Posts Tagged ‘home’

Got any bugs at home?

In June 2014, Uncategorized on June 28, 2014 at 2:30 pm

kirsti Caterpillar

Kirsti: I am teaching a unit this coming trimester called Insect-Plant Interactions. It’s a third year subject that can be part of a Bachelor of Zoology, Bachelor of Science or similar at University of New England, developed as part of the Entomology Curriculum Australia.

Yes, that’s right. There are people who care about insects so much that they have swarmed, collaborated and produced this great resource called Entomology Australia that tells you – apart from many other things – where you can study entomology in Oz.

I’ve been teaching fundamental science, writing, communication, ethics, history & philosophy of science and other topics that unite scientific disciplines for long enough now that I feel a bit out of the education side of entomology.

As a researcher not directly involved in specific units on entomology it is semi-easy enough to keep abreast of my own field and teach broadly into relevant subjects. But I have a feeling this entomology subject coming up is going to awaken my sleeping expertise! Sleeping, that is, since my postdoc days in New Zealand where I helped teach a fabulous insect diversity subject at Victoria University of Wellington.

One of the features of the Entomology Australia site that I really like is that it has a tab called Bugs @ Home specifically to help amateur entomologists increase their knowledge and provide access to specialty areas and resources. There are so many brilliant amateur entomologists in Australia, including one of the guys working with me on School of Ants. His day job is an outdoor education teacher at TAFE, but he has been collecting, mapping and identifying ants in the New England region for over 20 years.

So if you have any interest in bugs at all, head on over to Entomology Australia.

Then head outside and see what you can see!



Bang bang! Ant competition

In September 2013 on September 25, 2013 at 11:24 am

ant competition

Kirsti: It’s with a huge amount of joy that I join Sarah in celebrating science in our everyday lives.

Similar to Sarah’s days, science is ubiquitous in mine. As a good example, this morning involved counting the species of ants in our front and back gardens and discussing hypotheses around – as far as we can see – why there are more types of ants out the back.

Yep, even 2 year olds understand the notion of,

“Maybe they don’t like each other very much in the front garden?”

He proceeded to tell me why he thinks that might be,

“Those black ones are bigger, and fast. They’ll bang bang all the other ones”.

And lo and behold he has described an old-age explanation for coexistence of organisms  – competition between species!

So from today I will start to collect and reflect on my weekly obsessive explorations for answers, observations made in haste as a mother, overheard lab conversations, imperfect photos of unknown phenomenon, and tales of marvellous processes, discoveries, applications and awe of science.

I hope you enjoy my reading posts as much as I’m going to love putting them together.

[photo thanks to]

Day 337. Household shuffle

In July 2013 on July 15, 2013 at 7:59 pm


It’s a bit of a stretch to say that this post is about science, but it relates to my capacity to work effectively so I’m going to proceed.

(It’s also based on rather of a first world problem, so please forgive me if it irks you on that level.)

We’ve been rearranging the house over the past couple of weeks.

When we renovated nearly 4 years ago, we decided to create two bedrooms for children and one general ‘playroom’ which could house toys, games, puzzles, various shared electronic paraphernalia and drawing and painting supplies. You know, all the stuff that the modern Western child seems to accumulate faster than you can say consumerism. This room is attached to the main living space by two sliding doors.

A spare room in the older front part of the house was transformed into a slap-dash home office to be shared by my husband and myself.

This layout had not been working too well recently for a number of reasons.

Firstly, my oldest child – a boy aged 10 – was well and truly over sharing a bedroom with his three-year-old brother. Their wide age gap and shared tendency to be highly competitive and emotional about most aspects of life was wearing us and them down. Differing times of retiring to bed also got a little complicated. In addition, that their sister had her own room seemed a little unfair.

Secondly, all five members of our family seemed to be spending most daylight hours together in the main living area: the kitchen, the TV area and the play room. This may sound most cosy and loving and wonderful. But it was doing my head in. There was no escape. There was no rest. Nobody ever seemed to leave and find their own space. And the toys. The toys were everywhere.

Thirdly, we hired a piano to support our daughter’s recent love affair with this instrument. Unfortunately, we had no place to put it. She needed a larger room; the only one big enough was the home office.

I had to make a change. Finally, over this past weekend, I’ve completed it.

Three kids, a bedroom each. Big boy, stays where he is. Little boy, into the smallest room. Middle daughter into large ex-home office, with piano. Toys distributed into bedrooms.

Playroom converted to new home office.

And it’s worked.

Kids actually go to their rooms to play! Toys generally stay out of the living area. Kids can go to bed at age-relevant times, and read with the light on without disturbing others. My new home office is handy to the living area, and I am able to use the built-in cabinetry to file work and personal matters rather than endless photo albums and drawings of fluffy bunnies.

Yes, I sound selfish. But when you work from home in a relatively large family, you have to make it bearable. Otherwise it can do your head in.

[image thanks to janetmck on flickr]

Day 314. Soundtrack to my life

In June 2013 on June 23, 2013 at 7:56 pm


It occurred to me the soundtrack of my life over the past 20 years of so has been strongly dominated by Australian Broadcasting Commission radio.

1994-2000: Honours and PhD studies; daily activities structured to allow for listening to Sarah MacDonald‘s morning show on Triple J – for example, I would book shared microscope and FACS facilities to conduct tedious analysis during most mornings from 9am-12pm.

2000-2003: living in Jakarta; limited radio exposure, but ABC Asia Pacific news every day on the TV.

2003-2007: back home in Adelaide, two babies in close succession; a WHOLE lot of radio as a valuable source of adult company; included Matthew Abraham and David Bevan (then Mornings hosts on 891 ABC Local Radio Adelaide) and Natasha Mitchell (then All in the Mind host).

2007-2010: part-time work, a third baby and discovered distance running as a form of exercise; enter podcasts – ABC The Health ReportABC Radio Science Show, Conversations with Richard Fidler.

2010-current: more work, increasingly hectic children’s schedules = snatches of morning and afternoon radio; constantly fighting the urge to sit in my car or fold laundry to the sounds of Natasha Mitchell (now at Life Matters), Books and Arts Daily and By Design.

[image thanks to Ugg Boy Ugg Girl]

Day 152. Change of scenery

In January 2013 on January 11, 2013 at 5:05 pm

last day sea star

Our summer holiday is over for another year.

This image of a sea star, taken at Marion Bay yesterday, sums up the location perfectly: white sand, crystal clear water and beautiful wildlife.

Now for something completely different, I’m packing for a trip to visit my sister who is stationed in Paris doing a two-year postdoc in science.

Wetsuit out of suitcase, feather-lined jacket in.

Day 13. Home office

In August 2012 on August 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Working as a freelance writer from a home office has many benefits. My time is run the way I want it, I can squeeze in work around children’s commitments and obviously it’s cheaper than leasing corporate space.

The one big downside is the difficulty in being able to physically remove myself from the household chores.

A dash to the bathroom? Piles of laundry looks at me as if to say,


Each trip to the kitchen I hear a whisper in my ear,


So here are my top 10 tips for surviving the home office experience as a working parent:

  1. Breakfast cleanup: do it on the spot, before the school run. Even if it means getting up 20 minutes earlier. Nothing better than coming home to an empty house and a clean kitchen.
  2. Make a rough meal plan when you do your weekly big shop. Ascribe a meal to each day Monday-Friday, write it down and stick it on the fridge. It will help you remember what you planned, and help the kids feel more comfortable with what’s coming up. (‘Oh you don’t want lasagne? Sorry, it’s in black and white. Talk to the list’).
  3. Washing: rather than let it pile up to tackle on the weekend, do at least 1 load per day and make the hanging out a break from the computer.
  4. Morning showers are optional. Who’s gonna care what you’re wearing, and whether you have perfect hair? Make a shower a work break, and tie it in with your exercise routine.
  5. Speaking of an exercise routine: prioritise it! Keeps you sane, and gets blood pumping.
  6. If in the morning the house looks like a bomb has hit it, DON’T TIDY WHEN NOBODY IS HOME. You’ll waste precious alone time, then the kids will get home and trash it all again anyway. Let them get home and eat, play, wreak havoc. Then make them help you tidy up before dinner – with dessert as a reward.
  8. Say yes to coffee mornings at school and other activities which involve people you like and with similar needs and interests. You need social stimulation.
  9. Make Saturdays and Sundays different from your weekdays. Groundhog Day after Groundhog day will slowly do your head in.
  10. Make your home office a pleasant room, somewhere you want to go and hang out. Nice lights and flowers can do wonders.

Number 1o is my priority in the next school holidays. Ikea here I come.