Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Christmas List

I think this year I may have almost been impossible to buy for, and frustrating for many!  I didn't really have a list, I wanted an activity tracker and the DVD series Arrow, so in my opinion, I scored big time.

My sister got me a very cool Jawbone. It interfaces with one of my favourite apps, My Fitness Pal.  It tracks your sleep patterns, and how many steps you do in a day. 

It sends you regular summary emails with progress updates and encouraging pearls of wisdom, and a few tips to try.

In my annual goals I have struggled for the past few years to hit the target.  No wonder really with ankylosing spondylitis!  Nonetheless, I continue to set goals each year, and work around the disease as best I can.  The Jawbone actually tracks how much time you spend with your steps in an active mode.  I will use this for 2014 with a slight revision to my annual targets.  It should provide a greater chance of success, and be much easier for me to track progress.  Given this, I of course will have to amend the goal up to be slightly higher!  I can also monitor my sleep patterns better and be alert to when the fatigue will be kicking in, and try to slow things down to accommodate.




Monday, December 30, 2013

Goal 96 - Teach Maddison to Ride a Bike

Trekking back through the archives, we appear to have been at this bike riding caper for at least four years, and I have transferred a few of the older posts for your happy reading!

The youngster is well and truly too big for her current bike, including the training wheels that are welded on!  So Santa set about a new bike this year, even though it was not on the list!

It has been a few days now, I am determined not to push the issue.  Today whilst roaming the back yard I put the swing set out of bounds.  It is wooden and constructed in 2008, and with the velocity of an eight year old in full flight, well it looks like a dangerous option.  As I headed off to the lawnmower, Maddy headed off to find this new bike contraption.  I yelled out to see if I could help, but I got a head shake!

After watching the episode this morning in the back yard, I have some idea about how my frustrated my Mother may have been.  There was a steely face of determination for at least 30 minutes.  There were stacks and tears, and throwing down the sturdy framed mountain bike.  Despite all of this she refused to have any help.  Thanks to all those reading who know me, yes I am a stubborn individual and the little apple has not fallen far from the tree!

At the conclusion of the mowing, I did venture over to provide some assistance.  There was frustration from both of us, some raising of the voices and some stomping off by both parties.  After four years, this bike riding caper is surely not coming easy for either of us.  But we will continue to practice as there was an intention of returning to NZ at the end of this year, and the holiday does come with a cycle leg!


Moreton Bay Bike Ride (2012)

What is not to love about this as a scenic ride? A pleasant Sunday afternoon 10 km ride.  Of course I will be in super big trouble for multi tasking whilst riding :-)  We found this journey on the Council website, and it was rated as an easy ride.  Lucky for us we have two more to explore, both longer in length and harder in the rating. 

 At least with another rider, there certainly was some interest in maintaining a competitive advantage when we were in front.  I wish I had worked this out on the ride out, as it gets harder to pull the growing child along, after all we are now a big 7. 

Clearly from the photo below, the half way mark was celebrated with food, situation normal with this child.  Hook into all the food in the day, and hope like hell you are still full enough to pass on any main meal served at the dinner table later that day!  We are also now having teeth drop at a rate of knots, and we are missing both front teeth.  Interesting that it is still possible to eat an apple, although it does take much longer!

Confidence (2011)

The temptation of the new wheels was calling, and the youngster was keen to get out in the world and give the new bike a spin.  Mummy on the other hand had a list of things to do a mile long, and people arriving later in the day.  So I set about reconfiguring the list into must have's and nice have's.  After a few minutes, I had an idea.  Really all I needed for the evening dinner was some cream, and the rest of the groceries could be done later in the week.  A ride down to the service station and we could pick up cream, and save around two hours in travel time.
Easy motoring!

Backpack and helmets on, pillions loaded onto the bike and we are away.  Unfortunately for us, the smiles lasted about a minute before we encountered downhill number one!  Small moment of panic from the child, and leaping mother dismounts her own bike just in time to catch the rocketing youngster.  Then onto a flat section, where joy beings to emerge.  I am course brimming with pride and finally out in the world doing big people activities with the little one, sport in the sun, ah life is great.

Less than five minutes later, more pride, our first spill!  No band aid required and some quick dusting off and we were away again.  Small moment of realisation from the pair of us about the geography of our suburb, it is full of hills.  Not such a great place for learner, but we are committed to the journey!  The next hour is all about yelling from the small one, and return fire from the big one.  It is a journey of inner discovery for the pair of us.  I learn that the small one has my genetic bad temper, and has not had the advantage of 30 years of life experience, and is therefore unable to control the rage that spills out.  She learns that not everything in life is easy, and this bike riding will require patience, some moments will be awesome, and some will be just hard work.  An example of our dialog;

"This is a slow bike. Why did you buy me a slow bike?"
"It is not the bike, it is your legs, now pedal."
"Maybe next time you will not bring the whole family, as you have to pedal them too."

As we broach the top of the hill I can finally see the darn service station.  It feels like it has been relocated to the next state, but we are almost there.  What feels like a quick trip in the car, is actually be 4.6 km, or 9.2 km on a round trip...OMG what have we done!! 

The child removes feet from the peddles and announces that she is now finished this ride for the day. Skilled negotiating mum throws out that I am sure the service station will have an ice cream to help with those energy levels.  Now at this point, I am thinking of my health kick and maybe a Frosty Fruit or something like that.  The child has had her own internal vision and the feet snap back to the peddles and we make it to the half way point.  As Tim from the Demtel advertising channel announces...But wait there's more...no Frosty Fruit here mum, I am having the White Magnum little number.  Bugger the health kick, I am not watching the kid eat a White Magnum!

I will spare you the details on the return leg, but it was fairly similar to the first half.  About two hours to finish the journey, may have been quicker to drive to the park and pickup the cream on the way home!

Definition of Emergency (2011)

Well the new bike is a treat, it was picked out from across the road whilst in the car.  Simply sold on a basket!  Upon closer inspection, it comes with the essentials of training wheels and a bike seat for dolly!

After a small stack in the driveway, where one's bottom was injured as much as the pride, we are off and racing around the back deck.  When all of a sudden the child is standing, flapping the arms like an impersonation of a albatross in flight.  There are screams of "This is a REAL emergency".  I casually stroll out to the scene, and am promptly told "Dolly has a spider on her head".  Now I am not fond of spiders so I did have a quick look, and a lot of relief when the spider was as big as a freckle!

The Lost Art - Bike Riding (2011)

It seems that kids of today have certainly embraced the information age. My youngster spends travel time and wait times learning the alphabet and reading on our iPad, she is a dab hand at digital television, dvd's, the laptop and a nintendo DS, all at the age of 5. It is little wonder that many of our primary school children have little desire to bike ride.

In our house we strive to maintain balance, so weekends have structured time for inside and outside time. At 3 there was serious scooting around on the back deck, although training wheels were affixed. Training wheels are off, and spider has moved into web around the inanimate object.

Santa then stepped in with the tag-along bike, and we had some positive outings. Unfortunately the Queensland weather patterns have been stinking hot or flooding! The weekend did hold some of my most favourite activities. A leisurely drive up north, a big breakfast, fantastic weather and a ride along the water edge. Despite the pleas from home on not taking the bike, and some small moment of resisting the desire to pedal, we were away in no time, and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. Awesome family day out.

Family Biking Trip (2011)

It appears that progress on the learning to ride a bike goal has been stalled. Any attempt to remove training wheels has been stonewalled by the child. So Santa has dropped in a tag-a-long bike.

After the construction phase was completed, we set out on our first ride. I should not be surprised that the talking from the back did not break in stride with the new activity. The outing was coasting along fine, until Fi-Fi made a break from her owner, and despite looking like the Christmas cheer was upon her, made a sterling effort at bounding along whilst barking her head off. The owner who was also displaying the same signs of indulgence decided that the ignorant dog was not going to return, and also made a dash for it.

Maddison was shrieking in joy at Fi-Fi joining us on the ride, and stopped pedalling from the back, and instead reverted to a paw by paw commentary on how close Fi-Fi was on the approach. I started to panic thinking that if the dog latches on, this could be the end of the bike riding concept. Despite the upcoming hill, I took off at a cracking pace, determined to out run the bloody dog. This scene continues for another minute, hill takes hold, and pulse rockets to 900. We did finally outrun Fi-Fi, and meandered down to the local park for a play, whilst Mummy tried to recover from the burning legs.

Goal 96 - Teach Maddison to Ride a Bike (2008)

One of the reasons that I decided to share my life with a child was the joy of teaching children new skills. I have often coached kids sporting teams and find it a rewarding use of personal time. It is amazing to help people grow through experiential learning, and to see the beaming as they progress through "I can't" to "Did you see that?" The individual proudness is the same for a child who is 3 or an adult.

Last Christmas the child care centre raffled a bike, and each afternoon Maddison laid herself down by the bike with tears, expressing an immense desire to own. So the Christmas gift list changed from swing set to bike. Although this year I was onto the fact that we should not leave it until Christmas eve to assemble, and especially not with several glasses of alcohol to aid. It usually results in ice packs!

So we all eagerly rushed to the lounge room last year, only to find that the bike was loved and adored, but supposedly it was "Too big for me". After 10 months of trials, we are now officially away and riding like a demon. We are also in love with our bike helmet, and it is a regular on the swing, down the slide or even sitting in the supermarket trolley. It will only be another six months I can go back to jogging, at the little one can ride feverishly along beside me. Six months after that, and we can both be riding together, very cool.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Financial Independence Update

After having a horrendous error on our holiday plans, we are back at home after only a couple of nights away.  The child is laying on the couch with the bucket, and I am thankful for the time at home during this period.  There is something about being at home that is the centrepiece to maintaining my balance, especially in times of trouble.  And this year has surely had more than its fair share of bumps with work and relationships.

Enjoying some quiet alone time, I have escaped to my office.  I began to catch up on the numerous emails piling in my inbox.  I stumbled across this article http://www.getrichslowly.org/blog/2013/10/21/review-flexscore-part-i-the-book/.  Whilst I haven't read the book, I did set about some research on the flexscore concept.  After manipulating some of the data for non American residents, I will have to ignore the rating review against my peers, as I am really not sure if Alaska was similar to my current demographics!

Although Microsoft stopped supporting Money, I still use it.  The share update feature no longer works, but it tracks all transactions in my accounts in a perfect manner for me.  So filling in the details to create my dashboard was fairly easy.

My flexscore turns out to be 613.  Impressive?  Not really sure!  But the concept of having a score of 1000 for financial independence means that 613 would appear to be inline with my tracking system.  So for now I am comfortable with the number!

The really cool thing is the action dashboard on what to do to improve your score.  I can hear some rustling in the lounge, so it is obvious that despite the forlorn expression, the only death today is that of three of our chickens that have not survived the 35 degree heatwave.  Very sad day, and our last surviving member is looking very lonely.


Thursday, December 26, 2013

No More Hole

It is funny, I tend to plan most things in life, and if it is not in the plan at that moment well it usually doesn't get done.  I have an ability to block it out and focus on what is to be done now, not later.

I bought the block of land back in 2000, and the house went on first, then later the pool.  The landscaping activities have tended to focus on the front of the property first, and then work backwards.  I guess I thought that people would come in the front first, so best to start with making an impression there.

But in the back yard there are a couple of holes.  Well not the sort that you would put a foot in, maybe a football team.  There is one that I have mowed around for 13 years, often stood over with the brush cutter and prayed that nothing would rush out at me!

With some left over soil from the pool renovations, I thought I should put it to good use.  After the lawn grows through, there will be no more mowing around the hole!  And with the pool decking in, the brush cutting has been significantly reduced.  Pretty soon I will have nothing to do, and loads of time on my hands.....big problem that!


Our first Avocado

Super exciting, our dwarf avocado tree is having its first fruit this year.  I hope it tastes awesome as we only have the one.  Maybe next year we will get more.  The tree needs to gaze over towards the mulberry and lemon trees and notice how they supply the family.  Or it could look to the lime tree and think well I just need to do a handful and I will be above your output!


Kayaking Outing

After 18 months of dating, I thought we could celebrate the day with an outing the partner would surely enjoy!  A session of kayaking up the Brisbane river.  Despite it's brown colour and local inhabitants of fairly sizeable bull sharks, we took the plunge regardless.

The brochure said kids over 8 were welcome, cool we fit that criteria.  But I was slightly concerned over the single kayaks and having to paddle oneself.  No problem, there is a rope, so you can simply tow the little darling.  Well at this point the little darling has departed and left some independent evil troll.  Although clearly lacking in any sort of body strength, skill or coordination, the mere embarrassment at being towed up the river by your Mum was too much to bear.

This is where the romantic trio parted ways and left the two of us to fend for our selves.  The troll did have some solo time during the couple of hours, and surely enough to earn herself her very own big girl blister!

Not exactly a day that went according to plan, but oh well, at I hope I score points for trying.

Pool Update # 6

Some of the finishing touches are getting done.  I am not so excited about the location of the new playhouse for the neighbours, so we hatched a longer term plan to restrict their view.  But first, we are going to need some big pots.

Perfect size!  Now for something to go in them....

Looking good, a few years and we will hardly notice.  And from the kids point of view, they can party in the jungle house with a tropical bamboo back drop!

Pool Update # 1

Pool Update # 2

Pool Update # 3

Pool Update # 4

Pool Update # 5

It's December

There was much excitement on the 1st of December, the child busted out the decorations as soon as she could.  Despite my hatred of hanging all the decorations around the house and the tree, this appears not to be a genetic condition! 

Thankfully as she gets older, I tend to do less and less decorating.  It is a perfect team because come the 1st of January, I will be bounding around with equal enthusiasm, tearing the stuff down and whipping those boxes away!

Now this Christmas obsession runs deep, it also extends to Christmas music, so for the next few weeks we are bound to have carols running at home before breakfast, in the car to school, home from school, and even during dinner if she can get away with it!  Despite all my bah humbug, it is impossible to be around Christmas music and not have it radiate into your mood.  No doubt I will be singing along.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pool Update # 5

As 2013 draws to a close, it appears that I will finish another milestone in the landscaping projects.  For previous updates;

Pool Update # 1

Pool Update # 2

Pool Update # 3

Pool Update # 4

Now this little project has to have been running for almost a decade!  But I wanted to make sure it looked awesome, and well the cost of it all really did warrant some significant savings.  So here is the almost finished product.  It is about 99% done, a couple of finishing touches to go.


Agile Approach to Families

The organisation I work for has Agile embedded in as part of its culture.  It was really amazing to come to a large organisation and not see a single Microsoft Project Gantt Chart anywhere.  After you get the swing of iterations, breaking down work and conducting huddles and retrospectives, things really start to move.
Last year when my personal goals were not going in the direction I wanted, at the pace I wanted, I started to use retrospective planning at home.  What is working well, what is not, and what do I need to change?  It only took 30 minutes and a wall chart to regain some focus and prioritise what needed to change.
I had heard of some Agile legends at work taking the approach into their families, but upon listening to this TED talk, I think that I may start to take some of his ideas into my family life. 
Communication is essential in life, at work and home.  Often the at home piece is the one to suffer.  I think some of the out takes from the talk may bring some new skills to the family unit.  I really love the concept of a weekly family session, and re-cutting time.
I recently watched the talk again, and was impressed by the concepts.  The report card from school indicates that time management, working independently and organises belongings are all on the general rating and not the consistent level. 
So we kicked off our daily checklist approach of chores and general getting organised things to do.  A morning checklist and an afternoon one.  Now we are responsible for our own washing, ironing, cleaning the bench in her bathroom, cleaning her own room, we sure do need a schedule to keep things organised.
I think that the best part is no nagging, or very little.  I simply ask have you done your list.  There is also an age old debate about paying your kids pocket money that is tied to chores.  I think it is important to teach them about money, finances and budgeting.  But equally important is that people understand 'everyone does helping' in our house.  One of my parenting goals is to raise an independent child, one who is able to take on the world, fully prepared when she decides to fly the nest.  So in house we settled on a standard weekly allowance that has to be split between giving, saving and spending, and then if your checklist gets done with no nagging then you get an extra bonus for spending.
So now I have some more freedom in the mornings, and the first day results?

Ready ahead of schedule and sitting at the bench doing some big girl reading.  Sigh parental proudness happening here.


2013 Swimming Carnival

It was this time last year that I had set off on a work trip to India.  Unfortunately, I made parent of the year by missing my daughters first swimming carnival.  As luck would have it, work tried to send me back to India for a second trip this year, smack on this year's swimming carnival.  This is the expression that the child beams upon seeing me sitting in the stand this year.

It was well worth the morning off work to be there supporting in the crowd.  I met the Father of one Maddison's friends.  He was also with his wife, whom I had met at the youngsters birthday party last year.  Lovely family.  Although I was slightly caught off guard when the Mother announced that Maddison had told her daughter that I was in love with her Father!  My eyes were wide open in amazement and shock.  I looked at the Father and said I was just being friendly at the athletic carnival, and although you are lovely, I am not in love with you!  Thankfully they both burst out laughing, and invited me to take a seat.

The first race was backstroke.  I glanced over to my friends and said quizzically, and said that I didn't know that Maddison could do backstroke! 

I was right, it was a hilarious trek down the pool, by most of the kids.  But it was fantastic that they had that and breast stroke in the carnival, and that the kids gave it a shot.  Although back stroke was not a big success, the style off the blocks for the freestyle was impressive.

Then there was major cheering from the parent at the half way mark of the race.....

I am really not sure why this child persists on having her ears outside the swim cap.  But there was a big beaming smile at coming in second.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Modern Age Dating?

My haven't the times changed?  Check this out, dating today.  The boyfriend is in the States, and the time zones align for a short time.  It is a lovely Summer morning in downtown Brisbane, so you make your way to the trampoline to enjoy the peaceful life on acreage.  Then you bust out the iPad on a wireless network and chat away!

Of course there is no Facetime on this call, as clearly she is still in her pj's, and not pick up attire!


Raising Independent Children

One of my parental goals is to ensure that I raise a self sufficient and independent young woman.    The main source of this aspiration is knowing the mortality of life, and that I may not be present for all of her childhood, so like my own Mother, I want to ensure that I can equip her as best I can, whilst I am here.

Although for me I do not have a terminal illness lingering over my head, so I am much softer in my approach.  I don't actually do a bed inspection whilst she is at school each day to ensure that all hospital corners would pass a Major Generals inspection, and if not, trash the entire operation and demand at 3:05 pm that the efforts are redone to a higher standard!  Nor do I make her ride her bike to the supermarket at the age of 8 to collect the ingredients for dinner, and then come home and make it.  But we do cook together, for four reasons.  It is a bonding experience for the two of us, it also provides some much needed life skills, and it also provides a corner stone to financial independence.  It is cheaper and healthier to cook at home.

I remember when I joined the Air Force at 21 that there were a number of similar aged adults who could not make their bed, iron, sew or even understand that shoes needed to be polished with a foreign substance called nugget.  With my upbringing, I found military training a breeze, and was in bed asleep by 10:00 pm when the balance of the flight was running around until 2:00 am!

Recently we were having a discussion about chores at home, and the youngster was negotiating for different chores.  I was really interested in this, as the underlying theme was that she thought she was ready to progress to a more advanced chore level.  After enquiring what she thought she should do, she quickly responded with her own ironing.  I was not so sure that she was ready for this, but determined to support her own quest for development.  So we practiced on a few square things to our eye in, and then quickly moved to t shirts and shorts etc.  So now she does her own washing, and 90% of her own ironing.  The morning chores for me around getting her ready for school are dwindling, and I have been able to start to fit in a few exercises in the spare time.

I am really proud of her developing, for eight, she is indeed the independent daughter I want to parent.  Speaking of independence, it also comes with selecting your own clothing range, and despite my please for no pink leopard print sleepwear, you can see I obviously failed to negotiate a win in that discussion.


Family Traditions

Do you ever take the time to skip back over some of your favourite childhood memories?  For us, we grew up with a mother who had a terminal illness, so the good memories are even more special.  As we grow older, and seemingly more mature in life, I often watch the intersections of my own relationship with my daughter and in these moments I have only amazement for how a single mother of two small children could possibly have coped.  But she really didn't just cope.  I sure do know where my life long fighting spirit has come from.

We had an extremely frugal upbringing, but I always appreciate the wonderful culinary delights that made there way to the dinner table each night.  Ok, maybe not the parsnip or rabbit, they were not so delightful.  And yes, I always knew that there is a difference between rabbit and chicken, they are different coloured for a start!

Every night we had a two course meal, and the sweets that were whipped up are no doubt to blame for my insatiable sweet tooth.  For school lunches, tuckshop was not on the menu, but Mum had cakes, biscuits and slices down pat, so I never felt like I missed out.  Actually some of my best memories are racing my sister down the hall to see who could get the bowl, spoon or beaters for what ever delicious thing was in train.  Of course when you are an only child you don't have to race!  It is some of these moments where different planes of memories collide, and I know that in time she will repeat these traditions with her own family, and look back fondly on our moments of growing up.


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Beach Trip

I love Caloundra, so much so that I think I may actually retire up there.  Although I usually visit in the Summer when it is awesome, so maybe I should visit a few times in Winter before I decide.  Maybe all I need is a Summer house!

I am still learning on the camera, but did manage to get an action shot or two from the day.


Monday, December 2, 2013

Returning to Normality

As delightful as the visits to India are, I really miss family moments like this.  Sandy sure does make the most amazing prawn pizza, and it was even better after a week of curries.


And the summer weather in Queensland is amazing, I really love spending time by the beach.

It is moments like this that you look back on the snaps and really appreciate how wonderful life is with close family and friends around.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

An Indian Princess

One of my counter parts sent home a lovely gift for the youngster.  I am not sure we wore it in the correct fashion, but it has been swirled and danced around the house, so I am thinking it was a hit.


India in a Flash

I crossed the globe and back in a flash, the week was a whirlwind in which I hardly had time to adjust to the time zones.  But here are a quick few snaps of the journey.  India is starting to grow on me now I am a repeat traveller, it is truly unique and remains a culture of extremes.  The poverty and richness of the country is truly amazing.  I even look forward to the hotels and the food, the taste of India is nothing like what we do to it in Australia.

 Despite seeing the Taj last trip, you can never really understand what it is like to walk in front of it, and to listen to the history.  This trip I also bought back a chess set that I had been searching for.  I wanted a set to hold on to.  I remember my father teaching me to play as a very young child.  Maddison will start lessons next year at school, and we will practice at home on a set made from the same marble and precious stones at the Taj, and one day I will pass it to Maddison for her to look back on our journey together.