Friday, 13 February 2015

Our new blog is up!

Hi everyone! I know it has been a long time (or felt like a long time to us!) since our last regular bloggings. Four children will do that to you! But exciting things are happening this year - a lot of them around homeschooling, unschooling, teen and women's empowerment camps and seminars.  As a women's counsellor for many years and a parent to multiple teens, my passion really is in helping people to empower and support each other. So if you are currently homeschooling or unschooling (or thinking about it) hop on over to our new blog here and all of our unschooling and homeschooling stuff will be published regularly over there! 

Friday, 16 January 2015

2014 birthing change

homeschooling unschooling child and grandmother

From our humble beginnings in 2011, aiming to document the awe and gratitude that we felt to have 
 finally completed our family with a little girl we never thought we would have, 2014 was a crazy and whirl-wind year. In our grief from the end of 2013, life was forever changed, and we took the insane leap of faith and moved our family the whole way across the state. With very little planning, and so many ideas and dreams about what a new life would look like. 

This is a lot of what life looked like in 2014.

A lot of healing. 

Days at the beach. 

Days of work, work, work to try to keep our new business afloat to keep our new lifestyle of being home with our children.

 A lot of brokenness, and homesickness. 

Forming new friendships. Exploring new places.

 Letting go of our beautiful pup (almost 7 years old) who went to a new home on a big property when we were not able to finance accomodation big enough to keep him happiest. Reprioritising.

It was not easy, and in fact was probably one of the hardest and unhappiest, most adventurous and exciting, terrifying and exhilarating years of our lives. The highest highs and the lowest lows. 

And although 2014 has ended, the beginning of 2015 is much the same. 

Except the strangest thing has happened. I have realised that a post I made many moons (and blogs) ago about my dream for the future, has slowly come to life and fruition. In my dreaming, hoping, visualising and diarising, the unreality started to become reality. Almost every facet and every colour, shape and visualisation of that dream is now a big part of our life. And that realisation has so much power. 

Imagine if you could dream your life and create it.

And it was as hard as giving birth. You struggled and grew, and your mind, soul and reality stretched to the point of breaking as you grew this big, uncomfortable dream that was suddenly much too big for your life right now. What if it gave you stretch marks and hot flushes, nightmares, cravings and made you feel sick sometimes with the big-ness and the overwhelming-ness of it all. What if you started to glow with the realisation of your dream starting to break free of the confines of your life? What if it became so big that one day you birthed it? and it was excruciatingly painful, and you left behind everything that used to be your life, but in all of the crazy beautifulness of the process there emerged your new life? Screaming, slippery, beautiful and growing every second alongside you? 

How amazing could that be? 

unschooling baby

unschooling child australia

homeschooling unschooling childre

If you made it all the way to the end of this mammoth post - congratulations!
Feel free to head over to our very new (brand new baby!) website here (it's not finished but keep checking back - this is going to be our most exciting year ever!!!).

and homeschool/ unschool blog right here 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Minimalism, money and happiness

In the last year or so our family has made the decision to live as minimally as we can possibly manage.

Not out of poverty or not being able to afford to buy things, but simply because it just makes sense. For several reasons: environmentally and ethically, for increased personal happiness and satisfaction, and to create freedom from the entrapment of 9-5 living.

 Environmentally and ethically, it is unnecessary, irresponsible and unethical to live the way that the western world is living.

Why do we need all. of these. things?

Within recent years I have personally read many blogs, research articles and testaments to a rapidly growing social movement toward minimalist living and anti-consumption, for the purpose of cutting down on our 'wastage and expenditure for the sake of waste and expenditure'.

We live in a country where people go shopping, just for the sake of going shopping.  We buy things just so that we can have more things, with little thought to where those things have come from, or what we will have to sacrifice, environmentally and ethically, to buy them.

 And it doesn't seem that radical an idea to just stop buying things. 

But in a post - World War 2 world, where personal worth is often defined by how much money you earn, how many possessions you have, and the monetary value of your belongings, it has now become a radical idea. 

The idea that we, as members of Western Society, are not intrinsically more valuable than the third world countries and communities that are suffering unimaginable levels of environmental pollution and personal poverty, in order to provide us with all of the things (valuables, belongings, disposable material possessions) that we think we 'need' is fast losing weight as the state of our world and our environment is rapidly falling into decline. 

We have too much stuff

We are making too much stuff

We need to get off the roller coaster - now

And on a more personal note - in our daily lives, how much value do all of our materialistic possessions add to our lives?...

When children receive MORE toys, do they instantly become happier? does it make them more joyful? has it been your experience that owning more possessions makes you feel more free? does it make you walk with a spring in your step? laugh more?

And how much money do we need to buy all of these things to make us feel happy...

Can you put a dollar figure on how much money we need, to buy the material possessions required to create happiness?

Yes...apparently. $75,000 per year, according to a study in the US of happiness and its correlation with income. The main finding of the study, was that at $75,000 per year, happiness plateaued.

People did not feel ANY happier after they reached a point where they felt that all of their needs were met, the bills were paid, and so forth.

However in much of the abundant literature that is available on happiness, life-satisfaction and contentment, most of the indicators for happiness are not linked in any way. You do not need a big house, or two bathrooms, expensive cars or designer clothes to make you happy. And chances are, if you own those things, those things also own you too.

It creates anxiety to take care of, protect, store, transport and worry about all of the things in our lives that have become bound and attached to us.

What if we let those things go?

What if we were free of the societal expectation to buy new clothes all of the time?

To have matching sheet sets, and cars that are barely off the show-room floor before they are replaced with a bigger, better model?

What if we didn't buy take-away food, and lived from the markets?

What if we reduced our living expenses so much that we didn't have to work 38 hours a week to maintain our consumer-overload lives, and we had more time and freedom to pursue the things that we are really passionate about?

To me, that is freedom.

Follow your passions - quit work and run off to the beach!

When I first started on this homeschooling journey I was a little like a teenager running away from home.

 I wanted to be free of the confines of full time work and schooling. I wanted to run to the beach and set up a little camp, eat marshmallows for dinner, drink organic red lemonade, and burn textbooks (well not really, I kinda love textbooks because I am weird like that - but you get the idea!). 

I didn't really think too much about the practical side of, you know, needing money. And working while homeschooling. Or having childcare for my children while I worked and homeschooled.
I just wanted freedom. And I had no idea to of how to get it, so I just un-enrolled our family from school, and didn't go back to my job, and hoped that an idea would come to me! 

LOTS and lots of ideas came, and left. Lots of websites were set up, and then forgotten about, like old books sitting on the shelves, half written and gathering cob-webs. I really, really, REALLY clung on to the hope that I would come up with something amazing, and it would make me squillions of dollars, and we could live comfortably at the beach, without school, and I could do what I loved best - hanging out with my family.

It was only when my husband really desperately wanted to leave his job, that we decided on a concrete (overnight) business idea, and launched into the unknown world of entrepreneurialism... armed with very little knowledge and a whole lot of ideas about what life would be like. For the first few months we floundered around and relied on our love of family, and intrinsic motivations to just get something done, until one night in my midnight readings I found a little business program that just sat right for me.

And not only did it sit right but it was (*gasp*) FUN and inspirational, funny, heart-warming, and re-packaged every brilliant thing I had ever read on business, into something that was enjoyable to work through, and started to bring in more money that I could have ever hoped for in our first year of business. Enough money to live, and not have to get a job where we were working for someone else, and enough money to have time to work on UBER exciting creative endeavours that I am yet to release to the world.

But there it is. I have found something wonderful, and addictive, and a way to make a living and live a lot of time at the beach. I only ever endorse people and businesses that I am passionate about (and never in this space) so I am 100% saying - go forth and Leonie Dawson the crap outta your life!

Thursday, 24 April 2014

"After I have my coffee"

We are two weeks into our spur-of-the-moment road trip to the Gold Coast, and sharing a two-bedroom apartment with 9 people (including 4 children) which has necessitated regular 7am coffee's for my lovely husband (after hours of sunrise beach-play, surfing and running up and down sandy footpaths) and take-away chai latte's for me! At a quick pit-stop, where we throw down a body-board, a skate-board, floaties and all sorts of other beach sport apparel, Layla gives me this look (can you tell she is from a Sicilian mother?) when I ask her if she wants to go down the slide "I will have my coffee first!" she declares very seriously, giving me the evil eye as if I would dare defy her. 

As it is probably a little early to start a caffeine addiction off at 26 months old, we head back to the apartment to make her a hot water and soy milk 'coffee' which she drinks copious amounts of!  This little soul is way too funny to be only two years old!

Beach dancing

Three weeks into this spur-of-the-moment trip to the Gold Coast, we enjoy another day stepping into this post-card beach - pristine and almost impossibly perfect. The girls and I embark on a mission to walk a few kilometres up the road to purchase a special request for my husband Ray, from the Sunday markets, which starts innocently enough, until we realise that the pram we had brought along (to fit all of our fresh food into!) would need to be transported down the huge sand-dunes to the beach!

 A lost thong (a shoe-thong! you can never be too sure in the Gold Coast!) and a very sandy pram later, and Bella and I took turns pushing the loaded pram over kilometres of wet sand! 

Oblivious to any of the fuss, Layla squeals with delight, kicking up water and running in fits of giggles as the waves splash over her feet, and she runs up and down, toward and away from the frothing sea. 

We are counting down the days until we can move closer to this wonderful part of Australia! 

Me and my big brother

Beach baby

Saturday, 19 October 2013


Recently you adopted an orphan baby

Seemingly abandoned at your Grandmother's house when she went away for a couple of days, you picked her up and loved her, kissed her, wrapped her in things and tried to put a nappy on her

Of course when we tried to leave your Grandmother's house, you were extremely distressed at the thought of leaving this helpless little baby completely unattended (and outside, at that) while your Grandmother was away

And I was torn between the ethics of 1) removing the doll from the house without permission (knowing that this particular doll had a lot of sentimental value, and we had been deliberately instructed on other occasions to please leave her there) and 2) teaching you that it was ok to leave babies all alone, at the mercy of the elements...

Enter visions of permanent future mothering damage where you possibly leave your own children unattended as newborns because of this one pivotal moment in your life (irrational? completely. But who said parenting was rational?!)

Needless to say, the baby came home

And you told your Grandmother in no uncertain terms *via skype* that this was 

"MY Baby - Layla's baby!"

Undoubtedly you had now judged your Grandmother to be unfit to adequately care for the infant and had taken measures to ensure her ongoing mothering.

When your Grandmother pointed out that you were just taking care of her baby temporarily, you repeatedly tried to hang up on her, saying "bye" (translation: "I don't want to hear anything that you have to say").

And now the baby is yours. 

Ice skating - 22 months

The other day we decided to brave the ice rink, even with you so little and prone to dangerous stunt-baby risk taking behaviour

You are 22 months old and full of bravado. Jump off those stairs? of course you can. Swim in that pool without floating devices? not a problem. Fly off the balcony to go and cuddle our get the picture. 

Nothing is too big, or too high, too hard or too scary. 

Except vacuum cleaners - but that is a whole different kettle of fish. 

Of no surprise was the fact that you wanted to ice skate like your big brother 'Dammy' and you delighted in watching him skate at a billion kilometres an hour like a pro, then diving toward the ice (without the need for the baby ice-skates, which you flatly refused) in an attempt to ice skate on pure natural ability and ridiculously inept footwear alone. 

Luckily Aunty S (for Super-Aunt) was there to escort you around the rink - making her your absolute best friend from that moment on. 

And Mummy got a bit of a rude shock when I excitedly donned a pair of skates, ready to take you ice skating with me for the first time, and you very clearly stated

"No! No I go (Super Aunty) - pwease Mummy ... no, no, no!"

So apparently Mum's are also optional extras when it comes to dare-devil, stunt-baby behaviour. 

That's cool. I am totally ok with that. Just remember this when you decide to try sky-diving when you are 16 :-) 

Grown up

Dear Layla

apparently you are a grown up now

you have decided

Every little person that you see is a 'baby' - even our 4 year old friend that came to visit us the other day (who is at least three times as tall as you), who you chased around the house, saying "baby, baby! come and sit on me!"

He was quite perturbed that somebody of such a small stature was chasing him, calling him 'baby' and then patiently sitting on the couch, patting her lap and looking at him expectantly like 'I know you want a cuddle little guy, just hop up here and I will nurse you for a bit'.

It is hard not to laugh, because of course, you are not too impressed when people laugh at you for thinking that you are a grown up. Because you are. 

You have decided.

But you are still our baby

x mama


                 Try to look at this little face for too long and not drown in these massive brown eyes!

Being treated to a free, frothy babycino at a local cafe, Layla is impatient and exasperated, saying her very favourite words for the day (because there are new sentences for every day now) 

"I DO DAT! - No Mummy I DO DAT"

And she takes the porcelain cup very carefully from me, as not to spill it
holds the cup daintily between forefinger and thumb and sips the froth until it is all over her face and she is nose-deep in foamy, chocolatey bubbles.

"Dis chocolate. Layla's chocolate" 

Very slowly independence is creeping in, and all too soon I will be sitting across from her (as her older sister is), at a cafe, while she talks about university applications and business opportunities. 

But for now Layla still needs help with a few things. 

Grief (part one)

I had thought about not writing this. Or starting a new blog with a different title, or a different theme, and put my less than joyful posts in there. Perhaps to separate talk of grief and death from the loveliness and brightness of my posts about Layla and our beautiful family. Perhaps to spare you from the details of what is essentially a private time in our lives. And perhaps to allow death to stay hidden in the box that we, as a Western Society, keep collectively stashed behind things that are shinier, and lovelier and more pleasant to think about. But life is life. And although I am very positive and blessed to have the life that I do, death and grief is a part of life, and like some brave bloggers before me, I think it is important not to gloss over life events that are normal, and eventually affect all of us.

Almost two months on, the grief is still raw and unflinching after the death of our Nonna. A woman, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who was not just an accessory in the life of our family but a central part of everything we did. Throughout these last 7 weeks I have come to understand how and why people are driven to start organisations and charities, to fundraise and march, in the wake of the loss of somebody you love and miss so dearly. Because the finality of death is something that is almost impossible to grapple with. Especially in a time and age when death is so far removed from our lives, we would do anything to prevent the finality of it, and to preserve and share the memories of people who only we remember with love.

In her renowned work 'Death and Dying' Elizabeth Kubler-Ross talks about how death used to be intrinsically entwined with the fabric of life, and that the loss of this has made coping with death infinitely more difficult in present times. In the past, people would ail and age in their homes, nursed by their families. At the end of life you would pass away in the comfort of your home, where your family would often bathe you and take care of your body. Your body may stay in your home for a number of days while your family commenced wearing black, praying or carrying out their own cultural rituals, and this process of mourning would continue for a good period of time. You may be buried at the back of your family property, perhaps under a significant tree that could have been planted to commemorate your birth. People saw death and lived with death because it was a part of life. And as a part of life, it was accepted and normalised. Children saw death and accepted it in the way that they accepted birth or any other natural event. It was normal and people knew it well.

In contrast, death as we know it now is more stylised, dramatic, horrible, horrific and scary. Why? because the deaths that we are most familiar with are television and dramatic movie deaths. Death in our daily lives is minimalised, hidden, and often (tragically) trivialised in relation to how close you were to the person or how much your life should be affected by their loss. And I have found this particularly true, in a culture where grandparents are often not the focal point of family life, however I will address this in a future post. Many people age in nursing homes, out of the view of the general public, and die in hospital, at which point they are removed to a third location (not the family home) in order to make funeral preparations. The rituals surrounding death and mourning are most often limited to taking a day (or perhaps two) off from work, wearing black for the day of the funeral, and crying for one or two weeks intermittently (at least, in public) before resuming your life as before. There is limited room for extended mourning such as in cultures like some Australian Aboriginal families and communities that take whole weeks off as a family, to conduct 'sorry business'. There is limited room for discussion of death, as it is seen as a negative and difficult part of life that is best avoided. And as such, grieving in our culture and at this time, is perhaps more difficult than grieving in cultures or past times, where death has been more integrated with life, and mourning has been more accepted as a process which takes time.

Having said that, I will be addressing death and grief throughout my posts perhaps for the rest of this year, and maybe some time after that. But they will be intertwined with blogging about the more lovely, shiny parts of life, just as death slots seamlessly and silently into daily life as we know it. Perhaps because I am not comfortable with stashing the memories of my incredible Nonna in a box behind more lovely things, because she was one of our most loveliest things. And in the absence of a beautiful big tree to place her under, on our family acreage, this is how she will be remembered.  

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Layla 22months and 8 days

Dear Layla, 

today you are 22 months and 8 days old, and following on from our little post about not checking your milestones for a little while, we were a little bit surprised when we finally did have a little internet search on 'what 22 month old babies typically do with their time' - we concluded that perhaps you are not aware of things such as this, and you are on your own little timeline of milestones and activities.

In this month, to say that you are incredible is an understatement, as of course, you are surrounded by so many people who give you so much love and attention that you are able to easily hold your own in the company of people ten times your age (and older!).  

In this week you are running, skipping, dancing, balancing on tippy toes and indeed dancing around and running on tippy toes! You sing word-for-word songs from The Wiggles, and are now confidently attempting to sing adult songs, alongside your biggest sister, who you absolutely adore.

You can talk fluently, in sentences, and can ask and hold a conversation about anything that you like. If you do not know what something is, you ask "what is that?' or 'Whyyyy???' and sit patiently for an answer. For the last month or so you have been a little confused by sleep - not really knowing what sleep was or when you were supposed to do it. But just this week you told me "I went to sweep in bed and then...I woke up!" .... my jaw dropped a bit at your understanding, but we have learnt to expect incredible things from you. You count out objects and confidently count to ten (and further if somebody will count with you). Your brother and sisters take endless pleasure in documenting your singing and song-writing and publishing your efforts to Youtube! You often make up your own lyrics to things, just because you can. 

At 22 months you are still breast feeding! and you prefer breast milk over every other food available. However you love ice cream much more than you should, you are extremely empathic to anything smaller than yourself, calling them 'babies' (everything from small birds to large dogs) and when corrected you will say 'Mummy, I cuggle the baby dog?" which is so hilarious coming from such a tiny little girl! 

At this age you are supposed to not really understand the concept of yourself being seperate to others, however you have an incredible understanding of yourself. If somebody does not understand what you are saying, you will very clearly raise your voice and say "no I, ME, LAYLA' so that they understand that it is you, that you are talking about! 

If you are older and reading this, feel free to google yourself baby girl - because with so many fans already, it is inevitable that you will find much documentation of your early life online!

Perhaps here 

Or here

Or even here

Know that you are loved and adored, you are extraordinary and you can expect a life filled with the joy of a family that will always appreciate you exactly for who you are.

Layla 22 months - a new normal

They say that after a loved one has died, the world stops for you but keeps going on for everybody else

and it does

Except when you have children - and for children, life always keeps on going

So we are living in an alternate universe without one of the few people who existed in the centre of it

And this is the new normal - life without our Nonna. 

The kids continue to grow and change every day, and for Layla-Rae, she is growing into the most energetic, talented and intelligent little person that you could possibly imagine her to be. 
Being our fourth child, we are pretty confident in our ability to judge if our little people are not meeting their milestones, and as such, have not been into the doctors or child nurse much in the last year to check up on those sorts of things. Layla is free to grow and evolve naturally and in her own time. But she has constant love, support and stimulation from a house full of children (and adults!) that are infatuated with her. And she knows it! 

Despite not checking milestones regularly, we have had a little peek at what Layla is 'meant' to be doing at this age, and I think somebody forgot to tell her that she is only 22 months old! 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

In loving memory of Nonna Teresa

Today time stopped still

Today we ached for the loss of our Nonna

Today we sat in church and the tears felt like they would never stop

Today people said to us that they wished the world was full of people like our family

People who loved and cared for each other like it was the most important thing in the world
came together as one, rather than individuals living in one space. Lived together and hoped together. 

Today we spoke to a whole crowd of people, and told the story of our family, our lives, and the gratitude that we have for the Grandparents who we were so blessed to know

Who survived war, immigration to a foreign country, racism and discrimination, decades of hard labour and gave us such strong and immeasurable values and ethics, love and compassion that nobody could ever take away. 

Who gave us strength that we will carry with us until we are gone, and pass it on to our children


Today we taught our children something perhaps even more important

We taught them that even though there are moments that life throws at you, that are completely out of your control, and you feel like you might just want to lay down, and never get up again

we are in control of our lives and our choices

we can choose to stay down, or try to get back up

And on one of the darkest days that we have had to endure as a family, we were knocked down. 

But we made a choice to get back up. To be aching inside but try to make each other smile anyway. Just because we are feeling as if we have been thrown off the edge of the world as we know it, does not mean we have to live inside that feeling. 

And in the coming days, months and years, those feelings of being knocked over will come again and again

and I hope that our children remember today, and that they are in charge of how they live their lives and react to anything that life throws at them. 

Like flowers growing through the cracks in concrete. Where there is life, there is hope. 

In loving memory of our beautiful Nonna
Loved more than words can express
May you rest in peace with the angels