Monday, 16 October 2017

My name and shame rant! Review of Verify Building Industries Limited, NZ

If ever you are looking for a builder to do some renovations for you,  I have a strident NON-recommendation! Verify Building Industries Limited in Kapiti, New Zealand were so unprofessional and unethical. Not only did a large proportion of our funds suddenly "disappear", they never finished the job they were contracted to do, but they also made a terrible hash of everything else they did here. It has cost a fortune to try to put all the damage right. Pictures show how they left it after getting the money and then disappearing. #verifybuildingindustrieslimited
The main guys are Joseph Thomas and David Verney.  Verney was the "project manager" and Thomas the owner.  It seems that Joseph Thomas was the main culprit and with the aid of an extremely dodgy accountant, he made off with a large sum of the money we had given him.  He went to live in Australia.  We have never heard from him again. However we believe he used the money to set up a largely worthless internet app for homeowners in New Zealand.
Likewise, David Verney was vastly inflating the times that he was working and was racking up a nice fortune from claiming twelve hour days when we hardly saw him on site at all. We have not heard from him again either.
Joseph Thomas also said that if we tried to pursue this in any way he would declare bankruptcy and open a company in a different name, so I really hope they don't catch more people out there!
I just wanted to warn people not to be as stupid as we were.  When you are doing renovations, go for the reputable guys, and make sure that you get recommendations from their previous clients.  We certainly unearthed a nest of vipers and are still paying for it. 
Below are pictures of the way they left our house after being paid a fortune.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Speak life

It's been so long since I had a chance to write.  What have I been doing in this time, you might ask? Well...
We found out that we were having a bonus baby a few weeks after the boys turned seven. The little girl had just turned five and started big school, and it was a time for great transitions for all of us.  I remember feeling a bit off, my hormones were crazy and I felt ill every evening.  I woke in the night to horrible night sweats.  After a few days of this, I lay on the couch and cried about it to the Sweetpea.  "I am going through menopause!" I screeched dramatically through floods of tears.  Not that it was unexpected, but that I wasn ready to give up on my body being the source of life for another little one.  I was devastated.
However, two pregnancy tests later, I was a bit relieved and possibly more apprehensive.  After suffering a miscarriage the previous year and all of the emotion that went with that, I could not bear to think of the long weeks and months that stretched out ahead with our little one growing inside me and the possibility of once again losing all of those hopes and dreams for another member of the family.  We were still lighting a candle every Friday for the unborn child, and I could not face the idea of having two small candles to be lit on our table.  As the pregnancy progressed, I started having panic attacks, diagnosing myself with every form of non specific and terrible complication on Google (thanks, Dr Google!).  I was anything but the serene and in-control older mother I had hoped I would be. I was a ball of sodden nerves wrapped up in hysteria.  It was the boys who eventually came to my rescue.  You hear about children parenting their parents.  Well, I had the chance to experience this when they were only seven.  They had been listening to a song by Toby Mac called "Choose life" Eye On It (Deluxe Edition) by tobyMac https://itun.es/nz/G2-6Q
It's about how the word we utter are powerful and that we have the power of life and death in our tongues.  These little boys of mine reminded me that I had the choice to make of whether I would speak life over their child in my womb, or with my fears and insecurities unwittingly speak death.  I'm so glad they did. From that moment on I chose to speak life to my unborn child no matter what happened.

Almost a year later, now, I write this while our newest member of the family slumbers peacefully on my chest. The Snuffalupagus, as we fondly call him, was born safely in December and has enriched our lives with his presence ever since then. He has allowed the boys to become older brothers of a much younger sibling and what joy it is to see them picking him up and comforting him when he cries.  Little Miss Snoopy has had her dearest wish to be a little mommy come true right in front of her eyes.

Take time to choose life!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Divide and conquer? Or united we stand? The age-old question of whether we should separate our twins in school...

Since our twins first went to school, we were inundated by well-meaning advice from many different sources about whether to split them up or keep them together in the same class.  Friends, other parents of twins, family members and even the teachers and school all weighed in on the subject, and unless you have nerves (and convictions) of steel, it is possible for you to doubt yourself at every turn as to whether you are making the best decision for your twins.  Starting school is such a big step in any child's life, yet twins potentially have a secret weapon to combat the period of adjustment, loneliness, and fear that every child needs to face on first stepping into a new entrants' classroom.  

So why the pressure to split them up?

I think the answer can be found in the history and stereotypes with which schools and parents have traditionally approached twins in the classroom, especially identical twins.  After all, for a teacher, it's just more difficult to have a set of what is essentially the same person in your class, no matter which way you look at it.  It is hard to call out a name and never be certain that you have the right one (in fact, mine sometimes answer to each other's names just because they don't want to offend).  There's no denying it's complicated.  Traditionally, schools have always decided that it is better to split the children up so that "they can develop into individuals, with their own peer groups".

That is all very well, but, if your twins are as close as mine are to each other, there is no denying that you are removing them from what is essentially their own primary peer group (i.e. their twin), who is their best friend in all the world, and forcing them to be alone and make new friends without the benefit of the support system that they have had next to them for the whole of their lives.  Some twins will rise to the challenge, and go on to develop those relationships with others as would be hoped.  However, for some it is not as easy.  They develop insecurities and emotional abandonment, and the whole thing is essentially very difficult for them to cope with.

Nowadays, schools allow parents to weigh in on whether their children should be left together or split into different classes.  We had a big decision to make when ours first started.  Being the person that I am, I turned first to the research that had been done on whether to split them or not.  What I found was very interesting:  there is practically no research done on whether twins thrive better together than apart.  However, I did find one article (that probably can't be generalised because of the very little research done on the subject) that stated that separating twins (monozygotic i.e. identical twins only) in the first year of school leads to more internalising problems for those twins, and that these problems tended to persist over time and also increased over time following the first year of  the twins'  separation   Those separated twins also experienced more academic problems than those that were kept together, and had poorer reading abilities.  However, dyzygotic twins (non identical) who were separated after the first year of school tended to work harder than those who were kept together.

The article also discussed separating twins later, and found that separating identical twins later in their school careers might not be the answer either.  The twins separated later also experienced more internalising problems and poorer academic results, and the authors think this is indicative of emotional problems developing in the twins.  This does not mean that all twins who are split up in the first years of school will go on to develop emotional issues, but it does show that some twins who do show emotional distress when they are first split up will continue to have emotional problems as they develop.

So based on this research, what is the answer?

I think it is firstly important to differentiate between identical and non-identical twins when thinking of whether to split them up or not.  Identical and non-identical twins seem to respond very differently to the effects of being separated at school.  Internalising problems are present for both sets when they are first split up, but the emotional problems are persistent only for the identical twins.  This might be because identical twins experience a closer relationship generally than non-identical twins.

The result of this is that any decision to split up twins in order to "enhance their individual development" must be taken into consideration against the weighty knowledge of possible negative effects on their emotional adjustment which can potentially be long-reaching.  This is definitely not to say that all twins should be kept together in the school setting, but rather that the family and school should collectively come to a decision based on the twins' needs, regardless of school view or pressure.  Also this implies that any decision to separate the twins further down the track should be taken with extreme care and consideration, and accompanied by meticulous planning for how this should happen.  It is easy to assume that because they are older, they will take separation better, but this is not supported by the research.  Schools should keep an eye on newly-split twins to see if there are any signs of emotional disturbance and intervene where necessary.  Separation is never a permanent state - if the twins don't appear to be coping, they can always be reunited later on.


So what did we decide for ours?  Well, all the research on this lead me to another resource that we found invaluable in making the decision to keep ours together for as long as is needed (and given the year they have had this year, I am really glad we did!).  The resource is a questionnaire that I would heartily recommend for all parents of multiples - "Together or Apart - a Checklist for Parents and Teachers of Multiples".  I found it online at http://tandm.curtin.edu.au/dloads/school_checklist.pdf
It provides a framework for guiding any discussions that you might have with the teachers and school and also help you to stand against any pressure you might feel to separate your multiples against your will!

However, that doesn't stop the endless comments from others, and especially teachers, that it might be better to split them up.  We have noticed that anything amiss in the classroom can be laid at the door of there being a twin in the class too.  The one is shy and talks softer at group time?  It's because of the twin.  The one taking slightly longer to learn to do their letters properly?  It's the twin. And so on. I think a teacher has approached us on average about once every six weeks asking whether it would not be better to split them up, and with no better reason given than the above.  When I ask, "Are they disruptive in class together?" the answer is always no, in fact the opposite:  they encourage each other to perform better.  Like I said, it takes convictions of steel to stand against the pressure.  But take heart, if your decision has been well-considered and thought through, and also discussed in conjunction with the school, you can feel confident no matter whether your decision is to keep them together or separate them.

Lastly, good luck!

**Please remember, the decision we made to keep our twins together was the one we made after careful consideration of many factors like independence, social skills, experience of being apart, language abilities, interests, friends, age and so on.  What worked for our twins will almost certainly not be the same for yours!

The article I mentioned is "What effect does classroom separation have on twins' behaviour, progress at school and reading abilities" by L.A. Tully, T.E. Moffitt, A. Caspi, A. Taylor, H. Kiernan, and P. Andreou in Twin Research, Vol 7 Number 2, pp. 115-124.




Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The power of a woman....

Having a girl thrown into the mix really changes things up a bit in the play spectrum.  Before Little Miss Snoopy came along, the topics were invariably the same: two superheroes (depending on the flavour of the month, these varied from the innocent Fireman Sam, to the more heroic Ironman and eventually Wolverine, etc.) take on the world and innumerable bad guys to eventually emerge victorious on the other side.

Now, however, the game has changed.  I overheard them all playing in the toy room today:

Ironman:  "I will destroy you, Joker."
Superman:  "You will not catch me alive, Darth Vader."

Pause as they run around shrieking and jumping over the furniture.  Things fall over and crash down.

Then I hear the sound of the play stove lighting up and the pot being put on to boil.

Into the mayhem, Little Miss Snoopy pipes up: "Boys, it's time for lunch!"

When I look around the corner, there are the two heroes, sitting at the table, eating a hearty lunch of fried egg and a vienna sausage, complaining all the while but doing it anyway.  Little Miss Snoopy is busy rustling up something else on the stove and under protest, they are sitting there until the meal is finished.





Ah, Joker and Darth Vader, your evil attempts to make the superheroes succumb and give up crime-fighting are nothing compared to the ministrations of a good woman!

Monday, 17 March 2014

1006 reasons not to make a Minecraft cake...

For the twins birthday, we asked them what they would like for a cake.  Being iPad monsters at the moment (not that they are allowed much time, but hey, they'll take what they can get!), they of course decided that they wanted a Minecraft cake. Minecraft is a game that uses pixels to construct an imaginary world of trees, water and earth. Everything is perfectly square. I looked it up on the net and thought, how hard could that be?  Just a square cake, nothing fancy.  We'll do it.  Six and a half hours and two very frustrated parents later,  the task was done.  Ok, so it looked a teensy bit like a Pinterest fail, but the kids loved it!  The Sweetpea has made the proclamation that from now onwards, we buy the cake. This is why:

Reason number one:  You need to start with a perfectly square cake. This is harder than it sounds.

Reason number two:  You have to cover the cake in butter icing that is sufficiently sturdy to hold the weight of about a thousand small squares of fondant.

Reason number three:  You have to colour fondant icing into twelve different shades of green,  brown and blue:

Reason number four:  All the blocks you cut have to be exactly square. Also have to be about 2cm square.  There is no ruler this size.
Reason number five:  When you put the blocks on the cake, they have to meet across the cake from four sides.
Reason number six:  Blue fondant turns your teeth blue:
 

Reasons numbers 7 to 1006:  You have to cut a thousand little blocks:

 
Enough said!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

On becoming an (attachment) parent

I thought I might tackle a serious post for once.  I have had various parents ask me recently about the importance of attachment, and some others coming up with some really frightening definitions of what they think "attachment parenting" means.

I didn't think I would be an "attachment parent" when I first started out.  I thought that I would have all the answers, that my kids would go to sleep when they were told, that I would have the ability to let them "cry it out" while "exercising their lungs" as parenting "experts" suggest (wow - could there be any more "quotation marks" in a single sentence? I think not! They are there to indicate my sarcastic/disbelieving voice).  However, when my babies were born, nothing could be further from the truth.  Something in me, hormonally speaking, or perhaps just the eons of mothers in the generations before me, would not let me leave my little ones to cry even for the shortest of instants.

I think I have said before that twins are fully capable of planning a tag-team approach to sleeping when they are very little, and ours were no exception.  At one point in our journey with the boys, it got so bad that both Peter and I were not sleeping more than forty minutes in a night.  We both vaguely refer to that time as "that August", because neither of us can quite remember what exactly happened there.  Like survivors, our minds have blacked out the worst of those times.

It was in that stage of sleep-deprived desperation that we aimed to do something about it.  We decided to consult a self-professed expert (ah, never trust anyone who has to profess themselves an expert) in the intricacies of baby sleep.  A baby whisperer, if you will.  Except that she was not a whisperer - no soft techniques here.  She was in fact a baby nazi.  

Babies need to learn how to cry it out, so that they can settle themselves, she said to us at our consultation.  You are on duty as parents only until six o'clock at night, and after then, you are off duty as parents until six in the morning, she said.  The babies will cry, she said, but let them cry - they will learn eventually, and then peace will reign in your house.  Remember, she said, the babies are just cross with "the doctor" (meaning herself), and if they can manipulate you back into the room by trying various methods such as weeing/pooing on themselves, or even vomiting, these should just be seen as manipulative attempts to gain attention, and should be ignored, she said.


The Sweetpea and I left her consultation in silence.  When we were alone, I turned to him, and in my firmest voice, said to him "That was the most valuable thing I think I have ever heard in my life!"
"What?" he said.
"Yes," I continued, "'the doctor' has pointed us very clearly in the way we should go.  We should take every single piece of her advice, and do exactly the opposite of what she has suggested we do." Luckily she had given us a scrap of paper with all of her suggestions already typed up on it (she must just hand them out to parents like us after her consultations), so we could consult it from time to time to make sure we were doing the exact opposite of her recommendations.

And so, by default, we became Attachment parents.

When our little ones squeaked, we were there for them.  We patted and held, rocked and carried, wore them in slings, and slept with them in our room. We made sure that their needs were met (note I say needs - some attachment parents believe that every whim should be met, and I do not think this is in the true spirit of the original attachment ideals). We cuddled and kissed, listened to their fears and encouraged them through the difficult parts.  
It took a little while, but they started sleeping easily through the night.  They became the confident sleepers we had always wanted, just by us slowly and gently teaching them. No leaving them to cry, just a gradual moving away until they felt confident to do it on their own.

And now they are grown?  They are boys who know they can come to us with what ever problem they have and believe we will be there for them and that we will do our best to understand them and work with them towards a solution.  That has stood us in good stead over the past year of their transition to school.

All parents are free to make their own decisions on these sorts of issues, and no-one should be made to feel bad for making a choice that suits them.  But these were the decisions that worked for us.  Nowadays, when a friend of mine falls pregnant, I make sure to recommend two books to her:  The Baby Bond, by Linda Folden-Palmer, and The Science of Parenting by Margot Sunderland.  Both books, based solely on the latest research into the infant's developing brain and the effects of the stress hormone, cortisol, on it, are invaluable in a quest to find out which path you want to follow as a parent. Good luck!

Monday, 22 July 2013

Back to basics

Children will always find the ways to push the boundaries in some way.  If there is a rule, it was made to be broken.  If there is a tree that parents have said not to climb, the only thing for it is to find out by yourself why they said you shouldn't (as happened recently to one very swollen-faced little boy in our family who fell out of a tree and was luckily saved by catching his jaw on a branch on the way down).

I was speaking to the mother of a patient of mine the other day about this.  Her little one insists on making rude signs at people in the park.  She has no idea where he gets it from.  I comforted her by letting her know that mine are no different.  It's just the degree that differs.
   
 I came down the other day to find my two in fits of giggles as they wrote on pieces of paper on the dining room table.  It was those sorts of giggles that you know spell out "up to no good". One would write a word and the other would read it and chortle in a Dr Evil kind of way.  I was curious to see what was going on, so I went to stand closer.  What was written on the paper was "pardn mi" (pardon me).  Not very evil, you think.  however, there is a history to this. 

In our family, we have always been wary of using words like "fart" or "piss" in our conversations.  I just hate the words - they seem crass and unrefined to me, so I never say them myself.  With the result that when one of the boys broke wind early on in life, I told him to say "pardon me".  Somehow, they both just assumed that this was what it was called. From then on, that bodily function was called a "pardon me", and no one ever thought to change it.

Move forward several years, and there they were, at the dining room table, writing the rudest word that they could think of to write. "Pardn mi".  Laughing evilly all the time. 

And in the end, it turns out that their pushing the boundaries behaviour is just as subversive as any other child's - it just has different vocabulary.