Yum-yum toes

I certainly don't bend that way. Do you?

Christchurch to Golden Bay

I think the universe is trying to keep me from going to Golden Bay.

But before I go any further: to those of you who don't know what/where Golden Bay is, think ocean and eating shellfish collected from the beach...

Photo from our 2011 trip, The Kid only 6 months old

... think The Man's cousin with three kids (and a fourth on the way, eek!) ...

Another 2011 moment...

... think sunshine, sunshine, sunshine. Sunshine! At least according to Google, and weather forecasts, and experience.

A screenshot of Google's search results if you look for Golden Bay

But, alas, it looks like I'm not going after all, and all because of a wallet. [insert grumpy face]

Because here's the thing: initially it was thought that with Christmas holidays approaching and all, our entire team of a family would go to Golden Bay: Me, The Man, The Kid, The Girlie, the whole lot. Maybe even The Dog, if we could fit her in the car.

But then with the sh*tload of house problems and a subsequent move to town, I was both emotionally and physically drained to a point where I said, "No, sorry, I'm not going. I'm tired, I'm not gonna get much sleep there either, not with the kids running around, and then I'm gonna come back to this house full of boxes and mess everywhere. I'm not going."

The Man and The Kid left without me, and I've been holding down fort whilst they've been away. How, you may ask? By sleeping. And unpacking. And doing... stuff.

(By the way: the silence I've been able to enjoy since they've been gone has been... stunning. I mean, seriously: to any of you that have two (or more) kids, to say that it's been relaxing, being able to just potter around and unpack without having to vigilantly watch what The Kid is up to, whilst also keeping up to date with food and laundry and everything else a family does - to say that it's been relaxing would be an understatement of gross, gross magnitude.

It hasn't been just relaxing. It's been... awesome!)

The time I've had has allowed me to get to a point of wanting to go to Golden Bay again.

Equipped with the knowledge that most people who rent cars in New Zealand rent them up north and then drive them down south (with the bulk of the cars then accumulating down south), I knew that there would be car companies in Christchurch willing to give me a car for free (plus petrol!) just so that I would drive it back north for them again - to where The Man and The Kid are, to Golden Bay - I quickly organised myself a car rental, for free, only to realise that...

...when The Man drove off a few days ago, my wallet was still in the car. And it that wallet was, what?

My driver's license.
My credit card.


I don't have a driver's license.
I don't have a credit card.
With the New Year's holidays approaching, no courier company is willing to courier my wallet to Christchurch until Sunday at earliest, by which point The Man will be looking at coming back down again anyway.

And now I've spent the morning trying to scheme up a way to get to Golden Bay, but between missing driver's license / wallet, holiday weekend, exorbitant plane prices ($200+ for a one-way ticket to Nelson? Really?), it looks like I'll be staying in Christchurch after all.

But, heck, that's not too bad.

Me and The Girlie are chilling out en masse, The Dog is getting several walks each day to local parks and streets around us, yesterday I had dinner with our "adoptive" grandparents (neighbors, basically), tomorrow I'm having dinner with friends, there's stuff I can sort out in the garage still and...

Summer's here.

Christchurch or Golden Bay, doesn't matter. Summer's here, and we're feeling good again.

I hope you're having a good summer. Or winter, if you're in the Northern Hemisphere. Good time, basically!

One day my blog posts will start making sense again. I promise. I think.


The season's song

Just as seasons come and go, so do songs that ring with them.

It used to be Coldplay's "Fix You" as I was heading to Christchurch from Wanaka, James Morrisson's "You Give Me Something" as I was travelling around the South Island and tying vines in Blenheim's vineyards, Jehro's "Rock You Tender" in Svalbard. Every season in my life has had them.

Now this summer, it is Ben Harper's "By My Side".

We're online again!


I should probably come up with something a little more elaborate - to describe what it's been like, moving house with all the paraphernalia of us, our two kids and our dog - but... for the moment, all I can say is just, wow.

The internet has just come on. The garage is full of boxes. The kids are unsettled and, oh my God, don't even get me started on what The Dog thinks of it all =D, but the bottom line is: we're here.

A quiet, suburban street. Half the residents seem to be young families with children, the other half - retirees. There's a playground. Manicured lawns everywhere. I sit on our porch and think, wow.

It's about as much as I can think about it all, for the moment.

We're here.

PS. Holy mother of sheep! Christchurch was just hit by another moderate-ish earthquake half an hour ago, 4.0 Richter scale at 13 kilometres deep and... me and The Man just about sh*t our pants as it was happening.


Unlike up on the hill where earthquakes came as, dunk!, with the rocky base lifting at once and then maybe a little vibration to follow it all, down here it was like sitting on top of a marsh. Bluuuuuuaaaah, bluuuuuaaaaaah, bluaaaaaaah the ground was dancing and I was looking at our wooden unit rocking backwards and forwards, thinking, holy sh*t.

The thing went on for, like, forever.

Okay, so maybe it didn't go on forever - but it sure as hell felt like it! 8-9 seconds of looking at furniture moving is a bloody long time.

PPS. Bloody hell! I'm not kidding but just as I was writing this sentence here, another earthquake happened. A little one.

And yet again I was sitting here and thinking, wow, the thing feels SO different on soft ground! Kinda makes me wish I was living on some hard ground again...

But off I go. There's still more stuff to move.

Short skirt, yes, but she's got kids in the car

The Man had his company Christmas party day today. In a nutshell, it meant that a bunch of young men (apprentices, mostly) went bowling, had food, got drunk and were now making lots of noise at some poor chap's house in the suburbs.

A straightforward building firm Christmas, basically.

As per our plan, I pulled up to the "party house" at 6.30 pm sharp, with kids in the back of the car, and was ready to take The Man home. An array of young men - in various stages of drunkenness - came out of the yard to tell me that, no, they don't have anyone named so-and-so there, however... they could be so-and-so!

*and by "so-and-so" I mean my husband's name, but I don't use his name on this blog, so...

Unimpressed, I proceeded to walk away from them, thinking, I better get hold of The Man's boss because these fellas are clearly not in a position to help me. As I was doing so, I was accompanied by these young men's, "No, don't go! Where are you going? Come back! I can be so-and-so!"

I stopped, thought for a moment, looked back at them and said, "Okay, so you can be so-and-so, but be aware that I've got two kids in the back of the car. Still want to be so-and-so?"

The men stopped and - even in their drunkenness - were lucid enough to reply with, "Ah, nah, we're good, thanks."

Basically, I've got a skirt short enough to look hot, yes, but two kids just doesn't cut it, sorry.

Merry Christmas!

"That" children's song

Okay, so this is probably going to be the most confusing beginning to a blog post in a long, long while but...

In Estonian there's a word - an "unofficial" word, meaning, you probably wouldn't find it in a dictionary - (unless it were a very, khm!, "progressive" dictionary :), if you know what I mean...) - which can loosely be translated into something along the lines of "language Nazi". "Keelepede" Estonians call it.

It basically means a person who is very... keen on correct spelling and language use. You've probably met people like that - when coupled with poor social skills it makes for a person who often "tentatively suggest" that a word be spelled differently, or that a sentenced be phrased differently, and often annoys the heck out of everyone else who wouldn't otherwise care.

By the way: I'm pretty sure I'm one of them. A "keelepede" - a "language Nazi",

Part of the reason me blogging in English is that I get to practice, practice, practice this language that isn't native to me. Oftentimes I write and recognise that I am writing it wrong, but recognising and actually knowing what to do about it are two different things: I may see that something's wrong, but I may not necessarily know what the right way is.

And so I write it anyway and just hope for the best.

It also means that whenever I figure out rules that apply to English, I start noticing them everywhere.

...aaaaaaand back to why I started writing about it in the first place: whenever The Kid watches Pixar's "Monsters Inc" - like he did this morning whilst having breakfast, for example - in the end where Billy Crystal and John Goodman sing "If I didn't have you", every time they go over

I wouldn't have nothing if I didn't have you,
I wouldn't have nothing if I didn't have you,
I wouldn't have nothing if I didn't have you

...my brain goes, "I wouldn't have ANYTHING!!! if I didn't have you", "I wouldn't have ANYTHING!!! if I didn't have you", "I wouldn't have ANYTHING!!! if I didn't have you"

Not nothing - anything!

I know it doesn't rhyme, I know. But...

It's not nothing. It's anything!

Phew. Glad I got that off my chest!


The ongoing-ness of... this.

5-something in the morning. Most mornings. If I'm lucky, 6-something.

"Noooooo... I don't want to get up yet. Go back to sleep, oh please go back to sleep!"

30 seconds.

"Nooooooooooooooo, I don't want to get up yet!"

Another 30 seconds.


5 seconds.

"Okay, FINE!!!"

And up I get for another day. Feed the little one, then the big one is up, too. Let out The Dog, feed The Dog. Dishes. Laundry. Stubbed toes that need kissing, carrot puree over the tabletop and the bib, two swings in the garden. Strawberries that rarely last long enough to turn properly red.

Come evening-time I feel like I've been in a boxing match. Not at a boxing match - in. In a boxing match.

Boxes on the living room table. Labels read: "Living room. National Geographics." "Bedroom. Sleeping bags." "Garage. Upholstery fabrics."

I land on a sofa chair to move photos from the camera onto a hard drive and struggle to get back up again. "Oh if I could just fall asleep right here... Not a biggie, I don't need much, just some time and some quiet."

Quiet - yeah, Maria, good luck with that. Quiet.


I get up on a Tuesday morning convinced it is Sunday still. What is The Man doing sitting at a kitchen table, eating breakfast already? Go back to sleep!

And then it hits me: sh*t me, Maria, it's Tuesday. There's already been one working day this week, at least three are still ahead. Maybe four.

(Can I go back to bed, please?)


Ten minutes I've been sitting writing this post and what I hear from the bedroom is a toddler that has just woken up from his afternoon nap.

Sh*t me, Maria, it's Tuesday.

Holy hell.

Christmas New Zealand style

A kind of a useless statement

I don't think I've ever been so consistently tired in my life.

How'd you get into that position?

It was so funny that I couldn't help but come here and share.

I was standing by the sink, doing dishes, and - as usual - The Girlie was sitting next to me in her bouncy chair, watching what I do. Michael Buble's "Everything" was playing on the speakers and I was half-washing dishes, half-dancing by the sink when suddenly this very annoyed noise started coming from where The Girlie was sitting.

I looked down and sort of went...

Hmm. ;)

How'd you even get into that position?

She was stuck like that, unable to get her head back up and - as all exemplary parents do ;) - I
first laughed,
then got a camera to take a photo and
only after that helped her out.

As you do.

And because now I am in front of this computer anyway (both children are in bed, phew!), I might as well upload a whole bunch of other photos.

The Man is probably going to have words with me for putting up photos of him in his underwear but... I did warn him about that and he didn't put proper pants on, so here you go ;)

Random thoughts on a Thursday

Five minutes to blog. (Pep-talks to herself: five minutes, Maria, and then go do dishes, okay? Five minutes!)

I've been feeling like I am my grandmother today. The Kid is pushing his boundaries and learning to get what he wants, and being on the parent side of that relationship I've been going, "No, don't do that!", "No, get off that!", "No, get back here!"

But even as it's been happening I've been thinking to myself, "This is exactly what it felt like being at my grandparents' place." My grandmother was a very neat and orderly person and I, on the other hand... wasn't.

Several times each day she was shouting to me, "No, don't do that!", "No, get off that!", "No, get back here!" I remember how crappy it felt being on the receiving end of that kind of treatment and it makes me cringe to think how The Kid now hollers with joy when The Man comes home from work. "Dada!" he shouts and runs to meet his hero, The Man.

Yeah, sure: you're the guy that throws him up in the air and plays horsey with him in the living room, I think, whereas I'm that "horrible parent" who insist that he eats food, that puzzles don't get left in the middle of a hallway and that our dog is not to be pulled by the tail.

I don't resent The Man for being a great parent - I'm grateful for that. I just resent the fact that I'm having to be the un-cool parent.


My counsellor thinks I need some SSRIs. I think that I need some sleep, rest and sanity instead.

Hopefully the move will bring some much-needed balance back into our lives. Financially it is going to be horse's bollocks, but oh well, just need to suck it up for a while.


It's way past five minutes already, isn't it?


I've got a poster up on my wall: liking what you do is happiness.

The other one I haven't got yet is: doing what you like is freedom.

Doing what you like is freedom.
Liking what you do is happiness.


There's an episode on House MD where Thirteen says something along the lines of, "You know that when you run out of questions, you don't just run out of answers - you run out of hope."


I hope - and believe - that getting out of this house is going to change our circumstances significantly, and it is why I insist that I do the move without the help of SSRIs.

And then next year, we'll see what happens. My gut feeling is that once I start anew in a place that doesn't have the emotional baggage of all that's been happening recently, I am going to breathe out and look ahead. If I'm wrong, I'll go talk to my GP about SSRIs - but until then, I feel that I can do it.

On my own.

Because I've got hope.


I'd like to write more, but sorry, I've gotta go. Two children, dishes, a dog, food to prepare, clothes to bring in... You know, life of a parent ;)

And in case you don't know what it's like - life of a parent - then my advice to you is, ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS!!!


Estonians on the radio

I think this is the... third? time this year that I am hearing about Estonia on New Zealand's national radio? Just now this evening's programme was introduced and among other features is a story about Estonia's e-residency.

I think I may keep the radio on. It'd be interesting to hear.


At a glance

A quiet, suburban street. A park. A level yard. A lemon bush.

We'll be moving this Christmas.

That's the way to repair a house, I tell ya

So, not mentioning any names of companies, but... Picture this: a family moves out of their house so it can be repaired from earthquake damage. Standard thing, happens all over Christchurch, right?


Several months they've been living elsewhere. Their house is getting better, and better, and it's in the last stages of getting repaired - the family is looking forward to getting back home soon, and they're kind of excited, yeah! - when a concrete-fixing-whatever-you-call-them-company comes to pour concrete into cracks.

They pour concrete and some of it gets poured into piping underneath the house.

Like, there used to be pipes that moved stuff along in them, but now they're full of concrete, and in case you're not very much into building and architecture, that's not, like, a very good thing ;)

So, in true Christchurch style, this house that's been just short of ready to be declared repaired and habitable again,  and where builders have been doing their last jobs of "prettifing", is now looking to be, guess what?, demolished.

Because at this stage an insurance company that is paying for the whole thing is kind of starting to say that, f*ck this, it's going to be cheaper to demolish the house, and build it anew again, than it is to jack it up, remove the base, put in new piping and foundations and everything, and then lower the house back down again.

And I bet the family is at this stage going either, 1) are you f*ckin' kidding me!?!, or 2) oh, so NOW you give us a new house!

But either way, they're not getting back into their house anytime soon :P

The things I keep reminding myself of

I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.
I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.
I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.

The things that are important are well: I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children. They are strong and healthy. I am strong and healthy!

And so I keep reminding myself of that.

If someone came up to me and said, look, I can switch things around for you so you'll have a lovely landlord and a dry, warm home, but one of your children will fall ill. Would you like to switch? The answer to that would be a resolute, "No!"

And so I remind myself that the important things are well and rather than lose sleep and energy over someone who I am starting to suspect has certain psychopathic qualities, I'll keep reminding myself that the important things in my life are well. I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.

I also remind myself that I should not fear. I have not done wrong. I have faith in the court system and I think that if I have not done wrong, a judge would be able see that, too, if it came to it. I am learning about the bullying tactics and I may take up a few of your offers on doing laundry and having a shower at your houses, if I can't do them at mine. (I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.)

I will remind myself that regardless of how unreasonably someone is acting I won't go down to the level of doing it back. The anger will stop at me. (I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.)

Meanwhile, whilst I was driving to town this morning a car passed me on a stretch of road that's recently been graded and a stone flew into my windscreen, leaving a dent. The windscreen is a write-off. Luckily I have full insurance, so at least it's not going to cost me, but at some point I will need to make time to get the windscreen replaced. I will try to do it whilst The Kid is in daycare so I only have The Girlie to wrangle. (I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.)

Also, on the advice of the department of building and housing, I went down to our water system today and, today's newspaper in hand, recorded a video of where the water level is sitting, of the pump, of the piping. I also recorded a video of the trickle of water in our taps. The housing department people said the videos could become useful in court. (Why today's newspaper in hand? Because they said I needed to be able to prove that this video isn't pre-recorded at some other time.)

I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.
I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.
I have a beautiful husband and two beautiful children.

On bullies

The Man, in the kitchen at 6 am in the morning, "Do you feel a bit like Ukraine at the moment?"


And by the way, the answer is yes. Yes I do.

New Zealand tenancy regulations, case study, part one

So, let's imagine this fictional - or maybe not so fictional - situation: a young family lives in a rural house, on a water supply that comes from rainwater. There is a water tank that collects rainwater and a pump that pressurises the plumbing so that water can reach two houses uphill.

One day there is no water in the tap. Two young men go down to the pump to investigate. They see that a pipe has rusted through, and through the holes the pump has sucked in air - rather than water - so that's why there is no water in the tap. The pump is working non-stop, but it can't get water because it's full of air.

These two young men turn off the pump, drain it of air, repressurise plumbing. Water still isn't reaching the houses - there may be an airlock in the pipes somewhere.

Eventually they get the water to reach houses again, but the pressure is still off: they turn on the tap, water comes, but it quickly lessens to a trickle. Can't run the washing machine, can't have a shower (it's scolding because there is pressure in hot water pipes only, not the cold ones).

A woman living in the house asks the landlord over the phone if they can reach an agreement to terminate the tenancy. The landlord refuses to talk over the phone and when approached in writing says that he has "forwarded her request to his legal counsel and an accountant and will get back to her in due course". (Whenever that is...)

Meanwhile, this woman calls up a pump company who the landlord claims have installed the pump. Owner of this company says the pump isn't theirs, he knows nothing about it and therefore cannot help, but after this woman enquires why on earth would her landlord give her this company's details then, tentatively suggests that he suspects that one of his employees have installed the pump on their own, off the books, and have only put this company's name on paperwork to get it passed by the council.

The woman spends a long time talking to the Tenancy Tribunal. She wants to know what her legal options are and they are the legal experts. In short, if the landlord doesn't agree to terminate the contract - which he hasn't - then her only way of getting out of there is through court.

"Even if I don't have enough water pressure to run a washing machine and have two small children!?!" the woman asks. Yes, they reply.

By New Zealand law, the woman needs to give the landlord reasonable time to fix the pump - and reasonable, in their opinion, is two weeks. If by the end of those two weeks there are still problems, she can apply for the matter to be seen in court. A court hearing will happen approximately 4-6 weeks from the date of the application, and only the court can let her out of the tenancy agreement.

"So, we're talking about up to two months, without sufficient water pressure, whilst continuing to have to pay rent?" she asks.

Yes, they say.

The woman doesn't want to go to court - she wants to get out of the house. Are there really no other options?, she asks.

No, there aren't, they say.

Lots of expletives

This morning I googled, "What does nervous breakdown feel like?"


I am a tenant, not an owner of this house. I should not be getting good at understanding how water collection systems work, how to repressurise plumbing and how to move an airlock in an uphill water pipe. Also, I should not be filling a washing machine with a bucket. There are lots of things in my life I could do with that time and energy instead.

At some point during this morning I just went in our bedroom, pulled up a blanket and pretended that the world doesn't exist. 

Am I having a nervous breakdown? I don't know, but I do have a feeling that I've finally developed depression though. I feel that my body just doesn't cope with lack of sleep any more, not when coupled with stress/pressures of everything else that is going on. First world problems, I know - but still. 

(PS. Yes, I drink water, eat fruit and veggies, have breakfast, nap when possible and try to take care of myself.)


By the way, did you know that according to New Zealand's tenancy legislation, a tenant cannot give notice to terminate a fixed-term contract, not unless a landlord agrees to it? I even spoke to New Zealand's Department of Building and Housing, asking, "So, what will happen if I just give notice, three-four weeks, whatever, and leave?"

I become liable for all the money I would've paid my landlord until the end of our contract, they said.

Great. This just keeps getting better. I "love" this place.


Yesterday we drove past a lady that was touring with her bike. She had one of those trolleys that attach to the bike, with a sleeping bag, a tent and everything else she needed loaded onto that trolley, and The Man said that he feels jealous when he sees people touring like that.

I said to him that I feel jealous when I drive past houses where people have double-glazing.


A friend who has two children almost the same age as The Kid and The Girlie are, went on holiday recently. A week they spent in Australia and upon return I asked, "So, did it actually feel like a holiday to you?"

He looked at me with those eyes only a parent of young children can have, and answered, "No, actually, it didn't. I couldn't wait to get back and go to work."

I laughed and then I nodded. 

It reminded me of that poster I once saw, something about money/time/health never being good all at once. It went something like this: at 20 there is enough time and health, but not money. At 40 there is money and health, but not time. And then at 60 there is money and time, but not health any more.

Which reminds me: last week my counsellor said that one day my children will leave and I will start having time for myself again, and I sort of looked at her, thought for a moment and replied, "Maybe, but by then my joints will have started going, too."

Am I a half glass empty sort of a person? Darn it, but at the moment, quite possibly. 

However, if something f*ckin' else brakes down in this f*ckin' house, then tenancy tribunal or not... Ehh.


Whilst writing this I had this image in my head of someone commenting this post with, "Maria, you complain so much, it's depressing to read." I thought to myself: how would I react to that?

And it occurred to me that I would probably reply with something along the lines of, OMG, is someone making you read this blog?! How horrible for you!

Which, also, reminds me: recently a couple called John and Sherry stopped blogging at www.younghouselove.com . I hear there has been lots of outcry along the lines, how could they do that, they have a commitment to their readers! To which I think, hey, just do whatever makes you happy, as long as it doesn't hurt anyone, and leave it at that. 

If anything, I appreciate their integrity to not keep on going when it doesn't feel fun or good any more.

It's kind of why this blog doesn't have ads, nor have them in the future. It's my place - a place where I do what I like, when I like it. (Even if it is complaining about this house for, what, sixth month in a row?)

I am at a stage where I don't even think I have energy to move any more. I don't want any more "open homes", negotiations over pets, or scrutinizing fencing via Google Maps. I want to go to bed, pull a blanket up, and sleep for two years.

These two are great!

Make sure you watch it long enough for Taylor Swift to come on though ;)

Which reminds me: about a year ago I was in the kitchen with The Kid, reading Melissa's blog where she linked to a certain song and, well... this ensued.

I don't think I ever intended to share it on my blog, for after all, I am in my old worn-out sweater, with bed hair, in the kitchen in the morning, but... Oh, what the heck: here it is.

Magpies and human mothers

A family of magpies lives by our house. Over the last couple of weeks I have watched them play out a sort of an avian version of... toddlerhood.

For a while the babies sat in one spot and got fed by their parents. They squawked, squawked, squawked until an adult magpie flew over, regurgitated some food right into their beaks (or was it snails? It's hard to tell from a distance) and for a few fleeting moments there was silence - until squawking started again.

It's kind of like me and The Girlie - she, too, "squawks" when she's hungry and I feed her, right into her mouth.

Then came another stage where the babies followed their parent - a mother? - around and got fed, too, but not in that one spot any more. They picked at grass and our compost heap, continuously squawking for more, and I watched their parent - yes, a mother, I think - in quiet amusement as she listened to their continuous "Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!", and I imagined her wanting to bite their heads off, for just that one moment, for it would give her that much-wanted moment of silence.

Kind of like human parents of toddlers sometimes do. ("Look, ball!" - "Yes, that's right, a ball." - "Mama, ball!" - "Yes, I heard you. A ball! Do you want to roll the ball?" - "Look, ball! Mama, ball!" - "...uhm, yeah, ball. Do you want to roll it here?" - "Mama, ball!" - "I heard you. A ball." - "Look, ball!" - *sigh*)

And now they're in that stage where they're not getting fed any more - except, they still squawk. Their mother is walking around the yard, with two furry-looking young magpies at her tail, and doing her very best at ignoring them - whilst they're doing their very best at being loud and demanding, but not getting anything.

Kind of like teenagers are, I guess.

I think I can see their mother aging right in front of me. She's been listening to this squawk, squawk, squawk for days now, and one day they're bound to *get it* that they're old enough to take care of themselves now - but oh dear God they're making her suffer whilst they're not there yet.

Squawk. Squawk. Squawk.


Today I've turned 30. Life's a little overwhelming again for the moment.

In words of Ashley Ann, "...it might feel like all she does all day long is meet needs and redirect behaviors, but she is doing so much more than that. /.../ It may not feel like it, but you are doing far better than you think you are."

The baby is asleep. I'll go and try to sleep, too. Been up since 4 am.

Liking it down south

"So, what did you think of Wellington?" The Man asked me.
"I really liked it!" I replied.
He laughed and said with that loooooooooooong o in the beginning, "Oooooooooooh no..."

I looked at him. "Wellington looks the way I imagine Brisbane is," with its weathered bungalows clinging to the hillsides, washing lines strewn on porches, verandahs and balconies, Thai food joints next to Indian takeaways on street corners.

But! Just like back in 2009, Wellington - and going north in general - did not feel like home to me. As much as I enjoyed strolling down Lambton Quay with its bustle of energy (so different to Christchurch!)...

...and imagining myself roller skating down the waterfront (I've considered doing it in Christchurch, but with the road works and the general traffic culture... uhm, maybe not), getting on a plane and flying back towards the South Island felt like going home to me.

Somewhere among these hills there is my home. I haven't found it yet, but I can feel it there: I recognise the anticipation of this landscape and a quiet calling it's got on me, beckoning me home.

I sat on the plane and looked downwards. I recognised a beach I used to live at in Conway Flat...


...and a mountain pass I traversed in Kaikoura Ranges.

Kowhai-Hapuku crossing, 2009

I saw a road I knew is getting frequented by seals looking for shelter from the storm.

Kaikoura coastline, 2009

Bottom line is, South Island pulls on my heart the way I've never known North Island to do, and it reminded me of Wednesday morning when I was driving down Dyers Pass Road on my way to town.

Every few weeks or so I still see a counsellor who is helping me talk through the struggles I've faced since "transitioning" - for lack of a better word - from freedom of unencumbered youth to repetitive responsibilities of parenthood, and on that Wednesday morning I was driving over Dyers Pass to see the counsellor. The Girlie was in the back, strapped into her safety seat, Christchurch City was laid out in front of me, with its miles of suburban housing, and as I listened to Radio New Zealand National interviewing one of the managers of DOC (New Zealand's conservationists) who was talking about New Zealand's landscapes, flora, fauna and the difficulties his organisation is facing, I suddenly - and unexpectedly - teared up.

"What am I doing here?" my heart asked me, and I searched for an answer. 

Christchurch is a place I do not see myself staying at. Somewhere in the hills of the South Island there is a home I haven't found yet. 

So, no, as much as I liked Wellington and enjoyed my visit there, I do not "like it" like it in the way of wanting to be there.

I like it here, down south.

On flying to Wellington

Trip to Wellington was lovely, The Girlie behaved so well! However, having now taken her on two regional flights and experienced first-hand what it's like flying with a little one, I will not be going on long-haul international flights with little children, if I can help it.

Also, Christchurch airport has the coolest jetways! (Also known as airbridges, walkways or passenger boarding bridges.) The one I boarded through had huge photos of sheep on walls and on the speaker system they played non-stop baa-ing, so it was like walking onto the plane through farmland. People around me smiled and I smiled, too!

On coincidences

Yesterday I saw a cyclist sitting on the side of a road. Chain on his bike had snapped and he was waiting to get in touch with his friends who were finishing work soon to come pick him up. I was heading to town anyway so I suggested I fetch a bike rack to go on the back of the car and give him a lift instead. He gratefully accepted.

I drove, we chatted. He was a nice man, it was nice to have company.

Not even 5 minutes into the drive we realised that he was the anesthesist who helped me during labour with The Girlie five months ago, and quite aside from that fact alone (hello!, in a city of 300,000) it made me grin to think that last time we met he was trying to get into my face with, "I need you to listen to me! Can you hear me?" and all I could do was scream back at him in agony.

It was definitely more pleasant to chat with him in our warm car than it was to scream at him in incoherent pain =)


The joys of summer

Studying, 5-month-old-baby-wants-to-be-awake style

Going on a road trip

I am excited - excited! - over going on a little road trip next week.

Okay, so "road trip" is not really a correct way of describing it, for I'll be hopping on a plane - not a car or a campervan; I'll be leaving Christchurch at 10 am and coming back by 6 pm that same day; I'll spend most of my time either going to a consulate, being at a consulate or coming back from a consulate.

But... still. I'll be going on a plane. To Wellington. (Almost) on my own!

(That "almost" part is referring to The Girlie, who'll be coming with me ;).)

Last time I was in Wellington was in 2009. I made my way up the country in a colorfully painted campervan and spent most of my days in solitary "exploration mode" where I made meaningful conversations, memories at tramping trails and beaches, and... oh the excitement. That trip had probably been the first time in my life when I had just gone, alone, without much of a plan nor budget, and... moved about randomly. Sometimes I woke up in the morning and didn't know where I'd be by nightfall.

And now, only 5 years later I am making a "roadtrip", except this time my husband will drive me to an airport and drop The Kid off at preschool along the way, I will organise my day around an appointment I have with an Estonian consulate general - and my 5-month-old - and I will be back at my home by nightfall having never even packed as much as a lunch in my daybag, which is filled with nappies, wipes, baby clothes and carrot puree instead.

Last time I made that same trip I hadn't even met The Man yet, and look at me now.

On getting frustrated

Does your life move in stages, too? Like, does it feel to you, too, that there is an "age" of something and then life moves on to something else?

I feel like my life has come to an end of the age of... whinging.

It may not feel like it from where you are, reading my blog, but I have - I promise! - cut back on the amount of frustration. I've... had enough of it. I've had enough of getting angry at our house, at time pressures, finances, career choices, health. I've kept watching frustration fill my bowl to a point where it's affected my life and the amount of enjoyment I am getting out of it, and I've sort of gone...

"F*ck it."

I've found that I just can't. Do. All of it.

I just can't. I can't be an awesome mother, and an awesome writer, and an awesome student, and an awesome friend, and an awesome DIYer - and then an awesomely happy person somewhere in between those all. There just isn't enough of me: there isn't enough time and energy to fit it all in.

I've sort of gone f*ck it, f*ck it, f*ck it to a whole bunch of things. I've had to.

Sometimes I still get frustrated, habitually almost, automatically resorting to a "This is bollocks!" response in my head when stuck against something I strongly disagree with. But then I notice it, and I keep on teaching myself to get better at it, and I tell myself that getting angry at it isn't helping it. If I've got enough energy and self-control at that moment, I stop; instead of feeling passionately f*cked off with something I just go, "Well, yeah, tough luck" to it - and then I leave it.

And then I go and live my life instead.

Quantity surveying moment (and a bit of earthquake humor)

9 o'clock in the evening, I am sitting doing schoolwork.

I'll try not to go into too much detail, but basically: I've got an assignment here that is asking that if a house sits on "anchored" piles rather than "braced" piles (both are types of foundation), how much lower is the house allowed to be to ground level?

The answer is: by about 600 mm. On "braced" piles a house would have to sit at least 750 mm off ground, whereas on "anchored" piles it could be only 150 mm. That 600 mm less would allow for significant cost saving when building a house - so much material that could be skipped on, concrete, timber, plaster, man-hours...

But I am sitting here, imagining a house sitting only 150 mm off ground - that's only 15 cm, not even the length of my foot! - and thinking, "Well, let's hope this house isn't sitting in Flockton basin or otherwise you're screwed."

Sorry, but it's a bit of earthquake humor. Christchurch residents will probably understand ;).

If I were back in Estonia

Some things may have changed (and probably have!) since I moved to New Zealand five years ago, but if Estonia were the same now as it was back then, and I moved, I would probably...

...feel alarmed at the lack of peanut butter which I have now grown so accustomed to. And Vegemite! If peanut butter I could probably get from well-stocked or specialty shops, Vegemite I doubt even a foreign stall at a food festival carries.

For the first few days I would probably survive on salted herring and dark rye bread alone.

I would eat a variety of porridges for breakfast and enjoy buying buckwheat in the "cheap" section of a grocery store, rather than having to pay through the nose for buying it at a specialty shop. (Most grocery shops here don't even carry it.)

I would leap at the opportunity of rollerskating down long stretches of bike-friendly tracks! (Especially Kakumäe.) Oh, and I would love cycling amongst traffic without feeling like I am about to die. New Zealand is "good" like that.

I would eat a variety, variety! of cheeses, rather than a repetition of Colby-Mild-Edam. (And I would pick those cheeses from the general dairy section of the shop, rather than a specialty shelf ;).)

Talking of dairy: I would unashamedly buy single-serve ice creams over and over again, and they would probably taste of a little more than just general sugar.

I would build snowmen, and go skiing, and skating in winter. I would "swish" through fresh powdery snow when temperatures hit -10 C and "slosh" through puddles when the stuff melts in spring.

I would bag my own groceries and relish the feeling of being actually useful during check-out. Here, whenever I try to at least help with that, I get told, "I've got it." (In Estonia, I don't even remember "baggers" outside of busy Christmas season when they try to get people in and out of stores quickly.)

I would ride in public transport - again and again and again. I would take a tram to Kopli, a trolleybus to Mustamäe, a train to Tartu and a bus to Kohtla-Järve. And then I'd do it all over again.

I would travel across the country in a car in 3 hours max. (Here? In a car I'd say two days at least. Flying's easier.)

I would put up tall book cases without having to first bolt them to the wall as an earthquake precaution.

I would sing praises to central heating.

I would go picking mushrooms in autumn. But first! I would approach someone who actually remembers which mushrooms are edible and which aren't, because after several years of "no mushroomin'" the best I can do, I think, is to stay off those bright red ones with white dots and everything else has sort of become... yeah.

I'm done having children, but if I weren't, I would totally miss Plunket. Totally!

Can't remember anything else for now. Maybe will do a second instalment sometime in the future!

On keeping distance

Sometimes I wonder if (some) Kiwi drivers hate me. Because here's the deal:

I frequently drive on a road that hugs a hillside, and so it is a curve upon a curve upon a curve there. If there were no other traffic out there, I could probably get away with driving a little faster - I know the bends pretty much by heart by now - but... there is other traffic, and so I stick to posted "suggested speeds" instead, and a little bit of common sense, too. The fact that I know the road doesn't mean that everybody else does also. (And how many times have I come across oncoming traffic in my lane because they're attempting to overtake someone, or give space to cyclists? Hello!)

Every now and again I catch up with cars that are going slower than I am: usually campervans, trucks or maybe gray sedans with rental stickers on them. They make their way around the bends with caution and because I know that we need to cover several kilometres before there is an acceptable place where I can pass them, I just slow down to whatever they're doing, give them space and cruise along.

But almost as sure as a pavlova-pie on a Christmas morning there will be a car behind me also, and on occasions where I am not that lucky it will have a driver who is not that good at patience, or brains. They'll get behind me, sometimes only 2 car lengths apart, and keep driving like that - at, whatever, 60 km/h. Maybe 65. 70. Depends on where we are.

At 2 car lengths!

I don't know if this topic got covered in your physics classes, or driving school, but I am well aware of the fact that the greater the speed of an object, and greater its mass, the longer it will take for it to stop if need be - and, khm-khm!, 2 car lengths at 60 km/h is not even a reaction time, let alone a stopping time. I've got two children on the back seat - if something happens ahead of me making me hit the breaks, that car behind me is going to be, how do they say it here... "Up my ass?" Well, it's not even going to be that - first it is going to be in the back of my children's car seats.

Think about it for a moment.

In a situation like that, what would you do? There is no passing lane, there is hardly even a shoulder to stop on. Stopping and letting that a$$hole of a driver pass is not often an option.

Which is why I - and it may not make sense to that other driver behind me - slow down a little more.

If you're going to "sit" behind my car at 60 km/h, well, good luck with that - because I'm not having it. You can see perfectly well that I cannot go any faster - there is a car ahead of me. There is no place to pass. There is no place to pull over. You are driving so close to me that I can barely see your numberplate in my rearview mirror. If something were to happen and I were needing to hit the brakes suddenly, your car would be up the back of mine, and I've got two children sitting there. I am not okay with that, and so because of that, I slow down. You may think that I am being an a$$hole, but I am not - you are. I am not slowing down to piss you off - I am slowing down in at attempt to make it safer, for me.

That - something like that I would probably say to that other driver if we were connected via some driver-to-driver communication system, but we're not, so what usually happens is that that a$$hole of a driver behind me honks at me, then passes me when there is some even minimally acceptable space available (meaning: pray to God there isn't a concrete truck coming 'round the corner, mmkay?) and then, guess what? Then they get stuck in front of me at exactly the same speed, waiting for an opportunity to pass that slower car, too.

Most of the time we get like that to the official "passing straight" where everyone gets a chance to pass the slower driver, and so by doing that honk-speed-stuck maneuver described above the a$$hole driver doesn't gain any time - all they do is put a few lives in jeopardy, including their own, and I really can't see how I am the one to be honked at. Really.

The beauty of living in Christchurch

A third punctured tyre in a year. A third! All have been metal screws stuck in the rubber, all probably picked up from the streets of this huge post-earthquake building site calling itself Christchurch City.

I've spent half an hour kneeling on soggy ground, in on and off rain, jacking up the car, changing the tyre and realising that the spare is what they call a "spacesaver" (am I even allowed to drive it on mountainous roads?), whilst The Girlie has been screaming her head off and even The Kid started shouting at The Girlie to stop screaming. Then I was on the phone cancelling doctor's appointments I could no longer get to, re-arranging the day ahead, all whilst being tired from a rough night, sleep-wise, and...

All because of a screw. A screw!

Three puncture repairs in a year. One actually had to be a whole tyre replacement because I managed to start driving before realising I had a flat.

Gotta love Christchurch!

I might just stop driving, full-stop. Oh, wait, yeah - I can't. I live here:

Not today's photo - today's photo would be rain clouds and puddles

A toddler in the middle of a road

I was driving down a suburban street in Christchurch today. I crossed a railroad, started going down the hill and all of a sudden I noticed a... toddler in the middle of the road.

It was... bizarre. Maybe two years old, tops, he was toddling smack bang in the middle of a wide road (I was expecting traffic) and he was happily carrying around a rubbish bin lid. I was looking at him, then at the street around him, then towards houses' fences, expecting someone to turn up somewhere but... nothing. I got to where he was toddling, stopped the car, got out, smiled and started asking, "Where is your mummy? Or your daddy?"

From another direction a big SUV was approaching. Had it been my own child I would've whisked him up in my arms and walked onto a sidewalk with him, but being another person's child I had an automatic "Don't touch other people's children" thing going on, and I was standing there in the middle of a road with him, kind of stupefied still.

Then I did a policeman-sort-of-a move: I stood up, stretched my arm out towards that approaching SUV and basically told that other driver, "Stop now," without having ever opened my mouth. Like this, kind of:

Meanwhile, the toddler kept walking around happily, carrying his rubbish bin lid.

The SUV stopped. I was still standing there, talking to the toddler, "Come off the road with me. Where is your mummy? Do you know where your mummy is?"

And it wasn't until The Man got out of the car and shouted to me, "You do know it's okay to pick up other people's children if they're in danger, right?" that it occurred to me: come on, Maria, stop faffin' around and get this boy off the god-damn road, now will ya.

And I picked him up, carried him onto a sidewalk, put him down and together with The Man we continued interrogating this non-talking creature with, "Where is your home? Where is your daddy? Or mommy? Do you know where you live?"

Within a minute from one of the yards a woman came running, "Oh my god, where is he!?"

Now, several hours later, I am sitting here and thinking, did I really start having a conversation with a toddler in the middle of a fuckin' road? Because my brain was automatically telling me to not touch other people's children?


Talking of toddlers: my own toddler, apparently, considers playing with the trains the most important thing in the world at the moment, so when he gets out of a bath, butt-naked, the first thing he does - and I've got evidence - is not doing something as boring as getting dressed, but he goes playing with trains instead.


I know, son, you're gonna hate me for posting this when you're 15 years old and discover that there is a picture of your butt on the internet, but... well, life's tough, so get used to it, figuratively speaking ;)

(And okay, okay, I did a little photoshoppin'. You're welcome.)

And if you ever wonder why my and The Man's cars are covered in cow slobber - this. This is why.

Such a comfortable car to lean on, isn't it?

Cattle. Ahem!