Saturday, November 29, 2008

Its official. I am a shopaholic. To be precise - I am a possessions aholic. And the first step to healing is admission of ones addiction right? I am disgusted with myself. I thought i only turned to food when i got happy/depressed/tired/bored.....but i am forced to realize that i also turn to CLOTHES as the answer to all of lifes ills. Going to a party? must buy a new dress. Gained weght? Must buy new outfits to look skinnier in. Special ocassion coming up? Must buy new clothes to celebrate. Had a fight with husband? Must buy new outfit to vent anger and feel better ( how messed up is that one!!) Had a new baby? Must buy clothes that will fit when ive lost all the baby weight....hahahahahahahaha......NOT funny!

Today i compiled 4 large garbage bags full of clothes that either:a. dont fit me ( and one wonders if they ever did...lets say they fit in the category of - "I shall buy this because Im going to lose weight real soon and then i will wear this divine outfit that probably only Posh Spice could ever squeeze her self into.)
b. fit me but look ridiculous - they represent various phases in my life where i was posessed by a fashionista demon who convinced me i would look good in a hot purple shiny skirt....or a peasant top that all the supermodels are wearing with those big belts but on regular ole me just looks dumb...or long flowing pants that the catalogue aptly named "resort wear" and of course im planning a trip very soon to a resort (ha ha) but when i put them on they only look extra big and baggy and my butt looks extra big and baggy also...hmmm.
c. fit my children but they wouldnt be caught dead in them - Theyre only 9 and 12 ( the older two) but already they turn their noses up at my fashion choices for them. My son patiently explains to me - Mum, shirts with 2 pockets in the front are for girls okay? He says it reaaaaal slow like i have trouble spikking his language...
d. dont fit anybody but they were on sale and heck it was a crime not to buy them. I went crazy once at a Bendon factory shop sale....Elle Mcpherson bras for only 5 dollars?! In select sizes - no problem...i buy at least 10 of them only to get home and realize that in my frenzy i have bought the wrong size and none of them actually fit me. Now im faced with a i put them away and save them for the faraway day that my 7 year old grows up and requires bras? (and lizards and roaches eat holes in them?) or let them go the road of all clothes that nobody wears?

e. clothes that fit my husband perfectly...and have fit him for many well worn years and look it and he doesnt want to part with them ever and i have to hide them so he wont know im discarding them....
As i lug these bags of clothing to the car, i ponder on all the ragged children on the streets of Saleufi, Mexico, the Sahara and everywhere else...and i feel totally disgusted. I commit, I promise, I shall NEVER ( and i repeat ) NEVER buy anymore clothes for anyone in my family ever again. Or at least for a year.But its not just clothes. Theres an over abundance of possessions in my home everywhere. There are suitcases that we moved into this house with 6 years ago and stored in the top cupboards that we have never opened. What could possibly be in them that is of value seeing as how we have done without it for so long? Theres 2 freight containers outside crammed with various pieces of furniture broken and otherwise..ldvd players that dont work, two treadmills that broke down ( from disuse...i kid you not) bikes, garden tools, 3 old computers, the list is endless....all testament to our addiction to accumulating things we thought we needed/wanted/couldnt live without...Then as well as the junk there is the possessions that are deemed too precious to actually use. I refer for example to the floral china dining set gifted to me by my mother. Which we have never eaten off. Even in our wildest dreams. Unlike my mother - i dont have upper crust six course dinner parties ( where all my children get dressed in black and white so they can be the waiters to serve each divinely prepared entree) So when in heck am i ever going to use this dining set? I have table cloths, napkins, sheets that are too beautiful to use...which i opened up today to find stained with lizard poop and chewwed by hungry roaches. Soo all the years i was saving this beautiful cloth for that special day, denying my children the chance to even look at it....the pests and vermin were having a field day with it. The madness must stop!

What is the moral of this story? Throw out your junk today. Stop buying crap you dont really need. Crack out your treasured heirlooms and use them before they fall to bits. I dont know if it works for you - but tomorrow nite, were eating a piza dinner off floral china plates and toasting each other with sprite in fancy stemmed wine glasses! Woohoo! Oh - and we'll be wearing clothes that actually fit and dont look too ridiculous.
A Blast from the Past
Take a walk with me along the streets of Apia in the early 1900’s. Wave to Samuel Meredith as he delivers ice to your door. Stop and chat to Montgomery Betham as he builds a new coach and shoes your horses. Lets have our picture taken at Tattersalls Studio. We might spend an enjoyable few hours at the Central Hotel reading the latest English and German magazines. Or play billiards at the Tivoli Hotel. We could sip cordials and aerated waters made by P.Hoeflich and sample the latest pastries made by Christian Hellesoes bakery. Or dance the night away at a Masquerade Ball serenaded by the sounds of the Vineula Band. Mrs P Rasmussen could make us a wedding cake in an “original design that was very generally admired”. We could marvel with 200 other guests at Julia Milford’s dress as she weds James Curry “charmingly attired in a gown of white silk trimmed with chiffon and about her hair a dainty circlet of orange blossom.” Or let’s join the crowd that gathers to welcome home Alfred Fruean from the trenches of Gallipoli and hold in our hands the gas mask that helped to save his life. If we happened to be there on the 21 February, 1920 we could ogle at “a monster eel, the largest ever seen in Samoa caught in the Vaisigano River, 5ft 9in long and weighing 381 pounds.” We could watch children play on a merry go round at the Mulinuu Peninsula or shop at the Saturday Ladies Bazaar at the Apia Protestant Church.

It wouldn’t all be pleasant of course. During our stroll we may be confronted by the horror of a plantation manager whipping one of the Solomon Island workers – because he was napping in the heat of the afternoon. Or hear a familys screams as their mother is dragged away to a waiting ship – because she has supposedly shown telltale signs of leprosy. We would see a mothers desperate grief as she buries yet another child…consumption, tetanus, diphtheria…illnesses most of us will never have to know, all taking their toll. And of course, we would not wish to be in Samoa in 1918. Every week the newspaper listing more deaths. First a beloved wife, then a child, a parent, siblings – entire families wiped out in the space of a few weeks. Mass graves. Every morning a collection of bodies and hurried burials. Samoa a hundred years ago…

How much do you know about the world your grandparents lived in? About the paths they walked. The struggles they endured. Their tears, triumphs and joys? Cicero said – ‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?’

One place to discover your personal history is the Nelson Memorial Library. Browse through newspapers over a hundred years old stored in the Pacific Room and you may catch a glimpse of those who came before you. Get to know your ancestors in a whole new way. Imagine the thrill for my children to read about their twice grt grandmother – “fined 5 shillings for driving her horse and carriage at a speed faster than walking pace over the Vaimoso Bridge.” Apparently old granny was a bit of a speedster in her day! Or a notice forbidding the sale of liquor to their thrice grt uncle due to his ‘unruly drunken behavior in a public place’. (hmm…look out for a genetic tendency towards alcoholism there?!) Another ancestor wrote numerous articles for the newspaper under select pseudonyms…rather like what Im doing now. Its kind of cool to think this writing itch thing goes back that far!

It was there in the library we discovered the death notice for my grt grandfather and were stunned to realize he had died at the young age of 30 leaving his wife to raise 6 children alone. Also that he had served in the German Navy on a warship when he was a teenager. And had acted as a translator for those exiled to the Jaluit Islands. All things we did not know. All things that cast a whole new light on someone we know only from a single faded photograph.

Another treasure trove of ancestral history is the Registry Office. There, stacks of ledgers and journals are disintegrating in piles of dust. Hold fragmenting parchments in your hands and feel history slipping away forever through your fingertips. See a sample of your ancestor’s terrible handwriting as they witness a marriage, sign a contract or register a birth. Be amazed at the resilience of a mother as she registers the birth – and death – of yet another child. Be overwhelmed by the sheer commitment of census and registry workers as they painstakingly recorded thousands of names – all written many times over, all by hand. There is a world held in those records that is all but forgotten. And it is slowly but surely falling to pieces.

How exciting to hear of the Archive Preservation Project newly launched here in Apia. Hopefully it can be the means by which precious pieces of our written history can be saved. And what of our oral histories? For those of us blessed with living grandparents – I encourage you to sit down with your elders today. Have them share their lives with you. Tape record them. Write them down. Retell them to your children. Learn from their stories. Celebrate them.

We keep tripping over in our haste to move forward. To take Samoa blazing into the 21st century. But maybe we should slow down to take that leisurely stroll through our past. For can we really know who we are and where we’re going – until we know where and who we have come from?

Can a Creampuff Run a 10k?

I was standing in the supermarket when it caught my eye – a brochure for the Samoa Island Run. ‘Walk, jog, or run your way to fitness and health’. It was full of photos -people who had successfully ‘walked, jogged and run’ their way to fitness and seemingly eternal happiness. Looking at their sweaty, smiling faces – I decided right there that I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to run in a 10k funrun. I grabbed a signup sheet and firmly put it in my pocket. This was it – the beginning of a new me…
Anyone who knows anything at all about me, would know how fanciful – or should I say – how ridiculous that notion really was. I have not and never have been a runner of any kind, shape or form. I have always hated sports. I was the girl who cut PE class to hide out in the library ( rather than the other way around.). Exercise just wasn’t my thing.
Things started getting desperate though, once I became a mother. I sat and breastfed one baby after another. Not much exercise required there! Indeed the only ingredients needed for effective breastfeeding appeared to be eating, resting and then lots more eating. I slowly but surely ate my way from a size 10 to a size 20. I must say I did enjoy every delicious minute of it, but once my babies didn’t need me anymore, I started seeing parts of my body I had never noticed - like hips and the way fat kind of hangs off the edge of your legs when you sit down, or that roll of flat tyre that bulges over your waistline. I started waking up to the fact that there was a whole lot more of me then there used to be…and now all of me was going to run in a 10k ? Hmmm…
12 weeks to race day
My husband decides he wants to be a runner (again) too. Unlike me though, he has a glorious history of athleticism behind him. He hasn’t run in 13 years so he assures me we are both in the same beginners boat.(Yeah right.)We make a start to our ‘middle age’ running careers at the Pesega track early on a soft misty morning. Its 5:30am, the moonlit sky is dancing with stars and its actually rather romantic to be a couple alone on a vast green field. I set off at an enthusiastic run but have to stop after only half a lap with what feels like an acute asthma attack. It quickly becomes obvious that his idea of a beginner is leagues away from mine. On his first day back after a decade or so he can run 6 laps to my half. Gamely I struggle to keep moving – I trot along for a few paces then walk and after an hour I get to 6 laps. Its time to go home and stuff myself with breakfast. I deserve it.
9 weeks to race day.
Its two months away and I can jog two laps without stopping. Then I alternate jogging and walking until I’ve done 8 laps. The sweat rolls off me in waves and the air is filled with my torturous breathing. The husband jogs circles around me of course and does at least 12 laps to equal my pitiful 8. I am in awe of the woman who effortlessly jogs six laps every morning without skipping a beat…and then strolls home looking like she went window shopping at the mall. I don’t get it. I’m younger and have fewer children than her but I can’t even grasp the possibility that I could ever jog 6 laps. I’m a loser. There’s no other explanation that comes to my sweat drenched brain as I chug and chuff my wobbly self around the track, each step more laborious than the next. Who’s dumb idea was this 10k thing anyway?
8 weeks to race day
Running is now a habit. We are waking at 5:45am, five days a week. We start by warming up with a brisk walk together. Without my glasses I can’t see much beyond my face so its comforting to feel his presence next to me. ( Lessens the chance of axe murderers creeping up behind my short sighted self…) There are dark blurry shapes of other joggers up ahead. We greet each other. Strangers in a fellowship of early morning running. The sun starts to burn the dark sky, and we can smell breakfasts cooking. We start the day together – alone – without any kids interruptions. In the car we chat about the day’s plans and compare our progress. I think I like this running thing.
I can jog 4 laps now without stopping. If I wasn’t so wasted when I was finished I would have felt on top of the world. I can do 4 laps I cheer silently…as the cool blonde lopes her way breezily past me. It kills – but I can do it! I am now doing 12 laps altogether, running 4 and then alternating with walking for the remainder. It takes me 41 minutes. The 10k is looking a bit more possible.
6 weeks to race day
We decide to get serious. “Food and running go hand in hand. If you don’t eat right, then you cant run right.” According to the experts, the following must now become staples of our diet – pasta, salmon, lite milk, fruits and vegies, steak, rye bread, shrimps… Oh how lovely, we need to take out an extra mortgage to afford to eat like this. By the third night, the children are complaining about the endless mounds of pasta – “but darlings, this is a different kind of pasta from last night! This one is green see?…: the bread ‘has too many seeds in it muuuuum!” and “how come we don’t eat dessert anymore?!” ( My thoughts exactly, as I chomp down murderously on another serving of cabbage.)
But no, we must persist. And if we are supposed to be eating healthy and loving it, then so can the children. No more McDonalds…no more baking 3 kinds of cookies… luscious peach crumbles or chocolate cakes. Out goes the Coco Pops and in comes the Weet Bix. Our new regime does have its benefits, among them being I have lost 10 pounds. The husband buys us the finest steak and crab, cooking them to perfection.
( Him cooking is a minor miracle in itself.) Eating and shopping has become a joint venture, a couple activity. We talk about what we are going to buy and how we should cook it. Its like the early married days – when we were poor students and every purchase was discussed and planned. I recommend every couple train for a 10k together.
5 weeks to race day
I run on the road for the first time. I’m scared. The sun is up, everyone is out and every eye will be on me…Im sure of it. I cant figure out what to wear. People will drive by and they’ll look at me huffing and puffing and they’ll laugh.( I’m thirty one years old and completely regressing to primary school mentality here!) What if I trip over in front of the Lighthouse where all the Happy Hour drinkers are? What if everyone recognizes me for what I am? An imposter, a cream bun, a nose in a book kind of girl who is masquerading as a runner? I don’t know if I can do this.
The family drop me off and go for ice cream. I start jogging to meet them about a mile away. He promises me that running on the road will be easier. Don’t worry he tells me – you’ll love it. Ha. I think I would prefer a double scoop of rum and raisin.
It’s a lovely sunny afternoon and a sea breeze blows in off the harbour. There’s masses of people on the sea wall – walking, playing rugby, sitting under trees…nobody and I mean nobody is running. Babies in strollers look at me funny as I pound past. Dogs look curiously at my flapping shorts and hopefully are not interested in my scrawny legs. Funnily enough, the fact that I’m the only one running – gives me a boost of confidence. Eat my dust walkers and sitters – Im running. I pass big ladies in tights and floppy t-shirts and I feel youthful and trim…heh, heh…never mind that its been 5 minutes now and I know I shall have to stop running soon in case I die. Yes! He was right. It is more fun to run on the road. There’s more to see. You’re going places. You don’t count every second and every raspy breath. There’s so much to see that you end up going further than you thought you would. As I run along the wall, the wind in my hair, waves crashing against the rock – I am filled with a sense of exhiliration. This is really me. I am a 31 year old creampuff, the mother of four children, and I am a runner.
1 week to race day
Today I try to run the whole course. The husband rides along side me on his bike to fend off dogs. I run 5 miles without stopping – that’s 20 laps around the track. Its surreal. I get to Aggies and I start to cry because Im so happy. I see the end and decide to speed up. Ignoring his warnings I accelerate coming off the bridge. My legs are powering themselves and I feel an incredible high as I sprint the last 50 metres. I slow to a stop and then it hits me. A wave of nausea and dizziness. The world spins, the sea roars in my ears and I start to throw up. Panic grips me cold and tight. I cant breathe, I cant move, I am choking on vomit. I feel like Im going to die. People drive by and think – there is another drunkie throwing up on the sea wall! The husband walks me slowly up and down, trying to calm me. He tells me I overdid it ( no kidding) and I am dehydrated. Learn from my mistakes all potential beginners – never speed up at the end of a long run and always make sure you drink lots of water!. Okay, so I messed up at the end…but I know now that I’m ready for the 10K!
Race Day
Its arrived. I have new clothes for the occasion. (If I’m going to come last – then at least Im going to look good!) I have barely slept I am so nervous. The starting line is crowded with people of all ages and sizes. The race starts and Im away. I try to pace myself. The husband keeps reminding me to slow down. The slower you run – the further you can go. People cheer us on. I get to Millenia and I realize that this is actually fun. I didn’t need to be nervous. I’m afraid to push myself today though so at the 4 mile mark I slow down to walk. I get to Mulinuu and speed up to a run again. An eternity later I pull into sight of the finish line and the MC booms out my name and number. My family is waiting to cheer me on and to take photos of my sweaty self as I cross the line. I did it. I am proof that yes – a creampuff CAN run a 10k. And you know what’s even more unbelievable? I want to run it again and at a much faster time.
I invite all you other “creampuff” girls out there to join me!

Do your Children Know how to Work?

Theres a revolution taking place in my house. Its called – lets teach these kids how to work. Starting with the basics. Like how to notice when things are dirty and what to do about them Like how to scrub floors. And clean toilets. And how to make dinner for 7 - without trashing the place. Grandmother stopped by over the weekend and Little Daughter invited her in “to come and look at my toilet Nana! See how clean it is? See how I made it shine?” Ahhhh…theres nothing like the thrill of a job well done ay?!

So what brought this on? We had a Young Adult visit over the holidays. She couldn’t cook or clean to save her life. Or ours. And she showed a distinct dislike for the very idea of learning how to do anything that vaguely represented hard work. Her voice was on constant auto-whine. How do you turn on the stove?..what do you do with the full rubbish bags?...How do you cook mince?...The toilet smells – do you have any stuff to make it smell good? The 12 year old dishwashed circles around her. The only skill she seemed to possess in abundance was knowing how to text REALLY FAST. I’ll admit she did know how to Bebo – but then she messed up my entire computer when asked to type a letter for the business. She only noticed housework when it jumped up and hit her on the head…(something I was sorely tempted to do myself on several occasions.) If nothing else though, her visit struck fear in my heart at the thought of what my Five will be like when they’re her age. Yes I have ransomed my arm and leg to pay for the ‘best’ possible schools for them. Yes I read to them, do homework with them, and on a good day you could call them courteous, respectful and polite. BUT do they know how to work? So what if they can come first in class and are on the fast track to University. That means nothing if they cant show up to a job on time, work unsupervised, show initiative and creativity, know how to see something that needs doing and then do it and do it right. Do they know how to sweat for their sene’s…and toil for their tala’s?

I ask you – what kind of workers are YOU raising? Theres been a lot of graduation ceremonies on TV lately. Its encouraging to see so many of our young people getting qualifications. Hopefully that translates to getting jobs. But I wonder how prepared our youth really are for WORK. One shop owner complained recently – “Theres no point this girl having passes in History, Geography and English when she cant speak to customers politely and she turns her nose up when I tell her to mop the floor. These young people think working in a shop is nothing but dressing nice and pushing buttons on the cash register.” Another business manager commented that ‘nowadays everyone wants to work in a office. But then all they want to do is sit there and answer the phone. And you cant even leave them on their own for a minute because they will do nothing unless you spell it out for them.” There seems to be something missing in the youthful workforce…

We all know it starts in the home. But schools have a part to play as well. In a former life, I was a teacher. On my first day at one local high school I was told – “Now these two classes are made up of students who have no hope of passing PSSC so we don’t bother teaching them the curriculum. They are preparing for the workforce.” Okaaaay…so what do I teach them? “Oh it doesn’t matter. They wont be sitting any exams so you can just teach them whatever you want to. Show them how to write their CV’s…” Brilliant suggestion. Let me see, how many pages will we need for these teenagers to list their vast work skills and experience? How many ways can we describe…knows how to play rugby/goes to Sunday School faithfully/can dance really fast really well… To cut a long (and interesting) story short, I spent a delightful term with those two classes working on all kinds of “work” related skills. A highlight of the year was having one determined young man excitedly show us how he had applied for not one, but FIVE different jobs and been accepted by all of them. He was starting work that night as a waiter at a hotel. However, the class celebratory mood was cut short by the young mans irate parents calling the school to demand why their son was out looking for jobs when he was supposed to be preparing to sit PSSC? They didn’t want him going to work. They wanted him to get good marks and go to UPY and then on to ‘bigger and brighter’ things. Obviously the school had neglected to inform them that their son “had no hope of passing any exams.” Hmmm…with his energy and enthusiasm tho, Im convinced he was headed for things much bigger and brighter than half the kids in the exam stream classes.

Everybody wants the very best for their children. Nobody WANTS their kid to sell salus or nius forever. Theres some parents who give their kids everything – except the basics. You’ve seen them. They drive Daddy’s LandCruiser to school. And call mummy on the latest cell. And hit brother on the head with a PSP…because they have lots of ‘em. And they flash hundred dollar bills at the school canteen. And wear jewelry that normal people need to take out a loan to buy. I shall generalize here and say these are usually the same kids that ten years from now are working at daddy’s shop because they cant get a job anywhere else. Or are enrolling in their tenth course of study because they’re ‘finding themselves’ (courtesy of mummys money) Or (heaven forbid) are asking loudly “How do you turn on the stove?”

So what do we do? Theres no easy solutions. As a former teacher, I know that school curriculums need greater REAL LIFE skills and knowledge in them. Forget about the capital of Peru. I want my kid to master effective time management, have problem solving skills and the vocab and technological smarts needed to work in todays fast paced world. I know he’ll need creativity and a highly ingrained work ethic to get a decent job and keep it. As a parent, sure I’ll be thrilled if he is Dux of his school and earns a scholarship to somewhere amazing. But if he can’t make a toilet shine…or doesn’t know how much sweat it takes to mow the lawn…then my job as his mother is only half done.

A Useless Box of Condoms

Two months ago I gave a Young and Restless friend a box of condoms. With instructions and much encouragement to use them. Now the YRF is pregnant. And underage, unemployed, unqualified, unattached...completely unprepared for what lies ahead. HELLO… WHAT HAPPENED! I don’t know who I sympathize with more. The young mother and the challenging road she has chosen, her unborn baby getting a rather shaky start to life, or the soon-to-be grandparents who will surely be carrying much of the responsibility. I don’t know if I should congratulate her or whack her over the head with this unopened box. So what have I learned from this? What will I do when my fantastic five are Young and Restless? Lets consider a few options…which would you recommend?
A. Forget the contraception. Do it the old fashioned way. Beat them with a stick. Cut off all their hair and lock them up for the rest of their lives.
B. Drag the YR to church kicking and screaming. Tell her repeatedly that boys are Satanic creatures sent to drag us down into the pits of hell. And ones body is a terrible time bomb waiting to erupt at the slightest hint of male attention - and if you so much as look twice at a boy then you’re a slut and may as well get on the one way bus to Perdition.
C. Stick your head in the sand and be completely unaware that your offspring is even vaguely Young and Restless. Look befuddled and bewildered when she gets pregnant and/or contracts a STD. “But…but she doesn’t have a boyfriend!” Or when an irate parent tells you your &%#@* son has ‘led their daughter astray’. “But he’s a good boy!”
D. None of the above. Its culturally insensitive for us to even be having this discussion. I shall lodge incensed complaints with the Chief Censor and the Moral/Religious Police and they shall shut down this blog quicker than you can say “Da Vinci Code.”

Aaaah…so many choices…which one did YOUR parents raise you on I wonder? As I ponder upon this useless box of lubricated-ribbed-flavoured-laser tested-modern technological marvels… one thing is clear. It’s not enough to just give people contraception and information on all the possible pitfalls associated with unprotected sex. There’s a whole lot more in the wilderness of sexual and reproductive health…For me, nothing puts my “Mother of the New Millenium” title more to the test then when faced with the issue of health and sex education for my children.

I set out years ago to be that enlightened mum...the one you read about in fairytales. I resolved I would always ‘talk openly, with honesty and directness, using all the appropriate terminology’. (you’ve read those textbooks too, right?) I would communicate to them their bodies were a sacred gift and belonged to them, capable of great feelings which were there to be controlled and then enjoyed at the right time with the right person. ( In other words when you’re at least 25 and hopefully married with two degrees, a job, several thousand in the bank and own your own home.) I delighted in visualizing what it would be like to be such a mother. We would celebrate the onset of menstruation as something amazing ( not horrendous). We would have lovely little talks where my children would confide in me every emotion, every crush and teenage angst. They would be strong against coercion/threats/promises from weirdoes, sickos and wackos. In other words we would be like the Cosbys, Gilmore Girls, Brady Bunch and the Osmonds all rolled into one. With a cinnamon roll Martha Stewart stamp of approval on top.

Well, better said (in a textbook) than done. I discovered its just a little bit tricky to "talk openly without shame" about certain things to your little uns when you’re inwardly cringing. And before you can say all the ‘right terms’ – you kind of need to learn them first. So you can answer your two year old in a nonchalant fashion when he asks you… “Mum what is this thing and why do I have it for?” Or how about when he excitedly tells you one day in the car…”Look mum, its sticking up!”

But with each child and each passing year I get a little better at this. I’m happy to say my kids can converse like a biology textbook. They have a spiritual appreciation for their bodies. They tell me my body is a temple and I should stop abusing it with buckets of Diet Coke. And I pat myself on the back when a 5 yr old can yell emphatically – “No I don’t want to let you have a turn on the swing because this is MY body and Im the boss of it and NOBODY can make me do things with it I don’t want to!”

Yes, Im feeling pretty good about myself and my health education skills when my 4 yr old bursts my bubble. Her dad is leaving for work and she tells him - "Now dad, remember that your vagina belongs to you and don’t let anyone else touch it okay!" (Dad hightails it out of the house quicksmart with a 'wife, what are you doing to our kids' look on his face) And there’s perhaps a little too much pride and love for ones body when your 3 yr old bursts out of the shower and flashes open his towel for his aunties - "Look at my SUPER-PENIS!" Ooops.

Last week an almost teenager asked “why do girls keep hitting me at school? They keep bugging me. And why do girls giggle so much together and look at you?” Aaah my son..these are age old questions...timeless as the rising and setting certain as the changing of the seasons...blah blah...while I’m dithering about, the father says - Oh what rubbish. Son, girls do that because they like you and they dont know what to do about it and youre so handsome they want to touch you...kinda like back in the dayz when I was in school....blah blah...HA!

His questions got me thinking though - maybe just as important as the birds and the bees is making sure my kids understand all the social ins and outs that go along with growing up. Like, why girls get weird on you in Year 6...or why boys pick on you and tease you...and what to do about it...or how about dealing with catty girls and school gossip? Or what to do when a guy you really like tries to get you to do something you know you shouldn’t and don’t want to? Have you checked out an Intermediate school lately? It’s a jungle out there!

Now I certainly didn’t get any decent sex information from my much-educated parents when I was growing up. They didn’t give me condoms, put me on the pill, or show me graphic images of STDs. They said “Just DON”T do it.” ( sorry Nike) They were terrible sex educators. They did give me other things though. They told me to get a good education so I would never have to be stuck with a man who was mean to me. Aim high and work like heck to get there. They convinced me I didn’t need to run wild with the rest of the Young and Restless Pack - just so I could make friends/be popular/get the most hits on my Bebo page (I’ve got 10,345 but who’s counting?!) And they made sure I could speak up for what I wanted – and didn’t want. (Now of course my dad wont stop complaining about my lack of humility and servility as befits the daughter of one such as he.)

I want all that for my fantastic five. Combined with their heightened biological awareness and spiritual foundation, I say to the Young and Restless Years ahead…Bring it On!
And hey – if all else fails, I can always use this box to whack them upside the head.

The Coconut Queen Learns how to Make Copra

The new buzz word these days is coconut oil. Biofuel. Everybody and their dog is talking about it. Everybody and their dog is aflutter with its possibilities. “Oooh Samoa has soooo many popo just lying on the ground everywhere…Think of all that oil…all that money!” Well-meaning knowitalls pontificate – Samoans should stop wasting the popo…they should make copra…they should make oil…blah blah. And why don’t they? Because its bloody hard work that’s why! And how does a mere creampuff know this?

Because we are now officially coconut farmers. Yup. I am a Coconut Queen. The Love of my Life (LOL) has an expeller for making coconut oil. But before you start putting us on the List of “Ten Richest People on Saleufi Street” wait up. To make oil one needs copra. To make that one needs coconuts. Tens of thousands of them. To get them one needs to get ones butt out there to pick them all up, load them and lug them. And then husk them. And sali them. And then stick them into a giant oven powered by a huge furnace. To dry coconut completely one must fire said oven for 3 days straight. 24 hours. To ensure said oven doesn’t burn the place down (thereby incinerating aforementioned coconut) one must monitor it closely. Once dried, copra must then be stored securely so mutant Samoan rats don’t eat it. Or wet season rains don’t infest it with mold. And then when you have several tons of the stuff - finally one can shove it all into a expeller and make oil. And then start the whole darn thing over again. In the past few weeks I have learnt several fascinating things I never knew before ( and must confess never cared about either.) Did you know....* that it takes 6 years for a coconut tree to produce nuts but FIFTEEN years before full yield capacity is reached? A tree has one ready to harvest bunch of nuts every month. And then they drop and germinate unless you get out there and pick them up. Now, collecting coconuts may sound (to the ignorant and uninitiated) like a delightful tropical pastime that involves wandering thru lush green rainforests serenaded by birdsong and sipping pineapple dacquiris. The truth is a harsh wakeup call. Trudging thru bush and overgrown nut plantations ain’t no picnic. Take a sapelu to hack your way thru. And to whack the mosquitos. Then the conundrum is of course - when you pick up the must then take them back with you. Over rocks and fallen logs. Thru grass growing over your head. The wizened old man who oversees 300 acres of coconut farm told the LOL confidently - "Oh its easy. The boys used to go out there everyday with donkeys to collect the nuts. Donkeys can make it thru the bush and carry lots of popo." So the LOL hires some eager nut collectors. They show up for their first day of collecting. Where are the donkeys they ask? "Oh we dont know. They were let loose years ago. You have to catch them. " Okaaaay. "Yes and then you have to train them to carry the popo because they’re wild donkeys. They don’t know how to la’u popo." ANYBODY OUT THERE KNOW HOW TO TRAIN WILD DONKEYS? I GOT A JOB GOING HERE FOR YOU.* When you’ve collected the nuts and opened them you have a 4 hour window to start drying them before they start forming mould. Some of this mold is poisonous for human consumption. And who is going to be silly enough to consume this stuff anyway you may ask? Well YOU. Because coconut oil is used in everything from baby formulas to margarine, cookies, cooking oil, animal feed and soap. Sounds simple enough. Open coconut - start drying process at once. HA. Once again not as easy as it sounds. Imagine if you will a veritable mountain of popo. It towers above you mockingly. You must husk it all. And then crack it. And the water runs out everywhere and the place is flooded with it. And the flies come for a feast. And the place starts to have a certain stench about it. And you are next to the huge dryer and you’re sweating. And then you have to stack and load the oven and all its 30 trays with half nuts. Oh and don’t forget the oven takes 10,000 nuts and you better fill every single tray or else you’re wasting money stoking the furnace....and once its all loaded you shut that door with a sigh of relief. Only its not over. Because the trays have to be rotated every so many hours. And after several hours, you have to pull out each tray and cut out the partially dried meat from the nut. And the shells are burning hot. And the day is hot. And the oven is hot. And the knives are sharp. And when its cut out you have to load it all back into the oven for another 2 days of drying. And then what do you do when your workers decide they don’t want to spend the nite looking after the furnace? Or your shift workers don’t show? Ha ha. Then its your job to look after the entire thing all damn nite ( after sweating over it all damn day) because its your precious money that bought those coconuts and if they all go up in smoke then basically(...excuse my french) you’re screwed. .....ANYBODY OUT THERE WHO IS A PRO COCONUT HUSKER OR SCRAPER? WE GOT A JOB HERE FOR YOU AND FIFTEEN OF YOUR FRIENDS!Now I confess that I myself am only speaking from second hand experience here. Its the LOL who’s doing all the collecting/husking/scraping/drying
/stressing/sweating. He comes home with hands cut from the sali knife, banged up leg from the husking, sunburnt from the collecting, hoarse from the yelling, red eyes from the smoke and generally exhausted. And we haven’t even made a drop of oil yet! So I want to salute all those coconut farmers out there and those copra makers because I sure as heck never knew how hard your job was and once again proves that being a lawyer or a corporate CEO is soooooo overpaid ... but I must stop here because me and the kids are heading out to look for the donkeys. Anybody seen Eeyore?