Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Craft

Schools out and home came the craft. I love it!!!

How cute is this paper plate Christmas pudding

What about the reindeer paper bag

This pottery self-image of Isaac is priceless

Merry Christmas All

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Silly season

The silly season has taken over and is destroying my PhD focus. Hmm cooking, planning, shopping and organising etc is so much more important than statistics. The kids finished school yesterday and today the in-laws arrived. I've got no hope to refocus. Just take a look at the toy room which needs to be clean in two days for one of the many visitors to sleep in...Where’s the magic gene lamp when I need one?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

School Shoe Quest

Is there any family on this earth that doesn't battle with school shoes? We have a place for the school shoes but they don't seem to make it there. The usual morning ritual includes a gentle request "have you got your shoes" . Of course lego or anything else is more important so once again in a louder irritated tone
"have you got your shoes".
Then magic Mum seems to know where they are (under the lounge chair, near their bed, under the trampoline, outside eaten by the dog, in the car etc). Well today I decided to try another version to beat the battle. It was hot/cold shoes. We played hotter and colder depending on if they were getting closer to the shoe location. Now they are sure to hide their shoes just to keep the game going. It beats yelling and maybe just maybe the brain might reprogram so they too know the mystery morning shoe whereabouts. Don't hold your breath ; )
Only one week to go then these are condemned

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Mums Mayhem

I love Tuesday night walking group We meet at the pub, take a 5km hike around the local area incorporating the beaches then return to the pub for a drink. Its a Mums group where we share parenting tips and have a laugh. Keeps me sane.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Death via email and gingerbread

Do you get that overwhelming reality that your email box is overflowing? I spent last night watching telly and deleting emails. Over 200 were deleted or moved in just one night. Only 100 more to go. Is there an easy solution anyone out there? I get emails from two uni's due to being a remote student. I have a social email with Gmail and my various work email addresses. Last night was devoted just to the work email. I notice some people claim they only check their emails three times a day. What a luxury to actually let your brain think about when to check. I choose that one around when the kids allow me (nicely tucked away in bed, care or with toys). Maybe email, facebook and blogging have delayed the PhD finish date. Sitting at home alone writing this thesis is a rather solo adventure. I need the virtual world of social interaction. I just need to contain the time it takes.

On a more fun note today is 1 Dec. Its time to put the Christmas tree up. The kids are so excited. Isaac and I baked gingerbread today. We even iced them. Can't do that in email land. I love "Mum day" as Isaac calls it. Its when the juggle is devoted to a whole day with Isaac. Its the current secret to juggling kids with a PhD. Two days a week are kiddy days, three PhD, weekends are for the family and nights are for email, blogging, TV, romance and sleeping. Question is how long will the gingerbread last...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Half baked paper

Its done. I pressed the email send button containing a half baked paper to my supervisor. I decided it was better to send something than nothing at all. The date was here and I failed to reach a completed paper. I have a special friend (also a Mum PhD student) who inspired me to just hand in whatever I've done. Its great to have mates in similar situations, or should I say crazy enough to attempt a PhD whilst raising three very young kids. So now I'm drinking a beer whilst the kids are swimming with the hubby looking forward to socialising for the whole entire weekend.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Source: PhD Comics

I'm ment to be handing in a draft paper at the end of this week to my supervisor. Geez it woud be great to hit the due date. Its close yet still so far. Evil statistics I'll blame, then again maybe its just procrastination.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sling shot inventions

I peeped out the front door to see what all the laughter was at 8:25am yesterday. The boys had created a dog-tug-o-war using ochie straps, tyre tubes, ropes, a stick and the front gate. Luckily they warned Isaac to stand back before they set off the sling-shot. Hmmm better to not look really. So I kept making lunches then peeked again. This time the sling-shot device had been converted to a pulley system to haul the metal scooter up the basketball ring. Such team work, impressive knots and simple science. Our tally of no broken bones or stitches somehow stayed intact. Two boys caught the school bus and Isaac made it to preschool.

I struggled with study procrastination yesterday. My mate from CSIRO suggested productive procrastination where you avoid what you don’t want to do and work on fun stuff. It worked a treat. I checked out erosion photos for my paper which really brought the whole enthusiasm back. The full day of study was stolen by school transition for Isaac. It got me thinking about converting to full-time study next year. Isaac reckons he’s catching the school bus on his first day of school next year. The third child is so independent, or does that really mean stubborn ; )   Stubbornness, the key to finishing this PhD.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

PhD Family Leave

It’s like hitting a brick wall. All I want is to not be paid over the Christmas school holidays for eight weeks so I can care for my kids adequately.  I need to use the annual four weeks recreation leave for a break from the PhD entirely, not to care for kids. I don't choose to take this break at Christmas. Successful time management to complete a PhD involves taking recreation leave to avoid burnout. But as a parent I’m expected to use annual leave for childcare over school holidays. How does four weeks divide into the eleven-twelve weeks holidays over the school term?

Liam, Kai and Sol at Evans Head

I’d like to reduce my work load over the holidays so I don't get the mother guilt of failing to juggle both home and work. I'll still be studying where possible as I want to finish this PhD. I am not paid enough to put three kids in care so I can study. I get the odd chance to cram in some study when family or friends look after them during school holidays. I can't rely on this kind gesture so really I can't work to full capacity on the PhD over school holidays. Isn't it simple, take leave.

Taking leave means I have no access to the library. As I'm writing up the thesis I'm constantly using the library for journals etc. But no, they want us to take leave and actually leave the thesis behind. Just like I mother 24/7, I study 24/7 and I can’t leave it behind. I don't want to take 10 years to finish this study. My supervisor and the post graduate supervisor were understanding of the issue and at the last review were going to follow it up. Hopefully they can topple the brick wall, but don’t hold your breath. Meanwhile as I ring around the postgraduate centre and the library the answer continues to be “you would be on leave so there is no access to the library or insurance cover for field work”.

In the past during Christmas holidays I’ve luckily had numerous productive sessions on the PhD when family has looked after the kids. Not the same productiveness as during term time but at least a step forward. So I relaxed and accepted the four weeks annual leave will cover the pitfall in time. As I often did field work during this time I kept the PhD clock ticking to be safe and covered. But now I’m not doing field work, I’m writing up and would like to stop the clock to prevent the associated guilt of failing to do both well. I want to parent well and do the PhD a little to keep it progressing over the school holidays. Is it really too hard to create a leave that stops the pay and the clock but not the library access.

I believe the mean age of Australian PhD students is 34*. You can safely assume many of these students will become parents. Let’s look after our kids and the sanity of the parents by creating a study/work family friendly university.
* Becoming Doctor Mum

Friday, November 12, 2010

Producing our own food

One of our commitments to the sustainability program was to produce our own food. Naturally this meant just some of our food. We get eggs from our chooks (chickens for those none Australian’s), grow vegetables and fruit. We also avoid a lot of processed food in favour of home cooking. This partially came about from Liam reacting to colours, flavours and additives but also because home cooked food tastes better.  

Meet our fabulous feathery friends the chooks. They lay gorgeous eggs and create great compost for the garden. I love the sounds they make and the entertainment they give the kids. Did you know a chook can jump on the trampoline? I’m at war with them when they dig up the strawberry patch or poo on my washing. Generally they earn their keep in our quest to produce our own food. Sol built the pen from second hand materials obtained from Coasties shed at Corrimal. Eggs mean omelettes, pavlova, lemon meringue pie, ice-cream, soufflĂ© and so much more. We just need some pigs to create the bacon Yum Yum

Vege Garden
We tried to grow vegies with limited success. There was too much shade so we moved into the neighbour’s yard. They have eight large garden beds in lovely sunshine that they can no longer walk to. We now have spinach, lettuce, broccoli and lots of seasonal vegies. The weeds do take over but in-between we find our food. The snails seem to score much of our produce but we just wash them off or feed them to the chooks. Parsley is now a weed which is great for casseroles, seasoning and tabouli. Gardening is great exercise and the kids love being outside climbing trees or helping us plant. Of course we need to ban the Wii to get them outside…

Heirloom Tomatoes
The local deer ate our first vege crop which was so sad. Thanks to a home-made floppy fence they are leaving us in peace now. What was very sad was our lovely neighbour gave us his heirloom tomato seeds he had been growing for about 40 years. He brought them out with him from England but recently became too ill to grow them. Alas the deer ate all the seedlings and we didn’t save any of the seeds. I felt terrible, a huge failure.

Fruit trees
We planted a lime tree as part of the challenge. Yumbo kaffir lime leaves for thai curries. We also planted an orange tree but it has suffered with the deer. Now the fence is up there is growth on the tree. Hopefully it will fruit in the future. The banana tree has given us no fruit yet but the lemon tree is a winner.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Green Challenge

For those who knew Sol and I as kids we have always been green. We even studied environmental geography at uni. But truthfully along came our own kids and we got lazy. It's so much easier to open up a packet than to walk into the vege garden and pick some lovely fresh vegetable,  or is it easier...

Just over two years ago we joined the Illawarra Sustainable Challenge committing to

1) Producing our own food
2) Educating our kids and the neighbourhood
3) Creating a wonderful backyard habitat for natives 

Over the next week I'll blog about how we went in the one year challenge and beyond

Back in 2008 in the challenge application I wrote
"The garden needs conversion to natives and the creation of an edible patch without the deer and local wildlife taking over. We recently tried raising chickens for compost and eggs but all six disappeared over the weekend. Our chook pen needs better fencing. We have just one car, walk to work and the kids catch the bus to school. We generally use the push mower to maintain our lawns."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bushfire CRC

Tomorrow I’m off to Sydney to present at the Stakeholder Council for the Bushfire CRC

I’ve been asked to give a short talk about what the CRC did for me as a student, the benefits of being a student with them and to reflect on my time as a student.

Where to begin…

Background for none CRC people
The Bushfire CRC’s mission is to enhance the management of the bushfire risk to the community in an economically and ecologically sustainable manner. Initially in 2003 they were funded through the Australian Government’s CRC combined with substantial partner resources. An extension has been acquired to 2013 to address the key issues raised by recent major fires. Back when I applied in 2004 the CRC advertised research opportunities for students hoping to produce the next generation of fire researchers.

So here’s the current draft of my brief talk

My PhD topic is about the effect of fire on sediment movement in the Mount Lofty Ranges, South Australia.

For a moment I might rewind you back in time a bit.

My old nickname given to me by the RFS (Rural Fire Service) was the 18 year old with a degree. At the time I was in my 20’s and working for NSW National Parks as a fire technical officer.  I was great with a computer especially GIS, average with a rakehoe and in RFS terms young in experience, especially when it came to ICS planning roles. National Parks would hold fire manager workshops where scientist would come along and teach us the latest greatest stuff. I’d sit there and wonder why they wouldn’t give me a yes/no answer that was needed for policy development, rather they would provide a wishy washy answer with lots of limitations. I was lucky to be invited to Project Vesta as a visiting research scientist which was an exceptional view into fire science.

10 years later married with two kids and three interstate moves the Bushfire CRC provided the inspiration to start a PhD. I’d always wanted to understand how and what the researchers were on about so I applied. First I obtained the APA to secure funding then the Bushfire CRC offered project support of $15,000.  Later they also proved a top-up for one year. As I’m mostly part-time top-ups are not available to students. So I come for a bargain price of $25,000 plus conference expenses. In return I have provided six years of my attention to the topic of erosion post-fire.

I was gutted the CRC would not give me a top-up as I was pregnant and intended to study part-time. I knew full well that I could not study a PhD fulltime, nurture an embryo, give birth, raise three kids, support my hubby and keep a functioning home. I honestly thought the CRC scholarship could be as flexible as the Commonwealth Government APA. I was wrong. I found this info out too late. I was already 8 months into my part-time PhD and committed. So I cried for three days, kissed $30,000 goodbye and went the road of a poor student. My hard feelings towards to CRC have softened as their support has been wonderful.

The real benefit of being a student with the CRC was the conferences and the other students. OK access to researchers and end-users was also helpful. At the conferences we would talk and chat, share stories as to how well (or not) the PhDs were going. We’d watch each other present and help each other out. We learnt how fire science is such a broad topic and learnt about different approaches to research. We would hear the gossip about stakeholders and the power of the media. We had access to courses and support from staff within the CRC.

I’ve attended and presented at three international conferences all in different disciplines. Access to numerous disciplines has been essential due to my multidisciplinary approach to the topic I’m studying.  Obtaining access to managed land such as SA Water was easier being associated with the Bushfire CRC. Companies such as Maptek were happy to trial their laser scanners and funding bodies were supportive for new ideas. After the recent major fires Melbourne Water sought information and invited me to present online to an audience of over 60 people regarding managing water quality post wildfire. The CRC was a stepping stone to additional opportunities.  

The Bushfire CRC has worked hard at promoting our work via conference posters, fire notes and a dedicated web site to each student.  Numerous fire managers from different states in Australia approached me at conference regarding information in my posters. They wanted more info and more research to be done. A buzz for me this year was the Darwin conference. The crocodiles were a novelty but what really stood out was a chat I had with an end-user contact. It led to an invite to attend a workshop for the Burnt Area Assessment Team in Canberra. The buzz was seeing the usefulness of my studies and staff appreciating my involvement. We need more research done on erosion post-fire.

In contrast without the Bushfire CRC it would have been an isolating experience studying fire research. I’m sure my outcomes are greatly enhanced by the CRC involvement and support. I’m looking forward to the old nickname changing from an 18 year old with a degree to the Mum with a PhD or better still the fire manager with an understanding of both research and management.

I have five minutes to say all that above. I’ll remove the red writing about the short straw being a Mum studying a PhD. I’d love to say it but it’s not really the right forum. At least I’ve written it somewhere now.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

MS Sydney to the Gong

She is someone's MUM
She is someone's WIFE
She is someone's SISTER
She is someone's Friend
She has MS
Three times as many women have MS
The average age of diagnosis is 30
There is no known cause or cure

Last night lying in bed wondering if my legs would peddle over 90km to finish the MS bike ride I read about MS and discovered the above information.

As a kid I read for the MS read-a-thon. My own kids have participated in MS read-a-thon. No one I know has MS so I've really never though much about the actual condition.

Last night I thought about
I am someone's MUM
I am someone's WIFE
I am someone's SISTER
I am someone's Friend

I am woman and I'm in my 30's

This thought process made me connect a bit more with the disease.  I'm glad to help in a little way by riding. I wished I raised more money, where is that money tree when you need it. If you have some spare cash send it their way

Today I have sore legs, a bit of sunburn and some great memories. The ride is worth the effort and fun.

Friday, November 5, 2010


Isaac as a skeleton at the Keiraville playgroup twilight BBQ
Today I handed over the Keirville playgroup coordinator role at the AGM. Its been fun but its time to move on. Little Isaac starts SCHOOL next year so we won't be at playgroup for much longer. Its been great to share stories with other parents of vomit, sleepness nights, poo etc . Only a bunch of parents could really partake in such a conversation whilst drinking tea and eating gorgeous homemade morning tea. Made some great friends on the way.  A part of me is sad to be finishing, but there is also a part of me thats looking forward to a bit more free time to work on this monster PhD.

Kai and Liam wearing their gorgeous playgroup craft from St Helens in Adelaide

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Melbourne Cup

Its Melbourne Cup today and I had no idea. I'm buried in Rowena's world not knowing what's happening outside. Pre kids I was workng with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on cup day. We were based up in Townsville just 2606km away from the horse race. What fun the day was. Typical North Queenslanders embrace any excuse for a party. We wore hats and bet on fake horses pulled by rubber bands. Great day. We then moved away to Adelaide. Whilst working with South Australia Marine Planning the day was ruined by a boss claiming it was cruel to animals. So on to Wollongong post having three kids I've managed to  incorporate Melbourne Cup into craft at playgroup. Initiate the kids into betting early : ) Move forward to today and I didn't even realise it was on. I dream of dressing in a frock, drinking champagne with my Mummy friends eating prawns, chicken and salad giggling away. Maybe next year...


Monday, November 1, 2010

Ant mounds

I'm working on the intro for my prescribed burn paper and came across some work written by Cerda and Doerr (in press) The effect of ant mounds on overland flow and soil erodibility following a wildfire in eastern Spain. Ecohydrology

I have a soft spot for this topic due to my honours research. A severe fire occurred in the Blue Mountains back in 1994. At that stage I was studying “what is a beach” for my honours in Geomorphology. I loved surfing and really wanted to move into coastal geomorphology. After riding through and seeing the post fire lunar landscape my topic preference changed. At the time I lived in the Blue Mountains and decided to swap topics due to the fire being right on my doorstep. 

Cut a long story short the ant mounds were causing havoc with my study site stirring up the sediment and increasing the amount of erosion occurring. A staff member suggested I put petrol down the hole to fix the problem.  Luckily I ignored that suggestion and chose to separate the measurements to work out how much sediment the ants were adding. It was all done on a budget of $120. Prices were cheap as I was a crazy, enthusiastic student who could travel anywhere on a mountain bike. This was in the days prior to students using the internet for researching.

It was a fascinating project resulting in numerous publications thanks to my supervisor with a gift for writing. What has been intriguing is watching how science develops from a new idea. It has been a buzz watching the scientific community grab the research and run with it. According to ISI Web the paper now has 14 citations not including the new publication in press by Cerda and Doerr. I’ve created a graph showing the citation growth. I’m trying to master graphing in the latest version of excel. It’s so different to my old Office 2003 version. As for this graph will it keep going up or level out in the future?

Ant mounds at the sediment trap located at Faulconbridge in the Blue Mountains


Cerda and Doerr (in press) The effect of ant mounds on overland flow and soil erodibility following a wildfire in eastern Spain. Ecohydrology

Dragovich D, Morris R (2002) Fire intensity, slopewash and bio-transfer of sediment in eucalypt forest, Australia. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 27, 1309-1319

Morris R (1994) Soil erosion in the post-fire landscape. Honours, 89pp

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Burn Out

Burn out is fast approaching. I do monitor for potential burn out but sometime it’s just out of my control. I can cut back on certain things but they are normally the “me” things. No easy solution but to accept sometimes it’s all too much and to settle for a cup of tea. Blogging is great for that. I feel like I’m sitting down, debriefing with a bunch of imaginary friends. It’s nice not to continually burden the local friends with my mundane dribble.  Read a great article on burn out the other day from Dr Mum.

Check it out.

Todays burn out topics

1.      Liam (7yr old) has a temperature and sore throat. He spent the night in our bed (which means I’m sleep deprived again) and he’s now asleep at 10:30am. My lovely hubby offered to stay home so I can do my uni work but I already have prior engagements based at home. It was just last night Isaac came into our bed due to health issues. Its musical beds in our home at the moment
2.      Our dog Alex had a paralysis tick yesterday which is worrying me today. His eye is twitching and he’s a bit slower. My brother lost his dog to a tick which makes me very aware of tick problems.
3.      SWICH lunch. A bunch of academic women are coming around for lunch. I did get one snail out of the home grown lettuce. It’s great to socialise with similar buddies who have done, are thinking about or are doing these crazy PhDs.
4.      School canteen. Long story to share another day
5.      Annual review. I’m awaiting a phone call from the post-grad coordinator to finish this tiresome process off. I’m going to complain about library access issues for mums on leave today. Basically I’m a happy camper about uni and they have no plans to kick me out yet due to my limited productivity.
6.      Musical festival for Kai (8yr old) tonight. The cornet is broken again but fixing it can wait. He can still play.
7.      Internet is down and the kid’s computer has a porn adoring virus…
8.      I really need to finish this paper for uni I’m writing…NO MORE BLOGGING ; )

Actually it’s not so bad now I’ve written it down. Time to study and watch over Liam, our sick sleeping 7yr old.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mama PhD Mantra

I need to get my priorities worked out so I can make the required time to finish off this thesis. I was reading Jean-Anne Sutherland’s essay, Ideal Mama, Ideal Worker: Negotiating Guilt and Shame in Academe published in Mama PhD (2008). Mama PhD is a great read to discover many different stories involving juggling kids and academia. The plight of these mums at times sounded a real struggle. I’m thankful for being allowed to study part-time due to caring for pre-school aged kids. Adelaide Uni has a “special consideration” clause which made it possible. Also my supervisors are very supportive. Alas I still have to do the work so it’s time to sort out my priorities.

Jean-Anne’s mantra from Mama was “Savannah, self-care, dissertation”. I too can be guided by a mantra, so here goes

As I have three kids (8, 7 & 4yr old), a hubby and an extended family I enjoy being around I’m modifying the first part to family. It’s inclusive of them all.

The second self-care seems a worthy inclusion. I could really do some work on this one. I really need to focus on my health, weight and ensuring sufficient sleep. This means not finding time for the PhD at night when it’s really me time, hubby time, TV slobbing and blogging time. Also cooking decent meals and reducing the required dosage of chocolate to get any writing done. Now chocolate! that is a blog topic in itself

Part 3  THESIS
Ok maybe I’ll need to chain myself to the desk but if it’s a priority we might just make it across the finish line.

Well then the mantra “Family, myself, thesis” is just not musical to me.

I’m a sociable creature struggling a bit whilst studying remotely. Without a friendly chat with another mums, students or outdoor enthusiasts I’ll go insane. So this mantra really requires four parts

“Family, self-care, thesis, friends”

I can live by this for a year. I need to make a few alterations to my current commitments, but by 2011 the mantra will dominate my life. Maybe it is selfish as Jean-Anne mentioned, but then again maybe it’s essential so I can give my family the time I want whilst still managing the other parts of life I’ve committed to. My Dad always teased me about burning the candle at both ends. At least this is only four ends…

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mum Mantra

When life with kids seems impossible the best Mum mantra I know is
"this will pass"

My friends on facebook offered these

"give me strength to accept the things I can not change"

how much can I fit into one day

the baby will come when he/she is ready

don't take no for an answer, never give up


It's just a season, seasons come and seasons go

What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger

in the words of Cher "if I could turn back time"

all you have to do is keep them fed and alive
(ie not set the parent bar too high)

Mothering is easy hey
Feel free to share your favourites

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thesis outline

Ye ha! today I was told I have too much for the thesis. I’m sure that’s better than too little. But it was suggested I remove my favourite publication. The paper accepted and appreciated by engineers. It tells so much of my story. Alas the stuff that is meant to be kept in still requires lots of work. So lots of work I shall do… 

A great before and after shot of a destroyed sediment trap at Mount Bold

Here is the publication reference so it’s never forgotten

Morris R., Calliss S., Frizenschaf J., Blason M., Dragovich D., Henderson M. and Ostendorf B. (2008) Controlling sediment movement following bushfire - a case study in managing water quality, Mount Bold, South Australia. Proceedings of Water Down Under 2008 incorporating 31st Hydrology and Water Resources Symposium and 4th International Conference on Water Resources and Environment Research. 14-17 April 2008, Adelaide, Australia., 1937-1947.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wombat knocking

A wombat came to say hi this morning. He curled up and went to sleep at our back door for six hours. Very cute. Maybe we are doing something right towards creating a natural habitat in the backyard for Australian natives.
He reminded me of the worst talk I ever gave. My boss asked me to do a presentation for him about wombats and erosion to a group of farmers. Slightly hung over from too much partying after a birthday I foolishly said of course I would present. Hey I knew about erosion I just had to learn about wombats. Well I was introduced as Rowena from National Parks who was going to talk about rabbits. I knew nothing about rabbits so I prattled on about wombats and erosion regardless. The nerves won resulting in a thumb down presentation. You’ll be glad to know presenting for the PhD has been much more successful. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Annual review

Previously I decided to combine school holidays by taking the kids to a meeting with one of my supervisors. Whoops. To start with the rendezvous of a playground was not actually clearly explained to my supervisor. Secondly whilst chatting away about the PhD I failed to tell Liam where I was in the park. He got worried and freaked out searching for me. Finally blood dripping from an accident to the youngest resulted in a quick retreat from the crazy meeting. Yes I got the signature but really it’s easier to ditch the kids with friends and concentrate on the study, not try to do both.   

It’s that time of the year again. Fill in the forms, chat with the supervisors and get the post-graduate coordinator to sign it off. The continued enrolment and pay depends on this process. I’ve done it nine times already. Being part-time and remote has taken these reviews to a cruel excessive level. A normal candidature would only do three possibly four. I’ve also got four supervisors even though the norm is two. I find the combined knowledge of all four makes this multidisciplinary PhD possible. They each play an important role. It does make the five signatures required for the review an onerous task but it’s always good to catch up with them all, be it in person, telephone or over Skype.

This time I have learnt and will trade play-dates and pay kid-care to avoid juggling the kids whilst meeting my supervisors. I want to listen to the supervisor’s advice fully not half-heartedly as I wait for the next spill of blood, wet pants or dirty face requiring Mums love.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Isaac enjoying nippers
A great Aussie morning spent at nippers. No sleeping in like a normal PhD student. We were at the beach by 9:30am on a Sunday morning enjoying the sunshine. My third son, Isaac, was so excited to finally become a nipper. He proudly wore the uniform, putting all his effort into running, jumping and swimming. He may have ran the wrong way, tripped over in the waves, missed out on the flag but he came home with winner smiles and great satisifaction at beating the girls in the tug-o-war. Finally he is joining in with the activties he watched his brothers do. There is no holding this one back.  

Nippers are young members of surf lifesavering that focus on fun and surf awareness.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Another day missed

Awoke to “my belly hurts’ as our four year old made his way into our bedroom. As the morning unfolded this vital bit of info was forgotten until breakfast did not stay down. So in between Sol having 15 min to be out the door to work, readers to be read and shoes to be found the event was cleaned up and the realisation that another day of study was to be skipped. Preschool is no place for a sick kid.

It was lovely to curl up on the lounge, watching TV with Isaac thinking about the fact that he starts school next year. I’m kidding myself next year will be different because I get five whole glorious days to finish the PhD when all kids are at school. I’m reading Mama PhD which is full of similar stories. It’s always nice to know I’m not alone with the juggle. Some Mums actually do finish the thesis. So the office floor and desk were cleaned today as there is no way I can think about fire, erosion and statistics whilst enjoying the company of a four year old.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Whole Orange Cake

Whole orange cake with poppy seeds 

Whoops, forgot I was rostered to cater for playgroup morning tea until 10pm last night. Did I mention I wrote the roster therefore I really had no excuse? Luckily on Monday a mate made a gorgeous cake which inspired the morning cooking choice. Best Recipes to the rescue.

Give it a go, it’s easy, not too messy and a winner. You really do just stick a whole orange in the food processor along with the cake ingredients. I also added some poppy seeds to the recipe. What’s with the new fetish of photographing food hey? I love other blogs with food photos so I'm giving it a go. Obviously an art to that one, inside light, outside light, the whole cake, a slice etc. Cake all cooked and photographed before morning playgroup. Now its mostly crumbs.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Riveting day spent learning statistics. Why didn’t I get the maths nerd genes like my brothers…The PhD data outliers are the most interesting part of the data but of course analysis is much simpler if they get ditched. All these buzz words like mixed linear regression is just doing my head in. To R or to SPSS that is the question. I guess this blog will need an acronym list. Maybe I’ll just settle for mothering now the kids are home from school and make some awfully yummy honey ice-cream.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lion Cubs

Photo: John Storr 1997

These lion cubs are so cute and so like my boys. Constantly wrestling, tackling and rolling. Drives me insane however the kids love it. It seems to be what they are programmed to do and nothing will stop it until the tears flow once again. We’ve had a lovely school holiday with very little PhD progress but lots of kid wrestling and beach time. Alex the dog spent the holiday wrestling ticks. A quick trip to the vet for a dosage of frontline hopefully fixed that one. Back to school, preschool and uni for us all tomorrow.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ice-cream Pilgrimage

At the moment we are holidaying without a car or the hubby. Sol is stuck at home editing conference proceedings. Academic life is never ending. So the boys and I head off each day on a pilgrimage to the shops. Kai on rollerblades, Liam on his scooter , Isaac on the tag along and the dog somewhere nearby. We really visit the shops to buy milk and bread but the kids are convinced to come via the promise of ice-cream. Of course we forgot the bread today.

A small progress made on the PhD today.  I emailed the annual review paperwork to my supervisor. DVDs are a great babysitter for some peaceful time. Shame the spiderman DVD is so scratched we didn’t get the full allotted time. My email is exploding at the moment. I give it a quick scan for anything important each day but I’m not in processing mode with three young men in tow.  


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mountain Biking

As part of my PhD Self sabotaging I still keep a keen interest in NSW National Parks. I have just written a submission to DECCW on their current
 Discussion Paper:
National Parks and Wildlife Service Cycling Policy Review and Sustainable Mountain Biking Strategy

It is good to see Mountain Biking receiving the attention it deserves. It’s a great way to see our park system. Of course it causes a few management issues. Some of my favourite days of work were taking teenager boys on Mountain bike rides though Popran and Brisbane Waters National Park. I’ll never forget their mothers faces the day we returned from riding in the rain. We were completely covered in mud. Those kids were happy to listen when “doing” and maybe they even absorbed about the cultural and natural heritage of our parks.

Meanwhile submission to the Discussion Paper closes Mon 25 October 2010.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

School Holidays

School holidays were previously a juggling act where I used a combination of day-care, vacation care, gymnastics and play-dates to keep on studying. This year I’ve decided to make the most of playing with kids by taking 8 weeks leave in order to spend time with them. Yes the PhD will take a little longer but the kids are only little once.  I managed two days study at the start when the kids went to visit their grandparents.  

Previously we lived in Adelaide and made some great friends. Kai in particular made a best friend called Jack. They met when he was 4 weeks old. His family came to spend some of the holidays with us at home then also at Dalmeny. Liam lost another tooth and had his seventh birthday at Dalmeny. Sometimes the study needs to wait in order to enjoy the family.  

Isaac, Kai, Jack, Liam and Kate

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Juggling Act

Here comes the juggling act, how to leave the kids for three nights and two days to attend the BAAT. Sol had a busy week with lecturing commitments and organising a geology field trip due to leave the day after I returned from Canberra. So it was time to call in the help. The oldies were busy, fair enough they have done they’re time raising kids. Normally they jump at the chance, but being overseas, interstate or teaching kept that option closed. Our gorgeous preschool luckily had a spare spot for Isaac on the Wed. Some other kid was escaping on a holiday I guess. Isaac didn’t mind the extra day as Matilda’s farm was coming for a visit. The boys scored play dates after school and Sol managed to finish early on Tues arvo. Sol juggles very well. Thank goodness for fellow Mummy friends. So all up it was fine. A hire car gave me the freedom to leave late on Mon night. Luckily the travel and accommodation was paid for. We operate with one car at home.

I always hate leaving Sol and the kids. But truthfully the escape lets me return revitalised. Ground-hog day is fine after a break. I snuck a quick look at Floriade before driving home. Such colour! I do wish one day my garden will bloom like that. Last year the preschool had a bulb drive and a few flowers snuck their way up out of the ground.

So on Thurs morning I said good bye to Sol as he left for the Orange geology field trip and settled back into mothering and studying at home.    

Image 029
The gorgeous tulips at Floriade 


Matildas’ Farm

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Burnt area assessment team

This time last week I was in Canberra attending a burnt area assessment team (BAAT) training. BAAT is all about assessing risk and potential rehabilitation strategies from fire impacts. The organisers from ACT Parks Convervation and Land and NSW DECCW invited a multi-disciplinary team consisting of experts in biodiversity, built assets, cultural assets, GIS, erosion and flooding.

The whole event was a buzz for me as the PhD topic I spend so much time researching was receiving the attention it really deserves. Great photos were shown of roads washed away and really sad looking turbid water dams cause by erosion post-fire. You may think me strange getting excited over such photos, but each to their own hey. All attendees, apart from me, were government employees. The invite came along as the previous week I had attended a conference in Darwin and ran into old work acquaintances. Life is a bit of who you know, but also what you know.

Media link Bushfire response team to assess habitat damage
ABC Wed Sep 22, 2010 3:25pm AEST


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mount Lofty, fire and water

My studies on erosion post-fire are based in the Mount Lofty Ranges to the east of Adelaide. I’ve focussed on the Mount Bold water reservoir following a wildfire in 2007. My other study sites are within conservation parks, national parks and botanic gardens. Enjoy the photos

A great view of Mount Bold Reservoir

Mount Bold Wildfire
Photo Source: South Australian Country Fire Service Promotions Unit - Photographic Section,


This photo shows in more way than one why I’m on the PhD journey. The actual topic is about protecting our water quality from ending up like the turbid water in the glass. The other reason was the freedom study gave me to spend time with our three kids whilst keeping a foot in the workforce. The boy in the photo is my youngest. He was born 10 months after the PhD commenced. He happily posed for this photo which was used in a conference presentation

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Beating self-sabotage

I’m approaching the end of the PhD but really it’s still a long way to go. To finish sounds great! I’m working hard on the self-sabotaging by finding reasons to avoid finishing. Amongst them include the kids, cooking, self-doubt, the chooks, the dog, the garden, playgroup, preschool, school and now a new hobby of blogging. Actually I’m hoping that blogging honesty might just lead me to the latest finish date of Nov 2011.

Latest useful reading
Kearns and Gardiner (2006) Defeating Self-Sabotage: Getting your PhD finished  
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