mother

First Born of My Heart

Big Son turned eighteen the other day. I cried. (Of course.) He rejoiced. Of course. As we helped him celebrate the occasion with a social gathering of his friends (aka a party), I reflected on the journey I’ve taken with this first born child of my heart. There are pro’s and con’s about being the first. You get your parent’s undivided attention and all their enthusiastic energy as they discover the joys of caring for a puke-poop-tears machine. But you also are the guinea pig for their mistakes, their earnest yet misguided devotion and the full suffocation of alllllll the advice of those fifty-something birthing and parenting handbooks your mother ruthlessly ingested while growing you.

I was twenty one when I got pregnant and I had no experience with little people whatsoever. (My mother had three housekeepers and a revolving team of caregivers to help look after my three little siblings so I never had to pay attention to them at all. Not until they were old enough to be useful – do chores and play Little House on the Prairie with me.) I thought the baby would pop out and I would take him to lectures with me in a fashionably accessorized backpack. No problem. (true story) The Hot Man and I were students in Wellington at the time, so every day in between lectures, I would sit in the library and read every single book on pregnancy, infants, nutrition, breastfeeding, immunizations and more. I knew every single thing that could possibly go wrong with my unborn baby. Every single neural defect he could possibly be born with. Every single infection he could possibly get. All before he was even an emergency C-section delivery at 30 weeks. I was so busy with research and mental preparation that all we had ready for that premature mewling baby, was a bottle of Napisan for soaking nappies.

It took awhile for my heart to catch up with my research. I fell in love with my first born slowly, over many nights painfully shuffling to stand over his glass box incubator and watch him sleep. Watching nurses feed him through a tube in his nose. Watching them cut his tiny foot every day and squeeze out tiny droplets of blood while he screamed, so they could check his jaundice levels. The feel of his precious paper-thin skin against mine as they let me hold him. They said, ‘Lay him on your chest so he can hear your heart beat, feel you breathing. That will help him breathe on his own.’

Are you sure? I’m so big compared to him. My heart beats too loud. My breathing’s too panicked. I held him close, terrified I would hurt him. But slowly, slowly that tiny child felt right. Slowly slowly, our hearts beat in time and we breathed in unison. And slowly, slowly, a spoilt self-obsessed clueless 21 yr old found inside herself – a mother’s heart. By the time he grew big enough and healthy enough for us to take him home, I was fierce formidable Mother-Extraordinaire. (And Fiapoko Supermother as well.) Ready to take on the universe to protect, teach and nurture my son.

jade3

Big Son has endured much as our firstborn. Here’s only a few of the “Things I know Now which Big Son wishes I Knew THEN…”

1. Don’t spend many hundreds of dollars trying to organize a momentous 1st birthday party for your kid that is so stressful you and your poor husband almost get divorced. Because your kid wont remember any of it and he will go to sleep twenty minutes into the massive party anyway. (Hugging his new teddy bear from Uncle Cam.) And its a good thing he wont remember because you will be so stressed and on the edge that you’re mean, nasty and awful anyway.

jade1

2. When your 5 yr old kid gets invited to a fancy dress party, don’t slave over a historically accurate, authentic Hercules costume complete with battle regalia and then force him to wear it even when he cries. Because you’ll get to the party and discover all the other kids are just wearing raggedy old Superman t.shirts. Or a pair of fairy wings. And your poor kid will be miserable and feel totally out of place and cry harder.jade2

3. Yes you should teach your kid all about the sanctity of their physical bodies and even use all the correct terminology for their bits’n’pieces, very important with helping them to stay safe and confident. But you shouldn’t forget to also tell them there are appropriate times and places for shouting out such information. Otherwise, your 4yr old will be at the extended family gathering after your grandfather’s funeral and inform his cousin in a very loud voice, during the quiet of a prayer to bless the food – “See that? Its the pig’s penis. Wow, thats a really big penis!”

jade4

4. When your 11yr old son has a Christmas present exchange in his class at school and you are to busy to take him to buy a gift for his classmate…don’t assure him, ‘don’t worry, I’ll bring the present to the class party already wrapped for you. Trust me!’ And then you buy a lovely sparkly ring and matching bracelet and gift purse from your mother’s shop Plantation House (because you don’t want to drive all the way into town) and your mother giftwraps it in organza bows and ribbons. And you both sigh over the perfect loveliness of such a gift. DON’T DO THAT. Because your unsuspecting son will give his classmate the aforementioned gift and she will unwrap it IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CLASS and everyone will start teasing him about giving her an engagement ring. ‘ooooh, he loooooves you!’ And the girl will try not to cry. And your kid will try to macho through it while dying inside. And be very mad at you for a long time after.

jade6Yes, these are only a few of the horrors my son has endured with me as his mother. To protect the guilty, I wont share any others… Let me just say, Big Son announced the night before his birthday, “Mum, this is the last day I’ll be a child. Tomorrow I will be a man!” And I said, “Oh yeah? You planning on moving out tomorrow and getting a job?”

I tease him but I know all too well the clock is ticking. My days with this child are numbered. Next year, he will be at University and we will be many miles away living in Samoa. He will do all those things young people do when they first leave home. Rejoice. Eat a lot of junk. Stay up late. Skip class. Party a little. Experience what being ‘broke’ really feels like.

And I will be far away,  doing what most parents do when their kid first leaves home.

Missing him. Wondering if he’s getting enough to eat. Worrying if he’s warm enough. Chastising myself for not preparing him better to be on his own. Praying for his safety. Sending him money when I already agreed with the Hot Man that we shouldn’t spoil him, ‘You need to learn how to budget son…’ Ha. Calling him every so often and striving to sound casual and happy, ‘Just wondering how you’re doing son?’ (Instead of bawling my eyes and heart out on the phone and begging him to please come home.)

So each day I have left with him in my control care, I will celebrate all that this First Born of my Heart is to me. The baby that he was, the child that he sometimes still is, and the young man he has become.

Yes you’re ‘a man’, Big Son. I’m proud of you. Thank you for teaching me how to be a mother.

But it doesn’t matter how old you get – to me – you’ll always be that little boy who needs the beating of my heart to help you find your way, to help you breathe on your own, to help you stand alone.

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When Daughters Drive you Nuts

Sometimes, daughters can drive you nuts.

Big Daughter is a writer and a poet. She is a disgustingly intelligent child. I can even concede she is far more intelligent then I will ever be. (Not that I’m biased or anything. What do I know, I’m just her mother.) I am very proud of Big Daughter and grateful I can be her slave mother.

But sometimes, I just want to smack her up’side the head.

The Samoa Observer newspaper was doing a series of feature articles for the week of Mother’s Day where people wrote about their mums and what they thought of motherhood in general. They ran an article from Big Daughter. It was an insightful, clearly expressed, and very ‘mature’ piece of writing. (Not that I’m biased or anything.) If I were still in my English teacher days, I would have given it an A. I read her article in the Samoa Observer and I was very proud of her and grateful I can be her slave mother.

Then a few days later on, I just wanted to smack her up’side the head.

My Uncle – otherwise known as Professor Albert Wendt – was specially awarded and recognized at the recent Auckland Writers and Readers Festival. There was an evening of readings, music, and tributes to celebrate him. I took two of my daughters with me to the event. So they could have a culturally aesthetic and artistically uplifting experience. Broaden their intellectual horizons. Get their brain synapses zapped in a way that maybe Hannah Montana just isn’t zapping them?

We went. We listened. We clapped. Ten minutes in and Little Daughter was half-lying down in her seat. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her.

“I’m bored,” whined Little Daughter. I considered giving her the pinch of death. You know the one where you smile lovingly at your child for all to see – all while pinching their arm and muttering threats of dismemberment if they don’t bloody well behave? But then Uncle Albert came out on stage and she perked up immediately. Thankfully he was scintillating and funny enough that even an eleven year old didn’t need to lie down on the floor and take a nap.

Then it was time for the music. There was a glorious opera number which transported us all to heavenly places.

Except for Little Daughter. Who had her fingers stuck in her ears and her head down in her lap. I poked her. “What’s the matter with you? Sit up.” I hissed at her. Again.

“The song is so loud it hurts my ears,” she whined. “She’s not singing English. How am I supposed to like her song when I don’t know what she’s saying?”

By then, the ruse was up. There was no way ANYONE in the audience could possibly mistake us for artistically literate individuals or connoisseurs of the fine arts. Please forgive us, we are savages who never go to the opera.  I glared at my child and didn’t bother hissing. “Stop being rude. Sit up straight, be attentive and smile. Or you’re going to get it.” She didn’t need a translator, she knew what “it” meant.

The child behaved herself for the rest of the program. Then it was time to wait in line to  congratulate Uncle Albert and “mingle”. In a manner which denoted our good breeding and exceptional manners. Except someone forgot to tell Big Daughter that patience and something called a SMILE are essential ingredients for aforementioned breeding and manners. I chatted to people I knew from the TELESA publishing journey, took photos – and Big Daughter looked surly and mean. “Why do you have to talk to so many people?” she complained.

Little Daughter said hopefully, “Can we go home now? If we drive fast, we can still watch XFactor on tv.”  Koekiki oe e…

Then some lovely ladies exclaimed, “Is this your daughter Sade Young? We read her article in the Samoa Observer. Wow, such a great piece…blah blah.” They were enthusiastic and generous with their praise. I was happy for Big Daughter. Now she can see it’s not just me who thinks she writes good stuff! What nice people giving her positive feedback!  I beamed.

Big Daughter said “thank you.” With a surly, disinterested teenager expression. One that said, ‘I’m sooo bored listening to your chatter and I have far better things to do with my time. Like watch XFactor. Or taking a Hannah Montana general knowledge quiz.

I wanted to smack her up’side the head.

And so it continued throughout the night. Later, when I asked Big Daughter why she looked like a bored brat when she was being given compliments, she was shocked. “No I didn’t! I was shy.”

Little Daughter’s justification for (almost) passing out during the program was, “I think I’m too young to go with you to book stuff. It’s way past my bedtime. Next time, you can leave me at home.” So I can watch XFactor.

I went home and told the Hot Man I wanted to smack his daughters up’side the head. He said, ‘Don’t be silly. You can’t do that.’

There’s no hope for us. I’m apologizing in advance. If you ever meet my daughters in public and they seem surly / bored / disinterested. It’s because they are shy. Out past their bedtime. And I can’t smack them up’side the head.

 

 

 

 

Google Loves me More than My Mum Does.

What Big Son is wearing this week. 

You know what I hate? The law of the universe which dictates that your child
* will only ever have a volcanic raging fever – in the middle of the night. Play all day, run wild outdoors then clock strikes twelve? Pumpkin coach explodes. Fever, crash and burn.
* will only ever be mortally wounded – in the middle of the night. Climb a tree in the moonlight because they think ‘it’s fun’ and rip their leg open bad enough that they need emergency surgery.
* will only ever suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction to their pain meds – in the middle of the night. Play X-box all afternoon. Sleep. Eat. Play more X-box. BAAAAAM, ‘I’m dying, help me.

I also hate that secondary law of the universe which dictates that all of these bad things will only ever happen to your child when your partner is an ocean away in Samoa/Australia/NZ.


Last week, Big Son had his wisdom tooth extracted. There was crying involved. From me. There was pain, suffering and swelling. For him. He was doped up with 3 different types of medication. By the second day, he was feeling worse than the first. I soothed him and told him ‘this too shall pass. Be strong. Be patient.’ By the third day, he was feeling super worse than the second. I was a little irritated with him. Because of course, I am a busy multi-tasking mother who has way more important things to do than coddle a seventeen year old who’s practically a MAN already. I brushed him off and told him ‘you’re exaggerating. Get over it.’ He went and played X-box. An hour later he came to tell me “I feel really weird. Dizzy. Breathless.” I told him, “X-Box has that effect on people. Its a scientific fact. Go away. I’m very busy.” Night time comes. Big Son staggers over to me and shows me a google page printout. “I think you should take me to the emergency room. According to Google, I’m having an allergic reaction to codeine.” 


I am ashamed (now) to tell you that I rolled my eyes. And complained loudly. All the way to the afterhours A&E. And I muttered words like…’hypochondriac…bloody Google…giving sooky teenagers ideas…’ as I thought about all the writing that I WASNT doing because I was taking this kid to the doctor. My annoyance  continued right up until we got to reception and I noticed that Big Son’s face now resembled that of a lopsided blowfish. And he was red in the face. And struggling to breathe. And doctors rushed him down the hall, hooked him up to machines, pushed the panic button, loaded him into an ambulance and drove away.  Huh

“What’s happening?” Your son is having an allergic reaction. We need to get him to the hospital immediately. Just like that, Big Son went from being ‘Annoying Big Sook Son who is Fiapoko enough to google imaginary illnesses’ – to Big Son who Might Die and All Because His Horrible Selfish Mother didn’t Look After Him Properly. 


Some hours later, Big Son was alright. Disaster had been averted. And I had to deal with the next awful challenge. Telling his faraway-father-in-Samoa what had happened.  Saying, “But he was playing X-Box all afternoon and he looked just fine dammit!” was a little bit helpful for my case. But not much. Especially not when Big Son tells his Dad on the phone ( in a very weak, sad voice) “It’s so lucky I turned to Google.” Because my mum ignored me. Google loves me more than my own mum.  “It’s a good thing I kept asking mum to take me to the doctor and didn’t give up.” Because my mum is a cruel heartless creature. I could have passed out on my bedroom floor and she wouldn’t have noticed I was dead until rats started gnawing on my body.


I want the universe to witness that I have apologized profusely to my son. All this week, I have been creeping in to his room when he’s asleep to check that he’s still breathing. (I havent done that since he was a little boy that believed I was the smartest, bestest person on the planet.) I have also stopped complaining about how much I miss living in Samoa. Because I’m feeling overwhelmed with gratitude for excellent medical care in NZ. I am also very appreciative of the majesty and wonder of Google.

Can I just say though, that it’s been a week now and Big Son is STILL workin that guilt trip? “It would be nice if you bought me some ice cream/gave me an extra ten dollars/excused me from chores…you know I could have died last week? Remember how you didn’t listen to me? You didn’t care? Remember that?”

Parents everywhere, let this be a lesson for you – Never ever be too busy to pay attention to your sick kid. Because if he has to end up Googling his own symptoms? Then he will NEVER let you forget it.

Bad Mothers are Junkies. And hypocrites.

Don’t you just hate it when your kid grows up to be (marginally) smarter than you? And then he doesn’t have the sense to hide it from you?

A small confession first. (Because of course, I’m all about protecting my privacy and never, ever blab my mouth off about anything personal on here. Ever.) So, very unusually, I’m divulging a cringeworthy piece of information about myself…I eat fifty Eclipse sugarfree mint candies a day. Some days I even eat a hundred of them. They are very small candies, just a teensie bit bigger than a tic tac so it’s not as awful as it sounds. There are 50 in a pack and I eat one pack a day. But if I’m being really honest, I kinda eat two packs a day. Sometimes.

Why? No, not because I have bad breath. (But then it would be really hard to tell anyways, since I eat so many Eclipse mints…) I eat them because I lust and adore them. The minty taste is divine. Kinda like eating toothpaste and sugar and ice all mixed up in one blast. I eat them while I’m sitting at my desk writing. A swig of Diet Coke and three Eclipse…consume…ice-blur your brain….write a paragraph…repeat. I used to eat TicTacs, four packs a day but then I got four cavities in one year while I was writing my first book so I switched to sugar free candy. Problem solved, right?

Umm, no. Now my teeth are fragmenting. In rather frightening zombie-like ways. I eat popcorn in the movies and end up spitting out pieces of teeth. The dentist said, ‘Yes, sugarfree mints are way better than TicTacs but 50 mints a day are definitely not good. They are wearing away the enamel on your teeth. You need to stop eating them.”

Have I stopped? Umm, no. I did try, but like most of my addictions, my “TRY” didn’t last very long. (Can I just add that Im SO glad that I never did drugs in my rebellious youth because I have such an addictive personality that oh-my-crackhead-flyinghighmarijuana-self, I would have totally embraced them.)
So I’m still eating Eclipse. And trying to pretend that it’s okay.

Big Son doesn’t approve. It might be because he cares about me. Or it might be because he doesn’t want to blend all my food for me when I’m fifty and fork out for new titanium teeth for his old mum. Or it might be because he’s a smart-a** and rather bossy.

He tells me, “You shouldn’t eat Eclipse anymore.”
I say, “I’m not chewing them anymore. I just suck on them so they can’t damage my enamel anymore.”
He says, “That’s ridiculous. That’s like saying I didn’t inhale.There’s so many chemicals in those things that you’re probably going to get cancer when you get older. You need to quit.
I say, “You don’t understand. Eating Eclipse mints MAKES ME HAPPY, dammnit. And life isn’t worth living unless you’re happy.”
He says, “You sound just like a drug addict. That’s what they say, I can’t live without my fix.”
I’m rather horrified that my son has just compared me to a junkie. I say, “Well, look at this as a teaching moment. Learn from my mistakes and never try any addictive substances. Or Eclipse mints.”
He says, “You’re being hypocritical. What are you teaching me when you’re obviously not learning from your own mistake? If I follow your example I should knowingly, willingly engage in activities that are harmful for me just because they give me a momentary high.”
I’m not sure how to respond to such logic. He’s just so….so….right, that I am momentarily befuddled. So I do the only thing I can do.
I say, “Just be quiet. I’m your mother. I gave you life.”

He rolls his eyes at me. And I shake the Eclipse can very loudly ( and defiantly) and shoot up three of them in one go.

Because eating Eclipse MAKES ME HAPPY, dammnit. And even bad hypocrite mothers deserve some happiness in their lives.

But if anyone has the number for an Eclipse Addicts Support Group, please contact me. Secretly. Let’s not tell Big Son that I think I MIGHT have a problem. He’s fiapoto enough as it is…

Dirty Words

                     What I wish uku-killing assassins looked like.
Today I’m going to use some filthy language on this blog. Guaranteed to send the fainter-hearted amongst you, running for the hills.

Head lice.

We’ve got ’em. Do you?

I’ve blogged about this nasty stuff before – Waging War on Princess Leia Only this time, it’s different. This time, we are facing predators on a whole new level. In Samoa, we call head lice “uku’s”. Here in New Zealand, they call head lice a Health Board notifiable epidemic. Not long after the Fab 5 started school, Little Daughter came home with a notice. Some unfortunate nameless children had been caught with lice, the appropriate authorities were notified and hence, an epidemic warning to all parents from the Health Board. With instructions on what to do if you caught some and how to do it. I freaked out and my brown mother paranoia set in. I don’t ever want the government zoning in on MY child’s hair and declaring us brown folks a health hazard, dammnit. Stern warnings were issued to the little ones. We got even more super serious about hair checks.

But in spite of all our efforts, those evil creatures broke through our defenses. Little Daughter confessed, “My head is really itchy. I think I have ukus!” and burst into tears. Why? Because I had freaked her out about the Auckland Health Board. “Are they going to come and get us?” she asked fearfully. I felt bad. (Since she was freaked out because I had been overly freaked out.) “No, no don’t be silly. Im going to exterminate every last one of those creatures. No Health officials are going to brand us with a scarlet letter epidemic notice.” Bella thought it was funny. She announced dramatically ( loud enough for the neighbors neighbors to hear) “Uku’s are eating holes in my brain!”

I have been fighting uku’s for nearly three weeks now and have come to a conclusion – NZ head lice are freakish mutants. They just will not die. Three different treatments and countless hours of bug busting combing sessions later and we are finally rid of these pesky parasites. ( I think. For now anyway.) I have subjected these children to enough chemicals to start our own nuclear dump site. Raked through their hair with the vicious single-mindedness of an assassin. I have had to threaten, cajole and bribe them to endure hours of bug searches and shampoo washes. Impatient, wriggly four year old Bella is the worst to treat. I have to tell all sorts of lies when I’m dealing with her.  “I’ll let you have bubblegum/watch cartoons/eat cookies if you sit still…Stop moving, or I won’t kill them for you, I’ll be a bad mother and just LET THEM eat holes in your brain. Come back here, uku’s are going to suck your blood like hundreds of little vampires! They’re going to crawl into your ears and come out of your nose…” 

 Oh, and all those ads and products with pictures of happy mothers treating their happy children for head lice? Big Fat Uku Lies perpetuated by Big Fat Uku Liars. There is no smiling, laughing or warm, tender moments of love when we are eradicating head lice. Hell no. Not in this house anyway. Especially not when you have three daughters with very long, very thick hair. Who use your hair brush and like to come sleep in your bed in the middle of the night when they’ve had a bad dream. Bringing their parasites with them. Yeah, you know what happened next, dont you…

Somebody needs to do a scientific study on Samoan ukus and NZ ones. They don’t even look the same. And I should know, because I’ve been killing them with my bare hands. ( Like ninja assassins do.) NZ uku’s are a different color than Samoan ones. (And Im not trying to make a racially-driven joke either.) And they have better camouflage techniques than Samoan ones. They are tougher, stronger, faster,  more resistant to radioactive waste. I’m telling you, these NZ uku’s are the next evolutionary step  for head lice. Definitely mutants. I was so tempted to resort to the ‘traditional’ Samoan method for killing uku’s. Cut all your child’s hair off. Then paint their head with kerosene. And pray they don’t go near any open fires. OR wrap half their heads in a plastic bag and spray them with Mortein insect-killer. And keep them home from school so the teacher doesn’t smell the pesticide and report you to the Child Protection Authorities for cruel and unusual abuse. Yep, I was tempted.

I think Bella’s right. Uku’s probably are eating our brains. I know mine isn’t working properly anymore.

                         What uku-killing assassins really look like.

Seductive and magnetic dark attractions…

Big Son’s favorite deoderant is something called ‘Lynx Chocolate’. I was shopping for Xmas presents and saw an entire set of matching products – a bodywash and cologne. So like a nice mother, I bought him the gift pack. Today I was having a shower when the label of the the Lynx bodywash caught my eye…

Provoke irresistible attraction…a seductive and magnetic scent…dark temptations. Indulge your fantasies!

Excuse me?! It sounds like Satan’s Seductive Angels have taken over my bathroom. Hell no. Big Son is sixteen. Aint no way in heck I want him provoking irresistible magnetic responses from anybody. I’m confiscating the Dark Temptations and replacing it with another childhood favorite of his.

Let’s all sing together now…I love you. You love me. We’re a happy family, with a great big hug and a kiss from me to you! Won’t you say you love me too!

I hate being married and having children.

When it’s time to get ready to go out. Anywhere where looking nice is required. Dinner. Church. Mall. Movies. Book function.

I don’t know about you, but I used to like getting dressed up to go somewhere nice. It took time, thought, planning and some angst, but it was fun. For example, a very long time ago, the Hot Man was still a stranger. Hot but a stranger. He asked me out on a dinner date. It took me two hours to get ready. Not only did I need to shower, pluck, tweeze, wax, style, apply makeup and test run three different shades of lipstick – I also had to prepare two different dinner outfits. Why? Because I didn’t know what kind of place he would be taking me for dinner. My little sisters teased “You better not dress up too flash, he’s probably taking you to the market for panikeke and a kekepua’a.” While I didnt really think he would be taking me to the Fugalei Market for dinner, I also didn’t want to be overdressed. What if it were a casual dinner date? So I came up with a plan. I would have two outfits ready with complementary accessories. When the Hot Man arrived, my sister would see how HE was dressed. If he looked formal and flash – then I would put on the little black dress, if not, the skimpy denim skirt and top…He showed up in a silk shirt and dress pants, bearing a single rose, and with reservations at the fanciest restaurant in town. QUICK, put on the dress, quick! Ahhh, the dramas of single life and dating. So frenzied, so frantic, so fun….

Now? I hate getting dressed up to go out. I can’t find my brush because Bella took it to style Dora doll’s hair. Sade nicked my tweezers and forgot where she put them. My favorite lipstick is a suspicious splodgy mess because somebody ‘borrowed’ it the last time they were playing dress-up…Big Son is hogging the bathroom and I don’t have time to luxuriate in a hot shower. Little Son keeps  coming into my room while I’m trying to re-arrange my hair 3 different ways to ask ‘have you seen Bella’s scooter?’ (Why in heck would I have a child’s scooter in my bedroom I ask?) And the Hot Man  is blinded by the eyes of love (and by the eyes of impatience because he’s sick to bits of waiting for me to get ready.) So he sits there and makes the most irritating comments of all – ‘Why are you changing your dress again? What was wrong with the other one? You’re going to straighten your hair now? You do realize that we have ten minutes to make it to church on time, don’t you? Do you have to put on makeup? You look fine without it. Now what are you doing?!’  Hello, does he want me to be an ugly, sloppy bag of a wife?!

And then I just want to scream at all of them. Go away and leave me alone!
And what makes it worse? When finally, I’m dressed, we all exit the building to get in the car and then I notice what my children look like. The two teenagers look svelte and refined. And clearly their svelteness prevented them from supervising the wardobe choices of the younger three. Bella has two different socks and shoes on. ‘We couldn’t find her matching ones and besides, she likes this style much better.’. Nobody has brushed her hair and I’m sure that’s a glob of bubblegum stuck in it. Little Son has squeezed himself into his favorite jeans – the ones that he can’t zip up all the way and I don’t want to look too closely because as usual, he has ‘forgotten’ to put any underwear on. Surprise. The Princess is looking stunning – in a bewildering array of colors…sequin belt, huge red flower on her head, pink ruffled skirt, orange top, a necklace made of xmas decorations. She is a Cyndi Lauper vision from the eighties

I look at this motley crew of fabulousness in all their glory.

And then I just want to stay home.

    Girls. We just want to have fun. And get dressed without a pack of pestering children interrupting us.

I went to the White House. And I wasn’t speechless with awe.

 #2 in the 12 Days of Christmas Traditions – The Christmas Decor of Doom and Destruction.
        “Mothers are the makers of Christmas magic and memories.” This is my mother’s Christmas philosophy. This is what drives her every year to transform our house into a veritable Christmas wonderland. Nobody tops my mother’s Christmas creativity. Nobody. I exaggerate you not. When I was 17yrs old, my family was invited to the White House to meet then US President Bush and have morning tea. It was December and the most famous white house in the world had been decked in Christmas splendor from top to toe by the finest interior designers that America had to offer. Were me and my siblings awed? No. Why? Because Mrs Bush’s house looked just like ours. ( Ok, so her house was bigger. And whiter. But otherwise, same level of Christmas panache.)  That’s how amazing my mother’s decor is. My mother starts styling our house in early December and she uses an assortment of native Samoa foliage combined with accessories from around the world to create a new Christmas Fantasy house every year.
        And we hated it. Why? Because unlike Mrs President Bush, our mother did not have an army of minions at her beck and call to style her house. No. Our mother had the housekeeper, the gardener and us. Transforming a house is exhausting work. We had to clean, chop fir trees, scavenge for shells, coconut shells and flowers. Clean some more. Put up decorations. Take them down and move them over two inches to the left because they weren’t ‘just right’. Then take them down again and move them over two inches to the left because they clashed with the angel that was 45 degrees over from it. And we had to do this all with a smile on our faces. Or else we got the Christmas lecture. “You lazy, ungrateful children never want to help me. Every year I work my fingers to the bone…Don’t you know that mother’s are the creators of Christmas magic? Do you think this magic just falls out of the sky?! You’re so useless, move away and let me do that…”
And then once the magic had all been successfully installed, we then had to tiptoe around it for the next 29 days and maintain its magicalness. ‘Don’t touch that. Don’t break that….you’re ruining all my hard work!”

Christmas Tradition Message There is a fine line between creating Christmas magic memories and instilling  a loathing for Christmas decor of doom and destruction. Try not to cross it. I love the beauty of a beautiful Christmas but I’m lazy content to have a tree covered in Little Daughter’s handmade (somewhat wonky) glitter cards and Sade’s origami creations (that are not color co-ordinated at all). We made a pine wreath to hang on the front door – it’s a little crooked but what the heck. And I got a box of empty wine and whiskey bottles from the Hot Man’s nightclub job that I did mean to stick taper candles in for a stunning centrepiece…but there they sit on my doorstep still. No doubt proclaiming to one and all that this is a house of Christmas drunks. But it’s okay. Because when I want to experience the Christmas Magic in all its wonder, I will just go home and visit my mother. Or it might be safer to stop by the White House – because I don’t think Mrs Obama yells at people “Don’t touch that! You’re ruining the Christmas magic, dammnit!”

            Is it the White House? No its Plantation House.

Possessive "Angry Face" Love

                              Show your angry face!
There are cousins staying at our house. Which we are really enjoying because there are children all the same age as my Fab5 so plenty of fun, laughter and festive season spirit around here right now.

Except for Bella. Her place as the youngest has been usurped by her 3yr old cousin Isaiah, a gorgeous little boy with near blonde hair and an impish smile. It’s difficult to be the spoilt rotten, Princess of the house when there’s another child younger than you are. Last night as I was putting her to bed, she confided, “I love you and Dad and everybody. But not Isaiah. I don’t love him.”

“Oh, that’s not nice. He’s your cousin and your friend. I love him.”

She burst into tears. “No Mama, don’t love him. Dont!”

It was getting late and I wanted her to hurry and go to sleep so I could do very important things. Like read Game of Thrones Book 3. So I rushed to shush and agree with her. “Ok, I won’t love him. I only love you. Now go to sleep.”

That wasn’t enough for her. She needed more. “Don’t smile or be happy to him. You have to show him your angry face. Your mean face.”

I wanted to protest that of course I don’t have a mean face. How dare! But like, I said, I really needed to get to that very important task that was waiting for me. Finding out what Jon Snow was up to. And who the Dragon Queen was blowing up next with her dragons. “Ok, ok, I wont smile at him. I will only look super mean and mad.”

That wasn’t enough for her. She still needed more. “Practise it Mama. Go on. Practise your angry face so I can see it.”

So we did a few practise ‘angry face’ demonstrations until finally she was satisfied. And went so sleep. Finally. Game of Thrones!

I thought the matter was resolved. Bella was feeling a little neglected and just needed a little bit of extra reassurance and love. She would be fine. She would forget all about this conversation. Ha. This morning I walked out into the kitchen where Isaiah was having breakfast. I smiled and said, “Good morning handsome!”

Bella frowned. Burst into tears. Stamped her foot. “Mama, where’s your angry face! Don’t be nice to him. Show him the angry face!”

I think dealing with a pack of angry Wildlings or even a Dragon Princess would be easier than soothing the troubled waters of Bella’s little cousin rivalry. Possessive love. It’s vicious. I wonder though, do we grow out of it as adults? Hmm, have you ever been guilty of a little ‘angry face possessive love’?

A Mother Heart.

I had to speak at church about motherhood and what it means to ‘have a mother heart’.  Preparing for that got me thinking about this (often crazy) parenting journey that I’m on. I don’t often do this on my blog – but today I’d like to share some things that are an essential foundation in my life…

 I am the last person who should be giving a talk about what it means to have a mother heart. I was not raised to honor motherhood, look forward to marriage. Or taught to be a nurturer. My parents wanted me and my sisters to be academic achievers and successful, independent career women. They told us “don’t go to BYU university because people only go there to get married to other Mormons.” My mum told me “returned missionaries are not good boys to date because they haven’t finished school or gotten a great job yet.”   I entered marriage and then motherhood – woefully ill-prepared. I could write an essay on feminism and give a rousing speech on women’s rights but I couldn’t do those Mormon mother things like cook. Clean. Sew. Arrange flowers. Make jam. And I had no clue how to be part of a partnership. Or look after a baby.  Or raise a family. I had no desire to do any of those things either. My life was all about ME. ME. ME. And me planning all the amazing ways that I was going to change the world. (I had a lot to learn.) I have been a mother now for 16 years and here’s a few things I have learnt ( while trying to have a ‘mother heart’!)
·                 * A woman with a mother heart is a woman with an enormous capacity for love. And you dont need to be a biological mother to have a mother heart. Some of the most nurturing, caring and compassionate women in my life, are not ‘mothers’ in the biological sense of the word. My childhood ‘Nanny’ Peka continues to be my greatest example of unconditional mother love.  My bestest friend (you know who you are!) never had any children but is a mother to her extended family and the one that I always turn to for wise counsel about my own children.
             *Some women seem to be blessed with a natural gift for nurturing and caring for others. I’m not one of them. I didn’t used to like children. And I certainly wasn’t interested in nurturing anybody. Our first child was an emergency preterm baby who had to live in an incubator for several weeks until he was strong enough to go home. I didn’t love him right away. I was more caught up in how sick, in pain and unhappy I was.  Late one nite I was crying in my hospital room, feeling sorry for myself – when a voice, a feeling, prompted me to go and visit my baby in the neonatal unit several floors down. I shuffled through deserted halls of a sleeping hospital until I stood beside my tiny baby asleep in his glass box hooked up to wires and machines. I looked at him and my Heavenly Father – gave me a gentle reprimand. He said, this is your son. I love him and I have entrusted him to you. You’re his mother and he needs you to love him.  Get over yourself enough to love this child. I committed myself then to ‘getting over myself’ and putting my child first. I am grateful for a God who loves me enough to chasten me. My son is not a baby anymore, but he does complain sometimes that he wishes I didn’t love him so much. Because then maybe I wouldn’t be so protective of him!  
             *As a young mother, I loved my first child so much that I couldn’t comprehend having any love left over to love a second child. I didn’t understand then, that love is not a pie. You don’t run out of pieces when you’re trying to share it. The more that we love others, the greater our capacity for love grows. Through my love for my children, I have been able to gain a very small insight into how much God loves us as His children.  Enough to create this earth for us, Prepare a plan of salvation so that we can all return to live with Him again, enough to give us Prophets and leaders to help guide us. Enough to hope great things of us.  Only now can I begin to understand this kind of love – because this is how I feel about my children.  

 *A woman with a mother heart is a woman that is teachable. Christ taught that if we are to progress, we must become as little children, meek and submissive, willing to listen and learn. I thought I was a very clever woman – until I had children.  And then I realized that I really didn’t know much at all about anything.  Having a child was a huge wake up call for me. Me and Darren were responsible for a whole other person who would look to us for guidance. We couldn’t do it alone. It is such a humbling and terrifying thing to be responsible for some children – whether they’re your own or someone elses! As a parent I look to the Lord for guidance and my most fervent prayers are those asking for help to be a better mother. Within my extended family, in my community I am always looking for help with my parenting journey and at church, I am taught by women of all ages  as they share their talents and their experiences with me.  I look to my husband who is so patient and supportive of me as I seem to take forever to learn how to be a good wife and mother. 
        *But most of all – I look to my children who teach me everyday. About faith, patience, how to love better, how to laugh more, and how to forgive quicker. The other day we yelled at Bella because she was drawing in one of my brand new TELESA books that had just arrived from the printer. She ran and hid behind her bed, crying. I went to find her and she was sobbing, she said, “Im sorry Mama, I was trying to write your name in your book. It was a surprise for you. Everybody makes mistakes.” She kept repeating that “Everybody makes mistakes.”
   * I make so many mistakes with my children – and at times I despair of ever being worthy of such choice spirits to mother. Satan wants us to be weighted down with guilt and discouragement but the Lord frequently reminds us that through the atonement, repentance and forgiveness is possible. Yes, everybody makes mistakes – the key is to learn and grow/progress from our mistakes. My children have taught me to be teachable.
    *The world and sometimes, even your own family – will tell you that being a wife and even worse, a mother – is a boring, value-less occupation. In my experience, yes there are moments, days, that are boring and frustrating, moments that drive you nuts. But I testify that nothing else has given me greater joy than being a parent. I still can’t sew. Or cook very good. But through my calling as a wife and mother, I have developed many other skills and talents. Being a mother has helped me to be a better teacher, a wiser leader, a more creative writer. I know how to love others better. I have drawn closer to my Heavenly Father. And now I understand what our leaders mean when they say:  
There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish. Righteous women have changed the course of history and will continue to do so. Their influence will spread and grow exponentially throughout the eternities.” 
      A woman with a mother heart can change the world then – one child, one person at a time.  
      Even if that one person is you.