Holidays that Heal

Holidays are time to unwind and relax. If you have been following this blog over the years you will know that holidays and I have a strange relationship.

When I first had children I kept planning holidays that looked like grown up vacations, with plenty of books, time, wine and a good balance of exercise and recreation. The reality of early wake ups, afternoon naps, nappy changes, food and needing to entertain kids (in a strange and sometimes hostile environment) made for a grumpy mummy and a less than good holiday.

As the family got older and grew in number we discovered that beach holidays worked for us. There was always something to do at the beach. The beach. Swimming, long walks, collecting shells, whale spotting, fishing, rook pool gazing, sand castle making……there was everything for everyone. Now we have young adults in the family there is surfing and stand up paddle boarding too. Not to mention the endless photo ops for everyone’s social media feed. Apparently selfies and sunsets are the go. Just saying.

So this last week has been a holiday for all seven of us. And we had what the little people call a real holiday, we took a plane somewhere. We live 3 hours away from a capital city so flying anywhere takes an enormous effort. The road trip to get to the airport is momentous. Then there is the flight and the hustle for the the best seats and being the first to collect the luggage from the carousel. But you know what? It worked for us. All seven of us could carry our own bags and hand luggage. There were no nappies or needs for extra snacks. I was hands free on our journey and for a moment I did relax. A glimpse of what was to come.

We had a great week in Sydney. There was sun and warmth and lots of walking around beach cliff tops, meandering in local cafes, ferry rides and the odd museum and gallery. We spent time with family and dined with old friends. And we had time to read. And reflect.

My man had told the family in jest that this holiday was about ‘healing’. We all laughed at the time. But I think that is what the holiday did for us. We all had to work together to accommodate seven individuals with different desires and needs, we lived in a new space, navigated public transport and learned to slow down.

And as we immersed ourselves in a new place and allowed time to soak into us, creativity is reborn, new dreams, ideas and hopes.

Here is to more holidays that heal. S x

See the World

Is this true of your voyage around the world? Is it true of mine? I have been reflecting on who I encounter on a daily basis, who I chose to spend time with. Are my friends and connections a homogeneous gang? Do I want to have ‘sliced white bread like’ acquaintances? The answer is probably, no.

Living in a rural place we have  social and economic diversity but lack the richness of a cultural mix. We have a range of ages here but lack the 18 – 35 year olds – this group tends to leave in search of bigger and brighter things. ( I did when I was in that age bracket.)

So how do I grow in the way I see and experience the world?

Be open to unexpected friendships and acquaintances. Be open to new, different, alternative and challenging experiences. Allow my family and my children to journey with me, both here in this place we call home and beyond.

Going Home

Last night away from our little people and our home. I have had such an amazing time here in the USA with my man and have only skimmed the surface with blogs and instagram updates. 

It seems wherever we go Obama is on some live TV feed in a restaurant or store. We have walked miles exploring the city, hired bikes, met some amazing people, panicked when laptops or phones died and have eaten a lot of ‘ranch ‘ dressing.
It is ‘D Day’ and we are watching it unfold on TV – catching glimpses of Abbott and reminders of home.
So tomorrow we leave the world of super size soda, donuts and the GAP. We begin that struggle of flying, being in transit… Of travel. Think of us. Pray for God’s speed.

Food Forage

Peanut Butter and Jelly

 Travel does mean exploring new food. I have restaurant fatigue already after 5 days on the road, so today it was time to find a supermarket. I cruised the aisles of Target which sells clothes, home goods and so on, just like at home. But it also has a large range of fresh, cold and prepared foods. I enjoy seeing the lavish displays of….marshmallows, frosting and canned cookies. And some other more unusually named and prepared products. One world, one people and so many ways to grow, prepare and eat food. Enjoy!

Hmmm..Do you have a hungry man?

Not one option for marshmallows but an entire section

Fully cooked Bacon?

Packet Mix Cake – love the zebra stripes

To travel or not to travel

Adventures are hard. I am out of practice. So a 24 hour journey has been demanding. But it is always demanding isn’t? People waiting, tired, anxious. People leaving, saying goodbyes, anticipating change or a new life event. I watch people as I travel and wonder about their lives. Why does the young woman sitting next to me travel alone? How can the guy in front watch movies back to back for the entire flight? There is the married man with ear plugs, eye mask and blanket, the very large couple that really need an extra seat to accommodate their combined girth. And the young families with the baby. I hear the cries but can mostly ignore them. But I feel for the Mama pacing the aisle. I have been there! Breastfed a baby for what felt like an entire flight to the UK, just to get her to sleep. So it is physically demanding travelling when you are child free, healthy and in good mind. Imagine flying overseas because you have news of the death of a loved one?

Anyway, we have arrived…. and we have a day of exploring ahead of us.

Spring into Adventure

Image from Oh, Joy

My life is very ordinary. Really. We are a busy family, juggling school runs, sport and music activities, work and study. I am sure you know what I mean. Making dinner in between taxi runs, making sure everyone is organised and prepared. This week has been a mammoth effort in preparation. My man and I are about to travel overseas to somewhere warmer. This autumn girl will farewell leaves and cool winds and welcome springtime in Northern America.

So while a big part of me is excited. I am also a little overwhelmed. Both sets of grandparents are working as CEOs of our family home. I have prepared a manifesto of our life and you know what – on paper it looks busy, really busy. I realise that all of these little notes and forms and to do lists I keep in my head, day to day. No wonder sometimes I feel foggy and a little s.t.r.e.s.s.e.d!

I am really hoping to be inspired while travelling with my man. I will miss all five of my children so much, but I know we need to do this trip. To be inspired, excited, taken outside of our comfort zone and experience new things together. All of our family in fact. So if you pray – ask God for protection on us all, a real blessing for the grandparents and kids as they do life together. And new joy for a new season. Why not travel with me? Read the blog or follow me on Instagram: 7mouths2feed

Bon Voyage!

Dinosaur Park

Hmm.   Felt a bit buggered today.  Maybe I overdid the running over the last couple of days.  
Today was the big ‘Dinosaur Park’ excursion.  My day began, though, with Maddy coming in to my room at about 6.45am to talk to her sisters.  She’s been missing them, and it was great to see everybody on the small screen of my iPhone via Facetime.  
In many ways it was a perfect day for a visit to a theme park – 25 degrees and sunny.  They may actually have some dinosaur fossil exhibits at this Dinosaur Park.  One of the information signs implied that they do.  The sign also explained that a boffin in the Department of Minerals and Science in this Capitalist Autocracy of China decided that the best way to get people to learn about dinosaurs would be to build an amusement park around the museum.  
When Jakob was here the big roller coaster was broken. It’s fixed now, and it is amazing.  The kids spent the whole day on rides or consuming food and drink.  I don’t believe a genuine fossil was seen, and I’m pretty sure that nobody learnt anything about dinosaurs. 
They seemed to have a great time.  
I, however, found a quiet corner, sat down with my snack pack and iPad, and read for about 4 hours straight.  
This is my top 5 reasons why that was a good decision:
  1. The queue for the most spectacular ride was about 90 minutes;
  2. The duration of the most spectacular ride was about 90 seconds; 
  3. Nothing is sadder, or stranger than a middle aged bloke going on rides at a theme park without his family;
  4. Although I was not dressed like ‘Mini Dino’, whenever I roamed Chinese people kept approaching and asking to have their photo taken with me.  I must be displaying a bit of my inner Indiana Jones after a week without a beard trim;
  5. Most of the rides discouraged people with back or neck problems from participating.  After my humiliating ‘thumbs down’ from the Chinese masseur the other day, I wasn’t sure I should risk exacerbating whatever spinal condition I may be suffering from. 

Two more sleeps for me, then the long trip home. 

Going with the Flow

A quieter day.
It’s a public holiday today.  It’s also Saturday.  Most of the Chinese students have gone home for the day so our kids are rattling around this enormous empty school. 
This morning they had a couple of hours down the street under their own steam.  All made it home intact, and seemed to have a good time.  My daughter went shopping and has been spending the afternoon with her room-mates re-decorating their humble dorm room.  She’s always making things or drawing at home, so I suppose it was inevitable that she’d find a way to do that while away.  I think she’s learnt an important travel survival skill.  
One of the boys has required some ondansetron for nausea again, which was tremendously effective.  Another sprained his ankle yesterday.  Although it swelled up massively immediately, the swelling effectively resolved overnight after early cold-pack, compression and elevation.  He was hobbling at brekky time, but when I came back with newly purchased crutches at lunch time he was walking much more freely.   I hope that this is the worst soft tissue injury we see here, although the way these kids have been playing sport there’s bound to be more to come.  I suspect the crutches will see some use.  

I’ve needed a recovery day. Two of the staff and I enjoyed a beautiful meal with some staff and a local communist party leader last night.  Although the food was delicious, it was really a side show for repeated rounds of toasting.  I’m not sure I could survive another raised glass of the local wheat liquer, Maotai.   My strategy last night was to ‘go with the flow’.  If we have another dinner like that I think I’ll have to try a different approach.  Maybe the approach – “Sorry, I can’t.  I’m on medication” could be the way to go. 

Missing you

We are all missing my man and Miss M. The family globe is now a permanent fixture on the dining room table. It is a conversation starter as we trace a line from Australia to China and try and figure out exactly where the travellers might be. And we get distracted by comparing land masses, bordering countries, the smattering of islands such as Polynesia, Micronesia and all the Eastern European countries that we haven’t ever paid much attention to. We are sad about being a family of 5, but we are talking about the world. We are thankful that we have a man, a Dad who will come home sometime soon and that we know what family means. A family full of big and little sisters and a big brother. So many people don’t have that luxury. So today I must remind myself to be thankful for His provision, grace and knowledge that all things work for good. Even times apart.

Jaded

Long day of touring.  On the bus at eight-thirty this morning and off it at nine-thirty tonight.  In between we’ve travelled what is obviously a pretty well worn tourist route in Shanghai. 
Which is not to say that it hasn’t been enlightening.  We’ve been in Pudong today – the commercial hub of China.  This is effectively a brand new town, constructed out of farming land since the early 1990s.  The buildings are new and still look beautiful (I take it all back); the streets are wide and clean. 
Beneath the veneer, however, there are reminders of what it was like to tour here as a kid in the mid 1980s.  
The Shanghai museum was terrific.  Could’ve spent a day looking at thousand-year old ceramics and coins that were much older than that.  We had little over an hour. 
 ‘Shanghai Designated Tourist Restaurant’ read the sign above the door  of the establishment at which we dined for lunch.  No recommendations on Urbanspoon.  
It became clear that our guides have various profit sharing arrangements in places with different vendors of mementoes and souvenirs around town.  We would all have enjoyed a more historical, and less self-servingly commercial perspective, I think.  It would have been good to hear what happened in ‘The Bund’ – the foreign government protectorates – in the 1920s and 1930s – rather simply that these magnificent buildings were simply built at that time.  We spent 15 minutes looking at them from across the road and then went to a shop which sold pearls.  To 14 and 15 year old kids! In this part of town the Chinese flag flies above 20 or more buildings in a row.  They seem to be making a statement that these magnificent old structures, built by foreign powers, now serve China.  Across the road a massive statue of Chairman Mao presides over the splendid new river promenade, the restaurants and cafe’s and bars and cars.  Contrasts beyond words. 
The kids have had too much shopping.  Spent money on trinkets and toys and food they didn’t really need to eat.  
All I set out to buy was mobile data.  Job done. 

Jaded.