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Australia

I can already feel the shadows growing in my memory. The moments and memories that I brought back from one of the most amazing experiences in my life are less crisp. As each day passes they are slowly, but surely, beginning to fade.

Moments and memories like this one.

And this one.

And this one.

I’m lucky, because as time does what it always does and the memories from our time in Australia begin to fade, I’ll have the posts I wrote about our adventures and the hundreds of pictures I took, to look back and regain some of the vividness of my memories. These moments and the many others we had will never be gone completely, I’ll always be able to look at a picture or read a post and bring them back.

I want Maya to remember her trip too. She may not remember much, she may only remember a single moment or a feeling. But I want her to have something to hold onto in her mind. The things she got to experience are things that some people dream their whole lives about but never get to do. I want her to have something to spark her own tiny memories, so I’ve decided to make a book for her. I’m working on getting all the posts I wrote about our adventures, along with some of the pictures, bound into a book for her. I hope that as she gets older and she only has some distant memory of being in a land far, far away when she was very young, that she’ll be able to look at the book, read the stories, see the pictures and for just a moment remember how incredible the spring of her 4th year of life truly was.

I cannot tell you how huge a sigh of relief I exhaled when Friday finally rolled around. It wasn’t the fact that I was finally done with my month long gig as a single parent. It wasn’t the fact that I was finally getting my husband back. I felt like I could finally breath again because having Lorne home meant that I was not going to end up having this baby all by myself. I joked about it a lot, poked fun at the fact I could be stuck delivering a baby while my husband was on the other side of the world. But, truth be told, it was a genuine fear I had that caused my a lot of stress during those 4 weeks. A LOT of stress. Being able to breath again felt great.

But, as happy as I was that Lorne was finally home, no one was happier than Miss Maya.

Maya is at an age right now where she is really interested in how long it is until something happens. She likes to know how many days or weeks or whatever it will be. However, she doesn’t really get what it means when you tell her it will be X number of days until we go here.  So, although we’ve been talking about how many weeks, and then days it would be until Daddy got home from Australia, she didn’t really have a concept of how long that time was.

On Friday morning when Maya got up she asked her usual question “Mommy, what are we going to do today?” I told her what was on the agenda and then said that after dinner we would be going to pick up Daddy from the airport. Her eyes got really wide and she exclaimed in a super excited voice “This day!” like it was just impossible that the day was finally here. She had gotten so used to hearing it would be 2 weeks or 4 days or 1 day that I don’t think she ever expected the actual day to arrive. To say Friday was a long day is an understatement. I must have reminded her that we had to wait until AFTER dinner to go pick him up at least a bazillion times.

When she finally saw him she was shy at first, but then got super happy and excited. Ever since he got home she has been all over him. Everything he does she wants to be part of. She even helped him unpack his suitcase :)

We are glad to finally have the whole family back home in St. Louis. Being on separate continents, around the world from each, was starting to get really old. Now we just patiently wait for the newest member of our family to make her appearance, which she can do whenever she is ready now that Daddy is home.

We are home!!  22 travel hours, lots of time spent standing in security lines, much boredom later we made it back to St. Louis.  It feels so good to be home.

8:00 am Thursday morning in Australia, so Wednesday night in the US, we headed out the door on our way to the airport.  Unfortunately, Quantas, for such a large airline, did not have adequate representatives checking people in so the line was very long.  We made it through faster than I thought we would and headed towards security.  But, before we got to security we had to say goodbye to Lorne.  It was tough saying goodbye knowing it was going to be a whole month before he would be coming home.  Maya did really well saying goodbye, which was helpful.  I didn’t have time to be sad since I had security to get through. Security was quick and easy at the Brisbane airport (can I just say how friendly and helpful the security people in Australia are, so refreshing) and in a flash we were on our way to our gate.

Once we boarded the aircraft I quickly realized that the seats we had chosen, thanks to a seatguru.com recommendation, were horrible.  We opted for seats towards the back of the plane because it meant we would get a row to ourselves.  Maya’s seat, the window seat, was pretty good.  She had a bunch of space between her and the window where she could stand up and look out the window while stretching her legs.  My seat, however, was horrible.  There was a huge box under the seat in front of me which meant I had no where to put my feet or my carry on bag.  Not to mention the fact that a very large man sat in the seat in front of me and reclined his seat for the whole flight.  And, because of his size he pushed his seat practically into my lap.  His seat was pressed, painfully, against my knees for the whole flight.  Being near the back was good in that we were close to the potty for my frequent need to use it.  But, it is also a popular gathering spot for those walking the cabin to stretch their legs, which meant that it was loud, the whole flight.  It made sleeping a bit tough for me.  But, we suffered through and made it to LA in one piece and without any major meltdowns.

Arriving in LA had always been the part of the travel that I was most nervous and anxious about.  I knew that in LA I would have to go through customs, gather my luggage, go through security, recheck my bags and then go through security again to enter the domestic terminal.  It had the potential to be very difficult and stress inducing.  Customs was a breeze.  I hadn’t expected it to be a problem since I had all our paperwork and there was nothing unusual about our trip or what we were bringing home with us.  Gathering our bags was a bit time consuming.  Even after being one of the last people off the plane, stopping for a potty break and going through customs it still took another 20 minutes for our bags to show up.  Luckily, they did have luggage carts available. I had been really worried about that since I knew I wouldn’t be able to manage all our stuff on my own without one.  After we finally got our bags, carseat and stroller we headed through security.  The line was long but moved quickly.  We made it through without having to stop to have our bags searched, which was nice.  After rechecking our bags to be loaded on our flight to St. Louis we headed to the domestic terminal.  As soon as I walked up the stairs towards the security check point I knew the easy part was over.  There was a sea of people for as far as I could see.  The line to get through security was ridiculously long.  It ended up taking us an hour and a half to finally make our way to the front of the line.  The TSA agents were extremely unhelpful. Very different from my experience in Australia.  After at first waving me through a very bitchy TSA agent decided to call me back and put me in the infamous glass booth.  I stood in the glass booth with Maya for about 5 minutes when another, much friendlier TSA agent, came over and said he just had to swab my shoes.  A couple of minutes later he returned with my shoes and told me I was free to go.  Still not sure why I ended up in there, if an alarm went off, or if I was just unlucky number whatever who required further screening, but at least it was over quickly.

The nice part about it all taking so long was that we only had 3 hours to kill until our next flight instead of 5. Maya did really well through all the hold ups, well as good as can be expected from a 3 year old.  She got antsy but managed to entertain herself, and those around us, with some singing and dancing :)  We killed the 3 hours in LA walking around the terminal, eating some lunch and watching movies (Maya) and playing on the internet (me).  Before we knew it, it was time to board our flight to St. Louis.

The flight to St. Louis felt so short compared with the 13 hour flight from Australia.  By the time we took off, got our complimentary beverage and took a little nap it was time to get ready for landing.  Arriving in St. Louis felt so good. It was nice to know we were finally home and had made it all in one piece.

The flight home, in many ways, was easier than the flight to Australia.  I knew what to expect, and so did Maya, so we were able to suffer through a little better this time around.  I learned a few things on the flight over that I was able to use to make this flight easier.  I knew not to look at my watch very often because doing so would only make the time go by slower, or at least feel like it was.  I knew what to pack in our carry on to keep us both entertained, the things that worked best the last time around.  I knew the best thing to do when Maya’s attitude started to go downhill was to make her sleep (it worked every time!).  All of which made the day, although still extremely long, not so horrible.

Maya was so happy when we walked through the door of our house.  She walked around all evening and all the next day saying “Mommy, I love home!” and getting super excited about every single one of her toys.  The kitties have been much loved since our return.  They try to make it seem like they could care less, but since they are always hanging out in whatever room Maya is in, I know they secretly love it.  We’ve been settling in nicely and haven’t suffered too much from jet lag.

Home Sweet Home.  There is just something so nice about being home.  No matter how much fun we had on our little adventure and how wonderful Australia was ,there truly is no place like home.

The bags are mostly packed but for a few last minute items.  Our passports, boarding passes and other important documents are safely in my purse and ready to go.  Nerves about the long flight and anxiousness to just get home are in full swing.  But, I’m not ready to bid farewell to this place just yet.

We have filled the weeks we’ve spent here with so much.  We’ve seen and done pretty much everything we wanted to.  We squeezed everything we could have out this trip.  We’ve created memories and had experiences that will last us a lifetime.  And yet, somehow, I want more.

Spending as much time as we have in Australia really does make you fall in love, makes you feel at home.  There are things I’ve missed, terribly, about home.  Things like my kitties, my dear friends, my bed, my favorite places in St. Louis, the familiarity that only comes from being home.  But, when I get home there is going to be so much I miss about Australia.  Things like the beautiful song of the Australian Magpie waking me up in the morning, having the ocean so close, the gorgeous tropical vegetation, the wildlife, the adventurous Aussie spirit.

As much as I’d love to stay and continue my Australia adventures, the time has come to head home, back to reality.  As I leave I may shed a tear, and I’ll definitely stare out the airplane window as we fly away from this gorgeous place.  But, I’ll be so happy when I walk through my front door Thursday evening back into my little world that I love so much filled with fond memories of an absolutely incredible experience.

Goodbye, cheerio, hoo-roo Australia.  You have provided me with so many wonderful, fond, incredible memories that will fill my heart and my mind for many, many years.  I can guarantee you that I’ll be back one day because there is so much left to do, so much left to explore.  So, until next time Australia, you’ve been wonderful.

5-29-11 Chillin' on the sand while Lorne and Maya play in the waves [640x480]

The end is nigh, in just 3 days I’ll be on a plane homeward bound.  It was very easy for me to decide what I wanted to do for my very last weekend here in the sunny land Down Under.  Maya and I both wanted to do the one thing that we can’t do any where else, our favorite thing that we’ve done here in Australia, we wanted to cuddle some kangaroos.  And, because what Aussie weekend would be complete without it, we headed back to the beach for one final day of fun in the sun and surf.  It was a weekend about reliving some favorite moments.  A weekend about wrapping it all up in the best way we could think of.  A weekend about saying goodbye to this place we have grown to love very dearly.

Come rain or shine I was determine to pet a kangaroo this weekend.  I knew I couldn’t leave Australia without doing it one last time.  The forecast was calling for a few showers but we headed out to Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin’s zoo) in search for some kangaroo cuddles and a fantastic crocodile show.  We ended up with a beautiful, chilly Queensland autumn day and the rain stayed away.

We caught the crocodile show made famous around the world by Steve Irwin and Animal Planet.

5-28-11 Croc showing off his skills [640x480]

We cuddled as many kangaroos as we could and spent a lot of time with a mummy kangaroo and her “big” little joey who was bravely testing out the outside world.

5-28-11 Maya and the belly scratcher [640x480]

5-28-11 Mum Roo with Joey eating some grass [640x480]

5-28-11 Joey came out to do a little exploring [640x480]

It was a day as magical as it was the first time we did it.  Truly there is nothing quite like getting up close and personal with such an adorable, soft, beautiful animal.  We loved every minute of our time with the roos and will cherish our memories of them for many years to come.

Sunday we weren’t too sure what to do at first.  There were a few different things we were considering but settled on one last day at the beach.  We headed to Main Beach on the Gold Coast for a chilly, breezy day of surf, sand and a bit of sun.  The air temperature and water temperatures weren’t super warm and not many people were in swimming.  Maya braved it with Lorne for a few minutes but spent the majority of the time on the sand.  Lorne and Maya worked on digging a big hole again.  It all ended up being a bit much for Maya and she did something she rarely did as a baby and NEVER does now, she fell asleep on the beach.  She used me as a beach chair and my big belly as a pillow and passed out cold for about an hour.

5-29-11 A cloudy, breezy day at the beach [640x480]

5-29-11 Chillin' on the beach [640x480]

5-29-11 Digging another big hole [640x480]

5-29-11 Maya using Mummy as a beach chair [640x480]

We ended our last hurrah weekend down at our favorite little river front restaurant eating Maya’s all time favorite food, pizza.  Lorne got to enjoy a few beers too.

5-29-11 Pizza Dinner at Boardwalk Bar & Bistro [640x480]

5-28-11 Lorne enjoying his pizza and 3 beers [640x480]

With our last weekend behind us and more memories than we can count tucked away we are getting ready for the journey home.  The bags are slowly being packed and we are gearing up for the big marathon trip home.  Maya and I are excited to be getting home but will miss Lorne and will look forward to him joining us at home in a month.  We’ll also miss our home away from home.  Australia has been good to us.  We’ve done more than we ever imagined possible and will definitely this place when we are gone.