Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Hey Diddle Diddle

I keep forgetting that every night on the way out of the hospital, Sweeney and I stop at the Royal Doulton tiles and sing the nursery rhymes. Best is The Cat and the Fiddle, and has led to much discussion as to why the Dish is a chap and the Spoon is a girl.
I love hearing him sing the words, and hit most of the notes.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Hot Wheels

Our house is bursting with vehicles these days. I love all the little cars, and try to get in a little research so that I can identify the VW Safari as a VW Safari, and not a Hummer. That sort of thing. It's because of Hot Wheels that he goes nuts at certain cars in real life - VW Beetles, Hummers, old school Land Rovers and Jeeps. This morning we put the crane back together and Sweeney found the wrecking ball attachment, so we popped that on. Blissful.

Then it was time for Sweeney to finish his breakfast and get dressed and all of a sudden the "I can't" whiney stuff started, and I lost my cool in about a micronanosecond, and heard myself shout "Just do as I say" and he started crying. Now, I understand that the crying is more about him rebuffing me than being upset, and it's no different from him yelling at me, or running away from me. But we have a rule that Sweeney and I both talk about and agree is good for both of us - no hitting, no shouting - and I realised this morning that I've been shouting at least once a day for the last several days or so. Nothing ferocious, or abusive, or lasting longer than it takes to say something as abyss-forming as "Just do as I say". But still shouty and unpleasant.

So I just about did a little get-busy dance tonight when I held it together when Sweeney threw the usual wobbly at putting his jacket on before leaving preschool. And as we headed towards Martin's ward, and Sweeney insisted on stopping at all the inappropriate points he likes to stop at, and yelled at me and hit the deck when he couldn't reach the button on the lift, it occurred to me that Martin being sick again is now Doing My Head In, and I have to Do Something To Get My Head Back, because Sweeney's wearing it. So be aware, gentle readers, that I'm on the trail of what to do. I just don't expect it'll make good reading, so you'll likely never hear about this again.

In other news, we had a fiesta of cars after we got home, played some piano and tambourine, had a bath, then studied the Mini Cooper wrapping paper from Frank and Arthur. Turns out I can have the red one, Sweeney wants the orange one, Frank can have the yellow one and Arthur can choose from the blue or green ones. Blissful.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

This Monkey's Gone to Heaven

Today Sweeney and I hosted a party at our little house. I hope everyone had a good time. I really appreciate all the help I got from far and wide with getting food together, and Joe turning up unexpectedly to take Sweeney for a hot chocolate and a fitting for his bike helmet was most welcome - left the house free for pre-party vacuuming.

The impact of parenting mostly alone smacks me in the face from time to time. I didn't get much chance to take photos of the party. In fact, the best shots from yesterday and today were taken by other people using my camera while I scrambled around doing Party Admin stuff like finding drinks or counselling Sweeney to share.

Highlights as follows:
Breakout Performance - Arthur looking left, looking right, looking left again, clocking that his usually eagle-eyed mum was engaged in chat for a moment, giving me a wink and hightailing up the stairs at breakneck speed;
Best Ensemble Performance - or should that be Assemble Performance? Dom and Emma's 1-trillion-piece Construction Set, complete with battery-operated, remote-controlled crane. The preschoolers pulled every piece out on the sunroom floor, and later on, the ten- and eight-year-olds replaced every single piece back in the packaging;
Best Fight Sequence - Sweeney and Frank disagreeing over whose turn it was with the Thomas wagon; Sweeney and Cohen tussling over whose turn it was with the Godzilla toy that Sweeney's never noticed before; Sweeney and me bickering over why he couldn't have any more rice crackles ... a three-way tie;
Best Love Scene - Sweeney and the battery-operated, remote-controlled crane;
Best Supporting Actor - Cohen blew the candle out for Sweeney. See yesterday's post for why Sweeney was a bit hesitant about going anywhere near the flame;
Best Photography - Geoff-next-door for capturing some lovely shots around the cake;
Best Special Effects - the cake - "not-itchy" and festooned with candles, Pebbles and actual words. Glorious, thanks Kimberley;
Best Costume Design - the Spiderman shirt in the parcel from Dunedin was such a hit, it had to be laundered overnight so it could be worn today as well. Special mention goes to Bella for her stylish black and red ensemble.
Followed by a quick trip to visit Martin with cake and leftovers, then home so that Sweeney could take his new tow truck, filled with all his new Hot Wheels and his new Deke, to bed with him.
Thanks, everybody!! Happy birthday, Sweeney!!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Off the Wall

Today is the Big One in this house. Grandad O'Neill gave Sweeney a breakfast birthday call, and even the neighbours joined in with this piece of cheer this morning. Nice one, Lists!!
Preschool took Sweeney's group on the bus to the airport this morning, which worked in really nicely with the set of airport Tonka figures he opened up first thing this morning. Thanks Catherine and Co.!! And he really liked the card, too.
I really pushed the boat out (for me) and made a chocolate cake and loot bags for his preschool friends. I got the idea for the loot bags from Hanna's blog, Craftykin. I found a copy of Hilda Boswell's Treasury of Nursery Rhymes at the Salvation Army shop, with enough rips and graffiti and general munting that I didn't mind pulling the pages out. They turned out just the right size for a couple of marshmallows, one of those mini Flake bars, a chunk of yoghurt apricot slice and some candied bananas. Yes, I know, sugar galore, but I really don't want to fill the world with more meaningless stickers and plastic trinkets that fall apart in the car on the way home. And dagnabbit, I think this is a good occasion for indulgence.
Sweeney was stoked, the teachers got the kids into party hats and turned the lights down when the cake came out. It was all looking great until Sweeney burnt his lip on the candle. Inconsolable.
Anyway, we got through it and took some leftovers up to Martin. He's still pretty sick, but chirpy at getting a visit from Sweeney and his cadre of airport Tonka figures. Three years ago, he was visiting me and Sweeney in hospital, and we were so happy about our new life as parents to this splendid, full-lipped wunderkind.
We had dinner at the Asian noodle place by the Basin - laksa for me, five or six grains of rice from his roti chanai for Sweeney. Full of cake and lollies and about a gallon of milk from the hospital, so the nice chap packed Sweeney's dinner for us to take home. I may eat it later.
Back at home, he opened some more presents, played cars, chatted on the phone about his cake and the candle inferno and the trip on the bus to the airport. Then he hit The Wall something horrific while I was telling Mum what gorgeous company he'd been - threw things, jumped on things, yelled at me. Regret letting him start his day at 5.30am this morning? Yesssssss.
In other news, Michael Jackson died today. I quite liked him up until the Glove and the escalating weirdness. Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough still makes me feel good when I hear it.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

General Electric

You know, Shihad is really good music to fold washing to. And tidy up cupboards and do the ironing.
A big, mysterious box arrived from Dunedin today. Thanks, Catherine and Clan!! Sweeney was in such a tizz when we got home tonight, that I don't think he even noticed it sitting in the middle of the second stair. I think he's having another Grow, what with the huge amount that he's eating suddenly, and news from his teacher tonight that he's been rowdier and more unco-operative than usual this week, not listening so well as usual. Also that he's got strong opinions all of a sudden. Well, he yells "No!!" at me more than I'm comfy with, to be sure.
Six weeks or so ago, we had just the same conversation, and I despaired that he was a dead cert for borstal and the local chapter of Satan's Slaves, but he came back from the Grow and we resumed our normal config. It was a week or two of butting heads and never feeling like I was doing the right thing, because he was telling me that I wasn't. Constantly. But, like I say, one day he was just lovely all day again, and I realised his jeans legs only needed to be rolled up once.
As for the strong opinions, to be honest, I enjoy them. As much as I love the cuddles and stories at bedtime, the snuggling in front of telly and all, I revel in him giving me stick about my infractions of our rules, or what he thinks is right or wrong with his universe.
I'll leave the box in another prominent spot and see if he complains about it in the morning ...

Monday, 22 June 2009

How Soon is Now

1. I know I'm beaten when, for an hour after we get home, Sweeney starts every sentence with "I want ..." in that whiny, whiny voice - you know the one - and then, when I'm ready to tie him to a tree outside in the southerly gale, I harness all my mother-ness and tell him that I love him, because I read that you should do that when your kid is really getting up your nose ...
And he says "Don't tell me you love me!! Just don't, okay??". With accompanying sounds of being pushed beyond human emotional endurance ...
2. I reckon The Smiths is brilliant music to clean toilets to. I mean that in the best possible way ...
3. Today was Sweeney's friend Blessing's 4th birthday. Happy birthday, Blessing!! His parents brought a cake and loot bags into preschool for the kids today. I'm in that pre-birthday party state where I think that everyone's going to be judging Sweeney's loot bags and whether anyone's allergic to the cake. Must. Calm. Down.
4. Sweeney's really into Graceland - the Paul Simon record, not Elvis' villa. I'm not very into it, but see 1. for a clue into how negotiations go around our house at the moment.
5. I made a glorious enchilada dinner tonight. It started on Friday night as tomato and rice soup from How to Eat, then it became chicken, rice and veges with crispy tortilla chips on Saturday night, and then tonight I followed the instructions on the back of the tortilla packet and it came out as an enchilada. Groovy.
6. Sweeney's dad, Martin, is really sick. Like, old-time, before-the-transplant sick. Apart from being devastated for Martin and his family, I really don't know how I feel about it from minute to minute, and have no clue how to navigate Sweeney through this, so figure I'll put it to the back of my mind until after his birthday.
7. I was at a house today with a load of coat hooks on the wall, all empty. They used to hold coats belonging to all the kids who grew up there, but they've all grown up and moved away. It always looks a bit sad.
8. We've been reading this book a bit over the last week. I found it at the DCM book fair last year. It's great - lighthearted, accessible, with a nice message about self care. There's a bit of annoying stuff about Dad always being right, but - buyer beware - this is about Jesus, after all. What Sweeney takes from it is that Jesus does cartwheels and rides a donkey, which looks like the best time ever, and Judas Iscariot looks grumpy. Awesome.
The week's other favourite, Wriggle and Roar, is from the same woman who wrote The Gruffalo and about a million other great rhyme-based books. This one's got lots of short action rhymes, and Sweeney's mad for it at the minute. One of the nicest things ever is to hear him erupt into chirruping some song he's learnt at preschool. I had to look up the words to Go Go Bananas the other day because he kept singing variations on it and I couldn't get a straight answer out of him about the lyrics. It was driving me ... bananas.

Sunday, 21 June 2009


This week's exercise from Meet Me At Mike's ...

Once, my sister and I were staying at our Nana's, and Mum packed up a bloom from the rose she and Dad had planted for me, and sent it in a parcel with some other nice treats. It's called Silver Lining.
I once went to a wedding that was held in the rose garden at the Botanic Gardens. In June, unfortunately, so there were acres and acres of dead-looking sticks in the background of every picture.
I'm not much of a rose fan, really. I only have two roses in my garden. At the front door is a Dublin Bay rose, a deep red climber that gets better every year. In the back garden is Dame Te Atairangikaahu, a purple heavily-scented bush rose. It's not done much so far. I bought it when the Maori Queen died.
I like going to the rose garden and smelling the old roses. I mean, the roses with that lovely real perfume that roses all seemed to have when we were kids. It's a powerful reminiscence tool for me.
I used to try making pot pourri but usually ended up with rotten rose petals. Then I realised I didn't much care for pot pourri anyway.
I always think it's somehow apt that an anagram of rose is sore.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Me Me Me Meme

What is your current obsession?
Finding time, budget and the right weather conditions to get everything sorted for having people over for Sweeney's birthday party next weekend.

What are you wearing today?

Because I'm seeing an agent in about an hour, I'm wearing Minnie Cooper boots and cardigan, with a Robyn Mathieson skirt and a merino scarf I made last winter and seem to be living in this winter.

What's for dinner?

Tomato and rice soup, with homemade pita bread. Anticipating that Sweeney won't want it, so I have the fixings for vegemite sandwiches on standby.

What's the last thing you bought?

My laptop's new power supply. Hurrah!! It arrived this morning.

What are you listening to right now?

Arthur next door giving his mum his opinion about something, a tui nutting off in Geoff's eucalyptus tree, and the intermittent throaty rumble of a huge mulcher that's shredding one of No. 5's camellias.

If you could have a house totally paid for, fully furnished anywhere in the world, where would you like it to be?

Phnom Penh - so long as by 'fully furnished', it means 'air conditioned and with a never-ending supply of cool drinks'.

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

Somewhere warmer than here, or Christchurch, to see my mum and dad.

Which language do you want to learn?

I have a smattering of te reo Māori, and would love to be fluent. And I've always wanted to understand more Latin.

What's your favorite quote (for now)?

I'll go tally the votes.

And Dad has a fearsome-sounding quote involving crutches, flames and Jesus that I always thought sounded dramatic and literary.

What is your favorite colour?

Red, rouge, whero.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?

A faux fur jacket I bought in a junk shop in Greymouth in the height of summer. I was pregnant, in a fug of morning sickness, and trying it on nearly made me faint. I first wore it on a freezing southerly Wellington day when Sweeney was about two weeks old, and I really needed to wear something that kept me warm when we went out, and made me feel like a human woman-not-sow again. Did the trick on both counts.

What is your dream job?

I don't really believe in dream jobs.

What's your favourite magazine?

Q Magazine

If you had £100 now, what would you spend it on?

A week of preschool fees, then plough the leftovers into, I don't know, going to a movie by myself during the day.

Describe your personal style?

I veer between Twisted Librarian - boots, A-line skirts and knits - and Slug - speaks for itself, really.

What are you going to do after this?

Go meet my agent at Mojo, and talk about myself for an hour.

What are your favourite films?

Slaves of New York, Do the Right Thing, Goodfellas and 24 Hour Party People.

What's your favourite fruit?

Fresh pineapple.

What inspires you?

Sweeney more than anything, people's ideas and achievements, nature, my friends and family .

Your favourite books?

White Noise, Scoop, Chemistry, The Vintner's Luck

Do you collect anything?

Meakin ceramics - especially Alfred Meakin, rather than JG Meakin. Patches for my camp blanket. And enormous clumps of dust in corners of the house.

What are you currently reading?

Still trundling through The Mayor of Casterbridge.

Go to your book shelf, take down the first book with a red spine you see, turn to page 26 and type out the first line:

"This account of Shaker behaviour could easily be describing meetings of the Quakers, properly known as the Society of Friends, nearly a century earlier.” It’s from Ann the Word, a biography of the woman who founded the Shakers. I was very interested in Shakers some years back.

What makes you follow a blog?

I like blogs that give me a sense that I'd actually like the person if I met them. Blogs that are written by people facing the same issues as me, or with the same interests as me. Or really deeply enmeshed in something completely foreign to me, like sci fi or plastics manufacture, or being Italian.

If you're reading this and you haven't already been tagged, consider it done!

Back on the Chain Gang

Yay!! My laptop has a new power supply, and I'm up and running again. Got to admit, without writing or surfing on my daily activity list, the dishes got done a whole lot more regularly this week. I don't think anyone noticed.
What happened while we were off the air:
  • Sweeney woke up one morning to find a mouse (dead) next to his bed, next to a leaf (also dead). We combined the two in a Death and the Maiden-type tableau. Sweeney really doesn't get death as a concept, I realise;
  • Sweeney took his toy Man to preschool as his treasure, and talked about it to his chums at mat time. Man doesn't run or fly, he jumps. I looked at him critically for the first time, to discover he's simply covered in guns and ammo. I thought he was a scuba diver, but no ... Sweeney doesn't get violence as a concept;
  • We had Delicious Dougal Dinner at the neighbours' house. Sweeney, Frank and Arthur hung out together in the nicest possible way;
  • We had Martin over for dinner. Great to see him and Sweeney hanging out together, even though Martin's obviously terribly ill and trying very hard. Sweeney doesn't get chronic illness as a concept, either;
  • We went to the M-Zs for dinner, which included the W-Ds and a couple of other lovely faces we haven't seen in a while. The other kids wanted to watch cartoons, but Sweeney wanted something more active - yay! - so he ended up playing cars with whichever adult would be lured to his car-orama he'd set up on the couch;
  • I walked to Kelburn and back via Aro St. Just as the southerly and accompanying rain hit Wellington. After three days of unforecast gorgeous weather, the Met Service scored a goal;
  • Sweeney helped me to clear every non-bedroom item out of my bedroom, and we spent Sunday having a picnic on the bed. Books, food, puzzles and Man. Lovely, sunny room; and
  • I won a contest on Agnes' blog. I've never won any of those things before - still more yay!! And check out her blog - it's magnifique.
I know we did other stuff, but it's disappeared from my memory or it was just dull or it's entirely unsuitable viewing. Nice to be back.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

The Book of Love(ly Food)

A momentous weekend. Sweeney had his first sleepover and I went out for a number of hours and tried to talk to adults. Realised I just don't spend enough time with adults when I nearly had a fit when a fire engine went past the bar.
The point of me being somewhere without Sweeney at nighttime was because Neil and Becc are heading to Perth. Good for them, but a shame for a bunch of enthusiastic beer-swillers. Such nice people.
Sweeney stayed over at Bela's. Wonder of wonders, the two of them went straight to sleep at 7.30pm, and apart from a bit of panic at the unfamiliar in the wee hours, there was no disturbance until get-up time this morning. I, meanwhile, got in at 2am, drank a pint or so of water and woke up with the cat planted firmly on my bladder. I slept in until, oh, maybe half an hour past usual get-up time, made breakfast for myself and ate it in bed without having to read any stories out loud to any small visitors. Then I remembered I'd left the car in Newtown and trudged over there in the icy wind.
I was talking to a woman recently - an adult - who reminded me of how much I love Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food. I made her egg and flour dumplings tonight to go into our chicken soup. They were weird, but niiiice, like flattened, squishy egg noodles. I especially like how she tells you if she doesn't like something, even though she's included the recipe. She doesn't like beetroot, but the beetroot and sour cream salad, well, when pushed, she "quite likes it". And the egg and flour dumplings are "pleasant" in chicken soup. But not kosher.
I don't make much from her book, to be honest. I get too caught up in reading her stories of the traditions driving the food itself, reminiscinces of her own childhood and lots of people she's interviewed. The rooting of people in their traditions is very important to her.
Anyway, Sweeney was unimpressed and would only drink the soup around the dumplings and veges. He ended up having a vegemite sandwich, two mandarins, a handful of grapes and about half a kilo of cheese for his dinner.
He just doesn't get it ...

Friday, 5 June 2009


This week's exercise from Meet Me At Mike's:
When I was thirteen, Kimberley and I went with our Nana to visit a friend of hers, whose name I've forgotten. She and her husband had never had children, and had travelled a lot over the years. Their house was filled with souvenirs of their travels, filled so much that there were no couches or chairs to sit on, only a daybed or two in each room for lounging.
Every sill and shelf and table was covered in pineapple-shaped salt and pepper shakers from Brisbane, or Hawaiian girls with bobbing heads playing the ukulele - that sort of thing. The day we visited, the sun was strong and streamed in every window, it seemed. Nana and her friend talked for ages, while we wandered the house and gingerly examined as many of the trinkets as we could.
A short while later, we visited again. This time, Nana's friend lay on one of the daybeds, tearful, her voice quivering when she talked. Her husband had died, and the festive geegaws around the house were just reminders of good times shared and never to happen again.
I never saw her again. I think she sold up and moved back to the Coast, maybe.

Oh, Wouldn't It Be Lovely??

We've been away, Sweeney and myself, for a lovely break in lovely Christchurch, spending time with lovely people and enjoying the lovely weather down there. Cold, yes, but sunny and no wind. Thanks Mum, for the fares and the cosy digs! Thanks Dad, for the car and the burgers!
Sweeney's been talking about burgers with Grandad and butterfly wings with Nana - so nice.
Amazed me how easy it is to forget how to make dinner when you've only had four days away. Felt quite perplexed at about 5pm, wondering what we did before. I'd emptied the fridge of all leftovers before we headed off, so it was even more like a crypt than usual, and my eyes kept wandering to the can of spaghetti in the pantry.
On another note entirely, I'm just in love with Meet Me At Mike's. I'm hoping she's just as self-censoring as the rest of us, and purposely not sharing unentertaining daily frustrations and catastrophes, but she writes a good blog and gives the impression of having energy coming out the wazoo. Just what I need. Her blog has something like a million followers.
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