Saturday, April 17, 2010

Chickpea died.

Chickpea has been part of our family since Iris opened a wrapped box with holes in it on Christmas Day and found two rabbits inside.

Chickpea was a neutered female, and she and Iggy Hop mostly got on very well, with occasional spats. I suspect they fought because it just is hard to keep on getting on with the members of your household, and because as Chickpea got bigger she thought that perhaps it was
time she was the dominant bunny, but Iggy was happier with the status quo.

Chickpea was incredibly soft of fur and a beautiful golden fawn, but fierce. She didn't like being picked up and she would grunt to remind anyone who tried, but she liked us to feed her treats out of our hands. She climbed the hedge to eat the lemon tree, she snatched food from Iggy and ran off with it, and she taught me a lot about rabbits. Having two rabbits has meant that we are able to see differences between them: Chickpea was a foodie, she liked to try new tastes and passionately ate her favourite things first.

She died suddenly. Yesterday at breakfast she was balancing on her hind legs, eating treats and pawing at Sean's dressing gown. Sometime in the middle of the morning she was in one of her ordinary spots under the hedge. After lunch she didn't come hopping to greet me and
ask for treats when I came out the door, I found her hunched in her hutch. Her nose woffle was slow, so I opened the hutch roof and got her out. I knew something was wrong when she didn't object. Hazel, Iris, and I checked her all over for injuries and we didn't find any, her tummy was soft, but she was obviously sick because she really didn't seem to mind, no freaked staring or anything. The vet had an appointment for 4:20. I put her in the bedroom of the hutch and closed
the door for quarantine. Iggy hopped about the garden. At about 2:20 I was about to take Hazel to Circus School so I went to see how Chickpea was, she was lying on her side, as if happy, comfortable and at ease but she was utterly still. I picked her up and she was still warm so I listened to her chest, but her heart was silent.

Crying, I brought her in to the children. They took turns holding her and we came to believe in her death. Hazel rang Sean, he said "I will be home as soon as possible" and was. I took Hazel to circus school, she was only a little late and went in with the hope it would be very interesting so she could concentrate completely on it.

"At least," Hazel said, "it wasn't Moab, because we only have one cat and we have two bunnies."
I agreed, but warned her not to say that to her grieving sister.

I came home again and took Iggy to Chickpea's appointment, to see if he seemed well to an expert observer. We talked about Chickpea's death, but no conclusions were reached. I had Chickpea in the car just in case the vet wanted to check any hypotheses, but Iris didn't want
an autopsy and Iggy did seem well.

When I came home I asked Iris "How are you?"
"Sad, but a bit calmer since Daddy came straight home from work and
was really nice to me and gave me everything I wanted."

After dinner I asked again and she said
"A bit sad, but not hurt, not in pain like I fell over," and we scheduled Chickpea's funeral for 11am.

We didn't let Iggy back into the hutch but instead he stayed the night in the grand new bathroom. He seemed to quite like it. This morning Iris went in to check on him, alone as it happened. Afterwards she said
"At first when I opened the door I couldn't see him and I thought he might be dead too, and he was quite still in the box, so I thought he might be going-to-die like Chickpea was, but he came out for some treats and was normal, so I was happy."

Later Iris said she was
"Sad about Chickpea, but I'm not crying anymore whenever I think about her"

This morning we hit our main water pipe while digging the grave in our funereal finery. Water fountained out baptising the concrete rabbit we had ready for the headstone, but missing the dead rabbit lying in state in the beautiful wrapped box she originally came in and her
floral offerings. The funeral was delayed while we rang the plumber. At the funeral we said some things, stroked her soft fur, and put her back in her box. We placed flowers all around her and went out to lunch somewhere where the water was on. The interment was after the plumber dug the hole a little deeper, fixed the pipe, and told me he didn't think he'd be needing that hole again until she was long gone. More flowers, a few more words, Hazel and Iris filled in the hole, and positioned the concrete rabbit and more flowers. The finished grave is rather lovely.

Sean and the children had horse-riding to learn, so I spent all afternoon at home disinfecting and cleaning the hutch for Iggy, who would sit still enough that I'd want to give him a treat to check he was okay and not about to die too. I'd get a treat and go to him, but he would run and hide. "Running is good" I would think, sadly, and I'd go back to my services for the unappreciative rabbit. I thought he hated the smell of the cleaners I was using and so I washed my hands in his pee and then in plain water. After that he allowed himself to eat a treat I'd given him, but only if I put it on the ground and retreated. So I think he feels I am culpable because I was the one who
found her, who took him to the vet with Chickpea dead in the car, and who was trying to clean their hutch of all traces of their shared life. I was cheered when he started grooming himself (Chickpea mostly groomed Iggy and Iggy occasionally gave her a bit of a lick too).

I hope Iggy forgets this theory by tomorrow, surely he's not alone in his hutch plotting revenge and bearing a grudge. I also hope it will all help with Iris's fear of death, as it was so surprising that there was no time to dread it, and afterwards there's been kindness, compassion, flowers, funerals and cards.

Goodbye Chickpea, I will not forget you. You jumped in pure joy, and when you flopped down in the backyard the whole household was at peace.

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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Optional extras.

By the way, you can see the girls and me in photos by Shannon).

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Too busy living.

I've not written because I've been enjoying the summer holidays. Hanging out with Hazel and Iris, Moab and Iris's rabbits Chickpea and Iggy Hop. It's been lovely, better get back to it as they'll be at school again in a week.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

No, no! One of a kind!

We had got out the door(!) and were about to walk down to the local cafe for brunch. Hazel spied the garage and suddenly wanted to scoot her scooter instead of walking. She needed to go back for scooting shoes, I was hungry, gave her the key and suggested she go and get the right shoes on and catch us up. Hazel wanted an adult to come with her to help find and put on the shoes, Sean went with her so to do. I suggested to Iris that we start walking, she was unwilling. I explained that they would catch us up, because they would be fast. Iris pointed out a rose with sunset coloured petals. We looked at the rose. Iris pointed out a soldier fly with black patches on its wings, we looked at the soldier fly. Iris asked why the leaves of our sycamore are much paler green than the leaves of the oak, I thought aloud about possible answers. Iris gazed thoughtfully at the sycamore and the oak. Iris heard movement at the house and informed me that they were coming, and we could wait for them. We waited. Hazel got her scooter and scooted off, zooming past us.

"Iris, Hazel is very fast on her scooter, that's why I wanted to start walking and said they would catch us up."
"Me wongked Hazel go firsk; me evil denius."

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Hazel's Banana Breakfast

5 bananas
4 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs.


2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons butter
Dash milk
2 tablespoons honey
Dash more milk.


Bake at 180*C until knife comes out pretty clean.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hazel and Iris.

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Saturday, November 08, 2008


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Best thing a newborn sibling can do.

Back in the day, if Hazel put her lovely soft child cheek beside Iris's, Iris would root around on it for a nipple. Hazel used to love these "funny baby kisses".

I'm thinking of this because my inbox seems to have another baby sister or baby brother announcement every time I look at it, each one reminds me of the day that Sean went through to Hazel's bedroom and said
"The baby came out of Mum's tummy last night, you're a big sister now."

When Iris was born Hazel was very keen on her, but, you know, newborns are extraordinarily frustrating people to love. Getting positive feedback out of a newborn is a matter of hope and kind interpretation on the part of loving and experienced adults; people who are new at trying to understand babies often find newborns completely opaque.

Newborns are used to a comfortable, friendly but impersonal environment, not unlike a private spa pool at a resort famous for its unobtrusive but efficient service. Newborns tell you something's wrong, but they don't know to tell that you've got it right. Newborns do love to breastfeed but not everyone has the superpower of making their milk, and their tummies are often a bit dicky. Newborns aren't as tolerant as a doll or as grateful as a cat, they can't even hold onto their presents.

Hazel cared desperately and wanted to know that Iris loved her back or even noticed her, and the only feedback Hazel had found out how to get reliably was negative, I was feeling a bit panicky about their relationship spiralling down for the 6 or 8 weeks before Iris learnt to smile when a friend, who'd had had 5 of her 6 babies by the time I'd had 2, told me about the funny baby kisses.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Wanda Harland's expectant!

I'm not getting around to reading the web much these days, but I'm not at Playcentre where I wonder if Iris is missing Rosa, I'm sitting with Hazel as she doesn't vomit some more (keep not vomiting Hazel; it's a good look) drifting through months of words and it turns out that Wanda Harland's expectant! Omigodomigod!

(Examines self for urge forth to go forth and do likewise... nope, it's still schadenfreude I'm afraid, I prefer other people to do the vomiting.)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Small naturalists.

Iris is crying bitterly in the bath, neither Hazel nor I can staunch the tears. Suddenly her attention is caught by a Disney figurine of a seagull,
"Seagulls don't normally have webbed feet."
"Don't they?" I ask, wondering again whether being constantly corrected or discovering that you've been patronised for years is worse, "we could look at the beach," she brightens further,
" I hope there's a dead one", Hazel enthuses, "to look at really closely."
Iris is completely cheered by the thought.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Oh, I could cry.

They love each other. They hit each other of course, they're sisters and they're only 3 and 5, but it's usually preceded by something the other could have responded to that was verbal, or at least vocal, and it's definitely an expression of passing frustration rather than lasting enmity. They spent their days together for all of Iris's life. Hazel went to school and now they are separated for over 6 hours of every week day. Hazel did some emotional processing and seems pretty settled by now.

Iris seemed more all right at first, but she never coped well with drop-offs and pick-ups and has become very stressed. She has been night-wetting for the first time since she was 20 months old. Her first response to every suggestion of a change in activity from anybody is negative. She is having to take more and more awkward transitional objects everywhere. She's edgy, demanding and sad. All she suggests doing in Hazel's absence is watching DVDs. We went to the pool with school and she wanted to be left in the classroom. I took her away. She was heart-broken anew and has re-interpreted events to suggest that if she had been able to fold her clothes like a school girl she would have been allowed to join Hazel at school.

Iris has not wanted to go to Hazel's ballet recently, she used to demand to watch it. Last week Sean was home sick and so I left Iris in front of a DVD and took Hazel. Today I asked my father to come over so I could take just Hazel. Hazel said she didn't want to do ballet anymore because Iris doesn't like it and she wants to spend more time with Iris. I explained we've paid for the term and she herself would have to tell her teachers that she was leaving and why and hug them goodbye. Hazel spent the lesson, curled foetally, thumb in mouth, watching the other children dance.

But Lois McMaster Bujold says to lower the wall, not increase the pressure.

I'm trying to help my children through this separation and change. I'm trying to remove unnecessary transitions from Iris's life, I'm trying to empower Hazel to walk to and from school so that Iris doesn't have to come face to face with the source of her grief twice a day. I'm trying to give Iris lots of opportunities to use scissors. I too have been cutting things up in order to make new things out of them. Emotional processing through displacement perhaps; I am trying to remain calm.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Schema fascination.

I've been writing an article for the Playcentre Journal about schemas and transitions (and Hazel cutting stuff up). This is some more thinking around it.

At my Playcentre we use schema learning theory to help us deliver Te Whaariki (the New Zealand Early Childhood curriculum).

Other people say that schemas are repeated themes in children's thinking and patterns of behaviour. I think they are a useful framework we can use to consider the consuming passions of children. This Schema Matrix I had published in the Playcentre Journal a few years ago will give you the right sort of idea and what's more lots of people find it useful in practice.

Children are utterly passionate about their schemas, this makes schemas very useful when dealing with children. Children like people who share their schemas. On session, a free-play environment combined with the children's abiding schema interests provide a lot of continuity for us. Children think hard about their schema fascinations so they learn a lot from their schemas and they become experts in the areas their schemas lead them into. Children are also easier to redirect within a schema than outside it.

I have noticed that children often seem to express very strong emotions with their schemas, I think someone with a trajectory schema will often throw things when furious or jubilant, while someone with a rotation schema is more likely to turn angrily on a heel or pirouette joyfully.

Things are looking up, night before last Hazel was utterly absorbed in dissolving toilet paper in a basin full of soapy water and yesterday morning she was mixing canned plum juice with milk at breakfast (as well as cutting out the lips of people from magazines for her sister). The changing mixtures suggest she might be moving on to processing this major life event as a transformation, which is perfect, and I prefer cleaning up a transforming schema's truly mucky messes to finding my books torn to pieces.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Emotional processing

Once upon a time in Nelson I observed a child, in his last couple of weeks before leaving Playcentre for school, mixing sand and water to make floods for dolls-house people (in which they died). His transformation schema worked on a multitude of levels: a physical transformation, a story about transformation of a landscape and death (the biggest transformation of all), all part of the transformation to school-child.

Hazel (a notably clingy child) has just started school. She's doing a lot of disconnecting. She's been cutting her bedding, Sean's sock, her teddy's fur and Iris's bed base, she's been drawing smiles on pieces of paper and cutting them out for us as presents. She's picking things apart, dismembering dolls, crumbling food, and pulling things to pieces. I'm not sure what the content of her stories is, I'm rather worn out with dealing with the physical disconnections. I'm very interested that it's disconnecting that she's doing as she disconnects from us in order to connect to school when trajectory has long been her dominant schema.

And I'm wondering, can you remember other children's schemas at the start of school or during other major life events and were they an abstraction on such a high level of the way they were experiencing the world?

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Keeping it ever so seemly.

Last night was a lovely night and this morning was a beautiful morning. Anne and Iris both chuckling and even I was staggering about and smiling by twenty past seven. Knowing Sean had made Hazel's lunch and I'd done a nice job of shopping for the Playcentre morning tea, I figured I had time enough for cleanliness so I even got the washing on the line despite wanting to be at Playcentre pretty early in order to help everything go smoothly for Alan Johnson's visit. Considering that I was preparing to have the UK State Secretary for Education and Skills come to visit intending to learn something from my work I thought I had done a fine job to keep the flap at a reasonably normal level.

But when we walked into Hazel's classroom sitting in her beloved teacher's place was someone else! Hazel became clingier and clingier as the new person, who had actually taught me on occasion when I was a pupil at that school, tried to make friendly conversation. When it came time for me and Iris to leave Hazel totally did her nut. Her beloved, and quite experienced, teacher said that, in her experience, the best course of action was to just leave. So I gave Hazel my jacket as a transitional object and Iris and I left. We heard Hazel's cries all the way out the gate and down the street.

"Hazel does want her little sister but we are going away Mummy!"

I was concerned too; the beloved teacher wasn't there when I was given that advice at a creche and Hazel screamed the place down all afternoon and then went from a pleasantly independent 15 month-old to a dramatically clingy one and stayed like that for a couple of years. Neither was she there when I was given that advice at swimming lessons and she wouldn't put her head under the water for the next year and a half.

Fortunately Playcentre was in good shape despite me being 25 minutes late. The kids and visitors had a beautiful peaceful session (at Karen and Nigel's wedding someone said that a good marriage was like swans gliding across the lake, beautiful, serene and the product of madly paddling orange duck feet under the surface; the session was like that). I'm not sure that Alan Johnson got what we are though; Playcentre is not a play group. Playcentre is an organised pedagogical movement in Early Childhood Education, as are Steiner and Montessori, Playcentre's unique features are that it is based on free play in a rich environment, it is native to New Zealand, and it is run as a parent volunteer co-operative. Play groups are groups where kids play together while adults talk, they are unlikely to be licensed ECE providers).

I rang the school and they said Hazel had settled in 3 minutes, and was busy and happy in her class, that she played happily at play-lunch, and at lunch, and that other kids looked after her.

She was let out of class first because she'd been so brave and I gave her a flower and got a huge hug, she gave me the jacket (which she had been wearing around her neck) back, then she sniffed the flower, rejected it, read me her homework book, said something to her teacher and we set off for home.

I think I need to play some Ultimate; get me ya-yas out. But for now ... housework!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A day with Iris.

The day Hazel started school the skies were scorching clear. Iris and I went to a cafe with friends and lunched on fruit and carrots in the bush listening to the birds. Iris ran to the toilet and got there with bone dry undies, danced to every car stereo we overheard, took off all her clothes to play in a sprinkler and we agreed we'd had a day of delights. All day I felt Hazel's absence as an emptiness in my stomach like a new love.

Hazel walked out of school a three-metre tall born-again pupil with a new book bag , she told me it was the first day of homework and read her homework book to me in the playground, and to Iris at home, and to Iris and me at home, and she got Iris to read it to me too. She then told me
"Ella was kind to me," and asked "can I start my homework? How do you do homework?"
As she had already read the book I told her she could copy the words out of the book if she wanted to do extra homework. She copied out the title and first sentence, and drew around the book ("not on the book!" she explained hotly) "to see what shape it is." She was a little disappointed to hear that although the teacher had given her the book it was not hers to keep, but vastly cheered to hear the school has a whole library.

She tells me she played with Ella, Nyah, Zoe, Tara and Maria, but not the other Ella who lives next door. That she took the principal 3 of the 4 pictures she did today because when she was visiting he'd said that sometimes people bring him things they are very proud of and it's the best part of his day.

I'm as threadbare as a thousand year old rug and I haven't even done the washing so Hazel has no clean knickers to wear tomorrow to the school picnic I found out about today (Iris and I are invited too).

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Hazel starts school after breakfast. I know all the steps but I really don't grok how having sex without a condom five and three-quarters years ago makes me a pupil's parent tomorrow.

Even that baby who was so heart-breaking beautiful that people stopped in the street in order to point it out to each other seemed like an unlikely consequence, but this, a relationship with a school, that's just weird. Weirder yet: it's my old primary school she's about to go to.

I hope she learns to read soon.

But I don't know whether I hope she's a geek or not, though, as my most important work here is done and I can't change it now, I suppose it doesn't matter one way or the other.


Thursday, February 01, 2007


Iris gave up nappies at 20 months. But she never got into the keeping one pair of undies dry all day mindset. Now she has dog and fairy stickers and a place to stick them which she can see from the toilet her undies have been "bone dry" for 24 hours.

Hazel had sticker rewards a long time ago for "being a good big sister" (not making the baby cry). Knowing Iris was getting them for toileting, Hazel wanted a reprise. She's been giving up toys to Iris willingly and asking for her input into choices.

It's amazing the motivational power that putting a sticker on a piece of paper has.

Perhaps I should get one too. I could put a sticker on the chart every time I do something the way I want my children to learn to do it, for getting down to their level and interacting with them, for cleaning up messes, tidying things, keeping my cool, admin stuff, and doing my foot and bottom exercises.

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Friday, December 15, 2006

Hazel's first graduation: the reality.

There was a cake. The chair got decorated and immediately dismantled. There is a card; it's still at Playcentre. There were best wishes but no hugs that I noticed, possibly because I didn't cry. My eyes misted up as I gave my speech but I was performing so it didn't go any further. Hazel decided to swap the presents so that Playcentre gave her what she chose for it and she gave it what it gave her, very sensibly I think, the outfit was a bit small even if it was all class and the horse has lots of little accessories to lose.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hazel's first graduation.

She's my first born, I pushed her out, hot and urgent while biting the stuffed rabbit my great-great-aunt Nell gave me the last Christmas she was alive. She was born purple, with navy blue eyes. She's clever and competent, and in her stories every horse has a different neigh. We've been going to Playcentre together for more than four years, and tomorrow is her last day.

There'll be a cake, and a decorated chair. There'll be presents; she's giving the Playcentre a horse (one hand high), rider, and tack. It's giving her a mermaid top and tail (Iris and I were the representatives of Playcentre who chose the present). There'll be a card with pictures, best wishes and hugs. There may be speeches.

There will be tears.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Priority inversion.

Hazel wants to go to Tumble Tots very much (and whatever I think of their modeling, the kids' sheer enthusiasm for the programme won out in the end). So she started getting dressed early, which is good because while Hazel needs to get dressed before she can go to Tumble Tots, Hazel wants to get dressed in private. Hazel decides in order for her room to be private it needs a sign on the door. Hazel is not yet five, she writes very very slowly, after an hour's work the sign says "CEpOtDAng" which means "Keep Out, Danger" it is a huge achievement and she has to celebrate her new sign before she gets dressed (in the public playroom).

Iris also wants to go to Tumble Tots very much, she also needs to be dressed before we can go to Tumble Tots, unfortunately, just after she manages to become willing to take off the beautiful nightie that Anne made her that says "Sleep well Iris" and has a kiss in the pocket, she finds the bag of fabric scraps I was given yesterday and gets the urge to design clothes made out of them that would be perfect for Tumble Tots. I do not have time to sew her new clothes before Tumble Tots.

Susan would prefer the children go to Tumble Tots than to pass the day with grumpy children who missed out. In order to go to Tumble Tots her children need to be dressed. She could spend her time putting the fabric scraps away again, stuffing her children into clothes suitable for Tumble Tots and writing Hazel's sign, or in a consultancy role: talking them through making their own choices and surfing the web.

Oh well, so much for time management skills, I guess it's time to start modeling working well under time-pressure.

Want more? See Wikipedia on priority inversion.

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Valiant little people.

Hazel's been coughing at night during the weekend, and last night she complained about her ear hurting, Iris had lots of nightmares last night and was hot to the touch. I took them to the doctor this morning. Turns out Hazel's been much more valiant in her wonderful bee performances than I realised, she has quite a rattly chest but the show went on anyway. Iris also has a chest, and some other part of her body (not ears, maybe tonsils, I'm a bit short on sleep and can't remember), she's quite floppy today.

This is what DVDs were invented for.

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

She was glorious, of course.

Today Hazel was the lead bee in Lynley Anne Ward's dance school show The Dream. I so did not expect to be a ballet mom in ten years time a decade ago, but hey, we adapt, and I nearly burst with pride as she remembered every part of her dance and did it with her customary precision. I was also very proud of all the children I'm friends with who were in the show, and of Felix Sampson who played the Paper Boy in the jazz and tap show, although I've never heard of him before. He's about 10 now I guess, and he's got presence all over the stage, he can dance, he can clown, he can capture an audience with a knowing look against a background of leaping girls in violet and ultra-green polka dotted dresses. We'll be hearing of him again I think.


Monday, November 27, 2006

But for historical accident there go I.

Ruth's looking for a great nanny. When my children are driving their parent cracker I sometimes envy her lifestyle with the washing virtuously put on the line and someone bringing professional calm to their interactions with her children while she goes out to manage her team of adults in their well-ordered workplace. Her workmates don't remove their clothes, bite or pee on her, they can take turns, and when she asks them a question they usually answer. But I don't envy her this search, and after the kids have watched this David Attenborough DVD and I've got my template working we will go outside and throw the frisbee while the lasagne cooks and the sun shines. Ruth will go to meetings and read boring emails under flourescent lights.

P.S. Iris went to playcentre with no other family members and Hazel had another good time at school today.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Way to drive your parent cracker.

  1. Whine.
  2. Take off your clothes. (Bonus points for complete nudity at lunch time outside Parliament).
  3. Bite people.
  4. Ask for something, ask for it a lot, beg, plead, yell, then get polite. When you get the thing glance at it and hurl it away.
  5. Pee on your parent.
  6. Don't respond if your sister asks you nicely, wait until she pulls your hair, then do what she wants.
  7. Don't get in the car.
  8. Yell very loudly "I am!" whenever someone makes suggestions about your behaviour.
  9. Don't eat when people are watching.
  10. If you listen, don't look, if you look, don't answer.

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hobby horses.

Last night Hazel liked the mop so much she mopped up after Iris missed the loo so she could ride it back to the cupboard.

If anyone said "Hey Susan, do you want to run after a frisbee in the rain?" I'd be so there.

I made up a person, it's just a game you know.

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Hazel test drives school.

Hazel visited her school-to-be on Monday. I asked what I should say about it and she said
"Tell people she loved it, and her class all introduced themselves so she knows their names."