Three days ago, the girls and I were astronauts at the Carnarvon Space museum. Despite being in the middle of nowhere, this was the spot where the signal was transmitted to Apollo 11 as it orbited earth following lift-off, to proceed onwards with its mission to the moon. Two days later, the girls and I were surfers, riding the tubes (or, more accurately, bumping through the whitewash) of Wobiri beach in Ningaloo, as the sun descended into the Indian Ocean. Tomorrow, if the wind stays down, we might even try our hand as squid fisherwomen. In anticipation, our salt and pepper batter is all ready to cook up some delicious calamari.
I am so proud of the new things that the girls have already got stuck into on this trip. It is my hope that these rich and adventurous experiences will instil the confidence that they need to become strong, resilient women who love God and their fellow humans. While Dave and I contemplate, on an almost daily basis, that, because of her age, Alice is missing out on such special memories, we hope that she too is being positively shaped by having us all around to overstimulate her during her every waking moment.
Travelling with children is testing at times to say the least. As a family on the road, we have found that pronounced highs and lows often roll in a very short period. Within minutes of returning from our extraordinary surf session, we had all three girls screaming to the point where the van was literally shaking. They were sandy, tired, hungry and completely over it. While chaos at this time of day is usual for any young family, confining ‘witching hour’ into 18 feet of aluminium proves to be quite the circus. Just when we thought 3 out of 3 kids were asleep and had kicked back to enjoy a few cold beers and Kombuchas, our firstborn reappeared and inquired: “Mum, Dad, do you ever get the feeling when you are reading a really good book and that you are told to go to bed that it is really annoying because you just want to know what happens?” Ahhhh holidays… Who doesn’t want to extend bedtime until the book is finished? Needless to say, the extension was granted.
It is funny how many of your own childhood memories resurface as you watch your children experiencing things that you so distinctly remember as a kid. For me it was watching the pure joy the girls experienced as they caught wave after wave at the beach, begging us not to have to get out of the water, despite chattering teeth and a blossoming blue hue. I still remember the nights that I lay in bed after beach days, still feeling the waves crashing over me.
Our family seems to track sand wherever we go. Not just the usual amount that you could expect from a beach holiday but rather an oversupply that is constantly found in every crevice of the van, car and, somehow, deep inside Alice’s ears! I vowed to myself that I would come home from this trip a tidier person, but the confined space has so far provided a more concentrated zone of destruction for all our stuff. Combined with the fact we are daily packing and unpacking a veritable mobile outdoor convention including two inflatable SUPS, a foldable kayak, a fishing boat on the roof, three bikes, goodness knows how many fishing rods, a complete scuba kit (including tank), three snorkel sets, cameras, drone, Thermomix, coffee machine, Sodastream, a weber BBQ with pizza stone, and a legion of outdoor furniture. Given our total commitment to implementing the chaos theory, our campsite is certainly not going to win any tidiness awards.
People have given me both curious and sympathetic looks when I have told them that we are travelling with a three-month-old. To be honest she is not the most difficult child. In fact, while she is still nursing, not moving and on a reasonably stable routine, she generally wins the daily award in our family for ‘Best and Fairest’. Although, maybe that is because she has the best deal of all – who wouldn’t like lying stark naked in the tropical breeze, while everyone who passes by smiles and tells you how adorable and cute you are?
The currency of the caravan park is unique and wonderful. Love thy neighbour is exemplified in different, special and usually utterly ordinary ways each day. For me, I try to spread the love through caffeinated beverages. They think I can’t see them, but each morning I spot the longing eyes of those who stand outside boiling the kettle for their Nescafe instant, enviously peeping through the trees as I fire up the Breville. Their faces when I surprise them with a latte is priceless. Generosity is quickly repaid as it seems a recurring theme for us that we always seem to be stuck for coins or laundry detergent for our never-ending pile of washing. Our next-door neighbours have been quick to come to the rescue perhaps feeling sorry for the lady with the baby, dropping her dirty knickers as she pushes that pram to the communal laundry yet again!
As Dave and I began to pack up the van again tonight, readying ourselves for the next part of our adventure, we agreed that there is as much joy, at least sometimes, in the simple act of daily tasks as there is in introducing the kids to a wonderful new outdoor activity.