Family

Happy birthday to me...Cape Hillsborough National Park

Last month, i turned the ripe old age of 39! I’m not entirely sure how this happened. One minute I’m pub crawling my way through uni with high hopes for the future and the next thing I know I’m knee deep in an existence that consists entirely of nappies, coffee, disney movies and laundry. Then, just as the tidal wave of one baby after the other finally starts to recede, i wake up and I’m 39. The path to 40 now seems all to short and I suddenly regret those moments when I wished the kids would hurry up and grow up so I could get stuff done, not realising that I too would age accordingly.

So, grabbing whats left of my life by the horns, I booked us a night away at one of favourite beaches in this neck of the woods…Cape Hillsborough Holiday Park. We often day trip up here, but I haven’t stayed here since I was a child so I decided to bite the bullet and book a cabin so that we could really experience the place. It didn’t disappoint.

 Building a sand mermaid on the beach on a day trip in 2016

Building a sand mermaid on the beach on a day trip in 2016

Cape Hillsborough is a hidden gem. The forest literally meets the beach which is a little bay protected by rocky cliff faces at each end. Children love all beaches, but this one has kangaroos on it at sunrise, an island that can be reached at low tide, caves to explore along the cliff face, gentle waves, and sand rich in mica which shines like flecks of gold in the sun. The kids LOVE it.

 Bubba Charlie heading back to the waves after exploring the rocks

Bubba Charlie heading back to the waves after exploring the rocks

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As much as I loved the beautiful white, sandy, surf beaches of the the sunshine coast when we lived there, the beaches up here have a lot to offer kids. There’s so much to explore amongst the rocks and rock pools. The waves are gentle and the shoreline takes a long time to fall away so except during stinger season (Nov-March), its a very safe spot for young children to splash about. Even then, you can buy stinger suits which I’m definitely going to invest in this summer. Although as kids we used to just improvise and wear a pair of pantyhose over our bathers on our legs and cut the crotch out of another pair to wear like a shirt. It did the trick.

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At low tide, you can walk out to Wedge Island, pictured above and this trip, we finally had the chance to do so. You have a two hour window either side of low tide to walk out there and not get trapped. We cut it pretty close so we didn’t get to spend much time there, but at least I can tick it off the bucket list.

 Oliver and Louie walking out to Wedge Island at low tide.

Oliver and Louie walking out to Wedge Island at low tide.

 The boys sitting on Orchard Rock overlooking the ocean before the tide quickly came back in and nearly left us stranded.

The boys sitting on Orchard Rock overlooking the ocean before the tide quickly came back in and nearly left us stranded.

The walk out there gets pretty rocky, so I would advise river shoes so as not to cut your feet up on the oyster shells. If low tide happens to fall at an inopportune time, you can also get a pretty awesome view of both Wedge Island and Orchard Rock from one of the lookouts on the bushwalking trails.

 Me with my mum and sisters on a family camping trip in 1980. Thats Wedge island in the distance. Im’m the fat one balanced on the ledge.

Me with my mum and sisters on a family camping trip in 1980. Thats Wedge island in the distance. Im’m the fat one balanced on the ledge.

 38 and half years later…..

38 and half years later…..

I was lucky enough to do some SOLO bushwalking this trip and it was great. Actually it was definitely one of the highlights for me as its so rare to have any time alone ever, let alone to do something like this.

 The views were incredible!

The views were incredible!

The other awesome thing was that we managed to time our night there with a full moon and the sunset was amazing. We all ate dinner on the beach under the full moon. It was bliss. Once we sorted out the sandflies thanks to avon skin-so-soft! Note - It’s the ONLY thing that works. Buy some, trust me!

 Sunset…the photo really doesn’t do it justice. It was just beautiful.

Sunset…the photo really doesn’t do it justice. It was just beautiful.

So here are a few more pictures from our time there….

 So many rocks, caves and cliffs to explore.

So many rocks, caves and cliffs to explore.

 Boulders on the beach.

Boulders on the beach.

 Catching and releasing toadfish in a rock pool.

Catching and releasing toadfish in a rock pool.

 Kinda gross and probably not the safest thing but they survived.

Kinda gross and probably not the safest thing but they survived.

 Catching more fish in the low tide pools.

Catching more fish in the low tide pools.

 Finding starfish for the first time.

Finding starfish for the first time.

 The “kids” loved the pool, the kiosk and the mini golf and the caravan park.

The “kids” loved the pool, the kiosk and the mini golf and the caravan park.

 And lastly, a reminder of that one time I snuck away on my own to do something fun!

And lastly, a reminder of that one time I snuck away on my own to do something fun!

A Mad Hatters Tea Party for Isabelle’s 6th Birthday

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Im not a very good ‘girl’ mother. I really despise licensed kids merchandise, plastic toys, jojo bows and anything mass produced in china. So basically everything my daughter loves.

Its been a few years since we’ve held a birthday party at our home but having been invited to a few this year, Isabelle was adamant that we should have a party for her 6th birthday. So, with me shuddering at the thought of having an ‘Elsa’ party, and Isabelle rolling her eyes at my idea for a knights and dragons party, we finally compromised and chose Alice in Wonderland as the theme for her birthday party. We have the Disney version of the movie and it’s well known enough for Isabelle to be able to identify with it, yet at the same time, its classic and quirky enough for me to have some fun. Plus, a mad hatter’s tea party gave me the perfect excuse to pull all of my old junk out of the shed and put it to use.

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We ate cupcakes and slices and scones with jam and cream. I’m not much of a baker so a few of my friends also brought cake despite me telling them not to so there were cupcakes galore. I think they were scared there’d be nothing edible based on my other baking disasters. But it was much appreciated and almost everything was gobbled up including the packet mix creations made by Moi. We also had tiny sandwiches, little pies and sausage rolls and cheese and spinach puffs. We drank raspberry lemonade and peach iced tea and there was tea and coffee for the grown ups.

We played musical chairs, pass the parcel, ‘paint the roses red’, croquet and had a scavenger hunt. The rest of the time was spent eating and running around our yard doing what kids do.

Here are some of the details…

I found these invitations on Etsy…they were perfect and I really didn’t have to do anything other than supply the details so that was great. I actually digitally sent most of the invitations so that saved even more time. But if you are going to print them, they have both a front and a back side. I thought they were too cute.

We made these two signs below using things I found in the shed and spray painting the frames and painting the board in chalk board paint. Jamie is artistic so he drew the pictures etc for me, copying off some pictures I found on pinterest. It’s easy to get carried away when you scourge pinterest for party ideas. I had to keep telling myself to just be creative with things we already had. We have quite a lot of old junk in the shed, so it wasn’t too difficult.

These were free printables I found on this website. I printed them on my home printer and put them in these frames which i spray painted. (I had origninally bought the frames from an op shop last year for $1 each as I intend to one day make a photo wall, but they were just sitting in the shed).

Jamie made this sign for me using bits of wood we have lying around from the renovation.

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I bought Isabelle’s ‘Alice’ costume on sale from costume box on line. It was so cute and I was surprised by how good the quality was, unlike the cheap looking costumes i looked at at spotlight, kmart, etc. They have great sales so it’s worth signing up to the mailing list and waiting if you have time.

I bought this chandelier earlier in the year as a project to do up and eventually hang in the lounge room. Its supposed to be a french antique but sadly it’s pretty rusty and in need of some major TLC so it’s been also sitting in the shed awaiting some attention. Anyway, I convinced Jamie to hang it up in the barn for me for the party and he decided to wrap it in fairy lights when he was rigging up some power and lighting. It’s still there and i dare say may become a permanent fixture.

I lined up all our tables and borrowed a couple of fold out ones from my neighbour. This party made me realise I own an abnormal amount of old chairs. 16 to be exact. And yet there still never seems to be enough.

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The rest of the chairs were borrowed from a friend who also loaned me her vintage doily tablecloths, some platters, drink dispensers and a few other bits and pieces. The teacups and saucers, cake stands, table runners and other decorations were in the shed in storage from our wedding ten years ago. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…hoarding pays off. It also takes up an enormous amount of shed space but for that one day a decade you use it, it’s worth it ;-).

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It really was a wonderful day! The fact that we have such beautiful, down to earth people in our lives made this a day to remember and Isabelle went to bed saying it was the best day of her life.

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Greenhill Beach Queensland

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I really enjoy taking my children back to places that I frequented during my own childhood.  Growing up, my family had a beach 'shed' at Greenhill Beach in Queensland.  Many of my school holidays were spent here but I haven't been back since the block was sold back in the 90's. So i decided it was time to re-visit the place with my own children in tow.

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If you google Greenhill Beach, apparently it doesn't exist but if you drive about 45 minutes south of Sarina, past Koumala, past Carmilla and then take a left at a little spot called Ilbilby and keep driving until you hit the coast, you will find it does and it's really worth the drive.  Its a very small beach community mostly made up of either holiday houses or retirees.  It's pretty out of the way and so there still aren't any shops or cafes but the beach itself is quite beautiful and a really fun place for kids to explore. There's heaps of rocks, rock pools, little caves and if you're lucky you can even find living coral in the rock pools far out on low tide.

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We arrived in the middle of the day so the light was extremely harsh and by the time the sun was easing, my camera battery died so I don't know that my photos really do the place justice. But here are some snaps of our day. The weather was beautiful and we had the entire beach to ourselves.

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The children, ran, swam, climbed, jumped in puddles and explored the rock pools.  They buried each other and me in sand which was the closest thing to a day spa I've experienced since having all these kids! 

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If you are interested in checking this part of the world out for yourself, powered camp sites are available at the Cape Palmerston Holiday Park- (07) 4950 3987 - www.capepalmerston.com or permits can be obtained through the department of national parks, sport and racing website - npsr.qld.gov.au - to camp off grid in Cape Palmerston National Park.  

Making memories out of the mundane

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Lately I've been very conscious of how fast time is flying by.  My eldest boy is now a teenager and I've realised that before I know it, these little people will be all grown up and leaving home.  Unless I make a concerted effort to do so, I won't get around to doing all the things I imagined myself doing as a mum before I had kids.

Motherhood can be really monotonous some weeks and as Jamie travels away for work, it can often feel like one big load of never ending laundry interpersed with dishes and the occasional bit of vomit. With that in mind, i'm trying to make some of our ordinary, everyday tasks just a little more special. Having dinner outside, putting sparklers in dessert, finding a new nook in the garden for a picnic, turning off the television and playing music and dancing with the children are all simple things that not only really bring them joy, they also help break up the monotony of solo-parenting for me. 

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As John Lennon says 'life is what happens while your busy making other plans' and I'm trying to be more present in the 'busy-ness', aware that we are making memories everyday not just on the special occasions. Jamie is really good at playing with the children.  He genuinely enjoys their company and getting down on their level playing games with them for hours at a time.  I have to work a bit harder at it as my mind is always thinking about what I 'should' be doing next.

I'm setting myself a goal for the next four weeks to consciously make one ordinary occurrence everyday into something just a little bit different.  Tonight we will have a candle lit dinner with the rain as our background music.  I haven't thought as far ahead as tomorrow and like most things, I'm going to wing it but I am hoping it will become more and more second nature to make the most of each and everyday I get to spend with my little loves rather than wishing the week would hurry up and end so Jamie would be home again.

Here's to being present, being creative and making memories our children can tell us about when we've totally lost the plot and can no longer figure out how to use Facebook  ;-)

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An afternoon at Blacks Beach & Drugs are Bad mmmm'kay?

I go through periods of being rather reclusive.  I'm an introvert by nature and tend to get overwhelmed by life easily.  I always feel better though when I push myself to get outdoors, even if it is insanely hot.  When I'm on my own with the kids - which is a lot as hubby works away - I find the beach to be the least challenging place to hang with the ratbags.  It's free, I can see them in every direction and if I don't feel like swimming, I can easily keep them out of the water by scaring them with jelly fish stories. They're not scared of me.  Jellyfish and crocodiles however are another story.

So one afternoon recently, I pushed through the resistance to leave the airconditioning and took the camera and the children down to Blacks Beach.

I rarely take my camera out when I'm the only grown up as I have to cart all the towels, clothes, water bottles and children who conveniently forget they have legs.  Consequently, I was having a really phat time taking photos.  The light was really interesting, the kids were happily doing their thing and the scorching mackay summer heat was tempered by a cool ocean breeze. So, being in my own little world, I wasn't really paying too much attention to what the boys were actually playing with. It wasn't until a massive fight broke out between Oliver and Louie that I realised my children had been entertaining themselves for so long by playing with, wait for it, a BONG!  See that thing in Oliver's hand in the picture above? Ah blacks beach, you never dissapoint.  The boys rarely get physical with one another, but this was like a scene out of a wildlife documentary. I was sitting quite a distance from them so I only noticed the fight through my lens. 

By the time I got over there to break it up, I learned that they were fighting over a 'really cool water bottle' that Oliver found and a stick that Louie found which fit perfectly into the hose of the 'really cool water bottle'.  Somewhat amused by the fact that they had no idea what they were playing with and that drug paraphanalia was the cause of their first real serious fight, I did what any parent who was a teenager in the nineties would do, and put on my best Mr Mackey from southpark accent and tried to diffuse the situation.

Once, I separated the boys, they went back to playing, the sun started to set and I went back to taking photographs.

Later when I looked back over my photo's and zoomed in, I saw the bong was there all along.   When it was time to leave, Oliver who didn't want to come in the first place said 'That was the best day ever! Only because of that really cool water bottle.  It was SO fun.'

And that my friends, is why I love the great outdoors.  You just never know what you're going to get.

Boulder Creek, Calen

We finally have a moving date! Yay! We've been waiting for what seems like for ever (3 months) to get a settlement date for our new house and its all happening this Friday! So of course, instead of packing, I now feel the sudden and pressing urge to go exploring all the places up this way that I haven't yet been to.

Jamie, being a fellow procrastinator is totally onboard, so a couple of days ago, we drove out to have a picnic and a swim at Boulder Creek near Calen.  It took us about an hour to get there from Mackay and it was really lovely.  There's actually a free camping area, toilets, picnic tables, swings and a BBQ, and of course the creek.  We went on a weekday so there were only a handful of people there - a couple of grey nomads and a group of friendly old hippies having a few drinks around one of the picnic tables.  

The creek itself is easily accessible for children and there's lots of places to explore.  It was quite shallow with a few deeper little rock pools so it was perfect for my tribe.  The boys had a blast sliding down the rocks, rock hopping and swimming in the rock pools while Jamie and Isabelle took off upstream to collect rocks.  Charlie and I chilled out in one of the deeper pools, watching all the fish, dragonflies and the biggest Ulysses butterflies I've ever seen,

The vibe at the picnic area was very chilled (mostly due to the second-hand hippy smoke floating around).  One of the locals was selling rainforest honey so we bought 1KG of that and another man cut open a young coconut and gave it to me which I devoured while the kids played on the swings and annoyed the fun parent.

With the children sufficiently worn out, we drove home taking the scenic route back through mirani as suggested by the locals.  We had a lovely day out and we will definitely come back and camp here in sometime the future. 

Just another day at the beach

We live in the tropics not far from the coast.  It's hot! And humid.  Unfortunately though, summer here is also stinger season and we get the potentially life threatening irukandji jelly fish so it's been months since we've been in the water. In years gone by, I've actually been a bit reckless and swum anyway, but this year I've been a responsible mummy and not allowed the kids to swim.  Until this past weekend, when we threw caution to the wind, went down to Bucasia Beach and got in the water.  It was SO good!

There's just something so cleansing about being in the ocean. I love that every day, even at the same beach, it's a completely different scene.  The tide can be way out with miles of beach to explore.  Or it can be right in chasing my children up onto the shore. 

The day was rather uneventful as far as days with my lot go.  Isabelle hates the sand, but I just ignore her whining and each time we go, its less and less. Actually she also hates the feel of grass on her feet at the moment, (and shoes of course), so when I'm already at pack mule capacity, that can be a challenge. Hence why she is lagging behind in the photo above. 

All in all, it was a great day. Definitely worth the stinger/crocodile risk.

 

In case you're wondering, for some unknown reason, Jamie seems to be in the throws of an identity crisis and is currently channelling his inner Tom Selleck.  It's really hard for me to look at him at the moment with a straight face.  The longer he keeps the moe, the more the moe seems to be overtaking his personality and I'm wondering how long until hawaiian shirts and high waisted jeans start to make an appearance. Although it's mildly amusing, I'm hoping it's a phase. I'll keep you posted.

 
 

We left the beach refreshed and relieved that we didn't get stung. Definitely planning on getting more ocean swimming in before winter.  Hopefully one of these days, I'll figure out how to NOT take half the beach home with us!

 

Holidaying with kids

Travelling with kids is not really what I would describe as a 'Holiday'.  It's more of an opportunity to showcase my children's bad behaviour and the dysfuntionality of our family to a brand new crowd. With extra laundry.  Nevertheless, the lure of stepping away from everyday routines and exploring new places is real and we like to get away from time to time.

As a family of seven living on one wage, our budget is, well, tight.  Travelling by plane is out of the question.  Besides the obvious cost of seven return airfares, sitting still and quietly for any length of time is impossible for my toddler and I haven't quite reached the stage on my parenting journey where I don't give AF about the people around me.  So, driving it is.  We also find that as there are so many of us, admission prices to go pretty much anywhere also add up really quickly so we've learnt to just say no to things like theme parks, movies, shows etc. and instead search out national parks, botanical gardens and other interesting low cost places to visit.  Consequently all our holidays nowadays are camping which is loads of work both before, during and after the fact, but its always really worthwhile and I know the kids are making memories, which makes all the sand, dirt and days of laundry worth it.

Things I've learnt camping with kids....

Besides all the obvious stuff (be prepared, take toilet paper, rubbish bags, first aid, insect repellant, nurofen etc.) here are a few things I've learnt through experience...

Assign each child has their own chair, cup, bowl, torch, towel etc and make them responsible for it.  

Don't skimp on lighting.  We learnt the hard way that inadequate lighting makes everything (like cleaning up) really difficult so take more lighting than you think you'll need.  

Take a few lightweight games.  I like to keep my camp simple but taking a few extra things like bubbles, cards, board games, sparklers, a frisbee and a ball that can be pulled out unexpectedly is always handy to keep the kids entertained or if they start to fight.

Camp near water. Water provides hours of entertainment for the kids. Having the camp set up right near the water so you can watch the kids whilst doing other jobs is a bonus but not always possible. 

Allow time to adjust.  The first couple of times we went camping was an adjustment for all of us and there are still times I just want to pack up and go home.  The more we go though, the more everyone knows what to expect so we can kind of just relax into it.

Give the kids jobs. We give the kids easy tasks like collecting kindling, removing rocks, sweeping the floor and making beds so that they are part of the experience rather than waiting around for us to do all the work in setting up, cleaning and cooking.  

Don't go crazy pre-prepping food.  For our very first family camping trip, I thought it was essential to have all the meals and snacks planned and prepped ready to be heated up on the fire or opened and consumed right away.  I googled like a mad woman and spent a week or so cooking and freezing and packaging food.  It was total overkill however, and I've since stopped doing this as I actually really enjoy the process of cooking and preparing meals outside while we are camping.  Now I like to embrace the outdoors and eat simply while we camp.

Some of my best childhood memories are family camping trips.  Cooking in the fire, the smell of the tent, going to sleep and waking with the sun and exploring my surroundings without distractions are memories that I treasure and I really hope to impart this love of the outdoors to my children.

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Encouraging natural play

When I was a new mum, I naively believed that experts knew more about my child's needs than me. I bought into the idea that in order to give my child the best start in life, I had to provide educational toys and attend early learning classes.  I was living in the city and I remember feeling totally inadequate because I couldn't afford all the flashy, electronic, expert tested, award winning toys nor the multitude of 'lessons' which supposedly would give my child an edge when the time came to start school.  Mama guilt was huge.  Over my years of parenting, however, I have come to see it for what it is and that's just another marketing tool to encourage consumerism and in a way I'm grateful my finances didn't allow for it.  These days I prefer the simplicity of books, simple toys and outside play.  

I'm definitely not against toys, and beautiful, well made toys provide many hours of entertainment, however, I am much more discerning now about the kinds of toys and materials I allow to take permanent residence in our home. Instead, my focus these days is on providing experiences in which the kids can play without actually having to own 'things' and therefore add to the clutter in our house.  Nowadays rather than wishing I had more toys for my children, its actually more of a challenge for me to keep undesirable toys out of our environment, and I'm constantly having to cull our toy collection.

The benefits of natural play are three-fold.  Firstly, it doesn't have to cost anything.  Secondly, it connects children to nature which engages all the senses.  And thirdly, it doesn't clutter up the home and ultimately contribute to landfill.

That said, we are guilty of way too much screen time! Especially in the heat of Queensland summers when it's just too hot to go outside.  With that in mind, I'm on a quest to bring the outdoors in and embrace inside play and craft using things we find outside.