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Saturday, 31 December 2011

At the close of 2011

What an emotional rollercoaster this year has been.

The pregnancy wasn't just hormonal; it was the sudden realisation that this time round I was completely on my own. That for me was the scariest thing about this pregnancy, if the new arrival was anything like the Butterfly for the first three months I was in a lot of trouble. So I had just gathered myself towards myself and gotten over my neurosis of the first trimester and we began planning for 2011. We had big plans for this year; we were going to make some big changes in keeping with our newest addition. Bring it on we yelled, we are ready for you 2011 and our third year at World’s end.

Then my Grumpy Father-in-law fell ill and landed up in hospital. It broke my heart watching the Mauritian sway back and forth between going back home or not. I watched him pace up and down as he spoke to his God Father, the family doctor and friends of the family. I could do nothing to ease his pain as he tried again and again to contact my Brother –in-law and just try and talk to him. I listened as he tossed and turned at night trying to figure out what he should do. It brought me to tears watching him hug his Butterfly goodnight with tears of indecision welling up in the corner of his eyes. I had no clue how he was feeling or how to help him. So I did what I always do when I didn’t have the answers, I turned to my clever Dad and talented Mum. My parents have always connected well with the Mauritian; they have taken him into the family and treated him like their own from the moment they met. The Mauritian in turn has learnt to appreciate my clever dad’s wisdom and logic and my talented Mum’s sense of humour and fun. He has over the years grown to respect and seek out their opinions and advice and much as I do. On visiting my Grumpy Father-in-Law in hospital my father said to the Mauritian: “You need to decide if you want to go home one more time to see your dad or go to his funeral!” The Mauritian’s mind was made up and we were running about getting things in line to get him home to see his dad one last time.

I have blogged about what an emotional wreck I was when he left, I still cannot get over how horrid I felt the day he left. I am at a loss to describe how much I missed his moans, groans and dirty socks for those three weeks. I am not sure who was happier that he was home, him, Butterfly or me. I sure am glad those three weeks are well and truly behind us.

The months of February and March were happy ones. My Grumpy Father-in-Law was doing well and had decided to sell his house and move back to Mauritius where he would have his family and old friends around him to help look after him and keep him company for what time he had left. We were unaware then just how little time he had. Even my Brother –in-law looked to be thinking of others before him for a change that did not last long. We began looking for a new house to rent, our first home had served us well the first two years but it was time to move on. I spend hours on the internet and on the phone looking for our perfect affordable spot, what a mission it was. Here at the end of the world you have to make an appointment to view the house through the agent. All viewings happen during working hours and an open house is only for an hour on a Saturday afternoon. It’s painful, but that’s the way things roll here so we just had to adjust. I cannot tell you how many homes we looked at, some were ideal but way out of our price range, some were in our price range but far from liveable, a few were awesome but the landlords were shits. It was in pure desperation that I contacted the agents for our home with very little hope. It was in an ideal area, within our price range and looked about the size we wanted, but there was no garage and the kitchen looked smaller than the one we had. Because the Mauritian worked five minutes drive away he arranged to meet the agent one day after work, while I sat at home watching eagerly for his arrival. I knew as soon as I saw him walking down the path way that this house may be almost perfect. I was right, he beamed at me as he said: “You’ll like it Manth, its way bigger than here, well insulated and it has a really good positive vibe!” He was almost right, it’s not a perfect spot but when I walked into the house it had such a happy vibe about it that it was hard to not like it. Of course the advantage of been so close to town, doctors, dentists and schools played a huge part in our choice, but it was the unusual design and the happy vibe we both got that made up our minds.

So by my 38th birthday we had moved into our new home, discovered we lived a five minute drive away from our favourite Kiwi’s and a two minutes walk from our very first friend’s here. By the end of March the Butterfly was enrolled in Kindy and we were awaiting the notification that she could start, the Mauritian was starting to get a grip on his job as “Service Advisor,” we found out our new addition was a girl and as winter approached we looked forward to warm nights in front of a roaring fire and cosy nights on new electric blankets. Life was good!

But come the Easter my grumpy Father-in-Law was in hospital again and the Mauritian was experiencing the same feelings he was three months before, except this time there was no money to send him home and I was feeling just as helpless. He was back on the phone again talking to anyone he could to get some idea how his dad was. He was never quite satisfied, the one person he wanted to speak to the most he could never get hold of, his brother. But, yet again against all odds my grumpy Father-in-law rallied and recovered and here at World’s end one very worried son breathed a huge sigh of relief. Up went our spirits it seemed the old man would be okay and would soon be in Mauritius and we could relax knowing there would always be people around him he could rely on.

After three rather uneventful months I suddenly became aware that within the next three months we would have a new born I was completely unprepared for. With all the emotional things going on with the Mauritian I had put the pending birth aside and concentrated on him, but now it was time to realise that no matter what happened we were about to bring a new life into the world and I had to prepare us for that. I also started to doubt my choice of a natural birth, it ate at me, and I was almost convinced I wouldn’t be able to go through with it. Though I had admitted to myself that I was very scared I told no one, I think I thought the less others knew the easier it’ll be. The problem was, keeping it to myself made me defensive and snappy so the Mauritian and I exchanged many a heated word over that time. At this time the Butterfly started Kindy, her excitement was electric and I was so happy she was finally going and was so keen to start. But then I said goodbye to her and watched as she ran out into the playground and I suddenly realise that my little Butterfly didn’t need me as much anymore. She was more ready for Kindy then I was, and that hurt like hell. I’m sitting here now and I’m wondering how all the changes that happened this year have affected her. In one year she moved from what was essentially the first home she remembered into a new strange place, she started “school” and she got a sibling! Those are some major changes for the adults in her life; they must’ve been astronomical for her. I know I keep replaying so many things that happened this year over and over in my mind and reliving those emotions. What is it that goes through her active young mind? Watching her now, running about popping party streamers and screeching at the loud bang they make it would seem that she was completely unaffected by these changes, but her pensive quiet moments say otherwise.

May was cold, so very, very cold. The kind of cold that has you wanting to stay in bed all day, drinking hot chocolate and eating soup and this was just the beginning of the cold season. Winter is a very depressing time of year, the clouds are low and black and the wind howls and the rain freezes on contact with the ground. People only venture out because they have to go to work or school and the friendly smiling Kiwis disappear inside layers of clothing and thick woollen scarves and beanies. Heads are tucked down in to their jackets and gloved hands are thrust deep inside jacket pockets and no one takes the time to stop and chat their only goal to get back inside where it’s warmer as quick as. I kept moving as much as my heavily pregnant body would let me during the day to keep the cold and misery at bay, the Butterfly’s sunny smile helped a little, she is unaffected by the cold. But it was those roaring hot fires that brought the cheerfulness back into our home in the evenings that made this past winter bearable. Then my grumpy Father-in-law finally arrived safely in Mauritius and the relief at World’s end was palpable, for the first time since January the Mauritian relaxed, secure in the knowledge that whatever happened his dad would be okay.
June began on a high note, the Butterfly was loving school, the Mauritian was feeling good about everything and in less than a month we would be welcoming the Lollipop home.
June was also the beginning of six very long weeks. As you know from previous blogs I decided one night to become a human see-saw and took a tumble at around 38weeks pregnant. Though nothing happened that was any cause for alarm it did scare both me and the Mauritian enough to leave us both on edge for those last weeks. I am now convinced that the fall jolted the Lollipop enough to move her back up and out of the so called “engaged” position. I also believe it was the reason why she was in the posterior position and not the ideal anterior position. All this I believe was the reason why she was born two weeks post date and why I was in labour for four days. So there we were reeling from the fright of my fall and trying to get over what was ultimately nothing serious when we were again told that my grumpy Father-in-law was back in hospital and things were not looking good at all. So now on top of everything I was again watching the Mauritian struggle with the fact that he could not be with his dad and wrestling with his anger at not been able to get in contact with his brother. Here we were nervous and excited about the delayed but eminent arrival of our Lollipop and grateful beyond words that the old man was in Mauritius where he had his family and friends with him and keeping us informed. We were happy, sad, angry, nervous, excited and everything else all at once all the time, there was never a moment when we were able to just sit back and for one moment and just not feel anything.

Things did not improve in July. By now I was post date and on edge thinking every twinge was the beginning of something, only to realise I was wrong and be very disappointed. The Mauritian was on that marvellous invention called Skype every night to his aunt hoping for good news about his dad and every morning on the phone trying desperately to contact his brother. At the same time he was trying to be my support and stay positive, something he struggles with under “normal” circumstances. By the time I finally went into labour he was scrapping at the bottom of his barrel of positiveness. Thinking back over those four days now I realise that he put every other feeling to one side and put all his energy in to helping me through what was to be four of the most confusing, frightening and painful days of my life. Everything he did or said over that time was in support and encouragement for me, his entire focus was on me and trying to make things easier for me. As always when I needed him the most he was there right beside me holding me up.

Hollies’ birth is indescribable, but admittedly I can remember very little of that day, what stands out for me was the immense sense of achievement. I had actually pulled it off, this time things went according to plan, well almost! The pride the Mauritian felt about his new daughter was written all over his face as he carried her out the hospital the following day, every person he passed on the way had their spirits lifted just from seeing his smile and the tender way he carried the Lollipop. I remember so clearly the sense of relief I felt as we arrived home and I sat down to a good old fashion English fry up, man I was hungry and the hospital breakfast just didn’t cut it. We spent that Tuesday floating on a cloud of happiness and pride, the Butterfly was fascinated by her baby sister and spent her time singing softly to her while she slept and watching everything that happened when she was awake. Our bubble of happiness was shattered that night by the news that my grumpy Father-in-law and finally given up the fight and died. I wrapped my arms around my husband and held him while he cried, there was nothing I could say to ease his pain. I had no idea what he was feeling at that moment and I was unable to give him the attention and support he so desperately needed and deserved in that time the Lollipop woke up I was needed somewhere else.

The next six weeks went by in a blur of hormones, breast feeds, nappy changes and midwife visits; I was numb, exhausted, cold and working on autopilot. I looked up and suddenly August was over and the Lollipop was six weeks old.

September brought the promise of summer as colour began to appear in the garden and the sun stayed in the sky longer. The Lollipop was growing well and things were getting a little easier as the routine began to settle. The Butterfly started morning Kindy, the Mauritian was finally beginning to come to terms with his father’s death and we had decided that we would be heading back home for a visit: Something to aim towards and look forward to making the year so far bearable and the year ahead exciting.

October saw the arrival of my lifelong friend and her family to our small town here in Taranaki. It is so awesome having her here, just knowing she’s in the same town as me makes a huge difference. I know now when I need a hand with something, a punching bag or a complete lack of sympathy she is only a few minutes away. Just knowing she is there has made things easier, having her pop in for coffee when she’s in the area has put a dent in the coffee supplies but man it feels so good to just be able to say what’s on my mind without fear of offending anyone. Just knowing that there is someone nearby that I can trust and rely on completely has made my life so much easier. I can only hope that I am able to be for her what she is for me.

Life has taken on a familiar and easy routine now, the emotion and upheaval of the first six months are merely a memory. Both the Mauritian and I are glad to see the back of 2011 and look forward to a challenging but happy 2012. On reflection now with all that seemed to be wrong with 2011 there was so much that was positive. We have met a wonderful couple we affectionately call Uncle B and Aunty Shell. Their generosity, helpfulness, unconditional friendship and kindness leave's us speechless with appreciation and amazement. They have officially become my favourite Kiwis, especially because they have gone out of their way to make us feel at home here at the end of the world and they have never expected anything in return. My hope is that despite the fact that they are half our age we will remain good friends through the years, but even if we don’t we will forever be grateful to them both for making us feel welcome. The friendship between our very first friends here has grown deeper and more natural now that we live down the road from one another. The friendship between their daughter and the Butterfly has grown to a point where they are swopping toys and making play dates regardless of what other plans there may be. We are entertaining again, having people in our home sharing our food and company was something we both missed. Hearing the laughter of children as they run about and the laughter of grownups at some dirty joke has a surprisingly cathartic feel to it. Preparing for those times and the clean up afterwards is so worth those moments of pure bliss when you feel like you have been a part of the system all your life and not just recently new to it all. The Kiwi accent and slang is no longer foreign to our ears, we still don’t sound like them but at least now we understand them. The Butterfly has grown into a happy, confident child who takes life head on and looks forward to growing up and learning. The Lollipop is absorbing the world around her with eagerness and a beautiful smile. The Mauritian is becoming more and more relaxed with each passing day and is accepting that to be happy here at the end of the world means becoming more tolerant of the way people are.

As for me, I am embracing the role of “stay at home mum.” I am blessed with two beautiful and intelligent daughters who will keep me on my toes and thinking out the box. I am blessed with a husband who manages to make me mad and happy all at once just because he can. I am blessed with a big and happy family that is scattered all over the world. I am blessed with old friends who will be there no matter what and new friends who will teach me amazing new things. Yes I am ready to kick 2011 really hard in the butt and send it flying into the past and welcome 2012 with all its unknowns, it possibilities and its changes, but I will never regret the lessons learnt or the memories made over the past year.

So to all of you who have been with us throughout 2011 thank you for your love, support and friendship you will be remembered always. To those who will become a part of our lives in 2012 I say welcome. To those who have been a part of our lives from our very beginnings I say thank you for being a part of our evolution, for being our influence, for being our history our present and our future.

To all of you, may 2012 be a blessed, peaceful and happy year. May the challenges you face with the dawning of a new year be made easy by the generosity and love of friend s and family and may you meet new friends that make you feel as special and unique as our new friends have made us feel in our new home.

Happy New Year and God’s blessings on you all as we welcome 2012.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Money Wise

Three weeks after my grumpy father in law died the Mauritian received his inheritance; we were both so stunned by the amount that we invested the entire amount immediately before we were able to spend a cent. Afterward we both kept saying that we should have kept some aside to buy this or that or whatever, of course if we hadn’t acted so quickly we would’ve spent most of it with ease. In hind sight investing it all was a good thing it’s given us time to get used to having the money and really think about how we are going to use it or work it. It also got us thinking about providing for our children financially and teaching them the value of money. So we did what most parents do, we opened savings accounts for both the girls and we put a small amount in every payday. We also began to discuss when it was the right time to start giving the Butterfly pocket money and how much. The Mauritian was all for giving her a small amount every week regardless, I believed the only way she would appreciate the money was if she worked for it. We also disagreed on the amount, I thought the Mauritian was being far too generous he thought I was just being a meanie; he even took to calling me “Scrooge McDucklit.” So we couldn’t agree on how to approach the issue and therefore nothing was done about it. Leave it to the Butterfly to solve our problem for us!

About 3 months ago the Butterfly asked us if she could have a watch, I was rather taken aback by the request as I had no idea what had prompted it. My first response was that she was a bit young for a watch, but I was vetoed by the Mauritian who said he would get her one but first he would teach her how to tell the time. I’m not sure, but I think he thought he could teach her right then and there, now the Butterfly is an intelligent child but I think that’s expecting a little too much. The Mauritian is so enthusiastic about his daughter and her eagerness to learn and understand all sorts of things that he sometimes gets way ahead of himself and her. So there I was watching the Butterfly’s eyes glaze over and her mind begin to wonder while the Mauritian got more and more involved in his lesson when suddenly I had a light bulb moment. The moment the Mauritian paused for breath I told the Butterfly that she could have a watch but she would have to buy it with her own money. The Mauritian knew where I was going and told her we would give her “pocket money” which she would have to save up, but, I chimed in, she would have to work for it. Yes, agreed the Mauritian, she would have to listen to us all the time and not be naughty, no, I said, you have to make your bed every morning. The Mauritian says she’ll get an amount every day she makes her bed; I whipped out a star chart and told her she’d get a star every day and at the end of the week she would get a dollar which she can put into her piggy bank. The Mauritian told her he’d give her two dollars and then looked at me and said that one dollar was too little. I stubbornly continued to tell her that she would receive a dollar a week until her star chart was full then she could count the money in her piggy bank and buy whatever she wanted with that money.

Too my complete surprise the Butterfly took to the idea very easily, she liked the idea of the star chart and was quite happy to make her bed. The fact that I had to remake her bed while she was at school was completely lost to her, she just liked the idea of been rewarded for a job done. She understood from the start what was expected of her and what the reward was at the end. I of course was very impressed with myself for having thought about the start chart method and that I had “won” the argument and she was earning her “pocket money” not just getting it. Needless to say I was brought down a peg or six when I asked her if she understood what we were saying and she answered: “Yes Mum, I must make my bed every day and you will give me a star and when that line is full I get money for my piggy bank. When the whole chart is full I can buy my watch!” I then asked her if she remembered how much we would give her at the end of the week, she answered saying “Two dollars mum cos one dollar is too little!” as always just when I think I am one step ahead I end up ten steps behind.

The Butterfly’s enthusiasm for her star chart never waned, every morning she climbed out of bed and pulled up the duvet before coming to find me to give her a star. She did so well that after three weeks I added tiding her room every night before bedtime, no problem. All I had to do was remind her about getting a star and she was off to tidy up as best a four year old can. Another three weeks pass and she hasn’t missed a day, I was toying with the idea of adding another task to the list but decided against it, she was doing so well I really didn’t want to jinx it. What amazed me was that she never questioned why some weeks she got one “gold” coin and other times a mix of “gold” and “silver” coins, she just accepted that the amount I gave her was two dollars and took great delight in dropping it in her piggy bank. Every week she would count how many more weeks till she could buy her watch that never changed though I was sure once she was able to spend it she would change her mind and buy something else. I was to be proved wrong once again.

This Sunday just past we were as usual running late for church so all normal routine was thrown out the window. During mass the Butterfly suddenly realised she hadn’t made her bed, she was devastated: “But mum, now I won’t get my watch!” she cried. It took a bit of convincing but eventually she realised that she had all day to make her bed and she’d still get her star. Needless to say we were pulled out of church and not given a chance to stop and greet some people, the last star was very important. Strangely enough once she had her star and her money she was quite happy to be told we couldn’t go and buy her watch that day. Fast forward to Wednesday, the Mauritian has taken a day off work and it is therefore his job to fetch her from school. She was home maybe five minutes when she did her usual of going to the fridge to see if there were any “treats” for her when she noticed her star chart. She stood looking at it for a bit then said “Hey Mum, my star chart is full I can get my watch! Can we go now?” So off we went to “The Warehouse” we were taken straight to the watches where she reached up and took one: “This one Papa I love it!” After making sure that’s what she wanted we headed for the check out where she proudly told the cashier that she bought it all by herself then she opened her purse and tipped out $20 in small change. Not for a moment did she waiver from the purchase of that watch, she seemed to fully understand that to get the watch she had to give all her money and she was amazed that she even got some of her money back. Though I have not allowed her to wear her watch to school or to bed at night she has proudly worn it every moment she can and we have begun to teach her how to tell the time.

She asked me this morning if she could have another star chart, I asked her what she wanted to buy next and she said: “I think my Papa needs a watch too!”