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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do-not-regret-growing-older

Another year has ticked over in my personal calendar. I still don’t recognize the numbers as belonging to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wistful for years gone by, I just thought I’d feel older at 44. I guess I really don’t know what I was expecting would change in my forties. Did I really think one day someone would show up at my door, hand me a copy of Reader’s Digest and say it was time for mom hair and sensible shoes? Now that I am here at the point when I thought I would be old, I see that when ageing, people just become more of who they always were inside. The bits that were neglected for the fast and shiny ephemera of youth get their turn to be appreciated. The patient and dependable side that has endured with grace while the showy bits got all the attention? That is the me I welcome now. The silly part is there still. I haven’t gotten less fun, just less reckless and more considerate. I thought I would be old, I was wrong. I am durable. While I may have pictured forty four differently, I’m grateful for life just as it is today. I’m satisfied. Not to be confused with complacent. I can do with less stuff and I know I can give more…I realise now that the daily opportunity to do good things is the real gift of life. 

 Today is a great day to do good things.

 

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  • kasandra - well said! and i agree, i thought i’d be old at 45 … it’s just an older version of who i’ve always been. happy birthday!!ReplyCancel

  • suzanne - oh this is wonderful! happy birth-day to you! I will be forty pretty soon and am looking forward to all that you have beautifully written. love your blogReplyCancel

Let me start this off by saying that I am actually happy to see Halloween becoming a tradition that Australia is adopting. Each year there are more people celebrating and all the accoutrement is easily sourced. I have never been a huge Halloween fan as I despise carving pumpkins for a start, but the distinct feeling of home is what inspires me to participate. Nostalgia drives me and the high price of pumpkins during the wrong season is what gets me out of the most dreaded task. Now dressing up and free candy? That I can completely get behind. This year I was particularly excited as Gemma and her BFF were going to be trick or treating on their own.

One of the main reasons we relocated to Melbourne was so that our children would have more free-range childhood. It has been hard to dislodge the tight grip of fear that I developed in America, but when I reflect on life here, I really do feel so safe. More importantly, I feel like my kids are able to have a childhood similar to the one I enjoyed in the 70’s. Being just a month shy of ten and quite the old soul with a boundless sense of responsibility, I felt that Gemma was ready to do some unsupervised neighbourhood roaming. Especially since we are in such a tight knit community where we know so many families, I was confident it was the right choice. 

Gemma-as-Katniss

The twins got dressed in costumes of their choice and Gemma pulled out the YouTube videos for me to learn how to do a Katniss braid. I took a few photos and then put the camera on my desk. With best friends on their way over, the excitement was building. The plan was for the two big girls to head off on their own and the other mom and I would take the smaller kids with us. It was a great plan where the big girls could feel very big, the littles could have fun and my friend and I would have time to chat about whatever we wanted. The streets were filled with familiar faces from our huge neighbourhood primary school. I even recognised them behind layers of zombie makeup. So much happiness out and about on a hot and beautiful Friday evening. We noticed groups of unchaperoned kids at nearly every turn and soon our conversation ended up on the subject of phones for tweens. I have been thinking of letting Gemma walk to and from school now that the days are so long, but was worried that I would not know she had made it to school if she did not have a way to text me. As we were talking about that and other subjects, we realised we had not seen the big girls for quite some time. It was getting late and the neighbourhood had emptied of kids as they headed home for dinner. Deciding we would finish up the street we were on before looking for the girls (we kind of just assumed they would be where we were at the end) we hit up a few final houses that bore the trick or treat welcome signs a neighbour had printed and put in letterboxes. The street was actually quite deserted. A lot of the homes were new builds, for sale or renovations and you could still see the signs languishing unread with the other junk mail. Just before we decided to turn home, we noticed a bag on the ground at the side of the road. It was one of the hand made trick or treat bags the kids had done at school.

It was sitting upright full of candy and the handle was torn.

And it belonged to Gemma’s BFF.

There was no other trace of our two girls.

Suddenly that empty street felt a mile long and the time since we had last seen the two of them, hours… Immediately we started calling out their names. They must be close. The three little siblings were screaming their older sisters’ names. How could they not hear us? There had to be a simple explanation for why her bag was sitting right there. Full of candy. Right? There had to be. Of course, the reasonable explanations were being drowned out by a flood of worst case scenarios in my head. I kept bringing myself back to the fact that this is Australia and a very safe corner of Australia at that. But what ten year old out for the sole purpose of getting free candy LEAVES her entire bag of free candy on the ground WILLINGLY?

How long had it been since we last saw them anyway? I hadn’t been looking at my watch. Out came our phones to call the husbands. Maybe the girls were home already. They must have just gone home. THEY WEREN’T AT HOME. My feet started moving very quickly and my friend and I decided to split up. We told the dads to get in the cars and start driving around. I went to ask at houses of neighbours when they had last seen the girls and my friend took the little siblings heading to the scout hall where Gem and her BFF had been spotted about half an hour or so earlier. No luck in either direction, so I decided to call the police. It wasn’t like our girls. This was not something they would do. 

The police asked me to describe the girls and I couldn’t remember what my daughter’s BFF was wearing beyond the colour of her t-shirt. Why had I decided to take tonight off from photographs. How could I not have taken a picture of her with Gemma? The dads circled back to where we were standing on a main corner in our neighbourhood. Neither dad had seen them. My friend took off walking, the little kids got in the car with my husband and went one way while the other dad drove in the opposite direction. I had to stay on the line with triple zero and answer more questions. They told me to wait there for the police. My eyes kept darting up and down the main road. The girls just HAD to be there in the distance, if only I just looked hard enough. A police van pulled up next to me and another cruiser as well. With the description of our girls eerily being announced over the police radio, the cruiser took off to start searching while the police officers from the van asked me all the same questions as before along with some new ones. Panic was taking over and I was starting to feel like I was standing next to myself.

No officers, they wouldn’t leave home. These are geeky girls who love to read and still sleep with stuffed animals.

No, they don’t have phones. I KNOW! I KNOW!

No, we did not tell them where to meet us and when, this is a tiny little close knit neighbourhood. We thought we were just one street over from them. And we NEVER IMAGINED THEY WOULD GO MISSING.

The dads circled back again and drove off to continue looking. My phone rang, but my heart dropped because it wasn’t a call to tell me they were found. Another friend was sending her husband out to look. A kind woman in a white station wagon pulled up next to me and called out the open window; “Who are you looking for? Describe them.” After I said that it was two ten year old girls, one dressed as Katniss from The Hunger Games and the other with a bright yellow shirt and jean shorts, she drove off. How could she tell someone was missing? Could she see through my chest to where a third of my heart was currently just a black hole?  

The community was coming together as I was falling apart. 

How long had it been? It was nearly two hours since we left my house. Life was normal two hours ago. 

The Scout leader came over. He knew the girls from scouts and he was going to help. The police were speaking into their radios about my daughter; “Brown eyes, light brown hair, slim build…mother does not know how tall…” DON’T FORGET TO MENTION THE SPECIAL BRAID! I did a special braid for her. How was this happening? 

My thoughts were darting around my head with so many stories on the news lately. The girl who ran away from home in Sydney last week and was taken in by a stranger. The little boy missing since September in New South Wales. The girl who disappeared on her way to school in a Melbourne suburb a few years ago. Bad things do happen in Australia. My bubble was burst and just at the moment that fear had settled into my soul the white station wagon came speeding down the side street. Through the window I could just make out the silhouette of a stranger giving me a thumbs up. I crumpled to the sidewalk as the car shrieked to the side of the road and the back door opened spilling out my daughter and her friend. Both of them were in tears, saying sorry over and over and I was crying the same thing. We just hugged and I tried to call my friend, but couldn’t remember how to use my phone. I managed to get it to dial her and just said “THEY FOUND THEM!” While I was trying to figure out how to call my husband, I saw him at the corner and just waved him over…he stopped in the red zone, but no one was giving tickets. The police asked the girls what happened, kindly grilling them for information on the lost hour. When all was determined to be a series of misinformation and accidents (while stopping to tie her shoe, the BFF put her candy bag down and forgot it as she thought it was in her backpack…they were thirsty so they just went to school to use the drink taps…they had iPads with them and were headed to get WiFi to text us. By that point no one was at either home…) the police left stating they were preparing for a busy night. That broke my heart again because I knew that another family might not have their happy ending.

I learned a lot that night, but the silver lining was confirming all that I already knew. Like that this is a beautiful and caring community in which to raise our family. That my friend is a strong mother and level headed woman who can keep smiling and calm even though I know she is breaking on the inside as well. That we are so lucky for so many reasons… the horror that families of missing children live through on a daily basis must drive them crazy.

I know now to set rules for my kids so that they can roam free and stay safe. Clearly stating a time to meet us, geographical boundaries to remain within and providing a way to stay in touch would have saved us all from the chaos. I apologised to Gemma for having made so many mistakes. Also, having photos of what they looked like when they left the house would have been extremely helpful. Gemma will have a phone with her the next time she is doing something unsupervised.

In the aftermath, I did not get to say thank you to anyone who helped and I really feel I must. Thank you to my friend for being consistently awesome in some crappy situations. Thank you to the police for showing up so quickly. Thank you to the husbands who did not brush us off as being dramatic and silly and got off their couches and into the cars. Thanks to the little siblings who never really noticed how scared the adults actually were.  Thanks to the friends, neighbours and strangers who rallied to help without being asked. Thank you to the girls for being really great kids. Thank you to the bag of Snickers I went home and ate in one sitting.

When Gemma hugged me after being found that night, I could smell something familiar, yet unidentifiable. Like a childhood memory, it was a feminine, summery mix of perfume and oddly enough, bug spray. I paused to acknowledge it, but did not give it another thought until that night when I was in my bed falling asleep and suddenly aware of the same scent. I am not sure who the guardian angel was, but thank you to her as well.

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  • Amy Snyder Weiland via Facebook - Thank you for sharing… and reminding the rest of us parents of what we should do when the time comes for our little ones to venture out alone. So happy your story had a happy ending.ReplyCancel

  • Amy Snyder Weiland via Facebook - Thank you for sharing… and reminding the rest of us parents of what we should do when the time comes for our little ones to venture out alone. So happy your story had a happy ending.ReplyCancel

  • Danielle Andreoli - Oh Rach, I’m sitting here in tears, how terrifying and what good responsible girls, thank goodness for happy ends.ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Boysen via Facebook - so terrifying!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica Boysen via Facebook - so terrifying!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy Allyn Croysdale via Facebook - I’m so thankful she is okay!!! This was my first year to let my son go with friends, as well. The phone is definitely a good idea that will put you at ease!ReplyCancel

  • Tracy Allyn Croysdale via Facebook - I’m so thankful she is okay!!! This was my first year to let my son go with friends, as well. The phone is definitely a good idea that will put you at ease!ReplyCancel

  • Tara Pollard Pakosta via Facebook - this moved me to tears! thank goodness all was okay. I just got ava a cell phone last week because her friends decided to leave the football game early cause it was cold and they were supposed to go to Dunkin donuts after to get picked up. after that incident I decided she needed a phone!ReplyCancel

  • Tara Pollard Pakosta via Facebook - this moved me to tears! thank goodness all was okay. I just got ava a cell phone last week because her friends decided to leave the football game early cause it was cold and they were supposed to go to Dunkin donuts after to get picked up. after that incident I decided she needed a phone!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsay - My daughter (now 14) had a cell phone at Gemma’s age, too, for these very reasons. I believe independence is important in childhood and I am proud to say my daughter has been able to have some of these freedoms. The cell provides that extra piece of mind, and also means she never has an excuse for not calling or texting. I’m very glad Gemma and her friend are okay!ReplyCancel

  • Alice Richards via Facebook - Thank God for your happy ending. It moved me to tears too and I am so relieved everything turned out ok. I would want to wrap her up in cotton wool and lock her in her bedroom after that so good on you for taking the lessons you learnt and resolving to do things better next time. XReplyCancel

  • Alice Richards via Facebook - Thank God for your happy ending. It moved me to tears too and I am so relieved everything turned out ok. I would want to wrap her up in cotton wool and lock her in her bedroom after that so good on you for taking the lessons you learnt and resolving to do things better next time. XReplyCancel

  • Valerie Baillargeon via Facebook - Omg… So happy for this happy ending! ReplyCancel

  • Valerie Baillargeon via Facebook - Omg… So happy for this happy ending! ReplyCancel

  • Annette - Shit! I’m so glad everything was okay after all.
    How awful those hours must have been.
    And in the most Australian of ways, with affection, “bloody kids!”ReplyCancel

  • Simon - Whoa, Rach, my heart was racing and my eyes getting watery (in a man way, you know) reading that. So glad for the outcome for you, certainly makes one think about how it could have ended and how utterly terrible it must be for the parents (and children, naturally) who lose children that don’t ever come home. —-SReplyCancel

  • Laney - My heart was in my mouth right through that. I’m so glad it was a happy ending. My brother was mugged by older kids one Halloween and had everything stolen so I was fearing the worst but hoping they were just hiding somewhere. A phone makes sense for a child in this situation.ReplyCancel

  • Monique Jarman via Facebook - So glad ended well, that pain is terrifying. Hugs all round.ReplyCancel

  • Monique Jarman via Facebook - So glad ended well, that pain is terrifying. Hugs all round.ReplyCancel

  • Karri Hall via Facebook - A parent ‘ s worst nightmare! I have just one reoccurring thought..why did the girls get into the white car of a stranger? Although this had a happy ending, that piece of the story freaks me out more than a little.ReplyCancel

  • Karri Hall via Facebook - A parent ‘ s worst nightmare! I have just one reoccurring thought..why did the girls get into the white car of a stranger? Although this had a happy ending, that piece of the story freaks me out more than a little.ReplyCancel

  • Amie - Urgh! You poor thing! Thank goodness everything turned out ok!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Devine Photography / sesame ellis via Facebook - Yes, what I didn’t write Karri Hall is that the friend’s husband spotted them but was hesitant to tell them to get in his car and instead told them to hurry as we had called the police. In the end, the stranger in the white station wagon turned out to be the mother of a boy in their grade (in class with the BFF last year) and the girls recognized the sister who was also in the car with the mum. She did mention that she was concerned about telling them to get in the car, but she knew I was quickly dying from not knowing.ReplyCancel

  • Rachel Devine Photography / sesame ellis via Facebook - Yes, what I didn’t write Karri Hall is that the friend’s husband spotted them but was hesitant to tell them to get in his car and instead told them to hurry as we had called the police. In the end, the stranger in the white station wagon turned out to be the mother of a boy in their grade (in class with the BFF last year) and the girls recognized the sister who was also in the car with the mum. She did mention that she was concerned about telling them to get in the car, but she knew I was quickly dying from not knowing.ReplyCancel

  • Heather Sullivan via Facebook - Oh my goodness. My heart was in my throat even knowing there was a happy ending. My mommy heart can identify with every fear. So thankful they are safe.ReplyCancel

  • Heather Sullivan via Facebook - Oh my goodness. My heart was in my throat even knowing there was a happy ending. My mommy heart can identify with every fear. So thankful they are safe.ReplyCancel

  • Rosemary Salo Stagg via Facebook - Oh my! Even though you prefaced this by saying that everything had turned out fine, my heart was pumping madly while I was reading, anyway! I’m sooo glad the girls were safe – and that you live in such a caring community!ReplyCancel

  • Rosemary Salo Stagg via Facebook - Oh my! Even though you prefaced this by saying that everything had turned out fine, my heart was pumping madly while I was reading, anyway! I’m sooo glad the girls were safe – and that you live in such a caring community!ReplyCancel

  • Catherine Brink-Flahaut via Facebook - Xoxo love you allReplyCancel

  • Catherine Brink-Flahaut via Facebook - Xoxo love you allReplyCancel

  • Laura Morita-Yeun via Facebook - You write so well I felt like it was my experience. Terrifying! So glad it was a happy ending and that you recognized all the good stuff that made itself apparent through this ordeal. Thank you for sharing and truly thanks for recognizing the many silver linings. You’re awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Laura Morita-Yeun via Facebook - You write so well I felt like it was my experience. Terrifying! So glad it was a happy ending and that you recognized all the good stuff that made itself apparent through this ordeal. Thank you for sharing and truly thanks for recognizing the many silver linings. You’re awesome.ReplyCancel

  • Sara Heinrichs Popp via Facebook - O my jeez. So frightening. So glad it all ended well, hard lessons all round. I also empathize completely with the desire to have a more carefree childhood. I stubbornly believe, even here in the States, that the world is not as filled with bogeymen as many think. Kindness lives everywhere, too.ReplyCancel

  • Jenty - Oh wow! How absolutely terrifying! Glad the girls were safe in the endReplyCancel