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Someone asked the Dalai Lama what surprises him most

19 Sep

This was his response:

“Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; He lives as if he’s never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived”

Little Things

29 Aug

I just discovered this blog, and I’m in love.

I do this all the time. It's why I suck at jokes and pranks.


A list of little things we should all appreciate

Wallowing in self pity

5 Aug

Today I attended the second CYF workshop on Ways to Care, which is preparing people for becoming foster or adoptive parents. I’m not going to go into details about that, but I have been feeling rather bummed out ever since. Nothing to do with the workshop, even.

No, I’m feeling bummed out because most of the people in that room were extremely well dressed, in what appear to be solid relationships [I know it is not always clear from external appearances], with important jobs (judging from the amount of phone calls and txts that happened on expensive phones in the breaks). Although I am a fairly confident person and they were all nice, and I contributed plenty of valid ideas, I felt self conscious. Because I was there in my op shop clothes, on my own.

I know plenty of single mothers, and I think they’re great. But I don’t want any of their lifestyles. All the single mothers I know stress about money on a regular basis. I’m not someone who’s inclined to stress, and yet I began to really stress about money when I became a single mum. I think of all the people I know who have several beautiful children, big houses, loving husbands, plenty of money, etc. And I just feel really really bummed out.

I was raised by a single mother, and I have never known what it’s like to not worry about money, what it’s like not to feel like it’s a constant battle to ‘get by’, since I knew what money was.

I wanted a big family, and a loving husband, and a nice place to live. Well, I married a jerk (and subsequently left him after his behaviour became increasingly unacceptable), and have never lived in a place I really liked.  My pregnancy was so traumatic that I’m scared to go through it again, and given that I needed so many medical interventions (five anti nausea drugs, two heartburn drugs, various supplements, IV fluids, NG tube, a lot of monitoring and ultrasounds and tests, a cesarean section), I feel I would be unlikely to survive another pregnancy if I did not have access to all that free medical care. Which is entirely possible, given what is happening in the world.

I don’t want to be alone forever. I tell myself: I’m still young. I’m only 24. I have lots to bring to a relationship. But I don’t know how to meet people, how to date. I met my husband when I was 19. I was in the dating phase so briefly that I barely remember the rules. I miss having someone’s hand to hold. I hate doing the housework and I get really bored with the mundane things in life, because there’s no one to do it with. No one to have conversations with or laugh with. I spend too much time on the computer, hoping someone will talk to me on Facebook or Skype, reading chatty blogs – because I’m so lonely once my playgroups are over and my son is in bed and my friends are spending time with their ‘other half’.

I don’t want to get trapped into thinking a man will ‘save me’. I was raised by a feminist, after all. But I don’t think it’s their manliness that I perceive as the saviour. It’s having someone to share life with.

I read this blog post about a mum’s trip to Kenya. And I was struck mostly by the statement: Kenyan women are never lonely. For a moment, I actually felt envious of women whose children have aids, who have to get up at 4am to wait two hours in a line to get water, who live in utter poverty. I envied them their community. I can see how that makes their otherwise desperately difficult lives livable.

I’m trying to move back to my hometown, where I have more of a community, where life will be that little bit easier, but my son’s father will fight me. I can understand why. Believe me, the thought of separating my son from his father causes me endless anxiety and guilt. But I felt that way before I left the marriage, and I don’t regret that in the least. And in all honesty, I don’t trust my son’s feelings to be safe in his father’s hands when he is older. Mine never were. I don’t think he is a good role model. I want my baby to have a Dad who loves him, but actually: I don’t want him to be around all the time. That doesn’t change the fact that I could be facing a long custody battle if I try to move away.

I know that I should count my blessings. And believe me, I often do. I’m not depressed and I’m not angry, I’m just bummed. I know that many of those wealthy well-dressed happily-married course participants would give anything to have a beautiful little child like I do. That’s why they were there. I’m usually pretty positive.

But right now, I’m feeling crap, and I’m wallowing in it.

Outdoor preschools

4 Aug

Last night I came across a link to a Forest Preschool in Canada. Something about the idea instantly captivated me. My son is such an outdoors kid – he really would spend all day outside if he could. Because of his personality, I’m really interested in these outdoor preschools.

Link to What Are Forest Schools?

And here’s an article about one in Scotland.

Although I think it’s a fantastic idea, there are other things that I would personally like to see incorporated. I think it is great that they spend all day outside, but I also think that some other outdoor activities could be incorporated, rather than just being in the bush. For example the children could feed chooks and collect the eggs. They could grow a vegetable garden. I think it would be valid to incorporate a democratic education angle, as well as some quieter activities, like reading. Books can be read outside though! I think they can also have some directed activities, such as painting (easels can be set up outside), playing with things like wooden go-carts, and cooking (eg. mini pizzas for lunch).

I like the idea of having a yurt as a classroom for extreme weather. I think for younger children it may be a nice space for them to sleep in. And of course there would be a compost toilet.

I am quite excited about the idea of sending my toddler to something like this when he is a bit older. It makes me wonder if I should set one up. But although I would really like him to go there, I’m just not convinced I want to look after other people’s children for a living, much as I enjoy children. Something to think about.

Today a friend posted a link to this lovely video which reminded me how magic the natural world is.

Making a Stand

31 Jul

Making a Stand for a Renewable Energy Future

Speech given by Katerina Seligman
at the Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining)
30th July 2011
Motueka, New Zealand

Katerina's speech

This information was put together by a group of local people in Motueka who are very concerned about what is happening here in NZ in regard to mining. This is our third public event and we plan to have an event of some kind on the last Saturday of every month at noon. Our goals are to protect our beaches from potential oil spills, and to highlight the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and towards a renewable energy future. If you want to be on an e-mail list to get information about future events, e-mail:

NZ is on the brink of a massive fossil-fuel-extraction binge. The government has laid down a welcome mat to international mining companies…. “please come and mine at our place”. And the mining companies have responded to the call. Companies are lining up to drill for deep sea oil, prospect for minerals and dig up coal all around NZ. New Zealand is pockmarked with new new exploration sites on land and sea. About 70 petroleum exploration permits are current with about 23 more pending. Many permits have also been granted for coal and mineral exploration.

In regards to oil, the government is encouraging prospecting in very deep waters. To put that into perspective: The deepest offshore oil well off Taranaki is 300 metres deep. The Deep Water Horizon Well in the Gulf of Mexico which went terribly wrong with a massive oil spill, was 5 times as deep …one and a half km. Humans can’t go that deep. All repairs were attempted by robots. 6500 ships responded to the spill disaster. It took almost three months to plug the well-head. The proposed drilling off our coastlines is twice that depth, 3 km deep! That is sheer madness for a country that simply doesn’t have the infrastructure to deal with even a very small oil spill.

It was reported in the very reputable newspaper the UK Guardian ( 5th July 2011) that serious spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms are occurring at the rate of one a week, even though the companies claim to be doing everything possible to improve the safety of rigs.

We currently have Anadarko test drilling off the Otago and Canterbury Coasts and Petrobras have just finished exploratory drilling off the East Cape. Greywolf was refused its permits here in our region because the company turned out to be too unreliable, but the government is very willing for a more reliable company to come in and do the job.

What about coal? There are companies bing granted permits all over the country, some mines already in operation and some rearing to go. I’ll just focus on just one of these: the proposed lignite projects in Southland, on 4000 hectares of farmland that has been purchased by the Government. Lignite is very dirty coal. It’s half water, high in ash, and takes a lot of energy to turn it into anything useful. If all the lignite at the proposed mine site in Southland were burned, anywhere in the world, and export is certainly on the government’s agenda, it would put over 8 Billion Tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. That’s over one hundred times NZ’s annual emissions from all sources!

Solid Energy has applied for a pilot briquetting plant, and is planing a second plant ten times bigger than that . They also want to make urea and diesel from the the lignite. Collectively Solid Energy’s projects, if they go ahead, would raise NZ’s annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20%. This at a time when we should be trying to reduce our emissions. This is an State Owned Enterprise that you and I own! But it gets worse: The government is going to use our taxes to meet its Kyoto obligations. Solid Energy tells us it will “meet its climate change obligations in full”. But that’s easy because by current laws it has almost no obligations.
The reason the government is willing to subsidize this kind of development is because it is central to its economic growth strategy. This is a much bigger and harder issue to deal with than the Mining- in- the- National- Parks issue that we saw recently.

Where will the capital come from for this Southland development. It’s going to cost billions!
Neither Solid Energy nor the government has the money. The plan is to sell about half of Solid Energy to an overseas company, almost certainly a Chinese one. We already have a free trade agreement with China. If a Chinese company were to run the show, and some subsequent government brought in new environmentally responsible laws, the Chinese could sue us in a secret tribunal for loss of investor profits!

John Key is currently doing his very best to negotiate a similar agreement, The Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, with the USA who would be even more likely and able to sue us than the Chinese for making responsible laws in our own country .

With rising Green House Gases, we are heading for an environment that will no longer support the lives and livelihoods of communities. The poorest communities of the world are already suffering the most with increased droughts famines and floods. But even here in New Zealand we are experiencing more extreme weather events. You might think this latest cold spell is reassurance that global warming is not actually happening. But unfortunately climate change is not about short term changes in the weather. Changes in the Climate which are a result of global warming, are happening. Unfortunately climate change is now very evident in many parts of the world and is undeniable. James Hansen, one of the world’s most highly respected climate scientists who visited NZ recently, claims that we still have time to turn things around. He says that coal, world wide, is the biggest cause of climate change. He thinks that we could still burn the remaining easily accessible oil and gas, as long as we don’t start any new extractions from tar sands and deep-sea drilling, and as long as we phase out all burning of coal to zero by 2030. To do that we would need to put all of our ingenuity, resources and will towards creating a renewable energy future.

Some ask: why should we be the first in world to stop mining and using coal?
The good news is that if we took that courageous step, we would not be the first. Resistance to coal and extreme fossil fuels extraction like deep sea oil has been growing worldwide for quite a few years.

In June 2007, Florida refused to license a huge coal plant because it was looking like it would be more expensive than investing in renewable energy generation. This led to the withdrawal of four other coal plant proposals in the state.

This is just one example of thousands worldwide where governing bodies have responded to the people’s demand for common sense to prevail. Leading investment banks in some parts of the US have stopped funding new coal mines. Existing coal plants are being closed in New York State because of that state’s very sensible energy efficiency standards. The phasing our of coal plants is making some progress in Denmark, Hungary, Canada, Scotland.

If we keep pumping green house gases into the atmosphere, it is the young people and future generations who will suffer most. And young people world wide are making their voices heard.

A courageous group in the USA, fronted by 15 teenagers, is suing the US government under the Constitution for failing to protect the rights of future generations. (Google: Hansen, The Case for young people and nature.) Young people here in NZ and world wide are getting active to try to secure their own future: groups such as the NZ Youth Delegation, Generation Zero, The 2050 Alliance, Regeneration,, and CANA, (Coal Action Network Aotearoa) and a number of others. But we don’t want our youth to be the only ones fighting for their future. It’s time for all people to inform themselves, to get active and to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

Of course, jobs and money are vitally important for the wellbeing and of individuals and communities. No one is denying that. But a community that depends on jobs and income from unsustainable activity has no resilience and will eventually lose everything. Communities who are dependent on renewable resources that will never run out for their jobs and incomes are the ones that will survive in the longer term.

So what are the alternatives to fossil fuel extraction?
A report from The Political Economy Research Institute in the US estimated that 100 billion dollars spent on clean energy over a 10-year period could create two million new jobs, compared to just half a million jobs if the money were invested in oil and gas-related industries. That’s four times as many jobs. The Center for American Progress, has estimated that renewable energy and efficiency improvements create twice as many jobs (per unit of energy and per dollar invested) than traditional fossil fuel-based technologies. In other words, money invested in clean energy can create two to four times as many jobs as money invested in fossil fuel industries…

Policy-makers have the opportunity to create viable new markets, boost private investment and innovation in renewables, and stimulate the economy. Governments around the world are redesigning their economies to embrace a cleaner way of doing business. Governments like China, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Germany, who are offering incentives for renewable energy initiatives, are establishing stronger competitive positions in the global clean energy economy. According Investment New Zealand, approximately 250 companies and organisations are researching, developing and commercialising clean technologies in New Zealand and least 60 of these companies are potentially world class. An economic crisis is the breeding ground for innovation and entrepreneurship. Many very successful companies (Microsoft, Nokia), were born during during an economic downturn.

We need to demand from our government that they abandon their fossil fuel agenda, and put all of their efforts into creating a renewable energy future. It’s just the right thing to do.

What can you do?

  • Inform yourself. Let everyone know what is happening and build networks of people willing to take action. Check out the government’s New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals website
  • Keep informed by signing up to the CANA e-mail list (
  • Talk about it to family and friends,
  • Write letters to editors
  • Write submissions on consent applications. CANA will send information to help with this .
  • Write to Fonterra letting them know that they should shift to wood fuels rather than burning coal. (to make their milk powder etc)
  • Write to oil companies..let them know that you will only buy diesel from those who do not make it from lignite
  • Write to fertiliser companies letting them know you don’t want urea made from lignite.
  • Make this an election issue. Ask candidates where they stand on coal mining and oil rigs.
  • Be ready to turn up in person at events like this ( at noon on the last Saturday of every month) and be ready to turn up at the mine site in Southland one day if necessary. It may come to that!
  • Google the following inspiring groups: awakeningthedreamer, pureadvantage, commondreams, generationzero (, happyzine

Ride for Renewables

30 Jul

My son and his Nana

Today my Mum and I took the toddler to his first ever protest. We attended the Bike Ride for Renewables (and Against Mining) in Motueka. He rode on the bike seat on the back of his Nana’s bike. He is just so cute in his little helmet! It was way past his naptime but he handled it all really well. It was fun. I know it’s a serious topic, but the event itself was fun. A few dozen people showed up on their bicycles, many with kids in tow. We pedaled along High St, two abreast, with plenty of cars honking on their way past. It is a stunning day today, perfect for a bike ride.

My friend Katerina Seligman gave a great speech about mining and renewables. I didn’t get to hear all of it due to an overtired hungry toddler who needed to be fed and kept happy, but I’m looking forward to reading it on email. Then local MP Damien O’Connor said a few words. It’s good to hear a politician agreeing that we need to move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, not just frantically try to find more oil and coal or other energy source, and that environmental destruction is not OK. As far as I could tell (while I was busy with the aforementioned needy toddler) he didn’t really say anything except that he’d take our views to parliament. I suppose that’s what politicians are for… I personally don’t think he went far enough, but then he is a Labour MP, not a Green one!

I took a whole bunch of photos (some of them while I was riding!) and put them up on flickr here. Katerina is going to let me publish her speech here so I’ll upload that when it comes through.

So, climate change isn’t real?

10 Jul

Tell that to the people in the Horn of Africa.

It breaks my heart to think of all those suffering people. What can you do? It seems so futile: too little, too late. So many devastated families.

A gardening misdemeanour

9 Jul

I am flabbergasted. I cannot believe the stupidity of the human race sometimes. Check out this story of a woman who faces misdemeanour charges for… having a vegetable garden in her front yard.




Good on her! I love that she decided to put her vege garden in the front yard instead of the back yard, so that her neighbourhood could share the experience of growing vegetables. Kids ride their bikes past and check out the plants? Awesome! Whether intentional or not, she is making a statement about home grown food, reducing her dependence on oil and processed food. With 6 children it’s no wonder she can’t afford to feed them all organic vegetables. I think she is doing a wonderful thing for her children; they won’t be the sort of kids who don’t know the difference between a potato and tomato.

Look like a pretty respectable front yard to me!

What a pompous jackass the Oak Park city council official is. Spouting the dictionary definition of suitable, to claim that only common ‘beautiful trees and bushes’ should be grown in the front yard. He clearly doesn’t have a clue. The whole concept of perfectly manicured front lawns with a few useless shrubs is an absurd concoction of ‘safe’ suburbia. Further, the Merriam-Webster dictionary also defines suitable as ‘adapted to a use or purpose’. I think she is acting with utmost suitability. Someone on the Facebook page (there’s always a Facebook page!) made a very good point. They can’t tax the tomatoes you share with your neighbour. There’s the trouble.

It is a basic human right to grow food to feed oneself. This isn’t just a council code issue, it is much bigger than that. Julie Bass owns her house and she should have the right to put a vege garden wherever she wants to. The world is in desperate need of more vegetable gardens, and the idea that this woman could go to jail for hers is ludicrous. I can’t imagine that she will be convicted once it goes to trial… surely a judge or jury wouldn’t be as narrow-sighted as Kevin Rulkowski? May I point out that a vegetable garden is so much more beautiful (and infinitely more productive and valid) than a patch of grass. Ugh, conformity.

If you read her blog, she states all the things she didn’t do, because Oak Park doesn’t allow it. Bees, chickens, goats, compost, windmill… I feel so sad that she has her own land and wants to do all these things for her family and the planet, and some bureaucratic nonsense means she can’t. In an ideal world, she’d get an award for what she’s done, not jail time!

However, I think it’s great that she is getting so much support from all over the world. Goes to show there are plenty of aware people out there! A pity they probably don’t want to work for city council. Imagine what could get done!

I say we all plant vege gardens in our front yards in solidarity!*

*To be honest, I don’t plan to be in this flat for long, so I don’t really want to go to the effort of putting in a garden. But I am growing veges and herbs in pots on my stairs and porch… which you can see from the street! 

Macsyna King and free speech

30 Jun

Here in New Zealand, there has been a huge public outcry against the publication of a book. Macsyna King had two little twin boys who were murdered at the age of 3 months. Wikipedia has an explanation here. For an account, see: The Kahui Twins: Murder – and the cover-up. Both articles are horrifying reading. There are so many things wrong with this story. Obviously the main tragedy is that the twins were fatally abused in such an awful way. I was also concerned to read that CYF removed the twins’ 12 month old brother and 6 month old cousin, who were treated in hospital for ‘injuries resulting from neglect’ and malnourishment. That’s the good bit. The bad bit is that they were due to be returned to their parents a few months later. Those poor children. Thank goodness no one in the family would step up and be their caregiver.

Although I agree in theory that every effort should be made to support parents and kin so that children can stay with the birth family, I am horrified that these children were due to be returned. Back to a family responsible for injuries, neglect, malnourishment, filth, and two homicides. Sometimes the family they are born to is the worst place for children to be.

I was quick to join the Facebook page Boycott the Macsyna King book. I wasn’t the only one: within one day there were over 30,000 members. There are now over 42,000 and the number jumps if you refresh the page. Child abuse is clearly something the general public have no tolerance for.

It does lead me to wonder about the question of free speech and how that applies in a situation like this. No one has been convicted of the twins’ murder, but someone killed them. So their mother has teamed up with journalist Ian Wishart and written a ‘tell-all’ book.

Of course they’re allowed to write a book. And no one has to read it. Lots of people probably will, because the human race seems to be a sucker for schadenfreude. What else can explain horror movies and crime shows? Anyway, that’s a whole different topic. Free speech is a basic human right and we are all entitled to it. But I agree with the detractors: it just doesn’t feel right that she is trying to sell a book and profit from the death of her baby boys. If she wants ‘the truth to be known then they can make it available as a free e-book. And if she isn’t profiting from it, as Ian Wishart says, who is?

It brings to mind the case of the e-book sold on Amazon about how to be a paedophile. I don’t remember the exact details but the blurb was something about how to not get caught, and how to do it right. It was sickening. No one likes to be confronted with examples of child abuse and paedophilia, but I was disturbed by Amazon’s free speech stance on the book. Unlike the Macsyna King book, it wasn’t a ‘tell-all’, it was a ‘how-to’. Eventually after an intense amount of public protest, they removed the listing.

Here in New Zealand, Paper Plus and The Warehouse have already declared they won’t be stocking the book. I’m glad about that. Free speech means that they are free to write the book. They’re not being arrested or lynch mobbed for it (at least not physically, they’re almost being cyber-mobbed). But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. It’s not even so much about the book itself. It’s about the public and the retailers making a statement that child abuse is not OK. Stonewalling police investigations into infant homicide is not OK. The lifestyle that these people led is really no way to live. Bring this to the forefront of people’s attention. Make it absolutely clear that the sort of behaviour the Kahui family and associates have displayed is not acceptable.  In the video I linked to above, author Ian Wishart asks ‘what went wrong here, and what can we learn from this?’ which I think are valid questions. Emotionally though, I just can’t deal with the book and the case.

Eventually, people will forget all about it. I wish I dared to hope that this sort of tragedy would never happen again. New Zealand has one of the highest child abuse rates in the developed world. I feel ashamed to say that. It makes me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. When I think of my precious little boy I can’t imagine how anyone could possibly abuse a child. Something has gone seriously wrong in this society and it hurts like heck.

With My Own Two Hands

27 Jun

Amen, Ben Harper.

Some encouragement to keep doing ‘this’

27 Jun

I wrote the title of this post and then thought “What is ‘this’?”

‘This’ can alternately be described as ‘turning into the kind of hippy my teenage self would be horrified at’, and ‘becoming a responsible citizen’. It seems that nowadays, being a responsible adult means paying your bills and keeping the wheels of the industrial cog turning. That’s not enough. It never was, but particularly not anymore. So for me, ‘this’ is learning how to live a good life. ‘This’ is following the green dream, and turning it into the norm.

Sometimes it’s really hard. I’d like things to be a bit simpler sometimes. But let’s forget all the difficulties for the moment. The important thing, when it comes down to it, is that this is all important stuff. And in many ways, it’s really exciting and challenging too! (Challenging is usually a positive word in my vocabulary.)

Today I started reading this cool little e-book: Ten ways to Chillax and Have Fun as you Live Your Green Dreams. I recommend checking it out. I think the title is pretty self explanatory, so enough from me.

The Story of Ten Ways to Chillax and Have Fun As You Live Your Green Dreams from Happy Writers on Vimeo.

The people who stabbed my baby

20 Jun

I feel awful today. It was my son’s 15 month vaccinations this morning. He had no idea what was coming, but I have been dreading it all week since I forced myself to make the appointment. At his 6 week, 3 month and 5 month shots, I didn’t feel quite so bad, because he didn’t have much understanding of what was going on. It hurt, he screamed, got a cuddle, and he went to sleep. There were two injections at the last three batches, but three this time – one in each leg and one in his arm. This time, I had to hold him down so he didn’t wriggle away. He cried so hard, that awful cry when you can’t quite catch your breath. I had his dummy on hand and gave him a big cuddle and lots of kisses, and yes, I was crying too. I told him that he had a big ouch-y but that he would feel better soon and he was such a brave little boy.

We had to sit in the consult room for 20 minutes in case he had a reaction, and every time he heard footsteps along the hall, he clutched on to me and started crying again. Oh, my heart! I felt mad at his Dad because our son has had four lots of vaccinations now and he hasn’t seen a single one. He was determined to get him vaccinated (I wasn’t sure either way so I went along with his decision) and yet he has never seen him in pain like that.

I still can’t make up my mind about vaccinations, and I hope we’ve done the right thing. I couldn’t find any convincing research against vaccinations. The autism link was shaky, and disproved not long ago. There have been stories of bad reactions to vaccinations, but there are stories about bad reactions to everything. Children die in car crashes but I still take my son in the car. Children have severe reactions to peanuts, dairy, strawberries, fish, etc., but I offer my son all types of food. A little boy choked to death on a piece of apple a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean that no one should ever eat apples again. Children die of all sorts of things, and it’s awful awful awful, but that doesn’t mean we should all live in bubbles. Although I tend to err on the natural side of things, I also didn’t want my son to contract whooping cough, or meningitis. To me that is scarier than a possible and unproven link to a side effect. The rates of the diseases we vaccinate against have plummeted since they developed vaccinations, and there is a sense of community responsibility too.

I have had asthma since I was seven, and diabetes since I was eight, and I wouldn’t have survived my pregnancy if it weren’t for the hospital, so I am more inclined than some to trust medical science. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for taking pharmaceuticals every day. The list of ingredients in vaccinations is intimidating, but like I said, I didn’t feel strongly enough about not doing it to go against my husbands wishes to do it. But how I hate it. I hate those huge needles that go into my son’s tiny tender thighs, and the way he cries with betrayal.


18 Jun

People were created to be loved.
Things were created to be used.
The reason the world is in chaos,
is because things are being loved,
and people are being used.

Good friends and books

18 Jun

Although I yearn for country village life, I do love my city. I especially love the way it glows at night, with all the lights reflected on the harbour. Wellington is a heck of a place.

Now that my son stays with his Dad overnight on Saturdays, I suddenly have time to myself. I had none of this for the first 14 months of his life, so I’ve been rather enjoying it for the last few weeks. The last two weeks I have been hanging out with my best friend all evening, and it’s been great. There’s nothing like spending time with someone whose company you really enjoy, someone who really ‘gets’ you. We don’t get drunk or anything, we just sit around and drink tea and chat, and eat food, and go for walks through the rainy nighttime city. We haven’t always lived in the same place over the last few years so it is really nice to be geographically close again.

The other thing I am feeling really good about today is a book project I am working on. It’s to do with babies and sleep and not letting them cry themselves to sleep, but that’s all I will say for now because I don’t want anyone to steal my idea!

Also; totally unrelated, but here is some frivolous fun:

My hopes and dreams…

17 Jun

… are currently tied up in this place: Atamai Village, near Motueka, in the South Island of New Zealand.

Doesn’t it look amazing?

Me and my Grandma on the piece of land my Mum is hoping to buy at Atamai. What a view, eh?! (My Mum is behind the lens, which is how she prefers it. The baby is asleep in the carrier.)

My Mum is in negotiations to move there. I hope someday I can too. I think about it every day. I’m working really hard to try and earn money to save, increase my useful skills*, and generally walk the walk. How I long to be part of it.

*I just sent off enrolment forms to study a Certificate in Organic Horticulture, and a Certificate in Landscape Design. Part time distance learning, of course. 


16 Jun

Blimmin’ heck…

Home for life

5 Jun

For those of you who come here to read my ramblings about Peak Oil and permaculture and raw food and such like, I apologise for my parenting-focused posts of late. It’s just at the forefront of my brain right now, and for some (sometimes annoying) reason, I have no concept of privacy and always need to write my thoughts down.

Although it has only been 7 weeks since my husband and I separated, I am considering more children. I know, I know, but hear me out. I always wanted a big family. At least four children, thanks. Then I got pregnant. What followed was 3 months of hell as I spent seven weeks in hospital with severe nausea and vomiting. As in, all the time. It didn’t stop when I slept. I often didn’t sleep because it didn’t stop. For six days I couldn’t talk or move. It was awful awful awful. Although the severe nausea abated at 16 weeks, I continued to take anti-emetics for the whole pregnancy and felt mildly nauseous most days. It’s hard to imagine how it feels unless you’ve felt it, but it really is hellish.

So I am not in a rush to get pregnant again, but dangit, I love children! I love my little boy more than I can describe (how often have you heard that said?), and I know that there is also room in my heart for more children. When I was still married, permanent foster care or adoption wasn’t an option, because my husband could ‘only love his own children’. Personally, I don’t need to have given birth to a kid to love him/her. So foster care or adoption is actually a really appealing prospect for me.

Last year the NZ government announced a programme called ‘A Home for Life’, where children who can’t go back to their birth families are placed in a ‘home for life’. To me it seems like a different way of going about adopting a child, but I’m sure there are some differences that I’m not aware of. I would love to foster and then permanently care for another child. According to the CYFS website it doesn’t matter if you’re married or single, work full time or stay at home, own your own home or rent. If you have the resilience and love to provide a permanent home for a needy child, they will consider you. They offer financial assistance as well as ongoing support from a social worker.

I have more than enough room in my heart, and I’m sure my son would love a brother or sister. The idea of there being unloved children in the world has always made me incredibly sad. I used to want to start up my own orphanage or child’s refuge where I can nurture children who have been neglected. (I was only a child myself at the time.) I know it’s not easy to look after a child who has had a traumatic start to life, and it’s not easy to ‘get’ a child. But I have no doubt that ‘Home for Life’ or something similiair is something I can do. So I am seriously considering applying. I’d like to attend their seminars and find out more information. My only hesitancy is that I really love babies and I’m guessing they have more older children who need homes. I’m confident with babies but I’m not sure how to deal with older children who have been abused, neglected, or otherwise traumatised. But that is something to think about further down the line.

Schooling in the context of Peak Oil

5 Jun

With all this thinking I’ve been doing about homeschooling, I have come to the point of considering it particularly in the context of Peak Oil. I’ll be honest here; if I thought society were to continue on as it currently is, then I would be more reluctant to homeschool. I don’t want my kid to be the weird one. I was the poor hippie kid with a single mum and was bullied at primary school and while this is part of the reason I am interested in homeschooling, it’s also part of my personal stigma against it. I wanted my kids to be normal.

Despite the fact that I now recognise the goodness of much of my childhood and appreciate the great things my alternative mum did for me, I am not quite over the desire to just fit in. The other day I was at the Southern Cross for a free mama massage, and a mother there had pikelets for her daughter. I thought ‘what a good snack idea’ and resolved to make some. Mine were made with wholemeal flour, A2 milk, free range eggs, honey, and oats and raisins, rather than white flour and sugar. I watched my son devour them and thought ‘uh oh, I’ve turned into that parent’. I’m glad that my son is eating more nutritious pikelets, but part of me still wants him to be the normal kid I never was.

However, I have been thinking that by the time my son would be due to start school (2015), there may not be the option of public schooling anyway. If there is, it could be so radically different that it either becomes really valuable and I won’t need to homeschool, or even worse than it already is because there are fewer resources but parents have to send their kids there. I don’t know exactly what impact the energy crisis will have on schooling, but it will be massive, just like everything else.

In the post-crisis world, I foresee that my kid won’t be weird for not going to school. Perhaps we will have a return to more traditional tribal / village life; where the kids learn what they need to know to survive. He won’t be the odd one out. Of course I will teach him to read and write and other academic things. But he will get much more use out of learning about how to grow vegetables and build a compost, how to bake bread and preserve fruit, how to carve wood and weave baskets, how to fix things and build things, how to mediate and listen, care for chickens, and understand the weather.

It definitely sounds like I am leaning more towards unschooling, but I think as many homeschoolers have found their own paths, I will find my own path too.

It also sounds like I have made up my mind, which I haven’t. But perhaps I have and just haven’t admitted it to myself yet.

Homeschooling / unschooling

3 Jun

It’s getting kinda late and I really should be in bed, because I have a toddler and I don’t get to sleep in on a Saturday morning. But a friend just posted this fascinating article on Facebook and I can’t stop thinking about it.

No Thank You, We Don’t Believe In Socialization! by Lisa Russell from The Mystical Kingdom

I have wavered between thinking that homeschooling or unschooling is the only way to go to truly help my son become the kind of adult he’d like to be (and help him create a better world), and thinking there is no way I could cope with homeschooling him, provide a rich enough education, and that after five years of full time parenting, won’t I deserve a break?

It’s interesting to note that the two opposing thoughts are: what is best for me, and what is best for him. If I am really honest with myself, I think that homeschooling him is the best thing for him. IF, and only if, I can remain motivated, dedicated, and have a spirit of joy and curiosity while helping him learn. But for me? Perhaps it’s because we are only just out of the very demanding baby phase and into the very demanding toddler phase, but part of me is really looking forward to him growing a bit older and being able to be away from me for periods of time. This subject is really far too big for this meagre blog post at 10.26pm, but Lisa’s article has really got me thinking again. I really want to read the rest of her blog posts but I really will go to bed after this post.

What she says about socialisation, the ‘real world’ and bullies makes so much sense that I wonder why I have any doubt. And I tell myself that although things can be pretty tiring now, he is only 15 months and likes to be carried. A lot. He can’t really talk. He can feed himself food that I give him but he makes one heck of a mess. He’s in nappies. By the age of three, these factors won’t apply. And I don’t even have to have a strict or structured curriculum; we can learn together. If we live in a village then he will learn incredibly valuable skills just by being part of village life and having the freedom to pursue the things he is interested in. So: pressure off, tiredness dismissed.

In the context of the looming energy crisis, we don’t even know what kind of schools will be available. So perhaps it is better for me to prepare myself for homeschooling than to keep wavering until the decision is made for me, either way.

So many more thoughts on this, but for now, bed…

Cheap childcare

3 Jun

I confess, the idea of putting my toddler in daycare really does not appeal. I have a couple of close friends who are early childhood teachers, and I mean no disrespect to their wonderful profession. I hope that my son benefits from early childhood education when he is older. But it is simple, as far as I can see. No one except family is going to give your baby the loving and focused care you do. Although there are good things about daycare, it is just not for me while my son is under two years old.

But sometimes I need a break, sometimes I need to work, sometimes I need to get things done. So how do you get quality childcare when you have no spare moolah? Cheap childcare doesn’t have to mean bad childcare. Here are some positive ideas for single and two parent families:

Babysitting co-op

Say you have a few friends who are keen to swap some evening babysitting. For those on low budgets, having to pay a babysitter can make the difference between being able to go out once in a while, and having to stay at home all the time. I remember babysitting for $10 for a whole evening; these days the going rate is more like $15 per hour.

So you all get together and agree on some basic rules. Safety, screen time, food, etc. Whatever is important to you. I like the idea of buttons or poker chips, or some other ‘babysitting currency’. Each member of the group gets 10 buttons. Each button represents half an hour of babysitting. This means that you don’t have to do a direct swap. You ‘pay’ your friend to babysit, and receive buttons when you babysit for them. No money needs to be spent, and you can all be sure that your child is being cared for by someone you know and trust.

This one is a bit more difficult for single parents, because you can’t necessarily leave your child at home with the other parent. But they could sleep where you are if that works for both parties. And if it’s during the day they can easily come and play with the other children. Also, a word of caution to Dads. I have a friend who was part of a babysitting co-op who eventually got fed up of doing all the babysitting while her husband did none and still got the benefit of a cheaper night out. You can have as many members as you like in this co-op. The more you have, the more likely it is you will have someone who can be available when you need them. Just make sure all members know and trust each other.

Childcare swap

This involves one friend, and a direct swap. For example, my friend Jess and I have toddlers two weeks apart in age. We look after each other’s child, along with our own, one afternoon a week each. The day and time changes according to our schedules. We both trust each other and because our kids are close in age they are on the same level. I can imagine it would be harder with an 18 month old and a 6 month old, for example. Although still possible of course! We work it so that the babysitter goes to the child’s house. We figured that it would be more relaxing for the child whose parent wasn’t there to be at their own home.

Private creche

This is a bit like a cross between the swap and the co-op. Say one morning a week, you have an extra two children at your house. It helps if the children are similiar ages and get along. In return, your child goes to the other children’s houses on another two mornings a week. So you get two free mornings in return for one morning looking after two other children. You already have the toys and a childproofed home for your own little one; chances are it will be even more exciting when he or she has a couple of friends to play with.

As the children will be awake (as is unlikely with the evening babysitting co-op – although there’s no reason the co-op can’t be operated during the daytime) it’s important to agree on things like safety and discipline. The other parents can drop off their children with nappies and snacks, or you can agree to provide snacks for all the children on your duty day.


This isn’t childcare, exactly, but it is amazing how relaxing it can be to just sit down and have a cup of tea while your child plays with another. I have found that when we are out and about my son is far too absorbed in what’s going on to get grumpy about anything, and having a whole new set of toys to play with, as well as another little person, really stimulates him. No cost, no pressure, just hanging out. I kinda feel like I’m having a break, even though I’m still on call for nappy changes and feeding. It’s hard work entertaining a 14 month old boy, so it eases that aspect of parenting for a couple of hours.


Wish I had some of these around. Having someone look after your child who does it for the pure joy of it is priceless in more than one way. My brother is a really helpful and loving babysitter which is wonderful, but he does expect some fiscal compensation.

Au pairs

This option is well out of my budget and unnecessary for me. But if I had a few kids, a spare room, and worked full time, or at least more part time, I would totally hire an au pair. Part of their cost is offset in board, and in my opinion, being exposed to a different culture and language is brilliant for children.

And last but not least…

WINZ childcare subsidy

If I were to put my son in an approved daycare, I would receive a subsidy of $3.84 per hour. Currently my work commitments don’t require me to put him in daycare but it’s possible that in another 6 – 12 months I may need to have him in care one day a week or something like that and the subsidy would certainly help. If you are in NZ, it’s definitely worth investigating the childcare subsidy – even if you’re not on the DPB.

Community currency

If you’re a hairdresser or you have some spare honey from your beehives, consider joining a community currency programme like LETS, Green Dollars, or other. You could ‘trade’ your skills in return for childcare. (Obviously hairdressing and honey aren’t the only useful things you can trade.) I haven’t yet found out what my local community currency is or who to contact to join it, but you can be sure I will!