can be? Why do I not seem to have friends here that I really connect with, who get me and who I get? Why am I so homesick?
I have three beautiful, happy boys who bring me joy—they truly do. But as any parent knows, they also whine a lot, they seem dissatisfied with much of what I work so hard to do for them; the two older ones argue with almost everything I say and with each other, seemingly constantly sometimes. I find myself stopping to listen and smile when I hear them playing well together—it seems more rare these days and I can’t seem to defuse their frustrations with each other effectively, no matter what parenting articles I read.
Unlike so many mothers whom I have always greatly admired and felt somewhat jealous of, I need more in my life than full time mothering. I lose myself when I only attend to everyone else’s needs. I need appreciation for a job well done. I need recognition, measurable progress in what I’ve accomplished each day. I wish I didn’t, but I can’t really get around the fact that I do.
I think that’s why my work/career/professional struggles are getting me down so much lately. For 14 years before this move to Australia, I worked in retirement communities. I was good at it. I enjoyed it. I was respected in my field and I made good money.
Since I’ve come here, I just can’t figure out how to get back into that field. Now, I realize I haven’t tried as hard as I should. Life gets in the way. I’ve sent online enquiries to senior living companies asking about their jobs in marketing and sales, with no response. I’ve sent a few online applications for activities/recreation/volunteer positions, with no response. I’ve called one nearby community and asked to volunteer—no return call. I’ve asked the few people I’ve met who work in the field about the positions, and they don’t seem to know anything about them—maybe they don’t exist here?
I keep telling myself the best way to find out is to just drive around and walk into communities and ask. But, I’ve always had a kid in tow, or was about to have a kid in tow, so I just never got around to it.
Friends at home say I’m awesome for moving to a new country and learning a new profession and starting my own business. But it doesn’t feel very awesome. I learned the new profession partially out of necessity. I never wanted to run my own business. I don’t enjoy it and it’s not going well. In fact, right now, it seems to be failing miserably. I’m paying to do it. Try as I might, I can’t get people interested in it.
I do love yoga—it’s been a passion of mine for years, and the more I learn about it, the more passionate about it I feel. But people in this area, just don’t seem to get it. Yoga is not as popular around here—I don’t even know many people who do it, or who are physically active as a priority at all. I think that’s partly why I feel disconnected from the friends I’ve made. I’ve rarely been to a yoga class here with more than a handful of people in it, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I can’t get many people interested in my classes, much less my classes for their children.
I just have a hard time fitting in with people who don’t prioritize healthy eating for their families, who don’t prioritize fitness on a regular basis and who don’t get the purpose of yoga. I hope that doesn’t make me sound snobby. I don’t intend it to. I’ve made friends for the past 4+ years with people who are different to me in those core areas, but have other things in common—being a mother, living in a foreign country, but I just don’t feel connected, so I’m guessing that’s the reason why…??? I could be totally off base. I do admit I have met a few people who are health and fitness oriented and am still not clicking with them either.
It often seems to me that people don’t like me over here. I never seemed to have that problem before moving. It is very likely all in my head, but I just seem to rub people the wrong way when I don’t intend to…??
I know I could connect well with my husband, but he’s frustrated in his job, too and we don’t see each other until late in the evening when we’re pretty much too tired to talk about much. He is wonderful and we do try. We both know we need time together. But it’s difficult, because that costs money. And when I’m not making any money, I feel bad spending $80 to go out for two hours together and get a drink each and an appetizer to share—bleah!
I keep meditating and reading about creating my own joy, realizing that my life is just as it should be in this moment and to find peace in the present. I’m honestly trying! For whatever reason, it’s meant to be right now that I’m paying to try and teach yoga, that I’m contributing nothing meaningful to my community in terms of professional employment and that I’m working my tail off for no positive outcome. That’s hard to embrace! But I will keep trying…..For now these musings of a crazy person just help me to get it off my chest.
Where do I even start?! I haven’t updated this in over 3 months. I have a good reason—I have a beautiful, 6-week old baby boy. However, I’m getting ahead of myself….first to quickly recap the time leading up to our little Samuel’s birth:
My brain is mush now and it’s hard to remember. My days are filled once again with spit up, dirty diapers, sleepless nights and the smell of a newborn asleep on my chest. It’s hard to remember what they were like before. It’s as if he’s always been here. I feel strongly that we’ve been waiting for him—as hard as this time is, he melds right into our little circle of love, just like he always had a space waiting for him. He has.
Anyway, I digress, again. Get used to it! June was quite uneventful, other than preparing for Sam’s arrival and wrapping up my kids’ yoga classes. That was very bittersweet. It’s always hard to leave behind the known, the routine, and prepare for the unknown, the loss of control. I know at the time it’s happening that I want to return to teaching, but it’s also in the back of my head that I really don’t know what the future holds and I can’t say anything for sure.
We had our last little getaway as a family of four–a weekend in June on beautiful Stradbroke Island with friends. We saw lots of unique wildlife and enjoyed the busy two days immensely. Then we had our treasured friends from Boulder in town visiting their family, and got to spend quality time with them as well.
I had my first three nights and four days ever away from my little crew of men in early July for my yoga teacher training retreat. It was wonderful, although very demanding physically and mentally. It was great to be able to have that time to be away, and the boys enjoyed themselves immensely during their “vegetable-free days”. 😉
The retreat was over the 4th of July weekend, so for the first time in my life, I had to forgo celebrating the holiday, which was also bittersweet. It was a great reason to miss it, but also a little sad. Several people wished me a happy one, though, which is so kind.
We enjoyed a relatively slow paced two weeks of school holidays that included our first Disney on Ice. Also, thanks to the help of dear friends, Steve and I enjoyed our last date for a while—a low key breakfast out in Brisbane one morning. It’s funny—we were both enjoying each other, but could also feel the apprehension in the air as we were well aware of the uncertainty and changes to come, getting ready to meet the new member of our family.
My sweet friends threw a beautiful baby shower for me on the 11th of July. I have missed family incredibly throughout my pregnancy, so it was great to feel such an outpouring of love from my “family” here. It was my first truly girly baby shower, complete with a color scheme, games, fancy food and decorations, and I loved it! I am so humbled by the work they went to and the turnout.
It’s ironic—when I was pregnant with Drew I thought baby showers were completely lame. We bought our house a few months before he was born, so instead we had a combined baby shower/housewarming for all friends, men and women. It was fun! Then Zach was born so soon afterwards that our friends instead organized a meal delivery system, diapers and groceries for us, which was just what we needed. Now I cherish time I can sneak in with girlfriends and relished every minute of that shower. J
On July 23rd, my sweet Drew was officially diagnosed with asthma. It is nice in one sense to finally know for sure and learn how to deal with it, but also always sad to find out your child is less than perfect. I have to wonder if there’s anything I could have done to prevent it, if there have been times I didn’t help him enough when he was struggling to breathe. I am really bad with “What Ifs” and mother’s guilt. I’m working on it…..Hopefully, he will grow out of it, and even if he doesn’t, there are a lot worse things in life and we are very fortunate. It doesn’t slow him down–the two of them ran their 1st 2k race the Sunday before Sam arrived.
As for my pregnancy, it got a bit bumpy in July. On Sunday the 5th at my retreat, I started to worry about the baby’s movement. I remember being paranoid about that in my previous pregnancies so I ignored it, knowing that odds were that everything was fine and I was being psycho. I was still a bit worried at my next appointment that Wednesday, the 8th, which the whole family attended. They put me on some fetal monitoring and then reassured me that everything was fine.
I started to worry about movement again on Friday, the 24th, (37 weeks) and thought I was noticing quite a few painless contractions and feeling very nauseous. I figured labor was starting, but then nothing happened. I was about to call the doctor on Sunday if things hadn’t changed, but then I felt better. Monday and Tuesday were up and down. I was worried about all of the above, but then I’d feel better.
Wednesday morning, the 29th, started out good. I had an appointment and was worried about driving the hour each way alone with how tired I’d been feeling, so offered Zach a special “Mommy and Zach” day before baby came, which thankfully, he agreed to (he almost refused me!). We walked Drew to school and back and then I started feeling sick again. We drove down, had a nice morning tea and then went to the doctor. I told them how I’d been feeling and my doctor saw me have a contraction on the exam table (turned out I’d been having more than I thought I was—some of them, like the one he saw, I just thought were the baby sticking out on one side) and noticed baby’s heartrate was low.
He put me on fetal monitoring, which ended up lasting for about 2 hours, instead of the initial 30 minutes. They told me I was having regular contractions and baby’s heartrate was getting low often enough that we needed to do the C-section now. I was in labor.
Then everything started happening! My doctor’s office is connected to a hospital that I hadn’t planned on going to, because it was so far from home. Steve was near home, at work, and Zach was with me—what to do?! I have to say that in my teens and twenties, I would never have believed someone who said they could find comfort and companionship in a 5-year-old, but I absolutely did. My little Zach was an absolute gem during all this and it was wonderful having him with me. During the monitoring, he found a soccer game on TV (he’s a sports nut) and cuddled up next to me in the hospital bed to watch. When it all got chaotic, he was patient, well-behaved, unquestioning, trusting, helpful and concerned. It was beautiful and I will remember it forever.
Steve got moving and this is when the incredible outpouring of love, support and help from our friends began. It would go on for the next several weeks. I arranged friends to bring Drew home with them from school. My doctor is a friend of ours and his family offered to take Zach and so did one other friend in that area. However, thankfully, we reached our dear friend’s mother, who lives an hour away and who was set to come watch the boys on August 4th, the date my C-section was scheduled. She dropped everything and left right away to come get Zach, and then headed off through rush hour traffic to our house, where Drew met them and she stayed the night. She made them lunches for school the next day and took excellent care of them. The same friends that kept Drew that afternoon, picked up the boys for school the next day as well, and then this dear woman cleaned our house and did our laundry before heading back home. Just incredible!
After Zach left, it wasn’t long until I was prepped for surgery. I have to acknowledge that preparing for the C-section was terrifying. I will never go through that again. With the one I had with Drew, I had been in labor for so long that it was all a blur. This time, I was alert. Everything is so sterile and medical. It doesn’t feel like you’re about to bring life into the world; it feels like something bad and scary is happening—you’re about to be cut open. I hated it. Thankfully, yoga and meditation helped me—the idea of impermanence. I focused on breathing through the scariness, remembering that it was just a brief time and at the end of it I would have my baby.
The surgery itself, body being cut open and stitched up again aside, was the most beautiful, peaceful birth I’ve had. They lowered the sheet so I could see my precious boy just as he came out, and then I was able to watch everything else that happened, including Steve cutting the cord. I didn’t get sick from any of the medications this time and my arms were not strapped down. Therefore, they were able to bring Sam to me and I held him on my chest while I was stitched up. He even started eating! That’s the only time I’ve been able to hold my baby to me so soon after his birth and I will cherish the experience.
The scary part is that our precious Samuel Sullivan Charles was small, too small for so late in the pregnancy. It turns out my placenta was not in good shape—much of it was dead or inflamed, and they were surprised the little man was getting any nutrients at all. He was also covered in meconium. It is just perfect that I had such excellent care and I had my appointment that day and he came out when he did. He is our little miracle and we couldn’t be happier to have him with us.
Because of his size and because he was slightly early, he had a bit of trouble with his blood sugar initially and some jaundice, but nothing major. He was able to stay with me the entire time I was in the hospital and the stay was pretty uneventful. Sam was born at 5:35 p.m. on Wednesday, July 29th and we brought him home on Monday, August 3rd.
We Face-Timed Patti and the boys as soon as we could that evening after Sam’s birth. They were thrilled about their new brother and couldn’t wait for their visit the next evening to meet him. We called the next morning before school as well and she told us that all morning they had been talking about Sam, wondering what he was doing as they got ready, how he felt, etc. Gorgeous.
Several people have asked me to compare the birth and hospital experience here to the ones in the U.S. I received excellent care in both countries and overall it was much the same in each. There were a few minor things that I preferred over there, and a few little things that were better here. We are very fortunate to be able to live and give birth in such safe, wonderful places, so we have nothing to complain about.
I had been worried that by having the baby in this farther away hospital, I would be lonely during the stay with it being too far for friends to visit. I was pleasantly surprised and touched to find out this was not the case. For one, my stay included a weekend, so Steve and the boys were able to be with me more, which was great. We made sure the boys were our first visitors on Thursday evening and Steve and I enjoyed the time before then to get to know our new son. A couple friends did make the hour drive to see us, and then a couple others that we knew in that area were now able to come as well. Steve’s family lives in that area and was able to be more involved this way also.
In the hospital and since we came home, as I said before, we have just been overwhelmed by the kindness and help from friends. We have had numerous home-cooked meals and baked goods brought to us as well as gifts. People have been helping me with the school runs, so I have not actually had to do them too often this term. I have had visitors, friends giving advice, listening to me cry, helping me to get out and run my first errands with Sam and even trying to do my chores. They’ve also watched our big boys for us to give us extra time to rest.
As I said, my friends are now my family and I am so grateful for them. I had been so nervous to have a baby without my parents around and I have really felt their absence. So many little things that we never even realized they were doing at the time to make things easier for us, are now apparent in their absence. Therefore, the fact that we have been so surrounded by love, support, kindness and generosity has been an even bigger blessing.
My Mom isn’t even approved to fly this distance since her hip surgery until sometime this month. I keep hoping they’ll just show up on our doorstep, but I know that won’t happen. Just 12 ½ weeks until we leave for the U.S. and in the meantime we are all so thankful for technology. Face Time and texts get us through.
A positive for me, is that this experience has made me feel like a big girl, a grown up. As with the move overall, having a baby in another country has made me realize that Steve and I are a good team and we can do anything. Our little family (well, not so little anymore!) has become a tight knit unit and we are there for each other and help each other through whatever life brings.
Along this line, I have been so impressed by what big boys my big boys have become. They are so helpful and amazingly understanding about how I need to spend my time right now. And the love! The love they have for this little baby is unbelievable. I have to say that’s been one of my favorite parts so far about having another baby, watching the unconditional love and devotion they show to this little person. They make it clear that he is truly a part of our family that just hadn’t arrived yet. He belongs with us and we love him to bits.
So there we have it. It’s been three months—6 weeks of preparation and anticipation, and 6 weeks of complete whirlwind and adjustment. Sometimes I can’t believe that a vegetarian yoga teacher is a mother of three boys—in 10 years they’ll likely be getting into fights and wanting to eat steak all the time and I’ll be telling them to meditate and offering them green smoothies! 😉 We just don’t know what life will bring us—heck, it’s also hard to believe that I’m even 38-years-old, a mother at all, living in Australia, teaching yoga—all of it—who would have known?! But what a beautiful life it is.
I keep feeling that it must be time to let this blog go by the wayside. I just can’t find time to write it. But for whatever reason, I’m just not ready to completely let it go. Maybe it’s sporadic, but it’s still something I want to do when I can. Anyway, another two months have gone by; a full school term has been completed; I’m now 24-weeks pregnant and life is just grooving along I guess.
Both my boys had birthdays—Zach turned 5 and Drew 7. Zach had croup on his birthday and we had to put his party off for a week. He Really wanted to go to school on his birthday and was so proud to be turning 5. His sweet teacher let him hang in there until his cupcakes were eaten and then she called to let me know he just couldn’t make it through the day. All of his precious friends waited a week and joined us the following weekend for his party—so kind! He was thrilled with it all.
Drew got to bring two friends to a local pool for his birthday celebration and had a ball as well—he thought he was especially cool with his birthday falling on Easter Sunday. Quite the party week!
As of May 1st, I will have been teaching yoga to children for an entire year—can you believe it?! From spending all my time in retirement communities to running my own business related to children’s fitness just seems like a complete 180. To think that I started with one class per week and 12 students, and now teach six times per week to over four times that many kids is pretty incredible.
I really enjoy it, although sometimes the business part brings me down. I honestly had never thought I’d be running my own business—it wasn’t something I ever wanted to do. When I got certified, I just thought people would hire me to teach and that would be that. The business part is very hard for me…….But, I’ll keep at it for now and see how it continues.
I also began the adult teacher training certification program last month. I’m enjoying it immensely, but the weekend trainings wear me out! Whew! It’s ironic, too—all that yoga philosophy I keep learning reiterating that yoga is non-competitive, meets everyone where they are; everyone can do yoga, etc. and I just can’t fully let that side of me go. I get in that room with all those uber-fit young people training to be teachers, and I think my growing baby belly body can keep right up with them! Haha 😉
I also started a pre-natal yoga class a few weeks ago. It runs for six weeks, every Thursday evening, just me as a student, taking a yoga class. I almost didn’t sign up because by 7:00 every evening I just want my jammies and the couch, but I decided to go for it as it’s just six weeks and I thought it would be good for me. Every week it’s an effort to get there, but once I do, I’m So glad! It’s just so nice to be around other adults, to not be teaching and to be in a class that’s geared towards my changing body. I practically heave a sigh of relief each week when I walk in that studio.
To cap off yoga, here’s a funny story—last week I taught a class to adults! By accident! Once a month the studio where I teach offers community classes. They’re just $5/person and intend to bring yoga to a broader audience and make it affordable and a fun community event. All the teachers there take turns teaching the class, because it’s basically volunteer-work. April was my turn and we promoted it in every possible way as a class for kids and families. I planned this fun Under the Sea journey-themed class and showed up to teach, along with my helper, Drew. Well, 3 adults showed up—no kids! They had been to community classes in the past and just hadn’t seen any advertising related to this one being different.
At first, I experienced pure panic. Would I teach them my playful kids’ class? Would I tell them to go home? Or, would I just fake it? Yikes! Finally, I told them all the truth—“I teach kids. I don’t teach adults. I’m not qualified to teach adults. I’ve planned a kids’ class for tonight. I am in training to teach adults, and if you don’t mind being guinea pigs, I’m happy to give it a try and we can see what happens. Otherwise, you can go home, or I can teach you a song and games kids’ class.”
They wanted me to just teach! So, I did! Surprisingly, I think it sort of went ok. Luckily none of them had any extensive yoga experience and also were relatively healthy and in good shape. The best part about it was they actually listened to me! They didn’t interrupt me constantly, whine about the poses we were doing or start running in circles around the room. It was fantastic to have people actually listening to me and respecting me as a teacher! When you tell adults to lie down at the end of class, they do it! And they’ll stay for as long as you tell them to! Incredible! J
All in all the past couple months have been quite smooth. Thankfully, the boys finished their Little Athletics track and field program at the end of March. That ended the torturously boring Friday nights for Steve and I. It’s a great concept, but very poorly organized as it’s completely dependent on parent volunteers. I also felt the parents were very cliquey and it was hard to feel a part of things. And, we’re so tired by Friday evening that the last thing we ever wanted to do was go stand around and measure long jumps or time sprints! I think Drew feels the same, but Zach loved it! We’re just crossing our fingers that he doesn’t want to sign up again in September…..
Drew finished swimming lessons for now and starts tennis next week. I love how he likes to try everything. He is also enjoying the school choir. Zach has settled in to Prep like it’s no big deal at all—definitely harder on me than him. I still miss having my little sidekick around some days.
Steve’s job continues to go well for him and he completed his 2nd triathlon last week. We are all so proud of him! We’ve enjoyed going to cheer him on.
The baby is healthy and squirming and the pregnancy has been smooth since I stopped feeling so nauseous. Our school holidays were lovely and productive and fun. We got in a couple beach days, a couple fun family adventures, and got a lot done around the house.
As far as family back home, a lot has been going on and I’ve really missed everyone. My Mom had a hip replacement last month, the first major health “thing” I’ve missed. I hated not being there for her, especially when my Dad had to fly to Alabama when my aunt died. I’m so glad it all worked out for them—friends checked in on her and he got to support his brother. It’s just hard feeling so uninvolved and separate from it all. Can’t really just jump on a plane to help when it’s needed….
Our highlight of the past couple months was leaving the boys with trusted, dear friends for two whole nights and going down to Byron Bay for a day at the BluesFest a few weeks ago! We hadn’t left them for two nights since just before we moved here when we left them with my parents one last time. Two nights is a lot to ask of people who aren’t related to us! We are so grateful to them and they were wonderful with our boys. They had a blast and so did we. I felt a bit guilty—it was the longest time I’ve been away from them in almost four years and I didn’t miss them!
It came at a time where the two of us just really needed to reconnect and it was fun going to a music festival together and having some time to relax. We got to see Zac Brown Band as the headliner—so fun! The little cabin we stayed in was gorgeous and peaceful, too.
And the following week we got out AGAIN and went to the Michael Franti concert! He is just so fun; we will continue to see him whenever we can. After Brisbane, he toured more in Australia and I saw that he went to Perth for the first time and compared the venue there to Red Rocks! That used to be our backyard and he mentioned it like it’s a place everyone should know—very cool. J
One last highlight (and then I better start dinner!) is that I met a girl from Colorado—just walking down the street! How random! Since moving here I’ve randomly “met” three people from Colorado, but two are in Sydney and one in Melbourne. Noone here! But last month we got a sweet package from my brother’s family and it included a tote bag with the state flag on it. I’ve started carrying it when I walk the boys to school and I was on my way home with a friend and she saw it and stopped me! Isn’t that funny? We met today for coffee and it was so neat to talk face to face with someone who grew up in the same area as me and really “gets” it.
The world works in mysterious ways and we are just trying to enjoy the ride right now and be thankful.
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.
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.
“Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.” This is what my son told me at the Denver airport last Saturday afternoon when I asked him what the Dr. Seuss quote was that Nana had just texted me that she had told him in a special conversation that morning. He remembered it so easily, after hearing it from her just that one time. He knew just what I was asking and told me in a very sincere, earnest voice. Such wonderful advice, yet deceivingly hard to follow.
I know I have nothing to complain about. People all over this world are going through seriously tough stuff and my family and I just came off a blissful, relaxing 5-week vacation filled with love and laughter and beauty in all its forms. Yet, I’ve still felt a bit melancholy this week. Yes, “a bit.” Apparently, that is an Australian phrase that I have adopted “a bit” too easily, a fact which some girlfriends picked up on after about 20 minutes of being around me and spent the next month teasing me about! Man, I love those girls.
It’s not that I don’t like it here. In fact, I consider my family exceptionally blessed to have citizenship in two amazing countries, both with abundant freedoms, incredible opportunities, wonderful lifestyles and gorgeous people. Most people in this world don’t have the benefit of the choices we have.
I’m just melancholy because I wish there was only a 4-hour flight separating the two countries, at a cost of around $400 per ticket. And because, even though, technically, we all speak the same language, I just wish SOMETHING else was the same, ANYTHING. Just give me the same seasons, or the same holidays or driving on the same side of the road, or the same sports…..anything? Anything? Just one thing that I feel an affinity for, a comfort and security in knowing it’s what I know, what I’m comfortable with, where I’m not SO foreign and clueless. Well we all know that’s not possible and that’s why I’m just “a bit” sad this week.
So how do I give a quick recap of our spectacular adventure? We started off with relatively smooth travel until arriving in the midst of a crazy Dallas ice storm, which result in Steve managing to drive us 17 miles in 2 ½ hours (over 4 times the amount of time it would typically take) after 30 hours of travelling to reach a dear friend’s house late that Friday night, the same day we left.
Once that was over, we enjoyed fresh, hot, home-cooked food with kind, generous friends whom we hadn’t seen in years. We rested. We visited. We stayed an extra day because Dallas had come to a standstill. We left on Sunday for San Antonio after a homemade hot breakfast and a packed lunch in our rental car, not knowing when or if we’ll ever see these friends again. She and I both believe we will—it just seems to happen.
We then spent 4 days sightseeing, resting, enjoying time off together as a foursome, doing whatever we wanted to do whenever we wanted to do. We caught up with more friends that we hadn’t seen in years, met each other’s families and therefore we all made new friends. We laughed. We ate. Chips and salsa. Guacamole. Margaritas. Microbrews. Our staples for the entire trip. We shopped. Again, said goodbye hoping to meet again one day.
We arrived in Denver at 7:30 the following Thursday morning and I couldn’t hug my parents tight enough. We were finally all together! We played in the little snow that was leftover from a previous storm without coats on, enjoying a beautiful sunny day. We hibernated. We just hung out, were together. Finally, the following evening my brother’s family came over and we meet the new baby cousin. The older cousins hadn’t skipped a beat and enjoyed each other like they’d seen each other yesterday. After all, when I told my niece how great it was to see her, she said, “We see you on the computer.” We do, and I am incredibly thankful for that! I’m so grateful we did not make this move 20 years ago!
Saturday afternoon we started catching up with friends. More chips and salsa. More good beer. More laughter. More hugs. More of that weird feeling like no time had passed at all. We’d never even left.
Here’s a bit of a highlight reel (boy, I do say it a lot!!):
-I got to spend an afternoon with just my brother and our 4 kids, just hanging out. It was beautiful.
-My Mom took us to the hospital where she volunteers to see the Flight for Life Center and we all got to sit in the helicopter (that was more of a boy highlight, mainly the big boy!).
-I got a night out with my girlfriends in Boulder, where I tried seven different types of salsa and lost count of my margaritas. Then I got to spend the night with one of them and meet a bunch of them again the next morning at the gym where the whipped my butt and reminded me how crazy fit they all are! I hadn’t had a girly overnight in over 2 years and it did wonders for me. Girlfriends are a true necessity!
-Speaking of girlfriends, I saw several! And their kids! Gorgeous mini-versions of them and their spouses, with time to just visit and chat while the kids played. And eat. Chips and salsa.
-The 4 of us went to Red Rocks one day to explore and Drew lost his 6th tooth while eating an apple in the car. The tooth fairy found him at our friend’s house that night—she definitely redeemed herself from the time she forgot to come!
-We went to Zoo Lights at the Denver Zoo on a FREEZING cold night that was still enchanting, not only because of the amazing light displays, but because we were with my parents, my brother’s family, and dear friends.
-The boys went ice skating for the first time. They sledded. They built a snowman as well as the snow crocodile and snow caterpillar they had planned ahead of time. They skied (first time for Zach and first time on a chairlift for both). It turns out Drew is an adrenalin junkie in snow as well as in water, and Zach is just a tough guy. He persists; he’s careful and he learns how to do what he wants to do.
-We spent 5 nights midway through the month at a friend’s house in Boulder while they were out of town, so we not only got to soak up all beautiful Boulder has to offer (shopping, vegetarian food, chips and salsa, microbrews), but we had our own space, which really helped on such a long trip.
-I got to lay on a blanket out in the sun on a gorgeous day and just BE with a dear friend. We got to escape together and climb a Rocky Mountain (a small one, but still—man I miss hiking! I know there’s hiking here, but unless you’re from the mountains, you cannot possibly understand that it is just not the same. It’s like saying Colorado has water and beaches. Sure, there are both of those, but come on! They’re not real!).
-Steve and I got to jog together 3 times, shop together twice, have a morning coffee date and one date night where we ate chips and salsa and drank margaritas. See the pattern? 😉
-On Christmas Day, my parents had all 3 of their children and all 4 of their grandchildren in the same house. It was beautiful.
-We rang in the New Year in a cozy mountain cabin with lovely friends.
-I got to ski with my Dad on a warm, perfectly sunny powder day. I hadn’t realized how much I miss that, too! Man, those mountains are gorgeous! They take my breath away. I think I actually did ski some runs shouting “Whoooooooo!” the whole way down! There was just nothing else to say.
-We got to enjoy après ski at a great bar with a live band where I watched my Dad step pretty darn far outside his comfort zone to dance with my Mom who just can’t keep her feet still.
-I got to be with my Dad on his last day of work ever and share in that poignant life-changing moment for both of my parents.
-I got to introduce my Mom to a dear friend and mentor of mine and enjoy a special ladies morning out.
-We got to explore two seemingly endless Denver museums with friends and family.
-We swam in an indoor pool and sat outside in a hot tub with a mountain view.
-People came out of the woodwork asking to see us and made tremendous effort to accommodate us and make that happen.
-I had another night out with two of the most special people in the world to me.
-I got to celebrate my upcoming birthday with so many people that I love, smiling and laughing together. That was beautiful, too.
And then we left.
So much beauty, so much love, so much laughter, so much soul-filling joy crammed in to 5 weeks. How is it possible? How do you come down from an experience like that? I started sobbing as our plane lifted off into the air from Denver. Knowing I won’t see that beautiful place and all the beautiful people there for close to two years just tore my heart apart. I still tear up every time I think about it. This is a HARD move!
But, guess what? Then we came back. And a friend picked us up from the airport. And another friend dropped off our car and had mowed our lawn the day before. And another friend dropped off a meal for us that night, knowing we’d be tired. And another friend had our mail and took care of the house for us. And another friend housesat for us and cleaned our house and did our laundry for us. And it’s beautiful here. And people are happy to see us. And we are happy to see them!
I was all set to write tonight about what I miss about home and what I like about here, to compare it all and remind myself that I like both places.
However, my heart took me in a different direction. But I think it got me to the same place. What I take away from this experience is how INCREDIBLY BLESSED my family and I are! Our cups truly runneth over. Just writing about the number of friends we have and remembering the experiences we shared with each of them on that trip, and the kindnesses the ones here showed to us upon our return and during our absence, absolutely blows my mind. I feel it should be mathematically impossible to cherish this many people. But I do! I wouldn’t trade a single one of them.
This move is hard, incredibly hard. But it’s also blessed me in numerous ways. It’s opened my eyes and taught me about what is truly important in this life. It’s all about love and cherishing each other. I think my heart will always feel ripped in two. I’m not sure there’s any other way. But as long as it’s as full as it is, I can handle the tearing.