Free Hit? Or Free Hug!

Most of you probably remember things like walking to and from school, rain, sun, barefoot in the freezing snow, uphill both ways etc. One of my memories of these times came back to me when my first born was about 18 months old and we were walking past one of these

Fire Hydrant
Fire Hydrant

My first memory of these things was a swift dead arm as somebody yelled ‘FREE HIT!’. Because that’s what the FH stood for, everyone knew that. I only figured out that it was a fire hydrant when i was in my teens I think. But having Free Hits wasn’t too much of a problem, because it came with rules. You could only hit people when you were standing on it!
So if i remembered to avoid going within a couple of mtrs of them I was ok … of course if i was reading a book or talking to somebody and didn’t noticed then i got punched, and again my arm was unusable for a good 30 minutes.

So walking along with my 18month old son i decided that i was going to keep him innocent and nice for as long as possible, i pointed the FH label out and said ‘oh look! Free Hug!’ and gave him a hug.
This became a game and every time we would race for them to get the Free Hug.
When he was 5 and went to school he eventually found out others said it was a ‘Free Hit’, so i explained ‘Its only a Free Hit if they are standing on it, a Free Hug can be taken away and you can get it as many times as you want!’. So he went back and educated all his class mates.
16 years later, and i have now 4 children (11,12,13 and 18), and they all do the ‘Free Hug’ thing, very rarely anyone hits unless its gentle. Even when cycling the kids will swerve wildly (which i go mad at!) to get the FH so they have lots of ‘Hugs’ available to redeem (yep they all hug each other and me!).

So now in the present day, i was cycling to work today, and past a group of 12-13 year old kids going to school. They clearly went to a different school to my kids, so i was most surprised when they suddenly stopped, called ‘FREE HUG!!!!’ and started hugging each other!
I was flabbergasted that my kids & i have started our own trend now which has moved onto other schools, based on the fact that i disliked the random mean punch.

So next time you walk past a Fire Hydrant (FH), make sure you grab your Free Hug, you never know when you may need one!

Weekend away Camping

Thought I’d do a diary style post (its been a while!).

I’ve been into cycling for a while now, a good few years, and one of my favourite races is the bikethelake which is a nice 42km loop of the Rotorua Lake, or 2 Laps for the main event. Since i had surgery i’ve been pretty lax about any exercise and struggled to get back into it and up to fitness, i decided that i needed to do it again this year. My daughter was keen to do some tandem cycling with me, so we found a 30 year old Healing Tandem on Trademe and cleaned it up.

Took a bit of hard yakka to get it clean, polishing all the surface rust off and bringing the bling chrome back to life. I didn’t dare take it apart to re-paint it so i just taped over the smaller bits and only removed the major bits (wheels and seats etc). As it was the pedals had to have their threads re-tapped to get them back on, and being 2 right pedals on each person meant we had no cleat useage, just standerd pedals.

So though it doesnt look brand new, it did look pretty awesome after finishing, and very retro with all the crome. No 120PSI tyres here, it was 60PSI and all standard car valves all the way! We did a few training runs around the neighbourhood and managed to sustain about 20km/ph fairly easily. We decided it was going to be a pleasure ride rather than race, we were just not fit enough or good enough to try anything more and it would have been silly to try with only 2-3 weeks training for a 42km race.

Since I’m also training for the oxfam Trailwalker Ive been trying to fit in longer walks with that, and thursday i went and walked 20km to Hamilton from home, whilst my husband was about to pick me up his car started playing up (gearbox) so when we went to Rotorua for the race, we decided to take mine.

This may seem ok to most people, but we have a family of 5 fitting into a 990cc Toyota Vitz here now, plus tents, bags, and a tandem on the back!

packedcarIn the boot was 2 tents (one larger, one smaller dome), bed rolls, blow up bed, my bag, food, bike gear, helmets, etc. That left no room for kids bags and pillows which sat on their lap. In all the confusion trying to pack that much gear into the car we managed to only remember to bring 1 blanket for my husband and I :/

So we got to campsite, put up tents, unloaded gear, etc and locked up the tandem, did race registration, found a couple geocaches, and then headed back to camp for a swim. I have to say here, i love the Top10 holiday parks, great service, and i KNOW the toilet isn’t going to be a long drop with bugs in it!


After having an awesome BBQ dinner, kids went to bed, followed shortly by us. The temp dropped fairly quickly and though we thought at first our only blanket would do combined with being crushed up against each other, we froze. I slept for about maybe an hour before waking freezing. Even with that single blanket over our heads, the air in the airbed went down as cold as the air outside, a nice balmy 6C. We stayed semi warm with socks, clothes and PJs on, so long as we were pressed up against each other. In fact we probably would have slept if that darned bird hadn’t started hooting from about 2am onwards. I think somewhere around 4-5am i tweeted

Forgot how fun camping was, freezing your butt off counting off the hours till dawn whilst contemplating ways to kill that noisy bird”

Luckily an soon after its friends all chorused in , and at 6am i got up and made a cooked breakfast of bacon & eggs and fried bread. It was still freezing, as my daughter and I setup at 7am for the bike race clad only in our shorts and cycling top. We were fairly warm by the time we got to the startline and made sure we sat in the son.

Race started well, the sun was out, the day was clear, i felt like I had slept well even though i must have only got 1 hour. The kids had slept well at least and were not grumpy, Chelsea and I chatted and made jokes and even sung badly through out. About 15km in a squeek got noticeably louder so i stopped to check the bike over. Good thing i had, turned out one of the pedals was half unscrewed! Pulled out the spanners from the back pocket and put the bike back together, and continued.

On the back stretch over the hill it was a mission going up hill, we would chant 2 syllable food related words to motivate ourselfs in time with the pedals much to everyones amusement.

Now to understand this fully, a normal bike can balance going fairly slowly. A tandem needs a bit more speed to be able to balance, so going uphill meant we had to just go a little faster than most. So people would hear us behind them ‘big, mac, big, mac, big, mac, milk, shake, milk, shake, milk, shake’ and then we would over take them. At one point some lady told us to add in ‘coffee’ which we most defiantly hadn’t thought of, so we did. The downhills were great fun, being heavier we pretty much let her go whilst screaming to guys in front “MOVE LEFT! COMING THROUGH!” as we went flying past. Lucky for us I had also fitted a 120 db air horn onto the bike also!

We were the first tandem to finish, and had a lot of comments about our awesome ‘retro’ tandem. In fact, we came first in the tandems doing the 42km! which was kinda funny because our Team name was ‘Last Place’. Ironicly we also came last because there was only 1 Tandem doing the 42km race! Bonus! There were about 10 Tandems doing the 2 laps, but im glad we didn’t !

After the race we cycled back to camp, packed down and refilled the car. Lastly i loaded up the tandem, and got into the car, at which point i said ‘has anyone seen my keys?’. We looked around the camp site, toilets, kitchen and saw nothing. I assumed it was in my bag packed at the very bottom of the car so used my spare car key on my husbands keyring. Went for a swim in the hotpools, then back to prize giving where we won nothing but a bit of sunburn, then headed home. By this time the hour of sleep and 42km bike ride was really kicking in.

Unloaded the car, and sorted everything out whilst husband went for KFC pickup duty. No keys in the car, no keys packed in any bag – oh dear! Hopefully they will turn up somewhere, however its no major as I have spares of both house and car (can you tell i loose them often?) Went to bed at 8:30ishpm and slept like a log!

Planning on a 2 night stay in Taupo in 3 weeks! we love camping! This time however taking husbands much larger car, and plenty more bedding!

Keeping your children amused during school holidays – geek style

Oh no! its that time again! I really dislike having to change my whole routine for school holidays, i have to pay a babysitter, or work from home (my employer is fantastic like that!), and generally try and keep the kids from going nuts with boredom.  During the summer its fine because they can play outside at parks, bike, swim, and go to camp. During any other season, chances are its to cold to do a lot of those things, and its often windy or raining.
So, what do you do? Well heres a few ideas I came up with for my kids.

rag-doll-kung-fu-fists-of-plastic-20080715052128948_640wGame Consoles: they don’t have to guns and sit down games, my children currently favour Kung Fu Ragdoll on the PS3 which involves shaking the controller, and apparently a lot of jumping up and down, tongue out the side of the mouth and often screaming. Keeps them amused for hours. I’m not overly fond of them sitting down much so we also have a WII which has tons of games that involve action and movement. Not to mention Rockband/Guitar hero which both involve drums, singing, and guitar!

Creativity: If you havn’t found it yet, check out , where you can make easy fast entertaining things like an LED stuck to a battery (aka throwies) , to building your own Yurt. In fact they even have their own category specifically for kids!

: If you have a GPS device and its a nice day, try . Sign up, put your address in the finder and look for Geocaches nearby. They give you the GPS co-ords, you go to the area and then the hunt for the geocache is on! its somewhat like a treasure hunt, only world wide. Once you find the cache, its usually a plastic container, you can sign the log book, log it on the website, and if it contains “trinkets” you can take one and put something else in its place. Geocaches are usually around the most scenic places in the world and include lovely strolls through areas you probably never noticed before. This also makes a long journey down New Zealand fun when you stop every hour or two to find caches! You can even start a few of your own caches! Check out my photos taken whilst Geocaching

Here are a few other awesome DIY items you can try:
ducttape-walletCreate your own Sun in a Jar
Duct Tape Wallets :
Diet Coke and Mentos: – however you may want a nice sunny day for this and some old clothes, and PROBABLY want to do it outdoors!
DIY things with solar panels

And should you have a computer setup for every child in the house, here are some  excellent non-social networking websites – Addictive educational games for kids. They wont realize they are learning whilst playing! – NASA have space related fun things to do – explore the Museum of Science and Human Perception Online!

Last but not least, go into your cuboards and drag out those board games. Cranium, Monopoly, Trivial Persuit, and the new favourite Hannah Montana game with CD (it makes you dance and sing!)