One of the best things about being on the road is that we live as a part of a community — temporarily — with a wide number of people and in a vast range of living conditions. Some days we camp with others in the pristine bush, at other times we’re living next door to a couple in a suburban brick-and-tile house.

The Gifted Gypsy parked outside a friend's house in Wodonga, December 2012
When we pull up at a friendly house, it feels like we're temporarily living next door. We have all our belongings — our clothes, food, toys, bedding, etc., on hand, and all we need to do is go out to the bus to access it.

I love the fact that our girls have friendships in a range of ages and demographics. I love that we’re visiting homes in a variety of surroundings and with a range of living conditions. Some families are well-off, and others are financially tight. Some houses are very tidy, and others are comfortably messy. Only a few have been really dirty, and one or two have been un-child-friendly.

When our girls think about what they want to do with their lives — where they want to live, how they want to spend their time, who they want to hang out with — they’ll have the range of experiences from our travels upon which they can make informed decisions. Do they want to live in the country or in the city? Do they want to be with a large group of people or in a more secluded environment? What do they want their living spaces to look at? What possessions are important to them, and which are worth having so they can be shared?

We’ve been visiting a lovely couple in Wodonga over the past two days. Barry and Trish Tiffen have a large home, which they have shared with Trish’s mother and various church and community groups over the past four years. Next week they’ll be moving out, down-sizing to a smaller place. But this week — the last week they’re here at this spacious home with a family-sized pool — we’re visiting with children who love playing in the water!

The girls don’t have a memory of Barry and Trish, although we’ve spent time with them during our past travels and when we were in a home. So earlier this week when I was telling the girls where we were heading, I explained that it was a house with a pool.

As soon as we pulled up at the Tiffens’, the girls were asking to get into the pool. Barry happily obliged — rolling back the pool cover while Trish collected some pool toys — and the girls spent most of the next couple of days in the water.

Barry Tiffen and Aisha in the pool, December 2012
Barry enters into Aisha's game with the pool toys.

Brioni starting a dive, December 2012
Both Brioni and Aisha use this time in the pool to start enthusiastically practising proper dives. Trish gave them a bit of instruction on their technique — which may or may not have lessened the number of belly-flops.

Picnic on the lawn with Trish Tiffen, December 2012
Trish suggests a picnic for dessert, and we take our treats out onto the lawn.

Barry Tiffen playing on the floor with Brioni and Aisha, December 2012
Barry and the girls devise a new game of skittles with some wooden blocks. Cleverly, Baz has integrated some counting into the game by arranging the blocks in numerical order.

Barry Tiffen and Calista pretending to be asleep, December 2012
In one game, Barry and Calista pretend to be asleep until Cali crows like a rooster to signal it's morningtime.

Sitting down at an evening meal with the Tiffens, December 2012
It's been a treat to sit down as a large family for the evening meal — somewhat of a novelty for our family!

Somehow, the girls didn’t ever get used to Barry and Trish’s names. It may have been confusing because I sometimes called Barry “Baz” or “Bazza” and Trish “Nanny” like her own grandchildren do. Even after a couple days, we adults laughed to ourselves when we heard the girls refer to Barry as “that man”.

It was really good for me to return to the company of those who know David and me well. Barry and Trish have been an encouragement to us for so many years — back in 1997 they hosted my hen’s party before our wedding! More recently, the Tiffens came to Elijah’s unfuneral and have continued to support me in very real ways.

I am thankful that although I am now a single mama, I have wonderful men in my life from whom the girls can receive appropriate attention and love. Barry is one such man, and I’m thankful for the time he has invested in the girls during our visit. I would love to live next door to the Tiffens — well, maybe just for a week or two — and it’ll be interesting to see where they end up in the future!