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

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