Tuesday, 29 December 2009

BA (Hons) Housewifery

How do you housewives out there rate your housewifery skills? When my mother was expertly running our house I barely noticed what an amazing job she was doing, raising two children while my dad was frequently away on business, holding down a full time job when we went to school and running the house all at the same time. I noticed in the sense that she was always there to pick us up and drop us off, I noticed that my brother and I always felt loved and happy and warm but I just assumed that running the house was something that everyone did to the same standard. Now I'm the housewife snd how differently I see the situation.

Housewifery is essentially an administrative job. There are additional skills needed which are too numerous to mention individually but are as wide ranging as being able to cook and negociate with either a six month old or an adult with equal tact. Some time ago after university I did a few adminstrative jobs and secretarial work. Little did I know how useful these skills would become. Not everyone relishes the role of running the household. I was on a plane a few years ago with a friend and her second baby. She is an impressive artist, runs a gallery and is fearfully intelligent. She told me she finds being a housewife extremely difficult and that the job does not come easily to her at all.

Being a housewife is rewarding in all sorts of ways and it is good to be your own boss. I love cooking and find it relaxing and fulfilling (which is lucky as I seem to spend an extraordinary time in the kitchen) but the rest of the work involved is so unchallenging mentally I sometimes wonder if I'll ever be able to properly engage my brain again for long periods of time or even if I can will what's left of it be useful in any kind of commercial capacity?. As with millions of Mums I'd like to work but am unwilling to allow someone else to bring up our children just so I can scratch my mental itch. In an ideal world I'd work 2 days a week doing an intense, mentally challenging, staggeringly well paid job 5 minutes walk from my house while my parents looked after the children. In the real world I'll wait until the twins are in some kind of regular childcare and try and get a job doing whatever is available at the time locally.

On a more entertaining note we have a friend staying with us from London. Last night he and I were talking about some of the people out there who he might be interested in romantically. I found his take on these matters highly amusing. I told him about a friend of our family who has a much younger girlfriend than him but that she is also pretty boring. "Ah, and there it is. You get youth but the pay off is dullness" he tells me. Another of his interesting 'pay off' theories is that of the women in his age range available for romance and fun (30's ish) the prettier ones tend to have a child in tow. I'm looking forward to more of these conversations with him over the next week or so.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Do bloggers take a 'holiday' from blogging on Christmas Day? As I am new on the scene I'm unaware of the etiquette. When I worked at Sporting Index in London there were quite a few furtive, whispered calls from blokes who had disappeared into the garden to call us on their mobiles in order to buy runs in some obscure cricket match taking place on the other side of the world. Clearly Christmas is no excuse for a holiday from a gambling addiction.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

What's Father Christmas up to?

The house is clean. Spotless in fact. The lovely lady who has transformed it from a grubby, dusty mess into a serene space of clean light was on holiday last week so it was particularly bad after two weeks of neglect. The morale boost of a tidy house to an irritable mother cannot be underestimated. Years ago I used to have a girl called Magda help me in London. Although she made the place look gorgeous there were always a few incidents. I came home early one day to find her spraying my perfume liberally over herself. I would often get phone calls asking for her from overseas. Magda also cleaned the house of a friend of mine. His girlfriend came home to find Magda fully reclined on his la-z-boy chair enjoying a chat with one of her Polish compatriots on his landline. I liked the girl but she clearly needed to re-evaluate where her professional boundaries lay.

It's Christmas eve and our house is full of excitement. We have been discussing Father Christmas and what we think he's probably up to right at this very minute, wondering whether the snow and ice in England will impede his reindeer of if they'll feel it's a 'home from home' and speed them up. This evening we will be having roast chicken for dinner then after the children have all gone to bed the husband and I will wrap up their presents, drink sherry and listen to Christmas carols. The weather forecast for tomorrow is clear blue skies which would be glorious. Our Christmas Day will be spent with the husband's family which is always fun. I will miss my family terribly but they are coming in 4 weeks on my birthday so there is plenty to look forward to with them.

Yo ho ho Merry Christmas to one and all love from Jenny Jane Rudd

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

a perfect, brand new baby

For the first year of the twins' little lives I held their first birthday up as some kind of summit towards which I was clawing myself. As the big day got closer I realised that it was fairly niaive hoping on that particular day the sun would shine out from behind the clouds, my three children would turn into cherubic routine lovers and everything would be rosy and shiny. Amazingly, it sort of has happened like that although not in quite the Enid Blyton illustrated fashion I had held in my brain. The babies can amuse themselves for long periods of time tooling round the house together, playing with toys and ransacking cupboards. The boy's language took an almighty leap forward while we were in England during September and October so he is easier to comminicate with although he does also find it easier to impart his extreme distaste in fairly colourful language so I suppose it's a double edged sword. Also the sun did, quite literally, come out. It's summer here in NZ and it is very easy to cart everyone off to the beach in the morning and have a massive run around and swim in the ocean which is a great way to start anyone's day.

Yesterday evening I took the twins down to see a friend on my road who has just had her third baby. As I walked down I thought about what it would be like to have a fourth baby in our little family. I love the idea of a big family with lots of noise and chaos. The husband is one of four and I am one of two. His family are very social and we always have fun all together. I have loved the closeness of being just my brother and I with our parents. There were always plenty of people to play with growing up (we went to boarding school from a young age and also had the benefit of living on a base as my father was in the Forces) and we went on some excellent, adventurous holidays. Now we are grown up we get to see lots of our parents as they only have to share their time between the two of us. When I saw the gorgeous little face of my friend's brand new, perfect little boy I must admit I felt great happiness for her and equally great gratitude for having completely the first year.

It definitely is easier now the babies are one. I am only cooking one meal in the evening, the children can all shower together, they can hold their own bottles of milk and are sleeping less frequently in the day and rather more importantly they slumber peacefully all night. As it gets easier am I going to forget how hard it is and wonder in a year or so if we should have another? I'm not sure. Other things have got easier too. The huge, hollow space inside where my homesickness likes to reside has reduced somewhat. The husband is paving his way to where he wants to be in his career having suddenly taken huge steps at work and I have some ideas of how to start easing my way back into the workforce whilst still looking after the children. As one friend said to me a while ago "why on earth would you consider having another when you have found it so hard?". Let's hope I can remember that in a year or two.

Monday, 21 December 2009

more west coast capers

After the show
Looking down at the band

Stevie Nicks you rock

Fellow funsters

A stroll into the park where Fleetwood Mac were playing

Looking up at the Wind Wand

Len Lye's Wind Wand

This weekend has rejuvenated my mind and and all the little molecules in my body have been filled with energy. The husband, two friends and I drove to New Plymouth on Friday to see Fleetwood Mac. What an opportunity to see one of the greatest bands of all time. New Plymouth is a farely remote town which sits further south than us on the west coast and is overshadowed by the beautiful, magnetic Mount Taranaki, the mountain after which the region is named. I was excited about going to a part of New Zealand I had never visited. What a fascinating town it is too. There has clearly been quite some investment in the town in recent years. Art Deco style buildings sit nestled in against newer, more industrial style constructions. There is a respect for art and creative thinking in the town which in turn leant it an intelligent, open minded feel. The New Zealand born artist Len Lye had an exhibition in the art gallery as well as an amazing sculpture situated right on the boardwalk on the sea front - the 'Wind Wand'. The tall, red wand bent whichever way the wind blew it and also reflected the force of the wind with its bowed stemn. We wondered if the bulbous end ever touched the ground in really violent weather.

On Friday evening we drank delicious champagne cocktails in the sunshine at the bar outside the museum, gazing out to sea past the wind wand. It was just after 5pm and I felt truly relaxed and grateful to be enjoying the company of my husband and our lovely friends. I managed to cast my thoughts eastward towards the twins' generous grandparents who were looking after them for the weekend and towards the husband's brother and our neighbours who were sharing care of the lad until Sunday. The thoughts were fleeting though as it is a rare day to be drinking champagne at 5pm.

Fleetwood Mac were mind blowing. What a deeply talented group of musicians. The real star of the show was Lyndsey Buckingham. A phenomenal guitarist and singer. We stood under a vast tree in the Brooklands Bowl and looked down towards the stage which was sitting on an island surrounded by a moat. A magical venue for music and even though there were a few drops of rain we were kept dry by our tree.

We spent all weekend laughing, chatting, marvelling at the cool town of New Plymouth and feeling happy. Usually these sorts of weekends leave you feeling exhausted but instead I feel excited about this week with Christmas at the end of it and pleased to be reunited with our chiddlers.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Tango in the Night

Yesterday was a great day. An old friend from my London days has been staying with us for a couple of nights so a nanny came and looked after the children for the afternoon and we went off to have lunch in the sunshine, a drink with some friends and walk up the Mount. What a glorious way to spend a few hours. The view is spectacular from the top and is a great way to reconnect with the place where we live. When we got back home at 6pm, the children were bathed, ready for bed and drinking milk, the house was clean and tidy and calm. I could have wept with gratitude. I could even smell cleaning products. It felt like the height of luxury to have had the entire afternoon off and come home to a house which was certainly in a much better state than when I left it.

Tomorrow the husband and I are disappearing off with two very close friends to Taranaki to see the mighty Fleetwood Mac. Two whole nights away listening to music and eating dinner. We are so excited. I have been singing along to Gold Dust Woman all day. Bring on the fun!

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Turf joy

You may remember, dear reader, that when I went to Raglan for the weekend the husband spent that time digging holes, building walls and dealing with concrete in our back garden. When we bought the house the garden was a fairly steep slope. Excellent for hurtling down on toy trucks but not much use for anything else. As I write this we are waiting for the delivery of turf to roll over our newly flattened garden. The excitement is palpable in our household. The boy has been in his element, making 'chocolate cake' out of the mud, sitting on the trampoline with his cousin and watching a digger shifted sand and soil into the big space below them. I am fantastizing about playing swing ball, badminton, camping in the garden. Hanging the washing out on it is probably a bit closer to reality though.

Our lovely friend Quinn (www.facebook.com/qophotography) took some photos of the our children and their cousins on Sunday. There were eight of them, aged 7, 5, 4, 3, 3, 1, 1 and 9 months. Can you imagine trying to get them all looking at the camera and staying relatively still? I don't know how he did it but he managed to get quite a few beautiful shots. Having an artistic eye is something I greatly admire in people. If I see something which looks worthy of having its photo taken I point the camera at it and press the button. It's so frustrating when you look at the result and realise that you have torn all beauty or interest out of the situation by taking a bland photo. A good photo can pick out the most subtle moods evoked in a scene and can make you feel something deep inside. Looking at the photos Quinn took of the children I could see all sorts of things which had previously escaped my notice, like similarities between some of the children or expressions I hadn't seen before and relationships between them. A clever, clever man you are Quinn. I love this one he took of my three from behind them. All absorbed in their own worlds but very much together as a little clan. The very definition of being in a family.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Ambitious New Zealanders

On Friday the husband went on his work Christmas bash. As befits a group of Kiwi carpenters this involved going fishing all day and drinking lashings of cold beer. In his absence I invited a few girlfriends round and we sat on the deck eating cheese and drinking bellinis (a meal in itself). We were a mixture of New Zealanders, English and German. We got to talking about being ambitious and working. Most of my friends here don't have office jobs. In fact, barely anyone does which is in direct contrast to my friends at home in the UK who nearly all do.

Five years ago I was travelling round the world and met the husband in Queenstown (he was living in Wanaka). I was staggered at the number of people himself included who, when I asked them what they did for a living (a standard opening line if you live in London as I did then) told me they were carpenters in summer and skiing instructors in winter. What a bizarre combination I thought. How strange in a land of so few people (about 4 million) that so many people would be combining two such jobs. Now I have lived here for a while I don't think it's strange at all but almost obvious! Ha! How quickly I have morphed from highly strung city girl into slightly less highly strung beach girl.

Many of my friends here in Mount Maunganui look after their children full time but also have found the time to create their own businesses completely from scratch and without a vast amount of support. They are an impressive bunch. Some of them are extremely ambitious and think about ways of building and multiplying their business interests and some have opened their business in order to almost 'buy themselves' a job. When my parents were out here visiting us my Dad picked up very quickly the impressive range of skills the girls have. He reckons the women will be running every aspect of the country soon. They have opened their own businesses, run their households and bring up their children, dress super glam and this is all sewn up in a package which offers sophisticated social skills and confidence.

An inspirational crew.

Here are some of their businesses.....

Sisters (featured in the picture)

Saturday, 12 December 2009

What would you like from Father Christmas?

Yesterday the boy and I attended his Kindergarten's Christmas party. It was an extremely relaxed, happy affair held in a local park where the children all ran wild until Father Christmas himself appeared. Many of the children (my son included) were experiencing for the first time the true magiv and wonder of Christmas. As he's 3 now he can understand the concept of 'presents' (show me a child who can't). We have been spending the last few weeks whipping him up into a state of frothied frenzy about the big man himself and how he'll be easing his ample frame down our chimney and leaving presents for him and his sisters.

About 5 weeks ago the husband and I were walking through K-Mart with the children. As the husband niaively sauntered past the toy section, the boy spotted a large display of bright orange chainsaws. He pressed the button on one and the thing coughed into life with a roar and a spin of the chain bringing him so close to ecstacy he damn nearly passed out with pleasure and longing. So that was the day the boy realised how desparately he needed the chainsaw in his life. We have heard about it every day. A few days ago I sat down with him to compose a letter for Father Christmas.

me: What would you like to ask for from Father Christmas?

boy: a chainsaw

me: shall we ask him for anything else in case he doesn't have a chainsaw?

boy: no

me: (sighs) ok son. What about twin1 what do you think she'd like?

boy: a beer

me: anything else?

boy: yes, a baby

me: and twin2?

boy: a toy

All duly recorded we put the letter in the fireplace and burnt it. According to the husband this is how Father Christmas receives his letters.

So, as the boy and fourty other children crowded round Father Christmas on a lovely warm afternoon in the park I watched the little lad's reaction to his first ever, real live view of the God of children that is Santa. The children stared at him with a mixture of awe, slight fear and deep curiosity. Above the shouting and excitement I could clearly hear the boy bellowing "I WANT A CHAINSAW' and trying to get Father Christmas' attention. What the lad doesn't know is that tucked away in a secret hiding spot is a pristine, perfect chainsaw - exactly like the one he saw 5 weeks ago. I can barely contain my own excitement at the thought of his face when he opens it on Christmas Day. Unluckily for twin1 the beer and the baby are out of the question but I think she'll manage to put her disappointments aside and join in the festive fun (as best you can at 1 year old).

Friday, 11 December 2009

Working in league

It feels like summer is here to stay. We have had a run of sunny, cloudless days centred around trips to the beach. Most days involve the usual hectic 2 hours of getting up followed by a swim in the ocean, digging holes on the beach and the children running round in a happy but crazed manner. We are very lucky to have the most gorgeous beach just 5 minutes walk from our house. As a child you aren't in a position to make a huge number of independent decisions like where you'd like to go, when or what you'd like to eat, where you live and so on. One of the things I love about the beach is that children can run or walk in any direction they like, be as messy or as tidy as they like and generally enjoy themselves in a fashion completely directed by their own imagination and according to their own tastes. My neice says she likes the beach because it makes her feel completely free.

Now the twins can crawl the beach is perfect as they can pootle about to their hearts' content. My little girls are identical twins. That is to say they share the same DNA as they come from one fertilised egg which split to become two little people. If you know them reasonably well it's very easy to tell the difference between them though. They look slightly different and they act differently too. When they were little tiny babies we used to swaddle them tightly in muslin wraps and tuck them side by side into the same cot to sleep. Regardless of how far apart you put them they would always end up sleeping the same way - foreheads, noses and chins touching each other's face, breathing the same breath and completely serene and at peace with being so close. If one woke up she could be screaming into the other's face without waking her.

When we bathed the twins even in the very early days, neither would cry if the other aimed a kick or a punch in her face, neither would ever whinge and complain at the jostling which is ever present between the 2 of them. Imagine from the second your life was kicked into motion by a jumble of cells splitting several million times, your soul mate's life was created too. For 9 months you would both be growing in a confined space with bits of limb and head and body constantly making you readjust your own position. The concept of personal space must be vastly different to a twin than to a singleton. For the first few months of the twins' lives I thought they didn't really take an awful lot of notice of each other. They would smile at each other now and then and look for the other when they went to bed but other than that carried on as if the other was barely there. When they started to crawl (only a couple of months ago) this all changed. They can sit and play together for absolutely ages, enthralled in each other's company and happily sharing and fighting over toys. They crawl off in convoy searching out mischief and spend most of their time in the same place as each other. They like to spend time in their brother's bedroom, munching on lego and pulling his books of the shelves but if they can, they spend as much time as possible in the bathroom, emtying cupboards of first aid kits, ancient bottles of conditioner, squirting shaving foam into their mouths and tearing open plasters. The little monkeys work in league too. Twin2 stands at the cupboard and passes things out to twin1. When I find them, I carry one out and sit her down. As I return to get twin1 out, twin2 is already crawling quickly back to the battleground to carry on her destructive work. It usually takes about 3 or 4 trips to rid the area of fervent little light-fingered bodies.

Every day I marvel at our body's ability to produce more people. Each female body knows how to arrange a group of cells, produce the right thing in the right order, transfer food and water to the growing foetus and then knows when to expel them and return itself into a body not carrying a baby anymore. What a miracle. Having twins is even more phenomenal. How did my body know how to spilt the egg? Did the energy inside the egg split itself or the energy inside my body? Are they twon different things? When I was born was my body already predisposed to be an egg splitter? Was it something I did that day which made it happen? However it happened I am beyond grateful.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

You can never have too much beer

What's your hangover cure? I have heard some pretty interesting ones. A pint glass filled half with Coke and half with red wine anyone? How any hungover person can drink that is beyond me. At university I remember going out and leaving a glass of water and 2 headache pills by my bed, setting my alarm to 6am and necking the lot so when I surfaced around 10am I'd be back to peak condition. I would say the only really effective ones I am aware of are sleep or getting drunk again. Neither of those 2 options are available to me today so I'll just have to ride it out. Luckily we have the ocean on our doorstep and the restorative powers of water are well known. Having a swim in the stuff was bracing and blew away the hangover while I was down on the beach but returning home and rushing round after my littlies ensured its swift, boggled eyed and thirsty return.

Every time I have a few drinks the next day I vow to stop drinking large quantities of white wine. It feels as though I have been dipped in a vat of Sauvignon Blanc and it permeates every pore. Bottles of Corona seem like a better 'session' drink. They aren't as strong and there's only so much volume you can take on. It also fits neatly with the family motto my Dad told my brother and I "You can never have too much beer". However I handily forget all this when I'm offered a glass of wine. I usually think "ooh, perfect. That's exactly what I feel like drinking."

Anyway next time I'm definitely not downing buckets of vino. And if I do, I'll bring to mind the patented hangover cure of an old Sporting Index work chum - a shit, a wank and a cup of tea (in that order).

Monday, 7 December 2009

Mother's guide to lunchtime drinking

As I write this there is complete calm in my house. The boy left to go to his afternoon session of Kindergarten and the twins are asleep (for now). Although it's only 1pm on a Monday I am drinking a beer. I have wanted one since about 9am this morning. Nothing very dramatic has happened this morning but I have the same stress levels as a CEO of a multinational company having been handling hostile takeover negotiations for hours on end.

Now it's quiet I can reflect on the fantastic weekend just passed. The Dalai Lama is in New Zealand and on Saturday he gave a public talk on having a 'Peaceful Mind', followed by a Buddhist teaching on Sunday in Auckland. Over the last few years I have read a little about Buddhism, Tibet and meditation. I would say what I know constitutes a miniscule amount and I certainly wouldn't claim to be able to describe in detail what happened when China occupied Tibet in 1959 and the reasons why or indeed explain Buddhism with any depth or understanding. Like many people though, the principles of Buddhism, those which I can grasp as well as the benefits of meditation have piqued my interest and made me both curious to learn more and integrate some of the ideas into the way in which I live.

My chum and I spent a happy 2 and a half hours chattering away in the car on the way to Auckland. We arrived with plenty of time to spare so went to Sale Street to have lunch. Oh the sheer joy of sitting in a city bar with adults who were clearly in no rush to do anything other than while away a couple of hours, drinking jugs of beer, laughing and talking with their friends.

Listening to the Dalai Lama talk was just unbelievable. He is an accomplished orator. Talking for 2 hours with no break without stumbling over words and all in your second language is quite some feat. These were not the most impressive aspects of his speech though. His chuckle was infectious and very cheeky. He is 74 years old and a monk but was comfortable touching and smiling at the men and women who had organised the event. He spent a long time honouring their efforts and engaging in different traditional rituals, both Tibetan and Maori.

He talked of trust, compassion and warm heartedness. His style of delivery was much more like a life coach than a spiritual leader. Although he mentioned Buddhism and his home country Tibet several times he mentioned other religions just as often as well as talking about living as a non-believer. He talked often about being realistic and seemed amazingly in touch with the real world and those who live in it. It would be so hard for us to relate to his life as the exiled leader of Tibet, the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama who was chosen when he was 2 years old and has ruled his country since 12 years old. And yet he found it easy to relate to so many people of differing race and age. Throughout his talk I could relate much of what he said to different situations in my own life. What an experience, I am so grateful to have seen this beautiful man and heard his voice.
Back to that 1pm beer........
When I was pregnant with the boy 4 years ago I read 2 books about having babies. One was called 'Spiritual Midwifery by Ina May Gaskin and the other was called How to Enjoy Year One by Rachel Waddilove. I'd say Spritual Midwifery was excellent and a must if you are considering a homebirth. Rachel Waddilove's contribution was along the lines of common sense and is probably only worth reading if you have none whatsoever. Neither book mentions the necessity of pouring yourself a glass of white wine at 5pm and yet that is surely the most kept to routine by the bulk of mothers. Interestingly, the day after listening to the Dalai Lama I have had to shift my first alcoholic beverage forward by 4 hours. I had been labouring under the misapprehension that I would return from Auckland being the most Zen like mother on my road. My son would scream obscenities at me whilst the twins would fill their mouths with compost and tear pine needles from the tree and I would calmly rinse their mouths out, sit them with some toys and reason with the boy whilst having the mantra 'compassion and warm heartedness' running through my mind. Wrong. I actually got miles more irritated than I normally do and screamed back.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Soul cuddling with the Dalai Lama

Two hours ago I parked my behind on a seat in the Vector Arena in Auckland. When the Dalai Lama walked in, bang on cue I welled up with tears and was overwhelmed with emotion. This man has done so much to teach people about living their life in the kindest, happiest way.

I will write more about it tomorrow but let me tell you he has a cheeky, naughty giggle and is a modern and relevant 74 year old who could relate to a teenager as well as he could someone my age. I feel like my brain and soul has had a massage and a cuddle. Now I'm off for a posh tea with my dear friend.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

I am a Hercules engineer as well as a patisserie chef

This morning revealed itself to be thick with fog and dense cloud. As there is no Kindergarten today for the boy and the Goddess that is our housekeeper comes on a Wednesday at 9am I decided to take the children for a walk round Mount Maunganui. We set off with supplies of honey sandwiches, strawberries and carrot sticks. Looking after my three small children can feel like a grind. The relentlessness of the routine can make you really grit your teeth hour after hour, day after day. For instance there is no way the twins can wait longer than twenty minutes or so after waking in the morning for breakfast. What if I don't feel like making breakfast so quickly after waking up? Tough. It's what they want and the screaming is an effective if nerve jangling catalyst to pull my finger out and throw weetabix down their necks.
Having said that I often crave more time with the children and in particular with each of them on their own. I had two lovely years hanging out with my son, having him sitting on my knee for long periods of time and more recently, sitting in cafes or on the beach chatting about all sorts of things. The little twins tend to be together all the time so you don't really look at one intently for a long period of time - your eyes flit between the two. I love the intensity of gazing into your littlies' eyes and smiling at them as they gaze myopically at you before crumpling into a gummy beam.
This morning as we toddled round the Mount I soaked up the wonderful feeling of just spending time with the children in the fresh air, listening to the ocean swilling through the narrow aperture between the Mount and Matacana island and smiling at the many friendly comments our fellow strollers passed to us on the way round. Because of the warm fog, the shifting views were truly beautiful. Check out the picture of the handsome, brave man protecting the entrance to the harbour and the tops of the cranes at the Port just visible through the fug.

An afternoon making lemon drizzle cake for a birthday tomorrow and building a Hercules and a bi-plane from Lego makes it a near perfect day for enjoying the deeply precious early years before they all dash off to school.

That's all well and good but BRING ON THE WEEKEND as I'm off to the big smoke with a friend for a night talking constantly, drinking wine, seeing the Dalai Lama and enjoying the relative peace and quiet of a million other Aucklanders.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Apoplectic ranting

There are a number of different approaches I take when trying to stop my son from aiming 'playful' kicks at the twins or donking them on the head with whatever he has in his hand. The differing approaches depend on how tired I am, how many times I have already asked him to stop doing it, what time of day it is or what kind of successful discipline techniques I have witnessed friends using with their children that particular day. Gently saying "use your kind hands/feet" barely elicits a response. Bellowing at him and sending him to his room usually results in his waiting calmly until I've finished my apoplectic rant and answering "stop shouting Mummy" or "I'm not saying sorry to twin1, you say sorry to me Mummy because you pushed me" or "are you going to smack me now?"

How is it that you can be pottering about, making dinner and feeling happy, warm and fuzzy as your children play together, giggling and making up games then......BOOM. The boy wrenches a toy out of twin1's hands and hits her repeatedly round the head with it. Suddenly your blood pressure is through the roof and you are screaming with unhinged rage while the 3 year old stares at you unblinkingly. Roll on 2 hours later at bedtime and you are stroking his hair and guiltily saying "you know Mummy loves you very much, don't you darling?"

The boy came up with the best retort yet today. When being shouted at for hitting his sister he shouted back "I'm not hitting her, I'm giving her five"

Monday, 30 November 2009

High jinks and tricycles

Cooking dinner and drinking wine must rank among my favourite pursuits of all time (does drinking wine count as a pursuit?). Last night I happily cooked dinner for some friends, then cycled my trike to a friend's house to guzzle icy cold white wine. High jinks ensued and at 2am I tried to cycle my bike with the lock still attached. Detangling it was a job way beyond my somewhat limited means. I abandoned the project and walked home. This morning my lovely friend cycled the trike back home to me and skateboarded back to his house. How kind is that?
I love my trike. The husband gave it to me on our first Christmas in New Zealand. What a cool, cool present. It has been specially customised. It has back pedal brakes and the brake for the front wheel is connected to the left handlebar as are the gears. Last summer I didn't use it much as the twins were newly born so I was confined to two hour long feeding sessions at home with the sun blazing outside and watching endless rounds of Ice Age and Finding Nemo with my son. This summer I'd love to use it more. While our littlies are at Kindergarten this week my sister in law and I are going to take the twins out for a bike ride. We both have child seats on the back of our bikes. They'll love it.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

An increasing understanding of manly pursuits

Yesterday morning I hopped out of my pit (rendered awake by 2 screamers) and set about packing to drive to the west coast of New Zealand for the weekend where my aunty moved to not 4 weeks ago with her Kiwi husband. To have a relative living a mere 2 hours drive away fills me with excitement. After scrabbling around stuffing nappies and several changes of clothes into bags we were ready for the off. It's just me and the littlies as the husband will be spending the weekend drilling 34 holes into our back garden, filling them with cement and wooden poles, building retaining walls and then sometime during the week pouring in tonnes and tonnes of sand followed by top soil and turf so we can have a level garden. Hurrah! Badminton tournaments beckon.

The first half an hour or so of the journey was spent with me navigating through traffic whilst trying to officiate arguments in the back. A friend who is one of four boys told me recently that they used to be crammed four abreast in the back of their car (well before road safety was invented) and would bicker over the very many things worth bickering about when you are six years old. Their mother would hang on to the steering wheel with one arm and use the other to swing wildly behind her aiming at as many bare legs as she could. How hilarious, imagining my friend and his brothers swinging their knees as far to the side as possible to miss the punishment whilst their mother bellowed in irritation at them.

My son asked to try what I was eating. I told him wasabi peas were quite spicy and that he probably wouldn't like them. He insisted they were exactly what he wanted so I handed him one. The relative calm exploded in an ear splitting scream emenating from twin2. A glimpse of her in the rear view mirror showed green, dusty crumbs round her mouth from the wasabi pea my son had so generously offered his 1 year old sister. My inability to use both arms to keep us going in the same direction at the same time as aiming a whack in his direction annoyed me. I'm sure it won't be the first time my dodgy arm situation plays neatly into his hands.

The west coast is so close to us on the east coast but couldn't look more different. Where our Bay of Plenty beaches are of the 'white, golden sands fringed with Norfolk pines and brilliant blue skies' variety, the west coast of the Waikato is a rugged, less populated stretch of land with black sand pressing into the ocean. The people here are different too. The Bay of Plenty has a good sprinkling of California style surfers - blond curls, cheeky grins and expensive board shorts. Towns like Raglan on the west coast house a more alternative dweller. Expensive highlights and truckloads of sweet smelling conditioner might get you far in Mount Maunganui but dreadlocks are what you need to sport in order to be taken seriously in the waves at Indicators - the awesome left hand surf break at Raglan. Although the break to come away for the weekend is wonderful not to mention the joy of chattering to my aunty and her husband, I know it will be lovely to arrive back home tomorrow to our version of the seaside. I'm definitely an east coaster.
Having read back through this post, 2 things come to light. First of all I'm sure many of my friends in the UK will be pissing themselves laughing at my (fairly competent thank you very much) descriptions of the mechanics of levelling a garden and knowledgable surfing lingo. The transformation from city girl to Kiwi wife is well underway.
The second thing is that as I write about being as east coaster, I realise that my feelings about where I live with my husband and three little half New Zealander, half British chiddlers are changing. When we moved here the heart wrenching sadness at leaving home, family and friends transferred itself to an unhealthy dislike of New Zealand (but not of the people I hasten to add). On reflection it was the deep resentment at leaving everything I love which morphed into other negative emotions. Two years down the line and I'm starting, just starting to feel the twinkly feeling of pride in our street, town and area we live in. And, dare i say it, even love.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jamie Oliver would wet himself with excitement

There are very many differences between life at home in the UK and here in New Zealand. One of the first I noticed when we moved here was the availability in the supermarket or greengrocer's of various vegetables and fruit at any given time of the year. We arrived not quite fresh as daisies on 1st November 2007 in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. November in New Zealand is probably akin to May or June in the UK . It is wonderfully clement , a bit breezy and summer feels like it's about to leap out at you. A perfect time to arrive in a country when you are distraught about leaving your beloved United Kingdom.

Wandering round the supermarket I noticed that most of the vegetables and fruit are grown in New Zealand. I was impressed and was pleased to be able to 'buy local produce' as Jamie and his mates had been urging us to do for the last couple of years. Even more exciting were the swathes of strawberries, avocados and asparagus which all seemed pretty cheap. I smugly congratulated myself on living in a country where these special treats were so readily available.

For the first few months our food bill was pretty high until I realised that produce is priced according to its seasonal availability. I immediately stopped paying $3 for a single leek and waited til autumn to enjoy them. A bag of ten avocados can be bought for about $5 in December but come May, each one costs around $2.50. In the UK, a basket of goods in a supermarket would cost the same in May as it would in December. I have quite a bit of horticultural education to get under my belt.

For about 3 weeks a year in winter every feijoa tree in the land blankets the ground with masses and masses of small, oval, green nuggets. They suddenly appear in the supermarket and are pretty expensive (apparently their delicate skin is easy to bruise and therefore make it tricky to transport). I have never seen anyone buy any though as every third house has a feijoa tree in their garden and the owners happily give the fallen fruit away to absolutely anyone. Before living here I had neither tasted nor heard of the fruit. I'm not competely convinced - it's a bit like eating a rather filling bouquet of flowers. But I absolutely love the mania that goes with them. You can't leave someone's house without having a jar of feijoa pickle or muffins stuffed in your bag and suddenly 'Feijoa and parma ham' seems like an excellent idea for a starter.

It certainly seems natural to take fruit directly from a tree rather than wait for it to be waxed, scrubbed, packed in crates and shipped to a supermarket where you have to hand over cash for the stuff. Clearly that's what my sister in law thinks too as I have, with my own eyes, witnessed her helping herself to a few juicy lemons from the branches of a heavily laden tree a few doors down from her house. Luckily New Zealanders are a generous bunch so I doubt she'll be locked up for it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

This one works but the other doesn't

Just recently my son (3) has started to notice that one of my arms doesn't work. As I fought the daily battle of buckling him and his sisters into the car he chirruped " this arm works Mummy but the other one doesn't."
I was quite surprised. Although our family talk easily about my arm being buggered and the reason why (that's a whole new post but the shortened version is I was riding pillion on a mororbike, we collided head on with another bike and both drivers lost their lives) this is the first time he has ever really mentioned it.
This evening when he got out of the shower, he complained of a scratch on his hand and then told me had had done it in a motorbike accident.
Clearly there are a few discussions ahead. The strange thing is that I rarely think about my arm but a week on Monday sees the 9th anniversary of the death of my lovely friend who was riding the motorbike. This time of year is quite heavy with nostalgia. He would have been 28 years old. That's an adult by anyone's standards. He may have had children. He may have travelled the world. He would certainly have laughed an awful lot. He would certainly have had lots of friends.
Everyone who knows someone who died young says they were special and kind but really, really there was none kinder, more special, more cheeky and full of deeply auspicious promise than my friend.

This afternoon was the kind of afternoon that makes me so grateful for our life here at the beach in New Zealand. By 5pm four of us were sitting my kitchen guzzling Sauvignon Blanc and eating crisps. Our 10 children leapt off the sofa, watched Kung Fu Panda, jumped on the trampoline and popped in and out of the kitchen to top up with crisps. I find Mums fascinating conversationalists. They can tell extremely funny stories about the vile things their children get up to, happily gossip and have clever fingers on all sorts of pulses.
There's a freedom about New Zealand which is so liberating and happy. Roll on tomorrow for more of the same I say.

Monday, 23 November 2009

One arm or two?

As the procession of children and all the stuff that goes with them was being loaded into the car by the husband this morning, I started thinking about how much longer it takes me to do anything using one arm as opposed to two.

Because I know it takes me longer to accomplish most tasks (such as ferrying 2 crawling babies and a toddler down 16 steps from the front door to the car), I wonder if I have become quicker and more able in other ways. Working out the most efficient way to complete tasks has become a common exercise in my little pea brain. Would this have happened anyway as the metamorphosis from drunken, irresponsible, single trader in the city to drunken, less irresponsible mother of three and housewife took place? Everybody changes as they get older and it's impossible to attribute any new behaviour to a particular event or change which happened along the way. Obviously I am more dextrous and able with my left arm than I ever was when I could use both and my right arm was the leading arm. Would I be a different mum if I could use both arms? Would I be better? I'm not sure.

Most people with small children acknowledge that their early years are a strain on your life. The added strain of daily pain which increases in relation to the amount of added pressure on my arm surely adds to this strain.
But, and I feel it's a big but, we have a house big enough to comfortably hold our family, a garden, a garage, a beach down the road...it's a list of things which massively alleviates the strain of having children.

Everyone has their problems don't they? Mine are minimal compared to most. Thinking about my arm doesn't take up much space in the daily ebb and flow of my grey matter but whilst writing this blog I'd like to record some more thoughts on the matter.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Madonna attends 1st birthday party

Weeks like the one gone by are just perfect. Saturday saw all of our friends turn up for our twins' first birthday party to celebrate their parents having kept them alive for an entire year without killing the babies, their son or getting divorced. In time honoured fashion we filled the front garden with a bouncy castle, trampoline and swings and a slide. Wandering round the side of the house to the deck at the back found a lamb on a spit, kegs of beer, piles of ice studded with bottles of wine, sofas and a throng of parents getting lazily plastered in the sunshine watching Balinese flags blowing in the breeze all round the garden.

The 30 or so children had a great time running riot and being given rides on the biggest lorry to have ever driven down our street courtesy of a kind family friend. The parents had an even better time. So much so that by early evening another keg was sent for, the ipod was plugged into speakers outside and we got down to some seriously impressive Michael Jackson/Madonna impersonations. We all thought we both hilarious and very cool. Both of which I'm sure we were not. The husband and I stumbled into our beds at about 1am. We couldn't have been happier.

Another surprise celebration for the husband's birthday this week has put our birthday cake consumption somewhere near risking appearing on Gillian McKeith's 'You Are What You Eat'. All in all just utterly glorious.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Complete nutter

Before I launch into this anecdote, let me just say this. Plunket (in New Zealand) and Health Visitors (in the UK) do a fantastic and necessary job. We are extremely lucky to have these organisations provide the service to our children that they do so well and with such care and passion. However......

A couple of days ago a nurse rang to book an appointment for the twins to be measured, weighed and so on. The conversation on the phone kicked off as follows

Nurse: Hello, it's the nurse. How are you?

Me: Good, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: Good, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: GOOD, thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: I'm sorry, did you ask how I was?

Nurse: Yes

Me: I said Good thanks

Nurse: Pardon?

Me: I'm very well, thanks for asking

Nurse: Oh sorry, there was a crackle on the line

I am filled with confidence in this nurse's ability to check the health of my baby daughters. Nevertheless we toddle down to the offices of the nurse. First job on the list is to measure the circumference of the babies' heads.

The nurse sits twin1 on her knee, wraps the tape measure round her head, squints to read it and exclaims "44cm."

We swap twins and she performs the same exercise on twin2. "41cm. Hmmm, maybe I should do twin1 again." She remeasures twin1 whose head has miraculously shrunk 3cm to be the same as her identical twin.

She then tells me "I keep wanting to call twin2 Sarah." I refrain from replying "well I want to call you a complete nutter but I respectfully keep with society's norm and refer to you by your given name. Please do my daughter the same favour."

Friday, 13 November 2009

Calm before the storm

Tomorrow our little girls turn 1. This time last year I was frantically rushing all over the place getting acupuncture and buying premature clothes in anticipation of their arrival by induction the following day. My abiding memory of the day is sitting outside a cafe with my-sister-in law, soaking up the sun, feeling a sense of excitement, calm (as in before the storm) and probably slight dread about going into labour although I have carefully blotted from my memory the bulk of the grisly details. In fact just the other day someone asked me what it was like giving birth to twins. "Yeah, not too bad" was my reply. Upon reflection and remembering the reality of the labour I realised the more accurate response would have been "Yeah, ghastly".
Amazing how nature purposely removes the hideous pain from the memory and in its place leaves a sprinkling of tinkerbell style fairy dust and magical wonder.

On a similar note I can quite clearly remember the thought running through my mind as Twin2 arrived into the world amid a flurry of profanity (me) and shouted words of encouragement (my husband and midwife) which wasn't "are my babies ok?" or "can i see them?" or even "are they girls" but a much more telling"thank fuck I'm not pregnant anymore". The last year has been, well, I won't bore you with the description of the dark days. Suffice to say I'm not really a 'baby' kind of gal, I like my company to be able to walk unaided and have some control of speech (unless of course it's 2am at which point I don't have either tool in my armoury).

Baking their cakes (oh alright then buying the sponge from the supermarket) and decorating them into number '1's will be a glorious, happy way to spend the next couple of hours.


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