Monday, November 28, 2016

Pregnancy Loss

Recently, one of my oldest and dearest friends reached out to me after receiving her sad news. She waited until after my birthday because she didn't want me worrying about her.  That is so her, always thinking of others, even in her own time of need. She was devastated and feeling like she wouldn't be able to get past this and confided in me, as I had gone through this eleven years ago. Eleven long years ago and two children since, but I will never forget how it felt. Everyone deals with things differently, but my friend and I have known each other for 26 years and we share a brain, so I felt compelled to write her.

This is some of what I wrote:

Oh honey, my heart is just breaking for you. I know that sudden empty feeling all too well - how can all that hope, anticipation and expectation be gone in an instant? Your mind and body will try to trick you, telling you that there must have been some mistake, maybe the doctors have gotten it wrong. Sometimes you will forget for a moment, just a moment, only to be reminded again. Everywhere you look, it seems there's a glowing woman, rubbing her beautiful round belly, full of promise. A blissful couple pushing a pram, Mummy melting into her baby's eyes, sweet little siblings walking hand in hand.

And it hurts every time.

This will never really go away. It will change you, and I promise that even though it feels like you will never recover from this, you will. There will be times that you'll feel like you've gotten over the worst of it, only to have the wind knocked out of you when you least expect it. Cry, cry, cry - that helps a lot, too. Your perspective on this will change and your emotions will swing from one extreme to the other, sometimes in the span of minutes, sometimes, days. Believe it or not, eventually, it will feel a little further away.

Don't listen to stupid shit people say like "It wasn't meant to be" or "You can try again" or "At least you already have one" or "Everything happens for a reason." Don't let them ask you if the baby was planned, or if you'd been stressed or overexerting yourself, trying to pinpoint the cause and inferring it was something you did wrong. Don't let people gloss over it or call it "the miscarriage" in sentences like "Ever since you had the miscarriage..." It is not "the miscarriage." It is a loss. A tremendous, heartbreaking, hollow loss. A loss that others cannot understand because it wasn't tangible to them.

They mean well. They are just trying to help in their own way, trying to find the right thing to say.

Take the time you need to mourn, because that is what you need to do. I will mourn with you. Hold your other babies tight, squeeze them when you need to. Tell who you want to tell, talk about it, lean on your partner. He will need you, too. He has lost something he didn't have a physical connection to yet, he has lost a dream - a new love he was making room for in his heart. You may feel alone, but you're not. It is not something people like to talk about, but reach out - because there are so many of us that have experienced this loss.

Take it one step at a time. It isn't easy, but you will be okay. Whatever you feel is exactly how you're supposed to feel right now, the path you need to take to navigate your way through this. Please, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE, you are so loved and good things will come to you.

I am here for you.

I love you.

Before I shared this, I asked for her permission. I wanted to give her a heads up because I didn't want to trigger anything in her without her being ready for it. I assured her that I wouldn't name names or be specific. This is what she said to me:

"I think that the stigma around pregnancy loss needs to be removed, Stace. It would be easier for women to cope with it if people were more knowledgable. It shouldn't be this shameful thing - especially because that just contributes to the guilt."

She is so right.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Kid Truths

Me: "I'm sorry."

Kahu: "Why?"

Me: "I'm sorry for being such a grumpy Mummy."

Kahu: "You're not."

(Gives me a huge hug, pulls away, gingerly takes my face in his hands and gazes deeply into my eyes.)

"And all those times when Tahi says you're fat? You're not. Ok? You're not."

I should add here that Tahi has NEVER called me fat (to my face, anyway) soooo ummmm...

Happy Friday! Better go work on my beer gut...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Pinwheels all day, errrrday! I think I've found my passion, yo! What did I do before these came into my life? They are the ultimate school lunch saviour. Pizza (spinach and cheese) and Vegemite and Cheese Pinwheels. So easy to make and the kids aren't sick of them....yet!

Here's a link to the recipe:

This Is Not How You Eat a Pie

Monday, June 27, 2016

My sons' school had a PTA fundraiser last week - Bogan Bingo Night. It was brilliant - BYO (bring your own) drinks and snacks and get dressed up and act silly. It was great fun. Apparently, that day at school, my son's Year 5 teacher was telling the kids to remind their parents about the fundraiser that night. That's when my son raised his hand.

What he should have said: "My mum's going with a bunch of her well behaved friends to have some good, wholesome fun and raise funds for our school."

What he actually said: "My mum's going, and she'll be DRUNK!"

How do I know this? Numerous mums from his class told me that night. In my defence, they were drunker than me. 
Their kid just didn't sell them out.

(I've protected the identities of my lovely friends here, they do have actual faces.)

Monday, June 13, 2016

The boys were digging around in the yard and found this old car. Crazy to wonder when it was buried by some child - in the 50's or 60's maybe?

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday Lunch

Today's lunch: rice balls󾥡󾥡, fruit󾁑󾁒󾁐 and chocolate chip pikelets (just a few in each pikelet)

Wednesday Lunch

Lunch for the kids today was variations of fruit with mini omelette, pretzels, raisins and the one thing all three can agree to love - tuna & cucumber sushi rolls.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Nearly Coming Out On the Other Side

When I was 26 years old, most of my friends were travelling the world, going to concerts, shopping for fabulous clothes, dating up a storm, sleeping around and partying. A lot. I was married and having a baby. I was the only one in my circle of friends having a baby. I felt very out of the loop and often felt like those fun, carefree days were over for me. Forever.

But now, as many of my friends are just getting started, having their first babies, I am a mother of a 5, 10 and 15 year old, and I've recently recognised myself as a Nearly Coming Out On the Other Side Mum.

Oh sure, I know, I still have a 5 year old who loves to poo in unknown, usually filthy toilets at the most inopportune times, but in relation to the 10 and 15 year olds, I'm rockin' a pretty good balance. And yes, I'm having to dodge and deflect a great deal of teenage sass and attitude, but we can't have everything going for us all at the same time, can we?

Here are some things that you, too, will have the delight of savouring once you find yourself approaching the Nearly Coming Out On the Other Side parenthood.

1) PRO: You are now the proud parent of a built in babysitter. Congratulations! You always have someone you can count on to watch the youngers while you pop out - usually on unglamorous excursions like to the supermarket.
CON: Just because one of them is a teenager doesn't mean that they've managed to stop fighting. They will always meet at the youngers' level to hurl a healthy measure of "I hate you!s" and "Shut up!s" mixed in with good ole punchfests just for shits and giggles. You will still get those "Mum, I wasn't doing ANYTHING and she kicked me in the balls!" phone calls. It's okay, it will pass. As one of my favourite Mum friend's chestnut of a saying goes: "No one's going to DIE."

2) PRO: If said babysitter is unavailable, the youngers are now capable of sitting and eating at a restaurant table in a civilised manner without grabbing things, for a limited time. That's the pro.
CON: Youngest of youngers will announce their emergency need to poo just as your hot meal arrives. Every. Damn. Time.

3) PRO: You get a free pass from current Disney obsessions. My only daughter was well past the princess age when "Frozen" came out. So guess what? I have never seen the movie. Not even once! I still know all the words to that cursed song.  I mean, come on, I still do have to go out into society on a daily basis.
CON: You now get a 24/7 stream of Vines and Snapchat shenanigans, where some crackhead's soundbite from the news becomes an autotuned rap or endless FaceSwap filters create the biggest laughs in the whole wide world - don't ask me why.

4) PRO: You don't go through half as much milk or snackfood like Goldfish.
CON: You will bake and it will be ALL GONE within a matter of hours, before you even get to try ONE. (True story, this happened to me just yesterday.)

5) PRO: Your days of Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy duties are numbered and you may be down to just doing this for the youngest of your youngers.
CON: The level of presents for the older are now waaaaay more expensive than the little gadgets for the youngers. Apple products ain't cheap, don't ya know - and you can't just say "no" because they're now pretty much mandatory for school assignments and Google Classroom.

6) PRO: You don't need carseats or boosters anymore!
CON: They now want to plug their aforementioned devices into the stereo so that they can dab along to their "music."

7) PRO: You no longer need to spend lots of moolah on daycare bills, diapers, or baby food!
CON: You now get to throw your money at razors, deodorant, sanitary products, and perfume/cologne.

8) PRO: They'll be able to drive soon! Independence!

9) PRO: They'll be leaving home soon.
CON: THEY'LL BE LEAVING HOME SOON. (Nooooooooooo, I'm not readdddddyyyyy!)

10) PRO: Late at night, when you tuck the teenager in (or more like make sure they're not on their devices) they will sometimes still want a snuggle.
CON: How could there possibly be a CON for this? Not a chance. Take the snuggles while you still can.

I think the main thing I've learned as I get deeper into this motherhood thing is that there is no "better" or "easier." There is just you and how you view and deal with things to make them better or easier for yourself.

These are my words now, we'll see where I'm at as time goes on and the dynamics of the family shift again.

For now, I'll leave you with what I constantly tell myself:

"Assume and expect nothing. Go with the flow and figure it out as you go."

Because as soon as you think you've got it down, it will bite you in the ass.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Birthday Party By An Unpinteresting Mum

One of the first blog posts I ever wrote was all about what an "unpinteresting" Mum I am. Here's the link if you haven't read it: When I wrote that, we were still living in Japan and I was still called Mom - but now, we're in New Zealand and I am Mum. Anyway, I digress.

While I admire all those crafty and organised Mums and Moms out there, I have to say, I am not very strong in either of those departments. We just threw my son his tenth birthday party yesterday, and I have to say, it went well. I was happy with it. I mean, it wasn't perfect, but the kids had a blast and it was easy for us. We had it at Inflatable World, a magical (I am being generous with my adjectives here) place where you can reserve a table for your party and the kids can literally go bounce off the walls for two hours. 

First things first, we've thrown parties like this before at bowling alleys and playland type places and one thing I noticed was that kids do not want to tear themselves away from the excitement to sit down for food. I thought about ordering pizzas, or having some sandwiches or something, but knew that the kids would probably randomly swing by, take a bite and toss the rest. Not providing food, of course, is not an option, so I made little snack packs. 

Nothing fancy - I just bought some little containers from the $2 Store (have I told you how much I love the $2 store?) and put snacks in there. I wanted to make it relatively "healthy," so I put raisins, granola bars, Grain Waves and one Chocolate Fish. I know that those things aren't 100% healthy and still contain sugar, but better than packs of m&ms, donuts, fizzy drinks - you get the idea. I wrote the child's name on the lid and that was that. This worked out perfectly - the kids stopped by the table, ate a little snack, had some water and went back to going bonkers in the play area. Half an hour before the end of party time, we did the cake, but the kids wanted to keep playing so they chose the takeaway (takeout, if you're American) option for the cake. By this time, their snack packs were empty - yay, instant takeaway boxes. I can't say that the cakes made it home, though. The kids gobbled their pieces up while waiting for their parents to pick them up.

We did have twelve kids to feed at the party and I knew the snack packs wouldn't cut it on their own, so I whipped up these awesome pizza scrolls. Now, I'm no Nigella Lawson or Martha Stewart, okay and I've never attempted to make anything with pastry, thinking it would be too complicated. It's not! These pizza scrolls were so easy to make! 
This is everything you need. 

1) Spread some flour over a clean surface. Using a rolling pin, roll the pastry out into a rectangular shape, be careful not to make it too thin. Preheat oven to 200 degrees C, approximately 300 degrees F.

2) Spread an even layer of tomato paste on the pastry, right to the edges. Load it up with toppings of your choice. I kept it simple and only used cheese, mixed herbs and baby spinach leaves. 

3) Roll the whole thing up evenly, and slice thinly. 

4) Lay slices on an oven tray lined with baking paper, grill for about 10 minutes or so. Check frequently and take them out when it reaches the colour you like.

This recipe makes about 30, so I made two batches for the party. They were a total hit!
Now that I know how to make this, I am so going to go nuts with variations - including a sweet version using fruit. 

Feel free to comment or send me a PM with suggestions on how to milk this recipe for all it's worth!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Hit "Pause"

"I'm going to kill you guys" is dramatic and harsh, so how can I rephrase this?

I wish I could pack a suitcase and escape. Not forever, just for a little while.

Yeah, that'd be great. I mean, I'd come back, eventually. Just don't poison my name while I'm gone. Just hit "pause" on me and go on with your lives. Nothing to see here. Just a woman having a temporary vacation from all responsibility.

For just a little while, I don't want to stop dead in my tracks and scan the crowd when I hear "Mum! Muuuuum!" even when it's not my own child's voice. I think I have a name, right? I seem to vaguely recall being called something else before I became a mother to these three gorgeous kids. Yes, I acknowledge the beauty and gloriousness I've created with their father, the love of my life, my husband. My man of 18 years, one month and three and a half weeks. Yes, I do love you too, dear. But honestly, for now, just for this one moment in time, I need to hit "pause."

If I get one more soul, bemoaning their fate, some circumstance (beyond my or anyone else's control) directing their frustrations at me like anything remotely like the following, I will scream. I will.

"Mum, I've been brainstorming ideas for my 15th birthday party. I thought of hiring a theatre, but there are no good movies showing. Like NONE."


"Mum, I want to get on my Xbox but you said I have to read for a while. But I did do some study games on the computer. I've done some spelling, so I shouldn't have to read an actual book."


"Mummy, I can't find my Scooby Doo. I put him in the backpack I insisted on carrying when you took us boys to the supermarket the day after fucking Easter Sunday, along with half of Auckland. Now he's gone - help me find him pleeeeeeeeeeease."


"You don't support my endeavours nearly as much as I support yours..." (while the smaller three intermittently inform me of other ways I'm failing them.)

The rice cooker's broken (which is a BIG DEAL because I am Asian) and I'm nursing the goddamn pot on the stove while simultaneously hanging the load of washing done by my washing machine which apparently can only be activated by my thumbprint, btw - cut to - me having my red wine (fuck my weekends only drinking rule. Today is a holiday, so technically, it's still the weekend) in the bedroom while ugly crying and fantasizing about what I'd do if I escaped for a while, consequence free.

1) Jump on a plane to hit Paris, New York, China, Iceland, Tokyo, Morocco, Rome and Greece to take photos for my coffee table books. (But man, just between you and me - I loathe flying so could something be done about that, please.)

2) Find myself in a rustic cabin - one side deep in the woods, the other, on a cliff overlooking a wild, open beach, waves a-crashing. The cabin would be stocked with wine, beer, coffee, chocolate, pretzels and cheese and crackers. I would alternate between reading by the roaring fireplace in my jammies and taking dips in the sea in my bikini, flaunting my taut body. Hey - this is my fantasy, remember? Anything is totes possible.

3) Traveling to all of my special besties - Denmark, New York, Colorado - to just hang and be privy to their day to day existence for a week or two.


After I spew all this inner dialogue onto paper, I could eat dinner with the family, three glasses of red in, listen to their stories and banter. After the meal, sit down to watch the shitty TV that is the Bachelor NZ and be content again.

Ugly crying does wonders, I guess.

So does wine.

Easter Monday counts as the weekend, don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

School Life in Japan vs NZ

We are now officially a month into the new school year here in New Zealand. After a busy few weeks of getting organized and settled into the new classes, we had Parent - Teacher Conferences this week. My two boys are in primary school, so my husband and I met with their teachers yesterday for 10 minute sessions. It was really nice to get a chance to have a chat with them, but really - that's all it can be - a quick chat. There's no big lead up to the meeting - we had a talk with the boys about their goals and what they felt they needed to focus on in the classroom. Other than that, all we had to do was rock up to school. The meetings were over in a blur, which lead me to reflect on how different being a parent of school aged children in New Zealand is to being one in Japan.

There are so many formal aspects to education in Japan, there is always a ceremony happening for something. The beginning of the school year starts with an elaborate welcoming ceremony for the children starting Year 1. These are kids who are generally six years old, or close to it. They don't start at their fifth birthday like they do in New Zealand. The equivalent to the Parent - Teacher Conference is called katei houmon, which literally means "household visit." You guessed it, the parents don't go to the school, the teachers come to the home. They do these visits as a way to learn about the child and their living conditions, with their best interests at heart. This way, they get a little glimpse into how the child lives, where they do their homework, how they interact with their family - that sort of thing. About a month or two after school starts, depending on the number of students in the school, two weeks are set aside for these visits. During this period, school finishes just after lunch, around 12:30, and the teachers make their rounds to the family homes. I worked as an English teacher at 6 different primary schools over 7 years, so I was fortunate enough to witness this from my place in the staffroom and as a parent, on the receiving end. In Okinawa, not all of the little residential streets have names, so teachers would rely on maps drawn by the parents with only landmarks like "gas station" or "post office" to help them find their way. The streets were narrow, and the houses are close together with limited parking, so often, the teachers would go on foot. They'd dress up in their nice clothes, armed with notes on each child, and set out in the humidity. 

As a parent, getting prepared for the katei houmon was always a big deal. First, you clean, clean, clean. Making a good impression with your child's teacher is important, so a clean, welcoming home is a must. We lived in a very traditional setting, so we had a large coffee table with minimal furniture in the room, and we'd bring out the embroidered floor cushion for the teacher to sit on, as we didn't use sofas or chairs. I always made sure the air conditioning was blasting and offered an ice cold glass of jasmine tea to the teacher. Being new to all of this, I remember taking a bit of a poll prior to my first ever katei houmon. I asked my co-workers what they, as teachers, liked to be served to eat. Without a doubt - they all said that it was really hard to talk and eat whatever was offered. While it would be considered rude for them to not eat the food on offer, it was difficult as they'd have to visit anywhere between 5-8 houses a day and they couldn't keep up with the cakes, plates of sushi, fruit and sweets on the table. So what I did every single time - I had 8, total, in our years of living in Japan - was give them a little takeaway gift. I made up little gift bags of coffee or tea and some nice chocolate or biscuits that they could either take home to their kids or stash at work to have for their morning tea. So the teacher would come in, sip their tea and we'd have a lovely chat. The allotted time was 10-15 minutes, but more often than not, this stretched out to about 20-30 minutes. Some teachers told me that often, their last visit for the day, around 6:00, would end with them having dinner and a beer with the student's family.

The katei houmon was such a wonderful system - a chance for parents and teachers to get to know one other in a personal way. After all, what could be more personal than having your child's teacher in your home? This was especially true in Japan, as it's not as common to socialize in a person's home. Even close friends often meet at parks, beaches, restaurants or cafes, as Japanese homes can be quite small. So in some cases, teachers you barely know have been in your home before people you have known for years. 

Being a multi-cultural, English speaking family adjusting to life in NZ after eleven years in Okinawa is just bizarre. When we were living there, it was a challenge to stay on top of all the ins and outs of school in Japan. Just learning how to navigate my way through the paperwork and Japanese letters from school used to take me ages and I remember thinking how easy it would be if it were all in English but that hasn't been the case! There are so many experiences I face as a first time parent to kids in Kiwi schools that remind me I'm a novice all over again. It's challenging, but it keeps me on my toes and constantly reminds me that I don't know much about much - and that's ok. I feel so fortunate to get the chance to experience both sides of this. The downside is, I feel awkward a lot of the time - but that's ok, too.  :)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

I begin each weekday by making five lunches, which is the real reason I love weekends.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Unabashedly riding his red motorcross themed bike to school with pink training wheels with hearts on them. I love how it would never occur to him that one might be embarrassed to ride this to school. Lucky the kids at his school are so lovely, the big kids really look after the little ones so he is safe. Also, he's a bit lazy and I subtly have to push him up any slight incline.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back to School Hell

For those of you not living in Australia and New Zealand, your kids have just gone back to school after a nice Christmas break. For those of us in Australia and New Zealand, this is summer break. The kids have been off of school since around mid December and will be starting back up in the last week of January/first week of February. You know what that means. Yes, my favourite outing of all time - fucking school supply shopping. Now, I don't usually like to swear (well, not in writing) but it's completely warranted in this case.

Usually, I order the stationery packs from the school's website and have it delivered. My daughter's high school doesn't offer this luxury, so this year, I decided to bite the bullet and "just pop out and get all three kids' worth. I'm at the store anyway" - how wrong I was.

My teenager loves school, loves new stationery and loves to be organised, so this is actually a fun time for her. Me, on the other hand, not so much. I mean, it'd be fine if it were simple. But NO. The list consists of things like, I shit you not:

Warwick 1E5 Exercise Book, 7mm Quad With Margins, 36 Leaves, 72 Pages
Warwick 14B8 Loose Leaf Refill, Ruled, 50 Leaves, 100 Pages
Warwick School Pad, 10B5, 7mm Ruled, 100 Leaves, 200 Pages
Warwick 3B1 Note Book, 7mm Ruled, 32 Leaves, 64 Pages
OfficeMax JWB Junior Writing Exercise Book, 14mm Ruled, 40 Leaves, 80 Pages

You get the idea. And as you can see from the photo, they all look exactly the fucking same. 1E5-14B8-10B5-3B1. Are you kidding me? All I kept thinking about during this hell was that Seinfeld episode where they can't find Kramer's car in the carpark and Jerry suggests that the parking garage sections should be named things like "Your Mother's a Whore" to make it easier to remember and find your car. Same deal here, what is with the crazy letter and number combos on these notebooks? The packed store is full of parents zombie-ing through the aisles mumbling random letters and numbers under their breath. I saw mostly mums - flushed, irate mums, but I did spot a few poor dads that had somehow been suckered into this hellish mission. 

My favourite part was hearing all the mothers and their teenagers arguing. One mum looked at me after a lengthy argument with her eye rolling daughter who had just stomped away. I gave her what she needed: "It's hell isn't it? It sucks beyond belief."
"I KNOW. I had a big talk to her before we came and she promised to stick to the list. Now the little bitch is wanting extra things that AREN'T ON THE LIST." the poor woman said, nearly in tears. 
"I know, I know. I feel you." was all I could muster, I had my own ongoing battle with my boys to deal with. 

Two and half hours later (of course, we needed to hit up another stationery store because the other one didn't have the right sized ruler or some shit) we were done. Thank goodness. It feels so good to know that we are done, and school is still over a week away. This relief and semi-smugness at our organisation and mild "ahead of the game-ness" feeling will be gone soon, I know, I ain't stupid. One of my three will come home soon enough saying *Mum, I lost my scissors/my scientific calculator broke/I snapped my ruler in half." but until that happens, I've done my job. 

Who'll be first?

My money's on the 9 year old.