Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Today my son, my daughter, and I decided we would try being vegetarians. We've talked about it before, and we've tried it before—especially my son and I—but we always end up back in Meat Land, undone by a need for ham and cheese pizza or a mad craving for steak.

But recently, we've been talking about it more and more, and today we drove past some cows. Cows happily munching on grass, kiddie cows hanging out, and one sweet cow scratching its chin on a fence post.

“Ah,” I said. “I think I want to be vegetarian.”

Instantly my son said, “Me too!”

And my daughter said, “Me too!”

Right. It was decided—we would be vegetarians. But we'd start slowly and keep eating tuna, partly because today I'd packed tuna sandwiches for our day out, not realising we'd be making a Momentous Decision on the drive.

“And I'll still have bacon,” said my son.

“That's a pig,” I said. “Did you know their brains are almost as big as ours? They're really smart.”

(Because I don't try to influence my kids at all.)

“Ah,” said my son. “Okay. No bacon. No ham.”

“We can eat cheese pizza!” declared my daughter.

Now we got into the nitty gritty, because my son said, “But we're going to J's house for dinner on Saturday. We'll have to tell them we're vegetarian now.” (As of exactly 3 minutes ago.)

“That might be rude,” I said, “Seeing as we're going there in two days. Perhaps we can just eat what's given us, this time round.”

“Like the Buddhists!” said my son, delighted.

Now this was funny and fascinating, seeing as it was some time ago I told my son not all Buddhists were vegetarian. I had discovered that Buddhist monks “of old” used to beg for alms by the side of a road, holding out a bowl and eating whatever they received. So if they were given meat, they ate meat. The idea, then, for certain Buddhists (and please forgive me if I am over-simplifying, and/or getting this wrong) is that as long as you do not harm an animal yourself, you can eat a no-longer-alive animal—especially if the meal is a gift. How interesting, I thought, and told my son.

I don't remember when I told him. It might have been 6 months ago or longer. I certainly never “taught” him the information. Somewhere he'd stored it, kept it in his noggin for when it had some relationship to his own life, and now here it was: flashing bright and beautiful from the cozy confines of his mind. Cool.

Anyway, here begins our vegetarian adventure! I don't know how long we'll last, but I hope we do. We have the intentions, which are good. We have the desire, which is great. We have the motivation, which is for each one of us complicated and personal. And we have our tummies, which are fickle. I wonder when the first steak craving will hit. I hope I'll be strong.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Yesterday, my son performed in his third concert in four days. We toasted him and his drumming at dinner. My husband oversaw and/or played in 11 concerts in five days and we toasted him too. My daughter can't wait to be in a band with her dad, so that will make musician Three. And I am learning piano, as old and fuzzy-headed as I am. Musician 4.

It would be easy to see my son following in my husband's footsteps. My son plays drums, piano and makes music as he breathes. I picture him playing through his teenage years, into adulthood. I sometimes imagine him at university, studying music, then going on to be an inspiring musician. It is easy to imagine.

But of course, my son wants to be an architect. And an inventor. And a writer. And today, after sitting in on my daughter's art class, an artist.

Which makes me think two things. One: Why not be all these things? And Two: he is all these things already. He is creating, constantly. Building, inventing, imagining, writing, drawing, performing, playing—it never ends. My daughter wants to be a writer, artist, pet shop owner, farmer and a pilot. I want her to be any and all of these things, if she likes. And she already is, in some form or other.

So if as a kid we are these things, and we want to be all these things, what happens to our dreams when we grow up? Do we follow just one, thinking the rest are silly or too complicated? Or do we follow none because that's easier/simpler/safer and no-one makes a living making butterflies out of tissue paper, do they?

It is so easy to let dreams wait, or release them entirely. It's more practical that way, and we can always get back to them, one day. We always think we have more time.

Some of us do, heaps of time, we grow ripe with age and discover our inner painter at 60. It is never too late to get back to our dreams. But these dreams, squirrelled away as they are, in sock drawers and journals, and mulled over late at night, could be lived, right? Even a snippet of a dream could have the dust shaken off and flown. It could be beautiful.

If we lived as we did as children, believing we can be, or do, anything, think of what the world would be like. I'd hope there'd be more tap dancers, and cupcake makers, and kite-flyers and people rowing around in hand-made boats. And people who like to photograph flowers really, really close up. And people who write stories on walls for other people to read. And soup-makers. And jugglers; the world has room for a lot more jugglers. And there might be more smiling. And giving. And people sleeping well at night. Just imagine.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Two warm hands

Tonight I stood beside my daughter's loft bed as she tried to fall asleep. She held my hand between hers, two small, warm hands wrapped around my one. “You're cold,” she said. “You're warm,” I said. I stood there for ages, as her breathing slowed. She wouldn't go to sleep; if I tried to move away, her hands tightened around my one hand, her eyes opened. So I just let the moment be what it was—it was just us at home, and I didn't have anywhere I needed to be. I allowed myself to stand with her, as her thoughts kept her awake, and my thoughts kept me company.

I listened to the sound of distant traffic, a soft whoosh. I listened to cars as they came closer, closer, almost up to our door, it seemed, then drifted by. The whoosh whoosh began to sound rythmic, like nightstorm rain when you're in bed, cozy, tucked in. I shut my eyes.

Still she held my hand with her two. Warm.

I thought of my husband, out on a gig, playing for free for a charity fundraiser. I thought, He's a good person. Such a good person. If he gets home before my daughter falls asleep, I thought, she will be filled with bliss. Perhaps his car will drift up the driveway now? Or, now? Or not.

Soft breathing. Don't care when I move away, her hands are so soft and she is so mine.

I thought of my girl and I snuggled and watching movies on the couch, a story about a dog and a girl. When they were trying to take the dog away from the girl, I could tell my girl was worried. I wrapped my arms around her and I said, Does that make you sad? Yes, she said with her eyes welled up, but smiling. I thought of how my daughter's world begins and ends with our cat, our dog and how they come to her, they find her, because they know.

I thought of my son, playing music today. His second concert in two days, playing his heart out. I wrote to a friend and said, “He was in his element. You could practically see the joy radiating from his body.” I thought of the colour his joy might have. I pictured deep blue. Deep blue light all around my son as he played.

I thought of my son, away for the night. He is at a sleepover with half a dozen friends, all his old school friends—he hasn't seen some in months, and hasn't been in a classroom with them for almost a year. But he was invited to come and included. He was quietly thrilled to go.

What really changes when the core of you stays the same? Nothing. Nothing that matters. Here we are, a year and a bit into our homeschool adventure. It fits, and fits perfectly. We are who we are, true and strong. And good things come.

I slipped my hand out from her two hands. Drowsy, she was now, content, almost asleep. Good night…good night, we said.

My daughter is sleeping now as I write this. And my husband is home, and has kissed his sleeping girl. And tonight I had time to slow down, listen, breathe. And feel such warmth from those two, small hands.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Journey to Yes

A couple of weeks ago, we surprised my son with a trip to Sydney to celebrate his 10th birthday. It involved an overnight stay in a hotel, and we planned all sorts of activities, including walking across the Harbour Bridge, going to Luna Park, ice skating, and exploring Sydney. It was going to be a big couple of days, with lots of walking. We were going by train, so could only pack what we were happy to carry for two days. My husband and I put our stuff into two daypacks, drinks, warm gear, clothes, swimmers for the hotel pool, 'til our packs were full.

Just as it was time to leave, my daughter came to the door with a big old shoebox and her two fluffy kitten toys. Turned out she expected to bring the shoebox (the kittens' bed) with us on our big trip.

My first thought was, “No.” Of course we couldn't bring a shoebox on our trip—crazy idea! And it was easy enough to say, “No,” because it's always easy to say, isn't it? Just the one syllable, a single, unfussy word that ends discussions.

Except, there was my daughter's face. Fallen—just so confused and surprised and sad. She didn't fuss, or argue, she just looked crushed.

So I paused—even though the train was leaving soon, we had to get to the station, we had to go!—and asked a question, gently. “But it's so big. How were you thinking of bringing it?”

“I was going to carry it.”

“How would you carry it?”

“In a bag.” She gestured to my backpack. “Like that.”

I suddenly saw, as clearly as if they were in front of me, the two paths I could choose. One said, plain and simple, “No.” The other said, “This isn't so hard. Just think about it. Why not yes?”

I went to the closet and pulled out a kid-sized daypack we use regularly. I went to the shoebox—it was heavy with a double sheet folded inside as padding—pulled out the sheet, and found a teatowel to line the box. The toy kittens fitted snugly in the shoebox which fitted perfectly inside the daypack. I slipped the daypack on my daughter's back.

“Like that?” I asked.


“Comfy? Light enough?”


“And you can carry it for our whole trip?”


And she did. She carried it, uncomplaining, the entire two days we were gone. She played with her toys, tucked them into their shoebox bed at the hotel, and showed them the town. She was proud to be responsible, to be heard, to be trusted to take the load she'd volunteered for. She led me to yes, and it wasn't nearly as hard as I imagined. Once you open your mind to it, Yes can come with no pain at all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day by a Dam

This weekend we were introduced by some friends to Yalwal Dam, an hour and a half southwest of our home. It was a perfect day. We spent the whole afternoon and evening there, walking, exploring, staying for a campfire dinner, and driving home after sunset. We got to see the stars come out, roast marshmallows and be tucked in our warm beds by 9.30. Bliss.

hills and water and reeds and a dam

a dog and shadows and a dam

two boys

cloud mirror

firelight firebright
first fire I see tonight

Sunday, June 20, 2010


It's late, and I should be in bed—resting for another week where my kids will be wanting to play, write, make, do, be, laugh, run, jump, learn, and do all this, wholeheartedly, with me. Another week when they'll need me, share their joys and worries with me, and expect me to treat them with patience, kindness and respect, just as I do them. You need rest for that, I know.

But I keep thinking, and sleep takes that away, sometimes. My thinking time. My being time. My planning time. It gets in the way.

Here in the night dark, my senses simultaneously alight and exhausted, I feel alive and I don't want sleep to come and steal this—how I feel so blessed to have the life I have. How I feel overwhelmed sometimes, and inspired by the responsibility of guiding my two children through these years of education. How much I want to write and share my ideas, and there are so many of them! And how beautiful I think the world is. In this moment.

I feel such gratitude. I feel such joy. I feel.

I feel grateful for my community of friends—the growing sweet circle of homeschoolers who are changing my life, and other friends who have stuck around and supported us as we ventured into our alternative educational universe.

I feel astonished at how much we are learning. Together, separately, and at our own pace.

I feel passionate about writing and sharing my love of writing with others.

Today, especially, I feel joy about writers workshop. I love this group, this little group that meets every second week for 2 hours and ends up staying for 2+ hours afterwards to play and hang out. I love that I didn't listen to the slightly panicked, shy person inside me who wasn't sure I'd have something of value to say. I love that I followed through on something I'd dreamed about for years.
I love that a young person from writers workshop today said to me, "I read books differently now, because of the workshop. I see things I hadn't seen before". I love how just last Friday I asked if everyone wanted to meet on the very last day of term and they all said, unhesitatingly, "YES!" I loved when, recently, three of the kids climbed a tree nearby, to write together. I love that my daughter, who believed she didn't like to or want to write is now creating stories constantly. And my son never hesitates to share his quirky wit, and isn't afraid to be himself with this collection of fellow writers. I love how these young people bring the books they're reading, their stories, their ideas, and their laughter. I love how they write. It is inspirational.

So today in the quiet, the sleeping dark, when all my family rests, I say I am grateful. I am joyous. I am lucky. I am blessed. I am inspired.

Friday, June 4, 2010

journey towards a dream

About 12 years ago, I was doing an MFA in Creative Writing in the US. Sometime during those lovely years, my fellow writers and I talked about our dreams. We all wanted to be published, but those dreams were unspoken. It was almost taboo to talk of publishing in our heady world of form and word and the white, dreaming space between words.

So I spoke about creating a space for kids to write. My dreams were big; they involved running a Centre for the Creative Arts for young people. Or, sometimes, I saw myself managing a bookstore, with a room attached—for holding writing workshops for young people. Always I imagined a room of kids, eager to write, surrounded by the energy of their imagination. I also imagined myself writing, always, and getting published. It was inconceivable that I might not always write. I finished my MFA and thought, here, now, I'll become a writer.

Then I met someone, fell in love, became a mum, and got distracted. Beautifully, wildly, kaleidoscopically distracted. For ten years.

When I chose to become a full time mum, I kept my dream close and quiet. I wrote in spurts if at all. I won a competition, and published a short story. Thought, this is my big break! Then, a handful of rejections, not many, but enough to let myself feel defeated.

The dream got whisper small. When my kids went to school, I thought of running workshops at their school. But lunchtimes were so tiny; mornings impossible. I thought of running workshops after school at the local community hall. But it didn't feel right, and the idea of charging money felt wrong, as I now saw myself as "simply" a mum, barely a writer.

Then came homeschool. The world opened up. Suddenly there was all this time, and sweet eager kids asking to learn, excited to learn. We were excited about books, together! We were excited by ideas, together! We began writing stories, making books, and I began little workshops at home for two—pocket-sized workshops that made us laugh. I thought, I am happy.

I began a homeschool journal, I allowed my thoughts to fill whole pages. One morning I woke and began my novel again. I thought, I would like to run a writers workshop. A free one. For homeschoolers. I put the idea out into my particular universe and was met with excitement, support, and a "When can we start?"

We've been going for half a year now. We meet every second Friday, and the kids keep coming back. They talk about books and do writing exercises. They lie on the floor and write; they climb the trees outside and write. At the end of every workshop, the parents come in and listen to the stories their young people have written. The warmth and love is palpable; the desire to listen and the desire to share equal. It's beautiful.

And here I am, living my dream. Writing, sharing my love of writing, listening to the weave of words. I looked around my life today and thought, Here I am.