We’ve been looking over some of our old Christmas letters (which slowly became New Year letters) with the girls. We did our first letter in 1987 and have only missed 2009 and 2011 since then. We’ve realised how bad some (ok, most) were but we also recognise they are a great (ok, not bad) record of our lives. We’ve thus decided we will do it again in 2013 for our sake (even though it is late as usual) and, as we are putting in the effort, it is only fair to submit you to it too!
Last year was an election year, so we have decided to go with the theme of broken promises. The following are some of the promises we broke in 2013.
“I will stay in primary school for one more year” (Jasmine to her primary school teachers)
Despite this promise, Jasmine has Goneski and started high school! She enjoyed her first year at our local high school (Lambton High) and has a lovely group of friends (including her cousin and second cousin Rahni). She has learnt many useful things in her first year including how to use a Bunsen burner, where the library is, how to convince teachers to give her good marks, and that she probably won’t take up sport as a career. She is currently leaning towards science, maths and music, but enjoys the broad range of subjects offered.
“I won’t do my homework sitting on the table” (Alexa)
Alexa is an enthusiastic girl with wide interests. Currently, her ideal job would be as a reporter on the ABC’s Catalyst show. She has already demonstrated her ability for investigative reporting by solving (in Kindergarten!) the mystery of the tooth fairy by conducting an experiment in which she counted the money in our wallets before and after the arrival of the tooth fairy. (You can read more here.) Since then she has continued to investigate the existence of Santa (busted!), enjoys the challenge of thinking through issues in her ethics classes, hopes to join the Year 5 debating team in 2014 and loves writing (without the constraints of conventional spelling!)
“Of course there will be a great band at high school Jasmine” (Cathy and Graeme)
Unfortunately Jasmine would quite often go to band rehearsal and she would be the only one there (not even a teacher!) Not all was lost, as she joined the Conservatorium Concert Band which consists of high-school-aged musicians with at least Grade 4 for their instrument.
Jaz completed Grade 4 flute in 2013, so she is a beginner compared to many of them. With a concert each term (they sound amazing), it is certainly broadening her musical experience and challenging her playing.
Alexa continues to play clarinet in the school band and has joined a school ukulele group.
You will not have to be a shooter in this team” (Jasmine’s netball coach)
Despite the rude comment about Jasmine’s sporting ability above (good parents wouldn’t have thought of it, let alone included it), she continues to love netball. In the last match of the season, neither of the normal shooters was available so Jasmine played the final quarter as Goal Shooter instead of her normal position in Wing Attack. The other team looked quite perplexed when the Shortland Pandas and half the crowd went crazy when she scored a goal (her first for at least four years).
“We will avoid flying as much as possible” (All of us)
Although we are committed to reducing our air travel (Graeme still has to do a bit for work this coming year), Alexa is flying weekly. She has taken up cheerleading (we know many of you will be surprised we agreed) and is a flyer (second from the right) – one of the ones who are thrown in the air as part of the routine.
She also does Hip Hop and plans to continue both in 2014.
“By 2014, Newcastle will be environmentally sustainable” (Cathy and Graeme)
Newcastle still has a very long way to go, but we did get our photo taken with Costa Georgiadis (from Gardening Australia)! We are both very active in Transition Newcastle (promoting local sustainability) and environmental initiatives increasingly take up our spare time. Transition Newcastle’s major project, the Transition Streets Challenge (which brought together neighbours to explore how they could become more sustainable), was highly commended at the 2013 NSW Sustainable City Awards.
We often despair at the level of political and community response to, and awareness of, climate change and other environmental issues, but are also continually inspired by the amazing work being done around the world to address the challenges we face.
“I won’t do any more home renovations” (Cathy)
Cathy nearly made it through the year without starting renovations, but has just started renovating the cubby house with the girls – it’s becoming a chicken coop!
Most of Cathy’s time is now spent on projects around sustainability. She does lots of work for Transition Newcastle (e.g., she coordinated and wrote large sections of a detailed workbook for the Transition Streets Challenge), is a member of Permaculture Hunter, has a great vegetable garden, and is building connections in our street (see below). We rarely have a main meal without something from the garden and quite often she has grown all the vegetables in the meal (and there can be 10 vegetables and herbs in the one meal).
“I will spend less time on the computer” (Graeme)
Graeme continues to work four days/week at the Family Action Centre, University of Newcastle. Even though his focus is on community engagement he doesn’t actually meet many of his students, instead doing nearly all his teaching online. One of the subjects he teaches is part of Australia’s first Master of Family Studies and he also took over a subject on school and community partnerships (which was particularly interesting giving his involvement in Jasmine and Alexa’s schools’ Parent and Citizens Associations). Besides teaching, his role also includes supporting organisations to work with communities, and undertaking research relating to strengths-based work with communities.
Graeme also writes a blog on community engagement, sustainability and building on community strengths (https://sustainingcommunity.wordpress.com). At the rate he is going he will have as many views as the video of Gangnam Style in a bit over 51,000 years.
“We will leave the neighbours alone!” (Cathy, Jasmine and Alexa)
With the help of Jasmine and Alexa, Cathy started the Kids’ Vegies on the Verge for the kids in the street. Not only is there now a flourishing vegetable garden (according to the girls, it has the best corn they’ve ever tasted), but it has also helped to build the sense of community in the street. As Alexa said, “We didn’t just build a garden, we built a community!” Girls in the street who didn’t know each other have become great friends, we now talk to people we hardly knew, we’ve had a community garage sale and there have been a range of social events. The girls also formed a music group (The Pop Plants) to perform “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” at a street chicken burger night. Graeme helps with special events and working bees, and writes it up in his blog.
We now just need to encourage Councils to make this type of initiative legal!
“I will not play with fire” (Alexa)
We wanted to send the video to Australia’s Funniest Videos, but Alexa hasn’t given her permission – yet.
“We won’t submit our friends to lots of family photos”
Of course we’re going to include some more photos of our gorgeous girls!
“Next year we will make sure our Christmas letter goes out before Christmas” (Cathy and Graeme, 2012)
Even though we are very late (yet again), we hope you had a good Christmas and New Year, and that you have a safe, fulfilling 2014.
Alexa, Jasmine, Cathy and Graeme