Kids in Cafes? Why I’ve drawn the line

I have officially had it with kids in cafes. My own kids, that is. At the start of the week, I took them to a cafe that we live nearby to, and gave them stern warnings about good cafe behaviour in advance. This has to be done, because if I don’t warn them, things go really, really wrong. And on that very day, even in spite of all that, everything still went wrong. In hindsight, cutting through the middle man and headed straight to the oasis: kids party venues. Sydney has a few gems, and this one is perfect for  a weary dad like me.

From the second we arrived, everything looked grim. The cafe was packed with people, a huge group of cyclists where we’d normally sit outside and to the rafters full indoors. We were going to head back out when a waiter shooed us to a table smack bang in the center of the dining room. Passing by a table, my youngest kid, Lachie elbowed a paper that was resting underneath a guy’s teacup, so naturally it smashed to the ground into microscopic fragments.

As soon as we sat down, my eldest, Mitch, decided it would be a great trick to get Lachie to sniff pepper.

The third and final straw happened even before our order had been taken. I was  leaning over, trying to talk Mitch into being sensible when the table we were seated jack-knifed and tipped, sending everything on it to the ground as well. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my limit.

Marching the kids outside, I couldn’t think of anything else to save us – but then I remembered that the kids favourite  indoor play centre in Sydney where they can go completely wild. And I can refuel on coffee and cake. Instead of losing my mind, I put the kids back in the car and crisis averted, made a beeline for the nearest indoor play centre.

Are Frangipanis the key to curing the common cold?

Scientists have announced that they are one step closer to curing the ubiquitous common cold, with frangipanis appearing to hold the answer.

Translating long-held folk wisdom into evidence based medicine, a team of hardworking scientists have extracted a phytoestrogen from the frangipani plant which appears to reduce the duration of the common cold in mouse models.

Many cultures prize the frangipani plant for its mystical ability to cure illness, with the flower being involved in healing rites and even taken orally as a form of medicine to alleviate cold and flu-like illnesses. Until now, it was believed that the healing powers of the frangipani were a result of social factors, with the plant contributing little to the immune system.

The Australian team of scientists, headed up by esteemed virologist Dr Hubert Meisner, has isolated a phytoestrogen used by the frangipani plant, which is not dangerous to ingest but appears to obliterate the cold virus. A treatment can be made by crushing up fresh frangipani leaves, which are delivered to the body through an injection. While it is believed that oral treatment may also work, it is unlikely to be as efficient as sending the frangipani derivative directly to the bloodstream.

A mouse model has been used to demonstrate the efficacy of the frangipani treatment, with promising preliminary results. The team hopes to undertake human studies by 2020. Until then, the team encourages people to plant frangipanis in their gardens to ensure a plentiful supply of the plant in the future.

While the phytohormone is common to all varieties of frangipani, Dr Meisner believes that some varieties produce larger quantities.“We are looking at different types of frangipani, lulus blood in particular appears to be promising. My team is currently working on isolating the phytoestrogen from the Lulu’s Blood variety, which we think will give the best results due to the huge quantities involved. As it often the case in medicine, more is better.”

Stamp of Approval for Conference Venue

I’ve been tasked with organising the annual conference for the Victorian chapter of the international stamp collecting society I’m tangentially involved with. Don’t ask me how this came to be the case – I really feel that there are other people who are better suited to the job. But the guy who normally takes charge of it has had to take emergency leave and everyone else was too busy, so I put my hand up for it and there you have it.

My first port of call is nailing down a venue. I’m told that a lot of my fellow chapter members are located down in the surf coast area, and that the ones who live in Melbourne tend to be quite keen to get out of the city for the weekend. Makes sense to me – who doesn’t want to immerse themselves in the world of stamp collecting in scenic surrounds? So, here’s what I’m looking for: conference venues with accomodation in regional Victoria – preferably near the beach!

To be forthright, most of the members of this society are relatively well-to-do, and expect things to be of a certain quality. That means no seedy, motor-inn style hotel rooms. And if there’s a day spa on site, so much the better. At the same time, we stamp collectors tend to be wild about wildlife – we love bird watching and the like. Does that surprise you? Try taking a closer look at the stamp next time you get a letter with one on it. A fairly sizable proportion of the time, there’ll be something organic on it.

I’m thinking that somewhere along the Great Ocean Road might be just the ticket – perhaps some luxury beachside apartments in Lorne. Victoria has so many beautiful places to see along the coast, but I can definitely vouch for Lorne as somewhere in which the occasion at hand won’t be out of place. With that in mind, my next move will be to locate a venue that can do the conference catering, preferably using local produce.

Feels like it’s coming together! I was born for this.

The Family Phoenixed: Christmas 2012

I have a cousin, Sara,  who suffered lower back pain for the most of her life. The story of how my uncle Lonnie changed his career to undertake a course professional dry needling so he could help her is one of the best ‘dad to the rescue’ stories I’ve heard yet.  I remember even as kids, she’d often be in pain and though we just accepted it as normal – but not Lonnie. He was actually a practising physio, and through the recommendation of a friend, had a lot of success treating his own knee injury through a dry needling practitioner he met in 2009.

In the end, it was this injury that led to him looking up dry needling courses. New Zealand is fairly fast moving when it comes to acknowledging new and alternative treatments, so when he decided to divert his physiotherapy background to one in dry needling, it didn’t take him long to find a course he loved.

His decision actually came Christmas in 2012,  when all us kids were playing in the front yard and her back seized up and started spasming. She was clearly in a lot of pain and needed relief, and there was only so much they could do. I remember the look on her Dad’s face as he cooled her forehead and tried to take her mind off the pain. They came to our house on New Year’s day for a regular family gathering and in the space of that week, he had enrolled in a dry needling course for the following year.

Flash forward to a few years later, and Lonnie is now a fully qualified dry needling practitioner, who can now treat Sara’s pain in a way that actually works. And the difference it has made for Sara is unbelievable- she wants to follow in her dad’s footsteps and study it herself, which I guess is probably the best testimonial for dry needling imaginable.

Chamber of Medical Secrets

My sister, Katie, is studying veterinary science. This week she’s been assessing evidence for the efficacy of oxygen therapy in treating companion animals for conditions of reduced circulation (you know, infected wounds that won’t heal and all that lovely stuff). The things you get into when you’re at uni! In case you were wondering, there don’t seem to be too much research on the topic. With regard to humans, though, it is fairly well established that oxygen therapy can be of benefit as a treatment for said type of conditions.

I’d never heard of this oxygen therapy, so I asked Katie to tell me about it. She said it involves the patient going inside one of these units called hyperbaric chambers – in the Melbourne area, there are a few different facilities that have these. In the chamber, they’re exposed to air with a high ambient pressure. This is a means of delivering 100% oxygen into the body, as opposed to the lower percentage of oxygen that we take in when we breathe normally.

Like I said, according to Katie’s research, the use of this treatment on non-human animals is relatively new, and it hasn’t been clearly established that it works. But for humans, it’s been found to be clinically effective in treating certain conditions. There are even portable hyperbaric chambers for home treatment on the market, which seem to be a cost effective way for patients to access it. That’s compared with the cost of going to a treatment centre, given that treatment generally seems to require an ongoing run of therapy sessions.

From my veterinarily uneducated perspective, I’d expect that, if this works for humans, it would work for mammals in general. Maybe mild hyperbaric treatments will one day be shown to improve the quality of life of dogs and cats with certain conditions. For the time being, I won’t go around promoting its use on non-human animals. But it sounds like it’s been very helpful for some humans, so we’ll see. ‘

Doggy Dramas

I’ve just been taken on quite the runaround. First, I got saddled with dogsitting my sister-in-law’s annoying little terrier, Tegan, while she jetted off on another impromptu trip. As someone who’s not a dog person, I’m the last resort, so she must have been desperate. The drama escalated pretty quickly from there.

After Kate dropped off Tegan, I took her for a walk along the beach – I’d been wanting some fresh air anyway. I let her off-leash and watched as she ran up a rocky outcrop. Trouble kicked in when she didn’t stop running at the top and proceeded to disappear over the other side. When she didn’t reappear, I went to investigate and discovered that it had been quite a drop for her. She seemed to have landed awkwardly, and was now unable to stand on one her front legs.

I carried her back to the car while quietly muttering expletives and frantically googling emergency vets in the Bayside area. When I finally tracked down an appointment, I was dismayed to learn that Tegan had fractured her leg. I was informed that orthopaedic surgery would be required, and assured that this was a relatively common procedure.

While we waited to complete the pre-operation paperwork, I noticed that Tegan seemed to be in relatively decent spirits. This made me giggle, so I gave her a scratch under the chin. She wagged her tail and licked me enthusiastically on the arm, despite her broken leg. Finally, in that pet surgery in Moorabbin, I felt a wave of goodwill towards Tegan that I hadn’t experienced before. I recognised that the frantic state I’d been in could be put down to concern for her wellbeing, and realised that I really did want her to have the best veterinary care available.

I’m not going to mention our ‘moment’ to Kate, though. If I do, she’ll be wanting me to dogsit every weekend, and I don’t think I could handle the drama.

Indoor-Outdoor Insanity

This renovation project just goes on and on… will it ever end?! On the upside, the decking around the granny flat is starting to look presentable – the bed and breakfast situation is finally coming to life. And (drum roll please) I’ve found a solution to my ongoing issue with not being able to find the right paint….digital printed wallpaper! Australia has got to have at least a few companies that can arrange this over the net. I just need to track down one that has the exact kind of abstract floral I’m after in a PVC-free material that hubby and I can paste up ourselves.

Practical stuff aside, browsing online wallpaper designs has been one of the highlights of my week. I haven’t quite landed on ‘the one’ yet, because it’s got to be a perfect colour match for the native garden that’s going to around the new deck. I have the planting design drawn up, so I know what colours are going to be in it and in what proportion, and I’m set on this being reflected in the interior decor of the flat.

The design concept of the bed and breakfast is that there’s no jarring separation between the outdoor and indoor areas – any solid indoor wall space needs to reflect the surrounding nature. I’m not willing to compromise on this, and I don’t think I’ll have to, going by what I’ve seen of the custom wall covering trend that’s on the go online at the moment. Not that I have the time to get into heavy-duty customising – just hand me that perfect print on a pre-pasted sheet!

The one problem I foresee is that the finely-tune choice of wallpaper won’t mean as much to a guest during the flowers’ off-seasons. I might have to jump back to the drawing board to make sure there’s a year-round display of colour in the planting arrangement.

I dunno; maybe I’m losing it a wee bit in the course of this reno. Will anyone appreciate my colour-matched indoor-outdoor decor concept as much as I do? Probably not. Do I care? Not in the slightest!

It’s a Long Drive to the Top End

Captain’s log: day 4. Yep, you heard that right. We’ve been driving for four days with two kids in tow, and made it up through NSW to south-eastern QLD. It’s been gorgeous driving the new campervan up the coast and sleeping by the beach every night, but all this time sitting down is starting to wear thin on masters 8 and 10 respectively, otherwise known as Luka and Heath. So Terry and I have decided to stop for a couple of nights near Brisbane.

We’re staying at Terry’s cousin’s awesome property, which has endless room for the boys to run around, but I think they’re craving some of the hustle and bustle of the city (growing up in Fitzroy will do that to you, I’m afraid). So we’re hunting down an inexpensive kids activity that doesn’t involve hiking, fishing, or watching cartoons on my tablet. We’ve hit on the idea of taking them to an indoor play centre in Brisbane.

Heath was skeptical at first, but after seeing some pictures of the place, he was totally into it. I suspect that his competitive streak might have kicked in after I suggested that he could run it like an obstacle course. Even with his younger brother, he can’t help but get fired up about a game. I’m forever having to remind the kid that sometimes playtime is really just playtime, and a kids’ playground isn’t the same thing as a professional football field.

Luka’s easily the less aggressive one. He’s very detail-oriented, and loves solving puzzles. He’s into any game that involves putting things in order, which means it’s almost too easy to trick him into helping out around the house. I’m always trying to think of the perfect activity to bring Luka’s affinity for puzzle games together with Heath’s competitive sports mindset. The best I’ve come up with is chess, but neither of them is interested.

They’ll come round, one of these days! For the time being, let’s see what the go is with indoor playgrounds in Queensland. Maybe they’ll give me some new ideas for activities the kids can do while on the road.

A window into your marriage

Windows are an important part of everyday life that we often neglect or forget. They keep in the heat, keep out the cold and generally allow us to see the world in a way that we simply wouldn’t if there was a wall there. In a way, windows are an analogy for the married life.

They keep in the heat of love, keep out the cold of loneliness, and two people joining as one have the potential to see so much more of the world, and with a second pair of eyes.

Windows can also be broken, through neglect or forceful actions. A marriage can go the same way if not treated with love and care. You can get replacement windows, of course…but they’ll never be the same as the originals. You never forget your first window, just like how your marriage should be unforgettable.

Windows can become murky, covered in extraneous materials, and you lose sight of what’s really important. In a marriage, you can lose sight of the things that are dear to you. You can forget what made your union truly special in the first place- the extraneous dirt of life, stress and hassle is what will make your marriage seem hazy.

In times like these, windows need to be washed. Think of marriage counselling or confiding in close friends as being like a hose that blasts away your troubles; or simply opening up the lines of communication. It may not be as easy as hosing down a window, but the end goal is the same: revival.

In the end, a clean window is a wonderful thing that brings joy to many. You can look through it and gaze at life’s many interesting moments; the storms, the fair weather, the meetings and partings. Marriage is the same, a lense by which we watch life’s milestones as they come and go.

So next time you have a broken window, before you call in the Melbourne window repair people, take a moment to think about your significant other. Is your life reflected in this window? Or is it clear of dirt, sound and unbroken? A good window should show it all.

The Life of a Tradesperson

So you want to be a tradesperson? It’s a promising option for many, especially those who can’t see themselves sitting behind a desk doing the 9-5 for the rest of their lives. But it’s not a walk in the park either, as it can involve heavy machinery, long hours and a whole lot of learning. Here are just a few things you might want to know before starting off:

  1. The hours will be long: Tradespeople are often the first people out of bed, besides airport workers. And working as an apprentice, which is probably how you’ll start off, you may be working up to 12-hour days or more. Of course, that’s not a guarantee, but don’t expect sensible hours. Carefully consider if you can handle the exhaustion.
  2. You’ll be an apprentice for a while: This is common tradesman knowledge; that you’ll be working under an experienced mentor, probably for a number of years. To nail the stereotype, this likely means you’ll be getting the less popular jobs, and working for longer, with less pay. It’s a period all tradespeople have to endure, and you should come out on the other end with knowledge and an idea of where you want to work- not to mention a stronger character. So before you grab your aluminium accessories and take on the world, be aware that it could be a while before this happens.
  3. The Boredom: An unwritten tradesman rule is that the boring jobs pay better. There are countless trades to learn, some more fun than others, but you have to pick that one that’s right for you, not just whatever pays the most for the least work. Mining, for example, is one of the most boring jobs around , but also one of the best payed. But the ‘fun’ factor is no reason for choosing a job either. Remember, this choice has lifelong consequences. Pick something you could do for years afterwards.
  4. The Physical Side: We’re not saying these experts all have hazardous jobs where they risk life and limb every day. But they can be exhausting, dirty, disgusting and even dangerous. It’s the polar opposite of a desk job, and can involve some pretty unpleasant situations, not to mention the heavy machinery that can very easily put you in the hospital if you’re not careful. Be aware of the risks!

If you’re fully aware of these, by all means go ahead. Grab the best aluminium toolbox Melbourne has to offer, fill it with whatever you need and start your life as a tradie.

Just as long as you’re sure it’s the right career path for you!