Friday, December 31, 2010

an end and a beginning

Things we saw

on the last days of the year:

dolphins and crabs,

big roos and little roos,

a gorgeous river,





(so many classics here!
Dog on a trampoline. Gum tree. Hills Hoist clothesline.
Surfboard against the fence.
And a roo mum with her big baby. I love this country)


a boy and his father,



These last two pictures

make me think of

what it takes to leap…

the hope you need…

(and the leaping because of it)

the fear you feel…

(and the


despite it).

And I am

thankful for this past year



for the coming year.

Excited and nervous,

both in equal parts…!

Which is how every good adventurer should feel

as they embark upon any journey…

shouldn't they?

Thank you, and farewell, 2010.

Welcome, Now.

It sure is peaceful here

(with the birds singing, cicadas whirring, girl sleeping,
boy reading, and dog snuffling).

Hello, Tomorrow.

I wonder what you will bring?

Thursday, December 30, 2010


We're home now, with no ocean view, a lot of laundry to do, and no food in the house…Back to Normal!

But I CAN hear frogs in the back yard pond and one of my kids is singing in the shower.

Magic is all around…

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


If we weren't already so lucky we could burst, we are, right this minute, enjoying ANOTHER gift.

We're spending a few nights away, invited to stay at a beach house with my mother, my mother's partner and my mother's partner's son. A house with an ocean view, so you can see the waves rolling in, the curve of the bay, and the clouds change colour over the headland as the sun sets.

A house with a river nearby, so we can travel a pockmarked dirt road to a stretch of rocks and cliffs overlooking the water, and swim the river up and down, and my son and husband can leap from a cliff into the water below. (Photos to come!)

A house with room for all of us and comfy couches, so my mum can snooze on one couch as I write, my husband nap in a bedroom, my son sit on another couch playing Doodlejump on his dad's iPhone, and my daughter sit at the dining table rewriting the story of Dewey the Library Cat from the point of view of Dewey. The others napping, or walking on the beach. So peaceful.

Everyone in their own good space. Everyone happy. Sharing something beautiful. Not just the location, which is stunning, but the company and the laughter. I am lucky: I know. I feel lucky.

The wind is shifting; you can see the trees bend outside and the whitecaps on the sea. People are stirring; my daughter is sharing her story with her Nana, my son is describing his game. Voices outside. It's time I re-entered the world of our holiday… but I just wanted to share. The peace. The simple joy.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

a good day

It's a good day that has home-made foxes in it…

and other sweet, hand-crafted gifts—
made and given with love.

It's a good day that has

gluten-free pancakes with yoghurt and strawberries in it…

(not to mention baked potatoes and
fruit salad with mangoes and pineapple for lunch
and vegetarian lasagne for dinner…
did we ever stop eating?)

It's a great day that has a beach visit in it…

with laughing boogie boarders and contemplative little girls…

not to mention sandcastle cats!

It's a wonderful day that has
this many hugs in it
and this much laughter
and excitement
and togetherness
and joy.

I hope you had a good,
fine day

filled inside and out,
with love.

Friday, December 24, 2010

gifts I have been given…

This year I am grateful

for the gift of


and realising them

and being inspired by those around me

and in turn inspiring others…

(Four girls writing stories, for hours,
after the last writers workshop of the year.)

This year,

I am grateful for the gift of


and all the wonders and joys that


as we opened ourselves up to new discoveries,
new approaches, new thoughts.

I learned so much

and felt so

I am grateful for the gift

of Samoa

(which was literally a gift.

Thank you)

I am grateful for the gift
of a sister and mother

who are precious

and complicated,

and make me laugh and feel loved.

I am so lucky to have you.

I am grateful for the gift

of friends.

New and old.

Unbroken and reconnected.

For cups of tea
and hours and hours of talking
and laughter
and intense discussion
and support
and cake.

I am lucky to have you!

This year I am grateful for

a dog

who would follow us to the ends of the earth

and a cat

who is clever enough to sit on the lap

of the one

who loves him most.

We are lucky enough
to care for them
(through fleas and poop and thick and thin)

and they are lucky enough to care for us.

This year

I am grateful for the gift of

a husband

who makes me laugh every day

and has

the most

beautiful heart

of any grown-up I have ever met.

I am unbelievably lucky to have you.

And finally,

this year I am indescribably

grateful for the gift of

two kids


are curious

and adventurous

and thoughtful

and loving

and open,

who are my dearest friends

and make my whole body creak

with love.

I am lucky beyond belief
to have you.

What amazing gifts.

What a wonderful life!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Samoa diaries continued...


On the fifth day there was travel. Like, a LOT of travel.

I've taken a nifty map (see above!) from Lonely Planet and drawn on it, just so it's clear to everyone watching: we went a Looooooong way.

Driving from the arrow (otherwise known as our hotel in Apia) to the first dot (otherwise known as the ferry terminal) took an hour. Four people rode in the back of the pick up truck, in sun AND rain. Lucky them!

Then we waited at the dot for an hour, while huge trucks drove into the belly of the boat and I took many photos. Not too many; just enough, don't you think?

Then we went across the sea for an hour. The boat went UP and DOWN and SIDE to SIDE. Some people in our party felt sick. They looked at the horizon and tried not to feel sick. My son lay down and slept, like many of the Samoans around him. My daughter just leant on my shoulder and felt terrible.

At the second dot (otherwise known as Saleologa), people who were and weren't sick on the boat got some icecream. My daughter didn't. (Did I mention she was sick?) I didn't get any either and wished—the moment we pulled away from the shop—that I had. It looked yummy; a little bit like this but a lot more drippy:

THEN…we drove for over an hour to the Alofaaga Blowholes. Which I forgot to put a dot on, but you can see the spot up there, on the map, if you like. (Pause…Consult map…Continue!).

At the blowholes this little old man came up and asked my mum and sister if, for a fee, they'd like to see him throw coconuts in the hole. He proudly told them (and me, later) that he was on Survivor: Samoa and that you could see him on the show, throwing coconuts! Very cool, said my family, and then they politely declined.

Five minutes later, the man sat next to my husband (who hadn't heard the earlier negotiation) and chatted for a while. My husband nodded and smiled and when the little old man got up and started ambling towards the blowhole, my husband turned to me and grinned. "That guy's going to throw a coconut into the blowhole! Cool, huh?"

I said, "He's going to charge you money for that, you know."

What? That guy? No!

Uh-huh. That guy. Yes!

Who would've thunk it?

So the man threw coconuts, one after the other, into the mouth of the biggest blowhole I'd ever seen. At least two coconuts totally shot up in the air, and all the other tourists Ooohed and Aaahed. Lots and lots of photos were taken. And when the dude ran out of coconuts, and everyone all around was thinking, "What a cool, free show!" he ambled on back up to us and said, "20 Tala please."

Of course. Here you go, sir. And thank you.

We, of course, teased my husband for being a Sucker. But it was a great show, and can you blame a little old guy who lives on one of the poorer islands of a poor country, for making a bit of money throwing coconuts? I know I couldn't.


We still had more driving to do!

We drove for another hour or so, past one gorgeous village after another. Past a place called "Lovers Leap," which was majorly high above the sea and isn't on the map (Sorry!). Past the turn-off to Falealupo, where we would go in three days to spread my father's ashes. Past the hospital where we would take my daughter in two days. And finally, to a tiny village called Vaisala, where we were staying.

When we got out of the truck, 8 hours after leaving our hotel in Apia, my girl threw up all over the driveway.

That's when we realised she was actually, really, not well. Burning with fever, she went to bed for the next three days. One of us stayed in the room with her for most of that time. So my girl didn't see this view, for ages.

It is a beautiful view.

Don't you think?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

a smorgasbord of thoughts

Thought 1: Samoa

I am slowly going through our Samoa pictures. There are so many!

The one above is the view from our ferry—the one we took from the "mainland" of Upolu, to the bigger but less populated island of Savaii.

There, in the photo, is Savaii, looming in the distance. (Not the little island on the left, but the really big fuzzy one far, far away!)

On this island, my daughter got pretty sick and we had to take her to hospital. On this island, I too had to go to hospital, 30 years ago. On this island we swam and ate and rested and on this island
spread the ashes of my father.

In this photograph, all of that is looming: expectant, promising, waiting.

It carries weight and hope and heft. And when I look at it, I actually feel tired!

But complete, too.

In these days of having returned and still feeling afloat,

I am sorting, finding, organising my thoughts, processing,

not just the many photographs,

but also the journey

which began when we were first deciding whether or not to go, back in September

and ended when the plane touched sweet, beautiful ground last Thursday.

Because it wasn't just a holiday
and it wasn't just a time to say good bye to my father
and it wasn't just a family reunion
and it wasn't just a homecoming
and it wasn't just relaxing
and it wasn't just complicated
and it wasn't just emotional or
difficult or
tiring or

… it was

of these things


I still feel like I'm on/in a boat/plane/car and I still feel like I'm not quite home! And yet, it's also
so so good to be home. To have faced fear and accepted adventure and to have embraced hope.

And, now, to have it behind us. It's been a long, long journey,

and I am ready to rest.

Thought 2: Now

My Samoa Diary: Days 5 - 10 is coming very soon! I promise.


in the meantime, the kids are super busy here with learning, and thinking and writing and making and playing and being and talking and I want to share a little.

Yesterday, my daughter wrote and made a book called, The Little Yellow Kitten. It's just awesome.

I read it just now and marveled, "It's just like a real book!"
My girl gave me a look. (You know the type.) And she said, "Mum. It IS a real book."

Sorry! Of course it is.

I totally want to post the whole story here. I've asked my girl if that's okay, and she's "thinking about it."

Which means I have to wait. Which is kind of hard for me. Do you think I should ask her again? It's been five whole minutes…!

While we were away, she also filled her writing book and her art book with stories, poems and art. Filled them. So she got a new notebook in Samoa, and it's already half full of stories.

She has become a writing maniac. Her stories are so rich, full of wonderful characters, dialogue, adventure, and awesome words like "agile," and "tumbled." This is the girl who at the beginning of the year said she didn't like to write stories!

As for my son, he finished all the books we brought to Samoa on day 5, just after we'd arrived in a tiny village in Savaii, far away from any book shops. The very rustic and lovely hotel we were staying in had a "library" room somewhere. My husband and son scouted for books and came back with a book from the '70's about diving for treasure, a musty copy of Lord of the Rings, and an old, old Encyclopedia Brittanica Volume 1 (the letter "A")

I didn't know which of these my boy read. I was in a blur with looking after a sick girl and saying hello to dear family friends and spreading my father's ashes. I still feel blurred by it.

But two days ago, my son blurted out, "I can't believe that encylopedia didn't have an entry for Arrhidaeus!"

Um? What? Who?

"Oh, Arrhidaeus, the dyslexic brother of Alexander the Great, who looked after his son after Alexander had died.I can't believe they didn't mention him!"

Really? They didn't have that? Say it ain't so!

I googled Arrhidaeus afterwards, to learn a little, and my son was spot-on. Though he wasn't dyslexic, he was epileptic. (I guess my son would have failed that in a test?) My son said, "Oh, yeah, that's right—I knew there was something different about his brain; I just forgot what."

Yeah, my beautiful boy. Rock that knowledge!

Thought 3: Unschooling

I have one last thing to share today. (So many thoughts, tumbling, tumbling!)

Someone, a very nice woman, mentioned my blog in her comment on a post on unschooling. It's a fascinating post, by The Pioneer Woman.

This post has literally hundreds of comments, and they make for an amazing, rich read, with hundreds of different perspectives given on this Thing Called Unschooling/Life Learning/Natural Learning.

I managed to read about fifty, before my brain petered out. I've bookmarked it and can't wait to go back for more. It's also a very respectful thread, which is refreshing! I highly recommend anyone interested in this method of homeschooling go and check it out.

Anyway, something someone asked in the comments section was this:

"What IS unschooling?"

And it got me thinking.

I think that is a near-impossible question to answer!

Unschooling, by its very nature, is a fluid thing—it's organic, highly personal, and can't really be pinned down. For me, I believe unschooling is based on respect—listening to and respecting how a child learns and wants to learn. It is built on following a child's passions and interests, and on finding ways to help learning happen, ways that are individual and infinite in number.

But that's my version of what unschooling is (and it's pretty dreamy and unspecific, I know!). In fact, I'm not even sure I'd call us "unschoolers," because by my very nature, I avoid being defined, or pinned down. For someone else, their definition of what unschooling is might be very different.

I believe there is no one, "right" way to unschool, or to homeschool for that matter. Because homeschooling is a deeply, deeply personal journey.

Our homeschool journey incorporates all methods of learning—at least, the methods that work for us. It allows for leaving a day completely open to see what comes up, but it also allows for using curriculum, incorporating schedules and routines, and having mentors make suggestions and offer up ideas.

Our journey, ideally, is "personalised, non-coercive, and interest-led" and it is built on respect. Sometimes our homeschool doesn't fit this goal—it gets snarled up in outside worries and expectations, in the sense that we "should" be doing this, or we "need" to do that to get it right. Then we take a deep breath (or at least, I do!). We talk, we pick ourselves up, we focus, and move on.

Homeschooling is such an individual journey that really no label or definition is right for us. Or…maybe…every label is right?!

So, we are unschoolers, and proud of it. AND, we are life learners. AND method dabblers, curriculum tasters, idea brewers, plan makers, learning lovers, people respecters, rule avoiders, skills learners, open-hearters, skills teachers, heart-on-sleevers, judgement skippers, life livers, mistake makers and belly laughers.

This is who we are, and this is our journey.

And it makes us so happy. It feels right to our very bones.

And now…

I think I'll stop thinking

(That is, until I start again!)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

my Samoa…


The air. It feels so thick with heat and moisture that for the first few hours after landing I feel like I'm breathing soup. After a while, it feels perfectly normal. I don't get asthma or have to blow my nose once, not for ten days.

The buses. Just the same. Made of wood and without closed windows. Belching brown exhaust as they trundle by. We used to ride them from village to village, and because no-one was allowed to stand, we'd often end up sitting on the laps of strangers, along with the chickens and the bananas and the sleeping babies.

The smell of the bakery. Brings me back to when we'd buy sweet rolls and inhale them. The sweet rolls are yellow and soft and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. Just as they used to be. My sister and I eat and sigh and smile with pleasure. Just as we used to do.

The island in the hotel pool. It's still there! But no live tree. At first I think I only imagined there was a real palm tree in the middle, but then I find a postcard. There it is: the pool of my past. With my tree. My island. My little path between the plants. My memories intact.

(We used to go to this hotel as a special treat, for dinner with friends, sometimes a birthday, sometimes a show.
On our last week in Samoa, 30 years ago, we stayed here for a whole week over Christmas.
It was one of the most memorable and magical times of my life.)

The villages. Breadfruit trees and chickens and roosters and chicks. Dogs roaming around. Big pigs and baby pigs, foraging beside the road. People sleeping out the day's heat in the fales (pronounced 'fah-leys'… if you want to know!).

Fales with thatched roofs and corrugated roofs. People selling fish at the side of the road. Kids swimming in village rockpools. Kids waving, waving, waving. Graves everywhere, beside people's houses, decorated with plastic flowers and wreaths. A dog sleeping on a grave.

The smiles. Saying "Talofa" (hello), and "Fa'afetai" (thankyou). Learning/Remembering that most people say, "Malo" instead as a casual greeting, and "Tai Lava" as a casual thankyou. Everything feels easy, like there are no hard paths. Just paths, and everyone walking steadily along them. No need to rush.

My Samoa. My old and my new, mingling. And my kids with their faces and hearts wide open, taking it all in.