24 December 2009


Here is a lovely Christmas wish from an online friend named Ariad:
This Christmas I wish for you that all the wrapping paper you receive is old newspaper or recycled kids art-works and that it ends up mulching your gardens.
I hope everyone appreciates the effort you've put into your hand-made gifts.
Hoping your children don't receive any presents made with poisonous plastics or lead paint.
May your in-laws NOT feed the kids too many artificial food additives.
I wish for you that you don't receive too much crap that you will have to keep because you'd feel too guilty to give it straight to good-will.
I hope that none of your friends or relatives argue or get too drunk and obnoxious.
I hope you get as much from giving as receiving.

BUT most of all have FUN and remember to LOVE
It's only one day after all. See you the other side of Christmas.

As for us, we have had a wonderful morning. Since we are soon departing with limited space, our families didn't want to buy us things we didn't need and instead gave us money for us to buy presents on their behalf. And we did! Woo hoo! Sleeping bags, new stainless steel water bottles, a few books and arty things, a few items of clothing, some edible things, etc. It was a lot of organisation, but definitely worth it since we'll have everything we need and nothing we don't want.

We're off to Nick's mum's house in a couple of hours for the Christmas feast and more presents.

We have been watching a few of the old Christmas classics like the 1969 Frosty the Snowman and the 1964 Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. The latter is laughably sexist and has been fodder for conversation on how attitudes change over time. Seems like we're heading for equality. I hope so.

23 December 2009

Wife Swap

The friends we are staying with have Foxtel (cable TV for all of you non-Aussies), and the other night after the kids were asleep, we flipped through the stations until we came across this episode of the UK Wife Swap. Jackpot.

This episode featured two English families that living in Spain. One family (we'll call them The Posh Family) are financially loaded. Four kids, three paid staff, a dad who works 12 hour days at his jet-ski business. The oldest girl, 15, has her own credit card with a 300 POUND a WEEK shopping allowance. The youngest, a 3 year old boy, has a full time nanny and speaks as much Spanish as English because of the time he spends with her.

The other family (we'll call them the Hippy Family) lives on a houseboat on the river and has a small plot of land on the shore. Their entire weekly budget, for a five person family, is something like 6 Euros. They grow their own veggies, raise their own animals for meat, and homeschool. They don't use any chemicals in the house and aim to be self-sustainable.

I watched this episode with mainstream friends who both happen to be school teachers, so there was some conversation to be had. The slaughtering of a chicken and the saving of urine as fertiliser would have been a bit confronting to watch for a lot of people. It seems a lot more normal in our society to just go to the shops for synthetic fertiliser and clean-looking chicken flesh packed in sterile plastic, easy to separate from its history. The Posh mom thought it was all a waste of time. Why spend all of that time doing it yourself when you could go to work for the money to pay someone else to do it for you?

But the Hippies chose a life together over the modern commercial life, plain and simple. The Posh mom said that her marriage and family are so strong precisely because they hardly see eachother. Yikes.

The Posh mom sent the Hippy dad out to work while she took the kids shopping for food they would have never bought otherwise - Fanta, ChocoSomething breakfast cereal, harsh chemical cleaning products. The dad was portrayed as lazy since he wasn't working outside of the home and "earning a living", and man that shits me. He spends half of the day working around the house planting and harvesting food for his kids - isn't that the same thing? Isn't that providing?? - and the other half is quality time together. I daresay the Posh children would trade some of their possessions for more quality time with their dad. They said it themselves.

The Hippies were so inspirational. They live within their means, spending quality time with eachother rather than farming out their kids. Yeah, I prefer my bathroom to be a bit cleaner than theirs, but hey. A little baking soda, vinegar and elbow grease, and you're golden.

Maybe in a few years we'll be in Spain. I love that it is a very distinct possibility.

17 December 2009

Car accident

No, it wasn't us!

We were out and about in the motorhome today, on our way to get a storage box installed on the back. We were waiting at a light, and in the intersection in front of us, there was a car accident. It was so loud and scary. Even though we were right there in the front row, it happened so fast that it was hard to make out what exactly had happened. It was clear that one of the cars had been moving very fast and that the other had turned in front of it.

The fast car skidded waaaaay over to our left, into the grass, and stopped just short of a fence. The driver and passenger, both 20-something females, both got out right away, bent double, looking injured and shocked. The passenger lay down on the footpath. Both airbags had deployed and they had clearly felt the impact.

The turning car sat in the intersection, and we sat and looked at it for a few seconds before it occurred to us that somebody could be hurt in there. I got out and ran over, and with a sick feeling I noticed the two carseats in the back. I opened the back door and the two little girls, one about 18 months old and one about 3, were both crying, but they weren't hurt. The mom was confused. Nick and I took the little girls out of the car since it was still in the middle of the intersection of a very busy road. The engine was smoking. There was oil and car parts everywhere.

By the time we got the girls to the grassy area, loads of other people had stopped. People really are amazing. Someone was directing traffic (which was already completely backed up). There were people with the fast car's occupants, getting them water and helping the passenger breathe through what she thought must be broken ribs. Ambulances were called. Luckily our motorhome came equipped with a fire hydrant because the turning car's engine burst into flames before the fire department arrived - someone was spraying them while a bunch of us were pulling the carseats and other possessions out of the smokey car in case it exploded, Hollywood-style (it didn't).

We stayed until the police arrived, not wanting to leave the scene of an accident even though we had no useful information to share. We talked about seatbelts and how if the two in the fast car hadn't been wearing theirs, they would have been thrown out of the car.

After everyone was packed away into ambulances (the mom had called someone to meet her and the little girls), we resumed our errand. The officer directing traffic wouldn't let us turn left (which I thought was a bit rude considering we could have, there was room, and we had just spent an hour there helping out, well before he showed up) so we had to turn the wrong direction. We saw that the traffic was backed up and we would have had to turn around and sit in it to get where we had wanted to go. Nick hates traffic, so there was no chance we were going to sit in it. I myself am not particularly fond of sitting in traffic on 40 degree days (that's C not F), so was happy to jump ship. We drove past miles and miles of backup.

Oh I forgot to mention that 100 meters down the road of the scene of the accident, another completely unrelated car flipped over the median. Rubbernecker? Didn't help the traffic situation. That guy was fine.

We're hoping to get that storage box tomorrow.

15 December 2009

As promised...

Have a look at this beauty.

Here is Nick starting her up (and a goofy excited me in the window reflection) for a test drive to the petrol station. Diesel, diesel, diesel. We have seen enough episodes of The Amazing Race to know what happens when you put petrol in a diesel.

Here are our gorgeous, amazing kids. They were just as excited as their parents to go on our first drive around the neighbourhood. The table is so awesome because they can use it for colouring or whatever else while we're driving. And at night we remove the table and fold down the seats... viola, double bed.

The view looking back. That back double bed can also turn into another sitting area with table. Just behind Eli and Maya is the bathroom, and on the right is the "kitchen" - a grill, a stove, a sink, and a little fridge.

And the view forward from the back:

We were happy to discover that there is a mesh guard rail preventing the sleeping parties in the bed above the cabin from falling to grumpy painful messes on the floor.

Now we're working on fitting ourselves in. Tomorrow we hope to get a storage box fitted to the back to hold the tent and camping chairs and stuff. Not sure where we're going to put the bike unless we can get a rack that sticks out far enough to accommodate the storage box... It might get to ride on board.

I love this thing.

We are the proud owners of a motorhome.

And we're even members of the Campervan & Motorhome Club of Australia! How cool are we. We will take lots of pictures of our new home on wheels tomorrow, and I'll post them here, so stay tuned.

Yesterday was awesome. We got a call at 7am from a woman who wanted to buy our car (which was the last stressful thing on our agenda - it needed to be sold because we had plans for the money we would get from it). This woman didn't want to come see our car or test drive our car, she wanted to BUY it. She asked if we were negotiable on the price, which we were, and if she could bring us a bank cheque. Nick asked her if maybe she wanted to at least come and look at the car first, but she said that she has an Avensis already and knows how great they are (and they really are), and her daughter wanted one too. Nick insisted, and they came sans cheque to see it in "person", dings and scratches and all. We do have three kids after all. They were rapt with the car and shortly returned with a bank cheque. Goodbye car! Now we're back in the old Daewoo which has been our dedicated market car for quite some time now. It is very reliable but completely worthless, so there is no rush to sell that one.

After our happy morning, we headed off to our weekly homeschooling play group. We have been going for a few years now, and for the last year or so it has been our Monday, every Monday, rain or shine, for the better part of the day. It has made Mondays a highlight of my week, where my kids could run wild through this big wonderful park they knew so well while I chatted with their intelligent, like-minded, thoughtful, amazing, inspiring adult parents. Yesterday was to be our farewell, and rather than leaving at 4ish, we planned to stay for a barbeque dinner as well. It was after 9 when we left. What an incredible day. I feel so surrounded by love, and the kids thought it was so special to be at their beloved park at night in the dark!

After a late night and a sleep in for some of us, we had a very busy and productive day today. Collecting of settlement cheques, visiting banks, paying off loans, and of course the picking up of our motorhome (which Maya is still calling a "camphorban" - and I remind her with a smile "it's a motorhome honey, not a campervan"). We showed the kids all that we had learned from Barry the motorhome guy - the appliances, the toilet, the shower, the beds that become tables and chairs. Nate noticed the TV which had escaped his view on our first tour, but I'm hoping we'll be able to avoid the topic in the future. Maybe we won't, and that'll be ok too.

12 December 2009

And goodbye, house

Our house settles tomorrow. We have been sleeping at our friends' place for two nights now, and Nick has been going back to sort out the stuff he was eBaying (because he's awesome) and cleaning (did I mention he's awesome? I only had to look at the unmentionables under the fridge for like 5 minutes before he whisked them away), so I hadn't been there for a few days.

Let's go back to the last time we moved out of "our place" which was in the US, when we decided to move to Australia. We moved in with my mom about 6 months before we set sail (so to speak - I wish we really could set sail rather than fly through LAX, but that's another blog post), leaving behind our first place, our first home together, Nate's first home. I was excited about the future, as I tend to be, and didn't bother sentimentalising our little apartment. Nick went back to clean it up, and I never looked back. He was peeved that I didn't go see the empty place, but I didn't really see the point. We were, after all, leaving it behind and going on with our lives.

I was happy this time as well to just let Nick clean it up and to move on. But our house has been good to us, and we lived there for over 5 years - actually the second longest I have ever lived anywhere in my life, and that's only by a small margin. It was the only home Maya and Eli ever knew, and probably all that Nate remembers. So I went back for the final walk through and clean, and I was a whole lot more sentimental than I thought I would be. I could picture my little children running around at the various stages throughout their lives. I could see little Nate, little enough to walk under the counter without bumping his head - something Eli has been too tall to do for quite a few months now. Their varying heights were marked on a wall for goodness' sake, and that's where I lost it a bit. And it occurred to me that that is precisely why I wasn't in a big rush to get back there. I feel sad. And nostalgic. And bloody sentimental. And that's ok.

Goodbye house. Thank you for never bursting a pipe or letting the rain seep through your roof. Thank you for being our safe haven for so long. Thank you for the memories you will always hold for all of us.

10 December 2009

A little bit stressful

This is our last night in our house. Nick and our friend M loaded up the truck and drove it away, some to Nick's mum's place where our stuff will be stored, awaiting shipment to the US when we're ready, and some more over to M's place where we will be staying from tomorrow night through Christmas, until we leave on our great adventure.

As the kids were going to sleep tonight, I was sensitive to the possibility of them being a bit stressed out and sad about saying goodbye to our house. Maya was just plain thrilled that from tomorrow we're having a big giant sleepover. Nate says he feels fine. Eli has been weeing the bed the last few nights though, which he hasn't done for months, and I'm not sure if that's a physical thing or the stress of watching things slowly disappear from the house until nothing is recognisable, and not having the language to talk about it yet. Poor little guy.

Monday afternoon, we will officially be out of this house. We're going to have another busy few days until then, but from Tuesday we'll be getting the motorhome ready, and at a leisurely pace, no deadlines. We can hang out, swim, be without stress, laugh and play, take our time, NOT PACK. We will be packed and ready, having done it all in one big multi-purposed packing session. From Tuesday. I'm looking forward to Tuesday.

Now if we could only sell our car, we might actually have some money to spend travelling around Australia...

06 December 2009

I am so excited to be unemployed.

Today was our last day at the markets. It was a great day and I felt so appreciated and loved. What a wonderful send off - I was lavished with gifts and well wishes by many. Nick brought the kids to the markets and we had a post-market picnic with some dear friends. We found appreciative new homes for all of our market gear and came home with significantly less than we went with. Ahhhh, stuff disappearing left and right, it is so awesome.

I feel so free! Don't get me wrong, working for myself is fantastic and rewarding beyond words, but when you have something to look forward to like travelling around Australia, and you're in the middle of the biggest cleanout of possessions ever, and you're me, you don't want to be functioning a kitchen and turning out hundreds of cupcakes, muffins and brownies every week. The chaos has been getting to me, big time. Nick and I have swapped roles a bit - he has been very lovingly reassuring me that we only have another week left in this house, and after that our lives will be much more organised. I'm looking forward to that.

At the moment I just look around at all that we have left to do. Admittedly, there isn't a whole lot. We can now pack up the kitchen. My uber-clever husband organised the bed auctions to finish this weekend, so all of the beds have been picked up, their underneaths vacuumed, and new floor beds made up in their places. It's cute. And spacious.

This afternoon we had much left post-market cleanup to deal with. Feeling ultimately relaxed, we all settled in and watched Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs while munching on cut up fruit and veggies. The movie was hilarious, especially the first half. Much fun was had by all.

So this is our last week in our house!! I can't believe that we're only a few weeks away from a completely different life. A slow, low-stress life. Spending time together, doing whatever we want, whenever we want.

Life is good.

27 November 2009

Goodbye, Scooby

Yesterday we said goodbye to our cat.

The kids understood that we couldn't take him travelling around Australia with us, and that it would be easiest on him for us to find him a new, loving home before we go. Luckily our dear friend A decided to take him in! We are so, so grateful that we get to still keep in touch with him, and that he is in a house so full of love and peace. Hopefully it won't take too long for him and A's other cat to become great mates.

Other than a sad moment saying goodbye as we were leaving A's house, the kids have been remarkably ok about the whole thing. I was expecting... something, I'm not sure what, but something. Them being ok certainly makes it easier for me to be ok. This is one of those things where if anyone broke down, we all would.

Scooby was definitely the most sensitive of our "things" to find a new home for. Everything else is just stuff! We're that much closer to setting off, just 29 sleeps until we leave Sydney...

25 November 2009


I have been thinking a lot about “culture” lately. Culture, that important thing for our kids to learn about and know and appreciate, at least for the more worldly or progressive of us up here on the high horse.

With our upcoming trip around Australia, I have been reading a lot of books about this land, its history, its people. I have been suffering through the injustices of terra nullius and the stolen generations. I have been looking a lot at the past and wondering about the best way to move forward when the future for so many aboriginal cultures seems so hopeless. It has been heavy on my mind.

I spent the day today with my friend Y, and our conversation found its way to this very topic when I mentioned American Thanksgiving Day. I told her that I struggle to find a balance between making my kids aware of the ugly history between the European settlers and what they did to the Native Americans, and letting them enjoy the holiday simply as a celebration of gratitude. Isn’t it important to acknowledge the people who suffered in order for us to be where we are now? Isn’t it irresponsible not to honour those lives brutally lost? Isn’t it my duty as a homeschooling parent and world citizen to cover in depth that part of American history?

Y has worked with indigenous peoples around the world and has seen a lot of different cultures. She believes that culture is simply conditioning to act a certain way, to believe certain things, to interact with people in a set fashion. Her beliefs say that it is only when we let go of our culture that we can truly move ahead. I had really never thought of that. I thought culture was supposed to be something we held onto and cherished and remembered. She said that culture is really just looking at the past instead of looking toward the future. We’re all leaves on the same tree, drops of water in the same sea.

I got home from that amazing discussion to read this shocking article. It is a truly frightening thing for so many people to blindly follow such a brutal custom in the name of religion. Yesterday Me would have had a little voice in the back of the head reminding me that I’m looking at the issue through western eyes and I really don’t have the right to judge their culture – it isn’t mine and I can’t understand it. But Today Me has realised that it isn’t ok to use religion or culture as an excuse for killing or hate or war or antiquated rituals.

I’m not a religious person, but I can stand behind a religion that celebrates acceptance, tolerance and love. If it’s all about dogmatism, it can only lead us backwards. I want to go forward.

24 November 2009

Apple Pie

Every Friday, the kids and I go to the library for storytime and to check out some new books. They love it. Well, some of them love it. Eli isn't quite there yet. But Nate and Maya sing along to the songs, listen intently to the stories, and eagerly answer the story teller's questions. Nate is clearly the oldest kid there, always, since storytime breaks for any school holidays and most other kids his age are at school. He doesn't mind at all. He has no concept of being "too old" for something you still really enjoy - how could that be possible? He'll be 7 on Friday and his favourite colour is still pink. It still can be because nobody is going to bully it out of him in our homeschooling community.

Last week we picked up a kids cookbook. Usually these are loaded with baked stuff that is really cutely decorated and made entirely of refined foods. This one has sections for breakfasts, light meals, mains, and desserts - lots of simple recipes. Flipping through, Nate was drawn to the tuna fish cakes and the apple pie, so we brought it home.

Today we made both! As per usual, we changed stuff in both recipes as both called for plain flour - we used wholemeal spelt flour instead of the white stuff, and rapadura in the pie.

Here are Nate and Maya mixing up the filling:

And cutting out some leaves to put on top:

Brushing the pie with egg:

This is Maya's favourite way of helping:

And, of course, doing the dishes!

We're looking forward to enjoying the pie tomorrow with our friends Y and K.

The fish cakes were spectacular by the way :o)

20 November 2009


It's hot. HOT. Hot. Like oven-hot.

Preparations are in full swing. Tomorrow is garage sale day. Our neighbours have already been through - the proverbial early birds - and we'll be up bright and early to find new homes for all of our stuff. We have a LOT of stuff.

I'm so looking forward to getting rid of all of these possessions. Yeah a lot of it is handy, and sure there are a lot of memories here. But I'm seeing that the memories won't disappear just because I don't have these things to remind me. I won't forget giving birth to Eli in this house just because we won't live here anymore. In fact, maybe my poor memory will realise it needs to work a little harder without all of these crutches. It will feel so free, having so few things.

I am already so happy and privileged. We live in a relatively cheap place in exchange for being able to work less and spend more time with eachother, watching our kids grow up from up close rather than waving them goodbye through schoolbus windows. We have our own small business, make our own hours, boss ourselves around rather than letting someone else do it. Our kids get to see it all, our priorities laid out on the table. Life. Love. The path, the journey, not just the far off destination.

But now our house is sold, our stuff is going, our car is next. And in just over a month we will be moving into our next adventure - travelling around Australia. I am so bloody excited. We all are really, and it's so exciting to all be excited about the same thing. We're heading north from Sydney, stopping first at a friend's uncle's farm just south of Coffs Harbour, then north, and that's all the plan we have. We will go to the beach and swim in the ocean and walk through rainforests and drive. We'll stay a little longer at places we love, and just pass through places that we don't. We'll talk and draw and laugh and read and sleep and learn and live.

I have never been a hot weather person until, well, now. It's not even summer yet and we're having a heat wave, and I love it. I'm looking forward to really diving into the experience, spending a summer in the north of Australia.