Halfway down the stairs

The day to day thoughts of mother of three, fledgling gardener, and policy analyst.

Brought to you by the number 33. May 29, 2010

Filed under: birthdays,working — halfwaydownthestairs @ 10:24 pm

OK. So I’m 33 tomorrow. That’s the same age as Jesus. He had done one or two more things in his life than I have, but things ended rather abruptly for him at this point, and I hopefully have a few years left, so there’s time for more stuff.

I’ve been lax with the blog, for which my apologies. Turns out I’m not the most frequent blogger.  But its quality over quantity that’s important people, so hang in there.   I’ve been busy. Busy with my family, and busy working too. I’m back working for myself, writing policy, writing presentations, writing anything really, with a little business analyst work thrown in for good measure.  You can see my work on www.policypeople.co.nz if you’re interested.

So the baby is in daycare, and loving it. That ‘baby’, who is nearly one now and quite the big boy. Everyone else is fine, if you don’t count a broken arm (master 4).  Life is busy.  It seems like time is racing by like a kid on roller skates and I’m growing up.  What makes me feel older anything is the fact that I have a SEVEN year old (nearly).   That’s crazy. I’ve been married for 12 years. That’s crazy too. 33, 1, 4, 7, 12. I should buy a lotto ticket, but I bet I don’t.  Lately I’ve been ‘winning’ $12 by not buying one as I walk by. It’s a guaranteed win – try it.

So I’m 33 in 3 hours. It’s quite grown up, and old and all, but thankfully I still have some living to do. In my world, every day is an adventure and a challenge, with something to be achieved in it. I like trying new things, and making up challenges.  I ‘ran’ a half marathon to see if I could. I cram a lot into each day. I love doing the most, the best, that I can. I am pretty intolerant of people who don’t do their best, be all they can be. Not only is it boring, it’s wasteful. You only get one shot at life, and you need to grab it by the balls and make the most of it. I think I do. But there’s always more to be done, to be seen, to be realised. I often wish you could have more than one life.

If I got another shot, I would have been a doctor.  I’d be a GP, and I’d have loved it. Trouble is, I never did sciences at school, so I never ended up pointed in that direction. But my god I would have loved medicine.   And yes, I have looked at starting now. But it’s 13 years to get right through, and while I would still have some working life, the investment doesn’t stack up. And there’s those kids I have who need raising. And I make a good living from my work now. So meantime I watch Greys, and House, and chat with my awesome GP about interesting medical stuff, and live vicariously through my clever sister, who is an A and E nurse. She’s pretty cool.

What would you do if you got another shot? And what holds you back from doing that now?

See you on the stairs.  I’ll be the one who is 33.



Forever and always February 9, 2010

Filed under: marriage — halfwaydownthestairs @ 11:54 am

“What are you always thinking about?”
asked the little white rabbit.
“I’m just thinking about my wish,” replied the little black rabbit.
“What is your wish?” asked the little white rabbit.
“I just wish that I could be with you forever and always,”
replied the little black rabbit.
The little white rabbit opened her eyes very wide
and thought very hard.
“Why don’t you wish a little harder?”
asked the little white rabbit.

The rabbits’ wedding was in our childhood library. It was a sweet little story. I’m not sure I thought much about it as a small person, and certainly didn’t think it was a comment on interracial marriage, as some have. Garth Williams wrote this book in 1958. It’s the story of a white rabbit and a black rabbit who play together and are great friends. As the story goes along, the black rabbit is sad, and worries about what might happen if one day he could not be with the white rabbit. As you can see from text I’ve cut in, he eventually asks his friend to marry him, so they can be together “forever and always.” If I was getting married now, I might even use this as a reading – who knew it was so delightful?

Anyhow, I’ve been thinking a bit about marriage lately. I am qualified to speak a little about this, having been married for maybe 11 years. I have also helped deliver pre-marriage courses, which, for the record, are more valuable than gold. I was talking to a friend recently about marriage. He had noticed that there was a lot of attention and energy spent on parenting, child raising, parent education etc. There are TV shows (thanks Nigel Latta) books, classes, and more, all aimed to help you birth, parent, and educate your children. My friend commented that there seem to be more resources going into parenting than there are into marriages. And what is more important for a kid, he wondered, than two happy parents?

Too true. People get married often in the first flush of new love, when all looks rosy in the world. Everyone talks about the wedding, the reception, the dress, the flowers. All of which is wonderful. But there is little thought given to the marriage that follows the wedding day, and I don’t see a lot of resource being thrown at people planning to spend their lives together.  When marriages get into trouble, the courts provide three free counselling sessions, to assist couples who have children to determine what happens next. What about some help at the other end of the journey, where it could be much more valuable, and indeed preventative?

I am one of a rare breed of people who comes from a family where the parents are still married. To each other, not to two new people! I am married, joyfully so. Increasingly, marriages and relationships don’t last. I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why this is. Way up there at the top of the list I’d put because couples don’t talk to each other. There seems to be a fear about what the other partner might think about this or that thought or feeling. Or perhaps that days get busy with work and social life, and eventually with children, and then more children, and suddenly there has developed a void between you that seems uncrossable. So, for the sake of your marriage, talk. Build little rituals into your day where you share information.

My (amazing) husband and I talk about our favourite things at days end. We lie in bed, and ask the other what our favourite thing of that day was. It might have been laughing with the baby, or sitting on the ferry in the sun, or some other small joy. By sharing this little thing, we get a window into the other person’s day, some shared understanding. And because this is a habit of ours, the repeated question each evening is a little bridge to more communication. It isn’t much, and it shouldn’t be. This is more important than evenings out in fancy restaurants, or flowers that just die anyway (though I will suffer those if I must! 🙂 )

There is much, much more I could say. Perhaps enough to fill a book?  I’m not an advocate of staying in marriages that aren’t working for the sake of ‘marriage’. But I am an advocate of learning how to love over the course of a lifetime. In a great marriage, that love runs more deeply and is more fulfilling as the years go by.  Great marriages have positive effect on children, on other couples, and on communities too.

Somehow a good marriage enhances not just those two people, but those around them as their love for each other is reflected in what they do in the world. It’s as if the energy you gain from being well loved can then be passed on, in greater quantity and to good effect. I bet you can think of a couple who have a great relationship, and it shows on the faces of their kids, in their work, in the volunteering they do, in the advice and help that they give to you. They look to do more, learn more, understand more.  I hope that when my time here is done, someone will think of us as a couple like this.

See you on the stairs,



We’re all going on a summer holiday…. January 19, 2010

Filed under: christmas,holidays,working — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:57 pm

OK, so it’s been forever and a day since I last blogged. My apologies. My poor excuse is that I live in New Zealand, and as any New Zealander knows, nothing happens in this country AT ALL from Christmas eve right through the first three weeks of January. Nothing. The reason for that is that we are all off at a beach somewhere, camping, or staying in a bach, playing cards, swimming, fishing, and drinking wine. Which is pretty much a summary of our Christmas holidays. Christmas day was awesome… There was backyard cricket:

a sunken pavlova (see the Night before Christmas post), and quite a bit of afternoon dozing on the couch.

After Christmas, our nuclear family took off to the beach. Omapere, to be exact.  Omapere is in the Hokianga harbour, on New Zealand’s west coast, for international readers. It’s about an hour and a half past Dargaville.

On the way there, we got stuck in a uniquely NZ traffic jam….

Are we moooooving yet? (Sorry.)

Our bach looked across the harbour to the giant sand dunes. Northland Maori tell the story of how these sand dune mountains were created. It is said that a great forest of Kauri trees once covered the entrance to the harbour. Kupe, the polynesian explorer, landed here, on his journey from Hawaiki. He was so happy there, he stayed until he was an old man. In his old age, he wanted to return to Hawaiki. One of his sons was so angry at being left behind, that he lit a fire which burned down the whole forest. Apparently you can still find charred remains of Kauri trees under the sand….

Whatever the reason the dunes are there, masters 6 and 3 had an awesome day with their Dad sliding down them on what passes for a toboggan. I stayed home  – master 0 not being quite up to board riding just yet – and watched them as tiny dots through binoculars.

It was idyllic. Just the sort of place you could sit and watch the sunset, and (lucky us) watch Orca whales cruising by as they chased sting rays for a summer snack.



Out the other window, we had a view of this:

Does the happiness of small boys know no bounds??  They delighted in watching the engine go in and out of the shed, get washed, and see volunteer firepersons come and go. I even think it was worth the completely predictable new years eve call out at 3am where the siren sounded and woke every single one of us up. Still, we could watch out the windows, and the volunteer firefighters waved as they ran into the station to get their fireperson gear on and go save the world from an actual fire, we found out later, down the road a bit in Rawene.

The boys played in rock pools, at the beach, went fishing (master 6 caught a snapper!) and otherwise had the sort of holiday small boys love. I largely hung out at the bach with the baby, who was a bundle of loveliness as usual. It was waaaaay too hot to be taking him outside for much of the day, so we were a bit home bound, but we made bread, did the usual laundry and dinner routine, but also had a bit of time for napping and reading, so that was OK.

So we came home, the more to holiday here. Busy husband was at home right up until yesterday, and did an amazing job taking the big kids hither and yon and hither again in their quest for world domination. And just when we had completely exhausted him, he got to go back to work. Where there is air conditioning. And quiet time. I’m sure he is loving it. 🙂

So we have two more weeks of school holidays to get through before relative order is restored with the arrival of school and daycare. And until then we have holiday swimming and holiday tennis and holiday cooking to do. In fact, the reason I came on to write the blog was to write about the cooking, but that will have to wait for the next one, as this one has turned into quite the holiday piece.

In some ways, one could say that I’m on one loooong holiday now – I quit my job the other day. OK, so I was on maternity leave in any case, but I did have a reasonably clear plan to return to work. I had enrolled master 0 in daycare and everything. But after a lot of thought, I chose to give this particular job up.  Largely this is because the cost of full time childcare for two, and before & after school care for 1, would eat up too much of my salary for me to be happy to work. I will miss it, specifically I will miss the worky challenges and coffee and the people and the peace. But I hope I can get some work done as I have done before, as a self-employed sort, creating policies and other documentation for businesses. Watch this space. (And, for the record, being at home with 3 children is no kind of holiday, in case you were wondering.)

Enough for now. I hope your summer holidays have been as long and as relaxed as mine. And that those of you in the freezing northern hemisphere are full of hot chocolates and warm jackets and white fluffy snow, and such.

See you on the stairs



O Holy Night December 24, 2009

Filed under: christmas,cooking,gardens,pavlova,Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 1:51 pm

Well, now it actually is the night before Christmas. Well, at least the day before. The sun is shining – it’s so hot that you can’t go outside. Our house is unnaturally quiet as masters 6 and 3 have gone to terrorise their grandparents, OVERNIGHT, and won’t be back for one more blessed hour. This has meant that I have wrapped all the gifts, been to get the fresh fruit, and been to the supermarket, and am generally entirely ready for the big day tomorrow. As usual, Santa has completely over-bought for the children, and the lounge was a sea of gifts and wrapping paper – just wrapping it all up.

I have a pavlova in the oven from this recipe, and it looks as though it just might work out. I’ve never made a pavlova before, but this was truly so ridiculously easy I will never buy one again. It will be topped with cream and strawberries though, not that healthy yoghurt stuff! It is Christmas after all. The Christmas cake is all made too, and has been sitting quietly in it’s tin sipping brandy for a couple of weeks (shame I can’t say the same) and the mince pies I made have mostly been eaten… perhaps I can summon up a few more this afternoon.  The last thing I have to do is pick the vegetables from the garden to bring to the Christmas table. (Cue sigh of happiness.)

Tomorrow we will be off to the family homestead, and after mass will begin feasting on:

Warm chelsea buns, and scones with jam and cream

then for lunch…

Chickens (3) Pumpkin, red onion and feta salad, with sugars nap peas from the garden, roast vegetable salad, green and yellow beans from the garden as well as freshly shelled peas.

And for afterwards…

Christmas pudding, perhaps brandy butter…?

Pavlova, perhaps even small meringues?

Christmas Cake

I know I know, no turkey or ham, but really this year with all of us facing some fiscal challenge or other, chickens seemed just as good, and far less expensive than the turkeys and hams for sale. And what’s it all about other than spending time with family in any case?

So the halls are decked, not with holly but with summery things, in this southern hemisphere Christmas.  Wishing you all a peaceful Christmas, and a new year full of hope and challenge.

See you on the stairs,


PS – If you are super lucky I’ll post a Christmas photo or two.

PPS – The pavlova sunk.


The grinch who stole christmas December 19, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:05 am

It is nearly Christmas. And it is forever since I lasted blogged, for which my apologies. But sometimes being the mother of three, the wife of one, and chief cook and bottle washer takes up more time than it should, and allows little to no time for lying about in tropical resorts, drinking martinis, or blogging. Sad but true.

So now Master 6 and 3 are on holidays, better to use up all my time and energy. Yesterday was day 1, and at 8.23am, Master 6 proclaimed he was bored. This did not go down well, and resulted in some bedroom time – for him, not me. For the record, this is the same six year old who has woken at 4.47am the last two days running, in some kind of twisted ‘I’m excited that it is holidays so I wake up early so I don’t miss out on anything’ horror story. The less said about that the better.

So yesterday I was wondering what to do with the little terrors in the afternoon, and chanced upon the plan that they would help me clean up the house. They are young enough to think this is a fun game, mostly. We worked for a good couple of hours, and now I have some parts of the house that are clean, like the kitchen cupboard fronts, and UNDER the couches, which really really weren’t clean before. I think this will be one of the main holiday activities moving forward.

We also did fun stuff like go see Santa for a picture. I bribed them into wearing smart shirts for the occasion. Master 3 had an abolute paddy about this, which made the preparation that little bit more pleasent. When we got there, Santa asked if they had been good, the usual carry on, and they lied through their teeth and said they had been.  Then asked for gifts which of course are brand new requests not featured on the Santa lists they wrote earlier and which ‘Santa’ has not purchased. Sighsighsigh.

Then it was home to do bedtime routines, and all the joy that that entails, and stories, during which I was constantly interrupted to the point I really couldn’t be bothered reading ‘the witch who was wasn’t’ any more.  Then I spent a festive evening cleaning up the garden toys, unstacking the dishwasher, and folding laundry. Husband was out at a christmas party. Sighsighsigh.

So after being woken up AGAIN at 4.47am, my mood is not super festive. Today is supposed to involve gift shopping at festive markets, and Christmas baking, but really all I want to do is go to some kind of local hotel and sleep for a long time.  Or do research online about boarding schools. Or tropical island escapes, where I would go ALONE.


Are you my mother? December 3, 2009

Filed under: folding towels,mothers,working — halfwaydownthestairs @ 8:29 pm

We all know the story of the little bird who woke up in the nest looking for his mother. He searches for her, asking all the creatures he meets, from cats to dogs to boats to ‘snorts’ (diggers) if they are his mother. Having no experience of mothers, he doesn’t know what he is looking for.

Becoming a mother is a bit like this. For all that has been written about it, painted about it, and talked about it, each time a person goes from individual to mother it is unchartered territory. As you carve out your role as best you can, you might look to your own mother, to your peers around you, to what media may tell you for answers, but in the end how you shape your mothering is up to you.

There are thousands of books which will tell you how to be a mother. I don’t intend to add to the litany. If I have any advice for you in your mothering it is – Trust your gut. Allow yourself the space to listen to yourself. Regularly assess your choices. Do what makes you happy. A happy mother is a far far better one than one who feels trapped.

I have been prompted to think about these things by reading Deborah Hill Cone’s latest on mothers. I was disappointed, if I’m really honest. I’ve always enjoyed DHC’s writing. DHC has written a reflection on her own current experience of becoming a solo mother: she says that all she sees around her are picture perfect families with stay at home mothers. I think that’s a bit like when you are thinking about becoming pregnant, and all you see around you is pregnant people. Your own experience colours your vision. I happen to live in the same suburb as Deborah. I know it’s a white suburban oasis. I know. But don’t expect me to beat myself up about it. I don’t happen to be a millionaire, I don’t happen to own a house here, and I haven’t stayed home with the babies over the last 6 years they’ve been around. Up to now, I’ve been working.

I’ve been a mother who works largely because I wanted to. I enjoy my job, I enjoy the work I produce, I get a kick out of getting things done. For me, that has meant getting out of the house and away from the folding of the towels. I have always said that for me, this has been the right choice. I have been a happier mother because I work.

However, in recent past, we had master 0, bundle of cuteness that he is. So for the time being, I’m at home, living the home life. I’m still not folding the towels – well, not today. I got masters 3 and 6 attacking the laundry mountain, and they did a great job. Note to self, that’s a good daily activity for them.

Anyway, being at home is good. Good, because family life has become less stressful. Weekends are not longer taken up with all the housework, shopping and cooking. I can focus on planning our household expenditure, meals, vege garden. I can spend time with my son on his homework. Does this make me a 1950’s housewife? Perhaps. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so.

As I see it, while I am at home, I have turned my attention and energy from work to home. Working in the home, is for the time being, my job. I should do it well. It helps our household function. I’d like to think that if my husband was in a similar position, he would do it well. The hours I spend working for my family, at home, are valued in this house. If for one moment anyone forgets they should be valued, I remind them. It doesn’t mean I iron the busy husbands shirts (I don’t) or keep a perfect house. (I really don’t.) Nor does it mean my kids are home with me all day every day. (They aren’t.) But it does mean the childcare and household buck stops with me, for now.

Next year will hold other challenges. I know I will return to work at some point. I like it. But I’ve learned a bit from this year about having one parent around the home. It’s good. And I don’t think people who choose this as a full time occupation should be sneezed at, DHC. Many people make huge sacrifices to keep one partner, male or female, in the home. Weighing up working in an interesting job with the regular drudgery of making dinner is hardly fair. It isn’t about picture perfect families, or perfect 1950s marriages with 1950s division of labour, it’s about people making choices that work for them.

So what kind of mother am I, for the record?  I think I’m a snort. I’m the one that makes the most noise. I’m the tough one. Yet, for now anyway, I’m the one that brings the baby back to the nest. I might not look like a mother, or act like one half of the time, but my baby birds know what sort of mother I am. Theirs.

See you on the stairs,



“He kneaded and punched it and pounded and pulled… till it looked ok.” November 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — halfwaydownthestairs @ 3:57 pm

In our family we have a game where we quote from a children’s story, and then the others have to guess where the quote comes from. I’ve given it away here of course, with the picture from Sendak’s Night Kitchen – but perhaps I should play it with you lot, and you can try to guess the quote too. Family members excluded, and try not to google.

Anyway, like Mickey, I’ve been baking. Today I’ve made chocolate chip cookies, using Sophie Gray’s wonderful recipe, and then two birthday cakes. Two, because they are supposed to be gluten free, and egg and dairy free, and unsurprisingly, the first one was less than perfect. (Understatement.)  To be fair, I took the egg out. The second one, from here, looks like it is much better.

I won’t bore you with why I’m taking all the good stuff out of the baking today – suffice to say that the charming sister, whose birthday it is, is wheat free, and I am  free of dairy and eggs for the time being. So the baking has been adventurous. Baking is a regular feature around here, mainly because it helps keep hungry tummies at bay, and lunchboxes full. My kids are ALWAYS hungry. Master 3 in particular could happily eat all the live-long day if I let him. My life is one long cooking fiesta, what with the dinners and the lunches and the baking and the meal plans. This is not fun, but it is required.

So this afternoon Master 6 is off at a birthday party, and Master 3 has been down in the village with his dad, while Master 0 has slept. It has been a good time to bake.  In a little while we are off to celebrate the sisterly birthday at the homestead. I bought her this. There will be loud crazy chaos, and that’s just my kids. Then I’m staying on with the young folk for a little while, and having a glass of wine, or two. I plan on staying at least long enough for the husband to get the big kids asleep before I return home. Missing out on kid-bedtime is my very favourite thing.

Then tomorrow will be full of  more things. There is an end of term mass and subsequent picnic thing for Master 6’s school – families are required to attend. I pretty much hate attending stuff on Sunday afternoons at 4.30pm, but there you are. Not to mention the making of picnic food. Sigh. But then I’m a killjoy. Luckily I am off out in the morning to have cups of tea with a friend, which makes life all the more pleasant. We will sit about and coo at the baby and laugh at the world. Perfect.

See you on the stairs,


Oh yes, the quote. Here’s an easy one: “Some stories are true, and some aren’t.” I trust you not to google.