A Holiday – Hike, Cook, Eat, Sleep. Repeat

We just had a 2 week vacation in Western Australia. We found a house in the woods and went glamping by the lake. We hiked most days, tried mountain biking, visited a farm and hung out at our rental homes.

Our first stop was Denmark, a coastal town near Albany. We found a 3 storey house in the woods. It was an old house that was very well kept and comfortable. The furnishing wasn’t fanciful. They were basic yet functional. It was not too long ago that I had begun to appreciate the charm of a comfortable old home and the effort required to upkeep it. It’s a bit like being married for 50 years.

The Australian cockatoos were regular visitors to the house and one of the highlights of our stay there was the daily bird feeds. There were the pink and the green ones. They were so pretty and friendly! We could actually feed them directly from our hands.

The fireplace was another attraction where the boys spent many hours figuring out how to set up a good fire. From collecting twigs, leaves, branches to setting up a tinder nest and carefully kindling the fire.

Our second stop was at Cowaramup, a quaint little town 12 km north of Margaret River. We rented a good looking tent next to the lake. No, we didn’t set up the tent. It was all set up when we arrived and we had all the comfort of a home! It had a bathroom, 2 beds, 2 sofa chairs, coffee table, dining table and a small kitchenette. I felt so pampered and was embarrassed to call ourselves campers.

My elder son enjoyed hanging out by the the lake with a book while my younger boy spent most of his time playing with his new friends (a pair of siblings). They were into butterfly hunting and told him that they could catch 2 butterflies a day.

So while my boy introduced them to ‘spearfishing’, they taught him how to hunt for butterflies. He came back with a glass jar lined with sand, rocks and bits of grass, a home ready for the butterflies.

Then they got together to build a ‘house’. They were probably planning to build one big enough for themselves but realised it was too difficult to find branches and twigs as tall as them. They made a mini one instead.

Shortly after we became parents, we discovered that the best kind of family vacation would be to park ourselves somewhere surrounded by hiking trails (if it’s summer) or ski slopes (if it’s winter). It’s a little embarrassing to share our travel itineraries which usually revolves around hikes, skis and supermarkets!

We hardly eat out and we cook our meals most of the time.

During this trip, the boys learned to cook rice and steam vegetables using a microwave because that was all we had in our tent. We don’t have a microwave at home so they were quite impressed that they could cook a proper meal using the microwave.

With a communal BBQ hot plate, we cooked fried rice, stir fried spinach, chicken, and grilled steaks, pork chops and sausages. We had quite a spread.

While I find it stressful to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen, my husband relishes the challenge of it. He is the ‘adventurous closet cook’. I guess being outdoors and being surrounded by trees made it even more fun!

While I complained about not being able to take a break from cooking even when we were on holiday, I realised that such moments were part of our holiday experience.

I like the warm and fuzzy feeling of being together in a foreign land. Experiences that brought us closer and filled up our memory jars.

For good or bad, these are the experiences that we have gone through together and the boys would probably grow up remembering that holidays are supposed to be like that – camp out, hike/ski and cook improvised meals. 

 

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Goodbye 2017, Hello 2018

Gosh. It’s been raining since we landed and we woke up to a gloomy 2018.

We had spent the last day of 2017 unpacking, washing and clearing the boys’ wardrobes. We cleared out 4 bags of their old clothes, most of them too small for my elder son yet too big to fit his younger brother. I have been hoarding these clothes thinking that one day my younger one could fit. But most of the time, it never happens! I would forget about them and start buying new ones!

Perhaps the biggest word to sum up 2017 is Simplify.

Between my husband and I, I am the hoarder and he’s the thrower. He’s a minimalist and through him, I’ve seen what it’s like to live with the essentials. I witness that every time we travel.

From the things we pack to the itineraries we plan. He can travel with a bar of soap and 2 days worth of clothes, because according to him, you can always rewear or wash them! I am secretly glad the boys take after him and they would make fun of their Mom who needs a BAG of toiletries!

I am your typical tourist still learning to be a more adventurous traveller.

Our December last minute holiday in Australia was planned (or should I say unplanned since it was so last minute!) around simplicity. The main itinerary was to explore new hiking trails and get close to nature. We basically parked ourselves in one place for a few days and hiked. I actually felt relaxed, despite all the strenuous hikes. I got to contemplate between my wants and my needs. It was kind of liberating when you got that figured out.

We packed our books and a deck of poker cards. The boys finished all the books they brought and we played cards almost every night. I was so happy that they could actually live without their gadgets and electronic games!

While my elder boy was happy lounging around with a book, my younger one was always finding things to play. He was constantly on a look out for sticks. He collected those which were shaped like ‘guns’ and carry them everywhere we went so that he could shoot ‘enemies’

Then he found a long straight stick and spent many hours sharpening it with rocks. It was sharp enough that if you threw it like a javelin, it would stick into the ground !

At the glamping ground, he made a couple of friends and they would play till dusk.


They wandered off to the remote part of the lake and ‘spearfish’ with the spear he made.

He told me that there was no fish so they decided to see who can throw the furthest rocks. They surprised a flock of ducks swimming in the lake which flew off just before I snapped this picture.

This picture sort of round up 2017 and a reminder for me to strive towards simplicity for 2018.

“In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trips to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime, Saturday morning pancakes. ” ~ Kim John Payne, Simplicity Parenting (one of my favourite parenting reads)

Here’s to a new year with less things and less clutter but more space for experiences and memories with the people we loved.

Happy New Year.
 
 

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Letting Children Be Children

It’s the December month and it has been wet and gloomy. Love the cooler weather but being kept indoors with the boys during the school holidays can be the surest way to drive me up the wall. Imagine them kicking ball in our little apartment. It drives me crazy and sometimes I think it’s their way to test my patience and limit. They are probably thinking, ‘if we make enough noise, Mom may just pass us the iPads!’

I have to admit that it works most times. Other times, I just let them wear themselves out. Occasionally they will surprise me with something pleasant. Like yesterday afternoon, when the younger one got too bored playing with his Lego men and fiddling with my new air diffuser that emits spiraling vapour. He pulled out his crates of wooden blocks and started building, yet another Rube Goldberg machine.

Rube Goldberg machine is a series of devices put together to perform simple tasks. They are linked together to produce a domino effect in which activating one device triggers the next device in the sequence. No, I didn’t introduce it to him, he learned it from YouTube.

As usual, his machine didn’t work well. It failed to set off the kind of chain reactions that he had in mind. We had a good laugh trying to take videos which were interrupted with failed trigger points. He was soon back at working on his next contraption as soon as we finished running through the first one. Sometimes he gets frustrated after multiple attempts but usually he would pick himself up, dust himself off and start again.

I’ve lost count of the number of contraptions he has made, every one is different, some more complicated than others. Sometimes he would exhaust using all his toys and rummage through the house for suitable materials. He could work at it for hours and it was a delight to see him so fully engrossed working at something, determined to get it to work.

It dawned on me that perseverance, grit and determination come naturally when children are doing something they enjoy. They learn through having fun and play give them a chance to practice what they are learning. 

How often do we have to tell our kids that they should keep on trying and never give up? I know I do and perhaps I should feel guilty.

Guilty for failing to realise that they probably aren’t very interested in the first place. Guilty for trying to mold a ‘perfect’ child, when we ourselves aren’t perfect. Guilty for forgetting that play and having fun is essential, even for adults as we get bogged down by responsibilities and routine.

Guilty for expecting the best effort at everything, in the name of character and value building. Can we do it ourselves?  Of course, there is no rules that say that parents can’t expect more from their children but to what end?

Ultimately I think it is not just about aptitude, it’s about passion. By doing what we love, we tap into our natural energy and become our most authentic selves.

So while it may be tempting to plan their days with meaningful play and purposeful learning this school holiday, perhaps we should first cast aside the fallacy that ‘Mom knows best’. More importantly, we should  grant them the space and time to play, to explore, to wonder and to be the children that they are.

 

 
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