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.
A couple weeks ago, I spent six days, five nights away from my family to attend Being Yoga’s Chakra Vinyasa retreat, part of my Level 2 teacher training.
5 Nights. I had not yet spent one night away from my 2-year-old; I had just completely weaned him the month before. I spent 3 nights on my initial teacher training retreat when I was 34 weeks pregnant, just over 2 years ago. That was the last time I’d spent a night away from the rest of my crew.
When I got “permission” to go, I panicked a bit—it was such a surprise! I’d hoped to attend this retreat next year and go on a 2-night one in December this year instead, but my husband threw me for a loop by saying this one fit his schedule better. I came close several times to pulling out. I was about to pay my deposit and my Dad went into the hospital. I waited, thinking I’d spend the money I’d set aside on a plane ticket instead. Thankfully, he got better. I paid the deposit, still unsure.
As the date approached, I wanted to bail—it’s not right to leave the kids for this long. They don’t know what to do without me. My baby’s too little. What if the people on the retreat don’t like me? What if I don’t like them? 6 days is a long time! What if I have no one to eat lunch with? I honestly felt like a kid leaving for college!
My family drove me up and when we arrived at the gorgeous Chenrezig Institute, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, we were all amazed at the beauty and peace of the place. We had a picnic lunch and said our good-byes. That was it. This was really happening.
I found some sweet familiar faces in the group, which helped put my mind at ease. I had paid extra for a private room ($20/night—are you kidding me?! Small price to pay for the chance to have my own space!) and when I got up to my simple cabin in the woods (without a bathroom!) that evening and found a large spider on the wall, I panicked again. I am not joking when I say that I felt like Wonder Woman when I successfully got that thing outside! But the damage was done—too scared to sleep.
After a restless night, I attended the morning meditation and then our awkward breakfast, feeling weird about standing in line, figuring out where things were, missing bananas. I felt lost, out of place. 4 more nights of this? I didn’t know if I could do it.
Then we gathered for our morning class, focused on the solar plexus chakra. It was divine! That was it for me. I was there. Completely. Immersed. All feelings of panic and awkwardness gone, I enjoyed the rest of my time in ways I cannot put into words.
I realized that I hadn’t spent a night alone in almost 10 years—the last time I can remember was when I was pregnant with my oldest son in early 2008, and as any mother knows, you’re not actually alone when you’re 7 months pregnant!
I want to try to put into words here what I truly enjoyed about this experience:
-The yoga. Oh, my, the yoga! Such good yoga! As an instructor, it is hard to find the time or classes I really enjoy and it was amazing to gain so much from each class.
-The meditation. I struggle with mindfulness meditation, but these meditations were more active—visualisations, breathing techniques—these tools really worked for me and I gained more from meditation than ever before.
-The people. I met incredible people! Some I knew before, most were new, and all were awesome. For the first time in years, I felt like a woman. I felt like Kathleen. I was talking to people as me, not as the kids’ mom, not as a school mom, just me. I was seen for me. Of course, I adored the other mothers and we talked about our kids a lot during the week, but we were just us. And when I think about this, the timing was really meant to be—I already mentioned that I had just weaned my youngest in August, so this was the first time in nearly three years of pregnancy and breastfeeding that my body was ALL MINE. For six luscious days, my body was mine. I was Just. Me. I truly reconnected with who I am—the many layers that entails. I laughed until I cried. I danced. I wrote. I even drew and sang, which is NOT like me! 😉 I was inspired, filled with new ideas. I don’t know why, but even after 6 years here, I feel like the odd man out, the obvious American, in most social groups. But not here. I felt like I fit.
-The setting. I am not a city girl. I often realize how confined I feel living in Brisbane, missing my mountains, my wide-open spaces. Six days in the gorgeous, peaceful woods was good for my soul in countless ways. The woods, the mountains, outside—these are the places where I feel most at home, most myself.
-The meals. I hardly need to mention that being able to eat meals that I did not have to prepare myself or clean up after was a luxury. But even better, the adult conversation, the “real” conversation, the unhurried pace—being able to finish and sit and digest until I Felt Like getting up again—-aahhh, bliss!
-The free time. Waking up each morning and only seeing to myself, sitting on my little cabin deck during every break and closing my eyes if I wanted to, or writing, or thinking, uninterrupted, unhurried—wow.
It’s no wonder thinking back over it all that I have only very slowly been coming back from “outer space” in these recent days. It’s taken awhile! I left the house without shoes on Tuesday—9 days after being back! Thank goodness I’m a yoga teacher, but walking around my son’s daycare barefoot was a bit gross! 😉
When I wonder why I had to get down in writing my feelings of gratitude after getting this time to truly retreat into myself, I need only to look at what my Mom just emailed me after our FaceTime chat today, 12 days after returning: “My Precious, I did so love our visit tonight …. you seem to have such a beautiful inner peace, calmness, happiness, relaxed way about you of late. I don’t know, but, I truly think your “Yoga Retreat ” was good for you. Regardless, I am happy you did that. “
Thanks for noticing, Mom–even from 8,000 miles away. I am happy I did it, too—and, oh, so grateful!
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.
I need to recap our trip! Late last month, our family had the incredible opportunity to fly to tropical northern Queensland for a weeklong family vacation. I mentioned previously that this probably wasn’t the smartest move for us financially, but the decision brought about incredible beauty thanks to my son’s little fundraiser. Well, when the time actually came to embark on our adventure, we were excited and ready!
First, to catch up—the week following Drew’s fundraiser was great. He gave a follow-up radio interview, which, in my completely unbiased opinion, was super adorable. School wrapped up that Friday for a 2 ½ week break and on Saturday, Drew and Zach ran in their first 1k race with me, while Steve did a 5k. It was a beautiful course, right on the bay, in the evening, and it was an all-around fun day, and a great start to the first time we were ALL actually off together for the school holiday break since our trip to the U.S. last year.
On one of the days we squeezed in a fun little family hike and picnic nearby and otherwise, just enjoyed time to relax, catch up with some friends and prepare.
We were fortunate to have a wonderful friend drive us to and pick us up from the airport, so on Wednesday morning, the 24th of September, we were off! It sounds silly, but one of the purposes of this trip, for me at least, was to show the boys that you can fly in an airplane and arrive at your destination quite quickly; air travel does not necessarily involve saying good-bye to the outside world for 30 hours or so. And I’m glad we did! At the Brisbane airport, Zach asked, “Mommy, will it be nights until we get there?” I replied, “Zach, we will be there by dinnertime!”
Upon landing in Cairns, after the two-hour flight, I told Drew, “Ok, now we’re at this airport for 4 hours and then we get on another plane for 15 hours.” He said, “15 hours?!” I said, “Ha-ha! Nope! We’re here! We’re done! That’s it.” We headed to our little apartment, settled in, shopped for our meals for the next few days and even fit in a short nighttime swim.
The next morning, we got up and out (Zach asked—“Why do we only have one choice of cereal? We’re supposed to have 3!” The child LOVES routine….) and took a Sky Rail ride up over the rainforest, stopping off a few times for short walks and overlooks before arriving in an adorable hilltop rainforest town called Kuranda. We wandered around there awhile, browsing the markets and village and when we were finished, we boarded a scenic railway train for the trip back down into Cairns. Drew had been very excited for one of the hairpin turns the train would make, but the poor boys had been so excited and constantly moving, that the lull of the moving train just sent them to sleep. It was a great day capped off by a quiet dinner in our apartment.
The next day was THE big day! We had to leave by 7:15 that Friday morning to get over to the pier to catch our boat out to Fitzroy Island, a gorgeous tropical island right on the Great Barrier Reef. When we arrived, we took some time to figure out the day’s plan and I found two brochure checklists to give Drew—one on Marine Life and the other on Island Life. What a great find! He spent hours both before and after snorkeling marking which animals he wanted to see, then what he did see. He still has them both and was even using them to type each fish into Google to get an image of it and decide if he saw it or not.
We then boarded another boat, this time with a glass bottom, to head out and see some of this Reef! Our skipper gave us facts along the way and when he asked questions, our little Science Dude, shoots up his hand like he’s in school “Oohoohoohh!” The question was “What’s the difference between a manta ray and a stingray?” The skipper was surprised to see a little guy so excited to answer, and started to answer himself before he stopped and let him. “A manta ray is larger, and doesn’t have a tail with a stinging barb.” You are correct, sir!
We didn’t see much through the glass, but we eventually stopped and were all able to get off and snorkel. Little Drew was so excited and stayed out in the water the entire time. He was absolutely thrilled with all we saw, including a green sea turtle snacking on some plants. Zach kept getting water in his mask and wasn’t much of a fan of snorkeling, but a lovely Frenchman let us borrow a kickboard he’d rented from the dive shop that had a clear viewing section at the top. It allowed me to drag Zach around while he laid on it and looked down at the fish. Lazy boy loved that idea! And of course, for everything anyone else saw, Zach saw 10 of them! 😉
After that trip, we enjoyed a picnic lunch and some relaxing meandering before snorkeling again, this time right off the beach. Again, it was gorgeous! And again, we couldn’t get Drew out of the water. It filled our hearts. It truly was a beautiful day in paradise.
We didn’t get home that evening until 6:30 and after hastily making an easy dinner, we got to bed. Tired out!
The next day, Saturday, we took it a bit easier. The boys and I relaxed at the hotel after a quick morning swim (I’d jogged first along the Esplanade through Cairns, which ran right along the shore—fantastic!) while Steve picked up our rental car for the remainder of the trip. We then leisurely headed down to his cousins’ house, south of Cairns. They were delightful people and made us a big lunch that afternoon and yummy dinners and breakfasts over the two days we stayed with them.
That afternoon we went out exploring a bit and wandered along the stunningly gorgeous Mission Beach. We then drove around a bit and Steve really wanted us all to do a short hike. We found a quiet picnic area with a sign for a 10-minute Children’s Walk and decided to do that. Along the way we had been learning a lot and seeing several signs about cassowaries and hoped to see one, in a safe way, because they sounded scary….
It was about 5:30 in the evening and I’d heard you are more likely to see them (as with most animals) at that time of day, so I was already a bit apprehensive. But a 10-minute walk…..what could go wrong? We hit the trail and I felt like I had walked into a scene from Jurassic Park. The area was called “Licuala,” after the rare palm that grows there. The plant was beautiful, but looked like it would have grown where dinosaurs lived. The foliage was VERY dense, and it seemed to get darker quickly as we got farther along the trail.
Suddenly, Steve heard some rustling and stopped us. About 200 meters down the trail, a cassowary stepped out of the bush! I instinctively grabbed my camera to get a photo before it crossed the trail out of sight again. Well, it didn’t. It turned towards us! Then it started walking towards us! Steve calmly and loudly told us to remain calm and begin backing up. We did and the giant dinosaur-bird kept walking towards us. We kept backing up and gradually picked up speed. So did the cassowary! I don’t know that I will ever get rid of the vision in my head that I can see so clearly when I close my eyes, of a giant, dinosaur-looking bird with a blue head and a crest on the top, taller than me, walking on two legs (no arms! So weird!), its beady eyes looking straight into mine and its beak pointing at me, and then its giant bird feet lifting up higher as it started trotting!! I started babbling like an insane person. We’d gotten the kids behind us, between us and the bird, and I just kept saying, over and over, “It’s ok. We’re not going to hurt you. Don’t touch my babies!” It looked like it understood me! But I couldn’t tell if it agreed or not!
Thankfully, we had only gotten a couple hundred meters down the trail to begin with, so our backing up finally got us back into the small, deserted, dirt parking area. We went the direction of our car and dinosaur-bird went in a different direction. Phew!
I asked Steve if he felt safe taking a photo and he said he did and went back towards it to get one. That’s when Drew finally started crying—“Daddy! Come back!” I have to say how proud I am of my boys. I cannot believe that Drew at least didn’t scream and start running when that thing first walked in our direction. They stayed calm and followed our lead and I am so glad this story ended the way it did!
As we drove back to the house, I cranked up some loud, upbeat music and I could see the tension draining from Drew’s face as he sang. He even closed his eyes and it was clear he was just relishing life at that moment. God love him—the kid just “gets it.”
Steve’s cousins laughed at us that evening. They figured either people feed the cassowary and it was looking for food from us, or it was just headed back to its roost for the evening and bumped into a weird foursome as it made its way. Either way, it traumatized me for the remainder of the trip. I had nightmares that evening (partially because they told me stories of how they’re the only birds known to kill humans and have ripped people apart before with their clawed feet!!), and since, we were now heading into crocodile-country, basically refused to go outside after dark or early in the mornings for the remainder of the trip. Can you blame me?!
Sunday we had another slower day. We enjoyed a relaxing breakfast with the family and then they took us exploring their land and the nearby sugar cane farms. Sugar cane is the primary crop in the area. Steve’s cousin drives a train that brings the harvested cane to the sugar mill for processing. We visited the outside of the mill and watched the trains unload the cane. Then we made a short stop to see the Big Gumboot in Tully. For whatever reason, Australian tourist towns like to have a “Big” something. There is a Big Pineapple, a Big Avocado, a Big Prawn, etc. The Big Gumboot is to support Tully’s claim to fame as the town with the most rain in Australia.
We then split off on our own to enjoy a small town pub lunch. I saw an article once written by a young American student who studied in Australia for a year and said American restaurants could learn from Australian restaurants about providing healthy, fresh options. She was clearly not from Boulder and at the time I read her article, I was shocked, because I have been disgusted by children’s menus in this area and so few options in several restaurants that do not involve meat and/or breading. However, this meal reminded me that she is actually correct. Although the menu is small—this was a tiny town, basically in the middle of nowhere, one pub (restaurant), one shop and that’s it—there was one choice of salad and it included roasted pumpkin (squash), fresh avocado and sunflower seeds and was delicious! I realized that if I were to go to a restaurant in the middle of the Midwest or Deep South, with nothing else around, the salad would likely be either a basic green salad, not very enticing, or a fatty Caesar salad. To be able to get this quality of food in the middle of nowhere is a definite treat.
By this time, poor Drew was so tired that he could not get through his lunch. I have not seen him that tired in a long time! We drove around and the boys napped and then we stopped next to a river full of local kids swimming. It was great! Drew followed the big kids who were jumping off the road bridge across the river into the deeper water, while Zach stayed safely with me, cheering. The boys loved it! Easy entertainment.
We then killed some time wandering around a pretty nothing tourist attraction before heading back to the house for a relaxing evening. Once again, Drew was so tired; he started crying just before dinner and couldn’t stop. Instead he fell asleep—for the night. Bless his heart. He goes so hard and then crashes so hard.
After a relaxing Monday morning, we drove off, heading back north of Cairns again, saying good-bye to the sweet family we stayed with. We were advised to visit another family member working at a warehouse where sugar is stored before being exported. It was quite interesting watching the trucks dump their loads of sugar and seeing the giant sugar mountain in storage.
We took it easy the rest of the day, driving around and exploring a couple beach towns before checking into our final apartment and going out to dinner—such a treat! We had a great evening together.
Tuesday was our final full day and our final BIG day. We headed off to a National Park called Mossman Gorge. It was a beautiful, rocky, forested area with creeks flowing through big boulders (reminded me of Colorado in a way). We started a short hike and Drew began to cry and refused to go. He’d seen cassowary signs again and was scared to come across one again on a trail. I told him how I’ve been enjoying hiking in the woods since I was a young girl; it’s one of the only ways to see the most beautiful parts of the world, and I was scared, too (I was!), but determined not to let one giant-dinosaur-bird keep me out of the woods! I told him that when I used to hike in areas where grizzly bears lived, we would sing and make lots of noise on the trails to make sure the animals knew we were there.
Zach readily started singing with me (He didn’t know what the fuss was all about. At the time of the cassowary incident, once we were back in the car, he’d said, “That was cool! I want to see 10 cassowaries!” Spoken like a 4-year-old….). Drew nervously held Steve’s hand and walked ahead with him. A few songs in, he shyly came back to me with his eyes shining with trust and bravery, slipped his hand in mine and started singing. I almost cried! Not much later, he was running around, exploring everything, back to his usual enthusiastic self. It was one of those experiences that made it hit home how much I love parenting, challenges and all. The reality that we get to share life with these beautiful little people and learn and grow with them is a true miracle.
After our successful hike we drove further north and hopped on a boat to cruise down the Daintree River looking for crocodiles. We saw two, one baby and one big one. The overall cruise was fantastic, as our skipper taught us so much about the crocodiles, which are truly amazing animals, and we also saw a brown tree snake, numerous unique birds and more of our absolute favorite blue Ulysses butterfly—gorgeous, sparkling brilliant blue creatures flitting amongst the trees.
We enjoyed a relaxing final night in our apartment. Steve and I both jogged the next morning, attempting to run barefoot, due to a truly interesting book we’ve both recently read called “Born to Run.” I am better in the mornings, so took my turn first. It was a gray day and I was still a wimpy scaredy cat that couldn’t handle being out so early with few people around, near wooded creek areas near the coast and seeing crocodile warning signs. I skittered around nervously for a bit on sore feet and finally found an open stretch of beach with lots of people around and jogged a few kilometers.
After packing up, we visited a mellow “locals” beach in Cairns, where the boys swam, but I refused because the water was sandy and murky and there were signs around about all the different lethal jellyfish. Such a big talker about bravery in front of my kids! Honestly, when it comes to land and water, I am quite comfortable on one and a completely misplaced alien in the other! We enjoyed a picnic lunch and then swam in the free pool in the center of town, which was in a beautiful spot. Then we left for the airport and that was it—what a fantastic trip!
I love that although the kids still have their tantrums and issues traveling, with each trip they are becoming more fun and easier to travel with. We all get crabby and have our moments, but going on adventures with our boys at these ages is quite fun! They love being with us, exploring and seeing new things. It’s great! So what if we’re a bit low on cash now; we just made memories to last our lifetimes.
Since we’ve been back, the boys began their final terms of school—Drew’s last couple months in first grade and Zach’s last in preschool, meaning my last time enjoying three days with him each week before he begins full time school next year. Waahhh! I’ve been quite sappy about my babies growing up so fast. Drew lost tooth #7 last week and because of a student-free day at his school this week, he and I got to enjoy a gorgeous one on one day together. I think we both really cherished that time—just fantastic and more and more rare these days.
Hooray for a Mommy and Drew Day![/caption]
He also has been experimenting with which outside school activity he’d like to do this term, in addition to yoga with me and swimming lessons. He checked out a fantastic program called Little Nippers, where kids aged 6-17 learn ocean survival and swimming skills and how to rescue others, in the hopes that they become lifeguards one day. I learned that ALL Australian coast lifeguards are volunteers—fascinating! Although I don’t fully understand, with such big government, why doesn’t it fund paid lifeguards…?? The program seems great, but more interesting when he’s at least 10 years old, we think.
Both boys also tried out another fascinating program called Little Athletics, where kids aged 3-17 meet weekly to practice track and field events. They loved it! There are at least 100 kids and most of the activities are run by parent volunteers. There is no actual coaching, but it’s a great introduction to sprints, hurdles, jumps, throws, etc. They have both signed up for that, which will be a fun adventure. I can’t think of any similar program in the States, to introduce kids to track and field at such young ages, and Steve agreed and wondered why Australia isn’t better in competitions on the world stage in these events. We decided it’s because of high school—in the States, most school have their own track and a dedicated track and field team with paid coaches, practicing at least five days a week, with competitions almost weekly during the season. Here, this program is about it, with just a few additional ways to get more training and coaching as kids get older, partly dependent on where they go to school. That was our answer at least….not sure if we’re right.
I am teaching SEVEN yoga classes per week, a huge increase for me. While I have been a bit panicked this month about low numbers in my classes, they seem to be picking up nicely these past couple weeks, and we have high hopes for this new venture being financially viable and fulfilling one of my passions at the same time—wow, how lucky if we can do that in our lives!
If I ever start to worry about the future of our world, what our children will grow up to live with and deal with, I can look back on this beautiful day and feel at ease again. Today we witnessed everything that is good and beautiful in our world and we saw that with kids like these growing up, it should be a good place, likely better than it is now. We held a fundraiser today to Save the Great Barrier Reef, at the suggestion of my 6-year-old son. This simple treat stand outside our house brought out such beauty and kindness that my heart and soul are simply overflowing and I need to share the story here, so that we never forget.
I am continually reminded that there is a greater being than all of us overseeing everything. Call it the Universe; call it God; call it what you will, but it is there. Steve and I have decided that we want to take one “big” family trip each year and do whatever we can to make that happen. Last year was our beautiful trip back home to Colorado and also sightseeing in Texas. In late July, even though I’d recently been laid off from my part time job, we decided to take the family to Cairns, home of the Great Barrier Reef. We settled on the September school holidays and started planning a weeklong trip.
My redundancy payout ran out the last week of August and we had a serious budget meeting and started to panic a little bit. I wondered a bit why we were as stupid as to plan a trip when I’d just lost a job. We knew that we’d forgo nonessential shopping, buying decent furniture, some out of the house entertainment, etc., because we’ve decided that experiences are more important to us at this point in our lives. But even with all of that, this still seemed a bit reckless.
However, our excitement mounted, because, when we told the boys the plan, they lit up and Drew started researching it in every way he could. Being part of his thirst for learning can be exhausting at times, but it is also incredible. He checked out books from his school library and asked us to read not bedtime stories to him at night, but rather facts about specific species of fish found near the Reef. He looked up videos and photos on the computer. He read on his own whatever he could find and asked questions. He just can’t learn enough about it.
At one point, he coincidentally saw a bit on the kids’ channel evening news about the Reef being in danger. He asked Steve if this was true and when he learned it was, he said, “Well, we should raise money to save it.” I started making dinner that evening and he burst through the kitchen (everything he does is big and fast and he never stops moving until he crashes hard at the end of each day), grabbed a couple oranges from the fridge and asked where my juicer was. When I told him to settle down, Steve told me to listen to his reason why. Drew said, “I need to make some orange juice to go sell on the corner to raise money to save the Reef.”
Wow. Ok. I told him that while I thought that was an incredible idea, he was not doing it tonight. He wouldn’t make any money and it’d be a waste of time and resources. However, I admired what he was trying to do and said we would follow through on it; we’d sit down in the coming days, have a family meeting and plan out when to hold a stand so that he could raise some money. Steve and I acknowledged that this was a teachable moment—it was a good way for him to learn how to plan and carry out an idea and event, and we wanted him to see that one person can make a difference. Since he often does have a pretty short attention span, and switches often from interest to interest, I thought there was a high probability that he’d forget about the idea now that he wasn’t enacting his plan immediately, and move on.
He didn’t. He kept after me, asking when our family meeting was to plan his treat stand. We sat down together one weekend in late August and picked a weekend. We decided on a Sunday morning at 9:00 because the church across the street held mass at 8:00, and he could get some decent traffic as people walked back to their cars afterward. We assigned jobs to each family member—he and I together wrote letters explaining what he was doing and asking local shops to donate some food and supplies. With the help of a conservationist friend, we researched various groups and picked an organization to donate our funds to. We contacted the Australian Marine Conservation Society (ACMS) to let them know and they were lovely. They got back to us right away and said they’d send some bookmarks, brochures, and stickers for him to pass out. He was thrilled!
We wrote to the local paper, hoping they’d include it in their weekly events section. He and Steve designed fliers; Steve printed them and then they, along with Zach and our gorgeous little neighbor friends, walked around the block putting them in mailboxes. I took him to the shops one afternoon after school and helped him practice what to say, and he handed out his letters and asked for donations. Oboys Fruit & Vegetable shop told him they’d donate some carrots and a young employee took a liking to him and offered to make homemade bliss balls for him to sell (they ended up also giving us potatoes and oranges!). Woolworths, the large chain grocery store got back to us the next day and said they’d donate a $20 gift card for him to buy supplies. He didn’t hear back from the two other shops we tried. That’s ok. He’s learning that you win some; you lose some and you appreciate the kindness people show.
He also brought his fliers to his class at school and his incredible teacher (this woman should make millions—she epitomizes what teachers should strive to be) arranged for him to meet with the school principal to ask about speaking at the school assembly.
The weekend before the event was absolutely crazy for us—it was too much, really, but everyone tolerated it well until Sunday night when, once again, Zach couldn’t stop coughing and we ended up in the Emergency Room. It was a quick visit and we were home with one medication, but everyone was so tired that I decided to not only keep Zach home from school on Monday, but Drew as well, just to give us all a chance to rest.
Well, the paper called that morning. Not only were they going to mention his stand, they wanted to learn more about it, and the fact that he was home that day, allowed them to speak to him directly. The article was printed that Wednesday in the little Northwest News.
And then things blew up and the power of social media reigned supreme! ACMS emailed me again that they’d seen the article and were inspired by his passion. They’d put the article on their Facebook page and were trying to organize a volunteer to come help us on the day—passing out information, answering questions, etc. They told me Fight for the Reef was putting the article on their page as well. I went to those pages out of curiosity and saw they have over 50,000 followers each. Those posts had over 200 “likes” each and over 50 “shares”. I started reading comments from perfect strangers and just sitting on my couch crying, reading all this surprise praise for my son, and even for us as a family. It was mind blowing!
Then the school called. A local AM radio talk show had contacted them and wanted to speak to Drew. He ended up getting to gymnastics late that afternoon because he talked to them first. Then they put the interview and a write up of it on their Facebook page and website!
Steve and I of course started sharing all this stuff as well and so did some of our friends. Then school friends just started offering help. People just would come up to me and tell me they’d bake cookies or muffins and bring them by. Wow—ok–thank you!
On Friday he did speak at his school assembly and, of course I’m biased, but I think he rocked it! I can’t believe his confidence speaking alone in front of people at 6 years old! I sure didn’t have that then. Then those same organizations shared his flier on their Facebook pages, reminding people to show up on Sunday. More friends kept offering baked goods—even the office coordinator at the ACMS emailed that she’d bake muffins and bring them by. At school that afternoon, his whole class along with their 6th grade buddies made signs for the event (of course, coordinated by this extraordinary teacher). We received 22 “Save the Reef” signs to bring home and hang up.
Sunday arrived and it couldn’t have gone better. Our little corner filled up that morning with school friends, homemade baked goods, and fish-themed t-shirts. And signs—so many signs, so much beautiful kid artwork! Friends offered tents and tables and Steve and I both made sure to keep it a kid-led and kid-organized event. ACMS showed up and brought Drew a t-shirt that said “Sea Guardian” on the back! He changed into it immediately!
Strangers kept coming through telling us they’d seen it on Facebook, or some in the local paper. Classmates and their families came by. We had a steady stream of people and about five 6-7-year-olds remained fully focused and committed to their tasks for nearly 2 hours! Adults helped, chatted, met each other, took photos—strangers wanted their photo taken with Drew and his sign! People thanked us for doing something to bring the community together, commented on how beautiful it was seeing kids working together for a good cause. And it was—it was SO, SO good! You just couldn’t help but smile.
He raised over $450! From a treat stand! The ACMS is thrilled and blown away!
We wanted to show our son that one person can make a difference. I think he learned that he can and I hope that stays with him forever and he never becomes cynical and doubtful. But I also hope he learned that it’s the support of the community you are a part of that really make big things happen. He is truly surrounded by an incredible community. I hope he learned that it’s showing kindness to others and really getting involved in the community around you that bring the greatest rewards. I think he knows that. He loves his people. And he knows that it’s not just about what’s local; it’s global. His grandparents in Colorado donated and his uncles and friends in the States also showed tremendous support. A cousin even tried to get him on the Ellen DeGeneres Show!
So it’s ok that we planned a trip when we really didn’t have the money to be planning trips. It’s ok, because look what resulted from that reckless act by Steve and I to focus more on experiences than “stuff” and finances! And you know what, the week after our panicked budget discussion, I was able to secure three additional yoga classes per week at a beautiful yoga studio in Samford (my goal was two more per week, as long as each of my classes are well attended—we’ll work on that!). I’ll be part of an incredible, kind team of people who seem as excited to have me and kids classes on their schedule as I am to be there and join them. I also got a new freelance writing project from a client I hadn’t heard from in two months, out of the blue.
Yeah. It’s ok. We took a leap of faith by planning the trip, another one by planning this fundraiser and another one by committing to these yoga classes. Beautiful things can happen when you take that leap, not always, of course, but they can happen. And you never get to witness them unless you actually leap. Life’s not about being careful and scared. It’s about going for it, giving as much as you can and LIVING!
Isn’t life ironic? I think it’s incredible how, just when I find myself complacent, the universe gives me a nice big smack to remind me that complacency is not good for me! ONE DAY after I wrote my last post, about how routine, “easy” and groovy life has been, I find myself in an ambulance headed to the hospital with Drew. Now that he’s ok, I really just have to look back and laugh, and say, “Yes! Ok! Got the message—thank you!”
He’d had a cold that weekend, but nothing major. He’d been sleeping well, eating well, had good energy, etc. He woke up Tuesday coughing a bit, but nothing that really worried us. Now the only time I set my phone aside while I’m at work is during the 20 minutes that I go to the break room to eat lunch. The school called during that time (of course). When I called back, they said Drew had been coughing quite a bit and seemed pretty unhappy, but had come down to the office for a rest, perked up some and headed back to class to eat lunch. We agreed that if he ended up back there again before the day ended, that we’d come pick him up. I didn’t hear back, so assumed he was ok.
When I got home that evening, he was watching TV and looked sick, although he wasn’t coughing much. I offered him an alternative to our dinner, which I never do. He accepted the toast, but wasn’t interested, began looking more miserable by the minute, and was happy when I brought up the idea of a bath. We bathed the kids and Steve went off to play football, while I got more and more worried. At bedtime, he just couldn’t settle—coughing a lot and seemingly short of breath. The boy can cry loudly enough to bring the house down with a skinned knee, so I thought the breathing might have just been fever and discomfort with some drama mixed in (mean, horrible Mommy!). I asked if he was having trouble getting air and he repeatedly told me No.
I called the nurse line. The nurse who could hear him told me to get him seen by the after hours’ doctor at our house that night. This service is my favorite part of the healthcare system in Australia. We waited a couple hours for the doctor to arrive (at NO cost!) and I almost cancelled it during that time, because he’d fallen asleep and I felt guilty having a doctor come all the way out to the house to visit a peacefully sleeping child. He just didn’t sound right, though, so I didn’t cancel. He woke up when she started examining him and she lifted up his shirt and my eyes teared up. His chest was retracting and you could see his ribs with each breath. I felt absolutely horrible that I hadn’t thought to do that earlier when I’d asked him how he was breathing. She gave him three treatments with a puffer and called the ambulance. The treatments helped him tremendously and he enjoyed the thrill of the ambulance ride—I’m glad one of us did!
We ended up spending two nights in a public hospital and came home Thursday afternoon. It was in the hospital that I missed the American healthcare system. Everyone was very nice and he got great care, but the patient food was disgusting and unhealthy and I DO NOT like sharing a room—yuck! One of our sweet neighbors brought me a magazine and chocolate, in addition to bread and milk for Steve and Zach at home, so we made things better by sharing the chocolate around the room. If you’re in a hospital, you NEED chocolate!
Bless his little heart; he was such a sweet, accepting patient. He did everything they asked of him without complaint–as long as they didn’t mind that he was completely zoned out on TV, there were no issues. I didn’t sleep much and was a bit of an anxious, crabby wreck.
My main issue with this hospital was that the nurse who discharged us sent us home with an empty inhaler! They gave us a weaning plan of how often to administer the medication over the next 4 days and I specifically asked if there was enough left in the tube they’d been using. She assured me there was and we ran out on the 2nd day! No prescription, no more medicine—wth?! I thank God that he didn’t have another attack, because I don’t know how many times I gave it to him while it had nothing in it, before I realized it was empty! Wow, just wow……
That whole incident was a big wake up call for me to remember to be grateful daily for our good health. I’ve kept a gratitude journal for almost 4 years now, where I write down 3 things I am grateful for at the end of each day. I enjoy the reflection. But it is amazing, how even with that daily practice, I take good health for granted. I was also so grateful for the numerous friends here who brought us food, helped with Zach and just gave us moral support. In addition, I was grateful for the friends and family far away who kept sending us love and support. This was another instance that made me thankful for technology—it can definitely be annoying and I have to continually work on managing the time I spend on it, but man, is it an incredible gift as well!
Of course, Zach got the same bad cold the following week. Luckily, other than a couple bumpy nights at home trying to settle his cough, it didn’t get serious. By the weekend of June 22nd, we were all quite healthy again. And, as luck would have it, Steve and I had a babysitter booked and Keith Urban tickets for Tuesday the 17th. We’d had the tickets for months and when the night came, I felt so guilty leaving Zach. He was doing relatively well and we know the babysitter really well, so we went for it, and, of course, again, he did fine. He started coughing and having issues AFTER we got home! It left us relative zombies on Wednesday, but otherwise everyone was no worse for wear.
The biggest way that all this affected me (selfishly, I need to explain this part) was that I had a lot going on with the yoga business, as well as an ongoing freelance writing project, and my race training amping up, all at the same time, when this happened. It all combined to make me feel very overwhelmed. I thought I’d reached the stage in my children’s lives that I could try something as crazy as starting my own business and training for a longish race, and suddenly, I was rethinking it all, wondering what the heck possessed me to try either of those, when sleep is not a guarantee! It reinforced to me that my family is the most important thing to me. Even with running a business, not everything is urgent and space can be, and must be made, when needed to take care of my boys.
Thankfully, we’ve had some pretty quiet weekends to start feeling normal again. Although that just makes me wonder if there’s a reason that my kids haven’t been invited to many birthday parties lately! Ay yi yi—my crazy, spinning brain!
And, another two weeks off from school began last week, and they have been very relaxing and productive so far, just what I think we all needed.
Highlights after everyone’s been feeling well, for me, have included our first trip to Queensland’s first Costco! Yippee! Sadly, it has brought super-sizes of the fattening, terrible, processed foods that nobody should be eating, that can only contribute to Australia’s growing obesity problem—catch us right up to the U.S.! But for a health nut like me, it means roasted seaweed, pita chips and reasonably priced foods like chia seeds, quinoa, dried fruits and coconut oil. Again—yippee! I can’t say how many stores here I’ve searched for dried cherries since we moved here—yummy!
Also, I did two 17.6km jogs on two recent Sunday mornings, and my dear husband packed up the boys and supplies and food and met me at my finish points to cook us all a BBQ breakfast. It was delightful, not only to run that far in one direction, which felt so liberating and like a great accomplishment, but to have their support, meeting me at the end for breakfast. They could just think—“Ok. Mommy’s on a training run today. We’ll just have breakfast without her and see her when she gets home.” But, they didn’t. They made an event out of it and made it more fun for all of us. I love that my husband is willing to do things like that.
I ran 19kms today and am as ready as I can be for the race in two weeks. Wish me luck! It may sound crazy, but I still get sad hearing about pregnancies and babies. I have a few friends having babies now, or pregnant, some with a 3rd child, and while I am honestly incredibly happy for them, it still makes me sad. For whatever crazy reason, my miscarriage made me want to do something that was all about me, and that made me feel strong and my body feel competent. That was the impetus for finally signing up for this half marathon. I knew I couldn’t do one if I was pregnant—at least for a couple years. Since I’m not pregnant, I decided to go for it. So, two weeks and here goes!! I’m excited.
Another highlight was the purchase of a waffle maker! I actually brought a friend’s old one over here this past January—taking up about 15 pounds of my allotted luggage weight and about half of one suitcase—only to have the fuse blow the first time we turned it on. Doh! So this past week, we enjoyed our first homemade waffles in Australia—fabulous!
The most recent highlight was a fun, lively 4th of July celebration that we held yesterday, on the 5th, out at a nearby reservoir. Our party included 4 other half-American, half-Aussie families, some South Africans who’ve lived in the U.S. for a few years and some true blue Aussies, up for a different kind of celebration. It was a great time with good people and I am thankful for the opportunity to still celebrate such important dates on the other side of the world.
I finish up my part time job in two days. Then it’s a big leap and hope for the best!
Oh, by the way, I saw on the news that the Queen’s birthday was actually being celebrated in England the week of June 10th, just after our public holiday here on the 9th. So, as an update to my last post–it’s not just some weird Aussie reason for celebrating her birthday in June. Her birthday is in April, but something official must be celebrated related to it in June—in England, too! Weird, but good to know…..
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.
I definitely have a lot to be thankful for and a holiday to reflect on that is a wonderful thing. My husband and partner in this crazy journey turned 40 this month. It’s so hard to believe that I met him about a month before his 29th birthday at a Boulder bar near closing time, and here we are now. Who knows what would have happened if I hadn’t learned how to make an overseas phone call, naively not realizing it would cost me about $200 to simply dial the few numbers, to wish him a Happy Birthday?!
It’s funny what a 40th birthday can bring up, even for those of us affiliated with the honoree. He definitely had some issues and spent a weekend riding around in a bus and drinking beer with childhood friends, bless his little heart. But it’s odd knowing I’m married to a 40-year-old man—how did that happen? Planning his birthday party brought back a lot of memories of being involved in my Mom’s planning of my Dad’s 40th birthday party. My Dad still seems 40 to me, which still seems a lot older than me. Steve turning 40 made me realize my own parents are in fact in their late 60s, just like my grandparents were at the time of my Dad’s party. It’s also made me realize that I’M nearing 40 myself! We are middle-aged, adult parents with school-aged kids. Wow! Somebody pinch me!
I guess maybe I always thought my parents had it so pulled together by the time they reached this age, and were so wise and adult, and I still feel like a floundering mess half the time. I’m now learning that they didn’t necessarily believe that about themselves at the time. I wonder if I’m fooling my kids as much as they possibly fooled me?
Anyway, it all made me feel very proud of my husband and the man he is. He had a tough upbringing and it took him awhile, but he’s become a teacher to tough kids that most of us wouldn’t go near with a 10-foot pole. He’s an incredible, involved and devoted father and husband and he enjoys showing everyone around him a good time. He does not refuse a request for help. In my mind he’s done well in his 40 years! Reflecting on his life now made me feel so blessed to be in the season of our lives that we are in, and feel more secure about being these middle-aged parents, floundering or not. It’s a beautiful time and I’m glad we have each other to share it with.
Last weekend, a bit early, we celebrated our 3rd Thanksgiving over here—can you believe it?! It was an absolutely gorgeous, perfect day, filled with lovely, fun, kind, generous, supportive friends that I cherish. We had every American we could round up, a few South Africans, who have American ties and who I just feel a kinship with having all made the same big move. We also had a few Australians who have celebrated with us now for more than one year, and we added in our neighbors this year, to make it feel truly authentic—the Pilgrims (us) sharing a feast with the Natives, who have helped us to feel more comfortable in our new home and showed us the lay of the land. And the difference with our feast is, we won’t steal their land and wipe them out after! Bad joke, I know. But…..All in all 40 people, half of them under age 6, filled our home with fun, fellowship and food for the day. And even though I will always miss being in the USA among extended family on that day (I know I will especially miss it on Friday here this week, when everyone there is celebrating), our celebration was a pretty darn good substitute, I must say. Even better in its own way. I really can’t even compare the two.
And, now that all that’s over, focus has turned to preparing to head out of town next Friday! Wow! In some ways I can’t believe it’s here, and in others, if it wasn’t here, I’d be a wreck. There is SO much to do to get ready—a long time to be gone and a long distance to go. But it is fun preparation.
Unfortunately, we’ve had some tough issues that have come up lately related to Drew’s toileting abilities/choices and Zach’s meal time behavior. To add to that, for some reason, I haven’t been feeling very well physically and haven’t been sleeping well for a few nights now, so yesterday and today things imploded a bit and I haven’t behaved like the person I want to be. Thankfully, I’ve learned what I need on days like these: I hid my embarrassment and sought out a trusted friend and had a good cry. I also had tea! I think it actually does help! 😉
I also had to deal with some difficult people over the weekend, and try as I might to learn healthy coping techniques: not letting others’ behavior affect me, feeling empathy for them related to their life experiences and how they’ve unfortunately responded to them, adjusting my own expectations as to how people should behave, realizing that we don’t get our happiness based on how other people behave but rather by how we react, etc., when I actually have to spend concentrated time with people who I don’t feel are treating my family members kindly and lovingly, it affects me deeply. I wish it wouldn’t. Sigh. Guess all I can do is keep trying……
The issues with my kids make me feel like an incompetent parent. I go way back! Steve is surprised at my memory, but I worry that leaving Drew to cry for too long or trying to be more disciplined about his feedings as a baby, rather than feeding fully on-demand, have caused this problem. I know it might sound silly, but it honestly sounds plausible to me.
Anyway, Drew’s teachers really helped this morning. They said it’s very common; it’s typically related to nothing more than being too busy to stop to go to the toilet and I shouldn’t be concerned at all for the next 2-3 years. Whew! Another friend really helped by suggesting a fantabulous reward system on our trip, if nothing else to save our own sanity and the flooring and noses of the people around us! The worries of how it would affect our travel and the people we’ll be around, honestly, greatly added to the stress I have been feeling over his issues.
As for Zach, we will try his own spectacular reward system and hope with fingers crossed that he does not embarrass us nightly at dinner. He seems to behave better when other people are around anyway. I lost it a bit on him today—not proud of myself for that. But we did just take a nap together and we are back to good.
If I can just get my physical health back to normal, the day should go much better now!
Just a quick update on our plans until we go, because I don’t know when I will write again:
-We all will experience our 1st school “swimming carnival” on Friday. From what I can tell, it sounds like Field Day, but instead involves races in the school’s own outdoor pool. I know Drew will love it and I am excited to watch him!
-We are hoping to get in a good beach day on Saturday. Our best laid plans on getting to the proper beach kept getting waylaid these past couple months and we have all been hoping for one good day before we head to the cold for a while, knowing, of course, that it’s been mostly fun plans that have been preventing us from going anyway, so either way is really fine.
-My company has its annual Christmas party on Saturday night. Our neighbors are generously keeping the boys for a sleepover, so Steve and I are all set to enjoy a truly no cost night out.
-Monday and Tuesday are my last days of work for the year (I’ve slowed down the freelance writing this month already and finished up everything to get my Level 2 Yoga certificate as well. I teach Drew’s class for practice for the last time tomorrow.) and Zach’s last days of day care. Next year, he will go to preschool/kindy !
-The boys wrap up their swimming lessons on Wednesday.
-Steve and Drew finish up work and school next Thursday, and then Drew will officially be a 1st grader!
-Next Friday, we are off! We fly to Sydney and then have a layover of over 4 hours (blah!), then to LA, then to Dallas. We arrive there Friday night and sleepily rent a car and drive out to my former boss/dear friend’s house for the night. Saturday we are off to Austin and San Antonio until Wednesday. We drive back to Dallas that night to be at the airport again by 4:30 the next morning and by 7:30 Thursday morning, we should be in Denver!!!!
We’ve got plenty of family and friend celebrations planned as well as fun in the snow. I haven’t decided yet how “connected” to technology I want to be (obviously, I’m pretty connected these days!). My latest decision is that there’s no need to decide. I can work all that out……
Breathe. Remember to breathe. “If you don’t breathe, you die.” That’s what my yoga training teacher tells us and thank goodness for yoga, because otherwise, I don’t know if I would have had time to breathe last month. But breathe I certainly do, and in actuality, I am breathing in so much joy and so many blessings right now that it seems like too much for just one person. I have enough right now; my cup truly runneth over and I am happy to share it around—I hope I can!
It’s been an action-packed month and I feel a sense of peace even now by “forcing” myself to sit down and get my thoughts on the screen. It seems like all this started happening out of nowhere, but I do realize that it actually is happening because of a lot of persistence and hard work that I’ve put forth and chances that I’ve taken. It’s just incredible that it’s all happening at once!
Although I had asked at my playgroup and Drew’s school if I could practice teaching yoga, it felt like I was just too busy and unprepared to firm up the plans. I hadn’t even finished my assignments yet from the Level 1 training to get my 1st certification—how could I teach without having done the planning for the hypothetical situations in the homework?
Well, this new spontaneous (huh?) me, just decided one day that if I didn’t set a date, I never would and I wanted this to happen. I truly believe that something/someone/some force is truly leading me this way. So I set the date of the 24th at playgroup and the 31st and 1st at the school. Done! Only now, in addition to my two hours of work from home, which are in addition to my 2 days of work outside the home and are for some reason difficult to find the time to do (that seems crazy to me, but I promise it’s true), I still had the yoga homework to do AND now had three classes to prepare to teach in an area I’ve never taught before! Smart move, Mommy! PLUS, it was the month for Halloween (which Drew and I must have been on some version of holiday speed trying to prepare for) AND just 4 weeks prior to the 40th birthday party I’m hosting for my husband. I really do put all this on myself; I’m a complete wacko.
(I just have to say that my writing tonight keeps getting interrupted by Drew’s itchy butt needing my attention. If tonight is going to be my first experience with kids’ worms that seem to be so common here…..let’s just not go there. Yuck!)
Anyway, all three teaching experiences turned out beautifully. It is incredible how children respond to yoga. Watching them lie calmly in meditation after having crazy fun with them trying to imitate different animals fills me with joy. It really does. Maybe I deserve that hippie nickname I so often get! I had a ball and I hope they did, too. I spent all of this past weekend in the Level 2 training, which was another inspiring experience. I have now set up practice teaching sessions at Zach’s daycare and with Steve’s teenagers (Yikes! I haven’t even learned that age yet, but I think I can do it—he wants less than 30 minutes anyway and I think it could really help them.) I have another set of homework to complete, too.
At the same time, my yoga teacher said she’d like me to help with writing for her business, an opportunity I do not want to pass up. Aside from the fact that it’s a way to get more experience and exposure in writing AND yoga, it’s subject matter that I am passionate about for a woman that’s a true gem. She is an incredible person and anything I can do to help in her passion, which is becoming my passion, is a great opportunity.
Also, the guy I’ve been helping with website and course materials for his cyber security business now wants me to continue working for him indefinitely, instead of finishing this week, which was the original plan. This is immensely flattering as well.
Then, as if my cake didn’t have enough icing, an article I submitted back in June to a local parenting magazine, about my identity crisis related to moving here, just got published this week! Ironically, at a time when my identity feels the strongest it’s felt in close to 6 years—isn’t life just amazing?! What’s also ironic is that it didn’t get published here. It’s in Sydney and Melbourne editions of the magazine, but not Brisbane or other, smaller cities.
Finally, to just completely spin me out, I won the sweep today at work for the Melbourne Cup race and got the $45 prize. Haha! I don’t even know if I wrote that out correctly. I have no idea what’s even going on! The big Melbourne Cup horse race is the first Tuesday of November and I described last year in my blog how incredible the experience was at work—being provided with a huge lunch and free alcohol in the middle of the work day, sitting around for two hours and watching a 3-minute horse race. It’s awesome! Every country should stop a work day once a year for something so nonsensical (maybe not horse racing because I really don’t like seeing animals mistreated, but for something….doing so can honestly only spread happiness.)
Thankfully, to bring me back down to earth a bit, a children’s story I submitted to Highlights magazine in the U.S. did get rejected today. So I do know that I’m still human. I think Drew might be most upset about that one, but I told him we will work on the story he wants me to write about fairies during our big trip next month.
Did you hear what I said?! Yes, our BIG trip is next month! Woohoo! So glad to be able to say those two little words—next month. Seriously, 18 months is too long to go without seeing my parents. I don’t like it. And we’re all just so excited to see several family members (meet our new nephew/cousin!), friends, mountains and snow. We are all looking forward to the adventure.
It’s very clear to me as I write this out that these numerous blessings and sources of joy are all about ME, good things happening for ME. That seems a bit selfish. I sometimes wish I could be one of those mothers who experience complete satisfaction and bliss from the transition to motherhood alone. I’m not one of them. I don’t know why, but I’m not. But I don’t feel guilt about all this good happening for ME, because it all makes me a better mother, because it makes me a better person. I’ve learned that, although my kids and my husband are sources of immense joy for me and I cherish so many special, everyday moments with them, that I am just plain nicer to be around when I have something that is all “Kathleen’s” to focus on. Right now I get that boost from exercise, writing and learning to teach yoga.
And speaking of yoga—the learning to teach part has also led me deeper into a practice I have enjoyed for 13 years. In the last year or so I’ve started exploring and learning more about meditation and Buddhism and all of this learning is really helping me right now. I’m learning to be a more positive communicator, a calmer person, more relaxed, kinder, more empathetic. So pursuing my own interests doesn’t just benefit me even if it does sound selfish at first. It benefits everyone around me.
Zach was in the middle of a tantrum the other day and I calmly but firmly said, “Zach! Remember your breath!” I’m not kidding—he stopped. He calmed down and communicated his issue. It may have been coincidence or it may have been that my focus on learning about breathing and staying calm is helping more than just me.
On a lighter note: Halloween! I do get frustrated at the backlash I experience directed towards this holiday, as well as the overall religious and multicultural intolerance I run into in this area. It is all quite new for me. But I am going to focus on the positive right now and emphasize how many more people around us happily joined in our celebrations and silliness this year—many for their first time! That made it an even more fun experience. Drew spent most of the month making decorations to hang around the house. The kid moves so fast—I would find an idea online for a craft and he’d be hitting me with requests for all sorts of outlandish supplies so he could create what’s in his head at 8:00 a.m. on a Saturday, while I’m still drinking my tea, so I’d show him what I found online and say, “Maybe we can make this later today.” He’d come back in 20 minutes with the finished product and wondered what other ideas I had. I’m not kidding. It’s gorgeous. And it’s exhausting.
My beautiful parents sent each boy 3 costumes this year. They arrived in September and were the cause of much excitement and fun in the house with all visitors as well. We went to a Halloween party on the 19th and I found an idea online to be the Queen of Hearts—very simple using an old dress and buying a kids’ tiara and some felt pieces to cut into hearts and pin on. Well, to Drew, this was incredible—“making” your own costume. He had to do it. The three lovingly mailed costumes got shoved aside and he got into high gear creating. Of course you have to support that! That’s what Halloween is all about. My favorite part about the holiday is seeing what creations people come up with. We finished my costume about 10 minutes before we had to leave, so that night, he hurriedly put on ALL of his swimming gear to be a “diver” and the next weekend we helped him (mainly Steve. He’s so good at that stuff!) use a trash bag to become a swamp creature for the big Halloween carnival, which is so much fun. Then on Halloween day, he decided to wear the “wolfman” costume he’d received. We also had a very happy Buzz Lightyear at two events and a friendly dinosaur on Halloween day.
We trick-or-treated with friends in the evening, which was great fun. And in the afternoon our local little main street organized a safe Halloween trick-or-treat event for the kids for the first time ever. Apparently, one of the business owners is American and wanted a proper Halloween experience for his kids. It was a lot like the Munchkin Masquerade in Boulder and it was a blast! Such a community-building event! I think it’s safe to say that Halloween has officially arrived and been welcomed with open arms in Australia! Complete with a sausage sizzle in the street—it just wouldn’t be Aussie without one!