The interview of all interviews

While I was in the gym this morning BB took the opportunity to interview Hurricane and Chaos on the big issues in life. These are their responses (forgive the bullet points, it was the only way to be rid of the paragraph break for some weird reason).

How old are you?

  • Hurricane: 4
  • Chaos: 4 (H corrects her and tells her she’s 2 – which she accepts is correct)

When is your birthday?

  • H: January
  • C: Sunday (H – no it’s in Newmember)

How old is Daddy?

  • H: 34
  • C: 44 (H – no I told you he’s 34)

How old is Mummy? 

  • H: 33
  • C: 4

What is your favourite colour? 

  • H: Pink
  • C: Purple

What is your favourite animal?

  • H: Giraffe, because I like it’s neck
  • C: Frog

What is your favourite food?

  • H: Veggie sandwich (pffffffffffffff)
  • C: Muesli bars

Who is your best friend?

  • H: Chaos
  • C: Enor and Hurricane

What makes you happy?

  • H: Watching TV and playing cricket
  • C: Dancing

Where is your favourite place to go in New York?

  • H: The Natural History Museum. You need to take the black bus and the train
  • C: Kids room

What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • H: Be a big kid
  • C: Treats

What do you want to do when you grow up?

  • H: Play cricket
  • C: Eat an ice cream

What is your favourite song?

  • H: Twinkle twinkle little star
  • C: Emma (Wiggle)

What does love mean?

  • H: Love someone else like Chaos
  • C: Pins and clips

 

Not sure where they got the ambition to eat ice cream and play cricket from…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three weeks to go

Yes, I have started the countdown. There are now 19 days left till BB hands in her final paper. It can’t come soon enough.

One of the benefits of this particular gig is that I know for sure I don’t want to spend every single day of my parenting life with my children. I will never have to wonder about that. It’s not often you get such clarity on anything. I’m probably not meant to say such a thing, but it’s true. I’m sure it’s true for every parent, most just don’t want to be judged for saying it. I don’t care. I’m not built to be the permanent full-time carer and I know it.

That’s not the same as saying I don’t want to see them every day. Quite the opposite. But man am I in need of a break. I’ve been operating on six week stints this year. As it turned out that has been the period between visitors. Each six week block has literally been me and the kids. 42 days straight. The longest period I’ve had away from both of them at once is 4 consecutive hours, which we have managed twice. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll get another 2-hour break before BB finishes up. Probably not, but you never know.

BB underestimated the workload this semester and got swamped. We see her for roughly 2 hours a day when she needs to be fed. She is studying/in class for about 15 hours a day at the moment. Pretty brutal. Very few people on the Masters course are parents and you can see why. Work life balance doesn’t exist.

Anyway, the worst thing about being over-exposed to your children is that you start to get irritated by things you never used to. Like them dropping food on the floor, or drawing on the table, or insisting on choosing their own clothes and then taking forever to pick them out. Real meaningless stuff like that begins to wears you down. The extended New York winter has played its part obviously, getting stuck inside all the time. But it’s more that days all roll into one while we wait for May 5 to arrive.

I was at a playgroup thing recently and one of the mums asked me if the year had gone by fast. Nope, was my answer. It hasn’t. It has dragged. Then someone else asked me what I would miss about New York and I couldn’t actually think of anything. A few friends obviously, and the sensational fresh Chinese noodles at Chelsea market, but the city itself I’m not sure how well I got to know it. I have to think about that one a bit. Save the answer for another post.

 

 

 

 

 

A very expensive phantom marble

There are a few standard US experiences I hoped we wouldn’t tick off while here. Like getting shot at or mugged. I was happy to skip those. I also didn’t want to have to go to a hospital. And now I have. Though it wasn’t for me. It was for Chaos. And I’m sure we will pay for it.

It all kicked off on Friday gone when I was in the kitchen making the little people breakfast (BB was still unconscious from the now routine late night studying). Chaos toddled up to me grabbing at her mouth, making a gagging sound. The choke alarm went off and I started whacking her on the back. Nothing came out, but she was breathing normally again. I asked her what was going on.

“I swallowed a ball, Daddy.”

Great. She swallowed a ball. One of the little marble types that Hurricane plays with on his track. At this point I figured since she got it down it was probably small enough to pass through – the esophagus is the narrowest part of the process. Chaos was fine. It was Hurricane who was most on edge. He said he heard her “voice go” and wanted to be sure she could breathe properly. She could, so we carried on.

Then Chaos threw up her breakfast. Vomiting is one sign of a potential blockage – possibly where the esophagus meets the stomach. But we didn’t know if it was that or just her body trying to get rid of the marble. Anyway, we decided to just keep an eye out for other symptoms like chest or stomach pain. They didn’t materialise, and Chaos ate and drank more during the day. Until 3.30pm, when she vomited everything up again.

At this point I didn’t really have much choice but to call BB back from the study room to look after Hurricane and head to the hospital. You don’t take risks with toddlers.

To cut a long story short, we had x-rays taken but because the ball was plastic it didn’t show up. We got transferred to the children’s hospital to get a dye study done – where Chaos drank some contrast fluid while getting more x-rays so they could see if there was a blockage. They didn’t find one.

Then Chaos vomited up the contrast liquid. Twice. The doctors got worried and put her on an IV and gave her anti-vomiting meds. Then we got sent for an ultrasound to check out her intestines. All clear. I thought that would be that.

But no. They admitted us as they wanted to do an endoscopy in the morning to be certain. Chaos was put under general anesthetic and the scope found nothing. Eventually, they discharged us. All of this took place over about 28 hours.

I have no complaints about the service we got. When a toddler has ingested something and starts vomiting, you need to be certain there’s no problem. The doctors took all the precautions they had to. All the staff we encountered were friendly and competent. I never felt worried – though having Chaos’ doe eyes pleading with me when they inserted the IV and again when they had to draw blood was pretty hard.

Here’s the thing about the US system. When you get to hospital, you sign a bunch of forms and they give the patient a bracelet with a barcode on it. Whenever the patient receives treatment, they scan the barcode and it goes on the tab. As you can see, we ran up a tab.

We have insurance for the kids. But most providers don’t offer comprehensive options, so there is an element of co-pay. A trip to the emergency room is a simple $125 payment. But after that it gets a bit messier. Our policy, I now know, seemingly requires us to pay 15% toward a hospital stay and any x-rays.

Hospitals here are like shopping in those fancy boutique fashion stores where nothing has a price on it. Except you don’t get to choose the products you buy. You walk in, they ring them up and eventually you get a bill. I have no idea how much our share will be, but I would be surprised if it’s less than two grand.

It does make you appreciate the New Zealand system so much more. Obviously no system is perfect, but the fact we don’t even have to think about what a trip to the hospital could do to us financially is a pretty huge bonus. If our bill comes in around the $2k mark then yeah, it will hurt, but we can take the hit. I had built in a buffer in our finances to make sure we could.

But here’s the kicker. While we were in hospital, Hurricane went down with a vom bug. And I’m now four feral nappies and five days down in my search for the supposed marble.

She didn’t even swallow it. I think. Probably. BB is still holding out on that front.

So what happened then? My best guess is Chaos had been playing with the ball in her mouth shortly before she had an urge to vomit, and it was probably that vomit that she swallowed back down. But she conflated the two separate incidents and triggered a very expensive chain of events.

Kids eh. Might as well just buy a shredder and feed it the Benjimans.

 

PS. If the marble does turn up I will immortalise it in a pic for your viewing pleasure.

 

 

 

A mean nasty woman

I did wonder when this day would come. I didn’t really know what I would do when it did. But I had thought about it.

By it, I mean when a stranger decides to discipline your child. There is no one right way to react in my mind, it simply depends on the situation in play.

My personal rule is I don’t touch someone else’s kid unless I have to physically stop them from attacking another little person. But that would be where my intervention starts and ends. Once separated, I leave it to their own parents to take care of any disciplinary action. I’ve only had to do this a couple of times in real life. One was a ruthless hair puller who latched onto Chaos just the other day actually. His mum was too busy on Facebook to know what was going on. Should’ve pulled her hair.

Anyway, it was poor Hurricane who got himself into trouble. We were at the local Kidville playspace and were nearly ready to leave. Chaos wanted to get a drink of water so I took her out of the room and left Hurricane happily occupied throwing balls out of the little fort he had made for himself. There was one other child in the room with her Grandma.

Moments later one of the staff who had just walked by me headed for the playspace turned from the doorway and said “Ummm, he’s just hit that girl in the face”. Hurricane doesn’t touch other kids, he hates conflict, so I jogged over to take a look and he was still in his fort. But Grandma was with the little girl giving her cheek a rub. One of the balls Hurricane had thrown had accidentally hit her – keeping in mind these are very soft projectiles that wouldn’t hurt a boneless kitten. I told Hurricane to be a bit more careful where he throws them and returned to Chaos, who was digging through a random bag looking for snacks.

Moments later Hurricane comes flying out of the room visibly upset. He wants to go home. Now. I knew the Grandma had done something, though I figured she had just growled at him. But Hurricane refused to say what she did, he just wanted to go. It took quite a lot of coaxing as I explained that if an adult had done something that upset him he needed to tell me, and eventually he said she had hit him on the hand.

It’s fair to say I was livid. But I also wasn’t overly surprised. This was not one of those friendly looking Grandmas with a forehead creased from smiling eyes. She was hard looking, with lips like a cat’s bum. Eastern European accent. I suspect she’d dished out more beatings to her own kids than she’d cooked them hot dinners.

I confronted her. The first thing out of her cat’s bum mouth was “He’s lying”. Then she proceeded to tell a yarn about how Hurricane had booted the ball straight into the little girl’s face – which was impossible given where he was playing. She was a terrible liar, and she knew it. So she then pretended her English was too bad to understand me properly. I gave her a final spray telling her to never touch another kid in there again and we left.

Hurricane was upset about the ‘mean nasty woman’ for the rest of the day. He makes me look in the playspace before he goes in now to make sure she’s not there. I imagine I would have reacted the same as he did when I was little. In fact I hated conflict till I was 24.

In some respects I can understand the Grandma wanting to protect her little one, but if that’s how she reacts to an accidental ball to the face that didn’t even draw a tear, I’d hate to see the stick she pulls out on the little hair-puller. That would get mum off Facebook pretty quick. Well you’d hope so, but these days…

Oh yeah, and then it snowed again. Just for laughs.

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Cooking for kids #3 – Arroz con pollo

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Winner winner chicken dinner

That’s the fancy way of saying chicken with rice.

Anyway, I was shown this dish by my Aussie pal (who is of Filipino ancestry and picked it up from her mother). The original is deliciously simple. I’ve kind of added a few things to make my own. It is seriously good, and easy to make.

Ingredients

  • Fresh ginger (crushed or finely grated) – about 1 and 1/2 inch worth, more if you like a stronger ginger flavour
  • 6 cloves of garlic (crushed or finely grated/diced)
  • 1 onion (diced)
  • Stick of lemongrass (cut into 1-2 inch lengths and whack with the back of a knife to bruise)
  • 1 cup rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 500g chicken breast (diced) – can easily go more if you want (I marinate mine in honey soy)
  • Edamame (shelled), peas and cherry tomatoes (all optional)

Method

Cook the chicken in batches and set aside. Add oil to a large pot on medium heat. Add the onion first and let them soften, then add the ginger, garlic and lemongrass and cook for 2mins. Add the rice and stir till the grains are all nicely coated in oil. Add the stock, cover the pot and let it simmer until the liquid is absorbed (maybe 20mins) and you have a saucy risotto type texture. Add in the chicken, edamame, peas and cherry tomatoes so they heat through (or just chuck the cherries on top at the end). Done.

First impressions

Hurricane – I like rice.

Chaos – Hmmmmm.

Final impressions

They both smashed the honey soy version. It was such a roaring success I tried it again very soon after and was met with general disdain. Ahh well. No such thing as reason in this world.

 

 

 

 

 

How to survive winter in NYC

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The sweet smell of survival

I think it’s over. Winter that is. Which means I have officially survived. It’s hard to describe just how relieved I am that there is no more snow forecast and the temperature is set to head to double figures next week. And stay there. I guess the best analogy I can think of would be the time I was playing laser tag as a teenager with the church youth group and was busting to take a leak. I was in so much pain from holding on that I couldn’t walk, which made finding the bathroom that much more difficult.

Though on that occasion I didn’t actually make it. I unleashed on the floor about three metres shy of the urinal and then had to use all the bog roll they had to mop it up. But man did I feel amazing afterward. Got away with it too. No one knew.

So that’s how relieved I am right now. The pain has subsided and I can walk again. Of course if I’ve learnt anything in life, it’s that being a meteorologist is the sweetest gig in the world as you get paid to be constantly wrong. But I’m optimistic the temperature trend is heading in the right direction and life should be easier from here out.

How did I survive? One day at a time really. I’ve had a week here or there during my working life where I’ve not wanted to get out of bed because of the misery that awaited me in the office, but this is the first time I’ve had to go through a solid six weeks of pure survival mode (with a couple other two-week blocks thrown in for good measure). I do not do well being cooped up inside. Neither do the kids. It was never going to be a recipe for a harmonious home. Day or night.

I’ve already mentally blocked the worst of it out. There was a patch where Chaos was waking at least twice a night but all I can recall is the feeling of fatigue, the rest is lost in the fog. BB is the same. She re-read some of her papers from that time and had no recollection of writing whole sections. Shows how smart she is that she can operate under such a massive handicap and still reel in A-grades. Even Winx couldn’t win giving up that kind of head start. Winx is a horse, by the way. Google her.

The truth is I wouldn’t have survived without our Aussie friends, in particular. Letting off steam over a cuppa made the dark days bearable. There is no underestimating the importance of friends and we’re lucky we found some good people in the same building.

I also had the benefit of being able to have conversations with my kids, which kept me out of my head. This is obviously desirable, as it gets pretty strange up there at times. Hurricane and Chaos are crazy little creatures. Entertaining, infuriating, gorgeous little chatter boxes. And they love to bake. So I learned to bake. Banana bread and cookies mostly. And Hurricane likes to help me cook now too – he’s the sous chef. His chief skills are rolling meatballs and grating vegetables. He would chop them too, but his penchant to wave the knife around in the vicinity of my throat means we’re still working on that.

So winter is done. I won’t be doing another one like this ever again.

But if any of you find yourself in this position down the track, here is my guide to surviving a NYC winter with pre-schoolers and no money.

Don’t do it. Go home.

Seriously.

But if you have to stay then I only have three tips:

1. Find a play centre you can unleash the kids in while you doze in the corner.

It might cost you $200 a month, but scrape together whatever cash you have and put water on your cereal if you have to. It’s worth it.

2. Join the Manhattan Children’s Museum.

A full year membership is like $250 and you can go as often as you like. Force yourself to go once a week just to get out and about.

3. Live as close to public transport as possible.

If you end up more than five blocks from a bus or subway stop you will battle to go anywhere with the kids when the cold really kicks in. It is that brutal.

If you’re rich you’ll be fine. Plenty of illegal immigrants looking for nanny jobs…

 

 

 

 

Four boroughs in one day

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No fear of heights for Hurricane

For those unfamiliar with New York City, it is made up of five boroughs – Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island. They are all pretty massive cities in their own right and when put together total nearly 9 million inhabitants. To give you an idea of population density, NYC is 303 square miles (780 square km). Auckland is 1090 square km, with a population of about 1.4 million. So in NZ our biggest city covers an area 40% bigger, with one-sixth of the population. Crazy really.

Anyway, my parents have been here the past couple of weeks so we’ve been showing them around. A good way to get a feel for exactly how packed this place is, is to get up one of the big buildings. I hadn’t done that yet, so figured I’d get the olds up the Rockefeller. The views were pretty awesome. Hurricane loved it. Chaos not so much. BB has done the Empire State at night and rated that as well.

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North view

We covered a fair amount of territory on the ground too, a chunk of it not exactly intentionally, and because of that we technically set foot in every one of the five boroughs while the parentals were here. On one particularly big day we set out to see Brooklyn, get some pizza, and then walk the bridge back to Manhattan before heading across to Ground Zero. That part went swimmingly well. It was the getting home again part that didn’t quite go to plan.

Unfortunately the blame lies entirely with me. Most subway stations, especially the big ones, are set up so that even when you’re in a middle platform with tracks both sides, the trains run in the same direction. So even if you did jump on the wrong one it’s not too big a deal to switch out a few stations on. But as I’ve now learned, to rely on such an assumption is foolish.

It had already been a long day. As we descended the stairs the express A train pulled in and I thought great, we’ll grab this and then switch to the 1 at 168 street. Faster train, quicker trip home. Yeah, well, by the time I realised we were heading in the wrong direction, we were in Queens. What should have been a 30min train trip turned into 2 hours. Hurricane had a great time (it was the favourite part of his day). Chaos, well, she tormented us for nearly all of it. She had fallen asleep for the Brooklyn portion of the trip so was fully energised. You’d have better luck inviting a vegan to a steakhouse than convincing Chaos to sit still.

But we survived that and on our final day with the folks we jumped on the Staten Island ferry before (on return) walking up to Chinatown to feast on dumplings and noodles. No joke, you get five dumplings for $1.25. BB, Hurricane and myself managed to put away about 35 of them while Chaos got stuck into the roast pork noodle soup. Didn’t even break a twenty. The benefits of having a child army for a production line…

Anyway, it was an awesome time. The kids loved it. Plus I got daily adult conversation and a pile of Whittakers’ chocolate. Mum and Dad have flown off and are now back in Moldova till December. Six more weeks and then BB finishes up and her parents arrive. We are in sight of the end.

 

Fire in the hole

I meant to write this post last week but season 2 of Sneaky Pete turned up on Amazon Prime so I got somewhat distracted.  Then today Hurricane did something that reminded me that I need to tell you this story before I forget it again. So here it is.

Thanks to Nana (BB’s mum) we have a membership to the Manhattan Children’s Museum. It’s not really a museum per se but more of an interactive play space that is mostly occasioned by little people of the age I roam with. We tend to go once a week, normally on a Thursday. It’s how our routine runs.

Most parents in that place tend to hover over their kids, as I had to to start with, but a few of us regulars have reached the pinnacle where we can now sit and merely maintain an awareness of the general areas our offspring are in as they happily play by themselves.

On this particular day I managed to secure the bench – a coveted spot in the middle of the third floor that means your kids, no matter where they are, can’t escape the room without entering your field of vision. It is the holy grail of surveillance locations. Competition is fierce for that spot. We all hang around pretending to be ambivalent about it, but we keep a closer eye on movement from the bench than we do from our own kids. It’s like musical cheers with eight players and two seats where the incumbents don’t have to move until they want to leave.

And when they do leave you don’t want to be the desperate parent that runs for the seat. It needs to be casual – appear to be a stroke of fortune. Right time right place. So it pays to be good at reading departure signals – a shuffle in the feet, check of the pockets, putting the phone away. All key signs. You don’t want to be continuously doing fly-bys because you look like an idiot. It’s an art form to know when to start your walk.

Sometimes it’s only one seat too. There was a very pregnant woman who would quite deliberately nail down the centre and dare anyone to tell her to shift over. I considered testing her out one time but I think she sensed my plan and promptly farted. Any woman who is prepared to fart in public to protect her patch deserves respect. I liked her immediately.

Anyway, it had been a couple of weeks since I had last seen pregnant fart lady so I guessed baby had arrived. I was sitting on the bench thinking about just that when my bench-mate at that moment got up to leave and her spot was immediately taken by a newbie – and a pregnant one at that. Not an about to burst one, but a solid 30 weeker going by profile.

We sat quietly for a while, and then she shuffled uncomfortably and gave a sigh. It seemed like an invitation for conversation, so I asked her how she was getting on. Bloated she said. Her third child. The first two (girls), were really different so she was guessing this one was a boy and he was already farting up a storm inside of her. Highly probable, I said. Might as well get used to it.

Then for some reason I told her the story about the pregnant fart lady protecting her patch. And she turns to me and reels off a description of said lady and her children, which I of course confirm, feeling a little guilty that she knew who I was talking about. Only a little guilty of course, because it was funny.

And then she said the words I should have known were coming.

“Yeah that’s my sister”.

HER SISTER!

Really?

“Yes”.

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Can I hide in that hat with you bud?

I should have done the honourable thing and just got up and walked off at that point. Given up the throne. But I didn’t. I burst out laughing. At which point she burst out laughing too. And I told her how when her sister farted she had looked straight at me as if to say ‘imagine what I’m prepared to do if you take a step closer’, which only compounded the laughter.

And then she farted too.

Just a little one. A warning shot. But it vibrated the wooden bench enough for her to know I knew and then the full on giggle fit kicked in as she realised that a complete random stranger from New Zealand had now been farted at by two sisters in the exact same spot. I told her I was open for a dinner invitation if she wanted the extended family to have a crack at me. Of course that only made the giggling worse, and the bench took another rumble. My new friend clasped her hand to her mouth to try to prevent the full on hysterics taking over and drawing even more attention our way.

Hurricane chose this moment to rock up and tell me he wanted to go to another floor. So I stood to leave while farty friend stayed seated and tried to control the laugh crying. I offered her a high five which she gladly accepted and then I was on my way.

Then Hurricane turns to me and says: “Why was that women crying daddy?”

She was laughing too hard buddy.

“Why was she laughing?”

Because she farted.

“It smelled.”

Did it?

“I think so.”

And the reason I remembered this today was because when the kids clambered into our bed this morning I dropped a ripper that BB was not very pleased about, but which sent Hurricane into a fit of giggles. And then Hurricane gave me a high five, which made BB even more displeased and only compounded the laughter.

Farts are funny. They just are.

 

 

 

 

 

Cooking for kids #2 – Herb crumbed roast pork loin with apple sauce

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Ohhhh just look at that moisture content…

I’ll be honest, when I make this particular dish it’s mostly for me. The bonus is that the little people will sometimes take as much pleasure in it as I do – if the apple sauce meets their high standards of course. But here it is for you.

Ingredients

  • 1kg (2lb) boneless pork loin
  • Bread crumbs (mix of panko and normal is very nice)
  • Paprika
  • Herbs mix (oregano, basil, coriander)
  • Flour
  • 1 egg
  • 2 large apples (throw in a pear if you have one)

Method

Preheat oven to 175deg C. Pat the pork dry and give it a bit of a season with salt and pepper. Mix some flour and paprika together on a plate or dish or whatever. Whisk the egg in a bowl. Mix the herbs with the breadcrumbs in another dish. Roll the pork in flour, dip it in egg and then crumb it. Drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil, chuck it into a baking pan uncovered and into the oven it goes. Give it a check at 60mins and if it’s a bit of a fat piece you might need to give it another 10.

In the meantime peel and slice your apples and throw them into a small saucepan with a little bit of water. Put it on low heat and cover. Throw in some cloves if you like, and a little brown sugar if the apples are quite tart. Pear and bit of lime juice is a winner too. I would tell you what apples are best but that would suggest I care enough to know. Just whatever is cheap from the supermarket.

Once the apples are broken down into a nice sauce (you might want to mash them a bit to help) then just set them aside and reheat when the pork is done.

I like to serve this particular dish with whatever I have available. Maybe some potato (roast or mashed), beans are good. Broccoli even (for the kids, not me). Roast some carrots maybe. A salad isn’t really the ideal partner but well if that’s all you’ve got then sure.

On this particular occasion it was roast potatoes and yams, corn on the cob, broccoli and tomatoes.

First impressions

Hurricane and Chaos in unison: APPLE SAUCE!!!!!!!!

Final impressions

They ate all the apple sauce and smashed the corn. Managed a few pieces of pork, and had a good graze of the rest too. You might even call it a win-win. They ate enough, and I ate heaps. There was even a little bit of apple sauce saved for BB when she got home.

Plus leftovers!