Author Archives: Laina Earl

About Laina Earl

Freelance Journalist for Midweek and Regional Messenger, amateur Photographer, Outdoor enthusiast, wife and mother of 3!

Crikey, let’s be honest!

We’re on the countdown to another family adventure.

This time we’re headed to the tip!

Cape York Peninsula!

As a family we’ve only been as far as Lakefield, so I’m super excited!

We’re currently sorting our camp gear, as we’re going back to basics!

After being spoilt with a caravan the past year, I’m really looking forward to the simplicity of bush camping again.

Roughing it.

Though it’s not nearly rough.

We’ve got Engels and burners, gazebo and awning, and our old hut shower, so we’re certainly not going without.

We’ll be in a tent, on stretchers, which is great as conditions pending, we’ll have the option to sleep alfresco.

And they’re great stretchers, a far cry from what I remember using as a kid.

We did a lot of bush camping, and our stretcher was quite the luxury. If you could shotgun it first!

I tried to google one, no luck.

But imagine if you will, a folding stretcher bed thing. 3 sections. Metal frame, legs, with 4 cog like hinges of pinchy death at the joints.

The laying part, was brown and white shiny cold plastic strips.

Like a weaving of 70’s plastic straws! Again, pinchy.

But comfy, so long as the strips stayed together. Which became less & less in the many years we owned this bed.

Getting to the comfy stage could be a little tricksy.

Click click click, perfect relaxing foot elevation.

Click click click click click, bugger too far with the head elevation.

So it was click click click click till folded flat, only then could you revert back to the beginning in one click free swoop, and click click click to the correct angle.

Repeat this process as many incredible annoying times as necessary.

And again when some smart Alec would come by and click you up a notch.


Alternatively, you could click click both ends into a teepee of sorts, and you had a cubby!

The picture with this yarn is of one of our camps in the Northern Territory, back in 80-something. Old school nil sun protective blue tarp and all! You can see my sisters on said camp stretcher bed, and matching chair!

This pic is roughing it!

So yeah, this trip we’re not exactly roughing it, but we’re going simple, and easy, which will allow us to access out of the way camping spots, and I love it already!

As any camper with a brain and a memory would, I do have the Bathurst Bay story in my mind, where a crocodile came out of the ocean, walked into a camp and grabbed a man THROUGH HIS TENT! The grandma sprung into action jumping on the croc, distracting it enough to let the Bloke go, then it grabbed her, dragging her toward the water, when her husband shot it!

Wholey moley.

So I’m thankful for our fancy stretchers, and will definitely be ensuring there’s some form of barrier between our camp and any water source!

I’m picturing the camps they have in Africa to keep lions out!

Could be quite time consuming to do at each camp however.

And I’m going to do what I’ve always wanted to do, and travel blog this trip.

I do it for every trip I know, but I’m planning on keeping this series honest.

There’s so many travel blogs out there on traveling with kids. Tips & tricks & advice galore.

But there’s bugger all about traveling with teenagers.

Real teenagers.

Real teenage girls no less.

So that’s my plan.

I’ve cut the fights and tantrums, bitchiness & eye rolls from all our previous adventures.

You’d never know that Disney Land wasn’t always the happiest place on earth, or that the food in Fiji could make people cry, that Dan tried to touch a Bison in Yellowstone, or that we’ve pulled over in every country we’ve been to, and threatened to leave at least 1 child behind.

I’ve kept the honest account of events in my head. But never on paper.

This time, I think it’s time.

2 teenage girls roughing it to the tip, no wifi in sight, 1 adult girl ruefully working, keeping house & pets.

2 parents with various different ideas, opinions & beliefs on what warrants pulling over to get a photo of.

5 other families with little ones.

I reckon that’s a tale with great entertainment potential.

And great learning potential for other families out there, who’ve past the little stage, and are currently dancing with the devil through the oft hellish landscape that is teenage hood!

Crikey I’m excited!!!



Marooned on a metaphoric island in a desolate, dark, smelly swampland, I’ve had a shitty week.

A shitty, defeated, I’m gunna go and eat worms kind of week.

My gosh it’s been crap.

Nothing extreme by any means.

No natural disasters or deaths.

Just your run of the mill, post “we’re so grateful” Mother’s Day weeks.

It kicked off with a drunken midnight “Ive hurt my f$&ing eye” waking.

Progressed with intermittent hospital visits, a sick big kid (drama free mind you), a little more hectic-ness with work experience kids at work, plus my own work experience kid to get to her work, plus minding a werewolf that was transitioning on the full moon, plus a kid hell bent on studying at “*banshee screaming*“make sure it’s 6am! No later than 6am!!” (Then makes you keep coming back to wake her every half bloody hour, eventually waking at 7.30 after repeated “my bloody god just GET UP”s), plus bootcamp commitments that I feel rubbish as heck for, as I missed all bar 2, (from tending to everyone here), plus dealing with my own environmentally friendly experiments, and a house inspection, while every child member of the family feels free to live like the queen of filth somehow managing to lose 13, yes thir-bloody-honestly-teen, hairbrushes!!!!

Yeah. Shitty week.

The werewolf thing correlates with the f&@en eye injury.

Completely correlates.

Anyone who’s ever peeled the eye skin from their eyeball will understand.

For those who haven’t, please refer to the 80’s classic horror film, The Howling.

I was actually praying for him to just transition and eat me.

Get it over with you cranky bastard.


Alas, it wasn’t to be.

I played nurse, gritting my teeth.

I got everyone off on time.

I shopped, and quizzed on tests and got dinner on the table.

I washed and scrambled, and fed the animals and worked and wrote and painted and stimulated young minds.

And as my mother taught me, I found silver bloody linings in the swamp that was my week.

I got intermittent cuddles from my girls, who could clearly see I was a donkey on the edge.

I got a thank you gif from my werewolf, and a healing prognosis from his optometrist.

I got a box of chocolates and a thank you from my boss.

I got a pain free 2k swim thanks to turmeric & magnesium, huge smiles from my paint and work experience students, a group chat with my beautiful sisters & Mumma and an “I loved it” result from my (G2) primary school work experience kid.

To say I’m happy it’s Friday is an understatement.

I have fire at my feet, kiddos cleaning up their swamps (still no hairbrushes), my werewolf cooking tea, bootcamp in the morning and the royal wedding tomorrow evening!

They’re all still swamp things, but things are certainly looking up!




I don’t know about anyone else, but I feel grief in a physical way.

Right hand side, directly under my collarbone.

At best it aches, at least a full handspan of pain. At worst, it’s a cramp.

Very similar to the swimming cramps I am plagued with in my legs.

On more than one occasion I have accepted my drowning fate, clinging to the lane rope looking wildly about for help, as I felt what was surely my muscle constricting and turning to stone, snapping my bones in the process. Like Medusa had looked me square in the eye.

My grief pain at worst is like that. Like my ribs & collarbone are sure to snap.

Of course they don’t.

But it’s there.

A physical reminder that this is real.

Today I am feeling the remnants of yesterday’s farewell.

Drained, tired, sore, and yes, a little hungover. But not as bad as a few blokes I know. Eating pizza in their underwear, wrestling, talking rot & spilling drinks on all my stuff!!

It was a lovely goodbye. With great music choices, and at such a beautiful spot. Right on the river. Fittingly, a fisherman’s paradise!

So many old faces that seriously took some memory searching to place, and new faces met & kissed & shoulders cried on.

Bundy rum flowing like water, like the rain. Like the tears.

You know your seeing off a special Bloke when the sky cries too.

Selfishly, like at all funerals, I think of my Dad.

Impossible not to really when saying goodbye to an incredible Dad, and then meeting & catching up with other great Dads, and of course seeing our daughters in the sad faces of their children. And feeling the loss through the eyes of an unfairly new Widow.

I found myself momentarily stunned last night as I heard my fathers name spoken out loud, for the first time to my ears, in what would be years.

Years & years.


You’ve no idea you’ve missed it till it happens.

Of course I talk about him, and mum does, but it’s always “my Dad”, or “your Dad”, or “your grandad”. Never ever his name.


So when I heard it, it did shake me. Hit me right in the collarbone.

It made me sad & proud.

Because I guess at times, I feel like he’s forgotten.

And it made me realise something big.

At sad, awful, painful times like these. People make empty promises.

Absolutely good promises, from very heart felt and meaningful places, no doubt about it. But empty.

If I had a dollar for every promise made when Dad died, then I wouldn’t be peaking out about our last power bill that’s for sure.

So today, I make an iron clad promise to the Ballinger crew.

Something I know I can keep, and swear to.

I promise I will keep you in my heart, always.

I promise that we will absolutely catch up when we can.

I promise to think of Karl with every fish I catch, and every rum I drink. (Even if it’s home brew, still can’t touch Bundy, Karl I’m sorry, but Dan makes up for it.)

I promise that we will be here if & when any of you ever need us.

But most importantly, I promise to never stop saying Karl’s name.


I promise to never forget.

We love you all xx

The Tradesman

The closest I’ve come to working in a coal mine is helping my mother sort tweezers and mines rescue props in her nurses station, climb all over the giant mining equipment, probably sat the lap of a few operators and helped drive a haul truck or a drag line, and planted trees on the reclaim. This was all as a child of course. Sitting on operators laps would certainly be frowned upon these days.

But though I have no personal experience, people I love, men that I love, do.

And through these men, and women, I’ve come to know the value of a good Tradesman.

Back in the old days, an apprenticeship was a golden ticket.

It was the aspiration of every young man in town. And it wasn’t about money. It was about experience, & learning.

Thrown in the deep end like a kid starting pre-school. Uniform too big. Helmet looking all wobbly on your teenage head. Getting tsk-ed at by 4th years, and given the shit jobs by supervisors & formen.

Having your locker glued shut, or stuffed with snakes or feral cats (happened), and just generally having the piss taken out of you on a regular basis.

The first stages of apprenticeships are tough.

But then, out of the coal dusty distance appears your Tradesman.

Tradesmen of yesterday were something else.

They start out a regular tradey for sure, teaching you everything you need to know. Letting you make mistakes to learn, & having your back when the shit went down.

Then next thing you know, they morph into a Tradesfriend.

You meet up with them for beers, most likely rums, most likely in jam jars.

Your learning from them at work, and getting to know them in town.

Tradesfriend becomes Tradesmate.

Your going for BBQ’s at their house, and playing golf with the Snakes.

You know their kids well enough to get a hug when you go round, & he and his wife know the full ins & outs of your social & love life. And tease you like only mates can.

Learning still, at work & play.

Tradesmate become a Tradesfather.

His family are your family, and his wife is giving you and your scared to death girlfriend life advice on starting your family.

Tradesfather is there to help wet your new babies head, and his wife there to take care of your drunken arse, and let your girlfriend know how & where you are.

His babies are taking turns carrying around your baby.

Still teaching you everything at work.

Your Tradesman, turned Tradesfriend, Tradesmate & Tradesfather, probably has no idea, that he is teaching you so very much about life.

The apprenticeship is eventually over.

Work comrades are now forever family.

You change jobs & move towns, move on, but never lose touch.

Every day on the job, you use tricks & skills he taught you, try to be a Tradey like him, to have the kind of influence he had.

Every day at home you aspire to be the type of man he is.

You and your wife fully acknowledge, and often toast to the fact that your Tradey, and his family have very much shaped your lives as they are today.

Now that’s a Tradesman.

That’s Karl.

Karl, I wish that I had let you know just how much of an influence you have been on our lives. You were an amazing Tradey for Dan, turned into an amazing mate. I know we wouldn’t be here today without you. You gave Dan the foot in the door needed for his first permanent gig. And you as a person, were someone we both looked up to so much.

You were like a Dad when I needed one, always so free with support and love.

And your family is what I have always aspired for our family to be like. Our kids have a lot to thank you for.

I know you know we love you.

I just wish we’d told you thank you.

It’s gunna be ok!

Wholey, Moley!

What a day!

Yesterday we hung out at the Rocks. Again!

Had beers a random historically significant bars. Again!

Then mosied our way along Darling Harbour Wharf, drinking beers, watching city people, attempting to eat a share plate (our first actual dinner) & making ourselves ridiculously full, and generally enjoying the city & each other’s company!

Oh yeah, & I did a NUDE SWIM!


Over 1500 swimmers, in 14 waves.

Since I started Open Water swimming, (after reading a Women’s Health magazine with an OW feature in 2012), I’ve researched all the different swims in Qld, AUS & abroad.

I’ve seen the nude swims pop up and give. It thought, then dismiss it just as quick.

Until a few years ago.

I started to think. Why not?

Swimming is not the issue, as I know I can do that. But the nakedness.

There lies the issue.

I hate nude.

I dodge the mirror for god’s sake, & only the quickest of glances will catch me in togs.

But as my girls grew older, & I grew wiser, I realised that this was not only something I could do, but something I had to do.

And how was it?

It was great!

It was a very supportive crowd and atmosphere, and the range of people was as diverse as Sydney itself.

No surprise that there was a bit of a trek down a steep trail to get to the beach. Always climbing and descending in Sydney!

You could catch glimpses of the harbour, the gorgeous water, and the swimmers heading around the buoys, from breaks in the trees.

But even cooler was the little signs hanging on branches along the way. “Growing older is a privilege, not an expectation”, “I am perfection”, “flabulous” etc.

It was nice seeing groups of friends excitedly chatting and giggling.

They ran through a little induction just before the beach, and then it’s past the first aid & music tent, and your there!

I had imagined a bit more of a private affair for the women’s only wave, however the beach was strewn with naked bodies of all sorts, catching some sun and catching up with friends after their waves.

I’ll admit I did hang out till late to disrobe, making a little small talk and spraying some suncream on another ladies behind.

Then it was time.

You’d be surprised the amount of comfort one can garner from a pair of goggles.

“I’ve got my goggles, got my goggles, I’m fine, everything’s fine. Oh my gosh except I’m nude!! No your not, you’ve got your goggles!”

Running into the cold Sydney water was exhilarating.

Scrambling over rocks and trying desperately not to touch anyone was slightly stressful, however once out deeper it was beautiful.

I don’t even remember the water temperature of the other 2 swims.

I did put it in for the 1st wave, and for the Sprint, the last big lap though, the Party, all in wave, I just cruised.

Looked to the left at the harbour and the hundreds of sail boats, looked to the right at the rock faces and national park. (You don’t really want descriptions of what I seen under the water)

I eat my hat at my Sydney ocean assumptions. Seems Nemo stretches the truth a bit. The water was a beautiful turquoise green, with great visibility. Though I only seen 1 fish, right at the beach.

But I was more distracted trying to make sure I got a sarong ASAP!

I’ve never been more nervous about the end of a swim!

But standing around on the beach, between waves, and looking around, it was all just people. There was nothing scandalous, nothing obscene. Just people.

I envy the confidence of those just happily strolling about, or tanning, or wading in the shallows. I was so awkward out the water.

I guess I’m more mermaid than I thought!

Dan has that confidence though. (Might have nearly talked him into doing the swim next year!)

He can walk in anywhere like he belongs.

I just can’t. I can fake it. But I don’t feel it.

And I’d love to say that this swim has changed me! I’m no longer anxious or awkward! I adore my body and I’m going to strut from here on out.

But that’s not true.

What this has done, is to reaffirm for me the fact that courage trumps all.

It’s just a cold, hard fact, that I am able to put anything aside, any insecurities, and negativity, any self or outside criticism or doubt, and just do it.

I hope I’m the little nude tattooed angel on the shoulder of my girls. That when they lack confidence in anything, in any area of life, that little angel with the skewed halo can give them a flick on the ear and say “hey, what are you thinking! Don’t you ever forget that your prude of a mother got nude in Sydney, with 1500 strangers. Scared to death and feeling more vulnerable than you can imagine. And she gave it all she had. If she can do that, then you, my princess, can do absolutely anything”.

I hope that in life, they can always draw on their fathers confidence and inappropriate humour, you’ve never seen anyone giggle as hard as when the announcer at the swim called out that sausage sandwiches were available at the bbq, and on my courage.

I’d call our Sydney honeymoon a success.

I know we’ll always have things to talk about when we’re old.

I keep dreaming up crazy adventures, and he keeps backing me.

How can we ever go wrong!

Sydney, the naked truth.

My name is Alaina, and I’m a bit of a prude.

I was raised a prude, odd as that is, given my mother is a nurse. You’d think we would have been throwing around anatomically correct terminology like confetti.

Middle sister used to baby sit the local Drs gorgeous little boys, and they had zero qualms about telling you that you were a girl therefore you had a vagina. They would also find creative ways to slip these terms into any circumstance. ABCDEFG, HIJK, LMNO Peniiiissssss! I’ve never been able to sing the alphabet without thinking of these kids!

Not so for us. I recall perhaps a brief talk on periods, but everything else about the birds & the bees I learnt from mates, or was told by a giraffe, in a darkened, blessedly air conditioned van, with really comfy carpet and stars on the roof!(Anyone other than a qld kid will find that really weird!)

I spent our school sex Ed classes drawing up incredibly detailed cartoons featuring a yin yang styled egg, pretty bow and long lashes, and a handsome sperm, top hat, usually carrying flowers, and their progression from dating, to marriage. Boating down the birth canal, hand & hand in love.

Yeah. I was that kid.

I’ve talked about the horror of stumbling upon a nudist beach as a kid, and the relief of birthing girls so I didn’t have to deal with bits that I had no idea of!

So I’m a prude, who, as most have, has struggled with self image, and also suffers social anxiety.

What does all this have in common you ask?

Well, what would be the very last thing on earth, that you would expect a prude, with body hang ups, and a fear of people to do for fun?

If your answer was the Sydney Skinny, a mass skinny dip in one of Australia’s largest cities, then you would be correct.

I’ll let you climb back on your chair Mum.


Mouth closed?


This is why Dan & I have come to Sydney. And was a secret only the girls and us knew. It’s for an awesome cause, the Charlie Theo foundation, and Mumma I know your proud of that part! So much so that she has been telling everyone that’s where I’m going, not realizing the naked truth of the swim! She almost had it announced at a women’s lunch! “No no no, I don’t need to tell anyone mum” aka, I DO NOT want anyone googling this swim and revealing my secret!

It’s not that I’m ashamed, quite the opposite, my inner prude just could not field the questions.

So yes, that’s today’s agenda! An 900m ocean swim, followed by another 900m ocean swim, then a 50m ocean swim-sprint.

All with no kit, and no inhibitions, and hundreds of people.

I am nervous as heck!

Terrified, and doing it anyway.

Because I am courageous, and I want to plant courageousness so deeply in my girls, that they will never, ever let insecurity stop them from doing something amazing.

Courage is being afraid, but doing it anyway.

I’ll report back this evening.

Here goes nothing!!!!

Hope your still proud Mumma!!

Stairs, stairs, stairs

Sydney town.

City of stairs. And fruity craft beer. And inconvenient opening hours. And a night life that makes my little country eyes go wide with a mix of fear and amazement.

But home of the Rocks, so I love you!

I wish we had of brought pedometers on this trip! And joggers, but hey, lessons learned.

Another big day on foot, leaving us both feeling like 80 year old tourists. Cranky at young people, slow walking, bearing pain in legs & feet, from traipsing cobbled paths, totally over the day & ordering in.

It’s a funny old place here. We were up early and headed down to Circular Quay (just try saying that without James Reyne signing it, I dare you), hoping for 5 minutes of fame and breakfast on the way. But like a zombie film, there were next to no people anywhere! No cafes open. Nothing!

What the heck?

Undeterred we trudged on, and I am very happy to report that Dan managed to get himself on Sunrise morning news, for about 10 seconds!

I text the kids to be sure they were watching, and had a reply an hour later. So the sleepy monkeys missed it, but we’ve had reports that others seen him!

Hehe, awesome!

The city finally buzzed to life around 9, and we breakfasted at Circular Quay (James Reyne), watching yet another cruise ship!

We trekked over to the beautiful Opera House, climbing the stairs where Hugh Jackman once fell off a zip line, and accidentally bombed hundreds of Asian tourists holiday snaps.

Back to the Rocks to explore it in daylight, and visit the Museum before meeting up with a long lost Capella High friend and her beautiful family!

Off to Darling Harbour then, a few pub stops, and over to the Australian Tattoo Convention.


So many people!

Stalls were awesome, and it was really very cool!

The hum of tattoo guns, smell of disinfectant and tattoo after care filled the hall, and tempting as it was, we didn’t get anything.

But stacks of people were!

Blank canvases everywhere! From arms, to calves, to full bodies! People were baring all for a fresh tat!

We late lunches at Hard Rock Cafe, and next thing the afternoon had sucked away and we high tailed it across the Harbour to the Lyric Theatre!

Yes! Our first ever big theatre experience!

And it was freakin awesome! If you ever get the chance to see The Book of Mormon, please do so!

G2 &G3 you would have been horrified with my laughing out loudness! Having said that, there’s no way I would let you watch it!

Not sure if Dan enjoyed it as much as I did, or was just happy to sit down for a few hours!

Anyway, we’re back home, plotting tomorrow and eating pizza, as all the restaurants we’d earmarked for for dinner, morphed into night clubs while we were being theatre snobs!

Who knows what will tomorrow bring? I’m guessing stairs.