Category Archives: Life

Overcoming Fear


Fear is a funny old thing – everyone feels it, and while it can be a powerful motivator or alert us to danger, it can also inhibit our lives.  Fear of something specific can be a HUGE block in your mind, something you can’t see a way past, but if you can confront it, somehow you manage to overcome it, or at least live with it.

There’s been a bit of fear around recently.  My son has an Anxiety Disorder as a result of the earthquakes here in Christchurch.  But it’s morphed into him being fearful of whole load of things – big buildings, loud noises, his little brother jiggling on the sofa, wind, heavy rain, the dark, being apart from me, earthquakes… get the picture.  We went on a course last year specifically designed for kids affected by the earthquakes, and it helped a lot.  But, we’ve had a couple of aftershocks recently which have set him back and he’s had panic attacks again.   Confronting this fear is tricky.  Learning to deal with it helps hugely.  I defer to the experts on this one and we’re heading back for help.


A good friend of mine developed a fear of flying.  She’s a very sensible woman, has travelled the world, but a few years ago a variety of factors combined to trigger this fear of flying.  And as she put it to me “If you won a trip for two to New York to see Pink in concert, I’d have to decline”.  So off she went to a week long night course at the airport run by a psychologist, culminating in a domestic flight.  She’s conquered it – unpacking the fear, learning techniques for relaxation and putting them into practice worked.  So, if by chance I win a trip for two to New York to see Pink in concert – she’s my plus one!

For me it’s dentists.  Never liked the school dental nurse, nor my orthodontist, and managed to steer clear of them with no pain.  But after six years it’s all coming back to haunt me.  This week we had to come home from holiday as I was in agony with dental pain.  There was no choice, my fear had to be faced.  With my two sons in the waiting room I was forced to put on a brave face.  As it turned out a root canal needed to be done and it cost a bomb!  But, as the injections (six in the end) numbed my pain I realised that they weren’t any worse than the iron or B12 injections I’ve had regularly at the GP.  The Dentist, who was incredibly kind and gentle, tells me it’s all about the head.  Apparently very few people are happy with their head being interfered with.  No problem with other parts of their bodies, but not their heads.

If you can, confronting your fear will enable you to overcome it, sometimes it’s just grabbing the bull by the horns (or a LOT of pain) and other times seeking help from professionals is just the ticket.



Day Trip: Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools



Once a year my father likes to treat us to a day trip to Hanmer Springs.  Every year the boys look forward to it, and this year it was a surprise phone call the night before announcing that Dad had been looking forward to it all week and wanted to go the next day.  So we went.

Thermal rock pools
Thermal rock pools

Hanmer Springs is an alpine village, a very pretty 90 minute drive from Christchurch.  It is most famous for its thermal hot pools.  The thermal springs were discovered by the Maori, and then by a local farmer in 1859, and in 1883 the Government Lands Department excavated the natural springs to create the first swimming pools.  Over the next hundred years the pools and Hanmer have grown, and are now a popular tourist destination.  Many friends prefer to stay the weekend and enjoy the walks and mountain biking in the surrounding hills and mountains, but we tend to make it a day trip.

Original hexagonal pools
Original hexagonal pools

There’s something calming, relaxing and luxurious about sitting in piping hot water up to your neck.

I remember coming to the hot pools as a child on the end of a weekend church camp at the local forest park, then it was three uninspiring hexagonal concrete pools, but we still loved it.  Now, there are twelve thermal pools, three sulphur pools and a fresh-water family pool, lazy river and kids activity area, as well as two hydro-slides and a SuperBowl.  The thermal water is drawn from a bore adjacent to the pool complex.  This means you have to remember NOT to put your head or ears under the water!

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We reckon the best time to visit is in autumn.  In summer it’s too hot to sit in hot water up to your neck, in winter your feet go numb hopping between the pools and I can’t think of a good reason not to go in spring, but in autumn you’ve got the beautiful leaves changing colour.  The main street is lined with lovely big trees so it makes a nice entrance to the pools.

Selfie with the boys
Selfie with the boys

Now that the boys are a bit older we can negotiate with them.  As youngsters they wouldn’t sit still in the hot pools for long enough, which is what I like to do, and wanted to play in the kids area, which is decidedly cooler!  This time we took a picnic, having seen others do so, and this was a great idea.  It broke the day up nicely giving us two long swims.  There’s lots of picnic and seating within the pool complex, and as the cafe is really bad, it’s the much better option.  We stopped for coffee and slice at the end of the day in the cafe, the staff were surly, bordering on rude, the hot drinks were very average and the slice was decidedly awful.  The changing facilities could do with an upgrade too, but I’m prepared to overlook that as the pools really area fab.

We start in the hexagonal pools, move to the rock pools, then indulge the boys in the lazy river, family pool and kids playground.  After lunch Dad and I took turns in the adults only (bliss!) pools and then we all sat in the incredibly hot sulphur pools before finally getting out and heading home.

The SuperBowl
The SuperBowl


This year my eldest son went on the hydroslides and SuperBowl which he’d been keen to try for a few years.  He loved it and was able to ride them alone and pop back once in a while to check on us.  They have cleverly positioned the family pools and an end of a rock pool close by so parents can now sit in relative warmth and keep an eye on the youngsters.

The pool complex also boasts a spa which I’d LOVE to try……one day.

Hanmer Springs Thermal Pools cost us $50 for a mini group (2 adults and up to 3 children) and the hydroslide cost an extra $10 for unlimited rides.  The complex is open 10am-9pm every day except Christmas Day.

Pool feet
Pool feet

Parenting the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

My two lovelies
My two lovelies

The tricky business of parenting has cropped up in a few conversations I’ve had recently.  Each person sharing a very different story about their parenting journey.

Today I was on the phone to my TelCo and the woman on the other end of the line was telling me about her 20month old, and how she’s all of a sudden developing likes and dislikes that she’s expressing loudly.  I pointed out that I remembered at about that age my own parenting changed from mainly meeting the child’s needs (food, comfort, sleep) to shaping their behaviour with boundaries.  “This is where you really start to parent and it gets tricky” I said, “And you’ve got to try and stay one step ahead of them from now on” I counselled.  “You’re right!” she exclaimed, “I’ve never thought of it like that.”  We happily ended our conversation, and she went home to ponder how best to tackle this next stage of her parenting journey.

Waiting outside the classrooms at that end of the day I was chatting with a school-mum whose daughter’s ninth birthday is this weekend.  She happily told me about how delighted she was with the person her daughter was becoming and how much she was enjoying her.  She said that the hard years of parenting were paying off and she was looking forward to the years to come, with understandable apprehension about the teenage years.

And at the swim meet another mother was having a hard time with her youngest; a pre-schooler with a huge amount of energy who did not appreciate being curtailed to the edge of the pool to watch his older brother race.  She and I were chatting about how kids can drive you mad at times, and that she was looking forward to him growing out of that difficult to please, full of energy, don’t want to sit still phase.  We went on to talk about disappointment (in that not everyone can come first in a swimming race) and how actually it’s not such a bad thing.  We all have to deal with it in our lives, and kids need to learn how.

Later, she emailed an article she’d read called  ’10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make’ and having read it, it got me thinking that Kari Kampakis might be on to something.  I’d discussed this very thing at camp with the teachers and their observations that kids these days are over protected from life’s disappointments and aren’t as resilient or as independent as they could or should be.  They’re building a lot of life skills into the curriculum as parents just aren’t teaching their kids these vital skills anymore.  When the ice-cream falls on the ground, don’t buy another, but share in their sadness.  It’s hard, but it’s life.

I realise now that the disappointments and hard life lessons my boys are currently experiencing, I cannot protect them from, but I can help them live with them, because you know what, sometimes, like for Alexander it can be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and his wise mother says “some days are like that”.

Here are Kari Kampakis’ 10 common mistakes, but I do highly recommend reading the full article.

1.  Worshipping our children

2.  Believing our children are perfect

3.  Living vicariously through our children

4.  Wanting to be our children’s BFF

5.  Engaging in competitive parenting

6.  Missing the wonder of childhood

7.  Raising the child we want, not the child we have

8.  Forgetting our actions speak louder than words

9.  Judging other parents…and their kids

10.  Understanding character

The wonder of childhood
The wonder of childhood

Watch what you say…kids and body image

The swimmer
The swimmer

A couple of weeks ago my eldest son won his school age swimming race, and being the very proud parent I of course had my iPhone camera in full swing.  Later I showed him the photos I’d taken and he immediately, and with genuine disapppointment said ‘Oh, I look fat’.  Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not fat, and to try and reassure him of this, I have in fact taken him to the paediatric nurse at the hospital and had his height and weight measured and they were both on the same percentile curve, which she explained was exactly what was needed for a healthy body.  But he doesn’t believe us.

These ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I need to go on a diet’ comments have been cropping up regularly for the past few months and it got me thinking, where did he get this idea from? and how can I make him realise that he’s a normal healthy 9 year old boy?

Over the past year I’ve been losing weight, very slowly, so of course there have been comments I’ve made on how I look, why I’m exercising more than normal, what I eat, and especially when I eat things I perhaps shouldn’t.  Over the past few months my mother has lost a LOT of weight and the difference in her body shape  is dramatic.  She has been discreet and far less vocal about it, but nonetheless the two boys have noticed that Granny eats different meals.

Having become aware of careless talk about what’s healthy, fat, and loosing weight I started to listen to conversations in the extended family, particularly around meal times, and there again it is – comments about how much they eat, what they eat, what it will do to them.  When I delicately suggested that this was happening, the well-meaning grandparents were oblivious and said ‘But we’ve never told them they’re fat’ – missing the point completely.

I read an article that made the rounds on Facebook called  How to talk to your daughter about her body and then read another quite interesting one contradicting it.  Read them and see what you think.  I also read an article on Huffington Post about eating disorders and boys, and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (US) say the hidden count could be 30% of people with eating disorders are males.  Many boys start out wanting to achieve physical perfection and then spiral down into full blown eating disorders.

In just a few minutes a day...
In just a few minutes a day…

This started to ring true to me as over the summer holidays more tv time was had and when the kids programmes run out on free view channels, (Sky bless them, has 24 hour kids programmes without inappropriate advertising) informercials follow, and what do they advertise? Well apart from skin cream, exercise machines. And who advertises them? Rippled male chests and promises of just a few minutes a day and you can look like this.  Who advertises underwear on the billboards and magazines? More rippled male chests.  So, without me realising, my son has been subjected to an unrealistic image of what the male body ‘should’ look like.  He just doesn’t seem to realise that this is physically impossible for a child his age, and realistically unreasonable for anyone who has a social life and a job.

So, the combination of my unknowing comments about my own weightless, extended families well meaning comments on healthy eating, and images of rippled male chests has all contributed to my child genuinely thinking he is fat, at 9 years old.

My plan? It’s two-fold, firstly beginning with me.  I’ll explain; Marie Claire are fronting a campaign called #whywait, after research showed that the average Australian woman only likes her body at the age of 45 – that’s ten more years of self-dissatisfaction for me…  Stephanie Rumble, mum-from-school and fashion stylist challenged her Facebook followers (March 10th post) to list the things they LIKE about their appearance and to share them either online (I did!) or with their nearest and dearest.  I thought this was a great idea and well suited to my problem so over breakfast I talked about it with the boys and told them what I liked best about my body.  The aim is to get them thinking about their bodies positively, by modelling it myself.

Now we’re into term time and the rippled chests selling exercise machines are no longer part of our lives (we have a no screen rule on weekdays), so I’ve reduced that influence, and now that he’s surrounded by other 9 and 10 year olds kids, there’s  more ‘normal’ around him.  The rest is up to me – I need to think about what I say and how I say things about my body, and what we eat and I’m gently trying to encourage the boys’ extended family to be mindful that the things they say can be interpreted by small boys differently from how they’re intended.

Next time you want to say ‘Gee my bum looks big in this’ perhaps don’t, or next time you hear a well meaning grandparent say ‘my goodness you’ve eaten a lot, be careful you don’t get fat’, perhaps suggest that the child’s portion size be put on the plate for them, rather than letting the child’s eyes dictate how much their stomach will eat.  Oh, and in case you didn’t know – infomercials aren’t for kids!

Having been shocked at how easily my son has developed a warped sense of self, I’m now trying to put it back to rights.

I’d love to hear of any similar experiences, or advice?

Art: Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker

Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker is a colour explosion of an exhibition aimed at families that’s just opened at the Christchurch Art Gallery’s new temporary site at Art Box.  I do wonder how they came up with that name…

Art Box is a developing art precinct in the centre of town.  The venture is run by CPIT (Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology) and most of it has been gifted or donated.  Currently there is the art gallery’s exhibition, a private gallery and still coming are music and artist studios.  It’s reminiscent of a mini arts centre in the middle of the empty building sites.

Christchurch has been without an art gallery for a number of years since the earthquakes, and this is the first time my family has ventured inside a building, albeit shipping containers, to experience art, and it was soooo good.  The space itself works perfectly for a small exhibition with light wood floors, white walls and natural indirect light flooding the space.  There was enough but not too much so the boys weren’t overwhelmed by the art, but the adults had plenty to keep us visually stimulated with the number and variety of the artworks.

Having been so long without viewing art in a building, I went to touch it, but then remembered, that of course, being art, I really mustn’t.  I’m told that the artists are very keen for their work to be handled and stroked, but the art gallery, in the interests of preserving it for future generations, are understandably not so keen.  The artwork that drew me in the most were the morphing pencil sculpture, the paint skins suspended like tubes from the ceiling, and the slow-motion video of the exploding paint-filled balloon.  All the pieces were visually stimulating with huge impact, especially for younger people who can recognise objects being used in very different ways.  It challenged their view of art beautifully.  Simple name plates next to each piece and longer interview sheets were nearby for adults.  I personally much prefer this leaner yet more in-depth way of providing information.


We went to the Family Day in mid-February to mark the opening of the exhibition, and for my easily excitable boys, this was just the right amount of stimulation.  Both went straight for the imagination playground – imagine foam duplo crossed with mobilo.  This will be a permanent feature of the learning space when the gallery re-opens.

My youngest spied the paintings some of the kids were making using a humble salad spinner.  Squirt blobs of colour onto a round piece of card inside a salad spinner, spin hard, add more, spin again, dry with a hair dyer and ta da!  Instant art.

Back to the imagination playground, then they discovered there were FREE iced lollies, so they stopped long enough to sit and listen to the band and suck their ices.  There were colourful chinese lanterns to decorate with stamps and then gently blow up, and then the littlest one found the face painting lady…

Happily occupied all afternoon, we were now the last ones left with the gallery staff, so the biggest one and granddad helped to put away the imagination playground whilst the littlest one had his face painting finished.

Burster, Flipper, Wobbler, Dripper, Spinner, Stacker, Shaker, Maker runs from now until September, so in the upcoming chilly months, venture into town with the kids and have a look.

All exhibition photos courtesy of Christchurch Art Gallery.

Tidying up
Tidying up

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Ferrymead Heritage Park

I’m always slightly intrigued by enthusiasts who spend so much of their free time indulging their passion and sharing it with the general public.  This is essentially what Ferrymead Heritage Park is, a group of heritage enthusiasts who spend their time preserving, and living, the past for future generations.  They’ve been doing it since the 1960s, incidentally on the site of New Zealand’s first public railway.  On Sunday three generations of my family went along for their annual Children’s Day, which meant free entry, free sausages and lots of extra exhibits and stalls for children and families.

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Ferrymead High Street

We hopped on the tram as soon as we entered the park.  The loveliest of grey haired gentlemen drive the trams and keep the safety rails down and all the little hands and feet inside.  Wooden carriages in beautiful condition, are a pleasure to ride in.  Reminds me of the trams in San Francisco where they too have revived old cable cars which are used in general service.

The tram
The tram

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My favourite at Ferrymead is the houses, in full working order, complete with people ‘living’ inside, in costume.  The house I chose to visit (I was only allowed one…) had a woman in the front room making a baby quilt, a gentleman playing a pianola, which the boys had a turn peddling, two kids eating their lunch in the kitchen, and a woman and her daughter playing in the children’s bedroom upstairs.  It’s pretty realistic, so much so, that I felt slightly odd peering at what the kids were having for lunch – cheese sandwiches!  I chatted to the pianola player, who turned out to be a food technology teacher at a local intermediate school.  Having spent all week with kids, all credit to him for then spending his Sunday cooped up in a hot, dark living room pumping the pedals of a pianola.

Original 3D
Original 3D

Further on down the High Street we came across a sign that even the boys could read, Free Sausage Sizzle, and after a surprisingly short queue, we were all in possession of hot sausages in bread and tomato sauce.  A classic kiwi lunch sure to please.  We sat under the trees and enjoyed the entertainment – a variety show of small children’s music, and some impressive young singers, through to martial arts and Suzuki violin.  The boys were keen to try out the adapted wheelchairs for basketball, rugby, and racing.  It was harder than it looked.

We left the wheelchairs with a whole new respect for those who play sport in them and lined up on the platform to wait for the steam train.  It was just like being back in England, except without the yellow line to stand behind I had a running battle to keep the boys safe while they enthusiastically peered up the line for the train.  When it arrived and the crush of people getting off had barged through the mass of people waiting to get on (Cantabrians are unskilled at getting on and off trains), we squashed on and stood like sardines, so very reminiscent of many train and tube journeys in London.  We then heard there was a 20minute wait (even more reminiscent) but the boys were unperturbed as they had a prime view on the carriage platform.  Finally departing on the loop, the boys thoroughly enjoyed their ride, complete with earsplitting whistles.

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Train light - pretty isn't it
Train light – pretty isn’t it

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Too hot for a jacket
Too hot for a jacket

The earthquakes haven’t left Ferrymead unaffected and their Hall of Flames with their marvellous display of vintage fire engines was closed.  Somewhat disappointed, but now thankfully tiring, we went instead to their next favourite place, the miniature trains.  Noses and sticky hands pressed up against the glass and they pointed and exclaimed at the tiny trains.  It really is enthralling to watch these miniature trains travel through a slice of history, in perfection.  Grey haired men watch carefully over their handiwork and little boys wish to have a turn.  Thankfully the glass prevents them from asking.

Tired and happy, with iced lollies to lick on the walk back to the car, we head home from Ferrymead.  Despite being very busy, the park had a real buzz about it which was nice to be a part of.  And with free entry, we’ll be back next year.

Ferrymead High Street
Ferrymead High Street

Emergency Services Family Day

As soon as I heard that the Emergency Services were having a Family Day I knew the boys would be dead keen to go (yes I do realise the phrase I used…).  We’ve seen these different rescue agencies at their best during the aftermath of the earthquakes here, but I thought it would be really good for the boys to see them when they were putting on a show rather than a brave face.

So after Saturday morning tennis we headed out to Pegasus Town, a contrived new town still waiting for its inhabitants, about 20minutes drive north of Christchurch.   All the different rescue agencies had been invited: Westpac Rescue (Air Ambulance), NZ Army, Civil Defence, USAR (Urban Search and Rescue) NZ Fire Service, Rural Fire Service, St Johns Ambulance, NZ Police, Surf Lifesaving, Red Cross, and the NZ Coastguard.  They couldn’t have been friendlier.  Every agency we visited had something for the boys to see, do, clamber over or explore inside, and they made the most of it.  Here are our favourites:

NZ Army

The two boys clambered through the truck had the soldier on the roof happily let them have a look through the scope mounted gun, and the soldier on the ground handed his gun over to my eldest who was itching to have a hold.

Westpac Rescue Helicopter

Having had their Otago colleagues airlift my youngest son from our holiday home to hospital after a prolonged seizure, we had a long chat with the crew.  The little one was fascinated to see the helicopter up close having heard so much about it, but not having any memory of it.

We then watched them work with the surf lifesavers to demonstrate a water rescue where a paramedic jumped out of the helicopter into the lake, secured a member of the Surf Lifesaving Club, and then winched to the helicopter and transferred to land.  The helicopter then demonstrated a dry land rescue where they winched a person from the ground into the helicopter.  Impressive to see.  And then their movements picked up the pace and there was a flurry of activity as an emergency call came in and they headed off on another mission – a motor vehicle crash in Governors Bay.

Rural Fire Service

They had a good clamber through the Rural Fire helicopter with its monsoon bucket, and then watched the pilot demonstrate his impressive flying skills with a monsoon bucket attached.

Search and Rescue

At camp this week Search and Rescue (SAR) had come in and done a couple of exercises with the kids which highlighted the importance of how hard it is to search and find something, and the importance of bright clothing in the bush.  Alpine and Cliff SAR had a rigging up with a bucket that the littlest one needed no encouragement to jump in and be shown how they rig up patients.

Alpine & Cliff Search and Rescue
Alpine & Cliff Search and Rescue

NZ Fire Service

The boys had seen smoke and ran to investigate.  To their delight the Fire Service had a fire which they were lighting, letting the kids put it out with a fire extinguisher, and lighting it again for another turn.  Needless to say they happily queued.

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