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.