Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Christmas Letter

I have not been sending out a Christmas letter these last couple of years.  Mainly because everyone I know is either on Facebook, or has a relative on Facebook who will pass news on.  I recently got a Christmas letter from a friend who is NOT on Facebook and from whom we had not heard for a while, it was lovely to hear her news and catch up, so I am going to attempt to organise myself into doing a Christmas or New Year letter from 2012 onwards.

For now, here’s a short Christmas letter for all you wonderful people out there:

Dear Family, Friends and people I met once and added on Facebook but who’s status update gets lost amidst all the Farmville requests,

This year has been an exciting one for us, since our chickens learned to mow the lawn, and Tareka can now spend a lot more time working on perpetual motion machines.  The children are growing fast, Mapera has been reading James Joyce and understanding it, Kaitereo has been training to be a human cannonball and Hakopa has been learning how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing.

The house and land continue to thrive, we are growing an entirely new hybrid of tomato, cheese & breadfruit plant, so we can pick fresh sandwiches all through the spring.  The cows continue to be an endless source of entertainment, and one of them does a passably good impression of Eddie Izzard which kept me and some friends amused for hours one evening.

My parents, as most of you know, are heading to the Moon for their holidays, Mum will love the cold, and Dad is looking forward to some diving in the Sea of Tranquility.  My brother continues to mystify us by appearing in various shampoo commercials.

Tareka’s family is all good too, digging their way to London in time for the Olympics as we speak.  Looks like it will be quiet down here next year, hope you all have a wonderful Giftmas and begin the New Year with a series of unrealistic resolutions.

All our love and best wishes
Louise and the clan

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making a committment to committees

I have Helium Hand syndrome, I tend to volunteer far too much for things when I really ought not to.  I have been trying very hard to scale back my volunteering since I had child number 3, but I still managed to get myself on a local committee last year.  The AGM is looming, so I have made a decision to step down from the committee and hand the responsibilities to another poor soul worthy person, but I still feel a bit guilty, like I haven't done enough.

If I apply my Wise Brain to this problem, I can point out all the things I have done, all the events I have helped with, the fundraising I have done, the administration and the leg-work.  I know rationally that I have helped a lot more that some people and a lot less than others, and that is nothing to be ashamed of, but I also know that if I step down, the workload is likely to fall back onto someone who is already overloaded.

Herein lies the problems of committees.  The people who care enough to join a committee and make an effort are always the same people in any community, so you end up with half a dozen people trying to fundraise and work for a hundred committees while the rest of the community sit back and go "ooh I don't know how you have time!"

I am also getting to a stage of my life when there I just cannot be bothered with cliques, snippy comments and bitchy behaviour. I've worked hard through therapy to be able to speak my mind in a calm and reasonable way without feeling guilty or worrying about offending people, and I'll be damned if I am going to get caught up in catfights between grown adults who ought to know better.  If anyone reading this blog thinks I am writing about them, then more fool them.  If I have a problem with someone, I try to sort it out with them directly.  This post is a general rant about crappy behaviour in adults I know both online and in real life.

This is where social media can be a real problem too.  Internet message boards, Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are all too easy to post in without giving yourself time to calm down, think things through and behave like a rational adult.  Even if you immediately regret and delete your words, someone out there will have read them and got the hump about it.

I read in one of my internet cubby holes that before you post something when you're feeling angry or upset you should Think, Wait, Answer, Tenderly.
  Sooo, if you're angry about something, before you post online for the world to see, just take a moment and T.W.A.T. it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

One of the many things about parenting you are never warned about.

The Sneaky Hate Spiral.  This is part of child-rearing that you must learn to live with, avoid, manage or control.  You will do none of these things particularly effectively, and the Sneaky Hate Spiral (SHS) will inevitably take you down on a regular basis.

I am at the tail end of a SHS today.  I woke up to the sound of my kids arguing about who was going to go in to see the Grandparents first.  Then there was something wrong with breakfast, I can't quite remember exactly what it was, but something was different and wormed it's way into my subconscious to sit gloating and humming Rick Astly songs.

I had the morning off, which should have been lovely.  The girls were out with the grandparents and the baby played nicely then went off to bed.  I got some cleaning done, the vacuum cleaner made a noise that didn't harmonise with Rick Astly.  I tried to get my household accounts up to date, and got as far as entering amounts onto my spreadsheet, then the internet kept interrupting and was all "hey, haven't seen you today.  Watcha doing?" and I was all "I'm trying to work" and the internet kept tapping me on the shoulder going "how about this? Does this make you laugh? You wanna discuss the terrible state of parenting in this country? You wanna tell someone off for comma misuse?"

So I picked up my knitting and tried to complete a section, but I kept ending up with an extra stitch at the end of the row, and after counting back over it, discovered I had made a mistake at the beginning of the row so had to unravel the whole row. I did this about 5 times.

Eventually the baby woke up and rather than his usual "Hey Mummy I'm awake, but I'm just going to sit and play happily in my cot til you're finished that row" he stood up and shouted "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" rather like that Ground Squirrel shouting "Alan!"

It all went quiet on the SHS for a bit when everyone else came home, then hubby called from work to say he was on his way, and we had a conversation that went something like this:
Him:What time are we doing that Thing on Saturday?
Me:Early enough to go into the city
Him:we're not going into the city
Me:yes we are, I told you about it
Him:no you didn't
Me:I have been talking about it since we decided to do the Saturday Thing
Him:you didn't tell me
Him:I never heard you say it
Me:It's not my problem that you don't listen.
Him:OK see you *hang up*

Then I cooked dinner and it didn't do what I wanted and I didn't have enough noodles to make me happy then the kids whined and stalled at bedtime as usual then the knitting groundhog made me do the same row 6 times and my book keeps killing people.

I would go to bed, but I forgot to make bread earlier, so now I have to wait for the bread machine to make the dough (1hr30) then put it to rise (30mins) then cook it (another 30).  No I can't cook it in the bread machine as it is so old and worn out that it can barely mix the dough, and it expends so much effort in creating said dough, that if you cook it in the machine, the machine can't bear to part with the completed loaf and glues it to the inside of the pan, so despite Herculean efforts, you end up with the top half of a loaf in your hand, and the bottom half cemented into the bread pan as the machine has a nervous breakdown about you taking its baby away.

The only thing that helps at a time like this is cheese.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Who ever really knows us?

I have been pondering the nature of friendship recently, probably because I have been watching Doctor Who again.  Having moved a fair few times since my mid-teens, I have had to make new friends fairly often, and have had friendships that seemed deep and intense at the time, but turned out to be ethereal and fleeting in the grand scheme of things.

I was discussing childhood friendships with my husband, as he has not really kept in touch with any of his childhood friends, and I have.  I miss my friends when I leave, but thanks to the wonder of modern technology, have not lost really touch with them.  In some cases I have re-discovered some old friendships, which has been very nice, as I love to hear how well the lives of people I like have turned out.

I thought about the people I considered good friends through my childhood and teens, and if I am honest, although I love them all dearly, I don’t think there was ever one person I felt was a “best friend”.  I never really felt completely part of one group (as I have mentioned in older posts), or attached to one person above all others.

Since moving far, far away I have had a couple of old friends tell me how much they admired me as a teen, which was both flattering and surprising, as it came from people I admired and never thought would be truly worthy of being considered a friend of.

I was thinking, if these people admired me and I was unaware, maybe there are other friends out there who know me better than I thought.

I have a bit of a Hollywood ideal of what a “best friend” should be, so I wonder, would anyone know these things about me, or am I dreaming…

What is my favourite colour?

Who was my “first love”?

What is my favourite sort of music?

What is my favourite film of all time?

What is the best thing to buy me for Christmas?

What is my favourite alcoholic drink?

What is the most embarrassing thing I have ever done?

I don’t think I could answer all these questions correctly for any of my old friends and definitely not for any new ones yet, but although I am sad for not having that sort of sisterly closeness with one person, I am glad to have the wonderful friends I do have, and hope to make many more.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Do not feed the Drama Llama

The Drama Llama has come to my house.  You may not have heard of the Drama Llama, but I am sure you will recognise this wily beast after a while.

The Drama Llama sometimes comes at homework time, and when faced with a word that simply refuses to be spelled correctly, the Drama Llama rears up and declares that “it’s IMPOSSIBLE! I CAN’T DO IT” and then proceeds to burst into loud, wailing sobs, worthy of a traditional Greek mourner.

Other times the Drama Llama has spent all day cooking a beautiful meal and someone decides that they are not very hungry and the Drama Llama rants about how everyone can just go and eat Pot Noodles then, because they are Never Cooking Again.

Occasionally, there are 2 Drama Llamas in the house, which can result in the catastrophe escalating into epic proportions, involving tears, recriminations, much door slamming and refusing to apologise.

There is a way to deal with the Drama Llama.  It’s not foolproof, as sometimes the Drama Llama is determined to be your house guest for a while, but here’s a tip.

Do not feed the Drama Llama.

If the Drama Llama is starting to get worked up about the recorder being impossible to play, calmly refuse to get into a discussion about finger positions, regular practice, and tackling easier pieces of music.  Step away, and make a cup of tea.  Do not feed the Drama Llama.

If fed, the Drama Llama can fly out of control, causing untold damage to your doors, furniture, pottery and mental health.

Stay calm, do not respond, offer assistance to the Drama Llama and then back away slowly.

Remember, DO NOT feed the Drama Llama and it will eventually run out of steam.

Friday, September 9, 2011

What to talk about that does not involve the R word

I am ignoring the world cup.  This is fairly easy when you don't have a telly, but it is still surrounding me like a particularly lingering fart.

I've searched for other things to entertain me during this time of the entire country, and most of the world going a mini bit bonkers over what is essentially, just a game.  There are many, many more important things in the world that need media attention - CHRISTCHURCH EARTHQUAKE RECOVERY anyone?

So, here are the few things I plan to be doing until it all ends sometime at the end of October:

Knitting socks
Laughing at people doing stupid things, especially when they are people I know
Trying to come up with a pattern for knitting "some sick on the pavement"
Wondering why my spell check thinks "epilating" should be "titilating"
Reading other blogs
Browsing through the non-rugby threads on my favourite Ravelry group
Learning how to Wake Up Full of Awesome
Reading Adult Comics (NSFW)

That's all for now, I am sure there are plenty more things I could be doing, but for now I'll avoid some housework and dig the garden.

Friday, August 19, 2011

The trouble with marrying an atheist is that “til death us do part” is true.

I used to be a fervently evangelical atheist; I believed that I was right about the non-existence of any form of deity or after-life, and I needed to show all the non-atheists out there how deluded they were.

Having married a man staunch in his faith who believes simply because he does, I have learned to understand faith a little more.  I still don’t agree, but I know now that trying to change his mind would be like trying to convince a toaster to run a marathon: it’s not what he’s built for.

When people ask me about it, I try and explain how for both of us our belief – one way or the other – is so deeply part of us that we are not conscious of it until it is challenged.  I have likened the situation to the Belief Chip from Red Dwarf.  Tareka is wired for faith, I am not.

I have come to accept that my husband’s faith is as much a part of him as his sense of humor and his inability to perform “active listening” convincingly.

We both believe what we believe and know that what matters is how we live now, rather that what might or might not happen after we die.  I accept and respect his faith and he mine.  We take the piss out of each other for our beliefs, but ultimately honor them.

Try looking at your partner, or your friend, or your neighbour in this way.  Try and understand that their faith (or lack of it) is not a failing or something that needs to be corrected.  It is part of what makes them who they are, and you care about them, so you should also care about their beliefs.  As long as no-one is trying to force you into something you do not agree with, then there is no reason that we can’t all behave well towards each other.

Love thy neighbour, even if he plays the trombone.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

KN1TT1N6 633K!

I’ve been so busy on the latest projects this week that I completely forgot to blog about anything, so instead you can have a picture of what I’ve been doing:

I love Science and I love Knitting (capital letters, yes they are THAT important).  Thanks to it being the International Year of Science and the wonderful people of the Royal Society of NZ and the power of the internet, I am now part of the Knit the Periodic Table project.

I chose Europium because a lot of the cool elements were already gone by the time I found out about the project, and because I am from Europe (England, for those who don’t know).  I was also hoping for the atomic number 42, but it had already gone, so Europium it was.

It’s not hard to knit a square, I had to frog it once as my knitting is so loose that I needed to cast on about 5 fewer stitches than recommended, but other than that it was a simple project.  The letters were interesting; I’ve never tried knitting an E or a u before, so it was a learning curve.

My embroidery for the atomic number is passable, but I really should practice a bit more.

I’ve also finished the bed wrap for my Mum, and am ¾ of the way through some gloves for a friend’s daughter.

I may also have a new commission for a Dr Who scarf….watch this space!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Lightening the mood with CHICKENS!

If you haven't read the Bloggess' post about using giant metal chickens to win an argument with your husband then I suggest you do it RIGHT NOW... I'll wait.

Right, I hope that now you are laughing so hard you can't speak and feeling a lot better since my last post which was terribly depressing and yet topical.

Chickens make me furiously happy.  Our little flock are getting very adventurous and interested in their surroundings.
and doh-see-doh your partner


 They run around like crinolined ladies at a yarn sale and get terribly excited when they think you have food to offer them.  They also like to get into interesting looking spaces.
Ahhh I see your problem, it's your left manifold sprocket

They have also learned that we mean them no harm, and they sort of squat down when the kids go to pat them, or when I try and take their photo.

left a bit..right a bit.. ohhh right there

They tend to stick together when perambulating around the grounds, and Hakopa has no end of fun attempting to herd them in different directions.

Come by! Come by! Awaaaay to me!
 I think they must be happy though, as despite it being the depths of winter, and the chooks only being young ladies at the very start of their egg-laying life, they have been providing us with at least 4 eggs every day, and sometimes we get a MASSIVE egg.  I do notice that Big John tends to sit down a bit more after we have had one of these.

Spot the double-yolker...and the mutant carrot abandoned by a small child
I have to remember to keep the doors shut as the weather gets warmer, as the chickens cannot resist an open doorway and I have had to shoo them out of the house a couple of times already.  They still come back and tap on the window though, as if to say "Your cross stitch is appalling, and your posture needs correcting"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Following on from last weeks suicide post

I just wanted to publicly thank two people who saved my life in 1997.

I was in my first year at University with all the stresses, excitement and intoxication that this entails.  I was discovering who I was, and who I wasn’t.  I had no idea, but the freedom to be anyone I wanted was liberating and terrifying at the same time.

I was in sparkling new halls of residence sharing a flat with a couple of lovely girls who I was friends with through the first year, but drifted away from when we moved out in the second year.

I had great neighbours and a host of luscious people to befriend.

My neighbours in the flat directly above me caught my attention.  I can’t remember quite how we all met, but I am pretty sure there were buckets, alcohol and chair-dancing involved.  They too were 2 lovely girls, one looked like Kate Winslet with a smile that lit up the whole room and the other looked like Cameron Diaz even at 8am lectures.  I was smitten.

We quickly became good friends and spent many happy hours talking rubbish, eating strange concoctions and getting uproariously drunk.  When they were home and wanted to call me they would stamp on the floor (which was the ceiling of my room), when I wanted to call them I would bang on the ceiling with my broom.  We sometimes used the in-house intercom, but it wasn’t as funny as trying to tap out the rhythm of Radiohead’s Fake Plastic Trees with a wobbly broom handle.

Occasionally they would send down aid packages tied to a belt which they swung down from their window to mine, other times it was notes asking to borrow sugar.
One time, I remember them asking for help with preparing a chicken to cook.  They couldn’t bear to touch it as it reminded them of babies or something.  I was a vegetarian, so naturally I danced it around the kitchen like some kind of macabre Buster Keaton.

I am talking about these two wondrous people as if they were one person.  They weren’t quite that inseparable, but they both saved my life together.

I had been simpering after a fellow from the SCUBA dive club for months and was eagerly awaiting his return from the recent break.  I met up with him at a local bar (having filled myself up so much with Dutch courage I was leaking) and he let me down gently, saying he was with someone else.

This would not normally matter, but I was not a normal person back then.  I went back to my halls to talk to my lovely neighbours, but they weren’t in.

I was distraught, destroyed, and grief-stricken.  Convinced that I was a bad person that didn’t deserve friends or boyfriends, I staggered back to my room and attacked my left arm with the blade from a disposable razor.  I wasn’t trying to kill myself at that point, just wanting to let the pain out somehow and seeing the blood flow down my arm seemed to be a physical outpouring of the pain I felt inside.  I wrote a note about it, and sat in my room wondering why no one was coming.  Then my head cleared a little and I thought “I need to talk to someone about this”, so I staggered back up the stairs to my neighbours.

Bless them, I can’t imagine what they must have thought to find me on the doorstep tear-streaked, blood-soaked with a dozen slashes across one forearm, but they took me in and cleaned me up.  They held my hands and cried with me and told me I should get the cuts stitched, but I refused to go to a doctor.  I don’t remember much after that.

Later that week, or month or year (I’m still not sure when), they sat me down and told me that they didn’t think they could share a house with me (we had planned to move in to a shared house in our second year) and that I needed professional help.

I was hurt and angry, but I knew deep down that they were right.  They could not rescue me from myself, and I could not expect that of them.  I went to the doctor, took a deep breath and showed her my scars.

Thus began my journey into counseling, anti-depressants and psychotherapy which I believe has saved my life.  I started healing myself from the day my friends saved me.

I lost touch with my friends after university, but thanks to the amazing power of Facebook I found them just around the time I moved overseas.  I don’t think I ever properly thanked them for what they did for me, so this is for them.

Thank you Sian and Julia, you saved my life.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Suicide sucks, don't do it.

I heard the author of this article on the radio today and I spent the entire time shouting at the radio and getting so angry I nearly threw it out of the window.

Now, we live in a no-TV household, so I gather I may have missed some other media around this issue, but this article is what I read, and this man is who I heard speaking on the radio.

I got so angry I posted it all over the internet to find out if I am alone in my rage.

I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to condemn people who commit suicide to disgust from their society.  I wanted to find out if being shown that victims of suicide are not worthy of a normal funeral would deter other teens from going down the same path.

From my own personal point of view, and one that has been through the horrors of depression and been at the top of that dark slope down I think that this would just make those people believe that feeling suicidal was something to be ashamed of, something to hide, something to pretend was not happening.

I believe that punishing the families who have lost loved ones to suicide by refusing their child/sister/brother/parent a normal funeral would cause more people to hide away their own feelings of grief and depression.

Surely the way to combat teen suicide (or any suicide for that matter) is to talk.  To be open; to let people know that it’s OK to feel like this, but that they have somewhere to turn.  To let people know that there is another option other than death.  I sort of understand that maybe some teens might not think about the repercussions of suicide, but let’s be honest, teens do not tend to think of anything outside their own bubble, I know I certainly did not.

So far the internet world seems to have agreed with me, but one person raised an interesting alternative point of view, that of a “shame culture” where some cultures believe that killing yourself to prevent shame and dishonor being brought upon your family is a noble thing.

Now I don’t profess to have a detailed knowledge of Maori culture (the man in the article is Maori, and a lot of the radio discussion was focused on the Maori community), I am woefully ignorant in that regard, but I don’t believe it to be a “shame culture”.  From a western viewpoint, the idea of shame culture is abhorrent to me; I cannot see how killing yourself and hurting those who love you in the process could be somehow better than doing something “shameful” and then working to rectify what you did.  As I said though, I am from a different world, so I doubt I could be made to understand this.

There seems to be a fear in the media about death being glamorised and romanticised.  Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but it has been that way since Romeo and Juliet.  People who really want to kill themselves are not well, and we need to help them to get better, not vilify them or their family and friends for something beyond their control.

Friday, July 22, 2011

New folk songs for the modern hippy

Twas unpleasant and frightful one grey winters morn

To see the faces of the commuters all covered with scorn

and the pigeons were shitting in every dank square

and the parks they were malodorous in the cold smoggy air

and the parks they were malodorous

and the parks they were malodorous

and the parks they were malodorous

how I wished I weren't there.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

I don’t have time for time management

Starting a new business has made me painfully aware of how much STUFF working parents have to fit into their lives.

I am struggling to do all the things I need to do, plus the fun stuff, plus the stuff for setting up the business and it is starting to show.

I have been staying up far too late at night reading or playing on the computer as I have been trying to get other stuff done during the day like phoning potential customers, filling in insurance forms and buying ladders.

I cracked last night when poor Tareka brought home cheese and crackers for me.  In between sobs I wailed “I don’t know what to do FIRST!” I don’t have enough hours in the day to do everything, but I don’t want to give up ALL of my hobbies or I will go insane!”

He had some wise words which really struck a chord for me, and which I am trying to follow.  His boss told him the key to effective time management is to ask yourself these 2 questions.

Is it urgent?
Is it important?

Most people spend the majority of their time doing non-urgent, unimportant things so it is easy to see how we don’t have time to get everything done.

I am going to ask myself these questions each day to determine what things I need to focus on, and if I have time to spare when they are done, I can think about the non-urgent, unimportant stuff.

Now to get back to the very urgent and important tasks of checking emails, Facebook, Google+, Twitter and all my other message boards.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Priorities, I has them.

Priority 1 – Ensure children are fed and clean

Priority 2 – Keep Laundry Mountain from becoming unscaleable

Priority 3 – Pay bills and sort paperwork for new business

Priority 4 – Spend time with husband

Priority 5 – Get some sleep

Priority 6 – Do something for me – knitting/reading/playing on the computer

It will be a while before I get to Priority 6, we apologize for the inconvenience.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Being the big, bad parent sucks, but someone has to do it.

Before I had children, I did as much research into the subject as possible.  I wanted to arm myself with all the information I could, in order to be prepared for any and all eventualities that may present themselves.  Obviously I was still completely unprepared for parenting, as I am sure all of us are.

One thing I have been thinking about today is about how we as parents want our kids to see us.  We really want to be the cool, fun parent who our kids really like.  Actually we really want our children to see us as some omnipotent deity and behave with all the reverence and awe that that would entail. But being likeable would do at a pinch.

As Nigel Latta so succinctly puts it though, we cannot be friends with our children.  We are the parent and we have to make hard decisions.

We have to be the one who nags about homework, who insists on chores being done, who embarrassingly asks “have you washed this morning?”  Sure we do fun stuff too, but sometimes it feels like all we ever do is issue instructions and no amount of random dessert for breakfast frivolity can make up for that.

What we have to do is look at it from another direction.  Yes we repeatedly demand that our children pick up their toys/clothes/machine parts from the bedroom floor, but we do it because we love our kids and we want nice stuff for them.

We nag our kids to do homework, or get off the computer or watch something more educational but we do it because we want our children to be able to hold a conversation with someone (one day) that involves more than discussing the current weather or the length of the latest pop-bint’s skirt.

Children of all ages need metaphysical fences around them in order to let them feel safe, secure and loved.  If you push the fences too far out, the kids get a lot of speed up running towards them, and often just bash the fences down on impact.  If you have the fences too close, both you and the kids are constantly banging into them and bumping into each other and it all gets very painful very quickly.  The trick is to have the fences on some sort of moveable frame, so they can be adjusted according to the age and abilities of each child.

Some children just have to see the fences to be happy and content; some need to sneak up and poke them to make sure they don’t move too much; some kids just batter the shit out of them on a daily basis and we have to keep shoring them up with sandbags of rationality to stop them collapsing in a cloud of “oh for gods sake ALRIGHT THEN”s.

One of the hardest bits of all this is that your children will NOT thank you for it, and will never tell you what a great job you are doing in raising them to be emotionally strong, stable and well-rounded individuals.  You have to tell yourself instead, and that can get a little clich├ęd at times.

So, I am here to tell all you parents out there who feel like they have to be the Bad Guy all the time:  you are doing a great job.  Your children are delightful (all of them), and I enjoy spending time with them and with you.  You are a great parent and your children will realise this eventually when they hit their 20s if you’re lucky, or at least when they have children of their own.

Friday, June 24, 2011

10 top tips for stress-free childbirth

I emailed this to a friend a few years ago, as she was pregnant with her first baby and terrified.  She asked for realistic but not scary information about labour, so I sent her this.  Someone recently asked me about it again, so I dredged through old emails and found it for her.  Thought it made a good blog post too.:
1. Remember that the contractions usually start small and take a long time to build up. Don't leap out of your seat at the first twinge and spend the next 12 hours pacing round the house timing everything and worrying that they aren't regular yet. Take some paracetamol and have a long soak in a hot bath.

2. The general rule of thumb is that you'll dilate 1cm per hour once the contractions start, and the point at which you'll feel like you need to go to the hospital is usually about 1/2 way. If you can wait longer, it's very reassuring to hear the midwife say "oooh, you're at 7cm!" when you arrive.

3. Time passes very differently when you're in labour. You go into another dimension where everyone around you feels like it's taking years, and yet you'll wonder how 6 hours managed to go past before you've had a chance to ask what time it is.

4. Every contraction is bringing you one step closer to your baby and they DO end. The finish line is always in sight, you just have to keep focussed on it, and stop staring at your feet, wondering if you can go another step. You can.

5. Anything you say during labour is allowed. It is an unwritten law of childbirth that you can blame your husband or midwife for everything from your grazed knee through to the Rwandan genocide, if it helps you focus through the contraction, anything goes.

6. Feel free to order people around. Your hubby (or birthing partner) is there to serve your every whim, no matter how bizarre they may seem. However, if you have gas for pain relief, some of your more outlandish demands may not be possible (or legal).

7. Make a birth plan but be prepared to be flexible. There's nothing worse than having your heart set on a birthing pool, but your instincts taking over and turning you into a hyrdophobic wildcat on the day. Have a good idea of what you want to do, and more importantly what you DON'T want, but explore all your options, so you know what to shout for when you're halfway through the door and you decide the room smells wrong.

8. Listen to your midwife, she has been through this a hundred times at least, and she will remain calm and professional no matter how much your head spins round. Your partner however, may well be a gibbering mess and incapable of thought, let alone important advice.

9. Have your baby placed straight onto your chest as soon as it's born, it's the gold medal ceremony at the olympics and you're on the top podium :)

10. Sleep as much now as you can, and get walking when you're awake. Do exercises to get baby into the correct position for birth and build up your general fitness. You're about to do the hardest thing you've ever done, but it's more satisfying than winning the London Marathon and climbing Mount Everest all rolled into one.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The solemn business of naming your chicken

We recently purchased 6 shiny new chickens as part of our plan to grow our own food.  As there are 5 of us, we let the children each name a chicken, and Tareka named one.

I decided to turn to the internet for help with naming mine, and the 6th chicken who was also nameless.  I posted on Facebook and Ravelry (asking b3tans would just get an outpouring of abuse and offensive words that I could NOT let my children use, even if talking about chickens).

I ended up with a few choices I could not decide between, so I put it to the vote and have decided arbitrarily that today is the day the names get picked.

SOoooooo, ladies and gentlemen I give you
Barbie Sparkles

Big John


Pirate Chicken (yes she has a wonky neck, but she is fine)

Hennibal Peckter

Mother Clucker

So far they have given us at least 2 eggs a day since we got them, and they have only just started.  They are also getting used to the kids chasing them around and trying to catch them.  We will keep them in the pen for another week, then they will be allowed free range of the land, and only be locked in at night.

Monday, June 6, 2011

If glitter is the herpes of the craft world, then I would like to proclaim that cous cous is the herpes of the food world.

I love cous cous, ever since I had some lemony-herby-buttery loveliness in France one time.  I’ve been trying to recreate the recipe ever since and never quite got it right, but often got close.

I tried giving my first child cous cous as a baby, and she was unimpressed, so I haven’t fed it to the other children.   Today, however, I ran out of bread and instant noodles, so we were stumped for lunch til I spotted an unopened box of cous cous in the cupboard.

I asked the kids if they wanted to try it.  Mapera asked what is was, so I said “it’s like pasta, but smaller” because she would fight off hordes of Mongolian invaders if there was pasta involved.

I cooked it with chicken stock, lemon juice and butter.  I say cooked, but those of you who have made cous cous know it’s more of a soak than a cook.  I gave the kids a bowl and a spoon and waited for the scrunched faces that indicated disapproval.

Much to my surprise, they loved it and asked for more.  Even the baby (who is very texture-driven) abandoned the spoon and plunged his hands into the bowl in order to shovel more of the nutty gorgeousness into his mouth.

I realised my error in offering cous cous to a child who has not yet mastered the skills of accurate spoon control when I lifted him out of his highchair after lunch.  A cascade of cous cous poured off his lap as if he were a leaky bean-bag, and scattered across the floor.

If anyone has ever managed to sweep cous cous off a vinyl floor, then they are a more skilled sweeper than I, as I found that no matter the angle of the brush, or the pressure of the sweeping action, the little beads of cous cous bounced in precisely the opposite direction from the way I was trying to corral them.

I felt like that bit of foil scientists bounce atoms off to prove the existence of sub-atomic particles, except I don’t think the scientists have to contend with a toddler determinedly marching through the small pile of quarks they managed to herd into a corner.

I resorted to vacuuming the entire floor, along with the dining room table, chairs, high-chair and parts of the baby in order to get rid of the cous cous.

I am sure when I change his nappy later I will need safety goggles to protect myself from the inevitable pasta-particle explosion.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Do you need my JUMPER Bowie?

I couldn’t think of a title for this, then I thought “ch-ch-ch-changes” because that’s what it’s about, THEN I thought of the Flight of the Conchords song about David Bowie and I started sniggering, so that’s the title.  Even though it doesn’t really make sense.

There are a lot of changes going on at the moment I am holding on to my sanity as if it were a bunch of helium balloons, and trying to untangle one thread would inevitably cause the whole lot to slowly drift up into the atmosphere in a slow-motion rainbow explosion; thus causing my Inner Child to cry and whine and refuse to put their shoes on.

Kaitereo is starting Kindy next week, after being on the waiting list for about 2 years.  It’s going to be great for her, as she is in need of some more company than her little brother and me.  All the same, she has been home with me for over a year longer than Mapera was at that age, so it’s going to be a bit strange to have that free time when Hakopa is asleep.  I am going to have to make a concerted effort to finish a project a day while he sleeps, instead of switching on the computer and wasting 2 hours playing Vajazzeled or whatever the latest Facebook game is.

Actually, I stopped playing Facebook games when we moved to the Rurals, as I wasn’t sure I would be able to get internet access at all, let alone broadband. Now we’re on a limited data allowance, I would rather spend my time posting on Ravelry, or reading Whoopee and watching amusing YouTube clips than farming fictional wheat and pumpkin fields.

The biggest change we are facing now is the move to start our own business.  I don’t want to tempt fate by prattling on about all the details until we are properly up and running, but suffice to say we have formed a company, and we are both doing some training and research over the next couple of months before we jump in.  It’s also a bit sensitive as Tareka will still be working full-time at the airport while I get things going over the next 12 months or so, so we don’t want people thinking he’s doing another job on the sly.

 Hakopa is also changing a lot.  He’s walking everywhere now, no more crawling, and he’s started carrying things at the same time, which is quite a milestone.  I am sure he is getting the hang of things like this a lot quicker than either of his sisters did, so I am expecting him to start climbing over the fences and whittling canoes from old fence posts before the month is out.

As for me, I’m not changing much.  I have hit a weight plateau and despite my clever techniques it is not shifting.  Once Kaitereo is in Kindy 2.5 days a week, I have potentially time to do a proper cardio workout while Hakopa sleeps, so I do hope I can get into the habit with the help of a friend or 2.  If I want to watch one of my workout DVDs though, I have to rearrange the whole room as it means plugging the PC into the stereo which are on opposite sides of the room.  Sometimes I wish we had a telly and DVD player for these things, as well as for family movie night.

Trouble is, if we did get a TV, all that time I could be spending gardening, knitting or Vajazzling (link almost NSFW) would undoubtedly be spent watching Jeremy Kyle and shouting.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

One of my children asked what I was eating and I replied “misery and ashes”. I was actually eating an anzac biscuit, but I was feeling depressed.

It’s St Johns Wort time of the month again, and my hormones are being evil.  I’m trying to find nice, joyful and interesting pictures to take for my Project 365, but everything I take pictures of makes me sad.

My oldest daughter’s first disco was supposed to be exciting, but she lost her glow-bangle and her jumper and when I went to collect her, instead of begging to stay longer she said sorrowfully “can we go home now?”

The cute piggies I went to feed this morning just looked like Death Row prisoners, waiting for the final day.  I almost had an anxiety attack going over to feed them too, which I think is another PMT symptom.  I had to go through 3 electric fence spring gates, and through a field that may or may not have contained a large bull, all of which fill me with dread at the best of times, but during Hormone Week make me feel like I am about to dive off a tall building with nothing but knicker elastic holding me up.

Spring gates scare me because I have been zapped going through them a number of times:

The girls are fighting, the baby just wants to get into the cupboards and Mapera tried to poke a hairpin into an electrical socket this morning.
 Is it wrong to tell your child calmly that if they do that, they will die?  She was a bit scared I think.  I don’t want her to develop some sort of socket-phobia, but I figured it was serious enough for Mummy’s Quiet Voice.

I would really love for someone to just drop in for a visit on Saturday afternoons, someone with lots to talk about, and maybe some chocolate…or cake…or diazepam.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Argh no time for writing, thank goodness for previously written emergency blog posts.

Ten truths about me

My psychologist started this one with me, but we got sidetracked discussing why I feel guilty about just about everything, so I thought I’d have a go here:

  1. I am honest
  2. I am lazy
  3. I am enthusiastic
  4. I am anxious
  5. I am funny
  6. I am impatient
  7. I am easily distracted
  8. I am loving
  9. I am almost unshockable
  10. I am hopeful

What are 10 truths about you?

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Realistic ways to lose weight permanently

I hate diets. Diets are designed to force people into focusing so much on what they are eating that it stops being food and starts being a science project.

I have tried a lot of diets in my life, low-cal, low-fat, low-sugar, low-carb and one insane starvation diet where I drank lemonade made from maple syrup, lemon juice, water and chili powder for a week.

They all worked when I stuck to them, but you could force yourself to stick to a diet of twigs and pond scum and it would work.

I worked for a company that made fitness equipment back in the BC days (Before Children). It was a common practice among the women of the office to ask the various sales managers, fitness experts and marketing gurus for a gym program to use in the office gym.  I was no exception.

One trainer gave me the best program I have ever had, easy to stick to, involved no special training or equipment, needed no crazy food plan to follow.  I refused to follow it, didn’t think it would work, thought he was being facetious.

It took 6 months of him repeating the plan every time I asked for it to finally sink in. I didn’t need to do stupid diets or kill myself in the gym every lunchtime; I finally accepted his advice as sound.

Eat less. Move more.

It took a further 5 years for me to follow the plan properly, with some help from Paul McKenna’s hypno CD and a healthy dose of psychotherapy for other issues.

I have stopped thinking of some foods as “bad” and some as “good”.  Food is food, some tastes better than others, and some have more nutrients, some less.  Some are just pure fat, salt and flavour enhancers (mmmmmm) but it’s all just food.

The hypno CD helped me to stop and listen to my body and to SLOW DOWN when I am eating.  It made me more aware of the food I was consuming, and therefore I enjoy it more and tend not to inhale it in order to get on with the next thing.  It also helped me to stop eating when I had had enough, and to be able to leave food on my plate.  I have now learned how much I need to eat and put less on my plate in the first place, so I don’t tend to leave anything now.

The psychotherapy helped me to start shedding my guilt-baggage I carry around, and the less guilty I feel about stuff, the less I focus on food either to comfort eat, or as something I have to feel bad about enjoying.

I am also getting better at being more active in my daily life.  I am not very good at following a consistent exercise program (I mean, who is?!), but I am pretty good at looking at the clock and going “oh, I’ve got 10 minutes before I have to be somewhere” and putting on some music to dance around the room.

I have two 1kg weights in my bathroom, and before my shower if the kids are playing nicely, I do 50 reps of something – tricep raises, bicep curls, squats or leg raises.  It takes 5 minutes.

I walk around when I’m on the phone; I squeeze my bum muscles when I am sitting at the computer; I tap my foot when we’re driving in the car (thank goodness for automatics!); I play tag with the kids and jump on the trampoline when the weather is nice, in the 15 minutes between finishing cooking and putting the plates out for dinner.

My weight loss is slow, and I am currently at a plateau but I have lost 15kg since Hakopa was born, and he’s 15 months old now. I am about to do a 10km walk which should bust the plateau and I am fitting into my size 14 jeans again.

I feel fitter and the more I do, the more I feel like doing.  It’s a positive feed-back loop and it can only get better.

To summarise, here are my top tips for changing your guilt-riddled food-obsessed mindset into one of enjoying food and exercise again:

  1. Stop denying yourself things, but don’t buy crap regularly.  If there is no food in the house that you do not have to cook in order to consume (other than fruit), then you can’t eat it.  I get my chocolate fix once a week when I fill up the car with fuel.
  2. Share your food.  Half a chocolate bar is still chocolate (mmm, smooth creamy chocolate), but you only eat half and your husband/child/best mate will think you’re really generous for sharing.
  3. Cook a new recipe once a week.  Trying out new tastes, textures and ingredients gives you enthusiasm for food and new ideas for eating better quality meals.
  4. Eat as much fruit and veg as you can possibly manage without turning your insides to liquid.
  5. Fidget.  Skinny people don’t sit still.
  6. Drink a full glass of water before every meal.  I am rubbish at sipping a glass of water while I am eating, so I down half a pint as quickly as I can then get on with the food.
  7. Fill 50% of the available plate space with fruit or veg before you add the protein and carbs, and eat that first.
  8. Keep a full fruit bowl out on the bench and put the crisps and biscuits out of sight.  I have my fruit bowl right by the computer, so it’s easier to eat an apple than get off my bum and rummage in the cupboard for TimTams.
  9. Dance every day, and sing too.  Put on something that makes you think happy thoughts and sing like you’re on x-factor.
  10. Love food, love yourself.  You do NOT have to feel guilty for enjoying food, food is ACE.  It is brilliant and lovely and tastes like rainbows and happiness.  Food keeps us alive and we are lucky to have the choice between the chicken wrap and the Mega Burger, unlike a large proportion of the world who have to survive on ½ a cup of rice a week.  We are blessed with bountiful, beautiful, glorious, delicious food, and it is a shame to deny yourself the pleasure of good, tasty, high quality food (and some shit that just tastes good).  Eat it, savour it, take your time over every mouthful and remind yourself why you LOVE this stuff.  Share your joy with friends and family, cook elaborate dinners for your mates and show them how much you love them and your food.

Eat less; move more.  Love food; love life.

Darwinian gardening

I am not a very good gardener.  Not in the sense that I can’t grow things, as my exuberant vegetable patch will show, but in the sense that I do not follow the rules of good gardening.

I look at the books about what time of year to plant things, and buy seed-raising mix and potting compost, but that’s about as far as it goes.  After my plants get their feet in the soil outside, it’s every chloroplast for itself.

I weed when I start harvesting dock seeds amongst the silver beet, and when the dandelions are getting as tall as the runner beans, but I figure they will only grow back if I pull them out too much, and as long as the veg are bigger than the weeds, then the veg is winning.

Tareka has been building me a third veg bed this week, so I am getting very excited about having more room to test the survival skills of cabbages and sweetcorn.  My broccoli has made it through the first onslaught of cabbage-white caterpillars with hardly a hole, so I believe it will imbue me with super-powers when I get to eat it.

My plan is to eventually have the veg rotated between the 2 beds (ah yes, I do crop rotation, I am a good ecologist after all!), and the third bed nearest the house as a sort of permaculture of herbs, rhubarb and beneficial or edible flowers.  I am planning to have patches of different herbs, which I can let go to seed so they regenerate themselves without too much input from me, other than the odd dose of Bokashi fertilizer.

I have some hedging plants I shoved into the ground which have gamely survived my callous treatment, and I have rosemary and lavender among them.  I will also be adding some bay so I don’t have to keep traipsing across the paddock every time I want 1 fresh bay leaf in my casserole.

The tomato/basil patch at the front of the deck proved to be a great hit with the children. So I have left them to go to seed and will mulch them over winter after the frost takes the plants out.  The fruit trees are showing no sign of dropping their leaves yet; I am sure they must have seen me in action with my pruning secateurs and are too scared.

I also succumbed to temptation and put in a small flower bed on one side of the deck.  I bought some bulbs from Mapera’s school fundraiser, and as the instructions say to plant them, and then leave them undisturbed for an extended period, I figure that they are my kind of flower.

Watch out for my mega-tulips in the spring, if they can survive me, they are bound to have magical properties.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

You called your baby WHAT?!

There is an ever-increasing trend of naming children with “different” names in the western world.  Whether it be the unwitting Chav-tastic parent choosing Chlamydia because they liked the sound of it, or the braying Sloane spelling Georgia with 2 Js so she’s the only one in her class, different names are everywhere.

There is even a section dedicated to it in our NZ “That’s Life” magazine, and about half the names are made up ones, where the parents have dismantled a perfectly ordinary name, added the initials of the family dog and an obscure reference to where the child was conceived and VOILA, Rrachbedel was born.

However, the other half of the names seem to have a significant meaning for the parents.  The name of a beloved family member, the mother’s maiden name, something meaning “gift” “beautiful” or “precious” in another language and I started to wonder about it all.

We named our children in a fairly traditional Maori way, in that they are named after important members of our family.  Mapera Teddie is named after both my Grandmothers; Mabel and Edwina (who most people knew as Teddie).  Kaitereo Helen is named after my Mother-in-law and my husband’s grandmother.  My mother-in-law is known as Mary, but her birth certificate says Kaitereo.  When she was a child, the Maori language was forbidden to be spoken, so her name was changed to an English one.   Hakopa Tom is named after his Daddy’s middle name Jacob, and my brother Thomas.

There is another, older Maori tradition of naming your child after an event that happens around the time of their birth.  Yes, I know you’re all thinking of that hilarious joke about the Native American boy with brothers named Flying Eagle and Running Bear, but this is true and taken very seriously by a lot of really big scary people over here, so no jokes please!

We have relatives whose names mean something along the line of “terrible tragedy” and I asked Tareka about them.  One was named this way because some close family friends were killed in a car crash, and the other was named so because there had been a lot of children die from influenza in the year they were born.  I asked him why people would give their children names with such negative connotations, and he wasn’t sure how to answer, so we asked our Kaumatua.

The reasoning behind this naming practice is because the events are important historically.  The Maori language and culture is based on spoken word, not written, so this is a way of connecting people to their family, their history and their land.  When you introduce yourself in Maori, you tell people where you are from before you give your name.  This means people know who you are and who your family is and where in the family you are connected to them.

So, whether the event was a tragic or a happy one, the name lets people know that you were born during a particularly important time and that you are linked to your people in a way that (as a Westerner) I don’t think I will ever properly understand.

However, if you call your kid Marshmallow, then that’s just mean.