31 July 2010

Big Buzz Little Buzz

Today we attended one of Noah's friends 5th birthdays. It was a dress-up affair. We'd bought Noah a Buzz Lightyear costume for his 4th birthday (which is Monday). So I must admit we let him have it 2 days early so he could go 'to infinity and beyond'. Which was the Southern Cross Bar and Cafe for the afternoon.

And would you believe we found a mini Buzz Lightyear costume (think actually pyjamas) for Mylo in the drawer that English Grandma & Grandad had given him some time back. They were still a little large, but did the trick.

So today we had Big Buzz and Little Buzz go to the party.

Can you tell which Buzz Lightyear can't keep his fingers to himself?

Noah had an attack of the shy bug when he got to the party. Mainly because he got so much attention from a lot of the mums and dads who complimented him on having such an awesome costume. But once he got over that he had a blast. Amongst fairies and princesses and Supermen. Listening to stories from Fairy Trina, playing pass the parcel and musical statues.

Roll on Noah's own Toy Story birthday party next weekend, which will be made all the more special for having his UK cousin Jack and Uncle James/Aunty Ann-Marie here to share it with.

Safe travels to you our wonderful family. We will see you safely on our shores in less than 4 days. It seems impossible to believe, but it really is true. Haere Mai, Haere Mai, Haere Mai.

Creative Cravings

I like to think of it as my annual itch. Every year at about the same time I get creative cravings.

My first creation coincided with buying our first home. Simple sunset colours. Such a vibrant splash of colour against a tall wall in our 100-year old villa with its 12-foot ceilings. But it looks equally at home in our new house against the vivid blue hallway walls with Gerald the Giraffe for company.

My next creation was to fill the wall of the lounge in our new house. Back when we had canary yellow walls. The good old days. These days the canvas creation is part of our spare room decor, making way for a new lounge canvas after we painted.

The current canvas in the lounge is the best canvas I have created. Once the walls were painted 1/2 Spanish White (how we ever put up with the canary yellow for so long I'll never know), they beckoned for a new creation. Something bold, something unique to fill the vast long space. For months, the bare walls cried out for new art. But first there was my Chartered Accounting exam to get through. And then, finally, I had the time to devote to this passion. And the creation, still by far, my pride and joy. An original design.

Last year I was struck down by a really bad flu and bronchitis at 6 months pregnant. After two days in bed watching DVDs, I could stand it no more. That creative itch was calling me once again. And I answered. 6 canvases created in about 3 weeks. Not entirely original designs, but fun to do nonetheless.

A trio for the soon-to-be Mylo's room.

A red lolly tree to go with the red, brown, gold and black decor in the lounge.

Words and memories from our Santorini honeymoon (original idea care of the Air NZ in-flight magazine). Now pride of place in our bedroom over our bed.

This year, I had not felt the call. Which was unusual. Until I read about the wonderful photo board that Faery Sarah had created. And then it was upon me. I must do this I thought. Six weeks later, which if I'm honest is a LOT longer than I expected, and I'm finished. Phew.

Quite a few hours of work went into this year's creations. Mostly because of all the photo selection and editing required. Hours of trawling back through the years of photos. Then whittling them down to a final group to use. Much time was spent getting to grips with how to use Photoshop. Giving each photos a cross-processed/LOMO effect. Adding captions and applying the same border style to each one. Printing the photos. Finding canvases ultra cheap at Warehouse Stationery. Painting them in Coffee Bean to match the rest of the decor in our lounge and dining room. Carefully measuring and gluing on 43 wooden pegs. Not an easy task, and they're not that straight. Oh well, it's all part of the attraction. Arranging the photos. Measuring up the walls and making holes - a few more than I care to admit to Mark - shhhh! And I'm finished.


For this year anyway!

26 July 2010

10 of the Best

This month (number 10 in the life of Mylo) it's all about the verbs:
  • Clapping - I love that he's clapping, I don't love it quite so much that he loves clapping whilst we're trying to put food in his mouth!
  • Gabbling - ninety to the dozen, but only when he wants to. Other times he's pretty happy just cruising around exploring without saying anything much.
  • Standing up, getting down. Standing up, getting down. Standing up, getting down. I think Mylo could do this all day and not get bored.  Combined with cruising along the couch and around the coffee table, it must be a great all over body workout!
  • Playing the guitar - loving the 'boiiiiiiiiiing' sound the strings make
  • Singing karaoke - OK so its more like slobbering all over the microphone that's attached to Noah's play piano. But as the slobbering is combined with baa baa gaa gaa noises at the appropriate moment, Susan Boyle eat your heart out!
  • Crawling on all fours - I have to admit I kinda miss his commando crawling, but I guess it's just another sign of growing through the stages
  • Gradually attaching himself to his bunny - he loves chewing on its hat. I still don't think he's quite as obsessed as Noah was with his monkeys - and that's the way we'll keep it thanks!
  • Rolling balls, balloons - big balls, litle balls - anything that rolls is fair game.
  • Throwing toys down - or food off the high chair....hmmmmmmmmmm. Not something I'm really encouraging. If he keeps this up, his new nickname might be Chucky.
  • Growing - at his nine month check he's just your average bubba at 8.5 kg.
  • Needing to be part of the action - crawling into different rooms to follow us
  • Taking note of everything going on around him and recognising us with big smiles when we pick him up at daycare
  • Grabbing Murphy's fur, our hair, the remote controls, CDs. Everything is being moved north these days. Poor old Murphy loses big hunks of fur if he's not fast enough. But he's so docile that it doesn't even seem to faze him.
  • Splashing as vigorously in the bath as possible, determined to soak anyone in the vicinity whether they're in the bath with him or not. He thinks he is pretty hilarious whenever he does a particularly good splash!
  • Enjoying games of chase with Mummy & Daddy crawling after him - he gets so super excited that he sometimes forgets where he's going and ends up crawling around in circles. Too funny.
  • Concentrating hard at the task on hand - in this case sitting between Daddy & Noah watching them play Mario Kart on the Wii

  • And generally enjoying being part of the family!

25 July 2010

A snapshot of July

There seems to have been so little time to blog about what we've been up to on the past few weekends, so the photos can speak for themselves on this occasion!

Remember when...

Caution: this post contains many scenes of barely recognisable young us...

Remember when we were young? Wind back the clock to this time twelve years ago, July 1998. The circumstances were against us, and it should never have worked. Just twenty and twenty-one, and from opposite worlds. And yet it did. So bittersweet meeting and falling deeply in love with only two weeks together in the same country before you were pulled back to your own life half a world away.

So much perseverance. So many letters, emails and $10 phone calls back and forth across the seas. Clocking up the minutes and hours. Talking till our arms ached from holding the phone to our ear, we were so desperate to speak to each other.

Then there was your impulse trip back to NZ seven months later to be reunited. And a trial by fire for you, spending 10 days with me and my family (mum, dad and 2 teenage brothers!) in close quarters in a campervan around the South Island. - you were game I'll give you that much! I'll never forget our bungy off the Ledge in Queenstown, I screamed like a banshee, Nic was staunchly silent, and your response was something along the lines of 'SH......................................T!'

Then there was the bee sting on your neck in a Queenstown supermarket which saw you spinning out a bit (knowing you were allergic) and we had to find a doctor in town quick smart to administer some strong antihistamine. You were a bit whacked out on your atihistamine scooby snacks that night when we played a family round of mini golf but you still somehow managed to beat us all - I reckon all due to your drug enhancement?! And what about the time you lost part of a tooth just biting on a fork - I should have seen the $$ signs and the writing on the wall for the thousands of dollars we've since invested in your pearly whites. We sometimes joke and say our dentist Pete could retire with the amount of business you put his way each year - aren't we at 5 root canals and counting!

Not long after that trip, I moved to England to be closer to you and a new adventure began. Working, travelling, and living the London life.. Making wonderful, lifelong friends, working some more, travelling some more. This was our life for nearly three years. And these are a few of my memories of those carefree days:

The winter snowboarding holiday that wasn't! We got a great deal through your work (Kuoni) for a week in Crans Montana - an hour's train ride from Geneva. The only thing was it was early December and there wasn't much snow to be had. Nevertheless we persevered - kind of. I could not, just could not get to grips with the tow rope on my snowboard (having only ever ridden chair lifts before) on the only slopes that were open high on the glacier. So we decided to try our luck in Zermatt - home to the famous Matterhorn peak. After a 2-hour journey to get there (3 trains later!) we managed a few runs down some pretty icy slopes. Lots of tumbles onto ice as hard as concrete. And then we had to drag our tired, aching bodies home again, missing all the connections we needed as dark fell and the night got later and later. I remember eventually stumbling the last 5 minutes beside the lake near our hotel, us having an argument over something trivial, and me threatening to 'throw myself in the lake - this is the worst day ever'. Funnily enough, it was nothing some raclette and hot food couldn't cure. Well almost. The next day I was so unbelievably stiff and sore that all we did for the entire day was find a chemist, buy a big tube of Voltaren and I alternated between hot baths, massages and bed! Still Switzerland was a stunning winter wonderland and worth every ache and pain!

Love affair with Greece
It is fair to say that you and I have a love affair with the Greek Islands. We've been three times, to Kos , Kefalonia (which was inspired by watching Captain Correlli's Mandolin) and then Santorini for our honeymoon. There is something about Greek salads, moussaka and souvlaki that just makes our mouths water and our hearts race. When you add to that colourful buildings, beaches tucked away into hillsides and the friendliness of the Greek people, it was always a recipe for a great time.

Sri Lanka & the Maldives
If it wasn't for your skill in selling holidays (read: gift of the gab!) we never would have had the chance to go on this amazing adventure. After your first three months at Kuoni, you and your friend Dan were neck and neck in the 'top salesperson' category. So rather than there having to be a winner and a loser, you both made a pact to take each other on the holiday and pay for the gals to come along too. Feeding a baby elephant at the elephant orphange and climbing to the top of Sigiriya rock in ridiculous heat are my two strongest memories. And then a magical few days in the Maldives to top it off. Snorkeling amongst Dory and Nemo, lazing in the pool and hearing the Muslim call to prayer from the Maldivian island where the locals lived - it was so close to our resort island we could have easily waded there if we'd been allowed.

Italia (said with a strong accent - EE-TAL-YAH)
Who could forget this 2-week holiday backpacking around Italy on a shoestring budget? It rained and rained and rained that 2 weeks, but that didn't dampen our enthusiasm at all. Our first stop, Rome, and there we saw enough sights, smells and sounds to savour for a lifetime. But on a bus somewhere in the middle of Rome, this glorious promise of a relationship nearly lost its way forever. I got off a bus, sure that Mark was right behind me, and suddenly realised I was on my own, with the bus disappearing off into the distance. And me with no money, no phone and no passport! Funnily enough, it was Mark doing the panicking screaming blue murder on the bus trying to kick the door in, and every Italian wondering what on earth this mad Englishman was doing? Luckily the bus driver had the sense to open the door to let this crazy kid off, and we were joyfully reunited. I can't quite remember if it was exactly like one of those slow-motion scences where the two long-lost lovers are running into each others arms (cue beautiful music playing), but it was close enough!

And so the happy couple trekked onwards to Naples, ah Naples, such memories. But not good ones. There is a famous saying  'See Naples and Die', in reference to being so overwhelmed by what a beautiful and an incredible city Naples is that after that one could die happy. However, you and I were far more concerned that we may actually not survive the experience and See Naples and Die would be come our reality! I'm not sure if we just picked a rough part of town to stay in but it was S.C.A.R.Y. Naples had a real undercurrent, menacing and threatening. Seeing rats running around in rubbish right outside our hotel did nothing to help our fears. We got out of Naples to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Sorrento the next day, but it was back to the hellhole that was our experience that night. Needless to say, we were desperate to get the hell out of dodge and left a night early.

This meant we took the train straight to Siena and spent an extra night there than we'd planned. And what a night that was. 7 April 2002. The relief at feeling safe again was overwhelming. We slept the afternoon away in our hotel, but took to the streets to do some Siena sightseeing that evening. A slow stroll amongst the Sienese locals winding through tiny back streets until Piazza del Campo was upon us. And on that Sunday evening, in front of a fountain, with a light drizzle falling, a boy asked a girl THE question. Along the lines of 'I'm absolutely sh..tting myself right now, but Meghan will you marry me?' 

There was still another week of idyllic Italy to enjoy, on top of the world, more in love than ever and on a high. Nothing could dampen our spirits. Not even the transport strike that forced us to wait 12 unexpected hours for our flight out of Venice. Stuck in a tinpot corrugated tin shed of an airport (Treviso) with literally no transport to even get us back to Treviso town for half the time. And the rest of the time spent in Macdonalds making one strawberry sundae last for hours whilst we played hangman till our head hurts. Eventually, we made it back to the UK and to our new lives as a happily engaged couple.

And here we are, 12 years later, with so many wonderful memories to draw on. Funny experiences, broadened horizons, and with more love in the tank than ever. And so many conversations that we can start with remember when.....

In the past we've played a game called 'Guess where I am'...a bit like 20 questions, and the other person has to try and guess where the other person was by giving clues to one of our wonderful, shared experiences. An easy way of reliving and not forgetting the special moments that have made our journey to this day, this moment so personal and memorable.

Happy 12 years, my sweet!

21 July 2010

Wise words and an artists hand...

Today we were talking on the way home about things that aren't real...like ghosts, dragons, witches and giants. Noah asked if ogres were real (gotta be Shrek's influence there!) to which we said they weren't, that they are just pretend, like in books and at the movies. Then I said that things you can see are real like people and he said 'Yep I'm real, Daddy's real, Mummy's real, Mylo's real and Murphy's real'.

I thought about it and said that God was real, even though we can't see him, he's our big daddy in Heaven looking after us, and that even though we can't see him he's always there.

To which Noah replied...'Yeah and when you're really dead, you have to go and live in Kevin'. Boy that did little gem tickle me pink tonight!

After looking at pictures of different dinosaurs, the budding artist also drew a microraptor at daycare today complete with its own title - and little assistance from the teacher who had written the word down for him to copy. Nice one Noah!

Reveal Your Glory

Somewhat of a paradigm shift from the last post to this one. Thank you for all the wonderful support (blog comments/direct emails) I received as a result of opening my heart up about where I was at with the whole 'working parent' thing. There was so much wisdom in your words and encouragement, thank you.

At life group tonight, I had a word shared in prayer that said 'God wants to reveal his glory to you'. On the way home, I saw the most amazing shooting star fall from the sky in front of my windscreen. Coincidence? I think not. Didn't you know God works like that!

God's glory can be seen in..the wonder all around us. The mysteries of the universe. Of course I believe, I always have. But so often I walk around with my eyes only half-open, failing to appreciate the wonder and glory that is right in front of me. What else have I been missing? What do I take for granted?

Have you thought lately about how wondrous it is to even be able to see? Although technology is astounding in the clarity and quality of pictures we can get these days,  the human eye is still far more superior. I liken it to looking at something far away in the distrance with your own eye, and then taking a photo of it. The perspective a photo gives off far-off objects is never as clear or truly recognises the proper depth of field as well as the human eye. I'm always a little disappointed at how my photos turn out compared to how I know I've been able to see it. The real thing is always more beautiful.

I must admit I find it easiest to see and understand God's glory when I look at nature. And no more so than in the fiery sky that is uniquely painted for us each morning and evening. No two are the same. Ever. Ever. I wonder if I find it easiest to sense his glory in the sky, since it seems to me to be the interface between Heaven and Earth? A fleeting glimpse of what the fullness of his glory will look like when one day we shall really see things as they are?

These photos were all taken from our bedroom window on different mornings over the past few months...

God, let me have my eyes wide, my heart open, and my mind willing to embrace your glory as you reveal yourself to me.

15 July 2010

Guilt Be Gone

Becoming a parent is quite possibly the most amazing thing you'll ever do in your life. Every day you are reminded in big and small ways how wonderful it is. The first smile from your baby at 3 weeks old melts you. The first time they put their hands together and realise they are clapping and they break into a frenzied clapping fit of excitement. The milestones. So many to remember.

When your bigger boy asks you how do you make butter, and you wonder where the past four years have gone? Because you clearly remember bringing him home from the hospital in an infant capsule, placing it on the floor in the lounge and staring at your hubby knowing that you are both thinking the same thing 'Oh my golly, what on Earth do we do with him now?'

Yes parenthood is wonderful. But the guilt is not.

I'd like to pretend it doesn't exist. That word. Some days I can push it down, far enough under the surface, to nearly ignore it.

Other days, it weighs so heavy.

The choices I have made, that we have made as a family. The little time I get to spend with these 2 fascinating creatures whom I helped bring into this world. If I were counting, I know some days I probably could count it in minutes. But I don't dare. It already hurts without me rubbing more salt into the wound.

The thing is, I love my work too. And yet I feel guilty for even beginning to enjoy it.

The feelings are even stronger now that the little time I have has to be split in two. Does Mylo know how much he is loved? Does he feel part of our family? Because he is quite a self-sufficient and independent soul, does he miss out even more because he just goes with the flow and doesn't make too much fuss?

How does Noah feel now when Mylo's needs are put before his? When we ask him to go and read a book in his room so Mylo can have some peace and quiet for his bottle. When we choose not to go out on the weekends if it doesn't fit in with Mylo's sleeps. How does he feel when I have to say no to playing or doing something with him because I am busy feeding, bathing, changing his brother? How much quality time is there in an evening when Noah comes home and watches a DVD for an hour out of the two before he goes to bed?  I justify this to myself saying - it's the only TV he watches all day and some quiet time on the couch is a welcome change from the full-on 9 hour day he's just had at daycare.

Oh but how easy it is to churn and churn these thoughts around in my head until I'm in a lather of guilty, bubbly foam. It's a lather I bathe in often. Constantly.

And then the weekends come. And I eke, scrounge and scrape the barrel of hours and minutes available to be with my family. I've noticed we're doing at lot less lately. Closing out the world and just being together. But maybe that's partly just winter. These weekends have become sanctified, a bit like a holy grail. Something to protect at all costs.

Some days I feel so far from achieving Life Balance. What an elusive concept. Is it about being a stay at home mum at all costs? I've never felt that we have been in a position for me to choose to stay at home long-term even if I wanted to. But in reality, if I'm honest, the road we're on now is the one we have chosen. No-one has held us to ransom to get to where we are now. All the choices we have made over time have lead us to this path we are travelling on. Two parents working full-time, and two children in daycare full-time. I don't even like seeing the words written down.

The guilt will always be there. If it's not guilt over working, I easily find myself feeling guilty about so many other things. Clearly, this is not something I will ever conquer in my own strength.

When the guilt threatens to overtake me, the only hope I have is to choose to leave this burden with Him who said 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest'. Matthew 11 v 28. Firstly, I have to choose to lay it down though. To let go.

Not in my strength, but in His Divine strength.

Then maybe I could believe that I am doing the best I can. That every day I am learning more about how to be the best I can be. Being the best mum I can to these boys who deserve all the love and support in this world. No greater, higher calling. I hope they know how loved they are, every day, in every way. And how much richer, fuller, crazier and sweeter life is for me with them in my world.


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