I am Enough.

I blinked and 2012 streaked naked through my life, my messy house. And then it was gone. Just like that. Hello 2013!

Right, so I’m going to do something revolutionary (for me) this year.  I am not going to start the new year making a list of all the things I hate about myself and how to fix them. Lists for how to be prettier, nicer, smarter, skinnier, friendlier, wiser, neater and all the other kinds of stupid’er things I’m supposed to be in fantasy land. Ha. I am NOT even going to make any fitness and weight loss goals. I am not going to commit to running in any 102km relays. I am NOT going to visualize how happy I will be when I lose twenty pounds. Or get boob implants. Liposuction. A nip. Tuck. Botox. I’m not even going to waste a single minute cursing the science research/medical industry that wont invest money and effort into devising a pill that gives you instant boob implants, liposuction, plastic surgery and botox. A painless, simple, cheap pill. I’m not going to knock down Jenny Craig’s door the minute they open after the New Year holiday for cardboard food I will hate eating. Or buy an insanely overpriced gym membership to a gym I will hate going to.

No. Not wasting a breath on any of that crap this year.

Because this is the year that I turn forty thirty-six. I am not a simpering, eyelash-batting, breathy-voiced teenager freaking out over acne and wondering whether some cute boy likes me. And I am not a self-obsessed, self-possessed, party-going, table-dancing, skank mini-skirt wearing twenty-something year old either. Or a people-pleasing yes-kid starving for affirmation.

 I am a WOMAN, dammit. A 5″10, CENSORED pound woman who’s given birth to four children and tried to stay sane while raising five. A big, brown Polynesian woman with big hips, bold thighs, and lush curves in unwanted unexpected places. I’ve got centipede pattern stitch scars across my non-existent ab’s from triple c-sections. And whispered tiger stripe stretch marks everywhere else that tell their story of baby growing. Breasts that have nourished life – and bled for it. Arms that have rocked a crying child a thousand times, a thousand nights. Hands that have labored over chocolate cakes, kids homework from hell, hair braiding, kids’ eczema, cleaned up puke, poop, paint and parties, given hugs (and yeah, maybe these hands have pinched naughty kids a few times too…wielded a salu…possibly)

 I am a mother with a loud voice who can laugh with her children, cry with them and fight for them.  I am a wife with a patient heart who knows how to love through the good, the bad and the ugly times. I am a daughter who knows that the best way to love her parents – is from a distance – with carefully constructed fences of self-built self-worth. I am a sister who’s made mistakes – and is learning from them. I am a teacher who knows how to make learning a journey of discovery with her students. I am an author who writes Pasifika love stories – and loves it.  I am blessed. I am grateful.

I am all these things and more. I am me and I am not going to waste time on trying to be anything different. This quote from a very wise woman, Marjorie Hinckley is perfect, “We women have a lot to learn about simplifying our lives. We have to decide what is important and then move along at a pace that is comfortable for us. We have to develop the maturity to stop trying to prove something. We have to learn to be content with what we are.” I think I am finally ready to stop trying to prove myself.

This year, I will not be driven by self-loathing. This year I will endeavour to incorporate into my life – more of those elements that uplift, energize and inspire me. For example, I hate running (and dieting). With a passion. But I love love love dancing. (and eating.) With a passion. This year I’m going to sign up for fun stuff like Hot Hula and also finally learn how to tango. (hopefully the Hot Man will agree to sign up to be my Antonio-Banderas-dance partner!) I’m going to make the time to prepare the foods that I love and take a cooking class so I can stop eating cans of tuna for dinner followed by three different kinds of cake (since thats all I know how to make with any kind of skill…) Bring on the seafood extravaganza menu!

I want to (finally) learn to swim. Go to a Coldplay concert. Meet up with fabulous author friends at the RT Convention in the US. Write more books about lots of luscious, bold Pasifika women (and beautiful hot guys…of course) Take the Fab5 to Disneyland. Get my NZ driver’s license so I can actually drive OUTSIDE West Auckland, see more of New Zealand with my family.  Get out of my hermit cave more. I will try new things and search for new experiences that will bring joy to my life and the lives of those I love.

My resolutions for 2013? To be fierce, fiery and bold – in person and not just on paper. To love better, dance and laugh more. To be content with me.

To say, ‘I am enough.’ And mean it.

What do you hope for from YOUR 2013?

A Night of Illicit Abandon – Walking on the Wild Side

A fit of fizzy flightiness overwhelmed me this weekend.  I was consumed by this insane desire to be like those people who bungy jump, sky dive and buy clothes that are NOT on sale. I felt like living dangerously and walking on the wild side.  Where did this strange feeling come from? Maybe it was because the week had been crazy busy – I Telesa chatted with  a Pacific Lit class at Auckland University on Monday, took kids to the dentist on Tuesday, wrote furiously on Wednesday, did an interview for the TVNZ Good Morning Show on Thursday, and gave a talk at a church women’s conference on Friday. (Or maybe it was because I ingested way too much caffeine via Diet Coke overdosing to assist me with all my speech writing and interview-prepping…)

Either way, I said to the Hot Man, ‘ooh, lets be spontaneous and exciting!He looked wary. ‘And do what?’

I said, let’s run away from the children and live it up all night! Dancing on tables ( or around poles), jumping off the Sky Tower, ordering not one but TWO desserts….all crossed my mind.  I  found a super fabulous overnight special for a lovely hotel in the city situated in the midst of restaurants, night clubs and assorted wild times venues so that we could do exactly that – ‘live it up all night’  (The mind boggles at all the possibilities in that phrase it up all night…)   I was ready to live dangerously.

But the sad fact is that a woman with five children can never really live dangerously without excruciating planning. And massive atonement for the overload of guilt one feels when one abandons said children. Soooooo before I ran away, I had to :
1. organize baby sitting
2. purchase extra groceries in case there was a famine while we were gone
3. Check that torches and radios had batteries, candles had matches, smoke alarms were working, all windows and doors had functioning locks, and every child remembered the emergency number and tsunami escape route   – in case there was a natural disaster, fire or influx of housebreakers while we were gone.
4. Remind Big Son and Big Daughter about paracetemol, asthma medications, treatment for spider bites, choking, accidental ingestion of too many cookies.
5. Rent DVDs and XBox games galore from the store so they wouldnt cry/be left bereft/sink into the depths of despair upon my departure.

I had a faint moment of panic when I remembered that we havent actually made a will yet and what if we both got killed in a motorway crash on the way to the hotel? Or what if the hotel got taken siege by terrorists and we were blown to bits because Bruce Willis couldnt save us? It was too late to get a will done by then so I had to let those dire thoughts go. Bad mother, bad mother – irresponsible enough to have so many children and NOT get a will done.

And finally, before we could run away for a night of illicit abandon, I insisted we take the children on an all-day fun outing. One that involved a trip to the local marine world and hours at the beach. Sand, sun, water, and fish’n’chips.Fun, fun, fun. Only then could I indulge in my fit of fizzy flightiness, chucking clothes in a bag and run away.

It was 5pm before we finally left. The hotel was lovely. We enjoyed being childless. (cue fireworks and glitter cannons here) We had a delicious dinner at a lovely restaurant. We finished eating. And then the Hot Man said, with forced joviality,  Right where shall we go dancing first?

Then the sad truth hit me. I was really really really tired from hanging out with those children all day and being kind and loving and patient and joyful for such a long time. I was kinda sunburnt from the beach. My feet hurt from walking around the marine place. I didnt want to go bungee jumping off the Sky Tower. Or dancing on tables or around poles. I couldnt even order two desserts because I was still full from fishnchips from Mission Bay. I didnt want to squeeze myself into my ‘dancing on table and around poles’ attire, I just wanted to veg out and space out in ginormously comfortable pyjamas. And did I mention that I  was tired?

But mostest of all? I missed my children. And my house. And my own bed. And my own shower. And my own living room. And my own fridge.

I said, shamefaced. ‘Actually, I want to go home. I miss the kids.’

And the Hot Man said, shamefaced. ‘Yeah, me too.

Conclusion?  We must be really old.  Or just really boring.

I am resolved – next time I am possessed by a fizzy fit of flightiness, I wont exhaust myself first by taking the children out on an all-day excursion of happiness. No. I will be heartless, cold and cruel, just walk out that door and slam it so loud that I will drown out the YOU CRAPPY LOSER MOTHER! sirens blaring in my head. And then nobody will be able to hold me back from the dance tables and I will order not one, not two, but THREE desserts, because I know how to live dangerously, dammit! 

We used to know how to be exciting and fun people, honestly!
(Is that edge of desperation in my voice convincing you yet?!)

What Makes Good Romance?

What makes good romance? We all have different answers because what counts as ‘romantic’ is different for different people. I write YA fantasy romance and that can be fun. Especially when it comes to figuring out what will set spines tingling. Hearts racing. Spark a smile on even the most unwilling of faces. I’m no expert, but here’s some things I’ve found to be true about romance…reflecting on some of the most romantic things that I’ve seen in my long (non) illustrious life?

* Romance = Spontaneity. The unexpected. Flowers help too. I was a high school senior walking down the road in Washington D.C with a friend when we noticed a car following us. Driven by a strange boy. A cute strange boy. A smiling cute strange boy. Hoping he wasnt a killer scoping out potential victims, we hurried back to school. He caught us there, hopped out of the car, told me I was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen and gave me a dozen red roses. *Cue mass swooning, giggling, fluttering hearts from all my school friends.* I never saw that boy again. Never got his name either. Maybe he drove around all day giving roses to random chicks all over D.C. Who knows? Either way, Im really old now and remembering that still makes me smile.

* Romance = Thoughtfulness. Poetry. Music.  When I was fourteen, a boy would write me notes. Written inside intricately folded origama ninja stars. Many times, they contained poetry or song lyrics. I loved those and saved them for years afterwards. (Even though that boy went on to be the very first to ever break my heart.)  And can I just say that in a world of instant messaging and texting – a boy who can take the time to WRITE a note on a piece of paper? Like Daniel does in the first book? A rare treasure. Grab that boy and tie him up. (ok, did that sound a little Fifty Shades to you? or was that just me….)

* Romance = Originality and creativity. Picnics. And blindfolds.  Dating in Varsity years usually consisted of lots of dancing in sweaty, crowded nightclubs. Which is why it was extra memorable when a young man went to all the trouble of preparing a packed picnic lunch AND blindfolding me while he took me to the picnic destination in the middle of nature reserve park. Reason for the blindfold there and back? (No, nothing Fifty Shades about it…I KNOW that’s what you were thinking!)  Because, “this way, it will always be a special place that you can only find again, with me. Because it will always live in your memory as a special place that we shared together.” No, I didnt marry that boy. He never asked me. But I’ve never stopped wondering – where in heck IS that nature reserve park anyway?!

*Romance = Food. Sorry, but this is me. And MY list. So of course, food plays a central role in everything. The boy who baked me a chocolate cake gets an honorable mention. As does the bestest dinner menu on a date. Ice cream dates. Dessert outings. All made for very sweet romance. And the moment when the Hot Man cooked us a steak dinner to perfection, could very well have been the moment I decided we should be together forever.

So yeah, romance is lots of things. My definition of romance though, has changed as I have gotten older. Wiser. (And more tireder.) All the flowers in the world can never equal the feeling when you get to sleep for six hours straight because the love of your life has taken the premature baby for not one but TWO night time feeds and changed disgusting diapers. Even though the man has exams the next day. You wake up to find him soothing that baby, singing to him softly in the gentle moonlight. That’s romance.

All the poetry of Shakespeare and Keats can’t surpass the compassion, kindness and love evident when – you’ve been cut to pieces for a c-section delivery, you’re bloated with two hundred pounds worth of toxaemia, utterly miserable – and he bathes you, helps you dress, brushes your hair, dries your tears and whispers, “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world.” That’s romance.

When he shows up at your workplace with a surprise gift – a desktop fan for your sweltering teacher’s cubicle. Because he was LISTENING when you complained endlessly about how miserably hot you were at work. When he brings you Diet Coke, champagne glasses AND ice in a mini-cooler as well? That’s romance.

When he goes to the Twilight movies with you, even though he hates them. When he agrees that you two will only spend ten dollars each other for Christmas gifts, so you buy him a pair of cheap shoes – and he gets that leather suite living room set that he saw you sighing over and has it delivered when you’re not home and then blindfolds you before you walk in the house. That’s romance.

When he forgives you of the worstest things. When he sees the nastiest sides of you. When he endures the saddest times with you. And loves you even more because of them.

When he gives up the most divisive vices.  Sees his weaknesses and strives to overcome them because he wants to love better. When he cheers you on  to pursue your dreams even if he doesn’t quite understand them.

That’s romance.

Which is why, my Fantasy Romance series is dedicated to the Hot Man. Always and forever.

What’s the most romantic experience YOU have had? Please share…and inspire us because I think everyone could use more romance, more love in their lives!

She’s Got Six Boyfriends.

There was a disco at Bella’s preschool tonight. She’s been super excited for days. She picked out what outfit she wanted to wear and as I helped her get dressed, she said, “I’m gonna see my boyfriend there.”

I’m calm, cool and collected.  “Oh really? Who?”

Bella fluffs up her skirt and answers, “Brayden. He’s my number one boyfriend.”

The Hot Man is not so calm, cool and collected. “What?! You have more than one boyfriend?!”

You can tell Bella thinks that’s a dumb question. Hands on her hips. “Yes Dada, I have six boyfriends at school.”

Bella is a bad-ass.

I laughed. But I also wanted to cry. Because I miss that. I long for that. The honesty, opennes and directness of a four year old. Because Big Son is seventeen and secretive. Furtive. Holding information close and his emotions even closer. There was a time when Big Son was Little Son. When he confided everything in me. Asked for my advice on everything from homework to hairstyles. From pimples to presents for the girl he had a crush on. There was a time when his hurts were mine. His worries kept me awake at night. His fears were mine to overcome. His joys were beribboned packages that we opened together. Big Son taught me how to love. How to place another’s happiness above my own.

Now? Now Big Son puts up walls. Throws up smoke screens. Chucks angry rocks. At times it seems there is an ocean of distance between us, between me and this child who was the first to hear my heart from the inside. Yes,  I know our children must grow up and away from us. I know they must have privacy, independence, secrets and autonomy. Fall in love. Do stupid things. Make weird choices.

But it still hurts. And I miss him.  And it’s hard. To try and forge a new relationship.With the adult, the young man that he is becoming. To make sense of the confused mess that we’re in right now. To assert new boundaries and redraw the lines of our relationship.

What do I want? What do I hope for? Long for?

I want for him to confide in me.  I want us to negotiate a space where we can laugh, cry and contemplate the mysteries of the universe. (Diet Coke and Doritos optional.) I want to be the mother that he can talk to about anything and everything.

Even if its to tell me that he has six girlfriends. (Or boyfriends.)

Do you think that’s possible? For those of you out there with teenagers and adult children, please tell me how you do it? How do you let go but still keep them close?

Who’s the BOSS? Well, its not me.

Me and the Hot Man were having a discussion about our daughters. And what kind of relationships they will have with the people they will marry one day. (Because yeah, that’s what lame parents do. Sit around and discuss their children all day.) I said,

“The most important factor will be our example. Our children can see what kind of a marriage we have. They can see how we communicate with each other, that this is a partnership of equals. I don’t boss you around. And you don’t boss me around. We share leadership in this relationship.”

Sigh. Isn’t that beautiful? And I meant it. And I believed every word of it. And I wanted to pat both of us on the back and hi-five our awesomeness because we are just such the coolest couple on the planet. Bonus points in heaven!

The Hot Man said, “Excuse me? What did you say? What rubbish! Ha! You boss me around all the time. You’re always telling me what to do.”

I was sure he was joking. But he wasn’t smiling. He looked incredulous. Disbelieving. And he certainly wasn’t doing any hi-fiving of our marital awesomeness either.

I said, “Darling, what do you mean? I never tell you what to do. In fact, most of the time, you do the exact opposite of what I wish you would do. We negotiate and discuss everything. I’m not bossy.”

The Hot Man called our two teenagers into the room. “Son, your mother just said that she and I share leadership equally in this family. She said she never tells me what to do. Is that true?”

Big Son laughed. Incredulously. Disbelievingly. Hysterically. “That’s a joke right? She’s kidding, right?”

I didn’t think anything was funny.

Big Son said, “Mum, you’re always telling Dad what to do. Even my friends notice. When they come over they say Far out man, your mum is like the BOSS. She like, rulez your Dad.” Whoa!’

The Hot Man then asked Big Daughter. “What do you think? Does your mother tell me what to do?”

I glared. The kind of glare that says think very carefully about your answer because your happiness in my house depends on it. Big Daughter answered hesitantly. “Umm, yeah. She kind of does. Not all of the time. But pretty much most of the time. Sorry mum, but it’s true.”

The Hot Man was triumphant. “See!? Even your children know it. You wear the pants in this family. Just be honest about it and face the facts.” He shook his head. “And there you are, trying to tell us that we’re so equal and share leadership…ha.”

I said. “Whatever. Those kids don’t know anything about anything.” I told them to go away. Immediately. Go scrub a floor. Wash a dish. Climb a tree. (And we’re never having any of their stupid friends over at our house anymore either. So there. So there.)

And then I said to the Hot Man. “I never tell you what to do. Ever. You have to stop talking such rubbish, do you hear me? And you need to tell your children that I never tell you what to do, do you hear me?”

And he smiled and said. “Yes Lani. There you go again. Telling me what to do.”

I give up.  According to these people who live in the same house as me, I’m a bossy, controlling, woman who always tells her husband what to do. Shoot me now. No bonus points for me in heaven.

But maybe, just maybe – that’s why this is such a HAPPY, SUCCESSFUL marriage. Because (supposedly) I tell everybody what to do.

You are happy, aren’t you honey? I can’t hear you? Speak up now!

Who’s the boss in your house? Do you think you share leadership? Maybe you’re living in fantasy land. Try asking your kids what they think. Go on, I dare you.

I Hate the Hot Man.

Life’s just not fair. This is the Hot Man EIGHTEEN years ago. (With a mildly attractive young woman at his side.)

And this is the Hot Man NOW. Is it just me – or does this man look pretty much the same? Hello? Did we not live through the same number of years over the last two decades?!

The mildly attractive woman is missing from the picture because she aint even MILDLY attractive anymore. Thank you very much to – five children, gravity, three c-sections, donuts, demanding toddlers, clingy pre-schoolers, smartass teenagers, stress, wear and tear, the Y2K bug, that one disastrous experiment with chemical hair straightener, the greenhouse effect, global warming, more donuts, sleepless nites, exercise procrastination, inflation, acid rain, the cancellation of Brothers and Sisters, an excessive amount of baking, abs that seem to have lost their elastic, deforestation, pollution and soil erosion in the Kalahari Desert. This list does not even begin to fully encompass the causes of the mildly attractive woman’s decay and decomposition. Needless to say, there is incredible injustice at work here. Why is the Hot Man so ‘well-preserved’?

He’s too hot-skinned to be a vampire. Maybe he secretly belongs to the Wolf pack?

Either way, I hate him. It’s just not fair.

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’?

Screaming Mothers. And Humming Daughters.

Me and my Beautiful Mum.

Dear Big Daughter Sade,

This morning I was helping your grandmother prepare for a night of literature and dessert at her design store cafe – Plantation House. She had invited forty guests and was getting rather stressed about the upcoming event. She’d asked me to drive her to the grocery store early in the  morning to help buy supplies for the marathon of baking she would be doing. Of course I was happy to oblige. I was up at 5am working on a speech, then walked next door and greeted her with a smile at 7.30am.

She was not happy. “I told you I wanted to go to the store EARLY. I told you I have lots of work to do today. If you don’t want to be helpful then you shouldn’t have said that you would drive me.”

Huh? I smiled. Reassured her that yes, of course I wanted to be helpful. After all, the event was an advance Launch nite for my Telesa book. I was at her complete disposal. My every waking breath would have her name on it.

She still wasn’t happy. “I can’t be waiting around for you while you take your time waking up. I have places to go. Do you know how any things I have to get done today? You have no idea how much work is required for today. And I have a shop to run. And I have workers to supervise. And I have…blah blah blah.”

Huh? I smiled. Again. Told her, I’m ready to go. I’ve been ready to go since 5am. Here I am. The shops don’t open until 8am which is why I didn’t walk down here sooner.

She wasn’t interested in my story. She huffed. Ignored me. Stalked out the door and started walking up the driveway. Muttering to the flowers and trees about rotten, useless, lazy, selfish daughters.

Huh? I didn’t want to smile anymore. But. I took a deep breath. My mum had a lot on her plate. I would be patient. Helpful. Kind. Supportive. Be nice Lani. I started humming a little happy song under my breath as I got in the car and chased after her. She got in my car. “I should have gotten a taxi to town. Much more reliable and more helpful than you are.”

I smiled. At the trees. The flowers. And I hummed my little happy song under my breath. She snarled. “What are you looking like that for? Why are you humming that song for?! Are you being rude now?!You better stop that.”

I had no more smiles left in me. I was ready to explode. Self-combust in a telesa induced flame attack. And then? I had a vision. A flashback. Of you, my daughter, humming a little song the last time I was snappy and stressed and aggravated. The last time I was barking out orders and perhaps being just the teensiest bit unreasonable. Yes, you hummed a little song. Bravely. And you had a faraway smile on your face. And I had mistaken it for defiance. And yelled at you more. ‘Don’t you try to ignore me when I’m speaking to you girl! And stop humming that song – I know what you’re trying to do, you’re deliberately trying to annoy me! Stop it.’
I had a rare, precious moment of clarity. I looked at my mother and saw myself. In all her creative fury and impatient energy. And I understood her so much better.

And then I thought of you Sade, and I saw myself –  in your efforts to be more patient and more understanding of a mother who often defies definition because she’s furiously creative and energetically impatient. (translation: MEAN.)  Right there and then, I resolved – to come home a nicer, more patient mother to you. And to tell you that I’m sorry. For the times I’ve been so mean. I’m going to try harder. Be better. I promise.

Right after I first make it through this day with my mother. Without exploding.

With love from,
Your Mum.

P.S The Telesa Advance Launch at Plantation House was a beautiful event. All thanks to my mother. She’s 70 yrs old and still can work harder and envision brighter than anyone else I know. What do we learn from this experience? Every adult woman with daughters should return home and spend some time with her mother. So they can remember what it feels like to be a daughter. And learn anew, what their mother endured to raise them.

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.

"You’re my bestest friend forever."

The family was in the car heading home after church when I told them that I had invited another family over for dinner. The Hot Man explained to the Fab5, “Your mother has made a new friend, isn’t that nice?”

Right away the older lot started laughing. Jeering. Teasing me. “Awww mum’s made a friend. Finally after 10 months of living in New Zealand, she’s got a friend. Poor mum!” I told them all to shut up  be quiet or else they’d be hitch-hiking their way home. “Yes, I have made a new friend and I know I dont have many (“Ha, you mean any!” scoffed a disbelieving child) but there’s no need to be so derisive.” But they were not so easily silenced and the onslaught of mockery continued. Until, the Bella Beast put a stop to it all by bursting in to tears. And when the Beast cries – we all listen. (Spoilt child alert.)

“What’s the matter darling?” I asked.

She was sobbing as if her heart was broken. “I’m your friend mama. Nobody else. I’m your bestest friend.You and me mama – we friends forever.”

Now this not a post about how lame I am at making friends in real life. No. This is a post about how love – huge, gut-wrenching, breathtaking love – can take you by surprise. It’s about how I felt – and now I’m crying as I write this –  as Bella uttered those words, as she  looked at me, choking back tears. My very last baby. I get tired of being a mum (a lot.) Maybe because I started being a mum when I was a very young 22. I look forward to when they’re all self-sufficient and doing fabulous things…somewhere else in this fabulous world. I get impatient because dammnit, I’ve got things to do! And they’re getting in my way.

But here now is the very last child that will ever, ever want me to be the center of her universe. The last child that will want my hugs and kisses in public. The final, last child that will love me with that overwhelming, crushing kind of love – the kind of love that hasn’t had time to get tarnished by the realization that no, your mother isn’t perfect. Isn’t the coolest woman on the planet. Doesnt know everything. Makes tons of mother mistakes. And can’t make donuts as good as Dunkin.
No. This is my last baby. Reminding me that she is “My bestest friend forever.” Reminding me that being a mother is a breathtaking, gut-wrenching and blessed thing to be.
Thank you Bella. You’ll be my bestest friend forever too. (Even when you fall in love and run away into the sunset with some dreadfully unsuitable boy.)