Things I learn and think about

When my daughter is tired, lifting her from our bed into her own bed in the evening is like carrying spaghetti: very floppy, very heavy spaghetti.

Not beach weather

I may be on the beach, and it may be sunny, but this is so totally not beach weather.





On the sense of loss of control

For me, one the main challenges that has come with the onset of parenthood, is a profound sense of loss of control.

Sometimes, it is the most mundane things: going to bed by 10 pm and expecting to be able to sleep until 6 am, but instead being woken up by 4:30. Expecting kids to be in bed - and asleep - by 7 pm so some work can be done afterwards, but instead finding myself arguing with a 5-year-old at 8:30 pm over whether it's safe to bring plastic beads to bed, and not getting any work done at all. Expecting that a drive will take 1.5 hours, but instead it takes 2.5.

Thinking that a meal will be eaten by everyone, but instead a major fuss is put up by the youngest members of the household. Expecting that, surely, if we start heading out the door at 8:20 am, we'll at least (!) be out the door by 8:30 am, but we're not. Some of the simplest things, which pre-kids I would not have given a second thought, become major projects. Things I expect to have some control over, turns out, I don't.

It's not unlike what I've seen people who've been struck down by illness or disability, describe their journey to adjusting. I understand, by the way, that it may sound very insulting that I compare becoming a parent to, say, having a leg chopped off in an industrial accident.

But there are some genuine parallels. It's the realisation that something which, pre-change, seemed easy and straightforward - like a 5-centimetre door threshold which, once a wheelchair is involved, becomes very difficult to cross, whilst on foot it often doesn't even register it's there.

Photos of late

Have you heard a term "trophy wife"? I think it's when someone has a wife they get to brag about.

Well, I have a "trophy husband", because I brag about the cool stuff my husband makes.


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Our office dog Tui.



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Home dog.


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A cicada I found in the back yard. According to a rather knowledgeable friend, it's a yet un-named species.

"It's a cicada belonging to the genus Kikihia. From what I can find out its probably a member of one of several yet-unnamed local species, and most likely the one being tentatively referred to as Kikihia 'murihikua' (which is not yet a formally validated name, but is just what the researchers are intending to call it), which ranges from Stewart Island to Mt Cook, mainly in shrublands and grasslands including gardens."

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A cake that was made for our family for helping someone.

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You guys should be grateful I am not an engineer who designs actual railway junctions. Because if I were... Geesh.

Sharing = at least two

Last year, I joined the New Zealand Greens. As in, I became an actual member of a political party, for the first time ever.

Mostly, I wanted to see how the organisation worked, and how its policy was made. I'd been seeing it from the outside for a while, and was already a Greens voter, but I wanted to see what it looked like from the "inside", so I paid the $30 membership fee, filled a form, stuck a little sticker on our mailbox and... sat back to watch.

And whilst it feels weird to say it... I like them from the inside even more than I did from the outside.

The most important discovery for me was, every single position in the party is filled by two people. From the bottom up (rural groups) all the way to the top levels (party leadership), every position is filled by two co-conveners. Male and female. Old and young. Pakeha and Pasifika. Straight and gay. Each position is filled with two different people to bring in diversity, to reduce power of single voice and to almost... "force" people to make decisions together. Always having to share and cooperate.

I was, like, holy heck.

It may not look like much, but it is so fundamentally... ideology of sharing. Understanding that it's a shared planet, shared environment, shared space, shared food, shared resource, shared... everything. That no matter the decision, it will always have an impact on at least something/someone else outside of the decision-maker, so the fact that the Greens have woven this so deeply into their organisational structure, I was kind of blown away by it, to be honest

Kids are insane

Since starting school two weeks ago, kids have been complaining that they don't get enough time to play in the mornings.

So do you know what they did today? THEY GOT UP BEFORE 4 AM.

I kid you not. I woke up at what I'd sensibly call "in the middle of the night", hearing noises that sounded very much like Duplo being played with, but I thought, surely not. So I went back to sleep.

Then at 4:30 am I woke up again and it was definitely the sound of Duplo being played with. I walked in the living room, looked at my kids - both on the floor of the living room, Duplo everywhere - I looked at the clock (4:31 am) and then I... went back in bed.

As I climbed into bed, I said to my husband, "Your kids are insane." He replied with, "Yes, I know, but why do you say it now?" - "Because they've been up since before 4 am playing with Duplo in the living room." - "Oh dear gods..." my husband replied.

Whilst I don't know for sure who the instigator of such a project was, I can make a rather "well educated" guess going by experience and past observations.

Also, it's going to be an "awesome" evening when kids will have been up for over 12 hours. Can't wait.

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My son has been saving up his pocket money so he can buy a Lego set. On Saturday we finally ordered it on Internet.

My son asked me, "Mom, when will it arrive?" - "In about a week, I think," I replied.

The next morning I discovered that someone had crossed out a whole week's worth of days on the calendar in the kitchen. At first I was puzzled. Who would do this? And, most importantly, why? It was my husband who figured it out. He looked at my son with a cheeky grin: "Did you cross out the days on the calendar?" My son looked all sheepish.

Then my husband started laughing. "You do know that the Lego is not gonna come here sooner if you cross out days on the calendar!"

Then I started laughing, too.

Painful toes when rockclimbing - advice needed

Guys, I need some advice. I know some of you do rock climbing - can you help me with something here, please?

My big toe has started hurting a lot when climbing. I've tried finding a solution, but so far I haven't had any luck. Given that I only have about 4 more ideas left (1. buy bigger shoes, 2. see a doctor, 3. suck it up or 4. give up putting weight on my toe), I am wondering if any of you can offer some advice or at least a viable explanation on what the hell is happening to my toe.

So: I have started climbing again after a 10+ year break (!). I am wearing the same shoes I did in 2008: La Sportiva Mythos. I have always thought they are too narrow for me in the toes: I have wide toes, so most women's shoes (not just climbing shoes, but shoes in general) are too narrow for me in the toes. However, I don't remember having problems in 2008.

Now, however...

The first time I put them on in December, I thought, wtf!? They, literally, felt like 2 sizes too small - almost too small to put on. It then occurred to me that my feet were probably swollen pre-period. I tried them on again a couple of days later: they fit a bit better. I then wore them into a hot shower and walked around the house for 30 minutes to stretch them out further, and they became reasonably comfortable.

On my first "full" climbing session I was up and down the wall for 1.5 hours. No pain anywhere. (Plus, I always took my shoes off when I was belaying someone else, so my feet could rest.)

Next climbing session (5 days later) I put the shoes on - felt good. Started climbing - still felt good. But then I put my weight on my big toe... Holy crap! It was a nerve-like pain shooting up my leg. I came down and took my shoes off to investigate. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, the toe had full flexibility, it didn't feel painful to touch. 

I climbed again. Same thing: ouch! The toe is fine when it takes body weight on the sole, but as soon as I get up on "tippy toes", en pointe, like a ballerina, pain shoots through my toe up into my leg.

I climbed down and investigated again. Maybe I've left a corner of toenail unclipped and it's "digging" into a toe? I clipped my toenails when I got back home. Then tried climbing again: same thing, sharp pain up the leg when putting weight on a toe head-on, into the tip.

I now have this thing where my toe gets "pins and needles" even when I'm not climbing. I am looking into buying a pair of shoes that's bigger. However, I don't like that there is something "going on" with my toe that I don't understand and I also don't want to create further damage to it.

Any thoughts?

For reference: this is my feet compared to the length of the shoe

And this is another angle, showing the width of my feet compared to the shoes

On Ally Willen

Somehow, this quote rings with me:

“I have to be young and stupid before I become old and wise.”

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I came across it because of... internet, really. I clicked on something, then clicked on the next thing, the next thing.

I read news stories about the two people who drowned in the Makarora last week. Then I read about a third person who is currently still missing near Brewster track - which, I've said many times, is my favorite place in New Zealand. That lead me to read Backcountry Accidents on Wilderlife, and in particular a sad story of Ally Willen who died on Gillespie Pass track in 2015.

I'd never heard of Ally before, but now her story rings with me, too.

Her family have set up a foundation in Ally's name: Live Like Ally Foundation. On their website, that's where I found that quote; where I read about her 3-year correspondence with a prisoner in Texas; and her description of the tattoo that is now a logo of the Live Like Ally Foundation. As I read the words with which her family have described Ally, I can feel their love for her, and that she was an old person in a young body, really.

Memories of the Makarora river

As I am reading the news of the two people who drowned in Makarora river whilst tramping the Gillespie Pass last week, I think of many things, but mostly... I think of my own story. I think back to January 2019 when I watched my friend float downstream on the Makarora river and how I stood there, alone in the river channel, thinking, "Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck".

We, luckily, came out alright. The two people who drowned last week, didn't. And whilst I know that people have drowned on the Makarora before, and will in all likelihood drown again - somehow, because of my own experience tumbling down that river, I cannot hear these news stories without an aching chest, an elevated heart rate and a series of vivid flashbacks in my mind.

To mark a year since what was a spectacular, but also a traumatising experience tramping the Gillespie Pass, I wrote an article for New Zealand's Backcountry Magazine. It will be accompanied by commentary by Backcountry's own accidents' column writers.

When the article is published, I'll try to post a link to it.

For the moment though, just this little excerpt:

"Then it happened. 

I still don't know why my friend went down. Maybe a rock rolled out from under his feet? Maybe that bloody Nor’wester pushed him off balance? Either way, suddenly and without warning, my friend leaned back with a sort of a grouning sound and the next moment, both of us were under water. 

I don't have a clear recollection of what happened next. I only remember a couple of fleeting moments: reaching up with an open mouth to gasp air, then going under again. The water felt very cold against my face. I could not tell which way was up. Almost instinctively, I started yanking on my arm, trying to free myself from my friend’s backpack. I know (some) river crossing manuals say, stay linked for as long as possible, even if swept off feet. But in a moment where I could hardly tell which way was up in a tangle of bodies, walking poles and river stones bashing on my legs, the only way to get anywhere, it felt, was to get out from my friend’s backpack - and so I started yanking. Yank! Yank! 

The next thing I remember, I was standing upright in the river, clutching my friend's chest-strap (he had not unclipped it prior to crossing) and he was laid out in front of me, horizontally and chest down, whilst the river was forcefully trying to pull him away from me. (My legs came up in a variety of painful bruises later, so I must've put up a good fight to get upright.) I watched my friend get washed in the face with the cold, glacial water whilst taking big gulps of air between going face-down again. I could not pull him up. 

"I don't know how to get you up!" Gasps of air. "How do I get you up!" Gasps of air. Then silence. And then... 

"Let go!" he shouted. 
"What?" 
"Let go!" he shouted again. 

I let go. Immediately, the river pulled him downstream towards a darker blue 'outside' bend, where the channel is deeper, and I remained standing upright in the current, watching him go, thinking, "Now what?" 

I stood there for, maybe, ten seconds, contemplating my options. (“Contemplating” - yeah, right. More like going “fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck”.) I briefly wondered about throwing myself in the water and letting the river take me downstream - follow my friend and hope for the best - but decided against it. I started talking to myself loudly. “Breathe, Maria. You can’t help him from here. Try to get out of this river. Breathe.” I turned towards the shore and readied myself against the current again."

Finding a solution

Oh. My. God.

I think I may have found a solution!

Foamed glass aggregate.
Limecrete floor on top.

*sitting in front of computer, wide-eyed*

If we put this in front rooms of our house, it will:
1) insulate the underfloor
2) drain away moisture
3) provide a "breathable" floor thus negating the need for damp-proof membranes

THIS.

JUST.

MIGHT.

BE.

IT!

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Okay, yes, I understand that I still have to figure out where to get foamed glass aggregate in New Zealand (!) because things that are common in Europe are sometimes not even available in this beautiful, somewhat construction-backwards country but... hey, one step at a time.