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.

 

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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.

 

Dommett Lodge

“On Guard!” Don’t mess with the hooligans, they clearly mean business.
We spent last weekend with the Trick-Pendle family at Dommett “Lodge,” a traditional Kiwi bach on farm land in Kurow, in rolling hills south of Christchurch by about 4 hours. The kids spent the entire weekend happily killing each other with nerf guns. “I got you in the heart, you’re dead!” “Missed me, only got my leg!” Better them than me; I have absolutely no tolerance for being shot at, even in pretend.

The bach is on a private farm, which you access on a four-wheel drive road past a locked gate. I brought my new spiffy mountain bike and biked in from the gate. The day we arrived was thick fog and I couldn’t see anything, let alone how long it was to the top of the hill. But the next two days cleared up.

Emma and Ian have a real four-wheel-drive truck, but our Rav4 made it ok.

Because the weather was so foggy we spent the first afternoon shooting at a wine box target from the front porch of the bach. Emma and Ian are English, so they haven’t had a lot of experience with firearms; shooting a gun was a real novelty.

The bach was a rustic affair; pieced together from relics of other homes, the side of the house you see here is made of a garage door–open at this moment in time.  Thankfully the sand flies weren’t bad.  The wall in one bedroom even had an electrical outlet–not connected to anything (as the thirteen-year-old video game addict found out when he tried plugging in his tablet).  The true bach style does mean you don’t have to be too precious about the carpet. 

There’s a “kitchen” inside, but that’s just a sink (with hot running water!), so we did all our cooking on the grill on the porch.

We nearly burned the place down when the grease trap caught on fire!  Notice the fire extinguisher Ian is proudly holding–we used it. 

Ian’s goal for the weekend was to build a dam on the little creek that runs past the bach.

Dam builders in action! The small creek was perfect–low enough that you don’t have to worry at all about the kids, but wet enough for water play. Had the weather been warmer I think we would have spent more time in the creek.

As it was, we spent a bit of time in the hot tubs. It was misting that first night and I don’t like getting my face rained on, so I pulled out the umbrella, much to the amusement of the others. Makes perfect sense to me.

The valley with the gravelly river is where the bach is situated, and the second day I took a bike ride up a four-wheel-drive road to this saddle.

From there I walked up to the next knob and squinted at the view.

But I admired the tough little alpine flowers hunkered down among the tussocks even more.

Jeremiah did a little hunting on the station, but despite the lush grass he didn’t see any deer except one on the neighbor’s property, which we were strictly warned not to touch.

“Bring me back a hare,” were Emma’s parting words. So when Jeremiah saw the telltale ears poking up among the grass he took the opportunity. The kids were fascinated.

Ian was fascinated too. On the right are the hare legs wrapped in bacon (the ones that set the grease trap on fire!).

The kids liked the hare, but they liked the marshmallows even better. What makes a good marshmallow stick in a country without trees? Speargrass.

They’re just too cute!

When the kids get along well it makes for a good weekend for the grown ups too.

Cheers!

Mission: Wharfedale by bike

This doesn’t look like Wharfedale hut, does it? There are some NZ huts in lovely settings, but this, alas, is not Wharfedale. It’s the beach at New Brighton where we started the day, with Jeremiah and his friend Ben cutting up deer meat after the previous week’s successful hunt, and me bringing the kids down to the beach for a play.

Actually, nothing really went wrong. The track was just a little bumpier than the kids are used to, it was a warm day (read that as fatiguingly hot to Mr. Red-faced Milo), and as the afternoon wore on the lollies had to come at progressively close intervals.

Naomi was at the point of stopping and sitting on the ground when we hooked her up to Daddy’s bike, after which her demeanor changed completely. “Let’s go, Dad!” she shouted, cracking the proverbial whip as she bounced cheerfully along.

The four-wheel drive track crossed the river at various places, but as it was a warm day, wet feet weren’t a bother. Naomi waited at the river’s edge like a princess, reaching up her arms for her lift over after the bikes had been transported.  She was wearing her “biking skirt,” which means it was short and poofy enough not to get dirty on the tire.

Milo did really well, even through the last bit of uphill single track that required lots of bike pushing, but I could hear the desperation mounting as we rounded every corner: “Are we there yet??” “Almost,” I kept saying, as I inserted gummy candies into his mouth and pushed his bike from behind. Finally we heard voices through the trees and knew we were well and truly almost there.

Upon reaching the hut they both completely revived, swinging on the ladder and noisily claiming bunks. The glorious people with whom we shared the hut just smiled and tolerated the mayhem, even chatting back at times.

For some reason Milo was convinced that salamanders lived in the stream at the hut, and even fancied he saw some as he reached down for skipping rocks. We spent a pleasant few minutes aiming stones at a rock while Daddy cooked dinner.

“When can we get up?” they inquired at sun-up, in a resonating whisper. “Shh! Everyone else is sleeping!” we admonished them. Rustle, rustle. Giggle, squeal. Those wonderful people on the bottom bunk didn’t even voice a complaint.

The bike out was slightly down hill, and therefore easier. We managed to pause from swatting sand flies for long enough to get a group photo before we set off.

The water looks nice, doesn’t it? It was “fresh,” as they say here. Translation: COLD. Jeremiah gamely jumped off the rock three times before I got a suitable photo.

Schooldom

Milo’s not what you would call talkative about what goes on at school.

“Milo, what did you do at school today?” I prompt

“I played on the playground,” I might get.  Or perhaps the classic: “Nothing.”

I can’t say that I was much different, in my memory.  My own mother used to ask me how the day at school was, and I literally couldn’t remember.  I couldn’t be bothered to cast my mind back to period 2 English or period 7 Math.  It was in the past, a whole bus ride in the past, and I wasn’t interested in revisiting it.

So what happens in the classroom has been a big black box to me….until I got to peak in at a window of time this week.

The teachers always email that they love parent help–people to sharpen pencils or put workbooks in order or listen to kids read.  I had assumed that since I had Naomi with me, I couldn’t stay, but I saw another mom staying with a kid in a pram just a couple weeks ago….so I resolved to stay and have a look-see one Thursday morning.

Milo’s regular teacher was away, but his beloved year one teacher, Mrs. Davies, was standing in instead.  The class of 26 kids had an hour before they loaded onto the bus to go to their swimming lesson, and the teacher gathered them up to do an activity that involved making a fold-out fish that looks all nice and friendly until you pull out the crease and reveal the gaping mouth full of teeth.  “Roar!” The kids were delighted.  All except a couple boys at the back who were busy playing with a pirate ship and poking pins into the wall.

Even handing out paper to a group of fidgety six-year-olds is a logistical task.  Then came the job of writing one’s name on the paper, putting the name side down on the ground, folding the paper in half (the fat way), adding an additional fold to make a hidden pocket…..dude, I take it for granted that Milo catches on quickly.  You can’t imagine how many ways a kid can get stuck or distracted during that process, starting with not having a pencil.  Fifteen minutes later the teacher was ready to show the kids how to draw the fish with the hidden teeth in the crease.  The boy at the back adjusted the flag on the pirate ship, his paper forgotten at his side.  The girl in the middle drew the fish lips both on top and couldn’t get the mouth to open.  I tried to help another girl who appeared stuck, only to be baffled when she sunk her head onto her knees and tears began to appear.  Ay caramba.

Let me declare, the teacher was masterful.  She was clear, and patient, and cheerful.  Chipper in the face of all that discombobulated hubbub.  She remembered everyone’s name, and let me remind you–she was the substitute.  There’s a reason I’m not a primary school teacher.  But wow, I sure got a vision of how hard it would be to be a parent of an easily distracted kid.  Or a timid kid.  Or any kid who has a challenge with catching on to new stuff.  Because with 25 other kids in the room, it’s not like the teacher can stop and give a lot of one-on-one time to any single child.  A kid can float along, leaving the job of paying attention to other kids in the class, and where does that leave them?

I considered it a minor miracle that the kids ended up in line with their swim bags, ready to load up and go to the pool. But to the year two teacher, it’s just another morning. Wowzers.

After the class embarked on their pool trip I took the warm hand of my one little girl and we went for a walk in the quarry. She chatted non-stop (wouldn’t know where she gets that trait…), and I paid full attention (nearly) to just one child. Luxury.

We stopped and admired the pink flowers. Eucalyptus blooms.  Look at that beautiful little elf cap ready to pop off and reveal the gaudy pink frizz.  Plants are so easy compared to people.  

Kiddy weekend in Christchurch

I think back about the weekend now and realized that I’m photo-poor, but the memories are good.

It’s a long weekend, as Monday is the Labour Day public holiday, and Jeremiah had planned a hunting trip with the Brotherhood.

We started out Friday evening with Milo’s first soccer practice of the summer season. Naomi is such a good sport about being toted around to Milo’s activities; I guess as a second born she knows no different. We “hung out” on the playground. That’s all the more exciting when I remember that a couple months ago I couldn’t hang at all.

Saturday we met friends at Hagley Park. The photo in this gigantic beech tree was taken just seconds before a park employee told us off for tree climbing. “There’s actually a law saying you can’t climb the trees in the park,” he informed us, though not unkindly. That’s ok. I’m just thrilled that I CAN climb trees again.

A couple weeks ago we met some friends who had painted some rocks and were hiding them around the park for other people to find. Apparently there’s a Christchurch Rocks facebook page, and you can photograph the rocks you find and put them up. Anyway, Milo and Naomi have been industriously painting a small cohort of rocks and we distributed some of them. It’s a hard concept for a kid–to leave your precious painted art for someone else to find and move….

Guess what kind of flowers THESE are?

Chestnut. Pink ones with snazzy yellow centers, how fancy!

Sunday, between looking at houses for sale, we did a little walk up to Sugarloaf from Sign of the Kiwi. Glorious day for it, and the kids were wearing their good attitudes.

And Monday we made the trek out to Tumbledown Bay with some other friends.

I’m sure we’ll see more of these types of photos once Jeremiah gets home. He got his first trout on the fly rod, and was one happy camper.

Four Year Old Week

Kids sure love their birthdays. Naomi turned 4 on Thursday, and she started her day out with a new pink bath robe from Omi and Abi. It’s a pink puppy robe, and she matches her pink puppy….so very wonderfully PINK!

Technically a kid only has one day a year where it’s their birthday, but they way calendars work, it often becomes a birthday WEEK. Her birthday celebration at preschool was the day before her birthday. We did a marathon of kid activities on her actually birthday. And her birthday party is this weekend.  Not that any kid minds having their birthday extended….

I had her actual birthday off from work, and Milo is on school break right now, so in the morning we went to MegaAir. Sounds crazy, right? It is every bit as crazy as it sounds. It’s a ware-house sized building full of trampolines and bouncy stuff, like this foam cube pit. We believe in challenging our kids’ immune systems at every opportunity, and the kids need no extra encouragement to revel in the dried snot stew.

After our jumping we went to a cafe to consume some fat, sugar, and happiness, in the form of caramel slice and oreo cheesecake.

Then we jetted off to a theatrical rendition of The Ugly Duckling at the Court Theatre.

On the way over to swimming lessons we stopped at a fantastic school playground. I remember as a kid not understanding why grown-ups had so much trouble swinging on monkey bars….now I’m the one to be impressed with the kids’ agility. I can manage a pull-up or two, while they’re hooning gleefully around the jungle gym like baby orangutans.  She was so enthusiastic that she wore the skin off her palms.

The pink robe was donned again for fancy dinner attire. She wanted scrambled eggs and pizza for dinner, so I made breakfast pizza in an attempt to combine both. She wasn’t an enthusiastic fan, but she did like the pink octopus cake.