Friday, December 4, 2015

What teachers really want for Christmas

Grain-Free Granola I made for a friend this week.
Delish with Greek yoghurt or overnight oats.

I don't know about you but Christmas is coming up pretty fast and so is the end of the school year. So with no further ado, here is a list of ideas I compiled after having asked some of my Teacher friends what they like getting from their students!

At the end of the day - it's all about the heart.

"Cake. That is all. But more refined teachers than me like things like hand creams, fancy pens, lovely notebooks. Don't get me wrong, I like that stuff too, but if a gun was at my head - cake." K.

"I love getting home-made gifts, cards and letters. It's lovely when the child/student makes something from the heart." A.

"Something personal from the child. A note or a card. Nice pen, notebook. Nice coffee for my plunger. Home made is always good (I've had candles and tree decorations). A tree decoration is nice too - I remember individuals each year as I hang them." R.

"Christmas decorations. After putting up our tree last night, there are 6 from children I've taught." S.

"Christmas tree decorations or bought chocolates. That way I didn't have to eat everything straight away. I could save some for later." A.

Below is a list of ideas and links for you to find ideas. They are ALL EASY!! I don't have time to make complicated things, so these are all things that I would not only be totally happy to give away, but especially that aren't complicated to do with the kids.

Annabel Langbein's Panforte, simply yet beautifully packaged
(photo from her website)

*Home Made*

You can make pretty simple or inexpensive recipes look a million dollars if you package your gift nicely. Cello bags, nice ribbons, cute tags, etc.

3 Ingredient Christmas Cake

Speedy Mayo

Perfect Panforte

Walnut Pastilla

Ginger cookies

- Home made granola. The advantage of this one is that it's a healthy breakfast option, that can keep. The teacher won't feel under pressure to eat it quickly.

- Home made jam

- Bath bombs


- Chocolate truffles

- A nice bought bar of chocolate

- A box of chocolates

*Christmas Ornaments*

- I love these cute button tree ornaments and will try to get some done this year.

- these easy Cinammon ornaments look amazing on the tree

- a sparkly shell ornament, if like me you live by the sea

- a glittery pinecone ornament

*Cards and Notes*

I think all teachers love a note from either the parents or the child, or both. You can show your appreciation for all their hard work and be personal about something specific you or your child enjoyed.

You could say something like,

"I very much appreciate how you looked after ___ this year. I particularly love how you _______________. Thank you very much for all the time and effort you put into caring and instructing the children in your care. Have a lovely Christmas and enjoy the holidays."

This would be an easy card to make with your child.
Idea found here.

*Bought Items*

- Good quality extra virgin olive oil

- Nice coffee or tea

- Beautiful pen

- Cute notepad

- Lovely candle. You can buy some lovely hand made ones at a craft market.

- Christmas tree decoration. They have gorgeous ones at the Trade Aid Shop, or buy from a local artist.

- A voucher

I hope these ideas help you! And do leave me a note if you have any other ideas or useful links we could all benefit from. Thank you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Love is not Love

This morning started rather badly. As have most mornings in the past week. We entered this latest monster stage last Thursday.

Both kids have entered said monster stage.

Normally, it's just one at a time. But no. Not this time. I'm blaming the end of the school year. I always have to blame something.

Master J wakes up between 6.15am and 6.30am. He opens his bedroom door and starts pottering around rather noisily. I stumble out of bed (my dearly beloved blissfully asleep), put him back in his bed and silently curse his Momo Monkey clock, which stopped working a month ago. And then I swear silently because we can't afford to get him a new one because of the recent huge car bills, and because we need 2 new tyres, and because life is just flippin' expensive.

So I stumble back to bed wired up and thinking about how I could earn a few extra dollars ever week But then I start panicking because how on earth could I fit anything else in without losing the plot?

Then I usually hear Miss L get up and go to the bathroom, shortly followed by Master J who  never wants to miss out on any toilet fun unless he's the one having to go. The bickering starts.

I stumble out of bed again. Master J goes back to his room with the threat of going down the "ladder of consequences" if he gets up again.

Miss L goes back to bed. A few minutes later, one of two things could happen:

1) Master J goes to the bathroom and I jump out of bed and run to get there before he's taken his stinky poo-y (how does one even spell that?) nappy off and spreads the stuff everywhere.

2) Miss L comes into our room declaring that her brother has pooed  and that his nappy is about to overflow. So I stumble out of bed again, a little faster this time.

By this stage, dearly beloved has usually emitted a few grunts and has very occasionally got up himself.

Dirty nappy incident averted, I look at the time. Is it worth going back to bed? Usually the attraction of my hubby's warm body and strong arms is too strong and I snuggle up for a very few minutes of bliss and tenderness.

7.15am. Miss L's Momo Monkey clock opens his eyes. Both kids come running to be the first to jump on me and give me a cuddle. Kind of sweet, but mostly irritating as inevitably one comes second and starts whining and screaming.

The hubby and I get up. Miss L, who has been getting dressed by herself for months, now whines for help. My patience breaks down very quickly with whining. It winds me up at the speed of lightning. So despite my best efforts, my tone changes. Miss L picks up on it. She starts whining and telling me that I'm mean. I try to help her get dressed despite my mounting irritation. She finds every possible way to slow us down. But the time she's dressed, we are both close to tears.

In the meantime, Master J has been crying and shouting "me sad" for who knows what reason. Dearly beloved is nowhere to be seen. I usually manage to calm him down by putting a Spiderman clip on my phone. As soon as he is settled, Miss L starts whining because her hair isn't done, or because she wants to watch Spiderman too and her brother won't let her, or because her sock is on sideways. You get the idea.

My dear beloved starts making breakfast and asks the kids what they'd like. "Wice kwispies", says Master J. "Oats, blueberries, milk and glucose", says Miss L, "but I put the glucose myself after you've put the milk". If we get the order wrong, all hell breaks loose.

We give the children the 1 minute transition warning. Spiderman will have to go during breakfast. The minute passes. The mobile is turned off. The crying, whining and "me saaaaaaad" starts. And goes on. And on. And on.

It usually takes me 15 to 20 minutes to calm him down with bribery, threats, taking him on my knees, reading a story, cuddles, or whatever works, for goodness' sake

Finally, usually at about 8.25am, 2 hours after being first woken up, things settle down. They put their shoes on, get in the car, and we go to school and kindy (on a kindy day). 

Calm. Quiet. Sweet silence.

On the days when Master J and I hang out, we usually have a great time. He's fun and even tempered and generally helps me forget the hideous start by about 10am.

But I hit a wall this morning.

I told both kids that I was tired of being treated like a slave and being disrespected. I will now stubbornly ignore them if they are whining or if they are disrespectful. My life is going to be hell. I have no illusions. And I hope it doesn't take too long for them to change their attitudes.

It strikes me that God is probably often fed up with me just as I am with my kids. He must wonder why on earth I'm never happy with what I have and why I keep making the same mistakes over and over again. Why I ask him for things more than I thank him for what he's already given to me. Why I don't listen when he speaks to me. But just like I love my children with all of my being, he loves me. And he forgives. And he forgets.

This is my favourite Shakespear quote.
It means a lot to me.

Kia Kaha! Be strong!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

50 random facts about me

Okay, so I had writer's block this morning. I'm sitting there, child free, with a delicious coffee and I can't remember a single thing I wanted to write about this week. That's the problem when you're a working Mum and you only get very limited time to yourself.

Writer's block on this Saturday morning.

So, I thought that instead of getting deep and telling you why I love my Muslim sister and brother-in-law, I'd tell you 50 random facts about myself, in no order of importance. Here goes:

1. I have one obsession at the moment: nail art.

2. I'm very particular about spelling. I spot spelling mistakes a mile away. And it irritates me a lot, especially in professional and published writing.

3. I love God and believe that Jesus Christ is my saviour. I'm a practising Christian.

4. I have a Masters in French and English languages and literature. I have a Bachelors in Sociology.

5. I love my husband and my two children with every fibre of my being and every breath I take.

6. I wish I could paint, or draw, or be arty in any way. But I'm not.

7. I can't play a single instrument (in contrast to my very accomplished pianist husband), and I can just about sing properly. Not in public though. Ever.

8. I've always had body image issues.

9. I love fresh flowers. Sunflowers, peonies and callas are my favourites.

10. I have a passion for baking and cooking. 

Fructose free chocolate cake and icing. In a Tupperware box of course.

11. I will never have enough cook books.

12. I lost 20 kilos after the birth of my second child. I haven't put them back on!

13. I was born in Ferkessedougou (good luck saying that one!), in the north of the Ivory Coast, West Africa. I lived there for the first 13 years of my life.

14. I have 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister.

15. My parents were missionaries.

16. I don't know where Home is.

17. I have dual citizenship: Swiss and English, and New Zealand permanent residency.

18. I'm pretty obsessed with boxes of any kind. So of course, I love Tupperware.

You could say my pantry is organized. Blame the Swiss blood.

19. I'm terrified of, and disgusted by, cockroaches (13 years of life in West Africa, need I say more?).

20. I enjoy flipping through interior design magazines and dreaming of my future house.

21. I love buying new clothes but can rarely afford it.

22. Before I go to bed, I go on my knees next to my children's beds. I pray for them and I inhale (read "drug myself with") their smell. I can never get enough.

23. My sister and my brother-in-law are Muslims. I love them to the moon and back.

24. I am unable to watch horror movies, let alone remotely violent movies. The latest James Bond was probably my limit of tolerance. There is enough violence in the world. I don't need to see it in my relaxing time.

25. I'm halfway through and I don't know if I'll make it to 50!

26. My favourite dish is lasagne.

27. I hate doing crafts with my kids because I can't stand the mess at the end of it.

28. I'm a little OCD about tidying up. Everything has to have a labelled box. I own a label maker and lots of sticky labels.

29. I'm pretty nutty about good coffee. If it's not good enough, it goes back to the kitchen.

30. I don't eat sugar. My family mostly doesn't eat sugar.

31. I show people how much I love them by cooking and baking for them.

32. I dream of driving around Australia with my husband once the kids have left home.

33. My favourite ice-cream flavours are coffee (no surprise, right?) and coconut.

34. I passed my driver's licence at age 18. I failed the first time, and passed the second time.

35. I don't like exercising. At all. It's like torture. I only do it, sometimes, because I  know it's good for me. If you know of a way to learn to like exercise, I'm all ears. Really!

36. I eat the Trim Healthy Mama way. 

37. The meaning of names are very important to me. My names are Ann (grace) Christiane (follower of Christ). My husband is Serge (to serve) Raymond (wise counsel), my daughter is Letitia (joy) Awatea (the rising of the light), and my son is Joakim (God has established) Arthur (strong as a bear). All our names suit us so well. It's almost freaky.

38. I love perfect poached eggs. I can cook perfect poached eggs.

Perfect poached eggs on mushrooms and bacon. My idea of heaven.
39. I prefer warmer weather to colder weather. 10 years in Wellington has not been easy.

40. My favourite cars are BMWs (they are so silent, so powerful, so elegant) and Audi TTs.

41. I can't decide on a profession. I have so many ideas.

42. I recently discovered that I'm an introvert who likes socializing. 

43. I'm a highly sensitive person.

44. My husband and I both had PND (Post Natal Depression).

45. My favourite colour is coral blue.

Two of my favourite things: coral blue and nail art.

46. I have asthma and don't go anywhere without my inhaler.

47. I wore glasses until I had laser eye surgery 3 years ago.

48. I remember places by the caf├ęs and restaurants I visited.

49. I'm a procrastinator and I love that word.

50. I speak French, English and German. I understand Swiss-German.

And there you go. Wow, that was harder than I expected it to be.

I would love to know some random facts about you too. And I'd love to know where you are in the world. Please do leave me a note. I love connecting with you, my reader. That's the reason I blog!


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Sunday, November 1, 2015

My man had PND

My first child, a girl, was a few weeks old. I cried all day. I was a mess. My husband didn't know what was happening to me. He looked at me with despair in his eyes, with sadness, with a sense of powerlessness that made me cry even more. He got angry and yelled at my Post Natal Depression. I felt like he was yelling at me. I hated my PND. I hated myself all the more for putting my husband through the pain of witnessing my distress. 

With counselling and medication, I got through it. My husband was relieved to have his wife back. Our daughter was 2.5 years old.

We didn't want her to be an only child. I got pregnant and gave birth to a gorgeous strong boy. The birth was hideous. The first two weeks were okay. My husband got up with me at night when I was feeding. I thought, "it's going to be okay".

The third week I started crying. Every time I breastfed and the milk came down, an intense and overpowering sense of despair would overcome me. A friend, who was a La Leche League volunteer at the time, recognized the signs of D-MER, or Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex, which is caused by a "sudden drop in the feel-good hormone dopamine, which pre-empts the release of breast milk. This leads to strong negative emotions and lasts for as long as milk let-down continues - usually  between 30 to 90 seconds". It was aweful and with every single milk let-down, I wanted to die.

But I could also feel the claws of Post Natal Depression latching on to my head, my heart, my senses. My desire to do anything was disappearing, my sense of self-worth was withering, my interest in my kids was dismal to say the least.

As I went downhill, so did my husband.

He was angry. He yelled. He slammed doors. He didn't want to have anything to do with the kids. He was impatient. His jaw was constantly clenched. He accused me of being the one who wanted children. He said he didn't want children.

I cried even more. I was desperate to get better because I couldn't bear to see my husband like that, and yet I could not.

The fourth week, my parents arrived. My Mum took over the cooking and looking after my daughter. My Dad took over looking after my son. Rocking him. Burping him. Getting him to sleep. Over and over again. He was doing what I had dreamed my husband would do, but was incapable of doing. 

At the time, I was so disappointed in my husband. Disappointed that he wasn't living up to my expectations. That he wasn't ready to step-up and be the Dad I had imagined him to be. Couldn't he see that I couldn't do anything and that it was his job to fill in where I couldn't? Why was he letting my parents do everything? Why did he have to work such long hours when I so desperately needed him close to me?

The fifth week, I was having panic attacks and crying all day. I wanted to die. I didn't care how, but I just didn't want to exist for another second. So I asked my Mum to take me to the hospital. I left my Dad with my baby. I knew he had formula and bottles that we had bought a few days earlier as a back-up plan. But really, at that point, I didn't care.

I got help that day. The CATT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) team took over. They put me on anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants, both of which meant I had to stop breast-feeding. After my parents left, friends took over and were there for me.

But my husband suffered in silence. 
He didn't talk. 
He exploded occasionally. 
He was angry.
He still clenched his jaw. 
He hated the lack of excitement in our lives. 
He felt helpless and hopeless. 
He felt powerless. 
I felt like he resented me, when in fact he resented my PND and its implications in our lives: he felt like he had lost the woman he married. He would yell and say "I've got bloody PND too, so give me a break!". And so, several times, I encouraged him to go see our doctor to talk about what he was going through.

But he never did.

For quite a long time, I was resentful of that. I mean, why should I get help and get treated for the benefit of our family, if he wasn't going to do the same? I looked for support groups online for men with PND, but couldn't find any (this was 3 years ago now).

So I gave up. I let him deal with it on his own. I was there for him when he wanted to talk. And always reminded him that doctors were there to help. But his fear of being put onto medication held him back. I strongly believe however, that had there been more of an awareness of PND in men, he would have reached out. He wouldn't have felt so alone.

The first two years of our son's life were pretty hideous, both of us navigating the roller-coaster of depression, all the while running a business and raising two gorgeous kids. I'm sure that our marriage survived because through it all we continued to:
  • go out on a date most weeks, even if we just went for a walk or out for a drink or a movie. We didn't always talk much. We quite often argued. But we always respected our two golden rules: no talk of work and no talk of the kids;
  • ask for forgiveness and forgive each other every night for what we had done and/or said to hurt the other;
  • give each other child-free space every weekend;
  • communicate, communicate, communicate.
Remember these four tips!

Three years after the birth of our son, things are a lot easier. I'm still taking meds, but am starting to consider coming off them. My husband is back to normal. And the kids drive us crazy with love and crazy with frustration, depending on the moments.

I hope this post has encouraged you in some way. It's hard for Mums with PND to talk about this stuff, and it's even harder for our men. The more we talk about PND in fathers though, the more they will feel able and confident to reach out for help.

If you know of support groups for men with PND, please share them with us.

See more on PND in Dads here.

Kia Kaha! Be Strong!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Vain Post Alert! My Thoughts on Gel Nail Polish

Okay, so this post is totally vain and absolutely not thought-provoking (unless you want to debate on a better use of my $35 every three weeks). It is however, a matter of utmost importance in my life at the moment.

I am completely in love with gel nail polish.

Top and bottom left, by the gorgeous Sarah at Embellish Nails,
top right by Bree, bottom right by a salon at the Mall

As a Mum, it couldn't be better: it stays on for 2 to 3 weeks without chipping or coming off. It's laundry resistant. It's dish-washing resistant. It's cooking resistant. It's "I wash my hands 50 times a day" resistant. And did I say it looks perfect for 2 to 3 weeks??

As a Woman who is a Mum, it's a winner too. Let's face it, who has the time to re-apply nail polish every two days? I certainly don't. And the frustration of taking the time to apply it to then see it ruined within 24 hours is just plain depressing. And I just can't stand the "chipped nail polish" look.

What's more, I don't put make-up on every day. My hubby doesn't like me to (I know, lucky me!), and again, I have no time. Or rather, I prefer to stay in bed 15 minutes longer instead of getting up earlier to apply make-up. So, having pretty nails makes me feel feminine even when my face is bare.

As a Woman, it's perfect. The endless design possibilities are mind-blowing. Choosing a new one every few weeks is hard! Oh gosh, life can be so tough (irony warning!). Moreover, I get pampered for a little over an hour on a regular basis, which has a huge feel-good factor. I've suffered from low self-image for most of my life (I'm very happy to say that I'm doing much better in that department!), but I've always loved my nails. And I'll admit that I love the comments I get on each new set.

I have to stay objective though, so on the down-side, getting a gel polish manicure is a money investment. There is no way I would be doing this so often if I hadn't found the lovely Sarah at Embellish Nails, who loves to pamper women at an affordable price. So I choose to use the little bit of spending money I have on cups of good coffee (I'm a coffee snob, but more on that in another post) and getting manicures.

Beware! Not all nail artists use the right removal techniques. If they make you dip your whole hand or all fingers at once in the removal liquid, run for your life. Each nail should be filed, then individually wrapped with the removal solution and silver foil for no more than 5 minutes.

I'm very intrigued by the Jamberry Nail Wraps that are taking the world by storm. I'm going to a demo party soon to check them out and I will report back.

So, there you go. A whole post on nails. Do you get your nails done? If not, how do you like to make yourself feel special?

Kia Kaha! Be strong!


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Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Confessions of a Highly Sensitive Person

I am so EFFing angry.

Almost a year ago, a young girl who lived with us and helped us with the kids left abruptly with no warning. She broke my son's heart. She broke my trust. She broke me.

And the effect her actions had on me, and still have on me, makes me angry. Do you get what I'm trying to say? The fact that I was affected by her behaviour makes me angry, more so than what she did. Why do I feel things so deeply, so completely and so excruciatingly? 

I am so EFFing sensitive. 

I have this tendency to take things too much at heart and to feel, oh to feel everything with exacerbated emotions. I often think of my inner thought life as a thin piece of glass. It doesn't take much to break it. And broken glass can never be fixed perfectly ever again, however hard you may try. 

I am like a reconstituted piece of glass. A MOSAIC.

Oh so happy. Abidjan, Ivory Coast, August 2015.

But you know what? I am so EFFing thankful!

I am a precious mosaic. Yes, I've lost count of how many times I've been broken, but every time I put myself back together, a new mosaic emerges, sometimes pretty dull, dark or ugly, and sometimes magnificent and colourful. Fragile though. Oh so fragile.

That's okay. That is who I am. Yeah, I often feel angry about my inability to build a wall around me, but I'm also so thankful to be a Highly Sensitive Person. Yep, there is an official name for it. It's a cool thing to be, most of the time. If you:
  • are easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby,
  • get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time,
  • make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows,
  • need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation,
  • make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations,
  • notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art,
  • have a rich and complex inner life,
  • were seen as sensitive or shy by your parents and teachers when you were a child*,
then there's a good chance you are one too. And that is cool! Or maybe your child is, or your partner. I know my daughter is very probably a HSP. 

Here's the deal. I experience everything that surrounds me with more sensitivity, I'm more empathetic, I feel joy and excitement to the depth of my being. And I love my friends and family with a faithfulness of heart that is often overwhelming.

Spend enough time putting yourself out there in the world -
your sensitivity is not something to be feared.” 
― Elaine N. AronThe Highly Sensitive Person

So, just for you, here are 11 survival tips I've put together if you too are a pretty special HSP. I hope they help you in some way, and I'd love to hear from you if you have some to share too. We're all in this together!

*Questions asked by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., in The Highly Sensitive Person.


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Saturday, October 3, 2015

A Parsley Trick

Don't you just hate chopping parsley? It's one of those ingredients I wished I could just buy ready chopped, until I learned a super neat and quick way to get the job done - presto!

With good kitchen scissors, just chop off the amount you need and place in a mug. Using the same scissors, chop away at your parsley inside the mug until you're happy with it. Ta-dahhhh!

Or, using the same method, chop up the whole bunch of parsley in several goes, and freeze the chopped parsley in a zip-lock bag. Chopped parsley read to go in the freezer!

You're welcome! And let me know if you have another cool kitchen trick :-)!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

My hubby can survive without me!

Yep. He can.

I doubted it. I doubted him.

I recently came back from a 9 day trip to Africa. On my own. Hubby and the two kids stayed at home. And while I jokingly asked our church family to pray for them and to pray that they would still be alive when I came back, deep down, I was not joking.

Would he feed them enough? Would he get them to bed not too late? Would he get them to school on time? Would he remember to give Mr. 3 a mid morning snack? Would he remember swimming, and soccer?

Would they be okay without me?

How incredibly judgemental and self-centred.

Sure, I am the glue and the tower of strength and organization in this family (no exaggeration!), but my husband is an amazing and capable man. Sure, when I'm around he has a tendency to lean on me and to depend on my capabilities a little too much. But, he is a very capable man.

So, when I left for the airport, I decided to leave behind all my anxieties and truly believe that they would be okay. What other choice did I have anyway? Worrying was only going to spoil my trip. And here was my chance to truly believe in my husband and to trust him entirely.

I believe that us Mums tend not to give our husbands and partners enough responsibilities and credibility. How demeaning is that! Men thrive on trust and when we're proud of them and their accomplishments. And yet, we deprive them of so much because we want to be "in control" - whatever that means. Or because we think we can do it better, or faster. Well, I do that anyway. I am so wrong!

I was so wrong.

When I came back, the kids were alive! My hubby was alive, albeit tired and relieved to have me home. The kids had been clothed, fed and at school mostly on time (and let's be real, they're often late with me!). Swimming was only forgotten once, the house was vaccumed and two loads of washing were done.

A photo hubby sent me while I was away

But most importantly, the kids were happy. And my hubby was proud.

The thing that astonished me the most however, was that my hubby had been very proactive about educational issues such as hitting. His new rule, which I am keeping to as much as I can, is "You hit your sister/brother, you go on the thinking step for 2 minutes". Straight away. No discussions. No second chances. That takes a lot of energy. And determination.

Unfortunately, he did not manage to get Mr. 3 to do poos on the toilet. Oh well. I'll just keep working on that one.

The thing is, I don't believe enough in my husband on the home front. And maybe that's why he isn't very engaged. I don't give him room to do things his way.

That is going to change. I know he can do it, and do it well. So I'm trying to give him space, and he's trying not to fall back into the habit of relying on me so much. He has seen what it takes to manage the home front and is much more appreciative of what I do. And I love it when he steps in and manages the kids' (mis)behaviour.

My husband is my hero and today I honour him for everything he does and has done for our family. He is one amazing man, husband and father. I am so blessed to be his wife.

With the love of my life


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Sunday, August 16, 2015

Going back to my roots

I'm a TCK (Third Culture Kid). This means that I "have spent a significant part of my developmental years outside my parents' culture". 

My Dad is Swiss. My Mum is English. I grew up in the Ivory Coast from birth to age 13.

In two days, I am going back to my birth country.

In two days, I am going back to one of the countries that has made me who I am today.

In two days, I am going back to the country I felt uprooted from.

In two days, I am going to smell humidity, heat, dust, sweat, rubbish.

In two days, I am going to taste sweet juicy mangoes, tender red papayas, deep-fried plantain bananas and fire roasted peanuts.

In two days, I am going to hear mosquitoes buzzing, toads croaking, locusts clacking and buzzing.

In two days, I am going to hug my Mum and Dad, my brother, my sister and my new brother in law.

In two days, I am going to say goodbye to my husband and two children for 9 days.

In two days, I am going back to Africa.

Myself as a child in the Ivory Coast

I've never felt whole since leaving the Ivory Coast. I spent 13 years in Switzerland after we left. Now I've spent 10 years in New Zealand. Nowhere is home. Home is where my heart is, where my family is. But even that doesn't mean much as we're all spread around. 

Nowhere do I really feel at home.

I wonder what I'll feel when the air plane doors open and I can step down onto the tarmac. Will I feel at home again, after all these years? Or will this be yet another "almost home, but not quite" moment? I've buried so many memories since I had to say goodbye that I'm almost scared to go back. And yet I can't wait. I know it's going to be one of the trips of my life.

It is time to go back and then to face the future with my past firmly in hand.

Are you a TCK? Do you feel at home anywhere?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Today I am thankful!

I had a good day today. We all had a good day today.

I don't know why or how, but the planets and the stars aligned for me today.

I was relaxed. I was cool. Mr 3 played nicely by himself several times. We cruised. He almost didn't whine. He almost didn't cry. He said please and thank you. He got into his car seat when asked. 

At 3 o'clock, the dreaded school pick up time and "what am I going to do with them for 2 hours?" time, I was calm! I couldn't believe it.

Nothing beats sunshine and Vitamin D

The sun was shining so we went to the park and had ice cream. We hung out for one hour and I didn't get bored (I normally find playgrounds the most boring place on earth, please tell me I'm not the only one???). My kids' smiles and excited shouts were like warm waves of love washing over me.

Back home, they played nicely (?!) and my son helped me chop the vegetables for the fish pie.

All day, I just kept asking myself: why? how? I have no idea. Maybe it's the PND lifting a little more. Maybe it's the fact that I've been allergy free for almost a week thanks to the new meds, maybe it was the sunshine. Maybe it was all three. Maybe it was none of them. 

Today was a good day. It was a moment in eternity. A ray of sunshine in a sky which has been tainted by fogginess and greyness. A drop in an ocean of emotions, feelings, and anxieties.

Today, I am thankful. I want to encourage you who are going through harder times, that there will be days like this one. They are worth waiting for, and when they come along, savour every little second of the day. Engrave each moment into your heart and mind. And smile!

Kia kaha! Be strong!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

So what if I have PND?

I've had PND (Post Natal Depression) for 6 years now. 

After both kids. And that's okay. I can live with that, because I'm lucky enough to have access to treatment and supportive friends. I've never felt inadequate or guilty or ashamed.

Quite the opposite really. I don't mind talking about my experience. I always hope it will encourage another Mum or make her feel less alone.

But I was thrown on Thursday last week. I went to see an allergy specialist for my never ending runny nose and eyes. A German doctor. He was loud. He sounded German. He did his job. He asked about my medical history and what medication I was on. I told him I took citalopram because I suffer from PND. When told my youngest was now 3 he raised his eyebrows very high and said:

"Is that still PND after 3 years?". I just stared at him, gob-smacked.

Then he asked a few questions about allergy medications I've tried over the years. After a few minutes he stopped and said:

"I can't believe how many people take anti-depressants in New Zealand. Doctors just give it out to everyone. Don't you think you could stop now?" Wow. Just wow. I spluttered. I stumbled on my words. And then I said:

"I ended up at the CATT (Crisis Assessment and Treatment Team) centre in Porirua when my baby was 4 weeks old. I wanted to kill myself. I..." He interrupted me and said, "Oh, you were suicidal. Please keep taking the pills then!".

We then proceeded with what I was there for: allergies and prick testing. He was highly efficient in that regard and I'm already doing much better on the new treatment. Thank you German Doctor.

I feel so lucky that I'm in a place now where I can hear such statements and not take them too seriously. He did make me doubt for a few seconds...

"Could I stop my anti-depressants now?", "Do I really need them?"

Was the German Doctor right?

But then sense took over. I mean, come on. It's ok to take anti-depressants if you're suicidal but not otherwise? Just come off the pills, you don't need them anyway? Imagine if he said that to a woman who was feeling very unwell mentally, or felt guilty, or lost, or angry about her PND? I left that office worried that a highly qualified doctor, who gets paid $375 per 45 minute consultation, feels he has the right to give a woman he doesn't know advice about her PND and her treatment. 

Would he have told my friend with diabetes to stop her injections? 
Would he have told my other friend with severe asthma to stop using her inhaler? 
Did he tell me to stop taking medication for my allergies?

There is obviously still a stigma attached to all forms of depression. Maybe more so in Europe than in New Zealand. My very talented Mum, who has suffered from depression her entire adult life and has come up against a lot of judgement and stereotypes, wrote a great little book called "Thank God for Anti-Depressants". I agree with her 100%. Thank God for all medication that saves life, be it diabetes, cholesterol, depression, asthma, infections, etc.

So what if I have PND? So what if I was suicidal? It's okay. It's called life. PND is still a part of my life. Mostly in the form of anxieties these days. But it's still there. I'm better and better as the years go by though and I find that exciting.

So what if you have PND or depression? It's okay. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. You will get better, with or without the help of pills and/or other remedies. Life is a journey and it will throw things at you, but I've found that it's the way you accept and deal with life's lemons that transform you into a better and stronger person. I've gone through two very bare and lifeless winters, but spring is a pretty exciting place to be: summer is just around the corner!

I would never trade my journey for an easier one. It has made me who I am today. Your journey makes you who you are today.

You are amazingly and fearfully made. Kia Kaha! Be Strong!

I'd love to hear from you!

* If you are suffering from depression and you are worried about your safety or the safety of others, please don't suffer in silence. Contact your doctor, or call a friend. Ask for help.*