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Saoirse: Mummy, excuse me Mummy. Will you still love me when you’re DEAD?

Me: (desperately casting around for something profound and quotable at her 21st, but ideally long after that, probably attributed to Anonymous in a book of inspirational, motivational sayings)

Me: Darling child. I will love you forever and ever, until the end of the world. Even when I’m pushing up daisies: my love will be in the daisies. THE DAISIES WILL BE MY LOVE. I can’t imagine not loving you, so . . . in summary . . . what I’m trying to say is . . . yes. Absolutely.

Saoirse: But Mummy . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

(Trust me, this is worth waiting for.)

Saoirse: . . . 

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: . . .

Saoirse: Mummy, will you still love me when you’re a ZOMBIE?

 

Hope she still hearts me when I’m a zombie

It’s that time of the year again. By which of course I mean my Mother in Law’s birthday.

Every time, Husband and I have the same conversation. What to get for the woman who has everything?

Two years ago, in answer that very question (posited by Husband) I said, “What about pus?”

Her Goatiness has two passions: goats and pus. Happily, one kind of goes with the other, or comes from the udder, or whatever; what I’m saying is there’s a symbiosis. She talks about pus obsessively – almost lyrically – and can transport you to another world as she holds forth over dinner about some abscess she lanced with a pointy stick and the quality, quantity, smell and texture of the pus trickling through her fingers. Or preferably gushing.

At least when Andrew gives out to me for talking about barf at the table (I don’t mean to; it’s reflexive; seems to just naturally come up, as it were), I can say, “Yeah well, it’s not as bad as pus.”

And for those of you who might argue that it’s much of a muchness, it’s a well-reasoned point and I’ll certainly consider it on advisement.

“A bucket of pus!” I said, excitedly. “She’ll LOVE it.”

Husband looked dubious but that’s just TOTALLY WHAT HE DOES i.e. throw shade all over my idea(s) while proffering no semi-valid suggestions never mind solutions.

Therefore I set about putting together my Mother in Law’s birthday present. I would have preferred the presentation of pus in a bucket or vat, but due to logistical issues I downgraded to a mason jar. Ideally I would have collected a large sampling from a range of festering, septic wounds around Waitaki, but time was against me; and also, although I love my Mother in Law, I just . . . don’t love her that much.

I opted for the pus aesthetic: a litre of homemade custard, with raspberries stirred in for an authentic blood-streaked visual effect.

Jar of pus

So I’m drawing a blank on what to get Her Goatiness this year – I mean: how can you beat a Jar of Pus? I KNOW!

Which reminds me: I’d better get on to planning Saoirse’s birthday

Two weeks ago, I was the MC for four days at the LIANZA Conference in Christchurch.

You think it’s a bit random? Sure; I’ll give you that. My credentials were assessed on the basis of a 20 minute presentation I gave at a Southland Librarian Convention over a year ago at the Oamaru Opera House. My speech was standing room only . . . well; no it wasn’t, but only because the Waitaki District Library put out a plethora of chairs . . . but I got a standing ovation. Ok ok OK, I was the last speaker and people had to get up to leave . . . ANYWAY.

After my presentation, a lovely Maori woman approached me and asked if I’d speak at the LIANZA Conference. And then a few months later, I got an email from Joanna about being MC. And Joanna and I corresponded for the better part of a year, before I finally met her at dinner on the Saturday before the conference kicked off. She said, “Do you remember me?” and I roared, “Of course I do! Great to see you again!”

Halfway through the same evening, another lovely woman came to me and said, “Hi, I just wanted to see how you’re getting on and are you comfortable?” I had no idea who she was and no recollection of ever meeting her; but I thought I was doing a pretty good job of blagging it, until she said, “Do you recognise me?”

Whenever I’ve doggedly persisted in (my preferred strategy of) complete ignorance, it tends to turn brutally swiftly into a global train-wreck, so I said: “Look, I’m so sorry; I don’t.”

She said, “I’m Joanna. Joanna Matthew.”

And I was all: “Are you SURE?”

I realised that who I’d thought was Joanna was someone else completely; in fact another person entirely called Tilapia. And happy that I’d finally sorted out who was who, I addressed her by her name – Tilapia – for the rest of the dinner.

I noticed her eying me a bit funny; but since I get that a lot I didn’t fully register it UNTIL about five o’clock the following morning when I woke up in a cold sweat, thinking: “OMG tilapia’s a fish! IT’S. A. FUCKING. FISH!”

For those of you not literate about fish, it is a freshwater, pleasant tasting fish which originated in the Middle East and in 2016, tilapia was the likely source of an American woman’s flesh-eating bacteria infection.

When I checked, I realised her name was – and probably still is – Te Paea.

Beautiful name, Te Paea.

Much better than Tilapia.

For anyone who thinks this story can’t possibly get any worse, well you obviously don’t know me AT ALL. So hi there! Thanks for reading, and let me assure you: it absolutely can.

So I tracked down Te Paea on the Sunday, and said, “I’m soooo sorry, I called you a fish.”

She said, “Oh that’s ok.” And then she said . . . “Actually, I thought you called me Labia.”

So obviously I’d prefer neither, but if I HAVE to choose between calling someone a fish or a vagina, I’m just so glad I went with fish.

Even a flesh-eating fish.

Since I once addressed someone as Nubbin, as in a small lump or residual part of bone or cartilage I could argue that I’m not culturally insensitive so much as GENERALLY insensitive . . .

. . . but it’s probably better I stop here.

  

 

Video link to Mistress of Ceremonies: Day 2 (Registration required with name and email address)

Milk free zone

Finn> Mum, I want muesli.

Me> Oh- I- uh- I made porridge for you. Mmm-

Finn> You KNOW what happened de last time I wanted muesli and not porridge. You said you’d WAIT and ASK me first-

Me> I know; yes- sorry, sweetie; I just like to get it ready before you wake up, so you-

Finn> But I don’t WANT PORRIDGE!

Me> *SIGH!* Ok, I’ll get you muesli. Would you like some kiwifruit? And yoghurt?

Finn> Yes please.

Me> And milk?

Finn> GRAAARGH! NO MILK! MUM YOU POURED MILK ON MY MUESLI-

Me> FINN! It’s just a splash- look, it only landed on a piece of kiwifruit- anyway, you can’t eat muesli without milk-

Finn> I CAN! I DON’T WANT MILK!

Me> Ok, I’ve fished out the piece of kiwifruit-

Finn> DERE’S MILK IN DERE!

Me> THERE’S NO MILK IN THERE! LOOK! I’ve decontaminated the bowl and it is now a milk-free zone. EAT IT!

Finn (five minutes later)> Mummy, I crossed out de love hearts I drew for you.

Me> You did . . . what? Why?

Finn> Because you were grumpy with me.

Me> Well, I know you still love me. Maybe you could draw me more love hearts-

Finn> No. It’s not a love heart day. I also crossed out where I wrote ‘I love you’.

Me> OMG FINN I MADE YOU PORRIDGE AND YOU DIDN’T WANT IT SO I GOT YOU MUESLI THEN I PEELED AND CHOPPED A KIWIFRUIT AND PUT YOGHURT ON YOUR MUESLI WHAT MORE CAN ONE PERSON HUMANLY DO FOR ANOTHER BEYOND DONATING A KIDNEY OR TWO WHICH BY THE WAY WOULD BE BETTER THAN-

Finn> You’re right, Mummy. I’m sorry.

Me> *speechless*

He crossed out the love hearts

He obviously wasn’t fully committed, because you can barely see where he’s crossed out the hearts

I’ve recently had to take up snowboarding.

No, no, it’s TERRIBLE. The Irish aren’t genetically optimised for skimming over snow at high speeds. No. We’re built more for kicking soggy peat while extremely drunk. When I was growing up, skiing was an activity exclusively pursued by posh people or wankers. Or posh wankers. And of course, snowboards hadn’t been invented in those days.

Then I fell for a Kiwi and, in addition to making bacon and egg pie, another requirement was learning to negotiate snow.

I chose snowboarding because it was sooo obviously waaay cooler than skiing. (Note: had I been 10 years younger this might well have been quantifiably accurate.)

At the time we were living in Dubai, so I learned to snowboard at the indoor ski slope freshly erected in the middle of the desert. The place was always packed with Arab teenagers who combined a maximum of – let’s call it – enthusiasm, and a minimum of any discernible skill. Every time we visited, there’d be someone staggering off the slope with a gash across the forehead and their brains flopping out; or you’d see the blood splattered across the snow. It was like the aftermath of an Orc battle . . . or, you know, the living room after I’ve got the kids to bed. Anyway, it wasn’t what you might call a nurturing learning environment; and when I broke my right wrist I was just thankful it wasn’t my head.

For more than a decade, I have successfully avoided snapping on a pair of bindings. But then we moved to Wanaka and Finn’s primary school runs a five-week ski program during Term 3. We enrolled Finn for a cost of approximately $200 which included his lift pass and lessons. Children must be accompanied by an adult, and I reluctantly put my name down as Finn’s secondary (in this instance) parent in case Husband was unable to go due to breaking all his limbs in a chairlift incident.

The last time I was at Cardrona, I ended up in the resort’s Medical Centre with a busted knee. In fairness, I was nursing a supermarket injury at the time so it wasn’t fully attributable to snowboarding . . . anyway: more context. The second week, when Husband asked if I wanted to come along, I thought I should so I could conclusively say, “Look, it’s obvs not my jam, but you can’t say I didn’t try.”

I was gratified that my snowboard boots still fit 15 years on, and I dug out my late ‘90s ski jacket and the pair of ski pants from the Oamaru Opshop featuring an absolutely snorting camel-toe effect. When we got to the ski field, I was gutted to find that lift passes and lessons for accompanying adults on the School Ski Programme were half price, since that removed any remaining excuse at my disposal.

“What you need a lesson for?” scoffed Husband with his own unique brand of crazed confidence. “It’ll come back to you. Like riding a bike.”

I reminded him how riding a bike after a 15 year hiatus went for me, and signed up for a lesson. Our instructor Carlo had a deep-rooted antipathy towards skiiers. “Dey strappa ona a paira skiis and da brain it stopsa,” he announced happily to the ski field at large.

The lesson was simple stuff: how to do up your bindings; how to skate; go uphill with one boot strapped; use the heel edge; brake. Y’all know how I hate giving any quarter to Husband’s credibility, but it WAS coming back to me (although not like riding a fucking bike, at all).

Then Carlo moved onto boarding on toe edge, which has always been my particular downfall whether literally or figuratively (take your pick). “To mova onto your toe edge you just poka out your tummy simple,” he declared. When he demonstrated it did indeed look well easy – and in any case, I need no encouragement to stick out my stomach.

However, it had little to no effect on anything apart from intensifying cameltoe.

Undaunted, when the lesson finished I took myself off up the learner slope to practise my falling leaf and PEEPS I totally crushed it, embodying a world-class aerodynamic fucking leaf, floating gracefully yet purposefully through the air before settling on level ground with immutable precision.

When I got home that night, after buying a second-hand pair of wrist-guards, I searched YouTube for ‘beginner snowboarding’, ‘how to toe slide’ and ‘how to turn’. Well, I was a fucking genius before I even hit the slope thanks to my man Kevin from snowboardprocamp. The following week, over and over, I tramped up the learner slope (there was usually a 20 minute wait for the conveyor) and practiced basic exercises.

I started saying things like, “I was totally shredding it yo but stacked it in a yard sale blatting over some gnarly mougs dude,” and “Woah dude see how much air I caught? Sick!”

(Sorry- can I just- take a moment to discuss how the word ‘sick’ appears to have entered parlance as a positive description. I mean, what?! Have you seen the stuff? It’s horrid – and also highly corrosive. I’m waiting for the word ‘deadly’ to make a comeback. It was a great word: implying something was so awesome it could POTENTIALLY BE FATAL. Bring back deadly!)

Husband is particularly unimpressed that I now address him as ‘dude’. Also that I’ve acquired about five ski jackets off Trademe. And I’m all: “But look! It’s a limited edition embossed Roxy jacket with diamante detailing!” and he’s all: “Yeah, shame it’s about three sizes too big.”

I scored a second-hand snowboard, and replaced most of my ski kit the same way. Any time I venture online my browser is besieged with adverts for ski pants on sale – although so far I haven’t found anything superior to the camel-toe pants. Guess I’ll have to keep looking.

 

Checking out the Snow Farm

 

I’d love to end this post carving down the slope on a high note, but Husband is rethwarting my ambition to Dominate on a snowboard. He has a history of twiddling around on skiis smack bang in the middle of my line; or asking me open questions while I’m negotiating tricky turns. Here’s some videographic evidence, from- wait a moment and I’ll tell you exactly- April 2006:-

 

 

Last Thursday that blasted man – you might know him better as Husband – persuaded me to come down what, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to describe as an expert run, in a whiteout. I couldn’t even see the trail flags. When I nearly flew off a steep bank near the top, I suspected I was on an express route to Destination Fucked – although I guess it wasn’t that express since it took me an hour and a half to descend. I skidded down most of the mountain at an extreme degree of lop-sidedness; several splats later, when I face-planted and slid several metres on my chin, I actually fucking CRIED.

I thought I’d pulled a muscle in my leg but it turned out to be just bruising, as per my arse – and the rest of me.

So it’s back to the learner slope for me – and the doghouse for DUDE

You know how sometimes you commit a crime, like, totally by mistake?

Happens to everyone: I KNOW!

(That’s what I tried to tell the police, but their response was noncommittal.)

So . . . last month, I accidentally stole a bike. Here’s how it went down: the kids and I were kicking around at the playground and as the sun set we were the last die-hard revellers. I lashed my protesting progeny into their carseats (“But Mummy I didn’t go on da slide Mummee!” “Saoirse, PUT your ARMS in the STRAPS!”) and, as I limped to the driver seat, I noticed a bike abandoned by the barbeque stand.

Obvs some kid had legged it home forgetting he’d got there by pedal-power, perhaps pausing momentarily by the backdoor to wonder why he had a bike helmet on his head.

So I took the bike. For safekeeping. Tried not to project furtiveness as I scanned the playground for the owner; then downplayed the suspicious efficiency with which I loaded it onto the suspiciously available bike-rack affixed to the back of the Prius.

I suffered a twinge of doubt as I pulled away slowly (to avoid the suspicious screech of rubber on asphalt) which wasn’t helped by the kids asking why I had taken someone’s bike and was it ours now? – but I was cheered by my charitable act of good goodness.

As soon as I got home, I posted to the local Facebook Page:

Lost your bike?
Picked up an unlocked bike at The Playground this evening – PM me if it’s yours.

The post gathered a number of likes (although I was confused by several shocked :-O Reactions) until someone finally commented: “Nobody locks their bike at The Playground.”

I tried to defrost the chilly overtone with my response and got a bit of banter going about bikenapping HAHAHA, until ‘April*’ (*Her real Facebook name) commented: ‘Look can you return the bike and delete this post because it just draws attention to the fact that the kids leave their bikes unlocked at The Playground’.

It’s comforting to know we live in such an honest, caring community.

Although WOWSERS kinda fucking bitchy.

I deleted the post because, despite being a fucking bitch, well, um, she had a point.

However I didn’t return the bike because yanno SHE CAN’T TELL ME WHAT TO DO.

But also, having taken the bike, if someone even bitchier stole it after I’d returned it, then that would technically be my fault.

You see?

The following day I drove back to The Playground and plastered printed notices with my contact details around the place.

The day after that, nobody had responded to the notice.

That night I couldn’t sleep what with trying to come to terms with my new identity as a Criminal Mastermind.

OK FINE!

Criminal Cretin.

I had nightmares about Husband visiting me in prison, his jaw clenched in pain and anger, muttering: “I just want to know one thing: why did you do it?”

Me: “By the time I realised, I was in too deep! Will you- will you wait for me?”

Husband: “Yeah look, probably not.”

And my poor, malnourished children, crying: “Mummy I love you!” “Mummy when are you coming home mummeee? Daddy’s cooking is stinky-poo.”

And me, sobbing: “Sweeties, I’m so so sorry, but I’m not up for parole for three more years,” then staggering back to my cell bandy-legged from the cigarettes stashed up my bum (and I don’t even smoke).

Actually, Husband found it all certifiably hilarious, and whenever I tried to discuss The Situation he reverted to uncontrollable sniggering.

On Friday – four days after the heist – I decided to turn myself in.

Fittingly, it was lashing rain.

“I’ve committed a crime,” I announced to the officer on duty.

He appraised me in my mummy scarf and mummy pumps, evaporating the discernible reek of rank dog, and totally judged me.

It was evidently a slow evening at Wanaka Police Station, so he called over a colleague: “Pam, get the handcuffs. Lady here stole a bike.” Then he made me repeat the story, occasionally interjecting with a ploddy question.

It was less than stellar police-work and, frankly, I was offended by how lightly he and his colleague treated the whole affair. I felt like saying, “Oy, pigs: it’s not like I nicked a chip of some toddler’s plate. Stole a fackin set of wheels, din’ I?”

But that would have been, well, rude; so I waited politely until they’d finished snorting.

Pam advised me to drop the bike into the station – any time; she was on duty until Monday morning – but since I was extremely uncomfortable being in possession of stolen good, I went straight home, collected the bike and committed it into the loving embrace of the long arms of the law.

As I drove away, my phone blonked.

Text message> Hi, I think you took my sons bike out of concern for theft?? Where can he come collect it from?

Me> Hi, yes I did, terribly sorry; didn’t understand bikes are generally left unlocked at The Playground. I dropped it into the Police Station literally 5 mins ago, he can grab it there. Cheers

The Mother> Oh gosh really?

The Mother> Oh dear

The Mother> Can you pop back there?

Not Me> You ‘avin a fackin larf, sweetheart?

I called The Mother. Per the largely one-sided conversation, I think apparently her car was at the garage?? (oh yeah see how I was right onto her like cheap lycra??) and the bike wouldn’t fit in her work van because it was full of crap and she was so busy (subtext: it was raining so hard and she hadn’t finished her limited edition boxset of the last season of Game of Thrones) so would I deliver it to her house, preferably tonight because her son wanted to use it over the weekend?

So I returned to the station, where Pam was probably thinking I would be less trouble if I actually were a hardened criminal who could dispense cigarettes out my sphincter. She was pretty grumpy about having to fetch the bike from the storage room.

When I got to the house, The Injured Party himself opened the door. He scowled silently.

“Hi!” I chirped, then: “Oh, right- oh, here’s your bike! Sorry um . . .” I skulked soggily for a moment, waiting for him to say thanks – or anything – to no avail. He glared me all the way back to my car. I made sure to bypass all churches on the way home, in case I was impaled by a lightning rod.

So that’s the last fucking time I do a good turn.

Only kidding! I’ll always be that busybody buttinsky who asks the child in the carpark where his mother is when she’s right behind him; or picks up the distressed toddler for a headbutt; or performs an active drowning victim rear rescue on the teenager in the pool who merely has an inelegant freestyle. Because although I might get it wrong more often than not, I hope and trust other people will do the same for my kids

We had an unexpected house guest last weekend.

When I collected Finn from school on Friday, he had a tatty toy with an acute case of glaucoma clenched under one arm. “Teacher said I could have it for the weekend!” he said. Molly the Morepork was a hand-puppet which could rotate her head a full 360+°.

It was only when we got home that I discovered a scrapbook in Finn’s bag entitled ‘Molly’s Diary’.

The front page stated: ‘Hi, I’m Molly and this is my diary! You can write in here about what we did, or paste some photos or draw some pictures! Thank you for having me!’

Er, you’re welcome?

I mean objectively I can appreciate what a terrific idea Molly’s Diary is: it’s a great way to get to know Finn’s classmates and a bit about their families; introduce a new kid; find out what sort of activities there are around the place; and it presents a great learning opportunity to discover more about the taxonomy and habitat of Ninox novaeseelandiae via stuffed toys or something. But since Finn can’t write much more than his name, age, ‘dad’ and ‘mum’, it was effectively homework for me.

“What the fuck am I going to do with her?” I hissed at Husband on Skype. He was off with his dog for the weekend blasting away ducks, an arrangement so convenient you’d almost think it was planned. Which I suppose it was; but it also had the rancid stench of conspiracy theory, like the staged moon landings. Yeah right so I’m supposed to believe the shadow in the photo frame is not a boom mic but instead some sort of wild lunar poodle? SURE.

“Look at this,” I muttered, holding Molly’s Diary up to the iPad camera. “The level of hospitality- it’s unrealistically high. This fucking morepork has been abseiling, tramping, biking, water-skiing . . . look! She toasts marshmallows over an open flame! Jesus Christ, is that Molly with Graeme Norton?”

“You just want everyone to think Finn’s life is awesome,” said Husband.

Well, duh.

“NOOO,” I snapped. “I just don’t want anyone thinking Finn’s life totally blows. You know, like: wow Finn watches a lot of telly, poor child mustn’t have a bike. Does he eat anything other than porridge? The thrills. OMG I can’t handle this pressure!”

And I mightn’t have believed him had he said something like: “Sweet Cheeks, our family is almost illegally awesome and you are going to crush it,” but it would have been better than just LAUGHING.

Husband seemed happily oblivious to the obvious: if I fucked up the Molly’s Diary initiation test, Finn would be eating his porridge sandwiches in the corner of the playground, ALONE, FOREVER.

In the end, I did my best. Which is all you can do and the lesson I prefer to extract from this whole exercise. Although I diligently took photos of Finn and Molly, our printer had until recently been in storage and on Sunday evening Husband provided telephone support as I linked it to my laptop. We had a sum total of two blank sheets of paper in the house and I – inexplicably – managed to print the photos across BOTH sheets in a sort of T-formation.

I finally finished my homework at about midnight on Sunday, and Finn added some pictures the following morning. I only gave him artistic direction twice.

Maybe three times.

Molly the Morepork, line drawing in biro on scrapbook paper, by Finn Tomes age 5. The kids’ craft stuff is lost in the vastness of storage space, so Finn had to make do with a couple of pens scavenged from the bottom of my handbag

 

The following Monday, we bought the kids a set of coloured pens. I suppose I should probably have addressed that for Molly’s Diary 😦

 

Molly experienced a lot of skilled lego-craft. The drawings are spiders and a moth, because that’s what Molly eats

 

H&S: of course, we made sure our guest was safely restrained

 

Molly and Finn explore the eastern shore of Lake Hawea on Saturday

 

Pebble-surfing

 

Molly’s a busy owl and had to take some client calls

 

Finn tests the buoyancy of his lego lifeboat

 

Muddy bike-ride in Dublin Bay on Sunday. Molly was asleep since she’s nocturnal and was exhausted. I understood EXACTLY how she felt

Sorted

Last week it was all about getting the kids started at school and kindy respectively.

We’d originally planned to keep both of them home for the first month or two after moving, but Finn loved his first term at Totara School so much we felt it would be less disruptive for him if he started straight into Wanaka Primary at the start of Term 2 in May.

We visited the school for the first time during the school holidays, where Finn pronounced the quality of playground satisfactory.

In the event, Finn absolutely crushed it – although his mum was pretty shit. The night before he started I decided I’d better read the enrolment pack, which was when I realised uniforms are compulsory and stationery highly recommended. I was so worried about being expelled for indifference to stationery, I couldn’t sleep.

Finn was shaky on the morning, but his teacher was lovely and the school is amazingly well equipped. As we were shown around Finn’s interest levels picked up to the point where every time his teacher addressed him he had to give a little jump of excitement.

There was a clang of potential doom when the teacher showed him the tadpole tank and Finn said, “Dey grow into FROGS!” and she responded, “Er, yes; actually they already did, but I forgot to put rocks in over the Easter holidays and they DIED. Here, you can look at the dead frogs through this magnifying glass if you like?”

Finn took it in stride, although he demurred looking at the dead frogs.

When the bell rang, he settled down on the welcome mat without a backward glance.

Later that morning I procured a stationery pack and dropped it back to school; along with his lunchbox and water bottle which I’d forgotten to stuff in his schoolbag earlier. Guess my Outstanding Mother Award is postponed another week.

Bless him; Finn is absolutely shattered and on several occasions over the last week, I’ve wondered whether he needs a good exorcising: by early evening he is demonstrably demonic. However, he is doing incredibly well now that he has a school uniform and full agglomeration of stationery.

Saoirse took longer to get sorted. About six months previously, she and Finn attended a kindy in Wanaka on a short-term basis, and something about it just didn’t click.

At another place I was so distracted by the administrator’s saggy red pleather trousers, I spent the entire time wondering whether there was any way I could appropriately pull them the fuck up on her.

Yet another kindy was promising until I clocked the 3yo with dreadlocks and it was all over, rover.

I had been keen on the Montessori school before we actually visited. Don’t get me wrong; it was lovely: all underfloor heated wooden floors and natural eco-sustainable toys – but one thing I learned at the North Otago Toy Library is that although the parents love the natural wooden toys, the kids always choose plastic. And while children shouldn’t necessarily always get what they want, if the objective is stimulating play, the best option is probably the garish plastic abomination that is the distilled antithesis of all that is pure and beautiful in this world.

We visited at snack time and I’d never seen an assembly of such perfectly mannered children – but it struck me that Saoirse would just eat them alive. And when I realised that despite my best efforts, I STILL can’t explain the Montessori ideology, I thought we’d better look into the last option available.

I’d been starting to get a bit desperate wondering how to go about weighing gut reaction, so it was a relief when The Last Option felt so right. The ECEs were gorgeous and welcoming and friendly; I loved the way they interacted with the kids; the vibe was kind and unassuming; the playground was entirely constructed of old tires and offcuts of wood that the kids can reconfigure as they please; and – most importantly – Saoirse loved it as well.

(Although admittedly she loved all the other kindies too.)

She started the following day: walked into the place as if she owned it, picked out a book and demanded of some random adult that they read it to her. Like Finn, she appears to have decided goodbyes are superfluous.

My kids have taught me a bit about holding shit together in the last week

Photobomber continues her campaign of terror

 

Dublin Bay

So as soon as we decided to move to Wanaka in late 2015, Husband and I swung instantly into action. By which I mean: we prepared for action by reflecting on how we could best achieve maximum outcome with minimal swinging as such.

 

It was a really very thorough, measured and definitive thought-process.

 

Ideally we wanted to sell our house in Oamaru in summer 2015, but Husband wasn’t ready because he hadn’t titivated the shed. Or if it wasn’t that, he wanted to weed-mat the garden; or replace some panes of glass; or repaint the deck; or finish the garden folly.

 

(By the way: oh yes it is, ‘titivate’ is TOTALLY a word.)

 

Our beautiful old 1890s character villa with 2000sqm of landscaped cottage gardens may have been glorious and rose-scented and redolent of frilly parasols and croquet and cucumber sandwiches, but it was an absolute fucking motherfucker to maintain. Although we loved it, all our spare time was diverted to gardening or renovating or gardening or trying to convince the kids that pruning was fun or train the dog to differentiate between weeds and flowers.

 

 

I’d asked my unfairly talented mate Maxine to shoot the house, because her architectural photography is ‘jaaast stanning’ as the chick herself would say (not usually about her own work, although she could without risk of false advertising).

 

Eventually she just turned up with her camera. “Look, I don’t care- I don’t have time for this shit- no, I can photoshop in the garage door- fine, I’ll photoshop in the fucking HOUSE, ok? Get out of the frame. And take that fugly sofa with you.” (Only joking; Maxine’s a professional and would never swear on the job.)

 

By this stage – practically winter – we’d pretty much run out of time to list our house, which ideally needed to be sold in late spring / high summer / before the trees completely shit themselves in the autumn. However, being now engaged in full, actionable swing (see above), I went ahead and contacted four of the five RE Agents in town for valuations.

 

My history with RE Agents is somewhat tempestuous and honestly, I haven’t missed them at all since my last torrid affair back in 2011. We were all set to go with online real estate company 200 Square, but despite tracking the local weekly property listings we had no idea what the value of our house was. There was no consistency and nothing even vaguely comparable to our home. Trademe listings with photos featuring heaps of unfolded laundry and dead animals with an unfocused bit of shack in the background stated offers over $500k; some gorgeous character homes appeared to be in the region of less than $250k.

 

We figured industry professionals would know.

 

We figured wrong.

 

They didn’t.

 

I mean, they really, REALLY didn’t.

 

The range of estimates issued by RE Agents varied $90,000 in value.

 

That’s $90,000; or ninety thousand dollars; or FUCKING NINETY THOUSAND FUCKING DOLLARS.

 

(To add some context: we paid $242k for it in 2011.)

 

After looking around, they’d say: “Yaaas, weeell, it’s beautifully presented, but it’s not a great location and you know what we say: ‘location, location, location’ hahaha ahaha! South side of a hill *meh* . . . no view of the sea *meh squared* . . . and *meh to the power of 10* who wants to maintain 2000 square meters of garden?”

 

Well, apart from Not Us, I’m sure um lots of people specifically gardeners and – I dunno – outdoorsy types would like to . . . but WTF DON’T COME INTO MY HOME AND TELL ME IT’S SHIT! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

Since I lived in the house for five and a half years, I figured I knew its limitations better than a RE Agent who’d spent only half an hour in the place staring mainly at their checklist. And I was fairly confident that someone would fall in love with the house: its charm, its privacy, the inspection pit in the garage.

 

(Well, that was what sold Husband.)

 

I’ve never liked the local branch of LJ Hooker’s approach to supporting the community, specifically taking out full page adverts in the Waitaki Herald congratulating themselves on donating thousands of tax-deducted dollars to local non-profits and charitable community organisations. However, we originally bought our house from the fully delicious Claudette, and she was the first agent I contacted.

 

I’d always suspected my feelings for Claudette were unrequited and was devastated as she struggled with commitment issues and grew increasingly emotionally distant.

 

An RE Agent from The Professionals suggested the house was worth only $18,000 more than we paid for it six years ago. So according to her dystopian proposal (and disregarding the thousands we spent on improvements and renovations), we would have ended up with a roaring profit of approximately $5,000 after she skimmed her commission.

 

“Well, I don’t think you exactly got a bargain when you bought this place,” she sniffed.

 

WTF don’t come into my house and tell me it’s shit AND THAT I’M STUPID! THAT’S JUST FUCKING RUDE! ESPECIALLY AFTER I OFFERED YOU FUCKING COFFEE!

 

When challenged with a moderated version of the above, she said, “Over the last month we’ve sold all our properties within days.”

 

“Um . . . does that not . . . kind of . . . suggest you’re undervaluing them?” I asked.

 

“I’ll have you know our clients are very satisfied,” she said defensively.

 

One RE Agent even kicked the dog (although admittedly it was after Jed had spent a good five minutes checking their crotch for contraband, and then worried their pleather folder on the floor . . . he also munched their biro a bit).

 

I was reluctant to go anywhere near Ray White after our experience with the company six years ago, but my To Do list had five items and I’d only ticked off four. However, I was lucky enough to be put through to Leona Stretch. When she came to visit, she patted the dog and loved our house.

 

“But what about the view- sorry; I mean ‘aspect’?” I asked suspiciously. “And locationlocationlocation?”

 

“I suppose it might be worth more if it were on South Hill, but it’s a beautiful home,” said Leona. “Great big section, overlooks the Gardens, minutes from town. It’s fabulous.”

 

When Leona returned with the estimate, she brought presents for the kids and the dog. I’d decided to list with her even before she said she believed our house was worth $350k. I know: I’m a whore. But we were in no particular hurry and um well her valuation was greater than anticipated, so we thought what the heck? We decided to list the house for a proscribed period, sale on offers over $350k.

 

I knew we’d made the right decision when the kids and I went to her office to review the contract and Saoirse applied crayon to everything except the thoughtfully-provided paper; then flooded the place. Leona was unfazed; even Saoirse couldn’t break her.

 

We were fully prepared for Leona to recommend dropping the asking price after a couple of weeks – not that she ever gave that impression, or indeed any impression other than being responsive, professional and striving diligently on our behalf – but evidently I have trust issues.

 

Her assessment of the market (for our home: out of towners), recommendations on how to present the house, and regular reports were all bang on. It took a couple of months, but Leona sold our house for pretty much exactly what she said she would. She could have negotiated a longer settlement than three weeks – but now I’m just struggling to find something to get my bitch on.

 

What I can and GODDAMN IT I WILL get my bitch on like white on rice on a Styrofoam plate in a snowstorm, is that had we gone with any of the other industry professionals’ recommendations we would now be up to $90k out of pocket. WHY DON’T YOU JUST BREAK INTO OUR HOUSE AND STEAL ALL OUR ELECTRONIC EQUIPMENT AND . . . um . . . WHATEVER ELSE WE OWN THAT’S WORTH TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS ALREADY? (My combination oven? Husband’s sound system? Finn’s lego collection?)

 

And before you point out that grossly undervaluing our house doesn’t involve malicious intent: you might not have meant to kill the frog, but it’s still fucking DEAD.

 

Here’s the promo video for the house set to 70’s porn music.

 

And since you got this far: here’s a picture of Jed sitting on the swing:-

 

Ok, where to start? Another coffee: yes, great plan. Right, let me just push aside the dark mists of Time – there we go – wait; oh that’s Weather not dark mist – and revisit 2011, when we decided to move to Oamaru.

When I say ‘we’, alright alright FINE it was mainly me. Although when Husband points this out (admittedly not as frequently as I would were our positions reversed), in all fairness: I have no idea what he was thinking, letting me get away with it. I was foetus-afflicted and hormone-riddled and in a penultimate stage of epic broodiness; clearly in no fit state to be dictating such momentous life-choices.

The only condition Husband imposed on relocating was a term limit of five years. At the time, I huffed:

“OMG why do we have to put a timeframe on it? Why can’t we live there as long as it works out, vis a vis indefinitely? This just sooo doesn’t align with my free fucking spirit. Pass me that croissant – yeah just brush the coffee grounds off it – that’s grand mmm.”

Fast forward to 2015, and I’m all: “Say Husband, is it five years yet?”

And so we started thinking about where we wanted to bring up our children. For a while we considered Picton, but rejected it as too far away from Her Goatiness and Agent of Death; we also spent some time skulking around Queenstown but decided it was too . . . you know . . . too . . . Queenstown.

I’m not sure why Wanaka wasn’t an obvious choice; maybe because Agent of Death frequently and apropos of nothing growls, “Who the fack would want to live in Wanaka?” I’m not sure what I’ve ever responded, but given my cultural imperative to please, probably something along the lines of, “Yeah, Wanaka with its stupid lake and stuff, hurhurhur”. Until instead the answer was, “Um, maybe us?”

Towards the end of 2015, we started scouting real estate in Wanaka. We spent several weekends looking at pricey and vaguely preposterous properties before realising there was little to nothing that accommodated two people working from home. My job is part-time and flexible and, although I can work leaning against the kitchen bench with a spatula in the other hand, I’d prefer to gainfully employ myself at a workstation in between the scary parts of Turbo The Snail.

However, since Husband runs his business from home, he needs an office which can accommodate Excessive Technology™ (a recent upgrade from Enough Technology™), and nothing we viewed offered anything appropriate for Husband’s office that wasn’t acoustically compromised; or tucked under a stairs; or didn’t feature a stunning vista of the neighbour’s bathroom.

The situation was further complicated by Husband not liking any of the houses I did.

Eventually we decided if we’re going to ransom our children’s education for a house, it needs to tick all the boxes, and the only way to achieve that is to build our own. Coincidentally this plan aligns with Husband’s life-goal to build a house, which he presented in detail supported by a feasibility study, strategic case and realistic contingency plans on our second date. You can see how I knew he was A Keeper.

So last year we bought a section in Wanaka.

Christmas 2010

. . . although Husband’s not much of an afternoon or evening person either; but this hit him a bit early, when he was still occupying the sub-human category.

Me> Ok, so this song. Wish You Were Here.

Husband> Grarh.

Me> Yes. It goes, ‘We’re just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl year after year / Running over the same old ground . . .’

Husband> Grarh?

Me> But. How can they run over the same old ground?

Husband> It’s uh, like, they’re doing the same things grarh over and over-

Me> Yeah, except they’re swimming in a fish bowl right? So, how are they RUNNING over the same old ground? Presumably they have flippers, so wouldn’t they still be swimming? Or . . . kinda . . . flopping around over the same old ground?

Husband> Graaaaarh

Last night at around 20:00hrs I was packing for my 09:00 flight to Australia this morning . . .

 

So regular reader(s) of Deadlyjelly know EXACTLY where this is going. Which is: further than me. I invite those not familiar with my travel (or equally often static) patterns to read this for a general overview of my tempestuous relationship with transportation.

 

Back to the packing. Stuffing handfuls of knickers into my computer bag, I said to Husband: “So do I get a visa at the airport?”

 

And he said, “WHAT?!?! NIAMHIE, DIDN’T YOU ARRANGE A VISA?”

 

WELL OBVIOUSLY I DIDN’T ARRANGE A FUCKING VISA BECAUSE I HAVE A FUCKING IRISH PASSPORT WHICH I PAID GOOD MONEY FOR TO ENSURE THAT THING GRANTS ME ACCESS TO EVERYWHERE.

 

Travel has become so complicated: first you had to have a passport to go anywhere interesting, and now you need a visa AS WELL?

 

With my customary impeccable timing, Immigration Australia had closed half an hour earlier. “Better see if you can get one online,” barked Husband.

 

Immigration Australia only offers online applications for ETA visas to a select few passport holders including Brunei – Darussalam. I can feel a complaint to The Republic of Ireland coming on. I mean honestly, what’s the point? I might as well be Somalian.

 

For a fee of USD $40, migrationexpert.com.au claimed ‘instant online processing’. What this actually means is instant online processing of credit card details. The instant online confirmation stated: ‘Your visa will be ready within 5 days’.

 

At this point, Andrew ordered me to finish packing, while he stormed the living room air-chopping and pressing his phone to his ear with one finger. I gotta tell you: it was insanely sexy and such a turn-on.

 

Unfortunately, this effect was cancelled out by his having spent the previous 20 minutes sitting on the sofa being industriously useless muttering, “You’ll never get a visa before the flight.”

 

The packing wasn’t going well (I kept interrupting Andrew with helpful suggestions e.g. “Let’s see if there’s a number on the website so we can phone them and shout”). I’d given up on it to email my mate Maxine to inform her I wouldn’t be able to make it, when an email from migrationexpert popped up in bold saying my ETA had been granted.

 

It was long after I’d finished packing – around 23:00hrs – when I got a message from Virgin Australian saying the flight had been delayed by eight hours . . .

 

. . . so PLENTY of time to arrange a visa

As I left the playground yesterday, I was carrying Saoirse while simultaneously performing a gravel eradication exercise in the region of her shoe. This couldn’t wait until we got to the car because: “NO MUMMY DERE’S STONES IN MY SHOES AND IT’S ON MY FOOTS GRAAARAAARGH!”

In short: it was essential the gravel be removed AT ONCE, or it might burrow through her skin and travel via her bloodstream to embed itself in her brain and then there’d be some fairly face-melting roaring – and it’s in the interest of the wider community to avoid that.

Anyway, there I was floundering across the playground through knee-deep gravel, Saoirse’s shoe in one hand and herself just about in the other when BLAM! it was like someone hit me in the face with a bat.

I’d walked into a monkey-bar at head-height.

“MUMMY! Did you bonka your head, MUMMEEE?” shrieked Saoirse solicitously.

And then, “MUMMY! YOU DROPPED MY SHOE, MUMMY!”

She was lucky I didn’t drop her too while I stumbled around fighting off stars and a large flock of assorted birds.

It was only when I’d reached the car and felt blood sliding down my face that I realised I’d split the skin across the bridge of my nose. I’m not entirely sure – but the injuries (two) suggest – that I collected the monkey-bar with my forehead and instinctively jerked my head back and up in order to wallop my nose OFF THE SAME BAR.

Husband came home and found me lying on the sofa with a bag of peas on my face.

“MUMMY BONKAD HER HEAD DADDY!” announced Saoirse in the manner of an MC introducing the next act.

After he found out what happened, Husband’s main concern was: “Did you feel like a muppet?”

For a while I thought I’d broken my nose, but after I realised it was just the motherfucker of all headaches I felt much better (and the Panadol helped). There’s a touch of periorbital discolouration . . . but that could be the result of less than six hours of sleep last night. Pretty standard around these parts.

Ebola leaf

Diseased grass

Diseased grass

After I’d put the kids to bed the other evening, I was out in the garden raking leaves. Yeah, I far prefer draping myself across the sofa stuffing crackers in my face and watching X-Factor worst auditions on Youtube, but those leaves aren’t going to rake themselves you know.

As for why I hadn’t raked leaves earlier in the day, well, I have two kids. Anyone who doesn’t graciously accept that as the ultimate, tiger-blood, champion all-stars, boss excuse that it is either has no children, and/or is a cock. But ok: Thursday was a chaotic scramble of keeping the children alive long enough to get them to care; editing a 6 page funding application which is one of two part-time jobs I work; massaging my sick dog; exploding hair; collecting the kids and not forgetting one or both; packing Finn’s rugby bag; finalising the application and distracting Saoirse from eating it while I delivered it while Andrew took Finn to rugby; and then the carnage surrounding dinner.

So your general, standard-issue day.

Also: leaves.

All over the lawn.

Shitloads of the fuckers.

There’s a dude at the bottom of our hill who occasionally leaves his floodlight on, and I turned on the outside light, and it was a lovely, still, clear night with loads of stars . . . perfectly suited to lying on the sofa with a plate of crackers, but there I was raking leaves.

I’m thinking: “Jesus H C this literally motherfucking rake is fucking USELESS,” because it didn’t seem to be picking up anything. I’d done about half the garden when I realised the rake was upside-down.

Things progressed much faster once I turned it around.

After about an hour and a half, the garden looked much better (what I could actually see of it).

At nine o’clock, when I went inside to make Husband his dinner, he said, “Nice wellies. So do you know why you’re raking leaves?”

“Because . . . it’s . . . on the task list on the blackboard?”

“Well, I suppose there’s that, yes. But also, if you leave them on the lawn it can cause grass disease. You know, I raked the lawn the other day and it only took me half an hour-”

“Well, you should probably just take care of it in future,” I said, clanging a frying-pan forcefully against the stove-top, “because you’re obviously more mentally and emotionally prepared for raking leaves-”

“No, I meant: you don’t have to rake up every single last leaf.”

“Well, what’s the fucking point, then?”

I mean: OF COURSE you’ve got to get every last single leaf, because otherwise where do you draw the line? Two leaves? Three? Four hundred? Exactly; you never know which leaf has Ebola, so you better get the lot of them

A new record

So I was noodling around on Facebook one evening looking at dancing gerbils and photos of weirdos in Walmart and trying to resist the quick quiz to determine which celebrity is my soul mate – when up popped a message from one of my favourite engineers of all time:

Tony> Hey Niamh, when are you coming over for a visit to Beirut 🙂 Tony

And I thought, ‘Wow! Gosh, I haven’t heard from Tony in a while’. And of course I immediately stopped what I was doing (browsing artistic representations of electrical appliances rendered in fruit) and messaged him back:-

Me> Hahaha! Hi Tony – great to hear from you! No plans to pass through Beirut any time soon 😀 two kids sort of put the brakes on any international jetsetting. How you doing? What you up to? x

Tony> Haha Niamh you made my day 🙂 It is great to hear from you

Tony> I have two kids as well and I am doing great, still within Company as usual

Tony> But the message you responded to was sent to you 5 years ago 🙂

Still relatively unscarred

Still relatively unscarred

Aw do I have to? Whyeeee? Alright alright ALRIGHT! Context, whatever.

So a few months ago I was at the local Toy Library, because now I’m the President I have important stuff to do there. You know, like naming our elk, and quality-testing plasma cars, and supergluing Strawberry Shortcake’s head back on because her neck is impractically flimsy. I also point at things, a lot.

Anyway, Fiona said, “I’ve gotta go soon. I collect Macey from school at three.”

At which point, my thought process went something like this: “Bo collecta! Makin moves yeah on the dance floor – what IS that song? I wish life were a musical. Then I could bust out the tunes and funky moves and people wouldn’t think I was crayzay. Re rewind. When the crowd say bo colleeecta. Crunch. Grindgrindgrindgrindgrind CLICK! FUUUCK!”

Because it was then I realised I’d forgotten to pick up Finn from kindy at 14:30.

I squealed out of the carpark on a dense cloud of burnt rubber. When I flung myself into kindy half an hour late, all the chairs were upside down on the tables and Finn was sitting dolefully on the floor with his backpack on.

“Sorry!” I gasped.

“Don’t worry, it happens all the time,” said the ECEs kindly – but I refused to be appeased. I mean, I bet they say that to all the parents.

He probably had a better time there than at home, where there’s no playdough and he’s not allowed to stand on the sofa- ok look, there’s no way to make it better and I’m going to feel guilty about abandoning my child until my dying day.

So there’s the context: past, present and future.

Last week I was at the Toy Library, when I looked at my watch and it was-

“FUCKING TWO THIRTY!”

“Have you forgotten your child again?” asked Maria. I would have challenged her about the unnecessary emphasis she placed on the last word – I mean, I’d only forgotten Finn once – except I was thrashing it out the door.

I was only five minutes late and trying to gallop elegantly up the path when I met my mate, Maxine.

And her son, Q, said, “Hello, Niamh! What are you doing here?”

“Hello, Q! I’m here to pick up Finn!” I said, as if I were speaking to a four year old – which, in fairness, Q is – but also I admittedly gave Maxine a look conveying that perhaps she should spend more time doing some cognitive development role playing with her son because what the fuck else would I be doing there?

Then Q said, “Finn’s not at kindy. He doesn’t come on Tuesdays.”

While Maxine rolled around the ground laughing, realisation achingly slowly dawned that both my children, Finn and Saoirse, spend Tuesdays – pretty much all of them since Christmas – with their dad.

You think maybe that incident cancels out the other? Yeah no; I’m still dealing with thermonuclear levels of enriched, weapons-grade guilt. I imagine on my deathbed, saying: “Hey everyone listen up because this is my dying breath so it’s obviously pretty important – hey you! Put down the sausage roll and have some fucking respect! Dying breath, here! Ok anyway, look, I won’t draw it out much longer, but I really want to say this: I have no regrets in my life except that time I forgot to collect Finn from kindy: Son, I’m sorry! I’m so very, very sorry!”

<exhale>

<final curtain>

Finn> You’re de most beautifullest mummy in de whooole universe.

Me> Aw! That’s lovely! I’m the most beautiful mummy in the whole universe?

Finn> No. Your friend, Maxine. She is de most beautifullest mummy in de whooole universe. But. She is Quinn’s mummy.

Me> Well, she’s still a mummy.

Finn> Yes. Mummy, if you dressed up you could be like Maxine.

Me> (thinks) Thank you Son, that’s just fucking phenomenal.

Duckface

Duckface

(I’ve asked him several times since but he’s still getting the answer wrong.)

Saoirse> <roaring>

Me (picking her up)> What happened to Saoirse, Finn?

Finn> I biffed her wit da door of my tunnel.

Me> Aw, poor little girl! Finn, that’s not very nice.

Finn> The next time wasn’t so bad.

Me> You- did you hit her TWICE?

Finn> No.

Finn> I biffid her one time.

Finn> Den I biffid her two times-

Me> FINN! Say sorry!

Finn> Sorry, Saoirse.

Blink of an eye

Life is a trickle of days and then you have kids and suddenly it’s a deluge. It sweeps you away, leaves you gasping for breath.

Finn started kindy last week.

It is such a privilege watching my children grow and I love being part of it but god, it makes my heart ache.

It feels like no time at all since I met that tiny scrap for the very first time. I remember the way he used to curl into me; the smell of his fuzzy little head; that gut-wrenching newborn cry; his gorgeous gurgle of a giggle; how I used to anticipate when he’d wake in the middle of the night, even when he was in another room. All the firsts: his first car trip; his first day home from the hospital; his first steps.

Over the course of your life, there are moments you never forget. Some are the obvious ones: your Inter Cert maths exam, the first day you arrive in the Middle East, your wedding day, the first time you whack a major commercial bank.

And many memories are surprising by virtue of their outstanding mundanity. One of the things that falls under this category is from when I was just a little older than Finn is now. The Oakleys occasionally drove me to school, and I still recall being dragged writhing, kicking and screaming, to their car. There are probably still fingernail-marks scored on the gate-post. I don’t know whether it was the same day or another, but I remember sitting on my teacher Mrs William’s knee, sobbing desolately.

The reason for it has not been preserved, but the memory is vivid enough that, even now, I can taste and feel and smell how distraught I was.

So I was anxious how Finn would adjust to kindy.

Well. My son walked into the place, threw off his jacket, cracked open a box of magnetic construction blocks and set into engineering a highway across the floor.

I stayed a few minutes to complete some forms and then said goodbye.

“Bye, Mum!” said Finn.

“Er. Can I have a hug? And a kiss?”

And Finn would probably have rolled his eyes if he weren’t giving me a look that clearly said, “Jeez, some people are so NEEDY.”

Since he’s a kind, thoughtful, considerate little fella, he was good enough to humour me.

There were tears.

I cried all the way home.

Finn at the end of the first day

Finn at the end of the first day

In Auckland for my Father-In-Law’s 70th birthday party, we nipped out to buy some groceries and came back with a new car. It happens. The evidence is parked in our garage at the bottom of the garden.

Since my life isn’t challenging enough, I volunteered to drive it home to Oamaru: 1300km over four days – actually, 1400km with a detour via New Plymouth. It was going to be EPIC: wacky adventures, amazing experiences, vaguely creepy but ultimately benevolent strangers, the thrill of the open road.

Only two things threatened to interfere with that romantic vision: 1/ I was driving a fucking Toyota Prius, not a Ford T convertible; and 2/ my travel companions: two children (mine), one of whom takes entirely after me, which is an awful lot of potentially hazardous high-voltage complaining.

But I’d heard the weather is great this time of year, so that decided it.

My original plan consisted of messaging a friend I hadn’t seen since my wedding twelve years ago to say, “How are you? Would love to catch up! Hey, how about I stay at yours tonight? You can meet the kids!”

I was relieved to have committed minimal time, energy and strategizing to that particular plan when it turned out she had moved from Wellington over a year ago.

After a minor route adjustment, we were on our way to New Plymouth to stay with my Aunt-In-Law.

Exploring Mokau

Exploring Mokau

Ok, yes, sure, we can talk about the Prius, why not? To date, our primary family car has been a 1996 Toyota Hilux Surf, which we basically chose for the dog. Otherwise it has a number of advantages: it’s big enough for the whole family, it can drive over boulders, it has a towbar for motorbikes. On the downside: it isn’t the safest car on the road and doesn’t guzzle gas so much as gleefully wallow in it.

We needed a sensible second family car (Andrew: no, the Celica does NOT meet that description- yes, I know it fits everyone but we have to kind of wedge the dog- no, acceleration speed is not a critical factor in- look, we’ve been through this and- just no. Why? BECAUSE I FUCKING SAID SO) therefore Husband looked into what might suit our my requirements. Which were: size, safety and a minimum of four fucking doors PLEASE.

The Toyota Prius was by far the cheapest circa 2010 model that met all the given criteria with the added bonus that, as a hybrid, it does about 3000 miles to the gallon.

A door-friendly car that doesn’t feature at least eight cylinders is a major concession for Husband; a symbolic farewell to International Mysterious Manliness. I’m not sure he’s as inspired by the car’s ultra-low carbon emissions as the technology behind it. These cars are amazeballs: the battery is charged by the kinetic energy produced by the car. And when I found out the driver’s seat is heated, my toasty ass was just so fully on board.

One minor issue is the main car display, which is entirely in Japanese. According to the navigation system – which bizarrely features tiny swastikas, along with other symbols that wouldn’t look out of place tattoed across a Triad’s forehead – we spent a lot of the trip driving underwater.

The navigation display with tiny swastikas

The navigation display

This was slightly problematic on the first day, since Google Maps wasn’t working on my mobile and, after leaving SH1 at Taupiri, I had no idea where the fuck we were. I navigated by the stars until Andrew’s plane landed mid-morning and he called to offer technical support. He advised enabling the setting to connect to data services when roaming, which resolved the problem.

I’d never driven the SH39 to New Plymouth – Hobbit Country – and it was spectacular. After four hours of solid driving, the kids and I stopped on the coast at Mokau for a late lunch and some exploring.

We arrived at my Aunt-In-Law’s early enough for Finn and Saoirse to fully investigate some heavy-duty Duplo. Later, while the children slept, I looked into the ferry crossings for the following day. The only sailing we could realistically make was the Interislander at 14:45.

The AA Distance Calculator predicted the 353km journey to Wellington would take 5 hours 4 minutes. However, I preferred Google Maps’ estimate of 4 hours and 30 minutes; and I figured half an hour was quite enough time sitting around the Interislander carpark with kids fresh off a four and a half hour journey with – say – an extra hour added on for coffee, snacks, snuggles, dropped water bottles, phantom widdles and nappy related incidents; and – I don’t know – another half an hour for roadworks, detours and flat tires.

I aimed to leave at 08:00hrs, latest 08:15hrs, which meant we were on the road by 08:30hrs.

We just needed to cut down on the flat tires.

There was no paper

There was no paper in the back of the car

After three hours, we stopped at a BP for 20 minutes which somehow ended up being 40 – but not a problem – we were blazing down the SH1 bang on schedule – when Saoirse yarfed in the back.

Well, that took care of the epic part of the roadtrip brief.

I swear: she threw up mandarin segments untouched by human teeth, and an entire cheese stick still in one piece. Might even have been still in the wrapper.

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

No warning: twenty minutes before she redecorated the back of the car

I managed to pull onto the verge, put the hazards on, and fished Saoirse out of her carseat. We were an hour out of Wellington and she was absolutely putrescent; I changed her clothes and spent twenty minutes trying to soak up the boke with baby wipes. One and a half packets; a bitter exercise in futility.

By the time we were back on the road, complete with soggy supermarket bag of rancid clothes, we were officially Really Quite Late. At quarter past two and without any warning, Google Fucking Maps adjusted its Time to Destination from 5 minutes to 15.

THE FUCK?!?

Interislander rang again: “Are you nearly-“

“Yes, I’m fiftee-ive- fifive- no, I mean fifive- fuck!- FIVE minutes away. See you soon, byeee!”

I didn’t answer the phone next time it rang.

We were the last car to board.

In the food court, Saoirse recovered enough to eat Finn’s fish and chips as well as her own. Finn and I couldn’t manage much for the throbbing stench of stomach acid.

Fish and chips on the Interislander

Fish and chips on the Interislander

In addition to top-class hospitality, my lovely friend K in Blenheim provided full laundry service complete with folding. Late that evening, I dumped Saoirse’s carseat in K’s bath, chipped off the chunks and attempted to shampoo the padded parts on the straps.

Five days later, it still smells.

From Blenheim, we drove to Rakaia to stay with my friend Sinéad who has two children the same ages as Finn and Saoirse. This was the first time the kids demonstrated anything other than perplexing good cheer in the car, when Finn suffered a psychotic episode:-

Finn> “Stop! Stoppit! Stop saying ‘rabbit’! Mum, Saoirse keeps saying ‘rabbit’- NOOO! She said it again!”

Me> “Er-”

Saoirse> “WABBIT! WabbitwabbitwabbitwabbitWABBIT! HAHAHAHAHAAA!”

You can tell she’s my child.

During one of our daily phone calls, Andrew asked me whether I was enjoying the trip. It was hard to beat a couple of hours sipping margarita with Sinéad in her spa pool; that was pretty good.

But, in fact, I loved spending time with my children. LOVED it. Both responded to having my full attention to talk about the nature of free will and laws of physics . . . only kidding; mainly itemizing all the toys in Finn’s bedroom and shouting beep! beep! at lorries.

Despite having done the trip several times BC I underestimated how massive it was. They were phenomenal; they amazed me, awed me, both of them. Saoirse sat there chortling whenever she saw a tree; and Finn was so considerate – opening Saoirse’s water bottle and raisin packets for her and sharing out snack bars.

Finn (halfway from Picton to Rakaia)> “Mummy?”

Me> “Yes, sweetheart.”

Finn> “I’m happy. This is my happy face.”

Finn> <gurning at the rearview mirror>

I couldn’t have asked for better company.

Finn> Don’t go too near the fire, Daddy.

Andrew> That’s right, Finn-

Finn> Because if you do, you will DIE.

Andrew> Oh. Er . . .

Andrew> Yes, well, it’s very hot, but I don’t think I would . . .

Andrew> I might get a bit scorched around the edges, that’s all

Hand of divinity

So I was hoovering this morning and the vacuum cleaner wouldn’t suck and it turned out there was a sock in the hose. Since I have no idea how it got there, it is quite obviously a SIGN FROM GOD. (That I never have to vacuum again, I hope.)

Anyone who’s interested is welcome to come and view the Sock. What do you mean, what does it look like? Doesn’t matter; it’s a fucking Divine Sock!

If you like, you can touch It for $5.

That’s an administration fee to cover processing, laundry and carpet-cleaning

Crazy diamond

May 2014 - Saoirse at 6 months; photo by Debbie

May 2014 – Saoirse at 6 months

Before my daughter was born, one of the (many) things I worried about was that she might take after me.

Oh look; it’s not that I dislike myself. I mean: I’m grand. I’m not psychotic, and only sociopathic to a socially acceptable degree. I’m exceptionally loyal and, if I like you, I’ll do most things within the legal spectrum for you. And OMG I am the most AMAZING drunk-dancer.

But on the other hand, I’m relatively stingy. My trash-talk is needlessly complicated and I’m prone to pedantry. I’m high-volume and a bossy britches and a bit of a know-it-all. Overall, I’m definitely most effective in small doses.

(Who needs character assassination when you can commit character suicide?)

Anyway. Saoirse’s little personality took a while to establish itself. As a newborn, she had reflux and wind and problems nursing. When she was just three weeks old, I contracted an infection and Saoirse lost weight dramatically. Perhaps as a consequence, she cleaved to me and nobody else could settle her, which was intense and precious yet at the same time wearying.

But also, Saoirse’s arrival was like a depth-charge into the heart of our family. Finn became demanding and clingy before completely rejecting me in favour of his father. In addition to working full-time, Husband took over Finn’s primary care, so after a couple of months we were all pretty blitzed. It is a source of some grief that, although Saoirse’s babyhood is more recent, I can recall Finn’s early weeks and months with better clarity than my daughter’s.

As Saoirse’s health improved and the dense fog of exhaustion gradually dissipated, we started noticing the colossal wattage of character packed into her tiny frame.

July 2014 - Saoirse toppling over

July 2014 – Saoirse toppling over

October 2014 - Saoirse wins the chomp-off against Dad

October 2014 – Saoirse wins the chomp-off against Dad

She is an indomitable little soul with a gigantic giggle which she deploys generously. On the B-side, she has a roar that would melt the face off you – and spins from joy to fury and back in an instant: “THIS IS FUCKING OUTRAGEOUS! I WILL COMPLAIN TO THE HIGHEST AUTHORITY! WHAT; WHO? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS YOU LOUSY BUNCH OF INCOMPETENT FUCKERS- Mummyyyyy! Aw, you picked me up – HURRAY! Snuggles?! MORE HURRAY! Mmm, I’m just going to gom your face a while. Know what you need? Drool! Which is something I just so happen to have in plentiful supply. Here’s some- eh, I’m feeling generous; have lots- let me just- rub it in with my tongue- oh, why don’t I just use my whole head? THERE!”

(So sorry about the language; I’ve no idea where she gets it.)

It’s difficult to tell whether or how badly Saoirse’s hurt, because she applies the same blood-curdling bellow to trapping her head in the rubbish bin as to biting my (obviously unanticipatedly gristly) cheek. However, she’s ridiculously easy to console. So far, there’s been no injury that hasn’t been instantly fixed with a snuggle.

It’s a different story when there’s a principle at stake – like the other evening, when she wept piteously complete with raw, wracking sobs for HALF AN HOUR because I wouldn’t let her eat the plug off the vacuum cleaner.

An intensely social little girl, she hasn’t stopped chatting since she started making sounds. Between Saoirse and myself, poor Andrew and Finn hardly get a word in edgeways.

July 2014 - Saoirse, Mum and a packet of butter

July 2014 – Saoirse, Mum and a packet of butter

When Finn was her age, we spent hours encouraging him to point, reach, roll, sit, crawl. Every microscopic achievement was celebrated, feted and photographed.

About three months ago, “Look! The baby!” I said, pointing. “She’s sitting.”

We all stared at Saoirse, who was, indeed, sitting; tapping her foot impatiently on the floor. Chances are she’d been doing so for weeks and we just hadn’t noticed. Saoirse has had to figure these things out by herself – although it doesn’t seem to have held her back. She’s such a determined little thing, I’m sure she saw it as a challenge.

In contrast to her older brother, Saoirse couldn’t wait to get going. After she mastered sitting she turned her considerable abilities to crawling and, within days, mastered a metronomic crawl of devastating speed. Shortly after this she was standing – although the closest she’s come to walking is an ecstatic wiggle she employs when laid out on the floor. It looks like if I flipped her 90° she would literally hit the ground running.

She takes after her father in being a committed speed-monster. We recently acquired a bike trailer and she’s pretty uninspired by my slogging up slopes. But she chortles all the way downhill as we career around corners, jouncing over rocks and pinecones.

August 2014

August 2014

We were anxious about Finn’s involuntary promotion to ‘Big Brother’ but he is wonderful: hugely affectionate – although perhaps a little too solicitous about the temperature of Saoirse’s head and whether it needs to be wrapped in a blanket. And occasionally his expression of love can be a touch too energetic – or ‘violent’ to the untrained eye.

“Finn. Why is Saoirse crying?”

“I bopp’d her onna da head.”

“Well, um. Please don’t bop her on the head.”

“<nodding emphatically> YES! Ok, Mum.”

March 2014 - Saoirse looks understandably dubious trying to work out whether this is a kiss or headbutt

March 2014 – Saoirse looks understandably dubious trying to work out whether this is a kiss or headbutt

But I have no fear for Saoirse. What she lacks in bodily mass and dexterity, she compensates in guile and treachery. She likes nothing more than getting Finn into trouble: waiting until he unwittingly stumbles into an incriminating position before shrieking as if he’s torturing her.

I always know when Finn’s done it because he runs away; otherwise, he just stands there surrounded by planted evidence looking guilty.

September 2014 - mischief on her mind

September 2014 – mischief on her mind

Saoirse is magnificent and evidently in no way takes after me at all. She is entirely her own crazy little diamond; and she dazzles.

And we are all ensorcelled

I used to have a HR Manager – let’s call him – Froggie, who was obviously frustrated in his true vocation as an SIS Agent specializing in rohrschachian strangulation techniques.

Amongst the inane banalities he came out with on a minutely basis, his favourite was: “It is what it is.”

It used to INFURIATE me. I would sputter, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, what does that even MEAN? It hardly is what it isn’t, IS IT? See, I don’t even KNOW WHAT I SAID JUST THERE!”

Upon which he’d hold up a finger and mutter into his limited-edition Timex ‘Titanium Trojan’ with built-in sonar which was waterproof to a depth of 800m just in case, you know, he ever fell out of a submarine.

Or, more likely, was forcibly ejected out the torpedo hatch.

And I’d sit there rolling my eyes until he changed the subject.

In case it comes across as if I hated Froggie specifically, no, no, not at all. Firstly, I hate all HR Managers without prejudice or bias (except for my friend Carol; but then, I’ve never worked with her. For all I know, as soon as she strings her identity card around her neck she turns into the epitome of corporate evil whose primary objective is sucking the very essence of life out of her colleagues’ collective souls; and then poses as a wonderful, generous, warm-spirited person with terrific conversational skills in her leisure time. Which admittedly sounds implausible, but no more so than she is the single, shining exception in the legion of dark HR hordes).

One ex-HR Manager even tried to have me banned – not from the building – no – but from THE ENTIRE COUNTRY – simply for being helpful! (Pointing out he was incompetent.)

In any case (and secondly) now that I’m a mother I officially don’t hate anyone. There are simply people that are different to us.

Anyway. It turns out that neither Froggie nor I were correct. As Finn illustrated this morning, sometimes it is what it isn’t.

Finn> Boy want apple.

Me> Sorry sweetie, we don’t have any apples. Here, I’ll cut up some pear for you.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> No, it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> I think you’ll find it’s a pear.

Finn> Dat a apple.

Me> It’s not a- here, have some! What does it taste like?

Finn> A pear.

Me> Because it is A PEAR!

Finn> No. It’s a apple.

But despite the conversation being almost as obscure as those I used to have with Froggie, at least it was at minimum three times more productive

140718 Finn gets to grips with helmet

More Bob

Me> Bob the Builder! Can we . . . wiggle it?

Finn> Yes we can!

Me> Bob the Builder! Can we TICKLE it?

Finn> Yes we can!

Me> Booob the Builder! Can we PICKLE IT?

Finn> No! Boy not like pickle! Boy not- boy- nonoNO! NOOOO! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!

Finn> *embarks on epic tantrum the might and fury of which will be used as an industry-standard benchmark for all future tantrums that include convulsions*

Me> *speechless*

Me> Sometimes you remind me so much of your father.

Parent Test

Q: BOB THE BUILDER!

a) I know a tax consultant called Bob . . . but Bob the Builder . . . no, doesn’t ring a bell.
b) CAN. WE. FIX IT? YES WE CAN!
c) What the- fuck off you fucking freak.
d) I need a drink.

You are a parent if you answered b), c) or d) – and congratulations! It’s a boy.

La Leche

She invited me to the monthly meeting and said there would be snacks. Obviously, as a committed snack-whore, I was fully IN. I was so busy wondering about doughnuts that I didn’t think very hard – or even at all – about what format a La Leche League meeting would take.

Since Saoirse was born, she had problems nursing. She suffered from reflux, a condition aggravated by taking on air during feeding. For the first six weeks of her life, she existed in two states: asleep or roaring, punctuated with epic chunder. Saoirse’s feeding didn’t improve after treatment for level 4 tongue-tie, and when the Plunket Nurse finally referred us to LLL it seemed less drastic than asking my father to exorcise her.

We met up with the local LLL Representative – let’s call her – Bess half an hour before the meeting.

Oh, she was LOVELY. Much prettier than she sounded on the phone. She gave me a mini shoulder massage, and you know the way most amateur masseurs attack you like they’re trying to beat bears out of a bush? They don’t feel they’ve demonstrated their credentials unless you’re in agony for two weeks afterwards and your neck makes a strange ‘click’ whenever you walk up stairs? Well it wasn’t anything like that; it was WONDERFUL: light but confident.

And- AND! Bess was HELPFUL. She observed Saoirse nursing and suggested that since the latch looked fine and Saoirse was happy slurping away like a trainee alcoholic, that I should just go with the flow, as it were. Which may sound simple, but effectively vaporised the mental block I’d been banging my head against for weeks.

It was the first time I’d ever entertained a girl-crush on someone who smells of ylang-ylang and I was just reflecting on the mysteries of the human heart and where the snacks were stashed, when the rest of them arrived.

Now, honestly, I wanted to like these women. I mean: free food, including an insanely delicious cake with the perfect distribution of moist, sharp rhubarb glowing greenly against a backdrop of rich butter sponge DROOLZ.

And at first they seemed nice.

No, wait; don’t get me wrong; they WERE nice. Certainly much, much nicer than me.

Also, worthy.

But then I made the mistake of talking to them.

I’m not sure how we got on to sleep training – you know: establishing good sleep habits and teaching your baby or infant to fall asleep by replacing negative associations with positive ones. Yeah, I read a book. Can you tell?

Anyway. I wasn’t trying to be controversial – no, really – but I might as well have suggested they vaccinate their children.

“Well, I think it’s cruel,” bristled one woman, defensively cuddling her son as if she feared I might traumatise him by proposing he take a nap.

That’s probably only one of the reasons her three year old still co-sleeps with her and her partner.

Ok, right. Let me just flex my fingers and I’ll tell you what’s cruel: when Finn hasn’t had a mid-day nap, he turns into a two-year-old terrorist skilled in the arts of interrogation and psychological warfare. Seriously: when he’s sleep-deprived, my child could give Damien lessons on how to ride a tricycle. (I suspect he takes after me in this respect.)

Also cruel: Husband’s armpit variation on a Dutch oven. It’s ghastly; he waits until you’re fast asleep before snapping his pit over your face like a vice, and I would NEVER subject my child to that level of abuse.

But what the fuck do I know? I’m cruel.

I’d kind of run out of words anyway, but suffered a state of severe speechlessness when I noticed that several of the women were nursing their children. And we’re not talking about babies here; one was hotwiring a tricycle in the corner before he came over and demanded milk.

Let’s be fair: these kids looked rip-snortingly brawny. In comparison, Finn looked a bit, well, runty (sorry Finn! Thank goodness you can’t read yet! But you’re very clever! And great at roly polys!). But regardless how much boob juice I squirt at him, Finn is never going to be an international weightlifter.

I’ve spent a lot of time since the meeting contemplating why I am so actively uninspired by someone breastfeeding her toddler. ‘Repelled’ is too strong a word – I mean, I’m not about to come around and set their garage on fire or anything – but my feelings are approaching that general neighbourhood.

It depresses me because I want to be encouraging of fellow women and mothers, but in this instance the only support I can offer is recommending a good maternity bra.

Don’t get me wrong: I’ve nothing against mammaries. In fact, I think boobs are brilliant. They’re fragrant, squishy and accessorised with buttons: what’s not to like? I’ve loved nursing both my babies. I still feed Saoirse on demand, often in public.

But there comes a point when breastfeeding is not ‘beautiful’ and ‘the most natural thing in the world’, but just a whole world of hell no. Or more specifically: WHAT and EW NO and WHAT ARE YOU- STOPPIT- MY EYES MY EYES! in various combinations.

When a child can walk and speak in whole sentences with complex grammatical constructs, they’re too old for nursing. They’re not babies! They’re little people!

And if you want to infantilise your child in the privacy of your eco-friendly wattle-reinforced home, then knock yourself out – but why do you need a meeting to do so?

There is rarely any reason to nurse a child in public after the age of (I’m feeling generous) one. “I’m hungry”? Here’s a banana. “No! I want miiiiilk!” Well, you’ll have to wait. When Finn wants raisins, he doesn’t always get them. I appreciate that setting boundaries might be trickier if I could fire raisins out of my nipples at will – but perhaps even more necessary. Put your boobs away! It’s been fun, but they’ve had their time in the sun!

I don’t think I’ll be attending the monthly La Leche meetings. Here’s how one of the women introduced herself: ‘I was a member of La Leche in Dunedin and I’m looking for a new tribe.’

And I thought: YES, that’s EXACTLY IT.

Although I think she might have meant ‘cult’.

I just don’t understand the whole attachment parenting thing. Personally I think bringing up children is challenging enough and anyway, I don’t  have time for the free-range yoga and weeing on apricot bushes. Well, I used to wee on my apricot bush.

It died.

Even my widdle is cruel.

I’m confident my children know the vasty reaches of my love for them, without wearing them on me. And despite calling Finn runty – oh, and referencing The Omen and The Exorcist in relation to Finn and Saoirse respectively.

“Here at La Leche,” said Bess during her welcome, “we put our children first.”

As opposed to me, who worships my dark lord and master first.

Oh no; wait; that was a phase I went through and I’m pretty sure I’m over it now.

You know, for an organisation that puts children first, some of the kids were dressed in savagely hairy jumpers. I mean, those things must have been fucking itchy.

I’m just saying.

Easy target

Me> Anything interesting in the post?

Husband> No. Oh except, you got a speeding ticket.

Me> WHAT?!

Husband> Yeah, must’ve been your last trip to Dunedin.

Me> Flaming Mary, Mother of Jesus H Christ Almighty!

Husband> You were doing a hundred and seven in a 100k zone.

Me> Aw, no WAY! What class of doughnut-popping oinker does you for seven kilometers over the open limit? I mean, I could understand it in a 50k zone, but . . . oh, this SO FULLY BLOWS-

Husband> Well, Niamhie, I’m always telling you to slow down-

Me> What the- what are you- I’M always telling YOU to slow down! Aw, this is just so unjust. I always thought it would be you. How much?

Husband> What?

Me> The fine.

Husband> Ah. $300-

Me> THREE HUNDRED FUCKING DOLLARS?? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I COULD BUY A PAIR OF REALLY NICE SHOES FOR THAT! Or, you know. Two weeks of groceries.

Husband> Yeah.

Me> We’re all going to starve.

Husband> I hope not.

Me> When was I ticketed?

Husband> 2 December.

Me> 2 December.

Me> Wait. Saoirse was born on 21 November and I didn’t drive for three weeks after-

Husband> Maybe it was November, I’m not sure.

Me> But we- I didn’t go to Dunedin – or anywhere – before Saoirse was born due to being explosively pregnant-

Husband> Look, I can’t remember the exact date.

Me> Show me that letter. Wait- it WAS December- what happened on- HEY! My parents flew into Dunedin on 2 December- you drove down to collect them- IT WAS YOU!

Me> I can’t believe you tried to blame your reckless driving on the mother of your children! Have you no shame and/or basic sense of decency?

Husband (totally SHAMELESSLY)> The letter’s addressed to you.

Me> Because the car’s in my name-

Husband> Look on the bright side: it’s not $300.

Husband> It’s only $30 

Meet Saoirse

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Saoirse catches up on some sleep

Our baby girl, Saoirse, made her debut on the world stage on 21 November at 11:11 hrs. She is prodigiously talented and stunningly beautiful. “There’s only one beautiful baby in the world, and every mother has it,” commented a midwife down in Queen Mary. I’ve lodged an official complaint and will not rest until that bitch is FIRED. There’s simply no excuse for that level of prejudice and ignorance in a healthcare professional.

Unfortunately, in the photos Husband took in the recovery room, Saoirse is virtually obscured by the great flobberfest of funbags – which kind of defeats the purpose. On a related note: instead of capturing me tiredly stoic but luminous, confoundingly gorgeous despite being makeup free, I look so spectacularly haggard that it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that my husband hates me.

However, since that would be seriously bad timing, I’m focusing on how tricky it must be locating anyone’s best profile when they’re shiny and covered in vernix and re-adjusting to the re-internalization of their intestines.

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse at one hour old

Saoirse gazes at me as if we’ve met before and she’s trying to place my face. Thankfully, this unsettling effect is offset when she blows bubbles out the side of her mouth.

Ok, now, look: I never fully got over the shock of finding myself pregnant again – especially since, if there was any sex involved, well, I certainly don’t remember it. In many ways I felt more prepared for Finn’s arrival. Or perhaps that should be ‘ignorant’.

In contrast, my second pregnancy felt like one long, torturous, acid-reflux-fuelled panic attack. Leading up to the birth there was no limit to the number of things I stressed about, including: whether my kidneys would ever recover from the skilled and precise foetal pounding sustained over the previous five months; how Finn would cope with involuntary promotion to big brother; my rate of recovery after a caesarian; whether Andrew was lying about taking two weeks off work after the birth; and – a particularly horrifying thought – that my daughter might take after me. Oh, and also DEATH; not only mine, but anyone else perishing while I was on the operating table. Because, you know, PEOPLE DIE – and not only old ones.

But what concerned me most, throughout the pregnancy, was that I wouldn’t love my second child as much as Finn.

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Finn checks what sound Saoirse’s nose makes

Friends told me this fear was fairly normal, but it CONSUMED me; I love Finn so viscerally it seemed impossible I’d have enough left over for a second child.

Of course, what turns out to be impossible is trying to quantify love. 

I am besotted with my daughter.

Saoirse and Mum

Saoirse and Mum

Nubbin

I was at the Oamaru Farmers’ Market last Sunday when my friend introduced me to a woman.

 “Sorry- I didn’t catch your name,” I said, and why why why didn’t I stop there?

Well, I’ll tell you. I wanted to let the subject know I’d been listening during the critical introductory phase, instead of directing my attention to calculating laundry logistics. (In such situations, I simply assign a random name like ‘Atraxis’ or ‘Lucius’ until corrected.) But in this instance I had genuinely misheard. And so I said . . .

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name. Nubbin, isn’t it?”

No, you didn’t misread that.

Nubbin.

As in: “Lovely to meet you, Nubbin.”

It turns out her name was not, in fact, Nubbin, but, more accurately, Robin.

I mean, SUCH an easy mistake to make; I’m sure Robins are addressed as ‘Nubbin’ on a fairly frequent basis.

We certainly won’t be calling our imminent baby Robin.

Or, for that matter, Nubbin.

So I consider that incident not so much social suicide, as a social cry-for-help. But just to defy all your expectations, it gets worse. Not this particular scenario, which I salvaged by saying: “Watch out for the egrets. They bite,” and then running away in a loping crouch.

This morning. I was at my wonderful friend Kelim’s house with another friend from my antenatal class, Sinéad. Six months ago, Kelim had a second child, a son and, when she went to the bathroom, I took advantage to whisper to Sinéad,

“Psst! Sinéad! Does Kelim call Lucius ‘Lucius’, or does she- I’ve heard her use maybe like a shortened version.”

And Sinéad looked at me as if I had just made an inappropriate suggestion to her mother, and said, “His name’s Lochlan.”

“No, no I don’t think so,” I said. “It’s Lucius.”

“No-oo,” said Sinéad. “Lochlan. Or Loche.”

“Kelim!” I said as she came back into the room. “We have a question for you-“

“Niamh has a question for you,” corrected Sinéad darkly.

“What’s your son’s name?”

And then Kelim looked at me as if I had just made a simultaneous inappropriate suggestion to HER mother, and said, “Lochlan.”

“What? Are you sure?” I asked.

“I think so.”

“But I have a text message- the one you sent after he- announcing the birth of Lucius- look- wait- when was he born again? May. Here! Oh.”

So it turns out I’ve called Lochlan ‘Lucius’ his entire life or THE LAST SIX MONTHS.

You’d think someone would have corrected me.

I may have progressed beyond the cry-for-help stage.

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