Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Conversations with Jack

Today at breakfast, Jack asked if there could be one thing in Australia that would come to America what would I want it to be? I didn't have to think long about it. I said I'd want my friends.

I asked him what he'd want. He said the Australia Museum.

In the car on the way to the zoo, he announced that he was definitely going to college in Australia. We've mentioned it before, mostly in a joking way. But now he seemed determined and serious.

I told him that was wonderful. We'd follow him there! I then quickly made sure he knew we weren't going to be actually following him INTO college. We'd just live in the same town.

He seemed satisfied with this. He told me he planned to go to school in Canberra.

I said we'll have to learn how to drive on those damn round-a-bouts.

I also told him he didn't have to do this for me. He should do what he wants to do....what makes HIM happy.

He said no. He wants to do this. Why? He wants to be a zookeeper at the National Zoo.

Who knows what the future will bring. He has plenty of time to change his mind. But I love that, for this moment, this is what he wants.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 18....in which the sun finally comes out

Jack's big love in Australia was Judy Blume. We had read Fudge-a-Mania on the plane. That was nice. I think it made the ride go faster for all of us. At Tracey's house, we found that Molly had a nice collection of books, including the one Fudge book we hadn't yet read. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. Molly kindly traded that book for one of our books. I read it to Jack in Canberra and Seven Mile Beach. On his own, he reread his favorite parts from Fudge-a-Mania.

We gave him permission to use the office Internet if he wanted. I warned him that it might work slow, and he didn't have much time. He dealt with those limitations. But what did he use his Internet time for? He wrote Judy Blume a fan email. I thought that was cute.

I'm actually not sure that it was this day he wrote the email. It probably was, though.

In the morning it rained. I did laundry and used the dryer.

I have in my notes that the sun finally came out that day. I do remember that. I just can't remember when it happened. Was it late morning? Early afternoon? Late afternoon?

Who knows.

I do remember that while Tim went on one of his runs, Jack and I went to join the Cronulla folks out in the swampy area behind our cabin. They were fishing. That was a bit hard for me to watch. I'm not against fishing or hunting. I respect it actually. BUT only if it's for food. I frown upon it if it's for sport or fun. And that's what they were doing. They were catching the fish and then throwing them back in. I know some people say that the fish doesn't feel the hook cutting through them. I have a hard time believing that. And even if the hook doesn't hurt, there's the suffering of being out of the water for those minutes. I think it would be equivalent to us being held down in the water.

That might be worse than the hook.

I'm sure the fish-used-for-food also suffers. I guess I just feel better because it's not wasted. Plus, if someone is going to eat fish, I respect them capturing it themselves rather than blindly picking it up at the grocery store.

My other feeling is that although very skilled people may be able to fish without causing much suffering, a novice probably can't. And when the Cronulla people were fishing, they accidentally caused damage beyond repair. There was no evidence of regret or remorse. They threw the fish on the sand where the children could gawk at it.

While the adults fished, the kids and I looked at these clear blobs on the sand. Jack, Tim, and I could never figure out what they were. A type of Jellyfish? Jack suspected that and therefore was a bit weary of them. The Cronulla folks seemed much more knowledgeable about nature than us. I figured they would know. Nope. They guessed maybe it was whale poop. I'm not sure if they were joking or not. The funny thing is when we were kids my parents took us to the beach. There were big blobs on the beach and we called them whale poop too.

Anyway, here's a photo. If any of you can identify it, I'd be very grateful.

Little Girl Cronulla picked one up. When Jack saw that she wasn't withering in pain, he decided they were safe. He picked them up too.

For lunch, we had meat pies. There was actually a cafe at our holiday park. I hadn't expected much from it, but the Cronulla folks said it was good. Of course, I didn't actually have a meat pie. I had a spinach and cheese one. I didn't like it, but Tim and Jack liked theirs. It was then that I realized I don't like pastries with spinach and cheese. I've liked them in the past, though. Maybe Australian ones are different. Maybe they use a different cheese? I don't know. It could be simply that my taste changed.

We went back to Scoops for ice-cream. The woman who served us the day before remembered us. She came outside to chat with us.

We enjoyed the sunshine. When Jack was done eating, he played in the grass and picked me a flower.

In the evening, we walked on the beach.

It was beautiful.

The Blue Bottles had finally disappeared. We didn't go swimming. I kind of regret that now. I wish we had grabbed our swimming suits and taken this one last chance.

We did walk in the water a bit. That was nice.

I told Tim about Heath Ledger's funeral...how afterwards they all went into the ocean water with their clothes on. I think there's something so beautiful about that.  It's very spiritual. A part of me wanted to run into the water with my clothes on. But I didn't. I kind of regret that too. Although if I did it, I'd probably be very uncomfortable.

We had fun anyway. I sang Mamma Mia songs while walking in the sand. I should say I TRIED singing. I really didn't know the words. I think all I was able to do was the first few lines of "I Have a Dream".

We walked back later through the little path in the woods. The Near Palm Beach couple had said it reminded them of the 100 Acres Woods. They called it something like that for their toddler.

Looking at the woods now, it also reminds me of Lost and maybe Gilligan's Island.

One funny thing that happened sometime that day or night. Tracey called me and said Sydney was all booked. Here we have an example of cultural/language differences. When she said that, I interpreted it as meaning all the hotels in Sydney were already filled with people. They wouldn't be able to visit us. I felt strong disappointment, and Tracey seemed so damn cheerful. It only took me a few seconds, though, to realize that she meant that THEY were all booked. They were definitely coming. We were all happy and excited about that!!!

On top of that, my friend from Dubbo and my friend from Ballarat were also planning to visit. Plus, I had some crazy Sydneysiders I planned to meet.

We had so much to look forward to.

If only we knew the horror that awaited us......

Okay. Yeah. There was no horror. I just thought that sounded awesome.... Yeah, I know a writer's group would probably label it as a cliche. I don't care. I like it anyway!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Day 17.....in which I have trouble communicating with my family back in Texas

I had weird dreams.

What else is new?

In this dream, there's a bride about to be married to a guy who happens to look like Pierce Bronsan. I'm having an affair with him. The bride's forgiving towards me. The idea is if it happens to be a case of a man being in love with two women, he really can't help himself. Maybe he's in love with me AND her. But if he's just a womanizer that's a whole different story. We decide to test him. I forgot what we did. But he ends up being guilty. He isn't in love with two women. He just likes having as many women as he can. The bride is devastated. I'm not as upset as her which makes me realize I had never loved him in the first place. I had just liked the attention. I decide that makes me just as bad as the groom.

Then I had lucid dreams about some evil place underwater. I try to fight the evil but have no idea how to do it. I'm given a pill that is supposed to kill me. I pretend to take it and then ask if I can go back and die at home. They refuse to let me, so then I confess that I never took the pill. I have no idea why I'd do that!

They make me take the pill. Then I have all these deep thoughts about death and dreams. I start thinking I'm damned either way. If I survive, it will prove that my lucid dreams are just brain things and there's nothing spiritual or metaphysical about them. But then I think maybe I'll die in the dream world and not the real world. I start wondering what would it mean to die in the dreamworld.

Well, I woke up very much alive. And I still have lucid dreams so I'm not dead in the dreamworld either. That's a relief!

Another day in Seven Mile Beach.....

My family had never returned my texts. I tried to tell myself they were just busy. But by now I was getting a bit concerned. I don't think I imagined anything bad had happened to them. What I thought was that they had decided they were mad at me. I often think people are mad at me. I'm delusional that way.

So, I thought they were mad and ignoring me...giving me some kind of silent treatment.

The park had Internet in the office, but we had been avoiding it, because it seemed to be a pain. It was two dollars for fifteen minutes. That's not a lot of money. I'm not that cheap. I just hate having to sit in the office. I feel weird. And I hate having a time limit like that. I feel so nervous and rushed.

But it came to the point that I needed to find out what the hell was going on with my family.

I went to the office and checked my email. No one seemed mad! They sent photos so I was able to see my nephew Javier for the first time! I think I emailed my dad and my brother-in-law. I gave more congratulations and asked if anyone had received our texts.

My memory of all this is a little fuzzy. I think what happened is later my dad sent me a test text message on my phone. I got it and responded. He got my response, but it ended up that he had never gotten my previous messages. I have no idea why. No other Texas family members got my texts either. I still don't know why that happened.

It was all a little hard on me. In these days, I don't think it's hard to be physically far away from those you love. If you have email and all that, it feels like they're right there with you. But when you can't connect and something huge is happening....well, I ended up feeling very far away. I think later that day I tried going on the Internet again. I was able to read my mail on American Online, but, for some reason, it wouldn't let me send emails out. I tried writing my sister (the new mom!) two or three times.

Yeah. That was frustrating.

Besides all that though it was a fairly okay day.

On the news, I heard about the floods in Queensland. People were trapped by croc-infested waters. They weren't given much attention though. Everyone's eyes and hearts were directed towards the fires in Victoria.

We spent time with our Cronulla neighbors. We all went to the little wet swampy area behind our cabins.

The kids looked at nature and played with mud.

Later we all went swimming together in the pool. The water was very cold, and so was the air. It wasn't exactly the type of situation that compelled you to go into the water. Tim and Mr. Cronulla didn't even attempt to go in. Mrs. Cronulla jumped in and actually hung out in the water for awhile. I managed to get my legs in the water. That's about it. I kept planning to go in further, but never got up enough nerve.

At the pool, Mr. Cronulla gave us their newspaper. He was done reading it and thought it would be best to pass it on. I thought that was very eco of him. There was an article about a pill that erased people's bad memories. That gave me a lot to think about. Would we be better off without our bad memories, or do bad memories help stop us from repeating our mistakes? My gut reaction was the pill is a huge mistake. I guess my spiritual beliefs play into that. I believe in the whole reincarnation thing....each life is a learning stepping stone. I think bad experiences teach us stuff and help our soul evolve. You know....what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

But then some things are TOO horrible. If someone was sexually tortured as a child, maybe it is best for them to lose that memory. I don't know.

Then there's the question....Without our memories, would we still be ourselves? Would we lose ourselves if we lost our bad memories? And also, where do you draw the line? What if people start wanting to erase the time they farted in front of their in-laws or the day their girlfriend dumped them.

What else happened that day? I'm looking at my notes.

I read Judy Blume's Sheila the Great to Jack. I read The Faraday Girls to myself.

Jack played with his Nintendo DS. Both he and Tim had started liking Sudoku.

We went into Gerringong to get ice-cream. They had a Scoops too. The woman who served us our ice-cream was very friendly.

I saw commercials for the Oscars; learned that Hugh Jackman would be hosting. It seemed with him, plus the whole Heath Ledger thing, this was turning out to be quite an Aussie event.

We took a walk on the beach and saw a lot of blue bottles. Tim talked about how Australian children are so adorable. I agreed. We love Australian accents period. But in children, it's absolutely delicious. Okay. But the cutest thing is probably an Australian child imitating an American accent. I don't think you can beat that in terms of cuteness. And Jack is pretty damn adorable when he tries to imitate an Aussie accent. Although yeah. I'm his mom. I think pretty much everything he does is adorable. The kid farts loud and I'm totally charmed.

On this day, or another day, we watched a show about surviving disasters. I'll just pretend we watched it this day. None of us will ever know if I'm wrong or right.

Anyway, the show talked about how many people die in disasters simply because they didn't do the right thing. Instead of making a quick exit, they sit there in disbelief and shock. Tim and I talked about this. I told him I'd totally be one of those people. When I'm scared, I freeze. I also find that I become unnaturally calm. I have this attitude of oh well. I might die, but there's nothing I can do about it. And that's probably good when the danger is more imagined than real. For example, I reacted that way when we were driving on the mountain, and this is how I react when there's strong turbulence on a plane.

If there was true danger to escape though, this reaction would be very counterproductive.

I decided now that I know all this, if I faced danger I would try to react better.

I also promised myself that for now on I'd actually pay attention to the safety video on the airplane. I always ignored those thinking if our plane crashes, we're all going to die. So, what's the point? But the show said that wasn't true. People do actually survive some plane crashes. And yeah. There was a recent one in America to prove that.

One of the most important lessons of the show was to listen to your children. They sometimes might know more than you, and can actually save your life. There was a great story about a British family visiting Thailand. The young daughter had just learned about Tsunamis at school. She saw the water on the beach looking quite funky and told her parents they needed to get out of there immediately. They had the good sense to listen to her. I had to wonder if my parents would have listened to me when I was a child. Would they have taken my warnings seriously or would they have teased me for being too dramatic? I also have to wonder if I'd take Jack's warnings seriously. I don't know. On one hand, he does get scared and overreacts a lot. On the other hand, he does do a lot of Internet research. The kid knows a lot. It wouldn't surprise me if he knew something one day that could save our lives.

I think in that case, it's not just the child who is the hero. Any adult, who is humble and reactive enough to take them seriously, is a hero as well.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Day 16...in which we see beauty

We planned to go out that day; go see Minnamurra Rainforest and the Kiama Blowhole.

I did laundry first. I wanted to be a good eco-girl and hang the clothes up to dry. Okay, and I was also cheap and wanted to save money. The problem was the TV had said there was more rain in the forecast. Rain. Rain. When the hell would it stop raining? At first, we felt guilty complaining about the rain. There were fires in Victoria! They needed the rain. Yeah, but we soon figured out the Kiama area really did not. It was lush and green which made me think there's no drought there. The best solution in our situation was to not wish the rain to stop but wish for the rain to simply MOVE.

With some optimism I hung up our clothes. Although it's time-consuming, I love doing it. There's something so....I don't know? Wholesome? Yeah, I feel all wholesome when I hang up the laundry.

But then it started raining, so I had to take all the clothes down and put it in the dryer. I had talked to Tracey about what you do when it rains. She said you can just keep the clothes out and it will dry later. We actually do this with our beach towels at home. We hang them on the fence after we swim. It rains and we forget to take the towels in. But then the sun dries them. I didn't want to do that here though because we were very rarely seeing any sun. It was either rain and clouds or just clouds. I had little faith that our soaked clothes would dry.

When the laundry was finished, we drove off to the rainforest. I was kind of excited. I don't think we've ever been to a rainforest before...at least not that I can remember.

I didn't end up really enjoying it.

This is the stupid reason why. Although I knew we were in Australia and not South America. And I know South American animals don't live in Australia. I think a little part of me expected them to be there. When I think rainforest, I think of sloths hanging upside down and monkeys climbing all around. I think of little green frogs, giant snakes, and humongous spiders.

None of those were there. And without those creatures, a rainforest just isn't that thrilling. It was pretty much wet trees and rocks. Also, it seemed very artificial to me. Why? Because the sounds we heard sounded just like those soothing CD's you can buy. You know....sounds of the rainforest. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know this time it was REAL, and I should have been thrilled about that. But I think I've been jaded by those damn CD's.

On top of all that, what should have been a beautiful and tranquil experience was not. Why? Jack wouldn't stop talking. He's a talkative child and rainforests do not happen to make him quiet. He wouldn't stop asking questions. There's a mythology about children....usually perpetuated by those who don't have frequent contact with kids. It goes along with the myth that all children are always completely honest.

This other myth is that each question a child asks should be treasured and answered patiently and lovingly.

Jack asks the same damn question over and over. And they're not complicated questions that one would need to hear multiple times in order to understand.

I have no idea why he does this. It might be a nervous habit. He might like to hear himself talk. He might like hearing the answer multiple times.

Whatever! I'm sure he has very good reason for doing it. And I have good reason to want to put a stop to it. It's slowly driving me insane. So, I have to say eventually I made a rule forbidding such practices. Before you label me as a cruel parent, let me add there was no awful punishment if he slipped. And he did forget several times. I simply reminded him of the rule.

So, the rainforest wasn't so amazing; at least not for me.

I did like the little gift shop. I bought some ground wattleseed from Outback Pride.

I liked the blowhole much better. It was incredible.

I expected it to be amusing--water spurting out of the ground. I didn't expect it to be so beautiful. The whole area around the blowhole is astonishing. I felt overwhelmed.

We walked around and enjoyed the beauty.

Near the blowhole there was an ocean bath. Oh! I wish I could explain how beautiful it was. It reminded me of a dream. There was something almost eerie about it. I think the cold rainy weather added to the whole scene.

The ocean around there is wild and dangerous. Despite that, we actually saw people surfing in the water! The pool itself seemed fairly tame. It looked very inviting. Unfortunately, we didn't have swimming suits with us. We did go near the pool, though, hoping a wave would come over and splash us a bit. Our hopes weren't answered fast enough. Tim jokingly said something like Is this the best you got?

Then this huge wave came and surprised everyone. I must have missed the severity of the thing because I made snide comments about this old man who frightfully exited the pool. When he was out of hearing range, I said something like Didn't he realize he was swimming in the ocean? What does he expect?

Tim then told me that the poor man had almost been slammed into the wall. Yikes! I guess it was a more violent-than-usual wave.

We did think of returning. At least, I did. We never got around to it, though. We also never fulfilled our plan to go canoeing. I'll blame the rainy weather. But it also could have been laziness.

After hanging out near the ocean bath, we went to Scoops, an ice cream place. They had delicious ice-cream. Tim and Jack shared a sundae. I had a cone with Rum Raisin. The man who worked there was very friendly. He seemed excited to meet Americans. I think he had planned to be a counselor in American summer camps, but that was postponed because he was in a band, and they had recently had some kind of success. I forgot exactly what he said.

We went to an op shop. I think this is the place where I bought Jack some green shorts. Yeah. I'm sure that's important for you all to know.

We went to a used bookstore. I was close to finishing Monica McInerney's The Faraday Girls. I figured I'd need something new to read. I couldn't find anything that appealed to me. I'd pick a book up, think of buying it, and then put it down again. Looking back, I think I was simply attached to The Faraday Girls. I wanted my next book to be exactly like that. I wasn't ready to move on to something new and different.

I loved The Faraday Girls. I think it's one of those perfect beach reads. And aspects of it reminded me SO much of my own family. I think it was somewhat therapeutic for me to read it.

We left Kiama and went back to Seven Mile Beach.

At some point (before or after we left for Kiama) we had finally had some meaningful interactions with our neighbors. We found out they were from Cronulla.  The parents were on their honeymoon. Jack became friends with the two kids. We all hung out together and talked near the big jumpy bouncy thing. Mr. Near Palm Beach was there too with his toddler.

Tim had a rather intense conversation with Mrs. Cronulla about Aussie health care in comparison to American healthcare. She had just seen Michael Moore's Sicko and was quite shocked about what we Americans have to endure.

Mr. Palm Beach pulled me aside and told me he wasn't a fan of Australia's public health care. It was better to have private insurance.

Yeah. I'm sure it is....if you're lucky enough to be able to afford it.


The good thing is, I started to feel more social. I liked the community now that it was less crowded. There was a good feeling to it.

Later, Jack and I were in our cabin and we saw a group of people walking by. One woman held a cockatiel on her shoulder. I was so excited. I thought a wild bird had befriended her. I told Jack and we rushed out to see.

The people were all very nice to us, although I was a little disappointed to learn that the bird was a pet. I think also she said the bird's wings had been clipped. That made me feel sad. There's something very appealing about having a pet parrot. There's a small part of me that would love to have one. But I think it's so much better when they're free. How sad to be a bird that can no longer fly high up into the trees.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Day 15...in which there's a new earthling named Javier

I dreamed of tigers loose in Australia. I'm with Jack; and I'm scared. There are other mothers around and none of them seem to be concerned.

My mobile rang.

I woke up.

It was very early; around 5:00.

This had to be it.

I ran to answer it.

My dad told me my sister and her new baby were doing well. His name was Javier Miguel.

I was so happy and excited. I was also relieved. I had been worried about my sister. She's so tiny and well.....she's my baby sister.

I then talked to my mom, brother-in-law, and older sister. We congratulated each other.

Tim woke up, and I gave him the news.

We sent texts to the new parents.

I doubted I'd be able to fall back asleep, but by some miracle we did. We woke up around 8. When Jack woke up, I told him the news. I didn't expect him to care much, but he did. He was excited to have a new cousin.

I wanted to tell the whole world I had a new nephew. But I think I just ended up texting my cousin in Australia. I also sent texts to my family telling them something I realized. Javier was born on Valentine's Day. His parents had their first date on Valentines Day. I thought that was cool.

It was raining outside. I wondered if we'd have another day in the cabin. The morning wasn't bad, though. We were excited about the baby and guess what else? Mamma Mia was on! We watched that.

I waited eagerly to get texts back from my family. I wanted more news!

I didn't get any. I figured my parents had gone to sleep. They had been up all night in the hospital.

It stopped raining. I took Jack for a walk on the beach. I don't know where Tim was or what he was doing.

There was a bridge at the end of the beach that was close to us. I decided Jack and I should walk across. It looked like there was a neighborhood over there. For some reason, Jack didn't want to go all the way across, though.

Instead we walked past the beach where there's.....Oh crap. I don't know the scientific name. It's near the beach. It's muddy. There's little pools of water. There are crabs. What would you call this?

Anyway, we walked, and it actually led to the back of our cabin. I think we called out for Tim. He didn't hear us.

We went back to the cabin and then we all took a walk together.

We decided we'd cross the bridge all the way and walk around the neighborhood. I thought maybe we'd find a cafe or something.

We did!

It had started raining again so I'm glad we found it fast.

We ordered a small chips and Jack got a little Milo ice cream thing. The cafe had chairs and tables, but you were not allowed to use them if you were getting take-away. And if you wanted to eat in the restaurant, you had to order from the menus and not the board. We'd see a similar rule at another place later on. (see? Foreshadowing here....)

It stopped raining so we were able to walk across the street and eat our food at a picnic table in a park. The chips they gave us was HUGE. We didn't know if they had heard us wrong and thought we wanted a large or if this was their version of small. Yikes.

The park had a playground. Jack and I played together for awhile.

We then went back to our cabin.

I took a long walk on the beach alone. I think I ended up doing this everyday.

The weekend people began leaving. I was glad about that. I had this sense that I'd feel more comfortable and social once the park emptied out a bit. The only thing I worried about was we still had three more full days. All the children close to Jack's age would probably leave. He's gone longer than that without playing with kids. But this was a holiday park. They're more fun when you have kids to play with.

I started to feel more social, though.

I talked to a nice older couple who were packing up their caravan to leave. They told me they lived near Royal National Park.

I talked to another couple I had talked to briefly earlier. They lived near Palm Beach. Mrs. Near Palm Beach told me she had spent time in Fort Worth. She talked about beautiful it was. I always thought Fort Worth was pretty okay until I saw Australia. In comparison, I think Fort Worth is pretty ugly. I can't see why an Australian would find Fort Worth pretty. I mean there are some lovely scenes every so often. But Australia has so many more lovely scenes. Maybe Mrs. Near Palm Beach was just trying to be nice? Or maybe it's just a case of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. Maybe Fort Worth is the type of place she finds beautiful. We all have our own personal taste.

I think by this time there was a family next door to us.  They had a little girl and little boy. They seemed friendly, but for some reason Jack didn't want to play or talk to them. I mean he wasn't a snob towards them. He just seemed shy and/or disinterested. We exchanged a few friendly hellos with the parents. I felt, since they were our neighbor,s we should do more, but I guess I felt shy too. I'm good at the initial hello...basic greetings. I sometimes have trouble going beyond that.

I later suggested to Tim and Jack that we go into town and get ice-cream. We drove to Gerrigong which is closer to us than Kiama. The ice-cream store was closed. We'd have to come back another day.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jack Loves Australia

Jack told me today, that if we were still in Australia, we could go to Hyde Park. We could go to Wildlife World anytime we wanted.

I asked him if he wanted to live in Australia.

He said yes.

I said that might not be possible. But I said maybe one day we could stay there for a long time. I said next time we travel there, if Tim has to get home, maybe the two of us could stay for awhile.

He liked that idea.

I asked him if he'd rather stay for weeks or months.

He said months.

I asked, one month or three months?

He said three.

I'm not sure if that's possible. But I'm so glad to hear him say it.

When we got home from our holiday in 2008, he seemed to like Australia but I can't say he was overly enthusiastic about it. He seemed disturbed by my desire to live there.

Now things have changed.

The three month stay IS actually something Tim and I have talked about. I liked the idea. Tim supported it. The only problem was Jack. He didn't seem to like it. Now he likes it. Well, we do have the other major issue. MONEY.

I have Jack behind me. That's one hurdle overcome. Now I just need to win the damn lottery. It would probably help if I actually bought a ticket.

I do make money from this blog. There's hope! In nine months, I've made close to six dollars!

Seriously, though. Three months would probably be too long. I'd feel bad keeping Jack from his dad. I know Tim said he'd be okay with it, but I think it would be sort of sad. Okay and yeah. I might miss the guy a little myself....not his snoring though!

But maybe we'd stay a few extra weeks if Tim had to go home early. That would be fun.

OR maybe something wonderful will happen, and we'll actually get to move to Australia. You never know.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 14...in which we go to Ireland to buy a Scooter

In the morning, I took a solo walk on the beach. It was lovely and peaceful. The wonderful thing about Australian beaches is it can be a very solitary experience. There might be a few people around, but the beach is big enough that you can usually keep a great distance from them. Yes, see? I really was feeling quite socially avoidant.

After the walk, I returned to the cabin and my family.

We love holiday parks. They're beautiful and usually very affordable. I also like the fact that it's mostly locals who stay at them. I feel like we're seeing parts of Australia that most international tourists don't bother to see. There's only one problem though about being the only fly-in tourist amongst many drive-in tourists. We don't have bikes and scooters with us. And it seems like riding is pretty popular with kids at these holiday parks. I feel this makes things a little hard for Jack. In Port Stephens, the kids spent a lot of time on their bikes and scooters. Some of them were nice enough though to let Jack have a go. That was really sweet.

At Seven Mile Beach, I already felt Jack didn't fit in well with the other kids he wanted to hang out with. Not having a bike or scooter would set him apart even more. I remembered seeing that they had bike and scooter rentals, so I decided to go to the office to check that out. I wanted to know if they had helmets as well. They didn't. I figured we'd go into town and buy him a helmet. I talked to Tim and told him the prices of the scooter rental. It was ten dollars an hour and forty dollars for the whole day. What concerned me was that we'd end up renting the scooter during the hour that no other kids happened to be on their scooters. We'd return the scooter and then suddenly all the other kids would riding. We could do the forty dollars for the whole day, but that seemed pretty expensive. We wondered how much it would cost to just buy a scooter.

We decided while we were in Kiama buying a helmet, we would check out the prices of the actual scooters.

We drove to Kiama.

I have to rewind now. A few weeks before we left for Australia, we were driving to Dallas when Tim asked me the question I dread hearing and answering. It goes something like this. Well, so what other countries besides Australia do you want to visit?
Oh! I hate that question!

I want to live in Australia. If I can't do that, I'd like to visit as often as possible. If we were millionaires, it wouldn't be an issue. We could go to Australia every year AND other countries. It would be nice, but I think we're lucky enough if we can do international travel every two years or so.

I figured I really got more than I deserved in terms of going to Australia twice in a row. But I guess I kind of thought of that as my consolation prize. You don't get to MOVE to Australia. But you get to visit! I had this idea though that we'd go back in two years. But now Tim was talking about going other places. I think I realized I was being unfair. I couldn't demand that we go only to Australia.

I told him I didn't know where I'd want to go. Did he have any places in mind? He often talks about Italy or Spain....sometimes Ireland. Yeah, they're not Australia. But I could probably manage to have an okay time there.

Tim said, The Ukraine.
The Ukraine? This is a place that has NEVER been on my list of places to visit....not even back in the days when I didn't limit myself to Australia. I'm sure the Ukraine is a lovely place. But I just never gave it any thought. And I also had the idea that it was cold. I hate cold places.

I felt this sinking sad feeling, but I didn't argue with Tim. I realized I needed to be a good girl and open myself up to the idea of visiting other places. I also had to let go of this wish to frequently visit Australia. I told myself and Tim that the next time we'd visit Australia is the end of 2012. We'd go for my fortieth birthday. Tim seemed to accept this. I struggled to.

But then things changed when we were in Australia. I think I can credit Tracey and her amazing wonderful family. I think Tim enjoyed his time with them so much that when I mentioned maybe skipping the Ukraine to visit Australia in two years, he seemed totally fine with it.

During our 2007, Australia holiday I heavily promoted the idea of moving to Australia. I probably said multiple times a day. Maybe we should move here!

In 2009, I had a new plan. Let's make Australia our one and only foreign travel destination. My angle was that whatever we longed for in a different destination, we could easily find in Australia. This wouldn't work for some people because they're really into history. They go around the world to see historical sites. Tim and I aren't like that. We're more into the beautiful nature sites, new friends, food, fun, etc.

After seeing Mamma Mia, I thought maybe I could like Greece. I love the scenery in that movie. I figured maybe I could steer Tim away from his Ukraine idea and we could do Greece instead. No, it's not Australia. But Greece seems pretty cool; better than the Ukraine (sorry, no offense intended) But after my new idea of Australia-only, I figured I don't need Greece. I'll just find a place in Australia that has rocky cliffs and ocean waves. I'll feel like I'm in Greece. I can enhance the delusion even further by ordering a Greek Salad in a cafe.

And guess what. This brings me back to our day and our trip into Kiama.

Kiama looks like Ireland! At least WE thought so. It has those rolling green hills. And no I've never been to Ireland. But before going to Australia, I had seen P.S I Love You. To me, Kiama looked exactly like the movie. I told Tim we no longer need to go to Ireland. For all intents and purposes, we were already there!

We enjoyed Ireland. It's quite beautiful actually.

We drove into the shopping area. First we went to a very crowded toy store. We weren't overly pleased with their selection, nor their prices. We decided we could always come back, but we wanted to check out Kiama Cycles and Sports first.

I don't know much about scooters so I may struggle in telling this part of the story. There were some two wheeled scooters in boxes that the salesperson pushed us to buy. They were expensive and it's not like we could keep the Scooter. We'd have to get rid of it at the end of our holiday. I didn't want to invest that much money. The other issue is Jack's physical abilities. The kid is advanced in many areas. Athletics is not one of them.

There was a lovely three-wheeled scooter for eighty-five dollars. That would equal about two days of renting. I didn't want to push Jack into getting something that he might feel is too babyish for him. But fortunately he didn't see it that way. He was happy with the scooter. THANK YOU!

We needed to think about helmets.

I thought about it and decided we didn't need one. Yes, that might be irresponsible. But I felt it was a small scooter. It would be like getting a helmet for a child riding a big wheel. I figured yeah a freak accident could occur and I'd feel forever guilty about being too cheap to buy a helmet. But I felt he was in just as much danger climbing on the playground. If we were going to buy a helmet for that scooter, we might as well make him wear the thing 24/7.

Tim went to a store to look for a mixing bowl. He planned to make us pizza that night. I took Jack down to the park so he could ride his scooter a bit.

Tim came back with a weird bucket thing. I guess it was all he could find. At least it wasn't a sand pail. Although that would be pretty funny.

I sort of felt we should walk a bit and try to find the famous blow hole. But for some reason we didn't. I guess we all kind of wanted to get back.

Maybe we wanted to eat lunch. We were probably hungry. And since Tim had bought so much damn food, we probably didn't feel right eating out at a restaurant.

I think I ate leftovers from dinner. Jack and Tim ate sandwiches. Tim gave Jack a huge sandwich even though we both complain about restaurant servings being way too big. I think Jack ate less than half. I bitched at Tim about overfeeding our child. He says this is what Jack eats at home. I disagree. I think Tim was trying to push big portions at us so he could argue that he hadn't bought too much food at the grocery store. Or he was trying to fatten us up so he could cook us one day. He's an evil man!

After all that effort of buying a scooter, so Jack could ride with new friends he might meet, it rained. I think it started raining late in the afternoon and it didn't stop until the next morning.

We stayed in the cabin. I continued reading Morris Gleitzman's Toad Away. We discovered WipeOut Australia. That's pretty entertaining.

There was a movie channel so I also watched Tropic Thunder and Baby Mama.

Jack sat in the bedroom and watched Toy Story 2 on the computer.

Tim made his pizza for dinner. It was delicious like always. His pizza is my favorite pizza.

At one point, we pulled ourselves away from our screens to play hide and seek. Jack hid and I actually couldn't find him for a moment. I thought maybe our cabin had a doorway into another dimension or something. He's not usually that brilliant at hiding. But this time he found a good place and managed to stay quiet.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 13...in which I'm a bitch

On Friday morning we left Canberra and headed towards Seven Mile Beach Holiday Park in Gerroa.

We saw lovely sights out the car window. Hey! We were in Australia! How could it NOT be beautiful?

We stopped in Goulburn for lunch.

We saw the giant sheep.

We ate at another Abe Frellman recommendation, The Paragon Cafe.

Jack had spaghetti and Tim noticed there was no tomato sauce in the meat sauce. Tim had a theory that Australians use less tomato sauce than we do. He had noticed at another restaurant that their pizza had very little sauce.

I forgot what Tim ate. I had some kind of cheese on toast thing.

They had pizzas on the menu including an American one. I'm always curious how America is perceived. Well....in terms of pizza, we're black olives and pepperoni. I thought that was awesome because before I was vegetarian that was my favorite type of pizza! My taste in pizza represents America. How nice.

After eating we walked around the little strip of shops. We found ourselves in a discount store. Each of us found a treasure to take home. Tim found some jasmine rice. Jack found a jump rope. I found an Australian flag beach towel.

We then went to find Jack a new rash shirt for the beach, because I had been careless and left his other one at Tracey's house. Oops.

Yeah, they might come to Sydney to see us. They might bring the rash shirt. But we needed one now! We had a whole week at the beach.

We tried to find one at the Red Cross Op shop, but had no luck. We had to look elsewhere.

We eventually found one.

After our shopping, we stopped in Bryant's Cafe for dessert. Tim got something called a Rock Cake. Jack got a cupcake. I got a caramel slice.

With our tummies full, we headed towards our new home on the beach.

The ride was absolutely awful.


The damn TomTom must have gotten pissed off at us for some reason. His revenge? Dragging us through Kangaroo Valley. This involved mountains and twisty roads. I'm sure Kangaroo Valley is a lovely place. But I do NOT like it. Just hearing the name puts a chill through my spine.

I don't like driving on mountains!!!

Somehow we survived. Tim got us through it. For an hour or so he was my hero. Actually, it was probably for about three minutes. Hey, but that's something. Right?

We made it to the Holiday Park. Tim had the same reaction he had at the Canberra Holiday Park; disbelief that I could have found a decent place. The Seven Mile Beach Holiday Park has two sides. One is near the river and one is near the beach. There's a highway inbetween. The office is on the riverside and we didn't know that the rest of the holiday park was across the road. Tim didn't sense a beach nearby. He thought I had accidentally picked a place that was not on the beach. He wanted a beach.

We soon figured everything out and drove to the other side of the holiday park. I worried a bit that we'd have to cross a busy highway to get to the office if needed. But it turns out they have a nice little pedestrian underpass.

It was a bit of a challenge for us to find our cabin. I could blame the holiday park on that, but frankly we're just a little bit stupid sometimes.

Eventually, we found our cabin. And it was awesome! It totally restored Tim's faith in me. The little cabin was darling. It was clean, comfortable, and cute. The location was great. The walk to the beach was shorter than our walk in Port Stephens. And best of all, we were right across from the playground. Jack could go play, and we could watch him from the kitchen window. A little farther down was a big jumpy bouncy thing for kids.

While we unpacked, Jack went off to play and explore. At home, Jack lives the life of a 21st century child. He can go out alone on our back porch and balcony, but that's it. He can't go out in the front yard alone. He can't take walks down the street alone. It's so different from my childhood. I don't know why our lives have become that way, but I know we're not the only one because I rarely see kids out without an adult chaperon.

In Port Stephens last year, we had let Jack have some freedom. He loved that and we gave him that gift again.

We didn't give him full freedom though. I told him he could go to the bouncy thing and the playground. I didn't want him wandering through the whole park...at least not in the beginning. I figured we could amend that rule in the future if needed. Jack didn't mind it though. In Port Stephens, he had wandered too far once and got lost. I think although he likes being able to go off on his own, he still gets a little nervous.

Tim headed to the grocery store while I was left in charge of Jack. I thought the grocery store was close by and I expected Tim to be back within about an hour. While he was gone, I think I alternated between hanging out around the cabin and checking up on Jack. He was very eager to find children to play with. He had met friends in Port Stephens and wanted to repeat the experience.

There were some children hanging out at the bouncy thing; two boys and two girls. Jack tried so hard to fit in with them, but they were not very welcoming. They weren't cruel. They didn't tease him. They didn't bully him. They just didn't act like they wanted to be friends. They were stand-offish. They were disinterested. As a mom, it hurts to see your child rejected even if it's not intentionally malicious.

I had mixed feelings about socializing at this point. We met people last year and I felt this obligation to repeat all that. But at the same time, I really didn't feel like it. I didn't really feel like talking to anyone. None of the people I saw seemed like people I wanted to be friends with. I felt stand-offish myself. I'm not sure if I was going through one of my asocial stages or if I just didn't feel any type of kinship with the particular people at the park. I forced myself to be friendly...smiles and hellos. A little chit-chat here and there. But what I wanted to do was magically make all the other people in the park disappear. Or at least most of them. Yes, I get like that sometimes.

Some of the kids went to the pool And some of them went without adult supervision. I think that added to my feelings of alienation because I still feel the need to be with Jack when he's swimming. He can swim pretty well, but I feel safer if I'm at the pool with him. I felt insecure. I worried the other parents would see me as overprotective. At the same time, I judged those moms as being too callous.

One mom did come by to check on her kids. I talked with her for awhile. She warned me that there were blue bottles on the beach so we probably couldn't do much swimming. I didn't think much of that. There were Blue Bottles on the beach in Port Stephens. We still swam. I should have considered that this woman lets her kids swim alone. One or two Blue Bottles wouldn't keep this type of family out of the water.

It was cold, so we didn't stay in the pool for long. It seemed some time had passed since Tim had left and I started getting a little concerned. I didn't get too concerned though because Tim is almost always late. I know if he says I'm going to run to the grocery store he really means I'm going to run to the grocery store and then stop at some other stores and then drop by to visit your mom and dad. If he says he'll be home around 5, I expect to see him around 6:30. That's how Tim is. I'm pretty used to it by now.

But after awhile, I did start to worry. It happens every so often. I think to myself this is it. This is going to be the time that something bad happens.

And he didn't have his phone with him. I saw it in the cabin.

I couldn't call him.

I thought who the hell takes two hours to go grocery shopping. I started thinking it would be pretty rude of him to go do other things without telling me and without bringing a phone. I can tolerate it at home somewhat, but not when we're off in another country.

Finally he did come home....home to an angry bitchy wife.

We bickered like good little married people.

He told me he went to Kiama to shop which is a twenty minute drive. That's why it took him so long.

I forgave him somewhat for that.

Meanwhile I was annoyed at him for what he had bought. We were sick of restaurants and one of the reasons was the huge portions. But now Tim had bought SO much food. I felt like we were moving into a new house rather than just staying in a cabin for a week. He bought two loaves of regular bread plus a package of flat bread. He also bought a whole bag of potatoes and multiple bags of pasta. I'm thinking he was having some kind of carb craving thing while shopping. Maybe he was protesting the Atkins diet. I don't know.

Oh! I'm looking at my notes. He also bought this whole frozen garlic bread thing. Yes, that along with flour to make his incredibly wonderful homemade pizza.

He did buy one awesome thing that I can remember---these chocolate covered honeycomb candies. We all loved those.

He bought me a Valentine's Day present. Did it make me happy?

No. I'm very picky about gifts. I'm a bitch when it comes to gifts.

There is a simple rule to follow if someone wants to guarantee that I'll like their gift. Make it Australian. If it's related to Australia, it's VERY likely I'll love it.

Here we are....IN Australia. It's the perfect place to buy Australian stuff.

What does Tim buy me? Belgian chocolate. Guylian. The seashell stuff. What the hell was he thinking? He told me there wasn't any Aussie Valentine's Day chocolate. The Australians themselves were all going for the Guylian. I accepted that excuse then because I actually didn't remember seeing any Australian V-Day themed chocolate. But now I'm thinking the Guylian box didn't have any V-Day theme to it. It wasn't red or heart-shaped.

He should have bought me the Cadbury collection or something. But we ended up buying those later so it's okay. And I was a bitch and didn't buy him anything. I told him his gift was he could share the chocolates he had bought me.

All was well.

Tim buys bad gifts.
I'm a bitch.
Nothing really new here.

We ate dinner, and before or after that we walked to the beach. There weren't one or two Blue Bottles. They were everywhere. Jack and I are both educated enough to know that if there's a lot of Blue Bottles on the beach, it's not a good idea to go swimming. We were a little disappointed, but figured we might still have fun.

Still. Things were a bit gloomy. Jack didn't seem to be clicking well with the other kids. I was feeling socially avoidant. There'd probably be no swimming at the beach.

Then Tracey sent a text that cheered me up a bit. She reminded me the season premiere of Medium was going to be on tonight. We watched it. That was a nice diversion.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Day 12....in which we don't see earwax being used as food

It was our last day in Canberra. It was cold and raining.

The plan was to go to Parliament. I figured it would be boring for Jack and we wouldn't stay long. But I felt an emotional compulsion to go. I didn't need to be there for a long time....a short visit would be fine.

We had a hard time finding a parking space.

We then found a parking lot ,but we weren't sure if it was employee-only parking or not.

We figured out it wasn't and made our way to Old Parliament. We saw the Aboriginal Tent Embassies. Not much was going on there. It was pretty quiet. I guess it was too early in the morning for exciting action.

We then went into the Old Parliament Building and ended up having a wonderful time. I think we all ended up liking this place better than Questacon! Even Jack....ESPECIALLY Jack. He had so much fun. They've made it into a really fun museum. Some of the stuff is roped off and you just look, but there's also a lot of interactive stuff. You can walk into old offices, see government toilets, sit at desks, watch old news broadcasts on old television sets.....

You can play dress up!

Jack's favorite activity is this one where you get to go into a small recording studio, read from a teleprompter and pretend you're interviewing someone. He played with that for a long time.

After Old Parliament, I dragged my husband and child to the National Archives. We looked around there a bit and then went to get lunch at one of the places Abefrellman had recommended to me. The Pork Barrel. I think the only seats they had available were outside. It was a little cold, but we were okay. Plus, we were right near the park and we could slip over there if Jack got tired of waiting.

I think we ate pizza. Tim also ordered a trio of dips. I'm crazy paranoid about eating mayonnaise. I usually make Tim taste stuff for me and tell me if it has it. He's my monkey! But since I witnessed him telling Jack before that a Bull Ant sting feels like a mosquito bite, I somewhat questioned whether I could still trust my monkey. I started to think maybe all this time, he's been lying to me and I've been unknowingly eating mounds of mayonnaises.

He told me the suspicious dip had no mayonnaise. I still refrained from eating it.

We finished eating lunch and then walked over to Parliament. I think we had to walk in the rain.

Earlier, before we left for our political adventures, I had some time to go on the Internet. I did Twitter and said something about going to see Kevin Rudd eat his earwax. I was totally joking. I never in a million years expected to see Kevin Rudd. I knew you could sit and watch Parliament, but I doubted we'd do that. And I never imagined that Kevin Rudd would actually be there. Why I thought that, I don't know. I had watched Parliament on TV and he was there then. Maybe I imagined that if the Prime Minister was absent you could sit in, but if he was there you couldn't. Who knows what was going on in my little American touristy brain.

I think one thing I might have thought is that we couldn't go into Parliament because Jack was there. He'd be too loud or refuse to sit. I haven't had the best history getting him to sit still and quiet. We don't do many movies or theater. We don't attend synagogue services. He's not in a classroom everyday.

But we decided to try it. We went through all the security stuff and ended up in Parliament. We got to see Kevin Rudd LIVE and in person. It was so exciting. Unfortunately, we were sitting behind the government bench and never saw the guy's face. We also got to see the back of Jenny Macklin and Julie Gillard. We did not see Peter Garrett. I figure if he was there, he'd be easy to spot. I guess we saw Turnbull. I mean I saw a guy in his seat, but it didn't really look like him to me. But Tim says of course it had to be him. It's not like the Academy Awards where they have seat substitutes.

The funny thing is Kevin Rudd at one point stuck his finger in his ear! My Twitter prediction almost came true. He didn't eat it though.

Jack was so well-behaved. I was very proud of him. I think we stayed in there for about ten minutes. I thought maybe we'd just stay until he started getting loud and antsy, but then decided it was better if we left on a positive note. I know ten minutes isn't long, but I think it's long when what the child is watching is boring grown-up stuff.

I didn't find it boring. I found it fascinating. They were talking about the fires...making a day of mourning. We later heard snips of the speeches being played on the TV or radio. It was exciting being able to think. We had heard it live!

I started thinking maybe we should move to Canberra. It would be so great because I could go to Parliament all the time and watch it. I could drag Jack along and we'd see little bits and pieces. OR maybe Tim would have this great job where he could have flexible hours and work at home. He could babysit while I sit in Parliament. How lovely life could be......

After we left all the famous political people, we looked around the building a bit. Jack signed the guest book.

If you can't read it, he says I hope I meet the Prime Minister. I guess being in the same room and seeing the back of Kevin's head wasn't enough for Jack. He wanted an actual meeting with the guy. We could shake hand and take photos. Although maybe that wouldn't have helped us. When I told my friend Michelle that we saw Kevin Rudd, she asked if we got photos. I said no. She said, it probably wouldn't have mattered. I would have likely lost the photos anyway. Yeah. My friends know me well.

Oh also. Look at the name above Jack's. Ben Lee. I doubt it's THE Ben Lee. But you never know........

I think we used the toilets next and then went to the gift shop.

I wish I could explain to you guys what being in Australia is like for me. I tried to tell Jack about it because he gets obsessed with stuff like I do. When we were in Australia, his obsession was Arthur, the character created by Marc Brown. I said imagine going to a place where Arthur stuff was everywhere. Imagine how much fun that would be for you.

It's like if someone is a big Winnie the Pooh Fan they can go to Disney World and see lots of Pooh stuff. They can buy stuff at the gift shops. They can go on the Winnie-the-Pooh ride. They can go to the Crystal Palace and have Pooh bother them while they eat their mounds of breakfast cholesterol.

I get a whole damn continent! And the Aussie stuff is everywhere! It's in every store we go to. It's there every time we turn on the TV. The newspapers! The street signs. All the stuff that most of you Australians take for granted....it's all magical to me.

Anyway, back to my story. We went to the Parliament gift shop where they had all kinds of marvelous Aussie stuff. I saw books I wanted, but told myself I'd try to find them later at the used bookstores.

Jack wanted some jerky. He loves trying food that's exotic to him, especially unusual meats. There was a choice between crocodile and kangaroo. I tried to decide which I'd allow him to get. I decided on the Kangaroo. I know some of you Skippy fans might be offended. But this is how I came to the conclusion.

A) Jack had already tried Crocodile on our last visit to Australia.
B) There's plenty of kangaroos in Australia. I knew about the cull in Canberra. I felt bad for the loss of life, but ecologically and ethically speaking, I felt it wasn't so horrible.
C) I had heard Crocodiles are very territorial and hate being squished up with other crocodiles on farms. I didn't know if the dead jerky crocs had been raised that way and if they had, I didn't want to contribute to that business.

I bought Jack the kangaroo jerky. For myself, I bought some licorice that ended up not being all that great.

I wanted to eat the jerky. It looked really good and smelled good. I'm usually very satisfied with my Vegetarian diet, but sometimes I have my temptations. This was one of those times. I guess making eye contact with the holiday park Roo wasn't enough for me. Now I wanted to eat her.

I think there was something almost spiritual in my desires. My friend Gina says the average Australian doesn't eat Skippy the Kangaroo. It's there mostly for the tourists. But I don't know. There's something about eating a kangaroo that appeals to me. It's like I'd be eating a piece of Australia. Maybe it's like Catholicism and eating the body of Jesus. I should probably shut up before you guys think I'm totally nuts.

But Indigenous Australians ate Kangaroos, right? Maybe I wanted to be like them. Okay, I'm pretty sure all of you think I'm nuts. Oh well.

I didn't do it though. The idea appealed to me, but I felt too weird about it. I haven't eaten meat since September 2005. I was afraid it might make me feel sick. It also involved the fear that I'd feel like a failure. In September 2009, I can say I've been a vegetarian for four years. If I ate the Roo, I couldn't say that anymore. I'd have to say, I've been a vegetarian for four years, well except that time I ate the Kangaroo Jerky in Canberra.

I did tell myself if I had a blood sugar issue again and the only food available was jerky, I'd have to eat it. I allowed myself that.

We went back to the Carotel and went on a walk. Tim showed us where he runs everyday. We saw a lovely neighborhood. Tim showed me which house he'd like to live in. I loved that he was actually imaging himself living in Australia. Maybe there was some hope that one day.....

We stopped at a playground, but Jack didn't play in it too long because it was covered in Magpie poop.

I guess all of our were sick of eating at restaurants because Tim ended up going to the grocery store and buying us cheese and crackers. That's what we had for dinner.

Tim surprised me with Cadbury Hot Chocolate Mix. I should add now that my plans to eat ethical chocolate had gone totally out the window. I'm not proud of myself there. I ate way too much unethical chocolate.

The hot chocolate was yummy. I didn't like the marshmallows much though. I think I prefer the American ones. Yeah and see how bad I am? If I was a good vegetarian, I wouldn't eat any marshmallows because they contain gelatin. Oh well.

That night we watched the Victorian Fires telethon. We donated some money. Maybe that makes up for all my unethical food choices.

Yeah. I seriously doubt it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Please read before commenting!

It has come to the point in which I feel I need to set down some rules and guidelines.

Let me start by saying I LOVE comments.

I have a huge hunger for validation, and comments greatly feed that need.

Emails are lovely too. If you prefer to keep things between you and me, please email me. 

Anyway, I do have some rules I'd like you to follow when reading and commenting on my blog.

1. Please do not keep coming here if you do not like me or my writing. There are SO many wonderful blogs out there. Heck, the Internet is full of awesome stuff. Why go somewhere that you dislike? You're wasting your time.

2. Please note that this is NOT just an informational blog. It's also a personal one. Therefore, I deeply appreciate comments like: I'm sorry you hurt your toe. Have a fun road trip! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family. I'm sorry you're depressed. I'm glad you're feeling better!

If you comment on my blog frequently and never/rarely say such stuff, I shall think you're coldhearted. And I will think very nasty things about you behind your back. I feel sad having to remind people of this. But I'm actually a flesh and blood human being....and not just a source of entertainment.

3. Please understand that I sometimes have controversial opinions. You're welcome to disagree! I love having discussions, but let's not get mean and nasty. If you can't argue without name-calling, please don't comment.

4. I try to visit the blogs of everyone who comments on my blog. But because of a bad experience, I want to avoid any bloggers who can't tolerate disagreement. If you're the type of blogger who wants only yes-men commenting on your blog, please tell me when you comment on my blog so I will make sure not to visit. Now I'm not the type of person who disagrees just to be contrary. I'm not like that. But I'm also not the type of person to agree with everything just so I can be popular with the "in-crowd".

5. I have some weird spiritual beliefs. I talk about them sometimes. If you have any questions or comments, that's fine. If you want to tell me you don't believe what I believe, that's great too! What I don't want to see is anyone insisting I prove my beliefs are real. There is no scientific proof for what I believe. I believe it, because I have faith in it. I believe it because I want to believe it. And that is that.

6. If you are personally offended by something I said in my blog, PLEASE email me or leave a comment so we can talk about it. I hate losing friends....especially when I'm not sure what I've done wrong.

7. I sometimes make mistakes. I'm not always the smartest person, and I might misread or misunderstand something while doing research. It is PERFECTLY okay to correct me. You never need to apologize for this.

8. Please don't use my blog to advertise your product or website. These comments will be deleted as soon as I see them.

9. I understand some of my posts are VERY long. I don't expect you to read all of it. However, if you're going to make a comment, PLEASE read at least SOME of it. Please don't just read the title of the post and then make a comment.

10. I definitely welcome comments related to stuff I've revealed regarding my personal life. But please note that I may be sensitive (and even offended) by unsolicited advice. If you feel you have insight that will improve my life, please share it in a polite, educated, respectful, and gentle way.

11. If you have had a negative personal encounter with a famous person I've written about on this blog, and you need to vent about it, please email me privately rather than posting it in comments. I'm okay with sharing positive experiences in comments....as long as it doesn't reveal anything too private about the individual.

I want to say for the most part, the comments on my blog are AWESOME. I love all the intelligent, funny, silly, kind, lovely, and educational things you guys say.

Thank you.

The Abba Thing

Last night when I was getting ready for bed, I turned on the TV. I like to have something to entertain me while brushing my teeth.

I flipped through the channels and came across The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. I stopped here because I had heard this is a very important Aussie film. I wanted to get to bed so I didn't see all of it. But I saw enough to know that I really like it and hope to see more of it again.

The movie had some ABBA connections and it made me wonder what's up with Australia and ABBA? Muriel's Wedding is full of ABBA songs. Now I find out this Priscilla movie has it as well. And at the National Archives in Canberra there was a little ABBA exhibit.

I also have my own personal ABBA-Australia connections. The main one being that I watched Mamma Mia on our plane voyage over. It kind of became my own personal soundtrack for our holiday.

I have some stuff in the past as well.

For awhile, I was really into editing videos for my family. In the first video I did, one of the songs I used was "I Have a Dream". Then my sister requested the same song when I made her life-synopsis video for her wedding. I used the song for the montage of her teen years. I ended up videotaping their whole wedding weekend as well. I used that song for the scene in which the bride and bridesmaids are waiting nervously in a boardroom.

How does that connect to Australia? Well, my sister and her husband went to Australia last February!

Then in another video, I used the song "Take a Chance on Me". In that montage, my cousin has Jack sitting on her lip. She's feeding him berries. And guess what? That cousin moved to Australia!

Oh! Here's another one. Well, kind of..... When we were in Port Stephens, the only other family, besides us, who were not from New South Wales were from Sweden. And hey.....Abba is Swedish.

Then when I was at the Double Bay playground, I met this couple. The wife was from Sweden. We talked about how we love Australia. She said the first time she came over she was in the Perth airport. Without even leaving the damn airport, she knew she loved it. She called her mom and told her she wanted to live here someday.

So, there you go.

The ABBA-Australia connection.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Day 11....in which we get to imagine we're the Irwin Family

I dreamed about the fires. There is some kind of counseling program that's teaching people to respect the victims who chose to stay in their house instead of fleeing. The idea is that if these people had lost their house they would have lost everything.

The dream gave me a lot to think about.

I'm not very materialistic. There's no THING in my house that's precious enough that I'd want to risk my life or my family's life to save it.  But we have insurance. We also have family who could and would help us if we lost our house. I don't think all people are that lucky. What will happen to these people who lost their homes? Can and will the government help all of them? Will our Red Cross donations be able to provide everyone with new houses?

It was very touching to watch all that was done for the fire victims: refugee camps with donated clothing; visiting rock stars; children in circles playing games; politicians hugging families.

But where will these families be five years from now?'

I fear that most of them will be forgotten. There will be new tragedies for us to think about.

I know Australia has raised a lot of money for the fire victims. Does any of the money go to long-term projects, or is most of it just for immediate relief?

All right. This website says that people who owned destroyed homes can get a recovery grant of $50,000. That's pretty good, but I'm not sure it's good enough. Is that enough money to rebuild? I sort of doubt it.

I'm NOT trying to criticize the Australian Government in any way. I know we're all in a financial crisis. I know there's not enough money around to make everything perfectly okay again.

It's good that so many people are reaching out to help. Bad things do bring out the best in people. Maybe that's why they happen. Still, it's awful, and millions of generous hearts can only do so much. The sad thing is we're still left with some people whose lives are forever destroyed.

Well, this is a cheery post.

Okay, time for other stuff.....

I did laundry again that morning. Don't ask me why we already had more clothes to wash.

We then went to a nearby town called Gungahlin. I don't remember why we decided to go here. We did still needed a charger for Jack's Nintendo DS and that's what we looked for at the mall. Maybe that's why we went?

Tim finally found something that would work for us. It's something that allows you to connect the DS to a laptop and get charged that way.

The name of the town reminded us of McLeod's Daughters because the town they'd drive almost every episode to is called Gungellan. The look of the town reminded me of Poltergeist! It looks so much like Questa Verde. I should have taken more pictures. Oh well. You guys will just have to trust me on this one.

We ate lunch at a coffee shop.

I don't remember the name, and miraculously neither does Jack.

I'm thinking maybe I have things backwards. Maybe we went to the mall and then I did the laundry. Not that it matters really.....

Later in the afternoon, we headed to the zoo. Our tour didn't begin until 4:00, but we decided to go early so we'd have a chance to tour the zoo. I foolishly worried that our tour tickets wouldn't get us prior admission to the zoo. I don't know why I would think that.

They let us in. The woman working at the admission desk was American. She had moved to Australia. I wasn't jealous or anything. Not at all. Jealousy is not in my vocabulary. I'm fine with who I am and what I have.

All right. I was EXTREMELY jealous.

I've come to the point where I'm usually okay with the idea of us not moving to Australia. I'm fine with the idea of just blogging about Australia and visiting every few years. But when I meet a person who has migrated, all those feelings and desires rush back.

Anyway, we walked around the zoo.

We came too early. The zoo's really not that big. Still, we enjoyed ourselves.

Tim had a major bonding moment with a Capuchin monkey. He would do things and the monkey would copy him.

I was a little jealous about that too. I once had a thing going on with a Capuchin in Chattanooga. Tim's monkey love reminded me of my own past one.

I had blood sugar issues again. I worried about being hungry on the tour so I decided to eat then. The only thing I had was the Cadbury candy bar Tracey had given me. I ate that, but since I had to share with Tim and Jack, I was still hungry. Tim remembered they had a cafe so we went to get a snack.

Then we had our tour.

The zoo keeper woman was very sweet. Jack adored her. And I think she was impressed with how much information he has floating in his little head.

Jack is very smart. I TRY not to push him to display his brilliance in front of people. I know that annoys the hell out of people and it also greatly annoys Jack. But I'm very pleased when he reveals it on his own. Sorry. I can't help it. I'm wicked. What can I say?

We fed the sharks first. Actually, the sharks weren't hungry so we really fed the fish that were in the shark tank.

Next, we got to hold a snake. Tim passed on that activity. Watching was enough for him. I should have told him not to worry. If a snake strangles you, it just feels like a mosquito bite.

Jack fears ants. Tim fears snakes. I'm afraid of bears. They give me the creeps. They're so big. Yikes.

But my fear of bears is not as bad as my fear of vomit and Irukandji. It's something I can face, and I wanted to set a good example for Jack. He knows about my dislike of bears and was curious to what my reaction would be. I think he was pleased to see me choosing to participate in feeding them.

We fed a tiger.

We fed a lion.

I never really felt like we were in danger. I think they're pretty good at keeping tour participants safe. I wouldn't feel good doing any activity, with Jack ,in which we actually went into the enclosure with a dangerous animal. I think that's way too risky. I don't care how friendly and tame an animal is. There's always the chance they could attack. I've heard that Cheetah's are not likely to cause harm. We might try an encounter with them someday. But I wouldn't have trust in any establishment that allowed children to enter an enclosure with lions, tigers, bears, etc.

Zoos themselves are always a bit risky whether you do a tour or not. In San Francisco, a tiger escaped and attacked the people who had earlier been taunting him. In Dallas, a gorilla escaped and harmed four people. Recently in NSW's South Coast, an escaped Lioness was shot dead before she could harm anyone. It's very sad.

I try to forget those stories when I'm visiting any zoo. When it comes down to it, we're definitely more at risk when we're DRIVING to the zoo.

We learned the Canberra Zoo is privately owned. The owners actually live at the zoo. It's like the Irwins! Don't they live at their zoo?

Yikes. I just looked at the Irwin's zoo website. They have tiger encounters. They don't allow children though. That's good.

Well, back to our tour....

The one enclosure we did get to enter was the Emu one. I was scared to feed Emus in Tasmania because they look very aggressive. It looks like they'll bit your hand when you're handing them the food. Well, it turns out they DO bite your hand. But the bite doesn't hurt. It's kind of like a pinch, but you don't really feel it.

The keeper then talked about the mountain lion den. I figured that would be next on our agenda to feed.

We went into this cave area and the keeper went to a cage. I assumed for some reason the mountain lion got live prey. All the other carnivorous animals got fed dead animals.

Despite the fact that I'm vegetarian, I'm not really that sentimental about animals. I understand the whole circle of life thing. I know that animals eat each other in the wild. I've seen snakes eat mice and didn't whine or shed tears about it. But for some reason, I suddenly felt incredibly sad that this animal was experiencing his last moments of life.

I watched the keeper reach into the cage. She took out a snake! I was a bit surprised. I expected it to be some kind of large rodent.

Now I felt worse. I'm more of a reptile fan than a rodent one.

Poor snake. So sad.

And then she told us his name.

Shit! They name their food?

No. I quickly realized that this was not the mountain lion's dinner. In fact, we weren't even going to be feeding the mountain lion. She had brought us in here to show us some American animals. This little guy was a corn snake. He was cute. We got to hold him.

I was so glad he got to live which is ridiculous. We used the meat of other animals to feed animals that day. They were once as alive as that little corn snake. They lost their lives too. Yet, I felt nothing. Why? I don't know.

The zoo tour ended.

Jack bought a rubber snake with his allowance. He pretended to give us zoo tours in the car. He loves to do that.

Later, we went back to Gungahlin for dinner and ate at a place called Central Cafe. It was a very friendly place. The portions were HUGE though. I can't remember if the food was good or not. I think it probably was. I can't remember it being bad.