Toowoomba {a mini holiday}

What a fun week this one was! David let me know a couple months ago that he was required to attend a Rural Generalist Conference at the beginning of July, and wondered if his girls would enjoy coming along as well. With accomodation and meals provided for and the anticipation of exploring a new town and enjoying some restful time as a family, we were all for it! It came at a perfect time: David had just finished his medicine rotation at Nambour, and the long hours meant very little time to see each other and stay tuned to the other’s life. The baby was no longer a newborn, and I felt like I was coming out of that postnatal fog: well-adjusted to our new routine and more confident with the idea of venturing out further than home, the park and the grocery store with two little ones in tow. We’d also had a busy weekend helping out with and attending the wedding of some dear friends of ours, so couldn’t wait to be in our own little bubble for a while.

Toowoomba, as a tourist destination, has never been on my radar. It’s 31/2 hours away, quite far from the coast, and I’d always assumed it would be bogan, dry, and void of aesthetically pleasing landscape. I was wrong! We loved our drive through the flat, very-Australian farmland on our way there and the windmills and barns scattered along the horizon. We were surprised when the area began to turn rather hilly, and we wound around a mountain to get to our destination on top. Suddenly, we were there, in what felt like a little transplant from Europe: a place with wide streets, deciduous trees, iron lamp-posts, and ancient buildings.

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This town clock was just across the road from our hotel, and I loved hearing every hour chime by!

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First stop on our afternoon walk after checking in, since all good trips should start with fresh flowers for the hotel room!

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One of the highlights for me was just enjoying the quiet of our little apartment, sitting on the floor with our stacks of books + wooden puzzles.

  {Day Two} Our farm tour was cancelled due to sickness, so we spent the day walking all over town, and relaxing in the beautiful Queen Park’s playground and botanical gardens. The gardens boasted nothing flamboyant at this stage, as all the flowers were only in seedling stage, but The Carnival of Flowers is happening there in September, and rumour has it that it’s well worth it to return then, when everything is in its Springtime glory.

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Foraging a collection for daddy.

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Cottage-lined street next to the gardens. Toowoomba’s so full of whimsy!

{Day Three} Since David was to be at meetings every day we were there, I scouted around online beforehand, looking for fun ideas to fill our days. I came across Paddock to Potager, and as soon as I read about baby chicks, piglets and bottle-fed lambs, I knew it’d make Kezia’s day. It was only about 20 minutes away, and the farm tour was supposed to last for a couple hours, so it was the perfect day trip for us.

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I was smitten as soon as we turned onto a bumpy, red-dirt road, braked to let a family of ducks cross in front of us, and passed these handwritten signs.

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My country with it’s comfortable, familiar landscape: the land that I love.

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The farm is owned by a young family, and the lady on site did an incredible job of showing us around, making everyone comfortable, and interacting with the young children. I loved the rustic originality of the property filled with their own creative touches, including my favourite, the old barn in the middle of the property that they’ve filled with tables, chairs, games and afternoon tea supplies.

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For practical reasons, we’ve never been able to live in the country since marrying and having children, so I love finding ways to bring little aspects of the natural world into our little urban life. One of my favourite things in this day was just watching my little girl in her element, confident and void of any fear whatsoever: chasing geese and unabashedly sidling up to saddleback pigs five times her size and patting them on the udders. I love how she throws herself fully into everything she does!

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These little piglets were only two days old and were ridiculously adorable!

IMG_7436Our day was nicely polished off with a picnic lunch, with people scattered across the barn and in little circles on the grass. It was the most beautiful day to be outdoors and I was reminded all over again why I love Queensland and the majestically mild winters she prides herself in.

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And, of course, no day at a farm is complete without a little electric fence drama! One of my earliest memories as a child is playing with my friends in the church yard, which neighboured a cow paddock. I think we were trying to pick some flowers through the fence and I grabbed hold of the wire to stabilise myself. I still vividly remember that horrid, dizzying feeling that rocked my whole body, and the way my friends rushed my bawling self to my parents, where I told my story with huge eyes and descriptive motions.

Most of the fencing at the farm we were at was quite harmless, except for one little live wire that ran along close to the ground to keep the little piglets from escaping. It all happened so quickly: Kezia squatted down on the ground to get a closer look at the animals, and just as her mama did those many years ago, she grabbed the wire when she lost her balance for a bit. There was an immediate squeal and a wild flapping of the arms as she ran to me with tears, frantically asking me to kiss it better. It was only a very mild shock and she quickly got over it without being too traumatised, but the funny thing is that I had the hardest time convincing her of what had happened. There was a row of children tightly pressed around her when it happened, and she kept repeating through her tears, “Mama! That little boy slapped my hand!” Eventually she understood, once I squatted down next to her and explained how it had all happened and how the fence helped to keep the piglets inside. To this day, a couple weeks later, she warily eyes anything remotely resembling that offending wire and says seriously, “Remember? Dat fence zipped me!”

{Day Four} David attended the last of his lectures the previous evening, which meant we were able to spend all morning together as a family. We made use of the continental breakfast and warm, bubbling spa before checking out of our place at 10:00. We weren’t quite finished exploring the area yet, so went down the road to the amazing attic at the Lifeline Bookshop, and lost ourselves there for well over an hour. We emerged with a large stack of cheap, quality childrens’ books, and any parent who is used to reading the same books over and over again will fully understand why this was just as momentous and exciting for us as it was for Kezia!

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We explored the beautiful Japanese gardens next to the University, and decided with renewed fervour that a return visit is certainly imperative once Spring makes an appearance.

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We concluded our trip with lunch at a salad bar, and then packed our tired little girls into the car for the 4-hour trip to our evening church service and then home. We are rather happy that we have two children that are generally happy in their carseats, as long as the car is in motion. They slept nearly the entire way! That meant we got to enjoy a long, in-car date and alternated between enjoying the peaceful quiet, listening to a new audiobook, chatting about many things, exclaiming over the incredible scenery we drove through at Golden Hour’s peak, and contentedly thanking God for that perfect little spell of rest.

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a chocolate cherry cake + the man who won my heart.

“Who was that?” we asked as mama said a merry good-bye and put the phone back on the desk.

“You know that young man that’s been in contact with daddy about church? He called to ask if it’s alright to visit tomorrow.”

We listened attentively to her response, then peppered her with questions. What did he sound like? What was his background? How old was he? Did he have an accent? What did she think about him? We were, after all, the Five Kauffman Girls, void of little to no male acquaintances in our circles, and ever agog when a new one came into existence.

Our little chapel was packed the next morning: it was the day my two sisters were getting baptised. A number of visitors were present, and as I walked to my seat, I remember seeing the back of someone dark with black hair and assuming that he was “that new guy.”

We had a shorter-than-normal service, and then loaded congregants and food into vehicles to drive to the rock pools at Mothar Mountain for the baptism. I chatted with numerous people that afternoon- a circle of girls here, a romanian grandma there, a child over there. At one point, the aforementioned visiting man and I were in the same circle of chatting friends and found out a few things about the other. I found it pleasing to learn that he played the cello, a favourite instrument of mine. He, a passionate linguist, found it fascinating that I was rather jaggedly translating a conversation for one of our visitors.

His name was David, and he came back to our place for the evening, bearing with him a delicious looking cake with layers of sponge, pudding, cherries, dark chocolate, and cream. The man baked! I, one who loved to cook and savour any manner of food, was significantly impressed. We all enjoyed a slice and made our rounds of exclamations. His company was relished all evening, and at one point when he needed to run down to his car for something, daddy turned to us with that ever-familiar smirk that he uses when he’s thoroughly impressed but likes to cover up the fact with a teasing remark. “Well girls, he’d make a fiiiiiiine son-in-law one day!”

We got to know each other reasonably well over the next five months, though all married couples would tritely insert here a comment here about really not knowing each other at all.

The night was June 28, 2012. Bible study was over, and we were all sprawled over the couches, reading and snacking, putting books down to chat every few minutes. David was a regular visitor by this stage, and we loved having him around. He was so normal and so interesting, my little brothers adored him, and he felt like a big brother to my sisters. I was quite smitten by this stage, but the millenial question that will forever haunt the mind of a woman with a crush haunted me then: how can I tell if these feelings are reciprocated?

He had his own book, likely a concordance or dictionary. I remember glancing at him occasionally and thinking that something weighty must be on his mind: he kept turning pages but was staring off into the distance.

Meanwhile, the evening was fast derailing from the one he had envisioned. Did these girls always stay up so late? Was there ever going to be a chance to catch her alone? Rumour had it that I awoke early before everyone else, and there had been visions of sneaking out at sunrise to talk with me on the veranda. But as the clock ticked closer to midnight, he realised the unlikelihood of my alarm staying set for 5:00.  After a time, we suddenly remembered that we had a job rostered on for the morning, and all arose to cast books aside and scatter to our showers and respective rooms.

I was sharing my room with a sister that night, her’s being turned into the guest room. I retired there, and as I was waiting for the shower to be free, started folding a basket of laundry to pass the time. I thought David had already gone to bed, but then! The sound of footsteps. He walked past the open doorway and on to the bathroom, or so I thought, till he stopped and the sound of footsteps again gradually came nearer.

He knocked on the door frame, and I glanced up, already aware of who was there.

“I’ve been trying to catch you alone. Can I talk to you for just a minute?”

He was just slightly inside the door now, and I went to him.

“Can we just step out into the hallway to talk?”

He thought I was being ever-prudent one; the woman who, God forbid! should talk to a man in her bedroom. Little did he know that I was just trying to move out of the sight of a sister who was not yet asleep in my bed, huddled around the corner with huge eyes and a blanket to hide her mouth agape with incredulity. I was trying not to laugh because I knew he didn’t know she was there, but mostly I was trying to process what he was saying behind the ka-boom of my heart in my ears. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what he said or asked me. I remember words about Poland and how he knew I was going overseas. Words about praying and his dad encouraging him to talk to me anyways. Words about the kind of woman I was. All I remember was a fragment from his last sentence,

“….have however long you need to think about it, and if you then feel like you could love me and see yourself with me, you can be assured that I will be here waiting for you when you get home.”

The rest is blurred. There was more, I know.  A gleeful whisper of “David! I’ve been praying for this to happen!” Watching his eyes light up. Seeing his shaking hands. We talked for a few minutes, deciding to leave further dialogue for the morning after he talked to my daddy.

He had scarcely gone to his room, when I jumped back into mine, and there was Janae, a jack-in-the-box form that sprung from my bed, our eyes and mouths competing with each other for width. We became one tumbling pile of giggles and blankets on the bed. I hyperventilated into the sheets while she alternated between muffling her gasps and clutching my arm. “Carolyn, did that FOR REAL just happen?”

Two sisters emerged from other rooms. They had been showering and were completely oblivious to any prospect of romance in the near future, much less a proposition from the man himself on that very night. We shrieked their names in high-pitched whispers, and they joined the party, where we all laughed wildly as quietly as we could, cried a little, and then all crept down the hallway together to go wake up the remaining sister.

I was on a roll now, and couldn’t help it. I bounced into mama and daddy’s room too. They stared with wrinkled foreheads and bleary eyes at the clock and the red numbers of 1:00 projecting from it. They hugged me and chuckled over the story with the kind of chuckle that only perceptive parents have. The kind that said “Yay! But we knew this would happen sooner or later.”

That was June 28, 2012. It is now five years, a whole lot of happiness, and two pretty girls later. I am wooed every day by the one I get to call mine. He tackles the backed-up dishes, tickles the babies, and rubs my shoulders after a long evening of hosting. We’ve known immense joys and unwanted sorrows. We’ve changed together, grown together. We share a comfortable companionship now, my favourite thing about our marriage. And he still makes those cakes: layers moist and intricate; their delectableness impossible to replicate. And every time I have a bite, I remember that long-ago day with the fondest of feelings, and tell myself that there really is no wonder I was smitten by that visiting man.

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Portrait of an Evening

Journal Excerpt, Family Holiday, June 4

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“It is the third day of winter. The days are warm enough to blush the skin and the nights cool enough to warrant slippers and steaming mugs. Oh Queensland, your beauty! It is golden hour and the shadowy green lawns are strewn with yellow highlights as the sun ducks beneath the horizon. The eucalyptus trees are glimmering and the afternoon is a symphony of bird-song, colour and water rushing over river rocks. Around me, voices hum and chat. There is the loud chewing of pretzels and the slurping of chocolate milk. Here, two people sit with foreheads wrinkled in concentration over ColorKu, and there a little brother whoops over the discovery of another fish in the creek. My little girls are napping: one, hair and legs strewn over pillow and bed, those dear lips slightly parted in heavy, peaceful breathing, having finally succumbed to holding still enough to shut her eyes. The other is tucked up onto my chest. Her soft breath is warm and puts goosebumps on my skin chilled by twilight. Three little boys kick a ball down the hill, the birds are chirping good-nights and the cows in the neighbouring pasture mosey slowly along the fence towards home. The french-press has been brewed now and an array of hot teas are fanned across the table. Mama just brought me a blanket for my legs and the dying sun is level with my face. There is talk of a campfire and the inevitable s’mores, and we all know that a proper holiday requires all participating members to be doused in the scent of wood-smoke. I relish the gift of this moment, this grace of rest and renewal. The country is God’s place, I’m sure. I feel His presence especially much now, but I think I’m just finally quiet enough to be aware. I whisper a prayer now, a longing for refreshment and a new vision: “Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation!”IMG_6799

 

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Weekend: Noosa, Belmondo’s Organic Market + Boreen Point

So, number 27 on my bucket list, if I would have a number twenty-seven, would be “Photo-journal my way through the Sunshine Coast.” There are several fantasy occupations that have always rotated through my dreams: midwifery, photojournalism, and attending culinary school. I’m crossing my fingers that all three of these will one day become reality, and as for this photo thing, while I’m not a photographer by any stretch of the imagination, I love recording those tiny moments that make my eyes sparkle and saving them to later re-live the memories already faded.

We’re living on the Sunshine Coast for at least a year, while David does his year of internship at the local hospitals. Before our move, this felt like a dream (so close to family! Ten minutes from the beach! Endless things and places to see and eat and hike!) But, as happens to all places that slowly become ones’ home, it became simply that: home, not a tourist destination.

Now, as the months wind down and I am able to move out of the obligatory housebound days of all things newborn, I can’t wait to explore, see this slice of our world, and then leave, feeling like we made the absolute most out of our time here. Yesterday my sister and I rolled out a big sheet of brown paper to hang on a spare wall: a to-tackle list full of lookouts to look at and mountains to climb and waterfalls to see and coffee to drink. We’ll be checking them off one at a time, and a few of the haunts might show up here.

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Last Saturday, Heidi took me out for the day to celebrate the next day’s birthday. It wasn’t a bright day with a blue sky as we had formerly hoped, but when all four of us were buckled into the car (this, as it happens, is a rather large feat) and rain pattered on the windshield while the wipers worked vigilantly to clear it away, we decided there could be nothing more perfect than clouds and rain showers. It lasted just long enough to make our road trip cosy, then the sky cleared and we were able to stroll around town with the sun in our faces.

First on the agenda: digging for treasures in a couple op shops and feeding a screaming baby in the car before breaking at Padre Coffee Roastery:

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Places that serve coffee, freshly-roasted and ground on the premises and presented in bowls instead of lousy small mugs, always get an automatic five stars.

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After coffee, we spent the rest of the morning just around the corner at Belmondo’s Organic Centre, a sweet little marketplace with a bulk food section, sourdough bakery, deli, fruit + veg shop, florist, roastery, and so many local products: gifts, pottery, cheeses, etc.

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Because of the afternoon’s choice of weather, we didn’t get to go on the walk through the National Park like we wanted to, so the photos below are from a few months ago when we went to the same place. Noosa is a favourite spot (extra special of course since it’s where we had our first date and where we spent the day of our engagement!) but it can be very crowded and touristy and a nightmare as far as parking is concerned. The Great Walk through Noosa’s National Park is only a short drive away from the main street, but so quiet, peaceful, and definitely worth checking out if you are in the area anyhow and tired of crowds!

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We went as far as Hell’s Gates: there are gorgeous views of the cliffs and spectacular ocean views on both sides. Note: only the first little bit of the track is paved/wheelchair-accessible/pram-friendly: the rest is sandy or brushy, so only suitable to do on foot. 

IMG_4823Did I say spectacular views? The ocean behind him was pretty nice too! Also, how was she so liitttle?

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The day had a spectacular finish. David met us in Noosa after work, armed with a quilted blanket and wicker picnic basket. Kezia went home with Heidi in his car, and the two of us + baby headed out for the evening to Boreen Point, a little section off of Lake Cootharaba.

photo5Boreen Point at sunset. The temptation to trespass onto this private jetty and have our picnic there was pretty strong. 

We arrived just as the sun was slipping behind the mountains. The air was still and fresh, hardly anybody was in sight, and the only sounds were tired birds and the mini waves licking the sand.

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After we finished our little picnic and watched the last of the day’s light die ahead us, David took me just around the corner to the Boreen Point Pub, an old building that once resided in Gympie, was cut in half, and transported south to be restored and put to use again. I loved it: the building sat on a hill, with gnarly trees to the side and a vast lawn sloping down the front. All the tables were scattered along the open verandas and under the trees, and it was so fun to sit there with the typical big plates of pub food, listening to the locals chatting around us with their broad accents and friendly demeanours. The whole area had such an old-town, Aussie-outback feel and we loved it. Apparently they have fantastic Sunday lunches there also, with pigs on the spit and up to 300 people spilling across the premises. Live music plays and the adults eat pork and chat at the tables outside while all the kids play in the yard. What fun!

There was one thing I loved most of all that day.  Intimate dates made of fancy restaurants, deep talks, and the stereotypical romance are rarely in the picture right now with a dependent three-month-old who does not care for noise, crowds, late evenings, or God forbid, going an hour without milk. But you know, this is a good kind of different. Out there in the country, after we ordered our food, Ela had a meltdown, induced by a busy day and no proper naps. David took her from me, put her in the baby carrier, and walked back and forth across the lawn and up and down the street to settle her to sleep while I sat there at the table, my heart at rest and basking in romances far greater than goblets or fancy menus and polished crowds. I stared out into the dark where I could just make out the silhouetted form of my husband, bouncing, patting, swaying, walking. The man I love caring for and singing to our child while my heart surged with gratitude for this stage of our lives and for the father of these children. That was what I loved most that day.

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All in the Day of a Toddler: Jesus Talk

It started last week, when she found the hardcover edition of The Passion of the Christ, settled onto the couch and paged through it slowly, pure face etched with concern as she ran fingers down the images of wounds and blood. I noticed what she was looking at and contemplated the fact, usually reluctant for such graphic images to be in the hands of my not-yet-two-year-old. Then, she patted the pictured face gently and said quietly,

“There Jesus. It’s okay Jesus. I’ll kiss it better now.”

Since then, she’s been mesmerised by His death and what it means. We’ve gone through our stack of Bible storybooks time and time again, paging through them slowly. She listens with wide eyes as I simplify the words for her and paraphrase the passages for her understanding.

Yesterday morning, she awoke after several fitful, restless cries, and I went in to hug the bundle of fuzzy pajamas and tempestuous bed hair to myself.

“Mama, I’m scawed!”
“What are you scared about sweetie?”
“Jesus! He’s a bit sad! Does He feel betta now?”
“Did you have a dream about Jesus?”
“Yeah! Jesus cry a bit! But He’s betta now.”

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All throughout the day, she kept her favourite book tucked under her arm and followed me around, asking to talk some more about Jesus and inserting applicable comments about Him into every snack and toy and colouring page. We sat often, her begging for more details, and me, searching my mind and vocabulary for details she could understand: the nails, the cross, the grave, the three days, the stone that rolled away, the facts of living again and going to heaven.

“Jesus in heaven now! Isn’t that cute mama?” And then I faced an unexpected paradox when she cried and crumpled onto the floor because she couldn’t go to heaven as well right there and then.

I am overwhelmed often. Not so much by the normal messes or new attitudes or pre-nap grumpiness, but by the fact that I am responsible for not just a child, but her eternal soul. She stares at me, brown eyes wide with interest and wonder, mouth slightly ajar as her little mind absorbs like a sponge the words I speak to her. She makes innocent statements that deserve acknowledgement and asks questions that make me bite the inside of my cheek till an answer is rapidly secured. Yesterday, I didn’t always have an answer, just a feeling of love so fierce that it physically hurt as it welled up inside, and a sense of urgent care for this tender little heart I’m supposed to shepherd. Yesterday, I didn’t always have an answer, but could only bury my face in those downy curls and whisper desperately to Jesus that I didn’t know how to tell her about Him, but could He please let her love and know Him in wilder, deeper ways than I ever knew?

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