Greenpeace and Peace in the Home

greenpeaceandpeaceinthehome

It is incredulous to think that the Great Barrier Reef, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, is at risk due to the impact of coal mining. Recently we heard that the Greenpeace ship, “The Rainbow Warrior” was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef so the activists can do whatever possible to help halt the madness, and that it would be docking in Sydney and conducting free tours! My youngest child is passionate about the environment and when I told her about the Rainbow Warrior coming to Sydney, she jumped at the opportunity for a day trip to see it! The Rainbow Warrior is a very special ship, having been purpose built especially for Greenpeace, factoring in the specific needs of a ship that is used for environmental activism. It is also especially significant, given the history of the original Rainbow Warrior’s tragic bombing by the French secret service.

The biggest hurdle to our planned adventure was Mr 13, who was not keen at all. Leaving him at home wasn’t an easy option on the particular day we were going, so we spent quite a lot of time discussing potential solutions. I suggested a number of other activities that he might be interested in doing while we were Sydney, but none of them appealed to him to the degree that he was willing to “endure” the Rainbow Warrior tour and a long train trip as well. Finally I suggested something he jumped at: the aquarium! It turned out to be an absolutely perfect thing to do, because we could see the Great Barrier Reef exhibit, hot on the heels of touring the Greenpeace ship that was on its way to the Great Barrier Reef!

I strongly believe in finding win-win solutions, where everybody’s feelings and needs are taken into consideration. It is well worth the effort because it honours the individual within the family, and respects different people’s preferences. It is a beautiful way to show love. It might take a while, and a fair amount of discussion, but if the intent is to honour the preferences of both parties, eventually a solution will be found that both are happy about. One of the most helpful books I’ve discovered for understanding practical ways of doing this is Winning Parent, Winning Child: Parenting So Everybody Wins.

So we headed off on our train journey, finally arriving at the beautiful Sydney Harbour.

It was such a thrill to finally see the ship!
It was such a thrill to finally see the ship!
It's message and mission were hard to miss!
It’s message and mission were hard to miss!
It was great to get a behind-the-scenes look inside the ship
It was great to get a behind-the-scenes look inside the ship
We learned so many fascinating things, like how quickly they can get their action boats into the water!
We learned so many fascinating things, like how quickly they can get their action boats into the water!
It was also really interesting to learn about the crew, how highly skilled they are, and the reasons why they have such a variety of different nationalities represented.
It was also really interesting to learn about the crew, how highly skilled they are, and the reasons why they have such a variety of different nationalities represented.
Basically, it was just so fantastic to see such an iconic ship docked right in the middle of Sydney Harbour!
Basically, it was just so fantastic to see such an iconic ship docked right in the middle of Sydney Harbour!
Then it was off to the Aquarium to see some weird and wonderful things! (My son had "endured" the day up until this point!)
Then it was off to the Aquarium to see some weird and wonderful things! (My son had “endured” the day up until this point!)
Don't look up!
Don’t look up!
Well hello there!
Well hello there!
This was the creature at the top of my son's wish list of animals he most wanted to see. Do you know what it is?
This was the creature at the top of my son’s wish list of animals he most wanted to see. Do you know what it is?
A dugong!! There were two, actually. They are the only dugongs on display in Australia and two of only six - and the only pair - on display anywhere in the world! Cool, huh? It was so awesome watching them eat!
A dugong!! There were two, actually. They are the only dugongs on display in Australia and two of only six – and the only pair – on display anywhere in the world! Cool, huh? It was so awesome watching them eat!
We got up close and personal with some very strange creatures!
We got up close and personal with some very strange creatures!
And some scary ones that were pretending to be friendly!
And some scary ones that were pretending to be friendly!
Not so friendly when looked at from a different perspective!
Not so friendly when looked at from a different perspective!
I'm not quite sure what THIS creature from the deep is called but she seems quite friendly!
I’m not quite sure what THIS creature from the deep is called but she seems quite friendly!
I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed some of the interactive displays.
I was surprised how much the kids enjoyed some of the interactive displays.
Although some of them were understandably intriguing!
Although some of them were understandably intriguing!
This was a multiple choice quiz and the answer was surprising!
This was a multiple choice quiz and the answer was surprising!
Incredible, huh?
Incredible, huh?
The sand table in the "Take Action" display was a hit. The plastic bag of rubbish left on the ground by a previous visitor shows that some people really didn't get the message!
The sand table in the “Take Action” display was a hit. The plastic bag of rubbish left on the ground by a previous visitor shows that some people really didn’t get the message!
We found it hard to believe that some people could be surrounded by such a clear message about the damage of plastic litter to our oceans and wildlife and just not get it.
We found it hard to believe that some people could be surrounded by such a clear message about the damage of plastic litter to our oceans and wildlife and just not get it.
When we'd finished our visit at the aquarium, it was time for a trip on The Monorail, a light transport elevated rail system that is soon to be taken down after many years. My kids love riding on it and will be sad to see it go, so they decided to have a final trip on it to say goodbye.
When we’d finished our visit at the aquarium, it was time for a trip on The Monorail, a light transport elevated rail system that is soon to be taken down after only being constructed in 1988. Monorail travel was quite expensive compared to trains and buses (aimed at tourists, I suppose) so perhaps they never got the business they had expected. My kids love riding on it and will be sad to see it go, so they decided to have a final trip on it to say goodbye.
We might not have seen any monkeys at The Aquarium, but it seemed there was one on  The Monorail!
We might not have seen any monkeys at The Aquarium, but it seemed there was one on The Monorail!
Two monkeys, actually.
Two monkeys, actually.

All in all we had a fantastically awesome day! And it was really great to find a way to factor in something of interest to both kids, even though one initially hadn’t wanted to go.

Food that says, “I Love You”

Today my daughter, who is ten, said that she wanted to make me some special food and that it was going to be a big surprise. She asked me to take her to the local supermarket to purchase supplies, which I happily did. She took her own basket and wanted me to make sure I didn’t see any of her purchases while I was doing my own shopping at the other end of the store. After she had gathered her ingredients, she waited separately while I paid and got out some cash for her, and then she went through the self service aisle to complete her purchase.

Home we went, and at this stage she required some help with erecting her privacy barricade, so that she could prepare the mystery dishes without me seeing.

Peekaboo!
Peekaboo!

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She was hard at work for quite a while, and I stayed nearby of course, to answer any questions. She was so excited to be doing this all by herself, and was particularly loving the mystery of it for me. I had no idea what inspired it all, it just seemed like something fun to do.

First cab off the rank, which she called the entree:

Freshly squeezed orange juice with mint from the garden.
Freshly squeezed orange juice with (LOTS of) mint from the garden.

The next step required some verbal assistance from me, and eventually a brief bit of practical assistance from one of her big brothers, to help with lighting the gas stove. And eventually, there was PERFECT, albeit sparsely filled, sushi. 🙂

She wanted me to tell everyone that it was "non alcoholic wine" - I think so that people didn't think she was getting into the grog in the kitchen lol.
She wanted me to tell everyone that it was “non alcoholic wine” – I think so that people didn’t think she was getting into the grog in the kitchen lol.

And finally, the piece de resistance: dessert, kid style!

She told me it would help me to feel young, because it was "kid food" :)
She told me it would help me to feel young, because it was “kid food” 🙂
Knowing that I really don't like cream out of a can (and that she does, and occasionally asks to buy some - or, in the case of today, obviously buys it by herself lol), she happily helped me eat the cream!
Knowing that I really don’t like cream out of a can (and that she does, and occasionally asks to buy some – or, in the case of today, obviously buys it by herself lol), she happily helped me eat the cream!
Mr 13 decided he wanted in on some of this food too, helping himself to sushi and dessert.
Mr 13 decided he wanted in on some of this food too, helping himself to sushi and dessert.

While I was finishing off my crunchy “fairy bread” (I really don’t remember it seeming quite so crunchy when I was a kid!), amidst lots of discussion about whether I actually ate things like fairy bread back in the “olden days”, she announced to me the reason for my “special meal”:

JUST BECAUSE I LOVE YOU, MUM.

“Return to Nim’s Island” World Premiere Movie Event!

Recently my youngest child, aged ten, decided to create a list of things she wants to do before she’s twenty. At the top of the list was a desire to meet Bindi Irwin, of Australia Zoo fame. Molly is an enthusiastic advocate for animal health and well-being, as is Bindi, they are both home schooled, and neither of them are “girly-girls”, so there are many reasons why Molly has chosen Bindi as one of her heroes.

When we found out that Bindi is starring in the upcoming “Return to Nim’s Island” movie, we were stoked. We had loved the books and the first movie so much, both the setting, the story, the characters, and the fact that Nim doesn’t go to school, so the thought of Bindi playing Nim in the sequel to the movie made it even more exciting! When I discovered that Australia Zoo would be hosting the world premiere of the movie, and Bindi would be there to present the screening, I decided to surprise Molly with tickets! She was totally stoked, and we prepared to go.

We had to travel on the same day as the “No 4th Coal Terminal Rally“, so it was a very exhausting day with a rally, an interstate plane trip, a car journey, and all that excitement, but it was SO worth it. We arrived to our motel quite late at night, spent the following day and evening at the zoo, and then flew home the next morning, so Molly didn’t even get the thrill of enjoying the rooftop pool, but nonetheless it was a trip to remember! And what made it extra special was it being a “mum and daughter” weekend. Special times!

We spent the day discovering the zoo, which was a big thing for me with my snake phobia! Molly and one of her brothers went to Australia Zoo on a family holiday one time, but I was too chicken to go to the zoo filled with reptiles, so I made my husband take them. But this trip was something I really wanted to bless my daughter with, and so I decided to face my fears and just go for it! I even – wait for it – stepped foot INSIDE (I kid you not – INside) the snake exhibit! Molly had wanted to go in (of course), and I was standing outside doing some deep breathing when an Australia Zoo worker noticed me. I think she spotted my fear from a mile away, and was, I must admit, so incredibly lovely about it that I took her up on her challenge to just walk inside the first little bit and see the Rainbow Serpent (from Aboriginal Dreamtime stories). I actually did it! Truly! I didn’t love it, but I did do it. I even got a photo of the snake to prove it.

And then, whilst walking through the next exhibit (which wasn’t snakes, thankfully), I discovered that the memory card in the camera wasn’t storing photos properly so we had to reformat it, and the photographic evidence of my snake experience was lost forever. I’m not lying – promise! The other thing you need to know about our day at Australia Zoo was that it was bloody hot! Or maybe I should say sweatingly hot!? I really don’t love the heat, especially when it leaves you dripping in sweat from all the humidity but it was worth it to see the look of delight on my daughter’s face. Here are about a thousand photographs from our day at the zoo, and our night at the movie premiere.

Even the kangaroos needed shelter from the relentless heat
Even the kangaroos needed shelter from the relentless heat
It was SO hot and humid that at one stage I bought us both a bottle of cold water, a frozen drink AND an ice cream to help us cool down!
It was SO hot and humid that at one stage I bought both of us a bottle of cold water, a frozen drink AND an ice cream to help us cool down!
Getting up close and personal with a koala
Getting up close and personal with a koala
One of the things that stood out at the Australia Zoo was the very strong message about animal welfare, which they seem to take very seriously themselves, too.
One of the things that stood out at the Australia Zoo was the very strong message about animal welfare, which they seem to take very seriously themselves, too. These are items that were confiscated at customs.
The newest exhibit is "Africa" and it was really lovely (although a LONG walk in the heat). I know this photo only shows the sign but, well, I really like the photo so I'm putting it here. :)
The newest exhibit is “Africa” and it was really lovely (although a LONG walk in the heat). I know this photo only shows the sign but, well, I really like the photo so I’m putting it here. 🙂
Seeing this cheetah was a HUGE thrill. It is Molly's favourite big cat. The zoo doesn't yet have a cheetah enclosure, but they have a huge amount of land beyond the zoo exhibition areas, so the cheetahs are kept there for now, and taken on long walks, too. We were privileged to spot this one on our long walk back from "Africa". The keepers were feeding it a sardine ice block, as you do.
Seeing this cheetah was a HUGE thrill. It is Molly’s favourite big cat. The zoo doesn’t yet have a cheetah enclosure, but they have a huge amount of land beyond the zoo exhibition areas, so the cheetahs are kept there for now, and taken on long walks, too. We were privileged to spot this one on our way back from “Africa”. The keepers were feeding it a sardine ice block. Yum!
Another dream Molly has is to be a participant on the TV show, "Bindi's Boot Camp", so it was fun to see a display from the show.
Another dream Molly has is to be a participant on the TV show, “Bindi’s Boot Camp”, so it was fun to see the entrance to it.
We loved the tiger show! (The photos are terrible because of the reflection on the glass, sorry.) They feed them milk out of a little carton, and it's one of the tricks they use when they need vets to examine their mouth or teeth.
We loved the tiger show! (The photos are terrible because of the reflection on the glass.) One of the things they did was show us how they feed them milk out of little cartons, which is one of the tricks they use when they need vets to examine their mouth or teeth (from the other side of the safety glass!)
Well that's one way to get a tiger cuddle! We were really impressed with the respectful way the zoo keepers interacted with the tigers before, during and after the show. They spend a lot of time just hanging out with them to build relationship. We were challenged, too, by the plight of the tiger in the wild, so we donated money to obtain an enlarged photo of one of the zoo's tigers. I had an ulterior motive in doing so, thinking it would be the perfect medium for an autograph by Bindi, if we should prove to be so lucky!
Well that’s one way to get a tiger cuddle! We were really impressed with the respectful way the zoo keepers interacted with the tigers before, during and after the show. They spend a lot of time just hanging out with them to build relationship. We were challenged, too, by the plight of the tiger in the wild, so we donated money to obtain an enlarged photo of one of the zoo’s tigers. I had an ulterior motive in doing so, thinking it would be the perfect medium for obtaining an autograph by Bindi, if we should prove to be so lucky!
Getting up close and personal for a photographic opportunity with some of the UNcaged wildlife.
Getting up close and personal for a photographic opportunity with some of the UNcaged wildlife.

And finally, after a long, HOT day at Australia Zoo, the moment we’d been waiting for…. The gates to the public were closed, and only guests for the World Premiere were allowed to stay. We watched enthralled as security officers prepared for the red carpet event, and we waited excitedly for it all to begin. We’d never been to anything like this before! Finally, the first of the distinguished guests began to arrive, and in true Australia Zoo style it was…… two cheetas!

The two cheetahs were born at the zoo two years earlier, so are still very young as far as cheetahs go. It was lovely to see the gentle way the handlers treated them, totally respecting the fact that this one much preferred sardine ice blocks to red carpet!
The two cheetahs were born at the zoo, and are still very young as far as cheetahs go. It was lovely to see the gentle way the handlers treated them, totally respecting the fact that this one much preferred sardine ice blocks to red carpet!
Although she was eventually enticed to tentatively have a little walk along the red carpet, even though it chose not to go up onto the stage.
The shy cheetah was eventually enticed to tentatively walk along the red carpet, although chose not to go up onto the stage.
The second cheetah, on the other hand, couldn't wait to strut her stuff on the red carpet!
The second cheetah, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to strut her stuff on the red carpet!
Such a show off! :)
Such a show off! 🙂 (Not that we minded!)
Next up was a dingo who, whilst never having met a cheetah in his life, was VERY interested in the scent they'd left behind!
Next up was a dingo who, whilst never having met a cheetah in his life, was VERY interested in the scent they’d left behind!
There was such a lovely menagerie of animals treated to the red carpet experience, from wombats, to koalas, to cockatoos, to snakes.....
There was such a menagerie of animals treated to the red carpet experience, from wombats, to koalas, to cockatoos, to camels (well, they didn’t make it up onto the carpet), to snakes…..
It's hard to see them clearly in the photo (other than the big creepy snake - yes, I'm biased), but these three animals actually star in the movie!
It’s hard to see them clearly in the photo (other than the big creepy snake – yes, I’m biased), but these three animals actually star in the movie!
OK I know this is like WAY too many photos, but I just wanted to add this one because if you look closely enough you'll see the sweat coming through their shirts. Just to prove I wasn't lying about how hot it was. Gross, huh? ;)
OK I know this is like WAY too many photos, but I just wanted to add this one because if you look closely enough you’ll see the sweat coming through their shirts. Just to prove I wasn’t lying about how hot it was. Gross, huh? 😉
And finally, cool cars started arriving......
And finally, cool cars & “distinguished” guests of the human variety started arriving……
Like the author of the very wonderful "Nim" books upon which the movie is based.
One of the first was the author of the very wonderful “Nim” books upon which the movie is based.
Of course we were treated to an encounter with Terri and Robert Irwin (complete with snakes, of course - and by the way, how brave am I including a snake photo on my blog!)
Of course we were treated to an encounter with Terri and Robert Irwin (complete with snakes, of course – and by the way, how brave am I including a snake photo on my blog!)
And FINALLY, the person Molly had been most waiting for arrived, not in a stretch limo and a fancy dress, but in an old jeep, wearing jeans, and accompanied by two elephants. PERFECT!
And FINALLY, the person Molly had been most waiting for arrived, not in a stretch limo and a fancy dress (thank goodness), but in an old jeep, wearing jeans, and accompanied by two elephants. PERFECT!
Bindi was definite the star of the moment, but the sun had different ideas, deciding to put the spotlight on her co-star (for this photo at least)
Bindi was definitely the star of the moment, but the setting sun had different ideas, deciding to put the spotlight on her co-star (for this photo at least)
We somehow managed to get Molly's tiger photo under Robert's nose, and he signed it. I must say, he is SO sweet. He's like, "Is it ok if I just write Robert?" Awwww.....
We somehow managed to get Molly’s tiger photo under Robert’s nose, and he signed it. I must say, he is SO sweet. He’s like, “Is it ok if I just write Robert?” Awwww…..
Here is where we begin using my strategy of buying a tiger photo from the zoo (money goes towards saving the tigers) partly for the purposes of trying to get a Bindi autograph. Here we go, in for the kill (surrounded by other people's flimsy bits of paper they're putting in her face). Do you think we have a chance of getting her attention??
Here is where we begin using my strategy of having bought a tiger photo from the zoo (money goes towards saving the tigers) partly for the purposes of trying to get a Bindi autograph. Here we go, in for the kill (surrounded by other people’s flimsy bits of paper they’re putting in her face). Do you think we have a chance of getting her attention??
So she's surrounded by many bits of paper, and swamped by lots and lots of people, when suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she spots it: "Oh cool! A tiger!" she says (knowing, I guess, that it would have meant a donation to the zoo's save the tiger efforts), and then....
So here she is, surrounded by many bits of paper, and swamped by lots and lots of people, when suddenly, out of the corner of her eye, she spots it: “Oh cool! A tiger!” she says (knowing, I guess, that it would have meant a donation to the zoo’s save the tiger efforts), and then….
The AUTOGRAPH!
The AUTOGRAPH!
And one very, VERY happy girl (I must admit, I shed a tear - it was a beautiful moment, seeing her joy, and feeling the thrill of a successful mission lol)
And one very, VERY happy girl (I must admit, I shed a tear – it was a beautiful moment, seeing her joy, and feeling the thrill of a successful mission lol)
And finally, after a HUGE day (and a very long blog post), the first screening of Return to Nim's Island, on a giant screen at The Crocoseum.
And finally, after a HUGE day (and a very long blog post), we got to sit back and enjoy the first screening of Return to Nim’s Island, on a giant screen at The Crocoseum.
Starring you-know-who
Starring you-know-who
Our verdict of the movie is: GO SEE IT! It's AWESOME! (Better than the first one, even.)
Our verdict of the movie is: GO SEE IT! It’s AWESOME! (Better than the first one, even.)

Here endeth what is possibly my longest blog post ever.

When a Child becomes an Environmental Activist

We bought our daughter a microphone, because she loves to sing while she plays the guitar. Little did we expect that it’s first public use would be for this little bit of environmental activism (from the relative safety of our front veranda):

She is so enthusiastic to do whatever she can to stop a fourth coal terminal from being built in our city. Here is another video of her (and her friend) passionately trying to rally the troops in our neighbourhood, pleading with them to help save the environment and the animals.

I have four living children, and the oldest three are not at all interested in environmental activism, even though I am. So it was a pleasant surprise to see my daughter’s passion for greening the earth develop to such a degree that she wants to start taking action.  We recently participated in our first ever protest march to try to prevent a coal seam gas plant being approved (update: the court approved the plant, but it may still be fought at a Supreme Court level).

Then we found out about an opportunity to participate in another rally; this time to try to stop the government approving a fourth coal terminal in our busy harbour (already the largest coal port in Australia). There are currently 30 ships a week that come here from all around the world for their fix of coal. If the new plant goes ahead, there will be 60 ships a week, and many more uncovered coal trains, as well as trucks on our roads. So…. filled we enthusiasm, we joined over a thousand other people on a “No 4th Coal Terminal” rally. It was actually quite a lot of fun! There was a great vibe, and a lot of positive energy.

Molly's favourite place in the march was right up the very front, directly behind the big banner.
Molly’s favourite place in the march was right up the very front, directly behind the big banner.

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This was SO cool! At the rally after the march there were lots of different tents and displays. This one was selling smoothies made in a blender powered by a bicycle!
This was SO cool! At the rally after the march there were lots of different tents and displays. This one was selling smoothies made in a blender powered by a bicycle!

The rally was featured in the media quite a bit. Here is a clip from The Herald. We just hope it made a difference! I certainly know that participating in the march (at my daughter’s request) was a great experience for her, and it was also wonderful for me to support her in this passion to help make our planet just that little bit greener and more sustainable. Oh, I forgot to say, the one photo I *REALLY* wish I’d gotten was of a black labrador that was wearing a doggy outfit, labelled, “I USED TO BE A GOLDEN RETRIEVER!” Brilliant!

Toys: Science at Play

Our local (free! did you read that? free!) museum has just had a pretty cool exhibition on all about toys. We decided to go check it out with some other homeschooling friends (and one unschooling friend). I was hoping to see some “old fashioned” toys from when I was a kid (back in the “olden days” and all that lol!). We did see a fair bit of that, and some not so old toys, too. I guess it wasn’t just about “old” toys, but rather the science of toys, but that’s cool, it was fun! And we got to play, of course.

Want a peek?

Frogs really do fly!?
Frogs really do fly!?
This particular display about "vibrations" captivated lots of the children. I would often see someone sitting there engrossed for quite a while.
This particular display about “vibrations” captivated lots of the children. I would often see someone sitting there engrossed for quite a while.
I was so busy taking photos and following the kids around, I forgot to make time to play myself! Now that I read this description, I want to have a turn! But the exhibition is closed. Oh well, it was enough joy for me to see them having fun!
I was so busy taking photos and following the kids around, I forgot to make time to do much playing myself! Now that I read this description, I want to have a turn! But the exhibition is closed. Oh well, it was enough joy for me to see them having fun!
I can't see any adults in this photo instructing or showing or teaching the children anything, but look at the engaged, interested faces on each child. They are all totally engrossed in what they are doing. No need for "dumbing down" or over stating the lessons. The learning is in the doing.
I can’t see any adults in this photo instructing or showing or “teaching” the children anything, but look at the engaged, interested faces on each child. They are all totally engrossed in what they are doing. No need for “dumbing down” or over stating the lessons. The learning is in the doing.
A replica of an early pinball machine. This got the kids totally engrossed as well, and I even managed to sneak in a few games myself (a friendly bit of mother-daughter competition!) I bet you didn't know that Pinball was banned from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s in most of America's big cities, being labelled a form of gambling, because it was a game of chance, not skill.
A replica of an early pinball machine. This got the kids totally engrossed as well, and I even managed to sneak in a few games myself (a friendly bit of mother-daughter competition!) I bet you didn’t know that Pinball was banned from the early 1940s to the mid-1970s in most of America’s big cities, being labelled a form of gambling, because it was a game of chance, not skill.
One of my friends who joined us as the museum is not yet unschooling, and observed that the children were "having fun" but "when would they learn something"? She had been trying to explain some of the exhibits but noticed their eyes would glaze over. I explained a bit about natural learning and encouraged her to relax and let them discover. A few minutes later, I observed this. It is her daughter, deeply engrossed and thoroughly "in the moment".
One of my friends who joined us at the museum is not yet (lol) unschooling, and observed that the children were “having fun” but “when would they learn something”? She had been trying to explain some of the exhibits to her kids, but noticed their eyes glazing over. I explained a bit about natural learning and encouraged her to relax and let them discover things, being available and interested, but not stepping into a “teacher” role. A few minutes later, I observed this: it is her daughter, deeply engrossed and thoroughly “in the moment”. I observed her similarly engrossed in a few other exhibits during our time at the museum.
We watched a sound and light show about the history of steel making in our city. We learned a thing or two that were quite interesting! I'm kind of glad I'm not a steel worker though!
We watched a sound and light show about the history of steel making in our city. We learned a thing or two that were quite interesting! I’m kind of glad I’m not a steel worker though!

Some of the displays of toys in cabinets were quite interesting, although I noticed they were too static to particularly grab the attention of the kids other than a cursory glance as they walked past. I, on the other hand, enjoyed looking back through memory lane and noticing toys I’d played with as a child. Way to make me feel old!! Especially when highlighting o the kids, “Hey, I used to play with that when I was a kid!” and they would be like, “Wow, really???” 😉

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The kids definitely tended to prefer the more hands on activities, which was hardly surprising. I was really thankful that they weren’t there on a school excursion, complete with worksheets trying to get them to focus on answering questions, rather than walking around following their bliss, and *asking* questions (even silent ones inside their own heads) about what they were discovering. I was also glad we hadn’t booked in as a “school” group, because they would have had to go around the exhibition in small groups, spending ten minutes at each station. It was so much more enjoyable and natural for them to stay and linger at certain points, and walk right past other exhibits, and to absorb just what was right for them at that moment.

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This particular display totally reminds me of something out of a Dr Seuss book!

All in all we had a fun time, and the food from the museum cafe was absolutely delicious. An equally important criteria for a successful outing. 🙂

“Not Back to School” Big Day Out, 2013

A new homeschoolers’ social group has recently been formed, for people across quite a broad area, primarily for the purpose of giving the teens and tweens an opportunity to broaden their social circle, to help meet their need to connect with other tweens/teens who don’t go to school.

The first event we’ve managed to get to was about a four hour drive from where we live, but it was SO worthwhile! Jamberoo Action Park has been around for awhile (I even went when I was a teenager, prompting my kids to comment that “It really IS old, then!”) and it is bigger and better than ever, with even more rides on the way. One of the beautiful things about this small theme park is its absolutely gorgeous setting, with the backdrop of the green rolling hills. It is breathtakingly beautiful; one of my favourite parts of the world, in fact (not that I’ve been to many!).

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We picked the perfect day to go! Schools had just started up for the 2013 year, leaving the parks more empty for us homeschoolers to enjoy! Yay! 🙂 We also managed to sneak in before the school groups started doing excursions. One of the workers commented on how lucky we were, with waits for rides normally being at least an hour, whereas our kids could usually just run up and hop on any ride straight away. And the picnic sheds and grassy eating areas were pretty much empty. Most of the kids in the group didn’t know each other, so it was a bit awkward in some ways and the little clusters who already knew each other tended to stick together a bit, but I’m sure that friendships will be forged through more regular meetups. Here are some photos from our fun day!

The Funnel Web ride
The Funnel Web ride
Funnel web (showing the slide)
Funnel web (showing the slide)
3 brave girls, spinning out of control as they enter the vortex of the funnel web's trap!
3 brave girls, spinning out of control as they enter the vortex of the funnel web’s trap!
Inside the Funnel Web
Inside the Funnel Web
Jumping off "The Rock"
Jumping off “The Rock”
Weeeeee!
Weeeeee!
One of the things Molly was most excited about was the wave pool!
One of the things Molly was most excited about was the wave pool!
It was such a thrill for her to play in the waves, without needing to worry about sharks! She got a face full of water plenty of times, but didn't care one bit!
It was such a thrill for her to play in the waves, without needing to worry about sharks! She got a face full of water plenty of times, but didn’t care one bit!
Once she got out past the breaking waves and into the deeper water, it was eerily still. There is a 15 minute break between the wave sessions, while everyone just swims around in the water, waiting, waiting, waiting....
Once she got out past the breaking waves and into the deeper water, it was eerily still. There is a 15 minute break between the wave sessions, while everyone just swims around in the water, waiting, waiting, waiting….
Once the waves begin to roll, the intensity builds quite quickly and before you know it they're breaking relentlessly for then next 5 minutes or so! I actually found it quite scary to watch her in the water. The waves were quite huge!!
Once the waves begin to roll, the intensity builds quite quickly and before you know it they’re breaking relentlessly for then next 5 minutes or so! I actually found it quite scary to watch her in the water. The waves were quite huge!!
Declan and his mate Tim chillaxing on the "Rapid" River Ride
Declan and his mate Tim chillaxing on the “Rapid” River Ride
And then finding ways to make it a bit more exciting. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? :)
And then finding ways to make it a bit more exciting. Necessity is the mother of invention, right? 🙂
Molly rekindling a friendship with her friend, Kate
Molly rekindling a friendship with her friend, Kate
Such a beautiful setting for a theme park.
Such a beautiful setting for a theme park.
I had to borrow this image from the Jamberoo website, because I didn't manage to get a photo of the kids on the bobsled. It was, without doubt, the favourite of all the rides!
I had to borrow this image from the Jamberoo website, because I didn’t manage to get a photo of the kids on the bobsled. It was, without doubt, the favourite of all the rides! A week after we were there, someone got bitten by a snake when he got to the bottom!! Soooooo glad that didn’t happen the day we were there!

All in all it was a fantastic day! We didn’t know many people there, because they’d travelled from quite a vast area, but it was great to know that just about everyone else there were living school free, just like us!

First Ever Protest March

I have always been a passionate person, whether it be about unschooling, faith, environmental issues, social justice…. Molly (10) seems to be following in my footsteps, all of her own volition. And to be honest, she gives me a run for my money in terms of passion and commitment! It is wonderful to be able to support her in her passion to care for people, animals and the planet. She set up a little website awhile ago, although hasn’t added anything to it for some time. She is still finding her groove in terms of what to do with her desire to help make the world a better place. She once initiated a fundraiser for the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and definitely wants to do some kind of work in this area when she is older (helping animals, not making cupcakes!).

There are not really many opportunities for kids to do volunteer work, it seems. We recently tried to do some training in whale rescue, but the minimum age was fifteen. We tried to do puppy raising for the Guide Dog Association but we live in the wrong city. I’m sure her passion will continue to grow over time (and it’s okay if it doesn’t) and that she will find more opportunities to express it in practical ways. Here’s one way we were able to make a little bit of a difference this past weekend. (I met a lady who works with the Wilderness Society, and it was easy to imagine Molly choosing to do something like that when she’s older, but I keep those ideas in check, remembering that this is her journey, not mine, and it may take surprising twists and turns. In the meantime, we live in this moment!)

Coal seam gas seems to be the latest rage in Australia recently. It has not been proven as safe for human health or for the environment and yet the government has been surging ahead in approving new coal seam gas mines left, right, and centre. There has been such a huge public outcry about it, that they have now made major policy changes to hopefully protect residential areas from direct impact, but this will not protect the ground water and other problems. It’s been amazing to see the public rally together and have such a loud voice on this issue. With friends directly affected by the issue, we have had the opportunity to get involved in direct activism and this has been a great opportunity to facilitate my daughter’s interest in caring for the environment and encouraging others to do the same. This last Sunday we attended our first ever protest march. When we arrived and she heard the leader of the march shouting a slogan through the megaphone/loud speaker, you could just about hear her heart racing. She was in her element and rearing to go!

Gumboots, jeans, farmland and a cause closer to her heart, and she's OFF! Ready for action...
Gumboots, jeans, farmland, a cause close to her heart, and she’s OFF!
The local community was represented by people as young as a few months and as old as NINETY-SIX!! At the last protest, this lady got charged $200 by the police for refusing to move from the blockade.
The local community was represented by people as young as a few months and as old as NINETY-SIX!! At the last protest, this lady got charged $200 by the police for refusing to move from the blockade.
The zeal of the people was undeniably present. I asked this lady if I could photograph her and I think she was then of the belief that I was with the media, and she started telling me all the reasons why coal seam gas was bad. I wish I'd had a notepad to make it seem more authentic. ;)
The zeal of the people was undeniably present. I asked this lady if I could photograph her and I think she was then of the belief that I was with the media, and she started telling me all the reasons why coal seam gas was bad. I wish I’d had a notepad to make it seem more authentic. 😉
It was great to see the indigenous community represented, too.
It was great to see the indigenous community represented, too.
The media were there during the entire march and all the speeches at the end. This is a politician they are interviewing.
The media were there during the entire march and all the speeches at the end. This is a politician they are interviewing.
The message was undeniably clear!
The message was undeniably clear!
The hats have been collected by all sorts of people, as a sign of support for the "Lock the Gate" protest.
The hats have been collected by all sorts of people, as a sign of support for the “Lock the Gate” protest.
A reminder of what is at risk if the mine goes ahead.
A reminder of what is at risk if the mine goes ahead.
A community survey revealed that 97.5% of local residents are opposed to the planned coal seam gas mine, so they have made two signs declaring this, and they will be erected at both ends of the road. They also got resident's signatures on an official declaration, which will be presented to parliament tomorrow.
A community survey revealed that 97.5% of local residents are opposed to the planned coal seam gas mine, so they have made two signs declaring this, and they will be erected at both ends of the road. They also got resident’s signatures on an official declaration, which will be presented to parliament tomorrow.
Molly couldn't get much closer to the action if she tried. During all the speeches she stood right at the front of the crowd, listening eagerly to every word.
Molly couldn’t get much closer to the action if she tried. During all the speeches she stood right at the front of the crowd, listening eagerly to every word.
It was exhausting work, and after a big day out, this was the result, within minutes of walking in the front door.
All in a good day’s work! This was the result, within minutes of walking in the front door.

Food Freedom in Action

I wrote recently about our journey to Food Freedom. Tonight after a bit of Valentine’s Day food fun, I realised it was a good example of what I was talking about before, so here is a snapshot of Food Freedom in action. 🙂

A sleepover on Valentine’s Day seemed like a good excuse to try out a new recipe: Raw Chocolate Hearts, made with raw cacao powder, pure maple syrup and organic coconut oil (I flavoured it with some peppermint essence for extra pizazz!) After letting it set for not-quite-long-enough in the freezer (because who can wait, really!?), the fun began!

The girls had fun cutting out some shapes in the not-quite-frozen chocolate
The girls had fun cutting out some shapes in the not-quite-frozen chocolate – it hadn’t had time to set hard so it was deliciously gooey and messy!
The tasting began and the verdict was………
A definite thumbs up!
A definite thumbs up!
Yummy gooey deliciousness, even for self-proclaimed non-chocolate-lovers!
Yummy gooey deliciousness, even for self-proclaimed non-chocolate-lovers!
Who needs shape cutters when God gave us fingers?
Who needs shape cutters when God gave us fingers?
Along comes one of the teens to see what the fuss is all about, and he has a taste...
Along comes one of the teens to see what the fuss is all about, and he has a taste…
Nah, I'd prefer to eat some grapes thanks
Nah, I’d prefer to eat some grapes thanks
Yum, that was nice!
Yummo! More for everyone else. 🙂
Five minutes after the eating of the raw peppermint chocolate, the choice for yet another child was grapes. Neither food was said to be better or worse than the other. It was all just food, and it was all delicious! No guilt, no judgment, just food.
Five minutes after the eating of the raw peppermint chocolate, the choice for yet another child was grapes. Neither food was said to be better or worse than the other. It was all just food, and it was all delicious! No guilt, no judgment, just food.

I am so glad we no longer have an environment of food tension, judgements surrounding food, guilt, shaming and control in our family. It is wonderful to have children who are free to really taste and enjoy food, even if it’s “unhealthy” or, God forbid, “junk” food. We’ll be waking up to freshly made vegetable juice in the morning, and it has absolutely nothing to do with having to “compensate” for the chocolate tonight. It just so happens that tomorrow is a juicing day. We’ll also have a fresh fruit protein smoothie for breakfast, made with home made raw nut butter and organic chia seeds from the Kimberleys in Australia, amongst other delicious ingredients. The smoothie is nothing to do with anything that was eaten tonight or at any other time. It just so happens to be one of our favourite breakfasts at the moment!

Passing It On

I remember my father’s last Christmas well. He had terminal cancer and very little time left. The whole family gathered together and created a beautiful memory, even though he was so sick. At one stage, in spite of Dad’s deteriorating state, the inevitable game of indoor cricket took place in the lounge room, using a cricket bat and a ping pong ball. Dad had been a cricket coach in his time, and it was definitely one of his passions. He was sitting there in his wheelchair, attached to his oxygen machine, when he surprised us all by slowly getting up, hobbling over to my son and giving him a few final tidbits of cricketing wisdom. He couldn’t stand for long, but the effort and love were an incredibly beautiful thing to witness. I glanced with tear-filled eyes at my mother and husband, sharing that knowing look of awareness that this was one of those moments. A moment to treasure.

My mother is a truly amazing woman, a blessing to everyone she knows, and everyone she meets. Where she goes, the love grows. People feel cared for and special when she is around; particularly her very fortunate grandchildren. Every school holidays, when she isn’t working (yes, she’s 72 and still teaches piano and manages a music studio at her local church), she makes the nine hour trek north to my brother’s house to look after his children while the parents work. On the way, she stops in at our place (conveniently placed part way along her journey) and spends a couple of days with us. She washes dishes, folds washing, takes the younger kids to see a movie, and just enjoys spending time with us, as we do with her. She’s a very easy houseguest, fitting in with the flow of family life, and we always look forward to her visits.

I have often wondered what it would have been like if we hadn’t moved away from the home town where I grew up, and where Mum still lives. I’ve wondered what it would be like if my kids had grown up with extended family living in the same town. I know there would be wonderful things about that, but I tell you what, there are also wonderful things about being long-distance family. Phone calls, Skype, Facebook, and in particular those ‘special shared holidays’, where you really make the most of the time you have together because you haven’t grown accustomed to just always having them around. There is no room for complacency in appreciating the time together when it is something that happens less often.

We lived further away once, out in the Australian outback, and we saw our extended family even less often then. Usually once a year, sometimes twice, so the shared time together was even more special then. The hello hugs and farewells were deeply felt. It was during that time that my father passed away, and there were certainly challenges involved in being so far away during his illness, but again, I am just so thankful for the times we had together (and for his frequent flyer miles I was able to take advantage of!).

Visiting Nanna on one of our holidays when we lived far away
Visiting Nanna on one of our holidays when we lived far away

Anyway, all of that is really just a precursor to a couple of fun snapshots and videos from my mother’s most recent visit to our home! (The kids have grown up quite a lot since the above photo!) She taught my two youngest children a little hand clapping routine that her grandmother had taught her when she was a girl. She was passing it on to my kids, and whilst I don’t think they’ve quite perfected it yet, they had fun trying, and I wonder if they will one day pass it on to their grandchildren, and remember with fondness the grandmother that taught it to them.

After my mother had taught the kids her tricky hand manoeuvres, my kids had a trick or two to teach her! It was so much fun watching my 72-year-old mother keeping those neural pathways buzzing. 🙂

Family: we may not always see eye to eye, and it may not be perfect, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity my children have had to know their grandparents, even if from a distance, and even if for only a short time (my youngest child was only 14 months old when my father died).

If you don’t have a loving grandparent in the lives of your children, either near or far, perhaps there is a lonely older person you could adopt. There is something really beautiful about mixed age groups sharing time together.

An Imperfect Unschooling Life

So, here’s the deal. I’ve been thinking of deleting this blog, or at least taking it offline. Why? Because, well, I’m not perfect. And neither is my family.

Bet you thought we were, huh? 🙂

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© Roza | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

I mean, don’t all bloggers have this amazing, perfect, ideal life? I guess you could be forgiven for thinking they do, but in reality, what you read on anyone’s blog is only ever a fraction of that person’s life. For the most part, people write about the good stuff. The “successes”. It can be scary to put yourself out into the public eye, opening yourself up to possible judgment and scrutiny, so it can be tempting to whitewash things a little bit, or shy away from writing about the challenges. Most people don’t want to have their weaknesses or bad days recorded forever on the world wide web, especially those who write about their children.

Like other writers, I don’t want my children to feel embarrassed by me sharing stories of them having a hard time, or struggling with something. (For the record, I do ask them for permission if I write about them, and they are old enough to have a preference. When people write about their very young children, I do wonder if those children, when they are older, may regret being a “household name”, but I guess it depends what is written. I know for sure that when parents write derogatory, insulting things about their children online, it is completely inappropriate. I’m sure you know the kind of posts I’m talking about. Shooting a hole in your child’s laptop, anyone? Making them stand in the street holding an embarrassing sign? No, thank you! I respect my children way too much to write about that kind of thing publicly. Or to do it in the first place.)

Just when I was thinking, our family isn’t “perfect” enough to have an unschooling blog, I received a super encouraging message about my writing, that caused me to think that maybe there is a reason to write after all (apart from the fact that I enjoy it, of course!). Then I remembered back to a time when a homeschooling mum came up to me at an event and thanked me for writing about unschooling. At first when she said, “I read your blog post!”, I was a wee bit worried, thinking she was upset with me, because she is a strict school-at-home parent. She surprised me by sharing that she had been challenged by my post, and her parenting and approach to homeschooling would never be the same. I was humbled, and encouraged, and I decided that if just one person is encouraged by my writing, it is worth it. If just one person is inspired to consider unschooling, it is worth it. If just one person is challenged to parent more respectfully and gently, it is worth it. If just one person is encouraged by knowing that a grieving mother can live a happy life even while carrying that love scar, it is worth it.

I hope to keep it real on this blog, to share a balance of both “successes” and challenges faced by this imperfect family. I think it is better for readers to see real and imperfect families living with hope, rather than elevated, seemingly “perfect” families presenting themselves on a pedestal behind a white picket fence.

According to the Miriam Webster dictionary, imperfect can mean a number of things, including defective, but the one that most fits what I am trying to say is: “a continuing state or an incomplete action”. In the words of Sonny in the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, “Everything will be alright in the end… if it’s not alright, then it’s not yet the end.”

We’re not finished yet!

We don’t need to wait for tomorrow to have a better day. There are plenty more moments left today. Right now. It’s what we do with each one that matters.

And for now, I will continue writing about it.

From one imperfect (unfinished) family to another, I send out love and encouragement to keep embracing each moment, living it to the full and forgiving yourself for the moments you regret and the weaknesses you perceive, remembering that the light still shines, and another moment is ready and waiting. Not tomorrow or next week or next year, but right here, right now.

Perhaps if all of us chose just one person to encourage each day, just as someone encouraged me, a multitude of people would be inspired to continue on with their passions, knowing that they really can make a difference and be an inspiration. Even if they’re not perfect.