Friday, 13 March 2015

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett

There are 42 Terry Pratchett novels and two maps on our bookshelves. I read my first book of his, The Carpet People, so long ago I forget what year it was - maybe 1989. Pyramids, my first Discworld, followed sometime after. For more than two decades I have read at least one new book of his a year. My Christmas Pratchett is now a tradition.

Today I heard he had died. I knew it was coming of course. Alzheimer's is one of the worst things that can happen to you - the knowledge that your mind is going to slowly, inevitably, disintegrate. Even if he had never written a word, how he handled the diagnosis, using it as an opportunity to campaign for more investment in Alzheimer's research (including in a BBC documentary that was both funny and heartbreaking) and for the right to die, would have made him an extraordinary man.

I wrote Sir Terry a letter when I was in high school and was delighted to get a thorough, thoughtful response. Given this is someone who must have received hundreds of fan letters a year, that says a lot.

I met him once too, on 14 November 2002, at a book signing in Hamilton. I was a librarian and we talked about that. He was not a fan of the computerisation of libraries - no doubt he loved those long, dim corridors of slumbering knowledge that led into L Space. I did too.

As a writer, he was truly brilliant, prolific but relentlessly excellent - at least until the last few books, when the plots (probably for obvious reasons) lost some of their tightness. He was hilarious, but much more than a comedian. He was exciting, but more than a thrill-merchant. His books are filled with a learned, clever, liberalism. He hated snobbery and bigotry, and loved the underdog. Like all great novels his best books give us insights into that strange, messy thing called humanity.

And how can you not love a man, after death, tweeted this?

RIP Terry Pratchett. You made me smile. You made me cry.

Terry Pratchett

Some links of note:
Press release announcing death.
Wonderful tribute on The Guardian.
Daily Telegraph rolling summary.
Neil Gaiman.
Selected quotes.
Last tweets.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Lily at one, Amotai at three

A strange thing just occurred to me. Spring will never be what it was.

Of course the arrival of the season has always been nice: blossoms, daffodils, ducklings, the return of warmth and sunny evenings. It's not quite as dramatic as it is in the UK because we have so many evergreens and the winter isn't so grim, but it's still an uplifting time. But now, for us it is even nicer because both of our children were born in the early Spring. A beautiful day at this time of year will always remind me of the day we took Amotai home and took him out on the deck to get his first sunshine (a couple of days before we should have, which might explain his olive complexion), or of light streaming through the windows of the lounge while Lily lay in her basket.

Both of our children had their birthdays in the last month, Lily's first and Amotai's third. We had a horrendous run of illnesses in early September, with Lily picking up hand, foot and mouth at creche, then passing it on to Amotai, who scratched his sores and picked up a virulent bacterial infection. Then, when Lily was finally well enough to return to creche she got rotavirus. A vomiting baby with spots, a runny nose and explosive diahorrea is not one of my top parenting experiences.

Thankfully they were through this by the time their birthdays came around, so we had some lovely times with them and with family who traveled a long way to visit us.

So now Lily is one, and not really a baby anymore. And Amotai is three. As he would say "I'm not a little boy, I'm a big boy!" This is a snapshot of our children.

The most physically remarkable things about Lily have always been her mop of hair and bright blue eyes. First thing in the morning her head looks like a haystack with sapphires hidden inside.

She's a feisty little thing, quite independent compared to Amotai and with a mean angry face (usually when something is taken from her, which unfortunately her brother does a lot). She's very keen to explore - particularly now she's walking. The speed that she's picked it up is amazing - it seems like in the last week she's gone from 80% crawling to 80% walking. She's even able to walk carrying things now, particularly her newfound favourite toy, Grumpy Cat.

Giving Grumpy Cat a brush
Lily's other likes? There's singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, which is something she picked up from creche (at least there was something aside from illness). There's books too, which she's recently become really interested in. Initially it was the touch and feel ones like the That's not my... series, now it's others like the charming Toddle Waddle and classic Brown Bear and sequel Baby Bear.

It's nice to say that she also likes it when Dad comes home. I usually get a grin, a crawl or toddle over to me and "Dadadadadadad".

At Staglands
Amotai often gets complimented on what a good boy he is, and he is, but recently he has belatedly entered the terrible twos or, given his age, become a 'threenager'. That means he often gets stroppy as he tries asserting control of his world - he's very particular about certain things, such as how sandwiches are cut or which parent does what, and will very firmly let you know what he doesn't want.

Grumpiness is the exception to the rule though. He's a sweet boy who loves cuddles, almost always summoning me to give him one in bed during the night, books, playgrounds, Peppa Pig, the Wiggles and going to sleep with soft toys Pinky (my old elephant), Bluey (his new elephant) and Babydoll.

Most of all he loves things with wheels, a fascination he's had since he was a baby and I used to take him to watch the traffic on the road outside. He loves riding his bike (particularly if I'm riding the dump truck behind him) and lining up his cars - like his Dad he finds it satisfying putting things in order.

Also like his Dad, I think he's a slight introvert - though he does have some good friends in Cooper, Scarlet and particularly Cassandra, who's been his best mate since they were one.

They're two different people, our kids, but they like each other and we love them. Looking forward to many, many Springs to come!

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Samoan sojourn

At long last, a travel entry! Boy, Lauren and I have been craving an overseas trip and our six days in Samoa really hit the spot. The timing was particularly good as we were starting to feel the gloom of winter closing in around us and I'd be really busy at work.

Despite rave reviews from friends, we were a bit dubious about how the break in Samoa would be. We stayed at Aggie's Grey's Resort, which was our first time doing a resort holiday. It was also our first overseas holiday with two kids, both of whom are very young. Would the humidity turn them into little balls of grumpiness?

So, was it a dull, stressful, hot, waste of money? Thankfully no. It was great!

People travel for a few different reasons, such as partying, adventures or relaxation. Two little kids means we don't do any of the first two any more and, while we were hoping for some of the latter, we knew that after more than a day of chilling out on a beach and/or a pool we'd be bored. We primarily travel for the exotic, the feeling of being somewhere different.

With that in mind I think we, like many in New Zealand, saw the Pacific Islands (or at least the ones on the tourist radar) as a bit tame. Beautiful beaches, but if you want exotic, you go further afield, say to South-East Asia.

Well, we were wrong. Samoa really, really feels like being in a different part of the world. Pigs, dogs, chickens and shirtless children wandering across the main road. Lizards climbing on walls, a rhinocerous beetle outside the door. Palms overlooking fales, the traditional houses that are everywhere.

And the churches. Almost every village has one that is fancier than almost every church in New Zealand. Though I note that shortly after driving past the church below ...

... the main road around the island turned into this one-lane, pot-holed track.
We turned back when puddles covered the road and the jungle closed in.

Well, it's up to the Samoans how they choose to prioritise their spending. When we stopped in one village and heard magnificent choral singing coming through the dusk, we wondered who was happier - New Zealanders with our wealth and infrastructure, or Samoans with their family and religion.

But while it has exotic charms, Samoa also feels comfortable. English is widely spoken, the locals are wonderfully friendly and there are the strong ties to New Zealand. The local paper, for example, had news of the sex scandal involving a Samoan-New Zealand Shortland Street actress and lots on the Super 15.

Those ties were another reason why we went. Samoan is the third-most commonly spoken language in New Zealand and Samoan-New Zealanders, from Tana Umaga to Oscar Kightley, are an important part of this country's culture. It's good to get a feeling for where they come from.

Being only there for six days and biting off small chunks of it, not wanting to push the kids too far, we've only seen a little of what Samoa has to offer. We'll be back soon.

Next time, Savai'i!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Why I will keep spending money on my children

On Facebook recently a few people have shared an article from the Telegraph about a woman's quest to not spend anything on her son for twelve months. In summary, the woman's goal was, for an entire year, not to spend money on kid-specific food, clothes, toys, activities, nappies or haircuts.  The shared article (and her blog entries) are then usually followed by comments by women noting how little they've bought their children and how often their children wear hand-me-downs. Or, how guilty they feel about the money that they do spend.

Now, as a disclaimer, I do agree that kids probably don't need half of what is bought for them, and that in theory it's wasteful to spend loads on clothes that are worn for a short period of time when they can be acquired second hand relatively easily. There are also loads of things to do with your children that are free, nature is the best playground and so on, and that landfills being filled with disposable nappies can't be a good thing.  According to my Facebook feed, I know some people who haven't bought anything for their children at all, and I know women who very rarely use disposable nappies. Good on them, I say.

But, after giving the issue some thought, I have very clearly decided that this path isn't for me and I will keep spending money on my children. Here's why:

Sunday, 5 January 2014


I love lists. I really do. What's not to love? They're ordered, easy, and clear. I love lists so much I even added a 'Lists Glorious Lists' tag to this blog, which sits at the bottom of 27 posts. So, I was amused to read that, apparently, I have been the author of 'listicles', a growing trend among allegedly lazy bloggers and journalists. Some people, it turns out, really hate them. Of course this makes me want to stamp my feet and yell to the rooftops that I was writing listicles long before they became a 'thing'. Much like the 'selfie', which Tane and I have been taking for years before Kim Kardashian did the duckface. 

Instead, though, I decided to write a list of 3 reasons why I will continue to blog using lists:
  • Lists are cool. Says me. They are also great because they impose order on the world. 
  • I only learnt the word 'listicle' last week, so surely that means I haven't been writing them? 
  • Because I want to.
So there. I hope that the listicle haters out there are quivering in their boots at this small act of defiance. 

Road trip ... with two kids

In the movies, a road trip has young people, loud music, soul searching and shenanigans. Travelling with Amotai and Lily this holiday had all of those things. If by young people, you mean under three, and the loud music includes a singalong to 'Old MacDonald' whenever Amotai spots a cow. Soul searching of the 'where is the next good playground ?' variety occurs often, and shenanigans includes a naked swim in Lake Taupo (by a toddler). So, it's just like the movies, although the lake swimming scenes may be edited out so the rating doesn't creep to high. 

Long car trips with children - this holiday involved about 25 hours of car time over 10 days - are a whole different kind of travel experience. First, we needed to take so much stuff, our poor little hatchback was bursting at the seams. Second, things take longer, once rest stops are built in. And most importantly, you can plan for every eventuality, but still end up breast feeding somewhere random by the side of the road or keep driving for much longer than your bladder wants you to as the kids are asleep and a toilet stop would inevitably wake them. 
Sometimes the passenger seat is the best place for a rest

Monday, 23 December 2013

Things travel and stay-home parenthood have in common

Travel and parenthood tend to be placed on opposite ends of some sort of fun/responsibility spectrum, where one end is how you spend the footloose and fancy free part of your life before the grown-up and responsible phase kicks in. Travel is supposed to be the thing you get out of your system, before you start caring about interest rates and decile rankings. The closest I have gotten to real travel recently is looking at other people's pictures on Facebook.

I have been thinking today, though, about how there is a lot that stay-home parenthood and travelling actually have in common.  Perhaps I have too much time on my hands as a stay home mum, and perhaps I am grasping at straws in a deluded fashion, but here are ten things they have in common:

1. Sleep deprivation.  Jet lag wakes you at odd hours, and we had many an early morning to catch a bus, plane or train. So, it's just like now with a toddler.and a newborn!

2. Sleeping in odd uncomfortable places. An airport floor while waiting for an early flight. A toddler's bed when they can't sleep on a stormy night. The discomfort of an Indian slat bed. The discomfort of the aforementioned toddler deciding my pillow is just the place for his feet when the storm does lull him to sleep. Exactly the same!

3. Being hassled. When travelling, I was often hassled to buy a person's wares, or to give them money, or to ride in their taxi/auto rickshaw/tuk tuk. Now I'm hassled to put on Peppa Pig and provide a never ending supply of Tiny Teddies.

Friday, 13 December 2013

7 years of blogging

I realized earlier today that Tane and I started this blog seven years ago. So, I thought that was worthy of an entry in itself, especially as we are closing in on 20,000 hits and 370 posts.

This started off as a general blog about whatever took our fancy, then morphed into a travel blog, and is now about our children more than anything else.

2006: Younger and less creaky versions
In the past seven years we've traveled to 35 countries, got married, had two children, and had plenty of random thoughts that we've thought worthy of a post. We've written some entries that still get almost daily hits even though they are five years old, and some that probably have only ever been skim read. We've received abuse from a clearly disgruntled Bulgarian who didn't agree with our assessment of their country, and odd comments from a Holocaust denier on my entry about Auschwitz. There are posts like this one about movies that are better that the books that I've been meaning to update for years, and posts that make me cringe. We've also been approached through our blog and asked to be on TV news. I even wrote one post that I had to take down, about my experience doing a pole dancing lesson in 2007, as I found the number of hits creepy. Serves me right for putting 'pole dancing' in the title I suppose.

We've gone through phases when we've blogged often and had long periods where I'd like to say we were too busy, but it was probably more laziness than anything else. Plus, after blogging about travelling the world, updates on my day now don't feel quite so glamorous. I'm sure you'd much rather read about what we were doing this time four years ago in Mexico and Guatemala than the most noteworthy part of my day today. I'll be vague to make it sound mysterious, but here's some clues: it involved bad smells, two children being plonked in the bath and copious amounts of carpet cleaner. It certainly isn't an experience you'd want photos of. 

The last seven years has also seen the rise and the fall of the blog. Back in 2006, everyone was getting them. Blogs were the new black. Our list of 'friends with blogs' was long, and these other blogs were updated often. I used to enjoy trawling through other people's blogs, commenting, and knowing they were reading ours in turn. 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Would a Lily, by another name ...

Names are strange and wonderful things.

Name the Devil, and he will appear. Find out someone's True Name and you will have power over them.

Name a baby and you turn sound into an identity. Something that was an apostle, a flower, your friend from primary school's brother or a weather system transforms to become, indelibly, a new person.

The name becomes the child and the child becomes the name.


Friday, 1 November 2013

Our girl

Five weeks ago today, our new baby Lily Raema was born. Already it's hard to imagine life without her hanging out in her Moses basket in the corner of the living room during the day, or when we only transported one child around at a time.

Lily now
Amotai November 2011
Lily is an absolute delight, and I am constantly surprised by how different she and Amotai seem already. They look fairly similar, but that's where it ends. I know it's easy to scoff at the idea of a five week old having clear differences in personality to her brother, but it's quite apparent in how she reacts to certain situations, and the rhythms she's fallen into. I love having Lily, and can't wait to watch her grow up. At the same time, I am also enjoying her newborn-ness, and don't want time to move too quickly. That's the thing with having a second child.  I am so much more aware of how transient this time is, and how big she'll become in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, Amotai told me that the horse in his book was going to the supermarket to buy grapes for Amotai to eat at the table, and food for me to cook. It's hard to believe that two years ago, it was him in the Moses basket. Who knows what Lily will be saying two years from now, 

Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Last Thursday

Two Thursdays ago was my last Thursday. By which I mean it was the last day I'll have at home from work with just Amotai. Both of my recent employers have been good enough to allow me to work longer hours on the other four days of the working week, plus chalk up some work during his nap, to be at home on Thursdays. This has helped me shift from being a stay-at-home dad to going back to work. It's been really good, for me as a dad and I think for him too. Mum, as you'd expect, is Amotai's number one parent, but the time off with him has helped even things up a little.

There was a time I got stuck in a rut of doing the same thing every week, and there's been times when it's been a bit stressful, when I had chores and urgent work to do and a boy who wasn't sleeping. But in the last few months, I've got the balance right. I juggled work so there was nothing with a deadline that day. I did more chores at other times so I could take it easy on Thursday. I mixed it up a bit and left our suburb or met a friend.
My memory is rubbish, so I'd like to record that last Thursday for posterity. If that sounds as interesting as staring at a beige wall (and non-parents especially, I totally understand) then read no more!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Pregnancy take two

It's with a real feeling of deja vu that I wrap up work almost exactly two years after I did last time, to have a baby due a mere three days before Amotai's second birthday. In many ways, being pregnant again feels very similar, especially as the seasons change at the same rate as I slow down. In both cases, I felt seedy and dehydrated in late summer, experienced the lovely second 'glowing' trimester over autumn and early winter, and am now starting to slow down at the same time that daffodils start to appear. I have now worn my ugly pregnancy coat for a second winter.

There are differences, though, doing this pregnancy malarkey a second time. Of note:

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Memory of Light and The Wheel of Time series reviews

It took more than two decades, 14 books and more than four million words. Hundreds of characters fighting and angsting and sniffing through dozens of intertwining and sometimes interminable plots. But finally, finally, The Wheel of Time fantasy series came to an end this year. I finished the final book, A Memory of Light a few weeks ago.

I've told the story of my stormy affair with The Wheel of Time before, in my entry about author Robert Jordan's tragic death. It's a bit weird to think that I've been reading it my entire adult life.

If you're planning to read A Memory of Light still, or want to read the series, don't read on if you want to avoid spoilers. Oh, and this is a long review. It's a long series. I've been reading it since 1991. And it's my blog, dammit (well, partly).

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

New land for old

Lauren, Amotai and I recently returned from Amotai's first trip overseas, and our big holiday for the year. It was a trip all about new stuff - we treaded new ground, heading to Sydney, the Blue Mountains and Adelaide, which we've not been to before (except for airport stopovers and a short trip to Sydney for work by Lauren a couple of years ago). And of course it was a new experience doing a big trip with a toddler. More on that in another entry.

We had a few doubts before the trip. Would Amotai cope with planes? Would he cope with being shunted around to lots of new and strange places? Would we get that buzz from travel, going to the culturally most similar country to home? Yes, sort of and hell yes.

I love going to new places. I get a mild kick out of walking down suburban roads I've never been on. I really like a new bush walk. New part of the world? Woop woop woop!

Sunset Rock, Mt Victoria, The Blue Mountains

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

All gone raisins

Something's happened to Amotai since Christmas. You're always aware that a baby/toddler is sucking up information like a vacuum cleaner and the speed at which they grown and change is (despite how many times you hear or say it) amazing. But in the last couple of months Amotai's brain seems to have been supercharged. It's as if you can see his synapses firing and neurons making new connections while you watch him.

I think the reason why he seems to have gone into cognitive hyperdrive is because he's talking so much more.   His first word was "dap" (clap), back in September last year. "Dat" (as in 'what's that') came soon after. After that he started saying other words, such as "did" (dad), but interestingly not 'mum', "bid" (bird), "tee" (tree) and "tar" (car). Tar, tar, tar, tar. Our boy sure does love his vehicles. I often stand holding him beside our driveway and we watch the traffic rush by. I'm always the one to crack first and go back inside. A few nights ago he said "yay car" in his sleep.

Amotai's favourite tar - Grandad Ray's Mondomobile

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Tane's reviews - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

So after bankruptcy, a change of director, strikes, a change of law and an extra movie, the first of The Hobbit films is finally here. I'm a Tolkien nerd - The Hobbit is one of the books I can first remember reading, and I read Lord of the Rings every year for a while. I'd not gone back to either book in more than a decade, but I'm enjoying a reread of The Hobbit and spent a happy hour today browsing the appendices at the end of Return of the King.

Doing this has reminded me of two things: firstly, I love Tolkien; secondly, there's so much material in The Hobbit and the background of Middle Earth you could easily make another trilogy. Whether Peter Jackson should have is another thing. To paraphrase one of my friends, it's hard to see how it's not going to mess with the story's narrative arc.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Non-motherhood things that have changed

As I said in my last entry, Amotai turned one a few weeks ago. It was a fabulous day, and special mention goes to both Tane's and my mothers as well as Marilyn for making epic journeys to Wellington especially. Amotai turning one had Tane and I both reflecting on the past year. 99% of the things we dwelt on pertain to our pointing, babbling, crawling, laughing little boy. There are some other things that have changed, however, that only indirectly relate to him:

1. National Radio. I never really listened to this before, but have grown to love it. There were days when Amotai was small and I was drowning in nappies that National Radio was the only time I engaged my brain for an entire day.

2. Getting to know the 'burbs. I fancied that I knew Wellington before. I realise now that I didn't really - all I knew was Central Wellington. Due to my antenatal group living all over town as well as joining up to all sorts of other activities in out of the way locations, for the first time I got to know places I'd only seen the signs to before.

3. Cheese. Mmmm. Cheese. Before getting pregnant, I had forgotten how delicious it is. Cheese, I will never forsake you again.

4. Baking. I've learnt how to bake and decorate a cake, motivated by wanting to do it myself for Amotai's birthday. In fact, I ended up making two in the end, a plan A and a plan B. I was stoked that both of them worked.

Friday, 5 October 2012

The obligatory cheesy entry about Amotai's first year

Tomorrow is Amotai's first birthday. 6 Oct 2011 started fairly normally - Tane went to work, I slept in, surfed the Internet, and emailed Stephen to complain about being one week overdue. I then waddled to the supermarket to buy drinks and dinner for two of my sisters, Mum and Step-father, nephew and two nieces who were due to come for dinner, and waddled home laden with bags. 'Twas a hard walk home indeed. Family came around, and nephew slobbered on my belly (we have since decided he has the kiss of labour.) At about 4pm we decided to buy Indian instead of what I had bought, and at 5pm on the dot I called Tane to asked what he wanted. Labour hit, and I had to put down the phone. A few hours of pain, swearing, excruciating drive to hospital, begging for epidural, being told no, pain, Mum trying to frantically re-book some plane tickets, more pain, a failed attempt to eat naan , Amotai getting in trouble, a dr being called and more pain later, Amotai was born at 9.26 pm. And there began what has probably been the most rewarding and awesome year of my life.
The day after he was born. When I remember Amotai in hospital, I always think of the Elvis collar on this outfit
I love being a mum. I loved being at home with Amotai, and really enjoyed all the groups I got involved with and other first-time mums I met. It's been fun watching Amotai grow, and getting to know him as he has gone from being a tiny baby to a little boy. It been fabulous seeing a different side of Tane - especially when he took his turn at being a stay home parent. There have been so many lovely moments watching Amotai learn and grow. From the day he was born, to today when I watched him as learnt that if you throw your toy trains to the back of the couch, you can no longer reach them. Apparently "dat dat brrrm brrrm" said while pointing means "Mum can you please reach my train for me?" It's been a great year, and I hope for at least 80 more.
Celebrating his last day in zero digits

Monday, 30 July 2012

Theoretical Qs about the Olympics

I tried to write a few other entries about the Olympics.  However, between gushing about the opening ceremony, writing about how I love seeing athletes from all over the world, and some self-indulgent navel gazing about my memories of past Games, the entries were all a bit crap. Especially as the Games are making me both really miss London and feel smug about having been to many of the places where events are taking place. I can't promise that my smugness won't be highly annoying, so watch the Games with me at your peril. Especially the upcoming events in Hyde Park, one of my favourite places in London. You have been warned.

So, instead of the above, I am going to revert writing a list of theoretical questions about the Olympics.

If you could watch one sport live, what would it be?

Me: 400m men's sprint. Tane: gymnastics, although he says it's for the skills involved not because of the girls in leotards.

If you could be a gold medalist in any sport, what would it be?

Me: swimming. I like the idea of being that good at swimming. Tane: a gymnast.

What sport would you never ever want to do?

Me: diving. Those boards are high. Tane: wrestling, for fear of getting his head stuck between a sweaty man's thighs.

How would we have staged the opening ceremony? Tane and I decided that it was fabulous as it was, but being a 1066 geek I would have loved to see a reinactment of Hastings in there somewhere.

Where should the Olympics in 2020 be held?

Istanbul! I don't think they have ever had one, and have no idea if they even want one. But still.

What sport would we discourage Amotai from doing?

Me: boxing. He only has 6 teeth, I wouldn't want to see them knocked out. Tane: weight lifting, after watching a Thai woman dislocating her elbow yesterday.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Bringing baby up bi-lingual

As many of you know, it's Maori language week this week. I always enjoy Maori language week, especially seeing how every year a little more of the language is used in mainstream media - yesterday the cities in the weather on the news were called by their Maori names, the NZ Herald changed their masthead, and my gym instructor talked about it. This is Amotai's first Maori language week, though, and it has got me thinking: how can I bring up a bi-lingual child? The studies detailing the benefit of a second language are endless - it's good for brain development, cultural awareness, and helps children learn other languages later. But, in practice, how can I bring up Amotai learning another language? Especially when my second-language skills are limited to basic Maori, conversational but not fluent Italian, basic Spanish, and one German module entitled "in the supermarket"?

Monday, 23 July 2012

Things our baby likes

Time rolls on, Our tastes change. Once upon a time I didn't like avocado or pumpkin. Once upon a time my favourite comic was Roy of the Rovers.

When you're under a year old, your tastes change a lot quicker. This is a snapshot of what Amotai is into in his ninth month in the world . It's also an excuse to put up some of my favourite recent photos.

If it rolls or spins, Amotai is a big fan.
Or, to be precise, the classic Rock-a-Stack toy - thanks heaps, Emma!
Sometimes when he's upset, nothing soothes him but a cuddle and a read of one of his favourite books: Brown Bear, Each Peach Pear PlumOne Mole Digging a Hole, Toddle Waddle and some of the That's Not My... series.
 Sleeping on his tummy
Not long ago he always slept on his back. Now it's always on his front. Lord knows how he manages to stay asleep in some of the positions he gets into.
Now he can crawl quickly and pull himself up, he is master of his domain. We say 'no' a lot now, when he goes for the laptop power cord, the phone, books and some other things. We're yet to see much of a deterrent effect.
 Other little people

He's a sociable little boy, which is really nice. Unless you're the kid whose hair he pulls.
 New things
In this case, the beach at Makara and the stones on it. Which, of course, he tried to taste.
Especially when she comes home from work. Speaking from experience, after a long day at the office that grin is the greatest thing in the world.
He's alright, the old man. He's particularly funny when he crawls after me trying to put my nappies on.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Movie reviews: The Dark Knight Rises and other superhero stuff

After a bazillion years, I'm moved to write some more reviews on my other blog. It's comic book movie stuff, which probably tells you something about what gets me going!

Monday, 2 July 2012

10 ways you know you're getting older

Tane and I were looking through photos earlier from when we had only been together about a year.  There were a few things that strike me about this photo: you can't see grey hair on either of us, we look much younger, and I don't think I've seen my Edmond's Cook Book since. When Amotai looks at this photo in years to come, I imagine he'll think his parents look like totally different people than the ones he knows. I also hope he doesn't look too much in the background, because he will see the rude shaped cookies our then flatmates baked.

This is one of many things recently that has made me feel that I am getting older. Wiser, of course, and happy with my age, but still older. These are others:

1. Feeling a little miffed when kids in uniform don't give up their seats on the bus. What an old fogey! I'd like to think in my day it was different, but it wasn't. I just didn't care.

2. Seeing clothes in Glassons that look exactly like the outfit I wore to the Form 2 disco. Have I really been through an entire fashion cycle in my life?

3. Playing board games with friends regularly, while having trouble remembering the last time I played drinking games.

4. Hanging out with friends and everyone comparing their sports injuries, physios and chiropractors. Being very aware of how I could injure myself whenever I do hard exercise.

5. Listening to the National Radio on the walk to work, rather than ZM. Feeling like I have read every Cosmopolitan and Cleo before.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Winter ...

Ah, winter. Yes, it's that time of year when I try and remind myself what I like about it in order to be more positive about the short days and cold nights. Since living in London, New Zealand winters always seem all the worse as I am constantly aware that, on the other side of the World, the days are long and friends are having a summer of European jaunts. So, here is my not-quite-annual-but-something-I-do-every-few-years list of things to be positive about this winter:

1. At least I can fit my nice coats this year. Last year, due to an ever-growing Amotai, I grew out of all my coats some time in May and spent the rest of winter wearing a $30 black monstrosity from the Warehouse. As soon as I shrunk again, I wanted to burn the coat.

2. Soup! Bread! Melted butter! Yum.

3. Dressing Amotai in cute wool sweaters, many which come courtesy of a fabulous knitting Great Aunt. I also like to dress him in woolly hats, but that is less fun now it is apparently funny to throw them on the ground from one's pram. Almost as funny as grabbing at glasses, it seems.

4. Lovely crisp days. We had one of these today in Wellington, and they are made all the more special by just how grateful I feel about seeing sun.

5. Living in a house with a heat pump. I've never had one before and it's awesome.

Does anyone have anything else to add?

(Yes, I know that I did 15 things last time I did such a list, and that some of them are the same, but it HAS been 5 years so figure it's OK ... )

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Stay-at-home fatherhood

One of the best features of New Zealand's parental leave laws is that the year of unpaid, job-protected leave can be split between both parents. Lauren finished up her stint in April and it's my seventh week of being a stay-at-home dad.

I've got a fine role model for this - my father's held the home front and looked after a succession of kids for decades, while mum went to work. It was a rare man who took on that role back in the 80s and it's still unusual now. Though things are slowly changing, even in liberal Wellington there are few stay-at-home dads. For example, when I take Amotai to a baby-focused activity (e.g. sing-a-long at the local library) there's about one man for every ten women. I've not seen another man at the Plunket talks I've been to.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The world Amotai will grow up in

Is anyone else really really happy that Facebook and blogs weren't around when we were teenagers? I know that a blog is by definition about self-indulgent navel gazing and grandstanding, but had they been around in my late teens/early 20s, it would have been even worse than it is now. I also shudder to think what sort of Facebook updates 15-year old me would have posted. I imagine they would have probably fluctuated between the ridiculous and pretentious to the ridiculous and weird. Cyberspace is a better place for not having a record of my teenage antics.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

E-readers: aye or nay?

I have had a mental block against e-readers pretty much ever since I found out they exist. My reasons are as follows:
  • I love the feel of a book.
  • I am worried that if I have an e-reader loaded with 1000 books, my attention span will reduce, meaning that I will vacillate between books rather than commit myself to reading one at a time.
  • I like having a house filled with books. I also enjoy having little piles of books around the house; my 'to read' pile, my 'to return to the library' pile.
  • You can't borrow books other people have downloaded, or lend other people books that you have downloaded. I enjoy lending other people books, and enjoy borrowing books even more. My sister has a Kindle and recently downloaded a book I want to read. That doesn't help me read it, so I am instead (im)patiently waiting for it to be free at the library.
  • I am worried about what e-readers will do to the book industry. I love a good bookshop and there are some excellent ones in Wellington - specifically Marsden Books and Unity Books.
  • I like the idea of Amotai seeing me reading books. Not looking at yet another screen.
  • I have heard that some conversions from paperback to e-reader have been riddled with mistakes, and in some cases, altered Tolstoy.
Amotai enjoys the classics
BUT, I can see some plus sides to having them. Namely:
  • They are easy to carry around. No more having to carry an extra bag to work to allow me to take a tome with me for lunchtime perusal.
  • I could download every single Agatha Christie. Awesome.
  • You can theoretically read books like Fifty Shades of Grey on the bus and no-one would know that you were reading something rude. Or you could read Salman Rushdie in Iran.  Or enjoy the new Lee Child while in the company of pretentious literati. It would be your little secret, much like listening to the Britney Megamix on your i-pod.
  • It is much cheaper than new books.
  • I do have far too many books. My sister's boyfriend just returned 7 (!) to me that I had totally forgotten having had lent him. Books are a pain to move.  Even with my current attempts to buy fewer books I still end up going to enough book fairs or being impatient with waiting for library books I still probably end up averaging a new one a month.
  • Amotai won't rip an e-reader.
  • The NZ book industry is pretty dire anyway, and sometimes I wonder if the Whitcoulls chain as a bookseller does not deserve to be saved. Their business model is terrible, and the owners seem to think that having 50 of one book in a pile is better than having 2 copies of 25 different books. The shops have minimal variety, and don't seem to stock books at all until they have hit a certain level of popularity. I tried to buy the Hunger Games there last July, the staff had never heard of it. Now there are about 100 copies in store, but it's too late - I got it from the Book Depository months before it was stocked.
So, I am still undecided, but think I will hold off getting one for the meantime. To be honest, I've never really been an earlier adapter to any new technology, so am in no hurry to fix something that's not broken. I am interested in your views though ...

Friday, 8 June 2012

When technology fails us

Is it just me, or is most modern technology built to break? Is it all a sneaky ploy to encourage us to keep buying new items? Or am I just stating the obvious when asking the question at all?

Our household has had three things break during the past week that have brought these questions to the front of my mind:

1. Tane's mobile phone. He bought it in 2003, and it is the only one he has ever owned. Yes, he might as well have been using a tin can connected to a string it is so old. Yes, he has owned the phone longer than he has even known me. Yes, the company that made the phone is no longer in business. But, kept it he did, and now he is faced with a whole new world of mobile phone technology when deciding what to replace it with. I will leave it to him to write an ode to his old phone worthy of its memory, but can guarantee that such an ode will be dripping with sentiment.

2. My 1 gb i-pod that I use for exercise. I bought this in Ealing in 2008, named it "Speedy", and have used it ever since for running and at the gym. I have no idea how many km's I've covered while wearing it, but I have worn it during one half marathon, one trail run, and during enough other runs to get an injury. More recently, I had worn it while going for long walks with Amotai around the streets of Wellington. I hope it's not lame to be sad about a broken i-pod, but I am gutted. I know I can buy a new one, but it won't be the same. RIP, Speedy.

3. Our tin opener. Unlike Tane's mobile and my i-pod, the tin opener is not loved at all. In fact, it is our third tin opener in a year. I was somewhat surprised that it broke a mere 2 months after it was bought. Perhaps it knew that it wasn't loved? Is this a cynical ploy to keep tin-opener makers in business?

Regardless, if any of you can advise any technological items that will last longer than a few years, please let me know. I feel like I have had my fair share of things break on me this week.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

A few words on a tragedy

Like many people, I am shocked and saddened by the fire in Doha yesterday that killed some triplets from New Zealand. This blog entry, written by the mother of another young victim, made it feel even more real and tragic.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

One year ago

What a year! From this, this time last year:

To this.

And at risk of sounding cheesier than a cheese burger, I'd take the mushed up food any day

Sunday, 1 April 2012

World-class tourism in your own backyard

A little while ago Lauren and I read this travel article. In it the author of the very popular book '1000 Places to See Before You Die' narrows her list down to just 10. On the list is Fiordland. Now, when someone who's done as much travel as Patricia Schultz has ranks somewhere in your country in the top 10, that's a pretty damn fine recommendation.

After reading this Lauren and I felt a bit sheepish. She's never been to Fiordland and I've only spent a few days (walking the wonderful Kepler Track and heading to Milford Sound, but not going out on the water) back during the epic South Island road trip of 2000 with Miikka, Ulf and Erin. So we decided that our first nuclear family holiday would be a trip to Queenstown and Te Anau.