Sendoff and a party

I read an article Mari, a commenter to my previous post, recommended - it's titled I arrived at my friend's party. A few hours later she died, exactly as planned. - and it reminded me of something.


Soon after moving to Wanaka, my flatmate was attending a... memorial. I'm actually struggling to find the right word for describing it because it's not what I'd usually use "a memorial" for and I don't remember how my flatmate called it.

But it was a memorial nevertheless.

The thing with living in an area as beautiful and exciting as Wanaka is that every now and again, someone dies. I mean the kind of deaths that happen when people do things that are very exciting, but can also be dangerous.

Landing roughly with a paraglider.
Slipping down a steep slope off Mt Aspiring.
Getting caught under a waterfall whilst rafting.
Ending up under an avalanche of Mt Cook.

On this occasion it was a good friend of my flatmate and he, like many others before him, had gone young. He was in his early 20's. The death had been quick, and the hours before it filled with adrenalin.

The funeral had been a private, mostly-family kind of a gathering and the array of friends this person had came together for their own, a much larger memorial, except... it was a party.

Like, a loud, music all the way to 3 am kind of a party, with people trawling in and out of the house, girls, boys, kissing, potato chips, drinks galore.

My flatmate arrived home sometime after 4 o'clock in the morning, spent most of the next day sleeping and when he joined us on the couch to watch a movie in the evening he exclaimed determinedly: "Wow, that was one heck of a party."

I am sure that to some people, it would've looked unrespectful.

But to that group of people, it wasn't.

The thing is, those friends had spent a lot of time doing cool stuff together and my flatmate, an avid rafter and kayaker, loved the guy dearly. Many people at that party had loved the guy dearly.

It didn't make sense to them to gather in dark clothing and say things under muttered breaths when the life they had shared with this guy had been anything but. Most of the time they had spent together when he was alive, they had probably been wearing Keens, dusty t-shirts and had shared juicy burgers downtown after rafting down awesome rivers, and so it made sense to them to send him off with the same farewell he would've loved when he was alive.

And besides, they were certain that's the way he would've wanted it.

And so, in the summer that I had moved to Wanaka, this group of 20-somethings organised one heck of a party and whilst they downed drinks and made room for laughter, they raised their glasses to a friend they had cared about, and said, "Farewell, mate. See ya on the other side."

And it was the first time I had actually seen someone have a party like that, though I had read about it in books before.

And I have to say, it was impressive. To see friends send off someone like that, in a way that would've made sense to both the guy who was not there anymore, and to his friends, was impressive.

Why, and what it says

I recently read a wonderful book called The Language of Houses by Alison Lurie. I liked it because rather than labelling pieces of architecture "good" or "bad" or telling the reader what a good kitchen is like, it discussed how architecture affects people and what messages it sends, either knowingly or unknowingly.

How a child, if they grow up in a crowded, badly-lit classroom will learn that they are not important.

How a hospital which is designed for the convenience of doctors' and nurses' will let a person who is there as a patient - or a visitor - know that the needs of a patient come second to the ones of medical professionals, and it discourages independence which is actually one of the cornerstones of how people heal.

It explains how it came to be that the houses of different eras had kitchens of different sizes placed in different parts of the building.

Unlike some of the other people who have reviewed this book on Goodreads, I preferred that it didn't have any photos and relied almost entirely on words to describe what the author was taking about. I also didn't mind that in some parts, I didn't agree with Lurie on what a certain building or an aspect of it "says" - it is, after all, a piece of her personal opinion.

It did, however, made me think about death.

Recently I watched a TED talk by BJ Miller who is a palliative care specialist in San Francisco.

He talked about the importance of sensations at the end of life situations, and of people's happiness. Like Lurie's book, he talked about what one thing or another means to the person who it is intended for; how to a lady who is struggling to breathe due to advancing ALS will want to start smoking because although smoking itself is damaging to her lungs - at this point, it doesn't really matter because she is gradually asphyxiating anyway and to her, the feeling of filling her lungs with something she can feel whilst she still can gives her joy, and that is a very important part of care and relieving suffering.

Kind of like, in another book I read about the architecture of retirement homes, it was described that when "assisted living facilities" first came to exist, they truly meant independent living which was only assisted to a point that the retiree / person living there wanted it to. If a diabetic wanted to sit in their living room watching TV and eat M&M's, they could.

Because the other option, making living so safe as to prevent damage entirely, has a tendency to suck the living out of living. That forbidding people keep pets for concerns of hygiene, getting rid of all live plants for concern of allergies and making someone sit in a chair because if they stood up, they may fall, had all the beginnings of making someone feel like they didn't have anything to live for anyway.

BJ Miller talks about it well in this TED talk. He talks about the end of life decisions and how it's important to remember why something is done before getting lost in details of making something more efficient or longer of whatever.

What's the objective?

Recently a young Czech woman named Pavlina Pizova spent a month in a hut on Routeburn track (near Queenstown and Wanaka) after she and her partner got in trouble in snowy conditions and her partner died. Plenty has been said about the ordeal and how she shouldn't have been there to begin with.

However, it has made me think about care and death.

There are many people who get helped by ambulances, search and rescue team, shelters, police; many of them who have got into trouble through their own fault. But just like David Galler, whose interview I linked a while ago, said in his interview (not exact words, so I am paraphrasing here): it's important to think why those things have occurred, rather than just label and blame. A diabetic person whose limbs are necrotic will have got to that point on their own doing, yes - but what is the environment that would've surrounded that person as they self-destructed?

The boy racers who zoom up and down Gebbies Pass Road and used to keep me up at night when we lived in Gebbies Pass and I listened to their revving engines - it's one thing to just say, it's bad!, but it's another thing to think, why are they doing it?

Or prostitution which I have now heard many people label a horrible evil, and drugs and whatever. Toni Mac said it very well in her TED talk that you can't just wish prostitution away. It exists, and will continue to exist, for very valid reasons and so instead of labelling and blaming it's important to think why it's happening and then think what to do about it.

And it means figuring out what is important, and what is the aim.

In the 7 years I have lived in New Zealand, I have witnessed an increasing divide between people who do well and people who do not. There is still a lot of good stuff here, but some of the things that have been happening - especially in the last few years - I have looked at with a shudder down my spine because they are very, very, very not the things I would do, or would want to see done.

Asking why is important. And then truly wanting to make the situation better - rather than just look like helping - is important.

Off to preschool now. I've got kids to pick up.


Live on RNZ Nights

I was contemplating not even uploading this link here because it is by no means a great interview but... f*ck it. Here's the link.


I found it surprisingly difficult to talk to Brian without actually seeing him. He was in a studio in Wellington, I was in a studio in Christchurch and there wasn't even a video link between us. I was sitting alone in a little room, headphones on and a microphone in front of me, and that was about it.

Brian, I think, got a little thrown by the fact that I wasn't a dogsledder and once we got into details of Alaska-Alaska-Svalbard which was quite confusing, the interview felt less like sharing stories and more like giving a historical account. Basically, somewhat awkward :)

But oh well. Live and learn :).

Thank you, Brian, for having me on the show!

An endless source of amusement

The Girlie has hurt her toe by biting it too hard.

A killer whale at a doctor's office

Kids listen to it all, but with a certain... filter.

So: me and The Man were talking about whales. I was saying how whales don't drink salt water because they get all the water they need through food they eat. We then talked about sharks, I don't remember how they're called, who are kind of like saltwater mosquitoes who bore themselves onto the flesh of whales with their front teeth and hold on like that.

The Kid listened to it all intently. He then said, "Mommy?"

"Yeah?" I asked.

He then told me that if a killer whale eats salt then his throat will get sore and he'll go to a doctor who will look inside his throat. That, listen, mommy, killer whale, yeah? Throat gets sore, have to go a doctor. Look inside throat!

And I'm, like, uh-uh, okay, really? Oh. Okay.

So where did you hear that from?


It's starting

A job offer came through. It's not settled yet - The Man will probably fly down to Invercargill to meet the company before it's all go, but... still. If all goes well, the move may start within weeks.

Which makes me giddy and somewhat tired to think about it at the same time.

Today I packed up our backyard climbing frame where kids have had swings and seesaws and such. I'm selling it to another family and won't be taking it to Invercargill with us - we can get something else once we're there. It's not a problem.

But the kids are not impressed.

Not impressed at all.

A dumb reason for a crappy night's sleep

This has got to be one of the dumbest reasons for having had a crappy night's sleep.

And namely, last night at about 2:30 am, a small earthquake struck just Southwest of Christchurch. It jolted me awake - not terribly so, but just enough that I recognised, oh, there's an earthquake, and even in my sleepyheaded condition that I was in at 2:30 am, I started wondering.

What was the magnitude?
Where was it located?
How deep?

It's a beloved sport of mine is New Zealand, turns out. Whenever an earthquake hits, I log onto and check out where it was, how deep, what magnitude. If both me and The Man are in the same room, we both make a guess before we log on, so we can check whose opinion was closer to the truth.

And since that earthquake struck at 2:30 am last night, I kept waking up, again and again and again, thinking, "Is it morning yet? Can I get up and go check on a computer what Geonet says?"

Which is a very dumb reason NOT TO SLEEP! and even in my state of half-awakeness I was sharp enough to recognise that, Maria, you're being an idiot. Sleep!

But no. All the way to 6 am I kept waking up, until the morning was far enough that I could, finally, log onto a computer and check out what Geonet was saying - 2.9, 5 km deep, 15 km Southwest of Christchurch - and then I could relax and admit to myself, hey, I'm actually feeling quite tired this morning.

Well, duh!

On compatibility

I asked The Man what he thought made our marriage successful. We to and fro'd for a while and landed on this: I think we have compatible personalities. We have similar interest (which, may I point out, is not the same as the same interests!). We have slightly different skillsets - there are things he does well and there are things I do well, and in between we get most things done.

And something which is especially important to me: we leave each other a sense of freedom.

We don't set many expectations to each other and rather, strive to let the other person keep their own sense of happiness. I am here because I choose to, he is here because he chooses to. We are free to go, if we choose, or free to stay, if that's what we'd rather do.

That's what I think our "compatibility" is about - that we're both able to be ourselves whilst fitting into each other's lives.

And though small children can put a strain on any relationship, I think, for the work that is involved can sometimes be just... geesh f*ckin' christ, it's also important that we share our kids together and are able to enjoy them together.

Putting together The Box

A peculiar thing has happened.

And I don't even know why now exactly. Several reasons, probably.

One is probably the fact that I've been in a sort of a "let's get it done" mood lately anyway: preparing for a move to Invercargill has meant that I've systematically looked through everything in the house and discarded anything that's not worth taking. I've sold a baby bike seat The Girlie no longer fits in, will sell the backyard climbing frame which, though useful, is not worth dragging along in a moving truck, have tackled the mountain of kids clothes that needed repairing and patching up, and a multitude of other little things.

Me and The Man have organised life insurances for us both, and trauma insurance for The Man (I would've loved to have it for me, too, but having epilepsy meant that my weekly premium payment was so high that it just... wasn't worth it).

I am about to organise a will for both me and The Man, because although we have talked through with our families what should happen in the unlikely event that both me and The Man die at the same time - having it written down is better than not having it written down.

So that's one thing - I've been getting things sorted and that's one of those things that have needed sorting.

But another thing that prompted it is the fact that on Sunday evening me and The Man watched a recorded video of a lecture that explains how a computer simulation of New Zealand's next big Alpine Fault earthquake was done.

And as a result, it reminded me - again - that although me and The Man have for a long time had what's called a "Getaway Kit" ready in the hallway (it is basically a bag of emergency supplies which, if some sort of a natural disaster struck, or a civil emergency of other kind, we could just grab and go - there's food, water, medical supplies, water filter, dishes etc), we weren't actually well prepared for having 3 days worth of supplies.

And it's actually very simple things.

I asked myself, given that I have two kids (one of them still in nappies - but we're working on it), what sort of supplies would I actually need if suddenly Alpine Fault earthquake hit and it took out the power network, damaged pipes and closed the shops - and therefore, I didn't have access to water, electricity or shops - and I realised that I haven't taken into account a whole bunch of things.

Disposable nappies. (Because, duh!, I wouldn't be able to use the cloth nappies.)
Packets (and packets, and packets) of sanitising wipes and baby wipes. (Because, again, duh!, I wouldn't be able to wash things.)
More water. (I had 16 litres, but would probably need 20+ litres.)

I realised that if Alpine Fault earthquake hit and we were still here, we would probably not go anywhere and so, rather than having a "Getaway Kit", I need to put together a bigger and more comprehensive bag of supplies so that even if our pantry was low on supplies - say, I was planning to go shopping but the earthquake came first - then we would still have everything necessary in the house. We would stay put, listen to radio and just try to live on, quietly and patiently, whilst all sorts of emergency teams focused on doing their job.

It's one of the things that gets repeated again and again and again in New Zealand - if the Alpine Fault goes, everyone needs to have at least 3 days worth of supplies.

And so today, I finally took up and started putting together a 3-days-worth-of-supplies box which will now live in the bottom of our hallway wardrobe.

And it actually feels like A Really. Big. Thing.

Practically, it's not a big thing - not in terms of effort it takes to put it together. I had to go to a department store, buy a big plastic box, a box of wipes, more water bottles and other bits, and I had to put the stuff in there.

But it feels like a big thing. A Really. Big. Thing. Actually.

Are you... wait, are you singing... Queen?

Have you ever heard a 5-year-old try singing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody?

"Mamaaaaaaaa!" (in a really high pitch)
"Time awaaaaaaaaaay!" (not really the lyrics, but okay)
"Pudu, pudu, pududuuuuuuu..." (definitely not the lyrics, but still - it's okay)

Just try. Try imagining it. :)

Two kids in a nutshell

If one has it or does it, the other one will want it, too.

Series of talks about jobs and professions

I was listening to an interview with David Galler (great stuff, by the way! I genuinely recommend downloading it and having a listen to what the guy has to say) and it reminded me of something that I've been thinking for a while now.

The things I want to do in Invercargill. And one of those things is:

I want to run a series of "Life as a..." talks in the local high school.

I don't know if it's just me (probably not, but I'm not sure how many of you faced a similar dilemma) but when I graduated from high school, I had a very obscure view of what people of different professions actually did. As in, for work. I had a whole heap of marketing-style information thrown at me by different universities and various organisations that have to do with career consulting and promoting various industries, but... it's only in the last, say, 5-6 years that I've come to feel like I am actually understanding what different careers mean.

As in, what people  in those professions actually do. And what kind of people tend to choose and then thrive in those professions, and what their days and their family situations are like.

For example: it gets repeated in New Zealand a lot that a "retirement industry" (geesh, what a word!) is expanding and will be worth oh-so-many millions in x, y and z years. Basically, there's an ever-increasing number of elderly people in New Zealand and this number will be increasing for another several decades, which is why it gets repeated a lot that New Zealand has a shortage of people who are willing and ready to work with the elderly.

But what do these people actually do? What are their days like? How much they get paid? How did they get trained up for their jobs and what did it cost them, both in terms of time and money?

Construction is booming in Auckland and several other parts of the country, so there are many jobs for labourers, carpenters, scaffolders, painters available.

But what exactly do they do? How does someone become a carpenter, or a scaffolder or whatever? And once they're there, what is their life like?

What's it like working in a bank? What's it like being a dentist? What's it like being a hairdresser? A physiotherapist? A midwife? A policeman? A teacher? A baker? A mechanic? An aircraft engineer?

Partially because I like people, and then partially because I really like talking to people, I've talked to a lot of people over the last... ten or so years. I feel like it's given me a very wide view of what people's lives are like and I feel like I would've really benefited from having that sort of information available to me when I was a late teenager.

Which is why I want to make it a habit of the late-teenagers of Invercargill to have access to that sort of information. I want young people who are in the midst of trying to decide what to study to have access to people who already do those jobs, and for them to be able to ask the questions that are relevant to them.

Because the thing I am very mindful of is that when there's an industry organisation trying to promote certain jobs and professions, the information given out can get very... one-sided.

For example: if someone looks at average incomes of various construction workers in New Zealand, the yearly incomes can look pretty impressive. I mean... really impressive.

But very rarely do I see it pointed out that people in those professions routinely work 9-10 hour days. Working 7:30-17:00, and sometimes even 7:00-17:30 as The Man is doing at the moment, is not just to deal with a temporary increase in workload, but it's the expected norm of people who work in construction in general. Basically, if you become a carpenter, then, yes, you may earn an impressive amount of money in terms of income in general, but it doesn't take into account the fact that it will be partially because you'll always have long work days. A 40-hour week will be almost unheard of. And dropping off your kids at school in the morning will be almost unheard of, same goes for picking them up.

A "retirement industry" is worth whatever-many millions, yes - but it's not because it's lucrative on an employee's personal level, but because there are a lot of people working in it, and the majority of them are very modestly paid. As in, minimum wage, living wage and not very often, average wage. Almost everyone I've met who works with elderly people is continuing the work because of their ethical reasons and not because it offers them a good work-life balance, and definitely not because it pays well.

A midwife is able to have kids on her own, yes, but she will need to live in a community where someone else is ready to take over the care of her kids in, basically, minutes' notice at any time of the week. If there's an emergency, you go, and you need to have a husband or a friend or whatever who can pick your kids up from school or whatever.

If you're a social worker (especially within New Zealand's public system) if you want to work a lot with people you want to help, you need to understand that you actually spend a lot of your time doing paperwork.

If you're a therapist (especially within the public system) your ability to help someone will depend on someone else's decision on how much funding is allocated to that person, ie if you see a 3-year-old who could really benefit from having more speech therapy!, then unless your organisation actually grants you funding to spend more time with that person, you either don't give them as much therapy as you think they need, or you do it from your own time.

If you're a baker, most mornings you start at 4:00. If you're on early shift, 2:30. If you're on late shift, 7:00. Basically, if you love to sleep, don't be a baker. (And even if you become an exceptionally good baker, you're unlikely to make average wage.)

My hairdresser says that to minimise the amount of cut hair she transfers to her home, she has her "haircutting clothes" in the salon and when she is ready to go home, she changes out of them so she doesn't end up with lots of little prickly hairs inside her bras and underwear and t-shirts. But even then - the lining of her handbag, and almost every other fabric-based item in her home will have little bits of hair on it, stuck inside the fibers, and it's just something that "comes with the job".

A young man I met at a petrol station who is about to start working in the US as an engineering designer of electric cars has been studying engineering for 8 years and for the first two will have an all-expenses paid position, but not an actual salary - he gets provided with accommodation, food, a modest allowance for... stuff, but he'll be about 30 by the time he actually starts earning, though from then onwards he's probably going to start earning very well. And, meanwhile, he does an evening shift at a petrol station to help him pay his bills.

Hotels and "tourism industry" in general - oh, geesh, where do I start.

But you know what? I don't need to, because that's exactly what the series of talks I want to organise in Invercargill will be about - meeting people who are willing to tell about their jobs and their lives without an agenda of trying to lure more people in to do the same they are doing. I very passionately believe in the benefit of such a series and also the fact that it'll be doable - that I'll be able to find enough people who believe, like I do, that it would be a great thing to do and would be willing to share their experiences.

Which is another of the reasons I'm really looking forward to the move.

(To be fair, I think if I end up living in Invercargill for more than 5 years, I am probably going to end up involved in the local residents' association, community board and even the council.

Because it's a known "habit" of mine that if I see something I really want done and there isn't someone else already doing it, I find I way of doing it.)

PS. Meanwhile, in my personal life: for the first time ever, I am in a position where the first round of antibiotics have not cleared up my lungs and I am on a second round of slightly different antibiotics to try ease the infection in my chest.

Which reminds me of two things: one, I am getting older. And two, the antibiotic-resistant bugs that are bound to get more plentiful as time goes by... well, in bits and pieces like that they will start manifesting themselves more and more in people's personal lives. Not just as talks on the radio where scientists discuss the situation, but like this, in my own life, where I go to see a doctor after a week of the first round of antibiotics and he listens to my chest and says, nop, left lung is still crackling.

As far as I know, I have never had a chest infection before in my life.

A note to my daughter

Dear daughter, I know you love helping me in the kitchen and I love you for doing it, but... would you please stop putting dirty kitchen towels in the drawer where we keep the clean ones!

And when you use your spoon, it goes in the sink, not back in the drawer with the clean utensils. Forks, too - other people don't like reaching in the drawer to get a clean fork and coming up with pasta sauce instead.

Same for table wipes - if there's yoghurt on them and bits of porridge, I do not want to see them in the drawer alongside clean towels!

Basically: stop shoving dirty stuff in drawers and cupboards full stop.

But you live and you learn. Eventually.


Thank you.

Photos of late

Near my house is a children's playground we frequently visit. We like it - it's not new, some of the equipment is well worn and obviously very well used, but it's very functional. There's slopes, trees, clean surfaces, dirt, swings, picnic tables, a toilet... And besides, angled towards the sun at wintertime the temperatures there are easily several degrees higher than in our backyard a valley over.

The Girlie insists on swinging "like a plane"

Accidentally caught someone else's kids coming down the slide - mine are actually climbing up on the side

A place to play hide and seek

...and a very happy hide-and-seeker in there

Selling sticks-and-stones "ice cream"


Lego. Oh The Kid loves Lego.

Mummy built the houses. The Kid put sharks to live in them.


The Man sneaking photos, well, sneakily. Whilst I'm not well, obviously.

Someone wanted to be a doggy

A little monkey

Remember I told you The Girlie likes doing whatever The Kid is doing?


The Man has applied for two jobs in Invercargill. I have three.

And as much as I don't actually want the hassle of moving - it'll be an expensive process with about $3,500 for the moving company alone - and to go through finding a rental, getting kids into a new preschool, with no-one I personally know in that town and therefore no physical support network to fall back onto... I also know that, one, it will be doable. I have learned from experience that most things in life are doable.

And two, if all goes well, in a year's time I will be living IN MY OWN HOME.

Moving to Invercargill will give us the opportunity to buy our home, for me to finish my quantity surveying studies and for The Man to become a housedad again. And for all that, the hassle of moving is not a hard price to pay.

Which doesn't take away from the fact that I am still somewhat nervous over the potential that by this coming week, The Man may have a firm job offer which would mean that on my end, I would start notifying our landlord, getting all of our medical records and therapies forwarded on to Invercargill, finding a rental house that will allow us to bring our dog along, thinking how we will, physically, move across with two kids (stay over with friends in Twizel? And then another night with other friends in Wanaka?), notifying power companies, internet companies, my employer, The Man's employer, cleaning windows, cleaning carpets, repairing walls where furniture has been anchored for fear of earthquakes, defrosting fridges, packing up tools...

Within a few days, it may start. If that company says yes, we will start.

And I am nervous, but I will nevertheless do it.

I am longing for my own home with the same intensity that I used to long for a child, and just like back then when I didn't know exactly how it was going to work out, I knew that somehow, it was - and now I am feeling the same, that somehow, it'll work out.

Within a year, I may be waking up in my own home to pancakes on Sunday morning. Within two years, I may be spending most of each week in a classroom studying construction law and engineering requirements to council's consenting processes. Within five years, I may be working as such.

If all goes well.

Which means that if, indeed, this week I start notifying people and getting my head around how we will actually do this thing, I will still remind myself of what can be achieved by a strenuous move like that and it will feel like not such a big price to pay.

Because in the end, if all goes well, most things are doable.

Especially if antibiotics start doing their job.

"Oh," she said

"Pneumonia? I can have pneumonia without knowing it?"

I grinned and thought to myself, f*ck, Maria, this is like your mother rubbing sports cream on an ankle that was, in fact, broken. (True story, by the way.)

The doctor listened to my chest and explained that there was enough crackling and wheezing in my lungs that at this point, it was hard to tell. I didn't look like I had pneumonia, but I may - or I may be just on my way in, so either way, I left the medical centre with a prescription for antibiotics, steroids and Ventolin.

Steroids, he explained, may have some side effects.

"What kind?" I asked.

They may make me hyperactive, hungry, happy - maybe even very happy - and make it hard to sleep.

I grinned again.

At least I now know for sure that it's not me being some sort of a wuss with this chest cold, and I didn't waltz into a doctor's office with a cold, demanding antibiotics. Three weeks I've lasted, and now I'm on a week-long course of antibiotics to see if this thing clears.

I'd kinda like it to :P

5-year-old cheekiness

The Kid and The Girlie are playing in The Girlie's room and I hear The Kid shut the door.

I say, "No, please don't shut the door."
The Kid: "But why?"
Me: "Because I want to be able to know what you're doing in there."

I keep on doing my stuff - which is, folding laundry in the bedroom - when I hear The Kid whisper: "Baby... baby! Close the door. Baby, close the door."

Then I hear a door being shut.

I say, "No! I said don't close the door!" and immediately The Kid argues, "Not me! Baby! Baby close the door!"

Me: "Yes, and I heard you talk to her, you cheeky little monster :)"

Both me and The Kid are smiling: I am amused at his cheekiness and he is kind of proud, I think, for figuring out how to listen to mom but still get his way.

And The Girlie, to be honest, doesn't know better either way :P. She just wants to do whatever The Kid is doing.

Snow on the Port Hills

The same winter storm that brought snow to much of the South Island, in Christchurch only lightly dusted the tops of the Port Hills.

Which meant that this morning we, too, went to the Port Hills to experience - and if you ask The Girlie, to eat - snow.

From a lookout above the harbour we could see Gebbies Pass where a house on the hill I used to live in was, tucked away behind Governors Bay.

Yup, there. We used to live there.

In the other direction, Christchurch city lay.

The Girlie spent most of her time toddling at the side of The Man and eating snow.

...and once we got a bit further away from the car, rice crackers.

(Just a little sidenote to people who are planning on taking kids walking and are asking for advice, I say: good clothes and food. FOOD! Food to tempt them keeping on going with, which is basically rice crackers, gummy bears, chocolate and whatever else your kids are willing to keep on going for.)

Overall, a very good outing indeed. I mean, minus the fact that I still cannot talk because of my chest cold and was dosed up on 1 g of Paracetamol and running a low fever whilst doing this, but... nevertheless, a very good outing indeed.

And upon returning home, a good trip out was marked by all of our gear drying in the winter sun on the deck...

...and the kids happily playing in the living room, with no mess, no demands, no fighting, and not even, really, a peep.

Just a good, tired, contented family on a sunny, still as, winter day.

A quiet evening, literally

The Kid could not understand why I was not answering his questions. "Talk, mommy! Talk!" he was insisting, "Talk!"

But I remained silent. The Man tried explaining to The Kid that today, unfortunately, mommy cannot talk, she is too ill for that.

(I have such a chest cold that at this point, I simply cannot talk any more. As soon as I even attempt to sound a word out, I end up in a coughing fit, so I have pretty much given up and communicate with The Man either by pencil and paper, or a computer screen.)

But The Kid was unbelieving of The Man and was looking up at me like I was trying to trick him. "No. Mommy talk the other day! Mommy ill the other day, but mommy talk!" (Translation: no, mommy was ill the other day as well, but that day she still talked!)

I watched their conversation, bemused.

You're not wrong, my son, you're not wrong. Mommy was ill the other day, yes, and she still managed to talk then.

But today is different.


On a related note: I wonder if it's been done like that on purpose, but... imagine standing in front of a shelf in a shop and choosing which cold remedy to buy. Two very similar Paracetamol-based packets stand side to side, identically priced.

One is Lemsip Max...

...and the other one is Lemsip Max with decongestant.

Which one, do you think, has more active ingredients in it?

The correct answer is: the first one. Because both of them have, actually, decongestant in them - but the first one also has an ingredient called guaifenesin which is apparently a drug meant to ease coughing up of mucus.

But looking at the packaging, I wouldn't say that it's obvious, and I'm wondering if it's like that on purpose - to get people to buy the packet which says "with decongestant" although there's actually fewer things in it for the same price.

Not that it really matters, but I'm wondering.

Honest answers

"I don't want to go to preschool..."
"But you will."
"But why?"
"Because mommy wants to have a day off from you two."

In four minutes of cartoon watching

I love the way modern cartoons include in such detail the wonders of the actual world that me and my kids revel in, so although we may be watching a cartoon about dancing penguins, so many more things go through our minds.

In the short four minutes that it took us to watch Happy Feet 2's "Under pressure" segment today...

...I managed to think about Christchurch's Antarctic Centre we visited two weeks ago and the penguins we watched feeding there.

(As we did so, The Kid exclaimed loudly, "Penguins!" For the few days after the Antarctic Centre visit, we watched a lot of penguin-related documentaries on Youtube and talked about what penguins are, and what they do.)

Then, as krill Bill and Will appeared on screen...

...The Kid wanted to know what krill are and we talked about them a bit, too.

When jellyfish appeared The Kid didn't even want to know what they are - he already knew!

"Jellyfish! Jellyfish!" The Kid exclaimed loudly. "Mom, look! Jellyfish!" And I thought, yes, jellyfish - and then remembered a man I met at a sauna this week who catches jellyfish off New Zealand's western coast and grinds it into a paste Asians are very interested in buying. It's thought to have medicinal powers, apparently.

And all the while I reveled in Pink's rendition of Queen's "Under pressure" song.

It's the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming, "Let me out!"

And don't even get me started on the excellence of animation. To watch elephant seals pounding on cliffs of ice whilst underwater krill in their millions are doing their own dancing and then see ice collapse and... man, it's nice to live in the time that I am living.

Nice. Even if it's for the excellence of animation alone.

By the way, talking of ice: at the end of the month there will be an interview on Radio New Zealand with a certain girl from Estonia who used to handle sled dogs in Alaska and Svalbard. I'll link it up once it's aired ;)


A heavy cold has turned into bronchitis. And today, I have run out of patience.

For several days I've waited for this cold to ease, hoping that tomorrow - tomorrow! - it'll be easier. But no. Instead I feel like I have sports cream burning inside my chest and I'm pissed off at this thing, knowing full well that being likely viral bronchitis, there's not a heck of a lot I can do. I just have to wait for it to get better and take paracetamol to ease the pain. Let my immune system do its thing.

Which is why tonight, I am sleeping with Vodka socks on and our bedroom smells like decongestant. Because I don't know how the hell it is supposed to work, but Vodka socks are this weird soviet remedy and tonight I am giving it a go, because... I want it gone. Gone! And I'm even willing to put Vodka socks on, that's how much I want it gone.

I want to breathe without feeling like I have sports cream inside my chest.

Who put it here

With two kids in the house I find the weirdest things in the weirdest places. Yesterday I reached my hand into a pocket of my sweatshirt and found an old, dried-up pea. The day before when I moved a sofa to vacuum behind it, I found several carrots there. A pair of my underwear was inside a pencil case. In my underwear drawer there was a piece of Playdough. Inside a chest where we keep hiking gear was a matchbox car. And don't even get me started on the many times my daughter looks up at me with almost despair, "Where my dolly!?!" and I say, very patiently and calmly, "I don't know. Where did you put it." It's like she thinks I have the magical ability to know things - and I can see why she'd think that, but... still. Dolly is probably where someone has put it, and going by experience, it could be in many different, colorful places.

When we move from this house and start lifting furniture, there is going to be a whole heap of things I am going to find and think, "Uhm... what? Yeah."