Unseasonable Taste of Summer

No, no, no, I KNOW it’s not summer. But it sure felt like it this past weekend. Sunday we played at Rapaki beach and even dabbled in the actual ocean.  Of course we displaced dozens of crabs and scores of snails in digging out the warm pools as well.

It barely hit 20 degrees on Saturday, but Milo got all red in the face on our little port hills hike, and said it was “Too HOAT.” Little kiwi, he has no heat tolerance! We told him to toughen up or else he’ll melt come summer.

Jeremiah packed the barbie and we charred some sausies for lunch at Sign of the Kiwi, along Summit Rd. Did you know that flax sizzles and pops when grilled? Milo now does.

Troup is having a feed.  The roof was burned off the Sign of the Kiwi last year, but it’s fixed up just like new now.  Actually even better than new–the underneath is lined with metal, maybe making it more fireproof than before, but the old fireplace is blocked off. 

The ball’s ricochets are a little unpredictable off the stones, but Milo didn’t care.  

See that gorgeous trunk that looks like a crepe myrtle? It’s the fuchsia that is native to NZ.

I apologize for the out of focus picture….but this is vaguely what the fuchsia flowers look like. Not quite puffy ballerinas like the ornamental varieties, but recognizable nonetheless.

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A slight stubborn streak

We have about a tantrum a day with Naomi at this point. Often times it’s unpredictable what will set her off: Being made to do something she doesn’t want to do is the main theme, but 9 times out of 10 she’ll good-naturedly clear the car of her bric-a-brac after an outing, just not today. It was probably the fact that I told her she couldn’t come inside until she was carrying that purple sweater. Too much force, in her opinion.  It was an ultimatum, and I could see her jaw set. Thankfully we were home, so I went inside and made a batch of granola while she spent the next 45 minutes howling.

Some la-ti-da experts say you should never leave a kid to themselves when they tantrum, that you should stay where they can see you so they know you haven’t abandoned them. Hum, hope that’s working out for them. Needless to say, I don’t ascribe to that belief. I checked on her from time to time, but it’s not like I couldn’t hear exactly where she was. As could the neighbors. And their neighbors.

It really wasn’t short sleeve weather so she eventually decided to come inside and bang the broom on the door in consternation. Without the purple sweater, I might add. I guess she won that one. Milo came home, wanted a snack, and that little change of subject seemed to snap her out of it. She was giggling just a minute after his entrance, plotting peanut butter on banana with chocolate sprinkles.

I guess I understand to some degree.  I hate to be pushed around as well.  Nothing makes my hackles rise as much as someone lording their authority over me unnecessarily.  Eventually she’ll realize that being asked to pick up her sweater (asked nicely, I might add) doesn’t really require 45 minutes of high energy protestations–save that energy for more important battles.

Jeremiah was gracious enough to pronounce that she’s just like me.

Can we come in please?

Can we come in please?

It’s a quintessentially New Zealand scene; cattle munching grass, next to a new world-class greenhouse (behind), in the city of Christchurch, second largest city in the country.

I don’t know if those calves were staring longingly at the relative shelter of the greenhouse or at the tasty plants inside, but they stood there watching us all morning.  They’re the owner’s “cattle beasts,” because if you own grass, then why would you not own sheep or cows to eat the grass?  Exactly.  So they do.  (Clearly, cow pies on the lawn aren’t a problem if you’re wearing your gum boots.)

What are those kids up to?

Swimming lessons! With pink goggles, of course. I have bagged the impossible–simultaneous swimming lessons for both kiddos.
(By the bye, check out Naomi’s shirt. The movie Frozen has a cult following of little girls. Never mind that Naomi has never even seen the movie, she knows the theme song and the names of the princesses.)

Contack. It was a game I played with Poppop, my grandfather, and wanted to teach Milo. Jeremiah got the triangle pieces from China, I got the number stickers from America, and I painted them in New Zealand. Global trade, even in craft hobbies. And then Jeremiah found the genuine vintage game on e-bay for cheap….. Luckily Milo likes the game.

Cherry blossoms are starting–Spring! With the typical fickle weather I’d expect. It sleeted today. But the day we biked in Hagley park was lovely.

It was also lovely the day we went biking to McClean’s Island. The 10 km loop isn’t really a challenge for Milo, but last year Naomi found it difficult. This time around she did great. Didn’t whinge. Didn’t stop. I think this summer will be the summer of family bike trips.

Milo won the rugby player of the year award for his team, and boy, is he proud. I’m proud of him too. Like I’ve said before, it’s neat to see your kid do something he’s passionate about, and do it well. I’m going to give him a chance at soccer though, since with his genes (well, my short genes which he has inherited), he might not have as much fun with rugby when the tacklers get bigger.

It doesn’t get much better than spinning in a pink and purple frilly skirt worn over top a pink dress.  If you’re a three year old girl, that is.

And just in case it looks like our lives are too happy….here’s a taste of a tantrum. I spared you the video. The issue is that mommy required her to sit on the toilet and TRY to squeeze something out before bed. And she didn’t want to. And I told her she had to try before she could leave the bathroom. And she didn’t want to. Then she didn’t want to leave. Basically just didn’t want to do what I wanted her to do. Next time I might just risk the wet bed.

Occasionally, stay-at-home-motherhood is golden

Last Thursday Naomi and I brought Milo to school. She chose her own outfit, as she always does. If one dress is good, then surely a dress AND a skirt is even better….at least so reasons Naomi. A dress, a fairy skirt, a purse, a stripey sweater, a fluffy pink hat, and two babies, bringing Milo to school.

The forecast for the day was lovely, so we headed up to Hagley Park to check out the daffodil bloom. They’re starting!

Naomi knows the term “selfie.” Such a 21st century child!

I sent a girls-in-daffodils picture to Jeremiah, and he suggested that we meet him for lunch in a cafe in town.  Naomi found the walk very long.  Towards the end we passed a bunch of flash new buildings with glass facades, and she stopped to admire her reflection, adjusting her skirt, preening here and there.  “Oh, I didn’t know we had fairies in the city!” and old woman exclaimed as she walked past.  Naomi beamed–that was clearly the effect she was after.

Spring is long and slow here, and officially it hasn’t even begun yet….but don’t tell these precocious crocuses that. They are erupting from the grass in Hagley park, reminding me of a patch at Cornell under an oak tree that emerged each spring. I love them!  I’m pretty lucky to have a day at the park with a lovely little girl, and lunch out with my hubbie.  This was a good stay-at-home mom day, for the record.   

Rugby season finished

The kids played their last game of the ripper rugby season this weekend–stellar weather for it too! Here they all are, with their Classic Kiwi names: Kupa, Jackson, Cameron, Jordy, Charlie, Ollie, Zach, Jonty, Keegan, Milo, Lachie, and Robbie. It’s been a really nice group, and I’ve enjoyed talking to the other parents during practices and games.

Our team (Thunderbolts!) are on defense in this photo.  If you have ever wondered what the game actually looks like, check out this video clip.  Unlike American football, a “tackle” (ripping off a tag at this level) doesn’t mean the play stops–it just means the ball has to be passed back to another team mate to continue running.  The gist is pretty simple, but at the professional level there are lots of other rules around fouls and such.  Maybe if Milo sticks with the game long enough, I’ll learn all the ins and outs.

This is a good game for Naomi–a chance to watch someone play on their tablet, eat snacks, and drink hot chocolate.  Ah, the life of the younger sibling.

Mr. Competitive isn’t afraid to dive for the rip, so I see lots of laundry in my future!

Testing, testing, NZ medical system

When we were expecting Naomi I thought to myself “Good.  I’ve had one baby in the USA, now I’ll try the prenatal care and birthing system in New Zealand.”  I was pleasantly surprised how well the NZ midwifery system worked.  I felt that if I had run into complications that care would have been efficiently referred to an obstetrician, but the midwives I worked with were professional, skilled, and personable.  And the post-baby support beat the US system all hollow.  I’m a NZ birthing system convert.

I recently got to test the general medical system in NZ out….not that I have much personal experience with major medical problems in the US, so probably not a fair trial.  This test was a bit more rocky than the baby test.

April 2016 I started a problem that was eventually diagnosed as disc between two vertebrae bulging out and pressing on nerves, causing leg pain.  It sounds so simple in that description, but living with the problem was misery for months last winter, and I wallowed around in the NZ medical system waiting for one appointment or another… 4 months before getting an MRI (and therefore a correct diagnosis) and 9 months before getting approval (funding approval) for a surgery to correct it.  I’ll spare you the details of the wallowing.  I might do better the second time around, but probably not.  Basically the problem wasn’t an emergency (not life threatening), so rather than your first port-of-call doctor (a general practitioner in this case….well, after physiotherapists couldn’t do any more) ordering an expensive MRI scan, they order an appointment for you to see a specialist…and 6 weeks later when your appointment comes, they order and MRI for 4 weeks later….then wait again for a follow-up appointment.  You get the picture.  Health care is slow because it is rationed.  Economics is considered.  Unlike in America.

But in January when the approval for a surgery finally came through, I was actually feeling better.  Gradually, ever so incrementally, my back had improved to the point where I could mountain bike, and after that it got better on its own, slowly but steadily.  By late summer I was back to standing straight, not to mention back to hiking and rollerblading and all the stuff I love, and feeling that perhaps the slow-and-economical health care system was ok after all.  It’s financially sustainable at least, unlike the American system.

BUT THEN, that disc bulged again.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t DO anything.  But all of a sudden I was right back to where I was a year ago, limping around, not sleeping well, unable to do anything fun.  The only difference was this time I took more pain killers, because we were booked for our big trip back to the States and I just had to cope.  And this time, I already had all the contacts in place.

While in the States I was able to organize a new MRI appointment for the day after we got home, and an appointment with the surgeon two days later.  The funding approval was still valid from January.  He didn’t really have space in his surgery list for me, but he said it was a quick job and he’d squeeze me in the next week.  I felt like you do when you’re 40-weeks pregnant, when even the process of childbirth sounds better than the prospect of staying pregnant.  Cut open my back and take out that lump of the disc?  Yes please, that sounds great!

I don’t have many photos to share of that process.  I suppose I should have taken a picture of the knitting I was working on for hours before it was my turn for surgery, looking forward to the relief of the anesthesia.  Or the cheerful OR nurse with the bright blue eye shadow who said she had had the same problem (“It’s horrible, isn’t it?” she commiserated.)  No picture can show the relief of waking up and having the squirmy-can’-t-sit-still leg pain gone.  Just gone.

Sorry, this might gross some folks out….but did you know that disc cartilage is fiberous? That is the little piece that was causing me so much grief. “Can I see that piece of disc?” I asked the recovery room nurse. “You’ve already seen it twice!” she exclaimed. Had I? At least the last time I could focus properly.

I lucked out that the operation was at St George’s hospital. It’s pretty posh, and I even had my own room. Just one overnight stay, and then I was home.

That was a week ago, and I’m back at work now.  (Not back to vacuuming yet….thanks Jeremiah.)  Moving a little slowly, but feeling tremendously much better.  The surgeon says there’s a 95% chance that that will be the end of the saga.  A few cases re-occur, but if it does, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.  In six weeks from now I should be able to get back up into the mountains to backpack, maybe in time to catch the end of the snowy season.

I guess the NZ medical system did work for me this time….eventually.