The Smiths Down Under

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

New Zealand – A glimpse of HEAVEN!

We left for Perth on December 16th, 2011 and headed to Sydney Australia. We spent the weekend in Sydney before boarding the Radiance of the Seas on December 18th. The weekend in Sydney was a vacation within itself. We stayed at our favorite hotel in the city and it was magical with all of the Christmas lights and Christmas festivities going on. By Saturday the other families had arrived and we enjoyed dinner at Pendilinos, our favorite restaurant in Sydney. They have THE BEST ravioli’s I have ever had in my LIFE! Afterwards we went to “Carols in the Park”. I have never seen anything quite like it…THOUSANDS of people sitting on blankets, sharing a picnic (the Australian Way) and singing Christmas carols. BEAUTIFUL! IT was so packed that we could not even find a place to sit so we walked through the park and through all of the people and then we left. The next morning was the most expensive trip to church we have ever taken. It cost us $500 round trip to get to HILLSONG Church! The worship was AMAZING. After years of hearing about this church we were glad to finally experience it.
Reid was starting to feel not so well and was not being himself. Our sweet kids rarely get sick but when they do, it is on VACATION! Seriously I could probably count on one hand how many times each of them have thrown up (well, except Kennedy who use to throw up at dinner when she had to eat a green beans or peas) due to stomach virus or really being sick. Instead, our kids vomit on vacation when their stomachs start adjusting to vacation food!!! We started thinking back and I think there has only been one trip that no one has vomited since we moved to Australia! So, on the ride home from church in the “MAXI TAXI” we stopped to get lunch. Reid had not eaten much at all that day and I started thinking maybe he just needed to eat. So I did what any good mother would do…I FORCED him to eat. He took maybe two bites and then started the motion that signaled “I’m about to spew!” So I grabbed the large bag that the food came in, held it up to his mouth, he puked…I tied it off and placed it on the ground…and we all went on eating not missing a beat. I’m pretty sure we even continued on with our conversations during the whole thing. Boy have I matured as a parent. This might have sent me over years ago! Clint was in the front and I wasn’t sure he even knew what had happened. He later said it was payback from our trip to the Great Barrier Reef when I was oblivious to the fact that he was cleaning up Reid’s vomit since Luke and I were sitting at the front of the plane! Anyway, afterwards Reid says, “I told you I didn’t want to eat!”
Now it was time to board the cruise ship for 16 days of RELAXATION! We were at sea the first several days. We ate, slept, worked out, hung out, read and just CHILLED! Luke turned 7 on the 21st and our family tradition of “icecream for breakfast” was no problem!!!! Ice cream at any time of day for 16 days was NO PROBLEM! On the morning of his birthday the cruise ship went through “The Sounds”…Milford, Dusky and ?? We did not get off the boat through “the sounds” but enjoyed the best view of them aboard the ship. The captain was also able to get REALLY close to the beautiful waterfall you will see in the pictures. AMAZING! I am thinking he might not be as willing to do that now in light of the Italian cruise ship incident.

On December 22nd we got off the boat for the first time. FIRST STOP: DUNEDIN! We rented a 12 passenger van and were formally introduced to the Nissan “HOMY”, an experience within itself! Dunedin was spectacular but my favorite part was hiking to TUNNEL BEACH! When we got to the spectacular beach I couldn’t help but stand in awe of God’s creation. The pictures don’t even do it justice. It was the perfect setting for a “10 buck dare”. Clint loves to hand them out and so he dared the boys to strip down to their undies and get in the water with Grant (the Posell’s 17 year old son). The water was FRRRREEEEEEZING but they will do almost anything for 10 bucks! The hike back to the car was…shall I say…A WORKOUT! A much needed one after 3 full days on the ship! Afterwards we went into the town of DUNEDIN and drove down the Guiness Book of World Records “Steepest Street in the world”…in the HOMY!!!!! As we were driving back through town back towards the port I spotted a STARBUCKS! Before we moved from the States I hardly ever had starbucks…I don’t even drink coffee…but there is something about being on the other side of the world and seeing and experiencing something familiar. So, we started a collection of STARBUCK mugs…you know the ones that have the name of the city on them. We have collected ?? mugs in the last 3 years. Anyway, Clint dared Grant to walk down the street in his boxers (since he was wet from the dip in the ocean at Tunnel Beach) all the way to STARBUCKS, purchase the mug and walk back. Grant did it, we got our mug and Clint forked over $10 bucks! Everyone wins! SWEET!

We were suppose to swim with the “hector” dolphins but due to the temperature of the water we decided to cancel. Instead, we took a bus to Christchurch. We “punted” down the Avon River. I had never heard the word “punted” except in football terms but basically it is a romantic, scenic river ride. Well, minus the romantic part for us. The guys kayaked and Nancy and I “punted” with all the kids. Afterwards we took a LONG walk to a place recommended for lunch but when we got there it was closed down due to the earthquake earlier in the year. There was so much devastation that we saw…I guess that is why the cruise ship changed the itinerary to stop in AKOROA instead. We just thought how can you go to NZ and not go to Christchurch. Well, we got on the bus to head back to AKOROA and all of a sudden the bus started rocking. At first I thought the driver had done something to cause the shaking but I quickly realized that we were experiencing an earthquake. It was really scary since earlier we were looking at all the crumbled buildings and just burdened for the people that lost everything that day in February. The weirdest thing was looking at a fountain beside the bus and seeing the water and signage shake violently. Plus the fear on the faces of the people on the streets was just heart-breaking. There were several earthquakes that day one with the magnitude of 6.0 and two over 5. The earthquake in February that killed over 180 people and caused great destruction was 6.3! Always an adventure. Thankfully we were able to get out of Christchurch with minimal delays and were back on the boat safe and sound.

WELLINGTON on Christmas Eve
Well, this day did not turn out the way I planned. One thing we really enjoy doing as a family is biking. I researched trails and found a place called Makara Peak. Everything on the website indicated that there were trails for beginners and up to advanced. I found a company that offered guided or self-guided tours and made the initial contact. Check. Emailed ages and heights of kids. Check. Sent deposit. Check. Confirmed two weeks prior and a week prior. Check. We got off the boat and took the shuttle in town and conveniently the bike tour company was waiting for us. Perfect. This is going well. He drove us to a great point for taking pictures and then we were off to the trails. He suggested that we stop at the kid park first just to get everyone accustomed to the bikes. And it went downhill from there. The bikes for the boys were WAY too big. There was another bike company not far so the guide left to go get smaller bikes. While he was gone Mackenzie and Clint decided to try out some of the trails. When Clint came back he said there was no way…Mackenzie couldn’t even make it up the first hill in the “kid” park. The guide came back with smaller bikes and they were still too big. Great idea but time to go to plan B. Oh…but I didn’t have a plan B. BUMMER! Note to self. Always have a plan B!!! We went back into the city and went to a museum. Not necessarily a Smith family thing to do but nevertheless, we made the most of it. I got to thinking that Clint does most of the planning when it comes to our vacations. Never really realized the pressure of that until I took on planning what we would do at each port. I really felt terrible about what happened but bottom line is we prayed about each aspect of our trip and God allowed the mess-up to happen. So enough said! After the museum we went to eat at a place called Logan Brown. It was one of the best restaurants in Wellington. During my research I found out that Wellington was a city known for its’ fine cuisine. It was a very nice lunch and while the kids even got a “back of the house” tour, what they really wanted was BURGER KING, which was right across the street. An actual Burger King!!
Christmas Eve on the boat was really magical. After dinner we had carols in the atrium. Everyone was dressed in Christmas colors and standing around the center of the boat on each level of the ship. The band was playing and everyone was JOLLY!!!!! Really JOLLY! Afterwards we went to a church service and sang more hymns and listened to a message by a priest. I couldn’t help but smile ear to ear as I worshipped with my friends and our kids worshipped with theirs. What an experience!
We took our small Aggie Christmas tree and set it up in the kids’ cabin. So Christmas morning there were a few gifts under the tree for the kids. All of the kids got San Churros gift cards and a master-chef class (we have become a masterchef watching family) and the girls got Taylor Swift tickets and the boys got LEGOS! Then we heard on the loud speaker that Santa had been spotted on the ship’s radar. So we rushed up to the main deck to see what was going on. Due to the fact that the reindeer would not be able to safely land aboard the ship, the captain sent a boat out to pick up Santa. When he arrived on board the kids lined up to take pictures with him and he even handed out gifts to all the kids. The day was so relaxing since we were “AT SEA” and the weather was AMAZING! Our entire group wore the t-shirts we had made as our Christmas gifts to all of our sweet friends. That afternoon we had a gift exchange among family. Our theme was for each person in the group to bring a pound of something. Did not make it easy for the Smith family having to fit 6 extra pounds into our luggage but it made for some fun gifts. We exchanged the gifts “white elephant” style so there was fun in stealing gifts from one another. That night was formal dress night and it was so fun to be so dressed up for Christmas dinner. I could not even tell you what I had as a main but the DESSERT was GINGERBREAD soufflé and it was AMAZING!
NAPIER, December 26th
Napier was a very cute art deco town. We took a beautiful drive to Taupo. We went to Huka Falls and then took the ride of our lives in a jetboat. What a thrill that was…a very wet one…but a total blast. After that we went to “Crater of the Moon”, a geothermal walk. We saw bubbling mud and steam coming from the ground. Really cool. Before rushing back to Napier to catch the bus to the port we made time for a quick stop at Lake Taupo to take some photos! BEAUTIFUL! Wish we had more time to explore Lake Taupo!
One of my favorite moments of the entire trip was on this night. The ship had a Mexican restaurant and it became the American hangout. It was funny to us that it was never crowded…until we got there! I guess this side of the world isn’t as fond of Mexican food as we are! Anyway, Mackenzie had gone to the icecream machine and had come back. Well, we had been talking about “coning” for months…about how funny it would be to actually drive thru McDonalds and really do it. So Clint “coned” Mackenzie. You will have to see the picture because that is the best part of the entire story. The look on her face is PRICELESS! Well, Mackenzie wasn’t going to go down without a fight so she “coned” her daddy…right smack dab on the middle of his head! Again, the pictures that I was able to get that captured the moment are ones that I will cherish FOREVER!!!! Just in case you don’t know what “coning” I asked professor google and this is what “he” said:
the act of buying a ice cream cone through a drive-through and grabbing it by the ice cream itself not the cone. (generally known as the new planking)
We were at sea all day on the 27th but cruised around Volcanic White Island. We loved having a mixture of days at Sea and days in port. The cruise was the perfect balance of a vacation and a trip. Vacation to us is relaxation…a nice resort, great pool for the kids, a comfy lounge chair by the pool and a really good book! A trip is for sightseeing, discovering and experiencing new things. Days at sea consisted of sleeping in, eating, lounging by the pool, eating, playing family dodgeball courtesy of our very own activities coordinator – Clint Smith, eating, rockclimbing with the kids, eating, pilates, eating, planking contests, eating, watching movies poolside (GREASE), eating, trips to the arcade (how dangerous it is for the kids to have a “Royal Caribbean Credit card”…all they had to do was SWIPE it!...bill for the arcade at the end of the trip - $500!!!!) Reid became the master of the “bling king machine” and won many beautiful pieces of jewelry for the ladies. I got the most coveted piece of jewelry, which was a beautiful diamond ring. Reid also won a watch and said he was going to sell it on e-bay for $500 or take out one of the bigger diamonds in the watch and upgrade my ring. Sweet Reid!
DECEMBER 28th, Tauranga
The day of non-stop adventure!!!! We rented another HOMY and drove to the town of Rotorua, which is known to be the “adventure capital” of the North Island. We started the day off by going to Te Puia, which was a New Zealand cultural experience. Two of the young boys in our group got on stage and learned the Haka, which is a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge from the Māori people of New Zealand. For the rest of the trip, the men enjoyed sticking out their tongues like the Maori people. Afterwards, we did the Skyline LUGE. We have done a luge in the past (in Singapore) but this one was FAST!!! Afterwards, we went to…drumroll please…WENDYS! Everyone was so excited. I think it is the first time we have seen a WENDYS on this side of the world. We loaded back up and headed to the SKYDIVING simulation. It was so cool to see everyone do that. Since I am an experienced REAL skydiver I thought it would be a waste to spend the money on me doing it. I had so much fun seeing everyone’s face deform due to the strong force of wind that was holding them up. It was HILARIOUS! It took quite a bit of time for everyone to do this and before we know it we were pushing it to get back to Tauranga. But with Clint behind the wheel in the HOMY we made it back with about 10 minutes to spare until we took a wrong turn and then used the GPS and it took us to the wrong port. We were officially late for the boat. However, with 14 passengers missing we were hopeful they were not going to leave us. We had to call the rental car company and tell them they would have to pick up the car at the port where the cruise ship was. We left the keys in the car and ran for our lives. Fortunately, there were two other people from the cruise still missing when we got on board so we were not the last ones. However, we found out later through Rob and Sharon that the captain announced that there were 16 passengers still missing and that he saw us running. He encouraged everyone to go out on the balcony and welcome us back. I was running so hard I wasn’t paying attention to anything but getting all of us on board. Clint, being the trouble maker that he can be, said tomorrow we would be the last people on board just because! He felt beaten by the other 2 people. The intensity of those moments just added to the already high adrenaline rushes we had the entire day!
AUCKLAND – December 29th
More adrenaline rush activities planned for our day in Auckland. The skytower jump is Auckland’s most popular attraction and the jumpers in our family were Clint and Mackenzie. I warned Clint that it was possible that we may have just spent a lot of money for a jump Mackenzie may or may not do. I just wasn’t convinced she could do it but boy, did she prove me wrong!!!! She is definitely one of the more cautious members of the Smith family so I was sooo proud of her going outside of her comfort zone. The jump was 690 feet! The rest of the kids were a bit put out that they were not old enough to do it so we took on the bungee swing after the skyjump. Problem was they were too small to do it! BUMMER! So, I did it instead. WOW…thank goodness I had not eaten a whole lot. We really weren’t up for walking around the city of Auckland so we went back and rented a movie. It was just that kind of day.
BAY OF ISLANDS – December 30th
Today we had to take the tender into the port. Kayaking was the activity of choice but it looked like it was going to rain. Thankfully the trip out in the kayak was dry but coming back it POURED!!!! We were so fortunate that this was our first rain storm so we couldn’t be upset. It rains A LOT in New Zealand and we had been blessed with INCREDIBLE weather up until this point. I even bought this very cute raincoat from Boden specifically for the trip. I wore it a couple of times just to say that I did but thankfully I really did not need it. It rains enough in Perth during the winter so I am sure to look CUTE when it does. We had “seeing the glow-worms” on the agenda at three different ports but after the kayaking experience everyone was all done….except for me! I still WANTED TO SEE THE GLOW WORMS!!! My sweet husband tried his best to make the glow worms happen but it just wasn’t meant to be. This was our last port of the trip. Hard to believe the trip was almost over.
That night was the spectacular “midnight dessert buffet”. The kids had been waiting and waiting for this one and it was worth the wait. They were AMAZED!!!!
December 31, 2011
Every year there is this weird underlying pressure to have really cool plans for New Year’s Eve. I really can’t think of too many really EXCITING ones over the years. I recall one year when we were newly married that we got a few friends together and stayed at one of the hotels I worked at for $25! Gotta love the employee discount. I think we even ate at the restaurant for free and then went to a comedy club. Another year I remember was in 2002. Our neighbors Jenny and Rich had a party next door. It was so nice because we were able to put the kids to bed and take the baby monitors next door. I have this great picture of Clint with two baby monitors attached to his belt buckle. We spent a few NYE with the Pharrs over the years and last year we were in Perth and my friend Sharon came with her family. Sharon is a friend from college…we were Chi Omegas together and on the board at the same time. Her family is currently living in Singapore. AMAZING that we would be spending ANOTHER NYE together aboard the cruise. That night was formal dress and it was fun to see everyone in the family looking snazzy! The girl’s dresses were gorgeous and Kennedy even did her hair!!!! The boys wore a coat and tie and they thought they were HOT STUFF (and they were)! Reid really enjoyed what he called his “TUXEDO” jacket. He even wore it throughout the cruise with shorts! Took me back to the days of Miami Vice. I would tell you how HOT my man looked but I am sure to get a few eye rolls and gagging motions so I won’t. We had an amazing dinner in the restaurant. We really loved our waiters and they took great care of us. The found out we all liked Indian food so many nights they would bring out curry in addition to our meal.
January 1st – 3rd
The remainder of the trip we were at Sea and then in Sydney for a night. It was one of these days that I became the wife of the sexiest man alive. Clint had been throwing out dares the entire trip but then he got a dare of his own. He had to enter the “Sexiest Man Alive” contest. This contest required him to pretend to protect his lady from a ferocious snake, he had to do a dance and then answer a silly question. He had the biggest cheering section and it did not hurt that he was wearing his A&M shirt…there are aggies EVERYWHERE!!!! He had one other advantage…I was a judge! But I have to admit, it was a close running. I was smitten by the older man that sat on my lap in hopes to get my vote!!! He was sooo precious! During these last few days the girls gave us a shock when they signed up for karaoke! There is NO way I would EVER sing in front of ANYONE!!!! Mackenzie and Jillian did a duet and Kennedy did a solo. The problem for Kennedy was that she has the “clean” version of the song she chose on her IPOD and that version was NOT what they had available. UGH! You can try to protect their little ears and their mouths in this case but sometimes you just can’t.

The last night we had BIG PLANS...we were going to dance the night away...but we were all in "END OF VACATION FUNK". So we all turned in early...the morning came too quickly...and our dream vacation was OVER! BUT we left with a whole lot of memories with amazing, fun, wild, adventurous, funny, crazy, wonderful, Godly friends. A BLESSING INDEED!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

New Zealand Pictures Coming Soon

I thought if I put it in our annual letter that I would make a deadline for myself, which I did but obviously missed. Hope to have the site updated by next week.

Monday, August 9, 2010

December 2009 - July 2010

It has been so long since I have updated our blog. I can’t believe it is already the end of July. Soooo much has happened in the last eight months. We had an amazing time in the US over Christmas. One of my most favorite memories was running through the doors into baggage claim and seeing the faces of friends and family. It was MAGICAL. I remember all of us were so anxious to get to the people we love and just fall into their arms. Our hearts were beating so fast and then the worse thing happened – we forgot to discard of an apple from Singapore airlines and got caught by the sniffer dogs!!! BUMMER! So then we had to go to a “special room” to have our bags searched delaying our reunion with our family just a little longer. But it was worth the wait as we have never felt so loved. After all the hugs and gathering of 22+ pieces of luggage we headed to our first stop on the whirlwind tour – LUPE TORTILLAS!!!! Yum yum! The very next day we celebrated Luke’s 5th birthday. The kids were so excited to go to Chuck-E-Cheese. In “WA” (Western Australia) the popular birthday venue equivalent would be “The Beach House”. Fitting I guess, but nothing like the options we have in the US I assure you! We were thrilled to be able to celebrate Christmas at “home” with family. The kids enjoyed playing with their cousins. They even got to meet two new cousins (TWINS!!! Jacob and Joshua) thanks to Uncle Allen and Aunt Paula. We moved from city to city, house to house, hotel to hotel and bed to bed every three days or so. Thankfully, the Pharrs allowed us to use their house as “home base” and we didn’t have to lug around 22 pieces of luggage everywhere we went. We were also very blessed that Clint’s Uncle Steve offered his Suburban to us the entire time we were home. Throughout our travels we enjoyed eating at our favorite places. I lost count how many times we ate at Lupe Tortillas. I know it was our first and last meal and several times in between. We enjoyed gift cards at chick-fil-a…thank you Santa! Another very favorite was Freebirds burritos. I have to say, though, out of desperation and determination, we’ve mastered burrito making in Australia. It is the meal of choice when feeling down, feeling happy, feeling lonely…yes, we are emotional eaters!!! And it is usually the choice dish when we try to come up with something to fix “cultural” for our Australian friends or a “real treat” for our American friends. We were enjoying paying reasonable prices again too! When we were in Dallas we had a get-together at Fuddruckers so we could see all of our Dallas friends. I called to touch base with the manager about the number of people to expect and since there would be so many kids I asked him if he could offer a discount. He said, “well, ma’am, the kids meals are only $3.50…and I can’t really do anything less than that”. I had forgotten how cheap kids meals are in the US. In Perth we don’t purchase kids meals!!! We rarely even go out to eat!!! Then there was the SHOPPING! The wide open spaces in the malls and stores was refreshing and what was almost even better than that was the PARKING!!!!!!!!...and carts that go STRAIGHT FORWARD!! I loved being able to drive up to Target and park right outside and walk on in. I didn’t have to pay…I didn’t have to get a ticket…I didn’t have to squeeze through the car door trying to get out. AHHHH…soooo fun! I really hope we never take for granted again the simple things that we have in the U.S. that just make life easier! I actually enjoyed the “amenities” of shopping more than actually shopping. The actual shopping part was a bit overwhelming since we were trying to buy for 6-12 months out. We also got a bit carried away since we had gone almost a year without buying very much at all. The choices…the prices…the convenience…it was too much to handle!!! We enjoyed seeing our family and friends so much and always wished there was more time. We were so grateful for everything…so many people put so much effort in trying to see us, to host us, to help us in whatever way we needed. Thankfully, we had so much to look forward to when we returned to Australia; otherwise we might not have gotten on the plane.

While we were home Clint was offered a new job with Apache. The first year we were here Clint worked for Smith Technologies as a consultant for Apache and now he works for Apache. Clint was a bit reluctant to give up his email address and his phone message (“this is Clint SMITH with SMITH Technologies” and but really felt the Lord moving us in this direction. We had planned to move houses and schools as well but that process was sped up a bit when the current landlord would not give us an extension in our lease. This meant we had to be out ONE week after we returned from the US!!! Thankfully we found a house online and Apache secured the deal for us before we even returned to Australia. So a lot of change was in store for the Smith family upon leaving the US but we still managed to stop in Singapore for 3 days of R&R. We arrived early in the morning and went straight to the hotel restaurant to eat. We stayed at the St. Regis…what a hotel!!!! It was THE nicest hotel we have EVER stayed in. I felt so funny staying there but oh was it NICE! I don’t know what they do to their eggs but they should have invested in chickens before we arrived. We ate sooooooo many eggs it was comical. I think our breakfast that first morning was more than the cost of our room (since we used points!). After breakfast we went to the room and slept until 4am the next morning…18 hours of sleep! We tried to go back to sleep but gave up at 6am and walked to STARBUCKS!!! We really enjoyed recovering from jet lag in Singapore. Had we gone straight home we would have felt compelled to start laundry, go to the grocery store, etc.etc. I think one of our favorite things we did was the “fish spa”. We stuck our feet in an aquarium of little fish and they ate the dead skin off our feet. Sounds disgusting but it was hilarious! Little Luke’s baby feet were no match for his mommy and daddy’s. The fish were ALL over our feet but he had maybe one or two on his sweet feet. He finally decided to move to another tank. The kids really got a kick out of it and so did we! The other highlight for me was getting to buy 2 beautiful Persian (??) rugs for the new house. When we got back to Perth we hit the ground running. There was so much to do and honestly, I could not wait to move out of “CELL BLOCK A”!!! I was very excited to go see the new house and when I did I could not believe that we were getting to live there!!! We now live right across from the beach. I wake up to an ocean view every single day. I wish I could tell you that I never grumbled or complained about the other house and this was just God’s reward! BUT I would be lying. I don’t know why God is letting us live here but I don’t take it for granted and I am soo thankful. I am so glad he forgives and shows us grace and mercy.

We got settled in the new house and the kids started their new school. It is such a great feeling to know that we have our kids right where God wants them. We felt such a peace about sending our kids to Kingsway Christian College when we visited the school last October. I’m so glad He gave us that assurance. There was really no question in our minds that we had found the right place. I found it so interesting how the devil tried to make me doubt our decision a few times. But I refused to listen and even asked a friend not to tell me anymore things she had heard about the school. If I wasn’t absolutely sure that God had led us there then perhaps I would have wanted to hear what she had to say. But isn’t it so cool that when you are confident you heard from the Lord you don’t need anyone else’s opinion on the matter??!!! LOVE THAT! So in less than two weeks upon our return from the U.S., Clint started a new job, we moved to a new house, the kids started a new school and everything was “new” all over again. We moved 20-25 minutes North from where we use to live. Oh…and I can’t believe I forgot to tell you about another “new” beginning…a “new” way to cook!!!! Clint surprised me with a THERMOMIX!!! If you have forgotten what this amazing machine does you’ll have to look it up online OR go back and read my old posts. If I start talking now I’ll never get done with this blog update! I LOVE LOVE LOVE it. I use it all day, every day. It’s AMAZING! Unfortunately, you can’t run out and buy one as they do not sell them in the U.S. But now that I have one, I won’t be able to do without one. I can’t bring this one home with me because it won’t work in the U.S. BUT they sell them in Canada and I’ve already arranged to get one from there when we move back. Did I tell you how much I love this thing??!! You would not recognize the domestic woman I’ve become! I make our own butter (with the Thermomix) and most things from “scratch”; we have a herb garden in the back yard; And, I use a clothesline!!! Moving on…

Good-bye’s are never fun and it seems we say “good-bye” a lot these days. First, our friends Karis and Tyson left last July. Then very soon after we got back from the U.S. Steve, Stephanie and Kyle left. They stayed with us their last few days here so thankfully we got to spend a lot of time together. And since they moved to Houston, we know we will see them again. My mom came to visit for almost two weeks so that was a very good distraction from being sad about the Waggoner’s leaving. We really enjoyed having “Grammy” stay with us and we did a lot of really fun stuff while she was here (sand boarding, picnic at king’s park, breakfast with the koalas, saw lots of kangaroos, fish and chips on Cottesloe beach…and on and on). We had some very hot days while she was here so she enjoyed that.

A couple of days after Grammy left we had the Bengtson family move in with us. We heard about this family before we even moved to Perth. They are Australian but use to live in Dallas and went to Stonebriar Church. Timon taught one of my college friend’s Sunday School class. So when she heard we were moving to Perth she sent me his email since they too were living in Perth. Tegan was pregnant when we arrived and unfortunately we did not hook up until later in the year. By October we had become great friends and then one night we had them over for dinner and they told us they were moving. My heart sank. How do we do this Lord? How do we keep on saying “good-bye”? And he reminded me that there is a season for everything, including people in our lives. We thought we were safe becoming friends with Australians!!! How fun it was having this family stay with us UNTIL the events of March 22nd& 23rd!!! On March 22nd, Perth had one of the worse storms in history. You would not believe the size of the hail and the amount of rain that came down in such a short time. Water started pouring into the bottom floor of the house but thankfully, we were able to escape the wrath of the storm with little damage UNTIL 24 hours later. About 2pm the next day I started smelling something. It smelled like the end of a match. I would walk to certain spots in the house and it was really strong but I could move two feet either direction and then couldn’t smell it at all. Tegan’s husband offered to pick up the kids from school and so I started to cook dinner so I could be “on the ball”. Just as the kids got home from school I turned the light on over the stove and this loud pop went throughout the house. I ran upstairs to the “electrical room” and it was on fire!!! It was quite the scene getting 9 kids out of the house calmly and trying to remember how to dial for an emergency here in Australia. (It is 000 instead of 911.) We got all the kids out of the house and then I remembered I had been browning meat on the stovetop and it was still on. So I ran back inside (giving my poor kids a heart attack) and turned off the stove. Then it hit me…I’ve got to get our pictures. So I grabbed our family portrait and all the kids’ one year portraits off the wall as well as my computer and ran outside to wait for the fire department. I was tempted to go back in and get my Thermomix, that is how much I love that thing!...just kidding…I knew it could be replaced! I can’t even tell you the emotions I was feeling as we stood outside…all 12 of us (everyone but Clint…he missed out on the fun!)…watching the house burn and waiting for the fire department. It felt like it took FOREVER for them to get there and as I stood there I had this very sickening feeling, wondering what would be gone forever. The four precious kids standing beside me were okay so I knew that whatever was lost would be insignificant in comparison to what “could have been”. You can absolutely drive yourself crazy with the “WHAT IF??” Well, most of you know the story from there. We were very fortunate that the fire department was able to contain the fire to the electrical room. They said we were about 5 minutes away from the house going up in flames. Thank you Jesus. We had literally just unpacked the last box and hung the pictures just a few days before. Unfortunately Clint did not receive the text warning him of the fire and he walked up on the scene. After the fire department left and we gathered a few of our things we drove away wondering “What are we going to do now?” A couple from the church took in the Bengtson family and Apache made arrangements for us. Clint prepared me that we would not be back in the house for months…with the extent of damage to the electrical system and with as long as it takes to get things done in “WA” I understood where he was coming from. (It took 3 weeks for us to get internet and TV when we moved). However, I refused to believe that and just started praying…praying hard!!! Sparing you many more details, with your prayers and our prayers we were back in the house in less than a week. We didn’t have full functioning electricity but we were desperate to be “home” so we made do. The Lord provided the most amazing electrician who worked from early morning until early evening for almost 4 weeks straight. Repairs went on for the next 3 months or so but thankfully we did not have to live in a hotel or apartment. The Bengtson family moved back in with us despite the imperfections and we were so glad. We got to spend Easter together and then said our “good-byes” a couple of days later. I was soo sooo sad. Tegan and I became really close, really quick and them leaving was another huge loss for the Smith family. God truly cares about every detail of our lives.

He allowed another distraction for us --- just shortly after the Bengtson family left we left for Phuket, Thailand for another Smith family adventure. We loved Thailand. It was incredibly beautiful and if you ask any of us what our favorite thing we did was, we would ALL tell you the exact same thing. We happen to be in Phuket for the Thai New Year. We went into town to eat one night and noticed a lot of people were walking around with water guns. We asked the cab driver on the way back to the hotel about it and he said we needed to come back tomorrow for the “water festival” – a 24 hour water gun fight. So we thought, “Why not?” After breakfast we headed to town and I have never seen anything like it. People were EVERWHERE and EVERYONE had water guns. If you didn’t have a water gun you were in trouble. There was not a dry person in site. We bought 6 massive water guns and got right in the middle of it. I never imagined walking the streets of Thailand shooting people that I don’t know with a water gun as being part of our vacation. What an adventure. We could not walk 2 feet without people touching the boys heads. I’ve been told that the Thai people believe touching heads gives good luck…not sure if that is true but if it is they should have all had some pretty good luck after that day. They were absolutely fascinated with the boys and with us being a “large” family. One woman told me “You have lots of children…you have power!”…and then asked me to have a baby for her. The boys were such troopers but at one point sweet Luke had enough!! He was so tired of people grabbing at him and who could blame him. And they loved Reid’s blonde hair! Thailand was a wonderful trip but boy was it HOT! We are so blessed to have such wonderful weather in Perth…no humidity…and it was very hot and humid in Phuket. I guess we’ve been spoiled. We did a lot of fun things…we rode elephants, sailed to the Pipi islands and snorkeled and relaxed at the resort. Luke even got an “elephant” massage. Take a look at the photos! I, on the other hand, got totally lip locked by an elephant. That was captured by the camera as well. YUCK!

In May Clint surprised me with a trip to Melbourne to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary. We had such a great time! Melbourne was a place we wanted to see but not necessarily a place we wanted to take the kids. A young couple from our church (ouch…that makes me sound old!) kept the kids for us. It was quite a different experience in that they moved into our house and carried on with all of the things the kids normally do. Meg took them to school and other various activities and Paul took Reid to “footy” (Australian Rules Football) Saturday morning. The kids didn’t miss a beat…or us for that matter! They love Meg and Paul. And Clint and I had a GREAT time. Melbourne is quite “artsy” and much like the city of New York. There were lots of great restaurants and shopping in the city and we were able to walk to everything. Clint is such a “point” master! He used points for us to fly to Melbourne…we even had to fly there first class in order to be able to use the points. DARN!!! That was the “quickest” flight EVER!!! And he used “cash and points” for the hotel. I love that he is always trying to work a deal. He is the “keeper of the punch cards” too! He loves me so much that he gives me his punch cards for McCafe!!! I have found that the best chai soy latte in Perth is at McCafe! Thank you Tegan for introducing me to this delicious treat. Anyway, we went to see the musical “FAME” while we were there, worked out a lot –Clint even did a PILATES class with me and then we ate and ate and ate! On our last full day we rented a car and drove ?? hours to see “The Twelve Apostles”, one of Melbourne’s biggest tourist attractions (see pictures). There were many stops along the way and the entire ride was breathtaking but the climax was the “The Twelve Apostles”. As soon as we saw that we turned around and started the journey back to Melbourne. The thing about Melbourne that I didn’t really like was that I felt it was a bit “dark”. I found the alleyways a bit creepy with the graffiti (check out the photos) and strange that people huddled up in the corner of the alleyways. However, had I not gone into the back alleyways I would not have found “Little Cupcakes”!!!! It was nice to find good cake! You knew eventually in this post there would be something about CAKE!

Let me give you a bit of an update on what the kids are up to.

Mackenzie started playing Netball, which is evidently the most popular girl sport in Australia. It is much like basketball except that you don’t dribble the ball, you have to pass it or shoot. I’m sure there is more to it than that but I’m still learning. Mackenzie celebrated her 10th birthday on July 3rd. She has been thriving at the new school. She was so blessed with a teacher that made her feel loved and special. Of all of our kids I would have to say that Mackenzie probably likes exercise the least. This sweet teacher of hers had breast cancer and in honor of her, Mackenzie and I ran in a 5K on Mother’s Day weekend. That is the effect this teacher had on her!!! Unfortunately her teacher did not return this term so my little girl is constantly learning some tough life lessons.

Kennedy has improved tremendously in gymnastics. She is now on the “team” and will have her first gymnastics meet in August. She goes to the gym twice a week now and during school “holiday” she was there 3 times a week for 6 hours each day!!! She is loving it and so am I!!! She is doing well in school especially considering how “young” she is to be in third grade. We moved her up a grade when we switched schools and since she has an August birthday she was already “young” for her grade. We just got report cards for term 1 and 2 and Kennedy got all B’s except in one class. I bet you can figure out what class her A was in!!! You got it…Physical Education! The girl is just amazing in sports and I love her “spunk”. I was working out the other day and she came in and started giving me instructions – “Get your bottom down…Keep going…no stopping!” She turns 8 in just a few weeks and finally stopped sucking her thumb. Her reward arrives at the end of this week…a new American girl doll. Who knew that was the motivation she needed.

We spend every Saturday morning watching Reid playing “footy”. It is such a strange game to me but we have found that Reid is actually very good. The coach puts comments online after each game and every one of them says something about Reid. One week he put that he is the best defender he has ever seen! He’s come such a long way since the first game. That first game he would put his arm back like he was going to throw the ball (which is NOT how you play at all) and the coaches would be screaming “NOoooooo, don’t throw it!” With Australian rules football you actually “punch” the ball with your fist???!!! Recently we had an “incident” with sweet Reid. He threw a rock and hit the front door of the house and cracked the glass. Typically not THAT big of a deal. However, this door has somewhat of a sentimental value. Above the door there is a huge window and in this window the word “FAIRLIGHT” is etched into the glass. There are three panes of glass that make up the front door and in these three panes is an etching of a lighthouse scene. The owners explained to us that her father was raised in an orphanage called “FAIRLIGHT” and this was somewhat of a memorial in his honor. So of all windows/doors to break Reid threw the rock and hit that one!!!! A very costly mistake at that! So the funny part of this story is that I got really upset with him at first and the next day I told him that I was sorry and that I wished I had told him at the time it happened that HE was more important than that glass. His response, “Next time, I’ll be sure to remind you of that!” Reid has fallen in LOVE here in Australia. Her name in Emma and she is one of the Bengtson’s daughters that I mentioned above. Typically I hear a lot about Emma when we are in the car. For example, “I am NEVER divorcing Emma!”; “Yes, I have three girlfriends but my favorite starts with EMMA and ends with B.”; “My license plate is going to be short – RE – R for Reid and E for Emma!” ; and just the other day he determined that their kids would have blonde hair since “its half of me and half of her”.

And Luke…sweet Luke…He’s just a funny, funny kid! He wants so much to be like the “bigger” kids. I no longer walk him to his class in the morning because he wants to be like his older siblings. So I pull up and off he goes!  He is such a sweet, sweet boy! During the teacher/parent conference I was told that when the teacher asked the kids to draw pictures of their friends at school, almost every single kid included Luke in their drawing. He has made lots of friends at school but his special friend is from South Africa and his name is Lihun. Luke keeps us laughing. He’s got such a big personality and says the funniest things. Today was a special day at school and the kids got to wear jeans. I looked at Luke’s jeans and saw they had a hole in them. Upon seeing my expressing he says, “What mommy?...this is how Americans wear their jeans!”

Clint’s job is quite challenging but he works off steam at the gym almost every day of the week with a personal trainer. He has really kept at it and is really starting to see a difference! He has also enjoyed being able to scuba dive right across the street from where we leave. It is like we live on a resort since we are walking distance to Hillarys Harbor, a marina with shops and restaurants. Clint enjoys planning our trips and getting us prepared for travel. I love the games he plays with the kids before bedtime – “Tortilla”, “Airplane”, “Monster Truck Bed”, “Tickle Monster”, “Jedi in the Dark”, and my favorite – “Tickle Time Tables”. He calls out a times table question and gives Kennedy a certain time to answer. If she doesn’t answer within the time allocated then he tickles her until she has the answer. It works perfectly for her!

As for me, I feel settled for the first time in a year and ½. It’s a nice feeling but I better not get too comfortable because who knows what God has in store. I have gotten involved with our church by taking part and sometimes facilitating a women’s bible study. I help out at the school and I am on the board of the American Women’s Club. In addition to that, I continue to work out and find myself at the grocery store ALL of the time. It is just a way of life here. Planning for every single meal we eat is a full time job. Today the kids had McDonalds because I failed to have a plan. And you know that about sent me over!! Actually, they have had McDonalds more in the last 2 months then they have had their entire life. I have also attended some Thermomix cooking classes. I spend a lot of time with God and HE is my best friend. I love that I don’t have to wait to call HIM due to the time difference. I love that I don’t have to have a charged, working phone to be able to talk to HIM. There is never a game of phone tag with God. He’s just there…ALL of the time. I am so thankful I have HIM to share this journey with.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

October/November 2009

Two weeks from today we leave for the US and the Smith family could not be more excited! We have been here 11 months now…in some ways it seems like forever but looking back at all we have done and experienced, it has flown. October was still a very cold and chilly month but there were a few days in between that were really, really nice; thankfully, one of those days being Reid’s birthday. We had a few of his “mates” from his class join us for a “sausage sizzle” at King’s Park. It was a very nice relaxing afternoon. The $90 dinosaur birthday cake was not fabulous but the homemade chocolate coffee cream cupcakes that I made for the “mums” were amazing!!! Reid has made some really good friends at school. They play so well together and I’m just so thankful at how “welcoming” they were when we first arrived. In addition, I’ve made friends with many of the moms and I will miss them so much next year when we are at the new school.

The boys were out of school for the first two week of October and the girls were out one of those weeks. Honestly I can’t remember now what all we did or perhaps I blocked some of it out (i.e. roller skating…the boys were NOT a fan). One of the days I had all of them home I met Tegan and her 5 girls at the park. Tegan and Timon are the couple that my friend Leslie Wright got us in contact with. Timon use to teach Sunday School at Stonebriar Church in Frisco and he is the Worship Pastor at Subiaco Church. A couple of Sundays ago he was leading worship and it was just him and his guitar. I loved it. I was singing and a thought came into my head and then I prayed, “Oh Lord, please don’t let them leave”. That night they came over for dinner and we found out that they ARE leaving. He is going to be the head pastor at a church in Adelaide (Australia), now another place on our list to visit before our time in Australia is over. I was/am SOOOOOOOOOOO sad but very excited that God is using him in such a BIG way.

Clint went sail fishing this month on a “business” trip. I’m not sure I call it business but glad he got to experience sail fishing in Malaysia. He flew into Kuala Lumpur and drove 5 hours through palm tree plantations to get to the fishing town. He had two days of fishing and they caught 17 sail fish between five guys. We went to “family camp” with our church and had a very nice time. We couldn’t spend the entire weekend since I had to be back for the “fete” but met up with everyone on Saturday for a day of bible study, games, crafts and team building exercises. We really just enjoyed hanging out and getting to know people. At one point we couldn’t find Luke and while all reasoning tells me he’s fine I start to panic. Well, I finally found him he was with Emma, one of Tegan’s little girls. I stood from a distance and just watched them for a while…it was priceless. He was holding her hand and helped her climb up onto a log and made sure she was okay getting down. TOO cute!

October and November were busy with the kids’ school and AWC (American Women’s Club) activities. On October 25th, Reid and Luke’s school hosted the biannual “West Leederville 2009 Fete”. I was responsible for the nacho stall. I was very tempted to have velvetta and rotel shipped in from the US but feared that it just may not go over very well here. So I made them the Australian way – bowl of chips topped with nacho sauce and cheddar cheese, put in the microwave, top off with sour cream. I have to admit they were pretty good. The following weekend was the Halloween carnival at the International school. I was responsible for the bake sale put on by the American Women’s Club. Halloween is becoming more and more popular here and it really sickens me that Halloween is something that Americans are known for. I missed our neighborhood in Prosper where the kids dressed up in sweet, innocent costumes. Here everyone dressed up in dark and scary outfits with lots and lots of blood. YUCK! We participated in the “trunk or treat” and made an attempt to decorate the back of our car but we certainly did not win the best car prize. This year for Halloween we had a jeannie, Hannah Montana and 2 jedis. Clint got a lot of comments on his “Tacky Tourist” outfit that he had worn a couple of years ago and I was a cat. We really wanted to go as the cast from Scooby Doo but Reid wanted NO part in wearing the Shaggy or Fred costume.

I hosted the “Welcome Coffee” in November for the AWC. It is something we do each month to welcome new people who have recently moved to Perth. I really enjoy the welcome coffees and Luke is always such a trooper to go with me. I always thank him for going and he graciously responds, “Sure mom, anytime!” I am really going to miss him next year since he will be in school every day. I also hosted a baby shower for my friend Stephanie, who actually just had the baby on Friday. She had to have a C-section because the baby was breech. This was her first baby and my heart went out to her being here without family. We were thrilled to be able to be a part of their experience in becoming parents for the first time. It is going to be really hard when they leave! We’ve shared so much together since meeting in March.

We have heard from many people about the flies in November and we finally got a taste of what they were talking about. We took our bikes up to John Forrest National Park for a bike ride and picnic. Maybe we were a bit too adventurous since Luke just learned to ride without training wheels. We were just starting our ride and there was a huge hill in which Clint told them to get off their bikes and walk down. Luke decided he could ride down and he took a very hard fall and tumbled all the way down. His poor back and arms were so scraped up and bleeding…I felt so bad for the little guy. BUT of course we wiped him off, gave him some encouragement and kept on going with him saying over and over, “Lake Monger is more better!” Lake Monger is where he learned to ride his bike. It is the lake by our house and according to Luke it is “more better” because it is flat and there are no rocks. We rode through this old train tunnel. I was a bit scared since it was pitch black…we couldn’t see our feet…and with all the scary critters in this country I was really nervous. The kids didn’t want to do it either but with the leader of our family being the adventure enthusiast we knew we had no choice. After we got through the tunnel, the kids really felt that they had achieved something and we even heard “let’s do it again!” On the way out on the trail, we were going in the direction where the wind was in our face so the flies didn’t bother us but it was a different story on the way back. These pesty flies wouldn’t leave us alone. They were all over us and Kennedy just completely “lost it!” She displayed some Jim Carrey moves as she tried to swat the flies away from her face. It was actually pretty funny. I think the “attack of the flies” is behind us but the flies that are still around are still quite aggressive. The next weekend we attempted the beach but after about 30 minutes we left because it was so cold. These small challenges have surely worked to build character in each of us. Clint and I got a bit wild and crazy and went to the Nickelback concert. Not something we would normally do but it was just nice going “out on the town” with friends (Steve and Stephanie, Cam and Jacqui and Claire and Rob). I actually spent most of the concert praying as it really makes me sad that the lead singer felt it necessary to say the “F” word every other second. Clint cracked me up that night. I’m sure some people thought he had been drinking. Nope…just being silly! After every song the lead singer would say “Thank you so much”…it really became comical how often he said it. When the crowds got quiet, Clint screamed out “Thank YOU so much!” I’m sure you had to be there but it was really funny. And the night was not complete until Clint did the “gopher dance”.

A few days before Thanksgiving my sister Paula gave birth to twin boys – Jacob and Joshua. They are so precious and I can’t wait to meet them. I sure hated not being there at the birth but look forward to holding them very soon.

Thanksgiving Day was approaching and I was trying really hard not to think too much about it. We had already broken the “decorating for Christmas before Thanksgiving rule” and quite honestly I just wanted Thanksgiving to come and go as quickly as possible. Mackenzie was leaving for camp and wouldn’t even be with us on Thanksgiving Day, the kids would be in school since it was just another day here in Perth, Clint would be at work and so that left me and Luke to figure out what to do. But my friend Tegan had it all figured out. I have been here almost a year and she found out that I had never had a sausage roll. She gathered a group of ladies together from church and had a Thanksgiving lunch Australian style…sausage rolls!!!! Since Tegan has lived in the US she understood and has experienced what Thanksgiving is all about. Tegan, Catherine and Jo went out of their way to help me get through the day. What a blessing! But instead of letting Thanksgiving come and go the Smiths had “Four Thanksgivings” on the agenda. On Thursday night we had a traditional Thanksgiving feast with the AWC. It was a nice evening but we certainly missed Grandma Redd’s hot rolls and cornbread dressing. The following evening we went to Timon and Tegan’s house for a non traditional Thanksgiving get together with people from the church, including our pastor who is also from the US. We had a fun evening making pizzas and playing “Catch Phrase”. The next day was the Aggie Thanksgiving and Clint and I signed up to bring Grandma Redd’s dressing. I’m glad we did so we were SURE to get some before Thanksgiving weekend came and went. I think we were a bit over zealous about the dressing. We quadrupled the recipe and ended up with two containers full in the freezer. We had one more get together planned with Kyle and Ragan but the Smith family needed some down time and we ended up cancelling. In thinking back through the week it wasn’t as hard as I set myself up for it to be. It was just another day here and life went forward with everyone doing what they always do. We were sleeping when Thanksgiving was actually going on in the States and by the time we woke up it was all over. So all in all we were okay. Mackenzie got home and had a blast at camp. When she got home she looked just a bit older to me. She reminds me quite often that she is almost in double digits.

On a personal note I finished the Bible Study, David, by Beth Moore. Each morning as I would take the kids to school I would give them the cliff note version of what I had read that morning. One morning they asked, “Isn’t he dead yet?” Another morning I was driving and hadn’t really even thought about giving them the lesson on King David and Luke says, “Okay…King David”. I guess that had been my “intro” each morning and when I forgot he chimed in! I gave myself a goal of having to run around Lake Monger without stopping before I could go back to the US. Luke helped me out with this one. After taking the other kids to school I decided that since he could now ride his bike, instead of going to the gym I would take him to Lake Monger. I would run and he could ride. Well, it started pouring down when we were ½ way around the lake and he just took off to the car. He got out of my sight and so I ran as hard as I could to try to catch him. I wanted to stop but I couldn’t because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do since it was raining so hard. So by the time I found him I had made it all the way around without stopping. I did it again the next day and now I find myself waking up between 4:45 and 5am almost every day to go run. I have never been a runner and quite frankly my body would hurt when I ran. I’m amazed at how great I feel now when I run now. No aches…no pains….I LOVE IT! I am also amazed at how easy it has become. And don’t let me fool you into thinking it is some huge accomplishment. I think it is only 2.2 miles (3.5 kilometers) but for me it is a start. I continue to go to the gym all the time but quite honestly I’m not getting the results I want. I’ve made progress but I think I am going to have to finally admit to myself that I have to work on the diet part of the program. URRR! I love dessert! Oh…and I went to a Thermomix demonstration this month and took Clint with me so he could see this amazing machine. I want one sooo bad. We haven’t been able to find out for sure whether or not it will work in the US on a transformer. This machine is like 10 appliances in one and it also cooks the food. You can make your own butter, bread, icecream, sorbets, mayonnaise. With making all of your own stuff you reduce the amount of preservatives going into your body and it does all of this stuff in seconds. My friend Machelle sells them. The day of the demonstration she made sorbet, custard, a dip, homemade rolls, coleslaw and risotto. I was amazed at how quick it was to make and how yummy all of it was. You can also cook your rice, steam your vegetables and cook your fish all at once in this thing. Unbelievable. And very little clean up is required. The thing pretty much cleans itself! I think Clint might just get me one so I’ll stop talking about it. If I could, I would bring them back to the US and sell them! I am sure you would want one!!! Unfortunately, we’ve been told that the US taxes the item as 10+ different appliances and therefore, it prices itself out of the market, which is why they don’t sell them in the US. I have found out that they do have them in Canada so if I get one here, I know I won’t be able to live without it once we move back, I can just order one from Canada since they work on the same voltage! We shall see what Santa decides!! I am looking forward to the plane ride home. I will be spending the flight typing our Christmas letter and reflecting on the last year. I can’t wait. Please keep us in your prayers and if you hear the song, “I’ll be home for Christmas”…think of us!



Friday, October 16, 2009

August/September 2009

August came and went and to be honest we were glad since the weather was really getting to us. With all the research we did before we moved we NEVER expected such a long, wet and cold winter. Australians have said that this was the worse winter in years. Just the other day poor Reid told me he was tired of being cold. I felt the same way. Fortunately, now, spring has sprung and the Smith family is very happy to see sunshine again.

August was full of birthday fun. Kennedy celebrated with a “stamping” party. My friend Stephanie is really into scrapbooking and card marking so she helped me with the party. The girls think she is super cool and crafty…and that she is! The “American Women Welcome Coffee” fell on my birthday and just happened to be at Stephanie’s house this month. She had a birthday cake for me and there was a lot of yummy food! Later in the week Lisa P., Lisa M., and Stephanie also took me out for a birthday lunch. Very nice. And over the weekend we celebrated with a date night with Steve and Stephanie and enjoyed the best dinner out we’ve had since being in Perth at Darlington Estates in Swan Valley. The food, ambiance, service and company were wonderful. Stephanie also made me a home-made birthday cake. I also got to celebrate Lisa Posell’s birthday with her in August with a fun “date night” and then also a murder mystery luncheon with the American Women Association.

September is somewhat of a blur. Stephanie left for the US and was gone for 3 weeks, needless to say our social calendar slowed down a bit. Unfortunately, we don’t think they will be in Australia as long as we had hoped. Not sure what life will be like in Perth without them. We have already had to say good-bye to Karis and Tyson and I certainly do not want to do that again anytime soon. It was actually good Steve and Stephanie were gone because Clint and I started a 15 day “cleanse” and we were NO fun to socialize with. We basically could only eat fruits, vegetables, whole meal…I mean whole wheat pasta (Australian terminology is rubbing off on me), beans and fish every 3rd day. We took lots of herbs/vitamins over the 15 days along with the “diet” in hopes to get rid of all the toxins in our bodies. It was really hard and there is no way I could have done it alone. This was all Clint’s idea just so you know. I was simply being a supportive wife. The first Saturday of the 15 day ordeal we about “lost it”…we were so grumpy! There is just something about the weekends…so much harder than during the week. We discovered sweet potato chips to be a great snack. We sliced them real thin and put them on a cookie sheet, drizzled olive oil and sea salt on them. Baked on 350 for 15 minutes and then turned up the heat and broiled for another couple of minutes. Not bad with guacamole dip either. The first thing I splurged on when it was all over was chocolate covered almonds. The 15 days was a good lesson in self control but I was sure glad when it was all over! I think it was really good for our kids to see us go through this “cleanse”. We certainly couldn’t quit or “fall off the wagon” for the sake of what our kids would learn from that.

One of the most random things that happened to me this month was someone offered to buy my jacket right off my back! When I told her I wasn’t ready to part with it she gave me her card and said, call me when you no longer wear it and I’ll buy it from you. She started to ask me where I got it but before I could answer, she said I’m sure it came from the States (before even my accent gave it away!!). Australians seem to really love clothes from the US (that were probably made in China).

We have made a big decision to move the kids to another school. We have not been pleased with the International School and while the boys love their school a few things have happened that have caused us to question the environment they are in. I just love how God works. So here’s the story that led me to this school. Before we left for Australia I got a call from someone in the children’s ministry at Prestonwood. She received the prayer request form I filled out regarding our move to Australia. She actually did an internship at North Beach Baptist Church here in Australia. She gave me the name of a very sweet lady and we visited the church the third Sunday we were in Perth. We met a nice family that morning and I happened to ask her where her kids went to school. She explained that they were at Kingsway Christian College and that it was the best “Christian” college in Perth. Over the following months I constantly heard advertisements on the radio about Kingsway and it being a “Christ centered” education. It always stood out to me for some reason. Then we had a little “situation” at Reid’s school which pretty much “sealed the deal” for us to make a move. So I began calling around to make appointments to tour some schools. I called Kingsway and the sweetest lady, Charmaine, helped me. We decided to drive to the school over the weekend to see where it was and after the TOM TOM took us around the world (it seemed) to get there, we ruled it out because it was simply too far!!! I had also set up an interview at Scotch College, which is where so many “ex-pat” kids go but got online to look at the fees and cancelled the appointment immediately. Oh my!...we are obviously not on the same “ex-pat plan”! So back to the drawing board! We decided to go ahead and tour Kingsway. I prayed that God would make it very clear to us that Kingsway was the place for our kids. And THAT he did! All six of us went on the tour. The kids were certainly hesitant to let their excitement show but I could see it in their eyes. We saw the fruits of the spirit on the wall, memory verses on the chalk board, positive character traits displayed…for a second I felt I was back at Legacy Christian Academy and it was REFRESHING! And then we walked in a first grade class and the class says “Good morning Smith family…and GOD LOVES YOU!!!” How precious is that? Then the most “God thing” happened. A little boy came up to Reid (it was explained to the class that Reid would be in 1st grade) and gave him a knuckle high five! Thank you God for being so involved in our lives and arranging something like a little knuckle high five for Reid! You see, out of all the kids Reid was the one I was/am most worried about. He loves his school and really, I do too! It has a real nice feel to it and I have made friends with a few of the moms from his class. The kids accepted him from day one and found him to be interesting with the “funny” way he talks and that he is from America. He has been invited to so many birthday parties and play dates. I love that when I walk him to his classroom each day he says hello to everyone we pass along the way and refers to them by name. So when we told him we were considering moving him to another school he said he did not want to!! I feel for him…my heart hurts…but I know that Kingsway will be a great environment. We handed in all of our paperwork and the earliest we could get an interview was mid-October. I made the comment to Charmaine that if by chance someone cancelled to please give us a call, that we were eager to get moving on this. Would you believe she called me back in less than a minute and explained that she was making a comment after we hung up and as the principal walked by that she wished all the families were as eager and excited as we were. The principal told her to call us back and work us in for Thursday! From start to finish I think God has directed us here. I have wondered myself why God didn’t just direct us to Kingsway from the get go and spare us some of the hardships the kids have had to go through. BUT, I trust HIM and know HIS ways are HIGHER than our ways. Oh…and I haven’t even told you about the other blessing. The fees for international students at Kingsway are much like the fees we were use to paying at LCA. However, considering the “food factor” in Australia we were “sweatin it” just a bit as Clint’s company will not pay for Luke since Kindergarten (called pre-primary in Australia) is not a required grade. Thankfully, during our tour Clint mentioned the type VISA we are here on and Charmaine informed us that we would not have to pay the International rates. I about fell on my face! How could this be??? So get this…all 4 of our kids will go to a private Christian College (School) for less than $10,000 per year! Crazy isn’t it?!! Oh what a blessing. And with making the decision to change schools we will be forced to move! DARN! I am sure you can tell how sad I will be about that! Just so you know it’s not just me…one of the guys from Clint’s office came over for dinner and nicknamed our house “Cell block A”…since it looks so much like a prison and we are at 39A Connolly! Nice huh??!!!

Steve and Stephanie came home September 21st and brought back lots of goodies for us from the US – vitamins, clothes, velvetta and chocolate chips!!!! They tried to recover from jet lag quickly before we left the kids with them for four days while we enjoyed a romantic getaway! We had a great time in Sydney. We have been so blessed in the past to be able to take at least one trip a year while family members have watched the kids. THANK YOU for that. We knew upon taking this assignment we would be giving that up. Even regular date nights are hard here since the cost of babysitting is $20 per hour for one kid. Fortunately, we have sweet Hannah who is from the US that is not accustomed to making quite that much!!! Anyway, when Steve and Stephanie offered we just could not believe it…but that is just the kind of people they are – very giving! The day before we left, the crazy dust storm hit Sydney and the entire city was orange. The pictures we saw online were incredible. The news reported that people were being forced to stay indoors and that everyone was wearing masks. We didn’t care…we were going! The first morning we were there we dressed as we would in Perth but had to return to change because we were HOT! We toured the opera house and even decided last minute to actually go to an opera just to say we did I guess. Operas are not my thing. People were laughing hysterically and frankly, I just didn’t get it. We went to Bondi Beach (there is a show on TV here about this beach) early on Saturday morning and then climbed the Sydney bridge. Our warm weather did not last long. It was soooo cold and so incredibly windy! The guide told us he has never experienced it this windy in the 3 years he has worked there. What is it with us being a part of so many “it’s never like this” situations??!! On Sunday we rented what we called “our Ferrari” for the day so we could go to church, outback steakhouse and drive into the Blue Mountains. This meant I had to navigate using a map! UGH! I would have chosen the driver’s seat but it was a stick shift. We went to Hillsong Church. We thought we were going to the big church but ended up at one of their many satellite churches. The service reminded us a little of what we have seen on TV of Joel Olsteen’s church in Houston. After church we FINALLY made it to Outback after several wrong turns. You know it is very hard to start off not knowing where you are on a map and as soon as you find yourself on the map, within seconds you are off the map and on another map. Can’t we just be on one map!?! Clint did really good keeping his cool but I will admit but there WAS a little tension in the car on our romantic getaway! Outback was a treat, even though it was still a little different. One thing was the exact same…the “Sinful Sundae”! YUM! YUM! We thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We then drove into the “Blue Mountains” and had we started the day earlier and had it not been so cold, it would have been great for hiking. We made it to the main attraction “The Three Sisters”. There is a legend behind the formation of this mountain. We enjoyed a “Raiders of the Lost Ark” kind of experience riding down the side of a mountain in this tram/rail cart. I think they said it was the steepest tram in the world. It was very cool, literally! Afterwards, we had hot chocolate at this little chocolate factory. Not your standard cup of cocoa. They served you a platter with a bowl of big chocolate chips and a large cup of milk sitting over a tea light. Make your own hot chocolate I guess. It was yummy. That night we stayed in. Since our hotel was located in the business district, many of the restaurants were closed on Sunday night so we picked up a pizza and watched a movie. Fun and relaxing. We enjoyed many nice meals with great service, much different than what is typical in Western Australia. I had one of the yummiest meals I have ever had the first night we were there. I am just hungry thinking about those raviolis. It was a taste in my mouth I will probably never experience again. Kind of like how I feel about my granny’s chicken-n-dumplings. The hotel was great but the best part was the shower and the “Westin” smell. I love their bath products and I think they filter that smell throughout the entire hotel. One of the days we were there, I must have taken 4 showers!!! HEAVENLY! We got up early the next morning, picked up krispy kreme and headed to the airport. Oh…and don’t be mad at me…we had seats in FIRST CLASS! I felt a bit silly sitting in first class at first but quickly got over it. It was the only type seat we could get using points. It was nIIIIIIIIce! I had my computer so I could work on my recipe project. One of the flight attendants noticed what I was doing and asked me if I wrote my own recipes. I left her the paper copy I had of all the ones I had typed. She was thrilled and just think, there is a little piece of you in Australia since most of my recipes came from YOU!! It felt so good to miss the kids and it was nice to see their smiling faces when we walked out of the airport. Our sweet friends even dropped us off AND picked us up at the airport, took us home and had dinner prepared so we didn’t have to worry about that. Upon returning, the girls had a couple of days of school left and the boys were off for Spring Break.

I guess these last two months may have very well been the loneliest months so far. With the weather being so nasty, people just aren’t out as much and with Stephanie gone it was just lonely. I am so thankful to have gone through this journey with my precious kids. They have certainly made it much easier for me in many ways. But most of all, I am thankful that the Lord offers his companionship to me. I have enjoyed having HIM right beside me, helping me get through the hard days and enjoying His presence on the good! I would choose to do this all over again. It has been a blessing and I have seen God work in amazing ways and do wonderful things in the lives of our children. Would you believe one of their most favorite restaurants is called “Nine Mary’s”…Indian food!!! Reid had sushi at school one day and Luke frequently asks if he can have Japanese noodles for lunch. Who are these kids? The girls are growing up! They have both grown several inches and Mackenzie’s hair has gotten so long. We even had “the talk” with Mackenzie and all she could say was “Can I go now?” Then just watching them go through the trials of moving across the world away from everything that is familiar, well, I’m just in awe of what God has done. We started a thing called “family conversation” each night at the dinner table. We pull a card out of a box and on this card is a sentence we have to complete. The other night it was, “I’m most proud of…” and Luke finished with “my adventurous family!” Praise God that He made us the way we are to accomplish what He has planned for our lives. He has used so many of you to help us through this first year of living overseas. When we were going through something really hard a month ago many of you emailed me and simply said that God had placed us on your hearts and you were praying. What an incredible way to feel God’s love. We are counting the days until we come home – 65 days to go. See you soon!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

June / July 2009

Wow…nearly two months have gone by since my last update and so much has gone on that I don’t even know where to begin. So I guess I will begin after we returned from Bali. We had just a few days before my sisters came. We received an email from the school that if any student has had contact with an American that they would need to be in “quarantine” for 7 days due to the swine flu pandemic. Fortunately, the girls’ school ended up asking us to keep them out one day since it was their last week of school but the boys’ school required the full 7 days. I picked up my sisters and Cassidy (A.K.A. “THE DIRTY AMERICANS”!!!) from the airport, dropped them off at the house to shower and rest and took Kennedy straight to the hospital to begin the rabies shots from the monkey bite in Bali. That afternoon we enjoyed seeing all the goodies they brought to us from home. I am pretty sure that we had queso and chips within the first 24 hours of their arrival! The next day we went to Caversham Wildlife Park, one of the first places we went when we arrived in Perth. The last day of school was the awards assembly and Mackenzie won the “Read around Australia” contest for 3rd grade and 4th place for the entire school. The school year ended with a “sausage sizzle on the oval” in typical Aussie style. That weekend Clint and I celebrated Steve and Stephanie’s birthdays at a restaurant called “Alure” in the Burswood casino here in Perth. It was a fabulous time (met new friends Jacqui and Cam) and it was the first and LAST time I will ever eat sushi! No thanks! Not for me. The Caesar salad was so yummy that I plan on going there for lunch next week. Oh…now I remember what you might find of interest about that story. You know me - it was a birthday so it was a great excuse to find an INCREDIBLE cake! So I sent out an email to the moms of Reid’s class. I got a lot of responses back so I started calling all of these places and asking them so pretty detailed questions about their cakes. I am SURE they thought I was crazy. I even explained that I am a CAKE SNOB and that I like a really moist, fluffy cake…but that was a bad thing to say because then they thought I wanted a sponge cake. I went into the texture of icing I was looking for and the described the taste of butter cream (my mouth is literally watering as I type this) and on and on I went. I really liked the sound of the cakes at this one place but was quoted $150 so I moved on. Finally, I made the decision. Saturday came and Clint went to pick up the cake for me…I had cash in hand to give him since of course, they don’t take cards! Not the way we are accustomed to living! Funny how organized and “on the ball” I can be when it has to do with cake!...anyway, I was so excited all day about getting to eat this cake. It looked good…it smelled good. After dinner they brought it out. We sang, we took pictures and then the moment came…the cutting of the cake. Oh no…this can NOT be happening. It doesn’t look right…it’s not fluffy…it‘s soooo dense. It was AWFUL! Five months without cake and THIS is what I picked! I wanted to cry…seriously!! Later Clint said, “Honey, I felt so bad for you!” He totally gets me! least most of the time! The next day we went to Serpentine Falls and did some hiking. We saw lots of kangaroos in the wild, which is so much cooler than in a park. Steve and Stephanie went with us as well. We stopped in Mandurah on the way home to try a Mexican restaurant...oh well, we tried!

The following week I went to Angie Junker’s house to learn how to make an authentic Venezuelan meal for Clint for Father’s Day. This was a meal we had a few months ago at Tom and Angie’s and we thoroughly enjoyed it. So after an afternoon of cooking I was carrying everything to the car. It was pouring down rain and as I was going down the stairs outside I slipped and ATE IT!!!! It was one of those pains that nearly caused me to pass out. I guess the reason why I ended up getting hurt so bad is that I somehow broke the fall with various parts of my body in efforts to save the meal I had just spent hours learning to make. It is really amazing that I did not break my arm AND leg! The next day I was so black and blue down one side of my body. I did not want to tell Clint where I was and what happened so that I did not ruin the surprise “Fathers Day” meal so he was very confused as to how in the world I hurt myself so badly. Father’s Day weekend was one Clint will never forget, or any of us for that matter. We drove to Lancelin, which is about 1 ½ hours from Perth, to go sand boarding. TOO MUCH FUN!!!! It was extremely exhilarating. I am not sure the pictures do it justice! At times it really felt like the Prado was going to flip over. We were all screaming like we were on a roller coaster. Apparently this crazy adventure has left its’ mark on our car…there will always be a layer of sand on the dash board! Clint enjoyed his surprise Father’s Day meal and his gift, which was “barbeque school” with the “Urban Griller”! Clint is lucky that he will actually get to celebrate Father’s Day twice this year since Australians celebrate it in September.

Cassidy turned 20 on June 25th so we had a birthday party at McDonalds! I felt I had to explain as you might be shocked to find pictures of my family eating at McDonalds. I am sure you knew there had to be some explanation for the madness. Well, honestly…in a way, I was glad to have an excuse to eat there…but shhhh don’t tell anyone! We gave Cassidy Dr. Pepper for her birthday…a real treat here in Perth!

The next weekend we drove north hoping to escape the rain. We have learned that Perth winters are very wet! We stopped at a place called the Pinnacles on our way to Kalbarri, which is about 3 hours north of Perth. It's believed the Pinnacles were created millions of years ago as seashells were broken down into sand and then eroded by water and wind. It was a beautiful site!! We continued on our journey four more hours to Kalbarri. We arrived at our “resort”…maybe what Western Australians call a “resort” but let’s just say it was NOT the Westin. You will not find 4 and 5 star resorts that I am embarrassed to say we have become accustomed to staying at on vacation. Sure, they call it a resort…even luxurious; they even call some places a “chalet”…sounds glorious doesn’t it??!! Our luxurious 4 star resort was straight out of a Chevy Chase vacation movie. Notice the picture of the pool in the slide show and you will get an idea of what I am talking about. However, after the initial shock we made it “home” for the next three days. Kalbarri was definitely what I pictured Australia to look like before we actually made this country our “home”. We did a lot of hiking with Kennedy leading the pack most of the way! For the most part, the rain cooperated with us and when it didn’t, we simply got wet! I loved watching the kids roll up their britches, build waterfalls out of rocks and simply enjoy nature! No TV, no computer, no IPODS…very nice! There had been so much rain that the roads leading to one of the best hikes in Kalbarri National Park was closed. We also found many things closed due to strong winds. We were thankful that we were able to do the “Canoe Safari”. It was a great time. We canoed for about 45 minutes and then stopped for “brekkie” on the bank of the river. We had cereal eggs, toast, baked beans and vegemite!!! Okay, so not ALL of us had vegemite! This is where the $10 buck dare began. A couple of years ago and when I was in Colorado visiting my friends, the Klaus family, they introduced me to this simple but funny, daring game. So we “$10 bucked” anyone to eat a piece of toast with vegemite! So Rachel, Cassidy and Mackenzie took on the dare. Cassidy gave up after smelling it, Rachel took one bite and spit it out but Mackenzie was so determined to do it since she is saving for a Kindle, that she got half of a piece of bread down but started gagging as if she was about to vomit and called it quits. It only made sense to her that she earned $5 since she ate half of the toast! After breakfast the girls asked where the restrooms were. HA! So the girls and I had a lovely Mother Daughter moment. We snuck off, stood in a circle, dropped our pants and squatted! Lovely! The girls thought it was hilarious! I guess in our case, you can take the girl out of the Westin AND you CAN take the Westin out of the girl! We loaded back in our canoe, with Clint reminding me along the way that he did take canoeing in college! We also reminisced about our first canoe experience when we were in college. I moved to Hawaii for the summer and he saved his money to come visit. I surprised him with a short trip to Kauai. We canoed to this place called “Fern Grotto”. After that excursion it is a wonder that we ever even got married!!! I think that was the summer right after he took canoeing so he WAS the expert!

We got up fairly early the next day, which is necessary for 10 people sharing one bathroom, to go see the Pelican feeding. I guess only one Pelican was hungry that day as that was all that showed up. We packed up all of our wet clothes and shoes and started the seven hour journey home. I was looking forward to our king size, therapeutic mattress! We had a great time in Kalbarri, saw some incredible sites and did some great hiking. I found it humorous that when we walked in the door of the house in Perth we all went our separate ways until morning. Unfortunately, Rachel and Samantha’s birthday fell that day but we decided to celebrate it on the 29th in the U.S.! I made one of their favorite meals, Kristine and Cassidy baked a cake (it was far better than the one I bought!) and Rachel and Samantha received their very own Camelbacks (for those of you who don’t know…it is a “BPA free” water bottle and all 6 of us are proud owners). I actually have two different sizes! It is my déjà blue water bottle replacement!

The following Friday was Mackenzie’s birthday. We carried on with the “ice cream for breakfast” tradition and then headed to Margaret River. You couldn’t miss us!! We were decked out in the most USA wear you’ve ever seen. My mom had sent us a box full of 4th of July stuff…shirts, hats, beads, shoe clips, tiaras, Uncle Sam hat, sun glasses and the list goes on and on. We had planned on attending the American Women of Perth 4th of July picnic (actually held on June 28th) but decided to head North to Kalbarri instead to escape the rain. I am sure we would have won the “costume contest”. So we wore all of the USA stuff to celebrate Mackenzie’s birthday…kinda her 9th bday theme! We decided to stay at the same place we did last time (in March). It is a really cute place and very comfortable for the 10 of us! We stayed in Margaret River for 2 nights and visited wineries, cheese factory, chocolate factory and did a lot of site seeing. One of my favorite things we did was “THE MAZE”. It was straight out of a “SURVIVOR” episode. We divided up into teams and tried to make our way through the maze. There were four platforms at each corner of the maze that you had to reach. Talk about a cardio workout!!! Unfortunately, Clint and I came in last! Bummer, huh??? Doesn’t sit well for two people that like to think they are still in their 20’s! I guess we just THINK we can still hang! Oh well, there is always next time! On July 4th we drove to Augusta and supposedly went to the place that is said to be the farthest point from Washington DC. Not sure if this is true but it is what we’ve been told and we are going with it since we drove 1 ½ hours just to get there! It is where the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean meet (who knew there was a Southern ocean??!!)! We stood proudly on top of this rock overlooking the ocean in our USA T-shirts, said the pledge of allegiance and sang the National Anthem. The next morning we left for Pemberton to go to the “TREE TOP WALK”. This was one of my favorite things we did. It was so beautiful…the trees were MASSIVE! Plus the drive to this area was INCREDIBLE! Much different than the previous weekend as far as the colors…this drive was very lush and green and last weekend we saw low brush and lots of brown. After the Tree Top walk we came across “Green’s Pool”…AMAZING! I can’t wait to go back there during the summer to swim. Who am I kidding??...I don’t swim in the ocean!!! It is way too cold for me!...I can’t wait to go lay out on the beach and watch the kids swim in the ocean! We were the only ones there and had fun doing relay races and handstands on the beach. I can still walk on my hands!!! That night we stayed at a very “interesting” place. It looked like a double-wide to me. It was funny to read the comments of previous guests in the “guest book” and quite concerning as well. Sooo many entries spoke of not having hot water. We were cold, wet and sandy…HOT water would be nice. Fortunately, we did not experience any problems at our “4 star luxurious chalet”. We played our last round of spades, a continuous tournament from the previous weekend. Samantha and I came out on top! The next day it was WINDY, COLD and RAINY! We had stopped to see a site called “The Natural Bridge” and it started POURING…so hard that my pants were SOAKED. We had to pull over and get dry clothes! One of Albany’s main attractions during this time of year is whale watching tours. Needless to say the whale watching tours were cancelled. However, we saw some amazing scenery in Albany but since the weather was really terrible we called it a day and headed back to Perth. We will definitely return to this area of the country and if we have any more visitors this would be a “MUST DO”!

We knew the next week would fly by as my sisters and Cassidy would be leaving in just over a week. We had a couple of things left on the list of things to do – one being “fish and chips” at Cottesloe Beach. So we had a wonderful afternoon in Cottesloe and then that night sisters and Cassidy offered to babysit. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed myself. We had an incredible meal at a place called the “Witches Cauldron”. Not sure I care for the name since I really don’t like the idea of witches and halloween…kinda creeps me out…but I pass this place every day on my way home from the gym and I have always wondered about it. It was INCREDIBLE! Then we went to see a movie, our first one since being in Perth! We shared the evening with our friends Steve and Stephanie…a very nice night indeed!

We finished up rabies shots for Kennedy and were very glad to have that behind us. We had "girls night out" and went to a gymnastics meet, with some of the Australian women's olympic team competing. I was in my "element". I just love the sport and really hoping it becomes Kennedy's passion. Wednesday came all too quickly and we said our good-byes to “The Aunts”, that is what the kids call them. I guess it is too much to say “Aunt Rachel, Aunt Samantha, Aunt Kristine and now Aunt Cassidy” so they just lump them all in one! It cracked me up on the canoe safari in Kalbarri when the director of the tour asked Kristine her name. Kennedy quickly answered for her and said, “It’s Aunt Kristine”. We are so thankful they came and that we got to be a part of their adventure.

We can cross going to a “footy” game off the list! You can actually see the stadium from our house. We had planned on walking since it is a pretty short walk. We got down the street and it started pouring so we turned around and got the car! Fortunately, we were able to find a parking spot. Have I explained how parking works here??....well, first of all they really don’t have parking lots. Most of the time we have to find places to park on the side of the road, which makes for quite a game of “Frogger” when driving around Perth. It is my goal to make it through our stay in Perth without getting a parking ticket. The other day I almost blew it. I was at “Farmer Jacks” (grocery store) and when you park in their tiny lot you have to park, walk to a ticket machine, go back to your car and place the ticket on the dashboard. I simply forgot! When I returned, this grumpy man told me he was in the process of writing me a ticket! Thankfully, he gave me a stern warning and let me go. Whew…that was a close one. So back to “footy”! First of all we were under the impression that we had box seats. (We later found out that the box seats were for rugby…bummer!) Also with our “box” seats we thought we would be getting free food, which we totally sold the kids on! Well, they weren’t box seats, it was pouring…I wish you could know what I meant by pouring!....and upon sitting down in our seats the man behind us screamed out the worst foul word you could possibly say in front of a woman. I turned around and simply said, “Wow…Kennedy cover your ears!!!!” The man got the hint and really did a great job of calling the players “girlies” instead for the rest of the evening. I thanked him upon leaving. He was super nice about it and I appreciated that! “Footy” – Australian Rules Football- is interesting and without knowing a thing about it you really can’t follow it. The ball looks like a funny shaped football…longer maybe and not quite as round. They do not wear any protective padding and it appears as if players can grab, punch, slap, shove, tackle and hit without getting penalized. It also looks like a cross between basketball, football and soccer. They have a goal post but it has 4 poles that go straight up that the players had to kick the ball between. They also “punch” the ball rather than pass it. Anyway, the kids were hungry, it was pouring, the language around us was terrible and we didn’t “get it” so we left! It was one of those things we felt we had to do while we were here and now that we have, don’t see a need to do it again…unless of course box seats and free food is involved!

Monday was a very cold and rainy day so I took the kids to see “Ice Age 3”…very fitting because that day it actually hailed so much that it looked like snow. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera. This doesn’t happen that often in WA so everyone was really excited about it. Mackenzie pointed out that she felt like we should be getting ready for Christmas!

The boys started back to school the following week which left the girls and me some time to do girlie things before they started back. Can’t think of anything girlier than going to see Hannah Montana! So that is what we did and we had the best time. We were the ONLY ones in the theatre so we sang…and we sang LOUD…we danced…we laughed! It wasn’t until the end of the movie that we realized that we actually had “company”. OOPS! The girls enjoyed getting pretty much anything they wanted that day and I had fun saying “yes” to everything…almost everything! They also wanted a repeat of “get everything we want for a day” on their last day of “winter” vacation. So we ate lunch at The Blue Duck on Cottesloe Beach and then went searching for seashells along the beach.

We experienced sadness this week as we had to say “good-bye” to our friend Karis. Tyson has to return for 6-8 more weeks but since Karis is a teacher she did not want to miss out on teaching this upcoming school year so she had to leave a bit earlier. I met Karis my first week here in a “body pump” class at the gym. We quickly figured out that we had both actually heard of one another through our friends Jen and Amanda and that we had a lot in common – our faith, fitness, friends and Texas A&M…couldn’t come up with another “F”…oh…just thought of one – Fightin’ Texas Aggies!!! Saying good-bye brought me to tears but the great thing is that I know I will see her again. Karis gave me a hug and said “I’ll pray for God to send you a new friend right away”. So the same day Karis left I went to the gym and saw a girl wearing an A&M t-shirt and I thought “Oh GOD…you really are going to provide me another friend RIGHT AWAY!!!!” I thought WOW!!! Here she is! …so I went over and talked to her and found out she is STILL AT A&M!!!! She was here visiting her parents! OH MY!!! HOW FUNNY that I thought so highly of myself that a 19 year old would want to be my friend! HAHAHA! Seriously, I knew she was young but did not expect her to be THAT young! So I’m still looking!!! But it hit me today while I was praying for Mackenzie. When I took her to school this morning I found out that there are only 2 other girls in her class and I was just so sad for her. Then I thought about telling her this speech: You know Mackenzie there are times in your life when God is going to ask you to make sacrifices in order to complete His work in and through you. God teaches us to put others before ourselves. While I think it is certainly okay to pray for a good friend - perhaps we should first pray that God uses you to touch someone else’s life in a big way!” …HEEEELLLLLLLOOOOOOO!!!! Right back at me!!!! So THAT is now my prayer…Lord, show me someone that I need to serve!

Aussie vocabulary:

We were at Bible study with our small group and the man leading it was about to call on a woman to answer a question and said, “Oh…the baby is on the T_T!” My mouth dropped and I am sure the expression on my face said it all. Can you even fathom Pastor Graham or any of the ministers at Prestonwood saying that??!!! Unbelievable!

I am not sure I have mentioned this before or not but here you don’t ask for a restroom or a bathroom. You have to ask, “Where are your toilets?” For whatever reason I can’t do it. I think it sounds so “un-lady like”. I have also asked my children not to conform to the “aussie way” but when they ask for a bathroom or restroom, people don’t seem to know what they are saying. I just imagine my kids coming back home and asking for the “toilet” and people thinking what rude children we have!

The other day the girls and I we were waiting to be seated at the Blue Duck and the lady says, “It won’t be but a tick”. Hmmm…took me a second to process but I got it.

The other day Kennedy got in the car and asked, “How are you going?” Slowly but surely they are becoming “aussie-fied”.

Precious times with the boys:

I am so blessed to have had such amazing times with kids since being here. One great thing about life here is that it is at a much slower pace. Therefore, I don’t miss these precious moments because I am going 90 miles an hour! I also love that we can’t use cell phones in the car because otherwise I would miss some really funny yet wise conversations that go on in the backseat. The other day Reid told Luke, “God is sooo rich!” and Luke’s response was “Yeah…and he shares it all with us!” What wisdom from a 4 and 5 year old!

I have to tell you about an incredible moment with sweet Luke. I know I am biased but he is so stinkin cute…so sweet…so precious!!! It was late one night and he stumbled into our bedroom with “ball ball” blanket in hand. I am pretty sure he was sleepwalking. He asked if I could come lay down beside him. I have to admit in a much faster paced life I would have been too tired to find the joy in that moment. So I said sure and then he asked if I could rub his back. Of course I would rub his back. So we walked to his bedroom and I met all his sweet little requests and then he says, “Now mommy, will you sing to me? Will you sing “Lullaby?” I was so moved I started to cry…but I was laughing at the same time because he was so out of it. He had the biggest grin on his face as I sang and then he said “I love you mommy!” I could cry again just thinking about it!!!

One morning Reid got up earlier than the rest of the kids and found me coloring my roots. Lovely!!! So he started asking me a lot of questions like “Why are you coloring your hair?”, which led to a discussion of what genes are vs. the jeans you wear. This went on for about 5 minutes or so and then there was total silence for a good 30 seconds. Then Reid said, “I guess, then, GOD wanted you to have grey hair!” and walked off! I wanted to say “But (something)!”…but I was taken back for a minute. What do you say to that? I got over it real quick and went on with my coloring job and concluded that God really wants me to use the color that HE gave someone out there the wisdom to make! But it was such a fitting comment that really goes along with what God has been teaching me lately. We have just gone through our first winter in Perth and let me tell you - we were NOT prepared for how much it would RAIN! It was a bit challenging since the girls were out of school for their “summer/winter” vacation during this time and we found ourselves stuck inside a lot! We would talk to people back home and hear the problem was quite the opposite…temperatures over 100 degrees day after day causing everyone at home to be stuck inside as well. SO while we were here wishing for warmer weather and sunny skies, people back home were hoping for some relief from the heat. In Philippians 4:11 Paul said he had learned to be content, whatever the circumstances – whether in need or to have plenty, whether well fed or hungry. I just want to be satisfied in the moment. I think back over the last 7 weeks and realize I really did enjoy waking up to the sound of rain. Knowing we really had nowhere to be at any specific time (a blessing within itself) I would just lie in my bed, pray and read. One morning I actually laid in bed until I finished the second book in the series “Mark of the Lion” by Francine Rivers! I have NEVER done that! The kids slept in later because it was dark outside and the cold temperature kept them all snug in their beds! So while I am not ready to embrace grey hair, I AM going to be content that there is the option of coloring and thankful that I have hair to color! I am ALSO going to be content with the winter weather we have left in Perth knowing that it needs to rain so we have enough water during the 9 months it doesn’t rain! We have also caught ourselves dreaming of our return back to the US, wondering where we are going to live (what restaurants will be nearby…ha-ha) and sadly enough I have dreamed of the house I will live in when we return (especially the kitchen!!!). I have expressed my feeling about this house to many of you and while it is not my favorite house, it is “home” for now. Clint and I have often (jokingly) said we sure hope this isn’t God preparing us for a mud hut in Africa, which was home to my sister Shauna and her husband Peter for 2 years!!!! I really have a new respect for them and the sacrifices they made while serving the Sudanese people, although I bet they wouldn’t even call it a sacrifice. 39A Connolly is not a mud hut by any stretch of the imagination but for now it is my “mud hut” and God is teaching me to be content in all circumstances. Thank you God for this house…thank you that sweet Mrs. Angela lives next door and that my kids bring her so much joy since her own husband doesn’t even know who she is most days!...thank you that we have not had to buy a second car because Clint can take the bus to work…thank you that we did not have to buy a refrigerator, washer/dryer and televisions because this house came with them! Thank you that had we not moved into this particular house I would not have had a gym membership at the Fitness First in Subiaco where I met my precious friend, Karis! There are so many reasons to be thankful for 39A Connolly!!!! SO hold me accountable sweet friends. And come December when it is 40 degrees Celsius, stop me from complaining about the heat! Yes, Candi Smith is going to be content in any and all circumstances! (Oh Lord, here’s where the devil comes in…keep me strong!)