Transformed by white

We’ve had two days of strong southerly rains in Christchurch, making me think with sympathy of the emperor penguin dads huddled in the dark on the antarctic ice, where the weather system originated. This morning a hard frost covered the garden but the sky itself was clear. NZ is a commonwealth country, and, God Bless the Queen, we had Monday off today.

We refurbished some old pairs of gaiters and waterproof pants for the kids, and headed for the white hills.

“How much longer until we get to the snow?” Naomi wasn’t thrilled with riding in the car fully clothed in her outdoor gear. “We’re not sure, hun, we’re just going to drive until we get to snow deep enough for sledding.”

We reached playable snow by lake Lyndon, so we peeled off the main road and drove a little bit around the lake to a mostly smooth hill that didn’t end at the road or pricker bushes.  The snow was crusty and our flimsy plastic sleds weren’t up to the task, but we turned them around and rode them backwards after the fronts had broken apart. 

The highlight of the day wasn’t actually sledding, it was building. As the sun spent time on the snow it became a bit more malleable, and we could cut building chunks. Naomi is posing, but the wind break was really Milo’s project.

Yesterday someone else had been up there and built a major igloo out of snow blocks, most of which was still intact.

Jeremiah occupied the igloo much of the day, making hot chocolate and doling out sandwiches.  The wind was brisk and inside the fort was much more cozy than outside.

Our dear friend Mr. Kennedy has recently shared some photos from our childhood, and among them was this one, a snow cave we made at Sunnymeade circa 2002. The top layer of girls is Jennifer, Sarah, Susanna and Rebecca.  

Another ancient picture of a pair of cheesy grins, just for sh__s and giggles. Today I strapped on my snowshoes and trudged up the hill, eliciting a friendly comment from a woman that “I must be from somewhere cold.” She had never seen snow shoes before. Yep, there’s much fun to be had in the snow.

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Girly plaits

When we were expecting Naomi, we didn’t find out by ultrasound if she was a girl or a boy. We had known Milo would be a boy, and the second time I wanted to experience what it was like to be surprised.

When the midwife handed her to me I had a quick peak at her nether regions. “A girl” was confirmed. I had believed that I didn’t really care if the second was a girl or a boy, but my first thought betrayed me. “A girl! I’m going to do HAIR!”

I’m from a family of 4 long-haired girls, and our close family friends had three more girls. Imagine the fantastic hair dos we came up with.

Since Naomi was a baby I’ve always braided her hair to keep the whispies under control, but we are just coming into the time where Naomi herself is liking fancy hair dos.  Yay!

This morning Naomi put on her newly repaired Anna dress and asked for a fancy hair “plait.”

Kiwi crate obsession

“When is my Kiwi Crate going to come?”

“I don’t know, Milo.”

“Dad got the email that it was coming three weeks ago–WHEN will it be here??”

“It’s really hard to tell, Milo.”

“Grrr!”

We had this exchange, verbatim, EVERY DAY, for the last three weeks.

Each day he’d come home from school, and ever-hopeful, and peer into letterbox….only to be disappointed.  “When is my…….”  “Don’t know…”  “three weeks!….”  “Grrr!”

Until today, when the long-awaited orange cardboard box finally arrived. 

 

20190328_194301.jpgBuilding the kiwi crate project took precedent over afternoon snack, over rugby practice, over dinner….though sadly not over watching netflix.

Kiwi Crates are kits with a science theme.  They come with all the pieces to make a project, and kid friendly instructions to follow.  They can be built in the attention span of a child (short), and kits come for a couple different age ranges.

Milo has gotten some genuinely cool projects the last couple months involving electronics, hydraulics, and mechanics.  He’s good at following the instructions and perseveres to get it right.  An engineer in the making.

Naomi loves kiwi crates just as much. We got home to find a green box and an orange box on the door step. The kids swooped them up, grinning fiendishly, and emptied the contents on the living room floor.

Here’s the project that Naomi got to build this time. Inertia is the theme, and it’s meant to be explored by a type of curling game, and a mini bowling game. The random pieces were air clay and were custom built by Naomi, adding an artistic flair to the project.

Wobbly ballerina

Naomi had her second ballet recital yesterday. She doesn’t seem nervous performing at all.

First came the “baby ballerinas,” in their long white snowman dresses, gleeful at the novelty of being on stage.  There were the furious wavers, proudly making sure their parents were noticing them.  There were the ones who stood chewing on the tulle on their dresses, twiddling their ballerina buns, poking their fingers into their nose, or staring absently out into the audience.  When the leaping part of the song came they jumped enthusiastically, hair bobbing, faces grinning.

The levels paraded up in their christmas costumes, at least a dozen little girls in each.  Red sequence gowns, reindeer, angels, snowmen, and Naomi’s group with their bright green dresses.  The teacher, Miss Amelia, smiling relentlessly, gave us a whole new appreciation for the term “herding cats,” and for the level of coordination that it takes to make a dozen five year olds flutter gracefully in a circle, landing back on the line where they started.

I remember feeling quite nervous about being on stage as a young kid, during our annual school christmas concerts.  Naomi didn’t exhibit an once of nervousness; she’s made of sterner stuff than I!

Woman-of-Leisure Day

Naomi started school this week.  She loves her teacher (pictured), and she’s rocking the big girl style.

Her starting school also means that, for the first time, I experienced what it was like to drop off  two kids to school and have a free day (or free five hours at least). And I was resolved to not do any –no vaccuuming cobwebs, no grocery shopping; No Household Jobs.  It was amazing. The weather cooperated beautifully with the momentous occasion, so I went biking. 

Part way along the bike ride I stopped for a cafe brunch (“I’ll have the LARGE coffee, please”) at the Sign of the Kiwi.

I sat in the sun in front of the renovated cafe (finally open again after earthquake repairs) and watched the other people who didn’t have kids or work on a Tuesday morning come and go. Then I jumped on the bike again and sailed down through the weekday-quiet trails in the Adventure Park, and on towards home.  Even the quiet shower in the normal bathroom (that needs cleaning) seemed luxurious.  

I imagine if every Tuesday was like this I’d get used to it and start to take it for granted….a tragedy of under-appreciation.

That won’t happen though, since in two weeks I’ll start working more days, trying out the five day work week until Christmas.

I’m excited about that too.

Sometimes Motherhood is Sweet

There are plenty of disadvantages to being the primary care giver for kids, but a few days ago even I had to admit that I had a pretty sweet deal.

It’s school holidays right now, the two week break between each quarter of the school year.  It’s always a juggle with working parents, but this time some friends and I decided to take a day or two off, pack up the kids, and head into Rod Donald hut for an overnight.

It’s a hut that you have to book, so we took a gamble on the weather.  Last time we walked in there it was wet and misty, but the hut has a nice cozy pot-belly stove and the walk is so short that we could bring luxury food and games; even a hut-bound overnight is fun.  And these two friends happen to be English, where any weather is good weather, so I knew we’d be ok.

Look at that blue sky! We “lucked out” with the weather. That’s a term I never really contemplated,, but the Kiwis find it really confusing….and for good reason. I don’t mean that I was out of luck, but rather that I got lucky!
It doesn’t look like we’re on our way to a hut in the hills, but we kinda are. We stopped at Birdlings Flat on the way to Little River, where we admired the stones and searched for agates.

Sally is a geologist, so you can see why she’s happy.
The little gem and mineral museum at the end of the dead end road is really worth a stop. The book there said that agates are formed in the voids left by gas pockets in lava. Water laced with minerals finds its way into these bubbles and slowly deposits crystals. The resulting agates wash up at Birdlings Flat as they are eroded out of the mountains, washed down the Rakaia River and tossed up on the beach. I love them almost as much as the kids do.

The hut is perched on the side of a hill overlooking the town of Little River, but the track to it actually starts above, at the pass. Since we were driving past the hut access road on the way there, us mommies hopped out of the car and carried the bulk of the overnight gear up the steep drive to the hut. That way the hike with the kiddos was really more of a stroll through pasture than a tramp.

Look at these hooligans! We were three moms and six kids, a passel of noise to be sure.  The boys walked along brandishing sticks at imaginary zombies and kicking a rugby ball, while two girls tied themselves together with a tow rope and sauntered along in a pair.

The hill top trees are warped by the prevailing wind into grotesque shapes, nice to contemplate on a pleasant sunny day, but fearsome if you were faced with the prospect of an exposed overnight in bad weather.

There’s our hut. Such a lovely site.

The kids made themselves at home with games….

…and with drawing

The mommies played on the slack line.  It’s a funny thing when I stop to think about it–why do I find this balancing game so fun?  I’m not sure.  Balance is a skill, it takes practice, and every time I make it to the other end I feel accomplished.  Yeah, I probably just crave gratification.   

What a friendly view. Last time we were here we just had to imagine it, swathed as we were in mist. This time the kids played hide and seek for hours in the grass outside the hut.

It’s interesting sharing kids with other moms, watching their styles. Milo spent–no joking–45 minutes trying to get this 2 meter long domino train of cards to work. They’re very touchy, and he kept knocking them down before he was finished. Emma took pity on him and used a pencil to make a safety stop so he wouldn’t lose the whole thing if a section fell over, a well as fended off the rest of the gang from coming too close and accidentally setting them off. I was ready to call it an exercise in futility and move on at the 15 minute mark, but both Milo and Emma were determined, and they eventually got it. Boy, are they pleased with themselves!

Failed attempt number 572:

Success at last:

School holidays end this weekend, and Naomi’s sojourn at school starts on Monday.  The times: they are are a-changing.

 

The End of an Era….and beginning of the next

Naomi turns 5 in a matter of weeks, and the Kiwis have this charming tradition of sending kids off to start school right on their 5th birthday.  There are school visits once a week for three Tuesdays before The Birthday.  Then they dress up in the school uniform and start regular attendance on their birthday, or there abouts.

Naomi is very proud of her uniform, and was excited to wear it to Playcentre to show it off.

Tuesdays are our normal Playcentre days, another charming Kiwi tradition in which we’ve partaken since Milo was a baby.  Playcentre is a parent-run preschool with a philosophy that parents are the kids’ best teachers, and kids learn best by self-directed play.  A little like Montessori with a messier twist.

I’m not much for pageantry or ritual, but I was quite impressed with how special the send-off was at playcentre. Steph, the coordinator who has been there since Naomi was a new born, gave her a thorough “feel like a big kid” send off. She got to wear the special Maori feather cloak (symbolism a bit lost on me, but special nonetheless), and show everyone through her learning story journal. We all sang happy birthday in English and Maori, and she chose five “fairy claps” from the group.  She was presented with a certificate and a Playcentre cup before the admiring eyes of her peers.

A couple of the kids made her playdough cakes with candles. She moved her photo from the “waka” (big Maori canoe) to the school poster. And in the end she exited the building under a tunnel of hands to the tune of a special song.  She ate up all the attention, and then didn’t look back.  My kids aren’t nostalgic, that’s for sure; they seem to only look forward, towards the future, not behind.

There will be a leaving ceremony at her other preschool as well, the Montessori school where she attends while I work.  That one won’t involve a feather cloak, but she’ll still find it memorable.

Naomi’s birthday is during the end-of-term school holidays, so her school visits started three weeks before the end of term.  A school visit is 10-12, so we bring Milo at 8:30, then go home for a few minutes, then back to school.

The first school visit morning I wasn’t sure it was actually going to happen.  She had started out wonderfully excited to don the new uniform, but I had scolded her for driving her bike too close to a parked car and scraping it with her handle, and when we got home she was cross and uncooperative.  I offered to have her help me bake muffins.  “I don’t like muffins!”  Then would she like to grate carrots? “I don’t like carrots!”  We can put one of the muffins in your school lunch.  “I’m not going to school!”  Ok, I said, feigning indifference, while wondering if I was really willing to let her skip out.  Would you like to lick the batter?  A nod.  Then her sun came back out, all was well, and we traipsed back to school.

Here is the New Entrant classroom at Halswell school. Tuesdays are new kid visit days, so the parents of all the soon-to-be-starting kids are present as well.

Parents hang around for an hour of the visit, “settling in” their children….or, in my case, with a child who is confident and happy to be launched, just staring at the sea of red and wondering which one is mine.

New kids are paired with a buddy in the class room to show them the ropes (and the toilets, more literally). Her buddy is also shares her name, a fact which they both seemed to enjoy.

She’s starting with 12 other new kids, a huge intake for one week.  The teachers’ ability to learn faces and names is absolutely incredible.  Her teacher is starting back at school the same week she is, having been a New Entrant teacher at Halswell some years ago, then taken a break to be a librarian and a professional actress at the local theatre.  She was wearing a pink polka dot dress with a teal ruffle, pink bobble bead earrings, and red lipstick.  Her bubbly actress persona is infectious.  She’s any little girl’s dream teacher.  Heck, I want to go back to kindergarten!

While the kids are adjusting to the classroom, the parents are taken away to the staff room for tea and a talk.  The first week the talk had something to do with the reporting system, stuff I should have known having had Milo in the school for years now, but which I only vaguely recalled.  Another parent asked me about the weekly sausage sizzle, but I was clueless since we have never purchased it for Milo.  I felt more competent during the second week talk, revolving around feeding your kid for school–fruit break, morning tea, and lunch.  Apparently little misunderstandings like eating your sandwich for morning tea can be enough to derail some littlies.  Oh, and make sure they wear shoes they can do up themselves, and that they can get their own clothes down to toilet themselves.  I spent the hour being thankful that my kids are pretty rugged when it comes to transitions.  No credit to me, it’s just their confident personalities.

I’ve been trying to plan some fun stuff with Naomi on Thursdays before she starts her 8:30-3:00 school drill. Last week we went to Hagley park with friends; here we are being silly.

Every spring we ride or walk down Harper Ave in Hagley park, under the frilly cherry blossoms.   There was the spring when I just had Milo in the jogging stroller, then the next one where I was pregnant with Naomi.  Then I pushed a stroller and Milo rode his balance bike, then his pedal bike.  Now Naomi’s zooming along on her pedal bike while Milo’s at school.  Other years I’ve been desperate for the spring to come, but this spring has been so busy that I almost forgot to make the annual pilgrimage.

Cheeky cheerful Naomi.  Tomorrow is her third and final school visit, then the school holidays happen, then–hey presto–she’s a school girl.  Two kids at school.