Pikes Peak

Pikes Peak

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Dear All,

The reason that there haven't been any blogs recently is because we have led a relatively mundane life for the past couple of months.

I managed to get away for my first baby free nights away when a friend of mine was in California for a couple of days.  It's amazing how much you can talk and laugh when you are with a good friend.  I survived the days away from Zac well - it was the perfect amount of time away! Tristan also managed to survive being a full time Daddy for a few days too.

Tristan also got some baby free time when he went away to Arizona for work.  He got to see the aeroplane graveyard which he was pretty excited about. He also got to spend a few night out on the town, which were well deserved. Zach and I survived without Tristan, but Zach was unimpressed and wouldn't speak to his father for a couple of days on his return.

Other than these little adventures life is just rolling along.  We think we are at about half way through our American adventure at this stage. We are still missing home, but enjoying all the opportunities to see the sights and delights that the US has to offer.

Much love

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Man-cation 2012

Dear family,

I must say that our latest adventure has been my favourite so far. It was short and sweet, covered in lush green grass, filled with postcard moments of cliche small town America. It was great. It also happened to be the perfect weekend excursion for a couple of blokes - lucky me!!!

It started with Zac's first flight. He was surprisingly well behaved. He slept during takeoff and was so interested in the lady sitting beside of me that I don't even think he noticed the landing in Nashville. Ah Nashville! The home of American country music. The small town that had grown into a city but still maintained its small town feel. Both Tristan and I were much bigger fans of the city than we thought we would be. There was live music in every bar, neon lights on every shop, and people in boots everywhere!!!! It sounds a bit cringeworthy, but it was so much fun, you couldn't help but walk around with a smile on your face. After dinner at Margarettaville, and a Jake Sparrow looking pirate making me a balloon flower and Zac a balloon dog, we wondered the street and enjoyed the boisterous atmosphere. Tristan described it as Bourbon street, New Orleans, without any of the X rated nastiness - I agree. It was great. And I could just imagine Tristan and his boys getting their "yeehaw" on and enjoying a big night out here.

The next day we drove through the picturque countryside to the Jack Daniels distillery. It was so much prettier than I thought. We did a tour where we walked up and down and up and down a couple of hundred steps looking at the process that gives the Tennessee whiskey its distinct taste (running the alcohol through maple charcoal apparently). It was an education. Did you know that Jack is made in a dry county!! You cannot buy or drink Jake where it originates!!! Bizarre The next day was interesting. We drove to Kentucky - and lost another hour - so we didn't get to do everything we wanted to. But we did make Jim Beam and Heaven Hill distilleries. We went on a few more tours - Jim was disappointing, heaven hill had a cool little trolley that we got to go on, but Zac and I couldn't go anywhere near the tasting room coz he was under 21...but another good day absorbing the beauty of the South.

We did another 4 distilleries the next day - Wild Turkey (rustic and a very good tour), FourRoses (mpft), Woodford (might be the most beautiful winery/distillery/brewery EVER - also serves a good lunch!!!) and Maker's Mark (I dipped a bottle in red wax - awesome!!). It was a really fun day. Tristan enjoyed the bourbon, I enjoyed the scenery and Zac enjoyed being out of the car. A successful day all round. And we had completed the Bourbon Trail - Yeah!!! We get a t-shirt for our efforts ;-)

It was all quiet an education: we learnt all bourbons are whiskeys but not all whiskeys are bourbons; that you need to meet 41 federal requirements to qualify as a bourbon (Jack doesn't qualify); that due to the distinct environmental conditions of Kentucky 97% of all bourbon is made in that state, but it doesn't need to be made there to qualify; and Australia is the second highest country to consume bourbon (by quantity not per capita - we beat Canada, Germany and Japan!!).

On the way back to Nashville to come home we went to a Man Vs Food recommended restaurant (not sure if this reference will make sense at home - google it. We've been to several of these restaurants, not for the challenges, and the food to always great!!) Lynn's Paradise Cafe looked like every piece of kitsch paraphernalia had been thrown on the walls, pinned to the roof, had glitter added to it, then a silk flower or two was added for flavour and BAM!! Confetti was showered on it too. It was an incredible sight. And the food was bananas! I had a walnut bread that had been made into French toast, smothered in REAL blackberry jam with a soft meringue on top. Ok I know it sounds bizarre but it was FABULOUS!!! So yummy I am salivating while writing!!

So while going on the Bourbon Trail seems on paper to be a Man-cation - it was great!! I loved it!! Tristan loved it (we have many top shelf bottles of bourbon prove this) and Zac... Well Zac was able to fly without causing an international incident - so that's a win ;-)

A couple more states knocked off our US travel list.

A month of birthday celebrations

As many of you know, June is my birthday month and I celebrate it the entire length and breadth of it. This started in university when 3 of my closest friends had their birthday celebrations at the start of the month, and I wanted to join in. Since that time my self-indulgence for birthday celebrations has only grown, and I now consider any and all activities in the month of June as a personal Triumph to my glory - a bit egotistical??? Perhaps, but I share my fun with many.

I LOVE my birthday! I love looking back on the year that has been, and celebrating how far I have come, what I have achieved, and how lucky I am. This year was extra special - it was the first year I got to share my birthday with my son AND it was the first time I had ever had a summer birthday!!! Whoo!!

So the beginning of the month was the end of the road trip in the big blue car - not a bad start! This was followed by many coffee dates with the girls, going to the baseball, quality time with my boys, and finishing uni for the semester! Then the real fun began at the end of the month! It started with a post-yoga lunch at the pool with the ladies and their babies. Lots of fun. We made many American families jealous with the smells of a typical Aussie beach lunch - a BBQ chock, lettuce and coleslaw. The sun shone brightly, Zac and I bobbed in the water, and laughter filled the air. A very good day.

A few days later, Tristan and I got up at the crack of dawn, dropped Zac off at his 'quarter cousin's' house (that's what one of the boys introduced Zac as at baseball - awww), and headed to the mountains for an adventure - white water rafting!!! Ok, so it was Tristan's work function, not a Penni birthday event, but I had been wanting to go for ages, so in my head it was all for me ;-) We drove to Idaho Springs, and the mountain banks of the Colorado River where the water turned and churned its way down the 14,000 ft mountains as snow melt, into the river that will eventually wind its way to the Pacific ocean. However, as it was a tame snow season this year the water level was considerably lower than last year. But we were still excited! We geared up into stinky splash and life jackets, received a bank side safety lesson, and jumped into the raft (5-6 per raft). Keeping a hand firmly on the t-grip of the paddle, one foot wedged under the seat in front of us, we pushed off into the water. It was a beginners course, so there wasn't that much rough and tumble, but instead a pleasant ride in a narrow gorge (alongside the interstate...). Sure we got stuck on a rock and one of the other rafts barged us and lost a small child overboard into the very chilly water, but all in all it was a quiet ride. We had a small splash in the water at the end (we all cooked in our splash jackets and the sun was scorching!!), and caught a school bus back to the start point. It was lots of fun, and next time we absolutely want to challenge ourselves with an intimidate course. After the adventure, we had lunch at a microbrewery and I left Tristan to hang out with his work colleagues while I wondered the town, looking at antique shops, little boutiques and cafes. I really enjoyed myself.

My next celebration was shared with an 11 year old boy - Zac's 'quarter cousin' was entering his tween years and 'we' (his Mum and I) decided to share our actual birthday parties. It started with another poolside lunch (yum) and lots of frivolity. Zac and I shared some special moments curled up under a tree. We then went back to our house where we had an all-American BBQ. I cooked ribs for the first time (they turned out fantastic), we had some chicken wings and other bits and pieces. Everyone had a really good time. It's was lovely to look around and see how settled we were into our life over here, and how our extended 'family' came together for a celebration. I definitely missed my nearest and dearest from home, but it was wonderful to finally have a pool party summer birthday!!

And then, the next morning I get up and see that I have a few messages from my nearest and dearest on my phone. It seems they were having a get together at home and wanted to Skype!!! So lucky me got to spend the morning of my actual birthday catching up with some mates from home. It meant more to me than I can ever express. The best birthday gift I could imagine. So you see, my birthday month was fabulous. Spent in the sun, surrounded by friends, spending it with my little boy for the very first time, in the arms of my husband, a long way from home on an adventure of a lifetime. How lucky am I!!!!!

Family fun times

Dear all,

I know I've been slack on the blog front for too long, so I will endeavour to fill you in on all the fun and excitement of late June.

It has been an exciting couple of months for the Apperley family in Denver. This has been topped off with visits from the family on the first year anniversary of our departure from the wonderful land of Oz.

Earlier this week Jessica came to visit. It was so exciting as it was the first family member from home to meet little Zac. As this was just a stop on the way of her amazing American adventure, she told me that she was just happy to fit in with our normal family schedule. So during her first few days, we did just that. I showed her all the big places we do our usual shopping, what the run around normal grocery shopping is like here (three shops instead of just Woolies), how cheap and easy it was to fill your cupboard full of brand name clothes, and importantly what life is like with a little boy filling up all your hours. I’m not sure that I could say she had fun but she got the idea of what life is like at Mansion a la Apperley.

On Friday, Tristan finished work and with the two of us to watch baby Apperley, we could finally take Jessica on a Colorado adventure. But not until after Zac's swimming lesson (which daddy got wet for this week). First we drove up into the mountains, and she got her first peek of the left over snow in the distance. Gasps of wonder continued and the sheer cliffs of the rugged mountains passed us by (really fast because Tristan was driving). We drove up over a 12,000 ft pass - her first experience of thin air and Tristan's driving along a precipitous ridge without guard rails. The view was spectacular and the air was a little frigid. Next we drove through a few little snow towns, packed full of RVs for the summer, past the snow fields that are now rugged mountains with purposely placed trees undispersed with rocky crags that are covered by snow for the majority of the year.

We then went to Brekenridge. During the winter this is a town/ resort/ party haven. It's a quaint little town full of snow shops, bars, boutiques, and restaurants. It reminds me a bit of Halndolf in the Adleaide hills, and a little of Kiama on the coast. It's a picturque place as my photo on FB showed. We wondered the street, in and out of little shops, had a wine and cheese experience as an appetizer, then ate dinner at the world's highest floating restaurant. It was so nice to spend some quality time together in a grown up setting. We got home LATE and surprise surprise Roger was here after an epic drive from Mississipi. More family to spend precious time with.

The next morning we all jumped back into the big blue car and headed for the Rocky Mountains National Park. Again we climbed up up up, but this time we followed a narrow dirt road up the side of the towering mountain. We made 12,000 ft, seeing glorious mountain lakes full of snow melt in the distance, passing waterfalls drizzling freshly thawed ice from the mountain, above the tree line to where on scraggly bushes grow. It was magical. At the top the view was spectacular, seemingly going forever. It reminded me of the cartoon 'the land before time' when the dinosaurs found paradise: it was that type of breathtaking moment. Following the dizzing heights, we descended back to a reasonable altitude. We stopped along the way so Jessica could run across the tunanda and play in the snow (she was like a little girl at Christmas - glowing cheeks and you couldn't wipe the smile off her face!!). We stopped by a lake and took a leisurely stroll - Roger had to check to see if there were any trout. We saw an elk, deer, squirrel, (and trout). It was post card perfect, and all the more special because of the company we got to share it with. And we watched the sunset between the mountains, over one of the lakes, cuddled up for a photo opportunity.

After two big days out and about, Zac and I spent the day at home while the other Apperleys went the baseball for a true American experience. I wasn't there, but I hear it was a poor game, the Rockies lost, the hot dogs were yummy, and the beer flowed freely into Tristan's cup. Sadly the next day, Jessica left us to continue her American adventure. But many hugs were had between Zac and Jess, and true family bonds were solidified. We are so grateful that she came so far for a visit. It meant a great deal. But we have another couple of weeks with Roger, so I have no doubt more family adventures are in our near future.

Lots of love

The GRAND Tour

This is the blog that has held all the others up. This was an epic road trip! I'm exhausted just remembering the details - so much so that I had to have Tristan write down notes for me to prompt my memory! Well, here it goes.... 

We have travelled a lot in the big blue car. But all these adventures, even put together, pale in comparison to the adventures we had on this road trip. It was EPIC!!! We drove from Denver to the Grand Canyon, from Las Vegas to Monument Valley, to Arches National Park and home again. The car was serviced just before we left and needed another as soon as we got back. It was long, hot, picturque, spectacularly beautiful family holiday that we will never forget!!

It all started early one morning with a few false starts: first the Blues lost the State of Origin - Tristan was unimpressed after getting up at stupid O'clock to watch the game live, and when we finally did get out the door Tristan did a U-turn a mile so from the house because he thought he left the garage door open,. And then at coffee up the road we realised that I had left me phone at home. Nevertheless, once we were on the road it was a spectacular drive through the rocky mountains (up, up, up), stop for some roadworks, more beautiful mountains, high red cliffs, stop for some roadworks, wide canyons, valleys of green, mountains (still climbing), a few more roadworks, and finally, after 8 hours of driving, we made a smallish town close to the border of Colorado. Just east of this town is a national park called Mesa Verde and it has a 'city' of cave dwellings that the ancient people of North America lived in (think pre-Indian). Though we were rushed so didn't get to visit, apparently it is a marvellous site to see. It's on our 'back track list' of places to go if we get time.

The next day we hit 4 states at the same time. Four Corners is a landmark where Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona all meet. It's one of those stops that you just have to go to say "and last week I was so busy I was in four states on the same day!!!" It's actually a very cool place with market, stalls around a plaque in the middle delineating the states. These little Indian (think cowboys and ... Not curry flavoured) market stalls were EVERYWHERE selling arrows, jewellery, pieces of stone, jewellery, pottery, jewellery, and sand art. Some of it...well...sigh...but on a rare occasion (every tenth store - so about 20-25 stores in total) had such breath taking pieces of work we kept making excuses to buy things we "needed". We have some lovely souvenirs, and a few things I look at and ask myself "really?"

Later that day we made the South Rim of the GRAND CANYON. It was a little hazy, but as we drove around we were able to get an idea of the grandness of the landmark. The colours were amazing! To see how the Colorado River had cut its way through this amazing landscape, exposing layer on layer of different geological time lines. It's really had to describe its impressiveness. We hopped from photo opportunity to photo opportunity, enjoying the vastness. There were a number of trails that enabled you to hike half way down to the bottom, but they were terribly steep, we had Zac, and it was disgustingly hot! So we stayed on top, looking down (way down) to the hazy depths where the river crashed and rolled its way towards the Pacific ocean. Wow!!  

We went back to the park early the next day and walked for a few miles along the rim. You really got a good idea of the length and breadth of the canyon this way - mainly because we didn't even put a dent in it. Zac, as always, sat back and enjoyed the adventure while his parents huffed and puffed our way around. Getting lost on the way back was a personal highlight. After lunch we caught a bus out to the eastern most point of the tourist road, stopping at even more photo stops, taking time to inhale the beauty of this wonder, sharing special moments as a small family, watching the clouds roll on by without noticing the wonder that they were passing below. Wow doesn’t even begin to describe how spectacular it was.

After a day and a bit of exploring that didn't even begin to scratch the surface; we adventured further west, heading for Las Vegas. We visited (another) aircraft museum and went to a drive through zoo called "Bearazona". It was really cool. We drove through a couple of gates that reminded me of Jurassic Park, saw long horned sheep, bison and other herbariums large mammals ignoring the traffic, passing them by. Then we got to the wolves... They were....more animated... There was a small pack that circled around the car in front and while the driver was happy snapping at seeing the majestic animals so close, one of the wolves at the front started to chew on the front bar and tires. It was bizarre! I don't know that the driver knew what to do, but after some slow nudging forwards, the wolf moved away far enough for the car to zoom off. We saw loads of bears - it was breeding season, so we saw several "piggy back rides". Interesting. The mama bears seemed less than impressed and promptly told the daddy bears to go away when they were finished playing.  

Another day, and we inched closer to Vegas. An hour or so after we hit the road, Zac turbo spewed all over the backseat as we drove down the interstate...so we had to pull over, clean him and the car up... So easy when cars are zooming past you at 130km an hour! After a quick breather and lunch at Tristan's favourite takeout "In and Out" (an obligatory stop for all those who travel along the West Coast) we continued our drive past the engineering greatness that is Hoover Dam. It was a long weekend in the US so there were people EVERYWHERE. Police directed the traffic, and you had to squirrel your way through the crowds to get a look. While in theory it is just another dam, it's a very impressive one. We happy snapped for a while, but the imposing heat restricted our stay as we didn't want Zac out in that heat for too long.  

Vegas was just down the road. We arrived as the sun started to disappear over the mountains and it had started to cool down to a more reasonable temperature. We caught up with friends and had dinner at one a casino off the strip. It was huge and the strangest part was just walking in with Zac in his pram. Tristan and I crept in like we were convicts waiting to be caught, but no one paid us any heed. We walked past dozens and dozens of "slot machines", sat in the restaurant ordered drinks without being ID'd (a big deal as we usually get asked everywhere) and enjoyed a yummy Mexican meal. It was a lovely night...until Zac decided to be sick (AGAIN!!). Poor baby - it had been a big day for the small boy.  

After we all got a good night sleep, (Zac woke up his usual self) we were ready to run and play, and we dared the heat and explored the Vegas strip. Though I shouldn't say the strip as that gives you the illusion we saw a lot. We didn't - 4 hours and we managed 4 casinos, lunch, and a yard glass of cocktail (carried with us as we strolled along the strip). There was so much more to see, but we just ran out of time!! Tristan and I had our first baby free date since Zac came home that evening, and we had to get ready!! So as Zac sat watching basketball on tv with our friends, Tristan and I walked hand in hand to see a show. It was so nice! Of course one of the shows main character was baby, so little Zac wasn't out of our mind for very long.  

We were back on the road the next day (with fond desires to go back to Vegas one day sans baby for a big night on the strip) on our way to Monument Valley. But first, we had a surprise drive through another national park. We were just driving along, watching bad tv on the DVD player while sitting in the backseat playing with Zac, following the GPS, when we saw that the road we were following was going through the heart of Zion National Park. It was so impressive!! We drove through a couple of canyons, which I imagine would be like being at the bottom of the grand canyon looking up. The road twisted and turned as we climbed out of the gorge, we drove through two tunnels carved into the cliffs. They had grand windows in the sides, framing the beautiful scenery that just took your breath away. It was a beautiful, unexpected landscape that we both wished we had more time to explore. There were campsites along the river that we wished we could have pulled over and spent a day or so relaxing and kicking up our heels with a beverage or two. It was one of our favourite places yet in the US.

Later that day we stopped in a three hotel, McDonalds and HJs only sized town. It wasn’t anything special, and there was no pool at the hotel, but it was good to have a rest before we hit cowboy country. An early morning start saw us enter into Monument Valley as the sun began to reflect off the red buttes and sandy desert. Now this spectacular piece of landscape is where many John Wayne films were shot, where countless cowboy movies are set and home to the Wild Wild West. I could just imagine my Poppa standing beside me telling me about a scene in a movie that was shot just in front of us. We were able to drive around the park on a serious 4x4 road that took us to some amazing places. We ate Indian flat bread, drizzled in local honey (YUM!), shopped at a couple of Indian brick-a-brac stalls, and sat at the edge of a butte, looking into the valley at sunset, waiting for that perfect photo. It was such a nice day!!

The next day was short drive to Moab, via a few wineries. We just took it easy. Then the following morning we got up early and explored Arches National Park. Eons of erosion had resulted in a unique landscape where the salt and soil beneath large limestone cliffs had been washed away, resulting in 'arches' emerging along the landscape. It was a magical landscape, and I often felt we were on a distant planet. We did a few short walks, but it was HOT! Thank goodness that we had the water cooler in the boot, because we filled our drink bottles up countless times. I honestly wished we had explored this park more, but we were all exhausted after 10 days away from home, adventuring across 4 states, and we were very much looking forward to spending a day in our PJs at home. So we just drove around the park, happy snapped and made it back to our hotel before sunset.

The next day, we cut our trip short, packed the car up for the last time, and drove all the way home.

It was a spectacular trip - enough for several holidays - and we squeezed it all into just 11 days. We visited where the states met, we saw the vastness of the Grand Canyon, we experienced man's greatness at the Hoover dam, an inch of Sin City was fabulous enough to call us back, unexpected beauty at Zion made us want for more, 4x4 adventures at Monument Valley was an experience I wish we could have shared, and the landscape of Arches made us remember that we truly are only in this world for a blink of an eye.

I love that we got to experience it as a little family - but I must admit, that first night home, sitting on the couch together as the very best feeling of all.

Apologies for the EXTREME delay in posting this blog.

I hope you are all happy and healthy - we miss you all

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Another Adventure in the Big Blue Car

Dear Zac,

When you had been home from the hospital for a couple of months, Daddy and I took you on your first road trip in the Big Blue Car.  It was to New Mexico, the state directly south of Colorado.
I had been preparing like a boy scout for days to make sure that your Daddy and I would have everything you could need, would need, might need, or want.  I packed a HUGE box filled to the brim with nappies, and formula, bottles and a bottle warmer, toys and books, washing up bits and pieces (including a kitchen sink), and your boppy pillow (a U cushion that babies lay on) and sling.  And then you had a bag filled with clothes (so Mummy wouldn’t need to wash anything while we were away), blankets and burp clothes.  Then we also had your pram and travel cot.  Yep, it was a good thing that the Big Blue Car is so big, or we wouldn’t have fitted everything in!
Day 1 was epic!  We drove down the scary Interstate 25 all the way to Las Vegas (not the one you are thinking of) then crisscrossed down to Roswell. 8 hours of driving!!  And you’ve never seen a straight road like those in NM.  There were no corners or bends at all; EVER!  As a driver it was damn boring!!  You just set the cruise control and twiddled your thumbs. Yep! It was and uneventful drive.
The geography was like driving into the western heart of NSW. You knew when you crossed the border into NM. The Rocky Mountains disappeared into the distance and the ground became flatter.  Scratchy bushes and cacti grew on the side of the road. Houses were flat, built in orange cement, square, and alien to look at through Aussie eyes.  The sun was bright and burning, and the earth was dotted in green with an oil well here and there. Yep, we were somewhere else.
Roswell was a great little town, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Like everywhere in America, it had at least one of every takeout you could imagine, each with its sign custom made to show that Roswell was the town that the aliens crashed near all those years ago. There’s nothing quite like the golden arches with a UFO landing on them, and a playground that was based on the inside of a space ship.  Every street lamp was an alien head, there are a dozen little tourist trap shops cashing in on the alien junkies selling everything from t-shirts to alien heads. Yep, Roswell was certainly quirky, my son.  But I liked it – though that might be due to the yummy dinner your Daddy and I ate while you slept in your car seat at the table.
The next day, after visiting the alien museum (insert rolling eyes here) we drove a little way down the road to the Carlsbad Caverns, the very first national park we visited as a family. It was lovely. After driving up through this canyon, filled with desert flowers in bloom we sat in the car park while we smothered ourselves in sunscreen (it was so HOT!). We entered the main building and discovered that we didn’t even need to walk down to the caves – we could catch an elevator the 750ft down to the main cavern.  Classic! – and so terrible lazy! But it meant we didn’t need to walk for 40 minutes in the sun, so we caught the elevator down into the subterranean world.
I felt like we were walking in an underwater world. Everything looked otherworldly.  The cavern was huge! Reportedly the size of 6 football fields. It was lit with strategically placed yellow lights that showed the most fantastic natural formations imaginable. The ceiling disappeared into the darkness, and some of the deep canyons disappeared in to the depths of the earth, unknown to man. There were stunning columns, stalactites (holding onto the roof tight) and stalagmites (that might grow to the ceiling), and all these little rocks that look like they are covered in tumors (they call them popcorn). It was beautiful! You sat in the sling on Daddy’s chest, peeking out the sides, while he was a shutterbug trying to catch the wonders that we were seeing.  Yep, it was a great family adventure.
The next day we drove to Texas – again, you knew when you crossed the border (there were bends in the road).  We wanted to see the land border between America and Mexico.  Australia doesn’t have any land borders, so the concept on driving from one country to another is just plain weird to us. So we made our way to El Paso, a “city” that sits in the nexus between Texas, NM and Mexico.  The parts of the city close to the border are scary.  It is exactly what you expect the ghetto to look like if it were just filled with car rental shops, 7/11s, grocery-marts, and graffiti. Yep! Mama, locked the car doors and prayed this adventure would end soon. 
The border is actually a large canal, with three rows of fences either side of it, just far enough apart that the border patrol cars, packing big guns, to drive back and forth on.  It was foreboding. There was one bridge in and one bridge out.  There were cars queued on either side waiting to leave or enter into America, filled with people pawing their paperwork, hoping that they wouldn’t be asked too many questions.  I think that the border is based on the gates to Hell.  I honestly couldn’t wait to drive away from it. Yep! It was truly terrifying.
But your wonderful Daddy more than made up for it in the next couple of hours by taking Mummy to a couple of wineries.  We finally bought some local wines that we both enjoyed! Loved it! Yep! We are the family that takes a new born babe into the winery while we are both tasting.  
The next day we continued the space theme of our road trip by visiting a missile park and a space museum. (For those of you who feel like getting into your geek space, NM was the home of the Manhattan project, and is still home to one of the major missile bases on mainland America, and thus has a very rich space history). But it was still so hot (almost 100F) that it felt crazy to be doing anything but sitting in front of the air conditioner.  You, my dear little man, took it all in your stride.  You just sat in your pram and looked around like a curious little monkey.  Yep, we were so proud!
Daddy is very wise.  When packing the car back in Denver he packed a great big water contain (20L or so) so we wouldn’t need to constantly buy bottled water, or worry about where we could fill your bottles up.  But this day after we had taken the luggage (and the kitchen sink) into the hotel, we were driving to dinner and daddy took a corner sharply. And the water container spilled liters and liters of water all through the car… He was not pleased! So the car smelt like wet dog for a day or so.  Yep! We learnt our lesson! Don’t leave the water container unsecured in the boot – it ends badly!
Albuquerque was our next stop. We visited the Nuclear Museum (where I left with more questions than answers), drove down Route 66, explored the Old town and all its art galleries, and visited a Rattlesnake museum.  I was getting tired! You and your Daddy could seemingly run forever! But your Mummy was glad there was only one day left of this trip! Yep! It had been an exhausting adventure for your mother.
The next day we set out for home! Via Santa Fe.  I actually wish we could have spent a bit longer there.  It was a historical town filled with boutique jewelry shops, art galleries and fantastic food carts.  We browsed for a few hours and then hit the road again.  Yep! Mummy and Daddy might go back to Santa Fe for a grown up trip if we get time later down the track.
You were a little angel the entire trip! (with the exception of devil hour between 7-9pm)  You happily sat in the back, drank your bottles whenever we stopped, played with Mummy and Daddy when we sat in the back with you, we even watched a couple of (Disney) movies along the way. Yep! We honestly couldn’t have asked for anything more.
It was a great trip! We saw lots! Drove very far! Learnt we didn’t need to pack the kitchen sink! And most importantly, we had a lot of fun as a family on our very first road  trip.  The Big Blue Car took us all the way there and back without a hiccup.  
Our next big adventure with the Big Blue Car is to the Grand Canyon!

Now dream sweet dreams beautiful boy, and Mummy and Daddy will see you in the morning.

Love you lots!

Monday, 16 April 2012

Six short stories

Ladies, gents, girls and boys, and all the other creatures who check in on this blog  - it has been a big April! And we are barely halfway through.

As so much as happened, I thought I would treat you all with six short stories on our adventures thus far this month. Sit back, get yourself a cuppa, and enjoy.


At the very beginning of the month Zac and I went with one of the other local Aussie families on an adventure to the Zoo in Colorado Springs. We loaded in to the McKee-mobile (pram, baby carrier, oxygen, baby bag, baby sling and all the other bits and pieces that make up any outing of more than a couple of hours) and headed down the six lane highway (I25). Following the GPS we went through a suburb with some serious $$$ (Ka-ching!). There was a golf club, an enormous club house, and hotel, all looking pristine like on a movie set. We passed houses that looked like they had been stolen off the set of Gone with the Wind, or had been on MTV "cribs", or built to look like a house of parliament. And we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. The city sits at about 6,000 ft above see level: I reckon this zoo would have been another 2,000 ft higher (I don't even think I am exaggerating). Zac was trialing days without oxygen - but not this day. I felt fuzzy headed, so on it went.

The zoo was unique... there were exhibits where serious money had been spent, and there were exhibits that hadn't been touched since they were first built years and years (and years) ago. But the thing that they all had in common was that you could always see the bars on the cages. That was very strange - I don't think I remember actually seeing a cage at any zoo at home... or maybe I just wasn't paying attention.... but any way, there were some awesome animals. You could feed the giraffes, and look down on this funny, horse-zebra thing; there were (smelly) monkeys galore; hippos that looked like they were swimming in a backyard pool (green stuff around the sides and all); an enormous budgy cage (that with my irrational fear of birds I kept a serious distance from); and the best bear show EVER! The cage had a glass viewing wall that was half land and half water. The bears had just been fed so they were active, diving into the water to pick up toys that must have been filled with peanut butter for them to lick out, playing ball, floating on their back with all four paws in the air - it was one of the most fantastic things that I have ever seen. And given the looks of awe on the Mckee's boys faces, I guess they felt the same.

The zoo was a mad house. Built on the side of a mountain (not a hill), you caught elevators to the top of exhibts or once you had finished a "level". Crazy stuff! And you should have seen the "map" of Australia near the bush rats.... obviously the artist didn't know where Australia was or it's shape. It gave us a good giggle.

A very fun day - check out the photos on FB.


In my absence from the great country of Oz, two of my best friends - the lovely Miss G and my wife Ange - have become engaged. Both of these beautiful ladies have asked me to be part of their big days. I'm more than a bit chuffed. Being that I am so far away, I am missing many of the little preps that my brides are making. So in order to try and be a "help" I went dress shopping. I left Zac and Tristan for some Daddy-son time and headed for the shops.

OMG - so fun! I would have tried on a dozen dresses. Long and short. Fancy and party-like. All the hues of the rainbow. As much as I love my girls, I must say that it was fun to shop for them without them ;-) Like all things in this part of the world, the stores are huge. There were rows of dresses, in every size (no need for giant bull dog clips or "just hold the smaller size against you. You'll get the idea...") and 32 dressing rooms. So after a few hours of fun, I picked a couple of dresses, and sent them home for opinions. In all likelihood they'll get something from home, but gee I had fun "helping".

Dresses are much cheaper here than at home, so I think there are a few that need to be added to my wardrobe soon...


Over the Easter weekend we had our very first guests from Australia (well technically one of them lives in Pommy-land, but he's from the coast so...) Ben and Tania road-tripped from NY city to Denver to visit us for a weekend - now that is commitment! It was great to hang out with a couple of Aussies who shared the same "OMG! It's so big" opinions of the US. They experienced many of the big things that the US has to offer: the big Apple, the big road trip, big mountains, big burgers, and even Basspro and Sam's Club (those of you that have spent some time over here will get the references - everyone else will need to come visit so I can show you). We spent the evenings drinking cheap American alcohol (well, I was actually drinking NZ Sav Blanc - but the thought was there), and eating bad American food (we will all now die of heart attacks), while talking of home, and drunk Skyping (better than drunk dialing). It was great. And we appreciated the visit more than we can say.

As per usual, we all had big plans to go out on the town one night - I even lined up a McKee to babysit. But then Zac decided not to sleep the night before and my eyes were hanging out of my head. And Tristan had just come off a shift and was buggered. And we sent Ben and Tania to drive up a mountain, shop at the outlets and to eat a stroke inducing burger (which as a result I'm not sure they ate properly again for days), and they couldn't be bothered getting dressed and going out either, so we repeated the night before. It was awesome.

Selfishly, the best bit was showing our little fighter off to people who know us from home. It made us both very proud - until the little bugger spewed all over me. Sigh....


So after Ben and Tania got back on the road on Easter Sunday, Tristan went back to work (which I will furthermore call Hades as in the ancient Greek underworld) and Zac and I went over to another Aussie's house for a pot luck Easter lunch extravaganza.

Easter is very different here. There is no Red Tulip aisle in Coles to tempt you with all the wonderful and waist expanding goodies. In fact the only eggs you get are little tiny ones. Most Easter chocolate on this side of the pacific is normal bite size chocolate (i.e. kit kats, snickers, peanut butter cups), in Easter themed wrappers. It made me sad. It just didn't feel like Easter.... But everywhere I went there were plastic eggs (you know the type - with a hinge on the side and empty in the middle).I didn't get it. why would people buy so many plastic eggs? There are only so many chocolate crackle eggs that you can make! But on Easter Sunday, everything made sense. Americans fill these little eggs with toys - like lucky dips. What a great idea!

Easter just is better when there are little kids running all over the yard looking for eggs.

Following that adventure, I watched the "big kids" take part in a Mexican easter tradition. Earlier in the week, someone had boiled dozens and dozens of eggs, then dug everything out of the shell, and refilled it with confetti. So the idea was to break these confetti eggs on one another! It was so funny to watch (I had a baby protecting me so no one came near). Glitter went everywhere! In peoples hair, down their shirts (and some pants), some bounced off and landed in th grass, to be picked up by someone else. I am taking this tradition home. It rocks!!

All in all, Zac's first Easter was a lot of fun.


Time has flown, and last week Zac had his four month shots. I'm not particularly squimish about needles (I've had my fair share) so during Zac's last doctors visit I held him while they jabbed him with 3 needles and then gave him another immuinzation by mouth. My poor little boy was not happy! After a big cuddle, a bottle and a car ride, he had forgiven me. But the next day he had to have another shot. Well, I don't think that he forgave me for that one!!

We have had a few days of being off colour, but he's doing OK. But I think for his 6 month shots, Daddy can hold master Zac and look after him for the few days after. I'm not sure that a person is meant to do two rounds of shots back to back. Gosh it was hard! Zac got back at me, well and truly!!


So around about the same time as Zac's shots, Tristan had to go to Washington for work. (convenient timing?!?!?!). He was so excited for four nights of uninterrupted sleep. I was so jealous!

Once a year, Tristan has to go to Washington to attend a bunch of briefings and workshops. Zac and I stayed at home this year, so he was a free agent to "network", see (and drink) the sights and delights of the Capitol. From what I can ascertain, he was very busy during the day doing work stuff, and during the nights he did one armed arm weight lifting (drinking beer), spent time getting to know his colleagues from across northern America (drinking beer), and even got all dressed up in his dress uniform to attend a ball and watch the game of influence (while drinking beer). I think it was a big week for my man. And while his sleep may have been uninterrupted, I'm not sure it was for as many hours as he had wished ;-)

He took some wonderful photos, and next year when me and the boy tag along, he has given us a very long to-do list... Turbo tourism at its best! Lookout Washington and surrounding states, you're on the Apperley to-do list!


So that is April so far.... Tune in later this month to catch the adventures of the big blue car - the Apperely's go to New Mexico ;-)

Much love!!!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The four seasons of Colorado

As we creep up on the first anniversary of our great big adventure to the US, I've started to think about the weather extremes we have experienced. While at home in Canberra we do get to experience four distinct seasons, those seasons are very different to what we are experiencing here.

The first thing to note is that seasons don't align with specific months. At home, summer is always December - February. But here in the US of A the seasons are astronomically aligned. For example, summer this year is 20 June - 21 September. It just seems crazy for the seasons to suddenly change mid-month. But the locals think we're crazy for thinking that just because the month changes so does the season...

The second thing to remember is that geographically Denver is located at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. So we get to experience unique weather patterns due to the mix of the freezing extremes from up high, and the roasting extremes that creep across the eastern plains. It makes for some interesting weather patterns.

And the third thing to pay attention to is that Colorado experiences 300 days of sunshine a year. Yes, you can maintain a great tan line all year round!!

So way back in July when we arrived it was the middle of summer and we were experiencing hot days in the mid to high 30s. It was minus 8 the morning we left Canberra, so the warmer weather was welcome. But what we hadn't expected was the intensity of the sun! Our house sits at 6,000 ft above sea level, and as a result the sun seems more fierce, making it feel hotter than it was reported. (Sidebar: whose stupid idea was it to measure the temperature in the shade, out of the wind!!!)

I spent my mornings sitting on our back deck, sunning myself before it got too hot, and my afternoons lazing in pool at our community club house. Everything was green! Strict watering requirements ensured the world remained lush and vibrant - a very foreign concept to an Aussie who has been taught to take short showers and to not waste water! But I must admit it was a beautiful way to shift hemispheres.

But in the late afternoon, the storm clouds would roll in, obstructing the sunshine and the heavens would open with a wild sound and lighting show. One of my favourite times of day was after dinner when I would curl up on my couch (in my heavily air conditioned lounge room) and watch the rain batter the windows. I cannot describe the peace I felt during those moments. I love the rain!! The creek out the back would fill up each night and giggle and trickle every morning starting my daily routine again. Life was TOUGH!!!

Autumn, stupidly known as Fall in this part of the world, began on 23 September. Unsurprisingly things remained green due to regular watering so "Fall" seemed to be a misnomer. The sun continued to shine brightly though the air became a bit crisper, and they shut the pool :-( But they did blow out the sprinklers in mid-October so we got to stop watering the grass and things started to de-lush-ify (yes - I do have a way with words), beginning to make nature better match up with the season.

Outside the man made lands of suburbia, the forests and mountains turned vivid shades of red, orange and brown. "Leaf chasing" became a state sport with everyone I know running to the mountains to watch nature shed its greenery. And I must admit it was spectacular to watch. Canberra is lovely in Autumn; Northbourne Ave turns into a beautiful postcard of falling leaves and warm colours. But that beauty paled against seeing entire mountain ranges going through the same natural evolution. Being able to watch how it impacted a mountain, with the colours fading as you looked up, starting at green so dark and healthy down low, and shifting through a myriad of colours until the leaves fade out, falling off the trees nearing the sky.

After the intensity of summer, I was ready to wrap myself up in a blanket and read on the deck in the dwindling sunshine, to make some hearty meals - roasts, stews and soups - but before I could settle into the rhythm of my favourite season, the skies opened up again, dumping foot on foot of snow - way before the actual "start" of winter on 21 December. You might remember that the week Zac was born there was a foot snow and we experienced temptatures in the range of minus 20. Not even Mother Nature was prepared for such a downfall. Branches collapsed under the weight of the snow, and sap froze causing trees to snap. It was crazy!!

Several months of snow followed. It seemed every time the ice would almost melt off my street we would get another downfall. Despite the severe weather - an average daily temperature of minus 3 - the sun continued to shine. The mountains wore snowy white mantels and were often obscured in the clouds. From my kitchen window, holding a cup of hot Milo, it was lovely. It was like living in a postcard...

In Australia, there is a myth that snow has clean and peaceful connotations, that once the snow begins to fall the world begins a hibernation that involves sitting in front of a cheerful fireplace - after living a "white winter" I know this postcard to be a LIE!!! Snow is dirty and mushy, hiding layers of black ice that slip you up. You have to wear layers of clothing to walk the shortest distance between your car and the shop door, but when you get inside you need to strip off all your layers and lug them around (GRRRR). Your car gets covered in some sort of black anti-icing salt that is laid on the roads in an attempt to keep the main roads free of black ice. This black c@%p is near impossible to wash off your car windows yourself, so you need to go to a car wash to be able to see out of them. Of course Murphy's Law dictates that every time you do this it snows again!!(double GRRRR).

The world loses its luscious green coat in winter and when you occasionally see the grass it is brown, dead, with bare patches where the bunny population has devoured the roots. It's depressing, worse then seeing drought as at least with drought you know that it has taken several season to reach this point. In my mind it makes no sense for the grass to be dead in the heart of winter when in the heart of summer it is so green you need to wear sunglasses to look directly at it.

When Spring arrived earlier this week (20 March), me and every other Aussie in town was waiting with baited breath for some fair weather. And Denver delivered! Today is a lovely 26 degrees. I'm wearing a dress, and on my little walk around our mini-suburb I saw trees budding and not a trace of ice on the pond or on the paths. It was AWESOME!! But the flip side of this glorious weather is the crazy wind. I mean serious, hurricane like winds - 100km hour. It has shifted my outdoor furniture all over my deck, even blew the table top off. I know we get winds in Spring at home, but this is ridiculous!!

Unfortunately, our seasons of pollen have more in common that high winds. As you may have seen on the news, wildfires are ravishing the mountains. These high gusts have fanned the flames across several thousand hectares of forests and suburbia taking with it 30 homes and three people in three days. But I must say we seem to deal with these catastrophies better. Despite the fire not being at all contained, there are only 400 fighters being circulated on the front, and government is not at all involved in the coordination efforts (though both the Governor and the local Senator made comments that they hoped the state wouldn't be sued due to the destruction of property and people really should ensure they have adequate insurance to reclaim any destroyed property and/or goods...).

So, I've seen the scorching hot sun, the spectacular colour shift of autumn, feet on feet of snow (GRRR!!!), and the rebirth of spring. Four crazy seasons that have similarities to home, but are foreign enough for me to know that it is no longer a 2 hour drive to the coast (don't even get me started on how much I miss the water!!!). But it defiantly has its own unique beauty. And as we move further into the warmer months, I know I'll appreciate it more and more. Especially since there are kids around to kidnap and take to the water park ;-) I've already stocked up on sunscreen (that I had to wear all winter anyway), dusted off my sandels (that had a work out in the ice as well), and bought a new swimsuit better suited to my new Mummy status (and jelly body after a long winter of sitting on my bum). I'm EXCITED!

Now I'm just waiting for the pool to open. You have no idea how buzzed I am to have a pool party for my birthday!!!

Lots of love everyone - I'm off to have a glass of wine on my deck. Anyone in the area is welcome to join me :-)

Sunday, 18 March 2012

bringing the little fella home

Proof that prayers, positive thinking and love prevails - Zac came home on 20 February. For those of you that were keeping tabs, that was his actual due date!

December was hard. Leaving the hospital with my baby still there was far and away the most difficult thing I have ever done. Seeing his tiny body covered with medical equipment tore a hole in my heart. However, he was so tiny that I knew that the hosipital was only place that he could survive. Plus with Tristan and I as parents I knew his fighting spirit would kick in and he would be fine. So each day we would visit for a couple of hours, waiting with baited breath for that 15 minute window every 4 hours where we got to check his temperature, change his nappy and hold his hand while the nurses made their checks of his little body.

As December passed into January, Zac started to grow. He stopped looking like an alien as his checks and limbs started to fill out. We got to hold him almost everyday, and more and more medical equipment came off. By the time February rolled in, he was grunting and growling like other babies do. And we started to feed him.

Daddy had much better success rate than mummy did at getting Zac to eat. Since he was only breastfed once every 8-10 feeds, it was foreign to the little boy, so all he wanted to do was chomp. This did not impress me one bit!!!! However, Zac seemed to slowly get the hang of drinking breastmilk out of a bottle, and Daddy's pure stubbornness ensured that Zac would take at least half his feed out of the bottle when he was around.

But he wasn't (and still isn't) great at letting us know if he was hungry. So if he wasnt awake and seemingly hungry, his meal was pushed down his feeding tube. Zac, proving that he is a clever cookie, learnt that if he didn't want to take his bottle, or if it hurt too much to eat, he just needed to play possum (close his eyes and pretend to be asleep) and his meal would be tube fed to him. Yes, his little redheadedness learnt to be lazy from a very young age.

This seemed to be the longest chapter of our hospital stay. Some days he would eat. Some days he wouldn't. We learnt that we could keep feeding him even when he was playing possum. But only Tristan and his primary nurses had any luck with this. I contiuned to try unsuccessfully to breastfeed, and other nurses who had him irregularly didn't know to push him even though he seemed asleep. Then the evil reflux started, and all the hard work of the past few weeks came to a sudden stop. Zac was no longer interested to taking the bottle, and I stopped trying to breastfeed him in hopes that if I could just get him to eat by bottle we could take him home and I could teach him to breastfeed in the comfort of our own home.

After Tristan and my little get away to the mountains, we visited Zac before we went home. On a seemingly normal visit, the nurse told us that the doctors wanted to have a talk to us about our baby. They sat us down in a very serious manner and told us that they feared that Zac was developing an eating aversion due to his reflux and they wanted to try him on a formula. The formula would be thicker than breastmilk, would be more difficult for him to spit up, and would be more likely to stay in his belly and digest. At this point both Tristan and I were so desperate to have him home, that even though we both wanted him to be breastfed, we agreed to try anything that might speed him home to us.

So they started him on the magic formula. And before the day was out he was taking full feeds by bottle and a few days after that they started talking about him coming home!!! Sure, he would still play possum, and was only just making or just missing his quota, but he was eating!!! It was a miracle! Not only was there light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt like I could reach out and touch it.

The next few days are so clearly ingrained in my memory. Tristan worked that Sunday and I was taking an opportunity to have a bit of a sleep in (knowing that sleep would soon become a precious commodity) before I headed to the hospital. At 725 he called he to say that Zac would be coming home today and to get some sleep. Well of course I couldnt sleep anymore, so I bounced around the house making the final preparations to have my family all under the same roof for the night. Then at 930, just as I was about to leave to go into the hospital, Tristan rang back to say not today, but certainly tomorrow.

While disappointed, I understood that the doctors wanted to observe him for one more day, after all he hadn't been on the formula for 5 days yet. So I just spent the day with the nurse, receiving our last baby classes, getting lots of cuddles, and feeding my son. Life was almost perfect. That night Tristan and I said goodbye to our primary nurse who had become like family over the passed few months, and set home for our last night at home alone.

The next morning Tristan and I were both having a sleep in, both of us dreaming of that magic momment that we would bring Zac into his home, when I received a phone call from the hospital. Zac hadn't made his minimum feeds that night, and they wanted to keep him for a few days longer. I have no idea how, or even if, I kept a steady voice during that conversation, but I can remember wanting to cry my heart out when it was over. Today was the 20th of Feb - Zac's due date. I wanted him home more than I could ever say. It had been long enough.

As a girl, I dealt with this problem with tears. As a bloke, Tristan dealt with this as situation that needed to be resolved. I could see the anger and disappointment festering under the surface. I felt sorry for anyone who got in his way that day. They were never going to win.

We went straight to the hospital and spoke to the doctors. They were concerned that if Zac came home he may not eat enough, not gain any weight and end up needing to be readmitted to hospital. While appreciating their concern, we knew we could feed our son. We had spend hours and hours (and hours and hours) at the hospital feeding him. We knew that we could do it and we had the support of the nursing staff. But the doctor was holding to his position. So tearfully, and hugely disappointed, we set up for another day in the hospital. Tristan was determined to be at the hospital for as many feeds as possible and, if necessary, force feed Zac to ensure that he would meet his quotas.

An hour or so later, it was rounds. As the hospital we were at was a teaching hospital, rounds were overseen by an experienced (and generally very elderly) attending physican. When Zac's care came up, I turned my head. I just didn't want to hear anyone say Zac wasn't coming home again, but curiosity beat out denial. Each doctor argued their case. It was interesting to hear that there were two opposing camps: one in favour of letting us take Zac home, the other in favour of a more conservative path that would see him stay for a few more days until they were certain that he could eat enough regularly. The attending listened to both arguments and then spoke to us. He seemed to take us at our word that we could make Zac eat. But the pediatrician we choose seemed to sway him enough that he agreed to let us take him home as long as we saw the pediatrician three times a week. We didn't need to be told twice!

Two hours later we left the small room that had been the only place we could be a complete family for the last 82 days. It was very bitter sweet. The sweet outweighing the bitter 10:1 but the hospital had become an enourmous part of our lives. It was like an out of body experience leaving it for the last time with our precious cargo. I kept waiting to be told to put Zac back into his crib, or for the alarm to go off that we were stealing our baby. But I didn't. We just walked out, staring at our bundle of love.

The elevator doors closed on our exit that afternoon, ending an incredibly painful chapter in our lives that showed us that we had strength we didn't know we had. And even more importantly, renewing our faith that Tristan and I always have each other. The best part was that this chapter had a very happy ending.

So if you ever need proof that prayers, positive thinking and love can change the world, all you need to do is look at Zac. I do - everyday

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

There are those times...

Dear Zac,

By now, no doubt, you have realised that your Mummy is very silly. And that she loves and trusts your Daddy to distraction. So today, when Daddy said "let's go to the park" I got very excited.

It was the first day that it was over 20 degrees and I thought it would be a lovely day for a stoll in the park. Thinking that we might want to take a family photo I wore nice jeans, a pretty white t-shirt, and sandals (I had just had a pedicure so my toes were happy). I blow dried my hair, and while I stopped short of painting a full face of make up, I did add a bit of volume to my eyes and some gloss to my lips. I looked great! Even your daddy said so!

We packed the car up (bottle warmer, oxygen, pram, nappy bag, iPad, camera) and set out on our adventure. The mountains looked picturque, the sky was perfectly clear, and I was with my boys - I couldn't have been happier. We drove down the highway. And we drove a little further (you were peacefully asleep in the backseat and missed it). The mountains got closer and eventually we left suburbia and hit "rural" Denver.

It was about here that I asked what park we were going to. I thought it must be a very special park given we had driven this far. I was thinking beautiful manicured gardens, perhaps a decorative pond, lovely green grass, and paved paths that would wind through the park passing playgrounds, children laughing and ducks (a good park will always have ducks).

However it seems I made a stupid assumption - we weren't going to the park: we were going to a state park. After taking a moment to call myself several nasty names(stupidmbeing the kindest)I thought a bit more about it. Your Daddy and I have been to a few very nice state parks, and while there probably wouldn't be any ducks or green grass, we would stil get to take a nice family stroll.

I started to get worried when we had to drive along a dirt track to get into the park. And then we had to walk up a mountain (ok - not a "mountain" but a serious hill considering we had the pram) to the visitors centre - which had a desk and a coke machine...

Don't get me wrong - it was beautiful. There were these enormous red limestone rocks just popping up from the ground in the middle of no where. There was sunshine and birds singing. It was like a postcard.

We(read: Daddy) decided that we would take you on a walk around one of those big red rocks. It was a dirt track, but the man at the gate said it would be suitable for a stroller. It was a 3.5 mile walk, which I thought could be a nice hour or so walk as a family...

But there was still snow on the ground. And slush where that beautiful sunshine had melted the snow. And there was mud where that slush had hit the dirt. And I was wearing SANDELS!!!! To top it off, there were strong wind gusts that blew my hair everywhere!!! My lips were chapped, my toes were wet and muddy and there more hills to climb!!!

My glamourous park adventure with my family had turned into a farcical event where I could barely keep my balance (or my language) as I slipped, skidded and slided around the "path". To his credit, I didn't hear your daddy laugh at me once - or maybe the wind just blew the sound away... But he did have to contend with the elements and push your pram around. He was huffing and puffing in some parts. I laughed at that.

Thank goodness your daddy didn't suggest a family photo at the end. I was muddy, sweaty, disheveled and seriously unimpressed. But the glint in your Daddy's eye made it hard for me to be (too) mad at him.

It was a beautiful walk (I'm sure...) and I would love to go back and do a different trail, but it was just not what I had expected. It was one of those times when making an assumption had made me look like a complete fool. Sigh

Your Daddy is wonderful man, and loves to go on family adventures, but it will be the last time (at least for a while) that I don't get more details about where we are going.... Sigh.

And you - you seemed to have loved the entire ordeal. You slept, wiggled to avoid any sunlight, and didn't fuss once. You seem to like the off road (won't that make your Uncle Jonny happy). Sigh.

And now, while you sleep off your big day out, I'm off to wash my feet!

Lots of love


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Feeling the love :-)


There have been many times over the past few months that I have missed you and wished we could have coffee, chat and catch up without the tyranny of distance. To share our stories - triumph and tragedy - without the awkwardness of Skype or phone.  But mostly, I've just missed the companionship and comfort of being surrounded by people who know me as well as I know myself.

But I have been lucky, there are people on this side of the Pacific that have provided me with unconditional love and support while I have been here. This was most recently evident at my baby shower.

My baby shower was wonderful.  One of the (few) advantages of Zac's early arrival was that I was able to indulge at my shower - blue cheese (I craved this so much during pregnancy); red wine (always a requirement on a chilly day); and skinny jeans (no one wants to wear a moo moo to their own party).  The games we played did not involve chocolate in nappies, but rather how many pegs you can take off a clothes line with a glass of wine in your hand - classic! But the best part of the day was the company. It was the first time that I felt like I had just sat around and hung out with everyone. It was exactly what I needed and I was so grateful.  I truly felt the love.

A few days later, Tristan surprised me with a trip to the mountains. It was the babymoon we had planned months ago, but I thought we would never get a chance to take. It was only an hour or so away, so we could visit Zac in the morning and go spend the night in the mountains, then see him again on the way home the next day. It was perfect! Of course there was another motive - there was a heap of powder and Tristan wanted to get in a few runs each day. But I didn't mind in the least - it meant I could hang out at Starbucks and read (or sew).  The best part was that we got to spend some real quality time together. We had a spa out in the snow, a wonderful dinner at a cute little Italian restaurant where we got to drink Aussie wine, and a lunch at a "bakery" (I think someone needs to advise America that to call a cafe a bakery you actually need to bake something...).

I can't describe how relaxed we were after those few days away. And HAPPY.  We knew there was light at the end of the tunnel and we had survived this tumultuous adventure.

The theory of jumping country and spending three years starting a family was fabulous in theory.  But, as the cookie crumbles, we were given a less than perfect pregnancy, an extremely early delivery, and an extended stay in the NICU.  Without the support network that we take for granted at home, this was difficult (...might be a slight understatement).  But the truth of the matter is that without the wonderful Aussies, Brits, Canadians and the odd local, this chapter might have been completely unbearable.

Everyday we get a little message from home sending us love, luck, prayers and support.  It has meant a lot. We feel the love.

Everyday someone here will do something that will make us realise how lucky we are, and even though we are far from home, we aren't alone. It means so much.  We feel the love.

And, lucky for me, everyday I get a cuddle from both of my boys and their love buoys me though another day.  I am always feeling the love. 

It was a week where I felt the love so strongly, that I feel the need to thank you all.  Mwah!

I hope that you can feel the love too ;-)

Friday, 3 February 2012

Australia day antics and adventures

I must admit that celebrating Australia Day when you are away from home takes on a whole new meaning.

When at home Australia Day typically means a public holiday (a requestite for all us public servants who have been back at work for a whole three weeks after Christmas without a break - shocking!), drinking Tooheys Extra Dry (lovingly known as TEDs in our home), listening to JJJs hottest 100 (counting the half a dozen songs we know) and spending as much time as possible in the water with your mates who will attempt to drown you at least once over the course of the day. Second to Christmas, its our favourite holiday.

This year, Tristan and I enviously read our Facebook updates watching you all complain about the heat/fires/floods and other marvelous meteorological events that make our great country the land of droughts and flooding rains. You spent the day celebrating with your "family", eating snags, pizza shapes, cabanossi and cheese, and running around in your board shorts and national footwear. You watched the Sydney fireworks on the news - after all, who wants to get up at the crack of dawn to get a decent position on the foreshore, where you can't drink and need to sit beside/on a complete stranger for hours on end only to realize the wind is blowing all the smoke from the crackers directly into your eyes so you can't see them anyway!!! Needless to say, we were very homesick.

In an effort to bring the land of Oz to the Mile High City, Tristan and I agreed to host Australia Day celebrations way back in August. The plan was that this would be our last sha-bang before RJ arrived (oh how plans change). Of course, life in its many twists and turns resulted in us paying near no attention to the date. So a week before the big day we realised that we had a party to cater for, but didn't even have enough seats for all our guests to perch on. Luckily, the great Aussie bregade came to the rescue, agreeing to each bring an Aussie platter, Tristan moved all our patio furniture into the basement (liberally "borrowing" odds and ends from our departing brethren) and we made a made dash to Sam's to get meat and salad for a BBQ. Like any good Aussie household, we didn't need beer as the pantry was already stocked ;-)

The day started out like any other: a visit to the hospital to see our little boy - who incidentally was wearing his Aussie Day best thanks to Aunty Ange. I gave him a bath and inked his feet for more footprints, while Tristan ran home to get the party started in my absence.

When I got home a couple of hours later, the house smelled of sausage rolls. Yum! Drifting into the basement I was confronted with a sea of green and gold, and Aussie flags decking every surface. There were dips and chips aplenty, Tim tams and crackers galore, beer in the esky, and wine chilling in the fridge. Devine!!!!

Denver pulled out some good weather (42 - F not C) so not long after I got home (literally Tristan didn't even give me enough time to eat lunch) we grabbed the bat and ball and headed to our local oval to confuse the neighbours with a game of cricket. It was so much fun. The little tackers put the grown ups to shame. The girls stood in the out field doing their best to disappear anytime someone new was needed to bat. And Tristan played one handed as to not spill his drink.

Later on Tristan pulled out his BBQ skills and delivered the best Aussie BBQ that Denver had ever seen. There was potato and pasta salad, something that looked like beetroot (....), a huge salad that was barely touched (in the tradition of Aussie Day - you don't make friends with salad), steak, lamb, hamburger patties (that shrunk on the BBQ and looked more like meatballs) and sausages of the chicken variety. It was a grand feast that was serenaded by the gentle whispers of Richie Benuet and the Australia Day Test match at Adeliade Oval. It felt just like home.

Then came my favourite part of the day - DESSERT!!! The Aussie ladies of Denver delivered such delight that my taste buds are still dancing. There was pavolva (covered in aerobar flacks), laminations, chocolate crackles and cake. So good! The best part was that there was left overs!!

After heavily indulging and being glad that I was wearing track pants with an elastic waist band, everyone decided to head home (early mornings the next day meant we really couldn't indulge too much more...). In an effort to help, one of the kids was carrying the left over cake to the kitchen and just missed the bench. It was the funniest thing I had seen in ages. Chocolate cake all over the floor, the little tacker standing in the middle of it not knowing whether to laugh and or cry, and Tristan's devastated face when he realised his morning tea for the week was on gone (though we did manage to save some of it). Classic Aussie Day memories.

It wasn't the same as home, but it's uniqueness made it special. The importance of being Australian when you are away from home just seems to be more. You want to scream from the mountain top that you come for the sun burnt country and make every American eat a tim tam so they can appreciate how crap their cookies really are. While we are enjoying our American adventure, we will always call Australia home - and miss it terribly while we are away.

Hope you are all well and enjoyed Australia day where ever you may have been in the world.


Tristan, Penni and Zac

Friday, 13 January 2012

Love letter to Zac's Great Grandparents

Dear Grandma, Granddad, Nan and Pop,

It's been a while since my last update, so I thought you might like know how your great grandson is growing.

It's been six (long) weeks since he was born, and let me tell you he has grown and changed so much over that time. Tristan and I visit him at the hospital everyday, and he is bigger and stronger every time we see him.

Initially, Zac was so tiny and he had tubes and machines connected up to him everywhere. It was so scary and intimidating. On the few opportunities I had to hold him I was terrified that I was going to drop him. He only reached from my chest to the bottom of my ribs and I had to be so careful when I held him so the cords wouldn't pull. Janette and I would laugh that he looked like a spider monkey - small and skinny with long arms and legs that (tried to) grab on to me. His head and face were so petite and pixie like. Adorable, but so small it just didn't seem real.

As Zac grew into his features he began to look like Gollum from Lord of the Rings (the cute curious creature that helped the hobbits - not his evil split personality). His color improved, his movements became less disjointed, and he slowly started to act like a little baby. Holding him then was easier as he was a bit bigger - but still less than 3 lbs - and there were less bits and pieces connected to him. Our cuddles got more frequent and longer. Even Tristan and Janette got to hold him.

Finally, between Christmas and New Year he started looking, acting and sounding like a real baby. His head started to grow, and fine hair started to cover it (Tristan and I are debating the color - I'm certain it is red and he thinks it's blond darkening up to brown). His body grew a bit longer, making his arms and legs look more in proportion, and everything started to fill out. He now has an adorable tubby tummy! When the nurses do their checks every three hours he grizzles, grunts and cries like other babies do - especially when they put a cold wet wipe on his bottom or play with his feet.

While he is still very small (1690g or 3 lbs 11 today) its not so scary to hold him. He only has a few cords left connected to him, so we can pick him up much more easily. When he lays on my chest he now almost reaches my belly button when he stretches out. The doctors say that once he is about 1800g he can move out of the isolette (humidicrib) and into a real crib as he has learnt some temperature control - Yay!!! We can't wait for that day.

Because Zac has grown the nurses and doctors have started to begin his physical development. He has physiothearpy 3-4 times a week where he learns to move his muscles correctly. He is doing very well and I am starting to learn the exercises so he can continue his routine when he eventually comes home. He will continue this therapy until his growth rate catches with his age - so likely until he is 3.

His breathing also continues to improve. Because his lungs are so immature he is connected to an oxygen machine that helps to inflate them. But he has moved to the lowest setting and is breathing very well. He will likely need to come home with oxygen due to the altertude. This is not unusual in Colorado and he will probably grow out of it in a couple of months.

I am most excited that Zac has started to learn to suckle. He is still fed through a tube (30mL every three hours), but once a day we sit down and spend some mummy-baby time where he learns to breast feed. It is the most wonderful experience. I could swoon about it for hours. Next week the nurses will start him on the bottle as well. While he will be drinking breast milk it is infused with formula for added calories to help him grow big and strong.

Once Zac is able to sleep in a crib without having any breathing hiccups and feed properly from a bottle he will be ready to go home. All of this will still take a couple weeks. We are aiming to have him home for his due date of 20 February - keep your fingers crossed.

All in all, your littlest (great) grandson is doing very well. We are so proud of his fighting spirit and that he has grown and developed so well. Everyone's love, thoughts and prayers have paid off.

Well, it's time for Zac's next feed so I have to be off. Give our love to everyone. We miss you all so much and can't wait for you all to meet our little man later in the year.

Lots of love
Penni (and Tristan and most importantly Zac)