Friday, October 31, 2014

And Then I Sent Them to School

For Halloween I thought they'd enjoy school uniforms.

And going to school.

All week.

It's official:  The Brookelet girls are attending a private school here in Australia.  It just got too hard to live abroad, handle the extra responsibilities of Michael's career taking off, AND homeschool.  A family in our ward sends their children to a tiny private Christian school and the mom had lots of great things to say about it, and, coupled with how fast our rental home was starting to look incredibly dingy, I thought it might be worth a go.

I sent Bluebird to Kindergarten for three months back in 2009, and hated every minute of it.  This time around...lo-o-o-o-ve it!  Of course, it's only been a week and we're still honeymooning in regards to it all, but it's been nice.  (Also, in 2009 I sent her to school because I was pregnant,* which makes any good day kind of hard for me with all the morning sickness.)  I have time for chores, the laundry is caught up, the kids have something to do all day long besides annoying each other and trashing the house, and they really love the extra-curriculars (sports, recorder lessons, violin lessons) at school.

Candy Corn Rice Krispie Treats

Halloween isn't really a thing here (some people do stuff, but most don't), so on Friday I made them some secret Halloween treats and hid them in the bottom of their lunch bags.  When I picked them up from school, they were pretty happy with me and my mad treat-making skills.  It's great to have time to do some of those "extra" things with them.  I've not sewn Halloween costumes, or gone all-out on holidays, or made special meals for anything all these years because I don't have anything left to give at the end of the day.  This decision to send them to school feels healthy.  I get to just be a mom now, and it's wonderful.

Ghost berries!
Saw the idea here.
(via Pinterest)
I don't now yet what we'll do about school when we return to the States, and I'm not going to worry about it until we return.  Maybe this is just a sabbatical year off from teaching; maybe it's a year to realize a different direction for our family for the next seven years.  It'll all work out in the end.  I do think I will insist upon Latin and Logic as afterschool topics, should we choose to stay with sending them to school.  And there's always summer break to do some unit studies!  We'll see.

For the time being, I'm loving their cute little uniforms, and how Junebug waves to me as she trots to the playground each morning, pausing at the entrance gate to yell, "Bye Mom!  I love you!  I hope you have a good day!"

Life is good.

*(For the record, I am NOT pregnant.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laundry: Act 2, Scene 666

You already know about my wonderful "hang dry everything" laundry predicament, and truthfully, I don't mind it that much now that it's part of my routine.  The difficult part about the line-dried laundry now lies in making sure it gets taken off the line before dark because dark equals lots of interesting animals that I'd rather not see or experience; not to mention that those aforementioned animals make a habit of defecating on my laundry if it's left out at night.

The problem is that I have four young children and my attentions are usually distracted when it comes to the evening hours, thus requiring me to steal out into the darkness on a regular basis and frantically pull down the laundry before any fauna notices me.

Tonight was no exception.  I remembered the laundry on the line an hour after sunset, gave a loud sigh, and trudged over to the door leading out into the "laundry pavilion" on the side of the house.  I squared my shoulders, flipped on the outside light, and strode out into the night with my trusty laundry basket on my hip.  I settled into my choreography, plucking off clothespins and placing items into the basket like a well-rehearsed ballet scene.

And then the bugs found me.  Because bright porch lights in the dark invite bugs, and warm bodies by bright porch lights are freakin' cake.  (Insert frantic slapping at mosquitoes into my choreography, along with the lovely buzzing that mosquitoes make as they whizzed by my ears.)

And then the moths found me.  Which doesn't sound like a big deal, but we're not talking little papery moths that flit towards light bulbs; no, we're talking about solid-built hate-filled dare devil moths the size of my hands.  I've had encounters with them before, but mostly just by accident and I think they were more afraid of me than I was of them, despite what my screaming and running away would lead you to believe.  I don't know what particular genetic strain tonight's moths were, but they did not like me at all, and they wanted me to know it.  Urgently.  And with great force.  (Insert hand flailing and stifled sobs surprised gasps while moths dive-bombed my face into the choreography.)

And THEN the lightning started.  Lightning!  What an artistic touch to an already ominous scene!  Lightning also makes it easier to see all the bugs swarming around yourself while trying to extend your precious appendages to tear laundry down from the clothesline.  Oh, what a blessing.  (Increase tempo.)

AND THEN I noticed, in the next burst of lightning, the flock of bats fly over my yard.


I can do bugs, and darkness, and a little bit of lightning, but I don't do bats.  My laundry and I fled to the safety of the house, and the abandoned laundry on the line can just rough it out overnight.

Of course, the mosquitoes followed me into the house, so I had to spend the first few minutes inside smashing them on the walls where they landed, so now I not only get to look forward to re-washing laundry tomorrow, but also the much-adored task of wiping mosquito guts off of the walls.

My life is a horror movie.  Happy Halloween from Australia.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Trip to Australia Zoo

Michael had to fly back to the States again, but this time his flight left from Brisbane instead of Sydney, so he threw together a weekend in Brisbane for the family so we could go to the Australia Zoo.  The Australia Zoo is Steve Irwin’s (“The Crocodile Hunter”) family’s zoo, so it was a pretty interesting little place—half awesome animal experience, half tribute to a great wildlife conservationalist.  It’s a very nice zoo; and that means a lot because I don’t like zoos—animals aren’t my thing, and that’s OK with me.  However, my kids like them, so I’m stuck visiting them often.

What’s really cool about Australia Zoo is that it’s very interactive.  There’s lots of informational presentations with the zookeepers throughout the day (like, every thirty to forty-five minutes) and there’s a surprising amount of places where you can actually touch the animals.  (So much better than walking fifty-three miles in the sun to stare at animals sleeping, which is what a trip to the zoo back home feels like.)  It’s a very well done zoo, I tip my hat in admiration to Australia Zoo.

You can hold koalas, and most of the kids did hold koalas, but I wasn't with them when it happened, so no pictures of that.  I'm getting over a nasty cold that I caught from Monkeyboy, so by that time of the day I just hung out by the gift shop until I didn't feel like dying anymore while Michael took those who were interested to one of the farther-away corners of the zoo.

I was, however, on-hand when we went to see the kangaroos in "Roo Heaven":

And, in true Crocodile Hunter fashion, there is a wildlife show at noon, featuring a variety of animals, but most awesomely, crocodiles:

We had a really good time at Australia Zoo.  It was a good weekend together, and we learned a lot about many different animals.  Highly recommended experience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peacock Pride

It's already been a month since I last showed you some Peacock progress!  What?!  I'm quite certain it was only two weeks ago, but the blog doesn't lie.  Time is flying.

So here it is, after three months of consistent attention.  I am finished with all but the last chart, and when that's done I'll pick it up and start all over again for the second half.  I'm pretty pleased with myself right now.  Slow and steady, slow and steady.  I don't think people tend to use those words to describe my crafting, but they have to now, mwa ha ha ha.  Expectations, shattered.  Lookee me, I'm, like, responsible and stuff.

Isn't Penguin so cute?  She was super happy to help "model" the stole for its photo shoot.  Her missing teeth on the sides of her two front teeth crack me up.  Growing girl.

I've reached the point where I am getting kind of tired of this project, so there's no magical progress moments where I feel like knitting any extra beyond my daily amount scheduled.  However, I'm ridiculously pleased with the fact that this thing is growing, so I just keep knitting my pittance of rows five days a week and then rejoice over the stole's progress.  Isn't it funny how you can be absolutely psyched about something, but really not look forward to the work you have to do to make the cool thing happen?  I guess that's what we call laziness, and it explains a lot of the problems we have in the world from time to time.

This section is brought to you courtesy of the month of October.

I've scheduled some time off from this in November, after I finish the first half.  When I put that break in the schedule, I wondered if it was wise, but now that I'm approaching the midway point, I'm so glad that I gave myself some time off guilt-free.  Just a week or two, but it will be needed.

Yay for slow and steady!

Friday, October 17, 2014


When we announced we were moving to Australia, our little world of friends and family just went wild with excitement.  It seemed that I was surrounded by a constant chorus of "You're so lucky!" "What an incredible opportunity!" and "I'm so jealous!"  It was a lot of fun to be at the center of sentiments like those.

The trip over was exciting, seeing our new house was exciting, walking to the ocean each day was exciting, moving into the new house was exciting, meeting our new ward family was exciting, seeing new species of plants and birds was exciting.

And now we're just...normal.  But in Australia, which is different.

But not.

Sure, I drive on the other side of the road and I'm drying my clothes on a laundry line, but not much is different in our daily lives when you think about it too terribly hard.  Our address is just different, the food tastes a little different, people talk a little differently than me, the money looks different, the sunrises and sunsets happen at different times.  It doesn't change our family.

Which is rather anti-climatic.

I haven't had a whole lot of interesting things to talk about lately, and people have started wondering if we're all right and what we're up to, and things like that.  We're fine.  We're just living life--you know, grocery shopping, vacuuming, cooking, cleaning.  Because we're alive and we need to stay that way.

I get a little anxious sometimes because I think we're "wasting" our time here and not doing enough interesting things.  But the thing is, "interesting" things tend to cost money, which a family of six doesn't possess in great abundance when they're living in a land where it seems like everything is twice as expensive.

So we go to the library, visit the nice ladies at the quilting shop, and treat ourselves to a lunch "out" on Fridays.  That's our big adventure each week.  Because this isn't a vacation, it's daily life.  Back home in Utah I don't take the kids to the Grand Canyon one weekend, Arches the next, and Yellowstone the week after that.  (We've actually been to none of those places, but I digress...)  I don't think I know anyone who does that.  It's the same here in Australia.  Big trips are rare, no matter where you live.

I think that's the hard part about this experience--it's like a break from regular life, but it's not.  It's quite the brain teaser to figure out how to deal with the situation.  You spend all this time planning big things to do because it's such a "great experience," and then realize the big trips only take up 2% of your time.  What do you do for the rest of the 98% of your time?

You live.  Breathe in, breathe out.

Which isn't different, or even that exciting.

When I sit down to write a blog post, I do a little mental run-through of recent events and try to isolate a particular experience that I want to talk about, or wax eloquent upon, or just share because it's funny.  Some weeks have a lot of those moments, others don't.  The weeks that don't have "blog-worthy" moments aren't any less special, but they can feel that way, which is a psychological pitfall we need to consciously avoid.  We're not failing as parents because we didn't take the kids on an outing this week, we're not failing as individuals because we didn't make a huge breakthrough on our personal goals, or have a huge epiphany, or have a limelight moment.  Our lives are not stagnant because we did what was asked of us and then couldn't find time for anything else.  Weeks that blur together aren't a waste of time if you're using your time well.

It's souring my mood a lot to worry about what to write about here, so I just wanted to alleviate my own self-induced guilt and tell myself that life is pretty normal most of the time, and it's supposed to be that way, even if you've moved to the other side of the world.  Sharing good highlights is fun and all, but they're very isolated moments and make up very little of our actual lives.  It's true no matter where you live.  It's OK to feel like you're not very exciting; all of us are not very exciting most of the time.

Perhaps this feeling of ordinariness is compounded by the fact that I have some very slow-going creative projects on my plate at the moment.  Usually I can spice things up a bit with a new project, or a finish, but not right now.  Right now it's all about the long game.  Tenacity, fidelity, and focus are everything.  I'm making good progress, so I just need to stick to the plan and let success make the noise in a handful of months.  Oh, quiet, quiet months ahead of me.

Which might make for a quiet, quiet blog from time to time.

But we're here, living life.  Breathing, cooking, cleaning.

Blessed with normalcy.

Which is good.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

On the Subject of Social Media

We've been here in Australia for eleven weeks.  For eight of those weeks, we had little-to-no internet, and, due to a misunderstanding, a belief that we had very little available minutes for phone calls.  Then we learned that we had a whole lot more minutes than we had understood, and, since we had no internet and the minutes were going to expire, we started making phone calls.  Not a lot of phone calls, but that little bit of communication felt like a flood following a drought.  I danced in the rain.

Now we have rather reliable internet, just not a whole lot of it.  Sometime in this next week we'll get an internet line installed at the house, which will give us a great big bunch of it.  Three weeks ago I would have been in heaven; this week...meh.

I was so much more productive when I couldn't access the internet.  I shot ahead on my creative projects because none of my time was wasted in staring at Pinterest boards, or Instagram photos, or Ravelry message boards.  My time was spent on my projects, which is 100% the only way that you move ahead on anything--you work on it.

Before my internet fast, I was complaining that there was not enough time for everything.  In fact, it seemed like there wasn't any time for anything.  After nine weeks with no internet, I laugh at myself because there is so much time for so many things, but only if you're doing the things instead of doing something else.  I didn't realize how much time I was wasting with repeatedly checking my phone throughout the day and then getting distracted with an app or a conversation.

This was all good, because it turns out that we do not like fast food in Australia.  I've had to ditch the drive-thru habit, which has meant a whole lot more time in the kitchen.  Add to that my newly-acquired task of line-drying my clothes, and it's plain to see that I'm spending a lot more time on homemaking tasks right now than ever before in my life.  And yet, I was able to shoot ahead on my projects, while also scheduling two hours in the afternoon to swim with the kids in the backyard pool a couple times each week.

I also talked to people.  Not email, not texts, but actual phone conversations that lasted more than five minutes.  Talked.  I like to think of myself as a person who "stays in touch" rather well with folks, but I realized that I had not heard the voices of my brother, mother, and father in months.  Plural.  For a person who has a big belief in the celestial potential of the family unit, that's a bit disturbing.  Ironically, me moving halfway around the world has meant more communication with my family and friends than when I lived a day's drive away from them.  I know what's actually going on in their lives, instead of just the vague highlights they felt like posting in a status update.

And then we got the "rather OK" internet connection.

[insert sound of screeching brakes here]


[crickets chirping]

I knew that my projects were suffering a bit, but I hadn't had internet in so long, so a little bingeing was to be expected, right?  And I didn't phone people as often, but the chores had just suddenly piled up so badly, and you can't neglect the health and cleanliness of your children to prattle away on the phone...and besides, the blog does a good job at keeping people up-to-date on what's going on in our lives, so missing a week of phone calls wouldn't really hurt anything.  We'd just talk about the same things anyway...

A letter arrived in my mailbox on Thursday.  It was addressed to me, and it was from my dear friend Rachel.  She had offered (via email) to be my pen pal (via snail mail) when I'd gotten quite homesick and just so tired of the whole no-internet thing.  It turns out that it takes two weeks for a letter to make it from Utah to Queensland, so I was surprised by its appearance because the idea had slipped my mind in the two weeks since the offer.  There was so much going on with getting Michael ready for a big work thing, and the General Conference re-broadcasts, and Monkeyboy was suffering through a nasty, nasty allergic reaction to salami...I stopped myself from tearing open the envelope immediately, and set it on the counter as a reward for getting through the next few busy days.  I knew if I opened it in the middle of my insane work week that I'd never respond.  On Sundays I have time to write, so I decided to wait until Sunday to read my letter from Rachel.

The letter sat, propped up on the counter, in its super cute little envelope, extending the promise of something enjoyable as I gritted my teeth and got through all the tiring, but necessary, work in store for me these past few days.  When I was so tired and sun burnt from bringing in the laundry from off the line, only to realize that it was time to cook dinner, I'd see my letter and it cheered me.

Totally worth the wait.  I haven't received an honest-to-goodness letter in such a long time!  She included some pictures of her sweet baby girl, a recipe for copycat ranch dressing (because it is NOT the same here in Australia), and a letter.

Letters are completely different from emails.  People think out loud in letters, share dreams, and ask questions.  I don't know why we write differently in letters than emails, but we do.  I hadn't realized it so much until now, and now that I've realized it, I want it back.  I don't want pictures posted for the masses, or links that we think are funny, or neutral words written so as not to offend.  I want my loved ones' voices in my ear, and on the paper I hold in my hands, uncensored, with all their formed-from-their-experiences opinions and heartfelt words, and no drama and contention from outlying observers.

My letter back to her is much more personal than an email.  I was surprised at how much more I was willing to share on a subject when it wasn't being written on a computer.  Letters and phone calls are so much better tools of communication than email and social media.  Face-to-face trumps everything, but letters and phone calls are a pretty good second, whereas the others are a far distant third.

I had thought Facebook, the blog, and email were great ways "to stay in touch," but they've actually just been a great way "to fall out of touch."  I don't know what happens in my loved ones' lives from day-to-day anymore, or even really what they like.  Christmas shopping has gotten harder over the years because I feel like I don't "know" anyone anymore.  Whereas Christmas shopping used to be completed throughout the year as I saw things that "[Name] would love," it's disintegrated into finding gift certificates for stores or restaurants that I notice they post status updates from most often.  Lame.

I don't know what I'm going to do with all of these realizations for the time being, but I'm very thankful to have had them.  We don't take friends lists, "likes," comments, or clout to the next life; we take our relationships.  Why am I working so hard to keep up with the psuedo-version of relationships when the real thing is so much better and so much more satisfying?  It's like staring at a picture of bread and wondering why you're still hungry.

The people I love deserve so much more than rhetoric for the masses.  I'll work for months on a handmade baby blanket because I don't want to give a common store-bought item, but then I turn around and give out my words and attention on a production line.  Blankets don't make relationships; words and attention do.  (It's the words and attention that place you on the "blanket-worthy" list, actually...)  I will change how I do things, I'm just not sure what I'm going to do just yet.  I have the time for relationships, chores, and pursuing my interests if I don't waste my time on things that don't matter.  How do we break our ties with the things that don't matter when they seem like they're somewhat important?  The easy answer is "Just do it," but...

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I messed up, big time, with my crafterly expectations for my time in Australia.  While my goals of moving ahead on two behemoth projects were very well-intentioned, I made the foolish mistake of expecting myself to stay entirely faithful to said behemoths.

Reality check:  I am not that kind of creative soul.

You see, crafting fits into my life as an anti-stressor, alongside the things I'm already doing.  It sets my teeth on edge to sit and not do something with my hands.  You'll notice it right away if you talk to me--I gesticulate like a drunk schizophrenic.  Talking is an aerobic activity for me.  And while I view my spirited conversational quirks as endearing and entertaining, I don't much relish the idea of what I would look like doing the same whilst watching the television.  Enter the crafting to fill my hands with something useful and keep the windmilling down to a sane level while doing sedentary activities like media viewing, waiting for water to boil, and teaching.  The Star Spangled Diamonds Quilt (SSDQ) manages to fit into this "crafting alongside another activity" domain rather well.

Exception:  Riding in the car.  In order to have the car during the week, I must drive Michael into work.  This is a good twenty minutes of sitting time that requires me not to wave my hands about (driver safety!), hence the need for a calming craft project.  I assumed that the SSDQ would work in this scenario; but, alas, the roads here are not terribly smooth, which makes sticking a teeny little applique needle through two threads of fabric ONLY kind of hard to do.  I stabbed myself in the fingers, I dropped my needle repeatedly, my work was sloppy and uneven, Michael flinched every time I pulled the needle out of the fabric and maybe just a little too close towards his face...sewing in the car was a no.  And the Peacock Stole requires silence and concentration; and, most notably, non-movement of my body while knitting.

"That's OK," I thought to myself, "I'll use the time to really talk with Michael, and really take in my surroundings.  I'll probably grow as a person as a result of this so-called 'inconvenience.'"

Wrong again.

I'm married to MICHAEL.  I know, kinda obvious, but all my years of crafting in the car while driving along suitably-smooth American roads had made me forget that MICHAEL likes to drive fast.  Not dangerously fast, but fast enough that I feel like I'm on the brink of an anxiety attack because he does. not. brake. when I think he should start braking.  It sets me on edge, I scare him with my gasping at our impending, bloody deaths, and no one feels like they've grown in any positive manner at the end of the journey.  He sees nothing wrong with how he drives, so that's not going to change simply because my middle name is "Caution."  (Oh, the irony of being the one with the speeding ticket in this particular situation...)

I needed a mindless, non-intricate project.  Bad.  The internet problem still wouldn't allow for some yarn browsing, and the one-two punch of international shipping restrictions (i.e. no knitting needles for you if we know you're trying to ship them) and credit card technical difficulties made the entire venture pointless.

Enter the Best Friend.

Oh, sweet, sweet, best friend of mine, how I love you.  If this were a long, long time ago, I would pay people to sing prayers on your behalf when you died.  Which is a gruesome thought, since it involves your death, but the sentiment is nice.  (I'm a historian, and that's what people did to show gratitude and respect for a long time, OK?)

Denise watched my online neurotic unraveling, and decided to do something about it before I became certifiably insane.  She drove on down to her local textile shop in Washington, USA, talked to some yarnies about my spiral of descent, and walked out with yarnie-approved sock yarn and correctly-sized needles, which she then mailed to me on the other side of the world.  The woman is pure gold.

Not gonna lie, I actually cried when I opened that package.  Not full-out ugly crying, but some definite "Dude, why's your nose running?" kind of crying.  And then I ripped into that skein of yarn like a reformed vegetarian tears into their first filet mignon.

Oh, sweet, soothing, self-striping stockinette stitch.  I can feel my body relaxing whenever I pick these up and start working.  Oh, balm to my soul.  The thrill of the mindless caressing of yarn that turns into plain vanilla socks.  I love it.  I love it, I love it, I love it.  Deep, from-the-bones, sigh of relief LOVE IT.

Which is more than I can say for my son, who prefers playing Plants Vs. Zombies for his personal relaxation:

Thirty seconds later he was in a heap on the ground, sobbing because he can't beat whatever level he's on at the moment.  I do not understand the lure of video games.

Now I have a mindless project to keep my hands happy as I sit in the car and consciously avoid imagining our fiery demise.  It's also nice to take out upon the deck and put in a few rounds while decompressing after a long day of homeschooling.

So beautiful, so delightful.

So soothing.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Weekly Report: The One with the Hissing Beetle

Here in Queensland, it's school holiday time.  Their school year runs from January through December, with two week breaks in between quarters and a few more weeks thrown in around Christmas and the beginning of January.  Their end-of-whatever-quarter-this-was break began this week and will continue into the next, resuming school on October 7th.  Oddly enough, our school break lined up with this week as well.

There has been some school work done this week--these breaks are inserted regularly throughout the year as "catch-up" breaks.  We fall behind all the time; it's the downfall of being able to drop everything at a moment's notice to go see something that's only around that day.  Bluebird completed double math lessons last week in order to catch up in her math studies so that she could have this week completely off.  I think any idea that has your kid doing double math work through their own free will is genius.

Other than that, we've milked this past week for its "we don't have to do anything" agenda.  It was sorely needed, as Michael's work hours were a touch torturous and we were all exhausted from helping him be where he needed to be when he needed to be there (only one car while we're here), with the right food and all that stuff (we're not fans of the fast food here, lots of home cooking going on).  He had a 5 am conference call on Tuesday, for which he had to wake up at 3:45 am to get ready for so he could leave for work in time, which meant I had to set my alarm for 3:50 am to make sure that he actually woke up.  He made it to work on-time, but then I forgot to reset my alarm, and spent the rest of the week waking at up 3:50 am.

I have to cover up my alarm clock with a towel so it doesn't shine while I sleep, and I don't actually look at the time on it at any other point during the day, which allowed for the insane alarm time to continue throughout the week.  I'd turn off my alarm and fall back asleep before I could even roll out of bed, which is unheard of for me unless I'm sick.  I've been such a mess all week long.  Here's to a well-rested week ahead.

But you're here for the hissing beetle.  Behold:

It was some sort of rhinoceros beetle, and I actually thought it was dead when I first saw it in the garage.  I poked it with a broom handle and it moved, which meant calling out to Michael to come take care of it for me.  (Hee hee.)  I went to grab the camera (all for you guys!), and while I was fetching it I heard the kids start screaming bloody murder--Michael had touched the beetle with the broom handle and it started hissing and scuttering.  Scared the ever livin' daylights out of the kids!  Ick, ick, ick.  Michael transplanted the bug somewhere safe, and I've been a little more diligent about checking the corners for pests ever since.

Oh, we did manage to go to the Bundaberg Regional Art Museum (B.R.A.G.) as well.  Unfortunately, we wanted to see an exhibit with photos of the Antarctic, but it had closed two weeks earlier.  We ended up seeing just one exhibit about collectors, as the other area is currently being set up for the next exhibit.  The kids weren't that impressed with my field trip, yet again; and, as luck would have it, Bluebird and Penguin's Activity Days activity this next week is a trip to the BRAG to see the exact same exhibit.  Sigh.  At least they get to bring a picnic lunch with them and enjoy a little picnic with their friends afterwards.  I'm striking out all over the place.

Another week of break next week, so we'll see what I can update about next Friday.  Hopefully no more creepy monster bugs.  :)

This weekly report covers the time from September 22-26, 2014.