Exploring tuataras in Southland museum











On schools, and tests, and school-readiness

Reading Have I Failed My Kids? by Celeste from Jandals and Jet Planes spurred so many thoughts that I don't even know where to start. 

(By the way, I even got The Man to read the piece (so fierce was my need to discuss it with someone and see if they, too, think like me), which he did. I don't remember his exact words, but as soon as he was finished reading he said something along the lines of, "I don't even know what to say to this. Glad I don't live in America?")

To those of you that haven't read it yet - I suggest you do, because understanding what the heck I am going to go on about will be hard if you're not familiar with Celeste, and her twin tornadoes, and the tests her preschool conducted on her 4-year-olds. 

And, yes, it might be a bit of a "heavy read" for those of you that haven't got children yet, just like I phase out when people talk about superannuation or returns on overseas bonds - I'm just not ready to be interested in those topics yet - so I don't blame you if you're not going to go through to the end. 

But to me, this article, is spot-on. My children are 5 and 2, and I've spent a lot of time thinking about child development in the past two years.

A lot.

I'm not a child development expert, and I will never proclaim to be one - however, I am interested in figuring out how my kids' brains "work", and how my own brain "works", and finding a balance between it all. It involves a lot of looking around, basically, and eagerly sucking in information whenever I come across articles or people that make sense to me.

And this - this situation that Celeste described in her blog - is just, like... jesus to me. Like, I don't even know where to start. 

It's so far removed from so much I go by, both in terms of how I view my kids and child development in general, and roles schools play in a society, that it's hard to even start talking about it.

It is.

But I will, so bear with me, please.

***

When me and The Man sat down in a paediatrician's office a year and a half ago, and she talked us through some basic terminology of brain imaging, and of developmental milestones, the one message that has stuck with me the most was this:

The thing that will influence my children's development the most - even more so than a variety schooling options, or the quality of support networks, or anything else that, on its own, is an important factor in children's development - is maintaining our family's happiness.

I've come back to this message... hundreds of times. 

Literally, weekly, sometimes daily occurrence is that when I don't know what to do, I ask myself, "Maria, how will this affect our happiness?" and it helps me, to know that aiming towards happiness is a valid developmental argument. Keeping our lives in a situation where we are happy, ie we have passion towards what we do - makes it more likely that we will actually do those things that are beneficial to us, and continue doing them.

Kind of like in Christchurch, when I asked The Kid's physiotherapist why she kept making an effort to see us at playgrounds and parks and gyms, and teaching us to involve beneficial physical movements in our lives - rather than making us come to her office once a month where we would do "exercises", which is how I pictured physiotherapy before I actually got involved with it - she said, confidently and plainly, that exercises in physiotherapists' offices don't work. It's been shown through research now, she said, that unless people enjoy doing these exercises - and mostly, monthly exercises in physiotherapists' offices aren't fun - then after a few months people stop doing them, and that, effectively, negates the benefit of physiotherapy.

Which is why now, as an official approach, physiotherapists (at least within the Canterbury's District Health Board which Christchurch is part of) - physiotherapists come to where the families are, learn about their lives and then find ways of involving physiotherapy in those lives.

Physiotherapists go to see children, not the other way around.

Something similar happened last week when a representative from a company called Manawanui (they manage support networks for people with disabilities in New Zealand) explained to me that in the past, the government would allocate disabled people set hours for cleaning the house, showering help, transport etc and would then liaise with those disabled persons on whether that's enough, or they need something else, or more. Basically, the government would decide what sort of support a disabled person needed, and then only give that.

Now, they do it the other way around. They give the disabled person a set funding - for example, $200 a week, but it depends on the severity of each case - and it is up to the disabled person on how they are going to use it, and who they will employ to get the services they need. For example, here is a story of Amy Hogan on Manawanui's website.

Of course, there are limitations. The money is to be used for actual support like showering and cleaning the house and whatever - not on cigarettes or drugs or whatever - and the government reserves the right to audit the accounts at any time without prior notice.

But the bottom line is, they have found that by 1) giving the disabled people control over what kind of support they need the most, 2) who they will get it from and 3) control over actual payments, down to negotiations over how much their support staff are paid - it makes 1) people happier, 2) the care more effective and 3) saves the government money.

Yes, the representative from Manawanui explained to me - it costs less money to do it this way, the government has found. By relinquishing control over how, exactly, the money is spent, they save money and it makes the disabled people happier, and healthier.

Win-win.

I know I am going off on a tangent, but where I am trying to get to is this: more and more I am broadening this "maintaining of happiness" approach to not just my kids' lives, but our lives in general, understanding that happiness affects hell of a lot of stuff. Kind of like a few weeks ago, I was listening to a radio interview with a doctor who made a point of saying that, yes, of course obesity is bad for a person's health - but heck, so is depression; that people who are chronically unhappy are, in fact, showing health outcomes very similar to people who smoke a lot, and eat too much, and carry other serious health concerns.

He didn't say it, but I thought whilst listening to him talk, that here you go, another example on the importance of happiness.

Basically: happiness has become a valid hallmark of decisional excellence for me.

Which is why, when it comes to schooling, you'd understand why we've decided to do what we're doing with The Kid: start him at school this year, when we could've just as easily started him at school last year when he turned 5.

But he wasn't ready last year. I wasn't ready for him to go to school last year.

I have been impressed with New Zealand's approach to schooling when it has come to my children. Yes, there are plenty of things I am not a fan of in New Zealand's schools - the lack of food provided by the school being at the very top! - but, the cornerstone of New Zealand's schooling the way I see it, is inclusiveness and the freedom to choose. Rather than molding kids to fit the schools, they mold schools to fit the children.

Even in Invercargill, a relatively small town, there are a variety of schools that have their own agenda. As long as they stick to the New Zealand curriculum in full, schools and communities are free to organise the schools in a way they see fit, which is why there are schools for religious communities, correspondence schools for families who live too far from any schools to attend classes at all, homeschools, military schools... You name it, New Zealand's probably got it.

Yes, there are problems with this approach - but it also allows parents to send their children to schools they trust - which is a big thing when it comes to education. A very, very big thing.

Yes, several officials resisted my decision to enrol my son at school later than he was legally entitled for it, last year - but in the end, it was respected (due to the law being on my side) that it was my decision not to until I felt he was ready, which is now, and I've been happy with it. 

And I know, this is another very long tangent I am going off on, but... part of this "freedom" of schooling, the way I see it, is that although preschools in New Zealand do "grade" their students by compiling overviews of their skills, ie little Johnny's fine motors skills are evident through the use of kitchen tongs etc, they also consistently reiterate that children are different.

Children are different.
Children are different.
Children are different.

The preschools I've been involved with do, anyway.

They don't expect children to fit median developmental milestones across all areas of development because they understand that it is not possible.

Median is a median because it's a, well, median. Median is in the middle of a whole lotta statistical data.

And it's a part of New Zealand's school system that I am, vehemently, proud of. I feel so passionate about my understanding that people are different that when I see it displayed in a collective system such as education which, by the way, is not easy to manage, I am, like, amen! sort of, hands-down, on board with it.

Which is why reading Celeste's article on her 4-year-olds tested by an American preschool felt almost physically painful to me. She writes:

"We do loads of fun and educational learning in the home, mainly because that’s what the twin tornados ask for. “Mum can I do my lessons” (letter practice)? “Can we play ABCs” (where we line up their ABC cards)? “Mum, can we cut out our hearts for Valentine’s Day” (that they’d drawn on paper – fine motor skills)? “Can we use the playdough” (fine motor skills)? “Can we do jigsaw puzzles”? “Mum can we play Go Fish/Old Maid/Memory”? “Can I make a necklace” (threading beads onto string – fine motor skills)”. Our house is seriously filled with their toys, games and crafting projects.
Had I known that the way you hold a pencil and their life drawings would be part of the core test to determine their readiness to start school, you can be damn sure I would have been focusing more on these skills at home."

I have read Celeste's blog for a while and though I do not know her personally, from her blog I see a mother who is involved and interested in her children's health, happiness and development, and who displays strong intelligence through her writing. She is analytical towards her children's school-readiness and the fact that her children were barred from starting school due to not displaying the few particular skills they were tested for, reminds me of Estonian, what used to be called, "elite schools".

In the main cities of Estonia, about a dozen years ago - which is important, because it may have changed by now, I don't know - there was widespread public discussion over several "elite schools" which enrolled children according to results of their own enrolment exams, which, if you think that the children tested were mostly 6-year-olds, is comical.

And let's be clear here: these were not private schools. They were publicly funded, "regular" schools for all means except one: they didn't have set enrolment zones, which meant they took in children from all over town, which meant they were able to "cherry-pick" children from all over town, and that meant that they could get the brightest, most school-ready children they could get their hands on in any given year, and the result of that was that these schools were Estonia's top-performing schools, in terms of university entrances.

And the discussion that surrounded those schools was centered around the fairness of such a system. For one, it was pointed out that 6-year-olds have such a discrepancy in their development that being "ahead" or "behind" at age 6 had very little to do with projected development by the age 20. It was also discussed that knowing someone already in that school was giving people the benefit of figuring out what was going to be tested during entrance exams, and then preparing children as such. And then of course the fact that being a public "unzoned" school, why were they allowed to turn away children they saw as troubled, when all other schools were required to take them in? 

Celeste's post reminded me of it, because it reminded me of the nature of "entrance exams" which, by default, can only test a very limited portion of anyone's skills and knowledge, and have to make a decision of enrolment based on that limited information which, at age 4.5 like Celeste's twins are, is... comical, don't you think?

The only part I really didn't agree with in her writing was her fear of her kids being the eldest in the class.

I, myself, was the eldest child in class, and saw clear benefits to it. In the standardised results based system I was studying in - mid-90's Estonia - I found academical knowledge straightforward and school, in general, easy. I haven't got many hangups about sending my son to school being the eldest in his class and look more at his school-readiness in general, rather than age, though I also know that what and how he will be studying in 2017 New Zealand is very different to what I was studying in mid-90's Estonia.

Okay, sorry, gotta go: kids have woken from their naps and as such, my personal time for blogging is over :).

But before I go, here are two interesting articles to read:



George Lakoff is a professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California, and I've been reading his thoughts in an attempt to understand why - why? - Trump is doing what he's doing.

Worth a read, if you've got time.

Knockout sensation of the modern cartoon world

It's probably not unlike thousands of other kids around the world, but... check out the words on the fridge.



What movie, do you think, The Girlie loves?

;)

Anyone know of good flight deals?

If anyone knows of good flight deals from New Zealand to Europe (and back), please let me know!

New Zealand (preferrably Christchurch, but may be from Auckland) to London approx 14 December 2017.

From London to New Zealand approx 10 January 2018.

Two adults, two kids aged 3 and 6.

3:11 AM

It's like clockwork, almost - if The Man brings home a cold, then he will weather it out, mostly, by feeling flagged whereas I will get a sinus infection. A heavily blocked nose, basically.

As much as I don't like these nights, I also know that it won't last long, not being able to sleep. Tonight I was on and off sleeping 22:12-2:24 and since then I've been sitting at the kitchen table, dosing up on hot tea, paracetamol, decongestant, olbasoil, carmolis and a muffin - the latter because I just feel. so. crap. It's 3:11 AM now and soon, the sun will be up, as will the rest of my family - about three hours.

But the part that makes it inconvenient is that today is my first day at work. And I will go in, I will - but I will look like a million bucks with my bloodshot eyes, swollen glands and a puffing noise every time I breathe in or out.

I don't know why I get such heavy sinus colds. I have a few ideas.

But it's a pain in the, you know...

I just can't breathe. Not through my nose, anyway.

Almost there

It's that feeling of having the house buying process almost done. The mortgage is set up - the bank's said yes. The insurance is set up - they've said yes. Even the builders have said yes - the house is good to go. 

It's that feeling of, on one hand, starting to get a tingling feeling of wanting to share the news, to send a text message to a friend in Christchurch and say, "Hey, want to check out this house we're buying??" but, on the other hand, still not wanting to jinx it. At least three times I've opened up an e-mail to send to that friend in Christchurch, and three times I've closed it down, thinking, "Come on, Maria, wait for it to actually get to the end."

And guess what - in the last stages of paperwork when we are, literally, within days of signing the papers a property investor shows up who wants to buy the house outright, in cash. They don't want to deal with any mortgages or tests or whatever - they are offering the buyer a chunk of cash, ready to go, and I am thinking, oh no you don't.

Or, actually... it's more like, please, please don't.

Luckily, the real estate agent is on our side. And, luckily, we legally have another few days of protection whilst we are waiting on the council to release what they call a Land Information Memorandum so we can check that the house is all good on council records, too.

And I'm thinking, yeah, sure, house hunting is exciting, I know that.

But it's also a load of bollocks, and don't even get me started on the party I am going to throw inside my head when the papers are, finally, signed.

Have you read this?

An article I relate to in very many ways.

mosaicscience.com/story/iceland-prevent-teen-substance-abuse?utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=79720c9e11-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_01_18&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-79720c9e11-132097649 

Oh for f.....

In my head right now, I am swearing - but if you looked at me on the outside, you'd see that I am typing quickly on the computer and waiting to talk to a banking advisor on the phone.

This f*ckin' house buying process is a.... Grrrrrghsh!

Looking forward to it being over. Seriously, seriously looking forward to it being over.

#hanginthere

Still buying a house. One day :D

Offer number three. Here we go again.

Every next time there is less emotion and excitement, and more of just "let's hear back what they think and we'll go from there".

Last time I had it planned in my head where the hazelnut would be planted and who would sleep in what room. This time I'm, like, nah, I'm not even going there.

First I hear back from everyone involved and then we'll go from there.

"Daddy sing?" she asks and I reply, "No, definitely not daddy..."

New neighbours have moved in. They have an interest towards opera singing.

It's an uniquely quaint experience on a warm, clear day like today when their windows are wide open because I'll be standing in the kitchen mixing up a batch of muesli and in the background a young Asian man is singing classical music in Italian. I look out the window and there is his teacher, waving his arms around, conducting and guiding.

Definitely haven't experienced anything like this before :)

Nop, no go

Today two builders looked through 165 Bowmont street we were considering buying - you know, that house - and it's confirmed: we are not buying it. The internal wooden structure and piles are so rotten that the house doesn't, probably, even have more than 10 years left to live as it is now.

It's both a relief (it is finally confirmed and I am not sitting in house buying limbo-land!) and a nod to myself that, Maria, continue househunting. It is such a wonderful experience, isn't it, buying houses. Such a wonderful experience! 

;)

Mmmm...kay.

Two years ago we had the first set of leg casts for The Kid, and we've had more since. Once a year he wears them, on average.

Just like in Christchurch, Invercargill hospital put us on a waiting list and said it would be "sometime in the next four months" that we'd get them.

But then a phone rang this morning and they asked if we'd be up for doing it TOMORROW and I'm, like, huh?

Tomorrow.

Okay, tomorrow.

Jesus. Tomorrow.

Let's breathe in, breathe out, and think what's involved. You can do it, Maria, we've done this before.

Tomorrow.

Enough train track

I think we're at a point where I can safely say, we have enough train track.

Because look at that:










The kids are definitely pleased. (If I were a kid, I'd be, too!)

It'll do

These last two days I've learned about humility, mostly - but in addition to that, I've also learned about understanding and about having empathy towards people who made do with what they had.

...which is basically a very long-winded way of saying that, guys, let's talk about the house.

It's what my life, to a large extent, consists of at the moment: the house.

***

I can be a fairly stuck-up, judgemental person and I am well aware of that. The same mechanism that makes me exceptionally efficient at certain jobs - I am a stickler for correctness, like things well organised and long-lasting, and it will probably make me a great quantity surveyor one day - is the thing that can also make me a pain in the a$$ when it comes to dealing with people.

I know that.

It's taken me many years to learn how to balance that, and will take many more to come.

The reason I am writing about it is because I want to explain something to you.

Wednesday evening when it occurred to me that 1) I had made a mistake in assuming there was brick under the roughcast of a house we wanted to buy, and 2) even worse, there was likely old, possibly damaged weatherboard instead - my first reaction was to say, "Sh*t!" and then my second reaction was to say, "No, I'm not buying that." I was angry both at the fact that we had got so deep into the house-buying process due to my mistake and also because covering untreated weatherboard with roughcast, in my head, was an insanity.

(To those of you wanting to know what roughcast and weatherboard means, and why I was so angry at it, here is a short explanation.

Roughcast is basically a mixture of sand, cement and lime - think plaster - and it's used for coating outside walls of buildings to make them more weatherproof. Weatherboard is a New Zealand word for wooden siding.

Now, both roughcast and weatherboard, on their own, are entirely reasonable and common ways of enclosing buildings and if you live anywhere that has houses from a variety or architectural eras, chances are you've seen both.

However, what I have a problem with, is this: in the old times timber didn't used to be treated. Old houses were built of wood that was just... well, cut from trees and put into houses, and there was no treatment applied to protect the wood from insects, or rot. Not that they wouldn't have wanted to - the technology just wasn't available back then.

As houses aged and walls, floors and ceilings were becoming increasingly saggy and creaky due to damage from rot and insects, parts were taken out and replaced with new wood in a never-ending cycle of working against nature, so to speak, and I understand all that.

I do.

But what I didn't realise, was this.

Sometime around the 1950's New Zealand there was a temporary solution - or let's call it what it is, a fad - to extending houses' lifespans by applying roughcast to already weathered (ie, damaged) houses' weatherboards.

Here, pay attention, because this is the important bit: applying roughcast to already damaged weatherboards.

That's the bit that I find somewhat insane. It's one thing to build a house with wooden framing and cover it with roughcast straight away, and the same for building houses with weatherboard full stop - it's an acceptable solution. Always has been.

But it's a different story to build a house with weatherboard, let it live its life for 60 years and then, as it's starting to look like it's not going to last much longer because, look, wood rots as most living things do - to then cover it with roughcast.)

I stayed awake half the night, thinking about it. "What are we going to do?" I kept asking myself and kept re-playing a variety of different scenarios in my head which, by nature, is f*ckin' excellent at re-playing a variety of different scenarios until I either find a solution or go consider living in a cave for the rest of my life.

Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but... I am really good at thinking about stuff. Obsessive, some would say.

The thing is, letting go didn't feel like an entirely acceptable solution because letting go would've meant finding something else acceptable and at the moment, we haven't got anything. There are a few houses for sale, yes, but none of them have been as good of a fit as this one. They've either been 1) sitting so low in terms of elevation and right on the riverbank that flooding or liquefaction wise, not a good place to go, 2) terrifically overpriced, 3) terrifically bad quality, as in, not even worth it to us.

We also can't rent the house we're in for winter, so either way we would've needed to find another place to move to, and soon.

Half the night I spent awake thinking about it - partially due to my daughter continually waking up due to stormy weather and me not being able to fall back asleep every time after re-settling her - until at about 4 am I had something I thought would work.

Buy the place anyway, the voice in my head said.

But don't keep this one. (Ie, this house.)
Build another one, in the back of the section.

Because that's the thing: the land is a quarter-acre. (It's over 1000 square metres, to those of you not familiar with English standards.) It is, at least in theory, easily subdividable and even if not subdivided, could get a permission from the council to ball the current house and build a replacement away from the road towards the back of the land.

And before anyone suggests, why don't you just buy land and build a new house on it straight away?, then the answer is: we can't. We haven't got enough money to do that - but we do have enough to buy an old house now, and then slowly tinker on building something new, of our own, on the side.

Yes, it's not an ideal solution - but it'll do.

Just like 60 years ago when someone decided to cover an already 60-year-old wooden house with roughcast, they also probably thought, "It'll do."

They, too, probably knew that it wasn't an ideal solution. They, too, probably would've done something better had they access to more money and were able to work towards something that was better for everyone in the long run.

But they didn't, and neither do we.

We make do with what we have, and we work towards our goals within the constraints of our lives, which is why I said in the beginning of this post that in the last two days I have learned a lot about humility, and empathy.

I have thought hard about why would someone enclose (probably) damaged wood in roughcast, therefore making it exceptionally difficult for me to even assess how f*ckin' screwed up the timber in this house may be, and why my initial reaction was to call them bastards to enclose old timber in roughcast in the first place.

But in the end, it may just have to do, and for the moment I will lose myself for another hour reading through architectural drawings and reports I got hold of at the council today, and when The Girlie wakes up from her nap we will continue our day and one day, I will have my own house.

But it's not today yet.

Soon.

PS. As I am trawling through council records in search of solutions to what we're in at the moment, I am getting a real kick from reading stuff like this: handwritten notes and plans which explain what has been done to the house over the years, why, by whom.


A far cry from computer-run programs I'll be using this year to sketch house plans and run building expenses through Excel sheets.

A far cry.

Oh sh*t.

Sh*********** me.

Sh*t.
Sh*t.
Sh*t.

Sh*t.

I don't even know in which words to describe this feeling. Other than sh*t, of course.

I thought we were on the home stretch, I really did! Everything was stacking up. Mortgage was set up, insurance was set up, LIM was set - the only thing left to do was to get the place checked by a builder and then buy and move in.

But instead, I am contemplating a shocking realisation that... it's not brick under that roughcast.

It's weatherboard.

The bastards roughcasted over f*ckin' weatherboard.

Jesus. F*ckin. Christ.

Untreated timber inside roughcast.

***

No, I am not going to cry, but I do feel nauseous with the thought that we'll have to go through all this again.

Another house.
Another mortgage.
Another insurance.
Another LIM.
Another builder's report.

Weatherboard. They put roughcast over f*ckin weatherboard.

***

Bloody hell.

A LIM report

I don't think there will be many of you that will find this information interesting - but because I know that some of you will, then here it is.

A LIM report.

(Granted, it is a much shortened & edited version, for I am not that big of a fan of sharing everything about the house, but for the sake of showing what a LIM is, I think it'll do.)

So, a LIM report.

First of all, what is a LIM: LIM is an acronym for Land Information Memorandum and it is basically a document which shows everything a council has on record about any given property. To get access to a property's LIM, a person has to submit an application to the council in whose territory this property is located - you don't have to be the owner of the property, anyone can apply for it - and pay a fee. In our case we applied to the Invercargill City council and paid $250 so we could get access to the LIM of a house we want to buy.

LIM, depending on a property, can include very little or it can also include a lot. It shows:

* basic legal information, ie where it's located, who owns it, what's its legal status (it can be freehold in which case an owner has all the rights to it, or a lease on land in which case the person who owns the building is different from who owns the land etc), has it got any shared driveways or pipes with other properties etc
* rates (which is a New Zealand word for council tax) information: how much tax has to be paid each year, is there any tax owing etc
* land characteristics: is there any erosion, slippage, subsidence, hazardous contaminants etc on the land, how is it likely to respond to earthquakes (will there be liquefaction? What is soil like? etc), what are expected wind conditions like etc
* consents, notes, orders etc: have any resource consents or orders been issued (which would apply especially if someone was wanting to develop the property further and was wanting to know what has already been approved by the council) or have any significants consents been issued to surrounding properties (ie will there be a 2-storey garage built next door although currently there is a charming little cottage etc)
* works and services: maps and information as to where electrical, water and sewage lines run, and how deep, whether water is fluoridated etc
* building information: floor plan, basic architectural drawings of the house etc
* alcohol, health or noise licenses issued, both on the property itself and in its surrounding areas
* other relevant information deemed appropriate by the council, in our case for example how are regulations around wood burning ovens going to change etc

The LIM we got about our house was a 47-page PDF document, about 35 pages of which was actually about the house and land itself, and the rest was title pages, table of contents and other "general" stuff like that. About 10 pages were, I assume, doubled up due to someone's mistake.

It's quite heavy reading and to a person that has never read through legal paperwork or come across geotechnical maps, it can be quite a handful, though on the other hand it can be very fascinating, too.

A few sample pages (with identifying information crossed out, for obvious reasons):

Basic legal information

Land drawings

Seismic hazard amplification susceptibility of the whole region - how likely the soil is to amplify the movements of an earthquake, which, in a nutshell, soft gravely soils tend to do.

Seismic hazard liquefaction susceptibility - how likely the soil is to liquefy in the event of an earthquake (people of Christchurch would know! If you don't know what liquefaction is, google "liquefaction Christchurch" to see photos that will explain pretty darn well)

Standard air traffic approaches - I love the fact that most planes landing in Invercargill go STRAIGHT over the main children's playground in Queens park which both my children and I love. It's so cool to see planes so close overhead!

Built a long time ago the architectural drawings are impressive :)


Though most pages actually look like this.

Knock-knock

A knock on the door.

I stood up from the kitchen table and walked down the hallway. Even through frosted glass 5 metres away I could see it was a policeman knocking on the front door and my heart dropped.

Two policemen on my porch knocking on my house's front door, during daytime when I have neither my kids nor my husband with me.

Sh*t!

I started fumbling with the keys and luckily didn't have much time to ruminate over the fact that sometimes, when things go wrong, it's the policemen who come to front doors with news about it and instead, I opened the door, eyes wide, asking, "Hello, is everything okay?"

They looked at me and their faces went kind of confused and amused, which was good, because at least it meant they weren't starting by confirming my identity - because if they had, I would've pooped my pants thinking it was either my husband or my kids that something had happened to.

But no: instead they said they had a search warrant for this house and when those words had been said, we stood there, both them and I looking confused, and I was, like...

A search warrant?

It's a bizarre situation, isn't it.

***

They confirmed my address, several times, and then explained to me that yesterday a person in police's custody had pointed towards this house from the street - the white one, with the wooden porch - and had claimed that on the weekend a bunch of stolen goods had been dropped off here, so the police had got hold of a search warrant and were here to check.

And when they said that, I, too, started getting a somewhat amused look on my face.

I said to them that being a rental house it's probably had a lot of people live here in the past, and they said, no, it was just yesterday that it had been pointed to.

I said that, I don't know if it's relevant, but the people next door are quite interesting ;), at which point one of the officers smiled and the other one said that, yeah, he knows those people ;)

And, basically, I don't even know why I am writing about it in such detail, but, wow!, it was a bizarre experience to be part of!

***

I said to the officer who looked through the house that when I saw their uniform through the frosted glass of our front door, I thought, sh*t! That, don't take it personally, but it's rarely a good thing to see policemen at the front door and I was, like, holy hell when I was opening the door and they were standing there.

He was a really good sport about it.

But, man!, I feel like I need a good cup of tea right now.

9 January

The ninth of January - the day when, just as everyone has got used to summer holidays and figured out their groove for chilling out, doing not much of anything - the year's working life starts again.

The Man has gone back to work.
The kids have started preschool again.
The solicitor has returned to her office, so Maria is dealing with house buying paperwork.
The Ministry of Education are back up and running, so Maria can deal with their paperwork, too.

Only the shoe repairman is not back yet. Not a single note on his workshop's window, I guess he's out there somewhere, catching fish or hunting in the hills maybe, and enjoying what claims to be summer though looking at the weather, it could easily be autumn, or spring.

It's hardcore, this sudden return of... normal, I guess. Early morning alarm clocks, oatmeal porridge for breakfast, backpacks hanging by the door.

I really liked the summer holidays. Really, really liked them.

By about 25th of January we will have bought a house. 13th of February I start school. Mid-March we get to move in.

It's been an exciting year, and is an exciting year ahead still.

Welcome 2017!

Score!

Score! is the feeling of walking into a second-hand shop to stock up on pants for The Girlie (like most two-year-olds do, she wears through knees like it's nobody's business. The Kid did the same, so there aren't any pants left over from him either. In the opshop I get them for $3 a pair, score!) and then finding a mint condition Volcom jacket for $25. Though expensive by second-hand shop standards, $25 for a jacket like that is still a score!

...and then coming home and finding a $10 bill in one of its pockets.

Score!


PS. Why do I need another jacket?

Because I have found that I need a jacket big enough to wear a goose down vest underneath for warmth. #bloodysouthlandweather

And, yes, it's mid-january and about 12 degrees Celsius outside. Where the heck is summer, I don't know, but it ain't here!

What I'd do

When Younghouselove posted their beach house inspiration on their blog...


... I thought, should I do the same with our house? Try imagining what the rooms would look like?

But I feel like I... can't, really.

As much as I spend, probably, a third of each day thinking about "our house" and the things we'd do to it once we get it (which, by the way, is still moving along but slowly - yesterday I finally managed to apply for a LIM report from the council and next week a builder will come to inspect it top to bottom, so hopefully around 25th of January we'll actually be buying the thing), unlike Sherry and John of Younghouselove, the things I am thinking about are very different.

I think about weather tightness, and thermal mass.

The house is made of brick, so in terms of "storing" heat it will be better than wooden houses - what they call "weatherboard" around here, and are notoriously leaky unless they've been well insulated recently - but I still wonder about replacing windows, whether the walls would need insulating on the inside and how much difference it would actually make, about sun's path around the house and where should we house our children (given that the weather - if it does - usually clears about midday their windows should be facing North, but that puts their rooms away from the log burner which is in the back of the building).

I think about positive pressure ventilation and heat transfer systems. I know for sure that one of the first things we'll do to the house is installing ventilation and heat transfer: there will be a fan in the roof cavity that will take air from underneath the roof and "push" it into all rooms through a ceiling vent we'll install in each room, thereby making the rooms drier, windows less leaky (air pressure inside the house will be bigger than outside, so the air will always be "pushing" to the outside through gaps around windows) and the house easier to heat due to less humidity. Part of it will also "transfer" heat from around the log burner into bedrooms so the temperature will be more even in the house.

Given that modern systems are quite elaborate in terms of their software - they'll change the speed of ventilation depending on what the outside humidity is, what the air temperature is (if it's cold outside, they'll take in minimal amounts of air to not make the house colder than it needs to be, but when it's warm they'll increases the fan speed to "draw in" as much warmth as they can etc) - they're actually quite expensive to install. I mean, several thousand dollars kind of expensive.

However, the thing I am still wondering about is, will I want to invest in an extra solar "panel" that will be attached to ventilation, the likes of Solar Pro? (They have a gallery on their website if you're interested.) I haven't got enough technical information about the product to know if it's actually worth it but seeing the Southland weather I am not convinced that standard ventilation is the way forward...

I think about insulation. I wonder what the quality of the house's current insulation is, and if we decide to top it up (which we probably will), whether to do it ourselves or hire it out.

I think about lawnmowers -we'll have to buy one. Corded electric or petrol powered?

I think about decent thermal curtains and whether it'll be worth it sewing them myself.

Basically, an inspiration board the likes of Younghouselove is not even on the radar at the moment. I honestly have not thought about what I'd do with the rooms in terms of decoration and design.

I haven't even decided who will go in what room yet!

In addition to the fact that we haven't even bought the house yet :D

But if I had to - if someone told me that I absolutely had to sit down and "dream" about the things we'd do in the house - I'd probably do this.

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185491747681

Source: www.mrshappyhomemaker.com/diy-sandbox-with-fold-out-seats

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185490866727

Source: www.familyhandyman.com/workshop/storage/workshop-organization-tips/step-by-step

Source: i.imgur.com/K450krY.jpg

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185503484927

Source: legoexpress.tumblr.com/post/1128304131/indie-spirit-i-want-a-wall-like-this-in-my

Source: www.woohome.com/outdoor/16-fabulous-backyard-playhouses-sure-to-delight-your-kids

Source: www.ebay.com/itm/151183648562?rmvSB=true

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185498565627

Source: apaperaeroplane.tumblr.com/post/19677481589

Source: www.homedit.com/creative-striped-flooring-patterns

Source: cupofjo.com/2013/11/home-makeover-the-nursery

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185492739955

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185492750629

Source: nz.pinterest.com/pin/552676185492960275

Source: funkyjunkinteriors.blogspot.co.nz/2009/12/young-boys-retreat-bedroom-reveal.html

Source: www.apartmenttherapy.com/more-washi-tape-project-ideas-for-kids-185574

Source: www.nsmbl.nl/25-x-de-leukste-keukens

Wow, that was actually really therapeutic!