We all like different things

Everybody likes different things 001
When the student is ready the teacher appears right? With startling frequency, the kind and clever women at Slow Family Living (SFL) throw a quietly ticking inspiration bomb my way.

This week they snuck a new and deceptively simple phrase into my mind : “We all like different things”.

I’ve been turning it over in my head like a pebble, this one phrase crash course in acceptance. Of course we do all like different things. This often leads to conflict, but it’s the differences which make things interesting. And because we all like different things, we also all need different degrees of space, time, engagement and support.

It’s well worth reading Bernadette Noll’s article here to see how this might plays out amongst the competing forces in your own household. I was inspired to make a quick mock-up for my fridge. If you like it, let me know and I’ll send you one you can print out for yours.

A wet and windy walk on Waiheke


This gallery contains 24 photos.

Waiheke locals often refer smugly to their microclimate which means that even when Auckland is cloaked in damp clouds, just a short ferry ride away, the Waihetians are often basking in warm sunlight. But sometimes even Waiheke succumbs to a fit of the dismals, and once you’ve been to the Cinema, Solar Cafe and the video shop you’ve exhausted most of the possibilities, especially those which won’t cost a bomb with three kids in tow. When tempers start to fray, the only answer is to man up, rug up and get out into the wet and windy weather. Fortunately although the weather may be rough, it generally isn’t very cold.  And … Continue reading

The family bach

15 April 14 HekeruaOften in New Zealand we hear people referring fondly to their family bach, a little house near the sea to which they would return each summer, building up a pleasant store of memories and shared deprivations, year after year as they grew up.  And while we had a fairly privileged childhood which featured plenty of love and fun, a bach wasn’t part of my family culture until recently.

Then a few years ago, my parents found a steep, bushclad and inaccessible section at Hekerua Bay on Waiheke Island, a cleansing forty five minute ferry ride from Auckland. Never ones to back down on a challenge, the only answer was to build a house on it, a saga which deserves its own book.  The result was a very comfortable tree house, nestled in the bush above a small rocky cove.

tartan pipiFor lucky us it makes a very welcoming retreat not too far from where we live.  Still inaccessible by road, it requires a walk in down a long steep zig zag and a breath defying slog up wooden steps dragging your volumes of planned reading and bottles of wine.  As you can imagine, it was with great joy that we moved beyond the stage of bulky nappies and baby paraphernalia.

The advantage of a walk in, is that once there, we don’t want to leave.  We settle in.  We read, we walk, we swim, we kayak around the headland for a samosa from the Four Square at Little Oneroa.

Dried flax flower

It has to be admitted that the inter-generational holiday will require some flexibility and tolerance on all sides, especially when your family features three lively, and loud boys, with not a lot of space around the house to run around.    Full credit to my parents for 1. continuing to invite us, and, 2. putting up with the sheer force of energy, volume and confrontation that is our offspring.  But sometimes things will spiral upwards and that’s when we know that, rain or shine, it’s time to get outside.

For my children, Hekerua Bay has become their happy place.  It’s where they have spent endless hours on the pebbly beach, collected treasures, and walked miles (ok, sometimes against their will). They’ve developed strength, observation and independence while kayaking around the coastline and sea channels around us. Surrounded by native bush and water wildlife they have learned to confidently spot and identify native birds and trees and occasionally large marine mammals such as seals and orca.

In Maori ‘Hekerua’ means Double Bay.  For us it means double happy.

Thank you for spending your time on me

Scanned images 001My middle boy reached double figures today.

Any parent will tell you that each child poses his own particular challenges to their own self mastery as an adult.

This boy with his dramatic swings, verbal dexterity, persistence and emotional intelligence is capable of diabolical tempers, protracted negotiation, belly laughs and breathtaking sweetness.

This weekend he watched carefully as I made his birthday cake.  A wise move since one never knows when an M&M might go rogue. Tension rose as I tried to remember what I had forgotten to prepare for his small party. Just between us, I may not have had a pleasant and loving smile on my face.

My march to martyrdom was halted in its tracks when he looked across the table and said “Thank you for spending your time on me Mum“.

It is a choice to be an involved parent, whether you choose to express it via cake, or soccer coaching or endless standing knitting beside godforsaken dressage arenas (you know who you are). But even a rewarding choice takes time, money, energy and in the opportunity cost to personal projects.

Perhaps as a parent you can’t really expect to be thanked for what you do.  Maybe it’s only when you become a parent that you really realise what went into making you who you are. But when thanks comes, graced with a recognition that you could have spent your time differently, my goodness, it is appreciated.  I spent the rest of that day with a real glow, a feeling of  true delight.

Do you have memories of paging through the Woman’s Weekly cookbook to choose your next birthday cake, sometimes months in advance? The pages of my Australian Woman’s Weekly Kids Birthday cake book which aren’t stuck together are falling out from overpawing.

Even though my mother doesn’t really love to bake she has always been very good at it. Her baking is, without fail, delicious, and her scones are worldbeaters.  Few people can whip up a square meal for five with a heel of cheese and an old boot, but she can. It is usually garnished with a description of how it could have been better.

I have very strong memories of cakes Mum made for me such as ‘The Garfield‘ c1985 in particular. However special mention is reserved for the inventive jelly topped cake (still remembered by Lucy C some thirty years later) which was consumed shivering under a cold concrete ledge at the Parnell Baths.

As an adolescent I lounged about like a sneering know-it-all, not lifting a finger while the domestic arts were conducted around my prone form. Now I find them surfacing in me spontaneously, like a coma victim who wakes to find they can suddenly speak fluent Aramaic.  My mother for her part has been extremely gracious about me discovering these skills as if I was seeing them for the first time and acting as if I may well have just invented them.

It’s too big for one blogpost, but it all just comes down to one thing really:

Thanks for spending your time on me Mum.



The horrifying implications of laryngitis

Swatch murky red brownsIt is quiet, oh so quiet.  The children are playing away quietly, happily.  I am working away quietly and happily.  And yet, it is a wet day during the school holidays and there are no screens in operation (save this one ;-) ).

The other days of this wettish July school holidays have not been like this. Some of the previous days of this holiday have witnessed conflict and collective volume of epic and unprecedented levels.  Although I am grateful to be at home for the first school holiday in years, you may be surprised to know I have not always been joyful and grateful at the close of each day.

So, what marvellous feat of parenting have I wrought to bring about this miraculous state?  Quite simply, I contracted laryngitis. For the last three days I have been unable to make myself heard, above a hoarse and ineffective rasp.  It has been frustrating, irritating, funny and sadly instructive.

When you have laryngitis, it’s hard to say ‘I love you’.  On the other hand, it’s also hard to say “Pick the damn thing up”,  “Whose is this shirt in the middle of the floor?”, “Who left this on the sofa?”, “How many tiiiiiiimes?”, “Do you really need to…?”, and “For God’s SAAAAAKE!!!!”.  Although this is in fact a loving household with a great deal of open physical and verbal affection, I’ll leave it to you to guess which form of expression is more common.

Interestingly with the exit of (my) verbal expression, a lot of the negativity has gone too.  The sarcasm, the ‘tch’, and the eye roll.  Communication by sign language requires definite eye contact which seems to increase compliance. Which is just as well, because it precludes the usual pointless repetition of requests and argument.

As I have become quieter the children have taken to whispering back.  They think this is hilarious.  But the upshot is less pointless noise.

We’ve still got our grumpy patches but they are reduced, and there do seem to be more overtly loving bits. Spontaneous cuddles are big.  Overall life is calmer.

The implications are rather horrifying.  I have to accept that I am the source of a significant amount of the negativity in our house. At the very least it seems clear that my reactions act as an accelerant on conflict and volume.

It makes sense that as a parent I’m going to the the one making smaller people do things they don’t want to do (be clean, be organised, share). So, I’ll naturally create situations which generate heat which will be exaggerated as routines fall away during the holidays.  Also, my renewed SAHM status means I am bringing fresh standards to bear on the household which may not be universally welcome (although eventually I think the resulting order will be appreciated).

However the clear lesson from laryngitis is that I can avoid throwing verbal petrol on family hot spots.  Conflagration is upsetting, negative, sad, and worst of all, avoidable.

Learning it is one thing. living it is quite another.



Overheard: Adventures of a junior videographer

Tin cansMr 9 came home early from his first gig as school videographer.  He was full of the noise and drama of it.

“They had to cut the production short!  One of the juniors threw up right in the middle of the stage!  It was chaos!

Do you want to know the worst thing?  He threw up on a little girl’s shoes!

One of the teachers said ‘sh*t’… I guess she forgot she was miked up.

But don’t worry – I got an excellent slow motion shot.”

Not for the first time did I feel l live in a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon strip.