little red jottings

when a little red pen wanders off the page

Tag: give me a ball and i’ll kick it

Each of us, together

20161126_192610Well, that was a week. Ian went to Kaikōura to cover post-earthquake things, and all manner of bollocks descended on me at work.

Home was good, though — our new after-school childcare person is a footballer, so the boys are well thrilled. He is also a jolly good cleaner, so I am well thrilled too. The boys are used to being journo kids — they missed their dad, but flicked straight into helping-out, getting-on-with-it mode.

I kind of enjoyed the quiet and calm of the week, but realised within half an hour of Ian being home that the volume in the house had quadrupled and I had slowed to snail’s pace. I guess we had all been managing and looking after each other and that was good, but we need Ian to relax us and let things go. It was a good reminder of the ways we balance each other, of the dance we do as opposites.

The boys were pretty scratchy, but by the time we had eaten bento, driven round the harbour, played soccer, made a sandcastle, conducted watery experiments on the sandcastle, snuggled on the sand, driven round the best inlet in the city, seen baby stilts and a kingfisher and got home, we seemed to have made it back into ourselves again.

20161126_192514And then we each found our own peace. Ian tidied up and did chores. I planted 40 zucchini seedlings out, picked a salad of baby leaves and flowers, and cut back some lupins and sorrel that had gone to seed. The Cat watched soccer videos. And the Rabbit made things.

He started by cutting back sorrel, but was interrupted by his bowels, which we only knew about because he left the bathroom in a less than ideal state. Then Ian found him in the workshop with a large piece of wood in the vice with the words “side 1” written on it. “What are you doing?” Ian asked. “Making a run for the guinea pigs,” said Rabbit.

Later, we were having dinner. Ian was drinking wine, eating pasta and talking to me. I was drinking wine, eating pasta and reading a book. The Cat was calculating the value of our car relative to the weekly income of a professional footballer (low). The Rabbit was drawing circles and cutting cardboard. Five minutes later, he had finished a set of traffic lights.

20161126_190707“What’s your plan for the lights?” we asked. “I’ll shine a torch on them,” he said. Damned if it doesn’t work, too.


The Wellington summer post

P1090875A funny day to be writing this, with 140km winds and the rain gusting in. It’s been nice though, and will be again, so I shall reserve the snark. In any case, I’m tucked up in a café while Ian braves the zoo with the boys, so it behoves me to be civil.

Ian’s up here for work reporting the Summer News, and we’re his hangers-on. We did this last year too, and we were a bit quicker to get into the swing of capital holiday mode this time. We’re only halfway through the visit, so there might be more to say later.

In the meantime, lists, I think. With illustrationP1100023s from an event I wasn’t part of.


Beautiful sights

  1. Dear family friends standing together as their baby boy was baptised, a little oasis of loving calm that we didn’t completely ruin by arriving late and dramatic after a delayed early morning flight.
  2. Rabbit wearing full soccer kit — Barça shirt and shorts about five sizes too big, knee-length socks, boots, plus red-framed sunglasses — and walking along the street eating his first chocolate éclair. His face a perfect mix of wonder, delight and determination to finish the damn thing.
  3. P1090999The Cat, who has a tendency to freeze when grown-ups attempt to engage him in conversation, confidently and politely advising a couple of women about which bus would take them to the railway station. Also his strong sense of the necessity of giving some money to anyone busking or begging.
  4. My lunch today — a coffee with cream, a tasting platter of small and delicious vegetable dishes,  flatbreads and crackers. I feel vaguely greedy and conspicuous, but mostly very happy. There’s a salad of garden vegetables (chard, slivered carrots, radishes), beautifully dressed and enriched with nuts and dates, there are pickled plums and salsas of avocado and eggplant, there are creamy potatoes, green beans in a tomato sauce, a soft, spicy tangle of onions and capsicums, and a little dish of capsicums, olives, walnuts and herbs.
  5. P1090922The boys playing in the rocks at Plimmerton, looking for crabs and discussing the characteristics of sea worms/centipedes.


Memorable meals

  1. This lunch, obviously. It’s like my Platonic lunch ideal, the lunch of all my dreams and desires and imaginings. It’s from the legendary Lido café, and you should try it if you ever get the chance. The chef is going to send me the recipes. None of the staff seem to have seen the dish before, which makes me wonder about any number of things, but mostly makes me hope they get a taster soon. I think it’s only just made an appearance on the summer menu.
  2. P1090923Pizzas at the Mediterranean Food Warehouse. We walked up to Kelburn through the bush and via a soccer match. The children scrapped like feral warthogs until the food arrived and peace descended. The adults shared a glass of red. We worked out which European and Asian cities we each most resemble.
  3. Lunch at our friends’ house in Petone. Beautiful food, a soccer match on the lawn and another at the school, easy, enlivening conversation, the kids enjoying each other.
  4. A café lunch in Plimmerton, but only for the gossip, which cannot be shared.
  5. Still to come, I hope.


P1090957Best activities

  1. Football matches on Sky.
  2. Working through maths and reading activity books with the Rabbit, who is VERY KEEN.
  3. Bouncing along the street with the Cat while he assembles dream football teams and I nod sagely from time to time.
  4. Sleeping.
  5. Seeing friends.
  6. Running and walking up lots of steps.
  7. P1090964Buses, trains, no car.
  8. Long, ranting conversations with my fella.
  9. Discovering that GoFugYourself recapped a TV series of Wolf Hall, which brings together, I don’t know, at least ten of my favourite things in this world.
  10. Visiting my favourite ceramics and knives shop.
  11. Gelati.
  12. Walks along the esplanade.
  13. Family football matches. In case anyone was missing the theme.
  14. Popping into Unity Books every time we walk past.
  15. Riffing on the new family insult: you great, big … potato.




This could take a while

The Cat has decided that he would like to write a book. I offered to help him, and that usually means typing as he dictates. We started tonight and it fairly quickly emerged that this was to be a book about soccer, specifically a World Cup co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia. The teams will be All-Stars teams with the best players of all time from each qualifying country.

We got through the first part of Chapter One tonight, and this is how it went:

France vs Brazil

Brazil kick-off. Garrincha passes to Pelé, who blasts the ball over Barthez from the halfway line, but it hits the crossbar and it goes in over Gylmar’s head for an own goal. Garrincha passes to Pelé again, who passes to Tostão, who dribbles it around the entire French team, including the keeper, but then he whacks it over the crossbar when it should have been a tap-in. Barthez boots the ball upfield from the goal kick and scores. The teams do lots of passing (and tackling) around the pitch until it’s halftime.

A streaker goes on the pitch and kicks the ball in the Brazilian goal. Amazingly, the goal counts. Brazil do quite a lot of shots, but don’t seem to get anywhere until in the 87th minute Pelé takes a shot from the edge of the area and it flies into the top corner. Then it’s a France kick-off and Ribéry immediately gets tackled by Garrincha. He starts dribbling the length of the field, but Ribéry slide-tackles him from behind and gets sent off. The resulting free kick is closer to the halfway line than the penalty area. Pelé takes the free kick and it looks like it’s going out for a throw in, but then it swerves into the bottom corner of the goal like a missile. Pelé tackles Zidane near the touchline and whacks it in the goal from range. Pelé gets a hat-trick. Then with the last kick of the game after a Vieira cross and an Henry flick-on header, Zidane bicycles it in off the post, then the crossbar, then the other post, then the keeper’s leg, and in.

Score: France 4 Brazil 3

Typing this up took about 40 minutes, with frequent breaks to change players, modify the play, and correct my spelling and use of accents.

About halfway through, I confirmed my suspicions: this book is going to be a rundown of every match in this fictitious tournament. We did some quick calculations and worked out that we’ll be doing 80 matches.

Parenting. It’s not what you think it’s going to be.

Also, I have no idea about hyphenation with soccer terminology.

Peaks and troughs, y’all

I read an article the other day that talked about how parents are generally about as happy as non-parents (although way more worried, stressed, and angry), but experience higher highs and lower lows on a daily basis. Which seems pretty accurate to me. The emotional roller coaster of parenting often leaves me feeling wrung out and bewildered, and I can only imagine and dimly remember what it’s like to be a little person in the middle of that maelstrom. I guess the best I can do as a parent then is to be the steady base, the centre they can return to or hold onto when their feelings get too big for comfort.

Yesterday was a case in point, and I can tell you, the wine bottle came out pretty damn fast once dinner was in the oven and the fire was on. The Rabbit is generally a sweet and thoughtful child, but there’s some three-year-old thing going on that’s got me and Ian fully on the razzle. All of a sudden, he’s Very Particular about how he’d like to do things, what crockery, cutlery and glassware would suit him, which socks, undies, trousers, shirts and jerseys meet his aesthetic requirements for the day. Life has become a steady round of negotiation and boundary setting, letting go of our own preferences when his wishes are possible, explaining limits and the capacity of our clothes-washing system when they are not. I keep finding myself hard up against my own stubbornness, frantically searching for the chinks in a conflict where I can offer him a solution, a helping hand, a madcap plan, then step back long enough for him to tear down the walls of his own obstinacy.

Yesterday, I took Rabbit to the supermarket while the Cat was at soccer practice. He’d agreed to the plan earlier in the day and we desperately needed a stock up after the pre-payday scrimp, so I foolishly ignored the signs of his mounting tired-and-crossness (refusing to get in the car and running away from me down the hill really should have tipped me off) and sallied forth. We had five minutes of him crying in my arms on the bench outside the supermarket, then a relatively good run round the first aisle where all I had to do was carry him, push the trolley, remember the grocery list, and choose fruit. By aisle two, he was in the swing of it, putting things in the trolley for me and consulting over whether to buy the olives with or without pips. By aisle four, he was choosing crackers and getting excited about having yoghurt in the house again. By aisle five, he was wanting to push the trolley and his pants were drifting down around his nethers. By the turn into aisle six, I was encouraging him to pull his pants up, while a helpful lady shopper counselled me about the advisability of braces. At the same time, Rabbit couldn’t push the trolley, but he yelled at me every time I pulled it back into line. By checkout, I was alternating between 1). holding Rabbit while he yelled and whacked me as I loaded groceries onto the counter and 2). letting him down only for him to stand in front of all the checkout counters with his pants around his ankles as he surveyed the world with grim, exhausted fury. Bizarrely, in the middle of all this, the checkout operator asked me how my day was going, and all I could do was laugh with a kind of hysterical edge. I’m sure she thought I was mad, but one of the other operators asked me if I needed help getting out to the car, which made me feel both grateful and deeply embarrassed. Anyway, we survived, although I fear this may be the beginning of a protracted Pants War.

Soccer got us back on the upswing, fresh air and a bit of a kickaround, a cuddle in the falling dusk while the Cat got in his final run. By 5.30pm, we were home — cold and tired, but with the kind of solidarity that holds a mother-son team together after they’ve weathered meltdowns and mayhem and scored a few goals and lugged groceries inside. Then I threw dinner in the oven (an unexpectedly successful combination of leftover rice, chicken, tuna, roasted fennel, carrots, olives, and peas, drizzled with olive oil and baked until it was crispy and hot), set the fire, and poured wine, while Rabbit methodically unpacked all the grocery bags in the hall and one by one carried items into the kitchen, asked me where they belonged, and put them away.


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