Random bits and bobs

My daughter has a new way of showing defiance.

When she doesn't like what we told her / asked her to do / told her off for, she goes in the kitchen and rolls herself into a kitchen rug.

Don't ask. I don't know, is the answer, anyway.


We have an old habit with grocery shopping that we only really buy things when they're on 'special', ie on sale.

If we can help it, anyway.

The shopping list on the fridge will at any given time look something like this:

ginger IOS
beetroot IOS
milk powder
tea IOS
coffee IOS

IOS means "if on special", ie we-don't-necessarily-need-it-now-but-buy-it-if-it's-on-sale. That way, it costs us less over time to buy things such as tin tomatoes, vinegar, coffee - long-lasting staple ingredients.

It means that, sometimes, if many things are on special at the same time, stock-up cupboard looks like this:

Uhm... yeah.


I have written before about Invercargill's "Nordic" approach to alcohol taxation; how very much like Sweden, Finland, Norway etc Invercargill council regulates and taxes alcohol consumption in a way that keeps channelling funds into community development.

As of this week, we have stepped into yet another role of being on the receiving end of that community funding.

ILT or in simple terms, "that alcohol trust", funds each Invercargill's school's swimming programme. At no cost to the parents each child gets a set of swimming lessons during school hours each year - as part of school sports curriculum.

For us it means that for the next month, three times each week a bus picks up The Kid's class from school, brings them to the swimming pool, teachers work with their swimming skills in different groups, and then bus takes them back to school.

Our family, we go swimming every week anyway. Next year we may even start The Kid in proper swimming lessons.

However, I know that our family is lucky. We have the financial means, and the time, and the health to do that.

Not everyone has that.

And I am so pleased, so pleased!, that this little council in the bottom of the world recognises that, and finds a way to support swimming skills throughout primary schools regardless of parents' social or employment or financial or whatever status.

One day, when New Zealand also realises that it makes sense to feed kids in school, I am going to be really, really proud.

I was under an impression that tongues heal quick, no?

With an indesputably ingrained elegance of someone who has epilepsy, can I just please have it noted that in the future, if there's an option to choose between losing control of my bladder and chewing up my tongue during a seizure - can I please just lose my bladder and be done with it?

Because, man, tongue takes AGES to heal! Seriously.

I thought tongues heal quick. And reasonably easily.

Instead, it's a pain. Both pain, as in, aching - but also pain, as in, pain-in-the-bum-to-have-to-have-it. With the bladder, at least it's just change the bedding, chuck sheets through the washing machine, done.

This... this is taking days.

Glitter-paint. Oh joy, the joy of glitter-paint.

In the past, I'd heard other parents refer to glitter-paint as if it was the evil of the world, but I never understood why.

Now I know.

It's not the fact that glitter-paint ends up on kids' clothes and hands and furniture. All paint does. We can handle it.

It's the fact that when it dries, THE GLITTER FALLS OFF.

Jesus christ. We have glitter throughout the house. I mean, seriously, throughout the house.

The Girlie made a couple of crowns at preschool with glitter-paint and paper, and brought the crowns home. Kids played contentedly, pretending to be kings and queens.

As they played, dried glitter gradually fell off their crowns and populated our living environment, getting lodged in carpet fibres, clothes sleeves, bottoms of their slippers. From there as we went about our lives, glitter slowly travelled further until now I can find it on the inside of our car, inside underwear I pick out of the drawer in the morning, on dishes.

The other day, I made an omelette and found a piece of glitter inside the omelette.

It'll be months until our carpets don't sparkle at certain angles of daylight and there aren't pieces of it in the fridge, however I am sure The Girlie will find new things to bring home.

After all, to her, sparkle is the joy of the world, and so is glitter. Everything pink, with flowers, and glitter - SHE'S IN.

Two different reactions

A couple of days ago I went clothes-shopping to stock up on basics for the whole family: t-shirts, pants, shoes etc.

When The Girlie saw the amount of new clothes hanging in the wardrobe she declared that, next time, she wants to come shopping with mommy.

When The Kid did, he thought about it and said, "Mom, I think that enough shopping now."

Yeah, that pretty much sums them up.


It's hard to do schoolwork through tears: can't see the numbers well and teardrops smudge the writing on the paper.

So, so tired.

3-year-old logic

The Girlie (3): "MOM! I gotta clean the table, there spit on it!" Looks at me, expectantly, then spits on the table again demonstratively, "See? There spit on it! I gotta clean it."

Well, I guess it upside is that at least she cleans it herself...

I didn't know she'd eat that

With kids and dogs in the house, it's a reality of life that some things will be broken.

...having said that, I did not realise that if I planted currants, The Dog would promptly go eat all the buds off the stalks, leaving just bare sticks poking out of the ground.

Taking time off to rest

When The Kid started school last term he was only going 4 days a week - we had Wednesdays off.

It's not really a typical approach here. In fact, at this stage I don't know of any other child/family who's done that.

But we did and, looking back, I'm glad we did.

Starting school is a big thing. It's a big change, and it's tiring. In May when The Kid started school, he still had daytime naps several times a week, so having Wednesdays off school allowed us to have daytime naps midweek and spend a morning at the gymnastics club, a welcome 'bridge' of normality into what is otherwise a very sharp change into a different environment of schooling.

And I didn't really 'ask' the school for Wednesdays off; it was more that I 'told' them that we were having Wednesdays off, and said I hoped it wasn't going to be a problem.

They didn't think it was a problem. They were awesome about it. They didn't question it at all.

And as we then cruised through the entire term doing 4 days a week, resting on Wednesdays, feeling good about it, still feeling reasonably happy on Friday afternoons when inevitably children at school start melting down in the tiredness of it - one of the teachers told me, privately, that actually it'd be good for some other children to do the exact same thing.

It was good to hear that.

It is new term now and The Kid is going 5 days a week, Monday to Friday. He is still pretty... uhm, let's say tired, come Friday. (Parents of other 5-6 year olds, you probably know what I mean, yeah?) But I think being tired on Friday now is very different from what it would've been if he had started school doing 5 days a week right from the beginning.


Which means that this morning me and The Man stood in front of the calendar in our kitchen and discussed what our approach is going to be starting next week.

The Kid's school is starting swimming classes, three days a week. 3 days a week for a month they are going to load a bunch of 5-6 year olds into a bus, take them to the swimming pool, then bus them back to school for the afternoon and I can only imagine what those 5-6 year olds are going to look like on Fridays for the next month.

Me and The Man are going to ask our conductive education teacher for a month's sabbatical. Because we feel we just need to drop something out of our calendar whilst this swimming craziness/awesomeness is happening, in order for The Kid to survive sane.

Just sayin'

Trump reminds me of those medieval kings who claimed they didn't fart.

Interesting read

Another interesting article from Jon Krakauer, www.nytimes.com/2017/08/03/opinion/weakening-college-sex-assault-policies.html

That just backfired

A couple of days ago The Girlie dropped a glass bowl on the kitchen floor. It shattered into many pieces. The Girlie stood there, looked at it, and then said, "Girls can't hold bowls. Bowls too hard for girls."

Both me and The Man looked at each other, thinking, where did that come from?!

When I started sweeping the kitchen floor, The Man held The Girlie in his arms and started talking to her, explaining that we all drop things sometimes. He has dropped bowls, The Kid has, mommy has. It's okay - we try not to, but when it happens, we just clean the floor up and use another dish if there's one.

He then tried explaining to her that both girls and boys can hold bowls.

Except, it... backfired a little bit :P

You see, he started explaining to her that we all do all sorts of household jobs sometimes. He asked her, "Who washes dishes in the kitchen?"

"Mommy," she answered.

"And who else washes dishes?" The Man asked.

The Girlie looked at him, thinking. "No-one," she said, confidently.

At that point, I burst out laughing. The Man grinned, looked at me and said, "Well, that just backfired..."


Thoughts on politics: is it okay to ask a woman about her baby plans

It's the news story of New Zealand at the moment that the Labour party's leader, a woman, keeps getting asked what her baby plans are. The election is in September.

I've got a thought or two on this.

Some people are making a point that such a question matters. If she becomes the Prime Minister and then decides to have a baby, it's going to impact the country's governance. It's an important to ask her that question, they say, because it affects us all. It's okay to ask.

I disagree.

At the moment, if a company is recruiting for staff and it turns out that an applicant is planning to very shortly become a mother and take maternity leave, it impacts the prospects of the company and it certainly impacts that applicant's chances of becoming an employee.

Some people even go as far as to say, why should a company bear the burden of not knowing what people's family plans are and then having to look for new, temporary employees whilst people take parental leave?

Sure, okay, I get that. When people leave to take parental leave, it costs companies money.

But why should women bear the burden?

If it were legal to ask that question during a job interview, and a woman kept being rejected from a job after job after job because she answered honestly that, yes, she would like to become a mother, thanks - then it would be the woman taking that burden. And that burden's not pretty, because being jobless and on welfare is not pretty, especially given the poor quality of housing stock and a lack of state housing.

The reason it's not okay to ask that question is NOT because it doesn't affect companies and governments - of course it does - but because asking that question puts undue and unfair pressure on people who happen to have wombs inside their abdomens, and ovaries.

When New Zealand becomes a place where a woman has decent chances regardless of what her family plans are, it will become okay to ask her that question.

Until then - no, it's not okay to ask.

Nick Tyler for president!

One of the very best interviews/podcasts of all time, I think, is when Kim Hill interviewed Nick Tyler a few years back on Radio New Zealand National.

The whole 52 minutes of it is just... rife with things to learn. Well, I have, anyway. Nick is a natural-born storyteller and with his, what looks like, limitless curiosity towards the world he has amassed a fascinating collection of stories which link up to basically say, life's interesting. Not always good, or easy, but it's interesting, and it gleams with hope towards the future.

I have listened to that interview several times now, and have no intention of deleting the file off my computer.

Today I found that Nick Tyler talked about 'What makes an engineer?' at a University College London event and starting at a 23-minute mark I found his words thought-provoking and very inspiring.

He basically talked about the fact that if you ask an 11-year-old what they want to do with the world, they beam with ideas. Bringing water to Africa, building things, fixing things.

When you ask an 18-year-old, the answer is, I want to pass A-levels. (=exams) Whatever.

And then when engineering departments only enrol students who achieve high marks in mathematics, chemistry and physics, they are excluding a whole bunch of very high achieving, inspiring students whose interests may lay more towards the arts. Where their passion lay.

As a chair of the engineering department at University College London, Nick Tyler removed the requirement for mathematics, chemistry and physics as the 'enrolling' subjects. Instead, he started enrolling students who had high marks, but not necessarily in mathematics, chemistry and physics.

Or like he says, think of it as enrolling someone who has high marks in photography, French and swimming ;)

And the thing is, it went brilliantly.

Kind of like a lot of the stories about the Finnish education system go, the students are able to achieve high levels of understanding because they do less. Or, to put it more precisely, rather than having to study things they are not really interested in, students study things they have passion for, and therefore they are able to do it well. Better.

University College London started enrolling students who did not necessarily do A-levels in math, chemistry and physics into engineering courses, and found that they got very high achieving applicants out of it, and later, students.

The whole... attitude of Nick Tyler, how he can have such a balanced view of the world, and they way he understands very complex, interlinking problems of the world and how the problems affect each other (the way public transportation affects health outcomes, or how home insulation could save money spent in hospitals etc) and the fact that he says, right at the end of that interview with Kim Hill, that:

the human race is going to survive 
by community, not by individualism.

(It's at 48:05 into the interview.)

And I listen to him talk and I think, if I could, just, 'multiply' Nick Tyler so that one of him could stay teaching at University College London, but then the other version of him could become the prime minister of New Zealand, and yet another president of the United States (OH MY GOD, WOULD YOU IMAGINE WHAT THAT WOULD BE LIKE!!!)

I have such an affinity towards interesting, curious people. I fancy myself as such, too, but that's kind of beside the point.

To go off-topic onto another interesting person I sometimes think about, I still wonder what has happened to a young man that I used to talk to in a Christchurch petrol station. He was manning the pumps in the late evenings, I think he worked 19:00-23:00 on four evenings a week, and I had such wonderful little conversations with him as I used to fill my car on Tuesday evenings on the way back from craft night.

That young man was studying engineering at Canterbury University, doing a Master's degree in... something to do with electronics, and he was set to start an internship with a large motor company in the US. He was going to help them design electric cars and components to them - but whilst he was working at a petrol station in a little Christchurch suburb, he was my Tuesday evening conversation partner.

I miss him. I miss the fact that I don't know his e-mail, or his phone number, so I can no longer get in touch with him and ask, how are you doing? Because I assume he's living somewhere in the States now, doing his electric cars engineering. No longer having to earn minimum wage at a petrol station to supplement his studies :).

And I have a very hopeful view towards the world when I talk to people like that. It fills me with even more curiosity and courage to be part of the change, even if at the moment it means that during the week I write out assignments on how many cubic metres of concrete can go into someone's foundation and on a Saturday, I wash dishes at a cafe.

Because life's good.

Mine certainly is.

Edited to add: it reminded me how, when we were enrolling The Kid in primary school, I said to the teachers that, look, the most important thing to me in The Kid's first year of schooling, is that he enjoys it here.

Not how many numbers he learns, or letters, or where he sits on the chart of medians. (Jesus, don't even get me started on medians... I said to them, actually, that just putting it out there, I do not want to hear the word median, okay?, and fortunately they passionately agreed with me). The most defining impact the first school year has is setting the attitude towards schooling, and so most of all I want The Kid to have fun in school.

And that's exactly what they're doing, fortunately. I have absolutely no qualms about this school, at all, because their culture towards learning matches mine, and I think they're doing brilliantly. The Kid is thriving, writing ever more words, doing ever more stuff with numbers, telling people about giraffes eating leaves off tall trees, and asking questions about the earth and what it's made of. He goes to school with joy, and meets me at the end of the day with busy bustle-ness, telling me about things he's done that day.

A couple of weeks ago when a new instructor/therapist, not sure what his position is called exactly, joined our Conductive Education unit, I had a talk with him on a similar topic. We discussed our goals moving forward and I said to him that, look, the most important thing in us coming here every week is that The Kid has fun here. That, sure, we do important motor development stuff and whatever, but in the end, we continue coming here because it works, and it's fun.

And that the moment it becomes a chore rather than fun, we are going to struggle continuing our weekly routine of attending. In small increments reasons are going to mount why not come this week, and then maybe another, and another, and so beyond all the important developmental goals we are working towards, we need to keep remembering that attending the sessions has to be fun.

He didn't... let's say, entirely agree with me. He had a bit of what I see as an old attitude towards therapy, which is, we do things that are important, and sometimes those things are hard.

And, I get that. I also push my kids to do things that are important, and that are hard. I think my kids are gradually learning the attitude of 'I can do hard things'. The Kid certainly is - he has an attention span and depth of focus beyond what I think is usual for 6-year-olds, and his teachers are continuing to say to me that they are very impressed with the dedication he is able to put towards tasks at hand.

But the thing is, for us, fun is part of it. Our whole family is very much built around the idea of letting every person have joy, and then trying to balance our wants/needs in a way that allows everyone space to live their life in a way that brings them joy.

We weave fun right throughout our children's activities because we know that, in the end, fun is what's going to keep them there.

I think the Conductive Education instructor/therapist is starting to come 'round to the idea, too.

And I tend to think that even Nick Tyler would agree.

Have you done genetic testing?

Have any of you done genetic testing through 23andMe? Or any other company?

What did you think?

About control, and about bullying

I've been thinking about control, and about bullying.

When a child at school says or does something nasty to another child, and then makes fun of them for going telling the teacher, it's really one of the very few tools they've got - control. They need the victim to be quiet and complacent.


The bully needs the victim to be quiet and complacent, because if the victim is outspoken, the bully gets in trouble. This whole "haha you're such a sissy for telling the teacher" story is actually nothing more than the bully pleading for protection - they need the victim to think that telling the teacher is bad, because otherwise, you know what?

Bully gets in trouble. And when bully keeps on getting in trouble, they cannot continue being a bully. They lose control, and then have to go look in the mirror, and think about things.

It's about control.

The same scenario plays over in the adults' world, but under different circumstances.

The group of people who are in control, well-off and strong demean people who aren't, because, you know what? It's a method of control.

A lot of the people who are struggling to pay their bills, rely on government benefits, are fat, are ill - whatever - keep out of the public's eye and keep quiet. If they speak up, it's very easy for an adult bully to attack them, sometimes in very polite words, saying that it's their own fault for being fat, or ill, or struggling to pay their bills, or relying on government benefits - whatever. Saying that they should work harder, eat better, exercise more.

It's easy for someone who is already successful to speak up; and hard for someone who isn't.

And continuing to keep it that way is the method of control by the group who are already in control, and are already benefitting from the system.

Saying to someone that they don't have a right to complain because they're x, y or z - that they should've done better - is a form of adult bullying. It's the same as the child bully is school who says to another child, "haha, you're such a sissy for telling the teacher", a plea for protection.

Don't speak up, because if you do - I get in trouble.

I keep on seeing people who are doing well loudly standing up for their rights, and people who aren't either quietly working hard to also get there, or just being quiet. But the key word here is, quiet.

I'd like to see more people who are struggling to speak up, and know that whatever situation they're in, it's never entirely their fault. Almost nothing ever is!

I feel a sense of nausea and sometimes almost a need to go vomit when I hear interviews and audio clips from a certain group of people in the United States. I think most of you know what I'm talking about.

The way I see it, that underlying cause of adulthood bullying is the same need for control, and fear of losing it; the plea for protection for people to be quiet, and not stand in the way. They bully, because they want victims to stand out of their way and let them keep bullying, and to remain in control.

I can't change the entire world to my liking, but I can continue having discussions with my own children about the importance of speaking up, and telling teachers, and telling adults.

A 5-year-old can say stupid things to another one, but they're going to learn through me, and through my children that there are consequences. And hopefully, when such consequences come in gentle ways so early in their life, they are going to gradually, gently learn that this is not how we do things around here.

The little chatterbox

And do you remember this other little chatterbox two years ago? ;)

Still working on it

Sorry, I've got some hard language coming up but...

oh my f*cking god I am still doing it!

STILL doing schoolwork. From bloody last term! And it's already new term. It's new term, The Kid is back to school, I am back to school, and I am STILL TRYING TO CATCH UP ON SCHOOLWORK FROM LAST TERM!!!


I was swearing at the assignment of fibre cement, even writing a foreword for my teacher, saying that “fibre” part of fibre cement can mean a wide, wide, wide variety of materials. It can be cellulose, carbon, kevlar, polypropylene, polyvinyl alcohol, polyacrylnitril, ceramic, glass etc. They all act differently, and yet I am tasked with writing an assignment on fibre cement in general.

With clay bricks it was easier, but I was tired, so it took me 4 evenings, about 1.5 hours each.

Now I did an assignment on sealants and I kid you not, I spent about half the time tracking down photos of the f*ckin' failures! Because I could write it up neatly what sealants do when applied in too much heat, or how silicone won't bind with silicone, or how sealant can chalk when organic compounds leech out over time - but I nearly pulled at my hair trying to find photos of what those situations look like. (A compulsory requirement.)

And, bang!, that was 2 weeks of school holidays gone. 2 weeks, about 10 evenings worth of sitting behind a computer, typing, and I did three assignments.

Which means I have one more left.






Life according to The Girlie

If you have two dresses you like and you don't know which one to choose, put on both, over the top of each other.

Now we're thinking!

I am sure it was audible, me pulling into the parking lot of our supermarket in the car.

The only question is, which part: whether it was 'Why Georgia' blaring on the speakers or me singing out loud.


Things I like about Moana

I like that Moana is the first full-feature animation - that I can think of - that includes and presents Polynesian culture not as a token gesture but in a way that looks like a real, honest effort at creating a great movie.

And I think it is - a great movie.

I like that characters have believable proportions. Women actually seem to have space for ribs in their chests!

I like that songs are partially-translated to English, both for giving me an insight into what they're about - I can understand English - and for keeping some of the lyrics in the original language, Tokelauan I think, to give the story its setting.

I like that songs are catchy. My kids are now going around, singing, "Aue, aue!"

I like that they got Jemaine Clement to play the crazy crab. (Flight of the Conchords, anyone?)

I like that the story is complex enough for me to be interested in, but follow-able enough that my kids can sit the whole way through, too.

And to sum it up, I just like it. I like the movie.

Villa versus bungalow

Man! I'm halfway into school holidays and still I am trying to catch up on schoolwork!

Another assignment, another evening.

Today I learned what the difference is between a 'villa' and a 'bungalow'.

For example, the house I am living in now (built in 1925) is a bungalow, but the house we were renting in Ness street (built in 1914) was a villa.

I learned that a 'villa' is basically a pre-World War I type of a residential building where a long hallway ran through the middle, and rooms would go off it. Rooms were not oriented with the sun, joinery was cold and drafty, ceilings high. This article gives a good overview.

Then, as life became less formal and buildings started to gradually make more 'sense' to the way we use them now (lower ceilings, indoor plumbing and sewage, orientation towards the sun, car access etc) bungalows appeared after World War I.

Our house, the one we are in now, is a pretty good example of a bungalow, actually. It's been modified over the years, yes - but it still has a lot of the features retained. And sure, we are still looking at a long time of work ahead of us, but... we'll get there.

It's got good bones :).

Minus the brown mould under the floor where there isn't enough clearance to put in either polyethylene nor insulation at the moment and we'll have to really work around to get it working well but... let's not go there, yeah? :)

Simple pleasures

Baking pancakes to the tune of Bonnie Raitt's 'Angel from Montgomery' on a Sunday morning.

If dreams were lightning thunder was desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago

Feels like a holiday, almost

She slept past seven o'clock. SHE SLEPT PAST SEVEN O'CLOCK!

My god, how wonderful it was to wake up and not see numbers on the clock starting with 4 or 5.

Smells like winter today :)


PS. Actually, as the day has got lighter, it's also become clearer that it's not, technically, snow we have down at sealevel. It's hail :). Snow's a little higher.

Estuary walk in the evening


It's relatively straightforward to tempt The Kid into doing things by offering rewards. Stickers, trips, cartoons, crackers. 

This morning, I got him to eat his buckwheat by saying he could do more stickers if he finishes it all. The Man remarked how he's very rewards-based.

I nod towards The Girlie: "So what's her system?"

The Man: "If she wants something, she'll get it."


Snow's coming

Bright blue skies today. The washing's on the line, the frost has melted - even in the shade.

But, it's just the high pressure ridge moving ahead of what will possibly be the biggest snowstorm of this year that will be arriving tomorrow.

Wednesday morning, there is probably going to be cold, muddy slush in my backyard. If lucky, there may even be snow.

And when the highways are cleared and the roads safer again, I am going to take my children higher upland to enjoy the snow which, in all likelihood, will settle for a good few days in a good, decent layer.

Because after all, a winter is to have built a snowman, and ridden down a slope on a surfboard, New Zealand style :)

Taking long to finish homework

The lecturer has already said to me that the way I am doing my assignments, I could actually get away with much, much less - not that I'd want to.

We've sometimes discussed with classmates how long it's taken anyone to do their homework. I am consistently up there: six, seven hours compared to someone's two or three. Pretty much every time it goes like this: I spend way more time on my homework than quite a few other people.

But... I read until I understand what texts say, and I edit until I am happy with what I've written.

Like now: I got given a schedule of quantities to buy - basically, a list of materials a house is made of, and I have to go calculate what it'll cost to get them all - and I got stuck on one 100 mm x 100 mm type of timber.

The assignment asked that I buy 7 metres of 100x100 timber for interior wall framing. It had to be Radiata Pine, treated to H1 level, but... the price list did not have such timber. It only had 100x100 treated to H4, way more than is necessary for wall framing, and it was rough sawn.

I did not want rough sawn. I wanted "nice" timber to frame the house with.

I thought to myself. Thought for a while.

Then I went and looked at what other people have done in their homework - we sometimes exchange our assignment sheets so that when we're stuck, we can try figuring out what to do by looking at what other people have done.

The other people have used rough sawn timber - exactly what I didn't want to do.

And now, although it deviates from my assignment (which was, to rely on the paperwork supplied), I wrote up a note for my teacher saying, look, they don't stock 100x100 H1 pine, but what I've done is this: for interior posts I've used instead two lots of 100x50 timber which, if connected up, are equivalent to one 100x100.

And, yeah, it's taken me longer to get there - and I probably would've passed even if I'd written down the price of that rough-sawn timber instead.

But the thing is: I wouldn't have learned as much.

Although I am one who usually takes the longest to finish homework, I am one of the first to finish any in-class tests.

And I think it's precisely because of that.

I sit and spend time at home, and then during tests, I don't have to any more.

Have you seen it?

The amount of sense this man can sometimes make...


And to those of you who now want to see the full version, here it is.



"I gotta get my barbie, eh."

"Daddy's my best friend, eh."

"It's nice and warm, eh."

"There's ice on the car, eh!"

She's a kiwi alright.

The Girlie, 3.


Also, if The Girlie says to you that you are a buffalo, please don't be offended - she means to say that you are beautiful.


Why don't they just get a remote?

Another law class.

We talk about the New Zealand parliament and the lecturer explains how, in order to vote, parliament members, literally, have to stand up from their seats and walk into a 'yes' room or a 'no' room for their vote to be counted. (The rooms aren't actually called 'yes' rooms and 'no' rooms, but for simplicity's sake, that's what I'll call them here.) (Because you'll probably laugh, but in reality the rooms are called 'Aye' and 'No'. Not joking!) Then doors are shut and someone counts how many people are in either room and that's how they know how many people voted for either side.

I raise my hand and ask the lecturer, why don't they just get some sort of a remote where they can push a button, boing!, and vote?

And the lecturer replies that honestly, he does not know. Tradition, probably.

I raise my hand again. But why? What's the reason behind sticking with tradition for just tradition's sake?

And we get into a discussion about traditions in general - not just in parliament, but in general.

He says, for example, that for years there has been a text ready for a New Zealand constitution - but it will not, in all likelihood, be brought in for many, many, many more years because sticking with tradition is easier than change.

Like, if someone did bring up a topic of a New Zealand constitution then Maoris would probably very quickly point out that they were the original settlers of the land - but then someone else would point out how, going by population size, there are now more Chinese in the country than there are Maoris; and on it would go, a very challenging, opinionated topic...

...so it's easier to just stick with what's now, and not change.

And so, to this day, New Zealand parliamentarians continue to stand up from their seats, hurriedly walk into a room before doors are shut, and let their heads to be counted, in order to vote.


PS. On another topic: we got a heat pump installed today!!! And on Friday we get underfloor insulation :). Yay!

How contract variations are processed

"Draw a flow diagram / chart showing how contract variations are generated and processed. Start with site query and end with the costed variation No VO 03 included in the progress claim."

Well... let's just hope I don't get points deducted for cheekiness ;)

PS. It should open in larger format if you click on it.

Working on formatting

When it takes an hour to figure out the numbers, but then another hour to figure out how to put those numbers on a paper - you know, in a way that makes sense to other people besides me, too.

Time and time again I am learning that it takes time to bloody format the thing. To sit there, play with the layout, then show it to The Man who goes, "What!?"

Then re-format again.


Then sit down with The Man again until, eventually, it becomes semi-understandable what I am trying to do on the paper.

Our teacher has said to us many times that as a quantity surveyor - unless we are working independently in a one-man company - it's important that we work in a way that makes it understandable to people around us. If we take a day off, ill, or go on a holiday - it has to be possible for another quantity surveyor to sit behind our desk and not have to mutter, wtf, as they look at our computer screen. Everything has to be 'follow-able' for people not familiar with the project.

And it takes time. And effort.

Not wanting to be a lawyer

Today I started attending a building law class.

By no means meant as an offense to the tutor, the class reminded me of why I didn't pursue my undergraduate law degree when I graduated 9 years ago...

I mean, we're a world away, in a different legal system, yet the lecture was... very much the same as what I remember most of them being in Estonia: dry, at times confusing, hippety-hopp from one legal concept to another.

It'll probably get better once we get into actual building law - at the moment we're covering basic topics such as rule of law, common law, history - but still, I'm glad I'm not doing it for, you know, a living.

Because if I did... Ehh.

Man I wouldn't want to be a lawyer.

PS. We got a delivery of swampwood (totara and rimu dug out of a swamp and dried) firewood.

The Kid looked at the pile and exclaimed, "Holy heck!" I said to him, like The Man had tried to teach him a day earlier, "Hey, maybe you could say golly gosh instead?" (Yeah, I know, it's a very... uhm... British saying, golly gosh, but The Man did it, so I was trying to show The Kid some consistency.)

The Kid frowned and replied, "Nah, that not good enough." And then looking at the pile again, "HOLY HECK!"

PPS. I just have to wait until The Girlie's gonna come out with expressions she's picked up from people around her. I'm gonna have a field day with her, I think!

The little one who follows in her parents' footsteps

We've jokingly said that The Girlie is building up a team of minions at preschool.

She's figured out that kids are quite eager to help at this age (she's in the room with 2-3 year olds) and so quite often when I come to pick her up, she'd give me a hug and then call out, "Harley, can you get me my bag please?" And little Harley toddles towards the cubby holes, picks up The Girlie's bag and brings it to us. "Thank you Harley!" The Girlie says loudly and with a big smile, "Thank you bringing my bag!"

And now today I looked at The Man and wondered if... I know where The Girlie gets it from ;)

We were getting ready to go shopping, the kids already had their shoes and hats on, and The Man was the only one still sorting out his clothes'n'things. As he was ruffling up his 'puffa vest' (duck down vest) he called out to The Girlie, "Can you get daddy his shoes please?" and off The Girlie went, picking up daddy's shoes and bringing them to him.

And I looked, and laughed, and said out loud that I think I know where The Girlie gets her habits from.

About an hour later as we were returning home, The Man flipped this argument back at me when The Girlie jumped into a puddle, fell over, and promptly made all her clothes wet. "I wonder who she gets that from?" The Man laughed and I had to agree.

I mean... she's like a tank, that girl. And from all I know, I used to be one, too.

I even said to a workmate yesterday afternoon that I have a feeling that for the next few years I am going to focus on keeping The Girlie alive for she has an amazing determination but not yet enough brains to back that up with.

That puddle-jumping-falling-over situation, for example: I said to The Man how, when I was 7, I stood on the side of a large hole city contractors had dug to repair the water mains - it was filled with water after heavy rains - and amused myself by pushing bits of mud into water and watching them float away and sink.

And one moment the muddy ground gave away underneath me and I, too, ended up in that hole, swimming, and then struggling to get out for the muddy sides were slippery. But I did get out, and then ran to my grandmother's house, soaked and muddy.

My grandmother rang my parents, who were at work, and then basically entertained me for the afternoon whilst I was wrapped in some of her clothes and in the evening when my parents had picked up some clean dry clothes for me from home, they picked me up, and took me home.

My parents' lives were filled with stories like that as I was growing up. Filled.

And now there she is, my beautiful daughter, so oh-so-amazingly bright and determined, but not yet filled with much common sense or much caution. She likes being challenged, and thrives on attention and, apart from when she's asleep, she's filled with drive to do things.

She's asking me when she can go to school, like The Kid. I say she has to wait two more years - she's 3. She puffs up and goes, "Bugger."

I know where she gets that from, too ;)

Photos of late

When it's been a long day...

The Kid got an award at school for "always doing his best with a smile on his face".

The school also organised a "fashion show" where kids showed off various costumes they'd made. The Kid used a garbage bag to make a rugby shirt :)

Continuing with the school topic: on Thursday we had a maths games night. Families and siblings got involved!

Meanwhile, at home they come up with contraptions to shoot wooden trains off tracks at great speeds.

And imagine the little one's joy when she realised she's now big enough to wear a tiger costume that used to be her brother's.

Holy heck that's cool

When The Girlie asks to hear Taylor Swift's "Shake it off" again, and I put it on Youtube, and then I click on the side column recommendation of this:


Like... wow.

I didn't get travel insurance. Instead, I got a credit card.

Maybe some of you read this and think, "Duh, Maria! We've known about this for a long time already! Can't believe you didn't know it worked like that."

And if you do, I suggest you don't read any further :)

But if you don't - the way I didn't, up until I started booking our European plane tickets this week - then read on. Knowing it may come in handy.

So: this week I went through the rigmarole of booking Christchurch-London-Christchurch plane tickets for our family of four. The undertaking was... massive.

I mean, seriously: I've booked a fair amount of flights during my years of being single or at least childless, and never did I think that doing it for a whole family would be so different.

One: we are travelling on two separate planes - The Man takes one kid, I take another.
Two: between us we have three different citizenships.
Three: both me and The Kid have a list of medical conditions which puts our travel and health insurances at a premium.
Four: we are going with an early, early, early bird fares to a point that some airlines haven't even RELEASED tickets to as far as we are booking them into (so the airline is basically giving us an option of buying tickets now and then, without charge, changing them to a later date once the later date is released).

But nevertheless: we've done it. This morning $6,734 left our bank account and we have, officially, booked tickets to go to Europe next year!

But there's a nifty little trick I learned in the process, and that is, namely, that some credit cards come with complimentary (international) travel insurance, which means that on this occasion we 1) did not get (separate) travel insurance and, instead, got a 2) credit card which will provide us with just that.

And it's cheaper.


It's been eight years since I've last had a credit card. I had one when I first came to New Zealand because it allowed me access to significant "emergency funds", but since I paid that off in 2010 I haven't had one.

Me and The Man don't use credit cards. We have an agreed-upon amount of money sitting in our bank account each day and whenever we manage to save above that amount, the excess gets squirreled away into a savings account. The upside is that savings account earns us interest - but downside is, whenever we have a large purchase looming we need to plan ahead and ask the bank to release funds from our savings account, because savings accounts have notice periods.

Which means that normally, we don't have enough money to just go and, you know, buy plane tickets to Europe!

Which is where the credit card comes into play.

Last week I noticed that Flight Centre was holding a sale for Christchurch-London-Christchurch tickets at $1,799. It's a... pretty good deal, especially given that it's a combination of Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand, both high-quality customer service airlines, with short layovers only in Auckland and then Shanghai.

But we didn't have money to just go and buy the tickets outright, and we didn't have time to wait.

So we looked into getting a credit card temporarily, so we could buy the tickets and then pay the credit card off again. I was on the phone to Kiwibank planning to get one of their low-fee cards when the man on the phone said that the most expensive one, what they call Airpoints Platinum comes with travel insurance and I was, like, "Wait, what? Comes with travel insurance? As in, for free?"


"Travel insurance. What kind?"

The man started explaining and at that point my two-hour back-to-back phone marathon with our bank, our insurance company and our travel company started, the result of which is that I now have plane tickets and insurance at a price that is better than if I'd gone for just travel insurance on its own.


The story is, basically, pretty simple. Every holder of a Kiwibank Airpoints Platinum credit card gets 40 days of travel insurance coverage for free and therefore the cost on our end was the annual fee of the credit card itself, $180.

Paying with a credit card did mean that we had to pay a 2% credit card fee (so the tickets cost us $6,734 instead of $6,602) but even with the $132 credit card fee the total was still cheaper than getting travel insurance on its own: $180+$132=$312 compared to $434 which was our independent travel insurance quote.

Flight Centre did caution me to check what the terms and conditions were exactly, because apparently there have been cases where "credit card insurance" kicks in only 3 days before departure and therefore, if one of us broke their leg and was hospitalised, unable to fly, we wouldn't be insured if it happened more than 3 days prior to departure.

But no - in our case all was well. The company who offers insurance through Kiwibank is Tower Insurance and their coverage kicks in from the moment I use the credit card, so buying the plane tickets started our insurance coverage. And it isn't some sort of a skinned back, "light" version of insurance, either - it's standard terms and conditions.

I then even spent an hour on the phone with Tower Insurance's medical team clearing the list of mine and The Kid's medical conditions. For $50 each, both me and The Kid are covered to the full extent, so that if something happens that is, say, connected to my epilepsy - I am still going to be covered. It's not excluded from the insurance contract.


And then the last thing, the credit card earns us Air New Zealand airpoints which we can put towards getting our plane tickets from Invercargill to Christchurch later in the year.

This $6,734 purchase, for example, earned us an equivalent of $90 that we can put towards Invercargill plane tickets. (In addition to the fact that our 'usual' bank card is already connected to airpoints so that buying groceries, for example, is also slowly earning us airpoints.)


And that is, basically, how we ended up getting a credit card instead of travel insurance.

PS. Did you know of this option previously?

Fits, doesn't it

The floor in the laundry room is uneven, which is why The Man has taken to referring to our washing machine as 'the loud jumping machine'.

It's happening

Wow this is labour-intensive...

I have spent two hours on the phone. It's like a spiderweb of contracts, terms and conditions: travel insurance, coverage, whether they're complimentary or not, payment fees, flight details, customs gates and layover timings, pre-existing medical conditions, credit card charges...

Jesus. Setting up travel for a family of four - between us we have three different citizenships! - and especially with me and The Kid having a list of medical conditions to be provided to insurers, it's, like...

Jesus. I have three different papers in front of me just to keep track of who wants what and when.

Let's just say it was way easier to travel when I was single and childless!

By next week I will probably know when we're coming to Europe for a visit. Fingers crossed!

Learning to draw: The Girlie and The Kid

The Girlie

The Kid


The Girlie

The Kid


When The Kid was 3 years old he went through this stage of doing really intricate colouring, like this:

Now The Girlie, also 3, is doing this:

PS. Look at these two, chillin' out at a playground.

Worth watching and listening

Yesterday I listened to Kim Hill's interview with Marcelo Rodriguez Ferrere and if you guys have access to the content (do you? Especially guys reading this from Estonia and Europe - have you got access to Kim Hill's interviews on Radio NZ National?), I suggest it.


Yesterday I watched How to Die in Oregon and... I recommend it. It's available for free on internet, try googling.

I've written before about the reasons I support legalising of euthanasia, and have followed closely the discussion surrounding the case of Lecretia Seales. I hope - and believe - that it'll be available to me when - and if - I ever need it.

I don't now, but if I ever do, I hope it'll be there; just like I hope that if people close to me are ever in the unfortunate position to have to need it, it'll be there for them.

It's about compassion and understanding.


PS. Air NZ has a sale on for Christchurch-London-Christchurch tickets at $1,799 NZD.

Looks like we're hunting down dates for next year.


Overheard at a swimming pool family change room cubicle

Dad to his son:

"Oy, mate! Come on, let's go. Stop playing with it. It'll grow on its own!"

- "Huh?"

- "It'll grow on its own. Come on!"


The problem with creating space when there's no space to create space

We're in a peculiar situation with our house renovation in that, although we have several spaces we would like - and are intending - to re-do, we are struggling to get them started due to lack of space to work in.

Here, let me explain.

We live in a 1925 brick house which, at the moment, has 3 bedrooms but the layout has slightly changed over the years, so it's not the original floorplan.

(Please note: it's an approximation and IT IS NOT TO SCALE! so I've, literally, just sketched it within two minutes just now.)

The main entrance is through the large hall in front of the house, between bedrooms 2 and 3; and the back door goes out the laundry room hallway in the back of the house.

A few photos to give you an idea of where things are: bed 1 is where me and The Man sleep.

Bed 2 is what kids share.

Bed 3 is our storage room...

...because the garage is in such a poor state that it, really, is not suitable for storing (expensive) tools in. (We do keep timber and a wheelbarrow and garden tools and such in the garage, but... it's more of a large shed at this stage, rather than a garage.)

And herein lies the problem.

Whilst we do have several (large) projects in mind to bring the house to comfortable, much-loved standard, at the moment we are struggling to get started due to a lack of space to work in, because we can't decide what we're gonna do first.

For example: the deck.

We want to add a deck in the back of the house to create an outdoor area we can use without having to don gumboots and jackets - a place where, when the sun is out, it's nice to just step out and have a cup of tea, or play puzzles. Part of it would be covered with clear plastic sheets on the roof and down the side because it would give me a place to hang up washing when it rains, and get it mostly dry before I bring it back in again - and besides, it's nice to have a place to sit outside even when it rains.

Oh, and I should probably explain what these hand-drawn sketches are: when The Kid attends conductive education classes in the afternoons and I watch the boys have fun...

... I often sit down with a sketchbook and work on things. Mostly I sketch visuals of our house, because it's fun, but sometimes I sketch things just to advance my skills - it'll help me with schoolwork next year.

And so all these hand-drawn sketches I've scanned directly from that sketchbook.

Seeing it laid out on paper like that makes it easier to think about things, and discuss with The Man.

But back to the deck:

Although building a deck is a mostly outdoor project and a certain amount of rain/wind is part of the getting the job done, it really helps to have at least some of the work done undercover, if for nothing else then at least for storing the tools and cutting timber.

Because here, let me remind you:

The deck will go in the upper (inside) corner between living room and kitchen. But as it stands, there isn't a good place for working on it. Bedroom 3, our de facto storage room, is not practical because 1) it can't be used in the evening when the kids are in bed due to noise, 2) the garage can only be used if we take all the tools there when we start, and then bring everything back in when we finish, and 3) laundry hallway isn't big enough.

So it would really help to, first, build a toolshed in the yard (probably very similar to this) so that timber can be stored there, and some tools, and create a working space, but then the same problem: where to work on building a toolshed - a covered deck would be a good place, but we haven't got a deck ;)

(And before anyone asks: no, we do not want to spend money on buying a new garage.)

In the end, I think we are simply going to wait 2-3 months until days get longer again, and then we can hunt down a good patch of sunny weather and get the deck up within 3-4 evenings. Maybe ask if any of The Man's workmates will help us for a bit of extra cash.

And then once the deck is up, we can build a toolshed. And once the toolshed is up... OMG, the possibilities then!

Or here's another example: indoors, we are struggling to create storage space. There are several good places for building storage solutions, but all of them involve major demolition work - which cannot be done until bedroom 3, storage room, is empty.

Bedroom 1, our main bedroom has this beautiful large wall where we could make a row of built-in shelves, wardrobes, storage cupboards and drawers - designed precisely for what we want to store in them, and how we like storing them. (Imagine the place I could have for all our hiking gear!)

At the moment we have simply hung a metal rod for hanging clothes, and some timber slats above for shelving.

And yes, it's a real estate sign that's been covering the open fireplace for years now. Don't even ask...

But to do that, we would first have to take down the chimney stack: the house currently has 3 brick chimney stacks - one in each bedroom - which are all an earthquake hazard and need to come down to at least ceiling height. But if we take them down to ceiling height... why not take them down all the way? They're useless. We will never use them for anything, and they take up space.

But for that we need to empty the storage room so we have somewhere to move into whilst the demolition work is in progress.

Same with the kids' bedroom, bedroom 2: if we're going to do it, we need to move them out of there, and have somewhere to move them into.

Another thing with the kids' bedroom - and also the storage room, bedroom 3 - is that the wall covering is the original scrim. It's a fire hazard, and we're lucky enough that our insurance company was even willing to cover us, because that's the only reason we were even able to buy the house. (Most insurance companies won't cover scrim, and therefore houses with scrim walls don't sell to people who need a mortgage for them - they go to "cash buyers" who have money at the ready for them.)

When we start renovating, we need to strip the walls entirely, re-gib them and whilst we're at it, it makes sense lower the ceilings from their current 3.1 metre height (yay for 1920's buildings, huh!) to a more manageable 2.4 metres, or even 2.2 if we decide to really go for European standard thermal savings.

Because at the moment we are heating these massive spaces up under the ceiling that no human ever spends time in, unless they're 3 metres tall.

But for that, we need the storage room sorted first, so we can move kids somewhere during demolition and renovation.


And if I'm doing this beast of a house-renovation post anyway, how about I just go nuts and write more, huh?



At the moment it's, let's put it this way... un-impressive.

Behind it are a small hallway, a large laundry (with the original concrete sink!) and the toilet.

The original kitchen wall has been moved 1 metre towards the laundry to create space for fridge and storage shelves (which are so unfortunately placed I've already got one concussion from them due to top shelves overhanging the bottom ones)...

... and at the top of our to-do list is to get a functional cold water tap (notice that we still haven't got cold water there, and only have one hot water tap? It's because the house hasn't got a single water valve - apart from turning off the entire house on the street and then draining the hot water cylinder to even get access to repairing taps) and a range hood and new electrical wiring.

But the problem with those is, we kind of... don't want to spend money and time putting up a range hood and new wiring in places where they are at the moment, because the way they are at the moment, they're not practical. The whole kitchen needs to be moved in order to not have doors opening into it and taking out people standing in front of the sink washing dishes, and being able to cut something on the chopping board whilst someone else is stirring porridge on the stovetop...

Which brings me to this:

On the left is the current layout - on the right, what we've discussed with The Man.

New Zealand building code requires that between toilet and kitchen there are at least 2 doors, so just taking out the wall in the kitchen is not a legally practical solution - it would open a toilet directly into the kitchen, which is not good.

And that's why we've started discussing what we want to do with the kitchen down the line, because then we can see if we can maybe update the electrical wires in the current kitchen in a way that would make them practical for when we renovate it down the line.

Left: a couple of kitchen layouts I've 'played' with. (Bottom one is better.) Right: a couple of laundry room layouts I've 'played' with. (The bottom right is the best.)

Which would mean that the total floor plan would turn into something like this:

It's not an ideal solution. Far from it - there are no, what I think, 'ideal' solutions as such, in old houses.

But! It looks doable, and workable, and something we can do bit-by-bit, as time and finances allow, and what makes sense to us in a way that we use this house.

And although this house is far from something that would end up on Pinterest - I'm hoping it never will, to be honest - the bottom line is, we feel lucky and grateful and relieved to call it our home.

Rough-looking, it is nevertheless a much-cherished part of a family who are hard-working and handy, and although we know that buying a couple of cans of light-coloured paint and painting the walls would make the rooms instantly brighter and more likable, we don't want to deal with superficial questions of paint until we've tackled the underlying structural issues behind the walls.

One day the rooms will be lighter, and more beautiful, and more practical.

But for the moment, it'll do.

...though I'm still looking forward to getting something started, so we can then get other things started! :)

PS. Jesus, I've just spent two hours writing a blog post.

I think I'm nuts.