Australia Day on the beach, January 2011
Today, we indulged in a cultural cliché, joining millions of Australians who flock to the beach to soak up the sun, surf and sand on the last public holiday of summer.

As I’m reading 1788: The Brutal Truth of the First Fleet by David Hill, this year I’m especially aware that Australia’s national day is a dubious date based on ignoble ideals. January 26th is the date that the eleven ships of the First Fleet were finally all anchored in Sydney in 1788. All the ships had previously arrived in Botany Bay on the 20th, but Governor Arthur Phillip insisted on the move north before he allowed disembarkation for settlement.

Out of the fifteen hundred people who spent eight months at sea on route from England, almost 800 were convicts who had been sentenced to seven years’ exile for a range of (usually minor) offenses. And their grand arrival — the start of Anglo-Saxon settlement on this continent — is what Australians commemorate on January 26th!

Picnicking with the Pritchards, January 2011
Last night, we joined the Pritchards at Rainbow Bay. It's really fun being close to all these fantastic beach locations!

David and Aisha, January 2011
The wind coming off the ocean was very chilly — David wrapped Aisha in his jacket to keep her warm. (I love this man!)

Like many others, we didn’t do anything special for Australia Day except embrace it as a legitimate day off work for our friend Jason. Joining with our friends, we set up our own little spot on the south side of Burleigh Heads on Tallebudgera Creek.

Jason collected his son Jacob from the airport — “He’s going to be a Mozzie,” Jason joked — “a Maori Aussie.” Fourteen-year-old Jacob has moved over here from New Zealand and will be living with Jason and Sarah for at least a year. David and Jason took the older kids (Jayke, Jacob and Jess) out on the boogie boards, floating down the creek to the surf and then riding the waves into shore.

Australia Day on the beach, January 2011
We enjoyed a picnic in the shade of the trees and cooled off in the water.

Brioni swimming on Australia, January 2011
A group of happy party-goers lent our girls their blow-up bed to play on.

Australia Day at the beach, January 2011
David took Delaney into the waves with him. By the end of the day, he was also able to coax the older girls to confront the gentle surf while holding his hands.

Delaney on Australia Day, January 2011
At thirteen months, Delaney loves the water and doesn't mind playing in the sand either. She's so easy to please!

Paddleboarding, Australia Day, January 2011
Paddleboarding is becoming more popular here. We've seen quite a few participating in this new sport, and perhaps one day I'll get to try it!

Today was our first real road-test for our new FiveFinger shoes. We found them excellent on the slippery rocks — we weren’t troubled by the sharp mollusc remnants — but mine filled up with sand while David’s were fine. We love their versatility and comfort — I wear mine almost every day.

In the evening, we spent the night outside the Pritchard’s home again, celebrating Australia’s multicultural heritage with Indonesian take-away for dinner. Sarah and Jason were recently inspired by the story of Temple Grandin and shared the film with us.

Diagnosed as autistic at the age of four in 1950, Grandin stayed at home — defying professional opinions that said she needed to be institutionalised — and was supported throughout school and college by her fiercely determined mother. Although she thinks very literally, Grandin learned how to work around her emotional detachment issues. Unable to be touched by even her mother, she invented a squeeze machine that provides a mechanical hug and calms the recipient down.

Grandin became passionate about the humane treatment of cattle before slaughter and studied them extensively before designing curved medicating dips and corrals that produce a calm, measured herd movement.

Grandin was also one of the earliest autism experts who spoke from personal experience. She collaborated on the film — starring Claire Danes — and continues her autism awareness work in the U.S. today.

It’s been great to relax with our like-minded friends. We’re thankful that they’re so close to Brisbane because we know we’ll see them every time we come past our home base!

Brioni and Aisha playing on cars, January 2011
In the morning, the girls loved playing downstairs on some toy cars.

Calista on a scooter, January 2011
Little Calista loved pushing herself along on a scooter.

Calista in a toy car, January 2011
With almost all our toys packed away, the girls love visiting friends and playing with whatever they have on hand.

Sarah holding the rabbit while Calista feeds it, January 2011
Calista gave Edward the rabbit part of a homegrown string bean before eating the rest.

Now we head home again to pack up our truck and trailer for some short trips around southeast Queensland. There are always exciting people to meet, good friends to catch up with and sparkling adventures awaiting each new day!