“Change is Good” or “Becoming a School Mum”

One of my friends asked me recently how I was and I honestly said “good, really good”. I told her I felt like I was changing, or that this was the year of change, that I was becoming a “school mum”. She asked me what that meant and to be honest I’m not really sure. I feel like I’m moving beyond the baby phase of parenting, of going to play groups and things, and into a “school mum” phase. To be honest it feels good.

Eden on her first day of Kindy

Eden on her first day of Kindy

When you become a mother, or parent for the first time, it’s a bit of a shock to the system. As much as you prepare for the delivery of your first born you can’t “really” prepare for what parenthood feels like. We are now 4.5 years into this whole parenting gig and I guess it’s starting to feel right. I’m not saying easy, not by any stretch, but I guess we’ve settled into our roles.

Eden in her classroom for the first time. Checking out the activity tables.

Eden in her classroom for the first time. Checking out the activity tables.

I’ve got to say I was emotional taking Eden to school for her first half day. It surprised me because she did go to PreKindy last year and I never really feel like that dropping her off. I think, now that I’ve had time to reflect, that it’s because starting big school is entering into a new phase of life. A phase where Eden learns from others and not just her parents. A time for confidence and resilience. A chance to make new friends and to try new things.

Proud girl :)

Proud girl ūüôā

To be honest we did consider homeschooling for a while. It’s becoming very popular especially in North America. There are a lot of benefits to homeschooling and most arguments against it are often old fashioned and not relevant in most families. We decided though, that this year we weren’t going to go that route. We’re still open to the idea in the future but for this time we feel we’ve made the right decision. I think I wouldn’t have handled it well this year, I’m just getting over a really difficult year for me personally and starting now to feel well. I’ve learned for myself the psychological and spiritual (and of course physical)¬†benefits of exercise and taking care of my one body. I still have low days but I’m feeling a lot better and I think the pressure of being responsible for the education of my children is not something I need right now.

My sweeties

My sweeties

I’m excited for Eden for this new adventure that she’s just begun. She loves it so far, and unlike some of the other kids in her class, hasn’t shed a tear when Kate and I say good bye. I’m excited for her to make new friends, and for me too. I’m looking forward to spending some time with my not so little Kate (I can’t believe she’s almost 3). This is going to be a good year, a year of discovery and change for all of us.

Kate started PreKindy, one day a week :)

Kate started PreKindy, one day a week ūüôā

Here’s to 2015!

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Camping in the Stirling Range – Part Two

As promised, here are some more details on the rest of our camping trip.

Our first full day¬†of¬†camping involved some wildlife…

A pretty good sized Huntsman discovered between the screen and the fly, not poisonous but  do jump...

A pretty good-sized Huntsman discovered between the screen and the fly, not poisonous but they do sometimes jump…

On day two we had to go to Albany for food, since we could really only pack enough food for one day in our little car, along with all the camping gear. First we went to the beach at Frenchman Bay, on the peninsula to the south of Albany. Despite the hot day, the water was surprisingly chilly, not that a bit of cold water would stop my little water babes from jumping in for a splash!

Gorgeous beach

Gorgeous beach

My water babes

My water babes

Crystal clear water

Crystal clear water

I didn't get in fully...too cold for me!

I didn’t get in fully…too cold for me!

We also visited a pirate ship (also known as the Brig Amity).

Two Captains

Two Captains

This door was just the right size for the girls!

This door was just the right size for the girls!

Not so great for Tim (or I for that matter)

Not so great for Tim (or I for that matter)

It was a beautiful (but hot, 40+ degrees) day

It was a beautiful (but hot, 40+ degrees) day

There’s lots to see and do in Albany and I’m sure we’ll be back to experience it properly someday. We mostly wanted to get our groceries and get back to the camp ground, so that’s what we did. Young children can only handle so many tourist attractions per day anyway!

We got back to the camp ground, went for a swim, had supper (and toasted marshmallows) and went to bed. The stars that night were fabulous. If you’ve never seen stars with no light pollution dimming them, then you need to do it tonight! It’s seriously amazing how many you can see, including shooting stars if you look long enough. I’ve seen stars like this many times but it always amazes me, and this time I almost felt¬†like the southern sky had more of them than what I remember of the north.

Sleepy heads the next morning

Sleepy heads the next morning

Day 3 was the day I was going to attempt to hike Bluff Knoll. I didn’t really tell my friends¬†that I was planning on doing this beforehand, because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to complete it. Silly maybe, but it is what it is. We probably should have checked the predicted forecast before I set off, as it ended up being another 40 degree day. I didn’t know that though, so I set off from the car park around 8:30 am with two litres¬†of water and a few¬†snacks. I knew there were a few other people on the mountain because of the other cars in the car park, but I was the last one to begin. It would have been ideal if I could have left earlier, but with getting the sleepy girls ready for their day out with Tim and feeding everyone and packing snacks, well… such is life!

Ready? to go

Ready(?) to go

My goal

My goal: that summit!

The beginning of the Stairmaster from hell.

The beginning of the Stairmaster from hell.

It's always good to stop and look around.

It’s always good to stop and look around.

I wasn't alone ;)

I wasn’t alone ūüėČ

I almost stepped on this guy.

I almost stepped on this guy.

I actually loved doing a solo hike. I only had my thoughts to contend with. It was quiet, which meant I got to see some wildlife. Best of all, I didn’t feel like I was slowing anyone down. For me, it was a mental challenge as much as a physical one. Initially I worried¬†about getting lost on my own, but after seeing how well worn and marked out the trail is, I knew it wasn’t going to be an issue, so I just enjoyed the solitude.

Steps

More steps

Only 1.6km to go.....

Only 1.6km to go…..

The car park far below.

The car park far below.

It seems a bit obvious but maybe not for some.

The edge seems a bit obvious to me, but maybe not for some.

Yes I'm leaning on that post like my life depended on it.

Yes I’m leaning on that post like my life depends on it.

Beautiful Views

Beautiful Views – looking north west you can clearly see the boundary between the National Park and the farm land beyond – the so-called “Wheat Belt”¬†

An eagle just happened to grace me with its company

An eagle just happened to grace me with its presence near the summit

Cool outcrop

Cool outcrop – words and image by Kathryn, not Tim!

The way down was difficult, to put it mildly. My right knee has been¬†a bit dodgy, so I was favouring my left, which means it was doing a lot of work. If you’ve ever climbed a mountain you know that the way down is often harder, which proved to be the case. I didn’t stop nearly as much as I did on way up, but I took it slowly because¬†the rocks were loose and I was afraid of slipping. I did slip at one point, which thankfully only resulted in a scraped ankle, nothing twisted. To make matters worse, it was approaching noon by the time I neared¬†the bottom, which meant the sun was high, shade was scarce, and it was HOT. Despite having sun cream on (which I might have sweated off by this point) I could feel my skin burning. Miraculously I didn’t get more burnt than I did.

It was only when I got back to the camp ground that I I found out it had reached 40 degrees while¬†I was in the sun in peak hours. I think I only sat down twice on the way down. When¬†I started to feel shaky and dizzy I knew a break was in order, so¬†I found a rock that was a bit shaded, sat and rested, drank water and ate a banana. It was a hard slog, but I finally reached¬†the bottom, where I saw Tim and the girls waiting for me. For some reason they have built stairs that you have to climb up to get to the car park at the end… I actually couldn’t speak when they met me, I was so exhausted.

Tim helped me up the steps while the girls asked for cuddles…haha…and I drank more water, as much as we had left. I laid down for a while before I could move to go to the car. I was so exhausted from the physical exertion and the heat. Thankfully I didn’t get heat stroke or anything and only a mild sunburn. We got back to the camp ground and there was no relief from the heat or¬†the flies. I wanted to lay down and rest, but the tent was too hot and stuffy and the pool was too exposed to the sun at midday. Instead, we sat in the communal kitchen, ate some lunch, and I eventually got to go lay in the tent and doze for a bit before joining Tim and the girls in¬†the pool. Floating felt so good. I’ll let Tim recount his adventure with the girls that day….

Colouring in the tent

Colouring in the tent and eating apricots

Tim was the main camp chef

Tim was the main camp chef

Storytime

Storytime

Breakfast time

Breakfast time

While Kathryn was climbing Bluff Knoll, I took the girls down south Рabout a 40 minute drive Рto the Porongurup Range and Castle Rock. This was a shorter hike, 2.2 kilometres each way, gradually to somewhat steeply ascending a large hill, finishing with a steel walkway/lookout area which is apparently pretty cool. I say apparently because we only made it about 1.7 km up the hill before I realised that:

1) The girls had nothing left in them – they’d already put in an amazing effort, especially Eden, and

2) If we didn’t start back soon we weren’t going to get¬†back in time to pick up Kathryn from Bluff Knoll

So we turned around and cheerfully walked back down the track together…….

I mean, it was terrible. I ended up, for at least half a kilometre of the hike back, having a backpack on my back, Eden on my shoulders, and Kate on my front, clinging like a Koala. I had strangers offer to help me, but I didn’t want to pass¬†my self-inflicted burden on to¬†them, so I trudged along as well as I could. In hindsight, I should have let the strangers help me, but I’m a silly man.

We made it back to the car park in time, but we were all knackered. My shoulders were sore from Eden’s bony legs pressing into them (at one point she moaned, “My legs are soooore”, yet she refused my offer to let her walk by herself!) and all of us were pretty hungry and tired out.

Alas, we made it on time, collected the burnt and weary Kathryn, and headed back to camp.

When we set out on this holiday¬†my heart wasn’t set on climbing Bluff Knoll like Kathryn’s was, but she strongly encouraged me to give it a go the day after she had, so I did. I woke up, scarfed down some breakfast, filled a couple of water bottles and set out by myself. The summit was shrouded in pretty white clouds when I arrived in the car park – quite beautiful.

Tim's view of Bluff Knoll when he set out.

Tim’s view of Bluff Knoll when he set out.

Almost immediately when I embarked on the trail I was struck with the beauty of the flora. So much of Australia (WA at least) has been converted to agricultural land, even in some very hostile climates, so we don’t actually see a whole lot of native bush. Walking the Bluff Knoll track was refreshing, because it gave me a picture of what Australia really is. I didn’t see as many animals as Kathryn did, but I caught glimpses of a few¬†small lizards and I also saw that eagle near the summit, as well as a few other small birds.

The temperature was ideal on my day, and since I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling and playing soccer lately, I didn’t find the climb¬†quite as challenging as Kathryn did, but it was still tough! I pushed myself to go quickly, and made it to the summit in about an hour and ten minutes. I spent some time there admiring the view, looking more closely at the interesting variety of¬†flowers and rocks, and sweating. The wind at the top was invigorating, and¬†surprisingly cold for WA in January (at about 1050m elevation) – as a matter of fact, the summit of Bluff Knoll is about the only location¬†where it snows in WA, and even then it’s not on an annual¬†basis, but more of a rare treat. Sorry Canadians, particularly in light¬†of what you’re going through right now in the East…

Found this little beauty hiding under a rock right at the summit

Found this little beauty hiding under a rock right at the summit

The token selfie

The token selfie

The way down was tough, as Kathryn discussed, but my knees weren’t bothering me on that day so I kind of jogged down in the areas with lots of steps (most of the hike!). When you’re climbing up you can sort¬†of fall into the hill, but on the way down you’ve gotta put a lot of effort into holding yourself back, which is why I think descending is¬†so hard on the joints. Anyhow, it was a great hike and I would highly recommend it to anyone living in WA. It’s only a 4 hour drive from Perth, and it’s an ideal break from the city! Also,¬†I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Stirling Range Retreat if you’re looking to camp nearby.

What do you reckon is worse - going up or down?

What do you reckon is worse – going up or down?

It’s been a long post, so I’ll leave it at that. I really can’t stress enough how beautiful and unique Australia is. The climate is delightfully¬†suited to human¬†life, the smells and sights are like nothing you’ll ever see in Canada (or most anywhere), and we live here, so what are you waiting for? Come see it for yourself! I know it’s expensive and super far away, but…. #yolo