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.)


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.   

What happened to June?

It’s been a long time since we hiked with our friends to Rod Donald Hut.  What happened to June?

It rained.  It was cold.  My back turned bad again, suddenly and for no reason.  We prepared for our month-long trip to the states.

This is what Zealandia Horticulture looks like on a foggy winter’s morning. I puzzled my boss by quoting the old nursery rhyme that seemed appropriate to the day: “One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet and old man, all dressed in leather. All dressed in leather, with hair upon his chin. “How do you do?” “How do you do?” “How do you do again?”
The grow lights for the hydroponic plants look cozy, which is not an empty promise. The biomass boiler keeps that part of the greenhouse at a comfy 18 C.

Other parts of the greenhouse are unheated, and the frost decorates the glass. A frosty morning promises that a good sunny day will follow, far better than a slightly warmer but grey day.

Winter is a good time for fire-building. One of the hunting brotherhood set this competition up–because what is a gathering of guys without a competition? They had identical lathe-smoothed logs to start with, which they reduced to piles of kindling with axes. Fires were to be started with flint, and the winner was the first one to burn through their string. Jeremiah won. It’s good to be married to a pyromaniac.

The last of the leaves fell from our Japanese maple trees. I procrastinated raking them, and in the end the wind blew them off the grass and into the nooks and crannies of the porch.

Milo had rugby practice at 4:00 every Wednesday. Look at that, there WERE a few sunny days in the mix, as documented by photography.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. Naomi is fearless in her climbing. Fortunately, she’s also quite capable.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. This picture was taken on the winter solstice. I guess winter is not so bad after all.

This is the classic Kiwi way to spend the winter, in full puffy attire sucking on hot drinks INDOORS. We’ve been shopping hard for a house that we can buy and make warm, but haven’t succeeded yet.

Speaking of Naomi, we celebrated a major accomplishment with a flower-topped cafe treat–the end of night time diapers. Hurray! No nostalgia over the diaper phase.

Naomi has started the birthday party circuit–this one was princess themed. Parents were encouraged to dress the part as well, but I didn’t see any other dresses among the adults. My garb wasn’t queenly enough to be blatantly a dress up, so I spent the party feeling awkwardly unfashionable for either group.

Even Milo got into the dress-up mode. This will be a good picture to pull out on his 21st birthday.

Here’s Milo in his normal clothes, proudly bringing his school classroom’s tuatara on a trip to the grocery store.

A week before our flight to the USA my back got all tight, and I spent a couple days laying on the couch hoping it would resolve itself peacefully. It didn’t, and instead developed into the same squashed-nerve pain as last year. Jenny cat appreciated the quiet day I had at home, the first time I’ve ever sent the kids to school and stayed home myself.

It was an interesting experience, staying home without the kids. Milo walked home himself at 3:00, and Naomi even got the preschool bus home at 4:15. I’ve craved alone time without the kids home for ages, but when it actually came down to it, I didn’t like it. Not that laying-on-the-couch time is that desirable…but it was a good reminder that I do like the kids and their company after all, and I should cherish the last year+ that I have Naomi home before she starts school.

The First Fish

“What are you guys doing at Easter?” my friend Laura asked.

“Oh, nothing big, we’re saving money for our trip to the States in July….maybe camping on the Banks Peninsula,” I responded, unenthusiastically.

“You could always come up here to Nelson,” she offered.

I looked at the forecast.  Tropical cyclones had been bringing flinging wet weather at us for the past two weeks, the forecast was dire, and Laura’s new house is ample and warm.  Camping really didn’t sound that appealing in comparison.  “Yes, please!  Let’s go for a weekend to Sunny Nelson!”

We drove up Thursday night in the rain and listened to the comforting sound of rain on the OUTSIDE of their roof all night.  The next day Jeremiah and Laura brewed a batch of home brew while Jordy and I took the kids to the Wearable Arts museum.

Here are Audrey and Naomi posing next to a dress made out of plastic buckets. The kind of bucket that can be purchased at the Warehouse for $1. Did I mention how much I LOVE the wearable arts show?

Here’s an elaborate costume (replete with pet dog who never poops on the grass) made entirely of plastic coated wire. The kind that’s inside your house walls. I LOVE it!
“Let’s start with the movie!” I suggest. It’s the compilation of last year’s show, which I got to see in person. The memories came flooding back as I watched the flamboyant costumes on parade, even the deep feeling of envy that the performers had such lithe use of their bodies (mine was quite painful last October, no weaving or turning or hip waggling due to that darn disc in my back).

This was the Baroque-themed section of the display.

Wouldn’t you want to prance around with a lit-up petal skirt? Audrey would!

Or how about a ram’s head mask made of metal filigree with matching wings? Yes please!

ANYWAY….back to the rest of the weekend. Laura has a hot tub on her deck!

In the past there has been significant friction between Milo and the others, but Milo behaved himself this weekend, making the parents’ time that much more relaxing.

Saturday dawned gloriously and we went with Ben and co. to some fishing ponds near the Waimea River. (Ben is Jeremiah’s hunting buddy who lives in Christchurch, but was up with his family the Grandparent Homestead near Nelson.)

Ben’s nephews had just pulled two fish from the ponds when we arrived, and one more was dragged out a bit later. A pleasant surprise, since the word on the street was that the ponds were devoid of fish. That was, presumably, why no one else was there (we later found out that the ponds are not open for fishing except for some very few-and-far-between days in the year….ignorance is bliss). Despite our best efforts “we” caught was weeds. I say “we” because Molly doesn’t fish. I brought my knitting and sat in the warm sun on a bench overlooking the cloud reflections in the pond, occasionally helping a small child pee in the grass.

SOMEONE had pulled fish from those ponds, so on after a rainy day on Sunday, Monday morning we had another go. The rest of us were still messing with tackle when Milo cast his lure. “I have a bite!” he shouted. We glanced up. Sure enough, it looked genuine–the pole was bent.

“Get a look at THAT!” The fish flopped energetically.  I plied the camera.  The fish managed to extract itself from the hook, wiggling perilously close to the water’s edge.

Good thing Laura is a veteran fisherwoman. She grabbed that slimey fish and wacked it over the head just the way she has wacked Alaskan salmon since she rolled out of the cradle. Thanks, Laura! That’s a bit of motherhood that I have failed at.  Definitively.

“He got his first fish,” I told my colleagues at work the next week. “He’s an addict,” I proclaimed, rolling my eyes. “Kids who fish aren’t on the police’s Wanted List,” my boss put in. Ok, point taken. I may not share a love of fishing, but I appreciate that the hunter-fishermen get outdoors with a goal to catch some food.  The salmon was tasty.  

Thank you, Laura and Jordy, for hosting us over the holiday weekend!

The last of the autumn sun??

On Saturday I took Naomi to Rapaki beach, while Jeremiah took Milo fishing. We got there a bit early (I forgot about the time change!) so we had to wait a bit for the tide to recede and expose the warm springs. We sat side by side in the calm air with the sun warming our backs, Naomi quietly munching a snack, with me just quiet. It was peaceful. I resisted the urge to text Jeremiah and find out how HIS time was going.


Eventually another family turned up and Naomi gained a playmate. But since they were Iranian and didn’t speak much English, the quiet morning continued.

We left the beach reluctantly–the forecast for the week ahead was for chilly rain, and so far it has come true.

Bonus pet

I have a pet cat. Well, she’s sort of my cat. She lives outside, and I feed her. I also got her spayed, which is a bit of an intimate thing to do to a cat that doesn’t belong to me…so I suppose she’s mine. Her name is Jenny. Genevieve, but we call her Jenny.

She showed up in the garage last winter with two wee kittens tucked into our bike trailer, and I liked her because she was such a dedicated mother.  We found other homes for the kittens and got Jenny’s “baby bed taken out” (as I explained it to the kids), and Jenny hung around.  Cat food doesn’t cost that much, and she’s independent of my care in every other way.

It was a summer evening the first time we heard the metal food bowl getting shuffled around the concrete patio after dark.  We got ourselves a bonus pet.

I don’t know if the hedgehog is a he or a she, nor does it have a name (yet–any ideas?). But if the food bowl is left on the ground it’s a regular visitor. I like it. Like Jenny, it’s independent and low maintenance. “Independent, low maintenance, AND prickly….just like you!” my parents cackled over skype. Yeah, maybe. I like skunks too….

A breath of high(ish) air

Look at that autumn outlook over the port hills! It was a golden sunny day, not too hot nor too cold, and without wind. The bike tracks up to Summit Rd from Halswell Quarry are still closed after the big fire, so Sunday I drove around the base of the hills to access an open track further east. I haven’t explored the tracks over near Rapaki Rd much (I’m adverse to driving in order to exercise) so I’m exploring most of these for the first time. This time I tried going east from the summit. I’m not a “black diamond” mountain biker, so not too far along this particular track I gave up hefting my bike over the rocks, instead climbing straight up through the dry grassy seed heads to the summit of this little peak. There’s something about getting to a high outlook that’s super satisfying.

Turning the other direction, you get a king’s view over the city. “That’s right,” you think to yourself, “all those people down there are breathing the smog, going about their daily lives, and I’m up here above it all!” Until I ride back down, of course, and resume my own daily life like everyone else. It’s a refreshing interlude nonetheless.