Where I have I been?

Adjusting to a full-on new job… followed by the business of family life with a new little one (and still the full time job).

Our baby boy arrived in June. L carried him, and it was amazing for me to experience it all as the non-gestational parent. The birth was incredible. Miromiro is a sweet, gentle wee thing, smiling and chatting to us lots at the moment. He had some health issues which involved two brief stays in hospital and then minor surgery, which was all very stressful but hopefully everything is resolved now. Breastfeeding was not easy for the first couple of months; he had not read the textbook and also has a tongue tie. It has been very weird for me trying to help from the other side; things like knowing techniques for getting a decent latch but not being able to communicate these or demonstrate them from opposite L. Feeding has become much easier over time for them both though. This boy adores his big sister. He thinks she is the cleverest, funniest, most exciting person in the world. She adores him too, and sometimes we have to remind her not to squeeze him too tight or get too in his face.

Windhorse is three! She is a social butterfly and loves talking to and playing with friends and family of all ages. She has moved on from pointing and asking what the words in books mean, to noticing letters and numbers everywhere. She has just started drawing things which are actually identifiable (a pear, railway tracks…) She loves ambulances and her doctor’s kit. I love her doctor routine (baby dolls or obliging family or friends as patients): Check blood pressure; check temperature; “say aaah”, listen to heart beat, cut the umbilical cord, cut finger and toenails, remove prickles from feet, bandage arms, “OK you are fixed. Now you can go for a burger on the way home.”

L is doing fantastically, looking after them both while I am at work all day.

I am a real-life social worker!

 

 

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The world through sunny glasses

The world through sunny glasses

Since the last post was about challenging parenting moments, it’s about time I balanced it out with some moments of delight. Here are three of the things I love most about having a two and a half year old Windhorse in our lives.

Having conversations. I had heard about children going through a language explosion, but I still imagined something more gradual, like going from a new word every couple of days to several words in a day. I also expected quite a lot of the new language to be picking up words which we had recently used. It was much more dramatic than that. Windhorse must have stored up a huge collection of words, phrases and sentence structures, and suddenly, one day, the gates opened. Within the space of a weekend she went from mostly pointing and naming things, to saying things like “it’s windy today, I need my hair up.” On the Friday she could refer to a few family members by name or title. On Monday she was referring to all the children and staff at her childcare centre by name. Instead of asking her a series of yes/no questions to find out about her day we could ask her what happened and get answers like “B and I played hide and seek” and the memorable “E found two eggs in my hair.” Now she joins in when we pause for a time of thankfulness before the evening meal, and she has phone calls – pretend and real – with friends and family. It is wonderful to know more about what she is thinking and feeling.

Sweet words. Sunny glasses, funflowers, tuddles.

Playing together. I love that at just two and a half Windhorse is already developing independent interests. Currently she is really into jigsaw puzzles – something that L and I have never been particularly interested in. She is currently enjoying a few 60 piece puzzles but could definitely move on if I could find something that was less of a jump up than 250 pieces. She loves building things with blocks, particularly very tall structures on wheels. She watched some children playing cricket and was fascinated, and has had a go with a kids set at home. One of my favourite games with her is hide and seek. Her hiding has improved – now instead of going to a wall and turning her back on the seeker, she goes into a different room or around a corner, and sometimes climbs under or behind something. When it is her turn to seek she gives clear instructions about exactly where we are to hide. Finding us still results in squeals of delight even when she knows where to look!

Kindness. When she shares her beloved Baa with someone who is crying, or brings a book or a snack to cheer someone up, or kisses one of us better.

Witnessing her imagination blossoming. Suddenly a lump of bread dough can become a ruru, and a lettuce leaf is a boat. Every day she comes up with explanations and stories which surprise and amuse us. How did shiny eggs appear in our garden? The Easter Bunny spat them out of its mouth, of course.

I hope this Easter the children in your life have brought you some moments of delight.

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Friday – the one with the screaming.

Since I embarked on my final fieldwork placement followed by research report Windhorse has been spending weekdays with other people. She has one day with her other mum, one day with her grandmother, and three days in childcare (I usually take her there, and the bus trip and short walk together is usually fun). It feels like a bit of a treat to have a day with her, so last night I was looking forward to today, when I would take her to visit a new friend with a baby and then we would go to her swimming lesson.

The day began sweetly, with Windhorse saying she wanted  “two more rest,” a phrase I think she has picked up from me saying she can have “two more minutes” of something she is enjoying. So we snuggled up together and had a delightful little rest.

Later there was porridge and milk splattered all over the floor, the high chair and two walls. Then grizzling in the car seat. Then a visit to a new friend with much cuteness in toddler-baby interactions. A slightly trying swimming lesson.

Then things went horribly wrong. It started with the shampooing. Then she did not want to have a nappy on, but I (foolishly?) pushed ahead because I didn’t want her to wee on the floor. Clearly it was a terrible assault on her body and her autonomy. She ripped the nappy off and tried to make a break for freedom. I was dripping wet and wrapped only in a towel. I did not want to follow her into the public area so I tried to block her. She screamed and wailed and punched my legs and the bench. She got away, I grabbed her and dragged her back and tried to dry myself as quickly as I could. She tried to crawl away under the bench and I dragged her back. I pinned her between my legs while I put on a bra, then plonked her on the bench. Got one leg into my undies, while she tried to bolt. Plonked her back on seat. Other leg, drag and plonk and bolt, repeat, with interludes of my kneeling, grabbing her by the shoulders and half shouting “Listen to me, listen to me! I can’t go outside in my undies!” (as though saying “Listen to me” loudly to someone in the throes of intense distress and rage is going to result in some kind of breakthrough). Once I was dressed I let her run because I actually didn’t know what she wanted. She ran out of the change rooms and I tried to carry her back in while she kicked and squirmed out of my arms. At one point we ended up on the floor, me saying “please, please, you need to wear a nappy” (as though pleading with a two year old who is beside herself is going to help) and trying to hug her while she looked at me an expression of rage and distress and the despair and shock of being betrayed and abused by one of the people you love most. I tried not to cry. Windhorse scooted away still lying on her back screaming. Strangers tried to help even though they didn’t know how and nor did I. Eventually she pointed at the individual change rooms with baby change tables. “You wanted to go in there?” Nod and sobbing. “Ok! Ok! We can go in there.  Which one? One two three four” (as far as she can count.” “Four” (said in a tiny whimpering voice). I flagged down one of the kind strangers to watch her while I went back to the main change room for the nappy, then joined her in cubical four. “Do you want to be changed on the bench or the change table?” “There” (pointing at table). “Like a baby? Sure, of course!” And she stopped crying, and let me put her nappy on, and we left, me with a grateful wave to the kind stranger and my legs a bit wobbly and the tiredness that usually comes after running a long way.

Did she not get the memo that this was going to be quality time?

Please share your disaster moments with me, because right now I think I’ve never seen another parent with a child showing quite that level of distress, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard a parent almost shouting “listen! Listen!” or close to tears and pleading with a toddler in a public place, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m failing at this parenting gig.

This hurts

(Part two of two on the 2014 General Assembly)

Eight years ago I attended the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand as a youth commissioner. It was one of the darkest times of my life… I can’t blame all that on the General Assembly, but it didn’t help. My self-identity was already pretty negative, so sitting in a room with hundreds of people and finding out that 65% of them had just voted to exclude people like me from leadership roles because our relationships are considered immoral, abnormal and offensive was enough to tip me over some kind of edge for a time.

During the debate, I had spoken about how the message would put people off engaging with the church, how it would feel like a rejection to many members of the church, of how gay, lesbian and bisexual young people were already vulnerable and didn’t need another organisation telling them their experience of love was unacceptable, and of how the rule would cause pain to families and friends as well. I finished by saying “We don’t choose who we fall in love with. And we don’t choose to become leaders in the Church. God calls us. Let’s leave our lives in God’s capable hands.”

After the debate I was caught crying on the 6 O’clock news.

It was General Assembly time again at the beginning of the month. Even from a distance I have been experiencing waves of anger, sadness and pain. This year, proposals to remove the leadership rule (banning people in same sex or de facto relationships) failed again, and a new rule was added which bans ministers from marrying same-sex couples.

It hurts. It hurts to receive the message, once again, that we are not accepted and valued as we are. It hurts to have our relationships treated, not only as sinful, but as more threatening than other sins. So much so, that the church needs special legislation to protect itself from us.

So yeah, it hurts. Even for me, supported as I am by a wonderful inclusive community. I worry about the impact another rule will have on people who are more isolated, and especially for young queer people growing up in Presbyterian families who are just starting to figure out who they are.

When I started going to church as a teenager, it was all sort of hypothetical. I didn’t even know any queer people, so I was not very optimistic about the prospect of finding a girlfriend. I went to a church where the leaders proclaimed the “love the sinner, hate the sin” message. As a 14 year old I struggled to know exactly what that rule meant for me. What exactly defined “the sin.” Did having a crush count? Writing a poem about a girl? What about a kiss? At what exact point did things tip over from loving to hate?

As I wrote when I was a little older:

It sounded so simple when he said it,
“We love the sinner, but hate the sin”
yet somehow I can’t keep it all separate.
Sinner and sin.
Person and practice.
Lover and love.
Hater and hate.
Love the sinner, hate the sin…
Somehow I always end up
hating myself.

I was lucky. The support of my family, some of my friends, and eventually the welcoming congregation I found, carried me beyond the messages of hate.

Here I am, at home with my two dear ones. Windhorse, who is sleeping but just let out a little cry. I remember wondering what she dreamed about when she was tiny. Boobies and milk probably. Now she has grasped enough language to be able to sleep-talk about things we can understand! Apparently she dreams about train trips with her mums.

L is sleeping too. Tomorrow I will try not to stay up so much later, but tonight I’ve decided to snatch this late night quiet moment to finish this blog post. Soon I will tip toe into the bedroom and curl up beside her as she dreams.

Tonight, suddenly it has struck me – I have crossed the line.

This is the stuff they hate.

Our lives are so tangled together and so infused with queer love. Love which the church refuses to celebrate. Love which makes us unsuitable people who shouldn’t be given the same opportunities to contribute to our church life. There’s no way to separate out one part which makes us “practising” (and probably parenting without a man involved makes anything else we’re doing a moot point in terms of contributing to the moral decline of society). So this, all this, is what they hate.

How exactly is the church showing us it is still loving?

The delights of summer

Christmas this year has been delightful. This year, we don’t have a baby anymore, we have a toddler. Windhorse can run around in the sunshine. She exclaims “Oooh!” at the sight of presents. She takes decorations off the Christmas tree and tries to put them back on. She has discovered that strawberries and vegetables come from the garden. Oh, wonders! She says “Stawby, Stawby, Stawby,” which started off meaning strawberry and now means anything desired.

Two of Windhorse’s cousins moved to Seattle just before she was born. They’ve come back for a Christmas visit and have met her for the first time. She is having so much fun with them and her Wellington cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents. She loves having people around to play with and talk to, and the days have been filled with chuckles and giggles and squeals of excitement. She has been kicking and throwing balls, playing peekaboo, splashing in paddling pools, swinging and sliding at the playground, digging in the garden and playing at the beach.

The beach! Last year Windhorse was quite uncertain about it, but this year on Boxing Day she was absolutely gleeful. Sand! Sand to pick up! Sand to dig! Wet sand! Water! Waves to run from! Waves to fall into! Water to jump in! Sticks to dig with! Sticks to draw with! Dogs to point at! Birds to point at! The fun seemed limitless.

It is such a delight watching her enjoy the summer.

Christmas day was busy and noisy and fun. When I was a child, Christmas gatherings usually had 3, 5 or maybe 6 people. This Christmas 27 of us gathered for lunch, including all Windhorse’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, and two sets of great aunts/uncles.

There was an amazing spread for lunch. I’m not too modest to declare that our contributions to the Christmas table were absolutely delicious… and they disappeared quickly too. They were so scrumptious they need to be shared more widely, so I will leave you with our contributions to the menu, and recipes for these dishes. I can’t eat much dairy and I made a dairy free dessert so I could indulge in a bit of cheese in the salads. The salads would be yummy without the cheese as well. I’d put extra hazelnuts in the courgette salad if leaving out the cheese.

Happy festive season!

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Christmas 2013 Culinary delights 

Sweet Beetroot & Nectarine Salad

Courgette and hazelnut salad

BBQ tofu with pomegranate molasses marinade and BBQ sweet peppers

Rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Eton Mess)

Dairy-free rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Dairy-free Eton Mess)

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Recipes

Sweet Beetroot & Nectarine Salad (adapted from two Ottolenghi salads).

4 beetroots

100g almonds

20g honey

15g Dijon mustard

25ml cider vinegar

30mls olive oil

1 clove of garlic

½ tsp ground allspice

Salt and pepper

4 white nectarines, sliced into wedges

180g creamy blue cheese

50g small lettuce leaves (not iceberg) or mesclun

50g rocket leaves

Set the oven to 200C. Wrap the beets individually in foil and bake for 40-70 minutes, depending on size. To check, push a sharp knife through to the centre of each one – it should be soft all the way through. Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into a rough 2cm dice.

Turn the oven down to 170C and toast the almonds for about 10 minutes. When they have cooled, coarsely chop them.

To make the dressing, whisk together the honey, mustard, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, allspice, a small pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper (if the honey is very thick, melting it first will make it easier to blend in).

To create a visually splendid salad, arrange the leaves on a platter and lay the beetroot and nectarine wedges on top. Sprinkle with the almonds and crumble the blue cheese over the top. Drizzle dressing over everything.

Alternatively, to ensure everyone in the crowd gets a bit of everything in their serving, throw everything into a bowl and mix it all together. Everything will end up stained with beetroot but it’ll taste wonderful.

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Courgette and hazelnut salad

50g toasted hazelnuts

4 courgettes

1 block of feta

A few sprigs of mint

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Lightly toast the hazelnuts in the oven or in a frying pan. Slice the courgettes very thinly (you can use a vegetable peeler to get extra thin long ribbons). Cut the feta into small squares. Shred the mint leaves. Arrange in a dish and drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. So fresh and summery.

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BBQ tofu with pomegranate molasses marinade and BBQ sweet peppers

1 block of firm tofu

A few mini peppers or Hungarian peppers

Marinade

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp lemon juice

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp paprika

A pinch of smoked paprika

A pinch of cloves

A pinch of chilli powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Cut the tofu into slices about 7mm thick.

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and roll the tofu in it. Leave to marinade in the fridge.

Don’t leave the tofu on the BBQ for long or it will dry out. If you’re not a tofu fan, just give BBQ mini peppers a go. They are so sweet and juicy and melt in your mouth delicious.

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Rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Eton Mess)

2 cups of crumbled meringues (you could buy plain but we made Ottolenghi’s version of rose and pistachio meringues – recipe here –  and they were divine! We used most of a batch in the dessert)

1 cup of crumbled pistachio macaroons (we used the recipe below but you could just use more meringues to keep it simple – we went all out for Christmas day extravagance!)

500mls cream

2 tsp rose water (or more if you are using plain meringues)

1 punnet of strawberries

1 pomegranate

Pomegranate molasses or pomegranate juice

A few chopped toasted pistachio nuts.

Slice the strawberries. We left the strawberries to macerate in a mixture of pomegranate molasses and pureed strawberries. Nigella leaves them to macerate in pomegranate juice.

Pop the seeds out of the pomegranate.

Whip the cream until it is thick and incorporate the rose water towards the end. Mix most of the meringues and macaroons into the cream, leaving a few for the top.

Put a layer of cream/meringues/macaroons in the bottom of the serving dish, followed by a layer of strawberries, pomegranate and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses if you have it. Alternate layers to fill the dish, ending with a creamy layer. Sprinkle the remaining pieces of meringue/macaroon, a few pomegranate seeds, chopped pistachios and rose petals on top.

Serve before the meringues dissolve!

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Pistachio macaroons

1 eggwhite

25g ground almonds

25g ground pistachios

100g castor sugar

½ tsp vanilla essence (optional)

Whisk egg white until starting to thicken. Continue whisking while adding the sugar and whisk until stiff. Whisk in remaining ingredients. Drop teaspoonfuls of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper. Bake at 170C for 15-20 minutes (until just starting to brown around the edges).

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Dairy-free rose, pistachio and pomegranate creamy dreamy meringue dessert (too fancy to be called Dairy-free Eton Mess)

Put 300g silken tofu, 300g strawberries and 1 tsp rose water in a blender and process until very smooth. Use this in place of the cream in the recipe above.

Enjoy!

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