Hold your babies close – then raise your voice.

Tonight when I tucked Isobel into bed she asked why I looked sad.

I haven’t talked to her about what’s currently happening along the US border because she is small and happy and I don’t want her to know that she lives in a world where people take children away from their parents and put them in cages. But I saw the pictures of this 2 year old asylum seeker today at work and I can’t get her out of my head. Isobel is 3, just barely older. Tonight she “made me a cake” by mixing lollipops, sugar, flour, apricots, and sheep together. Clearly she needs parental guidance. When I saw the pictures I couldn’t help but think of my daughter, barely older, who still needs to sit on my lap at the dentist or when she’s bravely tasting new food. But this girl and over 2,000 others like her can’t be held by their parents right now. So I  cried at work (cue emergency early lunch) and I cried again tonight as I held Esther close and feed her to sleep. I must have still been crying a little bit when I went through to Isobel and because she is perfect she worried for me.

And so I told her. I told her that in another country people were taking kids away from their parents and it made me feel sad. Her face got serious and her eyes got wet and she took a big breath and told me “wow that is pretty sad” and I thought “she gets it. And if she can get it how can the people doing it not get it?” and I started to get mad.

But she didn’t get it. She didn’t know what “in another country” meant and the tears started to leak out as she whispered to me with trembling lips “but I don’t want to go”. And so I held her and told that she wasn’t going. No one was taking her away from me. It was happening far away from here and she was safe. And she sighed and smiled and told me “oh it’s ok then, cause we live in Dunedin and no is going to take me”. And I agreed with her because I am so glad that I live in Dunedin and we are safe and no-one is going to take her.  We’re ok and I needed her to know she was safe. But I am so heartbroken that there are children tonight who have fled to a strange country and are now alone. Parents who tried to make a better life for their children who now have no indication of when they will be with them again. Heartbroken. Nothing about it is ok. There is no immigration policy that can possibly justify these actions. It is horrifying and gut-wrenching and paralysing, except that I don’t want to be paralysed anymore.

I read Isobel an extra book tonight and I held her for longer than normal. We prayed together. Tomorrow I’m going to start making phone calls. There are numbers to call, email addresses to write to and organisations to donate to here. If you want to sing some music alone or with your small people to rally your protest spirit this is an excellent list.

Tonight hold your babies close. Tomorrow raise whatever voice you have so that other babies can be held close too.

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My prayer for tonight, thought to be written by St Francis. 
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RIP Poncho (probably?)

Hi team,

It’s been a while since I last wrote, partially because I’ve been super tired starting back at work (balance is better now without weekly wellington trips), but largely because we’ve been down a mammal. It’s taken a while to write about because we’re not 100% sure we’re down a mammal so I didn’t want to write a big post fare-welling Poncho only to rescind a few days later and it felt weird writing anything else without mentioning it. But here it is. We’re pretty sure there is one less mammal in the mammals and me bucket.

It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve seen Poncho and there is still a chance that he has made himself at home somewhere where they don’t kick him out at night but there are reports of a cat matching his description on the motorway basically opposite our house. We haven’t been able to spot the cat on the motorway (it was about a week later that someone mentioned it so probably got picked up) but the location and timelines match. There is actually a much higher number of deceased tabby cats in my neighborhood than I would have guessed. Thanks to the magic of Facebook groups I’ve been receiving reports (and photos!) of passed on cats for a couple of weeks now, as well as pictures of many cats who are moonlighting their way around the neighbourhood. Also did you know that every tabby cat has the “M” shape on their forehead and the two big lines coming back from their eyes. We did not until we realised that Poncho’s “distinctive” markings were appearing on every cat we saw pictures of.

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I googled “tabby cat” and this is the first thing that came up. Honestly it could be Poncho’s twin. We had to ask people with visiting tabbies questions like “does he have poor boundaries” and “does he have a saggy little tummy pouch” because his face is 100% generic tabby.

Here’s the awkward thing (aside from not knowing 100% and being able to bring him home which I’m finding surprisingly emotional), he was kind of a jerk. Not “You’re so bad I wish you would get hit by a car” levels but he was definitely a pain in the…whatever he was biting at the time. He bullied Monty, wound up the dog, kneaded and nibbled us, and sat all over the kids. Isobel was just getting old enough to pat him well enough that he’d get too excited and “nibble” her. When we first realised he was gone we heard from a nearby family who had been welcoming a tabby visitor and joked that if it was Poncho then we’d send them his vet records and they could have him for keeps. Still though, despite the evenings being a lot calmer and less painful without him (and we’re seeing so much more of Monty) I do really miss him. There’s something a bit irreplaceable about a cat who would leap off the fence and on to your shoulder to score a ride up to the house.

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A pretty typical evening with Poncho. He had the least regard for personal space of any cat I have ever meet.

The other awkward thing? Isobel hasn’t realised  he’s gone. She hasn’t talked about him for a few days now. There is a cat near her daycare who looks like Poncho and she sometimes mentions that Poncho visited her during the day but she hasn’t noticed that he hasn’t been at home. Given the absence of a cat to bury (so no cat funeral) we think we’re just going to go for the gradual fade out approach. If she’s in therapy years from now unpacking her fear that people/pets will leave her without any warning then we’ll know it was the wrong call but I think we’ll leave it for now and let Poncho be a happy memory.

So a bit of a sad post. There are still probably too many mammals in my house but Poncho was a big personality and has left a bit of a gap, particularity on our laps/shoulders/heads/seats/laptops/children. RIP Poncho, you were not the easiest cat but you brought us a lot of giant rats and you were enthusiastic in your spreading of cat litter across the floor. We’ll miss you.

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RIP Poncho.

-Hana-

Pies Pies and Packing Panic!

Hello new friends! My last post about he who shall not be named was read by a few more people than I expected. I’m glad it was useful to folk and I hope it started some conversations. If you’re joining us for the first time because of that post then welcome!!

Soooo its been a while since last I wrote because the fambam and I have been off having adventures in the land of long car rides and no wifi. Also the land of 1.2 tonnes of lasagne and 5,500ish pies. Why so many exciting food items you ask? My father and I foolishly agreed to cater a large camp over Easter (our second year doing it) and we took everyone we are related to (not quite but almost) to lift things for us over the weekend. Hubby – who shall henceforth be referred to as Murray – got to do his annual stint on the forklift (the only reason he has his license is to do the forklifting at camp. He does not need it in his normal life) and I got to talk into my radio and tell lots of people what to do. I love to give instructions to large groups of people, or medium, or small, or even just 1 person. Murray does not let me tell him what to do ever so this was a pleasant outlet for me.

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Isobel helps Murray put the sour cream back in the fridge. It came out on a pallet which Murray fork-lifted. He did not give me a turn on the forklift or let me ride around on the forks. I was bitterly disappointed and he was not even a little sorry.
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Brownie defrosting. Soooo much brownie. Some of this is at my house. Too much is in my belly.
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Isobel and Grandpa supervise the unloading of ovens and alto-shams.

After our week of camp we headed through to Wanaka to celebrate my Grandmother’s 90th birthday with family (Happy Birthday GG!!).  In between these events to avoid driving home and then leaving again the next day we stayed in Little River (near Akaroa) with my brother in law’s parents.

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Isobel and Eli collect eggs for breakfast. While Isobel declares loudly “It’s great to take a holiday at a Little River!”
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No tire too flat, no cousins too small!
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oohhhh a lake which 0 babies fell in to. This is of course the best kind of lake!

BIL and cousin Eli were also there but not my sister or Murray who had both returned to Dunedin for work. All, in all of my 13 nights away at 3 three different destinations I had both girls for all 13 and Murray for 6. I assume you now see why this post was a long time coming? But because I am actually super woman my family survived, 3,000 campers got feed, and we even looked human for weekend birthday celebrations. Yus.

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Widget quickly moved onto my spot when I left but at least she had the decency to look guilty about it.

Honestly though the hardest part of the whole trip (apart from the time I tried to shower Isobel solo and ended up with 7 mosquito bites on parts of me that were only exposed while in the shower) was very nearly the packing!!! I used to have a rule that I would never pack more for a trip than I could carry myself. I miss those simple days. Honestly, how do you even pack for so many potential child activities? What will the weather be like? How dirty will the children get? What should they wear in the car? What party outfits do we need? Will they want their normal blankets or will the cabin blankets do? How many books do I need to bring? What shoes will the child suddenly require during the week (answer – her OTHER running shoes)?

Without presuming to answer any of the above for you I will now present you with my “guaranteed to get 30% more things in the suitcase than you need” patent pending packing method:

Step 1: Swear loudly because you have realised that you are leaving in one more sleep, haven’t packed and most of your clothes are in the dirty washing pile.

Step 2(a): While the washing is on begin writing a list of everything you want to pack.

Step 2(b): Abandon the list because you don’t actually need a list to remind you to pack “clothes – kids” and “clothes – you”

Step 3: Put everything your children have worn for the past 2 months into the suitcases. It’s best to be prepared for temperatures ranging from below zero to mid 30s. It might also rain. Or snow. Or there could be a tornado. Prepare for both a tropical holiday and an arctic adventure.

Step 4: Realise this will never all fit and remove 50% of everything you have put in the suitcases.

Step 5: Use the newly freed up space to add books and toys. Remember your child might spontaneously learn to read while on holiday so you should pack accordingly.

Step 6: While weeping at the futility of packing as if you know what your children will need over the next 2 weeks,  realise that if you lived on an a house bus you’d never have to pack again. Immediately google house buses for sale in your area.

Step 7: Inform your partner that a house bus is your inevitable destiny and look shocked when they remind you that you have too many mammals to fit in a house bus. Attempt to persuade them that dogs and cats can live happily on house buses. Fail and continue weeping as you mourn the loss of your house bus dream and return to packing.

Step 8(a): Plan your children’s wholesome holiday entertainment.

Step 8(b):  Laugh and make sure you have Paw Patrol on USB.

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Isobel watches Paw Patrol in the lodge before we fill it with ovens and turn it into the camp kitchen. Not pictured: members of the site team who would come and watch while they ate their breakfast.

Step 9: Finish packing. Thank whatever you thank that baby clothes are so small so so many can fit in the suitcase. Set your alarm for way too early and head to bed.

Step 10: Spend the morning arranging healthy toddler snacks in the food bag so that you can reach and disperse them while driving. Try to hide the bag of driver lollies (it won’t work but try anyway).

Step 11: Proudly announce that you are done packing. Accept sincere thanks from husband as they acknowledge the work you did to achieve this. Present your very moderate pile of packing to your husband and suggest that he carry it down to the car. Ignore the look of alarm in their face as they struggle to imagine how it will all fit into anything other than the Tardis. Smugly feed the baby while they carry heavy things down the path.

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Your packing should look something like this. Note: if your toddler packs a toy bag you should under no circumstances pack it deep within the boot so they panic that it has been left behind and weep until it is unpacked and passed to them.

I hope you enjoy your next packing experience! Also if you ever need someone to cook you more baked potatoes than you have eaten in your entire life then let me know!

-Hana-

Dear Mark

This week Mark Richardson made a comment on the telly that was reasonable, well thought-out, and well supported by evidence. Lols, just kidding! He decided, using his VAST experience with economic and social policy, that motherhood isn’t a ‘job’. He did acknowledge that it’s “hard work being a mum” and in fact was right on the money that it’s “goddamn difficult”. However he concluded that ultimately that it is “just what we do”: a “fact of life” and therefore not a job. “We raise children on this planet” he wisely intoned… since it’s just thing we all do to survive, lets not call it a job, right?

Cool. Thanks. I mean we also grow food on this planet; it’s a fact of life and yet we for some reason still call it a job? It seems really weird to me to argue that ‘work’ (he acknowledged it WAS a form of work) isn’t a ‘job’ just because it is necessary. Should only optional things (like standing on grass and playing with balls) be ‘jobs’? Or did he mean that work which people have traditionally been compelled to provide for free should be excluded automatically from the category ‘jobs’?

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mmmm yes such hard work. Lord I hope no one ever employs me to stand on the grass and play with balls. I mean that’s a real job alright. 

I think it’s really important to be clear here that he was specifically talking about women. This was a conversation about why “mothering” isn’t a job, not why “parenting” isn’t a job. The panel was discussing the fact that working MOTHERS are doing the equivalent of 2.5 full time jobs (98 hours a week) between work and home. He even asked the “frilly undie crowd” not to get too upset by his comments. It’s possible that I may be underestimating him… maybe he has a very gender inclusive view of frilly undies? But I’m pretty sure he was asking women not to get upset that he thinks he is entitled to our mothering labour. He wanted to publicly affirm it is OK to believe that just because up until now we haven’t properly valued or recognised mothers’ caring labour, that we should just accept that this our lot in life and not ask for things to be different… better, even. Ladies, maybe we should just stick to bringing the plate while the men folk do the real job of standing on the grass and playing with balls? Except I’m finding it difficult to prepare a plate while my (very unfrilly) mum undies are in such a MASSIVE RAGING BUNCH.

 

This article by Jess Brensten-Shaw (who unlike Mark has spent loads of time thinking about the economy and social policy) does a really good job of examining unpaid work in the NZ economy and asking why we treat it like we do. It’s not just mothers and it’s not just women but sooooo much of it is. In fact this statistics New Zealand time-use survey revealed that while 60% of men’s work is paid, 70% of women’s work is UNPAID. And for that work to be dismissed so easily on a national platform is incredibly frustrating.

One reason it matters to me is because I do both paid work and unpaid work. My unpaid work is within my household and within my wider community. My paid work is within the tertiary education sector. It is ALL valuable, and often not even that clearly different in scope or nature. For example, in the last 7 days I have project managed two projects with a total budget of over $100,000, set one more project in motion and been invited to submit an additional project proposal by a funding body: some of these were paid, some were unpaid. I also flown, with 7-month-old Esther, to an all day meeting in another city, where I successfully contributed to a community of professional practice WHILE providing childcare (P.S. thanks awesome meeting attendees for not freaking out that a baby was in the room). I have provided additional childcare for a family member while they visited the emergency department. I have spent seven hours in the emergency department providing support and care for a different family member, including co-ordinating care and admin after their hospital admission. I have run a community playgroup session. I have run a playgroup fundraising event. I have planned, shopped, and prepped food for a small cooking co-operative that helps my family and others reduce food cost and prep time. I have cooked and cleaned at home. I have delivered 3 hours of lectures on degree level programs. I have provided at least 150 hours of childcare (I’m on-call all night every night cause boobs).  I have waved at husband as he passes in the distance or collects the children while I work my 9 contracted hours a week.

Which parts of this list aren’t valuable? They all add value to the community. They all improve the lives of others. They all require me to do skilled and specific work. People in different settings get paid for doing all of these things, as long as they aren’t doing it for people they are related to. So nothing on this list is fundamentally incompatible with the the idea of a ‘job.’

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Hark! A baby and a laptop together. If we measure the milk output of dairy cows and include it in our GDP I feel like I can safely claim I’m working two jobs here!

So, I guess my question is, why does Mark get to decide that the way we have constructed our ideas about work and jobs in the past are “just a fact of life”? To say that we’ve got it exactly right and shouldn’t try and improve it for those who are starting to peek out from under the enormous loads they’re shouldering? Could it be that he has a vested interest in not changing the status quo? Does it maybe suit him to be in a position where many people in his life are cared for by someone other than him, who he doesn’t have to pay? Even if he is a deeply caring person, statistically he isn’t in the category of people most likely to be providing significant care labour.

And ok, I get that being a mother isn’t exactly like a lot of other jobs. I know that I had these children by my own choosing and that I am responsible for them. I’m not expecting rounds of applause and cash falling from the sky everywhere I go with them (although just being consistently welcomed and catered for in public spaces would be nice). I know that as a human living in a community it is good and kind and helpful and healthy for me to invest some of my time in other humans without trying to place a strict dollar value it or expecting to profit from the interaction. But can we stop speaking about women’s emotional labour like it’s our duty to give it, and societies right to receive it?

If the work someone is doing is benefiting you (or anyone really) then maybe stop dismissing it or belittling the person doing it? If you have a national platform to speak on, maybe think carefully before offering an opinion on something you have no experience of? Maybe we haven’t called mothering a ‘job’ yet because we haven’t really addressed the systemic inequalities around unpaid (but hugely valuable) labour. Maybe instead of just equating “what is” with “what has to be” we could try and do just a little bit better? Because my night manager is calling and as much as I love her, this sure feels like work to me!

Wonderful Widget

It’s doggo time!!! After many children themed posts I thought it was time let one of the critters shine. I’ve been drafting this post in my head all day – a love letter to our largest (and usually smelliest) fur baby. There is a lot to love about her, really, truly there is. Unfortunately her breathe is not currently one of those things. After receiving a full blown, shampoo and conditioner, paid $10 at the pet store bath this afternoon Widget made the most of Isobel opening the gate (a fun new trick we really love) and took off into the swamp/forest section next door. While there she apparently ate enough crap to make her feel very happy for about 30 minutes and very miserable for the rest of the evening. Her breathe also reeks. Boo widget.

Unfortunately she knows she is in trouble and is trying to make it up to us by cleaning the no-fur puppies (Isobel and Esther). While I am usually pretty firmly in the “it’s good for the immune system camp” with respect to the dog (and by the way science say’s I’m right), this is 100% unacceptable and  the hound has been sent to bed.

Nevertheless Widget is actually a pretty good dog and I do quite like her. i like her more and more as she gets older. It turns out I do not really like puppies. They require waaaayyy too much energy. Widget was a particularly difficult puppy because she was very anxious. When we arrived to pick her up from Invercargill we were told that she had been returned after being to afraid of large animals to enjoy life on a nearby farm. We were also told that her father was purebred German Shepard who visited with family from the North Island (see here is a very “I am in a magazine” type picture of a German Shepard) but is gone now so you can’t see him. we were also told that her mother was essentially a purebreed lab with a *tiny* little bit of Staffy in her. But she isn’t here right now so you can’t see her. Basically we got puppy hustled because my wacko pregnancy hormones had declared widget to be their soul dog. To date we still don’t really know what Widget is. Our best guess is a labby/huntaway/staffy mashup but we’re not ruling out a bit of rotty (or basically anything else!).

 

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Young Widget tries to solve the mystery of “when will I be allowed to grab the rope?” She is very good at waiting for toys or food and very bad at keeping her tongue to herself. She is an average agility dog. She likes the tunnel and balancing but doesn’t do weaving.

When we got Widget home we discovered that in addition to large animals she was also scared of basically everything including (but not limited to) small animals, traffic, and being alone for more than an hour. The first time we both went to work and left her for 3 hours she was in her open crate in the bathroom which she then painted with panic poo. I brought my sister home to meet my magical new puppy and the first impression was not excellent. That same sister would later look into puppies eyes (and she claims her soul) and determine her true name to be Widget. After consulting with our puppy class teacher and spending $60 on a bottle of puppy pheromones our drugged up doggo finally started settling in to life with us and we settled into her.

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Puppy Widget with her emotional support duck. As with every other soft toy she has come in contact with duck soon lost it’s nose and eyes. There is a whole sack of toys in my craft room waiting for replacement face parts. I try not to look at them because they make me feel guilty and a little afraid.

 

Other introductions to family members went better. My mother (who is something of a dog whisperer) declared that she had kind eyes and the cats only mostly hated her. By far my favourite introduction though was to my father in-law. when we walked down the path to his garden with our new puppy he immediately picked her up and started telling her that “Granddad loves you” and inquiring about when she could come stay for the night (an offer he has since rescinded). I remember feeling so chuffed and later remarked that “if he was that excited about the puppy I can’t wait to see him when we mention the baby’. I think he was marginally more excited about the puppy. We have dinner there once a week and widget gets her own special dog food which he feeds her by hand at 4 different points over the evening (referred to as feedings 1-4). We also never leave before Widget and Granddad have cuddle on the couch. We’ve been informed by family members that if he’s out and about on Sunday he always announces that he needs to get home and cook dinner because his special girl Widget is coming. We have to be careful to not use the word “Granddad” at home unless we are about to go to the car and visit otherwise Widget sits by the back door looking very put out. He is quite possibly her favourite person.

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The reason why Granddad is Widget’s favourite person involves a good deal of bribery. 

Widget is kind and loyal. She is so patient with the kids and gives me a very direct stare if they have been crying to long and she thinks I am doing a sub-par job. Before the kids she would run and hide from the vacuum, now she barks and chases it, even though she’s terrified, so that we don’t accidentally suck up her little friends. Despite being very large she still often lies down to greet tiny dogs. She always wants to help out at bath time. She really cuts down on the amount of toddler food related mopping we have to do.  She loves running through puddles with her mouth open and has recently learnt not to choke on puddle water in the process. She is not normally allowed on the bed but on the odd occasion I’ve let her up (usually when it’s cold and hubby is away) she has proved to be a very considerate spooner.

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Guard dog Widget patrols for intruders. Of course if any ever arrived she would great them warmly.
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I found this bee suit for $3 at an op-shop and it was the best day ever. Isobel loved that Widget was dressed as “hehore” (Eeyore dresses like a bee in her Piglet movie) and Monty was ashamed of us all.
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Boxing day 2014 got hot halfway up a mountain and widget decided she needed to hitch a lift on the way back down. It’s hard being a not that fit black dog on a hot day.

I’m not sure if we’ll get another dog after Widget. Now that we’ve caught onto my little early pregnancy tell we will definitely not be getting another puppy! But I’m very glad we have her in our family. My big, lumpy, licky, scardypants, fur baby.

May your days be filled with as many doggo kisses as you desire!

-Hana-

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Our wonderful Widget (art by a very talented younger sister)

The TV Times

Ah TV my friend and nemesis. Isobel’s would-be constant companion and my evening sanity saver. TV is on fairly often in our house (no-ones eyes have turned square yet so sorry not sorry) and I generally try to talk with Isobel about what we’re watching and engage in conversation. I also try and point Esther away from the screen but for some reason she seems to rotate? Weird. In light of all the time I am investing in children’s TV (usually like 2 weeks of binge watching 1 show before moving on to the next) I thought I would create an output (I’ve just done a PBRF portfolio can you tell?) and so I present to you my very formal children’s TV review:

Paw Patrol 🐶🐶🐶

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Isobel selects a dress specifically to dance the hoedown with the pups. Widget wonders why she isn’t invited to dance the hoedown.

We are currently watching Paw Patrol on lightbox. I resisted for ages because we did not actually have a lightbox subscription but there is only a limited number of times you can hear “why can’t you play Paw Puptwal like good Aunty Joe” before being driven to spend the  $12.99 just to end it. Paw Patrol is very intense. The puppies drive really fast and people yell “go” a lot. The adults are generally incompetent (a friend pointed out that when you want puppies to be the hero’s you need the competence level of most characters to be pretty low) but the animal sidekicks are awesome. Chickaletta is the family favourite and has boosted toddler corn consumption. Yesterday Isobel told me “Mum I love you so much. You’re really good at putting Paw Puptwal on the big TV for me. Great job.” Such Praise.

Watch this show when you are desperate and need a guaranteed attention grabber while you angry clean the house. Or (completely hypothetically) you have just had to pee in yard because your toddler took soooo long getting up your stupidly long path from the car that there was no time to get in the house and you really need a moment to gather yourself and think carefully about your life without the very slow and sad toddler. In that completely hypothetical situation I would recommend Paw Patrol. Hypothetically.

When we finish watching Paw Patrol Isobel weeps and asks for more Paw Patrol.

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The night we learnt that Paw Patrol before bed was a baaaad idea.

Pros: Isobel has started yelling “Chase is on the case” as she completes tasks around the house.

Cons: Isobel now points out Paw Patrol merch everywhere we go and I feel like soon she will realise that these things are available for purchasing. Also we only have season one and there is only 1 girl puppy. Boo. That means that only 1/7 (14.3%) of the main characters  you see every episode (6 dogs and their human leader Ryder) is a girl. Every little girl I speak to about Paw Patrol (including Isobel) tells me that sky is their favourite. Usually because she can fly, which is awesome yay flying, but I’m fairly confident that it’s not a coincidence that all the girls I know love the girl dog the best. A friend noticed recently that when they were out with other people her daughter would say that Sky was her favourite pup but at home when it was just them she was all about Rubble. She already knew what puppy she “should” like (the girl puppy because she is a girl) and was fitting herself in with that expectation at age 3. Boooooo!!! I think this stuff really matters and if you’d like to read more about it I suggest you head on over to Sacraparental and read a couple of posts about the Maisy test for sexism in kids shows.

Isobel’s review: Me: “Isobel what do you think about Paw Patrol?” Isobel: “Good”

Sarah and Duck 🦆🦆🦆🦆

Sarah and Duck is a lovely show about a girl (Sarah) and her duck (Duck). Sarah likes cherry tomatoes and Duck likes bread. They spend their time solving mundane problems in a calm manner. Mrs Patmore from Downton Abbey is their neighbour “Scarf Lady” and they a friends with a collection of kind and unique children including “Plate Girl”, the “Ribbon Sisters”, and Flamingo and John (who are actually one child and one flamingo).  It’s quirky, whimsical and kind spirited and Isobel thinks its funny.

When we finish watching Sarah and Duck Isobel asks to bake a poppy seed cake – because Sarah bakes a cake with poppy seeds in it. She also writes a shopping week each week which is usually just ingredients for a poppy seed cake.

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Our rate of poppy seed purchasing far exceeds our rate of cake making.

Pros: They spend a lot of time calmly travelling on the bus to the shops. It’s very relaxing to watch. They also bake a lot of bread and wear a lot of knitted things.

Cons: Weird things are alive. Rainbow, Moon, and Umbrella are all alive and can talk.  Duck and Flamingo are sentient but only quack/honk. Other birds, including other ducks, are weirdly just birds. Also, in season one they bake a cake which comes alive and instructs them on how to cook it. Then they debate whether or not they can eat it (they decide no thank goodness). THEN in season Two it turns out cake has been living alone and depressed in the fridge for like a year so they solve the problem by taking him to a bread shop where cakes are baked and eaten!!! Cake is so chill with this that he stays to become an assistant. I don’t think his time int he fridge was that good for him.

Isobel’s review: Me: “Isobel what do you think about Sarah and Duck?” Isobel: “Good”

Bonus award for the best Christmas episode! It features no Santa or presents. Instead Sarah and duck follow bug through the hedge to pick Christmas light flowers. It’s like Willy Wonka but minus the creepy and cavities.

Grotto

Doc McStuffins ⚕️🐑☃️🐉

I feel like even non-kid people know about this one right? Our most musical addition to the TV line up, Doc and her collection of animals spend time playing, breaking, and getting fixed. Yay. Isobel got a doctors kit for Christmas (thanks GG) and now regularly declares that “I’m being Doc McStuffins for Esther” before aggressive poking her with a scalpel (like she literally chants “I’m chopping you up into a sandwich” while sawing at her foot). It’s nice to see the girls playing together. The other day Esther was bleeding a tiny amount from her foot and Isobel immediately got super excited and retrieved the plasters from where she had secretly hidden them in perpetration for this very moment. She insisted on putting it on herself because she is big enough.

When we finish watching Doc McStuffins we usually transition into playing Doc McStuffins.

Pros: The songs are pretty fun. I sometimes actually sing the “hey what’s going on?” song to Isobel when she is sad. It doesn’t usually make her tell me whats wrong but does remind her that she could nag me for Doc McStuffins instead of weeping. Also Doc’s mum is the doctor and her Dad cooks most of the dinners and is kind and sensitive. It’s rad.

Cons: Isobel gets very excited about playing Doc with Esther. Esther does not always want to have her ears and eyes checked by an overly enthusiastic 2 year old. I have a lot of sympathy for Esther’s position. Disagreements ensue.

Isobel’s review: Me: “Isobel what do you think about Doc McStuffins?” Isobel: “Good”

Puffin Rock 🥌🥌🥌🥌🥌*

*(there is no puffin emoji and this curling stone was the closest thing to “rock” I could find)

This is my favourite!!!! It is beautiful and funny and calm and interesting. The music is quiet and instrumental. I learn things about nature and did I mention it’s beautiful? Chris O’Dowd (the guy from The IT Crowd that isn’t Moss) narrates as a lovely collection of animals run around doing animally things. There is a running fart joke that hits the spot with Isobel. The joke is accurate to nature as the character is a pygmy shrew using stink to build up a defense against predators. It turns out I prefer my fart jokes accurate to nature and a little educational.  No one yells “go” over and over, no adults do inexplicably bizarre and incompetent things, and it’s beautiful (did I say that already? I have seriously investigated buying Puffin Rock art to fill my house with because I love it so much). When we finish watching Puffin Rock Isobel runs around in the bushes yelling “Oh no Mousey that was a terrible smell” and “Where’s Baba??”. Very cute.

Pros: It is quite nice to look at.

Cons: I am now even more deeply suspicious of seagulls due to their role on the show.

Isobel’s review: Me: “Isobel what do you think about Puffin Rock?” Isobel: “Good”

I’d love to know what you enjoy watching at yours (either with your kids or for your kids while you do other things!). Eventually we’ll get tired of these four and need something else, right????

-Hana-

 

 

 

What Mothering Made Me

I remember sitting with my midwife before Isobel was born and explaining that I probably wouldn’t join a whole lot of mum/baby groups because I “didn’t want my whole life to become about my kids”. Lol. My midwife nodded and smiled and suggested I keep an open mind. She is a wise lady. Everything is about my kids. Even when I’m doing very exciting and non-toddler themed work things, or organising people to deliver/cook/eat 7,000 pies in one meal (an actual real life example of a thing I do sometimes), I do it differently because of my kids.

 

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“Let’s not store any kids stuff in the lounge. We’ll keep that as an adult space.”

 

Before the mammals arrived I had a very different opinion of what sort of parent I would be. I would actually say things out loud like “Having a dog will be great. It will encourage us to get out of the house and go for a walk everyday. I won’t mind walking the dog in the rain” or “I just won’t let my kids carry food around the house, that will keep the mess contained”. “I don’t think we’ll let the kids eat in the car” came up a couple of times. Little did I know.

 

 

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Both the girls were accomplished power-chuckers from an early age. #gifted #blessed

Before the mammals my tolerance for other people’s bodily fluids was pitiful. Now I can power through anything with a smile (grimace) on my face and a song in my heart. Some true (poo themed) stories. The first time we left Widget alone in the bathroom she panicked, pooed, rolled in the poo and then danced her way around the walls/shower/cupboard so that there was complete wall and floor covering of poo from upright puppy height down. Once Isobel had gastro and was sitting on my bed. I heard a noise that indicated she’d need a new nappy so went to get one. As I was leaving the room I heard splashing. She was literally sitting on my bed splashing in a small lake of her own liquid poo. Hubby was away. This happened to me and I did not die. Pre-kids Hana would not have thought that was possible.

 

 

I say a lot more stupid things now than I used to. Partially because I need way more sleep than I’m getting. Partially because I now have so many mammals that I can’t keep their names straight. Mostly because I have to teach the girls things I’d kind of assumed humans just knew. “If you’re using your teeth you’re not just looking”. “The dog will not take a small bite and give the rest back to you”. “If you shove your hand that far into your mouth/eye/ear it will hurt”.

I’m also happier since I became a mum. And sadder. I was talking with friends this week about the huge highs and lows of parenting. This week I felt my heart break when Isobel sat weeping on the floor surrounded by shoes that weren’t on her feet and despaired “I’m just a little girl and I can’t do anything”. I comforted her as we watched her helium balloon (that she definitely would not let go of) float slowly away.  I shook with disappointment and exhaustion when I heard Esther waking up for the (insert number so big I forgot) time in the night juuuust as I was drifting back to sleep. It was hard and I was sad.  But I also watched as Isobel spent ages writing her cousin’s name in his birthday card. She worked so hard and if you were forewarned about what you were looking at it actually looked like letters. Yesterday Esther grabbed my face way to hard, smooshed her slobby mouth onto my cheek, blew a raspberry and laughed. Then she did it twice more. Joy!

 

I weep a lot more as a mother. Sometimes when I sing them to sleep a tear sneaks out because they are too tiny and perfect. Sometimes they are kind to me even when I don’t deserve it. The Doc McStuffins story arc about the new baby coming has been unexpectedly emotional.

I also cry a lot because I’m angry. I’m angry that people make comments which make me feel bad about bodies like mine. My wonderful body which just finished healing itself from carrying and delivering my second beautiful child. I get angry that I live in a country where we are not always kind to our children. I’m angry and worried that some people might treat my daughters differently because they are girls. Might limit them, might expect them to do more than their share of the emotional lifting. When Esther was born and people told me it was a shame she wasn’t a boy I was angry. As if she wasn’t the most precious, perfect, wanted, thing on the planet. As if her sister wasn’t fierce and strong and capable and wonderful. As if they were anything other than wholly amazing.

I have been angry about these sort of issues for most of my life but it’s different now. Now I can’t shake the sense that the broken or hurting person in front of me is someone who was once a child. Whose mother once had to tell them that if you stab yourself with a kebab stick a second time it will hurt just as much as the first. Who called out in the night to be held and comforted and loved. Who is probably still crying out to be held and comforted and loved. So even though I’m angrier I also find myself softer, more compassionate and, weirdly, calmer.

Hubby was away this week and Isobel snuck through in the night. I found her curled up on the end of my bed like a cat. Trying to sleep with me and not wanting to be caught. I popped her in under the covers and lay awake listening to the little chorus of snorts and snuffles from my house full of mammals. And I felt tired, and sleepy, and a little bit sad,  a little bit happy, a little bit hopeful, a little bit frightened, but mostly very whole. I don’t think I have ever felt so many things all at once, until mothering made me.

Mum’s the word

Things I didn’t understand about my mother until had children/married a man;

Why did she always do a load of washing just as we were walking out the door?

Why did she need to drink so much coffee?

Why wouldn’t she acknowledge that her work as a teacher aid for high needs preschoolers involved toys and was therefore fun not work?

Why didn’t she appreciate it more when we offered to help her with a job she had started and very nearly finished?

Why did she care so much about how clean my room was?

Why did she need to always ask my teachers what I could be doing better when I was clearly doing fine?

How could anyone leave their wallet in the freezer?

Why was she so reluctant to let us get out of the car and play when we were waiting to pick up dad from work?

How could you leave the blue plastic on the bottom of the pastry, *more than once*?

Why was it so difficult to dry my togs the morning of swimming, it’s hard to remember to always put them out and togs actually dry very quickly.

Things I still don’t understand about my mother;

Her unfailing belief in any product made from bamboo.

Things I have never fully appreciated about my mother until recently;

I was a difficult delivery and a very colicky baby and she still loves me.

She is really good and bringing soup when you’re sick.

She lets me nap on her couch and doesn’t demand videos or dinner while I do it.

She loves my daughters and teaches them about wonderful things while I nap on the couch.

She doesn’t mind when I arrive at her house and immediately look in her fridge.

She is always available for a coffee.

She is a really good music teacher. I didn’t make use of this as a child but am excited for my children!

She has no desire to force me to parent the way she chose to parent (even though it was pretty good).

She knows a lot about stain removal and food safety (not related).

She will happily come over and help me look for the dog who has escaped the yard while the kids are (finally) asleep. It’s not even a problem for her.

She buys a lot of picture books.

Thanks mum. From me and the mammals.

 

 

 

 

Stinking hot and stinking plants!

Hubby is away on a very exciting international work trip this week. He is not as excited as I think he should be. Apparently sitting for hours on a plane by himself with unlimited tv and people you bringing you drinks and food is getting in the way of other things he wants to be doing. I am not going on an exciting international work trip this week. I went to an open home with my mum this afternoon. Yesterday I went to the museum. Tomorrow I will go to Church.  My children were at/will be at all of these places and neither of them have brought me a single drink or meal. Slackers. To give credit where it is due though Isobel is pretty keen on the unlimited TV as long as you’re happy watching endless loops of one really weird version of Miss Polly had a Dolly. Please watch with us if you’d like to know what my house sounds like. We have been going on many outings because it has been sooooo hot and our heatpump remote is broken so I can’t turn it on to cool so we are grumpy. Also because with Hubby away the pile of dishes is growing alarmingly and it’s easier to ignore it if I’m out of the house.

It’s not normally this hot here. Growing up Dad would often tell us that Dunedin’s Scottish settlers sailed all around New Zealand until they found the greyist, most miserable spot that reminded them so much of home they decided to stay. I don’t think this is the official version of proceedings but it’s probably not that far from the truth. Outside of a few months of usually pretty nice summer Dunedin has a reputation for being a bit cold and grey so this January (our hottest ever apparently has been a real spanner in the works and the mammals have been melting!!

Melting and not sleeping. Isobel is awake until after 10 most nights at the moment because it is too hot and light out to sleep apparently. Widget is the exception to the no sleep rule.  She only wants to sleep, and lay down and pant until about 10pm when it finally is cool enough for a big black dog to be interested in life again. So I’ve given up on reasonable bedtimes and extended the “lets go an outing away from the dishes” policy to include evening adventures instead. Swims at the Salt Water Pool, walks in the gardens, late night supermarket trips. It’s been such a relief to stop worrying about Isobel being in bed at a particular time and to just give up and go with the flow. I suspect she’s relieved as well to not be lying in her bed alone and bored for the hours between when I think she should be in bed and when she is actually even close to being able to go to sleep. Esther sleeps whenever she sleeps. She’s a baby and I have read enough conflicting baby sleep advice to know that babies will do as they please, when they please. Cute little dictators.

Last night  we got the chance to go on a pretty unique adventure – the Corpse Plant was finally flowering at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens! This delightful plant flowers for about 36 hours every 10 years and lets off a particularly noticeable stink to make sure the required bugs don’t miss the auspicious event. What better way to cap of a stinking hot week (that featured a serious flood event halfway through!) than with a huge stinking flower! It’s been ages since I’ve been int he gardens in the evening and due to the flower they were full of people, particularity families, and it was a lovely adventure. Please enjoy some pictures or our escapades and if you’re in Dunedin maybe go and see the flower if you have a chance? Or enjoy the playground and ducks!

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Esther and I do some learning while waiting in line. I was unprepared for the “fleshy towering spadix” bit and got the giggles.
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Getting our sniff on! The verdict? “wow amazing”
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“We don’t want to touch a cactus!” Wise child.
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Balancing on the “really long thing”.
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“Those ducks are saying to me “hey come in our pond”. But I’m not listening to those guys”.

So hot, late nights have turned out to be a real blessing for us but only once I gave up on doing anything sensible. I highly recommend it!

Hana

 

 

 

 

Featured

Meet my mammals

Welcome to my first ever blog post (very auspicious). WordPress tells me I should “use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.” That seems waaaayyyy too difficult so instead I thought I would introduce you to the blog famous mammals and tell you a little bit about how they came to be in my life. So please, sit back, relax and meet my mammals:

Hubby and I meet during  high school here in Dunedin and started dating years later in uni. 11 months after that we got married (I got our wedding anniversary wrong for the first 4/5 years but I think I’ve got it down now!). He’s a pretty private person so he won’t feature much here but we all love him very much. He’s also a babe.

Shortly after we brought our house I decided it needed to be filled with mammals. We went to the wonderful SPCA Otago to adopt a cat. As in “Hana we are looking today, we will probably not get a cat. If we do we will definitely only get one”. Twenty minutes and a small argument later and we had Monty and Poncho.

Hubby had decided before we arrived that he wanted to name a cat Poncho, so walked into the cat room spread his arms wide and called out “PONCHO”.

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Monty (Ginger) and Poncho (Tabby) may not actually love to go camping. We’ll never know because my campaign was unsuccessful and we did not get them adorable cat tents. RIP dreams.

Surprisingly, a small Tabby thing ran right up his leg and perched on his shoulder in a near perfect imitation of a cat skin poncho. In hind-sight we should have guessed from his waaay to enthusiastic greeting that he had issues. He came home with us and has basically never gotten off, even going so far as to leap onto passing guests and demand a ride up to house. This is not ideal cat behavior and offends me because I think he should have more dignity. I chose Monty because he was cute and quiet and had just gotten back into the big room after a trip to the vets. He’d licked the floor detergent off a mop and burnt his tounge which I thought was adorable. Since getting him home he has developed a special knack for climbing a stack of plates/bowls and peeing in them. He sleeps outside now.

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Widget awaiting food delivery

Widget, our dog of mysterious origins, arrived in 2014. I had been literally weeping for several weeks about how much I needed a puppy to love and so, greatly under prepared for the realities of puppy ownership, we went and picked up our big goofy love dog. The cats were not pleased. That hasn’t really changed. Weirdly the weeping didn’t stop, I now just wept on my puppy and told her about how much I needed to love her. Two days later I took a pregnancy test.

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“Mum why is that truck got cement coming out it’s butt?”

Isobel arrived about 8 months later. She is exactly the kind of child my mother wished I’d have. I know because whenever she is being wonderfully stubborn my mother looks at me, laughs and says “this is exactly the kind of child I hoped you’d have when you were younger”. She is quirky, thoughtful, kind (mostly) and fiercely independent. She loves to dance and laugh and organise things into their correct categories. She is so much like me and so much like her father. Her preferred nickname is Bellbird and she spends a lot of time choosing the appropriate footwear for any occasion.

When Isobel was about 18 months old I found  myself sitting in front of the computer weeping and looking at puppies online. Hubby had to firmly remind me that I didn’t really want another puppy, and thank goodness he did! Esther arrived about 8 months later. Esther is adored by her sister. She is the most calm and steady person I know. She loves a bit of banter and will talk (loudly) to anyone who says hello to her. She can create a drool patch on a new outfit that reaches her belly button in under 30 minutes. She hates being washed so usually smells at least a little bit like warm milk. I love to smell her.

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Esther is really advanced for her age and loves going to art exhibitions with me.

So there we are! Four people, two cats and one puppy (she will obviously always be my puppy even though she weighs more than the kids combined). I’m excited to do some writing. I’m excited to share a little bit of our world and our family life. I’m excited to talk about the ways parenting and pet owning (not equivalent but both rad) challenge me and grow me. I’m excited to write and share about whatever I want without having to negotiate about it with anyone else (ha!). I’m also excited to learn about you (mystery reader) and the mammals in your life that you love!

So let’s get going?

– Hana –