An injured vegetarian

I have decided to put a hold on being vegetarian. Just over two weeks ago I fell down the stairs at home and injured my knee. I don’t know for sure but I may have completely torn my LCL (google it). I’m still on crutches, in a knee brace, getting twice-weekly physiotherapy, and unable to sleep through the night. I am exhausted. I stayed home from work yesterday because the day before I nearly fell asleep at my desk, and then when I got up yesterday morning I stood there at the foot of my bed staring into space and then started crying.

Being me I’ve done a lot of reading about healing from injury and how long it’s going to take and what I should be doing. Most of the sites I’ve found are written for athletes, which I am emphatically NOT, but they mostly say the same things.

Be kind to yourself.
Eat vegetables and protein.

In order to get the extra protein I’ll need to regrow this ligament, I’ve decided to start eating meat again. However, this may make me feel more tired for a while until my digestion gets used to being weighed down again…

I am so. Tired.

I’m also very conscious of the burden I’ve placed on Sam. That’s why I’ve decided to write this all down here, where he can ignore it, rather than sending him a constant stream of Skype messages saying “I’m tired”. He’s also tired, and anxious about the future, and he doesn’t need all my spoons as well. Just the ones he can’t avoid carrying, like having to drive me to work every day and bring me all the things I can’t carry downstairs because my hands are full with the crutches.

I’m at work while I’m writing this. I may or may not write more later. I just needed to get it out somewhere so I can go on being strong enough for everyone else…

An Introvert throwing a party

It’s my birthday party tonight, that I have been planning and looking forward to for a long time. I’m nervous. My husband and I threw a 30s party not quite ten years ago which flopped, although I looked pretty. My graduation party also did not go the way I wanted it to. Things I have learned:

  1. Offer people a drink when they arrive. That gives them a) something to do with their hands, b) social lubricant for those who need it and c) a good excuse to get out of one conversation and into another (“oh, look, my glass is empty, I’m just going to get a refill” [ghosts]).
  2. You need something new to happen about every half hour. That means you have to plan it and make it happen. You can’t just sit back and hope. “Something new” includes things as simple as bringing out the next course or offering hot drinks. (Tonight we will have the band perform a song or two, then call a barn dance or three, then open up the mic for guests. Rinse and repeat.)
  3. Icebreakers don’t have to be hideously embarrassing. Find something that’s relevant to the people coming to your party. Hiding rubber ducks all over your living room and having people count them is a fun way to get people moving around. (I’m hoping that decorating the hall with old photos of me and my twin brother will do the same this evening. The photos will be hung from balloons which will be cunningly suspended from the ceiling on fishing line so they look like helium balloons but don’t cost as much. Side note–I had to write that as an extra sentence because I couldn’t work out how to frame it without making it sound like my brother and I spent a lot of time hanging from balloons as kids, while our parents snapped pics.)
  4. People don’t hate party games as much as you do. Proposing a game of Pass-The-Pictionary is a GOOD IDEA.
  5. People don’t hate being told what to do as much as you do. Telling someone to pick up the guitar and finding them something to play that everyone can sing is a GOOD IDEA.
  6. People don’t love dressing up as much as you do. Telling everyone to wear silly hats or 30s style clothes won’t make up for a lack of points 1-5.

I am currently occupied in kicking myself for forgetting to get any gluten free cake options. We’d better get some fruit.

Week 1

Day 2: My husband is not as enthusiastic as I am.  To me this feels almost like a religious conversion, as if I have come into a self that I was always meant to be, but have fought.

Almost like a homophobe coming out. Though probably actually nothing like.

I am extremely surprised by the depth of this feeling.

I am also finding the thought of eating meat quite repellent. This also is astonishing to me, but again I come back to my analogy of a conversion. What the convert once did unthinkingly, she now turns from in disgust–until the first flame subsides and temptation begins again to speak louder than repentance.

Day 3: I had a small amount of roast lamb with gravy with dinner tonight. I hope no-one  noticed just how small an amount it was.

Day 4: The kids don’t appear to have noticed. They did comment tonight that we had a lot of vegetables, and Miss nearly-10 asked, “Which is more important to eat? Meat or vegetables?” I replied, “Vegetables, of course. You can live perfectly fine without meat. You can’t live without veges.”

I’m starting to worry slightly about oestrogen levels and menopause. I should probably have a chat with my doctor. Menopause is a long way off yet. I assume.

Did you know Bin Inn has an enormous selection of dried beans? I foresee that our freezer is going to stop being full of meat in single-use plastic trays glad-wrapped all to heck, and start being full of re-used hummus containers now full of crock-potted beans and chickpeas. How good is that?

Day 5: I feel lighter.

Falafel mix doesn’t cook very well in a pan that’s just been used for marinated beef.

Day 6: I hope I can get to the vegetarian wraps first at the lunchtime staff meeting. Knowing my staff, I don’t think that will be a problem.



Secretly Vegetarian

Tomorrow I turn 40.

Tomorrow my husband and I will cook meat for the last time.

That’s the plan, anyway. And only because I said I wanted croissants with bacon for my birthday breakfast.

We haven’t told the kids, or anyone else, that we have made up our minds to go vegetarian.

We haven’t made up our minds exactly how vegetarian we will be – will fish be included? We definitely won’t be vegan.

We will not tell my mum, who cooks a roast every Sunday for the extended family. I’ve seen her dealing with various friends’ and family members’ dietary restrictions for years and I’m not making her do it again.

We will not tell friends who invite us around for dinner. Firstly because I myself resent pandering to people’s self-imposed (i.e. not medically necessary) restrictions, and secondly because that never happens anyway. It’s funny how you never get invited out for meals when you come as a package deal of five, including two adolescent appetites.

We’re doing it mostly for the planet. This world is in such an apocalyptic mess we’d like to start reducing our contribution to the disaster. It feels like there’s not much we can do, but we can do this.

If we lose weight and become healthier, that would be a nice side benefit.

I may or may not post updates. Don’t watch this space.

An unsent email to my supervisors

Here is a little phenomenological interpretation of why I cried during our meeting. A story of my dad’s is playing in my head. “When [your twin brother] didn’t know a word, he’d ask me, and I would say, ‘well, sound it out…’. If you didn’t know a word, you’d ask me and I’d say, ‘well, sound it out,’ and you’d say ‘no, just tell me!’ And then you’d go and ask [your twin]. And that’s why he was reading at two-and-half and you were a bit later, when you were three.”

So not having the answers, and not being given the answers, taps into my personal narratives of being inferior to my (literally) genius twin brother in my father’s eyes.

Also, I have PMT at the moment.

Thank you for your patience.

Schools are terrible. Really terrible. Really.

I have been reading a lot lately about how terrible schools are, ranging from cartoons like this to articles like this. I went into my six-year-old daughter’s classroom today because she had to go to the doctor this morning (ear infection, you know how it is) and so I actually had a chance to observe them in action.

As I walked in, a paper dart flew past my head. It sailed over a tight corner which was crowded with a man I didn’t recognise – I think he might have been the autistic boy’s teacher aide – and a boy or two, discussing maths. Swiftly chasing the dart came Josh* and Aidan, both giggling. They picked it up and wandered off again, as I entered the main part of the room. There I spotted the teacher, Ms N, sitting on a low chair at the front of the room, with Bindi, Sofia and Anja (my daughter’s friends) sitting facing her on their own chairs. Ms N was taking notes as the girls explained some incident involving unkind behaviour by someone. My daughter was happy to be in the room and wanting to engage with her teacher and friends, but Ms N said that she would need to go and read a book for a few minutes. I relayed this to my daughter, explaining that Ms N was busy at the moment but would be free in a few minutes. Miss 6 skipped off to the book display behind her desk group to find something to read.

When Ms N had a moment I told her about the trip to the doctor. She stood up and put her head close to mine. “I sometimes think it would be easier if it were all boys!” she murmured. “They don’t get into all this… stuff.” Then she sat down to resume the court session.

The rest of the children were in small groups, or ones and twos, clustered around their desks and apparently cheerfully getting on with things. Some were standing, some were sitting. Some were chatting, some were quiet. It was a peaceful scene.

I mused on the contrast between what I had just seen and the popular image of schools portrayed in many articles on the Internet – children in rows, forced to sit down and shut up, to memorise and regurgitate mindlessly. Schools like these must indeed be terrible places of frustration and tyranny, where joy in learning is stamped out and individuality stifled in the name of classroom control.

The thing is, my school isn’t like that.

Maybe there’s something different about Ms N. And there is. She is recognised by my fellow parents and by other staff at the school as being exceptional in understanding the individual kids in her class, and fostering each child’s unique gifts.

Maybe there’s something different about this school. And there is. It is an Accredited School of the New Zealand Foundation for Character Education, and it places an extremely strong emphasis on strengths-based learning. It is the largest primary school in town. Kids from all over the world come here, meaning that my children are surrounded by a greater diversity of skin colours, accents and religions than you mostly find in this neck of NZ. It has an extraordinarily wide range of extra-curricular activities available (which we mostly don’t take advantage of because I don’t believe in overloading kids’ timetables).

So did we just happen to luck into one of the best schools with the best teachers, and that’s why our kids have loved school and learned heaps and made friends and come to understand themselves, their gifts and their challenges and the things that make them unique? Or do most schools do this, and is public opinion (as mediated by the internet) just lagging behind? … Or is it perhaps lagging geographically, and New Zealand schools are better than those archaic SAT-driven education factories in the US?

As I walked across the playground to leave, my almost-nine-year-old son and his classmates raced by me, training for the upcoming cross country. “Hi mum!” he yelled as he belted past.

My school is fine. So why do people think they’re so terrible?


*Names have been changed.

The New Victorian Childhood: Tiger Mothers and Constant Testing

An excellent post that puts together two of the pressures I admit I often feel: pressure to see my kids ‘fulfil their potential’ – i.e. do every possible activity available and succeed brilliantly at it – and pressure to not upset Them. I’ve talked about Them before, and I’ll edit in the link once I’m not blogging on my phone. Them, aka People, as in “what will People think?”
It’s 6:28 am and I’m in a nicely redecorated motel room in Christchurch, 5 hours drive north from home. I didn’t sleep well, I generally don’t the first night in a strange bed, and now I’ve given up. So here I am.
Christchurch is the city that both Sam and I were born in. He lived here more recently than me, when he was about seven or eight, while I left for Dunedin at eleven months and never looked back. We came here for our honeymoon nearly fifteen years ago and enjoyed the International Buskers Festival. But we haven’t visited since the Earthquake (link to come). So we’ve brought the kids to do a spot of ‘disaster tourism’ and see things like the Cardboard Cathedral and the container mall (a shopping centre constructed from shipping containers). We will also take the kids to Orana Park. I wish we had some kind of zoo in Dunedin but maybe it’s too cold, or maybe just too small.
This motel room is the nicest I’ve ever stayed in, although on closer inspection you can see the hideous old decor (embossed orange and green flower wallpaper, anyone?) peeping through the new paint. But I’ll forgive that for the mezzanine and the nice smooth ceramic cooktop. The kids were given a double and a single bed between the three of them, so naturally Mr 10 is sleeping on couch cushions on the living room floor instead. What WILL They think? We’d better clear it away before They come in to clean.


We think of ourselves as much more civilized than the Victorians, who sent their children to the mills or factories, or to work as chimney sweeps.  Thankfully, child labour has been banned, at least in most of the Western world. (Unfortunately, it seems it has simply been outsourced, like our factories… and call centres.)

But the Victorian legacy of depriving children of a childhood lives on… in the Tiger Mothers around the world, and in my local patch of North London, the obsession with schools, results, and cramming knowledge into children at the earliest possible age — ballet/piano/chess/foreign languages/maths/gymnastics etc.

We don’t expect our children to earn a living anymore, but we do expect them to carry our banner into the world.  And sometimes, it can be a very heavy banner indeed.  Especially if it they need to compete with lots of other children who are equally charged with carrying…

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