Sunday, December 29, 2013


Our summer tour of the south coast continues with four nights spent in Narooma last week.

We arrived in the early evening and once we unloaded our things, we wandered down the short path to the beach. The most beautiful scene awaited us with the last remnants of a sunset and a dense fog shrouding the beach. I longed to capture the unusual light but knew I would miss the joy of it if I ran back to the cabin for the camera. So we enjoyed watching the kids run up and down the beach and we chatted about Brian's summer travels with his family. He had only just finished recalling a vivid memory of collecting clams buried in the beach on one of the trips when his toe ran into something in the sand. Surprised, he brushed away the sand and picked up a small clam. Oh, the pleasure of serendipitous coincidences.

He tucked the clam in his pocket thinking he would enjoy it later as a little snack. Back at the cabin, he pulled it out and began to explain to Riker how to tell its age by counting the rings on the shell and how to crack it open to eat the clam within. Riker started to get upset and asked him to please not eat the clam. I reminded Brian that when we were in Murramurrang, Riker got very upset after Brian tried to cook and eat a witchetty grub (think fat white caterpillar). If you're cringing, note that these grubs were an important insect food in the desert and a staple in the diets of many Aboriginal Australians. This particular witchetty grub came to its untimely end when it crawled in front of our verandah while we were visiting with a family passing by. I might have worried what that family would have thought except the man, who appeared to be of Aboriginal descent, offered some insight on the difference in taste between raw and cooked witchetty grubs. Apparently they have a somewhat buttery texture when cooked, but I can report that they get rubbery when overcooked. After the fact, Riker felt very sad about it all and really wanted to keep watching the chubby thing crawl around.

So back to the clam in Narooma. Brian had mentioned that clams can live a very long time (507 years in fact) but was also trying to explain that humans eat animals all the time. Riker wasn't having it and he begged Brian to put it in some water or return it to the sea saying, "how would you like it if someone tried to crack open your house and eat you?" His pleas were very convincing and Brian set off in the dark to return the clam (with about 20 rings on its shell) to the ocean floor. Lucky little guy. Riker was so relieved and later I told him how I was moved by his concern for the clam and how I could see that he had a very kind heart. He just looked at me with a face radiating appreciation and gentleness and gave me a hug. Happy day.

Handkerchief beach welcomes us in the daylight.

This holiday park came equipped with a climbing wall....

 ...and in-ground trampoline. 

Both of which kept the kids nicely occupied while I tried out some of the artsy settings on my camera.

While the surf was just a little too rough for the kids to play in safely, the southern end of the beach held a quiet inlet and lagoon, perfect for splashing and digging.

The perfect beach footwear? None!

 On our way out of town we had lunch and a walk on the boardwalk in Narooma where I captured this awesome photo of the boys. The kids got a great view of a large stingray under the boardwalk and we all sat watching it gently swish around the shallows for some time.

What a great way to wrap up 2013. As always, we wished we could have been with our families over the holiday break. Or more accurately, we wished our families could have been here with us in the sunshine!

Thursday, December 19, 2013


After enjoying our last coastal getaway so much, we decided to do it again and spent the beginning of this week at Murramurang National Park.

Some Canberrans will complain about the two hour journey required to get to the ocean, but for a Midwestern girl with a hometown twenty five hours from the ocean, I'm pretty happy to make such a short trip to the Pacific!

 A kangaroo lazes about in front of our cabin with a great beach view.

 "Kang-roo hop buh-bye" said Ari all weekend.

 Thinking he might get a closer look.

 My happy boy.


 Some of the biggest pelicans I've ever seen!

 Lots of playing in the sand and surf.

 Pelicans coming in for a closer look.

 Jumping up and down in sandy puddles.

 Sand everywhere!

For some time now it's felt like too much trouble to do all the planning and packing associated with any travel. Fortunately, it's feeling a bit easier these days and we've really enjoyed changing the scenery and having two relaxing beach escapes in the last month. So, given tomorrow is my last day of work until the new new year, we're continuing our tour of south coast beaches and this weekend we're off to Narooma for four nights!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Blue Gum Year in Pictures

It doesn't seem like all that long ago that Riker was heading off on his first day of preschool, but Thursday was the last day of the school year already.

Parents and students alike were looking forward to receiving a special memento at the end of the year - the Blue Gum portfolio.

 Riker was so excited to get home and unwrap his gift!

 He carefully set to untying the string holding the package together - his name tag, the envelope with a copy of the music the children recorded for their chocolate machine performance at the school concert, and the portfolio itself.

The first page of the book featuring a quote that serves as one of Blue Gum's guiding principles. "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - WB Yeats

 In many of the pages Riker is (not surprisingly) wearing red and he enjoys finding photos of his closest friends. 

One of my favorite pages in the book, a series of photos documenting Riker's explorations with a set of dominoes.

 Admiring a page with his teacher Subhadra.

Another of my favorite pages, this one showing the creative process and the final work of art.

What a big year it was for Riker! So may new experiences, new friends and new milestones. 

I can't say enough good things about the teachers at Blue Gum. The school's paradigm is based on the notion that all children are competent, capable, creative, responsible, resourceful and resilient. This is reflected in the language used with the children, the meaningful activities offered, the decisions they are allowed to make, the theories they test and the media they explore. The teachers model ways in which the children can assert their feelings, needs and concerns in a responsible way. They respect each student's contribution to the program yet challenge them to grow and extend themselves and they support students to handle difficult situations in their own time and in their own way.

Many thanks to Subhadra, Rozanne, Jane, Sam, Ally, Elyse and all the other terrific teachers who were part of Riker's educational journey this year!

Monday, December 09, 2013

Bushwalking Babes

Like the rest of the Canberra population, we've been coming out of our shells to enjoy the outdoors now that the weather is so nice.

A few weeks back we had a day trip to Casuarina Sands for a picnic, a swim in the river and a short walk along the river bank.

Ari and Riker hope the ducks will be interested in whole biscuits.

And they're off!

On the days that I'm at work and Riker is at school, Brian and Ari have gone on a number of outdoor adventures, like this one to Molonglo Gorge. 

You coming or what?

Great views.

An intrepid hiker has to have a rest now and again.

What kid doesn't love to throw stones in the river?

And this journey to Pine Island with stunning wildflowers in bloom.

Hopefully soaking up a love of the natural world to rival his parent's.

I have to say I'm a bit jealous of these peaceful outings to the bush surrounding Canberra. Ari is apparently an awesome little hiker with more endurance than his big brother. Brian is already dreaming of through hikes on the Appalachian Trail with the boys. For now, it's great that we have so many terrific spots on our doorstep to get out and enjoy a walk on the wild side.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Riker and the Chocolate Machine

For their end of year concert, Riker's preschool class was part of a whole-school production featuring the learning journeys of the children.

Riker's classroom has spent quite a bit of the year exploring robots and chocolate and it was the latter that the children chose to focus on for their part of the concert. All year they've been collecting chocolate wrappers and talking about ingredients, trying out their guesses at recipes and even building a chocolate machine!

From the concert program:
The construction of a "chocolate machine" in the sandpit sparked months of research into the culinary delight of chocolate. Hypotheses for making chocolate were tested....leading to the construction of a wire chocolate machine. But what would it sound like inside the machine? Pres-schoolers have constructed a soundtrack for you. Listen carefully to find out.

Below, the children demonstrate the process of making chocolate on stage.

Isla and Rowdy add cocoa and milk while Riker mixes it all together.

Ever wonder what it sounds like inside a chocolate machine? Well, thanks to one of the assistant teachers who is an electronic musician, you can find out in this short video of the chocolate making process featuring an original score.

Stirring up the mixture.

And voila - chocolate bars!

The concert was delightful and we laughed our way through the children building rainbows, explaining how their teacher had a baby, doing yoga, growing gardens, exploring the earth's geology, becoming the characters from books, learning about electronics and wriggling around as spiders. Well done to all the children and educators for such a fabulous production!

I can hardly believe the year has passed so quickly and there are only two more days of school left!

Saturday, December 07, 2013


I didn't realize how much I needed a holiday until we made last minute plans to stay on the coast last weekend.

Our destination was Merrimbula and we stayed at a caravan park on the beach in an awesome cottage with a spa bath and ocean view. We'd never really considered staying at a caravan park before but with swimming pools, a playground, a giant jumping pillow and kids activities, it was a great place to take the family.

Rocks make the best playground ever.

Riker was intrigued and delighted by this bench made out of old railroad ties.

Rainbow lorikeets visited our verandah regularly.

We enjoyed beautiful weather and all of our favorite treats. Note the hand snatching watermelon in the background while Riker's back is turned!


The only downside was the crazy wind, which we harnessed to our kite flying advantage.

Riker has a turn flying the kite. Our cottage in the background.

The boys share a quick cuddle. While neither has ever really enjoyed the experience of being at the beach before, this time they both embraced the sand and surf and the ability to bury themselves and dig holes to their heart's content.

Before heading home we visited the Potaroo Palace wildlife park which was full of interesting flora and fauna.

A peacock shows off his stuff.

I've been trying for a good sulphur crested cockatoo photo for years. Hooray!

The emus were very gentle and would eat out of our hands.

As were the kangaroos.

Sapphire the koala hanging out in her tree.

Cheeky boy.

Tawny frogmouth.

What a terrific weekend. We had such a good time that we've planned another escape to the beach next weekend, this time to Murramarang.