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76In 2015, I took my daughter Astra (who was 9 at the time) to Minecon in London. One parent, one child who can now (mostly) cope with queues, noise and overwhelm. Astra was able to handle the conference as well as I could. So by 3pm on Saturday, we were both floating around in a slightly uncomfortable – but not entirely unpleasant – daze. For all of my best intentions, we’d not had enough sleep. When you’re travelling from afar the day before – in our case we had to travel from afar on the Saturday morning – or perhaps needing to get from your distant hotel to the conference centre by 10am….well, it was hard to plan around. It didn’t really matter though. In hindsight I’d have insisted we take things easier – we could have left more for the Sunday. The Saturday was a REALLY long day, and it was overwhelming at times, but there was more than enough time to do everything we wanted.

‘Meet and Greet’

After visiting a large number of stationery shops, I had found an old fashioned autograph book for Astra. Most people used their recently purchased diamond swords or T-shirts for signatures. So, the queue for the ‘Meet and Greet’ was predicted to take 3 hours. As we sat waiting, inching forwards, I made my own calculation. It was going to take 4 hours at best, most likely longer. There were no promises as to which You Tubers would be behind the screens once you got there…but we looked at the schedule and figured out that in four hours Stampy and Squid were due on stage – so they would not be in the Meet and Greet. We’d already queued for an hour, so I was loathe to give it up – but thankfully Astra was sensible and decided that we forget about Meet and Greet. I am so glad she did! Almost immediately, Astra spotted ‘LDShadowLady’ and ‘Smallish Beans’ hanging out with their friends. No-one had recognised them, so we had a couple of minutes on our own with them. I gushed excessively, Oh my gosh, you’re so TINY!! I Love you!! (Thankfully I got better at this as the weekend progressed).

We spotted ‘I Has Cupquake’ wandering with a photographer, so we posed with her. On Sunday we bumped into her again, with her husband Red, and we had a little chat with them. On Sunday night, after it was all over and most people had gone home, a bunch of You Tubers came out to play. Rumours were flying as groups of people raced to Door 1, Door 7, no wait, he’s by the main exit…Stampy did not appear in the end but DanTDM did. We missed Dan but we spent time with PrestonPlayz, Vikkstar, AmyLee33, JeromeASF, Netty Plays and a couple of others we didn’t recognise! They were all incredibly lovely and generous with their time. It all happened outside the conference venue, a few in the venue itself – I suspect it was better than the formal ‘Meet and Greet’.

Costume Competition

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The only information we had was the time and place marked on the schedule. We duly turned up, gave some final tweaks to Astra’s costume, and joined the queue. Pretty soon an official approached and said, no, sorry, I don’t know what you’re all queuing up for, we have already picked the entrants for the competition. Wow. They’d sent out scouts in the moning, looking for cool costumes to put in the competition. Astra hadn’t even been wearing hers, so cumbersome it was (we are talking Minecraft here!).

A particularly vocal parent managed to persuade the officials that it would be terrible to disappoint so many children, and so we were all allowed to go onstage after all. It was a debacle and I have faith that it won’t be repeated this year. Or maybe seasoned comic-con goers will tell me this is how it’s always done?! Either way, if you want to be chosen, be good. Be REALLY good!

Freebies

There was a lot of free stuff being given away in the Expo Hall. Some of it was fairly worthless tat, but some of it really very nice. Which stalls would be giving things out, and at which times, was randon and unpredictable, and they all ran out quickly. The best freebies were on the Saturday.

The Saturday Night Show

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Was awesome. Do Not Miss! I know a lot of people left with their young children, and maybe that was necessary – but if you possibly can stay for the show, DO!

 

 

Getting Good Seats

Stay focused, stay alert. Show up at the end of the previous talk, and send your 9 year old in to dodge between the knees of the lumbering adults. It IS possible to get good seats, we had front row seats when we put our minds to it. Well, you can’t get front row seats as they’re reserved for staff and special guests, but you can get the first row behind them! They say that everyone has to leave the venue after each talk/performance, before they re-open the doors for the next show. That was carefully observed for the first couple of talks, but pretty soon it became possible to be so slow to leave that you were still loitering near the front when they allowed new people in. Being at the front is really worth it for your favourites, actually watching them is far superior to watching them on the screens (which we do at home all the time anyway!).

Merchandise

This stuff is unimportant when compred to the *experience* of Minecon. If it IS important to get this or that T-Shirt, or plushie, or whatever, buy it on Saturday. Things did sell out.

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Minecon 2015 was one of the most incredible experiences Astra and I have ever had, and we are both super jealous of those who are going this year! It’s going to be even bigger and better, you are in for such a treat!

There was a partial solar eclipse and we thought the best place to view it would be the Sydney Tower Eye. I dug out the special glasses I’d bought the last time there was an eclipse, and we all had a look at the sun on the journey there. Sadly it clouded over shortly before the eclipse, but it was lovely to watch the city as the sun set. We picked out landmarks and discussed how many office lights were still on even at 6pm.

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We took Astra’s computer to our friends’ house so they could all play minecraft together on the same wifi. Astra loves minecraft.

DSC02584 (400x300)I don’t tend to write about minecraft, or to tag it, but there is so much learning that goes in when Astra is playing, both with this and Animal Jam, another game she plays. Money, Numeracy, Time, Shapes, relationships (since she is usually playing with other people), design, maps, reading and writing, problem solving, planning….

 

We went to the Powerhouse again, with a group of home educators. We’ve visted the games exhibit several times already. This time Astra wanted to play some of the old fashioned arcade games. We agreed that they were much harder than the games she is used to. We noted that Minecraft was designed by a Swede, interesting in that one of the other big games, Angry Birds, was designed by a Finn.

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There was a short workshop available, to make your own slime, so Astra took part in that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course did lots of dancing.

We went for a walk in our local bush area. We were thrilled to find some ducks and geese who appeared to be expecting bread. Next time we’ll bring some, we both miss feeding the ducks.

We talked as we walked, about the plants and animals we were seeing. We talked about the army barracks that used to be here, and how their use had changed over time until they were eventually demolished.

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We walked a fair distance, most of the time with Astra pretending to be a puppy. So for her it was mostly running!

We came to some signs indicating various different walks. We’re looking forward to checking them out but  the sun was going down at this point so we turned back for home.

On the way back Astra noticed the flood level meter. She notices ALL the signs lately, and uses them to practise her reading. When I explained that this one was to measure the depth of flood water she was in awe, wow, it actually gets to 2 metres deep??

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Andy took Astra to see the new Muppets movie. When they got home she told me about the film, how she’d enjoyed it and the basic storyline. We talked about the cup she brought home, if it was worth paying extra for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also visited an entertainment cengtre where Astra won a few small toys. She told me that the doll was really poorly made, that it wasn’t going to last long, and that it was probably made by people who didn’t get paid fair wages.

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The Easter Bunny (with help from the Easter Bilby) left a treasure hunt for Astra. She solved all the clues herself.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the gifts the bunny left was a rainbow loom. Astra made herself a bracelet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are the, ‘Mummy-Daddy-Astra Team’.

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We had a ‘Hair and Nails’ session

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We started a Word Tree of all the words Astra can read

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We made fondant Roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A friend came for dinner so we baked a cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to Sydney Observatory for ‘Earth Hour’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andy and Astra began their ‘Temple Run’ battle

 

 

 

 

 

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Another circus workshop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to see a play, ‘The Incredible Book Eating Boy’

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to the Powerhouse Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We caught the ferry to Cockatoo Island for the Sydney Biennale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We saw bridge walkers on top of the harbour bridge

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astra and her friends played Superheroes on the ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crazy harbour

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the installations on Cockatoo Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another art installation, houses that looked like faces

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enthralled by a strange 70′s style video installation

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We made another cake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went to a ‘lego movie party’ with friends and went to see the new lego movie together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We spend a lot of time on trains!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astra met some parrots at the Easter Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

She really liked this bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lots of fun at the Easter Show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We watched the wood chopping contest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astra had her face painted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went on the Ferris wheel together

 

 

 

 

 

 

Astra loves her new Pokemon gear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decorated twigs in the Finnish way, for our Easter table decoration

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we had some fun with chocolate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Easter table decoration and lots of chocolate

Astra joined a creative arts day for home educators. She took part in a dance class, a singing class, and a drama class. She decided not to go back to these classes but continues to make up songs most days, and we have been dancing together in front of our large mirrors!

We went to a performance by the Bell Shakespeare company, entitled, ‘Double Trouble’. It was Shakespeare for children, very cleverly written and a great first introduction for Astra. She thoroughly enjoyed the play and we talked a lot about it afterwards.

We went to a dinner party with Andy’s boss. Astra loved the meal and enjoyed the evening a great deal. We’d agreed that if it got boring for her she could use her computer with headphones, and she did do this after the meal was finished. She enjoyed explaining minecraft to the other guests and telling them about the things she had done recently.

We went up the tallest building in Sydney with our friends. Before we went up there was a ’4D Cinema experience’, interesting given our recent discussions about dimensions! The view at the top was awesome, and we all had fun picking out places we had visited or knew, and looking at the various roof gardens.

Afterwards we had a lovely Chinese meal in the food court, and went to Tumbalong Park.

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We did some crafting for St. Patrick’s Day. I had a few ideas to start us off and Astra developed them, deciding to add a pot of gold and a sun to my rainbow idea. She got the hang of drawing circles with a compass.

We talked about who St. Patrick was, and why the shamrock was associated with him. We talked about leprochauns and pots of gold.

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