Greetings once more from the Schmidts @ Sandy. Another year has passed, we're all another year older, and it's the silly season again. And I'm sending you another one of those bloody yakety yak catch up spiels!!

I guess we all tend to collect a bunch of friends on the journey through life that we can't bear to lose contact with completely, even when in the average year your paths just don't cross like they used to.

We did manage to catch up with a few people here and there in person during 2005, which was great. Always an aim.. just time and distance tend to interfere.

And when catching up fails, we really do enjoy hearing everyone's news at least once a year! *hint hint* !!

As always, I tend to babble on a fair bit, but I'm just no good at putting it all in a nutshell. Maybe it's just a desperate attempt to look back on the year through rose coloured glasses. Maybe it's because a single web page can be neverending! Or maybe it's just a good excuse to play around on here and not do housework.

Anyway.. a year in the life...

We spent the first 6 months in a bit of a fog - or rather in great deal of angst - trying to decide whether Marc should take up a job offer in Canberra. After a week and a half trialling it, we made the tough decision not to move, mainly because it was still a good deal of 'away' work, and, with it being mostly programming, he felt it was too much 'geek' even for him. "Test driving" Canberra in July was always going to make it hard to move from "Paradise", and despite the attraction of fantastic bike paths, being closer to Sydney, (and the snow), and nice people to work with, we just couldn't do it. Yet.

So the kids breathed a sigh of relief, and Marc has gritted his teeth and got on with the frustrations of working with Greenspan/Tyco... and I've gritted my teeth over the continuing absences.. and the pressure I see him under. Two more years and he gets long service leave - something to look forward to.

Just to make it even harder to get any stuff done around the house, we have persisted in organising the odd holiday in between his various work trips (domestic and international.) I have this warped idea that holidays will separate him from his mobile and laptop.. a scheme that doesn't always work, as he keeps updating his technology to gain internet access from all over the place! But we do get his undivided attention for most of the time... so it's worth it.

We initiated Caitlin into canyoning in January, which she enjoyed (and so did we), especially doing one of them with old 'adventure' friends and their 12 year old daughter. Rented a great holiday house at Mt Vic, and also dragged my parents up to walk with Alison and Zoe while we abseiled into Grand Canyon at Blackheath. Also did a very hot bushwalk!

In April we lashed out on a houseboat holiday.. something I've always had a hankering to do. Spent a week and a bit chugging around Myall Lakes, and really enjoyed it. Not sure if it was quite enough to satisfy the kids, who were a bit wussy about swimming in the lake.. even in the crystal clear waters of the most northern lake. But Marc and I loved it more than any resort.. different view every night.. dive off your back verandah for a swim.. and sunsets, scenery and 'serenity' to die for.

It was a bit of a shame to use up annual leave to try out another job, but that's what he did with Canberra in July. We left the kids with the grandparents in Sydney for a week while he worked, and I tried to familiarise myself with Canberra real estate. Not the most romantic of kid-free escapades, but it was rather novel, for me anyway. Then they joined us and we took them down to try out skiing for a day at Mt Selwyn. I decided I was still more of a cross country fan, but it was fun to get on the downhill skis for a day.

Meanwhile the kids have trundled happily enough through another year of school. Cait (12 now) has taken well to high school.. found it easy to make new friends, doing well academically (except for being a bit 'blonde' with her maths.. a lot of which is teacher related...), and collecting all the appropriate awards for effort, participation, behaviour and the like. Looking back on the year now, I think she has been happier than her last year at primary. She is pretty independent about it all, except for getting up in time to catch an earlier bus! She's inherited some bad genes in that department. Combined with a "feisty attitude" it's been .. um.. interesting, and I hope against hope that she'll calm down when the hormones hit rather than the opposite. She's waiting for a growth spurt to happen..a bit miffed that she's earned the nickname 'Munchkin' amongst her friends. But she seems to have gotten a bit taller in recent months, so I daresay it will happen soon enough.

She made the Coffs 12 yrs rep netball team, which culminated in the 3 day State Age Championships in Sydney the first weekend in July. Their team won their Division, dropping only the last game (out of 20 odd) they played, so it was a bit of a high for them all.. and their parents! One classic was seeing the Southern Highlands team, and wondering, had we not moved, if she might have taken up netball, and been there in a different uniform. "Wouldn't it be funny if we saw someone we knew." Sure enough, looked over and there was an old friend from prenatal classes/mothers group. The girls of course didn't recognise each other, but the parents did!

She has made the rep squad again for next year.. we'll see in March whether she gets in the team. Meanwhile I've had to convince her that there's more to life (and exercise) than just netball. She's just started playing touch on Wednesdays, and I've just managed to get her back into swimming by getting her to join one of my adult squad classes. She's really 'over' the training for butterfly, backstroke, etc..which I guess I understand, so I'm making it a mission to convince the swim school to start up swimming for fitness for kids like her.

Alison (10 and in Year 4) has continued to thrive with sport and school. She got to regional level with her school swimming again (where she felt like a fish out of water amongst the serious competitive swimmers).. And again she got to Zone with her cross country running. Her heart is really in netball though (she likes the team sport aspect) .. and she had a good year with her local comp; in the winning team again. She has been riding her bike to school this last term, which has inspired her to get herself ready and out the door in time to meet up with friends- so no complaints there. Plus it keeps her fit!

Again this year she won the school's Premier's Spelling Bee competition (Junior), and got sent to the Regional Final. To her horror she won that, and I had to drag her down to Sydney to represent the school in the State Final in early November (that's her in the navy blue uniform in the background - if the link is still working.) Not one for the limelight, our Alison. Even the treat of the plane flight down didn't do much to engender enthusiasm for it, but I suppose at least she's not precocious. In another case of classic coincidence I found myself waving to another old friend from the Southern Highlands whose daughter (that Alison had been a baby with) had also won through. With only 25 participants from the state, that's pretty amazing odds.

Zoe has shot up this year - turned 7 in October. She's going well in Year 1.. no dramas, enjoys school, and continues to amaze us with her growing self confidence. She was so shy when she was 3 or 4, (and still a bit reticent about some things) that you keep expecting her to be the same with everything. Then she doesn't bat an eyelid having to speak into the microphone as the narrator for the class play. (She's a bit more like Cait in that she doesn't mind performing in front of others.) She's improving all the time with her swimming and revels in each milestone she makes (like swimming 20 laps non stop (x 25m) for her assessent this week.)

She and I (and sometimes Alison) were doing the Tuesday afternoon cross country run (2.5 km).. and she was surprising herself with her ability to keep going (and doing it easier than Mum.) That's all over during summer, so we'll have to see how we both go next year. She's pretty keen to improve again in the school cross country. She did Nettas as well; it remains to be seen whether she ends up a passionate netballer like the other two. It's a tough gig following in their footsteps, particularly when it comes to sport. The challenge might be to find her something completely different. She would have liked to have continued her ballet, but we had a break from it all this year.

Marc has continued to play Touch when he isn't away, and got selected in a Mens over 40s NSW team to play against QLD. They won that, and he was then selected for an Aussie side to play against NZ in March next year. Sounds impressive doesn't it! He's pulled both hamstrings, and dislocated his shoulder once, but otherwise has had a better injury run than last year. He had a weekend in Brisbane in October to meet the QLD teammates, and have a practice run.. so we tagged along for the weekend and had a girls shopping day. Sadly the surfboard hasn't seen much action this year.

I've kept up my swimming squad twice a week - and was missing it terribly when the swim school shut down over 2 months in winter. I did the 'Jetty Swim' in March, 600 m around the jetty at Coffs.. a 'pseudo' ocean swim. I was really happy that the swimming fitness wasn't an issue at all, and I coped surprisingly well with the southerly 'wind chop' hitting us broadside. I'd do it again next year except that we'll be otherwise occupied that day. Disappointingly the girls wouldn't do it with me. Too freaked at swimming in deep water. Wusses!

I was quite chuffed with myself managing to build up to actually running 2.5 km at cross country. Have never been able to run in my life, and it's only the swimming that has built up my ability to do so. I'll never be fast, and probably sound and look like a heffalump thudding along the track, but it's been good (at over 40) to manage to start running just a little bit.

In January Marc picked up a tandem (bicycle) on eBay.. and then bought a second one from the same person (she had another one on the Gold Coast) It's the fulfillment of a childhood dream, I think, as he used to ride one around Blackheath with a mate. Plus he had a ride of one a few years ago, which I think reignited the passion. So, why not go the whole hog? - buy two, and, with Zoe hitched on to the back of one with the trailer bike, we have instant family bike riding.

After a few test rides locally (and up in Brisbane that weekend) we went in the 50km Spring Cycle in Sydney in October (North Sydney to Olympic Park), and have now thrown caution to the wind and entered the NSW Big Bike Ride next year. It's a 500km catered and supported ride over 9 days - this year it's in the Eastern Riverina (Holbrook, Jingellic, Tumbarumba, Tumut, Gundagai, Junee, Cootamundra...) so we're starting to gear up for that.. literally, as well as physically and mentally. Most people we know think that we're craaaaa-zeeee... but it's a Marc 'n Trace kind of challenge (harking back to our Murray Marathon days, I guess), and the girls have decided they're up for it. Our combo is Marc and Cait on one tandem, towing Zoe, and Alison (the turbo !) and me on the other. Occasionally I wonder if I'm mad.. it's a helluva way to have a holiday without cooking. But it's a good way to make sure you do a bit of exercise/training, so hopefully I'll manage to drop a few more kgs between now and then.

Oh, and the ride raises money for the Heart Foundation, so if you're up for armchair support here's a shameless plug taking you to the sponsorship page link !!!

I'm still aimlessly unemployed... in a bit of a bind as to what sort of work I could do around here that would be flexible enough for when Marc is away. I did a one-semester TAFE course in Web design first half of the year. It was 2 nights a week, which proved to be rather insane. I managed to pass without attending much of the second term. The more you learn in this field, the more you realise you don't know, and I don't know if I really have the aptitude to be a proper web designer. I have put it to some use though, doing a web page for the kids' netball club. (I'm upgrading it over new year, so check out the improvements sometime.) I'm now secretary as well for 2006, so that will keep me out of mischief a bit, especially as we just won a campaign to keep the club playing in Woolgoolga. (That means I'm secretary of a new Association as opposed to a club.)

We lost Rattles in February this year, which was really sad. Her legs gave way on her, and she had heart problems. She was still alert to the end, which made it more difficult to make the dreaded decision. Rags has coped ok..(probably relishing being able to eat her food in peace) but she's showing her age as well. It is a lot quieter round here, as she is a bit deaf and doesn't hear all the things that Rattles used to bark at.

We finally sold the V Dub (the Caramel Caravelle.. the 'Mars Bar') only last week. Not for much.. bottom seems to have fallen out of the second hand car market. Bit sad, end of an era; we've had it since the year Alison was born. Plan is to buy a 4WD and get out camping off the beaten track a bit. We bought a canvas family touring tent, finally.. but have yet to christen it.

After all his eBay purchases, Marc just sold his first item - the cement mixer we used building the house at Burrawang. He may have just hit on my new career!

At this point in time, we have no plans to go to Sydney over Christmas or New Year. (However we're not reknowned for our long term planning!)

We told my family that if they wanted to see us this holiday season they'd have to come up here, so a week or so ago they decided they would. My sister and family are staying with us (the 'third time ever' that they have come up here!) and Mum and Dad have booked a motel for a few nights. With 6 kids in total (counting my Dad in that tally) there will be instant mayhem, but it means I won't have to conjure up christmassy spirit on my own. Just a reason to get off my backside and clean the windows.

Marc is still pining to do a canyon, but with him having only the two weeks off, we will possibly only go away a couple of nights camping locally, and the rest of the time enjoy living 'a stone's throw' from the beach. And try and get some of those 'jobs' done around the house. Next mission is to buy a 4WD, but heaven knows when that will happen.

So, anyways, here's cheers to you all, as one year ends and another begins.

"To health, happiness, and catching up with old friends in 2006!"

and a


from us at Sandy...

Tracey (as ever the family scribe).. Marc.. Cait.. Ali.. and Zoe