28.12.09

My first blogoversary.

A year ago, I started blogging. My theme was (sort of) “I moved to New Zealand, and it’s been a challenging journey.”

I chose to use my real name. And I told my parents and my friends about my blog.

I wrote about trying to fit in in New Zealand, parenting a child who is allergic to everything, and my marriage. And I spent a lot of time on my soapbox, pontificating about, you know, stuff.

In 2009, I was trying to find myself. Like, what does it mean to be an expat? If I have lived in New Zealand for eight years, am I still an American? Or am I a Kiwi now? What am I going to do next year, when the child starts school? What’s it like to be a wife, and do I even want to be a wife?

And I was trying figure out who I am on social media. What kind of blogger am I? Here are my favourite posts from 2009:

One of the best and most surprising parts of this blogging journey has been my readers.(Especially those of you who have been brave enough to come out and follow me publicly.) As always, I’d like to thank you for reading and for your comments. Wishing you all a happy and prosperous 2010.

18.12.09

Mosquitoes love me.

Backstory
Mosquitoes have always loved me. Because I am sweet.

When I was five, my family moved to Southern California for the summer. There was a mosquito nest in my mattress. I think you can guess what happened.

When I was nine, my family went to Florida for spring break. Florida is a swamp, infested with mosquitoes. I was eaten alive.

Infested with mosquitoes
Do you know where else is a swamp? New Zealand. There are 16 species of mosquitoes in NZ. By this, I mean there are a lot of mosquitoes.

When I first got to NZ, Adam and I went camping. I got a couple of mosquito bites. No big deal, right?

I didn’t scratch those first mosquito bites at all. But they swelled up so much that I couldn’t walk. I had to go to bed for two days. For mosquito bites. That was before the child was born, when I could still get away with that sort of thing.

My life with mosquitoes
Apparently, the mosquitoes in NZ love my fine vintage of Northern Hemisphere blood. Or I don't have the right antibodies. I guess mosquitoes are my Kryptonite.

Now we have mosquito nets over our beds. They look beachy and romantic. And we usually keep the windows closed at night.

I bathe in insect repellent.

I have learned that it doesn't matter if I scratch the bites or not. They still get painfully swollen. As with so many other things in life, there is no need to be a martyr. I can scratch my bites until they bleed (sorry, that sounds a bit emo).

Anti-histamine is my friend. And winter. When all the mosquitoes die.

Photo credit: Te Ara

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Edited to add. I'm getting invisible comment spam that I can't delete. Has this happened to anyone else?

10.12.09

Honest scrap.

Thanks, Jane, for the Honest Scrap award. (You are totally my new BF.)

Jane's blog Lights! Camera! Diapers! is like a bloggy version of Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions. It's that good. And I know it’s a bad financial year, but if you have $2, you can help Jane make a movie. How cool is that--helping make a movie? It's easy, and it's fun. Check it out here:

So, as always, I’ll be honest. I love Honest Scrap. Here are the rules:

1) Must thank the person who gave the award and list their blog and link it.
2) Share "10 Honest Things" about yourself.
3) Present this award to 7 (or so) other people whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
4) Tell those 7 (or so) other people they've been awarded HONEST SCRAP and inform them of these guidelines in receiving the award.

(Cue drum roll.) Honest Scrap, the Holiday Edition.
  1. I am bad at giving gifts. Birthdays, weddings, Christmas. If I am ever rich, I will hire a personal assistant to take care of my gift-giving.

  2. Every year, I say I’m going to get my Christmas shopping done in June or August. But it never happens. I’m always running around at the last minute.

  3. I have given up sending cards.

  4. At Wellington Road, we used to have an artificial tree. A few years ago, we donated that piece of crap to the school fair. We decided it’s greener (in NZ) to have a live tree. And it’s more fun.

  5. When I was five, I heard reindeer landing on the roof. (My parents didn’t believe me.)

  6. When I was seven, my mother baked the most delicious shortbread cookies, and we hung them on our Christmas tree. By Christmas, I had eaten all the cookies that were hanging on the back of the tree.

  7. When I was in high school, I still wanted to sit on Santa’s lap. I was either re-visiting childhood, or I thought it would be kooky.

  8. I wrap presents in brown parcel paper.

  9. I have always liked the Grinch and Scrooge. But the Ghost of Christmas Future can stay away. That shit is spooky.

  10. Even though it doesn’t get dark until after 9pm on Christmas Eve, I still light lots of candles. Christmas Eve is better than Christmas. Especially Christmas Eve night, when everything is finally done. It’s magical.
Okay, if you want to accept your award (no pressure), here are my nominees:

Aliceson from Feet Off the Table. She makes me laugh, she makes me cry, she makes me feel grateful for what I have. I love her.

Michelle from Harmzie’s Way tagged me last time. It's payback time.

Megan Rose from Frou Frou Frippery. She used to have a blog called Honest Lying, where she vowed to speak her mind. She is my inspiration. Except I don’t do crafty things like she does. Go look at her gorgeous holiday birds. Want.

My mother blogs at From AA to NZ. That’s right, my mother is a blogger. And she inspired me to start blogging. She’s funny, and she’s family.

Madame DeFarge from Bateau Banane. She is a successful blogger, and obviously a lovely person. Plus she seems to “get” my humour.

Jayne from InJaynesWorld. I just discovered Jayne. She is a celebrity writer, and one of my new favourite bloggers.

Chris from Daddy Needs Some Alone Time. I stumbled across Chris in the comments of another blog. He's a comic, and I love it when he stops by Wellington Road.

The End of Honest Scrap. (Cue curtain.)

6.12.09

New taglines.

I heart Ann's super funny blog, Ann’s Rants. Ann's post about new taglines had me spitting out my coffee.

Here is my riff on Ann’s tune. Without further ado, my new taglines for Wellington Road:

Wellington Road: Rants from a grumpy expat.

Wellington Road: Starring Pajama Girl as Herself.

Wellington Road: Where I write things that I really should keep to myself instead. Oo-oo-ah!

Wellington Road: Cheaper, more public therapy.

Wellington Road: I whinge so much you’d think I was a Pom.

Wellington Road: My glass is empty.

Wellington Road: Where sarcasm is the highest form of wit.

Wellington Road: I’m having an identity crisis. And so is my blog.

Wellington Road: My spell check is British.

Wellington Road: My husband used to call me Sweetness and Light.

Wellington Road: Everything is wonderful (when you’re on holiday).

Wellington Road: If I were taking Xanax, my blog would be very different.

Wellington Road: Witness the train wreck.

Wellington Road: If you think my blog is a mess, you should see my house.

Wellington Road: Bah, humbug.

3.12.09

Retraction. (Not really.)

Harriet the Spy
When I was growing up, Harriet the Spy was a book that I liked a lot. It’s about a girl who writes in her journal what she really thinks of people. One day, Harriet loses her journal, and her friends find it and read it. Harriet’s friends are hurt by what she has written, and Harriet must apologize (i.e., print a retraction) to save her friendships. Oh yeah, I identified with Harriet.

Well, Wellington Road is not a journal. Most of the time, Wellington Road is a humour blog. It's where the author rambles on about whatever is on her mind. Call it therapy, or call it procrastination. Especially when the author is supposed to be doing the dishes, hanging up the washing, or playing with Transformers.

If you have been offended by the content of this website (such that it is) because the author has:
  • flirted with satire;
  • wallowed in irony;
  • suggested you are neurotic;
  • complained and/or whinged;
  • made fun of a beloved national holiday, or
  • compared you to a sheep;
be advised that it really isn’t about you. If you believe that it is about you, let your voice be heard. Email your Letter of Complaint to the attention of the Standards Committee.

If your letter is funny enough, we may post it on the website. Or you can leave a comment on this blog. Don’t be shy. Anonymous comments are still allowed.

If your feelings have been hurt by a post on Wellington Road, most Kiwis would say you need to harden up.

But here at Wellington Road, we are warm and fuzzy. We care about your feelings, and we apologize for our mistakes (and, if necessary, we lie).

As such, from here on in at Wellington Road, self-deprecating humour is the order of the day. All mocking will be of Juli Ryan, the author of this blog, only. And perhaps some celebrities, politicians, and other random people and events.

But not you, dear reader. You are one of the reasons that we get up in the morning (other than coffee and the incessant demands of a child tyrant dictator). We will (probably) never mock you.

1.12.09

I’m a winner.

I did it. I finished my NaNoWriMo. I’m so excited to have written 50,000 words in a month. And in those 50,000 words, I almost completed the arc of my story.

Now I am gathering ideas for my next book . . .

Husband: Don’t you need to finish the book that you've been writing first?

Me: My NaNoWriMo was just practice.

Husband: But you spent so much time on it.

Me: Let's call it recreation. It was like watching TV.

Husband: (exasperated sigh)

28.11.09

A right turn in ghastly weather.

The weather was ghastly. I couldn’t see across the street. But I had an appointment with the hairdresser.

After the hairdresser's, I went to the supermarket (because people like to eat). Then I headed home.

To get back to the village from the supermarket, I needed to make a right turn* (from a give-way sign) onto State Highway 1 (a four-laned dual highway).

While I was waiting for a break in the traffic, the jerk behind me started honking his horn. HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK! Like I had fallen asleep, or like I was busy texting, and I had forgotten to turn. HONK! HONK! HONK! HONK!

I'm not going to put up with this, I said to myself. In the US, I would have been afraid to get out of my car. In NZ, not so much.

I put my car in park, opened my door, and marched over to the jerk's car. He rolled down his window. He was a 20-something, with tattoos all over his arm.

"The weather is ghastly. I can’t see a thing,” I said. “You'll just have to wait."

"You've had three chances to turn," the jerk said. He was clearly not expecting to be confronted by a weird American lady.

It’s my call!" I said.

Then I marched back to my car and texted Twitter. (Okay, not really. Texting while driving is illegal.)



--
*Note: In NZ, we drive on the left side of the road.

26.11.09

I'm thankful I don't have to eat turkey.

This year I’m not celebrating Thanksgiving. It's practically summer in New Zealand, and I just don't feel like roasting a turkey.

But I might make a pumpkin pie. Kiwis are curious about pumpkin pie. Because in New Zealand, we don't eat pumpkin from a can.

I’m not sure why I celebrate Halloween, and I can’t be bothered with Thanksgiving. Maybe because at Thanksgiving, everyone in New Zealand is at work. Or because in New Zealand, Thanksgiving is a day early.

Am I supposed to celebrate Thanksgiving while my American family and friends are defrosting their turkeys? By the time New Zealand wakes up, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade will be over. I'm not waking up early for a parade.

Plus, the American Thanksgiving is just too close to Christmas. At Thanksgiving, you have a preview of the same dinner you will eat again in a month.

We all know that celebrating the genocide of indigenous peoples is wrong. And at Thanksgiving you have to watch football (the boring game with the pointy ball).

On the up side, if you act thankful for just one day, you can make up for a year's worth of narcissism.

25.11.09

My NaNoWriMo.

I've been plugging away at my NaNoWriMo, writing my novel in just one month. By this, I mean I've written almost 50,000 words in November.

At first, writing was easy. With the help of my outline, I wrote, and I wrote some more. But last week, writing was more difficult. My outline didn’t make sense anymore.

I think I made a wrong turn. Then I lost the map. I might be in Nebraska.

Anyway, I'm almost finished with NaNoWriMo. 50,000 words isn't a novel (unless I just wrote The Great Gatsby). But it’s a start. For the truly interested, you can check my progress here.

18.11.09

DIY update.

Recently Last month, I mentioned some DIY projects that had not been completed at Wellington Road.

Well, I don’t want to brag, but my amazing husband Adam (who looks like Brad Pitt) wants me to give you an update. We now have:

a new bathtub and

a new washing machine.

But what will you nag me about? My amazing husband asked (sarcastically).

Don’t worry, pumpkin. I’m sure I’ll think of something.

12.11.09

Anarchy at the playcentre: another chronicle in mummy politics.

Our playcentre (the child's cooperative preschool) was unusual in the national organization. For a few years, we had no president. It was anarchy.

Having no president suited me well. I liked that nobody was in charge. The buck stopped with all of us.

During my three years at the centre, it grew from eight families to its current almost 30 families. We bucked the earlier trend of sending four-year-olds to kindy (Kiwi for traditional preschool).

Instead, we kept our four-year-olds at the playcentre, and we healed our centre from near death to a robust, healthy centre.

And Tuesday night, we "elected" our new officers. Thankfully, there was wine.

In a surprising coup, two of our members nominated themselves as co-presidents. Because last year, they didn't know what to do with the mail addressed to the president.

At the meeting, a couple of aristocratic members said that they wanted a president. The rest of the group blinked like a bunch of sheep, and said they didn’t know what they should do. I was the only dissenting voice.

According to our new co-presidents, the centre's "consensus" was in favour of their coup. My feathers are still ruffled. Why can't we all be presidents? A few people (who will be stuck at the centre longer than me) think they made a mistake. Um, yeah, ya think?

I feel like this:

Al Gore after losing the election to Dubya.
Photo credit:
Rolling Stone

Or possibly like this:

Helen Clark standing down as Labour leader.
Photo credit:
NZ Herald

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Edited to add: Okay, so maybe this post was a bit whingy. If you are here for sunshine and light, you are in the wrong place.

5.11.09

High school memories.

Forgive me, I've got high school on my brain. This month, I am participating in NaNoWriMo. And my story has some scenes from high school.

Here are some of my favourite embarrassing memories from high school:
  1. There were over 800 students in my ninth grade class. We were all housed in one building. On Halloween, I didn't know we were now too cool to dress up. I was the ONLY student in my class to wear a costume. I went as a French maid, a hand-me-down costume from my mother, who was a French teacher (not at my school). I didn't understand the greater implications of being a French maid. I don’t think anyone else did either. The embarrassing part was just showing up in my costume.
  2. In ninth grade, I ran for President of the Student Council. The candidates got to make speeches to the student body. The class clown was also running. So I made my speech, and I said that (unlike the class clown) I wasn’t running as a joke. I was going to enact social change and make the world a better place for all of us. I made the class clown cry, and I lost the election (The class clown didn’t win either. But people felt sorry for him, and I was that mean girl. My speech teacher said he would have voted for me. That would have been two votes).
  3. Trying out for cheerleader. I went through this traumatizing experience twice. It almost deserves two spots on my list. I could not remember the cheers or the routines (done to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”). I could not do the jumps, or the required back-handspring. And my cheering voice was so weak. But I was still crushed when I didn’t make it. I didn’t give a shit about football (American for gridiron), but I really wanted to wear that cute uniform.
  4. My audition for the musical. I sang U2’s “MLK”. My brother accompanied me on his electric keyboard. I made the chorus (so did everyone else who tried out).
  5. Writing a poem about my unrequited high school love, and publishing it in the high school literary magazine. There were only 100 students in my senior class. Almost everyone knew who the poem was about.

What is your most embarrassing memory from high school? And don’t tell me you don’t remember. These memories are burned into our brains.

Photo credit: asunners

4.11.09

Delusions of grandeur.

In my last post, I wasn't trying to sound popular. You know, with my mentions of readers, comments, and emails. Believe me, I am self-aware enough to know my place in the blogging pecking order. DON’T CHOP ME DOWN. I'm a delicate tulip.

I didn’t even like that last post. I didn’t intend to portray my husband in a bad light. Next time, I will ask Adam if I can write about him on my blog, because then I will write a much better post. It’s a win-win! And when I said Adam was shitty, I was talking about rainbows. And unicorns.

Sometimes, blogging (and all the other social media) feels like going back to high school. I still have a fantasy about being Homecoming Queen, finally making cheerleader, or getting a part (with lines) in the musical.

Just like in high school, sometimes I have hopes of getting into the “in” crowd. However, it is much more likely that I will be standing at the prom by myself in stilettos that hurt my feet.

(On my blog, I’m still that weird girl who writes bad poetry and wears funny clothes. Oh, wait. That’s who I am in real life, too.)

Next time: My top five most embarrassing high school memories.

P.S. I don’t have single photo of myself from high school. There aren’t photos of me on Facebook either. I’m just not popular on Facebook.

Can we pretend this is me then? Yeah, I’m Jeannie Bueller.

Photo credit: I'm sure it's subject to copyright. If you own the rights to it, and you don't want it posted on my website, just let me know and I'll take it down. Email me! Please?

2.11.09

I did not get permission to write this post.

After my recent post about Adam and his DIY projects, I received some interesting emails and comments.

Women said, Too funny, my husband is like that too.

Guys said, You’re not complaining, are you? I wouldn’t put up with that from my wife.

Adam was shitty that I wrote the post (which he hasn’t read, by the way).

Me: I thought you said I was allowed to write it? (I am supposed to get permission to write about him on my blog,)

Adam: You were supposed to write about the van. Not those other things.

Me: But those other things are funny. And I said you look like Brad Pitt.

Adam: (grunt of disgust)

It’s like he doesn’t even want to look like Brad Pitt.

Me: Do you want me to take it down?

Adam (sulking): No.

Okay, so maybe it’s in poor taste to mock your husband on your blog. It’s like cyber mocking, or cyber nagging. Yeah, it seems nagging is a bad thing. Nagging has a bad reputation. Wives are supposed to just suck it up, and maybe brainstorm with their husbands about how to get things done.

When did we go back to the 1950s? And if we have gone back to the 50s, why am I still expected to work outside the home and earn money? As a post-feminist, I’m raising my hand in protest. Then I’m going to go burn my bra, because I never really liked this one, but it’s the only one that fits.

Australian feminist pioneer, Germaine Greer.
Photo credit: Wikipedia.

--
Edited to add: Adam wants you to know that he WOULD read my blog, if he could get a turn on the computer. So, now I'm a nag who mocks her husband on her blog, AND I'm selfish. I rock.

--
Edited again to add: I am still wearing my bra that I don't like. Is that too much information?

31.10.09

Halloween is too American.

In previous years, when I have tried to get people interested in, say, a Halloween party with fancy dress (Kiwi for costumes), people have said, We don’t celebrate Halloween. It’s just too American.

Now their kids are older, and these very same people are like, We’re going to trick-or-treat. And did you know? Halloween is Irish, not American! Well, Halloween does have pagan roots. HELLO!

Halloween down under is just a bit silly, when the DAYS are getting longer, and all the flowers are blooming. It’s more like being in a fairy grotto than anything spooky. It would make so much more sense to have Halloween on 30 April.

For the last few years, I have played spooky music, dressed up as a witch, and jumped out and scared the 24 kids who stopped by to trick-or-treat. By the way, 24 is an epic number of beggars. So now I’ve got a reputation for celebrating Halloween. Hey, let’s go to that weird American lady’s house. I'm looking forward to a record turnout. I'd better go buy some lollies.

Spooky flowers. Boo!

26.10.09

DIY.

Kiwis are so obsessed with DIY. Almost everything can be fixed with some No. 8 fencing wire. If you believe you are handy, you never hire a professional someone else. You want to Do It Yourself.

My husband Adam is very handy. And he looks just like Brad Pitt, except he is even more handsome.

(Sorry, I really don't want to brag. But Adam just told me to write all that. He is not going to earn all the money and mow the lawns and cook dinner and fix things any more unless I blog with integrity stop mocking him on my blog.)

I'm not allowed to hire a repair person. My hubby is the repair person. And like all repair persons, my husband does things “in his own time”. At least my husband slash repair person doesn’t bill by the hour.

Exhibit A. The bathtub.
Our house did not have a bathtub. A bathtub is a priority for the child (and me). So we bought a bathtub on TradeMe. And it has been languishing on the back deck all winter.

Evidently, the back deck is the new bathroom.

Exhibit B. The washing machine.
A couple months ago, my husband fixed the washing machine, which had stopped filling up with water.

The “fix” that I had imagined did not involve the garden hose.

Exhibit C. Remember the van?
The other day, I came home, and the van was no longer in the driveway. Hoping against hope that Adam had finally sold it to the wrecker, I glanced down the road.

The van needed a change of scenery, Adam said. And some No. 8 wire petrol.

20.10.09

Animal control.

SCENE
The child and I are walking home from Playcentre. A nanny and her child are walking home with us. We pass the school, and all the school children are outside. It is noisy.

The child and his little friend are walking next to the school fence, about five metres from the footpath. A brown dog (maybe a Pinscher) comes bounding down the footpath. The dog runs down to the children by the school fence. A minute later, a woman appears on the footpath.

Me: Your dog is supposed to be on a lead.

Woman: He’s friendly.

Me: How am I supposed to know that? I don’t know you, or your dog. (In fact, I think I recognize her. It's a small village)

Woman: I called out to you.

Me: I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. (angry at myself for apologizing)

Woman (calls her dog): See, he’s friendly. (The dog comes. She tries to get her dog to sit)

Me: It can be scary for small children, having a strange dog approach them.

The child: I wasn’t scared.

END SCENE

11.10.09

I am consistent, if not romantic.

Last year, I forgot our wedding anniversary. This year, I forgot it again.

I did know it was coming up. I just couldn’t remember the exact day. Is it the eighth? Or the tenth? I really need to start writing these things down.

Apparently, Adam had been waiting for me to mention it. And I never did. Our marriage, in a nutshell.

I never had dreams of a big wedding. We eloped. I wore jeans. Adam felt cheated out of a destination wedding, presents, and a big reception.

At first, we didn't tell people we were married. I think we intended to renew our vows and have a reception at some later date. It still hasn't happened.

Whatever. Five years of marriage. Go us.

The day after Adam and I first met (I forgot to develop our wedding photos).

9.10.09

Springtime can kill you.

Spring in NZ is like the second winter. Except I am trying to wear my spring clothes.

The fickle weather has turned rainy and cold, and I have cabin fever, and there are only a few sticks of firewood left.

Over the school holidays, I have been trapped. All the other mums seem to be full of energy. They are cleaning their houses from top to bottom, going on excursions every day, visiting extended family, and getting ready for Christmas. I feel so restless. I just want to fly away and be somewhere else.

Yesterday, I roused myself from my stupor, and a couple other mums and I took our kids to the museum in Wellington. There were a million people there. We looked at the exhibits inside for 30 minutes, and then we retreated to the cafe for lunch.

While we were in the cafe, we heard a rumour about another tsunami warning for Wellington. I was determined not to be neurotic. I’m not going to post any more silly status updates to Facebook, I said to myself. Because I have learned that people totally over-react.

So I texted Adam and asked him if he had heard about a tsunami warning. He hadn’t. He suggested that if we needed to, we could go to the top floor of the museum. Very funny, Adam.

One of the other mums was sort of freaking out too. She didn’t seem comforted at all when I said that a tsunami in Wellington would be like a snowstorm in Miami.

She said the wave could wrap around the North Island, and we agreed that it is the force of the wave, not the height. And we didn’t even have our civil defence supplies with us. And the museum is RIGHT ON THE HARBOUR.

The other mum called some of her geologist friends and asked them about the tsunami, but her friends didn’t reply.

Meanwhile, we were looking at the outdoor exhibits with the kids. I hesitated. I suppose I could ask Twitter, I said.

I tweeted:



And five lovely people on Twitter replied straight away, and they all said the warning had been cancelled. And I told the other mum that very reliable people on the Internet said the warning had been cancelled. And she was all, OK, but I think it’s time to go home now.

I tweeted:


Because Twitter is awesome.

And then I was left once again to ponder important things like, is cancelled spelled with one or two L’s, and why does it seem like Jay McInerney is writing everyone else’s blog. Story of my life.

30.9.09

Tsunami warning!

This morning, after the big quake in Samoa, NZ woke up to tsunami warnings.

On TVNZ’s Breakfast, the Civil Defence spokesperson was asked what we should do.

“Er, I guess you need to turn on your radios and be ready to evacuate," the poor guy stammered. If you are going to be a spokesperson, please have a way with words.

I live a block away from the beach. A tsunami is possible in my area. My phone book even has a helpful section about what to do if one lives “in a zone at risk":

Is that a tsunami? Quick, run for higher ground!

Some people in the village have told me they are worried about what to do in a tsunami. Ironically, these same people are not prepared for an earthquake.

An earthquake is extremely likely in the village. Since, you know, we live on a FAULT LINE. A tsunami is just a little more likely than, say, a snowstorm in Miami.

- -
I made the mistake of posting a status update about the tsunami on Facebook:

The tsunami is unlikely to affect my area. I'm still ready to evacuate. Because I'm neurotic.
Most of the comments that I received were variations of “Thinking of you” and “Keep safe”. I am concerned that my friends on Facebook don’t “get” my sense of humour.

- -
As usual, the tsunami in NZ turned out to be Much Ado About Nothing. The first wave to hit NZ was measured at about 40 cm (15 inches).

Bracing for the tsunami on the front deck at Wellington Road.

--
Edited to add: You can help the victims of the earthquake/tsunami in Samoa by making a donation to the NZ Red Cross.

29.9.09

The child refuses to nap. At least it means an early bed time.

I was born in the 70s. For those of you too young to remember, just imagine Women’s Lib and Dr. Spock.

When I was growing up, my mother often said I wasn't getting enough sleep:
  1. You're grumpy! You haven’t been getting enough sleep.

  2. You're sick! Not enough sleep.

  3. You and your friend painted my bedroom dresser? With nail polish? Definitely not enough sleep.

Not getting enough sleep caused all of my problems.

When my brother and I were little, naps were mandatory. I was never tired. I didn’t want to stop playing with my Barbies. But my mother forced us to go to our rooms and have a lie down. She was so mean!

If we didn’t lie down quietly in our own beds, my mother made us lie down WITH HER in her bed. If this happened, I absolutely refused to go to sleep. I was very STUBBORN (or so I have been told). I lay in my parents’ bed until my mother finally got up, and then I got up too.

My brother was not so lucky. He tried very hard not to fall asleep, but he always failed. And the poor kid didn’t wake up for HOURS.

Now I am a parent, and I am determined to Do Things Differently. I don’t force the child, age 4, to lie down for Quiet Time. He is allowed to play quietly in his room.

But sometimes I feel a nap would be beneficial. And if I lie down with the child, sometimes he will go to sleep.

Most of the time, however, the child refuses to go to sleep. He is so mean! He wiggles and fidgets and wanders off to go get something, or go for a poop, or get a drink of water, until I finally give up, and QUIET TIME IS OVER.

Then I am cross, and I feel out of sorts for the rest of the afternoon.

So I finally get it. When I was little, those naps were not (necessarily) for me. And now that I can't stay up past 9:30, I understand why my parents put me to bed so early.

Parenting is such karmic payback. It’s a beyotch.

25.9.09

NZ PM John Key on Letterman. Awesome.

You have got to check out this video of PM John Key's performance on Letterman. Key is such a tool. Behold.



As much as I'd like to punch Key in the mouth, this time I have to pat him on the back. Well done.

19.9.09

I’m not getting any alone time.

At Playcentre, the child is all about playing with his friends. Playcentre is where play dates get arranged. And I can drop him off and get some alone time.

It is horrible when illness prevents us from going to Playcentre.

This week, due to a very minor illness, we stayed home alone for two days. I was going out of my mind.

Lately, when I am playing with the child (and his Transformers), I get bored distracted so easily.

I want to tidy up, or have a cup of coffee, or play on the computer work on my assessments.

If I try to do something else, the child orders me to PLAY!

I feel like a TV. The child wants me to entertain him. ALL DAY.

A friend said I just need to give the child five minutes. Then I will get an hour of alone time.

But if I give the child five minutes, he wants another hour.

I must be doing it wrong.

12.9.09

My assessments are due. I'd rather be working on my novel.

To get government funding for our Playcentre, the parents running the sessions need to take early education courses. The courses are not difficult, but you need to attend some workshops, and for the higher levels, do quite a lot of written assessments.

This is (one reason) why parents send their kids to kindy (Kiwi for preschool). No one wants to get a degree in early education to be a volunteer.

I was supposed to finish my coursework (*ahem*) two school terms ago. But I was worried that people would think I was a tall poppy.

And with just one child, I began to feel I had made enough of a contribution to Playcentre. No other parents have finished their coursework either.

But with a parent leaving our Playcentre earlier than we planned, we need another parent with a higher course level. Right now.

And it seems that I’m the only one who has a chance in hell of finishing. I attended all the workshops a long time ago, but I have stalled on the written assessments.

So now it’s on. A big rush to finish my next course level before the next school term. Instead of the fine writing you have come to expect here at Wellington Road, I am writing on topics like:

Consider the “Possible Indicators” from the Pathways to Bicultural Assessment Practice diagram (reproduced in your manual from p7 of Kei Tua o te Pae Assessment for Learning: Early Childhood Exemplars. Book Three Bicultural assessment he aromatawai ahurea rua). Use these to comment briefly on how well your own centre practices bicultural assessment.

The pressure of the deadline is so motivating. He haw.

9.9.09

My husband hates eating out. At least he's a good cook.

We live in the boonies (American for rural area). There aren’t many options for eating out, or for takeaways (Kiwi for take-out).

Besides, making our own food (from scratch) is almost as easy as buying packaged, processed foods. Especially if my husband is doing the cooking. It is definitely cheaper.

And since I’m a control freak, I like to know what exactly is in my food. If I don’t know what an ingredient on the label is (more or less), then I probably won’t buy it. I like whole foods.

It helps to have a few time-saving kitchen appliances. Obviously, the microwave and the toaster. Here are my other must-haves:
  1. The jug (Kiwi for electric kettle)
    The electric kettle is CRITICAL to our daily operations at Wellington Road (eg, for the coffee plunger). I might have mentioned it before. Can't. Live. Without. It.

  2. The slow cooker
    And I love my slow cooker. You can throw dinner in it and forget about it. It's a good thing.

  3. The sandwich maker
    For toasties (Kiwi for grilled cheese sandwiches). A cast-iron skillet is nice, but the sandwich maker doesn’t require such close monitoring.

  4. The blender
    To puree soups. Or make hummus or pesto or smoothies. I really like the food processor too.

  5. The juicer
    I could probably live without the juicer. But with an organic fruit and veggie shop in the village, why would I want to?

7.9.09

Twitter-bleeping and my Facebook friends.

Yesterday, I got all excited. I thought Danny DeVito was following me on Twitter.

But (of course) he wasn't. It was a fake. So I sent the fake this tweet. Because that’s, like, so mean.


Both accounts might be fakes. But one is COPYING from the other. And (as you know) copying is Wrong.

I tried to let other people know about the fake. But the fake had gone viral. People were following the fake like sheep. So I gave up.

I didn’t want to be THAT GIRL, sending a million tweets about the fake. But I felt sad. Because people create fake Twitter accounts. And because people are as dumb as sheep.

--
The other day, a (sort of) famous blogger asked me to be his friend on Facebook. He has over 600 friends. I'm a fan, but I only have made one or two comments on his blog. I don’t think he knows me from a bar of soap.

I have nothing against promoting yourself on Facebook. But I have this rule:
I have to know my friends on Facebook IRL (in real life).
Of course, I don't really know my friends on Facebook (people from high school and people from work). Does anyone else have this dumb Facebook rule?

6.9.09

Today is Father's Day in NZ.

Crap. I'm late for the international mail (again).

Hmmm, perhaps, finding cards in the shops isn't the problem.

Oh, well. Happy Father's Day.

Me: Isn't Opa a handsome bloke (Kiwi for guy)? Child: Opa looks kind of funny.

5.9.09

Inglorious bastards.

Last night on Rove, Quentin Tarantino was promoting his new film, Inglourious Basterds (or however he spells it).

For those of you not in NZ or Australia, Rove is a hot, young, Australian talk show host. And lately, when Rove has American guests on the programme (Kiwi for program), I just cringe.

For example, 15 years ago, I thought Quentin Tarantino was cool. He was eccentric, but (of course) I was still a fan.

On Rove, Tarantino came off like a prat (Kiwi for self-righteous asshat).

To start with, I was annoyed when Rove asked if there had been trouble (in the media) about using the word bastards.

It’s the TV presenters that love saying bastards, Tarantino said, pointing at Rove. He went on:
On a morning programme in England, they told me I couldn’t say the title of the movie. And then they asked me, why did you spell it that way? And I said, it just takes the piss out of them. And they said, you can’t say that either!
I guess it’s a funny story. But to me, Tarantino seemed gleefully childish. He wasn't sufficiently humble. It’s like he has a sense of entitlement.

They talked about saying bastards in an American accent, compared to an English accent. Tarantino agreed that it sounds better in an English accent.

But he was using some Aussie words, like mucking about, taking the piss and no worries, and of course, Rove called him on it.

Do you want to be an Australian? Rove said.

No, I just have a lot of Ozzie friends, Tarantino said defensively.

Even though Tarantino was being a prick, Rove was still charming. What’s wrong with being Australian? he joked.

I said Ozzie, not Aussie. Tarantino said, emphasizing his American accent.

Then Tarantino said, I try not to use Ozzie words, but I say mate all the time, and when I’m in Australia, people make fun of me because they think I’m trying to kiss their ass.

Kees their oss? Rove asked.

No, kiss their ass! Tarantino said in his broadest American accent.

And I'm sorry, he has an ugly accent.

--
Husband: So you’re becoming a Kiwi. Now you see what the rest of the world has been putting up with.

Me: But I use Kiwi words sometimes. Does that make me an asshat?

Husband: (silence)

Me: At least I’m a self-aware asshat.

--
Note: I have paraphrased what Tarantino said. You can see it for yourself on Rove.

--
Edited to add. Maybe a genius like Quentin Tarantino is allowed a bit of bluster. Check out this great post, with links to other interviews with Mr Tarantino.

3.9.09

Suede loafers.

The child still didn't want these suede loafers from Pumpkin Patch. But I made him get them anyway.

Excuse me, do you have these in my size?

2.9.09

A very happy birthday to my dad, who likes trains just as much as I do.

Husband: I looked in here, and you were playing with the train set, ALL BY YOURSELF.

Me: Er, the engines really needed a Fat Controller.

1.9.09

Curtains flashback.

Rob brings up an interesting point in the comments of my last post:

What is it with Kiwis and neutral colours? Our house was all cream and beige when we bought it. Apart from the 1970s cream, yellow, green and brown curtains!

It's true. All over Wellington, there are these exact same curtains from the 70s. I know, because I have looked at A LOT of rentals. And a lot of homes up for sale. I am nosy picky.

At our last flat, I almost convinced myself these curtains said South Pacific. Behold.

Groovy! Cream, yellow, green, and brown. Can you dig it?

But I was distracted. With a baby this cute, I soon forgot all about the curtains.

31.8.09

I don't even like curtains.

It took twelve weeks for the new curtains to arrive. And then, another (gruelling) three hours for our landlords to hang them up.

I was away during our landlords' latest foray into DIY. Poor Adam was on landlord duty, and I am in his debt.

But I was with the child, at a children's birthday party. So I think we are even.

And magic, magic. Our new curtains are up. On three windows.

The curtains are from the very trendy (in NZ and Australia) Spotlight store. And just so you know, there really is no such thing as too neutral.

I love them. Believe me, it could be worse.

30.8.09

My computer was born again. Hurray!

After nearly killing my computer, I’m still feeling quite tender about it. I want to give it big cuddles and lots of kisses. I’m so glad you’re okay, baby! I love you!

I really don’t know what I did. It might have had something to do with the router. Which stopped seeing my IP address. When my ISP (hi TelstraClear) was having, um, some issues.

Side note, if you are on Twitter. You can get a quick response from a large company, if you just tweet a rant at them.

Oops. Sorry, Comms Chris (the guy behind @telstraclearnz). But you probably get this a lot. If only Twitter had never been invented.

Besides, the problem was probably a Microsoft update. I thought I had been shutting down my computer. With the (stupid) Vista Shutdown button. It looks like a shutdown button.

But it's not. Hopefully, if you use Vista, you are smarter than me, and you have changed the setting. Otherwise, if you click on this, you are just putting your computer to sleep.

And, while I am on the subject of stupid, um, Microsoft? Why does System Restore never work for me?

Maybe I should just tweet this. Never mind.

For the moment, I am tethered to my desk. I am weary after updates and installations. But I am grateful and relieved that my computer is up and running. And I still have my personal files. It’s even kind of nice my computer has been wiped clean.

I don’t feel brave enough to sort out the router just yet, but I do miss being wireless. I hope, in time, I will find the courage to try again. Fingers crossed.

23.8.09

I was tagged, y'all!

I was flattered when the clever and very charming Harmzie tagged me for Wellington Road's first meme. But it sure wasn’t as easy as I hoped.

Here are the rules:
•Open your first photo folder.
•Scroll down to the 10th photo. Or, you know, just pick a photo.
•Post that photo and story on your blog.
•Tag five (or more) friends to do the same.

After college, I didn’t know what to do with myself. So I worked for a restaurant company. After a couple of years, I was transferred to Chicago’s northern suburbs, to open a new store. This photo (it really is the 10th photo in my first photo folder) was taken around the time the store opened. Not long after, I had an epiphany, and I quit restaurant work.

Aren't they enthusiastic? Except for Amy, who looks absolutely terrified.

Those six months in the suburbs weren’t a total loss. I got to move to Chicagoland, and I hired and trained lots of people. And two of them, Mike (above, on the right) and Amy (above, second from left), became my best friends.

One day, while I was still doing time in the suburbs, Mike and I made plans to go into the city. We were going to get tattoos. But I chickened out. So I left a message on Mike’s answering machine. About tattoos. But, oops, I forgot Mike was still living with his parents. And I guess they weren't too happy to find out about his tattoo, on the answering machine (yeah, Mike wasn't a chicken).

I had big city dreams. I was so eager to get out of the suburbs, and I think maybe Mike was eager to get out of his parents’ house. He forgave me for getting him in trouble, and we found a small flat in the city. We turned into flatmates. Mike was like a combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Tim Allen (okay, he was more like Tim Allen). And he had nice friends.

After a while, Mike got a Golden Retriever puppy. Who doesn't love a puppy! And he got me hooked on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And years later, when Mike got married, his wedding was really fun. I went to his bachelor party in Vegas, baby! And I got to be a bridesmaid. I loved my dress, and we ate great food, and he even let me bring Amy as my date. And I think his parents were totally over the tattoo. Sort of.

A few years after the wedding, in my bridesmaid's dress. Believe me, by San Francisco standards, I was not that weird. Really.

Amy moved into the city just after I did. In our early twenties, we spent quite a few nights on the town. We were always looking for a better, hipper place than the last one. And for some reason, we were always on foot. I guess we had not heard about taxis. Sometimes we spent more time walking around than actually being anywhere.

Amy had worked in retail, and she was able to find couture on the sale rack. And she would share her favourite and best clothes with me. She would say, it looks better on you anyway. She always asked questions that made me feel knowledgeable and cool. We double-dated, um, more than once. And she was maternal and domestic and a bit Martha Stewart. Like when I called in, she would polish my silver jewellery for me. And to unwind after work, she would clean house. No wonder her place was always so tidy.

When I moved across the country, Amy realized that it was the end of a chapter. She dropped everything to help me drive my car to San Francisco. She was the Thelma to my Louise.

Thelma and Louise, on their road trip to San Francisco

Over the years, I have kept in touch with Mike and Amy. But I still miss them. These photos makes me want to, you know, turn back time. Because if you live in Chicago, San Francisco and Wellington are pretty much the same damn thing.

Tag! You're it.
Feel free to ignore me if you don’t want to play along. If I didn’t tag you, and you want to tell a story, go on. Don’t be shy.

Christina from Musings of an Amerikiwi. She takes beautiful photos. And Christina's was the first expat in NZ blog that I found. I lurked, and then a few years later, I found out that she went to high school with my cousin. It really is a small world!

Sarah from Chez Lee. She has so many good ideas. And I know she has some great photos.

And the other Sarah, from Secret World of a Housewife, because she makes me want to seize the day.

Aliceson from Feet Off the Table, because she is awesome and insightful.

Darsden from Ramblings About Why. She might have some funny for us. No pressure!

22.8.09

George Eliot, Dooce and me.

After I came out with real-life photos, CNN posted a story about revealing anonymous bloggers. You just are not that anonymous on the internet.

I do understand if you need to use a pen name. It's a literary tradition. Maybe you are a political whistle blower. Or you are blogging about work.

An online persona can be so complicated.

17.8.09

Is it all right if I call you a Kiwi?

I used to think a kiwi was a fruit.

In NZ, it is called a kiwifruit (this is a golden kiwifruit).

I learnt that a kiwi is a . . . small, flightless bird.

It is usually nocturnal.

15.8.09

I'm coming out of the closet.

You might have noticed there were no photos of me on this blog. Because I was worried someone would steal my identity. Yes, apparently, I work for the CIA (cough).

Anyway, I was inspired by Aussie Erin’s heartfelt anniversary post. So here is my version, with photos of me in NZ over the last seven years.

November 2002

This was me in Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. I was enjoying a carefree, five-month holiday in New Zealand. Then Adam (my husband) and I went back to San Francisco for five months.

July 2003

I was engaged, and I was just about to secure a work permit. In between visits to the NZ Immigration office, I spent lots of time at the computer, looking for work, hanging out in the craigslist travel forums, and playing the Sims.

October 2004

In our garden in Wellington's northern suburbs. Everything was coming up roses. My husband and I had eloped, and we finally had our own flat. I had applied for NZ residency, and I had a job that I liked. And I was a few months pregnant. Note the corrugated iron fence. Very common in NZ.

April 2005

This was me at Adam's parents' house. It was four weeks after I had given birth to the child. Look how blissed out I was. I was in love with the child, and the breastfeeding hormones.

October 2006

Here I was with the child napping in his buggy. We had moved up the coast about a year earlier. I was so happy to be living by the sea. This photo was taken in the park next to our house. I love how this track gives you the impression of wide open space.

June 2007

At a family lunch in Petone. Wellington city is in the distance behind me. I was experimenting with a new hair colour.

February 2008

I was over the moon. My husband and his family had given me a piano for my birthday. NB. I don't usually wear my crown at home.

April 2009

And here I was in Auckland, getting ready to go to America, for the first time in six years. I was hormonal anxious.

13.8.09

I'm a personality blogger.

My husband keeps asking, when are you going to earn some money with your blog. Because, ahem, I have not earned one 10 cent piece.

My reviews. My posts about movies and wine and books. My local quest for a new cafe.

Yeah, I’m still bloggin’ it old school, yo. It's just about what inspires me.

Which really means, I'm not trying to make any money. There are no advertisers on this site (yet).

See how I left the door open. Because I’m an English major, not a journalist. And that’s how I roll.

I have nothing against those of you who make a buck with your blogs. As we say in NZ, good on ya.

The thing is, blogging about products and free samples and the discussion on CNN about mommy bloggers? It just ain’t happening in NZ.

So, Wellington Road. "Blog with integrity" or sanctimonious, full of shit blog. You decide.

11.8.09

Enough of the soapbox already.

It’s time for another edition of Funny Things Kiwis Say.

Chur. I think this means cheers, as in thank you. It's grunted by men only. It’s a way of acknowledging that you heard what someone said and that you agree.

Bro. You might hear someone say Chur, bro or that was choice, eh, bro. Again, it’s a guy thing.

Youse. You plural, as in thank youse very much. If you get annoyed when you hear this, you are probably a tall poppy.

Sweet as. An iconic phrase. It’s sort of the Kiwi version of No worries. It means awesome.

Far out. Doesn’t mean hip or cool. You say this if someone is being an idiot.

Wicked. The East Coast slang from back in the 80s. It’s still around. Awesome.

10.8.09

I learned something new.

Before I read this story, I always used to buy the freshest bread and milk on the shelf.

I thought other people would (be forced to) buy the older bread and milk. Because I am entitled, and they got to the supermarket after me. Suckers!

That’s right. It never occurred to me that I am supposed to buy the older bread and milk. So it won’t get thrown away.

Apparently, my husband knew all about this easy way to stop food from getting wasted. And he only mentioned it once or twice when I wasn't listening.

So now I feel stupid and wasteful and American.

And angry at the supermarket.

Note to supermarket. Please do not put fresh items on the shelf until that older shit is gone.

Because maybe I’m not the only stupid wasteful person in the world.

4.8.09

On being (sort of) green.

The village is full of hardcore greens. I’m more of a moderate. Or lazy. I will do what is green if it is not too inconvenient.

At Wellington Road, we recycle. We compost. We use energy-saving light bulbs. I try to think about packaging before I buy. I use cloth bags. I almost always buy local and what is in season. When I can, I buy organic, free-range. We try to grow some of our own vegetables.

And for the last two school terms, we have scaled back to just one car. My husband drives the car to work, and the child and I walk or carpool or take the train.

At first, I missed doing errands whenever I felt like it. I balked at having to do three or more errands at once if I had the car. And it is a pain to ask for rides when the weather (or the child) craps out.

But I have started feeling like we could save the expense of having a second car, that we really don’t need it.

Then again, a 2km walk to the train, the dairy or the playcentre, and back again can seem like a long, long, long way. Even on a good day.

There are no major hills in the village. Hallelujah.

2.8.09

Dairy-free, egg-free pancakes.

These pancakes are often on the weekend menu at Wellington Road. Maple syrup is my favourite topping, but in NZ, it is incredibly expensive.

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 ¼ cups rice milk
1 tsp salt
1-2 bananas, mashed
2 Tbsp dairy-free margarine, melted
½ cup frozen blueberries, optional

Mix all the ingredients together, except the margarine and the blueberries. Then add the margarine and then the blueberries. Grease your favourite skillet and cook a ladle of batter at a time over medium heat. Flip when cooked on one side. Makes four large pancakes, or lots of small pancakes for the child.

The child eats the blueberries first.

31.7.09

Want to buy a van?

In NZ, there is no legal requirement to have auto insurance. Instead, you need to get a Warrant of Fitness (WOF).

If a vehicle is of a certain age (read old), you need to get a WOF every six months.

A WOF testing station checks that your lights and horn work, and that there is no rust on the key structural points of your car. There is no emissions testing. The WOF costs about $40, and of course the cost of any repairs.

Until you have a valid WOF, you are not allowed to drive your car, except to the garage to get repairs, or to the testing station.

You also need to register your car (get a rego). For an older car, my husband’s rule of thumb is to make sure the car passes its WOF before he gets the rego. The rego is about $100 for six months.

If we fail to have a WOF and a rego, and we park our car on the rural residential street in front of our house (because we don’t have off-street parking), we can get charged $400 in tickets (this happened to us).

We can park in our driveway, such as it is, and avoid getting a ticket. Which is why I just asked my husband to move the van that has been a street sculpture for the last two or three school terms.

My husband thinks I’m being paranoid about the guy that I noticed checking out the van yesterday. I’m not taking any $400 chances.

How cute would I look driving this?

23.7.09

Juli Ryan. Dot com.

This is one of those geeky posts about blogging that no one really likes.

I bought my own domain name.

Yup, that’s right. I spent money on my blog (please don’t tell my husband).

Now Wellington Road will be coming at you (hopefully seamlessly) from Juli Ryan dot com. You shouldn't have to do anything.

But I didn't back up (because I like taking risks) and my blog roll was wiped out. If your blog used to be up there, and it isn’t any more, do let me know.

22.7.09

Guilty pleasures. Oh, Edward.

So, mentally I am a teenage girl. I have been reading the Twilight books. Go ahead and think less of me, but I really like them. I have read them each in a day or two, and I just can’t put them down.

My favourite is the third book, Eclipse. It is about a girl who has to choose between two guys in opposing worlds. My husband is totally like Jacob (the werewolf). But who can resist Edward--vampires are so very appealing.

The writing is terrible. It is full of clich├ęs. Stephanie Meyer clearly has a way with words and a decent vocabulary and is a skilled storyteller, so it “breaks my heart” to read through so much cheese for every genuine moment.

You will see almost every twist of the plot coming. Meyer doesn’t make the most interesting choices, which is a let-down time and again. And she seriously needs to edit and polish and not make the first draft her final one.

Then again, she is a bestselling novelist. What do I know.

150 pages to go. Bracing myself for the disappointing finale.