Friday, December 28, 2012


Throughout the last few months Amy and I have promised the kids a trampoline for Christmas. The purchase has been far from straightforward as (like all of these things) when you see one you like you then see or read about one you like/want better.

I'd done a fair deal of research into 'safety' watched endless (amusing) videos on Youtube of people jumping off houses onto their trampoline and somersaulting then landing on their backs on concrete yards(!) and dodgy trampolines giving way (mostly via extremely fat jumpers it must be said). A lot of our friends have trampolines - it seems a trampoline in the garden is de rigeur for anyone with a kid of almost any age.

The Springfree trampoline we bought is great fun. It also looks kind of space-agey and is purported by the people who make it, to be the safest trampoline money can buy.

What wasn't so much fun was putting it together. Ivor and I spent a (hot) boxing day assembling the thing. I'd already proudly laid the ground work of paving slabs and had a big delivery of mulch for the trampoline to sit on. Allegedly a trampoline could be assembled in 2 hours and we set ourselves that marker.

I don't know whether we took it apart and reassembled it 3 or maybe 4 times. Certainly the spings were an absolute horror-show to get in. Throughout the assembly you can refer to youtube clips of the jovial Kiwi who invented the thing calmly and easily putting the parts in the right place. We tried repeating what he'd done and then repeating it using different parts of our anatomy then tried crawling under it, lying it on its side pulling at it, pushing the netting - I reached the conclusion that the guy was essentially a liar though I don't know how he faked his videos.

In the end it took Amy's intelligence to help us work out the sequence the springs had to go in (there's hardly a mention of this on the instuctions) and both Ivor and I were sore the next day. Still, the thing gives a great bounce - it's perfect for looking over the neighbours hedge and I'm determined to master a back flip by the end of 2013 - hopefully my ambition won't end with me in traction in hospital. Oh yeah, the kids like it too.

Proudly complete on boxing day

Audrey and Eli putting the Springfree through its paces

Happy Christmas!

We had a busy Christmas spent in the company of Amy's parents (Ivor and Wendy) and then enjoyed the evening with our friend Catherine and Anthony and their two children and Catherine's parents.

It meant we all ate far too much and rolled around the house when we got home at the end of the night.

Audrey had been awake at 4am (but fortunately we got her back to sleep until about 5.30am) but it's remarkable how advanced both Audrey and Eli's 'fine motor skills' are when it comes to unwrapping presents. I tried to persaude them to leave a few presents until after breakfast but to no avail and before long the floor was covered with torn paper and each of them with a pile of toys.

Audrey's 'Skipper and Chelsea' dolls (from Grandma) proved a big hit. Eli enjoyed his olympic football (from Robin) and we had a few games down our (far from Wembley) hallway. Santa chipped in with a Spider man car (why would spider man have - or need a car when he could swing on his web??) and vests and socks for them both.

Both the kids energy and enthusiasm for Christmas has grown exponentially every year. Audrey had delighted counting down the days (via her advent calendar) and it meant that they were both fully revved up when the day actually arrived. Audrey was really disappointed on boxing day when I told her it was another 364 sleeps to Christmas and asked if there was anything she could do to speed things along.

Food left for Rudolf (water and a carrot) and Santa (beer and mince pie)

A resplendent Amy prepares the dinner
A pair of monkeys with a couple of soft toys

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Patrick comes to visit

Our good friend Patrick came to visit us last week on a whirlwind stopover in Australia after 5 weeks travelling around New Zealand.  We headed out to Casuarina Sands for a BBQ and a good old chinwag.  After Trevor and the kids had a dip in the Cotter River we headed off to Mount Stromlo for a coffee and milkshake.  Thanks for bussing it from Sydney to Canberra to see us Patrick!

All smiles at Casuarina Sands

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Lights

No, not our house (un/fortunately) but one of the neighbouring suburbs which has a house decorated with no fewer than 10,000 lights. Pretty poor for Sugarland, Texas - yet pretty impressive for Canberra

They have a box for charity (though realistically one suspects they could just donate the cost of their increased electricity bill and it would amount to more) but nevertheless the kids enjoyed it. Not sure I would if I was a neighbour and had hoards of cars driving up my street to have a gawp.

Audrey's year at pre-school

We were given a lovely CD containing pictures of Audrey's year at pre-school. Next year she embarks on her first year at primary school. Hope you like the video.

Update on Amy

I had scans last week to see if the chemo regime I have been on has been doing what we hoped it would do - i.e. shrink the tumours in my liver/stop further growth.  Unfortunately, this was not the case and the scans showed further progression in my liver.  On the up side, there was no further spread to any other organs.  So back to the drawing board and on to a new chemotherapy regime.  This time it will be weekly.  I'll be scanned after 2-3 months to see what's happening.  Fingers crossed this time this one will work for me!  I had my first round of the new chemo on Tuesday and so far, so good.  No nausea, just the tiredness - but I wonder if that's the drugs or the two children who keep me on the go all day!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What is it with passwords?

In a world seemingly dominated by technology I'm becoming increasingly desparing about passwords.

Every program, from my bank, to my work email, from Facebook, to twitter to Amazon to ebay requires a password to "improve security". Obviously on some of these it makes sense but on many many sites it seems to be just there to cause inconvenience a pointless appendage added to make the site able to lock you out at whim.

When I was a kid I was told I could be anyone I wanted to be. Now they call that identity theft.

It started off easy - I had my bank pin a four character numeric. Change it to your birthday (1403) or something like that. Easy.

Ahh but then you get the door to the office - five numbers and a character followed by #

Then add in Eli's daycare centre who have recently added a keycode to their front door - four more numbers (decided by someone else so you can't change them)

Then your work email password - which changes every month (for added security of course)

Chuck in your online bank and another couple of systems I use regularly at work all of them changing with unnerving frequency.

Over the last couple of years this has been complicated even further. For anyone who cares I used to use the same password for as many of the systems as I could - a short five character code which included a number.

Only now the damn thing has become even more complex. Many passwords now have to be 6 characters or more and include a symbol and an numeric character. Of course you can't have characters than follow on from each other (like abc) or more than 4 numbers. What are these jokers on!

Ok so I go for 7revor! or something like that but then I forget whether it's upper or lower case (which has of course become more and more significant) and then when I'm logged out my secret question asks me what is the name of my favourite vegetable? - I've always liked carrots but then green beans are nice too - I can't remember what I entered when I filled that out in 2005 and thinking about it potatoes are pretty good too, but then of course you're only going to give me two attempts anyway before you lock me out so I've got no chance.

And then the captcha figures that you invariable need to enter a clever 'geeky' word which is mixed up in case some secret automated Chinese system is waiting on tenterhooks to hack into my personal email and see what spam and other pointless emails I've been receiving.

I've now been given password keys which I have to carry round (for my bank) and something like a calculator for another system which I can press and magically another random password appears which I can then use with the memorable password I have already entered (which is "gh25"{fasdthjk52") if you want to know.

It all ends up with you scrawling the passwords down on a post-it note - or in a file on your computer (cleverly disgused by the name passwords.doc) so I can keep up. Surely all of this was a lot simpler when we just had a box with a key.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Welcome to the Juicer

Amy received a juicer as an early Christmas present from her friends Emma and Jo.

We put it through its paces this morning mixing up a brew of celery, carrot (organic of course) and apple. It sounded healthy and tasted lovely. The kids loved dropping the fruit into the juicer and we speculated about how much of cash is now going to be spent on fruit and vegetables to feed the juicer. salary=celery.

Enjoying the juice

Audrey's School Christmas Concert

On Friday we all went along to watch Audrey perform in the school concert (her debut role was a chicken).

'The Magical Christmas Jigsaw' starred the entire school in some role or another, so it was a pretty big undertaking and the hall was packed with parents armed with cameras/iphones to record the special few seconds of their offspring singing/talking.

Audrey did us proud and Eli was absorbed watching throughout the show. Audrey spotted us waving in the crowd at the end and nearly walked off the stage, fortunately being 'saved' by Jess her teacher. We felt it was taking the expression 'break a leg' a bit too literally. There was a nice barbecue in the playground afterwards, even the rain couldn't dampen the post-show party spirits.

before the show practicing her 'clucking'

Ange and Matt's Christmas Party

We were invited to our friends (Ange and Matt) house for a Christmas party. It's becoming a bit of a tradition and the kids loved spending time with their friends. There's always plentiful amounts of food, presents for the kids and Christmas cheer.

Phil and Nina's Cherries

We're lucky that our neighbours love their garden and have two (smallish) cherry trees which this year bore bountiful amounts of fruit.

Nina invited the kids to come and help pick them and as well as bringing home a bowl of delicious cherries both Audrey and Eli ate their fair share along the way.

Here's a couple of pics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Eclipse over Canberra

A few years ago I watched a full solar eclipse in the UK (while sat on a rib boat in the middle of the English channel) it was a breathtaking experience. The moon covered the sun entirely and as the dark spread from the horizon over our heads we lept to our feet and impulsively cheered it was incredible.

When I heard that there was going to be an eclipse viewable from Canberra I was always going to go.

Audrey has taken to waking up quite early (5.30am-6am) and so being at the top of Mount Stromlo for 7am to view the event was made all the easier for us (!). There were probably about 40-50 others when we reached the summit of nearby Mount Stromlo, I'd heard a scientist from Canberra announcing the impeding eclipse on the radio on the way there so both Audrey and I were pretty excited even before we got there.

There was quite a lot of cloud around, but it moved away to reveal the sun and the moon. Canberra only saw a 62% eclipse, but armed with our cardboard glasses it was still pretty good. Audrey learnt a new word from the scientists and public stood around us "Spectacular!" which she used with great effect to describe the event to  Amy when we got home.