Envy is an Illusion


Not sure about you, but I can’t really help myself looking at other people and feeling more than a little bit inadequate.  I have friends who are doctors, lawyers, activists, and working in a variety of other interesting and successful careers.  I am 36 years old, and quite frankly, I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up.


I also have friends who are supermums.  They keep tidy homes, feed their children a diet of gluten free and vegetable rich concoctions.  We throw burgers and chips and sauce at the children as we rush around the city and the planet doing whatever it is that we do. 


We were in the kitchen surveying the chaos and mess a couple of nights ago.  We entered into a discussion about our financial situation, and our plans for the year and so forth.  Pretty normal stuff really.  The conversation took a tangent about risk and reward and whatnot.  Elon Musk came up (as he frequently does in our house not surprisingly).  He invested every single penny he had into Tesla and really put himself on the line to pursue his EV dream.  And with the success of Tesla, and his insatiable thirst for innovation, he went on to great things with SpaceX.  And Grumpy got a wee pout on his face.


“You know he’s like a few months younger than me.”  He said in genuinely downtrodden tone.

I have to admit I laughed. 

“Yes darling, he is.  He also has one more child than you do, and is a Billionaire.  I can pretty much guarantee that if you stay married to me, you’ll never be a billionaire.  So, yeah, you’re a pretty big failure.  I’d probably just pack up your things and go live under a bridge somewhere if I were you.  Your life is really very terrible.”

After a bit more playful mocking we wrapped up our conversation, and I was left to think about how absurd it is to compare oneself with other people. 

Here’s some conclusions and gems of wisdom that occurred to me as my brain was processing all of this:


–      A bit of comparison is probably healthy, but as soon as it starts eating away at you, or makes you feel bad, you’re officially in unhealthy territory.


–      Comparing yourself to others takes effort you could be spending doing cool stuff instead.


–      The people you might think have a super sweet gig are actually fighting their own battles, facing their own demons, and feeling their own inadequacies.


–      If you spent the time being grateful rather than feeling a bit ripped off, I’d hazard a guess you’d be surprised how much happier you are (even happier than the people you used to envy)


Won’t go into to much detail unpacking the stuff I’ve just said.  Most of my contentedness comes from being able to be truly happy for the success of those around me, and abundantly and consciously grateful for the blessings in my own life.  True joy never stems from what we have or feeling better than other people.  True sadness can, however, come from comparing myself to others. 

Sometimes, for whatever reason, I get really fed up and feel like running away from my life.  Because I am tired, because I see what single or child-free people are up to (all that sleep, all that rest, all that freedom, and all that excitement and adventure while they are out experiencing new things and new people), or because I’ve taken a few too many blows and had to learn a few too many consecutive hard lessons.  Or it is as simple as the fact I’ve worked myself up into a right royal lather by trying to be all things to all people and failed rather impressively.  Because, you probably will fail in big ways and in small when you attempt ridiculously lofty and unattainable goals. 

The feeling passes and I again realize that the crazy, mixed up life I lead is actually fairly fantastic, and more importantly, of my own design.  I chose to marry Grumpy.  And we chose a family, and then we chose a larger family. I’m happy to trade frequent late nights out partying for early morning cuddles and sticky faces and fingers as the children help bake on a Saturday night.  And I am happy to be at the beginning of what I hope will be a very successful career, while so many other people are so much further along than I am in their professional lives.  We all have to start somewhere, and nobody can do it all.   And for the most part, things are going very well.  This is in no small part owing to the fact I’m surrounded by truly wonderful people.  People so much greater than me!  And yeah, occasionally I am jealous of them and the fact they have their stuff together so much more than me, but I put that to the side and just feel thankful that they are in my life at all.

Wherever you are and whatever you are up to as you read this, I hope you are able to celebrate your gifts and blessings and feel joy instead of jealousy as you go about the rest of your day.

Thanks for reading.



Careful what you wish for

I’m bossy.  You can sugar coat that and say I’m assertive.  Sheryl Sandberg would have us “Ban Bossy” but as many of you know, I am a die hard fan of the simple, unfettered, stone cold and occasionally uncomfortable truth.  And the truth is, I often think I know what is best for everyone and too often force my agendas and opinions on the people I care about the most.  I am pushy, occasionally self serving, and very bossy.  If people don’t ascribe to my ideas, schedules or plans, I can turn into a right royal P.I.T.A, and I’ve been known to pack a sad of epic proportions when things don’t pan out the way I desire.


I’ve been encouraging (nagging) my long-suffering husband Grumpy to get back into the office for quite some time now.  Why?  He is amazing and has so much useful code rattling around in that brain of his. And he often complains about suffering from a recurring case of a big gaping empty, and when he’s busy and engaged, the empty is kept at bay.

So after four years of nagging, he’s back.  He is making huge and positive breakthroughs in his code, and I sincerely hope with his team as well.

The kicker in all of this being, I have been quite miserable and unsupportive, as he started back with regular (and full) days when our son was two weeks old.  So after several years of begging and pleading with him to march that brain of his back to his desk, he picked this point in our lives to comply with my ardent demand to do so.  Just days after I’d had our fourth child.  Awesome.  Fan-freaking-tastic even.

*Very loud and insistent interjection from Grumpy:

“YOU (expletive) MADE ME!  How can you keep complaining when the only reason I am back is because you INSISTED. (Many colourful expletives)”

I keep complaining anyway.

Where was I?

Oh yes.

When he’s not working there, he’s in the garage or his home office putting the finishing touches on a project involving a component for Electric Vehicles that he has invented and is now testing successfully.

I am genuinely proud of him and all that he’s doing.  Although we’ve had a heaped helping of stresses and trials, both in and out of our control, I haven’t seen him this happy in quite a while.  And all this contentedness is despite the fact neither of us has had more than 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep in a row since welcoming James into the family.

Still, I find the timing of all of this stuff quite exasperating.  And boy oh boy do I make Grumpy suffer in the wake of that exasperation.  Guess I should rein (I am always tempted to spell that reign…) that in for fear of scaring him off.  Nah, I’m a hot mess, and he knew that when he married me, so he’ll just have to handle the occasional spattering of venom while I struggle to maintain some semblance of sanity.

Meanwhile, back on planet Dee, I am bound and determined to change the face of reputation management and Public Relations by successfully unleashing a socially, environmentally and generally conscientious Social Media/PR firm that offers sound and empowering advice and support to people and organisations.

With the help of my business partner, a very dear friend (and kind of business partner) and a spectacular network of like-minded individuals, I aim to change the communications landscape of NZ and eventually the world, by sticking to a simple plan:

Encourage people to be honest and authentic – because the truth will set you free and take you exactly where you need to be.  I want people to start, engage in, and nurture conversations for good.

So, with a five-week-old baby asleep in his hammock next to me, I am furthering this epic vision and moving forward.  Thanks to the ongoing efforts and friendship of my patient and passionate partner Pauline, the momentum is fantastic, and we’re well on our way after a series of hard earned professional wins.

With all of these things coming to fruition, I ought to be seriously satisfied?

Well, I’m genuinely grateful.

I am also, undeniably exhausted and in a fairly constant state of feeling frazzled and fantastically overwhelmed.  For the most part, that’s okay, provided it feels like we’re moving forward and making a notable difference or inroads into our lofty goals of a cleaner, greener, kinder, fairer and more interesting world.

While there is magnanimous momentum in many corners of our lives, something always has to give.  It has been a rare occasion indeed that I am able to get into the kitchen and create, which has always been one of my absolute joys.  The older kids are feeling edgy and we’re having trouble staying abreast of the many spectacular dramas of childhood and pre-pubescence.

Today, for example, our eldest son had a pencil flung at him by a classmate, which left a nasty gouge on the surface of his iris and now he requires drops.  I must confess, the only reason we made it to an optometrist to get it looked at was because I brought the children to the mall in lieu of having to cook for the family because it has been such a busy day.  He’d hardly complained about it, but when I asked him how it was it became painful again, so off to the optometrist we went, “just to be on the safe side”.  You know how it goes.  It did make me stop and wonder how much regarding our bourgeoning brood we are oblivious to because of our commitments and schedules.


And don’t even get me started on our social life.  We’ve missed so many parties and catch-ups and seen less and less of all of our favourite people.

I’m not complaining though.  Probably sounds like that, a step up from a white whine to a fully-fledged champagne complain, and that’s not what I am trying to get across at all.  I think I just want to share with you the benefit of my experience.  We all ought to be careful what we wish for.  Because we just might get it.  And when dreams start coming true and stuff you thought you wanted finally starts happening, well, that is when the real work begins.

So here we stand only a few unsteady steps into the journey to the top of the next mountain we’ve decided to climb.  And let me tell you, we’re already absolutely knackered.  Happy, but so very tired.

Writing this blog made me stop and think.  Most of us are guilty of the when syndrome.  “I’ll be happy when…”  or “I can stop worrying about this and that when…”  or “I’ll do that thing I’ve always wanted to do when…”  And you know what, I think we’d all be better off and considerably happier if we made an effort to be happy now. To do things now.  To try things, even though we could very well fail, now.  So that’s what I’ll be working on this week.  Changing my own when syndrome into a now superpower.

Making Excuses – Damned if you do, damned if you don’t – but why not do it anyway?

We’ve recently had a formidable run of big decisions, big opportunities, and big mistakes.

Grumpy and I had a conversation that has been echoing around since we had it a few weeks ago went a little something like this:

Dee: “Okay, so basically, we’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t. No good deed goes unpunished and all that jazz.”

Grumpy: “WTF are you on about now?”


Dee: “Well, I just connected countless examples of people who hate on us, or me, or you. That one guy from *insert donkey noise here* that we invited to that event and was rude and dismissive. He thinks we’re just cashed up hippies. This is despite the support we’ve extended to him and his cause. So in theory, we’re on the same team and fighting for the same things, but he sees us as evil.”

Grumpy: “Yes, and that’s an example of cutting off your nose to spite your face. Maybe he’s indoctrinated to think anyone who has financial freedom is evil, regardless of how they got it or what they are doing with it. And that’s a great illustration of why his cause stays on the back foot and alienates potential successful allies in the business and general community. So what’s your point?”

Dee: “What about *another donkey noise* who goes from thinking we’re great to the scum of the earth for goodness knows what reason. And don’t even get me started on *donkey noise*. I mean, sticking your neck so far out to try and help in good faith, and get kicked so squarely and painfully in the guts for it… How can they sleep at night?!”

Grumpy: “Mmmhmmm? First of all, *donkey noise* is someone that you don’t spend any time with because of their dramatics. Natural attrition. That’s life. Secondly, nobody in their right mind could have ever known just how dishonest and underhanded some people can be. So now we figure out a way to move forward, and you should probably stop saying I told you so. It doesn’t help.”

Dee: “True. Sorry. But I did tell you so. My point is, I think I can understand why people get jaded and insular and fed up with reaching out or trying to do the right thing or help anyone ever.

So why do we bother?”

Grumpy: “Bother with what exactly?”

Dee: “Trying to help. Picking up hitch-hikers, being painfully positive and smiling at or engaging with people who look sad wherever I go, helping complete strangers, keeping informed on current events here or half a planet away, buying organic food, attempting to be conscious consumers.  Any of it. It requires so much effort just giving a toss. Why did we bother building an off-grid house in the middle of the bush? The same investment would have gotten us a super sweet oceanfront property at some wanker-filled beach area anywhere in NZ. Why do we use EVs and attempt to educate people on them? We could have had a much nicer family car for far less than the Leaf cost us when we got it.  Why do we go out of our way to help with causes, events, or whatever when we’ve been screwed over in big and little ways over and over again?  Everyone has an agenda. One of my agendas is to try and do the right thing because it feels great, so I admit, most of the nice things I have ever done are completely selfishly motivated.  I like how it makes me feel.  And I egocentrically thought I was also making a difference. Having trouble feeling that way lately.  Maybe we should just sit back, feel entitled to our own success, and stop trying to do the right thing? We can focus on our own stuff for a while.  Let other people fight their battles and dig their holes. It often gets so messy when we try and help anyway.  I’d feel differently if I had any concrete evidence to prove that we’ve made a positive dent in the problems of the world with our efforts. But we’ve been yelling about the importance of caring and being engaged till we’re hoarse, and I haven’t seen a great deal of change because of any of it.  Besides, who’s to say any progress that may have happened has anything at all to do with us anyway.”


Grumpy: “Yes, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Take a good look at the people who have screwed us over, either intentionally or otherwise. How are they doing in the grand scheme of things? Maybe okay for a little while, but dishonesty and/or stupidity catches up with people eventually. Just as our good and bad decisions catch up with us. And you are forgetting about all the awesome things that have happened as a result of cool things we’ve done. Not just for other people, but for you.  All that crap you said about just focusing on our needs, because nobody appreciates the things we do and nothing changes anyway. Well, what would happen if everyone decided that, and nobody helped anyone else or worked toward making the world a better, safer, cleaner place? There are people who use those rather weak arguments to be miserly and self serving and never lift a finger to make the world a better place.  If everyone were like that, we’d all be stuffed. Yes, people will smack talk. Yes, people will take advantage. Yes, picking causes and fighting for them means you’ll spend a lot of time feeling like you are working your ass off and getting nowhere. Throughout history, anyone who made a difference felt like they were getting nowhere at some point.”

Dee: “Way to make me feel like an A-grade jerk.”

Grumpy: “Don’t feel bad. Just stop being a spoiled little princess and count your blessings rather than focusing on your problems. We don’t have a lot of problems. But if you keep on focusing on the crap, you could create some.”


Dee: “True. And I am a bit of a control freak. And just because things aren’t happening how and when I want them, doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. I’m still tired though.”

Grumpy: “Understandable. You just recently squeezed out a baby.”

And that, was more or less, the conversation that led me to a distinct desire to stop making so many excuses.


So what now?

I’m going to make a concerted effort to stop complaining, particularly about the same things over and over. Also going to try finishing things I start and not getting so distracted or downtrodden, because lets face it, nothing good comes from constant complaining. Making epic mistakes and learning from them tends to work out really well for the most part though.  Only if the “LEARNING FROM THEM” part is actually engaged of course. So more of that is on the cards now that I’ve taken time to reflect upon it all.


Silver linings and opportunities are everywhere.  If you just stop making excuses and allow yourself to see them. We all have the choice to be champions or victims, depending on how we deal with what life throws at us.

There is a time to feel fed up and have a good long whine about how much some things suck. And then there is a time to regroup and take stock and realize, that maybe they aren’t actually that bad. So stop looking for or making excuses and get out there and do the things you could or should to support or advance your own or other people’s comfort, joy or circumstance. Most of us know instinctively if we are doing the right thing, and in the long run, it is worth it to follow that path. Even though mistakes are made and obstacles are hurled in your general direction. Play the long game and be a good person. It pays off in dividends.


On the bright side: Grumpy is inches away from what I am confident will be a very successful business venture, that furthers our passion for alternative energy. He may not have followed through with the hundreds of hours of research and development if he didn’t have some very convincing internal and external motivations such as:

1)  Being totally passionate about the technology

2)  His passion for inventing and making cool stuff

3)  His (and my) belief in the importance of the alternative and clean energy movement in general

4)  We’re actually in a position where we need to increase our financial resources after being a bit too trusting and/or generous recently (I know, everyone thinks they “need” more money, but it is currently a motivating factor for us, and slightly embarrassing to admit, but very topical none-the-less)

I will stop faffing and focus on real and tangible ways of taking my optimistically conceived business plan to the next level. Fear, laziness, feeling hard done by, and basic or general difficulties have gotten in the way and held me back for quite a long time now. But success or failure on any level lies in my hands, as it does in yours and everyone else’s.  And I have every opportunity to follow my dreams with very few disadvantages.  So less complaining, more sustaining! 

So, off I go to face a variety of new challenges. I shall work very hard to make fewer excuses and wrap up my most recent pity party. 

I think a good long sleep would work wonders in helping curb future pity parties or flying off the handle as well.  

I’ll leave it there for today and go and try and sneak in a nap before the older three kids arrive home from school and daycare and need to be fed.


Kids Losing (and winning) Their Marbles

So every autumn/winter is marble season at the local school.  A group of at least moderately geeky kids mobilise themselves to play, trade and battle it out to win rare and cool marbles to add to their collections.  I whole-heartedly encourage the children to play marbles.  They are timeless, inexpensive, and unpretentious.  Trading them and earning them is also a kind of elementary study in basic economics.


Mass production of glass marbles dates back to 1884. There is a rich and varied history surrounding the culture and collection of marbles.  So Marbles have stood the test of time.  It is a legacy the children can share among themselves and as the years go by, perhaps their own children.  It pleases me to see/hear about the kids sharing or giving marbles to other kids as they have an absolute surplus as we have acquired quite a collection of marbles both new and old from various sources.  We unabashedly use the marbles as bribery and blackmail.  We can giveth and we can taketh away their smooth and spherical treasures.  And we have listened to them bragging proudly about their most prized large and rare marbles.  So guess which marbles are the first to be confiscated when behaviours are less than ideal?  Mwwaahhahhahahaaa! I am such a mean momma sometimes.


Of course it isn’t just marbles.

We have been swept up with several childish fads and trends.  The things we allow include:

–      Pokemon

–      Star Wars Franchise (Particularly the Pre-Disney Sell Out Phase of the Franchise)

–      Comic Books (particularly Batman and Superman and am always happy to see the kids reading them)

–      The Harry Potter Franchise

–      Bey Blades (this trend has truly passed now though)

–      Fraggles (and anything Jim Henson is seriously encouraged!)


–      Lego

–      Douglas Adams

–      My Little Pony

–      Care Bears

–      Original Smurfs

–      AstroBoy


–      As well as anything that encourages them to read/draw/think and use their imaginations, with a minimum of ongoing capital investment for masses of merchandise from their parents.

We have put our foot down and curbed or denied our children other trendy traps including (but not limited to):

–      Trashpacks

–      Disney – We are undeniably hypocritical in this capacity, as we still go to and enjoy Disney theme parks and  are booked on a Disney cruise through Europe this September, because they are kid friendly.  Steph has several Disney themed dresses, Adam went through a Mickey-Mouse Clubhouse phase. HOWEVER we explain to the older children that the mega-corporation of Disney is not as innocent as it seems and the founder may have had some grave character flaws and scary social views.  I’m still researching this, and quite keen to watch Saving Mr. Banks the film, as it apparently touches upon these things.  Many of us are familiar with the claims of anti-semitism, misogyny, nazi sympathy etc.  I never knew the man, so cannot say what is and isn’t true.  I do, however, feel it is important to point out the the kids that he was flawed like everyone else, and his legacy is massive and not always above reproach in its tactics or philosophies.

–      Hexbugs

–      Smiggle (we make an exception at Christmas and they get a haul of Smiggle stationary in their stockings, but that is it for the year)

–      Barbie

–      Bratz dolls


–      Monster High dolls

–      As well as countless crafty plastic sparkly trends that Steph sees advertised and yearns for.

All of the parents we know and Love have different lists of what they will and will not allow their kids to play with.  Some parents enjoy following the kids excitement and penchant for setting trends with various toys, franchises and merchandise ranges.  The fact that we all do things differently is what gives us a rich tapestry of children, who then grow up to make up the vast and varied society we all face as adults.  So it is what it is and I cannot and will not condemn people for their choices in parenting in this or many other areas.  Buy your kids as much or as little as you want, as you please.  You do your thing and I’ll share with you how I do mine.

One of my FAVOURITE families (who’s son’s Birthday we just missed because of baby brain – DOH!!) don’t even have a Television and keep a close eye on the entertainment their two terrific children are exposed to.  The kids have educational toys only, and don’t seem to fall into the trappings of trends.  While I admire their resolve and philosophy, I am a path of least resistance parent, so TV (or more accurately YouTube) is a staple and a digital babysitter in the Hobbit household.

So there’s another brief peek into the happenings of Hobbity existence.  I Love this time of year, and the delicious sounds of the knocking and clicking of marbles.  We may have to put them away for next year’s marble season as having many marbles floating around the house with James being a one year old working through the oral phase of his development may end badly indeed.  I’ll let you know what we do if you’re interested.

Have a great weekend everyone.  I am off out to grab some supplies for an impromptu party tonight! The kids have been begging for a party, and their seriously social parents are more than happy to oblige.

Take care, and thanks for reading.






Mothering Sunday/Mother’s Day Meanderings (and a tribute to the five fabulous mothers in my life)

I’ve spent the past week mulling over what to share for this, the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson declaring today an official and publicly observed day to thank your mother.  It was directly linked to the British phenomenon of Mothering Sunday, which can be traced back to the 16th century.

Woodrow Wilson and his daughters and wife.

Woodrow Wilson and his daughters and wife.

I could talk about my distaste for the commercial circus.  I could tell you some stories about some amazing mothers in history (Anne Boleyn, Coretta Scott King, Ruth the Moabitess, the list could go on).


Queen Elizabeth the first and her mother Anne Boleyn. Anne was beheaded when Elizabeth was 3 years old, and legend says she sacrificed her life in the hopes that her daughter may have a chance at the throne. She died with dignity four days after a trumped up trial with preposterous charges laid against her including adultery and witchcraft. They sure did enjoy accusing women of witchcraft if they did anything other than exactly what the men thought they ought to be doing. Sigh.


Coretta with her husband and children.

Or I could attempt to entertain you with a collection of stories of mothering misadventures, which, if nothing else, would make people feel much more smug about their parenting in light of my many and epic fails.



I’m not going to do any of that.

Instead, I’ll just share with you my gratitude for the five women in my life who have been, and remain, matriarchal figures, touchstones, role models, and gorgeous grandmother figures in our frantic family.  And perhaps I’ll pepper it with some pithy quotes and sayings as I go.

We all have a mother.  Many of us also have a mother in law.  I have both of these, as well as three utterly amazing women who have taken me under their wing, providing me with a roof, a bed, food, advice, support and most importantly Love.

I’ve called my three extra mums to ask if I can share a picture and quick story about them. It was very nice having an excellent excuse to call and thank them for the decades of Love and support they’ve shown me and my growing family.

I was the first to have kids among the several pseudo siblings I have collected over the years. So our kids have the distinguished honour of being the “practice” grandkids for three extra sets of grandparents.  They’ve also got an eclectic collection of cousins.  Four fabulous boys, One gorgeous little girl in Canada, and one beautiful baby girl due here in NZ in August.  I am unspeakably grateful for them all, as it is quite apparent that neither my nor Grumpy’s biological brothers are going to breed, so the extra siblings are our only chance at cousins for the children.  And they adore their cousins, even if they don’t get to see them as much as they’d like.

The mothers in my life are all very different in many ways, but have a few things in common as well.  Three of them are trained teachers.  One is a nurse, and mother in law is a potter, an artist, and an accountant.  They are all soft and squishy on the inside, despite a couple of them having rather tough exteriors.  They all make me laugh, and they all have accepted and Loved me and my whole family as one of their own for decades now, and I return that fondness whole-heartedly.

My biological mother, who is our children’s glorious Granny, plays a huge part in raising and rearing our four fabulous offspring.  She stopped in to bring the two older boys out shopping and consented to being immortalised and applauded in this blog for her efforts in raising me and our four fabulous passports to immortality.


My mother as most of us visualise her :-)

My mother as most of us visualise her 🙂

My mother and I have an interesting relationship.  We don’t have a great deal of superfluous stuff in common.  I am a foodie and adore good wine, luxury travel, entertaining, and a whole bunch of other stuff that my introverted and inarguably anti-social mother finds tiresome or unappealing.  (Though she does suffer through my many parties a sign of Love and solidarity.) She is basically to blame for my travel addiction, but she goes budget while I go bling.

Mom and me mid-fight with my fur child and her fur grandchild Franklin.  He's in doggy heaven now.

Mom and me mid-fight with my fur child and her fur grandchild Franklin. He’s in doggy heaven now.

My mom plays a huge part in the lives of the children.  She organizes extramural activities, shops for their clothes, shoes and uniforms.  Watches them while we gallivant overseas or around New Zealand. She really is the kids’ other mother.  Her training as a teacher and her absolute Love for her growing gaggle of grandchildren means she is by far the most qualified person on earth to fill this role.


My Mom and all the kids mocking me when I asked them to look at the camera.  Sigh.

My Mom and all the kids mocking me when I asked them to look at the camera. Sigh.

So, although we are in some ways very different creatures, my mother and I are also very similar.  Particularly in some of the less than virtuous character traits we both exhibit.  I can’t deny that we’re both quite stubborn and spoiled.  In fact, most of the people in our family are quite used to us getting our way.  It is only problematic when our wants are incompatible.  When this happens, the most frequent outcome is that my mother ends up victorious.  It is just kind of easier for everyone when this happens.  I’d hazard a guess she’d deny this though.

We all adore her quirkiness and kindness though.  We live more in each other’s pockets than most mother-daughter teams I know, and that’s bound to come with its share of run-ins.  But all and all, we are a very tight team indeed.  Thank you Mom for everything.  Seriously.  Thank you.

My other Canadian mom is based in Calgary.


Me, Canadian Dad Darcy, Canadian Mom Karen and Daniel having a boozy lunch in Canmore… about 9 years ago judging from Daniel’s age in this photo 🙂

She became my touchstone and safe-harbour-in-any-storm when I jetted back to Canada as a teenager. Grammy Karen has worked in the not-for-profit sector and in many different capacities.  She has a heart of gold, and works tirelessly for others in countless ways.  She’s recently become a Grandmother as her kind, gracious and gorgeous daughter Christy became a mother for the first time a few months before my fourth son was born. Karen has been a generous and patient role model to me, and a wonderful Grammy to all the children.  She changes diapers, cuddles and calms them and they Love her and her husband Darcy with all their hearts.


Grammy Karen and Stephanie in Saskatchewan at a family reunion in my Grandfather (and her mother in law)’s home town of Tompkins.

And then there’s mother-in-law. I speak to her every day, and although she’s quite miserable on the surface, she’s soft as a marshmallow under her gruff exterior, and has even occasionally let me know how much she appreciates her loud and Loving daughter-in-law (me) for bringing more than a small dose of adventure, fun, family, laughter, travel, and children into her world.  Saying thank you does not come easy to her, so I appreciate it a great deal.

She raised my husband and his older brother as a single mother through the 70’s, 80’s and beyond.  She attended University in her 40’s and gained a qualification as a chartered accountant with excellent grades.  As a nod to her and her gargantuan efforts, when my husband and I married we opted to take on her maiden name. (Otherwise this branch of the West name would have ended.) We Love the name, and it fits us all like a glove.  And it reminds us often just how much we respect and admire the miserable old battleax that is my magnificent mother in law.

My other two mums hail from Thames, my kiwi home town where I landed as an exchange student in January 1995.

Nana Margie is somewhat nervous at times, and so full of Love and kindness and care that it fair spills out of her when you gaze upon her.  She gives amazing cuddles, helps everyone who crosses her path, works tirelessly, and has a painfully difficult time saying NO to anyone.  She didn’t ask or volunteer to take me in during my exchange student year – I was brought home as a last resort from school one day by her husband Ken.

Nana Margie holding James for the first time.

Nana Margie holding James for the first time.


My Thames Mum Margie and her two beautiful biological daughters at our Re-Wedding on Valentines Day 2014.

Their kindness plays no small part in the kind of person I am today.  I am keen (compelled?) to offer help to people, particularly strangers when the opportunity presents itself. We are all just the result of our experiences, and I am eternally grateful for the experiences and the many angels who have swooped in to rescue me when I needed them most.

My other Thames mum – known to friends and family as Sam – is the poster girl for calm and level-headed rationality.  She doesn’t mince words or give platitudes, yet is always diplomatic and kind with her advice and observations.  She’s a nurse and has therefore seen all sorts of high drama situations I have no doubt she has taken in stride.  She gives amazing hugs.  And she holds you exactly tight enough and for just a bit longer than most people do when she gives one of her soul-soothing hugs.  She rides horses, picks olives, helps out tirelessly in the community and raised two very different but undeniably delightful people.  Their house was where EVERYONE went to socialize and feel safe and loved.


My sister and her husband with her gorgeous mum and dad at her wedding. They’re a pretty amazing family, and have helped a generation find their way safely to adulthood in Thames.


Sam and husband Strat at my beautiful baby sister’s wedding a few weeks ago.

They were the parents to an entire generation of Thames teenagers, and I can honestly say, their support saved my life. I do not believe I would have lasted long if I had been shipped back to Canada.  This may sound dramatic, but it is absolutely true.  Between the two Thames families who fought to keep me there, and countless other people who have either remained in touch, or slipped out of contact for one reason or another, I am eternally grateful and owe most of the positive attributes I possess as a grown-up to the Love and sacrifice that these five families had shown me.

So thank you all, and all the mothers, biological and otherwise.  Thank you today and every day, for the stamp you leave on our hearts and the many ways that you change our lives for the better.


What’s in a Name? Also Feeling Decidedly Sane :-)

So Grumpy has begun second-guessed our naming decisions. He just recently declared that our son is a Matthew, and not, as previously thought, a James (Jamie, Jimmy, or Jim). Sigh.


Daniel and his wee baby brother in his FABULOUS Yoda hat. Thanks Greta. Love that we have beautiful talented friends like you guys who aren’t afraid to geek out! Perfection!


First FIRST thing in the morning, Steph decided to do a selfie with us. We co-sleep with baby James, so this is where and how he spends most of his life for the first few weeks, snuggled up between us in our big comfy bed. These moments are so fleeting, and I can feel them slipping by so fast. Perhaps we’er going to need to have a fifth?

We haven’t registered the birth yet, as we have a few weeks’ grace before our next overseas trip. We named our second son Jonathan Adam Xander West, all perfectly awesome names, with the fringe benefit of the initials JAX (-son). Alas, none of this stuck, and we later decided he was simply an Adam. He is. He really is an Adam. Cheeky and funny and so much like my “Canadian baby brother” Adam who shares his name. And that’s cool with me. He’s grown up to be a very good man indeed. However, the whole ordeal has indeed left us a bit gun shy in the naming department, as we’re now stuck with the nuisance of changing his name at the Births Deaths and Marriages registrar. Paperwork. Hate it.

This is our wee man Adam (AKA Batman) in submarine in Sydney harbour on a recent trip to Sydney.

This is our wee man Adam (AKA Batman) in submarine in Sydney harbour on a recent trip to Sydney.

And here is Adam perched atop his father's shoulders.  It is about his favourite place on earth.  The cape started off as Daniel's, but nobody contests the fact it is very much Adam's now.  He wears it to the zoo, the mall, daycare, you name it. And when it is on, he's quite convinced he is invincible.

And here is Adam perched atop his father’s shoulders. It is about his favourite place on earth. The cape started off as Daniel’s, but nobody contests the fact it is very much Adam’s now. He wears it to the zoo, the mall, daycare, you name it. And when it is on, he’s quite convinced he is invincible.

It is kind of a big deal though, picking a name. I even found an article from a few weeks back where the correlated the statistical probability of your child attending oxford based on a collection of some of the most popular names in Britain at the moment.  Generally, the name that is chosen for you, you are saddled with forever. It affects everything you do, from job applications, to dating, to where in the queue you fall during role-call at school if they are prone to line you up alphabetically. Names make a difference. If you are stuck with a particularly quirky name, some believe there is a definitive correlation with your future career prospects and life choices. Of course having a particularly ethnic name can be an advantage in one country while creating obstacles for the person in another. The name Jesus (prounounced in Latin America as Hey-Zuess – excuse the spelling – but that is always how I visualize it) is very popular in Latin American culture, and would be quite ill received somewhere like New Zealand or Australia. There are thousands of examples of names losing something in translation, oh THE PRESSURE!!!

I have trouble finding examples of what I am saying without offending someone somewhere unnecessarily. My husband, who is less concerned with offending people, often pipes up with his opinion on names. Some of the gems he’s come up with include:

–      “That’s a fat person’s name”

–      “That’s a stripper name”

–      “His/her parents must have been total hippies”

–      “They’re going to grow up either a bully or severely depressed with a name like that, poor kid!”

He’s graced me with much more colourful takes on people’s names, but I’ll leave it there for now.

In only tenuously related news, I had what could be my last therapy session for quite a while on Monday. As anyone who has been following the blog will know, I got smacked down by a rather extreme case of pre-natal depression. It lasted pretty much throughout the pregnancy. I seriously could not get my head around another child. I have never responded well to medication, so diet, exercise, and finding a therapist who specialized in PND (Pre and Post-Natal Depression) was the treatment we chose. My midwife was concerned enough to put me forward for support in the public health sector, however, I felt it was reasonable not to take up resources in that sector when we could afford our own treatment. So I got quite a nice therapist, whom it took me a couple of sessions to warm up to, as she seemed a bit young at first. She, along with the several other mental health professionals we have dealt with in a professional capacity assure me that I am far less crazy than I keep declaring I am, owing in no small part to being quite self aware of the good and bad parts of my personality and self in general. Cognitive dissonance is kept at bay and I check myself regularly and am painfully honest with myself and the people around me about the things I feel, do and say. Sometimes this works really well. Sometimes it has disastrous consequences. But I am what I am. And apparently, I am more or less sane. For the time being at least.

So James is here now, and I am head over heels in Love with him. The only signs of insanity now being, both Grumpy and I are kind of discussing going one more round on the breeding front. I hope we come to our senses soon, as I reckon five children is just a bit ridiculous really. So is four for that matter. But we’ve done it now. And aside from the sleep deprivation, feeling of complete and continuous chaos, the increased financial, mental, physical, emotional, and general pressures we’re now subject to, we’re doing alright I think.

This is James at four days old with one of my very favourite people on the planet.  I'll not publish her name though, as she's far more online shy than I am.  Love her to bits though, and glad she got to meet him when he was still nice and fresh!

This is James at four days old with one of my very favourite people on the planet. I’ll not publish her name though, as she’s far more online shy than I am. Love her to bits though, and glad she got to meet him when he was still nice and fresh!

OH! And I was going to tell you about my night out! Friday was fantastic! I had no idea what was in store, just that Grumpy had a freezer full of milk and I was given a large window to be a person rather than a lactation receptacle.   I got a last minute invite to a very swish and exclusive MTV party from an absolutely amazing and beautiful woman. Jumped at the opportunity, and although I felt completely out of place until I bumped into my friend, it was very interesting. I brought a couple of gorgeous girlfriends with me, who were younger and better dressed than I, and also had not just given birth 10 days earlier. They were much better at handling the huge crowd of “beautiful” people. They also very kindly whisked me away for a bit to a tapas bar up the road that was populated by people in their 30’s and 40’s, and not a bunch of tight 20-somethings. It was at this bar we met a lovely woman named Simone who was in NZ for training at Les Mills for some sort of fantastic yoga/meditation/exercise program thing. I am not a health buff, but she was absolutely sweet and lovely and all on her own in our gorgeous city, so the girls and I decided to bring her along with us for the remainder of the evening’s adventures.

Courtney, Dee, Caroline, Simone

Courtney, Dee, Caroline, Simone

We finished up at the magnificent MTV party at around 9:30 and made our way up to Kingland for a friend’s 40th. I admit to being well sozzled by the time we arrived here. Sang showtunes in the cab all the way to our destination, and the cab driver was very gracious and told us we had lovely voices. I got some of it on my iPhone, and you know what, it wasn’t too bad!

Grumpy arrived just before 11:00pm with the baby and hung about for an hour or so while I continued to annoy strangers with my views on life, love, politics, the environment, the universe and everything. Going out every couple of years is more than enough for this OTT Hobbit. And I can safely say I feel sated for a while in this department. Will look forward to smaller, quieter dinners with friends from here on in. Grumpy will be heading into work most Fridays and that means I can deliver him the baby at the end of the day and have a standing drinks date. I ended up throwing close to a litre of tainted milk down the drain and didn’t have to feed the wee man for 14 hours to be super safe while the booze left my system. It was nice. But it was also nice to get back to the regular swing of things and feed the boy directly again.


Caroline and Dee Selfie. I truly heart this beautiful woman. Truly truly.

Birthday girl grabbing a cuddle

Birthday girl grabbing a cuddle

A very gorgeous stranger grabbing a cuddle.  We lost count of all the people who met James that night… He LOVED the noise as there was a rugby game on and heaps of yelling and cheering.  Similar decibel level to our house I suppose?

A very gorgeous stranger grabbing a cuddle. We lost count of all the people who met James that night… He LOVED the noise as there was a rugby game on and heaps of yelling and cheering. Similar decibel level to our house I suppose?

This lovely Scottish lad is expecting his first baby in August.  This was the first time he held a newborn.  Cool eh!

This lovely Scottish lad is expecting his first baby in August. This was the first time he held a newborn. Cool eh!

My gorgeous Canadian Cohort Leigh

My gorgeous Canadian Cohort Leigh

I’ll leave it there for now, as my Thames Mum and Dad are heading over with my gorgeous nephew who has just become a big brother! My youngest Kiwi sister gave birth on Monday to another gorgeous wee man and is at home bonding with him as we speak. Could be a few weeks before they are ready to accept visitors with the newest member of the family, but I am VERY excited to see the older brother and his stunning grandparents in a few minutes! Best get in the shower! And then we’re off to Wellington. There will be blog or three in that adventure I assure you.

Thanks for reading!




I Have Absolutely No Idea What I’m Doing… And am Totally Cool With That.

Four is a lot of kids.

And when you introduce the level of change that a new baby will bring to a household, the flaws in everyone’s personalities are given a chance to put their best foot forward.

Darling daughter is extra needy and bossy and being extra miserable to her three year old brother.  This compounds because she’s smart enough and kind enough to know that she’s being a little horror, and feels bad about it, so her behaviour gets even worse and she becomes not only bossy and miserable but becomes quite a soppy sook as well.  Super fun stuff.


My family on the night of my Birthday… The kids made me a cake. Very sweet.

Adam is very enamoured with the baby most of the time, and we let him help with the baby and hold him (supervised) a lot.  He’s on an emotional roller coaster ride most of the time, so enter newborn baby and changes in arrangements including the fact he’s no longer allowed to sneak down and make himself at home in mom and dad’s bed at 3:00am, and you’ve got a recipe for a fairly angst ridden toddler on your hands.


Daniel, James and Adam

Daniel has probably risen to the challenges of the newest family member with the most style.  He’s been great at encouraging Adam and telling him what a good job he’s been doing.  He’s been patient with his parents, and kind to his siblings.  The only real problem is the already limited amount of supervision our oldest child tends to get has decreased even further.  It is school holidays, so we’ve relied on him to keep his personal hygiene regime in check, and every morning tell him to hop in the shower and brush his teeth, assuming it was happening.  It wasn’t.  And We sent him off to a playdate smelling like a homeless man last week.  Sigh.  I’m not going to feel too bad though, as you only get to be a 9 year old boy once, and I am sure that being able to wallow in your own filth probably plays some useful part in the successful navigation of this stage in a man’s life.  Or at least that is what I am telling myself.

And then.  There’s the baby.

He wears the same onsie ALL DAY, and on the days that we’re home he might even just stay in his nappy and a blanket.  I breast feed.  Not because I feel I have to, or the breast-feeding brigade has changed my opinion about it in any way, but because I’ve done this enough times to know that it can be really hard to start out with, but a much easier option in the long run for me.  It also means I can double up on the calories I take in.  So the fact it is good for baby is a lovely bonus, but I breastfeed because I am lazy, plain and simple.  And I have to take a moment to vehemently defend any woman’s right to make that decision for herself.  Formula or boob, it is simply none of my business.  I do what I do and what works for me, and there are some wonderful mother’s out there doing their thing their way, and probably quite differently.  Power to them.


Steve’s idea of parenting win… James is two days old here, and Steve managed to get him to “feed himself” There’s a video as well, but I couldn’t upload it…

We also co-sleep.  That would be to the horror of many people, but it’s easier, and that’s how we roll.  He has a naturesway hammock and I try desperately to settle him in it, but he’s happier between his father and I and it means he’s right there, and not even at arms length for night feeds which his father tends to sleep through.  If we are extra tired or have had a drink (even one with dinner) he sleeps in his own bed, otherwise, he’s in with us.  Easier.

So today, my mother has taken the older children to clip and climb for the morning, so I have some time to sit down and reflect on how things are going and share it in my blog.

I’m still in my towel with James snuggled in hand-me-down blankets beside me and Food Television playing in the background.

I have no idea what I am doing or how I will manage to do any of the many things I have committed to doing in the next days, weeks and months.  I still freak out a bit every time we go out as I feel so much safer cocooned in the comfort of my own familiar room.

But venture out I do.  I embrace the fear and keep on moving.

The biggest differences between the first time I did this and the fourth are as follows:

1) First time we read all the books and thought we were fairly well prepared and had this parenting thing in the bag… After four very different pregnancies and exceedingly unique babies, we have no idea what to expect or how we’re going to deal with anything until it happens, and that’s actually perfectly fine.

2) First time, I gave a toss what people thought.  I wanted to hear that I was doing a good job as a mum.  This time, I’d have to put in a great deal of effort to care any less what other people think about how I am managing.  I’m too busy switching from survival mode to extreme exhaustion or hormone soaked confusion and daydreams…  But we’re good.  We’re a family, we’re all being pushed to our limits, but we’re good.  And we Love each other.

So I’ll leave it there.

I need to get out of the house soon or I may never leave and I’ve arranged to meet some friends tonight and go to the MTV Veejay party in town for an hour or two, and then swing by a friend’s birthday on the way home, which means I get to slap on a dress and some heels and feel human for a brief space in time.  I’ll take that opportunity! I’ll take it with both hands thank you very much!  So Grumpy gets a bundle of sweet baby James and I get to feel like an actual grown up human for a little while.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a great weekend everyone.