Going camping 
I've hardly stopped today. Took down most of the Christmas decorations, did three loads of washing, shifted all the plants round the back to stop them drying out and sorted out stuff for camping. It's mostly done. Just need to pack the chilly bin tomorrow.

It's going to be warm and sunny all week, allegedly. Hopefully Rachael will remember to put on sunblock this time. It's going to be a lot cheaper than last year. The cat (at the Meow-Meow Motel) is costing us more than both children. At least the dog is going to be free, round at Bronwyn's Mum and Dad's.

I've been teaching Sarah to read. She's getting quite good at it. It's a laborious process, but I want her to actually look at the letters, convert them to sounds and put them together. Works well until you get to words like do and go, for example, which have quite different sounds. But she seems to cope with that.

Rachael had her friend Lissa to stay on Thursday night. I spotted them both high up a tree. Rachael doesn't normally climb trees. It's nice to get her out for a change - we're surrounded by 100 acres, and Rachael spends most of her time indoors!

I've got masses done this Christmas, and the house is almost in order. Well, partially. I don't think it's ever been under control since we moved in!

A week camping, then two more weeks, and then Sigrid arrives...

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Sunny days 
Rachael is recovering from a nasty sunburn from before Christmas. She's stopped peeling now, and is currently out in the pool again. I made sure she had some sun block on!

Finally took the tent down. I'm amazed there's still some green grass underneath. We're going camping next weekend, so we needed it packed away.

And I finished Sigrid's room. It now has two light switches (depending on which way you want the door to open) and a variety of pictures and a mirror. Rachael is jealous. She wants to sleep in it. I said she could, when she tidies her own room. Now that the mattress on Rachael's bottom bunk is back in Sigrid's room, you can see all the rubbish underneath!

It's warm and sunny. Half of Bronwyn's family is out hay making, and the other half is fielding phone calls and supplying cold drinks. Apparently it used to be easy, because all the clients were farmers. Now that they're all 'life-stylers' from the city and expect hay making to operate the same as for example, carpet cleaning, it's a lot harder telling them to wait for the sun to come out.

Made a snowman again. I found the original chicken wire and sticks from the last one eight years ago. Bronwyn's mum provided an old duvet which I cut up and wrapped around with some baling twine, and a bit of paint for the face. And a bright orange bicycle helmet. So far the wind has blown it over twice, but it's certainly visible from the road!

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Christmas 
I wanted a second helping of Christmas pudding, but had nowhere to put it! We're just back from Bronwyn's mum and dad's for Christmas dinner. Bronwyn's mum is English, and still prefers the traditional roast turkey. At this time of year, most people go for a barbecue.

Went fishing on Thursday night with several people from work. It was supposed to continue until "dusk", but our Dave's definition of dusk is not the same as mine. He was convinced we'd found a good spot, so he kept going back and forth over it until we could hardly see anything. I got home at 1:15am, with a fair amount of snapper fillets. Still tired today!

I turned the server into a table. It needs some varnish, and I want to take the covers off the hard drives, but otherwise it's finished. Looks impressive. They want me to put blinking LEDs on the circuit board. Nick suggested I turn the processor heatsink into a coffee warmer. Giles wants the hard drives to spin slowly. Not sure how much is going to be feasible. They want me to turn an Uninterruptible Power Supply into a toaster now.

Bronwyn bought a fair sized paddling pool for the girls, and filled it up. It takes about 1500 litres of water, and the tank is suddenly looking a lot lower. I know this because I've put in a sophisticated measuring device on the tank. It's a length of clear plastic tube full of water. Now I can see the water level without needing to drag out the ladder. Meanwhile, both girls got sunburnt, and have had to stay indoors for several days.

Bronwyn built a Santa's Grotto out on the porch. Unfortunately the wind blew a lot of it down again. I went out yesterday and pinned it all up again, only this time with a hammer. Still up, so far. It looks really good in the dark. Pity there's not a lot of dark this time of year! Bronwyn's mum has commissioned me to make a snowman again. I think I still have the chicken wire from the last one...

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Rain 
It's been raining almost continually for about 36 hours. Just as the government declared several areas as drought stricken. Just as several of my friends phoned up for the water truck to refill their tank. Everything's now soggy. The tent threatened to collapse, and someone left the windows open, so we have several sleeping bags and sheets drying out inside. I wouldn't dare switch on the Christmas lights that Bronwyn strung outside right now.

Funny thing. We've never run out of water. We've not even got below one third full. I'm beginning to think there's something wrong with us. Maybe we don't wash our clothes often enough. Maybe we don't have enough baths. Maybe we have a big roof for collecting rain, but then both neighbours have huge houses, multiple tanks and still run out. No, I think we're just economical. At least nobody's complained about the smell yet.

The new band hall has apparently been placed on the foundations. Well, part of it. The roof will follow. I suspect the floor is going to be wet right now.

We've done all our parades and concerts; just a few carolling spots outside the supermarket. Which is just as well, because my trombone is falling to bits. It actually belongs to the band, so I've dug out my old trombone and I'll send the band's one in for repairs over Christmas. Somewhere in Te Atatu, along the course of the parade, is a tiny screw. If you see it, please let me know.

At work, we've been madly buying new servers. They're heavy things, with lots of sheet steel and heavy cables. I hope the floor can take it, because we've got quite a stack now. I've taken home an old broken one with the intention of turning it into a table, with a glass top so you can see all the components inside. Should look impressive, if I can do it properly.

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Drugs 
I spent another week feeling tired, uncomfortable and slightly feverish. I feel better today, but I'm still drugged up on prednisone and flucloxacillin. I don't think I'll try anything too strenuous just yet.

Bronwyn took us to her old friend for a birthday party - he's 40! It was way down in Pukekohe at the far south of the Auckland region. ON the way back Bronwyn started hunting for her handbag. Rachael admitted leaving it in the house! So we've arranged a pickup - Bronwyn's friend's boss will take it home to north Auckland tomorrow night, and we can pick it up from there.

Except that I'm out tomorrow evening, and technically Bronwyn can't drive without her licence on her. So we'll have to sort out a compromise somewhere!

The farm had the shearer in today. He managed all but 40 sheep, so he'll have to come back at some point. I asked Bronwyn's dad how many he had. "Too many!" he said! He's planning to sell a few lambs and some of the older sheep. We're in danger of running out of grass because it hasn't rained for a while. There's quite a strong La Nina on the pacific. It's brought severe flooding in Australia for some reason. We've got the middle of a huge anti cyclone; they've got the edge. But the climate can shift so things might be different in a couple of months.

Spent the afternoon at Alberton House today. It's the house of Bronwyn's great great grandfather, a grand old mansion with numerous rooms and some impressive trees outside. It only ever had one generation of children - his four surviving daughter never married (nobody was good enough) so they lived there until they died. Hence it was preserved largely as it stood. We had a family gathering, and they showed a video they had been making of the house, and then got us to take part in another scene. Rachael got filmed climbing a tree, and Sarah developed the technique of sliding down a grassy slope head first. They both love the old place.

Meanwhile, the old band room has gone, and the new one will arrive in about 10 days. I went to have a look. They've levelled and tilled the ground so neatly you could plant flowers in it.

Now I'm feeling better I guess I need to start doing Christmas cards, tidying the house, finishing off Sigrid's room and generally catching up. Hmm. Feeling tired already...

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