Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The green fingered genius

Him indoors is a green fingered genius. The day the twins came home from hospital after their birth he dug through the raised bed he had built the week before, did whatever one does to soil to make it the kind in which plants thrive and planted the whole thing with vegetables and herbs. I was in a state of frenzied trance. Brain dead from the hormones sluicing through my system whilst manically trying to get to grips with feeding tiny twins and looking after a two year old. I did well to keep the children alive but I could not have been entrusted with the welfare of our handsome vegetable patch.

A month later and we started to feast on the luscious fayre. Green and red peppers, chillis, more basil than you'd know what do do with, sweetcorn, all sorts. This year his enterprise has expanded. Green beans swarm all over the back of the house, passion fruit vines wind their fragrant leaves across the fence but his real pride and joy creeps down the side of our driveway. A huge melon patch. I don't know if you've ever seen a melon patch but the vines and leaves grow pretty much as you watch them. He has never tried growing melons before and I can't believe we have feasted on some of the most honeyed flesh you could ever hope to taste this summer. His commitment to the garden finds him wander in through our gate, dusty and bleary eyed from a day of building only to kiss his wife and children briefly and direct his attention to the watermelon patch, watering and pruning his pride and joy. His obsession does have me rolling my eyes sometimes and his friends have been known to cellotape huge, ripe fruit to the vines as a gentle nudge in the ribs but underneath it I find his understanding and love of the earth enormously endearing.

What a cool talent.

Quinn O'Connell took these pics

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Following the curve ball

On Friday I accompanied the lad on an excursion with his nursery. Forty exciteable little four year olds and about twenty adults toddled off on the bus to the Te Puna Quarry Park. The most enjoyable part of any trip, if you ask the children afterwards, is often the transport and this was no exception. I must admit it was mine too. Sitting on a bus gazing out of the window I cuddled up to my son while we chatted about dinosaurs, axels (we could see one turning under a lorry as we waited at traffic lights) and his main interest at the moment - what sharks and whales eat.

We whiled away a lively morning climbing on old diggers, chasing butterflies and exploring amongst the plants and flowers at the park. As we got on the bus the headteacher announced that she thought we might drop into Tauranga art gallery on our way home to look at the Lynley Dodd exhibition. I assumed I had misunderstood. Of course no one would dream of just 'dropping in' with a bus load of tired preschoolers and their frazzled mothers on a rainy Friday morning. I was wrong. New Zealanders think nothing of throwing a quick curve ball in the organisational plans and then breezily rolling with it. My stiff, English need for a more military execution of itineraries had me beading up at the hairline.

We were welcomed by one of the gallery staff who read the children a quick story by the exhibiting author then asked them to adhere to the rules of the gallery. "Keep your voices down and don't touch anything." By now the back of my t shirt was wet with panic at the prospect of keeping the children's muddy, wet fingers away from the displays and dampening their natural urge to shout and run around when placed somewhere which demands quiet.

Fortunately we got away without adding any extra illustrations to the exhibition or testing the accoustics too vigorously. Even though I am, by nature, an extremely organised person who likes to plan in advance, I loved the lesson in playing things by ear. I was also impressed at the faith the nursery teachers had in their charges to respectfully enjoy the gallery. I wonder how much I am changing living here on the other side of the world and conforming to the local norm?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

chicken turd

Every time my parents come to visit I'm afforded the opportunity to enjoy my children so much more. Not only do they help around the house (I don't think I put a single item of clothing in a drawer for two months thanks to my mummy) but they also give the children exactly what all littlies crave and respond well to: attention. The ratio of one adult per child is positively luxurious. I have been able to sit with each one of my littlies and have long, meandering conversations which are guided by their scurrying brains and not at all by the constant sense of rush which otherwise pervades my day, safe in the knowledge that the other two are being cuddled and listened to in the same manner.

The first night that lad and twin2 stayed with my parents, twin1 and twin2 had a conversation on the phone. They giggled and chatted, calling each other 'Lyla'. They both enunciate 'l' by touching their front lip with the tip of their tongue. They were tickled pink to be talking to each other and went nuts in the morning when re-united at kindy.

Having someone there to watch the girls so I can run in the surf with lad, lie in the shallows and kick our legs together was golden. His determination to become a pilot has intensified after building Hercules models and discussing the various aerodynamic properties of helicopters with my father.

Now that my parents have gone I feel quite overwhelmed with the piles of washing, the increasing workload I am taking on and the general running of family life. Thank goodness for Skype and cheap international phone calls. It must have been so much harder to live on the other side of the world to your family thirty years ago.

My patience has had an inch or two lopped off its ever shortening scope. Today I picked my three up plus a friend of lad's from kindy at midday. In the half an hour I had to give them a sandwich before meeting a friend at the park I managed to go completely mental at lad for spitting on the floor (he later told me through his tears that the husband had told him he should get rid of phlegm in his throat by spitting it out), scare the living daylights out of his friend who was witness to the red mist descending, scream irritably at twin2 because she wouldn't stop crying (probably because I was creating such a fractious atmosphere) and clean a huge chicken turd from a squealing twin1's foot as she traipsed it throughout the house. We were twenty minutes late to meet my friend, it was barely after 1pm and I needed vodka.
photos of our chickens, Rosie and Flopsie taken by Quinn O'Connell

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Toodle pip

My parents left on Wednesday. During the 3 years we have lived here this was their fourth visit. This was easily the hardest goodbye. As we become more established in New Zealand I realise the possibility of us moving back to the UK fades and their visits become more and more bittersweet. I enjoy their company intensely whilst being stingingly aware of its fleeting nature. During the last two weeks of my parents' trip here I started to get anxious. The goodbye loomed and I dreaded the cold, grey smoke which I knew would hiss into my chest and expand it with loneliness.

Wednesday morning and we kissed and cuddled at the airport. Teary and sad I didn't watch their plane depart as I normally would but turned and walked out.

My loving parents are generous enough to come over often and visit us in our home where I live with my healthy husband and children. Getting blue and upset because I miss them seems like navel gazing self indulgence when you consider what so many others are facing in Christchurch and Japan as they try and cope with the new face of their lives and future.

With that in mind I have opted for a smile every time I think of my ma and pa and feeling lucky for all our time we have together. Because they live so far away, when they come to stay we never while away our time with the daily communication of chores and time passers but instead really relish our time together. We have done nothing more adventurous than build sandcastles, swim in the pool, eat ice cream and read stories, all within a 2km radius but it has been glorious.
lovely pic taken by Quinn O'Connell Photography


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