On simplicity of Christmases

It's so good to sit back and think, we've done it well this year.

I mean, don't get me wrong: we've been doing it well for several years already. For pretty much every Christmas that I have had in New Zealand, we've done it well.

In 2009 we got together with a bunch of friends and flatmates, geared up in wetsuits, gathered up anything that floats - tyres, inflatable dolphins... milk cartons - and floated down Clutha River, followed by a leisurely lunch.



In 2010 me and The Man drove to Mount Cook village for a day (I was 5 months pregnant then), walked the track to the Tasman Lake and took it easy. Just like in 2010, there were no presents, no Christmas decorations, no advent calendars, no... fuss, so I remember the Christmas day as an entirely enjoyable, relaxing, time-well-spent holiday.



In 2011 I don't even remember what we did. Given that The Kid was only 8 months old back then, probably not much?

In 2012 we spent our Christmas with a dear friend of mine in Twizel, in a way very similar to what we've done before and that is: relax, walk, bike, eat, laugh and love.



And as much I keep on having to explain to people that no, we do not have a Christmas tree, and no, we haven't put up any decorations (because we simply don't "do" decorations), and no, we have not packed presents (because just like decorations, we don't really "do" presents) - I get a little tickle from knowing that this is exactly how I'm comfortable with.

This year, The Man gave himself a "present" of a fishing trip, and so he spent a day out on the water, fishing and dredging for scallops afterwards. I haven't yet decided what it is I want to treat myself to, but it'll probably be a "popper-machine" and a bunch of poppers I can then use in various craft projects, and fixing The Kid's clothes. I'm still sitting on it =)

I like that we don't have set... holidays and occasions for treating ourselves. Even on our birthdays we usually just buy some yummy food we wouldn't otherwise, or eat out, or maybe buy a cake, but we don't plan (or even have!) sophisticated birthday parties and we don't have presents that are specifically "birthday" presents - we just sort of go through our lives and when there's something either of us feels would be nice to do, or important to do, we talk it through and do it, so we end up "treating" ourselves to various tools or lovely lunches or trips to places on otherwise entirely non-specific occasions.

And as much as I know that it'll probably start changing when The Kid gets older, depending on what he wishes to do - if he wants a party, we'll throw a party! - I like that between me and The Man it's the simple joys of togetherness which are unbounded by societal customs.

Even at our wedding, we didn't promise each other we would stay together forever, didn't get rings that we would carry around on our fingers.

We promised things each of us wanted to promise. Mine was, essentially, a promise that I would stay alongside The Man for as long as I wish, which, I know, may sound a bit... non-committal, but that's only as long as you don't actually think about what it means.

Because here's what it means: it means that every day I wake up next to The Man is the day I choose to wake up next to him, and be with him, and love him, so every day we spend together he can know - and feel, in his heart - that I am here not because of any promises, or commitments I've made, but because I sincerely, actively want it, in the moment, today.

The "bounds" we set upon ourselves on our wedding day are ribbons which we spun around each other's wrists whilst holding each other's hands.



The event took place in a park we often walked to, under a walnut tree (or was it chestnut? I'm getting it mixed up...), with three and a half guests - a flatmate, a friend, a brother and a dog (he's the one I'd say is "half" because he didn't much care for the ceremony, he just liked being out for a walk). It is a place we have often visited, sometimes stopping under that tree to "remember", but sometimes just walking around and playing by the swings because this is what we do - to us, that park is a place where everyday happens.

We still have those ribbons we spun around each other's hands at our wedding - they're tucked away in an envelope which will one day maybe go up in one of our family photo frames; we'll see. But that's not really the point - the point is, I like the simplicity of commitment which comes in simple moments of everyday life. I know that The Man being a carpenter is one of the reasons we chose not to get rings - because being without rings makes his hands safer around power tools - but even setting that aside, I know that it was more than just circumstances.

I really do like the life I am living. Not all of it, always, and not always in its entirety for there are many things I'd like to do differently and strive towards even as we speak - but I like that within our little family unit here we have this quiet, shared attitude towards what the significance of cultural customs is, and that we keep on trying to live in a way that is comfortable, to us.

Live and let live.

I hope you have, too, enjoyed a wonderful Christmas, in whatever shape or form your Christmases come at.

What 17 weeks pregnant is like

You want to know what it's like being 17 weeks pregnant for the second time?

I'll tell you. It's like this: you rely on your memory of "what it used to be like" at certain times of your (first) pregnancy, so you plan your activities accordingly this time also. Say, you think, "Oh, I played hacky at 35 weeks pregnant last time, so I bet I can go hiking until about 30 weeks this time" - uhm... no, no quite.

This time you're going to find that your hips are totally loosening up at 17 weeks already, so even an hour-long walk is a half an hour too long - you just simply can't go that distance any more, your back aches, you get nerve pain down your leg and your tailbone feels like it's about to disintegrate.

Or, say, you decide to take up a little bit of gardening in the morning: nice and easy, no rush, no heavy lifting... except, when you try and stand up again after an hour of weeding you find that you're totally screwed again: your back aches, your tailbone feels like it's about to disintegrate, you get (guess what?) nerve pain down your leg.

It also means that when you've had a good, healthy dinner of pumpkin soup and salad, you at one point start wondering what that itchy feeling is down your tummy... and realise that it's your skin. Skin! It's your skin stretching. Your tummy is way, WAY bigger this time around and so this itchy feeling is your skin thinking, "Oh, shit, there's no way I can stretch all that distance! Cover all of this!? You have got to be kidding me!"

Talking about stretch: you'll be going through your storage cupboard, digging up cardboard boxes labelled "Baby stuff" not because you want to see those cute little booties and hats again, but because you want to find your old breastfeeding bras, for no other reason than because you don't fit in your "normal" ones any more. And you though that would happen by 17 weeks? Yeah.

It also means little, cute moments. You know how during your first pregnancy you weren't sure if what you were feeling were kicks or, well, how do they say it nowadays... gas? This time around, you know what's what. At certain times of the day you may be, say, sitting down at a table and suddenly you say, "Oh, hi kiddo. Hi to you, too!" You recognise that what you're feeling is not gas - it's someone's foot in your gut. From the inside.

It also means that you don't put up with other people's sh*t any more. Remember how when you were pregnant last time, so many people were offering parenting advice and you kept taking it in, analysing it, totally overdoing the worrying part in your brain? This time around you have enough self-trust and -confidence to say, no, thank you to some of those people, and when they try and teach you nevertheless by raising their voice at you and being all pushy, you just say, "Sorry, not interested," and either walk away or hang up. You figure that if you've kept one alive for two and a half years, chances are, you'll be capable of keeping another one alive at least that long, so you're cool.

All in all, it's much cooler this time. You trust your body more, and - clearly! - your body knows its stuff better, also.

And you suddenly remember all those women who used to complain about their pregnancies (oh, the pain! Oh, the stretchmarks! Oh, the heaviness!) - the ones you used to look at and think, ha, I'm getting it way easier than you guys! - and realise that, sh*t, going by how 17 weeks is feeling, you may be lucky enough this time to learn about what "feeling like a whale" is like.

But to be honest, 17 weeks feels great this time =). You pat your tummy and you talk to it, and you love the way you can't see your girly bits over your tummy any more, and how stuff is expanding and growing and your body is doing this pretty cool building thing, and you're not nauseous any more (can I get a hurray on that!!) and your brain chemistry is clearly picking up on all those rosy little pink feelings of nesting and loving and caring and joy, and even your husband is, like, yay! (;)) and everything, basically, feels pretty awesome.

Yeah, that's what it's like.

The favorite photo

As I watched through that slideshow I put together earlier today, I realised that this is my favorite photo of the year. Full stop.


It's what this last year has felt like in many ways: us going places, together.

Okay, so I'm not on the photo (because I'm behind the camera, taking it)... but still. There's The Man, there's The Kid, there's The Dog, even the wind turbine which swooshes us to sleep on so many evenings, and there's that sunsetty, windswept look of this hill, which is where our home is at.

I like these three. All three. And we've come a long way this year.

2013 in photos

A quick and easy slideshow of the year gone past.

Questions and answers, vol 4

5. Have you got your residency for good now? Or do you have to extend it each year? After reading about your family's residency experiences I get a feeling that getting a residency is difficult and almost impossible for an Estonian. I've also been to New Zealand (as a tourist) and would love to go back, maybe even to live? Is it an impossible feat if my partner is also an Estonian?

Wow, where do I begin? =D

We've got our residency for good now, yes. We got it in July last year and there were two conditions on it: 1) that The Man works for the same company for at least 3 months (done!) and 2) that during our first 2 years of residency we spend at least 50% of our time in New Zealand (which will be done within two weeks from now), so as long as we don't move overseas in the next 2 weeks, we're sweet! We'll be able to live here until the rest of our lives, if we wanted to.

For us, getting our residency sorted was a major hassle - long and expensive - but it was a combination of both our circumstances and the system, so it wasn't just New Zealand's fault, part of the problem was our fault as well (with my fault being primarily that I am Estonian by origin so all my documents come in a foreign language). For example:

* being Estonian meant that almost every single document I supplied had to be translated, notary-approved, certified, yada-yada (time consuming and expensive),
* being Estonian meant that most of my skills/qualifications had to be assessed to be equivalent to New Zealand standards so it cost around $900 alone to get my university degree accepted and $400 to prove that I can speak English,
* The Man's employer didn't want to deal with immigration officials himself (can't blame him!) so he asked that we do everything through an immigration advisor instead (and pay for it ourselves, which was like $3,500 alone!),
* some documents had a condition that they cannot be more than 6 months old (like police checks and health checks) so we had to wait for some documents to be certified/approved before we could go ahead and start getting those other documents sorted,
* being pregnant, in immigration terms, counts as "being of insufficient health standard" so we couldn't do anything whilst I was pregnant.

But all in all, I think New Zealand is a relatively easy country to migrate to, primarily because many, many professions and skills are on a "skill shortage list": there's a lack of educated, qualified workers in New Zealand so it keeps on asking that foreigners come here and work these jobs.

Doctors and engineers are the most obvious choice, of course, but then again - I cannot think of many countries where doctors and engineers aren't on a skill shortage! So that's not news, right.

But where New Zealand does get a little different - and easier - compared to others is that there's a whole bunch of jobs which many people don't even expect to find on a skill shortage list, but in New Zealand, they are.

Well, for example: skydivers. If you happen to be a skydiver who has done a bunch of tandems and has a D category, welcome to New Zealand! Or snowboarding instructors. Or beef farmers. Or winemakers. The list could go on.

Many of them come to New Zealand on temporary work permits (easier to get) and then once they are here, they go through the residency process which is much more detailed and expensive and takes about 12 months from start to finish.

To make the system transparent, Immigration NZ have set up a simple points system : if you (or your partner) have more than 140 points (and you can prove it!), you get residency.

Most of the points come from having a qualification which is on a skill shortage list and having a job offer from an employer who can offer that job.

A colleague of mine, for example, used to work as a medical recruitment specialist and many of her clients came to work in New Zealand without even having visited New Zealand before - doctors were simply so needed that all the paperwork and interviews were done over the internet, and then they just moved here along with their wives and children. Another colleague was on a holiday in New Zealand with his wife when he realised that his profession - he's an arborist - was on a skill shortage list. Just out of curiosity he called up a company asking if they'd be interested in meeting him, in about 5 hours he was in their office having a meeting and then about 30 minutes later the company said that, yes, if he was willing to come back, they would employ him, and so now he is in New Zealand.

Company that The Man was employed by is bringing over people from UK (carpenters, bricklayers and plasterers, mostly) and most of those have also never been to New Zealand before - their paperwork gets sorted through Internet and Skype, and then they just come here.

The best option, of course, is if your profession is on a Long Term Skill Shortage List because that 1) gives you the most points and 2) shows which professions are likely to be in demand for many, many more years to come! For example, at the moment there are 71 professions on the Long Term Skill Shortage List and they include: farming scientists, construction managers, all sorts of engineers, quantity surveyors, auditors, all sorts of health professionals, IT specialists, marine officers. If you (or your partner) happen to work in one of those professions, you're almost guaranteed to get residency!

The next best option is if your profession is on a Short Term Skill Shortage List. It gives slightly fewer points and the downside is, it gets reviewed quite often. I know one woman in UK, for example, who really wanted to move to New Zealand and so she went to university to become a certified preschool teacher (solely in order to get to New Zealand, and we're talking about a 4-year degree here!), but... by the time she graduated it had been taken off the skill shortage list and so she, yet again, didn't have enough points to qualify. I think she cried for about three days in a row...

Professions on Short Term Skill Shortage List include: farmers, draughtspeople, all sorts of technicians, accountants, pharmacists, skydivers, snowboarding instructors, mechanics, scaffolders.

And then there's a Canterbury Skill Shortage List which is basically a list of construction workers who are needed to rebuild Christchurch. There's painters, glaziers, bricklayers, plasterers, tilers, surveyors... You name it, if it's a construction skill, it's probably on the skill shortage list.

***

And lastly, there is a way of moving to New Zealand without being on a skill shortage list, but then it gets really... annoyingly tricky and I'm not even sure if I really want to explain that.

But let's try: in short, if you have a profession that is considered "skilled" - meaning, it's one of those professions where you actually have to have a degree or quite a long work experience in order to be able to do it - then you might be able to get residency (even if it's not on a skill shortage list).

For that you would first need to find out if that profession is listed on ANZSCO and considered "skilled", and secondly you would also need to make sure that you have a degree/qualification that is exactly related to this profession.

Take me, for example: I used to work as a video editor (which is considered "skilled"), but I would've not been able to get residency through that job because I hadn't learned video editing in university - most of my video editing skills were from simply playing on a computer at home, uploading videos on Youtube and... googling, and for Immigration NZ that sort of stuff is irrelevant.

Then, if you do have a skilled profession, and you do have a degree/qualification to back it up, you need to find a company that is willing to offer you a job and is willing to prove to Immigration New Zealand that they really, really, really need you because they cannot find other people that would be qualified enough to do this job.

But then it's really getting into the realms of being a major pain in the a$$ and I think I should just close this topic because if you are interested enough then you can go and Google it yourself! =D

***

So, yeah, sorry for making it such a long post, but it's just a really... long topic to discuss.

But you were asking about being an Estonian and whether it's more difficult getting residency being an Estonian: from the point of view of my nationality, there was absolutely no advantage whatsoever (!) in me having a husband who is a British citizen because as far as residency was concerned, his points were exactly the same as mine. They don't give out extra points for being British, or German, or whatever.

It only makes it difficult from the point of view of having to f*cking translate all the documents into English! (Oh, and getting university degrees certified. And proving that you can speak English (where, by the way, I scored even higher than my British husband, ha!))

Oh, and talking about documents: you know how Estonian birth certificates used to be issued by the Soviet Union? (Well, at least mine was, I don't know if you were "lucky" enough to be born during that era.)

Because Soviet Union doesn't exist any more, then in order to get my New Zealand residency I even had to get Estonian officials to issue me a new birth certificate, and then I had to get that certificate translated and approved because with my original birth certificate New Zealand would've told me that screw you, go get a real one =D

So from the point of view of your nationality, the only advantage you could have is if your partner was a New Zealand citizen or an Australian citizen, but then we're talking about an entirely different category here: you would be given residency not because you're smart, or qualified, or skilled - you'd be given residency because you're in love with a local guy/girl.

They wouldn't even ask you to prove your education or your work experience, they would only want you to get checked by police, checked by a local doctor and to see your marriage certificate (or if you're not married yet then they would ask that you get your friends and family to write them letters saying that you guys have been dating for more than 12 months).

Questions and answers, vol 3

10 o'clock on a Sunday evening. I think I'll take up one more of those questions.

4. I may have missed this in earlier posts, but what made you decide to shift from Wanaka to CHCH? Did you both agree? Did one want to move more than the other? Would you shift back? Curious as I spent 2yrs in QTN before shifting out. Overall a good move for us and glad to be on the South Island again. Hubby loved living in the Wakatipu, I felt trapped: needed to be near the sea and a more balanced population mix.

If it had been an entirely our decision to make then we would've never shifted to Christchurch! (I bet this makes you go, wait, what? =D)

Long story short, we moved from Wanaka to Christchurch because we were chasing up our residency.

You see, when I first moved to New Zealand - and same goes for my husband - we were backpackers, so we were on what's called a working holiday visa. Then as I started working for a company in Wanaka I moved onto a temporary work permit, meaning, I was allowed to stay in New Zealand only as long as I kept working for this company - but I also had to re-apply for the work permit every single year, so every year I was in a limbo of not knowing whether I would have to go back to Europe or would be allowed to stay in New Zealand. I wasn't capable of getting permanent residency because my education doesn't match my work experience (and without them matching I couldn't gather up enough "points" to qualify), so I was sort of stuck in Wanaka.

But then Christchurch earthquake happened. Suddenly carpenters - and my husband is one - became so needed in New Zealand that immigration officials put them on a skill shortage list and, bingo!, me and The Man suddenly had a way of making us stay in New Zealand. We put through all the paperwork, paid all the bills, got all the necessary approvals and Immigration NZ basically said that if we were willing to come live in Christchurch where The Man could work on rebuilding the city then New Zealand would give us permanent residence permits and... well, here we are.

So we never had to go through discussions or arguments over where we are living because we, well, didn't have any options. We were living in Wanaka because that's where my job was and then we moved to Christchurch because that's where The Man's job was.

But I sort of see where you were going with this question...

As I (and The Man) have now been granted permanent residence permits, thanks to his employment, then we are now free to move wherever, whenever - so this is actually the first time in our "shared" life that we've been able to choose where we would like to live at.

And I can tell you that, it ain't Christchurch!

It's good for the moment because this is where lots of work is (whilst we're saving up for a home) and given that I am pregnant at the moment then we will be here for a wee while longer - but we have no intention of staying here permanently. It's too big, too spread out, too... I don't want to use the word "simple" because it sounds a bit confusing and demeaning, but Christchurch isn't a particularly exciting place to live at. It's exceptionally spread out, surrounded by farm land, badly traffic-managed and kind of... boring. Both me and The Man want to live in a place where we can actually walk to places, or bike to places, and where it's easy to get out of the city or a town, and Christchurch is none of those things.

And besides, looking at the house prices there is no way in hell I am buying a house here. Just no. F*cking. Way! And rents are outrageous. Like... seriously, the stuff that's happening in this city at the moment, housing wise, is simply not sustainable.

I wouldn't move back to Wanaka though, nor Queenstown.

Wanaka and Queenstown are beautiful, absolutely stunning (!) places and for young, free-spirited, adventurous people they are almost close to perfection. There are just SO many things to do there, activity-wise! It's incredible.

But they lack something I need to function and that is: brains.

If I were an artistic sort of a person who was working in a studio, or an architect or something, I'd be happy in Wanaka. If I were an adventure guide, same thing. (Or a real estate salesperson, uk-hum!) But I'm not. I want to be where the university is, and I want to get out to Antarctica, so for now it seems like the most likely place for me to go to is Dunedin.

Wanaka and Queenstown are more like... coffee shop sort of places. Relaxing places. Taking it easy places. When I get older and stiffer I might as well return there but for now I want to be somewhere where I am challenged, intellectually, and I didn't find either one particularly challenging brain-wise. They were great hiking-wise, and for snowboarding, and kayaking, and rafting - but not brain-wise.

And I agree with you on that "near the sea" thing: I also feel like I need to be near water. Wakatipu has that arid, inland air that I have always found lacking in smell and sensation, and I love, love, love being back in the salty air of Lyttelton Harbour!

But if I could just... move Christchurch away from here, then I think it would even work, potentially ;)

When a man without a country sounds familiar

Radio New Zealand were playing a recording of a stand-up comedian Patton Oswalt today (it's called "Man Without a Country" and it's actually pretty good, so I'd recommend having a listen), and all whilst he was ranting about George Bush and hippies, I was wondering...

why does he sound so familiar!?

And then I went and Googled and, ha!, it's the guy that gave his voice to Pixar's "Ratatouille"! You remember Remy the mouse, the lead character with a wondrous sense of smell? Well, I'm pleased to introduce you guys - Patton Oswalt!

Though I gotta warn ya: for all the sweetness of Remy, the real Patton Oswalt is more of a guy who says "f*ck" so often that he really needs to come up with some other word to sound offensive because this is not even doing it for him any more.

Bonding with The Dog

Sometimes I get little glimpses into what The Dog will be like when she's a little bit older, a little bit calmer.

Take now, for example: I am sitting down on the bed, writing, and she is laying on the floor beside me. She then sits up, puts her snout on my bedside and I scratch her head. For a while we sit like that, she with her eyes closed in enjoyment and me, idly scratching away, until I stop, lift my hand, she opens her eyes, smiles at me in that way only dogs do, and her tails taps on the floor, tap, tap, tap.

It's a beautiful moment, quiet and touching.

I like the way we're bonding, the more so the older she gets.

Dear street racer

Dear street racer,

I do not know the reasons why you are racing your car up and down a dark, rural road at 2 o'clock at night. I really don't!

But here's what I hope:

I hope that one day, maybe when you are older and a little more sensible, and have kids of your own - kids who wear you out during the day and sometimes wake you at all times of the night, and when you are already stretched in your energy reserves and crave, worship sleep! - I hope that you don't have to stay awake at 2 o'clock at night because someone is revving their engine and whistling their wheels up and down a road where you live. It sucks, being tired and awake because of a street racer when there are already so many other reasons that are keeping you tired and awake.

And I also hope this:

I know what it feels like to attend a funeral of a racerboy - a closed casket one - and I hope that your friends and family never have to! It sucks, it really does. It sucks even more than staying awake at 2 o'clock at night.

I hope you have the wits to understand that although dark and rural, a windy (as in, bendy) public road can nevertheless carry traffic at nighttime and I hope you don't encounter oncoming traffic tonight when you're skidding and whistling your wheels around one of those corners - because it scares me to think what the consequences would be if you did.

I know that you probably simply don't know any better, or don't care. Maybe you crave adventures in your life and don't feel like you are getting any; maybe racing your car is one of the few highlights you have, the moment when you feel like you are really, really alive!

But I wish that you didn't do that - I wish you didn't feel like you had to race here like that. I wish there was a place for you to spend that energy and revv that engine elsewhere - a place other than a dark, curvy, public road.

And most of all - even more than sleep! - I wish that keeping about two dozen people awake tonight, all the people who live alongside this road here, is the worst thing you do tonight.

The thing that sucks even more than attending a funeral of a racerboy - a closed casket one - is when a car crash takes with it other lives; lives of people who were simply unfortunate enough to encounter a racerboy in a moment of uncontrolled skidding.  (I know what it feels like. Do you?)

I wish it never happens on this dark, rural road here.

And I wish you get to grow older, and a little bit calmer, and a little more sensible.

Sincerely yours,
awake at 2 o'clock at night

Calves

These guys right outside our gate are cute...


...but! Boy do they make me cautious about their mama-cows. Geesh!

On feeding The Dog raw food: why and how

We had decided long before we got The Dog that we were going to feed her raw food, or what some people know as BARF diet (with BARF being Bones And Raw Food). It's been almost a year now and it's part of our daily routine, and The Dog's - morning and evening.

I have it pretty well sorted in my head now and every now and again someone asks me why we do it, closely followed by how, so simply in the spirit of sharing - in case anyone else is wondering why it's worth it and then how exactly this thing works - here's a little rundown of what we're doing, and why.

So first of all, why.

There isn't a consensus on which food is better, kibble (ie, commercial dog food) or raw food, and there are upsides and downsides to both. I suggest you Google and research before deciding, either way you do it, but we do it because I believe that feeding The Dog raw food makes for a happier, healthier dog, with a shinier coat, stronger teeth, better breath. Dogs and their digestive systems have evolved in the environment of scavenging for meat, supplemented by other "edible" scraps, and I have doubts about how much nutrient exactly they are able to uptake from commercial dry foods.

It's like vitamin supplements for humans - what's written on the package is different from what is actually taken up by the digestive system, so a lot of what people take in in the form of vitamin pills simply gets peed out in their urine. Not all of it, by any means, and the amount differs depending on what other foods are eaten alongside it, and the digestive system itself - but the basic idea is the same.

I feed my dog raw food because from what I have learned, she will uptake more (and more relevant) nutrients from unprocessed foods, just as humans are recommended to eat veggies and fruit rather than rely solely on vitamin pills.

So what do we feed her?

On a daily basis she gets a mixture of:

* Tukkathyme which is a (commecial) mixture of oats, vegetables, fruit, garlic, barley, kelp, green herbs, flaked rice, flaked corn, molasses, lecithin and alfalfa. It comes in 1 kg and 5 kg bags; I order 15 kg about 3-4 times a year through internet, delivered to my home.
* Vitamin supplement of wheat germ, dolomite and vitamin C which I mix up myself (or Bruce Syme's commercial product, essentially the same thing, depending on what I can get hold of).
* Minced chicken (carcasses) so there's bone in there, meat, ligaments - pretty much everything a chicken is made of.
* Cooked rice to bulk it all up.
* A drop of rice bran oil.

This is how it looks:


We keep The Dog's bowls on a high-sided oven tray so that most of what she spills lands inside the tray which I then wash with soap and water. Occasionally I wipe down the area where she eats, too.

Proportions of her food are:

* 2/3 meat
* 1/3 Tukkathyme and rice
* 2 teaspoons of vitamin supplement (1 teaspoon of vitamin C plus 1/2 teaspoon of wheat germ and 1/2 teaspoon of dolomite)
* 1 teaspoon of rice bran oil

I buy our meat from Halswell Butchery where they mince up all their leftover carcasses into pet food. Most people probably buy it in those "sausage shapes" where I think the butchery has already cooked the meat, but I simply call them up and ask to set aside 3 boxes of meat, uncooked, and it comes at a whopping $1.50 per kilo.

I then dish it into yoghurt pots, ice cream pots, plastic bags etc so every package is about 1 kg big and stick it all in our upright freezer. I take out 1 pot/bag every 3 days or so and keep it in our fridge on a "doggie shelf" which is assigned for dog's food only so every human in this house knows not to put any human food on the same shelf.


To make sure chicken doesn't drip onto the shelf (which I wash down with soap every now and again anyway), I keep the meat pot/bag inside a big Tupperware container so it's easy to handle and keeps everything around it clean / free of chicken meat.


Now, this (what I've just described above) is the main part of her food, but it does differ a little bit each day in a sense that:

* whenever we are cooking and there are leftovers of celery stalks, carrot ends, apple cores, banana - pretty much any fruit or veggie (except potato, onion, avocado or grapes (!), the latter of which can cause renal failure and death even if it's only a handful of raisins!) - The Dog gets it in her food. In a family where there is a small child, we get plenty of leftover fruit and veggie, so The Dog gets it all, and what she doesn't, goes in the compost bin.
* Once a week she gets a whole raw egg, shell and all.
* Once(ish) a week she also gets cottage cheese or yoghurt, usually when it is simply sitting in our fridge, due to be used up and we haven't eaten it ourselves.
* Pasta instead of rice (if there's leftover pasta to be used up).
* If there are any leftovers of red meat (beef, deer etc) when we've been stripping meat off bones, The Dog gets those leftovers (but by that I mean raw bones, not cooked ones!)

About once a month I give her a whole chicken carcass as a treat which then keeps her occupied for an hour or so (but only outside! It would make a mess if I let her do it inside...) And I should probably add here that you know that age-old adage of "Don't feed your dog chicken bones! They split lengthwise and may get stuck in their throat or perforate their bowel"? Well, to that I can only say that cooked chicken bones split lengthwise. We give our dog raw ones.

(When our landlord shot some rabbits I also gave her whole carcasses of rabbits, though to be honest I probably wouldn't do it again because eating a whole rabbit at once The Dog had "runs" (ie, diarrhea) the next day, I presume from the amount of kidney, liver and heart she got in one sitting - and besides, if I keep feeding her whole rabbits then I would also need to de-worm her more often just in case, and that just becomes cumbersome.)

If I ever happen to run out of meat because I've forgotten to take some out of the freezer then I know that this protein can be substituted with egg (shell and all), or yoghurt, or cottage cheese, or a can of baked beans, or a can of mackerel, or rolled oats with honey and egg.

Where do I buy this food?

* Meat - comes from Halswell Butchery. I call them up, ask for 40 kg of minced carcasses, uncooked, and they tell me what day they will have it ready and I come pick it up.
* Tukkathyme - through their website, www.tukkathyme.co.nz, usually arrives within 5 days of ordering, and I order 15-20 kg at once.
* Vitamin C - through Sana Direct, www.sana-direct.co.nz , and these 2 kg will probably keep me going for another year at least...
* Wheat germ - from supermarket,
* Dolomite - from The Dog's breeder who buys it through TradeMe in bulk and gives us some.


All in all, feeding this labrador costs around $2 dollars a day. If I were un-lazy enough to mix up my own veggie-fruit-oat mixture instead of buying Tukkathyme, it would be around $1.50 a day, but I just find Tukkathyme nice and convenient... ie lazy =)

Time-wise it takes me 2 minutes to dish up her food and 1 minute to later wash down her bowl. When I buy meat it takes me about 1.5 hours (3-4 times a year) to dish it up into 1 kg packages which i then store in the freezer. It takes me 5 minutes (3-4 times a year) to mix up a jar of dolomite, wheat germ and vitamin C. It takes about 3 minutes every 3 days to wash down the Tupperware container before I place a new meat package in it. Oh, yes, and it takes me about 2 minutes now to order Tukkathyme (3-4 times a year) through internet because the website remembers all my contact details and I do not have to re-type my address every time I do it any more.

So all in all, in some ways you could say that I feed her raw food partially out of my own convenience (poop is SO much easier to clean when a dog eats raw food!) and because it makes her look wonderfully healthy (and a bloody nuisance energy-wise) (and we all love you, dog!), so in some ways it is not much different from people who feed their dogs kibble.

But having said that, when I was growing up my family fed our dogs kibble - still do - and most of the sled dogs I worked with in Alaska and Svalbard were fed kibble (with Svalbard dogs being supplemented with raw reindeer meat because of its fat content to help them keep warm in -30 C), so dogs that are fed kibble also lead wonderful lives, but... kibble and kibble is different. Many sled dogs are fed exceptionally high-quality and therefore expensive kibble which is formulated precisely for working dogs who then also get the benefit from all this exercise.

If I were feeding my dog kibble, I wouldn't feed her Pedigree, or some other generic, low-cost supermarket brand, but would probably do quite a bit of research on what sort of formula is best for her and would probably dish up quite a bit of money... which (the dishing up money part) bums (ie, sucks), because I prefer saving up money for other relevant things in my life, and labradors eat a whole lotta food!

...but having said that, I prefer feeding my own dog the food that we are currently feeding her, ie a mixture of meat, veggies etc, because I trust the knowledge of people like Dr Ian Billinghurst and also our dog's breeder, and I can see how wonderfully well The Dog is doing, physically. Mentally we have a lot of distance to cover with her still, because she is an energetic puppy! (and sometimes a royal pain in the a$$...) (though it's getting better!), but physically... she is beautiful.

And I intend on keeping it this way.

It was daunting getting organised for raw food initially because I had never done anything like that before and it seemed like A LOT of detail!, but now that I have a system going and I know how to do it in a way that keeps my home hygienic (raw chicken meat!) and prepare most of it in bulk, it's no more troublesome than living my own life in a way where I am actually cooking my meals as opposed to buying ready-to-eat processed foods from the supermarket. It's a choice of quality.

PS. A word of caution, in the words of our dog's breeder, "A mix of poor natural diet, supplemented by dry food is the worst combination as this doesn't give either method the best chance. You run the risk of over supplementation. You need to make a commitment and choose to go one way or the other."

So, yeah - that's about it.

=)

Good night



Cold southerly is coming through

The Dog with her favorite thing - a pile of cow poop


And a moment from last week as well, a view from our bedroom window:

On ducks and death and the continuation of life

The most difficult moment of the last few days was an evening when a sitting duck appeared in the beam of my car's headlights.

It was late, I was heading home from a night out with the girlies. It must've been 85 km/h, maybe 90 km/h that I was coming 'round that (slight) bend with and almost as soon as I saw it, I knew it was a sitting female duck on the road there, right in the middle of my lane.

My first - and what I believe to be my correct - reaction was to hold my speed, hold my direction and wait for the duck to move away (as they usually do), except... it didn't. It just kept on sitting there. By the time I realised it was going to keep on sitting there my front wheels were 30, maybe 40 metres away from it, and at 90 km/h it makes for only a little over one second to cover that distance.

I lifted my foot off the accelerator, righted the wheels to let it slip right between the tyres and... held my breath. The duck disappeared under the bonnet, tyres passing on either side of it, and for another few seconds I contemplated on whether to keep on driving and hope for the best - hope that it hadn't been injured and had maybe flown away after I had passed.

But I couldn't drive on - I didn't want to.

On that dark, rural road I stopped where there was a wide, grassy shoulder, made a U-turn and headed back to where the duck had been.

For the first few moments I thought I had maybe really been spared - there wasn't a duck sitting where it had been and I swallowed loudly. I think I maybe even had enough time to breathe out.

And then I saw it.

My eyes still well up writing this, but that brown female duck was writhing on the roadside, attempting to get up but falling on its side grotesquely each time it attempted it. I looked around for any passing traffic, crossed the road and stepped closer. As I did that, I saw another, already dead male duck splattered on the road surface.

And then it hit me, why that female duck hadn't taken flight when my car approached - it had been sitting next to its recently killed mate.

And as that realisation dawned on me, the duck kept on writhing on the roadside.

Now, I am not averse to killing - I do eat meat and understand the origin of that red substance that tastes wonderfully when it's helped by a generous helping of tomato paste and a little bit of mint. However! I do not wish purposeless pain on any living creature, let it be someone's pet dog, a human in last stages of terminal illness or... a duck on the road.

I do not know whether it had been injured prior to me passing - maybe someone else had hit it already - but I doubt it. The most likely scenario is that its head got hit by the underneath of my Legacy as I had sped over.

And the unfortunate result of that was that this poor duck was flailing on the roadside.

I stood there, watching it, and wailed. Properly, loudly - wailed. "I'm sorry... I'm so, so sorry." I kept looking around to look for a solution, but the simple truth is that I didn't have one. If I'd had an axe in my car I would've got that axe, chopped off its head and put the poor creature out of its misery. If I hadn't been pregnant I would've wrapped it in newspaper, placed it in my car and taken it with me to kill it at home where the axe is - but being pregnant, I did not need to touch it. I do not know what sort of bugs this duck can carry.

And so I kept standing there, wailing, and telling it I am sorry and I wish I knew how to help.

***

I know it's a long leap from a duck to a human, but it's the same idea on why I support the availability of euthanasia - to humans.

When my dog gets old enough that it cannot get up from the floor any more - like my Saint Bernard couldn't when she got old - I will take her to a vet, kiss her warmly on her head and ask the veterinarian to push the syringe. I do remember the sadness and sudden silence that followed my Saint Bernard's passing, with tears welling in my eyes, but I have never doubted that what my family did for that dog was a final act of kindness, offered after many long years of companionship I still cherish.

And to me, it's a no-brainer.

I believe/understand that certain types of animals have evolved in a way that their diets are (partially) made up of other animals' flesh and so killing, as ugly as it is, is a circle of life where a life of one being becomes a life of another one's being. I agree to killing, even... "consume" it as part of my food also comes from other creatures' deaths, but what I do not agree with is putting anyone through more pain that is necessary or worth it.

I think that cockerels that roam the hillside here and greet us daily with their loud, "Cockadoodledoo!", find their quick, dignified deaths under an axe-head after having lived plentiful, contented lives. Their bodies travel onto oven dishes and get served out alongside roasted potatoes, and the life cycle continues.

And as unrespectful as someone may find it, the idea behind euthanasia - to me - is the same as letting loved pets go with less anguish than they would otherwise, and making sure that loud cockerels go quickly, with as little pain as reasonably possible.

And because of that, that duck on the roadside made for some long, hard tears and many offers of an apology. I couldn't think of a way to help it go quickly and so eventually I simply sat back in my car and drove away, in my padded comfort of humanity, where I could then snuggle up to my husband and tell him of what had happened, cry a little more and fall asleep.

And in the morning, I stopped by that roadside and offered one last "I'm sorry" to a duck that was now, quietly, dead.

A morning alone

A quiet house.

It's so weird when both The Man and The Kid are gone. Time goes so slow... Usually my mornings run, wop and wop!, from packing his bag to preparing his lunch to dropping The Kid off at his nanny to, hola!, it's 9 o'clock already and I'm at work - whereas now, I've vacuumed and tidied and had a cup of tea and changed the bedsheets and looked at the clock, only to find that it's... still not 8 o'clock yet.

It's weird, focusing almost entirely on what I'm doing. Usually I'm always keeping an eye out and ears popped for what The Kid is up to, even when I'm tidying or cooking or writing on the computer, whereas today... I went around the house, vacuuming, humming a tune, pushing The Dog out of the way (for the love of life, what is it with you and the vacuum cleaner, huh!?) and found myself paying almost full attention to the task at hand.

It reminded me of... what is used to be like. That summer in Otepää, in that old house where everything smelled of the years gone by and I sauntered down to the beach for a swim, bought bread, cheese, butter and milk at a corner shop, in the evenings worked quietly on an upholstering fabric...

How time was slow and I was aware of what was happening, both inside of me and weather-wise. I remember what grass used to smell like, what old apple trees used to smell like, because I had time to stop and smell!

And now I am sitting here at this table, it is raining outside, the window is open... and I can smell the grass, the way pine trees waft that bitter tang of sap around us and the way wood dries is the shed.

It's quite... memorable, really. So... quiet.

Smelly and runny, is it?

I really should've known better than letting him eat four kiwis in one sitting yesterday evening.

*goes and puts the washing machine on. Again.

For the families and children spending their Christmas in a hospital this year

I dare you not to tear up!

I choose to

The most important thing I have ever learned is, I can do anything.

There is no right or wrong, no ten commandments, no universal plan - there's only me and what I choose to do with my life.

I am not determined by where I come from - it influences me greatly, it does everyone, but it doesn't determine where I go to. Like, I did not have a grandfather who sold tomatoes from the back of his pick-up truck (see Blake Shelton's "My neck of the woods" if the reference is somewhat confusing), but it doesn't mean that I can't - if I chose so - trek up our hill in gumboots and torn jeans and find a way to run a farm.

I don't - you know, want to - but I could, if I chose to.

It's something I lose every now and again when the going is tough, but in times of strength I re-find that  knowledge. It helps me filter out "I choose to" from "they want me to".

It helps me to boost my confidence and blare country music in the kitchen at 7 o'clock in the morning. =)

Telling of love

As much as I don't agree with the lyrics, this girl has a gorgeous voice.



And it makes me want to cry, sort of, because it reminds me of how loved he keeps on making me feel. This guy here.







Every day he holds me, and he hugs me, and he keeps on telling me he loves me. He tells me how gorgeous I am and he holds my hand - he loves holding my hand.

It is not his job to make me feel beautiful - it's mine - but nevertheless he does so, through adventurous feeling-young days, through sickly pregnancies, through overweight breastfeeding months and through tired we-have-a-child-now evenings when he quietly tiptoes into the room, plants a kiss on my forehead hoping to not wake me up and arranges my blanket, and lets me sleep.

I love this guy.

An hour worth listening to

Every now and again a Smart Talk so fascinating comes up that my mind embraces it for days afterwards and then I head onto Radio New Zealand's website and... listen to it again.

Last Tuesday's "Smart Talk: Tangaroa and Poseidon - our oceans" was one of them. In fact, it was probably the most fascinating hour I've heard from the Auckland Museum series and I sincerely recommend you listen to it, too.

It takes a while to pick up speed (mostly because the host just won't shut up at first!) but if you tune in at 10 minutes into it, I hope you, too, spend a fascinating hour in company of people who not only know their topic well, but they talk about it well.

www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2578361

They talk about fish, and fishing - about how catching snapper then goes down the line and influences not only the number of kina, but the amount of seaweed, and then all the little organisms that rely on seaweed; and how New Zealand used to be the first in the world to start a marine reserve, and what has happened since; and... it's interesting, what they talk about. Fascinating.

***

And on a similar topic: I will head to my local library today and try to get my hands on Rob Hewitt's book "Treading Water". They've been reading it on the radio for the past few days and I've found this guy's story, too, a fascinating one.

In case you're not aware of who Rob Hewitt is - as I wasn't, either - then he's a diver that was swept up by a sea current near Kapiti island in 2006, and subsequently spent 4 days and 3 nights floating on water, seeing the helicopters search for him - 40 km too far! - and battling not only the environment itself (waves, salt... sunshine - Rob was sunburnt to a point of having sores on his face) but his own spiritual beginnings and hope and determination that kept him alive. That, and a fair bit of luck.

By the time they picked him up he was bloated, sunburnt, hallucinating and his family essentially grieving a man that was presumed to be the object of a body search and not a diver search any more, and I'd like to read that book. I've missed a few of the radio's readings, so I'd like to fill in those gaps in between.

I like reading. I like Radio New Zealand.

Life with The Dog: digging

I look out the window and the first thing I notice is a pile of mud on my lawn. Next, I see a hole next to that pile. Then, I see my labrador digging another hole about a metre away.

I tap on the window, The Dog turns around and I shout, "Stop doing that!" to which she - and I'm not kidding here - sits on the ground nicely, looks at me and nods.

And then I burst out laughing because on top of seeing The Dog nod to me, for now she has also turned into a brown labrador, not black, because all of her head, and her chest, and her paws are covered in dust and dirt.

Over the many forgotten years so many bones have settled (or been dug in, I don't know) around our house that although I pick up and throw away bones on a weekly basis she nevertheless manages to dig up more and deposits them wonderfully, like relics of war, on our front steps or our lawn.

And so I keep throwing out ribs, and skulls, and hipbones, and The Dog keeps bringing me more.

Questions and answers, vol 2

Today I woke up feeling like I'd overdone it yesterday - stiff and tired and with not much appetite. What a better time than this to say, oh, sod the dishes and sod being productive, I'll just nestle into this couch for half an hour and write up another answer to one of those questions below.

3. You wrote a while ago about dizzy spells that used to bother you and which you visited a doctor with, but the reasons behind them remained unknown. Has any solution come up?

Technically, no. The same heart palpitations and dizzy spells I started experiencing in July 2012 and wrote about here, here and here, have been with me ever since and so far there hasn't been any solution to it.

It's been a year and a half now, on and off, every few months or so, and I've sort of let this topic go. I feel that if I keep on pushing to find an answer I am going to be labelled a hypochondriac and I'm not a big fan of that - I prefer that my doctors actually believe me when I go to them with hayfever or a cold or whatever.

When I had quite a bad spell in December last year my GP organised getting me hooked up to a heart monitor straight away, and it was unfortunate because I had a "wave" and started fainting about a minute (!) before the heart monitor was on so we never got to record the thing.

Then a few months later when I wore a heart monitor on my chest for 24 hours, of course I didn't have any spells or palpitations either, so that wasn't much use.

I've had an x-ray, I've had an ultrasound and I've met a cardiologist, but there's nothing mechanically wrong with my heart: all the valves are functioning, blood flow is good, nothing's... wrong. Except, of course, for the fact then every now and again I can feel, literally!, my heart pumping erratically for a few seconds and every few months I'll have a day or two when I get dizzy spells.

I wish I had a heart monitor on me when it happens because I wish I could press that button and then when we look at that chart with a cardiologist I could say, "That! That was that! Can you please have a look and tell me, what the hell is that!?"

But it hasn't happened, we haven't been able to actually catch it whilst it's happening and to be honest, when I was talking to my cardiologist, I can understand why the guy was dismissive of me because he deals with people that actually die from their heart problems and here there was a girl who apparently has nothing mechanically wrong with her heart but who says to him that she gets palpitations and dizzy spells.

Basically, I think he simply thought I'm "that type of a woman" who gets panic attacks, which I can't blame him for, except that... I don't agree with him.

I know that my heart palpitations happen mostly when I'm either bending forward or bending down, so they seem to be happening when my heart is in that position in my chest, which sounds pretty mechanical to me. And when I get dizzy spells, I've been keeping track of them on a calendar and there is absolutely no correlation whatsoever with my menstrual cycle or how much exercise I've had or what I've eaten or whether it's been a stressful time - it just bloody happens, out of the blue, and most of the time it starts at night when it wakes me up from sleep (! which, by the way, is not an easy thing to do because I'm a heavy sleeper).

But for now I've learned to cope with it, and when it happens I kneel down on the floor so I can't topple, or if I'm sitting already then I'll lean back so I can't topple forward, and if I happen to be driving, I slow down and pull over immediately.

And I'll just let it keep on going like that until something changes, I guess, which - I hope! - is the right way forward.

Questions and answers, vol 1

In no particular order, and answered in English:

1. I'm this weird person who'd like to know about "different" things. Like, what do you find awkward or weird in nz and what do you find *now* weird in Estonia? That goes for customs, food, way of thinking, everyday stuff and so on ;)

I'm glad you asked that because it has reminded me of things I have now gotten used to. Like, milk for example: it used to baffle me senseless (both here and in the United States), but now I, too, have gotten used to buying bottles of milk with expiration dates of seven, sometimes eight... or even nine days. 

I find it... if not insane, then at least somewhat ludicrous, because surely milk that has been processed to a point of it still being drinkable more than a week from when it left the cow's udder, there wouldn't be much of the milky goodness left in it anymore either? Milk's supposed to last three, maybe four days. Five if it's been unopened.

But not nine.

I remember how in the beginning milk here used to even taste weird. It tasted... watery, like it was diluted with water. And same goes for dairy in general: standard yoghurts last easily a month and lack that peculiar yoghurty "tang" I've grown to associate yoghurts with. I'm yet to see cheese that grows mould, things such as "hapupiim" or "pett" are unheard of, and standard ice cream here is what Estonians would call "koorejäätis" (as opposed to "piimajäätis") because it's very high in fat and when it melts, rather than make a puddle it creates... mushy foam instead.

And "European style food" is available, of course - "milky tasting" milk, for example, or probiotic (and by that I mean beyond basic acidophilus) yoghurt, or cheese that is capable of growing mould - but then we're talking well-stocked shops or specialised organic shops, and at prices that are simply insane. 

In Europe what's known as simply "food", here is a "special product".

Another thing that's really stood out for me is... politics.

New Zealand Parliament seems to attract very expressive - theatrical almost - attention-seeking individuals. Men and women shout in dramatic, well-rehearsed sentences, often with humour and ridicule, and to me it looks like entertainment. People at the microphone stand get shouted at, whistled at, to a point where the speaker kicks the heck out of his little hammer, demanding, "Order! Order!" and it's not even some special event or circumstance even - just another day at the parliament.

They often argue about things I consider very small, really, and I often turn off the radio when news come on because I haven't got patience to listen to "this stuff yet again".

Sometimes it scares me. When I look at the amount of taxes taken out of my paycheck, it reminds me that although Estonia has one of the lowest taxation rates in Europe, compared to New Zealand it looks like a socialist state.

I wish New Zealand taxed its people more. I wish it redistributed some of that wealth around and made sure that children, especially - their health and their education - are covered for, regardless of parents' income. What I see instead, however, is an ever-widening gap between people at the low end and those at the upper end, and where it bugs me is... children.

Most New Zealand schools do not have a canteen - children are expected to bring their own lunches. A lot of the children bring plastic boxes with sandwiches and fruit and snacks that their parents have helped them pack, some bring instant noodles, some bring... nothing. Pardon my English, right, but some of the children's parents are idiots.

And it bugs me, that something I consider totally essential to schooling - a warm, nutritional lunch - in New Zealand depends on what a parent packs or doesn't pack. Even writing this here makes me irate, because there are six-year-olds, seven-year-olds, who are expected to go through their school days and develop and learn, and they're... f*cking hungry.

But what I do love here, really do!, and where I think New Zealand has done an exceptional (!) job, is midwifery and support women get around their pregnancies. That, and healthcare in general, I am really very pleased with. Really, really, really pleased with.

Geesh, now that I've started thinking I feel like I could go on on this topic forever... next question!

2. Why do you blog? Why do you share these things with people you've never met? Does it provide you with adrenalin, not knowing what's going to land in comments? Is it a form of vanity, showing yourself to public? Is it therapeutic, writing allowing you to unload? Maria, what does blogging mean to you? What are your expectations, fears around blogging? What has it given you, what has it taken? 

In short, I blog so to release some of the constant chatter that's happening in my head.

The moment I wake up in the morning, my mind starts its chatter. "Oh, my toes feel quite cold. Ha! The log burner looks even darker today. I wonder what bird it is I can hear singing? Geesh, I hope I don't get nauseous today..." It goes on like this the. Whole. Day. Always several things at once, always analyzing what I am feeling/seeing/smelling/tasting/hearing, remembering the past, wondering about the future. I do not know what it feels like to have a "still" moment; have never had the experience.

Part of the reason I like sleeping so much is that it gives me a break from my brain, but even in my sleep I don't get to rest entirely because I'm an avid dreamer. My dreams are effin' elaborate, man! Sometimes in the morning I recount to The Man what I've dreamt about and a lot of the times, after about a minute or two of me telling him more and more details he laughs and shakes his head and asks me shut up all at once.

And so to get these things out of my head, I blog. I find that when a topic has been circling in my head for a while, driving me nuts, because I've been, say, doing dishes in the kitchen and thinking, jesus christ, do I really have to be thinking about it again, for the fourth day in a row now!?! and the thought just does not go away - when I blog it out, it leaves me. It's like a release button.

I find that keeping comments open to public is essential to keeping this system working. It's like... if I make something public, write it on the internet, then from that moment on I do not have control over it any more. If something is written on the internet, it's forever.

And in a weird way, it helps me let go, because when I've put it out there, regardless of how stupid it is, there is no point worrying about it any more, or worrying about what would people think of me, because once it's out there, bang!, it's gone. It's done. Every thought I let go of like that helps me shut a topic off and make space for new ones to take its place, an everlasting curve of learning.

And as much as some of the comments people have left over the years bug the hell out of me (especially the ones my mom leaves (oh, hi mom!)), I find that when I shut the comments off, blogging doesn't stop my brain chatter - topics just circle in my head, on and on and on, for days or weeks or even months.

And, frankly, that would drive anyone insane.

So it's definitely not the adrenalin of comments I'm here for. I like the many people (and friends!) I've met through my blog over the years, but that's not the main reason either. Vanity? Sometimes I do enjoy the vanity, especially when I've written something I am proud of, something poignant, but to be honest, quite often I look at what I've written and think, geesh, Maria, people are going to look at this and think, this girl is a moron, and some of them are probably going to be right, too.

Some of my very embarrassing moments have been on my blog, published and for everyone to see nicely, and I still cringe looking back at them.

A dear friend of mine, for example, got in trouble in New Zealand mountains and was airlifted out in a helicopter through a Search and Rescue mission, and I was smart enough not to blog about it myself, because, you know, it's his story to tell, right.

But when a New Zealand newspaper published a story about it, I thought, oh, great! I'll just put up a link on my blog to that article, and that way I haven't spilled the beans, because it's already on the internet, isn't it. And so I simply put up a link to a story.

And, holy sh*t, my mobile phone rang, like, within 15 minutes of publishing that link. "Hi, I am calling from Estonian Daily and I'd like to..."

Because, you see, my friend is a diplomat. A story about a backpacker airlifted out of New Zealand mountains maybe doesn't sell that well, but if there's a story about an Estonian diplomat rescued from New Zealand mountains... Oh boy!

Our phones rang one after another that night. Journalists, friends, family... employers ;). My friend who was still physically worn out from the ordeal was making his damn best to compose himself and talk, honestly but firmly, about what had happened, all whilst making sure it didn't, oh, I don't know, screw with his diplomatic career.

And I think I spent most of that night sitting on a sofa, going, "Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t. I'm sorry!"

And it taught me a great lesson. I've had a few other, smaller slip-ups with other people's (personal) stories and I am now much more mindful of writing about my story, and leaving other people's stories for those other people to tell.

It's why my husband is called The Man here. Why my son is The Kid. When I write about other people here I sometimes change little details about their stories so to give them a bit more privacy - but I am also aware that I am not God, and I'm not perfect, and so I balance that fine line between allowing myself to speak out, loud, to keep my sanity, whilst trying very hard to be graceful towards others. Sometimes I fall, but... then I sulk a little bit and I learn and I live on.

So, yeah: my blog, plus my friends, plus my family, keep me sane. (And sometimes, even that isn't enough =).)

Alright, ran out of puff. I'll take up more questions in another post, sometime later. Meanwhile, if you have more, just add them there. And thank you - it's actually helping me, thinking of all this stuff you've brought up.

Dinosaurs at 5 o'clock in the morning

If it hadn't been 5 o'clock in the morning I would've thought it even funnier, but...

The Kid loves dinosaurs. He has a whole array of plastic ones he carries around the house making dinosaur "noises", "Grhaaaaaah!"

Yesterday I put a new pair of pajama pants on him, and the fabric has a... dinosaur print on it. The Kid didn't notice at first, but I pointed the dinosaurs out to him, and then he went around the house, going, "Grhaaaaah!"

And now fast forward 5 o'clock this morning. Quiet house, distant "cockadoodledoo!" sounding from the direction of our chicken coop - like every morning - and then suddenly, from The Kid's room:

"Grhaaaaaah!"

I lie in bed, thinking, oh, you have got to be kidding me.

"Grhaaaaaah!"

Even The Man is awake. He yells out, "Go back to sleep!" Silence ensues, and then follows:

"Grhaaaaaah!"

And then I lay there, half pissed off at being awake at 5 in the morning and half amused that... The Kid is sitting up in his cot, looking at his new pajama pants and doing, "Grhaaaaaah!" at the dinosaurs.

Oh, the life of parenthood.

PS. Thank you for the many questions you've posted. I'll make some time in the next few days and write up my answers.

Some of the questions are actually quite interesting and amusing to think about - makes me go through my memories and think, why.

On being a (sick) bum

Wow, this pregnancy is like a list of ailments from some sort of a baby-and-bump website.

So hayfever (which I had never ever had before, but now I do), check, and nausea, check, and now my back is seriously loosening up at 15 weeks (which last time, I think, it waited until about 30-something because I remember playing hackeyball at 35 weeks and dislocating my hip and my midwife shaking her head at me...), check, and now yesterday I somehow simultaneously got sunburnt and I think I also picked up a cold, because what I thought was excessive hayfever this morning with the amount of stuff coming from my nose, I am now starting to think, hmm, maybe that's not it... And, basically, wow. The amount of whinging you are doing, girl, wow.

But, hey!, on the flipside: different's good, right?

And I've so thought now that if it weren't for me being pregnant my family would've long ago labelled me a whinging bum, but now I somehow keep getting crackers and tea being brought to me to bed in the morning. Go figure.

On childbirth

I read and I think and I pause.

And after a while, I'll talk with The Man, then my midwife, and slowly we will start coming up with a plan on how to prepare and equip me for something I only imagine at the moment, and I think after christmas sometime - new year, basically - I will start shutting down and limiting my attention only to things and people that help me feel strong and empowered.

And the ones that don't? Well, I'll just start closing my eyes, breathing out and letting it go. I am already practicing.

Feather duvet: lesson learned

The yard looks like someone's killed a chicken because, turns out, making a feather duvet out of a pillow is much easier than making a pillow out of a feather duvet. (Getting feathers out of those dividing stitches is effin' awkward!)

But on the flipside, The Kid thinks it's great. Awesome, really.







So, yeah, if you, too, want a feather pillow and can't find a pillow for sale, per se, and decide to buy a cheap feather duvet from Salvation Army instead, thinking, I can take those feathers and stick them into a pillowcase!, then I suggest you do it outside and preferrably in a place where you really don't mind the mess that ensues.

Just sayin'.

Is there anything you'd like to know about me?

I did this a while ago on my Estonian blog, but reading Melina's blog now reminded me of it, so I decided to hold another "questions and answers" session, here - so, basically, if there's something you'd like to know about me, just pop the question in comments here and I'll do my best to answer in a separate post.

And whether you actually have anything to ask or not - which I won't know until someone actually asks, or maybe if this place is empty after two weeks I'll know that no-one wants to know anything - I'm putting it out here and, yeah, here's your chance.

And it, really, can be whatever. Those long posts I used to write about cloth nappies in Estonian? You can bring the topic back here. Or if you want, like, a rundown of where I'd suggest going in New Zealand if you happen to be traveling. Or if you want to know what the hell happened to sled dogs and Alaska and Svalbard and living life, and how come I'm now living in a rural house in New Zealand, washing toddler's bum and being pregnant again - what happened to adventures? Or maybe it's nothing personal at all and you just want to know something technical, like how New Zealand work permits work or whatever - just pop your question here and we'll go from there.

Meanwhile, I'm taking it easy today. I did a pretty good job of taking care of myself for a few days, but yesterday I overdid it again so today I'm out of puff and slightly nauseous, so I think I'll start having a to-do list every day where I write "rest" as one of the points on the list and then I'll go and rest, and then cross it off as done, and feel all accomplished about it.

It's actually quite... challenging, being a mom and being pregnant. Both things involve patience and rest and being kind to myself, which I'm not particularly good at, because what I really want to do is do lots of stuff, all the time! =)