Saturday, December 27, 2014


My calendar has sent me numerous "write [insert topic here] blog post" reminders, and I've ignored every single one of them.

Because I'm home.

And I love being in my home, and I don't want to pop my little home bubble and deal with the outside world.

We've been home for a week and a half now, and it's just been so long as you ignore all the cleaning, unpacking, switching out of summer clothes for winter clothes, decorating for Christmas, shopping for Christmas, and all the extras that come with the holiday season that are usually really nice, but kind of overwhelming when you've just arrived home after living abroad for five months.

There was nothing organized about this Christmas whatsoever, everything was last minute!  But we knew that would be the case when we signed up to return in mid-December, so I had a strict "no sighing" policy for myself in regards to how Christmas turned out this year.  And, in order to get any justifiable amount of work done around here, I delegated out a lot of tasks to my children, who were so incredibly happy to do their share if it meant being in charge of something to do with Christmas.  That meant less Christmas funnery for myself, but it was OK because the children really had a lot of fun with their responsibilities--I even let them decorate the tree by themselves!

I unpacked two boxes of Christmas decorations only--the tree decorations, and the box with some serving pieces and a few decorative items that I set up on the piano.  No greenery, no wall anythings.  It looks fine.

The house isn't as clean as I'd like it to be...but we still went caroling and had friends over for cocoa and cookies afterwards.  It was fine.

The presents were ordered the Friday before Christmas.  It was fine.

I planned our Christmas dinner a week beforehand.  It was fine.

Don't get me wrong, I will in no way alter how I like to do Christmas after this "simplified" experience, but it was good that it was still incredibly sufficient without all the little extras I prefer to have in abundance.  It's good to experience things differently every now and then.  I've had more time to just sit and do some of the "lazy" things--watching more movies with the family, sipping apple cider with the kids after they come in from playing in the snow, snuggling with Michael, petting the dog.  All good things.  There's been lots of good things this Christmas.

But the best thing is that we are home.  We can phone friends and family whenever we want, we're greeted by friends and neighbors when we go out, we sleep in our own beds, and we drive our own cars.  I even have a sewing machine downstairs, hiding somewhere amongst the wall of boxes that greets me when I enter my craft room.  Everything is familiar and comfortable.  I am so incredibly grateful for the experience of living in Australia these past months, because one of things the experience has taught me is how much I love my home.

Michael and I have made a home here; our own little place on our own little spit of dirt.  It's ours, and it is good.

Merry Christmas.  I hope this little note finds you warm and comfortable in your homes, wherever they may be found on the map.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

An Encounter with a Sea Turtle

We live down the way from one of the largest Loggerhead turtle rookeries in the world.  While researching the various things to do while we were in Australia, the Mon Repos Turtle Encounter quickly rose to the top of the list.  You get to actually observe, right up close, a sea turtle dig its egg nest, lay its eggs, and then return to sea.

We decided that the evening of the last day of school was a perfect time to schedule our tour--no need to worry about waking up early in the morning if the turtles didn't show up until after midnight.

No worries, a turtle showed up a mere thirty minutes after we arrived!

The kids were not big fans of the walk to the turtle's location--the beach is almost pitch dark (lights confuse the turtles), and we actually had to stop a few times to let more sea turtles cross the beach in front of us.  Then one of those sea turtles decided that she really wasn't in an egg-laying mood, so she turned around at the top of the beach and made her way back into the ocean.  It's pretty neat to watch the "dark rock" moving along in the darkness, but kids aren't the best at waiting for things to happen at a turtle's literal pace.  :)

Eventually we made it to "our" sea turtle, who was in the process of digging her nest hole.  That's kind of fun to watch because she uses her back legs to reeeeeeach down, scoop up sand, and then brings it up and flings it out to the side.  Then the egg laying happens and it's just really neat.  Once she's in her egg-laying trance, you can take pictures all you least until another sea turtle pulls up beside your group and you can't have any lights on for fear of confusing that one as well.

Our turtle laid her eggs in a somewhat unsafe zone, so once she returned to the ocean, the park volunteers dug up the eggs (all 132 of them!) and asked us to help transport the eggs to a safer location.

I took two eggs to the new nest myself, but then spent the rest of the time sitting next to Michael on the beach because he was holding a sleeping Monkeyboy.  Oh, the stars...with no light around to diminish them, it was breathtaking--I saw clusters around Orion that I've never seen before.

While we were sitting, another sea turtle pulled its self up alongside us, about forty feet away, but then she spooked and high-tailed it back to the sea.  The park volunteers have to keep track of each turtle that visits the rookery, regardless of whether they lay eggs or not, so they had to run after it before it got back to the water, which is just hilarious when you think about it.  The turtles are so big and powerful that it takes two men pushing against them to make them stop long enough to do a tag check.  In the case of this fleeing turtle, only one guy caught up to it at first, and was rewarded with being pushed backwards towards the ocean until his mates caught up.  It was such a weird thing to witness!

On the way back we had to stop two more times to allow safe turtle crossings, and walked over quite a few turtle trails in the sand.  It's just so awesome to see all that!

We were prepared to spend hours upon hours at the rookery, but we pulled back into our driveway at 10pm, which is great when you have four young kids.  Had we decided to stay longer here in Australia, I was looking forward to going back to witness the little hatchlings make their way to the sea.

Each female will lay five batches of eggs over the course of eight weeks or so, with about 120-200 eggs in each batch.  The hatchlings emerge in 6-8 weeks, and it's estimated that 1 in 1,000 hatchlings will survive to adulthood.  (Ouch.)  The temperature of the sand where the eggs are laid determines the gender of the hatchlings.  Warmer sand means more females, cooler sand gives you more males.

Our particular turtle was first tagged at Mon Repos in 2005, laid eggs at Mon Repos again in 2011, and this was her first nesting this year.

Way cool.  Best thirty bucks I've ever spent.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Concert and Awards Ceremony

In Australia, the school year runs from January to December, so the school Christmas concert also doubles as the end-of-the-school-year awards ceremony.

Junebug received an award for demonstrating good character:

And Penguin received an award for "confidence" in the classroom:

The school places heavy emphasis on music (LOVE!), so we were able to listen to a couple of rather well-done bell pieces:

Then it was time for the Christmas pageant, complete with costumes and singing.  Bluebird was an angel, Penguin was a shepherd, and Junebug was a king.  In true Brooke fashion, the girls sang, remembering to open their mouths for better sound:

Penguin made me rather proud.  It was a mixture of pride and shaking my head over how cute she was as she belted her little heart out.  She also had a line in the play:  "Quickly!  Don't worry about the sheep!  This is more important, come on!"  We had a good chuckle when she said that.

Bluebird asked to be allowed to sing a descant during "Angels We Have Heard On High," and she didn't tell us about it, so we were just sitting there watching kids do a little ribbon dance when she stood up behind them all and started singing the descant.  What's more, the descant is some random little blip I sang four years ago...she remembered it pretty well, and did a great job.

Oh my goodness, the cute.  Seriously.

That's my girl!

It was the cutest little concert, we loved it so much.  So proud of my girls for their hard work in their classrooms, and their hard work on the stage!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Christmas Parade

The girls' school enters a float into Bundaberg's Christmas Parade each year, so they were invited to participate in this year's event.  They had so much fun, and their school's float won first place in their category!

There was a lot of competition, and one school even had its students riding atop actual camels:

The Bundaberg Brewing Company made an appearance in a vintage delivery truck:

The children were so good, waving and smiling and wishing the crowd "Merry Christmas!"  What a great way to kick off the holiday season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Appreciating the Teachers

The girls' last day of school happens today, so I put together some gifts for their teachers and a couple of other staff members at their school.  I trolled Pinterest for inexpensive gift ideas that were easy to assemble because I don't have access to my gift wrap vault, which is a little sad-making.

Undaunted, I pressed forward and decided upon dressing up regular ol' paper bags with some paper Christmas doilies, which was ridiculously easy.  The girls were so excited to take "their" gifts to school--there was a little bit of bickering about who would carry the box containing all the bags as they headed out to catch the bus.

I kept it simple, gift-wise.  I baked up some soft ginger cookies and then piped a simple snowflake on top of each one and added some foodie pearls at the various snowflake junctions:

I don't even know if ginger cookies are something Australians even like, but it was from the heart.  (FYI, Peanut Butter and Jelly isn't a thing here.  My neighbor asked me what PB&J actually was..."Just peanut butter and jam?  On bread?  Do you toast it first?")  I've questioned a lot of my food assumptions in the past months, especially after having the missionaries over for Thanksgiving.  I'm constantly amazed by how different two first-world, English-speaking countries that stem from the same mother country can be.

I put two cookies in each bag, along with a gift card to a popular chain of stores around these parts.  Simple, looks and smells good, done.

Michael and I were talking about the irony that this is the first time our kids have given teacher appreciation gifts, and how it really was too bad I never received any teacher appreciation gifts while homeschooling.  And then, at the same time, we both laughed aloud and said, "Yarn stash!"

Now that I think of it, a lot of my yarn was purchased at the end of trying school days...

Merry Christmas, Educators!

Bonus link:  Doilies to dress up plain ol' chocolate bars!  Squee!