The Settle Season

Febuary. The most difficult month to spell and for me, the most awkward month to get my head around.

February sees kids trundling around with heavy school bags, which will diminish in weight as their schooling experience grows, as the memories of life’s little lessons kick back into gear along with their academic pathways. Those same pathways which have been on hold for week after sunny, hot week.
Bleached hair, tanned skin, tough soles on shoe-less feet, our kids charge through the school gate with all the youth and vigour on display you wish you could still muster.

They have summer stories. Tales to tell and yarns to spin. Embellishments, mis-recollections, already tinted with rose, memories consigned to the backdrop as new phases sweep in.
There have been beaches and baches (cribs for you southerners), trips to see grandparents and relatives arriving on the doorstep. Caravans or tents and barbecues and hot sand and rock pools and sizzling sausages wrapped in bread, adorned with nothing more than a squirt of Watties finest.
Laughter and late nights and sun drenched days.

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Sunburn. Splinters and thorns and prickles. Chaffing. Sand in places from which it may never escape.
Arguments over the best way to fold tents (roll, always roll). Bruises, scrapes, bumps and bangs. Long hot days in a car, sleepless nights tossing and turning in the sweltering sauna of a tent. That wave pushing the kayak onto the sand, trapping your ankle, the swelling nearly the defining moment of the vacation. (Dad has always said get out the seaward side!)
The visits from people you hardly ever see, the trips to see people you hardly know. Mum and Dad seem to know these people, seem to like them, sitting up long into the night, getting progressively louder as their bottles and cans carry decreasing volumes. Worst still when parents make friends with the family camped next door, the ones organised enough to get to the campground early, pitching on the flattest spot with the best view and the greater shade!

Now there is no more salt or chlorine coating the skin, it is time to think about school uniforms. That first advert you hear on the car radio, extolling the virtues of stocking up a terms worth of stationary while one special or another is on, comes as a shock.
Routine is on the doorstep, demanding attention and with it comes our return to normality.
It’s time to get back to what we know and do best. While the kids are back at school, hanging with their mates, telling and re-telling their summer stories, for Mum and Dad it all becomes a bit different.

“Isn’t this summer fantastic?!” suddenly becomes “Oh my God, this heat!”
The fact not a drop of rain fell while you tossed and turned your way through sticky nights in a tent has gone from being a blessing to a torment, Still not a drop of rain, none on the radar and everything is starting to feel frazzled.
Maybe it all adds up to going back to work being a bit of blessing. The same old same old giving you the comfort of what you know, the joy of having a bubble shielding you from that which is out if your control.
Slowly, that feeling as been creeping back in, since you abandoned your routinised comfort zone sometime around the end of December 2019. It all comes roaring back, now that the kids lunchboxes are no longer containers for bbq leftovers, now that the car trundles to and from school and not the beach, no longer smelling of damp towels and wet dogs.

I find the hardest month of the year to spell one of the hardest months of the year to get through.
There is the lingering hangover of summer fun and sun, of friendships rekindled and new ones formed. A time of screeches filled with delight, screams of fun. Long nights with the windows open, mosquitoes be damned.
Those nights still exist but during the day jandals have been exchanged for steel-capped boots or heels or those comfy, sensible favourites your feet don’t seem to complain about and fashion can take a back seat.
There is still a great deal to come. There will more trips to the beach, more ice-cream to dribble down hands and wrists, all the way to the elbow if you aren’t vigilant enough. But if you haven’t made the lifelong memories from summer 19/20 by now, you are seriously running out time.

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At this time of year I am always left with the feeling something has escaped me, like there was a vital moment, a certain event, I missed. Whether it escaped my attention, didn’t happen because I failed to make it happen, or just slipped by, I never can tell.
It is not something I can look out for, because it is not a thing I know how to identify. A feeling, a sense. Almost, of loss.
The hope is my loss is just as the saying goes. Someone else’s gain. In this case, Numbers One and Two, the E-Bomb and WeeMan.
As an added bonus there were cousins included, as equally involved in the backyard bbq’s, the camping trip to the beach. While the sun scorched our south Pacific islands, the kids hung with extended family, stayed up late to greet the crickets, nodded along to the polite greetings of people they considered little more than strangers and tolerated trips their parents seemed to be taking them on for no reason more than the sake of it.

Too late to wish someone a happy new year. Too late for resolutions, most likely already beginning to fade and die even if they had been given the gift of breath.
Now, the year 2020 truly begins.

BPM

Imagine, if you can, what its like when you get so excited your heart rate lifts to match those levels. Now, imagine if that heart rate won’t reset.

Picture a homely scene. A mother, cup of tea in hand, maybe a pack of biscuits within reach, settling on a sofa.
In her arms, a baby. The most gorgeous little girl you have ever seen or will ever see. Just three months old, fussy. Hungry.
Baby is offered the breast. She takes it and Mum leans back, looking forward to a chocolate biscuit treat, a sip of warming tea, a chance to relax. A time to chill, catch up on the sort of rest the mother of a baby misses out on.

Something is wrong. The only one chilled, the only one relaxed, is Mum.
Not for long.
Baby won’t settle, not the way a wee one does when tucked against mother, suckling. Surely the most comforting, restful place on the planet.
Not today. Mum has a brow beginning to crease with worry, a feeling of concern starting to take hold.
Mum is a medical professional. She is equipped. Knowledge, tools.
She reaches for one of those tools, a stethoscope, warms it with her breath before placing it gently against the fluttering rib cage or her baby daughter.

A normal three month old’s heart will bang away at about 100-140 beats per minute (bpm). Not this child. Ears plugged to the life giving pump of her daughter, Mum couldn’t keep up. It wasn’t possible to count fast enough.
Professional assessment was clearly required.

Dad was driving around in circles. It’s what I did, for a living. An independent contractor, I was a courier. When the phone call came, I was in the thick of it, just another day taking one corner after another.
Except today I got a phone call from my dearly beloved, the type of call you pay attention to the instant you hear the voice on the other end of the line. This was no request to pick something innocuous on the way home (has she forgotten what I do for a living?), no idle catch up, no informative chat about why she might not be home when I finished my working day. This call was a request for me to get myself to the hospital as quickly as I could make it happen.

To get to Dunedin Hospital, as quickly as I could possibly make it happen, I needed to make some calls of my own. I rung management, I rung colleagues. Not a soul let me down, people proving they will be there for you when you put your hand up.
I could name names, I probably should. I can’t even remember if I expressed my appreciation at the time, some eleven or so years ago now.
Not adequately I’m sure. There was just too much going on, too much to do, too much to organise. To learn. Everyone I worked with rallied around, did this for me, organised that for me. Were there for me and my whanau.

At the hospital, it’s different. You don’t have control. You can’t organise this, take care of that. You are beholden to the uniformed people more comfortable and capable in that setting. Under fluorescent lights, in cubbies and alcoves off long, wide corridors, this is their world. Despite the soft smiles, the warming words, it can feel a cold a desolate place.
I don’t know how, but I managed to stay cool, calm and collected. Externally at least. Wifey was, understandably, in tears. Our beautiful second born, taken from her clutches and poked, prodded, monitored, frantic conversations held over her baking hot body.
Rapid cooling they decided, shock that squirming little body back in to something close to normality.
Not a thing about this day, this little life, our lives, felt normal.

I can’t tell if you if it was strangely comforting or a worrisome thing, to see the professionals as worried, as freaked and as uncertain as Mum and Dad were.  In the end, after some confusion, it was me who found ice, the petrified Father who plunged his own child into an ice bath.
It worked.

Diving into a frigid tub of ice was not a long term solution. Since that hideous day there have been multiple hospital trips. None as dramatic. On occasion, not far off, even the threat of helicopters called in to whisk our child away from all she knows.
Her ticker has thrown multiple curve balls over the intervening eleven or so years, some a mere blip, others a blot.
Each occasion has impressed on me that sometimes elusive thing we know as community spirit. People really do care, from professionals such as teachers and nurses, doctors and specialists, to neighbours and friends and of course, family. At no stage have we as a whanau ever felt unsupported or unloved.

Recently, somewhat out of the blue, a letter arrived from Starship Hospital in Auckland. They were going to have a crack at that dodgy ticker. A final solution. Hopefully.
The threat, or is that promise, of the procedure has been on the cards for a while. Number Two just had to grow big enough for it to be a possibility.
She has grown. A strong, intelligent, fun, quirky person packed with laughter and merriment and bright future.
Still our little girl. Still a squirming, slippery baby in my calloused hands, cruelly dipped into frozen waters.

My own heart thumps away when I think of what is to come. A simple procedure, day surgery, a night of observation.
To hear it told, all in a days work, not even that. Nothing to worry about.
Are you kidding me?!
Yet I have faith. Isn’t that all I can do, place my trust in those who are learned, qualified, experienced?
The same way I trust my car will come back from the mechanic better than the day it went in.
So while they attempt to jump start my little angels heart (slightly dramatic) I am going to give a thought to the folk who put themselves out, over a decade ago, because they could.
Because they wanted to.

Because I needed them.

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Daddy White Sox

You know that guy? I’ve almost become ‘That Guy’

You’ve all seen him. Maybe he is your boss, maybe he is a colleague.
Perhaps he is your neighbour, your mate, your brother. You might be married to him, he might be your Dad. Whatever the relationship, That Guy is instantly recognisable. Especially at this time of year.

That Guy isn’t hard to spot. Look for him coming out of the dairy. He’s the bloke in the faded t-shirt, the one he bought from the stall outside that concert he went to twelve years ago. He might be balding, at least have a receding hair line but it’s hard to tell, because he is wearing a cap, the brim of which is where his sunglasses sit.
That cap is emblazoned with the logo of a supplier, a client, a local business and was probably free. There are sweat stains if you look close enough.

That guy is a good guy. He will nod at you in a gesture of friendliness. He might mutter a g’day, maybe apologise briefly as you squeeze by each other in the convenience store doorway. He won’t wave. That Guy can’t, his hands full with fistfuls of already melting ice-cream cones of various flavours. That Guy hopes he remembers who asked for what flavour.

You won’t see much more of That Guy. You’ll hear him, exasperatedly repeating himself until one of the kids in the SUV or double cab ute acknowledges his returned presence, stops bickering with it’s siblings and opens the door for their Dad, in their own sweet time. A puff of diesel and he’s gone.
To the batch you wonder? The beach? Is there a chilly bin the back of that family friendly multipurpose vehicle packed with steaks, fish, cheesy sausages for the kids? Maybe in the tray, on the roof rack, there is a kayak, boogie boards, snorkels and masks and fins and a change of clothes Mrs That Guy thought might be necessary. On the side and rear of that ute the name and number of a concrete placer, a landscaper, a sales rep, a plumber.

That Guy is, apart from maybe a touch of middle aged spread, a healthy and strong man. He is physical, with meaty, calloused hands. Broad across the shoulder, nearly as thick in the chest as his belly is becoming. That Guy is in his forties, maybe early fifties,or close enough to it. That Guy is tanned.
Mostly

That Guy has burned under the hot, unforgiving NZ sun once or twice already this summer. That Guy burns every year, his strong back reddening as he turns over the veggie patch, coats the deck, starts up the lawn mower for the first time this season. His skin has coloured accordingly, the way That Guy secretly wanted it to even while telling the kids to be sun smart.
Still, his skin tone over his back and chest does not match the deep, man of the outdoors tan on his forearms. And that dark colour, is a long way from the shade of his ankles and feet.

Right where the top of his woollen work socks stop, the ones That Guy rams into his steel capped work boots, is right where all colour ceases to exist. Here, the glare of bright, lens tightening whiteness begins.
Like a badge of honour, That Guy is advertising the fact he is on holiday. Those pearly white toes, shinier and brighter than any celebrity could hope their perfect rows of teeth could ever be, mean summer is finally here, the kids are out of school, That Guy and Mrs That Guy have coordinated their time off and the holiday season has rolled around.

That Guy will be at a steady 104km/h before the proportion of cone exceeds ice-cream. The kids will still be quiet in the back, glad for the treat, breaking up the monotony of the annual trip to wherever to do whatever. Mrs That Guy will be handing out the wet wipes she still buys, just for such a sticky emergency, even though she hasn’t changed a nappy in years.
That Guy will turn off the air-conditioning and put the windows down, telling everyone how much he hates aircon anyway. The fresh air and breeze is nice, even if the temperature rises nearly as much as That Guys, the queue of caravans and motor-homes and trailers and boats the real reason he deemed it okay to have through breeze.
That Guy will reluctantly switch the cricket off, fuss with the bluetooth, struggle to get anyone else interested in a game of eye-spy, a desperate attempt to recapture the rose tinted nostalgia of his own childhood road trips.

While Mrs That Guy wonders for the third time if she remembered to turn off the oven, asks again if That Guy locked the garage door behind him, That Guy fights off thought of early to mid January, when he will be back laying concrete, building, plumbing or managing it all.
Mrs That Guy will wonder out loud if her sister /brother/uncle/grandparents will beat them to their shared destination. Mr That Guy will wonder to himself if the nephews and nieces are still the spoiled little shits he remembers from the last holiday and whether it is the parenting to blame. Or has he got this lot confused, are these the cute ones, the fun ones?
That Guy loves them all regardless and is determined to give them the holiday from which life-long memories are made.

That Guy settles in the 70-80km/h average he was hoping they would avoid by leaving early. Not as early as he had planned and hoped for but hey, at least the kids hadn’t put up a fight.
Now That Guy is thinking tackle and bait. He is thinking sizzling steaks and lukewarm beers and maybe a good book and snoozing in the shade.
That Guy pretends he can’t hear the moans from the back seat as he kills the bluetooth and tunes in the cricket.

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Slip, Slop and Slap

I’m a hypocrite. Time spent extolling the virtues of being sun smart to my children has fallen on my own deaf ears.

A day in the garden, planting and weeding and watering and harvesting. Lovely, a cathartic experience for me, almost a form of meditation as I commune with nature.

Sort of. We are not into exotic gardens, have not populated our yard with a revival of native planting. We have kids, four of them. They need room to roam and move and kick and run and dance and roll about.
They need space for wheels, for fetch with the dogs, for the pool we have erected.
Our garden is a fluid place. Spaces to follow the sun as the day warms, areas to dodge heated rays as the mercury rises.

Any real care and attention we put into gardening is focused mostly on what we can get out of it. What we, in conjunction with that same said sun, a drop of water and some TLC, can produce.
Lettuce and peppers and beetroot and kale and broccoli and rocket and an array of herbs. Spuds and pumpkin and garlic and radish and all the companion plants adding flower, colour and variety. Peas and beans and cauliflower and more to come when timing dictates.

Time is a thing. We don’t have a lot of it, we don’t have green thumbs and we don’t have a family effort. I do the grunt work, Wifey buys the plants, more grunt work for me, the interim grunting is done by me, then I do the harvesting, Wifey or Number One prep and cook. Everyone eats and we all agree whatever fare we are sampling is delicious.
Wifey takes the credit.

Serving up what you have grown is a good feeling. It’s cheaper for a start, that feels good. Generally, the produce tastes better, another good feeling. A bit of dirt under the finger nails and the sting of some sun on the back is, mostly, a good feeling too.
Knowing where your food has come from is a real bonus.

Today kids splashed in the pool, read books in the cool of the shade. I toiled, while Mother went to work, doing her own hard yards.
The sun beat down as I lifted a spade, thudding it down time and time again, planting olive trees, a handful of natives and transferring a bunch of ornamental this and thats.
Looks good. The fruits of my labours will hopefully come. I like an olive, will try a martini. Dirty? I my even shake it.

I ended up a little crispy. Redder than my Southern born red neck might otherwise suggest. Sunnies to shield my eyes but I was lacking a hat, had displayed my dad bod to the golden rays of a hot New Zealand sun.
I’m burned. Not badly. There is no blistering, no feverish sun stroke.

I am a hypocrite.
I failed to practise what I preach and at least two of my offspring have reminded me of that fact.
Repeatedly.

I can only hope, when I am leaning back, wrapped and guarded against the effects of a long evening mid summers sun, sipping a dirty martini, shaken or stirred or as it comes, that my tortured skin proves worth the while.

Blissfully Boring.

Plans for the weekend?

I’ve used this forum and my limited readership, like a bit of cathartic exercise these last couple of days.
I have vented and released and I feel all the better for it. Now, a stunning Sunday morning has dawned, sun low in a cloudless Autumn sky.
This is gonna be a good one.

The same dogs down the hill are barking, the way they do on and off during random hours of the day and night. Hard to identify where their plaintive calls are coming from, as the plains below are smothered in a layer of mist. Or is it fog?
Roosters crowing, birds chirping, traffic stilled (not that we get a lot) and children stirring.

Today should prove riveting.
There are chores to be done, exciting stuff like laundry and ironing and vacuuming and maybe some gardening. As the breeze picks up, swirling away the mists below and the day warms the insects and birds into their work, we will share the load, so hopefully we are free of tasks by midday.

Wifey is at work. Her new role, shifts. It stuffs with her sleeping patterns, almost as much as a transitory two and a half year old does.
Will he need a nappy or is he down with the potty?
Will he sleep through the night or demand a cuddle, sometime in the small hours?
Will he accept a cuddle? Or is he going to want the comfort of a breast?
I’ll ponder all these questions and more, as I vacuum.

Cobwebs to be swept from the deck, with its attractive view simply a sideline, something peripheral. Cars to be cleaned, if we can be bothered getting that carried away, driveways swept. Even mowing the lawn, if I am feeling particularly motivated.
With a bit of luck and some coercion, the kids will share some of that motivation. We may get finished early, head out for the afternoon for quality family time, explore some of our locality.

Of course, it is half nine in the morning and I am still sat here sipping coffee. The television is on. But hey, the washing machine is on, the dishwasher too.
Not a great deal of progress to be found there and to be honest, how boring, how mundane, does the plan for this cheery Sunday sound?
Blissfully boring.
Magnificently mundane.

Despite the little chips of progress I am making on the routine, unwritten to-do list, the whirlwind cyclone that is our children will destroy it all, in a matter of moments. Even their own efforts to help, responding reluctantly to orders and commands, delivered in an ever increasingly exasperated manner and tone, will amount to little once the shackles are released and they are free to wreak havoc once again.

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I’m not looking forward to winter. The long, hot, dry summer we have enjoyed or endured as is your want, giving way to the relative cool and damp. Nearly April and still the sun shines, still the rains refuse to come, still the nights are not a great deal cooler than the summer highs of climes further south.
Long days, dark dominating light, lunar not lighter. Kids in doors more, both at school and at home. Closer, louder, smellier.
Grateful I am working again, torn at the way I have so readily adapted to being back at work, the way I am not missing all the bonus time with my kids, time I had as recently as the beginning of this summer, as much as I thought I would.
As much as I should.

Or should I?
Is my guilt justified? More-so, is it manufactured?
Am I really feeling guilty or am I actually relieved? There is certainly relief in witnessing my children carry on with their lives, as if my influence over the last year or so, the past few seasons, accounted as negligible at best.
I am happy. As much as any slightly over weight, balding yet perversely hirsute, middle-aged man can be. Happy, to have reclaimed a piece of me which was missing, absent without me even being aware it was gone. Until it returned.
Work.
Why do we do it? Why do we like to do it? (allow me the luxury, on this fine day, of generalisation)

Routine. Structure. Of course, income.
I am not robotic, no slave to a machine but I am happier, feel more complete, when I have dirtied my hands, when there is sweat on my brow, when my back is bent and aching.
I am never more satisfied when the job is done, my mind long since having turned to the next task.
But for all that, chores are different.

I could abandon the vacuuming before the plug reaches the socket. No guilt, no remorse. Let the dishes pile high, I will simply turn my back, not venture into the kitchen, stay clear of the laundry, letting the washing fester in a musty, damp, sad and sorry pile at the bottom of the machine.
Sweep the deck? Na, wait for the wind to really get going. Heck, it will bring as much crap as it removes, so why bother?
Make the bed? Na, I will be in it again before you know it, so the point is exactly?

The point is, Wifey’s shift does not last forever. She who must be obeyed will return to her domain, her lair, before the day is done and if the chores aren’t…this may may well be the last you hear from me. Bed made or not, I won’t be sleeping in it!

I have work to do.

( The views and descriptions of the author are in no way intended as an exact replication of Wifey…she is far scarier! )

 

Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone

Wifey and I are pretty open with our kids.
There is not much we keep from them, no subject we consider taboo and no questions we are not prepared to answer.

Of course we moderate the things our kids have access to; what they view on television and the internet, what they hear when listening to music or podcasts or anything of the like and, as old school as it might sound, what they read.
There are themes and theories and ideologies and images and thoughts espoused through a myriad of media platforms, all of which are readily accessible on a multitude of devices, many of which can be housed in your pocket and held in your hand.

We have good kids, children still in every sense of the word despite the wide scope of information they have at their fingertips. As a reasonably cohesive unit, the messages from Wifey and I have been fairly consistent over the years, our delivery relatively level and our availability assured.
Yes, I could spend a bit more time involved with their homework, delve deeper into their interests or passions.
Yes, we could be stricter on some things and show greater leniency on others.
Generally, we have a fluid household, plenty of noise and activity always under at least an element of control. To quote Madness and their hit Our House ‘there’s always something happening and it’s usually quite loud’.

Like I said, good kids. No real dramas or concerns, outside of the myriad of things you might expect from a growing family with working parents.
When things go wrong, we are there for them. Open and honest and available. Wifey and I don’t have an explanation for everything and nor can we always find a solution. However, with a little reasoning, there isn’t much which can’t be worked through.

Every now and then, the big things come along.
Those moments you cannot be prepared for. Those times which catch you by surprise, no matter how organised and aware you might think you are.
You can’t have your finger on every pulse.
But, and what a big pause it is, there are some things  as a aparent it is almost impossible to explain, to find reasoning in. Because, simply, you don’t have the answers.

How do you explain pure, unfettered evil?
How can you help a child understand the hate fueled ideology which drives a person to perpetrate such horror on a community, on a people?
You can’t.
Especially when you don’t understand yourself.

Tears have been shed in this house and will continue to be for some time I feel.
Good. We are crying as a nation and as a people. Tears for those who lost their lives, their families and friends and tears for all they knelt and prayed for in the place they went for solace, reflection and the place they went for hope and love and all the rest.
Number One cried today, the enormity of it all finally striking at here heart.
The pain was there on Number Two’s face when she first asked what was going on Friday evening. There isn’t a full level of comprehension for her and for that small mercy, I am grateful.
E-Bomb and the Wee Man are too young to comprehend anything beyond the vibe emanating from their parents. They get it. Something is wrong.
Something is very very wrong.

I have struggled to keep the language of hate out of my own words.
My voice has crackled at times, close to breaking, when I speak of these events. It is hard, particularly when you have to look a thirteen year old girl in the eye and see the realisation dawning in her that this world we live in, the one we all share, can house people capable of being despicably wicked, people capable of visiting hideous acts of cruelty on others. Innocent others.

I am glad they got this bastard alive. I realise it is what he wanted; his platform, his moment of infamous immortality. I hope he gives us the answers, even though we all know they will be the deluded ramblings of a crazed mind, little more than a jujmbled rehashing of the various messages of hate brought to us over generations of evil thinkers and doers.
But I need to hear it, as awful and insidious as it might be. Because I don’t know what to tell our kids.
I don’t know HOW to tell our kids.

We don’t shelter our four children.
There is no cotton wool enveloping them, they do not view the world through the shimmering haze of a bubble.
The temptation is to put the walls up, bring down the shutters, erect the barricades.
We won’t. There will be open and honest discourse as long as there are questions.
Our kids will be watched, a eye kept on them in the same way I hope all parents are watching over their children at the moment.
Kids see and feel, sometime more they we do.
Kids hurt.

All I can ask of my Wife and myself is that we do the best we can to raise well rounded children, ones we can send off into the world as well prepared as we could make them. Happy and healthy and open and honest and caring and loving and genuine young people, armed with open minds, good hearts and a smile.
We want them to see the good, in everything they do and see and all the people they meet. We want them able to cope, to have them ready for the big bad world.
Because yes, some of that world around us is bad. So mind-numbingly bad. And that bad world is no longer surrounding us, it has visited us, come to our shores and bought an extreme example of its evil with it.
Let our kids be together. Let them play, let them sit and chat and let them mingle and let them laugh and cry and do whatever it is they feel they need to cope.
Youth are doers and they will want to be active and vibrant over this issue.
As such, we will visit the Whangarei Islamic Center on Friday and we, as a family, will watch over our local Muslim community as they bend in prayer. We will bring nothing more than a smile, carry nothing other than hugs and strong shoulders, ready to be leaned on.
Will we see you there?

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In the meantime, to the tune of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall…Hey, World, Leave Our Kids Alone!

 

Last Weekendless Weekend

I know that doesn’t even make sense, but it does to me.

It is Sunday morning. How do I know it is morning? You would think the neighbours rooster would be a key indicator, but the stupid thing never gives up it’s plaintive call, cock-a-doodling his way throughout all hours of the day.
I know it is morning because, despite not yet re-starting the routine of work, somewhere deep in my thick skull my jaded old brain has convinced my body it is happening.

We all have a ‘body clock’, ticking away unobtrusively, letting us know some of the deeper workings of the world around us, without you necessarily being all that aware. This clock keys us into things like a change of season, when your sleeping patterns need to adjust for dawn a and dusk, drops happily into a routine and even tells women when it is time to have babies. Or am I taking that too far?

For the past couple of years my routine has not belonged to me at all. My days began when the wide, sweet innocent gaze of children opened to a new dawn.
Sound lovely? In reality, I had been up a couple of hours by then, as our kids have that wonderful ability to sleep in, or at least stay in bed, until a respectable hour. A couple of blissful, peaceful hours I could have a thing or two to myself.
Even that sounds awesome but it wasn’t always the case. Everything I did was dictated to by other people. There were two older kids needing constant urging and encouragement to get out the door on time, complete with teeth and hair brushed and appropriately clothed, lunches made and breakfast in their bellies.
They managed all this quite independently, though not without encouragement. Even Wifey needed to be told to eat!
Such is the life of parenting and I had no complaint. Who was listening anyway? Certainly not the children, not the first couple of times!

So apart from repeating myself repeatedly, there were all the mundane and ordinary and standard and ‘same’ things to go through any given morning. The fact I failed to make a proper routine of it is a testament to how far out of sync my body clock had (has?) gotten.
With half the occupants fleeing the confines of the house, to go about their daily routine, it was down to me and the little ones to spark the embers of the morning and fire the coals of the day. We had our little systems, our processes we would go through but generally, our days were fairly fluid.
There was joy in that and there was the risk of rot, the chance boredom could set in. The weather became a crucial element.
There was little change to it, that daily process. Far from a grind. When you are surrounded by little un’s, their curiosity, their wonder and inquisitiveness, their questioning and exploring and discovery, is as infectious as it is time consuming.

You might think the only point of difference would be the weekend. I can only suppose, for those who have things which occupy their weekends; jobs and school and the like, then it is Saturday and Sunday which stand out from the norm. That couple of days strung together and labelled the weekend.
Not for this guy.
Apart from the fact Wifey and Number’s One and Two snoozed through the better part of the morning, there was little to no difference. Perhaps those couple of early morning hours actually did manage to be a little bit more about me. Perhaps I wasted them, gazing at the spendiferous view the Hokianga provided, behind the misty rise of a freshly brewed coffee.

Soon, a weekend might mean something to me again.
Not to say it hasn’t for the last couple of years or so. If you are going to breed a crew of four, making for a total of six, it is because you like the busy exuberance of a full house. That means weekdays are as full of fun vigor as any other.
While my body clock has for a long time suffered the after effects of a previous working life, one which started early and stretched to long days, waking me from slumber on or around the wee-small hours, for no real other purpose than to be awake.
Sometimes annoying, sometimes a blessing, as dawn can not only be one of the more beautiful times of the day, I find it can be one of the most productive. Especially without the impediment of others.
Little others.
Heading back to work might mean I appreciate the company of my crew, without feeling frazzled or frustrated. I will actively seek to spend time with them, doing the the things families do as a group, participating as much as can and am allowed, in the things the kids want to do to fill their time. I hope they seek out time with their Dad too, because as much as going back to work will be a transition for me, it will have a similar impact, if not more, on the kids.
If for no other reason, they are going to need to put up with having their Mother around all the time, for the immediate future at least.
Good luck with that kids!

I guess, with my weekdays full, I will have to start thinking about planning the weekends, to best utilise them,  make the best of them.
But, for now, that is all I will do. Think about it.
The last thing I want to eventuate out of this return to being a productive member of society, gainfully employed, is to miss out on the spontaneity an the abandon and the free fluidity that is having a young family.  So, if ya wanna see me at the weekend, better let me know, I’ll see if we can fit you in…

Will I miss it? Being at home? Being the  ‘go to’ parent.
You bet.
Am i gagging to get back in the routine of work, have that body clock rousing me with the birds and the colouring of the sky?
Hell yes.
Come the weekend?
Who knows…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cringe Factor

Have I fully of come of age? Because now, I am ‘That guy’. 

We spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day with some of Claire’s family, down in the big smoke of Auckland.
Twenty five or so loosely affiliated kin, together for a laugh and a smile and to share a feed. Stressful for those at the helm, a good time for guests. For me, a headache waiting to happen, even if I managed to survive better than I thought I was going to to.

The hosts have a couple of sons. Great young me, one in his late teens and the other, early twenties. Friendly, open and engaging young people who are a pleasure to be around.
Hanging around with them, as much as you can between long sessions on their phones or in front of monitors, showed up a few things for me.
Firstly, it isn’t hard to work just where I stand physically these days. I am no Adonis, no shining light of what it means to be at peak physical fitness or health.
Wifey and I are working on it. Not some bullshit New Years resolution, not some fad diet or gym membership as good as money flushed down the toilet. A real and genuine desire, over a planned term, to make change, changes which are already happening.
The sad truth is though, I will never again be even on par with a 21 year old, when it comes to energy and vitality. Those days are gone and thankfully, I can accept that.

Other things stand out. I am not into the same cultural stuff; music, movies, I still read…you know, from pages full of the printed word.
The big standout was humour.
I am not going to be so harsh as to suggest younger generations don’t seem to have one, a sense of humour that is, but as far as I could see, it wasn’t readily prevalent.
There was the standard good natured bantering and put downs, over pool tables or dart boards or the obligatory outdoor/backyard games. You know the type, fun for the whole family and all that. It was OK to have a dig, to ridicule or embarrass or try and make a fool of someone. But a one liner?
No. Straight over their heads or seen as a deliberate attempt to offend someone. As for a drop of innuendo? Met with groans of derision.
Sure, a bit of sexual innuendo is a bit lowbrow. Not scrapping the barrel quite like toilet humour might be, but a sarcastic take on what someone else has said is hardly the epitome of comedy.

I tend to get my comedy fixes from the likes of Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr, Bill Burr and guys of that ilk. These are people who like to push a few boundaries, tell it like it is and have no compulsion about stepping all over people’s sensibilities.
I have heard Jimmy Carr say offense cannot be given, only taken. While I appreciate the reasoning behind such a statement, I get that deliberately trying to provoke a reaction is treading on dangerous territory. The whole ‘too soon’ argument for example, as guys like the aforementioned are quite topical with their material.
Timing and delivery are the key with humour apparently. If you are going to drop an off the cuff one-liner, you need to be as quick witted as you are alert and aware. It takes a level of intellect, even if your humour is cheap and crude.
Gauging your audience is key too I would assume. Everyone reacts differently and if you get a group offside, you are never going to get them back. A mob mentality and all that.

It seems a group of young men, aged somewhere between late teens and early twenties, are probably not my target audience. I am not saying I in anyway offended any one and in no way did I try to.
Yet the ‘audience’ plays it’s part too. The more these guys groaned, rolled their eyes or made derisive sounds and comments, the more I was inspired. While they got more laughs among themselves from put-downs, snide comments and cheap shots, shaming each other, I happily carried on dropping a line here and there, many of which I was becoming fairly certain were not going to go down well.
Which meant, they went down really well.

Does it sound strange that it felt good to be ‘that guy’?
That I was able to find the line others were not prepared to cross, so I could leap gleefully over it?
I guess I ran the risk of coming across like a jerk but the reality is, as far as those around me of a similar age bracket to me, I was only saying what most people were thinking.
At least, they were thinking it after I said it.

Future generations are getting taller. Younger people are developing physically, more so than those of my age did. Conversely, many of them are not using that physicality, preferring back lit screens and monitors.
What entertains those who came after me is changing too. Their levels of tolerance are different. At an age when they should be testing boundaries, threatening my sensibilities, it is instead them doing the cringing.
Is that the way it is supposed to be?
I don’t think so.

The next generation are the ones who are supposed to shock, to test the norms and boundaries and to change the parameters. They are the ones who are supposed to challenge current standards and seek to establish new settings.
Each generation should stand up to the things they feel are oppressive, should fight the good fight and all that. Our kids should break the rules we set, as we broke the ones set for us.
Is it the fault of political correctness? Have following generations become too sensitive, too aware of offending the sensibilities of others, one minority or another, one marginal group or another?

 Or maybe I should just stick to dad jokes.

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Party Like It’s 1999

No, wait…Prince is dead. 

So many have passed and gone over the last couple of years, the icons and cultural leaders and luminaries of a generation. Such is the way with the passing of time and all that. It isn’t for me to wax lyrical about the influence many of these people exuded and how I, for one, feel their presence isn’t being adequately replaced.

Who is next, as the mouth pieces of a generation? Donald Trump has taken the spot left by Barrack Obama, a man who was an excellent orator but maybe missed the opportunity to really say something. And who are the pop-culture icons making the differences to the way we laugh and sing and play?
Where is Madonna and Michael Jackson? Where is Prince and Deborah Harry and Elvis Presley, where are the likes of Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie and Ghandi and Che Guavara, people that did it differently, did it, whatever it might have been, their way because they felt it was something which had to be done.

Right or wrong, there were iconic people doing and saying iconic things. JFK, Phil Spector, The Beatles, Eleanor Roosevelt, Hunter.S.Thompson …you could compile a never ending list.
Banksie? No doubting the creative genius, but an influencer? Al Gore? Yesterday’s news? Zuckerberg? Jobs? Gates? Tim Berners-Lee?

No doubting the impact such people have had, over generations of us now. I only question the type and scope some of this power, particularly of reach, has. To mind, the best thing, is to bring the major influences over future generations, closer to home. Back home.
Let Mum and Dad be the people who guide and train and teach.
Let Matua and Whaea and Mr and Ms, mold and shape in the classroom.
Let little Jimmy and Sally develop social norms and strictures in the playground and the park.

We, as a people, as a society, are changing and developing at a pace I struggle to comprehend. The technological revolution has been with us for a while now and it is a wonder if we were really ready for it. The way people interact, particularly the way they communicate, has changed and continues to do so. The world is suddenly a smaller place and terrifyingly, has become a whole lot bigger.
A good thing?
Certainly a new thing and tomorrow, new again. No good shunning it, no good turning your back on it. Change happens, whether you are a part of it, a builder of it, or a blocker.

Apologies. I am rambling. What has all the above got to do with partying?
Nothing really, but you can bet, as 2018 rolls to a close I will be sitting back on the deck, watching the last day of the year fade away, I’ll have a silent lament for those who have gone.
The next beer might lead to a red wine, which make take me to a scotch, which will take me to bed maybe long before midnight, such is the party life of a father of four young-uns. No matter what Prince tells us about end of era parties.
One place that beer will take me, is to thoughts of the coming year and the years beyond. When you have a brood of kiddies it is hard not to think of where they will be and just as importantly, how they will get there.
Their mother and I can only take them so far. Eventually, we are not the infuencers anymore. Nor are their teachers or junior sports coaches and tutors.

Muddy Waters, The Clash, the idealistic ramblings of Fidel Castro, influences over me as a younger man. Frankie Boyle makes me think and laugh these days while the biggest impact on how I live and think and act comes from my wife and children. Just the way it should be. A positive set of attitudes and personalities.

All I can hope is my wife and I are getting it right. Our influence so far, as the year closes, seems to have gotten things pretty spot-on. It pays not to question too heavily if what you do, say, think and act out is a good or a bad thing.
Most likely, like it or not, it is a combination of the two. There is no such thing as perfection and there is no way every little thing I do is of value or has any particular use.
As our kids grow, learning to think for themselves, they will employ a filtering system, finding the gems among all the dross. With a little more hope involved, ideally there will be less and less dross.

Go ahead and make your resolutions. Make 2019 the year you achieve all the things you want to, need to, feel you have to. Make it the year you actually do, instead of say.
I will resolve to keep doing, more or less, what I have been.
I want to be fitter, stronger, smarter.
I want to learn and grow and develop, the same things I want from and for my kids.
I want to be healthy and happy and I want to not be left wanting.

For me, for my family, 2019 is a time of change and a time for hard work.
New pathways and opportunities. Horizons. All of that and we are going to have to identify what we want, then set about achieving it. As individuals, as a team, supporting each other and backing each other up.
Living in the now but eyeing up the future.

Have a good party, even if it is just a party for one. Make it fun, special.
Invite Prince, he can be the DJ and we can all party like it is 1999.
Or whatever year your mind wanders too.
Get sunburned. Go swimming, drag sand onto the carpet when you get home.
Knock back a cold one. Or two, whatever is your tipple. Crank the BBQ, get together with loved ones and mates, tell some tales and yarns and lies and do it all with a smile.

End the year with a laugh.
Start the the new year the same way.

 

 

 

The Times They Are a’Changin

Maybe not so much the times, but my days are sure about to get different.

Life has turned a corner, or crested a hill. Whatever, life is about to change.
It wouldn’t be fair to say life is changing for the better. That would imply the way we were living prior to this change wasn’t up to scratch.
The hope is, a move to a more metropolitan area will bring more opportunity. And, it has.

Some time in the next week or so, I will start work. Yes that’s right, full-time, gainful employment. Something different too, something which may, I hope, be a little challenging and a job I can not only learn and grow from as a profession, but as a person too. I like to think it is a last step in my working life. A big one, if not all that bold, but a role I can get my teeth into, make my own. A job which should prove to be fun and rewarding.

It is time.
I have been at home with the kids, in this last stint as a home hubby, for nearly two years. A couple of fun years, in an environment suited to the role of stay at home parent. Admittedly there was little choice, as there wasn’t a lot of employment options available.
The point was though, while E-Bomb and the Wee-Man were under the age of five, they would have a full-time influence at home, namely one of their parent’s.
So this change is not solely for me. This is a change for the whole family.

We left the Hokianga mostly for the benefit of our kids, particularly Number’s One and Two. But it is true to say the opportunities for Wifey and I are greatly improved too, just by packing up and rolling a couple of hours down the road.
We will be a working family again, both Wifey and myself toiling away during our days. We can do so because there is the type of support here we didn’t have available to us up north.
Not family support. Paid for, professional support. People who will look after our children in return for money. Thank goodness for people like them, prepared to do waht at times can feel very much like a thankless task.

My stint as a full-time parent will never cease of course. How could it? You are always a parent, always a Mother or Father, no matter how directly or indirectly you are involved in the raising of your kids.
Being that go to parent is something I am really going to miss. Something I was ready to give up on, even while being aware it was not going to be the easiest transition to make.
When I get in the car on that first day, off to work, I will have the smiling faces of my children in my minds eye.
I will see them wave, see them smile, while not quite being able to work out where their Dad is off to and why they aren’t going with him. They will call out their cheering goodbyes and I will turn and drive away.
Those first few days will be as different and strange for me as they will for the kids. For them, the timing couldn’t be a great deal better and let’s be honest, they are most likely adapt to the change far quicker than I will.
Wee-Man and E-Bomb are going to have their Mother around for the summer. Numbers One and Two will get that pleasure also. Hopefully a welcome change for all, though there can be no doubting both sides of that equation are going to have to adapt. Wifey and I have very different and not always complimentary, parenting styles and there are a lot of things the young-uns are going to have to teach their Mother about the way things work.

I am left wondering how my influence, or lack of it, is going to be felt.
Will the two little ones miss me in their lives?
Will the older girls feel the difference in the house, without me around?
There will be a whole new vibe and again, the scene will shift when Wifey starts her new role in earnest. New schools, childcare facilities for the little ones. Perhaps the biggest change, from the last couple of years, will be the return to two incomes. Maybe we can afford to give the kids the type of summer memories which don’t require too much rose coloured tinting.

Personally, there will be a back to routine lifestyle again, one I am looking forward to. Alarms to rouse me from my slumber, time a factor again in my world.
I will come home tired and I will sleep soundly, eight or so hours, waking refreshed and rearing to go.
I will ruffle my sons hair, after swinging my daughters in a quick hug, peck my wife on the cheek as I make my way into the kitchen, heading for the fridge, cracking the top off a beer, before landing heavily in an armchair, turning on the tele in time for the news. Something like that.

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