BPM

Imagine, if you can, what its like when you get so excited your heart rate lifts to match those levels. Now, imagine if that heart rate won’t reset.

Picture a homely scene. A mother, cup of tea in hand, maybe a pack of biscuits within reach, settling on a sofa.
In her arms, a baby. The most gorgeous little girl you have ever seen or will ever see. Just three months old, fussy. Hungry.
Baby is offered the breast. She takes it and Mum leans back, looking forward to a chocolate biscuit treat, a sip of warming tea, a chance to relax. A time to chill, catch up on the sort of rest the mother of a baby misses out on.

Something is wrong. The only one chilled, the only one relaxed, is Mum.
Not for long.
Baby won’t settle, not the way a wee one does when tucked against mother, suckling. Surely the most comforting, restful place on the planet.
Not today. Mum has a brow beginning to crease with worry, a feeling of concern starting to take hold.
Mum is a medical professional. She is equipped. Knowledge, tools.
She reaches for one of those tools, a stethoscope, warms it with her breath before placing it gently against the fluttering rib cage or her baby daughter.

A normal three month old’s heart will bang away at about 100-140 beats per minute (bpm). Not this child. Ears plugged to the life giving pump of her daughter, Mum couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t possible to count fast enough.
Professional assessment was clearly required.

Dad was driving around in circles. It’s what I did, for a living. An independent contractor, I was a courier. When the phone call came, I was in the thick of it, just another day taking one corner after another.
Except today I got a phone call from my dearly beloved, the type of call you pay attention to the instant you hear the voice on the other end of the line. This was no request to pick something innocuous on the way home (has she forgotten what I do for a living?), no idle catch up, no informative chat about why she might not be home when I finished my working day. This call was a request for me to get myself to the hospital as quickly as I could make it happen.

To get to Dunedin Hospital, as quickly as I could possibly make it happen, I needed to make some calls of my own. I rung management, I rung colleagues. Not a soul let me down, people proving they will be there for you when you put your hand up.
I could name names, I probably should. I can’t even remember if I expressed my appreciation at the time, some eleven or so years ago now.
Not adequately I’m sure. There was just too much going on, too much to do, too much to organise. To learn. Everyone I worked with rallied around, did this for me, organised that for me. Were there for me and my whanau.

At the hospital, it’s different. You don’t have control. You can’t organise this, take care of that. You are beholden to the uniformed people more comfortable and capable in that setting. Under fluorescent lights, in cubbies and alcoves off long, wide corridors, this is their world. Despite the soft smiles, the warming words, it can feel a cold a desolate place.
I don’t know how, but I managed to stay cool, calm and collected. Externally at least. Wifey was, understandably, in tears. Our beautiful second born, taken from her clutches and poked, prodded, monitored, frantic conversations held over her baking hot body.
Rapid cooling they decided, shock that squirming little body back in to something close to normality.
Not a thing about this day, this little life, our lives, felt normal.

I can’t tell if you if it was strangely comforting or a worrisome thing, to see the professionals as worried, as freaked and as uncertain as Mum and Dad were.  In the end, after some confusion, it was me who found ice, the petrified Father who plunged his own child into an ice bath.
It worked.

Diving into a frigid tub of ice was not a long term solution. Since that hideous day there have been multiple hospital trips. None as dramatic. On occasion, not far off, even the threat of helicopters called in to whisk our child away from all she knows.
Her ticker has thrown multiple curve balls over the intervening eleven or so years, some a mere blip, others a blot.
Each occasion has impressed on me that sometimes elusive thing we know as community spirit. People really do care, from professionals such as teachers and nurses, doctors and specialists, to neighbours and friends and of course, family. At no stage have we as a whanau ever felt unsupported or unloved.

Recently, somewhat out of the blue, a letter arrived from Starship Hospital in Auckland. They were going to have a crack at that dodgy ticker. A final solution. Hopefully.
The threat, or is that promise, of the procedure has been on the cards for a while. Number Two just had to grow big enough for it to be a possibility.
She has grown. A strong, intelligent, fun, quirky person packed with laughter and merriment and bright future.
Still our little girl. Still a squirming, slippery baby in my calloused hands, cruelly dipped into frozen waters.

My own heart thumps away when I think of what is to come. A simple procedure, day surgery, a night of observation.
To hear it told, all in a days work, not even that. Nothing to worry about.
Are you kidding me?!
Yet I have faith. Isn’t that all I can do, place my trust in those who are learned, qualified, experienced?
The same way I trust my car will come back from the mechanic better than the day it went in.
So while they attempt to jump start my little angels heart (slightly dramatic) I am going to give a thought to the folk who put themselves out, over a decade ago, because they could.
Because they wanted to.

Because I needed them.

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Slip, Slop and Slap

I’m a hypocrite. Time spent extolling the virtues of being sun smart to my children has fallen on my own deaf ears.

A day in the garden, planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. Lovely, a cathartic experience for me, almost a form of meditation as I commune with nature.

Sort of. We are not into exotic gardens, have not populated our yard with a revival of native planting. We have kids, four of them. They need room to roam and move and kick and run and dance and roll about.
They need space for wheels, for fetch with the dogs, for the pool we have erected.
Our garden is a fluid place. Spaces to follow the sun as the day warms, areas to dodge heated rays as the mercury rises.

Any real care and attention we put into gardening is focused mostly on what we can get out of it. What we, in conjunction with that same said sun, a drop of water and some TLC, can produce.
Lettuce and peppers and beetroot and kale and broccoli and rocket and an array of herbs. Spuds and pumpkin and garlic and radish and all the companion plants adding flower, colour and variety. Peas and beans and cauliflower and more to come when timing dictates.

Time is a thing. We don’t have a lot of it, we don’t have green thumbs and we don’t have a family effort. I do the grunt work, Wifey buys the plants, more grunt work for me, the interim grunting is done by me, then I do the harvesting, Wifey or Number One prep and cook. Everyone eats and we all agree whatever fare we are sampling is delicious.
Wifey takes the credit.

Serving up what you have grown is a good feeling. It’s cheaper for a start, that feels good. Generally, the produce tastes better, another good feeling. A bit of dirt under the finger nails and the sting of some sun on the back is, mostly, a good feeling too.
Knowing where your food has come from is a real bonus.

Today kids splashed in the pool, read books in the cool of the shade. I toiled, while Mother went to work, doing her own hard yards.
The sun beat down as I lifted a spade, thudding it down time and time again, planting olive trees, a handful of natives and transferring a bunch of ornamental this and thats.
Looks good. The fruits of my labours will hopefully come. I like an olive, will try a martini. Dirty? I my even shake it.

I ended up a little crispy. Redder than my Southern born red neck might otherwise suggest. Sunnies to shield my eyes but I was lacking a hat, had displayed my dad bod to the golden rays of a hot New Zealand sun.
I’m burned. Not badly. There is no blistering, no feverish sun stroke.

I am a hypocrite.
I failed to practise what I preach and at least two of my offspring have reminded me of that fact.
Repeatedly.

I can only hope, when I am leaning back, wrapped and guarded against the effects of a long evening mid summers sun, sipping a dirty martini, shaken or stirred or as it comes, that my tortured skin proves worth the while.

The Naked Boxer

Boys hit. Get over it.

I sometimes wonder if life was easier when I was the only male in the household.
No matter the gender split, the more Wifey and I kept breeding, the louder things got. However, the addition of another male not just changed the dynamic, the dynamic was blown apart.

All kids go through phases, in stages. They do it in their own time, deal with it in their own way, as they develop the little personalities which will make them the big people they are destined to become.
The ages vary. Some kids will be biting you before you know it, others might never do it and for some, the quartet in this house for example, it is just a fleeting thing, not allowed to last long.
There are the ‘terrible twos’ complete with tantrums. There is spitting, both of saliva and as a means to expunge food from their mouths. There is the ultra cute period where they learn what it is to make people laugh, a phase which can quickly become an annoyance.

Like potty training, kids can be trained, their behaviour moderated. In the same way you convince them placing their hand on the element isn’t a good idea, sticking a finger in an electrical socket is foolhardy and poking a dog with a stick is just plan dumb, you can slowly have them coming around from the urge to sink their teeth into your flesh.

Children learn at their own pace, dictated to by the dedication and persistence of their parents and peers. A lot of their development is look and learn, doing as others do. Much of their behaviour is a direct reflection of our own, their parents, and those around them.
Accordingly, the ‘do as we do’ theory means we have to be the setter of example, but when the dynamic can shift so dramatically between participants, that is no mean feat.

The other day I was playing Zombie with the little uns. No, not the iconic 90’s track by the Cranberries, more the Dawn of the Dead variety.
Up and down the corridor I went, groaning and grumbling, arms outstretched and eyes rolled back. A passable impression if I do say so myself. All I lacked was the gaping wound to my skull, festering bite marks and dismembered limbs.
The E-Bomb screeched, clutching her hands to her face like an award winning B-Grade scream queen and ran for her life.

Our number three is a good looking kid. I can say that objectively, because she is. Unfortunately, she can be more than just a little annoying. Too cute though, and too big a personality to be listed in the credits as little more than an extra.
Come the slasher movie, staring our little E-Bomb, she will be quite the survivor. Maybe, out of a cast of say six or seven, she will be third last to be hacked to pieces. Not bad going.
But running and hiding won’t do her any good against the zombie horde. Or her Dad for that matter. I have a particular set of skills. I will find her.

The Wee-Man adopted a very different approach.
Fists were immediately clenched, raised to the top of his cheek bones. Just below eye-line. Elbows tucked in to his ribs.
In other words, great technique.

A deep rumble.
The Wee-Man, my Wee-Man…growling at me!
Then…he charges.

The fists stay high, the face behind those protective layers of clenched knuckles set, determined. Brow pinched together, jaw clenched, he advances…

Wee-Man doesn’t stride forward confidently. He is not placing on sure foot in front of the other assuredly.
Wee-Man is not gaining steadily, moving confidently, certain of his fate and mine.
Wee-Man is charging.

His forehead dips, chin down now, below the level of his gloves. His pace is electric from the start, the first stride purposeful and clear, as is his intent.
Wee-Man gains pace, within a small number of lengthy strides he reaches full steam, head lower still, brow knitted further. Still those hands remain high.
There is nowhere I can go.
No neutral or higher ground. No diplomatic recourse. I signal him but it is clear.
Wee-Man intends to ram me.

There is plenty of warning. He has hailed me with his growl. The only thing missing is a shot across my bow, but I have the sense Wee-Man has no intention of wasting ammunition.
Everything in his arsenal is aimed at me.

It isn’t like I don’t have options. I mean, what does a nearly three year old boy weigh?
I could scoop him up and deposit him in a place of my choosing.
I could set myself, let him fling himself headlong into the solid bony mass of my hip.
Damn it, I could drop my shoulder.

You know what I end up doing?
None of those things.
Despite clear warning, I am not set. Never mind the signals, the overt display of aggression.
I see it coming, but there is little, if anything, I can do about it.
So I do nothing.
Nothing that is, except get hit with a double-fisted power punch any Marvel superhero mutant would be proud of, straight in the midriff, with enough powered to damn near knock the wind out of me.

My Mother ran a childcare center for many years. More years than I comprehend being able to cope with. At some stage, it was decide to make the facility, if that is the right name for such an institute (that sure isn’t the right moniker) a non-hitting place.
Admirable, though I am sure difficult to administer and police, given the numbers involved.
Mum had several staff members helping her out. I just duck for cover.

Seriously, I can take it. I am not a big guy, not a powerfully built man. I am reasonably well padded though. That helps.
Wee-Man can rain blows on me all day and as long as he doesn’t make contact with my eyes, nose or baby-makers, I should be able to cope.
The same can’t be said for his siblings, even the older ones having issues when struck by the violent intent of the Wee-Man.

It isn’t all a nasty, evil desire to knock his opponents to the ground in a red mist of hate fueled rage. Sometimes it is a playful thing, getting just that little bit carried away…an excess of exuberance and excitement.
Sometimes, Wee-Man is just plain mad. It is on those occasions you need to have your wits about you, your reflexes honed.

Wee-Man is disciplined. He gets told off and it is damned hard at times not to smack him. We are not a smacking family, though just quietly, the option has not been removed entirely from the repertoire, despite legislation.
Wifey and I are in accordance. Kinda defeats the purpose, don’t ya reckon?
But hey, if his sister wants to have a crack back at him, give as good as he gets, chances are he will learn a lesson one way or another.
In the meantime, we went out and purchased him a pair of gloves and punch bag, Wee-Man sized. Maybe it is just going to encourage him, maybe he will channel whatever it is inspiring him to punch and hit.
One thing is certain, it won’t hurt as much!

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Wee-Man hits.
Boys hit.
Get over it, because right now, he is too short to duck, bob or weave.

 

 

 

Blissfully Boring.

Plans for the weekend?

I’ve used this forum and my limited readership, like a bit of cathartic exercise these last couple of days.
I have vented and released and I feel all the better for it. Now, a stunning Sunday morning has dawned, sun low in a cloudless Autumn sky.
This is gonna be a good one.

The same dogs down the hill are barking, the way they do on and off during random hours of the day and night. Hard to identify where their plaintive calls are coming from, as the plains below are smothered in a layer of mist. Or is it fog?
Roosters crowing, birds chirping, traffic stilled (not that we get a lot) and children stirring.

Today should prove riveting.
There are chores to be done, exciting stuff like laundry and ironing and vacuuming and maybe some gardening. As the breeze picks up, swirling away the mists below and the day warms the insects and birds into their work, we will share the load, so hopefully we are free of tasks by midday.

Wifey is at work. Her new role, shifts. It stuffs with her sleeping patterns, almost as much as a transitory two and a half year old does.
Will he need a nappy or is he down with the potty?
Will he sleep through the night or demand a cuddle, sometime in the small hours?
Will he accept a cuddle? Or is he going to want the comfort of a breast?
I’ll ponder all these questions and more, as I vacuum.

Cobwebs to be swept from the deck, with its attractive view simply a sideline, something peripheral. Cars to be cleaned, if we can be bothered getting that carried away, driveways swept. Even mowing the lawn, if I am feeling particularly motivated.
With a bit of luck and some coercion, the kids will share some of that motivation. We may get finished early, head out for the afternoon for quality family time, explore some of our locality.

Of course, it is half nine in the morning and I am still sat here sipping coffee. The television is on. But hey, the washing machine is on, the dishwasher too.
Not a great deal of progress to be found there and to be honest, how boring, how mundane, does the plan for this cheery Sunday sound?
Blissfully boring.
Magnificently mundane.

Despite the little chips of progress I am making on the routine, unwritten to-do list, the whirlwind cyclone that is our children will destroy it all, in a matter of moments. Even their own efforts to help, responding reluctantly to orders and commands, delivered in an ever increasingly exasperated manner and tone, will amount to little once the shackles are released and they are free to wreak havoc once again.

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I’m not looking forward to winter. The long, hot, dry summer we have enjoyed or endured as is your want, giving way to the relative cool and damp. Nearly April and still the sun shines, still the rains refuse to come, still the nights are not a great deal cooler than the summer highs of climes further south.
Long days, dark dominating light, lunar not lighter. Kids in doors more, both at school and at home. Closer, louder, smellier.
Grateful I am working again, torn at the way I have so readily adapted to being back at work, the way I am not missing all the bonus time with my kids, time I had as recently as the beginning of this summer, as much as I thought I would.
As much as I should.

Or should I?
Is my guilt justified? More-so, is it manufactured?
Am I really feeling guilty or am I actually relieved? There is certainly relief in witnessing my children carry on with their lives, as if my influence over the last year or so, the past few seasons, accounted as negligible at best.
I am happy. As much as any slightly over weight, balding yet perversely hirsute, middle-aged man can be. Happy, to have reclaimed a piece of me which was missing, absent without me even being aware it was gone. Until it returned.
Work.
Why do we do it? Why do we like to do it? (allow me the luxury, on this fine day, of generalisation)

Routine. Structure. Of course, income.
I am not robotic, no slave to a machine but I am happier, feel more complete, when I have dirtied my hands, when there is sweat on my brow, when my back is bent and aching.
I am never more satisfied when the job is done, my mind long since having turned to the next task.
But for all that, chores are different.

I could abandon the vacuuming before the plug reaches the socket. No guilt, no remorse. Let the dishes pile high, I will simply turn my back, not venture into the kitchen, stay clear of the laundry, letting the washing fester in a musty, damp, sad and sorry pile at the bottom of the machine.
Sweep the deck? Na, wait for the wind to really get going. Heck, it will bring as much crap as it removes, so why bother?
Make the bed? Na, I will be in it again before you know it, so the point is exactly?

The point is, Wifey’s shift does not last forever. She who must be obeyed will return to her domain, her lair, before the day is done and if the chores aren’t…this may may well be the last you hear from me. Bed made or not, I won’t be sleeping in it!

I have work to do.

( The views and descriptions of the author are in no way intended as an exact replication of Wifey…she is far scarier! )

 

Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

Redneck Dad

The following content may offend some readers.

Be warned. I sit down on a sunny morning, surrounded by a slumbering household, as nothing more than master of this keyboard. An over-weight, balding, arthritic, white, middle class (I suppose) male. And somehow, I am supposed to be apologetic for that.

Because I am white, older and was born and bred in the South Island, I am racist, sexist, misogynistic, ultra conservative with a big red streak emblazoned across the back of my neck.
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I am the victim.
The victim of pigeon-holing. I have been labelled, my persona apparently so on display, the role I play in society can be summed up at a glance.

We all judge and are all judgmental. I get that. I do it too.
Everyone does and there doesn’t have to be any harm in doing so. If nothing else, it is a protective mechanism, one designed so we find ourselves in the company of like-minded people. An attempt, on the most part subconsciously, to group ourselves among our peers and avoid those with whom we may have some form of conflict. Sure, it is contrived, constructed, part of societal ‘norms’ we are conditioned to accept and rarely, if ever, question.

It means, because I hail from the south of this split nation and therefore my accent is different, I must be racist. It means, because I am of a certain age and skin colour, I must be conservative and materialistic.
It is assumed I am educated, have a job, am not divorced. It is assumed I drink Speights, when the reality is I have been steadily working my way through anything and everything crafty with a medal on it. I still like a cold Speights after a hard days work but given my middle aged spread, quality over quantity is a notion driven by health, as well as budget.
I am supposed to drive a hulking, modern, bright and shiny 4WD I don’t need, while the wife bops around in something eco-friendly, European. We might even have a boat or a bach or a combination of the two. Maybe even stocks and bonds, whatever that means, a rental property or two. Mum and Dad investors.
Our kids go to good schools and always have shoes on their feet and jackets to ward off the rain. They do, I was there when we purchased some of that stuff, but you try getting them to wear their protective layers when they are needed.
Basics, our budget is capable of that at least, even while we are not driving flash cars or taking island holidays.

Essentially, as my hair turns a distinguished shade of peppery gray (ok, what is left of it), because I can read and write, because I can spell and count, because I know how to communicate in full sentences using the English language, as my generation and the ones before recognise it, I must be a National Party voter. Or something like that.
One of my big regrets in life to date, is my inability to fluently speak another language or two, be it Te Reo or one of the romance languages. (If you can’t look sexy, why not sound it?).
No great dramas then. No real stresses. If I all I have to worry about is the my inability to babble away in another language, then there can’t be too much going wrong. Right?
Because, good people, their isn’t. Not really.

 Of course, this process works just as well in reverse. All Maori can sing. All Maori have rhythm and can dance. (I can play the drums, meaning I know and have rhythm, as white as I am, but man you don’t wanna see me dancing!)
Generalisations like this make our little clusters of society struggle to mingle. Instead of celebrating differences, we look to segregate and marginalize and the fault is as much with the so called minority, as often as not. I witnessed it with international students attending Otago University. There was a reticence to socialise outside of the small cultural circle these groups bought with them. If they did, it was with other students from foreign cultures.
New cultures can be daunting. Language barriers can seem insurmountable. Establishing yourself in a new and foreign environment, even if it is just the neighborhood across town, a new town, or on in a whole other island, is no easy thing and of course trying to be a part of an already settled group structure, the new kid on the block, is a daunting task.

We have moved around enough over the last few years to note it is the new kids on the block who have the least issue with the new and the untried.
They don’t see colour like we do, don’t hear a foreign tongue like we do.
Kids aren’t blind and deaf to differences, but they are far more accepting, less concerned about the difference and far more interested in common ground. Play, sport, the classroom are all great levelers and children find their fit in no time.
There is always the loner, the one who doesn’t fit, who stands out via their desperate attempt to do exactly the opposite.
Don’t worry about them until the the teen years and in this country, don’t worry too much. Our loner, social misfits don’t have access to automatic weapons.

Adults find it harder to meet and greet for some reason. Caught up too much, maybe, in the preconceived and the contrived.
Workplaces provide an avenue to find new faces but mostly, it is done through your children, around the school and the community which comes from that. You meet parents, teachers and principals and bus drivers and neighbours.
All these new people might see you as this or that or the next thing. They judge you.
Just as you are sizing them up at the same time. First impressions and all the stigma which comes with them.

Yes, I am Caucasian and I come from ‘regional’ New Zealand.
Yes, I have a level of tertiary education and I have full time employment.
Yes, we own two cars and yes, every now and then we can head out for lunch.
Am I a conservative capitalist? No.
I am a left of center idealist, one who would go a lot further left if I wasn’t cynical enough to realise it probably wouldn’t work.
Am I racist, bigoted, aggressively or even just assertively hardcore in particular view or assertion? No. I am too busy for any deep thought, any particular take on any given issue. Four kids remember. Have I ever mentioned that?!
Am I ignorant or worse, abusive of other beliefs of cultures. No.
Just no.

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Confederate flags and muscle cars and sexist ideology aside, Dukes of Hazard was a cool show. I love pick-up trucks (utes) as much as the next man and will stamp my foot to country music if you’re going to play it.
That school community, those neighbours, will most likely see my wife and me as we are. First and foremost we are parents. Hard working, dedicated family folk.
Just like the ones sitting across from us at any given table, no matter where we came from and how we got there.

 

 

 

The Cost of Education

Doesn’t sound right does it?

Teaching our kids, the next generation. Training them, giving them the tools they need not to just exist, to cope, but to grow and develop. More.
Yes, teach the children of the nation to be readers and writers, to support healthy minds and bodies and help them explore and inquire. Yes, up-skill them so a brave new world is not a daunting place, foreign and frightening.
Don’t hinder any or all of the above just because paying for a modern education is beyond the reach of many.

We all know you get nothing for free. The user pays.
Rightly or not, that is how it works in our ‘free market’ society. Yet there are some core tenants to the way New Zealand is set up and run, the bill for which is not supposed to be appearing in the mailboxes of everyday you and me.
All the stuff we need in our day to day modern existence, is taken care of. Apparently. Departments within Ministries, run by committees and overseen by appointed officials, answering to our elected ones. From the office junior, to the intern, to the lifer in middle management and the manicured mouthpiece put in front of the cameras if, low and behold, things should ever go wrong.

These are the mechanisms which bring electricity into our houses, bringing light and warmth. Systems are in place to ensure we have water flowing from our taps. Clean, potable water. Infrastructure like road networks, public transport, footpaths and street-lighting and sewage and refuse collection and disposal and recycling and and and…
It is a huge list, and much of the above is the responsibility of local authorities, let alone at regional and national levels. Just wait until you get to central government and start thinking about mammoth sectors like public healthcare. Like education.
Even in a small country like New Zealand, running these three islands, keeping pace with the needs and demands of an ever growing, ever aging population, is no simple task and every step of the way has to be paid for.

I get it.
We pay.
One way or another, our contribution is made, to the coffers of councils and government. Taxes, levies, duties. No matter the label, our income is siphoned off so the things we expect, demand and want, are there for us when we need, want and demand them.
Education is no different.

A big part of the last couple of weeks has been gearing up One and Two for their coming school year. A stand out in that process has been the expense!
Hundreds of dollars on uniforms alone, still more hundreds spent on stationery, a huge part of which are tech requirements like Chromebooks.
I get that wider society is in the midst of a technological revolution, that the way we communicate and the way we work is changing, so it stands to reason the way we learn must change and adapt also.
But, and it is a big, expensive but…at who’s expense?

We are not poor, however, we are by no means well off. Like many working families in New Zealand, we somehow manage to make one end get close to the other, week to week.
That is the thing though, it is a day to day, week to week, pay cheque to pay cheque process, one which leaves little or no room for error, nor is there room for contingencies. You know, rainy days, saving. That sort of thing.
Yes, our kids will go to school, well fed and clothed after a warm and cosy night in beds housed in a leak free home. They will be carrying with them all the bits and pieces ‘required’ of them.
Single items of clothing with three figure price tags and the tech bells and whistles. Then yes, we will fork out for the extras, which somehow never seem to be in a school’s operational budget or fall outside ministry funding umbrellas.

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Because there will be fees.
Because there will be ‘voluntary’ donations.
Buses will have to be paid for, so kids can get to swimming pools and museums and field trips and sporting and cultural events of all sorts and natures.
School camps will take place and there will be this and that required, to make it the sort of experience the one it should be, the one you remember with heavy rose tinting.
It is all valuable, in terms of what our kids get from it, what is given them in return for the dollar value it all comes at.

We will make the effort to ensure our kids want for nothing as far as their schooling and education goes.
It will be an effort. A costly one but something we will do because we feel we must and because we can.
What of those who can’t?
What about the families who have nothing to sacrifice, budgets stretched so thin a ‘fee’ or ‘donation’ is so far beyond them, it is a stress they don’t need, an extra bill they cannot meet.
It is their kids who suffer.
They suffer in the classroom and on the playground. Kids can be cruel and these kids, their families, will not be invisible because they don’t have a chrome book, because their woolen jumper is several generations old, straight off a second-hand rack. Exactly the opposite in fact.c They will stand out like the proverbial dogs bollocks.
Their pride will be hurting too. Sure, there are families out their who simply do not give a shit and they are lost causes, a s will their kids most likely be. However, there are many more, stuck in a cycle of poverty, wanting and willing to the best they can, just simply unable to.

I know funding is weighted, the decile system in place to balance out the differences.
We could debate the effectiveness of such a system all of one of these hot summer days. Doing so won’t put a Chromebook into the hands of our kids. It won’t put food in their bellies or shoes on their feet or jackets on their backs.
So, if you and I are the user, or even if we are not, we are paying.
What are we getting for our money? What are our kids getting?
What was so wrong with blackboards?

Last Weekendless Weekend

I know that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.

It is Sunday morning. How do I know it is morning? You would think the neighbours rooster would be a key indicator, but the stupid thing never gives up it’s plaintive call, cock-a-doodling his way throughout all hours of the day.
I know it is morning because, despite not yet re-starting the routine of work, somewhere deep in my thick skull my jaded old brain has convinced my body it is happening.

We all have a ‘body clock’, ticking away unobtrusively, letting us know some of the deeper workings of the world around us, without you necessarily being all that aware. This clock keys us into things like a change of season, when your sleeping patterns need to adjust for dawn a and dusk, drops happily into a routine and even tells women when it is time to have babies. Or am I taking that too far?

For the past couple of years my routine has not belonged to me at all. My days began when the wide, sweet innocent gaze of children opened to a new dawn.
Sound lovely? In reality, I had been up a couple of hours by then, as our kids have that wonderful ability to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, until a respectable hour. A couple of blissful, peaceful hours I could have a thing or two to myself.
Even that sounds awesome but it wasn’t always the case. Everything I did was dictated to by other people. There were two older kids needing constant urging and encouragement to get out the door on time, complete with teeth and hair brushed and appropriately clothed, lunches made and breakfast in their bellies.
They managed all this quite independently, though not without encouragement. Even Wifey needed to be told to eat!
Such is the life of parenting and I had no complaint. Who was listening anyway? Certainly not the children, not the first couple of times!

So apart from repeating myself repeatedly, there were all the mundane and ordinary and standard and ‘same’ things to go through any given morning. The fact I failed to make a proper routine of it is a testament to how far out of sync my body clock had (has?) gotten.
With half the occupants fleeing the confines of the house, to go about their daily routine, it was down to me and the little ones to spark the embers of the morning and fire the coals of the day. We had our little systems, our processes we would go through but generally, our days were fairly fluid.
There was joy in that and there was the risk of rot, the chance boredom could set in. The weather became a crucial element.
There was little change to it, that daily process. Far from a grind. When you are surrounded by little un’s, their curiosity, their wonder and inquisitiveness, their questioning and exploring and discovery, is as infectious as it is time consuming.

You might think the only point of difference would be the weekend. I can only suppose, for those who have things which occupy their weekends; jobs and school and the like, then it is Saturday and Sunday which stand out from the norm. That couple of days strung together and labelled the weekend.
Not for this guy.
Apart from the fact Wifey and Number’s One and Two snoozed through the better part of the morning, there was little to no difference. Perhaps those couple of early morning hours actually did manage to be a little bit more about me. Perhaps I wasted them, gazing at the spendiferous view the Hokianga provided, behind the misty rise of a freshly brewed coffee.

Soon, a weekend might mean something to me again.
Not to say it hasn’t for the last couple of years or so. If you are going to breed a crew of four, making for a total of six, it is because you like the busy exuberance of a full house. That means weekdays are as full of fun vigor as any other.
While my body clock has for a long time suffered the after effects of a previous working life, one which started early and stretched to long days, waking me from slumber on or around the wee-small hours, for no real other purpose than to be awake.
Sometimes annoying, sometimes a blessing, as dawn can not only be one of the more beautiful times of the day, I find it can be one of the most productive. Especially without the impediment of others.
Little others.
Heading back to work might mean I appreciate the company of my crew, without feeling frazzled or frustrated. I will actively seek to spend time with them, doing the the things families do as a group, participating as much as can and am allowed, in the things the kids want to do to fill their time. I hope they seek out time with their Dad too, because as much as going back to work will be a transition for me, it will have a similar impact, if not more, on the kids.
If for no other reason, they are going to need to put up with having their Mother around all the time, for the immediate future at least.
Good luck with that kids!

I guess, with my weekdays full, I will have to start thinking about planning the weekends, to best utilise them,  make the best of them.
But, for now, that is all I will do. Think about it.
The last thing I want to eventuate out of this return to being a productive member of society, gainfully employed, is to miss out on the spontaneity an the abandon and the free fluidity that is having a young family.  So, if ya wanna see me at the weekend, better let me know, I’ll see if we can fit you in…

Will I miss it? Being at home? Being the  ‘go to’ parent.
You bet.
Am i gagging to get back in the routine of work, have that body clock rousing me with the birds and the colouring of the sky?
Hell yes.
Come the weekend?
Who knows…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Party Like It’s 1999

No, wait…Prince is dead. 

So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.

Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.

Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?

No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.

We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.

Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.

Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.

All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.

Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.

For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.

Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.

End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.

 

 

 

The Times They Are a’Changin

Maybe not so much the times, but my days are sure about to get different.

Life has turned a corner, or crested a hill. Whatever, life is about to change.
It wouldn’t be fair to say life is changing for the better. That would imply the way we were living prior to this change wasn’t up to scratch.
The hope is, a move to a more metropolitan area will bring more opportunity. And, it has.

Some time in the next week or so, I will start work. Yes that’s right, full-time, gainful employment. Something different too, something which may, I hope, be a little challenging and a job I can not only learn and grow from as a profession, but as a person too. I like to think it is a last step in my working life. A big one, if not all that bold, but a role I can get my teeth into, make my own. A job which should prove to be fun and rewarding.

It is time.
I have been at home with the kids, in this last stint as a home hubby, for nearly two years. A couple of fun years, in an environment suited to the role of stay at home parent. Admittedly there was little choice, as there wasn’t a lot of employment options available.
The point was though, while E-Bomb and the Wee-Man were under the age of five, they would have a full-time influence at home, namely one of their parent’s.
So this change is not solely for me. This is a change for the whole family.

We left the Hokianga mostly for the benefit of our kids, particularly Number’s One and Two. But it is true to say the opportunities for Wifey and I are greatly improved too, just by packing up and rolling a couple of hours down the road.
We will be a working family again, both Wifey and myself toiling away during our days. We can do so because there is the type of support here we didn’t have available to us up north.
Not family support. Paid for, professional support. People who will look after our children in return for money. Thank goodness for people like them, prepared to do waht at times can feel very much like a thankless task.

My stint as a full-time parent will never cease of course. How could it? You are always a parent, always a Mother or Father, no matter how directly or indirectly you are involved in the raising of your kids.
Being that go to parent is something I am really going to miss. Something I was ready to give up on, even while being aware it was not going to be the easiest transition to make.
When I get in the car on that first day, off to work, I will have the smiling faces of my children in my minds eye.
I will see them wave, see them smile, while not quite being able to work out where their Dad is off to and why they aren’t going with him. They will call out their cheering goodbyes and I will turn and drive away.
Those first few days will be as different and strange for me as they will for the kids. For them, the timing couldn’t be a great deal better and let’s be honest, they are most likely adapt to the change far quicker than I will.
Wee-Man and E-Bomb are going to have their Mother around for the summer. Numbers One and Two will get that pleasure also. Hopefully a welcome change for all, though there can be no doubting both sides of that equation are going to have to adapt. Wifey and I have very different and not always complimentary, parenting styles and there are a lot of things the young-uns are going to have to teach their Mother about the way things work.

I am left wondering how my influence, or lack of it, is going to be felt.
Will the two little ones miss me in their lives?
Will the older girls feel the difference in the house, without me around?
There will be a whole new vibe and again, the scene will shift when Wifey starts her new role in earnest. New schools, childcare facilities for the little ones. Perhaps the biggest change, from the last couple of years, will be the return to two incomes. Maybe we can afford to give the kids the type of summer memories which don’t require too much rose coloured tinting.

Personally, there will be a back to routine lifestyle again, one I am looking forward to. Alarms to rouse me from my slumber, time a factor again in my world.
I will come home tired and I will sleep soundly, eight or so hours, waking refreshed and rearing to go.
I will ruffle my sons hair, after swinging my daughters in a quick hug, peck my wife on the cheek as I make my way into the kitchen, heading for the fridge, cracking the top off a beer, before landing heavily in an armchair, turning on the tele in time for the news. Something like that.

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