When a Finnish methodology comes into a New Zealand school

The school my children attend in Invercargill (The Kid is already there, The Girlie will start in 2019) has just implemented a KiVa anti-bullying programme. It is their first year in, and there will probably be many more years to come.

In a nutshell, KiVa is something that was first developed in Finland a couple of decades ago. Researchers looked into bullying - what it is, how it works, how it affects people, how different interventions work - and rather than just publishing a book about their findings, they developed a whole program on how to create safer, friendlier, more supportive schools.

They created materials for teachers. All staff in participating schools go through training: they learn about bullying, they role-play, they learn about ways of reacting, and supporting. A smaller group of teachers go through additional training which equips them with skills to deal with bullying situations that get "referred on" to them.

Teachers have handbooks. There are variety of games and materials on how to teach concepts and topics to different ages - lessons are "weaved into" the usual schooldays so that kids don't have "special training" on this topic. Rather, they quietly and throughout their schooldays learn in little bits what a safe environment is, how we are part of that. The games The Kid will play with his classmates as part of Kiva will probably be different from games 12-year-olds play. Different from what 16-year-olds would play at high school.

Parents are involved. Tonight we had a parent meeting where the school explained to us what they are doing, how it works, and why they decided to get involved with KiVa. On the KiVa website there are materials for parents.

And of course, children are involved. They discuss various things, play various games, do various exercises, all with the aim of teaching kids what it means to be supportive, what it feels like to feel safe, how to ask for help, how to recognise problems.

It's a bit like this: the school already knows what it wants. It is interested in an environment where kids feel safe, where school is something kids (and teachers!) can look forward to, where interactions with other people lead to constructive days where kids (and teachers!) feel they are in control of their life. Kiva is now giving them tools for doing it. It's a research-based program where, on one hand, the activities are based on research on what works, and what doesn't. And on another hand, it is also a program which has now shown (through research!) that schools that implement KiVa see a gradual decrease in their bullying incidences.

It is not a magic bullet. It does not erase problems in a year, and it's not meant to be done only for a year - our primary school has become part of the program for years to come so that year after year, they will continue carrying the same messages and the methodology and, as a result, the culture will change. The way people do things, will change.

I am so proud of this primary school. So, so proud.

PS. In New Zealand there are now about 16 schools that are part of the KiVa program. Unfortunately, New Zealand school environment is amongst one of the worst in terms of bullying, being only slightly better than the US who is, basically, the real bottom of the pack.

Why primary schools are the best

The Kid attends a wonderful primary school who do, I think, a great job of teaching. The classes are organised in a way the children learn the best. The children are in the centre of the teaching, they are the focus of the teaching - as they should be.

A couple of weeks ago all teachers took part in a training course which lasted about a week. They had long lectures, group work, training sessions - professional development, basically. A couple of days in, I spoke to one of the teachers and she described how hard and tiring such a training schedule was. Whilst the topics were important, the lectures themselves were uninspiring - the way in which those educators were serving their students (in this case, professional teachers) wasn't engaging enough.

That teacher said she was glad she would never run her own classes in such a way.

I agree.

Today as I was sitting in my Measurement & Estimation class, I was thinking how the quality of teaching gradually goes down the higher the education form. Primary schools have these wonderful classrooms with a variety of activities, high schools are more "structured" but still with manageable session lengths and frequent breaks. And then in tertiary level we are now doing these massive, 3-4 hour long sessions, and the quality of some those teachers is just... yeah.

They're not teachers. They may know the industry, but they're not necessarily good at teaching.

And so whilst the fundamental topics and concepts are the simplest at the primary school level, I think the highest quality of teaching is there - in the primary schools.

An... interesting article. And not in a good way.



The longer I am living in New Zealand, the more this place is becoming "home". And I mean apart from the obvious technicalities of already owning a house here and bringing up my kids here.

I am starting to refer to the people as "us", rather than "them". I talk about my trip to Estonia in May as a "visit to see friends and family", because afterwards I will be "coming back home" to Invercargill again. I am even picking up my first expressions in Te Reo Maori which I am starting to use in everyday conversations with everyday people, and actually understand some of the Te Reo expressions used by other people. I said "Morena!" ("Morning!") to my school tutor yesterday, and nodded when a classmate uttered "Ka kite ano," at the end of the class to me, "See you again."

Just for the fun of it I a loudly sing along to the Tokelauan verses of "We know the way", a song from a movie called Moana, although it has nothing to do with New Zealand. I like the sound of it.

Polynesian identity is slowly weaving itself into the fabric of my everyday life.

I am slowly becoming versed in the local government issues and speak up when I have an opinion to share. The council have already changed a layout of an intersection in front of The Girlie's preschool because I wrote them a letter explaining why the previous one was dangerous. I go to public meetings and keep an eye out on council announcements. I vote. Our family will probably be, to a small degree, involved with the Colombian refugees who will soon start arriving to Invercargill. In the future, especially as our kids become more independent, I foresee our involvement widening even more.

This morning I listened with glee as Radio New Zealand described the soaring Te Reo Maori study uptakes across New Zealand. People seem to be inspired by the widening use of Te Reo in media and want to understand more - the number of people taking up study has never been higher. It makes me happy for the Polynesian settlers of this land as their identity, I feel, has for a long time been subdued under the European influences of the British settlers here. New settlers continue arriving - half of my classmates are Chinese.

The game of "tunnel" isn't as fun when plaster-casts are involved

Speaking out

I am watching on Twitter the tidal wave of movement against the NRA. It's not even the NRA - it's America's gun culture in general. Many of the people speaking out are not even 18 yet, but they are amounting to such pressure that it really does feel like something will change in the US after this one.

Piece by piece the people who are speaking up on Twitter are dismantling the claims made by NRA and people the likes of Trump.

It's, on one hand, sad watching them having to do it. They are not the ones who created this gun culture, but for some reason they are the ones having to stand up to old, mostly white rich men and argue. Argue, argue, argue.

On the other hand, I am proud of them. Proud and hopeful for the future ahead.


Kind of like I said to the programme manager Russell in our meeting last week: seeing Russell and Tim (our new quantity surveying tutor from Ireland) land jobs in our department has made me very hopeful for the future of our department. I am finally seeing two people who I think are committed to doing a good job. Between them, I hope they will lift the management/tutoring quality to a level where we can make sure that no student goes through the bullsh*t our class did last year. Seeing that brightness ahead, it doesn't alleviate the stink of problems that wafted through the department last year, but at least there probably won't be replay-of-2017 happening in the future.


I also made a point of speaking out myself last week.

When a couple of my classmates made uninformed statements about climate change the week before ("The Paris agreement is a joke! A joke! Even scientists don't agree that it's happening! It's a natural thing Earth does, it cools and warms. It's all just a way to put more taxes on the everyday people." etc), I went home and thought about it. After a couple of days of thinking, I e-mailed our teacher and asked if I could make a presentation about sustainable design and development in the next class. He said yes, sure.

So this week I made the presentation. I'm not going to cover all of it on the blog here, but in broad terms it was a 15-minute talk about the definition of sustainability and what sustainability really means in terms of global development.

Because in our own curriculum sustainability is defined as "the ability to complete building works using a minimum of the earth’s resources, and having minimal negative effect on the environment", but I don't really agree with that definition. Someone could build a sprawling mansion and use the least amount of materials possible for that mansion (minimise waste, recycle anything that can be etc) but does that make it sustainable? No.

Instead, I talked about planetary boundaries and the decades-old definition of sustainability from United Nations Brundtland Report (1987): "Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

Then one by one disputed arguments that are often made "when people talk about climate change" though, really, it was just arguments that my own classmates made a week before that I really wanted turned over.

1. When there’s a discussion about climate change, one of the things that often gets mentioned is that “earth has always had these cycles, it’s a natural thing it does. It cools and it warms and cools again.” 

Yes, but what they fail to say is that human society as we know it today has never been through any of those cycles. Humans have never experienced temperature like where the Earth is headed at the moment. If we went to over 2 degrees warming, Earth hasn’t been in that kind of temperature for 4-5 million years. At over 3 degrees it's not even known if the Earth can sustain a freshwater system, let alone a food system, so the planet will most certainly survive that - but humans, possibly, won't.

Since ice age retreated about 12,000 years ago the Earth has been in an exceptionally (!) stable climate averaging only about +/- 1 degree in that whole time. Society as we know it today has ONLY developed in those last 12,000 years. The oldest societies the likes of Mesopotamia, Egypt etc only go back to about 6,000 years whilst modern humans have been around for about 100,000 years. Ever wondered why societies didn't start developing until the ice age ended and the land became more habitable?

Up until that point humans were hunter-gatherers. In little pockets of tribes scattered over the landscape, they scavenged for food and, basically, spent most of the time just tending to their immediate needs: gathering berries, hunting animals, maintaining shelters. It's not until the ice age ended and the world went into the era we now call the Holocene, that agriculture started, trading started, modern societies started.

2. Another thing that often gets mentioned is that earth has had massive releases of carbon (kind of like we’re doing now with fossil fuels) before and it’s had nothing to do with humans. About 250 millions years ago there was a massive release of carbon in the atmosphere and, “look, the earth survived.”

Yes, the planet did survive that massive carbon release, but it biology that era is also known as “The Great Dying”. 90% of the marine and terrestrial species, from snails and small crustaceans to early forms of lizards and amphibians, died. 

Besides, by some estimates the rate at which carbon was released 250 million years ago - ie "The Great Dying" - was even smaller than what we are doing today with fossil fuels. And then there's the fact that whilst it's interesting to find out why exactly that massive carbon release happened, the earth was different then: different continental composition, different atmosphere, there wasn't even a stratosphere to speak of. The mechanism by which the environment was functioning was vastly different to how it is today, and so trying to compare the two is a bit like comparing apples and pears - they're not the same thing.

Seven perpendicular lines

It might be only a comedy sketch but... darn if it's not also realistic as.

This is such a good book!

Photos we've taken lately

My little superman, both legs in a colorful cast, wearing spiderman pyjamas and a reversible superman/batman cape. Before-bed antics, basically ;)

She loves when daddy takes her to preschool
Someone had an appointment with an optometrist and for two hours afterwards looked like a vampire
Invercargill has a massive (!) transport museum where there is plenty for kids to do

Have I posted this already? Can't remember. It's when my kids had a movie night in a tent ;)

US president is an idiot

I was yelling at my car radio today. Sitting alone in the car, driving along, I was yelling at the radio!


Because as part of a news story, Radio New Zealand were playing sound recordings of speeches made by Donald Trump and NRA vice president Wayne LaPierre yesterday.

Idiots. I mean - seriously. Both, f*ckin' insane!

Trump was saying that putting security personnel in schools would be a bad idea because it would make schools look unsafe and it would be too expensive. Instead, teachers should be armed because it would be cheaper and better. That if 20%, maybe even 40% of teachers were carrying guns, the schools would be safer places.

LaPierre was supporting Trump's agenda and saying that people should lean in and trust him when he says, the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.

I listened to them, drove along a quiet residential street in central Invercargill and just yelled. "Are you f*ckin' serious!? You are insane! You are f*ckin' insane!"

Speaking Russian again

We have new friends in Invercargill. A couple our age, they are originally from Uzbekistan - from near the capital city there, Tashkent.

Like me, they grew up with Russian spoken in their households. In fact, they still talk Russian among themselves and to their children. Their children, though, now prefer conversing in English instead and, apparently, only revert to Russian when they are having a fight. It's easy to tell, their mother says, when a fight starts because as soon as tempers are running high, Russian words start sounding across the house. When everyone's happy, it's English.

They've also, like me, lived in a variety of countries before settling in New Zealand: in Israel (where they met having travelled there independently from Uzbekistan), in USA, then in Christchurch before finally moving to Invercargill down South.

I've spent quite a lot of time talking to the mother this week. To her it's easier to talk in Russian rather than English, so our conversations are a mixture of the two: I attempt my rusty Russian and when stuck, revert to English. She talks in Russian and when I don't understand an expression, explains to me in English what she means. My son and daughter, meanwhile, grin and ask why we are "talking so funny".

It's... hard and wonderful at the same time. I have spoken very little Russian since I moved out after high school, but apparently I can still hold a decent conversation and to them, I don't even sound like a have an accent. (Which I know is false because as soon as I attempted speaking Russian in Estonia in 2010, people were saying that I had an accent. Eight years on, I can only assume that it's grown even stronger.)

And it's hard because in the minutes immediately after speaking Russian, I find myself stuck between trying to understand what language I am "thinking in" and then trying to figure out what language I should talk to the person in front of me. Buckling The Girlie into her car seat, I kind of go "Eh, uhm, oh..." because I can't figure out fast enough how to say "We are going to the library now," and whether I should speak English to her at all.

Neurologically, it's probably a good exercise. But it's so weird to sit in a kitchen in a house in Invercargill, and talk Russian.

Welcome back to Southland!

The weather has turned again. It's much more Invercargill-ish yet again :)

Days are warm, around 20 degrees, and every couple of days brief rain comes through. The ground is moist, the rainwater tank replenished and the grass has started growing again. My God, how the grass has started growing again! I mowed the lawn 3 days ago and already it's starting to look like it may need another cut very soon again.

Hills no longer look burned-off yellow. Pastures are turning green, roadsides are turning green and Otepuni river near downtown Invercargill is actually flowing again, rather than looking like a stale band of overgrown water.

It's nice seeing my surroundings flourish again.

Deciding to back off

A couple of weeks ago I bought a used camera on Trademe. It's kind of like New Zealand ebay.com - a website where people can trade with each other.

When the camera arrived by mail, it turned out to be faulty. The menus were constantly resetting - it was as if the camera was "thinking" that someone was pushing various buttons, when in fact no-one was touching it. When I e-mailed the seller she promptly apologised and promised to refund, but never did. I contacted her again, she promised to refund but never did. When I contacted the website letting them know of this incident, the seller got angry and posted a not-very-nice message - in a nutshell - on my profile. I felt bothered by the whole experience.

Eventually, I decided to back off. It just came to a point where I thought, I don't want to spend any more time or effort on this argument. My life was not bettered by it.

This morning as I was driving The Kid to school, I came to the same decision about my school and the mess I described in the previous article. I am going to back off.

What has happened is not fair. I am going to spend an extra year in school, costing both time and money. There is a good chance some of the study I did last year is not going to be accepted as part of the new curriculum, so I lost time and money last year, too. I may even be losing money now because until SIT confirms my enrolment I do not qualify for government support for childcare. (Whether that government department will back-date childcare support, I don't know - the lady in their office said today that it's the main office's decision to make, and she can't say for sure either way.)

But as I was driving The Kid to school this morning and crying at the wheel of my car over the unfairness of it (I think the technical term is bullsh*t), I thought, I do not want this kind of life. I don't want to be quiet in the kitchen whilst packing lunchboxes and saying to my son, "Please leave me alone, I'm not feeling good today." I don't want the ignorance and stupidity of the office managers in my school's department cause my life to look like that.

So I am going to back off. It may not be fair, but I am not going to keep crying at the wheel of the car in the morning because there are things more important than that in my life, and they are worth protecting instead.


The beginning of this year is tough. I feel trampled over and overwhelmed. In an arrogant way I'd like to say that I also lack the social skills to deal with people who are either stupid or not doing their jobs well, but that would do injustice to everyone involved. Nevertheless, the fact that my school department have yet again done... I mean, it's diabolical. What they've done is diabolical. How one after another after another I am uncovering what looks like an absolutely disorganised and incompetent system behind the colorful slogans of quality education, it's beyond me. How can someone run a tertiary education department and get away with stuff like that???

On a good note, there is change coming this year. I have a new tutor who is absolutely FANTASTIC. Spectacular! I love pretty much everything about him so far. There is also a new programme manager who I hope has the interest in actually doing a good job.

The problem though, I am still at the receiving end of the problems. The new programme manager looked into government paperwork yesterday and found out that the curriculum I am on is only allowed to graduate up to 31 March 2019.

My expected graduation is November 2019.

Meaning, I was allowed to go part-time onto a curriculum which is not actually allowed to be completed in the timeframe they've let me on. Two weeks into my second school year I have to change curriculums and timetables, and to say that I am angry at them is a pretty accurate way of putting it.

I left his office yesterday afternoon, dropped my bag on the floor and just cried in the hallway. I then composed myself and went into my environment class. When a couple of boys started throwing around opinions about climate change not being a real thing ("The Paris agreement is a joke! A joke! Even scientists don't agree that it's happening! It's a natural thing Earth does, it cools and warms. It's all just a way to put more taxes on the everyday people." etc) I got angry enough that I stood up and asked them to back their opinions with facts and references.

In hindsight, bad idea. What I should've done instead is present my own understanding on this topic in a calm way and just left them to it. Wound up and traumatised, I lashed out instead. Now I am about to start crying at the idea of having to pick up the f*ckin' paperwork again to figure out what classes I need to take at what times, re-arrange childcare, re-arrange government support hours.

I am SO GLAD we have that new tutor. I am SO HOPEFUL over the arrival of a new programme manager who, I hope, will make sure that no other student will have to go through the administrative trouble I've gone through.

But nevertheless, I am sitting here with a wobbly jaw, eyes welled up with tears and thinking, why.  Why do I have to do this? Why do I have to spend evening upon evening dealing with this stuff!?!

49 random things about me


37. I have never seen neither Star Wars nor Star Trek.

38. I am in awe of Meryl Streep.

39. I love movies with strong dialogue. The top 10 favorite dialogues are in:
* The Man from Earth,
* Intouchables,
* It's Kind of a Funny Story,
* Enough Said,
* Prime,
* Up in the Air,
* 500 Days of Summer,
* The Departed,
* Mary and Max,
* Love and Other Drugs

40. I drink about 3.5 litres of water each day.

41. I've tried a cigarette twice, both around the time I was 13. Both times I took a puff and thought, disgusting! I've never tried since and now tend to avoid places where people smoke because of how off-putting I find the smell.

42. I can parallel park. A driving instructor who trained me in Estonia taught me an easy way of doing it and, ten years later, I still use his method and get my car parked.

43. I do not want to be buried. Instead, I want my organs donated (if any of them are viable for donating) and the rest, burned. The ashes can then be scattered at a place of significance, but if anyone wants to earn special brownie-points, they can scatter the ashes at Mount Saint Elias in Alaska.

44. I support an opt-out system for organ donating, rather than opt-in. At the moment, when someone dies, the doctors need to get a permission for organs to be used; people need to go through the effort of saying "Yes!". I think it should be the other way around: people should need to put in an effort to say "No!" because organ donating should be the norm, rather than not-donating being the norm.

45. I have life insurance, but I don't have insurance against serious disability.

46. If The Man and I were building a house, we would probably consider a strawbale structure, or maybe rammed earth. Depended on climatic conditions of where we were building.

47. I play lotto only when the prize draw gets to a must-be-won $40 million mark. On other occasions playing lotto is a waste of money, but very occasionally (once every couple of years) when the jackpot hasn't been won for a long time and reaches $40 million (a must-be-won scenario, ie the ticket closest to winning gets it all), I play because, mathematically, the likelihood of winning gets down to about 1 in however-many-people-purchased-tickets and for $9 I think it's a gamble I can make, for the fun of it. Otherwise no, I don't gamble.

48. My favorite movie of all time is The Man from Earth.

49. I tend to take short showers: less than 2 minutes.

The word that gets everyone's attention

A friend of ours has an infection under the root of his tooth and is taking antibiotics for it. As a side effect - and please don't ask me why or how because I am not a doctor - the skin around his penis has started flaking off.

He went to the pharmacy to get cream for it. "Can I have penile cream, please."

"What cream?" the assistant pharmacist at the desk asked.
The pharmacist looked at him. "What did you do to your penis!?"

Another pharmacist at the back of the store overheard the conversation: "Sorry, what cream did you want?"
"What did you do to your penis!?"

The friend stood there, aware that by that point, everyone in the pharmacy was looking up at them, ears curiously pointed.

He loves re-telling this story though. I think he takes some masculine pleasure in knowing that everyone in that pharmacy was interested in his manly appendage ;)

What low iron feels like

You know that feeling when you have a heavy cold - sinuses blocked, throat sore, mucus everywhere - and it almost becomes a struggle to breathe, like you're not getting enough oxygen because of all that gunk in your airways? Well, this is what low iron feels like, except there is no cold - airways are entirely clear, it should be easy to breathe, but it isn't. A constant feeling of not having enough oxygen. Chest hurts.

You know the sort of a headache when you know you're dehydrated? A banging, swollen kind of a headache where the brain is saying, my god, please just get some water! That's how low iron feels, except there's been lots of drinking. Water just doesn't help, the head hurts anyway.

You know the feeling of "hitting the wall" after remarkable exercise? When it feels like the body just cannot go any further? Heart racing? Limbs tingling? That's how low iron feels, except the "hitting the wall" comes after just one length in the swimming pool. 20 seconds of swimming and I climb out because I feel like I'm about to pass out otherwise.

You know the feeling of burning muscles after a good day on the mountain? Laying in bed and the legs are buzzing, letting you know that in two days time there is going to be lactic acid soreness? This is what low iron feels like, except there hasn't been a mountain to climb, only a usual day at work, maybe 10k steps taken during the day. The legs are just buzzing, lactic acid is building.

It's oxygen. Blood just cannot deliver enough oxygen when there isn't enough iron, leading to lactic acid soreness, inability to exercise and struggle to breathe.

How I got to the point of almost depleting the iron stores in my body (ferritin), I don't know, but I'm due for months of prescription-strength iron supplements to bring the stores back up again. It's probably systemic (low thyroid makes it hard for iron to absorb, and low iron makes it hard for thyroid hormones to be converted, leading to a vicious cycle of downward spiral) but I'm glad the neurologist ordered a blood test to check for it.

I'm just not glad that no-one then bothered to call me up to say that. The blood test was done in November and it wasn't until February when I asked my GP for test results that we looked at the numbers and thought, bloody hell, Maria, are you a vegan or something?

No, I'm not a vegan. I eat a varied diet and actually supplement with over-the-counter iron pills occasionally, just in case, but even that was not enough, apparently. For the next 6 months it's 200 mg ferrous fumarate and keeping a closer eye on my thyroid numbers to get me out of that hole again.

I'm also looking forward to not feeling like I'm about to pass out.

A great day in Catlins

In Catlins again!

McLean waterfall walk.

Tautuku estuary boardwalk.

And of course, the blackberries, blackberries, blackberries. There were so many blackberries!

That isn't my pillow

I have a very effective way of finding out what pillowcases The Girlie likes. I will change the bedsheets on my bed, but if she likes the pillowcase then she'll promptly swap the pillows - take mine to her bed and bring her pillow on my bed instead. I'll be, like, okay, so this is another one she likes.

The Man will from now onwards refer to himself as African

The Man was reading an article about Macedonia FYR vs Greece Macedonia on BBC this morning (www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-42963058) and we got talking. He was quite put off by the whole situation. I described to him how, in 2004, I attended the European Youth Parliament in Durham, UK, and in our team we had a young girl from FYR Macedonia and another one from Greece. The Greek didn't even want to talk to the Macedonian! During the introduction round ("Hi, my name is Maria and I am from Estonia...") the Greek girl made a speech about Macedonians not having the right to call themselves Macedonians. For the rest of the session the Macedonian girl, basically, attempted to refer to her home as FYROM instead because every time she called it "Macedonia" the Greek would roll her eyes and get grumpy at her.

I found it quite... sad and comical at the same time. Sadly comical. At one point the FYR Macedonian girl actually ended up crying over describing the joy of being able to live in a country independent of the Yugoslavian system but now in a feud with Greeks instead.

The Man talked about an ancient skeleton unearthed near where he used to live in Bishop's Stortford in UK. According to DNA analysis and post-mortem the man was determined to be fairly dark-skinned and had blue eyes, with dark curly hair. His mitochondrial DNA was shared by most of the European population and, originally, we all really are from Africa anyway.

The Man described his frustration with the geopolitics of borders, national identities and the ensuing fight over natural resources. The lines drawn between countries are often very trivial and lines between ethnicities even more trivial at times. Yet, the fights that follow are often not trivial at all!, resulting in conflicts that are regularly leading to people's deaths.

And that's where The Man made that statement. From now onwards, he said, when asked about his ethnicity in various statistical and government questionnaires, he is going to tick a box saying "African" because, in the end, that's where we're all from anyway and he's tired of following the trivial lines drawn between various ethnicities, even if those lines are for statistical purposes only.

I usually tick "New Zealand European" at the moment.

How me and The Man talk

It was such a typical conversation between me and The Man. We started by talking about genetics affecting autoimmunity, went on to discuss best ways to describe how we process information differently and ended up with arguing over the expression "Haven't been in the dugout" and whether it refers to American baseball or trenches in the war. I was at the computer scrolling through a Wikipedia page that had a glossary of idioms derived from baseball and... yeah. Likeminded characters, I think, is what we are.

What do you think? Where is the expression "Haven't been in the dugout" from? :)


I am looking at my calendar for this year and I think I am going to die.

Okay, it's obviously an exaggeration but... that's what it feels like at the moment. School, childcare, medical appointments, therapy, work - it does feel like somewhere in the middle of it all, I am going to die this year. Oh, yes, plus I am going to miss a month of study due to the European trip. Awesome timing, isn't it.

It is going to be the hardest year of school. If I pass all my classes, I will be 74% into fulfilling my curriculum and then next year will be just a "finish-it-all" and start looking for real work so this madness of organisation that is my life at the moment can finally come to an end.

Children are hard work. I mean, even just children on their own are hard work, but when adding work and study into the mix and, on occasion, medical stuff - it becomes real, REAL HARD WORK. That we are trying to organise our life in a way that is the gentlest on our children means me and The Man are taking the brunt of this life-juggling-assault and the fact that most evenings we feel like collapsing in bed is not a coincidence.

But we get through. We get stuff done. Eventually, this will all be over. Two more years and I'll be done with study. This year will be the hardest - just get through this year and after that, it will get easier.

But still, as I look at my calendar I breathe in and feel like I am going to die.

Went even higher today

The art of Polynesian tattoos and... butts

As the kids are watching Moana, I google the history of Polynesian tattoos. Find a very interesting article, here! (thediplomat.com/2016/11/sacred-ink-tattoos-of-polynesia)

A couple of excerpts:

"As a rite of passage, men were expected to undergo up to three or four months of inking."

"Then came the healing process. The man’s wounds were washed in saltwater and his body was massaged for months to keep infection and impurities at bay. Even everyday tasks could trigger searing pain. But within half a year, the designs would begin to emerge on the skin, and within a year he would be fully healed."

"The ordeal was so severe that death by infection was a legitimate concern."

"It is indicative that the English word “tattoo” comes from the Polynesian word tatau, used from Tonga to Tahiti, which the British explorer James Cook brought back to England following his journey to Polynesia in 1771."

"Captain Cook also introduced the word “taboo” to the English language, upon returning from Tonga where he heard it being used (as “tapu”) to describe all manner of things forbidden."

Looking at the photos of tattooed men's butt cheeks next to the article, I then started googling, how does someone get a tattoo in their butt crack?

Well... I found the answer, but I am not going to post the photo here because 1) it's not mine and 2) it's probably not very appropriate, but if you also want to see a photo of how someone gets a tattoo in their butt crack, go to https://i.ytimg.com/vi/BcMKstSRLCM/hqdefault.jpg

It's pretty... impressive.

Also, I'm glad I'm not a man living in Polynesia in the 16th century.

Can New Zealand become the digital Estonia of the South Pacific

The Man is chuckling to himself on the sofa, iPad in his hands. "What'cha reading?" I ask him.

This, he says:

Can New Zealand become the digital Estonia of the South Pacific

And he's chuckling to himself over these comments to the article:

""Estonia has a 'once only' policy, meaning that no piece of citizen information should be given to government more than once."
NZ Govt departments cannot even manage this within their own departments.
We are frequently asked to submit information that they already have."

"With the current government we'll more likely end up being the Romania of the south pacific."

What to pack on an overseas travel with kids?

I look forward to the time when going on a plane will once again involve a backpack. It's an old photo (2006), but basically, this:

Because at the moment... I feel I can't. As I'm preparing for our trip to Europe I feel there's no point in bringing a large backpack for all my belongings because 1) it's hard to get stuff out of it and 2) the kind of travel I'll be doing with little ones, I am not going to wear my backpack. We are going to do short day trips at most, and rest of the time we will be staying home with family, so suitcase is the way forward and for little daytrips we'll just have our little backpacks (that we take on the plane carry-on).

Our suitcase is similar to Kathmandu's 'Super Tanker Trolley'. It's kind of like a mix between a suitcase and a sports bag.

And the carry-on... Well, it's our usual school backpacks, except THERE'S A LOT OF STUFF IN THEM. Like, a lot of stuff!


Maria’s backpack

* Paperwork folder: passports, travel itineraries, insurance information, contact numbers, packing list, Estonian ID-s
* Wallet
* Phone, charger, travel power unit
* Camera
* Notepad & pens
* Sunglasses
* Watch
* Wrap-scarf
* Epilepsy wrist-tags
* Hygiene pouch: toothbrush & toothpaste, The Kid's toothbrush & toothpaste, hairbrush, deodorant, lip balm, shampoo, razor, nail clippers, tweezers, travel towel
* Medicine pouch: thyroxine, progesterone, paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters, The Kid's paracetamol & ibuprofen, mooncup, period pads
* Water bottle
* Maria clothes change: undies, socks, t-shirt, warm socks
* The Kid's take-off / landing food: lollipops, mints, muesli bars
* Plastic spoon
* The Kid's headphones
* Wet wipes, paper tissues

The Kid's backpack

* Water bottle
* Cow cuddly-toy
* Sunglasses
* Drawing paper, colouring sheets, markers, masking tape
* Clothes change (2 undies, 2 pants, 2 socks, t-shirt, jumper, hat, warm socks, inside shoes)


* Maria's clothes in packing cells:
       undies x 5
       socks x 5
       bra x 2
       long pants: jeans & slacks
       short-sleeve t-shirt x 2
       long-sleeve t-shirt x 2
       rain jacket
       hats: warm & cap
       shoes: trainers & flip-flops
* The Kid's clothes in packing cells:
       undies x 5
       socks x 5
       long pants x 2
       shorts x 3
       short-sleeve t-shirts x 2
       long-sleeve t-shirts x 2
       jumper x 2
       rain jacket
       hats: warm & sunhat
       shoes: trainers, gumboots & flip-flops
* swimming gear Maria & The Kid: goggles, swim clothes
* camera equipment: charger, card reader, USB stick

Learning about electronics

It's called a BrainBox electronic kit.

Sleeping up top

The Girlie has officially graduated to sleeping in the top bunk bed, above The Kid.

I didn't choose this timing - as many of you who are familiar with The Girlie's antics, may already suspect ;). There didn't seem to be a way to keep her out of there though, so eventually I thought, "Yeah, okay, why not."

Initially I had the bunk bed ladder stored away under the bed. She found it and started setting it up regularly, so I moved the ladder into the storage room. She found a way to get into the storage room to bring it out (and set it up again) so I started storing the ladder in a way that she couldn't reach it, behind the bikes and tools. She promptly started climbing into the top bunk even without a ladder. She would clamber on the bunk framing, using the wall and the curtains for support, and at that point I thought, "Okay, fine, you win." I set up the ladder, the side framing, even gave her a pillow. (In the cot she never had a pillow.)

It's been three nights now and I have to admit, it works. She's so excited with the prospect that in the evening as soon as she's brushed her teeth, she's off to bed - doesn't even want a bedtime story, nothing. Just bed! In the morning she no longer wakes before 6. And even after she's awake, she continues just laying there, coming out of her bedroom after everyone else is already dressed and maybe even had their breakfast.

The next project is convincing my children that the bunk is for sleeping only, one child at a time, and shouldn't be used for playing, but that's a regular part of parenting as far as I'm aware - one challenge replaced by another one, onwards or upwards or however the saying goes.

This child... Wonderfully smart and hairsplittingly stubborn at the same, making parents both sigh in awe and cringe in frustration, sometimes within minutes of the previous emotion.

I haven't got a photo of it, but yesterday I came in the living room to find her sitting on the sofa, a whole stick of salami in her hands and munching on it happily. Kind of like this, but without the glasses and picture a salami instead of the carrot:

"No, what are you doing!?" I exclaimed and she looks at me, "I wanted salami!" And then she smiles.

Jesus, how many times we've had this situation where I look at her and go, "What are you doing!?" and she looks back at me and smiles cheekily, knowing that she's been up to trouble but also knowing that because this situation hasn't been talked through before, technically she cannot be told off for it. Kind of like the salami eating incident - mommy never said that we don't eat salami by the stick so... how would The Girlie know? ;)

The little cheeky monster.