Tag Archives: Australia

Just Checking in

16 Jan

Not much is happening around here, and by “here”, I mean “in our condo.” There is big excitement all over Manila because Pope Francis is here, or as Mackenzie calls him, “Francis Pope,” and as Deacon calls him, “Bope.”

There are major roads shut down, our cell service has been shut off, traffic enforcers have been outfitted with diapers (I’m not even kidding) and apparently, there are an extra 6 million people in Manila who have traveled from the province to see him. Also, everything is shut down for 5 days while he’s here in the national capitol region. We are staying close to home because traffic is going to be (insert the worst adjective you can think of, and then throw a pinaka- in front of it to mean “the most extreme.”)

The weather is beautiful here right now (75-80* with 60% humidity, which is low for us), but I’m watching his arrival on TV, and he’s looking a little toasty in his papel attire.

Anyway, since I last posted, Josh and the girls arrived home safe and sound from Australia! They had a terrific time. Josh was the speaker for the entire group of teams from Victoria and he his devotionals and messages went really well. The girls had friends to play with all week, which was fantastic. Both the team that Josh played on and the team he coached made it to the Grand Final, but lost, so he was bummed about that.

They arrived on Sunday afternoon, so the boys and I went to church and then Slappy Cakes for lunch. I love watching their creativity come out with pancake batter on a skillet!

When Josh and the girls arrived home and started unloading their bags, my eyes just kept getting wider! Josh brought all of my favorites and then some. He even brought things that I forgot that I loved! One thing that I love is coffee milk, and since it’s a refrigerated item, I didn’t think he could bring it. But he found a syrup that is mixed with milk, so we’ve been indulging in that way too much. The big bottle of pink syrup is called Lemon, Lime, & Bitters, and it is mixed with water, club soda, or even Sprite to make a unique and fantastic taste. The rest is just classic Aussie yumminess – Solo, Cadbury candy, custard, and TimTams.

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So I was doing great with losing baby-weight-now-combined-with-holiday-weight until he showed up with all of this!

 

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There’s No Place Like Home

17 Jan

….especially when home smells like dead carcass. More on that later.

We had a great finish to our visit Down Under! My team ended up winning the Grand Final! It was pretty fun and made all the sore muscles and achy joints worth it. And the bruises! I bounced off these girls like the marshmallow man, so I was constantly banging body parts on the floor. But we won!

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As soon as my game was over, I rushed over to Josh’s grand final to see how his team was doing. When I got there, he was crumpled in a heap on the floor, surrounded by players. I ran over to him too, but thankfully, he was trying to get the point across that he’s in a bunch of pain, but it’s nothing serious. He had a wicked charlie horse. When I told my Aussie friends, they looked at me with blank stares and were thinking, “Who’s Charlie?” In Australia, it’s called corking, so Josh got corked something awful. He was limping for days!

Anyway, his team ended up losing, but the team he coached won their Grand Final! He had to run through the tunnel of Vic fans after his game and it took him forever to limp his way through.

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The kids got their faces painted for the Grand Final of the Mens A Division.

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My favorite observation of the week was the box of lollies on EVERY bench. Lollies are like gummy candy, and every team had them for quick burst of energy (I guess?)

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That night, we all went to the Presentation Banquet. It was a huge deal because it was at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds in the Members Dining Room. Pretty fancy!

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Here is all of our hardware. We got medals for all that was already mentioned. PLUS, Josh got MVP runner-up for his division!

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Look! Waldo is Wally down under.

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Look what we found on our way out of the stadium. A meat pie stand! I really think America would love to have one of these at their favorite sporting events. Did I say “one”? I meant “five.” If I could buy one of these stands…

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Sometime during all of the carnival fun, my friend wrote to me and said that when she went into our condo, she noticed that the deep freezer wasn’t on. Then she made the horrible, but necessary decision of opening the freezer.

We figured out that at some point during our trip, someone plugged our deep freezer into a 110V outlet. It’s 220V, so it wasn’t getting enough power and finally stopped trying. Let the decay extravaganza begin! Apparently, the smell spread all over the condos, even down to the basement. There were flies everywhere too. Ick. Thankfully, we have AMAZING friends who got it all cleaned up and condo workers who buried all the rotten meat in the jungle. How horrible, huh?

Thankfully, as soon as we plugged it back into 220V, it worked fine, so we were very grateful that we didn’t lose the freezer too! The smell of death is still lingering, however, so I have baking soda, vinegar, charcoal, and coffee grounds all sitting in the freezer and working their absorbent magic.

The next day, our last day, we spoke at a friend’s church. This the world map they had in their lobby. The maps we find in the US doesn’t show how close Alaska is to Russia!

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All week, I meant to take a picture of Deacon’s black eye, but I didn’t end up doing it until Sunday. Almost a week prior, one of his little friends at the carnival had a little too much fun with the light sabers that we bought. It didn’t hurt Deacon, but he had this black eye for over a week.

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Bella drew this during church. “Australia is the best, and God is the best to.”

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That night, we flew back home. I splurged on one last iced coffee milk at the airport. I already miss it.

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The flights went great! They were both during our sleeping hours, so everyone slept most of the time. That’s always a huge blessing!

We jumped right back into life here. The weather is fantastic! Yesterday, I wore long sleeves and jeans and didn’t even have a fan on me! I love it, I just wish it lasted longer. I know what’s coming….

It’s been almost a week since the last basketball game, and I’m just now almost completely recovered. It is insane how long it took! I’m not running until every last blister, bruise and sore feeling is gone. Why would I? (The answer to that question lies in the dramatic increase of the numbers on the bathroom scale!)

Josh hit the ground running (or limping, rather) with a ministry team from Australia. They are here for almost 2 weeks, so we don’t get to see much of him. Deacon and he took the team up north for the next four days, so it’s just us girls and Caleb for the weekend.

I don’t know how to conclude this post….and they lived happily ever after?

 

 

Our last week

9 Jan

There is no need for daily updates this week, as each day is pretty similar. Go to the gym, take ibuprofen, play a game, coach a game, chase down the kids, go home, shower and recover for the next day! The kids haven’t been going to bed until 10pm every night, but thankfully, our days don’t start until 10:30am or so, so everyone can sleep in.

During a break from games each day, there is some kind of devotional in addition to a fun game, or dunk contest, or something else.

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A couple of days ago we heard from a believer who plays in the WNBA and in the Aussie pro league during the off season. It was the first American accent that I’ve heard in weeks, besides my family!

I just snapped a shot of this guy, who is the tallest man in Australia (I think.) He’s 7’4″ and makes Josh look like a shrimp-o. Josh coached him last year.

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This is Josh’s Buhay Sports set up at the gym. He’s been coming to this for 4 years now and has already gotten so many people interested in evangelizing the Philippines through basketball. It’s fun to see him in action.

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At the moment, Josh is undefeated on both the teams he’s with, one as a player and one as a coach. My team is 2-1. For adamantly not wanting to play, it’s been fun. My body is falling apart, with just my skin holding it all together, but other than the stiff neck, sore muscles, jammed fingers, sore back, and blisters, I am A-OK. =) We’ have two games tonight, so that statement might change in a few hours.

Each day, there has been some fun outing or activity. Last night, we went to the Queen Victoria Night Market in downtown Melbourne. I took pics on Josh’s phone, but he’s not here, so I just pulled one off of the internet.

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It was insanely busy last night. I think it was because it was the first warm night of the summer. We could barely make it through the crowd. But anyway, it was a fun experience. There were stalls of food from all over the world, including the Philippines. We got a little stash of cannoli’s as an appetizer. Then I stood in a looonnng line for a Philly Cheesesteak. I know, I know, I come all the way to Australia, and then buy American food. But I love me some cheesesteaks, and it’s next to impossible to find a good one in the PI.  Everything was pretty pricey, so rather than wait in more lines, we just decided to take the kids to McDonalds (where they’d rather eat anyway!)

Today’s outing was a BBQ at a local park. It’s been gorgeous weather, so we were all excited about hanging out at a park! As soon as we got there, two of my teammates took the kids to feed the ducks. I didn’t go with them, but I wish I had because they told me how excited the kids were when the ducks would eat their food.

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I was in shock at how much land was in this park! It was sprawling hills of green grass, people picnicking under trees, BBQing, riding bikes, and playing on the playground. I loved it!

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Caleb was so cute on the swing! He would stop holding on and was so proud of himself in a “Look mom, no hands” kind of way.

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Speaking of Caleb, he has the best kissy-face right now and is so generous with his kisses! I can’t get enough!

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Bella was also so sweet with her Lalaloopsy, taking her for a little swing as well.

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Now there are 2 hours before my game, so that means the warm up starts now in order to be ready for tip-off. PS: i’m 0/3 on jump balls against these taller, younger players. Yeah.

Thought for the day: I want a massage.

 

G’Day 17

5 Jan

At the end of day 16, Josh wanted to do S’mores with the kids out on the deck with the chiminea, so we stopped by the grocery store on the way home from training.

****Oh! So, at training (which means “practice), they said IT. I knew it was coming. The question, “Val, you play basketball, right?” I knowingly smiled and graciously, but emphatically said, “No, I am NOT playing in this carnival.” I think I said “No” and “I don’t want to” at least 15 times each. But….I didn’t want to have a bad attitude, so I added, “But if you are in a bind and need players, I can fill in.” That was all they needed to hear. I feel like I wasn’t even finished that sentence before they were handing me a uniform! I haven’t even touched a basketball in years! I think we have one more training before our first game, so I can at least get my hands on a ball. yeesh, this will be humiliaing….

Anyway, the S’mores. So Josh ran into the store and came back in 15  minutes saying, “They have no idea what a graham cracker is!” But really, how would you describe it to someone who had no idea what it was. It’s kind of tricky. He really blew their minds when he said, “You know, the kind you can also crush to make a pie crust?” Come to find out, they don’t have graham crackers in Australia! Josh ended up buying some other sweet biscuit and some weird marshmallows, which also had issues of their own. But, never one to back down to a s’more challenge, we did it and they weren’t bad. The Cadbury chocolate was in much thicker bars, so that was a nice touch!

So the kids didn’t end up getting to sleep until about 10:15, which was no good considering we had plans to leave the house by 8:30am! None of us were in the mood to get up, especially since it was 59 degrees out, but we knew that we’d have fun once we got going.

It was cold! “….must be unlisted.”

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We went to ride the Puffing Billy, “Australia’s Favorite Steam Engine.” It’s run mostly by volunteers, so all the engineers and conductors were sweet old men who love trains.

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The boys especially were so excited when they saw what we were doing.

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My favorite part of the ride was 20 seconds in, when we saw a kangaroo in the forest! That’s the third one we’ve seen in the wild. I’m sure I sounded like such a tourist when I screeched it loud enough for the whole car to hear.

The best part of this train is that they let you sit on the window ledge and dangle your feet out!

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Once our kids started to warm up, they ventured over to the window ledge as well.

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Deacon and Caleb were so cute when the train would whistle! They would look right at each other and laugh loudly. I kept trying to get a picture, but I never knew when the conductor would blow the whistle. This was the best I got.

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We hopped off the train at Lakeside and walked around for an hour before catching the return train.

The kids got to explore the engine and meet the conductor.

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It was a lot of fun, and I think that concludes all of the adventures that we’ll do on this trip! The kids have had a blast and are consistently expending all their energy. Yay!

Isn’t this so precious?!?

 

 

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On our way home,  we met up with a new friend who took us to Costco! It’s only been open for a month, so it was CROWDED! We weren’t terribly impressed with the prices, so we just picked up a few things that we can’t get in the Philippines, like Pop Tarts and Stacy’s Pita Chips. We also stocked up on cheese, which is always a Costco/Sam’s priority.

The same friend took all four kids overnight!!! We were so thankful and vowed that when our kids are older, we won’t just enjoy them being older, but we’ll also help out those parents with younger children and give them a night off too. It just means the world, doesn’t it!?

So Josh and I went to some friend’s house for dinner. They just moved into a new house, so we ordered take-out (or “take away” as they say here.) When they asked what we’d like, we both said “Meat Pies!” They started laughing so hard and said that they couldn’t wait to tell their friends that they had company for dinner and they ate meat pies. It would be like us having friends over, and serving them QT taquitos or hot dogs. But anyway, then we found out that there was a souvlaki place that would deliver, so we all souvlaki’d up!

Then Josh and I just enjoyed a quiet night at home. It would have been the perfect little staycation if only the Chiefs had won. boo.

 

G’Days 14 & 15 & 16

3 Jan

Wow, I can’t believe that we’ve been here for two weeks already! The time is just flying by, but I guess that’s pretty standard for a holiday.

So, on Wednesday, we went to some friends house for lunch and apparently swimming. We brought our bathers (swimsuits), but it ended up sprinkling on and off, and even though the pool is solar-heated, we opted not to dive in.

They had the cover on the pool, so I explained to Caleb that even though it looks like the floor, he can’t walk on it. He said, “Ok, Mommy.” But sure enough, as soon as his ball rolled out onto the pool cover, he darted after it and fell straight in! Thankfully, Josh was right there to fish him out.

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He was startled, but not really upset. It was probably more like a fun house experience, especially since he got pulled back to safety right away. Anyway, our host gave him a poncho towel to wear for the rest of the day. Check it.

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Our friends made potato pancakes for lunch. They were amazing! I’m definitely putting them on the menu rotation. They were very savory, with garlic and chives and onion. We ended up eating the leftovers for dinner that night!

It rained for the rest of the day, so we all took amazing rainy-day naps. You know, they kind that is hard to wake up from. We all just chilled out for the rest of the night, and started a puzzle that is so much more difficult than it looks.

The next day was gorgeous, so we all piled onto scooters and bikes and headed down to the train just down the road. I was so happy to find this trail, because the one day I went running on the main road sidewalks, there were so many insane hills where enjoyment goes to die. But then I realized that there is a trail just down the road that goes for as many kilometers as you like!

Look how cute!

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Seriously, look!

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I can’t get enough!

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The owners of the house we’re staying in even have a tandem bike, so Josh took each of the kids for a spinneroo.

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Caleb wanted to ride, so Josh put him up on the handlebars just for a moment.

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That night, Josh and I were able to go on real live date! A brand-new friend who is coming to the PI in a couple of weeks offered to watch the kids so that we could get out just the two of us.

See that? Car seat- empty!

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When we were stopped at a light, these jugglers came out to entertain us for the duration of the stoplight! Then they ran up and down the lanes collecting donations in the their hats. So fun!

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We went to Lygon Street, which of course, we kept called Diagon Alley (from Harry Potter). It’s basically restaurant row, and is the same street that houses Lambs, where we ate after church the previous week.

So we were walking up the street and every restaurant had their menu on the street and maitre’d’s coaxing us in. One won us over with his promise of free stuff (he read us like a book!)

I had a ravioli dish and Josh got this mixed grill that included steak, lamb, chicken, veal, and sausage. Only they were out of sausage, so they threw on an extra steak! Josh said it was all cooked well, but very bland. There wasn’t much seasoning to any of it. But they brought out a mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes for him, so that kept my Kansas boy happy.

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We walked up and down Liagon Street and even drove to a different part of Melbourne looking for the perfect place to have dessert. Can’t mess up dessert!!! It was fun to see different parts of the city, and I always take pictures of fun stuff, but then when I look at the pictures later, it looks lame.

So here are my lame pictures of stuff that looks better in person.

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We ended up going back to Liagon Street because I had seen a souffle place, and I love me some souffle! We settled on a Nutella souffle and ohmygoodness, it may have been the best thing I’ve ever tasted!!!

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It was perfect. Josh shared it with me, which totally ruined date night for me.

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Josh had planned to take me to A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Botannical Gardens, but with all of our dessert hunting, we ran out of time. Bummer. But I think I would have been too cold anyway. So we did the next best thing and hit the grocery store on the way home to pick up some more breakfast stuff (ie: Iced Coffee Milk).

Today was our first opportunity to check out the McOZ burger at McDonalds. It’s seasonal, so when I saw the commercial for it coming in January, I knew we had to try it. It is a Quarter-Pounder with beetroot in it! Say wha?

Oh, but before going to Maccas, one must pre-burn the calories that one is planning to consume. When I’ve been out running on the trails, I am the only runner! The cyclist dominate the trails. There is 1 runner for every 25 cylcists, so when in Rome….yes, continue? I decided to give it a go.

I’ve only ever ridden a bike for fun and in the era of helmut-free biking, so this was my first time wearing a helmut. I felt all Tour D’ France-y…

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…until i started riding.

nah, it was great! I think I might scrap running until I get back to the Philippines and keep cycling while I’m here. It’s fun, fast, and the miles rack up a lot quicker! I did 7 miles, and I did it at a similar pace that the elite runners run the marathon! That was humbling.

Alright, onto McDonalds.

There it is! McOzzie Ozzie Ozzie. (as in “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi! – what they shout at sporting events.)

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KFC is the main sponsor for the big Cricket tournament going on right now between England and Australia, so they have two sandwiches dedicated to each country. The Aussie sandwich is a chicken sandwich with beet root in it and the English version is a chicken sandwich with hot mustard in it. Speaking of cricket…

…I’m learning how to bat.

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*** The other night, at the campground church where Josh spoke, the main speaker was British. So the announcement leader said that he wouldn’t tolerate any jokes about how Australia was kicking the crud out of England in the cricket tournament. Then he went on to talk and every few moments, he would say something that would have everyone in the place erupting with laughter. Later on, I asked Josh about it and he explained that the guy was sneaking in cricket terms as he introduced the speaker. I was the only person in this huge auditorium who had no idea what any of it meant. I have more culture shock here than in the Philippines!

Oh, and one more super-tourist moment. When we were hanging out by the pond of someone’s house, I saw the water start to splash and ripple. I immediately thought that there was a crocodile…in this little pond…of a residential area. It was a duck.

So, we dug into our McOz’s, beet root and all. I have to say….no big deal. It doesn’t make it any better or worse. More than anything, it adds a little more firmness to the bite, if that makes sense. In fact, if it’s so healthy, just put it on all the burgers! Mackenzie said, “Why is there cranberry in my burger?”

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My thought for the day is that we’ve haven’t met another American or even heard another American accent in 2 weeks!!!

New Years Eve Eve and New Years Eve

1 Jan

New Years Eve Eve was uneventful, which we all welcomed after the busy Sunday that we had. Deacon has taken to eating his breakfast outside on the deck in the gorgeous weather. If its kinda cold out, he just moves to the sunny spots.

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That afternoon, we ran some errands and hit a nearby mall. We were going to eat lunch at home, but I told Mackenzie that when Daddy saw the (fab) food court, he’d want to eat there. Bingo.

We also found some after-Christmas sales, so the boys both got TMNT gear. They feel hard-core. I would too.

 

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Bella got a Strawberry Shortcake cook book and party planner at the $2 store. They don’t mess around with the dollar store here! She’s been dying to make something from it, so as I’m flipping through it, I see that they all contain ingredients that are hard to get in the Philippines, so we got busy and made the smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and greek yogurt.

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I don’t know how we’re going to do with the rest of the recipes because all the dry ingredients are measured in grams, rather than cups. Wha?

This was my big treat for the day!

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Another photo op from the grocery store. Cadbury makes ice cream!!! Caramello? uh, yes please! Cadbury has the funnest candy bars here! The US only gets  to scratch the surface of their creativity with their Easter eggs.

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Josh had training for the Baptist Basketball Carnival on Monday night, so the kids and I just hung out at home. The kids have been all into this Lord of the Rings game on the ipad, so Deacon walks around humming the theme song all the live long day.

The next day was a big day for us. We drove an hour and half to Phillip Island, which is a big beach holiday spot. They had two attractions for us. An Aussie Wildlife Park and a Penguin Parade. We got to do both!

On our way, we saw Burger King, only there was some copyright issue, because it’s called Hungry Jacks here.

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We hit the wildlife park first. There was all kinds of interesting local animals. I think it’s so fun and interesting that Australia has so many animals that are unique to only their country.

The kids were each given a bag of food that was mostly for the kangaroos, but they threw a little at every animal they saw. Some even ate it. (Notice that Deacon is still wearing his Leonardo mask. All.day.long)

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We saw some more adorable koalas.

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Here is the Tasmanian Devil. Huh. Not as much energy as WB gave their cartoon.

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They had dingos, as in “…ate my baby!” They were behind an electric fence, which was a little terrifying to me. What are they, descendents of the velociraptor?

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The highlight of the zoo was definitely the free-range kangaroo/emu field!!

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It was incredible to be hand-feeding kangaroos!

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The kids just loved them! They kept screaming about how cute they were. Ever since I learned that they are in the rodent family, I just wasn’t as ready to throw my arms around them in a big hug. Look at that tail – it looks like a big ol’ rat tail, and not the cool kind from the ’80’s.

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They do have cute little faces though

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The emus were about my height, so when they saw us with their familiar bag of food, they would make a beeline for us, which really terrified Deacon. He would scream and start crying. But I was really proud of him because I could tell he really wanted to overcome his fear, so he purposely sought out the emus, got their attention, and as they trotted over to him, he’d toss the food to the side like Josh told him. I think it had something to do with the right to wear the TMNT mask….

I think Caleb is following in Bella’s animal-loving footsteps. He had no fear in marching up to those kangaroos and feeding them from his hand.

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Bella, of course, was in heaven. She loved everything about the kangaroos and would’ve taken one home with her if she could. She was the one who got down on her knees to spend some QT with the kangaroo. This one has it’s hand on her leg. At one point, it was grabbing her hand with its two paws, which she loved.

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There was another breed of much smaller kangaroos that we got to feed too. They resembled Winnie the Pooh’s friend much more.

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I love how much the kids have bonded this break! With our best friends living like 500 feet from us, the kids automatically break off into their respective pairs. But during this trip, they’ve only had each other, and it’s been so sweet to see them playing and giggling together. Don’t get me wrong, there are still “sibling moments” that they’ll laugh about when their adults, but for the most part, they are enjoying each other!

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I stepped in emu poop.

 

After the wildlife park, we went to get some supper. When we’re by the ocean, the decision is easy – fish ‘n chips!

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It was so so good!

The kids played on the nearby playground to kill the time until it was time to go to the penguin parade.The weather was perfect and the kids of course loved it.

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At 7:30pm, we headed over to the Penguin Parade. It is seriously, an amazing experience! Every evening, when the sun goes down, these 1-ft tall penguins waddle out of the ocean, up the beach, to the grassy area to breed and feed their chicks and whatever else. We sat and anxiously watched the ocean for an hour. They had an app that included a game, so the kids stayed busy doing that.

There was no photography allowed, because the flash can cause the penguins to become disoriented, and if they get disoriented, they don’t find their babies and can’t feed them. So what shoes was Bella wearing that night? TWINKLE TOES! I felt horrible as we walked in the dark, looking like a disco. I hope all those mommies found their babies!

I did sneak a few photos before the penguins came up on the beach. Mackenzie was appalled and sure I was going to get kicked out of the park.

Here we are, scanning the coast line for the little waddlers.

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It was hard to see anything with all the seaweed and seagulls, but Josh was the first one to spot the little colony heading out of the waves. Apparently, the most dangerous part of their life is the 20 feet walk on the beach between the waves and the grass. They are totally exposed to birds of prey, so that’s why they wait until dusk. They also travel in a group of about 7 or 8 penguins, so that they resemble something larger. These little colonies would pop up all along the coastline.

It was so adorable to watch them make the journey. They would pop their heads out of the ocean, waddle a few steps onto the beach, but then the waves would wash them back in. Once they were all out of the surf, they looked like they were contemplating the decision to make a break for the grass, or to run back into the ocean. Josh provided us with a hilarious commentary of their thought process. One group was already over half-way up the beach, but then three of the penguins abandoned ship and sprint-waddled back to the ocean.

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After we watched a few groups head up the beach, we walked along the boardwalk, where the mommies were meeting up with their chicks. It was incredible! I’m so glad we got to do it. Where else are we ever going to see penguins in the wild?!

As we were leaving the park at 10pm, they told us to check under our car for penguins before we left! How sad!

During the drive home, we got to see New Years fireworks along the route. It was the perfect New Years Eve and I was in bed by 12:10!

G’Day(s) 7&8..and some of 9

27 Dec

We’re back in Melbourne now and just finished a trip to the mall, where we found all kinds of little treasures. More on that later.

So, I left off on Christmas Day at the beach, but we did some other fun stuff that day as well. Christmas started off with the kids hunting down their bag of candy in the house. They had already found theirs by the time Josh and I woke up, which they had permission to do. (Anything to get us a little longer sleep in on Christmas morning!) When Caleb woke up, Mackenzie helped him hunt his down.

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I found it!

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We made our traditional family Christmas brekky of baked french toast. This time, however, we added bacon and eggs because the bacon here is amazing! Look at the size of the strips!

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After breakfast, we headed to the beach. The weather was the most beautiful yet! Sunny skies, cool breeze. The ocean is still too cold for my taste, but the kids had a blast boogie boarding.

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After the waves would make them too cold, they’d all coming running up the beach and dive into the warm sand. Here is Bella’s sand angel.

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Deacon wanted me to take a picture of his barn.

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We all love having a ginger beer on the beach! It’s like ginger ale but much more ginger flavor.

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I love how shallow the beach was going into the ocean! It was perfect for everyone, whether we were wading, playing, splashing, boogie-boarding, whatever. Plus, my intense fear of sharks went way down.

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Caleb even went without floaties a couple of times.

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After the beach, we had a light lunch and then began our painting projects. The family who owns the house has a big bucket full of canvases, brushes, and paints for their guest to use. Isn’t that fantastic!!?!! Plus, there are all kinds of smooth rocks on the beach that are itching to get painted. The girls and I each did a canvas and Deacon did a bunch of rocks. It was so much fun! I’ll have to take some pics of our finished products before the sell for millions of dollars.

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That night, we had a Christmas dinner of roast lamb, broccoli, potatoes and carrots, and finished it all off with bananas and custard. It was fantastic, as all lamb dinners are. Speaking of which…

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As we drove home the next day, I saw hundreds of sheep in pastures on the hill. It was quite spectacular, but since it took me forever to find my phone, this was the only picture I got.

Backtracking a bit, the next day was Boxing Day, a holiday celebrated in the Queens’ countries. The US really needs to get on board with that holiday because everyone needs a day to recover from Christmas, right? Anyway, it was our day to leave, so Josh took the kids for one last outing to the beach while I went for one last perfect run. I was able to do a different route each time I went running, and I find that to be extraordinary. I’m quite limited where I live in the Philippines (unless I don’t mind doing insane hills, which I do.)

I snapped a pic of our Christmas 2013 home on our way out.

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I was pretty sad to leave. It was such a great time away, and a great time for our kids to enjoy each other as their only playmates. It was cute to see them playing together and there was pretty much no fighting! Victory!

When we got home last night, I was too tired to do anything, so we fed the kids, put them to bed, watched Liar, Liar together and went to bed. It’s been years since we’ve seen that movie and Josh can still quote the entire thing!

This morning, Josh informed me that the car we are going to use the rest of our time here was ready, and that I would have to drive separately to take the van back! I already get uncomfortable driving other people’s cars, and that’s when everything is on the left side of the car, and right side of the road! IMG_1889

I told him to go slow and not change lanes too much! So, it went fine, but every time I went to turn or change lanes, my windshield wipers would come on. As soon I remembered that the signal is on the right side of the steering wheel, I’d flip it, but of course, it’s opposite of what I’m used to. So every time I wanted to signal “right,” I’d flick it up, which here means “left.” I’m sure I looked like I was recovering from too much Boxing Day celebrations!

Thankfully, we all got where we needed to be without any drama! Once we were all in one car again, Josh did a quick drive thru Maccas to see what they have for brekkie. It’s like a different language right? Also, fun fact: Burger King is called Hungry Jack’s here.

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On our way home, we saw a Target! I know that some might find that exclamation point unnecessary, but I had to stop myself from putting 12 exclamation points after that statement! I was pretty excited.

It was inside a mall, and smaller than the one’s in the US, but still had the same ambience to it. Again, some may not associate a fancy word like “ambience” to Target, but it was a palace to me! All the Christmas merchandise was half off, so I got a Christmas tree topper and a plate. We got new sneakers for the girls on sale. Deacon bought an Anakin Skywalker light saber with his Christmas money. Mackenzie bought new shoes with hers. Our favorite purchase of all….meat pie pans! I just wish that I could buy the pastry already made…

On our way out, we all squealed with delight (or it may have just been me), when we saw MAX BRENNER’S CHOCOLATE BAR! I had seen at one time that there was a MB in Melbourne, but I totally forgot about it, and then we stumbled right onto it! Providence.

It was more expensive than the Philippines, but what isn’t? We all shared 3 desserts and it’s such a wonderful thing when you can’t decide which is the best.

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Now we are home for a little while and then we’ll head back out to dinner with some friends that we met while they were living in the Philippines for 3 months. I hear that roast lamb is on the menu – jackpot!

Thoughts for the day:

Val: You don’t tip in Australia!!!