The Big Bang Theory. Who do you identify with the most?

Of all the characters on The Big Bang Theory, who do you most identify with?

Because I swear, in almost each episode Sheldon Cooper does something where I think, yup, done that! or, yup, I'd totally do something similar!

Basically, of all the characters on that TV show, I identify the most with this character who is:
* generally logical but often common sense lacking (good work digging up that wasps nest straight after applying insecticide, Maria! Like, rather than giving the poison time to actually kill the buggers you decided to dig the thing up immediately and then ended up sprinting across the lawn when they started attacking, but, hey!, it was good fun, wasn't it, and you were wearing a heart rate monitor so you ended up watching the printout on the computer, and giggling),
* stubborn (no comment needed because... hello!),
* social skill lacking (oh, hi Holly! I still apologise for the stuff I said when you were pregnant...),
* a bit OCD (oh, hi my previous employers at the bakery! When you want your dishes washed, I don't consider ladles with bits of dough still hanging off them as "washed", and refuse to "wash" them your way. And how about buying an actual dishwasher anyway?),
* irony misunderstanding (oh, hi dear husband! I will probably continue asking, "Was that... a joke?" about once a day, and thank you for keeping on explaining to me what it was that you meant),
* with a wide array of knowledge on often totally useless facts (oh, hi my friends from craft night! Does, "Oh, did you know that...?" sound similar? Said in English with an Estonian accent? Yeah, I thought so.)

What about you? Which of the characters do you identify with the most?

The days of autumn

The beauty of living in a big city is that when The Kid has lined his toy cars behind a flying pig...

...and then built a plane from Duplo blocks which he's "flown" around the living room...

...I am able to tell him, "Hey, do you want to go see some real big planes at the airport?" And when he says yes, we are able to just pack ourselves in our car, drive to the airport, park alongside the runway (on the outside of the security fence, though that's pretty darn close still) and eat our dinner from a lunchbox in the back of a car whilst watching planes take off and land.

On another note: The Kid is learning to make bridges out of items at hand.

My kids think riding on public transport is a treat.

And The Kid is coming up with some pretty elaborate designs on his wooden train track!

My blog has pretty much become a collection of my kids' photos.

On different cultures and family sizes

A workmate of mine is a young girl from Samoa. Her family relocated to New Zealand when she was 9, so being 19 years old now she still considers and calls herself Samoan, rather than a Kiwi - from New Zealand.

But I digress.

The reason I'm writing about her is that when I mentioned to her that I have one sibling - an older brother - she asked, "Only one?" Yes, I answered, but why? How many do you have?

Nine. She comes from a family of ten children.

And where it got even more interesting is the fact that her mom comes from a family of thirteen children (!) and each of her mom's siblings also has at least ten children, so this 19-year-old girl from Samoa has over 130 cousins. And that's on her mother's side of family alone!

On my mother's side of family, there are six of us - six cousins. This girl, on the other hand, has over 130 of them.

One. Hundred. And. Thirty.

Bright yellow

Note to self: it's probably not the best idea to forget that yesterday's dinner contained a lot of turmeric because otherwise going to the toilet today for emptying the bladder may involve gasping over the colour of it and thinking, "What the hell is that?!" before remembering, "Oh, right, I ate a lot of turmeric yesterday. Phew!"

Food colouring. Turmeric has a lot of food colouring.

A lot.

PS. Don't you just love reading blog posts about other people's toileting adventures?

A little copycat

The Kid likes doing jigsaws. The Girlie likes doing whatever The Kid is doing.

The little kicks of confidence

When I go for a job interview, I put on underwear that has a Superman logo on it. No-one's going to see it, but I will get a little kick of confidence from knowing that I've got it there, under the layers.

Kind of like, when there is an important occasion, I wear a closing pin necklace.

Closing pin necklace is symbolical of skydiving, and though it's been five years since I last jumped out of a plane, and although to most people that see me wearing it - let alone the fact that most people won't probably even see it because it may be hidden under my t-shirt - it won't mean anything; but to me, it does.

Skydiving was a very short part of my life, and in sport's terms I am a total newbie with fewer than 30 jumps to my name; yet in my life's terms skydiving was a big thing.

Skydiving is the reason I was able to stay in New Zealand (being employed by a skydiving company who proved to Immigration NZ year on year that I am needed, and I am good), it introduced me to fascinating, fascinating! people who I look up to with great, great respect, and it is the single thing in my life that I know of that has the ability to switch off the constant chatter I have going on in my brain - that, and sleeping.

There are very few symbolical items I keep for their symbolical value alone, but my skydiving closing pin I sometimes wear around my neck, is one of them.

A quiet morning at home

I found The Kid playing in our bedroom like that

Random bits and bobs on a Thursday

If any of you have been blessed with strong, determined children the likes of my daughter, then you'll probably be familiar with the fact that shopping trolleys don't tend to hold them in very well. The harnesses are flimsy, the velcros worn down, and the children stay seated in the shopping trolley for about as long as it takes me to say, "Sit. Down!"

But we've found a solution :)

First (and the main part of the solution) was The Man's idea. Rather than strapping the harness around the child the way it was designed to be used, he feeds it through the back of her clothing. So, if The Girlie is wearing her dungarees, it'll go through the back strap; if she's wearing a vest it'll go in through one armhole and out through the other; if jeans it'll go through the belt loop.

A shopping trolley 'harness' fed through the belt loop in the back of The Girlie's pants

It means that the leftover "tail" of the harness is long enough that it can be knotted into its beginning, meaning - it's strapped in strong enough that the child cannot undo it, and climb out.

And it also means that because the harness goes through the child's clothing, the child cannot climb out of it. It keeps them down in the trolley.

However, as is the case with The Girlie, we've found that even that isn't quite enough to keep her down. Although she cannot stand up or climb out of her seat, she gathers her feet underneath her, sitting as if she were a frog, and manages to swivel around and extend herself just far enough that she can pick items off shelves if I've left the trolley close enough.

And that's why she now gets her leggings tied into a knot when she's sitting in a shopping trolley :D

By the way, she almost always wears leggings when the weather is cold enough - socks just don't stay on, she picks them off within about a minute of me having put them on, usually.

So yeah, that's how we go shopping when I need to put The Girlie in a shopping trolley. She's getting a bit too heavy for being carried around in a backpack, and having tried "walking" her through the shop... let's just say it'll be a while until I try using that trick on her again, thank you very much.

I thought it might be useful to some of you, in case you have children as free-spirited - or even worse? Sorry, I mean better! - than The Girlie.



As treats my children get ice lollies in the form of frozen fruit juice and the other day I looked at the bottle and noticed that the label says that it's made "with real orange pulp".

Okay, so... in other juices that seemingly have fruit pulp that isn't "real" fruit pulp - whats' that made with, then?


Spent the afternoon at Cass Bay today, about a 20-minute drive away from home. Or like my neighbour put it: isn't that the playground with the best possible view in Christchurch?

Quite possibly :)

Four kids hunting for crabs: two of mine, two of my neighbour's

Pencils that are fit for children

Just putting it out there in case someone may benefit from this information:

have you ever come across Faber-Castell's triangular-shaped colouring pencils? The ones that have plastic dots which aid gripping? On the internet they look like this...

...but on my bookshelf they look like this.

The reason I'm writing about it is that I've come to understand how important it can be when kids have craft tools which fit their hands well.

The Kid loves to do colouring. He's done it for a long time already and I have watched with glee at how his skills have developed, to a point where he is now able to hold and use the pencils with about the same skill level as - and I hope it doesn't offend anyone - as... The Man sometimes. The Kid on a good day, The Man on a bad day.

Like this:

And I may be overshooting here, but I have a feeling that part of his colouring excitement has come from the fact that all along he's been able to use the Faber-Castell's colour grip pencils, and initially I had actually bought them for... myself.

Because it was five years ago that I had bought them, then I don't remember how much they cost exactly - but I do remember that it was significantly more than the other, "usual" pencils on the shelf. Fortunately though I had been given a gift card to spend, so I kind of just went, "Come on, Maria, treat yourself."

And I did.

And I now watch my kids use those pencils and think that when they wear all the way down, I am going to buy another set of these same Faber-Castell's, regardless of their price.

Because here's the thing: for one, they're triangular. Triangular pens and pencils are way easier to hold in one's hand than circular ones, and I've now even started using triangular pens for writing (Staedtler Triplus Fineliner).

Secondly, the plastic grip dots keep the pencils from slipping. Like, so it actually works, too!

And third, the colours are bright. Smooth and bright.


I've watched The Kid enjoy colouring partially because I know how important such fine-motor skill is, and how good it is for him to enjoy doing something like that - how every time he does drawing and colouring, it lays the foundation for all sorts of things that follow. And patience! And perseverance! And focus!

And so I've sometimes wondered if other parents out there know about pencils which fit children's hands well.

I've heard about a company in Britain which makes small, children's size pencils fit especially for toddlers and preschoolers (it was started by a dad who watched for years how his own kids struggled to hold adult-sized pencils he had at home), but those pencils are circular and after watching my own kids use these triangular-shaped pencils from Faber-Castell, I've wondered if... it even matters that much, circumreference-wise, what size the pencils are, as long as they're triangular.

But let me know what you think.

I'm just letting you know my kids way prefer these Faber-Castell's over anything else we've got available at our own house!

Estonian beers and ciders are for sale in Christchurch now

I get a little giggle from knowing that within 3 weeks of Estonian beer and cider reaching Christchurch coast - a container full of drinks from Saku Ă•lletehas arrived on March 18th and the drinks are now for sale across Super Liqour shops and at a Man Up hairdressing salon - I get an e-mail from a friend in the style of, Oh, did you know...?

Sometimes it's very cool to be part of an expatriate community :)

I think I felt like a... New Zealander today

It's a strange thing how sometimes very large emotions come packaged in very regular, simple days. That in a day where nothing out of the ordinary happens - just the usual, little, regular outings - something profound pops up.

And today I felt something profound like that.

I felt like a New Zealander.

I was walking through a neighborhood surrounding The Kid's preschool, killing a little bit of time before going in to fetch my kids, and I watched the new primary school building under construction. Painters' trucks and scaffolders everywhere.

It occurred to me that New Zealand primary school buildings are routinely set up the same way this local primary school is. In Estonian they'd be called "ridaelamu" type, and I am struggling to find the right words here, but it's a kind of a set-up where every classroom opens directly to outside, rather than having a central (interior) hall. In Wanaka, for example, it looked kind of like this:

So rather than having one large, multi-storey building where classrooms go off central hallways, school buildings are mostly one-storey, and often small enough that only 3-4 classrooms are in the same building, with each classroom having its own direct outside access. And so there could easily be 5-6 buildings across the school campus, with a few classrooms in each of them.

(Did I make myself clear enough? No? Sorry. I am really struggling for words here.)

And so as I walked past this primary school and watched tradesmen do their construction work, I thought to myself how I'm glad my kids will be going to school in New Zealand. Each school is different, of course, and they won't be going to this particular school as we'll be moving to Invercargill next year, but... still. The principles are the same.

And in that moment it suddenly occurred to me that I am so glad I am in New Zealand.

I don't even know why exactly, and why today, and why so strong, but I suddenly felt that I... fit in here. As in, I feel I belong here.

It was probably because yesterday when me and the kids were at a Tumbletimes session, The Kid's physiotherapist joined us there. I loved that rather than taking my son to some physiotherapy clinic, his physiotherapist came to see us in an environment where she was going to see The Kid at his best, doing all the things he does at Tumbletimes: jumping off things, rolling on things, climbing on things...

I loved that when she wasn't happy with how The Kid's ankle brace fit him, she called up the office and made an appointment to go see an orthotist tomorrow. As in, as soon as there was a problem, we were going to see be seen.

Maybe it was because whilst I had been walking, The Kid had a teacher aide playing alongside him at a preschool. She visits him there twice a week, every week, 2 hours each time, and makes sure they do a whole variety of activities that help The Kid develop his social skills and his coordination and... all sorts of stuff, in a one-on-one time. With attention. (They do end up with other kids joining in because the games are such fun :), but even that's a benefit.)

Or maybe it was because the primary school I was walking alongside has an alley of oak trees lining its fenceline, and it was a beautiful afternoon, sunny and a little windy, 20 degrees Celsius, with slightly yellowing early autumn colours.

Either way, in that short, 5-minute walk alongside a local primary school, on a Wednesday afternoon, I suddenly had a strong, clear feeling that I was glad my kids were going to grow up in New Zealand, and that I had also... become one. A New Zealander.

And it's the first time I had thought of myself like that.

It was a big deal.

Questions and answers: talking to kids in Estonian

"Do you speak to your kids in Estonian only?" Anonymous

When my son was born 5 years ago, I did. For over two years I did.

I didn't have many hesitations about it at first. I was brought up bilingual (Estonian on my mother's side and Russian on my father's) and I was well familiar with Estonia's culture of bilingual families in general - on how it generally takes longer for kids to start talking, but how it then usually helps with all sorts of other learning later in life; and I knew what were the recommended practices in terms of bilingual families, ie it's best to stick to the approach of one-parent-one-language.

But it did feel somewhat tedious to be talking in Estonian to this little bundle of arms and legs who never talked back to me. He was a baby - babies grunt and cry and burp and fart, at first kind of regardless of their language and their nationality. Oh, and! Bear in mind that apart from occasional phone/Skype conversations with relatives, I never talked in Estonian to anyone else.

When my son turned two I started having serious concerns about continuing to talk to him in Estonian and about his language development in general. He just... wasn't doing it. I did keep telling myself to be patient and that it was going to take time, and that he was going to get there eventually, but... just wasn't working. We didn't know why, but he just wasn't talking.

And so sometime around his third birthday I think I started to gradually 'pop' English words in there with him. Simple words: dog, cat, poop, eat. I was still talking in Estonian, but the key words I was doubling up in English, too.

And then last year I dropped Estonian entirely, and stuck to English instead.

The thing is, it turned out that all along The Kid had carried a birth injury around in his brain, something none of us had been aware of until late last year an MRI scan was carried out. It is difficult to say at this stage what it affects and what it doesn't, but it is likely that the lag in his language development has come from that birth injury, so to me personally it was a clear-cut decision that I was going to stay away from Estonian altogether and that all his language was going to become English-based instead.

It has helped that it's become somewhat clear that at least for the foreseeable future my family is going to stay in New Zealand, and so in terms of his education and friends and whatnot, he is not going to need much other than English to get by, and I so in terms of dropping Estonian my point was simply to make sure that what he has is very clear and solid and straightforward.

One language. English. With everyone. (Or like I had written just a few weeks ago: talking in one, I thought, beats not talking in two.)

And so because of all that, The Girlie has been brought up in an English-only environment. It's just simpler that way: if I am going to talk in English-only to one, I may as well do it to both of them.

And so that's a story on how an expatriate Estonian comes to lose an Estonian family-language within her own family :) 

Though on the other hand: it's not all lost yet. There's still "Lotte" DVD's my kids occasionally see :), and an Estonian grandmother who talks to them on Skype, and at some point in the future we may re-visit some key words in Estonian, we'll see how time goes and what our family becomes to look like, but... for the moment it's English only. And I'm quite comfortable with that.

And don't even get me started on the things I find in my underwear drawer

This chair may look like a regular chair!

But it isn't. You won't know until you've sat on it that your kids have hidden prickly Duplo pieces under the cushions.

The Girlie

This child...

Snatched her mom's cap and climbing onto the kitchen table

Have you ever seen tornadoes? I've never seen one for real - only on tv - and I know that I am waaaaaaay exaggerating with this, but: this kid can be a bit like a tornado sometimes. The determination with which she presses through with whatever the hell it is that she wants - and to be honest, sometimes I don't think even she knows what it is - it reminds me of all the stories adults used to tell about me around the dinner table. At some point during the evening someone would inadvertently go, "Oh, do you remember when Maria did [insert another story that a lot of the time ended in physical injury]...?" and then everyone would laugh, and I have heard many, many stories like that over the years.


I now I am a witness to another nutter like that working her way through childhood, and it's my own daughter that I think is the nutter, kind of like I used to be.

This morning, for example, she vomited all over the kitchen floor. (Do you want to hear the rest? Because I am about to tell it.)

I had been cutting up broccoli to put into kids' lunchboxes and had given the large broccoli stalk to The Dog to chew; The Girlie promptly stole that large bit from The Dog and attempted to shove it into her own mouth instead. It didn't fit down her throat, of course, and instead made her gag, and once bits of grapes from the morning tea started to come up she pretty much emptied her entire stomach contents onto the kitchen floor and as I was standing there witnessing the thing, The Dog - now bereft of the broccoli stalk that The Girlie had stolen from her - quickly started lapping up The Girlie's vomit from the floor and I started yelling, trying to get The Dog out of the vomit whilst The Girlie was still vomiting whatever she had left in her stomach, and then as I stepped away into the laundry room to get a bucket of water and a rag, The Girlie excitedly shoved her hands into her own vomit on the floor, as if to play with it, and The Dog was sneakily licking up bits of vomit behind her, and...

It was just one of those parenting moments where I just thought, like, where the hell do I even start with this story.

The Kid, meanwhile, watched the entire thing from a safe distance away and looked amused, and he never looked like he had any interest in getting himself in contact with vomit, as opposed to The Dog and The Girlie.

I think she - my daughter - will both help keep me young and age me prematurely. If that's possible.

Tsunami warning

You know how twice a year clocks go backwards or forwards depending on how Daylight Saving goes? And how fire services around the world remind people to change their fire alarm batteries on those dates, and test their alarms afterwards?

In Christchurch there is an addition to that: tsunami warning sirens.

Twice a year sirens sound up and down the coast (I think there's 47 in total) in the bi-annual tsunami warning test - at the start and the end of Daylight Savings Time, 11 am - and just like when fire alarms get tested, it enables people to know that sirens work and that when they hear that noise for real, to run inland.

So... yeah: welcome to New Zealand.