On having lots of stuff, and de-cluttering

Every now and again when I go to bed in the evening, I bring my iPad with me and open up Pinterest. It's kind of like The Man reading a book for 10 minutes before he goes to sleep - I look through galleries of pictures and most of the time just open up the 'Humor' category and have a little giggle :P

And for a while now I've been seeing people post pictures of something called KonMari.

KonMari. KonMari. KonMari.

I could tell that it was something to do with decluttering, but a few days ago I finally googled, 'What's KonMari?' and had a read through a few pages that explained the thing.

(And to those of you who don't know what it is, it is basically a tidying and decluttering method developed by a Japanese lady called Marie Kondo, alas - KonMari, a shortened version of her name.)

I read and I looked through the photos and I watched a few videos and none of it really struck a cord with me because I realised that with most of what she's saying - I'm already doing it.

It's a little thing me and The Man are going over every now and again, and repeatedly. I'm averse to mess, for several reasons. 1) In the role of a stay-at-home parent I am the one who is cleaning it, and 2) having done a fair amount of moving and seeing an impending long-distance move coming up in about a year from now - the less stuff we've got, the easier it is. And so it means that whenever I come across something in our home that we aren't using or I don't see ourselves using anytime soon, out it goes in our 'Sallies bag', ie a bag I take to Salvation Army whenever I pass their store on my way to town.

And it's not something I do in bouts - rather, it is something I am on the look for constantly. There is a designated hook in our laundry room where a 'Sallies bag' hangs and whenever I come across something unused, I put it in the bag. Not just my stuff - also toys that I don't see being functional, children's books that are kind of lame, The Man's clothes - if I buy him a new t-shirt, something old usually goes so that there's the same amount of clothes in the wardrobe, always. Just another day I was trying to figure out how many pairs of shoes I've got and I think it's 7 total. Gumboots, hiking boots, running shoes, sandals, flip-flops, Converse, pretty shoes. Oh, and slippers for wearing inside.

The Man, by nature, is a hoarder. He has a much stronger attachment to items of sentimental value than I do, and so it means that whenever he sees me adding stuff to the 'Sallies bag', he goes through a little internal conversation with himself along the lines of, "It makes her happy, let her do it," but it doesn't come naturally to him.

In fact, I see him struggle with it, and I appreciate greatly the amount of effort he puts into dealing with it.

Because if The Man had his way, we'd have a whole array of stuff tucked away someplace in case we need it, and every time we actually needed something he'd congratulate himself on having the foresight to have kept it.

But I don't see it that way.

Because another thing is: as much as The Man is a hoarder, he is also not an organiser. I mean, he loves seeing organised spaces and he loves using them, in a sense that he loves going for a cupboard and knowing exactly where something he is needing is actually kept.

But it doesn't come naturally to him to organise things as such. Usually, it is me who organises spaces - including work areas in the garage - and once a system is in place he is capable of keeping it and adding to it.

But it doesn't come naturally to him.

And so because of all that - and some other reasons - I am averse to clutter. It takes time, it takes effort, and I don't want to be dealing with it. I have watched several of my grandparents die, leaving behind piles and piles of stuff that people left behind have not needed and have had to dispose of somehow, and every time I've seen it happen I've thought, this is bollocks.

I don't want to die and have my relatives sort through a pile of 'useless' stuff and have them moan over 'why on earth she needed to keep it all'.

But, sorry, I am getting carried away.

What I came here to say is that, though I've amassed an impressive amount of items now that I am married, with two kids, a large backyard, and a dog - on a scale of average New Zealand households, I am living minimally.

Just this morning I had a moving company assess the contents of my house to give us a quote on what it'd cost to hire a van and get it all shipped over to Invercargill, and it turns out that even by the impression of that representative, our house is easy as. 30 cubic metres, very little clutter. Pack and go.

And I like that.

I like that I read through pages of that KonMari philosophy and didn't feel the pang of hurt over having too much clutter. I mean... I still have a lot! of stuff and sometimes I do think back to how easy it used to be before families and kids, but then I'm realistic at what it takes to have two kids and a DIY-loving husband with his collection in the garage, and I remind myself that on such a scale, we're golden.

Most days I am doing some cleaning, looking out for it constantly and everywhere, and most days our home - our environment - is totally livable, and I am not having to feel like I am at the deep end of it.

But it does mean that on a daily basis, I am constantly on the lookout for things I no longer need. The most difficult is the part where it's items friends and family have gifted - because come on, they've made the effort of sending/giving it to me and now I am just going to pass it on to someone else! - but in most cases this is simply what I am doing, on a daily basis, all the time.

If I don't use it, out it goes. I say a quiet thanks for whoever gave it to me, I wish it well for when the next person finds joy from it that I don't have, and I let it go.

And it feels manageable.

And today, I will have two other moving companies assess the contents of our house to quote us for a move to Invercargill, and step by step, I will just deal with it. Talk to mortgage companies, talk to schools, talk to moving companies, and eventually I will have it all sorted, and done. And we'll live in Invercargill.

Wow it can be cumbersome moving with two kids and a dog.

Margaret Mahy playground

I know that on some levels, Margaret Mahy playground is just a really big, central-city, post-earthquake Christchurch playground.

I know that.




But I also know that... on so many levels it is so much more than that.

Since the playground opened, our family have made many more trips to central Christchurch than we have in the past. Sure, we have used the Christchurch tram before, and we have explored Hagley park with its Canterbury museum extensively, but now that the Margaret Mahy playground is open, we have actually started to come in the city itself. There is now something for us to do, something we want to do in central Christchurch on a regular basis, as a family.

(Which, if you have been to post-earthquake Christchurch and imagine what it'd be like exploring it with two little kids, is a big deal.)

I have watched the playground bustle with kids and fun-minded adults alike at all sorts of hours of the day. I've been there early in the mornings before the sun gets hot, during the day when there is hardly a space for all the people that have gathered, and in the evenings when the temperatures are cooling. Just another day me and The Man went there at 9 o'clock in the evening after we had lounged in a spa as part of our 'date night', figuring that we'd have a great opportunity to use the ziplines and do all sorts of fun things we don't get to do when we have kids there with us.

And you know what? There were probably around 30 adults there, playing at the children's playground :)

As far as I could tell, none of them were drunk. They were all just... merry, happily sliding down tunnels and flying on ziplines and twirling in 'egg-chairs', kind of like me and The Man, grateful for the opportunity to just have fun without having to watch after any preschoolers :)

And I thought how great it was, to have such a fun meeting place for sober adults at 9 pm in a central city. Not a bar, not a party - a playground. Playground fun enough for preschoolers and adults alike.

I have watched teenagers do parkour-like moves alongside primary school aged kids who have watched them with mouths ajar, going, "Whoaaaaaa..."



But most of all I have watched my family have fun.


I have watched my kids get sandy and wet...






I have watched them figure out various buttons around the playground and seeing pushing what? makes water come out of where?...




And I have felt grateful for whoever pushed such a project through in this earthquake rebuild city, because... that playground - Margaret Mahy playground - is one of my favorite places here. Really.

PS. And just because it makes me smile whenever I walk past it: a friend's artwork on The Girlie's bedroom wall. :)

A long day

A question: if you had to choose, would you prefer to have one of your children pick up a vomiting bug and vomit in several places one day and then have your second child do it the next day, or would you rather have them vomit at the same time and have it over with?

Because I know what option 1 feels like.

#plans_go_out_the_window_when_children_are_sick

#i_only_just_got_this_couch_cleaned_up_goddamit

Me seven years ago... and now

I answered these questions seven years ago - in italics - and tried answering them again now. Hmm, have times changed? Or not.


Have you ever…?


Have had taken a picture of you naked?
Yes. Still got them, too ;)
Yup. But I had enough brainpower to delete those, too. Good idea, I must admit.

Made money illegally?
No, unless mowing someone's lawn for a bit of pocket money counts...
Nop. Or not that I know of.

Had a one night stand?
Yes.
Yes.

Been in a fist fight?
No.
Nop.

Slept with your best friend?
Yes.
Yup. Twice. (Out of 3 =P)

Had sex in a public place?
No - unless a beach in a national park counts as 'public'? Actually, make it a yes.
Nop.

Ditched work to have sex?
No.
Ditched - no. Been late - yes.

Slept with a member of the same sex?
No.
Nop.

Seen someone die?
Yes.
Yes. My dog.

Ran from the police?
No.
Nop.

Woke up somewhere and not remember how you got there?
No, though being sleep deprived by my children to a point of getting out of bed and not knowing which way the doorway is - yes.
Nop.

Worn your partners unmentionables?
No.
What's unmentionable? (Okay, checked the dictionary - underwear. Nop, haven't.)

Fallen asleep at work?
No.
Nop.

Used toys in the bedroom?
Yes.
Nop.

Ran a red light?
Yes, by mistake.
Nop.

Been fired?
Yes.
Nop. But I've left with a major fight 3 times (and was wanted to stay all of those.)

Been in a car accident?
No. Dented the car though...
Nop, but I've hit a street sign while going in reverse ;)

Pole danced or done a striptease?
No.
Nop.

Loved someone you shouldn't?
No.
Yes. Or, well, let's rephrase it: loved someone who wasn't the best idea to be loved at first place, because it created a lot of mess which eventually cleared and made room for even more happyness, but maaaaaan was there a lot of mess first...

Sang karaoke?
Yes.
Yes. I'm glad I didn't hear myself and feel pity for those who did.

Done something you told yourself you wouldn't?
Yes. Yes. Yes.
Yup. Repeatedly. All the time. I'm a genius with that thing!

Laughed so hard you peed your pants?
Yes, though having been pregnant twice now I am wondering - are there people who've been full-term pregnant and have given birth, who haven't peed their pants at one point or another? I doubt it.
Repeatedly. And no, my bladder's fine, I've been just laughing way too hard.

Caught someone having sex?
Yes.
Yup. In my room. (Well, okay, they were already done, but...)

Kissed a perfect stranger?
No.
Nop.

Shaved your partner?
Yes.
Nop.

Given your private parts a nickname?
No.
Nop.

Ever gone in public without underwear?
Yes.
Yes, but it was summer and I had long pants anyway - I didn't want the underwear to show through.

Had sex on a roof top?
No.
Nop. I wish I had, though :P

Played chicken?
Not even sure what that means exactly...
Nop.

Mooned/flashed someone?
Does doing it to a partner counts? Though even in that case I'm not sure I have...
What's flashing? If it's showing myself naked - no.

Do you sleep naked? 
Yes, though if it's only me in bed, no.
Not if I'm alone.

Blacked out from drinking?
No.
Nop.

Felt like killing someone?
Not literally, though I occasionally look at people and think, man, I wish someone could give you a slap in the back of the head right now for saying/doing that...
Yes. Or at least hurting a LOT.

Had sex more than 5 times in one day?
What counts as 'one' time anyway?
Does 5 count? ;)

Been with someone because they were in a band?
No.
Nop.

Taken 10 shots of liquor in a day?
No.
Nop.

Shot a gun?
Yes. Not at actual living things though.
Yup. I lived in Svalbard, there wasn't really a way to do otherwise... Polar bears. I mean, I had to know how to shoot!

Gone outside naked?
Yes.
Outside like outside swimming in a lake in the middle of a forest? Yes.

***

Seven years ago (a short two months before answering these questions) I looked like this:

Longyearbyen harbourside, Svalbard

The most recent photo I've got of myself now is this:

Halswell quarry park, Christchurch, New Zealand

Yes, times have changed since then, though on many levels they - to be honest - haven't.

***

I dare you to try answering these, too ;)

Geniuses and Estonia

So, I am driving along the highway, listening to an interview with Eric Weiner about the incidence of geniuses, when suddenly the interviewer - Jesse Mulligan - asks Eric where he thinks the next hub of geniuses is going to happen and Eric replies...

...in Estonia.

(!!!)

And I'm, like, huh?

Have a listen yourself, the interview's up on their website :). It all happens in about the last minute, around the 20:25 mark.

PS. They also talked about the fact that life in New Zealand is so good now that Eric Weiner doesn't think there'll be many geniuses popping up in New Zealand. Life's too good, apparently :)

PPS. So being an Estonian in New Zealand, where does that put me? (It's a tongue in cheek question, by the way, so no need to analyse that, I don't think :).)

The wonders of a human body

Today I watched two revelationary TED talks.

The first was a visualisation of a human embryo as it develops from a single cell into a child being pushed into a birth canal. Fascinating!



The other was a presentation on how humans perceive their world through their senses and how those senses can be substituted or even added to. Like, how a deaf person can wear a piece of clothing which their brain will learn to use as 'hearing'. (I don't want to share too much, because if you watch this video you'll see what I'm talking about :).)


And talking of humans: The Girlie has been a little piece of *** for about a week now, driving me bonkers with the amount of whinging, stomping, disagreeing and otherwise being a little piece of *** that's she's been doing.

And now this morning, suddenly, I've got my daughter back. She woke up happy, she wanted to cuddle, she ate her porridge, she was willing to get dressed. I was pleased - so pleased! - and I was also intrigued, like, what the hell was that about?!

And then it occurred to me: yesterday I saw a new tooth that's broken through her gum.

I didn't think much of it yesterday, but seeing The Girlie be nice today I'm wondering: was all that whinging due to a toothache?

I mean, she did have a heavy cold last week so it might've been that, too, but...

Still.

Humans are cool.

Life with The Dog: nectarines

Ever since our nectarine tree started dropping fruit - which is to say, all summer long - we've known that The Dog loves nectarines. Regardless how green or puny, she's hunted down anything that's been dropped by wind, and eaten it.

And so I didn't think much of her getting hold of lots more fruit lately. "They must be falling down because they're getting so big and heavy," I thought.

Yeah.

What our back lawn looks like with nectarine stones scattered around everywhere

Because turns out, the amount of fruit she's been getting is not due to wind or, how do I put it... natural causes, ie the tree dropping them willingly.

Turns out, she's been bloody jumping (!) up the tree to get them.

(Ahem!)

Because I looked out the window yesterday and that's exactly what I saw - a labrador retriever jumping up a nectarine tree to get hold of more nectarines. And I had wondered why the grasses under that tree were so matted down!


So today I am a little grumpy at The Dog.

Thing is, she must've got hold of A LOT of fruit yesterday before I caught her in action, because she woke me up at 3 am last night with an urgent need to go outside and poop ferociously!

And then this morning The Man let her out before I had even got out of bed, and I think she must've eaten some more because by 7 am she had vomited nectarines onto our living room floor, twice, and now I've shut her in her crate because I've been hosing down floormats and cleaning vomit off doorways.

But not to worry: The Girlie is adamant on sharing whatever food she's got with The Dog, so there won't be any shortage of fiber in her diet any time soon.

A carrot about to be shared

Gotta love labradors!

A morning at Sumner beach

With temperature forecasted to hit 30 degrees Celsius that day, my plan was to get kids out (and worn out) early enough in the day so that by the time it got hot and clammy outside, they would be content playing inside a cool house, with curtains drawn, and then happy going down for an afternoon nap.

And that's exactly what we did.

We were at the Sumner beach by 8 am when the sun wasn't even reaching the southern part of the beach yet...




I stuck them both in wetsuits straight from the beginning so that when they felt like getting in the water, they were warm enough, and when they wanted to play on the playground equipment, they could just do it in their 'swimming clothes', and that was that.








As we left the playground at about 10 am, the temperature was getting into high 20's, other parents and their kids were starting to gather at the pool, and by the time we had bought ice creams and shared them with The Man who was working at a nearby building site, both kids were happy and tired enough that by noon, both of them were in bed.

And I was, like, yuss!

That was a good morning.

So, we had an earthquake today...

A strong earthquake hit Christchurch just now.

As it happened, I was laying in bed having an afternoon nap. As the loud rocking started and the bed started "hopping" and things falling off shelves, I was awake and thinking, "Shit, the Alpine fault is going!"

But no, it was just Christchurch. And things that toppled weren't many, just some clothes racks that were stacked against the wall and toothpaste tubes etc... but still.

Everyone in this house is awake now. It's sunny and 23 degrees outside. What are the plans for the rest of the afternoon?

PS. Steve Knutson posted a photo of dust rising off Sumner cliffs on Twitter. Have a look, it's at twitter.com/nztechtweet/status/698662835144912896/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

And to those of you wondering what that dust is - do you remember a few weeks back I posted a photo of shipping containers stacked at the beach?

To those of you wondering what those containers in the background are for: those are there to protect the road from further rockfall. That cliff-face had a lot of collapses during the earthquakes and containers block the rocks from making their way onto the road where they would end up endangering the traffic.

I assume that the rising dust is off those cliffs collapsing. And I very much hope there hasn't been much damage done...

A conversation in a pharmacy

This morning I stood in the pharmacy with my two children and waited on the pharmacist to hand us some prescription medicines meant to ease The Girlie's cold. A strong, raspy cold, that's what she has again. Four weeks ago I enrolled her in daycare (one day a week) and within a week she started coming down with these back-to-back, never ending colds. It's like winter of 2015 all over again.

As we stood there waiting on the pharmacist, in came a middle-aged Maori woman. She looked rough: skinny somewhat, a little tired, wrinkled. She was talking to the pharmacist about some smoking cessation drugs her GP had prescribed her with, and I thought to myself how she does look like she's got years of smoking behind her already, and how it'd be good for her to quit, if she could.

We stood there, all of us waiting, and I thought to myself how she does look a little... scary almost. I find that a lot of Maori have that harsh look, kind of sharp around the edges, menacing. I also thought how it's unhelpful for me to be frightened of her by the looks alone, and so I made an effort to treat her as if she were any other person I would've come across in that pharmacy.

I said that I liked her boots.

I did. They were cowboy-kind-of boots, with upturned pointy toes and intricate details around the edges and so I told her out loud that I liked them, and I smiled.

She grinned back at me, widely and with a welcome, and her eyes softened from that serious look of menace I had found frightening before. They were given to her from a women's refuge, she said, and that's where the rest of her outfit was from. 

Instantly I knew there was a story. She had a story.

She'd spent the night there, at the women's refuge, she continued, but she'd got into a fight with a Polynesian woman who was her neighbour there - she didn't like her very much - and so she'd left the refuge and was going to spend the next night at a friend's place who thankfully had a bed for her.

I nodded and probably said something along the lines of, "Oh," or maybe, "That's good." Something like that. Something where although I was curious of how she was getting along, I was also embarrassed that I had a warm home to return to and a fridge full of food, and kids in nice, clean clothes. Something where I just didn't know what much else to say.

Words spilled out of her.

She'd gone to see her daughter the other day - her daughter is at a foster home - and it hadn't gone very nicely. Her daughter hadn't wanted to see her, and so she'd got mad at her daughter because her daughter had got mad at her, and now she didn't know what to do. She'd made an effort in going to see the daughter, but if that wasn't enough for her daughter then what was?

I was standing there, listening to her and feeling uncomfortable at how my offer of warmth at her cowboy boots had turned into her spilling the words at me with such... what looked like appreciation almost. Like she was glad that she could share.

And I felt sad for her, because it suddenly looked to me that had this woman been born into different circumstances, that fierce look in her eyes which now looks like a protection against the world she doesn't quite get along with, it could've gone into fierce work at achieving some spectacular goals instead.

I don't know, that interaction left me so... confused, so sad.

I work a lot to keep myself in circumstances where I am at a kind of an equilibrium, so I never let myself fall hard or deep, lest I have to dig myself back out again; but her situation just looked like such a deep hole to be sitting in, and how much effort it'll probably take to get herself back out of there again.

But then again, I don't really know, do I. It was only a few minutes that we talked, and so maybe there is an entirely different story there, but nevertheless, it moved me.

Soon the pharmacist handed us the prescription drugs The Girlie needed and we left to go home.

I don't know where she will sleep tonight, but I hope she sleeps well.

Nectarines

I think another two or three days, and we will be eating nectarines straight off the tree.




I love summer.

Life with The Girlie: buckles and gumboots

The Girlie loves buckles. Like, anything that buckles up, whether it's a seat belt or a backpack or a shoe, she wants to do it!

No, mom, hands off, I want to do it! [Insert my tired face when I am trying to drive us to the doctor's appointment and she is insisting on buckling up her own seatbelt, all whilst I am standing there, watching, and trying to be patient.]

Which meant that this morning when I bought us a new rafting vest, she had her entire morning sorted.


The thing has five buckles and she spent about an hour doing and undoing them.

Or, to be exact (because she can't yet undo buckles which are stiff enough), she spent an hour doing them up and demanding that I undo them, so she can do them up again and demand that I undo them.

On repeat.

Also, I put a glass of milk and a plate of pancakes on the table. She looked at it and though, great, we're putting stuff on the table!

Insert gumboots.


I love my daughter.

Questions and answers: The Kid out of his cast

"How's The Kid getting on now that he's out of his cast?" Rachelle

After 2 months of The Kid having both legs - or sometimes only one leg - in a cast (and now 5 months out of the cast), we are doing really well. 

Back when the casting started, we didn't really know what we were up against. The Kid had a tendency to walk on his toes and his left foot especially was stiff to a point that even if he had wanted to, he wouldn't have been able to put his heel down. The point of the casting was to 'stretch' his feet back into a position and then with physiotherapy to 're-train' him to use his feet differently.

But once the casts were on, The Kid had an MRI done on his brain, his spine and his leg - to find out where the problem was originating from - and it turned out that it wasn't just a habit that was keeping him on his toes. 

Turned out, it was his brain that was telling his calf-muscles to 'tighten up' every few seconds, all day, every day - and kind of like you would, too, if you were trying to 'point' your toes out like a ballerina all day every day, after years of doing it his feet weren't strong enough to put the heel down on the ground any more. The calf-muscles were just too stiff. And so it turned out that rather than 'bringing' his feet back into a usual position with casting and then a bit of physiotherapy, The Kid was going to need all that and a leg brace.

Which is what he is wearing now.

I haven't got many photos of this thing, which is surprising given that he wears it every day, but most of the time it's not even that visible.

For one, if he is wearing long pants then it's underneath his pants. Two, if someone's looking at it from the front then they'll only see the straps. But here, I've tried to find some photos of it:






It's a mostly stiff plastic brace that is especially shaped to fit his foot, and by wearing it every day we are making sure that his foot can't go back onto its toes any more. The only times he takes it off is when he is sleeping or swimming (and lately, also when he is playing rough with daddy because when they're tumbling around the floor of the living room, turns out getting whacked on the head with a plastic brace is a bit more painful than doing it with a plain naked foot).

We do continue with physiotherapy, and we have been warned that as The Kid grows and his muscles lengthen, it may get harder to keep his foot in a good position - until he stops growing sometime around 20 years of age, anyway - but so far, it's working really well.

He has taken really well to wearing it - it's become a routine of ours, putting it on in the morning. He's also been able to choose his own design, which I think helps a lot because he is able to tell people about the helicopter he has on the back of his blue brace :).

But it's also wonderful because it doesn't keep him from doing anything.

One of the reasons I find it hard to get photos of his brace is that most of the time, he's in a position other than standing sideways to me. When he is running, biking and climbing, I am either too busy to take photos, or he's too fast or too far to take good ones, or he's facing me in which case only the front straps are visible.

Which is another thing: now that his feet are almost flat due to casting and the brace is helping them stay that way, he has grown in confidence in relation to physical challenges. He is able to climb things better, and he has better balance. I do a lot of physical stuff with him - the sort of stuff 4-year-olds like - and it's wonderful to see how much enjoyment he gets out of it, and how well it works in terms of his physiotherapy.

That's one of the things our physiotherapist said to us: that rather than doing 'special' physiotherapy exercises which research has shown people get tired of and forget, physiotherapy is now 'woven' into people's lives so that can accomplish these exercises as part of their daily life.

In our case, for example, I try to make sure that every day The Kid gets to walk on a balance beam somewhere (a wooden edge of a sandpit works), he climbs stairs (we go on walks in places that have hills and steps), he gets a wide variety of exercise (ie, we go to playgrounds a lot!), and he swims.

In fact, we are doing so well that for the moment our physiotherapist only sees us about once a month so she can keep her eye on us, but apart from that we just continue in our own rhythm and do our own thing.

As The Kid is growing it does mean that we need a new brace made every time he grows out of his previous brace - for example this one has lasted us a whole of 5 months and we're getting a new one this week - but apart from that there's nothing special on the leg front. Our hospital team did warn me that he may need another set of leg casts if the physiotherapy isn't enough to keep things in good condition, but having been through casting once already I am determined to do as much as we can to prevent the need for another set of leg casts (not being able to get wet - ie go swimming or have a shower! - alone was enough to put me off the idea!), but either way we'll just tick along and see how we are doing.

For the moment we are doing well :)

Whether to go or not

It is something I've been mulling over for a while now, going over it in my head, again and again.

To go or not to go?

***

I told The Man a few days ago that part of the reason I managed to do a lot of stuff when I was a little younger was that I simply didn't spend much time mulling over things. If I decided I wanted to go somewhere or do something, I'd just do it. Rather than trying to figure things out ahead of time, I trusted in my ability to figure things out along the way and usually, this is exactly how things happened: I'd go off do things, stuff would happen, I would deal with the stuff as it came along and... done.

So I didn't necessarily know how I'd do things before I started them - I just knew that I'd do them.

But now things are different. For one, The Man has a very different approach to problem-solving than I do: his style is to discuss, think, throw different scenarios in the air and see if we can come up with solutions to most of them, and by the time we get to the end of this process, I have usually lost the passion to do whatever we were wanting to do to begin with.

(Whilst I can pull off a certain - and sometimes impressive - amount of think-ahead planning, in general I'm just not a 'plan ahead' sort of a girl... and never have been. In general, I'm the "let's do it" girl, and have learnt to cope with that, just as my husband has.)

Over time we have learnt to cope with this difference in our attitudes by balancing: I do a little more planning than I am comfortable with, and he lets go of a little more than he's comfortable with, and we meet in the middle. It's how a lot of the questions in this house get solved. (It's either that, or just leaving the other one out of the discussion to simply spare some energy and sanity, and with small things it works just as well.)

Another thing is the fact that now our actions impact many more people than just ourselves; in the closest circle of 'impactees' are us with The Man, and our two children. A level below that are a variety of family and friends scattered around the globe.

So either trying to think things through ahead of time (like The Man) or just doing things and hoping for the best (me), either way it's cumbersome now.

And the thing we've been mulling over is this: to leave Christchurch or not? To go to Invercargill (or Dunedin) or not?

***

With a saved-up money towards a home deposit hovering somewhere around $20,000 New Zealand dollars at the moment, we're at a stage where realistically we aren't in a position to buy a house in Christchurch quite yet. For about $300,000 there are some houses available, yes, and we've had a look at some on the internet and some even in person, but... they've either been in very, very questionable areas, or in very, very questionable conditions, or both.

What we are wanting from a house we'd buy is a whole different (and a long!) topic on its own, so I won't go into it for the moment, but the bottom line is that in Christchurch, at current prices it is simply not happening and going for the market price is what neither me nor The Man are comfortable with, for a variety of reasons, in addition to the fact that we wouldn't get a loan of that amount at current circumstances anyway.

Which is one of the reasons we've been looking away from Christchurch, as the need for a home is something both me and The Man are quite passionate about.

But it's more than just real estate.

Last year I attempted to study quantity surveying through New Zealand's Open Polytechnic, which is an accredited distance learning facility, and quite a big one at that.

I write 'attempted' because after a few months of trying to study there, I quit. Again, there is a whole plethora of reasons, but the main ones were the fact that at the time, I had a young, breastfeeding baby at home with me; I was struggling at a house which had intermittent water supply and ended up in court with my landlord over the matter; I was unimpressed with the quality of study materials which I spent a lot of energy trying to work with (I have now learnt that I was one of the last people to enrol on that program and they have since restructured the whole diploma) and it simply got too much to bear all at once. I would put my kids to bed at 7 o'clock at night, take out my study stuff to sit behind the table until 9-9:30 pm, and then I'd go to sleep, knackered, and the next day I would do the same.

Which is why, in the end, I didn't end up passing even those first few classes, and have not taken out any more since.

Instead, I've looked into ways of studying quantity surveying through an actual school, with classes and teachers and people I can ask questions from, without having to wait a day or two to be replied to by e-mail, and I've kept coming against the fact that whilst I have The Girlie who is not yet eligible for any government funding as far as her daycare costs go, if I went to school now I would not only have to take out a student loan to pay for tuition (or withdraw money from a house deposit fund, which I am unwilling to do), but I would also have to pay for daycare costs which at this stage, with The Kid being 4 and The Girlie 1, are not insignificant. (All that whilst The Man is doing consistent 50+ hour work weeks to support us financially.)

And so I've been keeping trying to figure out how to achieve a balance of sorts where we get to live in a dry, safe home; have time to spend amongst ourselves; do things we have interest towards; sustain ourselves financially. How to live happily, basically.

***

The reason I've considered Invercargill is because its polytech, the Southern Institute of Technology, has a zero tuition fee programme. Being able to study without having to pay tuition (thus saving approximately $6,000 a year) still means I'd have to take out a student loan - if need be - to cover the costs of childcare whilst I am at school, but it would be much more manageable, financially, and Invercargill's real estate (when compared to incomes) is more affordable than Christchurch's.

And that would get me to a diploma within 2 years, as opposed to 4 years whilst trying to study in the evenings through the Open Polytech and losing the precious evening hours.

So, on many levels, it makes a lot of sense.

Except, on other levels it just sounds like a load of bollocks yet again.

I have started to really like Christchurch. Really. I used to travel through and think of it as that boring, smoky English town where I only ever came because it was in the middle of the South Island and buses travelled through it, but now that I have lived here for 3 years in the midst of post-earthquake rebuild, I have started to really like it.

In fact, it may be that it's precisely the post-earthquake rebuild that has made me like it so much better than before, and the fact that it doesn't get as smoky any more in winter since government set limits of wood-fuelled log burners.

Now I keep discovering more and more aspects of Christchurch I really enjoy, and I think to myself, "Really, Maria? You're gonna leave now? This?"

Another is the fact that I now have friends here. Real, close friends. I have - almost by accident - happened to rent a house in a neighborhood which I would happily keep living in, for it has a strong network of neighbors who help each other, and talk, and strong schools - if it weren't for the fact that houses cost so bloody much now.

Over the last year I have discovered that Christchurch's hospital is very well equipped to deal with The Kid's therapy and assessments, and we have a strong support team. The Kid's orthotist makes excellent support braces for his feet (she used to do Manchester United's when she was in UK ;)), his physiotherapist is an intelligent, fun-loving and professionally experienced woman who understands the need of weaving physiotherapy into The Kid's days, rather than the other way around; I have enjoyed working with almost everyone on the team, and there has now been many people involved.

What's more, I now have confidence that if we come across any other areas we need support with, the support is either there or I will find a way to get it. I think I understand how Christchurch's healthcare system is set up. I know my way around it.

And, we live near a school where I know other people's children of similar circumstances have been happy and supported.

***

If we move to Invercargill, I will get to do my 2 years of study which will then open up the opportunities to move on with my professional life, and it will relieve The Man of such financial responsibility as he's been carrying over the last 3 years.

But I also know that if we do that, The Kid would start school there, and then if we decide to move elsewhere again, he'd have to be pulled out of school and started elsewhere, again. Hi thrives on strong, loving relationships.

At this stage I don't know anyone in Invercargill. I know that a friend's sister lives there, and that's about it. I don't know how well their hospital system is set up, I don't know the quality of their therapists, I don't have anyone to call and ask to babysit our kids whilst me and The Man go on much-needed date nights which we have finally started doing.

And it is such a responsibility to think about all that, when the people that are involved are not just me, but my husband, my son, my daughter; there's even a dog now.

Either way we choose to live, something has to be let go so that something else has space to come in.

But how do I put things in order, how do I know what's ahead of what?

Sometimes it sucks being an adult.

PS. Yes, I know, children are resilient. But still...

PPS. Recent photos from the beach. By the time I got these two out of their wetsuits and into proper clothes back at the car, I knew I'd end up having to vacuum the whole car given the amount of sand in it.

I was right.








Date night: Sumner beach

The Man didn't want to come in the water, so he set himself up on the beach away from the incoming waves and relaxed.


I, meanwhile, grabbed our bodyboard and battled the waves more than I did anything else because yesterday, for some reason, I certainly wasn't catching any :P (The Man said that I looked like I'd been put through a washing machine :P)


It was still 25 degrees when we left the beach at 9 pm. There were still a dozen or so surfers in the water, still dogs being walked on the beach, still the last kids around though ours had, by that point, been in bed for two hours already.


It was a long, memorable, summer's day.

May it long last.