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.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

While I Lounge, Exhausted

We flew out of Salt Lake yesterday, and the kids loved the airplane ride!   There's a video of Bluebird and Penguin during take-off that I'll have to post later because they were so stinking cute.  Everything went really smooth in regards to our travels.

Highlights include:

1. Monkeyboy flirting with his Japanese female seat neighbor for the duration of the flight.

2. Junebug asking her Latino seat neighbor why he wasn't speaking English...when he actually was.

3. Junebug watching "Toy Story" with the aforementioned middle-aged Latino man, and the two of them laughing at the same places together.

4. Bluebird watching "Frozen" with headphones on, and belting out "Let It Go" for a few bars before Michael and I could catch her attention and remind her that she was sitting in a crowded airplane.

5. Penguin's smile throughout the entire trip. Goodness, she enjoyed everything.

Waiting for our shuttle at LAX.
We spent today exploring the area around our hotel. We're taking a few days to enjoy the Los Angeles area before our departure from the northern hemisphere.

The kids' one big wish: swim in the hotel swimming pool. I'm happy to report that Michael and I fulfilled their great wish this afternoon.
Highlights include:

1. Monkeyboy flinging himself into the deep end of the pool, trying to get Michael's attention. Me yelling Michael's name across the pool so that he'd turn around and see his drowning son.

2. Penguin has the beginnings of some diving skills--she can do flips and spins off the side of the pool. I have no idea when/where she learned to do any of it.

3. Michael can throw Monkeyboy halfway across the pool. I insist upon being in the vicinity of the boy's landing spot so I can pluck him off the bottom of the pool. Michael says it's not needed, as he gets to Monkeyboy before he runs out of air.

4. Bluebird jumped into the pool towards me, but then decided she didn't want to be by me, so she kicked me in the gut as she swam away. Nice to see you too, daughter.

5. After yelling, "Don't run!" numerous times to the kids, I pulled off a spectacular slip-and-fall while simply STANDING next to the pool.  Some days I find it questionable that I ever possessed athletic ability.

6. The kids are SO TIRED that Monkeyboy asked if he could sit in my lap during dinner at the restaurant, and after he situated himself he laid his head against my shoulder and fell asleep. We had to carry him back to the hotel, and he didn't wake up when we changed him into his pajamas.

7. Michael is so sunburned, but only where he wasn't under water, so he's got this hilarious sunburn "capelet" going on. He's currently responding to work emails without his shirt on, and had informed me that, in Australia, minivans are called "people movers."

And, even though it never occurred to our children to ask for it, tomorrow we're going to Disneyland. The kids have never been, and Michael and I have only been once each. The kids are SO EXCITED that they put themselves to bed at seven.

Which leads us up to now, with me lounging on my super comfy hotel bed, just being tired and content. The power of the family vacation, especially after packing up six people to move halfway around the world. I'm very grateful for this little "hiccup" in our journey that's allowing us some "just us" time. It's been a busy couple of months leading up to this.

Disneyland tomorrow, and THE BIG FLIGHT the next day. We party hard and travel harder, yo.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I've Been Working On, Aside from Packing

Hello dear ones.

I fell victim to a little pre-moving anxiety last week, as showcased by last week's post.  This week I'm in a far better frame of mind, now that we have visas, plane tickets and hotel reservations for all phases of the big trip.  THANK YOU so much for your "fast visas" prayers--it normally takes at least two weeks to get visas, ours came in less than a week.  Prayer works, period.  Thank you so much.

So yes, this is really going to happen!  I've waited for some email to arrive all this time saying, "Sorry, we changed our minds," and it never materialized.  I've now re-focused that worry onto more productive areas, and we're moving along at a snail's pace in regards to packing, cleaning, and tying up loose ends.  (FYI--kind of a pain in the neck to get six months' worth of prescriptions filled at once!)  As evidenced by this darling photo, our luggage arrived yesterday, and the kids found the event rather impressive.  I had a mini heart attack when I opened my door and found it partially blocked by the boxes, but I recovered quickly.  God bless our UPS delivery man...we've put him to work these past few weeks!

One of the nice things about all this prep is that I'm having to do a lot of waiting in random offices and other places, which grants me extra time to work on Junebug's "Star Spangled Diamonds" quilt.  I've completed ten full diamond units, which means I'm about 1/7 done with the piecing.

It looks like I started working on this on May 20, so I've averaging five a month.  At that rate I should finish piecing this up in August 2015.  Hmm.  Oh well, the time will pass anyway, and I'd like to have a gorgeous quilt mostly pieced next August, rather than nothing.  Then there will be assembly, quilting, binding...I don't see this particular quilt reaching its finish until January 2016 or thereabouts.  But it will be BEAUTIFUL and totally worth the time.

My knitting mojo has been returning, thank goodness, and I've put a little work into a few projects, and started THE project, my "unicorn" project that has kicked my butt three times over the past five years.  I'm going to take it easy, only allow myself a certain number of rows per week, and if it sticks this time, I should finish it up in March.  It's a teeny little strip of knitting at the moment, so I'll wait for something more impressive to show you a picture of in the coming weeks.  (I get a little jealous of the full-time crafters sometimes...a full workday to work on creative pursuits?  It's almost enough to make me think about sending the kids to school...oh, how fun that would be!)

And then there's the packing, of course.  Always.  :)

By this time two weeks from now, we should be on the other side of the world.  That is weird to say.

Linking Up:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poor, starving blog of mine.

First, Michael was in Australia for two weeks, which seriously cuts into my ability to blog because I am JUST TOO TIRED to care about anything beyond food, clothes, and cleaning while he's gone.  I never quite understand why it is so different around here when he's gone, and why having him in the house in the evening makes my life so much easier.  Maybe I feel safer while I sleep?  Maybe I carry an excitement all day about him coming home and seeing him again, which also serves to motivate me to get through the housework?  Maybe he takes on a large portion of the mental and social burdens of the evenings, thereby allowing my introverted self to get a little distance from the children and store up some energy for the next day?  These are my hypotheses.  Whatever the case, I like it better when he's home.  I have nothing left for anything when he's gone.

Our family was asked to speak in sacrament meeting this last Sunday, which carries it own sense of craziness in order to prepare talks, musical performances, and make sure everyone is especially well-dressed on the day of, and that I keep my cool while they destroy everything I attempt to do.  ("Of course the pancake syrup will come out of your tediously-curled hair!  Let's tend to that with smiles on our face while I silently work through my fuming rage over you thinking a second breakfast in your church clothes was a good idea.")

We were asked to speak on the subject of patriotism, given that it is July and we live in the USA.  Bluebird spoke about the miraculous preservation of George Washington during the French-Indian War, Penguin spoke about the importance of respect, I spoke about the aspect of loyalty inherent in patriotism, and Michael gave an incredible talk about "the city on the hill."  The three girls and I sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" together, and I also performed "How Great Thou Art."  Serious preparation for all that; took the better part of a week to make sure everyone had their stuff straight.  In the end, it went really well.  I was so pleased with my family.

In addition to all this, it appears that everything we own is wearing out.  Like, EVERYTHING.  The dishwasher, the furnace, the water heater, Michael's truck, the kids' blankets, my aprons, my clothes, the kids' underwear, the dog's collar, the couch cushions, the garden hose, and the grill's propane tank.  EVERYTHING.  I think our house is rebelling against the idea of us leaving.  Lots of time spent in dealing with something else breaking down.  Dear goodness.  We've been able to fix just about everything, or have a suitable plan in place for the replacement of various items; but I still can't believe how everything just crapped out all together in one big moment.  I know, I know, things wear out, so I'm not too upset about it all--the timing is just very unfortunate while I'm trying to save whatever I can to help out with transporting six people halfway around the world!

We're trying to eat through as much of our food storage as possible; both to save money, and because we're leaving for six months and I'm quite sure a lot of it will expire during that time.  It takes a lot of time to prepare food storage meals.  They're tasty and all, but I'd forgotten how much time I'd freed up in my days by switching to easier-to-prepare foods.  Oh well, I've got time right now.

I'm also potty training Monkeyboy.  Because, you know, he's four.  As you can imagine, this endeavor adds a "special" quality to my days.  Oh, the joys of continually monitoring urine and feces, and constant laundry.  These are the days you treasure.

I invited the missionaries to visit us last night and help inspire the children in regards to missionary work.  They presented a great little lesson and gave the kids lots of good ideas in regards to sharing the gospel.  After they left, I finally located the area where Monkeyboy had had an accident earlier in the day--one of the couch cushions that one of the elders sat upon.  It smelled, and I have no idea how that young man kept a straight face for the entire hour he was here.  Dear goodness, I am brought low.  God bless the missionaries.

We're supposed to leave, like, next week.  However, we still have no visas; and, therefore, no plane tickets.  We DO have a house rented, and it could possibly sit there empty until we finally arrive.  Or the visas could go through at a miraculous speed, we'll be able to purchase our plane tickets in breathtakingly last-minute fashion, and we'll be on our way on the dates we originally planned to travel.  If you're of the praying sort, I humbly ask that you might consider praying on our behalf that our visas will process insanely fast, like visas have never processed so fast before?  It's all I can do, but I know it's a powerful thing to do.  Now, what to twiddle my thumbs at until it all happens?

The kids and I are keeping busy with some summer school, trying to get the house ready for the house sitters, and trying to get out as much as we can to enjoy the various perks of summer.  I forget to take pictures of everything, and I don't even feel bad about it anymore.  I amuse myself with grand thoughts of re-decorating the house when we get back from Australia; which is weird, but I've got Australia planned out to a "t," so why not?  I've been cut from my ward's visiting teacher list, so I can't even go visiting teaching as a way to fill in the days anymore.  Limbo is frustrating.  :)  *sigh*  Only a week or two more, and we'll pick up the pace.  Waiting takes all sorts of quiet energy.

The least I can do is blog about it all.  :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Australia School
Or, "The End of 2014" Lesson Plan

We have a lesson plan.

And a new weekly report banner, although I might mess with the background a little more:

Oh man, the lesson planning for while we're in Australia has been insane.  I decided to take a break from our regularly scheduled topics and use this fabulously awesome opportunity to study our new location in-depth, because...duh, why would you do anything else?

Of course, that meant going back to Super Duper Square One and researching everything from the beginning, which was fun, but very time-consuming.  Hurrah, hurrah, it's finally done, and I'm just so pleased that I thought I'd share.  Who knows?  Maybe someone else will find it helpful?


  • Religion:  Preach My Gospel (Michael and I both received a prompting during April General Conference to use this for our devotional in the upcoming school year.  Love it when we're both in tune!) and reading through The Book of Mormon.  I might add in some General Conference talks, but that's very low on my to-do list right now.
         I'm also going to try to be so much better about holding Family Home Evening each week.  I think if I prepare a lesson plan and prepare everything ahead of time that we'll actually make some progress in establishing this as a family habit.  I'm going to use some of the ideas shared by Women in the Scriptures' "Mom's Missionary Training Center" series.
  • History:  It's all about Australia, babe.
    I couldn't find what I wanted in a history curriculum or unit study in regards to Australia, so I made up my own after I discovered that you can print Wikipedia articles into bound books.  I created a concise history of Australia, and am awaiting its arrival in my mailbox.  We'll do a hit-and-run overview of Australia's history from aboriginal through modern-ish day, with topics ranging from the First Fleet to "The Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin.
  • Science:  Major nature study going on this semester, ranging from volcanic trails to seashores to swamps.  I'd like to visit some of the stuff more inland; but, truthfully, I'm a little spooked in regards to all the animals that can kill me.  (Australia's famous for them.)  I feel safer staying closer to the coast, but hopefully I'll gather up my courage and give inland a go.  This will also serve as our art lesson each week, as I'll have the kids draw up some aspect of each hike.
    Credit: Maryborough Camera Club
    On the organized science curriculum-y front, we'll start with studying humpback whales, because Penguin's birthday is in August and she wants to go on a whale watching tour for her birthday experience.  August is prime humpback whale watching time because they rest with their babies near where we'll be staying.

    Then we'll focus on various Australian mammals (koalas, kangaroos, platypuses, etc.), which will culminate in a spectacular "zookeeper for a day" experience at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.  (I'm also hoping to visit the Australia Zoo at that time, simply because it's Steve Irwin's zoo and will be neat to talk about when we study him later on.)
    Credit: blog.queensland.com
    Next we'll study coral reefs,
    Credit: Queensland Tourism Industry Council
    because we'll be living near the Great Barrier Reef, which is all sorts of awesome.  I'm hoping that we'll be able to swing a trip to it and spend a few days snorkeling and observing the marine life.
    I found this handy little lesson plan on coral reefs distributed by the Australian Government's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, and have adapted it to our needs.

    And then, last but not least, we'll study sea turtles because there's a large turtle rookery nearby and we'll be able to go out and observe the mama sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach.  (Sadly, we will return to The States before turtle hatchling season begins.)

    Credit: The Travel Bug website

    We'll also do some astronomy while in the Southern Hemisphere, and work on earning the Sky Puppies award, and the Southern Skies Binocular award.  (I have no idea how to read the Southern Skies "Objects to Observe" list, so this mama is going to be learning some very new things herself; you know, aside from the constellations that I have never heard of EVER.)
  • Physical Education:  Aside from those weekly nature hikes, we'll also do a lot of swimming.  The house that Michael's company is providing us has its own swimming pool, and we'll live about a five minute walk away from the ocean, so I'm planning to spend a lot of time in the water.  My kids aren't strong swimmers, so this is a priority for me.  It will also make that Great Barrier Reef snorkeling thing a whole lot more fun if they're not terrified of drowning.  Lots and lots of swimming.

Bluebird (5th Grade):

  • Math:  Saxon 6/5
  • Spelling:  All About Spelling, levels 3 & 4
  • Writing:  Summaries for history, science, and reading; writing letters.
  • Reading*:
    Mutiny on the Bounty
    The Convicts
    The Cannibals
    The Castaways
    The Road to Gundagai
    Jack's Bugle
    All in the Blue Unclouded Weather
    Dresses of Red & Gold
    The Sky in Silver Lace
    101 Australian Poems for Children

Penguin (3rd Grade):

  • Math:  Saxon 3
  • Spelling:  All About Spelling, levels 2 & 3
  • Writing:  Summaries for history, science, and reading; writing letters.
  • Reading*:
    Dingoes at Dinnertime (Magic Treehouse)
    Where the Forest Meets the Sea
    Down to Earth
    Jimmy the Joey
    Blinky Bill
    My First Book of Jokes
    (Australian-themed jokes, which I know Penguin will absolutely love.)
    Dot and the Kangaroo
    The Silver Brumby
    101 Australian Poems for Children
    ANZAC Biscuits
    Australians All

Junebug (1st Grade):

  • Math:  Saxon 1
  • Spelling:  All About Spelling, level 1
  • Phonics:  Phonics Pathways
  • Read Alouds*:
    Why I Love Australia
    Over in Australia
    Meet Captain Cook
    The Three Wallabies Gruff
    Wombat Stew
    Shy the Platypus
    Good Morning Possum
    Seven Little Australians
    Papa and the Olden Days
    101 Australian Poems for Children
    Blossom Possum and the Christmas Quacker
    An Aussie Year
    Advance "Australia Fair"

Monkeyboy (Preschool):

Ah!  I have to start my youngest, MY BABY, in preschool!  What in the world?!

And that's it, I think.  We will NOT move forward with formal grammar or foreign language studies while in Australia, as I think it's more important to experience our temporary location rather than hole ourselves up and study things that can wait until we get home (to Utah, in January, therefore going from the height of Australian summer to the depths of American mountain-range winter.  Ugh.).

The written summaries will reinforce grammar rules, and foreign languages can be picked up with little loss after six months.  I'd just hate to look back on this little gem of an opportunity and say, "Oh, we didn't see that because we were behind in Latin."  Nope, not gonna happen.  Also, I have to be careful with how many books I bring with us, and our Latin program has a lot of books, DVDs, and flashcards that could so easily get lost.  (I'd actually like to leave our spelling materials at home too, but spelling is a weak area for us and I just don't think we can stand to take a break from it, so it's coming along.)

So that's that.  Sometimes I sit down and take a moment away from planning, paperwork, and packing, and just allow the amazement of this opportunity to wash over me.  It's just...unbelievable that we get to do this!  I can't wait for this adventure to begin!

We're scheduled to leave at the end of July (original departure was end of June; boo to the visa application process!), so we'll do a couple of weeks of school here in The States and then take some time off to travel to Australia and settle in.  I'm hoping that our internet access in Australia will be good enough for regular updates, mostly because I want to share our adventures, and a little bit because my extended family demands that I allow them to vacation in Australia vicariously through us.  I'm hearing a rumor that we'll be able to take our phones with us, so my Instagram account just might stay updated--if you see nothing new here on the blog, chances are that I'm posting to Instagram (@thatcraftycara) and you can find new stuff there.  Hopefully I can do both, but check there if you're hankering for some Brooketopia updates and it's quiet here.

And now, for more packing and planning.  It never ends.  :)

*A note about the reading selections for my kids:  There's not a lot of overlap in their reading selections, which some people might see as creating more work for myself in regards to grading, etc.  However, I noticed, over this past school year, that my kids are weird about their siblings reading books that they haven't read.  They don't like being assigned the same books, BUT they will go "sneak" siblings' books and read them during free reading time, which then spurs discussions about those books amongst themselves.  So, yes, it's a big selection with very little overlap, but it's done on purpose and I know that Bluebird and Penguin will read every single book on each and every reading list because they are compelled to do so.  I find it highly amusing and I will use that compulsion to my advantage!  :)  Also, Bluebird and Penguin cannot stand to miss out on any sort of read aloud book.  I tried fighting it, but have come to the conclusion that taking twenty minutes to listen to Junebug and Monkeyboy's book being read isn't going to hurt anything in the long run, and there's only so many more years of this before it's no longer needed.  Hug those warm and fuzzy opportunities, right?