My Kiwi Identity or What I Love about NZ

At 7:00pm tonight, at the Bruce Mason Centre I will be sworn in as a New Zealand citizen.

I could have sent in the paperwork and done this at any point over the past 15 years or so as I have met the criteria for claiming Kiwi citizenship for quite a long time now.

My Canadian passport came up for renewal, and the children’s did around the same time, so I thought we may as well all have our passports renewed at the same time and I ought to just get my Kiwi one organised.

I would hazard a guess there are few people on the planet as frequently and genuinely grateful to be living in their surrogate country as I am to be here in New Zealand.

For those of you who don’t live here, or don’t know much about this Island Paradise, here’s a buzz feed of 69 facts about New Zealand you might find interesting.

I know that my country of choice is far from perfect, and the vast imperfections are highlighted as we lead up to the November election.  The most pressing concerns as far as myself and my family are concerned being our abhorrent domestic violence and poverty, and our energy and environmental policies.  There’s plenty more to discuss, but I’ll leave it there.

So on this, the first official day of what I hope will be a long and happy life as a Kiwi, I thought I’d share with you a quick list of things that make me think of New Zealand.

1) Rainforest, streams, birds, big trees, tramping, nothing that will kill you (no snakes or bears or vicious animals at all in our gentle little Island paradise), scenery, greenery and beautiful coastline. So… Nature.  We got it in spades down here.

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2) Punching above our weight.  We’re a nation of overachievers.  Sure lots of Kiwis head offshore for a time and seek fame or fortune abroad, but once New Zealand is in your heart, there’s a very good chance you’ll return.  We do very well at the Olympics.  We are currently the greatest Rugby nation on earth.  We share great business and academic minds with the world.  I feel that New Zealand and Canada share this mentality to punch above our weight, as we both have larger nations to compete with.  Kiwis have the Ozzies and Canadians have the ‘Mericans.  It gives us kind of a stroppy younger sibling mentality in some ways I think, and that means as a nation and as individuals we are often seen on the world stage.  Grumpy’s company Serato is a great example of this, and I am consistently baffled as to why, as a nation, we don’t celebrate our successful sons and daughters a bit more here at home.  Guess it is that whole humility thing and the tall poppy mentality.  Grumpy himself certainly doesn’t want to be “celebrated” and prefers to keep to himself.  I think that’s pretty cool, and typically Kiwi.

3) I’m not the only person who seems to like this temperate Island Nation.  There’s a certain type of chilled out rich and/or famous person who seems to be attracted to these shores.  We play host to lots of celebrities of note.  Some stay for a while and speak highly of our Island Nation (Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, Tom Cruise, etc…) Others plant roots here and call NZ home.  Some of my favourite implanted people who now reside here include James Cameron, Shania Twain and/or Mutt Lange and there’s a long list of other people who have or continue to own property and frequent New Zealand as they too believe it is just about the most perfect place on the planet.

4) Food.  Oh my goodness, do we understand food.  Fresh produce, a year-round growing season for a vast and breathtaking array of fruits and vegetables.  Organic produce and meats and cheeses.  Beautiful wine, honey, and native herbs and spices.  We don’t ascribe to pre-packaged fast-food and empty calories mentality.  It has snuck in a little, and there’s plenty of KFC, McDonalds, Wendy’s and other fast food chains that help contribute to us being an embarrassingly fat nation, but in our defence, lovely fresh and healthy food is available here year round if you’re willing to go out and get it.  We have countless markets ranging from cheap and cheerful places where you pick up produce from the farmer himself, to high end French style markets boasting delicious but dear morsels.

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5) Diversity.  We have an amazing ethnic diversity.  We are the largest Polynesian island and boast the largest Polynesian population.  People from Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Cook Islands, Niue, and even the Melanesian island nations have enriched this country with their food, sporting prowess, arts, music and culture.  We also have a rich and vibrant Asian population and more and more people from around the world are bringing their gifts and talents to our shores.  Aside from ethnic diversity, we have an amazing biodiversity.  We have the only natural prehistoric forest left on earth.  Tramp into the Waitakere ranges, and you’ll be seeing plants exactly as they looked when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

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I could go on and on about New Zealand and how great it is, but I have kids to get to school and I’m sure you have things to do as well.

Wish me luck for tonight’s ceremony.

xxoo Dee

Last Minute Mayhem… I LOVE IT!

I travel.

Like the sun sets and the moon rises, I travel.

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I have since I was very young and my mother and her gypsy spirit lugged me and my older brother (who also travels) around Europe to countless castles, caves and churches throughout my childhood.

For those of you who don’t know, we’re off on a 6 week whirlwind tour of North America and Europe with the whole fam-damily.

A week on the West Coast with an old Bestie.  We’ll be touring around with the youngest Hobbit in tow. I suspect wine, food, and laughter will play a rather major part of our itineraries.  Other than that, we don’t have much of a plan.  I rented a car.  I’ll pack a bag. We have six days.  Should be fun!

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Then a week in Alberta.  The highlights of this will be a girl’s night out in the city I was born and then heading South to Calgary through the Rocky Mountains to visit family and friends.

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Then I jet to New Jersey to meet the man of my dreams, hubby Phteven (aka Grumpy) and we’ll head over to Manhattan for food, fun, romance and sightseeing.

Grumpy and I at the fountain outside the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan
Grumpy and I at the fountain outside the Lincoln Centre in Manhattan

From there we head North to the Ottawa Valley for three short days where we’ll see my Grandad and introduce him to his youngest great grandson and spend time with all the kids and my mom.

Our shadows at sunset in Black Bay near my grandfather's house in Quebec
Our shadows at sunset in Black Bay near my grandfather’s house in Quebec

 

Then Grumpy and I will farewell the three eldest children and leave them in the care of my mother as we head to London to visit the Queen… Well, not really… We’re going to see his brother. I also hope to see a couple of friends while we’re in and around London town for a couple of days.  So if you’re reading this and you’ll be in the area, drop me a line and we can catch up for a cuppa or a pint!  Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t.  But we’re always back eventually!

Then we’re off to the continent for a whirlwind tour of Northern Europe to investigate some EV (Electric Vehicle) excitement, and maybe get a glimpse of our Tesla S before it heads off on the boat for New Zealand from the Netherlands.  We will see.

Then we will be reunited with the kids in Barcelona and off on a family cruise, just the six of us (myself, Grumpy and our four fabulous offspring) on Disney Magic for a week.

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On our tour we’ll hopefully be able to see the second and third of three super-moons for 2014. One in Alberta and one on our cruise.  We’ll also get a chance to see if we can remember how to negotiate the trials and stresses of tight travel schedules and maintain some semblance of marital bliss.

We haven’t traveled internationally since January, which is the longest stint we have ever been in New Zealand consecutively since we started dating back at the turn of the century.  2002 to be exact.

We’d had a few bad experiences with travel agents over the years, so I do all my own bookings these days. If I have an agent it needs to be someone I can visit and chat with.  There’s one gorgeous girl who I’ll be contacting to help us with our plans for a round the world trip with the kids in the next few years.  I do hope you’re reading and know it is you I am talking about Grace.  I keep meaning to pop in and chat and just never get around to it!

So today I have spent the entire day researching hotel rooms, flights, connections and the cheapest way to get from Belgium to Barcelona.  Looks like we’re going to be riding the train for that part of the journey.  Cheap and cheerful, and an adventure to boot!

I am so excited I find myself getting a bit tearful.  The Love of travel and the desire to traverse the globe is what keeps me going.

The promise of the next adventure is what makes it possible to do any of the important (but dull) day to day things that need to be done between adventures.  I really don’t know that I can slow or settle down as much as I tried to this year.  I’ve been a runner my whole life.  I ran away from home regularly from the age of about 4 or 5 and continue to crave the unknown more every year I am alive.

Grumpy does not enjoy travel.  Well, he very much enjoys being in new places and seeing or doing new things, he is just very adverse to the necessary evils of getting from point A to point B.  He hates airports. He hates cabs. He hates buses. He hates trains. He likes driving and doing his own thing and he LOVES to cruise because you unpack once and then it is food, fun and fabulousness from dawn till dusk until the day you disembark.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week.  Gearing up for another Hobbit adventure.  It feels so good to be stressing about the impending departure.  Familiar and fabulous.  I hope I remember to pack Uncle Traveling Matt this time!  I so often forget him.

So now, at well after 10pm on a sober Saturday night in the Hobbit household, I’ll sign off and continue my travel research.

XXOO

Thanks for reading!

 

Breastfeeding Blog

I’m always amazed at the response breastfeeding can conjure up in people. People on any part of the spectrum of preferring bottle or breast can get pretty militant.

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Here’s the thing:

People don’t have to agree with the way you chose to feed your baby for it to be absolutely fine. And it is not yours, nor is it my place to have or share opinions with or about mothers on the choices they make for themselves and their children (provided the children’s safety is not in danger).

I breastfeed. It fits in well with my hectic lifestyle. Good friends have even nicknamed me “daisy the dairy cow” in jest because I have enormous and productive boobs. I don’t find that offensive, I find it funny, but I wouldn’t suggest anyone take a crack at referring to a less than dear friend this way.

This is our newest baby asleep after a monster feed.  He's about two weeks old here and that pillow he's resting on his my massive boob.  Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable.  He certainly isn't uncomfortable, and neither am I!
This is our newest baby asleep after a monster feed. He’s about two weeks old here and that pillow he’s resting on his my massive boob. Sorry if it makes you uncomfortable. He certainly isn’t uncomfortable, and neither am I!

We know people all over the bottle or breast-feeding spectrum. The only things that makes me sad or upset are if women are made to feel any sort of shame or failure because of the choices they make/made when it comes to feeding their children from birth.

Some people we know breastfed or continue to feed well into toddler years. Does this affect me in any way? Nope. Are their kids healthy and happy? Yes. Am I an advocate for breastfeeding as long as you please or letting children self wean? Sure I am. Do I breastfeed my toddlers? Nope. Why not? Just cause I choose not to.  My choice, and even breastfeeding to 12 months or so gains me critics in the family and beyond.  Whatevs.

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As much as I feel obliged to defend women who extend breastfeeding, I also feel obligated to remind everyone to lay off women who bottle-feed.

I know women who are AMAZING mothers who either made a pre-emptive decision to bottle or mix feed. I also know women who attempted to breastfeed, and it was so difficult that they opted for the bottle rather than the pain, frustration, and complications they were subjected to. Some of these women felt like they had failed. Some of these women’s partners and friends made off-handed comments that augmented those fears and feelings. I find that a very tough pill to swallow indeed.

So how can I share a message that clearly delineates just how much I wish we could all just get along and encourage each other? It is great that people have opinions about breastfeeding. Advocates of attachment parenting and breastfeeding have done wonderful things for mothers in our society. But the other side of that is the ugliness of pushing one’s beliefs onto someone else unsolicited, and doing some serious damage.

Motherhood is hard. Really hard. I’m struggling with my post baby body, and my post partum emotions and most days I do not feel like it is a battle I am winning.

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So here’s the mantra I want to share:

Bottle or breast – being a kind and Loving mother is best.

No more complicated than that.

I’ll wrap this up with a couple of quick stories of mothering wins.

Last weekend I travelled down to Wellington for a much needed and overdue catch up with a friend who I admire in Wellington. It was her husband’s 50th birthday, and it gave me an opportunity to be alone with my son for three days and catch up with her alone for the first time in absolutely ages. It was nice.

In the lounge on the way home, I sat staring out the window while feeding my son with a blanket over us. This is how I chose to feed. Sometimes I don’t have a blanket, so I feed as discreetly as I can for my own modesty, not because I owe it to anyone else.

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While I was feeding, a lovely and gorgeous middle aged woman sitting next to me put down her wine, got my attention, looked me in the eye and said:

“Would you like me to get you something? Like a muffin or a drink or something?”

I was so chuffed with this kind gesture! Needeless to say, we spent the rest of the time before her flight chatting. When I was done feeding she watched the wee man for a spell while I went and got some sandwiches and a nice cup of tea. I have thought back on this seemingly insignificant meeting and felt so blessed to be living in a country where this kind of thing can happen.

There are still places, even in the Western world, where breastfeeding mother’s are made to feel ashamed or told to feed in the toilet! This is mind-boggling.

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The second story involves a lovely and stroppy mother I’ve met through her husband. I saw her posts and that she had been struggling with her son’s health and he had to have several operations as his insides grew on his outsides in utero. I went to visit them at the hospital to finally meet this lovely woman in person. She had a second brand new infant son and I was pregnant at the time.

The dad mentioned to his beautiful wife that their younger son looked hungry. I made the instant assumption she was going to pull out a boob. Nope. He got up, made a bottle and fed him and they both looked so happy and attached, and the mother and I carried on our conversation and got along brilliantly.

She told me briefly about her run-ins with a few breastfeeding advocates who tried to shame her about bottle feeding. She pointed out that bottle feeding was the best option because of the operations and being able to monitor her son’s intake. It also meant that the boys and their father were absolutely gorgeously attached in a way that is perhaps lacking a bit between my babies and their father. He bottle feeds them from expressed stores in our fridge or freezer if I choose to have more than one drink, but he doesn’t relish the experience the way this dad seemed to relish feeding his son. But neither one of our families is doing it right or wrong, we are just doing it our way.

I wish you all the strength and confidence to do it your way – bottle or breast. And for those of you who don’t have children, please encourage those around you to confidently do it their way as well. Breastfeeding is natural and bottle feeding is a very good option for some people.

And that is only just the tip of the iceberg regarding all I have to say about that… And I’m happy to do a part two or continue talking about this subject if enough people are interested in reading it.

Have a great day.

Thanks for taking the time to read!

XXOO

 

 

Children, chores and failed chocolate chip banana cake.

Today is the birthday of one of my most FAVOURITE humans in the whole word. We’ve been friends for nearly two decades now. I am currently fighting with a banana cake attempting to make it look like a heart…

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Not winning. We’ll be popping in to surprise her at her work later today.  We’ll deliver a cake (probably not this one though) and some cuddles. I am pretty confident writing about it, as she’s probably not going to read the blog during the day.

My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.
My beautiful friend delivering a speech as a bridesmaid at our Valentines day renewal.
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Steph LOVES her Auntie P.
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Not a stitch of make-up and absolutely one of the most gorgeous creatures on earth. Here she’s helping get things organised. She’s good like that :-)

My darling daughter absolutely adores her Auntie P (birthday girl) and insisted she help make the cakes. She helped, and she made a magnificent mess in the process.

The children are always keen to help cook and bake, and anything they see as fun. But when it comes time to clean up, they make themselves suspiciously scarce.

They have been asking me for a chores list so they know what to do and when for months and months. I wrote one for Stephanie that she referred to and observed her duties with impressive discipline.

Both the older kids are obsessed with the concept of pocket money. A couple of budding capitalists? I doubt it, but I have no problem with putting in place a reward system. Here’s what ours looks like, feel free to steal it and tweak it for your own purposes if you’re a parent.

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We also have a fines list, similar to the pocket money chores list only it is negative amounts. You get the idea. I won’t publish that as the things the kids get fined for at this point could be embarrassing to them one day, and I am mindful of the Internet making it tough for you to forget after you’ve put something in the public forum.

So I’ll edit and post this short little sneak peak into Hobbit life for the week, jump in the shower, and head into town to surprise our perfect princess P.

I think I am just going to buy a cake…

Have a great day wherever you are and whatever you are up to!

XXOO

Failure Actually is an Option, it Turns Out…

Motivational paraphernalia (oh my gracious that word has an r in it… I failed to spell it correctly and gave up and used spell check) and posters are everywhere. There’s no shortage of “never give up” type content popping up to remind us to keep our eye on the prize.

Here is just a selection of the motivational and inspirational stuff I found in a quick Google search:

 

Sweating makes me feel sweaty.  And I don't like it. I will get to the gym though, because I like our personal trainer.
Sweating makes me feel sweaty. And I don’t like it. I will get to the gym though, because I like our personal trainer.
Or, I could just be happily unsuccessful here in my big comfy bed?  For a while anyway… Time to conquer the world, my fears and all that jazz another day.
Or, I could just be happily unsuccessful here in my big comfy bed? For a while anyway… Time to conquer the world, my fears and all that jazz another day.
I'm tired already.  Think I'll stop for a cup of tea and a biscuit.
I’m tired already. Think I’ll stop for a cup of tea and a biscuit.

But today, I just wanted to say, I think it is okay, neigh absolutely necessary to give up, admit defeat, or cut your losses from time to time. Don’t make it a mantra or anything. And it is probably best to try and succeed in stuff you set out to do, but nobody wins at everything, and that’s okay.

First thing, I am no fan of Edison.  He was a shrewd business man, but not very nice.  I'm a Tesla girl to the max, but this, this I can relate to and agree with.
First thing, I am no fan of Edison. He was a shrewd business man, but not very nice. I’m a Tesla girl to the max, but this, this I can relate to and agree with.

We are a society that glorifies busy. Busy can end in a jumbled mind, home, head and heart and any one of us is capable of filling up time and running around being magnificently busy. Does it make us better people? Probably not. Does it impress our friends and loved ones? Probably not. If anything, it might exhaust, confound or annoy them. In extreme cases it will worry those around you if you are juggling too many balls and teetering terrifically close to breaking point.

I have to print this and put it somewhere visible.
I have to print this and put it somewhere visible.

Are we motivated to do it and push ourselves to the absolute brink by silly and unattainable ideals of success? Probably.

Why can’t we just be enough? Why do we strive to be more, do more, gain more, etc.?

I’m not trying to say gym bunnies should retire their trainers and take up residence in front of a screen somewhere. I’m not saying that A students should stop striving. I’m not saying that career women juggling a family should (or could for that matter) trade in the kids or the calendar or vice versa, and just focus on one thing for a while. I think I just recently figured out that frequently, the stuff we think matters, probably doesn’t matter as much as we think it does.

So many words. Another failing, I often fail in attempts to be succinct. Just saying.

Where was I?

There are things people do out of necessity. Most people work to earn money to keep the wolf from the door and build a more comfortable life than traditional unemployment would afford. Many people are on a health kick and buffing up as a symptom of some sort of health issue or scare. Some supermom types do what they do because their kids have special needs ranging from diet, to learning or behaviourial or developmental. Keeping abreast of diet and activities for the kids to afford them the best possible chances at contentment is something that some super parents take very seriously to their great credit. Other people strive to keep their marriages or relationships thriving with date nights, romance, public displays of affection.

Other things are done for the Love of it or out of habit. My grandfather keeps the most amazing garden. He feeds half his neighbourhood and drops of fresh food to the foodbank. He preserves enough for himself and countless other people every year. He adores being outside. He is so proud of his garden and he is also a product of the great depression, where, if you don’t grow it, keep it or take care of it, you will go hungry and do without. I live in the most amazing growing climate and I have land I could be cultivating, yet even our lawn is now probably long enough to be considered hay, and my citrus trees are sad to say the least. Sigh.

There have always been things I do not prioritize. I am not houseproud. My children are probably a bit more free-range than most. I don’t often watch my language except online. I am more than just cheerfully chubby right now (tipping the scales at an impressive 69Kg). And my most recent failure is the failure to launch when it comes to running my own business. In some ways it is doing really well, but I cannot give it the time or attention it deserves, so that’s getting put practically to bed. I’ve also been taken for too many rides by too many people, and have come to the less than pleasant conclusion that I cannot physically, mentally, emotionally or financially keep going the way I have been. I’m a softie and a sucker. Always have been. Which makes the reality of the business world a minefield I am not currently willing to negotiate.

Hhahaha. Oh Homer.  You tell it like it is :-)
Hhahaha. Oh Homer. You tell it like it is :-)

One day, when I don’t have a house full of children and several dozen other projects on the go, I will re-evaluate the whole thing. But for now, I am admitting defeat and just barely keeping a toe in the water.

So I’ll add this to my impressive resume of failures. A couple of years ago I dropped out of my post-grad study. Turned out to be a fairly good decision. I’ve walked away from people, projects, and plans for various reasons. I’ve managed or been involved in countless failed projects and campaigns. I’ve started things and never finished them more times than I’d ever successfully be able to recount.

And you know what.

It’s okay.

I’m still here, and oh my word, I have done some amazing things as well.

So I’ll do what I do and you do what you do, and neither of us should give a good gosh darn what other people think. Obviously, we should try not to let people down and we should all meet commitments we have made. But there comes a point when it is perfectly alright, if not necessary to just throw your hands up in the air and say “stuff this, I’m out!” and move on.

Just try and learn something when you do, and you’re well ahead.

I know I may be trivializing some stuff. But seriously, I am constantly surprised that the world does not stop turning if I sometimes say no, or can’t do everything I’d like to. And the whole point of this blog is to share my thoughts and experiences with you and hope it helps you in some way.

So all I wanted to say today was, it is okay to only be good at some stuff, and to try and fail and learn at other stuff. That’s it. I’m not trying to be any more deep or philosophical than that.

Have a good day and don’t be afraid to give some stuff away.

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Hahahha. Don’t think I’ll give up blogging. Need someplace to vent and whine. Giving up a fair few other things I have decided though. Have a great day whatever you get up to. XXOO

Hey Mum, Bemember We Need to go to Lellostone…

I meant to blog about our son turning four on his birthday, which was three weeks ago now.

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Time marched on at the typically busy Hobbit household, with a newborn and countless commitments, I never did get around to it.

So I’ll take a stab at giving you a glimpse into life with our third born, charismatic, charming and exhausting child Adam West.

We knew he was a firecracker from the moment he was born. The things I remember most from the moment he arrived were his big, full beautiful lips, and the feeling that I had to make room for another big personality, not unlike my own. He still has those amazing lips, and his personality is indeed larger than life.

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Isn’t it amazing how we all have a marked personality of one kind or another from the moment we arrive? I find this stuff endlessly fascinating, if not a little confounding. Where does it come from? With four fantastic little people sharing our home and our hearts, it is abundantly clear that they’re all very unique. Despite having the same raw materials (myself and Grumpy), they are distinctive in personality and profile. I get a grin that hurts a little it is so large as I write that, and my eyeballs are starting to sweat a bit as well. But I’m not crying! Honest.

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If you know us, you’ll know that the older children were causing us grief a few years ago, so we sent them off for some psych testing. They both came through the tests as… Ah, stuff it, I’ll just bloody write it, despite the fact I know there will be a bunch of people reading this and gagging or rolling their eyes at this profession. Gifted. We are raising gifted kids. Guess what. It is a thing, it is real, and parents of gifted kids have challenges and concerns that can be tough to deal with. Calling it what it is without shame and speaking openly and candidly with them and other parents about this stuff is the key to what little sanity I am able to securely cling to. So please hang up your judgey pants, because I am not trying to impress or offend anyone.

Okay, apparently I have some issues where this gifted thing is concerned. Dee-fensive or what right! I’ll do a whole blog just on this one day.

For now, back to the story:

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I remember a few weeks after Adam was born, and we were still calling him Jaxson or Jonathan (before we realized his name was actually Adam). We took him and his Thames Nana and Poppa to Vanuatu on a tropical babymoon while his siblings were in Canada with my parents.

I remember stating loudly to Nana Margie over breakfast one morning as I mooned over our new baby: “You know what? I think this one might just be totally normal! Wouldn’t that be nice?”

In New Zealand, people can have a pretty rough time if they stand out. So if you are eccentric or extraordinary, and people notice, you may fall prey to the tall poppy syndrome and have people trying to “knock you down a peg or two”. New Zealand is a culture where being different or exceptional can be a burden. So the idea of this third child being “normal” was a comfort as I imagine there’s a sweet spot, where the most idyllic Kiwi childhoods are experienced. I envisage happy, active, fresh-faced children who don’t cause waves and don’t stick out too much. This is probably BS.  Every single kid, neigh, every person, has their own set of trials and triumphs, IQ means very little indeed when running the gauntlet of childhood and life.  However, I still strangely clung to the idea he was a bit more “normal” and might have a slightly easier ride than his quirky siblings.

 

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Adam is many things, but normal or agreeably average he certainly is not. When he was only little, he came perilously close to being kicked out of his very reputable daycare. Yes, that’s right. He ran a very real risk of being shown the door at the tender age of two. He had a big temper and kept biting other kids. So, the child psychologist was called in to observe our little angel, and decide whether he was a lost cause and must be shipped out for the safety of the other children.

Not a huge highlight in our parenting portfolio.

We got the report and it was suggested that he was bright. Really bright, and perhaps, as a result, he may be frustrated. Sadly, it did not endear him to some teachers who had decided he was a lost cause. Despite being well trained and professional, it was abundantly clear that some of them simply did not like our little bundle of emotion, intelligence and energy. And that made me sad. Luckily, when he moved up to the next level, he found a tough but funny and fair teacher, who had a soft spot for him. We miss her. She was so great to and for him.

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Years later it breaks my heart that he still has real trouble relating to kids his own age. I’ve often come to collect him, and found him playing on his own, which leaves me wondering how useful it was to send him to childcare before he turned two. We did this to help his social skills and give us some time during the week to pursue our own child-free interests and obligations.

As a furiously engaged four year old, Adam has already staked his claim as a geek, just like everyone else in this family. We all have our obsessions and interests and pursue them beyond the realms of normal people. He’s no different. Our son is obsessed with Volcanoes. He has chewed through countless gigabytes of YouTube footage on this subject matter. He’s known how to spell the words magma and lava for months now.

This fantastic four year old, despite a jaw dropping vocabulary and grasp of complicated concepts is still just that, a four year old. He has trouble pronouncing his r’s (often sounded out as a b sound) and y’s (often sounded out as an l sound) yet he asks us complicated existential questions about life, death and mortality. He asks about pyroclastic eruptions (fi-lo plastic ebubtions) and how much warning we might get if one of these mega explosions were to occur in Auckland.

He also adores all things Batman. This is entirely our fault as we have encouraged this affinity from the time we started calling him Adam West.

I don’t know what kind of a job we are doing raising this small but mighty fellow. And we all have a soft spot for him as he’s squished in the middle of a strange and lively group of siblings.

I do know that we Love him with all our hearts. He has a temper, he can be absolutely impossible to reason with and control, especially after he’s had a decent dose of sugar. He is also cheerful, and charming, and kind, and empathetic and amazing. I worry about him more than I ever did about the other children. He is impulsive and has very big emotions. Still, I am confident that with his huge heart, vivid imagination, and stacks of charm, he will be just fine.

We Love you so much little man. And one day, we would very much like to take you to Lellostone National Park to see the geysers and tell us all about seismic activity there and around the world.

Happy Birthday Adam West.

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My Opinions on Other People’s Opinions

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My dad has a saying, which I’ve always thought was pretty accurate.

“Opinions are like assholes.”  He’d say.  “Everyone has one, and they are usually full of…” You get the idea.

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As you know, we’re in an election year.  So lots of people are sparking arguments and flexing their opinions on who they think you should or shouldn’t vote for. I particularly enjoyed this opinion piece that Grumpy read to me a couple of months ago:

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We have some very dear friends who are staunch National voters.  I have no idea who I am going to vote for, but I am 99.9% certain that it will not be National. If you are also having some issues, here is a fun little website called On The Fence that you might enjoy. It asks you some questions and suggests who you might be most aligned to vote for.

Back to my story.

I adore the people I am talking about.  They are kind, generous, funny, supportive and loyal friends.  These facts do not change because they don’t vote the same as me.

They posted some pretty pro-National stuff on social media.  I don’t generally comment and stay as a-political as I can online, however, I chose to chime in on this occasion.  I mentioned something that the party has done that REALLY gets my blood boiling.  I also mentioned that I was a bit jealous that he obviously knew what party he was voting for.  I am currently no closer to making a decision and feeling quite disillusioned with the whole process.  I did not tell him he was wrong.  I didn’t tell him he ought to think or vote more like me.  I like him.  I cherish his friendship.  And I think he’s smart enough to have his own opinions about lots of stuff, not the least of which being which party he votes for.

Anyone who knows me knows that I have opinions about EVERYTHING and I don’t tend to hold back on sharing them.  Time and experience have taught me that trying to force these opinions on others is about as useful as attempting to paint a house with a toothbrush.  Both prospects are exhausting, and completely futile.  People will stick more firmly to their ideas if they feel they are being scolded or attacked.  So I try very hard not to do this.  However, I must say, it feels very nice to know like-minded people with similar philosophies.  I can let rip with my opinions (which can be fairly extreme) and not have to worry about offending anyone.  It makes me feel smart and supported to have deep and meandering conversations about social and environmental issues with people who share my ideologies.  And there are few things in life I enjoy more than engaging in these activities.

I suppose my way of sharing openly and loudly my thoughts can be a bit overwhelming to some people.  But let me assure you, if you are at the receiving end of one of my many rants, I don’t necessarily need you to change your opinions or agree with me.  I’ll give you a chance to voice your stance; all I ask is that you show me the same respect.  I learn a lot when I listen.  Sometimes I just learn that I feel even more secure in my stance on something, other times, I am given cause to change my opinions completely.

Let me share another quick story with you.  I think I might have confounded some new mums I met in the parents’ room where we were all feeding our newborns yesterday.  Three of us had very similarly aged children and with babies on our boobs we got chatting and laughing.  One of the ladies has only recently arrived in NZ and is trying to find her feet and some friends.  We exchanged details and I do hope we catch up again soon.

In short order, we established that we had quite a lot in common.  Both of the mothers vaccinated their children.  I am pro vaccination, so that was happily not a contentious issue in our conversation.  Either side of that particular can of worms can be fairly OTT in my experience.  Then one of the mothers asked about nappies as she wasn’t fond of Huggies.  I mentioned that I probably wasn’t the right person to be asking, as I used biodegradable nappies that I had to admit were far more expensive and probably weren’t overly awesome at containing things compared to the less environmentally sound options.

That small interaction outlined the fact that as parents we are all constantly running a gauntlet of other people’s opinions.   And man do people feel free to share them with you!  I’ve had friends, family, and even strangers stick their noses into my parenting practices with “helpful advice” ranging from when to start solids, to how we choose to discipline our kids.  For any new parents out there, I have to give you one piece of immeasurably useful advice:

Don’t take on too much of other people’s advice.

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Seriously, there are conflicting ideas and ways of doing things.  Basically, if you give your kid a safe, loving environment and feed them frequently, you are winning at parenting.  So don’t be too hard on yourself.

So, in conclusion, I think my dad is once again wise indeed.  We all have opinions.  It is better when these are based on careful consideration and corroborated evidence than hearsay or whatnot.  I think things like the Dunning-Kruger effect are worth keeping in mind.  This effect is basically that people who are very sure of something (like their own abilities perhaps) are probably not actually as clued up as they think, while people who have doubts might actually know a lot more than they think.

Researching this blog, I stumbled across this study that showed people who feel good about themselves are more likely to consider other points of view, while miserable people are more likely to be unwavering in their opinions, despite evidence or rational arguments.  I found that fascinating, and I’d love to know what you think if you have the time to read the article.

People will have strong opinions, even opinions that you find unpalatable or offensive. It is not your job to fight to change what other people think and do every day of your life, nor is it mine.  If we really want things to change our best chance of success will be deeds, not your words.  Actions speak volumes and presenting the world with strong opinions leaves us open to scrutiny or can leave you looking like a hypocrite or worse, utterly wrong if you haven’t thoroughly checked your facts.  So be careful with your opinions, but absolutely free to have them.  We need different perspectives, and I like being challenged and given cause to change my thinking from time to time, and I hope that other people do as well.

Have a great rest of the week wherever you are.  And thank you for reading.

 

 

 

This is where I share opinions and observations about things that happen to the Happy Hobbit family.

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