On money

I was listening to Kim Hill interview John Lanchester today. John has written a book about money - how the language of money has become so confusing over time that most people DON'T UNDERSTAND WHAT THE HELL IS MEANT when "financial people" talk about government policies and financial systems and whatnot, and as a result, for most people it's very difficult to even participate in policy-making, because how do you participate in something if you don't understand it?

It sort of strikes a cord with the upcoming elections.

But anyway, I listened and I nodded and at some point I outright grinned: John mentioned such a thing as "quantitive easing" which is a term I had never heard before, and when he explained what it means, I couldn't help but grin, widely. Because do you know what "quantitive easing" is?

It's what they call printing money in the US =D. "Quantitive easing". (I am grinning again!)

And after I had listened to this interview, I also started thinking about New Zealand's property prices, and rental prices. Again.

This thing drives me mad. Like, seriously: it almost makes me nauseous, to think of it. It's ludicrous!

One of the most foolproof ways of investing money in New Zealand is in property: buying a house, renting it out, and then using that rental income to pay off the mortgage. Rental prices, as a rule, are a smidge higher than mortgage payments, so owning a good rental technically means that the house pays for itself.

I've said it before: if you go and look around at forums where people discuss their dreams of "becoming financially independent by the time they're 30", in New Zealand the most popular way of getting there is working really hard to save up for a house deposit, then buying a house, then renting that house out (so that the rental payment basically starts paying off the mortgage), then working again real hard to save up for another house deposit, buying another house, then renting that house out, too - and so by the time people are in their mid-30's they own five-six different houses, with a steady stream of income, and once the mortgages are paid off it becomes a straight-up "get paid without having to work" sort of a deal.

And it's just... ludicrous. Seriously.

I do not blame people who do it, because if the offer is on the table like that, why wouldn't you? But I have also asked myself that question: would I do it?

Okay, so at the moment it's a purely theoretical question since I am in the process of saving up enough money for my first house deposit, let alone a fifth or a sixth one. But theoretically speaking: would I do it? If I were in a position to do it?

And I don't know how to answer that.

I know that if I did own that rental house, I would not rent it out in such horrendous conditions as some of the rental places do get rented out. In New Zealand there is very little regulation about housing standards, so I could technically get away with that, but... I wouldn't want to. To me it's ludicrous to think there would be people, a young family perhaps, whose children would be going to the doctor with recurrent respiratory infections, for the poor quality of air in my house.

It would mean adding my bit into a system that is already unfair, and I don't want to do that.

And it's sort of the same when it comes to this "rental yield" question. My ex-workmate used to moan about how high Christchurch rental prices are whilst renting out her own property at that high market rate, and I used to listen to her moan and think, seriously!? You're complaining whilst doing it? Are you f*cking kidding me!

John Lanchester said in his interview how if you look at the world in general, then inequality between countries is getting smaller - countries are becoming more and more even in financial respect - but inequality within countries themselves is growing ever larger. Basically: as the top end moves up, the bottom end stays there, so each country is becoming like a stretched-out sock.

By refusing to participate in what I regard is a very unfair way of conducting things, I am basically cutting myself out of the profit, and letting people with different standards collect the profit, and then use that profit to do further stuff with it.

So what's worse, not participating or participating and at least trying to use the profit to go into sustainable, fair investments?

It's like going grocery shopping: every week I keep paying a premium price for eggs because I refuse to eat caged eggs and so I buy free-range (and if possible, organic) eggs instead. On meat I spend more money than I have to, on fruits and vegetables I spend more money than I have to, on rice I spend more - you get the drift - and each week I can see that reflect in my grocery bill... but I also understand that the best way to support the companies in whose work I believe is to buy from them. Every purchase is a vote of confidence.

It makes me feel better, but I am also financially punishing myself, each week.

It's an easier pill to swallow when it's a weekly grocery bill I am talking about. But what if it's bigger stuff? What if it's investment towards my children's schooling I am talking about? Retirement without burdening any other family with it?


And to finish this off: listening to John Lanchester talk about financial markets reminded me what me and The Man have jokingly said before, that one thing with buying a house that has quite a bit of land around it is that if "poop hits the fan", a vegetable garden will feed. Land will feed.

But, anyway, gotta go now. The Girlie is up =)

On amygdala being there both for fear and for writing

I am reading Terri Apter's book "Difficult Mothers" at the moment. On page 201 she talks about something which makes sense to me in the context of my blog-writing:

"Some children are as hardy as dandelions, able to thrive in rough conditions; some children are vulnerable to difficult conditions. They may become depressed, or they may develop addiction or self-defeating dependence, or their anger may make them aggressive. This particular gene leaves you with a highly reactive amygdala (the fast-responding fear center of the brain) that makes you hypervigilant to others' responses; but it also gives you an edge across a wide range of learning. You are probably more attuned to people's responses and feelings. You are probably quick to gauge the emotional temperature of language and gesture. What makes you vulnerable to a mother's flaws may also make you creative, reflective, and ultimately resilient."

I had never come across this knowledge before: that the fear-responding amygdala will also give a person an edge when it comes to writing.

I mean, it makes sense, intuitively! But I had never thought of it like that. Because you know what it then explains to me?

It then explains to me why topics I struggle with in my brain are the ones I am able to write about well; and why as soon as I make peace with something, and set it to rest in my brain - I am not able to write about it well any more. I just haven't the interest.

If it leaves my amygdala, it then also leaves my writing centre of the brain.

PS. Yeah, I know, it's a very simplistic way of looking at it. If you happen to be a neuroscientist and you're reading this, wanting to say a few things on this topic - remember, I am not a scientific journal, nor do I want to be one =)

On asbestos in Christchurch

The Man had a first aid refresher course yesterday. Among other things workplace safety was covered, and among that, they said that Christchurch earthquakes have likely amounted to the biggest release of asbestos into city living environment in modern times, and that in all likelihood there is going to be an array of deaths in 10, 20, 30 years from now, mostly people who are working on the rebuild in the central city - people who breathe in that air all day long.

"Surely not?" I said, "What about Haiti?"

"Haiti didn't have asbestos, they were mostly just concrete," The Man replied.


On going back to school

In reply to Melina's post The Dry Lab.

In high school, I was a math wunderkind. You know, the girl who finished everything early, quickly asked "What's for home?" and then finished all the home assignments in class also. Saved me having to do homework.

But then I went to study law (NEVER used that stuff), then did another degree in journalism (NEVER used that stuff) and it's only now that I am coming up to my 30th birthday in November that I realise... I'm actually a numbers person, mentally.

So what am I about to do? I'm about to start studying quantity surveying, so I can work out how things are built.

And whilst I am excited as to be going back to school, I am also painfully aware of the fact that, in all likelihood, I am going to struggle as (!) with those basic math classes there.

And that in all likelihood, I am, too, going to sit next to a 17-year-old who is going to scribble-scribble-scribble and finish his assignment, and I am going to look at the notebook, thinking, "Man, I used to know how to do this stuff."

And then I am going to try and copy what that 17-year-old is doing into MY notebook, and figure it out at home.

It's going to be two long, long years.

Labour story, part two

I know, I know: I am sharing with you the labour story of The Girlie, and yet I am about to write about the labour story of The Kid instead. How's that work?

Well, to me these two are inherently connected: even just thinking about The Girlie's birth instantly makes me think about the birth of The Kid instead. They're like... one long story to me: The Kid started it, The Girlie finished it. The Kid's birth brought on pain, The Girlie's birth brought on reconciliation. I cannot talk about her birth without telling something about his birth along with it.

And so, because of that, I am going to start with the birth of The Kid instead.


I've already shared with you a while ago that before The Kid came into this world, for several years I had grappled with the idea of potential infertility.

It's funny... Yesterday I was reading a book called "Baby Gone" which is a collection of stories from New Zealand women and men who have lost their children either through infertility, miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.

The recurring theme in that book is that women expect pregnancy and childbirth to go without a hitch, and then end up experiencing traumatic losses instead. It's heartbreaking to read.

But mine was almost the opposite of that.

For so many years I had been aware of such a thing as infertility, and that there was a good chance I'd be facing it myself - at least for a while - that straight from the beginning the whole idea of becoming a mother one day was always preceded with a word, if, to me.

If I have children one day.
If I become pregnant.

I was going to treat a pregnancy - if I ever had one - as a blessing, but not as a normalcy.

Which, imagine my surprise then, came about naturally and unexpectedly not even a year into my marriage.


I was staring at this little stick, two stripes on it, and all I could fit inside my head was, Wow. Wow. Wow.


The first few months of the pregnancy with The Kid was a blur of nausea. Every time I came to see my midwife, she would ask, "Any better yet?" and I would quietly shake my head, on the verge of tears, and sometimes on the verge of vomiting instead. I watched the numbers on the scales keep going down: 62 kilos. 60 kilos. 58 kilos.

For those first few months, I was working towards a daily goal of being able to get down a litre of water at least, and maybe a muesli bar. In front of my house there were yellow patches on the lawn where the grass had been "burned off" due to me vomiting on it. When driving from Wanaka to Queenstown, for example, I would occasionally stop the car on the roadside, open my door, vomit out onto the roadside and then... just keep on driving towards Queenstown again =)

But as much as I loathed vomiting and feeling nauseous like that, day in and day out, it was a blessing knowing that, in all likelihood, I was still happily pregnant every time I vomited like that, and I was grateful for that.


From weeks 20 until about 35, I was a hallmark of robust health and happiness. My tummy was growing, but not getting in the way yet, I was looking good in pretty much anything I put on, whether it be a dress or a pair of jeans, and for as far as we could see, everything was just pretty darn close to perfectness.


The few problems I did encounter didn't seem to make an awful lot of difference. One was a glucose tolerance test, for example: I came out being just short of borderline diabetic, 0.1 digits short of an official diagnosis, and I have already written about the mess that followed before.

The other one was a workmate I was supposed to train up to take over my job at Wanaka.

That guy... was a bit more of a pain. I still don't know what his problem was exactly, but he ended up being an a$$ to me, and we actually had to start getting our boss to sit in the room with us during the training sessions, for otherwise he was just going to start shouting and swearing at me.

Some days I came home and cried on The Man's shoulder. I was stressed to buggery by that guy!

But, again, I didn't think much of it in terms of the pregnancy: the stress of work was somehow "separate" from being pregnant, and though I knew that being stressed wasn't doing me any favors, I kept trying to handle it on my own.

Looking back, I should've just quit on that guy, and asked someone else to try deal with him.

Because here's what happened: at 38 weeks, my waters started leaking. It was a pretty natural time for going into labour, and we didn't think much of it in terms of being a problem. The 72 hours I was given to try and go into labour naturally didn't bring anything on though, and so we made our way to Dunedin Hospital for an induction.

What happened in Dunedin Hospital I have written about before also. I have written about the long labour, and about ending up in an operating theatre anyway, and about not even remembering when it was exactly that I got to hold him for the very first time, because straight from the operating theatre they whisked him up to NICU (neonatal intensive care unit), and I had to stay down at the maternity ward instead.

I have written about what it's like being in NICU, and how I struggled for a long time afterwards, looking for answers on why - and that's how it felt to me - my body had failed us.

In some ways, approaching The Kid's pregnancy with an uncertainty of "If..." meant that I was somewhat protected from the pain that followed - because, in some ways, I had expected it; or at least I hadn't expected to not experience problems.

But it also meant that for a long time afterwards, I blamed myself.

I blamed myself over stressing out at work during those last few weeks of being pregnant, and "causing" my son to be born the way he was because I hadn't had the balls to send an a$$hole of a grown man packing.

I blamed my body in the lack of breastmilk, that somehow I wasn't as fit to be a mother as some other women are.

I blamed... I blamed myself in pretty much everything that happened then.

The way I saw it, I was taking responsibility rather than blame - blame was just a side effect of taking responsibility - but it didn't lessen the pain because the fact was, The Kid's birth was deeply traumatic for me on so many different levels that they are almost too many to count.

Looking at it, nothing horrific actually happened - ours was a run-of-the-mill sort of a baby struggle, the kind that happens all over the world, every day, everywhere, but for some reason, I took it all very personally.

And that's why I cannot think of the birth of The Girlie without somehow thinking about the birth of The Kid instead.

In almost every way that The Kid's birth brought on pain, and fear, and insecurity - the pregnancy and birth of The Girlie brought understanding, peace and acceptance. If I ever told you how reassuring it has been, to be able to carry a healthy child to full term, to give birth "the way God intended", to breastfeed her to chubby happiness - without first telling how big of a baggage I had carried from before that - would you understand?

Would you?

From The Kid's birth, what I remember mostly is this:

From The Girlie's birth, what I remember mostly is this:

(Well, actually what I remember the most is breastfeeding her, but because I don't fancy much putting here photos of my boobs, then you'll need to accept the photos of her sleeping on my chest instead =).)

And with that, I might just leave you for now.

It's funny, actually, to see that I am linking more and more to texts I have published about The Kid's birth before, rather than typing new stuff up now - because you know what it means? It means that this topic has finally started to extinguish itself for me =).

It's good. It means that what I have up in my head now are, for example, walks I take with these two instead:

I'll get myself together once more to write about the birth of The Girlie herself, but then I think, I'll be done with it.

I can see the summer on the horizon, finally!

On suicide and compassion

Suicide is a topic I rarely bring up with people.

Wait, before I go any further: don't worry, I'm not planning any! Sure, I may be struggling with a whole bunch of things at the moment, and I may even be hovering on the edges of a depression (it's hard to tell whilst in it, it's only in retrospect that it becomes clear whether there was one, or wasn't) - but I choose life. A hundred times over. A thousand times over!

Wait, where was I?

Ah, yeah: suicide.

It's a topic that fascinates me. A counsellor I met with this Monday asked if I had ever considered harming myself (it's one of their "compulsory" assessment questions, so if you ever go to see a counsellor in New Zealand, you'll be asked one, too) and I answered to her - honestly, as I always do - that no, not since that one time when I was 20.

It's why I think the topic of suicide fascinates me to begin with - I know the pain of wanting one.

It didn't last long. I was 20, had just experienced a breakup I said to myself I had caused, and I was feeling exceptionally guilty of it. It was summertime, I was sitting at his grandmother's cottage, wailing, as I often did in those days, and it was late in the evening, the rooms were dark... and there was one moment - one long, dark moment - when I thought to myself, "If there was a lake here, I would go in, get my mouth full of water, and then I'd try and hold it until I passed out."

The terror that struck me the next moment is hard to describe for I even felt the tiny little hairs on my cheeks stand up, so frightening was it, catching myself thinking that.

I have never felt like it since. The time it took to heal, the months it took until there was that first day that I didn't wail... is almost embarrassing to remember: the breakup happened sometime during the summer, and the first day I did not wail was, I think, February the next year. Gradually the breaks became shorter, and shorter, until one day there were more days that I did not cry, rather than did, and then eventually came the healing. It was a long process.

But this one thing I have taken with me from that dark time, the one thing, I think, that has given me more understanding about people in general than anything else I have ever experienced, is that familiar pain on that dark night, when a lake and a mouthful of water was what I was wanting more than all the life that could've come after.

It's... it's what has given me more compassion towards other living creatures than anything else I have ever experienced, I think.

Recently Dooce wrote about suicide with candour and compassion, and with parts of what she has written I couldn't have agreed more.

Compassion - that's what I feel towards suicide the most, not anger.

I have been to funerals of people who have done that to themselves. I have friends whose dearest have done that to themselves. I also have at least one friend who tried, but didn't succeed in doing so. That friend is still around us today.

I don't know what New Zealand society in general thinks about suicide, I don't understand it yet. I know that when a struggling mother goes to her GP and says that she is feeling tired, all the time, the questionnaire they give her to tick boxes in quickly will have that little question in the end, the one that asks whether she has thought of harming herself in any way.

I know that if she ticks anything other than "No, never!" in that question, she will get referred on to see a counsellor past any queues or waiting lists. The fact that something like that even gets asked, routinely, gives me strong hope about New Zealand society in general.

But I also know that New Zealand farmers routinely harm themselves, and so do Maoris. It's... symptomatic of some of the things this society does in general; the fact that there are two groups who stand out like that alone should ring a strong, red warning bell.

But still New Zealand schools don't provide food to their children. Still New Zealand children are able to grow up in poverty and in need for what are essentially their parents' problems. All this talk about lowering of taxes (general election is coming up), all whilst New Zealand is already carrying an impressive government debt, it makes me raise my eyebrows in horror for what this country actually needs, more than anything else, is compassion.

Compassion. Compassion. Compassion.

New Zealand has so, SO many good things to it! I got asked why don't I consider moving back to Europe if so much of what I am standing against at the moment is cr*p, and... I don't want to. I see great hope, great resilience in this country, and there is great space here for almost anyone.

But it does lack compassion at the moment. Quite strongly, too - not only in the middle of the Canterbury rebuild following the earthquakes, but in this society in general, and suicide rate is only symptomatic of that.

No, I am not God, I do not have all the answers; nor do I think I am always right at everything. If I am wrong, I am free to change my mind and I am free to be open about that.

I would, actually, like to see that I am wrong in what I am feeling about this topic, that there is more compassion available out there than what I am aware of at the moment.

But it's just, at the moment, in the midst of this general election, I really am not seeing it.

It's interesting where I got to with this topic, given that I started off from suicide. Talk about trailing off, eh?

I got some good rest last night. So grateful for that!

Bits and bobs

As The Kid prepares to eat his grapes, he lines them up on the table first =)

Otherwise, I am grateful the cloud has lifted again. Sure, all the greenery is good - but so is sunshine!

Gumboots have been getting a lot of use lately.

Summer, summer, where are thou, summer!

Message to The Girlie

Well, I guess if you need to be teething, might as well be now. Not that any of us were getting any good sleep anyway.


The mysterious J

At first I thought it was just this one person being... quirky. But then others followed: e-mail upon e-mail where at the ends of lines, or after names, or in-between other text, there were capital J's.

Like this J.

Or like this J.

Today I finally typed into Google search, "why do people put J in the end of lines?"

And you know what? It actually makes sense now =)

It's their smartphones using J as code for smiley faces, and as their e-mails filter down into my Google Mail account and HTML code gets hacked whilst it's travelling, all I end up with are letters J - instead of smiley faces.


Just in case you were wondering, too.

On doctors

The upside of all these blood tests and medical examinations I have at the moment, I guess, is that at least I know I haven't got diabetes any more (after my stint with gestational diabetes a few months back), and that as far as various blood tests go, my body looks pretty darn amazing. But on the other hand: I kind of wish I knew what's up, and I'm kind of done with having to see doctors.

No offense, doctors: most of you are lovely, kind people, polite and compassionate... but I've really kind of had enough of you lot.

Not having what I'd call the best time of my life at the moment...

One day I might get less vague again, but for the moment I'm not even in a mood to write about it.

Statistics better than a comedy

I dare you not to laugh, loud! The first few minutes of this TED talk are better than stand-up comedy.

I would've LOVED to have this guy as one of my professors. Loved!

My diary

The front page:

How I keep track of what National Geographic issues I already have (I buy them from second hand shops, usually $0.50 apiece):

The last page:

About prisons and attitudes

I cannot remember when or where this interview was aired (so I am sorry, I cannot give you a link to it), but recently I listened to an interview with a prison inmate who was in jail alongside Martha Stewart during the businesswoman's five month imprisonment at Alderson, West Virginia.

Anyway, this woman described how Martha, when assigned to clean toilets and bathrooms of the prison, did the work in true Martha Stewart housework style: she would open all the windows wide, letting in much-needed fresh air, and would meticulously go about cleaning not only the main surfaces like floors and countertops but also the tops of doors, cornicing, under and around furniture etc. She wasn't asked to do it as well, but she did it with pride. She would befriend fellow inmates and have long, deep conversations about life; she would also make friends with prison officers and treat them at all times with respect.

This inmate - and I cannot remember her name here - said that she was so impressed by Martha's attitude and work ethic that she ended up looking up to her with admiration and respect.

And here's where this interview got even more interesting for me: this woman, now several years out of prison, had - for the first time in her life - managed to finally build a stable existence for herself, holding down (and taking pride in) a job, paying her rent, taking interest in learning. She said, whilst holding back tears, that meeting Martha was one of the turning points of her life: seeing someone work so hard and with such determination led her to believing that if she, too, worked so hard, she would also achieve things.

And she did.

It reminded me of another interview I once listened to: in 2013 Kim Hill talked to John Pratt about different attitudes towards prisons and punishment in Anglophone countries versus Nordic countries.


It's something I recommend listening to. Good stuff.

In short, John Pratt described Anglophone countries as places where prisons are meant to punish people, whereas in Nordic countries prisons work towards helping the inmates change. For every 100,000 people, Nordic countries have roughly 70 in prisons - in New Zealand, the number is three times that.

In New Zealand's prisons, almost half of the inmates are illiterate (!). When John discussed this with a prison officer in Finland, the guy was incredulous that New Zealand would even be a country to have that many people illiterate. What kind of a society is it?

It brought me back to the interview with Martha Stewart's fellow inmate: what that woman had needed when she was in prison was a positive example and proof of the value of hard work. That is what will hopefully keep her out of prison forever.

It also reminded me of a TED talk I once listened to: David Dow was discussing death sentences and the reasons behind them in US.

It is not the most pleasant of TED talks to listen to, but it's... useful. It reminds about the value of nurturing and protecting children, and about the value of investing in education, and how very few of the people who end up on death row in the US go there because they have had a wonderful life.

Think about it.

Good night

I didn't get to post these yesterday, but this is what yesterday's evening was like.

Good luck capturing that thunderball of a dog in low evening light... Yeah.

On morning people

Haha, it just occurred to me: I have always heard some people complain how they hate mornings, but I myself have always been a "morning person".

Except now: now I get up in the mornings, after a crappy night's sleep, with puffy eyes and a non-existent smile.

And it just occurred to me: is this how those non-morning people have always been feeling? Is this how they always feel when they get up in the mornings?

Because, if that is the case, then... poor buggers!


On blogging and driving someone crazy

Do you know how long a night feels when one cannot fall asleep?


I sometimes wish I could stop blogging.

But then do what? What would I then do with all this chatter that is going on in my brain all day long?

It never stops. I get up in the morning and straight away I have a debate team in my head: I wash dishes and ponder about space and time warps; I shop for groceries and wonder about the connections between allergens and eczema; I play with Duplo with my son and imagine the designs of car tyres, and how it affects their performance; I change the nappy on my daughter and try calculating how many disposable nappies I would've used by now if I were using disposables instead of cloth, and what the difference in dollars would've been. IT NEVER STOPS!

The only thing I have ever known to stop the "chatter" in my head is skydiving, and now I am not even doing that.

I'm worn out. I am not getting good enough sleep and when this "chatter" is going on whilst I am already tired, it is pushing me towards unpleasant images, even depression if I weren't so goddamn stubborn to keep it at bay.

When I am tired, my brain "chatter" keeps coming up with reasons why something cannot be done. No, no, no!, it screams to me and I am having to gather up my energy, sometimes at 3 o'clock at night, to argue back and keep saying to myself, "I can do it. I can do it. I can do it." It keeps saying to me what a burden I am to people around me and I am having to argue back, "No, I am not. It's tiredness talking. Shut up!"

Sometimes, I am so goddamn tired that I haven't the energy to argue back and then I will sit and cry, to try and let this emotion out.

I let some of it out on my blog: if I write it down, the thought leaves me. Something else comes up instead, yes, but at least it's something new so I am not having to wash dishes for three days in a row, always thinking, man, I wonder what The Dog would look like if we were feeding her conventional dog food (ie, kibble).

Sometimes, it drives me crazy, this chatter - it makes me angry! Last night it made me angry: I was up at two, then three, and by four o'clock I'd already been awake for such a long time that my brain was up and running and I was laying there, musing about the state of New Zealand's tax system, whilst also thinking towards my brain, "Oh would you please shut the f*ck up! I want to sleep!!!"

Sometimes I write something down on my blog and feel embarrassed almost immediately, but I can't stop. I don't know where else to put this stuff.

I think I have a natural ability to be an awesome engineer, to solve puzzles. It's what my brain does - loves doing! - and when I am not giving it enough stimulating challenges (ie, when I am at home with two non-verbal children) it starts driving me bonkers.

And then I am sitting up at 7 am, having already spent 3 hours awake at night, and I still have a day with two non-verbal children ahead of me, and I am typing on my blog because if I don't, this text here will keep on bugging me the whole day.

Man I wish I could just stop blogging.

(Edited to add: and before you start suggesting that I have a depression, let me add here that it's been like this for as long as I remember. I cannot remember a time when my brain was not going, all the time, though it's only as an adult that I have had enough worry added into the mix for it to actually keep me awake at night.)


Yesterday I spent 20 minutes on the phone with a European company producing "heat wall" modules. Still seeing where it takes me.

Random thoughts on a Thursday

I sometimes wonder if I will ever get to talk to this guy again: Joe. Joe Morrin.

The happiest, jolliest, most lighthearted Irishman out there; with a loud, jovial sense of humour, warm voice and a kind heart. The guy who - literally, and I'm not exaggerating here - changed the way I look at life, and feel about life.

I sometimes wish I could get in touch with him again and say, "Thank you, Joe."


Another thing I sometimes wonder: do other countries have the same rental-mortgage ratio as New Zealand seems to have?

Because here's the thing: a very popular way of investing money in New Zealand is in rental properties. If you googled something along the lines of "rental yield nz" (I haven't tried it myself yet, but I have a feeling I know what it would turn out), you would probably eventually come across websites and forums where people discuss their rental properties, and what sort of profits they're yielding. A common scenario: buy a house at around the $250,000 mark, calculate how much money you'll be spending each week paying off the mortgage, plus insurance and rates - and then make a weekly rental payment for people who rent that house slightly higher than that.

Basically, you will have the rental property paying itself off from the rent alone, and then some.

I think it's ludicrous, to be renting a house and paying what is essentially a mortgage for that same house - and yet, that is exactly what a lot of the rental properties in New Zealand are doing. And then some people wonder how it is that young families / people struggle to buy their first houses? Think about it: saving money whilst already paying what is essentially a mortgage.

Number of people aged 20 to 40 who own their homes in New Zealand is gradually decreasing, whilst number of people who own several properties is gradually increasing - basically, properties are accumulating in the hands of few, whilst an ever-increasing number of renters are paying off the mortgages for those few.

Plus, all this is happening in a country where there isn't a capital gains tax - you buy a property at, say, $300,000 at some point, sell it off for more at some other point, and won't have to pay tax on the profit you make.

Another plus, all of that is happening in a country where incomes versus property prices are already one of the highest in the world. I haven't checked what the latest figures are, but not that long ago it was taking seven (average) annual incomes to buy one (averagely priced) house.


And so I sometimes wonder: is there any other country in the world where the housing market is set up in such a way!?

Investing in property has been pretty much the safest place to keep money in New Zealand. And I'm not surprised that it is, because... look at it.


Oops, sorry, gotta go. Motherhood calls!

On elections

New Zealand is nearing its parliamentary elections. As I listen to the squabbling going on, I wonder: is it even possible to be an intelligent, educated person, compassionate towards other living creatures and aware of the environmental and social problems this country faces... and still support the National party?

Not really wanting to make a political statement here, but...

Thoughts on loss

A heartbreak I hope I will never have to know: burying my own child.

It is a humbling experience to witness - and yet, it also gives strength for it puts many other things in perspective.  There has been one long-anticipated passing due to ill health, another due to an ectopic pregnancy, and now a friend I hope I can help whilst placenta is becoming detached. The latter, I hope, will become a happy, healthy baby instead. It's a waiting game.

A slow cooker's worth of food is going her way tomorrow. If I were any good at baking, some baking would go, too, but for everyone's sake I may spare her the experience of having to taste my baking...

A little bit of grace, a little bit of peace, a little bit of patience.


As I was taking our recycling bin down to the roadside this morning, I looked up at the mountains where snow is mostly gone already and thought, "Man I miss Mount Brewster!"

Mount Brewster - my favorite place in the whole world.

Back home, me and The Kid looked up some old videos of me learning to self-arrest at Mount Brewster and had a little giggle.

Here, I suggest watching this one from 3:20 onwards.

Then we ventured onto other fun stuff we've done: canyoning near Wanaka, for example. (I'm the one with a green helmet.)

Getting soaked with an ocean wave. (Watch from 1:05 onwards.)

Or my first few months in New Zealand in general: hiking, bungee jumping, snowboarding, glaciers, dog sledding, early mornings working on a farm, stupid chats and banter.


I sit and I think, heck, I might just give a few friends a call, see what they're up to and... pack both of my children in the car and go. Twizel, Wanaka, Queenstown, West Coast. The Man can take care of The Dog.

Yes, being on the road with children is hard, I already know that - but being at home is hard also.

Today's plan, for example: drive to town, walk in the park, get a book from the library, buy groceries, come home. Exciting, eh?

Edited to add: if I were a reader of my own blog, I'd probably stop following, for the amount of whinging going on here lately. Jesus, Maria!

How's that for a healthy attitude...

Forward planning

Have you noticed that bookstores are selling 2015 calendars already and it's only August?

Images of late

Who ate all the pie?!

I know, I know - the images are at different angles, different sizes, different light conditions... but still! A kilo a month, my friend, a kilo a month. If she keeps growing at the same rate, she'll be the size of The Kid by her first birthday ;)

Talking of The Kid: I may have mentioned before that he absolutely loves puddles. So imagine his disappointment as we were approaching this flooded pathway in Halswell park and he quickened his step (as is usual when approaching puddles)...

...only to find out that, no, he was not allowed to go jumping into this particular "puddle".

We may have had a little argument, toddler-style.

Otherwise, doing good. Enjoying the sunshine (finally!).

Visiting our "adopted" grandparents each Sunday, as usual.

Enjoying our makeshift playground in the backyard.


Having baths.


On laundry

Do you ever stand by the washing line thinking, I wish the washing did itself?

I do.

It is remarkable, the amount of washing a family of four can produce, if:

* one is a baby who poops all the time,
* the other is a toddler who loves mud, sand, climbing and eating (all whilst having limited fine motor skills),
* the third is a carpenter who wears many gritty, tough layers and needs a clean shirt every day, and
* fourth is a lady who gets vomited onto on a daily basis.


I think one of those days I am going to count the number of loads I make our washing machine do each week, just for the fun of it, and whilst I do that I will offer up a silent prayer of thanks to the mighty forces that allowed me to be born into an era of Fisher & Paykel washing machines, clean water, electricity, Ecostore washing powder and employment.

What having a dog is like

I am standing outside on the pavement with The Kid.

"Look, an earthworm! Here, by your foot!"

The Kid looks around expectantly.

"Here! Here! By your foot! Look, here!"

The Dog joins us to see what we are up to. 5 seconds later...

"Okay, well, there used to be an earthworm here until she ate it..."

The Kid still looks up at me expectantly.

What having a toddler is like

I step in the bedroom, "Hmm, that's very warm in here?"

Of course it is: he has reset the heater onto maximum.

I go back in the kitchen. He comes in, pushing in front of him an ottoman he has dragged in all the way from the living room. "I'm glad he's not strong enough to move the sofa," I say to The Man.

The Man takes a handful of broccoli out of the fridge and puts it on the kitchen counter, ready to be chopped into an omlet. The broccoli... disappears. (Parts of it will probably show up in the living room cupboard a few days later.)

He loves wearing underpants on his head, like a hat. So far I have not allowed him to go to preschool like that.

Gotta love toddlers!

Future ideas

It's interesting what a little comment on a blog can start.

I met with a stonemason this morning. We discussed what it would entail, getting heat walls accepted and built in New Zealand. ("Heat wall" is a literal translation from Estonian, "soojamüür", as I don't know how else to call these things in English.) 

As far as we are aware, there isn't a single one in New Zealand yet.


Good morning

If you're wondering what level snow came down to - our level.

A wee bit chilly this morning.


Both children asleep. AT THE SAME TIME!

I was going to sit down and write a whole bunch of e-mails and comments I've been meaning to write, like, for ages. (Oh, hi Holly! Hi SJ! Hi CV! Hi Indrek! Hi Daki! Hi Ingvar! Hi Rachael! Hi Lisa!)

But instead, I am laying in bed and I will try to get some sleep.

My toddler is driving me nuts.

Good morning

A Wednesday rant

This thing irks me.

I listen to Radio New Zealand National a lot (a New Zealand's public broadcaster) and at least once a week - at least! - there is a discussion on food in schools.

In New Zealand, most schools don't have cafeterias: parents and students are supposed to pack their own lunches (peanut butter sandwiches, apples, whatever) and bring food to school with them - not just in high schools, but even in primary schools, where children are only 5 or 6 years old at the time.

Every goddamn time they argue about it on the radio, I think to myself, "Would you people please listen to yourselves and come to your senses!"


I just cannot get my head around it. I cannot get my head around it! What, people, is so difficult to understand here?!?

A hungry child doesn't learn well. Period.

Some parents are ignorant enough not to care and their children come to school without food. (Low socioeconomic cluster, mostly, I assume.)

Children who come to school hungry (because their parents haven't provided food) struggle to keep up, and it's not because of their nature or their predisposition or their background, but because they physically cannot learn well.

And then the politicians argue on the radio about how much it would cost to provide food in schools, and how to make those low socioeconomic families be able to earn more, so that families can provide for their children themselves - WHILST SOME CHILDREN KEEP ON COMING TO SCHOOL HUNGRY!!!

Jesus Christ this thing drives me bonkers.

I cannot think of a single Estonian school that does not have a cafeteria where ladies cook warm food (soups, roasts, salads, whatever); higher income families pay for the food themselves, lower income families get it provided for free. In Finland, from what I remember, food in schools is provided free of charge, full stop.

And then some New Zealand politicians talk about the importance about investing in education and how New Zealand school system is so good, and all whilst they are doing that I am thinking, WOULD YOU F*CKIN' MAKE SURE THAT LITTLE CHILDREN DON'T COME TO SCHOOL HUNGRY!


Backpackers and antibiotics

A few days ago I was speaking to some backpackers who were respectful of the 3-month working condition they had on their Working Holiday visas: it said that if they were employed by a New Zealand company, they were to work no longer than 3 months for that same company, and would need to change employers after that.

These two backpackers said that although there is no-one checking if they quit after 3 months, or fining if they don't, violating this condition would be pissing on future backpackers' experiences: New Zealand government could look at some printout in the future and go, "Hmm, Estonian backpackers tend to work longer than they are supposed to. Let's cut the number of visas we give them!"

These two didn't want to do that. They don't want to harm others in the future.

It reminded me of antibiotics.

Every time a person starts a course of antibiotics and stops taking them as soon as they get better - say, after 4 days when the package really says they should take this medicine for 7 days - they piss on future people's experiences. Stopping a course of antibiotics builds bacteria's drug resistance, so in the future when someone gets ill with the same disease and takes the same antibiotic drug for it - it won't (necessarily) work.

Doesn't harm the person stopping the antibiotic, but harms others who follow.

A Tuesday rant

A word from AskMoxie:

"You know how potty training in the 1940s seemed to be about making the kids feel guilty? I think potty training in the 2000s and 2010s is about making the parents feel guilty. Seriously. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't. At least in the '40s they knew they were supposed to start at a year, and if the kid wasn't trained before the age of 2 it meant Something Was Wrong With The Child. Clear (if damaging) target. Now there's conflicting advice everywhere: wait until after 2, wait until after 3, do elimination communication, use cloth diapers, use disposible diapers, use pull-ups, don't use any diapers, use rewards, never bribe, boys should stand up, boys should sit down, girls are easier, boys are easier, it's all genetic, train daytime and nighttime together, train daytime before 3 but wait to train at night until after 5."

This guy here is teaching me that just as I am a free, stubborn person who will often do things at her own time - whenever that is - so is he.

Understanding that doesn't come naturally to me ;). I'm a result-oriented person, as opposed to someone who is process-oriented. Doing things day in and day out doesn't work well for me - not if things aren't moving in my chosen direction at least a little, and especially if things aren't moving in my direction because of a 15-kilo, 3-year-old, non-talking person who is damn good at getting things his way instead.

It's uncanny.

But there's a bright side to that, too.

Recently I came to a point with my life where one day I simply said, "If it irritates, it goes," and a massive cleanup operation started. Pieces of furniture went on TradeMe, photos were thrown in the rubbish bin, The Dog was banished outside, The Kid was left to watch more cartoons than I care to admit if it gave me peace to breastfeed my daughter, and so on. Rather than go through some self-guilting process every time I drove past my favorite bakery, I simply said to myself, "If you want that berliner, go get it," - and did.

Today, after yet another go-hide-behind-furniture-and-poop-in-pants case, I got out a nappy, stuck The Kid in it, and off we'll go outside.

"He is still in nappies?" you will ask me, raising your eyebrows, and tell me how "in the old days" children were toilet-trained at age, whatever, and then go on to tell me how I should go about this process instead, and I will mentally say, "Fuck you," and we'll leave it at that.

It is incredible - incredible! - how I keep on forgetting this thing, over and over and over again.

Every few months or so I will come to an understanding, again!, that children are different and parents are different and anyone who says that "children should do x at age y" is an order-loving social Nazi - and every few months or so I forget it. Again! I build up enough confidence to stand up for myself, and for my children, and then someone will come along and start telling me how something should be done, and I go through a process of self-guilt and feeling like a parenting failure, before I get angry enough (again!) to build up enough self-confidence again, and then I start all over again.

Jesus Christ, Maria, just stick to your guns and stay there!

These guys are so different:

One is a global developmental delay and the other one is textbook. And I really can't see that much of it has anything to do with me.

With The Kid, getting him to sleep long stretches, or stop crying, or start walking, or start talking, or stop picking his face, or whatever, was/is an array of books and forums and nurses and doctors and advice - and not much of it was/is working. I kept/keep beating myself up over it, over and over and over again, because surely I was/am doing things wrong if things weren't/aren't working. I'm not good enough of a mother!

And now with this thing, eight weeks old...

...I do something and it works. MAGIC!

Except, it's not magic. A lot of what I do with her is exactly the same as I did with The Kid. One works, the other one didn't.

Children are different!

If there was one piece of parenting advice/knowledge that I could stick in my head and make sure that I NEVER AGAIN FORGET IT, it is this: children are different. What works for one, doesn't work for the other. Anyone that promises, "It will work in 3 days!", or "It will work in a week!", or whatever - if that advice is general advice and it is geared towards children without taking into account any particular child's background and abilities - then whoever is giving that advice is insane.

Seriously. Certifiably insane.

I am clearing out my house, and my attitude, and my life, and I am yet again coming to a place of self-confidence and a certain (healthy) amount of fuck-it attitude.

But for the moment I am simply heading outside to get some sunshine, both for me and The Kid.

On colour bleeding

Having washed some of our clothes along with The Girlie's socks - which are pink - I am now grateful my husband doesn't wear underwear which is white.

Because otherwise he'd now be having to wear underwear which is light pink coloured.