Edible mud 
Bronwyn's dad is turning 70, so we had everybody round for a birthday party. Claire made a cake. She's definitely getting better. This one had two round tiers decorated as paddocks, with the hay barn on the top. She'd made sheep, a cow, several birds, the dam with water lillies, fences, straw and even a smear of brown colouring for some mud. Only room for four candles though!

We still had a couple of tents with broken carbon fibre poles. Apparently you can get new poles to repair them with. So I finally went in and bought some, and then spent a couple of hours with a hacksaw cutting them to size. Not as hard as I'd thought. The hardest bit was threading the elastic string all the way through them again. So now we've got a couple of decent tents, and a few leftover poles. I think I'll bring a hacksaw on camp next year.

Sarah fell while doing cross country, and it looks like it triggered off the concussion from a previous couple of bumps. So now she's banned from sports at school for a few months, and has tablets to try and reduce the inflammation. But otherwise she's fine. Rachael's in fine shape. Plenty of homework though.

I've been busy this last couple of weeks. I've been working on three different projects, and managed to finish two last week. The third, which has been going on all year, is due to be demonstrated at a conference tomorrow, so our customer is busy checking it all out, and we're on call to fix anything he spots. He's currently in Mt Isa. This is a small mining town in the back of western Queensland. Internet is not good. So he's been working from a coffee shop. Except they don't provide mains power, so he's been going back home to keep the battery topped up! It's a website for home buyers, helping them to identify the services they're going to need, and linking them with providers. It's also got quite a sophisticated search facility. My favourite is the owner search. Type in someone's name and you can find out what properties they own. I wonder how long it will be before someone complains...

Bronwyn's been busy with work and various courses. Sounds like she's been popular at the childcare centre. She does her best to bring in lots of different activities. Especially ones that involve scaring the other staff! Meanwhile, I'm off to Waitangi in a week for the youth work conference. This will be my fourth conference, and the first one was at Waitangi too. It's the place where the treaty was signed between the British and the United Tribes. There are plenty of long stories about that, but it's really quite a special place. I'm looking forward to going back.

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Peas, eggs and carrots 
OK, so we had a couple of frosts just after the time I posted here. We have a flame tree in the driveway. No idea what species, because there are a dozen trees with that name, and it never flowers. It grows, and then it gets killed by the frost. Then new shoots come up from the stump. I managed to protect our pea plants. They were Bronwyn's idea because Rachael loves eating beans, and we thought she might like the sugar snap peas where you eat the whole pod. Rachael has curious eating habits. Last night we were tucking into chinese dumplings, risotto and chicken drumsticks. She was eating grapes and pea pods. She does eat chicken, but only if it's carefully prepared to remove all trace of bone and gristle. But she looks fine. It's Sarah who needs to lose a few pounds!

Last week, one of our chickens was missing. After a bit of calling, she came home, but very hungry, soaking wet and covered in mud. This is odd, because chickens don't like getting wet. We put her under the old heat lamp overnight, and now she's more or less back to normal. Bronwyn managed to find some trails in the swamp, and it looked as if there was another animal involved, so we're concerned that there's a dog about. All quiet since then, but we're keeping our eyes open.

Plenty of eggs though. Don't think the experience put her off.

And carrots. Haven't managed to eat them all yet.

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Another party 
Rachael turned 14 yesterday! Well, technically today, because she was born in British Summer Time. It was a long day...

We held a surprise birthday party for her. We had 11 altogether. While Bronwyn had taken Rachael and Sarah to their swimming lesson, the early arrivals hung up the decorations and got the house ready. Everyone managed to get here before they came back, and it wasn't easy hiding everyone in the corridor.

We went out for dinner with the two girls who were going to stay the night. I chose the curry. The girls decided I ought to go for the hot version. After a day of party food and hot chicken tikka, I was rather full! And tired... They came home and watched a movie afterwards, and eventually got to sleep. I think it was 3am by the time it got quiet. Rachael's pretty tired today.

The swimming lessons have been going well. Sarah needs to learn breaststroke and then she can move up another group. Again. Rachael still can't get her ears underwater, but has learnt to swim and tread water, and so long as she can cope in an emergency, it's good enough. There's a big push here to get everyone learning to swim, because we have so many beaches and a lot of the culture revolves around water.

I've gone up in the world. Well, about two inches. Bronwyn's bought a couple of chairs for the office to replace the dining chair and ancient bucket seat that we had before. Now I can choose between a fully adjustable operator chair and a high backed executive chair. I do love the arm rests.

Plenty going on otherwise. Bronwyn's going to get a new T shirt at her work, and they're going to fully support her to get full teacher registration. She's working Monday, she's been put top of the list for relief work, and she's going to do some voluntary work to make up the hours. She's also womanning the school crossing, and looking after out nephew Cooper after school several days a week. Meanwhile, I've now got 5 on the payroll for the youth charity, and another in South Africa trying to get a work permit. I've been tasked with buying laptops. And a car. Fortunately we have the money. We just need to work out what we need. So do we really need macbooks, or will a second hand Windows laptop do just as well? And why do we need a $30000 Hilux when we can get a minibus for half that?

Getting cooler, but no frost yet. Didn't get a frost last year. We have a tree stump in the driveway that keeps growing and then getting killed by the frost. Last year it just kept growing. Maybe another winter like that and it could just get big enough to survive...

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The birthday zone 
Four screaming girls. Plus Rachael, who spent most of the night screaming At the girls. But I'm glad to say everyone survived. Sarah had a glow-in-the-dark party sleepover, so we dug out the UV lamp and the fluorescent face paint and far too many glow sticks. I used a hula hoop and made a network of white streamers around the UV light. Looked like a rather eerie purple cobweb in the dark. We were all rather tired on Sunday, but Bronwyn managed to get everyone to bed early last night.

Rachael's birthday in two weeks time. Haven't planned a lot yet...

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Easter 
Rachael and her friend Emily had a fantastic time at e-Camp (the junior version of the Baptist Easter Camp). She came back with a DVD full of all sorts of videos and photos. One of the favourite activities was bubble football, where everyone has to wear an enormous inflatable thing around their upper body, and then try to knock an equally large bubble around the pitch. Usually ended up with everyone upside down or rolling around on the ground.

Emily had to pay some forfeit, and had to drink breakfast, lunch and dinner on one go, liquidised. Apparently there were lumps of potato and other stuff floating in it. But somehow she survived.

Had quite a lot on in the last fortnight. Two ANZAC parades, trombone at church and today we were asked to play at the Korean Buddist temple to celebrate Buddha's Birthday. Interesting experience. They had three inflatable (Chinese) Buddhist monks standing outside. Plus some guy on the roadside wearing an inflatable head waving people in. We were almost the only white people there. But very nice people and plenty of food afterwards!

Ah well. School tomorrow. Rachael is madly trying to finish her homework...

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