Tag Archives: home and family

Skiing on a budget with kids in Colorado

If you’re looking for a great deal for skiing, then a little preparation is in order. Think it out early, and you’ll save lots. Leave it to the last minute, and you’ll be paying for it – literally. As a grad student mum with extremely limited funds, I have got hold of some great deals, and I wanted to share some resources with you.

The Colorado Gems Card. For a $10 initial outlay per card, you get a whole range of discounts and free ski days at various resorts across Colorado. The card pays for itself after the first one or two times of use – for example, at Eldora it will get the holder $10 off the price of a child’s lift ticket (normally $39 a day), and $15 off an adult ticket (normally $65 a day). (One per person, per card, per day.) The processing takes a week or two, so get it early to make good use of it.

The Colorado Passport gives your 5th grader three FREE days of skiing at over 20 resorts in Colorado, and four days for 6th graders. It’s a really great way to get some good savings across numerous resorts, from Eldora to Aspen. The Colorado Passport is FREE for 5th graders, and $99 for 6th graders. It’s well worth the investment for the 6th grader – look at how much the lift tickets would cost you at the resort you’re most likely to go to, and you’ll see what an impact having the card makes. You need to have a picture of your child to process, and online is the fastest way of doing the application. The site says it takes about 2-3 weeks for processing, but I did it two days ago, and it’s already on its way. Important: You do not have to be a resident of Colorado to get this passport – if you know your family will ski Colorado at any time this season, it’s a great one to get for your 5th or 6th grader!

colorado vail resort pass The School of Shred gives your 5th and 6th graders four FREE days of skiing at all the    Vail Resort properties. There is no charge for this card at all, for either grade – just take   evidence of enrolment to the pass office at any of the included resorts, and they’ll sort   you out with all of it done on the spot. (You can feasibly do this on the day you arrive  to ski.)

Additionally, you can get discount lift tickets through local supermarkets such as King   Soopers (you need to go there, not able to buy online). There the tickets this season      will save you around 5-10% off the ticket office price. Not a massive saving, but    everything helps and this is one option for those who find themselves considering  skiing the day prior to heading up the mountain.

Ski rentals are expensive on the mountain. If you plan it well, you can rent in town for  a cheaper rate. Just be prepared to pick up the afternoon of the day prior to your ski  day, and return either the same day, or early the day after you shred. For the front  range, Boulder Ski Deals is my rental location of choice, with rentals from just $10 a  day for kids skis and even better deals for everyone as the season gets older. You can also  try Crystal Ski Shop and the rentskis.com site. All these have deals for group rates, and extended rentals. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. 🙂

Food and beverages are expensive (and are kind of like airplane food in quality) on the mountain, so if at all possible, take your own lunch and snacks. The best skiing seems to happen in the mornings, with everyone winding down after lunch, so don’t think you need to take a heap of food with you – a sandwich, some juice/water and snacks is fine. Remember your chapstick and sunscreen (irritating to be so prepared and then have to buy them on the mountain).

And one final note: Please, rent a helmet. You can get helmets for $10 a day anywhere (in town or on the mountain). In fact, some resorts will charge $10 for the first rental and only $8 for the subsequent ones. We’re all about saving money, but medical expenses are far more than $10. It doesn’t matter how fast you go, if you’re learning, if it’s your first time, or if you’re seasoned – if you want to keep your head and what it has in it, protect it. Helmets keep your head warm, look good, and if you don’t wear one, you’ll be the odd one out on the slopes.

Hopefully this will give you a great start to getting out with your kids on the slopes in Colorado – have fun!

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Three tips for the TSA from a mum at Christmas

I have four kids. I believe in Santa. This Christmas, we saw yet another moron decide it was a good idea to try and blow up a plane. At Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I’ll be blasted (no pun intended) if anyone’s going to take that away from me. So I’ve decided that I’ll let the TSA in on some key things they could be doing to really make a difference at Christmas.

This is important to me. My 15 year old flies to America from Sydney today, with smoke and mirrors security that I have been unable to prepare him for. The fear level is at orange. I think they’re going to pat him down. He might just enjoy that.

But I digress.

Instead of ramping up their already failing theatre of security, the TSA should just ask mums what the best things to do to keepare, given our Santa expertise and knowledge. So here are three little suggestions from the mum who still helps Santa and has never denied his existence, even to her 18-year-old adult daughter.

1. Warning people that they are being watched. My kids know Santa’s watching them. (Sidenote: Saying the Easter bunny watching you isn’t as effective. He doesn’t have as much power. Santa’s the big guy.) Maybe if the TSA ensured all their security staff were trained in really watching people and their behaviour we’d see some real changes.

2. Keep a list – and freaking well check it. There’s nothing worse than having a list of gifts and sorting them when wrapped to find that one kid has more gifts than the Brangelina clan, and another has 3 tiny boxes – and they all came from the Dollar Store. That happens when you make a list and ignore it. The massive failures of the TSA have been associated with administration stuff-ups. The terrorist watch lists are not shared adequately, efficiently or effectively. You can do cavity searches, but getting the terrorist watch list information shared properly might be a little easier. Just sayin’.

3. Hide stuff that you don’t want them to see. For years, I’ve hidden gifts from my kids in nothing more than a few striped raffia big bags with some sheets thrown over them in the formal dining room. (We don’t live there any more, so if my kids are reading this, sucked in.) It kept the gifts a secret because I knew the kids didn’t look in obvious places. While you TSA people are obviously inspecting our belts and shoes and don’t care who knows it, you’re missing the powdered explosive taped all over the body, and the stressed out guy walking around with it taped to his genitals. If I were a TSA officer I’d rather find out about that explosive from the observation of the sweaty guy than a standard genital frisk of every passenger. Unless they’re all Mark Harmon.

So there you go, TSA. Please ensure the safety of my kid and don’t harrass the 99% of people who really don’t need it. Merry Christmas.

Glade’s sweet smell of good social media PR with Edelman

This week I was happily invited to join some other Colorado-based bloggers for a few adult snacks, refreshments and the opportunity to build a basket of goodies to take home. It was a great evening, put on by Glade’s parent company, S. C. Johnson’s wonderful PR team from Edelman in Chicago, to promote their Sense & Spray product.glade scent sense and spray air freshener

This event demonstrated Edelman actively identifies good people for brands to work with, and can put together an event that suits all parties. Edelman has fantastic staff, for a start. The company also teamed with social media expert, Ann-Marie Nichols, to ensure they are hitting the right targets.

If you ask me, Ann-Marie and Edelman are smart operators. After meeting/catching up with them on the evening, my belief is that the bloggers were hand-picked to represent ethical, good quality content providers who actively engage with their readers. Women who are authentic. At a time when companies are seeking out mommybloggers more than ever, there are now bloggers who do nothing more than run around the USA for the opening of every envelope. Smart companies, like Glade and Edelman, see beyond what I’ll call “the usual suspects.” (Yes, I’m biased. I was invited.)

Edelman’s staff were well equipped with plenty of information for us to take home in the best format – a USB drive. The activity of putting together our basket of goodies allowed us to chat about the product informally, and we also had fun coming up with possible names for a new Glade scent. (Yes, someone said Bacon. I said Aussie Bush. Ambiguity FTW.) I was so lucky to have Jen Goode so kindly say yes to drawing by freehand (magic marker) one of her lovely penguins on my mug. jen goode penguin mug

It has pride of place on my desk and reminds me how special women entrepreneurs like her are. I have always loved Jen’s designs and you can check the penguin ones out on her blog, and buy a whole range of stuff featuring them. She also does other designs too. She’s an amazingly talented woman in so many areas. I feel so lucky to have actually met her too now.

The event was a great success for Glade. The bloggers discussed myriad issues beyond and including the product, and we all came away feeling positive – and that associated value rubs off. Edelman gets it.

But the goal kick for me was the extra mile Edelman went for me. Here’s the thing:

We were all offered a basket to give away on our blog. Awesome. However, I asked if it would be okay for me to give it away to anyone, anywhere – given some of my readership is in Australia. Glade is a global brand, but I completely said I understand if that’s not okay. I just needed to be clear on my blog. On the spot, the Edelman ladies said “Absolutely, we will make it work. We will send the basket to anyone who wins.” So I’m stoked. I love that foresight and appreciation of my needs.

And I’m excited to give away this lovely basket of goodies to you, even if you’re an AUSSIE!

glade basket

What you'll win! (The mug will be a fresh one that you can draw on. Great if you're like Jen Goode!)

The basket contains a snuggly IKEA blanket/picnic rug, Swiss Miss mix with mini marshmallows, eye cover, ceramic mug and some permanent markers to decorate it with, and the wonderful new Glade Sense & Spray plus a refill that we have had now in our bathroom for a few days. It smells great and with the refills costing under $4 each (USD), and them lasting about a month each, even graduate students and startups can afford it (ahem).

HOW TO WIN!

To enter is easy – Leave a comment below with your recommendation for a new scent for Glade, focused on Australia. It can be funny or serious. The winner will be picked by Harry and Charlie on Wednesday and I’ll contact you via Twitter/email (make sure you leave contact details). I’ll also announce the winner on the blog. Go for it!

Airlines don’t understand mums and marketing

There’s something magical about arriving at the airport with all your luggage and just two of your kids for the upcoming 28 hours of travel between countries, and reaching the check-in counter to find out every bag comes in just under the 23kg weight limit. Score.

And there’s something even more special about being handed your boarding passes and passports, turning around and seeing the 11yr old has just decked the 9yr old, and he is laying on the floor groaning loudly, holding one leg to an audience of passengers who are surely thinking ‘Oh My God, I hope they’re not sitting next to us.’

5 minutes in, 27 hours, 55 minutes to go.

How to make a flight a dreaded experience

We flew back to the US yesterday on United Airlines. Apart from the following treasured moments, we arrived safely:

a. Wholly inedible ‘food’ which really was probably the worst I’ve ever had on the long haul part, and food that’s more expensive than eating at Spago for the domestic route. (And far less tasty. Yes, I’ve eaten at Spago. Once. It was wonderful. I’m classy. I am. Stop laughing.)

b. Lack of in-seat entertainment which is very entertaining for my spoilt kids who were expecting personal movies and tv, yet had to watch tv shows like Desperate Housewives on the screens in the aisles instead. (I do remember my own childhood flights to the UK when there was just one movie for the whole flight, and the headphones never worked. I tried telling them that but they didn’t care and then they got more annoyed. They did manage very well in the end. But I digress).

c. Being checked into three seats on the US domestic part of the journey which were single seats in equidistant, very distant seats which I find very difficult to believe was accidental because we checked into the domestic flight, getting boarding passes an entire day before (see earlier part about children punching each other). There is no way there weren’t three seats together when I checked in. Mind you, I was easily trumped by a poor woman with five kids under five, who had all been seated all over the plane. That’s just completely stupid. I was momentarily tempted to tell the attendant not to bother reseating the kids, but just to reseat this other mother and myself somewhere and bring us a bottle of bubbly.

d. The lack of real assistance for a woman with four children travelling alone, whose 3yr old would NOT stop screaming for about 3 hours in the last quarter of the long haul flight. She was forced to stay in her seat with that kid because she couldn’t leave the others. I knew that. I’ve got lots of kids and have usually travelled alone with them. One kid will cry, or take a particular liking to the novelty of the plane’s bathroom and insist they have to go constantly, or need something from the one bag in the overhead bin. It’s a drama. Something simple could have made her journey easier. Such as a flight attendant saying, “what can I do to help?” instead of ignoring her.

Sidebar: I’ll never forget the Qantas flight Jed and I took while I was still nursing Charlie, about 6 years ago. The dinner came, and there was no way I could cut it up – my arm was indisposed with nursing child. I said to leave it with Jed and I’d get to it later. The Qantas attendant decided that was okay and she’d do it if I preferred, but how about if she cut the dinner up, and just left the dinner and a fork (rather than the whole tray), and then I could manage it while it was still hot? She was awesome. I remember that still. Six years later. I even remember what the flight attendant looked like. That’s good branding.

Market your flights to mums

This is a trip that costs about $US1000 a seat return – minimum. There are a couple of hundred people on the plane, who’ve all paid at least that amount. This is not a bus. People are tired, stressed and emotional. Being an attendant on these flights is hard work. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen a flight attendant go beyond the most basic of service effort and everyone’s flight would have been better if that kid had stopped screaming.

On our trip over another woman was left standing in the queue with her three kids. The flight had been delayed. It was 2am. The smallest kid was asleep. She had carry-on luggage. She was really struggling. And the attendants all ignored her.

Yes, I helped her as I could, and Charlie even offered too. If an 9yr old gets it, why don’t the airlines?

When we finally boarded that flight, the ground staff said the standard “how are you?” I said “good, and you?” His reply was “tired.”

Well stuff you.

My reply? “At least you’re getting paid.” I should have added ‘and don’t have to sit on the plane for the next 16 hours with kids, and haven’t just had a 3 hours flight to get here, and then waited 9 hours for this delayed one.’

Sheesh. I wonder who’s more precious? My kids completely expecting video on demand in their seats, or these airline staff who seem to think we owe them something more than the price of a ticket.

Instead of focusing on leg room, loyalty programs and discount prices, it would be great to see an airline focus on really going beyond the call of duty to make your flight the best you’ve ever had. If an airline marketed to mothers, they’d see these women are the decision makers, who travel with their families (more ticket sales), and to be honest, it’s the simple things like offering a pair of hands when needed that will make a mother like you more.

Or maybe that’s just too hard. Too much to ask.

The Startup Kid

Running a startup isn’t easy on anyone.

The glorious trails of successful entrepreneurs are littered with the scars of broken relationships and bitter resentment of cold dinners and missed birthday parties.

It takes a special kind of relationship to weather the storms of startup life.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

At Darling Harbour, Sydney.

It takes a special kind of kid too. A kid who will understand that daddy or mummy can’t make it to every school function. That we can’t afford summer camp.

It takes a special kid who will say okay through his tears as he’s torn from his Australian home, his dogs, his school friends, because he knows that what we’re working on isn’t a normal sort of job like his friends’ parents have.

This week we have begun graduation celebrations for Harry as he completes year 5. I got to make a dedication to him the other day at school, as did all the other parents in his class to their kids.In typical startup style, I did this one alone because Jed’s in Silicon Valley at the moment. The Kleenex was really getting passed around that circle.

Why so much Kleenex? It was his teacher’s fault really. She got us to close our eyes and think of when we were having our child, their infancy, and years in elementary school. And then open our eyes and take our turns to speak from the heart to our child in front of everyone (you could pass if you wanted to, but nobody did – this is Boulder, after all ;)).

Now, I cry at the drop of a hat. I can’t walk into that darned school without automatically tearing up it seems (sigh). But for this dedication, while others were a bit of a mess, I hardly cried at all.

And while it surprised me at the time, I know why.

Harry is an incredible kid. He was made for the startup life. I won’t be a bit surprised if he ends up living it himself. (Good grief, I hope he scores a partner as well as his dad did ;)). Harry’s adaptability is remarkable. Many kids would have resented the move to the US, and that would have been understandable. Not Harry, even though he misses Australia very much.

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

Harry's idea of cleaning up his room

He’s no angel though. He has a cheeky side and he’s a daredevil. I was told of his decision to ride a waterfall while hiking, stopping just short of a massive drop – nearly giving everyone watching a heart attack. And we will never forget him barrelling down Eldora mountain on a snowboard without a single turn and nearly hitting a bus in the car park – grinning afterwards.

Everyone who knows us as a family will agree that Harry is the one who most wears his heart on his sleeve. He hugs everyone. Repeatedly.

He is honest and open. But he can’t sleep if he’s feeling bad about something – he has to get up and talk it through. And he has a strength of character and self-belief which overcomes every obstacle. He’s never said “I’ve had enough.”  He just keeps going. It’s that tenacity that is so inspiring and awesome.

And I can’t cry about that. I can’t cry about changes at all – for Harry the world is his oyster, and he’s loving the adventure. He doesn’t care that much about stuff he hasn’t accomplished yet – he’s just going to keep trying. And he’s not concerned about being the best at everything. He just wants to give it a go.

Last week his performance on drums at the big 5th grade concert that combined musicians from 3 schools was incredible. He was on time with every beat. He enjoyed it. And he’s such an individual, he wore his lucky hat too 😉

I can’t wait to see what he tries his hand at, and surprises us with, in Middle School. They’re gonna be lucky to have him. As are we.

Congratulations, Harry. We’re so proud of you, and grateful for all you give back to us every single day.

Talking with your teens about sexting

What to do about (drum roll) sexting? Approaching the topic of sexting in a way that best meets a receptive outcome from your teenager is paramount. And grabbing their mobile phone to go through every message is not generally going to get a positive response. Unless…

Did you originally say to your teen “Hey, I’m gonna go through your phone occasionally to check up on you?” If you did, then it’s reasonable that you would act on the promise. But if you provided the phone to the teen without any indication you’d be doing it, then I believe your teen will think you’re being unreasonable. And how about if the teen bought the phone with their own money?

Awkward.

We all want to raise a kid who is responsible, independent, and who cares for their own, and others’ well being. While they’re little you can best do that by telling them how to act, showing them how it’s done (by demonstrating it yourself) and monitoring them as you encourage them to do the same.

When they’re teens, it’s time to let them start doing that on their own. In my opinion, in order for teens to demonstrate their own responsibility and integrity, they need to have the opportunity to do it. That’s hard to do when the media’s telling you scary stories about sexting. You need to put something in place, but still work from the standpoint that you trust your teen (if you do and want to continue to).

That’s hard to do, I get that. And every parenting situation is different, I get that too. But it’s apparent this is something many people are struggling with. So here are a few idea-starters to get you thinking about a more positive way of approaching the topic with your teenager.

1. Have a contract.

With every piece of technology there is an inherent basis of responsible use. Whether that’s with the equipment itself (such as don’t throw the phone around) or with the manner in which it’s used (such as don’t send 500 messages a day, and watch your language). A great way of demonstrating you mean what you say is through having a contract dealing with both of these areas. You could create one yourself, or ask the family to contribute to what they think should be in it. And then everyone who uses the equipment gets a copy to sign. Let me be clear – this contract is something everyone adheres to. It’s not just for the kids. You don’t get to throw your phone around and expect them not to. You have to follow through.  Not only that, but the contracts, when signed, should be displayed in the person’s regular space at home as a subtle reminder.

You might think this is a little ‘out there’ – but when you think it through, you’ll see that it’s a transparent way of linking to all that stuff you taught your kids when they were younger. It just gives them some control and treats them as a more independent, free-thinking person. And hey, you need to make it clear they don’t have to sign the contract. It’s optional. And so is the phone.

Then if someone breaks the contract with any kind of irresponsible use, it’s easier to demonstrate why there’s a problem. It gives you a foundation to work from that everyone understands.

2. Demonstrate how things live forever online

Having a great relationship with your teen doesn’t mean you unequivocally know they’re going to do the right thing all the time (you can’t). It does mean that you’re prepared to let go a little and trust that they want to be responsible, and will be pretty likely to be, even without you standing behind them with a rolling pin (tempting though it might be). Also, let’s assume that your teens can make a logical progression of thought and have interest in their own well being. With all that in place, this becomes a no-brainer. (As much as a no-brainer and teens can be, anyway. ;))

Have a chat and say you’ve read stuff about sexting (read up a bit first – nothing loses respect more than not knowing what you’re talking about). Say you get it. This stuff can be fun, and it’s shared only between people you trust. There’s never any idea that something bad will happen or that someone’s going to be mean.

But people get angry. People fight. Have you ever slammed a door or said something nasty to someone you cared about? No matter how much you want to take it back, and apologise, it still got said. But words tend to ease with time. Images and text, however, don’t.

Stuff lives forever online.

Let’s say someone gets angry and posts a compromising picture somewhere online. They can regret it and take it down, but it’s still up there in search engines.

Try two projects:

a. Put a picture of something that is personal, but that you’re comfortable with online somewhere. Leave it there for a few days, then take it down.

Then search for it. Use everything you like. Treat it like it’s a treasure hunt. Treat it like you’re a journalist and you’re writing a story about that picture. What kind of lengths will you go through to find it? How hard is it? Then once you’ve found it, how easy is it to then forward it to every person you know?

b. Think of all the people you know who have a web-based email account. (A lot, right?) Then think of how many contacts they’d have in that account. (Again, a lot. Hundreds each, possibly.) In fact, you’ve probably got a web-based email account yourself. Go to http://www.spokeo.com (or a similar site). Using your mail account you can sign up and find out what everyone in your address book has posted across lots of different social media sites.

Think of when you try and apply for a job. This is better than Facebook for a human resources person. And it lives forever. Look yourself up. What would a human resources rep think of you right now?

By working with your teenager you’re showing them you trust them to act as responsibly as they can. You’re also giving them the opportunity to initiate conversations, to take control and showing them why it’s important.

I’ll finish by reiterating that this situation is different for every family, and I totally understand that. That said, I believe this is just one, positive way of approaching a very delicate subject, and it could bring you closer together rather than threaten your relationship. Sailing the tumultuous ocean of teenage parenting is challenging. I’d like to ride this wave with our teens instead of against them.

Where’s the vision in your startup?

What’s your vision?

Recently there have been discussions over ‘how long is too long’ from developers a little less than happy being part of a startup that is not yet paying them ‘what they’re worth’ or even getting involved in a startup that doesn’t pay them from the outset. Startup widows are also holding their spouses accountable for not having ‘made it’ yet.

The problem with this thinking is that the focus is on the payout, not on the journey or the goal. Their focus is on a timeframe. What’s acceptable, what’s not.

What’s your vision?

Deciding to get into the startup life is like jumping off a cliff. You prepare really well, you’re excited, and the people around you admire your decision. But after that, you’re relying on your own vision. And that’s where people begin to lose it.

When we decided to launch our startup in the US, I wish I had a dollar for every person telling me how ‘lucky’ I was. I find that weird. Lucky? No. Gutsy? Yes. Committed? Yes. Adventurous? Yes. Passionate? Yes.

I share a vision. (Please check out the difference between a corporate mission statement and vision statement here.)

So what’s my vision?

My vision is one in which we create technology that makes a real difference to peoples’ lives and changes how they view technology and communicate with each other. We’re going to provide the tool that restructures the way people create and interact with technology and communicate with each other online. (Oh yeah, this is a change-the-world thing!)

I’m into equity – not the financial type, but the equity of access and use that will make people want to create content instead of just consume it. I want it to be easier for them. I lust for the day people do more than just search for things online. I lust for the day that everyone – you – truly feels able to produce content and interact with it because they can fit doing it into their day. I lust for the day that it makes as much sense for them to create content and really interact with other peoples’ content as it does right now to Google something.

The prospect of being a founding part of the company that makes this happen excites me.

You’ll note that no aspect of this vision includes a timeframe. Even though I want it to have happened ‘yesterday’ purely because I am so darned excited about it, I haven’t said ‘we have to make this happen within xx years or else I’m out’. It also doesn’t include a financial payout. Sure we have to live, but it’s amazing how your expenses tend to meet your means. Ramen noodles taste good ;). Free public education is good education. Without wanting to sound like a Monty Python skit, I am proud to say I have really actually walked two miles in the snow with bags of groceries, and I didn’t die. The bus is usually my transportation, and sometimes if I’m lucky, a friend’s car.

It’s about what you’re willing to do to see your vision come true. It’s living the dream and enjoying the journey. It’s the reality of working with a startup.

As I’ve said before, startup life is like nothing else. It’s not a job. And when it feels like a job, when you start measuring ‘success’ by time and money, it’s time to do everyone involved with the startup a big fat favor and get out – because it’s not just about you. It means you don’t share the vision. Maybe you really never did.