Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Of working, road trips, and school holidays

Hello, friends!

So much has been going on these past few weeks.  I've got a whole list of items on our agenda today.

Firstly, and just briefly, I'm now a contributing member of society!  I've rejoined the workforce... in about the most half-assed way possible.  Let me explain.

A couple of months ago my sister told me about some online typing work that a friend of hers had been doing.  No commitment, just log on whenever you want, and work as much or as little as you want.  It sounded like a perfect fit for both my skills and that old struggle of the full-time parent to find work that still allows you to be available to your kids when needed.  I'm not going to make my fortune this way, but I'm contributing and, most importantly, I'm freshening up my very rusty skills.  The flexible nature of the work is perfect for me.  We've been on school holidays here these past two weeks and I only typed one 10-minute file during that two weeks.  No leave to be arranged, no "real job" to juggle.

Next on our agenda is a major milestone in our life as a family.  We went on a holiday!  Ok, yes, it was only for 24 hours, and it was mainly because B had a welder to pick up from Tauranga, but we did touristy things and we stayed in a motel so I'm calling it a holiday.

We left home at about 5pm on the Friday night and drove to Rotorua.  Fish and chips in the car for dinner, and both girls fast asleep in the back by the time we arrived about 8.30pm.  Our motel was a bargain! ...For a reason.  It had probably been very smart in about 1984, with not a whole lot of updating since then.  I was just thankful that we only had one night there.

The thing is, though, the girls loved it. I mean, they LOVED IT.  They loved the little kitchenette with the tiny milks in the little fridge.  They loved the (horrible, lumpy) beds, the shower that only had about five jets, and they really loved getting up on Saturday morning and each having their own rocking chair from which to watch cartoons.  They didn't care that it was outdated or that we could hear the conversations from the room above us.

Still, we had a strict driving schedule to stick to so we were out of there early for a quick breakfast at ahem McDonalds, and a look at the lake...

...followed by a ride up the gondola.  This, J adored.  We got one of those stupid overpriced photos which I would have passed up except for the unbridled glee on her face in the photo.  Little A was less thrilled and kept her hand firmly on my leg the whole trip up and down.

The views were fabulous on that sunny morning.

Then it was back in the car to get to Tauranga to meet the guy to get the welder... YAWN.  Tradesman, tools, say no more.  There was a fair bit of sitting around in the car before we were off again.  Luckily I had a good supply of Chicken Crimpies to keep the kids amused while we waited.

Since we were all the way over there we decided to head into Mount Maunganui to give the girls a chance to stretch their legs before it was back in the car again for the long drive home.

It was very pretty, and you could definitely see that there was a good amount of money in the area, but what a pain to get into and out of!  I much prefer the remote west coast, thanks very much.  Although it was cool to see a white sand beach again.

Once we'd battled our way out of Mount Maunganui it was "Home, James, and don't spare the horses". Luckily A fell asleep so we just drove and drove until she awoke, just before we got to Otorohanga.  Then it was more McDonalds for lunch, another play in a pretty amazing playground, before hustling the slightly fed up troops back into the car for the last leg home.

We arrived home almost exactly 24 hours after we'd left.  I often forget how much smaller New Zealand is than Australia.  I calculated that we'd spent about 7 hours in the car.  Comparatively, if we'd driven that long from Adelaide we wouldn't even have got to Melbourne yet.

Considering what a roaring success the trip was with the little girls - they're still playing at "going to Rotorua" - this is something we're looking forward to doing a lot more of.  The driving distances are manageable, there is HEAPS to see, and the scenery is endlessly beautiful (snarky comment from J on our trip when I told her to look out the window, "Trees, trees, more trees".  Remembering the hot scrubby plains of my own childhood road trips I realised my kids will never appreciate how lucky they are).

Right, what's next?

Oh yes.  My little A turns three in September.  And that kid is on a mission to grow up overnight.  Other than sleeping in her big girl bed - yep, she's still in there almost every night, she has decided to toilet train herself, and she's finally learned how to pedal her tricycle.  This is huge, people, huge.

The toilet training, same as J, has all been entirely self-directed.  I still bear some deep psychological scars from J's year of toilet training so my expectations have been very low.  It's actually going great.  I don't want to jinx anything so that's all I'll say.

As I mentioned earlier, we've had two weeks of holidays from kindy.  They just went back on Monday.  The kindy is very play-based and relaxed so I can't say they really needed a break, but it was nice not having anywhere to be.  We arranged lots of playdates, we went to the park, and I got basically nothing done that didn't revolve around entertaining two small people.  How did I ever get anything done before??  Oh that's right.  I didn't.

The chimney sweep came to clear out our blocked fireplace which was deeply fascinating.

The weather was pretty terrible the whole holidays so there was a good amount of book reading by the fire.  And, dare I say it, these two have been getting along and playing beautifully together.

The complexity and detail of their imaginative play is at an all-time high.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again (and probably again many more times), I love this stage of life that we're in.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Have needles, will knit

Since I'm currently sitting in the frustrating limbo of waiting for yarn to arrive for my next project, I thought that today we'd take a wee look at the many bits and pieces that have been coming off my needles these past few months.

I've been deep in a making frenzy ever since my friend shared with me a quick and easy kids' cardigan pattern back in March.  Since then I've completed no less than twelve projects, which must put me in contention for a world record.  It's been intense.  And very rewarding.

So let's see here...

This is the pattern that started it all - the In Threes cardigan.  I had a veritable mountain of this grey acrylic yarn left over from when I made my first ever knitted garment (remember that?).  Since my kids are ingrates and act all excited for the things I knit until it comes to, you know, WEARING them, I thought if I make the cardigan out of this yarn that's just lying around, I won't be totally infuriated if it never gets worn.  Note the singular here: cardigan.  I was only intending to make one for J.

Anyway, as per usual she willingly tried it on for fit while it was in progress, and was very happy to go to the shop to pick out some buttons.  But, as per usual, now complete she has no interest in it.  Has worn it MAYBE once.  For an hour.  WHATEVER.

It dawned on me that apparently I would be making two of these things when we were picking J's buttons and A was also enthusiastically browsing the buttons for her own as-yet-nonexistent cardigan.  Okkkk.  We bought the buttons and as soon as J's was done I cast on the smaller size for A.  But then got confused being so close to finishing the last one and ended up making the bigger size again by mistake.  So A's is absolutely swimming on her and she also is not a fan.  MOVING ON.

Then, the same friend who sent me the pattern for the cardigan commenced an ambitious project, a beautiful lace shawl for herself.  We spent so much time discussing the pattern that I somehow ended up ordering some yarn and starting one for myself.  Oh boy was that shawl a joy to knit.  Some headaches through the lace sections but mostly I loved the whole thing.  The yarn is a silk/merino so it's incredibly soft and drapey with a subtle silky sheen.  It took weeks and weeks and many hours of knitting to complete.

What was next?  Oh yes, after the epic shawl project I wanted something quick and easy, so a Winter Morning head warmer which took all of 24 hours to complete was the perfect next project.  I used some fairly hideous yarn from the cupboard that I must have bought while having a psychotic break and/or PMSing.  It made for a suitably hideous head warmer which I LOVE!

Then it was a quick little hat which was supposed to be for a friend's baby except it turned out hilariously small so I kept it for my kids' dolls instead.

Then I started on a group of items for my sister's birthday which I can't show you as they're currently winging their way to her door.

Then I made a Milo vest to replace the too-small hat for that friend's baby.  So cute!  So tiny!

I made a beanie for B's upcoming birthday out of the most incredibly soft and warm possum/merino yarn.  Also not pictured because: upcoming birthday.  Not that he reads my blog *eyeroll*.

Now I'm dying to start on a challenging colour-work sweater for myself in some beautiful custom-dyed yarn, but I have to wait for the yarn to arrive in the post.  So while I wait I'm making another one of those Milo vests for my kids' dolls because I still have a cupboard full of icky acrylic yarn and the dolls seem like they don't mind synthetic fibres.

Having done so much of it recently, I've decided that there are two especially great things about all this knitting.

One: it has reduced the amount of time I spend on my phone.  No hands free to scroll!  That stupid judgemental screen-time report is being way less judgemental these days.

And, two: making things for other people is just a very rewarding way to spend your time.  When making something for someone you invariably end up thinking about that person a lot.  I'm not so much into the woo-woo but I do believe in intentions and - for want of a better word - vibes.  I like to think that there's love and good thoughts woven into every stitch.

Now if I could just get my girls to wear what I make, everything would be perfect.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Sleep: the light at the end of the tunnel

I guess you could call this a further follow-up to this post and this post.

It was sometime last year that then-18 month old A started sleeping in our bed.  She'd been sick, and it was cold, and we'd bring her into our bed to warm her up/get her back to sleep, before transferring her back to her cot.  The problem was we were so bloody sleep deprived and exhausted, B kept falling asleep before transferring her back to her room.  So then she started to resist going back.  And then one night she screamed such blue bloody murder that she spent the whole night in our bed.

I remember it well.  I also cried that night, cried hard at the fact that her sleep problems seemed to be getting worse, not better.  From waking ten or more times a night, to now sleeping in our bed.  I felt desperate and hopeless.  I had never wanted to share my bed with my kids.  I didn't care what anyone else thought, this was something about which I cared deeply.  I had failed myself.  It was the lowest low.

It went on for months with me seething with resentment.  We talked about getting her back into her own bed.  We took the side off the cot and bought a spare mattress for one of us to sleep on the floor beside her.  She wasn't into it.  Hey, I got it.  Our bed is lovely: big and warm and soft.  I didn't want to leave it either.

We then bought a single bed, got rid of the cot, and moved the single bed into J's room so they could share.  I'd heard from numerous people that sharing a room was the solution to their kids' sleeping issues.  Poor J was so excited to have her little sister share her room... except, of course, A wasn't into it.  She flatly refused to even get in the bed.  J was inconsolable.  Occasionally we could put her in there for a nap if she was very tired.  But that was it.

Meanwhile, she was snuggled between us every night.

She was sleeping through the night, every night.  We all were.  She slept with her little hand on B's shoulder, or with her warm little back resting against mine.  It was... nice.  If she needed us in the middle of the night, we were right there.  We were all getting the most amount of sleep we'd had in the previous two years.  No one was terribly motivated to address the "problem".

And that's when I stopped thinking if it as a problem.  She wanted/needed to be near us in the night.  It was only a problem if we decided it was.  It was all a matter of perspective.  It wouldn't be forever.  It was clear that we both liked having her in there.  Who cared?

Well, as with any parenting choice, apparently a LOT of people did care.  People on whom this had no impact whatsoever made their judgement very clear.  Much as you try not to, of course we took some of it onboard.  That was the hardest part of the whole business, dealing with other people's opinions.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, A suddenly asked to go to bed in her bed, in J's room.  While internally popping the champagne, we tried to remain cool and casual on the surface.  It had been a year since she'd even looked at that bed.  We had no expectations.  She hopped in, snuggled down and grabbed her cuddly lamb.  Everything looked promising.

J, however, was not pleased.  Can you believe it??  Having been inconsolable when A had refused to sleep in her room, now she was inconsolable at the idea that A was sleeping there.  I mean, pass the wine.

So then, as if we had not already played enough musical furniture, we got a trundle bed for A's old room.  I made it up with pretty new sheets, and we waited.  A week or so ago, she started climbing in there at bedtime for a story.  We'd turn out the light and she would toss and turn for a bit while I sat on the armchair nearby, before she'd eventually ask to climb into our bed.  This went on every night.  She was really trying to sleep in her own bed.

Then, last night, exhausted after a day at kindy, we went through the usual routine.  She tossed around for a bit and then fell asleep.  I hardly believed it.

I heard her whimpering once just after I went to bed, went to check on her and she was out of bed.  I helped her back in, half-expecting her to request my bed, but that was it.  Next was her calling out at 6am this morning.

But guess who was sad last night going to bed with no warm little body sleepily cuddling up to me?

After all my turmoil back then about her coming into our bed, now I'm kind of wishing that this isn't the end, yet.

Friday, 17 May 2019

Overpronation: from knee-walking to running

Having just watched her run into kindy, now seems as good a time as any to write this.

This is the story of my overpronating child.

Overpronation is basically the fancy medical name for flat feet, or when your arches collapse excessively.  When it's severe, the ankle also rolls inwards.  I mean, see the photo above.  Does that look right to you?

When we first thought that something might be wrong, I spent a lot of time googling her symptoms.  I found lots of people talking about their kids doing the same kinds of things - refusing to stand, standing on the sides of the feet, "walking" on their knees.  Forum posts and questions written by worried parents were easy to find, but rarely did they come back months or years later to tell what the outcome had been.

I want to record our story from beginning to end.  Of course everyone is different, but this is how it played out for us.

Everything seemed ok until she reached the age where she should have been pulling up and cruising.  She crawled at 11 months but by 15 months, when most of her peers were off and running, she still wasn't able to stand.  She avoided putting weight on her feet, and when she did she ended up standing on the top of her foot with her toes rolled under, or on the inside edge.  The sole of her foot didn't touch the ground at all.  At first I thought it was related to her dislike for different textures - sand, grass, etc.  I thought she didn't want to put her feet flat on the ground.  It took a while to realise that she couldn't.

Eventually she progressed to walking on her knees, and was able to get around quite quickly that way.  It's amazing what you can get used to.  At the time, although privately worrying that something was wrong, we strangely never thought much about the knee walking.  I guess we assumed it would lead to real walking in time.  Now if I happen across a video on my phone of her tearing around the house on her knees, it's a bit shocking.

It looks so wrong.

Over Christmas that year we spent time with family, and my mother-in-law's sister - a nurse - confirmed that yes, something was wrong.  Her ankles were not normal.  Off to the doctor, then a referral to a specialist, a visiting neuro-developmental therapist.

She took her first very wobbly steps the morning of her therapist appointment (of course she did), at all but 18 months of age.  Her feet were turned out like a ballerina's and she walked on the arch of her foot.  She was prescribed ankle-foot orthoses, tiny little pink splints that made me teary just looking at them.

But once we got home and put them on, it was incredible to see the difference.  Her wobbly little ducky gait disappeared instantly.  She loved to wear them and asked for them constantly.

Over the months of wearing the splints her alignment improved, until at her follow-up appointment five months later the therapist said the AFOs were only required intermittently going forward.  Six months after that we were able to hand the splints back.

Now, at two and a half, she's still quite flat-footed and the therapist said she might always be, but her gait and ankle alignment is normal.  She runs everywhere.  She climbs, jumps, and dances.

The story has a happy ending, and we were lucky that the problem was not severe in any case.  I'm forever thankful that that auntie was honest and gave us the prod we needed to stop waiting for things to improve on their own.  Now, the whole saga is already behind us.

And the joyful little girl who can go (almost) everywhere and do (almost) anything she wants will never remember any of it.

Edited to add: when something like this first crops up, you get lots of people saying, "I'm sure it'll be fine" and "she'll figure it out" and "we went through something similar and look at us now".  It's a natural response to want to offer reassurance.  This is one of those cases where it actually wasn't fine and it wasn't going to be ok on its own.  If everyone else is telling you it's probably fine, but your instinct tells you something is wrong, listen to your gut.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

On knitting, foraging, and so on

It's been another long while since my last post, sorry about that.  It's easy to put it off and put it off and think "who cares?".  But then of course: who does care?  Me.  I care.  I love reading posts about things I had entirely forgotten about, or seeing photos of the house or garden and realising with a jolt how things have changed.

We recently ticked over the two year anniversary of the day we arrived in NZ.

Here is the post I wrote when we first arrived.

And here is the post from our one year anniversary.

Now our life in Perth feels like a dream, it was so long ago.  Sometimes I take for granted our amazing life and beautiful location.  Usually when I'm pushing the lawnmower around the acre of lawn twice a week, and I dream a little bit of a suburban-sized patch of grass.  Only for a moment, I promise!

Not having knit a stitch over summer, I've had a burst of productivity.  I knit up a little cardi for J in record time, and while we were on the most holy Button Selection mission, I discovered that A had chosen some buttons for her own (non-existent) cardigan.  So being the sucker that I am, I'm now making one for her too.  The only issue being that I was in such a hurry to get it done that I forgot to follow the directions for the size 3 and am now making a size 5.  At least she'll get years of wear out of it I suppose.

I'm rushing through A's cardigan because I'm a bit obsessed with something on my needles that's just for meeee.

I bought some merino/silk yarn, and am making a seriously luxurious shawl for myself.  I've been wanting a sort of "investment" project for a while and when my friend showed me this pattern it was an instant yes from me.

And it is an investment.  The most expensive - and prettiest, softest, dreamiest to knit - yarn I've ever bought, and a major investment in time.  Hours and hours of work have gone into this thing.  I'm over halfway through and my major motivation to pick it up every day is that I simply can't wait to wear it.

I finally frogged bloody Sauvie which was very freeing.  I realised what a dud project it was when I was discussing it with my friend and saying how I hated knitting it, the wool was so scratchy and I didn't even know if I was going to wear it.  What was I doing??  I ripped it all out that day.  Not sure what will happen with that scratchy yarn (I have ten balls of the stuff) but at least I don't have bloody Sauvie hanging over my head anymore.

I'm also planning to make a beanie for B's birthday (in June, giving myself lots of time to get it done) out of some possum/merino yarn which I'm just waiting to arrive.

Another very autumnal thing is that the kids have been sick/coughing for the past month.  When we were in Perth I thought "cold and flu season" was a bit of a myth, but here it certainly is not!  The weather turns cool and the kids get sick.  It's all much easier to cope with now that they're a bit older and better able to cope themselves, but A is still the queen of the cough-vomit which is unpleasant for all of us.  At least now she can tell me it's going to come up before it does.

Check out the vegetable garden!  Bit weedy and very quiet.  The freezer is full of beans and carrots and broccoli.  I thought I dried the onions correctly but they've all rotted in storage which is annoying.

It doesn't get more autumnal than this: there was a few weeks there when B and the girls were picking bucketfuls of mushrooms from the paddocks every day.  I'm not a mushroom eater but it was pretty awesome to be able to forage food like that.

This is the last of the gooseberries and I had to fight the chooks for them.  I'd never seen gooseberries growing before we moved here and isn't it cool how they ripen inside their little paper lanterns.  The chickens know exactly which ones are ripe and ready so you have to be quick.

Other things that have happened ...

I made a quick trip back to Adelaide at the end of March.  There are two milestone birthdays in my immediate family in June but with B's work schedule it was a matter of book it now or run the risk of not being able to get away.  I had five full days there which was great and I squeezed in a LOT of eating and drinking.

Because it wouldn't be a trip to Adelaide without it, of course one of the girls got hideously sick while I was away.  Poor little A was coughing and feverish and generally incredibly miserable... B made sure I was kept constantly up to date.  I might have to tell him that if it happens again next time I don't want to know.  I did feel bad for him of course.  It's bloody hard doing it on your own and I've done it plenty.

For easter this past weekend we had dinner with B's mum on good Friday - freshly caught snapper with thanks to B.  Saturday we made a day trip to the bach which was fabulous as always.  The girls even braved the water which was a lot colder than it had been last month.  On Sunday the easter bunny had hidden the eggs inside because a rain event was forecast for Sunday, and it didn't disappoint.  The girls were a bit berserk after being cooped up inside and way too much chocolate so last night B and I made ourselves ill reducing the size of their stash.  Luckily today is bright and sunny (for now).

The yarn for B's beanie arrived a moment ago so I'm off to do my swatch.  Hope you're having a lovely autumnal time with all the best bits of the season, and not sick or suffering chocolate regret.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Autumn is here

This morning we woke up to the soothing sound of pattering rain.  It's still raining now and hopefully it will continue all day.  My Aussie friends will probably scoff, but we really need rain.

It's been ages since my last post and in that time we've shifted from summer to autumn.  There've been some cold nights, and there was even a sprinkle of snow on the mountain before the end of February. 

In the last week or two I've noticed a flush of yellow at the top of the gingko tree out my kitchen window.  It reminds me that we're coming up to two years here in NZ.  That flush of yellow was one of the first things I photographed when we arrived, with our toddler and our baby.  The toddler is now in her last year of kindy, and the baby is in her first.  The cycle goes on.  And I love having the seasons to mark out the memories.

The longer we're here the more I can recognise the different seasons with my eyes closed.  Summer is the ear-splitting zing of cicadas and the drone of tractors.  In autumn it's the song of blackbirds and the sound of chainsaws.  Spring is bees buzzing and the sound of chainsaws, and winter is the smell of woodsmoke and the sound of chainsaws.

It's also the changing angle of the sun coming into the house.  Usually highlighting somewhere that I really need to vacuum.

The vegetable garden has passed its summer peak and we're in the process of changing over to winter crops.  I don't want to see another zucchini for a really long time.  I've already harvested my first head of broccoli.  The beans are done (thank god) and I'll be pulling the vines down once this rain stops.  The cherry tomatoes are ripening their last fruits and the carrot bed is almost empty.

The grape vine has a couple of tiny bunches which will hopefully ripen before it gets too cold.  The lemon tree is dropping the remainder of last year's crop while the new green lemons start to swell.  The hydrandeas in protected spots carry on giving.

I've filled the wood basket and set the fire in readiness but am proud to say I haven't lit it yet, despite some chilly mornings.  

I picked up my needles and cast on a new knitting project for the first time since last winter.

The lawn is suddenly covered in fallen leaves which weren't there yesterday.

So that's where we are in almost-mid-March.  Overall, happy.  Just really happy and content.  With the odd bout of sibling fisticuffs for good measure (more about that on another day I think).