Some fucked up shit*

*Language you would normally hear me admonishing my students for using.

I am the Palagi woman who tries to tell my (mostly) pasifika  boys to stop using bad language. I am the woman who represents the systemically racist, patriarchal, historically Western, education-based set of measures and matrices that they get judged on every day.

I am the woman they know can make the difference between them being able to return to their enrolling school, and carry on with their education, or not. As simple as that. The, (incredible, amazing, awesome in the true sense of the word, and patient), staff I work with get a say too, but ultimately the kids look to me to see if they have ‘met their goals’, and whether we deem them ‘worthy ‘ to return to mainstream schooling.

Also, I am a neglectful grand-daughter, invisible aunty, barely-there daughter, and intermittent mother of two boys. Did I mention ex- not really ex -westie? Did you see that Chris Cornell died? Shit, man.

Did you know, my Nana, who I have written about many times, is STILL alive. And thriving. Of course you don’t. I barely get to see her now, and I NEVER blog anymore, and she barely knows the outside world exists. (She’s a bit of a star on Insta tho #nanalove).

I enrolled a new boy today. His folks didn’t show up with him (they usually do). Because I had no information about him, I rang his old school (from which he’d been excluded), and found out about his home life, his past indiscretions, and the support his former school had put in place. Depressing stuff.

A couple of days ago we, (Activity Centres in New Zealand), got an email indicating that the MOE don’t see us as financially viable (no shit), and they couldn’t give us a guarantee that our Centres had a future past 2018. What is telling is that my staff, (who have been doing this for 10+ years now) reassured me that these rumours about Activity Centres being shut down come out every couple of years. We currently have a waiting list of ten students with nowhere else to go, and some of them are already not attending school at all, anywhere, in any form. We only take students up until the age of 16 so these kids being referred are as young as 12. Not in school. Not necessarily at home. Just hanging. Maybe ‘jumping people’ at the train station; maybe staying at home feeling like absolute shit. Maybe both. Maybe neither.

Alternative education, Activity Centres, and specialist mental health services are so overloaded now that most schools are having to keep their ‘troubled students’ onsite now, and mostly all they can do is triage the major damage. Yay National.

Today my kids, (the ones I made myself in my womb), managed to keep it together for 6 hours and counting, because my Teacher Aide – who collects them from school 2-3 times a week – promised them fucking ‘fidget spinners’ if they behave. Apparently they are cheap and as cool as those irritating jangly-fucking-circle-rings-metal-loud things were. And doubly as useless. But my kids are behaving. SO that’s a win. My teacher Aide rulz the school – don’t get me wrong – and if she can get my actual children to behave, where I can’t, she is worth her weight in gold. Don’t get me started.

My plan for tomorrow is to start school with some Soundgarden blaring on the iPhone with my lame ass speakers. Because you know by now, as I do, that Chris Cornell is dead. What the fuck. Soundgarden no more.

No one will love it except for me, and I will fight with the kids all day to play ‘their’ music during break-times. I will acquiesce and eventually we will have a Beyonce/Kendrick Lamar party happening.  (I like Kendrick, but we will have a problem if someone suggests Chris Brown). We (the staff and I) will fight all day to have the young people in our charge not talk about gangs, racist bullshit and/or crimes they intend to commit over the weekend. As long as they don’t talk about it at school, they can stay.

This weekend I am going to try to see my favourite old grrl, but she won’t remember if I do. She spends the whole time we visit standing up and sitting down because she’s restless, but can’t remember the sitting OR the standing, and thanks us for coming but I don’t believe she relaxes until we leave. And then I don’t know if she knows that I’ve been.

On Saturday the GD and I will play some Soundgarden records and drink some wine and remember the dumb, fucked up shit we got up to listening to Soundgarden and I will think of my students doing their dumb fucked up shit now listening to Kendrick Lamar and Tupac (Can you believe he is still a thing? I thought he was boring back then too).

And I will remind myself that the dumb, fucked up teens grow up to be adults and most of them find their niche and figure out how to be contributing members of society and that high school and the five years therein are just a ‘blip’ on the timeline and mean nothing in the scheme of things really. I will remind myself that mainstream education doesn’t suit everyone and that one person can’t be everything to everyone and my Nana loves me and knows I love her.

Also I should buy my Teacher Aide something nice because my lads are shits to her and she loves them anyways.

And you should watch this now.

RIP Chris Cornell.

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When I went to school in Olympia, And everyones the same – We look the same, we talk the same….

There are a lot of ‘A’ words.

Avocado.

Apple.

Apathy.

Asshole.

But no other A word has featured as much in my work and life lately as the big one. Anxiety.

In my daily dealings with the wonderful and inspiring youth of tomorrow, when they actually came to me in my office; to have ‘casual chats’ or confess their latest sin – ‘forgive me mama Becker for I have sinned…’, or simply to check in with me because we had an agreement – no one word was uttered more frequently than Anxiety.

Let’s do the oxford thing and define it officially;

1 [uncountable] anxiety (about/over something) the state of feeling nervous or worried that something bad is going to happen. Acute/intense/deep anxiety. Some hospital patients experience high levels of anxiety. Waiting for exam results is a time of great anxiety.

Which sounds sounds largely intellectual – but also let’s define it physiologically, shall we? (according to WebMD of course);

It depends on the type of anxiety disorder, but general symptoms include:
  • Feelings of panic, fear, and uneasiness.
  • Problems sleeping.
  • Cold or sweaty hands or feet.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Not being able to be still and calm.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet.

The nasty thing about Anxiety, it seems, is that it is different for every single person that experiences it. And a lot of the time, anxiety’s first approach might manifest itself in a full blown panic attack. Which feels like you will die. And that’s never cool.

My grrls might not have been able to get out of bed for school. Or hand in an assessment on the due date, even though they had been working on it and it was finished. They may have stopped eating. Or showering, or speaking to their friends.

I could tell you about anxious moments in my life where I worried I would vomit/fall over/ black out, or do something else inappropriate when I needed to do a public speech, and you could all relate to that I’m sure – even those of you who are hardened public speakers will feel me. We all have an intellectual understanding of Anxiety.

And there is the normal everyday anxiety that goes with taking two small boys to ANY FORMAL OCCASION (that I believe is universal), and has led to many public displays of marginal, if not a little shouty, parenting: ‘NO YOU CANNOT TAKE YOUR TROUSERS OFF RIGHT NOW THE BRIDE IS ABOUT TO SAY HER BIT – SIT DOWN!’

We have been invited to fewer and fewer weddings.

There is the anxiety that hits you the morning after a big night out, when you are piecing together the fragments of the evening and trying to remember if you did indeed accuse all of your friends of having White Male Privilege, lecture them about what they could do to help the ‘downtrodden masses’, and make one of them cry in the process. (Authors note – they are white, AND male, and DO have inherent privilege, and bloody well would do well to own it, EVEN if they grew up in west Auckland, and I don’t think they have forgiven me yet so my social life is slow tbh).

And that morning after regret is enough to scupper some people. I have been known to hide from the world for weeks at a time after a lovely – a fucking lovely – evening out with my loved ones, and it is not until one of them says ‘nah don’t be a dick you were SO fine’ that the sick feeling has left me and I am able to face the world.

And there is anxiety that leads to self-harming, depression, disordered eating, self-medication (alcohol or drug abuse) suicide and a myriad of other harmful behaviours. It fucking sucks balls. And it takes real strength to ask for help and to take oneself to an appropriate agency to get help, or to ask a trusted person to do that for them.

The tricky thing for ‘the people’ to discern is whether you are dealing with this bitch who just wishes she never got so drank or someone who genuinely needs your immediate and loving help. I have a rule I follow to figure this out and it has never let me down;

TAKE IT ALL FUCKING SERIOUSLY.

Whether you understand it or not, whether they have an experience that matches yours or you ‘believe’ in mental health issues (what the fuck? You don’t get to ‘believe in this shit because it’s SCIENCE but I’ve heard all the shit), whether you think it is an ‘appropriate’ response to a situation or not, whether you have a human heart beating in your fucking chest or not – you take that shit seriously.

Because. That person who told you they feel anxious? Or they ‘have anxiety? They fucking trusted you with that shit. And believe me, when you are up in your head feeling all anxious and shit; When you are eating ALL the food or NO FOOD at all? When the thought of leaving your bed makes you physically ill or you can’t look in the mirror for fear of what you see looking back at you – if you are the one they choose someone to talk to about that shit they are working SO HARD to take care of themselves. They are reaching out, facing fear – they are basically Bruce Willis in Die Hard (How hot was he in that? bald and everything? wtf?). You respect that shit.

I know I haven’t covered everything, I am NOT a psychologist, or a doctor or a counsellor or anyone who is normally trusted to talk about any of this stuff. I am merely a hooman, who has chatted with other hoomans and I have opinions.

I have a terrible feeling my eldest already feels the niggle in his bones, and I hope that if he lives in a house where we talk about it openly, and take it all seriously he will find support in his parents. There is no miracle cure I know, and everyone will find their way and you bet I’m gonna be there to prop him up if he needs me.

Because I am a responsible human being here are some places you can get support if you want it/need it – also if you don’t want/need it I know these places NEED you support so send them five bucks au.

I fucking love you guys. Take care.

 

National helplines

Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland

Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)

Healthline – 0800 611 116

Samaritans – 0800 726 666

Depression-specific helplines

Depression Helpline – 0800 111 757 or free text 4202 (to talk to a trained counsellor about how you are feeling or to ask any questions)

www.depression.org.nz – includes The Journal online help service

SPARX.org.nz –  online e-therapy tool provided by the University of Auckland that helps young people learn skills to deal with feeling down, depressed or stressed

Sexuality or gender identity helpline

OUTLine NZ – 0800 688 5463 (OUTLINE) provides confidential telephone support

Helplines for children and young people

Youthline – 0800 376 633, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz or online chat

thelowdown.co.nz – or email team@thelowdown.co.nz or free text 5626

What’s Up – 0800 942 8787 (for 5–18 year olds). Phone counselling is available Monday to Friday, 1pm–10pm and weekends, 3pm–10pm. Online chat is available 7pm–10pm daily.

Kidsline – 0800 54 37 54 (0800 kidsline) aimed at children up to 14 years of age; 4pm to 6pm weekdays

‘Another song I cannot sing

Of sport of joy or woe, I cannot let my voice ring out, nor let my spirits flow, ’till I have sung one grandest song – the best, the first, the last.

To show my school my love is strong, until our time be past.’

Today was my farewell. A moment I have dreaded since I first sat through my very first round in 2004. The introvert in me has worried and fretted and hypothesised terrible, embarrassing fuck-ups in my speech for 11 years since that very first year.

But it was ok. I lived. This comic by Sarah Anderson sums it up;

sarah-anderson

 

I didn’t let myself have a glass of wine until I had done it, no-one wants to be addressed by a red faced baboon, and it was fine. I write this more to reassure me than anyone else.

Here is my speech;

‘I have been dreading this moment for 12 years so I will keep it brief and to the point.

Auckland Girls was actually my high school from third form until I finally convinced my mother to let me leave at the end of fifth form.  She thinks it is hilarious that I ended up working back here but it has grown to make sense to me because it feels like a second home to some extent.

My house growing up was loud – at one point I was the eldest of 7 siblings – but we always had music playing in the background and people visiting and general loud life happening regardless of how many people were actually living there at the time. I think I had my teacher voice and volume down pat by the time I was 12.

This chaos and noise suited me I think because I am by nature relatively introverted and could curl up in the corner with my book and be content in the knowledge that life was happening around me and I could partake if I wanted to or not. AGGS has been the same for me – full of life and love and – crucially – large enough for me to fade in to the background if I needed to.

I am under no illusions that there is no place like this school and I vacillate constantly between being excited about the challenges ahead of me and absolutely terrified of teaching science and maths and not messing it up completely.

However teaching at Auckland Girls and working with all of you has taught me so many things that I am fairly confident I’ll be ok.  I have been mentored by some amazing people, supported in my various roles by experts in their field and have valued and appreciated every wise word that has come my way.

The heart of this school is its people. The staff and students bring these buildings to life. 

Where I am going I will be one of one and a half teachers – no anonymity for me there. It’s also really, really quiet so I think I am going to be making some changes.

I will miss this place more than I think I realise just yet but it is a good time to go – to end with my Deaning cohort feels right – and I know that you can take a grrl out of AGGS but you’ll never take AGGS out of the grrl. Damnit, Mum was right.’

SO that’s me. I am going to drink a LOT of wine now.

I’ll be back, don’t you worry.

 

 

#devilchildren

We all love a good morning routine right? We rise quietly, bleary-eyed but excited about the potential of a new day, stumble out in to the rising sun and greet the songbirds as they sing in the new dawn.

Ha ha fucking ha.

Today I am lucky I got to school before the first bell – as it was it was lucky I didn’t run over the girls as they lined up for assembly as I sped in to the grounds much MUCH later than I intended to be on this bloody Monday morning.

I get up in the morning in a good mood. Pretty much every day without fail. It’s one of my most annoying habits. But I have spawned offspring that do not. And the GD has his own ‘routine’ that may or may not involve the rest of us depending on whether he has decided that he is in a terrific hurry that morning or not.

On days that I don’t boot-camp or run – more frequent in my old age than I’d readily admit – I get up and feed the pets, put the coffee on and I go through and wake the rest of the house. The 6 yr old gets up immediately with me and I/we make him breakfast; I go through multiple times to the bedroom and remind the 9 yr old that he needs to get up, all the while finding their clothes and shoes for the day and ‘laying them out’ for them like they are fucking little princes or some shit. The 6 yr old clings like a limpet and will often follow me through the house with his cereal or toast in hand all the while leaving a trail of food for the dog to follow. The dog loves him for this – who doesn’t appreciate a second breakfast?

Once they are up and getting dressed I make their lunches and put a piece of toast in for me. (I haven’t had coffee yet – I like to have my coffee WITH my breakfast). Then, before I get to my toast I find something that the 9 yr old will deign to eat – he is very anti breakfast – and help the 6 yr old get dressed because apparently he ‘can’t’ by himself.

Then I find my toast – if I’m not there to witness it pop my toaster flings it high in the air and it can land anywhere – and sit down to have breakfast and my first cup of coffee with the 9 yr old (who is often in the other room sulking because I haven’t found him the right tee shirt/ shorts/ shoes and he won’t eat with the food I have made on pain of death).

Then just as I am finishing up and getting ready to shower the GD will come through and announce he is getting in the shower. This is the beginning of the end.

You see, the GD’s routine consists roughly of getting up, making coffee/pouring his cup and going outside with it to have a cigarette (which actually means staring at his phone for twenty minutes), then if no one is nagging him to do otherwise (read: me asking him to either feed the animals or children etc) he comes inside and goes and sits on the toilet for half an hour (he’s staring on his phone there too), then he comes in and showers, dresses and comes in to the kitchen to announce that he’s in a terrible hurry because the motorway is ‘crazy’ and he doesn’t want to be late. Then he just leaves. Just like that, He fucking leaves with no fighting and no one screaming about their shoes or anything – it’s a fucking miracle.

Naturally at all points in his routine I am doing my damnedest to disrupt his happy little meandering, and this all comes off as me badgering him because if I can get in the shower first it will dramatically change the morning for all.

If I can get in the shower first then the GD has nothing to do while he waits so he can in fact, make sure the little Dutchmen have their shoes on, their school bags packed and are not killing each-other as they wait for me to be ready to take them to school. On these mornings we leave much closer to 7.30, have a pleasant ride to school, and I get to school before eight am with my waking morning sunshine-y ass intact.

But mostly lately, even on days that I boot camp because usually the routine starts the same way once I get home (only we’re now 45 mins behind so that’s fun) we have the shitshow that was this morning. ONCE everyone else is ready to go, and the GD is out of the shower and walking out the door – because he’s going to be so late remember?, Then it is finally my turn to start getting ready.

Now, it should be relatively simple in fact for this to happen, I shower, I get dressed, we get in the car and leave. Simple.

But as it turns out, once the #devilchildren are ready to go to school they can’t actually be trusted alone together because that’s when they go in to full hellion mode. I can bargain with them, bribe them, threaten them – or even, in an attempt to be positive, remind them of ‘that one time they played nicely together while they waited and then we all drove to school together cheerfully and it was wonderful?’ but to no avail.

Today the water wasn’t even running before the screaming started. The youngest child has a shriek that is piercing no matter how far away you are and I feel it physically. I can’t ablute with the door shut – too dangerous to not be within earshot – so it was but a matter of seconds before I had both of them in the bathroom with me listing the others crimes and trying to drown the other out with sheer volume. Banished separately – one to their (shared) room with the other to the lounge didn’t work because one’s toys were in the others time out zone and he swiftly set about breaking as many as them as possible much to the horror of his offsider who started screaming profanities that would have made a pirate blush.

Cut to me standing naked in the lounge (in full view of any neighbour who wanted to be put off their breakfast) pointing dramatically down the hallway and shouting that ‘EVERYONE IS FUCKING WALKING TO SCHOOL AND I DON’T CARE HOW LONG IT TAKES FOR YOU TO GET THERE!’.

I finally showered with the 6 yr old sobbing piteously outside the glass, the 9 yr old in his bed refusing to come out (blankets over his head and blinds drawn – shades of his teen years I fear) all the while cursing my beloveds name.

We all sulked on the way to school. No mindless chatter about whatever is in the 6 yr olds head (I’ll give you a clue – it’s usually poo) or any deeper (more worrying) questions from the 9 yr old like ‘WHY did the Americans vote in Trump and does this mean all the black people are going to be shot now?’ for example.

I drove to school feeling guilty for getting so mad and hoping that they wouldn’t have a shite day at school as a result of our bloody awful morning.*

There are ways to mitigate this madness. If I break the ‘no screens before school’ rule they will stare like zombies at their chosen screen while I shower and dress and get myself in the car – but as soon as I turn the screens off so begins the 20 minute meltdown over putting a pair of shoes on because the flickering blue lights have taken away their ability to determine between a reasonable request i.e. put your shoes on and get in the car and that tantamount to pain and torture and endless suffering.

Some mornings I get home from boot camp and run to the shower while no one is looking and issue instructions from inside my watery haven. Those are good mornings.

And if I have to be fair, and godamnit the GD reads this so I have to be, some mornings he has fed one of the children by the time I get back and might have started a lunchbox or two before he sees me and skedaddles. To be fair he goes in the opposite direction of the kids school so dropping them off doesn’t make sense. But I’m not in the mood to be fair and it’s not that part that fucks with me.

It’s the way he just GOES. ‘Oops I’m going to be late!’ he sings out gaily and runs out the door. As if somehow me being late to work every single fucking day isn’t as bad as if he was ten minutes later. Don’t forget that I stop on the way with the kids too, and although I basically slow down, kiss them and drop them off, more often that not lately I have to get out and walk them in because they are so tired and sad about mornings (normal end of term stuff). This adds a good fifteen minutes to an already to-long routine.

I know this is end of term stuff and everyone is exhausted. And I know that some people will be reading this and thinking WHY don’t they make their lunches the night before, and foster more independence in their children to make their own breakfasts and all that happy helpful shit that I would mutter under my breath too. And I do mutter that shit under my breath at me. But tbh at the moment I am hanging out until JUST AFTER my kids have hit their pillows before I collapse in to mine. Our routines go to hell when we’re tired and that’s just the sucky, sticky reality of it.

Just the freedom of being able to leave when I’m ready like that. The miracle of it. I’m always reminded of this bit by Michael Mcintyre about Leaving the House.

Little do the #littledutchmen know that I have plans to ride my bike to my new job next year. I wonder if that means the GD will be dropping them off and I can just leave when I’m ready? Huh.

*They had a great day and all of the mornings dramas were forgotten in minutes as soon as they saw their friends of course, it was just Mummy who thought about it all day and felt like shite. Happy lads upon afternoon pick up. Because I knew you were wondering.

The kids are alright.

So today I had my first little taster day at my new job (yes I have a new job and yes it’s still in education but I still have two weeks to go at my old job too) and it was remarkable.

I have (in the near past – I haven’t blogged in ages but) extolled the virtues of the young people in my ‘care’, and what I love about them, (and also written about my own offspring, whom I have referred to variously as #thelittledutchman, and #thedevilchildren respectively). Anyone who knows me knows I love my kids. And they know I love my grrls. And they know I have a sense of humour about both. (I DO love my boys I promise)

On Friday of last week my oldest little man, the 9 yr old, didn’t want to go to school. He woke up with classic anxiety about ‘what happened last night’ and REALLY didn’t want to go to school. What had he done? He has a new friend and she’s a she, and she came to play on the Thursday after school. She’s super cool (she likes skulls too and needless to say I loved her). But my little dude woke up and was immediately struck with the potential fallout from people having seen us all going home the day before in the same car.

I recognised his anxiety because I’m a Mamabear who wakes up the same, some days. The random, sick feeling that maybe I did something wrong yesterday and might have to face stuff the next day. The absolute terror of facing the world with no words to put to the fear.

Now, to understand me is to understand some of the stuff I respect and love in people. I fell in love with the Grumpy Dutchman not because – and he’ll question this – he is pure and simple gorgeous. Or because he is arrogant/sexy-as-fuck. Don’t get me wrong, he is (oh my god), but believe it or not, I see through that. And it wasn’t because he is well spoken, or in to art, or any of that stuff either. What sealed the deal for me, as it were, was because I could see we were exactly the same. We don’t fucking back down and we don’t bow to peer pressure.

Now that sounds like drama, but what I mean is that if the GD loves something, or believes in something, he will listen to you and he will recognise and (mostly) respect the reasons why, but he’ll quietly go on doing what he was doing, or believing what he believed in the first place. He’ll probably tell you you’re wrong – he’s arrogant (I told you that), and he will carry on, whether or not you’re gonna stay friends with him. And I was, and have tried to, remain the same all through adolescence and adulthood. (And no it’s not fun to be married to someone who thinks he’s right ALL the time – but so’s he so it equals out).

One of my best grrlfriends took great pleasure in introducing me to the WHOLE party as the Virgin when I arrived, right up in to my late teens. RIGHT UP UP UNTIL I WAS 19, I would arrive to any party and Theresa would shout to get everyone’s attention (and she could cos’ my grrl has charisma coming out of her ass), and she would quiet the party and announce that I had arrived. The Virgin. The girl who Didn’t Take Drugs. The girl who’s Mother(s) were coming to get her at midnight. I was that girl. And for the most part it didn’t worry me. At all. I had lesbian parents in the 90’s (very rarely admitted back then), I took no drugs when everyone around me was trying EVERYTHING, and I liked guitar music and was not to be swayed, even when dance music was at its peak and everyone was out of their face on ecstasy. I had people lining up to buy me ALL the drugs just to see what would happen. No dice. No friends. No cares.

So naturally the GD and I love when our kids are the same as us. One of master 9’s teachers a couple of years ago really struggled to get him to join in and finish required work; he was clearly capable but the child was not going to do it. While we shared his (the teacher’s) despair that peer pressure wasn’t getting him to do his required reading, we quietly, privately, were proud of him because he didn’t care ‘that all the other kids were doing it’. He had/has no learning difficulties – the child is straight up lazy – and we saw that; I am happy to report that he is ahead of his classmates now in reading and writing and we are mostly proud because he found his own motivation and got his shit sorted because he knew he had to.

And this stuff transfers. The 9 yr old now has a best friend who is female. OH MY GOD. The other boys are struggling and I totally get it. His bestie (boy) friend feels so left out and sad that he is angry. He feels excluded from the fun and games and missing my boy, and the only way he knows how to deal with it is to make the interloper friendship alien. So he is saying they are in love and are going out, he tells their mutual friends to exclude my boy and all that bullshit. I can’t tell someone else’s 9yr old that it’s not appropriate to sexualise children like that;  I can’t talk to him until I’ve talked to his Mum (who is totally cool so I can chat to her) because that would be me bullying a child so all I can do is support my boy. We also like his friend and don’t want him burning that bridge so he’s not allowed to talk badly about him or say ‘it’s all his fault’.

What we can do, and have done, is support his choices – his new friend is cool, they should be friends and we want them to be and we are clear that we think that. Neither of us have made dumb comments about them being boyfriend/girlfriend and it’s all good.

What we were also clear on was, that although he was feeling shit, he couldn’t not go to school on Friday. He was worried that his friend and him would get teased because she came to play at our place. And I get that. But he couldn’t leave her to go to school to (potentially) face that teasing and still be a good friend. Part of the integrity of that friendship had to be owning it and being a team. There was going to no wimping out. It totally sucked for all of us. It took me an hour to drop him off to school that day and I was very close to wine for breakfast by the end believe me.

The saga continues. I went to school with him on Friday and spoke to his teacher, she was great. We are emailing, and I will talk to his other friends Mum if the situation doesn’t improve, but we are checking in daily. The 9 yr old seems chipper having been listened to and taken seriously. We could have taken his side – he said he was being bullied and wanted his (ex-ish) friend punished but actually he needed to be listened to and have the situation explained to him from the other perspective.

How does it relate to my day of enrolling kids for my new job?

Well. Kids aren’t born bad. You know that, I know that, and the world knows that, but fuck man, how many times do we forget that?

What struck me today was that a 10 yr old boy who clearly tried all the avenues he had been told to try to deal with being bullied at school, and was ignored by the adults trusted to protect and care for him, for a year and half, had to deal with it himself in the only way he knew to make it stop, and got expelled for his efforts,

That a young girl, known to take care of those less fortunate than herself, who made sensible choices to remove herself from those influences that dragged her down and suffered for those choices for the next two years – to the point that she had such crippling anxiety she was self-harming and couldn’t leave her bed – is now seeking alternative care, despite having really supportive parents and teachers,

And that a girl so intelligent she is passing all of her classes despite never being there; has such big walls up that she fights with ALL people who show any care for her; that has has burned all of her bridges at 14, cried at the interviews today because her mother was trying to lay all the cards out on the table.

These kids were failed by the adults in their life.Harsh shit, I know.

These children, and mine, were not born with the skills to deal with this sort of fallout. They rely on the mental health institutions our government fund to support them, the educational institutions available to them and, fundamentally, their whanau or community to find places for them, to teach them resilience, perseverance, and that ultimately, they deserve to take up space and receive quality education.

It’s not for nothing that these kids today reminded me of my boy.

I need to stress that all of these kids today were accompanied by their parents who were with them in an attempt to support their efforts to enroll, and to validate this positive choice their child was making. Students are not allowed to enroll if it isn’t their choice, and they make all of the appointments and have to follow through to be part of the center. These kids want to be part of something positive. They want to succeed. They have hope.

But I am fearful for the future. We, as a society, as a community, increasingly vote for people who see education as a business. With bottom lines, profit/deficit goals, ‘targets’ that mean nothing to individuals and data gathering exercises that speak to international graphs and tables. Who is funding the basic tenements of global citizenship – where is the testing for compassion, empathy and responsibility for one’s actions?

If, for whatever reason, in the case of our boy enrolling today, all of the adults (including his parents) fail him in asking for help when school is SO unsafe that he needs to resort to violence after over a year of ‘trying to harden up’ (his own words) fails him – why is the ONE specialist school in his area (staffed to take a maximum of 20 kids for the greater Auckland area) the only answer?

I am fucking excited about my new job, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE tweens/teens/young people, and I think I’m good at ‘them’. But what about all those other kids? When will we, as a community, face the fact that NZ society and it’s voting is fucking them over?

This is what I worry about with my little Dutchmen: what if they go to a school one day where the teacher doesn’t give a shit that one of them is being isolated by the other kids on the basis of their friendship choices? What if my kid is sticking up for the gay kid? Or the Pasifika kid (I have taught my kids, and will continue to teach them, that they must use their white, male, middle class privilege as a tool to support and protect others). Or the atheist kid? What if they can’t find adult role models in their schools to fight the good fight?

There isn’t room where I’m going for all of them.

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Bittersweet.

It is weird to me that the first time I have had the inclination to blog in months has been today, driving home sad from work. You would think – at least I certainly would have thought – that driving home sad would have meant instead that I drove to the stupidmarket for a good bottle of red and went home to settle in.

I don’t know, is this, like, grown up stuff?

The reason I’m sad you ask? Well, I’ll tell ya dear diary, let me tell you.

After five years my girls are moving on. Yes this is a work post. Not a crazy restrictive diet post because I think we all learned our lesson there – heal thy gut by eating nothing blogger me was a failure, it was doomed from the start and achieved essentially nothing – this is instead a work thing. Because really, outside of my fucked up insides and my stupidly busy work life what do I have to write about? My sub-par parenting? You don’t want to hear about that.

Anyway back to why I’m sad. At my school you Dean for the length of time that the cohort attend, from their first day of Year 9 (third form for us oldies) to the last day of their Year 13 (seventh form). And it’s quite the ride. The girls arrive aged 12 ish and leave aged 18 ish. That’s quite a gap – and it’s a significant period of time to give yourself to someone. Let alone 300+ someones. Needless to say that the job takes it’s toll.

And I mean give yourself, because I firmly believe that without an emotional investment you are doing yourself and the students you care for a disservice. Yes, over the years I have learned how to pull back when necessary and how to ask for help or leave stuff at work. And I have never brought a grrl home to sleep on my couch – no matter what hell she has described to me – and I have known why and what would have been wrong to do that but jebus. You hear some stuff.

But apart from all the obvious stuff that is hard about Deaning; what I am going to miss is the joy. The reason I kept going – the reason I will miss it and the reasons it’s weird that they will go on Friday and be ‘not mine’ anymore – and it’s hard to process I guess because noone will really get why I’m so sad. The GD can try – but in fact he has been doing all the parenting this week and I would be really fucking surprised if he had the emotional faculties to give a shit – and he wouldn’t get it anyway.

For 5 years anytime these girls moved or breathed or made a sound and how they made other people feel about those movements, breaths or sounds reflected back on me. If they made a heap of noise I got an angry email or rant because I obviously hadn’t made it clear to them that they needed to be silent as mice all the time (this is a niggle with me – bear with me). If they were kind to juniors or polite to visitors I heard about how wonderful they were. My cohort received a record number of academic and effort based scholarships this year and I bask in their glory.

300 + young women spending their every day living their lives. Getting on with their shit, not thinking about anything but what was ahead of them and what they needed to do to get through their plans and in no way should they have been doing anything but that.

I can’t describe in words how proud of them they are so I won’t try. They give me hope, they give me life, on bad days they made me smile.

And now I have to figure out how to fill the gap they will leave.

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Mid winter resolutions

I have a new doctor. This is significant because I have limped along with a series of absolutely USELESS doctors for the last four years – different every time – in an effort to stay with my clinic which was highly recommended because it is holistic. In an effort to find balance and health care that wasn’t too toxic and blah blah blah my cringing hipster self put up with sub-par health care, lazy disinterested locums and EXTREMELY high fees. (think $145 for 20 minutes one time!).

What finally made my mind up to leave was my last email exchange, with a new receptionist where I tried to book a long overdue appt (my fault not theirs) and they needed to charge me double because it was all new Docs since I was last there and it would be like an ‘initial consultation’.  I should have left the last time I got bloods and they didn’t bother to send me my results until I finally asked for them weeks later. I should have left the millions of times I said to various doctors that I was having issues – visible issues – with my skin, unexplained constant weight gain, stomach pain etc all since going gluten free – and all they did was tell me not eat yet another thing. I should have left when they took my kids off the books because they hadn’t been in in a while (and been able to charge us money) I’m sorry my kids are generally healthy. AND – you guessed it – it would have cost another enrolling fee to get them back on. So I finally did.

And my new doctor is great! In half an hour she did more for me – asked more questions and gave me more explanations – than I’ve had in years at the old place and I finally feel like there might be light on the horizon! Wahay!

So, I’m all revved up and raring to go (sort of, I mean I bathed and napped on Tuesday and nothing else and I have no guilt whatsoever) I am heading out there and running again (3 times this week plus boot camp so there), I’ve quit sugar (again) and am quitting booze (again) AFTER my grrl visits to help me celebrate tattoo finishing session on Saturday. Again, again, again. But you know – with the twin pronged approach with the Doc helping me medically I might actually see results this time! Instead of denying myself ALL THE GOOD THINGS and still feeling crappy which was my downfall last year. And I will try to blog too. Not just about the boring self-centered woe is me coeliac stuff but also about my sub-par parenting and fashion fails. You love it.

Now all I have to do is get through the last few days of the hell of school holidays (my youngest has not raised his voice above a whine in DAYS and this Mamabear is ready to snap) and settle back in to school and maintain good habits. Wish me luck!

The brown stuff

Hello Stranger.

Yes I am still alive and I am pleased to see you are too! Whoever told me 2016 had to get better was a dirty rotten liar – in a general the world is going to hell in a handbasket way and whats with all the dying legends? RIP Bowie, Lemmy, Prince and all of my favourite ‘Uncles’ from my childhood.

But; I am not going to weigh in on the abhorrent Orlando massacre this time, or why I think Trump is the scariest thing since the clown in Stephen Kings IT. You get it. You my peeps.

What actually inspired me to post today was my afternoon with my lads, and is in no way related – or at least it is in a general everything is related way – but not to my particularly gut stuff or why I started the blog. I guess my original ‘stuff’ that I wanted to write about has gone by the wayside as my willpower or any desire to restrict myself to eating nothing but overcooked veges dwindled. Also I move much less. I run rarely and I have been thinking about breaking up with boot camp because I am so unfit but I love Nicole too much to quit (I know lack of fitness is exactly the WRONG reason to stop exercising but I’m a contrary bitch and I like to be GOOD at stuff not red-faced and puffing – who likes that?!) SO you are caught up on that stuff now.

Today I collected my children from school when the bell went at 3pm, a rare and special event (it makes me feel like one of those parents who ‘lunch’ and get to have gorgeous designer clothes while their spouse does something much higher paid and ignores them all*).

We had to go back to Ponsnobby rd to collect my drycleaning (I tried hand washing a silk dress and FUCKED it) and while we waited for the wonderful woman to save my dress I took them to a cafe, because I thought, naively that I had been missing them and it would be nice to have a short mid-week hang, just me and my boys.

Of course the kitchen was shut – I knew it would be because it was mid afternoon – and so I relented and let them choose cake from the counter and a hot chocolate. I won’t tell you how much it cost for three pieces of cake (Mama’s got needs too) and three hot drinks but suffice to say that I’m glad the parking was free!

We were having a lovely time – the boys loving their hot chocs and the selection of toys on offer (this place does kids well) and I even took this pic for Instagram so I could be all like ‘look at me hanging with my kids and being all super cool with my quirky photo angles’;

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And three seconds after I posted this pic (#thelittledutchmen) things went to shit.

Literally went to shit. As in Master 5 shit his pants.

I saw his face change. He looked at me with terror in his eyes and whispered ‘I need to poo NOW’ but I could see that he knew it was too late. I whisked him to the bathroom,  I got him undressed as quickly and cleanly as possible. Shoes off. Trousers off. NO DON’T MOVE. Knickers off, one leg at a time, as carefully as if I was cutting the red wire in a bomb defusal situation. Not breathing. Not counting time. Just trying to get the job done and quickly and quietly as possible so I could erase it from my memory as fast.

Meanwhile the child was talking non-stop. If you have met him you know that he does this ALL THE TIME. I like to think of it usually as a sign of high intellect – he needs to process the world around him so he talks to it and you about what is happening and WHY it is happening and what might happen next time and mostly I can just drown it out as white noise. (I like to think if it s a sign of high intellect but I don’t necessarily have the energy to engage with it). But I was VERY conscious that we were a metre away from the kitchen and they could hear us talking about his shit and the fact that it was ‘warm on my legs mummy’ and the rest. His underwear was wrapped in multiple paper towels, secured in a thrice wrapped plastic bag and thrown away. His entire body was scrubbed with the hand soap, hand sanitiser and dried with paper towels. Jeans back on – ‘Mummy I LOVE freeballing’ and then I dealt to the toilet with all of the cleaning supplies I could find; Aside from a lingering odour (I left the windows and door open to create a through-breeze) you would never have know I was there. Goddes forbid I ever kill someone. Not a trace. Noone need ever know.

Home to our new house. We have moved. Whereas before we lived in a student flat with kids and made the best of it because we loved our hippy, coromandel living landlords – they had to sell the house so we have been forced to grow up.

Our new house has a working dishwasher (gasp!), a kitchen full of those oh-so-now subway tiles (ooooh) and polished wooden floors as opposed to the gross dark brown carpet of old. I love our new house – it’s SO purty look;

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Our stuff looks so good in it and it’s almost worth paying twice as much rent as before oh my god. And we culled a LOT of stuff to live here and the boys love having a wonderful dry house (heat pump) and the GD and I do like having people around – we hated having people to our old place – and it all feels very grown up.

But. I have noticed. That despite our best efforts, I bathed with LEGO the other night. Not in the bath mind you – it was on the bathroom vanity – but it was there. A whole building, and the child responsible (I suspect the older one) had thoughtfully built little steps that led down to the edge of the vanity so the LEGO people could climb down. You can’t escape LEGO no matter how much your house looks like it should be in Home and Garden magazine.

And the cats have made my nice new blue couch patchy with white fur. And the dog sleeps on our bed when we are not home and makes the white duvet cover brown. He actually waited for me to leave the bedroom doorway this morning and was preparing to get himself settled in for the day when I shut the door in his face. He was most put out. He has no shame; Witness for me ‘Portrait of dog sitting on aforementioned bed and staring defiantly at his hooman father’ as he shouts for him to get off;

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We also had all of our bikes stolen while we were moving in – not to mention all of the GD’s tools and the bloody dog (who we love dearly luckily for him) has slept through at least two property walk overs from randoms.

The house is smaller – it takes less energy to heat but we moved in on the cusp of Winter and we are seeing more of each-other than ever before. I mean, I love the GD but I almost need my own room. We haughtily elected not to install a satellite – we don’t need TV – and send the kids to the library** every ten seconds to watch Netflix because we can’t stand the invasion of personal space for ONE SECOND LONGER.

The boys have a playroom. The dog has grass. Mama has wine.

We can survive the brown stuff.

 

Disclaimers – I love you all;

*Yes I DO know that a lot of the parents who collect their children at 3 have full time jobs or work from home or are full time parents which I am not woman enough to handle so kudos to you.

**in our house – we aren’t making them LEAVE ha ha (but shame on you for thinking that!)

 

Riot not Diet

I have a tee-shirt that says RIOT NOT DIET in big black letters across the front and it is my favourite tee shirt to wear when all my Miss Crabb dresses are at the dry cleaners. Lol. (I’m only half joking – I may have an unhealthy obsession with NZ’s queen of the silky sack.)

I love wearing my tee shirt because it causes two very different reactions from people pretty much without fail. Older people – older than me because I’m still not forty and as far as I’m concerned that means I’m youngish – get all ‘Ooooh are you trying to incite a riot?’ and ‘Hey don’t you work for the man hur hur’ and are generally uncomfortable and make lame jokes. Or they make self deprecating jokes about how they actually do need to go on a diet and, almost apologetically, go in to great detail about how much weight they are trying to lose and what they are denying themselves in order to achieve this. The diet-describers are %100 women.

It’s a great tee-shirt because the girls I teach ask about it – where did you get it Ms? (Feminist Apparel FYI – it’s not great quality – the print on my tee shirt won’t last long with regular washing – but it didn’t cost an arm and a leg so who cares?). And we have really good conversations about how what comes out of their heads and their opinions on the world that they live in and how their political activism is SO much more important than their waist size. And what’s even more great is that the girls – particularly my big girls – the year 13’s – totally get it. They are the girls who asked if they could leave Prefect camp to go and protest the TPPA. They are the girls who make up the Human rights group at AGGS and the Global Citizenship group and Youth Parliament and are going off to Uni and to the workforce, and they are the girls who are the leaders of tomorrow.

I have made a conscious effort, since November last year when I commented on a friends weight loss ‘Oh my god you look amazing! how did you do it?!’ to not comment on peoples appearances since. Because my friend responded that actually she had been quite sick, was on daily medication and was struggling to maintain a healthy weight. This really brought home to me this dangerous and damaging idea of smaller being more important than healthy, of skinny being more valuable than happy and the idea that womens bodies (in particular) are constantly being consumed and judged by the world at large. This is not news to you.

But I see it at school too – the girls who take up space, literally take up space because they are TALL and STRONG and some of them are fat BUT (and crucially) unapologetic and they expect to be allowed to take up space – THESE are the girls who I get constant complaints about. Some of these girls are genetically pre-disposed to be taller and stronger and larger in hair and volume and general mass than the rest of our school’s population and all of these things mean they are considered less than.

Because girls are meant to be small, and quiet and compliant right?

Because girls and women are taught that the smaller they can get themselves the better they are doing and somehow they have ‘won’ and shown us that they are worthy of being listened to and respected and taken seriously. Because statistically we know that thinner women are paid more and given the ‘good’ jobs and this is because they have shown us that they can control the biggest danger there is to modern civilisation – the female body.

And every day girls are taught that their waist size is a better judge of their worth than their minds and their thoughts and their politics. That to be quiet and make themsleves take up less space somehow they’ll get in to less trouble at school.

And every day I receive a complaint in my inbox about one of my bigger girls ‘showing too much skin’ or wearing inappropriate clothes for school (shorts in this heat) or generally taking up space somewhere – and damnit they looked like they didn’t care what any body thought. All sitting around, smiling and laughing and looking happy to be there. That’s what galls the complainants the most. The girls aren’t tyring to minimise themselves.

And in the staff meeting when I was asked what I was going to do about getting a dress code enforced with my cohort (only the year 13’s can wear Mufti and I’m year 13 Dean this year) and I said that I didn’t feel comfortable telling them how to dress when it really wasn’t my business (and it felt tantamount to slut-shaming) and I really pissed some people off who felt like I wasn’t doing my job.

And essentially, all of this is a lesson for me. Because every day I get up and go to school and tell my grrls that I’ll support them no matter what they look like as long as they are kind, thoughtful, critical thinkers. And I am struggling to do the same thing for myself.

Ironic? Probably not actually – ask the GD he is quick to point out when something isn’t actually ironic.

I wear the tee shirt for me too when I am focussing too much on minimising myself and not enough on the potential my job affords me and the wonderful people in my life and their radical ideas.

 

 

Misters

I can’t believe how fast the year feels like it is going all of a sudden!

You may be back at work? You may be still camping up north or similar, or if you are like me you are winding up slowly, getting your head back in the game and starting to put some hours in…

I have been lost in a swirl of house stuff, work stuff and Netflix ha ha. I have watched some bloody GOOD TV in the past couple of weeks and I can highly recommend Fresh Meat to anyone wanting a new Bingewatch – Vod is my new style crush! So cool. Can you guess which one she is? (a hint; it’s not the one in Overalls which may surprise you). I think I watched three seasons in about four days – new season coming out this year! Wahay! (can you tell I only really get to watch TV when I’m on holiday? I’m well behind what everyone is watching – don’t ask me about Making a Murderer).

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Anyways – I wanted to put a good word in for Misters in the city. I don’t need to because they’ve been around for a while and are well established for being GREAT but I finally managed to get there today with my grrl Alissa and it was SUCH a revelation to be able to eat ANYTHING off the menu. They are right in town (don’t tell the GD about my $22.50 parking! Jebus! I won’t be using that Wilsons building again – it cost more than lunch!) and get this – the Chef has Coeliacs! So they run a completely gluten and dairy free kitchen – which means – you know where I’m going – NO RISK WHATSOEVER of cross contamination! I went in cautiously – sometimes the combination of gluten and dairy free can mean lacking a certain taste factor but needn’t have been worried. I highly recommend. You should go there NOW and get something delicious to eat.

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          dscn4195          Misters new menu in copy