Ever wonder what it would be like to pick up and move to a different hemisphere? I’m not talking about just after college when you were foot-loose and fancy-free, but moving with four kids and husband. Meet Christie and her family who did just that. Shop along with her. Walk with her and her kids to school on a beautiful fall day. (That’s right, they are transitioning from fall to winter while we transition from spring to summer.) Peek into her “Life Down Under.”
Here is “A Day in the Life of a Down Under Mum.”
Hello! My name is Christie, and I have been living in Melbourne, Australia for the past two years with my husband Ross and our four children aged five to thirteen. I am excited to contribute a post for My Whit’s End as I have greatly enjoyed the humor, creativity, and inspiration on the pages of this blog over the past year. Please join me for a typical day in our Australian adventure. I have chosen a Monday, if only to add an element of interest to what is usually an unexciting day.
5:55am My alarm provides an unpleasant start to the week. I choose to go back to sleep knowing I will regret it later. It has taken me nearly a year, but I have finally resigned myself to the need to get up early when children must be to a school building on time. Except for today that is.
6:25am I stumble to the kitchen and turn on the kettle to make coffee. Coffee is serious business in Melbourne. We discovered this on our first visit. Still I was shocked when Ross rang me from Costco a couple of months later. He wanted to know if he should buy the $700 or the $1500 coffee maker. I quickly replied neither. We could make do with a French press I told him. We did eventually purchase a Nespresso machine as well, but I still start every day with a cup of coffee brewed in the plunger, or Bodum, as they are called down here.
One of the things I miss most in Australia is Half and Half for my coffee. There is no equivalent on the shelves, and no combination of the available creams and milks tastes anything like the American version. After visiting Singapore I discovered that canned evaporated milk goes nicely with very strong coffee. So that is what I use, and now I quite like it.
While waiting for the coffee, I unload the dishwasher. Then I take my coffee to the dining room and turn on the fire in preparation for answering the questions in my study booklet on 1st and 2nd Timothy. I go to the ladies’ Bible study at our church on Monday mornings, and as usual, I have left the questions for the last minute.
6:40 Sophie, my early riser, joins me on the couch for a cuddle, then goes off to tackle her tangled hair. She insists on doing it herself every morning.
7:10 I get dressed, collect dirty laundry, and survey the piles in the laundry room. I estimate at least five loads await me today, and that is before collecting sheets and towels. I’m not sure how this can be as I just did laundry on Saturday. No time to protest however. I throw in a load. The quick load setting for cottons takes 70 minutes, and this isn’t even an energy efficient model.
7:25 I quickly make a panful of fried eggs and put bread in the toaster. This is what Sophie and I consume while Katie chooses yogurt and frozen berries. I also heat up Heinz Country Chicken soup for Sophie’s thermos. Sadly she prefers this version to my homemade chicken and noodle soup, but since Ross enjoys buying it for her, I don’t resist. Father and daughter make a powerful combination. The boys are sleeping in this morning, but I hear them beginning to stir.
7:38 We head to the car, and I back it out of the garage. Katie has not reappeared from her bedroom, so I go back inside and chase her up.
7:41 As we wait for our fellow carpooler, neighbor, and good friend of Katie’s to join us in the car, I take a few photos, including one of our gps. Knowing my complete lack of navigational skills, Ross had this installed for me, and it has truly been a lifesaver. Driving in Melbourne, on the left side of the road from the right side of the car, is difficult enough without having to think about directions. On this morning’s school run, I will have to thread my way through parked cars, navigate roundabouts, and watch out for train crossings, trams, bikers, and buses as well as dozens of pedestrians.
It is a beautiful morning, and I am finally starting to feel awake and ready for the day.
8:05 I drop the girls off at Presbyterian Ladies College, and point the car toward home, where the boys are eating breakfast, packing lunches, and getting their backpacks ready.
8:20 I check that the boys are properly dressed, carry the dirty dishes from the table to the sink, hang the first load of washing on the drying rack, start the second, and hunt down a missing school jumper (pullover sweater) for James.
8:35 The boys leave on their respective forms of wheeled transportation while I follow behind on foot. They are soon far ahead, especially after I stop for some photos.
8:50 There is a buzz in the prep classrooms (prep is the equivalent of American kindergarten) as today is the day of a big excursion to the Melbourne Museum. I help James sort out his reader bag, water bottle, lunch, and name tag, and then hang around the edge of the classroom. The prep teacher has her students start every day seated in a circle at her feet. She initiates the morning routine with “Good morning beautiful preps!” They respond in unison, “Good morning beautiful Mrs. Cummings.” It is very sweet. I noticed the use of the term gorgeous in Australia to refer to character rather than physical appearance early on in our adventure here, and I would say that beautiful is used in a similar manner.
9:00 Normally on a Monday at this time I would be starting a 3.5 mile walk with my neighbor, friend, and partner in crime Gillian. Moving can be a lonely business, particularly to the other side of the earth, but one good friend makes all the difference in the world. Gillian has become that friend for me, going so far as to help me organize an American Thanksgiving dinner for 75 people last November, and for that I am grateful beyond words. We are not walking today, but I will include a picture taken yesterday of my favorite part of the walk because it is such a beautiful time of year.
Since I am not walking, I chat with a handful of other mums while we wait for our preps to board the bus. Melbourne doesn’t have big yellow school buses. Children either walk, take public transportation, or are driven to school by their parents. A few ride chartered private buses such as the one pictured below.
I get a lump in my throat seeing my littlest guy board such a big bus without me, and then I walk back home again.
9:20 I have been up for three hours and so am well and truly ready for a second breakfast. Fortunately I have my favorite full cream blueberry yogurt in the fridge, which I top off with what looks to me like bird food. Gillian has convinced me it is healthy, and will keep me from constantly feeling hungry. It’s also time for a second coffee.
9:30 I have just enough time before Bible Study to: a) call family back in North America before they go to bed; b) clean up the kitchen; or c) finish a blog post that I started a few days ago. I opt for the latter because it is more fun than dishes, plus it will communicate with several people at one time.
10:05 I begin walking to our church after hanging out another load of laundry. I’m somewhat late, but there is still time for a cuppa and a chat with the other women before we get down to doing our study. The preferred beverage in this group is instant coffee, which I drink only when there is absolutely no other option, so I choose tea instead.
12:20 Back home again. The dirty dishes have not magically disappeared, and the laundry room is beckoning, but I am starving again, so decide to ignore them both. I am reheating pumpkin soup that I made last week. Pumpkin is very popular in Melbourne. It is almost always served as a savory dish, either roasted in chunks and added to salads, or pureed and made into soup. There are at least three types of pumpkins available at the grocery store, but I have found the Kent pumpkins make the best soup. Last week I roasted the pumpkin in a hot oven, peeled it, and then combined it with chicken broth and thickened cream. Yum, especially on a cool autumn day.
While I am eating lunch, I open my computer to prepare for a parents’ association meeting at the girls’ school tomorrow night. Because I have a hard time saying no to friends, I agreed to serve as secretary of the Senior School Parent Association. Mostly I regret this decision, but it has given me the opportunity to spend time with the staff and get to know a handful of parents. I also call the doctor and make an appointment for our son Cameron. The three older children had the flu last week, and his throat is still bothering him.
1:00pm Time for a third coffee, and then I start the beef stew for tonight’s dinner. Last time I was at the grocery store, I purchased a soup starter pack that looked intriguing. I have hidden it from the children so they do not know ahead of time that there will be unusual vegetables in their stew. I also hang up the third load of laundry and start the fourth.
Once the vegetables are peeled and simmering, I have just enough time to clean up the kitchen before driving to pick up Cameron in time for his 2pm appointment. He is very happy to miss the last hour and a half of classtime. The doctor takes a quick look at his swollen tonsils, and decides Cameron does not need antibiotics, so at least we avoid a trip to the pharmacy. When we get home, I run upstairs where the girls’ bedrooms are located and find every single light on and the bathroom fan running. Clearly they are not getting the message about conserving energy.
2:45pm I walk three blocks to our local grocery store to pick up fresh rolls to accompany tonight’s stew. Melbourne has fantastic bakeries, so I rarely bake at home these days. I also thought you might like to see a few pictures of a food store since there are some interesting differences to those found in North America.
Floral bouquets are big business here, and generally a required item to carry along if you are invited to someone’s house.
I had to take a photo of the vegemite displayof course. It is unanimously despised in our household. We still have our original jar. Apparently it keeps forever, so I am not too worried about it. I may add some into our stew tonight for the salt component, but if I do, I won’t tell anyone.
3:25pm As I’m walking to pick James up from school, I note the horrible traffic and am very glad to not be behind the wheel of a car. In the schoolyard, one of James’s mates comes bursting out the door to tell me that James has been crowned prince of the week. This means he gets to take home Paddington the Bear, along with other special privileges. The first thing James does at home is take Paddington for a bike ride. I end up in the laundry room again, where I decide to throw the fourth load of laundry in the dryer as there is no more hanging space and leave the fifth load for tomorrow. Cameron practices the piano while I chat with James and get ready for an afternoon of swimming lessons and squad training.
4:15 Sophie is dropped off by our neighbor, and we jump in the car for James’s 4:30 swimming lesson. Cameron has training from 5pm to 6:15, so I decide we will all stay put at the swim center for the duration. While the kids swim I periodically read my latest book, Please Understand Meand field text messages from Katie who is staying after school and riding the tram home on her own. Texting is a big change in my life down under. I never texted before moving here, but it is the primary form of communication in Melbourne, so I have had to become proficient. As it becomes dark, I begin to worry. Katie has put her phone on silent and is no longer responding to my texts or calls. She has in fact arrived home and begun to do her homework, but I don’t know that as we are still at the swimming pool.
Here’s a picture of a tram, common transportation for high school age children in Melbourne:
6:30 Home again. I stir the stew, pop the rolls in the oven, and scold Katie for not checking her phone. She gets upset, and we have a few words. I also realize that a fifth load of laundry is inevitable with the dirty wet towels, so I start both that and the dishwasher.
6:50 Ross surprises us by arriving home earlier than normal. This means we can eat dinner together on a school night, something that does not happen all that often. The kids are all starving, which makes for a relatively quiet meal. There are no comments about the rutabaga and the turnip. Ross and I exchanged winks when Sophie refers to one of them as a piece of potato. He reads to the children from the book of Esther while they eat oranges for dessert. Doing the dishes is a mostly family affair, but I tackle the final cleanup of the kitchen.
7:30 The house is quiet again as Sophie and Katie are finishing homework, Cameron is reading, and James is hanging out with his very favorite person in the world, his dad. I jump into the shower. Afterward Sophie and I read Inkheart out loud together. Katie practices the flute, and Ross tucks James into bed.
8:30 I spend some time with Cameron and Sophie as they head off to bed. Ross decides to walk to Coles for more fruit and a few items for the pantry. Thankfully I remember the wet towels in the washing machine. They are thrown into the dryer, but I decide to skip unloading and reloading the dishwasher. Katie and I have a chat now that we have both calmed down from our earlier discussion. I remind her that I love her and was upset because I was concerned for her safety. She gives me a hug, and we both turn in for the night.
9:00 Ross returns from Coles, and we have a brief chat about the day. I try to read but am soon sound asleep, exhausted, as you probably are as well if you have managed to accompany me this far on my Monday in Melbourne. Thanks for coming along!
A Day in the Life of a Down Under Mom. Admit it, you loved the school uniforms!! Especially the school uniform on the girl in freckles!!! Christie’s blog is fun to follow. You can swim the Great Barrier Reef with her family, or buy a didgeridoo, or learn some Australian phrases. Join her and her family in their Plunge Down Under.
Now if you have any questions or comments, please write them in the comments section. It is always fun hearing from you. Christie will be able to respond to them. Or just say a G’day.
And stay tuned for the next post in the series of “A Day in the Life of a Canadian Farm Gal.”
And remember, any typos and misspelled words are holy my fault.
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