There are four kids on the field playing

It’s a hard life. But does it need to be? The expectations we place on ourselves — what we believe are the best outcomes for our children, the most successful marriage, the most gratifying career, the optimum health and fitness programs, the most stylish homes etc — these things are all so changeable, and only a matter of the opinions of those around us.

This is what the old phrase means, “keeping up with the Joneses.” We feel SO MUCH PRESSURE to be who society tells us is the best version of ourselves. Stressed and ambitious as we are, we may not realize that these standards are often impossible to reach. As the song goes, “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?” Perhaps trying to capture and maintain these ideals is stopping you from enjoying what you have here and now. An obvious point of struggle for many is that we tie our happiness and success to our wealth. Let me tell you a story…

This past Easter, we had my in-laws and 4-year-old nephew visit us from New Zealand. Ordinarily, when Mum and Dad Duxfield come, they’re delighted to just hang out with us and our three children at home, as long as they can visit the beach at least once to expose their very white skin to the sun and sand. But little Rory was on his first Australian tour, and had big ideas about hopping with kangaroos and swimming with crocodiles.

When the week was over and the family returned home, I reflected on our adventures, and how much money it had cost us. It’s important to note that it rained every single day they were here. What could we do with four adults and four small children in a tiny house for six rainy days?!

Day 1. Lake Eden

The morning was mercifully sunny, and we headed out early to Lake Eden, North Lakes. The whole family was amazed and delighted by all the Australian wildlife, and the children spent hours chatting to turtles, spotting pelicans, hunting for eels, and chasing bearded dragons. We’d packed morning tea, which we enjoyed at the playground, surrounded by birds, dragons, and people with dogs. The excitement was only heightened by the long windy paths and wooden bridges.

Mmmmm....can you smell the fresh air??

Everyone was happily exhausted.

Day 2. At Home

Rainy days can be fun in the right company! Wet sandpits, puddles and umbrellas, and hunting for skinks took up the morning hours. Playing in tents, baking hot crossed buns, exploring kinetic sand, putting on a concert, and board games took up the rest of the day! It’s definitely good to actually have things that you do put away “for a rainy day,” and stay two steps ahead of the kids so they don’t have time to get bored.

Day 3. Walkabout Creek

Another wet day, but, feeling optimistic because it was only raining on and off, we packed a picnic and went to Walkabout Creek, The Gap. After a drive and a short bushwalk, we arrived at the creek, set up our picnic, and jumped in the water.

Personally, I thought it was FREEZING in, but the Kiwis and the kids thought it was delightful! We swam, chased turkeys, caught frogs, drank coffee, and nibbled from our picnic platter. Yes, we definitely got rained on, but we were wet anyway!!

Day 4. Church

Being Easter Sunday, our church hosted a fantastic celebration for this very special day. Surrounded by friends, we enjoyed special food, music, an inspirational message, and the definite highlight for my kids was the petting zoo. Mind you, the chocolate and the zoo were special for Easter, the rest is just our usual Sunday!

Day 5. Ma and Pa’s House

When you’re married, it’s really special if both sets of parents actually WANT to get together. Hence, we spent Easter Monday at my parents’ home. They love to spend their free time cultivating their beautiful garden, so that meant we were in the perfect place for a grade A Easter egg hunt! The kids had to forage for eggs in gumboots with umbrellas, but I believe this only enhanced the fun. We had a brief interlude from scoffing chocolate and bouncing wildly on the trampoline to go and fulfil my promise to my nephew – to see some kangaroos.

Sometimes, I have to say, I make a really good call. I decided that paying hundreds of dollars to drag 4 children with tiny little legs around Australia Zoo in the rain was NOT going to be a good call. So, I reached out to my local Facebook community, and asked where we could definitely see kangaroos outside of a zoo.

As it turned out, there is a vacant paddock SPITTING DISTANCE from my parent’s house, where the roos gather every afternoon at dusk. I’ll admit, I was nervous after promising the children we going to see kangaroos. I mean, what if I couldn't deliver the goods? What if the roos decided not to be in that paddock on this particular rainy afternoon?? They’re wild animals! But sure enough, there they were, whole families of them (complete with a joey poking its head of mum’s pouch!) seemingly waiting for our arrival. I couldn’t have asked for better, and the only disappointment I heard from my nephew was when we said it was time to say goodnight to his new oddly-shaped friends.

Day 6. Shorncliffe Pier

Another rainy day, so we might as well get wet! Shorncliffe is a beautiful place, with shallow waters, twisty climbing trees, hundreds of delightful sea creatures to be found, and a giant sandy playground. We took eat-on-the-go food, and left everything we didn’t want to get wet in the car. This was my nephew’s first beach experience, and he thought it was marvellous. We were wet, cold, worn-out, and wonderfully content.

There are four kids climbing a tree along the beach
(Photo taken on a different day...a sunny one!)

How much does Joy cost?

Six full days of joy, love, adventure, new experiences, laughter, and fellowship. Our picnics were made up of home-baked goodies, nuts, fruits, home-brewed coffee, and other bits I had all from my usual grocery shop. Our outings were all close enough to home that our weekly petrol budget didn’t suffer. Somehow, we’d had a beautiful week, kept everyone entertained and fed, had many adventures, and we didn’t spend a cent.

I’ll be honest, though I’m naturally frugal, I didn’t plan it this way. I simply thought, “How can we make the most of these days?” We had discussed going to different zoos, cinemas, restaurants, indoor play centres, and shopping malls. And I believed that each of those options would require many dollars, include much struggle, minimalize face-to-face interaction, and only MAYBE end up being worth the effort.

When you’re entertaining, (or even just in your personal “Insta-life”), do you feel like you have to spend big, go far, and sacrifice much, just to try to impress? When did we lose sight of true joy, and the beauty of simplicity? Life doesn’t always need to be the struggle we make it, and those around us can be very impressed by our joy in making a little go a long way. And in the end, isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Joy! You can’t ATTAIN joy, you can only CHOOSE it.

“The moon belongs to everyone; the best things in life are free.”

Melody Duxfield is a homeschooling mother of three. She and her husband Karl live in the north of Brisbane. Melody runs a home massage therapy business, Kneaded Relief, and writes family and wellness blogs that reflect her passion for God, family, and natural health.

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