Spring Activity Challenge – 2011

I don’t know why but this winter has been hard.  I guess I know some of the reasons.  This winter has been cold, wet, and stormy.  We have tried to go outside but it has been downright lousy.  On top of, or perhaps because of the weather, our family has been hard hit by colds.  It seems like it has been months since we have had the whole family feeling well.  In the past we could work around poor weather and some sniffles but with kids the whole house gets stir crazy.  Please let the sun shine.

Spring is here and we will assume that we will get some rain free moments to go outside.  We will try and use every last one we can.  In the Fall we decided to do a weekly activity challenge and each week we did an Autumn themed outdoor family activity.  We are essentially doing the same for the spring but we are not limiting the activities to one a week.  We have come up with a list of activities to do and we will try to complete the list before the end of spring.  Some of these are large activities and some are small.  We will have to go out as a family and find some stereotypical Spring items or have some typical Spring fun in order to check off everything from our list.  We will win a prize (donations welcome) if we can check off the entire list.

Click Here it View the entire List

Each week we will update what we accomplished.  Since we are in a photography state of mind these may become photo essays rather than written works.  Let us know if you have any ideas to add to our list as this is not a completed list yet.

On Sunday, the first day of spring, we did our first annual backyard Crocus count and found 118 crocusses blooming in our backyard.  Yahoo, spring has begun!!!!

Family Navigation…Where Have You Gone?

This is our first blog since late January.  We the heck did we go?  What have we been doing with our time?  What’s going on?  I will give you three plausible answers and I will let you choose which gives you the most comfort and joy.

  1. We cracked and had to get away.  After 395 consecutive hours of rain and darkness we shoved 2 days worth of clothes into a rucksack and took the family to the nearest airport with designs of jumping on the next plane.  Unfortunately our airport is pretty small and the next 10 flights were all flying to winter torn Alberta.  Once in the Calgary Airport we managed to stow away on a plane to Mexico.  The following 5 weeks we hopped from one taco stand to another before jumping on a train through Central America.  Eventually making our way to Panama we talked our way onto a Vancouver bound freighter which was traveling through the canal.  We arrived home yesterday and it is still raining
  2. Stuck in a cloud of uncertainty of what steps to take next we borrowed a meditation DVD from the library and bought a Costco Sized meditation pack of incense and scented candles.  After blacking out from the fumes we start to relax in a state of clarity.  The twins are the most enlightened and start mapping out our future and how our endeavours will help humanity.  5 weeks later we are out of incense and it is time to go back outside and start on our new path.
  3. We decide to concentrate on starting a photography business.  We have been busy.

So which one is correct?  Actually a little bit of all three.  It has been raining lots, we have been stuck inside for far too long, and we are starting a photography business.

We will have more on that in the future plus a bunch of other stuff.  We have not given up on Family Navigation and it will continue to be a compliment to the changes we are making with our family life.   The next little while we will be focusing on our business start-up and how to make it fit into our family lifestyle plans.  We are still going to come up with activity ideas as we are desperate to play outside.  This indoor living has not been kind to us this winter.  We will also be writing about other ideas including finishing my series on the benefits of employees working from home instead of an office.

We have a lot of work to do and we will be busy so we may not be writing as much as we used to but we will try and keep to a couple posts per week.  There is never a shortage of things going on to talk about in this household.

I Need to Go Geocaching…Now

It has been 2 weeks since I finished the Geocache Diet and I have found a grand total of two geocaches since then.   I have found all of the caches near by and I have decided to stay close to home for a little while…but I really want to go out caching.  There have been some brand new caches published not too far away that I could take the kids to…but so far weather, school, birthday parties, and play dates have gotten in the way.  Some way, somehow, I am going to get out this weekend.  I just have to.

While getting one of the two caches I mentioned we bumped into a caching family who just happens to include a boy in Annika’s class.  We joined them on another walk to one of our caches and it was hard for Annika to not give them too many clues  like…”I will give you a hint, it is hiding behind that log over there”.  She did well.  All of a sudden we seem to be meeting a lot more families with young kids who have just gotten into geocaching.  We have talked to people about going out for some caching hikes together and we must make sure it happens.  How about now?  I really want to get out caching.

We want to thank Julie and the team from roadtripsforfamilies.com for allowing us to post a guest blog on their site and for all the kind words they sent our way.  Check out their great site and have a read of the interview I did for them.  It was a lot of fun and got me dreaming of some more family road trips.  Julie is another adventure loving parent who has discovered geocaching as a great family activity close to home and on the road.  Too bad they live so far away as maybe they would want to go caching with me.  That’s it….I’m going now.  Who’s with me?

Benefits of Working From Home – Part One – My Story

More and more employers are allowing their employees to work from home.  In certain work situations working from home can provide financial and other benefits for both the employer and employee.  Of course many, if not most,  jobs are best to be done at a specific workplace but for many, especially backstage office employees, working from home should be seriously looked at.  This instalment looks at my story when I took my office job home with me.  In follow-up blogs over the coming weeks I will look at the ineffientcy of a typical office, plus the risks and rewards for both the employee and employer of letting staff work from home.  My last entry will discuss changing salary structures to focus more on tasks completed than hours worked.

A few years back I wrangled my way into working from home.  Essentially I gave my employer an ultimatum.  Let me work from home or find a replacement for me for 9 months.  You see we were expecting twins and I was entitled, since I work in Canada, to take parental leave.  Parental leave was not our best option but we decided that it was better than the alternative of working away from home leaving my wife alone with 3 young kids.  My position was not easily replaceable so we worked out an arrangement with my employer.  When the twins were born I was allowed to work from home for 14 months.

To make them feel like I did not lose all connection they requested I come into the office two afternoons a week and to make sure that I was available during the day if I had to put out some fires.  Other than that I could work whenever I wanted as long as the work got done.  My home responsibilities included doing the cooking, cleaning, supporting an overwhelmed breastfeeding mother, and most importantly, having fun with our oldest daughter who was feeling left out with the two new arrivals.  This meant I worked before she got up, at her nap time, and in the evenings 7 days a week.  It was an exhausting 14 months but I am very proud I made it work.  I was nervous that the craziness that was happening at home would overwhelm my work responsibilities but they rarely did.  Once I got into a workable routine it became obvious just how more efficient I could be working from home.

Sticking to a schedule was vital  and it was also important I got done what I needed to do as efficiently as possible.  I had to prioritize what was important and cut out tasks that had very little value.  I streamlined the communication process as I did not have time for too many meetings and long winded conference calls.  I took the ones that were essential to get the job done and I politely refused everything else.

Everyone I dealt with on a daily basis worked different core hours than I was working and surprisingly it worked very well.  While everyone was working Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm I got most of my work done earlier in the morning, later in the evenings, and on weekends.  When I worked during those hours there were little to no interruptions of phones ringing or e-mails coming in.  I would plow through my tasks in no time and send out all my communications asking for specific answers in return.  I would then monitor e-mail and phone throughout the day and only respond to the emergencies.  Any non urgent requests  would be ignored or dealt with later.  This opened up most of the day to spend with my family, take my daughter swimming, or go grocery shopping.  You can save a lot of time going shopping at 10am instead of 5pm with everyone else coming home from work.

My job required working with a lot of different people, including many who had more impressive job titles than I did.  These are people who like to think they deserve to have answers instantly.   I was worried that these demands would force my schedule into the middle of the day and I would have to choose between work and family commitments.  The fact that I was out of sight seemed to lower the amount of problems that were sent my way or at least diminished the urgency.  I got very few complaints about being away from the office and in fact I got more complements on the quality of my work.

My second instalment in this series will look in detail just how much inefficiency there is at an office and how working from home can improve on that.  It was a real eye-opener to me to realize just how much more I could accomplish just by being removed from the office.

The Geocache Diet is Over

It was an amazing sight.  After a long and gruelling hike I zeroed into the final location.  I gazed around surveying the area with the precision of a bald eagle as I prioritized the all the logical hiding spots .  Jumping to action I raced through the obvious locations with no luck.  Oh, a tricky one eh?  You think you can hide from a Family Navigator do you?  I paused once more scanning the area again when I noticed moss a little askew.  Pouncing as fast as I can I turned over the moss, reached into a hole, and pulled out my reward.  I had done it.  My 1000th geocache find in 1 year.  On the final hour of daylight on the final day I finally had done it.  I signed my name on the log, replaced the cache and glided gracefully back to the car.  As I reached the car there was a group of people including Phil Koeghan of The Amazing Race fame.  I jumped on the mat that was laid out for me and Phil announced to the crowd

“After 365 days, 2500kms walked, 1 small part of 1 country travelled, (mumble mumble) pounds lost, and 1000 geocaches found, Martin Pedersen of FamilyNavigation.com is the grand completer of the Geocache Diet!!!”

A roar came up in the ever increasing crowd.  Streamers fell out of the sky, I was being lifted up on shoulders… and then I woke up.  Nooooooooo!!!.  Phil hasn’t given me the $1 million dollar cheque yet!!!  As much as I tried I just could not get back to sleep.

It was 3 hours before sunrise and there was still some caching that needed to be done, for real this time.  Trying to not wake everyone else up I prepared for my trip, had breakfast, and then left home in darkness.  Happy to be ahead of schedule I turned on the GPSr as I neared the starting point for the day.  To my horror I discovered that something had gone wrong with the transfer of the geocaches on to the device.  It was empty.  Not a good start to the last day of the Geocache Diet.  I reluctantly returned home to fix my error and then left again behind schedule.  I had some catching up to do.  The rest of the story is not nearly as exciting as my dream so I will summarize.  I did some caching before meeting another cacher at a trailhead and did a fantastic hike…wait a moment I can say that the geocache diet went out with a bang.  This was the same trail I wrote about in “Big Bang on the Geocache Diet” because this is the sight of the Ripple Rock Explosion many years ago.  Since I did the hike the first time the caching angels dropped 7 more caches for me to find so I now had good excuse to hike it again.  It would have been good to say that the geocache diet went out with a bang, except the geocache diet did not end on this trail.  When I returned from the hike I still had two caches left to reach 1000.  I said goodbye to my caching friend and then pondered where to end my geocaching exercise challenge.  I quickly chose an earthcache, just past a quick traditional geocache.  I thought an earth cache would be a good way to finish and it would also be the most northerly cache completed in the past year.  This earthcache was to show off an artesian well where water constantly flows from the earth.  One of the requirements was to take a self portrait in front of the water pipe so it encouraged me to photograph the historic moment.  And at the click of the shutter, at 3:15pm on January 16, 2011 I completed the geocache diet.  I patted myself on the back and drove home to make dinner for the family.  I also found three more caches on the way back for good measure.

I had set 1 year as the duration of the challenge which makes the Geocache Diet over.  It may be officially over but in reality there is no completion date.  Even if I was at my target weight the challenge would not stop.  The goal of this challenge was to exercise regularly and have fun doing it.  As I mentioned a couple weeks back, this is a serious sounding activity that gives adults permission to go play in the woods.  This is a good thing and not something that is going to stop.  I still have a long way to go to meet my weight target and I am going to continue towards that goal.  I need my daily exercise and it comfortably fits into my schedule now.  I will continue to geocache with my family and by myself because I really love it but I will not be finding 1000 caches over the next year.  I would if there were another 1000 close to home but in reality the next 1000 would require too much travel.  Instead I will go get newer caches that get published in our area and really good caches when we find ourselves in new towns.  I really enjoyed trying to reach 1000 caches in a year but when it comes down to it, the numbers mean far less to me then the experiences I had.

I have seen so much this year without going too far from home.  I have gone from sea to sky, along rivers, lakes, waterfalls, dams, old growth forests, sand dunes, estuaries, and you name it.  I have learned so much about navigation, local plants, wildlife, and when not to go into the woods.  I have cached on hot days where the final cache was followed by a swim in the ocean and I have cached in the snow.  I have done many easy caches where I could see the hiding spot before I got there and found caches after days of worth of pondering and return trips.  One of the first caches I went looking for I still have not been able to find.  I feel better for the exercise and there is so much I want to share with my family.  The Geocache Diet is over and it does not require any hoopla, famous hosts, streamers, or even a million dollar cheque.  It was just a fun little thing I did as an excuse to get outside, get in shape, and play.  It did most of what I wanted it to do but most of all it made me want to continue.  The time has counted down on the Geocache Diet but for me it is far from over.

Final Outing on the Geocache Diet – Day 364

Tomorrow I finish my year long challenge.  I will hike my final trail, find my final cache, and have my final weigh-in.  This makes it sound all so final.  In fact tomorrow is just another caching day and there will be many more trails hiked and caches found in the coming days, weeks, months, and years.  The only real significance of tomorrow is that I will complete the challenge I set for myself a year ago.  I have already walked the 2500kms I had planned on and I need to find 15 more caches tomorrow to reach 1000 finds in a year.  The 100lbs lost was the main goal and unfortunately I have a lot more hard work ahead of me to reach it.  I am confident that I will reach my target weight this year.

I had thought about doing something special for my final official day on the geocache diet but I decided just to make it a regular big caching day.  Snow and cold weather did make caching a little more difficult lately so I left myself a few more caches to do on my last day than I had planned, but not too many.  I did go out in the snow one day and although I found a few caches it was quite difficult locating them.   Some of the caches were hidden in obvious spots so they were easy to dig out but a few other which would be easy otherwise were too hard for me while snow covered.  Most of the snow has melted along the coast so I should have no problem tomorrow.

I will write some more comprehensive summaries of the geocache diet the next few days as I look back at a fun year of caching and hiking.  As for now I will get some sleep and look forward for my final big caching day, until the next one.

The Day the Rainbow Came

I am now conviced more than ever that kids don’t need a lot the keep them amused.  Forget the TV, computer, or video games and give them something simple.  Today we had a beautiful visitor.  After cleaning the fish tank glass the sun was shining on it and when we walked into the living room there was a big rainbow on the floor.  Wow it really was something.  I jumped into action because I know that this glass and sunlight refraction effect would not last long.  Bryce was napping so me and the girls spent the next 1/2 an hour playing with it.  We saw how different things looked when we put them in the light like looking at the rainbow through our hair.  Of course, all this fun turned into a photo shoot with some pretty cool results.



Play Time on the Geocache Diet – Day 356

What is the best part about Christmas now that we have kids?  We get to play with new toys.  Kids need play.  They learn through play.  So does that mean when we grow up we change so much that we should stop playing?  What fun would that be?  Adults need to play too.

When I started the geocache diet almost a year ago I called it an exercise challenge.  I was determined to add daily exercise into my routine and I thought geocaching would be a good motivator to do so.  By calling it exercise it seemed to give my challenge a more mature purpose, more adult like, but it also sounded labour intensive and dull.  What the geocache diet really involved was a whole lot of playing.  This is not exercise; it is a game.  A game that can provide the benefits of exercise.  This challenge has not been a chore at all and far from dull.  It has been a blast and got me thinking…why on earth did I ever cut out playtime from my daily routine?

Geocaching is a ridiculous activity; it really is.  A grown man should not be playing in the woods looking for a plastic box full of cheap toys.  It sounds like I have gone off the deep end.  I have heard many people say that Geocaching is a great activity for kids.  It gets them off the couch and outdoors where they should be learning and playing.  Kids need to play and be active and geocaching is a wonderful complement to other activities.   Geocaching seems perfectly geared towards kids (treasure hunt) and it can be easy enough for kids to grab the GPSr and find a cache on their own.  Sometimes child’s play can become extremely popular for adults of all ages.  Adults play the game essentially the same way as kids do and are not ashamed to do so.  Geocaching is a way to rediscover the pure joy of going outside to play.  Sure many of the harder caches, including the puzzles, are geared towards adults but essentially it is a treasure hunt in the woods.   When I look at our kids and what they think is fun I have come to realize that my personality really has not changed that much.  Even though I have matured I am pretty much the same person as I was when I was a child and I love to play.

So is the geocache diet an exercise challenge or a simply an excuse to play more?  I was exercising by playing.  I also challenged myself with puzzles, navigational dilemmas, and difficult terrain in places I have never been before.  I can say that this exercise was not only fun but educational.  I love the fact that when I take my kids out playing they seem to get so much out of it.  I discovered that a simple exercise challenge based around play can also have the same affect for mature, sophisticated adults.  Adults who also like to play with kids toys.

2011 Wishes and Random Thoughts

Another year is in the books and now we look ahead to 2011.  Here are a few thoughts we have been discussing and a few wishes for the New Year.

  • Twenty more days until the terrible twos are over.  The twins are at a real fun age but when they decide they are in a bad mood, look out.  Luckily the terrible twos end later this month on their birthday…right?
  • Twice in the past month we stepped inside of a mall.  Most of our Christmas shopping was done outside the mall but in a couple instances we were sucked in.  Both times it was so busy and I found it hard to find anything worth buying.  Lisa does not like to go to the mall with me because I just get in a rotten mood and I start spewing out things about materialism and how our society has lost touch with any sort of reality.  I have decided not to ever return to a mall.
  • Back to the twins, we hope this is the year we no longer have to change diapers.  That will be a happy day.
  • We will try to slow down even more and enjoy the world around us.
  • Let’s hope the kids requests get a little more rational.  When Bryce asks for a specific type of jam, to be spread a specific way, using a specific knife, on a specific plate, spread by a specific parent, without telling us specifically that he wants all that, it can get a bit much.
  • Let’s hope that the fish tank we got for Christmas lets us avoid the not too subtle hints for a dog.
  • I would like to do less worrying about things I have very little control of, like commercialism gone wild, and focus on the important things inside our home.  I still may let my mind wander and think about what can be done to improve the global environment.
  • Maybe I will finally figure out what I want to do with my life this year?  Probably not.
  • Let’s smile more
  • Is it school, other influences, or just maturity that creates a greater divide between genders?  Before entering school Annika didn’t have much interest in dressing up pretty and playing like a princess.  A few months into Kindergarten and this has changed.  She still likes routing around the garden and playing with bugs and hopefully this continues.
  • Let’s hope everyone reading this has a healthy and happy 2011.  We are looking forward to it.

Nearing Completion of the Geocache Diet – Day 348

I am going to finish what I started.  When I set my goals for this exercise challenge almost a year ago I had hoped to be wearing much smaller clothes today.  I wanted to find 1000 caches, walk 2500kms, and lose 100 lbs.  After feeling a little down I have received a lot of encouragement to convince me that two out of three is still pretty good.  Among this support has included my friends at Groundspeak/Geocaching.com who allowed me to write a guest blog for their Latitude 47 blog.  This support has allowed me see that even though I will not meet all my goals, I still made positive changes to my lifestyle this year.  I now include daily exercise and I am much better for it.

I am closing in on the end of my challenge but I still have a ways to go to meet my caching/hiking targets.  I have 67  more caches to find while walking 100 km in the next 17 days.  I will accomplish this because it is now in my routine.  And 18 days from now what will I do?  I will go for a hike.  There is no way I am not going to continue to do daily exercise and regular caching.  I may not be able to get another 1000 caches in the following year but there will still be many finds.  As for the weight loss goal?  I am still confident that I will get to my ideal weight.  We have made many lifestyle changes that have improved our health and we will continue to make better decisions.

I will not write a complete summary yet because there are still things to accomplish. I wanted to make sure I thanked everyone who has convinced me to complete this challenge.  It has been a fun year of caching and lots more to come.  Now I just have to find the right cache for #1000 for the challenge.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!!!

Merry Christmas from FamilyNavigation.com

Merry Christmas from Martin, Lisa, and the little Navigators

Just a quick note to thank everyone for reading and we hope you and your families have a fantastic holiday season and a great new year.

While 2010 may not have turned out exactly how we planned we would not change it for anything.  We had a great year and are still living the family lifestyle we most desire.  While there is much more still to accomplish we cannot forget to be satisfied with our successes and remember that we will not have another Christmas exactly like this one so make the most of it.

Thank you to everyone who has visited FamilyNavigation.com! We really do appreciate all the support we have received.  We hope you relax and enjoy the Christmas season with your family and best wishes with chasing down a few of your family dreams in 2011.  Let’s make the next year the most fun one yet.

Am I being a Grinch?

The kids decorated the tree at first

We put up our Christmas tree earlier then usual this year due to pressure from our five year old and many parents who asked her if we had the tree up yet.  When she told them no they would give her a sad face and say something like, “well you better get those Humbug parents of yours to put it up”.   Thank you for that by the way.  So it was up December 4th, much sooner than the 1-2 weeks before Christmas we usually put our tree up.  As a result of putting up the tree, opening our activity advent calendar, plus attending countless social activities our three kids have been on full-on Christmas anticipation mode for well over two weeks now.  This includes too much candy, treats, glimpses of Santa, and special outings that has made the build up for Christmas a bit much.  We still have over a week to go.  Somehow this got out of control this year far more than in previous years and I think we will have to be more proactive next year to bring it back to the low key and casual Christmas we want.

One of the issues of having the tree up so early is that every time I turn around the Christmas tree is missing ornaments or they are all being put on the same branches all clumped together.  Since our kids are all under the age of six they are having a hard time leaving the tree and ornaments alone.  I asked myself what could be done to stop them from completely destroying our nicely decorated tree?  Now I know that it will not look like it has in the past, and that is great, but I still want our tree to look somewhat nice.  In frustration of constantly decorating the tree I decided to make a rule, if an ornament is removed from the tree to be played with I will take it and put it in a box on top of the fridge.  My logic was that they would see the tree slowly getting more and more bare and decide if they want to have anything left they should really leave it alone.  Bryce at first thought it was a game.  He started removing balls to give to me.  Oh great, I thought, this hasn’t worked at all.  I was picturing a tree with only ornaments at the very top and nothing on the lower three and a half feet.  He did stop after about eight balls were confiscated.  We are now a week later and I think it has worked (or they have just lost interest). The tree is looking a little bare but I think I will leave it for Santa to decorate on Christmas Eve.

I like Christmas, I really do, but maintaining the excitement of the season for the whole month of December does get a bit much.  Martin was calling me a Grinch for worrying about the tree and the kids Christmas induced behaviour but the last few days he seemed to have come over to my side.  We have looked at our schedule for the next week and have rearranged it to be more relaxed.  Let’s see if we can take a little break so we are in a good enough mood when Christmas Day naturally explodes in excitement.  If well rested this should be enough to convert this Grinch.