My Lizzy’s growing up

Two milestone things from this week that I don’t want to forget…when these 2 years seem a blur of the past.

She’s attempting to spell. Any guesses as to what she jotted down, below? Hint: it’s what she wanted to take on a nature walk.

I love fuhneticul spelling!

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And she’s just started doing this.

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Turns out that the important how-you-tie-your-shoes conversation didn’t come up during Scott and my pre-married counseling. Not so long ago I realized he doesn’t chase the bunny around the burrow like I do.

And by watching, she’s tying her shoes. Just like Scott. (Sobering to think about all she’s absorbing by watching at this sponge-like age. Thank You, Jesus, for grace in this role as a mom!) Editor’s note: She doesn’t have genius tendencies as much as I’d hoped. 😛 I just learned that Scott’s totally been working with her every day. I had no idea! 

Each time she ties them she gives me a serious mini-talk about how I’m not to get too excited when she does it. But a little bit excited is ok.

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School starts Down Under!

Sunday launched us Bentleys into a new normal.

 

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Scott and I sat together during church for only the 2nd time in 18 months. I have a newfound appreciation of what I’ve taken for granted so often before having kids.

Our church, like most Aussie churches, doesn’t offer any options for children under 3, so Scott and I have been taking turns in a back room with him for all these months.

But Sunday–oh blessed Sunday!–Sunday school resumed for the new school year (it’s late summer here and school’s now starting) and Joshua’s 3 so can finally go to class with the big kids and Mrs. Taylor!

But the really big day was today.

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A beautiful morning to walk the 14 minutes to the preschool. Lizzy has 15 hours a week (two 6-hour days and one 3-hour day). Joshua has 7 hours a week (two 3.5-hour days). Tuesdays is the one day when both kids overlap being in school in the mornings and I’m still in unbelief of this sweet season of life we’re in. Lizzy’s gained such confidence in the last year since being in 3-year-old kinder and is so much healthier than last year. And Joshua, wait, isn’t this the little guy who screamed and screamed because all his words were stuck for so long? Thank you, Lord, for speech therapy and your grace. And now he’s so excited to be big and join Lizzy in this new world of school. 

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Lizzy’s day starts at 8:30am and Joshua starts at 8:45am (their class rooms are right next to each other). We got Lizzy checked in and then went to check in Joshua.
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Every child got to pick out their hook for their backpack and for their towel in the bathroom. Not a surprise that Joshua’s picture for the year is a train.
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We’re so excited that Joshua gets to enjoy kinder with our sweet next door neighbor!

a year ago today

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A year ago this morning, our little family put our feet on Australia soil, er concrete, for the first time. Oh, the range of emotions I have on this anniversary!

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I have this picture, above, in our bedroom and the kids love looking at it, picking out faces. Thank you, friends who came to send us off before we and our 17(?) bags headed to the Land of Tomorrow. What community we have in Orlando and often long for.

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Oh, that was a hard goodbye for my heart at the airport.

And that flight. Whew! We’d lost some hearing, we’re sure, with Joshua’s screaming for a huge chunk of the trip. Can I say thank you again to all you who signed up and prayed for us to get here in one piece and with our sanity still in tact? It was hard but–holy cow–it’d have been a complete disaster had people not been praying. Thank you. (How far Joshua and his speech has come in a year!)

It’s wild to read about our first day in Australia. I’m hoping for some time to be quiet and journal and pray and listen to what God might say to my heart as I think about this past year.

a short getaway

What do Americans do on a cold 4th of July in Australia? Take a 24-hour, no phones or computers getaway! Pack up a car boot (trunk) to the maximum with sheets, towels and food (nearest grocery store 30-45 min away from our destination).

Then, take a nap, and drive 2 hours to a friend’s vacant house.

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I sent this picture to my mom and she put to words what I hadn't been able to: the difference between winter here and in Lincoln, Ne is that winter is green here. I've been too busy being girl-out-of-Florida cold to realize that. It pretty much doesn't freeze here, so that means trees and grass can still be seen in color.
I sent this picture to my mom and she put to words what I hadn’t been able to: the difference between winter here (now) and in Lincoln, Ne is that winter is green here. It pretty much doesn’t freeze here, so that means trees and grass can still be seen in color. (There are hills/mountains within a few hours that get snow and skiers, though, I’m told.)
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Our friends’ house, self-named the “Nut House” — a fun gathering place for their kids and grandkids when they’re not kind and allowing new friends like us to getaway there. We were hoping to spot kangaroos at the end of the street as they like to gather there, but…alas, not this time.
The challenge portion of the 24 hours came in 2 parts: getting a fire started in the fireplace (read: sole place of heat for the house) and making dinner after the chicken broth never made it into the car. As for the fire, Scott was the man in figuring that out (cheers from us). As for dinner, let's just say I got creative with making my white chicken chili. I decided to knock on doors to see about landing some broth. After patting myself on the back for my meet-the-neighbors/don't-have-to-drive-forver-to-store when a sweet grandma 2 doors down handed me a cube. I realized my self-kudos was to be short-lived as I ground it between my fingers into the chili and suddenly -- thankfully only 1/3 of it used -- realized it was dark brown and not at all smelling of chicken.  Not to bow to failure, I threw in a packet of instant chicken noodle soup I found in the pantry (fished out all the noodles I could and used the seasoning). White chicken chili...with a hint of beef and noodles, anyone?
The challenge portion of the 24 hours came in 2 parts: getting a fire started in the fireplace (read: sole place of heat for the house) and making dinner after the chicken broth never made it into the car. As for the fire, Scott was the man in figuring that out (cheers from us). As for dinner, let’s just say I got creative with making my white chicken chili. I decided to knock on doors to see about landing some broth. After patting myself on the back for my meet-the-neighbors/don’t-have-to-drive-forver-to-store when a sweet grandma 2 doors down handed me a cube, I realized my self-kudos was to be short-lived as I ground it between my fingers into the chili and suddenly — thankfully only 1/3 of it used — realized it was dark brown and not at all smelling of chicken. Not to bow to failure, I threw in a packet of instant chicken noodle soup I found in the pantry (fished out all the noodles I could and used the seasoning). White chicken chili…with a hint of beef and noodles, anyone? Turned out quite edible, especially slathered in sour cream, tortilla chips, coriander (cilantro) & fresh lime juice
Kids enjoyed their first trundle-bed slumber party. We were pleasantly surprised they fell asleep fast.
Kids enjoyed their first trundle-bed slumber party. We were pleasantly surprised they fell asleep fast.
You know you're in Australia when this is the hot-drink bar at someone's house. I'm forever spoiled.
You know you’re in Australia when this is the hot-drink bar at someone’s house. I’m forever spoiled.
A highlight for me was the fireside date Scott and I got after kids went to bed. Mesmerizing flames with a warmth and smell hard to find elsewhere.
A highlight for me was the fireside date Scott and I got after kids went to bed. Mesmerizing flames with a warmth and smell hard to find elsewhere.
We have a new Hungry Hippos fan. She'll even play by herself.
We have a new Hungry Hippos fan. She’ll even play by herself.
On the way home, we found a Greek restaurant and ordered our new favorite meal: slovlaki (shaved kabab meat, usually lamb), greek salad, chips (fries, not so Greek) and calamari rings (don't tell the kids--I'm pretty sure they just assumed they were onion rings).
On the way home, we found a Greek restaurant and ordered our new favorite meal: souvlaki (shaved kabab meat, usually lamb), greek salad, pitas, sauces, skewered fried goat cheese, chips (fries, not so Greek) and calamari rings (don’t tell the kids–I’m pretty sure they just assumed they were onion rings).
Tomato sauce (ketchup) usually provided by request and for an additional cost.
Tomato sauce (ketchup) usually provided by request and for an additional cost.
Thanks, Brian & Christine!
Thanks, Brian & Christine!

P.S. I’m heading in Wed at 11:15am (Tuesday 9:15pm EST) for a follow-up ultrasound to make sure I’m healing well from the miscarriage and that nothing’s left inside that might cause infection.

speaking at MOPS today…about being brave

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In a handful of hours, I get to speak at MOPS about being brave. I’m excited and nervous and anticipating what God has. Would you join me in praying that the women would see Jesus…and that we’d have a laughter-and-sweat-filled journey in the hour together?

I’ve only been to this MOPS once. But the leader, Jane, quickly became a dear friend. The kind that, if she lived next door, I’d find lots of reasons to knock. She knew I taught Jazzercise and so asked if I’d be one of their monthly speakers during 2015 — their year with a theme of “Be Brave.” I get 30 minutes to talk and then we get 30 minutes to dance. (I’m pretty sure we have sound system but not sure about a mic. Mom, thanks for birthing me with an outside voice. Again, it comes in handy.)

So I get an hour and I already have dry-mouth thinking about how I’ll talk too fast and, at times, try too hard to be funny as I tell about my unlikely journey to become a certified fitness instructor and God’s sense of humor in it all. How fun it will be to be to witness some women risking a bit, on the edge of their comfort zone as they put on runners (workout shoes) and we dance and sweat…and, before they know it, they’ve worked out for the first time since before kids.

My love of tennis is rekindled at the Australian Open

The plan was just to go into the City to celebrate Australia Day with the masses. We’d wear our Aussie t-shirts, (skipping the thongs — see below), wave flags, enjoy the train ride into and back, and eat a snag or two (sausages).

We never expected to sit 9 rows up from an Australian Open 4th round match.

Off to downtown Melbourne for big Australia Day picnic/free festivities.
Off to downtown Melbourne for big Australia Day picnic/free festivities. (Note we’re wearing jackets — and it’s Australian summer. So odd.) Riding into the City, we passed by where the Open was being played and said to the Lord that I’d sure love to go watch. Was there any wild way He’d provide a way to do that? But I said it and forgot it.
Australia Day celebrates the
Australia Day celebrates the marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales (current day Sydney harbor). The parade was a beautifully-visual reminder of the many, many peoples and nations that now call Australia home.
Just one of the numerous words that don't translate quite the same between Australia and the U.S.
Just one of the numerous words that don’t translate quite the same between Australia and the U.S.
Nope, no idea.
Nope, no idea.
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After the parade, I asked Scott what he’d think of us taking the free tram to where the Open was being played, just to take a few pictures. He said sure, so we took the 10 minute ride. Since we were there, we inquired at the ticket counter about cost for general admission. They said it’d be $40AUD ($32US) each (kids were free). We stepped out of line and I thought we’d go. Scott surprised me by saying, “You played tennis and love it. When might you get this chance again? Let’s do it.” As I was amidst a surprised reply, a man walked up to us and said, “Do you need tickets?” Um…what? The man and his friends were just coming out the exit, evidently having watched some of the game but leaving. “How many tickets do you need? They’re still playing. A great game.” “Two tickets is all we’d need,” I faltered, in a bit of shock, my prayer coming back to mind. (And internally I’m jumping up and down and screaming.) The man handed us two tickets, we thanked him excitedly and started to walk away. I walked quickly back after him, and thanked him again, telling him about how I’d prayed for a way to see the game and that God used him to bring that about. He probably thought I was crazy, but I wanted to give God praise for the lavish gift He gave this high school varsity (of 1 year) tennis player.

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Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, is last year's Australian Open men's single's winner...and just happened to be one of the players playing. We're cheering for Stan as I write, as he's playing in the semi-finals. Go Stan!
Stan Wawrinka, of Switzerland, is last year’s Australian Open men’s single’s winner and ranked #4 in the world…and just happened to be one of the players playing that day. Tonight as I blog right now, we’re cheering for Stan as he’s playing in the semi-finals. Go Stan!
A huge board displaying the pictures of last year's single's winners (Stan is over Joshua's shoulder) and the brackets of this year's Open and who's won and moving on.
A huge board displaying the pictures of last year’s single’s winners (Stan is in the left corner) and the brackets of this year’s Open and who’s won and moving on.
What a day! We assured Lizzy that God doesn't always say "yes" when we pray, asking Him for something. Sometimes He says "maybe," "wait," or "no." But, I'll sure celebrate the "yes" times like this!
What a day! We assured Lizzy that God doesn’t always say “yes” when we pray, asking Him for something. Sometimes He says “maybe,” “wait,” or “no.” But, I’ll sure celebrate the “yes” times like this!

our first Christmas in the southern hemisphere

Coming from Orlando, a hot Christmas wasn’t the shocker it could have been. But it was still different. Quieter.

A few things played into that. One was a daily Advent time our family enjoyed. Because it was simple and Lizzy especially loved it, we slipped into the morning ritual and stayed there. My heart is thankful for the built-in turn-my-face-to-Jesus time.

Another reason it was quiet was that we weren’t rushing to finish Christmas shopping and packing in order to catch a flight to the Midwest.

And…it seemed that most everyone around (including neighbors and their cars) evaporate, and with it, the daily noise.

A few photos (most for family back home) of what life has looked like recently.

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Making Nana's famous sugar cookies...with ingredients we could find here. Turned out more brittle, but eat them in one bit and -- shazam! -- no crumble issue!
Making Nana’s famous sugar cookies…with ingredients we could find here. Turned out more brittle, but eat them in one bite and — shazam! — no crumble issue!
The nearby shopping center where a shoe store seems to pop up overnight in the middle of an aisle.
The nearby shopping center where a shoe store seems to pop up overnight in the middle of an aisle.
Not an infrequent site here, but ironic to see at the shopping center during a season that much of the world celebrates Jesus -- the only God who can save. Oh, how I long for Aussies to know Him!
Not an infrequent sight here, but ironic to see at the shopping center during a season that much of the world celebrates Jesus — the only God who can save. Oh, how I long for Aussies to know Him!
While Christmas shopping one day, the kids and I found a great coffee shop with a reserved area (no joke!) for families and free "babycinos."
While Christmas shopping one day, the kids and I found a great coffee shop with a reserved area (no joke!) for families and free “babycinos” (a small milk drink with chocolate sprinkles and marshmallow, if you’re lucky).
Speaking of shopping centers, American mommies out there are gonna be jealous. No, the kids aren't making their one and only phone call from jail. It's the family toilet (restroom). Unreal. There are nursing stalls wtih curtains, a tiny toilet for little people and this play area you can basically corral your kid(s) in while you tend your other kid(s).  If I never come home, you'll know why. I'll be in the curtained room sipping my latte.
Speaking of shopping centers, American mommies out there are gonna be jealous. No, the kids aren’t making their one and only phone call from jail. It’s the family toilet (restroom). Unreal. There are nursing stalls with curtains, a tiny toilet for little people and this play area you can basically corral your kid(s) in while you tend your other kid(s). If I never come home, you’ll know why. I’ll be in the curtained room sipping my latte.
We enjoyed a great Christmas morning as the Bentley 4, opening gifts and skyping with both sets of grandparents.
We enjoyed a great Christmas morning as the Bentley 4, opening gifts and skyping with both sets of grandparents and Uncle Chad.
Safety first.
Safety first.
We were adopted into Allan & Mandy family (Cru's national director in Australia) for Christmas Day lunch and afternoon. Thank you, Gibsons!
We were adopted by Allan & Mandy (Cru’s national director in Australia) for Christmas Day lunch and afternoon. Thank you, Gibsons!
Because Christmas falls during the heat of summer down here, Christmas lunch is usually cold salads, seafood or something on the BBQ (grill). Allans made a delicious spread!
Because Christmas falls during the heat of summer down here, Christmas lunch is usually cold salads, seafood or something on the BBQ (grill). Gibsons made a delicious spread!
We brought dessert, a pavlova. I think I did a cultural faux paus in using spray whipped cream instead of cream-you-whip but our hosts were very gracious. Probably didn't hurt that it still turned out yummy!
We brought an Aussie dessert, a pavlova. I think I did a cultural faux paus in using spray whipped cream instead of cream-you-whip but our hosts were very gracious. Probably didn’t hurt that it still turned out yummy!

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I used some Christmas gift money to buy running shoes. Yes, Jess Cole, I'm running. And I'm as surprised as anyone else. The whole country seems to shut down and take holiday (vacation) from December 23-January 5 and since that included Jazzercise, I knew I needed to do something for the 2+ weeks. So, Scott and I decided that since he was off from the office during that time (the office also closed) that he'd bike for 30 minutes each morning and I'd run for 30 minutes, swapping being at home with kids. We've really loved it as it's been a great way to start the day. But, as much as I've loved it, I've missed the all-body workout Jazzercise is with the strength training as well. Looking forward to going back tomorrow to teach my 2nd class!
I used some Christmas gift money to buy running shoes. Yes, Jess Cole, I’m running. And I’m as surprised as anyone else. The whole country seems to shut down and take holiday (vacation) from December 23-January 5 and since that included Jazzercise, I knew I needed to do something for the 2+ weeks. So, Scott and I decided that since he was off from the office during that time (the office also closed) that he’d bike for 30 minutes each morning and I’d run for 30 minutes, swapping being at home with kids. We’ve really loved it as it’s been a great way to start the day. But, as much as I’ve loved it, I’ve missed the all-body workout Jazzercise is with the strength training as well. Looking forward to going back tomorrow to teach my 2nd class!
View from my run.
View from my run.
Beauty drawn by God through the paintbrush of a snail.
Beauty drawn by God through the paintbrush of a snail. A common sight.
We brainstormed a list of things we wanted to do as a family over the Christmas break to make it special. Enjoying a BBQ and biking in a local park was one day.
We brainstormed a list of things we wanted to do as a family over the Christmas break to make it special. Enjoying a BBQ and biking in a local park was one day.
I will miss these great BBQs (grills) that are at nearby
These great built-in-propane BBQs (grills) are at every park we’ve been to.
Drove 30 minutes to cash in on a Groupon I'd bought for a kids' jump place only to remember I live in Australia -- the country that shuts down for 2 weeks.
Drove 30 minutes to cash in on a Groupon I’d bought for a kids’ jump place only to remember I live in Australia — the country that shuts down for 2 weeks.
The kids got their first board game from their cousins and it's been fun watching Lizzy learn how to play (and how to not be a sore loser). Scott remembers it as "Cooties" (obviously no longer politically correct nor market-savvy) so it's now called "Beetle." Any one else remember playing?
The kids got their first board game from their cousins and it’s been fun watching Lizzy learn how to play (and how to not be a sore loser). Scott remembers it as “Cooties” (obviously no longer politically correct nor market-savvy) so it’s now called “Beetle.” Any one else remember playing?
Cheered for the Huskers (and then Iowa this past Saturday).
Cheered for the Huskers (and then Iowa this past Saturday).
Tomorrow marks the end to the holiday and back to work on Tuesday. I've been thankful for the slower pace and some significant things I feel like the Lord impressed on my heart during a few hours last week Scott gave me to get away alone.
Tomorrow (Monday) marks the end to the holiday, Joshua’s 2nd birthday, and then back to work on Tuesday. I’ve been thankful for the slower pace and some significant things I feel like the Lord impressed on my heart during a few hours last week Scott gave me to get away alone.

And, to be honest, it’s been a spiritually dry time lately.

This international move has, honestly, exposed my heart. I’m seeing how, under stress and without some of the structure of life and community in Orlando, I can run to all sorts of things that don’t bring life, but bring comfort…at least for the moment. Or two. Emotional eating rears its head again as if saying, “Eat this, drink this and feeling lonesome will be abated.” Yet I know that it’s a temporary fix and that seeking Jesus and asking Him to comfort me in those moments when I miss America and the friends and family and my known life…that’s where to run.

I’m also exposed in how I use my time. When I should go to bed, I’m on Facebook, grasping at feeling connected in two worlds. When I should get up — I want to want to get up and spend quiet moments reading the Bible and hearing truth and the voice of Jesus, but the sheets stay pulled stubbornly over my head. And when I should be all-present with my kids, I’m allowing myself to be under the pile of a to-do list that never ends. (Wait, I thought that was just my problem in America. I guess the problem followed me here. Oh, is it me?)

Sigh. The stillness of this Christmas season has been a gift in many ways and hard in others.

Afresh I see my need for Immanuel. The God who “moved into the neighborhood” as the Message says. The God who came and lived and loved perfectly because we couldn’t. God made flesh who came to bring abundant life to a woman in Melbourne who longs to live out the freedom He came to give her. I’d welcome your prayers.

Time to go to choose sleep so that, by God’s grace, I may choose time with Him in a few short hours.