Apr 30, 2008

Suburban Renewal - backyard permaculture video

Here's a video from "Peak Moment TV". It's about 25 minutes long, but worth a peek if you've never come across the concept of permaculture, nor seen it in a backyard type setting.

Their climate sounds similar to ours - at least, the same types of fruit trees will grow. Apples, pears, stone fruit and berries, with olives and some citrus worth a crack if you have a very sunny and very sheltered area.

I'm dreaming of edible hedging and espaliered fruit trees now...

Hat-tip to Treehugger

Apr 29, 2008

Surviving the 'flu

No, sorry, this isn't an exciting survivalist post about equipping yourself to outlast your neighbours in a bird-flu epidemic. I haven't even got my standard 'earthquake kit' organised in this house yet - I had one in Palmerston North (where, admittedly, it was far more likely to be needed) - but dismantled it when we shifted. So no, not a super-girl-scout be-prepared post at all.

My advice for 'flu survival is - have paracetamol on hand. Have more than you think you need. Because you will run out of children's pamol. Luckily we ran out the day after Miss4's awful fever and chills etc - but this time last week I'd have said we had heaps of the stuff.

2 kids needing it around the clock for a couple of days can really put a dent in your supplies.

And then, just when you think you've made it - the kids have had it, you've had it (and coped with a lie down and some adult paracetamol), your husband reckoned he'd had it, but very mildly, since he wasn't feeling all that great early last week - you get a phone call from said husband at 2.30pm on a Tuesday and you have the following conversation:
"Urgh, I feel really awful. Just horrible. Please could you come get me? In, say an hour?"
"Oh no, not feeling well? Sure we can come get you - we could do it now if you like?"
"No, I think I've got one more thing I'll need to do. Better make it an hour."
"Sure, we can do that."
5 minutes later the phone rings again
"I've changed my mind - could you come get me now?"
And so, with a detour to the pharmacy to get some Codral 4 Flu, my hubby falls into bed at 3pm and has only surfaced once since then for some water and more drugs.

Luckily this one only seems to last 36 hours or thereabouts - at least, that's how it was for me and the girls. Now I just hope we haven't spread it to all our nearest and dearest. My MIL has probably carried it back to Petone with her. Oh dear. Read more...

Apr 27, 2008

Miss4 okay again

She woke up this morning ravenously hungry and has been outside riding her bike.

go figure.

It will still be an early night, methinks.

Apr 26, 2008

Petrol with your caviar, anyone?

Today's petrol prices are:
Unleaded (91-octane) = 188.9c/L
Unleaded (98-octane) = 202.9c/L
Diesel = 156.9c/L

For you North Americans, that is $7.15, $7.68, and $5.94 per US fluid gallon, respectively. And you'd call it "gas" I believe :)

$NZ - but then, we're earning $NZ.

[For a price comparison on other stuff, a cup of cafe coffee costs $3-$4, an 'average' house $350,000 to buy, a month's electricity bill about $100-$250 (summer to winter - that's what we pay, anyway), a salary of $100,000 is considered high/upper management, a salary of $30,000 is considered low/labourer/new graduate.]


On other news:
  • My ankle is very much improved. Thank you for your thoughts/prayers/general good-vibes. I may be able to begin gentle stretch and strength type movements on Monday or Tuesday!
  • Miss4 got the flu today and has spent the morning running around madly and crashing into things, insisting she is not tired, and the afternoon sleeping and shivering and sweating and burning with fever. Am dosing her regularly with paracetamol and keeping a close eye. Fortunately my MIL is an extremely competent Nurse. If she's no better in the morning we're heading to the after-hours doctor. (It is always the weekend when kids get very sick!)

Apr 25, 2008

I hurt!

I have given my ankle a mighty twist, and it is very sore!

I was wheel-barrowing the leaf-mulch stuff from under our newly-trimmed hedge (thanks Dad!) around the house and dumping them in the garden, when I stepped down a step and into a hole.

I have carefully avoided that hole every time I have used our side gate for the last 15 months, but not this time.

So I am thankful for several things
- I am thankful that my Dad has titanium knees and therefore a ready supply of walking-canes. He delivered his tallest one up yesterday morning
- I am thankful that he also gave my kitchen a thorough clean yesterday morning, while I sat and put my foot up
- I am thankful that Merl's Mum is here to stay until Monday. She has been wonderful - doing laundry and all the other stuff that is very difficult to do one-legged (and one-handed - since my left hand is holding onto my cane)
- I am thankful that it appears to be not too severe a twist. The tendons are definitely damaged, but there's not significant swelling or bruising and much better mobility today than yesterday. (after my home-group members prayed for healing for it last night). Read more...

Apr 22, 2008

Poem (or something)

Sent to me by Anna, who was pleading with the general public to turn this into one of those saccharine slide shows with sunsets and fluffy ducklings in it... or something.

One night I had a wondrous dream,
One set of footprints there was seen,
The footprints of my precious Lord,
But mine were not along the shore.

But then some strange prints appeared,
And I asked the Lord, "What have we here?"
Those prints are large and round and neat,
"But Lord, they are too big for feet."

"My child," He said in somber tones,
"For miles I carried you along.
I challenged you to walk in faith,
But you refused and made me wait."

"You disobeyed, you would not grow,
The walk of faith, you would not know,
So I got tired, I got fed up,
And there I dropped you on your butt."

"Because in life, there comes a time,
When one must fight, and one must climb,
When one must rise and take a stand,
Or leave their butt prints in the sand."
- Author Unknown

I tried to identify the author, but the internet is silent on the matter (at least, it wasn't telling me anything this evening - several copies of it around, but no author attribution). If you have never in your whole life come across the Footprints poem that this is parodying, you will find it here. Read more...

Apr 20, 2008

The art of contentment

I've been musing lately on people having unmet expectations and experiencing pervasive discontent with their lives, and the role that this might play in depression or generally poor mental health. I started thinking about this because of a post in a friend's blog, despite this being not at all the main point of her post :)

I started thinking about new motherhood, and the total shock to the system that having a new baby is. I know that for me, and some other Mums I've talked to, the first year of having your first baby is a phenomenal adjustment, and no matter what your expectations are, they are not totally accurate, and often, not remotely accurate.

When our first was only a month or two old, My Plunket Nurse asked about my expectations and how things in real life were comparing to my expectations: were things significantly different to how I expected them to be? Fortunately I was able to say that things were pretty much as I had expected - exhausting, overwhelming, but manageable. She then went on to say that being hugely shocked or surprised at the daily realities of motherhood were risk factors for post-natal depression (which is why it is on her list of things to ask about). That the shock of unmet expectations, on top of all the other stuff you're dealing with, can contribute to feeling like you're not doing it 'right' and that you're 'failing' as a mother - symptoms of Post Natal Depression.

But I know (and know of) heaps of unhappy people in many walks of life - parents, no-kids, single, married, part-time workers, work-a-holics, full-timers, unemployed... And wonder how much of that unhappiness is from similar type causes.

So then I got to thinking about when we left university and first got 'real jobs', the number of conversations I had with heaps of people who were feeling like life was really pointless and "Is this it?!" about working. Their (my) expectations of work life were not matched by the realities of it. Somehow I thought that now that I'd bothered to get a university education and had finally graduated from childhood/teenagerhood that I stood on the brink of adult life and all of life's adventures lay before me... And yet my job was boring and repetitious and I didn't like getting up every morning but I had bills to pay... and I was going to be doing this stuff for the rest of my life?!

So I was wondering if this epidemic of depression that seems to be around is somehow linked to an epidemic of unrealistic expectations? Are we living our lives expecting it to be bright and beautiful and TV-like, with canned laughter and a soundtrack, and then horribly disappointed because we're not living up to some subconscious and unrealistic ideal?

Have we simply lost the art of contentment? Have we forgotten that smelling the air and watching the sun go up and down and congenial conversation and a good book is living life? (regardless of specific circumstance).

I have a tote bag that we bought from our Library when we lived in Palmerston North, which has a quote from Cicero on it;
"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need."
Here we are in the 1st world with abundant resources - gardens and libraries beyond the wildest dreams of Cicero - and many of us still feel that this is not enough. That life should be bigger, better, faster and more fulfilling.

And, you know what?, just as I'm typing this in, I'm thinking that this is exactly how "They" want us to feel. "They" being big corporations and their advertiser lackeys. Obviously, they want us to always want more, bigger, brighter gadgets. But more subtly, "They" also want a hungry workforce - otherwise people will be happy to not work two jobs and overtime. If we have ever bigger, brighter 'needs', then we 'need' to do whatever work "They" want us to do.

But perhaps we can also add Tertiary and other educational institutions to the list of "They". Why is it that reading interesting and challenging literature from the public library, and thinking interesting thoughts is "filling in time", while paying out thousands of dollars to sit in a lecture theatre and take notes about what someone else thinks about a subject is "education"? Why is DIY thinking not good enough? Why does someone else's PhD make their opinion more valid or educational than mine?

Okay, getting long and rambling here, and I think I'll end it.

Should add of course, that I'm not wanting to minimise biochemical/hormonal/other causes of depression, but am curious about whether this loss of contentment, and always thinking things should be better than they are is a factor too.

And also, of course, there are circumstance where 'being content' is not appropriate - abusive relationships etc. Read more...

Apr 19, 2008

And suddenly it is winter

We woke this morning to surprisingly cold weather. During the last week we've had some very fine sunny days that have been quite hot in the middle of the day. This morning there was snow on the tops of the hills - not in the hill suburbs of the city, but you could see that the Silverpeaks and the other high hills were snowy.


On the plus side, we found that a snow-suit that was passed on to us fits Miss1 just right!

I've put a weather icon onto the blog. The 8degC that it shows does not do justice to just how cold it feels! The wind is coming from the SW, and there's nothing between us and the South Pole except a few tiny islands and maybe a penguin or two.

Yesterday I started digging over the vegge patch to prepare it for winter. It was very dry so hopefully this rain will help things along. This week I plan to dig in a bunch of compost and then leave it for the frosts to do their work. I want to plant food crops into another area of the garden in Spring too, so I should tackle that bit of earth soon too. Read more...

Apr 18, 2008

A tough week in NZ

On Tuesday evening I first heard about 10 students, a teacher and an instructor missing during a camp at the Sir Edmund Hilary Outdoor Pursuits Centre. By Wednesday morning the news was all bad. 6 students and a teacher from Elim Christian College in Auckland died during a canyoning exercise in a flash flood. The instructor managed to help 4 students to safety, so much kudos to her for managing that. Unbelievable grief.

Yesterday 1000 job losses were announced in NZ - 450 of them in Dunedin. The Fisher and Paykel manufacturing plant and Tamahine knitwear both announced plans to close/move production off-shore this year. The other 500 jobs are to be lost from ANZ bank shifting part of its call-centre to India. Welcome to the recession, the weather's looking dodgy and unstable.

This morning we heard that a body found just out of Christchurch is probably that of a 15 year old girl who has been missing for 12 days. The early days of the search were hampered by all sorts of weird coincidences about her imitating a movie in which a teenager was kidnapped, speculation it was a run-away hoax etc etc. But it turns out it was probably something much more simple, brutal and tragic.

Sadness.

Apr 17, 2008

Locally made shoes

We bought Miss4 some good winter shoes today. The thought of sweat-shop labourers producing our shoes weighed heavily on my mind, so instead of going to The Warehouse and buying our usual $15 pair of shoes, we went into McKinlays - one of the few shoe manufacturers left in this country. And they make them right here in town.

They are just like the ones in the picture but Tomato coloured. Miss4 thinks they are the coolest thing she has seen :)

Guilt-free shoes, worth paying quadruple the price of sweat-shop ones. And hopefully these will be very hard-wearing. Read more...

Apr 15, 2008

Justice Becroft on youth offending

Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft is interviewed in May's North and South. I like what he has to say...

He says it's important the community is concerned about youth offending and right that there's debate about it - but much media and political comment is shallow, simplistic and selective.

He often uses a quote from the Otago Daily Times: "There is a definite relationship between the increase in the number of children on the streets and the increase in juvenile crime." That was in 1884 and Becroft says while it's enticingly easy to reflect on some bygone golden age when youths were docile and dutiful, each generation has faced similar problems.

"And it's very easy to say tougher sentences for violent young boys will prevent their reoffending. But if the offending is serious they'll get tough sentences - the Youth Court sends 60 young boys to prison every year. It protects society in the short term and it sends a signal to other young people that there are ultimate consequences. But we know it doesn't work in terms of their reoffending.

"For most kids it's likely a short, sharp shock might work but for the 1000-odd boys we're talking about, many of them come from endemically violent families - they've had short, sharp, violent shocks all their life. And when we warehouse violent, impulsive, drug-dependent, conduct-disordered, truanting boys with educational deficits all together, it's unlikely it's a recipe for imediate success."

Apr 14, 2008

Book Review - The Complete Book of Massage

The Complete Book of Massage, by Clare Maxwell-Hudson

Merl bought me this book for my birthday a couple of years ago. Excellent choice. Usually with massage books you need to put up with a lot of tantric stuff or Indian mystic stuff. Or in order to get a good overview of whole-body relaxation massage you are looking at a book the size of the phone-directory. Not this one.

This book is about the size of a large magazine - easy to refer to when you have oily hands. It also has heaps of illustrations and shows each part of the body with a whole sequence of different strokes for relaxing it. There's also an excellent little 10 minute massage suggestion for the back/shoulders, which has come in very handy for us. On top of this, there are sections on baby massage and pregnancy massage, as well as a good general section on anatomy and a very good general introduction to the different types of stroke and, very importantly, when not to give someone a massage.

All in all, highly recommended.

Apr 13, 2008

Play fort!

We have decided to purchase this kitset play fort for our family. Merl's Grandma very generously gave us some money at Christmas for just such a purchase and it has taken us this long to seriously get around to deciding on something.

This will fit really nicely in our 'tree bit' of the garden - in where we took out a big self-sown sycamore last year. So it will be like a safe treehouse - since none of our trees are very suitable for actually putting a treehouse into.

I'm just waiting to hear back from the sales guy. Hopefully it will be in place in the next month or two! Read more...

Apr 12, 2008

Raiding the bookshelves

The girls and I spent the day around at Dad's house today, while Merl was at a children's ministry workshop. Aside from having a lovely day in the sun and eating his good food and just generally hanging out, I raided one of the bookshelves and brought home 2 supermarket bags full of books.

This is an ongoing project. My Mum was a big reader, but Dad is not. Dad is wanting to quietly remove most of the books from the house - part of his dealing with his grief. I, on the other hand, see many of these books as being an essential link with my Mum. Also, there are (or were until today) a bunch of my childhood books still there that I do not want to inadvertently end up at someone else's house.

Today's books included the following - all excellent books for kids about age 10 up

Little Women series, My favourite childhood 'girly' books (Anne of Green Gables came a close second)
Tanglewood Tales, A collection of retellings of Greek and Roman classical tales
Robinson Crusoe, Adventure story, good food for the imagination
The Coral Island, ditto
The Halfmen of O and The Priests of Ferris, classic young adult Fantasy by NZ author Maurice Gee.
The Small Woman, a Biography of Gladys Aylward, Missionary to China during the mid 20th Century
I, Elizabeth Tudor, by Arthur Groom. Biography of Elizabeth I (part of a 'junior historical fiction' series)
The Jungle Books, by Rudyard Kipling

I have very fond memories of all of these books (except Robinson Crusoe, which I suspect I have actually never read), and am looking forward to reading them again. I hope the girls will want to read them in time too - but even if they have no interest, I am happy to have them back in my house :) Read more...

Apr 11, 2008

The Marriage Course

Merl and I are currently attending The Marriage Course, which our church is running/facilitating.

When we first got married (7 years ago) we read the book associated with the course and found it extremely helpful. Lots of very very good advice about listening and communication and prioritising your marriage (like actually making it a priority to spend meaningful time together). Also good stuff about in-laws and love-languages and all that kind of stuff.

But 7 years is a long time ago, and although we have read the book, we don't own a copy, and our skills get rusty. So, despite having 'marriage night' written on our calendar each week and us both making the effort to keep that evening free from outside interruptions, we have not been making the effort to get off the computer or put our book down and actually talk to each other. Neither of us are big 'date' people - we are just as happy to sit home with a mug of hot chocolate - but we haven't really been doing that either... To be honest, we've even been using our 'marriage nights' as the evening to do our monthly budget spreadsheet! Now that is not fun and meaningful time :)

This course is the right thing at the right time for us. With our 2 small girls being such a big part of our family we really do need to make the time and effort to express to each other how much we love each other - otherwise we have just ended up communicating about nappies and dinner and laundry and returning library books and dishes and bills and all the other mundane things that make up our daily existence.

If you are married (or equivalent) I would highly recommend getting along to a course near you. It is run in heaps of countries over the world, and although it is delivered in a Christian context, the actual content of the course is just solid good common sense - applicable by anyone regardless of faith convictions. There is no group discussion time or anything dire like that - you and your partner go, get a candle-lit table for 2, some coffee and cake (supplied by the host church), watch a DVD, which is a recorded version of the live seminars held at Holy Trinity, Brompton, and whenever the DVD is paused for you to converse with your mate, the music is turned way up so you can hear each other, but not what anyone is saying at any other table. There is a workbook which is supplied and contains course notes and space for you to take notes and all that kind of stuff.

We had the 2nd session on Wednesday evening, and it's been great. Read more...

Apr 9, 2008

sheep for lawnmowers

Weird news story bit.

Apparently in Turin the local council have decided to use the local sheep herds to keep grass verges etc short, rather than the usual ride-on petrol mowers. This is pretty cool. At first I thought it was an April fools hoax, but if it is, some big papers have been taken in.

Here's the Guardian's coverage

Here's where I first saw it - at Planet Green Read more...

Apr 8, 2008

The wonders of garlic

Warning: This is a long rambly post about health complaints. The upshot is that garlic-infused olive oil has successfully treated bacterial infections (like boils) and glue ear in our house. Keep reading if you're a sucker for too much detail...

Miss4's body has always seemed to be badly affected by stress. Even as a wee baby she would come out in eczema whenever teething, and her immune system would just collapse - ringworm and earache etc etc just from the usual teething routine that every child goes through.

When I took her to the doc to confirm the ringworm, he looked sadly at her and said "that is one stressed child!", before waltzing out of the room to do something else. Which made me feel like a terrible mother - babies shouldn't be feeling stressed! Fortunately we had a very stable living arrangement, a rock solid daily and weekly routine and very loving home relationships. I shudder to think what the poor child's body might have done if anything else had been going on.

Which brings me to more recent developments. With the return to kindergarten (in New Zealand, kindergarten is like a preschool which kids may attend when they're 3 and 4 years old), Miss4 has started pulling out her hair again. This is a sure sign of her being overtired and overstressed - it happened for several months when we moved to the South Island, and it happened again for a couple of months around the time my mum died in November last year. Her immune system has also packed a total sad. A month ago we were dealing, simultanously, with candida, boils and warts - yep, fungal, bacterial and viral infections. At the same time.

Now, I am a biochemist by training, but even without all those years at varsity, I would probably still know that if you treat the boils with antibiotics then your thrush is going to get worse. And the thrush wasn't responding to the anti-fungal creams we tried anyway.

If we let the boils run their course, they became large and painful and lasted over a week before bursting and draining of their own accord. All the modern literature advises not to burst or lance them yourself - to let nature take its course. But she was in pain and feeling miserable the poor thing, so I wanted to find something to do to help.

So. What to do?

Last winter, when dealing with glue ear and a child who was stone deaf for several weeks, I infused some olive oil with garlic, to try dripping some warm oil into her ears (I was desperate - 2 months of antibiotics was achieving a big fat nothing and my baby couldn't hear). A friend swore by warm garlic oil drops, the internet seemed to give it the cautious nod (apparently it's a very common treatment in Europe), so I tried, three times a day - By day 2 she could hear! This was the child who if you stood right behind her and shouted her name, would give no indication of having heard you. She had a hearing test at kindy - a tympanometry - flat-lined. And two days after starting olive/garlic oil drops she was hearing again. I was ecstatic.

The olive/garlic oil has been sitting in readiness ever since.

In thinking about the candida infection, I had a vague recollection of advice to try oil, even just as a soothing agent while the body caught up with the infection (we had tried topical yoghurt, but Miss4 said it was too stinging and flatly refused to cooperate. She already eats a pottle every day). So I tried the olive/garlic oil - just to see - it could hardly make the situation any worse. And while I was at it, I anointed the two boils that were on the increase at the time.

The thrush is an ongoing thing. The oil seems to help keep the irritation down, which is good, and things are improving, but slowly. But the amazing thing was the boils! By the next evening, they were less red and angry looking and Miss4 reported on them being not as sore. I continued to oil the boils twice a day and within 5 days they were what I would call 'healed' - they hadn't progressed and burst, on the contrary they had just gotten smaller and gone away. I kept the oil treatment up for another 3 or 4 days, and all is still well!

Yay for garlic. Good for ears, good for bacterial infections, good for cooking! Could there be a more perfect food :) I will definitely keep this one in mind and see how it works on things like infected hang-nails and that sort of thing.

p.s. We have dropped the number of days that Miss4 is enrolled at kindy. 5 whole mornings is clearly too much for her, so during the winter terms at least, she will be at kindy for 3 mornings and home for the other 4 of the week. A 4 year old should not be desperately hanging out for the holidays! Read more...

Apr 7, 2008

Link to home ed discussion

I've been spending some time lurking at the New Zealand Association for Gifted Children (NZAGC) 'phorum'

This particular thread here "A Hard Choice to Make" was quite helpful to me in thinking about home education. There is good up-to-date NZ-specific information from parents who are homeschooling their kids. Also, there is some good to-ing and fro-ing between people asking the usual questions (How do you know it's the right thing? What about socialisation? Aren't homeschoolers reclusive freaks?...), and people who have gotten quite good at answering them :) Read more...

Apr 5, 2008

Book Review - White Owl, Barn Owl

We got this book out from our library last week. Miss4 loves it. The illustrations are magical, and the gentle story of a Grandpa building a nesting box for barn owls then taking his granddaughter out in the evenings to quietly see if a barn owl appears is just lovely. "We were patient lots of times!" reads the text - just what I can imagine Miss4 saying.

The story is surrounded by good barn owl information - how they hunt, where they nest, what they eat, why and how they are so silent when they fly... A great 'living book' of natural history for picture-book aged readers.

At the end of the book are instructions for making a couple of types of nesting box, so you can help provide shelter for these increasingly endangered beautiful birds. They have a widespread distribution on Earth, but are endangered in some areas (like the Midwestern US) due to habitat destruction. More barn owl info here

Now I wish Barn Owls lived in NZ so we could build a nesting box!
.

Apr 4, 2008

Have meat, will eat :)

Mmmmmmm. Meat.

My sister-in-law works on a mixed dairy-beef farm, and we finally got organised with another sister and a nephew and a friend to share a cow. yay.

We bought 1/4 of a beast, and it arrived over the weekend, all butchered and packaged into "3 person" portions. I am very excited.

I cooked up the first lot of it last night. Oh boy is there a lot of meat in one of those portions! These butchers are clearly used to packaging meat for country folks :) So it will be eat some, freeze some for the casserole cuts. Which works out very well, actually , as there are quite a few days when I get to 4.30pm and realise I have no idea what is for dinner, and I love being able to grab a home-cooked meal from the freezer. Read more...

Apr 1, 2008

You mean I get to do this forever??

We were in the garden the other day, Miss4 and I, doing some drawing in our 'nature books'. At least, I was drawing a fuschia on a bit of scrap paper, while she was drawing 'grass' in her scrapbook.

She was chattering away, as is her wont, while I was drawing, and it became apparent that I wasn't really listening...
"I'm sorry love, I wasn't really listening, what did you say?"

"Why weren't you listening? When I was talking, Mum? Why did you just carry on doing your drawing and not be paying attention? Why did you?" (not hurt or sad or anything, just a continual stream of why why why...)

"Sorry, sweetheart, I was concentrating on my drawing. This is something I am just learning how to do so I need to concentrate so I can do the best I can.


"Because I'm still learning how to draw"

...silence for about 2 seconds..

"Wow! You mean Grown-Ups can learn things?!"

Indeed.
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