Suffering

This cold is spectacular. Me and The Man are two weeks in and still we sound like a walking plague - coughing, blowing noses, wheezing as we breathe in the mornings when the sinuses are at their most blocked.

But The Girlie is even worse. Friday night she was struggling to breathe through build-up of mucus and I drove us to the after-hours clinic to see a doctor.

Today I drove us to the after-hours clinic again. Both her ears are infected, she's got conjuctivitis in both eyes, there's some wheezing in her lungs and she is carrying a 38.8 C fever. (And even through all that, she still manages to smile and make us laugh.)

As she is carrying this strong cold, I, on the other hand, am carrying a strong dose of guilt.

The Man keeps telling me that children do get ill sometimes and chances are she would've come down with something around this time anyway (didn't The Kid come down with an ear infection around this age, too?), but to me... I see her cry out as she attempts to swallow but ends up coughing her buckwheat onto our kitchen table instead, and what I see is the fact that I've put her in daycare at 11 months old and she's now carried a strong stomach virus and a strong cold back-to-back, and I keep reminding myself of the reasons I decided to go this way to begin with.

Man, it sucks. To see her suffer like that.

I have 30 years of an immune system, and even to me this is one of the most annoying colds I've had, ever - and she, she is having to deal with it at 11 months.

Man, it sucks.

It helps that we have a good friend staying over with us for a couple of days. It helps that this autumn is treating us to beautiful warm, golden days. I love that our house backs onto farmland.




Power of music

Wow.

Wow.

Wow!

I may be way late to this party, looking at when this video was recorded - 2008 - but wow oh wow what a performance he's given. Really, look at it. Have you seen this before? Because I hadn't and, wow, did my jaw drop, figuratively speaking!



I sat watching it, mesmerized, and it suddenly reminded me of the power of music.

There have been times in my life where I have so passionately trailed along to the tune of music in my headphones.

My first year in New Zealand, for example: tying down vines in Blenheim to the tune of James Morrison...




...or hacking ice on Fox glacier with Rob Thomas:





Or when in Svalbard, thawing my frostbitten cheeks with Jehro:





Or before that, a roadtrip through Utah and Nevada and Jo Dee Messina...





There aren't many songs on my iPod, and most of them would probably be considered rather... corny - mostly country music, lots of John Mayer, a variety of soundtracks from my favorite movies - but to most of that music I have a very strong emotional connection for most of it, to me, represents life and stages it's had.

And as I watched John Mayer rock along to "Why Georgia" it occurred to me that, for the moment, there is very little music I listen to. And maybe it was precisely why John Mayer swept me away like that tonight, but it reminded me of how strong music can be, and how much it can help in persevering: decisions that have been made to the tune of music are so much easier to stick to if that music keeps getting listened to.

I decided in Svalbard that I was going to go to New Zealand, and I continued listening to Jehro through the ensuing months in Estonia until I did, indeed, make my way to New Zealand, because Jehro - to me - is about what I wanted in Svalbard.

James Morrison's "Undiscovered" is about freedom.
John Butler Trio's "Better than" is about sticking to my gut.
Coldplay "Fix You" is still about clambering up Brewster track, right before moving to Christchurch.

 

Am I living it right, am I living it right, am I living it right John Mayer asks in this song and it's the question I've been asking myself this week, many times.

Am I living it right?

Evolution continued

I am calling on The Kid to come blow his nose.

The Man, "Maybe colds are part of the evolutionary package?  What parent would like to eat their child if they have snot hanging out of their nose?" 

Me, "Are you trying to make me pick up the computer again so I blog about this?"

The Man, "Maybe. I got at least three hours of sleep last night, I'm full of witticisms today."

Surviving evolution

Me and The Man are having breakfast whilst the kids are on the floor organising and re-organising the ownership of toy cars. Both me and The Man look... razzled.

Me, "Do you also find it amusing how they can be wearing their parents down and making them laugh at the same time?"

The Man, "That's how they've survived evolution - otherwise they would've been eaten by now."

Time off

It may not look the brightest before 6 am in the morning - thanks, kids, again, thanks - but I am sitting here, thinking, "With this amount of luck I will be fired before I have even started work."

Tummy bugs that tend to last a few days on older children - on someone of The Girlie's age, however (and her young immune system), over a week later and we are still ongoing. It is the second Sunday now and I am thinking, will I really need to call in with kids-are-sick for my second week of work, too?? 

Apart from the fact that paying for childcare for two kids - which I need to do regardless of whether they can attend or not, ill or otherwise - is a very expensive exercise - and which, to be honest, I can only afford if I am actually earning something - it is entirely another thing that it is frustrating to miss out on this one job that actually has to do with plans and measurements and construction and joinery, a basis for quantity surveying.

I do not have many illusions about the multitude of jobs available to me. From close to 40 applications I sent out over the last few months all but two came back with a generic, "Thank you for your application but unfortunately..." and from the two that I did get to interview for, one had people with more experience than me and the other, I got.

Except, at the moment the "I got" is an entirely academic exercise because in reality I am at home with ill children whilst carrying an irritating low level cold myself and at 6 am in the morning, I am, let's put it this way... grumpy.

And no, guys, you do not have to get me to inspect every piece of Duplo, and a pancake that has fallen off a plate does not warrant a cry, and until you learn to dress yourself I suggest you don't scream at me for putting a jumper on you when it's cold.

Mummy needs time off.

The similarities between parenthood and retirement age

When will there come a time in my life, I wonder, when I am not so consistently tired? I used to have passion for lots of things, but now it feels like the thing I have passion for the most is a good long nap at 2 pm.

An afternoon at our park

Our "home" park - where me and the kids have spent many an afternoon of walking - is a wonderful place of old, overhanging trees, a meandering stream, ducks - and at the moment, magic of thousands of fallen leaves.


We spent another wonderful afternoon there today and it's moments like these where I think... it's good here. I like it here.





There are old tree stumps to climb onto and into.





Space to run. An old building waiting its renovation with its gardens to explore.



A mother to carry around essentials such as snacks, drinking water and a sister.



And for about ten minutes today there was a... fantail to play with.

I have never come across it before, though I have heard that fantails are known for their playfulness, but today a fantail sat on a branch only about a metre away from The Kid, lured him with its tail and its dance-like moves, and when The Kid attempted to follow it, it flew to another branch only about a metre away.


For over ten minutes they played like that, The Kid following the fantail who so obviously was intending to keep him mesmerized like that, and whenever The Kid tired of the chase and walked back towards me, the fantail would fly right in front of him, doing a sort of a figure-eight in the air, and flip its wings until The Kid started following it again and...

...it was magical to see. I sat there, feeding The Girlie buckwheat porridge I had grabbed with us from home, and watched them play.

Maori legends say that fantails are an omen of death, and that's about right: as soon as I started attempting to catch this bird on camera, my camera batteries died. =)

All I got are a few fuzzy, glittery photos of a bird that would only stay still for a moment - whilst checking out what The Kid was about to do next, and would then fly and flitter again - but what I have stored in my memory is entirely different.




In my mind's eye I have an afternoon where The Kid had a fantail mate he played so contentedly with.

As we were leaving the park, the fantail followed us all the way to the road.

I phoned The Man to share with him the story of our afternoon and do you know what The Man suggested I do? He suggested I check The Girlie's nappy in case there's something in there and she is attracting flies who the fantail is then attracted to ;)

Thanks, honey. You're such a muse sometimes ;).

Having children is...

It's calling my boss on my very first day of work to apologise and say that I won't be coming in as my child is ill and vomiting and I will therefore be having to stay at home to take care of them. (I almost cried every time someone asked me this morning, "Aren't you supposed to be at work today?" and I nodded my head with, "Yes, yes I am - but I won't be.")

It's having... let's call them discussions with my husband over whose work is more important and whose role it is to stay in.

It's walking out of a library with four random books I've snapped off a "Featured" shelf because I don't want to spend time looking for what I actually want to read amidst my child hollering and fellow library visitors looking on with that pitying, understanding expression.

It's staying up almost the entire night with a child who's ill, then catching up on sleep the next two days, and when another rough morning starts before it's even 5 am, feeling that swollen, grating sensation of heavy eyelids and knowing why I never want to go back to those early parenthood nights of getting up three, four, sometimes five times a night, and needing to function to an acceptable standard in-between those nights also.

But most of all it's thinking, as much as many things have become much more colorful since kids have come along, by golly do have some things become way, way more difficult to accomplish again.

Even a feat as simple as showing up for work on my first day.

Oh well.

It's good for the immune system

The kids and I were in the changing room of our local swimming pool. As I was pulling a jumper on The Girlie, a piece of toast fell out of its sleeve and I promptly stuck it in my mouth - as I do at home.

And it's only once I'd already stuck it in my mouth that it occurred to me: I'm not even sure if it was The Girlie's toast, or someone else's food that had stuck to her jumper from the changing rooms' benches.

By that moment, however, there's wasn't much I could do apart from just swallow the thing and tell myself, "A variety of bacteria is good for the immune system."

It's what I keep telling myself as my children keep getting dirty, muddy, sandy and wet on a daily basis.

Oh to be a preschooler again!

Minimum building standards, once again

This morning I received the next lot of school assessments in post. I submitted them a while ago and they have now been graded by my instructors.

And I know that it's not such a big deal - I know that it isn't! - but still I felt this little... irksome twinge somewhere in my tummy when I read that once again my instructors had commented on me exceeding the minimum building standards.

I had designed a building made of rammed earth and to protect the wall from rain I had made the eaves wider than the required 600 mm - mine were 800 mm. The windows were low on my design, so wide eaves wouldn't have compromised on the amount of sunlight the rooms were getting, and so I figured that they wouldn't have been a problem.

But what did I find written on my school assignment grading paper this morning?

"Note that the minimum eaves width in New Zealand is 600 mm."

Thanks, guys, thanks. Thanks for telling me that.

Next time you ask your students to design buildings, note in CAPITAL LETTERS on the assignment sheet that you want them to design a building that is the least acceptable standard whilst still remaining legal.

Basically, make it as sh*t as it can be without making it illegal, and then applaud your students for making "affordable housing".

Pardon my English here, but this is bollocks.

The details of working out

I know that my weekly circuit training class is a success because today instead of wanting to vomit I only managed to pee myself a little.

Hah: I bet you're thinking now, "Great, thanks for sharing that with us." :)

(You're welcome!)

Also: the little side effect of getting a little fitter again is that I need to buy new, smaller bras.

(You still thinking, "Great, thanks for sharing that with us"? You're welcome.)

Thing is, I thought it'd be a while longer until I had to head down that path but a peculiar whoompa-whoompa motion whilst doing circuit training today was starting to get a little, how do I put it now... uncomfortable, and I'd rather I didn't have to experience the same, exaggerated motion next week.

But overall, the thing is fun, and hard, and fun, and I'm pretty happy I discovered a thing called "circuit training" to begin with, though I have to admit: our instructor is planning on doing the next week's workout a hardcore one - 20 seconds on, 10 off for the whole duration of the workout - and I am... let's call it wondering whether I really want to attend that particular class or not ;)

But hey, it's all fair regardless of what I do, so... Great job, man, I tell myself, and I'll just keep telling myself that until one day, I won't have to pee myself in the middle of doing squats any more ;), and then it'll get even more fun!

PS. I wasn't sure if I really wanted to share this on my blog, but...

Last week me and The Kid attended what they call a Before School Check which is basically a standard health check-up for 4-year-olds, and involves measuring, weighing, vaccinating, talking, supporting and whatever else those health professionals do.

But amidst that check a nurse asked me if I'd considered that The Kid may be overweight.

Let it sink in a little. Like, this:


I turned around in my chair where The Kid was playing with toys behind my back and looked at him, wide-eyed, and then back at the nurse with a confused look of, "Overweight!?"

Like, seriously?


She started saying how he's about 15th percentile height-wise, but above 50th percentile weight-wise, and maybe he would benefit from changes in his diet, and before she'd even finished the sentence I interrupted her saying that I didn't think BMI-s and height-weight percentiles were even applied to children younger than 8, (and besides, they weigh children with their clothes on) and when she looked at him, did she really think that he was? Overweight?

She said no, but then continued suggesting that we give The Kid skim milk rather than full-fat, and decrease the amount of peanut butter he has on his toast, and it was about that time that I started laughing and said that although I understand that she is just trying to do her job, I would like to decline the advice now, thank you very much :)

Afterwards I even checked with his preschool teachers to see if I was maybe walking around with pink glasses on, or maybe I was blind entirely to my child being overweight, but no-one else I spoke to had even considered the fact, and from what they've seen of my children's diet they're getting a decent, varied selection of whole foods, and... and...

Basically, I am still surprised that I even had a discussion like that with a nurse, and... I'm not even sure why I am writing about it here. I guess I just wanted to share.

On Alpine fault, glaciers and us

In March this year GNS Science gave a lecture in Christchurch where they covered various aspects of the expected Alpine Fault earthquake and the damage / consequences it could have.

The presentation is available on Youtube in almost its full length and it was... a memorable experience to watch it all. For one, there was not only talk about the morphology of the Alpine Fault itself, but also quite a comprehensive overview of the necessary civil defense and emergency responses that would (likely need to) follow.

Like... I knew that this earthquake has potential to be big, but when they showed the potential damage if the fault did move 7 metres horizontally and 2 metres vertically in one go - and likely across about 300 kilometres - me and The Man looked and each other and kind of had that... weird awkward smile when we weren't sure whether to laugh or go wide-eyed.

(Also, it was about that time that The Man said, "How about we move to Dunedin, eh?")

It also helped a lot that the last speaker, Tom Robinson, who gave an overview of the potential infrastructure damage after a >8 magnitude earthquake, has a jolly sense of humor. Me and The Man laughed out loud several times and it's quite a thing to do if you consider that the presentation was about landslides and power outages and roadworks and missing bridges and... yeah.

Have a look, if you wish. It's almost an hour long, but I have watched it whilst doing dishes and chopping veggies and amidst life in general, and it's well worth a look. Especially from about 38:50 onwards when Tom Robinson comes onscreen.



***

An ex-workmate from Fox Glacier said recently that the glacier has receded so much over the 5 years that I've been away that they've actually lost walking access onto the ice.

Previously it used to be that people wanting to see Fox glacier through the local guiding company had the option of either:
1) walking to the terminus (so only on gravel),
2) walking up onto a mountainside and getting onto ice from there, or
3) taking a helicopter up, very fancy!

Now the option 2 is gone. The ice has gone down so low that what used to be a reasonably steep access track from a mountainside is now a canyon of gravel and rocks, and definitely no walking.

Which is kind of... sad and "well yeah" at the same time. Time goes on, glaciers move, circumstances change - but it's a pity that people no longer get an affordable option of getting onto the ice. Now if they want ice, they need a helicopter.

The way it used to be before: see the groups of people in comparison to the glacier?


Let's zoom out a bit, shall we. 


Let's zoom out a bit more.


That's what I mean.

***

And how are we doing, I hear you ask?

We're okay. Growing :)

When the earth rumbles and shakes

Since a shallow 5.8 magnitude earthquake hit near Wanaka on Monday, a whole range of moderate-strength earthquakes have followed: 3.8, 3.9, 4.0 etc, and all relatively shallow at 2-5 km deep.

I'm willing to bet that long-lasting food items such as tinned veges and fruit, bottled water and powdered milk are all currently "flying" off the shelves in Wanaka's New World supermarket. Am I right or am I right?

Also, when a 5.0 struck near Milford Sound last night, what was the first thought I had when I read about it on the Geonet website? Something along the lines of, oh Alpine Fault, oh Alpine Fault, where are thou.

I think I'm getting used to living in New Zealand now :/

That interesting feeling when...

The Girlie discovered today that I wear a belt to keep my pants up. We were laying on the floor interacting.

As 11-month-olds do, she lent in to lick it, except she missed and ended up sticking her tongue inside my bellybutton instead.

My brain didn't know whether to make me scream or laugh.

Studying, parenting, housing and drugs

It is the last bit now - I think they call it a "make it or break it" time - and I am alternating between wanting to throw in a towel and keeping on going. The deadline for getting my school assignments in is looming and I am not sure I am going to make it; if I don't, then there's not much benefit from spending all this time on studying - but I don't know what it'll be like. If I get the assignments accepted then I'll be happy I pushed for this last little bit, and if I don't then I'll be pissed off for having pushed for this last little bit.

Trying to study from around little children is... hard. Very hard.

But then again, doing most anything from around little children is hard.

One of the assignments got rejected with a list of comments for improvements and one of them was that I'd used too many foundation piles on a house I was designing. The law required at least 8, I put in 12, and the instructor wrote that by putting in 12 I am spending too much money on the house, and so I should cut the number back to what's required by law.

I am still undecided about what to think of it. If he'd said that I'd over-engineered it (that by putting in more piles I didn't achieve much more structural stability) then I would've been alright, but because he simply wrote that I used more than what's required by law...

It's a New Zealand attitude, isn't it? Building to standard, meaning - building to minimum standard.

Meanwhile, a house in a nearby suburb of Addington is New Zealand's first Homestar 9-rated residential building. The house is said to be well-designed and makes national news.

National news.

And meanwhile to that, an acquaintance is in the process of designing their house. I had a brief look at the plans - service rooms (laundry etc) are on the Northern side where they get the sun, and two of the bedrooms are in the South-East and South-West corner where they, respectively, only get either the early morning sun or the late evening sun.

If we were living in tropics where houses need air-conditioning then yeah, maybe, but... In a temperate climate designing a new house to where un-heated rooms get sun and heated rooms don't?

Kind of like planting strawberries in the shade.

I didn't dare to bring up a conversation with that acquaintance though because so much around housing here is attitude-based, rather than knowledge-based, and because that family are only an acquaintance of mine then I didn't trust myself to not get into a very awkward situation.

But...

Here I am sitting on a sofa typing into my blog. The Girlie is playing at my feet with a wooden train. The Man and The Kid are both in bed, too tired to stay up, and I cannot focus well with The Girlie playing at my feet so here goes another day of getting almost no studying done...

It reminds me of the assumptions I had before having children.

I had never had much to do with kids so I way, way underestimated the amount of work involved in having kids. But now that I am here, with my kids, I am finding it way, way difficult to get anywhere work or study wise.

Gaining more skills means studying in the evenings, hunched over a tabletop or in front of a computer, to what sometimes feels like exhaustion; and gaining more work experience means sticking kids in daycare - alright for The Kid, but way too early for The Girlie.

But without many more skills or experience it's the reality of a current potential payrate, which isn't much and definitely won't allow for savings, not if we do what we want to do, which is - moving The Man into preschool teaching and me into quantity surveying.

But then I remind myself that I am living where there is fresh, clean water, abundant food, legal protection from being abused due to gender/skin colour/ethnicity - safety, basically - a functioning health system and mountains upon mountains of open space, and I remind myself that in the end, there are things that matter a lot, and there are other things that matter less, and my job is to be able to tell the difference.

Talking of difference: when Radio New Zealand introduced their Saturday morning program and mentioned interviewing a psychedelic-pharmacology professor called David Nutt (!), I was half-expecting a charade of... something, but instead I heard an utterly fascinating story of a person who made sense to me on many more levels than I care to explain.

But in short, professor Nutt has been researching what a human brain does under the influence of psychedelic drugs such as LSD, and I thought to myself, wow. He talked about the part of the brain where ego stems from, and what it means to be self-ruminating versus feeling part of the Universe, and all through his talk I was thinking about religion and my experience of backpacking around New Zealand.

I have a theory about... God, and different religious groups' take on it, and to this day I am fairly certain that what I experienced in my travels around New Zealand is what many people go to church for - we just describe it using different semantics. The base idea, however, is the same.

And now there was someone who explained it to me in terms of brain and its involvement in certain processes of experience, and I went, wow.

Besides, I did get a good laugh out of listening to this interview, too :). I dare you not to laugh when you hear what happens when Kim Hill asks professor Nutt if he's ever tried psychedelic drugs before ;)