xmas at the beach 08 setting off for Tassie Spirit of Tasmania. Launceston and about to ride. On the road in Tassie. Playing silly buggers, east coast Tas. camp at Coles Bay Braving the chilly waters of Wineglass Bay Break me heart hill more like. Setting off from Penno on our tandem tour. Fernleigh Track, Newcastle. Awesome! Coffeeeeeeee! Just off the ferry at Patonga. Marc playing bloody Touch. Headless tandem captain, with sturdy stoker. Over 100km that day! Happy 45th Dad! Cait's 15 mins of local fame. Tracey got published!

Whoa, another year to write up for the family archives. These days I'm having a hard time remembering what happened only 12 months ago, so I have to confess that the ulterior motive for this spiel each year is to create a kind of time capsule for me and the family to “dig out” every now and then to remember what we've done! (Hence the excruciating detail.)

And, yes, that means that I'm cheating a bit by passing it off as the annual Christmas newsletter as well, but I hope that far flung friends and family will enjoy catching up with our news as much as we enjoy reading any end of year/Christmas news letters that we receive, no matter what format they come in! 

2009 for us then...

Last Christmas we continued our trend for “staycationing” - Christmas at home, by the beach. As stress-free as possible is the aim, and we achieved that – at least until we decided to make a quick one-night trip down to Tea Gardens on the first weekend of January to see Marc's mum. [Pacific Highway! Holiday traffic! Roadworks!] Then it was straight back to work for Marc, while I 'managed' another few weeks of slothing, holidaying children, including a 15 yr old who came down with a bad sore throat that was eventually diagnosed as Glandular Fever. Never mind whether she'd be ok for school – the biggest worry was whether she'd be ok for our big cycling holiday adventure at the end of Feb.

Our East Coast of Tassie Tandem “Big Ride” was fantastic (and Cait pulled through with a relatively mild dose of the dreaded ‘mono’.)  The whole ride was an impressive feat (even if we do say so ourselves) of pre-ride online organisation and long distance communication, followed by the daily ride and camp logistics  - and gourmet camp cooking. (I stuck to the washing up!)  Our group consisted of 20 riders and 8 tandems (3 adult 'couple' tandem teams, with the rest being adult/kid combos, including our triple), a couple of 'half-bikes' for random tween-age boys, and our two saintly support drivers. 

Most of the group flew down but the logistics of transporting two tandems and five bodies saw Family Schmidt making the long 2-day road trip each way, with the experience of the Spirit of Tasmania overnight ferry trip each way across Bass Strait.  We did the (approx 500km) Launceston to Hobart (via St Helens) ride in 9 days, with our “rest” day at Coles Bay. (And most of us ended up doing an epic bushwalk to Wineglass Bay and back the long way – some rest!)  It was an amazing experience and we all really enjoyed being a small group of riders on the road, and at camp.

To stick with the cycling theme, since then it's mainly been Marc and me trying to make the most of our tandem time together. No crazy velodrome marathons (nup, never again!) but we squeezed in a 5 day touring trip in July. I wrote this trip up, and managed to get it published in the November/December edition of Australian Cyclist. I was even paid for it - bonus! [Now that it's been published online, here's a scan (in pdf) of the actual magazine article - the same, obviously, just with more of our photos.]

Along with our fairly regular Saturday morning rides we've also managed to fit in a few longish day rides: one up around Grafton and Maclean where Marc rode with Zoe on “my” tandem, while I rode solo (111km); the third Brooms Head to Coffs 100 mile ride for Marc and me, and an 87  km +  Coffs-Bello ride with two of the Tassie tandem couples. Ah, and a ride to Urunga and back from home (over 100km) to go out for lunch for Marc's birthday! (As you do!) Things have tapered off with the riding towards the end of the year, but, you can possibly have too much of a good thing, right? Highlights of our year, bike-wise, have been getting to know more tandem fanatics, and inspiring others to discover the joys of tandems. (Like our local Coffs cycling friends who bought a tandem in Feb just to come on the Tassie ride. Now they're heading off on a tandem tour of NZ in January!)

Our aim, of course, is to continue our goal for tandem world domination in 2010!

As always, the cycling had to fit in around the girls' netball. Cait played in an u/17s rep team for Woopi in the State championships in Wollongong on the June long weekend, and we had to head back down south again in July for Ali to play State Age again (u/14s) – this time in Blacktown.  Those two played together again back in their club team, with Marc as coach, and this year took out the Grand Final in a fairly tight match. (Though Coach Dad reckoned they always had it covered!) Zoe played in a Junior team, and came home again with a Runners Up trophy (that really was a nail biter!)  Cait coached the u/11s Development Squad – which included Zoe - and I keep on keeping on with the netball committee, mainly doing the website, handbooks and the like. This year I coordinated the teams going to a couple of local age carnvals, and had a bash at co-managing a team with another mum. I'm chuffed to say that our u10/11s team had a win at the Grafton carnival - a bit of strategy with who plays what position actually paid off! Could make a coach out of me yet! (Um... nup.)

Still, by the end of the season, I'm all netballed out, even if I don't play. Marc, Cait and Ali have backed up to play in the local summer twilight comp on a Tuesday night. So the netball theme just never ends around here.

I still do my swimming squad twice a week, hoping that this, along with the cycling, and semi-regular walks up the beach will keep me fit. It's not keeping the weight off, but I know (I know, I know!) that has more to do with what I put in my mouth. (Comfort eating, who knew?) Suffice to say, this year I've given myself the extra challenge of trying – nay needing - to really lose weight over  Christmas.  I've had another incentive to give up a few things, as I've had some joint issues (that are “possibly” arthritis) in the past couple of months.  Christmas without tomatoes along with trialling the concept of a relatively alcohol free life probably isn't going to make, personally, for a very merry festive season, but if it helps shed a few kilos, and my shoulders/elbows/wrists/knees don't hurt so much, then it's probably worth it, because I will be a much happier little vegemite.

Marc has managed to keep up his Touch. [Now usually referred to around here as 'Bloody Touch ™']. He currently plays 3 nights a week - one night in town in a mixed team with Cait. He is still the Admin Officer for Woopi Touch, which involves a 'bloody™' lot of time at home fiffing and faffing around on the computer doing draws, regos etc.  He also finally got to go to New Zealand in September for this annual trans-Tasman cup tournament thingy. He played Mens Over 45s (they won 2-0)  and Mixed Snrs (They won 2-1) so he was a very happy boy.  He then went down to Port in early December to play in a (different Touch association) State Cup comp. So all in all, what can I say? A bloody lot of Touch. It keeps him fit and busy, if not occasionally injured.

The girls have done us proud at school again with academic achievement awards all round. It's been a lovely end to the year in that regard.

Cait topped her Yr 11 IT (VET) unit, and got an overall Academic Achievement award (achievement in 5 subjects) but overall is taking a not-so-academic HSC path. (Seems to be so many options these days. She is looking at doing IT/graphics/art.)  Not all is perfection - it’s been a bit of a challenge as a parent watching your relatively smart kid deliberately fail Advanced Maths so she can drop to General for Yr 12, but Term 4 (Yr 12) in General Maths has her suddenly realising she she’s not stupid after all - she came near top of the class in the last test, so now she's aiming for 1st. Go figure.  It’s going to be an interesting year ahead: Year 12, combined with all the social challenges that come with the age. (You know - boyfriends, friends, hormones, getting off your backside to get your Ls… that sort of thing..)  She has earnt herself some pocket money by painting shoes and she did sell a piece of artwork in a local art show. And then spent it - she’s rapidly realising she might need a ‘real’ job. How she’ll fit that in with netball (and possibly coaching a 12s rep team) I’m not sure… We live in hope that over the next year (before a probable move away to uni) she'll manage to learn to crack an egg, swallow tablets, and read a bus timetable correctly.

Alison has wafted through the Year 8, keeping up appearances with the schoolwork (top half dozen in her year with academic achievement & merit awards) her netball, swimming once a week, and sharing a paper run to help pay for the mobile phone addiction. And clothes. And chips at the corner shop... She still can’t manage to get herself up early enough so that she doesn't run late for the bus, but we continue to hope that she’ll get the time management under control. (We think the major problem is to do with the daily hair straightening (Cait calls her the ‘high maintenance one’) but she doesn’t agree!) She is our resident cake maker, and she has a bit of a bead-making industry happening in her corner of the playroom. And she's a good kid!

Zoe had a great year at school. She had a fabulous teacher, and she matured a lot as a Year 5 member of a 5/6 class.  This year she got a HD in the Computer Skills test in the Uni of NSW competition (she's taking it in turns to excel in different subjects!) She snagged 11 yrs girl swimming champion (again – a matter of going in everything), and she won her school cross country race too. When her default position the rest of the time is ‘nose in a book’, it’s good to know that she can still keep the fitness ticking over. (Must be all those long bike rides her horrible parents make her do! Oh, and the once a week swimming and tennis I suppose!)  She’s been elected to the school SRC for next year; you wouldn’t know her from the shy preschooler she once was – totally comfortable on a microphone up in front of the whole school, or a bunch of parents. She's also been doing a paper run so by the time she hits teenagehood, she should be pretty well cashed up. Meanwhile we live in hope that she'll finally work out how to brush her hair without being reminded!

My foray into education and training was a bit shortlived. While I was enjoying parts of the TAFE Cert IV Web Design course, I realised that I didn’t have the brain space (or the quiet space at home) to concentrate on all the complicated coding and stuff – not with my computer in the loungeroom, and every afternoon taken up with running the kids around. (And going away for bike rides and netball carnivals!)  I honestly don’t know how some mothers do it.  So I ditched the course before the end of the first semester – maybe it’s something I can revisit down the track. Or maybe it’s just not for me after all. At least I can now use Photoshop!

Earlier in the year I was invited to write for a new UK/US based website, Powder Room Graffiti. It has earnt me a bit of pocket money, and a lot more self-confidence with my writing. Last month I did an online course in feature writing, and that’s the direction I want to head next year (Along with travel writing - just have to organise the travel!) All it will take is a bit more self-confidence and energy.  I also went and got myself on the P & C, as secretary, for Zoe’s last year at primary school, and I'm lined up to spend a bit of time helping in the canteen again. (Ah well, it might look good on a resume!)

In September I flew down to Sydney for my 30 year school reunion. Wow! I had a great night, and the reunion was the impetus, before it even happened, to catch up with a lot of people from 'ye olden days' on Facebook. This 21st century communication stuff is cool, but so was having a night with old high school friends. We all realised how lucky we'd been with our school life, and our particular year. I also flitted up to Brisbane for one night in October to meet up with some friends I've made through blogging. The people I've "met" (and keep in touch with) through the internet continue to be a special part of my life.

We're still doing the old-fashioned division of labour thing with Marc being the sole income earner. But he also gets to play his Touch (and netball) and ask “What’s for dinner?” He doesn’t go away for work that much, although there have been a few domestic trips this year, some inconveniently timed just when it would have been easier for him to be around (like when Cait had a week of work placement in town!)  All round though it is infinitely better than when he was overseas, so I shouldn’t complain. If and when I figure out how to get a job, though, a lot of things would have to change around here.

The big thing happening for us is that finally the renovations and extensions are happening. It’s taken more than 6 months to get to the stage (through a design studio) where we are about to put plans into council (and we already are selecting colour schemes, floors, walls, etc.)  It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.  Ball park quotes have been on the expensive side, but we want this done, so we’ll plough forward with it. Owner building might not yet be out of the question, although it would be a hell of a lot easier to hand it all over to a builder.

So, our big family adventure for next year looks like it might be the renovations - probably with a short (I hope!) stint in rental accommodation. With Cait doing Year 12, we can’t really nick off mid-term for any cycling epics, or other mad holidays. Marc and I might attempt another short tandem tour in July after Netball State Age if we can get rid of the kids for a few days!

We are staying home for Chrissy again (not too happy with the weather forecast though - they're talking rain!) We are heading down to Sydney for New Years Eve (via Marc's mum in Tea Gardens) and then up to the Blue Mountains to fit in a couple of canyons. My mum had a back operation a couple of months ago, and while she is doing really well (well enough to be texting me from the shops about presents for the girls!) we're invading my sister's house for one or two nights this time for a change. We can't dally down south as we 'must' be back by a certain date for a certain 16 year old to see an old school friend up visiting from Melbourne.

It was lovely to catch up the people that we did this year. Spontaneity was a bit of a theme - we are very lucky to be able to count as friends people who take us out for dinner when we ring them during the day and say "Hey, we're riding our tandem through your neck of the woods today, want to catch up?"

I know that there are many that we missed, so, I do promise that we'll try to rectify that slackness in 2010. And if you're ever travelling through the mid-north coast, give us a hoy, and don't worry about short notice! At least these days there is a greater chance of Marc being home. Can't guarantee the state of the house, but visitors are always welcome!

Well, that's us signing off for another year. Have a great Christmas, and here's to good things in 2010.