We’ve been traveling for a little while now and the good news is that we are still together as a couple and a family, only two of us have thrown up more than once, only one of us has wet their pants on a plane. And I still love traveling!
Before you brush this off as sarcasm you should know that days before we left, Jim told me that of the 3 world traveling family stories he had had followed, no marriage had survived. Loving a good challenge isn’t the only reason we are still together, but we did shake hands and declare we would defy this trend together. That said, I can understand how all that every day, every flight, every meal, home schooling, tour toting, unpacking and repacking, just the four of us togetherness might sneak up on you once in a while and bite your super loving in-it-together family in the ass.
So there have been a few bad moments and I have been “that mother” shouting some directive at one of the kids in a public place, securing the world’s perception that Americans are loud (we are, by the way). And I did ditch all three of them at Bondi Beach to go back to the hotel alone and cry because they don’t understand that spontaneous dips in the ocean are way fucking harder for girls (I love "slipping" into a bathing suit in a public toilet, don’t you?)
But so far, the trip’s been awesome. I didn’t want to use the word awesome (or "journey" or "connection" thanks to THE BACHELOR series) but it’s the only one that covers it in its true definition. Every day is interesting and unknown and fun and sometimes hard and cool and new or weird or easy but all awesome as we are in this kind of groove where we just roll along and make sure to say “wow” and “thanks” a lot.
I am proud of myself that for once, I set no objectives or expectations.
Business class on Qantas (why no “U” -- doesn’t work for Words with Friends though) was a really cool way to start -- 15 hours of movies, drinks, sleep and the boys loved playing with the seats. We expected Sydney to be about 85 degrees at landing, so naturally Cole wore a wolf hat. Guess he’s Team Jacob.
Our schooling plan is a hybrid of home efforts and efforts by mom and dad to teach their current school curriculum. The flight established clearly that this will be the suckiest part of the trip and it is. Not only do neither of us understand “EVERYDAY MATH” for 5th grade, but there’s always something better to do. I am the worst influence and have zero patience, so schooling is often a forced block of time that we go man-to-man combat and divide up the kids and just knock out what we can. I usually take the 2nd grader as his attitude is worse but his work is easier. I can either do it myself (just kidding Mrs. Zeidler!) or force him to race through it. I am sure we will have to catch up over the summer but I don’t care -- it will be easier to do it at home in a library than looking at the Sydney Harbor.
The good news is the kids and their classrooms love SKYPE so we do weekly country reports and that’s been fun and educational, except when James told his class, after snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef all day, that “mostly we just order chicken strips from room service and watch movies.” I almost threw him in the Cossawary cage at the zoo. The Cossawary is the most dangerous bird in Australia, able "unzip" your entire torso with its machete-like claws. See, we are learning!
By the way, koala bears are not bears at all. In any way. Zero connection. I am more closely related to the Royal Family than a koala is to being a member of any real bear clan. In other animal news, real Tasmania Devils don’t look anything like the cartoon one.
Kangaroos are like NYC pigeons with better PR and PLATYPUSARY is a real word. It is basically a platypus sanctuary and even funnier when it is next to the COCKATOO facility. Almost 11, Cole very much appreciates that his mother has never outgrown potty humor.
Cole giggles in DICK’S Sporting Goods and can’t believe NOBBY’S NUTS or SNO-Balls are legal snacks. 100 years from now, I will share with him my long list of brands that sound dirty but aren’t …. Otis Spunkmeyer Muffins, Volvic Water, and in the spirit of travel, Aer Lingus.
We’ve scaled the Sydney Bridge, swam the Great Barrier Reef with rays, and turtles, fished, hiked, toured the Opera House (don’t bother, it looks better outside), sat quietly in the dark on Phillips Island and watched the parade of little penguins swim home for the night. The last was more of a commute than a parade but absolutely fascinating to watch these little guys who’ve been swimming and eating all day march up the beach and to put their little asses to bed in these beach burrows.
I think the best times, however, have been the people watching, eating together, card games after a busy day, just chill as a family things. I know it must sound lame but just being "here" is so good. Without the distractions of home, school, email, work, play dates, the trip has allowed me to be present, truly present, maybe for the first time ever. So I declare my new "there" is "here."