Thursday, February 23, 2012


"Out of our sorrows should come understanding. Through our sorrows we join with all of those before who have had to suffer and all of those who will yet have to do so. Let us not be gripped by the fear of death. If another day be added to our lives, let us joyfully receive it, but let us not anxiously depend on our tomorrows. Though we grieve the deaths of our loved ones, we accept them and hold on to our memories as precious gifts. Let us make the best of our loved ones while they are with us, and let us not bury our love with death."
This quote was written by Lucius Annaeus Seneca (the younger). Born in Cordoba, Spain, he lived from 4BC - 65AD. He was sent to Rome to study rhetoric and there met with the minds and ideas of the time which both instructed and inspired him. 
This particular quote has been used at funerals and memorial occasions the world over. Last March at the National Christchurch Memorial service, both Christchurch and New Zealand remembered the happenings of the February 22 2011 earthquake. The New Zealand Governor General, Anand Satyanand, read these words of Seneca on this occasion. How fitting they were to us all who listened.
And then yesterday, Latimer Square, a place that's hardly heard the human voice this past year as it remains cordoned in the red zone of Christchurch's CBD, was visited by dignitaries, emergency services and religious group representatives, who held a small service commemorating the first anniversary of the quake.
At this event, New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key, picked up the threads of the quote from Seneca in his closing sentences ~ 
"We can not numb the pain of those who lost loved ones anymore than we can bring back those who died. But together we can take strength from one another and move forward. February 22 will forever be one of the darkest days in this proud nation's history. It was also be a day that in the worst of times, the best of human spirit was on display. That spirit is something that no earthquake can ever take away."
To look back, talk about and remember the details of tragic and hard times, is probably a rare pastime in your household as it is in mine. But ceremonies like this one in Christchurch, remind us that troubles and disasters are normal, will happen and are common to all - even at a time when people like to think they have control over things in this world.
The two points
 * of "making the best of our loved ones while they are with us" 
 * and "the best of human spirit" being displayed in "the darkest days", ARE ideas worth reading and talking about in our families, and more than that they are worth putting into practice in our families. We as parents can initiate this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


                                              MONDAY'S WASH DAY
"Today is Monday, Today is Monday
Monday is wash day
Everybody happy?
Well, I should say!

Today is Tuesday, Today is Tuesday
Tuesday is ironing
Everybody happy?
Well, I should say!..."

As you can see the poem continues. This is the first part of a series with suggestions of help with household jobs. PART 1 - "WASHING/DOING THE LAUNDRY".
For some people getting clothes washed, dried, folded, ironed and put away is a much thought about and talked about topic. It's a job which must be done, but can be enjoyed and certainly can be done with little mind occupation or stress.
In my opinion when buying a washing machine it's worth buying a strong reliable brand which has a capacity that will help work for your sized family. Do some research. We began with a small front loader because it saved on water use. Our first two children enjoyed watching the clothes churn around through the glass 'window', but apart from providing entertainment it didn't do the job - it took too long to get through the load and only washed small quantities at a time. The best washing machine we've had is Fisher and Paykel's biggest Intuitive Eco machine. Our first one lasted 10 years having washed for nine people six days a week. We are now on our second one.
Next research washing powders and identify what you want in your washing powder - coloured beads like 100's and 1000's to eat grease, whiteners to bleach, eco friendly substances, or perfume powders? I suggest experimenting with the quantity they say you are to use. I use a New Zealand eco friendly brand which is kind to our sewerage system, but I only put in about 2/3 the quantity of powder they suggest.
I'm a firm believer in washing everyday or to keep on top of the mound. I choose not to wash on Sundays and the extra clothes on a Monday still make the break worth it. 
When all our kids lived at home I rarely sorted the washing into whites, colours and darks. I chose to just get the clothes through the wash and use the extra time on other things. I always washed the cloth nappies separately, however.
When my kids turn 15 years they take over washing their own clothes. They 'club' together and work out between them to take turns to wash their load of dirty clothes. I keep out of their difference of opinion in whose turn it is to do the washing. This saves me, trains them to be self-sufficient and responsible and become aware of the effort required in caring for one another.
Once the load is finished, get it out. Don't delay, do it straight away as this only adds to the mindset that washing is a big deal.
Living in New Zealand I peg the washing outside on a line, even in bad weather.
I have a series of lines (NO this is not me or my garden) which are covered but face north which is where our best sun comes from in the southern hemisphere.. If the rain is driving in then I hang the washing inside on a clothes rack. If by the following morning the clothes are still not completely dry, I finish them off in the dryer.
I resist using the dryer for a number of reasons ~
 * the added cost to our power bill.
 * the unnecessary use of energy.
 * clothes don't last as long when always dried in a dryer - just look at  the lint your dryer catches, it's all removed from the fabric of your clothes. This is especially true of underwear and clothes with elastic.
 * my white clothes would miss out on natural sun bleaching, meaning I would need to scrub more or soak more.
 * there's a pleasant, natural smell clothes have when dried on the line outside.
Another great reason to hang washing outside is it gives me time to be outside in the sun, the breeze, or showery rain where I can notice nature on my own and think.  For many years it was a great time with my littlest children sitting right by me, playing with the clothes pegs, handing them to me, singing songs together. Sometimes I would use it to be a special time with just one child. 
Bringing the washing in if I am rushed, is a quick grab, unpeg and drop into the basket. But if not, I take each item off, fold it and put it in the basket. At times I unpeg all the items of one child, folding each as I go, then do the next child's clothes, so that each person's clothes are all together with the household items folded on the top. Once inside I resist not putting the basket down, but rather put the household washing away, and lift out each child's clothing pile putting them into their mini washing basket. 
I'm sure I'd never have gone for this system if I'd had a couple of children but the more we had, I couldn't function without getting organized.
I bought a mini washing basket for each child, set them out on the stairs and put the clean clothes into each. It's the child's responsibility to take their basket from the stairs and put their clothes away before bed.
I'd threaten, if baskets weren't picked up and clothes put away, that I wouldn't do their washing the next day. This worked for most of our kids. The slow learners needed to be worked on more.
I find by folding washing straight from the washing line eliminates a lot of ironing. I have to smile here because I married a man who in his single days ironed his face cloths, tea towels and pyjamas, which I think is crazy. But in recent years he has taken to ironing his own shirts, and I really don't mind :)
We have a huge basket in the laundry for dirty clothes to go into and my over 15 year olds have their own separate one. I insist dirty clothes are not to be left in the bathroom but rather are to be left in the dirty clothes basket.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ will hopefully be a happy week with the kids with the washing, as the poem suggests it can become.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


"..... the perspective of smallness that cultivates surprise wonder, that grows gratitude, that yields joy. The orb awe of a moon that makes the eyes see the kaleidoscope of a bubble that makes the time slow,....."
"ONE THOUSAND GIFTS" Ann Voskamp  page 168.
These words completely connected with much of what I have seen, heard and felt over the last couple of weeks while away camping.
Living completely outside in the elements, experiencing and watching them day and night after day and night, does diminish one's self focus, changing you, even 'educating' you.
On arriving at our camping spot there were tents to put up, stuff to be sorted and stored away - a fussy city mindset in action.
But by our last night we sat watching the reflected sunset in the eastern sky over the ocean. The blue horizoned sky toning into pink, was reflected in the sea between the waves and wet foreshore. We sat in silence, not because anyone had the huff, rather we wanted to watch the slow changes of colour fading out.
The boys built a fire on the sand and we moved to sit around it.
Earlier we had cooked dinner - a lamb fillet with potatoes and kumara in the dutch oven over a fire, with pumpkin and zucchini in the BBQ oven.
It had taken much longer to cook than we had guessed but it didn't matter because time had slowed for us.
Even though we live rurally, our sky is affected by the city night glare. 
In comparison the camping sky was black with its stars almost protruding  in clarity. We had fun satellite tracking, naming the constellations we knew. To clean our teeth at the end of the night under a ceiling of pure black and stars, framed strong with gently curved pohutukawa branches and curtained by their leaves.

                                  POHUTUKAWA TREES
Then there were the swells growing and rising into waves which broke in cracks and booms in a chain reaction down the beach.
Waves in precision spaced sets, waves that kept the swimmer guessing. The thrill of diving under a great wave and on coming up to find an even better one approaching. How do you describe crystal clear water where you see to your toes in chin deep water? The colour is out of our imagination.

At the point where the quote I used is found, Ann the author, is speaking about the joy tiny children find in the simplest of things. She speaks of the great excitement and joy her tiny daughter gets from a plastic ball being rolled towards her repeatedly. The giggles and laughs, the face full of smiles and body twitching in anticipation for the next roll of the ball. She also speaks of the huge pleasure it gives the adult who sends the ball rolling along the floor, because the laughter is contagious. 
Ann also makes the link of joy coming from surprise. I like this thought. Joy doesn't come from something we conjure up for ourselves, it's the unexpected happening or unthought of reaction - like the thrill of an even better wave rolling towards you.

During the holiday my husband has often used the expression, "you just need to change your mindset", and it's true. I can see camping at times gave us a taste of this choice. There is no way we would have reacted as we did to those events on that last night camping if we had experienced them the first night there. The mindset had to change, adjust, slow-down. This is one reason we do this style of holiday.

THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ if you at the moment are lacking this "perspective of smallness that cultivates surprise wonder", make the decision to spend some time in the elements - a weekend, a day, an hour. Just watch in silence. Forget the mobile gadgets which only interfere in this experience. I hope you find your time slows down.