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.

Monday, 26 March 2012

View from the front pack

Amotai is a big fan of the front pack. There is a lot to look at while strapped to my front, and plenty of strangers to give big, gummy grins to. Sometimes there are people who put the "strange" in "stranger", and find it appropriate to touch him and get into his (and my) personal space while cooing at him (looking at you, strange lady in the Karori post shop). But, by and large, he seems to really enjoy it. The places he gets to see the most often from the front pack are the supermarket, library, and local Four Square.
Here are some of the more interesting things he's seen from the front pack recently:
Takahe at Zealandia
Milford Sound

Sunday, 25 March 2012

The summer that was

Today felt like the end of summer. It was a lovely, sunny and warm day - though, this being Wellington, it was also windy enough to knock over the washing.

Talk to most people in the northern three quarters of the country and they'll grumble about what a rubbish summer it was. Lauren however, thinks it's been a very good one. Being at home, she's been able to make the most of the good days during the week while the rest of us are teathered to our desks. It's made me realise that, for workers, a summer is defined by how the weather is during the holidays and weekends - principally the Christmas-New Year break.

It's a shame that we load so much onto those days off. Remember those endless, lazy, sunburnt weeks between the end of school (or university) and the new term? One searing day fading into another. Those were summers.

This hasn't been one of those, but it has been a memorable summer - after all, it's the first one with Amotai. We've peppered the last few months with short holidays, so the poor lad has clocked up a lot of kilometres. First there was the trip to Dunedin for Lauren's sister's graduation.

With the new doctor. No pressure, Amotai.
Then there was the holidays in Opotiki and Napier.

Picnic in the bush
Walking around a pa site near Napier

... a whanau hui at a marae next to a Taranaki beach ...

... a wonderfully relaxing weekend on a farm in the King Country ...

Amotai attacked by the dreaded super head lice of Benneydale
... the only beach swim of the summer at Whanganui ...

... the fabulous Art Deco weekend in Napier

... our just-finished week in Te Anau and Queenstown ...

Autumn in Arrowtown
... and today, watching the cricket in Wellington.

On the Basin Reserve's sacred turf. No pressure, Amotai
And you know what? Enough moaning. It's been a bloody excellent summer.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The travel bug young

We decided to start Amotai young with the travel, taking him on a plane trip to Dunedin when he was two months old. Hopefully, as the photo demonstrates, this is a good indication of how all future plane trips will go.
When thinking about travel, Tane and I have wondered whether or not Amotai will want to travel. Having parents that love it seems to be no indication of whether or not their kids will - I know plenty of people who never really got the travel bug because they had seen a lot as kids so developed a bit of a 'been there, done that' attitude toward travel. On the other hand, I have one friend actively trying to beat her mum's record of 53 countries. Some people who didn't travel growing up also have an extra thirst for it; Tane didn't go overseas until he was 23. I was 15 for my first, and only, family trip abroad, and that trip was definitely the turning point for me in terms of wanting to see more of the World. Three weeks in Hawaii blew my earnest teenage mind, and I signed up to AFS pretty much as soon as I got back to NZ.
Today, Amotai and I were playing with an inflatable plastic globe. He likes to hit said globe, as well as kick it with his feet. I asked him to point to where he would most like to travel to, and spun the globe in front of him. He reached out and clearly pointed to Sudan. I tried a second time, purposely trying to manipulate him into pointing at a more accessible country. It was to no avail, he pointed to Sudan again. Perhaps having a child that doesn't want to travel isn't such a bad thing after all ...
Do you think your desire to travel (or not) comes from your parents? I am interested ..


Yes, I am afraid that I am going to be one of those people who once blogged about foreign adventures and exciting places that, once having a child, blogs about little apart from them. Don't say you haven't been warned! I must also warn you that as my baby has broken cuteness records today, this post will be cheesier than a pizza with extra cheese. I hope that the proclamations of love for my son don't move you to vomit in your own mouth. I should probably put an rating on this entry - rated c, for corny.

If you are still reading, I wanted to write a list about the things I love about being a mum. Amotai is almost 5 months old now, and it's been an amazing time. I'd be lying if I said I loved every minute (especially the day of dyeing-all-the-washing-blue-after-being-pooed-on-doom), but I am having a pretty neat time. These are the things I am particularly enjoying:

1. When he smiles. So cheesy, but true.

2. The neat Mum-and-baby activities that are out there. I laugh at me of last year that worried about being bored while home with baby. If anything it's the opposite - there is so much to do. Active Mums, various other programmes that generally involve singing to the babies ... it's all quite fun.

3. Building on 2, re-learning all those old songs. Although, I confess to having to google the words to Rubber Ducky after some failed attempts to sing it during bath time.

4. Seeing the world through his eyes. It's hard to guess what will interest him - for example, today he ignored a small river, a native bird that flew across our path, and a colourful toy. In contrast, he spent ages stroking the couch.

An Amotai eye view of some sheep

It's a great ride, anyway, and I look forward to what the future brings.