Monday, 30 July 2012

Things I am not very good at: Handling uncommunicative males

The men in my family constantly leave me starved for information. (I have not named them in order to protect their identity). It is bad enough that my husband falls asleep while I am talking, but my son also seemed to learned from a very early age that telling his mother things was something to be avoided at all costs. From the moment he could talk, or should I say grunt, most of our conversations would go like this:
Me: “Hi dear.  How was your day?”
Him: “Grunt.”
Me: “What did you do today?”
Him: “Grunt.”
Me: “Who was there?”
Him: “Grunt.”
Me: “What did you learn?”
Him: “Grunt.”
I learned to ask more indirect questions such as "how did you like your lunch?" or "how many times did you kick the soccer ball?" but after he had said "why can't I have money to buy my lunch like Matthew, instead of boring sandwiches?" and "I would have scored but Kevin didn't kick the ball to me," the well of information would run dry.
His sister, on the other hand,would tell me who said what to whom, and what they were wearing when they said it, and where they were exactly standing at the time, and what their mother's hair looked like  when she dropped them off, and what she had learned that day and how she had spent every minute, and how she had felt the whole time she was doing it. Oh the joy of female comunication! But for my son I felt I had to come up with a more creative strategy; a fantastic plan that I can proudly say worked brilliantly...exactly once!

It all began one school holidays when they were in New Zealand staying with their grandparents and we were back in Jordan, and I was missing them terribly. I had a nice chatty and loving conversation with my daughter on the phone. However, when it came time to talk to her brother, I could hear him telling his grandfather that he was too busy watching TV and eating a pie. Amid many grumbles and moans he finally he came to the phone.
Me: “Hi darling how are you?” 
Him: “Grunt.”
Me: “What have you been up to dear? Are you having a good time?”
Him: “Nothing grunt much.”
Me: “How is Nana and Poppa, what have you been doing with them?”
Him: “Grunt.”
Me: “I miss you honey.”
Him: “Yeah…grunt mumble…can I go now?”
I hung up feeling sad and miserable, convinced that I was the worst mother on the planet because he didn’t love me and wasn’t missing me one bit. I felt sorry for myself for a few hours and then decided to do what all mothers should do in these situations and that is manipulate things to suit my own needs. I sent my son an email and told him the next time I called all he had to do was read his lines. He didn’t have to think or stop eating his pie and could watch TV at the same time.
Our next phone conversation went something like this:
Me:  "Hi darling, how are you? I love you and miss you."
Him: "Hi mum, how are you? I love and miss you too; you are the best mother in the world."
Me: "That’s nice, I love you too dear. What have you been up to?"
Him: "Nothing much because it is no fun here without you. I love you and miss you and you are the best mother in the world."
Me: "That's sweet dear. Is Nana feeding you properly?"
Me: "No Mum, her cooking can’t hold a candle to yours. I love and miss you and you are the best mother in the world."
And on it went for a few more lines, ending with how much he loved me and missed me and that I was the best mother in the world. By the end of the conversation, we were both laughing and I hung up feeling much better. In fact I felt like I was the best mother world!!                                                                     

I never tried that again but I did learn a valuable lesson. Don’t expect too much of a 10 year old boy when he is eating a pie and watching television (actually, don’t expect too much him at any age) and why did I need reassurance from what I already knew?  I may not know a thing that goes on in his head, but I was the best damn mother he was ever going to have, and we both knew it. 

Monday, 23 July 2012

Things I am not very good at: Posting blogs with a puppy around

My silly new owner thought she would be writing her usual boring blog about her many small and irritating mistakes and numerous insecurities, but she didn't count on me!

Hi everyone. Am I cute or what?

She and her very sleepy husband named me Bunce, after a New Zealand All Black rugby player called Frank Bunce. This was pretty stupid as I am a proud South African Springbok supporter, but they never bothered to consult with me on the matter. Fortunately, I have many ways to get back at them. Let me show you around.

This is my new house

This is my new toilet

(or so they tell me,

I prefer the carpet inside)

This is my new bed 

See, told you he was sleepy!


This is my new chew toy

This is my new bath

(not sure I like this one)

This is one of my many new toys,

boy did they get carried away,


 I am also very upset about the terrible quality of these camera phone photos as they don't do me justice at all! Just so you know what it is like around here, despite 500 cords around the house, they couldn't find the right cord to download the photos they took of me with their camera.


Trying to help find the right camera cord

This led to quite an argument with each blaming the other and me wondering what I have got myself into.  

Please rescue me from these people.

 The good news for you all is that I will be around from now on to try and make this blog slightly more interesting!!

 I just read one of her previous blogs

Monday, 16 July 2012

Things I am not very good at: Coping with the empty nest

I wrote this around the time my two children left home while we were living in Tanzania.  I may have ever so slightly plagarised the style from the Diary of Bridget Jones, which I was reading at the time. Though I was feeling so low, it could also been plagarised from the Diary of Anne Frank. Like most of my blogs, it serves no real purpose whatsoever, and I should warn you it is just slightly sixual (said with kiwi accent) in nature so not suitable for children under 30.

Diary of a Distraught Mother
Saturday May 06
Number of times have told only daughter how proud I am she has won scholarship: (3,426). Number of times husband has told friends and family how happy he is we don’t have to pay for her university fees: (5,000,000). Number of times have admitted to self will miss only daughter: (too many to count).
Am pleased and proud of only daughter. Has won wonderful scholarship to university in Canada. Everyone I meet is congratulating me.
“Yes, she has done so well." I say, smiling humbly. "Where did she get it from? Oh ha ha, well I don’t know really…ha ha!” 
She is happy, her father is happy, and I am happy…sort of. Remember when she was small (and incredibly cute and loving little girl who never wanted to leave her mother). Now she is 18, (when did that happen? Who is that young woman?) Come to think of it, who is that old woman looking out of the mirror in morning, but will not dwell on that right now. Anyway, she is enrolled and air ticket purchased. Nothing to be done but smile.

Saturday May 13
Number of times have thought about only son going to boarding school: (3,426). Number of times have decided is very bad idea: (3,425). Number of times has crossed mind that maybe am only thinking of self: (1).
All husband’s fault for putting silly idea in only son’s head. Husband thinks he should go home to New Zealand to finish high school, because husband is male and completely lacking in feelings and emotion. Am not looking at big picture, he says. Do not believe in boarding schools.  Only for British people or missionaries in remote nether regions. However, in manner of Mother Theresa, think maybe should not think of self but what is best for only son. He is missing out on opportunity to play for All Black rugby team. He can stay with husband’s brother over weekends so good for him, but now worried he will like sister in law better than me. Wish I didn’t feel so totally bereft at thought of losing both children at the same time. Told husband we should hurry up and have a third child but he says it is too late now. What will do with self? Maybe should have an affair since it was husband’s terrible idea that started entire catastrophe in first place!

Friday August 05
Number of times looked into children’s empty bedrooms and had emotional breakdown: (2,600). Number of times promised self would not look into children’s empty bedrooms in order to avoid emotional breakdown: (2,600). Number of complete strangers have bailed up in supermarket and on street to tell about children leaving home: (352). Number of strangers who run when they see me coming: (460), word has spread!
What was I thinking??? How did I let this happen? Must have been mad or in some sort of pre-menopausal state and did not understand implications! Am not coping at all.  Horrible empty bedrooms. Nasty quiet house. Where is loud music, shouting, banging and crashing, that used to drive me crazy?  Where is smell of stinky sox and sulky faces. Have forgotten all their annoying habits and they have taken on manner of perfect angels in mind.  Husband being lovely and supportive in manner of perfect husband, but am very sad all the same. Wish he wasn’t being so nice; affair does not seem such good option. Maybe should take up new career. I know, will write manual on how to survive once children have left home. Only slight problem, have no idea what to put in it.  Am not sure I am surviving.

Friday November 2nd
Number of times had sex in other rooms now children not around: tried a few (though kitchen bench/counter cold and hard and not as much fun as it looks on television). Number of extra trips and money we have handy because not handing it out all the time for teenage demands: quite a lot. Number of times not bothered to cook a meal as only two of us: hundreds.
Have realized the silver lining to cloud of empty nest. Sex life has improved thanks to having no children to interrupt at completely wrong time! Cooking easier, especially when only daughter usually turned up nose and only son complained that there was never enough food in house. Now half the time seems not worth bothering with as just husband to worry about. Of course husband not always that happy about lack of food situation. Maybe he will have affair with good cook?  Have managed to get through with help of husband, friends and higher power, (Oprah and Dr Phil) and even higher (God). Fewer episodes of crying and kicking and screaming and accosting complete strangers in supermarkets. Still hate driving by school and seeing happy kids with happy parents collecting them. Think they should move school so I don’t have to pass it every day. Will call special school meeting to suggest plan.
Both doing well and not missing mother, which is great I tell people in manner of Gandhi. But deep down really do want them to miss me more in manner of narcissistic psychopath. Daughter enjoying being free from mother. Son says brother in law’s family really nice in manner of Brady Bunch . Sister in law good cook and doesn't argue all the time with husband like I do with his father, he says. Teeth hurt from gritting so hard while pretending to be pleased. Of course do want them to be happy and am doing better…well think I am…not sure actually…oh dear, may need to call husband and suggest we meet in kitchen or go to supermarket to find complete stranger to talk to. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Things I am not very good at: Losing Rugby World Cups

Losing is another thing I am not very good at. My first real argument with my husband Greg was on our honeymoon over a game of Monopoly, and I still maintain he cheated. But I especially HATE when the NZ All Blacks lose in rugby; World Cups in particular. Until last year, we had not won a Rugby World Cup since the inaugural tournament in 1987. I can tell you where I was for each painful World Cup match we have lost since then (as can many kiwis I suspect).

·             1991: Lost to Australia in the semi finals. We were living in the USA so did not see any of it on television, thankfully. As it was only the second ever tournament, we just assumed it was a speed bump in our road to World Cup dominance, so while disappointing, was not so devastating as years to follow.

·            1995: Lost to South Africa in the final. We were living in Bangladesh and we watched at a NZ friend's house with a group of kiwis. I was trying to be happy for Nelson Mandela and the new South Africa, and brave for my 10 year old daughter Alana who was crying in the toilets, but really I just wanted to cry too! Greg was very quiet.
·           1999: Lost to France in the semi finals. We were living in Jordan and we watched it in an Irish pub which was full of neutrals and I was trying to be brave for my 12 year old son Jarred, (Alana was at a sleepover) who was trying not to cry. Greg was very quiet.

·         2003: Lost to Australia in the semi-finals. We were living in Tanzania and watched at our place with a group of kiwis and fellow supporters. Jarred was away on a school camp but Alana was there so for her sake tried to hold it together, rambling on about how we should still be proud and that we will do better next time, until I dropped her at school for some activity or other and then burst into tears as soon as she got out of the car. Greg was very quiet.

·         2007: Lost to France in the quarter finals. We were living in South Africa and we watched at a kiwi friend’s house along with too many neutral South Africans who were just there to party. Neither of our kids were living at home so I didn’t have to be brave and I wasn’t.  Rushed out of the house and cried all the way home in the car and had to take a sleeping pill to help me sleep. Greg was very quiet (and took a sleeping pill too!)
He had to travel the next day so I was on my own and was contemplating leaping off the roof or putting my head in the oven. Then we had to watch as South Africa won the entire tournament and celebrated for weeks to follow.  Even bridal shops had Springbok jerseys on top of bridal gowns in their window front dummies. It was just all too much for this very sad, very battered and bruised, All Black supporter.

So you can see the tension that was building within me before the 2011 tournament, which was held in NZ. We were (and still are) living in South Africa and I was feeling very homesick and terrified that I would have yet another loss to deal with. In desperation, I sent an email to friends and family back home which included the following:

If we lose then here are some things you can say to me, though I probably won’t feel any better

  • We were robbed
  • It was the referees fault
  • We were poisoned
  • Too many injuries
  • We are still the best team in the world
  • We almost won
  • We won everywhere but on the scoreboard
  • We will definitely do it next time
  • Too much pressure
  • Did you see that forward pass?
  • I love you and you are the most wonderful woman on the planet
  • I feel your pain
  • I will pay for your therapy
  • I will pay for you to go on a world cruise with Dan Carter to recover

All Black Dan Carter
Oooops, speaking of Dan Carter, not sure how that photo got here. That certainly wasn't part of my original email.

If we lose then here are a few things you should definitely NOT say to me:

  •  Don't blame the referee, we weren't good enough
  • The team stuffed up and we just weren't good enough
  • Stop whingeing, we just weren’t good enough
  • We are chokers
  • We were too confident
  • We were not confident enough
  • We are losers
  • We peaked too soon
  • Get over it, it is just a game
  • Win or lose, it is a lovely day
  • Aren’t you pleased for the team that won?
  • You need therapy
  • Rugby was the winner on the day

All Black Dan Carter

OOps here he is again. Not sure what is going on, obviously some glitch in the computer.

But in the end it didn't matter because guess what?

We Won!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Of course, I NEVER had a doubt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, 2 July 2012

In loving memory of Val: Hei maumaharatanga ki te tino hoa

Instead of my usual neurotic ramblings, this week I would like to honour the memory of a friend of mine who has just passed away after a long battle with cancer. I first met Val when we were both living in Tanzania. I was immediately drawn to her because of our kiwi connection (she and her husband Dave had emigrated to New Zealand from England many years before) and because she made such great pavlovas.

Val making one of her spectacular pavlovas

I loved to visit Val as she had the gift of making her house a home, and apart from her own handicrafts and the odd pet, there was always something yummy to eat (have I mentioned her pavlovas?) She always proudly showed me new photos of her grandchildren and loved to tell me stories of how they were and what they were getting up to. After we had been to their house, my husband Greg would ask my why I didn't look after him half as well as she took care of her husband Dave. I just ignored him but I have tried to make a pavlova using her recipe several times, but they are never as good as hers.

Val (and me) with one of her beloved pets
As I got to know her, I came to appreciate her for much more than just her cooking. She was a kind, generous and warmhearted with a genuine concern for others. She was involved in many worthwhile projects in Tanzania, but the one that stands out in my memory was the weekly sales of her home baked muffins at a local shop, with all proceeds going to a needy cause.

She was also very direct and determined and was certainly not one to wallow in self pity. She fought her cancer bravely and the last email she ever wrote me did not even mention her health; though by this time she was very sick.

Val with her husband Dave
This all seems so inadequate as a tribute to Val and there is so much more I could share, but I have the feeling she would be uncomfortable with all this attention and would want me to shut up, so I will.

Rest in Peace dear Val, you have earned it.