Naming rights

Recently I got to meet a person named Denali. "Denali? As in, that mountain in Alaska?" I asked and smiled excitedly.

(You may know this mountain by the name of Mount McKinley instead, it is the highest mountain in North America, but its inuit name is actually Denali which is what it's known as in Alaska.)

"Yes," Denali said, "Yes it is."

At which point I got to explain how my son, The Kid, is also named after a mountain in Alaska.

You see, there was never an argument over how to name The Kid. I'd said to The Man back when we'd just met that I'd known for years already what my first child - if I ever had one - was going to be named, regardless of gender, so it was never going to be up for a discussion. It was sort of, how to put it politely... suck it up, sweetheart kind of a situation =)

And that's how The Kid's name has come to be.

With The Girlie now, it is The Man's decision what her name is going to be. He's chosen one already.

A tribute to Geoff Robinson (and where's Jim Mora going?)

I thought, "Nah, I won't tear up, it's not such a big deal after all."

Think again =). I did. Only a little though!

Geoff Robinson gave his last morning report on Radio New Zealand just now, after 35 years of hosting the show, and though I've been with him for the past three-four years only, I, too, have grown to like the man. A lot.

And it moves my heart to see that not only the public, but also Radio New Zealand itself celebrate the man in such a fashion. Geoff's a legend!

Now if I can only figure out where the hell Jim Mora is going! (He's hosting The Afternoons at the moment, and it's said that Simon Mercep's going to move to weekday afternoon slots instead, and I find it... surprisingly disturbing, since I absolutely love Jim.)

Oh, changes, changes, changes.

Just as long as they keep Kim Hill doing her Saturday interviews, my world won't fly off the orbit quite yet.


Just some images

Our little friend has worked out how most door latches work - and not just "worked out", but worked out well enough that he does - and undoes - them at great speeds. Oh well...

Sometimes I find him in The Dog's crate.

Sometimes he helps me "garden".

And when we walk up the hill now, he runs ahead and I follow.

He's growing up.

On Christchurch rental prices

You know how it's said that Christchurch rents are "outrageous"? (Not my words, quoting.) And how people are paying New Zealand's highest prices for what are, essentially, very average houses?

What I'm about to write is probably going to make me sound like a whiny complainer, but so be it, because what I want to say is this: in my eyes, people that are charging those outrageous rents lose their right to complain about the situation. As simple as that.

And by the way, I am not saying whether people are right - or wrong - to charge these rents; landlords own their properties and it is their own business how they manage what they own.

But what I am saying is this: if your 4-bedroom house, single-glazing, four decades old, on a little back section is rented out at $650 a week then, no, I am sorry, but I do not wish to hear you complain about how bad the rental prices are in town! Why? Because you, my dear soul, are part of the problem.

Yes, I understand that what you charge is "market price". Yes, I understand that you are simply using the opportunity that has presented itself to you. But seriously, stop complaining! You cannot willingly kick a dog whilst moaning how unfair such an action is, and expect people to then take you seriously - it doesn't work this way. You either go with the flow, charge what you are charging and suck it up when people around you are discussing it, or you can make a difference, undercharge - at least undercharge according to what the market value is - and keep your right to complain about it.

But not both.


On the option of a VBAC

I am so pleased and so relieved!

Today's appointment with the new obstetrician was nothing like I'd feared it might be. Instead of cautioning me of things to come (or going into some high-risk talk like the previous obstetrician had), the doctor looked at my current status - in short, I am 31 weeks pregnant and all is well - and said that providing that everything continues to go well, the option of a VBAC is open and welcome, and I just sat there and thought...


I mean, what actually happens will show itself once it actually happens - and in the end, what I really want is a healthy baby and a healthy mother - but to see the doctor confirm what to me looked like a reasonable way of viewing things, and to hear her say things to which I kept replying, "Yes," "Uh-oh," "Okay," "Alright," "Yeah, that sounds good," it felt like a blessing to me, and it was.

I feel settled and empowered, supported and trusted, and I trust the people working with me.

And it's great. It really is!

And because of that, I am so, so, so grateful.

It's been a good day today.

Random thoughts on a Wednesday

I felt like I wanted to post something, but I didn't know what to say. I thought about it for a while and then I went and dug up some old photos, to share a few memories of mine. I don't know why or what for I am doing it, but here we go.

For several years friends of ours had me stay on their farm during school holidays; I must've been around 14, maybe 15 at the time. Looking back, I'm really not sure why they had me there, but I look back on that time with great fondness: getting up early in the morning to cut hay, bring it in for the horses, clean the stables, being taught to ride in exchange.

It's one of those things that reminds me about the importance - and value - of investing time and effort into kids, even if they're not mine, to let them experience and learn and grow as a result. I learned a great deal during those farmstays, mostly about independence and reliability and responsibility and respect.

I haven't been in touch with the couple who own that farm, I don't know how they're doing, but I wonder if they know how I appreciate the time I had with their horses.


When I was 17, I spent a summer working as a "doggie au-pair" in Finland, taking care of 4 dogs whilst the owner was on frequent overseas trips.

Looking back, I wonder how my mother let me do that, how she found the trust to just let me go - encourage me to go - and live in a foreign-language environment on my own like that, but that, too, taught me about independence and self-reliability, something I remind myself of when I let The Kid go and do things, even when some part of me thinks, "Gee, I hope he doesn't hurt himself there..."


For three years I did dancing. That taught me about the value of hard work! 


The things I learned through EYP - European Youth Parliament - are a little difficult to put my finger on. It was in many ways empowering, and in many other ways confusing, but mostly, I think, it simply put me in touch with fascinating, strong people who I was then able to observe as they powered through life.

It is much easier to have a can-do attitude and to think, "I can do it!" when people around me are doing that.

In fact, it's one of the best ways, I think, to learn to achieve - to surround myself with people that achieve.


(I hope my friend doesn't mind me putting this photo up here like that.)

I grew up in a relatively poor mining town, close to Russian border. The hills you see in the distance are residue waste from processing of oil shale. Oil shale gets mined from underneath the ground, processed into oil and various chemicals, turned into power (as in, electricity) and what's left - a fine, toxic ash - is poured into heaps like that.

Done in Soviet times, little effort was made to keep the industry safe, both for people nearby and for environment in general. I mean, check this out (The Man is still astounded by it, having learned this fact years ago): not far from where I grew up there was an open-pit, radioactive waste pond 30 metres from the sea. 30 metres! (No wonder my endocrinologist says there is a higher incidence of thyroid issues in that region.)

These mountains of ash on the photo above have very little isolation between the ground and the waste, so for years the stuff has been seeping into groundwater; empty tunnels underneath the town collapse occasionally and damage structures on-ground - this, for example, is a local tennis court which overnight developed a ditch on its side:

And having grown up in that region, where thousands upon thousands of immigrants were "planted" during Soviet times - genetically speaking, I am only a quarter Estonian because the rest of my family are actually from Ukraine and Siberia - it makes it interesting to see what Russia is doing now. 

And it also makes me a little cautious of big political words when economy and industrial progress is discussed, because though times are different from what it was like in the Soviet Union 50 years ago, that stuff above is my experience of what people then live with once the industrial "progress" is past and what's left are the consequences. 


And to finish on a high note, how grateful I am to a friend of mine who dragged me along on so many of his trips, whether it was summer or winter, and for the moaning and griping he must've endured on my side of things.

Just like those adventures above - working in Finland, helping out on a farm, travelling to EYP sessions - all of these camping trips taught me, little by little, how to take care of myself and how to put up with stuff in order to get the bigger, more important stuff done.

And it may have sounded a bit far-fetched had anyone told me this 5 years ago, but all those gripey "Man I hate this mountain!" walks up hills, and melting ice in the mornings to have water to drink, and putting on boots that have frozen solid have actually made me a... better parent.

On what food dreams become like

It's probably the first time in my life that I've been on a diet. You know, like, the one I actually stick to.

I've eaten with a strong preference towards one thing or another before, so technically you could probably say that I've "dieted" before. For example: for a while I ate iron-rich foods (when I was low on iron after The Kid's birth), or (mostly) gluten free when I wanted to see if it would make a difference (it did), (mostly) organic fruit and veggies after I worked on a farm in New Zealand and experienced first-hand how much stuff they put on the plants, to a point of not seeing a single worm in the ground after having weeded for days in a row. That kind of stuff.

But, man, this is different. This is, like, you know, an actual diet - an actual, hard-core diet; the sort where I don't just "eat with a strong preference", but where I count (count!) and limit (limit!) and measure (measure!) and - God forbid - forgo (forgo!!!), to a point of seeing photos of food and feeling my mouth well up.

That is not what my usual relationship with food is like, no, sir.

It's called gestational diabetes.

Like, I opened up Pinterest this morning to browse whilst helping The Kid have his breakfast and... I mean, look at this. This is what started coming up right on the first page.

And what was I having for breakfast? I really should've thought to take a photo.

1/3 of a pear.
A carrot.
A spoonful of yoghurt.
A mug of green tea.


It's sacrilege, that's what it is.

You know how they say that pregnancy hormones are highest in the mornings? Well, apparently, that's why gestational diabetes is, also, strongest in the mornings. If I have even three mouthfuls of porridge for breakfast - I've tried - my numbers are over the limit, so instead, breakfast has become this all-morning exercise of "have a little fruit and veggie, wait an hour, have a few mouthfuls of buckwheat and a sip of green milk, wait an hour, have a toast, wait an hour".

And then, from about mid-morning onwards, I can actually start eating. Limited portions, sure - always sticking in protein to balance out the carbohydrates, always measuring how much pasta or grains or whatever I am having - but still, eating. And then for dinner, when under normal circumstances I would eat something that is easy on digestion, I have the most of the day's carbohydrates instead.

Having a carrot and a third of a pear for breakfast is not eating. It's sacrilege. (Sorry, I am repeating myself. Again.)

Seeing that photo of cream-filled doughnuts on the front page of Pinterest makes me swallow audibly, and so does driving past Addington Coffee Co-Op on a Thursday morning on my way to the dietician, or seeing The Man and The Kid have pancakes for breakfast on a Sunday morning.

Thank you, placenta, for doing such a great job of nourishing my daughter in my tummy. (Going by how active the girlie is, she's doing great!) I appreciate you a lot, placenta, I really do!

But, man, am I ever looking forward to you, placenta, being out of my tummy along with your pregnant hormones! Geesh.

In a few months' time I will walk proudly into Addington Coffee Co-Op, buy a bottle of raspberry smoothie and have it, blissfully, with my cream-filled doughnuts or whatever equivalent the cafe has to offer.

And meanwhile, I will keep eating a breakfast of a single carrot, a third of a pear, a mouthful of yoghurt and green tea.

Beds and parenting

About a month and a half ago we made the fateful decision of moving our two-year-old from his cot into a "big boy bed" and... well, talk about lessons in parenting =S

Long story short, we've come to such a state with this decision now, two months in, that I am driving to our local village tomorrow and buying a cot from a lady that is selling theirs - because the damned "big boy bed" just has to go. Seriously.

Bedtime has become like a hostage negotiation. Up, down, up, down, up, down... The times I've woken at night to either hear The Kid approaching our bedroom down the hallway or already standing next to our bed, going, "Ma?", at which point one of us dutifully gets his/her backside out of bed and drags The Kid back to bed...

I mean, Jesus, this is like arguing with a cat, for lack of a better comparison. Adults in this house are carrying dark circles under their eyes in the mornings, and The Kid has long, blissful afternoon naps, to then stock up on energy to do the bedtime "routine" again, and I'm looking at this and thinking, christ, I am not playing this game for the coming year - or however long it takes - not with the new arrival on its way. I haven't got enough Maria for that.

And so looking back, in hindsight, I would've just gone and bought the damned cot to begin with and left it at that, and would've saved myself hours worth of sleep.

And what The Kid will think of this, moving beds AGAIN, and getting used to a new setup AGAIN, well... I am sorry for that, kiddo, I really am.

But I, too, am just learning this whole parenting gig now, just as you're doing your best at being a toddler (I love you!), and hopefully with both of us getting some decent quality sleep from now on, it'll be a bit of a better road for a while.

Until you learn climbing out of your cot, anyway ;)

The beauty of being classified as high risk

Oh this sounds promising.


Turns out, Christchurch obstetricians have a thing with not wanting to let gestational diabetes ladies go beyond 38 weeks - meaning, induction's on a list - but being post-Caesarean induction's really not the way forward, either (because of how harsh those medicines can be on contractions and a subsequent risk for the scar just simply... well, ripping open).

All of this is hearsay at this stage for I have just had a chat with my midwife who's explained to me what the obstetricians usually push for in these circumstances - but still! I have a feeling that next week's appointments with the obstetricians are going to be loads of fun.


The thing is, they have this one f*ckin' good weapon on their list and it is: cautioning me to do "what's safest" and reminding me what the "risk factors" are, and if my midwife's words are anything to go by then I will probably be pushed towards an elective Caesarean.

But at the same time I am sitting here and thinking: heck, at this stage THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG YET. I am good weight, good blood pressure, good blood markers, well-managed sugar levels (so technically speaking although I have gestational diabetes I am not actually much different from an average pregnant lady because I am eating so that my blood doesn't get strong sugar fluctuations), good placental blood-flow, well-growing baby... Like, seriously: at this stage there is nothing wrong. Anywhere.

And it's this... feeling that being high risk doesn't necessarily mean having a bad outcome, doesn't it? And, wow, this is going to be confusing, isn't it?

29 weeks, girl, you've got yourself healthily to 29 weeks. You're doing well. You're good. Just keep on doing a good job, day in and day out and future will unfold as it unfolds. It'll be good.

That's what I am saying to myself, anyway =)

Guests on my window

We have a lot of geckos where we live. Most of them are common geckos, but some are a little less known and I always look with interest when I see one, to see if I can recognise the pattern. (Google helps!)

We also have lots of wetas and just generally insects where we live, so between that and the abundance of sheltered rocky outcrops, I can sort of see why the guys like it here.

Yesterday I watched one hang around our windows, I assume trying to get the moths fluttering against the glass pane.

It's definitely not the sort of a thing I would've seen when living in Europe when the view was more like this:

Quote of the day

"What is the recipe for a long-term relationship?" asked Jim Mora on Radio New Zealand National from one of his guests just now.

"A thick skin and a short memory," she answered.

At which point, I laughed.

Understanding the past by going through the present

I don't like posting on iPad. It's a bug of sorts, Chrome won't let me go back and edit anything, so if I write, I need to do it in one go, from end to finish, and my brain doesn't work like that.

But I want to write more than I am annoyed by this bug, so I will do it, for now. Today, anyway.

So, first the good news: I am allowed to drive! What a difference it has made... There is still some testing ahead, but it looks like what I have may be nocturnal seizures, a mild form of epilepsy, basically, and because there is a year-and-a-half worth of track record of these "waves" (I still struggle calling them seizures) starting at night - and never suddenly in the middle of a day - then I am again allowed to drive with a condition that I restrain from driving for 2 days after a restless night, to let it clear my system and to get a good night's sleep again, so I am not tired.

And... wow. I am so, so, so grateful! It has meant that a whole bunch of logistical bullsh*t has lifted from my family and I am yet again able to get myself to hospital independently.

Which is good news, because from now onwards there are A LOT of appointments to get to.

Turns out, I have what's called "gestational diabetes", meaning, my pregnancy hormones are supressing insulin receptors and my body isnt't that flash at keeping sugar levels stable. It will probably clear within 24 hours of popping out the baby and the placenta, but for now it means that I need to prick my fingers for blood six times a day (I've done it for three days now and have already learned to hate the process, and my fingers hurt), that I am in the hospital for appointments on average once a week at least, and that my pregnancy is officially moved up to that high risk category, meaning, we're getting quite a bit of attention!

But on the other hand, even for that I am grateful, because... It's a bit of a long story again, but you know how I wrote a while ago how some things about my first pregnancy, delivery and my son's NICU journey I have started to understand only now, in retrospect?

Sitting in the room with that diabetes nurse was, and I am not kidding here, an eye-opening experience for me. I asked her, right at the beginning, to explain to me what is the mechanism of getting babies that are too small for gestational age, as opposed to big ones.

Because that's what gestational diabetes apparently does: it either makes for babies that are too large, or too small. Large ones are pretty straightforward: they get fed more than they need through the placenta and as a result, grow - sort of like people who live on fish'n'chips and end up having to wear clothes that are XXL in size. They just get more calories than they need!

But what about small ones? How does that work?

And the nurse, simply, pointed out to me that sugar can constrict blood vessels of the placenta, and as a result, make for a malnourished baby.

And at that point... a little lightbulb went BING! in my head.

Carefully, I asked her, "So, would that make for a gritty placenta then?"

(It probably won't sound like a big deal to you, but it has been a big deal for me for almost three years now.

When The Kid was delivered via cesarean section, the doctors saw that my placenta - the placenta that had been feeding him - was "gritty" which is a medical term for it, basically, looking like it pretty darn worn out and isn't doing its job well any more. Women who are way overdue, for example, can get gritty placentas because they're just getting way old, or smokers. In early deliveries - like mine was - gritty placentas can happen, but are uncommon, and will usually have some sort of a medical reason behind the grittiness. However in my case we never got to learn, why, and simply witnessed The Kid being slim and being whisked off to NICU straight from the operating theatre.

And now, I was suddenly sitting in that room and looking at this nurse, and feeling like... I was about to hear an actual, feasible explanation to why my son was born under the circumstances that he was born.

Because, not surprisingly...)

... the nurse answered, "Yes, yes it can."

And I just sat there, eyes wide open, feeling...

It's hard to explain what I was feeling. For so long I have learned to live and let go, to simply accept some things that have happened, even if I don't understand them, and to trust that I have the capacity to do my best next time, if I ever need to.

But it's not a natural thing for me to be doing. I LIKE understanding! I LOVE understanding! It's how I learn, mostly, by figuring out why something happened, deciding whether I need to change my actions or attitudes, and then plowing on again.

I haven't been able to do that with The Kid's birth - there's never been an explanation as to why things happened the way they happened, and so I have worked very hard to simply accept and let go.

But now, suddenly, with this one little piece of information which I am still unsure why no-one ever thought of mentioning to me, I had a feasible scenario which actually explained The Kid's birth to me.

And it doesn't matter whether it's true or not, whether things actually happened like that or whether there was some other, more mysterious reason - I had an explanation, a story, that made sense to me.

I had never had one before.

In the last stages of my previous pregnancy I started passing sugar in my urine, and was sent to do glucose tolerance testing. The test came back within limits, but I kept on passing sugar, so they asked that I do it again. I did, and the test came back at 8.9, just short of being over the limit, so they asked that I come and do a third one.

At that point I pulled up my big girl's pants and said that, look, sorry, but no - I was already something like 34 weeks pregnant by that point and I really didn't see how doing another glucose tolerance was gonna make a difference. Fasting overnight made me sick, then downing that massive load of sugar water at once (which I'd NEVER get in my usual diet!) made me even sicker, and even if it did come back high, it would've taken them another week to sort out how high exactly numbers are and what to do about them, by which point I would've been a week or two short of delivery.

And weighing all that up, I said no. I was going to eat a low sugar diet and just keep it at that, and that's what we did.

And it's only looking back now - because I don't remember anyone explaining the possible outcomes to me back then, and neither does The Man - that I wonder if this is what had happened. Had I, unknowingly, carried high sugar levels for the last few weeks of The Kid's pregnancy?

He came out at 38 weeks "looking like a 35-weeker" (medic's words).
Placenta was gritty, so hadn't fed him well for the last stretch.
As soon as they took him out, his blood sugars were low (because his body would've learned to balance against my sugars, and once placenta was gone his insulin levels smack-banged his sugar levels).
He developed strong jaundice, which wasn't helped by my lack of breast milk. (Which, by the way, I don't remember anyone mentioning either at the time, but apparently broad-spectrum antibiotics I was put on to fight an infection I got during delivery would've supressed breast milk - that, and the Cesarean section itself.) (Not that I would've said no to antibiotics, but it would've helped to at least know that this is what's possibly to happen - rather than keep pumping there, day in and day out, and thinking why is it that my body seems to be so crap at taking care of my baby when all these women around me were putting big bottles of milk in the fridge, and I was looking at mine being... 10 ml. 20 ml. Ie, not enough to feed a baby, anyway.)

And I know I've been rambling here worth a university thesis - lengthwise - but it's just so ground-breaking to me to suddenly look back and... understand. As much as I hate that little blood machine and the way I have to stick needles in my fingers to draw blood, and to constantly keep track of what time I've eaten versus what time I need to test - against all that it still, in some weird way, feels a blessing, because it's allowed me to suddenly understand something that I've carried around for such. A . Long. Time.

Yes, I am at Christchurch Women's on a weekly basis, and I am only 29 weeks at the moment, but this time around I can understand so much more what is happening and because they are monitoring the girlie so close, I am able to constantly get reassurance on us doing well - really, at this stage there is nothing worrying-looking! We're high risk, sure, but it's not because of what's happening at the moment, but rather, because of the potential for problems down the road - which they monitor for, and if that does become the case, there's things that can be done.

And I can get myself to these appointments independently, and I can get out of the house and go swimming with The Kid, or whatever, really, and...

It just feels good. You know?


A pooping horse

Me and The Man just had a good laugh together as we read through Anna's latest airport adventures.

"Then in the window of a souvenir store I saw a women’s sleeping t-shirt with a pink horse and handcuffs on it and a tagline “Fifty Shades of Hay.” /.../

Inside, they had masterpieces like a pair of boxers with “horsepower” across the front. T-shirts with a slouching cowboy and a responsible-looking dog on a horse and a tagline “Designated Driver.” In the food dept., there were mint jelly and bourbon-flavored pancake mix."

The way Anna - who lives in Las Vegas - described what she saw in that Northern Kentucky airport reminded me of... Alaska. Alaska and Yukon Territory in Canada - Carcross, maybe, or Whitehorse, little outposts of urban humanity in wide open spaces of the north.

Because you know what? I've never been to Kentucky, but going from Anna's descriptions,  if you swapped out a pooping horse for a pooping grizzly bear, then it could've easily been an Alaskan airport somewhere!

And it also reminds me of a New Zealand legend David Henshaw who for years now has captured New Zealand (redneck) farming through his cartoons, like this for example:

An afternoon ramble of being kind to myself

I find this lady familiar sometimes - not always, but sometimes I do.

"One of the biggest transformations has been the ability to allow myself to have a bad day. A few months ago if I was having a rough time I would have thought, “I suck at life. In fact, I will always suck at it. No one sucks at it more than I do.” Because even my depression wants to be valedictorian. 

Now? Now I stop myself and think, “Wait. Normal people have bad days. Everyone has bad days. You’re having a bad day. That’s all this is.” This tiny shift in thinking has had the hugest impact on my life because in the midst of something terrible or wrong I am finding light."

As I read this I thought, yeah, I know what it means.

I think it's been part of living in New Zealand, or maybe just growing up - or both? - but I have also somehow learned the ability to, sometimes, just let the anger be and allow myself the space to be a grump.

For a while, anyway.

It's not always pretty - heck, who I am kidding here, it's not pretty most of the time! - but it allows for a buffer of de-stressing and complaining the heck out of something, to then move on with life and find other things that are important.

Take this whole being pregnant deal at the moment, right - in the last month or so I've come down with a whole array of things that are making living life the way I pictured it two months ago, well... inconveniently dissimilar to what I was picturing.

I live in a house way, way out of way; I am not allowed to drive; there's a build-up of medical appointments and things that need "observation"; whilst my husband's work are being a$$sholes by not giving him any time off work whatsoever - and in a big picture, I know, this is not major stuff. No-one's dying, no-one's harmed, it's just me feeling bound up on this hill, my husband running on whatever energy he's managed to deposit somewhere - I can only assume he's withdrawing from his savings "account" - and what used to be simple trips to town have become whole day adventures coordinated between people who drop me off, people who pick me up, people who babysit my son, foods I am allowed or not allowed to eat... Heck, I really don't need to list this stuff every time I write about it, do I?

But what I am wanting to say is that... I've learned to allow myself the freedom to just call a sh*tty day what it is - a sh*tty day! - and to not feel like I need to apologise every time I get angry at something that is beyond me.

This feeling is surprisingly... human, and generous somehow. It's a little like being my own friend and calling myself up in the evening to ask, "Hey, have you got an hour to sit down with me with a cuppa and just to complain the sh*t out of this thing?" and replying enthusiastically, "Hell yeah!"

And then sitting down with a cuppa, having a moan, and feeling much better for having done it, afterwards.

Meanwhile, today is a "taking easy" day. I am tired as I have not slept well (tummy gets so uncomfortable whichever way I try to lay) and I assume because of that it keeps cramping up every time I do anything even sightly more aerobic, like, lifting a washing basket for example, so today I am just taking it easy and being kind.

And then tomorrow it will be a day of dropping The Kid off at the babysitter's at 7 am, going to blood tests, meeting with a neurologist, meeting with diabetes nurses... Hopefully to be back home by about 4 pm, to then continue on with whatever needs doing at home, and all the while congratulating myself for having reached a happy 29 week mark, with an energetic girl kicking away in my tummy, and just being me.

I am really good at rambling, in case you haven't noticed ;)

Talking to myself

Today, when The Kid decided that 5 am was a perfectly reasonable time to get up in the morning, by about 6.30 am I thought I was on the verge of a meltdown.

But no - now, by 10 am, I feel like I can handle going a bit further again.

Just work through this little detail, Maria, and then that little detail, and then just keep on patiently sorting it all out until one day it'll be done again, and life will feel a little bit less of an assignment again.


On taking charge of medical matters

There comes a point when several - different - medical issues are involved when what one medical professional says contradicts what the other one says, and I'm standing there in the middle, thinking, hmm.

Take this glucose test, for example, that came back today: my first reaction was to tear up, the next one was to swear and write a little angry note, and then, the next one, was to think how inconveniently cumbersome this whole thing has become. In short, to start feeling pity towards myself.

But then, after that, I thought... wait a minute.

It occurred to me - because I'd come close last time I was pregnant - that glucose tolerance tests don't go from "yes, you are healthy" to "oh no, you have diabetes"; there is an in-between part which is called something along the lines of "low tolerance of glucose" (or something) which is basically a little grey area marking people whose insulin isn't doing what it's supposed to, but it's not massively compromised yet.

And I started to get that itchy little feeling in my stomach somewhere that started telling me, "I bet you're in that little grey area. Seriously."

And because of that, when that medical professional did call me in the afternoon to follow up a text message sent earlier in the day, I actually asked her, "So, what was the reading itself?"

And you know what? Turns out, I was right: my reading did come back outside of a healthy range, but... it's not massively out. Not yet, anyway.

Now, don't get me wrong here: gestational diabetes is an issue worth considering and I am by no means saying that I am going to ignore the thing - because that's definitely not what I want to be doing - but I am saying that at this point, where I am starting to get caught in the middle of midwives, obstetricians, endocrinologists, GPs, neurologists and now diabetics nurses, I am starting to get to a point where not everything each of them says goes down well with what others of them say.

Basically - some of the stuff is starting to contradict the others.

That my obstetrician and my midwife are a bit like fruit and veggies balancing on the opposite ends of scales doesn't surprise me much - I had a feeling going into this thing already that, eventually, that might turn out to be the case. They're starting points are different.

That Christchurch medical professionals have had a thing or two to say against Dunedin professionals who handled The Kid's birth doesn't surprise me much either - again, different regions, different cultures, different times, different starting points.

But being caught in the middle here, with such a limited driving situation and such a rural physical location - which has made balancing all these little appointments tricky (and don't even get me started on being a mom to a 2-year-old) - it has pushed me to start standing up for myself more.

Not because I want to be stubborn, or inconsiderate, or difficult for medical receptionists to work with - no, I am sorry for all of that and I will keep on politely apologising whenever you guys tell me to come in Wednesday at 10 am and I ask if we can please make it Thursday after 12 pm instead.

But I am starting to balance my emotional wellbeing against all this physical medical observation.

There's a line there: a line I am walking not only at how closely my blood markers are observed, and my little girl's growth monitored, but also how stretched and tired I may become if I go through all this medical hoopla without saying to anyone that, look, this is really, really difficult here.

I've been there with The Kid already, I know what it feels like: it's weeks of super-close medical observation and intervention if necessary, it's lots of doctors and nurses helping out doing this and that, and when the day arrives when The Kid finally qualifies to be let home with his parents, it's his parents who suddenly find themselves at home, ecstatic at first, but then simply tired and drained because there isn't much left any more - and that's not cool.

Scenes from Dunedin NICU, back when The Kid was born

And I keep telling myself, ahead of time, that this time it will not be just one baby, it will be a baby and a toddler, and I need to get myself to that other end not only monitored well, but in a reasonably good emotional condition, also.

And because of that... I am starting to stand up for myself. Especially when what one medical professional says doesn't hold up well against what the other medical professional says.

I know they are all trying to do their job well. I understand that.

But I am also needing to do my job of being a happy mother well.

More swearing

Oh for f*ck's sake!

My glucose screen has come back positive - diabetes - so now there's even more (f*cking) medical appointments I need to get to. Great, just (f*cking) great!

This is becoming a major logistical pain, this whole pregnancy/childcare/life setup. I can't even get my son to a frickin' dentist!

I think once I'm done feeling angry I am going to sit down and cry. At least the paracetamol is helping some of this post-wave headache stuff, but...

Man I am tired of this! Going from this healthy, self-reliant personality to a frickin' dependent mess of a pregnant lady. Just jolly wonderful.


Getting those "waves" again

I'm tired of this. I really am!

Yesterday evening I told The Man that I feel like one of those "waves" is coming - and I was right. It's a very peculiar sort of tiredness I get just before a restless night is due and I have learned to recognize it now.

I hoped I was wrong, but... no, I wasn't. I was right, unfortunately - I did start getting those "waves" in my sleep last night.

How many times did it wake me up? I don't know, five, six maybe. Now in the morning hours I've had two or three more.

A pregnancy side effect, I think, is that I now also get a hot flush when it happens, so in addition to tingly face and arms and waiting for this damn thing to pass, I had to push off a blanket and then wait for everything to cool down again.

I'm tired of this thing! Mostly it is, I think, because life has changed so considerably since I am not allowed to drive any more. Everything's so... cumbersome. So much asking other people for help, so much depending, so much... logistics.

But also I am wanting to know what on earth this thing is and I am tired of not knowing any better, and I am looking forward to finally getting to meet a neurologist who will hopefully have a go at figuring this thing out.

Given how... unspecific my symptoms are I don't have much faith in a concrete resolution to it all, but I will keep on hoping for it whilst the investigation is underway, and I will also keep on hoping that they won't label me epileptic just because they can't think of what else this thing may be.

It's annoying, and it's tiresome, and it's cumbersome. It's stupid!

Wake up several times a night, face tingly, arms tingly, can't think straight... Then, in the morning, whilst already tired, the same thing, and then just waiting for the day to roll on and for this thing to pass because it always does, eventually.

I'm wanting to swear at this damn thing!

Life with The Dog: shared food

What happens when the garden gate gets left open?

She goes and helps herself to pumpkins. And chooses the best ones, too!

The Man just about had a meltdown...

Questions and answers vol 5

It occurred to me that I still haven't finished answering all the questions that were posed to me at Is there anything you'd like to know about me? so - here I go, answering the ones that are still "hanging".

Sorry for taking so long! I'd forgotten =)

6. Do you speak Estonian to your child? Do you find it hard in a rural and mostly monolingual community (I'm assuming because I lived in a small town in Australia for 6 years :)?

In short: yes, yes I do, and yes, yes it is!

I speak to The Kid in Estonian because I want him to be able to speak to - and understand - my side of the family, many of whom don't sport very fancy English levels. (Though it's not entirely foolproof either because many of my family are Russian speakers, so knowing Estonian really only gives access to about 2/3 of my family - with the rest it will probably still have to be English!)

It has got a bit easier with time now, but for the first year and a half it was really hard! Apart from Skype conversations I have with family and friends there is no-one I talk to in Estonian, you know, live so speaking to The Kid felt, at times, like I was speaking to myself: I would be, say, changing his nappy and talking in Estonian, and he would just lay there and... look at me. Now he at least babbles back to me, but back then he didn't talk at all so it really did feel like I was talking to myself.

The other thing where I need to keep having backbone is when I'm dealing with medical professionals, childcare professionals and speech and language therapists.

Given the number of immigrants in New Zealand it surprises me that information about bilingual speech development isn't more widely known and available, but I keep encountering professionals who ask me, "Is he still not talking yet?" and then ask me why I insist on talking to The Kid in Estonian. Some have even suggested that I speak to him both in English and in Estonian, to "help" his language development speed along.

And at those times, I keep repeating to myself: just give it time and be patient, girl.

I know from my own upbringing and from growing up in a community where a third of my classmates were from bilingual families that, one, bilingual children generally take longer to start talking and, two, it is helpful to stick to "one person, one language", so that rather than having "this language is Estonian, and this language is English", there is instead "this is mummy's language, and this is daddy's language".

Yes, it is frustrating that The Kid isn't talking yet, but I can also see that he understands both me and The Man, and he can follow quite complex instructions both in English and in Estonian, so we're really only waiting for his talking abilities to catch up.

For now, I have made a deal with our speech and language therapist, and our Plunket support person, and our GP that we will wait until The Kid is three years old and if by then he still hasn't started using actual words (baby words don't count, because he does have certain words he uses for things, but you won't find any of them listed in dictionaries), then we will start working with our speech and language therapist - but until then, we will just let The Kid develop at his own pace.

So it's probably been hard mostly for those two reasons: that I have needed to learn to keep talking in Estonian, even if it feels like I'm talking to walls, and to keep having confidence in my child's ability to pick it up and process it at his own time.

Okay, I've gotta go now, but I'll answer the rest soon!

And previous answers are can be found at:

What I've learned in three years of cloth diapering

I chose to clothe my son in washable cloth nappies way before he was born, and much for the same reasons most people probably do: I was conscious of the environmental (ie, waste) factors, wanted to save money, and wanted to feel good/right about what I was doing.

And heading into what is probably the last stretch of using cloth diapers now, three years in, here's what I've learned.

Cloth diapering has been totally worth it. If given a second chance, I would do it again. 
The Kid at a few months old

Having said that, cloth diapers do have their drawbacks - just as disposable nappies have theirs - so it's a balance of finding what's right for each person's own circumstances, and should be treated as such. For me - us - it worked because:

1) it saved us loads of money (because nappies themselves cost way less, and because we had less trash to pay for),
2) it allowed us to feel good about not producing the amount of trash disposable nappies do,
3) cloth nappies were kinder on The Kid's skin, and
4) they did not feel like too much work once we had our "nappy routine" going.

We ended up using a variety of nappies, and although we started with about 15, in the end we accumulated about 25 sets. They were mostly of Baby Cheeks brand, plus a few TotsBots, and then - over time - I accumulated a variety of brandless, "old school" cotton diapers I picked up from op-shops.

To me, a perfect nappy is something that:

1) comes with plastic snaps, and not velcro! As much as I've tried being careful with how I fasten the nappy, velcro fasteners occasionally end up leaving abrasions on The Kid's tummy or thighs if the nappy has shifted whilst he's been wearing it - the more so the more active he has become - and when it does it takes several days to heal. (The Man has outright refused putting nappies that have velcro on The Kid because he never seems to be able to do it in a way that wouldn't scratch The Kid's skin.) In fact, all of our nappies that (originally) had velcro for fasteners, I have cut velcro off and replaced it with buttons.

2) is adjustable not only around the tummy, but around the legs, too. Baby Cheeks adjust by stretchy ribbons inside legsholes, TotsBots by folding down the front and fastening it with plastic snaps.

3) comes as a separate inner nappy (for soaking up stuff) and outer nappy (which is waterproof, or at least leak-resistant). A lot of the nappies are so-called all-in-ones, meaning, the nappy in sewn together so that is has an absorbent inside and a waterproof outside - but, guys, and let's be totally honest here, after three years of sending nappies through a washing cycle every two or three days, I really don't think there even exists a fabric that will stay waterproof after going through the washing machine a hundred - or three hundred - times. I just don't believe there is a fabric that is capable of doing that! The simple truth is that fabrics wear down with time, and so do their waterproofing qualities, so nappies that had a waterproof layer for the first few months won't stay waterproof forever.

We have started putting TotsBots outer layers (they are not all-in-ones, so they have a separate inside and separate outside) around our Baby Cheeks nappies (which are all-in-ones) because Baby Cheeks can't handle it any more - plastic coating has lifted over time and so if left to their own devices, they leak. Because outer layers can be re-used several times before they need a wash (only inside layers need to get changed every time), they stay leak-proof longer.

4) comes with a leak-proof outer layer. To continue from the previous point, in the last year I have discovered old school wool covers which aren't - on their own - waterproof, but because they soak up anything that may have come through the inside, absorbent layer, then they essentially make the nappy leak-proof. Do they get stinky? Actually, no - they just get changed every day and that's that. Easy! But they don't really work in hot summer weather because they're, well... warm. Very warm.

5) has a bamboo blend inside fabric, like TotsBots, and not fleece. Over the many, many, many washes, fleece fabric loses absorbency because it wears out - becomes thin - and depending on what sort of washing powder is used, it can also get blocked (apparently that is especially true with so-called eco-friendly washing powders). Bamboo and cotton do wear down over time, but they don't lose their texture like fleece does. Also, fleece gets more sweaty.

So I could probably say that if a nappy...

1) was built like Baby Cheeks, with stretchy ribbons inside leg holes and plastic snaps for tummy,
2) came in two separate layers - absorbent inside and leakproof outside,
3) had bamboo fabric for inside absorbency,
4) had a variety of outer layers, some plastic coated and some made of wool,

...then it would be my perfect nappy.

Unfortunately, as far as I know, Baby Cheeks holds a patent on their pattern so unless they decide to change their layering and fabric choices, my perfect nappy won't exist for another 20 years or so - unless I make it myself, at home.

The Kid at a year and a bit - crawling

When I look at the variety of cloth nappies available today, it doesn't surprise me why the marketing is done in a way that it's done, and why the nappies that are popular are... popular.
Classic view during rainy season -
nappies hanging inside

Three years ago when I was first choosing what nappies to buy for my child, I, too, was wanting something that looked elegantly simple (ie, all-in-one), came in lovely colors or prints, and was affordable though not necessarily dirt-cheap.

Now, almost three years in, nappies are just functional items to me, and not much more: I want them to work and to be leak-free, and not much else. Colors? Prints? Well... I really. Don't. Care. Heck, several of the hand-me-down nappies The Kid is wearing are pink, for Pete's sake, and The Kid is very clearly a boy.

Some of the nappy choices I would be making now - now that I've used them a lot - would've probably scared me back then, three years ago, when all I had was people's opinions and no personal experience. For example, it's only in the last year that I've finally figured out how to use those real old school "folded" nappies - basically a sheet of cotton that is about the size of a kitchen towel which is then folded into a "nappy shape" - but they aren't actually that difficult!

And! I dare you to show me a single modern nappy which can compete with those "old school" buggers - folded nappies - in being adjustable and leakproof. Try me!
And during dry weather - outside!

So all in all, I would probably say that whatever cloth nappy you are using, they all have their plus-sides and their drawbacks, and most of these will probably reveal themselves in practice, after months and months and months of changing and washing and drying, so rather than go through a massive headache of trying to decide which brand to buy - and dear God, there are so many people out there ready to say what is right and what is wrong, and most of them disagree with each other - I would say that just buy a dozen or so, doesn't really matter what type exactly (maybe even get two or three different ones, though not too many because then it could be outright frightening and confusing, trying to figure them out, and that's not cool), and then as time goes by you will know what it is you like and what sucks.

And if you want some suggestions on articles that are helpful then here's a few of my suggestions:

And if you have any questions, shoot away in comments. I'm happy to help.

PS. The Man is asking that I add here: what works for a baby (who lays down most of the time) may not necessarily work for a toddler (who runs around a lot), so just as a child develops, so may the nappy needs change.

On being organised

I watched a friend potter around her kitchen the other day and I asked her, lovingly, if she thought she had a bit of an OCD. Her husband called out from the other room, "Yes!"

Later I added that I hadn't meant it as an insult, really.

Here's the thing: I often get asked/suggested (mostly by my husband) if I'm a bit of an OCD person, and I hold fast that no, I am not.

I am organised.

There's a difference.

I get slack at times when it's too tiresome or overwhelming, but most of the time if you asked me where something is at our house, I'd be able to tell you. Items are sorted into rooms / drawers / files etc based on their function, so even if I don't remember where something is kept, I can figure it out very quickly because I can think along the lines "where would it make sense to keep it?" and that's usually where that thing is. I hate looking for stuff! I hate the amount of time it wastes - time I could otherwise use for other, actually useful stuff.

At work I am also process driven: as soon as I find myself doing something that is unnecessarily repetitive (even if a company has been functioning in this manner for years),  and I can see that it could be evened out and shortened - timewise - by a little bit of planning ahead and organising, I plan ahead, organise and change the system. I do it for the same reasons that I keep my house organised: I am not "everlasting" enough to waste my time on stupidity, so if my lifespan is limited then so will the things I am willing to spend my time on need to be.

And that's the difference!

Just like this friend - the one who was pottering around her kitchen - who isn't doing things simply because she likes the motion of cleaning or whatever, she isn't OCD, and neither am I.

And on this note: the upcoming troublemaker's room is ready for her arrival! Two and a half months ahead of due date it may be a bit of a push by some standards, but to me, it's again about simplicity: by putting everything in place and having the clothes sorted, washed and stocked up, I now know that there's nothing else I need to focus on, apart from just staying well and helping her grow.

There's everything I know I will be needing to take care of her for the first few months - going by the experience of what bringing up The Kid was like, anyway - and very little extra. The stuff that I will be needing is there, and the stuff that I won't be needing, isn't.

And just like my kitchen, it's sorted because this is how things are the easiest.

Meanwhile, the boys are chilling out on the sofa watching cartoons.

And whilst I'm at it, I might as well upload the pre-storm photos of when the pumpkin plants were still standing and we were cruising around the hillside, having our almost daily afternoon walk.

Podcasts and interviews

When I'm inside the house, doing stuff, housework, mostly - cooking, dishes, eating, whatever - I often listen to interesting audio programmes, speeches or in the lack of them, Radio New Zealand National. It's my way of making something personally useful out of housework, so that by the time I'm done with another load of dishes, I have also learned something new.

I've written before that I very much enjoy Elizabeth Gilbert's writing and she's also made what I consider is the best speech in TED's history, "Your elusive creative genius".

So it shouldn't come as a surprise that occasionally audio programmes I listen to have to do with public interviews Elizabeth Gilbert's given.

The one I've been listening to this morning, for example, whilst chopping up food for the slow cooker has been this, Liz discussing one of her books at the Dominican University of California.

And it... makes me want to get hold of that book and have a read. Sounds promising!

But if you also sometimes want to listen to something worth listening without having to pay attention to the screen itself, here are a few of my suggestions - the ones I could come up with / remember at this precise moment, anyway (all of these will open up in a new window):

Even more thoughts on weather

Man... I'm glad I took a photo of our lovely garden this weekend because it sure ain't lookin' like that any more!

I went and had a little look at it this morning, just to see how it's going and... geesh Louise! Sunflower's snapped, several pumpkins are snapped (and the ones that aren't have been blown around so they're all facing in the same direction now :P), tomatoes are standing at weird angles, not even sure yet if they're snapped, too, I guess we'll just wait and see. Even, for Pete's sake, chives are snapped off their stalks and there's, like, what, whole 20 cm of them poking up from the ground for wind to play with?


Meanwhile, The Man sent me a text from town today - he's making his way back home. Sounds like urban Christchurch is having lots of fun, too :P (And it makes me wish his company wasn't so bloody determined to get their employees on site and would just let people stay home and be reasonable.) (Would like to repeat that word that starts with "a$$h..." again, but I'm really pushing this swearing agenda here already...)

And if anything, I'm actually quite impressed there weren't more trees down at our place... The Man cleared one off our driveway this morning and the rest are just branches and bits, so the road's passable and all the cattle are down at the forest sheltering, so even they're not blocking the road today.

It's been really quite impressive, really. Now if it would just stop already, that'd be pretty cool, too!

PS. I could go and try to take a photo of what it's like, show you guys, but we're up in the cloud at the moment so it would just look like a bunch of green grass sticking out from the fog, so... yeah.

PPS. Have I done enough complaining yet? I'm getting pretty good at it! =D

Over it for now

I think I'm over this weather now.

For one, the house is bloody cold because windows can't handle this wind and they were pretty crappy to begin with anyway, so... Two, it's frickin' loud! Everything roars and roars and roars and heading into the second day of constant roaring my ears are ringing out for some quiet (please?). Three, on top of the previous two things I'm feeling housebound, and making toast on a log burner soon gets pretty old when the power goes out again and I'm trying to entertain a toddler whilst staying mostly in the living room, where the log burner (and warmth) is.

So in short, I want this weather to move on already and for it to be quiet again. I want 22 degrees and quiet sunshine, alright? And just for the record, I can handle taking a walk when it's windy, no problem - but I just don't want to do it when it's 140 km/h sort of windy, sorry, and neither does my toddler.

On a positive note though: this constant roaring has, I think, taught our toddler to sleep through rain and wind, which is helpful, so - thanks!

And whilst I'm at it, I would just like to say that, wow, two days into being a housemom again and I can clearly recognise the tiredness - again. It'll get better, at least in some ways, I'm sure, once I'm more used to it again and have worked out a routine of what I'm doing and how I'm doing and why I'm doing, but for now, SAHMing a toddler whilst pregnant with our little girl here, I'm getting this feeling of wondering if I am looking a little cross-eyed again.

Not, like, literally, but...

Oh, hell, I should just stop trying to explain. People that have stayed at home with toddlers (on really, really rainy days!) will probably understand anyway and people that haven't probably won't, and heck with it.

Meanwhile, it just blows and blows and blows and blows outside. And rains. Pelts with rain!

Looking out the window: what's that?

Snow in March. Awesome.

Welcome to New Zealand!

On living on the main supply line

On mornings like this I am oh-so-grateful to be living on the same power line that feeds the radio transmitter. Oh, so-so grateful!

It's been blowing a gale the whole night (and up here, gale really is gale!), so not at all surprisingly when I got up at around 5.30 this morning the power was already out. I set up the candles, The Man cooked us a warm brew on the Trangia set and then I called our power company.

"Good morning, I'd like to report a power outage."
"What's the address, please?"
[give him the address]
"Oh, yeah, there's a few of those down your way!"
"Yeah, it's a wee bit windy..."

A few minutes of chatting and he told us that the power would probably be back by about 8.30. Like, 8.30 in the morning?, I asked him, incredulous.

"Yup, 8.30 in the morning," he confirmed.

I was stunned for a moment. I looked towards The Man who'd been listening on. We both raised our eyebrows in surprise.

"Wow, okay... Awesome! Thank you!" I said, I think, and we hang up.

And then we laughed.

Not even 10 minutes later there were Orion people up at our driveway, and not even 10 minutes after that the fridge turned on with that familiar, click!, and then we laughed again.

And then The Man said how other people, when choosing where to live, will look at how close the schools are, and public transport, and that sort of stuff, but he will want to see our future house sit on the same supply line that feeds some important facilities, a hospital maybe or a medical centre or something =D

(And I have a feeling he said that only half-jokingly.)

Because this is how it goes: if we were just two lone houses up here - and nothing else - then I'm pretty sure that we would be the last people in line to get our power put back on. Heck, our driveway itself is more than a kilometre off the main line!

But because our power line goes past our house and then on to the radio transmitter... Bang! We're the first in line to get switched back on. Like magic!

Remember that big spring storm that kept parts of Canterbury off grid for a week? We were out for, I think, four hours or something. And now I am sitting here, typing on my computer at 7 o'clock in the morning, the internet's on, the fridge is on, the toilet flushes... All whilst behind our windows the wind still roars.


Random thoughts on a Sunday

I've always known that gardening nurtures and fills, but I never appreciated... how much exactly.

It is our first year, ever, of having our own garden. It's fenced and gated so that chickens and cattle can't get in any more, and so for the first time ever we... grow stuff. Nothing major - just some strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, capsicum, sunflowers and chives; carrots/peas/radish are gone already but we've sowed them again so they'll be coming up for a second harvest soon. There is a little bench for relaxing and as we sat there tonight, The Man and I, I thought... I like it. I really, really like it.

We've been picking little cherry tomatoes for a whole week already, but today, the first big tomato was ready for eating and... yum! I know it's cheesy, but there is something so special about eating the food that's grown in our garden.

For much of my childhood I was weeding and watering my grandparents' garden, and when I say 'garden'  I don't mean a little backyard garden either, much like New Zealand gardens usually are - theirs was a proper, large, maximum-use feeding garden which nourished the souls and stomachs of much of my family, and filled our winter pantries with jams, pickles and preserves; so the concept of food that lands on my plate not even 10 minutes after it's been picked isn't foreign to me, and neither is the amount of work that goes into maintaining it.

But this is... different.

The garden that my grandparents had was my grandparents' - I was there to help, sometimes not so willingly - whereas the garden we have here is ours. I have, personally, dug through that ground which was riddled with years of neglect and roots, and fed it with compost and chicken poop and sheep pellets and cattle dung; The Man has done the fencing and the gates, and built the benches; we've both weeded and harvested and sowed and clipped and dug some more, and so did our parents when they were visiting around Christmas; and now finally it's... a garden. A garden to sit in and to eat from.

Almost every day me and The kid make our way to the strawberries and eat a few. It amazes me for how long strawberries produce in New Zealand - we've been eating them for three months straight and there's still no end in sight!

And it's just... wow. Our garden. We finally have a garden.


If you ever hear an expression "To do a Maria" in this house then it means to work on something (usually in the evening after The Kid has gone to bed) and right at the time when the body starts saying, "You're pretty tired, let's just wrap it up for tonight," to push just a little bit more and then, almost surprisingly, find that a complete grumpy exhaustion has set in because of pushing too far and for too long.

And that, here, is called "To do a Maria".

Tonight, for example, The Man considered working just a little bit more in the garden, but then said to himself, "Come on, go inside, don't do a Maria," and he was right - he got in when he still had some energy left.



The Man taught me a little kitchen trick today. So simple, and so genius!

Do you know how when you've cooked something in the oven, say, potatoes and meat, and then there's a layer of grease and oil in the bottom which you really don't want to solidify into the food as it cools?

Well, I've always scuffled with draining it or with picking stuff out of it - but turns out, it's way easier than that.

Move the food away from one corner a bit and then prop the opposite corner of the dish with a utensil, a fork maybe - the angle will make the oil/grease run down into the empty corner where it then solidifies and is easy to pick out of.

And I was, like, wow.