Saturday, 31 January 2009

Canada Part 7

We left Banff on the morning of the 30th. We were on a connecting bus to the airport - the bus broke down - but another was sent along in quick time. Funny thing with the bus change- we let everyone get off ahead of us (why hold everyone up with our kids) - when we got on the next bus - our seats had been taken and we ended up spread out throughout the bus (yes - even the 5 year old).

As we passed things backwards and forwards and had the obvious conversations you tend to have on a 1 1/2 hour trip - we did note that it was strange our rude people are in this "developed country". I was going to ask the nationality of the people who took our seats - I didn't want to stereotype anyone, my guess though was that they weren't canadian. Next time we have to do something, we will just hold everyone up because everyone is just out for themselves. Sorry - we just operate under a different code of ethics.

The flight from Calgary to Vancouver was great - quick and efficient. We couldn't get a van taxi to take us to our hotel - so we ended up with a stretch limo, which is a pretty cool way to rock up to the Sheraton.

The hotel room was great, service was better, location was excellent. One block from the resturants that the taxi had dropped us off for between bus and train trip. We had an EXCELLENT dinner at a cruisy little Italian resturant. Each booth was surrounded by books on art, history, war, travel etc. No DS's were needed for this dinner.

We had an excellent dinner (with a tonne of leftovers) and then went to watch the Calgary Giants play the redskins (ice hockey). It was a slaughter. Everytime the home team got a goal some men/boys would strip off their shirts and wave them around. We had to stop the two youngest from joining was a close call.

It was fun and the kids loved it. There is no way I am EVER letting my kids play - it was a fight fest - which was fun to watch, but I wouldn't want any of my babies being in it.The next day we got a rental car and drove out to the suburbs (BOO to Hertz too - as we picked up the car 1/2 hour early - so they charged us for a FULL extra day and didn't tell us - we could have dropped it at the airport 1/2 hour earlier if they had bothered to ask/tell etc - anyway - vote with your feet - don't go with Hertz).........ANYWAY, back to the story.

We had a friend who really wanted to know what Wallmart was like. So we went and saw. Double the size of Kmart, half the price. We lasted 20 minutes and were out of there - it's just a really big shop - and....... Hubs checked out a model train shop - we were back in the city in record time. We checked out the planetarium - it was 4 hours of excellent entertainment and education.

That night was New Years Eve - but in Aus it was our 15th wedding anniversary. So we celebrated that night in a Greek Restuarant. The kids have come a long way in a year in reference to sitting in restuarants - so it was actually pretty nice.

We didn't wake the kids up for midnight - we didn't even wake ourselves - there was no Eiffel Tower - it just didn't seem worth it.

We left the next day and had an excellent 17 hours of flying, arriving in Singapore on the 3rd (we lost a day). I got my new iphone (birthday present) the next day before happily getting home on the Sat. Very happy to be home - but so thrilled that we got to go on a truly fantastic holiday with the most amazing people in the world.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Canada in summary

I am just heading off to the printers to have this printed. It is a great idea for people who can't decide on just one photo.

I have one more blog to go on the Canada trip - then I will move on in reverse order to Phuket, Langkawi, Bali, Aus and NZ (that takes me back to July 08).
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Monday, 26 January 2009

Canada Part 6

This photo is taken at many meters above sea level - it was beyond freezing. I have 6 layers in the top half of my body alone (and 5 are supposedly thermal - ha), 2 layers on the bottom half, 2 pairs of socks, 2 heaters in each foot, glove liners, gloves, 2 heaters per hand, hat liner, hat and 2 hoods. I was lucky to move, let alone ski. Not complaining - I didn't complain about it - in retrospect though it seems a tad extreme.

We woke on Christmas morning and spent the requisite time on presents (before skiing). Santa was both clever and stupid this year. Last year he spent all night looking for the kids and by the time he found them (in switzerland), he had already deposited the presents in Indonesia out of panic. This year, they told him where they would be. So he gave them a photo of what was waiting under the tree back in Jakarta. The two little ones carried these photos with them (and whispered to each other that they could not wait to get home). For C girl - he gave her a soccer t shirt and hat. She was so disappointed. As she said - I don't know how he got it so wrong - I don't even like that team. I like Arsinal. What an idiot - come on Santa - get your act together. Your letting the team down.

Christmas day was spent skiing Sunshine Valley. The kids were in ski school - but this was the explorers ski school. 3 mountains, 3 days, runs all over (we only saw them once per child over 3 days). So they started on xmas day and did Sunshine valley, then Lake Louise and finally Norquay.

On Christmas night we had a buffet in the hotel - very nice, with tonnes of ham (we live in a Muslim country - we appreciate pig). The next three days passed with skiing and showing off in the afternoon. It wasn't as cold - but it was still in the mid -20 degrees CELCIUS.

This was at Norquay after their final lessons. We went up to the top and skiied down (they insisted on doing the jumps). Norquay was the least fun of the three - but we ended up on the double black diamond run - so we didn't shirk in the face of an obstacle - and we survived. Great bonus.

This is on the last day in Sunshine Valley - where we chose to spend the last day (it was that or Lake Louise again). We just had a full day of family skiing. The fact that this is on top of a mountain is so cool. Only 1 year ago - the kids couldn't ski down so we could never have had a photo at the top. But now - no problem - they can all ski black runs at a pinch, blue is better (and speed up on the sides because it's a bit dull). Bear has overpassed Munchkin on skiing ability, C girl is miles ahead - but she is 3 years ahead. I need lessons to make sure I can keep up.

Please don't ask us to spend a xmas away from the snow. It is so much fun skiing and it is so much more fun than sitting around having a meal in the middle of the day. Plus there are no long lines - yippee. It is our family time and I love it.

Gong Xi Fah Cai and Happy Australia Day

Happy Australia Day and Happy Chinese New Year.

We spent yesterday afternoon having Brunch at the Ritz Carlton. We took 5 kids with us (C girl had two friends sleep over) - met up with some friends there. It was great. Had a loud English git to abuse (it was Australia Day and Chinese New Years). Kids ran amok, at 4:30 we were asked politely to leave (they finish at 3).

Today we chilled, having Bacon and scrambled eggs for dinner - is that Aussie?

What did you do for Invasion day?

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Europe Xmas 2007

Yes this is out of sync with the Canada holiday (this was the christmas before). I just wasn't organised enough to post anything back then. This is the article I wrote for the ANZA magazine in Jakarta. It was heavily edited after I sent it in - don't worry - they have standards.

We were the lucky people who won 2 return flights from Singapore to Frankfurt at the ANZA ball. But we had a few challenges to contend with in winning this price. We have 3 kids aged 4,6 and 8 who did not want to be left at home with the Nanny and we knew we would miss them too much to have a good time without them. We had annual leave already booked for Christmas time but with no where to go, so the logical thing to do would be to take the kids and have a fantastic time together for our very first “white Christmas”.

Qantas at first were not happy with our timeframe - but when we said we would take the tickets in Feb or we would take them at christmas and purchase another 3 tickets - they got happy quickly.

So it was agreed - All five of us would go on holiday from 16th Dec – 7th Jan and tour selected cities in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France together for 3 weeks (sound relaxing anyone?).

There were many things we wanted to achieve on this holiday:

Eat local food (in Indo, the kids and adults eat separate food, each to our liking);
Stay in the one hotel room/apartment (together time, not waste money);
No taxis (in Indo, door to door service, no responsibility for getting to destination – this meant we were totally self reliant (in German and French);
Buy a souvenir from every city (we have a habit of forgetting this);
Use trains to travel between major cities (our son LOVES trains);
Go to Disneyland (the oldest child went in July, was dying to go with other two asap);
Take the kids skiing (they had never seen snow);
Visit Dachau concentration camp (lifelong obsession with II world war).

The Itinerary:

17th – 19th Frankfurt
Arrived at 6am, shattered, hotel let us check in straight away (forever grateful) – kids asleep within the hour.. - Hotel room was really 2 bedroom apartment – double bonus. - Visited the Christmas markets from 2pm each day to early evening, finally it felt like Christmas time, with traditions we had no idea existed (but loved) – like hot wine, roasted nuts, turkey pieces as well as german traditions – pretzel bread, frankfurts….. - Christmas was everywhere – music, trees, decorations. - It was freezing – another pleasant change. - We spent the following days sleeping, exploring, eating and generally trying to shake the feeling that we had made a huge mistake (kids with jet lag are not very reasonable).

19th – 21st Munich

Arrived by ICE train –Efficient and clean train (up to 300km/hour), with magnificent scenery. We stayed at the Marriot, which was a bit of a hike out of town and they tried to stop us having 5 in the room (they should read fine print – I did before I booked it); Got to have a Jacuzzi and treadmill every morning (kids got to go swimming) Did a tour of Dachau, which was sobering and amazing, kids were excellent (5km walking x 5 hours); Dinner at THE beer hall in Munich, yes someone had sausages, great atmosphere (including the oompah band); Visited the Christmas markets, which meant lots of Gluhwein and chocolate crepes; watched the glockenspiel and local choir. The stalls for the markets and the local shops were beautifully decorated. Magic atmosphere for Christmas. Beautiful buildings, streets and shops – Christmas alive and well. Didn’t get to spend enough time here.

21st – 23rd Salzburg (Austria)

Arrived by train (but delayed on track for 2 hours) – late into town, But saw proper snow for the first time on our trip. found the hotel easily, great room (still a Marriott); Went to Christmas markets – too late for ice skating, again beautiful and lots of gluhwein; Went on tour of underground salt mine (2 giant slides, 2 train rides and an underground boat ride) – kids were very impressed to be 650m into a mountain. Went by bus to and from the mine – beautiful mountains, history of Nazi’s and Sound of Music. Amazing history surrounding the area. Didn’t get to spend enough time here either.

23rd – 29th Adelboden (Switzerland)

Would you believe our alarm didn’t work (it was set but it was set for work time, so it didn't work on a saturday) – missed the train by merely 3 minutes (didn’t we kick ourselves continually that day). This cost us 40 minutes delay in leaving, 2 extra train changes and an extra 2 ½ hours to journey – train missed at 6:22am, arrived in Adelboden at 5:30pm.

Chelsea’s birthday was on the 24th, declared the worst birthday of her entire life after we forced her on the bus to ski school. After ski school, that was recanted and it ended up being a pretty great birthday after all. Breakfast and 5 course dinner were included at hotel – also kids play area for meals…got to love that. Kids were the loudest children there, but they encouraged all the other kids to be loud to, so by the end you couldn’t pick out just our kids screams of delight. The skiing was breathtaking and unbelievable. We are going again (as often as we can). The kids picked up skiing fantastically….and loved it by the end of the week.

Modern day edit - please note the purple ski jackets. We bought them in 1994. It took us three days to notice that the Europeans were avoiding us because we looked so daggy - we have since replaced the jackets (and Jason's pants) - mine are navy - I will buy some more when I see a pair that jumps out at me (whilst avoiding shopping).

This portion of our trip was just the right amount of time. By the end it hadn’t snowed for 3 weeks and was starting to heat up. The ice on the footpaths melted on the day we left (and we had been pulling the kids on their skis on the ice each afternoon to get home – so we were very lucky).

29th – 5th Paris

Huge issues with trains to get there (all trains booked with Eurail passes for new years eve) Arrived at 11:30pm, tried to get a taxi – but failed (line was 200m long), 2 trains and a 1km walk got us to our hotel at 1am (no one complained – too happy to be in the “city of Disneyland”). Moved into 2 bedroom apartment on the Sunday morning – seriously close to Eiffel tower (200m from the Eiffel tower park). Tried to climb the Eiffel tower that day – but the lines were too massive. Went for a boat cruise instead - magnificent. Went to Disneyland on the Monday for part 1 (3 parts) – kids emerged into fairytale land….fabulous to be part of.

When in Paris C girl turned to me and said - Mum, if you were born here - you wouldn't wear such daggy clothes. She doesn't understand my gift - I could buy clothes that were up to the minute modern - when I put them on I would look like it was 5 years out of date - it's a gift - live with it (and hope you don't inherit it).

New Years Eve consisted of waking kids at 11:30pm and walking 200m to the Eiffel tower park, where we waited for 10 minutes, watched the flashing lights on Eiffel tower and saw the fireworks, then went home 10 minutes later and put them back in bed. Not sure that is everyones idea of a great new years eve….but we didn’t have tired children the next day and that was our aim.

We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary on the 1st with a day climbing the Eiffel tower, visiting Montre Marte, Arch of Victory and finishing with a romantic dinner for 5 in a local café. Definitely the most unique anniversary so far.
We ended up going to Disneyland on the Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Kids absolutely loved everything about it, the parents nicknamed it….how to pay a lot of money – and wait in a queue. BUT, it was Disneyland, it’s a place of magic and very well organized, so you just deal with it.

On the Saturday the 5th we went from Paris to Frankfurt via ICE train, had a relaxing dinner in Frankfurt before heading off for a 11:30pm.

On Sunday the 6th we landed at 6pm in Singapore, then spent the night in two separate hotel rooms (transit hotel in airport) – everyone was awake at 2am (which was 7pm Germany time) – no one went back to sleep again after that – crazy. Think we might have been excited about returning home (WHY?).

Best Place: Disneyland (voted by the kids)
Skiing in Switzerland (voted by parents)

Rudest Place: Salzburg – were told to leave the bus because the driver didn’t have time to talk to stupid people who didn’t know German (we asked him if the bus was going to the old city centre).

Biggest Challenge:
5 suitcases, 5 backpacks, 1 travel case and 2 useless (for luggage carrying) children. 22 trains/buses were caught with full luggage during the 3 weeks away…our worst connection – 7 minutes….but we made it.

We had a brilliant time, would love to work out how to permanently be on holidays with the whole family.
I would sincerely like to thank Qantas for donating the tickets. A fantastic surprise and I am glad we got to utilize them in such a positive way.

Unfortunately - these are the only proper photos we have of this holiday. All (and I'm talking over 1000) photos vanished when our computer had a meltdown. We have learnt the importance of backing up (in the saddest possible way). But bonus - Bear had been given a camera for xmas and he took some great shots - completely random (the usual 6 year old shots), but some really nice ones as well.

Canada Part 5

We got into Banff at lunchtime. Planned out the rest of the day and then basically ran (literally). But it was worth it - we did some pretty great things on her birthday.

We fit in Ice skating on her birthday as well. The two girls are naturals, but Bear struggles a bit. It was at Banff Springs (fairmont hotel) - very flash hotel. A bit out of town (and we walked there) - but we don't need to stay somewhere flash when we are on holidays - we live flash at home, it's nice to rough it sometimes (okay - not everyones definition of roughing it, but for us it was alright).

We fitted in a sleigh ride (absolutely the lamest thing we did on our holiday) - far too cold for a sleigh ride - and don't go thinking a sprint through a snow palace. It was a 30 seater, full to the brim, through a back paddock. I asked the driver to let me know when we were 10 minutes from stopping so I could call a taxi. Munchkin tried to sing christmas carols (since it was christmas eve) - but no one joined in - but it makes for a nice photo (we will definitely do it in Europe this christmas as theirs were smaller and more like what you think of when you sing jingle bells).

Note on the hat - I didn't realise it looked that lame when I bought it - I might give it to Munchkin (she's wearing my hat I got in NZ in August). I promise I will spend more than 1 minute looking next time.

The kids hate these jumpers. I got them for last christmas (in switzerland), but when they saw them they just refused to wear them. They have to wear them on Christmas Eve and Christmas night - those are the two dressed up occassions (skiing during the day for christmas, so it's a no brainer). Birthday cake (again) at The Keg - a great steak house (and that is something that you really miss in Jakarata).

Daddy's litle girl. Butter really wouldn't melt in her mouth.

I think her best birthday ever.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Canada Part 4

We left Jasper on C girls birthday. We had pancakes and french toast in the diner next door to the hotel for breakfast (yes, us adults only ate 1/2 the portions because they were huge, the kids ate them all, but then didn't eat lunch). We made sure we had candles and sang happy birthday. You never know where you are going to end up - best to make sure that the singing and candles are definitely included in the day.

We got the bus from Jasper to Banff with Sundog tours. On the way the bus stopped due to the boot (you know - where the luggage is stored) light came on. When we arrived in Banff - much to our dismay, one of our bags had disappeared into thin air.
The driver was casual -I'm sure it's back at another hotel, it must have been taken off earlier. We never did hear back from SUNDOG tours. We rang twice (which was as good as useless), they never rang us. We had 3 brand new helmets in that bag - at least CAD300 worth. So if going from Jasper to Banff - do not go with these guys - no interest at all was shown in our lost luggage - we are just grateful that it was new stuff we lost- stuff we hadn't grown attached to (and not the xmas presents).

We went past 80 icefields (not glaciers we were assured - as they move, these don't). Spectacular stuff - deadly though. I couldn't imagine being stranded with a flat tyre in this country.

We left Jasper on C girls birthday. We had pancakes and french toast in the diner next door to the hotel (yes, us adults only ate 1/2 the portions because they were huge, the kids ate them all, but then didn't eat lunch). We made sure we had candles and sang happy birthday. You never know where you are going to end up - best to make sure that the singing and candles are definitely included in the day.

We got the bus from Jasper to Banff with Sundog. On the way the bus stopped due to the boot (you know - where the luggage is stored) light came on. When we arrived in Banff - much to our dismay, one of our bags had disappeared into thin air.

The driver was casual -I'm sure it's back at another hotel, it must have been taken off earlier. We never did hear back from SUNDOG tours. We rang twice (which was as good as useless), they never rang us. We had 3 brand new helmets in that bag - at least CAD300 worth. So if going from Jasper to Banff - do not go with these guys - no interest at all was shown in our lost luggage - we are just grateful that it was new stuff we lost- stuff we hadn't grown attached to (and not the xmas presents).

Beautiful trip from Jasper to Banff. We went past 80 icefields

Twas the night before christmas and all through the hotel - not a family member was resting, not even the littlest one (okay lame, have you got better?).

Canada Part 3

When we got to Vancouver, we had a few hours to kill after we checked in our luggage (first class is good that way). We went into the city for a few hours and found a crepe restuarant (C Girl has made crepes for breakfast since returning from Paris in July 2007). After enjoying a lovely dinner we strolled the streets before heading back to the train station. Scheduled depature - 8pm. Actual departure - 8:30 - time we stopped to let a cargo train go past - 8:35 - no kidding.

Australia - a relatively barren, low population country - has a rule about train travel. At 2pm every day, a passenger train goes through the hunter valley. It has the right of way, it doesn't stop. Blasts (that cost a lot of money) have to be scheduled around this passenger train (because some blasts stop the railway line). In Canada - freight comes first. This is why our train arrived in Jasper 6 hours late - did I say 6 hours - yes. Unbelievable - and this is supposed to be a Developed country (yeah right). Please remember - we missed a train by 3 minutes last year in Austria - it had left - we were 3 minutes late. A bit of a difference don't you think (oh yeah - and it snows in Europe so what is Canada's excuse (okay it was a bit colder than usual - but so what).

The amazing view from the train. It was truly spectacular and I am very glad we went by train. We met some very nice people on the train. The cutest moment was when Munchkin and Bear and I went to the entertainment cabin and played Bingo. Every time the lady said a number, the two of them would repeat it under their breath. B 5........B5, G 45.......G 45. Since the cabin was filled with retired people, there were many giggles. After an hour, the two of them hadn't noticed that everyone thought that the twins (as they try to pass themselves of as) were adorable. They got a special price for being guest Announcers. They were happy, they had almost won a few times and they don't like to lose - ever.

When we arrived in Jasper - we were very fortunate to find our hotel across the road from the train station. I scooted the kids across to our room, then headed back to get our bags. There are no words to describe just how cold it was at 10:30pm. Freezing is an understatement. But, at 3am we were ringing the hotel front desk because our room was stuck on 30 degrees and we couldn't get it turned down. We ended up sleeping with the window ajar - and there was an ice trail in the path of the open window - very wierd I assure you. But it was fine - we all slept until 9am. Don't underestimate this mountain air (in retrospect the kids slept between 11 - 12 hours every night that we were on holiday -us about 10).

We wandered around in the morning (found a great Native American shop where we spent an hour (and a bit of money).....the owners were nothing short of fantastic with the kids. We needed to do something that was special and unique when visiting. It was too cold for the dog sleighs, so we settled on a walk along an iced river. It was a great choice. It was spectacular (and great exercise). The kids were fine - not too far or hard for them (this was shown by them being directly behind the guide - the adults being the stragglers.

At the very start, the water wasn't 100% frozen. Yes -it is as cold as it looks (it was about -25 degrees celcius on this day).

Walking over a dangerous part of the river. One at a time. We have cleats on our feet so that we don't slip - and special shoes. All part of the guided tour.

This is actually a frozen waterfall. The guide was excellent at guiding us through the dangerous frozen river. How many kids get to say they have walked on water (and you could hear it running beneath us).

The little girl on the right is the reason we couldn't keep walking for the full tour. Although she is a native Albertan, she was not dressed for the weather. Her and her sisters lips were blue by the time we got back. She was fffffrrrrreeeeeezzzinnngggg.

Is this not a priceless view?

Cold Mum and son - after returning to the starting point (I had heaters in my feet by this stage - I was cruising).

Don't tell me this doesn't look fantastic. It was really great going for a walk in this park. Well worth the effort and definitely worth the cold.

We will not forget Jasper in a hurry. Beautiful.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Canda Part 2

This is the view from our apartment (of Blackcombe)

The first week we stayed in a two bedroom apartment in Whistler. A truly bucolic village that was experiencing freezing conditions (-40 degrees celcius with wind factor) and as such there wasn't much fresh snow. This caused people to cancel their holidays in droves. So we had a week of skiing without any crowds.

A huge plus for whistler was that it has a free bus service that runs every 7 minutes. This meant that we could get around from our apartment to the centre of town without any issues, at any time of the day (we still took a few taxis because luggage should not go on buses unless it's for the long haul).

A huge minus for whistler was that it had a pylon issue with a gondola (as in ice built up in the pylon and it popped the top on the structure, causing a gondola to crash land on a bus stop (luckily). People were stranded on the gondola for about four hours. This happened on the tuesday we were there. This meant that the next morning every person wanting to get onto the mountain was going up one gondola. Instead of opening other lifts to get people up to the top as quickly as possible, they let people wait an hour (in below freezing conditions) to go up one lift (yes I know how to read a map - it would not have been hard, it would have just meant herding people from one lift to another one).

This is from the top of Whistler mountain. Breathtakingly beautiful. Refreshingly freezing (after Jakarta).

This is the symbol for the winter olympics. It is an indian marker and snow falls off it naturally (very clever).

The kids had lessons all day for the first 3 days. They were meant to do 5 days of lessons, but the format has the kids spending the entire time that the lifts are open in ski school, which means we don't get to ski with them. So we took them out of lessons for the last 2 days. This way we could see their progress and spend some time with them.

The middle child (with dark camoflague pants) is a friend of C girl from her school in Jakarta. His whole family were there and were WAY better skiiers than our family. But they thankfully joined us on a few occassions (including one with just Hubs and I that included a cross country excursion down the mountain - but it was fun to have an adventure). We also met up for dinner a few times, plus a few lazy afternoons (after intense skiing) in the local pub. It was fantastic to meet up with them and it was great to make some new friends. We don't meet up with people on holidays overseas generally, not because we don't want to, but because we don't seem to know people going to the same place.

Sorry this is out of sequence, but this is on the first day of ski school (you can tell by the shallow angle of the slopes). Munchkin and Bear were in the same class. They are absolutely adorable together though. On the day off from skiing, we went shopping. They wore the same hats, same gloves and together kicked a piece of ice from one end of the village to the other.
We liked Whistler, we might be back (after we have done everywhere else). We left on the sunday before christmas (21st I think). Our bus left without us (but they did end up reimbursing us)....I had to run from our unit through our friends complex down to the village, where I could get two taxis to take us to the centre of town.........we ended up getting a greyhound bus back to Vancouver.....hey those things are really cheap (CAD80 one way for 5 people).
The trip back was a bit hair raising. While we were in Whistler it had snowed up a storm in Vancouver, so everything was packed with snow. The highway was closed to one lane each way and the bus detoured into every little town to pick/drop people off. BUT, the driver knew what he was doing AND we got their in one piece.
At the bus stop at the end, we were 100m from the train station - for our next leg of the journey - an overnight train trip to Jasper.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Leader in Me

While away I finished reading my non fiction selection for the week.

This book is fantastic. I want the Principal, Board of Trustees, Board of Governors and Senior Management team of my kids school to read this (because once they have read it I am sure they will want to implement it). I want to help implement something like this at our school. I almost bought 20 copies of it today (to distribute) when I saw it in the bookshop on the way home from airport (it was attached to a starbucks). I didn't because I have to think about the approach first.
It talks about teaching kids from 5 years of age upwards the 7 habits of highly effective people.

When I first tried to read 7 habits, it was 1994. I didn't have any kids, I had just gotten married and graduated from Uni. I needed to do a lot of growing up, I needed to work on my EQ). I didn't really pay much attention. I remember telling my boss I had read it - but I only skimmed it.

In 2004 I listened to it on cd. I suddenly listened. I had 3 kids. I remember thinking - I have to put this on a poster and teach my kids this. I want them to understand this when they are 5, not 33. They will be so far ahead of everyone they are competing with for jobs if they understand this (and will live more productive happy lives - honest, I thought that as well).

I didn't make that poster (it's on my list for next week - promise). But another person who learnt it thought - hey, I want to teach my kids this. She just happened to be a principal of a school. Not only did she do it - but the program reaped massive rewards for the kids in the school. Other schools followed. This book is about how to take that message to kids - and how they are doing so all over the world with huge rewards (and this is not a change in curriculum, it's a change in mindset).

Now, I happen to love the kids school almost as much as they do (it is so much better than what was available to us in Australia). But this would put the icing on the cake and as far as implementation - this school has outstanding staff and management already - so I think it is just a case that they don't know about it, not that they choose not to do it.

Anyway - recommended reading for anyone who wants their own children to be outstanding citizens (you know - the ones who when they get a job, have the social skills along with the work smarts).

And on the lines of getting that poster - we started reading this at night last week. After we complete it - we will make a poster for the toilet (is there a better place to put a poster?). Then, we will make a mission statement for the family.

OMG - I can't remember the name of someone who is as idealistic as me. Where's my grey now?

Back from Borneo

I made it back alive and still awake (just).

We drove from 5:30pm - 3am last night. Mercifully we took the 9:20am flight this morning so we had some sleep in Banjamarsin.

But I now know how the kids feel. When we stopped for a toilet stop (photos will follow - beyond imagination) I kept having local people ask for a photo with me. Very funny - especially the part about "so beautiful", yeah all my fatigued glory. Hot shower, how I miss you so.

Photos and summary of my environmental mission will follow. But I really loved this trip. Although it was my 7- 8th trip (I think), it was the ice breaker for my two bosses and myself. At the minesite, we don't have hot water (I ask for a bucket of water to be boiled because I am a weakling and have no need to look mucho), I have an airconditioner, but most people there don't. BUT, we have Chivas and we have pay tv with the movies channel - go VIP (but I wish there was a shower).

So on Tuesday night, we watched Step Up and I felt horrible for making these 30+ year old men watch a chick flick. But, I hadn't seen it, I had the remote and they were chain smoking, it's only fair that I get something that I want. When I went to bed, I switched it over to the Texas Chainsaw massacre. Half hour later I heard it on......guess what.....TITANIC.

At 1am I awoke to "My heart will go on......" Are you kidding. I got up, all 3 (there was a ringin) were sitting there CRYING. I had to say - come on girls - it's time for bed. When I meet your wives I am going to tell them that you happily watched Titanic - and CRIED.

From that point on, the ice was broken completely. It was actually a really great trip. Or maybe I am still so sleep deprived that I am delirious.

I have seen the kids, they are all fine. I have done two jigsaw puzzles and played a card game with Munchkin and Bear and C girl disappeared within 10 minutes of setting foot in the house to play soccer instead. All is right with the world.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Canada Part 1

The kids were thrilled to be called out of school an hour early. We were at the airport an hour later. I was busy reading a really good book and the kids had been happily singing with the ipod. So no one was in their travel clothes.

No problem, that's what drivers are for - to wait while they get changed in the toilets.

Our flight took off on time - 5pm. Big wide world here we come.

Friday 12th December - 7pm. Land in Singapore. The land of many rules. 5 in a taxi - off to our favorite hotel - The Perak Hotel. This hotel is nothing to look at. It's in Little India. BUT, we have the family suite (a rarity for 5 people in Singapore). It is the attic of half of the hotel. It is a long L shape and has three seperate areas (including a kitchen). Breakfast is basic - but provided. It is HUGELY expensive - BUT - we HATE seperate rooms that are not adjoining (means no sleep for anyone) - so we suck it up princess.

Sat morning - the excitement was mounting. We took off at 9:30am. Landed in Korea many hours later (I don't remember - I just know it was about 6 hours - don't remember if they were behind or ahead). We stayed for 1 hour - during which we had to buy food for the kids (for some reason Singapore Airlines only served asian food as kids meals - well derrr, you may say, but they have western food for adults. So they ate - nothing.

Anyway - back on the plane for a 9 1/2 hour flight from Seoul to Vancouver. Kids slept for a lot of this. We slept for some of it. It didn't seem too bad.

We landed at 11:30am Sat morning (a whole 2 hours after we left - work that out (15 hours time difference, 17 hour travel time)).

We hung around for an hour - then boarded the bus for Whistler. We alternated between sitting up and looking out the window - then falling back asleep (hey, look at that, we went from city to sea within a blink of an eye, hey look at that.....snoore).

Arrived in Whistler at 4pm 13th Dec.

Jason went inside with the kids - I caught a taxi to the supermarket to stock up (oh the joy of jet lag, but I was in a real supermarket - without bans on imports).

At 1am, we were all wide awake. We had french toast and pancakes. At 3 we were asleep again. Waking up at 11:30 on your birthday (mine) is not what I recommend. But, unfortunately I was not ALLOWED to celebrate my birthday when Aus was in time zone (event though that was where I was born), I had to celebrate when Canada was. Well, I missed half of it sleeping. Yes, someone was bitter (and I'll give you a clue - it wasn't the kids).

We went out for a lovely lunch and wandered around the village. We went out for an even lovelier dinner - but forgot to take a photo because we were all exhausted. But we did organise our ski boots and skis for the mornings skiing.

The holiday was about to begin.

C Girl is now 10

This beautiful girl is now 10.

Okay, it was on Christmas Eve 2008, I've had 2 weeks to come to term with it. But next year she will be 12 and will be in Year 7. How did that happen? She is already telling me how she will live on the other side of the world than her brother and sister. But she wants us to visit - so that makes me happy.

Thank you my beautiful, compassionate, list making, caring, planning guru, computer whiz, unique, non girly, soccer starring, clever, question asking, interested in everything, card making, engaging, fantastic big girl.

I have always been very proud of and as you and as you get another year older - I can't believe I still have the priviledge of sharing your life.


PS - yes there are ice crystals on her eyelashes and hair - it really was that cold.

Borneo - Refreshed

Back I am going - again.

But with a new focus.

On the train trip from Vancouver to Jasper (it was scheduled at 19 hours but was in fact 26 hours), I met an amazing lady.

As the sunset on the Canadian Rockies, we discussed the environment in the world today. We discussed that we have this huge time bomb ticking away - and that the world has never come together to fight for a single cause - ever.

I discussed how angry I got that people in other parts of the world discuss deforestation in third world countries like a text book issue - something that can be stopped by the signature on a piece of paper - or a petition, or legislation.

We discussed how countries like the US try to push nuclear power on places like China (and Indonesia also have plans for one) - thinking that the building, maintenance and auditing of these places will be at the standard of what they are used to - but the sad reality is that they will be of a condition that defies imagination (and I'm not talking positively).

I told her how I go into parts of Borneo that tourists don't get to go to - I see the forests that have been burnt down (causing the huge smoke issues in Singapore/Malaysia etc) during the dry season. I told her how annoyed I was that the environmental groups don't seem to grasp that the people causing these fires aren't doing so because they are selfish or environmental terrorists. They are doing it because in this country - if you don't work - you don't eat.

Stop the logging = provide another source of income. Stop the rubber trees = provide another source of income. Stop the fires = provide another way for people to clear some land for them to grow food for their families.

It isn't black and white. There isn't a simple solution. But I am sure there is a solution.

Anyway. This lovely lady happened to have gone to Columbia in her youth, she has a Masters in the Environment and she is working with a group of people who are trying to put together a plan that will help all of the seperate environmental groups (something like 6000 individual groups) work together for a common cause.

She suggested that people living in the western countries didn't understand the issues that are happening in third world countries that are affecting the environment.

They don't understand that as you fly into Jakarta you can actually see the line in the ocean between the clean sea water and the dirty polluted water (it is as if there is a net containing the polution the line is so clear). That the line seems to be going further and further out every time you fly over.

She suggested that I look at my role going to these places as a source for people to gain information and that maybe I should write about it.

So this is how I am looking at my trip on Monday. I am on a fact finding mission. I want to take photos of these environmental terrorists. Living in their 2m x 2m huts, working hard at feeding their families. No pension, no retirement savings, living day by day.

I want to bring back some photos to post that will show people the picture that my eyes are seeing.

Not trying to be philosophic. But everyone in this photo is very important to me. And those little people need to know that the colour grey exists.

Sunday, 4 January 2009


We are finally home.

The kids were only just containing themselves for the last week. Thanks in whole to Santa who was just a little too clever. Knowing that last year he spent all night trying to find them and eventually caught up with them in Switzerland (they hadn't left a note telling them where they were). This year, they left very specific instructions on where they were on Christmas eve.

Knowing that they couldn't possible take a Barbie cash register and a Lego viking ship home from Canada - he gave them a photo of their present with a note telling them it was waiting under the christmas tree. C girl got a soccer top and hat - she had asked for something computer or soccer related (her birthday was the day before and she got the accessories for the laptop (which was her combined present that she had been given 3 weeks before we left (we thought it was too fragile to take for 3 weeks away)). Anyway - her words were - I think I should have been more specific - I don't like this team. TOUGH.

Anyway - Bear and Munchin carried the photos of their gift with them everywhere they went from Christmas onwards and were seen whispering "I can't wait to get home".

When we landed - contained excitement. One of the suitcases were lost (still in Vancouver - but on it's way now - Singapore Airlines (at least they knew where it was - left behind)) - that took an extra half hour.

When they saw the drivers they ran up to them and laid on the biggest hug you have ever seen from 3 kids at the airport - not sure if it was embarressment or pride on the drivers face - not what people at airport see every day.

When home - two youngest ran out of the car - the housekeeper and nanny were thinking they were running up to give them a hug - thankfully, they gave one - then kept running - all the way upstairs to the xmas tree. Bear went straight to the Lego room and was in there for the next 5 hours making his viking ship. Munchkin and C girl spent the time setting up a shop upstairs.

I like that everyone was happy to get home. We had a fantastic holiday. With 9 days of skiing (8 days of 7 - 8 hour lessons a day) plus living in apartment / hotel rooms that are smaller than our bedroom. Everyone is exhausted (although you wouldn't know it - we were all up at 4 this morning). But we have tonnes of photos and experiences.

We had snow for the entire time that we were away. Which is unheard of for Vancouver. The day we had landed - snow everywhere, when we went back for the train (after a week) - huge snow everywhere. For the two days we were there at the end - remainder snow - and on new years eve - another huge dump of snow. For all our travels around BC and Alberta - every scene had snowfall. 3 weeks of white.

We left on new years day (our 15th wedding anniversary). Two days earlier we had hired a stretch limo to get us from the airport to the Sheraton (cheaper than two taxis). On the 2nd day there - we hired a car - so we drove to the airport in snow on the wrong side of the road.

School tomorrow - and we were even responsible - home 2 nights before school starts - not the day school starts like last year.

Photos will follow when I have downloaded AND backed up (we lost 99% of our Europe photos due to this little oversight (and it was totally devastating)).

Happy to be home - life will now continue as normal (aren't we the most BORING people in the world). Next year we are going to go around Italy for 2 weeks and do 1 week of skiing in Austria for christmas (we had a family vote - Hubs is outvoted - 1 week skiing next christmas) - we are not in the military (someone gets upset if we want to sleep in).