Greg and I first met in August 1990 near Airlie Beach in the Whitsundays, Qld, the place I call home. Greg was at the start of a working holiday around Oz having left his wheatbelt home of Cunderdin, WA a few months beforehand. After a bit of shaky start, we soon hit it off and within a few months Greg had relocated from Mackay so we could be closer to each other and before long we were living together. Over the next few years, life revolved around friends, fishing & boating and 4 wheel driving after we bought our first 4WD and a couple of boats.
We took work where we could get it and eventually started our own small, part time business and although life was pretty good, we soon realised that the high cost of living and minimal wages in the area were stifling our future. So the decision was made to relocate to WA to make a fresh start and reunite Greg with his family. Ironically though, this meant I would be leaving my family and we would both say goodbye to some great friends.
We married in Oct 1994 and within a few weeks had packed up everything we owned including the dog, sold the business and the 4WD and hit the road for WA. We had a bit of a honeymoon on the way, arriving in time for Christmas and after looking around, chose the coastal resort town of Mandurah as our new home.
Determined to make a real go of our fresh start, we both studied full-time for the next 2 years whilst working nights and early mornings to support ourselves. They say school years are the best time of your life and we certainly enjoyed that period, the freedoms of not working full-time and made some lasting friendships. But alas, all good things come to an end and eventually it was back to work.
Now we had a little more money in our pockets, one of the first things we did was buy another 4WD, an old Shorty in need of a lot of TLC. It was certainly a rough old unit but we had a lot fun in it and spent as much time as we could spare exploring the regions around Perth. And for the first time since 1994, I finally caught up with most of my family at a family wedding in the Hunter Valley, NSW.
In Apr 1998, through my employer, Greg and I were offered the management of a relatively new hotel resort in Darwin. The challenge of the job, the chance to get back to the tropics, our wanderlust and the pull of the Territory made the decision easy and within weeks we packed up everything again, left the dog with the relies, sold the Shorty and headed up to Darwin.
We settled in quickly, bought another 4WD, this time a Mitsubishi Pajero and joined the Top End 4WD Club. Managing the hotel and living on site was 24/7 and although we found it difficult to get away, we did manage to squeeze in some great trips and explore much of the Top End. We made some good friends through the club and really enjoyed Darwin’s relaxed, laid back lifestyle. However, after 12 months in the hotel, we were ready to call it quits and it was with some sadness that we headed back to Mandurah, but we took our time getting there spending a month around the Kimberley and NW coast of WA.
Over the next few years we set about consolidating our careers, bought our first home and an offroad campertrailer and travelled when we could. We had a flying visit home to Airlie Beach in July 2000 as a result of a health scare with Dad, but spent most of our time in Townsville and Mackay. At this point, we were seriously considering moving back to Qld and considered either of these two cities viable options, so we spent some time checking out real estate and the job market. However, it was obvious that most of my family was intending to drift away from Qld towards the southern states so in the end, it didn’t seem like a smart thing to do.
At this time, I was really missing having my family around and Dad’s health scare had put the wind up me, so it must have been fate when we learned only weeks later that we were soon going to have a family of our own. Matthew Charles was born on 10 April 2001 after a relatively easy labour. However, just to keep us on our toes, the little munchkin needed some emergency surgery and was sent to Princess Margaret Hospital for Children in Perth. Needless to say, this hadn’t been in the plan but he came through with flying colours and with no ongoing problems so we forgave him for it and eventually took him home where he quickly set about turning our lives upside down.
We’ve kept pretty busy since then…adjusting to life as parents and after going back to work (from home) for a brief period my employer went into receivership and I was made redundant. Since I was still officially on maternity leave this didn’t have an immediate effect but was disappointing nonetheless. We took a trip to the Pilbara, introducing Matty to the joys of camping at only 4½ months of age, traded the Pajero in on a Patrol, Greg ruptured a disc in his back and spent 2 months in bed and in agony and had corrective surgery only days before we all boarded a plane for Melbourne so we could spend Christmas with my family, now in Wodonga. In the New Year we both went back to work, me to a new job, shifted into a new home and then after having first decided to keep the old place as an investment, changed our minds and spent every spare moment for 3 weeks renovating and sprucing it up for sale. Thankfully it didn’t take long to sell in the booming market so we didn’t suffer too much associated stress and then we finally managed to get a week away with the campertrailer to the Geraldton region. We had a nice time on this trip but were frustrated by some major shortcomings with the camper as far as being suitable for a family, so during the recent Perth 4WD Show, we went the big spend and ordered a new, bigger and more suitable offroad camper which we took delivery of in late Dec ’02. Phew…did I say we’d been busy?
Anyway, stay tuned for future updates. We fully intend for 2003 to be a whole lot more relaxing than 2001/02 and have no major plans except for some upcoming trips including the south coast to Esperance after Christmas, an Easter trip (don’t know where yet) and hopefully the Gibb River Road with the new campertrailer in mid 2003.
We were hoping for a much more relaxed year in 2003 but so far this hasn’t been the case. Early in the year we learned that Matty’s hearing wasn’t too good which resulted in him needing to have grommets put in his ears. Luckily, these had the immediate effect of restoring his hearing and pretty soon he started talking up a storm.
As if he hasn’t copped enough bad luck, a short time later he developed a squint which turned out to be caused by him being slightly long-sighted. Glasses were immediately prescribed (which after some trying times he is now surprisingly good about wearing) and we kept our fingers crossed that they would correct his squint. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be so about 10 weeks ago he had corrective surgery. Odds of the surgery being a success were about 90/10 and naturally Matty fell into the 10% so he’ll have to have the operation all over again which is terrible because it is a really nasty one.
Seems like the poor kid has inherited his mum’s bad ears and his dad’s bad eyes. At 2½ years of age he’s already racked up 6 hospital admissions and 3 operations. Luckily none of it’s too serious and despite this dubious record he is a really active, happy-go-lucky kid who’s growing up so fast it’s hard to believe.
Anyway, due to work commitments and Matty’s ops, we had to postpone our planned trip to the Kimberley but we still managed to squeeze in two shorter trips – one tracing the Holland Track & Cave Hill Woodlines and recently a trip to Ningaloo. Both of these trips we enjoyed immensely but as always way too short!
And the big news is that we are expecting another addition to our family in February so things don’t look like slowing down for us for quite awhile yet!
The later part of 2003 was pretty quiet with most of our activities centring around work and preparing for the arrival of our baby. We gave up our home office, turning it into a "big boys" room for Matty, thus freeing up the nursery and our concern that Matthew would feel as if he'd been ousted in favour of the baby turned out to be unfounded as he absolutely loves his new room. The other big change for him was that we pulled him out of daycare except for one day a week when Melissa officially started maternity leave just prior to Christmas. Unofficially though Melissa is still working a small number of hours part-time from home.
Apart from a weekend trip close to home, our only other trip was short break over the New Year. No bush camping for us this time though. With Melissa's advanced pregnancy we decided to stick close to civilisation so booked into a caravan park in Busselton and had a very different kind of holiday for us doing all the touristy things, visiting the wineries and dining out. Although we had a nice time, everywhere was extremely busy and we found ourselves longing for a quieter, more remote getaway.
Once back home it was just a waiting game until finally our eagerly awaited baby girl arrived 2 days late at 8.50pm on 18 February. "Shelby Ann" weighed 6lb 14oz and was 50cm long, kinda tall and lanky but naturally gorgeous! And unlike Matty who is blond and blue-eyed and the spitting image of his dad, Shelby was born with a mass of dark hair, has brown eyes and looks a lot like her mum. Guess it's only fair that Melissa's genes got a look-in this time around!
11 days later, Matthew and Shelby were baptised in a joint ceremony. So as well as having Melissa's parents staying with us whilst they visited from Victoria, we also hosted a celebration party for all our friends and family which proved rather challenging with a newborn in the house but it was a great day anyway.
Now 4 weeks old, Shelby is settling in well and last weekend we took her on her very first camping trip in practise for our mid-year holiday. It's been a big adjustment for all of us, particularly Matthew who seems to have grown up almost overnight and now has to share our attention. But despite this, Matty absolutely adores his new sister and has already taken on the protective big brother role as he proves to be a great little helper.