Conversations @ 12 years old

Today as we got in the car to take Lillian back to boarding school, she saw a little scrap of string on the front seat.

“Why do you have string in the car?” she asked.

“No reason… not everything has to have an explanation.”

“There’s always an explanation.  Maybe its just we don’t know what it is.”

“Not everything.

“Like what doesn’t have an explanation?

“Radioactive decay, for one.” I ventured.

She didn’t know what that was, so the conversation from there traversed atomic theory, sub-atomic particles, radioactive decay, nuclear power, nuclear weapons and how you make them, the nuclear arms race and the insanity thereof, the Cuban missile crisis, a brief history of the Soviet Union, conversion of old nuclear warheads into fuel for reactors, rogue states with nuclear programs, the North Korean economy, why some economies don’t work well, and the difficulty of military intervention into North Korea.

“I want to go to live in Antarctica,” she said as we were pulling into a parking spot in the leafy grounds of her school.

“Why Antarctica??”

“Nobody can bomb us there.”

“Well, we’d be pretty safe in South Gippsland. At least for a while.”

We’re walking towards the boarding house, my arm loosely over her shoulder.  “How do you know all this stuff?” she asked, sounding like she might like to know lots of stuff too.

“Well, some of it you learn in history, some in chemistry…  All these subjects are good.” I said, as we walk past the library.



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Lillian’s homework was to hand in a piece of her writing.   She asked me to print this

the fields are chill the sparse rain has stopped
the colors of spring teem on every side
with leaping fish the blue pond is full
with singing thrushes the green boughs droop
the flowers of the field have dabbled their powdered cheeks
the mountain grasses are bent level at the waist
by the bamboo stream the last fragment of cloud
blown by the wind slowly scatters away

It seemed like a very nice poem, but not one that she could have written.  Turns out it was by acclaimed Chinese poet Li Bai.

We talked about how its not OK to hand in somebody else’s work as if it was your own.

The next morning, before school, she wrote:

The wind blows.

The wind blows,
The river flows,
The trees rustle,
And the birds sing.

Which is also very nice.

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Who invented these?

We’re walking to school.

“Who invented these clips?” she asks, pointing at the clip on the strap across her chest which joins the two shoulder straps of her school backpack.

Of course I have no idea.

“Who invented backpacks, anyway?” she continues, deepening the inquiry.

I still have no idea, but doubt that any person did.

I ask: “Who invented little girls who ask so many questions?”

“Daddy, that’s silly.  Nobody did.”

“See!” I say, as if the implication were obvious and the matter closed.

“That doesn’t mean nobody invented these clips.” she smartly replies, putting me in check.

“You’re quite right,” I say, very pleased with her logical deftness.   I give her a strong shoulder hug.

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Grade 2 Piano



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Budding scientist

As I tucked Lillian into bed, said: “You’re going to be a scientist.”  “Really? Maybe I’ll be a cleaner!” she said mischievously.

Earlier, when I arrived at the school to pick up her up, she was off by herself collecting little chunks of magnetite from the playground dirt, using a small magnet to identify them.

When we got home, I removed an unwanted new Indian Myna nest from our side shed. In it were three small blue eggs. Lillian proceeded blow them out, having searched online to find out how to do it.  (She was tearful for a little while after breaking the first one.)  She put the two remaining emptied eggs into a small padded box for protection.

After dinner, she figured out how to help Mummy learn a piano piece by systematically sticking little coloured tabs on the piano keys.


Then, before bed, we played advanced (i.e. above her year level) algebra games on the iPad.  She was impatient with the easy earlier exercises; she said “I want to get to the ones where you really have to think.”

She loves nature and learning and thinking.  Pity she thinks she doesn’t like school and maths in particular.



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Home-made bow and arrow, home-made target.  Self-taught archery skills.


See if she hits the swinging target…

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Strange directions

“You know, when I’m on the ice (at the ice-skating rink) and I blow my nose, like into a tissue, I go backwards! I can’t help it!”


This morning she was experimenting to see if she could eat weetbix upside down.  So she did a handstand against the wall and Teresa spooned some into her mouth.

After coming down: “That’s how flamingos eat.  Their head is upside down and the food goes up!”

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