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Dubai-At-The-Top-Here-I-Come
The countdown to Dubai is on. I really can’t believe that in the next week I will be flying with 20 other bloggers and everyone from my agency to experience some of the best the UAE has to offer. My camera is charged (actually, I am bringing two!) and the memory cards are cleared off, ready to be filled with unbelievable colour.

Other than my cameras, sunglasses and sandals, I am not quite sure what to pack for this trip. I want to be respectful of their modest dress code, but it will be hot. I think it will be a week of maxi-dresses. I bought a white shrug for this trip so that it would go with any of my dresses when I need to cover my shoulders. I might bring a selection of spring scarves as well and hopefully I can learn how to wrap them. We will be immersed in a world like I have never experienced before, even though I have been to Dubai. The last trip was super short and spent in a hotel for the most part. I will be staying at The Address Dubai Mall when I am there and am salivating over the photos on their website of the giant swimming pool! That pool is one of the reasons I am bringing two cameras! While I am looking forward to relaxing in my hotel, this adventure will be so much more than the stopover it was last time. We will be spending at least one day right in the middle of a virtual sea of sand, having a camel ride and tea on a Sundowner Desert Safari. While this is something out of a movie for me, I am excited to learn more about the Bedouin culture for whom it is daily life. I find the many different ways of living on this one world so fascinating. To think that I am typing this at a computer in Melbourne while a Bedouin family is tucking into their camp for a night under the stars is amazing. I am so grateful that I will be able to see even a tiny slice of what that is like.  

If-You-Need-Me

As I mentioned in my first post announcing this upcoming trip to Dubai, the Burj Khalifa was just a tiny few stories high when I last visited. It now soars 160 levels above the city and on the 124th floor, they have a 360 degree viewing space and the world’s highest outdoor observation deck. I am both thrilled and terrified of heights so while you will never find me willingly jumping out of an airplane, I am giddy with excitement just thinking about the views I will have from At The Top, Burj Khalifa!!!! I am four exclamation marks excited.

I hope I can do it justice in my photos.

Thinking about what we will experience is exhilarating, but despite the shiny excitement of all the sights, I am most looking forward to learning about the culture and enjoying an Emirati meal at Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. I can’t wait to soak it all up, capture as much as I can with my camera(s) and then share it here on the blog, as well as with my friends and family back in Melbourne. My heart and mind are open and excited to learn new things. Plus there will be Arabic coffee and yummy dates – I am in! 

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a-banana-note

It is already time to send Gemma off to school camp again. That means that more than a year has passed since her nasty broken arm and that first time I really had to let her leave the nest on her own. In the twelve months that have flown by, I have found even more respect for this amazing girl we are raising. She is funny, happy and smart, but also still so young. Little things like a moth darting around the bathroom or the rumble of thunder in the distance can send her into our room at night yet she begs me to see the latest Hunger Games movie. While she might test the boundaries with us every day, when she is talking back to me I have to smother a smiles as I can still see that tiny baby with giant brown eyes. Give her another year or two and Gemma might be as tall as I am, but she is still my little girl. There will be a huge hole in our home when she is at camp. Three days and two nights might not seem like much, but with no email, no Instagram updates, not even a call to say goodnight, I will be jumping out of bed on Wednesday morning ready to fast forward the day until it is time for the bus to bring them all home safely.

So last night I stayed up late making sure all her things were marked with her name.

late-night-labelling

Then this morning there were extra cuddles with Chilli who could sense something was going on. I’m not sure if it was the coming rain storm or the suitcase that was setting her off, but she wanted to be close.

extra cuddles

could-not-put-her-down-to-eat-breakfast

Early to school with all her things.

While there were no tears, there were little signs of nerves.

But as soon as her class was called to board the bus, we did not even get a final sibling shot in focus. She was pulling away. Always pulling away. I think that has to be the definition of a tween. A child who is just ever so slowly pulling away.

And then they were off for adventures that I will never really know about. She is off living a part of her life that does not involve me. 

 And it is that…those moments that I don’t share with her that are proof to me that she is growing up. It gives me a glimpse of what my job as a mother will look like in the next decade of parenting. I will always be somewhere waiting for her with hugs and endless love. And it reminds me, I better call my own mom.

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a-decade-of-friendship

I believe in the power of wishing. While I am not naive enough to think that the power of wishing alone can cure a disease or that sitting on the couch with your fingers crossed will cause you to win the lottery, I do think that positive thinking is essential to propelling good fortune. It is what gets you out the door to live life as fully as you can every day and even off your couch to go and buy a lottery ticket. That hope of “what if?” was what led me to enter the Moments of Triumph Facebook competition for expats. There was a chance for an expat living in Australia to bring someone over from their home country to experience the beauty of the land down under. I know there would be many vying for such an amazing prize, but I had hope and so I entered. You can’t be in it to win it with out actually entering, right?

And I won. We won. Well, I won a trip from the Tasmanian Walking Company for my friend Karin to come to Melbourne and then for the two of us to be sent on The Bay of Fires Walk! (Now Karin, who is WAY more athletic than I, has promised to make sure I return from this four day walking trek alive! In turn, I promise to document the whole thing.)

Here is what I wrote when they asked for my reaction to the news that they would be flying one of my dearest friends over to Melbourne from the US for some much needed catching up time while we walked for hours through the amazing Australian landscape…

“Our friendship was born of walks a decade ago. It was wandering for hours on end pushing prams containing our first born kids through our shared Los Angeles neighbourhood that built our solid foundation. Our friendship grew fast, strong and beautiful just as our baby girls did. Despite being quite different individuals, Karin and I just got along. Conversation came easily and trust was immediate. It was like we had been friends before, lost touch and were just getting caught up…. That bond has only strengthened through two moves, three more children, too many lost pregnancies, more than our share of heartbreak each, and one horrible hell of a year culminating in a divorce.

 

While we often talk of the day our big girls will backpack the world together, we hardly ever let ourselves wish for an Australian visit. Karin in Portland and I in Melbourne, we had come to terms with being grateful for Skype chats on the rare occasion that the time difference allowed us to both be online at the same hour. Crossing my fingers one day, I entered our story of friendship online in the Moment of Triumph contest quietly begging the universe to cut Karin a break. The remote chance we would win was enough to keep us looking forward.

 

We won. I still can’t believe it is real. That we will get to walk again and fill four days with everything we have missed out on in each other’s lives over the last six years spent in different countries seems surreal. This is the wish attached to every penny I have tossed in every fountain I have ever passed. My sack of pennies is empty and my heart is full.”

 

Karin and I also share a sad anniversary in February 12th. It is the day I lost my dad and the day she lost her brother (although many years apart)… We are hoping that 2015 is the year that sees us make a new memory for Februarys going forward! Thank goodness both of us listened to the quiet “what if” and went to one more mother’s group meeting all those years ago or we might never have met.

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  • Jane Dando via Facebook - That is fantastic, Rachel! So exciting for you and Karin xoReplyCancel

  • Jen Bottcher - That is incredible! What a great journey the two of you will have. I remember the above pictures from old flickr days, and can’t think of a better duo to win this trip. Amazing!ReplyCancel

  • cintia - Wow, that’s great. And such a wonderful experience to share with each other.
    Here’s to adventures and long time friendships.ReplyCancel

  • Audra - That’s awesome!! Enjoy your time together!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy - Oh my gosh I am so happy for both of you! How very exciting! Smooches to you both.ReplyCancel

  • Ruth West via Facebook - Congratulations! That’s awesome!ReplyCancel

  • Simone Nuroo via Facebook - Awesome! The universe is great like that!ReplyCancel

  • Lojana Jenna Unenanond via Facebook - This is fantastic! Congrats!ReplyCancel

  • Nicole Hastings via Facebook - Well done! I dream of winning holidays.ReplyCancel

  • Colleen Ayson via Facebook - AwesomeReplyCancel

  • Caz Makepeace - Yay! So awesome. Enjoy your special time together, it is a beautiful place!ReplyCancel

  • se7en - So excited for you… the treasure of friendship, what a celebration!!!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly - So amazing!!ReplyCancel

I have finally gotten into a routine in the mornings for lunchbox making and I think it helps that the core lunch for all three of my kids is the same on a day to day basis. I can’t get all fancy and search Pinterest for lunches that look the most amazing scenes from kid’s books made out of food for a bevy of reasons. Some more obvious than others. The main reason being, my kids will just not eat it. It isn’t that they are so in awe of the art involved, nope, they just get weirded out when their food is fancy. The other top reason being, I am not that mom*, but let’s go back to the first for a moment.

healtheries

Not only do my kids not appreciate artsy lunches, they crave routine. Gemma, Clover and Kieran alike thrive on knowing what to expect. That translates to what they eat as well. Creatures of habit, they start the day with the same breakfast every morning unless it is a special occasion, then it is pancakes. Even their special occasion breakfast is predictable. I pack them a lunch of a simple sandwich, cut up raw veggies and fruit. The vegetables and fruit do rotate, but that is out of a handful of preselected options. It isn’t just bananas and cucumber, they have a bunch of different colours and textures in the mix. They get a small treat most days and a savoury snack for morning tea. The snack is where I have been able to mix things up. 

We have been trialling the new snack line from Healtheries for the last few months and that has been great fun for the kids. Since we “nude” their lunch boxes by packing food in washable/reusable bags, they never know which snack I have chosen! Simple thrills for my three! 

healtheries
I top it all off with a handwritten note so they know that I am thinking of them during the day. I love that Gemma still squirrels these notes away in her treasure box. I remember my mother doing it for me and I am more than happy to do the same for them. 

Thanks to Healtheries for providing us with the snacks for their lunch boxes. While they already come in individual bags to hand out, I decanted the potato sticks into the small snack bags to reduce rubbish at school. It is so nice to have a savoury treat with no artificial colours (or flavours) so they do not come home in school uniforms stained with orange finger prints! And with summer soon here, I appreciate that they have 50% less fat than regular potato chips! No matter the season, I love knowing that these haven’t any MSG nor palm oil!

*Nothing wrong with those moms! No mummy wars will begin on my watch.

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On Sunday I decided to do a quick Day in the Life of. There was no other reason than I wanted a photo challenge. I had seen the five days of black and white prompt making the rounds on Facebook, but I had yet to be nominated, so I thought I would do it anyway. When I decided to post the first photo I had taken and edited into black and white, I did not feel done. It had been a while since my last DILO, so with my replaced LG G3 in hand I set out to capture our day in images.

Sunday looks like this.

dilo.blackandwhite

Then there was a little flat tire incident. Followed by a scooter incident. Which prompted Gemma and me to head down to the bike shop for a much needed inner tube

the-flat-tire

Then Gemma baked just because.

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