Sunday, March 29, 2015

Ten Things that I've Started Doing in Australia that People Should Do All the Time (#6-10)

Here are the remaining things that I have started doing since moving to Australia that I really should have been doing for a long time and should continue to do once we move back to the States... If you missed the first five things, you can check that list out here

#6 Use Cloth Bags
I love the idea of doing my part to make the world a better and healthier place. I have always cut the plastic rings that come off of canned drinks (even though Blake says that the dolphins are safe from that kind of stuff now), have never purposefully littered, and I recycle the things that I know can be recycled. When I lived in Houston, I even bought a dozen reusable bags from HEB totally expecting to use them every trip that I took to the grocery store.
I think I might have used them once. 
I forgot them in the back of the Jeep every trip. 
Since we've moved here, we feel like amateurs without our cloth bags.
That first day at the QVM (Queen Victoria Market) surrounded by people with their cloth bags or the sign the says "Do you really need plastic bags?" hanging over the bags when you checkout...
It is social shaming, I tell you!
Aside from being environmentally savvy and "like the cool kids", it makes sense for us to use cloth bags since they have to hold up through the distance that we have to travel to get back home with our goods. 

#7 Make Smoothies
I'm not a crazy smoothie-making person.
I only like the sweet, fruity smoothies at Smoothie King, and I can never seem to clean out my blender without cutting my finger. 
But... I was getting desperate trying to find ways for Samantha and Easton to get some veggies into their systems.
They refuse to eat a lot of the food that is common here.
Every night at dinner there is a constant battle to get them to eat.
Endless compromising is the only way to get them to eat those two tiny bites of broccoli.
 "Do you want dessert? Well? Do you?!"
After buying a blender with the Australian plug, I've started making smoothies for them with the fresh fruits and veggies that we pick up at the market each week. (And carry home in our cloth bags...) I don't think I've ever bought so much spinach and kale. 
Who am I kidding? I never bought kale.
... Didn't even know what it was until I googled it.
I'm so sneaky, but, hey, they are getting some vegetables now without promises of ice cream or Tims Tams. 
#8 Shop at Local Markets
It's cheaper, it's fresher, and it's local to the community.
Enough said.
Plus, where else can you find the best doughnuts, wine, kangaroo ribs, tacky souvenirs, and watermelon all at the same time?
  See the kale?!
Third time in my entire life to ever purchase, recorded here!

#9 Leave Your Doors and Windows Open
 When Blake and I signed our lease for our apartment, we had to agree to open the windows and/or doors for at least ten minutes every day to help prevent the growth of mold.
Crazy, right?
When I asked why, the realtor looked at me as though I was the crazy one.
Trying to be the good tenants that we are,  I started making a honest attempt at opening the balcony doors, and soon I discovered that - the fresh air, the street sounds, the smells of the local restaurants wafting into the apartment - it was really kinda nice. 
When I was a kid in Tennessee and even in Oklahoma, we used to open the windows around the house all the time. I guess that moving to Houston, we stopped opening the windows.
The mosquitoes are scary aggressive.
I'm not kidding.
(This is not our apartment, just an adorable bookstore with their windows open. - How cute is this place, though!?)
 Everyone here has their windows and doors open; they seem to enjoy that fresh air too.
And there are no mosquitoes! 
Again, I'm not kidding.

#10 Think about Christmas and Birthdays Non-Stop
Okay, so I have always tried to get an early start on Christmas shopping (say in like September/October) and I like to always stay ahead of the birthday gift-thing, but since moving here... I'm at a whole other level of gift-shopping than "over-achiever".  
I'm actually at the level of "crazy, OCD over-achiever". 
It is the end of March, and I'm already rocking the Christmas list and birthday gifts. 
Being over here, I feel a certain amount of pressure (that I have put on myself) to come up with outstanding gifts for my family and friends. 
Ordering something off of 
No way! I'm in flippin' Australia.
My people are wanting kangaroos and didgeridoos!
I totally understand that no one may care about this more than I do, but I miss my nephews. I miss my family and my friends. I miss Texas and Oklahoma. 
Thinking about Christmas and birthdays, picking out gifts and storing them away reminds me that I'll see everyone soon, and I had better be packing some awesome goodies to take back with me. 
(From the front of a little gift I bought for the littlest member of the family...)

So... I've listed my ten things. I probably could have thought of a few more to add, but these seem like things that I would be able to do and should do once we aren't here. 
Unlike "Say 'G-day, mate!' at least twelve times a day"...
That one probably wouldn't work back home.
Maybe this list will help me remember when I get home...

G'day mate! 
(Whew! There's twelve for today!)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Brighton Beach Bathing Boxes

Blake decided to take the day off from work today.
While the kids and I had been to a few places outside of Melbourne, Blake hadn't escaped the city with the one exception of heading to Albert Park for the Grand Prix.

We work up, ate breakfast, got dressed, and made a beeline for the train station. Descending down underground to Platform 13, we boarded the train towards Sandringham.

Exiting at Brighton Beach, we made the 1.5km walk along the shoreline towards its most famous beach, Dendy Street Beach. Here we found the iconic Brighton Bathing Boxes that line the coast with the most colorful appeal.

There are currently 82 bathing boxes standing in Brighton, and though there are several thousands on the beaches of Australia, these are popular because of their close proximity to Melbourne's central business district, where we live.

They are crazy gorgeous and festive and just downright fun. They are owned by local individuals and are used for storage and personal space.
Easton and Samantha made a solid effort trying to open the door of pretty much all 82... 
We were there awhile.

In 2008 the boxes were being sold at around $200,000A each! Totally crazy considering the lack of amenities...

How cool would it be, though, to walk up to your bathing box and be like,
"Umm... Yea. This is mine."

We'd actually have to live in it full-time, and since it is essentially a storage shed it probably wouldn't work out all that well, huh? 

How cute are these, though? 
I'd definitely paint mine lime green... 

... And paint pictures of boxes taking showers all over it because I would find it hilariously ironic.

Samantha and Easton loved the beach more than anything else.
Easton actually told me how much fun he was having more than once.
It made my heart happy.

Then I thought about "bathing boxes" and may have laughed out loud. 

^ Can you see the shell Easton was trying to skip?

We had a great time!
It really was worth all the fuss.
So beautiful. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Four Years

My mom passed away four years ago today.

Every year I start to feel the pressure of the day creeping towards me, closer and closer like a dense, rolling fog, until the day is upon me, and I can't breath or function properly. I can't think of anything beyond the minute by minute details that engulf me each year on this day. It is like a movie that runs right behind my eyelids, distracting me from what is actually happening around me, forcing me to relive the day once again.  

It was and still is the most horrible day that I have ever experienced. 
And that says a lot because I once had a day where I had started bleeding after I had just completed a round of IVF, but that day wasn't so bad because it was also the day that Blake and I found out that we were having twins.

I had gone to school that morning. I was five months pregnant with Samantha and Easton, and I was teaching kindergarten. I was happy and tired. Blake and I had just come home from Fort Worth the weekend before where Blake's mom, dad, and the entire neighborhood had celebrated the twins with us with a wonderful baby shower that my family had driven from Oklahoma City to be a part of. We had a great time. My mom and sister, Kelsey, had bought the most precious socks from BabyGap and a yellow sweater for Samantha from Ralph Lauren Polo.
I still have those socks and that sweater.
It was a Tuesday. 
I had told my mom that I was going to call her on Monday, but I didn't. I did what I did every night... I fell asleep on the couch until Blake woke me up and we went to bed. 

Early into the school day, the school's principal, Helen, walked to my classroom door with the Spanish teacher, Julie. Helen wanted Julie to watch my class while I went with her to the school office. 
I thought I was in trouble. I racked my brain trying to think about all of the things that I might have done or forgotten to do that I would be in trouble for. 
She led me to her office where I walked in to see Blake standing in front of her desk. At first I had been happy to see him, but I felt a distinct terror when I saw the look on his face. 

The first thought that flew into my head was of my brother, Jonathan. I don't know why. I almost asked Blake, "What happened to Jonathan?", but I couldn't bring myself to say that. All I asked was, "What's wrong?".

"Your mom passed away this morning." And I started to cry. 

She couldn't have died. I was supposed to call her last night, and I didn't. I was going to call her tonight.  
She couldn't have died. She went to bed on Friday night and when the babies started kicking, I didn't wake her up to feel them. She never got to feel them kicking.  
She couldn't have died. She wasn't old. She had beaten cancer's ass for years and years... Almost twenty years. She had gotten cancer when she was so young. 
She couldn't have died. I wasn't ready for her to be gone. 

Blake drove me home, packed my bag, and put me back in the car. 
We were in the car for a few hours before I even thought about Kelsey. When Blake explained to me what my little sister had to do that morning upon finding our mom, my heart cracked into two pieces. I can't even begin to describe the pain that I physically felt at that moment and for the remaining car ride to Oklahoma. 

This was too horrible. This was all too much for me to handle. It was too much for Kelsey and too much for Jonathan. It was too much hurt and shock and raw pain to handle. But... Somehow we made it through that day and the next day and the next day. We all slept at Jonathan's house because we couldn't bear to not be together under the same roof during the planning and the prepping and the storm of activity that follows when someone dies. 
We found that God had given us a bit of time to be together masked by a pastor retreat at our church. Without a pastor, we couldn't have a funeral, so we had to wait for the retreat to end. I woke up early to complete lesson plans for the substitute back at school and to write the dozens upon dozens of thank you cards to the people who sent kindness and comforts in all forms. We watched movies at night and stayed close throughout each day.

At my mother's funeral, I felt as though I was having an out of body experience. I sat in the first row, held Blake's hand. I cried when I saw that Kristin had driven all the way from Houston to be there for me. Shaking hands with people and trying to remember that this wasn't a happy, "good to see you" reunion was awkward and uncomfortable. Everything felt wrong.  

She couldn't have died.

She died...
...Four years ago today, and it was a horrible, horrible day. 

This day doesn't define who she was or what she did in her life, which, I think, is why this day is so hard. The horrible memories of that day come to the forefront of your mind, and those memories temporarily cloud all the happiness and the joy that normally surrounds you. 
When you think of her you just think about how she's not there. You think about how she's not getting to hug her three (soon to be four) grandchildren. You think about all the things that she is missing. 

When you think of her you don't think about how her hair was so big you could find her at the store by the height of her massive curls. You don't think about how you would sneak into her bed as a child, and you knew she was asleep if you could hear that quiet clicking in the back of her throat. You don't think about her manic rush to get to the beach before everyone else was awake just so she could claim the best spot on the sand.

These are the memories that I want to have, not the memories of March 23rd four years ago. I know that as horrible as this day was, it does not have to define what I know about my mother. She was so much more than her death and her battle with cancer. All I need is to wait for tomorrow.