Saturday, March 31, 2012
Today I dealt with the lovely bag of tomatoes my visiting aunty left for me earlier this week. I roasted them all like the first picture below.
The I froze some of the roast tomato and red onion mixture and turned the rest into home made pizza, which the kids have been asking for for weeks.Brighid ate nothing because she has broken her excellent record of not being sick all term by coming down with multiple tummy complaints today. Still, it has meant I had a sleep this afternoon laying with her and I've been reading The Weissmans of Westport while keeping her company. I got a little weeding done when she put herself to sleep on the floor of her bedroom.
And I'm planning a road trip with my sister. Very exciting - we've never done such a thing before. We're taking my children and spending much of it visiting elderly or older relatives, but it could be the beginning of more adventurous trips.
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
or go to the dentist (which will likely be the equivalent of many tops) or wait until I see what the bill is after the car has been for a service tomorrow.
Either way, we splashed out tonight and had dinner at the Speights Ale House where I didn't have to prepare a thing and none of us had to do dishes. You can come up with all the lectures on thriftiness in the world, but after a sleepless night and a busy day, I had not a single ounce of energy for food preparation and needed more nutrition that fish and chips could provide. We stopped at the beach and then the playground on the way home. Actually I didn't set foot on the playground, but lay in the car with my eyes shut.
Yesterday I thought I was really getting the hang of the new multiple extra curricular activities - no moaning and feeling overwhelmed for at least two days and possibly more. Only now Fionn announces that he has made a decision on winter sport (rugby league again, flinging away his thoughts of a season of soccer) and it turns out that league practice clashes with swimming lessons. The new swimming lessons that is, as this term's swimming lesson time has been changed to accommodate a changed work schedule. Brighid chimed in with a request to play league as well, explaining that "I have been very patient waiting to play league". Where did she get that vocab? Oh okay. She has been on the league sideline every winter since she was 15 months old. I'll hold off on the feelings of multi-activity organisation competency for a bit yet.
I re-read The Secret Garden. I started reading it to Brighid but she's a wee bit young for it and then I wanted to re-read it for myself. A garden as a source of life and love and energy. I think I should go back to reading children's books again. I'm off to look at bulb catalogues next. I was dreaming of spring bulbs as I lay trying to sleep for twenty minutes before school pickup this afternoon.
Nice top though, aye? I love the colour.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
So I retreated into knitting. Then I unwound that and wondered why I didn't just buy one at the shop. Or wear the one I already have. Or get some new hobbies.
In other news of one life in a small wet town, I helped Mary K sort some more things out in her old home. Now she is settled at a local rest home, Mary is increasingly anxious to sort out all of her remaining possessions and sell the house. I have some pictures and china to link her old home and our shared ancestors to mine. I've even made a special space in my bookcase to display the china.
Then, in an interlude while the heavens turned up the pressure ready for another ten downpours, I harvested the last of the basil, killed many many caterpillars and planted six celery plants and a myrtle ugni (NZ cranberry) plant.
I also bought the latest issue of New Zealand Books, which is full of interesting things to read about and may have prevented a small part of my brain from sliding into rain-and-domesticity-induced mush this weekend. I think I finished Caleb's Crossing since I last wrote a blog post. I enjoyed reading it a lot, but found I didn't have much to say about it afterwards. I stumbled upon this review this afternoon which helped me put a finger on the empty response afterwards. I presume I'm not the only person to accidentally stumble upon things on the internet because of accidentally stumbling out of the kitchen in blind search of that which is not cooking.
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Just beforehand, I nipped down to our extensive central business district here in Wetville, to use my one day only discount coupon at the only modestly priced womens clothing shop in town which does not require visiting the Warehouse. New red cardy.
I'm still knitting. I do want to finish my sewing as the navy top isn't far off completion, but it requires more concentration than I have to offer of an evening this week. The knitting will turn into a red scarf.
In the garden, red geraniums, nestled amongst kale and rocket (sown or planted there on purpose) and self seeded alyssum, calendula and purple sprouting broccoli. I'm pretty chuffed to have gotten to the point in some parts of the garden where I get free plants which are actually welcome.
Tuesday, March 20, 2012
No problem. I went down there and found a trolley (grabbed a wheelchair until they found me a trolley) and shifted the rest of her possessions. Now everything is together and we've had a chat and she is going to be okay after all.
No sewing funnily enough, though I did start knitting again a couple of nights ago. A red scarf with no set pattern so far. I looked up some flash patterns but they all require me to count very carefully the whole time I knit. Not my kind of knitting.
Quite unrelated question: will the apostrophe, correctly used, survive? A missing apostrophe is mildly annoying for a punctuation pedant like me, but all those inappropriate apostrophes hovering over plurals are driving me crazy, almost everywhere I look.
Saturday, March 17, 2012
I know that research tells us that socioeconomic factors play a large role in child abuse and the overall health and wellbeing of children. Yet poverty is carefully omitted from most discussion documents, in case the Government should be forced to admit that real poverty does in fact exist. The Salvation Army recently released its annual report, The Growing Divide, which clearly shows that a deepening gap between the haves and have-nots is having negative effects for our children and society. People often refer to the problem of poverty as "child poverty", yet in my view no such thing exists as children don't generally have money, or a lack of it.
It's parental poverty that exists and impacts severely on the ability of parents to provide the necessities. Parental poverty creates family environments dominated by financial stress, where the struggle to feed, clothe, and house our children takes precedence over the emotional and physical needs of our children.
A discussion about vulnerable children, void of their parents, helps set in place yet another lengthy political discussion about people instead of with people. This means that policies, legislation, and lives are all set to be changed by everyone but those who will be most affected by those changes.
I'm glad she isn't being silenced for having the audacity to speak up about the general silencing of parents receiving the DPB. I wish her article had made it to Bryce Edwards' New Zealand Politics Daily roundup. I don't know if the topic was seen as too soft or not highly topical to the particular day's news, but the voices of beneficiaries speaking out are rare and should be listened to rather than those people, arguably parasites, who presume to speak about, over, 'for' them for a living.
Next up is Women and Children First, an article about the work of Sarah Hrdy (I want a vowel in that name every time I look at it). Here is the blurb:
For decades the science of child-rearing was guided by patriarchal ideas, but now the cradle rocks to an older rhythm. Eric Michael Johnson, in conversation with eminent evolutionary biologists Sarah Hrdy and Robert Trivers, explores how Mother Nature and the social network that nurtured our past have been remembered at last.
The article links Hrdy's own experiences growing up in Houston, Texas in an era where parents of her social class were expected to withold affection and actively keep their offspring from forming close bonds with primary caregivers, with her work as an academic. I think it the article is compelling and totally worth reading in full, but for the moment here is an extract:
The uniting of behavioural and genomic evidence, something that Hrdy and Trivers have independently explored throughout their careers, has revolutionised the way that mothers and children are viewed from the perspective of natural history. And rather than an evolutionary logic that places men at the top of the hierarchy, followed by women and children at lower levels, the perspective has now been inverted.
"Instead of the classical, so-called 'patriarchal' society," Trivers says, "the logic goes the other way around: children; women as primary investors; lastly and hardest to justify, males."
In turn, what Hrdy finds is that a supportive network of caregivers is an evolutionarily stable strategy, ensuring children have many attachment figures. Patriarchal society isolated mothers by creating an environment that immured them from the social support that has long been the hallmark of our species. The image of the mother as "an all-giving, totally dedicated creature who turns herself over to her children", says Hrdy, is not one that "takes into account the woman's perspective".
Thank you to Blue Milk for alerting me to this. I've put Blue Milk on my blog roll to keep up with her own fabulous posts. Back to Hrdy's work though, and I'm drawing some links between the phenomenon of the uber mother, seemingly in a million places at once as she ensures her children get to explore all their sporting options, learn at least one musical instrument, dance, sing, learn to swim, get extra academic tuition, learn to fly (you mean your child hasn't had flying lessons yet? What kind of parent are you?). Most of these women, anxious to hold or advance their child's class position in society (though that phrase has yet to be honestly articulated by anyone in my hearing), are working as well. This stuff costs, and not that many people can do it all on one income. In an increasing range of families, both parents are practically supporting this project, and I notice at ballet that grandmas are wonderfully enabling for this whirlwind.
I never imagined myself as the parent of multi-activity-need-a-timetable-just-for-after-school children. I'll come clean and fess how much the tally has risen to, despite me saying no to several requests:
Fionn (9): swimming lessons, drum lessons, kung fu, permission for one winter sport granted (despite him asking for FOUR)
Brighid (5): swimming lessons, ballet, kung fu, plus she is currently requesting a winter sport as well.
I notice some satisfaction from friends who have had to put up with me denouncing multi-activity madness in the past as I 'fess how the load has grown. (Does that sound like a bad parent for calling it a load? I've got a point coming up on that) They point out quite reasonably that keeping them busy now pays dividends in the future, when they are busy teenagers and not delinquents.
Actually, not all teenagers who don't do a lot of wholesome, organised, out of school activities are delinquents. But letting your kids wander the streets (and streets are actually pretty safe where we live), or play on the computer for ages if you've got one, or have a raw, unpolished CV... well that's what poor kids do. They do it because they have little choice. Extra curricular madness is the privilege of those with money and time, and by that I mean enough money and time and utterly superior juggling skills for the most part given the difficulty of funding this stuff on a single income.
So. Extra-curricular madness (yes I know it is virtuous, but virtue and madness are not mutually exclusive conditions) is in part a reaction to the fear of poverty for your offspring. Given the shitty lives many poor people have, it's not an unreasonable fear. I have, after all, begun this post with an article about poverty and vulnerable children. But in a society which still assumes that mothers bear the primary responsibility for raising children and for holding the moral tone of a household, the stress of the uber mother alone is relevant to Hrdy's points about the patriarchal erosion of wider support for parenting.
Favourite Handyman, nicknamed on this blog so back in the days when my life was based more firmly at home, has always been involved in supporting extra curricular activities. He started with the male sanctioned ones like rugby league practice (simply cos' that's what Fionn did first, back in the balmy days when there was only one activity) and branched out from there. Now that I have increased my hours, he has increased his input and tomorrow I shall buy a noticeboard for the kitchen for the sharing of information about kit, costs, dates and times.
It's awesome that extended family and other networks are assisting with supporting these activities that (my children at least) ask for and enjoy. If, however, you are a mother involved with this and you are not the person who organises who goes where, who takes who and makes sure it all adds up to the expected number of children in bed at the end of the day and not one still waiting outside the music teacher's house, then I think that is a) fantastic and b) statistically unusual.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
There is a sizeable lump of mercury filling in a container in front of me (I have an irrational desire to show it to the dentist) which used to be in my mouth. Nestled into a tooth no less.
On a ranking of nasty things children bring home and share, which do you think is worst: nits or worms?
That's all. I am off to read Caleb's Crossing by the ever-wonderful Geraldine Brooks now.
Sunday, March 11, 2012
This morning I read Coal and the Coast from cover to cover and I think it is a special book.
Maunder begins with a preface on Alain Badiou's theory, explaining that Badiou, a French philosopher and postmarxist, bases his thought on set theory. I loved set theory as a primary school child, pondering subsets and supersets and intersections as I ate my breakfast. I am disappointed to report from a learned source that, at least at high school level, set theory has been abandoned.
So Badiou is interested in the are(s) where different groups overlap, as they are areas of multiplicity. So is Maunder. As I write this review, it strikes me that I could fruitfully come back to this idea in terms of exploring and representing motherhood, but that can wait for another day. If I have interpreted the preface accurately, then Maunder's project follows that of Badiou's: that we no longer live with the notion of a "singular working class leading a singular revolution" towards a better future, but are instead mostly caught up in separate projects, separate lives and concerns. Until a momentuous event brings our relatively disparate lives and concerns together and a window is opened to the possibility of a new future.
I can see, through the lens of reading Coal and the Coast, how the Pike River disaster changed the way our local community interacted. The media descended like so very many jackals to package a product from our grief and loss. John Key and his cronies prepared speeches linking the tragedy to an Act of God, carefully implying no human culpability. I remember standing in the fish and chip shop when the news came through on the tv of the second explosion. I remember standing stunned. I remember the shop filled with the news like a thick vapour and I remember the tears running down the face of staunch strong brave Wendy as she wrapped the fried potatoes. I thought I understood that the men were dead before, but my grief at that moment suggested some deep harbouring of hope.
On the day of the memorial service I waited for the bus with 60 or 70 others on the main road near our house, conversing with those I knew and marvelling at all the faces I didn't know because they always travel by car. I wished this could be the beginning of a public transport service for our town. Like many locals, I chose against attending the memorial service twelve months later. I had no interest in listening to the solemn platitudes of National and Labour party politicians who preferred dark suits of mourning and kissing babies over funding proper safety checks and inspections in our coal mines.
In his introduction Maunder comments that "[he] will avoid the 'homely' portrayal of the Coast as a pubful of Barry Crump 'characters' and instead portray the people in their true variety." Hallelujah! It's certainly about time that national media moved on from their monolithic portrayal of The West Coaster.
Chapter One chronicles the fortnight immediately after the 19 November 2010 explosion. As he weaves the narrative of his ordinary life activity in with the unfolding events at Pike, Maunder highlights the hypocrisy of local swimming pools and takeaway bars requiring endless and expensive health and safety hurdle jumping while the same government(s) allows dangerous underground mining situations to go on unchecked until 29 men die, and possibly beyond.
Chapter Two tells the story of organised labour and its relationship with national politics from the beginning of coalmining on the West Coast to the late twentieth century. Maunder draws heavily on Len Richardson's book Coal, Class and Community. I had a little to do with Len when I was a student and then a tutor at the University of Canterbury history department. His genial personality and keen intellect were first fostered in the mining town of Denniston and reading this part of Coal and the Coast reminded me of the whakapapa of coast historians. Richardson, as a young history lecturer at Canterbury had the support of another coaster, Phil Ross May, who wrote The West Coast Gold Rushes. May's book mentions a claim less than kilometres from my house which my grandad suspects belonged to my great great great uncle. It is a trite West Coast practice, pulling out ones whakapapa in relation to this piece of land, but people (like me) only do it because they want to belong here, which is surely no bad thing.
The story itself of organised labour on the West Coast is very accessible in Coal and the Coast. This book, like Maunder's 2008 play on the same topic, should bring the story to a wider audience. I suspect academic historians may wish to quibble with aspects of the narrative and I look forward to their comments. I hope this book gets widely reviewed in its entirety, not merely for salacious interpretations of the section specifically on the Pike River tragedy.
The chapter on health and safety makes for grim reading, but it also exposes the power struggles which workers find themselves in as governments frequently do a poor job of looking after worker safety and a much better one of pandering to business interests.
Chapter Four explores the experiences of West Coasters in the wake of the government-led destruction of most of our timber industry, the tensions surrounding Maori leasehold land in Greymouth and the poliices of Labour governments under both Lange and Clark which impacted negatively on our region.
Chapter Five, which deals with climate change, includes interview material with long time miner and unionist Les Neilson and Green MP Kevin Hague. Maunder attempts to bring together the issues of miners, with a history of left wing agitation, and greenies, who also have some history of left wing agitation. It's a bold and brave task, which is another way of saying that it has mostly felt impossible to me, even though I see that it is essential in order to move forward as a diverse but functionally coherent society.
I loved Chapter Six on The Modern Miner. I know several of the men interviewed and I've met or heard of the all the others. It was at this part of reading the book that I really started to feel that Maunder has given us a taonga in this a book, a connecting of previously disparate or conflicting narratives, an exploration of what it means to belong in a world not primarily organised by consumerism. When I arrived on the West Coast in 2006 with my husband and young son, I had some very clear goals: I wanted another baby, a house of our own and to be part of the community where we worked, not commuters between two cultures. Paul Maunder's partner, a midwife, delivered our daughter twelve months later. It was Paul, who we met through our jobs, who invited us to join his many political and cultural projects and made our lives the richer for it. This year, in 2012, we are honoured that Paul's daughter is our nine year old son's teacher.
Late last year I pulled out of the Blackball Museum of Working Class History project. It's a great project, inspired and lead by Paul Maunder and I only withdrew because I lacked the time to contribute effectively. As I read this book, I knew what I would be suggesting next: I would love to see an oral history project on the miners' wives, starting with Angela Bolderson, who was a miner's wife throughout the 1984-5 miners' strike in England and whose husband leads the union at the Spring Creek mine now.
We have this book because Paul Maunder has devoted his life to writing and to political activism. Thank you Paul, for everything that you give to our local community, and for this book which gives us a lens to consider ourselves through. It also gives the wider non-local community of readers not just a story of the West Coast through the prism of a terrible and famous tragedy, but a map to consider how some of these complex strands of multiple identities might bind in a new way in their own local communities. Go buy it, or request that your local library buys it.
Thursday, March 8, 2012
But I have made progress sewing my navy top, made out of Donna Karan Italian jersey no less (or that is what the photos on the Global Fabrics website have led me to believe), from a Khaliah Ali Simplicity 1945 pattern. No one at Pattern Review has posted a review of the crossover top I have chosen to make, so I forge somewhat valiantly forward making it all by myself, with no one to indicate the pitfalls and perks ahead. There was a spot (big spot) of unpicking earlier in the week, as it seems that no matter how carefully I checked which part to sew to which, goblins flipped things over and made me sew the left front on backwards. Or upside down. Or something which was wrong. Next up are the sleeves. I've roughly pinned them and anticipate it will be triable-on by the end of the week. Oooooh.
So, sewing at night or in the middle of the night, is providing me with a sense of achievement outside the madness of what I tentatively call regular responsibilities, or the rest of my life. I've just deleted a long rant about adjusting to our new family timetable because I will wince when I read it later and there is the issue of middle class whingeyness when other people are cleaning floors and serving up at KFC at odd hours just to feed their kids and get kicked in the backside by the government. But if you are reading this and feeling like other people seem to manage their family and working lives smoothly while you struggle and puddle and patch it all together, then please know that you are not alone.
I tried out Twitter this week. We'll see. I'm not quite ready to review it's effectiveness as a new procrastination tool yet. As a procrastination tool, Facebook is tried and tested and true for me. This is my favourite find of the week:
Monday, March 5, 2012
I watched/listened to The Lightbulb Conspiracy while I sewed tonight. I think it is very good and absolutely worth watching. I thought I knew a bit about planned obsolescene, but I learnt a lot of new and fascinating information through this documentary. If you haven't discovered Harvestbird on my blogroll, then I recommend you read her posts. They aren't frequent, but they are very eloquent and sometimes haunting evocations of one person's journey through post-bigquake Christchurch life.
Sunday, March 4, 2012
On the broccoli front, we have to take our chances. Broccoli turns over quite fast in supermarkets and I cannot grow it successfully all year round.
But in winter, when greens feel so particularly essential to conbat winter colds and lurgies, and the prices in the shop climb steadily and the issues of unfreshness continue, home grown veges are totally worth the relatively small effort.
Due to spending most of summer sewing instead of gardening, I've got very few greens ready in my garden right now, just lettuce and some herbs (basil and parsley are the most useful green herbs which I'm using). But I have got kale plants in ready for winter. The only work I need to do for them is to scrape off caterpillar eggs and to squash caterpillars until it gets cold enough to stop the white butterflies from visiting.
This morning I pruned and weeded my herb garden and made room to sow viola Miss Helen Mount (heartsease), rocket, red mesclun and miners lettuce. The self seeded miners lettuce from last year is already poking through, ready for the cooler weather. This afternoon I dug, weeded and fertilised part of the overgrown garden by the lean-to and then planted celery and spinach. Next time I have a magical window of gardening opportunity, I have silverbeet plants and seeds to plant/sow and daffodil bulbs to plant.
Yesterday we went to Art in the Park, a fabulous visual arts showcase. Fionn performed in the kapahaka group at the beginning of the day while Brighid clung to us, keen to join the group one day and yet currently too shy to watch without a cuddle. The art was very good and as I had some birthday money from Mum and Dad, I looked at the cheaper pieces with a new eye. But I realised that until we paint the rooms the colours we want and ditch the muddy green wallpaper forever, there isn't much point choosing special pictures. So I bought a necklace and saved the rest of the money for more jewellery purchasing at another time.
Today was Childrens Day, which for us translated to the children cleaning up their room under bribery duress and then the four of us going swimming and hydrosliding for free with almost every single breathing child and his/her parents in the entirety of Wetville and its much wider surrounds. Fun though.
Another sign of the changing season: I'm looking at alternative/complementary health websites. I even dragged the coconut oil out of the nether regions of the spice cupboard.
Friday, March 2, 2012
Which is how it came to be that while I currently measure 45-38-45 (inches are more appealing), which technically (as in according to the pattern sizing instructions) puts me at a size 22W, I am actually cutting a 16 at the neck and shoulders and an 18 everywhere else except grading to a 20 from the waist to the hip on the back piece. And then adding just under five inches of full bust adjustment, divided between the two front pieces. The idea behind this rather complicated task is that the garment doesn't either fall off my shoulders or refuse to go over my tits, which is what shop tops tend to do. I have had some successful experience with full bust adjustments, but tonight, working on the right front, I rotated a dart for the first time. I've been consulting Fit for Real People intensely, with the book open beside me as I measure and cut and paste and make some visual leaps which do not come easily to me. Judging by my final result, I haven't got the rotation exactly right, though I suspect the large size of the initial FBA may account for the problem.Picture A: The traced pattern piece, unaltered except for tracing the 16 across the shoulder piece and grading to an 18 thereafter.
Picture B: What I hope is the final altered right front. It took the best part of an entire evening (my evenings start when Brighid goes to sleep, so probably just short of two hours). There is another front to go yet. I haven't worked out how I will account for the extra fabric at the pleat markings - either fatter pleats or an extra pleat.
Picture C: Close up of the rotated dart at the shoulder. Things didn't line up perfectly after the rotation, so I added another wedge of paper in to make things line up. Fingers crossed, because I couldn't see another way.
The fabric arrived yesterday. It is a beautiful navy jersey knit, quite different to anything available locally and yet not more expensive than local fabric stock. I see further experimenting with phone orders and postal fabric samples in my future.