Tuesday, 24 March 2015

A Review of Squish Delish Reusable Pouches

This is a review that comes with a tale of woe.

Of course it is, frankly the only reason I do reviews is as a cheap form of talking therapy so that I can exorcize the demons of my toe curling parenting failures.

The year is 2010, and for those who have joined the party more recently let me set the scene. Alfie - my glorious, adorable first born child - is six months old. His favourite things are throwing, trying new foods and motorsports, sometimes all at the same time

There is only one small fly in our parenting ointment and that is the severe eczema that covers our son’s entire body. It keeps us awake at night while we stop him rubbing his skin raw. It stops us feeding him vast swathes of food that contain one of the many things that makes his eczema worse and most importantly, it makes eating out a tour de force of planning. 

I'm talking nutrition factsheets for potential eateries downloaded and analysed ahead of time here people. Nothing left to chance and options picked out in advance, because no meal is worth the punishment of a screaming, oozing baby.

Sometimes though, just sometimes we knew we were going to get caught short. 

Sometimes we were going on a long journey, or to somewhere outside of a major city where “alternative” food options were going to be limited and sometimes after a working week, my brain just wanted just the smallest of breaks from having to think about where the next allergy friendly worm was coming from to satisfy my baby bird.

The solution? Take food with us, of course.

We experimented with various items. Baby biscuits were a favourite as long as they were eaten soon enough to stop them from being crushed into rubble at the bottom of the change bag. A boy cannot live on biscuits along however, which is how we come to my tale of woe.

This story takes place on a Saturday. It involves Keith and I running around the house throwing together supplies because we needed to get out of the house. 

We were running late to meet people and do things, which is how I found myself staring into our fridge look for something “sensible” to take with us.

A soy yoghurt. 


It was joined in the change bag by nappies, wipes, keys, wallet, dummy, toys, a change of clothes (remember I'm a first time mum at this point), small kitchen sink, Lord Lucan, a book, and the obligatory pack of baby biscuits for when I got peckish.

We ran out of the door in a tumble of last minute reminders and mental check-lists and set off to meet our friends. 

Sometime later, car parked, friends reunited and entry tickets to the local farm requested I reached into the change bag to grab my wallet.

It took my brain a little over ten seconds to process the messages it was receiving from my hand ...

Wallet is slimy. Wallets aren't usually slimy, why is the wallet slimy? Did I leave a dirty nappy in here without realising? No, not a nappy. Lord Lucan perhaps? No, he’s not even real, he’s just a comic device for the purposes of this story. Hang on, the book wasn't slimy yesterday, I'm sure of that, and what the hell is that on the end of my keys?

A yoghurt pot Tash, THAT’S what’s on the end of your keys.

The soy yoghurt that was previously inside the yoghurt pot? That was not on the end of my keys. That was all over my keys, and the book, and the change of clothes, and … you get the idea.

There was a certain shame in all of this, which only a first time parent will truly appreciate. 

A shame made infinitely worse when surrounded by other, more experienced, parents watching with delighted horror as you expose your rookie mistake, item by yoghurt smothered item.

This would have been a very different story if I had used a Squish Delish Reusable Pouch

My keys would have glanced off the thick plastic of the pouch; Lord Lucan’s ample aristocratic backside would have been no match for the leak-proof zipper; in short, I would have arrived at snack time with a full quota of allergy free snack.

Instead, I arrived at snack time with nothing more than a slightly slimy packet of rubbly biscuits and a son making known his disappointment in my parenting skills.

Five years later and I can still find a home for these pouches in the school lunch box. They’re a great size, easy to keep clean and sturdy - oh so very sturdy - even in the hands of an older child.

If that – and the knowledge that you will never have to empty yoghurt out of your change bag – is something that appears high on your parenting list, give these pouches a whirl.

Your change bag, and comic devices, will thank you.

Thank you to Kiwi Mummy Blogs and Munch Cooking for sending me that little slice of awesome. And thanks to Cole for modelling the correct use of the pouch.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

When Bullying Came to The X Factor NZ

If you don't live in New Zealand then this may have passed you by, but there has recently been a bit of controversy surrounding our version of The X Factor. 

I don't mean some manufactured drama between contestants, I mean some honest to goodness controversy that has spilled over until people who have never before watched the show (that would be me) suddenly want to meet the management team and shake them warmly by the hand.

The details are pretty simple: Two of the judges took it upon themselves to launch into a very public and very personal tirade against the appearance of one of the contestants. They used words like "disgusting" and called him Norman Bates for having the temerity to dress in a suit, thereby "copying" Willy Moon's very "unique" style. I literally do not have enough air quotes to keep going with the sheer ridiculousness of this entire scenario. 

The amazing thing is that isn't even the punchline to this story, the real news is what happened next.

77,500 people signed a petition to have these judges removed, and with viewing figures averaging 350,000 that's a pretty impressive strike rate. There are politicians who would kill for that kind of engagement. 

Riding on the swell of public opinion, the reaction from TV bosses was swift and it was deafening in its condemnation: Both judges were sacked less than 24 hours later.

The message had been clearly given: New Zealand doesn't like bullies.

And not that I'm someone to shy away from awkward conversations with my children but today I'm grateful that I live in a country that has the cojones to make that ststement; perhaps a country that learned about the impact of bullying the hard way with the suicide of Charlotte Dawson, but that learned it nonetheless.

I spent an hour of my life (that I will never get back) reading the Twitter feed of one of the judges and as strange as it sounds, I suggest you do the same. 

Social media provides an instant, mostly unfiltered, outlet for us to share our experiences and view on the world but once it’s out there, once the bird has flown, it becomes something very different: It becomes the narrative of our life.

Take a look over your Twitter feed and judge it as the sum of its parts. Then ask yourself, is this the story I want to tell?

I don’t aim that at you, the person reading this, I aim it at the people who started this SNAFU. 

This whole sorry mess has become a cautionary tale in my household: I have no doubt that in the course of their lives, my children will meet people who are entitled and arrogant and I hope that when the day comes they too will react with a bravery and dignity far greater than their attacker deserves. 

As for Natalia and Willy; well their actions have nothing to do with “passionate opinions” and everything to do with an inflated sense of importance. Slamming everyone except the people who directly benefit you has a name ... and it’s an ugly one

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Day We Lost a Child (For Five Minutes)

On Saturday we were at the Newtown Festival; a single day where a community more used to being described by estate agents as “up and coming” becomes a vibrant sprawl of music, stalls and food from every part of the globe.

We met up with a friend, and meandered up as far as the main hub before stopping to debate our next move. Despite it being a distance of about 10 paces, and despite there being a ratio of one adult to every child, we somehow came to a rest one person short.

One short person short.

We immediately launched into a volley of “I thought she was with you”s but it was pretty obvious that Esme had gone missing.

Missing as in lost.

We lost a child.

Growing up, there were a few occasions where I turned around to find that my parents weren’t where I had left them: Crowded shops, busy streets, in the blink of an eye they went from reassuring backup to AWOL. I remember the tight knot of fear that hit my stomach, the sudden feeling that every person around me was out to do me harm.

I had always assumed that I would have the same reaction as a mother on the other end of that deal so imagine my surprise when I found that I wasn't in the slightest bit concerned.

There was no fear, I didn't look around me and see infinite dismembering or sex trafficking possibilities; in actual fact I have to admit I would be hard pressed to say I felt anything much at all.

Thinking on the other hand, I was doing by the truck load.

My mind ran through a long list of likely hazards for a girl of 3 who lists her favourite pastimes as “daydreaming” and “beating shit up”.

There was no traffic, there were no men with large nets and child catcher wagons, in fact, looking around me the worst hazard I could identify was the frightening amount of sugar that was on sale.

We split up to search: I walked a side street looking for the orange balloon I had tied to her wrist ticking off the list of stalls and rides that I passed until I ran out of road and was forced to admit that I hadn't found her.

I mooched back towards our meeting point wondering what was wrong with me that my beloved child could be lost and I was not worried.

What kind of mother did that make me?

By the time I was in sight of the others, Esme had been found staring longingly at show cone vendor literally five steps from where we had all stopped. 

The only emotion I could see on her face was a slight sense of disappointment that whichever adult had gone to retrieve her had not been persuaded to part with money in return for something that looked like it had been scraped from roof of my freezer.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Reflections on a Teenage Bra Twanger

When is an assault not an assault?

According to the account given by this mother, the answer to that question is when it’s a 15 year old boy twanging the bra strap of a 15 year old girl. 

I've read this story through a few times and while I accept a certain degree of poetic license to the way the conversation unfolded,  I'm have no doubt that the core message is true.

Let’s face it, this is not an outrageous situation; the sad truth is that similar conversations are happening the world over and have been for decades.

Boys pull pigtails; they look up girl’s skirts; they snap their bras; why? Because “boys will be boys”.

We use that same phrase to excuse some pretty crappy behaviour.

When I read this latest article, you know what saddened me the most? It was the surprise that the school and parents apparently feel when the boy’s behaviour is challenged.
"The boy’s mum is still crying and his dad looks both angry and embarrassed. The teacher won’t make eye contact with me."
Why was the situation a shock to any of these people? Had they never met the boy before? Were they completely ignorant of his upbringing and values?

Are we really in 2015 and STILL believing that consent is something that we magically learn once we hit the age of majority? Are there parents and teachers walking this earth in the genuine belief that young people wake one day, yawn, stretch, have a quick scratch and then rise with a new found wisdom that “no means no”?

Bodily integrity is something that we deal with on a near daily basis because there is always a child who is loving too much, playing too hard, or just plain ornery.

It’s a repetitive discussion: Being hit does not give you permission to hit back; loving someone doesn't give you the right to hug them; people have the right to change their mind.

That last one is the one that causes us all the most headaches.

I can see the children struggle with the idea even as I explain it to them: Usually it is a game of chase that has ended in tears because Esme has become bored but Alfie is determined to keep chasing her anyway. I can see his brow furrow with confusion; he asked if she wanted to play chase, she said yes, what’s the problem?

The problem is she changed her mind.

That concept of ongoing consent might be a strange one for a child but I sometimes think it is the most important concept I will introduce to them: I don’t want to raise children who feel trapped by the decision they have made if that decision no longer fits.

And I don’t want to raise children who look at consent as some sort of box ticking exercise when what we are really looking at is whether someone has the empathy and connection to their fellow man to give the most basic of fucks about how their actions make them feel.

Maybe this story is best viewed as a parable that helps remind us that consent is not static, but fluid. I find myself looking past the name of the student to the lesson of the story and the potential is has for us to speak openly with the next generation about respect and empathy.
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