It’s Beginning to Look a lot like Christmas!

We don’t own a Christmas Tree. We’ve had a couple of artificial trees previously, and the last one was actually quite nice, but we gave it to the op shop two house moves ago, partly because our house at the time wasn’t big enough for a tree, and partly because we decided we would rather have a real one. First we tried our hand at a living tree (a species that dates back to dinosaur days!) in a pot, and that lasted, well, one Christmas 😉 so we decided this year to go for a real tree, direct from a farm. We figure it’s good to support a local farmer, it’s good for the environment, and we’ll only have to keep it green for a couple of weeks, which we can hopefully manage!

So it was off to the local Christmas Tree Farm to buy ourselves a tree! Just Molly and I went because, well, the tree was going to take up the entire back of our van being as we have neither roof racks nor a trailer!

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It was a bit exciting! And there were hundreds and hundreds to choose from!
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Some just needed to be hugged!
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Some were a bit too small
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Although they were very, very cute
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And some were waaaaaay too tall!

We realised that we had forgotten to measure the size of the van interior, so we used Molly as a tape measure by getting her to lay down in the back of the van, which actually worked pretty well! 🙂 We realised that the maximum size we could get was just a tad taller than her with her arms stretched up high.

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Finally we found one that was just right. 🙂
All we needed then was a friendly farmer with a saw, a quadbike and a trailer, and the tree was ours!
All we needed then was a friendly farmer with a saw, a quadbike and a trailer!
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The barn where we parted with our money was just so cute, I had to get a photo of it. 🙂
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Carrying the tree over the threshold. 😉
You know those books where you have to spot something on each page? What do you spot in each picture? ;) Someone was VERY interested in our new tree!
You know those books where you have to spot something on each page? What do you spot in each picture? 😉 Someone was VERY interested in our new tree!
Time for some decorations! This is the first year that I have been able to fully and absolutely let go of any sense of control over the end result. Molly was the only child particularly interested in decorating and she was VERY interested, and wanted to do it by herself, so we cranked up the Christmas music and she went for it. Placing the start on top required a bit of creative furniture moving, but was successful in the end!
Time for some decorations! This is the first year that I have been able to fully and absolutely let go of any sense of control over the end result. Molly was the only child particularly interested in decorating and she was actually VERY interested, wanting to do it by herself, so we cranked up the Christmas music and she went for it. Placing the star on top required some problem solving and was successful without any broken bones or upturned trees, which is always a good thing!
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Time to remember a special little boy, who never got to celebrate even one christmas with us, but remains forever in our hearts. We loved you and love you still Cody xo
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On a lighter note, I would like to take a brief moment to remember our Christmas Angel. May she rest in peace. 😉 Forever rejected by a child’s preference for a Christmas Star!
All in a day's work. :) Let the celebrations commence (or continue, as the case may be!)
All in a day’s work. 🙂 Let the celebrations commence (or continue, as the case may be!)

Wishing everyone a wonderful, loving, peaceful, fun Christmas, however you choose to celebrate. Remembering, too, those who grieve or are lonely at this time. xo

Settling In

After our first night in our empty house, things were about to get a whole lot more cluttered! With the truck arriving 30 minutes earlier than expected, I was not only without coffee making facilities, but also without a take away coffee. And it was 6.30am. Oh dear!

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We’ve never used a removalist company before, and wow! How amazing they were! Although it would have been much nicer if they’d brought me coffee!

Before we knew it, the multitudes of boxes that had surrounded us at our old house were now surrounding us at our new one! And it was only me, two kids and a dog there to unpack it. I did offer the removalists my undying love and affection if they would just stay and unpack everything for me……

Fortunately, I received offers of help from my sister-in-law and my mother-in-law, and even from a friend I’d never actually met! It was such a strange and wonderful thing to welcome her to my new home and meet her face to face at the same time. We had chatted so much online through a common interest group, and now here she was bringing me practical help and good conversation that wasn’t typed on a keyboard, although I was somewhat tempted to communicate via iPads across the kitchen bench! They were all so incredibly helpful in getting the initial unpacking of my kitchen done and helping me find a bit of floor space to walk on! They even brought coffee, which is more than I can say for the removalists. 🙂

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The joy of a drive-through coffee shop up the road! (Not sure about the straw though?)

The next day the kids and I continued unpacking and trying to make some sense of all the mess. One of the boxes Molly was particularly delighted to open was filled with board games, which proved to be a great way to connect in the midst of the chaos. The problem was that I was so incredibly tired, I kept falling asleep in between each one of my turns!

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My sleepiness was apparently a brilliant source of amusement for the kids, and they even managed to capture quite a few videos of me snoozing and then being suddenly woken by some trick of theirs!

Then, finally, at the end of the day, 48 hours after our arrival, Geoff and Brady arrived in Larry the Laser, who had done a stellar job of towing a heavily ladened trailer over 1,000 kilometres! Even Molly’s three pet mice survived the trip. AND they stayed in their cage, much to Geoff and Brady’s delight!

The human family members weren't the only ones delighted to greet Geoff and Brady upon their arrival!
The human family members weren’t the only ones delighted to greet Geoff and Brady upon their arrival!
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Our first night “together” in our new home was actually only 5/6ths of our family, with Travis having chosen to stay in Newcastle. And, to make it particularly poignant, the day Geoff and Brady arrived was Travis’ 20th Birthday! We celebrated in his absence with some take away food at the coffee table because we didn’t yet have cooking supplies set up or even a dining table!!) It was super nice to have Brady and Geoff back with us, but sad to be missing Travis. It sounds as though he had a pretty fun night with his mates though!
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Gradually, gradually, things started to look a little bit like home.
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We went op shopping for treasures and furniture
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Buying drive-through coffee on the way – of course!

One of the expected surprises at the new house was that there was a basketball hoop set up in the backyard. Molly in particular had wanted one for awhile, and there was one already there! The kids quickly discovered that our little rebounder was a lot of fun to use when shooting hoops!

It’s beginning to feel a lot like home. 🙂

Home Sweet Home

Finally, finally, after two overnight stops, we made it to the real estate agent to hand over a small fortune in exchange for a large set of keys. We were almost “home”.

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Walking through the tunnel of bushes and putting the key in the lock for the first time (once we finally worked out which one it was!) was especially exciting, because we’d never even seen the house before! (One of the challenges of an interstate move.)

We had fun exploring our new house and discovering some of its unexpected surprises (well, I don’t guess they’d be surprises if they were expected, lol).

Like laundry chutes! Heaps of fun! I'm sure the novelty will wear off, but it was fun imagining some of the things we could put down there! Fortunately for Lucy, we decided that even our little dog would be too big! ;)
Like laundry chutes! Heaps of fun! I’m sure the novelty will wear off, but it was fun imagining some of the things we could put down there! Fortunately for Lucy, we decided that even our little dog would be too big! 😉
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We found a lovely wind chime on the back deck, discovered a little “friend” in the garden that matched one of two we had back home but had inadvertently left behind, found out that the front door bell is actually an intercom system which we had quite a lot of fun with, and discovered we have a ducted vacuum system (woo hoo!).
We decided quite quickly that although rather small, we really like the backyard! It has 3 fruit trees, a gorgeous deck and plenty of room for our little dog to run around and explore. I love watching the kids being creative with photography. It was a lovely way for them to connect with and discover their new outdoor living space.
I love watching the kids being creative with photography; it was a great way for them to connect with and discover their new outdoor living space (and share it with friends – thank you social media!). We decided quite quickly that although rather small, we really like the backyard! It has 3 fruit trees, a gorgeous deck and plenty of room for our little dog to run around and explore.
It was weird but also fun to spend the first night in a completely empty house. :)
It was weird but also fun to spend the first night in a completely empty house. 🙂

Hello Victoria!

A mistake on my calendar meant I suddenly had one less day in which to get everything packed up and ready for the removalists. It was a mad scramble and very stressful and I am so thankful for my amazing family and for friends who pitched in to help!

Before we knew it, the moving trucks were parked out the front ready to load up. I hadn’t slept all night and still wasn’t ready, but managed to somehow get through it all. Poor Geoff had only had a couple of hours sleep during the night and I fortunately managed to crash out for an hour or two on a mattress on the floor of our bedroom, while the moving guys were in the house labelling everything that was to go. Fortunately they waited to label the mattress until I woke up!

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Insanity

Suddenly our big move was upon us!! Our furniture and belongings were on their way, and it was time for us to follow!! The younger kids and I headed off first, so we would be there in time to greet the truck in a couple of days. Geoff and Brady were staying behind to finish a few things and clean up, and Travis was going to be helping and preparing his own move.

And suddenly it hit me. This was really happening! I was harbouring occasional doubts and fears, but knew that this was the moment for embracing our choice and moving forward. So as we drove off and passed familiar landmarks, we called out loud goodbyes from the windows…. whilst simultaneously feeling a sense sadness in our souls. It’s amazing how excitement and sadness can dwell together.

IMG_9362First stop was my mother’s place, for an overnight stay. We were only three hours into the journey but I knew that was all I would manage the first day because I was just so tired, plus we were travelling with a dog. It was also a good opportunity to say goodbye to my Mum. The worst part about the stop was when Molly got woken up by a spider biting her! She is terrified of spiders at the best of times, so this was an incredibly challenging experience but the kids handled it well and managed to kill the spider and then came straight to me for support and help. Do you want to see it? 🙂

Mum was a generous, gracious host  – as always – and it was hard to say goodbye, knowing that we would now need to do a plane trip or a full day’s driving to be able to see her. We have also left behind our entire extended family on my side, most of whom live in the same town as my mother. It is good to know she has them nearby, but I am also painfully aware that I won’t be there. We have promised Mum that we will fly her down as often as she wants to come, so we can at least look forward to some fun adventures when she visits, and we can discover Melbourne together! Apart from that, she is an amazing long-distance Nanna, Mother and Mother-in-law, so that will help, too.

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No sooner had we left Mum’s than the rain started to pour down. Simultaneously, one of our windscreen wiper blades started to come loose. Three times I had to stop in the rain on the side of a very busy freeway with semi-trailers hurtling past at high speed, to try to fix it. Eventually, one of the clips blew off and we were totally without windscreen wipers, at which point we made a quick dash for the closest store hoping to find help. We were pretty much in the middle of nowhere and the little tiny convenience store didn’t seem at all promising when the lady behind the counter could barely understand English and did know what a “windscreen wiper blade” was. Fortunately her husband was a kind, if somewhat unusual, man, and he not only did a creative makeshift job, he didn’t charge me for his time or the blade. Good samaritans can be found in the most unexpected places!
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One thing we’re looking forward to about Melbourne is cooler weather (yes, I know, we’re strange) and we sure knew we were heading south when we stopped to let Lucy (our dog) out for a stretch and a wee at Goulburn. I realise it won’t be this cold all the time, but goodness me we were feeling it in our bones!
Declan's photo from out the car window at Goulburn (edited on Instagram)
While I was having a little sleep in the car, Declan took this amazing shot out the passenger window. I love the contrast between the black and white in the mirror and the colours behind it. We likened it to how you see the most colourful view when you look ahead rather than looking back to the past. A very pertinent thought as we embrace the upcoming changes.
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Our very blurry photo of the border crossing into Victoria. It was late, we could hardly see the sign and we were driving with another car close behind us so this was the best we could do. Not quite the spectacular grand entrance we had been hoping for, lol!
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This isn’t a border crossing photo, but it is definitely photographic evidence that we had arrived in Vic!
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Declan, Molly and I all agreed that we loved this road trip, enjoying good conversation, frivolity, great music, and awesome scenery along country roads like this one.
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For my American friends 🙂

We had one more overnight stop with our wonderful friends, the Schlosses, and got a double bonus because the lovely MacKay family from “Wheel Education” were staying there in their bus, too!

Beautiful cake made for us,by our beautiful friend
Before we could leave, we were treated to this beautiful carrot cake, lovingly made for us by Molly’s dear friend, Maddie.
Lucy was a great travelling dog!
We had been a bit worried about how Lucy would go on such a long trip, thinking she would be alert and possibly unsettled for a lot of the way…..
Sleepy dog!
But she actually did a lot of this……
Gangster Lucy
And even this! (Although if you look closely you’ll see that she’s actually QUITE alert under her gangster disguise!)

Next stop: Melbourne, and our new home!

See Ya Later NSW!

We have moved house a lot of times. We have even moved quite long distances away. But this has, by far, been the most intense move we’ve ever done. I think it was partly because

  • It was an interstate move
  • Geoff was away a lot leading up to the move
  • We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare
  • We had a LOT of stuff to move and we were paying movers to do it for us (because we literally did not have enough days between Geoff finishing up at one place of employment and starting at his next one, so it was “Bye, bye, holiday pay!!”) so we wanted to get rid of lots of stuff that we either no longer wanted or needed, and also items that were simply too old and damaged to bother paying to have moved!
  • We had quite a lot of trouble finding a house to rent
  • And last but not least, our move was coinciding with our oldest moving out on his own AND he was away on his first overseas trip to Bali for about 10 days leading up to our move!

In the final weeks before moving day, I was constantly torn between wanting to spend time with friends we were moving away from (including one who was going through a particularly difficult time) and also wanting to prepare for Travis moving out of home. I also wanted to ensure we could spend as much relaxed time with him as possible before and after his Bali trip, so we could “end on a good note”. Staying on task and putting tasks before people are not strong points for me, so it was a constant challenge; however, before we knew it the end was upon us and it was time for some farewells!

We had a night out with some of our homeschool friends. This is Molly and her friends being totally silly out on the street after dinner. It was a fun night and reminded me of how much we will miss these awesome friends!
I was driving around doing errands while Declan and Molly were at their final youth group, when I unexpectedly spotted them all walking up the street to the “Senior Citizen’s Centre, where they funnily hold the night session!). I acted like a spy, taking photos out of my window while stopped in a carpark! (They had no idea and I can honestly see a future for me as a private investigator, lol). The vibe was so fun and vibrant, it was easy for me to see why they will miss “Youthstreet” so much!
Getting fitted for reading glasses. Very exciting!
We couldn’t leave town without squeezing in an eye test for Molly (she’d been asking for awhile and had just found an optometrist she trusted and liked enough to have him test her eyes). Lo and behold she does need glasses for close up work, and they fortunately arrived the very day we were due to leave for our move!!
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We gathered with some of our dearest friends at one of our favourite hang out places, “The Croatian Club,” for a farewell complete with woodfired pizza, Polish beer, good conversation and lots of fun. We can only hope we find friends as good as these in our new location!
It was a poignant thing to go to our local Italian restaurant upon Travis' return from Bali to say, "Welcome home, happy 20th birthday for the day after we leave the State, and see ya later!" It is so weird to think that our firstborn is now officially "out on his own"! He will be missed very, very much and I am definitely not used to the idea yet!
It was a poignant thing to go to our local Italian restaurant upon Travis’ return from Bali to say, “Welcome home, happy 20th birthday for the day after we leave the State, and see ya later!” It is so weird to think that our firstborn is now officially “out on his own”! He will be missed very, very much and I am definitely not used to the idea yet!

A Change is as Good as a Holiday?

A little while ago (not very long), we were advised that the owners of our home were returning from their trip around Australia, possibly just for a few months, possibly for good. This meant we had to move out, but would potentially be able to move back in after a few months.

An idea was born.

We could head off on an adventure!

I shared the idea with Geoff, who usually takes a deeeeep preparatory breath when I start a sentence with “Hey, I’ve had an idea…..” I fully expected that he would write it off as totally crazy and that we should simply find a house to rent nearby to our current home, but he surprised me by saying words to the effect of “Why the heck not?!”

So we started dreaming.

My dreams of far-off lands like the UK, Canada and even New Zealand, quickly morphed into more realistic places such as Tasmania or Victoria (Melbourne). I clung to the Tassie idea for awhile, but soon realised it was a no go, and agreed that Melbourne was the place. With lots of extended family already living there, plus better homeschooling laws, better climate (yes, we’re strange, we like the cooler weather!) and, basically, Melbourne being a very “hip” city, it seemed like a great place to base ourselves for the next six months or so. It wasn’t quite an overseas, exotic locale and was, in fact, only one state away from home. It didn’t sound quite as glamorous as some of the other places I’d been thinking of, but it didn’t sound terrible, either! With four-sixths of Geoff’s family already living there, we had good reason to move closer to them and spend time with his half of the family, who we’ve hardly seen for the past seven or so years.

We sat with the idea for awhile and then gathered the kids to have a chat. We presented the dream and asked for their thoughts, moving into a brain storming session where no thought or idea was considered silly or wrong.

Travis thought it was a wonderful idea and said we should definitely do it, but that he wouldn’t come with us. He was almost twenty at the time, and starting to consider his options for flatting with friends, or heading north to warmer weather and bigger waves. My heart started to race at the idea that we could end up living a whole state or two apart, but reassured myself that it was “only for six months”.

Brady quickly wrote the idea off, but within about 20 minutes of conversation had totally changed his tune, and became very excited about the idea, having often thought of relocating to Melbourne himself once he moved out anyway!

The younger two had reservations but also enthusiasm about the adventure ahead, and before we knew it a mutual decision had been made and plans started to snowball, for our “6 month adventure”!

I will save you the dreary details of our hunt for a rental property (which ended in a twelve month lease, rather than six), the sorting and stashing of all our worldly goods, and so on. 🙂

I will say this, though. I have the most amazing mother on earth. I kid you not. I was really worried about telling her our idea, knowing that it would take us much further away from her. We were already three hours away, but this would be a much greater distance, and require flying rather than driving to visit. I wanted to tell her in person, so I invited her to meet me for lunch in the city, because I “had something to tell her”. It wasn’t until afterwards that I realised how hard it must have been for her to hear those words, and the possibilities her imagination may well have been dredging up.

So I headed off on my 2.5 hour train trip and she drove the hour trip in to the city, and we talked. And talked. And talked. (Some things never change!)

The short story is (because trust me, if I started on the long story we’d be here all night!) she gave us her blessing to move nine hours away from her. She is a widow and could easily have wallowed in self pity, feeling upset with us for “abanding” or “deserting” her, but instead, she started to get excited about coming down for regular holidays, saying that she’d always wanted to see more of Melbourne and now she had the perfect excuse, and at our expense! She was also very diplomatic, stating that we could have announced we were moving to the other side of the earth!

I was so amazed by the way she embraced our choice, and yet she was also honest about how she would miss us being closer to her.

Before we knew it, everything was full steam ahead and life started to look a lot like this:

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Okay, so there were a few distractions along the way, like playing with bubble wrap. 🙂
... and playing with boxes
… and playing with boxes
Saying yes to helping your child make their first Halloween costume
Saying yes to helping your child make their first Halloween costume
..... and saying yes to helping one of your other kids with their Halloween costume!
….. and saying yes to helping one of your other kids with their Halloween costume!
Having birthdays .....
Having birthdays …..
..... and birthday parties
….. and birthday parties
Sending your first born off on his first overseas adventure, knowing that on his return he will have just a couple of days before moving out on his own for the first time
Sending your first born off on his first overseas adventure, knowing that on his return he will have just a couple of days before moving out on his own for the first time
..... and then dealing with the courier who ran into your son's motorbike and tried to rip you off!
….. and then dealing with the courier who ran into your son’s motorbike and tried to rip you off!
Saying yes to the kids inviting their friends over
Saying yes to the kids inviting their friends over
..... and saying yes to an electronic drum set, even though it takes hours to set up and would have to be packed up for the move in two weeks!
….. and saying yes to an electronic drum set, even though it takes hours to set up and would have to be packed up for the move in two weeks!
Spending your first supposedly uninterrupted day of packing at the roadside with your husband's broken down car
Spending your first supposedly uninterrupted day of packing at the roadside with your husband’s broken down car
..... sorting and purging, giving away and selling
….. sorting and purging, giving away and selling
..... patching up "packing injuries" and buying way too many mangoes just a few days before the big move!!
….. patching up “packing injuries” and buying way too many mangoes just a few days before the big move!!

And that’s only half of it. There were also multiple interstate business trips for Geoff, a couple of bouts of sickness for me, a vomiting child, interstate visitors (which was much more fun than the vomiting child!), and many other intermittent interruptions to the task at hand. The stress culminated in a sudden realisation, three days before the truck was due to come, that it was actually coming in two days! I had inadvertently forgotten to change the amended date in my calendar, and I suddenly had one entire less day in which to get everything finished! There are many good reasons as to why moving house rates so high on the stress scale and we were experiencing them all! But we got through it, as does everyone who experiences similar situations. And before we knew it, the time for goodbyes was upon us, but we’ll leave that post for another day……

Our First Halloween

We’ve never really celebrated Halloween before, which is probably because of our traditional christian roots. After moving away from institutionalised Christianity and towards freedom in our faith, it took us awhile to get past the dogma and stigma, fear and superstition, regarding issues like this. We didn’t really see it as superstition back then, but looking back, that’s what it was. Without even researching the history of Halloween for ourselves, we were quite convinced that it was evil and that “good Christians don’t participate in such things”. We feared that there was a spiritual element to the kids dressing up and having fun, and we feared that if we “let them do it”, they would be somehow negatively effected, and it would lead them down a path we did not want them to go. We feared that the “dark side” of Halloween would somehow creep into our lives if we let them don a fancy dress costume and ask people for lollies.

So much has been written about the history of this cultural tradition, and I won’t bother going into it here, but I will say that so far we seem to be okay. No one has started frothing at the mouth or chanting strange odes to the devil, but you never know. Tomorrow is a new day. 😉

Our oldest son, almost twenty now, didn’t really do anything special for Halloween this year, although he had dressed up for a party last year as a “dead sailor” I think, and so far he’s not shown any ill effects. Tonight he went further down the path to death and destruction, as evidenced by turning up early for work to attend a requested interview because they want to promote him yet again. Then he stayed back late to finish up, and picked up his younger brother from a party on his way home so that I wouldn’t have to do it. Obviously last year’s participation in Halloween has ruined him for the ordinary.

Speaking of the younger brother, he also went to work tonight, after having attended TAFE (community college) all day, amidst preparing his “Where’s Wally?” costume for an after-work party. He really enjoys dressing up as a character, and for someone who used to get the lowest possible grades for effort and results in art and craft during his three years at school (as compared to top results in every other subject), it’s amazing to see how much he enjoys creating costumes now!

Putting the tape on to do the stripes was quite painstaking, but it was great to be able to help my oh-so-independent-17-year-old with something fun like this!
Putting the tape on in preparation for painting the stripes was quite painstaking, but it was great to be able to help my oh-so-independent-17-year-old with something fun like this!

Miss 10 was invited to go trick or treating with friends just the day before Halloween, which didn’t give us much time to prepare a costume, and considering that we’re in the middle of preparing for an interstate house move, hubster is away on business (again), I have been sick and lost essential packing time, and we are also in the midst of birthday preparations, I really didn’t need anything added to my to-do-list, but she was incredibly excited to be going trick or treating for the first time ever, and I was delighted to support her in this. We spent quite awhile investigating costume ideas, and she ended up deciding to create her own character, rather than buy or hire a ready made costume, or try to copy someone else’s idea. She took her inspiration from a chimpanzee mask and some gloves at the costume shop, and we took it from there, ending up with a chimp cop!

You wouldn't think that hand sewing those furry arms would be such a challenge, but with limited time available it was fiddly and annoying. Nonetheless, a chimp can obviously not have fair, freckled, non-hairy arms!
You wouldn’t think that hand sewing those furry arms would be such a challenge, but with limited time available it was fiddly and annoying. Nonetheless, a chimp can obviously not have fair, freckled, non-hairy arms! Isn’t she just gorgeous? 🙂

Mr 13 decided to stay home and try to scare away the trick or treaters. 😉

Apparently it worked! He did actually have lollies to give out, but only managed to treat his littler sister and her friends. No one else was brave enough, apparently! Oh, and the last image there was of my hooded bandit sneaking around to the back of the house to break in, after having locked us out of the front door. Fortunately his identity was hidden!
Apparently it worked! He did actually have lollies to give out, but only managed to treat his littler sister and her friends. No one else was brave enough, apparently! Oh, and the last image there was of my hooded bandit sneaking around to the back of the house to break in, after having locked us out of the front door. Fortunately his identity was hidden!

All in all it was quite a lot of silly fun, and everyone is keen to do it again next year, complete with some house decorations and maybe even a party.

Although, for the purpose of transparency, I did see a vampire in the house last night. Not sure if it’s related at all.

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Operation Christmas Child

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Operation Christmas Child is a fantastic initiative of the Samaritan’s Purse charity and is something I’ve wanted to participate in for quite a few years! This year I actually managed to facilitate it happening.

I promoted it amongst our local homeschooling group and there was quite a bit of interest, so I contact Samartian’s Purse and they put me in touch with a truly remarkable woman, who was our local contact person. She was so incredibly sweet! She delivered boxes and pamphlets to my home, which I distributed amongst friends, and she also offered to come back and spend some time with us while we filled the boxes.

Based on the couple of stories she told me at the door when dropping off the boxes, I figured it would be quite inspirational for the kids, so we arranged a date.

In the meantime, Molly and I thoroughly enjoyed shopping for gifts to fill our boxes with! While we were at the shops one day, a lady overheard us discussing options for filling the boxes and she came up to us asking if we were talking about the Operation Christmas Child boxes. When we said yes, and that we were organising a group collection, she was so excited, having been doing a similar thing for quite a few years herself, but being currently new to our town and not yet unpacked enough to have managed to get things organised for this year. We exchanged numbers and arranged a time for her to bring her donated boxes to our house for collection.

It’s amazing the people you meet when you start doing things like this!

Only one other family was able to come along on the day when the volunteer came to talk with us, although we did manage to also collect additional donations from some other families afterwards.

It was wonderful listening to her share stories about the boxes! Two stories in particular stood out to us.

One story was about a young girl who was living on the giant rubbish dump in the Philippines. Totally destitute and with no family, she decided to walk towards the centre of the rubbish dump, planning to die there. Apparently it is not uncommon for this to happen. The dump is so large and so toxic that children can get lost there, and also simply die due to the terrible conditions of being there for a sustained amount of time.

Just before this young girl took that sad, desperate action, a delivery arrived of Operation Christmas Child boxes. She had never, ever received a gift of any kind in her life, and the thought that someone, somewhere, cared enough about her to send her gifts from afar, even though they didn’t know her, was enough to change the course of her life.

She did not walk out to the middle of the rubbish dump that day and in fact ended up becoming a doctor so that she could help children living in the slums like she had.

The other story was of a young girl from Chernobyl, who had been terribly affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. One of the impacts of the radiation was that she had no hair. When the gift boxes arrived at her town, they were distributed amongst the children and squeals of laughter and delight could be heard around the room as the children opened the packages.

One of the workers noticed that this little girl’s box contained some beautiful hair ribbons and accessories. The worker’s first thought was to try to quietly remove them and replace them with an alternative gift, thinking the hair ribbons would be very upsetting to this little girl who had no hair. Before she could do this, the girl saw the hair accessories and began to weep. Her tears were tears of joy, however, not sadness, because they symbolised hope. She had always thought her hair would never grow or be beautiful, and she saw these ribbons as a sign that one day she would have beautiful hair.

This story was shared as an example of why the staff don’t interfere with what is put in any of the boxes, and simply trust that the right box will go to the right child. Apparently there are many, many more stories like that. One box, for instance, contained only one item: a beautiful, hand-knitted beanie. It ended up being given to a boy living in Thailand; a country known for its heat and humidity. Again, the worker thought the gift would not be appropriate or appreciated, but it was! It turned out that the boy was from the highlands where it can get very cold, and he had been struggling to stay warm. Not any longer!

Filling the boxes with treasures for children around the world who have so little, proved to be as much a gift to us as it would be to them. Being part of something so wonderful was truly a blessing!

Filling the boxes was incredibly rewarding and also required a bit of spacial reasoning to get everything to fit!
Filling the boxes was incredibly rewarding and also required a bit of spacial reasoning to get everything to fit!
A great storyteller with an incredible passion for what she does, this lady spends a large part of her year sewing and creating handmade gifts for many boxes!
She was such a character, and also a great storyteller with an incredible passion for what she does. This lady spends a large part of her year sewing and creating handmade gifts for many boxes!
It was fun doing this together with friends, and we hope to make it a regular part of our life in years to come!
It was fun doing this together with friends, and we hope to make it a regular part of our life in years to come!

Cosmic Bowling: A Win-Win Solution

Recently my thirteen year old son was excited about attending a youth event with some friends. It sounded like it was going to be heaps of fun, and my ten year old daughter was *not* a happy girl about missing out. We had lots of discussion about her reasons for wanting to go, and my reasons for not wanting her to go. They weren’t easy conversations!! These things aren’t resolved easily and quickly; they are messy, emotional and complex.

Well, it could be “easy and quick” if I just put my foot down, controlling-parenting-style, and said, “You’re not going, and that’s that! And don’t let me hear you complain about it. I’m your parent, and you’ll do as I say!”

It would also be “easy and quick” if I threw caution to the wind, ignored my mothering-instinct and went with the permissive-anything-goes parenting style, simply saying, “Fine! Well just go then! It’s not like I can stop you anyway” or “Whatever you want, dear. You know what’s best…..”

With both of those options, however, I would be left with a seemingly quick solution, but one that overlooked the deeper issues going on:

  • My child had some big feelings about her desire to go and about the option of missing out.
  • I had some valid concerns about her going (it was an event aimed at and marketed to all the local high schools; I knew of no child her age who was attending) and felt I would be negligent to drop her off at that type of scenario.
  • Our relationship was more important than either of us “winning”.
  • She had some valid needs underneath her feelings: the need to be heard, the need for social interaction, and the need for FUN!
  • I had at least one valid need too: the need to provide safety for my daughter.

So with all of that going on, we talked. And listened. And felt our big feelings together.

We also brainstormed possible solutions.

Eventually we found a solution that honoured both of our feelings and met our needs: COSMIC BOWLING!!

It happened to be a Friday night, and this was something my daughter had never done before. She loves ten-pin bowling, loves hanging out with friends, loves dancing and music and pretty lights, and all up it seemed like the perfect alternative to a hall full of high schoolers on a Friday night! It didn’t happen without quite a lot of effort on my part, and also quite a bit of stress: there were enquiries to be made, many text messages to friends, lots of planning, and driving to a few different suburbs to pick up some playmates. But it was so very, very worth it. The smiles on their faces and the sound of their laughter were confirmation that looking for a win-win solution and honouring both of our feelings and needs was the best possible investment of my time and energy. I’m sure, too, that the rewards of the process will have a flow-on effect to other similar scenarios that are sure to crop up in the years ahead.

It was also wonderful for our relationship. She felt validated and valued. She knew I was on her team and that I was trying my hardest to help her have a great night, while staying true to what was important to me.

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All in all, it was a win-win solution to a tricky problem and well worth putting in the emotional investment. I’d love to hear some other stories of people working for a win-win, where everyone’s feelings and needs are respected, and mutually agreeable solutions are sought and found. It can be done! Maybe not always, and maybe not without some time and effort, but it is definitely worth working towards!

Police, Rescue and Maritime Fun

My youngest, now ten, is totally fascinated by all things “Rescue”. If we ever see an emergency vehicle with siren blasting and lights flashing, she wants me to follow it. She is a sweet and sensitive soul and knows that what is at the other end of that vehicle’s journey could be quite upsetting, yet her passion persists and has led to some rather interesting experiences and discussions!

Recently, we had a couple of “safer” options for exploring this passion. Firstly, we attended an information day put on by the Police Force, which was really interesting. They had all types of police and rescue operations represented, even including deep sea divers and high speed police boats. Here’s a bit of a peep.

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Talking to the deep sea rescue diver was one of the highlights! Although M
Talking to the deep sea rescue diver was one of the highlights! Although Miss 10 assures me she would NEVER do that for a job!

Not long afterwards, we found out about a pretty cool exhibition called “Rescue” that was on display in a neighbouring city, so we decided to check it out. Even if something like this is a few hours away, it is so worthwhile doing whatever we can to support our children’s interests. It is the essence of unschooling! Without our practical and active support of whatever it is they are interested in, unschooling will not flourish. (One of the greatest myths about unschooling is that it is “doing nothing” when in fact that couldn’t be further from the truth.)

In this case, taking her to the second exhibition required arranging care for one other child, organising transport including a lift and four train journeys, and spending a day doing something I wasn’t particularly interested in, myself. What I WAS interested in was my daughter, and supporting her passion, and because of that, I found authentic joy in the experience without having to pretend or fake it.

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There were quite a few hands on (literally!) activities to have a go at
There were quite a few hands on (literally!) activities to have a go at

All in all, in spite of the fun we managed to have, the exhibition was somewhat disappointing, being aimed at a younger age group. There really wasn’t a whole lot there that was new or overly interesting, but we managed to have a good time regardless. We certainly had a lot of fun with the recording studio. The above video was the final attempt after an awful lot of bloopers and laughter!

One of the things I’ve found to be awesome about this life is the unexpected treasures along the way. When things don’t go to plan, there is usually something different to enjoy that might not be what we’d gone looking for, but ends up just as interesting and enjoyable, if not more!

Whilst the exhibit wasn’t everything we’d hoped it would be, the Maritime Museum where it was held was filled with interesting things to explore, and we ended up doing just that right up until closing time!

The detail in this display was amazing, yet we felt sad looking at it once we realised it was depicting an old whaling boat.
The detail in this display was amazing, yet we felt sad looking at it once we realised it was depicting an old whaling boat.
You'd be amazed how long we stayed at this display for!
You’d be amazed how long we stayed at this display for!
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There were hands on activities scattered all throughout the museum
Having fun with the International Code of Signals from 1902
Having fun with the 1902 International Code of Signals for communication between naval ships
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Which swimming costume would you choose?
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A creative use for old beer cans. They tell us it actually floats, too!
Watching her face light up as she discovers the exhibits brings joy to my soul
Watching her face light up as she discovers the exhibits brings joy to my soul

So in the end, having traveled over three hours to see a “Rescue exhibition”, it ended up being the Maritime Museum that really grabbed our attention. I found myself feeling very thankful that we weren’t there on a pre-arranged school excursion, complete with question and answer sheets to complete as we went around the exhibition, having to stick to a program pre-determined by a teacher. Instead, we were free to explore whatever took our fancy which, as it turned out, wasn’t what we’d gone there to see! Life is a grand adventure, and there is learning in everything we do. Let’s not miss the joy of it, by “sticking to the plan” and limiting the wonder of something unexpected.