On not writing

I know that most of the time it looks like I don't write any more. I used to upload photos, share the adventures - whilst trying to remain looking semi-reasonable as I'd learned that there are people who occasionally drop in to say way nasty things to me if I am wholly open and honest - and even keep my postal addresses public so that if somebody wanted, they could write to me, which they did: every few months I'd get postcards and letters from around the world from people I had never met, and often there was no return address so the best that I could do was to write on my blog, "Thank you. Thank you for writing that!"

But now it's kind of like... tumbleweeds here. Boring tumbleweeds, at that.

In my head, I still write. I still have an almost constant brain-chatter going on as I walk with my kids or drive them to preschools or shop for groceries - as I go about my days, basically. But what has changed is my... life, I guess.

I am ever more reserved about writing about my children. The more independent they get, the less I write. I don't use their names any more and when someone comments whilst using their names, I delete those comments.

I don't get long stretches of hours any more to write. Blog can sometimes seem like an easy, relatable story of someone's days but it still takes time to write all that, and I haven't got much time any more. In the evenings when the kids are in bed I usually first just zonk out for half an hour and then do stuff that needs doing, and then it's 9 pm again and I know that if I hope to get 8 hours of sleep, I need to go to bed, too.

Occasionally I get myself together to write, but the raw, honest letters go to my friends; and sometimes on my blog.

But in my head, I still have an almost constant brain-chatter going on.

Occasionally, I come across other blogs that feel so close to my own head that sometimes it feels like I've written them myself, and Melina's adventures is one of them. This post, for example - as I was reading it, the room grew quiet and for the duration of the read, it felt like it was me; like I was being a little girl traipsing through Vermont hillsides.

And I know I could over-dramatise the importance of such blogs, but, God!, am I grateful for blogs like Melina's for they allow me to feel that writing isn't lost yet - that one day, when I have a little more hours in my days again, I will write again, and maybe I will even have my postal address on the side of my blog so that people I connect with I can write with.

Meanwhile, I'll continue with this here:



And when watching Pixar's "Cars" with The Kid, I'll remember this:


And when remembering the feelings of adventures, this:


Kind of different, isn't it.

Random thoughts on a Wednesday

If I were given a million dollars, I would first move to Wellington where The Man could spend time with our kids whilst I studied architecture, and then we would move to Otago where we would build a strawbale house, The Man would work at a local preschool and I would work as an architect / quantity surveyor / building manager.

An opportunity to re-train, basically.

***

I love that our kids love books. I love that The Girlie, even though only a year old, can so patiently sit through a book after a book after a book - how she has already, somehow, discovered their magic. I love how The Kid keeps choosing Andrus Kivirähk's "Kaka ja kevad" for his bedtime story and because The Man has no idea what most of the stories say in Estonian, each evening he comes up with such wonderful English concoctions based on what he sees on illustrations that it is no wonder The Kid keeps choosing "Kaka ja kevad" as his bedtime story =)

***

I told a friend how it is so great to have another "normal" mother - her - next to me, to know and feel good about. She laughed and hugged me.

Because, you see, when her children recently came down with chickenpox and a heavy, heavy cold at the same time - which then prompted her daughter to have seizures because of the fever - she, in her under-slept and over-tired condition, left her 1-year-old on a daybed which now means that in addition to everything else he also has a broken foot from falling down the daybed, and I am, like, dude, I am so glad that she is a normal, try-very-hard and love-a-lot mother who isn't always perfect because, dude: imagine being at the hospital with a 1-year-old who has chickenpox, a heavy cold, a broken foot and is also super tired from being prodded and examined all day and it's past his bedtime.

Dude.

***

Off to sleep now. It's past 9 pm already!

On children, and getting good sleep

An ear infection, AGAIN!?!

Antibiotics, AGAIN!?!

Getting up several times a night, AGAIN!?!

What a memorable winter. I'm just about done with it.

10 things about me

1. I don't wear heels.

I attempted to when I was a teenager - I thought it was "what girls did" - but heels never grew on me. For one,  they were uncomfortable. Two, with my muscular and semi-beaten up knees I wasn't even achieving any aesthetical advantage - all heels did was point out how many scars and fluid-filled bumps my knees had. And so to this day, even to fancy-dress occasions, I still show up in flats.

2. I've never been drunk.

...because I've never liked the taste of alcohol. From when I was a teenager my family would occasionally pour me a little wine during social occasions (and by "a little" I mean a few mouthfuls), or if we were having a barbecue, some cider. I assume it was their way of taking the mystery and the temptation out of alcohol for me. I'd have a mouthful, give it some thought, and inevitably always end up feeling like something's gone off in it - wine tasted like fruit juice left on the shelf for too long, and beer was just plain bitter. Add to it the fact that when my classmates "experimented" with alcohol - ie, got very drunk - I helped carry those half-conscious, nonsensical, vomiting bodies to their beds, I didn't even see the social value in it. And so to this day, I can give it a taste, but if I don't like it, I won't drink it.

The closest I've come to drunkenness, I think, was when I had stomach flu and downed a shot of vodka in an attempt to clear my gut of whatever was making a mess in there, and promptly felt kind of "warm and soft". And went to bed.

(The only two drinks I ever remember liking the taste of was some pear cider which accompanied freshly barbecued fish we had caught from the sea (I assume because it went well with fish and was so low on alcohol and so high on sugar that I didn't taste the alcohol in it) and some fancy cocktail served at a skydivers' gathering.)

3. I purge constantly.

I feel weighed down by clutter and so I am always on the lookout for items I don't use which I then take to op-shops. Clothes, cutlery, toys - if it's not being used because something else fits the purpose better, or because it doesn't fit any more, or there's too many of the same thing, or I just don't need it - off it goes.

4. I rarely lucid dream, but when I do, it is usually because a dream is so outrageous or bizarre that even as events are unfolding I think to myself, "This is some weird dream, surely - there's no way this is actually happening?!" and then I suddenly realise that, oh my god, I am dreaming.

I only once remember doing something about it though - on that occasion I thought, okay, so if I am dreaming, does this mean I can do whatever I want now?, and so I decided to start flying. In my dream. And it was totally awesome.

5. I don't iron clothes. In fact, I don't even own an iron!

6. Other somewhat standard appliances I don't have: TV & hairdryer.

7. I don't have a Facebook account. I used to, up until 2011-ish, but I found that it was so easy to sit down in front of it "for five minutes" and spend at least half an hour instead that I deleted it, flat out, and have never re-created it since. It's been a great decision!

8. I got married wearing clothes from a second hand shop, barefeet, and there were three and a half guests at my wedding: a brother-in-law, a flatmate, a neighbor and a neighbor's dog (he was the "half" part). A little hallway table provided a platform for signing paperwork (we were at a public park in Wanaka, under a walnut tree), the ceremony took about 30 minutes including paperwork and as soon as it was done, me and The Man headed to a secluded beach to spend the rest of the day eating sandwiches, skinny dipping, reading books and having hot sex.

The best. Wedding. Ever.



9. I don't have a wedding ring, and neither does The Man. His is a safety issue - being a carpenter the fewer jewellery he has on his hands, the safer - and mine has more to do with attitude (I don't care much for jewellery, unless there's a meaning to any given piece) and so we decided to just skip that part and made a deal that if we ever go to Svalbard, we'll ask the artist who made me a polar bear ring in 2008 to design us two wedding bands. One day :).

But until then: promises we made whilst tying our hands with a symbolic band will do just fine.


10. I have a hip that "pops" out of its socket. Have always had, I think. Showed it to a physio the other day, as a kind of an amusement :), and she was, like, whoa! (Here's to publicly funded hip replacements! Not that I need one now, but just in case, for the future.)

The dilemmas of grating cheese

Yesterday I sliced my thumbnail with a cheese grater. Was grating cheese, but the block slipped out of my hand and before my brain could react to it, my thumb had already gone down the grater and put a "nice" little opening right up my nail, in part lifting the nail off the nailbed.

Looks not that bad, actually, especially now that it's not bleeding any more, but... geesh it hurts every time the nail catches on something or if I have to push on something with my thumb.

But that's not why I'm writing about it. The reason I'm writing is: every time I pick up the grater now, even if it's just to wash it or put it away in the drawer, my stomach churns. Like, I literally feel a little sick every time I touch the grater.

Now - the kids love cheese, and they love grated cheese on their food. And I do tell myself to just pull up my big girl pants and just grate the damn cheese - soon it'll go away, this automatic reaction of being reminded how painful it was.

But when? For how long do I need to grate the cheese before I don't have to feel sick to my stomach?

First world problem.

Lately

Not that long ago it was The Kid sitting on our kitchen floor, sorting through empty yoghurt containers.



Now it's The Girlie:


We have long-learned to keep our recycling container on the kitchen top now, out of toddlers' reach - the photos of The Kid above (where he is sorting through our recycling) is why we started doing that :) - but we have kept the empty yoghurt containers down in one of the child-friendly cupboards. The Girlie loves them as much as The Kid used to.

Looking at these photos now makes me wonder at how similar my kids are.

They're growing, both. With The Kid now I can almost have a decent conversation, and The Girlie is just short of walking.

On the weekend we took our whole lot to Orana Wildlife Park - everyone really needed and deserved a break, and walking amongst giraffes, rhinos, tigers and monkeys on a day when it was so cold that by noon the puddles were still frozen-over, it did feel like a break.




As people gathered to watch monkeys being fed, The Kid seemed more interested in people-watching, rather than monkey-watching.




With new-found confidence and independence, The Kid insists on pushing his own pram - "No, mummy, no! Me!" he pushes off my hands when I try to steer the pram back onto a walkway.



Arriving home I was greeted by our own little zoo on the doorstep: a stick insect. Being mostly nocturnal I am not sure what the guy was doing there but, hey!, doesn't hurt anyone, so keep on hanging out, little guy, I don't mind.

On alert dogs and drugs

I dare you to not cry or at least feel like you're about to.

http://dooce.com/2015/07/15/learn-how-your-dog-learns/

***

Reading about this lady who trains diabetic alert dogs, it reminded me of epilepsy alert dogs - those exist, too. They can sense an oncoming seizure and alert the person so they can get out of harms way: out of traffic, off the stairs, away from subway tracks. I know people with epilepsy who've been able, for the first time in their lives, live independently because of those service dogs - able to walk to the shop across the street without worrying about having a seizure in the middle of the road and being struck by a truck. Or something.

My epilepsy isn't that bad. I do get seizures, but mostly they are small, partial seizures which allow me to stay conscious. I do stay away from my car on days when seizures happen (they bunch up into one- or two-day periods) and try to take it easy and be careful, but apart from that there's not much I can do. I've only ever had proper, big seizures during sleep, in which case all I know is that I wake up with a mighty headache and start vomiting soon after, but I have no recollection of the seizure itself - only The Man does, as he's the one who has to witness the thing...

When I was pregnant me and my neurologist made a deal that we'll wait until I'm done being pregnant and breastfeeding before he prescribes me some medicine. Neither of us thought it's worth getting The Girlie affected by those drugs.

But now, a few weeks ago, he finally gave me the information leaflets for drugs he'd like me to take, and right in the beginning of the very first page, it started with:

"A very bad skin reaction may happen. It can cause very bad health problems that may not go away, and sometimes death. Get medical help right away if you have signs like red, swollen, blistered, or peeling skin (with or without fever); red or irritated eyes; or sores in your mouth, throat, nose, or eyes. Most cases of skin reactions have happened within 2 to 8 weeks of starting this drug, but some show up after longer treatment like 6 months."

Uhm... yeah.

More decisions. I am tired of making decisions.

On kids and time

Today I spoke with a person whose story made me feel much better about myself, and the pickle I feel my life is in.

You see, she, too, embarked on a study whilst her kids were almost the same age as mine - The Kid is 4 and The Girlie is 1, and her kids were 3 and 1 - and she said it almost cost her her marriage; that it was so darn hard studying from around two little children that she and her husband almost ended up divorcing over it.

And I laughed and thought, wow, I am not crazy, or an incessant complainer. This person here looks entirely reasonable and she also thinks that studying from around little children is akin to a mental debacle.

Just putting it out there: unless there's reserves for hiring a nanny or having a very supportive network or friends and family who are willing to babysit - I suggest studying first and having children later. Just sayin'.

I am astounded to think that I thought I was short of time in 2008 when I was single and working in Tallinn. Or in 2011 when I was pregnant with my first and living in a flat in Wanaka.

Jesus. I had a whale of time! I just lacked the perspective to appreciate it more. If someone gave me the amounts of time I had back then and let me do something with it now - wow the things I'd do! (Or not - maybe I'd just use it all for sleeping.)

Talking of sleeping: I'm off to sleep now. Tomorrow morning at 6 am the latest I will have two preschoolers to take care of. Again.

Fffffrrrossssst! Icccccccce!

The Man thought we're nuts to go walking after breakfast when it was still -5C outside, but we wanted to explore frost and smash ice from frozen-over puddles, so - off we went.

It'll take me a while more though to teach The Kid to not eat ice off letterboxes and his shoes, but... oh well. It's fun regardless.








Uhm... did you guys... have anything? ;)



Seeing these two makes me want to get stoned, too, just so I would know what it feels like.

Just sayin' ;).

On therapies and teacher aides

As I was driving back from the swimming pool this morning, I listened to an interview with Peter Blatchford from University College London which focused on a recent study of teacher aides and the fact that - as counterintuitive it may sound - the children who had the most support from teacher aides improved in their learning the least.

Now, as I said, it may sound counterintuitive at first but... as soon as they'd mentioned it in that interview, I knew why it's happening.

It's a peculiar thing within the education system. My son, The Kid - just as many other kids - gets support from the speech therapy team under New Zealand's Ministry of Education, but I've wondered about the efficacy of such funding. Their finances are stretched and to cover the most kids with the funding available to them, they've stretched their therapists to a point where The Kid, for example, sees a therapist for an hour every two weeks, and nothing during school holidays. Basically, we see a therapist on average for one hour every three weeks. About 17 times a year.

Out of that hour, the first 15 minutes is spent catching up and telling the therapist what The Kid has been doing lately. In the remaining 45 minutes they usually play three board games - a variety that prompts The Kid to speak.

And as much as I've been grateful for the support available, I've also wondered on whether the speech therapy has actually done much, apart from calming me. An hour every three weeks is... very little.

In classrooms across the country, a similar thing is happening. To help primary teachers who struggle with kids that have special needs, Ministry of Education - or schools themselves - assign teacher aides who help with a variety of tasks, often with the kids with learning difficulties. Except... teacher aides are usually the least qualified people in the classroom, and therefore cost the least. (Do you see where this is going?)

Kids who need help the most end up spending the most time with people who are trained the least.

And now fast forward to this recent study which confirmed that, indeed, the kids who get the most support from teacher aides actually learn the least. Yes, there is a positive image around helping and being there for those kids, but it's not actually... efficient. What is needed is a highly skilled approach instead.

I understand that a country's economy is a balance - there cannot be enough money for everything, and so it is a question of priorities. But when I hear a current government talking about lowering income taxes whilst I already see the pressures that are put onto the education system to deliver results in limited funding, I feel a shiver run down my spine.

Education is the key. It *cannot* be set up in a way where parents' incomes dictate what access children get to education and healthcare. It is not funny to expect a family to pay $50+ a week for an hour of specialised therapy when families with small children are usually the ones with the most limited finances - by doing that it damages children who are in their prime learning age and sets them up for all sorts of problems in the future.

Skilled therapy costs, because skills come through education, training and experience - and all of those cost. And there isn't a shortcut available through less qualified aides. Yes, teacher aides have a very important part to play in the classroom - but it's not their job to do therapy which needs the most skills.

What are we doing here

"What are we doing here?" The Man asks - not even sure if this question is for me to answer, or just him thinking out loud - but at the moment, it does feel this way. A long, hard slog. At 7 am I am standing outside in the darkness, picking up shards of red brick and inside my two are working on their breakfasts and Duplo towers, whilst The Man is probably sitting behind the wheel of his truck talking himself into calming down.

The problem is, neither of us knows a place where we would actually be better; regardless of where we go, it'll be a long, hard slog - or so it seems, anyway.

What are we doing here?

I don't know. Everyone needs a rest, and we are hard pressed to get any.

Morning light

I love the early morning light illuminating our life here.


"If your mind can conceive it, your heart can believe it, you can achieve it" 

"She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come." (Etsy: room to flourish)