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The Monster & Me - Fingal Lighthouse

The Monster & Me - Fingal beach

The Monster & Me - Fingal Lighthouse

The Monster & Me - Fingal

The Monster & Me - Fingal Swings

The Monster & Me - Fingal head

Fingal holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I grew up, where I go back to, where Troy and I were married, where my parents and grandma live. The once-sleepy fishing village is now home to families and weekenders, the beach shacks replaced by architect-designed dwelling. The natural beauty of the place remains the same, instilling a sense of peace that stays with you long after you have driven the river-road out.

1. The lighthouse long-lost its last keeper. Still it stands sentry atop the cliff.
2. Walking the path to Dreamtime beach {which boasts a great left-hander in the right conditions}
3. My flower-collecting boy.
4. My grandma walks this way most days.
5. Never too old for a swing.
6. The old village post office I remember buying stamps at as a child, now a sweet little home.

Linking up with this lovely lady for Stills.

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The Monster & Me: Playing in the park

The Monster & Me: Making lemonade at QT

The Monster & Me: Light

The Monster & Me: Surfers Paradise Buildings

The Monster & Me: Sunset

The Monster & Me: Surfers Paradise Building

1|Afternoon fish and chips by the river followed by burning off some of that endless two-year-old energy
2|Making lemonade at QT for a night away to celebrate four years of marriage (!)
3|The nightly battle to get The Monster dressed for bed
4|Evening beach walk and swim on the Gold Coast
5|Capturing a magnificent summer sunset over the city
6|Surfers Paradise buildings circa 1975 (or 2013!)

Linking up with the lovely Em at The Beetle Shack.

More weekly stills.

The day starts at 4am as our phone alarms begin a crude duet. Our midnight bed visitor slumbers on as we dress in the dark, bleary-eyed from little sleep, tempted to crawl back under the sheets, but propelled on by thoughts of blue ocean and long beaches.

As tyres hit the soft sand of Fraser Island, clouds heavy with rain roll in from the sea and the beach disappears in a mist of sea spray. As we will soon find out, the Island’s moods are as mercurial as her offshore currents, changing at whim, keeping you guessing. Today, she is pensive. Contemplative. And instead of finding the rain inconvenient, it is calming.

Fraser Island Clouds

That afternoon we chase seagulls, setting them in flight, scattering them to sea. Lachie whoops with delight. Troy fishes the dying light as the boy and I nap late, his little body curled into mine. Dinner is simple and bed is early.

Fraser Island Boy and dad

We wake to wind whistling through the corroded sliding doors of our beach house. Where yesterday the island was contemplative, today she is wild and raging. The sea churns with whitecaps the size of small boats and trees lay-down under forceful gusts. We pack the car. After all, adventures are just as possible in inclement weather.

The beach is ours as we drive the long sandy strait. Streams of fresh water break from the land, cutting a path through the beach to their ocean home. We reach the largest on the island, Eli Creek. Typically thick with tourists, it is virtually empty today. In a jumper and bare feet Lachie races along the boardwalk, the glee of open space written across his beautiful face.

Fraser Island Eli Creek

We follow the cool water as it snakes into the vegetation. Leaves are dropped from high and watched intently as they rush away with the current, destined for a salty greeting.

Fraser Island Eli Creek

Lunch is eaten sheltered by the towering rocks of Indian Head, watching patient fisherman waiting for the ‘one’. Plans to climb the headland are abandoned and instead we venture south again. As the world’s largest sand island, the dense and colossal rainforest that populates its centre is surprising and magical by equal parts. Ancient trees reach to the sky from a foundation of sand. Relic ferns, the last of their kind, sprout from the creek at the bottom of the valley. In his boundless mind, Lachie jumps to touch the top of the towering trees. While his little legs fail him, in his imagination his fingers touch the leaves of the highest canopy.

Fraser Island

Sun bursts briefly through the clouds as we walk the path to Pile Valley. Father and son find matching walking sticks. I click away, content behind the lens. And then the sky opens up. The rain falls in patches through the trees. I gather child and camera and run toward the car.

Fraser Island Forest

Fraser Island leaf

The next day the island is brighter, her mood not quite happy, but hopeful. We make early tracks inland. At Lake Mackenzie we dig holes by the waters edge, bury each others feet, and run races where Lachie is guaranteed to win at least every second one.

Fraser Island Lake Mackenzie

In the afternoon Troy fishes the still tumultuous ocean. We play on the beach nearby, dodging jellyfish, watching out for dingoes, observing the beauty of a soaring sea eagle. Walking the narrow bush path home we nearly stand on the tail end of a six foot king brown snake. My heart thumps with adrenalin as I clumsily yank Lachlan from the ground, moving away as quickly and as calmly as I can with such a thumping heart. That night I fall asleep with a whirl of ‘what ifs’ and mother guilt swirling through my head.

Finally, the day begins with sunshine. Endless, piercing sunshine, streaming through the windows. Today, the island is joyful. After an early morning sand-castle session the car is packed again, ready for a journey to the top of the island. We reach the Champagne Pools by late morning, the sun high and hot. When the tide is just right, the pools nestled below a headland, are flushed with sea water as waves crash over the rocks. And they are filled with fine, perfectly champagne-like, fizzing bubbles.

Fraser Island champagne pools

Today, the tide is just right. And the place is truly magical. Lachie explores the cracks and crevices of the pools, fishing out rocks and shell fragments, equally impressed by each new discovery. Nearby, swimmers yelp with a mixture of excitement and fear as an especially large wave rolls over their sun-flushed faces. On the way home we stop for ice-creams. The cold sweetness bliss in the heat of the afternoon.

Fraser Island Champagne Pools

In the late afternoon Lachlan and I read stories, draw pictures, talk. Troy battles a truly large fish for 30 anticipation-laden, sweat-inducing minutes. And then, the fisherman’s nightmare, the line snaps. That night he goes to sleep with a whirl of fishing ‘what ifs’ that I don’t even pretend to understand.

On our last day I am woken at dawn. Little fingers poke my eye, urging “get up mummy”. From our balcony we watch the sun rise slowly over sea. Everything is bathed in magical light. My boy’s hair glows a golden crown, his soft cheeks, a ripe peach. I forget my tiredness and being disgruntled at the early hour. Today the moon will eclipse the sun. We stare dangerously into the light, two pairs of sunglasses inadequate protection from the intense glare. We concede and watch, instead, on TV.

Fraser Island sunrise

Fraser Island sunrise

Troy spends the rest of the morning chasing the one that got away, knowing the futility of such an exercise but persisting regardless. Lachie and I join him on the beach until an overly audacious dingo steals the toddler water bottle from our bag. We retreat beyond the dingo fence, content to swim in the pool instead.

Bags are packed with little enthusiasm. The car is loaded. Necessities sorted.

And as we load on to the mainland-bound barge we bid a silent farewell to this beautiful, mercurial island, hopeful to return soon.

In July we spent twelve days in Bali, our first overseas holiday as a family. Over the next few weeks I’d like to share the story of our adventure with you. I hope you’ll follow along.

I’d read somewhere that taking a red-eye flight with young children can either be great or a total disaster, depending on their inclination to sleep. So when planning our first overseas family holiday I booked the night flight to Bali, crossed my fingers, and promptly put the thought of six and half hours with an over-tired, irritable two-year old to the back of my mind. Until we found ourselves two hours into the flight, having exhausted all new toys, books, snacks and the patience of the people around us. The Monster finally slipped into sleep eating a packet of sultanas three whole hours later only to wake twenty minutes after hysterical with the pressure in his ears as the plane descended in to Denpasar. Nerves shot and bleary-eyed, we cleared customs wondering if we could perhaps just stay permanently if it meant not having to do a return flight.

There’s something fascinating about the first moment of stepping outside airport doors into a new country. Instantly, the smells hit, the cars look different, the people holding signs, the thickness of the air: if it hangs with humidity or feels light with altitude. All these little differences tell me I’m no longer at home, but elsewhere, where experiences are new and keenly felt.

With Lachlan held close we pushed our way out into the humid Bali night. The throng of drivers bustled for position holding signs in every language and the noise of heckling “taxi, sir” filled our ears. As I cuddled Lachie tight, I felt him register the change, uncharacteristically silent as he drank it all in. Finding our driver and car we bundled in, keen for a hotel bed and desperate for sleep.

The Denpasar streets were still thick with traffic, even at midnight. As we pulled out of the airport Troy pointed out a group of dirty-faced children perched on the median strip. Some looked as young as Lachie. We wondered at their life-smarts, their ability for survival where our son wouldn’t last a few minutes alone on a Bali street: such vastly different worlds they live.

The lights of the hotel lobby glowed softly as we unloaded from the van. I left Troy with check-in duties as Lachie found his second wind, racing precariously across the polished floors in dirty socks and adopting two Danish children as friends. Before long we were shown to our apartment. Pajamas were thrown on, faces roughly washed, and despite the fact that the pillows felt like sleeping on a bag of socks, we slowly drifted into a travel-weary slumber.

It’s easy to get caught up in the weekly rhythm of city life while the four wheel drive sits dust-free in the garage. We are fortunate to be surrounded by some beautiful national parks a short(ish) drive from the city. So a few days ago we packed up the car with a modest picnic and headed out in to the crisp autumn day.

With windows down and the cool air whipping our faces, we climbed the mountain range, houses becoming more sparse with every kilometer. Before long I started to smell something foreign. Sniffing, trying to place the scent, I asked Troy if he noticed it. He did. Was it brakes? Oil? No, it wasn’t like that. Maybe it’s just a new car smell (which ours isn’t by the way). And then we figured it out. It was the bush. This strange scent was just the smell of trees, and dust, wind and sun and fresh air. Yeah, we are total city-slickers.

Anyway once we decided that the car wasn’t burning and we just needed to get out of the city a little more, we continued on our way. Picnicking by the waterhole, basking in the winter sun like cool-blooded lizards; bushwalking to the lookout; getting a little lost on dirt roads; and finally finishing up with the best $1 scones, jam and cream we ever did have (if you’re ever in Woodford go to the bakery!).

It was amazing to see the influence of the bush on Lachie. Viewing the world with his toddler eyes, everything was fascinating, from the tiniest of flowers to the imaginary fish in the waterhole: all perceived with contagious wonderment. Most days at home, despite my best efforts at entertainment, are scattered with tears and meltdowns. In the bush, the Monster was totally occupies. Happy. And when he is happy, so are we. In fact he was so content he didn’t really want to leave (see the video at the end!).

If you live in a city do you try to get away much? Have you noticed how it affects your child/ren?

The Whitsundays would have to be amongst the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the world. Lush green islands peppered along the crystal blue coast, near white sand, copious sunshine and of course the unparalleled Great Barrier Reef. Last week we were there when our friends Emma and Michael married in the Whitsundays, on Hamilton Island. We also managed to squeeze in some family holiday time in the sun (and rain!).

We filled our island days with lunches by the pool, swimming, sand castle making, zoo visiting, island exploring, and of course a beautifully loved-up wedding. The island’s wildlife zoo saved us on the overcast days when the beach and pool were unappealing. The Monster’s animal obsession reached a new high when faced with only some thin glass separating his face from the imposing jaws of a 500 kilo saltwater croc he attempted to ‘open’ the glass to ‘tickle’ it. Steve Irwin would have been proud. I was just thankful the croc looked well fed.

A trip to Whitehaven beach and the endless miles of pristine white sand proved a great day despite realising five minutes after leaving shore that I had left our backpack full of towels, nappies and food on the back of the golf buggy. Thankfully the tropical north Queensland sun makes towels unnecessary and the Monster obliging enjoyed some nappy-less beach time. We I may have also subjected him to a bright pink ‘stinger-suit’ and much to Troy’s disapproval taken photos to prove it (see below). Hey real men wear pink, right?

Pink stinger-suits aside, the Monster seemed to make friends at every turn. From saying hi to the sweet little blonde girl at Brisbane airport, to playing ‘boo!’ with the French boys on the boat trip, Lachie embraced his lack of social anxieties and engaged with anyone who looked like they might be fun. No-one quite took his eye like the shy little girl at the pool restaurant, literally. As he chased her around the restaurant tables, adults looking on, collectively ‘awwwww-ing’ in their heads, his face met the corner of a table in a rather abrupt manner. The collective ‘awwww-ing’ instantly turned into audible ‘ohhhhh’s’ as I rushed to the Monster, scooping him up in my best mumma-cuddle. I suppressed my natural urge to panic while Troy assessed the damage. Thankfully the table had just missed Lachie’s eye, instead giving him a decent graze which Troy assures me ‘looks tough’.

Tough face scabs and all we arrived at the wedding ceremony. And what a spot to get married! The sweetest little chapel perched innocently on the hill overlooking an endless expanse of deep blue ocean. Storm clouds loomed over the bumpy silhouettes of distant islands but the air was still warm and full of excitement. Inside the chapel, we waited. And when Em finally arrived I watched her from my back-row viewpoint and my eyes filled with tears. In that moment before she started the walk down the aisle, to her best friend and future husband, there was so much honesty. She looked divine of course but it was even more than that, the unbridled emotions that were evident on her face: nervousness; happiness, excitement and most of all love.

Em and Michael were married on Hamilton Island on Thursday April 26, 2012. And we feel fortunate to have been there to share it with them. The day was incredibly joyful. From the serene ceremony to the all-in dancing reception. What I loved most was Em and Michael’s approach to their relationship and now, their marriage, “my friend, my love, my life”. A gorgeous married life lies ahead of them, of that I have no doubt.

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