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We're an American family living in Australia, where everything seems a little bit turned-upside-down.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Father's Day in September?

This Sunday is Father's Day.  Last year, we had just arrived in Australia, so we didn't catch wind of the "new" date in time to celebrate.  This year, we didn't celebrate Father's Day in June with America, so we have no excuse.  We shall celebrate DAD this weekend!
"Wonder what we should get Daddy for Father's Day?"

Now, Mark is a guy who doesn't ask for much.  He dabbles in golf, and he likes to fish, but we are "all set" with that equipment.  He has enough ties, shirts, socks, and undies... So what to get him?  I've decided on the perfect gift; TIME.  Yes time, the one thing he definitely needs more of... specifically, alone time with each one of us.  My plan is to schedule events on the calendar with each of us, and let him just enjoy the special time. The important thing to remember when carrying this out, is actually putting the date on the calendar, and being specific about the plans.  Otherwise, it will never happen.  Spread the fun over a one month time period (or even longer if needed).

Here's how it will work:

During his traditional breakfast in bed, he will receive a special handmade card from each of us explaining our special outing together.

From McKinley-
A date to Chocolateria San Churro for Hot Chocolate and Chocolate Fondue for two.  I know he'll cherish this special time chatting with McKinley about what's going on in her life without the distraction of her little brothers.  Plus, they both love chocolate!  I even pre-paid for the date with a gift card.

From Everest-
I've arranged for the two of them to play some baseball (substitute your favorite sport here) in the park with a picnic basket full of their favorite snacks and drinks.  Afterwards, they'll head over to Timezone (the local arcade) for their fill of video games and air hockey.  Again, I pre-paid for the video game part, so very little thought involved for the guys!

From Hagen-
This one was easy.  Just a simple walk (or in Hagen's case, run) on the beach.  Just the two of them.  I'll suggest he takes his time and let Hagen lead the play.  It is surprising how much fun it can be to walk at a two year old's pace (sometimes fast, sometimes slow), and see everything from their eyes.  I'll supply the "Dadpack" full of snacks, drinks, a Frisbee, ball, a pail and shovel.  I'm sure they'll stop and play at a park along the way, and the two of them will love it!

From Mommy- I know he's not my Dad!  But he is the most wonderful Dad to my kids, so I get to celebrate him too!  My gift to him is a trip to the gym (Craigie Leisure Centre) with "yours truly".  We love working out together, but hardly ever get the chance.  We'll make a morning of it, and go out for a coffee afterwards.  May not sound like much, but "time" like this is well spent!

From all of us together- This one is perhaps the greatest gift of all, because it will mean some sacrifice on our part.  Mark has a dream of a family bike ride all the way from our house in the North Beaches, to the city of Perth (roughly 27 km trip).  He mentions it often, but it has never come to be.  I have avoided it, because it means lots of whinging (whining) from the two older kids.  Hagen still gets a free ride on the back of my bike, so he'll be happy to do it.  Anyway, the bike ride is on the calendar.  It is set.  The kids have promised to be good sports, because we give gifts graciously, right?  (I'm sure I'll be blogging this trip!)  You will be relieved to know that we will park a car in the city the night before, so we only have to ride one way.

Check out this site that will map your ride.

That's it.  That is the simple, yet very thoughtful, way we are giving "Daddy" the gift of time for Father's Day! I hope the Daddy in your home has a wonderful day, no matter what his gift may be, and no matter what month you celebrate!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Culture Swap: Sharing Australia with the World!

A while back a friend of mine posted a link on her facebook page that caught my attention.  Since our life is like one big "culture swap", we decided to participate.

Culture Swapper

Basically, signing up meant we agreed to put together and ship four packages around the world that would teach others about the country in which we live, Australia.  This was the perfect opportunity  to get the kids involved, because I asked them what items they thought represented Australia and why.    Keep in mind, items were to be inexpensive and lightweight (to keep shipping costs down).  Here is what we came up with:

Bag of beach sand with starfish- In our opinion, Australia has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!  We practically lived at the beach in California, and those beaches, while nice, do not hold a candle.  So we sent a little bag of our beach sand with little starfish inside to represent our glorious Australian coastline.

Cadbury Chocolate with "Australian Furry Friends" on the front-  When we first moved here, we noticed the store shelves stocked full with chocolate!  It's the one item we noticed that had more than enough varieties to choose from.  Australian's love their chocolate, and Cadbury is a favorite brand around here.  The bars we sent have fun furry Australian animals on the front, so it's a double whammy!  Australia is full of interesting animals like the: dingo, wombat, Tasmanian devil, platypus, fruit bat, echidna, and of course the koala, and kangaroo.

A notepad made to look like an Australian $50-  Living in Australia is not cheap!  We added a replica of our money to represent the high cost of living, and because we think the dollars here are so colorful and interesting! 

Animal Crossing Coasters-  As mentioned above, Australia is full of critters and creatures!  It is not uncommon to see roadsigns reminding us to be careful of animals crossing.  Here are two pictures of actual signs not too far from where we live:

Koala Keychains- Who doesn't love a koala?  We had never actually touched one until we moved here.  They do not live wild in Perth where we live, but it is common to get your chance to pet and possibly hold them at the nearby animal parks and zoo.

Perth Travelers Brochure- Did you know Perth is one of the most isolated cities in the world? (Some say it is second to Honolulu, Hawaii).  The closest city by road, Adelaide, is more than 2,500 km away!
But in our opinion, there is no shortage of interesting activities to get involved in.  Whether you prefer the outdoors, sports, the arts, or the theatre, Perth has it all.

Australia Flag Stickers- The Australian flag had an interesting start.  The design was actually the result of a competition.  Read more about the flag here:  I always thought the 6 white stars represented the states, but that's not the case! :)

Perhaps the most unique thing about Australia for us is the seasons.  Since Australia is in the Southern Hemishpere, our seasons are opposite to those of the Northern Hemisphere. Spring is from September to November, summer from December to February, autumn from March to May and winter from June to August.

We learn new things about this country possibly everyday.  For example, Australia is the only country which occupies a whole continent - albeit the smallest continent on earth.  Hopefully you learned something new about Australia from reading this too!

We haven't received our swap packages yet, but we are looking forward to them!  We are swapping with families from The United Kingdom, Poland, Wisconsin, and Delaware. It has been fun exchanging emails leading up to the swap, and reading the blogs from the families that have one.  In fact, the Polish family's blog was written in their native language, so we were only able to look at the pictures! :)  Nevertheless, it was so interesting to see what the rest of the world was up to in a forum other than what the media spills out.

Something we left out of the package that I wish we would have included was an item representing the Aboriginal people.  They are an amazing group of people who have endured many hardships.  I especially appreciate their style of art, and I am so happy my kids are learning about their culture in school.  Above is a sample of my son's Aboriginal Boomerang. Read more fascinating facts about the boomerang here:

If you'd like to make a dot art project of your own, check out these ideas:

Or check out the coolest Australian blog with ideas for kids!

No matter where you live, I recommend joining the Culture Swap.  There are a couple of different swaps you can sign up for, including a US State Culture Swap, Culture Swap for Schools, and  you can even Find a Pen Pal. The culture swap is especially in need of swappers from countries other than the U.S.A., so if you live elsewhere, won't you give it a try?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Bout Bali for Beginners

On our third day in Bali, we hired a driver for the day to show us around outside our resort.  Just $50 dollars (AU) earned us a private car and driver for 12 hours! 

Bali is so rich in culture, art, and religion. 

We stopped at a batik/weaving factory, a silversmith, and a painter's gallery.  We saw artists actually weaving, batiking, making silver jewelry, and painting canvas.

The Batik/Weaving Factory

The Hindu religion is fascinating, and exploring the temple was a learning experience for us.  We had to put on sarongs before entering the temple.  Hagen was less than thrilled.  His was more like a little sash, and he wanted a skirt like Everest's! 


These women were preparing offerings for the temple.
After touring the temple, I took the opportunity to tell our driver about our church, and our Lord, Jesus.  I asked him if he believed in reincarnation, and he said yes.  I asked him what he hoped to come back as (I know, very bold), and he laughed and said when he comes back he wants to be born into a rich family.  I let it go at that, but said a prayer for him to my God.  :)

Our lunch spot.
Next, we drove to a coffee plantation to eat the lunch, and to see where, "the most expensive coffee in the world" is made.  Apparently this little weasel looking animal, the kopi luwak , eats the "best"  berries from the tree, and poops them out.  Those same berries are washed, then roasted into the world's best coffee.  We were able to sample the coffee, tea, cocoa, and chocolate.  It was delicious.  It was an absolutely beautiful place to have lunch.  We fed our leftovers to a skinny little kitty my kiddies adored. On the way to our car, we were all but accosted by the vendors.  They crowed us like the paparazzi, and the kids said they felt like Justin Bieber.  I've never seen anything like it.  We ended up with a really cool toy bike for Hagen, and some pencils with wood carved toppers for McKinley. 
That's our awesome driver, "Sugar", looking at Everest.
Three or four hours into our tour, we reached our ultimate destination, the volcano.  The kids and I were not sure we would ever make it there, but Mark was so happy when we did!  I told him, "you've finally seen your volcano, now we don't need to do this again!" It was beautiful, and it was fun to buy stuff from the relentless vendors, but 3 hours on the winding, crowded roads with the three kids was too much.   
Mark and his VOLCANO!

Now for the journey home...

The rice paddies were absolutely gorgeous!

The monkey forest in Ubud was our last stop, and also our favorite.  We had been warned that the monkeys could be quite bold and that they would come up and grab things from you.  We didn't realize however, that there was a good chance of getting bitten.  And McKinley was the unlucky one to find this out!  I am half glad we didn't know this ahead of time, or we never would have gone.  McKinley was a trooper though, and said she would not have traded that experience.  (Just for the record, we had the bite cleaned and checked out at the monkey forest, then again twice by the hotel nurse.)
You see Everest hiding behind me?  And Hagen clinging on for dear life?

As wonderful as our tour was, I actually cried when we got back to Grand Mirage.  They were tears of pure joy and relief!  It took us an hour longer to get home than expected due to traffic.  I was so exhausted from entertaining Hagen in the car, and I was ready to hit the buffet, and the mini bar.

And that's just what we did!


Some more sights from our drive...

Monday, August 13, 2012

Grand Mirage Resort: The Kids rated it 5 Stars!

Our first trip to Bali was fantastic!  We stayed at the Grand Mirage Resort in Nusa Dua.  It was a fabulous resort, especially if travelling with children.

Staying at a hotel is a big deal when you're a kid.  Especially when you can order food and drink whenever you want, and the biggest decision of the day is whether to play on the beach, or swim in the pool.  Because we live near one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, we spent most of our time by the pool.

Here's one of our favorite spots poolside.

The playground was just steps away from the pool.
The kids joined planned activities each day like kite flying, mask painting, treasure hunting, pool games, and the sand castle competition.  They gave great prizes to the winners too!  Everest won a kite, and McKinley a sarong or two.
The Kids Club and Rental Bikes.
We checked Hagen into the Kid's Club a couple of times so we could enjoy some big kid fun with the older two.  Thankfully, he loved going there, and the caretakers were so good to him.   It gave us the opportunity to go on the Banana Boat, and the Seawalker, which were both part of our all inclusive deal.  Oh yeah, almost forgot...he also stayed there while Mark and I enjoyed our one hour massages on the beach :)
The sofa was the perfect place for Hagen's afternoon nap.

Our patio overlooked the ocean and lush gardens.

There were many choices for dining and our kids got to practice their best restaurant manners! We ate at all of the restaurants, but our favorite was eating beach side at Jukung Grill where the kids could run off and play in the sand during the meal.  We also used the 24 hour room service quite a bit, just because we could! 

The Balinese dinner at the outdoor Rama Stage, was really special.  The buffet was so beautiful, and we were able to sample traditional Indonesian food of all kinds.  Towards the end of the meal, the activities staff gave the kids sparklers and escorted them to the beach for "carnival games" and prizes.  After the show, we had the opportunity to take photos with the performers. 

Another part of our all inclusive package was non-motorized water sports.  We ventured out onto the ocean waves in kayaks, and the catamaran.  The sea breeze was perfect sailing weather, and we all loved zooming across the ocean!

One of the best parts of our vacation, were all the friends our kids met at the resort from all around the world.  One day at the pool I asked Everest what his new friend's name was and he said, "I'm not sure, we don't speak the same language."  They played together in the pool all afternoon anyway!  McKinley met friends from Norway, Germany, and even Kuwait.  The girls played together so often, that we exchanged addresses and plan to stay in touch. 

At night we had a turn down service with sweet little notes telling us to sleep tight.

The worst part about Bali, was leaving Bali. 

Here was our early morning view, coffee in hand.

We had a couple of adventurous day trips away from the resort too, including a trip to the turtle farm, so stay tuned for that.  Until then...

A photo book from our trip:

Click here to view this photo book larger

Shutterfly allows you to customize your photo book just the way you want.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bali: Day One

I'm feeling a bit lonely today.  Perhaps it's because my hubby is traveling, or because the kids are back in school.  Or maybe it's because every time I go to contact a friend in the USA, it's the middle of the night there?  Whatever the reason, I'm thinking blogging about our awesome week in Bali will snap me out of it!  :)

It's hard to believe that flying to Bali, Indonesia from Perth took less time than a flight to Sydney, Australia.  In the blink of an eye, we were in an entirely new world!

A world where the motorbikes outnumbered the cars...

And entire families fit on one motorbike. 

We saw Grandmas, mothers feeding babies, men carrying building supplies... all on motorbikes.

There are 4 million people in Bali, and I'm pretty sure they were all on the road to our hotel at the same time we were!  Or maybe I was just really ready for our first all inclusive cocktail!  :)

I was exhausted by the time we finally reached our resort in Nusa Dua.  It was only 13 Km from the airport, but with all the traffic, it took us about an hour.  Maybe skipping that enormous Starbucks, (yes, Starbucks) at the airport when we got in wasn't such a great idea.  (We don't even have a Starbucks in Perth!)

The kids were running around the resort lobby like three lunatics.  I was concerned we looked like obnoxious Americans, but if anyone asked, I would just claim to be from Australia! ;)  The boys busted straight through the beautiful Balinese dancers welcoming us in the lobby, and headed straight for the waterfall with koi fish.  I couldn't seem to corral them, so it was necessary to get our room key ASAP!

I did manage to talk McKinley into posing with the dancers.

We qualified for the special "check in lounge" where we sipped on young coconut and ginger drinks and washed up with a cool towel.  Hagen was hopping all over the place and doing gymnastics on the sofas, so I was really ready to get to our room.

Once escorted to our Deluxe Ocean View King Suite, we hit the mini-bar straight away and enjoyed our first Bali Hai beer before heading to dinner.  Ahh!

Our first dinner was a blur, but I knew by the end of the week, we would get this exorbitant buffet thing down pat.  The kids enjoyed ordering foo-foo fruity drinks, and Mark and I had mojitos.  After dinner we checked out the game room and played some air hockey before calling it a night.

We knew it was going to be a fun filled week!  More to come...