Monday, February 28, 2011

at night

I seem to have become a night owl. I seem to be staying up later and later, sliding into the nightquiet like an animal into water.

Night is when stillness happens.

Night is when time opens up.

Sometimes at night I read: blogs, books, the paper. Sometimes but rarely I watch: tv, youtube. Sometimes and often, I listen to my favourite music. Often and almost always, I write my days and dreams down here.

But tonight I've been working on my stories. Writing, changing, planning, thinking, dreaming… Tonight I crawled inside my words and it felt so fine. So good to work on them. So good to write new words too.

When I'm writing it's like I'm inside my truest self. I become aware of everything, all around. My senses come alight and alive and everything—all around and inside me—feels like it fits.

Behind me and through the open window, I can hear the frogs clicking and popping by the pond. Out front, I hear crickets and the scuttle of a possum. The windows are open and a breeze drifts in.

The cat and the kitten rustle and wrestle behind me. They won't leave each other alone. When the tussle becomes too big, I throw a soft pillow. They scramble, tear apart. But minutes later, they're back together. I'm still trying to work out if it's love.

I have left my stories for a long time, let the book-in-the-making wait. Because in all the busy and the beautiful, it feels too hard to fit the "One More Thing" in that is my writing. But tonight, I roused myself. I made myself dig out those words, waiting as they were on a hardly-ever-used computer. I read, altered, added… I mused and created in the nightdark for hours.

And lightness came. And a feeling of clear and clean and true. I thought, Here I am.


Friday, February 25, 2011

it needs kittens

Things I loved about today:

Kissing my girl's cheek as I sat next to her, watching her do some maths. 

Hearing my boy call out how much he loves Billy Bug in his Life of Fred: Decimals book.

Drawing fact families (like 8 + 4 = 12 and 12 - 4 = 8) with my girl on imaginary fruit in an imaginary orchard… and my girl saying, "It needs kittens!" Which morphed into my girl getting a new, huge piece of paper, and drawing kittens kittens and more kittens. All in groups of three, so we could write fact families on their leaping, swinging, building, playing, kitten-y bodies.

Introducing: KittenWorld!

Next, I loved

Talking with my girl about whether she might like to try writing something non-fiction. Like about a book she'd read, or a country she'd learned about… and my girl saying, "I could write about KittenWorld!"

My first response (disappointingly!) was, "Oh, but that's not non-fiction."

My NEXT response (which thankfully came almost instantly after my first response) was, 
"Wait. That doesn't matter! That sounds like an awesome idea."

Listening as my boy said, "I want to write a report too! About where Kyries live!"

All of us talking about and planning what might be in the report…

It would need a flag. Yep. And we'd need to know the population, and the size of the country. 
And what the country's location is (my boy's land hovers in the air over Mt Everest, and my girl's world can only be entered through a portal)
And what language is spoken, and what currency it might use (KittenWorld's currency is fishbones)

"Mum, where would you write that it's in the mountains?"
"Oh, you might put that under Location, or Terrain."

and how Terrain came from the word Terra, which means Land

All of us researching and learning

about northern and southern hemispheres, 
and about different climates, like temperate and arid, and "Do you guys know what arid means?" and "It's not always hot and dry. Did you know Antarctica is arid?"
and about Australia's climate
and about the difference between an anarchy and an autocracy, 
and what a parliamentary democracy was 
and whether a Lord could be a monarch, 
and "What's the word for when you can speak lots of languages?" 
and when Medieval times were
and, and, and, and, and!

and the kids sat and Created for hours. My girl focussed on her flag, and talking about her ideas. My boy wrote and wrote. In fact he was just beginning his country's History when I went out for bookclub tonight. 

I love that in my kids' days, 

an idea is given space to grow, change and build from and upon the information all around,

I love that an idea

is free to fill and swell and take over from any and all thoughts or plans that came before…

I love 

that I could never, ever have planned where things went today…


I love that saying YES

and living YES

opened up such an extraordinary path

where we learned so much


had a truly happy time.


Thursday, February 24, 2011


Pottery class was at our house today!

An unexpected treat,

to share our space (which luckily had just been tidied)

with sweet, creative people

(and, of course, our sleepy dog…!).

Today was tile work,

so we learned about relief tiles

and we learned about tesselation (though it wasn't called that)

and we learned to measure our tiles so they could be the same size
(handy for when you're laying different ones side by side on whatever wall strikes your fancy :) )

and we learned about cutting away or adding on clay and creating patterns

and we learned,


how lovely it is to make something from a simple ball of living earth.

Such as

cat tile
(and I wonder who would've made that? :) )

an elephant under a crescent moon tile

and swirls and more swirls…

Meanwhile, the cat watched through the window and dreamed…

and a garden crown was made…

and two car-loving boys,

one ten and one three,

who had only met a few weeks ago,

talked and laughed and shared




(my boy and his friend driving cars on the trampoline)

This photo feels magical to me.

It represents 

so much beauty,

the beauty of kids being kids,

pure and free and let BE.

It reflects 

the joy of homeschooling 

(and why I sometimes love it so much I could burst).

And it

simply made me


all the way

through to my bones.

Which is a good, fine thing,

don't you think? 

Monday, February 21, 2011

dinner party

Today was a day for…

making cats!

Which wasn't our intention at all when the day began…

after all, we had sat ourselves at my girl's desk to
write and draw the instructions on:

"How to Make Zoomer: the World's Most Awesome (and Smoothest Gliding and Farthest Flying) Paper Airplane EVER!"

(as invented by my girl the day before…
who in turn was inspired by her new Paper-Plane-Making book)…

Well, we lasted about 3 steps.

'Cos it's hard to remember how you made such a thing of beauty! It's downright impossible to pin something so fine down to its parts.

At some point, having tried to work out which fold came first, and which came next
and having tried to draw the steps and describe them the same way the handy-dandy book did,
and having found it to be less fun than we imagined when we'd plonked ourselves down side-by-side at the desk,

we just looked at the Most Awesome-est Plane Ever, and said,

Well, it sure is a great, great plane.

Isn't it just?

Yeah. It sure is.

And then one of us found a set of feet, little plastic green feet, sitting on the desk…

What's this doing here? we asked.

Turned out it had arrived via the Big Sunday Clean-up of Yesterday, the one that made the house, if only briefly, look like this:

Well, the green feet had to have a body, didn't they…?

And right there on the desk was an empty black thread spool.

How it got there I have no idea. I certainly don't remember putting it there.

I remember clean surfaces, not empty spools and little green feet… so these must have been a gift…

because there too, on the desk, was a small grey marble

waiting—like the others—

to be turned into a cat.

Silly me thought it was going to be a person when we grabbed the blu-tac and stuck the feet
to the spool
to the marble

but my girl said,

it can be a cat!

So we grabbed the permanent marker and I drew a sweet little nose and upturned mouth… and my girl drew big eyes, whiskers and pointy ears,

and there she was…

little cat with green feet.

Who had to get a furry wool body too, and orange arms, and a fine long tail…

Isn't she lovely?

Then at that same desk, I found a frog. And gave it cat ears and a woolly tail…

And my girl found a cork which became a cork cat…

Just Like That

And then my girl made a fox (not quite a cat but SO cute) with a hairclip face and sweet fox tail…

And finally, a rock cat appeared,

as if out of nowhere…

Just in time to join his friends

for dinner.

Yeah. Today was the day




down unexpected paths…

finding gifts

and turning them

into something magical



Saturday, February 19, 2011

a (not so) quiet week

A quiet week on this blog can mean so many things…

Like it could mean

my thoughts crept up on me and ambushed me in the night. They chloroformed me and took me to their secret lair where they held me hostage for about 5 days. They stood over me and said words I didn't like. They poked at my dark spaces and made them come out. Then the dark and my doubts hulked over me and said, "So what could you possibly have to say for yourself?"

And I, having become tiny, said, "nothing."

Until…I took myself back to bed this morning and felt the dark wave rising. Then…slowly, and with one hand over the other, I listed the things that were good, about my life and about myself. I listed them and I gave myself permission to look at each and every one. And then…

I believed them.

At which point the dark stopped gleefully rubbing its hands together, and the negative thoughts looked startled and afraid.

And, when I sat up, opened the curtains of my room, and sat to play with the kitten, the dark and the negative and the sad simply

scuttled off.

A quiet week on this blog could ALSO mean

that we were very very very busy!

It could mean that

a boy played music at the mall again,

this time with his latin jazz buddies and his gorgeous dad

 (this man danced through almost the whole concert. Gorgeous)

A quiet week could mean

we had to go on a wonderful excursion to Jumbulla Aboriginal Discovery Centre

where we watched films,

painted dreaming stones (with symbols you can learn more about here),

saw Indigenous art and learned about hunting tools,

pretended to hunt animals with balls, watched a man tell stories about a spooky Hairy Man, drew patterned hands, and

learned how to pull a bush leaf without cutting our hands (and the leaf could then be used to weave baskets. Very cool).

What a great excursion that was!

(and three days later, this wonderful space closed down, 
because it just wasn't getting enough people in to cover costs… 
A huge shame. It was lovely there.)

A quiet blog week could also mean

my boy was busy finishing Life of Fred: Fractions! 

He worked so hard on those final chapters and Bridges. I sat with him the whole time, learning alongside him, helping him through the hard parts, bringing him Gatorade and mopping his brow… (well, okay, maybe not the last two). We were together as he answered the last Bridge question, as I checked over his answers and declared him DONE! and together as we hooted and hollered and whooped. My boy was so, so pleased with himself. That book got HARD at the end!

Then, he rested. And two days later, my boy decided to start the next Life of Fred book! It's Decimals and Percentages. A new workbook was bought, and both workbooks covered (with a hand-drawn copy of the Life of Fred cover). And a new adventure began…

A quiet week could also mean

we had to go to pottery class 

where beading was the order of the day!

these beads prepared earlier 
by our beautiful pottery teacher


we had to go to writers workshop (not just one but three!) 

where kids chatted and shared stories and talked about books and poetry and where they 



we had to play all those games …

(plus Zeus on the Loose, and our Family Math games, all of which I forgot to photograph!)


art and stories 

had to be created

by a girl (at her truly beloved desk)…


LegoQuest had to be attempted

by a boy who loves his Lego…

(Coral reef, complete with submarine and lost treasure!)

And finally,


had to be heard…

performed by Synergy Percussion,

in a hall in our much loved art gallery (which used to be the town hall I think),

and watched from the secret balcony above…

It was a magical show.


a quiet week on this blog might mean 

I have slipped into sad…just a little (and not enough to stop all the doing)…

then found my way back out,

and it might ALSO mean

that our days have been bursting at the seams

with full

and fun

and learning 

…and joy

I'm so glad I got to live and breathe and see these overflowing days, 
because every single one of them was, and is, beautiful. 

Seriously. They always are
when you stop and list the good things, 

one by one by one. 

Monday, February 14, 2011

the penguin theory

So I wonder…What's your fear?

Do you have one? Is there one thing you can't bear?

Is it sharks? You're underwater, deep below. Above you the glistening lid of the sea. And here it comes. Big ol' teeth, flat eyes, rushing towards you. Are you afraid?

What about falling? You're by an open door. A grinning man shouts in your ear. The wind rushes and rushes and rushes in. You're supposed to jump and fall, from this incredible, spine-shrinking height. Your whole life hangs on the pull of a cord. Are you afraid?

Or is it flight? Or open spaces? Or small ones? Or heights. Or the deep, hollow dark. Or mice. Or spiders, the fast-as-a-flash, long-legged and hairy kind?

What are you afraid of?

And I wonder…How does your fear feel?

For me, fear feels like a shiver. My whole body goes cold. It feels impossible to catch a breath. If I let it, it cripples me.

For my girl, fear brings a weeping, wide eyed, squeaking, whole-body panic. 

Ah, what could she be so afraid of?

It's maths.

Some time around the end of last year, 

I realised my girl's fear of maths had grown.

Grown so much bigger than

the thing she was afraid of. 

It had become debilitating.

She wasn't avoiding maths because she wasn't interested

or because it was too hard.

She was avoiding maths 
(and ALL maths games and anything to do with maths)

because it

had become something huge in her mind.

Maths carried 

the kind of fear that would start her 

crying if you even raised the subject,

panicking if she tried it, and

left her overcome in the face of it.

The kind of fear that

—if you fed it and nurtured it and gave it space to grow—

could overtake you and 

sweep you out from under your feet.

The kind of fear that could, without mercy, take you down.

And because I know how this fear feels and
 how it can swallow you whole
if you let it,

I can't bear to watch that happen to my girl.

Not when

with love,

I can help her face what she is so afraid of.


this year,

ever so gently, 

with love and kindness and care

(and in no rush whatsoever),

my girl and I are doing maths




And, just newly and this last week:

Story maths.

Because a friend of mine gave me such a gift the other day.

She told me she was telling the story of threes to her girls…

fairies carrying jewels in groups of threes 

to a secret place in fairy land.

My friend tells her beautiful girls maths stories. 

This is how they learn and love to learn.

So I tried it. 

I asked my daughter how she might buy a kitten

if a kitten was 10 dollars and she only had 6. 

She said, I'd go home and get more money!

I said, Do you know how much you'd need?

She said, without hesitating, Four dollars.

We talked about having a party. What if we had 8 cupcakes but 11 friends were coming? How many more would we need for everyone to have a delicious cupcake?

Three, of course.

We talked about eating oranges and feeding guests and buying animals.

We talked about numbers like they were our friends.

We even talked about the colour of numbers 

and she said her 5 was always, always red

(my five is always green).

And just yesterday, 

we talked about adding 9s.

We were doing some Mathsbuddy addition, and at some point the question was

9 plus 5. 

Oh! she said. I don't know that! 
Her eyes widened. Her eyebrows and voice went 


Well, I said, Imagine a little animal slides on over from the 5 
to help the 9 become a 10
(and I gestured with my hand,
an animal sliding along and straightening up beside the 9 like a soldier).

Oh! she said. A penguin! A penguin slides over!

Yes! I said. 
A penguin slides over to help the 9 become a 10, 
(and I gestured again with my hand)

and then all you need to do is add the rest of the penguins....

It's 14!

Yes! Yes it is!

That's easy!

Yep, it is! Now,
what about 9 plus 6? A penguin slides on over 

(and I gestured with my hand again)

and makes the 9 a ten. What have we got all up?



We were so pleased.

Then we checked out our Penguin Theory with a whole bunch of numbers. It worked every time. 


Then I asked, Hey, do you want to draw it, our Theory? 

Sure! she said.

So my girl drew our Penguin Theory. 

And it looked great.

And when she did some more Mathsbuddy addition later, 

9 plus Something

showed up 

and she knew the answer,

just like that.

Her theory stayed in her head AND it made sense.


not for a 



was my beautiful girl afraid.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

One. At. A. Time.

This morning, lying in bed, I had so many thoughts crowding into my head that I literally stopped them in my mind, with a single, firm hand up.

I said. Stop.

I said. One at a time.

I said. Please.

So then my thoughts dutifully gathered themselves up and presented themselves to me, one by one.

First thought:

I want to publish my stories. I want to take my story collection and send it out. This is the dream I routinely defeat with, "Oh, they're just short stories, no-one wants to publish short stories." But I want to put my dream, and my stories, into the universe. Because they will never be published if I NEVER send them out.

Second thought:

I want to write a book for young people. I want to finish the book for young people I am writing. I want to finish the book for young people I am writing and I want to write stories about animals for my girl and I want to write funny stories that will make kids laugh and I want to write. I so want to write. Just write and write and write.

Third thought:

I need to organise my next writers workshops. The THREE workshops I now run, each one just a bit (or a lot) different. The workshops are wonderful. I love them. But they do need to be planned, organised, prepared for. What will I do for workshop A, and B, and C?

Workshop thoughts A, B, and C started putting their hands up, and calling out. And I said, "Please, no need to shout! One at a time! Order in the court!"

But it was time for Fourth thought, which said:

I want to write a blog post. But my head seems to be so crowded and so empty all at once. What will I write about? And other people's blogs are so awesome and mine is so very small. Oh, what is the meaning of life/blogs/life?

That's when my thoughts got a little self-doubty. Started fussing and fretting.

The workshop thoughts kept shouting out ideas. The 'I want to write' thoughts sloped about the back looking mopey and desperate.

And then the 'Grocery shopping' thoughts came rushing in and so did the 'Cleaning the house' thoughts.

The 'How to get the cat to like the kitten' thoughts opened the door and asked, "Excuse me, but do you have a minute?"

The 'How to find time for my beautiful husband' thought then asked politely if it was its turn.

The 'How to make healthy vegetarian meals that have iron and vitamin B and protein' thoughts and the 'How to find time to exercise' thoughts started arm wrestling.

And the 'How to homeschool with clarity and kindness, freedom and vision' sat in the centre of the room with its arms folded and said it wasn't going anywhere until someone listened to it.

It's hard to see a path through when they're all behaving like that!

So perhaps I should just pick one thought. And think that for a while. Or perhaps I should just play a game with my children and put the thoughts in a drawer for another time. Or perhaps I should take myself back to bed? 

Or perhaps I should just laugh. My husband read about a study that said when you are feeling stressed or angry or upset, you should force yourself to smile. Your body feels the upturn of your mouth and sends it to your brain, which suddenly thinks, Hey, nice! 

And your brain sends messages back to your whole body and tells it, "You're feeling okay. You might even be happy." Your brain might even say: "Yep, you're totally on vacation in Hawaii right now. You're warm and sitting by the sea, which is drifting in and drifting out, doing sea tai-chi. And in a minute the waiter will come with a smoothie, and soon your children will run up, wet from the sea, and give you enormous dripping kisses." 

And then your whole body smiles

Just like I am, smiling suddenly,

as I write these 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

bring on the awesome

Are many things better than

Well, you might say, Sure there are! I can think of hundreds of better things than that, like canoeing the Amazon River, eating double choc fudge icecream (home made), playing with a roomful of labrador puppies, riding a hot air balloon, traveling to the moon, or—but I would say, 

in this moment 

I can only think of one. 

And that's my kids

doing this exact awesome thing

on a school day

with one of my boy's best friends…

who normally goes to school

but played hooky just so he could come with us…

so we could do this particular 
awesome thing




Sliding through a laser room
and avoiding detection!

(except for the time M's bum got in the way)

Finding the perfect disguise!

Guessing the password!

(which in the end someone told the boys—
without them asking—
which made them quietly

Breaking unbreakable codes!

(Which weren't so hard to crack when you put your heads together at lunch
to share your findings)


Riding a see saw 

(without Laughing so hard you fell off…!)

And ,

Cracking some more codes

and Viewing more clues…

until the Culprit was Determined

beyond the shadow of a doubt!

And ,

Attending a Debriefing

where confirmation was received
that we had


solved the case!

But then we discovered that


was as awesome as 

Popping into


Dancing on stage with Bjorn, Frida, Benny and Agnetha while getting filmed,

Inserting pictures of ourselves onto classic 70's album covers,

Laughing so hard we nearly fell down,

and finally

Singing along to


and Finding

my boy's pitch was

69% on the money.

Bring on the Fame!
Bring on the Bright Lights!

Bring on more awesome days

Like this one.


my boy

my girl



(whose identity must remain secret
for reasons of the utmost importance and 
in the interests of state security.

This post will self destruct in 15 seconds…and counting…!)