Oh momentous day…

It was still dark when the knock on the door woke us up.

“I have something very important to tell you!” Our son’s voice was earnest.  “My tooth fell out!”

“That’s great honey.”  I was vaguely pleased that we had mustered up a civil response at that hour.  “Put it on the counter and go back to bed.”  Miracle of miracles, he retreated obediently, and presumably tucked himself back in.

“Dentally retarded,” my dad calls us. Slow to get teeth, and slow to lose them. I was relieved to see the manky old baby tooth quit the scene and make way for a clean adult tooth to emerge.

Hours later I was admiring the gap when I asked Milo what time the tooth had fallen out.  “5:52,” he replied, with the proud precision of a new parent announcing the birth of their child.

A proud Harro tradition is writing the tooth fairy a reminder note. In case you need help interpreting, it says: “To tooth fairy. $2 for Milo please. Thanks.”  He handed it to me with a twinkle.  

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Bubble me rainbow

Birthdays–theirs and others–are a highlight of the childhood years. These giant bubbles were at a recent party. They are so alluringly strange; quivering iridescent blobs floating genteelly about the yard until pounced upon by little girls in fancy dresses.

The humid winter conditions were perfect, and Naomi got the hang of bubble creation, as well as the destruction of popping.

People soup

“Yikes, look at that car park!  We had better carry that tent!”  Carrie counted a dozen cars as we rolled into the muddy paddock that was the start of the Toaroa valley track.    And the group just organizing themselves to set off was about 10 college kids debating whether they needed two or three liters of marguarita mix, on top of the Raro and vodka that was already packed.

Of course, it WAS a holiday weekend (God save the Queen! And keep those birthdays rolling), and the east coast forecast was miserable drizzle and cold rain for three days straight.  West Coast, uncharacteristically, was meant to be blue skies.  We were also headed to a well known hut within 4 hours of the road that was famed for its hot pools.  Blue skies + long weekend + accessible hut + good hot pools = popular.

On the way there Carrie and I indulged in some much-needed womanly communion, covering the gamut of husband-dreaded topics (relationships, pregnancy, woman in careers, mama guilt….).

Just before the hut is the longest wiggliest swing bridge I’ve ever crossed. Not that I’m complaining! It sure beats wading the river, and we saw a pair of whio (rare NZ blue ducks) from the vantage point of the bridge.

Much refreshed in mind (though ready for a rest in body), we arrived at the hut just in time for afternoon tea.

The hut residents looked us over and quickly.  ‘The hut is FULL!” they declared cheerfully.  “Absolutely chocker!”

There’s an old historic hut that sits right next to the modern hut at Cedar Flats, a two-bunker… it had five people already in residence!

We set up our tent in the field, then sipped our tea before strolling up to the hot pools, which were on a side stream above the hut.  “People soup!” Carrie chuckled, as we tried to guess how many of our fellow trampers were already thronging the pools.  As it turned out, we got a turn in the pools while they were quiet.  When we got back, the whole field was covered in tents.

The hot pools really were FANTASTIC.  I have been roundly disappointed with natural hot springs many times before.  In my imagination they should be like my childhood pop-up book with Japanese macaques calmly poking their heads up and down though the clear steamy water, snow encrusted mountains surrounding the serene pools.  In reality all the natural hot pools I’ve visited have been ankle-deep in slime (bacteria like the warm sulfury water) and swarming with ravenous blood-sucking sandflies.

But this spring was more silty than slimy, the water mysteriously satiny with swirling black particles.  The sulfur water turned by bracelet from silver to bronze in a matter of minutes–ah, the power of chemistry!  It really was good and hot too–steam rose all around us, only slightly obscuring the view of the snowy peaks.  It must have been too cold for the majority of the sandflies, and the college kids didn’t pile in until we were finished.  The hot water was seeping from a spring on the opposite side of the freezing creek, but with the good hot soak we could bank enough body heat to bolster us during the splash back, rinsing, and reclothing process.

Clear starry skies delivered a hard frost in the morning.  The water from our breath had frozen inside our tent, and was snowing down on us by morning.  I wore every scrap of clothes that I had, and was warm enough.  We crowded into the hut with the rest of the gang for breakfast, then set off for a day-hike quest to find snow.  I had carried my snow shoes and was determined to use them.

The trail was a no-nonsense shortest route to the a mountain saddle.  Read that as STEEP.  When you go straight up it’s amazing how fast you gain altitude.

Low down we crossed this stream that joined another and went through a gorge. Can you see the blue of the water? The color of the water is amazing.

The big trees ended just at the first patches of snow, and Adventure Biv greeted us, cheerfully orange.  What a spot!  We almost wished we had carried our stuff up the hill last night to be able to perch there.  Almost….except the climb was really steep and the water at the bivvy was all frozen.  The exit sign on the inside of the door cracked me up….as if you could exit that structure any other way!  Government regulations I suppose….

We ate our lunch in the sun, feeling like sultans, then moved up into the snow just as cloud cover obscured the sun.  I had really wanted to get to Zit saddle, but the going was slow with the soft snow hiding the path and pockets of air beneath the tussocks.  It was still fantastic though; the snow brings back good winter hiking memories from the Adirondacks.  In the end we just went a little ways beyond the bivvy, looked at our watches, and decided to play it safe with day light and go back to the hut and the hot pools.

Couldn’t resist trying out this tree perch.  A rata tree, I think, that was hosting lots of other species of greenery in its branches.

The next morning on our way out we decided to try the flood route.  Most people walk the river bed, as we had done on the way in, but there was a marked (if not as well maintained) trail higher up the bank in case the river is too high to walk.  The boulders had been slick and icy on our way in and we decided to try our luck with the flood route on the way back.  It was quite vertical!  But the tree ferns were amazing, and I kept trying my hand at IDing the big podocarp species NZ is known for–rimu, totara, miro, as well as others like kamahi and rata.  If you didn’t know better, this place would look tropical.  Certainly exotic, if not warm.

As we drove back over the Alps towards the east coast the clouds got thicker and the roads got wetter.  It was still raining, same as when we had left Saturday morning.  I’d like to say that we were thinking compassionately of our husbands who had been minding the kids on their own over the long wet weekend, but….

 

Amelia’s Ballerinas

Floaty pink dresses, spins, sparkles, high pitched voices, and a teacher addressing you as a ballerina.  What could be better? (Hint: imagine you’re a four-year-old girl.)

It’s all a bit much for me, but this activity isn’t for me after all.  It’s for Naomi.

Still, it’s interesting to watch.  Miss Amelia, the teacher, pitches her voice a constant octave above normal, reminding one of a tinny barbie doll (in sound, if not in look), but she’s no pansy.  There is a set of twins that don’t focus very well and are often off in left field, so-to-speak, yet she handles them with grace, charm, and command….and all in falsetto!  The girls don’t even realize they are being managed.  She’s brilliant.

Every week Miss Amelia brings a new prop to dance with. This week was kitty cat ears.

“Alright Ballerinas, we’re going to pick up our knee, and make a bubble!” She has the whole mob of pink dainties doing her bidding, even if one has decided to wear her tutu as a bra. I’ll say it again: She’s brilliant.

 

Flotsam and Jetsam

Debris.

Detritus.

Flotsam and jetsam.

I think “flotsam and jetsam” describes it best.

Can you guess where this odd assortment was found?

Yep.  Behind the couch.

I imagine every family accumulates a similar collection (except ours is singularly lacking in currency):

A suckerfish from the Go Fish deck
The Ubiquitous Marble
Ammunition originating from two different types of weapons–nerf guns and a sling shot
Arielle’s plastic purple skirt
Wrapper from a mini Toblerone–probably consumed clandestinely
Assorted lego
Home-dried raisins, in a container (the good thing is that the environment of the house is dry enough to dehydrate fruit–they would have molded in the last place)
Pink and purple paper house
Two halves of the same acorn
A headless beetle….

And there’s only one reason to delve that deep into the underworld–we are moving again.  This time into a house we have purchased.

 

 

This is motherhood?

Look at this child. She’s smiling. She’s helpful. She’s charming. I’m having a good motherhood moment.

The misty rain stopped and the sun peaked out.  I had borrowed entertainment for Milo in the form of a play mate for the afternoon, so that hazard was sorted.  On an errand to the garage I spied the tray of plants I brought home from work yesterday.  THAT’s what I needed.  Some peaceful weeding an an opportunity to mull over the last chapter of the book I was reading.

“Can I help you plant those flowers?” Naomi asked as she watched me collect my tray.  I hesitated.  I really just wanted an escape….but I OUGHT to enjoy her company.  “Ok,” I consented, bowing my shoulders.

“I can put the plants in the holes,” she offered.
“I’ll pick up your jersey and hang it here on my scooter so it doesn’t get grassy,” she continued, thoughtfully.
“I’ll get the green bin for those weeds,” she enthused, as she trundled a wheely bin twice her size up the driveway.

In short, she was a joy to have around. I felt guilty for wanting solitude in the first place.

It’s amazing how the situation can feel the exact opposite that self same morning.

“Milo, stop!  Don’t grab from Naomi!”  He finishes the lego-recovery-mission he had embarked upon as if he was deaf.  Naomi howls.  Milo swats.  Naomi kicks.  “STOP!” I yell, grabbing his arm.  “SIT BACK DOWN AND FINISH YOUR OATMEAL.”  “YOU sit back down and finish your breakfast too,” I command Naomi.  She sits next to Milo.  Milo crawls over the table and sits at the other end.  She moves again to sit next to him, dribbling milk along the way.  He walks over the table top, grinning at me.  Then he and his oatmeal get banished to the porch, where he sits and bangs on the window.  Going to work is so much easier, I think, rubbing my eyes that feel tired and old.  I take a sip of the cup of tea which I never manage to drink hot and wondering how to break this miserable cycle.

There are good times and bad times to parenting. The trouble is that the bad times are so much more memorable than the good ones.

 

Golden weather

Autumn in Canterbury can be savory.  Golden days where the mean burn of the sun is gone and the heat is welcome.  Calm winds; blue skies.  Grass has turned green again.

This afternoon we went back over to the school grounds, kicked a soccer ball, and hung out.

Last Sunday I drove up to Castle hill and biked the mountain bike trails. A golden, peaceful day.

Last weekend was also the Chinese lantern festival in Christchurch. The Avon river was swarming with dragons, gaudy floating lilies, and people slurping asian food from cardboard take-away containers.

One afternoon I dragged the kids up to the summit rd overlooking Lyttleton harbor for a picnic lunch. “Don’t take this settled weather for granted,” I tried to tell them. “Winter will come and the wind will be cold.” They don’t look past the moment and anticipate the chilly winter coming. Maybe that’s a good thing.