Bush Walking at Easter
This Easter we did two bushwalks with the kids - on Easter Sunday, part of the Manly to Spit Walk, and on Easter Monday, part of the Gulgadya Mura at Manly Dam.
Easter Sunday was pleasant. The day started off slightly overcast, which was good for our purposes. I stayed in bed while the boys ate too much chocolate, then I got up and went for a run around the North Head and towards Shelly Beach. It was achingly beautiful. I wished that some of my family could come and visit to see how gorgeous our surroundings are.
After my run we had a surprisingly short battle getting the boys to stop playing on their screen items, and then the usual drawn-out and tiresome attempts to get all four children ready to go out of the house. We finally got in the car and drove to Dobroyd Head.
The Manly to Spit Walk is also known as the Manly Scenic Walkway. We did part of it way back when Princess was little enough to be carried in a Mei-Tai style baby carrier. The route is definitely not suitable for a buggy or pram and it was a bit risky taking Princess this time with no carrier, but she coped very well. In retrospect we shouldn’t have set out at around lunchtime as she was due for a sleep and therefore fell asleep in the car on the way there. However, Drama King soon woke her up again (contrary to our instructions) and luckily she was pretty cheerful and didn’t try to go back to sleep.
We parked at Tania Park near the Arabanoo look-out and played a little bit of frisbee and soccer before the boys started to grumble and ask when we were going on our walk. We had been walking for about 10 minutes when one of the boys announced he needed a poo! Luckily the path was still very close to Tania Park so my man and the boy in question were able to hop back up in search of a toilet. The rest of us ate some rockmelon and drew pictures with some different coloured sandstone rocks.
After the loo break we set off in the direction of the Spit. The sky started to clear but I was glad that overall it was not a very hot or sunny day. We had taken roughly 1 litre water each but didn’t need to drink that much on our walk. The boys took turns being ‘leader’ and Reptile Boy took great pleasure in being the ‘scientist’ and carrying our sandstone samples we had picked up during the loo break. Princess varied between running to catch up with her brothers, running in the opposite direction to everyone else, refusing to move anywhere or being carried by one of her parents.
There are a few great views of Sydney Harbour on this part of the walk and it was easy to pick out places local to our apartment like the Q station and Collins Flat Beach.
One of my reasons for taking the whole family on the walk was to tie in with our work we have done on pre-history and early art. We stopped to have a look at the rock carvings at Grotto Point. They were completely different to my expectations: larger, and on the ground, rather than in a cave. They showed a couple of wallabies or kangaroos and several fish. There was little information about them and I have no idea how old they are. I realise now that I was expecting them to look like the cave art we saw in Kakadu, or the ones we saw on the BBC ‘How Art Made the World’ documentary.
Apparently conservation of these and other rock carvings is a somewhat controversial issue. It’s certainly not as simple as handing them over for curation by local people with aboriginal background. The rock carvings can only be cared for and maintained by select people and often those people are not alive or available any more. There’s more about this issue, with a list of other rock carving locations, on the Australia for Everyone website.
We also saw several bags of quarried sandstone lying around in the bush, evidence of the human intervention required to keep the path in a good state. Later we saw several newly built or renovated parts of the path with gullies for draining rainwater. The sandstone erodes pretty quickly, so this seems like a good approach, and reminded me of my work ages ago repairing the Cornish coastal path with The Conservation Volunteers when they were known as BTCV.
We knew the children wouldn’t manage to walk the whole way to the Spit so we told them we would stop at the beach and then go back to Dobroyd Head. It wasn’t much of a beach. There were some boys swimming, but it looked pretty cold and rough, and neither of us wanted our children to go near the waves. When I got back I did a bit of Googling and realised we had stopped just short of Castle Rock beach, which is actually pretty sandy and pleasant. Hopefully we’ll get there next time.
The distance was about right. Both Reptile Boy and Princess were tired on the way back, but not to the point of tantrums or unreasonable behaviour. It took us just under 2 hours with plenty of stops and I think it was about 2k to the (small rocky) beach and 2k back. Next time we will start at the Spit and see how far we can go.
On Easter Monday we drove to Manly Dam, which was busier than usual (due to the holiday), parked at one of the further car parks, had a picnic lunch and set off along the ‘Gulgadya Mura’ pathway. The whole walk is about 8 km so we knew we wouldn’t do it all. We aimed to get to one of the waterfalls, about 1.5 k along. Again, this was probably the right distance to aim for, and all the children were excited to see the waterfall, but Drama King was grumbling about his feet hurting and Reptile Boy was quite slow on the way back. There are loads of paths to the Dam from other roads so maybe next time we will park in a different place and see if we can get a bit further along.
I picked up some ochre stones and I’m thinking of crushing them to use as pigment for painting. We’re currently learning about colours and dyes in our Science Club and I hope it will be a fun activity.
Quick Family update
It was Pokemon Boy’s birthday last week and that’s as good a reason as any to do a quick update on what’s going on with our family. Pokemon Boy is much the same as usual, except he’s obsessed with Minecraft instead of Pokemon at the moment, he’s far larger than he was a year ago, and his hair is growing back into a great mop. He looks like a 12 year old and fits into 14 year old clothes. I blame all the sunshine.
Thank you to everyone who sent presents over. I was very pleased that he asked for specific items from most people, and it seems that the Lego kits have reignited his interest in Star Wars as he was watching Episode 2 again last night.
Partly due to Drama King being at home with us, I feel that I’m not spending enough one-to-one time with Pokemon Boy. We have plans to send Drama King to classes and then spend the time playing Lego Rock Band together! My man is also going to go cycling with him on Saturday mornings.
My man is still fairly content with his job, although he also says that he doesn’t want to do it forever. He briefly looked into doing the same kind of work but in a different company, where one of his friends works. In the end it seemed he had a better deal where he is now. I bought him a guitar for Christmas and some guitar lessons for his birthday, and was worried that he would never find the time to actually go to the lessons. But I can hear him practising while I type away, and it’s great that he has something relaxing to do when he’s not working.
We might have to move at some point because we have now lost the tax break on our rent, but we keep putting off actually making the decision. We have both been looking at other options. We have realised that the place we have now is quite a good price for what we have: a short, safe walk into town or the Wharf; four bedrooms, a big balcony, a large kitchen and living room, a double garage, a shared pool and a harbour view! We won’t be able to get anything like that for 2/3 the price so we will have to give up something. We might end up sacrificing location rather than size. Also, we have about 100 boxes in the garage which have hardly been opened since we moved. I know it would make sense to sort through them before we move and get rid of things we don’t want, but I am baulking at the job. It’s not as if I have loads of time on my hands to do it.
Drama King is still enthusiastic, energetic and loud. During the term before Christmas, it was difficult for all of us to have him at home instead of school, but I think we’ve settled into it now. We have done quite a few excursions this term and that seems to suit him fine. He had a great time at a samba drumming workshop organised by SHEN and I am thinking of getting drumming lessons for him next term. He needs to do something creative and energetic - drama, music or drumming would be good. He’s missing the Sydney Vocal Arts Centre holiday camp this holiday because he’s doing a soccer clinic with Brazilian Soccer Schools instead. We’ll see if that leads to anything.
Reptile Boy is having a great time at Ivanhoe Park preschool (run by Manly Council) but as I’ve already said, he gets terribly exhausted after three full days. Going in late didn’t seem to help so I tried keeping him off for a day one week, and this made a huge difference, i.e. we didn’t have a tantrum at the park after preschool that Wednesday, and he stayed awake in the car on the way home! Lots of his friends find it quite interesting that he had a day off for being tired. I think it’s a good habit to get into.
Reptile Boy is still fascinated by all things in nature. The other children at the preschool already know plenty about our capsicum plants and all the crabs we see at the East Esplanade during our morning walks. He’s also asked me to change his nickname here to be ‘Marine Boy’ or something similar, because we all rather suspect he might end up being a marine biologist. I’ve booked for us all to see the latest under the sea IMAX film next week, particularly because I know that he will love it.
Reptile Boy had been getting a bit reluctant to do his swimming lessons at Brooke Withers Swim School, but has been inspired by the certificates on the wall and now wants to stay until he gets to Seal level! (That’s better than Pokemon Boy can swim at the moment.) I have renewed lessons for another term but I think we might still have Term 3 off. Last year we missed too many lessons in Term 3 due to colds and other viruses so I think it won’t hurt to have a short break.
Princess also loves her swimming lessons but only performs when it is on her terms. She is behaving like a typical toddler apart from the lack of words. She’s very expressive with her noises and faces but only really says ‘Mum!’ or ‘More!’ in a loud insistent voice. She is fiercely independent. You really should see her when she comes out of daycare on Tuesdays and insists on carrying both her rucksack (with spare clothes and nappies) and her lunch box. She looks like she’s off on an excursion. The combination of both bags is too heavy for her but she always starts off down the road carrying both. She loves drawing and often will sit at the table scribbling away while her older brothers are studying. She still pulls everything out of the cupboards and drawers and strews items all over the place. She now knows how to pull a stool over to reach even more of our junk. It’s getting hard to keep the apartment tidy even by our low standards. Luckily I have a new, younger, cleaner who doesn’t mind picking things up from the floor.
I am very busy and very tired. In fact I might investigate whether I have a thyroid malfunction because I feel I’m getting more tired than I have done in previous years, when I have been doing far more work. However that’s not stopping me from trying to establish baby signing classes and science workshops here in Sydney. I’m making slow progress since I have very little time to myself but paid-for science workshops should start next term and signing may be ready for the term after that, or at least by the end of the year.
I have a 10 k run coming up next week and the two older boys are doing 5 k on the same course. It’s pretty hilly and I think it might be a shock for them. They did a 4 k cross-country a few weeks ago and ended up walking a significant amount of it, but they are both resisting my suggestions of any further training. I have put on 2 kg since this time last year so I’m not expecting a great time but will be happy to just get round. After that I’ll set myself another challenge. I still hope to swim with the Bold and Beautiful before the end of the year but have only been swimming in the pool so far.
My man and I had a break on Good Friday, staying at the Q Station while I paid for a babysitter (our old nanny) to sleep overnight with the boys. We left Princess at home for the afternoon but went back to collect her before nighttime so she and I didn’t have a night away from each other. The Q Station was beautiful and a really good break. I love living near the North Head with all the wildlife and all the history. I read the whole booklet about the history of the Quarantine Station while my man was sleeping. We had a picnic on the beach and later a walk in the dark. We thought we had a rat scrabbling around near our room but saw it running around and it was actually a long-nosed bandicoot. There are loads of rabbits all around the North Head and we’ve also seen plenty of possums. Near the car park we saw an owl, or perhaps a tawny frogmouth. I wasn’t sure.
Pictures may follow in the next post.
Sydney Running Festival
19:40. That’s Princess’s PB for 3.5 km, she finished 481 out of 5,200 finishers – pretty good for a 1 year old, eh? Especially as she was asleep! Okay, she was in the jogging buggy and my dear man was running pretty fast to try to catch up with our two older boys.
Yes, the whole family took part in the Sydney Running Festival this September. It’s a great event – I would thoroughly recommend it to other families. I think the organisation could have been improved upon. I was unimpressed when they gave us the wrong number for Drama King, and then let my man pick up the right number without checking who he was, or if the number was supposed to have been given out already. But, hey, this is Sydney, and the numbers attending an event like this are never going to be as big as in London or New York. And maybe I was one of the few people who actually read the instructions in the booklet given to everyone. Reptile Boy and I were well slower than the minimum speed of 11:40 per km for the Family Fun Run, so I’m quite glad no-one enforced it.
We caught a cab to Milson’s Point, and the taxi driver saved us a 10 minute walk by driving all the way to Bradfield Park rather than North Sydney train station, the recommended drop-off point. He said he’d already done three trips there that morning. As usual, it wasn’t really worth turning up an hour before the start time, but we wandered around, ate a bit of breakfast, put on some suncream and went to the loo. The loos were very well organised, with hardly a wait at all. This was reassuring, after other races I’ve been to with 10 or 20 women queuing up for a single toilet 5 mins before the start.
I had registered the two older boys as running at a good pace, which meant they had a different start point to the rest of us, and started running a good five or ten minutes before us too. The plan was that my man would dash off with the jogging buggy and try to catch them up. Despite my man zooming round the course they still managed to finish before him – but this is what led to Princess’s great PB!
Drama King and Pokemon Boy finished in a great time of 22:52, and did exactly what we asked them to, staying together the whole time and waiting for us at the SunCorp Bank area. My man and Princess finished next but faster at 19:40, and Reptile Boy and I wandered in at a magnificent time of 51:00. I don’t think Reptile Boy has the competitive spirit of the others, but he sure enjoyed looking down the holes on the Harbour Bridge and was excited to be walking over the top of the train tracks at Circular Quay.
In the ‘recovery village’ we met up with our good friends from the Eastern Beaches who had also done the run with their three kids. We tried to steer Drama King away from the free energy drinks and towards our pre-paid sausage sizzle, then all the children had fun playing in the trees and joining in with a Capoeira demo, while the adults sat around, read the paper and had cups of tea.
We could have done with more loos that end of the race, as we ended up detouring into the Opera House and never got back into the Botanic Gardens. We bought ice cream at Baskin Robbins and took a fast ferry back to Manly for a lazy afternoon with lots of screen time – but well deserved this time, I feel.
Our beautiful Princess
Princess is nearly nine months old now. I love this age. She’s still roly-poly and cuddly, but so much more interactive than a newborn. Her personality is beginning to come out, and what a personality it is!
Easy-going: She keeps herself busy when the rest of us are busy. She is generally happy to go along with whatever the family is doing, as long as no-one is hurting her, and she’s not tired or hungry. When something bothers her, the grumbles don’t last long. She knows she’s going to be attended to when I can. Everyone comments on how happy she seems to be and how much she smiles.
Gregarious: She loves being with other people. Her dad and brothers have just gone out, to give me some peace, and she stood at the stair gate and cried to see them go. She waves her arms around madly when her brothers appear. During the week, if she’s awake when my man gets back from work, she races over to see him. She smiles at strangers when they show an interest in her, and in my yoga classes she crawls all over the place to investigate everything in the room and visit all the mums. One day she even sucked someone else’s toe when they were trying to get into position.
Her relationship with Reptile Boy is getting much better. He’s realised he can make her laugh by doing silly things, or tickling her, and she just loves it. I think she has started to say his name - just the end syllable. It sounds a bit like she’s just grunting, but it’s distinct from her other noises. She may be trying to sign his initial letter too.
Active: I can’t believe how active this girl is. All the physical milestones have come round so quickly: rolling over, sitting up, crawling, pulling herself up to standing, ‘cruising’ holding on to the furniture. It seems that they have come one after the other in quick succession. At most stages, she has been at least six weeks younger than her brothers when they started doing these things . She started crawling at six months and currently she will walk when holding on to our hands. About a month ago she started standing for several seconds unsupported, before lowering herself onto her bottom. In the past week she took her first tentative steps on her own.
When Reptile Boy was six months old I made him a treasure basket full of household and natural objects to investigate. He would happily spend half an hour or more sitting with the basket in ‘heuristic’ play. I have many videos of him with his treasure basket and I remember wishing I had made one for the older boys when they were babies.
This time round, I made Princess a treasure basket in happy anticipation of the amount of pleasure she would get out of it. I had not expected how different she would be, compared to her brother. Quiet contemplation was not for her. The treasure basket hardly got any attention because she was too busy starting to crawl. Right now, she does visit it from time to time, but only on her travels around the living room investigating everything else. Her brothers have to be careful not to leave their books anywhere she might find them as the pages get torn, and they are under strict instructions to keep Lego out of the living room.
Any other milestones to report? Her first tooth came through roughly six weeks ago, and the next followed a couple of weeks later. I think there’s another one coming along soon, because she’s started dribbling and chewing her thumb again. She has beautiful fluffy hair which is slowly getting thicker and I think it might be curly for a while, like Reptile Boy’s was. She’s started saying some things that might be words, particularly “mummy” which is great, as all the boys (or perhaps just the first two) said “dada” before “mumma”. She has started to understand and follow simple instructions we give to her (like “Go to Daddy”).
We all love our little princess.
Today I surprised myself with my organisation and efficiency. Let’s overlook the boys waking me up at 6am, and me eventually getting up half an hour later than my alarm went off. Incredibly, everyone was dressed and ready to catch the 8.50 ferry so we could get to Luna Park before it opened at 10 am.
The sky looked a little overcast as we left our apartment, which was good for us as it meant fewer people at the amusement park. The online reviews I had read were extremely mixed and many mentioned having to queue in blazing sun with little to no shade provided. We stepped off the ferry at Milson’s Point just after 9.40 and went to queue up for our ‘unlimited rides’ wristbands. I had gone online to pay for our wristbands and printed off vouchers to show I had done so. This saved me $20 compared to buying them at the park itself. There was a fast-track line for people with annual passes but we still had to queue up to get our wristbands with everyone else. It may have saved me $20 but I felt this part could have been slightly better organised.
You can get three different colours of wristband, depending on the height of the person wearing them and therefore the number of rides they are allowed to go on. There are also ‘accompanying adult’ wristbands for adults only wanting to accompany smaller children on the rides, and this is what I bought for myself (my dear man getting a full yellow wristband so he could go on the more daring rides should he wish to).
Online reviews mentioned the option to pay for each ride separately should you choose not to buy a wristband. The staff at each ride didn’t offer this option, or appear to have facilities to take any payments, so I wonder if this doesn’t happen any more. There are also many chances to spend more money, particularly at side attractions like ‘shoot the cans’ which are not included in the wristbands and cost between $2 and $5 to have a go. Despite the Angry Birds soft toys on offer as prizes, I managed to persuade our boys that we should go on all the rides we’d already paid for, before deciding whether to pay extra for anything else.
In any case, we got full value out of our wristbands. My man and Pokemon boy were the first on a ride, skipping the Ferris Wheel and the Carousel to go straight for ‘Tango Train’. This looked pretty uninteresting when stationary, but built up enough speed to satisfy any thrill seeker. Drama King was initially upset that he was too short to go on this ride, but once he saw how everyone zoomed round he was quite satisfied with being an onlooker only. The dodgems followed shortly afterwards, and we all had a go on these, with me accompanying Lizard Boy.
We then went straight round Coney Island to the bit at the back with the kiddy rides, the Spider, the Moon Ranger and a smaller, temporary, roller coaster called the Jurassic Coaster. Lizard Boy loved the kiddy rides and Drama King did too. Pokemon Boy and Drama King went on the Jurassic Coaster several times, not deterred by one of the few grumpy staff members in the whole park, who sprayed air at poor confused Drama King when he didn’t know which way to get off the ride.
After a while we ended up in Coney Island, the indoor part of the park with several large slides and various 1930’s activities like Turkey Trot and Barrels of Fun. A few of these require closed footwear (i.e. not sandals or thongs) but we were all forewarned and came in our trainers (known as joggers over here).
Drama King was disappointed that the Mirror Maze closed due to staff shortages. To make up for this, he went on the Joy Wheel several times, winning at least three times that I knew of. This is a flattened metal cone which rotates while the staff tell children to perform various actions like putting their hands on their shoulders, or two legs in the air. The child staying on the cone the longest is the winner.
Pokemon Boy and Drama King spent a long time inside Coney Island. There weren’t so many activities suitable for Lizard Boy here, and my man was getting hungry. These two went to one of the food outlets to have some nachos and chips. (My man was clearly craving carbs, and happy to be spared my usual comments about how to choose a balanced meal.) I didn’t eat at any of the outlets but they appeared to sell the usual junk food. There is a picnic area right at the end of the park for people who have brought their own food.
We had a few tense minutes when Drama King decided he’d had enough of Coney Island, and went off on his own without telling any of us. Luckily we found him fairly easily. By now it was about 2 pm. The kids would probably have carried on for far longer, but we told them to have a few more goes on the rides they liked best. Then the two older boys decided that they wanted to go on the Wild Mouse after all. This is a roller coaster they had skipped earlier because they thought it looked too scary. Finally we caught the 2.53 ferry back to Circular Quay. We just about managed to buy the promised icecreams from Gelatissimo before getting the 3.20 Manly Ferry back home.
Luna Park is the smallest amusement park I have ever been to in my nine years of being a parent, but we all enjoyed it. One good aspect was the number of rides our 3 ½ year old Lizard Boy could go on without being accompanied. There weren’t many more that Drama King could go on unaccompanied. He decided not to go on the Rotor, a ride from the 1950s where you stick to the wall due to centrifugal force alone, and then the floor drops away. However, Drama King seemed pretty satisfied with his day, and our 9 year old Pokemon Boy decided the whole place was ‘awesome’.
The weather meant there were hardly any queues for any of the rides, most of the staff were very friendly and helpful, and since we visited during the off-peak season, it wasn’t too costly either. Compared to somewhere like Chessington World of Adventures, or Legoland Windsor, it is a poor cousin, but I would definitely recommend it to families with kids our age who are in the neighbourhood.
One word of warning I have is not to take toddlers. I was very pleased that our Princess was young enough to spend a large proportion of our five hour visit contentedly sitting in her pram. In eight months or so she should be walking, and I imagine she will be keen to do everything, but sadly too short to go on any of the rides (even accompanied by an adult). If we visit Luna Park again I’m certainly not going to take her with us until she’s 85 cm tall and can go on all the rides Lizard Boy enjoyed so much.
Inspired by another mum who refers to her kids as Video Boy and Wombat Girl, from henceforth until further notice, my eldest will be known as Pokemon Boy (at least until he gets a new obsession), the middle boy is Drama King, the 3 year old is Reptile Boy and our little girl is Princess.