Cruising!

We ended 2014 with a 12-day cruise through some of the South Pacific Islands, a holiday for the whole family that we’d planned in Oct 2013. Once we’d made the booking, we a 300 day wait for our departure day to arrive.

Now that we’re back from the cruise, here are some of my thoughts, recollections and good/bad points of the trip – There are a lot of tips in here for would be cruisers:

  1. The staterooms are smaller than you think. This is not really an issue as you wont be spending much time in there, but it is on the small side.
  2. You will eat way more than you need to. Food is in abundance and it really is up to the individual to police what goes into their stomachs! The saying is that for every week you’re on a cruise, you’ll gain 1Kg in weight.
  3. It’s up to you how much or little you do. If you’re part of the FOMO crowd, you’ll be non-stop for almost every single day of the trip! You can also choose to take it easy and partake in as many or as little activities you wish. We learned to
  4. Gym/Exercise. Getting to the gym early in the morning or later in the evening was bliss – if you happen to be able to exercise at sunrise or sunset, it’s even more special (only if there’s a view of the outside world!) It was a popular part of the ship and often had queues for some of the equipment.
  5. Powerboards. Ask whether you can take a powerboard/powerstrip on board BEFORE you go. Our powerboard was surrendered (returned at the end of the trip). We didn’t need to worry as we had 4 power points in the room and enough adapters to charge the necessary devices (thanks to being a frequent traveller in a previous role, however 1 adapter and powerboard does make sense if you’re travelling )
  6. Kids. The kids’ club was great as it allowed the kids to have some time away from the parents. It was a great break for the parents, too! Travelling with 2 other families made the process easier to manage
  7. Peace & quiet. With all the activities on offer, you need to seek out and locate quiet little corners of the ship where you can slink off to for a few mins breathing space. Even though we enjoyed the trip and filled our days with as much as we could, you still need some time away from others to be able to relax/recharge. I found it on one of the mornings when I awoke well before anyone else, went to a quiet part of the ship and revelled in the early morning sunrise whilst chilling out to some music.
  8. No-one cares what you wear! There are decency standards on the ship, but many times you’re able to walk around in whatever you’re comfortable in. For many this meant they stayed in their swimwear most of the time!
  9. Laundry. Every opportunity we had to rinse your clothes and hang them to dry we did – the laundry fees were steep and we didn’t
  10. Packing. I hardly used my socks as we wore sandals/thongs most of the time. barefoot (in certain places) was also acceptable, although in any food or entertainment venue, footwear was required.
  11. Groundhog Day. Our regular dinner time made me think of Groundhog day – the feeling you have lived it all before. We had a 6pm sitting and on a few of the days we simply could not eat at 6pm (due to coming back in the mid afternoon from a shore excursion). The Casual dining options would also have been fine for us, however would have added to the issues outlined in point 2, above)

For our first cruise, we all did have a wonderful time. Personally I did not sleep well and was tired before I got on the ship, and tired when I got off it. Most people do sleep well due to the sumptuous pillows and fantastic bed – just not me.

When it’s your time?

I never published the below post, which I had written on 30th March 2013. Dad passed away 2 days later.

Watching my dad’s declining health over the past couple of weeks has made me question the idea of knowing when it’s your time to go. Many out there do not wish to question “God’s” plan for themselves, but there has to come a time where we are able to make a decision on our own future.

This thought made me think back to the book Whose Life Is It Anyway for a great discourse on who has the right (if any) to control a life.

It’s OK to let your children see you cry

I picked up the title of this post from a randomly stumbled page on personal development, titled “45 life lessons from a 90 year old” – it came in at number 12. I’ll explain the significance of this later, but to fill in some detail, here goes:

My dad’s health is on the decline.

I wrote about this in my last blog post in 2012 and it’s now gotten to the stage where there’s more going against him than for him, physically speaking. He can still hold a conversation and remembers who’s visited, but the sad reality is that the body is failing. No-one knows when the time will come for him to leave us but whilst he’s still here, we’re doing what we can for him.

Today we began the funeral planning process – more to ease our minds as to what’s involved and how things progress once someone passes away and also to make rational decisions without overwhelming emotions clouding our judgement when the time comes. In speaking with our funeral director today I commented that the dearth of ‘funeral plans/funeral insurance’ ads on television are helping people look into these things before they’re needed. It’s going to be an unknown, difficult, emotional journey sometime so getting started and understanding what happens should help make things easier when the time comes.

Some may think it’s not the right time or place to talk about this, but in my world, it is an important topic to talk about. Especially for us men We have a habit of crawling back into our cave(s) at times like this. This is one of the places where I get to share with you how I see things and what’s on my mind. I decided to share this information for 2 reasons: 1) to help me document what’s important/happening in my life right now, and 2) (possibly) to educate others in some small way (this was also a topic of discussion with the funeral director today, about how we can learn from others).

I’ve spoken to my boys (7 & 10, soon to be 8 & 11) about their grandad and whilst I have used the words ‘death’, and ‘dying’ with them during the discussion, it’s been to make sure they are ready to hear those words when others start using them more frequently. In a way it may be an act of priming them to ensure they at least ‘know’ what’s coming – in no way can I guarantee it will help them understand what happens when the time comes. It’s a tough conversation to have but an important and essential one.

So, sometime over the next few days/weeks/months they may yet see us cry – and it’ll be a good thing as we’ve never shied away from it in the past and we’re not about to start now.

The ‘C’ word

I’ve not posted much in the past couple of months as life’s become busier – work’s providing quite the challenge, junior soccer duties take up some time and doing many jobs in and around the house since we moved in have all conspired to keep me away from here. I’ve been ‘quiet’ online the past few months.

The much feared ‘C’ word has entered the inner sphere of our lives. It entered quite suddenly (on the surface, but we all believe it has been hidden for a while, waiting for the right time to jump out and present itself).

My dad has lung cancer.

He’s undergone radiotherapy and a round of chemotherapy, and at the moment he’s at home resting up, in preparation for a likely second round of chemotherapy. It’s all new territory for us and we have no idea where this journey will take us, so for now we’re just getting through each day/week as it comes to us.

It is affecting me in subtle ways, but nothing that I can put my finger on at the moment. If I seem aloof or not engaged with you, go easy on me.

 

 

No more house hunting

The number 28 takes on more significance in my life after we purchased a new house this past weekend.

It’s the ‘next’ step in our current journey kicked off more than a year ago when I embraced my redundancy, changed careers, and shared the journey with the family.

Change can be big and scary, but nothing worth fearing if you communicate and share your thoughts and those of the others invested in the change with you.

I hope you are all well, and I promise to post more now the ‘house hunting’ period is complete 🙂

Going back to school

As a result of having some time on my hands, for the foreseeable future I have a new meeting to attend on Monday mornings – helping out for an hour in Mr6’s Year 1 class. I help the students with an activity known as ‘Recount’ – where the kids write an account of what they did on the weekend.

Last week was my first foray into the class and I enjoyed my trip, but suspect the students enjoyed it even more! They were genuinely excited to have someone else in the class to help them with their work. One of the girls did seem to act up a little more than usual and had to be given 2 warnings!

The biggest thing I noticed was the spread of capabilities inside one classroom – there are kids who have trouble with their spelling and sentence structure and others who are quite good at putting their weekend into words. I wonder whether this is an isolated case or whether this can be found in every class in every school in every state across our country. I hope that my presence in the class is both welcoming and helpful to the students, many of whom I already know by name!

I feel honoured to be able to provide a small contribution to the development of our future generation, and recommend it to any parent out there. 🙂

Walking lessons

As part of my CrackOfArse challenge I went for a brisk 30 min walk this morning before heading home and picking up the boys (Mr almost-6 and Mr almost-9) to walk them to school. Walking with my boys gives me pleasure because it’s a chance to talk with them instead of talking at them during  normal day.

Today’s lesson was the difference between buying a house and renting a house, and branched out into loaning money and how interest works.

The other observation is that they see things I do not; they spotted things like screws, rubber bands and springs on the ground; flowers in a garden that one of our neighbours used to grow; the shadow from a centipede was larger than the centipede itself; and just how long some streets are!

For me, this morning’s walk I felt connected with the environment; I walked on the side of the street where there was more sun; I smelled wonderful smells coming from flowers, kitchens and rubbish bins; I wondered what the stories were behind the 4 cars that are now home to many spiders and their families, and gazed up into the blue sky on this awesome Sydney Autumn morning.

Get out there for a walk, it’s a skill you already have in your toolbox and you can do it anywhere. Walk with purpose and use your senses to pick up on the things that happen all around you. You’re worth it!

Pocket Money for Kids

In 2010 we implemented a pocket money system for our boys (now 5 & 8). Once we decided that we will provide pocket money to the boys, we discussed whether or not to make it earning-based or simply as a treat/reward. There are 2 main schools of thought on this:

  1. Pocket money for no reason
  2. Pocket Money for completing certain {household} tasks

Pocket Money for no reason: We decided against this one fairly early on as it does not mirror the reality in everyday life. No-one gives you money ‘for no reason’ in our society. One of the goals of parenting is to raise functioning members of society, and to us, one way to help with this is to try and mirror the real life ’employment’ model to help them understand how money works. In other words: you have to perform something in order to receive payment.

For this reason we opted for model 2: They would receive payment for completing certain household duties every week. Some duties are mandatory to receiving their pocket money, however there are other tasks available to allow them to earn a little more if they wish to! However, there are sites/articles explaining that this could be fraught with danger (such as this raisingchildren.net.au article). However, to try and prepare our children to contribute to society/understand how the world works, we decided to push on with this model, and for our family, it works.

What they need to do – The Basics & the Extras

The Basics: Here’s the standard list of duties:

  • Making their bed
  • Putting their clothes away,
  • Keeping their room tidy (relatively speaking)
  • Packing away toys (especially in the lounge as we don’t have a large place so no rumpus room for our boys to spread their stuff)
  • Unloading the dishwasher
  • They also have a rotating roster for setting/clearing the table at dinner time, putting the rubbish out and watering the plants

The Extras: Here are the tasks that can earn them extra (note most of these are performed in conjunction with one of us):

  • Hang washing on the line
  • Take washing off the line
  • Handwash dishes, plastic containers, lunchboxes, etc
  • Wash the car
  • Rake the leaves/help with the gardening

Distribution

The boys each have 4 moneyboxes (combination of jars + moneyboxes) that relate to the following categories. There are rules around what they can spend their money on, and in essence they do not need to spend money on Clothes or food or any other necessities:

  1. Long-term saving (20%)
  2. Mid-term saving (40%)
  3. Spending (30%)
  4. Charity (10%)

Long-term saving: This is for once-a-year purchases, such as Christmas presents and a birthday present for their brother.

Mid-term saving: Similar to long-term, this can only be accessed every 3 months and can be used to supplement Spending, should the need arise. The goal of this is to use it to save money for something for themselves. So far it’s been used to buy toys and a video game.

Spending: This is their money to do what they like with. If they wish to go to the corner-shop and buy lollies and ice cream – they’re welcome to! If they want to buy bread to feed to the local birds – they’re welcome to! We will offer suggestions on what may have longer-term value (a lolly is gone quickly, a toy car or pack of cards will last longer).

Charity: This money is used for donations to any worthy cause. Quite often during the year, the school will require a gold-coin donation to participate in mufti-days or special activities. We also encourage the boys to regularly donate some of their money to charities.

Why we’ve chosen this & Our hopes

  • We’re doing this to teach our boys the value of money (we believe it’s best to learn it in the home and learn it early!)
  • It’s also important to teach them how to handle money
  • We wanted to balance the concept of spending (immediate gratification) and saving (delayed gratification[1]). Another way to look at it is to determine what is worth buying now vs. worth saving for.
  • It’s hoped our boys will eventually become better members of society; through understanding the link between work and reward, as well as being able to manage money and not fall into the trap of excess consumption.

I would love to hear from other parents out there (either for or against pocket money for kids) – leave a comment!

Resources & Further Reading:

  1. For more information on delayed gratification, I recommend Don’t! The secret of self control by Jonah Lehrer
  2. A similar article to the above was posted by Matthew Hall on Neerav Bhatt’s blog.
  3. Teaching kids about money
  4. Pocket money and kids

The new Three R's

There are a number of lists of “The three R’s”:

  • Reading, Writing and Arithmetic
  • Reduce Reuse Recycle
  • Read, Write, Recite.

After a recent discussion at a North Side Coffee Morning (#nscm), I devised a new list of 3 R’s to help focus a little more on things that count (outside the realm of the academic education arena). These 3 R’s can be used in almost all aspects of life, and is something i am trying to instill in my children:

Respect.

esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability*

Respect for yourself and others is an important trait to have. Not much can happen in this world without respect. If you respect the people that matter, it can take you far!

Responsibility.

One of the most important traits you can have is to be responsible: Responsible to yourself, your fellow man and the world you live in. Responsibility is an important part of life because it shows that you care about what you do and the impact you have. Having the fortitude to stand up and admit you stuffed up or hurt someone goes a long way. It’s also one of the cornerstones of trust, an important part of what makes the world go round.

Here’s one of my acts of responsibility I blogged about earlier in Taming the Ugliness.

Resilience.

This is a tough skill to learn. The ability to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into it is one of the skills that will see you through many encounters in life, both good and bad! It’s quite a difficult skill to teach, however I have been trying with my boys to get them to understand that there will be times where things don’t go your way. It’s how you act when things are not going your way. It used to be called ‘character building’, but today I’ll call it resilience. Empathy with the ‘other’ side of the story or being able to see things from both sides can help.

Can you think of any other R’s that could make useful traits for life?

* All definitions from dictionary.com