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.



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.


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.


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:


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.



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.


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


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.


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:


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.


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.




Eight Traits that Make People Great (Rhyming isn’t Necessarily One of Them)



Does anyone remember learning about the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues? Here they are in case you forgot or are not familiar with them (I just cut and pasted this from Wikipedia because not many people click on the links according to my stats, so I thought I’d make it easy for you, skip over or click through if you’d like to read more):



Virtue Latin Gloss (Vice)
Chastity Castitas Purity, knowledge, honesty, wisdom Lust
Temperance Temperantia Self control, justice, honour, abstention Gluttony
Charity Caritas Will, benevolence, generosity, sacrifice Greed
Diligence Industria Persistence, effort, ethics, rectitude Sloth
Patience Patientia Peace, mercy, ahimsa, sufferance Wrath
Kindness Humanitas Satisfaction, loyalty, compassion, integrity Envy
Humility Humilitas Bravery, modesty, reverence, altruism Pride



So today I’d like to take a moment to discuss some human traits, in the spirit of the virtues and vices we are all encouraged to aspire to or avoid. They are in the same vein as the traditional sins and virtues, with a contemporary twist that makes more sense to me personally based on my own experiences. You don’t have to agree though.


Virtue Synonyms Defect Synonyms
Resilience Strength, flexibility, adaptability, hope, spirit, optimism, persistence Defeatism Victimization, blame, inflexibility, resignation, pessimism, despondency, fatalism, sloth
Creativity Inspiration, ingenuity, resourcefulness, imagination, vision, originality, eccentricity Ignorance Impotence, incapacity, weakness, stagnation, destruction
Kindness Charity, empathy, compassion, generosity, thoughtfulness, benevolence, altruism, concern Malevolence Greed, self-interest, cruelty, disinterest, malice, cruelty, viciousness, spitefulness, meanness
Honesty Sincerity, candor, earnest, truthfulness, authenticity, straightforwardness, Openness, Deceitfulness Fraudulence, untruthfulness, lying, insincerity, manipulation, two-faced, mendacity, spuriousness
Integrity Reliability, steadfastness, commitment, resoluteness, loyalty, dependability, faithfulness, consistency, trustworthiness Corruption Depravity, exploitation, fraudulence, fickleness, unreliability, shiftiness, frivolousness, flippancy
Morality Decency, honor, virtuousness, scrupulousness, distinction, respectfulness Amorality Unscrupulousness, maliciousness, self-interest, vindictiveness, depravity
Humility Modesty, unpretentiousness, self-efficacy, decorum, well-mannered, gentility, restraint, grace, graciousness Arrogance Conceit, pride, self-importance, smugness, immodesty, vanity, pomposity, disdain, condescension, aloofness, snobbery, haughtiness, douchebaggery,
Humour Wit, comicality, cheerfulness, mirth, glee, joviality, merriment, bonhomie, joy, laughter, lightheartedness, wonder, delightfulness, blissfulness Criticism/ Misery Woe, dejection, desolation, wretchedness, judgment, melancholy, despair, gloom, pessimism, mean-spiritedness, cruelty

If you are still with me, let us unpack this for a bit.


We all have a bit of any or all of these traits in us. At any given time we can demonstrate a combination of many of the good and bad descriptors on this list.


The reason thinking about it and writing it down helped me, was I got a chance to see the words on my screen and ask myself honestly what I was demonstrating when making decisions or deciding how to feel about something.


So when something happens contrary to what I’d hoped, I can happily refer to my list of virtues and defects and decide if I want to be resilient or defeatist, or choose good humour rather than criticism.  I can take it as a learning curve or I can be bitter, and at 36 years of age, I am just barely smart enough after my many experiences to more often than not know which is which.


I’ll leave it there for today, as for me, even just reading the lists sporadically has given me pause and the impetus to curb my behaviour and act a little less rashly when things don’t go my way.  I’m printing both the old school and my amended versions of the list and posting them on the fridge as a quiet reminder to strive for a more virtuous existence.  Heaven knows I fall short, but I have less excuse for it when it is printed and staring me in the face as I reach for a midnight snack.




Thanks for reading.










Births, Deaths, and Marriages

The Ministry of Internal Affairs (also known as Births, Deaths, and Marriages) sent us a letter last week, kindly (but firmly) reminding us that we had to register the birth of our new son and henceforth choose a name.

This hadn’t caused us any grief with the previous children, as we always pick the names months before the baby arrives. We’ve been tossing up between several combinations and second guessing ourselves this time though.

The letter is now sent, and our son is now saddled with the names we have chosen for him. Grumpy made the final decision and we’re sticking with the original choice: James David Leonard West.


So that’s done.

This evening I’ll be home on my own with all four kids. We’ll watch movies and eat popcorn together after I pick Daniel up from his drum lesson and ferry them to the mall so I don’t have to cook. Grumpy is out at a work party and then wants to get the 3D printer that’s been collecting dust for a long time now up and running.

Not ground-breaking stuff, I realise, but all this humdrum is mortar between the bricks that build my existence. I have mine, and you have yours, and that mortar is kind of what I want to talk to you about today.

Where was I?

Ah yes.

Mother in law was around a couple of days ago to hold James while I attempted to get a little bit of work done. While she was over, I mentioned that we’d all be coming to her house for dinner and to play cards with her and my father.

My mom and dad and mother in law all live together in a big beautiful house that we call the old folks home. It is only a few blocks from our house. For the most part, they cohabitate quite comfortably, and my mother in law and dad are both quiet and gentle types who like to watch sport and don’t make a lot of noise or fuss.

“News to me.” She said in her trademark soft but cranky tone.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about dad getting older and his mortality.” I said nonchalantly. “The way he talks, he expects he’ll be the first of all of you over there at the old folks home to go. He’s probably right too, as you’re too miserable to die and despite her food choices and hypochondria, my mother is as healthy as a horse. I adore my dad and want to play more cards and file more memories while I can.” I said.


My father is absolutely one of my heroes. Despite, or perhaps because, of the fact he had very little to do with me until we got here to New Zealand. He’s non-demonstrative, humble, patient, and works tirelessly helping others in countless capacities. He’s the closest thing to a living saint we have in our family, and he’s the last person to have any clue we all feel as much awe and respect as we do for him.

“He’s not well at the moment.” She shook her head gravely and filled me in on the terrible ongoing cold he’s had.

She then said something that I am still trying to process.

“And you know what really pisses me off.” She said. “Marie has gone and died.” She fumed.

Now, I need to take you back a few dozen steps and explain the relevance.

Mother in law has a group of women who she has known for decades. They’re a collective of artists and potters. They’ve seen each other through good times and bad. Mother in law is the eldest remaining member of the group by far, and recently the numbers have been dwindling.


She never tells us when one of them has passed and suffers through her grief quite on her own. I don’t understand it, however, she’s been a tough and independent woman her whole life, and I guess we all do what we know. She knows how to soldier on in silence. I don’t.

I adore this group of women on countless levels. I coined them “The Ya Ya Sisters” over a decade ago, as there was a movie about enduring friendship with that title.

Marie was an amazing woman and I was very fond of her indeed. I’d just seen her at our re-wedding, and news of her death was a shock. She’ll be missed.

It was strange that mother in law chose anger as the emotion of choice when she told me. Upon reflection, however, it seems very plausible that this was, and often is, the stage and emotion she cleaves to in times of grief and sorrow. She’s not one for pity parties or soft, squishy emotional stuff. She’s getting more comfortable with this stuff with me as a daughter in law though. I am all about the soft and squishy.

So this weekend we’ll be attending a funeral, a housewarming, and two young children’s birthday parties as the bricks and mortar of my life, and the lives of the people I love are built higher and stronger every day.

I don’t want to go into a big existential or philosophical rant or anything. I do, however want to take the time to say every moment, no matter how seemingly dull or insignificant, is fairly precious. I can’t say how far through the journey any of us are, and I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Sitting here listening to my husband snore and our son seemingly giggle in his sleep as I bounce his hammock and write this blog, I can’t help but smile and feel very much at peace indeed. They’ll both wake up soon and annoy me in their own expert ways though. Grumpy will likely say something that will hurt my feelings several times before he heads out the door and to work. James will do what all infants do and demand food and Love and completely obliterate any plans I have for being productive today. Then the children will walk in the door of our home and be noisy and messy. They will fight, and whine, and push my buttons and I will rant and rave and probably swear at them for it. And then they will settle down and snuggle with me in our big cozy bed and watch a movie. I’ll hear “I Love You” dozens of times and say it just as many today, just like every day.

All of this beautiful and complex chaos is life, which is punctuated by births, deaths and marriages and all of the moments in between.