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It didn’t matter that I was grumpy

I was grumpy, and more than a little angry-woman hormonal
and the house was full (quite) of children and teenagers.

I was grumpy and had already made a plan to create dinner from sausages
and corn – still in its silk and husk
in a bed of ash and ember and flame and smoke
because that would be fun (for me, and perhaps all of the aforementioned children and teenagers)

I was grumpy and the lady on the phone told me I couldn’t possibly get a permit to light my fire
The permit-people are on holiday.
So I lit one without it.

I was a little grumpy
and the children and teenagers helped to drag all of the extra wood, and sticks, and paper
to keep the fire going.
I poked them all in carefully, and strategically.

firewaiting

I was a touch grumpy
as I let it all burn down
in a gusty blaze at first,
easing eventually to a smoky, glowing and satisfying pile of hot
for our corn and sausage.

50 cent pans from CREW whakatane.  Perfect beach bbq implements

The children and teenagers
buried each other in the sand,
sculpting breasts and horrendously optimistic genitalia onto the buried victims
I chuckled,
just mildly grumpily.

firecorn

Dinner – cooked on salvaged 50 cent oven racks,
crackling and spitting and a little charred (as it should be)
Outside and sandy,
windy and awkward,
alive and fresh,
Mattering not at all, if I was happy,
or just a little bit grumpy.
or even both at once.

firesilhouette

Raising you

(RE-PUBLISHED FROM MARCH 2014 BECAUSE THE INTERNET ATE IT)

 

Oh today…
Patience worn, tissue thin, moth-eaten, frayed
You so full of…
everything.
Truculent child
I see that flame in your pupil,
I know it, I love it
It reflects my own.

Today it defeats me
as I wrestle you, desperately
I’m just trying to change your fricken nappy!
Just relax!  Submit. Hold still
Make this so much more pleasant for the both of us

Today you will have none of it
I see that flicker catch in your eye, and spread,
fanning itself into a blaze
Stray sparks fly, and catch, in mine
A riotous, pointless, fuelled, mother-daughter forest fire
Excellent.

I’ve had it with you
I attempt to dig deep for the fortitude to douse this,
but the rope comes up short,
the pail still dry.
Short rope,
short wick

I need to get out of here.

We head to the beach
You and I
The thunderous swell
drowning out the volume of noise in my head
with each step up, and then down over the dunes.

You’ve found a feather,
You look to me and grin,
spinning lazy and absurd circles
warbling your own bizarre melody
then dissolving in giggles
absorbed in the joke that is being alive
and two.

I fall in love with you all over again,
my dearest loony.
I watch you completely immerse yourself
in everything that is the beach.
Lying on your back, eyes closed,
in utter bliss as you feel the warm sand,
with ALL of your arms,
ALL of your legs.
Wriggling sand into every possible crevice
Including eyes and ears.
I see the other side of myself in you again.
Other side?
or same side, just channeled.
Consumed by the positive once more.
Taking heed of no one but your impulses
your own flights of fancy.
It is beautiful,
and terrifying,
and I am suddenly aware, again,
of the journey ahead.

Of raising you.

She was born the day after the cyclone.

If anyone felt a little bit upset on behalf of Genevieve’s heartbroken face at not fulfilling her ‘this weeks dream’ of holding a butterfly, this post is to update and appease you.

The day after Cyclone Pam whipped up an epic display of wave power (The ocean was so cool.  You have no idea.  Photos will not do it justice.) the second pet caterpillar, Mollie emerged from her chrysalis.  It was a home day for Genevieve.  She got to experience the whole thing.  I’ll let the photos do the story-telling.

viewchrysalisnewbornexcitementcloseupdelight

She loved it.
She also tried to colour her wings in with a highlighter pen…

 

We raised them in captivity

monhatched

I feel like I’ll be joining every parent in the southern hemisphere right now because it’s that season.  Monarch butterfly season.  The Kindergarten and Primary school staple.  The cycle of life.  Metamorphosis.  One day you’ll be a beautiful butterfly, just endure the process.

We all know it.

We have three incredible swan plants in our tiny garden.  A surprise gift for our kids from the neighbours downstairs.  Each plant labeled with one of the children’s names.  We have cool neighbours.  The boys competitively watched the growth on their seedlings, now towering over both of them (probably thanks to another neighbour who dug his fish frames into there… we have cool neighbours).  We excitedly watched as adult butterflies began hanging out in our yard, swooping and floating around and laying eggs on the underside of the leaves.  Wonderful!  I thought, as I embraced the teaching moment for Genevieve, pausing to witness the beginning of this very familiar scenario.

We waited.  We checked the plants daily.  The boys’ competition now transitioning to how many caterpillars their own plant was hosting.
“one…two…five…ten…eighteen!”
So many caterpillars.  More daily.
Until…
One lunchtime as Genevieve and I came home from kindy, we stopped to check on the progress.
None.
Not a single scrap of stripey yellow, black and white.
Just paper wasps.  Hovering.

Genevieve was distraught.  I was annoyed.  Huffy.  The paper wasps are already on my ‘not cool’ list.

So, a week or so later, as a new (small) handful of caterpillars began emerging, Genevieve made a dramatic and impassioned plea.  “Pleeeeeeeease Mum, don’t put him back, he’ll die!”  All crumpled forehead and eyebrows and stress.  I had resigned myself to the fact that it was just life, and there was nothing we could do.  But her face made me try harder.  It’s hard to look at that face and not at least make some sort of effort.  We gathered the three caterpillars we could see and made them a home in an Agee jar.  One was much older and bigger than the other two.  She named him Abraham (well, “Ha-ham” actually) after a friend of ours.monjarmoncaterpillar
The jar has been the centre-piece of our dining table for a few weeks now (maybe only 2, I don’t know, they mush together).  We’ve watched them all get bigger and fatter, adding more and more to the jar every time we spy a leaf with eggs on it.  It’s getting rather crowded in there.  Genevieve has developed a need to hold and look after any arthropod she feels maternal towards, with mixed results… We lost a good caterpillar that day…

Last week, however, our tenacious Abraham caterpillar climbed to the chux cloth ceiling and hung upside down to turn into a chrysalis.  Proud captive-caterpillar-raising moment?  You bet.

I learnt something new about the monarch life-cycle.  Did you know that they don’t make the chrysalis?  I’d always wondered how they do that bit.  I’d never seen one making one, and thought I might get to see the process, as Abraham was so centre-stage to our daily life.  As the caterpillars eat such an incredible amount, and their bodies are growing so rapidly, they don’t just stretch and grow bigger, they go through multiple moults.  Popping out of their old tiny skin into a roomier baggier one.  The chrysalis, is underneath the last moult.  As they hang upside down in their little ‘j’ shape, the necessary components are all there, under the skin!  What?!  Watch it here: Chrysalis timelapse (it’s pretty cool).

He’s been in that chrysalis, doing his metamorphos-y best, and we’ve been waiting for him patiently, for (oh gosh, I really don’t know again) a week?  Yesterday, the bright green of the shell had juuuuust started turning a little darker.  This morning, we could see him, incredibly tightly packed, like those magic-dinosaurs-in-a-capsule things you put in the bath, as the shell had turned completely clear.  Today was the day.  I pegged him (the chrysalis on the chux cloth) on the airing rack in the sunshine on the deck before we left for the kindy drop off.  Genevieve professing her love, and her plans for how she would hold him and keep him when she returned.  I shot back home, hoping to catch all of the action on film,
and found that he’d beaten me to it.monsilhouette
At first I felt a little disappointed I’d missed it.  But that was quickly replaced by the incredible reality of what I’d just witnessed over the weeks.  It sounds ridiculous (and dramatic), but it made me teary.  I mean, as I watched him, drying out and testing his legs, his new mouth, his antennae, I kept thinking, I knew this guy as a caterpillar!  His little fat caterpillar self was a familiar fixture of every mealtime.  He had a name.  Somehow, this transformed the whole thing for me.  I know the process, I knew what to expect, but somehow, on the deck this morning, the magnificence of this everyday occurrence just exploded my brains.

He was still drying as I left to go collect Genevieve from kindy.  I told her about him as we drove home.  “And then he can go on my hand, aye Mum?!”

We arrived home, climbed the stairs and opened the door.monsearchmonlooking
mongone

Ha-ham had gone.

I showed her the photos I’d taken this morning.  That helped.  That, and the knowledge that there are many, many more caterpillars getting ready.  Hopefully she’ll be able to hold at least one of them.
monemptyPlease forgive the sappy tie-in (I may regret this in the morning), but there are so many real people in my life, both children, and adults who I can see amazing things for in the future.  People with massive potential, for crazy greatness.

I can’t wait for the moments of clarity, moments where the scope of their journey comes into stark focus, where we get to look back and think,
“Sheesh… I knew them as a caterpillar”

Anaura Bay

Ahhhhh… Summer and the East Coast.

ABarm
This year, for the first time ever, we took our family camping.  Proper camping.  In tents.
It has long been a loose intention, to do a real summer holiday.  One where we don’t stay at someone else’s house.  A holiday from civilisation.  Like a real grown up family.  Haha! (As an aside, is that something that only affects people who became parents young?  That nagging feeling that you’re never really quite as grown up as all the other parents around you?)

This particular holiday I have been waiting to take since I was about 7 or 8 years old.  Anaura Bay is the holiday spot of my early childhood.  Our family made it an annual pilgrimage with the caravan, awning, inner-tubes for swimming, aluminium dinghy, solar shower and folding chair camping toilet.  All of the sounds, smells and textures are so strongly etched in my memory from summer after summer of the same beautiful repetition.  We ceased going, after finding the camping ground a bit of a mess and not quite as usable after Cyclone Bola roared it’s way through the East Coast in the late ’80’s.  It broke my heart.  It is the first ‘place’ that I ever fell in love with.  I felt like it knew me.  Like a grandparent.  I grieved the loss of it.  Those weeks we spent there every summer are, without question, the happiest days in my early memory.

There was a lot of anticipation.
Many, many years have passed since then.  My awareness of this is sharpened by the absence of my Mum – such a major presence in all of the associated memories – and the ache and frustration that my Dad is a shadow of his former self, especially when compared to the one I have in my mental ‘Anaura Bay file’. The sharpness stings, but the reminders of that time are achingly heart-filling.  I want that for my own kids.  The space to stop ‘doing the things’ and to just… be.

We took the long way from Ohope, round the East Cape.  A road I’ve never taken.  An adventure.  Another thing we haven’t had a lot of opportunity to do with our kids.  Such a wonderful thing to take advantage of.  The East Cape is something else.  View after stunning view just smacking you in the face until you’re breathless.  I recommend.  Whole-heartedly.
ABswing
ABhorse
ABeastcapeWe stopped when we wanted to.  Took detours when the fancy struck us and picnic’ed on the side of the road.  It was really impossible to go wrong.  The whole journey is a perfect slow-peel of layers.  Leaving the ‘things’ behind you and gradually drifting into the holiday zone.
ABlunch
ABboys
We forbade electronic devices.  Cemented by me leaving my own phone at home (gasp!).  There’s too much to see, and too many small moments that could possibly get missed with the distractions of a screen.  A necessary detox.

As we drew closer and closer and the landmarks became familiar, my 26 years or so, of longing and anticipation accumulated in my chest ’till I was about ready to pop. It was actually a little bit surreal.  As though, by simply being so far back in my existence, it had all become a bit mythical, somewhat Narnia-like.  Was the place in my head even real?

Anaura Bay remains remarkably unchanged from how it exists in my head.  There are a handful of houses that weren’t there before.  The camping ground is much fuller than it ever was in the ’80’s.  But the essence is still there, still intact.  The bush backdrop still contains all of the sound that would wake me in the mornings.  The smell is the same.  It is different from the smell of our beach at home.  The grass still prickles the soles of my feet in the same way, and the sand in the early morning still feels like whipped cream from the fridge.  The sun rises out of the sea just like it should (unlike at home, where it pops up over the ranges).
ABfirstlook
ABbeachnorth
ABwater
I am relieved that it has not been tamed and civilised.  It is not ‘easy’ to holiday at the DOC site.  There is no power, no shower block, no holiday programme for the kids.  There is a tap with running water (that you should boil before drinking) and a dump station for all of your family’s effluent.  Ha!  This type of campground has a kind of natural selection process that seems to weed out the dickheads.  You get a certain kind of person there.  Little bit old-school.  Little bit willing to deal with their own crap I guess.  I like them.
ABtoilettent
ABtents
The days were long and simple.  Tree swings.  Rock pools.  Swimming.  So much reading.  So much instant pudding.  Camping with a three year old is not always as relaxing as it could be, but this will only get easier in future years.  Our family has voted firmly in favour of this becoming our own tradition.  I am deliriously happy that this is the case.  It fills a hole.  It brings some continuity.  It reminds us all to stop and focus on what’s important.  I feel like each year will build on the last.  We’ll get better at it.  We’ll make sure we don’t miss a thing.  I’m so excited about that prospect.
ABsunriseblue
ABislandsun
ABsunsetgrassABsunsetsouth

PS. ANYONE NOTICE WE COMPLETED DANGEROUS THING #5 IN THAT FIRST PHOTO?

Lunacy

dry

Lunar
Drags me
The tide and I
together
Where we both may breathe

The top of the cycle again
left
a crustacean without it’s crust
Just an ‘acean
Naked,
and wobbly

Step
sink
step
with my toes in the ocean
Ketelbey’s strings in an ascending tremolo
ratcheting the tension
in my head
towards the release

Head up
chest out
lids closed.
A swift, precise incision
Neck,
to navel.
A comedic Tarantino-esque spray
issues forth
Pressure released,
skin relaxing,
strings give way to
breath
In it’s slow rhythm of
In
and out.
The tide mirrors
as it kisses my toes.
Melting the last
and stealing it away.

Empty,
yet somehow satiated

I step
sink
step
my way home.

wet

The raw, and real, beauty of being known

This.
http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
This came across my path today, as a blessed bookend to a whirlwind of a month where this particular topic has been blowing my world apart.  I mean that in the best possible way.
I can’t recommend watching it enough, and I know that I am a serial recommender but really.  Do watch it.  Pause reading and watch it now, or watch it at the end of this post.  But do. The content is life changing and the state of my heart lately is totally a testament to the truth inside it.

Some of you who know me in real life may think that I tend to live daily with my heart on my sleeve anyway.  That is so true, to a degree.  You see part of my core makeup is a strength that makes it easy for me to win people over (I’m not being conceited, it’s just something I enjoy the game of, and don’t find hard).  It’s a wonderful gift and my life is filled with people that I care deeply about, and lots of acquaintances who think that I’m awesome.  The other side to this particular strength is that in order to do this, I like to carefully control the PR around who I am and what my life is like.  I had someone comment the other day that she thought that I really did share a lot of the awful parts of my life, to which I responded “Yes, but only the parts that will make other people more comfortable about themselves, and in turn like me even more”.  I haven’t been any good at really letting people in.  I really never make myself painfully vulnerable, even though I desperately crave the closeness that ‘could’ (and therein lies the rub) follow.

It’s so risky.
There are two different flavours of vulnerability I’ve found this last month.  On the one hand recently I’ve found myself lying in a beanbag on the floor, with friends, pouring out the darkest, most shame-filled moments of my life.  Not just actions, but motivations.  The real deal.  Terrifying.  Too tightly coiled to even down a beer (that I really could have done with!) I physically wanted to vomit, pass out, or just slowly sink deeper into the beanbag and continue on into the foundations to be swallowed and perhaps never come out.  Stuff I thought I would never get a handle on, or tell anyone my part of.  This kind of disclosure is not how I normally operate.  Following that evening, I felt so incredibly empty.  But not the hollow soul-crushing empty, a light, featherweight so very liberated and nothing else to hide kind of empty.  Like my life was an open book, I’d opened it myself, and the worst didn’t happen.  The very un-loveliest of me hadn’t been rejected.  Safety.  Acceptance.
Be careful who you tell this stuff to, but do find someone to tell.

There’s another risk to take, another flavour in this quest for vulnerability and closeness.  Saying how you feel about someone.
Another side of me that I have always kept close to my chest is how fiercely I feel for people.  Some people just tuck right in inside my chest without me even realising when or how they got in there.  It happens so quickly and silently that it takes me by surprise.  I often find the intensity a bit of an awkward embarrassment.  Like I’ve got the opposite of Aspergers that leads me to love just about everybody. – (there really aren’t enough words for ‘love’ in the english language).  It’s not ‘normal’ and I try to keep a lid on it, for fear of weirding people out.  I have for as long as I can remember.  I’m learning to risk telling people.  I’ve started to verbalise the things that bless, inspire, and amaze me about the people around me… To the actual people.  It’s the equivalent of saying “I love you” first.  Putting yourself out there on that platform with no real certainty of anyone meeting you halfway.  Once again, it’s terrifying, but this time it’s thrilling.  I actually feel so alive.  So much more alive than ever.  There is so much to risk in this, there is a real risk of rejection again.  Not only that, and here’s the kicker for me.  Being mis-read.  I’m still on a learning journey around this, and I don’t have all of the answers, but I know that I can’t continue living my life only telling half of the story.  If weirdness occurs, hopefully with my new found habit of being very ‘real’ I can address it as it happens.  I don’t know.  It’ll be an exciting adventure either way.

I want to whole-heartedly (ha! video tie in, not on purpose) encourage you to find those people to be unreservedly yourself with.  Of course you have to be careful.  You can’t meet someone one day and unravel your life to them the next.  But next time you are in a conversation with someone you think may ‘get’ you and they ask you a question about yourself, choose the answer that is less perfect.  Just a little.  Don’t go the whole hog right away, just one tiny step at a time.  If they prove themselves trustworthy with the little steps, dive in even deeper little by little.  You may find yourself swimming into things you never thought possible.  You may find yourself giving others the much-needed permission to do the same.  It may just blow your world apart.  In the best possible way.

Get out there and open up your chests.

 

…and don’t forget to watch this.  http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html

Dangerous things: #41 Cross town on public transport

bus timetable

This challenge arose out of the blue one day during the holidays.  The eldest had a friend over to stay.  The car was in town with my husband.  The two boys wanted to get out a movie to watch that evening.  An opportunity just begging to be taken advantage of.  We are trying to make sure we go through each of the 50 things, even if we feel that they’ve been ticked off as part of normal life already.

bus2

This was one of those ones.  It really didn’t seem too daunting to us.  For a number of reasons I guess.  One being that our town is a pretty small one.  Two, that our boys have used the public bus for most of their schooling years until 2013 when we moved back to the beach.  The bus stops opposite our house.  My husband takes the bus to work often.  We know all the drivers and they know us.  This was, however, the first time that one of the kids had used the bus to go on an errand, rather than straight to school, or straight to our home bus stop.  An added element of responsibility involving route planning, timetable reading, a freedom to choose the right movie for himself, and money handling.  I let him find the timetable on the bus website and try and work out the right time.  I did have to step in there, as bus timetables are confusing to follow right?  I prompted, and let him work it out however.  I watched the change in him, with the new found freedom, the allowance to find his own feet in this.  I swear I watched his soul grow a couple of inches over the space of an hour.  So wonderful to witness.

bus4

bus5

bus6

They set off, and despite all of the planning, and my own personal conviction about not wrapping my children in cotton wool, I had to contend with the “What ifs?”  All of the things that could possibly happen.  That’s the challenge right?  Recognising that you need to push them out of the nest just for a moment and being ok with feeling a bit nervous for them.  You can’t possibly safe guard against everything that could go wrong for your kids.  They are yours for a season, to develop, not own.  You can put wise boundaries in place and take steps to avoid putting their safety at risk, but there is a limit to that.  In fact, if you get too worried and too tight fisted, the concern is that they will break out of your protection without the background learning of all those supported experimental moments. The trial flights (and potential failures) are part of this parenting journey, and to avoid them is only to stifle that natural instinct of theirs to explore bigger horizons.  It’s a crucial part of developing as an adolescent.

bus7

Cut them loose a little, with the right support network.  With your heart in your mouth if necessary.

bus8

It’s totally worth the risk.

 

Fitter… Healthier… More productive

Hi everybody, I’m back.

I just haven’t been able to put anything into this for most of the summer.
I thought that I would seek the solace of pouring my thoughts into here on the odd occasion, but I found myself without anything to contribute.  I just didn’t have it in me.  For the most part I’m ok with the break.  In fact the summer has been filled with sun, bbq, the ocean, sand, berries, new-found amazing locations, friends, and general good times.  The house has been left to go a bit feral.  The children have bathed only occasionally.  As far as cleaning, only the bare minimum has been a priority.  All of these are good reasons.
The little bit that niggles me though, is the awareness that maybe I freaked out a bit.
About writing.
About having people read it.  It’s so naked.  It’s a little piece of yourself that you’ve put out there and people can take it and love it, or judge it.
It’s a bit funny, I’m so torn about it.  On the one hand I love it when I hear that someone is reading my stuff… On the other, I then feel nervous.
I’m learning to just do it anyway.
I feel compelled to.

So what does 2014 hold for us?
We plan to embrace more dangerous things.
We want to read more books, play more games, use less screens.
Be with the people.
The boys are pushing the limits of their bravery by aiming to be able to jump from the Ohope Wharf by next January.  In order to do this they need to be able to swim properly…
I look forward to doing that update.
The middle guy is starting dance class (Hip-hop finally!)
I’m continuing with Year 2 of violin.

My personal goals are summed up in the title to this post.
I’ve begun getting fit.  Boy does it hurt, but the payoffs are already apparent.
I never really feel like myself when I’m unfit.  I hate it actually.  I hate being limited by muscles – weak from disuse – if I want to surf, hike, or play a game of beach cricket.
This is totally worth the pain.
I’ve been given the gift of more time this year.
The littlest has started Kindy 3 mornings a week.  I plan to make the most of my time.  I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but I have a feeling that it’s coming.

In the meantime i’m gathering the threads together.  Picking up all the slack that I let go over the holidays.  Tightening up.  Making lists, timetables, things in ‘thing piles’.
Gearing up for the big push.  Into all of the things that this year holds for our family.

I’m looking forward to all of it.

Thank you, beach.

Saturday.
Your second birthday,
A baking hot summer’s day come too soon,
it’s only November.
“Bootsch?”
“Oh sorry hun, not just now”…

A full day,
A birthday friend’s party,
Cake,
Balloons,
Bouncy castles.
Carried from the car,
naked,
sticky-faced, and spent.

In the afternoon Mama is busy,
taking your brother shopping (last minute) for you.
Baking your cake, (your party tomorrow)
writing lists,
making hummus,
snapping at the boys (“I’m busy!”)
delegating to the family like a general.

It is a happy day,
a sunny one,
but frantic.

I fall into bed
much too late,
dramatic tears salting my aching tired eyes.
I never took you to the beach…
It was your birthday, and I was too busy,
preparing for your birthday.

Sunday:
Party day
“Bootsch?”
“Yes hun, we’ll go after dinner”
So many things to do before then.
The gears wind up 6:30am

Party is at 4pm
(you refuse to sleep this afternoon, that will make it more fun right?)
Guests,
Snacks,
Ballooooooons,
Tutu!

Dancing.

BBQ dinner,
Laughter,
Cake,
Clean-up

Late.
You have dissolved into a puddle of a girl.
sticky,
stringy-haired,
tear-stained.
Spent

There will be no beach tonight.

Today.
I woke, and decided,
today would be about you.
The last two days have been your birthday.
But today,
today would be yours.

A sleep in (for you)
Late breakfast.

The beach.
A hot, still, morning,
You, in your too-pink wetsuit.
Strawberry gumboots for the hot sand.
Tide is perfect.
Halfway, going out.
Leaving a tidal pool, warm and safe, stretching out in both directions along the shore.
Shin height on you,
Nothing but transparent ripples of waves flowing across the top.

We splash,
You waddle after the seagulls
– Who waddle, humourously, just like you, before they take off.
You squeal,
We laugh.
We stay until you are hungry,
ready to leave,
and just as I lift you up, smiling at your raisin toes,
you grin, waving, over my shoulder
“Bye boootsch!”
“S’you soon”
….
and then,
“Thak you bootsch”
and my heart melted.

Happy, happy birthday
Dear One.

 

Epic Banana Cake: a secret recipe

bananacake5

This.
This was the recipe that converted me to banana cake.  Previously, banana cake was the result of over-buying bananas.  A pungent, sometimes chocolate chip containing way of recycling waste.  I always thought that banana cake looks like it is filled with ants.  Way to get people salivating Christine.  Can we forget Old Banana Cake as we know it?

May I introduce you to Hazelnut Crumble Banana Cake filled with Vanilla Mascarpone.  Hmmm, the name needs some work.  Too wordy…  Epic Banana Cake is fine.

This recipe is an amalgamation of a couple of Belinda Jeffery’s from theMix and Bake book (I highly recommend), with a little of my own twist.

To make the crumble:  (I often double this and freeze some for later)
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
60g butter cut into small chunks and chilled
1/2 cup hazelnuts (a generous half cup)
* Measure the first three into a food processor and whizz briefly to combine.
*Add the chilled butter (chilled is important) and whizz until the butter is combined with the dry and looks a little like dry breadcrumbs.
* Add the hazelnuts and pulse until the mixture looks like this

bananacake2

Put the crumble aside and knock the crumble dust out of the processor.  We’re about to use it to make the cake.  Now, a word on bananas.  Pretty please humour me, and make this particular cake with perfectly ripe bananas (pictured above).  Don’t use your kids’ lunchbox rejects for this baby.  This is a special occasion cake.  Overly ripe bananas will totally overpower the subtlety of some of the other flavours.

The Cake bit:
2-3 bananas (to yield 1 cup mashed)
1 2/3 cup sugar (recipe says castor, but whatever)
2 eggs
125g butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature (read – soft and squishy)
100ml natural yoghurt (recipe says buttermilk, you can use that, or even sour cream)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (or essence if your grocery budget doesn’t extend to that luxury)
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder (recipe says 3 but this will make your cake sink – like mine, I forgot)
1/2 tsp baking soda
* Whizz the heck out of the bananas until it is an incredibly smooth gluey substance.
* Add sugar and eggs and whizz some more until they are well combined.
* Add butter and whizz again, until it has become a creamy paste.
* Add yoghurt/buttermilk/sourcream and vanilla and whizz briefly until just mixed in.
* In another bowl, sift in flour, baking powder, and baking soda and stir to combine.
* Pour whizzed mixture in as well (it may well look grey-ish and unattractive at this stage.
* Fold dry and wet together gently by hand.
* Pour into a greased 24cm round tin, lined with baking paper on the base.
* Sprinkle crumble evenly over the top.

Bake at 175-180C for approximately 45 minutes (It may take more or less time, I would check at 40, ovens are variable) until the centre springs bake when lightly (!) pressed with a finger.
Cool the cake and slice in half horizontally (use an oven tray to slide between the layers and lift the top half if it is too fragile to move otherwise).

Filling:
250g mascarpone
2-3 Tbspn icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 – 3 bananas
* stir together first three – simple
* spread over the bottom half of the cake
* slice bananas lengthways (or not, I’m not worried) and layer over the mascarpone
* place top layer of cake on top
* serve immediately

bananacake4

Really, you want to assemble and serve as soon as possible.  The mascarpone, bananas and cake will all deteriorate in either the fridge, or out at room temperature.  Eat it!  Eat it now!

I wanted to take a photo of the slice of cake on my plate about to be eaten… but I had brought it to the best possible setting ever, a group of wonderful people sharing an afternoon of making stuff, eating, laughing and drinking.  I simply got too busy doing just that.

bananacake1

Enjoy!

Dangerous things #48: Explode a glass bottle in the freezer

Heh.  Another challenge that I wasn’t entirely convinced about the safety of (I realise that is the point).  The idea with this challenge is to explore the force that water can exert as it freezes.  Expanding, pushing open cracks and even dismantling mountains.

Fill a glass wine or fizzy bottle with a screw cap lid.

bottle1

Screw the lid on tight.

bottle2

We decided to place our bottle into a bread bag before we put it into a container.  To contain the broken glass.

Place in the freezer.

bottle3

Wait…

We left ours overnight.  This morning I had almost forgotten about it, but the middle guy remembered almost a little too late.  With just enough time before school, we took it outside, peeled back the plastic bag, and were stunned with how prettily the bottle had shattered.  Tiny little cracks had obviously slowly given way as the ice expanded within.

bottle4bottle5

“It looked really cool”…

“I really liked how the tiny bits looked like puzzle pieces the way they were stuck together, held together by the ice.”

Parenting with integrity, and taking emotional risks

This post has been percolating for a while now, maybe even for years.

Before I embark, I will state, I am far from the perfect parent.  We all have our natural strengths and weaknesses.  The best way to hone our skills, is to learn from others who are stronger in an area where we aren’t, and in turn, share our own skills so that someone else can learn.  Right?  I hope so.  Also, I hope I’m not about to offend anyone with an inclusion of something I have observed about them.  Any resemblances to any persons living or dead is only possibly coincidental and is most likely totally about who you think it is.  Haha, got you all worried before I’ve even started aye?

I am cooking sausages for the football fundraiser when a mother and her daughter approach to buy one.  The other parent on the stand recognises her and says “Oh hi,……. did you not have a game on today?”  The mother responds with a bit of a laugh and says “Oh, you know, she said she really didn’t feel like playing today…”

Two women discuss the time of a meeting they will both be attending that evening, a preschool daughter of one of them overhears and says in a slightly panicked voice “Where are you going mummy?!”  To which she responds, “Oh no, I’m not going anywhere.  It’s just for the other ladies”. She then says to the other Mum, “She just has a fit if I go out anywhere”.

I know I have more examples floating around in the recesses of my brain, these are just two examples of an issue that really deeply disturbs me about the culture of parenting that I find myself in.  Where is the integrity?  What are these kids learning about the world they are a part of?  Children are developing their moral framework as they grow.  They will one day be employed, maybe one day they themselves will employ others.  They will love and be loved.  They will have influence.  Who do you want them to be when they get there?

If you allow your child to cop out of a prior commitment based on “Just not feeling like it today”, how do you expect them to develop the tenacity to honour more serious commitments in the future?  What happens when they “just don’t feel like” going to work?

Children are growing up in an increasing way feeling like the world owes them a bright and entertaining future.  Mums and Dads who are trying their utmost to be ‘Ultimate Parents’ are desperate to avoid disappointing them.  Softening the blows of natural consequences and lying through their teeth to avoid another tantrum.  It is horrendous, and it is delusional negligence.  I know it may seem like a bit of a stretch from here to there, but here is a glimpse of the sort of parenting culture we live in today.  I have no doubt that these parents in the article, are convinced they are just giving their precious children the best possible hope for their adult futures.  The point they are missing is that it is not simply the opportunities we are able to offer our kids that mould them into successful adults, but rather, the opportunities to grow and bechallenged, to face obstacles and meet them head on, to deal with complicated emotions and resolve conflicts.  Rather than pad out situations that they do not like by lying about it, how about looking at it as an opportunity to teach about resilience?  That the world doesn’t just stop because you don’t want your Mum to go out.  She has commitments too.  Anything else is just delaying this learning process.  We’ve all met teenagers (and heck, adults) who clearly haven’t been allowed to feel unpleasant emotions yet by their parents.

sadface

I’ve talked about the benefits of letting your children take risks physically in previous posts.  What I feel far more strongly about is letting your children face risky emotions.  Sometimes the truth hurts.  Sometimes awful things happen.  Sometimes life is NOT fair.  I would much rather tell my children the truth about situations that are occurring around them than try and ‘whisper above their heads’ or sneak around them.  The wonderful thing about being honest with your kids is the opportunity it brings to coach them through some pretty raw feelings.  You get to hold their hand and walk through situations with them, with the experience and wisdom that (hopefully) adulthood has brought you.  Sometimes it would be easier to avoid topics, or gloss over details.  Often the price of being honest is a lot more time spent talking and reasoning, but kids are curious, kids are also far more resilient than we often give them credit for.  If we constantly sugar-coat and bubble wrap situations, not letting them feel things for themselves, they will inevitably come up against these things as they leave your side.  If you have given them the opportunity to experience things within the safety of your care and support, they will have emotional tools to cope with whatever life throws at them.

Be honest.  Your kids will surprise you.  You may even surprise yourself with the lessons you have learnt that fall out of your mouth as you watch your child grapple with familiar emotions.  You are wiser than you think.

Baking as Psychoanalysis

cake1

I think he may have found his thing.

cake2cake3cake4cake5

My middle guy.  As it turns out, the kid can bake!  I can’t believe I didn’t put two and two together.  He LOVES rules and the right way to do things.  He has always struggled with people who don’t follow ‘the rules’ that he has in his head.  Decisions leave him floundering, so many possible right answers…  Ah, but baking!
Baking has rules.  I don’t believe people who say they can’t bake.  Everyone can bake, you just have to follow the instructions.  Of course once you know the framework of a recipe you can mess with it and add your own spin, but you must follow the rules until you can.

My eldest struggles with ‘the rules’.  He is a responsible kid, not a rebel, but he hates sticking to rules that he doesn’t think are rules.  He struggles with baking.  He has a couple of ‘go to’ recipes that he can whip out, but his results are really inconsistent.

Interesting.

Dangerous things #20: Racing the train

Number 20 in the Dangerous things book is to… ‘Squash pennies with a train’.

I was so very excited about the inclusion of this one.  I have wanted to do this since I was a child.  It’s a bit of a step up from watching the Fantasyland choo choo train crushing chewing gum on the rails.  Aaaaaaawesoooome! (operatic voice).

Unfortunately we don’t have a running train in our town any more.  This challenge would have to be undertaken elsewhere.

Happily, my husband needed to attend a business meeting in Tauranga, (Woo! Trains!) meaning that we could tag along, and finally give this a go.

train_family

We actually spotted an almost perfect opportunity on the way over, but couldn’t take it because of the aforementioned appointment.  Never mind, we’d try our luck on the way home.

After lunch and some waffle cones on the beach -what is up with those anyway?  It seems counterintuitive to put something melty and sticky into a container full of holes, like a race against time with an inevitable sticky end- anyway, it was time to head home.  As we approached the straights, we spied the train, already ahead of us, but totally able to be pursued and overtaken.  Whoop!

train_one

We raced ahead until we could no longer see it behind us, excitedly preparing coins onto pieces of tape, ready to attach to the rails, prepping the camera and getting wound up.  The eldest declaring “I’m not sure I want to die today!” (he was joking ok?).  We swung like a getaway car into the camping ground carpark, spilling out of the doors in anticipation and a little bit of ‘I hope we don’t get crushed/derail the train with our cash’.  The boys had elected me as the coin placer due to the (ahem) rapidly approaching train.  I promise it was a safe distance away, please don’t get upset.  We attracted the attention of a handful of people from the campground, we possibly looked a little deranged.

Mid-image you may be able to see the tape holding the coin to the track.  I wasn't really thinking about composition at this point.  Just trying to avoid certain death. - Note, no train visible.  Still safe.

Coins were placed, camera readied.  From a safe-ish viewing distance we watched as the massive locomotive thundered towards us and our tiny coins – strapped to the track with tape, powerless to save themselves.

train_three

You really get a full sense of your own fragility against such a force, when you stand there so close as the ground shudders and rumbles beneath your feet.  The noise is quite incredible.  I did have the “Dumb ways to die” chorus in my head on repeat during this project.

train_fourtrain_five
train_sixtrain_seven

Car after car thundered past (are they called cars when they are logging ones?) empty on their way back to the mill to collect another load of logs to take back to the port of Tauranga, to be shipped to ‘who knows where’ all over the world.  Off it went on it’s merry way and we cautiously crept back to where we had left them.  A little bit less sure about being in the train’s territory after witnessing it up close.

train_nine

And this is what we saw.

train_eight

No coins.  The massive train had nicked them.  What a bully.  We hunted around for as long as we could, and luck-less, we gave up.  Packed ourselves back into the car and headed for home.  They’ll be there somewhere I’m sure.

Such a fun, fascinating and enlivening experience, but one that we will have to repeat.  We think we may have come up with a solution to our problem.  Further on down the track the train slows down.  We think that if we try there, the coins might not fly off so far.  Maybe?  We’ll let you know either way.

A beautiful dangerous thing – #45: Play with fire

The holidays, the blessed, blessed holidays.  Even the weather is on holiday.

I have a more serious and thoughtful blog post on the drawing board at the moment, but this one has leap-frogged into position.  A spur of the moment “seize the day” type dinner plan.  An opportunity to tick another dangerous thing off the list.  A bunch of wonderful friends.  Four 1 year olds delightedly sandy, wet, sticky and quick.  Big boys digging holes and making mischief.  A crazy dinner comprising foil-wrapped (and charred) things, including muffins cooked inside orange skins and bananas stuffed with Whittaker’s.

A wonderful thing.

dinnerchasedinnerconvodinnerfiredinnergroupdinnerhdinnermuffindinnerpoke

P.S  They also ‘played with fire’ but it was too dark for photos…  We are planning another one soon (Tide and weather dependent) where we try and melt glass.  Fun!

 

Dangerous things #46: Superglue your fingers together…

Ohope beach on a stormy dayI woke to the sound of rain this morning, on the roof, in the gutters, against the windows, and ‘ting-ka ting ting’-ing it’s way down the chimney.

The best sound in the world on a Saturday morning.  Heralding football cancellations (I’ve had enough of the season now) and extended pyjama acceptability.  It also reminded me about the washing I had left out overnight, now stretched another third of it’s normal length and soggily flapping in the storm.  Ah well.

 

“Let’s pick a dangerous thing!”
“Ok, what would you like to do?”
“Superglue my fingers together”
“Let’s do it”

Gorrila glue

I have to admit, that this is one of the challenges that I read and thought “Really?  Is that wise?”  I read up, and checked out the fact sheet online about the particular type of bonder we had at home to make sure it matched the example in the book.  It all checked out and we gathered our things.  Father declaring he wanted “Nothing to do with it”.

50 Dangerous things book

We giggled a little nervously, eldest son and I, (Son 2 wasn’t keen to join in this adventure) both a little unsure of whether this would all end terribly and *ahem, medically.  We had a little practice run on a piece of paper, to check how easy it was to apply the correct amount and then proceeded with what you are always told not to do.

Glueing fingers together
Thinking about glued fingers

The idea behind this challenge is to experience ‘life without a thumb’.  Initially, Eldest thought that perhaps the best way to do this was to collapse on the couch with a playstation controller.  I assured him that this was not the idea.  He proceeded to get dressed, feed and move his guinea pigs, write out a recipe, and start a batch of dough for bread to take to a friends house for dinner that evening.  Occasionally there were emotions.

Glued fingers

Due to the natural oils in the fingers, he was returned the use of his thumb within a couple of hours without any medical dramas.

He would really like to do it again.

Learning how to grow stuff

I think it is the beginning of Spring, that makes me want to start doing garden-y activities.
This really is only my second proper attempt at growing things other than herbs.  Herbs don’t really count.  When we moved into this house just before last Christmas, I thought that the little raised bed looked the perfect un-intimidating size for me to give the whole idea a crack.  With a handful of wonderful tomato seedlings, grown by a somewhat expert green-fingered friend, from seed, I began the experiment.  I would not say that it was a complete failure, but certainly not a roaring success.

Time for another go.  I kind of have the belief that I shouldn’t need to pay for commercial fertilisers.  It seems to defeat the purpose a little when you have to keep forking out money for something that is meant to help you live more frugally.
I buried a fish head the other week.
That’s a start right?
Enter a timely blog post by  Jes and a spot of googling and I’m all enthusiastic again.gardenbeach

Seizing the day (and simultaneously ignoring the things that need sorting in the house) I decided to head to the beach to collect seaweed to make a seaweed tea.  Not for drinking, for fertiliser.

The weather (and sea) has been pretty calm of late so seaweed pickings were pretty slim.  We did the best we could (Miss Wriggle adding some shells, sand, and driftwood ever so helpfully) and took our skimpy booty home (hehe I wish).gardentip

We added the sawdust-ish scraps from the mornings juicings, some chopped banana peels, a little guinea pig poo, and some coffee grounds.  Choosing a big stick of driftwood from the garden we gave it a stir – evoking memories of potion making in the summer backyard of my childhood, where I commandeered my mother’s Parsmint mouli, some spinach from the garden, and a few other herbs and sticks.  Happily amused in my own mixing, I used to ask Mum to taste some, I can’t remember if she ever did.  I think I did a few times.  Tasted a little like wheatgrass juice my memory tells me.gardenstirringgardenstir

I love that we can add almost anything to this, if my googling serves me right.  I think we’ll go raid the farm across the way for some poo.  That’d be perfect.garden

Hold tight little garden.  Things are about to get awesome.  I hope.

Dangerous things #19 – Stand on the roof.

teaserFor weeks now, the orange tree behind the shed, down the long drive next to our house has beckoned.  The last house in the line is only a summer bach.  Nobody lives there to eat the citrus as they ripen and fall, left to rot on the grass, or the roof of the shed.

The Dangerous Things book arrived fortuitously the day after I mentioned the plan to my husband.  The boys were keen to climb the shed and gather the fruit for an adventure.  He wasn’t so sure, I ‘raspberried’ his safety consciousness, and then whooped in triumph as I flipped through the book to #19′s challenge.  Yes!

Armed with a ladder and a shopping bag, we set off to gather the spoils.  Toddler always in tow.
goingup
picking1
picking2
bounty

A great adventure, with a great edible result.  The best kind of adventure.

poseHunter/gatherer.

Meanwhile…
toddlerladder2toddlerladder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A toddler who thinks she is every bit as clever as her brothers insisted on being up the ladder, and SCREECHED when insisted she didn’t continue up onto the roof.  She later injured herself just walking along the footpath in the backyard.  With a miss-step she rolled and clonked her top lip onto the edge of the concrete.  See – even walking on the ground can be dangerous.

runaway

Today has been a full day…

We awoke to the sounds of sibling rivalry in the kitchen
– an attempted pyjama down-trou
prompting a retaliatory swift kick to the knee
followed by much wailing.

Not a great start.

Football tournament,
One defeat, one draw, one sausage with sauce in bread.

A wobbly and rebellious pile of pre-loved metal – wrestled into a garden shed shape,
by a husband, my own steadying hand, some (slightly too small) pop-rivets,
and a helpful neighbour (shortly after I screwed up my only pop-riveting attempt of the day)
Timely.
Our bikes and garden-y stuff will be very happy in there.
Tick.

A dangerous thing,
combined with some forbidden fruit raiding.
Success
(and a few minor injuries)

A windy, chilly walk to the sea
to appease the emotions of a fragile (and minorly injured) toddler
Daddy, Mummy, and She.
A scattering of snapper carcasses – stripped bare
by another neighbour
(I saw him as he wheeled his chilly-bin past the house,
on his way to dispose of the bodies).
Lazily they wash around in the small beach ripples.
I hatch a plan to carry one home,
to bury in my summer tomato plot.
Husband shakes his head with a mixture of disgust and amusement.
I ignore him and select one gleefully anyway.
Heading home we greet more wanderers,
an eager chocolate dog,
an insistent Tonka truck driving toddler,
his patient Mum.
Small polite greetings,
as the grim, eyeless sea creature swings conspicuously at my side by the tail.

Once home I dig a shallow grave,
Say a few words,
and nestle him in,
between the spinach and the spring onions.
The coming summer’s pizza thanks him for the sacrifice.

It strikes me that I write on a monthly basis –
Poem Mental Tension.
A good sedative.

 

A weekend away

We have just returned from a wonderful weekend away with a mixture of family that I’m proud to count as my friends, and friends who are almost family.

I love the communal dynamic that forms when you are all combined in a house together over a number of days.  There is a beautiful intermingling of values and strengths that never really becomes apparent without the opportunity to spend longer than the average visit, meeting, bbq amount of time together.

campletterboxcampshoescampbreakfastcampkids

20-something people in a house for two days.  Sometimes chaotic, often hilarious and definitely one of the best ideas ever.
We are tired, but also so refreshed and stocked up in our souls.  Ready to take on the next set of challenges that life thinks we are ready for.

campjetty

Taking a risk

I remember when my eldest was small, how my heart would seem to stop when he came anywhere near danger.  He seemed so vulnerable, so fragile, and far too precious to be taking risks with his own safety.  I felt (and still do actually) a physical jolt, like touching an electric fence whenever he scraped his knee, or cut a finger.

I made conscious decisions to sit on my own feelings and instincts frequently so as not to stifle his curiosity and sense of adventure.  As he grew older, and his younger brother joined him I grew too, into a mother who encourages risk.  It was less of a choice and more a knee jerk reaction to both his cautious, nervous, over-think everything disposition and also that their Dad is a natural worrier.  I have often read in books how a father’s natural role is to push the boundaries of safety for their kids.  How taking them to the edge of security and then keeping them safe in the moment is something that comes naturally to Dads.  You know what?  Not everyone is built the same.  And that is ok.  It certainly isn’t the norm in our household.  I saw a gap and moved into it, really without noticing.  I’m sure that R (husband-man) would agree with the thought that maybe, perhaps a little bit, I just enjoy pushing against things.

So imagine my delight when this arrived.  A birthday present for my eldest from one of my older brothers.  A brother who is delightfully still very much on speaking terms with his inner child and has three actual children as well (two boys and then a girl, just like us).50dangerous

I flipped through the book and thought yes, YES!  Brilliant.  50 challenges for my son to complete, designed to push the boundaries of sugar coated, bubble wrapped safety.  Some of them he has already been doing for yonks, others will be simple and fun, still others will be really difficult for him to get past mentally (the force of self-preservation is strong in this one).  There are even a few that I thought twice about.

I hope to document and share with you each of these crazy challenges.  It will make it more fun and also will be a bit of an incentive to those afore-mentioned cousins to get their game on and race to complete all 50.

 

I haven’t died, and neither has this blog idea

ongakitchen

Sorry about the massive and unexplained hiatus (ALL of you regular moosing followers, Ha!).
Birthday events, visitors, roadtrips, deadlines, and general mid-winter bugs/knackeredness. I am hoping to have a little time for my brain to settle. When I can eventually see through the fog I will attempt to document some of the goings on. Or maybe I’ll just leave them all there in the past? Purely experienced, and not shared?
See you then either way.

Christine

Why our boys play winter sport.

This morning I received two texts first thing, that absolutely made my day.  Each containing a blessed release from the commitment of Saturday football.  One for each of my sons’ teams.  Too rainy and miserable (although I do think that is a pathetic reason not to play).football1

Why would we do this to ourselves?
The mornings are sometimes frosty, breath hanging visibly in the air.  Southerly winds knife at us while we stamp our feet on the sidelines, clutching a coffee, or sprinting after the chuckling toddler, fetching her (again!) from the field of play.  It invades the hallowed Saturday morning sleep in.  Pitching us out of bed and hurling us grumpily together to eat, dress, gear in bag, one boy in one direction, the other has a home game, toddler must have supplies, multiple clothing layers, gear on, out the door, “Where is your drink bottle!?”, back up the stairs, in the car/on our legs, madness.  Why?football2

We are not really a sporting family.  We are all more comfortable with books or computers and geekiness, than the sporting arena*.  This really is the first reason we made this a non-negotiable for each of our kids, as part of developing them into more rounded adults.  The skills learned, particularly by the eldest, regarding team achievement and not just solo competitiveness, are invaluable.  The lessons are hard at times.  They are good lessons.  They are learning to dig deep and push through discomfort.  How to support and encourage one another.  One day when they are grown and have to move to a new town, they will have a gateway to meet new friends, a fun social activity to engage in, another string to their bow.football3

They enjoy it.  They are both good at it, which is a relief.  I guess I’m not sure how I would respond if they really were terrible.  I would probably insist they gave it at least two seasons.  Skills can take time to be mastered.

I love watching them play.  I couldn’t believe the amount of enthusiastic yelling I did during that first football season.  I might be a little competitive.football4

I adore seeing them in their matching uniforms, running through warm-up drills and giving a little bit of good-natured cheek to the coach.  I really have fallen in love with this winter tradition.football5

But, this morning was the first morning of a much-needed two week school holiday.  It was windy, wet, and cold.  My pyjamas were comfy.  The coffee rich, able to be lingered over, and savoured.  This morning I am grateful for the respite.

*When I say we, I mean everybody except for Miss Wriggle.  I wouldn’t be surprised at all if she turns out to be a sports nut.  Her ball skills are quite exceptional for one so young, and she would have left her brothers in the dust at the same age.

Baking with my daughter

It’s been a hazy, sea-misty, moody looking Friday here at Ohope Beach.  Perfect for staying indoors and finishing odd things that need doing.   The cookie jar had been cleared out in the morning, even the crumbs had been tipped out and eaten with a spoon (not by me).  Not a muffin or cake in sight.

I am slowly learning the art of baking without hurry, letting my small girl stir things, tip ingredients, shake the sieve.  I’m learning to embrace the chaos of it, and to actually find it funny.  I learnt to bake at my mothers side at the kitchen bench.  Atop the step stool that I would noisily drag from it’s spot in the kitchen to the space in front of the window, to the kenwood mixer, where I could tip ingredients, turn the dial, and most importantly, lick all of the spoons/spatulas/beaters and bowls.  My mother was a wonderful baker.  I know that she too struggled to slow down and let “me do it”.  There are always so many things to be done and it’s difficult to embrace the mess and extra time involved in letting small ones get stuck in.baking1

It’s valuable, and as I give into it, it’s genuinely enjoyable.baking2

She makes a mess.
We laugh.
We “squish!” dough, and lick spoons, sticky with creamed butter and sugar.baking3

She is currently into cleaning mess.  For her, “Uh oh!” isn’t an expression of disaster, it’s the sound of a cleaning opportunity!  (actually at the moment she likes cleaning mess so much that if she can’t find any, she will spit on the coffee table, just to have something to wipe up.  Disgusting?  Yes.  I do clean the coffee table)baking4

“Uh oh!” is uttered frequently during our baking sessions.  It’s usually flour.  I have learned that even though it seems daunting.  Flour everywhere can actually be cleaned up in a very short space of time.  It really isn’t a big deal.  It’s all been in my head.  I’m learning.  She’s learning.

We are growing all the time, and loving it.baking5

 

And the little one said…

“Beeeeeetsch”
wiggling her little legs over the edge of the change table
“Beetsch… peese?”
All sparkly eyes and hopefulness

The day is gathering its skirts ready for the finale
The list ‘to do’ looking a bit low on ticks
Components of a thank you caramel slice lie in various stages of mixed-ness in the kitchen
Dinner not even remotely begun

Dad is holed up in the office
A brother cocooned in a blanket, engrossed in a book

We recruit the other brother to our cause
and head, irresponsibly, to the beach

beach1

beach2
beach3

“Bubboools!”
Splash Stomp Splash!
Giggles and mad dashes
Last-minute swoops
grabbing a cold sandy arm
as she fearlessly runs toward the icy foamy water
Sandy dog kisses
Marooned crab rescue efforts
Construction
Destruction
and jumping

beach4

It is
Yellow!
Orange!
Ink!
It is breath-taking

beach5

Children will eat baked beans
Adults will eat after 9
Responsibility will wait for us…

We shrug it off and jump some more.

 

 

 

 

They’re here! They are finally here!

It seems like an age since I wrote about what I was getting for our super-awesome, rapidly maturing eldest child for his 11th birthday.  An age!

present1

 

Two of the three prints arrived well in time for the day.  The last, most important and special one didn’t arrive for weeks!  He was so wonderful about it, eager, but happy to wait.  Cheeky monster (second son) was nearly ready to burst (he doesn’t keep secrets well usually).

present2

 

 

‘D is for Deathstar’ I chose from Pikselmatic.  I know it’s one that will be appreciated for a long time.  So simple, classic and awesome.  Geek chic.

He liked it, he thought it was cool, but I could tell it didn’t grab him immediately.   I actually expected that with this one.  It wasn’t till we hung it on the wall that he went “Oh… that’sactually really cool”.  I just know that it will be something he has on his wall for a good long time.  It’s a decor piece rather than a stand-alone art work.

 

When I chose the second, I knew exactly where in his room it was going to go.  This one I felt in my heart of hearts was going to resonate with his quirky humour.  I had in mind this spot beside his bed – the top bunk above his brother.  I purposefully chose the print in a small size, to make it more quiet, more secret-message-just-for-him like.  Daily, when he drifts off to sleep, and when he leaps out of bed in the mornings (he’s a morning guy) there is a little framed reminder that he is loved, known, and understood, as he is.  For him that stuff is beyond important.

Present3

He loves it.  Really really loves it.  Every time he sees it, he smiles.  That makes my heart sing.  Knowing we nailed it.present4

The final piece.  The waited and longed-for piece.    As I suspected, it was going to be tricky to find a frame for this one. Before it arrived I scoured the shops hoping against hope that there would be a reasonably priced and beautiful frame the right size.  I came home empty handed.  Hmmm… we had to bite the bullet and head to theframers.  This turned out to be a wonderful wonderful thing. Jos (you really should click on that link so you can have his cheeky face in your minds eye while you read about him), is an amazing, passionate, gesticulating,  frenetically whirling from one spot to another, artisan of a framer.  His passion and intensity about his work is infectious.  He buzzes and fizzes and you can’t help but be caught up in it.  I stepped out of his shop and just knew my son had to come with me when the picture eventually arrived.

The day finally came.

We took the carefully rolled print in it’s protective tube to Jos’s.  My boys were enraptured.  Jos  beautifully involved them in the process, helping us to decide on a mat and a frame, to bring out the best in the art work.  He then whisked them out the back into the work room. Using some scrap pieces, he showed them how to use the industrial tools to construct the frames.  He let them have turns using the foot activated cutter, taking precise nibbles out of the wood one step at a time.  Then onto the big mounted staple gun to secure two pieces to make a corner.  I think we spent nearly an hour at his shop.  As we finally left, he wrapped them up a big pile of cardboard mat pieces for them to bring home to construct things with.  Two stoked boys.

Then, we waited some more.  This time for the phone call to say the picture was ready to pick up in it’s frame.

The day is here.

It is beautiful.  The job is perfect.  The experience has made it that much more valuable to my boy and is a memory he will add to the gift, to treasure.  It is a wistful, heart breaking and whimsical piece.  Perfect for my deep thinking, slightly melancholic, sometimes dramatic eldest child.

present5

He loves it.

To see the print in a better quality, have a look here.  The artist Alexander Jansson also has a website where you can see some of his animation and other artworks.

 

In our cookie jar

Posted on June 11, 2013

Bloggers block already?

It’s Tuesday evening, and yet again I can feel the week accelerating faster than I can grab the wheel.
I still haven’t posted for last week because I’ve spent too long pondering exactly what I will write about. So in lieu of some amazing new thought or brilliant piece of writing, I’ll write about the contents of my cookie jar last week (they’re all gone, but for a few lonely lingering crumbs tucked into the glass folds at the bottom).

Espresso melting moments with chocolate filling.

Made following the standard edmonds recipe with a tablespoon of espresso grounds in the biscuit and cocoa in the butter filling.  Making a lovely but boringly normal biscuit into something just a little bit interesting.  I’ve recently re-discovered that in order to feel happy and content I can’t just churn out the same slice and muffins every week.  I just have to try something new and interesting.  I need to be challenged, and even though at times it takes a little longer than just blindly mixing and baking yet another weetbix slice for the lunchboxes, it simply has to be done.  (That’s right people, we’re changing lives here today).

What do you do to stay sane?

 

Ogre days

Posted on May 31, 2013

Some days,
I wake,
without realising the presence of the ogre.
His prickly fingers probing my brain,
my spinal column.
He sits quietly and waits for the inevitable irritation.
My boys want to climb all over and read my newspaper at breakfast.
“MY NEWSPAPER!” he roars inside my ear (only I can hear him).
He notices the unrinsed bowl,
the closed curtains (when they should have been OPENED!)
and gleefully points them out.
He convinces me that those near me should pay for their crimes.
“ROOOOAAAARRRR!” I grump.
His spinal column finger twists,
I wind up like a spring.
Ready to pounce,
on everything.
Then…
his fatal mistake,
he points out just one too many things.
His pointing claw comes in to focus,
and I see that it is not mine.

Time to wrestle.

It will be a day long struggle,
but I can win this.
I fight him with things he cannot live with,
I take the long way home in the morning,
along the shoreline (he can’t stand that).
I pause and let the toddler out of the pack,
letting her stop to pick up nearly every shell on the beach
he tries to point out the lunacy,
but I just inhale the crisp air and gaze at the calm ocean.
Days like this I must;
write a list,
create something, (today it will be caramel slice)
clean something that is well overdue,
and stop to breathe and be ok.
because when I do,
he scarpers
and I can see that my reality isn’t so bad at all.

ONE THOUGHT ON “OGRE DAYS”

I’ve been making things.

Posted on May 24, 2013

As I haven’t yet nailed down what subjects this blog is allowed to include, I’ve decided that (for now) this means I can write about whatever I feel like.  The purpose of this blog for me is to get my writing brain back into gear as I’m required to write for my job, and also, it is a neat way of chronicling what is going on in our life as a family.  I am all too aware of how quickly our time together is racing away.  It’s nice to be able to read back on what was, especially once it no longer is.

I’m a fussy brownie eater.  It’s such a shame to me that so many bland and/or dry abominations are passed off as brownie.  I have a favourite recipe and it includes generous amounts of chocolate and butter.  Don’t let me anywhere near one made with premix, no chocolate or – almost as bad – cooking chocolate (it’s the devil).  To be christened with the brownie moniker (in my book) it should be fudgey, moist, dark, rich and full of chocolatey good stuff.  Another personality revelation…  I don’t like Annabel Langbein (I don’t know her personally, but something about her TV persona just grates ok?) so have avoided her recipes with snobbish disdain.  So, how many hats/words/feet am I eating now that my new brownie discovery is an Annabel Langbein recipe that doesn’t need chocolate.  Whaaaat?

Hehe, got to eat more this afternoon, because I had to take this photo.

It won’t be replacing my favourite for special occasions, but if this recipe means that we can have brownie in the freezer on a regular basis for school lunchboxes (and post kids-bedtime snacking) without busting our grocery budget on chocolate AND with a bit of added nutritional goodness, then Annabel, please accept my humble apologies, I’m your new dedicated fan.  (Whew! Big sentence)  The recipe is here, and yes it does have broken chocolate pieces in it, but you know what?  While it is yummy to have them in there, the brownie is delicious even without (I’ve made it both ways).  The secret is dates.  Softened and mooshed into oblivion, it lends the finished product that all important fudginess without tasting date-y.  Give it a go.

So I mentioned yesterday that I’ve scored myself an ex-highschool sewing machine.  She is beautiful and I’m in love.  I am very much a sewing novice.  I’m learning as I go from the school of google.  So for the first project on my new baby (need to think of a name?) I decided to give the 90 minute shirt a bash.  Using a 50 cent top from the Sallies in a knit that is possibly a merino/cotton blend (or boring old acrylic) I chopped it up to re-fashion.  Dana’s tutorials are always amazingly easy to follow and she takes photos every step of the way to help.  Here is the result!

 

Look a that belly button!

Without some proper ribbing, I finished off the cuffs and envelope neck bits (see I don’t even know the words) with an old t-shirt of my husbands, double folded into a bias tape (I learnt about that in another tutorial).  It worked fine aside from on the front, where it kind of pushes it out a little and makes it not sit properly, but I’m happy with the result, and the lesson.

 

 

Finally, this is my favourite photo of the week.  It’s a little out of focus, but captures the look of utter adoration on my eldest’s face as Miss wriggle does something (probably cute) out of frame.  I love these guys.

 

4 THOUGHTS ON “I’VE BEEN MAKING THINGS.”
  • Why has Bloglovin not told me you had more updates?! I think it is broken.
    I can’t decide which is more delicious – the brownie, or the bellybutton under home made merino!? I have added the brownie recipe to my list of things to try.
    What kind of machine did you score? Is it one of the old Berninas? If so, that is a ridiculously good score! Did they get rid of all of them?!

    • Ah but alas, it is one of their Janome’s. I’m still pretty stoked. They routinely go through and replace every now and then. It sounds all quiet when it sews, not clunky, aaand, only one persons initials scratched into it, wheeee!

Yay for…

Posted on May 23, 2013

The house has descended into a chaotic and tired circus at the moment, due to all of it’s male members starring in our local theatre company show. I am seriously at the risk of wallowing in self-pity and ‘over it-ness’ in this entry so I have decided to avoid the topic of how I actually feel altogether. Instead I’m writing a list of exciting, meaningful or just plain awesome things that have happened since writing last. I’m going to try and write only one sentence about each (even though I naturally have SO MANY WOOOORDS).

Here goes…

  • Son 2 has covered our fridge in his awesomeness this week.  Yes!
  • Son 2 won (and thoroughly earned) ‘Player of the Day’ on our last soggy Saturday match.
  • Son 1 loves his birthday art (more on this another day).
  • I have my very own cast off sewing machine from my husbands high school!  (So STOKED!)
  • Miss Wriggle has taken to nurturing her ‘babies’ in earnest (very adorable).
  • Finally went to see the show that has stolen my family, and LOVED it.  (My husband is a bit hilarious)
  • Found a new brownie recipe that ticks all the boxes.  (Will share)
  • My sister and her wonderful family stayed for the weekend.

I actually feel much better.  It is a good exercise.  One I should practice more often when I’m strung out and grumpy.

Hope your week has been marvellous, and that if it hasn’t, you can find at least some things to be a teeny bit excited about.

What to do with Super-Awesome children? – or how to encourage their siblings.

Posted on May 11, 2013

This post is possibly going to end up being more of an incoherent ramble than I would like it to be. I’m probably better off writing when I’m not feeling a little stuffed up and sinus-y, and when I have actually thought out my ideas. We’ll see, here goes…

I’ve written quite a lot about my eldest son lately. He is by many accounts, Super-Awesome. He is so frequently awarded for various achievements at school that our fridge often groans with the weight of his awesome-ness. His teachers rave, his principal has awarded him for ingenuity (he addressed an issue the staff were having with their cups on duty), his friends parents love to have him to stay. Blah, blah, blah and on and on it goes. The truth is, he is pretty awesome. He has been the hardest child for me to understand as he takes after his Father and the way he ticks. As he has gotten older we have grown closer and closer, our relationship now, is truly something that I treasure, his depth of understanding and humour make him a great conversationalist. To outsiders, he seems to be an angel to parent. I can assure you that this is not always the case. Our parenting challenges with this one often revolve around internal motives, not being selfish, and taking risks. That last sentence in no way encapsulates the struggles we’ve had with those three things over the years. He can be difficult, trust me.

But why this post? Really it started this morning at the annual big soccer tournament to kick off the season. For the first time, we have both boys playing soccer (Which I love!). Neither of their teams were very successful but they both played very hard, very well, and their Dad was really proud to watch both of them (I was busy working a coffee cart at the event and missed all their games Waaah!). When I finally caught up with them they were tired, ready to head home, but happy with the competition and fun of the morning. The eldest had won ‘Player of the Day’ for his team (sigh, of course he did). I was struck by two feelings. Firstly, pleased as punch-ness. Secondly, that internal deflation that it’s always him. It’s not that he doesn’t deserve it. He does. He is awesome. It’s just that… well… I’ve got two boys.

The middle guy is, I’m not sure I can convey this effectively, a stunningly beautiful soul. He is kind. He is ‘others first’. He is sensitive. He calls it as it is, which sometimes leads people who misread him to think he is unkind. He is never intentionally unkind. I mean never. He has said things to people that have not seemed thoughtful, but as I said, he calls it as it is. He has had to spend more time learning about where the line is that people find comfortable or polite. He is not a people-pleaser like his brother in the sense of putting his best face forward, but he is all about people. Those times that his bluntness has needed to be explained to him, he has usually been reduced to tears when he realises he has hurt someone. He just sees the world differently to the polite, socially-correct crowd. I think it’s a strength, and hope he never has it squashed out of him.  I just want someone else who is handing out awards to see him.  I mean really see him, and praise him publicly for his awesomeness.  But what is he awesome at?  The things he naturally excels at, are so much more important than intelligence or speed or agility.  So why does my fridge not display that?  I am still trying to find that thing that he can shine in.  Without trying to step out of his brothers shadow.  Something of his own.  I hope we can recognise the opportunity when it appears.  I would hate to miss it.

Thoughtful presents

Posted on May 4, 2013

This pensive little guy is turning 11.

So with my Eldest son’s birthday rapidly approaching (sorry, it’s a bit of an ‘eldest fest’ on this blog so far, I promise the others will come into it soon. I am still yet to decide on a suitable pseudonym for him too. It’s easier to write just using their names, but in light of recent events, I do think that I should at least make some effort to protect their identities from internet weirdos, as much as it’s a pain in my butt?.. brain really). Back to the subject at hand. His 11th birthday is approaching, and as I mentioned in this post, he has recently begun to mature mentally and emotionally at a rate of knots.  Where normally we are pondering which techy gadget he would like the most (that we can afford), this year it just felt like we needed to respond to his new found enthusiasm for maturity, in kind.  We’re giving him an almost grown up present.  Wall art.

I was initially inspired by Stella’s post over here, and found some prints that he would LOVE.  I recalled him marvelling earlier this year at how “decorated” our neighbours house was, with lots of framed pictures and art, which spurred me on.  My husband then blew my mind by introducing me to http://www.deviantart.com/ (I know, I’m slow to the party at times) and I continued the search (sometimes into the mind-numbing early hours of the morning), trawling through the treasure trove that is available.  We have settled and purchased 3 prints now (which hopefully by the magic of international shipping will arrive in time for me to get framed).  One is just plain awesome (from Pikselmatic) and I know he will love it.  One is just his quirky type of humour, and the last, most expensive piece, I find stunning and beautiful and I hope like CRAZY that he does too.  That is the one I’m most nervous about.  I hope that he treasures all three pieces for the rest of his life, and adds to the collection to brighten the walls of wherever he might find himself.  Whether that be a poky student hostel room at university, or his first home when he eventually grows up.  I can’t wait to post the follow up photos when they are up on his walls and tell you how well they were received.  Squeeeee!

This process has also reminded me to keep popping in to our local Museum and Exhibition centre with the kids.  We used to be frequent visitors before Miss Wriggle came along.  I’d like to make it more of a habit again.

Getting outside

Posted on April 26, 2013

You’re pretty too Ohope. Besides, you have a great personality.

The weather has been just a little bit rainy every now and then this week, so with today’s forecast looking all round and yellow-y we hatched a plan to do the walk over to Otarawairere bay.

As well as getting myself and the kids some exercise and outdoor-ness, I had some photography to do to add to a local website.  Otarawairere Bay never fails to impress.  It’s the effortless beauty of our local area that all the other beaches love to hate.

With Miss Wriggle in a Macpac and two boys as pack mules (one for the camera bag, one for the morning tea picnic).  We set off with some friends for the morning.

 

What a morning.  With a bit of effort, and a few more ‘photo stops’ (maybe just breathers in disguise) than were necessary.  We rounded the point and began the descent to the secluded spot.  Otarawairere is also known as Shelly Bay or Shelly Beach (easier to say).  Because of it’s steep shore, abundant sea life and sheltered cove shape, tonnes upon tonnes of shells in various stages of disintegration into sand, cover the beach.  It’s soft, deep, pretty, and at times almost musical as the waves stir, and turn them.

 

 

A relaxed picnic morning tea of fruit and biscuits, hampered only by the impossible task of keeping toddler food un-sandy.

 

The boys found some acquaintances on their way to a secret sprat fishing spot and spent ages reaching into tide pools and hauling out various sea life.  Giggling and laughing and accessorising with starfish.

With lunchtime approaching, and lunch being all the way back at home, we called an end to our stay.  Back over the hill and round the headland.  Tired, sandy, and refreshed.

Goodbye Otarawairere, we plan to come again soon!

 

Living here

Posted on April 19, 2013

When I say “living here” I think I mean two things.  I mean living here, our relaxed coastal location with it’s barefooted school children playing on “the dirt pile”, flying fox ’till dark, sandy feet in the icy wash-bucket here, and also living here, this country, it’s quirky indigenous wildlife, people, scenery and culture.

I LOVE living here.  Sometimes I love it so much it hurts.  I love that in that glorious part of the morning where everything is crisp and the colours are rich yellows, oranges and smoky blues that our neighbourhood Tui sits in a tree not far from our house and sings his guts out.  His “ding – dooong – squeak – kkkkkk – ding” song is the perfect soundtrack for a New Zealand sunrise.

 

Our sandpit/sportsfield/back yard, dotted from rain earlier in the day.

I love living here because my children are free to act like children.  The two boys come home from school scruffy, with dirt smeared, grazed knees and holes in their jeans (ok I’m not stoked about that usually).  In summer they run unsupervised along the sand to the playground with it’s flying fox, where they test their physical limits, balance and grip often to the point of injury.  A valuable lesson on invincibility – or lack of it.  They splash around in the stream hunting for eels (they haven’t found any, I imagine once they have, they won’t splash in the stream anymore, we don’t build them brave genetically).  They get themselves to school on their own wheels – no mad SUV dash/parking joust for us.  I frequently run along with them pushing the buggy with Miss Wriggle (1), sometimes she rides in the MacPac carrier so I can de-shoe and come home along the high tide mark, toes in the sand, collecting things and finding oddities on the way.  Life is simpler.  I hope I don’t sound like a dirty hippy, when I say that life feels closer to the ground here.  That is the best way I can describe it.

Piwakawaka (Fantail). Perfect example of the cheeky quirky wildlife. He was so twitchy I couldn’t get a crisp shot of him. I quite like this blurry one anyhow. He followed us all round the bush where we had our easter egg hunt, feasting on the insects our stompy feet stirred up.

Our neighbours are of the garden vegetables/todays catch/baking swapping variety.  Currently there are 5 sets of houses that I’ve given to or received from.  Makes dinner infinitely more enjoyable when 3 or more elements have come from various neighbours as a gift.  Feeds your very soul.

I hope to remain here for quite a while longer.  We’ll see I guess.  Life has a habit of being wonderful yet unpredictable…

 

3 THOUGHTS ON “LIVING HERE”
  • Hi Christine. I don’t usually comment on stuff but I’m having a lie-in this cold Saturday morning, cosied up with a hot coffee and came across your blog. I love the way you write and it brought a smile to my heart as I read it. I chuckled out loud when I read your description of the tui’s song. Went back and read it several times…..smiling each time I read it. Could actually hear that tui like it was singing in my own garden. Never seen a bird song so perfectly described.
    Be encouraged……and keep writing :)

Caution: Contains Violins

Posted on March 13, 2013

Settling into his new home for the year. Highlighting how much he needs a clean.

As of Monday the 11th, I am a violinist?  A violin student?  An adult scratching madly on strings with an implement made of horsehair?  I am not sure at all that Monday will be the day I was named a violinist.

This all came about rather unexpectedly.  There is a local music school that is funded by the Ministry of Education, focused primarily on giving local school children an affordable opportunity to pick up an instrument.  Don’t worry, I didn’t shove my children out of the way to get in line for violin (not quite).

The eldest signed up for percussion, but missed out as there were not enough spaces for him (as a younger student), and the second is not quite old enough to qualify yet.  There are a few spaces for adults in some of the instrument classes, children take priority, but if you’re lucky there is a spot.  Weehee!  I am that lucky!

So now on Monday afternoons I find myself in a stuffy music room, flanked on either side by distracted, fidgety boys and girls while we learn how to hold a bow.  One of my ‘classmates’ is in my eldest son’s class at school.  Come the end of the year, we will all join the other instrument classes to form an orchestra.  The concept is a little bit hilarious.

There are all sorts of odd issues I come across in lessons that I didn’t foresee.  Do I raise my hand when the teacher asks a question?  I get the feeling she’d rather I didn’t jump in on the quiz sessions, I can see myself being a little bit of a ‘Hermione’ and knowing all the answers without letting the real students get a look in.  With my unfair advantage (i.e an adult attention span and recall) I think I’ll wait until I’m called upon.  I do know that I qualify for a prize if I complete my practice chart this term.  Without a parent to sign off whether I have sufficiently practiced each day, it is up to my husband to administer stamps, stickers or signatures to the form stuck on the fridge.  I wonder what the treat will be?

When I tell people about my new hobby, it seems I get one of two possible reactions.  Either,

“Oh wow!  That’s so cool/brave/inspiring/awesome/hilarious”

or

“…..  The violin?…. Really?….  Why?”  (accompanied with a screwed up face)

Why the violin?  I think I was 4 or thereabouts when I first saw a little girl not much older than myself practicing on her violin when we visited her house.  I remember wishing I had one, and that I could play like that.  Her instrument was tiny, and beautiful and I was impressed that someone so small could play something that looked so complicated.  I’m not sure why I didn’t pursue the  idea.  Then again, at age 11 I was given the opportunity to choose a second instrument (I had been learning the piano for a number of years).  My top two choices were either the flute or the violin.  I chose the flute.  I think maybe I was a little intimidated by the strings?  Trying to play my older sister’s guitar made my fingers hurt.  You have to make the notes with a string instrument.  You don’t just strike a key like a piano.  I think these were possibly my reasons, and I think I let them put me off what I really wanted to do.  I love the violin because of the drama.  You play it with your whole body.  It’s almost part instrument, part dance.  I love that during climactic sections of an orchestral piece, the violinists are describing the mood with their movements.  What’s not to love?  However, I’m not really an enthusiastic listener of violin solos.  Over the past few weeks I’ve found myself wondering why I want to play this instrument so much when I don’t really want to listen to it.  The answer is team.   The violin on it’s own is not what attracts me.  It’s the orchestra that is exciting, and the most exciting part of the orchestra?  Violins.

Bring it on.

So I guess now is the time I start blogging?

 

Ha!

Not something I saw coming.  I imagine that most of my posts will have something to do with my children, as they occupy quite a big chunk of my life.  So, to start as I mean to go on, I’ll tell you about yesterday…

Our eldest has always been somewhat of an information sponge, absorbing everything (including adult conversation – Taringa flap-flap is one of his nicknames) from his environment.  He’s a reader, he writes well (and often humorously), he’s ingenious and he THIIIINKS.  He is now 10, but as an example of the depths he plumbs with his thoughts, I remember often as a 2 year old he would be reduced to tears as he pondered his own mortality.  He explored the concept of death thoroughly… as a toddler, before he’d ever been stung by loss.  He’s odd.  In a beautiful, sometimes bewildering way, but odd nonetheless.

Yesterday he floored me again.

As part of the first term of the school year, our boy’s school holds a goal setting evening, where we as parents meet together with the teacher and our child for 10 minutes to discuss and establish some academic and practical goals for the school year.  It’s usually pretty brief and perfunctory.  Yesterday,  the meeting with my second son’s teacher (he’s 8) came first, and left me yet again wondering how I can possibly hope to mould him into a child that knuckles down immediately upon being given some directions.  Ha!  I’m not sure the teacher realises that we’ve been trying to work on that for the past 6 years at least.  He is adorable, he’s sensitive, he loves to laugh, a snuggle is the best thing in the world, and for him, people make life worth living.  Work is boring. People are fun.  Thoughts are fun.  Little odd things you notice on your way to do that thing you’ve been asked to do, are fun.  But work is boring.  Hehe, we’ll try Ms Ward, we’ll try.  ANYway, I digress.  The eldest’s appointment followed.  The teacher handed him the sheet that he’d written his goals on so he could read them out to me.  He read something a little like this…

“This year I would like to be thankful for what I have.  To achieve that, I am not going to want a billion other things”.

Woah.   This kid is a gadget geek like his Dad.  If it has buttons and a screen and is most likely flippin’ expensive then he wants it.  He’s been asking for a laptop with internet since he was two.  He usually doesn’t like to share, he’s a hoarder and he holds onto lollies and possessions with an iron grip, sometimes managing to weasel some more things to add to his stash out of his generous little brother by using his superior reasoning skills.  He spends money as soon as he gets it.  Money burns a hole in his pocket.  This.  This was out of the box.  Then…

“I would like to be nicer to the year 5’s.  I want to be a good example to them”.

He’s never been a bully.  He’s generally a caring sort of kid, but awesome goal.  Woo!  Then…

“I want to be happy and content.  I want to leave a good name for myself in my last year at this school”.

Holy Crap!  Those are some decent goals!  The teacher was flabbergasted.  In a classroom full of children who wrote about being faster at running, knowing more spelling words, more proficient at maths etc.  He, un-prompted, looked internally to see who he would like to become by the end of the year.  Proud Mum moment?  Heck yes! – I nearly cried (I managed to keep it to a minimum watery eye though).  I know we have done an alright job as parents, but this kid really is quite amazing on his own merits.  I’m humbled to be a part of raising someone who is clearly destined to do great things.  Can’t wait to see it.

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