Monday, August 29, 2011

Post mixups

-I accidently published 'Mataranka Downdgraded' after 'Catch up Katherine - Kakadu' when really it should have been before. Can't work out how to fix it on my phone.

Mataranka downgraded - Edith Falls is the best place in Earth!!

Looking around at the dry, barren, arid scrub that is all over the Northern Territory it is hard to imagine that you will find ANYTHING of interest in this place. Then out of nowhere you will find something so spectacularly beautiful you are completely astounded and gobsmacked.

This happened the other day. We had arrived in Katherine and apart from the gorge, I didn't think there would be much else to see. We had a spare day so we decided to go for a drive to Edith Falls for a picnic and maybe a swim. When we got there I was a bit disappointed by the dismal little waterfall and sign saying that salt water crocs can enter the swimming area but that they lay traps to try to catch them (just for your info the traps are these giant cages with a bit of chicken dangling at the end. Crocodiles are one of the worlds oldest animals... they survived whatever it was that wiped out the dinosaurs. I hardly think they would have survived this long if they were immensley stupid so I don't understand how they think the crocs will fall for their little trap). After reading the sign I was a tad pissed off. There was no way I was entering the water and there was no way my children were either.

Well unfortunately Ben and the kids had other ideas. Wild horses (or me standing well back from the edge frantically trying to persuade them that they will probably lose a limb - or worse) couldn't stop them from jumping in the water.

I consoled myself by siting with Diddy on a picnic mat eating lunch... annoyed that Ben had let them swim.

When they finally got out of the water someone suggested we go for a hike. I was happy to do anything that didn't involve my children swimming in water that MAY contain crocodiles. So off we set - climbing up a mountain over rocks in scorching heat with flies buzzing everywhere.

I did not believe for a second that this little track would take us anywhere even remotely exciting.... let alone the most beautiful place I have ever seen. But it was!!! I could not believe it as I turned the final corner on the rim of the mountain I saw paradise.

HERE was Edith Falls. The trickle at the bottom picnic area was nothing compared to the powerful waterfall and swimming hole we had discovered. It was so picturesque... I can't describe adequately how beautiful it was. There was a huge waterfall and swimming pools filled with sparkling water.

After our long, hot walk we couldn't get in the pools fast enough. I missed out on having a swim because I had left Diddy with mum and promised to be back within an hour and a half. Diddy would be due for a sleep then and mum doesn't know how to work her machine or put the mask on.

I was so pleased that I made the effort to go. Even though I didn't get to stay very long or swim I still got to take some amazing pics. And I got to enjoy the silence on my hike back to the picnic area instead of being surrounded by a chorus of 'I'm hungry... I'm thirsty...I need to do a wee... my feet hurt...'

Anyway... I am now about 5 days behind on my blog so I'm going to cut this one short so I can do a quick catch up one. There is a rumour that we may get some coverage tomorrow. I am so excited!!!!!!

Catch up post... Katherine - Kakadu

I promise to never call anywhere the best place on earth again. Every time I do I find somewhere even better. I am also running out of adjectives to describe things. I apologise if this is sounding repetitive.

It has been about 5 mins since I completed my last post, but I have sooo much to write about. Hopefully I will be able to catch you all up quickly.

Our last day in Katherine was spent cruising up the Gorge. It is sooo beautiful. We saw aboriginal rock paintings that are at least ten thousand years old.

We then moved on to Kakadu. Our first stop was Gunlom falls. My lonely planet guide to the NT said they were the only falls in kakadu accessible by conventional vehicle. We interpreted this as meaning that we could all take our caravans, which aren't off road ones, along the dirt track. Boy were we mistaken!!!

It took us 2 hours to drive the 43km because we were all going so slow. Our caravans bounced up and down on the dusty corrugated road like kids on a trampoline. We all were petrified to look in our rear view mirrors incase we found the caravan had bounced apart into pieces.

When we finally arrived at Gunlom, there were disappointed looks being exchanged all round.. and a few bad words. I felt responsible for everyones bad moods and damaged caravans because I was the one who had suggested Gunlom. So to cheer everyone up I decided to throw an impromptu birthday party for Jago's imaginary friend 'Melon'.

Not only was Gunlom incredibly hot and dusty (& I'm talking about the kind of heat that makes you wish you were a nudist), but swimming in the rock pools was prohibited as there may be salt water crocs. What a tease!!!!

The sign prohibiting swimming didn't seem to be stopping anyone from walking over in their togs so we did the same. The pool at the bottom of the fall looked nice, and there were people swimming there, but I was too scared to go in. Then Kris had the brilliant idea to climb the mountain and swim at the top pool. Her idea was that crocs couldn't climb the mountain so we would be fine to swim up there.

So off we went. Rock climbing in thongs!!! It was a real struggle to get to the top in the insane heat. James collapsed and a few others felt like they were going to faint. I have put a pic below of the mountain we climbed. You will see it is a waterfall with a pool below. Well I climbed that!!!! (anyone who is getting the impression that with all this hiking I am going to come back fit and healthy is mistaken. I do more snoozing in my car while we are driving or scoffing down ice creams than I do mountain climbing).

The top was well worth the climb, and the corrugated road. It was magical. I don't have any pics of it because I didn't take my camera up. I got to have a swim and it was the most refreshing swim ever.

Kakadu is such a tease. It is a tropical paradise and is sooo hot - but you can't swim anywhere or enjoy its beauty because you are constantly worried about being eaten by a crocodile.

At the moment we are staying st Cooinda resort. Despite there being a crocodile warning sign mere meters from our campsite, I feel safe enough to enjoy a dip in the pool. Cooinda is on the yellow water billabong, a famously beautiful part of Kakadu. Ben and I did a sunrise cruise with mum and kristy yesterday along the river. It was magical.

I am slowly adjusting to using public bathrooms. Kris (who is slightly less phobic than I am about them) and I have worked out an embarrassing routine to minimise the stress. Firstly, we don't take any clothes over to the showers. We wear a blue toweling dressing gown over with nothing underneath and then wear it back. This reduces the chance of your clean clothes touching anything in the bathrooms and also reduces the time you need to spend in them. We also carry over a city beach water proof bag with our soap and shampoo and a blue micro fibre towel to dry our hair. The first night we went to the showers together we were slightly embarrassed as we stepped out and realised that we were matching, right down to our black haviana thongs. So from then on we tried to shower late at night when no one would see us doing the walk of shame, dressed like twins, back to our caravans (we like to go over together for moral support).

Yesterday we went during day light hours but at slightly different times. I went first and Kristy about 5 mins later. On Kristys walk back to the van a hot back packer yelled out to her "did you forget something?". Kris then had the embarrassing task of explaining that no, she was a different person, and that we are just sisters who like to dress the same!!!

Anyway, gonna sign off now. I am on my way to Ubirr via Jabiru. We are going to climb an escarpment to watch the sunset.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

The best place on Earth - Mataranka Springs

After spending a few days in a windy dust hole, I was ready for a change... and a nice long soak in something.

Matatanka Springs was like a desert oasis. The trees around the river and the spring reminded me of a rain forest - although Ben assures me that it is NOT a rain forest. He did launch in to a description of what kind of bush it was but I switched off due to lack of interest.

The water in the spring was 34 degrees. Not too hot and not too cold. We all stayed in there for ages floating around in the crystal clear waters. It was the most amazing place...

After we had soaked all the red dust out of our pores, Kris and I headed back to the caravan to feed the kids and do schoolwork while Ben and James headed to the pub.

Once we had the kids all sorted, Kris and I joined our two extremely intoxicated husbands at the pub for the trivia night. My kids were sooo excited. It seems their favourite thing to do of a night now is go to the pub. There is always entertainment and dancing and usually Daddy will buy them a lemonade.

Even though the boys had had enough alcohol to render them useless in the child care dept... they were obviously not too wasted as they went on to place 2nd in the trivia contest. I maintain that the reason why kris and I did not win is because we had 6 children clammering all over us begging for pink lemonade and hot chips.

Kylah entertained the crowds after the quiz had finished. She got up on stage with the microphone and sang and told jokes. She had the whole 100 or so patrons upstanding while she sang Advance Australia Fair and then launched in to 'oh I just can't wait to be king' from the lion king movie. She performs with such passion and gusto... I really need to get her in to more performance activities.

Unfortunately we only had one night in Matatanka. It was such an amazing place though. I wish we had had two nights there!!!

The next morning, after a quick hike and swim, we headed off to check out Cutta Cutta Caves. We arrived at the destination and all looked around a bit bewildered. We were in the middle of flat, dry, barren scrub. Where were we supposed to see these marvellous caves??? The bloke took our money and then sent us on a walk out the back of his small office. I was a bit dubious about what we were about to see. As far as I could see, there was nothing of interest for kms around us.
Then, all of a sudden we came to an opening in the ground with some steps going down. Down we all went and to my complete surprise we discovered the most enormous and beautiful limestone caves. We only got to go in about 500m but they go back a lot further.
Jago spent the whole time singing 'uh oh... we're in trouble' which ruined the serenity slightly.
They were so beautiful... and huge too!!! I could not believe these giant caves were hiding beneath our feet.

I have so much more to write but I have to go. we are about to lose coverage as we head into kakadu. I will try to catch up in the next few days and do a whole lot of posts next tues or wed. whenever it is that we arrive into darwin.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

One week in

Mount Isa was wonderful!! There isn't really much to do there but we had a nice grassy caravan spot and there were plenty of shops to wander around.

Its amazing how much you can come to miss civilisation after such a short time. I have no idea how I managed to survive two years in the Torres Straits! Actually I think you get used to it pretty quickly and you begin to think 'how on earth did I manage living in the big smoke???' In any case the squeals of delight that rang from our car as we drove in to Isa and saw Woolies signs and Mcdonalds signs were probably a tad too enthusiastic for people who had only spent a few days in the bush.

My mum did a tour of an underground hospital and also went with james on a mine tour. We did a tour of the Riversleigh Fossil centre, a spot of shopping and loads of bumming around the caravan reading, catching up on FB goss, washing and schoolwork. It was sooo nice to have a few days off with not much on after the crazily busy first few days.

After we had investigated all that Mount Isa had to offer (which wasn't a lot), we drove 560 kms to a camp spot just 71kms short of 3 ways.

Crossing in to the NT was amazing. The landscape changed almost immediately!! I could see the entire horizon... it was like looking at a sea of land. There were no hills, or trees or buildings ... just flat red dirt with tiny tufts of spinifex grass here and there. (spinifex grass is just one of the many grasses I learned about on our 7 hour car trip.... Ben seems to know an awful lot about grass species).

*Ben would like me to insert here that I am incorrect and that it wasn't spinifex grass just across the border... it was a mixture of mitchell and flinders grass. He would also like me to add in that while everyone was busy relaxing in Isa he was busy fixing stuff.*

The place where we camped was spectacular. It was in the middle of no where and there were no toilets or showers. The only thing it had to offer was a little bit of water. I will attach a pic of all our vans parked there at the bottom.

The nights sky was unbelievable. I have never, in my life, seen anything like it. Looking up you could see millions of stars from horizon to horizon. I felt like I was in a dome. We had a camp fire and all sat around talking. It was a perfect night.

The next day was another full day of driving. For the last hour of the 8 hours of driving I managed to convince Ben to let the kids watch a dvd on the portable dvd player. 15 hours over 2 days of sitting in the back of a car listening to mummy and daddy play 20 questions must be extremely boring for little kids. Ben and I play that game during the very brief periods when I am actually awake.

Our destination was Daly Waters Pub. It is a lovely little outback pub. Inside the pub is quite amazing. Every surface, every wall, every place imaginable is covered, completely covered, with crap. There is a bra collection, an undies collection, a thong collection, a mural of peoples drivers licence pics.... I could go on but I won't. Let's just say there was a TON of stuff.

We had the most delicious dinner of reef and beef followed by a hilarious show. The only issue I had with Daly waters was its caravan park was like a humongous dust bowl. Not that Daly Waters pub is at fault for that. As far as I can tell so far, most of the NT is a dust bowl. I am starting to get sick of it already and the worst is yet to come!!!

I am learning a lot about Ben this trip (and different types of grasses). He used to live and work in the NT, which I knew, but he has never told me much about the specifics of his jobs here or the people he knew. I am hearing all kinds of stories about a chapter of his life I knew little about.

Anyway, I have to go... I want to do a post about Matatanka thermal springs and I have decided it is so amazing that it deserves is very own blog post.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The day it all went pear shaped... stuck in the middle of GAFA

I had only just finished writing my previous blog entry when disaster struck. One of the wheels on our caravan somehow fell off and our 4wd ended up towing a lopsided van about 1 km down the road until we stopped... right in the middle of no where, or GAFA, as Ben likes to call it.

Funny thing is that Ben has been talking about seeing 'GAFA' or excitedly pointing it out for the last 500 or so kms. Thinking he was probably referring to some kind of weed or species of grass I would nod my head knowingly and make interested noises not really caring too much about finding out what he meant.

Well I found out today... GAFA stands for Great Australian F*¤¥ All. Charming isn't it??? Yes as far as the eye could see there was nothing. Thankfully my mum drives slower than Ben so she was able to pull up behind us and take two of the kids with her while she went to get help. The rest of our group were way ahead.

We had already had to stop once because something or other had happened to our anderson plug (not sure what that is but I am quite pleased that it is broken because it means that for the next few nights we will require a powered site and therefore will get to stay somewhere semi decent).

It takes a lot to rattle Ben and I (actually I take that back, it only takes a shower with a curly whirly in it to rattle me) so the two of us calmly went about business. Ben jacked up the caravan ready for when help arrived and I busied myself doing schoolwork with Kylah on a picnic mat.

Eventually help arrived and we have managed to get our caravan to the walkabout hotel in Makinlay. Yes it is THE walkabout hotel, as featured in the movie crocodile dundee. It is quite nice here. Although after our disastrous stay in Winton anything seems nice. There is one small problem and that is that there seems to be a bit of a rat plague here and they were running around everywhere. Kristy saw one outside her van tonight and I'm quite sure her screams could be heard all over the GAFA.

After we had all the kids in bed mum offered to mind them so Kris, James, Ben and I could go to the pub (we were camped out the back). I think we all needed a few drinks after or rough day.

Sitting in the pub drinking vodkas Kris and I looked at each other and shook our heads. What were we thinking??? A 6 week trip!!! It hasn't even been one week and we are all sick of dust, red dirt, driving, whinging kids and fixing things. 4 days into our journey and we have had tyre problems, battery problems, fridge problems, toilet problems and the entire group has coughs and sore throats.

Tomorrow Ben and I have to spend the day in Cloncurry getting new tyres and wheels for the van then we are heading to mt isa in the afternoon. I have heard that there is a lorna jane in mt isa so I might buy myself some new flash dance pants. I don't have them in the camouflage pattern yet....


Dinosaur Days @ Winton

I have very mixed reviews from our time at Winton. The town itself is lovely. Set in the middle of no where the people here seem to like nothing better than welcoming tourists. They have made plenty if touristy attractions and work very hard to make sure you have a pleasant, hospitable and information packed stay in their town.

Winton itself was the part of this trip that my kids were most excited about because it was the gateway to all of our dinosaur activities.

You can just imagine the excitement in our group as we arrive at the information desk in Winton and find out that not only are all of the towns garbage bins shaped like dinosaur feet but also that the pub here offers free camping behind its beer garden. Ben, ever the tight arse was excited about not having to pay for accom, even though I pointed out that this would mean he would probably spend a lot more on beer. Seeing as everyone who we had met in Winton so far had been friendly we had no reason to doubt the intentions of the pub owner.

The pub itself was quite nice and the camping area, directly behind the beet garden, also looked ok so we decided to stay. We parked our vans and off we set to visit the Waltzing Matilda Centre and the Age of the Dinosaurs Museum. The waltzing matilda centre was quite boring for the kids but I'm sure all of the grey nomads wandering around found it fascinating. I would have enjoyed it more had I not had a sore throat and been surrounded by a flurry of bored kids.

We then headed off to the Dinosaur museum to watch palaeontologists working on actual dinosaur bones. Kylah was fascinated and has organised with us to come back in 5 years time, when she is 12, so she can be a volunteer on a dig. We snuck Diddy up on a shelf to take a pic of her with a dinosaur femur. I have included the pic below.

After a very busy day of driving, sightseeing and setting up (this was the first time we had unhooked the caravan) we headed back to our van at the pub, excited about the bbq in the beer garden and relaxing having a few drinks. I had to venture to the loo so I took the opportunity to check out the amenities, or should I say amenity - as there was only one toilet and shower for the men and women to share - and they were in the same tiny room.

I don't think I have an extensive enough vocabulary to describe this bathroom adequately.... but I wil try. Do you know the theme song from jaws?? well that was playing in my head as I entered the bathroom and as my eyes adjusted to the darkness that high pitched screech that is in the chorus of the jaws song began to ring in my ears. Do you remember the toilet scene from train spotting?? well the bathroom resembled that. It was dark and mouldy and looked like it hadn't been cleaned since 1942. I backed out slowly thinking to myself 'i should take a photo of this for my blog' but not wanting to expose my phone, which is often held quite close to my head, to the contamination and germs in that room.

I was equally repulsed and surprised that most of our group (including my husband and children) wanted to shower in there. I much would have preferred Ben come to bed covered in red dust and sweat than to come to bed having just stepped out of what I consider to be hell on earth.

It all went down hill from the moment everyone had finished with their showers. There seemed to be 3 people running the pub. one was an elderly man who seemed quite lovely, and who explained to us that he had parkinsons disease. The others were two foreign ladies who were difficult to understand (perhaps one was married to the old guy who owned it???). Even though I could not understand their words there was absolutely no mistaking their tone. One of them screamed at Kylah and Rohan because they had dared to sing and the other one looked at you like she wanted to poke you in the eye with a stick.

The bbq in the beer garden was a disaster. It was supposed to have included steak, salad, bread and mushroom soup. I was less than impressed with the lousy salad, frozen bread and mushroom soup sitting on a table with flies buzzing around it but after an hour if waiting for some meat I succumbed and dished Ben up a styrofoam cup two thirds full of mushroom soup and gave the kids and myself a few pieces of bread. Considering we had spent $60 on dinner I hoped it would get better. At about 8pm the lady marched over and told me that she had no more meat left. she wasn't apologetic in the slightest. I asked her if I could have a refund and she screamed at me 'no!! you ate soup and bread!!!' In the end she decided to only charge me $10 for the tiny bit of soup and 3 slices of frozen bread. She was so aggressive I was not game to say anything to her. I went back to our group and told them that I did not care what they wanted to do, there was no way I was staying one more night in that hell hole.

Even though it was free to stay there, there were so many rules and regulations you felt anything BUT free. you were not made to feel welcome in the slightest. Considering there are plenty of free bush camps around I would rather be there, where my kids can sing and play, than in the awful Gregory Hotel in Winton.

This morning we woke early and headed out on a 4 hour round trip to Lark Quarry to see the footprints left from a dinosaur stampede. It was amazing. I was so engrossed in what our tour guide was saying and astounded by the clarity of each and every footprint. It looks like they were made yesterday, not 65 million years ago!! We got to hold dinosaur bones and touch fragments of the imprinted rocks. The museum is amazing!! it had been built around the footprints to preserve them from the weather.

Anyway, I have to go... we are on or way to Macinlay and Ben is complaining that while I an writing this I am not talking to him... better go and play 20 questions. Gotta keep the driver happy!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

We made it to day 3!!!!

Wow! 1300kms in 3 days and we are all still happy and the kids are still semi sane. it feels like we have been away for ages. I think because we have squeezed so much in to those 3 days.

The first day was rather eventful. I had only 3 hours sleep the night before so was not fully functioning. I can not cope one bit without at least 7 hours sleep. The night before we left I decided that it would be nice to have some home baking to take, so instead of finishing off the packing and cleaning I wisely decided to make choc chip biccies and cheesecake balls instead. needless to say it was after midnight when I finished all my jobs. when I did get to bed Diddybell decided to be a major pest and whinged all night long. I ended up having to put her in a cot down stairs as she was disturbing bens sleep (i know this because everytime she would whinge, he would growl, followed closely by a sneeze that would sound suspiciously like 'forfu*kssake'). 

So I started the trip in a sleep deprived haze and had drifted off into a deep slumber before we had even left the driveway.

When we arrived in Dalby we discovered a problem (not quite sure what the problem was - I was fading out as ben was telling me due to lack of sleep) with one if the caravan tyres. he had to detach the caravan and drive somewhere to have it fixed. One of the other couples travelling with us also had tyre problems mere kms from home.

After quickly sorting ourselves out we continued on and spent the night in some show grounds in a small town whose name I cannot remember. It was a lovely night and we were lucky enough to be able to hook up to some power so we could run the heater - thank goodness because it was bloody cold!!!.  I think we covered 450kms on the first day, but it took 9 hours because of all the stops and mishaps.  You will be pleased to know that my boxing gloves and pads got a workout that first night (and you might also be pleased to know about my triumph in the public loos but I won't tell you because a good friend of mine told me not to discuss bowel movements on my blog)

Day 2 was a similar distance covered in much less time. We stayed the night in Tambo and I was very excited to show the kids where I used to live and where the school was etc.  They were horrified to find out that I lived about 300m from the school and would drive there every day.  I don't think they realised just how much potential I have to be a lazy bum. We went to Tambo pub that night and i got rip roaring drunk off 2 vodkas. that's what happens when you don't drink for 18 months!!!  I enjoyed myself so much I think I might have to drink more often.

Today we drove fromTambo to longreach. Half of us went to the stockmans hall of fame for a looksee and half of us went to the qantas museum. Unfortunately I was stuck in the half that had 7 out of the 8 children in it so didn't get to do much looking. I spent my time running after toddlers, wiping noses and continually getting drinks out of the pram. But the kids loved the museum. They loved having a tour of the retired 747 and looking at the different planes. To be quite honest I was bored shitless. a plane is a plane, is it not? I'm sure I would have been equally as bored if I had of gone to a car museum... it just doesn't rock my boat unfortunately. at least the kids had a good time....

Tonight we have stayed with one of the other couples at a free campsite 20kms out of town. The rest of them stayed in longreach at a caravan park and went out to dinner. Ben and I were tossing up staying in town but we decided at the last minute to rough it. I'm glad we did. I have had such a relaxing night tonight. We built a campfire and sat around talking. We all saw this massive meteor, which seemed to come down a few hundreds metres from us. The quietness of this amazing country is so soothing.  Sitting there looking up at the beautiful nights sky made me feel so relaxed and full of joy.  The place where we are staying is very quiet. it feels like we are the only ones for hundreds of kms.  it is also very basic. you can get a bit if tank water here and use a drop loo if you so wish (although I choose not to!!).  There are no showers... no people... no shops or traffic....

Anyway, moving on... I am pleased to report that Diddy has been an absolute angel. she sleeps in the car and plays happily when we stop.  my other kids are managing quite fine on the long drives with minimal complaining coming from the back. their busy boxes have kept them busy and we have spent a lot of time playing and talking to them. 

Oh I forgot to mention that we stopped at barcaldine today so con and kristy could pay their respects to the tree of knowledge (apparently this tree has something to do with unions and their union at caltex is responsible for getting them massive pay rises so they needed to detour to worship it).

All in all it has been a great trip so far. I had better get going because I am hugely tired. my phone reception has been awful so I haven't had much if a chance to blog or look at facebook.

We are doing the dinosaur thing on winton over the next couple of days so I will let you know how it all works out.


Friday, August 5, 2011

Preps on Tour 2011

Eeeeek!!!! I am 4 days away from leaving on a 6 week holiday and I am SUPER disorganised!!!! What's more, I can't seem to get myself organised. I just know that I am going to spend all of Friday night running around like a chook with it's head cut off trying to do everything at the last possible second - in true Bianca fashion.

I have been dreaming and planning this holiday for YEARS. Ever since Ben and I got together I have been nagging him for a caravan (filled with lots of children of course) so we could drive around the country together. And I am pleased to report that nagging works! Yes I managed to talk him into having 4 bundles of joy - AND I managed to convince him we needed a caravan. I should have been in sales!!!

This 6 week, through the centre of Oz, trip has been in the pipeline for years. We have been talking about it, planning bits and pieces, discussing appropriate names (I am going for Prep Tour 11, Kristy wants Grey Nomads in Training). Now it is less than one week away!!!

We are heading West from Bris and going to the Northern Territory via Longreach, Winton, Mt Isa etc. We are planning to spend a few days doing dinosaur things in Winton and a day or so looking at aeroplane things in Longreach. Once we get to NT we are going to Darwin via Kakadu, then back down through the centre, stopping to see Uluru and Alice Springs. We finish our trip by heading through South Australia and back up along the NSW inland highway. 10 000km's with 6 weeks to do it in.

There are a few families going. There will be 5 caravans and 4wd's in our convoy. I'm sure you will get to know them over the course of my blog.

Tonight I should have been packing/organising but instead I went to the gym (not for an actual workout - I just wanted to get out of the house so I went to talk to the lovely staff there) and watched a ton of reality tv. The whole time I was thinking about all the things I have to do.

I just don't know where to start. Everything is sort of semi packed and semi organised. But my house is a disaster zone and I keep wandering around aimlessly thinking 'I'm sure I should be doing something'.

Anyway, just to give you a little bit of an insight into the preparation that has gone into our trip I thought I'd share with you a few tidbits of info.

1. Kristy and I prepared 23 meals and vacuum sealed all of them. It took 3 days of work but will be well worth it not to have to cook for at least half of the time we are away. We made lots of stews and curries and added a ton of veges to each.

2. I have made the kids 'busy boxes' for the car. Ben is vehemently opposed to dvd players in the car so my children will have a tiny box filled with note pads and pens, tiny books, mp3 players etc to keep them busy.

3. I am taking most of the food with us so we don't spend a fortune on food in little outback towns. I'm sure it will be expensive enough as it is just buying the fresh stuff. Trying to work out how much food 6 people will eat over the course of 6 weeks was a huge challenge. I have had to do many experiments in the last few months so I can correctly pack the right amount of food. These experiments included opening a pack of rice cakes and seeing how quickly they disappeared and how soon after the kids started complaining of hunger. I also had to train Kylah up to eat weetbix for breaky. She really doesn't like cereal and to be quite honest - I hate it too!! But beggars can't be choosers (well actually I can be choosy as I am the one menu planning and I made sure to include my standard yoghurt and muesli for breaky). Kylah usually has fruit and toast but in the outback I can't guarantee we will have much of either. So I have been forcing her to eat weetbix these last few weeks. The other morning, faced with yet another bowl of weetbix, Kylah asked Ben if she could eat a raw, rotting sweet potato instead. He said yes and she ate it!!!!

4. We have had 3 planning nights with all the families. Two of them were a disaster that ended up with everyone shitty at everyone. Only one night was productive. I am wondering how long it will be into our trip before the first fight erupts and who it will be between.... (past experience has Kristy and James winning hands down but this trip there may be some feisty couples that either fight with each other or other couples!! Hmmmmm..... maybe I will be able to provoke Ben into having a fight with me.... more flash dance pants would do the trick!!!!)

5. I am taking faaaaar too much stuff. On top of expensive linen, latex pillows, body pillows, a whole library of science books, about 1kg of chocolate and 4 pairs of flash dance pants.... I am taking my yoga mat and boxing gloves/ pads. I'm pretty sure Kristy is placing bets with the other couples on how many times (if any) I will use the sporting equipment. I am determined to prove them all wrong. I plan to start every day with some yoga and finish with a bit of boxing. I will probably need the boxing to vent all my frustrations on traveling with other people!!! Actually, we all get along pretty well and have traveled together in New Zealand in a convoy of caravans back in 09. That was the original 'Preps on Tour' trip.

6. Ben and I were almost headed to the divorce courts over my decision not to cancel foxtel for the 6 weeks we are away. He does not see the point in having to pay an exorbitant amount for tv when we are not home. I mean while, can not stand the idea of not taping Australia's Next Top Model, Project Runway, Teen Mom and Wife Sway USA while I am away. Do you have any idea how excited I will be to return home to 100 hours of trashy tv?!?!?! If I do not tape these shows on my IQ box (which I am quite certain is called that because it actually lowers IQ's) then I will return home with a whole lot of washing and cleaning and be on a big downer because I am no longer on holidays. Besides, I need something to watch while Ben is at Fraser Island fishing. Yes, we get back from holidays and Ben leaves to go on a fishing trip. (Just to be clear... I don't mind him going on the fishing trip - he better bring me back a ton of fish though!!!)

Anyway I had better go to bed. Tomorrow I am getting my legs waxed and on Wednesday I have to take Diddy back in to hospital so the Dr's can work out a safety plan for our trip (I'm not sure what a safety plan will involve but it sounds like something that will be good to have!!!). In between all that I have some friends visiting, who I hope will read this and force me to do things while they are there. I am quite productive if I have someone to talk to while I am busy, especially if they make sure I stay on task.

I plan to update this blog regularly while I am away. I don't plan to do anymore blogging this week but as I have so much to do I'm sure I will. It appears that when I am faced with a huge amount of work, rather than tackling it, I beeline my computer to blog about it. But I ALWAYS get things done... eventually!!! (and maybe not quite up to the standards of others!!!)


Monday, August 1, 2011


It has been really hard for me to let go of the idea of 'standards'. It is so ingrained in me, from my years of teaching, that I started out constantly comparing Kylah and Jazzy to the standard that they should be working to, as dictated by the curriculum.

Now that I have seen the light, and no longer worry about what other kids their age can do, I feel so free and liberated. In fact, the very idea of standards seems so ludicrous to me!!

Kylah and Jazzy work at their own pace. We don't have to rush through things to keep up nor do we have to hold back so we don't go to far ahead. I make sure that they get every single concept before we move on to the next.

I have a few friends who have had to put their 7 year old's in tutoring classes, because they can not keep up with the other kids. I have also witnessed children bawling over homework or parents stressed because their child isn't achieving.

I used to be the same. Kylah was behind in her reading to start with and I was in a huge panic about it. I am extremely diligent about making sure we get all our work done each day and I couldn't understand why she wasn't making the progress that she should. She was one on one with a qualified teacher. Why couldn't she read????? Then one day, out of the blue, something finally clicked in her head and she was ready to learn to read. Rather than it being this massive chore that took hours of our time each day, she picked it up extremely quickly. Obviously she hadn't been ready to learn when I started with her.

It made me wonder what would have happened to her if she had been in school. I'm quite positive she would have been aware that she was behind most of her classmates and I think she probably would have ended up in learning support. These two things would have lowered her self confidence and hampered her ideas about her own intelligence that could have lasted a lifetime. Because she hadn't gotten things at the same rate as the rest of the class, they would have moved on without her and she would be even more lost.

It is quite a shame that this happens and makes me very thankful that I home school. I no longer even entertain ideas about whether the girls are behind or advanced in different subjects. I am just pleased that they are both working to the best of their abilities and mastering each concept.

I have been wondering whether or not I will get Kylah to sit the year 3 test next year. Part of me would like to so I can see where she is at compared to the rest of the state. But the other part doesn't really give a rats arse.

I would like to know what other homeschooling mums are planning to do about the standardized testing. Is it worth it to put my child through a mind-numbingly boring experience just so I can pat myself on the back?? And if I did put her through it, should I spend months in advance giving her practice tests so she is not at a disadvantage??? I know for a fact that schools spend an awful lot of time preparing the kids for these tests. Is that not a waste of Kylah's and my time???

Big questions... but really... it is just a grade 3 test, which in the grand scheme of things is nothing.