Brisbane / Ipswich

We are back on the mainland where we left our van after an amazing time on Norfolk Island, and we are settling for awhile at Reece's Uncle Simon's and grandmother Shirley's house in Ipswich. When the gates open up at Uncle Simons house and his car pulls into the drive after a day of work, the dogs bark and carry on like crazy because they've missed him so much. Our kids, River and Olive, soon learned to join in. "Uncle Simon's home!" River will yell out the caravan window. Olive will pop up her little head and make an excited wow look on her face. Off they run together towards the gates, pushing past the dogs. Everybody loves Simon, especially our kids! We plan to use this location as our base to explore Brisbane, but while we are here we want to slow down and spend some quality time with family. We are from Perth and the occasions we have spent with our Qld based rellies has been few and far between. 'Let's take our time', we think.

Simon and Shirley are hilarious and very welcoming. Between them they have a great banter of jokes and we really love people who can laugh at themselves too. Shirley lives in the upstairs part of the house and Simon has the bottom. It's a good set up for them both because Simon can help Shirley if she really needs it, but also leaves her to her own devices as she is still very independent. I've told Simon they are going to be in our travel blog and Simon said he will spew if I say anything nice about him. So I'll just say nothing. They live a pretty simple, care free relaxed lifestyle and it suits them well to include a few mates into the living arrangements if needs be. Doug lives in the caravan and works with Simon, and Jason and Jo-Jo live in the other room down stairs. The household totals three dogs, Pirate, Ted and Obi, two budgies that Shirley adores and a pet rainbow lorikeet too. Set up in our van alongside the house, we spend most of our time swimming in the pool, having BBQ's and beers down at the new pool house or upstairs chatting with Shirley in the air-conditioning. Shirley tells me lots of wonderful stories from her life, the love she has for her late husband Terry and their five kids, holiday stories and old memories. I really find Shirley such an easy and interesting person to talk to and get along with. She is also good for a laugh at the ridiculousness of  'The Bold and Beautiful'. Reece's Dad (Dave) and Mum, Kelly came to visit and even treated us to yet another night out and it was good to see them once again.

The bunch of us, Simon, Shirley, Jason, Jo and us Abbotts, all head out together one morning for a visit to Nobbys Beach on the beautiful Gold Coast. Reece's Uncle Peter (Judo) and his wife Judy (Henry) and their kids, Nick and Ashleigh are largely involved with the Surf Lifesaving Club at Nobby's beach and lend our kids body boards for the morning. The beach is wonderful for small kids because the water is warm and clear and the brake is so far out that the waves are really long and smooth. It's easy to ride a good shallow wave into shore. It was a full morning in the sea, taking in the seemingly endless rows of high-rise buildings along the coast line from our swimming spot. We had a meal at the club and then took our exhausted kids, and Shirley too, home for an afternoon nap. "I could live here" I tell Reece in the car. "Somewhere along this coast line would suit us perfectly" Although I have no idea how much it would cost, I really could imagine a future where the kids learn to surf and take their swimming lessons in the ocean rather than in the pools, and we spend every weekend at the beach and get big dreadlocks in our hair.. Dreaming I think.

Tips for travellers that might pass through Ipswich would be visit the botanical gardens and the free wildlife centre right next door. It costs nothing except a gold coin donation and is as good as any small zoo. Our kids enjoyed our stop at the park across the road from the wildlife centre too and the day we visited the Navy Big Brass Band were playing. There is lots to explore in the city of course and we take several day trips during our stay. The Architectural Lego exhibition was on at the convention centre and so of course we cannot miss it. We visit South Bank which is another must do with more free swimming areas and amazing playgrounds for kids. Most importantly in the eyes and mind of a four year old little boy the theme parks!!

River woke up at 6am and came into bed with us whispering a chant that became an uncontrollable little boys excited yell. "Movie World, Movie World, Movie WORLD". River has been looking forward to visiting Movie World since we told him all about, way back when were in Broome, W.A. We've followed through with our promise to take him, to the place where they really make movies, to the place where Batman and Superman visit when they have a break from fighting crimes, to a place where you can see Scooby Doo, and Donald Duck, and Bugs Bunny. To the place where there are huge rides and the streets are full of magic. It's no wonder he was excited!!!! Movie World was no disappointment for our little boy but it's not the way I remember it from only a few years back. After the triadic events that took place at Dream world recently  it made sense to us that a few rides were closed for inspections, but the real disappointment was in the cost and the additional costs inside the park. For example the park rules state that no food was to be brought into the park and therefore you would be forced to buy expensive over priced hotdogs and chips which our kids simply won't eat. Never the less we had a great time and we snuck in our own food. Nearing the end of the day Rivers wish came true as Batman appeared and so River and I rushed over to shake his hand and have a photograph taken. Unbeknown to me little Olive took off after us in the crowd and Reece thought that I had seen and grabbed her to come along. While I thought she was safely entertained and wrapped up with Daddy, River and I have a great moment with Batman and then turn to head back toward Daddy and Olive. I see a dreaded face of horror as Reece walks towards me asking "Where's Olive?"

"I thought she was with you" My heart sinks and my stomach drops through the concrete floor. Seemingly millions of people are all rushing pass us and everywhere I look I only see other happy little kids. But no my Olive! White washes over my face as total panic sets in and I am crazily yelling and searching for my daughter. I am pushing people out of my way, heading towards the office in tears when a young girl sees all that horror on my face. "Are you missing a little girl" gesturing a height with her hands.

"Oh my GOD yes, where is she?"

"The Flash has her at the office" she replied

In my mind. 'Huh what, the flash? Whatever.' and I race toward the office only to find a perfectly happy beautiful little girl being held safely in the arms of The Flash. So, as our Movie World Story will go.... We lost Olive but she was saved by The Flash. Family photo attached in which I look wrecked with horror. The next day we visit SeaWorld and it was far less eventful but another great family day. Much better than Movie World in my opinion.

Reece's sister Alicia and her husband Jake , plus their three kids meet up with us again at Simon and Shirley's house for three nights on their trip towards home. It was great to see all of them again as we don't know when the next time will be. The rest of the time we were at Simons and Shirley's house we just did some required maintenance on the car and van,  in-between watching the cricket, swimming in the pool and enjoying far too many beers at the pool house. Thanks to you all for having us but after 19 days at Simons we pack down the van and leave it to the side of his property as we prepare the car to hold 2 more extremely important passengers. My Parents!