Homeschooling with a teen? How did that happen?!?!?!

It’s now been about three years since I took over as Jack’s primary educational facilitator.  I’m really enjoying it! Finally!  I get to learn, too! At least when Jack reads aloud. (It’s quicker and easier for him to read silently and then take notes, though, so he only reads poetry and simpler books aloud anymore.)

We completed the (Roman) unit we were working on during our move and started another one (Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation) a few months after we arrived. We’re almost done with that one, and in the next few months we will start the last unit I have for him (early modern and modern times).

Originally, I had planned to create two more units, but in the last few months, Jack has started to see his life path ahead of him and it takes him away in February 2020 to study at The Gordon to get the ATARs he needs to study law at Deakin.

I’m not standing in the way of a man with  a plan. I wasn’t so visionary when I was approaching 15 and I am pleased that Jack is.

Our schedule always seems to be out of sync with the Australian January to December school year, just as it was with the US September to June school year.   We will probably finish the current unit in March or April and start the next one three weeks later. It didn’t matter in Michigan, where we never had to register or report. It may begin to matter more  now, because not only do we have to register to homeschool in Victoria, but starting in March, there are new regulations that require that we be prepared to report to the state every three years.

I’m not looking forward to forfeiting the freedom we are accustomed to, but as a recent immigrant, I don’t really have a lot of choice.  Many of my friends are or planning to slip under the radar by letting their homeschool registration lapse when they move house over the next few years to avoid the meddling of he department. That doesn’t seem wise  for our family. Then again, while we are not following a plan that the government would recognise, we do have a  plan and our standards are high. The fines for not registering are not insignificant and it’s likely that we will pass the reviews as long as they are fair. Probably best we take our chances over the next couple of years.

I’m currently trying to figure out how to draw the parallels between what we’re working on and the Victorian curriculum for reporting purposes. It’s not technically required that we follow any specific curriculum, but human nature suggests that the more “familiar”  Jack’s education looks to the investigaors, the less deeply we are likely to be investigated, making everyone’s lives easier.

The system we have adopted over the last three years has evolved as he has matured. These days Jack chooses what he wants to study next from the shelf of pre-selected books.  Three years ago, he selected all the books for the week and plugged away until they were all back on the shelf, averaging 6 books per day and usually finishing by Friday, though some busy weeks required study on the weekends, too.  Recently, we switched from the many subjects briefly to a more focused  one or two subjects, totaling three hours per day. (He takes breaks to rest his brain, but he seem to  get more done when he focuses on one or two subjects for the day.)

I think that Jack being in charge a good thing because this is Jack’s education not mine and soon enough he will be at University where time management will be entirely his responsibility.

We call our units by the historical period we’re studying, but the historical period, while it defines the temporal boundaries of our units, is only a small part of what we do.

In the early years, we tried to match up history, music, art, and  whatever else was relevant to the historical period, so that we looked at classical roman art, looked for information on Roman music and performance, read novels based in ancient Rome, learned Latin root words, prefixes, and suffixes in English, and tried a meal that would have been familiar to ancient Romans.  That has started to wane a bit as we have added more material to Jack’s curriculum as he has matured. We still try to look at art and literature based in the period, but they have become a much smaller side journey as his studies have become more complex.

As an example of the new complexity,  Jack has been studying a lot of Australian history and civics this last four years. We also  read poetry and literature, science, philosophy, ethics, and maths and all the usual classical subjects. We even studied Latin for a while and I hope to get back to that soon, though maybe not while Jack is studying Spanish.

I think the best changes over the last three years is that that once I put Jack in charge of his education and asked him to decide what we were going to study nd when, he also started to step up and take responsibility for getting us started on studies once he’s had breakfast.  That makes me SO happy and proud of him.

Anyway, I have been writing and rewriting this for  11 months – suffice to say, homeschooling is very flexible and changes to meet current need- but it’s time to click Publish and move on.

Meet Magnus Katsperov, Emperor

Meet Magnus, the newest member of Team Smiffy.

He joined us on May 21, 2017, at the age of four months. He came for a visit one night, made himself at home, and never left.

Baby Magnus, four months old on adoption day

At this point, we can’t imagine life without him, though it might be tempting in the middle of the night on occasion – kittens will be kittens, after all.

He was originally thought to be a girl kitten named Mimi, but by July it ha become physically evident that this was no baby girl! A change of name was in order.

Jack created his name by borrowing elements from a couple of the best chess players in the world. It suits him – a very regal, strong kind of name. And like all adolescent males, Magnus swaggers around here like he invented “cool”. That wouldn’t work for a boy named Mimi.

Proving to us that even a clothes drying rack is a fine place for a nap, if the emperor says so.

Unlike most cats I have known, Magnus adapts pretty readily to change – at least so far.

He’s not interested in going outdoors without a carrier,bu he does enjoy his cat carrier and enjoys going to visit his friend Duchess, who lives across town.

To be honest, the trip in the car isn’t his favorite, but once he’s there he settles right in and makes himself at home and before long he and Duchess are playing together. Magnus is usually content for days after a visit.

That might just be because he’s still a baby – we’ll see if he keeps that quality into adulthood

Magnus, almost one year.

Hmmm. Very choppy writing an very little content.

My apologies.

I didn’t  want to skip another day and risk falling out of  the habit of blogging again, but I am very, very tired. Enjoy the pictures of our sweet boy and please ignore the drivel.


I mentioned a few days ago that I have kicked off my first Whole30.

It’s already the 21st of January and I just finished reading the book, so I plan to continue to at least the end of February – assuming I don’t have any more lapses.

A few days in to my first attempt, (probably because this is actually so similar to the way we always eat) I fell into non-thinking mode and had a square of 80% chocolate after dinner (now replaced with cocoa nibs for the duration while the boys have their after dinner chocolate) and a glass of wine with dinner.


Time to start back on square one. The wine was probably because we’re just past the holidays and social eating often means a glass of wine  with dinner. Not a big deal to give up – I just have to remember that I’m not doing that for now.

Honestly, the very hardest part is food timing. I have to eat breakfast before I can have coffee!!

For years it  has been my custom to get up between 8am and 9am and have coffee. Then, when I get hungry around 1 or 2 pm, I would have a “breakfast” of a big honking salad – three cups of greens, seaweed, an avocado, some onion, some fish…and that would hold me until dinner round 8 or 9 pm.

Bedtime is generally around midnight.

The Whole30 mandates breakfast within one hour of waking, eating three substantial meal every day, and no eating at least three hours before bed.

I have been forcing myself to eat breakfast before my coffee and I am getting closer to the one hour mark. The food  still sits like a rock on my stomach, but I am able to choke it down now. However that means that I am unable to fit lunch into my stomach until 4 or 5 pm, which is making getting dinner on the table by 8 much more difficult. Until I can get that sorted, I can’t officially start my Whole30.

Today, I tried an even smaller breakfast – I hope that makes it possible to get lunch in around 1 so that starting dinner around 5 will be easier.

Or maybe I’ll just give up eating entirely for 30 days.  That sounds easier.  I’m getting so sick of food.


I think I probably mentioned back in 2015 that I bought a new Nikon DSLR camera when my old Kodak ‘point and shoot’ died, and then I took took a 6 month photography certification class (cert II).

I was originally intending to take the full year class (cert III), but between my inability to understand the later assignments and the fact that most of the second half of the year was about studio work, I decided to just keep working with what I had learned in the first half. (The last thing I needed on a fixed income was the impression that I need an expensive studio setup!)

The class did exactly what I was hoping it would. It taught me how to get off automatic mode an into manual mode, and it gave me the information I needed to teach myself more.

There were assignments, especially toward the end of the course, that I missed entirely because I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what the instructor was asking for but I have a notebook of the assignments and my first results. I can redo the class as often as I want to now and learn more every time. I also now understand enough to make sense of YouTube videos and articles on Photography sites. Score! I won!

For the last three years, Jack and Rod and I have been going out on photo walks every few weeks, as time allows. I learn a lot from what catches their eyes, so that I am able to stretch out of my comfort zone even further. It’s been great fun!

I have continued to play with my kit lenses, the pair of zoom lenses that came with my camera and I have gotten to the point of being pretty happy with at least some of my results on every outing.

Zoom lenses are convenient. They let you shoot many different kind of images without changing your lens. Between them, my lenses ranged between 18 mm and 200 mm. That was super convenient and I got very lazy and attached to zooming rather than moving to get the shot.

However the thing about kit lenses is that they are intended to be inexpensive and to give maximum flexibility to a beginner who doesn’t yet know what they “need” in a lens. They are intended to be replaced eventually by a higher quality lens – possibly a prime lens – as the beginner becomes an experienced photographer.

There is nothing wrong with a kit lens. A good photographer can get stunning photographs with them! There is no equipment with which a mediocre photographer like me is going to capture a world class image.

Still, I was curious. A prime lens is smaller and lighter and is easier to travel with. A prime lens has higher quality glass because it doesn’t need to move as the camera zooms. A better quality lens should give crisper results.

Unfortunately I couldn’t figure out how to try one without buying it. And although they are  available in a range of prices, I couldn’t justify a new lens when I have two perfectly good lenses and I didn’t even know whether I would like using a prime lens.

Then TJ, my oldest son, gave me a New Year’s gift. My first thought was to squirrel it away for a rainy day…but that lens just kept tugging at me.  Rod encouraged me to indulge.  So we went to look.

As it happened, we arrived at the camera shop on a day when a lens of the type I was thinking about was on sale. A much better lens than I was ever likely to consider was available for almost exactly what TJ had sent.  I crumpled and left the shop the new owner of a 50 mm prime lens.

It gives a very  different result than I am accustomed to, in part because it is a wider angle than I usually use.  I have brought it out several times  around the house to try various ideas and to try to see how I can best use it.

It’s almost like the feeling when I first got my first camera- it’ that different.

What a wonderful challenge!  I’m having a blast!

Various updates

Hey! I came back! 😉

Rodney October 2017

That’s OK, there’s probably no one around to notice, but it may take time to get back in the swing of writing and find my voice again, so its probably just as well. (If you are reading this, lease let me know. It will make it more fun to talk.)

It’s interesting.  When I left, I had fully intended to document my emigration experience once I arrived, but for one reason or another – some technical, most not, I found that I was completely unable to do so. Writing has become far more difficult to me since I arrived.  I hope that will pass and I intend to keep trying.  If no other reason, because it’s been so handy to have the blog to double check things in!

Another part of the difficulty seemed to be tthat so much of the processing I was doing was at a level below the verbal- I just didn’t have words for my feelings.  There were no thoughts most of the time, just reactions. I really wasn’t expecting that. My apologies for being unable to take you on the journey.

Jack October 2017

I am completely enjoying Australia and it very much feels like home.  Actually, even as I went through the classic settling in reactions (being oddly emotional; seeing “familiar” from far away  in people in the on the street; finding that I was confused by all accents- especially America accents!) I still felt quite  at home and the things that evidently upset some immigrants didn’t bother me. It all just felt like a part of the process.

Now we are beginning our fourth year and as I find words, I will try to retroactively take you on the journey, but do feel free to ask questions.  hat may well help me to find words for things.

One side effect of my emigration was that I was presented with an amazing array of beautiful new foods — things that I had never seen or tasted before. If you know me, you know that I LOVE food. And I was unaccustomed to an urban cafe culture where every day life brought me to the vicinity of cafes where those beautiful foods were on display, looking and smelling amazing.

I remained pretty conscientious about my avoidance of gluten and wheat and obvious corn, since those are triggers that I know make me very ill very.  However, in the interest of curiosity I far too often indulged in things that “might be safe”.  Of curse, once I started that, I also started to feel less well (because many of the things that “might be safe” contained hidden corn), and the cravings also started.

By the 20th of December, the deterioration in my health couldn’t be ignored anymore. My blood sugar had become unstable after 5 years, I hurt in every joint and had dded new aches and pains o the collection I had before we discovered what was making us ill back in 2009, and I had no energy.  I knew it was time to stop eating like a tourist and start eating like I live here.  Time to take care of myself, despite the awkward social situations.  I am past the curiosity and reassured that none of those delights are worth the pain hey cause, but spending my life saying “no thank you” to friends has been a serious bit of dissuasion. But it’s time to put my health first again.

As of that date, I have started to eliminate everything I know is not good for my health.  As of January first, I have started working toward doing my first Whole30. I need to make sure that I haven’t triggered any new sensitivities through carelessness and this is a good way to do that. I didn’t get the book from the library until two weeks in and discovered that I was doing it wrong.  Oops. I’ll keep adding steps as I discover them through my reading of the book and will officially begin my 30 days the day I finish the book.

Even just so far, I am already seeing the benefits!  I have been able to climb the step stool again.  (It made my knees hurt too much before) Today and yesterday I have been able to get down on thee floor –really sitting on the floor!  — for he first time in a couple of years. And my energy is back. I found myself really enjoying walking fast for the joy of it today when I was shopping. Yep.  Totally worth it. I am enjoying life again and no taste is as good as this feels! (Besides, the hollow calories of those things don’t really appeal to me anymore. Best thing ever!)

OK, dinner is calling.  See you tomorrow!

Happy 2018!

It’s been seven months since I have been able to post. Against all evidence we have not fallen off the edge of the earth.

We have indeed moved, but in that move, my computer “got broken”. It took six months to get it fixed and then a few days later, it broke again.

It turned out to be a coincidence that it happened during our move, because it was a well known flaw in that model of computer.

Another coincidence was that Jack had, in the interim, bought himself a new, faster, more powerful computer and he was willing to gift me his old one.  Thanks, Jack!

It turns out that Jack’s old comupter is far superior to my old one on every way that matters to me – though the old one might have runs games faster than this one does.

It took a while to get e-mail and the blog and everything else running on this computer, but I’m back now.

There have been many, many changes for us in the last few months, and over the next few days, I hope to get updates posted.

Still in a holding pattern

To anyone who might still be listening:

Back in February, I posted that we are “on the move again”. And, we are, but, evidently, very, very slowly. We have looked at 20 properties so far. I have seen five (or was it six?) that I would happily have signed on to rent, but in each case, Rod, whose turn it is to make the final decision, had very valid reasons that they wouldn’t suit.

And so, the search continues. We saw six properties last weekend, on Jack’s 14th birthday, including two that would have contented me. I am, however, keeping out of the decisions to apply or not. (I could otherwise become overbearing on the subject – and that’s not fair when I selected the last two homes we’ve shared.

No, the lovely cottage to the right is neither where we live nor one of the houses we’ve looked at – just a very beautiful place I saw on a photo walk last August – the day before I broke myself, as a matter of fact.

The long search has made packing easy – I pack a box or two every few days and have reached the point where soon there will be nothing we don’t need day to day left to pack. The spare room is completely full and the back hallway is becoming impassable – which under the circumstances is probably a good thing. )(Packing in a panic at the last minutes is seriously no fun and terribly inefficient.) As always, packing the books is the hardest – I consult them regularly, and never more regularly than when I can’t reach them!

I hope to be in our new place by winter solstice, or my birthday at latest, so maybe I can live without them for a month. But my craft supplies?!?! A month without crafting? No, those I think, get back in the last week, along with the kitchen. How else will I stay sane?

Jack and I continue to take frequent photo walks, though not quite a frequent now that autumn rains and cold snaps have made them a but more risky. Up until this week, we continued to swap cameras – one of of us on the DSLR and the other on Rodney’s “antique” point and shoot. On Saturday, for his 14th birthday, Jack got a beautiful, expensive point and shoot camera. He didn’t often take advantage of the DSLR capabilities, and this means he doesn’t have to worry about carrying a big camera, but his photo quality should be more consistent now. That’s pretty important because he has to put together a photo portfolio by the end of the year for his homeschool review. (Art is a required subject and we figure it’s best to focus on documenting what we do, rather than trying to fit new subjects into our busy schedules.)

The other advantage, of course, is that with three cameras, we can all go for photo walks together. Rod is up to it these days, so it will be fun rather than frustrating.

I’ve mentioned my ‘project’ to reduce my thyroid dose. It’s still ongoing. I am down from 7 grains to 1.25 and in a few weeks I’ll be at 1. I was interested to discover that the reason that it took three months to recover after each reduction was that I have, since I retired, been steadily impairing my metabolism by under eating. At the office, I used to bring leftovers and eat them every few hours throughout the day. After Rod left, there were never leftovers because Jack and I didn’t have much interest in food without Rod. Once I retired, we were simply too busy to prepare major meals.

We occasionally ate lunch once we got here by experimenting with new recipes of various kinds, but as we got more busy, it got harder to make the time to prepare food and it was rare for all of us to be here together in the middle of the day, so we mostly stopped again.

The over-treated thyroid covered the symptoms of slowed metabolism, but when it was taken away, the symptoms came on with a vengeance. It was that and not the reduced thyroid dose, per se, that was making me so sick.

So in the last few weeks, I have been trying to make sure I eat lunch. I make up a batch of “veg dip” and cut up crudités to have on hand to make it as easy as possible.

Eating them as been harder than I expected, though,  because I have also lost interest in eating breakfast.  If I wait until I am hungry, I end up eating for the first time around 4 or 5 pm…which is not the direction I need to go. I am starting to have symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome from the fasting, so it’s getting more serious and I have to get it under control.

Is this, I wonder, how anorexia feels? I cold never really understand choosing not to eat – I love food! But lately…not so much.  Food seems like an awful lot of effort – not just to prepare, but also to eat. Honestly, it;s been easier lately to cook a meal than to eat it. That is bizarre, when I stop to think about it.

Of course, moving is also going to be expensive, so we have been putting aside every cent we can. We have been cutting way back on meat and expensive veg and eating more carrots and potatoes. I haven’t been able to re-fill my supplements or my bone knitting herbs since February, either. I am learning that they really, really were making a big difference to my health. Good to know – but probably also adding to my stress levels.

Oh well. It’s almost over.

Yikes! It’s dinnertime!

The guys will be home and very hungry in about thirty minutes because..wait for it…we all missed lunch!  chortle I crack myself up.



In March of last year, so almost a year ago, I went to the doctor for the first time since my arrival in Australia.

It was time to check up on my blood sugar, since my glucometre had broken shortly after I arrived.

It turned out that my blood sugar was fine. However, since I was there, the doctor ordered a whole panel of blood tests.  Everything was delightfully normal, except…my thyroid hormone was frighteningly high! (Or rather, my TSH was nonexistent, for those of you who know what I am talking about.)

After chatting with the doctor – me very reluctant to mess with what was working, and the doctor very concerned about the long term health effects of hyperthyroidism, I went home and did some research.

Hmmm. My teeth have been crumbling for some time, and that’s one of the (minor) symptoms of over-medication with thyroid hormone. A number of other symptoms were also there.  I agreed to try reducing my dose by one grain. The first three months were miserable, but instead of getting worse, at the half-way point, I started to feel better.

Clearly the doctor was on to something.

When I had been feeling better for about two weeks, I made an appointment to get my blood tested again. Still far too high.  Worried, I agreed to try again. Same result.  Misery for three months, and then back to normal.  Testing revealed that the dose was still too high.

Hunh, interesting. I am currently down from 7 grains to three and feeling fine again.  Time to get another blood test done.

It appears that one of the side effects of working with Dr. Sickels and following the Wahls protocol is that my thyroid has healed. I won’t know for another six months or so how completely it has healed, because reducing my dose suddenly could be catastrophic, but I am hopeful at this point that I may be finished with my last prescription! (I was declared “cured” of seizure disorder in 2002, of diabetes in 2012, and now maybe of hypothyroidism.)

Now to the point of this post’s title.

One side effect of the reducing thyroid hormone has been weight gain in addition to the weight I had gained when we moved ‘down the hill’ to within a block of the best stop and the greengrocer. Of course. That was to be expected. It was only about 20 pounds. My clothes fit differently, but I didn’t change clothing sizes. (Partly because I expected that moment – unintentional weight loss can be expected to be followed by unintentional weight gain – and I always chose very forgiving clothes.) But I didn’t want that last five pounds that would doom me to more clothes shopping.

So, I started working a bit harder at using up energy.

Instead of going to the nearest bus stop, I went to the next stop walking as fast as I could.  If I had the time, I kept walking to the next, and the nest bus stop. It was going great! I felt stronger and fitter and more energetic as the days and weeks passed.  I was wonderful.

Then, in August, it all came crashing down when I was momentarily distracted and tripped over a rough spot in the pavement at full speed.  I came down hard and broke both an arm and a leg. The first serious break or injury of any kind in my life. (Being a physical coward has it’s benefits.)

No more speed walking for me for a while!  Actually, for a little while, there was no more walking for me at all. I spent four days in hospital before I was allowed to get out of bed. I gradually learned to get around and get my chores done with one arm and one leg. That was fortunate, because a few days after my accident Rodney (who had been carrying the load at home in addition to cooking meals and bringing them to me) ended up in the hospital with heart trouble!

As an aside, I came to Australia planning to get a job immediately. I discovered, however, that it had been determined that Rodney needs a full-time carer. That would be…me! After a year and a half, I had begin to think that Rod was really OK, and would be fine of I got a job, at least part time. Maybe not, though. It feels weird and wrong not to be working, but as the family keep telling me, I *am* working.  I’m educating Jack and caring for Rod.  Clearly he does still need me to do that.

Anyway, I hobbled around looking very silly with bone supports on alternate arm and leg.  When it came time to remove the casts, I thought my healing was pretty much done.  Then they were actually removed and I learned that my healing was just beginning. It took me a couple of months to be able to leave the cane home, and my leg is still a bit stiff even six months later. My arm took longer and may well never have its full range of motion back, but I can do everything I need or want to.

I was completely amazed when four days in hospital, medications, equipment, physiotherapy, and everything else cost me less than $50! I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that was it. Amazing.

Soon after I could start to hobble around and get to town, I started brewing bone knitting herbal infusions, and I will continue drinking those until January 2018, since that’s how long it takes for bone to completely heal.  Other than that, or if you were to notice that I hold my arm at an odd angle to reach things, you would never know I had broken myself t nearly 60.

It was a very interesting experience. Until then, I had no real idea how knitting and recuperation worked,  and I had no idea what I was capable of until it happened. I don’t regret it, though I am in no hurry to repeat it.  (My back still hurts sometimes from the strain and contortion I had to use to get in and out of bed, to put on my own socks, and all those other little tasks you don’t eve think about until you have to.)

That may be the single most interesting experience I’ve had personally since arrival and that could have happened anywhere.

On the move again

Well, we’re on the move again.

We were home sharing with Rod’s youngest sister to allow us all to live in the neighborhood with Wenche. With Wenche no longer living here, we’re scattering.

Our lease is up in April, so we have some time to plan, and the rental market here is so fast that anything we find now is unlikely to be available when we’re free to sign a new lease, but we think we have probably chosen our new neighborhood. Maybe even the house, since we know of a cute one currently being renovated and probably available around the right time.  Rod is a bit reluctant, because its tiny and mouldy, and other things are available within a block that are much more spacious for the same price, so we’re not making any decisions until closer to the day.

So, I am back to packing.

It’s easier this time because Rod is well enough to help, Jack is old enough to really help, and I never really fell in love with our current place.  It’s nice, but I knew it was temporary, so disassembling it isn’t traumatic. Also, we’re moving across town, not across the planet, so it doesn’t have to be done so carefully. Packing starts this weekend with a good cleaning.  :p

It’s funny. I have slowly begun to realize that I am just now feeling like my Australian adventure is about to begin.  I have been here 25 months, and I thought I was settled in well and well entrenched.  We have a daily routine. We have wonderful friends. We know how to get what we need and how to find our way to where we want to go. But when we went to look at the cute little cottage a friend of mine told me about, it felt like I had been holding my breath and waiting. Now I feel like I am breathing again.  That isn’t to say I was unhappy.  Nor was I unhappy waiting in Los Angeles for five days for a flight that had room to bring us over. Both have been all a part of the process.

Maybe that’s why I am able to blog again?  I don’t know.

Wenche Abrahmsen Smith

Wenche Abrahmsen Smith
19 October 1922 to 3 February 2017

Rod’s mother died fairly suddenly today.

On Tuesday she was fine.

On Wednesday morning, she became dizzy and fainted. She was admitted to the hospital, as a precaution.

On Tuesday evening, her heart stopped twice. Twice, she was resuscitated.

On Wednesday she seemed to be rallying and we had great hopes.

On Thursday, she took a serious downturn and we were far less confident.

On Friday, we lost a beautiful soul.


Fourteen years ago, when I married Rodney and took him so far from home, Wenche welcomed me warmly into her family. For most of the years we were apart, she was my most regular correspondent, until arthritis made writing too difficult.

Wenche could have resented me for taking her boy so far away, but as far as I could tell, she never did.  She was, instead, warm and welcoming.

Maybe a little concerned that my enthusiasm for her son was unrealistic, but once she was sure I had realistic expectations, that never came up again. She was gracious, kind, sensible, and loving — always.

Good-bye, Wenche.  We are all going to miss you terribly.

General update…

July 2016

OK, now that my huge task (the letter objecting to the proposed new homeschool regulations) is underway, it’s time to let you know where I’ve been for the last two years.

I’m sorry for mostly disappearing for so long. I didn’t intend to, but life in a new country proved pretty all-consuming.

When Chez Smiffy stopped working (I could no longer update the software or upload photos) I didn’t have the “bandwidth” to address the problem. It was just too much for me to deal with on top of all the adjustments we were making.

I also found myself uninspired about posting when I couldn’t use photos as spring boards for my thoughts.

And so, blogging took a back seat.

All is well here.  We are enjoying our new life.  Because Rodney needs to have someone available to him pretty much around the clock, I am not yet working but am on a carers pension. That means that the guys and I are together much of the time.  It’s brought us all even closer than we were.  I love that!

Jack has grown from a boy to a young man in the last two years. Living in a small city has meant that he has a much more independent lifestyle than he could have had in Michigan, because he can grab a bus on his own to run his own errands. He has also taken ownership of his own education.  That thrills me! He chooses most of his books for the week, and then he chooses what to study each day. We have agreed on the number of subjects we will cover in a week, and I still hear his narrations (at least as much for my own edification as anything) but he does a lot of silent reading, too, these days.

January 2017

Rodney, as you can gather from his recent posts, is also doing well. He can get out and about pretty easily these days and has started to expand his social life beyond just being Jack’s Dad. He is able to work with clients and is back to his astrological research – and even blogging!

I am doing well and enjoying life here in Australia. The town we’re in is just about perfect for me. The micro-climate is one that almost always has moderate temperatures.  That isn’t to say that it never gets hot or cold – it does both – but the heat and cold rarely last for more than a few days before they return to reasonably comfortable.

Getting to know Rod’s family has been wonderful! It’s easy to see why he turned out to be so wonderful – it’s a family trait.

In May of 2015, Jack took a cooking class at the Ministry of Food downtown. It’s across from the bus terminal and the name made us curious. We peeked through the windows and saw that they give classes to anyone over the age of 12. Jack was interested, so we signed him up. I was so impressed by what I saw that a month later, I signed up to be a volunteer. I am still there, once per week, helping to keep things running behind the scenes. (Someone has to wash the dishes, run the clothes washer and dryer, arrange the food on equipment on trays for class, and chop and peel and dice.  That’s me and my compatriots on the volunteer squad.)

I have far too many projects on the fire to go into all of them in one post, but the big ones are genealogy (including astrological genealogy), photography (mainly portraiture), MOOCs on various topics that interest me, maintaining several penpal relationships – as well as writing to each of our grandchildren (up to 11 now) every month, and making greeting cards – even occasionally experimenting with new techniques.  And now, I hope, blogging again.

An open letter to the Victorian Department of Education regarding the Draft Education Regulations 2017

(Updated on 19 January)

21 December 2016

Education and Training Reform Regulations Review
Attn: Strategic Policy Division
Department of Education and Training
GPO Box 4367
Melbourne, Victoria 3001

Dear Sirs and Madams:

The Victorian Department of Education has before it Draft Education Regulations that would, in part, require registered home-schooled families to:

    • wait for permission before removing children from school

    • submit a plan to Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) for approval as part of registration process

    • submit to reviews by the VRQA on a ‘random sample’ basis by the VRQA.

My question is: Why? What problem is this plan designed to solve?

The claim in the RIS is that the Victorian Education department does not “have enough data about quality of homeschooling education in this state”. In a thinking organisation that requires data, research is done before regulations are enacted. Since you are entrusted with the education of our children, I would like to assume that yours is a thinking organisation, and so I have to wonder what it is that you’re truly trying to accomplish.

I have been a classically oriented homeschooling parent for 14 years. It alarms me that the VRQA intends to further infringe on the educational autonomy of registered home-schooled families, with measures can not serve the stated purpose and are thus unjustifiable.

I agree whole-heartedly that every child deserves the best possible education, but those who value Universal education must carefully steward the limited tax-payer resources available to provide for those who would drink at the public well.

Those resources that would be squandered to no end by the addition of the expenses of new staff and infrastructure (and increased work load) required to collect, evaluate, and maintain the new homeschool registration information demanded by these proposed new measures are desperately needed for the education of those children whose welfare has already been entrusted to the public school system of the state of Victoria.

The eager, publicly educated student are ill-served when we squander the limited resources we have for the education of the children of this state on unnecessary new projects that don’t serve them.

There is no evidence to suggest that home-education in Victoria is broken. There is, on the other hand, evidence published every day, in the newspapers comment columns and online conversations, evidence to suggest that the standard set for functional literacy by the public schools in Victoria is not excessively high. Perhaps you should turn your attention to the standards of education and the levels of engagement of the students currently in your care.

When I first began my study of pedagogy in the late 1970s, one of the first things I learned was that there are dozens of methods of approaching the education of young people, and that all of the methods work better for some children than for others, and that no one method is ideal for every child. I also learned that the one thing required for successful learning is internal motivation by the scholar. Young people learn best and remember most when they are motivated to learn for their own reasons.

That means that even the very best of public schools can only successfully reach and engage the majority of children. Large group education can not reach every child; that is the nature of the human condition.

Homeschooling families, with their very small class size, are better suited to conveying a style of education at an appropriate speed and depth, best suited to their own scholars, especially when those scholars fall on either end of whichever continuum you might want to evaluate. Already, in designing an education for my single child over the last many years, I have had to change course several times to keep pace with his development in unexpected directions; something that is simply not feasible in large scale education.

Home-educators tend to be “can do” people; people who see a problem and work toward a solution rather than waiting for someone else to fix it. This is the very sort of problem solvers that Victoria, and Australia, needs. Surely there can be no fruitful end to an endeavour that would burden an already under-funded system, and present one more barrier for the kind of autonomous, enterprising families we need so badly in our state.

Please reconsider these regulations. The regulations, as written, are FAR too vague, and give far too much undefined power to the VQRA, with no guidance or protection for homeschool families who will be subject to that power. In at least one case, it intends to usurp the moral and legal rights and responsibilities of a parent to protect their child from harm. It brings up far more questions than it answers. The Regulatory Impact Statement, which should be used to explain why the regulations were written the way they were, is instead used to hide functional regulations where they needn’t be reviewed before or announced when they are changed, leaving the homeschool family on a slippery footing in which we can’t count on the rules from one moment to the next. This is duplicitous and unfair.

Attached is my point by point discussion of the proposed regulations.

Commentary on the Draft Education Regulations 2017 as it applies to Homeschool Families

Misti Anslin Delaney
Parent Educator

Homeschooling in Victoria is about to get more difficult

We started our homeschool journey in Michigan – a pretty excellent place to homeschool. There were a few completely reasonable rules, but no registration, no check in, and no hassles. Parents in Michigan are assumed to be competent and to have the best interests of their children at heart. The laws are written so that, in cases where this is not true, there are protections for the children, as it should be.

A couple of years ago, we moved to Victoria, where homeschooling parents were also respected and trusted to be competent and to have the best interests of their children at heart.

We were required to register, and again, there are rules about what we must cover, but it all seemed quite reasonable.

Then, last month, as the Christmas and summer holidays were beginning, the board of education released a sneaky new set of proposals. Sneaky because they were quietly posted online with no fanfare, no notification to registered homeschooling families, and timed for when everyone could be assumed to be distracted.

Also sneaky in that they are written in such a broad, vague way that it’s hard to get your mind around what, exactly, they are proposing to require. Only around the third read, and a good think about the impact statement, did things start to jump out at me. (Be aware that the link automatically downloads the file onto your computer. I couldn’t find a less intrusive link.)

Worse, most of the “rules” are in the impact statement, rather than the regulations, meaning that they can be “tweaked” (rewritten) without any notification or consultation.

I am, of course, hard at work on a letter to the responsible parties and their bosses.

I don’t expect to be too badly effected by the new rules in the short term. I am an experienced homeschooler, registered for the third year, a reasonably organized person with a fairly coherent plan. My unschooling friends and new homeschoolers have more to be concerned about in the short term, because the rules are completely antithetical to natural learning and there will be a steeper learning curve for them.

In the long term, however, this could be very bad news for all Victorian homeschoolers – and we may find ourselves looking at New South Wales and their comprehensive oversight as a relatively easy place to homeschool.

These proposals stink of deception and power grabs. Lets hope the authors simply didn’t stop to think things through, and that the well-being of the children is, as they say it is, the primary impulse here.


It would appear that the blog is working again!

Thanks to Rodney, Dave, and Steve!

Now let’s see whether I can get back into the habit of posting….

This photo is from our most recent photo walk. Jack and I have been taking semi-weekly photo walks lately.  He has become far more discerning, and we have started to swap cameras. I take the little point and shoot and he takes the big, fancy camera every other walk.

Most recently, we escorted a group of homeschoolers on a photo walk – something we may try again sometime because it went pretty well. I took this photo with my phone, because no one had charged the “point and shoot” battery lately and it ran out of charge a dozen photos into the walk.  The technical quality isn’t very good because I tend not to use my phone as a camera very often, but I like the photo.

Oh, cool!  We’re back on-air!  I am so happy!!!

Rodney’s Most Amazing Brownies

For Jenn and Joe


  • 10 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 1/4 cups of sucanat or coconut sugar
    (we have reduced it to 1/2 cup, but start here)
  • 3/4 cup teaspoons of organic unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pink salt
  • 1/2 vanilla bean
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of almond meal
  • 2/3 cup of walnut or pecan pieces or chocolate chips (optional)


Position a rack in the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the over to 325.

Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with baking parchment, leaving an overhang on two sides.

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Scrape the vanilla bean and stir in the vanilla paste with a wooden spoon. Discard the vanilla shell or put it aside for making vanilla sugar.

Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the almond meal and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.

Stir in the nuts, if using.

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes.

Let cool completely on a rack.

Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

Chocolate note:
Any unsweetened natural or Dutch-process cocoa powder works well here. Natural cocoa produces brownies with more flavor complexity and lots of tart, fruity notes. I think it’s more exciting. Dutch-process cocoa results in a darker brownie with a mellower, old-fashioned chocolate pudding flavor, pleasantly reminiscent of childhood.

Happy New Year 2016

Hmm, that was a much longer hiatus than I had planned.  Actually, I hadn’t planned on a hiatus at all.

The last year has been a whirlwind of adaptation, change, and re-adaptation.  All in all, it’s been a wonderful year, but such an enormous change was bound to be stressful, no matter how good.

We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of Jack and I arriving here. In some ways the time has flown – and in others it feels like we’ve always been here.

By February we had worked out the bus system, Jack had joined a dojo and a the local chess club, and life started to get busy.  The original dojo Jack had joined was a massive affair with one instructor and dozens of students.  It was very different from his Isshinryu experience, but it was also a very long way away, so in April he changed dojos to a much smaller one where he works more closely with his instructor and we don’t have to spend four hours traveling to get him there.   They also meet three nights a week, as opposed to only Saturday morning, and Jack regularly attends two of those.

I did take the photography class.  It was a lot of fun!  For six months I concentrated on photography and I got pretty decent.  However my class ended in early December, and I have taken few photos since my exhibition – and for some reason, they haven’t been very good pictures.  Oh well, I learned a great deal and I will pick the camera up again in the new year.  It’s been nice not to HAVE to do shoots every week for a few weeks.

One of the expected challenges of moving to a completely new culture has been the whole food issue.  We eat funny.  I have spend the best part of the last 12 months exploring the foods here, looking for safe versions of packaged foods and tracking down completely pastured meats. We have found a wonderful farm market and a pastured meat delivery service, so the basics are covered. We also have a lovely greengrocer and an IGA a very short walk from our new home, which covers most of the rest. But the exploration process – and a really bad and long lasting case of indulgence – has had some less than ideal effects on my health.

After 20 years of close control of my diabetes, I am having some complications – due almost entirely, I’m sure – to my indulgence in “cafe culture”. I stopped having gluten free treats with my coffee when we’re out and about a few months ago, but I think my blood sugar must still be very high because my feet have been getting numb after meals that have even a little too much carbohydrate.  I have a lot of work to do! (My glucometer broke about six months ago, and I have only just gotten the paperwork done to apply for a new one.  Foolish of me, but it’s done now. I will eventually have a new one and can test my blood sugar experiments and get control back.)

In September, we moved from Ann’s house, down the hill to share a house with Trudi – another of Rod’s sisters. Our new home is around the corner from Rod’s mother and his third sister, Karen, which is very, very cool! I have had a marvelous time getting to know this side of Rods family better.  It’s also been great to unpack the boxes that waited in Rod’s mother’s garage for us to move down here. Not surprisingly, we are finding that some things from the boxes “went astray” – and some of the boxes had clearly been unpacked and repacked.  Putting things in different boxes than they came from was a dead give-away. Oh well – almost a year between packing and packing means that it may be years before I am sure what’s missing, and the emotional impact come largely from the impossibility of replacing things until I am working again.

The higher rent on a bigger house has also presented us with some challenges.  Pensions are not established with whole food diets in mind, so most weeks the money is gone once we have our groceries.  I’m not wildly enthused about going back to being poor and have begun to investigate how I might make some extra income while Rod still needs me to be home.

Jack’s exciting news is that he is now working.  He tutors chess at a private girl’s school in Melbourne for a couple hours per week.  He REALLY enjoys having an income of his own and he has bailed us out on more than one occasion when the budget came up short. His studies are continuing smoothly  – and I have joined him in his math studies.  I never got a very good math education, so a few years ago, I picked up his curriculum and started working through it.  He’s still far ahead of me, but I am making progress.  I recently completed the elementary section and started on the middle school section  – and since he does one chapter each day and I do two or three, I may eventually overtake him. (Or not.  he seems to understand math better than i do and I consider it possible – or probable – that I will come to a point where I slow way down just to understand.

In other exciting news, Nerida and Connor have come to spend the new year celebrations with us! Our first house guests!  It’s so very, very good to catch up with them again. The only problem is that its made me very aware of how much I miss our weekly dinners together. Sadly, they will head back to Sydney this weekend.

It’s 3:30am. I think I’d better get some sleep. I’m sure there’s more, but I wouldn’t be able to write about it coherently at this point….

Food in Australia (by Jack)

In Australia in the 1900’s, the menu was slightly different than it is today:

In the 1900’s

Australia’s main production was wool back in the 1900’s, so it isn’t surprising that the average breakfast usually included lamb, sausages, and/or bacon and eggs. [Which has been a staple for Britain since the 1600’s.]

For lunch, bread and jam was the normal food, and the tradition seems to have stuck.

Dinner was wider in variety, but it usually consisted of “meat and three veg”. Finally, dessert was typically either rice custard or steamed pudding.


Breakfast today mainly consists of cereal or bacon and eggs, but pancakes and waffles are also fairly popular.

Lunches are usually either sandwiches or take-out food.

Dinner is quite often had in restaurants, and usually includes hamburgers, steaks, or some other type of meat. And dessert is typically very sweet, like ice cream, or over-sweetened cake.

Over to you; which would you rather have, and why?

Globalization (by Jack)


When you say the word “globalization” on the internet, you are almost bound to have started an argument between people who want to look intelligent, but really have no idea what they, or you for that matter, are talking about. Of course, saying pretty much anything else on the internet will result in the same thing, but globalization is actually a rather important subject, and should be treated as such. So, I am writing this essay, partly because I have to do it for school-work and partly because I think that it is a subject worth writing about.

Now, the essay…

Globalization and the Subsets Thereof

Globalization is made up of several subsets:

 Free Trade

Possibly the most talked about aspect of globalization, free trade is the phrase we use to express corporate expansion, in some cases, corporate exploitation. (Have you noticed that pretty much everything is made in China? I mean, America is still the world’s leading source of cotton, but most cotton clothing is still made somewhere in Asia…) Free trade technically allows countries to produce what they produce best with little to no tariff, essentially making the whole world Marxist. (Not that there is anything more wrong about Marxism than Capitalism, but Marxism, just like any type of government, isn’t fool-proof. [Sigh… I probably just angered half of the people reading this…]) Anyway, this works fine until you introduce people.

Okay, suppose we have two countries, A and B. A produces a lot of oil, but doesn’t produce much in the form of food. B produces a lot of food, but lacks oil. B can blackmail A by cutting off A’s food supply until A gives them twice the oil that they did before, leaving B nice and cosy in their oil-guzzling cars as A struggles with both food and oil.

Pretty nasty, right? Therein lies the flaw of free trade. Now, suppose B wanted to sell food more cheaply. The solution is simple: sell less of the actual food, and instead fill it with all kinds of cheap, tasty chemicals made in a laboratory. Of course, not all of these chemicals are safe and A inevitably starts to lose people to strange illnesses. But A is so enamoured with the idea of more food for less money that they irrationally put the blame on airborne viruses, oil fumes, anything except the cheap food. And they cannot allow it to be proved that it is the food that is making the A population sick, so those few who do ask questions are quickly silenced. Keep in mind that A is still giving B twice the oil that they had originally been giving them. So you end up with A working their hides off, while dropping like flies. And the population of B are still happily chugging along in their cars, and eating good food, and leading good lives. And here’s the thing: most of the B population don’t know what is happening, because they know A only as a vague place that gives B its “fair share” of oil. The leaders/representatives of B don’t want the rest of the population of B to know what is going on, so they edit the school curriculum to give future generations bias-loaded impressions of A, and label it as a “new, innovative form of education”.  So we have the population of B in a state of blissful, luxurious ignorance, while we have the population of A in a state of exploitation.

Free trade allows this to happen fairly easily. I, personally wouldn’t want to live on that planet, or, for that matter, in that theoretical reality. Would you? Give it some thought.


On the other hand, globalization also allows people to experience other cultures by way of air travel and television. However, there is a loophole in the television idea as well. Have you seen many movies set in Asia? How many of those movies involve actual life in Asia? How many showed the stereotypical shirtless Asian dude doing martial arts? And how many movies have you seen set in the US or England? How many of those thousands showed a white dude with his shirt on heroically saving the day, calmly solving a mystery, or discovering some sickening truth about something or other? The stereotypes are overwhelming. And the scary thing is – most of us let them wash over us as if they aren’t there. Television doesn’t help with this problem in the slightest.

Of course, the situation isn’t totally polarized yet – you can easily find a movie featuring an old Asian guy giving sage advice to people that need it. (The Karate Kid, anyone?) And you need not look any farther than Chuck Norris and Arnold Schwarzenegger to find big white men mindlessly bashing each other to bits. (Alright, I’ll admit – Schwarzenegger is European, but he’s still white, and he was the Governor of California for a while. Does that count?) Of course, this says nothing about the actors themselves, but it says a whole lot about the stereotypes that they represent.

There are many other stereotypes that I could happily waste your whole day with, but as long as you have gotten the point, I’ve fulfilled my task.


However, as I have said, globalization allows people who are curious about other cultures to travel around the globe and learn about them. People can put up fund-raisers on the internet and other places to help people in need living in other countries. However, we must keep in mind the horrors of the Ku Klux Klan, the American slave trade, the Holocaust, and 9/11 as just a few things that hateful people have done to people from other cultures. (It should be noted that the Ku Klux Klan is still active and fighting for white supremacy, and that slavery is also active in some parts of the world.)

Multi-National Corporations

Globalization allows multi-national corporations to thrive everywhere. In fact, globalization is the reason that you can hardly go a block in any populated city without seeing at least one McDonalds and/or 7-11. This can be a good thing as far as food availability is concerned, however food quality falls sickeningly, or, sometimes, fatally. However, that is a subject for another essay. What is even more sickening than the appalling food is the exponentially expanding wallets of these corporations. In 2012, McDonalds made an average of 75.21 million dollars a day[1]. 75.21 million dollars A DAY. That’s more money than anyone usually sees in a life-time. 7-11’s $60,000[2] per day seems to be a little measly in comparison, but it’s still nothing to be sneezed at, especially since the average American rakes in $51,371[3] a year. I’ll let that sink in…

The Condensed Version

Here’s a condensed summary of globalization: (Now, if you haven’t figured out my bias, you will soon.)

Pros of Globalization

Cultural Diversity
“Do-what-you-do-best” Attitude
Freedom to Travel
Can Create a Supportive Atmosphere

Cons of Globalization

Opportunity for Corporate Manipulation
Product Centred
Gave Rise to the LEGO Movie
Impersonalizes Product


Globalization is a huge something, be it a problem, or goal, and I hope to have given you a good synopsis of it. Failing that, I hope it was at least interesting. Failing that… well… I’d like to know why, so that I may write a better one next time.DSC_0165


[2] Convenience Store News

[3] NPR News

Settling In – a very tardy report

We’re still here! 🙂

I have wanted to blog for months, but at first I was emotionally overwhelmed with all the changes and couldn’t find words to express it all, and then, as my emotional life settled down, Jack’s social life picked up and time became an issue.

1 Off to the shops

Our scholar now has eight regular commitment each week in addition to any play dates we arrange. (So far there has been at least one play date each week, and often two. He has met some stellar people and has started to make some fantastic new friends.)

He is back to playing chess and to studying karate, of course.

He has initiated a Games Day every Monday at a nearby cafe, and he has found a group that plays Magic the Gathering at a shop in town every week, so he has joined them.

He meets with friends at a “junior skate park” for a few hours each week and another days he meets other friends at a soccer field to play. (So far the parents and Jack are the ones who think soccer sounds like a good idea. Everyone else runs around and plays other things.)

Next month. he will start a cooking class at Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food and because he will be of minimum age for the class, I get to go free as his assistant!

On paper, it doesn’t sound like all that much, but I find myself wondering often how Rodney kept this pace for so long.  I find it grueling. Of course, while taking the bus isn’t as tiring as driving, it does stretch the adventure out for more hours – Saturday karate has taken the better part of eight hours. Fortunately, the dojo has just opened a class closer to town, so starting today we don’t have to travel as far.

2 The view of the bay, just down the hill.

Jack and I have become real pros at hopping the bus and trundling around the city and suburbs and Jack figures that he’s ready to start taking the bus on his own.

3 It’s a nice long walk to the shops…

I trust Jack, but this is a much bigger town than he’s accustomed to. I know he wouldn’t get lost if he was going somewhere familiar, but I am concerned about how he would handle unexpected situations.

I think I will hold him back for about a year, but by the time he turns 13 he will have been with me on the buses long enough to have observed most of what’s likely to happen. (Which is almost always “nothing” but might occasionally include something alarming.)


*sigh*  My baby really is almost grown up. I’ll admit that the delay is as much (or more?) for me as for him.

Autumn has well and truly come to Victoria, and I have to make a confession.

I brought my winter coat because I left Michigan in a blizzard.  I didn’t think, having watched the weather online through the course of the last year, that I would ever have need of a big coat here.  40 is considered pretty cold in Victoria, and in Michigan that’s balmy weather.

6 The shopping precinct is well marked, as are all of them. Very convenient.

What I couldn’t have realized from a distance is what the antarctic winds do to the wind chill. Oh my goodness!!!!

I have already worn my heavy winter coat this autumn and I expect to get a lot of use of it as winter approaches. 40 feels much colder here, with the frigid winds blowing my body heat away as fast as I can generate it.  Brrrrr!

Australian homes often don’t have central heating, and that is the case here at Ann’s house, so getting up at night is a VERY brisk experience some nights! I miss my winter robe and clothes and will be very glad to see them again when out shipment arrives!

Fortunately, the weather here is whimsical. One day we can be bundled up in coats and hats and still shivering, and the next in light slacks and shirt sleeves. Rod says that that continues all winter, the major difference being not how hot or cold, but how many days are hot or cold.

The folks here speak with pride of “four seasons in one day” and I am coming to realize that it’s only half a joke.

I still have the get used to the seasons being “backward”  – I suddenly have a winter birthday – but I am delighted to report that it’s far from boring like the tropics.

7 but today, we passed on by to go to the further precinct for a coffee and to buy pastured pork and eggs — from a bakery of all places.

Rod’s health is coming along swimmingly! As my longtime readers know, he was in really bad shape when he left for home last September. Now, however, he is healing quickly.

He no longer sleeps most of every day, and when he’s busy, he is able to skip his nap entirely. Usually, he is down to an hour or two of extra sleep each day, which is perfectly reasonable. He is able to walk well with his cane, and is now able to walk anywhere he wants to go, as you can see in the photos. He does need to sit and rest along the way on long journeys, but he is getting further and further each day before he needs to rest.

He is speaking clearly – a little more slowly than he once did, but just fine.  No one who didn’t know him before the strokes started would detect a problem, I think. He is able to do meet with clients and to do big psychic fairs again!  That makes all the difference to him.

Starting last week, he can even ride the buses with Jack and me!  That has been fun! We actually managed a “coffee date” last night while Jack was playing Magic – and it means that he can start to take over some of Jack’s social whirl.  I think all of us will enjoy that! Jack will get more time with his Dad, Rod will have a more familiar role in Jack’s life, and I will have a little more time to myself.

8 Cafe Dolce Trieste – the best coffee shop in the whole world! (And a bit of a secret. It’s almost always very quiet.)

Did I mention that Jack has adopted a very thick Aussie accent? It’s so thick – and different enough to Rod’s – that I can’t understand him sometimes and have to ask him to say it “in American” – but he’s forgetting how to do that! Ahh, well.  At least instead of commenting on Jack’s odd accent, people comment about how interesting it is that his accent is perfect even though he’s only been here  a few months.

I am pleased and amazed at how quickly Jack has adapted to life here. It was rough at first. He has reached an age where his friends are very, very important to him and leaving behind the friends he has loved since he was two years old was very traumatic and he is probably always going to miss them. (He is saving up to visit them as soon as he is old enough for International travel on his own.)

9. And then back to the shops we haunt almost daily…

Then, having the average age of his daily companions here be around 60, and having little to do at first other than study was not terribly exciting.

One by one we added activities, starting with chess one day each week, then adding karate. Then we started games day, and he found the Magic group. Now he’s busy and happy.

10 That’s it. The whole precinct. A pharmacy, an IGA, a butcher, a baker, a cafe, and a green grocer.

He finally finished his studies on the Ancient Rome unit on Pi day (March 14), and he’s been on school holidays ever since. After over a month off, he started back to hitting the books today and we will ramp up slowly, as usual. (The deal was, that he was allowed to break until out stuff arrived. We were notified that it docked on Saturday, so while we don’t have the books at hand yet, we have collected a few thing for him to start with.)

The history element of this unit is the Middle Ages.  That should be an interesting change from the ancients, which I think he is well and truly sick of. We’ll have a good look at Norse culture, too, which should bring some personal relevance to his studies.

11 Oh, and a “bottle shop” – a liquor store.

Rod and I are also joining him on a more formal study of Latin, using lively Latin. That will probably replace his Swedish studies, at least for a while.

Oh!  I forgot to mention how it is that I have all this time to be involved with Jack’s education and touring around town with Rod.  Rod is on a disability pension for the next few years – and because he needs help throughout the day, I am on a care givers pension.  We are also on a homeschoolers allowance.

12 And our final destination: the green grocer! This is where we get most of our groceries. All the veg is grown here in Victoria and most of it was picked this morning. (You do have to pay attention, because they don’t throw away yesterdays – but they seem to sell most of it most days.)

The disability pension has allowed Rod time to take care of himself and recover, but I don’t think he’ll need it forever.

Rod wants very much to be the one to support us and I think that would be very cool.  We just have to get him to the point where he has the stamina to work every day – and he is making progress daily on that. (I am so proud and impressed with his determination! I have known so many people who took a single stroke as a reason to stop living ad Rod is coming back from FOUR of them!)

I will continue to receive the homeschoolers allowance until Jack turns 16 and that will be a big help, but I need to find a way to contribute after that. I can probably do it in an office, but I so hope I don’t have to. Twenty-five years at a desk feels like plenty and I have four years to figure out what else I have to offer.  With Rod being the main income, I have a bit of leeway to figure it out – isn’t that cool?

In the meanwhile, I will take a photograph class.  Not because it will help my employability but because I have always wanted to!  Luxury!

OK, I need to run down to the shops before Jack wakes up.  Have a great day!


Book Report: Jim Thorpe Original All American (by Jack)

Book Report:
Jim Thorpe Original All American
by Joseph Bruchac
Penguin 2006

This is the story of Jim Thorpe as told by the author.

100_7820Thorpe was born in Oklahoma to a half Indian family. They had, I believe, 8 other children. When he was older, his father tried to take him to school, but Jim would just run back home and be right there when his father came back. This continued until his father eventually took him to a boarding school when he was about 12. There he remained until supervisors from Carlisle, the major Indian school at the time, took a shining to his athletic ability. They offered him a place in their school, and soon enough, he was on the football team. He played without compensation for quite a few years, and became one of the most renowned players in the land. Then, a few of his buddies offered to take him with them to play baseball for compensation, which he did, for a year or so. Then he went back to Carlisle, and signed up for the Olympic Games of 1912. (I think.) He competed and won medals in everything that he competed in, along with praise from the king of Sweden, and two lovely cups. He went back to America with head held high.

But then, the baseball manager whom he had been with for a year told someone else, “I know that guy. He played baseball for me.” Soon, it became known all around the US – Jim Thorpe was no amateur. He lost everything that he had won, except his pride, and that is for this reason: most of the US thought that the sports committee had made the wrong decision.

The Boston Inquirer stated that: “Men wishing to sign up for the Olympic Games had better not play croquet, tiddlywinks, hide-and-go-seek, or button-button-who’s-got-the-button for any type of compensation or they may not run, hurdle, jump, or throw.” Thorpe started playing for the New York Giants’ baseball team soon after that, and married Iva Miller soon after that.

And that is the story of Jim Thorpe. The author puts emphasis on Thorpe’s feelings throughout the events in his life. For example, when he loses his medals, Bruchac dedicates a whole chapter to his feeling of profound loss, an element that I found intriguing, and involving.

All in all, I found that the book gave a fairly balanced perspective of the events, and at the same time quite fun to read. I would definitely recommend it to someone who wanted to learn more about this legendary football player.

Life in Australia (So far)

Slowly, slowly life has started to take on a rhythm. Maybe it will even settle into a sense of normalcy over time.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home – Rod’s sister, Ann, has welcomed us into her home for a few months while we get ourselves organized.  What an amazing sister!

When we first arrived, it seemed that life was a mad rush between doctor appointments for Rod and compulsory meetings at Centrelink.  Many days we would have one of each. (Centrelink is the agency that acts as the unemployment office, medical insurance agency, social services agency…and probably more.) I needed to get a tax number and get on the rolls for help finding work as soon as possible. In the weeks since then, Rod has been granted a disability pension, and I learned that I am exempt from working because Jack is homeschooled. I have also applying to be Rod’s full time carer, since he isn’t well enough to be left in charge of Jack all day. As Rod is better able to take over at home, I’ll look for something part time and maybe Rod will be able to work given more healing time.

Over the weeks we have been here, I have seen one appointment series after another finish. Rod has now gone as far as the therapists for speech, occupational, and physical therapy can take him. The rest is a matter of practice and healing. That’s three appointments he no longer needs to attend. The neuropsychologist has set him free, with an offer to help should he ever feel the need for her services. The cardiologist has given Rod a clean bill of health, and his regular appointments can now be spaced at every six months. I’m not sure about the pace with the neurologist and the supervising physician. They may continue to see him frequently, but we now have more time between visits if its now only two doctors.
On the other hand, Jack’s social life is picking up steam. Every Friday evening, he has a meeting of his chess club, which is small but enthusiastic. Jack was the “seed” they had been looking for to start an intermediate group between the beginners and the tournament players. As they pick up more intermediate players, the group will probably grow over the next year!

We have also started to make friends in the local home-school community. L and E (I don’t have permission to use names) have taken us under their wings and seen to it that we have been included in several outings in the last couple of weeks. Since most of those adventures so far involve swimming, Jack is getting lots of practice and we are both turning berry-brown.  We have started to meet other friendly people, some of whom I really hope will become friends over time.

We haven’t interviewed any dojos yet, but I think that will come with time. The number of new experiences every week is still overwhelming.  In the meantime, we are doing lots of walking and Jack has been teaching himself to ride a skateboard, so in addition to the swimming he’s doing, he’s still getting plenty of exercise.  Still, karate has been such a big part of his life for so long that I hope he won’t give it up now.
Jack and I have been working on finding our way around town.  We are now able to get into town by bus, around town on foot to do some shopping, and then home again. Our next adventure involves getting to the library to join on our own.  Then maybe I can add a trip to Centrelink before my next meeting,  That’s an afternoon appointment, so it should be possible.

I have been delighted to discover a little “village shopping precinct” a few minute’s walk down the hill from our home.  There, within a couple of blocks, is everything we might need – a butcher, a green grocer, a pharmacy, a grocery store, a bakery, a post office, a stationer, a florist, and even a wine shop.  We might have to make longer trips for some specialized purchases, but I have been walking down the hill every few days and I hope to support the local economy by making most of our purchases from those local proprietors.  (I was excited to find that one bakery also sells pastured pork from heritage hogs!  We tried it, and it’s phenomenal!) I also love the very European feel of walking to the shops and carrying home only what we need for a couple of days.  It’s a literary fantasy come true!

With the shops at a nice walking distance, the trips to town, my wanders every evening with Rodney, and a million other little reasons to move, I am feeling stronger and happier by the day!

On the lighter side, folks have asked me about the drains swirling in the opposite direction.  I haven’t noticed that since the drains I have experienced don’t swirl, but I have noticed that all the light switches are on “upside down” and all the electrical sockets require turning on before they will work. Also, 24 hour stores seem to be a rarity. Most shops seems to close fr the evening between 4:30 and 6pm.  That’s wonderful for the folks who get to be home with their families in the evening, but it;s taking this yank some getting used to.

Life is grand!  But it;s time I woke the boy for his studies.


We’re here!

I’m sorry for the long delay in posting. Life has been pretty “full on” since we left Los Angeles.

The night after my last post, we did manage to get seated on the flight! Even better, we were seated together and the seats were very comfortable (a new experience for me on a trans-Pacific flight). There were no over-tired, uncontrolled children nearby. It was pretty much perfect, and we were finally underway!

I used the flight to discover a “new” game, having tired of Mah Jong on the flight from Detroit. Bejeweled is interesting. It took over half of the time I was awake to start to see the patterns, so I guess it was probably a brain expanding experience, but it wasn’t so demanding that I was unable to do it once exhaustion set in. Jack and I each managed to doze for about seven hours, so when we arrived, we were tired, but not completely exhausted.
At Sydney, I was astonished at how quickly and smoothly customs and immigration went. Both were pretty much a “shoo through” experience.

At customs, though, we did meet the most adorable “inspection trainee”. She seemed to be a terrier mix of some kind, and she really, really liked the empty potato chip bag I’d forgotten was in my purse. Oops. But nonetheless, the whole process took about five minutes. Then we had a six hour layover with all of our bags in our possession. Again, I sing the praises of the engineer who invented roller bags with reliable wheels. (Next up, un-carpeted hotels and airports?)

Jack and I were pretty tired. Far too tired to do anything exciting with our six hours in Sydney, so we bought the tickets for the last leg of the journey and had a coffee. After a while, we discovered a baggage storage place so we could wander un-encumbered for a few hours. Then we wandered. I don’t really remember what we did, actually. It was a blur then and it’s gotten less clear over time. It did involve the purchase of lots of coffee and many bottles of water, some silly conversation, and a bit of people watching. Eventually, we were able to reclaim our bags and check them in to the last flight.
We landed at our final destination on Sunday evening, around the same time as we had closed and locked the door on our previous life the Sunday before.

It’s a small airport, so we climbed down the steps onto the tarmac and headed for the airport to claim our bags and our new life. Rodney was there, of course. As were sisters Ann and Trudi. The reunion was sweet, and I didn’t want to let go of my beautiful husband. Not then; not ever again. (It required two cars to get all of our luggage home.  Usually I like to travel light, but this time I was very glad for the extra bags – it means we were comfortable for a week in Los Angeles and that we had Jack’s study materials to get back back to our studies as soon as possible.10951627_10206241488182774_1260577901_o
Life since then has been wonderful but, as I said in my opening statement, pretty full on.  When I first arrived, Rod was still having several medical appointments each week, and we have also been dealing with Centrelink (the social services/unemployment/medical insurance agency) to get Rod on a disability pension, to either get me a job or registered as Rod’s full time carer while he needs one, and to make sure Jack and I have access to medical care should we need it.
I have also been learning the ropes as far as where to get what we need each day – groceries, medication, public transit, fountain pen ink, postage, and the like.  Ann and Trudi have been helpful with car transport for Rod, who can’t yet safely take the bus, and sister Karen has been an enormous help with learning the bus routes and the walking routes around Geelong and Melbourne.

Rod and I have been walking very regularly, and he has been able to go further and further as time passes.  He has also been swimming three times each week, and his progress has been phenomenal. Last week, he started to see the slowing and ending of some of his regular appointments.

He has been seeing a general physician, a neurologist, a cardiologist, an occupational therapist, a physical therapist, and a speech therapist as well as a neuropsychologist and even a nutritionist.  Total bill for many months of such complete care?  Less than $200.  I was amazed.

He has gone as far as the various therapists and neuropsychologist can take him. Thanks to his determination and persistent practice with the skills they taught him, the rest is just practice and healing time. The cardiologist has given him a clean bill of health – including superb blood test results, and switched him to every six months monitoring.  That has freed up a lot of time!

Now for the next adventure…!

Our days in Los Angeles

Note: If you’ve been around for long, you may recognize many of the photos in this and near term future posts. I have cleverly not provided myself with the cords required to get photos off either my camera or my phone.  Oops. Sorry for the boring repetition. I’ll go back to new pictures once I buy Australia friendly cords. [Not exactly the most sentimental of quotes, but information none the less…]

[Again, bracketed commentary by Jack.]

It’s Friday morning, and we are still in Los Angeles. I had felt really good about getting out last night, but we had been pushed back to places 7 and 8 on the wait list by new folks with higher priority and only the first 5 people left. Now, there are rumblings about travel not being likely for another week and a half. We will turn up every night anyway, though. We only need two seats and we can’t be seated if we aren’t there… [It’s really sad when the airport feels like home to you.]

Now lest our poor pining family think we are having way too much fun, here is the roundup of how we spend our days. [Please, no pesticide. Ha…ha… Bad pun. Sorry.]

a traffic stop sign burried in snow to just under the sign.
For my Michigan friends

Our days here in LA have started to take on a characteristic rhythm:

We arrive around midnight on the shuttle.  I wash out my travel clothes in the shower every other day or so and hang them to dry, then we read the Internet (to make sure the world is still spinning) for an hour and go to sleep. [More like turn into sacks of potatoes for 10 hours…]

Around 9am, just before the free breakfast is closed for the day, we crawl out of bed and make ourselves presentable, and go get something to eat. [Not today, unfortunately. *sigh*] I head right for the coffee, which is good, [Yes, if you don’t head for the coffee, you turn into a pumpkin in the middle of the day- you are quite talented at turning into all kinds of starchy vegetables…] and then we have powdered eggs as scrambles or omelets with CAFO bacon or sausage. [Scrumptious!]  Jack adds a yogurt and orange juice and I sometimes indulge in juice, too. I grab a second cup of coffee and some extra cream and we go back to the room. I make up the pot of less stellar room coffee, and we read Facebook, write thank you letters, read our books, and generally hang out. [Separately. In our own corners of the room.]  We have even fit in a few hotel workouts – push-ups, luggage lifts, planks, squats, etc. [We did that once…] I wish we were doing more of the workouts and less of the Facebook, but I am also not instigating it. [Which means I suggest it and she says, “Remind me later.” Only because you have the knack for instigating a workout when I m in the middle of a train of though! :p. Hmph.]

Most days I also go down to the front desk to explain again that 1) No, we are not checking out today, 2) Yes, our friend has paid for the room for tonight.  Yes, another friend. 3) No, we don’t know yet whether we will be staying tomorrow because we are flying standby and we hope to be over the Pacific by then, but we won’t know until late tonight. [When there is no turning back. I fail to see how we are going to get the room key back to them. They are electronic keys and completely interchangeable. We can mail them back later, but the stamp probably costs more. I see.]

At about 6:30 pm when we make sure our bags are packed and everything is accounted for, and then we go down to the shuttle. We ride to the airport, check in and check our bags, and have dinner. There are only a few gluten free options and the meat is CAFO, but the staff understand the question so I feel Jack is reasonably safe from gluten. [Do they really, though? Better than the MacDonalds across from the hotel, anyway. Some know more than others, though,  You’re right abut that. Well, it tastes better, but still…]

Then we walk around the terminal a few times, and then sit behind the gate where I can hear the announcements until the gate closes between 10 and 10:30 p.m.  Then we go back to luggage claim, get our bags, call the shuttle, and go back to the hotel…and start over.

a boy playing on an antique tractor in front of an old barn
July 2014
Redford New York

Today I let Jack sleep in because I know he needs more sleep than he has been getting lately. [Absolutely.] It’s almost noon and he hasn’t stirred yet [*clears throat loudly*] so I know he must have been as tired as he looked.  Once he’s ready, we’ll walk over to the 7-11  that I am told is nearby to see what we can find in the way of (probably)[possibly] gluten free calories for the boy’s breakfast, and I hope to drag him down to the mini-gym downstairs afterward to change things up a little.

Some observations on layovers:

  • It’s always a good idea to travel in comfortable clothes in layers. Airplanes and airports are very hot and stuffy, except when they are freezing. Rayon works well because it breathes when you’re warm and is quite cool if you get down to one layer but enough layers can be toasty warm and the layers aren’t bulky so they don’t take a lot of room in your carry-on when you need to stow them. On long layovers that stretch into the vast unknown, rayon is even better, because you can wash it in the shower at night, hang it in the shower, and it’s mostly dry by midmorning.  It doesn’t look any more rumpled than it did yesterday and it smells way better than it would have after a week without washing. (A little hotel shampoo can deal with the inevitable food spots.) [*end advertisement campaign for rayon clothing* Ahem. That was an informational campaign, thankyouverymuch. I don’t sell rayon. You’re welcome.]
  • There is no way to eat really clean when you don’t control the kitchen. But if you choose the same reasonably accommodating place for every meal, they get better and better at understanding the question. [Especially if you get the same waiter!] The good places generally have at least one person on a shift who knows where gluten is hiding. However, while you can avoid corn tortillas, sweet corn, and other obvious forms, catching corn starch, corn syrup, and the like is difficult, and catching the “derived from” sources is nigh on impossible in a restaurant unless it’s a very high end place that sources everything at the farmer’s market.  I can’t afford that level of indulgence, so I have had my ‘wheat stomach ache’ and my ‘corn bone ache’ pretty much constantly since the kitchen in Michigan was packed. Much more the latter than the former. Our snacks ran out days ago, too.  Another thing to look for at 7-11.  :p
  • Roller bags are a gift from the gods…or at least god-like engineers. In the 1970s and 1980s, I was hard pressed to carry just my own carry-on, and my packed luggage absolutely required assistance. That is the origin of my packing minimalism – ‘as long as I can manage, on as few outfits as possible’ is my MO. Today, with modern bags, even though Jack and I are moving across the planet, so minimalism isn’t an option, we have no trouble at all moving our six bags through the world on our own. Hotel carpeting is a bit of a pain (I wonder whether that will go out of style now that it slows roller bags…) but we can do it entirely unassisted without pain or exhaustion.  Wow!  I am so glad that I eyed our ratty old luggage and decided to invest in new matching sets for all of us. This would have been much harder with carry only duffel bags and old fashioned suitcases.


Back again!

July 12, 2014 at 12:37 pm (Forgot to hit “publish”.  Oops.

Hey, everyone!

It seems likely that the only folks who will ever read this have it set up so they get a notice when I post, but I’m back. 🙂

a black and white photo of Jack at 11, showing every sign of adolescence
Jack at 11

Looking back, I see that I have posted more recently than I remembered. That’s good. But life since November has been a whirlwind of cleaning, packing, and (hardest of all) paring down our possessions to what we really have to keep.

I am a bit of a packrat, so I had tonnes of treasures socked away in every corner of this 1700 sq ft house. Since we have to pay for every ounce we carry across, that had to be winnowed for the most important treasures. Since wood has to be funmigated before entry, it seemed wisest to get rid of it. (That means the furniture has to be replaced.) Since glass, ceramic, and crystal are fragile and likeliest to break enroute, I mostly passed that along, too. (Some things, like wedding gifts and dishes, I am taking my chances with.)

So now, virtually everything we are taking, but don’t need day to day, is packed up and stacked out of the way and the house is for sale. The stuff we actually need day to day looks pretty sparse and the place no longer feels like home…though it is a lot easier to keep it sparkling so we can show it on 30 minutes notice.  (If only my lovely boys remembered that that was the goal.  We can show on the weekend or on Monday morning, but by Wednesday we need way more notice.  *sigh*  Oh well, we have only had one viewing, which is what we expected.  The house is priced very high for the area.  But that’s what we owe the bank, and the bank isn’t feeling cooperative.  They don’t see any reason we can’t just stay put and keep paying the mortgage.

One reason that it has become urgent also changes the plan in Australia completely. Rod has had three strokes in the last 18 months.  He now drags his left side and has serious trouble speaking and writing.  The odds of his being able to work are slim and we have to get him home asap.  He has had his heart and circulatory system inspected and that isn’t where the problem is.  His blood vessels are clear as a whistle and his heart is strong. He had a treatment to repair the damage he did to his neck and head 20 years ago, and he has been functioning better since then, but it hasn’t really resolved the issue the way we had hoped it would. Has it reduced the chances of another stroke?  We hope so.  But we really don’t know.  We do know, my baby needs to be home, asap.  He isn’t one to complain or show it in social situaitons, but the strokes have really made a mess of his self image and his confidence.

A lovely sepia "selfie" of the bride and groom
Michael and Agnes (Nessie) Smith

Another really important reason we have to get home – there are important members of the family we haven’t met yet! Michael married his lovely bride, Nessie, on the 9th of July. We haven’t met Nessie, yet and we can’t wait to.

We also haven’t met Joel and Makita’s sons Rhazel and Rodney – and now they have another on the way around the beginning of the new year! So exciting!

The plan for the trip is shaping up nicely. My retirement date is 19 December, and we now think that our departure date is around 1 February. That gives us time to find a shipper and wrap things up here, after my visa application is approved. It could all move faster, but that would be very rushed.