Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day

I hope you had a lovely Christmas Day. We spent the day at Geoff's brother and sister-in-law's half-finished home, set on a hill between pine trees and native forest. The rata was in full flower (see photo).

Josiah and Tessa think a building site is a great place to spend a day: they clambered around in the rafters, frightening their mother and their aunts and grandmother but not their dad or their uncles.

Some of us went for a walk through the bush after lunch and came across a black fantail. I hadn't seen one in years, and for the rest of the party, this was a first, so it was a nice Christmas present :) Geoff took a perfectly sharp photo of a twig with a soft black blur behind it, which is really a more honest portrait of a piwakawaka (fantail) than the one in the link above, since piwakawaka are constantly on the move.

We had planned to go picnicking today, Boxing Day, but woke up to drizzle so have had a quiet day at home instead. Geoff pointed out an hour or two ago that we should never plan anything for Boxing Day: this is the easiest day in the year to keep children entertained - because of all the new stuff. Tessa has been trying out her new art supplies and writing thank you notes. Josiah showed his face for breakfast but has spent the rest of the day in his bedroom working on a sphere-shaped world map puzzle. I find it interesting that although he generally craves more interaction than the rest of us combined, he always chooses to do puzzles on his own in his bedroom rather than out in the living room. I wonder if there are other activities which he would like to work at in his room in preference to the living room.

Tessa and Josiah were each given NZ$50 by their grandmother. Josiah has 'banked' his with his dad and shown no further interest in it. (I mean, he values and appreciates it but has no interest in spending it yet.) Tessa, when she heard we weren't going on the picnic today, asked if we could go to the Boxing Day sales, but as I would consider that a particularly painful form of torture, I declined her request. She's not sure what she will buy - there's nothing in particular that she desires at the moment - but she feels an urgent need to spend the money; it will be gone by the end of the week. This is always the case when she earns or is given money. Sometimes she regrets her hasty purchases but still she can't resist making them.

This is the second Christmas Geoff and I have not given the children presents. Last year, Josiah and Tessa were doubtful but content to trial a parental-present-free Christmas. The advantages we've noticed are that the children enjoy presents from other family members more and that Geoff and I are able to give them presents at other times during the year when their need is greater. There doesn't seem to be a downside. (Thanks to my friend Katrina for leading the way on this.)

I think I've eaten seven chocolates today. Similar amount yesterday. Luckily there aren't anymore.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Sad family news

We learned on Monday evening that my mother in law, who has had two incidents of cancer in the past, has a new tumour which is inoperable. She has been told by the oncologist that she is unlikely to survive six months. She is very calm and accepting; I think she's been expecting this since her first diagnosis of cancer six years ago.

We told the children on Tuesday night. Tessa is very upset. Josiah is silent; I don't think he's really taken it in. He doesn't seem to want to think about it. It's hard to know what to do for the kids to support them. I don't want to be melodramatic, making things harder than they have to be, but I'm conscious that this worse than anything I experienced in my childhood - Josiah and Tessa have been very close to their Nana since we moved here six years ago.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Tramping and more geometry

The first half of this week was unproductive for all three of us. I felt tired and low on energy. I think it was partly because the house is a mess. We were away tramping in the Tararuas at the weekend and so didn't do our usual weekend cleaning, and what's more came home with piles of wet gear. I spent most of Monday unpacking, washing clothes and finding places in the garage to hang the packs and other gear to dry.

The tramp was great. Usually when we go tramping, we sleep in our tent; the kids were keen to experience a back country hut so we stayed at Totara Flats hut (which, with it's gas stoves (!) is pretty flash for a back country hut). We walked out in heavy rain on Sunday. It was surprising to see how quickly the rivers and creeks rose. A few hours later and we might have been unable to cross the rivers.

The years of trying every trick in the book to keep Tessa enjoying a walk (or rather to distract her from the fact that she was walking) seem to have paid off. She led the way out on Sunday and to be honest, my preference would have been for a gentler pace :)

* * *

So after a slow start to the week, we had a better day today: Josiah asked for a geometry presentation, Tessa asked to join in and Josiah welcomed her! (I think he feels less concerned about his position in comparison to Tessa since I pointed out to him the break from Montessori geometry he had while we did the Origami work.) The presentation nearly brought us to the end of work with transversals. Tessa has enjoyed discovering all the relationships between the various angles formed. Josiah has found it somewhat ho-hum but at the end today, he pointed out with enthusiasm that if I told him the size of one of the angles, he would be able to work out all the rest without measuring them. So I set each child up with a challenge to do just that and Tessa was pleased to find that she could work them all out too.

Josiah took the bus to climbing as usual today then remembered half way there that his climbing coach is away so there's no lesson. Some of the older kids were planning to turn up for a practice regardless but Josiah didn't feel comfortable yet joining in with that more casual arrangement. So he got off the bus at the mall and hopped on the next bus returning this way. I am pleased that he's confident dealing independently with little mishaps like this. He's had one or two others. The very first time he took a bus on his own, it deviated from the advertised route, missing the stop Josiah intended to get off at! He simply got off at the next stop and texted me, telling me the name of the street he was on. ... Of course it would have been more helpful if he'd noticed it was 'Walters St' not 'Watters St' ;) 'Watters' did seem an odd name for a street and I got a little panicky when I couldn't find it on my map. Happily Josiah spotted a familiar railway station half a block from where he was stranded, so contacted me again to let me know.

By the way, the Wikipedia page on the Tararuas which I linked to above when I mentioned our tramp there includes two photos taken by Geoff!