Tuesday, December 9, 2014


As we are now into the 2 week count-down until Christmas, there is an awareness in our family of the need to get the Christmas tree and decorations up and organise the family Christmas meals and gifts. But everyone at this stage is mesmerised by work deadlines before the Christmas shut-down, moving house, bidding on a house auction and frantically looking for summer jobs... The year's demands and strains will be sticking with us right through into the Christmas season!
In December 2010, I put up a post about the high incidence of difficulties, troubles, disagreements, arguments and bust-ups occurring at Christmas when the family gets together. Today we tend to come into the Christmas season from wild busyness and pressure.
Family Christmas can be the place where some want to tell of their year's successes or of their disappointments, but the essence of Christmas gatherings is CONNECTION. How can you move everyone's attention from their stress realities to a position where we are brought back into relationship with one another, so peace and goodwill towards each other is promoted??
There are lots of ways this togetherness can be brought about. Here is one simple suggestion ~ 
Ask everyone to bring a photo of one happy memory to the family gathering which they can briefly talk about. It could be a photo from childhood or something wonderful, thrilling or an encouraging and happy moment in 2014. 
Many times over the years in our household when someone is in the midst of trouble, tragedy, stress and unhappiness, a pile of old family photos sitting on the bookcase being thumbed through, has started a new conversation, given a mental holiday, brought laughter  leading to a different mindset.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Whether your 2014 has had some tough times or not, try including a Good Memories Meal into your Christmas season to reorientate, refocus and develop improved family connection.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


With the continuing stormy, windy, rainy, hail, thunder, lightning and snow weather here in New Zealand, it is very hard to believe summer is meant to be arriving in less than 2 weeks!
So before the hot sunshine comes, have a read of 7 questions about sunscreen. 
1. What is the history of sunscreen?
The ancient Egyptians considered lighter skin to be attractive, making potions to prevent sunburn. Some of the ingredients they used are in our sunscreens today.
A pharmacist in South Africa produced the first sunburn cream as we know it, in the early 1930’s.
The founder of L’Oreal refined this preparation, making the first sunscreen in 1936.
In 1938 an Austrian Piz Buin chemist came up with the sun protective factor, SPF. SPF is “a standard for measuring the effectiveness of sunscreen when applied at an even rate of 2milligrams per square centimeter.” His original cream had a SPF of 2.
After more experimenting, in the 1980’s, the company Coppertone developed their first UVA/UVB sunscreen.
Research continues with ideas of developing a sunscreen pill…!!!?

2. How does sunscreen work and what are the benefits of using one?
A sunscreen is a protective layer which has inorganic chemicals that reflect the sunlight, and organic molecules that absorb the UV rays releasing it as heat, hence preventing or minimizing the amount of UV rays getting through to the skin.
UV rays consist of UVA and UVB
      UVB are shorter in wavelength so don’t penetrate deeply into the skin. These rays are the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer and cause damage to DNA. The SPF factor in a sunscreen only protects a person from the UVB rays.
      UVA are longer in wavelength, penetrating to deeper levels of the skin, they are linked to the cause premature aging of the skin. Only sunscreens that carry the words “broad spectrum” will  protect from UVA rays.
Australian research at Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane in 2013, found regular sunscreen application helped to counter the premature aging of skin. Researchers however did say that as well as the lack of sunscreen use, there are other factors that contribute to premature skin aging and skin cancer, such as smoking, sun exposure history, skin colour and wearing sun protective clothing including hats – these conditions are not prevented by the use of sunscreen alone.

3. Are there any concerns about sunscreens?
Babies of 6 months and younger should not use sunscreen at all because of its chemical ingredients. It is best to keep babies in this age group in the shade or indoors during the hottest time of the day, 10am – 4pm.
“One of the main constituents of sunscreen is the ZnO particles. ZnO nanoparticles are sought out for UV-filter applications thanks to their inherent optoelectronic properties and are, therefore, broadly used today in cosmetics and polymers. Preliminary toxicological data, however, point out that they can induce significant DNA damage and genotoxicity due to their Zn2+ ion leaching. It has become important for the nanotechnology industry, to devise scalable, safer-by-design approaches to minimize the ZnO nanoparticle dissolution and toxicity without altering their desired optoelectronic properties.” “In our center we developed a safer formulation concept to mitigate toxicity by encapsulating the materials in a thin layer of Silica.” Feb 2014.

4. What is the correct way to put sunscreen on?
* Apply before going outside
* Some say use a shot glass full of sunscreen as a quantity guide to cover your body, however bodies are different in size. Professor Leffell of Yale School of Medicine says, “use enough to evenly cover the skin and massage it in, and be systematic about it. There’s no such thing as using too much.”
* Reapply 2 hourly, more often after swimming or heavy sweating. The skin literally uses it up. Apply and wait a few minutes to give time to be absorbed before swimming, otherwise you simply wash it all off.

5. What do different SPF scores mean?
 “Products with a higher SPF allow fewer of the photons that produce sunburn to strike the skin. In simple terms, you can view an SPF 10 sunscreen as allowing 10 out of every 100 photons to reach the skin and an SPF 20 product as allowing only 5 out of every 100 photons to reach the skin.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-sunscreen-protec/
A product with SPF 30+ will block out 96% of sunburn from UVB rays.
A product with SPF 60 or more will only very slightly increase that protection. There is no product that can give 100% protection.
Specialists therefore warn of the need to never trust in sunscreen alone, but add wearing a wide brimmed hat, sunglasses, tightly woven fabrics or clothing that absorbs UVA and UVB rays and avoid being out in direct sun for long from 10am – 4pm. Stay in the shade.
Moisturizers and makeup foundations often have SPF in them. Foundation with SPF does not give sufficient protection as it fades through the day and when applying you put less quantity of foundation on your face than the quantity of sunscreen you would apply.
Moisturizers with SPF however do give effective sun protection.

6. Are there benefits from being in the sun?
In just a few decades we have gone from promoting summer sun worship to sun dread over the summertime.
But sun on the skin does have benefits – it relaxes, eases off depression and mind anxiety. It lifts our emotions. Going out into the sun promotes outdoor sport, real play for children and gardening, which are all essential contributors for our wellbeing.
It is questionable if the level of vitamin D deprived people today was as high a few decades ago. Being in the sun is a natural and the best way to receive vitamin D. Getting 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight on your face, arms, back, or legs without sunscreen a few times a week is enough to generate your body’s vitamin D needs for a week.

7. Do sunscreens last forever?
The active ingredients in sunscreens do deteriorate over time, becoming less effective, so check the expiry dates of the sunscreens in you cupboard.

To be available and handy for use sunscreens are often stored in the car glove box or boot all year round. This exposes them to extreme high temperatures, which also may result in their effectiveness being compromised.

Saturday, November 8, 2014


As summer approaches here in New Zealand, we will soon be sorting through the cupboard for the insect repellent.
How much do you know about insect repellents? Here’s 5 Q&A to help.
Get rid of bugs. But depending on the active ingredient in an insect repellent, it can mask our body scent, which usually attracts insects to us – confusing them, or it can paralyze insects – killing them.
I'm looking at the 4 most common active ingredients used in insect repellents - DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus and Essential Oils.
* DEET or Diethyl Toluamide ~ 
Studies suggest that DEET products are the most effective at keeping insects away. A NZ pharmacist in October this year questioned the safety of DEET products sold in NZ, saying some products are 80% DEET. In the US the max concentration allowed is 30% in adult and 10% in child insect repellents. The WHO recommends a max of 40%. “Deet is a solvent that has also been proven to melt some plastics and textiles - a problem for those venturing into the bush or working outdoors in garments that contain Gore-Tex, or carrying packs and equipment that could be damaged by the products.” “Deet is a neuro-toxin, which means it has the potential to affect your brain and nervous system.” says the pharmacist George Batchelor.
Labels carry warnings such as - can be dangerous especially to children if used in large amounts on skin, clothes, bedding or for long periods of time or repeatedly, not to be used on children under 6 years, wash hands after use.
DEET products usually give up to 6hours protection.
Product eg.s – Autan, Aerogard Tropical Strength, RID, Repel Tropical Insect Repellent, Bushman Insect Repellent.
* Picaridin ~
Studies suggest Picaridin is the second most effective active ingredient to rid us of insects.
Safe to use when used as directed.
Labels carry warnings such as – suitable for children 12months and older, wash hands after use.
Picaridin products usually give 4hours protection.
Product eg,s – OFF! Family Care, Aerogard Odourless Protection, Skin Technology Picaridin Insect Repellent.
* Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or p-Menthane-diol (PMD) ~
This is a natural oil extracted from lemon scented eucalyptus leaves and twigs in Australia.
Studies suggest that Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus products are as effective as Picaridin products. It is the only natural product authorities recommend to repel insects.
Safe to use if following the directions.
Labels carry warnings such as – avoid eye contact, should not be used on children under 12months.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus products may need to be applied more regularly than chemical repellents.
Product eg.s – SAFE Natural Insect Repellent, Repel Lemon Eucalyptus, Just Herbal Insect Repellent, PURE FIJI Insect repellent.
* Essentail Oils
Essential oils such as Citronella, Lavender, Peppermint, Camphor, Cinnamon… are used in repellents. There is controversy about their effectiveness as active ingredients in insect repellents, and studies rank them behind Oil of Eucalyptus and Picaridin repellents.
The concentration of essential oils put into repellents is low, making them safe repellents for people, but be aware that cats and dogs are different and some essential oils repel animals.
Use these repellents as directed on the label. You will need to apply them more regularly than chemical repellents.
Essential oils themselves in concentrated form should never be used ‘topical’, or directly onto the skin of children under 2 years of age.
Product eg.s – Cancer Society Insect Repellent, Gardener Insect Repellent, Kiwiherb Herbal Insect Repellent, Badger Anti Bug Balm, PURE FIJI Lemongrass Insect Repellent,, Goodbye Sandfly.
* For best results don’t apply like perfume with a squirt here and there, instead apply insect repellent in a thin covering on all exposed skin. Creams and liquids can be applied thinly making them a better choice than sprays.
* Opinions differ as to if you only apply insect repellent to skin or if it is effective to also apply to clothes.
* Never apply over cuts, wounds or irritated skin.
* Never apply to eyes, mouth, nostrils and use sparingly around ears.
* Never spray directly onto the face, rather spray onto your hands first, then apply to face.
* If using spray repellent only use it outdoors to avoid inhaling.
* Never allow children to handle insect repellent. Apply onto your hands, not theirs, then apply onto child’s body, the reason being that children often put their hands into their eyes, mouth and nose.
* Again use just enough quantity to cover the area as a heavy application will not give better or longer protection.
* ALWAYS wash hands after applying insect repellent. Use soap and water. This is particularly important when repellents are use repeatedly or on consecutive days.
* Remember swimming and heavy perspiring will reduce the amount of protection an insect repellent will give.
The stronger the repellent or the active ingredient in an insect repellent, the longer you are protected from insects. It does not men that more mosquitoes will be killed.
* Avoid wearing brightly coloured clothes which can attract insects.
* Avoid sweetly scented perfumes, moisturizers, soaps… which attract insects.
* Wear long pants and long sleeves at dusk when insects are most active.
* Opinions differ as to the safety of using insect repellent if you’re pregnant or breast feeding so check your brand with your trusted pharmacist or doctor.
* Opinions differ as to the reliability or safety of make your own insect repellents. If you are interested to try –
* Get rid of stagnant water around your home, in ponds, roof guttering, bird bath, in large leafy plants, puddles or water features with still water….
* Plant insect repelling plants in your garden especially near outdoor leisure areas or child play areas. Geranium, marigold, basil, lavender, lemon balm, lemon thyme, ageratum, garlic, rosemary….
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ before summer and insects really hit hard, check what you have in your cupboard and have been using for insect repellent. Do some reading and thinking about what you want to do from here on.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Only 1 month away till SUMMER here in New Zealand - a bit hard to believe with our weather patterns - but here are some suggestions if you are in the mood for collecting up some summer reading material for when holiday weather arrives.
Thank you Laura Howard for this ~
Below are some interesting NZ books that have popped up recently in various emails I've received… most are just out, while Civilisation and The Luminaries were published 2013. I am always fascinated that despite the apparent death of the book, little New Zealand still manages to publish so many wonderful and varied titles! If you are like me, you might be pleasantly surprised to see the range of NZ books on offer – both fiction and non fiction, for adults and kids. Two years ago I joined a book group that only reads contemporary NZ books (usually published within the last year). I was worried there would be little choice and the standard would be below that of my usual diet of international books, but I'm pleased to have been so wrong in my assumptions! You can keep in touch with new NZ books through Auckland writers and readers festival emails, Parsons Library Supply emails, the NZ Book Council website, and ask at your local library – staff often love a good chat about NZ books. Enjoy!  

Manuka: The Biography of an Extraordinary Honey by Cliff Van Eaton
$34.99 PB. 240 pages. ISBN 9781775591634

One Girl, One Dream by Laura Dekker
$29.99 PB. 336 pages. ISBN 9781775540458
An autobiographical account of the youngest ever solo circumnavigation of the Earth. Aged just 14, New Zealand-born Laura Dekker defied the authorities and braved the open oceans to realise her dream of becoming the youngest ever sailor to circumnavigate the Earth. When she finished the journey she was still only 16, the youngest ever person to achieve this feat.

Tell You What: Great New Zealand Nonfiction, 2015 edited by Susanna Andrew & Jolisa Gracewood  DUE OUT NOVEMBER 2014
$29.99 PB. 130 x 198mm. 180 pages. ISBN 9781869408244
‘ Real, live stories, written to last’. Mountains, family secrets, cannibal snails, births, deaths, marriages…includes writing by Steve Braunias, Lara Strongman, Eleanor Catton, Tina Makereti, and others.

Civilisation: twenty places on the edge of the world by Steve Braunias
Our book group had the pleasure of meeting Steve and hearing some of his stories of his travels around NZ, as he researched and wrote this book. An irreverent, humorous, at times sad and touching picture of small town NZ, and some incredible characters he met along the way.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
Don’t be put off by the size of this incredible Man Booker prize winning novel! You won’t have read anything like it. Outstanding.

My new zealand 123 book. Te Papa Press, due out 2015
ISBN: 9780987668875
This and the below book look like they will be wonderful reads to enjoy with your preschooler.

My new zealand colours book. Te Papa Press, due out 2015
ISBN: 9780987668899

Sunday, October 12, 2014


Last night one of our daughters had her 21st birthday party here at home. She had made digital invitations and decorations and together we had planned the food weeks ago. I had shopped for the food last week and she had taken her dad down to the supermarket one evening to help haul the drinks off the shelves into the trolley to the car then home.
Saturday was an all-out cook day for her and me while her dad and a brother helped another sister move house. 
Amazingly decorations were hung, the place cleaned up and with suitable clothing on, we welcomed the first guests. I realised half-way through the night I hadn't cleaned my teeth all day and had not put on makeup - agh- but really there was no time and more important things needed one's attention.
The whole evening was wonderful in every way. But the surprise for me was that so many wanted to speak at the speech time, after the speech time, driving home after the party via text, and throughout  today - to articulate their thanks, respect and love for the birthday girl. This was from an age group that we think of as being technology obsessed, therefore verbally and relationally impaired. Here was a display of the opposite, a wish to verbalise well thought out honest and heart spoken comment.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ I'm again reminded of the need to tell my kids, regardless of age, how much I appreciate them, naming the reasons I am thankful that they are mine.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


This is the beautiful photo I have used as the background for my website for my parenting business. 
It's a track I have walked for over 18 years that leads from the road along the Tutukaka Coast down to the spectacular little beach at Whale Bay. It's a gentle sloping walk to go down to the beach and a demanding return journey. 
I first walked it when I was 8 months pregnant, along with my husband and 5 kids aged less than 2 1/2 up to 12years. That was the first year we camped at Woolleys Bay in Mr Woolley's front farm paddock, February 1996. We have gone back virtually every year since.
This track has lots of memories for me
- it's where one of our boys fell off the edge and slid down the sheer cliff about 50mt grabbing onto scrub as he went, bleating out my name.
- it's close-by to where one of our girls was proposed to by her  husband - she's now days away from giving birth to her second child.
- it's where I first read the text from my Mum telling me she had killed a snake in her kitchen the evening before by spraying fly spray in its face then pounding it till dead with her meat mallet - she was 88!
- it's where conversations about the unknown of the coming year have taken place with our kids, as they have gone to school for the first time at age 16.
- it's where we have stopped most years, climbed down the slope to the lookout and taken family photographs.
- it's where I have been lost in thought about a whole manner of things - thinking about the past, thinking about the future. It's a pretty and picturesque track to walk to get lost on.
In three months time we will be there again, having the same conversations with my last son about starting school, taking another family photo - hard to get everyone there at the same time these days, and lots of thinking for me as my home schooling career will be finished and new routines opening up.
You are welcome to have a look at my website ~
A WAY TO PARENT - www.awaytoparent.com

Thursday, September 18, 2014


"Fewer children starting school can speak in sentences, prompting an investigation by education chiefs. ..Schools around the country have noted a decline in the spoken language abilities of new entrants from all backgrounds.. School leaders and a specialist in linguistics suspect the problem could be down to children using gadgets too often and parents not talking to them enough. 
The ability of youngsters to express themselves in the classroom is essential to their cognitive development and future learning. ..
New starters could have the spoken-language ability of 2- or 3-year-olds, and even those whom teachers viewed as "average" often came in at levels below a 5-year-old. ..
Julie Cowan, deputy principal at Willowbank School in Auckland, believed there were many causes:'Maybe the fact that children are spending more time on devices and watching television is part of it. Talking as a parent, you are so busy and you have to get to work and drop the kids off.. we spend a lot of time talking at our kids, not necessarily talking with them.'..
Dr Jannie van Hees of the University of Auckland completed her doctoral study on oral language in the classroom for 5-and 6-year-olds. .. 'Children are spending too much time in front of the digital devices and hurrying from one place to the other. It is simple, free and easy to have conversations with your children. But increasingly, I think, families aren't...You can't take for granted, just because you are educated parents, that you talk effectively with children.
The best growing linguistic time...is just those simple times of doing plain things with children but doing lots of conversational exchanges.'"
Nicholas Jones: NZ Pupils Struggling to Speak. Weekend Herald. The New Zealand Herald. Saturday September 6, 2014.

"He may have been dubbed 'the master evangelist of the digital age', but even the late Steve Jobs worried about the effect technology has on children.
While he persuaded millions that Apple's chic but pricey gadgets were a must-buy,..he prevented his own children from using iPads and limited their access to the internet generally.
..the Jobs' children would instead sit around a long dinner table in the kitchen and actually talk to one another. ...
Walter Isaacson, the author of the biography called simply Steve Jobs, told him later that 'every evening Steve made a point of having dinner at the big long table in their kitchen, discussing books and history and a variety of things.'...
Chris Anderson, ex-editor of technology magazine Wired, who has five children aged 6 to 17, agreed with the Jobs family approach.
'My kids accuse me and my wife of being fascists and openly concerned about tech, and they say that none of their friends have the same rules' ..'That's because we have seen the dangers of technology first-hand. I don't want to see that happen to my kids.'"
Ian Johnston: Apple Guru Kept His Kids Away from iPads. Weekend Herald. The New Zealand Herald. Saturday September 13, 2014.

More newspaper excerpts this week, sounding an alarm for parents to take stock of home life. 
Again, over use or inappropriate use of technology is being painted as the cause that is thwarting children's development.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ no matter if your child is 5 or 17years old, how is their speaking ability? Are they relaxed in speech and involve themselves voluntarily in conversations (I don't mean  arguments and criticisms)? If your answer is an honest 'yes', then they are  obviously doing well and you can assume that their technology use is appropriate. If you are unsure or they are not communicating, are recluse.. then the suggestion has been given for you to intentionally start today to talk with your child and not at them, during the simple, plain times of the day. You could also take up the Jobs' example at the mealtime table. 
If you know right now that this is a problem at your house, you are the only people who can change the situation, so you need to make a plan, or there will be no change.