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Shredding the pow

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

I fought the law and the Facebook bitch won

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

Not a morning person

. . . 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

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

Driving underwater

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.

Perhaps we’ve been overdoing the fire Health & Safety

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

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

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

Pubic talk

A few weeks ago, I was asked to be the guest speaker at Plunket’s 100th Anniversary Dinner in Oamaru.

I had a number of questions, which distilled down to one: could I swear? When they responded in the affirmative, I was totally in. I mean if there’s anyone in the world who would turn down Plunket-sanctioned swearing, that person is certainly not me. I fully support any grassroots movement to bring profanity to the masses.

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

In full cry at Plunket 100th Anniversay Dinner, Portside Oamaru 7/9/13

It’s been many years since I’ve spoken pubically – apart from a talk I gave at the Oamaru Public Library back in March. There was a terrific turn-out, since it was entitled ‘The Filthy Business of Romance Writing’ and I think people expected me to talk about porn. It went well. At least, nobody complained about the shortage of smut; everyone liked my shoes; and afterwards one of the library staff offered me a biscuit.

Both filthy business and romance writing are subjects about which I have in-depth knowledge. However, Plunket asked me to speak about ‘Parenting’, a topic I find ever more incomprehensible the older Finn gets.

The dinner was last Saturday 7 September and I was scheduled to speak between the main course and dessert. Presumably Plunket wanted to ensure people really wanted meringue.

Shortly before I was up, I remembered to visit the bathroom to check for dental garnish. None of the dishes served for dinner included spinach, but you never know with that stuff.

I figured if my talk bombed, people might be impressed – or at least distracted – by my ability to stand and operate my lucky pubic heels while heavily pregnant. This ploy was relatively successful, although I suffered a wobble when I tried to illustrate a point with a karate-kick and pulled out at the eleventh millisecond. It was a tense moment since I had kind of committed, but hopefully everyone assumed I was referencing a Celine Dion dance move.

I decided prompt or cue cards were unnecessary, but I did blank on two occasions (once during the aborted karate-kick above). However, I successfully garnered sympathy by blaming pregnancy brain.

Following are some of the highlights from the presentation. The photos are by my talented mate Maxine Shea of Captur8 Photography – although I am disappointed she didn’t make me look thinner.

 

Mr Right
I always thought my Mr Right would be called something like ‘Phoenix Gash’ or – I don’t know – ‘Strike’. As it turns out, his name’s Andrew. Nothing wrong with Andrew; it’s a fine name. All I’m saying is: life never turns out the way you expect.

Life plan
According to my detailed and very specific life-plan, I was going to reproduce at the age of thirty. On my birthday.

Dogs and children
Andrew used to suggest that I shouldn’t compare raising a dog to raising children, but now that I have both, I can’t see why not. The similarities are striking.

Parenting: nothing to it
One thing friends did emphasise was how ‘hard’ it is, parenting. Of course I listened and commiserated; but inside I’d be thinking, ‘Oh, come on. If it was that fucking tricky, the human race would have died out eons ago’. And then I had Finn and . . . well, it really is dead fucking easy, isn’t it?

Definition of success
As far as I recall – because it’s a bit hazy now – I spent the first couple of months of Finn’s life trying not to get his head stuck down a drain. If I came to the end of the day and Finn’s head wasn’t stuck in a drain, that was my definition of successful parenting.

Parenting through the ages
Reading between the lines: after I was born my parents basically stored me in a box under the stairs until I’d housetrained myself.

The Answer to Everything
If Finn ever challenges me about my own ‘parenting skills’, I have a response prepared. I’ll say, “He‎y. You didn’t ask to be born!” And when he says, “Wait- that’s my line!” I’ll say, “Oh yeah, right like so fully WHATEVER, dude. Look: at least I never left you in a fucking gazebo.”

I’m pretty confident there’s nowhere left for that conversation to go.

Amazing expanding snot
I have suffered prolonged exposure to Amazing Expanding Snot – and that knowledge can’t be stuffed back into Pandora’s Box. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

Andrew and me
Andrew and I have been together for fifteen glorious, happy years. Sure, we’ve faced our share of challenges; nothing too dramatic: extortion, murder, arms dealing, IVF, etcetera – just the usual relationship ups and downs.

Cyanide muffins: deadly
If someone stuck a gun to my head or threatened me with a cyanide muffin, I would have to admit that Andrew is the love of my life. To quote The Boss – that’s Springsteen, not Finn – I love him ‘with all the madness in my soul’. That there’s an awful lotta crazeballs.

How parenthood changes you
After you have children, both of you change – but as a full-time mother, you change more. It’s cataclysmic. When I had Finn, I spontaneously turned into an anti-social, seriously sensible, tediously responsible funsucking killjoy. All: “No, you can’t set the dog on fire until you say please.”

And – bless him – Andrew thinks his life has changed because he occasionally has to buckle someone else’s seatbelt.

The difference between fathers and mothers:
Andrew gets to lock the bathroom door. Oh, I’ve tried that. Yes. Which results in either a tiny tyrant trying to kick the bathroom door in FBI-style; or he infiltrates the bathroom and stands there staring psychotically at my arse as if it’s the most mesmerising piece of kit he’s ever seen. Which it may well be, given his limited life experience.

Status update: intestines
My bowels haven’t unclenched for twenty months. That’s a long time. I try not to be resentful – and I haven’t exactly checked recently – but I’m pretty confident Andrew’s bowels are just the grandest.

Turn-on
These days, my idea of hot foreplay is Andrew putting the baby to bed and folding the laundry. Or anything I can sleep through.

Mystery unlocked
Now I understand why parents park their shopping trolley in the middle of the supermarket aisle. BC (before child) I had no idea; I just thought parents were selfish and entitled. I suppose I could have asked some harried parent, but there’s an awkward conversation. You know: “Excuse me. Can I ask you a question? What is that perfume you’re wearing – it’s quite delicious – and also, why the fuck do you have to stop your fucking trolley in the middle of the fucking aisle?”

And then one day, Finn swept all the spices off the shelf in New World and I’m standing there in a swirl of cinnamon thinking, “EureKA!”

Mystery still locked
Even after having a child, I still don’t get ‘Baby on board’ stickers. Because I can think of no occasion – not one – where I’ve been driving along and seen someone without a baby on board, and thought, “AW FANTASTIC! I’ll just rear-end that sucker at the next red lights!” I’m pretty sure my insurance policy doesn’t cover that.

One of the things you learn as a parent:
Sleeves are multi-purpose.

One indispensible top tip
When faced with a problem, it’s always useful to think: “What would Madonna do?

She could have photoshopped my waist

She could have photoshopped my waist

More options than you might think

Recently, many of my friends – mainly mothers from my playcentre and coffee groups – started being grievously afflicted with pregnancy again.

Of course I was thrilled for each of them, but I was surprised how hard I took it.

You see, I only ever wanted one child. Just one. I’m not greedy – unless we’re talking about profiteroles. And Finn is so much more than I ever wanted or dreamed of.

But I found myself assailed with regret that I’m so old and gnarly and limited of options; and nostalgia for Finn’s rapidly disappearing babyhood. It feels like just days ago a minutes-old miniature human was laid across my chest WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT WAS 18 MONTHS HAS THERE BEEN SOME CATACLYSMIC RUPTURE IN THE SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM?

But worst was the terrible, crushing grief that I would never again look into the eyes of my child for the first time, or have my newborn nestle into the crook of my neck, or nurse a baby in the still, enchanted hours when the rest of the world is asleep.

Husband finally noticed the inexplicable weeping – or the notable build-up of soggy tissues. “We could always try for another,” he suggested helplessly.

And perhaps if I were a decade younger and hadn’t been clinically infertile for most of those years, the conversation might have lasted longer than a croissant and cup of coffee.

I didn’t feel ‘trying for another’ was amongst my/our limited options.

Instead, I focused on the positives of having an only child – the freedom; never having to arbitrate arguments over who gets to sit in the passenger seat of the car – which was pretty effective. Also, I mercilessly tormented my pregnant friends about how their lives were effectively over.

So in May, when I found out I was with child, it was – to apply my gift for understatement – rather literally a shock to the system.

I hadn’t been feeling well: exhaustion and an inspecific nausea that came and never really went. ‘It feels almost like . . . morning sickness,’ I remarked to Her Goatiness, quickly appending ‘HAHAHA!’ to emphasize how outrageous the suggestion was.

If nothing else, I should have instantly recognized my pathological aversion to caffeine, since the only time that happened before was when pregnant with Finn. Yet it was only weeks later, when I checked my diary, that I considered gestation as a possible cause.

I felt entirely foolish buying a pregnancy test kit, and didn’t mention it to Andrew because, I mean, really. The whole notion was just so PREPOSTEROUS. I recalled reading a magazine once – probably Women’s Weekly – with an article titled: ‘I thought I was pregnant, but it turned out to be a uterine tumour!’, so I figured that was much more likely.

When two lines appeared on the pregnancy test stick, I had to revert to the instructions several times. Because no matter how many times I reread the sentence, ‘Double lines are an indication of pregnancy’, it still didn’t make any sense.

When it finally did, I toppled off the toilet seat. (Gave my head a nasty bang off the corner of the bath.)

Well I had to tell SOMEONE and figured it should probably be Andrew and since he was on a business trip, I Skyped him.

Me> I’ve got news. You should sit.

Andrew (warily but not half wary enough)> Oh yes?

Me> I want to show you something.

Andrew> Um . . . what . . . IS that?

Me> It’s a pregnancy test stick.

Andrew> Ok. Why are you showing it to me?

Me> Because it’s positive.

Andrew> Oh.

Andrew> Whose is it?

Me> Whose do you THINK? It’s MINE! I’m hardly going to be sitting in our living room holding someone else’s wee-soaked stick, am I?

Andrew> Wow.

Andrew> Woah.

Andrew> Hey, congratulations!

How to apply effective pointy finger

I hope everyone is looking forward to a surpassingly excellent Christmas and brewing up an extra-strong cup of kindness for welcoming in the new year.

Wait- one moment please- I’m getting some breaking news from my online feed. Oh. It appears I’m a little belated. Seriously? Is it 2013 already? Are you SURE? Doesn’t feel like it. Never mind; at least I can throw out my extra-strong cup of kindness, which smells like composted grass.

If you didn’t get a Christmas card from us, it’s because the dog ate it. Also, my new android phone is obviously too high-tech for postal addresses, since it dumped them all when I imported my contacts.

Better get on with compiling new years resolutions. Starting with:

1. Better excuses.

So, how is everyone? Sorry it’s been ages since my last update-

2. Blog more frequently.

But in my defense-

3. Less excuses; quality not quantity. Refer to resolution (1).

-after hangin’ with John Key, it’s hard to write a sequel.

4. Meet a(nother) national treasure e.g. The Topp Twins.

(Although should we ever bump into the yodeling lesbian twins specializing in comical country music, I might never blog again because I’d know such an experience could never be surpassed. Maybe I should aim to meet Dave Dobbyn – or simply stick to three resolutions. That’s plenty.)

We have enjoyed the most amazing, exhilarating, thrilling year and I’m quite exhausted – but I can’t wait to see what treats 2013 has lined up for us.

Our little boy turned one last week and it’s difficult to recall what our lives were like before him.

I love his squidgy baby feet

I love his squidgy baby feet

 

29/12 Intrepid explorer

29/12 Intrepid explorer

Watching him grow is a remarkable experience. In the space of only six months, he has progressed from lying on the floor punching himself in the face to- well, mainly punching me in the face, instead- but also: rolling, crawling, standing and chortling – especially when swinging in the playground.

Finn swings

4/12 Finn swings

He never stays still and changing his nappy is a writhing, squirming, flailing conflagration of legs and hands and bottom.

Unfortunately, the way he expresses love can be somewhat violent. At the moment, our family catch-phrases include, ‘No biting, just kissing’ and ‘Use your gentleness for good not evil’. Also: ‘GAH NOT THE GLASSES!’

Finn now puts his arms around my neck and plays with my hair while snuggling – which is lovely until he concludes cuddles by sinking his teeth (all two of them) into my shoulder.

I had no idea how babies got around to speaking, but subconsciously I rather expected Finn to turn around one day and say, “While you’re at the fridge, Old Girl, would you mind passing the Roquefort?” Months ago, his adoring grandmother claimed Finn had an extensive lexicon, but it’s only been relatively recently he credibly says ‘mama’, ‘dada’, ‘dog’ and ‘uh-oh’.

He’s a sociable little fella, ready with a smile and pointy finger for everyone. A keen and talented grocery shopper, Finn flirts shamelessly with the check-out assistants.

1/10 Finn kicks back in New World

1/10 Finn kicks back in New World

He adores his father and practically leaps out of my arms to get to Andrew to confide how I beat and starve him.

However, it’s comforting that I’m still his favourite person upon whom to wipe his nose.

29/12 The family at Lake Tekapo

29/12 The family at Lake Tekapo

It is such a privilege to love him. Finn is a funny, joyful, generous little boy and caring for him is a gift. I still can’t quite believe how fortunate we are to be able to share his life.

27/10 Finn with some woman suckered onto his face

27/10 Finn with some woman suckered onto his face

The Greatness

Here’s how it all came about: it was last Friday, and we were trying to avoid Charles and Camilla. They are apparently atrocious bores so you don’t want to get stuck with them at a party or, for that matter, a Canterbury A&P Show.

We were lurking outside the showground when we bumped into John Key – or more accurately, one of his security detail.

“Quick!” I said, “Get Finn out of his stroller so I can introduce him to John Key.”

Andrew was disappointingly reluctant.

“Come on, Niamhie,” he said. “He’s got better things to do-”

“Like what? Kissing babies is his job-”

 “Running the country is his job,” said Andrew primly.

I snorted. Well, John Key quite obviously wasn’t waiting on an imminent fax from Vladimir Putin; he also happened to be snogging a baby at that moment, which I felt somewhat undermined Andrew’s argument.

“Look,” I said, “I think it’s really selfish of you to deprive your son of the opportunity to meet John Key.”

 “What makes New Zealand great is that celebrities can walk around unmolested.”

HUH?

FIRSTLY, John Key isn’t a celebrity; he’s a politician. Secondly, what makes New Zealand great is bungee jumping and Sauron The Dark Lord. And thirdly, these things make New Zealand really pretty awesome but hardly ‘great’. I’m not dissing my chosen home; it’s just that there are very few countries that qualify as ‘great’. In fact I can think of just two: The USA, due to its size and Davy Crockett; and England, because it says so in the title, but also because, you know, Genghis Khan.

Husband eventually capitulated, mainly because I started whining and threatened to sulk.

Johnny is SUCH a dude. No really; I like him. People were swarming around shoving their children at him – many with chocolaty hands – and although there was a touch of rigor mortis about his smile, it never faltered. He wasn’t that sweaty even though it was a hot, sunny day and he was stuffed into a suit.

I had no intention of foisting my cranky, squirming progeny on him, but Johnny seized Finn and didn’t drop him once. He fully complied with my request to ‘show some teeth’.

This is the result of a photo op that lasted about 3 milliseconds:

Husband says it looks like I am throwing my baby at John Key, which I completely did. You gotta be quick since he moves INSANELY fast

Not only did Finn get touched by greatness, I got in a quick grope so you might say I also touched the greatness

Excellent source of reindeer ears

Me: *yawn* ’Night. I’m off to bed.

Husband: It’s 11:00pm. I thought you were going to get to bed earlier?

Me: Yes. BUT.

Me: I was doing something really very extremely important.

Husband: That right?

Me: Yes. And also, time-critical.

Husband: You were reading Dear Prudence?

Me: NO!

Me: I did that this morning.

Husband: Go on then -what was it?

Me: I would tell you, except I’m concerned you won’t appreciate the grave importance-

Husband: All right*.

Me: Ok then; I was looking up elf outfits for Finn.

Husband: . . .

Me: For Christmas.

Husband: You can’t make your child a prop**!

Me: Ooh, I think you’ll find I totally can.

Me: There’s the CUTEST little elf suit on Trademe, but it’s to fit age 3-6 months. Why, why couldn’t Finn have been born four to seven months LATER? Damn him.

Husband: You’re not one of these people who send out cards with pictures of their kids dressed up, are you?

Me: No, no; I already have an idea for our Christmas cards.

Husband: Which is?

Me: Finn as Scrooge holding a sign which says ‘Fuck Christmas’.

Me: What d‎’you think?

Me: Genius, huh?

Husband: And you’re going to send this out to your family, are you? And my grandparents?

Me: No, I’ll send them the card with Finn in his elf suit. Hey, that reminds me; we must get a Santa hat for our dog-

Husband: We already have one.

Me: CLASS.

 

 

* It annoys the crap out of me when Husband pretends like he doesn’t hang on my every word.

** I have no idea what Husband thought this was all about

Wind chill

I’ll tell you for no extra charge, it’s pretty bracing around these parts. Suppose I’d better poke the fire. Eh, maybe it’ll wait another while.

I can’t believe the temperature in this town. I mentioned it to an Oamaruvian the other day, and she said, “Really? I thought this winter was mild.” Although she looked particularly hardy (well-insulated with a tough, crusty exterior).

Our location is undoubtedly a factor. The other day, Husband said, “How come we get so little light? I thought we reconned this house in winter!”

In fact, we first viewed the house over a month later back in 2011. It had been snowing at the time which, in retrospect, probably didn’t help. I mean, you kind of ASSUME it’ll be a bit chilly. You certainly don’t sit around a snowdrift waiting for the sun to come out to assess how much the house gets.

In fairness, the house had been beautifully warm on both occasions we viewed it prior to purchase. With the exception of the two side-bedrooms and bathroom, the house is toasty and dry if we fire up the wood-burner first thing in the morning and keep it going all day. The only issue is the lack of light; in the rare event the sun puts in a cameo appearance, it doesn’t make it over the hill until 11am and is gone by 3pm.

When we first viewed the property, I thought the RE Agent had over-extended her artistic licence describing the place as ‘landscaped’. I’d forgotten this by the time we moved in last year, in early summer. It’s almost impossible to imagine we’ll be struggling to keep the jungle from overrunning the house in a couple of months.

Now it’s all mud, slick leaves and shivering, skeletal trees. The warehouses lining the street below are clearly visible beyond the denuded willow trees and we have a fabulous view of the neighbours’ roof.

Yet I was trimming the raspberry canes the other day; they seem dead from a distance, but up close they are a beautiful russet colour with gorgeous, tiny vibrant green and red buds along their length. It’s quite fascinating getting up close and viewing the garden on a micro level.

Not that I’ve done much of that, due to the weather and the mini-man’s violent indifference to pruning.

Dressed for Oamaru. The hat is one knitted by Finn’s adoring grandma from a French pattern – which may be why it spins around on his head so that the ear flap dangles rakishly over one or both eyes

How to apply a crotch post

As soon as we got home, I started Finn on solids in earnest. Her Goatiness had procured a high-chair for when Finn visited the farm, after researching every last consumer feedback website on the Internet. Happily the cheapie plastic Warehouse variety (Babywise) scored highest on standards and safety.

Her Goatiness offered to buy us a high-chair too, so we borrowed it for a week to see whether it would suit us. Finn was an instant fan, delighted to sit at eye-level hurling toys at people around the table.

Finn in his high chair

It’s not what you’d describe as elegantly streamlined, but it’s functional and stable. Finn fits comfortably in it; there’s a crotch-post to stop him sliding out the bottom; a five-point harness; the chair level adjusts to three different heights; the tray is sturdy and easy to attach and detach; it has castors; and the harness straps are evidently a tasty palette-cleanser in between spoonfuls. I’m confident the baby is secure in it and he’ll sit quite happily for up to an hour if I give him a spatula to bash himself with and wheel him around the kitchen after me.

Husband never likes to commit himself to positive over-statement, but he definitively declared that he ‘hated’ the high-chair. His issues included ‘it’s ugly’, ‘I don’t like green’ (“It comes in orange too,” pointed out Her Goatiness; “Don’t like that either.”), ‘the straps are too fiddly and in fact makes the chair LESS safe because who’s going to spend the time strapping him in when it takes so long?’

To which I responded, “Er, I am – and, by the way, YOU ARE TOO.”

Although I have a clear understanding of Andrew’s heartfelt antipathy towards Her Goatiness’s consumer-rated high-chair, I’m still a bit fuzzy about what he DOES want. Possibly an ergonomic high-chair equipped with sensors that detect the presence of baby and automatically straps him in, which would rise up out of the floor in a swirl of dry ice with a majestic, discordant chime of organ notes.

Which would admittedly be TOTALLY COOL.

Andrew showed me a picture of the kind of optimal high-chair he had in mind, which was a limited edition WankyNaff™ high-chair crafted from a single piece of wood from the vulvos tree which grows only on the south slope of a tussock in the tiny Laowunha province during the mating season of the batwing bat which happens once every 104 years.

“Nice, isn’t it?” said Andrew. “I think I could make one.”

“Splendid,” I said, “you should jump right on that.”

I thanked Her Goatiness for her offer and authorized her to purchase a high-chair for our use. I didn’t want her to think we’re ungrateful (just her son, which is probably her fault anyway). After all, it was very generous of her – and, realistically, we would probably have ended up with a second-hand chair spackled with dried rice cereal and one leg splinted with a broom handle. I don’t know; perhaps she was conscious of the incongruity of that outcome.

I figured the chances were Andrew wouldn’t even notice.

We’ve been having great fun introducing Finn to food. I started him on mashed banana and cooked, pureed apple – a couple of tablespoons at a time.

Initially he was enthusiastic if uncomprehending; it took a while before he realized he couldn’t fit both spoon and his fingers in his gob. In fairness, we also underwent a learning process. I’d always thought a spoon was for conveying food to mouth; but in Finn’s case its application is primarily scraping overspill off his chin. Also his nose, cheeks, forehead, hair and surrounding furnishings.

Finn’s interest waned when he hurdled his boredom threshold after a couple of days. However, I’ve added more to the menu and kept it varied. Now, when we put him in his high-chair at the table, he sits with his mouth open and extends a squirming, questing tongue until the food arrives.

I usually add pureed vegetables or fruit to dried baby food. He’s had baby rice with apple, porridge with banana (a big hit), pumpkin soup, leek and potato soup, yams, pureed lentils, and carrot mash. Last night, he hoovered down half my dessert: blueberry frozen yoghurt.

The only thing he turned down was a Watties teething biscuit – and honestly I don’t blame him. I tried one myself and am sure the packaging is tastier and likely more nutritious. I tracked down some Farley’s rusks in the international food section of the supermarket. Although Finn loves them – he’ll spend half an hour solemnly gnawing a rusk to a sticky paste and applying it to his hair – I just don’t have the strength of character to handle the mess. I’m still finding spatches of rusk adhered to random surfaces: the baby monitor, my laptop, the dog’s collar, the kitchen wall.

Here’s a video of Finn about two weeks ago during dinner: LOOK NO BIB!

That’s our definition of daring these days.

Alert: please contact a doctor immediately

Andrew has been testing our blood pressure, having bought Her Goatiness a second-hand blood-pressure monitor on Trademe a few days ago.

My blood pressure is fine, on the border between the desirable range and Pre-Hypertensive. Andrew is Stage 2 Hypertensive, but at least he’s doing better than the dog who is in Hypertensive Crisis. It just goes to show: there’s always someone worse off than yourself.

Upon reading the manual, Andrew realized the monitor wasn’t supposed to be used after eating or exercise. He confined himself to a prone position on the sofa, obsessively and/or compulsively measuring and re-measuring himself. His last diastolic reading was physically impossible. I’m disappointed the monitor doesn’t come with a warning: ‘Alert, alert. You are clinically dead. Please contact a doctor immediately.’

Perhaps if he hadn’t been clinically dead, he would have read the manual properly. It turned out he was applying the monitor upside-down.

Nested shoe racks

We’ve been pretty busy since getting home, re-arranging sleep so it happens upstairs.

This may sound fairly elementary but – being us – is quite involved. The upstairs bedroom is full of crap, including three boxes of stuff to sell (my responsibility).

So far I’ve listed a maternity pillow on Trademe. 

Andrew had to put up a door between the stairs/office and the room; he bought one from the recycle centre for $30 but also had to source and install a doorhandle, lintel, jambs, sill and doorstop. The door is now in place, although it needs sanding and painting. 

He’s currently converting an alcove between the landing and the bedroom to a wardrobe. I’m eagerly anticipating a state-of the art, walk-in wardrobe with canny, confounding use of space involving nested shoe racks and perhaps a remote-control operated clothing rail.

Andrew says, ‘Walk-in? I suppose if you crouch and shuffle.’

The conversion so far has involved boarding up the original alcove entrance off the passageway, and building an entrance off the bedroom itself. Again, if the exercise appears straightforward, this is belied by Andrew still working on it nearly four weeks later.

Travel colds

Back in Auckland, trying to dose a head cold with gin. I’m aiming for enough to protect my baby from germs, but short of making him drunk. On the bright side, I don’t have it as bad as Andrew:-

“Everyone knows man-colds are worse. I should probably be in hospital.”

“In fact, I think you should go straight there. I’m sure they’ll admit you immediately if you go to Casualty and explain the situation.”

“Yes. They’ll probably put me in intensive care.”

I think he’s decided to stick around and sneeze at me instead.

Another near miss

True to form, we almost missed the flight from Dunedin to Auckland.

Here’s more form.

Aaand more.

In case you need further convincing.

Ok? Good.

Thank goodness we had enough time to stop off for a Beano’s Pie, although not enough to feed the baby. When we arrived at the airport, Finn had practically started himself on solids by gnawing his own arm off with the hunger, poor child.

I rushed into the terminal to nurse him and was sitting in front of the Jetstar counter thinking, “Hmm, HOW ODD there aren’t more people checking in”.
 
Next thing, I hear an announcement: “Jetstar flight JK837 to Auckland is now closed, the counter is now closed. Any remaining passengers for Jetstar flight JK837 to Auckland please proceed to go fuck yourselves”.
 
And I’m on my feet, baby clamped to boob, trying to distract the woman at the Jetstar counter, who is stowing her microphone with a terrible air of finality, when Andrew saunters in the door like he’s strolling through the public gardens looking for an aviary with a rare breed of cockatoo.

Thankfully he managed to persuade the Jetstar Attendant to re-open the counter by using his charm or underarm sweat – either of which are equally potent.

Love and stuff

Finn and his proud mother

For Mothers’ Day, I got an extra hours sleep, a bottle of Baileys, and a cheese-making kit.

What was that? Oh, a breast-feeding joke. I’m VERY disappointed in you. I dare you – in fact, I TRIPLE DARE you – to come up with a new one. I guarantee you can’t; my in-laws have covered them all. There is no lactation related joke in this universe I haven’t heard before – sometimes multiple times. Evidently I need to be more conscientious in remarking on the deficiency of dickage amongst Husband’s family.

It’s a measure of how much I’ve changed that my Mothers’ Day card made me cry rather than scathe it with derision. Also, that I was only marginally more stoked about pressies and breakfast in bed, than discovering the washing was dry after a week soggily drooping on the clothes line.

Finn’s here; he lives and breathes; he’s a laundry generating machine; you can’t move in the living room without tripping over a brightly coloured toy that rattles; and he occupies (conservatively) 95% of my thoughts and time. Yet even when I’m holding him in my arms with his tiny fingers curled around my thumb, and feel the warmth of him and kiss his baldy little head, I can still barely believe he’s real.

Despite all the years I longed for a child, the concept of ‘motherhood’ holds limited appeal. I used to be young, carefree, full of potential. I disdained Hallmark cards. When I got drunk nobody thought I was a sad old trollop.

All that has changed and I’m struggling to adopt my new identity:

Parent.

Skill-set: accurate prediction of vomit trajectory and identification of several varieties of poo.

However, one thing is beyond question.

I LOVE being Finn’s mother.

Rub a dub dub, the candlestick maker’s grub

Me> You know Rub A Dub Dub?

Me> Three men in a tub?

Me> The butcher-

Husband> The baker and- who was it again?

Me> The candlestick maker, yeah. Now, if they’re at sea several weeks they’ll get pretty hungry, so they’ll probably have to eat one of them. You know: instead of all three dying of starvation, only one dies.

Me> Of cannibalism.

Husband> Um-

Me> Well, it’s pretty obvious who’s going to be on the menu.

Husband> It is?

Me> Of course! It’s going to be fillet of candlestick maker. Because there’s no call for candles in modern society.  

Husband> Well, I don’t know. The candlestick maker might-

Me> Shed some light on the situation? Hur hur hur. Hurhur.

Husband> Jesus, there’s always one.

Husband> Wait- what about the baker?

Me> No. It’s feasible – perhaps improbable but still within the bounds of possibility – that the baker might somehow procure the raw materials to make bread and therefore feed the other two.

Husband> I think that’s pretty unlikely.

Me> Whatever.

A Better Person

Ensprogged people often refer to how being a parent makes you A Better Person. Self-sacrificing. Nurturing, loving, wise, selfless. Calm even when covered in curdled milk. Your own needs become more like optional luxuries.

And so I had Progeny and eagerly awaited my transformation into A Better Person.

I’m devastated to report that hasn’t happened.

Quite the contrary. In fact, marinating in spew makes me kinda mean.

Now don’t get me wrong: I will do anything for my son. There is literally nothing in the world that will get me up in the middle of the night except addressing The Boo’s needs – or my side of the bed being on fire.

But basically, the rest of you can all go to hell. Because I’ve turned into the  type of mother I swore I’d never be. I eat muesli in the car, adjust my jugs in public and stop my shopping trolley diagonally across the aisle because CAN’T YOU SEE I HAVE A CHILD I’M ENTITLED GODDAMMIT! I cut people off mid-sentence to gurgle at my son who – let’s face it – generally has no interest in me, being quite content conversing exclusively with his hands.

I turn on the windscreen wipers instead of indicating and have lost all spatial appreciation for my vehicle. Since I can’t seem to fit into the extra-wide ‘mummy moron’ parking space, I use up half the adjoining space for the disabled. (Really, I can’t see that manoeuvering a wheelchair is any more difficult than operating a carseat.)

So all things considered, having a child has made me more selfish – and also prone to burping instead of saying ‘thank you’, although that might have more to do with living in Oamaru. No, that’s not fair; most Oamaruvians have deliciously lovely manners which are far better than mine. (Except the bloke who tried to chat me up outside The Plunket Rooms when I was eight months pregnant, which was undoubtedly rude although – more likely – certifiably insane.)

I know less than nothing about raising children despite pretending to read various tomes on the subject, but it makes sense that the best way to teach your child is by example. With this in mind, I’ve been trying to treat Husband with kindness, consideration and above all respect.

I can’t BELIEVE how insanely difficult it is. Seriously, it has proved the biggest challenge of parenthood (also quitting swearing – but that’s another blog post). I never realized how appalling my manners are. Although I’m pretty sharp at expressing gratitude – whether verbally or intestinally – I’ve recently realized I never say ‘please’. I mean to, and always THINK it; but the word doesn’t complete the full round-trip.

I’m attempting to redress the issue but it’s still mechanical rather than innate. I’ll humbly request command Andrew to do something and then, after three or four seconds, remember to append the word ‘please’, which – by that stage – comes across sounding pointed and borderline aggressive.

At least having explained the situation to Andrew, he now just rolls his eyes instead of stamping off shouting “All right all RIGHT!”

I know an old lady who swallowed a shoe

Long ago I became resigned to my musical genius never being appreciated in my own lifetime.

I’m delighted to report that unhappy situation is now remedied; my son LOVES my singing. My heartbreaking ear-splitting voice screech raised in song yowl makes him smile grimace, soothes him shuts him up, lulls stuns him to sleep. 

Being unacquainted with nursery rhymes or anything even vaguely age-appropriate, I’ve exposed Finn to an eclectic selection of Bruce Springsteen, Linkin Park, an assortment from Boney M’s back catalogue, ‘Oh Baby Boo’ sung to the tune of ‘Danny Boy’, and various hymns (indeed). 

After some trial and error I discovered ‘All Out of Love’ by Air Supply was the most effective at stopping Finn crying – or drowning him out. On one of our first car-trips as a family, with Finn bawling his lungs out in the back seat, Andrew and I discordantly roared back:- 

I’m lying alone!
With my head on the phone!
Thinking of you till it hurts! 

I figure you’re never too young to learn about the agony of heartache. Although I’ve often thought the pain described by the lyrics above is most likely due to using a telephone as a pillow, and could be easily remedied by taking a couple of Panadol for the melodrama. 

(Yes, I know the lyrics to ‘All Out of Love’. The only comment I have to make on the matter is that my mind is a prodigious repository of arcania and bizarre words. I may struggle to recall our house address, but I can recite the lyrics of any Neil Diamond hit circa early seventies.) 

I used to hum ‘Lara’s Theme’ from Dr Zhivago to send Finn to sleep, until I realised he prefers the Irish National Anthem. The big surprise is that I remember the words – in Irish. No idea what they mean. In essence, I believe it’s about the British being a bunch of bastards. 

Apart from inciting hatred, the national anthem is a musical expression of Finn’s cultural heritage – and also a slice of social history. Because back in the eighties, when I was a teenager, the national anthem was played at the end of every disco. It was the most brutally effective way of getting rid of people. The lights would snap on and we’d all freeze, bright red and shiny, blinking stupidly, ears buzzing; the boys with beer-stains down their fronts and lipstick smeared up to their ears; the girls with soggy perms and mascara exploded down their faces, trying not to catch the eye of the boy who’d dry-humped their leg all through ‘Eternal Flame’ – because that song lasts even longer than the flame. 

Then, swaying earnestly in a rolling sea of beer bottles, plastic cups, peanut packets and soggy crisps, we’d put our hands on our hearts and sing the national anthem. 

Ah, happy days. 

Since starting SPACE I’ve learned some nursery rhymes, but I’ve also started composing my own songs for my son. And we’ve had some team efforts:- 

Me (in the bathroom): I know an old lady who swallowed a shoe! 

Andrew (with Finn in the bedroom): Now, what do you do? If you swallow a shoe? 

Me: You shit it out the sphincter, la la lalala.

We’re having a blast.

Crack team of squalor

Last night at The Outlaws’, Andrew dropped his baked potato down the side of Her Goatiness’ new leather sofa, Finn barfed on a contrasting sofa cushion, I spilled my tomato juice on the floor and Jed wiped his arse on the carpet. I simply cannot conceive of any greater pinnacle of achievement as a family unit.

Finn and the Gurgles of Doom

Finn turned 10 weeks old last Thursday. If you sit and watch him, you can practically SEE him growing.

Finn learns his three times tables

We went for a walk on Saturday with Andrew carrying the papoose. Finn’s now large enough that we turned him to face forward. He was avid; every time I looked around, all I could see were his big, big eyes peering out over the edge of the papoose. 

As you can see, Finn’s metamorphosis into Andrew’s Mini-Me is nearly complete - although he has his Aunt Florrie’s pout and Agent of Death’s chicken legs

He learned how to roll during the week. When I put him on his tummy, he drops his right arm and rolls onto his back. Upon his first attempt, he flung himself onto the kitchen floor and clonked his head. He was unimpressed by that effort – yet undaunted. Despite repeatedly performing the trick, he never fails to shock himself with the result. I have to be careful about strapping him onto his change table.
 
Speaking of which, he LOVES his change table. He’ll be loudly complaining about room service and the instant I put him on it he starts flirting shamelessly with the maid. I’m not sure why he enjoys it so much, especially when most of the time it involves having his bottom squeezed. 

On Thursdays we go to a playgroup called SPACE (which Andrew refers to as SPAT). Finn is fascinated by other children and lies on the playmat gazing adoringly at them. I’m required to sing songs like ‘Tickling Rain’ and ‘Head! Shoulders Knees and Toes’, which I have unwillingly adopted as the soundtrack to my life supported by a bass of farting.
 
The first week we had to discuss whether parenting was easier or harder than we originally expected, and how having a child has changed our lives. “Do you enjoy talking about that sort of shit?” enquired Andrew during the debrief over dinner, “because it would drive me insane.” I frequently fear for the man’s mental health since he evidently has the most tenuous of grips on it. 

We also do activities like make picture frames and bath balls. Last week I inadvertently arrived half an hour late – happily just in time for tea and biscuits and bath balls. Since I had to feed Finn, this involved supervising the coordinator while she made my bath balls: “Excuse me, can you mix the cornflour in better? Don’t you have any blue food colouring? Smaller balls, please. Make sure they’re uniformly round, thanks.”
 
I was amazed to see one of the children was already sitting.
 
“And he’s only 11 weeks old!” I marvelled to Her Goatiness.
 
“Are you sure?” said my mother-in-law doubtfully. “Sounds very advanced for an 11 week old.” 

Poor old bird, I thought; totally out of touch with children.
 
Turns out the kid wasn’t 11 weeks after all; he was- “7 months?!” said Andrew. “Did you not notice he was a bit bigger than Finn?”
 
In other news, our Class of November 2011 Antenatal Reunion was last Saturday week. I offered to organise it ‘because I’m very organised’.
 
Well, I lost the contact list and had to ask the coordinator for another. When she finally emailed back, I didn’t recognise one of the couples on the list. Assuming it was simply an attack of Post-Pregnancy Brain, I called ‘Beryl’ and had several in-depth conversations with her about the weather and motherhood – before I realised the coordinator had mistakenly included the couple from another Antenatal Class. 

In any case, Beryl didn’t show up for the Class of November 2011 Antenatal Reunion. Unfortunately, neither did anyone else except Sinead, Chris and their son. Since I’d sent Husband off dirt-biking, it was possibly the crappiest reunion in the history of the world ever.

OMG he’s SO UNBELIEVABLY CUTE! Oh, you were about to say that? Sorry

Sharp as a sack of teddy bears

Me: Where did I put the linseed? Perhaps in this cupboard . . . no. I’m sure I bought some the other day. It was in a bag on the floor by the fridge- oh. Still there.

Husband: Well, that’s hardly surprising. Shopping often stays on the floor for months-

Me: Oh, come on! That’s a bit of an exaggeration. Days, maybe.

Husband: Weeks.

Me: Ok, you know- I didn’t realize this was a negotiation. I wish to revise my starting point. Hours. Shopping often stays on the kitchen floor for HOURS.

Husband: Months.

Me: Days.

Husband: Weeks.

Me: Exactly.

Me: Wait- no- how did you- what happened there? I’m confused.

Husband: Still haven’t kicked Pregnancy Brain, huh?

Me: Maybe . . . if I’d started at . . . minutes?

Meet Finn

Foot

Dad gets to grips with his son

I am proud to introduce you to the newest member of our family.

Finn made his debut in the world on 5 January via my stomach, successfully evading a scalpel, suction hose and over-enthusiastic anesthesiologist.

Finn at roughly three hours old

Despite watching the ‘Mutant Babies’ DVD, I wasn’t prepared for the dubious first impression. Finn looked a bit like E.T. mated with a frog. In my defense, it didn’t help that he was blue and covered in goo. Judging by his outraged roars, Finn was equally unimpressed with us.

During the months he spent camped out in my uterus, I had formed an impression of what my child would be like. Finn was completely different; yet within 24 hours I couldn’t imagine any alternative to his reality.

Bugaboo

Finn at two days old, dressed in driving gears for his first car-trip

I always thought Andrew’s genes would spank mine into submission and I was right. Finn has huge, dark blue eyes which I’m pretty sure will eventually be brown; fat little cheeks; and a wide mouth. I’m also grateful he inherited Andrew’s nose, rather than my prominent proboscis. However, since he wees and/or poops on me during every change, all indications suggest he has his mother’s sense of humour.

He also takes after his father in temperament. So far, Finn has been a total joy – placid and laid-back. Some people have been kind enough to suggest this is due to my parenting skills, but since said skills are largely limited to not getting his head stuck in drains, I’m pretty sure it’s mostly his personality.

He also smells delicious.

The last few weeks have been a blur, time blending into itself. I couldn’t tell you whether it’s morning or evening, and I have – at best – a one in seven chance of identifying what day of the week it is.

I’m not sure how someone who weighs less than 3kg and sleeps so much has had such a profound effect on our lives, yet everything has changed utterly. The other day I was straightening my hair and thought, “What is the point of this? I mean . . . just . . . WHAT is the POINT?” (The self-doubt may have been due to doing my hair while loading the washing machine between spoonfuls of muesli.)

Also, I can’t believe how much laundry Finn generates. I normally run a load during the red-eye feed at 03:00hrs.

But mainly, I love my son with a ferocity and compulsion to hold him safe, for which I was completely unprepared. I would totally kill for my child if serving double-life for manslaughter weren’t ultimately detrimental to his upbringing. My feelings are so intense I am often required to under-compensate with lame jokes like how I previously thought it impossible to love somebody with a hairline that started at his eyebrows.

I’m delighted motherhood has added new depths to my shallowness.

Although the first couple of weeks have been fairly brutal, I can honestly say I’ve cherished every moment.

Well.

Most moments.

Not so much the time, early in the morning, when Finn cried and in my sleep-deprived state I thought Andrew had picked him up and handed him to me but I couldn’t find him. Andrew woke me as I plucked desperately at the bedclothes, wailing “MY BABY! MY BABY! WHERE’S MY BAAABYYY?”

There are also plenty of occasions I’m in tears, usually after I’ve been mean to my mum (who’s doing a first-class job keeping house) or because I’m exhausted. But mainly when I look down at my son and cry because I am so incredibly, unbelievably fortunate and lucky enough to know it.

Little frog

How to take money from a single mother on the dole

The day before the parents arrived, Her Goatiness came around to polish our windows. The day before THAT, she and Florrie weeded our garden.

Just before we set off for Christchurch to collect the parents, Husband broke the vacuum cleaner when he threw it down the stairs (he said he didn’t mean to, but I’m not sure what outcome he expected from balancing it on a top step and then tugging vigorously on the power cord. Alternatively, he has yet to master the concept of gravity). I put in an emergency call and Her Goatiness hoovered the place while we were gone. I suspect she might also have mopped the bathroom floor.

We borrowed The Outlaws’ Audi Q8 for the trip to Christchurch (Her Goatiness cleaned and washed the car before we picked it up).

(My mother in law makes it REALLY difficult to bitch about her.)

The previous week, I’d bought two foam mattresses on Trademe for collection in Christchurch.

“Niamhie, how are we going to fit your parents’ luggage in the car along with two foam mattresses?” asked Andrew.

“They’re FOAM!” I explained. “Bendy. We can FOLD them. Wedge the bags on top.”

However, when Andrew maneuvered the mattresses into the boot of the car, I couldn’t see out the rear view mirror.

Unfortunately – shortly after the mattress purchase – I’d also bought a baby change table.

“It’s a big car!” I said. “Huge! You’re telling me we can’t fit two single extremely bendy foam mattresses, a change table, my parents’ bags, their golf clubs, a box of baby stuff and my parents in the boot?”

“Pretty much.”

“We could bring the trailer-”

“No.”

“Well, on your head be it.”

I can’t believe he let me win the argument with such a cliché. I don’t even know what it MEANS – or, for that matter, what Andrew’s head has to do with arranging foam.

I’d been looking for a Childcare brand change table on Trademe for some time. The starting bid was only $10; however, the auction closed two days after our trip to Christchurch so I opted to buy now at $40 after checking we could pick it up on the Monday.

There was a box of crap on the doorstep of the given address and a decapitated garden gnome in the entranceway corner. When the trader opened the door, I had to fight an overwhelming urge to bolt back to the car screaming, “CONTAMINATED ZONE!” and seal all the doors.

Really, I should learn to trust my intuition.

The house was littered with junk: overturned chairs, broken speakers, shredded boxes of Special K, dead animals. Well, I didn’t see any carcasses, but I wouldn’t have been AT ALL SURPRISED.

The trader was a young woman who was perfectly pleasant and indeed, I thought, rather lovely – apart from exhibiting a gigantic gaping gulch of committed bum crack. She was also wearing a sinister woolen beanie that failed to conceal the fact that her hair needed an urgent appointment with a bottle of shampoo – or a sodium hydroxide based cleaning agent.

Then she brought out the change table.

She excavated it from under an unidentifiable swatch of crusty material and other assorted landfill.

It was absolutely, unbelievably, skin-clawingly filthy. I mean, it couldn’t have been any dirtier had it been stored in a bat cave and Philip Roth wrote a novel about it.

This was probably when I should have made some socially acceptable excuse e.g. “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was made of, er, plastic”, instead of the truth i.e. “I can’t- it’s just- I mean- ew- words- not coming,” then returned the $40 to my back pocket instead of handing it over.

“Oh, I suppose I should maybe have wiped it with a cloth,” she said as Andrew dismantled the table in the drive.

More appropriately, she should MAYBE have water-blasted it.

Back in the car, “I want to wash my hands,” said Andrew, holding the steering wheel as if afraid his fingers might stick to it. “I don’t think this was one of your better Trademe purchases, Niamhie.”

“I know,” I winced. “But I’ll scrub it down and it’ll probably clean up fine-”

“Did you see her teeth?” he asked with a delicate shudder.

“No- what about her teeth?”

“Gak!”

“Oh no! If I’d noticed her teeth, I’d NEVER have gone through with it!”

It was just as well the airline left a portion of the parents’ luggage in Sydney – a box containing two pictures and a little wooden chair my father made for me when I was a child. As it was, Mum and I sat in the back of the car with suitcases stacked between us.

Back at home, when Andrew brought the change table up from the car, I noticed one of the wheels was broken and the lower tray inexpertly glued in one corner – neither of which were mentioned in the Trademe description. Perhaps I could have got over that with some aromatherapy and deep relaxation techniques, but my feelings only intensified after an hour spent scouring the change table in the bath, then disinfecting it, then disinfecting the bath, then burning my clothes and disinfecting myself.

Had the trader lived nearby, I wouldn’t even have attempted to clean the table. I would have towed it back down the road, dumped it in her front garden, and asked for my money back from within the confines of a sealed hazmat suit.

“You didn’t!” breathed Andrew in horror, his social sense of etiquette completely violated, when I told him I’d rung her and negotiated a refund of $20.

“I bloody did,” I said, grimly. “That table was a disgrace- I would be pure MORTIFIED to sell something in that sort of condition (mainly in case someone like me blogged about it, but)- her Trademe listing stated, ‘in good condition, and clean’- which was a total misrepresentation- she must have been fucking HALLUCINATING at the time- hey- anyway- YOU’RE the one storming around griping about how we got ripped off-”

“Yes, but, the time to do something about it would have been when we picked it up-”

“Well, I didn’t notice you thumping the roof of the Audi complaining about the state of it-”

“You realize this poor woman is probably on the dole-”

“That’s no excuse for living in a tip! If she cleared out all the crap in her front room and put in some grass and kept a fucking SHEEP, it would be about a hundred times cleaner not to mention more hygienic-”

“She’s probably a single mother on the dole, and you roll up in your Audi Q8-”

“It’s not my- whose bloody side are you on anyway-”

“With your little high-heels and your hair-”

“What the-”

“And quibble about $20! She probably won’t be able to feed her son for a week-”

“THAT’S NO EXCUSE! SHE SHOULD HAVE BEEN PAYING ME TO DISPOSE OF THE THING! IT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF IT!”

Niamh Meister-Leifburger

Before we married, Andrew and I agreed he would wear his wedding ring for a minimum of 6 months.

In return, I would take his surname.

Well, it wasn’t written into the marriage vows – and anyway, Andrew only wore his wedding ring for 3 months. ALSO, my ulterior motive for the request was the expectation that the band would become an extension of his finger. In the event he was involved in a terrible accident resulting in severe arm trauma and his left hand swelling alarmingly, he’d fight off the doctor advancing with motorised cutters, deliriously screaming, “Get away from my ring! You’re not having it!”

Since that situation never came to pass, it seems pretty clear to me it constitutes a breach of said agreement rendering it null and void.

However, over eight years after the happy day when we yoked ourselves to each other till death or a misunderstanding involving a transsexual called Clarabelle and secret offshore bank account do us part, I applied for a new passport.

In fairness, I always intended to change my name. One reason I didn’t was because Andrew and I thought we might be able to engage in dodgy tax fraud that somehow turns out to be legal if I were still Shaw (in retrospect, I’m not sure how we envisioned that working). Another is I never got around to it. And finally, I wasn’t gestating a crotchfruit. If The Asset weren’t imminent early in the New Year, I would have waited until my passport expired in August 2012 before I became Niamh Meister-Leifburger or whatever Andrew’s surname is. I suppose I should really look that up.

Last time I renewed my passport, all that was required was a call to the Irish Consulate asking them to make out a passport in the name of Niamh Shaw, thanks a million.

THINGS HAVE INDEED CHANGED.

Three months ago, upon my request, the Consulate General of Ireland sent me a passport application form. I knew it was for an Irish passport because, hilariously, it included an information pamphlet on how NOT to take a passport photo, with pictures of random people wearing clown noses and sticking their faces up against windows etc.

To issue a passport in my married name, I had to submit our original marriage certificate (The Consulate General of Ireland evidently doesn’t trust Notary Publics) – and my original birth certificate to verify my maiden name. If I wanted my original documents returned – along with the new passport – I had to include a self-addressed sign-on-delivery courier bag. Rather makes you wonder what the $160 fee was for – for which the only accepted payment was a bankers’ cheque.

The passport photos – four according to the application form, although the supplementary documentation stated two – had to be confirmed as a true likeness of the applicant by an authority figure, e.g. a policeman or, you know, librarian.

I have no idea what the big deal is about getting a passport. I mean, they’re not exactly rare. Pretty much everybody has one.

Anyhoo. It took a while to put the application together. Andrew took some photos and I selected the image which looked least like I was contemplating assassinating John Key. After spending an hour on MS Paint arranging it in a collage, I took it to the pharmacy to get it printed.

Then I went to the police station.

“I’m looking for someone with the appropriate authority,” I announced at reception, spreading the forms across the counter.

“Well,” said the personable Jason, “you’ve come to the right place, ma’am.”

He was required to write the application form’s unique reference number on the back of two of the passport photos, and sign them.

“Do you have a black pen?” I asked. “Because it says on the form you need to use a black pen. Oh, and if you can find a pair of scissors- no, wait. I have some here in my bag.”

“What else do you have in the bag?” he asked, suspiciously eyeing me snipping up photos.

“Nothing I wish to disclose, thanks.”

Jason got so carried away by the power vested in him that he signed all nine of my passport photos.

“Don’t want you coming back,” he said.

“Oh, come on. Are you trying to tell me I’m the dodgiest character you’ve seen all week?”

“Don’t know. You might have a bomb strapped to your waist.”

“No, no; it’s a foetus I swear.”

Policemen are MUCH more fun than Customs Officials. Except, I suppose, when they’re trying to get you to breathe into the nozzle.

Off I went to NZ Post to mail the application – which was where/when I found I’d forgotten my original passport.

Back at home, Andrew pointed out another problem.

I’m not even sure how to coherently relate this. Ok, so. Look. *sigh!* You see. On the form was a box for my signature. And I kind of panicked and put the wrong one. Well obviously it was my signature – I mean, I wrote it – only it didn’t look like it usually does. It’s like I had a fleeting personality change halfway through signing, resulting in a squirmy bit in the middle. I think I was intimidated by the stringent instruction to keep within the lines of the box, which was WAY too small to adequately express my personality.

In any case, after I had written my signature – outside the box, with a wobble in the middle – I realized it was supposed to have been witnessed by an authority figure.

So before going to the police station, I Tippexed it out.

It almost looked like I hadn’t touched it at all.

Jason hadn’t noticed anyway.

But THEN I got home and made the mistake of saying to Andrew, “Do you think it matters my signature’s blue?”

And he said, “No, but the TIPPEX MIGHT BE A PROBLEM.”

Seriously, I don’t know why I bother talking to him. It always ends in tears.

Since you can’t download the application form off the Internet, I sent off to the Consulate General of Ireland for another. Then I printed more passport photos and returned to the police.

I wasn’t looking forward to explaining The Tippex Affair to Jason – or persuading him I wasn’t stalking him. Apart from exceptional circumstances I’m not really into that and anyway, to be honest, I prefer firemen.

Thankfully Jason was off giving out speeding tickets, so I got Angela. She was evidently more clued in than Jason since she actually asked to see my ID. Although I’m glad I didn’t get her the first time around, because no doubt Angela would have detected Tippex.

However, when she went to stamp the back of my passport photo it rolled up into the stamp and, when she finally prised it out, my face was covered in blue ink.

The information pamphlet on how not to take a passport photo hadn’t mentioned anything about not having a blue face, so I licked it a bit and scrubbed it with a tissue from up Angela’s sleeve. I sent it off, even though I still looked like one of my recent ancestors was a full-blooded Smurf.

Two days later, the Consulate General of Ireland called to say our marriage certificate isn’t valid.

Killjoy Funsucker III

In the face of overwhelming and largely irrefutable evidence, I’m reluctantly resigned to increasing exhaustion and immobility.

I’m not sure why this comes as a shock. Perhaps because I subscribe to the ‘I’m-pregnant-not-suffering-from-some-chronic-debilitating-disease-symptoms-of-which-include-acute-belching’ school of thought.

Inspired by my mum – who, when pregnant with me, played squash up to her eighth month (which, if you consider the number of times I must have violently head-butted her cervix, may serve to explain much) – and my obstetrician in Blenheim – who ran a triathlon at 36 weeks pregnant at the age of 42 (which, because she was my doctor, I prefer to think of as admirable rather than CERTIFIABLY NUTCRACKERS INSANE) – I imagined I’d still be rock-climbing and shark-wrestling well into my third trimester and practicing extreme karate-kicks with my midwife between contractions.

Therefore, I’m fairly sullen about squaring up to reality. This unhappy station includes having to adopt the recovery position for several hours after a round trip to Dunedin, and being incapable of trundling the dog around the Oamaru Public Gardens without collapsing onto every single park bench for the purpose of puffing.

The situation has been aggravated by my recent erratic sleep patterns. In our antenatal class, while the other prospective mothers complained about sleep deprivation, I merely smiled mysteriously (or more likely unbearably smugly). Because until recently, I slept like a hibernating bear with the chromosomes of Rip Van Winkle. (Did you know a tompion is a pellet of mud and saliva that a bear inserts up his anus before hibernating for the winter so that ants won’t crawl in? The word originates from the French ‘tampon’ and can also be used to describe a plug placed in a gun’s muzzle while not in use to keep out dust and moisture. In case you were wondering, neither application has anything whatsoever to do with my REM quality.)

I’m not sure when it started, but I find it just about impossible getting comfortable in bed. Lying on The Asset’s head used to work, but when I try that trick now he kicks my lungs into my oesophagus. It’s been hella hot in the last couple of weeks, which hasn’t helped. Also, my bladder’s holding capacity appears to have shrunk to that of a beetle, resulting in at least two nocturnal bathroom forays. Previously, I’d return from a bathroom run thinking, ‘Beh I’ll NEVER get back to sleep *huff*!’ and three seconds later I’d wake up in the morning. Now – perhaps in preparation for parenthood – I like to prove myself right.

I’ve also adopted a startling grunt. I emit this grim, guttural expectoration when I sit, stand, ascend stairs, pull weeds, throw Jed’s frisbee, open doors . . . in fact, any action other than lying in a perfectly still, prone position. I would grunt rolling over in bed, except that the action is beyond my current skill-range.

Anyhoo.

Yesterday Andrew and I had planned A Great Adventure.

To be accurate, I planned it and Killjoy Funsucker III failed to talk me out of it.

We drove south and turned west into Trotter’s Gorge where we stopped for a bush-walk. The sign in the carpark estimated the Loop Track at 1.5 hours. It didn’t mention most of it was uphill, which added a striking new depth of flavour to my grunt echoing joyfully around the woody hills.

Back at the carpark, we enjoyed our first swim of the summer in the nearby stream i.e. we crouched in three inches of water seeing who could shriek louder.

We carried on, stopping for a picnic just over Dansey’s Pass: soda bread with great slabs of cheddar cheese, date scones, apples and mince pies.

Last night, I slept like a dead squirrel.

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