Sunday, December 23, 2012

Botanical Gardens and the end of the world

Today we went to the botanical gardens because the morning mist had evaporated to leave behind a picnic day. We packed up a lunch and found a nice spot in the shade of a giant palm tree where Aba ate and ate her sandwiches and chips, while Lucia was coerced to eat one sandwich with the promise of an animal cookie. We went on a walk through the coolest parts of the gardens, the girls crossed a small stream by hopping from rock to rock for the first time and were excited to come back the same way to try it again. Lucia wanted to feed the rest of her sandwiches to the ducks, but it was so hot even the ducks couldn't be moved to eat and our bread joined the rest of the bread that floated on the surface like some strange pond weed.

The gardens are great for Abacus, because she loves to wander - usually in directions away from where we are supposed to be going - in the gardens though she leads us to places we might not have gone.

We decided to go to the beach rather than the playground at the gardens because of the heat, but as we neared the coast, the surrounding hills became shrouded in cloud and soon we couldn't see 100 meters in front of us. Island Bay's Island ceased to exist, as though the world were being effaced by some Mayan prophecy. In fact the land had disappeared for those who were flying and flights were diverted away from the city. We would learn later the sea fog that had rolled in over the land was the tail end of Cyclone Evan. And thus ended our beautiful summers day on the shores of the world's end.


Lucia waits on the footpath by the car as I chase Abacus down the road, I don't need to tell her to, she just stands there patiently waiting for us to return, it's just a usual part of her life.She doesn't try to emulate what Abacus does and she doesn't necesarilly think that what Abacus does is bad/different, it's just what Aba does.

Aba and Lucia are climbing out of the pool and jumping back in and I'm catching them, before Abacus decides to climb out and run away. I say something to Lucia like don't move - but I don't really need to say anything because I know she'll wait there patiently, at just 2 years old while I bring Abacus back. She just patiently waits.

Lucia is screaming outside.I go out to see her holding Abacus by the shirt as Aba has learned to open the front gate, and she's crying and pleading "Don't go on the road Aba!"

Lucia and I are pretending to talk on the phone while Aba's at creche, I ask "How are you today?" "Um, a bit sad." "Oh, why?" I'm genuinely surprised because we've been happily playing to this point. "Um, I miss my sister."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

the water slide and other stories

I think Abacus might be some fashion genius, she wears clothes in ways I would never think of. She'll go to a pile of clean laundry and come out looking like some darker edged Blossom throwback.

One day Goldilocks came and ate up the three bears. That's Lucia's abridged version. Another version is that the three bears visit Goldilocks. Speaking of bears, someone bought tickets to Grizzly Bear thinking it was Bear Grylls. The weirdest part is they were disappointed...

Swimming class has been awesome lately. Lucia has been attending too and having the whole family in the pool is a lot more calming for Abacus and I think it's good for Lucia too, who has gotten really good at kicking and doesn't feel left out. Abacus still shies away and asks for cuddles, but it seems almost out of habit than genuine anxiety. She has been a lot better at doing the drills and seems to love going under water. Last week she wore goggles which was the cutest thing, their instructor got them both goggles so they could dive for toys.

The most fun thing about swimming class now is that they've been going on the water slide after class - as a reward. It's a big windy tunnel slide, dimly lit with colorful lights and can go extremely fast. The girls absolutely love it. The first day Lucia asked why these other girls screamed when they went down, now Lucia has taken to screaming too and Abacus has followed! They go down with us and we come out in a huge splash, sometimes backwards, or spinning out of control, depending how fast we've gone.

One of the cutest moments I've had with our girls was at a Saturday dinner time, when Danielle said 'Tomorrow at swimming class we can go on the waterslide again.' And the girls faces came alive with smiles and they laughed and said YAY! with completely uninhibited excitement.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

swimming class

Swimming has been one of the hardest things I've done with Abacus. It's not so much the swimming part she has trouble with - she loves the water - I think it's the alien nature of having a one on one class in the water that stresses her out. With her music therapist Pip, she has had little freak outs when she has tried to run away, or tried to pack up Pip's gear to end the session early (!) but she is still in her own house, and better yet on dry ground where she can run away. In the pool she can only grip her finger nails into flesh - mine.

Toward the end of the first lesson we were starting to make a breakthrough, she'd spent the first half of the lesson crying and clinging into me and not wanting to look at her instructor, but she was starting to warm to it and do some of the drills, if only to get a cuddle as a reward, when a wayward water volleyball smacked her right in the side of the face! and that was the end of that session :(

The next week I'm not sure if she stopped crying the whole lesson. She did some of the drills, while crying and spluttering water which caused her to cry and scream and splutter more. I don't want her to shrink away from challenges though, as much as it pains me to see her stressed, I know she can do it and I know it is the situation that she's anxious about, but we want to try to normalise these environments, especially with school fast approaching. We're there to support her, but she doesn't get to run away.

The next week I stayed for an extra 45 minutes after the lesson to go over the drills with her. As with every other week the moment her instructor says the words "Ok we're finished", her anxiety is gone as though she had enjoyed the whole thing and is excited  for the next week. She high 5's him and says "thank you!", she's even taken to mimicking his double thumbs ups. With the stress of the lesson over she completed every drill with me without a fuss. She even went down the water slide over and over - she had gone down once reluctantly with the instructor and cried at the bottom refusing to go on it again - it was meant to be her fun reward! Outside of the lesson though she loved it. She climbed out of the pool herself and jumped in, she kicked and blew bubbles, she floated around by herself on a flutterboard/kickboard and almost floated on her back (A manoeuvre that invokes a Koala grip cuddle during her lesson).

But last week was a break through. Her instructor set up a bunch of water toys around the pool and started her off pouring water into waterwheel and having fun. It was the first time I'd seen her smiling and happy to see her instructor. And while throughout the lesson there were moments of shying away, they didn't last for long. She did everything required of her to the best of her ability and was rewarded by a few minutes of playtime. She swam under a bar that forced her to go under water, she ran and leapt into the pool off a foam board, blew bubbles, kicked - in her own special take on kicking and floated like a star fish.

It was awesome.

The part where Aba is ready for school

So we're already at the part of the blog where Abacus is choosing a school, can you believe it? She had a visit to Owhiro Bay School and seemed pretty relaxed there. She told the principal that she was four and wanted to go play in the park.

The school is extremely small, only 120 students. We like the idea that she won't get lost there amongst the crowd, that she can find her place. The other school we were considering has about 500 students and 4 new entrance programs that all funnel into a year 1 class the next year. Owhiro has one new entrance class that increases from about 10 to 15 students by the end of the year, which we think would be better for Abacus.

Owhiro seems relaxed and accommodating, where as the principal at the other school wears a suit all the time. It's like, "Hey bro, why're you wearing a suit? You're a primary school principal." (To paraphrase Danielle) But that seems to sum up the vibe I get from there. They have all the latest technology, all the students get emails addresses from day 1, for some reason... They have big screen TVs in their fancy gym for their exercise program in the mornings and laptops and i-fads and all the other clutter of modernity. Their motto even has the word management in it. It looks like - from my brief interaction with the place - an incubator of tomorrows corporates.

Owhiro Bay just feels relaxed and welcoming. It has amazing fields and surrounding hills and the drive/bike ride there in the morning will be passed one of the most beautiful coastlines I know. We are excited for this next part of Abacus's life. We're trying to get Lucia into the Kindergarten at the school too, so  they can be together. The older kids get to teach kids at the kindergarten which sounds fun and there's many activities and responsibilities I could see Abacus enjoying; librarian, kapahaka (She is one of the most fluent te reo singers and counters at her creche :) )

Can't wait.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

to think it happened on The Parade

We were stuck in most of the various roadworks around Wellington. Every route Abacus and I took was unfinished, as though writer's block was stalling the story of our ride home. Aba was due a toilet break, there was one near the supermarket we were going to and I was probably only making her think more about it by encouraging her to hold on, as we sat idle in the 5 o' clock traffic clot.

We had to park two blocks away from the supermarket and walk and when we finally make it to the public toilet - which was the epitome of 'last resort' - it was occupied and its occupant stayed inside a very long time. As we waited and waited a lady came running up to join us. I noticed she was holding a cash box and looked up to see her bus parked on the main road with its hazard lights flashing and knew I'd have to let her go ahead.

A guy finally emerged from the toilet and left quickly without meeting anyone's eyes.  I let the bus driver go ahead of course and for the brief moment she was in  there, a boy of 8 or so appeared beside us. He said 'I've been drinking coke over there at the restaurant and I REALLY need to pee!' I had to refuse his plea and explain that Abacus had been holding on a LONG time. The bus driver left seconds after entering saying - "Oh good, it's a mess!" and a look she gave exaggerated her disgust and she continued to mumble her revulsion as she walked back to her bus.

I sighed and we entered. The toilet was full of toilet paper and looked backed up. 'You can't go here.' I said more to myself than Abacus. As we exited we warned the boy but he went in regardless and I realised that Aba would have to too.

So we waited again.

The boy emerged after a while, saying the 'stand up toilet still works, she could use that.' I thanked him with a smile and we entered. Aba had to brave the 21st century toilet that functioned worse than its medieval counterpart and after she was done and we opened the door to leave - as though something watching us knew we needed an ending to our story, something to tie it all up - the toilet flushed by itself.