We've had one week of the school holidays so far. Claire's five year old son Cooper (or is that Mini Cooper?) has been round for the day so Claire can go to work. He doesn't ever do things by halves. So far, he's broken the toilet seat and lost a few bits off one of my puzzles. We've got off reasonably lightly. So far.

Rachael somehow managed to finish all her homework for the end of term. Now she's had a whole week on Minecraft, and she's bored. Erica's been working Very Hard studying for her English exams. Haven't seen a lot of her, to be honest. So yesterday, we all went out to the hotpools. There's two pools, the warmish one for recreation and the hot one for recovering afterwards. And there's slides. The high slide was continually occupied by a large group of boys, so we went on the slightly lower slide. No queues on that one. All rather tired last night, and Rach wasn't feeling too good this morning. But at least she's not quite as bored.

We both forgot our anniversary, so we're going out for a dinner tonight, almost a month late. Then next week Bronwyn's planning movie trips, Sky Tower, and quite a few other things. Celia is planning to visit next weekend before she leaves the country, and Erica's got her exam. It's going to be a busy week!

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I'm not as young as I used to be 
I survived an action packed three days in Christchurch for the youth worker conference (I'm not a youth worker, but I've done a lot of work on the committee with fundraising). They had told me to bring walking shoes, formal suit for dinner and swimming togs. Plus a sleeping bag, towel and pillow. It's not easy squeezing that lot into a JetStar baggage allowance, so I was determined to make use of all of it if I could. I had to set off at 4am to get to the plane. Was rather tired by the end of day one. Apparently I snored all night.

On the second day I decided to try all the walking tracks in the nearby bush. The bush was a bit larger than I anticipated, and I was a bit late to the first meeting, but glad I did it. In the afternoon I set up the mountain to the top of the ridge. The site is on the slope of an old volcano crater, so it's a huge sweeping curve with the bottom flooded by the sea. It's about 430 metres high at the top according to Google. Not a huge climb, but I only had 90 minutes to get up and down again. Got back with about 10 minutes to change into the dinner jacket. Lovely dinner, then they started the dancing. Decided to give that a miss, but after a bit I joined in anyway. Kept going for a good hour. Came back, had a quick dip in the spa pool, and off to bed. Alone, this time. They'd rearranged the snorers into their own rooms!

Had an easier day on Wednesday, up until the point where I tried to start my car. Didn't work. Neither did pushing it round the car park, wiring it to a battery booster from the car park office, or even getting some people to push it while using the booster! Ultimately one of the bus drivers phoned her husband, who came round with a boot full of tools and eventually got me started by towing me. Tried to offer him some cash but he refused!

It'a taken another four or five days to recover, but I'm pretty much back to mormal now. I think I need to take it easy in future! But it was a great conference - lots of information to chew over and read up again when I get a chance, and managed to catch up with a number of people I'd met on previous conferences. Might not make it next year - we're hoping to take on another youth worker so I might not get a free ticket. Pity. It'll be at Waitangi and sounds like an even bigger even than ever. But I've done four already...

Bronwyn coped amazingly with getting everyone on the right buses. I'm really proud of her. Alas, we both forgot our wedding anniversary, so we're thinking of organising a meal out some time. But really proud of her for keeping everything in order. And shouting at my boss for not doing the wages. That's been paid now. I just need the payment for the other half of last month's work, which should be with us soon.

Currently, Rachael is finishing her homework on Aborigines. She's had two weeks to do it, but spent much of them playing Minecraft. After some serious hassling by Mum, she's now under way. Might just finish in time...

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English, as she is spoke. 
Erica's spending 50% of her time at the English School or doing essays. That leaves 30% for sleep, 12% on the bus, and the remaining 8% for eating, washing up, herding sheep and chatting to her long suffering parents and boyfriend back in China. But it's going to be Worth It. She's getting better marks for her essays, and she's been practising her speaking test on as many subjects as possible.

Meanwhile, Rachael spends much of her time playing Minecraft or complaining that Sarah's had the laptop for too long. But she has had good marks at school for most subjects. I remember what it was like. Some teachers marked me well for encouragement, and others marked me badly to make me work harder, and then protested that I was one of their star pupils when I decided to switch subjects!

I'm off to Christchurch for another youth work conference next week. I don't do any of the youth work, I just work on the committee. But it's always been great to get to know such a dedicated and welcoming bunch of people, and it's very useful to understand what the front line people are going through. I've been told to pack a sleeping bag, pillow and towel, plus walking shoes and a warm jacket as well as formal wear for an evening meal. Not sure how I'm going to stuff all that into the one regulation suitcase that I'm allowed!

It's actually going to be warmer down there than up in Auckland!

Bronwyn's made it to two visits to the dentists, plus the opticians for her and Sarah, and haircuts for the girls. A great achievement, but we're now on strict rations until the paycheck comes in on Monday. I'm hoping the Australians can work out how to use a New Zealand bank account, and that our first and only customer for the new business will remember to pay.

Apparently he's always been good in the past. And we're finally getting our heads round the system, and have been able to give him something worth looking at for his cash. I'm still juggling time, working half for the new and half for the old. The old contract expires at the end of July. So there's one month left to decide which master I serve!

Janet and Ross return soon. Meanwhile we've managed to hold the fort, apart from a few slipups with stray sheep and broken tractors. And Allan hit a cow last week. An Aberdeen Angus. The cow was limping but otherwise fine. Allan's ute is rather munted.

Well, better finish packing. By dawn tomorrow, I'll be in Christchurch! It's Jetstar again, so with any luck they'll get me home as well.

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Erica's been told she need to complete two essays every night. So she works hard at school all day, then does another hour or two back at home. She's started to take a pillow along with her for the bus journey.

Rachael's been out all day on a shopping trip organised by Auntie Claire. She's come back home with a couple of bags of clothes and shoes, and a rather sparkly watch. Sarah was a bit upset that she wasn't getting a special day out. We'll have to plan something when she turns thirteen...

Bronwyn's parents are still in England, and have done quite a tour of the country, plus all the usual stops for friends and relatives. We had a Skype chat last night round at Claire and Nigel's for Janet's birthday. I won't say which birthday, but it was A Significant One!

Meanwhile, we had some fun trying to move the sheep yesterday. I have theories about sheep. They seem to be completely stupid, yet have a collective intelligence that beats any human. Their telepathic powers are extraordinary, and they know exactly where you want them to go, in order to ensure they go in the opposite direction. Fortunately they have short memories, so after a couple of hours shut up in the wrong paddock they get the idea that they actually want to be in the right one!

Lots of rain today. Got a few jobs indoors instead. Sarah and Erica attacked the freezer with knives and hacked off the ice. I'm not sure which is worse... Erica with a knife or Sarah with a lump of ice!

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Fun on the farm 
This week was my first doing half time on the old job and half on the new. Made some good progress on the new job, thrashing out ideas and setting up a basic demo to keep the customer happy. Fixed a number of issues on the old job too, although with the reduced hours, it's getting harder to do everything. I turned up to the office a couple of times but nobody was there. It's a little tricky with the bosses in Australia, and the other two guys in Melbourne and Romania!

Rachael's friend Ashley came round for a sleepover. She wanted to go for a walk up in the bush, but stopped by the dam. The two girls then spotted the canoe and rowing boat that have been sitting there for years, and decided to try them out. We (I'm glad they didn't try it alone!) found one intact oar (plus some mush that might once have been the other oar and canoe paddle) and set off across the dam. It's not easy paddling a boat with one oar. Managed to get back with the oar plus a piece of rotten tree that Ashley was using on the other side of the boat. Then... Rachael went out in the canoe. On her own. I think she's used a kayak at camp, but this has to be the first time I've seen it. So Bronwyn's planning to buy a new canoe paddle...

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