Monday, September 1, 2014

Fourth Time's the Charm!

I schedule my crafts.  Honestly.  I sit down at the beginning of a new year and brainstorm all the things I’d like to make, keeping new babies, weddings, and the like in mind, and then I schedule my time and projects accordingly.  I’ve found that this approach allows me to finish the things that are important to me, and still allow me a little wiggle room if I finish things quicker than I had planned upon.

As you can imagine, I loaded my craft schedule pretty heavily with quilts this year.  January through May was consumed with work on the Storybook Hexagon Quilt because I wanted to be able to present it to my dear friend Rachel when her long sought daughter was born in June.  (Oh, what fun that was!  I still smile when I recall her shocked face when it was pulled from the gift bag.  That was a good day.)

And then I scheduled the summer for working on Junebug and Monkeyboy’s quilts for their bedroom, which I had planned to redecorate over summer break.  Alas, this was not to be because of the whole “let’s move to Australia” thing, but I did get a good start on their quilts.  Monkeyboy’s quilt parts have stayed behind in America; and, because Junebug is a little stinker and changed her mind about her quilt pattern at the last minute, I’ve brought along the pieces for her quilt because it’s all done by hand.  As I could not bring my sewing machine with me, having that big handwork project is rather perfect.

When I was sitting down with  my spreadsheet in January, figuring out what projects to plug into what weeks, the last half of the year just would not schedule out.  I’d try to apply my brain to the task, but seemed to be thinking my way through a hazy cloud.  (This should have been my first clue that something out of the ordinary was brewing for our family this year…)  I wanted to do some cute Halloween crafts, begin a gorgeous Christmas quilt, maybe make a few new-baby items to stash away for when I’m inevitably surprised by one of my siblings having a new baby and I somehow missed the five months of announcements on Facebook.  But nope, nothing felt right in the September through December time slot.

I stewed on the predicament for days.  I don’t like leaving empty space in my schedule.  I know, from previous experience, that empty spaces in my schedule means zero progress on my projects.  I’m not a fan of that.

And then, a few nights later, as I was in that twilight doze right before true sleep, it came to me:  The Peacock Feathers Stole.

Perfection.  A big block of time, unencumbered with any other projects to distract me, all set aside to finally tackle and conquer this unconquerable project that has kicked my heinie three times already in the past five years.  I will knit this pattern.

And I am.  Finally:

I started working on it a week before we left the States.  My previous three attempts have never seen me progress beyond row eight, but here I am today, proudly waving  ROW 108.  I’ve never gotten even halfway through Chart #1, and here I am, firmly entrenched in Chart #6!  (Chart #6 is long.  I’ll be here for about another month…ugh.)

The secret to my success this time:  Going ridiculously slow.  This time around, I’ve scheduled myself for only five days a week, and a maximum of four rows a day.  (That’s just two charted rows, as each row is purled on the backside, easy peasy...except for those sneaky double yarn-overs that require a little concentration on the return row.)  This “only twenty rows a week” schedule boasts March 2015 as the earliest possible completion date, compared to my earlier efforts that would churn this out in two or three months.  But you know what?  It’s working, and that’s all that matters.

It’s for my granny.  When I was really starting to get a feel for more advanced knitting, we did a little online window shopping of pretty knitted things and I showed her this pattern because I thought she’d like it.  She most certainly did like it, and the proud little knitter in my heart saluted and opened my mouth to offer to make it for her.  Unsurprisingly, she accepted the offer, and I made myself busy with procuring the supplies.  Unknown to myself at the time, I was pregnant with Monkeyboy, a fact that would become known to me a day before I received the pattern and yarn in the mail, because I was suddenly so nauseated and tired that the only thing I could be was pregnant. 

Barely able to move, and super sick all day long sounds like a perfect time to hunker down and do some soothing knitting, right?  Wrong.

Because the thing about this pattern is that it’s intense.  It’s a ton of symbols, which don’t really scare me, but whoa, those pages are pretty black with ink, and it’s got funky little spots where you have to actually reposition your stitch markers in order to work the stitches correctly and then put the stitch marker to the other side of the stitch.  It’s not cool.  It kicks my butt.  Add the nausea on top of that, and yeah, Try #1 didn’t last long.

Try #2, after Monkeyboy had arrived, lasted a week.  My sleep-deprived brain couldn’t handle it.

Try #3 was destroyed by my adventuresome lad four different times in the first two days.  My nerves couldn’t take it, and I decided that I was not in a chapter of my life that could handle advanced lace knitting.

And here we are, with Try #4, and it’s going very, very well.  The Boy no longer chews on yarn, removes needles from projects, or grabs projects out of my hands and runs off through the house laughing like a maniac with yarn trailing behind him.  (All important factors to successful knitting.)  I have months upon months scheduled, thereby eliminating any due date stress.  There are no newborns or growing-into-newborns in my future, and I get my eight hours of sleep almost every night.  Perfection.

Beautiful peacock perfection.  I love it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nature Walk at Sharon Gorge

This is Junebug's "We walked all this way for NOTHING?!" face.
We went for a little nature walk at a place called Sharon Gorge.  The “gorge” is a little channel for a little stream that runs next to the trail.  The kids were not impressed, especially when the trail ended at the edge of a river.  We didn’t see any koalas, and we didn’t see any neat flowers.  Big thumbs down from all four of them.

It was a very enclosed trail; lots of vines and heavy foliage around that made you feel a little claustrophobic.  I felt rather vulnerable the entire time, so I was happy when the trail ended abruptly at a little viewing platform next to the river and that we could head back to the relative safety of our car.  It was a short little walk, but a good reintroduction to our weekly habit of nature walks.  Hopefully our future walks will yield more interesting sights.

The river at the end of the trail, complete with field of sugar cane on the other side.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Brookelets at the Beach

There’s a lovely little lagoon near our house that allows the Brookelets to play in the ocean without the dangers of rip tides and deep water.  We’ve gone a few times and they have so much fun splashing, playing in the stream portion that leads back to the ocean, and building sand castles.  I get to sit nearby on my beach chair and keep an eye on everyone without raising my anxiety levels.  Pure win.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Weekly Report: First Week of School in Australia

We're living in the Bundaberg region, which is famous for its sugar cane (and rum).
Big fields of sugar cane are EVERYWHERE.
We are settled in Australia.  (Well, as settled as six people can be, living off of what they were able to pack into ten suitcases.)  Most of the suitcases are unpacked.  The pantry is filled with what I hope are suitably close substitutes of food we like to eat, and I get to discover each day how wrong I was in those hopes.  (Pork and cheese products = what is that taste?)  I have swept sand off of the tile floors, out of the bathtub, and out of bed sheets every day.  It. Is. Everywhere.  We also have library cards, which was a big deal for us.  We’re a cranky bunch without lots of reading material at our fingertips.

We started up with some school this week, much to the children’s objection, and accomplished very little.  We’re getting used to a different layout for our “school room,” and it was very difficult to get the kids to concentrate after taking our recess break down at the beach.  I figured out, towards the end of the week, that it’s far more productive to hold out the promise of going to the beach after all the schoolwork and cleaning are done, rather than as a break during the middle of it all.  We have a great big backyard here at our house, so recess is just fine running in the grass.  Once I figured out to wait to go to the beach (when the temperature is warmer anyway), we were able to get a little more done.

So little done, but we’re staying fairly caught up with math, which is my big goal while we’re here.  Next week I hope to get through language arts as well, and get back into our history and science studies.  We were studying humpback whales before we left the States in order to prepare us for our big whale watching trip this week, but finding books about whales was really difficult.  I’m incredibly confused as to why it was such a difficult task, but I guess libraries in Utah just aren’t as invested in the topic of whales as my hometowns in Washington state and British Columbia.  Sea mammals are a bigger part of the culture in those places.  We did what we could do with the three books available.

The whale watching tour was awesome.  We cruised around the bay for five hours, visiting pod after pod of humpback whales.  Humpback whales swim up to the Hervey Bay area during Australia’s winter in order to mate and calve.  The water down south is too cold for the newborn calves, so they’re born here and eat and eat and eat until they have about a two-foot thickness of blubber to withstand the migration to Antarctic waters.  We happened upon a new calf and its mother and were able to observe the feeding process, after which the little guy had some playtime.  So neat.  The kids ran from side to side of the boat to watch these magnificent animals.  It was a great experience.

The birthday girl!

It was a two hour drive to the bay, and on the way there Michael and Bluebird laid eyes on a kangaroo on the side of the road, but the rest of us didn’t see it.  There are “kangaroo crossing” signs all around here, much like our own “deer crossing” signs in the States.  I saw three dead kangaroos on the side of the road, so I’m thinking kangaroos are to Australians as deer are to Americans—somewhat common, but still special when you catch sight of one.  We also drove through a “koala crossing” area (the sign is so cute!), but didn’t see anything.  We’re keeping an eye out; hopefully we’ll see some of these creatures soon.

Whew, first week of homeschooling in Australia complete!  I’m excited to share our adventures with you all as they unfold.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Watching Humpback Whales in Hervey Bay

Penguin celebrate her eighth birthday shortly after we arrived in Australia, and she decided she wanted to go on a whale watching tour to see the humpback whales that famously stop over in the area to mate and calve.  I was able to snag a couple of good pictures from the boat, and thought I'd share:

Monday, August 4, 2014

the big, long plane ride

Hello there. You'll have to excuse my punctuation and other errors, because this post coming to you strictly from the voice recognition software of my phone. The pictures my Instagram account, and it looks this may be the only way that I can update the blog while we are turns out that the internet connection we have here isn't very good, in fact, it's rather ancient.I'm not sure there's much we will be able to do about it, so I'll try my best to post updates, but...yeah.

so, yes, we are here! We left Utah on July 26 and flew to Los Angeles. We stayed a few days in Los Angeles, as witnessed by my blog post there, and on July 29th we flew out of Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia. That flight was aboard an enormous plane, eating something like 800 people, and the flight lasted 14 hours. Almost all the flights had television screens built into the backs of the seats, so the kids had no trouble at all with the long flights.

our flight to Sydney left Los Angeles at 10 p.m. And they served dinner at midnight, which three of the kids were still awake for, and then they turn down the cabin lights and everyone on board went to sleep. I got 6 hours of horrible sleep, and everyone else seemed to do fairly well with their sleep. I woke up while we were flying over Christmas Island, but because it was the middle of the night, I didn't see anything. I slept a bit while we flew over summer and Fiji, and then most of all of us were up and just watching movies on our little screens. The flying was easy. Like, the easiest part of it all.

while I had been excited about all the knitting I was going to accomplish on our big, long plane flight, I ended up knitting and sewing nothing at all. I was simply too exhausted. I guess with the swimming, the full day at Disneyland, I'm a general all-around poor sleep, I just didn't have anything left over to concentrate. It felt like work to pay attention enough to understand a movie.

once we landed in Sydney, it was a mad rush to get to our connecting flight to Brisbane. We had two hours to make the switch, which included picking up our ten suitcases, taking it all through customs, checking the 10 suitcases into domestic flights, and then taking a bus to our departure gate on the other side of the airport. You know, while towing four crazy children. We made it to the gate about a minute before they started boarding the plane.

we then flew from Sydney to Brisbane, and then later took another flight from Brisbane to Bundaberg. the Bundaberg Airport is tiny. It's just one conveyor belt for all the luggage, housed in the same room as the ticket counters. Michaels company's office is at the airport, so our car was ready for us and a couple of people from his work walked across the street to greet us when we arrived. After the enormity of everywhere else we had been, it was so odd to be in such a small place. We loaded up our baggage, some in our people mover, which is what Australians call minivans, and the majority of it on a workmates flatbed pickup truck, and then we set off for our temporary home, driving on the left side of the road, which makes me think we're going to die at any given moment.

and so we're here. We will live at our current house for one more week, and then we will move into the house we will be staying in until our departure in December. The ocean is one block away, and we tried to walk down there at least once a day to enjoy the waves and the sand. The kids are loving it all! It is quite beautiful, the birds make very different cause here, the wind blows through the palm fronds, and the sunshine is warm and delightful.we've had only a few days here but already I love it quite a bit. Hopefully I can figure out a better way to update the blog, as this way has taken me far longer than I would like to admit. Until then, I am updating and posting to my Instagram account usually a couple times a day. Unless I can find another way to make this work better, that may be the route I choose to go with Laur while we are here. I hope your summers stateside are going well, and hopefully I can resolve this ancient internet issue quickly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Oh, what a fun day!  There were lots of lines, but the Brookelets handled it all fabulously--no meltdowns at all.  We took a break around lunch to head back to the hotel to cool down and re-charge, and then we went back to the park until we could hardly walk anymore and just did not care if we missed the rest of the rides.  Good times.

Dumbo Ride. Now that's joy.

Monkeyboy was SPEECHLESS when we took him to see Captain America.

Heading back to the shuttle.
What a fun day for us all.  Hopefully we'll be able to return again in the future...preferably in the off season though.  It was a lot of sun, a lot of people, and a lot of lines.  Perhaps an autumn or spring-time trip next time.

It's so funny to me how satisfying it is to me to say that I've now taken my kids to Disneyland.  I remember, during my childhood in Canada, talking with my school chums about Disneyland and how American kids must have so much fun all the time because they were able to go to Disneyland every summer because it was so close to all of them.  Now that I have children, and they are very much American, I feel like I carry a subconscious "to-do" list for their childhoods, which included taking them to Disneyland.  Complete!  (Other random items on that list include Mt. Rushmore, Gettysburg, and Washington DC.  My understanding of American childhood "necessities" has been completely informed by 1950's era advertising.)