Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Tag: Australia

Half Way Around The World And Back Again


Growing up in Victoria, Australia, I had the opportunity to live among gum trees and wattles, admire the colorful rosellas, and laugh along with the kookaburras who had made their home in my back yard. In my early years, I went to school in the “bush.” The school was an hour from my suburban house, nestled in countryside thick with bushes and trees and lakes and wildlife. In later years, I moved school campuses to a farm boasting an equestrian program and land teeming with life. But I didn’t notice. Preferring to spend my time inside as much as possible, I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t see. I was surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation but spent my childhood with my eyes shut.

Fast forward to 2012. My husband, my then three small children (we now have four), and I moved halfway around the world to Florida, U.S.A. Everything was new and different. I had just discovered Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online and was beginning to learn about a philosophy that would change my life. I didn’t know then all of her principles, but I had learned enough to know that we should go outside and notice. And there was so much to notice in a new country. The colors were brighter, the flora and fauna were different. We delighted to see squirrels for the first time in our lives! We began to keep Nature Journals. They were not pretty. They were spiraled lined cheap notebooks whose pages would tear easily and get soggy with paint. But they were our first experience of going outside and really seeing. We didn’t know the names for most of what we saw but it didn’t matter. We were looking and we were really seeing. For the first time in my life, my eyes were open. Little did I know that I was building what Charlotte Mason termed a “habit of attention.”

When we went back to visit Australia in 2016, it was as though I was seeing it for the first time. It’s fields, it’s trees, it’s grasses, it’s flowers, it’s hills and cliffs and beaches were captivating. How had I not noticed before? I was struck by how different the color palate was to Florida. Gum trees have smooth grey bark! Who knew? I drew my children’s attention to the kookaburras and magpies, the variety of gum trees and the wattle. I didn’t have a name for everything, but I saw it. We saw it. Our eyes were open. And it was beautiful.

Treasured Memories

Mother & Daughter

Photo credit: Sjoerd Lammers

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but one year, while still in primary school (elementary school), I went to stay with my grandparents for a couple of days. I loved staying at their house. Pa spent almost all day in his garage listening to his AM radio, reading the paper, and tinkering with his woodworking stuff.  Nan pottered around in the house and her garden. This particular year I had a special project I wanted to do for my mum’s birthday and I needed Nan and Pa’s help while I stayed with them. I wanted to make my mum a jewelry box decorated with the shells that I had collected from the beach. Pa helped me make the box. He showed me how to glue and nail the sides, and how to apply the stain once the box was assembled. Nan then helped me line the inside of the box with beautiful red velvet, and we then glued the shells around the outside. It looked fantastic. Mum loved it. She still has it all these years later and still speaks of how precious it is to her.

A couple of months ago, my mum came to visit us from Australia for the first time. It had been three years since I had seen her face to face. That is a long time between hugs.

Having such a lengthy absence from family is difficult. There is a sense of separation from our day to day lives. As helpful as Facebook and technology are in keeping loved ones involved and up to date with what is happening, they can’t perfectly replace actually being there in each other’s lives. The benefit of a lengthy absence, however, is that when you are together, you are more intentional about your time. So during this 6-week visit, we made the most of it.  We went to Disney World, a life long dream of my mother’s. We went to Kennedy Space Center, visited parks and springs, went to our favorite restaurants, and introduced her to our favorite people. She met her newest grandson for the first time and helped us celebrate his first birthday. She was here for Easter lunch, and I was able to spoil her for her birthday. These were very special moments—moments I will treasure.

Amazing as these outings and activities were, they are not the highlight of her visit for me. It was the time spent at home with her that I will treasure most. Mum spent many, many hours with my children. She taught them to make scones, she read them stories, and they baked hot cross buns for Easter. She made dolls with the girls out of wool. She taught my oldest to design and sew cushion covers on a sewing machine. She wrote songs on the piano with my musically inclined middle daughter. She baked cupcakes with and read stories to my youngest girl, and had lots and lots of cuddles and outside adventures with my toddler son.

Mum spent time enriching my children’s lives with the skills and knowledge that her grandmother had passed on to her. These are the moments I treasure in my heart, just as my mum cherishes that jewelry box I made with my grandmother all those years ago.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Missing you already and I look forward our next visit together.

What are your treasured memories of your mum?

A Tale Of Two Honey Possums – A Grand Conversation

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Our read aloud for today was A Tale of Two Honey Possums by Felicity Bradshaw and beautifully illustrated by Patricia Negus. Bradshaw is a biologist from Western Australia who has studied honey possums for over 20 years. It is a sweet story about Benji and Noola, brother and sister honey possums born to Mother Possum, and their first year of life.

I am no expert on living books but I love this story. It is a wonderful book that can easily be used as a natural science book for young children. It contains great detail of the honey possum, their physical attributes, what they eat, where they live, how it’s young are raised, and what the dangers are for them. It also contains a great deal of information about other animals who share there habitat amongst the Banksia in the Australian bush. But it is not a boring textbook. I would put it in the same rank as The Burgess Animal Book and The Burgess Bird Book. In fact I think it’s a little better. The story is engaging and captivated my children’s imagination. Especially when the honey possums endured a bush fire and their home was completely burnt. The development of the fire in the story sparked a long conversation with my children about bush fires. For most Victorians (people who live in Victoria, Australia, where I was from) the topic of bush fires is really close to home, as a few years ago Victoria suffered one of the worst bush fires in our history. There were around 300 fatalities and entire towns were burnt to the ground. Bush fires are a very big threat every summer in rural Victoria and fire safety ads flood TV and radio to help ensure people are prepared in the event of a fire.

When I first brought this book out to read to the children my hopes were that they would learn some wonderful, interesting facts about Australian animals and our beautiful flora. Instead, unexpectedly, this simple story about the adventures of two honey possums sparked, as Charlotte Mason would call it, a “grand conversation” about bush fires, what they’re like, how they start, and what we should do. This then led to practicing what to do in the event of a house fire, having lots of fun crawling around the house, testing to see if doors were hot, and eventually making our way out of the house to the letter box. I’m not sure if there is much danger from fires here in Florida, but our impromptu lesson on fire safety sparked by our little book of A Tale of Two Honey Possums, I count as one of our best examples of stories having a meaningful impact on our children. I feel confident that this will be a treasured book in our children’s library and I look forward to the next grand conversation when we read it again. Perhaps it will be a discussion about endangered Australian marsupials? Here’s hoping…

This book is available from the artist Patricia Negus and at Abebooks

What stories have sparked a “grand conversation” in your home?

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