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Thursday, 9 August 2012

It's My Party And I'll Cry If I Want To!

Ah, the amazing things that our children do for us.  Sometimes it’s teaching us something completely new about ourselves, sometimes it’s allowing us to remember something about ourselves that we had forgotten, sometimes it’s freeing us to try something we would never have tried before, and sometimes it’s letting us embrace an aspect of ourselves that we didn’t realise we hadn’t understood or appreciated before.

I am a complete and utter blubberer.  Always have been, always will be.  I cry when I’m happy, cry when I’m sad, cry when I’m angry, cry when I’m grateful.  I cry at movies, I cry at weddings and funerals, I cry at TV advertisements, I cry when children completely unrelated to me are upset.  I cry at others’ misfortune, and I cry at others’ good fortune.

My blubbering was not an aspect of myself that was embraced by my family – I have a very vivid recollection of being told to “stop your bawling” at quite a young age, which kind of says it all.  This being despite, or perhaps because, I think that both my parents are repressed blubberers.

Thankfully, this blubberiness of mine would not be repressed, and I have continued to blub freely throughout my life – not always happily, not always appropriately, often to the rolling of eyes from my husband of so many years, but more and more with my own acceptance of this aspect of myself.

Quite recently, my 5 year old has revealed herself to be a bearer of the blubber gene.  This is over and above the normal childhood tears and lack of inhibition about them; this is a definite fellow of the free- to-blubber society.  First revealed while we were reading a story about the guys in London in the 1970s who bought a lion cub from Harrods, raised it, released it in Africa, and then went back to experience an amazing reunion – very cool (true) story if you haven’t come across it before.  I suddenly realised that there were a few sneaky tears sliding down my daughter’s face – oddly enough coinciding with a lump in my own throat, as it was really very moving.  This could have been a one-off event, perhaps a consequence of tiredness, but a recent school holiday viewing of Puss in Boots at the Dome also elicited some sneaky tears and a few sobs, so the deal is clinched – I have a fellow blubberer in the house.

I felt amazingly elated that I now get to share my life with a kindred spirit, someone else who will smile through tears during cheesy movies or soppy TV ads, someone with whom I can share a tissue box with at weddings and funerals, someone with whom I can celebrate the power of a good blub.  I am so proud of my super-blubberer, and teaching her to enjoy being a blubberer too.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Gracious, Grateful and Grey

In recent times, we have been focussing in our house on being gracious and grateful – and, naturally, you know who’s going grey. 

Somehow this notion of graciousness took my fancy as an overall concept that might provide a nice framework for the sort of behaviour that I would like my girls to demonstrate now and as adults.  Graciousness feels like something that my grandmother was – kind, generous, polite, understanding, intelligent, elegant, not stooping to the uncouth and always rising above the lowest common denominator.  It feels light to me, floating above the trivialities of life.

It’s quite a complex and nebulous concept really yet seemingly quite easily grasped by these children of mine, and it has provided a neat way of defining acceptable and unacceptable behaviour. Of course the most fabulous facet of parenting is the way that your parenting challenges always result in the mirror being turned on yourself, and it’s a nice little test of my own behaviour – does my response to the adult equivalent of not getting the biscuit I want for lunch measure up to the graciousness test – would my grandmother be proud?  Not always easy to face the test in the heat of the moment, but worth working on, and I am often found wanting. 

As for gratefulness, that came from some reading I did a while ago and one thing this particular author mentioned really stuck with me – that one of the most powerful things that we can do to ensure our children’s happiness is to teach them the concept of gratefulness.  And it’s so true – we can all think of people who are truly content, regardless of their circumstances and whatever the world throws at them, while we know others who seem to attract or create drama and are never happy, no matter what they achieve or attain.  I had never thought of it in that light at all, but there is nothing surer than that the path to unhappiness is the constant striving for something that we don’t currently have, and it certainly makes sense that the converse is true.  If we can be content with what we have, and grateful that we have it, then whatever else may come our way will truly be a bonus.  I finish every day with a little visit to my slumbering beauties, and since I came across that pearl of wisdom I also remind myself that no-one could want for more than I have. 

So, although the grey hairs are sprouting thick and fast, and the man with whom I share my life stopped yanking them out for me when I turned 40, despite global recessions, lousy summers, gloomy winters, tantrums and tonsillitis, as often as I can I try to turn my mind to what an absolute delight it is to be living this life and sharing its   ups and downs with my wonderful family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances.  They are the ones that make this daily dance of life truly graceful.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Not so Fantastic Plastic

Every now and then, there is a realisation that you are not as enlightened as you think. The lights go on and somehow the world looks entirely different from the way it used to.

I had one of those moments recently while searching for something to watch on TV. As unappealing as a serious doco initially seemed, TVNZ’s Oceans of Plastic had us riveted, and has changed the world for me. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. I used to think that I was reasonably green — we recycle and compost diligently, we sigh and roll our eyes at the thought of fracking, we buy clothes made from natural fibres and we embrace the idea of cycling as an alternative to fossil fuel consumption.  

Although worthy, how trite this all seems in the face of my new demon — plastic. No longer do those shiny colourful plastic things with which we surround ourselves seem cheerful and bright — in the space of a week these products, this packaging, these play things have turned into a garish and menacing threat.

I don’t mean to over-dramatise, but the facts are stark:
• There are vast areas of ocean where huge seas of plastic spread over many kilometres, and as the plastic matter breaks down, plastic particles enter the environment and the food chain.
• Plastic in the environment harms wildlife
• Plastic is sourced from petroleum, so the environment suffers in its production as well as in its disposal
• Plastic particles become part of the environment, as well as absorbing toxins from the environment, and break down themselves, releasing their own toxins
• As marine animals consume the plastic particles, they enter the food chain, ultimately affecting humans
• Plastic-sourced toxins have been shown to have frightening effects on human health

I grew up with milk in glass bottles, preserved fruit in glass jars, and when a boiled egg was considered convenience food. 

What do we really know about the long term effects of all this plastic packaging on human health?  Relatively recently, we have found out that BPA is carcinogenic and that children and pregnant woman probably shouldn’t drink water in PET bottles — what other unknown hazards will be discovered and what does this mean for our children?

So what to do? Every little bit counts, I reckon — Gizzy’s own Go Bamboo are putting it out there with toothbrushes, pegs and other consumable items made from beautiful biodegradable bamboo. Fewer plastic toothbrushes and pegs in the landfills and waterways has got to be a good thing — and that’s only the start for them, I’m sure.  The internet of course is rich with resources – is a great place to start. 
Why can’t we go back to bottled milk and more products in glass jars, paper bags, and the good old days where there was money in recycling glass? Is it really cheaper to ditch most of the plastic in the environment and send a bit over to India to be cleaned and recycled where labour is cheap, or are we just not putting a price on the real cost?

In our family, I can see, this is going to be a very slow and incremental process. On my first day on the “reduce plastic” mission, I managed to accumulate no less than 12 plastic bags, without even going to the supermarket.  We need to get into new habits and that will take time.  But I am going to take some advice from my favourite Dr Seuss book, The Lorax — “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  

So I will plant my Truffula Tree, and treat it with care.  And if enough of us do, maybe the Lorax and all of his friends will come back.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Choosing to Chill!

8.30 am Saturday morning. A meltdown occurs.
Younger child has snuck into older child’s stash
of jelly beans from a birthday party the previous
weekend, and eaten one. She would have got
away with it completely had she not chosen to
flaunt this small victory. “Look Mum” – jaws open
wide. “Gosh, look at all those teeth”. “No, look!”
“Jellybean!” Older child inconsolable as stolen
jelly bean was the last pink one. Mother feels dark
fog creeping over brain as she tries to think of a
peaceful solution. It had been a long, busy couple
of weeks in our household, culminating in a very
long and busy Friday, and Thursday and Friday
nights had been too late for 3 and 5 year olds.

Suddenly the Saturday plan of ballet, groceries, a friend’s
birthday party just seems way too busy for the degree of
exhaustion wafting over our household.
The thing that I dreaded most about being a school-going
family, and the thing that still wears us out the most, is the rush
factor. Rush in the morning to get ready for school, rush in
the evening to cram in afternoon tea, play, homework, dinner,
bath bed. Ugh. For this reason I have stuck to my plan of
only one extra-curricular activity - that being Saturday ballet.
Theoretically this should leave us pretty chilled out over the
weekend - ballet is at 11.45 am so how much of a rush can
that be? Somehow however it still seems like a mad panic
- we cruise for the first part of the morning and then end up
in a flap - where are the ballet shoes, get the drink bottles
organised, find some snacks for before and after. Then we
do ballet and decide that while we’re in town we will do the
groceries and some other jobs, and before you know it we’re
rushing home at four in the afternoon in a mad panic getting
dinner ready and the whole things just feels like another day
spent racing around like the proverbial headless chook.
Not for us this weekend! After 30 seconds reflection, I pulled
the pin immediately and we spent the entire weekend at home.
Friends visited, we spent lots of time at the beach, we did a
few outstanding domestic jobs and we did some cooking. We
read books, did art, watched DVDs, and had an early night.
By Sunday night it just felt like we were a human family again,
rather than a family of out of control aliens lurching from one
engagment to the next.
How easy it is to end up feeling over-committed despite your
best intentions, and how hard to make that decision to put on
the brakes - but how great does it feel. I just need to remember
to step back and take a chill out spell more often - before the
wheels fall off and we skid to a halt!


This is really great recipe for a Sunday night, or
one of those evenings when you don’t really have
a plan! For variety you can add spicy sausage.

  • A handful of cooked potatoes or kumara
  • Cooked seasonal veges
  • Feta cheese, grated parmesan or tasty cheese
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 5 - 6 free range eggs
  • Fresh herbs and garlic, to taste

Beat the eggs and mix in the other ingredients
except the red pepper and the fresh herbs. Gently
fry the garlic and the red pepper, then pour in all
the other ingredients. Cook over low heat for 7 - 8
minutes, then finish under a pre-heated grill for 5
- 6 minutes until browned and set. Rest for a few
minutes before serving.