Updates from Down Under

Wow, it’s been a while, huh?

Life has been, well, busy. It’s strange but my blogging stopped about the same time Declan became mobile. I completely missed a post when he turned 8 months. Probably because I was too busy tending to a black eye, or picking up the lamp he pulled down, or stopping him from biting Stella, or keeping him from trying to ride her scooter.

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Or, more likely, we’ve just been settling into living life down under.

Quick updates on the kids.

Declan is now 9 (nine!) whole months old. I cannot believe it. As we have yet to find a doc, I don’t have any stats on his height or weight. From my step on and step off the scale approach, he’s about 9 kilos (almost 20 pounds). He’s starting to burst out of his 9 month PJ’s but still fits comfortably into 9 month tops and bottoms. He has 5 teeth (the 6th is gleaming through the gums). He is a mobile maniac! Started crawling at 7 months and started walking with his walker at 8.5 months and now, climbing at 9.

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Boys. Yikes! You boy mamas tried to warn me… I believe you now!

Speaking of boys, this kid has quite the appetite! He starts shrieking at dinner time! He cannot get food into his mouth fast enough. It’s equal parts terrifying and hilarious. One of these days I will film it. For now I’m too harried trying to get food in front of him! His sensitive little tummy is getting better. We’ve been doing a hybrid of BLW and purees to fill him up but have recently started giving him bits of what we’re eating. He seems to be handling it well.

Sleep. Ah, precious sleep. After numerous visits to the naturopath and chiropractor, we reached the conclusion that the kid just needs to learn to sort himself out. We moved Declan’s cot (Aussie speak for crib) into Stella’s room and moved Stella into our room. Phill spent a few nights in with Declan before being driven to the couch. That Declan, he’s won the battle against us all and gotten his very own room. The first night or two he woke 2 or 3 times and cried for about 5 minutes. Now he’s down to waking just once, around 3, crying for a few minutes and then passing back out again. As soon as he stops doing that, we can finally, FINALLY, have Stella and Declan sharing a room. All in all, it’s a major leap and I think we can safely say, the kid is finally SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!

Stella, my gorgeous, sweet, sassy (really sassy) little girl. She’s been busy with swim lessons, which she takes very seriously.

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We are still visiting the Manly Library twice a week for Story Time. She is obsessed with the songs and talks about the craft portion all week long. She is still an amazing big sister to Declan. She really and truly adores him. But she also loves getting 100% of my attention and that just can’t happen much anymore. When Declan is getting praised for something or getting all the attention, she turns into a little naughty tornado. It has gotten better but we’re a long way off from her dealing with it well.

Stella had a bout with the nasty Aussie gastro bug last week. Hers was quick (24 hours). A big vom in the evening, then ran fever in the morning. She has an amazing immune system and was all better after 24 hours.

I, however, was not as lucky. Two days after her bug, the pain woke me around midnight. You guys. I had no idea the stomach flu could even be that bad. I spent all night on the bathroom floor, alternating from sleep to throwing up. The only way I can describe the pain of the cramps was that they were like a contraction. This past weekend was spent in a blur for me. It took me 24 hours to run a fever and start to fight off the nastiness. I’m so thankful it hit on Friday night and that Phill wasn’t traveling. He kept the kids going and the house running all weekend. I’m serious, dishes washed, laundry washed, folded and put away, kids fed, bathed and entertained. He is the most amazing man!

To add to the weekend fun, my iPhone decided it was the perfect time to die. And died it did. Phill worked on it all Sunday night to no avail. So yesterday I had to make my way to the Apple store half an hour away in Chatswood, in the rain, with both kids, with NO navigation! Phill left for Perth today and left me his mobile hotspot thinga-something so I could use my iPad for directions. Whatever it is, it didn’t work. The maps app kept freezing. I ended up calling Phill on Skype (somehow that worked?) and had him talk me through the final directions. Insanity. The kids were, thankfully, so chill and cooperative. A little gift from God. We finally escaped the mall and headed home, refurbed iPhone in hand. WITH NAVI! On the way home, we ended up going a different route. It was actually quite scenic. Stella and I were chatting about the wind and how to know if it was windy if you weren’t outside to actually feel the wind. Declan started crying (poor mobile kid was DONE with being cooped up in a car seat and stroller all afternoon) so I rolled the windows down to distract him. It worked. Stella went quiet, too… After a minute, she started giggling and saying, “MOM! I’ve got my hand out the window!” I had to stifle the urge to tell her to keep her hands in the car. I’m glad I did because a quick glance in my mirror revealed she barely had her little fingers out the window. She giggled again and said, “MOM! I can feel the wind! Have you ever done this mom? It’s so cool! Mom! I can feeeeeeeeeeel the wind!” I was so blown away by the sweet childhood innocence of what she was exclaiming. I mean, of course I have. But it was so amazing to see her experience that sensation for the first time. She was so very excited… It filled me with such joy to see her having this moment! I love that I get to see the eyes of the world through a child. It’s such a gift.

In other news wedding planning is coming along! We still have a few decisions to make and I have a to-do list a mile (kilometer?) long. We are getting on a plane in 4 short weeks. We’ll fly to Hawaii for 2 days then hop back on a plane bound for Austin arriving on the 14th. I am getting so excited to come home!

Also, I picked up my camera again… And it felt so good.

3 years old

3 years

9 months

9 months

Blogging is one of my favorite things to do, kind of therapeutic actually, so I hope we chat again soon!

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Stella the Nurturer

I loved seeing all the back to school pictures friends posted this week! I can’t even imagine the disaster I’ll certainly be on Stella’s first day of kindergarten. If her first day of preschool was any indication, medication, or copious amounts of tissue and chocolate, may be in order.

Since Stella is not in school anymore, I’m striving to find educational and socially engaging activities to keep her little brain moving. Her favorite activity thus far is storytime at the local library. She wakes up every morning and, after asking Declan’s whereabouts, says “what’s coming up today, mom?” Followed by, “is it the library?!”

Library lover

Library lover

She sat here and told me she wanted to be sure she could see the pictures. (Story time didn’t begin for another 10 minutes.)

At Tuesday’s visit to the library, we were seated towards the back when she spotted a little girl cradling her baby doll. Stella looked up at me, and with wide eyes said, “Mommy, where is my baby Coco?” Ummm, whoops. (Baby Coco is crammed in a box somewhere in our storage unit in Texas.) The next day I bought her a new baby doll that came with it’s own pram. It was dirt cheap (which is hard to find here in Australia) at just $20 but has made her so happy.

Stella and "Baby Sara"

Stella and “Baby Sara”

Baby Sara goes everywhere with her now. As I push Declan along (in the double pram she won’t ride in anymore) she pushes baby Sara alongside me. If I’m rocking the stroller back and forth at a cross walk to keep him asleep, she copies that. She even pretends to release the brake! And she copies this, too.

Nursing her baby

Nursing her baby

It is precious. Like, beyond.

She loves being a “little mommy.”

Nap time... at the play park

Nap time… at the play park

Other kids go to the park to run slide, swing, and generally run amok. Stella’s play is putting her baby to bed. She has an AMAZING imagination. And I just love her nurturing nature with Sara AND Declan. I can only dream that she always loves her brother as much as she does right now.

P.S. That pram? Yeah, the handle broke off 25 hours after purchase. POS. Good thing she has a birthday next month!

Stella is 2 years, 11 months

Chin is Up

I am a lucky gal to have such kind, insightful and encouraging people in my life. Thank you all for the virtual hand holding!

This past weekend I had friends come to Sydney. They take an annual birthday trip in August and this year they chose Australia (lucky me). I joined my friends J, Letti, Nolan & Christine for dinner in the city at Rockpool Bar and Grill. The decor was art deco, the food was divine, the service was top-notch and the company couldn’t be beat. Sunday morning they joined me in Manly and we walked along the boardwalk before lunching at Pantry Manly. Another amazing meal (thank you, Jill)! And both restaurants were very gluten-free friendly!

Manly Beach with J on his BDay

Manly Beach with J on his BDay

Side note: Phill stayed with the kids while I was gallivanting around Sydney all weekend. Ladies, yes, he is amazing.

I really enjoyed the visit from my American friends. It was the first visit to Australia for all of them. So, as the only resident (of 2.5 weeks) of the bunch, I filled them in on everything I knew. The lingo, the history, places to eat, things to see, stuff to do… I explained as much as I could and did so with passion and gusto. With every story, every explanation, my happiness level crept up and up. I was playing tour guide, if only for a few hours, and got to explain how totally badass the town is where I now reside. It was a surge to my sagging spirits, a boost to my bummed out, homesick attitude. I live in an amazing part of the world, a place where people dream of visiting. Pity party is over, y’all!

I will leave you with several photos from our walk around the Cove on Sunday morning. Cheers!

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Picking out mommy, daddy, Stella & Declan shells

Picking out mommy, daddy, Stella & Declan shells

Choices

So Phill is away on his first business trip since we arrived in Australia. Exactly two weeks after we arrived. But, hey, who’s counting?

I’ll be honest and tell you all that I am struggling. Life in Oz is vastly different from our life in Austin. Phill’s working a lot more. I’m at a loss without the arsenal of a full kitchen so we are eating out a lot. Stella’s not in school anymore. I spend a good part of every day mentally preparing to drive on the (wrong) left side of the road. Boy, oh boy. That will be an adventure!

Need this said to me on repeat.

Need this said to me on repeat.

I could take solace in the fact that at least we moved to a country where they speak English and aren’t facing a language barrier like my friends in Switzerland. The Aussies do, however, have their own language and style of speaking. But that’s a post for another day.

Tonight, in a desperate attempt to elicit a third nap out of Declan, I popped the kids in the pram and headed out. We walked through the Corso and over to one of the play parks located on the boardwalk of Manly Beach. We left there and headed toward Shelly Beach. It was getting dark and Stella kept asking if it was past her bedtime. We turned back and headed home about halfway to Shelly Beach. We walked along in silence until Stella said, “Mommy, I like going places in the stroller instead of the car.”

Her statement has really stayed with me. I’ve spent all evening mulling over what she said. Our life in Austin was, as is all of Texas, rather sedentary. Need to pick up a prescription? Car. Want to go to Lincoln’s house? Car. Dinner out? Car. Groceries? Car (ok, that was walkable, when it wasn’t 100 degrees). Anyway, you get the picture.

I am still amazed that my (almost) three year old had that thought and was able to articulate it to me.

Since we’ve been here, Stella has flourished. She’s zooming all over the place. Skipping, jumping, running, running, running. She’s never been a very physical kid so this is new for her. And, apparently, it suits her well!

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy wallowing in my own misery and homesickness. To hear that she is pleased with this aspect of our new life here in Australia makes me deliriously happy. Maybe even enough to boost me out of my funk.

I think we will look back on our choice to move to Australia with fondness and appreciation. Living the ex-pat life will, and maybe already has, changed us forever. Best decision ever?

Possibly.

Sunset in Manly

Sunset in Manly

P.S. I never did get Declan to take that nap.

Life in Manly

Life here in Manly is pretty sweet. We are surrounded by such beauty with all the perks of a city within walking distance. This beach is basically our front yard.

Manly Cove

Manly Cove

Beach babe

Beach babe

Manly Wharf is just across the street.

Atop the shell at the Wharf

Atop the shell at the Wharf

We live a block from the Corso, the center of Manly filled with restaurants and cafes, all kinds of shops, even a play park.

Kids at the Corso play park

Corso play park

And I take a daily walk along the boardwalk with sights like this.

Manly Beach

Manly Beach

Stella will start school again (twice a week) in January. So, for now, I get to spend all day every day with my two amazing children. I’ve been given an amazing gift.

But, you guys, I am homesick! The feeling started creeping up a couple of days ago but has really come on strong today. I miss my car, Wheatsville, my family, my friends, Stella’s friends, my gym, my coffee machine (tear). I miss being able to call up friends for a last minute dinner (and knowing where to go). I miss my favorite gluten-free brands. I miss Stella’s school (or I miss Stella going to school… ?).

On top of all this, we are tired. Bone tired. Declan is super smiley and all around adorable during the day. But he turns into this awful crying, whining, giant fuss bomb at night. He is the WORST SLEEPER. I want to blame teething but I’m not sure I can anymore – it’s been almost 4 solid weeks of this.

Please do not think I am ungrateful. I do know this is an amazing opportunity and adventure my family is on. I just felt like having a good vent. So thank you, thank you very much for listening.

UPDATE: Just after I posted this, Daniel Tiger came on the TV. Thank you God, thank you Universe. We needed that little piece of home.

And it was a NEW EPISODE!

And it was a NEW EPISODE!

UGGA MUGGA! 🙂

No Boys Allowed

This weekend Stella and I had ourselves a lovely “girl date.” We went to one of the numerous cafes in Manly, Three Beans, for a gluten-free cupcake and a babycino. Stella was happily in her element! Using her dessert fork, she took the tiniest of bites of her cupcake and carefully sipped her ‘cino.

My super cute date

My super cute date

And last night, I went into Sydney with Jill, Polly and Brigette for a girls night out. Polly and Brigette are fellow Americans living in Manly. They could really empathize with my newbie status and all the circumstances and emotions that go along with that. We took the ferry and went to Peter Doyle for dinner, which is located in the Quay. Their website claims “great food, great views, great wine and a great time with friends.” And that is EXACTLY what it was. Our table overlooked the harbour and the Opera House and was simply magical. And, since this is the only picture I got, I made them all agree we just have to go out to dinner again and get ourselves a proper GNO picture.

View from our table at Peter Doyle

View from our table at Peter Doyle

And, maybe I’ll even have a few more questions after that…. and need another dinner……

The Simpsons are Down Under – G’Day Y’all!

So, here we are. Halfway around the world. Pretty surreal!

We left Texas almost one week ago but it feels like a lifetime has passed. Our new home, Manly, Australia, is a bustling seaside suburb of Sydney. It’s surrounded on three sides by water and has 18 ocean beaches. It’s winter here now, with Spring approaching. But even winter temps are lovely. Highs near 70 and sunny most days!

It’s an odd feeling, leaving home and starting a new life in a foreign country. It still feels like we are vacation, to be honest. The kids have taken well to the change. Stella has loved getting to see her daddy every day. And both of them love all the walking we’re doing. There are children and prams (strollers) everywhere! Manly is such a kid-friendly place.

Since we arrived we have spent lots of time with our dear friends, the Buntings. Phill and Kyle worked together years ago at Message One and then with Dell after they were acquired. Phill is pretty happy to be back in the same town as his buddy. And I am pretty happy that his buddy has such a lovely wife! Jill has been instrumental in making us feel welcome and keeping me from losing my mind. We are really very lucky to have fellow former Austinites to lend a helping hand.

We are currently staying in a serviced apartment (thanks Dell!) so our first Saturday was spent house hunting. The way the rental market works here is a bit funny. You are allowed to “inspect” the properties two days a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The inspections last for a mere 15 minutes (sometimes 20) and you are “inspecting” along with everyone else. We toured four different apartments and loved two of them. We submitted our applications and held our breath. You pay by the week here so we offered just a bit more than asking. The agents will review the applications and then make a recommendation to the owner as to which applicant they believe is the best candidate.

On to the pictures! Our flight over was really not bad at all. It’s a night flight and Stella slept 10 of the 15 hours. Declan did not earn any sleeping awards, that’s for sure. But overall, he slept about 10 hours as well. Phill and I were lucky enough to get about 5. Qantas Airlines is the nicest airline I’ve ever flown! I swear that economy on Qantas is nicer than first on American. Choice of dinner entree, four wine selections and beer, too. Not to mention the crew was incredibly nice and eager to make our experience the best possible. Here are some of my favorite snapshots from the flight over.

My sleepy family

My sleepy family

Declan actually sleeping (!) in the bassinet on the plane

Declan actually sleeping (!) in the bassinet on the plane

iPad = Lifesaver

iPad = Lifesaver

Delirious and silly outside of Customs

Delirious and silly outside of Customs

And, WE’RE HERE!! Hello Manly Beach!

Manly Beach is our backyard!

Manly Beach is our backyard!

Off she goes....

Off she goes….

Sharks at the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

Sharks at the Manly Sea Life Sanctuary

Peek-a-boo sharks!

Peek-a-boo sharks!

Our first official Aussie barbie! Thanks Buntings!

Our first official Aussie barbie! Thanks Buntings!

Rapunzel, Snow White & Ariel (aka Natalie, Stella & Mila)

Rapunzel, Snow White & Ariel (aka Natalie, Stella & Mila)

Awaiting the ferry into Sydney

Awaiting the ferry into Sydney

Simpsons & the Sydney Opera House

Simpsons & the Sydney Opera House

Gorgeous

Gorgeous

Stella & Nate bonding & the Harbour Bridge

Stella & Nate bonding & the Harbour Bridge

Lastly, two pics from today.

As Phill went back to work this morning, it was just me and the kids today. I took them to the Manly Library for Preschool Story Time. It lasted a full hour and really kept Stella’s attention! At the end was a craft and she eagerly participated. Afterwards we went to my new favorite spot, Pure Wholefoods, for lunch.

Thank goodness there's only one!

Thank goodness there’s only one. Don’t think the world is big enough for two Stellas!

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Sweet little six month old.

Darling little Declan… He had a rough day thanks to teething. I checked out his gums this morning and those white buds are just beneath the surface. In true Declan style, he smiles while he’s crying!

Coming up the rest of this week we plan to find Target (YES), shop the Sydney markets, join Jill and Nate for a playdate, head to the library again and, on Saturday, Jill and I are having a GIRL DATE in the city. No husbands and, more importantly, NO KIDS. Very excited!

Until next time, I wish you G’day…

P.S. YES, I know my blog is lame. Bear with me as I navigate WordPress. 🙂