Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Infinite Monkey's Guide to Good Garden Maintenance

It had been a good seven weeks since the lawns had last been mowed, but Callie was completely unaware of this.  She never left her house, never glanced away from the monitor in front of her.  She wouldn't know if a giant bean stalk had sprouted right outside her window with a 'climb me and I'll lead you to great riches' sign dangling on its lower branch.  To see such a thing would involve opening her curtains; and doing this would produce glare and hinder her ability to see the computer screen.  And we couldn't have that could we?

And so the lawns continued to grow and Callie continued to ignore the disapproving stares from her neighbours, and the fact that her daughter often came home from school crying as she had gotten lost trying to find her way from the letterbox to the front door. 
From The Infinite Monkey's Guide to Losing Friends, Neglecting Family and Killing Household Pets, Part 3: Good Garden Maintenance.

Until the weekend, our lawn was nearly at that point again. The point where small children become lost in an urban forest that starts at our bottom step and continues in sporadic clumps right down to our gate. The point where I've caught the above-mentioned children gnawing on the handrail of the front steps, after having mistaken our home for a gingerbread house.

Or maybe that was less about the lawn labyrinth and more about forgetting to feed the kids breakfast... :P

The problem is, what with all this Winter business, the ground has like a marshland for weeks and weeks. I may as well take the lawnmower over to Bayswater and try to mow the mudflats. And then finally, when the weather had fined up for enough consecutive days to dry out the bog pit that is our front lawn, the mower gurgled to life long enough for me to mow a single strip, and then farted to a stop. Hmm. Probably should have remembered to check the oil... At some point during the span of years we've owned it...

Don't hate me for my awesome MS Paint skills.

But, a week later, and the lawns are done (to some degree), the kids have been able to enjoy playing outside in the nearly-spring weather without needing the help of Search and Rescue to guide them back to the house, and everyone's happy to shed the cabin fever - we are so over winter!!

In other news, I recently finished the Ashbree Lane website. Please head on over and check it out - Maree makes gorgeous tutus, hobby horses and handmade dolls!

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Misadventures of Mummyzilla & the Brain-Sucking Zombies

WARNING: This is not a post filled with sun and laughter and jumping through muddy puddles while singing the Happy Happy Joy Joy song. I'm going to be frank. And not in a 'let's talk about perineal tears' kind of way. (Perineal Tears... Kinda sounds like a rock band.)

Yesterday evening I absolutely lost my rag. My brain combusted. Not in a scary Jake the Muss throw my kids around the room manner, but for a little while there I was pretty close to throwing MYSELF across the room in the grasping hope that knocking myself would give me a moment of peace and quiet.

The kids had been all over me like a fungal rash.  After a solid week of being sick, lethargic, clingy and increasingly bored, they'd regained their energy and, with me pre-occupied much of the day with trying to spring-clean the bedrooms, launched into stupid attention seeking behavior (the Lily Bug in particular - hitting and kicking at me every time she didn't have my full attention. Pushing me pushing me pushing me... Literally coming up behind me and giving me a shove, just for the satisfaction of seeing me lurch forward).

By 4pm I had stopped seeing two human children and had started seeing two brain-sucking zombie demons. Seriously. They were no longer my children. They had morphed. The Teen arrived home, and seeing that I was at some kind of emotional breaking point, she ignored my subliminal pleas for help (and my not-so-subliminal cries to the ceiling of "ohmygodsIjustneedabreak!"), went straight to the computer and stuck her earphones in so she could happily zone us all out.

By 6pm I had reached a "I know where people get that urge to smack their kids from" stage ( Do I need a disclaimer here to say I adore my children and despite a long moment of feeling like I was losing it, I would never Really. Lose. It?) So I asked The Teen to keep an eye on the darling delinquents so I could jump in the shower for ten minutes of peace and quiet. Five minutes later, Guy Not-So-Smiley was in the bathroom going "muuuum... muuuum" (which to me sounded like "braaaains... braaains") and two minutes after I was trying to get dressed with BOTH Smiley and the Lily Bug now right there in the bathroom with me.
I asked them to go back out to the lounge.
No one listened...
I asked a little louder. And louder.
I found myself screaming "Look just get out of the bloody bathroom and let me get dressed by myself for crying out loud!" so every neighbour in West Auckland could hear me scream irrationally at my pre-schoolers.

I really needed someone to take the kids away from me for half an hour - ten minutes even - and give me a freakin break. I had so much fed-up-ness choking me that I thought I was going to start popping blood vessels. Then I got so incredibly fed up at Char for never helping EVER and snapped at her "do you ever think about maybe saying 'hey mum, how bout I read the kids a story so you can have ten minutes to yourself?' Do you ever think about maybe offering some kind of help when you can see I'm at my fucking wits end?"

That went straight to a dead end street. She snapped at me for taking my shit out on her... Obviously completely missing the universal point that I was simply at my wits end...

Oh yes. That was the icing on the cake. I hear her teen angst problems every single day. She never asks how I am. She never raises a finger to so much as help wash the dishes. Never ever pays her sibs a shred of attention except to tell them get out of her face. I got on the phone to the Lad, balling my eyes out like I'd gone bat shit crazy...

Yesterday I felt like I completely lost touch with how to be a mum. Today I'm sharing this tale because I figure I'm not the only one who has these days. Right?

Friday, 17 August 2012

The big stuff. And knickers. Seriously.

What's your favourite quote or proverb? And why?

Like about a billion other social media addicts in the universe, I stumble across a ton of meaningful quotes and witticisms and whatnot, pretty much every time I log in to Facebook and find myself scanning newsfeed. Drone-like fashion. When I should be doing more important things. *looks shifty-eyed*

But every now and then, a gem pops up.

Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what.
If you don't listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won't tell you the big stuff when they are big,
because to them all of it has always been big stuff.
 ~ Catherine M. Wallace
It's a quote that really resonated with me. The kind that really makes me stop and think and go "woah. Deep man".

As much as my short attention span allows me, I listen to what the kids have to say, but there are times - many times - when I drift off and start thinking about what we're going to have for dinner. What do we need from the supermarket? How many dots of fly poo are on the ceiling? Am I wearing yesterdays knickers or todays?

And then my brain clicks me back into the present when I see an expectant face waiting for a reply. So I fudge it. "Oh no, that really sucks!" Assuming they just told me something sucky about their day.
"Oh dear... Hate it when that happens." That's often a winner. Again, assuming the story was one of woe. Because often it is. We're all goth at heart in this family.

Yup, try as I might to pay attention, I often completely miss what's been said to me. Or just as bad - I listen, but I brush off the story as inconsequential. 

THE TEEN: "And then so on said blah blah blah to rah rah rah, and oh my god I can't believe she blah blah blah with rah rah and he was my rah rah and now I'm gonna blah de bloody blah blah stab her in the face with a sharpened spoon next time I see her!"

ME: *blinks* "Oh. Yeah. That sucks."

THE TEEN: *frowns*

ME: *gulps* "But ah... Yeah you should just uh.... Yeah. You do what you think is right.... "

THE TEEN: *frown turns to expression of WTF?*

ME: "Because you're good at that... uh... right-thinking stuff...."

THE TEEN: *sighs and doesn't speak to me for the rest of five minutes*
^^ Luckily she has a short-attention span too. ;)

This is not the case all the time. Honestly. I try to listen and take the stories of my offspring seriously. I have learnt from the Teen that it is in my best interest to take heed of every last little detail she shares with me. Even - nay especially - the ones that don't directly concern her at all, but are in fact tales about the friends who I've never even met and who even live on the other side of the planet.

Because, Gods help me if The Teen spends half an hour telling me about her friend Lisa from England who was halfway through training as a mid-wife when she became pregnant and is only 17 and her boyfriend's dumped her and her dad's girlfriend hates her (have I lost you yet?) and I then one day say "wait, who's pregnant?" when she's unfolding a new chapter to the saga. Seven months later. Gods help me if there are sharpened spoons lying around.

And then there are the occasions when I'm so busy nodding and smiling that I unwittingly agree to something I'm fairly certain I would never ever agree to. If I were listening properly in the first place. Damn it.

I'm thankful that for the most part, I only really switch off from the Teen when she's telling me about blah blah blah who said rah rah to ya ya, and I do listen when she's telling me the real big stuff. The break up with her one true love. The bad days when her friends at school treat her like she's invisible to the point where her group forgets her birthday, but brings shared lunches to school for everyone else. The days she can barely drag herself out of bed because she's wading through a fog of teenage angst and I won't dare brush it off as 'just a phase' because I know of how she cuts herself and I'm well aware of her preoccupation with suicide. Often she's trying to pull others out of that frame of mind, but sometimes she's drawn to the idea of it herself.

So yes, listen to the little stuff while they are little, because this is the kind of big stuff you want them to tell you about, when they are big. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Time Keeps On Slipping...

Dear Lily Bug,

Last night, just before you fell asleep, you began to cry. I reached out to hold your hand, and asked what was wrong. You told me you didn't want to turn five. You didn't want to stop having Unicornie and Bolt to cuddle at night. I told you that turning five didn't mean giving up your bedtime buddies, and you stopped crying - but only long enough to take a breath and start afresh. 

"What's up this time?" I asked.

"I'm afraid to be a big girl! I'm growing up too fast mum! I don't want to start school. I don't want to stop going to kindy. I love my kindy!" And again you erupted into sobs.

My heart broke for you, because I understood your fears - it's hard facing the unknown, and most of all it's hard that you have to step out of - and leave behind - your comfort zone in order to do so. I felt so sad that you carry these fears when you're still so very young. How difficult it must be to realise when you're only four and a half years old, that these are stages you'll be leaving behind as you grow!

I wanted to hug away your fears but I couldn't. I was pinned down by your little brother, who was clinging on to me in his own nearly-but-not-quite-asleep haze with a limpet-like ferocity. To leave his side at that moment would mean to set him into a melt down, and that wouldn't provide any consolation to anyone...
So I continued to reach across the gap between Guy Smiley's bed and yours, and hold your hand, and talk you through it. Reminding you that it's still a long time before you're five and so you have lots of time left to enjoy kindy (and it broke my heart to say that too, because it's not long at all, and I too would rather that things stay as they are now, than let you go!) and school will be exciting and fun... That too was a little white lie. I know you're going to expect school to be as awesome as the likes of kindy and Playcenter, and what a culture shock it's going to be when you discover you can't just play all day! But hopefully you'll enjoy the likes of math as much as you enjoy painting dinosaurs and rainbows ...
And even though positioning you in one spot long enough to practice writing your own name requires a titanium backbone and a wee bit of bribery at times, I'm sure the teacher's sharp voice will be more effective than mine... It's not that I don't have a sharp voice (which can probably be heard from four houses down when I used it) it's just fairly ineffectual most of the time. And that trick of using a serious but quiet voice doesn't work either, because neither of you can ever hear me over your own yowling.
Anyway, I digress.
The truth is, I don't want to let you go to school either. I don't. I try so hard not to think of next year because I want you and Guy Smiley to stay exactly at the stage you're at now. Not forever. Of course I want to see you grow into the beautiful young adults I know you'll become. But a dominant part of me can't help but wish these next six months could last for at least another year and a half. Unfortunately that's not going to happen. So I can only hope summer starts early this year, and we can make the most of your final months of being a pre-schooler, before February 4th shifts the tectonic plates of our comfort zones into a completely new formation.
Love always,
PS: At least my one consolation is that once you start school, we'll you'll be one step closer to total world domination. Whoo hoo!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Oh no! Timmy's down the well!

The kids had a friend over today and they spent much of it busy playing and ignoring me completely (except for when I was required to mop tears or wipe mud from feet). Initially, I had this plan to spend my day "getting stuff done". But short of having the assistance of Rumpelstiltskin, it is pointless - POINTLESS - to try and get anything done when there is not two by three little whirlwinds in the house. A play date gives children the perfect excuse to thrash the house in ways they'd never think to do on their own.

Scenario 1 - the muchkins, bored despite a house full of toys.
The Lily Bug: "Hey, should we tip out every single toy box we own, and toilet paper the walls?"
Guy Smiley: "Monster trucks!"
The Lily Bug: *tips out one box. Is bored by lack of accomplice, gives up.*

Scenario 2 - the munchkins + friend, bored despite a house full of toys.
The Lily Bug: "Hey, should we knock down the precarious leaning tower of toy boxes in the wardrobe, scatter the contents all over the bed and then bounce on them until we hear cheap plastic snap beneath our feet?"
The Friend: "Yeah! Then we can take half of them outside and dig a hole and bury them - along with as much stuff from the cutlery draw that we can carry!"
The Lily Bug: "Yeah!"
 Guy Smiley: "Yeah! MONSTER TRUCKS!"
*Cue wanton destruction*

It usually takes a few weeks to locate the last missing monster truck, and I'm still missing teaspoons.
No doubt the lawn mower will find those...

Don't get me wrong. I love it when the kids can busy themselves all day by dreaming up creative new ways to use toys as stepping stones in order to cross the great lake of lava that is the entire floor surface of the house. Even if it means I have to spend the next week approaching very short men and offering my first born if they'll help tidy up the aftermath.
And I never really meant to imply I intended to waste my day on housework. Pfft! Who wants to waste precious time doing that?

An adaption of the Laundry Tornado.

This morning - while the munchkins were watching Sunday morning kids telly - I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to finally catch up on my favourite blogs. This is what I decided as soon as I woke, because at night I'm always elbow-deep in graphic design or Wordpress customisation and I never ever ever seem to get my head away from Photoshop layers or div layers. And you know, sometimes I just want to see what Catherine's been up to.

So, with the Lily Bug snug under a blanket and glued to the Wild Thornberries and Guy Smiley busy driving his monster trucks across a line up of Hot Wheels cars, I thought I could safely blog hop for a little while (while trying to figure out what's gone wrong with a Wordpress plugin in a separate window) without interruption.

And then, I walked away for a moment to make a coffee. Dumb mistake. Guy Smiley noticed the whirling thumping hum of our computer (I think that fan is going to #!!$% itself soon) and I returned to find my seat had been taken by a little boy who was suddenly extremely fascinated by Catherine's apples. (Wow, that sounds way ruder than it was mean to.) It then took five times longer to finish reading her two latest blog entries because Mr Two Year Old keeps wanting me to scroll back up so he could count the blumin' apples. Seriously, if I was in the kitchen he'd have no interest in what I was doing at all! Typical.

By the way, Catherine's apples are not apples at all, but White Sapote. I'd never heard of White Sapote before this morning, or Earth Gems for that matter (thanks Catherine for always teaching me something new!) but I'm curious now. I wonder if these could be found at the local Farmers Market? Though, the chance of me being organised enough in the morning to make it to a Farmers Market is slightly less than the chance of waking up to find fairies have made a wee house in our garden...

But you know...You never know. ;)

In other news, we've had winter bugs run rampant through the house for the last fortnight... (I now have a mental image of little scarf-clad bugs, tearing through the house like something the Cat would pull out of his Hat. Judging by the state of our house, I'd say that was entirely possible ;))

Anyway, here's an collection of the last fortnight's antics (you know, when we weren't at home being unwell - possibly due to too much running around wet playgrounds in the winter)

Look! I even managed to get a pic of the Teen in here! Not that I took it myself, no she usually hides her face behind her hair and grumbles about how she's having a bad face day whenever I wave the camera in her direction.

We have some lovely little reserves and playgrounds in our neighbourhood, and just the other day we discovered a new bushwalk. Okay, not new, but new for us anyway. We had no idea where this track was going to lead us, and then it opened out onto our road! Sheesh. I've lived on this street 12 or so years, and never even noticed this particular slice of native bush. You know, despite the "Manutewhau Walk" sign and wooden walkway leading into it...

Did their eyes light up when they discovered the track had turned to mud!
A couple of weeks earlier, a friend showed us another nature reserve, tucked away down an Avondale side-street where I would never have thought to ever find a forest. Waterfall and all.

Seriously, people who think Auckland is all about traffic congestion, arsehole Maserati-driving JAFAs & high-density housing, just really need to get out of the house more.

That narrow concrete thingie that the kids were walking across wasn't as dangerously scary as it looked. Honest. It was only a small drop onto lots of soft nature-stuff. And there was an adult standing 6 or 7 metres away, waiting to catch a falling child with her go-go-gadget extendable arms.

 Okay, it's late evening now, and I began writing this at about 10am this morning. In between popping away to sort out children's arguments ("she pushed me" "he smacked me in the head with a car"), sorting through the last months worth of photos & trying to make some kind of half-arse dent in housework, I've completely managed to ignore the small backlog of website/design jobs and uncleared emails that I'm usually stressing and panicking over. But I have managed to spend a reasonable amount of time enjoying the laughter of Guy Smiley as he chased after Lily Bug and Friend with a hose, and rambling in my blog for the pure sake of it. And sometimes I really really need to do that more than anything. It's like brain food.

My only worry now - other than whether or not the kids current game of swan diving from chairs onto a pile of beanbags and blankets is going to at some point require medical care - is what to name today's blog entry.