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.

 

 

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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.

A new compatible family

I’ve talked to Sally for years at a craft group we both frequent. We saw them in Murchison at a kayak club weekend. Her husband Nathan joined us for the Old Ghost Rd bike ride in January. But this was the first weekend trip we tried out as families. It’s a test of sorts: 1. Are kids compatible? 2. Are husbands compatible? 3. Are our ideas of what constitutes a fun activity compatible?

Check. Check. Check.

I lack a real group photo for this trip, but here are the kids. Aaron is 8, Jessica is 4.

The husbands both like four-wheel driving. Our Rav4 isn’t a “real” four wheel drive–no snorkel, not super high off the ground, no super-low gear….but it did ok on this trip into Dillon hut along the Taipo river. Jeremiah was grinning.  I was tense.  Pretty typical, I guess.

The woods part of the drive was very pretty–Lush west coast bush is completely different than beach forests of the east coast.

The weather turned wet one afternoon, and the kids hunkered down to draw in the comfort of the hut.

Naomi and Jessica were like two peas in a pod–they giggle together over things that only four-year-olds find funny.

The plan was to drive upstream into the hut, let the wives paddle down, and collect us at the bottom on the way out. But we were also joining the whitewater canoe club for their Sunday morning paddle so the timing worked out better to do our paddle the afternoon before, and Nathan graciously drove down to pick us up. Sally is a much better paddler than I, and I hadn’t been on the water for the past two months, so I was nervous.

Not nerves without cause, as it turns out. I capsized pretty quickly at the start, but managed to stay upright for the rest of the river. It was definitely bigger than I had anticipated.

The guys got out on a hunt, first bringing the boys for a little while, then going out on their own after dinner. No meat was gathered, but they got a good walk in.

The Arnold river the next morning with the kayak club was much tamer (and warmer).

The kids plunked their lines in the water and got some imaginary nibbles. They’re addicts in the making.

When siblings go right

Milo has decided to play the part of caring big brother after Naomi got a bee sting.

There are plenty of times–memorable times–when siblings go wrong (more about that below).  But this is one lovely time when siblings went right.  Naomi got stung by a bee while we were biking at the Halswell Quarry, and we had to turn around and come home.  “You know,” I told Milo, as he complained about not getting to finish his ride, “your sister is TOUGH.  There aren’t many four year olds who would bike home after getting stung by a bee.”  He must have taken it in, because later I overheard him repeating this boast to Jeremiah.  He also switched from “little sister got in the way of me doing what I wanted to do” mode to “caring big brother” mode, even reading his school book to her.

Other days, it can be more like this:

“It’s school crossing!” Naomi informed me.

I glanced out the window in time to see Milo run down the driveway with his friend Cameron on his heels.  His mom and sister rounded the bend.  This looked official.  I opened the front door to field the inquiry.

Milo rushed at me: “Can Cameron come over this afternoon?” he demanded, before darting off on a circuit of the yard.

“The boys were hoping for a play date.”  Clare stated the obvious.  “Milo could come to our house.”

“We want to play in the tree fort,” Milo put in.  Hum.  There’s no tree fort on offer at Cameron’s house.

“Ah, yes….well, Cameron can stay here,” I offered.

A couple minutes later Milo came raring around the corner, brandishing Naomi’s new stickers in triumph above his head while she squealed in protest.  “Milo!  What are you doing?  Give that back to Naomi!  One…TWO…..!  He threw the sticker sheet in her general direction, then stepped on her container of beads, spewing them down the hallway.  “Milo!  In your room!” I pointed menacingly and took a threatening step toward my son.  He sprinted to his doorway and stood there, grinning.  I gave him a few minutes, then went to talk things over.

“Milo, I won’t let you be a bully.  In order to come out you have to say you’re sorry to Naomi for snatching her stickers, then you can pick up the beads and put them in this container.”  I thrust a plastic jam jar into his hands.  He tossed it on the floor.  “Well, that’s what you have to do; say sorry to Naomi and pick up her beads.”

After several unsatisfactory attempts at a sorry I let a cursory attempt stand, reminded him about the beads, and retired to the living room.

“Naomi, I’m going to put your beads out the window,” I heard his gleeful voice taunt from the dining room.  I ignored the threat.  Often he’s just angling for attention.  The noise crescendoed, and upon investigation I discovered beads in the weeds below the window.  Incredible.

“Is he like this when he goes to your house?” I asked Cameron, shaking my head.

“No.” Cameron widened his eyes.

I thought of the studies of social structure with chimpanzees where dominant males tear around the group, chasing their comrades up trees, tossing sticks into the air, beating their chests and generally making a miserable racket.

That’s exactly what Milo has been doing this afternoon.  Asserting his dominance on his home turf.

Disgusting.

We’re no better than apes.

 

Weight of inertia

There comes a time when a procrastination mounts to such a weight of inertia that a project is stuck.  Immovable.

That’s how the blog has been these past couple months.  The longer I wait, the move behind I fall, and the less savory the project appears….Maybe this is what mounting credit card debt feels like?

This is my attempt to become unstuck.

  • Over Christmas we did some cool trips.  We drove to the west coast via Arthur’s pass, stopping at cave stream on the way.  We spent some days at Okarito beach with the Pritchard family, then some more days at Lake Kanere in our new glamping tent.  We did a couple nights at Spencer Park, just here in Christchurch.  It was fun.
  • In January I got out on some awesome weekend trips–St James Walkway in Lewis pass, and the Old Ghost Rd bike ride on the west coast.
  • For Waitangi Day we went up to Golden Bay (at Pohara), camping, biking, fishing, playing.
      Low tech map of recent travels.  I tried a fancy electronic one, but the inertia…you get the picture.

And summer has been warm!  I’ve enjoyed the evening bike rides at the local hill.  Warm afternoons with the doors open.  Wearing shorts.  I don’t think there has been any summer we’ve spent in NZ so far where I’ve had more opportunity to wear shorts!

I do have fantastic pictures from these trips.  But whether or not they get shared, at least now I can move on.

Obnoxious Americans

“Ooh, my accent isn’t really THAT bad, is it?”

Very probably it is.

Bummer.

But it’s not just the accent; it’s the whole attitude.

Every Friday afternoon Milo has soccer practice, and there’s an American dad who brings his son.  I’ve never talked to him before, but this Friday the field was eerily quiet.  Us lonely parents conferred and the word on the field was that Oaklands school gala was on–that’s why only 25% of the normal contingent of kids was present.  Along with very few parents.

But despite the slim field, The American must talk.

(I know what that’s like.)

Thankfully, the American Dad glued himself to another dad, and the poor polite Kiwi was stuck mumbling “hum….ah….yes…um….uhuh…” for the whole hour.  I got the interesting position of being able to listen in while not being an essential part of the conversation.

It wasn’t so pretty.  Opinionated, yes.  Loud, yes.  Forceful; also yes.  The snippets were full of “you kiwis this” and “us, that.”  At one point I caught the American saying “You guys are catching up….you know….advertising, sport….”

Clearly he believes the American culture is superior.

I hereby resolve to cease and desist from comparing the American culture to the Kiwi culture.  No one wants to hear that.  Let alone the Kiwis!

In that spirit, I’ll change the topic. It’s snowing in December! Well, snowing cottonwood fluff anyway.  Can you see the tiny white things in the air?  It’s accumulating in drifts around the trunks, and shimmering in the air at soccer practice. December 1 is the official start to summer in NZ. The forecast is for 30 degrees C tomorrow.
Bring on the Warmth!