family

Unforgettable Hot Nights. At the Beach.

I hate going to the beach. I love looking at the beach but despise sitting there…hanging out there…and most definitely, the mere thought of LIVING there.

Why? A beach is sandy. Dirty. Hot. Sweaty. Often bug-gy. And you have to lug insane amounts of stuff to be able to subsist there for a day. Or two. Especially when you have too many children like I do.

But the definition of ‘mother’ is ‘One who endures unpleasant experiences for and on behalf of one’s offspring.‘ Like childbirth, poop, vomit, bloody boob breastfeeding and sullen looks from sullen teenagers.

And camping at the beach.

Big Son came home for midterm break from Uni so the family voted to spend Easter weekend at Tafatafa Beach. We packed lots of gear, with extra Diet Coke so I could be nicer and patient’er. And set off on a grand adventure.

To my surprise, the first ten hours were glorious. We met up with awesome friends who were also camping for the weekend. There was much laughter, conversation, consuming of assorted snacks, BBQ and drink – all while relaxing in the shade under the swaying palm trees.

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The demons swam, kayaked, dug holes, built castles, played soccer and tried fishing.  It was a most enjoyable day. When night fell, we made a bonfire so the demons could toast marshmallows and then they played games and told stories in one of the fale’s. It was a most enjoyable evening watching the sun set over a silken blue-black sea.

Wow, this beach thing is actually fun! Maybe I am a camper after all.

 And then it was time to go to sleep. On a foam mattresses on the ground in an open fale, in a mosquito net, with the sound of the ocean right outside. The tide was up and so waves were washing the steps of our fale. The children were exhausted and so they went straight to sleep, dreaming happy dreams of sandcastles, fish and water fights. The Hot Man was exhausted and he went right to sleep. Everybody was tired and everybody went to sleep.

Except for me.

I couldn’t sleep because of the sand in my bed, the sly ninja mosquitos that had made it into my mosquito net and the BLASTED SOUND OF THE OCEAN right outside our fale. That ocean just wouldn’t shut up. Waves kept coming in, making swishing sounds, running out and then swishing back in again. Then a dog sleeping under the fale added to the symphony with growls and snarls at invisible things. Then it started raining and it beat down on the tin roof, making an awful racket. And I was swatting at mosquitos, sweeping away sand, muttering at the dog to GET LOST, and trying to ignore the noisy ocean.

This is why you hate the beach, remember?!

At 3am, I was still awake. Miserable. I woke up the Hot Man.  “I have an idea.”

He was not happy about being woken up. “What?”

“Why don’t we go home?” I said. Hopeful and artificially cheerful.

“Yeah, we’re going home tomorrow.”

“No, I mean – let’s pack up and all go home right now.”

That woke him up for sure. “Are you out of your mind?! It’s three in the morning. It’s raining out there. We cant pack up in the rain. And everyone’s asleep.” He tried not to hiss too loudly at me.

“But I’m not asleep,” I pointed out. Helpfully. “I cant’ sleep in these conditions. I’m miserable. I want to go home.”

The man didn’t bother replying. He went back to sleep instead. Leaving me to count waves and mosquito bites and dog growls – all by myself. Hatefully. Miserably.

The next morning was glorious. The sun came up, the rain went away and we made pancakes and bacon for breakfast. The children swam and fished and kayaked. I chatted and laughed and consumed snacks with awesome friends. The beach was bearable again.

Until the moment of dread came. The cooler of ice and Diet Coke ran out. It was time to pack up and go home – where I had a newfound appreciation for my bed (with no sand in it), my bedroom ( with no mosquitoes in it), my house (with no growly dog underneath it), and the peacefulness of our mountainside home (with no noisy ocean washing the damn steps all night).

Maybe that’s the true beauty of going camping? – It makes you more grateful for your cave, no matter how messy or small or crowded.

What did I learn from this?

1. Tafatafa Beach is glorious. Clean, safe, golden sand, great bathroom facilities, excellent water supply and nice fale’s to stay in. If you want to spend the day or night at a beach, then I highly recommend you go there. I give it FIVE stars for beach fale fabulousness.

2. If you don’t like sleeping to the luxurious lilting sounds of the ocean? Then don’t go camping at a beach fale resort. Same goes for…if you don’t like sand…and stray mosquitos… Stay home and have no adventures. (just read about other people’s crazy adventures)

3. If you’re planning a beach camp, definitely go with friends. Especially friends with children the same age as yours so they can play all day and have a blast – without your input. Leaving you free to chat, read, sleep, fish and drink. Without our fabulous friends, I would have called it quits waaaay before 3am. I would have insisted on packing up by lunchtime. Thank you Daniel and Hanah, Mark and Luisa AND fabulous children. You rock!

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The front view from our fale.

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When He Doesn’t Love you Best

A long time ago, the Hot Man promised to love me above all others. Above all else.

But that was before he got his Holden Crewman.

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But I must admit, it is beeyootiful. Im half in love with it myself…

When we lived in New Zealand, the Holden only got brought out of its sacred space in
the garage on weekends and special occasions. The Hot Man would drive it to visit family and do errands but we could never go to our movie date night in it. ‘Because someone might steal it. A two hour movie is a long time.’ And of course I NEVER drove the Holden because I’m a crappy driver. So I would drive my people-mover van and loved it. (That baby’s got sensors and cameras which made reversing and parking sooooo much easier.)

Then we moved to Samoa. We couldn’t bring my van but the Holden got a sacred space in a shipping container.
And then there was a slight conundrum. The Holden is the only family vehicle we have here. The others are for the Hot Man’s steel fabrication work. We cant get another van until some money falls out of the sky. And the Hot Man doesn’t want his Holden anywhere near a construction site. Which means, who has to drive his children everywhere in the Holden?

Me. The crappy driver.

He tries to be cool about it, but I know it gives him great anxiety, wondering every day if he’s going to come home from work and find his precious car with a scratch. A scrape. Smashed. I’m pretty sure he checks it daily. And the manner in which I take care of his precious car is one that causes him great concern . The local high school was having a car wash fundraiser the other Saturday so I pulled in and had them wash the Holden, thinking that the Hot Man would be pleased to see it so sparkly and clean. Ha. The man just about popped a blood vessel freaking out about it. “You let a bunch of strangers touch my car? What if they used abrasive cleaners and scratched the paintwork?” So now I drive a filthy Holden, because on a matter of principle, I am not worthy to wash it…

If I had any doubts of where I stand in relation to this car, they were dispelled this morning. The Hot Man was driving out in his work truck when he caught sight of me staggering under the weight of a box of books that I was lugging to put in the Holden. I put them on the hood of the car while I went to unlock it. The Hot Man brought his truck to an abrupt halt and leapt out with a look of great consternation.

Oh, how sweet! He doesn’t want me to carry these heavy books by myself. He’s thinking about how I have a weak back and shouldn’t be lifting heavy things. So thoughtful and kind. What a babe!

Such were my thoughts as this athletic Ironman machine of symmetry with abs of absolute fabulousness, came running towards me. *dreamy sigh*

But it was not to be. *Insert sound of scratched broken record HERE.*

He grabbed the box off the car and said accusingly, “How could you put that box on my car like that?! You’re going to scratch it.” Then he frantically studied the paintwork and wiped at it. Furiously.

“How could a box scratch your bloody stupid car?!” I asked. Incredulous.

“It’s the way you chucked it on there. I saw you. You threw it so roughly. See! It’s put marks on the car now. You have to be more careful…blah blah blah.”

Then he patted his car, said goodbye to it and drove away. Giving me one last resentful look.

Me and my weak back – that’s PERFECTLY FINE BUT NO THANKS TO YOU – watched him go. Amazed.

Then, when he was out of sight? I kicked the tires of the bloody stupid beautiful Holden. Take that, you spoilt brat of a car.

And now I have a sore foot.

Countdown to Independence Day

Theres twelve more days until Big Son goes away to university. This makes me sad. Because I will miss him desperately of course, but also because then I will be stuck with all these other children – as my very bestest babysitter in the universe runs away to a life of independence and freedom from childcare servitude. I frequently wail, “Son please dont leave me with these demons!”

And he shrugs and says, “Theyre your kids, not mine. I cant stay here forever.” Such a sad truth.

So in the meantime I resolved to spend lots of time with Big Son doing a variety of fabulous activities. Whether he wants to or not. So that he will be convinced of his mother’s fun awesomeness and WANT to come home soon to babysit four demon siblings. All the other children are in school for most of the day so its perfect timing.

I took us to a wonderful place called TOUCH OF SAMOA for one hour long foot massage treatments. (I highly recommend it. Immaculate, beautiful, peaceful and very reasonably priced. ) Big Son whined and whinged the whole way there. Because he’s never had a massage treatment before and he was convinced he would loathe it.

But it was heavenly and he stopped complaining. Ha.

Then we went to lunch for his favorite. Sashimi.
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And because its not enough to just have fish for an appetizer…then he had grilled fish as well.
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(I impress myself with all the healthy eating choices Im making since I got here. If Im not transfigured into a lean mean healthy machine very soon then theres something wrong…)

The good stuff didnt stop there. We got starfruit vineka from the market (because the cheery persuasive sales girl said, “Suamalie! Very sweet. Very good.”)
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Only they were the sourest vineka Ive ever had the misfortune to taste. So much for ‘very suamalie!’ Thankfully we also got pineapple.
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Which WAS very suamalie. Especially delicious with LiHing powder from Hawaii (thank you Janice!)
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After all that, Big Son went to the gym and I went to work where Im starting to like the novel Im working on. The story is taking shape, the words are flowing and the characters are coming alive. Here I am – hard at work… (with not a lamington or donut in sight…) If all goes well with this book it will be released in April.
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Today was a good day. A day where i was grateful to be a mother. Thankful to be living in Samoa. Blessed to be doing work that I enjoy.

How was YOUR day? What are you grateful for?

Marital Dischord in Paradise (Or, When Your Partner Gets On Your Nerves)

Today marks one week since we arrived in Samoa. And its taken exactly one week for the Hot Man to conclude what I suspected he would…
      “Its kind of stressful having you all here. And expensive!” he said in exasperation. “When its just me I can work and train without worrying about other people. I can just buy simple food for dinner like taro and a can of tuna from Siaosi’s shop.”
      This may have been prompted by an incident which took place when he came home from work the other day bearing fa’alifu taro ( baked taro in coconut cream) and two packets of kekesaina (local doughy cookies made with flour and water etc and seasoned with soy sauce and sugar.) He bought these items EVEN THOUGH i had told him on the phone that I’d cooked dinner and baked banana cake, chocolate pie and chocolate chip cookies. Okay, a bit extreme in the kitchen there but Im really trying to embrace this Domestic Goddess thing and to be honest, its making me very tired. And grumpy. Especially when my husband comes home with bought readymade food. Aaargh! So I was a little “sharp” with him. As in, kinda witchy. (but with a capital letter B.) And he wasnt happy about being told off by a sweaty, grouchy, tired wife. So yeah…maybe that prompted his complaints about how stressful it is living with me again.
     Even though i knew this conclusion was coming, it still rankled. “Oh yeah?! Well it aint no picnic for me either. In NZ i had the whole room to myself and i could stay up all night writing and sleep half the day because there was no psycho-athlete getting up at 6am to run 15k, making me feel like a lazy slug. And…and…and…and…you keep using my towel and so when i go shower, my towel is already damp and i HATE that!”
      But of course I wasnt done. Because of course I must verbalize ten extra complaints for his every single one. “And the reason why it costs more when we’re all here is because Im trying to feed SEVEN people and I have to shop at stores where a yoghurt costs four tala and breakfast cereal is twenty tala. And sure we could all have taro and tuna for dinner but we would need to buy twice as much taro and at least four cans of tuna which are 3.50 for one…so do the math…and blah blah …and it doesnt help if you go buy blaardy kekesaina that we dont need!”
      Yes, this is what happens when you dont actually co-habit with your partner for several months. When you only see each other on weekends every few weeks and youre in a rosey, loving (vaguely lustful) haze. You’ve missed each other so much that neither of you can do any wrong…and money is no object. And silly little things like using the wrong towel, or buying unnecessary treats are not annoying at all. And a wife who prefers to stay up half the night and sleep in the day – isnt a sign that shes incredibly lazy (or ignoring you.)
     Yep, twenty years with this man and getting used to each other and getting “in-synch” is not a painless, automatic thing.
      But today was better. Because I went to sleep early last night (midnight instead of 2am) and i cooked nothing today – so Im not tired and irritable. Instead, Im determined to be a nicer, kinder wife. #promisesPromises
      But i surely hope he brings home some taro and kekesaina today because we’ve got nothing to eat.

There’s Samoans everywhere.

So we’ve officially moved back to Samoa after a three year stint living in New Zealand. (Although its a bit misleading to say we have lived in NZ all this time because in actual fact the Hot Man has still been working in the hot, humid land. And Ive been home so many times that its like I never left.)
BUT just for the sake of this blogpost lets agree that I’ve been resident in NZ for three years, during which time, I published five books, ate lots of lamingtons and developed an allergy to sunlight.
Last week we packed our worldly belongings into a shipping container, got on a plane and arrived at Faleolo Airport on a sweaty, rainy Friday night. An airport where Little Daughter went to the bathroom and scuttled out to whisper “It smells in there!” Shhhhh!
The Hot Man met us and drove us to our new home for the next six months, a lovely house sitting on the Palisi mountainside. A house where Bella ran outside excitedly onto the deck to look at the stars and I yelled a warning -“put some shoes on in case you step on a centipede!”
And she replied, “What’s a centipede?!”
Oh my poor child…you have so much to discover about this land…
We’ve been here a few days now and slowly unpacking and getting settled. We have no phone line and no internet at the new house which means the Fab5 are suffering painful withdrawal symptoms. And I have to suffer listening to them whinge “Im so bored! When does the Xbox get here? Can we go to the beach?”
Im glad our family is learning how to be unchained from technology BUT it means I have to write blogs on my phone – which explains all the errors.
An overwhelming reason though, why Im glad we moved here, was demonstrated when we took Bella to the store. She exclaimed (very loudly), ” Theres SO many Samoans everywhere! Why are there sooo many Samoans here?”

Ummm, because we’re in Samoa? Oh, and just in case you didnt know, you’re Samoan too.

Yes, if nothing else, we’re here so that our children will have no doubts about who and what they are.
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Hello Samoa! – the view from our deck. The view i will be writing my next book to, once school starts and i can get rid of these beloved children for a few hours every day.

Return to Paradise: The Dread

There’s a massive shipping container parked outside my house. We’re packing. It’s really happening…we’re moving back to Samoa. And as I shift through piles of junk, sorting the useful from the useless, the reality of what we’re doing is slowly starting to sink in. Along with a bit of apprehension. Because even though moving home was my idea (but cleverly dressed up and presented to the family so they would THINK it was their idea…), Samoa aint perfect. Because nowhere is. And there’s some things I’m not looking forward to. Like –

1. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and having to tiptoe with wary apprehension as your eyes search everywhere for a cockroach that might run up your leg. Or a foot long centipede that might bite you. Or a big fat lizard that might drop off the ceiling onto your head and get tangled in your hair. Laughing. Samoa’s home, but I will miss being able to walk around my house at night without my bug and pestilence radar on.

2. Having to actually leave the house to buy groceries. I discovered online food shopping here a while back and it changed my life. Are you a hermit who hates putting on real clothes and going OUTSIDE your cave (the light…nooo its too bright!) , hates the time and energy involved in going to the store? When you could be sitting at your desk writing or eating? Or online chatting to your writer besties halfway round the world? If that’s you then you need online grocery shopping. I love buying everything from the safety of my office and then having it delivered to my very front door. I dread having to actually go to the store in Samoa, navigating dusty potholes, real live people, and did I mention there’s real live people out there?

3. Soul sucking, life suffocating HEAT. Samoa is hot. Drenched in humidity. Hot so that you step out of a cold shower and you’re sweating even before you finish putting clean clothes on. Hot so that you wither even in the shade. Hot so that you want to climb inside the freezer and live there.

4. Going for a walk or a run and having to watch out for barking, biting dogs that want to rip your leg open. Carrying a few stones in your pocket. Or wielding a stick. For those…#JustInCaseOfDog moments.

5. Leaving my Big Son behind. He will go with us for a few weeks to Samoa but then he starts university in Auckland at the end of February. This child has been my constant companion for eighteen years. I’ve only ever been apart from him for a few weeks at a time when I went overseas to have a new baby. Apart from the worrying about him as he navigates his first year away from home – I will miss him dreadfully as my friend. In the last year, our relationship has become less #MotherAndSon and more of #FriendsAndEquals. He’s funny. Insightful. And we can talk for hours about everything random under the sun. Its an oh-so inevitable thing because its time for me to let him go, but yes, the hardest thing about moving to Samoa, will be missing my firstborn child.

Aaargh, and now I’m getting super sad and this was supposed to be a lighthearted whine and whinge about going to Samoa! Back on track here, my question for you readers who have been to Samoa: I know you love the motherland, but what do YOU dread about going back? What gets on your nerves? Come on now…be honest!

“Your sexual abuse is disgusting and has brought shame on our family.”

Three weeks ago I wrote an article about rape and sexual abuse in Samoa which was printed in the Samoa Observer, posted here on my blog and shared on various online sites. It was written in response to a national religious leader in Samoa and his comments on rape/abuse but it addressed  widespread views held by many.

In the article I identified myself as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. This was the first time I have spoken about this outside of my husband and children. Writing about it in such a public forum was terrifying. I cried when I wrote it and publishing it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Thousands of people read that article and within minutes of it going live, many women were writing to thank me for voicing that which is too often silenced in our communities. They wrote to share their own experiences of rape and abuse, and to engage in dialogue about ways to fight this problem. I wrote from a place of anger, pain and healing to raise awareness of a widespread issue and it’s incredibly humbling to realize that by doing so, others have been able to speak out about their own personal survivor journeys. Thank you to all those who sent messages of support and those who bravely shared their personal survivor stories. We are all empowered by your strength and resilience.

Unfortunately (but not surprisingly),  not everyone was happy with my honesty and directness, my ‘fiapoto’, le mafaufau and ‘le fa’aaloalo’.  Including a few members of my own family. My father called from Samoa to offer his support, along with my older brother, but others are angry about why didn’t you tell us before and how does this make us look?  One condemned my disclosure as “disgusting” and “bringing shame on our family.” I can only assume they are angry, hurt and confused – and rather than directing that anger at my long-ago abusers, or even simply at the horrible fact that this happened to their daughter, their sister – they have chosen to direct it at me. The last few weeks haven’t been easy but I can look at that article and say from a place of inner peace – Im not sorry I wrote it. I stand by those words. I can say:

My hurt, my healing, my voice – is more important than my family’s reputation.

For those of you who are Samoan (or any kind of Pacific Islander!) you will know how difficult that sentence can be to say. How almost impossible it can be to believe. For us; family…family unity… name…reputation… appearances…privacy… are EVERYTHING. It’s almost sacrilegious to prioritize the individual, the ‘needs of the one’, over ‘the needs of the many.’ It can be seen as the epitome of selfishness. Which, I believe, is another huge contributing factor to why rape and sexual abuse is so prevalent in our Pacific Islander communities as is the silence about it. Because when it does happen – too often, the victim is shamed and silenced so that the family will not “suffer.”

(Fijian/NZ writer Tulia Thompson wrote an excellent article reflecting on ‘Pacific Communities and Rape Culture’ and I urge you to read it for discussion on reasons why people “don’t tell”.)  Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not saying that rape/abuse are only a Samoan/Tongan/ Fijian/Pasifika/etc problem. It’s an everybody, everywhere problem that crosses all ethnic, cultural and socio-economic lines.

I agree with Tulia that one reason why some men rape and abuse women and children – is because they think no-one will ever find out, their victims will never tell and so they will never be held accountable for their actions. Too often, this is exactly what happens. We don’t tell anyone because we are afraid. We are ashamed. We are silenced. And, sometimes, even when we tell – we are ignored, berated, belittled and made to feel like it was our fault. The more that we DO speak out about our experiences and find validation and support from family, friends and community, then hopefully, we can work together to stop abuse from happening.

Every survivor’s story is unique and every survivor’s struggle to heal, to ‘keep it together’ and keep moving forward – is different. I’m grateful for my husband and children who have been a source of strength for me on my own journey. Motherhood has given me great insight. For example, I could not forgive myself for “allowing myself” to be assaulted at age seven – until I had a seven year old daughter and truly comprehended her innocence. If anyone hurt her, I would never blame her or hate her for not fighting back. So how could I possibly keep hating my 7yr old self for that?

In Darren and my Fab5, I have found empathy, compassion, and support. It’s my hope that we all can give the survivors we know and love – the same.

Fa’afetai lava, thank you.

There’s many useful resources available online for those who would like to learn more about this issue. I’ve provided a few links below but there are tons more.

*It can be a shock to find out someone you love is a rape/abuse survivor. For insight on what you can say and do to help your loved one – Tips for Friends and Family of Survivors

*Get the facts – Common Myths about Child Sexual Abuse

*Self-Blame and Survivors – No it was not your fault.

* A list of support networks/organizations for survivors in NZ. – Victim Support.

* The overwhelming majority of rapists are not strangers that attack you in a dark alleyway. They are partners, husbands, friends and acquaintances. Get the facts. – Overview of Partner Rape 

Sexilicious Men (and houses) – When Fantasy meets Reality

The nice thing about being married to a man who owns his own construction company, is he can design AND build your house for you. The Hot Man is freakishly clever like that. How lucky am I??? I went out with him for his sexilicious self and had no clue he actually had like…skills…talents…housebuilding moneymaking potential… But then that’s the thing about only marrying people for their sexilicious-ness, everything else is a surprise. (Or disappointment as the case may be…)

But I digress.  We’re moving back to Samoa in a few months and since we sold our old home,  the Hot Man has to build us a new one over there. He was getting a little stressed, worrying about the costs and hassle of relocating. (As he does.) And I was blissfully thinking of how wonderful its going to be to go home. In other words, not thinking about such MINOR details like money, packing, or building a house in the blazing hot sun. (As I do.) But  I am not a cold, heartless wife. Oh no. I noted his concerns and rushed to assuage them. Magnanimously.

“Daahling, don’t worry. We don’t need a big, expensive house. No, no, no. All we need is a little space to call our own. As long as it has a roof on it, we will be fine. As long as we’re all together. Why, a little bungalow in the bush is all we need!”

I had delightful visions of something like this…rustic and reserved.

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Somewhat comforted, the Hot Man started the design plans for our new house. And I felt good about being such a good wife. And continued fantasizing planning our new life in our new home in Samoa.

After a week or so of designing, the Hot Man showed me the design plans. I studied them carefully. WTFudge?

“Umm, but daaahling, where’s my office? I cant write books without an office. And that office needs to be air conditioned. How can I write hot romance stories when I’m dying in the tropical humidity with sweat clogging up my computer?”

He said something about the astronomical cost of electricity in Samoa. Pffft. “That’s why we’re going to have solar panels on the roof to power our air-con. That’s why you need to make a much bigger roof. We need more area for the solar panels. Yes, I know a solar heating unit costs lots of money but just think how much money we’ll save in the long run. And we’ll be eco-friendly too! Maybe we could have wind turbines in the front yard as well….”

I studied the plans some more. “This can’t be right. The kitchen looks like a cupboard. How can I cook food for seven people in a CUPBOARD?”

He reminded me that I don’t actually cook food for them anymore. “Alright then, correction – how are the teenagers going to cook food for us all in a CUPBOARD? You have to make that kitchen bigger.”

I studied the plans some more. “There’s no way this house is going to fit us. You can’t expect all those demon children to share a room. They will KILL each other. Rip each other to shreds. Or I’ll kill them because of all the bickering they’ll be doing, distracting me when I’m trying to write books in my air conditioned office.”

More studying of aforementioned defective house plans. “No, we need another bathroom somewhere. Especially for when we have visitors. And parties and sultry summer night BBQs.”

He reminded me we never have visitors. Or parties. And he didn’t know what a sultry summer BBQ was but he was pretty sure, we’d never had one of those either.  “You’re hermit woman, remember? No friends, remember?”

Why must sexilicious men be so rude?!

“But I might be different one day. I might want to host scintillating dinner parties and tropical buffets with lots of intellectually stimulating conversation. And lanterns hanging in the trees in the garden! Lots and lots of lanterns.”

He wanted me to know there were no trees in the garden of our house site. In fact, there was no garden either. Just a wilderness of bushes, vaofefe and broken beer bottles ( because the neighbourhood has been using the empty lot as a drink-up spot.) “And I know you’re not going to plant a garden Lani.”

Well, he at least got THAT right. I don’t do gardens. “We can make the children do the landscaping. It can be their creative project. Oh! But maybe we could fit a teensie weensie swimming pool in the yard? For YOU daaahling. For your training for the Ironman. Wouldn’t it be useful for you to have a pool right in our yard to help you achieve your athletic dreams?!” (See how I did that!?  Clever #GoodWife, right there. The blessings in heaven are piling up, I can feel it!)

The Hot Man sighed and looked dejected. While I was swept away with visions of our new house. Which now, looked like THIS!

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Doesn’t this look like a house of a woman who hosts scintillating dinner parties? With Martha Stewart-like décor and My Kitchen Rules-type cuisine? I could be that woman! Anything is possible. Right?

At that point, the Hot Man gave up. “We can’t afford to build a new house. Forget it.”

“But where are we going to live then?” I wailed.

“With your parents. Maybe your mum will let the kids sleep in the fale in their garden.”

Nooooooooooo! I thought about Little Son and Bella driving my mum nuts and just like that – the rustic, reserved two-bedroom shack just got a whole lot more attractive.

And the Hot Man went back to his design drawings with a big (sneaky) smile on his face.

When Your Husband Runs Away From You

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I used to say that the only way I could ever get a holiday from my Demented Domestic Goddess duties – was to get pregnant. Because then I would have to go live in New Zealand for a few months before and after the baby busted out because I have a small problem with sustaining an alien lifeform (I nearly die every time.) A rather extreme way to get a little ‘me-time’…

Now, the Hot Man is our resident ‘Demented Domestic God’ for a few months and he’s decided to cross a few things off his bucket list while he’s at it: a triathlon and a Half-Ironman.  So in between laundry and dishes and making sure everyone brushes their teeth – he also bikes, runs and swims a lot. It makes him very tired. And a little grouchy too because he has to reach a certain weight so he can’t eat what he wants to.

He’s been doing a fabulous job with the Domestic Duties though, making it possible for me to write lots. ( And eat lots…) Until he tells me that he has to go to Samoa to run in a half-marathon and get some training done in the humidity there. He’s going away for ten days, he says. So I can acclimatize, he says. It’s essential preparation for the Half-Ironman in August, he says.

Okaaaay, I say.  So he makes his flight bookings. Excitedly.

Then he tells me, when he comes BACK from his half-marathon, he has to go BACK to Samoa nine days after that so he can do a triathlon there. And be there for another ten days. So I can acclimatize, he says. I can’t do the Half-Ironman later in the year if I don’t do this triathlon first, he says. You know the roads there are very different from here in NZ, I’m taking my racing bike so I can get used to the terrain there, he says. We don’t want me to have any accidents in the Half-Ironman, he says.

No we don’t want that, I say.

So he makes his flight bookings. Gleefully.

I watch him pack all his gear. The bike, the protein powder, the carbo bars, the energy gels, the shoes. He’s excited and I’m excited for him. For the most part. It would help if he didn’t look so damn happy about the thought of escaping from us and the laundry and the dishes and the making of school lunches…

I wish I’d won the lottery  so I could afford to go with him. (Actually purchasing a lottery ticket would probably have been helpful with that.) I wish we didn’t have five children who needed looking after so I could go with him. I could drive alongside him while he runs on the road, blasting encouraging music, throwing water at him – all while I eat panipopo from Siaosi’s shop. While he’s recovering from his event, I could be meeting up with my girlfriends, Kristin and Kathy  for sundaes and gossip at McDonalds. ( okay, so we’re too old to be ‘girlfriends’ but you get the idea…) What a shaaamahzingly awesome trip it would have been. If I had gone.

But I didn’t.

Because I’m not the one who’s an athlete. Because I’m at home with the five children I gave birth to just so I could go on ‘holiday’ each time. And get a break from the rest of the children.

I’m such an idiot –  what I should have done  – is take up running. And run AWAY instead.

 

Poto – You must Kill Her!

“Poto”. – For Samoan Language Week, I’m choosing a few words that have special meaning for me. I am not a fluent speaker of Samoan but I don’t think its the sheer number of words we know that define our place within a culture, language or place.
 
My great-aunt was a rather fierce old woman named Ida – or as we knew her, “Aunty Ita.” When she was told of my birth, she announced my name would be, “Poto” which means, clever, smart, wise.  Never mind that my parents had been presumptuous enough to name me already, oh no. So thats why my birth certificate says I am Lani Poto Jade Wendt. Aunty Ita’s husband had passed away many years ago and all her children lived overseas. My Dad would take us kids to visit her every other weekend. She was a wizened little old lady by then, wearing voluminous faded dresses and sitting on a wooden chair covered in rag mats. The walls of her house were covered with pictures and figurines of Jesus  – all the sombre, suffering pictures of Him – and photographs of her children and extended family.  My mum never went to visit with us because Aunty Ita got mad at her one day ( I don’t know why) and told her she was a “daughter of pigs.” After that, my mum said ( quite rightly), that she would never ever “go inside that woman’s house again.” So instead, mum would bake a cake for us to take to Aunty Ita without her. Aunty Ita never had a problem with eating cakes baked by a “daughter of pigs” so that was okay.
 
I always knew my Aunty Ita loved me because every time we went there, she would call out, “O lea ua sau le Afioga Poto…” ( or something like that.) She would make me sit by her so she could pat my hand and tell me very important things – like how, I had to work very hard at school and be a good girl so I could grow up and become a nun. (Never mind that we weren’t Catholic.) Or work very hard and be a good girl so I could grow up and marry a faifeau/pastor. (Never mind that we were Mormon and didn’t have pastors.) If all those failed, she told me I could ‘just be a doctor’…  She would tell everyone how I was the most cleverest child ever because of the special name she had given me and order people to bring me some cake and koko.  Aunty Ita never called me by my first name, Lani. No I was always Poto to her.
 
Aunty Ita liked to know about my exam results and class placings. She would get very agitated if she heard other people were(possibly) MORE smarter than her seven old grand-niece. The year I came second in the level annoyed Aunty Ita no end. “Who came top in the school?” When I told her the nice girl’s name who had come first, Aunty Ita launched into classic Aunty Ita attack mode – “I know her family, they are pigs! She is a daughter of pigs. You must study harder and you must KILL her, you hear me Poto?!” I told you she was a fierce woman…
 
Many years later when I started researching our family geneaology, I found that ‘Poto’ was a ten times great-grandmother and titled taupou name. I had always thought Aunty Ita just ‘made up’ my name, investing her grand-niece with her hopes for my intellect, yet she was gifting me with a further link to our ancestry.  Aunty Ita died when I was very young. She was my first experience with death and loss.
 
My Aunty Ita believed great things for me and expected great things of me. I carry a piece of her love and hope for me always. I am grateful for parents who took the time to ensure I could get to know and love my (often grouchy, sometimes mean) Great Aunt. My name Poto, is a reminder of who I am, where  and what I come from. 
 
Maybe that’s what a week like this one is for?