A good old fashioned telling off

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Sometimes I just need a kick in the pants. And I haven’t really had one for a while – I don’t mean like literal physical abuse type ‘kick in the pants’ – I just mean a firm nudge to get on and do something. And then my wee friend Mary prodded me via Facebook about not blogging – and here I am. Mary is a lovely friend, and, in fact, a lovely person – but she’s got that tiny woman thing about her that I find a bit terrifying sometimes.

So – life has rolled around and around the last few months. We came home, we settled in. There were welcomings and catch-ups and cakes and cakes and cakes. All of our clothes shrunk somehow. I interviewed for two jobs. One sounded wonderful but I was told I was over-qualified for it, which I was slightly relieved about because my boss would have been about 8 years younger than me and, during my interview, told me how he thinks all of his staff should relive his recent caving experience. Caving? Um, I’d rather lie back here and let you remove my toe-nails with some rusty old pliers thanks. And also the enlarging of ass thing often doesn’t suit squeezing through tight spaces. Ask Winnie the Pooh.

I interviewed for another job. There were 4 interviews in total for this role, all with the same person. For the last interview I was told it was down to the ‘final one’ so it was just about negotiating. It turned out that we had different ideas about suitable payment. I kind of felt like I should be paid for the job I’ve trained to do for the last 15 years, he sort of felt like he should pay me about the same as a service station attendant. It was a bit disheartening but I’d been reading a lot about getting paid what you’re worth and, let’s face it, if I’d taken that wage I would have had to start a side-line selling office stationary on the black market. I also did a bit of a re-cap and realised that he asked me, in every one of the four interviews, how many children I had. Because having children kills off brain cells – right buddy?

Downhearted and thinking, “um, hello small town – is this all you’ve got?” I gave myself a stern talking to (Mary lives too far away for urgent call-outs) and thought ‘take control you non-caving old trollop!” (My internal voice likes old-fashioned put-downs). So I started my own company. Just like that. It’s actually not that hard and once I started it all happened.

Now I have more than full-time hours with my 4 contracts, and other contracts pending. I’m getting paid a fair amount to do a good job and I’m networking and having fun. Granted, I did order some heels and nearly put my back out after an afternoon’s wear but other than that I’ve slotted back into the ‘corporate’ world fairly well. Sure, there’s mother-guilt every time I leave Bubba, who now stands in her PJ and says “I go with Mama!” whenever I sneak out in the morning. And she knows where the power button is on the laptop so if I’m on it that bit too long she just shuts it off. Thank God for Autosave. But it feels good to get back into it. I gave my first presentation for a loooooong time the other day and I did not piss my pants, which is something to be proud of I think.

I’m going to keep blogging, but I have had to get my head around the fact that I’m not sitting in a city of 4 million any more, and if I slag off the lady in the bookshop (which I wouldn’t – because she is LOVELY) people might click on to who I’m talking about. It’s a bit of an adjustment, but I’ll get there.

And in other news, my tiny little baby is turning 2 on Monday. TWO YEARS OLD. This growing up business is out of control.

I hope you are happy and healthy and either basking in the sunshine or cuddling up with a cocoa and no bra on as you read this. I am considering patenting an invention that makes bras pop off the second you either sit on a comfy chair or walk in through the back door. Sure, there might be some issues for prudish visitors but, on the whole, I think it’s a goer.

 

 

Guy Fawkes? Really, New Zealand?

joyland fireworks sign

Whenever I think of fireworks my first image is of a Twilight Guy Fawkes Gala Day at my primary school. I was about six years old and my Dad took me and my five year old cousin along to the Gala Day. Dad got to throw the lollies for the lolly scramble and would pinch pocketfuls of them so we could get a sugar rush without trying to fend off the big kids in the sweet scrum.

At the end of the Gala Day some bright spark decided to put on a Fireworks display. It was the 80s, I don’t think safety was a great concern and I remember we all stood in a big circle while someone’s Dad lit the fireworks in the centre. I don’t remember the show going on for long before a firework went shooting across the circle horizontally instead of going up into the sky. A little girl called Abby, who was a year older than me, was struck in the head by the firework. I heard her scream and saw everyone gather around her.

Dad picked my cousin and I up, and, I clearly remember him putting my cousin and I up on one of his shoulders each, probably to distract us, and using his long strides to get us away from the chaos.

In the following days my class made Abby a ‘Get Well’ card as she recovered in hospital. Eventually she came back to school with half of her beautiful hair gone. I think she was okay but I still think of Abby every time I hear about Guy Fawkes.

Having lived in Australia for the last few years we haven’t had the annual fear that Guy Fawkes creates. It’s not celebrated in Australia and fireworks, I believe, are only available for private sale in Queensland. Now, on the day after my first Kiwi Guy Fawkes I’m feeling particularly grinch-ish.

Why?

Why do we have a week of banging and explosions ringing? Nights of shivering and petrified animals? Drunks messing around with gunpowder – where’s the sense in it? Really, New Zealand? You’re better than that.

I’m not saying that, done well, fireworks aren’t spectacular. They are. The most amazing fireworks I’ve ever seen were a few years ago over Sydney Harbour Bridge, probably millions of dollars worth of incredibly coordinated and fantastic pyrotechnics. But the fireworks that were shot at arriving guests at the Guy Fawkes party I went to at a university party in Hamilton in 1996? Not so much.

I’ve just signed this petition to ban private sale of fireworks in New Zealand. Who knows if it will work but it’s worth a try. If you want to sign it then go for it.

A very Kiwi homecoming

New Zealand - doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

New Zealand – doing fruit flavoured marshmallow wrapped in chocolate like no other country

We’re here!! We touched down in New Zealand on Thursday night after a gigantic day of travel. I think time travelling with a toddler should be measured like dog years, the flight was three hours but felt like about 14. And then there was the rigmarole trying to track down a fretting spoodle after we hauled our own selves through customs. That was three hours of my life I’ll never get back. But we got our shaggy little sidekick in the end and he celebrated with masses of kisses for us all and a wee on the grass outside the imports warehouse that went for about 15 minutes. Bless.

We stayed the night with my sister on Thursday before driving south to Taranaki the following day. As we drove through the frankly spectacular New Zealand countryside I looked at my lovely husband and said

“So what do you think? Of MY country?”

There was a pause.

“It’s very green.”

Oh darling, stop with the gushing already.

Twenty minutes passed.

“And quite hilly.”

Hang on, is that Tourism NZ on the phone, busting a gut to have the Viking pen their next campaign?

New Zealand – very green and quite hilly

Look out Peter Jackson, I think you have a competitor in the promotion of New Zealand stakes.

But anyhoo, effusive praise aside, my Viking does seem quite pleased with the lay of the land. Our new house is so much better than the dodgy dark photos we were shown online, with a massive kitchen and double-door fridge – of course stocked full of every delight you can imagine by the world’s happiest grandparents.

Bubba has a line-up of new toys, and a reserve line-up of new toys for when the first lot need refreshing. Alfie has a comfy couch to lie on and a front yard to bark from – it’s elevated above the street so he can peer over the heads of passers by and feel quite mighty, important features for an anxious dog with a ‘small canine’ complex.

And me? Well I’m glad to be back in a place where I won’t have this conversation for a while:

Person: So you’re from New Zealand?

Me: Aha

Person: You don’t really have an accent? I didn’t pick it up.

Me: Well, yes I’ve been…

Person: There it is! I heard it! Wow! It’s strong! How did I miss that? Do “fush n chups”

Me: I’d rather not

Person: “Choice bro Tafe?”

Me: Nah

Person: What comes after five?

Me: Yeah, I’m not really…

Person: “RILLY” ha! You Kiwis are hilarious!

There are a few things I’ll miss about Australian life but that conversation will not be one of them.

For the rest of the weekend we intend to keep up with the unpacking, and I will continue my barrage of all things Kiwi for the Viking. So far we’ve had perky nanas, New Zealand salmon, Vogels bread and the Sauv Blanc is on ice. Any other suggestions? So far he’s rated the Vogels very highly, I’m keeping whitebait fritters in my back pocket (not literally) for when I really want to pull out the big guns.

Have a great weekend,

 

A failed Garage Sale and a very handsome houseguest

Rush hour at the Garage Sale

Rush hour at the Garage Sale

What a weekend it was. Our house has transformed from showhome spectacular (maybe ‘spectacular’ is a bit strong) to squatter’s quarters in 48 hours. We had the open inspection for the house on Saturday morning, which meant cleaning the house totally ruined my Friday night mandatory So You Think You Can Dance viewing, and yesterday we had a failed Garage Sale and the beginning of the sad goodbyes. Now, our house is a dump of half filled boxes, with random pieces of furniture and toys spread across the floor.

We tried to tempt people into the Garage Sale with the promise of free coffee, but considering I made the decision on Friday to have the sale our campaign to attract crowds wasn’t exactly far reaching. In fact, the campaign included one free ad online and half a dozen hastily taped up posters down the street. The result was maybe ten or so shoppers, including a local lady who stayed for about two hours, stepping me through every medical procedure her and her siblings had ever experienced. She bought a wheat-bag and a blanket.

During our emergency-room themed conversation I drank about four cups of the superstrong perc coffee the Viking had brewed up, and ate about 14 of the biscuits I had placed out as a sly sales tactic (or so I told the Viking). Nowadays, I rarely drink coffee – I might have a soy latte once a fortnight but nothing stronger. So my heart raced like a hungry greyhound all day. It’s a shame more punters didn’t show up, I think I would have been on fire with my sales spiels.

A couple of my girlfriends from my mothers’ group turned up. Mothers’ groups seem to fall into two categories over here, nasty little cliques of ultra-competitve mothers marking off their child’s achievements like notches on a belt or a group of fantastic women who openly share all the crazy, wonderful, vomit-inducing, sad and scary experiences of being a new Mum. I’m so, so fortunate that my group falls into the latter category. In fact, had it not been for the friendship of these women I doubt whether I would have made it this long without being drawn back into the supportive family circle of New Zealand. And I guess it’s just starting to hit home that after next week, I won’t be seeing them every few days. I won’t be marvelling over how much their kids have grown every time I see them or taking turns either drinking wine or ‘running DE-fence’ with six toddlers at the local RSL. And that makes me more than a little sad.

It reminds me of when I moved back to New Zealand after two and half years in London, and had that harsh come-down of finishing a big adventure and arriving back to old friends whose lives hadn’t changed and who really weren’t that interested to hear that yours had. And I found myself seeking out other travellers, who I could talk to about my backpacking experiences without feeling like they thought I was bragging. Travellers just got it. Well now, after becoming a Mum and having my life changed forever, these girls just get it. I’ve had close female relationships before, but it’s a whole different level with these girls. We’ve talked about everything from our fears for the future with our kids being plunged into a world of Facebook and sexy selfies to how much we love our husbands pretty much 99% of the time – but exactly how we’d finish them off and hide their bodies if they pushed their luck that bit too far.

One of the mums is on holiday at the moment and the Viking and I gleefully accepted the offer to petsit Harry the headstrong pussycat and Archie the Hercules Morse Rhodesian Ridgeback. Harry is great but our love is a bit restrained by the VIking’s cat allergy, our love for Archie though, knows no bounds. Especially the Viking’s love for Archie. Men and big dogs – frank and beans.

The look of love

The look of love

As we were on a double-dog walk the other day the Viking pondered out loud – “I wonder, if people see us with these dogs which dog they think matches each of us?”

I replied coolly, “Gosh Honey, I’m not sure. There’s Archie – all tall, lean and handsome, calm and quiet but worth listening to when he does make a noise; and then there’s Alfie – unkempt blonde affro, chunky butt, incessant barking and penchant for processed cheese. I’m not sure there’s any resemblance whatsoever.” And I did that dangerous glint in my eye look when I said that last bit.

And then I tugged Alfie away from the three week old chewing gum he was trying to lick off the footpath and we both sauntered off, blonde ponytails swinging in the breeze behind us.

 

"You got my back, right Arch?"

“You got my back, right Arch?”

 

 

Advice to my daughter on growing up tall

 

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Yesterday was Bubba’s 18 month check-up at the Maternal Health Clinic. Unfortunately the lovely Irish lady who we’d seen since Bubba was born had been shifted off to another procreating suburb – I was a tad disappointed as she struck me as a woman who wasn’t shy of a swig of gin at lunchtime and once asked me not to tell anyone that she swore so much around the babies. Not at them, just in their general vicinity. We’ve all done it.

Anyway, the new lady was nice as pie but one of those people who is so incredibly encouraging about your mothering you feel like you’re shocking them with your basic maternal skills. “You are such a GOOD MUM!” she said when I removed Bubba’s clothes without breaking any bones. I felt a bit like I was in one of those news stories where everyone marvels over finding a dingo raising a nest of ducklings.

Of course the only real highlight of these checks is figuring out that your baby is every gram as heavy as she feels and that you hadn’t been imagining her overnight growth spurts. I’d taken heed of the ‘wow she’s a tall girl!’ comments about town but I was interested to find out where she sits compared to other kids her age. Not that the numbers really matter in the big scheme of things, but this time around they cemented my inkling that my daughter is going to be taller than the average kid as she goes through her schooling years.

She’s 86cm now, which still sounds fairly petite, but that’s apparently above about 97% of other kids (by Australian standards). I found my own battered Plunket book from days of yore and it says at 18 months I was 85cm, so she’s on track to be my height (180cm) or slightly taller. Which, to be honest, I’m kind of pleased about.

Luckily, I was raised to be really proud of my height – I think because it was such a surprise to everyone that I grew so tall when my Mum stands at a mighty 5 foot 1. I remember playing dress ups in her clothes but growing out of her shoes by the time I was about 8. Resorting to your father’s steel cap boots do nothing for an otherwise fabulous I dream of Genie get-up.

But there were times when my height wasn’t my favourite asset, like those awkward years from 10 to 15 – when every school dance was spent staring down at the dusty heads of adolescent boys. Or when my male friends wouldn’t stand beside me when I had heels on because I made them feel short.

So, in preparation for the years to come, I’d like to pass these pearls of wisdom onto my daughter:

There will be times when no trouser leg seems keen to meet your ankles, when no robust size 10 shoe in your wardrobe could compare to the size 7 kitten heel your friends are wearing. You will get used to the gentle tug on your sleeve of an old lady in the supermarket, desperate for the top-shelf maple syrup. You might even develop great quads from squatting to hear conversations going on two feet below your ear level. But remember, for every short man who feels threatened by your stature there’s a netball coach waiting in the wings and willing you to keep growing. Stand up straight and put your shoulders back, whatever your size, wear it with pride. From the tips of your toes to the top of your head, you’re perfect and loved.

Were you an awkwardly tall teenager? Or a super petite one? What advice would you give that kid now? I do love hindsight.

What do you think of the new blog design? I’d love to know your thoughts – you can be honest, I can take it. *stiffens upper lip in readiness*

Awkward first dates

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This morning the Viking and I decided to venture out for brunch with Bubba. We haven’t brunched in a little while as Bubba is no longer a ‘lie quietly in my pushchair, chewing on a rusk’ baby, she is in more of a ‘stare at stranger’s plates until they offer me a taste’ or ‘challenge wait staff balancing full dishes to a dance-off between the tables’ stage at the moment. But we thought we’d risk it. About 20 minutes into the meal one of the waitresses actually accepted the dance-off challenge so Bubba was all aglow in her achievements for the rest of the meal.

We had an empty table beside us, funny how often that happens when you have a toddler sitting with you, but when it started to rain a couple of guys who had been sitting outside came and sat beside us. I immediately apologised in advance for Bubba, explaining that she can be ‘a bit of a starer’ as she bored holes in them with her eyes. They laughed, a bit nervously.

I then began to partake in one of life’s great pleasures – eavesdropping. The men, let’s call them Ben and Joe, had clearly had a big night.

Waitress: What can I get you?

Ben: A coffee. Latte. Strong.

Joe: A large glass of water. And I’d murder a latte. And an orange juice.

And then the conversation shifted to the evening before’s events, it had been a HUGE night. They were amazed that they were both up so early and really in not too bad a shape. And here’s where it got a bit weird. You could tell the boys hadn’t been *ahem* friends for a long time, I imagine they’d met on the dancefloor the night before. Ben seemed quite reserved, staring into his bacon and eggs with regretful eyes. Joe took about four selfies on his mobile and put them on instagram. Joe was having a great time. Ben, was not.

A few good songs came on in the cafe. Joe started humming along. ‘Let’s hear it for the boy’ came on and Joe started singing, loudly – like he was the new kid on Fame and was looking for a chandelier to swing from. Ben’s head dropped further and further down. His cheeks burned. The other customers shuffled uncomfortably in their seats. 10am in a cafe on a rainy Saturday is no time for Australian Idol try-outs.

I think Joe was actually a bit pissed that nobody joined in his singing, I’m sure if Bubba had mastered the ‘B’ sound she would have been all over it but she (along with the half dozen or so other kids in the restaurant) seemed happy with open-mouthed staring at this point.

I looked at Ben, he had that look of ‘please do not let anyone I know walk in at this moment and see this.’ I’m pretty sure he was trying to astroplane into another dimension. Awkward tinged with hungover regret. I feel you bro. I’ve been there, we all have. And it got me thinking about some of the most awkward first dates I’ve ever had. Oh, what a joyful little trip down memory lane. I honestly think I’ve blocked a lot out, but here are a couple that have stuck like barnacles to the cringe file in my mind.

A few pre-Viking years back, I tried online dating for about three months. In that time I met some nice guys and some absolute shining examples of why people are sometimes suspicious of meeting strangers online. There was Tom (that may or may not be his actual name, it’s not intended to be his real name but I can’t recall what that was so Tom will suffice) – he worked as a film censor, a job I thought sounded quite fabulous, until he said that really all he did was get paid to watch a lot of porn to ensure that the beastiality scenes didn’t step over the mark. Riiiiiight. Must make for interesting chats around the water cooler.

There was also Sam (again – I’m not sure) who told me he’d had some issues with online dating because all the girls thought he was gay and just hadn’t come out yet. He then went on to tell me that he loved my leather coat and wondered if it would fit him. We spent some time talking about how awesome his Mum was and the interior design course he was taking in the evenings and he offered me his chapstick because apparently my lips looked a little dry. There was not a love connection.

I’ve been asked if I was a ‘Ford or a Holden girl?’

I once had a guy show me photos on his phone, during dinner, of hot girls he sat behind at the Rugby Sevens, it was like a slideshow of arses in sexy policewomen uniforms. I’m pretty sure he’s still single. Lovely chap.

I would LOVE to hear any stories of awkward first dates you may have had or heard about so please share, in the meantime I feel like I need a nice long shower.

Have a great weekend.

 

 

Acupuncture for needle hating fraidy cats like me

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I have always hated needles. I’m not sure, but it might have started when I was 12 and was getting immunised against either Hepatitis A, B or C (I can’t remember which one). Anyway, I was at school and in line with three hundred other kids, all thrilled to the core to be lined up to get jabbed with a needle. It was a factory belt of nervous, green gingham tunic clad children with one sleeve rolled up and a look of petrified anticipation on their faces. In our ‘non-rolled sleeve arm’ we clasped in trembling fists, our permission slips from our parents.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t paying close attention. I thought the series of events went:

1.Hand over permission slip

2. Get stabbed in the arm with a needle

3. Get permission slip back, possibly with a “I braved the jab” stamp emblazoned upon it.

I was incorrect in my assumptions.

My series of events went like this:

1. Hand over permission slip

2. Get stabbed in arm

3. Stand still

4. Get stabbed in arm again

5. Squeal

6. Hear the doctor say a naughty word

7. Get whisked to the principal’s office

8. Get picked up by Mum who looked very concerned in the principal’s office but opened up a can of motherly telling off whoopass in the car on the way to the doctor’s

9. Lie on the couch for the rest of the day while being ‘observed’ by Mum who, after throwing her hands up in a ‘what the hell are we going to do with you?’ gesture put her feet up beside me on the couch and watched Days of Lives and ate wine gums with me.

So after this brutal acquaintance with needles I began to fear them with great gusto. Getting a blood test was a palaver. A hell of a palaver. As well as me crying, sometimes fainting and often retching, my veins would also hide deep within my arms, shrinking into my flesh like cunning little castaways. Part of the rationale for my first tattoo was to overcome my fear of needles. That didn’t work.

And then, rolling forward a few years, I got pregnant. And upon discovering deficiencies in most vitamins, I was welcomed to a world of blood test after blood test. I would steady myself by saying “the baby needs me to do this” and, somehow, I got through the entire pregnancy without vomiting on a single nurse. But the real key to overcoming my fear of needles turned out to be acupuncture.

I was introduced to acupuncture while going through some pregnancy-induced back-pain. Back pain unlike any other back pain I had experienced before. It was in the bra-strap region and saw me wearing a bikini top instead of a bra for oooh, about the last three months of the pregnancy. There was little chance of me doing any bouncing type activities so support wasn’t a big factor in my underwear decision making. Nobody could tell me how to fix my backpain. I would cramp up while driving and want to be massaged but curl away from the pain of being touched. My doctor suggested I lie on a tennis ball and roll around. She was serious.

And then someone suggested acupuncture. To be fair, at that point, if someone had suggested I strap a cactus rub my back on a lamp-post, I would have given that a go too. But acupuncture was amazing. Yes I was a bit scared about the needles, but I was beyond caring and I just wanted some relief. After the first appointment my back was 80% better. After two appointments my back pain had gone. As the pregnancy progressed I went back almost every week, for everything from labour fears to cankles – and a combination of massage, herbs,cupping, an incredibly understanding practitioner and a lot of acupuncture eased my body and eased my mind incredibly.

After Bubba was born I didn’t feel I had the same need to go back for more acupuncture, in retrospect I could have gone in for my milk supply issues and various other things but it wasn’t until yesterday that I made it back for another session. My lower back has been playing up, due probably to sitting on a soft couch cradling my crochet of an evening and lifting a hefty toddler during the day. Plus, I thought it was time to address my hay fever issues. To be honest, I’ve sneezed like a lunatic since I was a child. It is nothing for me to sneeze twenty times in an hour. When my niece was very little she would look turn at the sound of a sneeze and say “Aunty Skef?” Had I not been shackled with hay fever perhaps I would have been a cat burglar. Possibly not but we’ll never know.

So I decided to address my hay fever with some stabby stabs. IN MY FACE. As I lay back, eyes closed and covered in blankets, with needles being tap tapped into my sinuses, forehead and neck I thought “You’ve come a long way Charlie Brown.”

Which is weird. Because my name is Steph.

 

I was going for an 'unflattering yet serene' angle. Mission accomplished.

I was going for an ‘unflattering yet serene’ angle. Mission accomplished.

And it’s early days, but I haven’t sneezed since the appointment. If you want to try acupuncture, I say go for it, especially if whatever you need treated is bigger than your fear of a tiny, skinny needle. It feels like a little pinch as it goes in, if you actually feel it at all, and then it’s weirdly relaxing. The only ones I remember hurting a bit were some I had in my little toes, and that was really discomfort more than pain – like a bizarre ‘why is there something impaling my toe’ type feeling rather than a bee sting or kicked toe in corner pain.

Have you had acupuncture? Did it work? Or are you a fraidy cat like I was?

How to negotiate like a toddler

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When I was doing my PR diploma at uni I took a course called ‘Negotiation and Persuasion’ as one of my options outside of the set classes. The year I took the course we had a lecturer called Dr Charles Grant who was on some sort of teacher swap and was over from the University of Tennessee. He quickly became my most memorable lecturer, and the course remains the most valuable study for life and work I’ve ever done.

On the first day, Dr Grant drawled at us “Hey – my name is Charles Grant, but y’all can call me Chuck. At home they call me Doctor Smooth-talk but you don’t have to go that far. A little about me? I love Seinfield. I have every single episode recorded and I watch one show every day. I enjoying being fit and healthy. You will never, ever see me eating a hamburger. I promise you that. And today, I’m going to learn all of your names, and you’re going to learn all of each other’s names.”

He then proceeded to go around the room of about 50 students and within about 15 minutes had learned all of our names and didn’t forget one the entire semester. It was amazing. The course heralded my highest ever mark for an assignment, which was celebrated with a sort of Deal Or No Deal reveal where Chuck wrote all of the assignment results on the whiteboard, with the number of people who had scored that mark beside it, all the way up to 92% – 1.

I remember looking at that 92% and thinking, “if only.” I wanted to succeed for me as well as for Chuck, I felt like he deserved for his students to do well because he was such a fantastic teacher. I’d started winning negotiations at my part-time job, with my boyfriend, with my friends, with bouncers at the Outback Tavern, and it was all down to Dr Smooth-talk.

As he worked his way through the scores I remember thinking, “who is it?” and then thinking, “my name hasn’t been called, I must be close” and then realising that we were up to the 92% score and my name still hasn’t been called. “Shit. He’s left me out because my score was so abysmal he felt embarrassed for me.” And then he called my name, smiled that ‘whitest teeth on the planet’ (possibly from the lack of burgers) at me and I seriously felt like I’d won a gold medal. I got a round of applause and my face burned like a boiling pot of fried tomato soup dusted with a thick layer of red chillies.

The next week we had a test and I had a very good looking surfer boy chat me up before the class, ask to sit beside me and so blatantly try to cheat off my paper that I started writing with my left hand.

But even though I love the study of persuasion, it was something I had to learn. I’m sure we all do it naturally to some degree but I thought the real power lay in taking an educated approach to the situation.

It appears that I was wrong.

I have met my negotiation match. I have been slam-dunked on the head by my negotiation match. And she is only 16 months old.

TEN PANCAKES! Mwahahaha!

TEN PANCAKES! Mwahahaha!

Bubba has catapulted herself into the realm of negotiation, and she’s a master. As an aside – in the pre-baby past I was fairly critical of mothers who bribed their children to achieve results. Like most of my pre-baby judgements, I was wrong about this too – bribery is necessary and it is awesome.

At the moment Bubba has conjunctivitis, the poor little pet. It’s not a bad bout but it’s a bit sticky and messy and not very nice when you’d like a clear view of Peppa Pig. So we went to the doctor who prescribed some eye-drops and then wished me all the luck in the world trying to get them in her eyes.

It’s not easy. It’s on par with getting a cat to swallow a pill. We’ve wrestled, sung, I’ve shown her how cool it is to put eye-drops in, Papa had a try, Alfie offered but we thought better of it and we came down to the final straw – yummies. Yummies are these tiny little gingerbread men that our supermarket bakery makes. They’re used as a supper treat that Bubba has got wise to.

So as I hovered over her, randomly squirting eye drops on her forehead as she shook it back and forth, I said “yummies?”

And she said:

“Two.”

Straight for the increase. She weighed it up and thought, “You know what? This shit is going to sting, and there’s the whole post-nasal drip thing – I need some real motivation. Incy wincy spider can drown in a puddle for all I care. Give me two yummies.”

And I, of course conceded. She lay there and reluctantly allowed me to use the drops. Immediately after reminding me, “Yummies. Two.” And I thought, here is my refresher course in Negotiation and Persuasion, taught by a mini Dr Smooth-talk (more Dr Smooth-knows a couple of words, some I try to pass off as Norwegian but I’m pretty sure it’s just babble-talk).

So here is Bubba’s guide to negotiating like a toddler:

1. Demand bribes. Use blackmail to achieve the highest prize – “I will reach from the shopping trolley and pull every depends pad off the stand unless I get yoghurt-covered raisins” is a good one.

2. Time your attack. Wait until your victim is looking harassed, confused, sleep-deprived and in need of a stiff drink and then pounce. Waiting in line in a quiet place, like a bank or the post office, is ideal. Threaten to rip the place down with your angry toddler face and then, demand double the treats you were about to be offered.

3. Be adorable. It’s true that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar so put on that hooded top with the bear ears, some light-up sneakers and carry a teeny-tiny teddy bear. Tap on the knee of your victim, smile and twirl in a circle. Don’t be afraid to sit on a lap if you have to.

Give these a burl in your next salary negotiation and watch the dollars roll in.

What are your tricks for negotiating with or like a toddler? Did you have a teacher that changed your life?

Let’s do away with netball knickers

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I love netball. I started playing when I was about nine and stopped when I left New Zealand about three years ago. A loooooong time. I actually had no choice about stopping while I was in Norway as nobody there had even heard of netball. Unfortunately, with my delightful accent everyone I spoke to about ‘netball’ thought I was saying ‘nipple’ but was too polite to ask about it. Here I was, telling everyone how much I loved nipple, indoor nipple, outdoor nipple, mixed nipple – I’d even refereed a fair bit of nipple and was hoping to one day be a certified nipple umpire. No wonder I didn’t really fit in in Norway.

Anyway, slight digression there. I flicked on the TV this afternoon and there was a game on. I haven’t even managed to catch a game to watch yet this season so I took a look. One thing that struck me immediately was how utterly ridiculous it is to put professional sportspeople in veritable go-go dresses to play a highly physical game in. Why the hell, in this day and age, are women still forced to wear ridiculous skirts and dresses to play sport in? Is there any point whatsoever? Have I missed something? Do players need to be appropriately attired in case of some urgent side-saddle horseriding on the way home from the court? Or ready to flick their knees up for some half-time can can? I mean really. A skirt is a great thing but it doesn’t have any place in the sports arena.

As a 5 foot 11 fourteen year old, I remember picking up my netball skirt at the start of the season with absolute disdain. I put it on to show Mum and Dad and my father nearly choked on his PG Tips – “You may as well tie a handkerchief around your arse!” which didn’t make me feel that much more enthusiastic about the first game. And then there were the heinous netball knickers that we had to stock up on before the game, those nifty thick-stocking material low-leg numbers that were embarrassing enough if you were assured no-one would see them, heaving them on under the briefest of coverings was verging on traumatic. Like a 14 year old doesn’t have enough to worry about without getting her ample bum into some grandma bloomers.

I feel for netballers who play in a televised league. You’d like to think they’re being judged on their talent and skill on the court, but when one takes a tumble and her undies are suddenly on your flatscreen suddenly it’s not her shooting prowess that people are thinking about. Am I being oversensitive? Doesn’t it make sense to encourage our girls to play sport by dressing them in clothes they feel comfortable in? Why do we feel like girls need to be dressed to be identified as ‘girls’ when they’re there to play a game? And, believe me, pulling gravel chips out of your upper thighs after taking a slide on a wet court is no way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

What do you think? Do you see any point to wearing netball skirts anymore? What’s your take on the skort?

Talking to strangers pays off yet again

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In an effort to rid my week of foul-mood Tuesday I have started a Tuesday beach walk tradition. It’s actually a bit of a highlight now, the dog shakes and whines with excitement for the whole car-ride to the beach and licks and sniffs at everything we come across on our travels. It’s thoroughly enjoyable. Both kids behave *uses term loosely* extremely well, for Alfie this includes doing at least two ginormous craps in the busiest areas of the walkway, and, as an added benefit, this morning took a whiz so massive in the exact centre of the concrete walkway that it threatened to flood neighbouring suburbs and had passers-by leaping over the pool like show-jumping ponies.

Bubba is somewhat more sophisticated and premeditated in her approach, she tends to wait until a frail older lady approaches, cooing into the pram, before removing her hat and one shoe and firing it into the poor old dear’s face. Her other new and delightful trick is to burp like she’s just done a keg-stand at a frat house and then laugh like Kiwi legend Billy T James.

Billy T James - the Kiwi comedian who looked confusingly similar to my Dad in the 1980s.

Billy T James – the Kiwi comedian who looked confusingly similar to my Dad in the 1980s.

 

But another thing that spices up our Tuesday walks are the many strangers I randomly strike up conversations with. Conversing with complete strangers is, I believe, one of life’s great joys – a joy that is not shared nor understood by the Viking. He’s used to it now but cannot believe how easily I’ll get into a d&m with a bank clerk, lifeguard or bus driver. In fact, when the Viking’s cousin was staying with us for a spell, I heard her say to him (in Norwegian) something along the lines of “Steph talks to anyone! She does it all the time!” after I’d spent 45 minutes talking to a woman I met in the kids’ pool at the aquatic centre. Although I can understand a bit of Norwegian I’m not 100% sure of what the Viking said in response to his cousin, it was either “I know, it’s one of the things I love most about my future wife.” or possibly: “I know – it kills me. You should see with a couple of wines under her belt – she sings acapella with strangers on the train.”

But today a rare thing happened, I bumped into a stranger I had met on the walkway a couple of months ago. We’d had a good chat when we first met about Alfie. She was in the market for a new pooch so I talked up Alfie’s talents until I had painted an image of a canine capable of childcare, personal training and menial household tasks. Of course had she looked down she would have seen a scruffy spoodle licking his own bollocks but I managed to keep her eyes upward. Well she came a runnin’ up to us today saying “do you remember me?” Of course I nodded emphatically and opened my arms for a hug in case she was somehow related when she explained who she was.

“Because of Alfie I went to the same breeders you got him from and bought a spoodle called Ginger! We love him so much!”

I tell you what, I was chuffed. We chatted for a while longer as she told me how well Ginger had settled in with her family and we now have loose plans for a puppy playdate on the walkway in a month or so, when Ginger is old enough to get out and about with other pooches.

I’m looking forward to the doggy-date already, Alfie can teach Ginger all the finer points of being a spoodle – the crotch-sniffing, the baby face-licking and how to find the most attention-grabbing location for your next bowel motion.