After a leisurely start, Thursday turned into a crazy run-around day.

After waking up Aisha for the adventure, David and I had taken her to the bus station with us very late on Wednesday night to pick up Manou and bring her back to our place. When the girls woke up in the morning, they were delighted to find Manou with us, ready to play and read books.

We spent the morning talking with Manou about our options for her stay. We decided to go to Easterfest — the biggest Christian music event in Australia — on the weekend and purchased our tickets online. Manou would stay home and look after all three girls for us so we could have the weekend away to ourselves.

Following the natural line of conversations, David explained how his last visit to New Zealand almost one year ago had transpired and how he had met some fantastic people there. We recently received a phone call from one of them, who encouraged David to keep persevering with the house renovations so we are free from this millstone and able to relocate.

In an off-hand manner, David asked me to look up flights to New Zealand to see how expensive they were. Well, they’re cheap at the moment, so after a hasty consultation with Manou, we decided to fly across the Tasman with Aisha for a quick visit to the community at “Whangaroa Harbour“http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&ll=-35.098419,173.774444&spn=0.187638,0.300751&z=12.

But, oops, my passport expired in 2005 and, oh yes, Aisha hasn’t got a passport either! My morning was already booked with swimming lessons, so I had to take the girls into town for those, and my afternoon contained a dental appointment. It was crazy to think we could get everything done!

Immediately after swimming, I took the girls to a photo place get their passport photos. Although we only needed my and Aisha’s passports in a hurry, we decided to fill in the paperwork for the other two girls so this situation wouldn’t happen again and all four passports would expire at the same time.

The photo regulations for an Australian passport are quite strict — no smiling, the head has to be within certain measurements and the mouth has to be closed. It was very difficult to get Calista to close her mouth until I dug in my handbag and found a tiny bit of a breath mint (3 years old and fuzzy from lint) to stick in her mouth and give her something to suck on. Aisha concentrated so hard on keeping her mouth closed that she looks quite sad.

Lauren, Brioni, Aisha and Calista's passport photos, April 2009
I kept these photos on me for the weekend away and were able to show friends what our girls looked like.

After we rushed home to give the girls lunch, I had to fill in all four passport application forms, which David then had to take next door for our neighbour to witness and testify that she knew the person in each photo. At the same time, I frantically packed my bag for the weekend.

It was wonderful to have Manou to help with the girls at the photo place and during lunchtime as David and I rushed around trying to get everything done. After our time together in Western Australia — especially our trip to Wave Rock — the girls know and love Manou and responded really well to her care and love.

At 1 pm, we were ready to go. David and I said goodbye to the girls and headed off in the truck for the centre of Brisbane. While David was driving, I kept filling in the forms, discovering that although our neighbour had partially filled in one form (and I had to duplicate it across the other three), she had neglected to write down her date of birth. So I called her up and asked her. Thank God she was home!

We ran into the main post office to lodge the passport forms, only to discover that the post office employee wouldn’t witness our signatures (“conflict of interest”). I grabbed a friendly-looking passerby and asked her to witness our parental signatures on the girls’ forms. We then started lodging the forms, but the delay in finding a witness and waiting in line in the busiest post office on the Thursday afternoon before a four-day weekend meant that it wasn’t until almost 2 pm that we were served.

I managed to get my passport form successfully lodged so I could run three blocks across town for my 2 pm dentist appointment. David stayed at the PO and finished up with the girls’ forms, paying a premium so Aisha and I receive our passports in time to make our flight to New Zealand on Friday! Eek! With this long weekend and Monday also a public holiday, we’re really cutting it short.

After my appointment, David and I drove west out of the city to Toowoomba — the Garden City. Toowoomba is perched at a higher altitude on the edge of the Great Dividing Range which runs down the east coast of Australia. Consequently, it enjoys four full seasons of the year, unlike subtropical Brisbane — only one and a half hours’ drive away.

So we drove out of the muggy city heat and up into the mountains to meet the evening chill. I had known that we would be chilly, so I had packed plenty of warm clothes, but we lacked warm hats and bought beanies later in the evening to help keep us warm.

David I planned to sleep in the truck, but we purchased camping passes for Easterfest so we could gain early entry to see the Paul Colman Trio warm-up concert. PC3 split up in 2005 when Paul pursued a solo career, but the festival organisers had persuaded them to get back together just for this weekend.

We are big fans. We’ve been to many of their concerts and one of Paul’s solo performances. Their style is mostly pub rock. (Sorry, I don’t know what the American equivalent is.)

Easterfest, April 2009
The Paul Colman Trio are Grant Norsworthy (left on bass), guest guitarist Adam Lester (centre left), Paul Colman (centre right) and Phil Gaudion (right on drums).

Because the concert was at 6 pm on the evening before the festival officially started, not many people had arrived. The group performed in a smallish tent to an enthusiastic audience, and we were _very close to the stage. We met up with some friends from our church, and danced through the concert. I became frustrated with the people standing up the front and stood on my chair for most of the songs.

Easterfest, April 2009
The Zs joined us for the first concert of the festival.

Lauren + Paul Colman, April 2009
After the show, I managed to coax Paul Colman to pose for a photo with me. I don't think my smile could get any broader.

Easterfest, April 2009
After the concert, we just chilled out in the tent for a while.

It was nice to have someone to hang out with. (David and I get quite bored with our own company after a while.)

Easterfest, April 2009
Then we went back to the Zs' tent for some fresh prawns.

Easterfest, April 2009
The Zs have a prawn farm, and these prawns were alive this morning, cooked quickly and then put in a styrofoam box with ice to keep them fresh for the weekend.

The prawns were amazing. If you haven’t had fresh prawns, you just don’t know how good they are. David and I aren’t big seafood fans, but after having some of the Zs’ prawns, we’re converted — but snobby. Only the best will do.

By the time we returned to the truck to sleep, a mist had descended over the camping grounds. It was fabulous to sleep on a proper bed within the truck, knowing that we would stay warm and dry and wouldn’t be woken up by noisy camping neighbours in the morning!

Easterfest, April 2009
Tent City: Hundreds of tents were set up on the grass for the thousands of festival-goers.