Each year I make a calendar for my family…it has all of the birthdays for my large and widespread family marked in so that everyone can remember the dates so as to send birthday wishes from everywhere in the world (okay, mostly Australia except for us).

I have four siblings who in turn have 15 children, seventeen if you count Zach and Sam, plus some of their kids also have kids…so add a further sixteen plus one due in January to the mix, yep the calendar is pretty full!

To say I have a large family is quite the understatement!

The photos that accompany each month of the calendar are all, as you’d expect of Zach and Sam taken over the course of the prior year.  It’s a great way for my family in Australia to keep up with the kids and see them on a regular basis, even if it’s only hanging from a hook in the kitchen.

My first calendar was 2001 when Zach was not quite two years old and Sam yet to be born.  I went through my collection of past calendars recently and reminisced about each of the years, the kids literally growing up before my eyes.

Such beautiful and treasured memories!  Some of them even brought a tear to my eye…  I realize I’m probably a little too sentimental at times, but that’s just who I am.  🙂

So many great photos!

This year for the first time I struggled to find a breadth of photos that would do it justice, albeit only squeaked by with what I was able to find between my iPhone and my regular photo library.

Fortunately this Christmas with the three of us heading down to Australia, I’m thinking that next years calendar will be jam packed with photos of our adventures with my family or in Australia.

It will be the first Christmas that we will be home since the early 2000’s…  Yes, it’s been a while and the kids don’t remember a family Christmas in Australia so it will be awesome!

Sam and I are spending a week with my family in Victoria, although most of the time in and around Ballarat, but also a couple of day trips to Melbourne thrown in for good measure.  The train is the best option for a visit to Melbourne, as you can catch and early morning train from Ballarat and be in Melbourne is just over an hour, dropping you in the center of the city.

After that its either, as my dad would have said “shank’s pony” (walking) or the tram.  Which pretty much takes you everywhere in the city.  Plus, the best part is that the trams are free in the downtown core of the city.  Just hop on or off whenever you want.  Now that’s a sweet system and great for tourists visiting the city.

Zach is spending time with his friend Jess and Tilly who he met when they were on exchange to McGill University and are both from Melbourne.  They live in the inner city and plan on showing him a true Melbourne and providing him with a non family Australian experience.  I know he’s super excited about the trip!

I’ve been able to convince him to join us on Christmas day (Dec 25) and Boxing day (Dec 26) so as to get the full family experience.  Strangely being surrounded by our large and boisterous (to say the least) family is one to the things that they both really love about coming home to Australia.

After that Sam and I are heading to Sydney (yep, we already have our climb booked for the Sydney Harbour Bridge) to explore.  When I booked the Bridge Climb I decided on an early start (7:00 am climb time) so we can observe Sydney waking up and catch the early morning hustle and bustle of the harbour far below us…

We’ll also explore the greater Sydney area, possibly take the Manly ferry and also spend a little time in Bondi (and yes, we’ll definitely will want to swim given the summer heat).

Next on our itinerary we’re off to Mackay in Far North Queensland to discover some of our family roots.  We plan on visiting Mount Morgan to see if we can locate Grandfather’s house of “Glencoe” from the turn of the 20th century.

As well, we want to have a drink or meal at the hotel where my mum and dad met back in the 1950’s.  Yes, it’s still going strong after all these years.  Plus want to see if we can find the sugar cane farm where dad used to work in those days.

Nothing like a little family archeology and anthropology to add a little color and vibrancy to our trip.  The best part for me is that Sam is so into discovering more about our families past.  She’s such a great sport!

Then after that, we’re back down to Canberra so we can visit the Australian War Memorial and learn a little more about my families war service.

Strangely I’ve never visited either Mackay or Canberra so these will be firsts for me as well, and no better companion to do it with than Sam.  It would have been fun to Zach join us, but I know that his urban experience in Melbourne is something that he’s been craving for some time.

Time is ticking and so with only a month to go before we leave we’re all super excited about our trip and spending time with family. 🙂

Until next week!