Saturday, May 31, 2014

On Being Creative

Have you ever thought, "Oh well, that child (or adult) just isn't that creative?"

Hmm.  I've caught myself out thinking that about my son a few times.  But the thing is, what do I term 'creative?'  If I'm only measuring creativity against certain things then only a narrow segment of the population will be seen as 'creative' anyway.  I used to think I wasn't that creative.  That's because I couldn't paint.  And I never could seem to get the words right in creative writing projects, so I thought I couldn't write.  I spent so many years blocking my own ability with this negative mindset, not realising that creativity is so much more than something as narrow as painting or writing stories.  I can write.  I just need a starting point.  And thus far I haven't enjoyed writing dialogue, because it always seems more stilted than the movie script running in my head!  And in actual fact I can paint, sometimes.  I paint really nice flowers, lifesize imitations of the real thing.  Just don't ask me for a landscape or a person.  I could make you a bird's nest though, that hangs out of the frame.  Really quite striking. Or knit you a blanket, or make you a lovely card.  Or cook a meal from scratch without a recipe....I'm creative, just in an eclectic kinda way!  And my greatest creativity?  Being able to think around problems.  Now, how often would that be identified as being 'creative?'

Anyway, all this to say that I'm finding I need to be careful about how I think of my son's abilities, both actual and potential.

With the right incentive, any child can be creative.

So he doesn't often pull out the pens and paper and doodle on his own.  Instead, he prefers being creative in storytelling around his diggers and planes, or building things with his duplo.  But if I ask him to make something for a person's birthday, he will.  Especially if it's a collaborative project between the two of us (does that tell you a few things about my boy, perhaps?).

Recent artwork includes pictures for two Aunties having birthdays:

Spiders on a web.  He has since repeated this on a card for one of our sponsored children, completely off his own initiative after seeing me take out my card making box.

Some earlier pictures for our sponsored children - he helped me make the flower stalks and leaves, stuck the stickers on himself, then drew the grass.

Some car pictures made with glue and glitter.  Isn't it gorgeous?!

Then there's the pavement chalk we did one day.  Complete with writing his own name with only a little encouragement and direction from Mummy. 

A police van imitation, joint-collaboration. 

And our landscape.

Sometimes creativity just needs a little helping hand at an opportune time.  Sometimes it needs some encouragement, for someone else to recognise ability or interest.  Sometimes you just need the right incentives, the right suggestions or themes, the right inspiration, the right moment.  Capture it.  Run with it.  Enjoy it.  Celebrate it.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Time Out

Ever get to the point where you're just tired.  Tired of being busy, tired of rushing, tired of being tired?

And you need a rest.

Well, I was.

So we did.  Rest.

We went out for the afternoon, no timetable.  No plans, other than perhaps some fishing for Boyo.

Munchkin played in the lake.

I crocheted on the bank before collecting a bag of pinecones for preschool (because I'm not allowed to bring pinecones home - Boyo knows I am a little bit obsessive about them and we don't have a fire so what else would they get used for?!).

It was beautiful.

It was peaceful.

A perfect afternoon.

I needed it.  We all did.  We loved it.

Where do you go when you need to recharge?  We normally head to the beach, but the lake was just as lovely.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Fishing with Daddy

We got Boyo a trout fishing license for his last birthday (we being anyone in the whole immediate family who wanted to give him a gift).

Munchkin is keen to learn:

Isn't it wonderful, the things we can learn from our parents?!


Saturday, May 24, 2014

When Money Isn't Everything

We could be renting a cheaper house.  It’s possible.  We’ve thought about it.  Long and hard.

But we’re staying put.

The thing is, I’ve realised that for Boyo and I, we place quite a high emphasis on financial aspects when making decisions.  It’s just the way we’re wired, both tending towards more analytical and less emotive decision making.  It can be helpful.  But it can also be a pain.

I really wanted to move house to save ourselves some money.  I’d put it to good use, I thought.  Save towards our future, instead of paying so much in rent.  But of course the money you think you’ll save is rarely what you really will save.  There’s the cost of moving, for instance.  It cost us a hundred dollars for the carpet, and a hundred for a new modem when we came here.  And then our power is on a different rate here, so costs more.  You just can’t predict that stuff, although I sure try!

I’d almost convinced myself we should move again when my amazing man came to the rescue.  His words of wisdom?  “Amy, I just don’t think you’ll survive in a house without sun.”  Nah, I reasoned.  I’m not home that much anymore.  And this house, while it gets sun, doesn’t have a heat pump.  So as long as we went to a place with a heat pump, I’d be okay, wouldn’t I?  But in the end I had to concede that he knows me terribly well. I am nearly cold-blooded.  So I made the choice to listen to my wise man, and stay put.

I’m glad I did.  It’s easy during summer to think only of how hot the upstairs is (stifling to say the least!).  It’s easy to forget how much I rely on the sun.

But just yesterday I found myself lying on the floor playing with my son, strategically wiggling myself in the direction of the stream of sunlight arcing across the lounge floor.  I was just a teeny bit cold.  Until I lay in the sun, at which point I felt just right.

It made me realise that I value having sun in my home immensely.  Enough to spend an extra $30 a week, which is what we probably are spending compared to what we ‘could’ manage to live in.

But the sun isn’t the only thing…I’ve found at least 9 things about this place that are worth an extra $30 a week to me.  So that means they are each only worth $3.30!

Sunlight.  As already mentioned.  It’s gold! 

Bath.  Munchkin had outgrown his tub.  He now gets to spend hours each week playing and prunifying (that glorious state where you’ve spent so long in the bath that your fingers look like dried prunes!).  It’s one of his favourite past-times.  And there’s nothing better than a warm bath when you’re cold, tired, and achy.  At least, that’s what I think.  I am a bath girl.  How I survived for three years without one, with a baby and study and bung back, I do not know.  I’m making up for the lack now!
New carpet.  I cannot rave enough.  To be able to sit on the floor, even lie on the floor with my nose embedded in the carpet (doing my back exercises, not of my free will, believe me!) and not have an allergic reaction is amazing!
Garden and deck.  Sometimes I think I’d rather not have the work of a garden.  But I do love being surrounded by gardens.  There are mature trees on this property, and I’ve concluded I just wouldn’t emotionally survive living somewhere with just buildings or concrete instead of greenery.  I look out at them every day.  Multiple times.  Every time I sit down to eat, I’m gazing out one window or another.  Plus of course we have a lemon tree and small vege garden that help offset the costs of living here!  And the deck, well I just love the back deck.  I can open the ranch slider wide, sit at the dining table with my lunch, and watch my son in the sandpit.  He’s visible (and highly audible too, I might add!).  It just works.

Location.  Fifteen minutes walk to our bank, chemist, a supermarket and more.  Just being able to take 5minutes to drive to the DVD store on a tired night is amazing.  And that’s without us being walking distance to my parents too.  It was SO nice not moving out of our familiar area, being able to still know the streets and the shops.
Walkway.  I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I still get that wonderful sense of peace from traipsing along our walkway.  And it’s a lifesaver on bored afternoons when Munchkin and I enjoy exploring together.

Internal garage.  With REMOTE!  Ahhhhh.  Our front door is somewhat stupidly positioned at the very back of the property.  So to go from front door to car/letterbox on wet days involves a slippery cobbled path that happens to be smack bang under the eaves that drip all over you.  Making the garage very handy.  It stores all that extra stuff that we haven’t managed to get inside the house.  It holds racks of washing on wet days.  Three (or so) bikes.  Guinea pig straw.  Recycling and rubbish bins.  A spare bed for when Munchkin is bigger.  Freezer.  Washing machine.  Tools.  Chemicals.  Gumboots and umbrellas and jackets.  You get the idea.  A LOT.

Insulation.  This house is so much drier and warmer than our last.  It’s incredible, what a bit of exterior insulation can do.  Being asthmatics, that’s important.  Very, very important.  And it’s just plain nicer too to get up and the lounge be 9 degrees (Celsius) instead of 4.

Proactive Landlords.  This single item would be worth $30 a week in itself!  There's nothing more to say, proactive landlords are worth their weight in gold.

So you see?  Money isn’t everything.  And sometimes what we think will save us money isn’t going to be worth it.  I live here.  It’s important that I am able to LIVE.  To dwell, to be at peace, to enjoy, to laugh, to rest.  A home needs to be that, a home.  Not just a place we are temporarily dwelling until we get to that amazing place we dream of, when we’re rich and can build our dream house from scratch, but a place to be in now, while we wait.  It’s a balance between tomorrow’s needs and todays, and not all of them are tangible or monetary-based.  It wouldn’t have occurred to me a few years ago to put ‘must have trees’ on my house-hunting list, but now I realise how deeply affected I am by my surroundings and how much my soul craves living, green things.  There’s no point reaching my financial goals sooner if I do so at the expense of the (sometimes very thin shred) of sanity I have now, is there? 


Thursday, May 22, 2014


I'm SO excited!

We've just been invited to attend a special 25th Anniversary Dinner with Liberty Trust.


In Whakatane.

On a night Munchy baby is away.

Which means that we can actually GO.

Amazing.  Awesome.  Wonderful.  Did I mention that I'm so excited??!  I have RSVPd (the same day we got the invite).  With more than my usual number of exclamation points.  Grin.

Here's the thing, you see.  We've been contributing to Liberty Trust for about six years now, watching our balance slowly edge it's way up, waiting for the day we will get a letter or a phone call from the Trust offering us an interest free loan.  Every month we get their newsletter, and every time I think, "Yes, this is it.  This is a great thing to be doing.  I'm helping other Kiwi families get free of mortgage debt, while getting my family ready to experience the same blessing."  But it's a lonely path.  Most people we talk to don't even know what Liberty Trust is.  Which, incidentally, is really sad.  Of the few who know what it is, even less have been or are currently involved.  So it will be really, really special to be able to go the home town of Liberty Trust and share in a big celebration with a whole bunch of other people, people who are contributing towards a loan too, but also people who have received and paid one back. 

We first started contributing back when we lived in Oz.  When we owned a house.  When we didn't need a loan.  Or so we thought.  Why then did we do it?  Because it's just so RIGHT.  For every $50,000 we borrow through Liberty Trust, we will save at least $40,000 in interest.  At today's relatively low interest rates.  And we're part of something bigger than just ourselves.  We're helping build a capital fund that helps hundreds, even thousands of other families do the same.  Pay off their house in under fifteen years.  Be free of that crippling, monstrous debt.  Be able to do other things instead.

Our loan was only going to be $50,000.  It was more about the principle of the matter, of supporting something I believed in.  I figured if we didn't need it, we'd be sure to find someone who did.  But lo-and-behold, now we do need it.  We're back to zero, starting over.  And our best opportunity to own a home without it crippling us financially is by doing it this way.  By waiting.  We can't save a deposit right now while we study.  It's just not feasible, especially when we'd be looking for $60,000 in today's market.  Student budget and all, we couldn't manage a tenth of that.  BUT we can manage $150 a month.  Not so much, is it?  And we've increased it.  Used to be just $87.  It's a stretch.  But my only regret is that I wish I'd started earlier, and put more in sooner.  Oh well, we are at least doing something.  We are making a difference in our future.  By spreading the cost over a longer time frame, we can manage it.

Wondering what on earth I'm talking about?
Liberty Trust is a Christian organisation that lends to individuals and churches in NZ and Australia.  You don't have to be a Christian to use the trust.  You donate to the trust for an extended time frame (usually 8-10 years).  Then you're offered a loan of five times what you've donated.  You then pay that back in a short time frame (7-15years), without paying interest.  You've already made your contribution to growing the trust.  Once you've paid your loan, it gets passed to someone else, and someone else, and someone else.  Because it's a relatively small organisation, with high ethics, honesty, and relationship, there's flexibility.  You could get a loan in less time by contributing more.  You can pay your loan of over a longer timeframe by waiting a bit longer to get it.  Our current hope is that once we are both out working we might increase what we put in so we can get a full loan with Liberty, but we'll see once we are done with the study first. 

In the meantime, I'm just so excited to be able to go to the Silver Anniversary Dinner.
Happy 25th Birthday, Liberty Trust!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Some Like it Cold

Some folks like it cold.
They like the frosty air, the nippy breeze that blows through clothes and fiddles with your hair.
They love it when it snows, when there's sleet or ice, or fog. 
They revel in the wild and wet, they jump and dance and hop.

But some of us are not so keen.  We really prefer it warm. 
We like to keep all toasty by the fireside in a storm.
We like mild, sunny days when the breeze is cool, not cold. 
We don't like getting wet and we don't like a streaming runny nose. 
Some of us just like it fine, predictable, not wild. 
We really don't appreciate the wildness and the storm. 
We can't stand icy fingers and goose bumps up our arms.
Even if we know it really won't do us any harm.

Some folks like it cold.
My husband is one. 
He loves the snow, he loves the mist, he loves it when it pours. 
He checks the rain gauge and ponders, wondering how long this storm will linger. 
He feels disappointed if the clouds don't open.  He wants the heavy wind, and he really wants the thunder. 
He lies awake at night, watching lightening streak the sky. 
He lives for crazy weather, this crazy man of mine.

It's not that I hate rain.  It's that I hate getting wet.  I'll go outside, for sure if you give me hat, boots, and brolly.
And as for the cold?  Well, I don't mind nippy air.  It's the frozen fingers, frozen toes, frozen nose, and coldness that I fear.
I am the layer queen.  I've found I just love wool.  A merino top, or three or four, or else I'll still be cool. 
I love my fingerless gloves, I wear them all day long. I knit in them, I sleep in them, there's a spare pair in my bag. 

It's not my fault, it really isn't.  I just don't like it cold.


Monday, May 19, 2014

House Loving

When we first moved into our house, I really didn’t like it.  People would admire and tell me how lovely it was, how lucky we were, and I would do that half-hearted fake smile while thinking about all the things I didn’t like about it.

But mostly, it wasn’t that it isn’t a nice house.  It was that I had some things I needed to work on, some things I needed to see.  I’m so glad that as human beings we have the capacity to change our minds!

Because now I love my house.  Really, truly love it.  I love the house, the neighbourhood, and more.  I am glad we had to move.

There are a few minor things I don’t like still.  And one major.  The extra cost.  But I’m convincing myself that it is worth the cost for us to have a dry, insulated house.  It is worth the cost to have my beloved walkway nearby still (even if I don’t use it nearly enough these days for either my legs or my soul!).  It is worth having an actual ‘house’ with a yard, a garage, and a deck.  It’s a good experience for us, learning to live like this, after having been in a unit for several years.  Kind of the next step in being ready for our own house again one day, I like to think.  Here we have more gardens to care for, and more lawns, cobbles that need weed spray, more areas inside that need dusting and vacuuming and general keeping-cleaning.  But more space to move around.

I think sometimes it takes time for us to adjust to even the best changes, and especially those that we didn’t necessarily choose for ourselves.  I didn’t really choose to move.  It was thrust upon me.  Even though I knew it would almost certainly be better for us to be someplace drier.  So my feelings of ill-will towards this house were largely founded on my feelings of grief in leaving our old place.  I loved that little place, even though we were renting it, it was ours for three years.  It was where Munchkin first came home, it was where I unpacked our boxes after years of having our things stored.  It was peacefully quiet, tucked away in a secluded corner.  It was home.

But now this is home.  Once I got used to the idea, I really liked it.  It just took time, and I needed to be allowed that time.  I needed time to unpack my boxes, to hang my pictures, to rant at the extra costs of moving and stress over finding a higher bond, to clean and to tidy and to sort my stuff and my attitude.  I needed time to feel at home, to feel like I belonged rather than like I was living in someone else’s house.  It took a few months.  Going straight out onto teaching placement a just a week and a bit after we moved didn’t help.  The house was chaotic for several months.  But gradually, I got through the sorting and as I found a new ‘home’ for each thing, I found myself finding a home for me too.
We’ve since moved things around a few times.  We’ve reshuffled, and resorted, and rearranged a little.  There’s a sandpit on the deck.  And a bigger guinea pig hutch out in the yard.  I’m waiting for lobelias and sweet William to flower in the garden.  I only occasionally bump my head on the sloped ceilings upstairs and don’t immediately cry, wishing we were not here!  We’ve got door stops in front of the doors that keep opening, and the ones that keep closing.  I’ve found homes for all my African Violets.  The kitchen stuff all fits in the kitchen.  This is home.  And I’m happy to be here.






Sunday, May 18, 2014

Hidden Spaces

Have you ever noticed how pre-schoolers like to hide?  Behind the couch.  In the cupboard.  Under the bed.  Munchkin has his favourite haunts at home.  Then there's the love of running ahead with one of us on a walk, to lie in wait (half hidden!) for the other (supposedly) unsuspecting parent to stumble upon us and get a fright! 

And have you ever noticed how taking something really straightforward and simple and changing how you do it can totally change the experience?  Like having lunch on the deck instead of in the house.

Over summer we found a perfect little hidey-hole, tucked away from one of our usual walking paths.  Just a few minutes stroll from home, this little glade was the perfect place for a picnic.

So we packed up our afternoon tea and headed out for a walk.  It turned the meal, and the walk, into something of an adventure!

Photo taken by Boyo of our picnic area!
There was, of course, a stop to pick blackberries on the way.  My idea, but Boyo's tenacity when it came to the bounty across the creek! 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Mother Love

I’m a planner.  And I tend to worrying, which my husband would say is an understatement.  But then, he’s not the one who thinks about how our son will need new pyjamas for winter, or thinks about whether he’s doing okay at preschool (other than perhaps a fleeting thought every year or so!).  That’s me.  I’m the mummy.  I do those things.  Is that BECAUSE I’m the mummy?  Or just because I’m me?

I’ve been trying to think about what to write in Munchkin’s special book.  The special birthday story that we’re getting all the key people in his life to write in.  I’m hoping that it will become kind of like a record of special people’s involvement in his life…family, but also teachers, friends, and so on.  Boyo was the one who came across the idea.  He read about someone keeping a book secret from their child until they were all grown up, then presenting it to them.  I don’t think I can keep it secret that long so I’m not even trying.  Instead, we bought a boxed book so that it looks different from all of Munchy’s other special books.  And it’s meant to come out for birthdays…whether I even manage to stick to that is debatable.  I’m a bit of a sucker when cajoled by my bluey-greeny eyed, gorgeously handsome, amazingly wonderful boy! 
So how do I write everything I feel for him in just a paragraph?  I want to take up the WHOLE ENTIRE BOOK for goodness sake.  There’s so much to say!  How much I love listening to him and his daddy giggling and laughing, climbing, tickle fighting, just being boys together.  How I enjoy our walks together, especially at the beach.  How fun it is, how amazing to have these conversations learning new things (today it was the letter F – we were thinking of all the words we know that start with a Ffff sound!).  How I love listening to him say grace, and pray at bedtime, and sing.  How awesome he looks dancing, and how well he drums.  How incredible his imagination is, that I often listen in on his elaborate stories when he’s playing with his cars or train or creations and I’m busy in the kitchen.  How I appreciate him being helpful, and how proud I am when we go out and he takes his plate to the bench without being asked.  How cool I think it is that my son loves snails, just as I did and loves cars, just as his daddy did.  How fascinating it is seeing bits of my brothers, my family, in my son.  Bits of his grandparents, his daddy, as well as those things that are just Munchkin.  My delight and embarrassment that my boy wants to have someone come for dinner, again.  That he greets people with enthusiasm, and farewells them with hug and kisses.
How I love sitting beside him, tucked up together, reading a book.  I love getting to tuck him in each night.  I thank God every time for this precious, wonderful gift as I tuck the blankets over him while he sleeps.  I can’t help but run my fingers over his hair and ask that God would bless and protect him.  He is my gift.  My miracle.  And sometimes my trial.  How do I explain that I wonder what the future will hold for him, whether it will be a good one?  How I hope and pray that he will never have to fight a war, or lose a loved one, or walk through pain, even though I know that pain is a part of living.  How do I write of my worry that he’ll grow up strong in character, robust, able to question but also able to know himself?  How do I express that I want him to persevere?  That I worry that this one thing, this pulling away from that which is hard or new or a little bit scary, might stop him from doing all the things that are already in his heart to do in his lifetime? 
And how do I say, in a few simple words how much I love him?  How much he has totally changed my life, our lives, and how we wouldn’t have it any other way?
I spent the first half of this morning (Saturday!) nearly ready to pull my hair out, shake my child, growl in rage, and have a tantrum (sometimes all at the same time).  We were grocery shopping.  Never a good idea.  But he was also wild.  Wouldn’t hold the trolley still.  Wanted to help, but didn’t seem able to focus and be present on the helping front, instead wanting every item he saw and wandering all over the place (the only thing that saved him from going in a trolley was that he’s actually really too big for me to hoist into one these days!).  I was frazzled.  I’d promised a swimming trip but the shopping had to be done first.  How is it that I can spend all week with a whole room full of pre-schoolers and survive that just fine, but I am undone by one small boy in a matter of minutes?  Ah, must be mine.  Yup, this one definitely belongs to me. 
We finally made it to swimming, with most of our sanity and relationship in tact (there were a few moments of apology, both ways). I then spent the rest of the morning being Mummy, enjoying my boy.  We had so much fun together, emerging only when exhausted, cold, and hungry.  And I realised how much he needs that.  He needs me, all of me, present, with him doing things he loves.  Not just taking him grocery shopping or talking to him while we drive someplace.  They are relevant, yes, but he needs more than that.  And I should consider myself blessed to be asked for it.

My baby is turning four.  He’s growing up so fast, developing a personality all his own.  He’s probably going to be taller than me before he’s ten.  I can’t pick him up much anymore, he’s too heavy and I’m too small.  But he’ll always be my baby.  You hear that, Munchy?  You’ll always be my baby. I gave birth to you.  I’m your mummy and you’ll always be my baby, no matter how big you get.  I love you, precious almost-four-year-old!

Amy, who will always be your mummy!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie Memories

I come from a movie watching family.  My mum's the instigator.  She'd video good ones off TV and watch them while ironing when I was in my teens.  Movies like Hunt for Red October, and While You Were Sleeping.  We didn't watch much TV when I was growing up, but I remember going to the movies to see Milo and Otis, Cool Runnings, Sister Act, and a few others.  I remember being mesmerised by The Sound of Music on a teeny tiny TV one wet summer night in a caravan in Coromandel when I was quite little (that was the holiday our tent got flooded and we had to join Mum and Dad in the tiny caravan, if I remember rightly!).  I remember many laughs over my brother's (very good) attempts at imitating the Muppets, "I am not a shrimp, I am a king prawn!"  My family enjoyed movies together so much that we'd finish off lines for them.  Imagine my surprise then, when I had to explain to my husband that "There was a bee!"  comes from Ever After.  A movie which he'd never even seen!  Tut tut.

So while my son is a very literate small boy, immersed in books galore, he also watches movies.  One day over summer we got out Cars on DVD and watched it, the three of us, together.  He also watched Planes with his daddy.  I've sat with Munchkin and watched snippets of Finding Nemo, Madagascar, Rio, and Monsters Inc.  He's also watched the whole of the Muppets Movie.  A few times.  To the point he would sing with his daddy, "Am I a man?" (Daddy) "Am I a muppet?" (Munchkin).  Absolutely too cute!  I just loved listening to them together, and was quite sad when we had to return the DVD to the DVD store (okay, so I admit that I LOVE good musicals and the Muppets Movie has some very catchy tunes as well as being a flash from my past!).

BUT, I have also learned to beware.  Mummy-editing is sometimes necessary, even on movies that other parents have deemed fine for small viewers.  Finding Nemo, for instance.  A very cute movie to watch as an adult, but have you ever thought about how dark it is for children?  There's big sharks that try to eat Nemo's dad.  And the deep dark water bit.  It's funny, but not in a light-hearted kiddie way.  We turned the sound off for a bit.  And I carefully checked for the happy bits of Monsters Inc.

Munchkin went to the movies for the first time recently, a trip with his grandmother.  They, after some debate, went to see the latest Muppet movie.  I thought this would be pretty safe.  It was a G.  It was the Muppets, which he'd loved at home on DVD.  Uh-oh.  There was a mean nasty evil frog.  And Kermit was languishing in a dark dungeon.  Munchy lasted an hour, then they went to play at the park.  Mum and I agreed, he's just not ready yet.  He doesn't like new experiences, and the movie theatre is rather big and dark even when there's nothing on the screen.  We thought about whether another movie might have been better, something lighter and happier perhaps, like Rio 2 or The Lego Movie.  But they both also have bad guys. There really isn't anything designed for a four year old these days.  They all have adult humour, suspense, dark bits, and so on (because they want us adults to be happy enough taking our kids to the movies and buying the DVD so it can be watched a hundred times of course!).  Home DVD watching it is for us, at least for awhile.  Boyo and I don't mind, we don't go to the movies anyway.  With a widescreen TV, who needs to?  It's much more comfortable at home.

So I got a bit clever this time round, after being caught out with Nemo and my Muppet friends.  I watched Ratatouille on TV myself.  And decided not to rent it on DVD for my son just yet.  We did, however, watch a small bit of Bolt, and a small bit of The Incredibles.  Both of which are really a bit above my nearly-four-year-old, but he loved the experience of it all the same, for the short time I let him watch.

And what's even better than watching a movie on TV before bed?

Having dinner at your own little table in the lounge, while watching!

Mummy did have rather a lot of spoon feeding to do.  Grin.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Bounty of Autumn

I love fresh produce!

I love growing it and picking it and eating it myself!

This summer was a bumper raspberry one for us, after a couple of years of disappointingly small crops.  The difference?  Well, summer has been hot and dry.  But then last year was too.  No, I think it was the citrus fertilizer I applied last autumn.  And that Mum cut them right back.

Either way, they were delicious, and too many for us to eat!  Freezer, yahoo! Raspberry and pear smoothies into winter, yay!

Tomatoes were too many to eat too, although the poor vines died back very early this year.  It was just too dry and they seemed to shrivel up in defeat.  But before they did, I cooked up several batches of tomato pasta sauce.  Yum, yum, yummy!

Munchkin helped me save some bean seeds for next summer.  It proved to be a great fine coordination activity for him and one which he enjoyed very much.

The seeds are now safely tucked away in an envelop, labelled and dated, next to another filled with Italian parsley seed.  Bounty for the year ahead.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Windowsills are Wonderful

I currently have a small kitchen.  Well, okay in all honesty it has great cupboard space, despite the deep pantry shelves nearly driving me spare (you have to do the 'reach and grab' on quite a few shelves and hope you put that jar of chocolate chips or popcorn away in the right spot last time!).

I love the corner cupboard between kitchen and dining room, with it's glass door and glass shelves.  It fits our plates and glasses really well, and the cupboard beneath is a tight squeeze for our plastics.

But the bench space (or severe lack there-of) is insane!  Doesn't help that we are not 'do your dishes immediately and put them away' people.  Dishes get done once a day in our house.  After dinner.  As I am quite partial to hot meals during the day, to baking, to making homemade pasta sauce, hummus, dried kale chips, and more, and therefore the dishes do pile up somewhat.  I've tried (very briefly, I must be honest!) doing dishes after breakfast.  But that doesn't seem to help much.  It's the during-the-day dishes that are the problem.  This is the only house I've lived in that I've genuinely found myself wishing for a dishwasher.  Not to wash the dishes.  That would be great.  But more just to get everything off the bench.  Sigh.  But even if we have NO dishes on our bench, it is still rather small.  Two little patches, either side of the sink, squeezed between the stove on one side, and the dining room on the other. 

Hence I am VERY grateful for our windowsill.

It's a bit of a silly window really.  Rather deep.  So deep I can't reach the back without standing on a stool!  Grin.  I'd have personally chosen something not quite so deep, but wider instead.  But never mind.  VERY glad to have it.

And this is why:

You see?  If I had no windowsill, where would I put all that?!

I have concluded that a good kitchen windowsill needs to be on my house-hunting list.  As someone who likes to use fresh fruit, homegrown, and so on, I need space to ripen the sundry things that land in my kitchen when I am either not ready to eat them or they to be eaten.

Plus of course there's the various plants - I'd have way more herbs than just aloe vera if I had space and light for them!  And the kitchen is the best place to raise vegetable seedlings.  I'm in there every day, so what better place to ensure they get watered and watched properly?

These seedlings were soon transplanted into the garden and instead we currently have an almost ripe pineapple, a plate full of tomatoes, and some gold kiwifruit that are taking weeks to soften up (but are most deliciously delicious once they finally do!).

I am finding that as I get older, I am preferring a tidier house.  Not a bad thing!  But I think the kitchen is always going to look  a little chaotic.  It's a growing, cooking, developing kind of place.  Perfection is not required.  Good food is.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sewing by Experience

I did some sewing over summer.

There was this list, you see.  A list I'd had since LAST summer.  Unfinished.  Stuffed in a bag in the sewing desk.  Waiting.

This time, I got at least half of my list done.  That's pretty good I think, considering my sewing skills are rusty at best.

I have still not fixed straps on two dresses I've owned, but not worn, for nearly 18 months.  Ugh.

But, I have turned a pair of cargo pants into shorts (the knees were worn through).  And spent many happy days wearing them over summer.  I think I like them better as shorts than I did when they were pants!  I'm hoping I might get another summer out of them before they get holes in places I cannot mend!  Grin.

I turned a pair of jeans into jean shorts.  They had worn out knees too.  I'd not planned on doing this, but am glad I did.  They make comfortable shorts, just as they made comfortable jeans (thanks bros, your gift lives on!).

I added to my sewing list half-way through by finding a rather nice, almost unworn pair of jeans at a second hand store for the princely sum of about $8.  They, of course, needed hemming.  So I did.  I am VERY proud of myself, that I didn't just ask a friend, my mother, or my mother-in-law to do this for me.  I even went and found a matching weight and colour thread.  Hemming them did pretty much take the entire day that Munchy was at preschool (5hours)!  But hopefully it will be well worth it.

I then proceeded to mend another dress I've had for 18months and hardly worn, because it was damaged.  It needed a tulle liner re-gathered, and reattached.  Done.  Have I ever mentioned that I really don't like gathering?!?  It also needed some hand stitching to mend a piece down the front.  I'm really happy with how that turned out.  It was quite difficult to pick up the fine fabric (which had frayed) and get it looking okay.  Again, I impressed myself with my abilities (and patience!).  This time I managed to find some matching cotton in my mum's stash.

Next were the cushions.  Now, having made four cushion covers I consider myself to be somewhat of an expert, not!  Note to self: would have been easier if I'd found a pattern online or something. Might not have had to unpick that zip so many times!  I made two small covers for myself, with two different zip-into-fabric methods.  Which do you prefer?  I actually think I prefer the zip showing, rather than hidden.  Partly because of how much work the hidden one was!  I've had the inserts for years (like 5 or so!). The fabric was on sale.  $3 a metre. The cushions now grace my chair.

I made two cushion covers for my mum with some fabric I found that matches her new throw and cushion colours.  It was her birthday present.  Although she only got one on the day!  And that took me pretty much all day to make.  Thankfully the second one was a bit easier.  Again, experimentation with zips and such went on, and the second was a much better made piece of sewing (yay!  I got better!).

There are still other things on my sewing list, but study has started again, so in all likelihood they will remain there until next summer!  There's the pair of jeans I want to replace the knees in.  I just love my grey jeans and don't want to give them up.  But they are old so I might only get another season out of them.  I think I'll ask a friend if she can do that job for me, as it looks a bit beyond my skill and patience.

And there's the pair of flannelette PJs that I need to sew back up.  I've unpicked them to lengthen them at the waist a little as they were, for some reason, smaller than the other pair they came with.  But haven't actually done the sewing.  Probably should do that one before summer.   Before winter, even!  Hmmmm.  Could be interesting.



Monday, May 5, 2014

Five Years Ago

Five years ago I returned to my homeland.

I walked into the airport and heard the typical Kiwi accent and knew that it was good to be home.  We’d been off adventuring (aka learning some very tough lessons the hard way!) for three years, and now it was time to be back.
I don’t regret returning, not one bit.  It was the right decision and the right time.  A short four months (or so) later we found out we were unexpectedly expecting Munchkin.  I’d always been prepared to have children while living overseas.  It didn’t bother me at the time.  But now that I have my son, the best place in the world to be right now is just down the road from my own parents, and just over the hill from my husband’s parents.  We are so totally blessed to have them all here, so close.  And our son has benefitted no end from grandparent interaction, both direct and indirect. 

Five years ago we left Australia.

But five years ago we also left something else.  We left debt.  We’d been working away at it, paying some off for about a year before we moved back to NZ.  But when we came, we made the decision to pay it all off.  Family.  Banks.  Credit cards.  We could ‘start over’ like that because we sold our house.  But it was still tough, watching it all disappear.  There wasn’t much left by the time we were done.  Just enough to set up house, buy a new (second hand) car, and get ready for Munchkin’s arrival.  We have student loans, but no other debt.

Part of leaving debt behind was choosing to give up our credit cards.  Another decision I do not regret in the least.  It wasn’t that hard.  I’d been thinking about it for a while.  They were just causing trouble.  So we decided not to get new ones when we moved country.  Easy.  We were earning good money.  We had an emergency fund of a few month’s wages.  Things looked rosy.  Until we returned to New Zealand in the middle of recession, a recession that cut 50% from the civil engineering industry…my husband included.  Until we discovered we were going to be parents, while studying, working part-time (and at the time, living in my parent’s basement!).  Choosing to keep credit card free suddenly wasn’t quite as easy.  But it’s worth it.  I’d used one since my late teens, and kept a very close watch over it.  But no matter how hard I tried, there were times it got out of control.  Then there’d be the months of trying to get it back ‘under control’ where you felt like all your effort was going into a deep dark hole (which, to be honest, it was, the deep dark hole of debt).  By not having a credit card, I have one less temptation.  We haven’t even discussed them in years.  Do things get tough?  Sometimes, yes.  Do we sometimes need extra funds than what we have?  I suppose so.  We’re just so used to saving it, planning ahead for our needs, using our Visa Debit instead for online stuff, and at times ‘borrowing’ from other areas that this is now our normal.  We have an agreement.  No debt other than student loans.  The only proviso is for something that is essential.  That means the car, the washing machine, the fridge, or a laptop (because we are students, in case you think we are techno-addicts!).  It’s really helpful.  Like when I wanted to buy a chest freezer and had almost convinced myself it would pay for itself enough to warrant buying it on hire purchase.  My beloved reminded me that we’d agreed not to and that it wasn’t essential.  Sure enough, we’ve managed just fine for several years since.  It’s not even near the top of my wish list these days.  Interesting how our priorities can shift over time.

I can’t in all honesty believe it’s been five years.  They’ve been pretty full on.  Five years of study, of child-raising, of part-time and summer jobs trying to keep above water while we qualify.  But also five years of family time, of loving raising our boy, of learning new skills and honing old ones.  I’m here, and my life hasn’t worked out AT ALL like I imagined it would be when I landed on that plane.  Not at all.  Not even close.  It’s been harder, but so much better.  And five years hasn’t been long at all.  I wonder what the next five will hold?


Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pink is for Boys Too

I used to love dress ups as a girl.  My brother and I spent hours playing with Mum's old wedding gown, and a friend and I used to create plays for her younger siblings after raiding their dress up stash.  There's something about putting on different clothes to what you normally wear that unleashes hidden creativity and imagination!  Something amazing happens.

So of course, I want my son to likewise enjoy it.

But he's not really been that interested.  They aren't cars.  Or a sandpit.  I've come to the conclusion that dress ups is something some kids are interested in and others aren't.  That's not to mean they shouldn't be offered it, but simply that some children like to dress up and imagine.  Some do it every day, and have a collection of dresses and animal costumes.  Then there are others (like my son) who show periodic interest from time to time, in between their main interests. 

But the interesting thing, is that the dress up item my son is most interested in is a bright pink set of butterfly wings and matching headband, given to him by a beloved grandparent.

Not your usual 'boyish' outfit.

So what do you do as a parent when your child chooses something that society tells us is 'not appropriate' for their gender?

Well, I guess you could do quite a few things.  But I've decided to leave him be.  He's not yet four, and I'm sure he'll be told often enough what people expect a boy to do.

But it does concern me.  Not that he likes butterfly wings, but that we expect him not to.  That we offer girls tutus but not boys.  Yet boys can dance too!  This might be one of the great ballet dancers of all time, but how would we ever know if we told him that dancing is for girls (or sissies!)?

So my boy wears his pink wings.

And dances around the lounge.  Sometimes wearing a tutu.

And sometimes we wear crowns and capes while getting ready for bed.

I'd love to get him a kids hardhat and flouro vest though.  That would be sure to go down well!

For his birthday he has requested a bright pink bike.  I am ashamed to say that I did try to offer him a different colour.  I just felt worried about what other people are going to say about my son riding a pink bike!  Isn't that sad.  But he was adamant.  He does not want the red one, or (surprising, considering blue has been his favourite colour for ages), the blue one.  He wants pink.  So pink he will get.  Pink is for boys too!


Friday, May 2, 2014

Weight Lifting

My physio has told me that I shouldn't be lifting my boy.  Obviously, she's someone who knows these things.  But when he's crying, or sick, or I'm making him go to the toilet at night (and getting the Mummy-guilts for waking him up!) it's really hard to remember.  I'm used to it.  I've been trying to carry him less, and mostly managing, but this past week I've obviously done too much (that jolly Mummy-guilt!) and my peck muscle is sore again...still hasn't healed and now I've made it take even longer, grrr. 

I'm determined to try harder to protect myself.  Make Munchkin walk to the toilet at night.  Even if he's crying because mean Mummy woke him up (mean Mummy just doesn't want a wet bed!  If he'd sort out going to the toilet at night by himself, there wouldn't be a problem.)

The thing that stuck with me from sitting at physio yesterday was when she said that for my build, picking up 19kgs (that's my son!) is like the body building guys at the gym lifting weights.  Ahhhhh.  LIGHTBULB!  Hubby agreed.  It's like him lifting 35-40kgs.  Asked if he'd ever lift that at work, "Heck, no!  15-20kgs maybe, but not anywhere near that!"


So I really shouldn't be lifting something heavier that about 10kgs???

Not helpful.

Feeling a bit sad.  He's my baby, you know.  A whopping almost-four year old, over 1m tall, 19kg 'baby' but my baby all the same!

I guess we'll just have to have more chair snuggles instead.


Thursday, May 1, 2014

A Bit of Company

My son and I are both highly social.

Yet the life we lead is not exactly conducive to frequent social interactions.  Sometimes there are days we're alone, when we'd much rather be with others.

But at times like that, it's always good to know that Clara will keep us company.

She's good like that.  Always available, always cheerful.  Clara was my dolly when I was little, and now she loves to spend time with Munchkin too.

Some weeks we don't see much of Clara.  She's busy sleeping in her little bassinet, quiet in a corner of his bedroom.  But other weeks, she's a very sociable doll.

He takes her in the car.  He cuddles her in bed.  He dresses her, and gives her breakfast in her highchair.

And one day, she went for a walk...

Clara is good company.  She even likes the local playground.

Sometimes all you need to turn a routine walk on an ordinary day into something amazing is a bit of company!


ps - "They" say that boys who are encouraged to play with dolls develop a higher level of empathy and compassion than their counterparts who do not.  Sounds good to me!  Although, I wonder what taking your dump truck on a walk might mean?  We've done that before too!  Grin.