Saturday, November 28, 2009

Yes, you are a foreigner

Sometimes I forget we are living in a foreign country. Australia is as western and modern as the US, the language is English, and the life here is very similar to life in America. There are the obvious differences of course; the accents, the driving on the left side of the road, the fact that December is hot and beautiful but July is miserable and cold…etc. etc. There are also many cultural differences, but it's probably far easier for an American to get used to living in Australia than somewhere like Japan or India.

So, naturally, we expect most things to be the same as in America and often find it a bit surprising when they are not. I also forget that I'm the foreigner!

Yesterday I was at a hospital to run a clinic. I went out to get a patient with a very simple name.
I went to the lobby and called out the name of the patient..
The 20 or so people in the waiting room didn't budge.
I called the name again. (These wasn't his real name, but let's just say the name was as simple as John Smith)
Again, no one moved.
I figured the patient must have taken a moment to use the toilet or run and grab a coffee at the shop next door.
So, I waited 10 minutes and returned to the lobby.
I called his name again.
No response.
He was my last patient to check, so I continued to wait.
Finally, I went to the scheduler's desk and let them know that "John Smith" probably wasn't going to arrive.
The scheduler informed me that he had checked in 20 minutes ago.
Finally, she said, "Let me help you."
She came out to the waiting area with me and repeated the name.
"John Smith", she said.
A gentleman who had been there THE WHOLE TIME stood up and came forward to us.
Now she didn't say this guys name any different than I had but he understood her and not me!
How hard is it to say "JOHN SMITH" anyway…and don't you stand up for just about anything that sounds remotely close to your actual name?
Eric's last name is Tjossem…people butcher that all the time and he still knows it's his name when someone calls it out.
The only excuse that the guy gave was that he didn't understand my strong Irish accent.

We needed to have some documents certified for tax purposes. I figured I'd just find a notary public.
"A what?" said my coworkers.
Apparently, document certification is done here at the police station. So, yesterday after my patient not understanding my accent issue, I went to the local police station to get my certification.
I went to the public affairs room at the police station and waited in line with all the other foreigners for document certification. What I needed certified was every page of my passport to file with my Australian taxes. It was bizarre that I needed copies of my passport for tax reasons and bizarre how they were certified.

I returned to my office and had to tell me colleagues how strange I felt the whole experience had been. They didn't get it. They asked again about how it works in America and I tried to explain the notary public thing.

Have you ever tried to explain what a Notary Public is?

"So, it can be anyone", they asked?
"How do you find one?"
"They aren't police?"
"How do you trust them?"
And finally, "They charge a FEE??? That's outrageous!"

I guess when I think about it, the police certification makes a bit more sense.


Thursday was Thanksgiving in America. Thursday here was just a regular old work day.

I miss the American holidays: Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, President's Day, and the 4th of July.
The holidays of "Cup Day, Australia Day, and Anzac weekend" are inadequate substitutes. It's like trying to celebrate Christmas without your own family traditions. You kind of miss them.

It was a stormy and muggy here on Thanksgiving Day and I had a long day at work. Two lightening strikes over the hospital shorted out the power in the surgery suite and we had a 15 minute "break" where we all just stood around in the emergency lighting making chit chat while waiting for the power to return so we could use the x ray equipment. (Yes, there was a patient quietly sleeping on the table in front of us).

The surgeon started to ask me about Thanksgiving and what it all meant. Everyone else started to pitch in with their questions as well. I should probably have had better answers.
"So, it was a harvest dinner to welcome the pilgrims?"
"But didn't the pilgrims then start to kill off the Indians?"

I didn't really know where to go from that question.

*Note to self: Become very informed about American holiday traditions, US health care system, government policies, government structure, and past presidents. People will ask you and if you have inadequate answers, you will feel silly.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

I'm Back

I have been incommunicado for a long time and I am not sure why. In fact I am not even going to look to see when my last entry was. As I scratch my head to come up with a reason none are very good: I am too busy, I don't have much to say, nothing exciting is happening. In reality none of that is true, I will have to blame laziness. This is not the first time that I have been a victim of this particular sin and I am sure won't be the last.

The most important update of course is Madden. Everyday she is doing something different than she did from the day before. The learning and changes that take place blow my mind. If I could learn at half the rate that she does and move at half the speed, my intellectual pursuits and weight would never be a problem.

The blog photo at the top is taken during our trip to Port Douglas and Cape Tribulation in Queensland. Isn't it great? My lovely wife decided that the lighting was perfect on Four Mile Beach and we should take some pictures. In order to get the perfect shot I had to toss Madden multiple times. My shoulders and arms were aching but Beth kept egging me on. "Higher…..Higher….Keep going, but don't drop her". I am happy to report that not a single toddler or daddy was harmed.

I love the name Cape Tribulation. The image that it conjures is that it is a hard and unforgiving place. In reality it is only hard to get to, but worth the trip. It is unique because it is where the Great Barrier Reef joins the land in the northern part of Australia, so it has mountains, beeches, and is tropical. One of the activities that did was a tasting at an exotic fruit farm. I have learned that there are many fruits that I can do without. As a group we decided that there is a reason that apples, oranges, bananas, etc are popular. We should stick to them. It should be noted however, that if you can get your hands on miracle fruit you should give it a try. After you suck on the seed, everything tastes sweet. I am not kidding, as strange as it sounds we were able to drink vinegar.

As noted in previous blogs, TomKat and Suri were supposed to be our neighbors. That never panned out. I guess that the guy who owns the massive casino here is a fellow scientologist so they felt more comfortable staying with the gamblers. I did however get a gig as an extra on the movie that Katie was shooting here. I am amazed at the time that it takes to shoot these scenes. It was a 16 hour day of doing the same thing, but with different camera angles. My job was to follow Katie in through the "airport" and then pass her as she stops, so most of my day was spent standing right next to her (she is good looking) and waiting. Since the day was so long she had visitors….Tom and Suri stopped by to say hello. The three of them were within 2 feet of me, but as a peon I was not supposed to speak to them. I did get the "how you doin" nod from Tom as he flashed the pearly whites, and Suri is so darn cute. It is a surreal experience to be that close to people for that long a period of time and never even say hello.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts - Grandparents, Husbands who use too much internet, and other randomness

Let’s talk breast feeding. It was never easy for me but I still kept it going in the mornings. In the middle of August I had to go to Sydney for a conference and both Eric and I wondered how the baby would do without getting her normal cuddle and morning feed. I brought that hateful breast pump to Sydney and diligently tried to keep up what little supply I still had.
In my absence Eric gave Madden an AM bottle and just put her on my side of the bed for this morning meal.
When I returned from Sydney, I woke in the morning and got Madden to feed her. She slipped into bed between us and smiled sweetly at me. Then she bared all 8 of her vicious little sharp teeth and bit down HARD. I cried, she wailed, and breast feeding was discontinued from that moment forward.
And so it ends with the same drama at which it commenced.
It lasted 10 months and 2 weeks and I can’t believe we continued that long.
But now we are done. Done, done, done and I’ve got the teeth marks to prove it. Done.


My former employer was Guidant. They were bought out by Boston Scientific in 2006 and we changed names at that time. The bag I still cart around the hospital has the Guidant logo branded on the side of it. The Guidant tag line is “It’s a great time to be Alive!” I loved the company but hated that tag line. I looked at it again the other day and thought about how silly it is. “It’s a great time to be alive!” Isn’t that just another way of saying, “It’s a crappy time to be dead?”

The traffic here is bugging me again. Rush hour is not an hour, it’s an entire afternoon and evening. There is satellite navigation in the car and its reading calculated the distance from my primary hospital to home at 8.2 km. Not far. So, why does it take me an HOUR to get home? The traffic is mainly congested just getting across the city. I watched the sat nav the other day and it took 30 minutes to go that first 1km. I could run home faster.

I change up the route home from time to time, but it always ends up taking the same amount of time. One of the routes is along the river. In the summertime, the rowers are out on the water and I watch them go up and back along the banks. I think I actually take in at least half of their practice session.

Sometimes, I wonder if they’d give me a lift.


Eric remains a stay at home dad and enjoying his time with baby girl. I went away for conference in August and after spending four days away in Sydney, my normally quiet husband couldn’t stop talking when I got home. He proceeded to tell me about everything that happened on TV for the entire weekend. I think the highlight of his weekend was “So you think you can dance.” Based on that, we both agreed that he should probably get a job. He needs more stimulation…and I can’t listen to him talk about contestants on a reality show as if they are friends.

Sometimes we lie in bed at night and talk about how we would like to trade places. I would love to be home with Madden and he would love to go off to work. It’s just a grass is greener kind of thing and truthfully, I think we would both just welcome more balance in our lives.


My lovely, dear, charming, enchanting husband used up all our Internet connection downloading all things Vikings. The last two games and every podcast associated with his team are now available for viewing/listening on his computer, but we are now over our limit and cannot log on to check our email.

Oh, dear Eric, I appreciate you and your need to see your home team, but please leave me just a little bit of Internet plan so that I can log on to my work email.

Yes, we do have the maximum plan, but even though it’s quite costly each month, they still limit our usage. I never thought I’d miss Comcast and the unlimited plan that we had in the states. Go figure.

Our usage kicks over soon and so it is likely I will be able to post this in the next week. Until that time, we are incommunicado...

Today is September 23rd. That was my due date last year. I can distinctly remember the anticipation and tremendous fear that I felt at this exact time last year.

Eric’s parents were supposed to arrive this morning. I took the day off work; we got up early, took baby girl to daycare, packed Eric into his loaner car, equipped the loaner car (parental chauffeur vehicle which doesn’t contain 500 kilos of medical equipment) with the automatic toll deduction from my car and headed out on the 45 minute trip to the airport. Eric’s parents’ flight was in but there was no sign of Eric’s parents.
The normally crowded international arrival area began to thin out. A flight from China arrived. 60 minutes passed. Everyone from the China flight departed the terminal. No more flights from LAX were arriving. It became apparent that something was not right. Where were they?
Unable to check the Internet from home (see above entry); we couldn’t be sure that they hadn’t sent us an email.
No, they would call. Certainly they would call.
On the way home, Eric got a call from his sister. Apparently their parents connecting flight out of Dallas was delayed and they missed their international connection…..over 24 hours ago…
They are stuck sitting in the LA airport. UGH. UGH. UGH.


We are enjoying watching Eric’s folks play with Madden. She took about 24 hours to warm to them and now she has realized that they will always read to her or pick her up and play with her. She has mastered the art of the fake cough for extra attention.
For Eric and me, we have a new sense of freedom that comes from someone else entertaining our child! We also appreciate the extra help cooking, cleaning up, and help with the constant stream of laundry.

Madden is a really easy baby. She falls asleep easily and sleeps through the night, she isn’t a fussy eater, and she only cries if she’s hungry or tired. She can play by herself and is entertained easily. We were really proud when Eric’s dad asked us if she is always this good.
Yup. She is.

This time of year in Melbourne is spring and it is usually dry and somewhat warm. Ever since Eric’s folks arrived, it’s been raining and unseasonably cold. They have an entire selection of shorts and T shirts, but packed no sweat pants or sweatshirts in their luggage. After a trip to the market on Saturday, they are now the proud owners of Aussie brand sweat suits. I had an entire weekend of activities planned – the outdoor farmers market, the Collingwood Children’s Farm, hiking and exploring in the Dandenong’s. After sitting around all weekend and trying to wait out the rain (I’ve never seen rain like this here), I forced everyone out of the house for a trip to the mountains to go hiking. We set off in a cool drizzle and by the time we arrived, it was a full downpour. We got Madden out of the car and into the stroller – the wind was whipping around us and the rain was blowing sideways. We ducked into the very first café we could find and decided we’d have an early lunch and wait out the rain before we hiked. An hour later, the rain was still coming down hard and we all just packed into the car and drove the hour home.
At least the view from the steamed up car windows was nice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Ad of the Month

Unleash The Man Leather. Not sure what that means, but this one makes us giggle.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ad of the Month

Did you know that Melbourne is home to the largest population of Greek people outside of Greece itself?
This TV commercial has been running for some time here. Safeway is one of the local grocery stores and they have this fantastic marketing campaign. This is their appeal to the local Greek population. It doesn't have subtitles because you will discover that you don't need to speak Greek to understand it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Little paper packages

Every now and again a package will show up on our doorstep. OH, how we love that. This time, there was just one thing in the envelope. Thanks Mom, we got it and she loves her doll. Grandmas rock.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ad of the Month

This commercial is actually not real.

It was the winner of The Gruen Transfer pitch. The Gruen Transfer is a show about advertising, how it works, and how it works on us.

In a segment called 'The Pitch', ad agencies compete to fulfill a seemingly impossible brief. In this segment, two agencies competed to design a commercial that would make Australians want to invade their neighbors to the southeast.

This is the winning commercial.

When I was your age, I had to get up to change the channel...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pumpkins, Mohicans, and other Random Tuesday Thoughts

We went to a party last weekend that was basically a big Aussie style Thanksgiving dinner in the middle of July. Yes, it is winter here so the big heavy food is IN right now. However, the host ordered and deep fried 5 turkeys. There were only about 35 people total, so that ended up being about 2 ½ turkey's too many.

Aussies don't eat a lot of cooked turkeys and they are hard to come by. As a result, Eric was given the duties of carving the bird and people stood around and watched him.

Being the only American's, we were required to bring the pumpkin pies…

They don't DO pumpkin pie in Australia and they all think it sounds really weird. I guess it's a bit like trying to understand Vegemite sandwiches. Pumpkin for them is Squash and they put it on just about everything. I don't think there is a restaurant here that doesn't offer a pumpkin(squash) soup or a sandwich or pizza with pumpkin (squash).

Eric and I stood near the pies and watched as people cut little tiny slivers for themselves, then piled on the whipped cream, and tentatively brought a piece up to their lips. Most people looked surprised at the first taste and then proceeded to eat the whole miniscule piece on their plates. They were generally well received and a few folks even insisted it wasn't real pumpkin. Well, no, it's not butternut squash….it's real Halloween style jack-o-lantern pumpkin.

They don't do Halloween either, so that didn't really clear things up.


My car is in the shop right now and the shop gave me a loaner car. I made the booking for the loaner car for a specific day as they told me they would have a large car available that day. My job requires a lot of gear and I generally have so much stuff in my vehicle that I need to do some big moving around if I try to take any more than one passenger. It seems that my booking was missed and instead of the big car, they gave me the extra small compact called a Honda Jazz. I am packed to overflowing with a baby seat and tons of gear. To make matters even more humiliating, there are large decals all over the doors and back that advertise the repair shop.


It's junk day again. Got junk? Just leave it on the boulevard and it will be hauled away. About 3 times a year each neighborhood gets the opportunity to have their junk unloaded. We've never seen anything like it. There are couches, TV consoles, broken toasters, sewing machines, tupperware, kid's toys, lamps, printers, desks, computers – it's all out there on the lawn. And it's gone by nightfall.


On my way to Madden's daycare on Monday morning I drove through a neighborhood that must be having junk day. Set amongst the random pieces of furniture and household goods was a large framed movie poster for Last of the Mohicans.

Odd. Makes one wonder what precipitated the owners to finally remove that from their home.


Melbourne roadways are not built for large cars. In fact, they may not be built for cars at all. The small neighborhood streets often allow parking on both sides but only one car can travel down the road between those parked cars. The dilemma? These roads are two way traffic. The end result is that people come at you head on and dart in and out behind parked cars so that you can eventually pass each other. It usually happens at a normal rate of speed and looks like some sort of dance.


At a birthday party, Madden was introduced to vegemite. She loves it.


Australians are not complainers and they tend to act very civilized towards one another. When they do complain, it is usually done with such strong statements as "I am unhappy with this…" or "Since this is unacceptable, I'm wondering what you would be willing to offer as an alternative?"

I find I'm growing uncomfortable with any sort of shouting or strong language when I do hear it now. People listen when you voice yourself intelligently and they shut down if they feel insulted.

In the immigration office when I had to get M's Visa in her passport, I heard a Canadian guy really giving the officer a piece of his mind. Those of us waiting patiently were recoiling in our seats. Eventually the immigration officer told the guy he was moving his application to the bottom of the pile due to his bad behavior. When the guy shouted even louder, the Aussie told him, "Look, Mate, consider yourself lucky. I could have moved your application into the rubbish bin."

The Canadian finally bit his tongue and left the office.


Due to the lack of complaining in this society, whatever service does manage to come your way will cause you to be very grateful. If you are in a restaurant and you are the only one at your table without food, have no worries. In 5 minutes you will be able to flag over a server who will then go to the kitchen and in another 10 short minutes you will be given the dish that doesn't seem to look like what you ordered. It is appropriate to be grateful for the opportunity to try something new.


We are surrounded by accents. Who knew this place was so multicultural? And I actually thought they would think my American accent was cool. Silly me.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Ad of the Month

Boag's Beer from Tasmania. Love the kid with the lightsaber.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Can I taste that for you?...and other RANDOM TUESDAY THOUGHTS

Does this describe a puppy or a baby?

She keeps her people up at night.
She makes cute sounds and sometimes yelps loudly.
She often needs comforting.
She is fun and cuddly.
She is soft.
She puts everything in their mouth.
She crawls around on the ground.
She depends on us for food and often the food looks revolting.
She is fun to play with.
She gets attention from complete strangers.
She has her own small bed.
She is always happy to see us.
She is the favorite subject matter for photographs.
She chews on our furniture and shoes.
She goes everywhere we go.
She is entertained by small things.
She is perfectly content to play in the yard with nothing but a big stick.
I feel guilty when I’m not with her.

Aussie Weirdness of the week: I went to a small café and ordered a sandwich that I saw in the deli case. The woman behind the counter asked, “Do you want me to taste it for you?” I was very confused by this and asked her to repeat herself. “Do you want me to taste it for you?” she said again.
I stood silently as I tried to process her words. Would she politely grab a bit of the sandwich or just have a go at a large bite?
Certainly I had missed the real context and because I was curious and almost daring her to take a bite out of my sandwich, I found myself nodding and saying, “Yes, absolutely, please do.”
I watched intently as she pulled my sandwich out of the deli case and whisked it away to the back room. Hmmmmm. What sneaky business was going on?
She came back out without my sandwich and proceeded to wait on other customers. I stood at the deli case staring intently at the open doorframe that lead to the back room where my sandwich had disappeared. About 5 minutes later, the counter lady ventured back into the mystery room and reappeared with my sandwich. It was beautiful, all brown and TOASTED.

More on Aussie pronunciation:
I’ve taken to saying to-mah-to for tomato and wah-ter for water. It saves me having to repeat myself.
I was in a patient’s room that seemed to lack power outlets. I asked the nursing staff for the outlet and I got a blank stare. Finally someone came in to help me and when I showed her the cord, she said, “Oh, you want a power point.” Go figure. I’m still learning.
The Aussie pronunciation of the letter H is “HAYtch”.

My coworker Paige and I bought a lottery ticket together. The lotto here is at a record 100 million dollars. Now we are fantasizing about all the things we are going to do with the money. I think we would make very good rich people. We’ll know tonight. Wish us luck.

Madden has 5 teeth now. They are in no particular order. There are 2 on top but nowhere near each other and there are three teeth spaced out across the bottom of her mouth. Every time one comes in, it is a couple days of torture for her and for us. She is quite miserable and whines and cries and sometimes even spikes a fever. So we are counting…5 down, only 15 more teeth to go…

Tomkat update: They arrived in Melbourne today but have chosen to live at the penthouse above the casino building rather than at the mansion next to us. Bad choice if you ask me. Apparently the penthouse is owned by a fellow scientologist though. They still aren’t very far from us but unfortunately for Madden and Suri; they aren’t two doors down like we planned.

Let’s talk about Grand Forks, North Dakota for a moment. Why, you ask? Well, I’ll tell you. I’ve been thinking about it lately. You see, it’s winter here which means just like the Midwest of the US, it’s dark from 4:45 PM until 8:00 AM. But that’s where the comparison stops. You see, I used to travel a lot with my job and they always sent me to exciting destinations like Duluth, MN, Rapid City, SD, Mason City, IA, and good old Grand Forks, ND. They sent me to Grand Forks A LOT in the winter – the cold, frigid, bleak, icey, people-die-out-there-kind-of-weather-conditions, winter. And what’s more is that I always got stuck there. Being snowed in and missing those little teeny tiny planes home plagued me. I was there one time in late December and I thought I’d have to stay for Christmas. Nothing was flying out. It was 30 degrees below zero and my rental car elicited a high pitched screech every time it started. I had no scraper and would sit in my car with the heater on full blast for 20 minutes just to clear the ICE off the windscreen. As I drove down the road I remember thinking that choosing to live there must be pure insanity.

That brings me back to Melbourne – you see, people around me have been complaining about the cold. People, its winter and the grass is green! There are flowers blooming and leaves are still hanging from trees. We can stand outside for an hour without a coat and have zero risk of hypothermia. No one owns a mad bomber hat or ugly orange hunting gloves three sizes too big. Sorel boots have no market here.

This is Australia. People wear cute coats one layer thicker than a spring trench. My hat doesn't even cover my ears and I’ve never seen anyone wearing mittens. Let's save the complaining for the 114 degree heat in the summer when it's actually justified. This stuff just isn't really winter.

This morning I was running very late and had no time to shower, let alone eat breakfast. As I darted out the door, Eric handed me a bag and said it was breakfast for the road. In it was a banana and some mango juice. Since he had nothing to put the mango juice into that wouldn’t spill, he made use of one of Madden’s sippy cups. It was brilliant. It may have looked bizarre to anyone driving close to me, but I definitely feel that sipping mango juice out of brightly colored baby sippy cup enhanced my morning mood.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

I didn’t write a random Tuesday blog last week. I’m saying it was a bye week and I was taking a break. The truth is that we were all sick again. This THING has a hold on us and keeps circulating. Eric had the flu and I had a sinus infection again. Whatever this THING is, it just keeps going round and round and mutating and re-infecting us all again and again. ARGGHHH.

Over the last decade we have witnessed all our friends going through the same thing. They have kids. The kids go to daycare. The kids get sick. Our friends get sick. And so on and so on. Events were cancelled, moved, or forgotten due to all this sickness that kept going around. It was annoying. Back then, I actually believed it was because no one was washing their hands on a regular basis. If only they were a bit more hygienic, they would all maintain their health.
I was stupid. I’m sorry. For what it’s worth, I don’t believe that anymore.

No sign of TomKat. We’ve taken to walking by the place several times a day. There is a 12 foot wall around the place and the gates are always closed. The most action we spotted was a view of an open gate and cleaners and catering company trucks in the circle drive. We will continue our nightly walks by their place. After all, the friendship between Madden and Suri is predestined.

3 year olds and pink permanent marker shouldn’t come in contact. At this point, I do believe the only solution for the linen covered chair in our apartment is re-upholstery.

Pop Quiz –
1. What is the capital city of Australia?
2. Which is bigger – the US or AU?
3. How many states does AU have?
4. What is the population of AU compared to the US?

I am powerless to stop you. Oh, you superb TV shows on DVD, how I love your commercial free ways. I hum your catchy theme songs, celebrate your characters, and can’t resist the way you woo me with your 37 minute episodes. But you are smart. You are well aware that it’s more than 37 minutes when I am unable to tear myself away from your five episodes DVD. Oh, how I marvel at your marketing genius. You have me and I am powerless.
How did you do it Sopranos? How could I have become sympathetic to a bunch of New York mobsters?
And then there was you, oh quirky Six Feet Under. I loved you for your writing, and your issues, and your flawed characters. We cried together – don’t you remember that?
Oh, my dear West Wing, I think I miss you the most. How could you end? How could you leave me there with Jimmy Santos as president and no follow up? I miss you but I shall never forget how you kept me company during my entire pregnancy. You were there for me.

And now, I’d like to introduce my new love and addiction.
I saw your first two episodes and thought I could resist your pull. But then I saw your third show and I knew I must have you. You are mine Entourage. All mine.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

The Random Tuesday Blog is a stolen idea from Jenni at Oscarelli blog. She stole it from someone else and so on and so on. So, here's my data dump for the week...It's random, it's unrelated, it is a snapshot of what is going through my head...

I've been dreaming a lot lately. Weird stuff like Eric wearing an Elvis suit and performing stunt water skiing; tragic material such as setting Madden down on the street and realizing she'd crawled away into traffic; panicky things such as surgeries gone awry and fully sedated patients leaping off surgical tables. Mostly I just feel robbed of sleep and a bit frightened to go to bed at night for what may enter my brain.

I use physics everyday in my job. Ye old V=IR equation. When I was learning that WAY back in high school, I seriously doubted I would EVER use that information again.

Little things that I currently miss from home (besides people) include:

Aquafresh toothpaste
Heath bars
The Mall of America (specifically Nordstroms) with free shipping
24 hour grocery stores
24 hour pharmacies
Being served water with ice when you sit down at a restaurant
Internet cafes
Uncongested roadways
Shops that are open past 5pm
Walking down Summit
Cheaper petrol
Cheese popcorn
Springtime in MN
Punch Pizza
Lake Superior and the north shore

Little things that I love about here include:

Aussie Breakfasts
Kind GP's that see me, Madden and Eric on time and give 30 minute appointments
Our gigantic king size bed that is the most comfortable thing I have ever slept in
Delicious treats called lemon slices
Green grass and flowers during wintertime
Gigantic gum trees
Weird looking tree ferns
The bike path along the Yarra
Our proximity to Tasmania
The phrase "Good On Ya"
The little antique row houses all over town

Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are coming to Melbourne. Specifically, they are going to be our neighbors. Katie is apparently filming a movie in Melbourne and we heard from others in our building that the Cruise-Holmes combo will be residing in the huge complex at the end of our block. That's TWO Doors down from us.
I heard the news in the morning and by that evening I had fabricated an entire imaginary life in which Eric and I and Tom and Katie together with Madden and Suri, were hanging out by their pool and jetting off to the Gold Coast for holidays together. Eric and I would resist the pressure to become Scientologists, but Tom and Katie would find us so fun and witty that we would all remain lifelong friends. Suri would become face book friends with Madden and they would see each other each summer at camp.

Ad of the Month

I don't think I will ever understand the commercials they play on TV over here.
This one is actually British, but it gets a lot of airtime here in Melbourne.

The ad is for chocolate.

Will someone PLEASE tell me how this sells chocolate?

Monday, June 1, 2009


8 months old today. Happy Day little fun one.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pass the Germs, Please

Parenting is great. I know that I am not saying anything new, but it is better than I thought that it would be.

Some days are difficult because the needs and wants of an infant (rapidly moving to toddler) are relentless. I liken it to swimming against the tide, sometimes there is no hope, and it just wears you down.

A few weeks ago Madden brought home some sort of illness from daycare. Poor thing was up all night for two nights running and Beth and I, being diligent parents, were up as well. Since Beth is still feeding Madden, her defenses were down and got sick almost immediately as well. I was spared, good thing too, because someone has to take care of the others. Madden got over it within a few days but Beth struggled with it for weeks. In fact it got worse and she didn’t improve. Beth thinks that once she builds up immunity that she passes it right to Madden. I am not sure this is medically sound but it is a good working theory. Everything around here remains OK as long as one of us is well – that task became mine.

It is at this point when the young one ends up sneezing in my face. If my life had a sound track, the theme song from Jaws would be playing in the background. It is then that the hard work starts. Beth is unwell, I am unwell, and little metabolism Madden is just fine and since she HAD been sick, is still waking up several times in a night. She is still waking anywhere between 4:30 and 6:00AM for the day. During these early hours we would bring her into bed with us thinking that she may fall back to sleep. She rarely does but we are still hopeful. Sometimes I lie very very still so that she won’t notice me. To move in even the smallest way is to get her attention. It is a good morning when Madden chooses to poke, prod, yell at, and chew on the OTHER person.

My parenting approach is trying to avoid mistakes and I figure everything else will take care of itself. So far we have been lucky, nothing major. Madden is healthy and happy. Which makes us happy…..We are still working on the healthy.

I thought that I would post the top ten boneheaded parenting moves that I have made so far. I am happy to report that most are pretty mild.

10. Running out of nappies
9. Running out of nappy wipes
8. Traveling on a road trip while she is sick
7. Feeding her a bottle in the car seat on a road trip while she is sick
6. Forgetting to pack a bottle for Madden's after swim snack
5. Realizing that she got a shock after chewing on the end of a computer power cord.
4. Trying to get her to sit in the bathtub – oops.
3. Stepping on her fingers
2. Watching while she toppled 11 cans of Sprite on top of herself.
1. Forgetting that I had just peeled a bunch of garlic, I applied nappy rash cream to her sore

Thursday, May 28, 2009


This is how babies keep up with their grandparents when they live 10,000 miles away. Heck, if babies (or grandparents)can figure it out, so can you. It's free. It's easy. It's downloadable with the click of a button. Skype!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Random Tuesdays

It’s Tuesday. It’s random. It’s just how it is.

I have never seen a shop here that sells popcorn. Ever. Movie theaters offer popcorn and it tastes like it was made two weeks ago. But back to the popcorn shops – remember all those shops in the 80’s in the US that sold JUST POPCORN. Seriously, did they really think that business model would actually last? And do you remember the tins that you could purchase for housing the popcorn? Those tins cost a silly amount but you could keep them and put stuff in them. What stuff? More popcorn?

Most of my coworkers are Australians and I find that when I am reading an email from one of them, it plays out in my head with their accent. Perhaps this happens because it’s a rather infectious way of speaking.
However, most recently we have hired someone from the UK and now that seems to be infiltrating my brain as well. After just a 15 minute conversation with him, everything I read plays along in my head in the Queen’s English – even MY OWN writing.
Spot of tea, anyone?

Speaking of accents…When I am meeting someone new in one of my accounts, I introduce myself this way, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth from Boston Scientific…”
For some reason, certain people don’t hear the last word of that statement. I know that I’m in for an awkward situation when they start to talk about whether or not they’ve been in Boston or if they’ve visited America at all. After this goes on for a bit, they will usually realize something is amiss and politely ask, “So, Elizabeth from Boston, what company do you represent?”

Cords, Outlets, Dishwasher, Shoelaces = Madden’s favorite toys

In our house we have several cute little soft cuddly toys for baby. Has she bonded with them? NO. Instead, she has chosen to bond with a felt block that we got for free from a local fair. About eight weeks ago this fabric block was rather OK, but is now flattened to an oval, covered in drool, and overall just nasty. That ridiculous thing is her favorite. Other toys forsaken, I am sorry to report that (much to the chagrin of her parents) this felt nasty cube is the chosen one.

In an effort to get our child to bond with something other than the felt nasty block, we purchased a new little set of toys for Madden. It was a box of cloth sea creatures - some rattled, some squeaked, and one even had crinkly paper inside. Four soft little toys that we knew she would adore. We proudly lay the box on the floor and she pulled out the toys one at a time and unceremoniously dumped them on the floor.

Then she got a huge smile on her face and squealed in delight as she stuffed the paper packaging into her mouth. The toys remained untouched on the floor but our daughter proceeded to play with the packaging and the box itself for the next day and a half.

A note to all shoe-free households: Please stop making your guests deposit their footwear at the door and walk around in their stocking feet for the duration of the evening. It is simply not realistic. My feet get cold in your home. My pants are tailored to the bottom of my heel and I personally like making people think I’m actually 5 foot 8 inches tall. Besides, the best part of my outfit are my new shoes.

Whenever I’m chatting with patients and they mention that they have been married for a number of years (40 or 50 years of marriage is not unusual), I ask them to share their secrets. This idea is actually borrowed from a friend of mine whom I used to work with at United in St. Paul. Anyway, patients will usually giggle for a while until they realize I’m serious. Then they put some deep thought into their answers.

I have been asking this question for about 5 years now and I love the replies. Most people say things like “Don’t go to bed angry…Marry the right person…or communicate.” All excellent advice and I love the look on their faces as they are thinking about their own relationships.

Some of my favorite bits of advice have included “Just remember you each need to do 70% of the work…Hold hands…and let the other person win.” One elderly woman winked and said, “Oh, honey, it works because I always let him drive the car.”

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I find myself sitting in the dermatologist’s office waiting to have the doctor look at a spot on my back. Apparently, this spot has been growing steadily for the past year and my lovely hubby who can actually see it on my back told me it was time to have it checked. So, here I am. Waiting. And waiting. It’s nice. I have a little me time. Normally I think I’d be peeved about waiting, but at this time in my life, I’m happy to have a moment to myself. I look at my watch and realize I’m waiting because I actually arrived early. Um, really early.

So, for the first time in months, I find myself reading a magazine. And I am really getting into reading this magazine. So much so, I miss it when they call my name. And I’m the one and only person in the waiting room.

The particular article I was reading was commentary from women sharing their experiences about being 30, 40, 50, and 60 years old. It was well written and a fantastic read, but I was cut short and I didn’t finish it. Perhaps it being unfinished for me is why it’s still very much on my mind - but I think it also really spoke to me. I’d love to chase it up and have a read of it from start to finish, but I didn’t catch the magazines title and I think the issue was September 2007 anyway.

Having reached a new decade myself in January, age has been on my mind. Well, not so much age as stage in life and how I feel about my age and where I am versus where I thought I’d be.

First of all, I don’t feel 40. I can’t remember what I thought 40 would feel like, but it wasn’t like this. Older maybe? More together? More in control? Inside I’m still the same insecure geeky girl I was in grade school. I’m surprised everyone doesn’t see it – but they don’t.

I’m not where I want to be but I’m OK with where I’m at, for now. In 5 years time, I don’t know what I’ll be doing or where I’ll be but it will be different from now. I’m more accepting of change and the good and bad that goes with it, but I look for something to grasp for security.

40 has brought exhaustion. Blame it on age, work, or baby. Whatever. But dang, I’m tired! I just want 5 more minutes of sleep. People, it’s all I ask. 5 more minutes.

I also want more time. The clock moves faster and faster...days become weeks….weeks roll into months and suddenly, its Christmas again. Year after year, it’s Christmas and next year I swear I’ll buy gifts earlier, and I’ll get into the spirit of the season more, and it won’t be so chaotic, if I could only breathe, and then it’s Christmas again. Eek.

And every year I go through more gallons of moisturizer and yet those lines are not going away. The ones around my eyes show up in photos now. So do the bags. Because I just want 5 more minutes of sleep.

In my 20’s I had time to do extensive make up and elaborate hair. I would like a bit of that time back. I promise I’d spend it more wisely.

I would also like to be back in a smaller size. But I’m not. And strangely, it doesn’t torment me like it would have a decade ago.

When I spend time in front of a mirror these days, it’s because I’m holding a baby and she wants to see herself. For the first time in my life, I know what I look like when I genuinely smile and laugh, because I can see it played back at me. I look happy.

Work and baby leave no time for some of the things I used to love to do – pottery, nights out, good books, working out, gardening, traveling, and cooking. I think these things have stopped in part because she’s just a baby still. I miss them and I’ll get back to them over time but I’m not willing to pursue them now at the expense of cutting my time with my family short.

I find I feel a greater connection to the world around. World events shape me and haunt me more than ever.

There is more calm at this age than there was at 20 or 30. There is also far less drama. I am no longer fighting small battles, but find that I sometimes become outraged by inequities within a greater system.

I notice a desire to learn. I’m shamed that I can’t recite the names of the US Presidents in order. Certainly I should have learned this along the way. I find myself staring at world maps. I desperately want a greater understanding of the political machine, world economies, and investing. I demand to know who got us into a global financial crisis.

Sometimes, like in this doctor’s office simply reading a magazine, I get a nostalgic feeling about my past. I can vividly remember everything from studying in college to living in Italy to starting a job in Aspen. It’s like a flood sometimes. I miss moments of it but I’m more aware, content, and fulfilled in my life now.

Mainly I just think, how did I get here? Wasn’t I just 20? Weren’t my sister’s kids just babies? When did we all grow up?

I came across a birthday card once that read, “Inside every old person is a young person that wondered what the heck happened.” Does that mean when I’m 90 I’m still going to feel like an insecure, geeky grade schooler?

Oh, and that spot on my back…it’s fine. “It’s what we call a liver spot,” said the dermatologist. “It’s something that happens with age.”

Monday, May 18, 2009

Random Tuesday Thoughts

Since writing a blog entry in my head and actually getting one posted are two entirely different beasts, I've decided to copy an idea from someone else's blog. Jenni over at Oscarelli posts what she calls "Random Tuesday's". I've been a bit scatterbrained with my thoughts and ideas and this seems a good way to get the ball rolling. Besides, none of these things are actually enough to be an entry on their own. Let the Randomness begin…

I ran into a customer today that I haven’t seen since before taking maternity leave. She asked how things were going and I went on and on and on. I couldn't help it. She also went on and on about her own two kids. Finally, she asked if I was getting used to being someones mum and I had to pause.
The answer is no. I still don't think of myself as someones mom.
Sometimes when Madden is in her cot sleeping, I sit by her side and thank the lord that she is in my life. Yet I don't think of her as "mine." In my mind she's just this sweet little being that has come to live with Eric and me. Sometime, her real parents will show up at our door and want her back, but until that time, she's staying with us and we are going to have a lot of fun.

On my route home from work, I drive past a beautiful old Victorian church tucked neatly into a neighborhood. Outside the front of the church is a very unattractive black digital sign. It's the type of sign that flashes or scrolls typed bright red words across its length. On Monday evenings the sign boldly flashes the words AA MEETING TONIGHT. So much for that second A.

Apparently we don't have the Greek alphabet in Australia.
Here is the conversation when I had to spell a patients name over the phone…

Me: That’s S as in Sam, E like elephant and K like Kappa….
Other: Don't you mean C like cuppa?
Me: (Pause) That's K as in Kappa
Other: Kappa?
Me: Yes
Other: We don't have Kappa's here

One of our favorite Australian shows is "Bondi Beach Rescue". Yes, the Bondi lifeguards saving people from waves. Not much happens on that show, but it's got great characters and I think we are both fascinated by the fact that life guarding on a beach like Bondi is a career – people do this their WHOLE lives.

My Industry sponsors a big conference each year in early May in the US. The meeting took place last week in Boston and on Friday afternoon I got a call from my two Aussie coworkers who attended the conference. They were drinking and dialing – it was 2:30 in the morning in Boston and they were hanging out with people that I had worked with in Saint Paul. My worlds collided.

Facebook. Still not sure how I feel about it. Privacy invader or fun social outlet?

I remember when we used to go out on Friday and Saturday nights. All grandparents are invited to move to Australia. We need babysitting.

On Mother's Day we went to the Botanical Gardens. The day was one of those rare perfect weather, perfect time of year moments. It was a bit of Indian summer. We walked to our favorite wide expanse of lawn in the park and as when we arrived, we stood in silence. It was a scene from a painting. The green lawn sloped down to the water and rose up the other side. The cityscape was visible in the background and the lawn was dotted with people picnicking, kids playing, and dogs in little plaid sweaters being walked by their owners. We sat on the lawn next to the pram and basked in the sun for an hour. Even Monet couldn't have done justice to that scenery.

I'm thinking about working out. That's a good step. Maybe I will even attempt to put my thoughts into action.
I'm also thinking about reading a book, something other than Baby Love, What to Expect the First Year, The Sleep Easy Solution, Healthy Sleep Habits, or Settling Your Baby.
You get the picture.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daycare Drama

I’m afraid of the boys in my daughter’s daycare.

It was late – almost their closing time - and I raced in to get Madden. At the end of the day all the remaining kids are together and usually outside enjoying the good weather. When I arrived, she was across the yard in the caregivers arms. She saw me, I saw her, and I loudly said, “HI BABY!” and she squealed in delight. So satisfying.

Then, the boys were there. Suddenly three older kids were upon me…teasing, jeering and yelling “Baby, Baaabbbyyyy, hiiiii baby.” They were crazed…circling me, taunting me with my own happiness. One even began leaping up at me and trying to grab my face. It was utter madness. Strangely, I was embarrassed and a bit frightened at the same time. How could I be afraid? After all, aren’t these kids like, at the most, FOUR years old??? I am actually 37 years OLDER than these little punks. So, why didn’t I feel like an adult?

Perhaps there is something about kids teasing that takes a person back in time suddenly and without warning. There I was back in carpool. Seven kids packed into the back of some parent’s gigantic wood paneled station wagon. Parry Dilworth was teasing me and pulling at the pony tails in my hair.

OK, it wasn’t that bad, but still…what a strange feeling.

I scooped up Madden and bolted through the doors of daycare. All the while I was whispering in her ear, “I’ll save you baby, you’re safe now,” when deep down I knew that it was her who was saving me.

That night led to a lot of thinking about daycare. It was not easy to find a place for her and we were on waiting lists since last July. This was back when Eric was working and we thought we’d end up needing full time care. It turns out she is just there two days per week so that she can learn to ‘play’ with other kids and have a bit of social time.

When we first went to visit this particular place, there were signs on the door that read, “We have had several incidents of lice in the past week – please check your children.”

Eee gads to that. We thought we’d never be back.

Wouldn’t you know they were the only place to call and offer us placement.

It turns out this center is the smallest of the ones at which we applied. We like the fact that there are only 30 kids total and we like that there are only 5 kids in the “under 2” room. Madden is the youngest kid by a long shot and she is often getting held and cuddled when I go to pick her up. She seems to be settling in well and doesn’t look too tired, or hungry, or upset when she comes home.

There is a chart on the wall that the daycare teacher fills in with details like the number of wet nappies, times that baby slept, and how many milliliters she drank from her bottles. Now that she’s eating solids her teacher fills in what she ate for “afternoon tea”. I rather like that. It’s so Australian.

They also keep a large scrap book in the room where they write the days activities and often include a happy photo of each child. Madden’s picture on Monday showed her in a bin of plastic balls. Next to the photo was a description that told me of my daughter’s development and excellent use of gross motor skills.
On close inspection of the photo, it was apparent that my little girl had red rings around her eyes. Hmmm.

So now I’m onto them and their game. When I drop off Madden, there is always a kid crying and another that is about to do something that will surely be reprimanded.
The REAL book would probably read something like this…

After two hours of inconsolable crying, your child was placed in the bucket of plastic balls where she finally found a brief moment of happiness. (We took a photo of happy Madden for the book). In the meantime, Ned was playing on the ground until Jake hit him over the head with the wooden block letter B. We were unable to tend to Ned due to Ari having his diaper changed at that exact moment. He cried for a time until we managed to give him a pacifier and this calmed him (see happy photo of Ned in book). Then Ari and Jake got in a fight over the letter B. At this time, Mia woke from her nap and fussed for a bottle. The two boys continued fighting until Mia’s bottle was found and mixed. Madden was now becoming unhappy after being stuck in the plastic ball box for over 20 minutes. Mia, Madden, Jake and Ned all started to cry in unison. Ari started to open the locked cabinet and was very pleased with himself. (See contented photo of Ari). Cabinet was locked and mental note was made to ensure that cabinet’s dangerous contents were not loose in baby room. Jake, now victorious since overpowering the others and getting the letter B all to himself, holds it proudly over his head (see photo in book)…..etc….etc.


I came home tonight, opened up my email, and found a note from Madden’s daycare…”Please be warned that there has been one child diagnosed with worms as well as another child diagnosed with a case of conjunctivitis. Please check your child for the following signs and symptoms…..”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time.

We met some other Americans when we first moved to Australia and we have become close. There seem to be a lot of similarities as couples, other than they are about ten years younger than we are. Unfortunately for us Adam and Jenn are leaving and heading back to the States in April.

As one of the many last hurrahs, we decided to meet up with them and another couple (our friends Tim and Tash and daughter Celeste) in the Barossa region of South Australia. For you wine geeks out there, Barossa is known for Shiraz.

Since Beth is returning to work after the glorious invention of maternity leave, we had options of transport. 1) Fly: The benefit of flying is of course time but is more costly. 2) Train: there was a special running for $198 all of us could ride, including taking a car. The problem is that our car was too tall for the train. Imagine that. 3) Drive: I am always up for a good road trip, the cost is reasonable, and it allows us the flexibility of time and what we can see along the way. Drive wins!

Everything begins fine, we get a late start in the morning because Madden needs feeding, then a change, and we have to try to time starting the journey with one of her long nap times. I then delayed it even further because I wanted a coffee from the local shop. I am trying to remember if Beth has blogged about the traffic here. If she hasn't, lets just say that it is awful and we get about 30 miles away within the first 2 hours when Madden has to stop to feed again. That's fine, I completely expected that we would be stopping frequently. I just thought that we would be past the outskirts of town.

Bill Bryson wrote a book about Australia, I have not read it yet but I understand that it is pretty good and the title is very appropriate….In a Sunburned Country. As most of you know we have had devastating fires here and driving through the countryside you can start to understand why. As we get past the outer ring of Melbourne the landscape looks like a tan sea. You can start to see it in the dry lawn at the end of a Minnesota summer, but it goes on as far as one can see and there has been very little watering for the last decade. Unfortunately this is where Madden started to projectile vomit. Egads

In short order we had to stop to mop everything up. Of course it can't be contained to just her. We have to take the car seat out and clean it and the back seat. This went on for what seemed like hours. I think that we were about 60 miles away from Melbourne now...just barely into a 10 hour trip. In the outback you have to take certain precautions that we are now quickly learning. Finding a tree that can provide shade is a good example, or when you make piles on the ground of the stuff that you have to clean you need to make certain that your child is not placed near one of the many gigantic anthills! I also just may invest in one of the stupid looking hats with corks dangling from the brim as this keeps the flies out of a persons eyes.

Through perseverance, patience, endurance, tolerance, persistence, fortitude, serenity, prayer, or whatever it was that got us through, we made it about ¾ 's of the way. However, ¾ 's of the way is on the edge of nowhere. Not a wide selection in motel's. Let us suffice to say that the Keith Motor Lodge does not rank in my top 10 places, and the attached sub par "restaurant" was the only place in the whole town to eat. I am thankful that we stopped though. When we pulled Madden out of her seat she was listless, gray, and her lips were blue. After a day of not keeping anything down she was terribly dehydrated. We called the local hospital to get some advice as to what we should do. We were reassured that we were doing the right thing but that if her symptoms persisted that we should bring her in. My understanding of fear has reached a new level.

After a really long night and subsequent long next day...we arrived in the Barossa and our holiday cottage. Madden was still vomiting but a bit pinker in color and we were so relieved to have her out of the car and be in the company of other people.

The cottage that we stayed in was really cool. It was a three bedroom place with walls that were sufficiently thick to isolate the couple without a child from the other two couples with children. Plus we got to go to some fun vineyards and drink some fantastic wine. We even signed up for a session where we could mix a Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre, to our own special blend and bottle it. Part of the great fun of this was that it reminded Beth and me of being back at the U of M in chemistry lab. My blend is called Madden's Two Tooth Vintage, and Beth's is called Casa de Tjopert. In a blind taste test 3 out of 6 people picked mine to be the favorite. I am not sure how to feel about that. Am I proud that I can mix a good wine, or am I disturbed that my taste buds appeal to the masses.

Also in the blind taste test, Beth ranked her bottle to be the worst mix...even going so far as to label it "foul." Most everyone agreed that it was a bad blend. She blames it on almost a year of not drinking and I'll grant her that.

Penfolds is one of the more famous wineries in the Barossa valley. There are a lot of people milling about the tasting room and the occasional oddball is present as well. I was pushing Madden in her pram and as I turned a corner a man was standing there fussing with his belt. Before I know it his pants had fallen to the ground and he stood there fully exposed in the corridor. I am not sure what to think about it, was he exposing himself to me, the sleeping child, or was he just drunk? I am voting for option 3 that seems to be the least offensive of the three. I also object to black bikini underwear on short, portly men…..

Our other friends that we met up with are Tim and Natasha (She was actually named after the character on Bullwinkle. I am trying to get her to say "moose and squirrel" with a Russian accent.) They have a beautiful 2 year old named Celeste. Celeste has taken a liking to Madden and vice versa. Celeste pretended her water bottle was a phone and was heard saying "Hi Mads, hey you goin' Mads, g'day mate." Not only is it really cute that she did that, but a 2 year old Australian girl has given her a nickname that just may stick. Mads.

You would think that everything would now be on our side for the long drive home, but fate has its own agenda. On the morning that we were to leave the cottage, Beth and Madden both began vomiting. I was not about to give up on the thought that we could still take a leisurely route home and see some of the sights since we missed them on the drive out. Wouldn't everyone want to take a ferry out to a place called Kangaroo Island? This is where Beth put her foot down, no to an extra day on the road and a big fat no to a ferry!!!!! I still had dreams of the three of us playing in the sand and walking along the ocean. We didn't make it very far that first night and stayed in another bad motel with a sick mom and baby. I've had better road trips.

The next day, they were still both sick but we agreed to remedy this holiday and stay for the night in a cute little town called Port Fairy. The path from Port Fairy to Melbourne is a famous for scenery. It is called the Great Ocean Road. We have driven it several times and I wasn't too excited about driving it again but it was better than nothing. We checked in to a beautiful cottage and instead of going out to see the town, we bought a pizza and sat on the floor and played with Madden. We were all happy to be tucked in for the night and everyone was feeling better. It was a perfect evening.

The next morning was our day to drive the great ocean road and salvage what we could of the road trip portion of our vacation. But, the next morning - I was ill! I didn’t get the same stomach virus that the two ladies had but it totally wiped me out. Beth was feeling better and so could drive the rest of the way. It was a unanimous decision to skip the Great Ocean Road and take the most direct way home - through the same ugly sunburned landscape we had just driven.

We have wondered why people just plant themselves at resorts for an entire vacation, but now we get it. Road trips with an infant rarely work.

I wouldn't say that this is the worst road trip we have ever had, the car is still in one piece, but we did learn something from it.

Next time we fly.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Return from Hibernation

I apologize for not being attentive to our blog. Sometimes when there is too much to write, I’m unable to get anything down at all. Blame it on being too busy, blame it on the constant influx of new experiences and the lack of time to process it all, or blame in on the hazy time that is maternity leave. Now as things pick up with our return to AU and my return to work, I suddenly feel that urge to write. But where do I even begin? How can I convey what a whirlwind these last few months of new parenthood have been? The first time Eric and I laid eyes upon our little girl, the wonderment of her first coo and her first laugh, the joy of having her meet her grandparents and their joy in meeting her, the weird body changes, the trauma of labor and delivery, the insecurity, and emotional turmoil that goes along with having a baby… really, it’s all just so overwhelming!
Perhaps the best way to do this is just to type away and see where it takes me…

Our time in Minnesota was first and foremost COLD. It was one of the coldest January’s on record and after having missed an entire winter, we realized how intolerant of it we have become. Where was our thick Midwestern blood and our “It’s not that bad” attitude? Instead, Eric and I couldn’t believe the shock of the temperature on our bodies. To add insult to it all, we both suffered episodes of high-fever-absolute-knock-out winter flu that we thankfully didn’t pass on to our daughter.

Poor baby had to be bundled up in a bunny suit and hauled around in a car seat and a pre-heated car. Her entire head was one layer of eczema upon another. She learned to do “the arch” where her entire midsection would try and buck out of her car seat. This was usually accompanied by sputtering protests and eventual screaming.

The lesson learned is that newborns and winter are very confining. To all those who have experienced this for longer than the measly two months that I endured it…you have my complete sympathy. I get it and acknowledge the difficulty of it! For your struggles, I think you should all be allowed to spend the winter in Hawaii.

The good of the trip, was EVERYTHING else. We got to catch up with friends and family and had time for baby to charm the heck out of her grandparents. Christmas with a baby takes on a whole new meaning and I actually cried in church when I heard the story of Jesus’ birth. Yeah, I know, I’ve heard it a thousand times, but it was suddenly so real for me.

Madden’s grandparents all wanted to see her many times and I loved it when they held her and she smiled for them and cooed. Even better still was when she fell asleep in their arms. When my parents and my in-laws opened the door to their homes, their eyes would immediately look towards the car seat draped over Eric’s forearm. It was always an afterthought to hug and kiss us, their adult children. And you know what? We wouldn’t have had it any other way.

We stayed in Red Wing with Eric’s parents for Christmas and two other times but based ourselves mainly at my mom’s in St. Paul. Her place is a 1 ½ bedroom cottage for seniors. We had our fair share of attention having a baby around there. Space was at a premium in my mom’s little home but she was content to have us around and I haven’t spent that much time with her since I was in high school. I loved being in her pleasant company and she was so happy to have her grandbaby in the next room. I’m sure after TWO months of us however, she’s a bit relieved to have her place back to herself.

We anticipated that when we were home, we would go out with friends and shop and see movies… who were we kidding? We were still very much in new parent phase and mainly we just played with our little Madden. She was only seven weeks old when we went home and there was a great deal of growing both mentally and physically during that time. We were exhausted, I was still struggling with nursing, and we were trying to get baby to sleep when we slept. One would think that two whole months would give us a great deal of time, but the baby learning curve took up the majority of that. I managed to take in two movies and feel there should be some sort of reward for that –even if I cried throughout the first movie because of separation anxiety…

This winter brought new joy in simple things. Heck, we were just happy to make it out of the house! It was wonderful to see friends, play dominoes, go up north, have pictures of Madden taken, go to dinners in people’s homes and out, enjoy lazy breakfasts, play oodles of cards, play with friends kids, get lessons in Photoshop, or just meet for a coffee.

Life couldn’t be the crazy kind of cram-as-much-as-you-can-into-a-moment sort of existence that I tend to pursue. It all had to move slower as there were good hours and fussy hours, nap times, necessary nappy changes, and feeding schedules to manage. When I look at those words written out, it all seems so limiting. But strangely, it wasn’t. It was actually a bit freeing. Why is that? Nothing had to be perfect. Ahhh. That was it. It was finally a time where I could be forgiving of myself for not getting things done in an exacting way.

And yes, we enjoyed for the very first time some activities that requires one have a kid in order to participate. Hooray! We have both wanted to go to kid activities for years. These activities included Breakfast with Santa at my high school and attending the Red Balloon book reading for babies and toddlers. Admittedly, I got more out of the book reading than did Madden, but hey, I had a kid and could therefore not be turned away. Just think of all the years of children’s museums, silly little board games, county fairs, and Pixar films ahead of us. Tee Hee.

When we returned to Melbourne, it was hot. I’m not talking just Mexico-in-winter kind of hot…it was 100 degrees hot. We went from craving pot roast and potatoes to feasting on fruit and any beverage with ice. It actually felt wonderful to be able to open windows, to sit outside, and not to have to wear 5 layers of clothing nor bundle the baby. We went to the pool, took long walks in the evening, and generally enjoyed just being outside.
However, after just one week here, there was suddenly a heat surge to 115 degrees accompanied by gale force winds. Both natural causes as well as arsonists conspired to create one of the worst disasters in Victoria’s history. Over twenty bush fires raged out of control and the loss of human life is astonishing.

The message has always been the same for those living in the country side; you can flee early or stay in your home to defend it against the fire. It has actually been successful in the past and people have been able to save their homes. However, when you put together the terrible heat, dry brush due to a 10 year drought, and the strength of the wind that was present that day, the end result was raging fire tornadoes that destroyed everything in their path. No person defending their home with a garden hose stood a chance.
It was awful, stupid and senseless. The stories that are emerging are dreadful and the news has been running nightly disaster relief efforts and bushfire tragedy stories since that day. It’s impossible to escape.

One of our good friends here works at an agency that does mapping and disaster planning for emergency services. She has had to listen to the 000 (our 911) calls from the people trapped in their cars and home during the fires. When she talks about the tragedy, her reaction is one of anger.

From our vantage point in the city, we were in no danger. The fires that burned out of control for days remained at least a 30 minute drive from the city. However, the city remained smoky and smelling like a campfire. We chose to keep baby and ourselves inside when it was windy because the air quality outside was so bad. The only effect we witnessed was that dusk brought spectacular sunsets of beautiful oranges and reds that bounced off the smoke in the sky.

Beginning to emerge from all the rubble are stories of heroism and unlikely survival. A benefit concert has taken place and donations have been rolling in for the victims of the fires. Hope is infiltrating.

Well, that’s it for the time being. It’s back to work, back to life, and back to this foreign country we have embraced for now. Madden is in daycare a couple days a week, she’s busy growing, and just sprouted her first tooth. Eric is back looking for work and contented being a “manny” three days a week. He’s been attending meetings with the other stay at home mums and having a great time. I’m back to work part time for now and enjoying my days with my little family. My favorite times are when we head to the pool together.

It’s the lazy days of summer and I want them to go on indefinitely. Too bad winter and work will get in the way of our fun.