Keep our daughters safe

First published in Hamilton News 14 December 2018

She should have been safe, but she wasn’t.  That’s the message our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern relayed to Grace Millane’s family on Monday as her suspected murderer faced court.  The outpouring of sorrow, grief and guilt from Kiwis led to two candlelight vigils being held in Hamilton and throughout the country on Wednesday, and in true 2018 fashion a torrent of attention on social media focused on how this could happen here.

I found it hard not to think back to the case of Margery Hopegood who unfortunately found a similar fate here in Hamilton in 1992, days after arriving in the country.  It reminds me that she should have been safe, but wasn’t.  We should all be safe, but aren’t.  It’s a reminder to us all that Aotearoa has an secret uglier than our less than 100% pure image – which is our rate of physical and sexual violence towards women.  I feel compelled to discuss this today due to #notallmen trending online.  No, it’s not all men.  But, it’s too many men, and this is one instance where you don’t get the luxury of putting up a wall to deny blame.  We all have to take responsibility for this.

Whenever we read an article about violence towards women there is an element of victim blaming.  Why was she travelling solo?  (How dare she be independent).  We check what she was wearing in her last photo. (Skirts a little too high, Dear).  We give well intentioned warnings to our daughters to, keep a phone with them, not drink too much and stay with friends.  What we don’t do is spend enough time telling our boys and men that they have no right to touch a woman without express permission, that “no means no” and that it’s not okay to “keep trying lest she changes her mind”.  Violence is never justified.  I was pleased to see strangulation and assault towards family members highlighted in the Family violence Act.  We don’t spend enough time telling the #notallmen brigade that it would be more useful for them to be pulling up their friends or family members who act or talk out of line.  Speak up against the violence.  Intervene.

If you find yourself wanting to direct your anger and sorrow anywhere – it should be at changing our culture that is currently accepting violence towards women.  We all have a responsibility to keep women like Grace safe, our daughters safe, my daughter safe.

Conversations around the water cooler

“She’s in childcare from 7.30-5.30pm … but it’s good for her to be socialising with other babies and it’ll give her a head start for school”.

“What did you get up to over the long weekend?”  “Oh you know, just caught up with jobs around the house.  The cars needed washed, lawns mowed – that sort of thing”.  “True, Never enough hours in the day eh?” “Nah, especially with the commute”.

“40 hour week? Good one, I’m pushing 70 hours trying to meet those deadlines. I’m lucky I can work from home so the Mrs doesn’t have a go at me”.

“What are you doing with your kids over the holidays?”  “Oh god, I don’t even want to think about it, we can’t afford the holiday program this year and I don’t have any leave left”.

“The Board says we have to tighten our belts, so HR will be looking at workloads and restructuring – it’ll mean a loss in jobs…  Don’t panic, we’ll make sure we honour our contractual obligations in the event of redundancy”.

“Are you coming to the gym later?” “Nah, I can’t.  I have to work late to make up for taking time off to take Mum to hospital last week”.

“I had a chat to the Manager about the role they’re advertising” “Oh yeah, what did he say?” “He reckons I can get it but I’ll have to go full time if I want it”. “Yeah, the good jobs are always full time”.

While Labour day is just a day off to most of us, it commemorates normalisation of an 8 hour working day.  The idea is that it would give us a fair work life balance, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep.  Nice in theory.  It seems we still have a long way to go for fair and progressive employment conditions which reflect society in 2018.  If you had to work on Monday the 22nd, Labour day check out your employer obligations

Kirikiriroa Kids

Last week of the school holidays – the weather hasn’t been kind so what is there to do this week?

  •  Professor Novum’s Adventures in Orbit – a rollicking adventure and a celebration of imagination and creativity, adapted from stories written by local kids.  This show runs from 17-21 July at The Meteor.  Price: $9 child, $13 adult.  Tickets from


  • Peter Pan – an all time favourite play about a free spirited and mischievous young boy who can fly and never grows up.  This Hamilton Playbox show runs until the 21st July at Riverlea Theatre – Tickets from $20


  • Chill in the Park – This huge event is back for another year of School Holiday Fun at the Western Community Centre! This year we have 18 Ton of Snow, Nawton’s Got Talent, cool prizes and much more.  Just $3 per child
  • Hamilton Gardens Adventure.  Download the free Discovery Trail sheet (in both English and Mandarin) from the Hamilton Gardens’ website to see where the bees, hens and woodland critters are hiding.


  • Outdoor Kids A website which showcases the fantastic nature walks and trails around the Waikato!  Free outdoor fun! There is the added bonus of info on each walk to tell you which ones are suitable for strollers too!  Check it out!


Don’t spread your bad luck over here.

Is misfortune contagious?  If I distance myself far enough from those who experience bad luck; whether it be the loss of a loved one, redundancy or illness will I be able to continue with my privileged life and tell myself they are to blame for their circumstances?  Because it is their fault, isn’t it?  They chose to live like this, they clearly couldn’t afford to have children and their unemployment is a result of bad choices.  If I try understand the circumstances the vulnerable are in, if I attempt to help them, and if I see them as people – just like me – what will happen?  Will the gap between my life of privilege and their existence narrow?  There are two types of people in the world – those who see the bundle of blankets in a door way, recoil in disgust, judge and then think nothing of it until they next have to walk past; and those who see the people.

Which one are you?  I’m going to admit, I think I’m more of the first.  I don’t understand, and what I don’t understand – I don’t like much.  I’m certainly not alone.  Take the “Your help, may harm” campaign, rolled out in Hamilton last year.  “Your help, may harm”.  Look at that.  You are great, privileged and generous – now distance yourself.  Now, you don’t even have to fumble around in your pocket pretending to look for $2 – you can walk past – with a cursory nod to the poster on the dairy wall and go buy that takeaway coffee.  I can distance myself further.  Great.

It’s not just dirty old men in sleeping bags I’m avoiding.  What if, I found myself single, unemployed (because who can afford childcare anyway) and on a <shock horror> benefit?  I’d be smoking at the kitchen table while watching Jeremy Kyle in no time.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want society to judge me.  There are two types of people in the world when it comes to the fallout surrounding Green party co-leader Meteria Turei’s admission last week.  The one who thought – “OMG benefit fraud – she has no morals – she has to go!” and the one who thought – “I’m glad she chose to use this example to make welfare an election issue”.  Shouldn’t it always be one? I admit I am judgmental at times – but I’m in the second camp here, I wholeheartedly support what she did.  How can we judge a parent for wanting to make sure their kid is fed?  How can we act so shocked and disgusted when let’s be honest, it’s impossible to navigate our social welfare systems and no-one on a benefit is raking it in.  It barely covers the cost of living.  But, I understand… fraud is ripping off the tax payer – people like you and me who pay taxes.  I would never do that.

Don’t have children if you can’t afford them they say?  Jesus, I’d love to know how many of us actually planned to have kids.  Were you in a long term relationship? – did you save and plan for that kid?  I’m glad your child wasn’t born with an illness or disability, I’m glad you didn’t lose your income during that time.  Lucky our circumstances stayed the same eh?

Redundancy hurts.  Well, not for me personally – but I’ve heard it does.  I’m skilled, educated and have mediocre social skills – I’ll never have a problem getting a job.  Will I?

I have a choice now.  I can continue just “being lucky” until my time is up – and then become “one of them”… that pile in a doorway – that mother who has to lie to WINZ to survive, or that person who has to apply for 100 jobs before being successful.  I can plan on being lucky – or I can share luck, build resilience and demand better social services for the vulnerable.  I can discard the judgment, use my luck and privilege; and help in any way I can.

There are community organisations picking up where our central government misses the mark.  We can help them.  We can volunteer our time, skills or money to help improve our communities.  We can give as little or much as we like.  Everyone has something to share.  Find yours.  Get involved.  Don’t turn a blind eye.  Luck isn’t finite. While politics seems irrelevant – there’s no denying central government has the ability to respond to community momentum too.  They represent us.  The government does what we want – or it goes… that’s how it works.  Encourage the young, and poor to vote – if you know any.  And if you are privileged, if you’ve had luck – consider sharing it.   Vote for the greater good this year.  Vote for a fair and equal society.  There is no science backing the idea that misfortune spreads.


We made a worm farm – part 1

*Warning – I am no expert on worm farming – We are just “giving this a go”, so there’ll be lots of trial and error involved*

Worm farms are wonderful.  1. because food waste doesn’t end up in landfill (it actually makes up 30% of all landfill which is hideously wasteful but that’s a story for another day) and 2. because the worms will reward you by providing free natures’ best fertiliser for you.  This makes you a bit like Captain Planet.

While I sell a few different worm farm set ups in the shop, we wanted to give the DIY option a go.  Here’s how we did it…

Step 1.  We drilled holes in a bucket.

Step 2.  Put the bucket in the garden.

Step 3.  Put bedding, *yes bedding* in the bucket.  I used torn up paper/cardboard but we sell coir blocks in the shop if you want to be fancy (about $3 a block).  We tipped in some coffee grounds and scraps and put our “makeshift” lid on top.  We’ll get round to getting a proper lid at some point – we’re just focussed on it being dark in there – and also no vermin getting in.

Step 4: Put your worm family in their new home.  We flicked in a few worms from around our garden, but to speed up the process we’ll be buying some more worms from the Western Community Centre… (it’s $15 for an icecream container).  We’ll keep you posted on when we bring them home.

Step 5.  We wait.  One day, the worms will be like a machine… eating our food scraps to keep them from landfill, and with the added bonus of fertilising our garden directly.  The beauty of this particular in-ground set up is that it will help the area directly around the worm farm (which is smack bang in the middle of our vege garden)- and we won’t have to do the work like you do with the layer systems.

We’ve had varying luck with growing veges in the past, but with a change in diet, we definitely need to be growing more and regular crops to feed ourselves for less.  Something that has never really worked in the garden is cauli’s and broccoli’s which I really like – so I’ll be focussed on them.  They usually get eaten by something… we don’t use slug bait, or anything nasty… I guess that means we’re organic. 🙂

*****Update.  It’s been a few days since we set the home up – we still have to get our worm family – but the ones in there seem fine – I’ve been keeping it damp – but haven’t fed them since.   I took out a few handfuls of “stuff” too – I felt there was too much in there for them *****

Did you know about 30% of the food produced in the world is sent to waste?  

Did you know that matter, biodegradable or not, which is buried in a black plastic bag does not have the conditions to break down.  It will never go anywhere.

Did you know worms not only create a by-product (pee/poo) which is rich nutrients that help garden plants grow and stay healthy?

Did you know worms create tunnels, which help get air and water to your plants.

March 4th in Hamilton

March 4th is the annual Children’s Day Carnival in our central city with the theme “Who’s your hero”.  The Carnival encompasses events run by different organisations in and around Garden Place from 10-2pm.


Chalkfest run by Free FM is again part of the day’s events and can be found in Civic Square. Book your chalk space by emailing  There are great prizes on offer.  While the theme for the day is “Who’s your hero” you can draw whatever you like with the chalk provided.


Running alongside this – shutting down Worley Place is a Pop-up Park and Skate Competition run by HTown Skate Project.  Take the rare opportunity of being allowed to skate in our central city!  You can register for the competition (and use the park) from 8.30-11am with the competition starting at 11am.


As well as these events Waikato Museum is open from 10-5pm, and getting on board with the Children’s Day “Who’s your hero?” carnival.   There will be face painting, superhero crafts and other fun activities.  Don’t forget that the Bob Marley exhibition is on in the Museum, so if you haven’t been in to check it out here’s your chance.

If you want to avoid kids – Frankton Thunder might suit you better.  Held over two days for petrol heads and classic car enthusiasts a large focus of it is to raise money for Child Cancer with their Ulysses Motorcycle Club Child Cancer Charity Run and Miss Frankton Thunder competition.


Finally the much anticipated Future City Festival!  27 bands in two venues (Creative Waikato or Nivara Lounge), over two days.  Tickets are $35 from

I’ll personally be at Creative Waikato on the Saturday at the door – so please come say Hi!




The moral of the story is that there is none

One of the biggest lessons to learn as a parent is to get used to your efforts being spat back in your face.  We use cookie cutters to make rabbit or butterfly shaped sandwiches only to have them returned without even a nibble taken.  We bring home small gifts, carefully chosen in shops – to have them declare, that “Dora’s for babies” or to get a flat refusal to acknowledge said item.  We book a whole term of swimming lessons, after a summer of begging – only for them to announce they changed their mind.  (Accompanied by refusal to participate in expensive lesson).  Kids are fickle.  They frustrate the heck of you, but you go back for more.

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This photo popped up on my “Facebook memories” the other day (from 2014).  It was a reminder of how unrewarding parenting can be sometimes.  I normally avoid the Base, like the plague -but decided, since I’m a good Mum… I’ll put my own feelings about mass-consumerism aside and take her to meet Elmo and Cookie Monster, who were visiting for the holidays.  The flashy, white shininess of the mall blinded me and I was dismayed to see a line (despite being early to avoid that situation).

However Ella’s excitement was contagious and I remember telling her how excited I was because I never got to meet them when I was her age (clearly a little bit of embellishment for her benefit).  She made friends in the line, with other well dressed, well behaved little people and as we got near the front of the line (30 minutes later!!!) something began to change.  She became quieter… less chatty and then told me she wanted to go home.  HALF a fricken hour after getting in line!!  We were so close.

So, I did what parents do best… I went into bargaining mode, telling her – she will like it when it’s her turn and that she’ll regret it if she didn’t meet them because they might not come again.  I tried telling her Elmo would be said, that Cookie Monster would be disappointed (yes… I used the word ‘disappointed’ to manipulate a three year old kid). Then, I got desperate and the bribes started… first a lolly, then McDonalds… but it wasn’t working.  Elmo came up to her to say Hi…. the tears were welling, ready to explode… this was it.  With a sigh of resignation I held her while she tried desperately to hide from him, grimaced for the camera and we were on our way.

Good parenting has an element of show.  You cant tell behind that “haha” grimace I was losing my shit.  Losing it, over driving to a mall I loathe, waiting in line and then having to pretend it didn’t bother me that it ended this way.  Good intentions are not always rewarded.  There isn’t always a happy ending.  I showed her this photo before writing this and she shrugged and said she remembered she didn’t like it.  I asked if she was glad she went anyway and she said No.  So much of what we painstakingly do is a waste of time.  Moral of the story.  There is none.


A day in the life of a Modern Woman

Photo: Sshhhh...don't tell anyone ;-)

Today started like most weekdays… which is with me battling an (equally head strong) 5 year old to get out the door on time.  “Ella… can you get dressed?”  “Ella… your breakfast is getting cold”.  “Ella… have you brushed your teeth?”  “Hang on… Why aren’t you dressed yet?”  I have no idea how people get more than one child ready for school/work on time. Fortunately we are a 10 minute walk to Frankton primary so at least I don’t have commuter traffic to battle.  I was stoked to find that the op-shop across the road from her school was open early so popped in and found a new (old) skirt and blouse for a grand total of $6.50; what an awesome start to the day!  It was then time to get to work.

I’ve taken a part time role as a Recruitment Coordinator for the Women’s Health service at the DHB.  I’m involved with trying to attract midwives and doctors to Hamilton to provide obstetric and gynecological care.  As you can imagine, promoting Hamilton is second nature to me and I’m really enjoying the chance to be able to utilise my love of the city to attract others here.

I rushed back to school a bit earlier to attend a meeting by a parent lead group who focus on fundraising at the school.  We’re working on next month’s Spring Fair.  It will be held on Thursday October the 27th and provides an opportunity for the wider school community to visit and help with a number of fundraising efforts to purchase more outdoor gear.

I walked Ella home before heading off to my next appointment.  (More serious content now).  On Friday – I found a lump in my breast during a self examination.  My Gp put me at ease and the awkward process of her checking was not as  bad as I expected.  She confirmed there was in fact a lump – and she explained to me what happens next.  I (like most people my age I guess) don’t have private health cover so will be relying on the public health sector for follow up.  I’m now on the waiting list for a ultrasound and mammogram.  I’ll probably have to wait about two months…   My husband and I did briefly discuss “going private” but given the risk is low… (no known family history and a non-smoker) we feel comfortable to wait.  I’ll keep you posted, but do want to take the chance to remind women to check themselves regularly for any signs of changes to your breasts, shape – size – colour and lumps. It’s all about changes.

Get your mammogram!:

That wasn’t the end of the day.  I’d really been looking forward to the YWCA “Suffrage day Candidate event” as I am passionate about supporting women in politics.  It was an opportunity for women standing for local body elections, their supporters and the public to come together marking 123 years since women won the right to vote.  The event involved candidates for the HCC, Regional council and DHB introducing themselves and having the opportunity to answer questions in a “speed dating” format.  I’ll be writing more about this event tomorrow – but it wrapped up a day which for me was all about being a modern woman.  Juggling, aspiring and succeeding in nurturing our families, our jobs and our community.



They don’t stay small forever


This time next week Ella will officially be a school kid.  I’m not sure how I feel about this. She’s too small.  I’m not ready… and I am SO ready. With her first day at school fast approaching – I’m becoming melancholic.  At her first school visit I teared up looking at the little people wandering around looking like they don’t know what to do with themselves. Their back-packs look heavy and their uniforms too big.  Ella is dying to start school and I know she’ll be fine… but I’m allowed to be a little bit sad – my toddler, who has only just graduated from being a baby is now a school kid.

I had no qualms about returning to part time work after my 12 weeks paid parental leave was up.  I found being at home with someone who didn’t do anything all day rather boring and was looking forward to life getting back to some sort of normality which at that stage meant a job.  Fast forward another year and I had resigned from that job to be a stay at home mum.

One of the main drivers for this was that her first winter had been a nightmare.  She (and consequently I) had been off sick with whatever the trending bug was on average about one day every fortnight.  It was also when I started to experience what was later diagnosed as (probable) fibromyalgia.  Despite an understanding Boss and flexible working conditions the thought of a second winter feeling guilty for taking time off and feeling guilty for sending her to creche (when my gut feeling was that she should be at home with me) was enough for me to admit defeat.

Leaving my job ended up being a bit of a blessing in disguise.  Like lots of other Mums I’ve met since; within a few months what had started as a hobby for my husband and I was morphing into something I felt could be a business (of some sort).  Starting a facebook page – selling online – booking markets – and starting my own market became my new job as owner/operator of Teacup and Saucer.  While the sales supplemented our income the behind the scenes stuff was keeping my brain active and I had one foot in the real world while focussing on Mum duties.

When my husband faced redundancy about a year later – instead of it being stressful we saw it as an opportunity to work together.  Yes financially it was hard.  We had to accept  we’d go into a bit of debt for day to day bills- but we will never regret all of that extra time we had as a family – at what was such a crucial time in her development.  You make sacrifices and get really thrifty to make do.  We bought second hand – or not at all.  We changed our eating habits – (we’re pretty much not eating meat at the moment which has the added bonus for the environment and animals too). When the financial pressure got too much after another year (there’s bills you just can’t plan for) James went back to work – and I continued on with our business.


I’m proud of the achievements we made over the last few years and I’m grateful that we were able to spend so much time as a family… but I am really excited about getting back into the workforce.  I’m excited about having regular income.  HOLY MOLY do I miss money going into my account regularly.  It’s going to feel like winning lotto every time I get paid.  I’m excited to have a routine, it can be really difficult to separate your home and work-life when you work from a computer on the couch.  The email and facebook notifications come in day or night – and it can be hard to switch off at night.  I’m excited about learning something new, meeting new people and starting the next part of our life.

But I wish she’d stop growing… we made the most of it, but we’ll never have that time again.  If YOU can think of a way to make money from home when you have a young one – I urge you to give it a go.  Kids drive you insane and any Mum will tell you that some endless days is like hell on earth with a toddler – but your reward for surviving it far outweighs the challenges.  They don’t stay small forever.