THE SAMOAN MOTHER: White Sunday (a.k.a Lotu Tamaiti)

Ugggh..uunnnggaaaah..effff.  That’s me groaning right now.  Every second Sunday of October, every fri…..kken….year. It’s that time of the year when the majority of Samoan parents pull out their hair trying to help their kids learn their tauloto (memory verse).

I can’t remember a time when I HAVEN’T been an active participant in Lotu Tamaiti festivities.  It started with me reciting my tauloto every year for most of my early years – I stand in a long line facing my dreaded parents who await with proud-slash-murderous anticipation to hear the one line of bible verse that I had been memorising for the past 2 weeks.  Then in my teen years, I take part in some dodgy-cheesily-written tala (play) that re-enacts a bible story – all in Samoan, so at that time in my life with my limited gagana, these plays were like silent films to me lol.  Then I was rescued by the faifeau (minister) who told me to plonk myself behind the organ and play all the songs every year.  Music saved me from having to summon up ugly cries during those dramatic moments in character (fist pump!).

So the normal progression in Samoan life is that you spend every year of your childhood dreading your 5 seconds of fame on stage, wearing some itchy lacey-frilly white dress with matching stockings/shoes; your hair in the tightest french plait that you get a migraine halfway through service, and have to endure an epic 2 hour programme (sometimes 3hrs). Then in your teen years, you have to convince your mother that you DON’T need a frilly dress with the big bow at the back so please can we just get a normal puletasi – which she gives in LATER on in your teen years (yep). AND THEN..you grow up, leave the house, send your kids to your parents every lotu tamaiti season so they can happily get their grandkids prepared for the day and you don’t have to really be part of the rehearsals/service – you just attend as a member of the ‘audience’.

I must’ve missed the memo on that smooth progression from participant-to-audience-member.  Because once I got plonked behind that organ, I’ve been sitting there ever since.  Also, I live in a different country than my parents so not only do I have to prepare the music for the Sunday School kids to learn, rehearse and perform – I then have to help my own kids learn their tauloto.  Then there’s the crazy search for white outfits.  And then I have to make sure my white outfit is ready because I’m part of the Sunday School for this occasion (I don’t have an emoji to describe my thoughts on this paragraph…).

But THIS year I have reason to celebrate!!! My youngest child Osty (6yo) is starting to get the hang of reading  Samoan like his older siblings.  So you know what that means? I only have to write his tauloto up on the whiteboard and then he stands in front of it, reads and memorises his verse without me having to sit with him every day to teach it phonetically.  A.k.a: I’m freeeeeeeeeeeee!

This is a small victory for me and it’s all thanks to the support my children get  from being part of the EFKS church and Sunday School and also the Saturday morning gagana-Samoa language classes at the Polynesian Kids Community Language School here in Melbourne.  So from now on, every lotu tamaiti season, I will enjoy some peaceful early October days and not have to pull anyone’s hair out (mine or my kids, or anyone who happens to be visiting us at the time).   Happy Lotu Tamaiti season to all Samoans worldwide 🙂 and to all the parents who are helping their kids prepare for the big day…good luck and please go easy on the frilly dresses.

Manuia xx

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Hulk Coconut mornings

Every Monday-to-Friday at exactly 8.00-8.30am I turn into the Hulk.

No matter how elegantly I ascend from my lush king-size bed…and float to my bathroom to get myself beautiful for the day…then tell myself in the mirror that I am totally awesome and today is gonna be an awesome day – the minute I walk into the kitchen and realise that my kids are ‘behind’ with their school morning prep, I start hearing the piano music from the Hulk TV program in my mind…then my lungs start to expand while I start to breathe deeply…then out come the 10 questions…

“Why aren’t you in your uniform?  How long do you need to stare in the mirror for hmmmm?  Who dropped this piece of bread on the floor?  Didn’t I tell you to get your uniform ready last night?  Do you want me to come over there and pull your socks up hmmmm? Oh really? So it’s my job to get notices out of your bag? What…did..I…tell…you…about leaving food in your bag overnight?  Son, I swear if I look in your room for your lost folder and find it, you are gonna regret asking me to help you..so let me ask you one…more…time – where is your english folder?”

And just like that..they rush around getting their shit together while I stand there, hands on my hips doing the Jake Heke big-eyes thing at the pub.  I swear – they MUST do this to me on purpose!

So…same routine as always, last week, we’re in the car and I’m reversing out of the garage – still continuing my Hulk mother series of “This is why you need to….Did’nt  I tell you last night that….How many times do you need me to …..”  and then SMASH, my driver’s side mirror hit the garage wall.  This is mostly due to the fact that I was still ranting to my lucky-to-be-alive children that I forgot to look while reversing – I was mesmerised by their massive eyes looking back at me while I delivered my final statement. I get out, sellotape my mirror together and drive off.

You know what the amazing thing is?  When we’re at their school, I’m like “okay bye my babies, have a great day at school, I love you” – smiling sweetly at them…a completely different woman from the 30 minutes before.  My babies smile back at me, even hug me before they run off, but Im pretty sure they spend most of their school day wondering how they got to be stuck with a mother like me.

Moral of my story (other than to reveal my psycho side to you all) – my Hulk coconut mornings must now come to an end.  Obviously.  (Plus it was expensive to replace my mirror).

 

 

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Ia manuia xx

The morning chore – school drop off

It’s mid-March and I find myself dragging my feet to my kids’ school gate.  Everyday my brain is battling an issue: “Should I wave from outside the gate?” “Will Osty be okay if I tell him to walk from the car?” “There’s 5 minutes ’till the bell rings but can 9 o’clock just hurry the eff up?”.  I walk my kids into the school grounds, watch the 5yo sprint to the Prep-playground and the 10yo skip off to her friends…like the good mother that I am. Not.

There came a time (like last year for instance…)  when i could just drive up to the school, yell at the kids to hurry up get out then drive off to start my day.  It’s been 6 years since I’ve had to drop off a preppie (new entrance/grade prep) and I can’t help but feel like it is such a chore.  Maybe because back then I was a stay-at-home mother so it kinda feels like it was an easier task and I had time to do it (it could also be due to the fact that I weighed 15 kilos lighter back then and was physically fitter than I am now, but no I don’t think thats it lol).

The first week of Osty’s school year was exciting – I didn’t mind walking him up to the area where he had to line up with all the other newbies….watch the other parents fuss over their children: one isn’t wearing both of his schoolbag straps properly (can’t have that!), one has a wonky ponytail…another needs shoelaces tied.  You see, that week was a good one.  I actually enjoyed it, watching Osty finally become a schoolboy after spending all of his life in full-time daycare.  But now it’s week 5 (i think) of the first term and while the same ‘fussing’ parents are still straightening their kids uniforms while standing in line, I’m slowly inching towards the school gate ready to powerwalk the shizz out of there.

So, like I said, it’s week 5 of Term 1. Prep parents have been told that unless parents are standing outside the classroom doors, their child will not be ‘released’ when the school bell rings.  Which is kinda funny, seeing as how all the kids – mine including – sprint out of the corridors like a pack of animals who have been set free from their cages (im sure I couldve used a better example but not caring at the moment).  As long as my child doesn’t run out the school gates without supervision (aka his big sister) I think he’ll be fine.

So as of next Term, this mother will NOT be tailing behind her children in the mornings.  They can get shoo-ed out of the car at 8.45am Mon-Fri and I’ll wave  when I drive past them.

(Edited to say: According to my daughter it is Week 8 right now…you see? I’m on a roll….)

Update on the life of The Lost Coconut

Well helloooo there.  Here’s a quick update on what I got up to in 2013 (for my 10 readers who are interested).

1.  I started this blog

For the past 2 years I have been reading blogs on academic life, how to write a thesis etc, my personal fave is The Thesis Whisperer (she is most awesome!).  I also read blogs by other Samoans who are inspiring – my faves are Fagogo mai Samoa,….aue! and the ladies where I get my TV updates (since I don’t watch it) at Jawkward LOL, and where I catch up with my hamo dishes via Samoa Food.  So one day I decided to create my own blog via WordPress and coming up with the name ‘The Lost Coconut’ cost me a good 30 seconds of my life.  It aptly describes the way I felt (and sometimes still feel today) when I left my pacific-friendly hometown in South Auckland, NZ to live in a not-so-pacific-friendly Melbourne, Australia.

2. My community choir ‘The Melbourne Samoan Choir’ (MSC) enjoyed a few performances in 2013.

I formed MSC early 2012 so that a few friends and I could get together and just sing good old Samoan songs for anyone who wanted to listen.   Having a choir like this gives us the opportunity to perform Samoan music outside of church.   Our 2013 performances included: MSC at the Famous Spielgtent 2013, The St Piers Festival (St Kilda) and The Melbourne Choral Eistedfodd (CBD).  Have a gawk at our facebook page if you like: https://www.facebook.com/TheMelbourneSamoanChoir

3.  I graduated TWICE in 2013

Not once – twice!  The first grad (in May) was for the Bachelor of Music degree I completed in 2012 which I posted about earlier: My Graduation.  The second grad (in Dec) was for the Bachelor of Music (Honours) degree I studied and completed in 2013.  My uni experience, as I posted earlier,was a very lonesome one – no other Pacific Islanders in sight – (see Where the Samoans at?) except for the young Cook Island girl who works at the uni campus.  Anyway, I finished my honours year successfully (First Class Honours wassup!).

4.  My son turned 5 and graduated from Daycare

All up, I have paid for 8 years of full-time daycare (Mon-Fri) for my daughter (now 10) and then my son straight after she graduated.  I can’t tell you how AWESOME it feels not to have a daycare bill to pay anymore wooohooooo! I …. am ….. fffffrrrreeeeeeeee!

5.  I wrote my first thesis / dissertation.

Leading up to my honours year I had prepared myself for thesis-writing by reading about the process, getting schooled-up on my academic writing, reading blogs of other academics and their experiences.  So I thought I was ready for the challenge.  Come submission time (Oct/Nov) I was a zombie…sitting for hours at my desk, eating breakfast at dinner time and dinner at breakfast time – I had lost sense of time (and ahem…smell..as my kids say).  While I anticipated that the honours year was like a world away from the B.Music I had finished, I was not prepared for the back and forth “final” draft emails between my supervisor (the expert) and I (the clueless student)…I thought that when I submitted my final draft to her to have a look over, then that was it.  One moment that stood out for me was when my supervisor patiently told me that after a full-stop, you only hit the ‘space’ button once (instead of twice which I was taught in high school in the mid-90s).  Let’s just say that at that moment in time, I felt like I had been cheated. All this time I had no idea that someone out there in the ‘word processing world’ would even dare to change the ‘2 spaces after a full-stop’ rule (the nerve).  Three months later and I am still in shock and I may not even get over it.

So this is just a quick snapshot of some of the stuff I got up to last year, alternating with my role as faipese for my church Northcote EFKS in Victoria, Australia, mother to the 3 animals that live at my house and wife to the their master leader.  I didn’t really get to have a break in December due to a few events that I participated in but I will take a seat right now and breathe a massive sigh of relief that 2013 is over…..so that I can do it all over again in 2014 eh!

Lost Coconut signing out….for lunch.

Ia manuia xx

I’m baaaaa-aaaaack!

“Procrastination….(long pause)….is the thief of time….(serious look)” – A serious-looking Reverend whom I will not name.

Way back in my teenage years, I overheard a conversation between my friend whom I was hanging out with for the day and her faifeau (church minister).  We  were given the most awesome task by her mother, of taking some lunch over to their faifeau’s house.  We jumped at the chance to do this (no we didn’t, we tried to take off but got the dog whistle from my friend’s mother just as we were about to hop into the car).  So like the good Samoan girls that we were (I mean ARE…like we ARE!) we sulu’d our ie lavalavas and took the platters over to the faifeau’s house.  On the drive there my friend – who I will call Tyra – kept muttering to herself.  The words sounded something like: “oh man I don’t wanna see him….haven’t been to loku in ages…oh man I’m in trouble..” before she turned to me and gave me a loud and accusing “Why couldn’t we have gone to your place instead today? ….” I tried to calm her with my “hey..it’s gonna be okay.  Seriously, he’s not gonna fasi you or anything” (and anyway, her family always makes nice crabmeat salad with heaps of Bestfoods mayo for lunch).

So we pulled up to the big two-storey mansion (I considered all  2-storey houses in South Auckland as mansions) with the nicely landscaped front gardens and the iron gates – oops can’t give away too much in case someone knows which faifeau I’m talking about lol.  The faifeau greeted us and welcomed us into his kitchen as we put the platters down on the breakfast bar (told you…mansion).  And I was right, the faifeau did not smack Tyra for her non-attendance at loku in the past year – he gave her something even more frightening – a sermon!. We sat there – my friend nodding her head every few sentences, looking sheepish and guilty for her sins and me looking so relieved that this was not my faifeau and I was not the one getting the growling.  I have to admit, I did look a bit agreeable at times when the faifeau gave me the “don’t you think so Rita?” look.  One particular moment that stood out for me was the following convo:

Faifeau: Tyra..it has been so long my girl.  What’s keeping you from the house of God?

Tyra: Awwwww ….it’s been a bit hectic with my studies and part-time job..and I know I need to come back to loku…

Faifeau: Remember Tyra, procrastination….is the thief of time….the THIEF….of time.

Tyra: Ummmm….

Me: mmmpccch. (That’s me trying not to laugh but still have a serious face on)

It was all over after 15 minutes.  We received our blessings from the faifeau, wishing us “a bright and prosperous week” (seriously he said that) while we walked slowly to the front door.  Once we were out of view we powerwalked it to the car just in case we got called back…..and laughed all the way back to her place impersonating her faifeau’s “procrastination” quote.  I can still picture his face as he said it…hell I can impersonate his exact delivery of that one line 15 years ago.  As much as I enjoy impersonating this particular faifeau and his speech every time Tyra and I catch up, I have to admit, those words ring true in my life right now.

It’s been six months since I last posted in my blog and my only excuse is…. I am guilty of procrastination.  So the moral of my story today is….”procrastination….(long pause)…is the THIEF of time (heavy breath on the ‘h’ in thief and serious face).

Ia manuia xx

THE SAMOAN MOTHER: The Stalker

THE SAMOAN MOTHER PART 2

Yesterday I had a Psycho-Samoan-Mother moment which I am not proud of.  I can’t stop thinking about it without feeling really valea and Im sooo embarrassed about it so hopefully this post will help me get it off my chest so I can be set free lol.

Yesterday’s episode is actually a by-product of when my 12yo son (Myah) attended a 13th birthday party 2 weekends ago.  He was invited to his friend’s house to celebrate with a few of their classmates.  When he came home with the invitation I said “sorry son, this is on a Saturday I don’t want you to go to some stranger’s house.  You can’t go”.  This was the first birthday party since he became a high-school student.  Of course he was disappointed but I had to explain to him that this is his first year at high school and I haven’t met any of his friends’ parents.  I was so scared of letting him attend.  All I could picture was me dropping my son off to some dodgy-looking house, meeting the birthday boy’s dodgy-looking parents and seeing dodgy-looking relatives sitting around the garage while there was a young teen’s party on. (Did I tell you I’m super-paranoid?)  So my final word to Myah was “I’ll talk to your dad”.  It was a cop out I know…..

I spoke to hubby about it and was shocked at his “why not? let the kama go to the party”  Seriously…I was like “say whaaat?”.  Apparently letting Myah go to his friend’s party was good for him and that it would give us a chance to meet other parents. (Did I also tell you that Im a bit anti-social?).  My arguments as to why he couldn’t go sounded really dumb especially since we hadn’t met the family and I was already judging them.  So the boy was going.

It was the week coming up to the party and I was really nervous.  I kept looking at the paper invitation scanning the party details for anything that would give me a clue as what kind of party he was going to.  I started to text Myah’s RSVP to the birthday boy’s mother and had to edit and re-edit my texts:  “Hi! Thanks for inviting my son to your son’s bday party.  I trust that it will be safe? No drunken idiots will be present?”  which I changed to “….Will there be alcohol present? Does anyone in your family have a drug problem? Do you know CPR?”  Everytime I composed a text, it just sounded like I was a stuck-up/snobby/righteous mother (time will tell) so I settled for a polite RSVP message with no mention of whether or not my boy would be safe.  At the time, it just felt wrong to question another mother’s ability to keep a group of young teenagers safe…but oh it killed me to not ask the obvious questions!

Saturday night arrived and we planned that we would take the other kids out to the movies while Myah attended the party.  So off we went to drop him off and in true Samoan style, we pulled up in front of the party house so that everyone there could see a car with a hamo family in it.  I even wanted the kids in the backseat to wind their windows down and wave out to their older brother as he walked up the driveway but got an “are you serious?” look from the hubby.   (Osty’s carseat would’ve been a good look I say….).

I accompanied Myah into the house and his friend’s family (parents and siblings) met us at the door.  They were an Italian family and they looked so normal – Mother was cooking in the kitchen, Father was helping his son put away presents as we entered.  As soon as I met them I felt so guilty at my earlier misguided view on other parents of high-school kids.  After chatting with them for a few minutes I learned that parents were most welcome to stay and hang out with them (tempting!) but my instincts were telling me that I had nothing to worry about.  All the kids were in the garage, music was pumping and they were all having a good time.  And yes, I took a look and scanned the tables but only saw fizzy drinks and snacks….. I ask myself: what were you hoping to find?

After our family night out, we picked up Myah from the party.  He had the best time – all the kids came to the front door to see him off and when we drove off,  he had such a content look on his face.  I felt so happy for him….everything was peachy.  Until yesterday.

The kids and I were driving around home when we saw a group of his classmates walking along the footpath.  Myah waved out and like the Samoan mother that I am, I took a quick look to scan each and every boy.  One of them was one of his closest friends John (not his real name).  An hour later while we were visiting a relative on the next street over, I noticed a group of teenage boys walking through the park carrying a box of alcohol.  While I was talking with my relative, my eye was on the window scanning the group but my vision was useless as I didn’t have my glasses on.  Straight away I started thinking that the group was Myah’s friends..and what the eff was a group of 13-year olds buying alcohol and walking around the street with it?  I was livid, I cut my visit short and gathered the kids into the car.   I was on a mission to try and catch up with that group because I NEEDED to confirm that it was indeed Myah’s friends and if it was……

We drove around the streets while I scanned left and right looking for the group.  The kids were asking who was I looking for and I was like…”ummm…nothing”.  A minute later, I saw them from afar.  So I rounded the corner to drive past them from the other direction.  As we got closer I took a good look at each one of them and realised that they were a bunch of young adults.  I felt like an idiot.  I felt like I needed I wind down my window and yell out “Im soooorrrryyyyy!”.

So there it is.  I am a crazy mother and if Im not careful, I will end up stalking my son’s friends.  I let Myah attend his first high-school birthday party and now I’m picturing all the things that could go wrong.  I am trying to come to terms with the fact that I have a teenage child and I have NO idea how I am going to get through the next few years if I am already a psycho in the early stages.  I don’t even stalk my husband like this so my poor son bears the brunt of my fear of something bad happening.

I welcome advice/comments from all my fellow Samoan parents of teenage kids.

The Lost Coconut is REALLY Lost right now…..

THE SAMOAN MOTHER: The Teacher/Parent Interview

“Ain’t no one like me!” – Scribe, 2003

Something happened to me – well, actually not directly TO me but I was told about it and it affected my state of wellbeing so I can say that it happened to me.

So here’s the deal:  I attended my 12yo son’s Parent/Teacher Interviews this week.  It was conducted as a series of 5-minute discussions with each of my son’s teachers.  So that meant SEVEN interviews in ONE hour.  Imagine a school hall with 50 or so teachers sitting behind desks (grid style) and parents scrambling their way among the aisles trying to get to their next interview.  And to make it worse, it was 29 degrees that day – eeek!

The interviews were going well and there was a common theme running throughout the hour regarding my boy: “Jeramyah is such a lovely young man in class…..it is an honour to teach him…..he is such a responsible student…” etc.   Just to take a break from all this gushing, I should note here that my son is no whizz-kid-genius. He is actually an average (if not, just below) learner.  He has to work his butt off just to keep above water.

However, my son is a very meek and humble young man – ask anyone who knows him.  As the eldest in our little family, he is responsible for locking up the house before bedtime, making his little 4yo brother’s breakfast everyday, overseeing kitchen duties, sorting out household rubbish and taking out the bins  etc.  Through him, I see the enormous responsibilities that impact Samoan children who are the firstborn.   And I have huge faith in my son to remain humble and responsible as he grows into a young man.  So far, so good.

But here’s what’s gonna kill my plan – GIRLS

When I met with my son’s Science Teachers, they said all the things I wanted to hear until one of them said with a conspiratorial smile: “Oh and Jeramyah has a few admirers in the class and it so cute watching these girls sneak looks at him”  SAY WAAAT?

You should’ve seen my face.

It was the kind of face your Samoan mother would give you when the faifeau comes over for a visit and you bring his ipu ki without wearing an ie lava lava.

Yep you know the look.  After I received that tidbit of information I could only manage a fake half-smile and trust me, if I was holding a pen it would’ve snapped in my hand.

Coming down my psycho cloud I realised that my son is nearing the ‘relationships’ age.  I understand that he will one day have a girlfriend and then a w..w..wi….wife (sorry couldn’t get that word out for some reason).  And no, it’s not his fault that the girls at school crush on him (yes it is) and I can’t control these things (yes I can) and I don’t want to drive my son away from me (he ain’t goin’ nowhere!).

But times have changed.   Samoan kids these days have a better relationship with their parents than their counterparts 20 years ago.  Even though he is only 12, I am now adding ‘relationships’ to my list of things regarding my journey as a mother.  I am happy to relay any information they need when it comes to questions regarding the boy/girl ‘thing’  (“Dat stupid fing” – as my mum used to call it lol).   BUT I hope my aussie-raised children can understand the rules that we impose on them regarding this.   Ahhh the beauties of having Samoan parents…..

The challenge is to remain true to what my husband and I agree on when it comes to raising our kids.  Making sure that the rules we set are our own and not someone elses.

So yesterday I said to my baby boy:  “Son, you are not allowed to have a girlfriend until you’re 18”

I lied.  He’s not allowed to have a girlfriend until he’s 30 but he can find that out later………..

Ia manuia xx