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There are Some Skank Ho’s in West Auckland

There are some skanky ho’s living in West Auckland. And they aint got no shame. At all. But what makes it worse? Little Son thinks they are wonderful, delightsome creatures…

The Hot Man was being kind and thoughtful. He took all the children off my hands so I could write. (Yay for the Hot Man.) He delivered teenagers to their Youth activity. And then he scored himself points in Little Kid’s heaven by taking them to McDonalds’s for dinner. (Even tho we already had a healthy balanced dinner for them at home. Yay for the Hot Man.) He sent the Terrible Trio to go play in the playground while he sat guard over their Happy Meals. I must interject here and tell you that I got all the following info from my spies. They’re highly trained, dedicated sleuths. Otherwise known as Little Daughter and Bella Beast.  Now on with my tale.

Picture it…There’s the Hot Man, minding his own Hot business…when along comes a pretty, skinny-yet-luscious, single mom, busting out of her clothes with abundant friendliness. (As skank ho’s do.) She lights up like a Xmas tree at the sight of the Hot Man and descends upon him. Introduces herself, tells him about her divorced single-mom state. Tells him how much she loves to make new friends. Meet new people. Try new things. Go out partying when she’s not skankin at McDonalds. 

He tells her he’s married. She thinks thats wonderful! He tells her he’s got five kids. She thinks thats precious! He tells her he’s just taken over as the full-time parent, taking care of the kids while his wife is writing. She thinks thats just darrrling!

She then goes for gold. (As skank ho’s do.) “I’m free during the day too! We should totally get together and hang out!”   (Can you tell that I’m punching holes in my laptop as I write this with viciousness and repressed volcano fury?)

At this moment, Little Daughter and Little Son come running over because they have seen this friendly exchange taking place. As this woman tries to jump their Dad’s bones right there in the Family Restaurant. The woman is not deterred. Oh no. She oozes slimy charm. “Are these your children? Ohmigosh they’re soooo adorable! Hi kids!”

Little Daughter ( bless her devoted heart) is unimpressed. Suspicious. She sidles up to the Hot Man, whispers, “Dad, why is this woman talking to you so much?”

Little Son on the other hand, reveals his true traitorous nature and revels in the skank ho’s affections. She GIVES MY FREAKIN’ BETRAYER SON A HUG AND HE LIKES IT. He nudges the Hot Man with a grin, “Dad, who’s your girlfriend? She’s so pretty!” 

The woman is encouraged by his comment. She asks the Hot Man for his phone number. (HELLO! WHAT THE HELL KINDA WORLD IS THIS WHEN CHICKS CAN USE THE GOLDEN ARCHES TO LIGHT UP THEIR “VACANT and HOT” SIGN?!) The Hot Man refuses. She tries to give him HER number. He refuses. Little Daughter is not happy. “Dad, why does she want your phone number? Why is she hugging Zach?”

Somehow they manage to extricate themselves safely from the woman’s clutches. She waves at them as they drive off. “See you again!”

They come home to the writer who’s been slaving her fingers to the bone surfing banana cream pie recipes on AllRecipes.com.  They tell her about what happened. Little Daughter is indignant.  “My Dad kept telling her no and she kept trying to give him her phone number!” Little Daughter is only ten but already she can spot a skanky-seductress-homewrecker-trashy tart a mile away. I am going to leave Little Daughter lots of things in my will. Like all my banana cream pie recipes. And my extensive Telesa tattoo research. And lots and lots of love with ice cream and chocolate sauce on top.

I am really annoyed with Skank-Ho’s that hang out at McDonalds jumpin on other people’s Hot Men.  I’m not a Fire Goddess like Leila in my Telesa books, but I’m sure I could get all fierce and feisty and kick-ass with this woman if I could meet her in person. I could like….ummm…attack her with my words. Waste her with witticisms. Mash her with metaphors. Amaze her with alliteration and analogies and really scary stuff like that. So there, so there. Take that.

I told Hot Man I was going to blog about her and he was horrified. “No don’t. What if she reads your blog? You cant call people skanky ho’s on your blog!”  I said, “Dont be ridiculous. Skank-Ho’s dont read. Blogs. They’re too busy slut’ting all over the place and having a good time with idiots who fall for their tricks.”

But you know who I’m REALLY mad at?

Little Son.

Traitor. Selling his own mother out for a pretty face and a sleazy smile.

(Oh yeah, and I’m also kinda miffed. Cos I’ve taken those kids to McDonalds a kazillion times. And nobody ever hit on me ever…. *sniff sniff* )

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Fifty Memories of Samoa for Fifty Years of Independence

Flags flying in Samoa for Independence. Photo by Leone Samu.

Today Samoa marks the 50th anniversary of achieving Independence. For me, the story of Samoa’s last fifty years is also my family’s story because my parents were married in 1962 and they celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary this year as well. My parents chose to stay in Samoa and raise their six children there, even though the lure of distant shores was strong. My mother came to Samoa from New Zealand, as a very new, very ‘refined’, very beautiful young bride ( wearing white gloves no less), and thankfully for us children – never left. One of the greatest blessings in my life, has been the privilege of being born and raised in Samoa – by parents who have always worked hard to strengthen their marriage and value their family above all else. I pay humble tribute to the land that nurtured me and to the parents who love me. Thank you. Here’s fifty of my favorite memories of growing up in Samoa. There’s a million more for each one listed and of course, each of you will have your own unique list!

1. Weekends at Lefaga, staying in a house on the beach. Spending the day in the water (after doing all the assigned chores of course), showering at a rusty tap by the mangrove swamp, playing cards by kerosene lantern, going to sleep with the sound of the ocean (and mosquitoes), waking up and doing it all over again.
2. Reading Narnia books while sitting in a mango tree. Sticky sweet juice on your face. Hoping nobody finds you and gives you chores to do.
3. Getting dropped off at the Nelson Public library for the entire afternoon – the only place I was allowed to go all by myself when I was eight years old – and not worrying that a psycho child abductor was going to grab me. Really nice librarians bending the rules and allowing me to borrow twenty books at a time.
4. Hot German buns. Deliciously sweet, caramalized coconut insides.
5. Classroom monitor duty, sweeping classrooms with a salu-lima. Trying to tell naughty boys what to do because I’m just boss like that. (and because I was class captain. Don’t mess with my power…)
6. Finding excuses not to play softball. Or netball. Because everybody shrieks with laughter when you make a mistake. And yells at you when you’re awful. Samoa never believed in ‘every child’s a winner on the field’. If you sucked, everyone told you.
7. Glutting yourself on whatever fruit is in season. Making a basket with your shirt and filling it with mandarins. Or passionfruit. Or crab apples. Running really fast to escape the security guard. ( We lived on an agriculture Univ campus and students had fruit orchards everywhere which we weren’t really supposed to be helping ourselves to.)
8. Hoping the neighbor’s dog wouldn’t bite you.
9. Hoping your own dog wouldnt bite you.
10. Picking frangipani so we could make ula for Culture Day at school. Sap sticky fingers, sore from all the careless needle pricks.
12.  Sunday Toona’i at my grandfather’s house. Getting to eat all the food that our palagi mum refused to make. Chop suey. Oka. Pisupo floating in oil. Taro.
13. Saturday morning cartoons at my grandfather’s house because we didn’t own a television and he got TV stations from American Samoa.
14. Eating red baked lopa seeds. Making a mess with all the shells everywhere.
15. Eating sugar cane. Making a mess with all the spit up, chewed out mouthfuls.
16. Eating lolesaiga. Making a mess with all the leftover seeds. Our mum getting mad everytime she stepped on one by accident.
17. The whole school practicing for hours in the sun everyday so we get our sasa JUST RIGHT.
18. Being in the B-group for Samoan language with all the palagi kids because we never spoke Samoan at home, because my Dad believed that English was the language that would take us places. At the time – he was right.
19. School detention for being late too many times. Mean prefects making you weed vaofefe prickle grass in the blazing hot sun. While they stood in the shade and watched. (So unlike Daniel who cuts grass BESIDE you when you’re suffering through your punishment.)
20. Traipsing around after my big brother while he catches eels at Lefaga, using an empty plastic bottle, suctioning them out of their hiding places in the lava rock pools.
21. Practicing our lines for White Sunday. ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right.’ Papa getting annoyed because the Mormon kids ( us) were really bad at memorizing scriptures.
22. Driving real slow everywhere. Stopping to allow really big pigs to meander across the road.
23. Swimming at Vaiala at least three nights a week. My Dad throwing me up in the air, silver spray scatters.
24. Ice-cream cones after swimming. Sitting in the back of the pickup truck, wet and wrapped in a towel, feeling like life cant get any more perfect than this.
25. Hot pani popo from Schwenke’s bread shop. Rich, creamy and delicious. The tall cute boy serving behind the counter who I’m SURE had a crush on me because he always gave me EXTRA coconut buns. (yeah, you know it. Twelve years old and getting free coconut buns with my smile. Woo hoo!)
26. The heady fragrance of golden mosooi flowers.
27. Dancing the siva all the time. Getting called on to be the taupou every time my Dad had some kind of village matai event because the REAL taupou of the village ( aka, my big sister) was at school overseas. Somebody needs a taualuga? No problem, ‘Lani, go siva.’
28. The dreaded report cards. The parent’s responses, ‘You only came first in THREE subjects? What about the other two?’
29. The high school socials. Held in broad daylight. Everybody dressed up with no place to go. Dancing in the school hall with sweat trickling down your back and teachers breathing over your shoulder.
30. Taking empty Coke bottles to the store so we could buy PK chewing gum.
31. Eating eleni and hating it. Even when its cooked a million different ways by our Martha Stewart mother. Eleni fishballs with sweet and sour sauce. Eleni ‘meat’ loaf. Eleni baked with aubergines. Yuck.
32. Three hours of church every Sunday. My little sister giving her Sunday school teacher a heart attack, telling her ‘I’ve decided to be an aethist.’
33. Evening lotu prayers at Papa’s house. Every night. The roads closing. All traffic forbidden from six to seven because everybody is supposed to be at home. Singing hymns. Praying. Reading scriptures. Or else you get fasi’d.
34. Visiting Great-Aunty Ita who named me, who tells everyone, all the time,  that I’m going to do amazing things  – become a nun, marry a pastor, or be a lawyer.
35. Visiting Great-aunty Ita who named me, always without my mother, because Aunty Ita called her a ‘daughter of pigs’.
36. Reciting the Lord’s Prayer at school. Every morning. Every day.
37. Working in our mum’s shop every day after school . All day Saturday. Getting paid one tala for our troubles. Rushing to blow it all on lolesaiga. Or a fizzy Fanta in a glass bottle.
38. Reading books while we’re supposed to be working in our mum’s bookshop every day. Missing it when a stealer grabs three of Mum’s silk-screened t.shirts and runs out the door. Getting told off by our mum for being slack shop security.
39. Being scared whenever Evaliga came into the shop in her colorful assortment of draped fabrics and a red turban on her head. She would sit and read a dictionary for half an hour, muttering to herself while we wondered what we would do if she decided to take it. Fight Evaliga? Hell no. Breathing a sigh of relief every time she left the store. Without the dictionary.
40. Buying all the coconuts from Maria – the little girl who lugs a basket of them into the store everyday. Making her sit down. Giving her some snacks. Wishing you could pay for her school fees. And then regretting it a little bit when she comes back the next day with another basket AND three friends who all have baskets of cabbages to sell as well.
41. Being a ‘young adult’ and going dancing at the clubs – the Playground, Margreyta’s, Evening Shades and even the Mt Vaea. Our favorite DJ, Corey Keil who always played the bestest sounds.
42. Having your boyfriend get hit on by very boisterous, very bodacious fa’afafine. Hoping he’s not interested because daayuuum how can you compete with such splendors of fashion and dance?!
43. Planting a massive vegetable garden with your brothers and sisters. The nuisance of having to weed and water it everyday. The wonder of eating fresh golden corn on the cob once everything actually grew.
44. Buying a plate of BBQ from a roadside stand. Chargrilled mamoe, a chicken leg that seeps with redness, saka fa’i, and a dollop of potato salad. Loving it.
45. Peka ( our babysitter/Nanny, our other mother) crying those rare times our mother smacked us with the wooden spoon. Telling our mother she was never coming back to work again.
46. Feeding chickens and collecting eggs every day. Being scared of the psycho rooster that charges at people, wanting to scratch your eyes out.
47. My Dad doing the dishes with the lights turned off because he didn’t want anybody to see him from the road. Because ‘it’s very shameful for all of you if people see the matai of the family is washing the dishes.
48. My Mum lending her creative flair and fierce drive and determination to community service groups. Organizing stunning fundraising events for the local IHC. Dressing up as Zorro to ‘kidnap’ the bank manager in broad daylight and hold him for ransom. Wearing a fluffy skirt to dance the cancan on stage with eight other women. Lip synching ‘Jump for my love’. Whatever my mum does – she does with style.
49. Making my little brother push me around in the wheelbarrow while I give orders to the little sisters as we make scarecrows to put in the yard. Which never scared any birds. (Nobody told the Samoan birds they were supposed to be scared of raggedy clothes hung on sticks.)
50. Waking up early on Independence morning to go watch our big brother and sister march in the parade. Eating homemade cinnamon rolls and drinking Milo in the darkness while we wait for it to start. Getting our ears and hearts blown to bits by the 21 cannon salute as another year of Samoa’s Independence begins.
  Happy and blessed Fiftieth Anniversary Samoa – and my Mum and Dad.

Who’s the Favoritest of them All?

I called up my Dad in Samoa the other day. I said, “Hi!”
He said, “Who’s this?”
I said, “It’s your favorite, most amazing, most splendidly talented daughter.”
He said, “Oh, Rebecca!”

He may as well have taken a butter knife and stabbed me in the heart with it. Thanks Dad. Thanks a lot.

(And you just know, that right now, my little sister is reading this blogpost and dancing a little dance and hi-fiveing her own awesomeness.) Now I have blogged about this before – the conundrum of favorites in a family. So you’ll already know that I’m from a family of six children and of those six, all four girls are ‘Dad’s favorite.’ And until now, I was positive that I’m the favoritest of them all. Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the favoritest of us all? 

To his credit, my Dad did try to retract the butter knife. From my heart.

I said, “I can’t believe you said that. All these years, you told me I was your favorite daughter, your absolute bestest child. All my confidence in you as my Dad who loves me the mostest, has been dashed to pieces.”

He said, “No,no I meant to say Lani. Of course I did. You’re my favorite, most gifted daughter called Lani but your voice sounded like Rebecca’s on the phone and I didn’t want to upset her.”

Aaah, that’s what it is. My Dad is seventy-two years old and his hearing is a little shaky.

I know I’m still the favoritest. I don’t need to send out the Huntsman. I’ll just keep him right here with me, yay….

Why Parents Should Spy on their Children

Me and James would make the perfect team. I sit like this in my house all the time. Watching, waiting with my gun. So I can shoot twisted, dark forces that are out to drag my children into dark pits of despair.

I spy on my children. I do it shamelessly. It’s true and I’m not going to hide it. I am the MOTHER agent of all CIA, FBI, MI6 and all the other kinds of abbreviated intelligence operations you can think of. “Bond, James Bond” and me would totally rock together. (Especially if he’s the Daniel Craig version.)

I firmly believe this world is a very twisted and dark place. There are pitfalls and Satanic traps lying in wait for my children in every dark corner of the school hall, every text, every innocent internet site, every smile from a member of the opposite sex…There is danger EVERYWHERE. Muggers, rapists, stalkers, druggies,child abductors, porn filth, sex videos on YouTube, teenage girls, teenage boys, playground bullies, even music with siren sexy lyrics. The list is endless. Which means, that I have to be vigilant. On guard. Pyscho ninja-assassin-censor-bodyguard-bouncer mother. That’s me. Because let’s face it. Kids can be really dumb. I used to be a kid, so I know. Kids are easily manipulated, coerced and led astray. They can be too trusting of their cool friends. Too smartass to listen to their parents. Too quick to jump when they should run in the opposite direction. Yes, kids can be really dumb. Even if they’re frightfully intelligent and responsible ones like mine. That’s why I have to spy on them.

I stalk them on Facebook, Bebo and hotmail. I hack into ‘secret’ accounts. I check their cellphones for phone sex messages. I scan computer history for porn sites. One of my son’s BEBO friends had a topless photo of herself as a profile pic. I told him – “Either you unfriend that girl and block her from your page, or else I’m calling her mother. Banning you from the internet.Carrying out a drive by shooting.” The photo was swiftly removed and the girl shamefacedly apologized. (Side note for parents, please if your daughter is online can you check if she has all her clothes on? Thanks.)

But I don’t just let it rest there. I know ALL of my kids friends. I have personally ‘interviewed’ each one of them – by inviting them over to my house and plying them with homebaked goods. I know their parents. I talk to their teachers. I don’t believe in locking my kids up ( get real, I live for the moments when i can offload them somewhere) But my children dont go ANYWHERE unless I go there too. And check it out first. They don’t sleep over at anyone’s house. They don’t ‘hang out’ in malls. They don’t go on teenage roadtrips. I know when all their school assignments are due and what they are/arent doing to complete them. I am the elite of all secret agents and it is my mission to know where these children are at all times and make sure they have everything they need to stay safe.

Some people say I’m too nosey. They say I’m trampling on my kids freedoms. “Your children need their privacy!” Rubbish. They can have all the privacy they want when they’re 21 and move out of my house. In the meantime, I believe parents need to be involved in their children’s lives. Be supportive, be encouraging – yes. But be James Bond too.

Why am I like this? Because these five children are my life. They are my sacred responsibility. Even when I’m sick to death of them. They are the most precious and divine blessings I will ever have. And I will do everything I can to protect them. Guide them. And prepare them for when they have to walk in this wild, tortured world by themselves.

(So JB and Sade, if you’re reading this? I love you. And I will never stop stalking you. So there.)

I am Old and Have Too Many Children

So does five children.

I am really annoyed with Primary school teachers. Why, for the love of snickerdoodles, do teachers have to load up my child with sheetloads of homework every week? Yes, I’ve read all the studies done on the glorious blessings of giving kids homework. Yes, I want my kid to be a super intelligent and economically viable creature when she grows up. But Im pretty sure she can squeak by without a worksheet that expects her to: complete a Sudoku puzzle, compute 20 math problems, write a story about bunny rabbits, research maps on the internet, learn 15 spelling words, draw a Gauguin masterpiece about bunny rabbits,read two comprehension passages and answer a zillion questions.

Do teachers think I have nothing better to do with my time then sit and patiently walk this child through all this waffle? The days when I would take pride in every shakily executed A B C are long gone. When I would listen with an encouraging smile to the whining. No. There’s no more gentle persuasion or syrupy smiling at homework time in my house. Now, I am in complete agreement with that whiny child. You dont want to do homework? Me neither. Let’s chuck it. Now, I snarl “What’s wrong with your teacher anyway? Is she crazy giving you all this stuff to do? Dammnit.” and “Give me that paper, hmmm the answers are 12, 3 and 46.Now that’s enough, go run outside. Better yet, go play Xbox.” But mum, the teacher said I have to learn these spelling words. “Agh, your teacher’s being ridiculous. Nobody cares if you can spell properly these days. Thats what Spellcheck is for. Trust me. I’m an English teacher. And a writer. I know everything.”

I’m lodging an official complaint with the primary school teachers of the world. Stop giving kids so much homework. No, revise that. I’m pretty sure that parent enthusiasm for their children’s homework is directly correlated to how many children they have. So teachers should find out which kids have no siblings and then give THEM buckets of homework. All the kids with 2 or more siblings? Forget it. Their parents are hanging on by a thread to their sanity. Dont risk pushing them over the edge by giving their kid homework. Trust me. Some of us parents are just old. Lazy.Tired. And we have too many children.Have pity on us.

Have you got homework in YOUR house? Please tell me I’m not the only one who whinges about my mother homework duties.

Falling in Love

(Several of my friends have recently become new mothers. As I rejoice with them in their discovery of this wondrous thing called motherhood, I am reminded of my own first steps on this endless journey. In honor of fiercely beautiful and strong new mothers like Fotu, Vivienne, Manuia and soon-to-be Vanessa – I am sharing again, these thoughts written upon the birth of baby number five.)

Her head turns to the sound of my voice. Her eyes follow my every move. Her cheeks are soft against mine. My heartbeat lulls her to sleep. She trusts me completely. She is my every waking thought. ( and lets face it – shes waking me up heaps!)I’ve spent the last month faling in love. Surrendering to the wonder that is Bella. Until she is everything to me.

You see, unlike most mothers, it takes me time to fall under my children’s spell. That instantaneous superhuman mother love other women feel as soon as their child pops out – that just aint what Im about. My newborn babes alternately bewitch and bewilder me. Totally knocked out for my first delivery – i remember them wheeling me to a room full of mewling infants encased in incubators. “There, thats your little boy!” they said, pointing to one scrawny skinny little thing amongst many…’You dont say?’ was my hazy reply as it ocurred to me that they could hand me any old kid, tell me ‘its YOURS!’ and i wouldnt tell the difference. Yes i gave him milk. And held him. And cried when they poked and prodded him for blood. But not until 3 weeks later as i wandered the deserted halls of a sleeping hospital at 3am unable to sleep for thinking about him alone in his glass box – did it hit me. This tiny boy is MINE and I’m his mother. He’s stuck in there helpless and aint nobody else but me that will ever know him and take care of him the way i can. And I love him desperately. There was no parting us after that.

My second child was a full term 8 pounder. After 18 hours of horrific laboring hell they placed this huge THING on my chest. Im sorry to confess that I shuddered and asked – ‘eeewww what is that?!’ I’d never seen a newborn baby before…(wondering how could they be so mean to me after id suffered for so many hours.) “Its your baby!” they replied brightly. ‘You must be joking’ was my shocked thought. “Its grotesque!” Happily, my daughter wove her magic and eventually snuck her way into my heart.

Yes, step after faint little step my five little ones crept in when I wasn’t watching. Perhaps on a starfilled nite as i lay totally wiped out from endless breastfeeding,or was it one afternoon after bath time and bejewelled sunlight danced on their perfect skin as they nestled in my arms. Or when anguish filled them as a nurse injected their chubby little leg and they turned confused hurt filled eyes upon me their mother – their supposed protector? All i can say for certain is that each of them inspires a fierce protectiveness and an overwhelming love.

As I lull Bella to sleep on the verandah on a windswept evening – I am in awe of her. Tiny pink fingers unfurl in the light, eyelashes a flutter in the face of eternity. I shall reach up and pick a handful of stars for you my love, a silver shimmer to adorn your hair as we float in the night sky. Glorying in the heavens, I am reminded of a line I once read “Now wonderingly engrossed/ In your fearless delicacies/I am launched upon sacred seas/Humbly and utterly lost/In the mystery of creation/ Bells, bells of the ocean.”

That’s how I feel with you. Lost in the mystery of creation.


Baby Maneesha, born at 28wks. Photographed by Anne Geddes.

My Father’s Heart

Tomorrow my father’s chest will be sliced open. His chest bone will be sawed apart with a very loud drilling machine. He will be hooked up to a heart and lung machine that will live for him for the three to five hours that it takes for the surgeons to sew four ‘new’ veins to the right side of his constricted, cholestorol-laden heart.Bypassing his clogged, falling apart heart supply.

My father is 72 years old. I am afraid for him.

My father doesnt drink or smoke. He has maintained a healthy weight for all the time that Ive been his daughter. He has better exercise habits than I do. He is not diabetic. He does not have high blood pressure. This should not be happening to my father. I am angry. Bitter. Afraid. Horribly, breathlessly sad. But I am also grateful. Because it is a minor miracle that my father is even having this operation at all.

You see, he is a very strong, very stubborn man. The blood supply to over two thirds of his heart is severely restricted. He could have had a major, no-second-chances heart attack at any moment. But he has very determinedly, very carefully, gone to great lengths to conceal his worsening condition from everyone. For over three years he has taken medication, hopeful that would cure him. He has carried with him everywhere, a bottle of nitro glycerin stuff to take when his heart seized up. Which he would take very discreetly to jump start his heart again. If he had chest pains, he would keep it to himself. If he got dizzy and faint, he sat down and kept it to himself. If he passed out and collapsed, he told us it was because he was ‘very tired’….Yeah right. And now, finally, he can hide it no longer.From us. From the doctors, From himself.

My father’s heart may be letting him down, finally and ferociously. But it has never let me down.

He has always been the listener. The father you could go to. With crazy harebrained schemes and ideas – and he would nod encouragingly, give advice, tell you to go for it. The father you could go to with every complaint under the sun. And he would listen. Concerned and captivated. There has never been any doubt of his love for me. For all of his children. He believes great things of all of us. He hopes for great things for all of us. He is my father, and I have always known of my place in his heart.

If the operation works, the surgeon tells us that my father will be ‘twenty years younger’. He will have buckets of energy and optimism that he hasnt had for many tired, slow, hard-to-breathe, years. My father tells his grandson that he will race him in the 200m when hes fully recovered. He wants to mow the lawn. And trim the trees in my sister’s overgrown backyard. He wants to paint the house and redo the roof. Oh yes, and he wants to translate my tsunami book into Samoan. He confides that his dream is to get a camper van and travel around NZ. Picking fruit. Working odd farm jobs. Seeing the sights. Living the slow fascinating life of the endless traveller. ( Ha…good luck getting my mum to buy into that one dad!) My father has many fleeting hopes that yesterdays impossibles, can be possible. After tomorrow. After his open heart quadruple bypass surgery. After his months of painful and tiring recovery.

Yet, although his voice speaks of tomorrows, in my father’s eyes I glimpse fear. Mirrored in my own.

Bringing us to this moment. As night falls on the last day my father will have on this earth – with a very tired, very choked up heart.

As our family draws closer (still with the sibling squabbling and scuffling that adorns EVERY family gathering!) – we will pray. We will fast. We will laugh and joke and tease. We will entrust tomorrows hopes in a very skilled cardio -thoracic surgeon and his team.

And in the strength of my father’s heart.

Things that keep me awake at night – Questions.

In 2002, a 14 yr old girl called Elizabeth Smart was abducted at knifepoint from her bed in the middle of the night by man called Brian Mitchell. Her abductor took her to his forest hideout where he lived with his ‘wife’. Elizabeth commented later, “I thought maybe they took me because they had no children and wanted a daughter.” Instead, Mitchell made Elizabeth his second wife in a bizarre ceremony after which he raped her. Over the next 9 months, Elizabeth was tethered by her leg to a stake, raped repeatedly, and among other atrocities, forced to watch her captors have sex so “she would learn how to do it properly”. Miraculously, Elizabeth was eventually rescued and returned to her family for an unusual ‘happy ending’ to a child abduction case. She went on to attend university and then serve as a missionary for her church in France. Elizabeth’s story has had center stage in the US media lately because finally, eight years after her ordeal, she has been able to testify at the trial of her captors.

During her lengthy testimony, Elizabeth spoke in often graphic detail and I wept to read about her experiences. One thing in particular stood out for me. She said, that after the first few rapes, she “ felt like I wasnt clean, wasnt pure, wasnt worth the same. I felt like another person would never love me again.” But then she reminded herself, “It didnt matter what happened to me, my parents would always love me no matter what he did to me. That couldnt be changed. I was still a person of worth.” Elizabeth decided, “NO matter what it took, i would live, i would survive, i would do everything i could to keep my life and my familys intact.” Elizabeth’s hope was always that she would be able to return home, knowing with a surety that her parents, her family would want her home always.

I’ve been asking myself and I challenge every parent to ask themselves – Can my children say that? Do my children know that I love them NO MATTER WHAT? That I will search for them, pray for them, welcome them home and love them always? And can my children say with the same assurance, that regardless of what the world may throw at them, regardless of what trials they may have to endure, “I am a good person worthy of love. Nothing anyone else does to me can take that away from me.” I hope so.I hope my children will always know that they are beloved. By us their parents. And by God. And I hope they will always know that we want them to return home.No matter what.

I pay tribute to Elizabeth Smart’s strength, resilience and courage. I am grateful for her example – I shared her story with my daughters today. I pay tribute to Elizabeth’s parents and family. I am humbled by their example as parents and thankful for the reminder of the importance of my own calling as a mother in this often challenging and cruel world.

The root of all evil. A shortage of Meanness.

Much to HRH’s chagrin, I have never been very ‘good with money’. I’m no good at making it. Saving it. Or budgeting it.I am however, very good at spending it. How to ensure these are not weaknesses passed on to one’s children? ( because lets face it, FIVE children who are only good at spending money will result in five adults who will never move out, never get a job and never afford to pay for their mother to have plastic surgery when she needs it.) The solution is simple. Meanness. (Its frightening how many parenting problems can be solved with a generous dose of meanness.)

Case in point – money and teenagers. My 15 yr old son attends a school where the majority of students show up everyday with hundred dollar bills to buy their lunch. Whereas he gets shoved out the door every morning with dinner leftovers and a homemade choc chip cookie. And a grand total of a twenty dollar allowance to budget for a week. Mean mother? Maybe. But I’ve discovered that meanness has planted the seeds of an entrepreneurial spirit as my son has struck upon a few goldmines of earning revenue. Only Im not sure how legal his enterprises are. Or how much I should be encouraging this new found business acumen…because he is –

1. Selling my oatmeal soap to his friends at school as a ‘tried and true’ acne cure. (He’s shamelessly using himself as a walking advert for beautiful unblemished skin.) Great for selling soap but Im not getting any of the proceeds.
2. Doing people’s homework for them and writing their English speeches and in exchange they have to buy him lunch. Yesterday he had 2 burgers, 5 ice pops and a selection of cakes and muffins. Its coming up to exam time and apparently a lot of kids are getting desperate for study aid. Does that make him exploited? Or exploitative?
3. Taking the beef jerky sticks I brought from Cost U Less in Pago…cutting them in half and then charging 5 tala for one piece. And kids at his school buy them. ( they obviously have more money than sense.)
4. Then to top it all off, he was invited to a birthday party in the weekend and the birthday girl gave him fifty bucks – to make her a chocolate cake. Because apparently everybody in his class loved the cake he made for his class end of term function the other month. Is this a sign that girls in the fourth form totally don’t know how to bake? Or that girls in the fourth form are financially loaded and so why should they bake a cake when they can get a boy to do it for them?!

All in all, his money schemes mean that now he turns his nose up at taking leftovers for school lunch. And offers to lend me money when I go to the store for bread. Downside for me is that he’s no longer interested in washing my car for money. Cos he doesn’t need it. So as a result of his ventures, I am getting a bit more savvy. We have new (Mean mother) money guidelines.

* He can’t sell anymore oatmeal soap UNTIL he helps his father make more. And his labor will be compensated…in soap. For his pimples and his friends.
*I’ve asked him to please make an effort to at least EXPLAIN the homework to people before he stuffs himself using their lunch money. So in a way, we can justify his actions as kind and helpful?
*I’ve locked up the beef jerky. It’s non-negotiable. How dare he sell my fave snack food?!)
*I’ve laid down the law for cake baking for cash. Told him that cake orders will need to be negotiated with me. Lets see, total cost of flour, eggs, sugar, cocoa, icing, electricity and don’t forget the rental of my cake tin…AND a percentage for the use of MY cake recipe ( intellectual property rights after all) all works out to 40 bucks for ME and ten for HIM. Ha. Now who’s being entrepreneurial and money-savvy, ay?! Maybe there is hope for my money management skills after all…

Yep. Meanness. It solves a multitude of potential parenting problems. And maybe I can now look forward confidently to children who will NOT be living with me forever. And tons of free plastic surgery options.

You are nobody and have nothing of importance.

My parents are going to work in a certain Pacific island nation far away for 2 years. It’s a somewhat dangerous place. One where you shouldnt catch a taxi from the airport because the driver is likely to drive you to the bushes where a helpful gang will be waiting to rid you of every possession. And where they had a shoot out at the airport last week…something about robbers fighting over gold? I think. I said to my mother – clearly, you should not be taking any of your jewellry with you on this mission. She replied, ‘of course i will, just not the REAL stuff. ( Yes Im sure the robbers will pause to authenticate her jewels BEFORE they chop her arm off for them…) I told her you shouldnt wear any of your usual clothing. ( Because as anyone who knows my mother knows – she is Vogue magazine personified.) She replied, scandalized, ‘of course i will, but i shall aim for understated elegance.’ I rolled my eyes and gave up. And so she continued planning her wardrobe for life in a semi-dangerous place.
Last week, to be helpful, a friend who once lived in that country for 8 years as a single woman, wrote to my parents and sent them a list of ‘Tips for Survival’. They included the following:

1. At all times, you must strive to be as inconspicuous as possible. Dress, act and speak as though “you are nobody and have nothing of importance.” Obviously, my mother won’t last a day there. Understated elegance screams of conspicuosness and will condemn you every time.

2. Drive with all the windows up and all the doors locked. Park in places that will give you the quickest escape route. While driving, you must be mentally prepared to run down anyone who stands in the middle of the road and signals you to stop. ESPECIALLY, if they are holding a gun.
I dont know how they are supposed to be doing their job which will involve networking with lots of different people if they cant stop for them on the road. Maybe they can crank the windows open a teensie weensie bit and throw out pamphlets as they hurtle past? As they duck bullets?

3. Never go shopping at the market. People are always getting mugged at the market. If you want fresh produce, go with a group of friends to a certain weekly market organized by a certain religion. Drive there in a convoy of vehicles. Follow all the rules regarding driving as per item #2.
4. Never go anywhere at night. Stay locked up in your compound. Be aware that the most danger-laden task is that of getting out of your car to go open the security gate of your compound to either drive in or out. The gangs like to hide in the bushes and wait for the unsuspecting gate-opener.

5. Never forget that even though it can be a dangerous place, it is also a wildly beautiful land with wonderful people and you can be very happy there.

6. Focus on item #5 if you lapse following any of the rules and end up in a horribly sticky situation.

Needless to say, the list did not do much to assuage my concerns for my parents upcoming travel plans. Im trying to help my mother practise dressing “like she is nothing and no-one.” I have offered her all my clothes. In exchange for hers. (she said she’ll get back to me on that one.) And Im trying to find someone who can drive like Vin Diesel in ‘Fast and the Furious’ so they can give my mum lessons. I have serious doubts about her ability to run people over. Especially when theyre holding a gun.
Vin Diesel we need you!