Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Some Times I dont Like Living in Paradise

1. When you wake up with a shiver because a millipede is crawling on your face. Ewww. Could be worse though. Could be a centipede. Or a GIANT millipede like this one...

2. When you go the grocery store and theres only five things in your cart and the total bill is $125. EXCUSE ME?!
3. When you go to the movies and the people behind you talk about the movie. Really loud. With a blow by blow description of the action. And then their cellphone rings. Really loud. And then they talk on the phone and tell the caller all about the movie. Really loud.
4. When your daughter comes home from school and asks - "Is hitting kids part of Samoan culture mum? Because it always happens during Samoan period."
5. When you go to the doctor and he wants you to take amoxil. ALL THE TIME. Your kid has a sore throat? Amoxil. An infected cut? Amoxil. An earache? Amoxil. A rash? Amoxil. A broken collarbone? Amoxil. Chicken pox? Amoxil. Oh - and mother has a headache? She should take amoxil too. (Is he a shareholder in Amoxil Assoc? Or maybe he's cut a deal with the pharmacist so he knows what drugs are over ordered and about to expire.)

The Many Faces of the Fabulous Five

Wall runners.

The Artist.


She rules.

He sews.

He thinks.

She smiles.

She reads.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Lost and Losing It.

(Because the eye eats first)
I am thirteen kilos lighter than i was in January of this year. I am twenty eight kilos lighter than I was two years ago. People who havent seen me for awhile say - "You've lost weight." Or if theyre very nice people, they say - 'wow, you look great. You've lost weight.' While it can be a buzz to get positive feedback on one's size, I do take issue with this concept of weight being LOST. If its lost - where did it go? If its lost - that implies Im currently searching for it? And missing it? And wanting to find it again!? Or that I absent-mindedly misplaced it. Like a favourite pen. Or a two dollar note. Or my car keys on a crazy day. This is a gross misrepresentation of the facts. One which i want to rant and rave about.
While there are many things I am unsure of in this universe, I most definitely am certain that unlike brooding hot Jack and the misunderstood (but equally HOT) Sawyer - I do not wish to find my LOST island of fat kilograms. Indeed, far from being LOST, that spare tyre (or two) that used to keep me company was forcibly evicted. Banned. Rejected and ejected. Those kilos were uninvited guests that slipped in the door disguised as a double scoop of rumnraisin ice cream. Or hitched a ride with the fa'alifu taro. And the bowl after bowl of steamed white rice. Masquerading as comforters, they wooed me with promises of happiness, stress release and plain ole boredom alleviation. Home baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Fried rice from the Chinese takeaway. Hunks of rye bread dripping with honey and gooey peanut butter. Honey soy chicken. A driveby cheeseburger snack. Three servings of coco pops. Yes they were all my friends. Its not their fault they over stayed their welcome. Or left behind nasty linger-ers who needed deporting. So for the record, please note fact number one - fat isnt LOST. And nobody (in their right mind) is out looking for it, putting up Reward posters for its return or wistfully reminiscing about the good ole days when fat was ones best friend.
Fact number two - I havent LOST any weight. I kicked its butt outa here with power walking. Running. Lots of rest. Healthy eating habits.At 5am when sane people are in bed, I was stumbling in pitch black darkness around the Sports complex hoping and praying that all the drunks were asleep in a ditch rather than waiting for a silly woman to huff past. Instead of staying up till 2am to write in the peace and quiet of a sleeping house - I had to go to bed early. Instead of eating everything and anything i wanted - I had to schedule my food - six small meals a day. Can you even grasp what a nightmare that is when you have a family of 7 to feed? I did Nina's Challenge...again...and again...and again for the extra motivation. I sought out good friends to run with. To commiserate with. To do a 100 km relay with. I (for once) listened to my husband when he told me how to train. How to recover. How to prevent injuries. Make no mistake about it - getting rid of unwanted weight is hard work. Old habits are hard to break. Especially when theyre so delicious and relaxing! You dont LOSE weight. You get rid of it with pig-headed stubbornness and determination. And it doesnt go until you face the facts. ( to paraphrase the wicked Xtreme Performance trainer...) 'Aint nobody else responsible for your fat but YOU.' Step up and claim responsibility for the state of your health. Your life. Your thighs. Your cholestorol.
Thats right. Its not my five fabulous babies fault. (Although they sure do owe me big time...) Its not my husbands fault...just because he domesticated me, and made me give birth to these children, and made me think of other things besides myself. Its not MY mothers fault...just because she was a yoyo dieter and exerciser and squirrelled away tubs of chocolate pudding to eat all by herself when we werent looking and that is now my fave treat. Its not my works fault...the soap business, the construction company, the office, the home-management. Its not homeschools fault. Its not three ceasareans fault. Or three near death experiences with toxaemia. Nope. Im not unhealthy because im too busy, too tired, too stressed, or too frantic. Im unhealthy because I choose to be.
Oprah ( who of course knows EVERYTHING) said that we get unhealthy because we "dont love ourselves enough". Women put themselves and their needs last. Behind kids, spouse,extended family,the next door neighbor, the random stranger on the street... As usual - I agree with Oprah. (does that take me one step closer to being disgustingly rich i wonder?)
Its a long hard slog - but Im slowly learning to love myself better. And how to choose good health....now if i could just figure out what the heck the latest plot line is on 'Lost' then i would be truly happy!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Twilight Series for Dummies ( and totally desperate Mormon Guys)

I love this guys take on Twilight. This blog had me chuckling. Have a read and then check his writing out at http://mormonhusbands.blogspot.com/2008/02/twilight-series-for-dummies-and-totally.html
I used to roll my eyes when I would hear women lament about how hard it is to be female in today's world in which feminine "beauty" is generally measured by dress sizes, inches on the waist, and letters of the alphabet. I have heard 1,968 women say, "How can you grow up as a girl who plays with Barbie dolls and then develop a healthy self-image once puberty begins? If Barbie were a real-life woman, she would be 5'11, weigh 128 pounds, have a 16-inch waist, and don't even get me started on her...(edited for content)." Another favorite complaint from one of my female friends in the early 1990's was, "Why is Cindy Crawford's facial mole considered a 'beauty mark' but people tell me that my mole makes me look like a witch?" The correct answer was technically because Cindy Crawford did not have several 1 1/2 inch-long hairs sprouting to life from her mole, but sometimes it's just better to say, "Yeah, that's soooo totally unfair. Wanna watch Saved By The Bell?"I could never empathize with the "It's Impossible to be Barbie" complex. After all, I grew up as a kid playing with He-Man action figures. If He-Man were a real person, his pecks would be so powerful that they could legally be given Super Delegate status by the Democratic party. Assuming, of course, that He-Man were a registered Democrat. (Those of us who faithfully watched the show know that He-Man has to be Republican. At the end of every episode He-Man would present a short "moral lesson" in which he used a portion of the episode to illustrate right choices from wrong. As a person who believes in absolute morality, He-Man would be ineligible to join the Dems. But I'm pretty sure Man-at-Arms was a Democrat, Battlecat was an Independent, and Orko a Communist, so the show was pretty balanced.)While I grew into a fully-functioning adult male with a healthy self-image despite my boyhood He-Man obsession, I have recently become more sympathetic to the women of the world who know that they will never look like Tyra Banks. This added measure of sensitivity has been thrust upon me by one person:Stpehenie Meyer.For men who are unfamiliar with Stephenie Meyer, she is a 34-year old BYU graduate, active Mormon, and stay-at-home mom. A few years back she decided on a whim to write a book about teen-aged vampires called Twilight and it rocketed to the top of the NY Times Best Seller list. New Moon and Eclipse soon followed and they were both best sellers as well. As to her personal fame, Stephenie Meyer recently knocked out Orson Scott Card in the third round of an Ultimate Fighting Championship event to become the undisputed most famous living Mormon author in the world. (The most famous dead LDS author is obviously C.S. Lewis, who had to have been a member since he is quoted in General Conference more often than all of the New Testament apostles combined.)I like Stephenie Meyer for a lot of reasons. It is wonderful to see somebody who is about my age and a BYU graduate make it big. Her books are worth reading and she keeps the language and content clean. She also allows every husband in the church hold out the hope that one day he'll come home from a horrendous 10-hour day at CompUSA and be greeted by his ecstatic wife who says, "You're not going to believe this, but Creating Keepsakes wants to buy my scrapbook template pages for $1.8 millon!"

While most of the Twilight phenomenon is undoubtedly positive, we as men have an obligation to begrudge Stephanie Meyer for two reasons:1. Edward.2. Jacob.Or, as I like to call them, Jerk Face #1 and Jerk Face #2. If you have not read the books, Edward is Bella's deep, intense, passionate boyfriend. Jacob is the funny, charismatic, forgiving friend who would do anything to make Bella his. They both possess magical powers that are far superior to any of the tie tricks that LDS guys learned on our missions (except for blowing on our tie to make it wilt like a flower, that's classic!) In other words, both Edward and Jacob are much, much more interesting than any of the husbands or boyfriends of the women who read the Twilight books.LDS men should feel as much contempt toward the two main characters of the Twilight series as a woman recovering from her fourth c-section in seven years feels toward Barbie. Approximately 97% of all Mormon women between the ages of 16 and 42 have read Sister Meyer's books and I'm guessing that 92% of them wish their husbands/boyfriends were more like Edward or Jacob in some way. The other 8% have a crush on either Jack, Sayeed, or Sawyer from Lost. If you happen to be dating a young woman and she reveals that she has a crush on either Sawyer or Sayeed, your in pretty good shape. It is highly unlikely that she will ever meet a surly con artist or a former Iraqi Republican Guard torture expert, let alone be swept off of her feet by them. But if your significant other has the hots for Jack, be very, very afraid. There are a lot of divorced, desperate 30-something doctors out there trolling outside of Bath and Body Works looking for vulnerable women whose husband/boyfriend just did something incredibly rude, such as forgetting that today marked the 1,000th day since your first date.Since most women would like their men to adopt at least a few of the Edward/Jacob qualities, I'll lend a hand to my male readers who have not yet read the books but would like to make it sound like they have. If you ever find yourself in any of the situations below and your wife/girlfriend is a Twilight fan, the following quotes will be pure gold:LADIES: PLEASE HELP US OUT AND POST COMMENTS TO LET US KNOW WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING QUOTES YOU LIKE THE BEST:-
If she thinks that you drive too recklessly: "Honey, please trust me as much as Bella trusted Edward when he had to break all known traffic laws to get her out of Forks and away from Victoria. If he can drive Bella's pickup truck that recklessly, then I should be able to steer with my knees while texting with my right hand and using my left hand to hold my Slurpee."
-If she ever says on a very warm day, "I feel so hot right now" you should respond with, "My body always feels hot to the touch....kind of like Jacob's." You can then raise your eyebrows like Magnum P.I., flex your pecks, and put your arm around her.
-If she ever says on a very cold day, "I feel so cold right now" you should respond with, "My body always feels cold to the touch....kind of like Edward's." You can then raise your eyebrows like Magnum P.I., flex your pecks, and put your arm around her.
If she says that you have a fear of commitment, tell her, "I just can't rush into a relationship right now. My heart's been broken before and I would like for our relationship to take the next step, but I often feel like Edward did when he left Bella for Italy. His heart was with her, but the timing wasn't right at the moment." Note: This will buy you approximately 3 1/2 months. You will then either have to put a ring on her finger or change your name to Miguel Sanchez and live in Panama for a year while things die down.
If she wants a relationship but you just want to be friends, just say, "I am so glad that we both agree that we can have a fulfilling, close relationship like Bella and Jacob enjoy."
If you really want her to back off and stop bothering you, tell her, "I'm really a creepy, soul-less recluse who thirsts for human blood. I have killed before and have to restrain myself on a daily basis from killing again. I'm not talking about in a heroic, romantic Edward-like way. I'm talking in a really deranged Jeffrey Dahmer way." Note: You will never, ever, EVER see her again at this point, so only bust it out when absolutely necessary.
If you are on a date and there is an awkward lull in the conversation, get a pensive look on your face and say, "I was reading on stepheniemeyer.com that the next Twilight book is going to be told from Edward's point of view. I can't wait to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the emotional trial it must have been for him to be away from Bella for so long during New Moon." Note: If you say this, your female companion will get down on her knee and propose to you on the spot. Only use this line if you are seriously considering taking this young lady to the temple one day.
If she is insecure about her looks and repeatedly asks you if she is pretty, stroke her hair and gently say, "Sweetheart, you always look beautiful...in a Bella sort of way." Note: If you've never read the books and try this line, please post a comment with how this one works out for you and how long it takes for the bruising to heal.
Once you are married, write the following in your next wedding anniversary card, "I am eternally grateful to know that we can be together forever. I am even more grateful that I did not have to sink my vampire teeth into your neck and suck out all of your blood to make it happen." Believe me, she'll dig that one.
Just Added (see comments): After numbing your lips by sucking on a Popsicle, ask her, "Have you ever wondered what it feels like to kiss Edward?" Note: She will be utterly helpless when you close your eyes and lean toward her.
Well, guys, there you have it. Be sure to check the comments to see which of the quotes will score the most points with your wife or girlfriend. In the meantime, do everything possible to act like an undead vampire and/or a teenage werewolf while keeping the love of your life away from Jack from Lost. And women think they have it hard trying to live up to the Barbie standard? If they only knew how hard it is to be a man!

Friday, September 18, 2009

His First Dance.

Its 9:30pm. One more hour till i go pick up my teenage son from his very first 'dance'. I wasnt ready for this. Not emotionally. Or mentally. Or any other kind of '-ally'. He said he wasnt interested in going. Then half an hour before it started, he wants to go. He gets dressed. And hes so tall. And handsome. And grown up. And vaguely irritated with my fussing. And nonchalant as he waves goodbye and strolls into the building. Past a googling gaggle of girls. And i sit in my parked car and watch him go. And i want to cry. And be happy at the same time. Because hes a confident and outgoing young man. With friends. (and not a tangled mess like his mother was when she went to her first dance) Because hes just taken another huge step into the big bad world. Without me. And thats as it should be. But it still cuts. For a brief wild moment - I wished fervently that he was just a teensie bit socially inept. That he had bedraggled self-esteem that trailed behind him in tatters. Tripping him at every turn. Then maybe he wouldnt go to dances. Ever. And then girls wouldnt google. And gaggle. And he'd stay home. With me. And listen raptly while i read him Harry Potter. Again. Or watch Barney. For the millionth time. Or beg me to take him to McDonalds. Or hug me and say "Im going to be your little boy forever mum. I never want to grow big."
He made dinner before he went out. And worked on his Geography project. And played with his little sister the Beast. And told me i should definitely NOT make any excuses but get my butt out the door for my afternoon run. He's all the words you want to read in a school report card. 'Mature, responsible, hard working, serious,a natural leader, great at sports, a pleasure to teach...' Im not quite sure how he turned out so well. Considering he was our first. The guinea pig in the experimental laboratory of 'Darren and Lani Young's Parenting'. Surprisingly unscathed.

I wonder. Whats he doing at that dance? And who is he doing what with? At my first dance...I 'borrowed' a red shirt from my mothers closet so i could be like the woman in my fave song - "Lady in Red'. A denim skirt and LA Gear Hi-tops from aunty Lu completed the ensemble. Ewww... i think i wore orange bobble socks. What a hideous thought! It was on a Pesega compound street. Under a Samoan starry sky. With songs from the 80's. There was a first crush. A first slow song dance. A first time holding hands....OKAY that does it...ENOUGH REMINISCING - There'll be none of that at that dance tonight...Im going to pick him up right now!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

When Homeschool Works.

So some days homeschool bombs. Im tired. Or uninspired. Or just plain ole lazy. But then other days everything just works. And they're learning. And Im learning. And theyre having fun. And Im having a blast. And Im so thankful i can homeschool. Today was one of those days. Got a neat art lesson off an awesome art teacher site. ( will post the link when i find it...) All about dimensions and perspective and layering and....well, its called 'looking out the window' and heres some of the results.
'Harmony' by Zion. Age 7. She says - "I would like to sit in this room because its so peaceful. And the view out the window is so pretty."

'Living the Dream Life' by Sade. Age 11. I especially love the chic high heels in the corner and the animal print rug - like i stepped into the pages of Vogue house magazine!

'Midnight Swim' by ....Unknown.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Spontaneity:the state of being spontaneous. Swept away in the moment. Able to live, love, breathe and act without thinking. Without planning and foresight.
Ahhhhhhh....doesnt that sound glorious? I cannot rememeber the last time i did something truly spontaneous. But then - can one be spontaneous when one has five children? Two of them with special dietary restrictions? And one of them a teenager full throttle in teenage cares and concerns? And a construction company? A home-based soap making business? And four dogs? A church calling ( or two.) And one is (supposed to be) following a rigorous training program that requires getting lots of sleep and lots of vegetables. ( do u know how much time it takes to peel all the carrots i need to eat to keep me from eating the entire bag of corn chips?!) Hmmm...

So there we were, Darren and I, discussing ( for the millionth time) whether or not we should buy a house in New Zealand. We've been planning it for going on a year now. Perused countless real estate internet sites. Looked at numerous houses - from dream mansions to almost ghettolike extreme makeovers. We've even gone so far as to almost buy not one, but two different houses, halted only by hidden asbestos and faulty electrical wiring. So you cant really fault our cautiousness. Or studying and pondering. But sitting there analyzing all the pro's and con's just one more time - I just couldnt take it a minute longer.

"Let's do it" I said. (Darren looked surprised and gleeful.) "No" I clarified "Lets go buy a house. No more talking about it. No more thinking about it. Lets get on a plane tomorrow, Look at the 4 houses we saw online today and just buy the best out of the 4. What the heck - lets just do it!"

The full glory of spontaneity dawned upon us. A fly by night trip to Auckland? Without our children? Throwing caution to the winds? Where we could then throw our life savings at a stranger in exchange for a house? And sell our souls to the bank on a whim? It was daring. It was foolhardy. It was exciting! And of course the thought of eating at McDonalds peacefully without five hangers-on...or sitting on a plane and being able to eat the horrible food. Because you dont have a wriggly, screaming toddler sitting on your lap. And being able to watch the lame movie. And actually listen to the headphones. Or (heaven forbid) even shut one's eyes and sleep if one so desired?! Or go to the mall and only look in stores that carry adult clothing. And books. and NOT have to stop at a single playground? Heck - i was feeling positively giddy...

But then - as it so often does. The rollercoaster ride of spontaneity came to a shuddering halt. Leaving one feeling slightly let down. And sick. I started thinking - WHAT IF?
*theres a tidal wave while were gone? Who will drive the kids to safety?
*theres a cyclone. And its so bad no planes can come here for weeks and we cant get back home in time?
*We both get swine flu on the plane and get stuck in intensive care?
*The plane crashes and we both die and our five children are left orphans?
*One of the Fab Five chokes on a piece of apple and nobody here knows how to do the Heimlich maneouvre as wonderfully as I do?
*Zach falls out of the tree. Again. Only this time he doesnt just hit the ground and laugh uproariously. Instead, he lands on the swingset, breaks his back in four places, ruptures his spleen and needs to be airlifted out?
*Somebody gets overwhelmed with RHD despair and too many James Bond movies and takes over the government with a stick of dynamite ( disguised as a pencil). And there is mass rioting. And confusion. And Fiji-coup-like-craziness?

Once I got going with the what-ifs, that was it. All spontaneity fled. Replaced with worry. And guilt. And frantic self-doubt. And a desire to hug ones children tightly ( in case just me thinking about the above stuff made it come true...) Is it just me? Or does every parent suffer from an over active imagination coupled with over-hyped-worry syndrome? How do other people do it? Go on holidays without their kids? Let them run to Kickboxing class without praying they wont get hit by a car. Or attacked by a gang street thugs? You'd think that with five children - I'd be a pro by now at "letting them go....and go...and go...please just go!" Instead, Im flipping out at the mere thought of jetsetting to Auckland for 4 days without them. I need help. From 'Psycho Overanxious Parents Anonymous.'

Monday, September 7, 2009

To the Left, To the Left

We awoke from deep slumber at 6am to the blaring sound of horns chorusing...road switch, road switch! I didnt hear any of the promised church bells ringing ( or herald angels singing for that matter) But nevertheless -its official. Samoa is now driving on the left-hand side of the road. Whether you like it or not. Whether you protested it - or rushed out and started importing cheap cars from NZ. Whether you damaged road signs in some misguided attempt to delay the switch. Or painted the words "KILL TUILAEPA" on a speed hump. Its here.

I have been deliberately neutral on the road switch since its inception. Because Im a 'typical' ignorant housewife too busy with potty training a 2 yr old and unable to process weightier matters of international import? Or because on the scale of scary issues facing families in Samoa in this day and age - what side of the road we drive on ranks pretty low. Paltry stuff like the shocking state of education ( even in the most expensive private school in the nation)...or the fact that teenagers are dishing out suspicious white powder in schools...or the matter of all those pesky kids who keep trying to sell me matches at the McDonalds drivethru..or how about healthcare? How shockingly expensive private hospitals here can charge the earth, dole out HORRIBLE prenatal care, babies can die and nobody gets in trouble for it?

Enough of my soapbox. Back to the roadswitch. There was a carnival atmosphere in town at 6 this morning. Roads were lined with people there to watch and cheer and call out reminders to vehicles...."itu agavale!" Everybody beeping their horns as they drove ceremoniously around the town clock. Barbara Dreaver from TVNZ was there. Hoping for catastrophe and calamity. Sadly she didnt find any (today anyway). She'll probably have to slip someone a few tala so they can crash their RHD car into a banana tree on purpose - just so she can catch it on camera. There was no mass protests. No blocking of roads. Machete wielding matai marching on parliament ( or wherever it is that machete wielding matai march.) Thanks to all the new speed bumps, people are driving slower. (thank goodness). Thanks to all the new road markings, people are driving with more awareness of where and how they should drive. Thanks to all the emphasis on the death and destruction warnings, people are a little freaked out and paying more attention to what theyre doing on the road.

Thats right folks. After months of tension and precipitous anticipation and debate. ( and dire threats of doom and gloom...the sky is falling...the sky is falling) It happened. We woke up. We drove on the left side of the road. And that was it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sade's Words of Wisdom

Sade dressed as Cruella deVille for Book Parade. She actually fit my knee high black boots and that made me a little sad to see how grown up she really is. When she was little, she used to crack me up with her snippets of deep thought, uttered at the strangest moments.
Did you know that…
*Babies sleep a lot because they’re thinking about heaven…
*When you get old – you die.
* When you die, they put your body in the ground and the worms and the bugs come and eat it.
*Babies can see spirits AND talk to Jesus all the time because they just came from heaven…
*The tooth fairy isn’t real – its just your mum and dad giving you money…
*Girls can’t be prophets – because they don’t have the Priesthood ( announced loudly during the movie Whale Rider.)
*You shouldn’t pick your goobies out of your nose because they stop the blood from coming out of your brain…
*You should only kiss the person you’re married to because if you do that’s called adultery. So if you go somewhere and you feel like kissing someone – then you should run home really fast and kiss your husband quick.
*When I grow up I’m going to look just like my mum and we will be twins.
* When I grow up I’m going to be a artist, and a cooker, and a mum because girls can be lots of things – like my mum – she’s a teacher and a good cooker, and a office boss and a writer and she’s a mum.
* Hmmm…mum I don’t think cooking is one of your talents…(after sampling one of my new dishes)
*When Jesus told the Nephites he had to go and visit his other sheeps – he said that because the Nephites didn’t know that sheep lived in other countries as well, they thought there were only sheep in America and so they were surprised. That shows us that Jesus loves ALL the animals in the world – not just the ones in America…

Weird and Wacky Facts

Darrens team had the time and energy to pose for pics at a restroom stop...unlike us. They went on to win the relay.
About Running Long Distance Relays
1. When you’re an all womens team with a combined total of 25 children amongst you, then a 13 hr relay becomes all about the nearest bathroom. Indeed, one can rename the event: “The Great Restroom Hunt”. We used the toilets at Sinalei Resort BEFORE we started running at 3am. Then for the remainder of the day we employed a variety of bathroom tactics. Relatives homes. Complete strangers homes. Backpacker beach fale bathrooms. And of course, au natural jungle bathrooms. Relay organizers had asked permission of the LDS church to use their chapels restroom facilities. They had graciously acquiesced and so ten different chapels were opened in the wee hours of the morning for runners to use. I can (proudly?) say, that I have used every single LDS church bathroom from Siumu to Apia. Some of them more than once. Indeed, our team video seems to be about six women OBSESSED with the location of the next restroom…’how far is it?’ where is it?’ how much longer till we get there? I just finished running - I need to go bathroom... Im running next - I need to go bathroom first...
2. For a distance relay,you need a vehicle to transport the team. And all their STUFF. Youve heard about women and all the STUFF they cram in their handbags right? Well, thats nothin compared to six women and how much STUFF they can cram in their van. Riddled with nervous anticipation, each of us (of course) overpacked. Over stocked. Over supplied. Over prepared. All that much overdoing it equalled one heck of an overloaded van. We had enough ice for a small army. And then some. We had gallons of gatorade.Buckets of water. Everybody had three changes of clothes. ( at least). And two pairs of running shoes. Spare socks. Towels. Sponges.Toilet paper ( the very finest). Three first aid kits. (we could have provided rescue services to everybody in the race)And the food! Darren said "take high powered quick energy snacks, like a banana. A chocolate bar. A spoonful of honey." HA. Together we six had a BUNCH of bananas. And bags of candy. And forget the spoonful of honey - maybe such meagre stuff is fine for skinny elite runners, but we mountain climbing/baby feeding/desperate housewife types required more adequate replenishment. Like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Ham and cheese. Ritz crackers. Twizzlers. Licorice. ( cant get much more energy than that) Trail mix. Dried fruit assortments. (We should have set up a quick stop grocery shop along the way and scored some extra cash for the after race party.) There was barely enough room in the van for the runners. And their cramped aching legs to stretch out. NEXT time? We're taking a bus. Or maybe a container truck.

Samoa Perimeter Relay - Final Report

We ran thru beautiful scenery. Heres Pualele running thru Lalomanu beach, the flattest section of the route.

One die hard individual - Dave Edgar the Ironman, ran the whole thing by himself. Heres Kristen, getting some tips.

At 3am Sinalei Resort, before we start.

Lama runs beside us in the dark - scaring away dogs!

We get warmed up. (and think about ways we can turn back while we still can...) Our rental booking fell thru at the last minute so we had to use a long suffering taxi van. The driver was supremely patient and helpful.
The Morning After.
Its 3am Sunday morning. Im stiff, sore and wishing my fairy godmother would appear with a pizza. Or a huge steak and lobster. Instead Im munching on Bella's gluten free cereal. ( what a letdown) Well, its over. At 3am Saturday morning, our team of six women took off from Sinalei Resort. At 4:24pm in the afternoon - 13 hrs and 24min later - we crossed the finish line beside the Govt Building in town. While Im in no shape to write an official impressive blog, I can say this:

1. The Lord hears and answers prayers. And Hes not too busy to care about six (vaguely crazy) women while they attempt something as mundane as try to run around the island. . Great friends put our names down on the temple roll. We asked the Relief Society to pray for us. And you just know at least 25 diff children with mothers out there, were praying ...please dont let our mum die on the road/fall down in a ditch/get bit by a dog/embarass us by collapsing right in front of the TV3 cameraman. Not to mention there were probably several husbands praying their wives wouldnt get killed and abandon them with some of the aforementioned 25 children.

*We had prayed for good running weather. By good I mean - NOT sweltering sauna sun and heat. And NOT tropical storm and wind either. And the conditions we were blessed with could have been sent straight from a runners textbook on 'perfect weather to run in.' The day was overcast and cool. Breezy to the point of almost being cold. Time and again as I stumbled along trying not to cry cos it was 'just too hard and i was just too tired to go any further' - the wind would blow, giving me the extra lift i needed and a reminder about how Heavenly Father had blessed us all with wonderful running weather and so of course you can keep going because Hes watching out for you. Thank you Lord for the beautiful weather.

*Several of our team were terrified of being attacked by dogs. Especially as we ran in pitch darkness through a coastal village. There had been a lot of angst and soulsearching about what each of us would do if we got attacked. WE took a golf stick to run with. And stayed close to the support car. And we prayed. Fervently. Especially fervently when the dogs started barking all along the road at 4am, sending messages to each other up and down the coast...alert alert, silly women attempting to run through our territory...get ready here comes breakfast...and probably lunch and dinner too. But prayers were answered again. Dogs barked. Dogs ran at us. Dogs thought about us. But not a single dog went into a mad frenzy and attacked us. It helped we had an amazing support team ready and able to jump out of the car and do a mafia faceoff with roving canines. Thank you Lord for protecting us from dogs.

*Probably the best way I can express how wonderfully Heavenly Father took care of us yesterday, is to list all the things that could have gone wrong - but didnt. Nobody got injured. Not even when it was dark and the road was a moving mass of loose gravel and potholes. Not even on the coastal road when traffic was screaming past ( hasnt anybody told these bus drivers that a narrow rural road at Fagaloa? is NOT a super highway?) Nobody collapsed or had to quit. Kristen had pneumonia and we thought we would have to airlift her out. But she powered on and even mustered enough energy to show us some cheerleading moves from her high school days. Pualele didnt sleep the night before. At all. She had two papers due at varsity. And shes giving a talk today in Sacrament. She was decidedly dismal when we picked her up in the van at 1am to drive out to the starting line. But she powered on. Manu had to breastfeed her baby several times during the relay - taking away some valuable energy there. But she powered on. EVerybody finished the relay safe and well. All the support crew finished the relay safe and well. Thank you Lord for keeing us safe.

2. No athlete can compete without a support crew. Not even 'fake' athletes like the Dream Team. As i type this I want to cry ( again) as i think about all the people who helped us to make it to the end. Thank you Darren for sponsoring our team and planting the seed of the idea that a group of ''ordinary' women could even attempt something so extraordinary. Thank you to all the spouses and children who encouraged us to train. And to eat healthy. And took on extra responsibility at home so we could each prepare for this race. Thank you to Johnny for driving a hungry baby all the way so she could be fed - and her mother could still run. Thank you to Tai for finding us a van at the last minute when our rental booking fell through. Thank you-*Samantha and her husband Lama who drove behind our runners from 3am till midmorning. The road was somewhat spooky that early in the morning. We ran through forests that echoed with the sounds of night. But always, their car stayed behind us, highbeaming the way. when dogs barked Lama jumped out to run beside us. When we tired and stopped to walk, Lama jumped out to run beside us. When we got lost and almost lost hope - Lama jumped out to run beside us. When we wanted to quit on a steep hill, Lama ran beside us and encouraged us...just 200 more meters, you can make it, just one foot in front of the other... Basically I think Lama ran at least half the perimeter relay just to keep us motivated! We couldnt have made it without you guys. And Samantha is a superwoman - after being up half the night with us, she then drove back to town in time to play in a netball game. *The Arp family replaced Samantha as the support car. And what overwhelming supporters they were. Each of the Arp children took turns to run beside us - up Le Mafa Pass...and down again. All the way from Piula to town. EVen Sig took a turn to keep us company on the tarseal. They gave us water. And ice sponges. And didnt get offended when we maniacally kept bugging them..."how much further to the changeover? What do you mean u dont know?! Go run ahead and tell me if u see the car u hear me!" Its not easy to drive at super slow speed without going insane. Or 'accidentally' running over the woman staggering in front of you. Thank you Kathy and Co.*Our taxi van driver who transported us the whole 102km. He was patient. And enduring. He drove fast when we needed to get to bathrooms. He drove slow when we followed a shuffling runner. He politely ignored us when we had to use the 'forest au natural' restrooms. He turned a blind eye when we changed sweaty wet clothes. He didnt turn up his nose at a van of perspiring athletes. He was a dream driver.The 2009 Perimeter Relay is over for the Dream Team. We didnt cheat ( like some OTHER teams) We didnt quit. We made it. We 'realized' our dream. And maybe, just maybe we'll do it again next year?

Not to be Irreverent.

No reason. I just like this one.

The Joys of Homeschool

Five Reasons why Homeschooling aint that Crazy...
1. Because it gives you legitimate rights to sit and finger paint. And stick crepe paper streamers on a paper plate jelly fish. And NOT feel like youre dawdling about. Or wasting your precious time. And roll out a myriad of shapes in pink sugar cookie dough. And make rainbow fish collages with foil. And see what happens when you combine baking soda with vinegar in a corked wine bottle. Kaboom!
2. Because how else will you discover that your 6 yr old can do math problems faster than an 8 yr old? And hes ready to grasp the basics of algebra already? But that sitting still for longer than 8 minutes drives him nuts? and so if you have him skip rope his times tables or hop scotch his subtraction then he's less likely to drive YOU nuts?

3. Because then the english teacher in you can delight in having your advanced reader daughter discover books like...'The Diary of Anne Frank' and the Little Houseon the Prairie series and Little Women and 'The Power Of One' and 'The Outsiders' and some Shakespeare thrown in for good measure.

4. Because when youre learning about the wonders of the universe its okay to talk about how amazing God is and the perfection of His creations. And how earth is situated JUST RIGHT and how could that possibly be an accident? And you can rejoice when your 7 yr old marvels at the miracle of a food chain - "so everything is connected together - thats so awesome - Heavenly Father planned all that?"

5. Because youre children become so much more than those sometimes annoying individuals youre responsible for rearing. They become people. Interesting and interested. Fascinating and fascinated. By learning. By discovering.

Adventures in Homeschooling

So we decided two months ago to homeschool three of our fantastic five. Sade - a wildly independent and serious 11 yr old. Zion a free spirited, creative (translation slightly wander-y) 7 yr old. And Zach. A 6 yr old impetuous, energetic, (demon) darling who is the bane of my existence.

In our first week we set up a lovely classroom in the back office ( which never looked so great). I have broadband internet to help with lessons and online teaching. Our first theme is the moon - 40th anniversary of the moon landing etc. So far we have done phases of the moon and fractions, and thrown things into a tray of flour to make moon craters, and tomorrow we will shoot a rocket (powered with vinegar and baking soda) and Sade has been searching the NASA website for an interview shes writing up on Neil Armstrong, and so on and so on. Half a week of homeschool and heres some stuff ive learned:

1. Kids are teribly enthusiastic about learning. Anything. EVerything. They are sponges. (or knowledge sucking leeches depending how im feeling) I am in slight awe of their energy for wanting to learn stuff. Was i ever that excited abt it i wonder?

2. How the heck does the teacher in a room full of 28 five yr olds EVER have enough time or energy to pay atention to my son? Or my daughter? Or anybodys kids for that matter? Im sitting there working thru stuff with Zach and hes doing it cos im right there. I think primary teachers need massive raises. Immediately.

3. My son is actually very likeable. When hes got stuff to challenge him and occupy him and drive his engines - hes actually a nice kid. IF nothing else, i should continue homeschooling so i dont lose that feeling.

4. Did u know that astronauts poop is all freeze dried and stored in nitrogen and then brought back to earth for analysis and disposal? and the thought of poop escaping the confines of the special weightless toilet and floating through the space shuttle was FAAAAAR more exciting and interesting to my 3 then the actual concept that man actually landed on the moon. The catchcry for the day? - "Catch that poop!"

5. Samoa is a funny place to homeschool cos nobody is going to come check on u and see what yr kids are learning. I could send them all out sell salus if i wanted and nobody would blink an eye. Contrast that with NZ and the truancy police who called me at the hospital the day after my emergency c-section to demand where were my daughters and why didnt their other family members bring them to school?! Now, on one hand the freedom to 'do whatever i want' is liberating and i love that we can learn as our fancies take us. But on the other hand its freaky because what if i mess them up for life and they cant get into unviersity bcos their mother homeschooled them and all they ever learned was that astronauts poop gets freeze dried? before it can float away?

Stay tuned for further adventures in homeschool....

The Joys of Running...in Samoa

When you slowly, tortuously begin walking and then running regularly, you will realize many benefits and discover many joys. Some more joyous than others. Here are Ten Joys you may experience on your personal path to Runners Nirvana in Samoa.

1.You will lose lots of weight. And some people will then say you look sick. Usually very large,hypertensive, struggling-to- breathe people. Usually the same people who took great pains to tell you how fat you were in the first place. The same people will also ask your partner if she’s eating all your food…and how come you don’t take her running ‘cos look at her she surely needs it?!

2. You will learn where all the worst dogs live. Where the packs lie in waiting for unsuspecting runners. What methods will best scare off which dogs. A rock. A stick. A tennis racquet. A scream.

3. You may – before acquiring the skill mentioned in No. 2 – get bitten. By a particularly vicious canine. Depending on how bad the attack was, you may then return to the scene of the crime seeking revenge. With a sling shot. With an illegal firearm. With a trigger happy accelerator pedal.

4. You (and your bank balance) will discover the importance of good running shoes. You may become an addict. You will fantasize about the very latest shoe inventions – shoes with an embedded computer chip, a heart monitor, a GPS tracking device, radio, heater, air conditioner, foot massager… You will furtively purchase shoes for the track, shoes for running on grass, shoes for the road, shoes for racing, shoes for walking, shoes for when you wear out your other shoes, shoes for when you have a sore leg, shoes for when the other ones are wet, shoes for looking at, shoes for every excuse under the sun.

5. You will love the seawall. Early in the morning as the sun burns the sky. And the air is crisp and cool. Late in the evening as a fiery sunset breathes in harmony with the waves crashing on the rocks. And a million stars dance. And its just you and the wall. And the sound of your heart pulsing with the pounding of your feet. And adrenaline rushes. And endorphins sweep you along on a high.

6. You will learn to endure people laughing at you. Cat calling. If you’re real lucky, you just might have someone throw a beer bottle at you as you run past. People sitting, people smoking, people getting drunk – will shout loudly about your craziness. Your idiocy. You will buy an Ipod so you can ignore them better.

7. You will feel the need to go to bed early. You wont have the time (or the energy) to watch late nite TV, or five videos in a row, or go night clubbing till the early hours of dawn. Your family will attend social events without you because you have to sleep for a 4:30am seventeen mile run the next day.

8. Your diet will change without you even meaning it to. You wont want to eat fish and chips, pisupo, fried chicken… because the grease will heave in your mouth during a run 5 hours later. You will run and promise yourself….tomorrow I will eat salad. And grilled fish. And drink more water. And you’ll mean it.

9. Your family will become your biggest supporters. They will drive along side you on long runs with water, high beaming the road so you can navigate holes and rocks. They will massage your sore feet, get ice baths ready for aching muscles and make super healthy snacks for you. They will cheer the loudest when you go in races and embarrass you with balloons and flowers. Your children will boast about you in class “my dad can run for 3 hours without stopping so there…and he’s the oldest man in the race but he’s still the fastest so there”

10. You will go in races and funruns. You will love the thrill of powering along the Apia waterfront with a crowd of other runners. After the race you will compare race stories. And times. And running aches and pains. And then you will psyche yourself up for the next race. And the next.

The joys of running are many. Hit the road today and discover some for yourself. Your body will love you for it.

(Please note that while I am NOT a runner, I am however, honored to be the watergirl for someone who is a very good runner...which is how I ended up being an organizer of the 'Forever Young' 5K Series. The next funrun is on Sat 26th September, 2009. Start shuffling today and hope to see you there.)

Who's Da Boss?

Well it sure aint me. Or Darren. Bella (otherwise officialy known as Zarahemla Bella-Louisa Storm Young) is nearly two. But shes flexing her power muscles already. You can hear her high pitched scream all the way down to the main road. (as the neighborhood will surely attest) She has an extensive vocabulary which she uses with great skill and dramatic effect...

"NO! You BAD Zachie"

"Jade - come make it, come make my tutu buba" ( translation - please dear brother can u make me a bottle of milk.)

"Zio make house, make house for Bella" (translation - please amazing creative sister can u build me a complex playhouse using all the cushions on mums sofa, 6 sheets from the linen cupboard, several clean bathtowels, all the pots and pans and some water and crackers for playhouse snacks)

"Dada - come moe. HUrry up. Come moe NOW." ( Father dearest can u please put aside everything you are doing which was of no consequence anyway and come lie down on this bed next to me to help me go to sleep because its ridiculous to assume i can fall asleep without you here so i can poke my fingers into your eyes while loudly proclaiming my cleverness as i name every piece of yr face...NOSE! EYES MATA! MOUTH! TICKLE TALIGA!)

She is a consummate actress - turning on the waterworks with great dramatic effect when needed. Mum threatens to sasa her if she doesnt stop jumping on the bed? Eyes fill with tears, heaving sobs wrack her body "Daaaaaaaad see bad mummy!" You wont let her run outside naked with the puppies? "Mummy pleeeeease, Bella go outside? Pleeeeease?" (more bone crushing sobs)

She even has the nerve to mock the dreaded authority figure of all authoritarian figures....Uncle Cam. He was here tonight when she was refusing to put on her nappy. ( a new phase shes in - wants to run around butt naked everywhere. Hope she outgrows it before she hits adolescence.) He gives her the stern, loud censurious voice,"BELLA - STOP THAT. PUT ON YOUR PANTS NOW!"Ha. Did she falter? Did she quake? Did she scamper for refuge into a bunny rabbit burrow? No she did not. She looked at me. She grinned as if to say...'who does this silly billy think hes kidding? Doesnt he know I am the princess of this palace and NOBODY tells ME what to do or where to go?" And then she wrinkled her nose, scrunched her eyes, poked out her tongue and said "No 'Am!" And garnished it all with a giggle.

Okay - so i confess i laughed. It was funny. And I admit, somebody around here is spoiling this child rotten. But it aint me. I think its her father. Its his fault. Or maybe its the other four fantabulous childrens fault. After all - they're at her beck and call all day indulging her every whim. And i know with dreadful certainty, that there will come a day when i will rue her being sooooo spoilt - probably when shes 19 and comes home to announce loudly that shes fallen in love with a wonderful boy (who she met two weeks previously) and shes getting married to live happily ever after - a day of doom when i will shake my head and tear out my hair and ask the universe, why? Why is this child not listening to me!?But in the meantime, she continues to wrap us all around her chubby little fingers.

When she smiles at me with a face covered in gluten-free bread and honey. Bread made with rice flour that took her big brother several hours to hand grind. And her mother another hour to bake. And she announces with great delight - "Nice! You make it for Bella mum. Nice!" I melt. And love her some more.

When her dad takes a broken old tricycle and makes it like new, fashioning a new wheel out of a piece of wood and doing other such intricate things with all manner of power tools and she rides it around the house with peals of laughter. Adn then comes to pat him on the arm and announce with great delight - "You good dada. You make it! You good dada." He melts. And loves her some more.

Yup. Whos da boss of the Young house? The Youngest Young. Zarahemla Bella Louisa Storm.

We Have a Dream

Over one hundred kilometers of road. Six runners. Running from sun up to sundown. Through rainforest and along sandy beaches. Traversing potholes and jagged rocks. Evading vicious village dogs and other assorted equally vicious animals ( heck have you checked out a Samoan pig lately?!) Assailing the imposing Le Mafa Pass. Negotiating winding deserted roads and then dodging maniacal Samoan drivers on the crowded coastal road from Saoluafata to town. Through sun, rain, gnats, mozzies,dust - not to mention jeering onlookers eager to witness your suffering.... Are you interested?!

In two weeks I will be one of a team of six women who will take on the Samoa Perimeter Relay that starts from Sinalei Resort, follows the coast past Aleipata, over the inland mountain range and then to the coast again from Piula to Apia with a grand finale finish line in front of the government building. Each runner will run four legs of the course. Each leg is about 5k ( three miles or twelve laps of the track.) A van will transport the team, following the runner until the passing of the baton. There are 12 teams doing the relay altogether. Teams have a staggered start depending on how long you estimate it will take your team to complete the event. Our team wil begin the relay at 3am because it will take us approx 13 hours to complete. If all goes according to plan ( and prayers and hopes and wishful thinking) we will roll into town at 5pm.

We've called ourseves the Dream Team...because we're a bunch of dreamers ( who are obviously slightly unhinged) rather than a team of elite runners. All of us are mothers with a combined total of twenty six children among us and several grandchidren. The oldest Dream Teamer is in her fifties, the youngest is 30. One of us is still 'providing nourishment' to an infant...her husband has been drafted to follow behind the team van with the aforementioned infant so she can be fed regularly during the 13 hour trek. Only one of us can be called an 'athlete' - she won gold at the recent South Pacific Games for Archery. The rest of us are newcomers to running ( or staggering depending on the duration of a training session!) Kristen is the powerhouse of the team. She runs her own preschool - so you know she's loaded with energy and positivity - and we're relying on her to drive us to the finish with sheer will power! Unfortunately, shes also slightly injured, struggling with a bad case of plantar fascitis. However, shes promised to take all manner of illicit drugs to make sure she can handle the journey. ( tons of diet coke will be consumed i assume) She does make the best brownies so we're counting on those to also power us to the end.

Pualele is the Fast and the Furious. Just call her Usane Bolt. She can run like the wind...forever, clocking a 26 minute 5k on a good day. Unlike the rest of us, she can only train once a week and still run circles around us...and around us...and around us. We are confident that should any of us get injured on the day, Pualele can take over and run EVERYBODYS leg ( and then we'd prob clock a team time twice as fast)

Manu is the Mega Mother of the team. Baby has her up at 3am? No problem. Manu's still there at a 5am training session. Shes strong and determined - one of the most comitted to daily training. Shes cut a wicked five minutes off her time since we started preparations several months ago.

Pat has several years of experience over the rest of us - giving her that edge on the running track. She can take on no less than TWO consecutive 5ks every morning, running with a golf stick to deter dogs. Shes been visiting her grandchildren in the USA over the last 3 weeks - so she's been getting in some awesome 'high altitude' training.

Runner number five is still undecided between two equally amazing women...Leaving me at runner number six. Im the slowest. And the un-fittest. ( is there such a word) Which makes me the craziest OR the most courageous of the team ( depending on your perspective lol) I am not and never have been, a runner in any size, shape or form. Eight months ago, i couldnt power walk five minutes without hyper ventilating. But now i can shuffle-run five miles without stopping. I have my ipod ready with all the motivating sounds i need. I have sexy adidas running shorts and several bold red team uniform shirts ( thereby guaranteeing that at least I'll look good while im dying out there) Ive stolen darrens adidas running sunglasses - perfect for the sun, wind and gnats problem. The Fabulous Five continue to encourage me in my daily training efforts..."Mum, if you eat any more of those cinnamon rolls you'll throw up when you go running today - dont u think thats enough?" and "Dont worry mum, we'll come to the finish line to cheer for you - even if its after midnight - we'll be there." What more could i ask for?!

So ...come what may, the Dream Team is ready for the experience of a lifetime.

Call me Crazy

OKay - so everyone who knows me know that Im NOT a runner in any shape, form or size. Im just married to one. However, for some obscure and strange reason, I have just entered myself and FIVE fabulous friends in a 64 mile Samoa Perimeter Relay which will take place on the 29th of August. The Relay begins before the crack of dawn out at Sinalei Resort on the other side of the island, loops around Lalomanu, following the coast until it ends up back in Apia for a grand finale finish in front of the Govt building in the dead of night. For those who are elite athletes...they will prob get back into town in plenty of time to enjoy the welcome crowds, the festivities, the banquets, the Prime Ministers speech and peak Teuila Festival atmosphere.

For the rest of us wackos who are doing the relay because we're just crazy/dumb/suckers for punishment - we'll probably stagger into town either at midnight and be lucky if a nightclub is still open to give us a celebratory drink...or (heaven forbid) crawl into town in the wee hours of Sunday morning, just in time to make it to church at 7:30am. We have yet to decide on a name for ourselves - Dream Team does come to mind...as in we are dreaming desperately that we will be able to do this without ripping ourselves to shreds. And yet, in the midst of existentially examining our sanity for doing this, i find myself vaguely excited. Thrilled. I mean - how many of us can say that we have done (or will do...or have tried to do) a 64 mile race? I have a husband with a company offering to sponsor our team. Im 36 years old. The mother of five super children. Im healthy. I run five days a week. Very slowly to be sure. I have five awesome friends all willing to sign up for the adventure of a lifetime...so why shouldnt i dream!?

We will have a van stocked to bursting with appropriate snacks and drinks ( brownies, pizza and ice cream comes to mind...but then so does throwing it all up on the road somewhere between here and Aleipata). We will have a rockin sound system blasting each runners personal sound track as she runs along. A sexy - I mean sensible running team uniform. Several changes of it for when we are soaking wet with sweat...blood...tears. We will have an able driver and co-driver to navigate the roads for us...hopefully scaring away the village dogs and pigs and avoiding the curious children who will come out to throw rocks at us - I mean come out to cheer for us. We will each run four legs of the course and rest in between with ice and diet coke - make that ice and powerade.

We will do lots of laughing. And talking. And cheering. And commiserating. And maybe a little crying. (whats a chick fest without some tears) And all in all - we will have a great time, and be raging road warriors who can take on anything else life has to throw at us. (just let us rest and recover for a few weeks afterwards.)But i must halt here. And get my big butt out there for a run. Because its 3 months and 6 days away...

Our Journey to Gluten-Free Goodness

So Ive just finished making pickles and granola and sweet and sour chicken. all from scratch. (In between cutting up the latest batch of orange coconut soap made by yours truly. ) So what has brought on this cooking goddess frenzy? Why am i no longer a Betty Crockerfan...sauce from a bottle...meals from a packet kinda gal? Well, as of about five months now, our house has been trying to live gluten free. What the heck is gluten? Why are we trying to evade it at every turn?

Gluten is a type of protein found in most types of cereals/grains.Its what gives dough its elasticity and bread its structure. It makes pizza dough rise, gives cake its moist deliciousness, gives puff pastry its lightness. But gluten isnt only found in bread and cakes. Soy sauce - made from wheat. Root beer - malt flavoring from barley. Caramel coloring derived from wheat. Even some lipsticks use wheat as a binder. So as one writer put it - even licking your lips can be poison for those trying to live gluten free!

Why are anti-gluten around here? A year ago, our gorgeous bossy demanding Princess Bella became sick. It showed up first as blister like sores covering her body. They were maddeningly itchy, she was horribly grumpy and less than delightful to live with. We took her to Doctor number one. She said, chicken pox. Okay. That i can deal with. All the other fantastic four have had it. Surely i could take care of ONE baby with the pox!? Three weeks later, the sores were worse. Infected. Pus filled. She was bathing twice sometimes three days a week in oatmeal baths to help with the itching. Drinking phenergan at night to help her sleep. Calamine lotion covered her body.
Enter Doctor number TWO. He said - scabies. I was horrified. How could i have been such a bad mother i had allowed my child to suffer with scabies for this long! She hadher first round of anitbiotics for the infection and we were all prescribed nasty stinking lotion to apply from head to toe. Scabies for those unfamiliar lucky souls...is highly contagious. A tiny mite that burrows under the skin and lays eggs. Very itchy. Ugh. The thought crossed our minds - why is it that no one else in the family was stricken with the same symptoms? But Doctor number TWO assured us, it was possible for us to have scabies and NOT EVEN KNOW IT...hmmm. Okay. Can any of you be itchy without knowing it? But we dutifully followed instructions. Twice. Another month passed and still our daughter suffered. Three times we treated for scabies. Enough toxic chemicals to start our very own nuclear dump site. Her condition worsened. She started losing weight. Cried often. Heck if i was covered in sores, I'd cry often too. Then the vomiting began. Diaorrhea.

WE took her to doctor number THREE. He took one look at her and said (drum roll please) : YOUR DAUGHTER HAS SMALL POX. Excuse me? Small pox. Youre joking right? No - small pox. Its another kind of chicken pox. But i thought small pox was a deadly epidemic that wiped out millions and is so contagious that my entire family should be writhing in agony and / or dead right now? And wasnt small pox eradicated? No, he said confidently. She has small pox. She needs some anti biotics. Then it will go away. I went home with my crying baby. Told Darren. Burst into tears and the futility of it all. At the total stupidity of the local medical profession. He put us on the next plane to New Zealand. We saw a local GP first.

To protect the guilty lets call her Doctor number FOUR. She at least being vaguely honest said: I dont know what that is. Lets look at my computer. She then went to a medical site online and tapped in symptoms and read through the list of possibles. (Im thinking - heck lady - ive got broadband...i could tap in that at home and save myself the trouble of paying to come and consult you and your seven years of medical school). She said - maybe scabies Maybe %$#@&^%! ( a long word i cant remember which translated means a childhood skin disorder that comes and then goes and has no cure). She prescribed more antibiotics and more scabies treatment. I said we did that already. She said - but aahhh this is a BETTER scabies lotion, we use it here in NZ! (as opposed to what dumb samoans use in Samoa). We made appointment for dermatologist specialist. Very expensive. Very time consuming process. He has very nice office. He looks at her and is puzzled. Calls in another specialist for a consult. They consult and consult and consult. Could be this...could be that. We must perform skin biopsy. WE go back for biopsy. I have to hold her down while she screams and they take a plug of her skin out. Must wait several days. Must pay lots of money. REsults come back. Indecisive. Dont know. Think it might be urticaria. Fancy name for skin disorder that appears and then goes and no one the wiser.

We go home to Samoa. Her sores at least are not infected anymore. My beautiful princess still looks like she has small pox. Or chicken pox. Or scabies all over her body. Or heck lets go the whole hog and just say she looks like she has leprosy at this point. She throws up more. Cries more. More miserable. More hot. More sores. One Sunday after rocking half through the nite while she cries, i am praying for divine help. Somehow, someone, somewhere please help us to help our baby? I sit in front of computer and cry. I go online and look at pictures of skin conditions. Is it eczema? Is it prickly heat gone haywire? Is it ....is it? Then i see it. A picture of dermatitis herpetiformis. Its a picture of my daughter's skin. Pustule blisters. Itchy. All over the body. I read further. Its caused by a reaction to gluten. Some people with celiac disease have dermatitis herpetiformis. People who have celiac (pronounced: see-lee-ak) disease have a disorder that makes their bodies react to gluten. When they eat gluten, an immune system reaction to the protein gradually damages the villi in the small intestine. When the villi are damaged, the body is unable to absorb the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to stay healthy. Celiac is an auto immune disease that basically means gluten causes your body to attack itself.

I read more. The only 'cure' for celiac is to cut out all gluten from your diet. As Darren walks a screaming Bella through the garden, I decide to try it. We are desperate enough to do it. We are desperate enough NOT to ask any more doctors whether its a good idea.Six months later, Bella has stoppd the vomiting. The diaorrhea. She's a fat little Hobbit - big and boisterous. She still struggles with flare ups of the sores - a sure sign we have missed something forbidden in her diet. Its a 24 -7 occupation making sure everything is gluten free. And we still make mistakes. You thought Ricies cereal was gluten free cos its rice? Right? Wrong. Its coated in malt. Malt comes from barley. GLUTEN. You thought shrimp cracker chips were safe because the label said it only contained rice flour and seasoning? Right? Wrong. Obviously the labelling (from China) was a lie because after gorging on a plateful, Bella spends the night screaming and breaks out in sores the next day. Then i discover MSG contains gluten. As does most seasonings on pre packaged foods. WE have to re learn how to read labels. Gluten comes under many guises. It can be 'dextrin', vegetable starch, modified food starch,hydrolyzed vegetable protein... Even BEER has got gluten. ( so definitely no Vailima for Bella!) The best route to gluten free living is making as much food yourself, totally from scratch. Thats the only way to control whats in it.

Since going GF, we have also put our other daughter Zion on the diet. Shes the very thin, 7 yr old daughter who always has a sore stomach, no energy, cries alot, very tired. Its been harder for her to adjust since of course shes older and knows what shes missing! I am fast becoming the queen of new and diverse ingredients and ways to cook. I make a mean vi crumble using soy flour, coconut and brown sugar. The whole family loves GF pancakes made with leftover rice and eggs. The girls week wouldnt be complete without my Saturday bake - tons of chocolate cupcakes using rice flour, corn flour, a sliver of sugar and some healthy filler hidden in the mix...todays bake up contains mashed bananas. Last weeks had grated carrot and some cooked mashed pumpkin!

All in all, there have been rewards for the entire family. We are eating healthier ( whether we want to or not.) We are far more conscious of what we put into our bodies. Its actually more economical to be doing all this cooking as well. And finally we feel like we have some control over the demon disease that has been wreaking havoc and agony on our daughter. No thanks to the medical profession on this one. We have journeyed through chicken pox...small pox...scabies...urticaria...%$#@#*...and now to gluten free goodness. Its most probably a lifelong journey for my 2 daughters. And one where we find everyday how much more we have to learn. I am grateful for being blessed with such a strong and resilient child. I am grateful for divine intervention that sent us the answers we needed when we had reached the absoloute end of the line called hope.