Monday, May 23, 2016

Australia 6 - Goodbye Sunshine Coast

My favorite days (and Travis' LEAST favorite!) are the days when Joe calls in the morning and says "We don't need you until noon," and then he calls again at 11am and says "We don't need you until 4pm!"
Those are the days we get to have Travis come adventuring with us!
We are leaving Coolum tomorrow, so I was really excited to have Travis for the day on Saturday, and insisted we go back and visit Noosa Head together. (The national beach-forest that I took the boys to with such pathetic results.)

This time, we were hiking prepared. The boys had swimsuits under their shorts (they insisted on shorts) and we had lots of snacks, sunscreen, and a dad to carry sleepy babies.
We only passed about two other families with children (we hardly see any kids on Sunshine Coast!) and several people commented on how impressed they were with the boys' hiking ability. We only hiked about 4 miles total- but one man even asked, "How did these kids get up here? Did you carry them?" No!
Well... okay. August was carried a little.

The hike was so much more fun this time, and not just because there was no whining. Travis is much more adventuresome than I about leaving the path and exploring with the boys. He lead us down to a pretty little cove that was filled with fairy pools! They were tucked away, up on the rocks, but they were very deep and clear pools of water- full of tropical ocean fish, crabs, anemone and more. It was so beautiful!
Unfortunately, my camera was slung around my back as we were standing on some cliffs- looking out at the water. When a huge wave came up, I turned around quickly to shepherd children back up to safety and got hit in the back with the water! The camera won't turn on, so hopefully it isn't ruined and all our pictures aren't lost! In the mean time, we are living mostly on iPhone pictures, anyway.

When we finally reached the top- it was too windy to take any pictures!

It was a fun, busy Saturday. On Sunday, we decided to attend the other ward at the church building. They meet at 9am and we hadn't made it there yet. Now we are so disappointed that we didn't go there every week! It was full of kids and young families. Several moms asked if we could get together- including a woman pregnant with twins! A few women were from Salt Lake, and the boys' Primary teacher was from Park City. And with an ice-cream social afterwards? Well, what's not to love?

On the way home from Noosa on Saturday, we noticed the tire on the car was flat. We filled it up, but it was flat again on Sunday morning- and again after church! I felt pretty accomplished getting everyone to church by myself, filling up tires on the way! But I felt really nervous about taking everyone to the airport in that car.

Travis took the car today (Monday) to get replaced, so we spent the day "at home" in Coolum Beach, saying goodbye to the playgrounds and beaches that we've gotten to know so well in the last three weeks. And cleaning and packing up the apartment we've been in.
It's been good to us- but we are excited for our next adventure!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Australia 5 - More Beaches, Forever!

Very little has happened this week, we've spent a lot more time building with little Lego sets, coloring, and reading together- though! It's a great change from the iPad. Travis gave me a blessing (like a prayer for someone else), and in it he talked about what a good mother I am and that both he and Heavenly Father are proud of me and love me. Since then, I seriously feel a million times better.

Travis has also been making an effort to say encouraging and grateful things to me, like "You're so amazing and capable- I'm so grateful that you're raising the boys the way you are."
It's silly that those little things make such a difference to me, but they really do!

We've been really lucky, too, because Travis doesn't have to start work most mornings until about 9:30 (Australians are... not hard workers. Which is super frustrating for Travis- but wonderful for me!)
So most mornings, Travis gets up early and goes surfing by about 6 or 7. The boys and I eat breakfast and get ready and meet him down by the water around 8 and we all spend an hour or so together at the beach before the day starts! It really helps all of us to be on to a schedule that we can depend on. Travis has been surfing with Tyler Bingham most mornings (another American that he's been working with a lot.) and the other day he took some pictures of us. It's nice to have pictures with our whole family in them!

This morning after the beach, the boys and I headed out to the Maroochy Wetlands Sanctuary. Luckily, it was all a board walk path around a swamp- because somehow we ended up there without August's shoes!
August was asleep when we pulled up, so I just put him in the stroller, and was going to push him along while we explored. However, we were only a few yards into the forest when I started getting tons of bug bites. I looked down at August and he had at least a dozen mozzies on him at once.
The big boys had run ahead, so I started shouting at them, "COME BACK! COME BACK! We need to turn around, the bugs are too bad- they'll eat us alive!" and I turned with the stroller and sprinted back to the glaring heat and sunshine of the parking lot. I planned on brushing all the mosquitos off and reevaluating our plan.
Unfortunately, my screaming and sprinting sent the boys into a panic. Micah totally collapsed and wouldn't run at all, because he was so scared- which meant that he was being attacked by bugs! Grey (crying) caught up with August and I a couple minutes after we got to the parking lot- so I left he and August together and went to rescue Micah!
(We were the only people there, the parking lot was empty, and only a few hundred yards from the entrance of the forest.)

I was all for loading back into the car and going to buy bug spray- but there was a little forest-rangers office by the parking lot. The sign on the door said "CLOSED" but the door was open and I had seen a maintence man come in and out. I stuck my head into the office, planning on asking if there was bug spray for sale here. (There were a few guide books and t-shirts displayed in the window with price tags.)
The office was completely empty of people, but there on the desk was a half-full bottle of bug spray- that I can only assume was used by the park rangers themselves. I gave the boys and I each a spritz of the repellent and we decided to tackle the forest again.

Once the mozzies weren't a problem, the forest was very fun to explore! It went in and out of very dark, cool areas with vines hanging and thick foliage and very hot, swampy areas where the plants all grew out of algae-covered, thick standing water.
At the end of the "hike" was the river, with a dock out on to the water. We even saw a few boats pull up- but I was too nervous of my brave children falling into the water, so we didn't stay there long.
Grey and Micah loved exploring in the woods and August loved chasing after them, even barefoot. I hardly got a single picture, because the boys were sprinting around so crazily- and I had to make sure no one fell in a swamp and was eating by a crocodile!

We stopped at a deserted playground on the way home to eat lunch- and the boys were so excited to be at a new park (they're getting sick of the Coolum Beach ones). Everyone slept on the way home, and we got back with three happy, worn out boys- ready to color together until dinner time.
Basically, a perfect day. They're finally all acting like friends again.
And birds.
They spend a lot of time "playing birds" and building nests out of every pillow in the apartment. Haha, I'll take it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Australia 4 - Motherhood and iPads

Today was really a struggle. The last few days, the boys have been increasingly naughty.
Their inability to get their energy out (in the yard, or playing with toys, or even finding calm moments to look at books) has been killing us! Instead, we are either at the beach or hiking (or worse- in the car!) and they can play, run, and be noisy or we are in the apartment. We are usually here for about an hour in the morning, three hours in the afternoon while August naps, and then an hour before dinner until bedtime. So about six hours a day, we are in a yardless, bookless, toyless house. They can usually play and be happy for about half that time, August for less.
Which means that for three or four (and sometimes MORE) hours a day, the boys are playing on the iPad or watching a movie.
They are getting worse at listening and obeying me, they are getting quickly frustrated and angry with each other or circumstances, and they have all been screaming and throwing tantrums several times a day! I hate the lousy iPad!
It doesn't help that we received a really unkind email from the woman that we stayed with for a few days at the beginning of our trip. She wrote to us (and AirBnB) about what terrible parents we are, raising monsters for children. She said that she feels bad for our kids that they have to be raised by such awful people. She claimed that we destroyed over $3,500 worth of her property and is insisting on payment! We are currently awaiting "mediation" from AirBnB.
That email in addition to my pregnancy hormones, exhaustion from lack of sleep and jetlag, and three crazy boys bouncing off the wall is making me feel like a total failure in the mother department.

This morning, I loaded the boys up by about 8am and we went to Noosa National Park which has a really amazing coastal hike, with koala-filled rainforests on one side of the trail, and stunning ocean cliffs and steps down to beaches on the other.
Unfortunately, I packed and dressed for "a hike through a national forest." I put the boys in jeans and t-shirts, when they should have been in swimsuits and sunscreen!

Holding hands as a punishment for punching each other... 

About a half mile in, the boys were so whiny that we turned and walked back to the car. The boys changed into swimsuits in the car, I grabbed a towel and some extra supplies and we walked back to the best beach we had passed (about a half mile away). The beach was perfect and amazing! It was a sandy little cove with lots of rocks and boulders covered in snails and mollusks and filled with little pools of tadpoles. The boys has so much fun playing and exploring. Micah starting gathering large rocks and trying to build a dam, but when August wanted to participate and shifted some of the rocks Micah had placed, Micah pulled back his arm and punched August twice (EXTREMELY HARD) on the chest! He had already done the same thing earlier on the hike to Grey. We had to leave the beach immediately, because I was so angry and didn't know how else to react! August was crying the whole way back from the beach, and Micah was following a few feet behind me screaming like he was burning in a fire.
An older woman smiled at me and said, "You're a good mom to even have brought them." And I wanted to scoff.
Yeah right! A good mom doesn't have children that behave this way!

But seeing Micah react so horribly to his brothers is making me reevaluate our time here. I'm definitely cutting them off from the iPad for the rest of the day and hopefully longer. It's so difficult to cut them off from it completely here, because I know that if they have the iPad they'll all at least hold still and be quiet and stick together! They're not climbing and falling off the patio or trying to balance fragile dishes, or leaping from the kitchen table to the couch.
They're so active and noisy that sometimes I feel it's my only option- especially if I want to get something else done! They'll listen to me read (we are reading Dr. Doolittle aloud right now), but August is too little and noisy and if I'm reading, I can't also be making dinner.
So now I've forced everyone in to their beds for naps. It's noon, and luckily August fell asleep on the way home from the beach hike. Maybe we can all wake up a little kinder...


Everyone woke up fairly happy, they colored and snacked for a couple hours before they started fighting again- but I wasn't having any of it.
So we loaded up and walked to the beach. The boys claimed that they're sick of the beach and didn't need swimsuits! But we brought the sand toys and they played for a long time building, making sand-angels, and running back and forth from the shadows of the trees to the waves. The sun sets so early, that we have to start heading home by 5. And we had to run to escape all the mozzies! (Australia-speak for mosquitos).

We had corn on the cob and hamburgers for dinner, so everyone is in a really good mood. I even avoided the temptation to turn on an after-dinner movie while we wait for Travis and I made everyone color instead.
I can do it!


Australia 3 - Kangaroos and Koalas!

In the week or so since I've written, we've mostly spent our time at the beach, running around from park to park in town, or exploring Coolum Beach itself. So excuse the excess of beach pictures!

We bought Micah and Grey some goggles this week- to help them feel braver about putting their faces in the water... It hasn't really helped, but they love the goggles anyway. They keep them on SO TIGHT that they always look slightly bruised and abused after they take them off. 

The crabs here process the sand as they remove it from their holes, rolling it in little balls to remove any of the flora they can eat- then they excavate it- making the beach look like it's covered in lace!

I woke up today feeling fairly sick. My head was pounding and my throat was sore and I am still suffering from a dreadful jet lag combination of insomnia and exhaustion from pregnancy.

I was so grateful when Travis said that he didn't have to work until noon! He came with us to the beach and surfed and played with the boys while I laid in the sunshine, and then- miraculously!- Joe called and said that their model for the day had fallen through. They were going to work on some smaller things and try to line up a new model, but didn't need Travis at all!

Since we had Travis for the whole day (and it was a Tuesday, too! I hate going to busy places on weekends!) we decided to brave the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary. It's in Brisbane, almost two hours away, and I haven't felt comfortable making the long drive alone- especially not feeling well, but since this might be our only chance to go with Travis- we seized it!
The drive was really long, but thanks to the beach, the boys were already tired out and Grey and August slept almost the whole way- and so did I! Travis is the best!

I also promised the boys that at the "Koala Zoo" they could each pick one special toy to remember our trip to Australia. Grey was quick to pick a fuzzy stuffed Koala that he named Koko. Micah debated between a stuffed kookaburra and a book about Australian animals- until he saw the boomerangs! He was so excited, he kept running out of the shop to show Travis before we paid. Afterward, he told me "Link (from Zelda) uses his boomerang to kill people, but I won't kill any people with this." He's been complaining for days that he doesn't feel safe without his toy gun here and he wishes I had let him bring it, but now he says that a boomerang is even better than a gun and when we get home, we can throw all the toy guns away!

There were a lot of really amazing animals at the zoo- we met several cockatoos that said "Hello," and "Bye bye!." And many, many other interesting birds. There are wild bush turkeys EVERYWHERE here, we see several a day and August loves them. They were running wild all over the zoo, too.
The lorikeets were especially fun- although all the boys got bitten by them! (They were trying to pet them, so it's understandable!)
They're little tropical birds with bright green backs and red-orange breasts. We got to visit the lorikeet feeding, where they essentially hand out plates full of the lorikeets' food to all the people and the birds come shrieking and twittering in from all over the park to land on people and eat their dinner. It was noisy and crazy, but very cool!

We saw the platypuses, which were so lively and swam all around their tanks, wriggling their little bodies. I was very surprised at how small the were. They were much smaller than ducks, about the size of a brand new puppy!

The dingos just looked like very pretty, lion-colored dogs. I thought they seemed bored and lonely. They're really just wild dogs- but raised in captivity, they're just dogs! They looked like they wanted to be pet and played with. I know at the Australia zoo, you can take them on walks!

The koalas were smaller than I expected too. They were everywhere, and their cages were all open, so they could climb out and around if they wanted to. We were excited to take a picture with the koala, since it was advertised that if you paid for the professional photo, then you could have a few minutes to pet and cuddle and take your own pictures. But that didn't seem to apply to children. The keepers seemed panicked about the boys, so we barely got to hold it pat the koala at all! They hurried us through, and the koala peed on me! He was kind of a let-down, but the boys still liked it.

Haha, this totally looks worth $20 doesn't it?

There were also lots of lizards everywhere! Very few (except crocodile-sized ones) were in cages or tanks, most were just wandering around. We saw a few very big ones running around on the paths and laughed when other tourists saw them and SCREAMED! Haha!

The wombats were another Australian animal that were very fun to see (rather more exciting than the small, sleeping crocodiles). Before we saw them, I tried to describe them to the boys.  "Like a tiny pig-bear," I said. "Like a giant, fat bunny," said Travis. But after seeing them, I think they're more like tiny, fuzzy hippopotamuses!
They ran around on short stubby legs and dug lots of holes trying to escape their pens.

The most fun animal at the sanctuary though, was the kangaroo! The "kangaroo enclosure" was really a huge fenced field with picnic tables and everything. We were able to go inside and for a few dollars- were able to buy bags of kangaroo food (like the pellets you feed goats at a petting zoo!)
The kangaroos were friendly and small, and expected food- so they hopped right up to us! They let us pet them and hug them, they were so gentle and soft- much softer than I expected! They were like big, happy dogs- except that they didn't jump up on you. There were a few very large male kangaroos, but they weren't interested in us. They just lay stretched out sleeping in the sun.

Joe called partway through the day and asked "How are you feeling?"
"Overwhelmed," said Travis, and I laughed! Here I was, thinking that the boys were being really good and the zoo was so easy with two adults instead of doing it by myself. I'm so used to outings with the boys that I don't usually think anything of it. Keeping track of everyone and feeding everyone and bring boys to the bathroom aren't a big deal, as long as no one is exhausted to the point of murder!
But I think he was really just stressed that he should be working while we were playing. I know it was hard for him to feel the whole day was "wasted," but it was a blessing for us!
The long ride home was hard after such a long day, even with snacks- so the boys watched Little Bear on the iPhones and we got home just in time to make scrambled eggs for dinner and send everyone to bed!