Saturday, April 29, 2006

Feeling the tables spinning underfoot.

There's a party nearby, music and revelry are twitching in past the well-sanded window frames. The rest of my household is sleeping through it; phew. Otherwise I might find myself trudging through the rain in my dressing-gown to ask our neighbours to turn it down. I don't like to do that; I've a large karmic debt to tolerant neighbours of my past, and it's embarrassing to be the fuddy duddy, especially as my neighbours are old enough to be my parents.

Friday, April 28, 2006


My children have hardly been to playcentre since before we went to Fiji, we've had too many diseases and the break between terms as well. A couple of weeks ago after we'd had potions at the breakfast table and waterplay in the car I started missing playcentre rather a lot.

Today as soon as the children got up they started talking about doing potions at playcentre. We're very much into an emergent curriculum here (here in my head, here at my playcentre, here in New Zealand's early childhood sector) and so I made a mental note that potions would be done.

Quite some time later I finally got a moment or two without something else coming up and I rolled a circular table out through the door on its rim (it's a very satisfying table to roll, about as tall as me and quite weighty) and then I collected up the potions. What is that "potions" that it is? Well, it's always a lot of mixing bowls, spoons, a fair bit of flour, and some other stuff, in this case some blue and yellow tempura powders, a bowl of red water with droppers for dropping drops, and a relaxed demeanour. Oh yes, you really need the relaxed demeanour.

Potions starts off gently enough; children stirring bowls with coloured powders in them, passing them droppers, seeing them think about the changes, talking about the colours
"Look Mummy, I made it green!"
It soon starts to accelerate, the stirring gets wilder, the powder is flying in the air, a child brings a bucket over from the waterplay table. People use their hands to do the mixing. They bring over a bit of sand and collect some grass to mix in. They find some paint pots and empty them in. Excitement builds, hoses get brought in, children are pouring their potions into each others' and negotiations need facilitation.

Shortly afterward I was scraping uniformly bluey-green gunk of several viscosities off everything while four or five parents were changing children's wet and astoundingly gunky clothes.

We've got a whole lot of kids with transforming schemas on our session and oooh, potions to them are like a relationship to an adolescent: an example of the thing their brains are built for learning about at this age. It makes for raw passion and messy play.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

E hara i te mea

(Thank you's waiata people for the words in both languages).

E hara i te mea
It is not a new thing
No naianei te aroha
now that is love
No nga tupuna
Comes from the ancestors
Tuku iho tuku iho
Handed down through the passages of time
Te whenua te whenua
The land, the land
Te oranga mo te iwi
is the life for the people
No nga tupuna
Comes from the ancestors
Tuku iho tuku iho
Handed down through the passages of time
Whakapono tumanako
Faith and hope
Te aroha ki te iwi
Love to the people
No nga tupuna
Comes from the ancestors
Tuku iho tuku iho
Handed down through the passages of time

The search that most often finds this blog is "Karakia" because I once said that I've been looking for a Karakia for my Playcentre meetings. I would like to use "Let's work well and swiftly!" but in te reo. Tonight, instead of something along those lines I'm going to use E Hara I Te Mea, which we will sing. I think it's quite an apt starting meditation for a meeting of parents running a playcentre for the long-term good of their kids.

Funny, I've never thought of myself as en route to being an ancestor before.

Monday, April 24, 2006

My little sister is probably the best thing my parents ever gave me.

Iris and Hazel, blythe and bonny, tummies to Te Papa's duck poo covered steps, dabbling their hands to feel the slime on the wet step below.
"Eww, slimy! Feel it Iris."
"That's yuck. Not eat it."
"Not eat it, not drink it, not put it on your head."
"No, not put it on my head!"
The ducks looked well (none told me of viral symptoms) but I got the girls to use the alcohol gel cleanser I keep in my handbag anyway. Hazel and Iris just like to do stuff together, and I want them to be able to for as long as possible. We'd had lunch with my friend whose sister died. I lost one of my friends, her parents lost half their daughters, but she lost all her sisters.

Tonight my sister and I were designing our dream retirement village on the phone. It'd have people come in and teach crafts (materials covered in the cost of the course), lots of roleplayers, a good library and interloans, and it would be very high tech. Whatever that means then. I now understand why my first cousins twice removed built their own retirement village, it means they got the pool and the bushwalks that they wanted. Oh yeah, I want a pool and bushwalks too.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Read Riverbend and Half-pie instead.

I should get some sleep.
Here's a rather different life for a change.
And here's my life from a different point of view.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Carpe diem again.

Home with just Sean. I don't remember this happening before. Hazel and Iris are out to dinner at their cousins'.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Takes me right back.

Cate is baby-sitting a three month old for a month. She says her sons want to be hands-on carers for their little friend Sophie, or "Soap-y" according to her youngest. They want her to stampede and play football and she can't even hold things.

When I was pregnant with Iris I said to Hazel many times
"There's a baby living in my tummy. One day the baby will come out and it will be our baby: yours, Dad's, and my baby. We will all look after it together."

My goodness me it really was true! I birthed Iris at home in the middle of the night, and to Sean's and my surprise Hazel didn't wake up until the next morning. Sean went through to her room and said
"Last night your little sister was born, right there in the lounge," pointing at the wall through which I had been yelling so loudly.
"Ohh!" said Hazel, awed for a moment, and then definitely "I hold her."
So she came into the other bedroom and did.

Hands-on from that moment, Hazel and her fortunately intrepid little sister taught me a lot. So Cate's post was very evocative for me, it took me right back to that morning:

And evoked some humourous advice; below.

If you hold Soap-y under the arms you can use her like a Foosball (table soccer) person and she can play football with the best.

All a three month old needs to stampede is a prosthetic adult. I like a front pack or sling for such things. Lacking either put her back against your front, your arms around her torso under her arms and one hand down the centre grabbing the nappy. Bend your knees rather than stooping. Stop before you get sore.

Soap-y might also like to be the hub of a stampede around her, probably while you hold her so she feels safe.

Would you like a few more ideas?

Small children enjoy having babies on their laps, sometimes for as long as a minute. Sit the child down with legs out and back support, on the floor but against a wall perhaps. "Sit" Soap-y between the legs with her back against their front and get them to hold her for balance. Watch her face for crumpling. If Soap-y gets good at it she might like a mirror held low to see herself and her big friend in, or she might let them feed her a bottle if she has one. One helper could hold her and the other the bottle.

Soap-y probably will "kiss", albeit sloppily, if you hold her cheek to the downy breast-like cheek of a child. Small children may squeal delightedly. Hold Soap-y's ear away from child's mouth when she gives her "funny baby kisses".

Soap-y may well be happy to be pushed on a baby swing for a long time by eager little hands.
"Gentle baby pushes"
"But she likes it!"

Children often like to fetch and carry for babies.
"Could you pass me Soap-y's burp cloth please? ... Oh. ... Could you fetch that wet flannel that's on the table too please."

Soap-y would probably like them to bring her interesting things to mouth. "You're right; it is quite big so it can't move to the wrong part of her mouth and stop her breathing, and it doesn't fall to pieces, but mice have some of the same sicknesses as us and this one is dead. The bugs that killed it might make Soap-y sick so I think we'll just bury it instead."

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Carpe diem.

One of my absolute favourite people to work with is taking a term off working for our playcentre. Her other job wants her another day and she thinks she's ready for a change so she may never be back. She's been working for us for 8 years (no current family has been with the playcentre as long). We will miss her, we know that she's made us in her image and we are richer for it.

But I'd thought that one of the perks of doing the roster would be rostering myself on to her team. But I thought there was no hurry. But my kids have really only just started staying happily without me and I felt that I needed to keep to the same routine to keep that up for a bit.

"Bother," said Pooh.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The little blue car.

Sean's parents live outside Palmerston North, today we went to visit. All the way along SH57 and onto Old West Road there was a little blue car behind me. It was a beautiful dark but bright blue and its number plate had three letters and the first was C. I felt warmly toward that car as it swam along between the fields at the same speed as me. It never crowded me, usually leaving 3 seconds between us, and my driving was validated by the way it seemed so happy doing the same. We only differed at the big Old West Road roadworks because I was comfortable going 30kmph like the car in front of me and the little blue car with its beautiful paint only wanted to go 20.

On our way home again, around about when we passed Massey, we got behind a little blue car. As far as one can tell at night it was the same one, its numberplate had a C in the same place, at the Old West Road roadworks it went 20 and we stayed behind it, calmly making the same choices, for hours. All the way to Wellington but when we turned off up our ramp it went on to the Terrace or the tunnel.

Some of the speed choices were pretty constrained tonight. State Highway 1 was stopped or very very slow just South of Levin. Under the impression most people would have got safely back from the holiday weekend by then, we had had dinner and bathed the kids at their grand-parents' and so we left just before 8pm. We feel pretty smug we'd done it that way because they were asleep even before we saw the (second?) little blue car, let alone the huge traffic jam. For a little while there we thought our two hour drive might get us home well after midnight.

Funny how context colours events: the children being asleep made the 10km long traffic jam seem inconsequential, when we finally started moving 30 kmph seemed quite efficient, and just tonight I was saying that I couldn't understand spending more than $10,000 on a car but now I want a pretty little blue one like that.

Good night little blue car, sleep well.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Naming cats.

Once upon a time Sean and I were far from our families on Christmas Eve and so we went to Borders. To our surprise it closed early because Boxing Day is not a holiday in Indiana. We biked home to read our purchases. When we got to our apartment in the snow under the tree where we had left peanut butter on toast for the squirrels was a very cute cat.

She rushed into our house as if she belonged "Excuse me, would you happen to be hosting my banquet?" We let her warm up and then Sean tried to get her to show him where she lived. They followed each other around for some time, making big and little footprints in the snow. Eventually he felt that she was following him more than he was following her and they came back in to the warm. She made our first foreign Christmas feel like home but we had promised to dog-sit for a week and so we had to take her to the animal shelter. They said that they had no room and so, after ten days she would be destroyed.

As soon as we finished dog-sitting (a keen miniature daschund can jump high enough to rob a plate on a dining table) we came and rescued her and brought her home. Our honeymoon had been at a grey and stripey beach called Hokio and she was grey and stripey so we called her Hokio too.

Three years later we were planning to leave the states; we thought very hard about bringing her with us but felt she would prefer to stay where there were squirrels, chipmunks and bats available. I promised her that every cat of ours would have Hokio as one of their names in memory of her and she would thus found a dynasty. She didn't care. We drove about a thousand miles to leave her with an old friend of mine, his american wife and their 9 month old baby. The first day of driving (Christmas Day 1999) she sat up on the dashboard of the 1987 Toyota Corolla we called The Millenium Falcon and looked around. We spent the night in a cheap motel room that apparently smelt reasonably interesting; posh motels do not allow pets. The next day we got back in the car and Hokio went under the passenger seat and stayed there. "I didn't mind travelling to a destination, but if it's a life-style choice I quit." The baby was thrilled. The last time we saw Hokio was New Year's Day 2000.

That May we spent a month getting back to New Zealand, we drove from Indiana across to California, we went to Arches and admired the red stripey rocks around Moab.

A few months after we got back we decided to get another cat. I had promised myself that one day I would have a kitten and then seemed like a good time. We rang the SPCA and they had no kittens, we tried all the pet shops and vets but they had no kittens either. We considered buying a Maine Coon. Then we rang the Cats' Protection League and they said they had three kittens so we went to see them.

They got the first kitten out of the cage and passed him to me. He was bright eyed, black and white, and climbed up my front, over my shoulder, across the top of the cage and up onto the ledge around the top of the room. They got the second kitten out of the cage and passed him to me, he was ginger where the first was black with white in the same places. He sat carefully in my hand for a minute and then climbed up onto the top of the cage and sat there. They got the third kitten out of the cage, he had soft ginger fur. He sat down heavily in my hand, closed his golden eyes and purred with emphasis. We said we'd think about it. They said we really ought to get two to keep each other company.

We left and talked about the kittens, we didn't think we could manage three, so we talked about the adventurous one and the cuddly one. I said "Well, I don't know, but I think Moab would be a very good name for a stripey red cat."

So we got Moab Hokio, and his black and white independent brother, who after about twenty trial-names, we called Bunter. Actually Mr. Hokio Bunter is too independent. We moved, he didn't. A while later, made up of collecting him and returning him to our new house and keeping him in and him escaping and going back to the old house, the people at the old house said that was okay, they'd be his people. But now they've just moved, kindly only a minute's walk from our old house so Bunter can commute to his territory, but Bunter sighs and says "time for new flatmates again."

I think my cousin who owns the house may try to let it with cat included.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Moab's catch and release programme.

I've noticed that the children of old friends seem to find it easy to get along together themselves. I suspect it is partly the ease of the relationship of the adults creating a peaceful vibe and partly that interaction-style is somewhat hereditary and so the likelihood of the children finding it easy and natural to be with each other goes up with their parents being people who find that.

After spending a few hours with the children of two old friends of Sean's while he played board games our children fell deeply asleep in the car. Hazel woke up upon transferral to the house but Iris appeared to be down for the night. I started imagining an evening of pleasant conversation or companionable DVD watching, but in an excess of friendly yet competitive zeal Sean drove back out to the same gathering leaving me to put Hazel to bed.

Usually I help Iris to bed (hence the lists of her bed-fellows and such) while Sean does Hazel. Tonight I enjoyed reading a couple of chapters of Prince Caspian to Hazel but I was rather glad to hasten out of her room and off to the loo when she finally went to sleep. Just as I was triumphantly txting Sean of my parenting success the cat hurried past with squeaking prey.

Moab has a catch and release programme; he likes to catch prey outside and release them inside for all-weather comfortable hunting. Usually he releases them under Hazel's bed but tonight, by the time I'd finished and got to it, the mouse was under the rocking horse in the hall. Trying to catch it I accidentally herded it into his waiting jaws, whereupon he rushed into the playroom and let it go.

Two children, 4 and 2. They have numerous friends, five cousins, four grandparents, two parents, two godparents, two aunts, two uncles and one sister each. They've had 12 Christmasses and birthdays put together. There is an awful lot of cover in the playroom.

Last I saw that mouse it ran under the bookcase, eschewing a nod to Beatrix Potter by vandalising the dolls' houses. Who knows where it is now, Moab doesn't. He was looking the other way even then and is now making sure that if the local cats call a Clean Bottom Competition at 1am he's in with a chance. Moab, shouldn't you be finding your mouse? What if they call a Mouse Show?

Thursday, April 13, 2006

What do mothers do?

My children made it clear that they really cared very much that I sat and watched TV with them this afternoon. Afterwards I ordered a book from La Leche League What Do Mothers Do: especially when it looks like nothing. I'm hoping it'll justify the still bagged groceries and riot of laundry. Fortunately Sean's feeling warmly towards me, credit built up by my past self as he's been reading old love letters.

Letters I wrote about a decade ago when I'd finished an MA and was trying to work out what I wanted to do next. Somehow this has led him to the plan that we should own The Northland Cafe, Games Club and Climbing Wall (with quilt afternoons) when we grow up. He says the problem would be not losing money. I suspect that losing money is a given and the problem would be having enough fun while doing so. I've heard that snorting coke is like burning $100 bills while sandpapering the inside of your nose and a yacht is a hole in the water you pour money into but not from people who are having fun doing the coke or floating the boat.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Making it up as you go along.

(p 51 of Signs and Symbols: African Images in African-American Quilts - Maude Southwell Wahlman, Penguin: 1993

There is an African-American tradition of quilting that is rather different from the mainstream. In mainstream quilting one tries for tangram perfection; getting the squares square and the triangles to have points. Often one is repeating the same square several times. In this other tradition one is trying to get the colours to sing and solve the geometrical problems as one goes along, often squares are variations rather than repeats. I have an unusual colour sense and I enjoy making design decisions as late in the making as possible so doing this kind of quilting appeals to me very much. What I like about the end result is complexity and intimacy: having some access to the theory of the making.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Psychic mutants for a better tomorrow.

Tonight I wrote the Playcentre roster. It's a wierd job, first of all I wrote one which satisfied each person's best-case scenario and then, discovering that would mean that Thursday had 10 people on duty and Tuesday had 4, I re-wrote it trying to not be anyone's worst-case scenario.

Today my role-playing game has finally left Wellington. After Kapcon I decided that I wanted to play again, y'know, some kind of pretense of a life of action and adventure rather than conjunctivitis and power chucks (oh yes, it's been that sort of a day for poor old Hazel). So I got into a group playing something like medieval sf. Or so I thought. By the time they met up with my character we're all in cafes around Wellington (albeit in 2009) and it turns out that they have a 5 year old in tow. Right, completely escapist, I have two children who are 4 and 2 and as far as I know neither of them is a psychic clone jump-gate pilot. So, in order to make our lives easier, we rescue another couple of kids who are 2 from a lab. But just as we get rid of one of those to her rightful parents so that we have two kids, like I do, who are 5 and 2, like I almost do, we hop into a spaceship and I really hope that the next session will start with us having got out of here.
Take my love, take my land. Take me where I cannot stand.

I don't care, I'm still free. You can't take the sky from me.
Take me out to the black, tell them I ain't comin' back.
Burn the land and boil the sea, you can't take the sky from me.
There's no place I can be, since I found Serenity.
But you can't take the sky from me...

I'm actually a tad nervous, it was years since I last played and maybe having it be around here was a nice easy intro and I'm about to find out I'm not up to scratch anymore. Georgei is a pretty slick dude, and a bit noble to boot, and here he is being channelled by me and I have no feel for his world yet. I'm bound to make bumpkin-ish errors that he wouldn't make. Kind of the opposite problem he's been having in Wellington of suddenly having words pour out of his mouth that suggested a native knowledge of the place that he lacked.

Poor old fictional beings, they get such a rum deal: no real life, the un-reality they have tends to be nasty brutish and short, and we make so many of their choices so differently than they would.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Is it the fair that the brave deserve?

I went to my friend's wedding today. Her new husband gave an extraordinarily powerful speech. It was honest, well put, nicely delivered, and showed clear understanding and great emotional courage. He thanked his parents for their unconditional love and support, told his in-laws that their relationship's obvious love and sharing was a model for him, told his siblings that he was very glad to have them by his side, and said to his best friends they are like brothers to him. He told his children that he loves them, enjoys their company and that they make the world a happier place. He finally turned to my friend and said "You're beautiful, absolutely stunning, especially today" and then told her that she is responsible for him having become the man (as in adult) that he now is.

We met them at natural birth classes four and a half years ago, and four years ago when our first-borns were little babies they separated. About three years ago both we and they conceived our second children, which was a bit of a surprise on their part as they were officially not a couple at the time. They've been back together since before that second child was born and they've been engaged for a year, but even this morning I was wondering why my friend, who is bright and unusually lovable, wants to be married to him. He's pretty enough, and interesting to talk to, but I had been wondering what he has that is rare.

Good luck to them.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Arachnocampa luminosa

It's a loving night out there. We took the small soft hands of our dressing-gowned daughters and walked in the dark bush by the chattering stream looking at the pinpoint almost green lights of the glow-worms.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

SF Art and Weaning.

Hazel, Iris and I went to the City Gallery today. We saw Patricia Piccanini's In Another Life. We liked it; I just like science-fiction as a way of exploring ideas, and the children enjoyed the creatures and saw nothing monstrous, or even surprising, in their nigh-humanity. I think all animals are anthropomorphic to them. They were very good about not touching but did want to know what they would feel like if we could touch them, which is an interesting question, do they feel like dead animals, soft toys, or hard sculptures? "I bet the fur feels furry" was all I could commit to.

Hazel and Iris enjoyed all the animals and people, the trucks and cycle pups didn't grab their fancy although Iris loved the wheel. Their clear favourite was "Young Family" below. They identified with the characters, they liked the prehensile toes, the mother's tiny tail and the baby playing with its toes. They worried a little about the baby under the two feeding babies, thinking it might be feeling squashed but Hazel comforted Iris with the thought that the babies look light and so it might just be feeling sleepy, cuddled up with its sisters.

Iris, who is nearly two and a quarter, had not had a breastfeed for over a week; she has definitely embarked on the last stage of the weaning process. But she found the art inspiring and tonight at bedtime asked to
"I have a breastfeed like little babies' family, we saw them on their couch, please?" So we did.

It's interesting to discover that I'm still producing when it's so intermittent. When Hazel weaned down to once every week or two Iris was only just starting solids. I was feeling very tired of tandem feeding when Hazel told me
"I am not weaned, I will have three more breastfeeds and then I will be weaned." She hasn't claimed any of them.

La Leche League's Mothering Your Nursing Toddler or some such book suggests "Don't Ask, Don't Refuse" as a guideline for a gentle child-paced weaning and I used it for Hazel fairly consistently. Breastfeeding isn't as central to Iris's world, never has been, and now I'm less concerned about seeming a bit impolite because there's no baby getting breastfed to envy.

I do occasionally ask Iris when it seems like a good idea, and I have been known to refuse ("Mum! I want a breastfeed!" "Oh, Iris, I don't want to do that at the moment.") I definitely have a policy of needing to be asked politely and getting slack about remembering. Iris has to not only ask but also follow-up. She seems to care more that she may than that she does. She says that she'd like a breastfeed much more often than she actually organises getting one.
"Yes, after this book," or "Yes, in a minute after I've put these toys away," I say, and she doesn't ask again and we don't get around to it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Wellington's cafes are full of pre-schoolers.

It's a natural progression; there I was, used to going to cafes a lot and suddenly struck pregnant. Even after I'd finished the phase of being only able to stomach banana smoothies and not being able to stomach making them I was hungry, thirsty, and desparate for a place with a loo and somewhere to sit down on a chair that wasn't not too low or too hard; of course I popped into a cafe every shop or two during the nesting phase. Then there was a teeny tiny baby, certainly no more obtrusive than the pregnant stomach had been, and I was, if anything hungrier and thirstier, and somewhere to sit down was even more essential as we accustomed ourselves to being a breast-feeding pair.

The two of us were used to going to cafes together, and what could have been more natural than to keep on doing so once I could buy the baby a banana to eat in a companiable way as I enjoyed my moist orange cakes and caramel flans. Then she started drinking the odd bit of cow's as well as human's milk and her aunt bought her a Fluffy along with her cousins, it was like a rite of adulthood, she took it so seriously.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Good night dead wasp.

Tonight Iris is asleep with

  • Licky Puppy: a soft toy that came with the book Dear Zoo from her adored cousin Kay for her birthday.
  • Good Puppy: a soft toy she's had since she was newborn, it used to be called Iris's Pink Dog "Teddy" and Hazel used to tuck it into her tiny hands before she could let go of anything and so she'd hit herself in the face with it in a confused way.
  • Her bear: who may have gained the name Big Teddy today.
  • A baby doll 10cm tall.
  • A dead icneuman wasp in a plastic container: it's been part of the bed contingent for 3 nights now, each night we open up the container, say "good night dead wasp" and close it again.
  • And a printout of the elephants below.
l8tebird's elephant herdOkay, so the first three are soft and fluffy and nice to cuddle, the baby is teeny tiny and cute, and the elephants are very new: I was checking my email after dinner and Iris came over and asked me to "make your 'mputer to show elephant" so I went to and searched for 'elephant'. I found the picture above which was taken by someone called l8tebird of a herd of elephants crossing a river. Iris was enchanted with the elephants large and small, especially the smallest one who, she says, is "just peeking out" of the water, and asked for elephants on paper so I printed it out and gave it to her.

But why would one want to sleep with a dead wasp? Perhaps I'll be telling this story as she graduates with a PhD in Entymology. Perhaps she was impressed with the mileage Hazel got out of her dead insect pet.