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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.