On pitfalls of potty training

There's an article I'd like to share - but before I do that, there's a few things I need to say first.

Steve Hodges is a paediatric urologist, meaning, he's an urologist who works almost exclusively with children - kidneys, bladders, bowels, that sort of stuff. On top of years of experience from his clinic, he's written loads of articles and even a book (which you may have heard of), but having said that - he is not an immaculate writer and, in my opinion, the article I am about to share would've benefited (a great deal!) from a bit of help by a firm-handed content editor.

So... here are my personal disclaimers.

What he says is important, but he may not come across very well. Although he writes - repeatedly - about the dangers of potty training in general, he doesn't actually mean that potty training as such is a problem - withholding is, both for urine and for poop.

Secondly - and it sort of stems from the first disclaimer - is that if your child has been potty trained before they were three, or two, or even one, please-please-please don't take this article personally! A lot of the people who disagree with Hodges are proponents of so-called elimination communication (EC) and I can see why they feel angered: every time Hodges says "potty training is nuts" they feel threatened and labelled, but I don't think they need to be. Why? Because in its early stages EC is really more about "parent training" (rather than "baby training") and doesn't promote withholding, so when Hodges talks about the downsides of withholding pee and poop, then EC doesn't actually... you know, qualify.

(I'm not sure if Hodges himself even recognises how much of a difference generalising potty training like that makes, especially when read in non-US cultures.)

And thirdly, just as women and men and pregnancies - and everything else in this world - are different, so are children. Potty training early doesn't guarantee wonders, potty training late doesn't guarantee troubles - or vice versa - and so, really, I think it's about the circumstances of each individual family and the child that the potty training strategy should be discussed in.

Steve Hodges is an urologist. He talks about the potential (potential! That's, like, meaning it is not guaranteed) physiological (meaning, he works with the anatomy, so he is not a psychologist, and if you want to talk about the importance of emotional factors, go bring it up elsewhere) risks (risks! Again, that means it's not guaranteed) that manifest themselves when potty training is done early or in ways that encourage children to hold their stuff in.

And I, personally, am very grateful for having access to such information. It allows me some understanding of a very complicated (and opinionated!) topic, which then helps me evaluate what potty training method is suitable for my family, in our circumstances. Do you know what it feels like to open up a potty training chapter in one of those "baby books" and then shut it again five minutes later, feeling like, if anything, I am even more confused than I was before opening it? I do.

Steve's not the first clinician I've come across who has pointed out the effect bowels have on urinary nerves - and stemming from that, on bedwetting and urinary infections - but he does explain it very well, simply and with humour.

Just as long as you try to ignore how he generalises potty training, and try not to take any personal offense in your own parenting techniques because I doubt that Steve is meaning to be offensive - he's just trying to get the message out there that, guys, if your children are wetting their beds at 8 and get recurring urinary infections when they're 4, it might simply be because they're, well... constipated.

And alright, here we go, the article itself:

The dangers of potty training too early

The morning after

What happens when toddlers are afraid of storms at night? They don't sleep, and neither does anyone else.

The Man, after getting dressed, "I am trying to think what I'd like for breakfast and all I can think of is sleep."

***

Five minutes later when said toddler has thrown himself on the kitchen floor and is crying - why? Probably because he is tired, also - we stand there, and I say, "Works as a really good contraceptive though."

And then think to myself, "Yeah, that and being pregnant already."

On not giving up

Believe it or not, but I came across this video after I had gone from sad and weepy to stubborn and "I'll make it work"-feeling - not before. (If anything, this video came to me at a time where it reflected my mood, rather than induced it, and there was something symbolic about the way I was drinking it in whilst laying in bed, ready to go to sleep.)

I have a feeling that getting pissed off with The Man's company has been a blessing in this whole deal because since doing so I haven't even had an inkling of weepiness - only stubbornness and feeling of screw-you-guys-I-have-a-life-to-live-here sort of stuff; the sort of stuff where upon The Man asking me how I am feeling, I've replied, pretty good, actually.

It's the sort of stuff that happens when you piss off a stubborn person, or when you try and stop them from doing something, because all it achieves is that they go and do it anyway.

But, sorry, I am getting carried away here - the video!

The woman in this video is great and she is also laugh-out-loud funny. Several laugh-out-louds funny!

 

A bit of a rant. "A bit"

Oh. Come. On!

Find a way for your wife to get to all these medical appointments without you or find another job.

Charming. These guys are f*cking charming.

And here's how it's going to work: I am going to find a way to make it work, and when those guys one day ask us a favor that The Man come in on a Saturday or something, to help out, or do a longer day because something really needs finishing, then I am going to say to them that sorry, fellas, but you'll need to find someone else to do you these favors because I'm not f*ckin' doing any, so if The Man was supposed to spend his Saturday with me, cuddling or relaxing or whatever, then that's what he is going to do and you'll just need to suck it up, darlings, so go find another doormat, thank you very much.

And meanwhile, I'll just keep on climbing this logistical mountain and when I am one day sorted with this keep-calling-people-and-asking-for-help, I am going to throw one helluva party and I am going to drown everyone near and dear to me in chocolate as a thank you note for all the help that I have been receiving through this bullsh*t time and I am going to look back on it and think... I don't actually know what I am going to think, but it's definitely not going to be anything along the lines of thank you, The Man's employers, you are such generous, wonderful people.

A$$holes.

Alright, end of rant. Amen.

PS. Ever wondered what a taxi costs from here to town? Well, I did, too - until yesterday.

$80. One way.

Ahem!
So, so, so tired...

Slump

Laying in bed now and feeling what I am feeling makes me painfully aware that as much as I have been feeling that 'it's alright, I can cope' this week, I still need to keep an eye out on myself so not to let this 'it's alright' feeling turn into trying to be a supermum.

Because here's the thing: it's been a lovely day. I got to rest, I got to do a few things (but not too many!), I got to smile and to feel hopeful - but then, in the evening, as The Man sat down with me and wanted to get his head around how much time off work exactly he will need to take in order to get me to obstetrician's appointments, neurologist's appointments etc, and was trying to push me to give him more answers than I am capable of giving at this moment, I felt a familiar 'slump!' come on.

The same sort of a 'slump!' I felt last Monday; the sort where I just wanted to cry a little and make it go away somehow.

I understand that The Man's company isn't very impressed with him needing time off work because his wife is pregnant, can't drive and lives in wop-wops - but I also refuse to try and come up with answers on how often exactly the doctor's appointments will be because, in all seriousness, I just do not know.

No-one does.

From here onwards it depends on ultrasounds and bloodwork - if all looks well, come back in 4 weeks; if there's a suspicion of slowing growth, 2 weeks; if there's actual indication of slowing growth, a week. Basically, every time I go in I will get a plan on what the next few weeks will be, and then again the next time, and the next.

And even if this little a-bit-too-much-pressure (of wanting to know how often the appointments will be) made me feel all weepy and resentful, I am wondering where exactly does my limit stand at the moment then, and how much - or how little - can I actually take before I end up in that familiar 'please can somebody lift me out of this life here and give me something better, thank you very much' again.

Because it's all good and well maintaining health, sanity and energy levels until the due date, but... it doesn't end there.

Due date is where a pregnancy ends, sure, but due date is also when a baby starts. And going by past experience and reasoning, I will need my energy levels full - not depleted - by the time that stuff starts because... well... babies can be tough, and if I get a little weepy simply by feeling pressured by some company who wants their employees there, then how much - or how little - exactly will I be able to take from a toddler and a baby before I find myself sitting on the floor beside a sofa and crying my eyes out?

Jesus I got heavy with this.

Anyway, I'm feeling reasonable at the moment, but I'm just getting a little apprehensive by seeing myself react in such a manner and wondering, what exactly will this chick be like, huh?

Easy, girl, easy - just take it day by day, slowly.

On the similarities between medicine and... aviation

I like how discovering something fascinating often leads to other fascinating discoveries that stem from the first one - like a tree.

A few days ago I discovered a Brian Goldman's TEDx talk (which I strongly recommend watching) which moved me, so I linked it up on my blog here and went to Google a little more.



Then, yesterday, I came upon Brian's article on Huffington Post (which I, also, strongly recommend reading) where he wrote a little more about his journey since the much-discussed TEDx talk.


And then, from there, I ended up listening to a Stanford School of Medicine 1:2:1 podcast with captain "Sully" Sullenberger - which I, not surprisingly, also strongly recommend listening to, because some of the stuff he talked about there made me go... wow.


(In case you're unfamiliar with who the "Sully" Sullenberger guy is, then he's that retired US Airways plane captain who landed a big Airbus in Hudson River just off of Manhattan a few years ago and by doing so, quite certainly saved the lives of 155 people aboard.)

Since retiring from aviation, Sullenberger has become a health reform advocate. He is asking United States of America to set up a similar independent safety authority for medical mistakes as there exists one for transportation.

In a nutshell, aviation has now for over 50 years had an independent investigating organ which collects information on all the incidents, crashes, technical failures and such, and because they have that overview of what-happens-where-and-why, they're able to consistently offer up solutions and procedures which limit and prevent human error.

And that, some say, is essential element of aviation safety today - so essential, in fact, that it would be hard to imagine aviation without the National Transportation Safety Board.

In healthcare, such an organ doesn't exist - not to NTSB's level, anyway - and Sullenberger says that a similar model in healthcare would make... I'd like to say miracles, but Sullenberger doesn't use the word "miracles", instead, he says it would change the system - and by change, he means for the better.

What happens in medicine instead is this:

"200,000 preventable deaths per year in this country alone," he says, "that's the equivalent of 20 large jet liners crashing every week with no survivors."

If the number of preventable fatalities which occur in medicine happened in aviation, he says, the country would ground all aircraft within two or three days and then keep everything down until it's figured out why crashes happen and what needs to be done to prevent them - sort of what happened after 9/11 when every plane was grounded and for a few days US airspace was empty of all aircraft and skies which are normally littered with contrails looked more like they would've looked like decades ago.

But in medicine, what happens instead is guilt and shame - stuff that Brian Goldman talks about.

And so I have listened and nodded and have, yet again, felt so, so, so grateful that I am not living in US any more because for people that are healthy and well, US can be a wonderful place to live, but as soon as medical problems arise and insurance caveats kick in... dear god, life can get so unimaginably complicated.

Having come from a country with publicly funded healthcare and living in a country with publicly funded healthcare, I doubt I will ever agree to live in a country that doesn't have it. Heck, if anything I wish New Zealand taxed its people more!

But sorry, I am getting off topic here.

What Sullenberger talks about in Stanford School of Medicine's 1:2:1 podcast applies to US more than it does to New Zealand because of the existence of ACC alone which, quite uniquely in the world, is able to gather impressive data about accidents and their causes. However, what he talks about isn't entirely foreign to New Zealand either.

And I just feel like from the last few days alone I have picked up so much more... understanding, not just about medicine but about people in general.

And, man, do I ever like listening to people who are able to talk about the stuff that matters to them without getting all puffed up about it and leaning into demagogy. I mean, Sullenberger alone sounds like a guy who will just quietly keep on talking about what he thinks is important and will keep on using data, data, data - and rational arguments - to help listeners understand, instead of shouting or, God forbid, pleading with politicians or becoming a politician himself.

Fascinating!

On the importance of a community

I had a bit of a... moment today. Not, like, a meltdown moment, but a hmm, that's interesting moment; a moment where I thought that something made sense, and although it wasn't an entirely new thing for me to think, it sort of made me go... hmm.

I came across a person who was telling me about the community of people around me and how I should ask them when there is something they can help me with.

And I totally get that. There is a community around me!

But the thing where it gets interesting is that this community never talks of themselves as "community" - they just are a community. They are people who help me, often in ways they are not aware of themselves, and their kindness and love wafts towards me in ways they do things.

Basically, they're just... nice people; people I like and whose company I enjoy a great deal.

Whereas when I was listening to this person talk today - this person who was talking in big sentences about the importance of a community - all I could think of was, "Little things you do don't match the big things you talk about."

Because, look: it's no use talking about the importance of support and help and kindness when the little things that happen in between all the big stuff are... off.

It's, like... You can't dump sewerage down a hill into a neighbor's property and expect people to take you seriously when you talk about the importance of consideration and neighborly love. The words won't matter if the actions behind those words are scrap.

And so I looked at this person and couldn't help to... smirk a bit, because yes, this person is right: there is a community around me and I feel its warmth.

But as much as this person talks about the community, he/she isn't part of it. Just isn't! And as long as this person doesn't change what they do to people, they won't be, either. Not in my books, anyway.

About doctors on TEDx

It is a TEDx talk I'd never seen (or heard about) before, but it was totally worth watching. Why? Because what he says is important, and because I wholly agree with him.


Having been a patient that mistakes have been made on - not big ones by any means, but substantial enough to make a difference - I can understand somewhat the temptation to rant about it. Heck, I've ranted several times, to different people, about what one or another medical professional has done, and what the consequences have been.

But here's the thing: I don't expect doctors - or medical professionals as a whole - to be perfect; and from what I remember I never have either.

They're people - most of all, they're people.

As much as it sucks when mistakes happen, I think - just as Brian Goldman does - that rather than ostracizing doctors who make mistakes and admit to making them, it is important to cultivate a culture where mistakes are talked about, and learned from.

And it reminds me of a story that moved me almost to tears last year.

I learned about it in one of Radio New Zealand's broadcasts and so I won't spend my time googling to find you an article that describes the same thing - you can do it for yourself, if you wish - but it was basically about a woman that got trapped in one of the collapsed buildings during the February 22 earthquake in Christchurch in 2011.

It is known she survived the initial collapse because her husband (who'd been trying to get in touch with her) had been able to get through to her on her mobile phone. She had described to him where she was, and by climbing on top of that pile of rubble he'd been able to pinpoint to within a few metres to a spot where she was, under that rubble.

And he'd been wanting to help, trying to help, but he'd been ordered off that rubble to let the officials go through their procedures instead, and when that heap of rubble caught fire later that evening (there were several damaged gas mains there), his wife died of smoke and fire related injuries.

Last year when that incident was discussed during the court proceedings where Christchurch earthquake and the official response to it was questioned, the message he read out was not about the amount of resentment he may have for having lost his wife in such a way, or the amount of guilt he may wish the officials carry, or the amount of compensation he should be paid, but...

...about the lessons he wanted people to learn.

The grace with which he handled the situation is one of the most memorable moments of this whole rebuild experience here.

His wife shouldn't necessarily have died that day, but rather than go through motions of resentment/guilt/anger/insert-yours-here, that man went through motions of sadness and acceptance instead, and said it out loud, publicly, that rescue workers made mistakes that day, but as much as it hurt him to have lost his wife in such a way, he wanted them to learn of what should've been done differently - to let others who may be in that situation in the future learn differently - and he spoke to them with kindness and forgiveness.

And it's the same sort of an emotion I am getting from Brian Goldman's TEDx talk here.

I think I have learned to feel sadness and forgiveness towards others because I have learned to feel forgiveness towards myself. It's taken a while, but it has allowed me a sense of... freedom to have learnt to let go, and let be, both for the mistakes I have done and for the mistakes others have done, because in the end what matters is that I try to do good, and that they - whoever those "they" are - try to do good, too.

Even towards The Dog, when she yet again gets in the way with her doggie manners =).
And some relatives who make for such "memorable" conversations over Skype =).
And The Kid when he is having a grizzly morning and doesn't want to dress nor eat nor drink nor play =).
Or anyone else, really.

It's work in progress, but it works. For me.

The differences between me and The Man

Me: "Okay, we're down to one last apple, two bananas, no milk..."

The Man: "Ukoh!"

Me: "I don't know, I kinda like it. It gets boring when the house is stocked all the time..."

The Man: "Uhm... The word practical comes to mind."

On being between a midwife and an obstetrician

It's an interesting experience being post-Caesarean. It really is!

On one hand there is midwifery, right - I don't know what your midwives have been like (both of mine have been pretty cool), but I have a feeling that midwives are almost by definition... natural labour "oriented".

Obstetricians, on the other hand, look pretty... medical "oriented" to me.

Maybe it's the background environment, too. Midwives meet their clients in a rather informal clinic setting, whereas obstetricians, on the other hand, meet their post-Caesarean ladies in a hospital, in between nurses and large waiting rooms.

With me being a woman that has once already had a(n emergency) Caesarean, I am worked with by both a midwife and an obstetrician: midwife does her regular midwifery care (meets, talks, measures, reassures, explains), obstetrician assesses any risk factors for the potential of ending up in a surgery again.

Miwife says things along the lines of, "Rest when you can. If you are getting tired it is your body's way of asking you to slow down. Have you noticed her being more active during certain times of the day, as opposed to others?"

Obstetrician, on the other hand, says things along the lines of, "Paracetamol will take away muscular pain, but not labour pain, so if you take a Paracetamol and it doesn't go away, you need to call a doctor. You can take 2 pills every 6 hours, 4 mg total in a day."

Both are very much right, and both make very valid points. There is nothing "wrong" with either approach, really - both speak about important things, and make important suggestions, but there's a subtle difference, I don't even know if you would pick up on that if you haven't been in this situation yourself.

Midwife, I think, approaches the pregnancy from a viewpoint of assuring about things that are common, normal, and going by the experience/knowledge that just as women are different, so are pregnancies of the same woman different; whereas obstetrician approaches from the viewpoint of looking for signs of trouble, of seeing if there's any reason why "what happened last time" is likely to be a repeat performance.

And I am not blaming either one for it. It is (part of) a midwife's job to reassure a woman that this one may be different, and it is (part of) an obstetrician's job to make sure nothing gets overlooked in assessing why surgical intervention was necessary last time, and what are the chances of surgical intervention this time.

But it's... interesting, being in the middle.

To keep a toddler from rolling out of bed

In case anyone else is wondering how to keep their toddler from rolling out of bed at night:

pool noodles.

Up and down

Getting used to it, I guess.

Friday was, oh-sh*ttedy-brick!
Saturday a little better.
Sunday even better.

But Monday was... oh, dump again.

(...aaaaaand Tuesday a little better again.)

I guess it's just going to move up and down in waves now, gradually, like spring does, until both my mind and my body are going to get used to this new reality of living a somewhat secluded existence up on this hill here.

And rather than be angry at this thought of, "Darn it, really? Epilepsy?" I am just going to move (I first wanted to write "ease", but that's definitely not it...) into this new life and see how it goes, and see whether it actually is that, and...

Yeah, I think that what'll happen: I'll just take it as it comes and go from there.

Meanwhile, first tomatoes are ready to pick!


Strawberries are doing an abundant harvest.


The Kid likes eating chives straight from the garden. And I'm staying at home today, cleaning, cooking, maybe an afternoon nap even, and though there will definitely be a few more moments - you know the kind, surely - life feels doable, and not just in a begrudging way.

Getting through this winter, one step at a time

Several times today I've felt like sitting down on the floor and crying. Literally. Even writing this here my eyes well up with tears.

I think one day I am going to write about it here, you know, to get some of this stuff out, but at the moment I feel that I can just about manage simply existing and organising my days around this new... life, and if I try and write then I simply start crying. Again.

But in short, remember how I've mentioned that for almost two years now I get little dizzy spells every now and again? I've mentioned it here, here, here, here and possibly in more places?

Well, there's a new theory going around now - and the theory is, I might be having seizures.

(I'll let that sink in for a moment.)

If you're anything like me then the word "epilepsy", to you, will create a mental image of a person who falls on the ground and starts shaking - the big sort of seizure stuff.

But turns out, epilepsy goes all the way from those big, fall-to-the-ground seizures to little, often not even noticed or diagnosed oh-my-finger-is-tingling seizures. Basically, you can have a person walk up the steps to their house and suddenly have a feeling of deja vu, "Hmm, it feels like I've already done this before" and 20 seconds later have everything back to normal, and turns out, that person might well have epilepsy, which is a word for a condition when your brain fires a random electrical signal.

Or they may have their finger "tingle" for a minute.
Or they may have a little laughing spell.
Or they may go dizzy for half a minute, like I do.

And although it's not confirmed or anything yet, but simply because I keep having little dizzy spells and we're running out of ideas on what else it might be, my GP is looking into getting checked whether I may have... epilepsy.

And that I can handle, I think. The more I read about it, the more I understand that it's a pretty f*cking common thing.

But the part where it makes me feel like I want to sit down and cry, is that until it gets confirmed either way - have it, or don't have - I am not allowed to drive.

F*ck. F*ck. F*ck.

Here, this is why I think this f*cked up:


I LIVE HERE.

There is absolutely nothing I can walk to from here. There is no public transport to here. I am 25 weeks pregnant with my second child so I cannot even bike any more. Because I am pregnant, I have blood tests, doctor's appointments, ultrasounds, midwife appointments - none of which I can go to independently any more and will have to rely on my husband to drive me everywhere.

Grocery shopping, checking the mail, going to playgroup - I won't be able to go anywhere, unless someone else drives me, so for the upcoming winter, when I will have both a toddler and hopefully a little healthy baby at home, I will be housebound 5 days a week.

And I would just like to say now, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck, f*ck.

As much as I think I am not in a condition to move house at the moment (you know, being pregnant n' stuff, and getting increasingly tired), I had a brief look at rental prices on TradeMe, just in case, and... yeah. Post-earthquake Christchurch is not a place to move to in February 2014.

There are way bigger problems in the world, I know. I know. I know!

But I would nevertheless like to grab someone by their neck and just shake them, real hard. I'd like there to be someone I can be angry at. To vent it out, you know.

But there isn't.

It's not my fault, as I have not done anything to me, and I did not expect to be in a position like this when I first made the decision to move here.

It's not my GP's fault because she is simply following a procedure which says that if you even think someone may be having seizures, you ask them not to drive until it gets cleared. And it makes sense!

It's not the medical system's fault because living in a country with publicly funded healthcare I understand why such a thing as a neurologist's appointment takes 3 months to come through.

It's not even anyone's fault that if it does turn out that my dizzy spells are technically seizures, none of the medication they will want to put me on is compatible with either pregnancies or breastfeeding (or come without side effects, but that's standard with medicines, right?), so either way we're looking a long, long time.

I... I... I'm just angry because within a day my life has gone from being somewhat self-sustainable and social to being an old school farming community wife who spends her whole days at home with children whilst her husband is out doing things.

So many things are still functioning, I know. The firewood is stacked for winter. I have a wonderful family (even The Dog, who occasionally makes me want to throw stuff at her). There's food and savings and hope for a future where there's a house we own in a community where school is within walking distance, and shop is within walking distance, and work is within walking distance...

But for now, what I see is a winter ahead of me which will have long, lonely days with a baby and a toddler and a dog.

I will start making a point of inviting people here, of making space and time in between children to have people visit our home and actually feel good here. And...

I think I need a few weeks for this thing to really settle in. At the moment it's Monday evening.

Step back, step forward, step back, step forward... I'll just get through this winter, step by step.

PS. Wow... I guess I did sit down and write about it for a while. Didn't think it would come out today.

D'you want good news or bad news?

The Kid has been running around the garden naked.

Good news: we don't have a nappy to clean.

Bad news: somewhere in the garden there is now a pile of baby poop. Not sure where.

***

On the same note: d'you want to know our search tactic?

Letting The Dog out in the garden. Chances are she'll point it out pretty quick.
Life has got a little bit overwhelming today...

Stuff I make

I made this...


...which is a bit of a different take on this:


Lake Wanaka shore where we got married.

A mechanic who REALLY knows Subarus

Stu hasn't asked me to write this, but I just want to shout it out nevertheless because... well, because Stu is awesome!

Stu is a mechanic who fixed Bruce for me - and Bruce in my Subaru. He runs a workshop called Stubaru in Christchurch's Sydenham suburb, at 47 Hawdon Street, and he's totally worth working with.

Long story short, about a year ago my car started playing up - it wouldn't want to start on me if it had been stopped for a few minutes only, so basically every time I stopped to get some groceries, or visited a post office or did other daily family things, I'd come back to my car and it would be... ahem! I had to keep leaving her for 20-30 minutes for her to cool down again and start on me.

I went to several mechanics with this and trawled the internet in search of a solution, all in vain. My usual mechanic checked everything he could think of, said he couldn't find the problem and charged me over $100 for the privilege. He then suggested another mechanic in town, and I visited that guy several times also. That mechanic, too, was at a loss at what the problem was and he, too, charged me for the privilege of it. I, meanwhile, started considering selling Bruce, which - may I tell you - was not a small feat! Because I love her.

And, anyway, then someone suggested I try the Stubaru guy...

Wow. Wow!

I was only halfway into my sentence explaining to him over the phone what the problem was and Stu was, like, "Ah, yeah, I know what the problem is! Come drop her off, we'll get her fixed."

And he did! He knew exactly what was wrong, took less than an hour to get her fixed whilst I walked around the area with my toddler and just... wow.

He races Subarus. He drives Subarus. He fixes Subarus. Basically, he ONLY does Subarus! And he REALLY knows his Subarus.

He even does this thing where you can buy a Subaru through him, so he'll check her up and make her into prime shape and only sell her to you if he's happy with it. And seeing what he's done, I would totally trust this guy to sell me a car.

Sure, he's not the cheapest mechanic out there, but f*ck, if I add up how much time and money I spent following up Bruce's problem with the other mechanics, only for Stu to then know exactly what needed doing in about 20 seconds - it would've been WAY cheaper to go to him directly.

And seeing people buy cars only to face major mechanical repairs in a year or so because they haven't been aware of what has been "due" to break down, I would totally go to Stu if I were buying a car. I probably won't be buying another one for a good few more years because I am happy with mine and she goes well, but IF I did, I would totally go to Stu, and I suggest you do, too.

He knows what he's doing.

Oh, and if you go to his workshop and he's not there, he's probably spending time with his little daughter, so give him a call ahead of time.

Stu from Stubaru.

PS. And in case you're wondering: for as much sh*t as people say about Subarus, if you happen to get a decent one, they're awesome! Mine has four-wheel drive (so I can go up skifield roads), a towbar (so I can put a bike rack with three bikes on it), enough space inside that me and The Man can comfortably sleep in it (if we put the back seat down), roof rack I can attach things onto, space inside to travel with a husband, a toddler, a dog, a stroller and all the family-life paraphernalia, and being of 2.0 litre variety she's not as crazy on petrol as four-wheel drive trucks usually are. (No wonder it's probably the most popular car in Queenstown Lakes region!)

A versatile workhorse - my Bruce is. And I totally love her!

Me the day I bought Bruce, my first real car

Random musings on a Wednesday

I'm in a mood for sharing "I like this" moments.

***

Today, I sat in the car and Radio New Zealand were featuring a Queen album. "Don't stop me now" was playing. You know the song, don't you?



I rolled down all the windows, turned up the volume on the radio and let Bruce (Bruce is my car) roll down the hill to the tune of

I'm burnin' through the skies yeah 
Two hundred degrees 
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit 
I'm traveling at the speed of light 
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you 
Don't stop me now

It was awesome.

It was one of those moments I am going to remember for years.

***

I like that almost every single item in our home is a story of DIY adventures - pieces strung together from bits and offcuts, items picked up from "Free to a good home" piles, things made with love, effort and a bit of stubbornness.

It reminds me every day - almost all day - that it is a young family started from two people that came together in a foreign country and have built it from scratch. There is so little here that we've brought with us from our "previous lives" in Europe... A savings account (which is where we put money that will one day go towards our own home) was started from nothing, put together from little "backpackery" jobs and then a bit more permanent jobs, squeezed from times of single-income which so many young families are so, so, so familiar with...

...and as much as I sometimes look at it and think, f*ck, this would've been so much easier if we were older and had had more time behind us before embarking on this children-n-stuff thing, on so many other levels all these little items make me smile because they make me proud. They remind me of the simple, sustaining effort and of living life abundantly - with joy, and when joy gets quiet, of making an effort to keep finding personal fulfilment in whatever form fulfilment comes.

A garden which I finally have, after wishing for so many years!


Pumpkins and potatoes that self-sprouted from our last year's compost heap - we've put them in rich soil and just sort of left them to it. There's way too many of them there, but hey...


Our first ever tomato crop.


Strawberries which I pick from our garden and give to The Kid. He loves them - I do, too - and it makes me smile.


A firepit and picnic benches which have seen lamb roasted on the open fire, men standing around with beer bottles, clothes smelling of smoke and a soul full of... simple pleasure. (The benches - as usual - The Man made himself, from scavenged wood and scraps, with a bit of an effort and a smile. And they're awesome!)


A chair in our kitchen, picked up from a dump - there were only pieces of frame there, so The Man put it together, added a piece of MDF for a seat and covered it with foam and fabric.


A $4 couch from TradeMe... A wooden unit, also, from TradeMe.


My dresser, which lay unwanted in my first rental's garage, so technically it is the first piece of furniture I have from New Zealand - and which I then painted, The Man made it handles that work, and the lamp I covered in old towels and painted green.

The color some people will probably look at and think, geesh, what a green!, but I really don't care. I like it.


A chest me and The Man built back when we were in that little bedroom in a flat in Wanaka - made from scavenged (unwanted) bits of MDF (as usual), topped with curtain fabric from the op-shop (as usual)...


A pile of stuff on my working table, bits that remind me of things and of people, half-finished sewing projects...


The cot The Man built...


...and the moments I remember from him building it.


The hazelnut plant, called Hazel, The Man drags around and says that will one day grow in our garden.


My books on the shelf...


...and National Geographics above them (which do, actually, get read! A lot.)


The cloth nappies, two and a half years in.


A simple existence not far removed from what my grandparents were like. Sure, the times are different, the abundance of food we have is incomparable and so much of what we have was unheard of in their days - but I also look at my life and I know that me and The Man would've been fine even at a time when my grandparents lived.

It's a self-reliant make-do attitude. Something that comes naturally to youngsters who move abroad alone? Maybe.

***

I like the people who I keep remembering each day and the different ways in which they have taught me and impressed me.





The little things, in many ways. Stubbornness to do their thing.

***

The older I get, the less I care about being liked. I'm just... getting less and less fussed with it.

Really.

***

And the last thing, for today, this at once wonderful and also scary feeling of knowing that I will die one day, as so many people I have known already have, and so many will do in the future.

I think this is where part of this stubbornness comes from - from understanding that in the end, there is no extra time given, no do-overs, and what I have is now, so whatever it is that I want doing, it is better done when I feel it needs doing.

So now, I am going to go and warm up a bowl of chili con carne in the microwave and I am going to have it with chips and sour cream. A healthy meal? Who cares! It wants eating =)

On religion


Learning about Christianity from atheists is a bit like learning about evolution from creationists - worth the viewpoint, but doesn't really, you know, explain it. 

My daughter

I never remember The Kid kicking me as much as this girl is doing: every 1.5-2 hours she kicks and rolls and pushes and bangs. Two, sometimes three, even four times each night I lay awake, waiting for her to calm down again and let me go to sleep. It's... incredible! Okay, maybe not incredible incredible, but it's definitely pretty darn impressive what she's doing.

It makes me go, wow, that's cool, but it also makes me go a little apprehensive about what sort of a rascal this girl's going to be.

I mean, don't get me wrong, rascals are cool - I myself was one, and I think being a rascal is way more fun than being docile/obedient - but as I sit here, feeling her do her thing (if The Man taps on my belly, she'll tap back), I remember all those stories I've been fed and I think, Jesus, I'm gonna be on the other end now, ain't I.

How living in the ninth floor apartment, people from the seventh floor, apparently, came up to see my parents and ask why the baby is crying so much and what they're doing to her.

How my mother came in the living room to see me standing on the open window - on the ninth floor! - and being all of two years old I later said that I'd been waiting for my brother to come back from school.

How many times I'd seen my grandmother lay down on her couch, grab her chest and cry, "Child, you're gonna drive me to my grave!"

How my grandfather kept trying to hide the results of my mischievous adventures before my grandmother had a chance to see them (and, well, lay on the couch and grab her chest and say that thing about me driving her to her grave...), and how he told me when I was balancing on the side of a big water troth, "You really should've been born a boy."

How my mother was walking me to kindergarten one morning - I was, I think, four? - and I took off running, whilst still holding on to her hand, splattering her on that pavement and how then in the evening she made me change the dressing on her bloodied-up knee so I would learn a lesson about hurting other people like that.

How one winter, I must've been about six, I was standing on the edge of a waterpit (unfenced plumbing-works) and pushed chunks of mud in the water, just wanting to see how close I could stand before falling in - and then ended up falling into that cold, snowy ditch and then running, all covered in mud and water and snow, to my grandmother.

How I also ended up swimming in a water-ditch whilst playing with some friends in the woods behind our houses, and how my friend's grandmother washed and dried my clothes so I could go home, clean and dry, and wouldn't be reprimanded for getting in trouble again.

How I ran into one of the teachers at school - I was, what, nine? - tipped her over, and for the rest of her days she walked with a slight limp because of the injury I caused. I had to buy her new tights and everything, and my teacher made me stand up in class whilst other children did that "Shame, shame, shame" thing - to teach me a lesson, apparently.

How... wow, I could go on like that for ages.

My childhood is absolutely littered with stories like that, and so are lives of people who have had to take care of me.

And I sit here, feeling my daughter kick and roll - again - and I sort of smirk and shiver at the same time thinking that, oh help me God, I am going to be on the other end of that rascalness this time, ain't I?

I can just feel it.

She's just... so different from what The Kid was like, and I am awaiting her arrival with both trepidation and excitement, and I hope I have the grace to remember the people that, as I have aged, have recognised my talents - rather than just scorn at my restlessness - and have helped me learn to both give myself space/freedom to be me, but also give other people space when they need it.

And whether she's actually like it, I don't know, but it's fun feeling her do this thing and to wonder, oh dear God, is she really going to be what I've been told I was like.

Good night

It's raining, the wind's blowing a gale (it was really hard to keep the camera steady enough to photograph), but the view is... well, it's what living up on this hill is sometimes like.

This.

Looking across our roof


Up on the hill

Towards Lake Ellesmere

The wind turbine's not going today. Not surprising, given what the wind is like!

Thanks, son, but that's not quite what I had in mind...

Random musings on a Thursday

A thing a young family with kids is never short of: compost.

There's an absolutely endless supply of food scraps.

***

"Skyward" - one of my favorite words.

Random musings on a Monday

Life moves on in cycles: things that are important at one time, fade over time, and then other important things take over. Always new things come, not necessarily quickly or even noticeably, but as sure as anything, they do come.

Same goes for things that are hurtful, or confusing, or... anything, really. Life moves on. Time moves on.

For a time, a while ago, my passion was skydiving. I didn't do much, both for financial reasons and because of the timing of it, and I am not sure if my instructors and skydiving "buddies" even remember me, but for several years it drove me. 

I used to drive out to our dropzone each Friday (when the weather was okay and we were jumping, anyway) and I would then patiently wait, for weather, for empty loads, for gear. I would watch skydiving movies and listen to senior skydivers' stories - or anyone, really - and I would feel it fill my chest. 


At nighttime, I would dream about skydiving. 

So much of what I did back then was driven by skydiving and so much of what I learned over that time's to do with skydiving! Not just falling itself, but... people. Relationships between people.

There is something entirely fascinating about people that skydive, something I have never come across anywhere else before and doubt I will in the future, either. They just... I cannot even put my finger on it now, but there's some sort of a quirk about them - and not even always the same sort of quirk, either - something that makes me look at them, tilt my head, squint my eyes and sort of go, "Hmm, you're interesting..."

The thing that kept me in New Zealand, essentially, is skydiving: a skydiving company was willing to take me on as staff, and then to keep me on as staff, and to prove to Immigration New Zealand, on a yearly basis, that I am worth keeping in the country. That, in essence, kept in the country not only my husband, The Man, but also my baby, The Kid.

My whole family is in New Zealand because I had that driving passion - that passionate drive? - to find my way to get up in a plane and then to fall down from it.

Now I think back to it and I remember that spring season when I was supposed to spend my holiday in Motueka (even had money set aside for it), earning myself a B licence and the right to jump independently - and how I ended up spending that springs season vomiting instead because I was pregnant, instead.

...and how for a while, skydiving was still up there. I hadn't done it for a while, had started to dream about it less frequently, but how I hadn't forgotten about it - I was just, sort of, postponing it.

...and how then, one day, I found myself thinking that it had really been a long time since I had last thought about it.

...and how then, one day, I recognised myself thinking about it with less vigour, like it was somebody else's job/life to be getting passionate about skydiving.

...and how then, one day, I knew that sometime in the last few years, the time had passed. I had allowed myself to postpone something long enough that I had, essentially, missed the time of passion and had therefore lost a lot of the drive - and without the drive, I wasn't going to do skydiving any more. It is a lot of time, a lot of money, a lot of energy to be putting into something without having that underlying push of... drive.

And just like skydiving, other parts of my life come and go like that.

It is one thing to allow myself the freedom to choose differently and to change and to postpone something because something else feels more important at the time - but I should not forget that along with time, so do passions change, and so does health, and many other things.

I will not be tomorrow what I am today, and I was not yesterday what I am, today.

***

The other day, The Man showed me a documentary called "The Ghost in our Genes" and it essentially says that gene markers which get switched on or off due to environmental changes (as opposed to stuff that's more permanent, ie whether you have an y chromosome or not - I am not a geneticist here, so I'm really quite stumbling for the right examples) can get passed along to children alongside those other, more "permanent" markers.

So, for example, if a mother was part of 9/11 in New York and her gene got switched on because of her cortisol levels, then her child would also get the marker in "ON" position, though the child itself didn't experience 9/11.

Say, my grandmother got some of her genes switched "ON" because she grew up in rural, soviet Russia and experienced stress - unless my mother then experienced a remarkably calm upbringing to switch those markers to "OFF" again, those markers could've stayed "ON" in my mother, and then in me. 

And many more examples like that.

To The Man, the idea seemed quite groundbreaking; to me, it seemed somewhat... intuitive. It's, like, nature's way of making sure that changes in the environment get passed along efficiently enough for species to be able to react to them and to, you know, survive.

***

For over a year now I have worked in a position where though it is not my singular/primary task, I am part of a reception team, so for over a year I have had the opportunity - alongside the rest of our team - to pick up the phone and say, "Good morning, [insert company name here], Maria speaking." 

It has given me an opportunity to see the relationship from the other, picking-up-phone side, and to work out my reactions/attitudes towards phone conversations in general.

And where it's been quite educating and fascinating is that I have learned to recognise a pattern of speech in the attitude of... salespeople.

I don't know, maybe it's not such a "Wow!" moment for you, but I had so far always been on the other, the making-a-call side, and it had never occurred to me that receptionists would be anything other than... accepting of me.

Let me try to explain.

I am well familiar with the feeling when I have been trying to track someone down or when I've been trying to speak to someone who is hard to reach, and I start feeling somewhat sheepish because I will be, say, calling and saying "Hello" and the receptionist recognises me from that single "Hello" because she's heard so much of me lately!

And I will then be, on my end, thinking, "Geesh, she must be so sick and tired of me..."

I had always thought that receptionists keep dealing with me simply because it's their job to do so and that they're only accepting of me, but nothing more - until I was in a situation of a receptionist myself and suddenly found that, hey!, dealing with people on the phone isn't actually that horrible.

And so I sometimes get salespeople call, with stuff that is genuinely worth it because it's better / cheaper / makes more sense than what we currently have, and I hear them talk to me in that sheepish voice, almost like they're about to apologise for calling at all, and it's been a real "Wow!" moment for me to receive those calls and to recognise that, holy bonkers, I can be in a role of a receptionist and I can actually like dealing with this stuff. That making a call doesn't necessarily feel on the other end like it's a burden that has to be tolerated, suffered.

***

Sorry, a few more things on my mind, but it's late and I gotta go make dinner, so... yeah.