Archive for the ‘holidays with kids’ Category

And the next adventure begins.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2013

We made it home. More importantly, we made it all the way up to our favourite place on the coast, and all the way back.

The 5 o’clock start pretty much everyday was harrowing. It meant early bed times, grumpy, dark, cold mornings and some long days. But the rest of it was pretty good. Beaches in winter that are actually appealing, a birthday, lots of visits to lighthouses, some of the most stunning houses I have ever seen, let alone stayed in, markets, yummy food, excellent coffee, terrible coffee and playgrounds. So many playgrounds.

We all got along pretty well, most of the time. Which in some ways is surprising as it was by far the longest time my husband and I had spent together  since we travelled overseas many, many years ago. We fought and got frustrated by the lack of sleep and an overwhelming lack of time to do what we really wanted. It never ceases to amaze me that being up at 5am doesn’t give you more hours in the day to do things, it just creates more time you feel rushed and trying to get somewhere before its lunch time or sleep time or dinner time.

And while we were both on duty and pretty much shared the cooking, the packing up, the looking after kids, the coming up with what to do today I still found it hard to relinquish control. I would still keep us on schedule a bit so the kids got to have a sleep or a rest and not go too mental. I still tried to limit the treats and increase the vegies. But now we are home there a few new questions to figure out. And our jobs are on the top of the list.

We have loved so many places on that coast and seriously considered heading up there, and we haven’t totally ruled it out yet. But we are still waiting on a few things we have to make decisions about. The stress of my husbands job was the reason for the trip. We had to get out of here for his own mental health. The situation hasn’t improved since we have returned and so after the reality of being home with two little boys for two months, he is now a bit more knowledgeable about what he might really be signing up for. So we are trying to decide who goes back to work full time, and who works part time and looks after the kids.

It is a fortunate decision to have to make really. I can work, I like working, I have the options of lots of employment open to me. Many people do not have any choice about what their work looks like. But we do, and we are feeling the weight of it. The boys would love to have their Dad home. They can build cubbies, ride bikes, cut down trees and go to the tip. There wouldn’t be any dance classes, or toddler gym, or visits to the shops. But it might mean they don’t really see their friends very often. I’m not sure my husband would happily ring up my friends and invite them and their kids over for the play during the week. I’m not really sure what dinner would look like, or the washing for that matter. But it would sort itself out eventually. Wouldn’t it?

So we are having a crack at it. A trial run, for five weeks. I am heading back to my old job, to teach bigger boys, some of which actually listen to me! I get to have lunch, adult conversations, use my brains and do a job I love. It is an interesting experiment to say the least. I am worried about relinquishing control over the household. I have spent the last four years making all the decisions at home and feeling like I have done a lot of the parenting too, at least the daily grind of parenting. I am worried that the job I love might not actually be that appealing, when the best job in the world is the one I have given up. I am worried that it might just reveal how shoddy my parenting is, when they have their dad home with them full time.

There will be lots of awesome things about this social experiment. And lots of questions, and lots of changes. It will be their Dad who has to orient them into their new child care place, and finally appreciate how heart breaking it is to peel a child off your leg and run out the door. It will be me who gets to exercise after spending all day at work (one can hope) and walk in the door to the madness that is dinner hour. It will be me who gets greeted at the door at the end of the day with hugs and kisses and the excited patter of footsteps down the hall.

I don’t really know what it will be like, but it will be interesting to see. And maybe then we can really decide if this is a long term change, or just an extended holiday for both of us.

It’s finally making sense

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today my wild child turned 4. He had the absolute best day ever. We all did. In fact it is not even 8 oclock at night and the reason I have time to sit and reflect and write and wonder is because all of the boys are asleep already, including my husband.

This in itself isn’t that unusual, but the feeling of space I have because we had such a great day is a little more abnormal. Sometimes I have time to myself at night, if I got enough work done that day, then I can just watch TV and let the day wash over me. Often there are feelings of regret, of negativity, of messing something up, or ruining what could have been fun, or my kids craziness getting the better of me.

Today we all hung out together. Yes there was still a two hour burst of surfing in the middle, and it wasn’t me, but mostly we were all together all day. And we were in it, really in it. Still answering phones, this time to birthday messages, still trying to write material for a publisher, still taking photos, but this time we weren’t faking it on Facebook, it really was great fun. It felt like a birthday. But more than than, today it felt like a holiday.

With no friends and family around to make the special day into an event, as we normally would, it meant the buck stopped with us. The present of a first-bike was a bit of a winner. He rode it in his jammies, to the shop and back, around the kitchen table, around the outside of the house, to the pub for dinner. Non-stop. And he even asked if he could have it sleep in his bedroom with him. Tick. He is totally obsessed with lighthouses, we amazingly found lighthouse Lego, we made a lighthouse cake, not too fancy, after all no-one else was going to eat this one, and we took him up to the lighthouse. At night. With the light on. (It was actually 5.30 but its pitch black here so it was perfect.) Tick. And he got to go to a special place with playgrounds and mini golf and animals and milkshakes. Tick.

He missed his buddies coming over for cake, as we usually do at home. And we missed the catch up with everyone. But honestly after the last family birthday we threw, when the birthday baby just cried, my balloons just popped, the kids cried over the pinata and my Mum landed a ripper insult on me, loudly in front of my mates, today just seemed a bit more appealing. There were no tears, no fights, no up late cleaning and cooking and wrapping and preparing and stressing and weather watching. We were all home, together, the sun shone, the cake was a hit and his brother and Mum and Dad were enough.

I think this is the whole point of the trip. In fact I know it is. And that makes me smile.

When your baby jumps out of the pram at the zoo and lands head first on their face on the concrete and other fun travelling with kids moments.

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Kids are funny creatures. They have to be, because I swear if they didn’t make me laugh as much as they do, I would leave them screaming in the pram somewhere public and just keep walking.

My kids are mad. And taking them out of their comfort zone does not make them any less crazy. In fact new places seem to just draw the crazy out even more. It’s like they sense an unfamiliar place and just let loose. A new supermarket, what a great place to test how fast I can run down the aisles. A funky cafe, the perfect place to try out my cow dying sound at the top of my lungs. A new house, there may be hidden toys here somewhere so I must leap out of bed at 5am and search the place until I find them.

Being on holidays means lots of time to do fun things. It also means a lot of driving, unpacking, packing, walking, getting lost, cleaning, working and making decisions. So let’s re-phrase, being in another place with two small children means all of these things, just a little bit more complicated than usual. And in between there are lots of fun things to do, some are fun, some are fun for a while before the wild child loses his shit over something massive like the tiny bit of icy-pole left on the stick falling off the stick, and some are more embarrassing than singing Abba with the police band in front of 1500 boys that you teach! (Yep I can tick that off the bucket list)

Sometimes it’s just about the timing.

Like the Taronga Zoo, awesome fun, for me. I loved it. I didn’t love paying a ridiculous amount for the slowest train in the world to take me 5 meters down the road, just so I could avoid a full-blown public meltdown from my spoilt child. And it was the bloody train that was our undoing. I just wanted to go see the Lions. My chubba bubba did not. He was done. So done that he would not sit in the pram, or walk, or get carried. So just to get quickly to the next animal I sat him in the pram with no straps. Bad idea. Happily family shot of us all looking and smiling and pointing at the animals is quickly replaced with a screaming baby who lept out of the pram, landed on his face on the concrete, and scored an egg on his head that looks like something that belongs on a baboons bum.

Or the trip to Circular Quay. Bus ride remarkably normal. Well other than the most vigilant bus driver marching down the bus demanding people stamp their tickets. Or the strange old lady who proceeded to tell the rest of the passengers that I was the dead spit of Samantha from Bewitched and trying to make me do the nose twitch. Or the wild child proclaiming to the ferry that he needed to do a poo, and on the return, sharing proudly that it was “massive”. No it was his obnoxious yelling for another ice-cream that did it, and then the running. Just running around and up and down and over anything he could find as Japanese tourists videoed him running and his brother laughing hysterically on their phones. Hell they are probably on Youtube, with me in the background wishing there was something stronger than coffee in my cup.

It was probably too much to ask for the wild child to sit for one more minute in the pram, and the chubba bubba not to do his best most-annoying-sound-in-the-world-as-per-dumb-and-dumber sound in a cool cafe. Having Martin Sacks bail me up to ogle in impressed horror at the size of my montrous pram had used up the last five minutes my kids have of behaving in a kind of normal way. That was it, my son wanted my attention and instead of asking nicely as I was trying to get him to do, he reached up out of the pram and slapped my face. Cue mortification. Yep Sacksy was watching, the coffee man gently lent over and said if you say sorry to your mum I’ll get you a coffee, and the baby was doing his best sqwarking piglet impression.

And the coffee was terrible.

So if you want to know all the good stuff, the laughter and fun and time spent together. The amazing achievement of my hyper wild child walking all the way to the Byron Bay lighthouse, or standing up on his dad’s surfboard and catching a wave with the biggest smile on his face. Or the obsession my bub has for his Dad or the pure joy of his first shower, then check Instagram and Facebook. But if you really want to know what it’s like travelling around with two small crazy little people, then this blog is for you.

Just don’t read it if your thinking of doing the same.

Life’s little luxuries

Friday, May 24th, 2013

I’m not sure how much thought I had given the day to day reality of being on the road with two mad little boys for many weeks. I knew most of the crappy stuff that bores me to tears, but that I have to do every day, over and over would not go away. I knew that there would never be enough sleep. I knew that some days would still feel really long, until those mad hours when I need to have three sets of hands and the serenity of a buddhist monk to get through all the demands without too much chaos.

So none of these things have surprised me. Sure, being awake before the sun every single day kills me. The dishes do get spread between two of us a bit, (but seriously the dishes my husband makes on his own still feels like I am doing the same amount as at home!), and I will get better at arriving in a new place at 4 in the afternoon and finding the absolute quickest meal I can buy from the supermarket and make it before the wailing begins.

But there are some things I have learnt. They are not the answers to the meaning of life, but for the moment they make my world go around.

  • Takeaway places for quick dinners don’t open till 6 in lots of small towns, and only about three days a week. Therefore always carry baked beans and bread.
  • I love my giant sink at home where I can hide lots of dirty dishes and do one lot a day.
  • Some days our only plans are eating oysters and surfing the Mal.
  • It is the people that make places great. Sure the scenery is stunning in lots of the places we have stopped, the sand whiter and softer than I have ever seen in some places and the air warmer. But if the people are weird, or rude, or annoying, or unfriendly, the place is less appealing. One place we loved, everyone seemed odd. We couldn’t put our finger on it, but they all had heaps of kids, wore matching trackies and both parents were at the park, and they lived there. And then on the Sunday morning, the kids were dressed nicer, the park emptied out and the penny didn’t drop until I heard one kid start crying about having to go to Church. Yep this was a Christian town. Not offensive at all, just a bit different to what we were used to. No wonder the long haired wild child kept getting mistaken for a girl.
  • A coffee addiction is a wonderful thing. Most days it is the only conversation I have with another adult. It is a reason to get out of the house early in the morning and forces me to walk the streets of wherever we are.
  • When it is carrying on outside like the 50 year storm has arrived and continues for three days, a roof over your head that is not made of canvas is wonderful.
  • Not having TV means I sleep more, know what time it is less and have very little idea about what is happening in the rest of the world.
  • A good playground can make or break a holiday.
  • So can a good backyard.
  • If an extra hundred bucks for the week buys you a pretty bloody good view, it is money well spent.
  • If my phone says 6 something when that first little voice calls out, then I’ve had a ripper sleep in.
  • It’s better when there is surf. Sure you’re on duty more, but your husband is an awful lot happier.
  • My children will be each other’s best friends. The way they make each other laugh gives me goosebumps.
  • Even in these places that I feel like I could never leave, I don’t actually think I could really stay. I would miss everyone at home too much.

It has been wonderful so far. And we haven’t even got to the best part yet. I have just been offered a huge new writing opportunity that I am pounding my way through and my husband’s work keeps rearing its ugly head every couple of days. The weather has been warm mostly, but horrible for the last few days and our two favourite places are a few more hours up the coast. But we are spending lots of time together. The boys have both of us, lots of the time and we get to wake up almost every day with no plans, lots of ambition and two crazy kids to manouver around.

There are a few truths we are facing too, but for now the warmth of an open fire, the stunning view out the window and the wild child’s current obsession with chasing dinosaurs is keeping the shine on the trip.

Miss you all xx

A new kaleidoscope of memories

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Memories have funny triggers.

It can be a smell, song, place, view or experience. The same place can have lots of different memories depending on the experience, the company and even the weather. This trip has already been such a wonderful chance to reminisce in many places I have been before and loved.

Sydney is a bit of a mix for me. A few good ones, but most of them tinged with bitter after taste as I remember the moments I loved, and then the moments that followed.

I have been here many times and today I visited it again, but for everyone else with me, it was their first time. That bridge still takes your breath away as it peeps out from around the corner. And the Opera House is, well, stunning, for everyone, every time. Even my bub pointed and oohed in appreciation. Which is a big deal, because it isn’t a truck!

And that was about where the admiration and sightseeing ended. Because I have never been to this city with two small, wild, boys. And as my husband said today, I’d like to come back here one day – without these two monsters. It was ambitious, sure, but most of this adventure is, and we’re in it together so we might as well give it a crack. The pubs are beautiful and old and appealing, the bakeries extraordinary with their windows lined with delicacies, and the shops unusual and expensive. But all were merely admired from afar. After finally restraining the wild child we wandered The Rocks and wished and wondered. But we were happy to keep walking, we had to be, we had no choice. After a bus ride and a ferry ride it was probably to be expected that the wild child was going to unleash. And in all honesty, Circular Quay was far less offensive than either of those confined spaces, (in which he was amazing well behaved!) I’m not sure whether it is better to be publicly humiliated with a screaming, demanding three year old, (while trying to restrain the 17 month old octopus we travel with), in a place where you do not know a soul, or somewhere you know lots of people and you might get a sympathetic smile from someone you kind of know. I am positive I will have more opportunities to reflect on this in the coming weeks.

It was lovely to see my husband impressed with the beauty of this big city. It was lovely to feel warm and slow and out of place. It was lovely to be here as a family. I don’t know if this is a memory my kids will ever own, but it is one for me. It will fill up more space than some of the other more unpleasant ones I have. But not all. As I walked through The Rocks today I did point out the corner I had the pleasure of seeing Jon Stevens, very up close, playing a gig, and a pub I drank in with dear friends while away at a work conference. I remember seeing fireworks off that bridge one New Years, and catching the Manly ferry on my own and missing my friends. I’ve missed planes out of Sydney, danced in gay clubs for the first time in Oxford St and walked the zoo solo with a roll of black and white film in my camera.

There are many other heart-pumping memories of Sydney filled with the stink of fear and embarrassment and shame and betrayal. A months worth, and then some. But today the beauty of this city was overwhelming and the company stunning. If I’m going to be embarrassed by anyone, then my wild child is the one person I pick. Especially with a chubba bub there to chase after and my husband to hold my hand.

 

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When 5am becomes a sleep in

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

I have many reservations about writing this piece. I fully appreciate how self-indulgent this whinge might be. But given that one of the main purposes of this blog is therapy for me, then it is a must. Especially as I am now hundreds of kilometers from my wonderful friends who normally listen to this kind of rubbish.

There should be another word for travelling with children. Holiday is far too misleading. And like everything with small people, it’s still wonderful, it just takes a sling shot back into reality to realise what you really signed up for. I do love travelling, maybe even a bit more than holidaying. I have more often than not, spent my time away visiting places, people, indulging in local food and culture and rubber necking. I do love lying by a pool, but I also like the feeling of going to a few places in one trip, plus it gives you and your partner something to talk about!

This adventure is most certainly travelling. It is planning, exploring, investigating, visiting and doing. It is not relaxing, in any way. In fact, it is tiring. But that’s okay, (like I said, bad problem to have being on the road for a couple of months with your kids!) I just need to readjust my headspace a bit. I need to remind myself that this was never intended to be a book reading, beach lying, sun-baking, coffee shop experiencing trip. This was always going to be, and absolutely should be, about playgrounds, takeaway coffee, surfing, kid friendly beaches and fun stuff to do. It is intended to be a change of scene, not life. And at their age, I do think it should be all about the kids, and the surf.

It took me a few days to stop being pissed off that I had still not eaten a meal sitting down, or not cooked one for that matter. That I still had to do loads of washing, constantly negotiate with a wild child and baby proof surroundings. And I am still adjusting to the ridiculous wake up time of somewhere between 4 and 5 every day. This hurts. And as I have said before, not only at that stupid, dark, many-hours-till-sunrise hour, but all day. In fact, I got to meet someone I’d hoped I’d never meet. Some of my friends know him well; that bastard Anxiety. I would find myself short of breath, panicking and this feeling of dread would creep up when I remembered that even when I went to bed tonight, (at 7.30), this would still happen tomorrow. I would worry one of us would be in the car again the next morning, driving them hours up the highway hoping they go back to sleep again. I would worry about being in a camp park with two small children screaming well before dawn. I would worry about what it means for their development all this lack of sleep, or their behaviour by the afternoon, especially when the wild child will not even have a rest during the day.

But now I am becoming accepting of it. Sure, I can’t write very often because I am in  bed at night when they are. And yes there are a few more fights, and even some tears from me, when I get a bit too overwhelmed by it all. But the positives are that at least there was no-one at the hospital at 7am the other morning when we had to take Gordo in with chronic tonsilitis. And that we get to see the sunrise. And that where we are at the moment there are no neighbours. And that unlike one of my dearest friends who has put up with this for months, my kids might cut it out when we get somewhere and they don’t have to share a room.

So now I have my head around it, my body clock around it and can keep myself awake for an extra few minutes to write this, it isn’t so bad. The days are wonderful. We have sun, surf, lots to do, and really we have each other, which is the whole point of this anyway. There could be much, much worse things than waking up to the sound of your two boys laughing at each other, even if it is the middle of the night. And we didn’t need to travel up the coast to find that out, but it sure is a nice way to do it.

Our topsy turvy adventure

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

We are finally on the road. We have packed up most of our life, organised it into tubs and bags and packed it into the trailer and the car, a few times already, and left what we know our life to be at home for a couple of months. We have decided to spend some time together, really close together, like in a car all together and then in a tent all together or a tiny house or apartment or cabin all together. I’m not sure if it is the best or worst decision we have ever made, but we had to make it and so we are away.

My husband has been absolutely miserable at work for a long time and while quitting isn’t really an immediate option, nor  is the solution to fixing the problems really that close, we decided to take some leave. I have lots of jobs at the moment, most of which I can still do on the road, so while I am not locked into teaching terms, we figured it was now or never.

The coast calls both of us pretty strongly. We both absolutely love the beach and everything about that lifestyle, well except winter by the coast with two small boys, so we are chasing the sun and the waves and letting our hearts guide us where we would like to be. It’s not a permanent change, but hopefully the impact will be long lasting. I have dreams and goals and career opportunities a plenty, but my husband is a bit stuck at the moment and as he feels like the one who is the breadwinner, then he really needs to find something more satisfying than the current situation. That’s not to say we are looking for a new place to live or even a career change for him, but time away brings perspective and at the moment he has absolute tunnel vision.

We have travelled this coast both together and separately many times, but never with two small, bundle-of-energy boys. We know the pubs, the surf spots, the amazing places to hike to and fish from and we even got engaged in one of these stunning spots many moons ago. But this time it is different. This time it is still about exploring, but it is also about finding fun things to do together, working out how to spend some apart so we don’t all get too crazy, and of course finding the playground in between.

Some things about our life will stay the same. We will still cook every day and do dishes and washing and clean up mess, but we get to do it together. We get to do it in a time that suits us all and hopefully we get to do it in a way that shares it rather than dreads it. The early mornings will stay ridiculously early, no doubt, the surf will still determine the days plan and the weather will dramatically affect the kind of day we are having. But there are lots of things that will hopefully shift a little, and maybe a lot. We get to parent equally and together, which means some times I might even get to be the fun parent. We get to really miss our wonderful friends and family and make more of an effort to catch up, keep in contact and be there for. We get to appreciate where we live and discover amazing new places along the way. We get to find joy in the little things, like really good coffee, or the laughter of our boys playing together in their shared room in the morning, even though it is still dark outside, or the magic an ocean can have on everyone’s moods. I might get to surf a little bit, walk a lot and actually talk to my husband. And hopefully he gets to figure out what might make him a bit happier, or just work out how he can fit more surfing into his days at home.

We are extremely lucky to be able to just leave our lives behind for a bit and indulge in some family time. We know that and have to remember to appreciate that, even when the bubba is still spewing in his bed, the wild child is cracking it in the car and the weather turns to shit keeping us all locked in doors. And it doesn’t really matter what we do or where we do it, but that we get to do it all together for what I’m sure will seem like quite a long time.

So here’s to our adventure, the ups and downs and windy bits where we throw up on ourselves in between. I hope you might get to enjoy some of it with us on the way.

 



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