Monday, 27 June 2016

Today I marched for Moko.

Today I marched for Moko.

It was a first for me.  I’m not a protestor, silent or otherwise.  I have been known to mock those who hikoi for a purpose… and have said on many occasions that ‘there is no issue I believe strongly enough that would ever make me participate in a protest or march’.

And yet, here I was today.  One in a crowd of hundreds, in the freezing torrential rain.  Walking shoulder to shoulder with strangers, sad and silent in our dreary march down the main street of Taupō.

We were there for Moko.  We were there for the 200+ other children who have been killed by the hands of others in New Zealand.  We were there for justice.  We were there for change.

As a community, Taupō came out in force today and I was proud to be part of it.  As a Mum, the story of Moko completely broke my heart.  And as a Taupō resident and someone who passionately advocates for how amazing Taupō is as a place to live, work and play, this case made me physically sick.

So, what did I learn from my virgin protest?

I discovered that the roll call of murdered children in New Zealand takes longer than ten minutes to read out loud.  And each name hurts.  

I heard a father of a murdered child speak.  His words will resonate with me, always. 

My son is 847 days old today.  He is lucky to have been born into a middle-class family, who live in a pleasant neighbourhood with two loving parents who are financially able to support their kids.  He is not marginalised nor representative of a minority group.   He is loved, universally and unequivocally.  He has never known hunger, violence, neglect or torture.  I pray (to a God I don’t really believe in) that he never does.  He is my world, and yet I truly don’t believe he is entitled to anything special or extra above what every child is entitled to.   A loving, safe and stable home,  a home that is free of violence and full of love, a place where a child can grow, explore, play and just ‘be a kid’.

Sometimes he is a little shit.  And sometimes he gives me the shits.  But I am lucky in that I was raised in a home where values and respect reigned.  I wasn’t abused as a child because my parents knew other tools and techniques for discipline.  I wasn’t perfect.  No one is.  But my parenting skills are a reflection of that I experienced as a child and I’m confident that my children will grow up to be awesome parents as they will be shown guidance and leadership from their parents. 

And there’s the biggest challenge for our society. 

We need to break the cycle.  We need to educate parents of all ages and stages to enable them to be better parents.  We need to empower them with tools and techniques to help them deal with the hard times without resorting to physical violence.  We need to be brave enough to remove children who are at risk before they become a statistic.  And we need to have safe, stable and caring foster homes for these children to live in.  We need to embrace parenting as a job - reward and acknowledge those who do it well – and support those who struggle. 

This is not a brown problem.  Nor is this a white problem.  It’s not God’s problem.  It’s not the State’s problem.  It is OUR problem.  It takes a village to raise a child, and it also takes a village to keep our children safe.

I can only hope that some good arises from this tragedy.  I guess time will tell.

Taupo crowd squeezes into the Great Lake Centre at today's March for Moko

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Am I sweet enough?

I am about to embark on a month of personal protest.  I’m not going to climb a tree and save it from developers.  I’m not going to board a deep sea oil drilling platform.  I’m not going to bare my breasts as a sign of liberation.  I’m going to attempt something far more significant.  I’m going to go a month without sugar.

I hear your mocking snigger… seriously, how hard can it be?

In this day of modern dieting, most of us have at least a basic understanding of the concept of good nutrition – what goes in should be balanced, fresh and healthy… and if you’re going to regularly overindulge without exercising to expel those extra calories from your body, then expect to see it reflected on the scales.

As a lifelong recidivist dieter (my mother will tell you, if asked, that I was first placed on a diet when I was 6 weeks old), I am very aware of the principles of healthy eating.  Regular readers will recall my dismay at my girth measurement in early 2014 being equivalent to the height of a small pony.  I’m pleased to say that I’m back to what I consider a ‘normal’ size, partly due to the expulsion of the boy child, and then a year of hard work. 

Over the past 12 months, Mr Shoe and I have collectively lost over 70kg.  That’s like a whole other person.  I now exercise regularly, eat a balanced, healthy diet with plenty of grains, fresh fruit and vegies, and limit my booze to one or two glasses a week.  For the record, I do miss my old indulgent self at times… but I don’t miss the cankles or the jowls that went with it. 

But I’ve hit a rut.  Or as any fitness or nutrition expert would say, I’ve reached a ‘plateau’.  Nicer word, same reality.  I’ve got the balance between energy in and energy out right – so my weight is staying the same.  So what to do…

Whilst I could try and squeeze more exercise into my weekly regime – I actually don’t want to as (like many, many people) I don’t like it.  I try really hard to like it.  I go running (ok, it’s like a fat girl shuffle but at least I try).  I cycle (definitely my preferred torture exercise option).   I have started swimming and even completed a triathlon this summer.  But fundamentally it’s a chore and it gives me zero pleasure. 

A friend suggested I try a Paleo diet.  My five minute google-research revealed that the Paleo diet is often referred to as the ‘caveman’ diet as you eat foods that mimic those consumed by pre-agricultural hunter-gatherers.  Given that Neanderthals are now extinct and had an average life span of around 30, I’m not sure I want to go down that track. 

I’ve already chopped out booze, carbs and cake (ie anything fun). 

But the sneaky thing that still hangs around and stealthily contributes to my daily calorie count is sugar.  Not the good, wholesome real sugar found in fruit and vegies.  But the hidden sugar that lurks in the nutritional information panel on our food.  Sometimes it’s called fructose or corn syrup, dextrose or sorbitol.  It’s in mostly every processed food we eat… if it comes from a packet, chances are it’s had some sugar added somehow. 

I don’t know how much of this hidden sugar I’m consuming every day.  Stats would suggest that the average kiwi has 26 teaspoons a day (compared to the recommended 8).  I know that I don’t add sugar to anything I make, but I also eat pre-made food on a regular basis and as a busy working mum I rely on jars of premade pasta sauce or Asian styled stirfry gloop to assist with a quick and easy mid-week dinner.

So April is going to become my month of conscious consumption.  I’m going to go ‘sneaky-sugar-free’ for four weeks, without changing anything else in my diet or exercise regime, and see what happens.

And yes, I’m aware that I’ve picked Easter and school holidays for this battle.  Not ideal.  But I don’t eat chocolate and having some extra time at home with the kids during the holidays should allow me more time to cook real food from scratch and therefore monitor the sugar levels.

So wish me luck… and I’ll let you know how it goes.

A few references… don’t attack me if these are wrong, blame Uncle Google.
  • 1 tsp of sugar is 4 grams.
  • Research (it’s old but all I could find) from 2009 shows sugars intake in New Zealand adults was 107 grams/day (120 g/day for men, and 96 g/day for women). 
  • The standards for what is ‘recommended’ vary, but daily intake is consistently documented to be 9 tsp of sugar for men (36 grams/day), and 6 tsp for women (24 grams/day).
  • Here’s how it sneaks up on you – 1 bowl cornflakes with skim milk, 1 serve low fat strawberry yoghurt, 1 glass organic apple juice and 1 slice of raisin toast… all up could equal close to 28 tsp of sugar! 
  • Some of the many names used in food packaging are; barley malt, carob syrup, corn syrup, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, grape sugar, high -fructose corn syrup (HFCS), honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose
  • Ref:,,,

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Vacuum when the baby vacuums and other well meaning advice

This week a very dear friend will become a parent for the first time.  Well, he actually won't do the pushing and squeezing bit, but he will do the equally important hand-holding and positive talking bit.

Childbirth is undoubtedly traumatic for all involved.  

The woman, regardless of plans and expectations (or even distant memories from earlier labour experiences), is forced into an act of brutal physical and mental hell that can't ever be undone.  Whether it's a 3 hour labour, a sneeze and woo-hoo here's a baby; an 8 hour is-this-over-yet-give-me-drugs-now-please; or a scheduled induction or Caesarean delivery - the trauma exists.  What was one becomes two.  Whether labour was fast or slow, you are now exhausted yet flooded with endorphins that stop you from sleeping regardless of how desperately you need to.  The hormones and extra blood required to grow a baby depart at a ridiculous pace leaving you feeling drained and everything feels surreal.  There is a revolting amount of blood and other unmentionable substances everywhere.  And this thing, this living thing that was once within you is now gazing at you and YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF IT!

Spare a thought for the blokes (or the same-sex non-pregnant partner)... they have to watch this trauma unfold and are very limited to what they can do to help.  No matter what books you read, what 'man talk' you have with other guys who have been through it (I'm guessing this conversation would include some grunting, references to not looking 'down there' and copious amounts of beer).... nothing can prepare you for watching the woman that you love in agonising pain.  You can hold her hand, you can tell her she's doing great, you can apply a damp cloth to her forehead, you can tell her to push, you can tell her she's beautiful... but you can't transfer the pain or process to you.  And that must be hellishly hard.  Mummy-endorphins mask the memory of childbirth for most women (otherwise the world would consist of one-child families) but not so the Dads - it's all very real and imprinted in their memory for years to come.  What has been seen can not be unseen.  And this thing, this living thing that was once within your beautiful partner is now gazing at you and YOU'RE IN CHARGE OF IT! 

It is at this point the advice begins.  The well meaning advice from family, friends and strangers.  So especially for my dear friends who will no doubt be dazed but blissfully happy celebrating the birth of their very special first child, I offer you the top three most useless pieces of advice you will likely receive.

1.  Sleep when the baby sleeps.  Does this mean that you also vacuum when the baby vacuums?  Do the laundry when the baby does the laundry?  Cook dinner when the baby does?  You get the picture.  I understand the logic of this gem of advice.  The baby will sleep, and if you're tired this is a great time to grab a nap (unless it's my baby who has not slept for more than an hour or two in total each day since he was born).  The problem is that your body and your mind will not allow you to nap.  I know literally hundreds of women who have kids, and I can count on one hand those that could have a daytime sleep when their baby did.  There is always something that needs doing.  My advice is to kick back and watch some trashy telly and fold the laundry while the baby sleeps, or pop a casserole in the slow-cooker while the baby sleeps, or wash your hair whilst having a 10 minute uninterrupted shower (oh the indulgence!) while the baby sleeps.

2.  You must swaddle/not swaddle your baby.  Swaddle rhymes with twaddle for a good reason.  You can substitute swaddle with dummy or breastfeeding.  Here's the deal.  The reason why the world is such a dynamic, beautiful, diverse and complex beast is because everyone is different.  That means every baby is different.  Some love to be swaddled, some fight it.  Some will suck on that dummy instantly, others will spit it out with such force that it can take your eye out if you're too close.  Some babies feed regularly at 3 hourly interviews, some feed at different times every single day.  Some babies love the booby, some can't or won't take it and need a bottle/formula.  All babies need the 3 C's - care, comfort and cuddles.... and as parents you will try things and establish what your baby needs to thrive.  And just when you get it sussed, they'll change and throw all your routines out the window.  They're good like that.

3.  Gosh he's big/small/short/long... is that normal?  Normal.  Just what every sleep deprived hormonally challenged physically exhausted woman needs to hear... a stranger telling her that her baby isn't 'normal'.  Normal is such a prescriptive word and one completely inappropriate to use when describing a baby.  As I mentioned above, every baby is different - they all grow at different rates and they all look different.  Some have hair, some are bald at two.  Some are always on the small side, some are always larger.  The WHO charts show a weight range from 2kg to 5kg for newborn baby boys... and by the time they head off to school the range extends from 13kg to 27kg!  So I say ignore the 'normal' and embrace the uniqueness... celebrate the idiosyncrasies of your wee bundle, make a point of not just documenting the length/weight/etc statistics but capture the special things. The scrunched up ears, the wrinkly toes, the leg creases, the bald head, the innocent eyes... none of those are 'normal' yet every one is perfect.

The wisest advice I received and that I offer to you is simple.  It does get better.  This too will pass.  There will be days when you don't particularly like yourself, your baby, your partner, your job, your kids, your house, your dog, your bank balance, your chunky ankles... That's just the way it is.  But it does get easier I promise.  In time, your baby will grow, sleep, eat, crawl, walk, talk, go to school, get a job, fall in love and make you a grandparent.  

Make sure you enjoy every single moment and don't wish it away

Friday, 18 July 2014

At the risk of sounding evangelical (I'll leave that to Brian Tamaki...)

*Spoiler alert - this blog does not contain my usual humorous rant*

It's two years today since I was diagnosed with having cancer.

I know.  Told you it wasn't funny.

Of all the things one can be diagnosed with, it's probably one of the worst - but interestingly enough, it didn't actually come as a shock.  It did to my Doctor and possibly the few friends we shared the news with, but not to me.  It just pissed me off.

A bit of a back story... 

I have 'dysplastic nevus'.  Now this term annoys me.  Having 'nevus' is bearable, but do they have to be 'dysplastic'?  Nothing fun or cool has ever been referred to as dysplastic.  It just sounds tragic and the fact it also rhymes with spastic is not lost on me.

What that means in real words is that I farm moles.  I'm great at it.  In fact, arguably an over-achiever as I have more than 200 of the little suckers.  They are everywhere, always have been and always will be.  So for the last twenty or more years, I've regularly had the odd one here and there removed.  Parts of my body (thankfully largely unseen by the unsuspecting public) now resemble a patchwork quilt.

I've learnt over the years not to worry about the quick excision and biopsy procedure. I've had more than 30 of them and they'd always come back clear... until the phone rang in July 2012 with the news that my latest slice and dice had in fact been melanoma.

The Silent Killer (queue doom filled music)...

I had actually found it by accident... a common occurrence and why it has earnt the silent killer title.  Most people who have melanoma don't realise it until it's too late.  No symptoms and the sneaky wee buggers hide in unusual places.  Fact of the day - Bob Marley died from melanoma on his toe (under his toenail to be precise)!   

Mine was bang on the centre of my spine, on the back of my neck.  Dangerously close to lymph nodes and impossible for me to see unless (as was the case) I used a triangulation of mirrors to check out my 'up-do' before heading out to a posh evening function.  I was pretty convinced that black splodge wasn't normally there, so off to the doctor I went.

Long story short - I found myself having potentially life saving surgery a few short weeks before my wedding.  Three surgeries later I was cancer free and the proud owner of an awesome 'Zorro' scar on my neck.  For those of you under 30, an awesome 'Harry Potter' scar on my neck.

It turned out I was millimetres (or weeks) away from not having such a happy outcome.  It was an aggressive bastard and I was lucky.  Melanoma accounts for less than two percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.  At the same time as my diagnosis and treatment, two very special women in my life were also going through the same thing.  Sadly, only one of them is now with us.  And my god is that a hard thing to contemplate on long lonely nights awake overthinking the meaning of life - why me?

At the risk of sounding evangelical (I'll leave that to Brian Tamaki...) this 'brush with cancer' has made me value every single thing in my life.  It's also made me paranoid.  My recent pregnancy created even more angst as I grew new batches of nevus. I'm even more dysplastic than before...  

The moral of this blog is to slip, slop, slap your children every day (not actually slap your children people - that is just wrong! You know what I mean).  Also kiss them every day and remember not to sweat the small stuff.  And check your skin regularly.  And don't be afraid to get an unusual mole or freckle checked.  Ok, so there are a few morals but they're all good ones.

New Zealand, along with Australia, has among the highest melanoma rates in the world. In 2010, the year for which most recent figures are available, melanoma was the fourth most common cancer, with 2,341 registered cases (1241 males and 1100 females). It was also the sixth most common cause of death from cancer that year.  Read more here.

Friday, 13 June 2014

A major milestone... and it ain't what you think

So this week I had my first significant 'moment' since welcoming our wee lad into the world three months ago.  

It wasn't the normal type of moment.  It was a big deep breath, gulp, blink away the tears and harden up moment.

Nor was it a typical first milestone.  He didn't roll.  He didn't sit up.  He didn't say his first word.  He didn't sleep for 12 hours.  

Nope, this milestone, this epic and memorable moment is all about me.

Or to be more exact, all about my method of transport.

My name is Kylie, and I (GULP) now drive a 7 seater people mover.

Gone is my snazzy European hatchback with it's precision handling, low profile tyres, Bose sound system and sporty profile.

Welcome giant pastel blue van.  With sliding doors, plastic dash, velour upholstery and 7 seats.  The only saving grace is that it isn't beige.  

To help you appreciate the seriousness of this transformation, a wee back-story is required.

I'm one of those rare breed of women who love cars.  I'm a petrolhead.  Always have been and always will be.  I grew up in a car-mad family and was participating in Rally events and attending car shows before I could walk.  

I understand how cars work, can do basic repairs, can change a tyre in 5 minutes flat and love big classic American cars (and small sporty European ones).  

I record Top Gear so I can watch whilst feeding the baby, and I've travelled to Australia on three separate occasions JUST to attend Aussie V8 Supercar races.  I read car magazines whilst waiting at the Doctors, and browse Trade Me Motors for fun.

In the past, I have openly mocked my friends who have found themselves requiring a 'family car'.  My teasing was relentless, and often included references to certain religious affiliations and a direct correlation to vehicle size.

Oh how the mighty have fallen.

The tipping point came last week when I tried to fit the three children, our 45kg Mastiff, the stroller and multitudinous baby supplies and myself in the VW.  We managed to squeeze in and headed off to the supermarket.  Fast forward 30 minutes and I was faced with a shocking small-car dilemma.  I could fit the kids in the car, or the food, but not both.  I ended up packing the groceries around the kids (not the dog, she can't be trusted) and we made it home.  Unpacking the car was a parody of the 'how many Clowns can you fit in a Mini' gag that has entertained audiences at Circus shows around the globe for generations.  It was a combination of origami, yoga, sweat and tears.  And that was just the dog.

That night, I broke the news gently to Mr Shoe that the time had come for me to consider a slightly more practical vehicle.  And he laughed.  And laughed.  And to his absolute credit, tried to talk me out of it and provided many suggestions of alternatives that we could make work.  Sadly, we had to face facts and car-shopping we went.  

Fast-forward a few days and I now own the aforementioned people-mover.  To give it some credit, it's revoltingly practical, has very efficient heating, and a glass sunroof so we can watch the stars when out driving at night.  See - I found three nice things.  Just.

This year I've said goodbye to my 30s, my waistline, my sleep, my brain, my shoes and now my wheels... surely that's enough?

Monday, 26 May 2014

What The (actual) Fundus!

Twelve weeks ago I was shocked to discover that I had a fundus... and it was shrinking!

I was advised of this startling fact by a lovely (non-English-speaking) nurse at 2am the morning after I'd given birth.  In the midst of my paracetamol-induced-haze the conversation went something like this.

Her: Can I check your fundus? (what I heard - 'kina chook or fondue')

Me: I'm sorry, what?

Her: Can I check your fundus?

Me: Um, I'm not sure what you mean?

Her: I need to feel it to check it's shrinking (what I heard - 'knee ta fool eat ta chook tis shrunken')

Me: Um, ok.  Can I have a Milo afterwards?

So it turns out she was referring to the top of my uterus, to check that it was shrinking back after the expulsion of the boy child.  Praise the lord it was an external exam, not internal (by this stage half the hospital had been up there and I was preparing to install a
'Closed for Maintenance' sign).

I discovered the facts around my fundus from Uncle Wiki .  Not from my midwife or other medical professional (more on this later).  I was initially excited by the name of this medical term, given that the first half of it was 'fun'.  Fun! There hadn't been a lot of fun over the preceding 24 hours so I was buoyed by the potential of something fun.  It was short-lived joy.  In fact, it's a pretty weak use of the term fun as there ain't no fun involved. No new shoes, no disco dancing, no mojitos in the sun on the beach.   Just a lot of cramps, blood and poking.  

The other relevant observation from this 2am exchange was my ability to be easily bribed by a cup of hot Milo.  I had gone from someone who wouldn't get out of bed for anything less than Moet, to someone who would accept an intimate internal examination from a stranger in return for some milky malty goodness.

Back to Uncle Wiki.  Here's the thing that bugged me about the fundus revelation.  Childbirth is arguably one of the most natural and normal things in the world. After all, we've all been born.  And about 40% of the global population do the actual growing a new person inside an old person thing (also known as pregnancy).   So why the need to use overly complicated medical terms that confuse what should be a pretty 'normal' situation?

There is a plethora of literature about pregnancy and childbirth.  Many people have made a whole lot of money by publishing 'childbirth for dummies' self-help books to assist unsuspecting expectant parents navigate their way through the myriad of medical terminology.  And most of the ones I've read are filled to the brim with medicalisation. 

Our six year olds had it figured out without needing textbooks and an understanding of Latin.  In their words, I was going to squeeze the baby out my vee-jay-jay and then my big tummy would go back to normal.  And if the baby got stuck, the doctor would then cut my tummy open and pull the baby out.  And either way, they were going to be good and buy me cake and flowers.

I just didn't need to know about my fundus.  And don't get me started on my Lochia or my Bilirubin... 

Monday, 19 May 2014

Is that your baby?

So today marks 11 weeks since our baby boy forcefully arrived and took his place on this planet and in our hearts.

It's been a hell of a ride.

I won't dwell on the details of his delivery (although I reserve the right to go back there in a later blog), but instead I thought I'd share a few observations from the past three months.

1. People (regardless of age, creed, sex or race) ask dumb questions.  I guess it's because they feel obligated to say something... maybe they get a little anxious about saying the wrong thing, and therefore say a dumb thing.  Without doubt, the most ridiculous question I have encountered since giving birth is "Is that your baby?".  I'm tempted to answer "What baby? I don't see no baby?" or "Nope, just got him from the Baby Factory - he's on a 14 day trial with a full money back guarantee".  What makes this question even more stupid is it often asked whilst my hungry wee lad is partaking of his favourite food (milk-a-la-boobie). Seriously, it's like they think I'm actually just breastfeeding someone else's baby for fun. Maybe I'm trying to reinstate the age old profession of 'wet nurse' as my new career path.

2. People also make dumb statements to fill the void.  My favourite is 'gosh he's got lots of hair'.  Now to be fair, our boy is rather hirsute.  This is a good thing, as it stops him from looking like a skinny wrinkled rat (a common newborn characteristic).  The dumb part of the statement is the way it is presented - like we haven't noticed! So obviously I respond accordingly.  "Hair? Oh that's just a wig, I think it looks good on him."  Or my new favourite, "You should see his pubes!".  That shuts them up pretty quick.

3.  Chanel No. 5 successfully masks the scent of baby vomit, but it is arguably an expensive option. I'm not sure it's what Coco originally had in mind.  However, it works and I'm going with it.  Maybe I should pitch them a new advertising campaign... move over Nicole Kidman, here I come!

4. People in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.  That is, people who have not squeezed a baby out of their vee-jay-jay should not provide advice to those who have.  Especially when the advisee is sleep deprived, hormonal and covered in the aforementioned Chanel scented baby vom... otherwise the advisor might end up having a nasty accident involving their left foot and my left front tyre.

5.  Baby brain does exist.  It has too.  Otherwise, well, the alternative is too scary to contemplate.  To help you, dear reader, appreciate the importance of this point (especially if you fall into #4 above), I will share a few examples of the much maligned baby brain phenomenon.  Dirty clothes go in the washing machine, not in the dishwasher. Milk goes into the cup of tea, not into the sinkful of dirty cups to make the soapy bubbles.  Generally, most people aim to leave the house with matching shoes.  It is ok to misplace your keys, not so acceptable to misplace your newborn baby. 

On that note... where is the baby?

(Read more about the facts behind baby brain here)