Toot and Puddle

It was my plan from the beginning of this adventure to write about the highs and the lows, to write about the totality of our expat experience..  While I haven’t quite achieved that because some of the lows are frankly just so mundane and boring what I/we have achieved is some semblance of an honest documentation of this experience so far, even if posts have been infrequent.  Recently we were at a party and a man commented on how brave we were to undertake this at our age.  There’s a lot to unpack in that comment isn’t there?  The translation of “your age” meaning “aren’t you kinda old for this?”  Yep, thoughts I have every day.  Then there is the brave part.  Several times each month Lawson has to listen to me cry out “I’m not brave enough for this”.  What I mean by this is “I am a homebody who desperately wants to put down roots.  I am not an adventurer and I most definitely am too old for this whole thing!” Now the man who said this meant it in a positive way and it helped that he had moved abroad multiple times and was approximately our age.  There is also in this comment a huge compliment of course – “You are brave/you have courage”.  I remind Lawson it took guts to do this but I also recognize that my tank is getting extremely low in courage at this point in this adventure.  To paint the expat experience as all joy would not be honest and frankly being unencumbered leaves me feeling a little frayed quite often.   I feel like there is a lot of treading water at this point and even though I am a strong swimmer emotional fatigue is inevitable.  So you see how boring and tiresome aspects of this adventure can be    ..

I have probably said it before but our whole marriage has involved me jumping off of cliffs with Lawson only to be followed by my screaming “how – did –  you  – talk – me –  into – this” all the way down!  It you know the children’s books Toot and Puddle, Lawson is Toot (the world explorer) and I am Puddle (the nester).  While we had talked about having an expat adventure all of our married life, I did not plan on one that would last so long or that might really involve staying.   To no one’s surprise but my own everyone wants to stay except me the flopper who wants here and home both!.  While we have no idea what will happen next, we have applied for permanent residency.  Now, whether it is granted is yet to be determined but the girls absolutely love it here.  We are on a business visa and would love nothing more than to be able to go back and forth between here and the US for business reasons.  Home and home!  This all seemed very plausible until COVID shut borders and completely upended life.  In a perfect world, travel will resume this year and the Australian border will reopen but there are no guarantees and like many other expats planning is difficult.  Actually planning right now is impossible and we are all finding that very, very stressful.  Our Toot and Puddle books are in storage, along with everything else, back in the US but I wonder how the author would write the end to our Toot and Puddle story?
So here we are….waiting.  We submitted our paperwork in December.  This alone is a monumental accomplishment.  We were the first Americans ever granted our particular visa for the State of Queensland!  We received our nomination from the State of Queensland to move to the next step of this process very quickly, no small feat of it’s own., but now our paperwork sits in a pile somewhere at the federal level with no specific date of an answer promised.  We have been granted our bridging visa so that has been taken care of it’s now simply the waiting.  (Because it has taken me so long to finish this post, we have an update on this….current projections are 20-24 months….Lawson is predictably handling this news in stride while I’m not handling it quite so gracefully.)  We will be proud of ourselves no matter what happens and be grateful for all this adventure has taught us. We have tried to raise the girls to be proud to be American but recognize we are also all citizens of the world as well.  Maybe it is because we love to travel or because we knew we were going to adopt internationally.  I know my parents gift of study abroad in both France and England completely expanded my own world view.  What this experience has given us and our girls is an expansion on those things.  We are all unique and our countries of origin are equally as unique.  We look at the world from an uniquely American perspective for sure but we have added to that perspective and adopted Aussie ways of doing certain things and probably how we see the world.  In many ways this experience has changed us and in many other ways it has felt like coming home.  It may be that we get a no and we head back home to the US in the coming months.  We just don’t know and it is that uncertainty that is for me so maddening.   While in my moments of angst I wish we were one of those families where life looked like a straight line from point A to B instead of squiggles all over the place, I do know that in those squiggles (also known as the story of our life) is the hand of God.  I’m not remotely sure most days why this Puddle is adventuring at this age but Toot is having quite a good time!  Lawson was made for this.  Meanwhile, I write to document this experience for ourselves and to keep up with friends but also to find my own voice in the midst of being so far outside my comfort zone.  I look for the words inside of me and often find more squiggles but also myself in all my messiness.

I want to thank all of you who have stayed in touch with us.  It has been such a hard year hasn’t it?  It’s hard to explain what it’s like to watch your homeland from afar during a pandemic and during a year with so much upheaval and division.. I have learned through other expats that what we are going through isn’t unique to us and that has helped.  We are thankful for those of you who have been willing to both help us make sense of things back home and for those who keep being our friends even if how we are making sense of things differs from how you make sense of things.  This past year has taught us on a whole another level that love truly is patient, kind and most definitely long-suffering.  Thanks to those of you who have been those things to us.  It’s balm to our weary hearts.  We also are grateful for your check ins during periods like the current one where we just aren’t online a lot.  We have found the need to take lots of breaks from social media for our mental health.  Lent is a great opportunity to limit time spent online so we are taking that time to focus on other things.. As always we are ever grateful for your presence in our life.  It has never meant so much!  We are also working on updating our email list so on the off chance that we get off social media entirely please message us with your email so that we have it to stay in touch.

Some days this Puddle just wants to go home but my Toot Lawson and the girls remind me that home is all the places we have ever lived but mainly home is them!  Puddle would be lost without her Toot who always finds the rainbows while she is sometimes focused on the rain!  We hope you are seeing lots of rainbows where you are.  Thanks for being a rainbow in our life!  We send you love!



Happy Graduation! The end of an era….

We knew when we embarked on this adventure that our daughters would both go through graduation experiences that would be different from the one they would have had in the US.  One of the things we were keen to expose our girls to was a different educational experience.  While our oldest daughter Sophie’s graduation from the University of Queensland last December was all of the pomp and circumstance, relief and joy that all graduates should experience, Eve’s graduation from high school was a bit different due to COVID.  Actually all of the 2020 school year has been different thanks to COVID.  What is also a  bit unusual for those of us from the Northern Hemisphere is that school starts in late January/early February here.  What that has meant for this years cohort (class) is that not just the tail end of their senior year has been disrupted by COVID but pretty much the entire school year.  There was only a  partial volleyball season for Eve, one choir recital compared to the many she would normally have, no real opportunity to step into the leadership role she had been chosen for.  While this year has been a disappointment, in many ways, it has also been an opportunity to learn resilience and flexibility and how to turn lemons into lemonade!   Eve and her cohort have done that in incredible ways!
In terms of graduation itself, what the virus and the ensuing restrictions meant was that the ceremony was held during the school day, no parents present way back in September.  All the parents were then sent a link so we could watch the ceremony from the comfort of our own home.  Now while it was sad to not be able to watch her receive her diploma in person, it also meant we didn’t have to sit through a three hour ceremony – lemons to lemonade.  Another thing that is different here, at least with Eve’s school, is that they wrap all of academic awards of the school into that graduation ceremony so this year we didn’t have to sit through that either – more lemonade!  The challenging part  for Eve was going back to school for two more months after the graduation ceremony. A couple weeks ago marked the very last event of the school year – Graduation Dinner (or as they call it valedictory).  In spite of the restrictions, this has been an incredibly normal school year in many ways thanks to the low case numbers in Australia.  We are thankful every single day for the safety we’ve experienced here in our state of Queensland!.

If you know us well, you might know that Eve’s school experience has been quite a circuitous path.  We have tried a number of different academic experiences to find what is best for our girl.  While Lawson and I would probably have chosen the Waldorf/Steiner school here in Brisbane, Eve wanted a more mainstream high school experience.  So, Catholic girls school it was!  Now this might sound funny, especially to my Catholic friends, but I was really worried about the nuns trying to nudge Eve to become a nun herself because she is such a caring, sensitive, deeply spiritual soul.  Well,  that was not remotely something to worry about!   This simply shows my own ignorance of Catholicism and Australian culture in general.    Instead, Eve has learned to navigate quite a big school.  She has learned to navigate a girls school no less.  From a parents perspective, she found really good, kind, inspiring friends.  She found ways to shine in the midst of being the new girl with the American accent.  She learned to work together within the context of her House – Beck House (think Harry Potter and Gryfifndor vs Slytheron).  She also learned more curse words than I have heard in my whole life – hello Australia!
Eve rode the ferry to school almost every day which was wonderful for us all as her school was across the river from where we’ve lived.  She embraced this mode of travel and befriended younger Lourdes girls who rode the ferry as well as the ferry staff.  I think she’s going to miss the dailyness of this too!
Another thing that is different about graduation from high school in Australia than the US is that students wear their school uniforms  for the ceremony.  This would have been true even if Eve had a graduated in a non-COVID world.  Fortunately, Eve has one of the sweetest best friends in all the world, her friend Madeline from back home in the States and she sent Eve a proper American cap and gown for pictures!   Madeline had planned on traveling to Australia for Eve’s graduation but with the borders closed that reunion will have to be postponed but her generous gift will always be one of the most positive parts of Eve’s graduation from high school!  Here are a few of Eve’s graduation pics taken here at New Farm Park Rose Garden!
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We should have captured a pic of Lawson and I jumping for joy as well  because as every parent at this stage of life knows there is joy (as well as a wee bit of nostalgia) when your youngest child graduates.  There is definitely joy in knowing we will never have to sit through another parent meeting again!  It is the end of an era for sure!
One of the reasons we chose Lourdes Hill College was because it was a Good Samaritan school which suited our Eve perfectly!  She has had heaps  of opportunities to volunteer, to serve and to be acknowledged for something we don’t often see rewarded in our very academic oriented school’s these days – a generous and kind heart!  Last year Eve was nominated for the Bulimba Electorate Queensland Day Awards which recognizes people who inspire others to be better human beings and as someone who makes their part of the world a better place!  How cool is that?!  In addition, she was SPARC captain which is a service group all about protecting the environment.  She was also home group representative for her house for a semester.  Go Eve!
Among the things we are going to miss are the uniforms, especially the hats that are so unique to Australia.  Eve has embraced the rhythm of having a uniform and we love the equalizer that provides all students.  We’ve never understood why parents in the US would resist having uniforms because it simplifies life so very much!  Eve got lucky because the uniform at Lourdes is relatively attractive as far as uniforms here go – mauve and white!  Well except her choral uniform which I will not post a pic of because it is atrocious, even on Eve who looks beautiful in everything (well, except this).
The big question for year 12’s/seniors is always what is next?  Well, in Eve’s case the answer to that is she is on hold until we get word on the state of our visa.  For anyone who has lived abroad, who hasn’t had any permanent status you know how stressful the waiting can be.  We are all on hold until the Australian government decides if they want to grant permanent residency to us.  It is easy to be somewhat pragmatic on the front end of an adventure but on the tail end when your children have fallen in love with where they are living it is an altogether different experience.  I will write more about this on a later post so for now back to Eve and her plans.  Well, she is looking for a part-time job right now.  She is babysitting – a lot.  She is exploring the possibility of modeling.  She is researching programs that she might want to pursue if we are granted permanent residency.  And, she always has university in the US tucked away in the back of her mind as well.

I will close this post with some fun pics of Eve’s school experience and by saying that one of the best parts of this adventure has been school for the girls.  There are no perfect school’s.  All school’s to some degree are a business.  What has been good here has been how our girls have found acceptance.  While sitting down and regurgitating facts memorized will never be Eve’s cup of tea, what she was allowed to do was shine in other ways.  To value becoming a Good Samaritan in the world today is incredible.  For the principals and teachers to like you, to see your contributions even if you aren’t the top academic achiever is so incredibly important.  The theme this year was Peacemakers as well the ongoing theme from 2019 Space to be Yourself.   While there was all the petty, hurt feeling moments you would expect in an all girls school there was always the focus on collaboration and cheering their cohorts on as well.   I am reminded of the verse in Matthew “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” and love thinking of a world where these girls are part of carrying this kind of peacemaking energy forward.  Our world desperately needs that right now don’t you think?  Congratulations sweet Eve!  We are so very proud of you!  We hope you and your cohort light up our world by being messengers of peace!      .





Voting from abroad

Let me start by saying this is not a post about our opinion on who you should vote for in the US election.  This is rather a post encouraging you to vote even if you aren’t thrilled about your choices, even if you are deeply discouraged and feel like “what’s the point”.  If we can vote 8, 884 miles away from our voting precinct, so can you!  We have always treasured our right to vote but never more than now that we are expats.  This right, this privilege is something that should not be taken for granted.  It is important to make our voices heard and to be active participants in creating the United States of America that we want.

How exactly do we vote from abroad?  Well, we first had to request an absentee ballot from our local voting precinct back in the USA.  Once that occurred we received an email confirmation that our request had been received and that we would receive our ballots in mid September.  Ours arrived this week.  Once we got ours printed off and filled in, we were ready to go.  In our case, the state of Florida allows us to either mail in or fax our vote.  It would have been our preference to mail in our vote to support the US Postal Service but due to the current disruption of services going on back home we decided to play it safe and fax in our vote instead.  Some states also allow you to email in your vote.  Quite a few expats, who only have the mail in option for their state, are considering expedited mailing services to make sure they get their ballots there in time.  There is an excellent organization called Vote from Abroad that keeps expats up to date on voting matters.   I have to say based on the expats we hear about here in Australia we are all a pretty motivated group of voters!  One fact the Vote from Abroad posted recently on their Instagram account was that 48% of overseas votes in 2016 were in swing states.  Hello Florida!  That would be us!


So, where exactly do we find a fax machine in 2020?  We headed to our local Officeworks (Office Depot of OZ) of course.  We decided to make it a family affair and chose the first day we could all be together to cast our votes.  Yesterday, we got up early and headed to Officeworks before they opened to take some photos of our voting experience.  I knew our girls would be a little embarrassed by my desire to document this process so the less people around the better.  Unfortunately, we weren’t the first people there.  An employee arrived just before us and appeared to be contemplating whether she needed to call the police as she watched us from afar.  I’m sure it was a bit unusual to see people holding signs and taking pictures in front of an office supply store before 8 am.  After a quick breakfast close by, we headed back to Officeworks to get our votes sent. Once we made our way to the employee who would be assisting us in sending our votes in, it took quite a while to get things to work properly. It seems that sending faxes to the USA was more complicated than it should be. Finally after about 30 minutes, we got the confirmation that the faxes had been sent and had arrived safely in Florida.  Yay!  Here are a few photos of our adventure in voting from Brisbane, Australia!  Going to a box store is not quite the same as going to your local polling station but we got to vote and that’s what counts!  I printed off the I Voted and I Voted from Abroad signs to make the experience more festive and because we are missing our little I Voted stickers that you always get back home in the States.





In addition to this being our first federal election abroad, this also was our Eve’s first time voting.  So exciting for her!  While there is absolutely nothing that compares to going in person to your local precinct and casting your vote, Eve will never forget this first vote from Down Under!  What an incredibly historic first vote to cast!  Do you remember your first time voting?  I remember my first vote well.  I went with my dad. I always loved talking about politics with my dad.  He was so wise and not the least bit partisan.  He was also super private.  I remember a reporter standing outside the voting precinct and asking him how he voted.  My dad replied “That’s awfully private”  and kept on walking.  Can you imagine this today?  We are just so very political and open in our sharing these days.  I often wonder what my dad would think of the world today.  My dad was not just my/our personal hero but one of those young hero’s of WW2.  As a very young man he was drafted and sent to France and Germany to help defeat that madman in Germany.  I cast my vote with him in mind!   I also voted as best I could with my girls future in mind and always to show them that they can have a voice!




I want to close with a reminder to not take this right for granted, especially if you are a woman.  There was a young woman who spoke at one of the conventions this year who had tweeted in May about something called a household vote.  I was curious what this was about and was horrified to find it was about a one vote per household movement.  No way!  While Lawson and I agree on almost everything, there have a been a few times where we have voted differently.  And, even if we voted exactly the same I absolutely do not want my husband being my voice..  While I think this is a small fringe group of people that are supporting this idea, we can see clearly in the US that this is not a movement we want to allow to grow.  I can’t help but think of Handmaid’s Tale when I hear about a tweet like this  I also can’t help but think of all the women who sacrificed so much to make sure I can vote, to make sure our daughters can vote.  Thank you suffragettes!  As the suffragette Carrie Chapman Catt said “This vote is the emblem of your equality, women of America, the guarantee of your liberty.”   The vote is the emblem of all our equality!  So….Go Vote!  Don’t let anything stop you, especially indifference.   Again, if we can do it from this far away so too can you!







Not on our list of expat to do’s

Late afternoon on Monday here in Australia, we received a phone call from a stranger that Sophie had been hit by a car while heading home from work on her Vespa.  The caller said the ambulance was on it’s way to take her to Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital.  The caller was so calm we had no real idea of how serious the accident was until we got to the hospital and heard the details.  Sophie was traveling at about 60k (40 miles per hour) down a hill on a busy street when a car pulled in front of her and she hit the front fender.  Sophie then somersaulted twice over the bonnet (hood) of that car and landed hard in the next lane.  Amazingly the car traveling in that lane was paying attention and was able to stop in time.  Equally as amazing was the fact that a friend and coworker of Sophie’s, Candice, came upon the accident right after it happened.  Candice usually took another route home but because of an accident that direction she was taking this alternate route and was right behind Sophie.  What a gift!  She was able to comfort Sophie while other drivers stopped traffic and called us and her boyfriend. Also neighbors brought out pillows to stabilize her and a first aid kit.  As Sophie’s friend said it was a “yay community” moment.  It was a community of people we will probably never meet but are so incredibly grateful for.  Candice was kind enough to go to the emergency room with Sophie and waited there for all of us to arrive and then waited with us for quite some time.  As Candice began to explain some of the details and then later as we talked with Sophie about the police report, it really began to sink in how fortunate she was to be alive.  The driver of the car that hit Sophie just did not see her.  She had her four year old daughter in the car.  This could, of course, have happened to any of us.  Accidents happen in the blink of an eye.  The police established that it was the car’s fault and we pray her insurance will pay for both Sophie’s Vespa (which is totaled) and her hospital expenses.  Sophie is pretty banged up, bruised and has lost some feeling in her legs which we pray is temporary but there did not appear to be any head injury (a miracle)!
When we embarked on this adventure there were a number of experiences we wanted to have but testing out the medical system was not one of them, especially the emergency room!  Last year we experienced one of the private hospitals here in Brisbane when Lawson had kidney stone surgery.  It was a very positive experience, well other than the actual kidney stones.  As expats who do not have permanent residency yet, we are required to hold private insurance.  For us as Americans it has been quite an education and relief financially..  When Lawson was in a corporate job back in the US we had excellent insurance, although still pricey.  When he was self employed we really began to see how expensive healthcare in the US has become.  In our opinion, it is not really very sustainable.  When we purchased our healthcare here we were blown away by the cost.  It was maybe what we were paying when we first got married in the 90’s but with even more benefits.  For Australians, what we have to pay for private health insurance here is astronomical because healthcare is free for citizens.  The system though is more of a hybrid system – combining a bit of say Canada and the US.  If you make over a certain amount yearly, you are required to buy private even as a citizen to help protect their medicare system.  And, of course those of us who are guests in Australia are also required to buy private insurance.  For us it’s not that the medical system here is better but more of an observation of why does the US cost so much and can we do anything to change that?  Now, because Sophie was taken to a public hospital rather than a private hospital it will be a couple of weeks before we know how the medical expense side of things plays out but overall it’s just not as stressful here and people are not worried about being left with healthcare expenses that can cripple them financially for life.

It took several hours of waiting while they were doing x rays and scans of Sophie checking for internal injuries before we were allowed back to see her.  Once we were able to be with her there was such relief and joy!  But the realization of exactly how close we came to losing her Sophie hit Eve full on and she passed out in Sophie’s room.  As the nurses were trying to stabilize her they found that her blood pressure had dropped to half of what it should be so they wanted to check her in as well to make sure she was ok.  So in the span of about four hours we had both our daughters in the hospital and we were running back and forth between the two rooms to check on them.  It was quite an insane night.  After a couple of hours and several tests, they felt that Eve was going to be alright.  Whew!  It will be interesting to get the bill for Eve’s visit as well.  Because this was a public hospital they said it should all be free (even for us) because Eve is a student here in Australia.  We shall see how that unfolds.  For us, it’s just kind of bizarre.  The emergency room was as low key as the rest of our experiences in Australia.  It was a little disorienting after our time in US hospitals.  When I first was allowed back to see Sophie I found it quite impossible to figure out who was who.  It was not clear to my American eyes who was a doctor, who was a nurse, etc.  There was more of a police presence than I remember back home but maybe that was because we were in a more urban hospital and there were most definitely quite a few people with drug related issues in the waiting room  Also, I add the below photo as a bit of humour from our experience in the emergency room waiting room.  There is this thing here whereby some Australians walk around without shoes – everywhere including shops and even apparently the hospital.  We just can’t make sense of this but it’s a thing.  I suppose this is where we might appropriately be called uptight Americans!
To some degree our girls will always be these sweet little ones pictured below.  Life was simpler and it felt like we could more easily protect them.  The reality though is that they are young women making steps into adulthood and we must come to terms with how little we can do to protect them.

Many years ago we heard a story about a man who was in hospital.  A friend visited him and said “how unfortunate that you were in this place at the time this accident happened”.  The injured man said “maybe but maybe not because something far worse (or far better) could have happened”   This story has become interwoven into the fabric of our family.  If I (the worrier in our family)  begins second guessing decisions I have made, Lawson quite often will say “well maybe but also maybe not”.  The point being we just never know.  Was it a good idea for Sophie to be driving a Vespa?  Well, maybe or maybe not.  There are no certainties in life.  Drivers make split second decisions that can alter the course of their or another persons life every single day.  I know all my friends who might be reading this are striving as we are to make the very best decisions they can each and every day.  We can always keep striving to do better but we also must be gentle with ourselves as accidents happen, life happens.  I don’t talk about my faith as much as I used to because I am becoming more and more like my dad with each passing day.  My dad was quiet and found words to quite often be cheap.  He felt how he lived his life was an expression of his faith. more than how he talked about his faith  As I get older I find myself wanting to be more and more like him but I do thank God and our girls guardian angels for their protection!   I am, however, also aware that there could be a parent reading this who has lost a child to a car accident who might be thinking well where was God for my child?  I don’t know why our beautiful daughters life was spared and another persons daughter was not.  I know we are filled with relief and gratitude and even more empathy than we might have before this experience for other parents who go through this, most especially those who might have lost a child.  As the upheaval and turmoil of the past few weeks, especially in the US, has unfolded, the way we talk to one another and about issues on social media have left me feeling quite overwhelmed and upset.  Then this happened and the goodness and kindness of people comes through.  We have so much more in common than we do differences.  I hope we can find a way to extend the kind of compassion you gave us on social media after this accident, to one another in other areas as we navigate this time of tremendous change.  Thank you all for your kindness, friendship and prayers for our family!  We are truly grateful!  And thank you for doing your little bit of good where you are because that little bit of good made a world of difference for our family!



A pandemic kind of Mum’s Day

As we awake to Mother’s Day here in Australia, my mom is so close in my thoughts.  Well, she is always.  My mom, Lawson’s mom, all of my aunts, cousins and friends who have mothered me over the years all are.  I really could use a dose of that mothering  now.  How about you?  I would give so much to have a day with my mom and my girls all together again, especially one where my mom felt good and there was not a pandemic sweeping the world.  My mom suffered from chronic pain the last few years of her life.  A serious car accident just a few months after losing my dad and an undiagnosed gallbladder issue that ultimately led to her death took a lot of my mom’s spark.  And boy did she have spark!  She was sparkle and pizzaz to me and my dad’s quiet sensitivity.  She made things fun!  She was also fierce and determined and outspoken.  My parents had been married 15 years when I came along, but she never gave up hope in all those years..  She desperately wanted to be a mom.  Actually she wanted to be called mama and was quite disappointed when I dropped that in favor of mom sometime during my teen years.  I thought mama sounded too old fashioned and as a child who perceived her parents as ancient due to that long wait for me to come along, I was all about not being old fashioned.  As with many mothers who have tried many years to get pregnant and have gone through a traumatic birth like my mom did with me, she was always worried about losing me.  I thought she hovered a bit too much.  Now I have far more compassion for what she must have been feeling.  This is how it is isn’t it?  The perspective of adulthood, becoming a mom myself and now navigating life without my mom all make things clearer and raise my empathy for all my mom went through.  And in a charming twist that I love, my oldest daughter calls me mama quite often and I don’t find it old fashioned at all.  My Sophie is also showing signs of having inherited her Nonnie’s green thumb.  And both Sophie and Eve have my mom’s joi de vivre, love of beauty, commitment to friends and zest for living!  It helps to see how all the love she showered them with has helped produce such lovely young women!  I am so lucky to have been my mama’s  daughter and to be mom to my own amazing daughters!





Sadly, we don’t have as many pictures of Lawson’s mom with us primarily because he isn’t on facebook much and that is where most of my old photos come from as all of our photos are in storage back in the US.
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In keeping with my thinking as a child that my parents were old (which they absolutely were not nor would they be considered to be today at 36 and 38 at the time of my birth), my parents went through the Depression.  I have been wondering what they would be thinking about all that is happening in the world right now.  What would their advice be in navigating this?  I feel certain they would be devastated by what is happening in the US and wonder about what has happened to their country.  I wish I could process it all with them.  Any child who grew up with a parent who went through the Depression knows that some of that anxiety probably got passed on to them.  It certainly did me.  How about you?   What have you been feeling during this incredibly scary time in our world?  This pandemic has upended life for us all but more importantly it has been tragic for some  We have been some of the fortunate ones who have been able to shelter in place in relative comfort and have remained symptom free.  While we have struggled with the isolation many are feeling, we know we are fortunate.  Our hearts break for those who have lost loved one’s to this virus.  I can’t help but think of all those who will be numb with loss this mothers day.  I was able to hold my mothers hand as she passed away.  What must it be like for those facing this virus without a hand to hold?   What must it be like to lose someone you love to this virus?  We have appreciated how here in Australia they have shared a bit about each of those who have passed away from the virus.  It is not abstract.  It is very real.  It is important to put faces to the numbers because only then can we enter into a place of true compassion.  It could happen to someone we love.  I never want to forget that.

We are way too familiar with grief.  Over the past decade we have lost our parents, an aunt who was like a second mom,  two of our doggies and two of my best friends  We have also faced other kinds of loss .  Grief comes from all forms of loss but changes you every single time it comes to visit and it is here on our doorstep again.  It is not just a personal grief this time though  This grief is one that much of the world is feeling yet it has somehow left many feeling more isolated than united.  Why would we not pull together in the midst of a pandemic?  Why are some countries doing it better than others?  I don’t have the answers but I do know the collective loss is very real.  I feel it.  Our family feels it.  Maybe we feel it so acutely because as expats our hearts keep getting tugged back home where there seems to be such division  I know for certain social media while an incredible tool for connection often leaves me turned inside out from the mercurial nature of it. Human behavior on social media is well….interesting at best, infuriating and hurtful at some of it’s worst.  I have found the minimization of the loss that some are facing unconscionable.  This is not like the flu.  I contemplate chucking the whole thing almost every single day but just can’t seem to do it so instead end up just popping on for a quick bit then jumping off to spare myself the emotional rollercoaster of the feed.  We are  oh so connected these days yet at least for our family (because we all talk about this kind of thing a lot) it is easy to still feel isolated and I don’t think that’s just because we are expats.

So where does that leave us?  Or lead us?  Well, for us it’s back to our spiritual life, our internal life and cultivating that.  I know for sure that life will be somewhat different for us on the other side of this quarantine.  I posted this quote by the trauma expert Dr. Bessel van der Kolk on our instagram page the other day  “We need to organize our interior lives because our exterior structure has disappeared”.  While the interior aspect of my/our life has always been one of our highest priorities, it is in the periods where I am isolated that I am most vulnerable, as I think many of us are, and thus need these inner reserves the most.  As so much of what we have counted on from the outside goes through it’s own reorganization and in some cases dissolution, we need our inner resources to be fortified all the more.
How are you doing?  What kind of things are you doing to nurture yourself?  How has your world changed through this crisis?  How are you finding connection?   We really are interested.

I should be writing this Mothers Day post to you from Melbourne this week instead of writing about a pandemic and grief.  It was to be our first trip there, a Mother’s Day gift.  While there have been baby steps back to a new normal here, it will be a while before we are able to take that trip.  It is our sincere hope that travel restrictions will ease up within Australia by July as we need to get to the US Embassy to renew Eve’s passport due to the fact that she was a minor when her current passport was issued.  It is a small thing in the big scheme of things but there is something about having an expired passport while abroad that is kind of scary.  It doesn’t look like there will be any travel back to the US in the foreseeable future either which I have relied on being able to do the whole of my time here.  Having the thought “I can  jump on a flight back to the US if I need to” has kept me brave even if I didn’t do it hardly at all.  Hmmm…back to needing those inner reserves for bravery!  I am always thinking that my parents are somehow here with me, seeing this whole adventure unfold.  I think they would like Australia quite a lot as it reminds us so much of our own childhoods in the States with all the modern conveniences of today.  If this pandemic had happened in the 1970’s, I think the US would have handled it a bit more like Australia has handled it in 2020.  It is interesting to experience one reality but to watch your homeland experience a different reality.  It is unsettling.  There is talk of a travel bubble between Australia and New Zealand as the two countries are similarly tackling the containment of the virus.  I think it is important to add that the two countries have vastly different political leaders – one conservative, the other liberal – and yet they are very united in how they have tackled this pandemic.  It can be done regardless of political affiliation.  I think this is important to remember as we look to the future.  As expats, we view our country from afar and frankly right now I wish more Americans had that opportunity.  Australia is far from perfect but so too is the US.  The biggest difference I see is America is so divided and partisan that the addressing of issues feels almost impossible which makes safety challenging.  Our daughters feel that they will have a better, safer future here than in the US….that breaks my heart.  They are lucky to have options but that doesn’t take away our worry for our homeland.  If anything this has made us more patriotic.  Objectivity is a good thing.  We are grateful for how this expat adventure has stretched us personally, expanded our perspective and has given us an added dose of objectivity

In the midst of such worldwide upheaval, we hope that this Mother’s Day finds you safe and healthy. We remain deeply appreciative for your friendship and for all the kind messages to us.  Connection has never been more important and we never take it for granted!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  Stay safe friends!  And, Happy Mother’s Day!  We leave you with this fabulous sunrise and hearts full of gratitude for your presence in our life.


Being an expat during a pandemic

It is an incredibly bizarre time to be an expat. We can’t leave Australia now.  All  international flights and most flights within Australia have been canceled.  There was a headline a few days ago that said “Australia cut off from the rest of the world as it bans international flights”.  It was a terrifying headline to read for an expat  but after giving it a moments thought we realized it is absolutely necessary.  This is exactly what should be happening right now.  It is hard.  It is scary and it is necessary.  While there is always criticism of how a government might have handled things, from our perspective the Australian government has at least taken this pretty seriously from the beginning.  Since January there have been measures in place to try to protect the public here  Down Under.  Where the government most likely dropped the ball was not being aggressive enough  in monitoring those coming in on flights and cruises from the US and Europe.  Most of the new cases can be traced to that.  Sobering right?  The  truth of the matter is we are all, no matter one’s country, to some degree cut off from the rest of the world for a period of time even if you are not living on an island continent like Australia.

How long that is seems to depend on how seriously we take this.  Life is surreal for everyone at the moment, but even more so for those of us experiencing this in another country whilst also watching our homeland grapple with this extremely frightening situation.  We have no family here.  We are on our own yet in many ways we feel safer here than we would in Florida as per capita there are far fewer cases here in the state of Queensland than in the state of Florida.  As with all things going on back home we are observing from a distance  and trying to make sense as best we can while not being exactly sure what is true.  We do have access to all the same news as every other American and we are watching and reading them all….everything from the New York Times  and NPR to CNN and even  Fox News  to hear what they are reporting and then there are our social media news feeds which are sometimes more frightening than the news frankly.  And it’s not those that are posting the seriousness of the situation that are scaring us.  It is the ones not taking it seriously enough.  This has somehow become political when , in our opinion, we should be listening to the scientists..  Dr Fauci and Dr Birx are extraordinary human beings and doctors.  They most likely have 401k’s too.  They are no doubt  worried about the economy.  Again, in our opinion, we really should listen to them first, not the politicians. The same here for us in Australia.  Schools have remained open but we pulled our youngest daughter out because she was our biggest contact point and why risk it.  We listened to the scientists not the Prime Minister.  We live in the third largest city in Australia.  We also live in an old Wool Store building that has been converted to apartments.  We were informed that someone in our building was self isolating due to contact with someone known to have the virus and someone in the next Wool Store over has contracted the virus.  We all shop at the same grocery stores most likely.  We touch multiple shared surfaces from doorknobs to the elevator to trash shoots.  Our proximity to others  living in the city makes us vigilant.  We are probably at higher risk than if we lived in a country town but the concept of social distancing and staying home applies to us all.  We are doing all we can to protect ourselves and in protecting ourselves we protect others.  We truly are all in this together!
Last night I dreamed about our home in Florida.  I awoke disoriented and anxious with a visceral longing.  I am nesting as best I can in this temporary place we live in but I really miss having my own home.   This longing for the familiar, for home is something expats know comes and goes, waxes and wanes.. We are oh so grateful to be given this opportunity to live in Australia but this pandemic and the uncertainty for what the future holds has certainly made the longing for our own home intensify.  We are grateful to be able to hunker down in our home here in Brisbane.  We are grateful we can FaceTime our oldest daughter who is also hunkered down in her own apartment.  We are grateful to be healthy.  We are grateful for friends and family and our ability to stay connected through technology.  Thank you for that connection because currently we feel a bit cut off from “home”

Love and hugs and wishes for good health to you all!  Stay safe friends!


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone!  Let me start by saying a huge thank you to all who have checked in on us as the fires raged here in Australia.  We so appreciate your concern and taking the time to email, send messages and posts via social media, etc.  We truly are deeply grateful!  We are safely north of the current fires as we are located in Brisbane.  If you are looking at a map of Australia we are on the eastern coast north of Byron Bay, north of Sydney.  There have been bush fires close enough to smell the smoke this summer but nothing of the magnitude of the fires in New South Wales.  They are devastating beyond words.  We have recently had rain and it has helped with the fires but  please continue to pray for relief, please pray for more rain as the whole country is in a drought,  please pray for the fireys (firemen and women in Australia, told you they shorten everything) and please pray for the injured animals and people who have lost so much.  I’m not going to post any photos of injured animals but instead of a beautiful koala we had our photo taken with just before Christmas at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary..
I have at least 10 half written posts from last year that I never quite finished.  The reasons are many but can probably be condensed down to the fact that last year was really hard (with some fabulousness thrown in there) and every time I tried to write I veered off course into heavy territory and frankly I didn’t feel like anyone needed that!  I tried to rein it in but there it was on the page!  A new friend who has lived abroad for many years reminded us recently how hard the first few years are in a new country.  There is no way around things being different, not bad just different.  I have struggled the most with, not exactly homesickness but something akin to homesickness.  It’s quite an elusive thing to put words to and then there is always an element of nostalgia which cannot be accurately relied upon.  I miss my physical home back in Florida but the house is all that really feels like home there now.  Well that and the familiarity of place.  Those two things and of course the relationships are what can make you ache some days  There have been health challenges as well that I will include in a future post on our experience so far with the health care system.  I have tried to keep our instagram and facebook somewhat updated because that is a way to stay connected with photos but words are what really fill in the blanks..  It is hard to get back into a habit like blogging that you have neglected but I hope to get back in the groove even if the first few seem  as choppy as this one is feeling.  It’s in the starting back right?

The year is already off to a quick start.  We have three birthdays between mid January and mid February in our family so it’s always pretty full on here but especially when January is summer instead of winter.  I have always loved the start of the new year back home because you nest in and plan but here in the Southern Hemisphere it is beach time, vacation time!  So, the beach it is!  We took a quick trip to Tangalooma Island to experience feeding the wild dolphins and snorkeling the wrecks a couple of weeks ago.  It was a fun trip but we will never do it again in summer as it was insanely crowded.  We also found it a bit unorganized with both those events so the mechanical engineer and professional organizer in us were both frustrated and wanted to problem solve this issue.  However, the experience of feeding a wild dolphin was pretty special and was just a ferry ride from Brisbane.  Our oldest daughter turned 23 this past week and she had planned a trip to the Sunshine Coast with some friends for her birthday.  We were able to drive her up to the Sunny Coast and spend some time exploring before dropping her off and heading back home.  We also fit in a quick trip to the New South Wales beach town of Cabarita.  We are hoping the year ahead brings lots more exploring of the coastal communities both north and south of us.  It is really great being based out of a city that is so close to great beaches!
Among the events in the past year that I missed that were supremely important was our Sophie’s graduation from the University of Queensland in December.  It is a brave person to move university almost half way through their program but that is exactly what she did in order to embark on this expat adventure with us.  She did not seek it out particularly but she ended up graduating from one of the top 50 universities in the world and we couldn’t be prouder of our girl!  Most university students live at home while they are in university and we have been lucky enough to have her with us on this adventure so far.  She is working hard to save so she can move out on her own in the year ahead.  She will continue working at a local Brisbane shop that carries some of the loveliest organic linens and other sustainable products.  In the rather poorly planned category would fall Eve’s wisdom teeth coming out the day before Sophie’s graduation from uni.  Fortunately we had a top notch oral surgeon for Eve and she was determined to not miss her sister’s ceremony!
Well, a rather disjointed beginning to a proper catch up but there it is!  Please keep praying for Australia!  And, thanks again for checking in on us and hanging in there through this long drought in our blogging.  Big hugs from our family!


April Fools Day

Oh has it ever been a while!  I have several half written posts that have languished.  It would be easy for me to just put it in the category of home sickness but that’s only part of the story.  I have been home sick for sure but even more I have reached that point in any of our big moves where I begin questioning exactly how Lawson talked me into this!  It usually happens about a year and a half in and sure enough it has happened again starting late last year.  I am in many ways an unlikely candidate for the expat life.  Sure we have talked about doing this for forever and I love to travel but the thing I love the most is home and nesting – that is what has always been my thing.  Somewhere near the end of 2018 as we were facing our third move of house in Brisbane, I began really missing home and questioning this whole thing.  But, where is home?  Home is most certainly 2108 Brookhill Rd even though I no longer own it.  Home is Seagrove Beach and our house there which is now leased for the next year and home is the United States.  It is true that you will find out just how American you are (or wherever your place of birth is) when you become an expat.   But, home is also where my little unit resides and Australia feels very much like home in some pretty important ways now as well!  Even though I am ready for a home to call my own again, I am equally as intent on pushing through this homesickness and doubt and enjoying this adventure and somehow finding my way back to blogging about it!

On to today’s short post.  This day of April 1 is significant in our family’s life due to an event that we can only wish was an April Fools joke and not real…the flash fire of 2017.  Yep, only a short while before we got on the plane to head Down Under.  I won’t bore you with the details but the fire, the burns almost derailed this whole adventure.  Although time has softened the memory, Eve’s screams of terror as she watched and the weeks of pain remain just at the edge of consciousness.  It is nothing short of a miracle that skin grafts weren’t necessary and that this adventure began at all.  I still have a very nice reminder of this day on my right arm just below the elbow.  My freckles are slowly returning though and the healing continues two years on.  I marked today with a visit to one of my favorite places in Brisbane – Jurlique Wintergarden!  Jurlique is one of our favorite Australian brands because of the purity of their products.  If you ever have the opportunity to use their products (they are sold in the US) or to have one of their facials do yourself a favor and do it!  Today I celebrated the fact that my face has healed from the fire with a visit there.  I am grateful for my healing.!  I am also grateful for life’s small pleasures in the form of healthy products.   For all the things I miss from back home, and there are many,  there are amazing Australian products that have enhanced our life tremendously..  Jurlique happens to be one.
jurliqu wintergarden jurlique products
jo and kat jurlique
Maybe this short post will jump start our blogging and I will actually finish that post about our most recent house move.  As always, we thank you for following along and we have so appreciated the notes checking in on us!  You can always follow along on our Instagram account as we keep that updated regularly.  We hope this first day of April finds you having a beautiful day with not a single April Fools Day surprise in sight!



Behind the scenes

I recently had a friend suggest I include some less than flattering photos of this adventure to show that it’s not one big 24/7 party in the Kelley’s Aussie Adventure!  Well, I don’t think you really want to see those photos but before I write a post about our most recent American friend’s Aussie adventure with us, I did think I would share a bit about what has been going on behind the pretty pictures from instagram or here in the blog  I know for me, I see others beautiful photos and I imagine a life that flows perfectly all the while knowing that we are all human and all struggle.  Funny isn’t it how we all do this to some degree?  I always assume others have their act together far better than we do!

I think I have already written pretty honestly about the terrible start we got to this year with the loss of Lawson’s mom and his siblings planning the funeral before he could get there.  Grief and being sucker punched aren’t ideal ways to start the new year.  I think I have also shared that Lawson has had some health issues.  I have probably downplayed exactly how much all of this has impacted our year and this experience.  We have been so exceedingly blessed all our life with good health and have never taken that for granted but this year has been full of fear, confusion and seeking as we try to get to the bottom of why Lawson has felt so bad.  He has had intense abdominal pain the entire year.  Under normal circumstances this would be stressful but in another country it is all the more challenging.  We have been really lucky to find a GP who listens and comes along side as Lawson has gone through and continues to go through a battery of tests.  As we eliminate one major thing after the other we repeatedly come back to stress and its toll on our bodies.  As yogi’s, we are pretty darn in tune with our bodies but sometimes life throws you things that just leave you totally untethered and confused.  I have spoken a lot about grief as it has become this close friend over the past decade or so.  In spite of me being the “quiet one”, my grief process has been one of talking – a lot- about loss.  Lawson’s has been more internal, a quieter processing.  We all have our own ways of moving through grief but there is not doubt it does change us in ways we might not recognize at the time.  And, I do believe the more deeply we love the more intense the grief process no matter what shape it takes.  And, all that can impact our bodies in ways that can be totally unfamiliar and scary.  We await another appointment to go over a calcium heart scan but being able to eliminate certain things like colon cancer has allowed us to breathe a few sighs of relief!  We know from the results that were sent to us after the heart scan that Lawson’s numbers hold some concern.  What we have come to recognize even before that appointment is the number of things we need to change – stress and sugar reduction are at the top of that list.  Digging into what causes stress in our lives is not always easy.  There are the obvious things like living abroad of course, but then there are the more subtle things we just assume are how we are made – things like sensitivity, putting others first, people pleasing, the list goes on….This part will take a lot of focus, a lot of letting go of things that drain us and a lot of filling our empty cups back up!
you can't pour from an empty cup graphic
In addition to Lawson’s medical journey, we have been trying to get Eve the help she needs for attention related issues.  If you know our girl, you know she is a ray of joyful sunbeams.  If you know our girl, you might also know that school has been somewhat challenging.  She is smart as a whip but there are so many joyful rainbows going on inside her and emanating out of her that school details can be challenging.  We finally feel like we are getting the right kind of help for her here.  It seems to us that there is a gentler, more holistic approach to dealing with ADD here.  Eve’s school is providing lots of support and we have found a helpful doctor here too.  Don’t worry, I asked Eve if I could write about this and she said sure.  That’s our girl!  This illustration below makes me think of Eve and the extraordinary beauty radiating out from both her spirit and mind (illustration credit to one of my favorite illustrators, Aimee Sicuro).
amy sicuro rainbow kid
If there has been any part of doing this medical journey from abroad, it has been the reasonable medical bills we have incurred (at least by US standards).  I can’t even begin to tell you how that has helped with the stress we feel.  Our monthly insurance rates for private insurance here in Australia are maybe close to what we paid back in the early 1990’s in the US but with better benefits.  The amount we pay for private insurance here is staggering by most Australians standards because they have public medicare.  During Lawson’s corporate years, we certainly had excellent insurance, albeit far more expensive than here..  However, if you are self employed in the US or have had an aging parent with extreme medical costs, maybe you have a better understanding of exactly how expensive things are in the US.  Another thing we notice here is that in our doctor’s office there are no advertisements for pharmaceuticals, nor are there on television.  For us, this makes us trust our doctor just a little bit more.  I don’t think the Australian medical system is perfect at all but they are doing something right with keeping the cost of both insurance and medical procedures reasonably priced.  I don’t believe the number one reason for bankruptcy in Australia is from medical bills like it is in the US.  Maybe we could examine how other countries are doing things and integrate that into the really great parts of US health care?

And then there is the stress of our home in Florida.  We are trying to decide if switching to a long term lease might be a better choice for our home.  We knew this was going to be super challenging having our home open to others.  We knew others would not care for our property like we do.  The degree to which this is true has been harder to deal with than we expected.  People put any manner of things down the toilet because why?  Because it’s not theirs?  It is disheartening to say the least and expensive for us as well.  We, of course, learned a lot in our time living at the beach about how people seem to lose their minds when they go on holiday.  For the first time, I came to understand what people meant when they said “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.  Yeah, what happens at the beach stays at the beach and the homeowners pay for it!  We know we are blessed to be able to keep our home and yet the stress is real in trying to do the right thing by our home from afar.
aimee sicuro graphic rerouting
So, no ugly pictures here but lots of words on how our life is not perfect.  Behind those beautiful pictures of Australia, behind those pics of us smiling, there is concern and worry just like everyone else.  There are days I just want to go home.  It would be easier in lots of ways but we press on knowing that even in the midst of life’s concerns we will never regret having this expat adventure with our daughters!  People have said we are courageous..  Maybe, we have courageous moments but most of the time we are shaking in our boots trying to figure things out as we go.  We are constantly rerouting this whole thing (illustration credit above again to Aimee Sicuro).  Thanks for joining our perfectly imperfect family as we continue on this expat journey!



Adams Australian Adventure – Part Two

There is something about seeing where you live through the eyes of a first time visitor that reminds you how lucky you are!  This was certainly true for us during our adventuring with the Adams!  We tried to structure our outings in such a way that there was a balance of things we knew with a few new things, things in town balanced with day trips and free things with those that cost a bit.  We leaned a lot about what worked well and even more about how much we have to learn about being tour guides.  We pushed pretty hard to see as much as we could but there was so much more that we wanted to show them!  Sigh!  And, then there were the things that didn’t quite work out like we planned and we didn’t have a back up plan.  For instance, picking up where we left off…..Day 6 had us scheduled for a surf lesson in the mid afternoon on the Gold Coast which is an hour-hour and a half drive south of Brisbane.  We had an easy morning conserving our energy for the surfing to come and arrived at our lesson only to be informed the waves really weren’t good enough for us to go out.  Serious bummer!  We had initially scheduled the surf lesson for the afternoon thinking the weather might be a bit warmer – it is winter here – but now we know the chances of cancellation are higher in the afternoon. So we rescheduled.  We made the most of what was left of the afternoon walking a nearby trail with great ocean views and watching the sunset but it was disappointing and felt like a precious day lost a bit.
Gold Coast buildings, ocean
Gold Coast trees rocks beach july 2018
Gold Coast rainbow beach?

Sunset gold coast 1
Eve and MAggie close up gold coast trip one
LAwson and Eve looking out on the gold coast
On Tuesday, we had scheduled one of the Brisbane’s excellent free services called the Brisbane Greeters.  We met at City Hall and took a three hour walking tour through some of the CBD into the City Botanical Gardens and ended up at Queensland University of Technology.  Our guide was a retired professor from QUT and an incredible wealth of information!
downtown with the metal kangaroos
On Wednesday, we headed once more to the Gold Coast for an early morning surf lesson.  Just as we were pulling into the parking lot we received a call that our instructor could not find his keys.  He suggested we go get a cup of coffee while he looked.  We waited and waited and waited.  We watched the surfers from up on the bluff.  We discussed what might be plan B.  We finally got the call that he found them and could be there around 1.  We were frustrated but eventually decided to go with the lesson because we had already made the drive down and this was on Maggie’s bucket list of things to do in Australia.  In spite of all the irritation of waiting, our instructor was actually really good and patient with us.  Maggie already had mad surfing skills and led the way for us all.  Eve also was able to hop right up.  Lawson and I popped up ever so briefly and fell just as quickly but totally fell in love with the experience even if we weren’t up long.  We can’t wait to really learn to surf!  We were freezing by the end of our lesson and found a place to get some chai and coffee and watched the sunset once more!

dad meditating pre surfing

pre surf lesson july 2018

Eve and Maggie pre surf

me, eve and Lawson pre surf

pre surf instruction


Eve surfing

maggie surfing

One of the most long awaited parts of their trip was our visit to the Australia Zoo and the koala encounter that Chastity, Maggie and Eve got to experience!  We arrived right as the zoo opened and wound our way through the wombats and were able to hand feed the kangaroo’s.  We found our way to our seats at the Crocoseum for the main show at noon which features the crocodiles.  We were really fortunate to be there when Terri, Bindi and Robert Irwin were all there for the show..  On this day it was a little harrowing because one of the birds didn’t get the memo about the croc and kept getting really close to the edge of the water.  It was not part of the script and everyone in the stadium was holding their breath that we wouldn’t watch nature in action.  Fortunately, the bird was spared as the Irwins and the other staff distracted the croc!  Whew!  From there, we took a tram to the Africa section of the zoo.   In addition, the Nature Channel was filming the Irwins so we got to see that process in action.  It was finally time for the Koala Encounter and what an adventure that was for our three explorers!  Look how cute these pics are!

zoo croc show with bird

zoo croc show bird 2

zoo bindi and mom croc feed


small kangaroo July 2018


the four of us at zoo Africa exhitib July 2018

maggie and Eve with koala july 2018

koala in eve's arms july 2018
The next morning we were up early once again as we headed south again toward the Gold Coast for a whale watching boat trip.  The whales are migrating north right now and while you can on occasion spot a whale from the shore, it is all the more likely going out on a boat.  We chose to go with one of the scuba diving charters because of the small size of the boat which meant everyone had a good seat!  Our only regret was not having our really good camera with us.  We did get  a couple of good pics, just not quite as many as we would like.  The whales were simply breathtaking!

whale tail 3 july 2018

whale tail 2 july 2018

whale tail july 2018

all 6 of us on whale watch
After several day trips to the Sunny and Gold Coasts, we took Saturday and Sunday to chill in the city.  We took the free ferry down to South Bank and took in the art museums!  We then walked over to Fish Lane and had pizza and pasta at one of our favorite restaurants Julius Pizzeria!  From there, we had to introduce Chastity and Maggie to Messina gelato!  Yummy!  We wound our way back down to the Brisbane sign and attempted to get some photos of the girls without other people in the photo – impossible!  The sign is frequently swarming with people climbing all over it and this evening was no different.  The girls had great fun and we loved seeing the sun set over the city from this vantage point!  While at South Bank Chastity and Maggie rode the wheel of Brisbane and got to see the city from up high all lit up.  We walked from South Bank over the pedestrian bridge to QUT and the lighted trees where we attempted to get a few photos!  We spent Sunday morning exploring Roma Street Gardens and then headed home for a chilled afternoon spent playing games.  After a busy week, we all relished the down time learning a new game and just enjoying one another’s company, plus our dogs Felix and Dani and kitty Karo were thrilled to have us around for an extended period of time!











Eve and Maggie glamour shot
We awoke early the next morning to prepare a picnic lunch and get packed up for the drive and ferry ride to Stradbroke Island (Straddie).  After the hour long ferry ride we made our way back to the little coffee shop we discovered on our first trip to the island.  A little warm chai and we were ready for some koala and kangaroo in the wild sightings!  We headed first to Amity Point.  If only we had a four wheel drive vehicle!  Alas, we do not so we parked and walked out onto the nearly deserted beach.  We then hopped back in the car to drive to the Gorge Walk.  It was Eve’s eagle eye that caught this sweet koala hanging out very near the road!  We got out and took some photos and our sighting caused others to stop and snap their own photos.  Sometimes it is nice to know that Australians get just as excited about seeing a koala in the wild as we do!  We walked around Amity and watched the pelicans and just enjoyed the natural beauty.  Then it was off to the beautiful North Gorge Walk.  Well, lunch first.  We appreciate how much Australia still has an abundance of picnic tables and public amenities available.  We began our walk and early on found these kangaroos just chillin just off the path!  The views from North Gorge Walk are simply fantastic!  At one point, we saw a couple of whales and a couple of sea turtles.  Unlike our first trip to Straddie when things were rainy and overcast, this day was perfectly clear!  Ahhh!  We live in a beautiful world!  We must be stewards of this world God has entrusted to us humans!







Stradbroke July 2018 from walkway

Eve and Maggie Stradbroke





We had planned one more trip up to the Sunshine Coast (Sunny Coast) but almost two weeks of constant exploration was starting to catch up with us.  One of the things we definitely learned is pacing is always kinda hard.  You want to fit in as much as you possibly can but not wear yourself and your guests out.  Hmmm.  We have a lot to learn.  I remember why I came home from our first trip to Australia with a stress fracture in my ankle!  We took the next day off and drove over to one of the neighborhoods near Eve’s school.  Eve loved showing off her school and Bulimba has a nice little downtown for window shopping.  On the Adams last day, Sophie scheduled a trip to the Cat Cafe for her, Maggie and Chastity.  After a quick lunch, we took the City Cat ferry to UQ (University of Queensland) and explored a bit of the city we had not made it to yet.  Sophie gave us a very quick tour of her school as we maneuvered around a multitude of new graduates taking photos all over the campus.  From there, we caught a bus back to West End and had one last stop at Messina for another gelato!  We walked off a few of those calories by heading back down to the Brisbane River and South Bank for one last Brisbane sign climb and then it was time to head home so Chastity and Maggie could get a few hours of sleep before our 3 am drop off at the airport.  And, just like that we were hugging them goodbye!  Massive sigh!

Lucky Cat Cafe sign


I haven’t shared before how we met the Adams have I?  A series of somewhat traumatic events transpired that had us pull Eve out of the school she was in and begin home schooling her in 2015.  While we love the flexibility homeschooling provides a family, Lawson and I are not exactly the right profile for this job  We were using a school in Vermont that was a Waldorf based distance learning program with teachers but the distance aspect was challenging for Eve.  On a homeschool group outing, Lawson and Eve met Chastity, Maggie and Reese and a wonderful new friendship was formed and ultimately Eve was welcomed into Adams Academy that semester!  While the circumstances that led us to homeschooling for a time and to meeting the Adams was not optimal, it is a good reminder of how sometimes hard things in life can bring unexpected blessings – like the Adams!  We are thankful for their presence in our life and for their making the long journey to see us in Australia!  Here’s to more visits from them in the future and to more of our friends making this journey!  Thanks mate for joining us on this adventure!