Monday, January 15, 2018

Big Travels Part 1: America

Thus begins the record of the travel adventures from December 2017.

The girls were super excited to be finally on their way to see Steve when we left home for the airport. As was I. Only the usual airport hassles as we cleared passport checks and customs and onto the plane. Here are the girls with their travel buddies from my godmother and their fluffy neck pillows borrowed from some bible study friends. 

Though I encouraged them to sleep early, they didn't. They were however pretty great on the plane flight, and did both sleep in the end, I even slept too, though I'll never know why the flight attendant saw fit to wake me and give me a kids meal when both of my kids were asleep too.

I had wanted the reunion with Steve to be amazing and magical, but in the end it was really emotional and there were a lot of tears. I had had about four hours sleep in 48 hours, we were unable to find each other at the airport, and I couldn't get wifi anywhere which meant I couldn't contact Steve at all. When he finally got off the bus at the car hire place where we were waiting, there were so many tears. The girls hardly noticed because they were just so ecstatic that Steve was there.

Steve had driven in Seattle (up to Vancouver for the Thanksgiving weekend), so thankfully he managed driving to our airbnb really well. We just hung out that day, went to the local grocery store for supplies, lunch at Maccas etc.

The girls were tired, but also so excited to be with their dad and on their adventure that they lasted the day really well. We had told them that they couldn't sleep until after dinner. I was watching Rachel as she finished her first roll of sushi. It was like her mind did the math: "They said I could sleep after dinner. I've finished. I'm going to sleep." She put her head on the table and was out to it. It was hilarious.

We were all in bed pretty early that night, but managed to sleep through til 8:00 am! Take that jet lag! We drove out to Venice Beach late morning and had a bit of a look and walk around. Steve did some pokéwalking with the girls, which they loved. Actually despite all of the pokéwalking, we failed to catch the special American pokémon, which was a little disappointing. 

Sophie saw her first squirrel there too, which was exciting. She tells me now that squirrel's are her favourite animal. We were still pretty tired out that day, so we headed back home again fairly soon too. There is only so much you can do with kids the day after a long flight, even if they did manage to sleep through the night.

What I wasn't expecting on this first week back, was the way the girls really attached themselves to Steve again. They were so happy that their dad was back, that they were right next to him all the time. If he was sitting on the couch, they were right there next to him. It was beautiful, but I felt a little left out. Where was my time with Steve? I did get to have it, but it was a little hard sharing him that first week.

The next day we went back to the beach, this time Santa Monica, because it had been so great there before. The weather was very similar to an Australian winter actually, and there were Australian native plants everywhere! It was a little sureal to be walking along in Las Angeles and see Kangaroo Paw, Bottle Brushes and Bougainvillea. Did we even leave home?

We walked through downtown Santa Monica after some Chipotle lunch; delicious Mexican food! The best thing was these dinosaur features in the main street, which were just super cool.

We ended up back down at the beach at a small theme park called Paradise Pier. There was no entry fee but you had to buy tickets or an armband for rides. We ended up getting an arm band each, which was well worth it. The rides were pretty perfect for the girls and it was really quiet, so no lines at all. Steve was keen to take Sophie on some roller coasters, and to my surprise, she loved every minute of it. They are riding around in the second seat of the third section of the picture below. You can see Steve's hands in the air, though Sophie is too small to be seen.

Rachel was fairly devastated that she wasn't allowed on, being too small, but she did get ice cream instead, and that cheered her up a bit. It was a pretty rad day.

The next day we took the kids to a train museum, which was fun for them, and then a big park near Griffith Observatory. From there we went down to Hollywood Boulevard, which was probably the lowest point of our LA trip. It was so overrated, and when we got there it wasn't cool at all. Maybe if we could have done one of the tours looking at where different movies were filmed (which, I guess is not at Hollywood Blvd at all, you just start there), it might have been good, but with the girls, that was just not on the cards. It reminded us a lot of the Valley in Brisbane. Steve did try an Umami Impossible Burger, which, while a little saucy, was a good bite.

That night, I got to see some life-changing musical theatre: Hamilton. Oh my goodness. It was fantastic.

The entire thing is sung, so if you've got a soundtrack, you know all the words, but to see it on stage with the sets, costumes, choreography just takes it to another level entirely. Everything is so well done, it's just amazing. In an era of "Soundtrack Musicals", this is truly something new and well worth getting to see if you can. I hope it comes to Australia so I can see it again. The theatre it was done in, The Pantages, was just amazing too actually. Phenomenal.

The next day, we got up early, before the sun to drive south to Anaheim: Disneyland awaited! We were really lucky because in September, I had run into a friend of mine from teaching days at a trivia night and I had mentioned to her that we were planning on going. She had a friend who had been recently with kids and that friend ended up giving us a whole list of tips and tricks for doing Disneyland with the kids. It was expensive to get in, but so worth it, and the extra info we had meant we were pretty efficient with our time.

The girls were the right age for so many of the rides, and it was not busy, so I don't think we waited more than 15 minutes for a ride, and even then, that was only once. We bought our own snacks in, so we didn't have to buy too much food. We had booked a hotel for the night (we were doing two days at Disneyland), which again, was a great tip, because we could leave the park and walk back to our hotel for a rest in the afternoon. The girls really needed it, Rachel more than Sophie, but Steve just took Sophie back in the evening and they got to see the lights and go on more rides together, so that was pretty cool.

Here we all are on the Mary Poppins Carousel. This was probably the number one thing I wanted to do, so dream achieved!

The next day we were back again at California Adventure Land (which is just another Disneyland theme park), seeing more things and going on more rides. We were there at 8:00am, so no lines at all. I took the girls on another carousel, the Ferris Wheel and the Little Mermaid ride, while Steve smashed out three big roller coasters, including the new Guardians of the Galaxy one, which, from about 9:00am had a wait time of one hr at least.

We then went to a character breakfast in Ariel's Grotto, which was pretty expensive, but delicious and had the added bonus of five different Disney princesses showing up while you ate breakfast, so you didn't have to chase them all over the park for photos. The girls LOVED this so much. I have to say that being a Disney Princess would pretty much be my dream job. Get dressed up, walk around smiling and singing all day. Yes!

The girls were also really excited for Cars land, and just wanted to take photos of everything for Hugo. We had to leave about three to head straight to the airport for our flight to Budapest, but it was still a blast and we had such a great time. So much fun! Thanks America for being leg one of the Big Travels 2017.

Friday, January 05, 2018


I know I have to post about it, but it is taking me a long time to get to it, because I don't know where to start.

Yes, we travelled at the end of last year. Steve was away for six weeks and then the girls and I joined him for three weeks of family holiday. Three weeks of travelling over two continents; four countries (six, if you include stop overs).

Yes, the opportunity was amazing, the plans were fabulous and the experience was great. But also, yes, it was hard. We were travelling with two small children. Everything with children is harder, and travelling is no exception. Yes, it was exhausting.

People ask me how it was, and I don't know what to say. There is a balance between the two sides of the holiday that I am yet to find. I feel like to only talk about the wonderful fun times is a discredit to the struggle. And on the flip side, to only speak of the hardness is to ignore the amazing memories we made.

So that's where I am.

Suffice to say, I think we made the most of the time and energy we had. We did have a great time. We had a hard time, but a great time.

I'll be back to talk about it, soon I hope. For now, hang out at the Brisbane Airport Departures Gate with the girls: excited to be about to go on a new adventure.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Celebration Time!

This is a bit of a late and random update, but while we were waiting at the airport in Oslo for our flight to Budapest in mid December, I was using the free airport wifi and got an email saying that all of my TAFE assessments had finally been marked. HOORAY!

That's right people, if you remember, back in April 2017, I handed in my last workbook. So it took them about eight months to mark, but now it is done and I am officially Early Childhood Qualified. I was so excited at the time and there was pretty much only Steve to share the excitement with. I did try to tell the girls, but they didn't really get it.

Anyway, I guess now I can start doing what I've already been doing for nearly three years. Because I've got the paperwork yo!

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Friday, December 08, 2017

First Thought

When I woke up today: "It's TOMORROW!!!"

Flight leaves at 11:20am, and then we will be en-route to a blissful reunion with the Steve. Can't believe it's really here at last.

When I asked Sophie if she was excited for her last day of kindy, she said: "No. I'm excited to see Dad. That's what's really exciting."

Expect some radio silence for a while. We are about to embark on a crazy adventure!

Monday, December 04, 2017

Christmas Dress

Given our travel plans for this years, I wasn't planning on making the girls anything Christmas related at all. I told Sophie this, and she was totally fine with it. Until I also told her that we were going to a few Christmas parties in the next few weeks.

"Mum! I need a Christmas dress to wear to the Christmas parties!"

So, I obliged. I managed to find a hand me down one for Rachel, this scrappy one I made last year (sorry Rachel, hand me down's again. Promise I'll make a new one next year.) Then I asked Sophie what kind of dress she wanted. I gave her two options, the A-line dress with buttons that is quick and easy (despite the buttons) and I've used before heaps, (see here, here, here and here) or the Knot Dress that I used to make the girls dresses back in April.

Sophie didn't want either of these. She asked for one like a dress she had in her cupboard, from my parents travels somewhere. It looked fairly easy, so I pulled it out, traced around the different bits and sewed it up in an hour. All right for an afternoon's work.

It's a pretty rubbish photo, but she does love it.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Addiction Complete

The girls started playing Pokémon Go with Steve. He took them for a walk one day and then showed them how to catch things on his phone. Suddenly it was a thing. They asked to go for Poké-walks. They started to know all the names of the Pokémon. They knew more than me. Granted, all I really knew about Pokémon was that they evolved and there was a small yellow one called Pikachu, but even so!

I was a little against it at first, but it has actually been really lovely to go out with the girls on the weekends and walk around together. They love it, and we get to spend lots of time together outside. When we found out Steve was going to be away for six weeks, I knew that the girls wouldn't survive that long without a Poké-walk of some kind, so I even got it on my phone so we could play. 

It's been fun and I have loved seeing the girls expand the Pokémon into their own imaginary play too. They don't have any Pokémon specific toys, so their own stuffed toys became their Pokémon. It's been lovely beyond words, they don't need a Pikachu toy to have a Pikachu. Jungle Bear became Pikachu. The blue cow was now Snorlax. Rachel's Lady Bug was now Ledybar The little blue bear was now Squirtle. A little hard to keep up with I'll admit, but beautiful none the less. 

Anyway, given that their love for Pokémon is only expanding, I decided it was time to make them a little something. Time for sewing! 

Originally I was going to make two Pikachu, because I didn't want fights over this most-prized-of-all Pokémon, but lately, Sophie has been really into the Vulpix (Jungle Bear has even been renamed!) so I went with that. The picture below was my reference point. Sophie was very insistent that her Vulpix have red tones, not just brown. 

Image result for vulpix
Image from here.

Again, I used the Racoon Tutorial from Ikat Bag, who actually has a Menagerie pattern for this kind of thing (using a base pattern and manipulating it to make lots of different things), which I should totally buy, but just haven't yet for some reason. If you are interested in making soft toys though, it's a great place to start - some of the animals are amazing!

Rachel was pretty excited to be a part of the making process while Sophie was at kindy, but then they both got to help stuff them when Sophie got home. Sophie even held Vulpix's paw while I sewed up her back by hand and whispered things like: "It's ok Vulpix, it won't hurt for long" while I did it. 

I did want to make full size ones that are good and hugable for them (like Sophie's Tiger). Sophie especially likes to be able to give them hugs, but I rationalised that these would be coming with us on the long plane rides to the States in December, and a smaller size was much more travel appropriate. I did promise Sophie that I would make a larger one when we got back though. 

The girls are both over the moon excited about all of the Pokémon making potential and delighted at their first Pokémon. I think they want me to make them all. 

Pikachu looks a little out of proportion to me, I'm not sure why, and I know I should have put the ears on differently, but didn't realise that until it was finished. Oh well. I also regret assuming no one would see the stitching and using a dark coloured thread, because it's totally noticeable on the bright yellow Pikachu. So much regret! Rachel doesn't notice though.

I used safety eyes for the first time, and love how cool they look. Installation was not as scary as I thought. Looking forward to making bigger versions and more Pokémon in general. 

Hope you like them!