While I’ve had good times catching up with my friends in Leeton, the girls have been making fun memories of their own. They’ve adjusted to wearing shoes to avoid the prickles, they’ve discovered the fun spots in friends’ gardens and have spent time exploring the stashes of toys kept for grandchildren.

Sunset over Fivebough Swamp, Leeton, NSW, October 2013
We're treated to amazing sunsets during our visit. Our friends' house backs onto Fivebough Swamp which reflects the brilliant colours in the sky.

Brioni taking a picture of the sunset, October 2013
Like me, Brioni is excited about taking pictures, and she seeks to capture the sunset before it fades.

Calista and Brioni sit on toadstools, October 2013
One morning, the girls enjoy a picnic snack on a set of toadstools.

While none of the houses we’ve visited during this visit have actually had children living there, they’ve been equipped for grandchildren, and the girls have enjoyed playing with toys again. I’m constantly amazed by the way they can all enter into one imaginary world and create relationships, solve problems and have fun so easily!

Brioni on a scooter, October 2013
Woohoo, it's a lush, irrigated lawn and Brioni's found a scooter to ride!

Lana and Calista playing with toys, October 2013
Lana and Calista look through the boxes of toys kept under the pool table to find the ones that interest them. I love the way this pair play together in so many different settings. They're really good friends!

Aisha eating mulberries, October 2013
One house we visit has a weeping mulberry tree dripping with fruit, and so we snack on it all day long.

Duck on a nest in a tree, October 2013
A duck has made its nest in the low fork of a tree, and we take turns quietly looking at it.

Playing with play dough, October 2013
Dorothy pulls out the play-dough for the the kids to use, and each girl chooses their own colour for their creations.

Playdough people in bed, October 2013
I love Aisha's loving couple in bed (with flowers in a vase beside them). They also have a square magical transporter which they can use to travel to wherever they want to go.

Calista and Lana playing on a tricycle, November 2013
Cali gives Lana a ride on the tricycle. Although she was only riding around on the deck, she quickly learned how to reverse efficiently so they didn't fall off the edges!

While the girls play, I have had many heavy conversations with my Leeton friends. This has been the first time that I’ve been able to chat face-to-face with them since Elijah’s death. They all know and love David, and so our conversations have revolved around the events of June 2012. It’s exhausting, for as I look over the events then and our life now, I’m constantly rubbing away the black and pointing out the brilliance that is shining through.

Yes, I’ve known sadness such as few others have every experienced. But I’ve also grown in compassion as a result. And our life is good; the girls are happy.

These visits — and these conversations, although I am glad to have them — take a lot of energy from me, so I’m thankful the girls have had good places to play and a lot of fun here. I’d like to come back to this area soon — we’re so welcome at the homes here — but I don’t know where we’ll be in a couple of months’ time. I’m trying to not plan our itinerary for 2014 and just see what unfolds.

Now we’re heading south, into Victoria. I hope to spend some time camping in the bush — just as a family — for a little while. It’s nice to be on the road again, it’s good to have options.