Wednesday, 14 December 2011


In the past few months, there have been a number of break-ins on our street.  Probably not forced entry, more “opportunists” checking for unlocked doors and windows in the middle of the night, and taking whatever they can carry on foot – probably teenagers, taking ipads and game consoles, televisions and the like.  This has made me change my attitude a little bit – but only a little.

You see, I have this mentality that if you don’t think something is going to happen to you, it won’t.  So I never live with a fear that someone is going to break into my house – I don’t really believe random acts of violence are a fear worth wasting too much energy on.    Well, I have started to check the doors are locked at night.  But I don’t lock my doors when I am home during the day, in fact, I leave every door wide open as much as possible, because I believe noone would enter and rob us / harm us in broad daylight.  

When you become a parent, I think your fears change.  It used to be things like.. spiders, creepy old men at the bar, or, hm.. I cant remember the things I used to be afraid of.  Then there was the set of fears I anticipated I would have once having a baby – things such as germs, dirt, unprotected ledges, stairs, small objects, bleach, and the like.  But now that I have Jack, I can lay claim to a plethora of new fears  - seemingly silly ones, perhaps - that have bombarded my conscience as Jacks Mother.

Naturally, the most substantial medical claims always burn themselves into my brain thus propelling my fears of seemingly harmless things.
For instance, the sun.  “3 significant sunburns in a lifetime is all it takes to increase your chance of skin cancer by 65%”  Or something along those lines.  But Jack needs the sun, and needs fresh air.  Put sunscreen on him.  Sunscreen!  That bottle of chemicals laden with cell-killing ingredients and free radicals!  Oh dear.   Even hours of extensive research on “best for baby” products doesn’t completely eliminate these fears. 

Crocs.  Yes – those seemingly harmless, yet hideous foot coverings that have become all the rage.  All you need to do is watch the youtube videos to see that croc+escalator = mangled childrens feet. 

Wheat.  To be or not to be Gluten free…. Well with latest claims from doctors that more than 95% of wheat worldwide is GM, how do I NOT feel a rising sense of panic when I buy a loaf of bread for Jack.

Sugar.  I’m not even going to go there, you all know. Be afraid.. be very afraid!

The colour red.  That is, in foods or candies.  Eek… in fact, most colours in foods can be blamed for some sort of behavioural issues in children.  This along with any additive or preservative.  Again, rising sense of panic at the supermarket.




Air fresheners.


The list goes on.  You get the idea.  Seemingly harmless things come under a new light once you have a child.  It can be exhausting.

So Nathan and I make the best decisions we can, given the information we have, in the circumstances we face, while trying not to be pedantic or unreasonable.  (Nathan is better at the latter than I). 

But one thing I don’t believe in being afraid of is “random acts of violence”.  Going back to the break-ins, I have had neighbours express concern that Jack and I spend all day with the doors open and the garage door up – open to anyone to come in.  My closest neighbour, a lady I am deeply fond of and who I share a mutual respect with, has said we should lock our doors while at home.  And I know people that do this.  But I simply can’t.  Maybe I have another underlying fear of being locked IN….. whatever it is, I will not live as a prisoner in my own house.  I will not live with a fear that something or someone bad could enter my house at any moment – thus prompting me to apply deadbolts and close my blinds.  I simply don’t believe this is an effective use of energy – to live with this sort of fear.  Sure, common sense should play a part – hence my diligence at locking doors at nighttime (although admittedly I never checked them before the break-ins started).  My loving neighbour said “what if someone took Jack”.  Well.  Once I informed them how much money he costs to run, how he runs in turbo-mode from morning until night – with batteries that never wear out, sort of like a cyclone leaving a disaster in his every wake -  and that he requires almost all of your attention almost all of the time, I’m certain they would reconsider their decision to steal him.  Half the time he’s covered in food / dirt and doesn’t smell very good, and spends a lot of time banging hard things against other hard things while chanting or just blatantly yelling – anyone that wasn’t his mother would see there are simply more appealing things to steal.

This wraps up my “fears” rant.  I suppose with time these will change; some may fade off my radar, and new ones will pop up.  I better not think about it too much and rather just take it all as it comes! 

In all fairness though, given my heightened sense of alertness all of the time – which I now know is a permanent state of being in my life as a parent – I wouldn’t trade it for the world.  Jack is worth every inkling of worry I will ever shed my energy on!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Aotearoa - A love affair

In Small town New Zealand, you probably…
Still have a fireplace to heat your home.  Call into the pub on a Friday arvo for a few pints after a weeks worth of honest hard work.  Know your postie’s name.  Know your neighbours.

In Small Town New Zealand, you’re likely to…
See the truckies and the farmers up at the break of dawn with their stubbie shorts and high-vis vests (even in the dead of winter).  See the stars at night, with no light and sound pollution to tarnish the serenity that comes with the brilliance of the constellations.  Leave your doors unlocked, to your house and your car.

In Small town NZ, you can generally count on…..
A local volunteer chapter of the NZ fire service and St. Johns Ambulance.  A local RSA.  A safe and trusted midwife, plunket and crèche who will be a part of the community that raises your children.  A bowls club, with immaculate greens and elderly folk in their white duds and sunhats.  A fish and chips shop.  A four square.  The bogans cruising the strip on a Friday night in their Holdens.

In Small Town NZ, you will never see…
“Midnight madness” sales at the town shops. A plethora of neon signs and a bombardment of advertising.  A traffic jam at rush hour.. unless a farmer is moving his stock.

Small town NZ may sometimes make your feet itch, but it always calls you back – always feels like home – even if you’re not a kiwi, as I have discovered.  The significance of these findings and observations is that the majority of NZ is made up of these “small towns”.  Just so many down-to-earth, honest, hard working people who generally work to live instead of living to work.  There isn’t a necessity to live excessively, and value is placed in things that money CAN’T buy.  Twizel. Roxburgh. Westport. Alexandra. Te Anau. Foxton. Taihape. The country is riddled with charming little places filled with people who give New Zealand its wonderful reputation.  This is why I keep coming back…. And why I consider it home - it holds a very big place in my heart.

Thank you New Zealand, for making me fall in love with you. There is a certain contentment that resides within me, knowing you are the place we call home and the place my child will be lucky enough to grow up in.  

In a few months we will have my Canadian family here for 3 weeks to attend our wedding and do a bit of touring around the country.  After years of living away, indifference can often be given a chance to flourish.  Common ground runs out, and familiarity can run dry between us and the ones we "once knew".  Leaving home can be hard when you feel like you are leaving people behind, and so a big part of me is thankful for this once-in-a-lifetime "reunion" we will have here in February, as it's going to allow for a sense of understanding as to why it is I keep coming back and want NZ to be my true home.  Its not just the beautiful scenery and picturesque countryside, but also the lifestyle, the lovely people and the not-so-fast-paced society. 

Selfishly, I want to be released of the guilt I carry for being able to find happiness on the opposite side of the world from my loved ones.  There's honesty if you ever did hear it.  So my excitement for my wedding is matched by my excitement for the opportunity for that release, and that it will happen in the name of Jack - his happiness and his future - and all that is promised to him here in this wonderful land of Aotearoa.

Saturday, 12 November 2011


Warning… if creepy crawlies give you the heebie geebies, this blog may not be for you.  But I know it will be tempting to read on – so don’t say I didn’t warn you!

We’ve been in Australia nearly 18 months now, and I must say its been enjoyable.  The best thing about Queensland is probably the climate.  We absolutely love the long warm days with clear blue skies which seem to be the norm for the majority of the year.  Do you know who else likes the climate?  Rodents, amphibians, reptiles and large bugs.  

You know, I don’t mind that we share our property with multiple lizards (one in the front garden, one in the back, and one that lives in a hole under the concrete pad for the clothes line).

A lizard under our picnic table at the Koala Sanctuary.. the ones in our garden are smaller than this..

The dozens of geckos that emerge when darkness falls, sticking to windows and the back porch ceiling, don’t bother me – I learned to adjust to that when I lived in Lao.  They are harmless.  So much so, in fact, that when one or two get in the house I can live harmoniously with them for days on end, and wait for them to find an open door to let themselves out instead of trying to chase them. 
I don’t mind the vivid green tree frogs – they are much more pleasant to come across than the giant, wart-covered, slimy, insanely stupid cane toads. 
Green Tree Frog
I also don’t mind the possum family that skitters across my back fence at night, illuminated by the moon and looking very rat-like with its thick long tail and beefy haunches.  Poor possums…. First time I saw them I swore up and down they were large rats (not my fault – they look very different to the New Zealand possum).  The gardener came around and laid rat poison on the fence for me…. After an informative visit to the Queensland Museum, I learned that there are rat-like possums here, oh and they are a protected species!  Ooops…

Anyway.  These are the critters who share our property all or some of the time, and that’s fine.  I’ll tell you who I DON’T like.  Firstly, the Huntsman spider. (see photo).  What a traumatizing experience it was to come face-to-face with one on the wall in the hallway when Jack was a brand new little bubba.  It was the size of a dinner plate with its leg span, and Nathan had a ten minute battle with it using a can of fly spray under the bed in the spare room.  I was scarred for weeks… everytime I got up in the middle of the night, my heart would stop with every shadow I spotted – or doorknob I sighted – and I would jump – thinking it was another monster spider.  I believe it is the same species Nathan’s cousin spotted on her baby’s face when she went in to check on him in his crib one night.  (she lives in Sydney).  She also had one drop from the visor in her car one day……. This is bound to happen to me sooner or later since we always leave the windows down in the car while its parked in the garage. 

The huntsman on its way to Jacks bedroom

Orb Web spider at our local 7Eleven
Apparently the Huntsman isn’t aggressive, but holy heck it is fast, and a spider that sprints at about 100km/h is going to make you scream just as much as one that lunges for you (like the trapdoor will do, apparently)…  The other very large spider we have seen a lot of is the Orb Web Spider (pictured below).  But they don’t move from their webs much – the biggest risk they pose is giving old people heart attacks when they walk into the web in the dark, and the spider consequently ends up in their hair or something.  I’m not old but I’m pretty sure that would send me into cardiac arrest, as well.
So I’m really not a fan of arachnids of any sort, but funnily enough I can’t bring myself to check my shoes before I slide my feet inside because somehow I feel the shock of sighting it would be worse than the alarm when it bit my toe to make its presence known.  Rediculous, I know…
Nathan has created an invisible barrier around our home with an effective spider spray – I haven’t seen a serious spider around here for months now, and all scars heal with time.  So I’m getting over the Huntsman experience.

I’ll now go on to tell you about the snake encounters we have had.  I haven’t had a literal “run-in” with a snake, however we have crossed paths.  The first one I ever saw was a Brown Snake that had been freshly run over by a car, just alongside the park I always go to with Jack.  The snake was not very big, and had a very small head, so I deduced that it was an insignificant sighting.  When I went home and googled the snake, I discovered it was probably one of the most venomous snakes you could come across here in Aussie.  Wonderful……….  Nathan told me last week that him and Jack had to stop in the park to let a Brown Snake cross… so that’s two in less than a year.  Two too many, thanks. 
The other snake we have sighted was the Carpet Python.  We have seen two of these, both in the same park.  (I’m contemplating changing the name from Minnippi Parklands to Minnippi Snakelands). 
Now a Carpet Python, in my opinion, is a great snake sighting cause it’s your classic, fat, slow-slithering, colourful, long, exotic looking snake.  I just wished I had a camera (however I have added a pic of a Carpet Python that I took at the Perth Zoo).  So these, along with a couple small snakes Nathan has had to pull out of the pool in our living complex, are the sum of our snake encounters.  The snakes don’t particularly scare me, not like spiders… maybe that’s why I leave my doors wide open all day long.  I might as well hang a sign that says “snakes enter here”… that might teach me a lesson and instill a healthy fear back into my bones. 

Carpet Python at Perth Zoo
But why be afraid of a chance of bad luck with a snake when there are far more useful ways to exert that energy?  We’ve been to the beach numerous times – I mean the ocean – where there are things like shark and jellyfish.  Hellloooooooo!   That’s worth worrying about.  Crikey, one time when we were in Mooloolaba for the weekend, we WITNESSED an evacuation due to a shark sighting.  There have been a handful, if not more, of reported shark attacks here in Australia just in the short time we have lived here.  Ocean?  What do I need to go in the ocean for?  I don’t have gills.  I don’t eat algae.  I’m not a crustacean.  The ocean is for LOOKING at, thanks very much.  Goodness me, there’s rip tides to worry about, and currents, and many, many things that bite.  I’m from a landlocked province so anyone should be able to understand my inability to fathom a desire to enter such a treacherous body of water.

So…I don’t like how I have to worry about Jack frolicking in the grass with no shoes on.  And I try not to think about what it would be like to walk into his room to see a giant spider on his wall or – God forbid – in his crib.  I’d be on the next plane out, I can assure you of that.
But, you know, aside from all of these heart-stopping-in-a-terrifyling-sort-of-way encounters, it would be nice if Jack had a memory of petting a kangaroo or holding a koala.  I would like him to be old enough to remember sighting a massive bat in the moonlight, and the famous Aussie crocs (at Steve Irwin Zoo – not in the wild).  I hope I can keep my wits about me once Jack gets a bit older so that I don’t instill a fear in him unnecessarily, yet there’s only a fine line between fear and wisdom when it comes to a child and animals…
Kangaroo outside a hotel we stayed at while driving across Australia

Living in Australia, the wildlife sightings are so different to what I was privileged enough to see growing up as a child in Canada.  I can’t help but wonder if Jack is ever going to get to see a big black bear, or a mighty timber wolf in the Canadian wild.  I can’t help but feel that he would be missing out if he doesn’t .  How awe-inspiring is it to see a moose with her cubs, a herd of deer, or a snowy owl in the great boreal forest.     Oh how I miss the Great White North at times…..

Alas, Jack will probably remember none of what we are experiencing here in Oz, nor is he likely to spend any length of time in North America as a child.  Soon we will be back in NZ, with nothin’ but Kiwiana goodness – sheep, sheep and more sheep.  No snakes, no deadly spiders, no cougars or crocs.  But hey…. At least he won’t have to wear shoes in the grass!!!  

Monday, 17 October 2011

Pimp My Ride... baby-style

So, I’m walking through the shopping mall with Jack the other day… yes, that’s right, Jack and I were walking side by side.  Or, rather, he was leading and I was just trying to keep up.  And I’m thinking about the past year – the first year of his life – and what a surprise its been in terms of baby transport.
You see, I like to keep on the minimalist side of things when it comes to parenting.  I don’t want Jack to have tons of stuff, and I don’t want to spend tons of money on him.  So when I was pregnant, we went out and bought this wonderful pram (sorry my Canadian readers – pram is stroller, and this is the term I use given I live in a country full of funny-speaking people).  The pram came with two different seats – a little capsule for when he was a tiny bub -  This was necessary for transferring him from car to pram without disturbing him from sleep.  Then when he grew out of that, there was a toddler seat.  This faces forward or backwards, reclines in three stages for baby’s sleeping or awake time comfort, and the pram itself is a Cadillac of a machine – both in terms of its size and its endless features.  The pram can also accommodate another seat – so it can eventually cart around 2 children.  This was one of the main selling points for me.  Its cost was something exorbitant – as we expected it would be – prams are just outrageous in both their cost and the wide range of bells and whistles they can offer. 
So, anyways.  We spend nearly $1000 for this shiny new set of wheels for our little cherub who will soon be making his grand entrance.  I had visions of using this pram on our daily outings, trucking it overseas for family holidays, and of watching Jack go through the stages of growing up with the pram – going to toddler seat and eventually the second seat to make room for his new little sibling we might have one day.
It is now roughly one year on from when Jack and I had our first outing in the Vista Cruiser.  (All of Jacks vehicles have names).  And today I had to blow the dust off it in the garage.  I hate that thing.

It is so big.  It is so hard to get through aisles in a shop – if not impossible.  The basket under the seat is not big enough to hold any reasonable amount of groceries, so when Jack was a wee baby I would have to push the pram, load up what groceries I could, and hang a basket on my arm as well to collect what I needed.  Nightmare. 

So I went to the frontpack.  Jack liked this, but it would put him straight to sleep so I had to be careful with our outings if I was working around nap times.  Jack never was small or light, so a frontpack also proved to be a strain on my back.

As soon as Jack was old enough to hold himself up, I had him propped up with blankets and a purpose-made cover for the shopping trolleys.  He LOVED sitting up in there, seeing all the people go by and being able to chatter away to me all the time as we cruised the supermarket aisles.  This is one of his more preferable modes of transport.  But there is more.

Theres the trike.  This is probably Jacks favourite.  With guards to stop him falling out, foot pegs to rest his legs, and a handle for Servant Mummy/Daddy to push him round, he thinks this is the greatest thing ever.  The trike goes everywhere.  Around the block, to the pond to feed the ducks, to the city for department store shopping.

We do have another little pushchair, which we purchased for my trip to Canada with Jack.  But Jack makes it clear to me that he doesn’t like prams much at all, and he would appreciate it if I would put him in something else.  Being the hopelessly spineless mother that I am, I hastily oblige.  Going through airports, Jack would be tucked up in the front of the luggage trolley as his pushchair lay folded amongst the suitcases. 

Then there’s the Blue Streak.  A plastic box secured onto a tray with 4 wheels (like a mechanics slider) with a handle attached, this was a DIY wagon type of device… on a cool evening, Jack likes being bundled in blankets and pushed up the road to meet his daddy coming off the bus before dinner. 

On his first birthday, he got a big John Deere wagon that fits all the children of the neighbourhood and then some.  When we left for our beach holiday in Noosa after Jacks birthday, I insisted Nathan put this massive wagon into our pocket-sized car so we could take it with us, as I was sure Jack would enjoy this most.  Nathan looked at the wagon, looked at the hatchback space, looked at me, and just shook his head. 
“It’ll fit!” I cried. 
“No, it wont” he calmly said.
 “Well take off the front axle and handle and it will fit”.
“Jesus.  You want me to bring the whole tool kit with us too?”
“Just a spanner and a screw driver, honey.  Come on, be a sport”
“Isn’t his little pushchair and his trike enough?”
“NO! He will LOVVVVVE the wagon. It will be perfect!”

The wagon did not fit.  Axle or no axle, Nathan dutifully demonstrated to me that the wagon was ginormous, and the car was not.  “ok.  I believe you now.  I just had to see for myself it wouldn’t fit.  You can pack the trike and pushchair now. Thank you.”
Pretty sure he was shooting daggers in the back of my head as I walked back into the house.

The point I am trying to make here is that I had the best of intentions before Jack was born, but it all gets thrown out the window once you have that little package of perfection staring at you with needing and loving eyes.  Minimalist my ass.  His Royal Highness requires more than the bare minimum, thank you very much!  A one year old shall have no less than 6 or 7 modes of transport at their disposal.  At this rate he will have a motorbike by the time hes 3, and a car when he’s 7.  And before all of that there will be scooters and bikes and pogo sticks and skateboards… God help me!!! 

I am curious to know if other mums are disappointed with the lack of use they got out of their fancy dancy prams which we thought were the be-all and end-all at the time of purchase……

So in closing, after 12 months of transport-transitioning, now Jack is walking  - and so as far as he’s concerned, he doesn’t need any type of carrier at all – he insists on using his own two feet to toddle about.  If only he would walk the way I want to go instead of running in the opposite direction…. Oh the joys. Bless him.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Keeping the spark alive... and winning 50 bucks

They say that mums and dads need to get out on a regular basis to keep the “spark” alive.  Let me tell you what this led to last Friday night.

Nana is in town visiting.  This is obviously a free-pass for a night out.  While we had planned on a movie, there was absolutely nothing playing, so we opted for some grown-up fun in the city.  I’m thinking, drinks and dessert at a nice restaurant, followed by a wander round the casino.

What to wear.  For Nathan, its easy.  He picks 1 of the 2 pairs of jeans he knows I will approve of, plus 1 of the only 2 shirts acceptable for the occasion.  For me, you would think it would be a bit more complicated.  It isn’t.  I take off my sweats that I was cooking dinner and doing Jacks “nighttime routine” in, and put back on the clothes I was wearing earlier in the day.  Going through the closet to pick something fresh and glitzy is out of the question as I feel I might need toothpicks to prop my eyes open, and wonder what on earth is going to make me come alive once we get into the city.  So with some black tights and a semi-long patterned tight dress/shirt thing, I thought I looked fine to head out.  Oh.. shoes…. Can I just wear my flip flops?  No… we’re going to the casino.  Has to be nice shoes.  Damn Brisbane and its high standard of dress code.  I pick a plain black lifted wedge that look like they belong to an old lady, but no one’s going to be checking me out given the sweater I am wearing over my whole outfit which can be described as nothing other than frumpy.  I don’t care. It’s cold outside.  Plus I’m having a good hair day.  That trumps my average outfit choice.

We’re driving to the city.  I rest my eyes and try to relax, knowing that Jack is asleep and in good hands with my mum.  I consider turning my phone off, which may stop me checking it for messages or missed calls every 3.5 minutes.  Who am I kidding….

After spending ten minutes going in circles, we find a car park and head up to street level, stepping out into the bustling Queen Street Mall.  So busy!!  What are all these people doing out??  Do they all have their mothers visiting as well, staying at home babysitting the sleeping children??!  Whats that?  Life before children?  I can’t recall such a time…. I miss Jack….

Nathan and I decide we are not hungry yet so we head for the casino, but not before ducking into some shops to gawk at the price of crocs, buy souvenirs for my dad,  and hunt out a pharmacy to take action on blister management – as I’m already starting to hobble in these effin shoes.  $10 for a box of band aids?! Are you kidding me!  These better last me a string of “going out” nights for years to come.

We get to the casino.  I head to the bar and order a martini, my only drink of choice these days.  There is an amazingly attractive blonde standing next to me.  Her legs are long and golden, her hair thick and shiny, her teeth white and glowing.  She is wearing a short skirt and a low cut top, revealing a rack I very much envied – I won’t lie.  There was a guy chatting her up, and she stood there looking bored and unimpressed that he would have the gall to approach her… and I just couldn’t help but think, “why else would you dress like that, if not to get hit on?  Hell, I am about to hit on you.  Come to the bar looking like me and you simply will not have this problem ma’am, I swear”.  Gone are my days of getting hit on at the bar, or spending hours to get ready for a big night out, or splurging on a new cute outfit to go dancing in!  Gone are the days of my youth!!  Why did we do that, anyways? Was it the thrill of meeting someone new??  The footloose, fancy-free feeling of being out with the girls??  The exhilliration of being “where its at” with the “in crowd”?  Listen to me, what an old nanna. 

As I sit by Nathan at the pokies, sipping my drink, wanting only to be his lady in waiting and not have to think about a lot, I know the gears are fiercely turning in his head as he tries to determine the inner workings of these money-eating machines.  We people-watch together, trying to guess the story of one person or another, especially the no-less-than-90 year old woman with a zimmer frame who is in the basement of the casino determinedly making her way to a slot machine.  She is asian, which isn’t that much of a surprise – I’m not sure why but there is an extraordinarily high percentage of asian people within the casino.  I don’t know, maybe this is a reflection on the percentage of Asians among the general population of Brisbane?  Surely not. 

The night goes on.   Nathan wins a bit of money.  I get bored and start to play the machines too, and then get bored of that and give my winnings to Nathan and meander back to the bar for Martini #3.. or was it 4?  Anyhow it was enough to make me want to start having small talk with strangers – which is what my dad does, to which I roll my eyes and accuse him of being old and weird.   

I get Nathan another beer – the wrong type, I realize when I get back to him – doh!!  If only women didn’t have such small brains.  Nevermind.
We leave the casino eventually, with more money than what we went in with, I will proudly add.  That’s my man!!  I knew he would beat the system.  Even if it was only $50 or so…..  Anyways my ambitions of a sophisticated cheese platter or decadent dessert accompanied by a liquered coffee have now faded to a hankering for 3 or 4 cheeseburgers from McDonalds.  We backtrack through Queen Street Mall, shoes in my handbag by now – thankfully, and I am reveling in my merry state of bliss as I sit with my favourite person, doing the most simple thing in the world, loving him as much and for all the same reasons as I did way back when.

And as we travel back into the suburbia that is home, I think, yes – I love him for all those reasons I did in the first place – but there is more now.  There’s the fact that he’s Jacks Daddy – and I think I love that more than anything.  And I don’t need to go out once a week and spend lots of money and get dolled up and be away from our happy little home in order to keep that love buzzing.  I love him THIS much each night when he walks in the door.  When we wake up in the morning.  When he walks out of Jacks room after giving him a bottle and putting him to bed.  I don’t believe an adults night out is a necessary way of keeping the romance……… however given the level of amusement (and unexpected wealth!) it brought about, I wouldn’t rule out doing it again…..             ;) 

Saturday, 1 October 2011

A thought about Rugby. Yes, I said Rugby.

I knew last night that I wanted to write a post about rugby, and coincidentally there has been a devastating announcement this morning concerning the All Blacks that only adds fuel to my fire.

You are now going to hear my opinion on something I know nothing about.  I don’t know the rules of rugby.  I don’t know what causes a penalty, I don’t really know what a conversion is, and don’t know when or why they scrum.  I don’t understand why the game often keeps going past the 80 min mark, and am not even sure what points are granted for a try or a kick or whatever.  Yet, somehow, the game is still important to me!  Let me tell you why.

As a Canadian raising a son who will be a kiwi, rugby is my new hockey.  I can see how the shining stars of the All Blacks are such important role models for our sons and daughters.  I think the All Blacks are even more significant to NZ than hockey teams are to Canada, though, because its such a small country to be having such a tremendous impact in the global sporting community  – they are world champions without a doubt in the game of rugby.  And, really, its hardly a game but more like a religion to the majority of the population.  The mood of the media and social network populace fluctuates in direct proportion with the ups and downs of the beloved AB’s.  NZ, with their modest population of 4 million, are given a certain amount of respect and regard due to the status of their famed rugby team.  Its something that helps a tiny but wonderful place get showcased to the rest of the world.  It puts them on the map.  On one hand, NZ is a gem that might be best left undiscovered by the masses, but on the other hand they rely on the influx of international tourists to keep the economy afloat.  Amazingly, the AB’s play a big role in this.  They are invaluable.

The All Blacks, for those that don’t know, are a force.  They are more than a physical unit made up of blood, sweat, muscle and grit – they will move you.  The passion with which they play the game is enthralling.  I’m not one for promoting idolization, but it wouldn’t worry me in the least if Jack grew up wanting to “be an All Black” – what that institution inspires into young people is comparable to almost nothing else. 

The rugby that I speak of is a rugby that involves Carter and McCaw.  I’m very new on the scene in regards to historic figures and monumental moments – and I know the game has changed since “back then”.  Yet I have nothing to compare it to, and can only judge by the impact they have in the here and now.  Yes, the game tends to get marred by salaries and egos and endorsement contracts etc, but all that aside I think they play for the right reasons and this shines through.  In the light of the media, the perceptions of Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are unflawed and unrivaled.  They never step out of line, are extremely diplomatic, level headed and fair.  They stay cool and calm in tense situations, and what you can see in their eyes – the determination and raw desire – is enough to send a shiver down your spine.  As the Rugby World Cup plays on, I am learning more about other players and also about tactic and game endurance.. but I have a long way to go.
Jack will have a lot of rugby influence in his world growing up as a kiwi kid.  He will play it at school.  He will learn the haka.  He has two uncles and a grandfather that payed serious rugby – in fact one of his uncles still currently plays for a team in England.  He has a gleaming reputation as a good kiwi bloke, no doubt, and will be loved for his ties to the homeland of the All Blacks.  That’s the thing about kiwi guys going abroad to play rugby – they have had that advantage of growing up in a nation where so much funding and focus is pumped into a single sport so they are almost guaranteed to excel in the game on an international level.
We watch the games religiously at home here in Australia on the telly. I have an appreciation for the importance of the All Blacks’ win in any game, as I see it as a morale boost for the whole of the country, thus being a result for the greater good.  And Nathan is able to watch the game and intricately scrutinize plays and tactics, thus making him more of a realist than me, which will be good for Jack rather than just my influence of blind hope for a big win.

Now, do I want Jack to play rugby?  I don’t want to watch him get tackled on a field.  I don’t want him getting concussions, torn ligaments, fractures and cauliflower ears.  I don’t want him to develop a huge ego, or leave me to go play rugby somewhere else (GOD FORBID)…. So, no, I don’t particularly want Jack to play.  I would rather he pursue, say, chess. Or perhaps even swimming.  Anything non-contact, thank you!!  But as I said before…. If Jack looks up to athletes with an amazing work ethic, determination and perseverance, I can’t complain too much.  If there’s one thing that’s attached to the stigma of being an All Black, its that hard work and lots of practice pays off.  In fact, I wouldn't hesitate to use it as a form of bribery throughout Jack's childhood.  "All Blacks eat their wheetbix.  All Blacks eat their vegetables.  All Blacks do their homework on time.  All Blacks dont play too much nintendo." you get the picture.

So, as I write this blog, the All Blacks are currently playing Canada on a live tv broadcast.  Canada scored the first points, and this only mildly amused me – I still have full faith in the All Blacks even though they have lost their two most valuable players for this match – Carter and McCaw, and Carter is actually out for the remainder of the RWC.  The mood in NZ at the moment is tense.  We are all the way in Australia and it’s affecting us.  Admittedly, I felt on-edge all morning while digesting this news about Carter, as I think it will break my heart if it negatively impacts the outcome for the team in this tournament.  The papers, Facebook and Twitter are plastered with nervous and panicked headlines and comments, with the odd hopeful optimist shining through.  I got in trouble on FB this morning for slating the All Blacks as Partial Blacks after the announcement of Carters injury – and rightfully so.  I should not have jumped on that negative bandwagon.  However the statement was a true reflection of the importance of that particular player to the team.  Hes not the whole team, but hes the single most important person, according to most people, including some retired rugby greats who were commenting on the issue.  But the team deserve more credit than this.  Shame on me.

So from here til the final, lets continue to support the All Blacks.  Do it for Dan.  Do it for Christchurch. Do it for NZ.  Do it for Jack.  (Cause everything revolves around Jack).  Just do it, guys, cause its more than just a game!!!!  It’s the livelihood of a nation, the expectation of the people, the hope of the fans, the yearning of the youth.  For so many reasons, they need this cup.  Lets put our faith where it belongs! GO AB’s.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Birthday Parties

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending my first children’s birthday party for one of Jacks little friends.  It was lovely – a day at the park with an easy BBQ, a couple of games for the kiddies, cake, and beer for mums and dads. 
Since Jack is having a birthday of his own in a few days – his first one – I figured I better make some observations about what was being organized.  I liked this party because the parents were well organized without going overboard or spreading themselves thin to throw an extravagant party, yet I realize the extravagance of a childs birthday party can fall anywhere on a wide spectrum of “easy” to “way over the top”.

Birthday parties can involve soo many excesses …. You have the cake.  The cupcakes.  The nibbles and snack foods.  The entertainment for children and parents.  The PARTY BAGS (big peeve of mine).  Venue hires.  Clowns and bouncy castles.  Oh my the list goes on and on! 
I’m no party pooper and I want my child to have a lovely birthday as much as the next parent, but it is just far too easy to cross that line and create way too much work for yourself!!  Its enough to make the cake in the days leading up to the party, and prepare food and activities.  And you want to tailor the theme / activities to the actual birthday boy/girl’s interests, sure.  But where do we draw the line?
I think that the more parties you attend, the more complicated it can become because parents have this ridiculous tendancy to “compete”…. Which not only puts undue stress on ourselves as parents, but it also increases the expectations of the children attending the parties.  At the last party I was at, a wee girl approached the birthday girl’s mother and asked for her party bag (loot bag) when the party was nearly finished.  The mother hadn’t arranged such things, and she is from England so I don’t know – maybe its not such a common thing there as it is here in Australia – but regardless, it was a clear sign to me that this childs “party expectations” have been set by birthday parties past, and in their little minds they might be inclined to ‘rate’ parties based on these formed expectations!
Really, when you have a dozen children all at varying ages playing together, its chaos.  I would like Jack to think it’s just an opportunity to play with his mates, have a good time, and have some cake.  Isn’t that enough for a young child?
For Jacks party, I know one thing: I want a “no presents” rule.  I don’t think it should be an expectation on other parents to spend money on a toy for your child just to attend said child’s birthday party.  I think it’s a crazy notion, actually.  I know that this is a hard thing to swallow because society has it so engrained into us that buying presents is necessary… but I don’t believe this to be true.  Children, for the most part, already have a toybox filled with a minimum of 183 toys (or numerous toyboxes).  How is one parent supposed to know what the birthday boy does or doesn’t already have??  How can you ensure you are going to spend $20 on something that the child will appreciate?  You can’t ensure that!!  And as children get older and the birthday guest list gets bigger and bigger, you just end up with mountains of presents which, in my mind, diminishes the value of each individual present. Less is more.
I’m not saying I don’t buy presents, but I can say that I don’t buy them very often!  I now often opt to make or bake something for the child who is having the birthday, as this has more meaning and often serves a purpose.  I cannot, for the life of me, buy something just for the sake of giving a present!!  It has to have meaning between me and the individual, or have a purpose it will serve for that person.
If a birthday rolls around and I haven’t come across or thought of such a thing, then the birthdayee gets no gift and only gets a card to know we are thinking of them.
This is not to say I (we) don’t appreciate gifts given to our child – but there is an underlying guilt in both me and Nathan that other people are parting with their hard earned money when they could be spending it on their own families.

Cards are another annoyance with Nathan and I.  Nathan thinks birthday cards are the biggest marketing scam since Diamonds, and especially loathes Hallmark.  (Poor Nathan... having his views and opinions aired and exploited on my blog against his will)....   I can agree with him – why do we spend up to $7 or even $10 on something that is going to be either thrown in the trash or shoved away in a closet somewhere after its been opened?? I still feel there is a need for cards, as you want to have a means to relay a happy birthday message (or any other message) and we are avid card-senders, but I cannot pay $5-$10 each for them!! 
When I first started working on my thrift policies (when we became a one-income household), I thought it would be a good time to start card making.  But HOLY cow… one or two trips through a craft shop and you see that this is actually not a thrifty way to do birthday cards. It can be an extremely pricey and time consuming hobby – one that I don’t feel is fair to pursue if I’m not making money of my “own”… but you CAN get bulk packs of cards which makes the cost of each card about $1 or less.  This has satisfied my card-sending needs for now, as its more about the message you are putting inside than what someone at Hallmark has pulled out of their arse.

So, this weekend, yes, I will bake a fancy cake for Jack.  And we will have a little party.  But I’m not doing party bags, and I may not even do activities, given the fact Jack won’t be playing them!  And we don’t want presents!  But I am picking that no matter what my principles are, as he gets older he will soon develop his own set of “birthday party” expectations laid upon him by outside influences, and I may be eating my words then, just to avoid disappointing him.  Ask me again when Jack is turning 6 what I think a birthday party should involve…. 

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

According to the gospel....

"But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God."
(1 Corinthians 11:3-16)

"Wives, be obedient to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them."
 (Colossians 3:18)

So, way back in my first blog when I was wondering who, if anyone, is “right” on the matter of gender roles, well my question is sort of answered:  I am wrong, and my whole generation is wrong!  And we shall all be damned for our betrayal of The Written Word.
Or something like that.
Given that Christianity is the cornerstone of Western Civilization and all that it has become, the bits of scripture I have just quoted made me feel a sting of shock when I stumbled upon them.  Have I been doing wrong by the Lord??  Does he expect all women to be submissive and subject to their husbands rule?  Or has the message been misconstrued over time to impart a message that suited maybe a specific church or certain men in rule *cough* Vatican *cough*….
It is irrelevant that you as a reader may or may not believe in the bible, or God, or Jesus – and it is irrelevant that I certainly do believe in such things.  What matters here is the fact that the hold that the Catholic Church had on civilization in the height of the papal reign has shaped our judicial and legal system, our governments, and society’s expectations. I would go as far as to say that conservatism is rooted in the bible and what it deems right and wrong.  Obviously the bible has less relevance to everyday life now than ever before in history, but its only been a few short decades since the conservative attitude was the norm and the fear of God was what kept people from straying too far from what was expected of them.

“And the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.  And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.”  
(Genesis 2:22)

“…and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” 
(Genesis 3:16)

Well its all very clear now isn’t it!  Know your role, women.  And don’t speak out in church.  And do not do mens work.  And keep your hair long.  And the list goes on…. My oh my how far we have come.

Its been so long since I studied the bible, and probably the first time I am doing so with any real interest.  I’ve determined that if you go to a Catholic School and take religion class, they steer clear of any controversial topics or scripture that may give students reason to dismiss the authority of the bible (speaking from my own experience) and I think it was used more as a tool to teach right and wrong and preach the popular parables without delving seriously into depiction of specific scripture and its relevance to our daily lives. 

Soooo… where am I going with this…. Well upon rediscovering the written word, it has only reconfirmed my perception that gender equality is never achievable.  Men and women were not created equal so how could we ever reach equality?  Men were made bigger, stronger, faster – whether you believe in evolution or Divine Creation, this is true.  Women were smaller, weaker, oh – and according to a library book I am reading at the moment Australia’s Greatest Women, it was not so long ago that it was thought women actually had smaller brains thus were inferior to men.  Laughable now, I know, since academically men and women can be equal – but on so many other fronts we cannot.  Why do we even want to be equal, anyways??  Shouldn’t we be celebrating our differences and the fact that they compliment one another perfectly to contribute to the blossom that is life and humankind?

I don’t know if this is a relevant tangent, but its just popped into my head so im going to talk about it.  Women and beauty.  I think its fair to say that beautiful women generally have an easier go at most things.  We grow our daughters and teach them to be humble and abstain from vanity, but for thousands and thousands of years the beauty of women has been celebrated and, in some eras, (greek, pagan) women were worshipped for their beauty, intrigue and allure.  On one hand, I don’t condone focusing on looks over smarts, but on the other hand why not celebrate what you are blessed with – it is one of the many tools of survival given to us by mother nature, after all!

So, another inconclusive blog by Yours Truly.  The more I let this gender issue roll round inside my head, the more I am inclined to be grateful I have a son – it seems so much less complicated !!!!!  If I have a girl in the future the poor thing may be bombarded with mixed messages of Old Testament scripture, extreme feminism, and contemporary ideologies of human rights.  Oh, but I suppose if I just seek out the opinion of the Head of the Household, the one with the brains, he will have all the answers!!!  Goodness, silly me, worrying my little head with all these complicated issues when I am merely a woman!   ;)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Going back to work

Going back to work....
It’s not an easy decision to make.  As a recent convert, I can honestly say that I grapple with the ethical side of it all.  A part of me feels obliged to return to the HV industry.  Why should a company invest so much in my training, safety and career growth only for me to up and leave once I have a baby?  I feel as if I have betrayed ABB by using them for my fulfilled sense of livelihood and not giving them a good return on their investment.  I naively persisted and bartered my way into projects, overtime, training courses and work experience opportunities, all the while telling myself and my manager that I was worth the investment – I would grow to be a valuable resource for them.  But it hasn’t eventuated that way!!  I have left the industry, and who knows if I will ever return to service what I see as the fair terms of an employer-trainee agreement?  I wanted to be trained for maintenance switching, fiber-optic terminations, licensed to drive a truck and operate a hiab, trained especially to work on SF6 insulated switchgear, you name it…. Every little niche corner my division was involved in, I wanted in on.  And now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom being able to guiltlessly dedicate that much time to a career – not in the foreseeable future anyways.  So it’s a bit of a moral dilemma in that sense.
So with the liberties and the laws of equality come a sense of conviction and a whole lot of responsibility.
Companies are expected not to discriminate between men and women.  They are expected to offer equal pay, equal opportunities and rights.  To hold back on promoting someone based on their gender would be grounds for a lawsuit these days.  Well now I am beginning to question the fairness of this….. wouldn’t any wise employer or corporation be hesitant to invest in a resource, if said resource happens to be a woman who is in her late 20’s or early 30s and just settling in with a new partner etc?  Because the costs associated with losing a trained member of staff can really add up.  That’s money down the drain.  Then you have to fill their role, often times temporarily, train that person, pay out maternity pay, and then the mother may choose to never come back (which is what I am contemplating now).  And if she does come back, is she going to be able to be as committed as she was before?  Most certainly not.
See, nothing matters to me now as much as Jack and Nathan.  If I had to work, I wouldn’t want a speck of overtime.  I couldn’t go away on jobs overnight or be sent away for weeks on end for project work.  I wouldn’t want to use my extra family time to do any training or upskilling.  So as far as ABB would be concerned, I am pretty much useless to them! 
People ask me if I plan to go back to work when Jack gets older…. But the reality is that if I ever do go back to the HV industry, it wouldn’t be until I’ve had ALL of my children.  (This is an ongoing debate in my house- I used to want 4, Nathan wants 2, so I say 3 is a good compromise.  Nathan still just wants 2.  Apparently its not open for compromising.  You can all start praying that my next pregnancy will be twins… thanks). 
It wouldn’t be fair for ABB (or whoever) for me to come back between children – they would have to continue to train and upskill me, then pay me maternity leave and deal with having a lost resource while I was away.  (Not to mention it doesn’t fit our plan for having a stay at home parent).  So by the time I have 2 (3) children and they are all of an age they are older and getting independent, we’re looking at ..what…15 years? If I have a third child in 5 years time and he is 10 when I go back to work?  Whoa.  I’ll be an old lady!  Whos going to have an inexperienced old mum come back to the workforce then!!!  Not happening. 
So now we get into that whole issue of mums who lose confidence when they are out of the workforce for a long time while raising children.  It becomes DEcentive for mums to stay at home for too long because they will no longer be eligible for their jobs once young people come through who have more time and energy on their hands.  Clearly I am generalizing here, and there are many different scenarios out there, but I don’t think I’m wrong to say these are recognized issues for many trades and jobs and the mums who do them.
So I suppose a part of me feels as though I have let my mentors down.  And proved some people right.  However all was not wasted in my journeys because there were a couple, if not a handful or more, of women who were somehow positively influenced or inspired by what I did. Just quietly, I did feel a sense of pioneerism in what I was doing in NZ.  After all, I was the only woman doing my trade (as a high voltage electrical fitter) in the whole of the country.  I met less than a handful of other women that were tradespersons while I was apprenticing.  I went to some workshops and even did some speaking at women-only conferences – and was asked to speak at a girls high school  - while working in NZ.  That’s something, right?  But I still find myself wondering…. Have I taken more than I gave to the industry?  I can thank ABB for nearly 100% of my quality of life – then AND now – and I feel like I’m left owing them more of my time and energy.  I don’t want to rule out going back – because I know how much of a thrill I would get from being out there in the switchyards again.  So I don’t rule it out…. But wow is it ever a burden on my ethical conscience!  This blog is as inconclusive as my feelings on the subject….