by sesame on August 18, 2014

Today I let the stress of behind the scenes adulthood break through the cracks of my mother facade. Keeping it all together for the kids crumbled when Kieran did not come back to his line up at the bell to start school. I always give them the option to play with friends out of sight, but on school grounds if we are early, under one condition…they must return when the music sounds as a warning that the bell is about to ring. They can’t wait for the bell because it is not respectful to the teachers and they always follow that rule with no problems. Until today. A day when my heart is torn between the states where my sweet mom is in ICU recovering from a heart valve transplant and here where my father-in-law ended up in the hospital for an infection. I’m angry and sad and fearful and I panicked as his line filled up with all the students except Kieran. I searched the concrete sea of red and green uniforms for his little face, but could not find him anywhere. The oval was empty as was the playground. All his usual mates were accounted for, just my guy was missing.
The bell rang. He is never this late. The other classes started to go into the building. Maybe he fell. Where is he? I forgot the swimming forms to sign and turn in, didn’t I? Come on, Kieran, you must have heard the bell! Why isn’t my mother recovering quicker? Did I eat breakfast? Why is my phone buzzing again, I KNOW I HAVE DEADLINES. WHERE. IS. MY. SON?

Then there he was running towards me and my face must have told him that I was upset because his smile quickly turned to crying and apologies fell from his lips like the tears. I said sternly, “You are late. Get in your line right now.” However, my face was silently screaming; “Don’t you understand that I can’t fix my mother, I can’t make my in-laws take better care of themselves, I can’t bring back my cousin or my neice’s baby and I just need you to do this one simple thing and be on time because everyone expects you to get in trouble because of your issues when I know you are a beautiful boy and I have to do so many different projects right now that other people are counting on and I just can’t make everything OK for everyone.”

damn it
He was in the bathroom.
I suck at being a mother today and a daughter and a daughter-in-law and a wife and a photoblogger and I just need this ride to stop for a second so I can get some breakfast.

Some days it just feels overwhelming to be a grown up. I feel terrible I let that dump out on my kid. I wish I could go back to school and pull him out of class and give him a big hug. I need one.
my babies


The first of the boys with kind swoopy eyes.

by sesame on August 16, 2014


Tomorrow my cousin has to say his final goodbye to his twenty six year old son, Thomas. 

I used to babysit for Thomas during the hot summer days when I was home in Virginia from my California university. He was a sweet little boy with a ready smile and beautiful swoopy eyes, the kind I would one day many years later recognise on my own son. Growing up next door to my father’s only brother and his family, I was the youngest of the nine kids between the two houses. Thankgivings and Christmas times were epic gatherings filled with laughter, love and lots of noise. They were built in babysitters for me as a child and I became one for their babies. My cousins all had their own families while I was a teen. Now that generation of second cousins numbers twenty with some of those already raising the generation to follow. Again, I am bringing up the rear with the littlest ones. The age gaps are as wide and varied as our physical locations are far. The strength of the Devine clan to care for each other as we sailed our own ships far from the Virginia coast is admirable. We have love and connection over the miles. Our holiday celebrations together are just memories now and even if we had one more for old time’s sake, there would be too many founding members absent from the table. The ones you would expect gone from old age and divorce are heartbreaking enough, but Thomas… it is almost too much to think about. While we had not seen each other in person for many years, the internet kept us connected like many others from our family. I should be looking on Facebook and thinking; “Wasn’t I just babysitting you and now you are getting married?” Instead, I am looking on Facebook and mourning; “Wasn’t I just babysitting you? You are  too young to die.” 

Thomas’ heart unexpectedly broke and in doing so, it broke the hearts of many more.

Michael and family, my heart is one of these broken at the enormity of your loss. I will never forget your gorgeous boy. His smile lights up my memories of him. 

I wish I could find some photos I took of him as a tiny guy, but for now, I will just put these from his Facebook here so you who never met him can get the benefit of that unforgettable smile. 


Thomas, give uncle Pat and my dad big hugs in heaven.





The changes started slowly with the request to hang drawings on the wall. That led all too quickly to carefully placed posters of The Hunger Games stars. Then a few weeks ago, I was presented with her dream plans for how she would like her room to look. Hand drawn and certainly not to scale, they featured a loft bed.  Funny thing is, she did not have a loft bed. Since she grew out of her crib, Gemma has been sleeping in the custom wrought iron queen size bed that was made for me on my thirteenth birthday. It was just the bed we had in her room in Los Angeles as that was also the guest room. While she loved it, she wanted a loft bed and finally got the courage up to ask us for one. Her tastes are developing into her own. 

It is hard to justify buying something to replace something we already have, but we do now have a proper guest room for my old bed and Alec took to to see if he could catch a good deal on her dream loft. I love the idea of getting something that has been used as long as it is in good condition. In this age of built in obsolescence, things that are constructed to have a life span longer than they are needed are super rare. I celebrate that. Also, I love a good bargain.

The stars aligned that a loft bed in our price range came up while we still had the Ford Territory Titanium. Our other car is nowhere near big enough to transport furniture and so this meant that we could get the bed without having to rent a trailer! Folding the two back rows of seats down made a large flat cargo area that *just* fit the disassembled pieces. 

When it was all back at our house, Gemma was so happy. Her dream had arrived in the back of our borrowed Ford and she was in control of her space. Up we went to build what ended up resembling more like a small New York City apartment than simply a bed. I think the instructions mentioned something about needing an allen key and an engineering degree. A few hours later though, Alec and I were sipping cocktails and upstairs our little tweenager was organising the reading nook in her new digs. 

I think one of the things that has surprised me the most about parenting is that kids really are their own people before you know it. While that may seem obvious and frankly, it does to me too as I read it back, I continue to find myself having to stop and mentally check my desire to do and be FOR my kids… I mean, we dream of these little people, we name them what we want and spend the first year choosing every element of their lives from meals to clothes and bedroom furniture. Now these are exciting times when I see that the children who have grown into own their names start feeling free to make their own life choices. Sometimes trivial, other times bold and often nowhere near what we would have made for them.

For now I still get to pick what she has for dinner, but I am so proud of the person Gemma chooses to be.

As one of the overall top 100 Kidspot Voices of the Year 2014 finalists, I have been selected to drive a Ford Territory Titanium for 6 weeks and integrate the car into our normal life. During that trial period, I will be sharing three blog posts that are inspired by having this particular car. This series is not necessarily a review, but more a documentation on how the Ford Territory fits into the days of this suburban mom of three growing kids. It goes without saying, but I will write it here again, my words and opinions are always honest and my own. You can follow along with our adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with the #paintthetownford tag.



Sadness in Cloverland

by sesame on August 4, 2014

Just the other week while the twins were colouring in workbooks I noticed that Clover drew a smile on both a face representing happy as well as the face that was meant to be sad. I asked her why thinking that she must have rushed and not read the instructions, but her response was simple; “There was only happy in Cloverland.”
She really has a special joyful spark that finds glee in the mundane with smiles for almost every occasion. Even as a baby when she was so very ill, she twinkled. It actually almost made things worse as the doctors did not take her symptoms seriously until it was almost too late. These days it is just separation that gets her and even that is short lived. A hug from me at bedtime or a friendly greeting from her teacher is all that is needed to bring back the smiles.

A few days ago I found Clover sitting quiet and alone in my office. I knew right away that there was something not right, so I put all the other stuff aside and just sat with her for some cuddles and chatting. It turns out that a little girl in her class had handed out invitations to her birthday party during line up and did not invite everyone. I saw it happening that morning, but assumed that Clover would get hers during the day. Clover grinned at her friend in line and wished her a happy birthday and then put her backpack on ready to start class. Despite her smiles this little exclusion had weighed heavily on Clover and as we started to talk about it the tears came. Her little prep heart was broken and confused. It was a simple childhood sadness, but important to her. We talked it out and she understands but it was a reminder for me to listen to the quiet and look past the smiles. Between the preteen hormones and sensory processing issues flooding this house taking my attention, I don’t want to miss anything in Cloverland…


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The return from this last trip to the states brought up a lot of emotions for me as Australia certainly felt more like home. Maybe it was the fact that I got so sick over there (thank goodness for travel insurance) or it could have been that we spent so much time in Hawaii with other Australians for our friends’ wedding. Whatever the reason, as much as I loved every minute of our vacation, I couldn’t dismiss a feeling of homesickness…for Australia.

I belong to a few forums and Facebook groups for American expats living abroad. We actually joined most of those groups before we moved thinking, “Who better to give us tips and information than people who had already lived through it?” Back then, my major concerns were primarily about how giving birth in Australia would differ from the experience of having my first in Los Angeles. When I first read about midwives and public hospitals, my American brain immediately imagined some very different scenarios from the Australian reality. We talked about schools for my daughter and I learned quickly new meanings for the terms Kindergarten and creche. I thought with such a small language barrier (I mean it is English, but I stumbled with words like arvo and tea for ages!) it would be a breeze to settle in. I was surprised at how much was so different just under the surface of familiarity. Six years on and I now feel like an Aussie. Albeit one with an American accent. I am even getting my Australian citizenship next month! I will stand with others from different former homes as we pledge to be great Australians. I will get a tiny Aussie flag, a native plant (that I will try my best not to kill) and a gorgeous certificate that says I belong. I hope they make us sing the national anthem because I actually know it now! The next time I fly to the states it will be on an Australian passport. MY very own Australian passport. It is a strange feeling to have a dream you never knew you had finally come true!

This means that I am now in a position to help others considering this giant move around the world to a new home down under. We have quite a few expats in our primary school community. It is always fun to go out for a coffee and chat about our experiences. If we are going out for coffee, clearly they have made the hard journey already, but for those just starting to consider it, I encourage you to reach out to bloggers who have moved to the country that is your destination. I am happy to hear from you!

Don’t miss it… Click here for my top advice to those considering a move from USA to AUS!