Virtual Gramma – Look Her In The iPAD!


As a genealogist, I come across many family migration stories. Several generations ago, many people left everything and everyone behind for a new life; often to never communicate again.

Women sometimes left small children behind, men left entire families, with the intent to one day bring them over to reunite with him. There are many happy endings to these journeys; there are also relatives who were left behind posting in newspapers, searching for loved ones who they hoped made it to the promise land. The heartbreak that occurred would be insurmountable I imagine, regardless of how tough and brave our ancestors were.

If they did connect again, it was through the postal service and what we call “snail mail” now. And the letters traveled on ships and took what must have seemed a lifetime to reach home. And then traveled by plane. I’ll spare the history lesson right there; it took a long time by todays standards. I myself recall buying special air mail paper to correspond with friends who left for Europe after college.

Now for my own family’s migration story which I never could have foreseen. It’s been a year and a half since our small family including three pets (two cats and a dog) boarded a plane for Australia. This decision was a big one, especially in the sense of being an only child and taking the only grandchildren away from their Gramma in the States. She was devasted when my husband had a job offer in Pittsburgh, but this? We ripped her heart out, but we took it with us.

Gramma is with us virtually now. She’s on Facebook and I am a super poster with her and the rest of family and friends we left behind in mind. We FaceTime on a near daily basis. She joins us for breakfast, sometimes lunch, occasionally dinner (during daylight savings) because she’s sleeping on her side of the world. She joined us just today when I brought my eldest daughter to lunch. Good thing I have a great data plan on my iPhone! She is there with us at swim lessons, our hotel stay this past weekend, and we are there with her when she travels to Colorado to see her sister, and when she sings with the band on a night out. Gramma even gets captured in family photos while on the iPad.


Things you hear around our house:

“Look her in the iPad when she’s talking to you!”

“Take Gramma with you upstairs to watch you play.”

“Don’t moon Gramma and Papa!”

“Talk to Gramma first and then you can play on the iPad!”

Gramma has watched them grow in height and vocabulary and she hears the ruckus of us trying to get them ready and out the door for school on time. She’s there for the yelling, the tears, the injuries (although she was spared of the head getting cracked open on a rock because we were FaceTimeing with her Colorado sister at the time!!) and the living room dancing, plays, and songs.

When we ask our kids which country they like best to live in, the lightning-fast response is the U.S.. Why? Because Gramma and Papa are there. They don’t mention other reasons like friends or places they miss (no offense folks!). And it’s not just because they are family and visited for 2 weeks last year. It’s because they are a constant in their lives and share stories every day. Maybe it’s also the care packages…

Technology is our lifeline and I don’t use that term lightly. It is the bridge between us and family in the States. Our own iPads and iPhones, and all of our Apple products really, are worth every pretty penny. In pennies-per-use and the family glue as a result, these devices pay for themselves again and again. The best thing is being there and we will see Gramma when we travel to the States next month!

No doubt you have your own virtual stories, so feel free to share!

Going, Going, Gone


Slowly but surely, I know I will surrender, and adapt to and adopt a few Aussie words and phrases, while some of my own may become extinct (like so many things in Oz). My six year old comes home from school with her new lingo each day; we all want to speak in ways we can be understood here, and some things they say, well just make sense, literally. Here are my current favorites:

“Chook” for chicken because I like the way it sounds and it’s quick

“Toilet” for bathroom/restroom because it gets straight to the point of what you really need and there often aren’t baths or rest happening in them anyway. I wonder in the U.S. why we’re so delicate about using that word when it’s what we’re really asking for?

“Tomato sauce” for ketchup/catsup, heck we don’t even have one spelling for the U.S. word, let alone where did it derive from? And although I probably never will pronounce tomato like they do here, the least I can do is ask for tomato sauce instead of ketchup in a restaurant.

“Dibby-Dobber”, this is short for dibber-dobber, but when the Woolies deliveryman called my oldest daughter this after she grassed up her sister for something, well it just stuck day one.

“Chicken Schnitzel” instead of chicken parm. I grew up in upstate New York and there’s no denying authenticity. However, here I was sadly disappointed with the parm as it’s a very breaded, fried piece of chicken with just a splash of red Napoli sauce and a sprinkle of cheese often served with or on top of fries (chips), and a salad. No pasta, or loaded in sauce and cheese like I like it. My workaround has been to ask for the schnitzel instead of parm and done as a sub sandwich, it’s more to my liking. Better yet, I just make it myself at home with schnitzel.

Now for the ones that so far are the hardest to get my brain around as far as rolling them off my tongue with ease:

“Dressing gown” for bathrobe. This is where the literal use of things makes me start reasoning with myself. Typically you put on a bathrobe upon exiting a bath, shower, or in my case needing an extra layer of warmth during this cold Melbourne weather. Most times it’s just a towel I put on. Dressing gown makes me thing of housedresses or housecoats my grandmother used to wear but didn’t go outside in. Now when I see little kids bundled up in dressing gowns at swim lessons, they start to make sense as gowns you get dressed in. I’m still not ready to let that one roll.

“How ya going?” for “How are you doing?” Now, this has got to be one of the most endearing Australian sayings I have encountered, makes literal sense, is translated similarly in languages like French “Ça va?” and yet I have a hard time making it come out naturally upon saying hello to someone.

Not so hard for my three year old who heard her older sister tell us on the walk to school that that’s what you say to people. Immediately she repeated it to one neighbor and then others, all the way down the street.

“Going” implies a lighthearted journey, being in motion. Unlike “How are you doing?” which seems a rather personal thing to ask and no one really wants to know the answer. It is also used by Aussies to gently ask you if you need help with something, “How ya going with that?”

How am I going? Some words as I know them are going, going, gone.

My six year old meeting a kangaroo.

How ya going?

The Mummy Factor


The Walking Dead, I’ve never seen the show but I have played the part.

Many times over while undertaking our move to Melbourne, I’ve felt battered, bruised, exhausted, sometimes debilitated, frustrated, bleary-eyed, confused, jet lagged, and much like I felt during those first few months after giving birth to my two girls.

I had myself mentally prepared for what was to come down under. Yes Australians drive on the other side of the road, money is different, yes they have funny sayings that you typically don’t want to be on the receiving end of, and yes there will be general adjustments to how we live. Prior to our arrival, I even joked with folks back home about how our kids would come back with Aussie accents.

I was even looking forward to this linguistic adaptation, however was not prepared for the Mummy Factor.

One month into her new school, my 6-year-old came home with her class work assignment. She wrote my name as always, “Mommy”, and the teacher with her checkmarks went in and checked the correct part of the sentence, correcting Mommy to Mummy.

I wasn’t upset with the teacher at all; she knows we’re from the U.S. and she didn’t mark her work incorrect, just pointed out we’re in Australia now.

Mommy Mummy

Our entire family has easily acclimated to our new world. We embraced the summer temps when we arrived in January, we’ve shed our winter coats and regrown them (ok, the cats and dog have), and we are prepared for all seasons whenever we walk out the front door.

Unbeknownst to me, the thing I was not conscious of or prepared to adapt to, was the disappearance in the Southern Hemisphere of the one word that mothers can’t wait for their babies to utter, “Mommy”.

That classwork was only the tip of the iceberg that would eventually bring me to instant tears upon the realization that I would now be called “Mummy”, and with an inflection at the end typically reserved for satirizing Valley girls, or up-talkers (thanks Jerry Seinfeld for coining the term).

It’s a good thing she’s cute and we’re in Australia, because this had been a hard thing for mama bear to swallow.

I brought this up with one of the mothers I’d met at the kids’ swim lessons. She’s from Sydney. I told her it’s been a hard adjustment being an American mom who is losing her child to the Australian vernacular, just on that word alone. She thought about it for a moment and said, “I don’t know how mother became mummy, but it’s a perfect word don’t you think, mummy, the walking dead?”

We both burst out laughing in amusement and somehow the whole mummy factor lifted from a once heavy heart.

Top 10 ways Australians are badasses


This blog generated from observing several things while living in Australia as well as being short on time for a full-on blog. Note, the term badass is subjective.


  1. Do not wait for cars to pull in or out of parking spaces and will risk their lives including children to walk behind or in front of your moving car.
  1. Have the most tattoos per capita than anywhere I’ve seen.
  1. Talk like New York mob bosses with sayings such as “Yous(e) guys”. (Last time I heard this phrase outside of living in New York was going to a show for the Long Island Medium)
  1. Live without solid Internet service and are just fine with 5 Mbps.
  1. Have co-ed parent rooms in public places and baby changing tables in men’s bathrooms. (I told you badass was subjective but I think it’s a pretty badass thing as are the men who change nappies, and especially those with tattoos, changing nappies.)
  1. Elect politicians such as Tony Abbott who eat raw onions on TV without flinching.
  1. Turn in their guns after one mass shooting, instead of stock piling them.
  1. Install built-in bars, theatre rooms, and barbeques in their homes. (This is very common and adds to resale value of home)
  1. Allow the ginormous tarantula-looking spider called a Huntsman to cohabitate with them to deal with smaller creatures.
  1. Leave cause of death notes while they are dying in the outback from snakebite.

What next Top 10 would you like me to provide commentary? I am always open to suggestions!

Bye, Bye My Amazon Prime, Hello Whiskey and Rye


basket-156835_640Since arriving to Australia, I’ve had to completely overhaul my atypical (to me at least) American shopping habits.

For one, my aversion to malls. Before I came here, I may have gone to a mall once a year and that was to go to the Apple Genius Bar for warranty service on my MacBook Pro, buy a last minute gift (even that would be a stretch because I relied on most purchasing through Amazon Prime) or return an item because it was more convenient that mailing it back.

Now, I’ve spent a ridiculous amount of time at the mall. The answer is simple; it’s where you purchase nearly everything you need in addition to standard clothing, shoe stores, mobile phones, banks. Butcher, baker, (still looking for a candlestick maker), produce stands, seafood market, and nuts in every possible variety and flavor. Anchor stores are big grocery stores like Coles, Woolworths (aka “Woolies”), and Aldi. Add a Target or a Big W for housewares and the standard liquor warehouse. Yep, everything in one place.

My initial visits to the grocery stores were lengthy and mentally exhausting ones. I spent my time exploring each aisle in search of some semblance or similarity of products back “home”, reading a lot of labels, stocking up on all cooking and baking staples, converting measurements and currency, and just trying new things out. Steggles brand reminds me of Perdue, Uncle Toby’s is branded on Cheerios and other General Mills-like products, but Kellogg’s is Kellogg’s. Rice Bubbles are Rice Crispies and to my family’s dismay, there are no original Cheerios here, as the original Uncle Toby’s kind here is the multigrain. So far I’ve found zero breakfast cereals that do not contain sugar as one of the first few ingredients.

What I do love here especially is the produce. It’s huge, beautiful, freshly picked and usually a good price. Pick dates are usually within a few days to appearing on store shelves which makes it last longer and retains its freshness.

I also love the variety of certain items and am amused by the British influence. Where else can you find an almost entire aisle wall of canned beans? Or chocolate? Or dairy products like eggs, creams (dessert), yogurt, milk, and cheese? One major thing missing to my daily ingestion is half and half for my coffee. Why oh why does this not exist when there are so many creams but not even mixed with a bit of milk? Hopefully I am just missing something and I can find a good substitute; it’s full fat milk for me now. And canned tuna fish, in so many flavors, it’s unreal.

Tuna variety

Tuna variety

Finding the same products we like from back in the states has obviously been an expected major feat. There is a USA food store but I don’t intend to go there, as I know we will survive without everything we used to know and love. I do enjoy that Costco has a presence here and we have already made two trips there. Membership from the US works here so we will be good until renewal time. There are some comforts from home like Ruffles chips and the standard Kirkland items we use, like extra virgin olive oil and trash bags. Do not take them for granted Americans! All other trash bags in Oz do not compare to the strength of the Kirkland brand, hands down. Unfortunately we bought many brands and learned the hard way. Trash bags do not fail me now!

Now, it only makes sense that I can get housewares delivered by the likes of Target, Harvey Norman, Myer, etc., however I was thrilled to discover that the grocery stores deliver, and this includes wine, beer and liquor! Now that I’ve done the perusal and shopping in-store, my items are saved in my online profile and I can simply reorder. It’s a welcome change from ordering online and swinging by to pick them up like I used to. Delivery of our groceries along with our gin, beer, and wine made my break up with Amazon Prime membership just a bit easier to swallow.