USA – Our Final Week…

It’s done. It’s finished. Our holiday to the U.S has officially come to an end. All the months of saving and planning, all the time I spent organising stuff, buying gear, making lists, packing to a fine art so our luggage wasn’t over weight has all been done, experienced and lived, but what an amazing time we had with memories created that will last forever!!! As I lie here on my bed trying to keep my super heavy jet lagged eyes open, I have the fondest of memories this last week. It’s been a huge week. We’ve been to the bay of San Francisco to the snowy mountains of Tahoe back to the beaches of LA – amazing is an understatement!!!!

When we arrived at San Francisco I was super excited as I’d never been before and always wanted to go and see the Golden Gate Bridge. We got there mid afternoon the Saturday before Christmas and what I didn’t expect was herds of people and traffic so bad it felt worse than New York. It was busy, shoulder to shoulder people lining the streets, horns beeping – I don’t know why but it wasn’t what I’d expected. The drive on the way to where we were staying was an interesting one. We saw people dealing on the corners when we pulled up at a set of lights, streets seemed dirty and I just wasn’t feeling it. It was my choice to come to visit San Francisco and I was beginning to think I made the wrong choice.

Our motel was nice but the smallest one we’d stayed in yet. It was older and darker than the places we’d stayed at before and I just didn’t get a good vibe. The volume of homeless people were somewhat larger than what we’d seen yet and they were vocal, more vocal and in your face than what we’d ever seen. So far this had been my least favourite place. But the next day my sister and I decided to do a bus tour of the city. The girls had woken up sick and the boys wanted a break from sightseeing so we took the opportunity to see the real San Francisco and why it’s on the map of places to see.

Our tour was awesome we saw all the hot spots – Union Square, Fisherman’s Wharf, zig zag street, steepest hill, China Town, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge…what a site!! It was such a memorable moment driving over it and seeing it for the very first time! San Francisco was awesome to see, has lots to do, plenty to eat – particularly a little diner we found Lori’s Diner. It won our hearts over and would have been the best place we ate at over the 3 weeks we were in the States!

But I was happy to move on and would be content to only see it once. After our two nights were up in San Francisco, the kids we so happy as we were finally road tripping to the snow!! Mia had been bursting to see snow since we left Disneyland so you can imagine how pumped she was. The drive was amazing. 4 hours of beautiful scenery where we looked at snow-capped peaks for half the drive before we actually got to them – it was awesome!! Bailey saw the first sighting of snow on the mountain tops and as we followed our trail the green slowly turned to brown then to white and oh my how surreal!!!

As we drove closer to our destination of Lake Tahoe the snow became more prominent and thicker on the mountain sides and ground. But then all of a sudden it disappeared the closet we got to Tahoe. We were a bit underwhelmed as 5 years ago when we were in Tahoe, we drove through a blizzard to get there!!! When we checked in, the hotel receptionist said they hadn’t had a good snowfall in ages just rain!!! What??? Where is our white Christmas?!!!

The disappointment of this was quickly patched over with our rooms. They were beautiful. There was a bedroom and a kitchen and two bathrooms and space – dear lord space!!!! We felt at home:) The first thing we did was grocery shop lol – it was awesome lol! It was so nice to cook and clean and not eat out!!!! When we got up the next morning, I loved getting the kids their cereal and washing the dishes like I would at home – strange but true:) The kids were so disappointed not to have snow to play in, so we drove 15 minutes up the road where the snow was just so they could touch it! It was so worth the priceless looks on their faces! We had a ball that afternoon…little did we know what we were in for over the next two days!!!

As we followed all the news reports they kept consistently saying that a snow fall was coming in Christmas eve. We didn’t get too excited. It’s like that comment of ‘possible rain’ yeah right what rain!! Christmas eve we decided to take a gondola ride up to Heavenly mountain. When we arrived to buy our tickets, the gondolas were closed due to the windy conditions and the predicted snow storm. So we were advised to check out Adventure Mountain which is a place 20 minutes out-of-town. I’m so glad we weren’t scared off by the weather as it was the best day in the three weeks we were away. We all went sledding and tubbing for the morning and half way through our time on the mountain it started snowing – what a moment!!!!

We were so hoping by the time we returned to Lake Tahoe it would be snowing there to! It wasn’t it was raining…but not long after lunch it turned to snow and snow it did!! It continued to snow on and off for the next 24 hours – we got our white Christmas, was the best gift we could ever receive. Waking up to a town covered in snow on Christmas morning and seeing the kids faces when they saw Santa had found them and left a note in the snow for them – absolute priceless!!!!!!

We spent Christmas Day up on Heavenly mountain after finally getting our gondola ride – yet again another blissful moment. The views were exquisite, completely breathtaking – a moment I will never ever forget! But it was officially the coldest we have ever felt! I couldn’t feel my feet or hands even though they were covered, but so worth seeing such a beautiful site – all while it snowed:)

Our time at Lake Tahoe would have to go down as the most memorable moment in any holiday that we have ever had. Everyone was happy and enjoying themselves and we saw things that everyone in the their life time should see – I even ran for the first time in the snow…now that was a priceless moment!!! It was sad to let go and move on from here, especially knowing that our trip was coming to an end. But what a finale!!! Our last two days spent at Santa Monica beach was also awesome!! What a great place to holiday. There is so much going on down at ‘muscle beach’ with all the swings and rings and different walks of life, we literally spent two days at the beach playing and watching everything that was going on around us!

We spent our last night at the famous Santa Monica Pier where the kids rode ride after ride – but it was freezing!!!!!!! The days were beautiful in the sun, but once the sun went down and the wind came off that water, it became an uncomfortable coldness – but we survived!! My last run for the journey was spent running from the Santa Monica Pier to the Venice beach Pier and back. 10k of water front views and front row seats to a lot of homeless people and someone being arrested. This was all happening while hundreds of people kept living – running, walking, bike riding…it was so bizarre! It really made me appreciate even more what my life holds and how lucky I am!

And so our trip had to end:( not before one last dash to the shops – 8 items purchased at GAP for $100 – crazy!! and dinner out. We caught our last shuttle bus to LAX and thankfully by me asking to fly straight to Brisbane (originally we had to fly to Sydney then get a connecting flight) we were booked on the Brisbane flight which we boarded at 11pm and were off on our way home! Two 13 hour flights in 3 weeks, four internal flights and two road trips and I must say the kids really did so well!!

Would we do it again? Hell yes!!
Would we do it differently? Always!!

5 years ago we went with two babies who were pushed around in prams the whole time – we saw lots but didn’t do a lot. This time only one child in a pram, three kids is completely different to two, kids who argue (normal sibling rivalry) and by the end didn’t want to walk another step, but we did way more this time! It was a massive effort taking three kids around America. There were many ups and downs but that’s life with kids anyway isn’t it?? It was great having family this time to experience it with – we really loved having my sister, brother-in-law and nephews and the kids loved having their cousins to hang out with! What an experience though. We covered so much in the three weeks we were there. Geographically the kids were interested in everything and Bailey in particular loved the history behind things. The kids really learnt a new appreciation for how lucky they are – seeing so any homeless people showed them the real values in life. It was quite sweet in the end they wanted to give a dollar or left over food to each one they saw. I know they will have the fondest memories and many stories to share with their friends when they return to school!

But for now as this year comes to a close, we will focus on the good things that have happened this year and our trip being one of the biggest highlights!

Happy new year to all my family and friends who have followed our journey this year…here’s to an awesome 2015 that brings us all lots of peace, happiness, good health, love and joy’!

First stop for 2015 for us…a week at our favourite beach – Burleigh!!!!

Highlights of our last week….

San Francisco…

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Lake Tahoe…

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Santa Monica…

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From One Term to the Next!

As I sit here in the peace and quiet of my home while Mia has a nap and the two bigger kids watch a movie, I start to wonder how term 2 of school is going to play out. With the school holidays coming to an end and what a great time we’ve had, I can’t help but pray that it starts differently to term 1.

As you know, my prep baby Sienna, suffered terrible separation anxiety at the beginning of the year, but with lots of perseverance from her wonderful teacher and myself, she overcome her emotions and settled so beautifully. The worst part was over within the first two weeks, but then it took another couple of weeks for her teacher to knock down this brick wall that Sienna had tightly built around herself hindering her confidence from shining. By the middle of the term Sienna finally relaxed. Relaxed enough to let her guard down to show her teacher what she is capable of. We saw a huge difference in her at home. She was finally coming home and talking about school and all the wonderful things she was learning…it was like music to my ears!

When we reached the last day of term, I thanked Sienna’s teacher for all the hard work she had put into my daughter and we discussed how far she had come. I felt such a sense of relief that term 1 was complete! Although it was only a short term of 9 weeks, we were all ready for a holiday and to celebrate that Sienna made it through her first term of school….and came out the other end a better student!!!

We’ve had a wonderful time this school holidays. Our Easter long weekend celebrations were fantastic and the kids had a ball celebrating my birthday with me! We’ve gone for bike rides, played at parks, swam, had lunch dates and play dates with friends. We’ve laughed together, chilled together, read books, sang songs, baked and had the odd disagreement here and there, but all in all it’s been a great couple of weeks! Mia has thoroughly enjoyed having the kids home. She plays so hard with them now or should I say bosses them around while playing with them lol, she will be lost for a while when they return to school next week and so will I! I LOVE school holidays. No rushing, no lunches, no ironing uniforms, no homework. Life is cool, calm and collective…it’s like the calm before the storm (of the next term lol)!

Sienna has been pretty good these holidays. She has continued to engross herself in her love of learning which is lovely to see. She’s asked several times when are we going back to school. At first we had to go through each day how many days until school went back. I didn’t think too much about it until the other day when I said 7 days and she replied “that is ages away” I said “yes” and her response as she skipped off was “yesssss!” I instantly thought “oh no!!!”

It’s getting to the point now where I need to start counting down the sleeps with her until school starts back. I need her to be emotionally ready again to tackle another term of school. I feel that Sienna wasted half a term of her learning in term 1 and I can’t wait to see what she will be capable of once she has a full term under her belt. I think I’m worrying for nothing and I believe she will be ok, but Sienna can be unpredictable! I return to work on Monday so for the first couple of days mum will be dropping her off. So far this year she hasn’t cried with mum, it’s only me she cries with. I’m hoping she doesn’t but am expecting her to hold it together Monday and Tuesday and lose it on Wednesday with me!! I just asked her if she is looking forward to going back to school and she said “yes, I just want to go everyday and not have so many holidays!!!” We may just be onto a winner…but like always I’m always ready for the unexpected!!

I hope everyone has enjoyed the school holidays and I wish you all a successful term 2! Ours starts with parent/teacher interview on the second day and Bailey starts the term with a new teacher! I shall be thinking of all the school mums on Monday as the rush of life begins again for another 10 weeks!!!

Some pointers to assist you in term 2:
*take the time now to check all bags, lunch boxes, clothes, shoes, uniforms etc to make sure nothing needs to be replaced.
*rename or relabel if they have worn or fallen off.
*term 2 is the start of the cool weather – buy at least one jumper before school goes back and keep it in your child’s school bag incase they need it!
*on the same note, start to organise their school winter wardrobe.
*term 2 is report card term so the kids will be facing lots of assessment – allow them plenty of chances to go to bed early at night, this will help them from being super cranky after school!
*finally term 2 for me is the term where I expect the kids to do more for themselves – I allow them term 1 to really settle back to school and from term 2 my expectations go up a notch and I really focus on independence,
independence, independence!!!

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