When Eggs and Sperkle Make Babies

Parenting is a funny business. You start off totally clueless and that (poor innocent) first child is a guinea pig for your botched attempts to BE THE BESTEST PARENT EVER OR DIE TRYING.  By your fifth kid, you’ve kinda got your groove going and you think you know what you’re doing. But then you have a child like Bella and you discover that all the stuff you learned from screwing up raising the first four doesn’t apply to this one because surprise! – every child is different and God saved the very cleverest / wittiest / stubbornest / most creative’st / most demanding one for last. (When you’re old and tired out from the antics of the first four and you kinda feel like it’s time for a rest from all these parenting shenanigans…NOPE. Ha.)
Me and Bella spend a lot of time in the car as I ferry her to school and swimming and home. So we get to have conversations like this…
Bella – “If you’re a Princess, do you have to marry a Prince?”
Me – “No. Everybody should be able to marry whoever they want to. Even Princesses. Its about who you love.”
Bella – “How about if a girl loves another girl?”
Me – “If they want to get married then sure, they should be able to. Same if a man loves another man. Its hard to be married sometimes you know. So you better have lots of love or else you won’t be married for long.”
Bella – “How about if I don’t want to marry anybody? I just wanna be a Princess and stay with Dada and you forever?”
Me – “That works too. You don’t have to marry anybody if you don’t want to.”
Bella – “Somebody should tell Barbie that. She always has to marry the dumb Prince in the Barbie princess movies.” #AdviceForBarbie
#ReasonsWhyDrivingBellaToSchoolIsNeverBoring
I thought I handled that conversation pretty well, all things considering. I was calm, clear and cool. (Hi-five my awesomeness!) But Bella wasn’t done. She’d clearly been puzzling over it because today she asked me how two girls can make a baby? “You need a man to help make a baby don’t you? When two girls get married and want to have some children, how do they make them?”
I told her a couple could adopt a baby OR get some sperm from a nice man and the doctor would put it inside one of the women so she could grow a baby.
She asked, “what’s sper…sper...that sperk…sperkly word that you said? That a man’s got? Whats that?” Yeah Lani, what’s sperm? Define that for a six year old!
I said it’s the important useful stuff that a man makes in his body and he can share and give it to a woman who wants some, and she puts it together with her egg to make a baby. (How’s that for the beautiful facts of life?)
Which then led to a fascinated set of questions about what does a woman’s egg look like, is it like a chicken’s?
“Oh no, our eggs are much tinier and don’t have shells on them.”
Then the final fabulous question – “So does Dada give you lots of sperkle?” Aw hell…

“Oh look, we’re at your school now…we’ll have to talk about this some other time! Darn.”  #SperkleMe
I only hope she doesn’t go tell all her friends some messy version of my even messier explanation -  ‘You know how they make a baby? A woman cracks open one of her eggs and a man sprinkles sparkly sperkle all over it. And then it grows to be a baby inside the woman’s tummy. Isn’t that awesome!?”

Super-Powered Sprinting Senior Citizen

My seventy-six year old dad asked for new running shoes for Father’s Day. He walks and runs religiously 5 days a week and has been doing so all my life. Which makes him a superhero rockstar in my books because I’m not a Senior Citizen and yet I struggle to get out of my lazy cave and go exercise even once a week…
He said, “I got my old pair from the little store by the market. Only cost me twenty tala. You can get me new shoes there.”
I said “Don’t be ridiculous, I’m not buying you a crap pair of cheap shoes from the market.” I told him we would get shoes from a great local sports supply store where the Hot Man often gets his shoes.
 He said, “Okay, if you want to be extravagant. I guess you can go up to forty tala shoes.” #OoohFORTYTALA!!

We gave him his new Adidas shoes today and he shook his head in disapproval, “I don’t think these cost forty tala. I hope you took the price tag off because I don’t want to have a heart attack….you know I’ve had a quadruple bypass…”

He put them on right away and they matched his lavalava quite spectacularly.  After walking around in them for awhile, he was heard to mutter “Hmmm I wonder how fast I can run in these, ha.”
Methinks there will be a fabulous Senior Citizen doing some serious sprints tomorrow.
Happy Father’s and Grandfather’s Day!
adad4

 

The Best and Worst Public Restrooms in Samoa

atoilet

These lists are in no particular order.

The Good

1. Paddles Café/Restaurant, Matautu

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Greenery. Working door locks. Bonus points for beautiful décor and color scheme.

Based on 5x dining there over the last 5 months.

2. Faleolo International Airport

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Working door locks. Bonus points for pleasant and industrious attendants/cleaners who are always in there checking on upkeep every time I’ve been there. Bonus exclamation marks for the amazing transformation because the airport used to have smelly awful restrooms.

Based on too many trips overseas in the last 5 months.

3. Tafatafa Beach Fale’s.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Showers. Mosquitoes esp at night but hey, it’s a beach, what do you expect. Bonus points for mirrors! In a restroom at a faraway beach fale operation!

Based on 2x day trips there and 1x overnight camp in the last 5 months.

4. Maninoa Beach Fale’s.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Showers. Great water pressure. Bonus points for a stunning mosaic tile pattern and pretty windows.

Based on 6x day trips there  in the last 5 months.

5. Krush Café, Tanugamanono

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Bonus points for  beautiful décor. And their liquid handsoap smells really really good.

Based on manyX  in the last 2 months.

6. Plantation House, Alafua

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Okay door lock. Flowers. Greenery. Bonus points for stunningly beautiful décor. Bonus hi-five for the proprietor who’s very hospitable and will let you use the facilities even if you show up out of the blue and don’t buy anything. (Full disclosure – she’s my mother, but I’m pretty sure she’ll let you use the bathroom even if you’re not her kid.)

7. Amanaki Restaurant/Bar, Sogi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Okay door lock.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

8. Seafood Gourmet, Matautu

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper.

Based on friend’s recommendation. Gold star ranked for consistency over many years.

9. Sails Restaurant, Mulinu’u

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

10. Giordanno’s Pizza, Moto’otua

Top ratings for consistently clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Flowers. Bonus points for beautiful décor.

Based on  2x over the last 5 months. Also see comments.

11. Mormon (LDS) Chapels, Everywhere.

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. I concede I haven’t been to every Mormon chapel everywhere in Samoa but the ones I have stopped in, even in the rural areas are decent. If you’re out and about on the island and there are church people in a chapel, they will (probably) be nice about letting you in to use the bathroom. However, the toilet stalls in the LDS Pesega Gym have a tendency to lock jam and then your kid gets trapped inside and cries for help. (Based on Bella’s personal experience…)

12. Burger Bill’s, Vaitele

Clean. Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Bonus points for attractive décor. Rather odd set-up where you enter one communal door and have to pass by the men’s toilets to get to the women’s. They’re separate facilities but I do worry about my daughters going to the restroom with this kind of set-up.

13. Mari’s Bakehouse, Tamaligi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Special mention or consistency.

Based on comments/contributors.

14. E & T Café, Savalalo

Clean. Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Flowers.

Based on comments/contributors

15.  NPF Plaza Upstairs, next to Leon’s Restaurant

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks.

Based on comments/contributors

16. Tanoa Hotel Reception, Sogi

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. (Maybe smile really nicely at the desk receptionist and they’ll let you pop in and use the facilities?)

Based on comments/contributors

17. Manamea Hotel Reception, Vailima

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers, Greenery. Bonus points for beautiful décor and ambience.

Based on comments/contributors

18. Milani Café, Apia

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks.

Based on 1x breakfast visit in the last month.

19. Pacific Jewell Café, Levili

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Flowers. Greenery. Bonus points for being “the cutest outdoor toilet ever” with lovely garden setting.

Based on comments/contributors

20. The Office Café, Apia

Clean. Soap. Toilet paper. Working door locks. Bonus points for abundant pump soap and pleasant décor.

Based on comments/contributors

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The Okay. But Can Do Better.

1. Apollo Cinemas, Apia

Reasonably clean - bearable. Often no toilet paper so take your own paper napkins. The door doesn’t lock on one of the stalls. Sometimes soap.

Based on many x over the last 5 months.

2. McDonalds, Apia

Kind of clean in appearance - but often smelly. (Hold your breath?) Toilet paper. Soap. Working door locks. Sad minus points for the decline in standards because McDonalds used to be our go-to toilet in town, always clean and sparkly. But not anymore.

Based on friend’s recommendation.

3. The Hospital, Moto’otua.

Recent renovations and new additions to the hospital complex have clean and well-stocked restrooms. Thank goodness because the hospital used to be infamous for it’s disgusting facilities (no toilet paper, missing doors on stalls, horrible stench AND meandering livestock and canines. See comments.) The new hospital buildings have lovely restrooms BUT sources advise there’s something wrong with the plumbing and so not only is there an unpleasant odour in certain sections of the hospital, but also the pipes keep getting blocked. In one ward, a security guard will inform new visitors and patients every morning that they are not to flush used toilet paper but place it in the rubbish bins provided. Because of pitiful pipes.

Hence the OKAY rating. Hopefully they get their system sorted soon.

 *****************************************

The Disgusting

1. Tang Cheng Restaurant, Vaimea

Dirty. Broken tiles and filthy toilet. No toilet paper. No soap. Awful stench made even worse by the large rubbish bin INSIDE the actual toilet stall  which is filled with kitchen refuse. Yes, that’s right, the kitchen staff are storing their rotten food trash IN THE BATHROOM. Sad minus points because I really liked their food and now I’ve seen their restroom, I will never eat there again.

Based on dining there last week.

2. Samoa Visitor’s Bureau Fale Restrooms, Apia

Dirty. Smelly. No toilet paper. No soap. Minus points for being so dismal when they should be setting a good example for anyone involved in the hospitality industry. This is based on a visit there over 8 months ago so I’m hoping it’s improved since then. Someone please go there and let us know!

3. Public Toilets, Flea market, Apia

Vomit-inducing filth. The kind that makes you think of the bubonic plague. Don’t go there. Ever. HOWEVER, I’m relying totally on horror stories from others for this recommendation so if the facilities have undergone miraculous changes then please let us know so we can change this listing.

Based on friends recommendations.

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* Disclaimer 1 – These are by no means exhaustive lists. Nor are they set in stone. As a friend (who used to work in the Min of Health and was overseeing health inspections in local restaurants) noted, consistency is often a problem, ie. one week the bathrooms will be clean and the next week they’re disgusting. So please don’t sue me if you visit a restroom on this list and it doesn’t match up to my rating. Likewise, if you’ve visited one of these restrooms lately and it’s beautifully clean, comment below so we can make a note.

* Disclaimer 2 - I’m not a hygiene specialist, neither am I employing any scientific methodology for rating a restroom. I’m simply a person who notices stuff and who thinks a decent bathroom is a necessity of life. Especially when you have five kids who will need to “GO” at the most inopportune moments. Your standards for a ‘good’ restroom may be very different from mine.  (See Disclaimer 4.)

* Disclaimer 3 – Obviously, my recommendations are based only on the Women’s restroom facilities. I haven’t been snooping into any Men’s bathrooms when we go places. So my observations could only be half the big picture.

* Disclaimer 4 – I’m a woman and so my expectations for a restroom may be different from a male perspective. A man can stand in place, flip it out and empty his waterworks. No part of his anatomy has to touch any part of the public restroom. A woman has to sit down to do what she’s gotta do, EVERY TIME, and so her need for a toilet to be CLEAN and sanitized is greater. A man often doesn’t require toilet paper. Or even a working flushing toilet. Not so for a woman, especially at certain times of the month. Which is why we also require trash cans in our restrooms for the correct disposal of various sanitary products.

I have yet to go to a restroom in Samoa that has a Parent’s Room for changing babies etc, and so most of us with infants also need extra clean spaces in our restrooms for this. It’s virtually impossible to take a toddler into a bathroom and NOT have him touch something. Or stick his hands in his mouth. Or (ugh) lick/bite the benchtop. All reasons why my assessment of a restroom’s hygiene, could differ from yours.

*Disclaimer 5 – Why in heck am I blogging about this? The lists came about as a result of a Facebook conversation all about the dreary and dreadful state of Samoa’s restrooms, and how the condition of a business’ facilities is a good indicator for what kind of standards they have for their kitchen and food preparation. If a restaurant/café/hotel has filthy restrooms, then one must face the very real probability that their kitchen is nasty also. If there’s a resource like this available in Samoa, then not only will we know where to GO when we’re out and  one needs to GO, but also, perhaps it will encourage businesses to up their restroom game. And be as vigilant in their kitchens – because we the customer care about this stuff and pay attention to it.

And then SHARE it.

*Please submit your votes and suggestions for this list so we can compile a (hopefully) helpful resource for visitors AND locals.

Lazy House-Whisperers. (Not BUSY. Lazy. Dammit.)

Big Daughter’s school called today. Somebody (ie. her parents) needs to come and get her report card. Because the school had Parent-Teacher interviews last week to give out the mid year reports and her (loser) parents didn’t go.

Alright, alright, let’s be honest, its not ‘her parents’ who are losers, its just her mother. The Hot Man is in the fulltime income earner role and I’m supposed to be the fulltime childcare giver and house-whisperer. Which means, if there are report cards to be collected and teachers to be spoken to, then I’m the one who’s supposed to get em.

But I don’t want to. I’ve been a mother for nineteen years to an assortment of children, and a school teacher for ten. So I’ve been to a plethora of PT interviews. And I don’t want to go to anymore of them. Dammit.

My theory is, I don’t need to go to Big Daughter’s interviews. She’s doing well in school. She just scored 120% on her English exam, how’s that for being an overachiever? These children  read tons of books and that more than anything guarantees that they’re getting a good education. We have scintillating and intellectually stimulating conversations about everything from male seahorses that have babies to the intersection of feminism, culture and religion.  I don’t have any questions for Big Daughter’s teachers, and they all said wonderful things about her in the last report card.

So I don’t see why I have to put on real clothes that haven’t been slept in, brush my hair, drive all the way over there, find parking (when I suck at parking), get out and walk all the way to the office (when I suck at walking), talk to people (when I suck at talking to people) and listen to them tell me my kid is doing good.

Okay, the truth is, yes, I’m lazy.

I told Big Daughter to just get the report card herself and bring it home. But she said the school wouldn’t allow it. She explained, “Everybody’s parents already came to get their kids reports. I’m the only one who didn’t get mine.” She sighed. “I made excuses for you.”

“Like what?”

“I told them you can’t come to the interviews because you’re a famous author and you,” she waves her hands nonchalantly, “have places to go, things to do, people to meet.”

I am flabbergasted. And horrified. “No!! You didn’t!? That makes me sound like a horrible stuck-up person. You can’t tell lies like that about me! I’m not famous and I have nowhere to go and no people to meet. What total rubbish.”

“I know. But I can’t tell them you’re in bed still in your sleep clothes at lunchtime, reading a book. Sitting in your room all day, eating.”

“Doing research,” I correct her. “Reading a book is very important research for a writer. Broadens her skills and shit stuff. And I’m not ‘just sitting’, I’m thinking and planning plot outlines. It’s work. Truly.” I stamp my foot. “Dammit Big Daughter, I already know you’ve done fabulous in school this term and I’m proud of you and I don’t need to get dressed properly just so I can get the physical evidence of your awesome work. Just tell them your mother is lazy. ”

It’s her turn to be horrified. “No! I don’t want them to think bad things about you.”

I throw my hands up in the air. “Oh, but it’s okay for them to think I’m a selfish ego maniac with a crazy busy schedule filled with social outings and jet-setter meetings with jet-setter friends, and I don’t care enough about my child to pick up her report card?”

Great. Just great.

You know what I’m doing later today, don’t you? That’s right. Slinking into Big Daughter’s school with my humblest, most apologetic face on where I will then grovel ask very nicely for her report card.

Smackdown

We went out for lunch and there was a group of people from the Digicel cell phone company at the table next to us, in their company shirts. Bella pointed and said, “See those business people having a nice break from work?”

I said, “That’s like us. I’m having a lunchbreak from work.”

My child withered me with a disdainful look, “Mum you dont got a job. You dont work. You’re a writer.”

OhEmGee. How am I supposed to ever be recognized as a legit author, with a legit career that has actual meaning and substance – when my own child thinks I’m a lazy slug-a-bug with no job?!

#TheStruggleIsReal

Samoa – why it’s good for my family

It’s coming up on six months since we moved back home to Samoa.I present to you a random list of some Stuff I Love About Samoa. There’s lots more good stuff, but here’s five.

1. My kids’ schools. I like them. No, they aren’t perfect but the advantages are outweighing the negatives. So far anyway. Big and Little Daughter are at a church school that has  strict standards and rules for everything from the color of their shoes to how they braid their hair to how many times the students pray and read scriptures. Some of the rules are stupid (according to me.) But bearable. The daughters chose the school, I didnt. They wanted to go to the same school as most of their friends from church and I’m happy to see them settling in so quickly. The students and teachers are kind and friendly. Okay, so the girls complain that “everyone knows youre our mum, its annoying. They think youre rich which is so silly because Dad pays for everything cos youre so poor…” But, otherwise their transition has been painless. Its a joy for me to see my daughter come home buzzed that, “Im not the biggest girl in my class anymore. In NZ I was kind of a giant and the girls were always talking about diets and how much they weigh. Here, I fit right in and girls arent talking about their weight or their figure. Here, its more important if you’re good at schoolwork, then people look up to you and want to be your friend.” I like that. A lot. I also like it that when I go to visit their school – nobody is casually blasting the F-word up and down the corridor.

2. Driving. I can drive everywhere and anywhere here without getting lost or having a panic attack. I drive to town, to beaches, schools and to church. I see police and smile – because I actually have a drivers license for Samoa.

3. Dining out. There’s some fabulous restaurants and cafe’s here. Very reasonable prices too, for delicious dishes made with an array of local organic produce and fresh seafood. In NZ we were pitiful recluses that only ate out at the mall (since that’s the only place I could drive to…) Here we can take the Fab5 for excellent fish’n’chips at Amanaki or great Chinese food at Tang Cheng’s Restaurant. I like the lentil burgers and Thai noodle Salad at Krush Café, the oka with fried taro at Paddles Restaurant, the blue cheese pizza at Giordanno’s, the sasalapa smoothie at Pacific Jewell Cafe, the Lefaga Bay Cockles at Scalini’s, the fa’alifu kalo (taro in coconut cream) from the front of Siaosi’s Shop, and the German buns from Myna’s.  (Just to name a few!)

4. Date Night. In the six months we’ve been back, me and the Hot Man have been out dancing four times (compare with the ZERO dance dates in 2013…2012…etc) I recommend Ace of Clubs and Club X for great dancing music and they’re air conditioned and non-smoking.

We meet up with friends for  drinks and fab convo – while the children hang out/swim/play. We  go to movies at Apollo Cinema (Only $14 tala for a ticket which is about $8 NZD.) We have sashimi and pok’e at Amanaki. We go walking and running on the seawall or up the Palisi mountain in the early morning (and I try not to say too many bad words in my mind about my personal trainer…) Because the Hot Man is the boss at work here, we have more flexibility with weekends and the afternoons, so unlike in NZ, we are able to socialize more and spend more time together. A definite plus.

5. The Outdoors. I can’t believe I’m saying this. *shudder* Yes, I have an aversion to the wide open spaces outside my house. And yes, the thought of the beach makes my skin crawl. But, the outdoors is playing a huge part in my family’s life here so I’m slowly beginning to appreciate certain things. Tropical weather  means the Hot Man and Little Son swim and do triathlons and the Hot Man can do serious bike and running training for the next Ironman event. The beach has become bearable. Especially when you go with friends who have children. It takes half an hour to get to Maninoa and you can be reclining in a beach chair while your children swim on golden sand and warm (shallow) water, pretty much all to themselves. The bathrooms are clean and the open fale’s have power outlets for my laptop and for charging my phone battery. #Essentials.

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What do YOU like about living/visiting Samoa?

Samoa, A Paedophile’s Paradise? – How to Help Prevent Child Sexual Abuse. A Survivor and Parent Perspective.

I was invited to speak at a fundraiser for the Samoa Victim Support charity which provides refuge and support to survivors of abuse and domestic violence. The event was organized by two dynamic women, Nicola Mills and Ariane Stevenson and hosted at the beautiful Milani Café in Apia. Along with the price of their ticket and purchasing raffle tickets, those who attended were asked to bring a packet of new underwear suitable for girls. Hence the name: Knicker Party Brunch. Here’s the transcript for most of what I ended up talking about…(edited to cut out the cuss words and funny real life examples of my clumsy efforts to be a sex positive, sexuality-wise mum…)

I’ve given a kazillion speeches in my lifetime but this is the scariest and most challenging for me, because it will be the first time I speak in person about this issue. So please bear with me as I muddle my way through. I’m mindful this topic can be a painful and triggering one for many people, particularly those with  personal experience and its my hope that my remarks will be helpful and not hurtful.

Today’s fundraiser is for a cause that is painfully important to me. When I was twenty, I told Darren something I’d never told anybody else. I told him that when I was little, somebody over time, had done bad things to me. Then they threatened me. They said don’t tell anyone or you’ll be in big trouble. I was scared, sore and ashamed. I was seven. I believed him.

That first moment of telling is one I’ll never forget. It was a winter night in Wellington with the wild wind outside of our second storey flat. I’d woken up crying from a nightmare filled with murky half-remembered things and ended up telling Darren stuff I’d tried to forget. He stopped me midway through my tale to ask, “Why are you whispering?”

I said, “Shhh, he might hear us.”

Darren was bewildered. “What do you mean? We’re on the second floor of the building. What, do you think he’s outside hiding in the bushes watching you?”

I said, yes.

It’s utterly ridiculous I know, but I truly believed I was being watched, that my abuser followed me everywhere and would somehow know the moment I opened that locked box of memory.   Inside, my 7yr old self was always afraid of faceless, menacing male threats. My abuser was in every shadow of every dark street I walked down, waiting for the chance to jump out and rape me. He was in isolated stairwells, public restrooms, and hiding in the back seat of every car I parked in enclosed parking garages. He was every strange man who walked behind me when I went for a run and every unexplained noise outside my house at night. It wasn’t just fear of a physical assault. I carried the burden of guilt and shame for what had happened because I believed it was my fault and there was something wrong with me. My abuser was in every public social setting – waiting to tell people my dirty secret and shame me if I talked with too much fiapoto confidence, if I laughed too loud, if I expressed opinions that were too controversial or if I dressed too “attractively”. For example, I did a book launch in Australia where about two hundred people came to meet me and get books – which should have been a super awesome experience. But I was freaking out inside, because I thought I didn’t deserve it, because  that leftover yuck voice inside was saying, “If they all knew how disgusting you are they wouldn’t even want to shake your hand.”  Worst of all, my abuser left unseen scars that affected my intimate relationship with the man who loves me more than anybody else.

The pathetic reality is of course, that my abuser most likely hasn’t given me a second thought since then. He probably doesn’t even remember what he did to me 33yrs ago, or think that it was a big deal. In fact, I know he doesn’t because I’ve seen him a couple of times since and he acts like everything’s fine.

I tell you these things because I want to emphasize that the effects of childhood sexual abuse go far beyond the physical – especially when that abuse is suppressed, hidden by fear, shame, guilt and ignorance. Even though I whispered a few details to Darren on that windy winter night, it took me another twenty years before I could talk to anybody else and get professional counselling for my abuse and for my screwed up feelings towards intimacy, love, trust and body confidence.

The sad fact is that my experience is not an isolated one. I’m just one of many in Samoa with a survivor story – and mine is pretty tame compared to others.  Studies in overseas countries state that one in ten children are sexually abused. I’m going to take a wild guess and say that figure is much higher here in Samoa. Indeed, I would say Samoa is a paedophile’s paradise – because of the way children are so often unsupervised and too often treated as voiceless second class citizens who must always honor and obey their elders regardless if that elder behaves worthy of respect. We see six year olds walking to school by themselves and being sent to the store to buy things for their parents. Young children outside nightclubs late at night, selling lei’s… Justice Vui Clarence Nelson calls the sexual abuse of children in this country – “an epidemic.

So, what can we do about it? We cant lock children in a tower to keep them safe from danger but  as parents, teachers, and caregivers we can give children the skills and tools they need to be able to seek help when someone does try to hurt them. When you empower a child to say “no” to unwanted touch and teach them that they can come to you with questions and concerns, you take critical steps to preventing child sexual abuse. And its never too early or too late to start giving them those tools. There’s a ton of great information available online about this and I encourage you to research and find resources that will suit you and your personal family situation.

The following are 6 things I think are essential.

1. Know and understand what child sexual abuse is. It’s any sexual act between an adult and a minor. This may seem a little obvious, but I’ve heard people say, “the problem is these young girls today are so cheeky. They chase after men, even their own relatives…Do you see the clothes they wear?” There are mothers berating their ten year old daughters for ‘tempting’ their fathers to have sex. Grandmothers punishing their thirteen year old grand-daughters and banishing them from the family for having sex with their uncles and getting pregnant.   Such attitudes sicken me. By definition, a child cannot give consent for sexual activity and so cannot be held responsible for any sexual acts. A favourite quote of mine is,

itsnotconsent

Sexual abuse can also happen between two minors when one exerts power over the other. This is very relevant to our Samoan culture with our extended family living conditions. Children are often left in the care of an older sibling or cousin or other relative and we assume ‘everything will be fine because we are aiga…they’re all just kids…’

Let’s be clear, we’re not talking about two 5 year olds showing each other their ‘bits’. “Look what Ive got, what have you got? Whoo!” No, that’s a natural healthy curiosity and exploration that many children engage in and shouldn’t be shamed for. That’s very different from a 5yro and a 10 year old, where you’ve got the older child telling the younger to ‘come touch me here, come do this, put this in your mouth, show me that and don’t tell anybody.’ Forcing, coercing or persuading a child to engage in any type of sexual act is abuse.

So are non-contact acts such as exhibitionism, exposure to pornography, voyeurism, and communicating in a sexual manner by phone or Internet. All of these are crimes punishable by law. We shouldn’t ever excuse these or rationalize them away when we discover them.

2. Talk openly and directly with children about our bodies, sex and boundaries. Then they are less vulnerable to people who would violate their boundaries, and they are more likely to tell you if abuse occurs. Teach children the names of their body parts so that they have the language to ask questions and express concerns. Encourage their questions without imparting any shame or guilt or fear. When I became a parent this was my mantra: NO SHAME, NO GUILT, NO FEAR

It sounds easy on paper but was a huge challenge for a woman who couldn’t even say the word ‘sex‘ without whispering it!  We have three daughters and two sons. I had to not only know all the right names for their ‘bits’, but I also had to be able to refer to them without cringing and showing a yuck face. (I mean how many of us walk around casually referring to our vagina’s and penises in casual conversation?! I don’t know any Samoans who do…)  But I was determined and I tried right from the start when they were  toddlers.

3. Teach children that some parts of their body are private and that they have personal autonomy over their bodies . They should know that if someone tries to touch those private areas or wants to look at them, OR if someone tries to show the child their own private parts, they should tell a trusted adult as soon as possible. I don’t like the word ‘private’ because for me its too close to the word ‘secret’ and when we’re talking about sexuality, secret usually means shameful and even dangerous. Instead, this is what I would say to my children, starting from  a very young age,  *Your body is sacred and it belongs to YOU. Some parts of your body are even more special than others and we keep them covered and take good care of them, and nobody else is allowed to touch them, just you.” When my daughter started preschool, it was my daily reminder to her. Along with, ‘check, have you got your lunchbox?’ I would say, “Remember don’t let anybody touch your special place. Your vulva belongs to you.”

The key foundation for this is the idea that a child has personal autonomy. A child needs to know they are the boss of their body and no-one is allowed to make them do things with it that they don’t agree to. It doesn’t matter if that person is older, bigger, stronger, or an authority figure. And likewise, they should never try to force another younger/weaker/smaller person to do things with their body.

I think we do a bad job with this in our Samoan culture. We are big on fa’aaloalo, respect for authority and elders to the point of blind obedience sometimes. Which can cross over to exploitation and abuse. We need to find that balance. I want my children to be respectful, yes, but I want them to also have the strength and confidence to state their boundaries and speak up for them. We teach them this by the little things. When they’re little I ask permission before helping them bathe. “Do you need help with your back? Can I show you how to wash your hair properly?” I ask my children’s permission before I hug or kiss them. When they’re little it’s a game, “Bella can I have a hug please?” If she says no, I’m like ‘Fine Im going to hug this pillow then.’ And she laughs and comes to hug me, “But only one, okay!” It’s playful and fun, but it’s reinforcing from a young age that she is in charge of her body and it doesn’t matter that I’m older or that I’m her mother authority figure - I must still respect her autonomy.

I never tell my children to hug or kiss a relative. We visit family and I ask them, ” would you like to say goodbye to grampa with a hug? No? Ok, say goodbye and thank you for the nice visit.” We never get angry at them if they don’t want physical affection. Yes it means sometimes extended family may get offended that a child doesn’t want to kiss or hug them, but that’s a small price to pay for teaching my child that she has boundaries for her personal space and we her parents will always support and honor those boundaries.

Its even more important as they get older that children understand what consent is. With our teenagers, we share with them stories about when we were young and mistakes we made. We talk about how its difficult to be the boss of your body if you’re intoxicated or high on drugs. With my sons in particular, I talk to them often about how they should show respect to the young women they’re friends with. What matters even more than words though, are our examples as their parents and also the examples of other couples and relationships they observe around them.

4. Strive for open, honest non-judgemental communication with children. About anything and everything. If your child can’t talk to you about the good stuff, then how can you expect them to come tell you the bad stuff? It’s not enough to just tell a child once, “Tell me if anyone tries to touch you ok?”   Last week, our 16yr old daughter came to tell us that she likes a boy in her class at school and she thinks he likes her too and what should she do? Her friends freaked when she told them she’d asked us for advice. ‘You told your Dad! And he didn’t yell at you? Ohmigosh! You told your mother?! And she didn’t beat you up or ground you?!’

This kind of communication doesn’t happen overnight. It starts when they’re little and you create  an atmosphere of trust. Talking about sexuality and sexual abuse should be routine conversations and complement their age and understanding. When my daughter was three – it was as simple as, ‘No-ones allowed to touch your special place but you.’ When she was six it was a bit more detailed. Often, their questions will guide us to know what they are ready for. When she was nine, my daughter asked “What’s rape?”

Too many of us are having only a one-off, one-sided awkward lecture, where you impart the biological facts with some religious commandments thrown in for good measure. It needs to be an ongoing conversation. About girlfriends and boyfriends, about teen crushes and dating, about alcohol and how it can affect your decision making, about kids at school who are having sex and what does that mean for your child who’s hearing them talk about having sex?  It’s conversations about what is date rape? And don’t forget topics of self-care especially for a girl – things like hygiene, menstruation, thrush, urinary tract infections. Knowledge is power – and the more knowledge you give your child, the more empowered she will be.

5. Be sex positive. Teach children that sex is a natural, positive part of life and a beautiful experience to look forward to at the right age, the right time of their lives. Be body positive. Teach children their bodies are capable of feeling some amazing fabulous things/sensations and they can look forward to sharing those experiences with someone they care about – when they grow up, at the right time, right place. Start young. When a 3yr old touches herself in the bath you don’t smack her hand away and tell her “dirty! Bad!” When a 5yr old exclaims, “Look at my penis, it’s standing up! Why does it do that?!” you don’t shush him and shame him. Remember, no guilt no shame no fear.

Talking openly about sexuality teaches children that these things don’t need to be “secret.” Abusers will often tell a child that the abuse is a secret. Let your children know that if someone is touching them or talking to them in ways that make them uncomfortable that it shouldn’t stay a secret. Because sex should not be a guilty shameful thing that is kept hidden from the people who love you.

As a survivor, I wanted my children, daughters especially, to love their bodies and treasure all the feelings that come with them. In this I’m grateful for the teachings of our church which emphasize that sex is a sacred beautiful thing, best shared with two people who care about each other, hopefully when they’re married. This is the ideal that I have taught my children since they were little. But I accept that won’t always be what they choose and I respect that. I talk to my son and his girlfriend about contraceptives and I bought him a mega box of condoms when he started university.  I will do the same thing with my daughter when she starts dating and when she goes away to school.

6. Be calm and supportive if someone tells you about their abuse. It means that child/youth has chosen you as the person he or she trusts enough to tell. It is the moment when children learn whether others can be trusted to stand up for them. If you react with anger or disbelief, then that child could feel even more ashamed and guilty. They can shut down or retract their story. That child needs to know they are safe with you, they are believed, they will be protected.

As a survivor, I cannot emphasize enough that even if you don’t follow all these tips, even if you mess up – there is one thing that we need above all else. One thing that makes a world of difference.  That is for a child to know and believe that you will love them and accept them no matter what. Knowing that you will help them and stand by them through anything and everything – that surety of unconditional love and acceptance means that if/when something bad does happen to a child, you will be the first person they turn to for help. They will not keep silent and suffer alone, drowning in guilt, shame and fear.

Its my hope we can all be better advocates for the children and youth we have stewardship over. In our Samoan cultural context, too often, the voice and pain of a child is sacrificed in the interests of preserving a family’s pride and reputation. Too often, the adults in families will engage in traditional methods for dealing with wrongdoing (like talanoaga and ifoga) and “make restitution” and “resolve”  a case of child abuse – and yet the needs of the child, the victim, will be ignored. This is unacceptable. A child needs to know that their well-being, safety and happiness – is more important than family pride or prestige.  And abusers (and potential abusers) need to know that the family, the church, the community will NOT excuse or rationalize their behaviour.

Until then, we have no hope of stemming this epidemic that scars so many of our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tofu and Bionic Butts

I went for a physical last month because I’ve been having some (freaky) health issues. I ignored them for as long as possible, y’know, hoping they’d go away. Ha. That didn’t happen so I saw a doctor and had a bunch of tests which revealed some rather unsavoury things. As a result, I’m in the process of making changes to my lifestyle. Stuff like exercise and good food and sleep. (For some odd reason, it’s much harder to exist on three hours sleep and donuts when you’re forty – as opposed to all the other years of my life. Dammit. Who knew?!)

I’m now spending time with this every day.

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And my butt hurts. You’d think that all that cushioning (fat) would make sitting on a bike a pleasant experience. Not so. Biking HURTS. How do those Tour de France bikers do it? They must have bionic butts. Perhaps if I keep using my spin bike, then I too can be the proud owner of a bionic butt. I’d rather go running but there’s too many bitey dogs on the road here and it’s hot as hell so I’m starting with indoor exercise options. Plus I can bike under the fan and read a book at the same time…#Win!

As for my efforts to eat healthy. This is necessitating a return to my wannabe Martha Stewart domestic goddess self because, clearly, canned tuna, cornflakes and choc chip cookies are not doing my aged self any favors.  However, I refuse to suffer in exchange for better health. This means finding creative ways to have my cake and eat it too…

I got a juicer and am slowly navigating the world of vegetable juicing. First juice we made was carrot-laupele-celery-cucumber. It was disgusting. Had to chuck it out. Second attempt was better. Niu (coconut water), papaya, celery, bananas, laupele (spinach), cucumber, carrot and some raw oatmeal. It was delicious. And filling. When it’s semi frozen and I shut my eyes, I can almost imagine that I’m eating ice cream. Benefits of having a very good imagination.

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I’m now making grandiose plans to do this. But with all local Samoan produce.

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Make a Month of Green Smoothies in an Hour! Freeze ‘em.

Juicers leave lots of mushed up, squished stuff once the juice has been squeezed out. Best of all – when you put it in other recipes, you cant tell that you’re actually consuming yuck stuff like celery/spinach/ cucumbers/watercress etc. Today I made a pasta casserole, kinda like a lasagne with tofu instead of meat and I put a bucket of vegie mush into the sauce. The kids made YUCK faces but it’s actually tasting rather good.

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You know I love my sweets. Life without dessert and baked goods is not worth living. So I baked up some choc chip cookies…MINUS the choc chips, white flour and most of the sugar. Instead, I baked using: butter, honey, oatmeal, eggs, 1/3 cup brown sugar and some assorted nuts. It made a lovely cookie slice. I wanted it to be sweeter though, because my hands are shaking from sugar withdrawal… GIVE ME SOME NOW OR ELSE I’LL KILL YOU. Next time, I’m going to add chopped dates for sweetness and for added iron since severe anemia is one of my problems.

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This is the first time in my life that I’ve wanted to make lifestyle and diet changes because I want to be healthier and feel better. (As opposed to: I want to be skinny so that people will like me?! And the Hot Man’s gorgeous ex-girlfriends will be green with jealousy?! And I can go in the Miss Samoa and kick-butt?! And maybe when Hugh Jackman comes to Samoa on holiday, he will worship the ground I walk on?!  And…other ridiculous fantastical reasons why one would think skinny equals eternal happiness…) No, none of that stupid stuff makes any sense here. I’m just so tired of being tired and dizzy and faint when I’m trying to live and go about my regular day. Trying new recipes and foods is making these changes a fun challenge.

It’s amazing to me how just a few ‘small’ tweaks can make you feel. I’ve cut my Diet Coke intake from four cans to one a day, replacing it with niu (coconut). Pretty soon I’ll phase out the last can because already the stuff is tasting yuck to me.

The Fab4 are complaining because they have to eat the same food as me – but hey, what kind of mother would I be if I let them eat tuna, cornflakes and cookies while I dined on vegie tofu lasagne? (Don’t answer that if you’re a kid…#TrickQuestion)

Now, I must go work on my bionic butt.

 

 

The Runaway Hermit.

Somebody said to me the other night – “For a hermit, you sure do f’ing get out a lot!” She had to yell it at me because we were at a very loud n rowdy nightclub in Apia at the time. I was about to launch into a rousing rebuttal, explaining that OF COURSE I’m a hermit dammit but then I paused to reflect on what’s been keeping me busy over the last few months, and keeping me from blogging regularly. And I realized that yeah, for a hermit – I have been getting out quite a lot lately. All of it because of this writing gig, a job that was always a dream of mine.  I feel very blessed to have these opportunities and especially to have a supportive partner that helps make my travel possible and is willing to step up and solo parent so I can do these writer events. #CheersForTheHotMan!

So what have I been up to outside the cave?

I went to Wellington to do a workshop on writing stories for children for the NZ School Journal Series. A long time ago, a shamahzing woman who I greatly admire, Dr Emma Kruse Vaai – told me about writing for the Journal and encouraged me to submit my work there which is how I got my first publishing opportunity.  The Journal has featured my stories and also had several translated for the (now defunct) Samoan version, Folauga and converted to CD Rom and audio for use in the classroom. There aren’t a lot of #BrownFolk in the Journal and the company that produces it wants more stories written by, about and for  Maori and Pacific Islanders so I was invited to be a mentor to several other Pacific Islander writers. The mentors for the Maori writers were Witi Ihimaera, Patricia Grace and Joy Cowley. (This is the part where you must envision me falling down on the ground in awe because that pretty much describes how I felt to be not only asked to mentor alongside these legends of literature, but just to be in the same room as them.) So yeah, lots of trepidatious feelings going to Wellington which made me extra grateful that one of the writers I mentored was my fantabulous friend Sisilia Eteuati.  She’s a writer, poet, lawyer, mum and generally awesome person, go check out her blog here: TeineSamoa   Thanks to her I was a lot less apprehensive about the trip.

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With Sisilia in Middle Earth.

The workshop was great. I doubt anything I said was very illuminating but I certainly listened and learnt a great deal from everyone there. I’d met Witi before but wasn’t sure he would remember, because, hello, the man who dreamed up Whale Rider meets kazillions of people all the time…but hallelujah, he did remember me! And we had a very useful and enlightening chat about books being made into movies and he was generous with his advice and experience regarding the process. I’ve been reading Witi’s stories since I was twelve years old and to meet an author you greatly admire and find them engaging, approachable and funny – is a rather magical experience.

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Legends of literature: Witi Ihimaera and Joy Cowley.

I was only in NZ for the weekend but it was a jampacked two days. I also met with producer Karin Williams (who’s optioning Telesa for film) and my fiery friend, Director/Producer Letti Wickman, otherwise known as half of the Pani and Pani duo. It was a chilly evening in New Lynn as we sat under the stars and talked #TelesaMovie #TelesaTVSeries possibilities and plans. (With much laughter, because hey, it’s Pani after all!)

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Much alofas to Sisilia for letting me stay over and hosting dinner with my #BestieFromBrisbane (who now lives in Aukilani), Gau Nautu. She brought sinful chocolate banana cream pie AND cinnamon rolls for dessert and then made us talk and laugh too too much, until 2am. (If you were at the Brisbane Launch of the second Telesa book, you will recognize Gau as the hilarious masterful MC who carried out this gripping interview of Ezra Taylor (A.k.a Daniel Tahi) )

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Aaaand I got to hang with my #BestieFromForever (who also now lives in Aukilani), Elena Peteru. Me and her both have driving issues…as in we’re dreadful at it – so we talk on the phone constantly but rarely get to meet in person. (If you’ve read The Bone Bearer, you’ll know that book is dedicated to her awesomeness.)

Two Elena's plus One Gau = Trouble

Two Elena’s plus One Gau = Trouble

The whirlwind weekend to NZ was rather exhausting, then it was a few days back in Samoa before taking off to the RT Book Convention in New Orleans, USA. Thanks to my very wise Big Sister, I was much better equipped for the long haul travel and avoided some of the DERWIT mistakes I made last year when I went to RT in Kansas City. This time I had power converters and phone battery chargers, comfortable yet chic shoes, and a wardrobe that fit into one decent sized suitcase rather than two bulky ones.

I had a blast. Catching up with “old” friends and connecting with new ones. I had the opportunity to meet Samoan author Tracey Poueu-Guerrero (Gravity) and NZ author Charlotte Harumi who roomed with me for a couple of nights and it was a thrill to not be the only Samoan writer at the convention. #Represent!

So good to spend time with some of the women who share my writing journey and have welcomed me so generously into theirs. If not for them, I wouldn’t be able to travel halfway round the world to (scary strange) book conventions in new places – because I’d be too chicken to leave the cave. I only go because I know they’ll be there. Thank you Elizabeth Hunter, Steph Campbell, Angie Stanton, Elizabeth Reinhardt, Nichole Chase, Abbi Glines, E.L James, Tina Reber, Jamie McGuire, Elizabeth Reyes, Tamara Webber, Tracey Garvis-Graves. Missed you Killian McRae!

In my one week in New Orleans, I went to some fascinating author panels and learned stuff. I ate lots of divine food and fell in love with beignets, ravioli, sweet potato biscuits, Louisiana Cajun shrimp, ravioli, strawberry shortcake and pecan pie. I consumed (what tasted like) rocket fuel moonshine berries and fried alligator. (Alligator tasted quite nice but I kept remembering that it was a large reptile with really big teeth and I felt yuck so I didn’t eat it all.) I was entranced by the street performers and all the different accents everywhere. I was a bit mindboggled by Bourbon Street and its madness, with alternating voodoo shops, strip clubs, bars, cafes, art galleries and nightclubs. I haven’t walked so much in one week for a long time. And when it was all done and I was making the long trek home vi Houston, via San Francisco, via Auckland – my brain was on fire with writing ideas and enthusiasm. Which is the best marker for whether or not a book convention has been worth it.

Now I’m home in Samoa and I don’t want to do anymore travelling for a long while!

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Roomies - Tracey & Charlotte

Roomies – Tracey & Charlotte

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Trying alligator!

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Fabulous friends, glorious food at the Red Gravy Café.

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Street sights

Street sights

 

Exploring the French Quarter. #sightseeing

Exploring the French Quarter. #sightseeing

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Oh just having beignets from Café du Monde, sitting in Jackson Park… #breakfast

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E.Hunter, Steph Campbell, Liz Reinhardt.

How you know you're at a Romance novel convention: get in the elevator.

How you know you’re at a Romance novel convention: get in the elevator.

Hi Nalini Singh. (NZ/Fijian author)

Hi Nalini Singh. Mega world bestselling NZ/Fijian author.

Fav panel: Marjorie Liu (Writer for XMen and Wolverine Comics), Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood), Ilona Andrews (Magic Kate Daniels Series) & Janine Frost (Vlad!!)

Fav panel: Marjorie Liu (Writer for XMen and Wolverine Comics), Charlaine Harris (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood), Ilona Andrews (Magic Kate Daniels Series) & Janine Frost (Vlad!!)

Erika hosted us for dinner and then drinks in her suite but we all behaved this time and didn't get reported for excessive noise.

Erika hosted us for dinner and then drinks in her suite but we all behaved this time and didn’t get reported for excessive noise.

Best part of travelling - coming home to the Fab5. Bella models her feathery piece of New Orleans!

Best part of travelling – coming home to the Fab5. Bella models her feathery piece of New Orleans!

Crappy Mothers Deserve Ice-Cream too.

Y’know what’s really inconsiderate? – When people start events on time. Especially when those events involve children. And even more especially when it requires (bad) caregivers watching and cheering for those children.

Case in point. Bella’s class has been practising dance and skit items for their special assembly. She’s been coming home to show us her moves and sing us her songs. She said she needed a white T.shirt, lavalava and a cowboy hat. (Dont ask me how those things fit together. These are the deep mysteries of primary school productions. One must not question but simply – obey. Or else one’s six year old gets agitated.)

The notice said her assembly would begin at 1.20pm. I didn’t want to go. There, I said it. I – Lani Young – had no desire whatsoever to see my kid wear a cowboy hat and sing ‘She’ll be comin round the mountain’ in her brave yet slightly off-key voice.

Correction: I didn’t mind seeing MY kid sing in a cowboy hat and lavalava because she is MY kid after all and I’ve spent six years getting to know her and  trying to be nice to her, so I can concede that any attempts on her part, to sing or dance – will probably be adorable. To ME. However, I could just see her dance moves AT HOME. Where its more convenient. Where there arent kazillions of other people’s kids dancing and singing off-key. Because let’s face it, I’m not interested in suffering thru any other people’s kids dancing. I’m bad like that.

So I didnt want to go to her class performance. But I couldnt come up with an acceptable excuse NOT to go. (This is the problem with working from home. The child has seen you sit around the house in your pyjamas all day, eating cake and decoding the mysteries of the universe on Facebook your laptop. She KNOWS you have no Very Important People to meet in Very Important Meetings. She KNOWS you have no credible reason for missing her performance.)

I figured though, that if I had to endure a bunch of 6yr olds singing – then Bella’s Dad should too. Thankfully, he didnt need much convincing because unlike Bella’s (crappy) mother, he actually likes going to his kids school and sporting events. Which is a mystery to me because he could have said, “Sorry I cant make it because we’re in the middle of bricklaying the walls of our new house and I have fifteen employees who I need to supervise or else we could end up with crooked crappy walls from hell…” – and it would have been true. Totally legit excuse.

Instead he said, I’ll go with you. What time does it start?

I said, “We should get there at 1.20.”

(See how I carefully side-stepped his question? Know why I phrased my response that way? Because the man is a FREAK about being punctual. It drives me nuts. If something starts at 1.20, then he’s gonna want to leave the house at 12.30 AT THE LATEST. ‘So we can get good parking…a front row seat…photos of Bella before she goes on…so we’re not rushed…so we’re not LATE.’)

Heck no. I wasnt about to give up any more minutes of my time than was absolutely necessary. Besides, this is Samoa. Everybody knows that everybody operates on “island time”, right?

Yeah, apparently everybody EXCEPT Bella’s school. And all the other (goody-two-shoes) parents of all Bella’s classmates. Who were all sitting there on time, avidly appreciating and nurturing the talents and creativity of the youth of Samoa. Damn them.

Due to a number of pressing factors (like I couldnt find any clothes to wear that were suitable for the world outside my cave…and ohmigosh someone’s legs need shaving…and I’m hungry I need a snack before I go…) we got to Bella’s school at 1.25pm. And the Hot Man was blissfully unaware that we were a teensie bit late because he was operating on the assumption that because I’d told him we must be there at 1.20, the performance must start at…hmmm…2pm?  Which is why he was befuddled to find that the show had started already. “Huh?”

And five minutes after we got there, they announced, “Our finale number!”

Not only had the performance started on time (WHO does that?!?! Start on time?! So inconsiderate.)  it was also a very short program. Probably because it was a bunch of 6yr olds with short attention spans.

So we missed Bella dancing the siva in her lavalava. And whatever role she had in the play. Her Dad wasnt happy. #frownyFace

“Dont worry,” I reassured the Hot Man. “This next number is the important one. The one she’s been practising a lot at home.”

Bella got up with all the other kids. She held a mural picture of a barn. All the kids sang and danced ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’. I think Bella sang and wriggle danced too but it was tricky to tell – because she was standing behind a barn. The song took all of five minutes.

The End. That was it.

In my head (where evil crappy mother thoughts live) – Im thinking - I shaved my legs for this? I ironed my shirt and dashed up here for this? Are you kidding me?!

But the Hot Man was wracked with guilt, shaking his head. “We should have got here earlier. My poor daughter. My Bella was probably looking for us. How hurt she must be to know we missed most of the show…”

Dude, anyone would think this was his first kid and not his fifth. (Y’seen one kid’s warbly chaotic dance performance – y’seen ‘em all. Is my philosophy.)

I resisted the urge to roll my eyes at him. I didnt say, ‘Snap out of it!’ Instead I said, “Leave it to me. Just follow my lead.” This is not my first rodeo…

When Bella ran over to us, I gave her a big hug. “You were great up there. So brave and beautiful in your cowboy hat. And the bestest singing Barn in the whole world.” Which was all true. You shouldnt lie to your kids.

She said, “Did you see my siva Samoa?”

Before her Dad could open his mouth and ruin it, I said, “You dance so gracefully. We’re so proud of you and happy for you. Beautiful siva Samoa.” Which was also true. So what if we didnt see it THAT DAY.  “I seen her siva plenty at home” I muttered aside to the Hot Man.

Bella beamed as she slipped her hand into mine. “I love you.”  And right then in that moment – I was glad we’d come to watch her. Even if we did get there late.

I was even more glad to heave a sigh of relief that they only have one class assembly a year and we wouldnt have to go through this again for awhile.

Then we went to McDonalds. Because after all that effort, I  - oops, I mean - Bella, deserved an ice-cream.

 

Can you see her standing behind the barn? You can’t? – Aha, you should have got there early then for a front row seat! #loser

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