Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Trip Home

Did I wait long enough for the last post?  A dead battery in my laptop, a visit to Idaho, and a house full of 16 people kind of delayed everything. But here we go.  Oh, and I will add photos later. Its now late and I'm ready for bed. So check back to see some awesome photos!

Our flight wasn't until 11:45 PM so it was good and late when we were ready to board.  Steve bought sandwiches while I sat in the waiting area.  Heidi was busy entertaining the sweet couple next to us.  They have a story that I was interested to hear the ending to... wonder what happened. Their daughter was supposed to get married in Fiji but she didn't have some of the paperwork she needed so they didn't know if the wedding would actually happen... Too bad we never saw them in Fiji to ask the outcome!!

The kids had sandwiches and Steve got us little calzones.  My kids ate more of mine than I did!!  The couple was laughing at everything that was going on.  Sitting in a waiting room for an hour tends to wear on the nerves of everyone. There was one very rude man that snapped at everyone - good thing we didn't sit by him on the plane! Thankfully they allowed everyone with children on the plane first.

We had a quick dinner on the plane and then Heidi fell asleep.  She had a rough night because she couldn't get comfortable - which means I couldn't sleep either.  She did sleep enough that those around us didn't want to throw us off the plane so I'm glad about that.  Even though we left at 11:45 PM, we got to Fiji at 5 AM their time - and it was only a 5 hour trip. We were EXHAUSTED.  Because it was a longer period than 10 hours that we would be in Fiji, they wouldn't let our luggage stay checked so we had to pick it up. That went over well!!  We had four trolleys that we dragged from the luggage claim over to the long term storage. 95 Fijian dollars later, we had everything stored and we were ready to go sight see. 

We found an awesome taxi driver that took us over to see the white sands.  He took a few detours on the way to show us a carnival, his house (where he asked his mother-in-law to feed us for dinner later), and then he showed us some good souvenir shops. You could tell he loved what he did.  We went and saw the white sands and they were FANTASTIC.  I didn't want to leave.  We were not dressed for the occasion though.  One child had pajama pants, I had jeans, Heidi had pajamas (she was MELTING by the time I was able to change her, but luckily I had a change of clothes for her in my purse), and a few others had pants. It doesn't help that we'd left Australia when it was cold!!  We adjusted clothes the best we could to make us more comfortable, and went on to enjoy the beach.

We enjoyed it all. The kids had fun in the sand and in the water.  I found a hermit crab and picked it up thinking it was cool. Apparently Gavin did not.  He FLIPPED out. I had never seen so much terror in such a little boy. He was frozen stiff with his eyes opened wide and the scream that came out of him was sheer terror. Apparently it looked like a spider that his mom was holding? I'm not sure what was so bad but every time he saw the crab he screamed again.  His reaction spread to Ethan who decided it wasn't cool either.  I guess we won't be getting a hermit crab as a pet...

I was clicking pictures as fast I could because that sand and the view was just breathtaking.   After the boys had enough of screaming at the crab, we decided it was time to move on to the next part of the trip. Even though I didn't want to be dragged away!

Our next leg of the trip was spent snoozing, staring at the ocean and looking for the banana trees.  I forgot to mention that we were all squeezed into one taxi. Steve sat in the front with the drive and the rest of us were in the second seat. Yes, 7 of us. So all of the sightseeing also included shifting of ways they were sitting.

We stopped at a souvenir shop where we enjoyed looking at the fun gadgets, clothes and other cool things. Steve got himself a straw hat and we got something for each of the kids.  They offered the kids  some amazing fruit drinks.  Afterwards, Steve bought some bananas from a road stand and we devoured them.  Bananas in Australia were incredibly expensive because of the flooding in Queensland, so we hadn't bought any since we left.  Only 5 months but it seemed like forever!!  Plus they were fresh bananas so they were that much better.

We went to an 'eco park' next.  Which is their way of saying zoo.  It was awesome. My kids held iguanas and snakes and they got to feed a turtle.  The birds were just plain cool and we enjoyed walking through. It was small as far as zoos go but everything was native so that made it even better. They told us about the huge spiders in several places - and I'm glad we didn't see a single one!

Our next stop was at our driver's house.  I must admit it I felt very strange going to this person's house and eating with him and his family.  They were very sweet though and the food was AMAZING.  His family was from India but had been in Fiji for a couple of generations. They still knew how to make good Indian food though!   The kids played soccer with his son for a while and then it was time to head back to the airport. It was a wonderful way to spend a day in Fiji!

We got to the airport and sat around for a rather long time.  We could have driven around a little longer but I was getting antsy and didn't want to worry about getting all of our stuff together and miss the plane.  There was no need to worry. I think we were there about 5 hours early... 

We had to argue again with the stewardesses about getting luggage checked.  They sent us over to the main person to whom I finally just said "Look, we've lived in Australia for the last 4 months and got sick and had to move home. This is ALL of our belongings and we have no other way of getting them home. With eight people you're GOING to have this much stuff so what do you expect us to do?"  They talked for a few minutes and finally just let us check as much stuff as we wanted without charging us more.  Apparently Frazzled Bear Mom was enough to not mess with!  They told me that LA may charge us more when it gets there but they'd just let us through. I thanked them a million times and we were on our way with 6 less pieces of carry on luggage.  Don't get me wrong, we still had plenty of carryons. I'm really quite amazed we made to Australia with as much as we did with no other arguments...

Anyway, we had time to let the kids play, Heidi dance to the Fijian singers and for Gavin to fall asleep in a very uncomfortable position.  

Jakob decided to make it worse by pulling the bag out from underneath his head so Gavin landed on the floor - on his head. He was tired enough that it didn't even faze him. He just kept right on sleeping.  After changing diapers on the two younger kids, making sure everyone used the potty and getting drinks from the drinking fountain, it was time to board.  We had our arms packed so Steve and I had to each take one of Gavin's arms and walk him to the plane. I felt so bad but we had no other choice.  He was out again as soon as he had his seatbelt on.

We had excellent seats this time.  Heidi was given a bassinet again and she was out before we took off.  Ashley made it a little longer but then was asleep before they served dinner - and wouldn't wake up for it.  The other boys ate their dinner and then slowly dropped off to sleep. I sort of slept. Enough to where I was okay when we landed.  We had breakfast and then it was time to land. I was so happy to be landing in America!!  I nearly cried the first time I saw the US flag. I was HOME!!

We got all of our stuff and headed over to make it through customs.  They saw everything we had, the amount of kids we had, and our US passports and put us in the shortest line.  The man in charge had a cool Russian accent and made jokes with us. We made it through and headed towards the baggage claim to collect our luggage. Four trolleys later, we headed up to get our rental.  We thought it would take an hour to get everything done. We were to the rental counter in under 20 minutes. Sweet!!

There is an episode on Spongbob where he is in another town and he's trying to catch a bus to Bikini Bottom.  No matter what happened he couldn't catch the bus. When he was looking away or at a vending machine, the bus would come, but as he sat there waiting, there was no bus...

That's how it felt for us.  We had to catch a shuttle to the car rental place.  We saw several buses pass while we waited to see if we could get someone to get us and all our stuff. As soon as we went out to actually get on the bus there was NOTHING. We  saw shuttle after shuttle for every other rental place but nothing for ours. 15 minutes later one showed up but it was too full. Luckily the next one there was room and we hopped on.

We had to wait outside at the Rental agency while Steve went in to get his car. Yes, his car.  They had 12 passenger vans and other bigger vans but no one would allow us to drive one out of the area.  So we got to take two cars.  After Steve picked up his Jeep Grand Cherokee, he loaded it and the kids helped while I went to get my car.  I had a Nissan something.  I forget what it was but it was a NICE one.

I took Andy, Gavin and Heidi, Steve took Jakob, Ashley and Ethan and off we went. I had NEVER driven in LA or anywhere near it.  I was scared to death. Out of all of this, I count that as one of my major accomplishments. :)  I actually had an easy time - even though we both had to remind ourselves to drive on the right side of the road before we ever started driving. And a few times after that... don't worry, it was all mentally. We didn't actually drive on the wrong side.

Anyway, we didn't have cell phones so we had no way of contacting each other.  We had the agreement that if either of us got tired, we'd pull off to stop and walk around. I followed him so if I decided I was tired, I would pull ahead of him and then pull off.  We made it outside of LA and quite a ways out to Hesperia before Steve decided he'd had it.  He couldn't find radio stations and he was tired.   I had been tired shortly after we started driving but blasting the a/c and the music really helped (I love Matchbox Twenty, Hanson, and Mindy Gledhill for helping me survive).  We ate at In N Out (where a guy told me I had a nice ride - too bad it was a rental!), which is Steve's favorite place.  He decided after living off Ginger Beer in Australia, that Barq's Root Beer is not so good.  We ate, shared CD's and were on our way again. Our next goal was Zzyzx Road.  We thought we were closer than we were...

I kept my kids singing and talking and so did Steve.  The trip flew by. By about 8:00 I had the shocking realization that it was still light...  In Australia it had been getting dark at 5:00!!!  That threw me more than the jet lag or the hotter weather.   We made it to Zzyzx Road where the kids had a potty break (hey, it was dark) on the side of the road and decided that we'd stop again in Primm to get gas for my car. Apparently my Nissan didn't get great gas mileage compared to the Grand Cherokee.  So we stopped again there and walked around for a while. The kids were fascinated by all the lights.  Andy and Gavin had been waiting to Vegas for a long time and were really excited when they finally saw the lights.

After Vegas things started getting quieter so we had to be much more alert.  We stopped at a gas station and grabbed drinks so we'd have something to keep us awake. We were getting so close!! Andy kept talking about how he remembered that Ashley threw up going through the Virgin River canyon several years ago. I tried to get him to be quiet but of course he kept mentioning it so that Gavin decided that HE needed to throw up.  Luckily it didn't actually happen.

We FINALLY made it to St. George.  I expected to have this warm "Yay I'm home!" feeling but instead it was as if I never left.  It was like another chapter had closed and been ripped out of the book. I knew I'd left, I knew I was coming home but it felt like that move to Australia had been a dream. A day or two into visiting Steve's parents, his dad mentioned the same thing.  I was so happy to be back again!

After spending time there we made it back to Utah Valley. I was thrilled. I still didn't have that "I'm home!" feeling.  It was, again, like I'd never left.  We'd spent the night with our friends the night before we left for the airport so it felt like we were just continuing on. 

Sunday morning we got up and got ready for church. We decided to go to our ward and surprise everyone. We hadn't said anything on Facebook or anywhere else purposely so we could surprise them. I did have one neighbor I needed to tell because I knew that Sacrament Meeting would have had a rather large drama play out if I didn't. She assured me that it was a good thing I'd told her beforehand. :)

We left for church and as we were driving closer to Eagle Mountain, I began to feel a warmth and a feeling of peace that I had been waiting for for so long.  I finally felt like I was home. I finally felt that feeling that I belonged somewhere and it was the best feeling.  We still didn't have a home, no job but we knew we could stay with my parents so I was content with that but I still loved that feeling of peace I felt.

The surprise worked great. We loved the double takes we got from people when they realized we were actually sitting there.  We assured people that we were not here visiting, that we were back.  And MAN, was that a great thing to say!  The kids went right back into their classes and I enjoyed my classes. Heidi even played in nursery. For a few minutes...

So that's our story of our move to Australia.  Its been filled with a wild roller coaster ride but I'm happy with the ending.  I am still amazed that we made it through seven flights with so many bags and kids and only once did we have a delay(from Sydney to Canberra at the very beginning) and we never missed a flight!!  Since we got home, Steve has found a job (we're very excited), the kids are registered in school, two kids are signed up for soccer, and we got our house back.  We had amazing tenants that took great care of our house and were willing to let us move back in. They found another place and we move in this next week.  I cannot believe the blessings we have received since we got home.  

We have spent  two weeks with our friends (15 people in one house) which has been soooo much fun. Our kids get along great, we get along great and its been an awesome adventure.  The last week was spent in my hometown and I loved it!  My son got to be baptized with his cousin and we went swimming every day.  I'm very ready to move into my house and have a quiet life of being a mommy and nothing else.  Is this the last of our adventures?  I'm sure we'll find others to keep us busy. But for now, I'm content to stay home and UNPACK.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Month Later...

Wow. I thought I'd written not long ago. So much has happened in the last month that I'm not surprised its been so long!

The Fourth of July came along and we went to TGI Fridays for an American meal.  We even had an American waiter. I was thrilled. I got my steak, potatoes and corn on the cob, Steve got Salmon, and the kids got pizza, cheeseburgers and chicken fingers. I was thrilled. We even got video of Heidi doing her Peppa Pig impression. I'll have to get the video posted when I can use my own computer again.

The next day was Gavin's birthday and the poor kid had a rather lameish birthday. He didn't get much for his gifts, the cake turned out nasty (it didn't bake all the way through, the spring form pans leaked and the butter is much stronger in flavor so it was more buttery than we liked it) and I was sick.  BUT he did get to go bowling which made up for everything. It was AWESOME.  Ok so the scores weren't, but we all had fun. We used the bumpers for all the kids and they had a blast.

Among one of our house hunts, Steve took the kids to the park while I fed Heidi in the car.  They came back and Steve had a white wallet that Jakob had found on the slide. He looked through and found the school ID so he called and the school put him in contact with the guy that lost it.  They met at a shopping center the next day and the guy was so relieved that it was Steve that found it rather than someone else.  He said that not many people would have given it back - especially with the money still in it.  He was very thankful that we were honest people.  Steve also helped buy a train ticket for an older lady that needed one.  He had walked past knowing he had no change but then realized he could use his credit card so he bought her one. She was very happy.

We went on a few road trips among house hunting, while we had use of a car. We'd heard that the Great Ocean Road was beautiful so we decided to try it. I loved the trip TO the road. The land was gorgeous. We stopped at Bunnings Warehouse (like Home Depot that has a catchy little tune that the kids would sing whenever they'd see the store) and let the kids use the restroom and then continued on.  It was about this time that Ethan started screaming because of his ear.  I held his hand and we kept driving. It was getting dark by the time we got to the Ocean Road but we still saw some gorgeous views.  We stopped at one spot and went to see the beach. It was amazing. Only Ashley decided to put a hole in her foot on something in the car so that kinda put a damper on it for her... Ocean water doesn't feel good on cuts, just so you know.  I held Ethan's hand all the way home.  The next day at nursery Ethan had a very rough time.  His other ear started hurting until he was able to eat and pop both ears. Dumb hills.

We found out that the real estate agent for the Blackburn South house we wanted was fighting to get us into the house that they rejected us for on the basis of the house being too small. Four bedrooms too small for 8 people? They apparently didn't see our two bedroom cottage...

Anyway, they got us the house and I really fought it.  I wanted to feel good about it. It was in the ward I wanted for church, the kids could do scouts (only one stake in all of Australia still had scouts that were affiliated with the church), it was walking distance to a school and it was a good size. But I couldn't.  It was a house though so I told Steve to go through with it. I figured that maybe it was just because anything permanent would make the stay longer or something.  At least that's what I was told by several people and I figured it must be true. Any bigger purchases felt the same way.

The day we signed for the house, we went to the doctor and found out that Australia hasn't approved the thyroid medication dosage that I need.  Not good.  They have 25, 50, 75, 100 and 200.   I use 137.  Odd number but its right between 125 and 150.  125 was too low and 150 was too high.   The doctor told me he could just "mess with the dosage until they got it right. Uh, that's my life buddy boy.  I was born without a thyroid so I have nothing to go on. And you mess with that, you mess with the chance of doing severe damage.  So I emailed my sister and asked for her to get a refill of my pills along with a few other things I needed.

The big day arrived and we moved.  We had our good friends help us, which saved us 2-3 trips.  After moving our things we went to a lady's house (a friend of one of Steve's work colleagues) that had furniture for sale and picked up a couch, washer, bookshelf, table and chairs, and two smallish fridges.  We took them home and got all settled, warming ourselves in front of the gas heaters.

The first sign that something wasn't good was the itchy arms. I was laying on the couch and my arms started going crazy so we put a cover over the couch.  Then I noticed that in certain parts of the house my sinuses (that were admittedly already stuffy) were going berserk. My eyes started itching, Heidi was breaking out in a rash and the boys were rubbing their eyes.  I vacuumed several times thinking maybe it was the carpet.  That just made it worse.  Then we got an email from the property manager not to vacuum because that would make the allergens go up into the air. So, we don't vacuum?  Steve asked if they could pull out the carpet (that was probably about 50 years old and nasty) and he laughed and said no.

A few days into being there, I had to fill out the condition report for the house (so they know what it looked like before and after we move in and out) and noticed that they had written that there was mold in the edges of the shower. Wait, what? They KNEW there was mold. They KNEW we're allergic to mold, but they let us move in...? So I did some more inspecting. The wallpaper in the bathroom was curling and there was mold in there.  There was swelling and molding on the edges around the outside of the showers. There was mold in the wallpaper in the laundry room AND the linoleum was bubbling up in several places. NOT AGAIN!!!

Steve made spaghetti one night and went to dump the water into the sink and out came a plume (not that you could see but that you could certainly smell) of mold.  The kids that were in the room and Steve all started coughing and gagging. Luckily the spaghetti hadn't gone into the sink along with the water... A few days later it did the same thing.  You had to run any water for a good minute before it stopped smelling. And the list goes on...  Every time I thought maybe I was imagining things I'd walk down the hall to get something and get hit with mold in the hallway or closet or laundry room... it was insane!

We knew we were in trouble. None of the houses we'd looked at the whole time we'd been in Melbourne was mold-free.  Even the wood floor houses had issues. Several were awful. So what do we do?  We kept fighting through it.  I unpacked and told our friends at home to send our stuff. And then a few minutes later had Steve write back and have them NOT send it. I liked not having a ton of stuff and I just didn't feel like they should. Boy am I glad we didn't have them send it.

Steve was going to be on a three month project. He was so excited for it and I was excited for him. It was a business analyst position that would have been so good for him. He was supposed to be doing a different job for Fosters and that fell through, good thing too, he would have come home every day smelling like hops.  So this would have been his first one and he loved it.  The first week went great. He got along well with his coworkers, the bank he was working with loved him and it was awesome.  Then one day we were going to meet in the city to go to Costco and I got a text.  Steve said he was done with the bank for now and I didn't know if that meant for good or for the day.  The next text said that the bank had decided to consolidate and they dropped Steve's project and my jaw dropped.  It suddenly felt like the last thing keeping us in Australia was gone. We decided to go to Costco anyway but didn't get what we'd been planning to get.

Over the next day or two, while fighting Steve's nasty cold, allergies and more allergies we had several discussions. We decided that we were to the point it wasn't worth our family's health to stay.  I offered to take the kids and go and let Steve finish his contract and he decided to go with us.  It would not be right to separate the family like this just for a job. Steve emailed his boss and let him know what was going on, and told him that we were leaning towards leaving Australia and going back home to the US.

Jakob, Andy and I then left for the movie theater to watch Harry Potter 7.2.  The release in Australia was July 13th so we got to see it two days earlier than friends and family in the US. Woohoo!  While it was driving me crazy to know what Steve's boss would say, we wanted to go see the movie even more.  We were all bouncing in our seats on the bus and then walked through the mall while we waited for it to start. We LOVED IT.  I was sad about one or two changes but still LOVED it.

After the movie was done we started walking to the buses and I texted Steve. It went something like this:

Me:  Hear anything?
Steve: Yeah
Me: What'd he say?
Steve: We can't leave the country.
Me:  What? They can't do that!
Steve: Just kidding.  He totally understands because of health reasons and will let us go.

Funny boy. If I hadn't been so relieved and happy to be going home, I would have smacked the guy.  Instead, I announced it to Jakob and Andy and cheered. We were in shock.  After all this, we could go home?  Was it time?

Our agents were willing to let us out of the lease because of health problems. That was also a huge relief.  They even had a showing while we were packing. Really? Confirmed mold in the house and you still want to rent it out again? Nice.

Since we didn't want to move AGAIN we knew we needed to get out soon.  Steve bought tickets to Fiji and then on to LA because it was the cheapest way to go. We were going to spend a few days in Fiji until we realized it would be  $500 a night at a hotel. No thanks.  Then the tickets to Las Vegas were expensive so we decided to rent a car from LA to Vegas.  Two cars actually...  The trip was planned so it was time to play. I mean, pack.

We decided to kick the sightseeing into gear and went to Ballarat to see an old mining town for a day.  We picked the last weekend that the Vline trains between Melbourne and Ballarat were shut down, so we got to ride on a bus.  The ride was long, but Sovereign Hill was so much fun!  They had a whole town built up with a newspaper office, general store, clothing store, brass makers, bowling alley (that was awesome. It was all manual you bowled and then went and picked up the pins for the next person), a mine you could go down in, wagon rides, and several other things. The kids got to dip and dye candles and pan for gold.  It was an awesome day. That turned into a cold day at the end while waiting for the bus that was late.  We missed one bus by about 5 minutes, and got to wait for another 30 minutes out in the cold.

The next day, Saturday was spent cleaning and packing. I'd wanted to go to the zoo but that just didn't happen.  Then Sunday we went to church knowing it was our last day of church in Australia. It was very sad.  We went and Heidi followed her friend Emily everywhere. It was so cute!   We said our goodbyes (the week after we said hello again) and then headed off to our friends' house.

We had a delicious dinner and dessert.  Dinner was tacos and spaghetti pie.  Dessert was a pavlova that was amazing. Its egg whites and sugar that's baked, and then you put passion fruit on top, and man its yummy.   We had fun talking while the kids played outside and inside and just plain had fun.  Heidi kept following Emily and we were so sad because we knew it wouldn't be much longer before we left.  We got pictures of all the kids together before we went home.

Monday was spent walking.  A lot.  We walked from the train station to the kids' school which took 1/2 an hour and let the kids say goodbye.  It was Andy's birthday and he wanted to be at school at least for a little bit. We got pictures of the kids with their classes and then left.  We walked to another train station and talked to my parents on skype while we waited for the train.  They got to see a train station - and so did we. Apparently my iPhone didn't want us to see them. Silly thing. We got on the train and went to fill out the forms to vacate the house.  All we needed to pick up the form was for them to fill something out and hand it to us.  That takes 45 minutes apparently. Especially when one agent thinks the other one is doing what needs to be done...

After that got done we headed on to the Chadstone Shopping Centre. One of the biggest shopping centres in Australia (or THE biggest... not sure).  Steve had to do claims for health insurance (lucky Steve) and Andy really wanted to pick out a birthday present. So we split up. We got the ds game he wanted and Steve did the forms.  We went home and got more packing done.

Tuesday was spent packing and loading cars. We gave away almost more than we kept.  All our dishes, food and the furniture we just bought got loaded up and went to our friends' house to either sell or give away.  The kids were getting more and more antsy to leave.  Andy and Jakob were getting more frantic because they couldn't find Andy's ds. It did a disappearing trick. There one minute, gone 10 seconds later. Even now we still haven't found it...

After everything else was cleared out we loaded up our bags. I managed to consolidate everything and used three less bags. We'd been planning to ship most of our stuff - until we heard shipping costs.  $285 per 20 kg.  Which is around 40 pounds... Yeah. No thanks.  SO glad we didn't have our stuff shipped to Australia! I can't even imagine the cost of what it would have been to send everything back. As it was, it was $195 to send a box of books. And that was sending it at the 4-6 week rate, by sea. Yuck.  While shipping the books, Steve found a store that sold root beer.  Unfortunately they were sold out, but we would be having our root beer again soon enough.

Anyway, our friends took us to the airport in two cars. It was a lot of fun but sad at the same time. I miss them terribly!

We got to the airport and got everything checked in.  We had fun trying to get everything checked in. They were pickier than before, for some reason they keep changing their security standards, but they ended up letting a few things through that they didn't charge us for.

I'm ending here to break up the huge post.  Stay tuned!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Tips for Taking a Trip With Six (or any other number) Kids

This last weekend we decided to break the monotony of getting rejected for house after house after house (because heaven forbid we move 6 children into a large 4 bedroom house because it just wouldn't be fair for them) and go play.  We have some sights we still want to see and decided it was a good day for it. We couldn't have picked a nicer day!

We headed out and looked at a house that was just plain thrashed by the people living there (in addition to being poorly constructed), decided against it and moved on.  An hour and a half later of driving through beautiful country side (reminded Steve of driving in Virginia and California and me of driving through parts of Idaho) we came upon Phillip Island.   My kids instantly wanted to move there.  Not sure Steve's work would be thrilled with that... Its a 2 hour ride to work.
On the bridge

We had lunch by the ocean where we saw surfers taking on some pretty good waves. We were up high on a cliff so we couldn't see how big the waves were but they made the surfers look small.  After that we headed over to a chocolate factory for a free sample and then headed off to the Koala Reserve.

We saw koalas that were right there in front of us. I could have reached out and touched one! Although they're rather mean so I figured that wouldn't be a good idea.   We saw a few wallabies and some ants too.  If I can get the video to work, you can see how close the koala was.  If not, a photo will have to do.

After we were done there, we headed towards the Penguin Parade.  The "parade" starts at sunset but you have to get than hour early so you can get your tickets, a free picture (which of course isn't really free but they're cute), headphones and then head out to the bleachers.  You keep quiet and watch all the cute, tiny little penguins come in from the ocean.  Steve said it looked a bit like fish getting beached on the shore, the water rushes in, and you suddenly see all of these flopping little bodies as the water flows back out.  They stay about 170 meters out until sunset and then head in where they stay in their burrows.  You can't take pictures or video which is tough because you just want to catch it all on film!  After you're done watching them come in, you can walk up the boardwalk and watch them walk along and into their burrows - or under the car if they feel like it (which is why they warn you to look under your car when you leave).

Penguin calls are awesome. They're loud and they talk to each other.  Steve said he'd use the term warbling.  Sounds like shrieking to me. :)

The kids LOVED it.  Jakob didn't want to leave. And Ashley kept squealing how cute they were.  Heidi was just along for the ride.  It was dark on our way back and we'd successfully worn out our kids for the evening.  And better yet, they didn't ask what was next.  I came up with some tips for any trip. This works for our six kids or one kid I'm sure.

  • Fill your car with enough snacks to feed an army. Maybe two.  This works for a half hour trip up to a day trip.  Even with that many snacks you may still get complaints that they're hungry. 
  • Know where every single restroom is from where you start, to where you end up.  Trees will do if you are in the middle of nowhere.
  • Be prepared for children arguing over trivial things and have such terms in mind as "Stop, or you get out and walk" or "Do we have to turn this car around?" or "Mommy gets all the chocolate and you get to watch me eat it."
  • If your children sing "I Know a Song That Gets on Everybody's Nerves", just be patient and let them sing it until it drives THEM crazy (we did this once. It was awesome.  Poor Ashley was sobbing because she wanted her brothers to stop). This of course only works if your nerves aren't already shot.  Otherwise, be ready with one of the terms I mentioned above.
  • If you get the comment, "Daddy, its boring in the back of the car", you can use the term "You can ride on top of the car. Its much more exciting up there."
  • Know where tissues, wipes and garbage bags are at all times. You have kids, your car will get sticky. 
  • Make sure you pack coats and an extra pair of pants for each child as your seven year old will most likely be a dork and wear shorts even though its winter...
  • If you don't want to spend money while you're gone, don't go to a chocolate factory. Just sayin'...
  • Sprout five arms in any gift shop so that you can keep a firm grip on each child so they'll stop touching EVERYTHING.
  • If the trip is longer, make sure all electronic devices (i.e. DSi's, leapsters, etc) are fully charged. This will keep children quiet for hours - or until the batteries are dead.
Those are my tips.  Some don't work when we're in a train or a bus because it's a whole new ball-game. No carseats means that little ones that are normally so calm in a car go wild and want to be everywhere at once in a train or bus. They want to push the button, or look out the window, or get down off the seat and run (which doesn't work when the buses or trains stop at regular intervals - and they are not very smooth stops!).

 As we continue on our adventures we'll pass on our little tidbits.   Now back to house hunting. Sigh...

Monday, June 20, 2011

We're Onto Move Number....

Nine. Yep. And we're not done yet. Although, luckily we have been told we can stay in this cottage (paying nightly) until we find a house so that means we should stop at Move 10.  As long as we're lucky and actually find a good house that doesn't try to kill us...

After the move to the apartment, we stayed the weekend and then had to move downstairs for a day before moving back to the cute little cottage.  This little cottage feels more like home than anywhere else has!  All two bedrooms of it.  Two days after we got to the cottage we left again because of the holiday (Queen's Birthday and it was already booked, so what can you do?) and stayed at an apartment that is owned by a friend of the lady we've been renting from. That apartment had a lot of room but I'm pretty sure we were living in mold, unfortunately.   But we still loved it. It was very very nice. While we were there we did more searching, went to church, went to a museum and Steve went to work.

After THAT move we moved right back into the cottage. Which is where we are now.  Like I said, we've been assured that we could stay here until we have the house. We were also promised we could have the car we've been borrowing until we get a house. So happy for us!

Even better than that, Steve got two projects. We think, at least.  Steve has been trying to take this exam for a long time and everything that could happen has happened to prevent him from taking it.  He was warned that he better take it or else. So he signed up for the test and left an extra 1/2 hour early just to make sure he was on the train.  His train time came and went.  And he kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting.  He watched four trains go from the city to Frankston - the opposite way from where he wanted to go.  He found out that power had gone out on the tracks a few stops down and they were waiting for another train to be ready.  So there went another chance to take the test.  He came home and picked up the kids and took them to school instead.  Then he headed to work where he got to explain everything that had been going on.

By the end of the day, he had a project that starts in a week or two and when he got home that evening he got called for another one that lasts a week (which, since then has been shortened to two days...).  We were very happy.  How did we celebrate? We went to Ikea.  Yep, we celebrate big.  We had dinner and then wandered through and got a couple of things for the nonexistent house that we may or may not get sometime. :) Ok really we got mattress pads and crates (and Ethan managed to get some trains in the cart too but as they were 4.99 we let him get them).  The crates are to help control our bags of stuff we have to take everywhere.

Saturday morning we were very happy to be going to a baptism. We made it just in time and enjoyed it.  Andy had such a big smile afterwards, knowing that he has just over a month before he gets baptized.  He told me he was willing to miss school so he could get baptized on his birthday. :)  That's what his friend got to do but as his birthday is on a Monday that probably won't happen!

Afterwards we went house hunting.  We went to a very large home that I was excited about because across a field was a primary school for the kids.  But the house was a mess. There were tears in the carpet over where the tack board was so one wrong step and you'd have holes in your feet! There was electrical tape over a hole in the window and a few other miscellaneous messes. I'm sad because it was a very pretty house but we both felt it wasn't the right house. Darn.

We went to the next house and barely missed it. We were one minute late but no one was there. I'm wondering if they'd cancelled the showing or something.  I did get to help an older couple move a desk to their house. I thought it would be just across the street but it ended up almost a block away! I'm glad we were able to help. They were hilarious to talk to and they thought it was awesome they were "being helped by the Americans" and invited us to come and visit them whenever we wanted.  We may not have seen the house but we got to meet very sweet people!

The kids wanted to see where we'd lived when we first got to Melbourne and then they wanted to see their old school.  Then Ashley needed to use the potty.  We drove all over to find both a gas station and a potty (figuring they'd be in the same place).  We found the gas station but no potty (and Steve got chewed out for using his cell phone while pumping gas - even though there is NO proof that anything can happen while doing so) and then headed off.  The Woolworths we tried to go to had a  "not an entrance" sign and yet we could not find the actual entrance. So we kept on going and just decided to drive.  We finally came upon a huge shopping center where not one but three kids used the potty.   We also found me a belt, Ashley a hat (it was buy one get one free) and Andy some shoes.   Then we wandered home and had yummy spaghetti - a nice way to end the day.

Sunday, which is Father's Day in America, was just a normal day here in Australia.  I still wished Steve a Happy Father's Day and sent him and Jakob off to church.  The rest of us stayed at home and laid around blowing our noses and coughing up a storm. We must have coughed really hard because man, is there a storm out there today!!!

Back to yesterday though.  After leftovers of spaghetti and chicken soup, we headed off to the beach for a few minutes.  It was cold and we had colds so we didn't spend much time out there.   I have some awesome video that I need to post.  The ocean is a magnet for Heidi!!

Steve decided that he wanted chicken sandwiches for his Father's Day dinner. Worked for me! He went to Woolworths (a different one from the aforementioned one) Saturday night and got the leftover chicken and brought it home.  So for dinner we had yummy chicken sandwiches followed by scrumptious ice cream.  We also watched A Wrinkle In Time which was fun.

Today Steve took Andy and Jakob to school and headed off to work while I stayed home and cleaned, did the dishes, laundry and hung out with the younger kids.  I got to talk to my mom and dad (and Georgy) on Skype.  We got pictures of Heidi and my dad on screen so that I have A picture of my dad and Heidi.  I cannot believe we never got pictures of the two together! She adores him and remembers him so I know they've spent plenty of time together!!

Now I'm going to bed so that 1. my kids will stop jumping off beds and laughing hysterically and 2. I'm tired.   And maybe if I go to bed I won't keep having nightmarish visions of the windows breaking from the windstorm out there. Wait... isn't night time when you have nightmares???

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Life Is Like a Book

Before I moved to Australia life was one big routine.  Get up, get the kids dressed, get them to school, get them home, get them to scouts or sports, make dinner, get the kids ready for bed, watch tv or read and go to bed.  The next thing we knew, it'd be the weekend.  Then we'd start over. I loved it.

If you add in the bookstore, things got a lot more interesting. Get the kids to school, come home for a few minutes, get dressed, head to the bookstore and stay there until 8:00 while Steve ran the kids everywhere.  Somehow shove all the sports and scouts and going to friends' houses in there.  But it was a routine. I loved it.  I missed my kids terribly being at the store all day but it was routine.

Pick us up and drop us in a new country, however, and it all changes.

Since we started packing I've noticed that life has gone in chapters at a time.  We move through an adventure and as that chapter comes to a close,  I forget what has happened and move on.  We have been here for three months and it feels like its been forever.

There's a chapter for us getting through the move to leave.

There's a chapter in Fiji (I liked that chapter...).

There's a chapter for the first week of being in Canberra.

There's a chapter for searching for houses in Canberra.

And on and on.  My life has been broken down into small sections and when I look back, I'm amazed that everything that has happened only took a few short weeks to actually happen!

I went back and read my blog from March.  I was amazed at what I'd been through and how much I'd forgotten. I really had two sleeping kids during the airport run in Salt Lake?  And only a few weeks into the time in Canberra I was so frustrated that I couldn't find a house and worried that I was being picky.  If only the Me now could go back and point and laugh at the Me then.  3 months later and still no house!

Picky is good when choosing a house.  If you're not picky, you end up with a heap of mold for a house that makes your family sick. Picky is better than being desperate and taking whatever you can get.

Anyway, my point is, I'm glad I've been writing this because it has allowed me to look back at where I was before I got here and where I am now. I'm stronger, smaller (I really need to go clothes shopping for pants), wiser, a better packer, and hopefully wiser than I was when I started on this trip.  I have a stronger testimony and more appreciation for the Church for what it has given me during this time.  I'm glad that my life has happened in chapters instead of remembering everything that has happened in the last few months.  It makes it easier for me to continue moving on instead of yelling "ENOUGH!!!!" and giving up and going home.  It's already happened enough with taking just small doses at a time!

So where are we now?  We're still by the coast, enjoying the sea air.  We made move number seven (yes, seven in 3 months) yesterday from the cottage to an apartment that the owners of the cottage own.  They'd had a booking for this weekend already set for the cottage and they couldn't break it so we got to move. With all of our stuff.  They helped which was very sweet of them.   On Monday we move back because its cheaper there. I'd rather stay here. SOOOOO much more space.  But truth be told, we'll have to move again on Friday anyway so what's another move?  Like I said before, I've gotten to be a very good packer.  Our entire amount of belongings packed up in 3 hours?! Not bad.   It took 3 vanloads and 3 carloads(of the owners' car) to get our stuff here. Yes, we do that again two more times.

Our house is nearly taken care of.  With a doctor's note on our side and hopefully three reports (those have been interesting to get a hold of...), we have quite a good case for ourselves.  Andy developed asthma after being in the house for less than 10 days. Yes, we were in our house for less than 10 days.  After that, whenever we'd go in there to clean stuff out and vacuum or have inspectors come through, Steve, Heidi and I would start feeling sick.  Headache, sinuses going out of whack and various other aches and pains. When we would leave the house and go back to the cottage, all of the symptoms would disappear.

The agent is willing to let us out of the lease but the owners are not being so kind. The agent doesn't want to deal with VCAT and the trial that goes with it.  He wants to try and keep things smooth between us and I'm ALMOST willing to allow them to help us find a house.  Steve would be except for one minor detail.

Last Wednesday we had a plumber come to fix a leak in the shower and while he was looking at the water heater outside (for some reason we had more water pressure in the hot water than in the cold water and apparently that's not supposed to happen), I noticed a gas smell in the family room. It was the only room in the house that smelled that way so I was going to just brush it off.   The plumber finished his work of sealing the knobs for the shower onto the wall (whoever built the house didn't so water had been leaking into the wall and down into both the master bedroom and into the stairs and ceiling below it!!).  As he was leaving I smelled the gas smell even stronger and mentioned it to Steve.  He smelled it too so we decided to grab the kids and get out.

Across the street from the house, we sat in the van and called the agency to get the gas company out to us.  We got the voicemail for the repair lady so we called the gas company ourselves and were told we'd have a team out ASAP. Well, 50 minutes later on guy showed up and found a leak inside the house.  He turned the gas off and was getting ready to leave when Steve got a phone call from the lady from the agency. She YELLED at Steve saying that he had no authorization to call the gas company because she needed to send someone out to prove that were was actually a leak. When he tried to put the guy from the company on the phone, she hung up on him!  They found the gas leak, got it fixed and all was well that way.  But as far as we were concerned Ray White had royally messed up by yelling at us for fixing a very urgent problem.

Because of that, we don't want to go back to Chadstone, nor do we want to have anything to do with the agency that has been so unhelpful with anything.  Which of course makes it difficult to keep the kids in the same school because the majority of the houses in that area are managed by the same realtor!  I'm just glad that we're out, that Andy's symptoms have disappeared (no inhaler for 3 days now), and that we can hopefully move on.

I don't regret taking that house.  I regret the fact that Andy got sick.  He said to me, "I wish we'd never left America because then I wouldn't be sick."  Way to break your mother's heart, Andy!  But I think we had to take it to be ready for the next house.  We know more about our rights, we know how more of the government agencies work here and we know what to watch out for in looking for houses.   I honestly never felt good about that house.  I tried to be happy in it. I tried to make it a home.  But I never felt at home.  As we'd walk toward it my kids would yell "yay, we're home!",  and I would cringe and say "yay....." in a quiet "I hate this house" kind of way.   But I think it served its purpose.  I think we've learned a lot.

So onto the next chapter of our lives.  As we sit and enjoy the constant trains out our window,  we do searches for more houses.  The beach is just down the road from us but we haven't been there since we moved to the different apartment.  We might not before we move back to the cottage. Its enough to see it at the end of the street as we walk to the train or car.

We've done a little more searching for houses.  Some are awesome.  Others need help.  We got smart and instead of waiting for each inspection, we drive past the houses and see what vibes come from each house.  We've gotten rid of several on our list that way.  It saves hours.  Today we were able to rid ourselves of all but one by seeing that the photos hadn't shown the mold or other interesting pieces of information we'd find as we drove by.

We DID find a house not far from here that we're almost in love with.  It would mean a new ward for church and a new school but the school is across the street and the house is in a neighborhood full of families.  We didn't get that in many other places.  We did find that in Wantirna when we were there to see the temple.  We even looked for homes there but couldn't find anything to fit us.  But this was different. It felt different.  The kids were cheering when they saw the house. They cheered when they saw the school across the street.  They cheered as we drove through the neighborhood and saw all the big houses, cars and families in the area.   And I smiled.   I see the inside of the house on Monday.  I'm hoping for good vibes then too.

The crazy thing was that when we were trying to leave the area that morning, things kept happening to prevent us leaving.  A guy tried to run into us (the dork ran a red stop light!) so we had to turn and go the other way (it was easier than trying to wait for another open window in the traffic). Then the road was closed or there was construction or a dead end. When I realized where we were, I remembered that there was a house there that I was supposed to look at on Monday.  SO we went to go see it.  It was after that, while I was smiling, that we made our way out of the area and headed off to go house hunting. Call it coincidence if you will but I choose not to.  I needed to see that house.

After giving up on 4 homes because they weren't great and it would have been an hour or two until the showings, we headed off to the zoo.  Actually it was a sanctuary.  The drive was AMAZING.  It took a while but it was totally worth it.  Green, rolling hills, farm country, wineries (no, we didn't stop),  and farm animals.  I had to keep reminding myself to focus on the map to get us where we needed to go while Steve drove.

This sanctuary had all Australian animals.  I wanted to take a koala bear home with me.  They were adorable!  The platypuses were my second favorite. They were smaller than I expected but awesome. We also saw dingoes, bilbys, wallabys, kangaroos, brown snakes, tasmanian devils and on and on. It was so much fun!   We were sad to leave but Heidi was ready to leave after sitting in a stroller for 3 hours.

We enjoyed the trip back and then went to a fish and chips place.  The food was SO good but as it was fried, I had to peel a lot of the breading off.   The kids all devoured everything in front of them and we all left happy. We came home and showered and sat down to watch Mr. Bean.  Now Steve is going to enjoy a movie and I think I'll read my book. Or maybe fall asleep.

This book has had happy parts, sad parts, frustrating parts and parts where we just fully enjoyed ourselves.  Its been a joy to be part of.  I love Australia. I love learning the culture, meeting the people and seeing the sights.   I will be interested to see how everything continues on.  As long as it has a Happily Ever After. ;)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Moving, Screaming and Other Adventures

It has been less than a week since I last posted but there has been a lot that has happened since then.  We moved, found out how scary this house can actually be, tried to make it home, had two birthdays, a few shopping trips, finished one school, started another one and visited a zoo. Hey, I just finished my blog post! Sweet. Time to go find chocolate.

No? Fine.

We had awesome friends that took a few trips of our stuff  to get us moved over to our new house. The last day we weren't quite as lucky because of timing and had to carry about 8 bags, a stroller and two kids to the train stop and then walk all of those up a hill to our house.  That was fun enough. The best part was that I had to literally drop all of my stuff on the front step, turn around and hop on the bus to get back and pick up the kids from school while Steve took everything in. Ethan was VERY unhappy that he didn't get to go into his "white house."

We picked up the kids and met Steve so we could go shopping for the house.  So our first night started later at night.  Steve and I were on an inflatable bed and Gavin and Ethan also got one. We took a mattress upstairs for Ashley and then Jakob and Andy got a futon bed that was here already.  Comfy, right? Sure, if you didn't already have a neck and back that didn't like you.

The next day we took the kids to school - 40 minutes away.  As I didn't want to sit there for 7 hours, we turned around and made the trip home. Another 40 minutes.  I did my best to get some of our stuff unpacked. I had things cleaned, Jakob and Andy's room was unpacked and I did a few other things. And then got back on the bus. Again. For 40 minutes.   We picked up the kids, turned around, and headed back home. Again.  Did you get that? 160 minutes on a bus with a 2 and 1 year old.  Was it pleasant? The first two trips weren't bad. The second two trips I wanted to cry, scream and throw fits along with them. And then nap.  My favorite part was the little old ladies that chose to chew out Ethan for yelling and shrieking. I admit, it was annoying but the poor kid had already been on the bus for two hours.  He fell asleep shortly after and made for a nice rest of the trip. For him. I still got to deal with Heidi.  The other kids were awesome. They were excited to get to their house.

Oh, I nearly forgot.  One of the reasons we stayed at that school for two more days was so that Jakob could play soccer. He begged and pleaded and I know how much he loves soccer so I let him play in a tournament.  Five games. They won four of the five and tied for the fifth.  I was thrilled because the poor kid had lost almost all of the games he'd played for the last two years in Utah!!  He scored a goal and when Steve asked how he felt about it, he said shrugged and said "I don't know."  Silly boy.

So the next day was Jakob's birthday.  I explained that in another blog.  We got on the bus (again) and headed to school. I wasn't about to put my kids through what they had to deal with the day before so we went shopping. Great therapy right?  It is, if you can handle the prices (so pricey here)!!  I had three people to shop for (Jakob, Ethan and Steve) so I went to Borders because it was going out of business. Ethan insisted on a blue book before we got to the shopping centre and guess what I found? A book called "My Little Blue Book." I was thrilled.

After there we went to find a Target for a movie for Jakob and got distracted by another bookstore. Seriously, not sure how I can pass up a good bookstore. Plus, the Guinness Book of World Records 2011 that Jakob was begging for was $12.99 marked down from $49.99. So there you go.  I might have a found another three books there too...

Anyway, then I REALLY went to Target and made myself stop buying birthday presents and it was time to find something to eat.  I was starving, it was lunchtime and I had forgotten to eat breakfast.  We went to Woolworths and grabbed some bacon and cheese topped rolls (Seriously AMAZING) and drinks.  We had a while to wait so we went and ate at a table. Ethan ate one of the huge rolls himself while I checked my facebook and texted Steve to tell him to be ready to get to the school.

We STILL got to the school early but not too early. We went and met up with the kids. Andy really really wanted me to play Monopoly with him and was sad that I had to go get the other kids too. We did play one round before realizing it was missing a bunch of stuff. So we left the classroom and went to find the rest of the family.

I found a guy who actually knew where Rupert, Idaho is and who has a cabin in Park City.  I wanted to cry when he said he knew all about Idaho spuds. Most of the time here I have people stare at me when I mention my dad is an Idaho potato farmer. Seriously?!?! Its like we're in a different country or something. Oh wait...   Actually the guy that's supposed to fix our broken window is Irish and he knew about Idaho spuds so that's good.

Anyway, we had fun at the school and then it was time to head home. Steve went to work for a bit and I went home to bake a cheesecake. Yummy yummy cheesecake. I'll just sit here and revel in the memory....


There, I'm done.  Anyway, Steve's training ended early so he didn't actually get to be trained before coming home and decided to get some grocery shopping done.  He came home and we watched Jakob open presents and then we had dinner.  We waited and waited and waited for the cheesecake to chill before everyone got impatient and we cut it anyway.  The middle was soft but it was still good. The next day was MUCH better.

The next morning we woke up and headed over to the new school to buy uniforms. Apparently part of uniform buying includes wrestling on the ground and running through the classroom while Mommy tries to talk to the teacher about what we will be needing.  I was embarrassed but could do nothing until we left.  We managed to catch a bus and went home for a long day at home.  Which I really liked actually. Not that we got much done...  Steve had training again and then we met up to go shopping. Again. We do that a lot. We tried to find Andy some blue sweats for his uniform but were reminded that its not a great idea to shop for uniforms in the same shopping center that everyone else would be shopping for the same uniforms....  No luck for us there!!

Saturday morning we got up and got ready to go. We were going to go to the Healesville Sanctuary but buses changed our mind.  It was fun to go to the end of the train in Lilydale. And I figured out that had we been to Lilydale before this weekend I wouldn't have lived anywhere else. Its gorgeous, wide open and green. Of course I also found out this weekend that there are nasty spiders and animals there that maybe I'm glad I'm not near.... Anyway, the bus wouldn't come for 2 hours so back on to the train we hopped and went to the Melbourne Zoo.

The zoo was awesome!!  The landscaping was just amazing and made you feel like you were there in the jungle.  I'm just glad there was a cage between us and the lions.  Jakob didn't want to leave where the monkeys were.  He was in love with them and wanted one to take home. :)  If we could, I'd do it but then I already have a few monkeys of my own!  The orangutans were my favorite.  We stayed near them for a while before moving on to the next exhibit.  We also got to see a kangaroo with a joey in her pouch!! It was so cute.  And a baby monkey in a monkey's arms.  And two baby elephants playing. And a baby baboon trying to get an adult baboon to play.

We pulled ourselves away from the zoo before heading home to our own zoo.  I was a super mom and got all the kids bathed and showered at once.  Four in the bath, two in the shower.  All in the same room.  I do like my huge bath!!

Sunday was Ethan's birthday. He got to go to a new ward on his birthday. He was happy with nursery and went running back in. Never looking back.  Which is how I like it!!  The other kids loved their classes too.  We have a very transient ward. Lots of move-in and move-outs.  There is a huge group of college students and several elderly people too.

We had our friends over for dinner and cake. It was a lot of fun. The kids had plenty of space to run around and they used it to the best of their ability.   We enjoyed talking and eating and more eating.  Ethan loved his new gifts but wasn't thrilled about sharing.  It was wonderful though.

And how do I like my house?  Well..... its pretty and big.   And has a nice table.  And I like the blue paint... its a good size for my family.  And an oven that's raised off the floor so that's nice.  And that great old house smell.  And the mildewy moldy smell every time you open the cupboard under the sink? Wonderful.  The broken stove that keeps getting delayed getting fixed? Awesome.  Spiders everywhere (ok so we're in Australia, that happens). Great.  Ants in the office.  GREAT.   Oh and the floor in the kitchen that if you jump just right, you'll go through? Classic.  My kids love my house. Steve loves my house (well, mostly). Me? I don't know.  I'm having a difficult time with that.   I clean it and cook and go through the motions but its not MY house.  Maybe it'll come.  Or maybe one day the non-working stove will explode while we're gone and I'll have to move somewhere else.  I'll be sad for my stuff in it.

Oh yeah! I forgot the best part of my house... The way we introduced ourself to the neighborhood. We have these sensors all over the house.  We knew we had an alarm system but we didn't know if it worked or how to turn it on. Steve decided to check on Wednesday night.  And accidentally turned it on. And then touched the doorknob.  Not good.  Screaming alarms, flashing lights, nasty loud sirens - inside and OUTSIDE the house!!! At 9:30 at night.  Yep, welcome us to the neighborhood, everyone!

We called the police. They told us that if anyone called with a noise complaint they'd take care of it.  We called the alarm system company.  They couldn't do anything so they would have the techs call us back. THEY couldn't do anything because of some agreement signed. So Steve ripped out part of it from the wall.  It will work again... but it stopped it for now.  And we got the access code so its all good. Until the kids turn it on when we don't know about it....

The kids are now in their new school, I'm avoiding making anything for dinner and the two boys are upstairs trying to break themselves by sliding on an air mattress down the stairs.  Or something. I did stop that one.  Hopefully they've moved onto something less destructive to themselves and the house.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Countdown to...

There are many countdowns in life.  Countdown to when school starts, countdown to when school ends, countdown to when baby is born, countdown to first day on the job, etc.

There are a few countdowns I haven't looked forward to in the last few months. Countdown to the day my store would close. Countdown to having to have everything packed.  Countdown of the amount of people I had to say goodbye to before leaving.  Countdown to leaving my home, town, state, and country for a new place - even if I have always wanted to go to Australia.

There are some countdowns in the last few months I was happy to see. The countdown to our first anniversary of the bookstore.  Countdown to Harry Potter 7. Countdown to a very long and enjoyable Christmas break. Countdown to Fiji.  Countdown to birthdays.  Countdown to the last day we'd have to search for houses. Countdown to the day we got to stop walking a long way to the bus and back home(only about 10 minutes but I was always pushing a stroller with two kids in it and at least one bag!). Countdown to no more broken elevators and NO MORE TEMPORARY HOUSING!!!

 There are a few more countdowns going on. One for the last day of the old school. One for the first day of the new school. One for us to finally get settled. And for me, one for the day I go home to my home, city, state and country. Because while I'm in love with being here, and while I've enjoyed getting to know the people, I miss home.  My kids agree. 1379 days, in case you were wondering. It was easy to look up because apparently that's Great Lent that year... Hmmm... maybe I'll go by months. 45 months. Or 3 years and 9 months. :)  I would do minutes but that would just be sad.

Where was I again?  Oh yes, countdowns.  My favorite one is the fact that in less than 12 hours I will check out of this apartment and move into a good sized house.  There are a few issues with it that will hopefully get ironed out as we go (like only one burner working on the stove) but my kids are thrilled, Steve is thrilled and I think I'm thrilled. I'm not sure yet. I'm happy to be out of this apartment. And I'm happy to be able to move on with life.  But I still feel stuck.  It could possibly that countdown I mentioned in the paragraph above.

Life has continuously been crazy.  Crazy weather, trees falling down in my grandma's yard (luckily it went away from the house), children getting hit by cars.  Yep, Ethan decided to throw that one into the mix.   And if I didn't believe in angels before, I certainly do now.  I KNOW someone protected my little boy because, by how fast the car was going (rather slow), and the time it took for my boy to get to the road, he should have been hit head on. But somehow he only got clipped by the back of the car and he was fine.  My little boy was fine.  It was hard to figure out how I was going to text Steve to tell him as I was sitting in the police car of the officer that actually hit him.   We went to the hospital where we waited in the ER (Or the ED here) for 4 hours before being told he was fine. I was still a little concerned until we got home and he ran all over the house.  And was jumping on couches by the next day.  One TINY bruise and there is no other evidence that anything happened.

Steve wanted me to put what I actually texted him in here. He didn't think it was very uh, sensitive or well-put. :)  "Change of plans. Ethan just got hit. He clipped his knee on the back of a cop car."  How is that not sensitive?!?!?

Anyway,  it has made our kids more cautious when we go outside.  That night I finally broke down in the middle of family prayer.   You can only 'stay strong' for so long as a mommy.  And seeing what I'd just seen was not fun.   When I told my kids how I could have lost Ethan today and that it would break my heart if I lost any of them, I had 3 others burst into tears. I was sad about that but it did help.  They each have a buddy as we walk and some of the time it works. We're still working on that part.

We have fully enjoyed getting ready for our house.  We've gotten a lot of the stuff we need to furnish the house. Well, except actual furnishings.  We have to get a few of those. But at least we have towels, pots and pans and dishes. Those count, right?  We also toured the kids' new school.  They are sooooo excited for the next school.  They're sad to leave the old one but after seeing the new one they have something to look forward to. What do I look forward to? The fact that the bus stop is right by my house and there's another one right outside the school. Yippee!!

And right now? Its a countdown to bedtime. Luckily that's only minutes away.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Now the Moment We've ALL Been Waiting For....

We FINALLY got a house!!  For privacy's sake I'm not posting where it is on here. And really, if you saw my status on Facebook you'd probably already know this little fact.  But I'm still excited.

In March of this year we moved here hoping to hop right into a house and explore this great country called Australia.  Unfortunately, we spent all of our free time searching for houses.  Up and down hills, in nice, scary, creepy, thrashed, and everything in between houses that we wanted or wanted to run from.  Our kids have endured so much and we've all grown in so many ways

They do, however, still get very antsy and overactive if we stay still for too long.  At bus stops, train stops, waiting for church to start, during church, at realtor's offices...  I'm amazed I have any nerves left after any of these named events.  Most, if not all, mom's probably agree with me to that extent. If not, how in the world do you make them quiet?!

The kids have enjoyed school.  They haven't gotten pushed at all during school since its all review for them, but they have enjoyed interaction with other kids. Even though Jakob's classmates said he was ugly without his glasses.  The ones he broke by stepping on them when he was changing his shirt. But that's a whole other story.

The end of me being completely in love with the school (besides the whole non-challenging part for the kids) came when I got a note home with my 7 year old. We were informed that there would be an auction and each class had a theme.  My 7 year old's class had the theme of Imported Beers.  I'm sorry but under no circumstances is it okay for a primary school to put any child in charge of taking BEER to school!!!  Jakob's class was in charge of bringing gourmet foods - such as tea and coffee to school. Now, I can understand this a little better. Its a big thing here.  I STILL have issues with them sending kids to school with it, but maybe its just my church upbringing.

This last weekend we celebrated Mother's Day.  I've decided I'm banning it. I'm okay with honoring MY moms and grandmothers.  But please, don't tell me its Mother's Day.  On Mother's Day Past I have had sick kids, sick husbands, sick everybody, gas leaks in the church (at the same time as the sick dad), and on and on.

So I went to bed the night before, wondering what is in store for my 'special day'.  Oh yeah, waking up to a headache at 5:30 in the morning.  When I woke up at 8:42 (which I admit was WONDERFUL), the headache was pounding harder.  I did get wonderful gifts from my kids. The school did a fundraiser where the kids could buy stuff for their moms. I got treats, a flashlight, bag, and a few other fun things.  They were SO excited to give them to me.

Then, the fights started. And kept going and going and going.  The headache pounded worse and I had battles with a hair straightener that I got from Steve.  I told him the one I wanted and I wish I'd asked him for another one. It pulled out hair and wouldn't straighten OR curl (it was supposed to do both) very well.  I got my hair to where I mostly wanted it and then headed off on the mile walk to church.

In the rain.

At first it was a small trickle - enough to have made little frizzies form at the top of my head. As we walked (and ran - I'm sure it looked GREAT watching a mom in a dress run with two kids in a stroller), it got harder.  There was a wonderful neighbor that saw us and stopped her car to help out.  We shoved the older kids in the car and I kept walking since there was not room for everyone, the stroller was huge and soaked, and we were almost there anyway. Steve caught up to me with an umbrella from our neighbor and tried to keep us dry.  How do you keep someone dry when they're already drenched?!  He actually did an okay job.  But by the time we got to the church, Heidi's tights were soaked, Ethan's pants were soaked, Steve's suit jacket was soaked and the blanket I used to cover Heidi's side of the stroller was a mop (Ethan had a cover on his side).

So glad I straightened my hair.  I used one of Heidi's pony tail holders from her pigtails to pull my hair up and pulled her tights off.  The good thing was that my headache was gone.

Church was wonderful and the kids sang nicely in Sacrament Meeting.   Then we got a ride home from two wonderful ladies. From then on I had one of the better Mother's Days I've had.  There was still plenty of fighting but dinner was yummy(Japanese that Steve made), home-made strawberry shortcakes(also made by Steve), and I got to be home.   I even went to bed early!

To add to the adventures of house hunting, school attending and bus catching we got to add one more dimension.  The elevator decided to break.  The poor thing was SLOOOOOOOW anyway but the other day I warned Andy that if he jumped in the elevator it would break (ok, really how often do people jump in elevators without them breaking?) and one floor down it stopped.  Luckily, the door opened and we got out but it wasn't about to go anywhere. I didn't really mean for the elevator to break when I warned Andy...  But alas, it has stayed broken on and off for the last two days.

So up and down the 6 flights of stairs I go. Three times a day. With a stroller and baby in my arms (and purse and whatever else we have to take with us) and a 2 year old and sometimes 4 year old following me.   Along with that, we've also added late and missed buses, stinky diapers at inopportune times (ok, really that happens to every parent),  and everything else that could go wrong seems to go wrong.  But I won't hold my breath because it could always get worse....

Oh yeah, did I mention the dryer that was getting black stains on all our clothes?  We figured that one out finally.  Now that we have black stains on half our whites. How many of you out there have to completely wipe down and wash out the filter before you dry your clothes? I don't mean clean the lint trap. I mean full out clean the filter?  If you ask me, its a belt. But whatever, at least we figured it out.

Back to the beginning of my post, I'm so so SO happy to be getting a house. It's partly furnished and has lots of space. No more cramped corners. No more Ashley's sleeping on the couch. No more broken elevators.  I'm not sure if I know what I'll do with myself... Oh that's right! EXPLORE.  I can't wait to get out and see what Australia is all about instead of wandering up and down hills trying to find that next house.  True, I know a lot of towns and their streets now...

Off I go to bed, so I can walk the six flights of stairs, catch at least nine buses for the day and enjoy that which we call life.

Friday, May 6, 2011

School Days!

Back in Utah, my kids would be nearing the end of their school year.  They'd be having end of school parties, getting ready for testing, themed days of dressing up and having field days.  Eagle Mountain Baseball would be underway and I'd have 4 kids playing (possibly 5 but I think Ethan missed the cut off this year) - possibly all at once.

This year?  We decided to move to Australia. And since school and seasons are all different, we get to start a whole new school year.  A day after I wrote that post I decided we'd all had enough of no school. We'd been looking in Glen Waverley at houses and we lived in Box Hill so I decided to look around.  On a whim I called a school and decided to give them a call. They were thrilled to have us check them out.

So I pulled the kids up off the couches and 4 very nervous kids followed me (I was pushing the other two in a stroller...) to the school. Jakob thought it would be a great idea to walk instead of riding the bus. We changed our mind after several blocks and caught a bus.   We made it to the school and were given a grand tour. The kids just stared at our kids as they were told we went on 5 airplanes to get here.  We were offered the chance to start the next day and my kids were THRILLED.

Its a hard thing though because of the cut off.  Here the cut off date for the next grade up is April 30th. So Ashley moved to Year 1 but Jakob, Andy and Gavin were not so lucky.  Jakob has been in A.L.L. which means he was doing some 5th grade classes in Utah.  He got stuck back at the beginning of Year 4.  Andy gets to retake Year 2 again and Gavin, who would have started school this year is in the equivalent of preschool. Its actually called Kindergarten but Prep is where I wanted him.  So I have a kinder, and Year 1, 2 and 4 students. I'm hoping to get Jakob into gifted and talented programs.

Growing up in a small town, any new people that came along were instantly the new celebrities. They were the guys that the girls had crushes on and the girls that the guys had crushes on. After being around for a while, some would fade into the background while others stuck out still.

When I went to BYU, I was just one of thousands that started so I didn't stick out. Plus, I was my sister's kid sister in the ward I went to so I was known that way - even though she'd been gone for a year or two!    Then, fast forward to my senior year, and I became the sister of my little sister... So I never had the chance to be the celebrity.

However, when you move to a new country... my children have been well-received and I am thankful.   There are have been rough spots getting to know other kids.  Gavin has had things said about him such as:

"I hate that kid"
"You talk stupid and I don't want to play with you"
And so on.

That was the first day of Kinder.  After that I had parents telling me that their children talked non-stop about him all weekend. Yay!  He still insists that he doesn't have 'friends' but I've been reassured that he does well playing with all of the different groups.

Ashley and Andy have spent a lot of time together. They have their friends but they still play together, which I'm glad about.  Ashley's teacher told her she wasn't allowed to play with Andy anymore. I'm not thrilled about that but I just told them they could play together all they want.

I have also heard that Andy was talked about nonstop and one little boy was excited to see Andy and Ashley on the bus. When his mom asked what Ashley's name was he said, "I don't know but she's tall and beautiful!"

Andy's got a girl in his class that has a major crush on him. He's not quite sure what to do about it. He does blush quite nicely when you ask him about her though. :)

They're all blending in and I'm thrilled to death. The moms of the students have really brought me in and made me feel welcome as well.  They're such sweet people.  Of course, its easy to figure out which person belongs to 'the new family'.  We just broke the record for the most kids in one family in the school - the previous record was 5.  Plus, everyone knows us because of our double umbrella stroller. I may grumble pushing it up the hill but I don't know what we'd do without it!

The kids had the opportunity to take swimming classes this last week and a half.  They loved it - except for the whole Ashley getting fluid in her ear, thanks to her tubes.  She stayed out of swimming one day and it was enough to make her want to swim the next day. She even passed 2 levels this week.  Andy and Jakob did awesome too. They loved it and can't wait until their next session.

And what have I done?  Relaxed. Well, in between the two buses and the walk to and from school... And the wandering around for the two hours between when Gavin is done and the other kids are done. Its a pain to come all the way home just to turn around and go back again.   But in between THOSE times, I've enjoyed a little quiet at home. Heidi and Ethan mostly entertain themselves (the first day was spent stealing and eating the majority of the grapes in the fridge) so I can clean the apartment, do the laundry, wash the dishes, change diapers and play on faceboo - I mean, look for houses.

I am still constantly amazed by these little ones.  They may complain here and there for the walking we've had to do but they bounce right back and keep on moving.  We have our moments of butting heads but I love my little ones!!! People count and ask "Are these all yours?!" to which I want to reply, "Why else would I have six kids trailing me?!"  Instead, I just smile and say "Yep!"  I love it when they see me with two or three during school hours and tell me that I have my arms full.  I just laugh and tell them that this is only half of them.

We're still looking at what's going on with houses. We have one we could probably take if we wanted to but its far away from school so we don't know if we want it. The kids are determined to stay at the school that they're at and I agree - but that means a 50 minute bus ride each way. Today we did that trip... And it made me never want to do it again. Heidi screamed, shrieked and sobbed the ENTIRE WAY HOME.  Also, the agent never called back today about the house, so we're going to look at a few tomorrow in the next town over from here and see if they will work.  We'll see!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Getting to Know Melbourne - Weist Family Style

One of these days we might just settle down.  Before then, our legs and feet just may fall off.  No, really.

After walking for about 20 minutes we finally made it to Costco the day after we got here.  Its a lot the same as the ones in the US only more expensive.  The hot dogs/soda are $2.49 and instead of beef, they're pork dogs. And MAN they're good.  They sell meat pies too. I might try that next time.  After wandering through and grabbing a few things, we walked back to the train with our goodies.  Oh wait, no we didn't.  We had to have a little drama first.

We were sitting down getting kids in strollers, and getting bags organized ON the stroller when Ashley's flip flop decided to break. Wonderful.  We remembered there were sandals in Costco so Steve ran back in to see if they would fit.  They weren't quite right but he grabbed them anyway.  Good thing Heidi is around so she'll have some nice pink sandals when she gets older... they were WAY too small for Ashley. Soooo.... Gavin wore the pretty pink sandals and Ashley wore Gavin's sandals that were actually too big. Who cried about the arrangement?  Ashley didn't want to wear BOY shoes.  But we all survived and we made it home.  And I had another bout of homesickness before I could get over it and move on.  I told my sisters its like a plague that's just waiting to pounce at any moment.

After trying to call for two days, we finally gave up on getting a hold of Cook's Cottage and rode the train to the station on Friday.  Then we walked for 20 minutes before we got to Cook's Cottage. Only to find out that they'd had the egg hunt sold out for TWO WEEKS and didn't care to leave a message on their phone they didn't answer or post it on their site.   I tried not to rip their heads off while talking to them and managed to get away from the park before blowing a gasket.  Luckily we'd bought chocolate Easter eggs the night before so we could do one at home that night...

We took a train to Brighton Beach and ate our lunches.  It was chilly so we didn't go too close the water. The waves were pretty choppy so it made me nervous to let them go near it.  SO they just played in the sand.  They raced, dug holes, made castles and ate the sand. That last part was Heidi...  She's my beach baby.  They all love the beach but she just plain can't get enough of the sand and the water!!!

Since it was our 11th Anniversary, Steve and I decided to go to dinner. Since it was also Good Friday, there weren't many restaurants open - except Chinese and Korean food.  We decided to try Korean. They cooked the food right at our table. Steve wanted Kim chi which is SPICY and we also had octopus, beef, pork, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts and other food. Yummy!  But here's a tip: don't drink orange soda when eating spicy food. YOW!!! It gets twice as spicy!  Heidi and Ethan were sleeping but the other kids enjoyed the food.  They weren't fond of the spicy but they liked everything else. Of course their idea of using chopsticks was to stab the food with the stick...

We got home and hid Easter eggs all over the apartment. Heidi found one of the eggs and ate it while Steve and I hid the rest.  The eggs were found in 2 minutes flat and were eaten by the next morning...  Steve thought it was funny to get Starburst gummi babies to put in the plastic eggs.  Then he ate one and fell in love with them. I think he most of them actually.

Saturday was a nightmare from beginning to end. We had 6 houses on the list to look at for the day.  They were spread out but still in somewhat of the same area.  I had to cross off one when I realized the open house was THIS Saturday. Oops.  By the time we got out of the house, we had to cross another one off the list.  So we hopped the train and headed on to a house in Croydon, not realizing how far away it was.  We got off in Croydon and started running/walking/whining.   It was quite the uphill/downhill walk for all of us.  By the time we hit the street and realized we were walking the wrong way, we were too late to get to the house in time. Nice that they're all of 15 minutes long...  The street was way too busy for me to feel comfortable with my kids living there.  So we turned around and headed back.  This time we stopped and showed the kids the church as we passed it and tried to get them to stop crying because they were tired.

We hopped on the train only to find out we missed house number 4 because it took so long to get to Croydon. Grumble grumble....  We got off at Mount Waverley and started running/walking/whining again. Yes, this time I was definitely part of the whining. Only mine was all in my head because I didn't want to fuel the kids' grumbling. They were already doing well enough on their own.  Poor kids.

We FINALLY made it to the house - and there was no one there.  We were ten minutes too late. Wonderful.  With a glare at Steve, I turned around and headed back.  Steve, being the ever positive person, looked at the map and noticed that we were close to a park and some shops. AND he knew that we had 2 hours until the last house.  So he gave us directions to the park and then headed on. By that time my head was a thundercloud.  The kids, who'd been crying moments before, went shrieking happily toward the park.  Those four children (the two younger ones got to sleep through the walking while their mom pushed them up and down hills) who had just run at least two or three or fifteen miles of distance to houses we didn't even get to see, suddenly had the energy to run.  And jump.  And fight. Because nothing ever occurs without a few arguments.  About everything.

Steve got back with some delicious pizzas, chips, apples, and juice.  We all devoured the food before heading off to the last house. Which was at least one town over but shared the same street. So, why not walk instead of hopping a train?!

An hour later, five hills walked, kids comforted many times,  thundercloud mind turning to a full blown gale, and we finally almost reached the right house.  Luckily, the area of Glen Waverly is beautiful.  And by that time I think I'd gone delirious with exhaustion because I decided to be happy.  Of course that might have had to do with the hilarity of watching me try to keep up with a double stroller going downhill while my two year old pretended to fly...  Whatever it was, we were in good spirits by the time we got to the house.  And what a house it was... the carpet was old, the house smelled, the doorknobs were up at my shoulders and the real estate agent was rude to my kids. Sorry, but just because you see 6 kids coming up the walk does not mean that they're bad mannered little monsters that are going to destroy your house!!  They were actually very well behaved while we were there.  Probably because of the 3 hours of walking we'd just done...

After that fiasco, we walked up another hill to the shops and train station. That was quite the hill but the houses were gorgeous so I enjoying looking as I walked.  The kids mostly agreed but still asked if we were almost there.   We raced through all the shops hoping to find a toilet (they're not restrooms here, they're toilets) before Gavin lost it.  We made it!  We were also able to find Ashley and Heidi Easter dresses and Steve got a hair cutting kit - which has many stories of its own...

We FINALLY made it home and while Steve made kangaroo bangers (sausages - yes, made out of kangaroo), I shaved four heads.  And what wonderful haircuts they were too... I blame the razor. Know why? Because Steve also had an adventure with it the next morning.  Long story short,  He was using the longest blade so he could keep his curly locks, the blade attachment fell off, Steve had a very big bald spot...  Now Steve has no more hair. Well, he has some but not much.  So much for a business like hair cut!  It's a very good thing his hair grows fast.

Between moving and having cleaning ladies cleaning the room we were moving into, we had about 22 minutes to get ready for church.  Luckily I'd put Heidi's dress on already before we moved.  But that was 1 down 7 to go.  By the time we were ready, it was 12:53 and we had a mile to walk. We BARELY missed the Sacrament.  But we had a wonderful time at church. We met great people, the kids loved their classes, Ethan jumped right into nursery and we had a fabulous Easter.  Even if the Easter Bunny was lame and had to go through all the candy and cookies in the house to come up with anything because of Good Friday and Easter Saturday making everything closed... Whoops.  The kids were good about it but Jakob is now suspicious. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's beyond suspicious.

Monday was Anzac Day so most shops were closed. Steve had the day off so we went to the Science Works museum.  We were able to use our Questacon membership (which also works at Thanksgiving Point and a TON of other places!) to get in.  We were there for an hour or so and then headed off to another beach.

This time we decided to head for Williamstown since it was only a few stops below where we were. The town was awesome. Its small towny and quiet and I LOVED it.  The beach was right there and it was wonderful. The water was warm, the sand had streaks of color and the kids had fun. We ate our lunch and then let the kids play.  We were there about an hour before we decided we better get back to the train.  The kids wanted to play at a playground but it was cold.

Today was our last day of holiday.  It was Easter Monday/Anzac Day something or other.  We got to the train station, ready to head to another beach, and found LOTS of people.  The train was PACKED.  We managed to get to the station in time to head to the city with thousands of Aussie Football fans.  And they all got off at the same station as we did.  However, they stayed there and we moved on to another train to go to Frankston. We were going to hop on a diesel train for another beach but with the brilliant scheduling, that train left 2 minutes before our train got there...

So we stayed in Frankston.  We walked the few blocks to the beach and the kids were in HEAVEN.   The beach was great.  There were a few spots where the kids could run between the beach and sandbars.  In that spot, Steve found a sea star and a crab. And there were tiny little fish swimming around.  Heidi had the time of her life walking around, licking her hand after splashing in the water and at one point she even shoved a handful of sand in her mouth. Yuck!  We played for two hours before the younger kids announced they were cold.  I changed their clothes and we headed out to the train.  And I started calculating....  How long does it take to play an Aussie Football game?  About as long as it takes for us to go to Frankston, play at the beach, and get back to Richmond Train Station.  Yep, another busy station.  We were packed even more but this time it emptied out faster. We met some nice people as we were being squished and smashed.

Tonight we decided to make sausages, Anzac biscuits,  and German potato salad.  Steve laughed when he realized how ironic that meal was.  Its not funny when you think about it but it was yummy.  Anzac Day is when Australia and New Zealand joined World War I. Its to honor those that were lost.  They do huge parades and memorials services. I wish we could have gone. Hopefully next year we will be able to.

I've enjoyed getting to know a new city.  I'm hoping to have more help with housing and schooling but whatever comes will come and we'll go with it. Because that's how we roll - whether we want to or not. :)