Caves, guerilla art, viruses and elections

We have been extremely busy recently. And I have been tired. This tiredness hits at some point mid-afternoon and means my bedtimes are brought forward an hour or so because I end up falling asleep next to one of my children after their bedtime story.

There have been a couple of viruses going round Sydney and we seem to have had the one that affects the respiratory tract. We were all pretty knocked out for a few weeks and although the virus seems to have finally left, it’s been hard to get back to some kind of normal routine since then. Now my dear man is in India and his trip has been extended for a few days.

Hence all the other things I try to do when they are asleep but I am awake, have to be done when they are awake. Or, more frequently, they don’t get done. And that includes blogging.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Drama King knocked a glass of water over our family laptop. Amazingly, after drying out for about 2 weeks, it still seems to function, but it can be slow and we have to plug in an external keyboard and mouse. That’s another reason why I haven’t been blogging.

So I realise that I have left it for far too long to update friends and family overseas of what is going on in our little world. I haven’t even posted photos of Princess’s birthday (although that was largely because she insisted on being naked for most of the day).

What has been happening?


In the break between Terms 2 and 3, we went to stay near the Jenolan Caves with some friends from Manly. It was only two nights away but felt like a really good break. The weather (which had been very rainy in Sydney) was cold but clear, and all the children enjoyed staying in the cabins, seeing the local wildlife, and exploring the caves.


Princess had a fun second birthday, involving Peppa Pig cake, strawberries, and being naked most of the time. She has also had what I call a ‘language explosion’ and can tell us pretty much everything in words, even if sometimes they need deciphering. (Once I thought she was saying ‘rice books’ when she was trying to tell me about her lunch box.) She is participating fully in her brothers’ world of video games and fantasy stories and is often heard proclaiming, ‘Battle,’ and ‘You DIE,’ or waving her wand to turn us into cows. She loves picnics and putting her toys to bed. The floor of our apartment is generally covered with teatowels and toy food, plus makeshift beds made out of cushions with a little creature tucked under some blankets.

Amber's cakeP1010450

Pokemon Boy attended a course in Guerilla Art run by Kuba from Desire Books, culminating in some wonderful (council approved) paste-ups on a water tank in Manly Vale. The term before that he did a series of workshops about drawing your own graphic novel. I might not have mentioned that before. (I will try to add some photos when I have located them. The computer incident means all my photos are scattered across various devices.)

Reptile Boy turned five, and celebrated his birthday at an indoor climbing centre, along with several friends from pre-school and the homeschooling community. This term he has been reluctant to go to pre-school. It seems that he just wants to be with the rest of us, whatever we are up to. It is starting to be silly paying for pre-school when he is either missing the days completely, or arriving late and leaving early. We’ve already started doing some academic work at home – he does spelling and maths when his older brothers are doing something similar – so I’ve decided not to send him back for Term 4, although he doesn’t need to be officially registered as homeschooling until he is six years old. He got overwhelmingly tired and grumpy when we all had the virus but generally he’s happy with life and is a cheery soul to have around.


Drama King has also had a birthday but I have neglected to arrange a party for either him or Pokemon Boy. I expect they will remind me of this pretty soon. He is continuing with his singing and has now performed twice at the Manly Council citizenship ceremony as part of the Manly Children’s Choir. Homeschooling him has its rewards, but is often quite a challenge. In fact just getting him up and dressed and out of the door is a challenge most days. He is such a bright, enthusiastic, creative child but I think I need to enlist some professional help with anxiety, executive function and sensory processing. When he had an occupational therapist back in England it made a real difference. I just have to find the right person (or people) over here.


I have been running more. I joined the Manly Beach Running Club which seems to be largely expats, with a wonderful coach who has just completed the Great North Walk from Newcastle to Sydney – 276 km in 69 hours and 28 mins. He has helped me a lot with my running style and is just generally an inspiration. I am working towards the half marathon on 22 Sep (not that long now) and my man and the boys will be doing the 3.5 k Family Fun Run again (with Princess in the jogging buggy).

I have never been a morning person. I definitely prefer to stay up late and work when everyone else is asleep, rather than getting up early. However I’ve been doing quite a few 5:30 runs and I really appreciate seeing the sun rise over the ocean, then getting back home and having the whole day ahead of me. If it’s a weekend, I usually return home to find the rest of the family engaged in various activities involving screens, and I try to chivvy them out of the apartment to appreciate the beautiful setting we live in.

I think the running is helping greatly with my mood. The endorphins released after I’ve been for a run help me feel a little more positive about the job of looking after four kids and the household all day every day.

I also really enjoy teaching science and I am trying to keep going with my science clubs, although we have had to cancel various sessions due to illnesses and being away. Please read my Nurture Learning blog if you are interested in what we’ve been up to in this area.

Just before the end of June I was terribly busy filling in loads of forms for our Permanent Residency application. (The pricing went up at the start of July and doing it on time saved us approximately $5,000! I heard from someone else recently that the cost went up again at the start of August.) This does not mean that we are necessarily living here for the rest of our lives, but it will help immensely if my man wants to change his job. Without PR he would have to ask the company employing him to sponsor him for a new 457 visa, and only large companies with a certain amount of money can do this. On our 457 visa we also only get emergency healthcare and there are various other benefits we are not allowed, e.g. discounts on childcare, or towards health insurance. In fact there is an extremely annoying Catch-22 situation where we have to pay a surcharge because of my man earning above a certain amount and not having hospital health cover, when the only health cover that would be worth buying is not available for people on visas such as ours.

The federal election is very close and that has been interesting (but not very pleasant) to observe as an outsider. I and the older boys have filled in the ABC Vote Compass questionnaire. You rate how much you agree or disagree with each statement and you see a graph showing where your opinions place you compared to the policies of the three main parties. Pokemon Boy, unsurprisingly, considered the most important issue to be funding of the National Broadband Network. I was interested to see that one of the statements was “There should be more restrictions on 457 visas issued to temporary foreign workers.” Most people taking the poll agree with this statement, and approx 25% strongly agree. I think there is a real feeling of ‘foreigners taking our jobs’ which always happens in countries when there is an economic downturn, but doesn’t quite fit with the image of Australia as being a country made up of immigrants. (The 2011 census showed that more than a quarter of Australians were born abroad, and one fifth have at least one parent born abroad.)

Don’t even get me started on the asylum seekers issue. Our family has enough money to pay the high fees for permanent residency, and we are white and we speak English. And if we were told to go back home we would be able to do so. But people who are forced out of their homes for various unpleasant reasons and have no choice but to arrive in Australia by boat, are made to stay in terrible off-shore detention centres and the major parties fight over how nasty they can be to these people. One media commenter suggested that the land of the fair go has now become the land of the “go away”.

There is more discussion about asylum seekers and immigrants on the ABC site. I would love to see in figures, how much each asylum seeker and how much each temporary resident costs for Australia. I suspect that most people will decide how to vote based on emotions and prejudice rather than hard facts.


About scimumsam

An ex scientist living in Australia, currently tutoring maths and science and homeschooling my own children. I blog about science and maths education on, and homeschooling (infrequently) on lookingslantwise.
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