When I needed to get away from Brisbane for a bit of breathing room, I chose to visit friends who wouldn’t mind taking in our large family with no advance notice. Hellena and Currawong have seven children still living at home — and an eighth currently visiting — and yet they gladly welcomed us into their beautiful space at the intentional community of Billin Cliffs in northern NSW.

Snacking before bed-time at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
On our way south, we stop at one of the farmer's stands by the side of the road and stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables. They make a fabulous bed-time snack as I read a story to the girls.

Calista and Zarrathustra, July 2012
Calista plays with six-month-old Zarrathustra. It's both heart-warming and heart-breaking to be with a baby boy so close to Elijah's age.

Delaney in a wig, July 2012
Delaney finds a wig among the dress-up clothes and laughs with delight.

Green house at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
Hellena and Currawong's house nestles in the Australian bush. It's good to be away from the city for a while.

Aisha, Brioni, Spiral and Lily, July 2012
Our girls soon follow Lily and Spiral around the grounds of the community.

This was our first visit to Billin Cliffs, so I was interested to follow the girls around and see more of the community facilities.

Spiral, Lily and Brioni, July 2012
I love the dirt roads that give the girls room to run — barefoot, of course!

Aisha, Brioni, Spiral and Lily, July 2012
A shallow creek sits at the bottom of the hill, and our girls scramble over the rocks as they try to keep up with their friends.

Communal building at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
Billin Cliffs offers communal spaces for get-togethers and meetings.

Calista and Spiral at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
There's even playground equipment in the shared spaces.

I met some other ladies while our girls were playing at the playground. This was the first time that I received the “all girls?” question, and in providing an answer I choked up. It is so hard to have lost my only son as his absence is magnified by the beautiful abundance of girls that still surround me.

Meeting hall at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
The girls practice their balancing skills in front of the meeting hall.

Brioni, Delaney, Lily and Aisha at Billin Cliffs, July 2012
I love the way our children spontaneously join together to help Delaney balance along the log too.

Our visit at Billin Cliffs was just what I needed to return home refreshed and strengthened. Our girls’ friendships with Lily and Spiral were strengthened, Hellena and Currawong are so supportive (and entertaining!), and I’m so thankful to have them in my life.