Gotta love 'em!

"Who's that?" The Girlie asked and I answered, "Mister Fredrikson."

"Mister Fuckinson!" The Girlie exclaimed happily.

Uhm... yeah.

***

The Kid's classmate who's recently gone to school came for a visit to preschool today. The teacher asked him excitedly, "So, what did you learn today?"

"We learned about cheeses!" the boy replied proudly.

"Cheeses!?" the teacher exclaimed. "How wonderful! What kind of cheeses?"

The boy looked at her with a puzzled look and then another teacher said quietly, "I think he said Jesus..."

Uhm...

:D!

Calling to say that I love you

I noticed that I had missed a phone call from The Man at 7:34 am. Unusual timing, but oh well.

I called back. "What's up?" I asked.

"I just called to say I love you," he said. Hmm, unusual timing, I thought again. He does call like that, sometimes, but usually at meal times - and 7.34 am isn't a meal time.

There was a moment of waiting on both sides and then the real message came through. "I almost got taken out by a car on my way to work today," he said, and relayed the details.

A car had done a U-turn on the street without checking that the bike lanes were clear first, and had come within 20 centimetres of The Man. Heavy breaking on the car's side and heavy swearing on The Man's, they parted ways safely, but it had shaken The Man up.

Sometimes people do leave home in the morning and never come back, but not today - not in our house.
It's 7:15 am and yet I've already been awake for an hour and a half, the whole house has been vacuumed, I've had a shower, both kids have had their breakfasts, The Man is at work...

Welcome to parenthood.

Sneaky little things

It's funny, it really is.

We'll have put The Kid in bed when in about ten minutes I'd hear rustling coming from his bedroom. Going in to check I'll find him playing with the toys he's fetched from underneath his bed - tracks and bridges to his wooden train set. Or, if I don't hear the rustling, I may come to check on him later and he'd be fast asleep, cuddling the things.

Or The Girlie: we'll have walked past a puddle, saying, "No, don't jump. No jumping in puddle." And she's fine.

...but about 5 metres later she suddenly spins around!, and races back towards the puddle, adamant to get to it before we do.

Sneaky little things.

"Why are all these cars here?" The Man asked

It was surreal, seeing about 30 people on our front lawn. Even the rental agent looked somewhat stupefied.

They'd advertised on internet that our house was going to come up for rent soon and within days a whole load of people had registered for a viewing, and even more had shown up.

We kept showing them through, one after another, one after another, and when all was finally over we all kind of looked at each other with a stupid grin, thinking, "Holy hell."

"Did you expect that many people to want the place?" I asked the rental agent and she shook her head. No, absolutely not.

But people wanted it. Many of them said, apparently, that it's a nice neighbourhood and they want to live here.

And I thought, yeah. It's what I keep on thinking.

Old Invercargill locals have kept telling me that Appleby is a rough neighbourhood and that we should buy a house elsewhere (and we have, but not because we explicitly tried to - we just couldn't find a place here) and I don't see it. I like this place. I genuinely like this neighbourhood. It's next to city centre, walkable, large sections, large reserves alongside and like in many cities beforehand, I think Invercargill people are finally starting to come 'round to the idea that it's nice being near the centre.

In Auckland there used to be downtown suburbs which were the pit of the city, and now they are one of the highest price fetching suburbs instead. And okay, Invercargill is not Auckland and the 10-minute drive is not the hour-long commute aucklanders are doing - but still.

People are starting to want to live near the centre.

And, man!, I feel like we got in just in time...

Oh - okay. Cool!

Hmmm...

As a quantity surveying student, I get free access to ArchiCAD and CostX. Cool!

Now to figure out what other discounts are available :).

PS. Flight discounts to Europe would be awesome... but ain't going to happen. And to be honest, at the moment it looks like our idea of coming to Europe for Christmas (when we have summer holidays in New Zealand) ain't going to happen, either. The cheapest flights we can get hold of are $6,700 Auckland-London-Auckland, but with the added cost of Invercargill-Auckland-Invercargill, London-Estonia-London, and putting our dog in a kennel for a month, we're looking at $10,000 for a month-long time away and...

Yeah, ain't going to happen. Not at that price :/

So, see you in Estonia at about July 2018 then.

My favorite exercise on a trampoline

A snapshot into The Kid's activities

Yesterday, The Kid drew his first family portrait.

(One that I know of, anyway.)

How cool's that!

Let me introduce you, starting from left to right: The Girlie, The Kid, The Man, our dog, me, our "adopted" grandma in Christchurch, a family friend Krislin. (Krislin, by the way, are you still reading this blog? Because you are still included on our family portraits. And I still get asked when you're going to visit again.)

Because The Kid is my first child, and because I generally have such little experience with "what children do at what ages" and such little knowledge of how The Kid compares to other children his age, then to me it's just a cool fact of life that at 5 years old he drew this first portrait of his family.

...and meanwhile, he's able to assemble Lego toys like that:


Is that what other 5-year-olds do?

I don't know. But mine does :)

PS. I think we are starting to get... uhm... interested in Lego.

These are all our Lego sets, neatly divided into Systema containers.

It's a daily routine, getting out Lego.

PPS. And meanwhile at the gym:







Studying quantity surveying: why was it designed like that?

We got given a set of architectural drawings and the first task was simple: ask others something about the plan, and see if they can find it. An exercise in reading plans.

A whole lot of questions appeared on the whiteboard.

How many downpipes are there?
What kind of insulation is used in walls?
What's the width of foundation?
What's the roof pitch?
What are the max centres between roof trusses?


Except, as I was looking at the plans, the questions I actually wanted to ask were not to do with the building specification at all, but with the why-s of why would somebody design a house in this way to begin with.

Why are bedrooms 3 and 2 on the South side of the building where they get no sunlight?


Why would they place a hose tap on the side of the entrance if there aren't any other water fixtures nearby and they'd basically have to run a water pipe through the house for a garden hose tap alone?


I kept looking at the plan and frowning, but I eventually said to myself, come on, Maria, just look at the plans and work with it, and that's what I did.

Besides, it's a wrong class for asking such questions anyway :). We learn how how to measure materials, and how to read plans - the why-s and how-s of of this building is another man's territory.

Which is a shame, because I'd still like to know why someone would design a house like that.

PS. I'm starting to come across interesting architectural blogs, too. www.lifeofanarchitect.com/what-makes-you-a-designer is one of them.

Photos of late

When The Man makes pancakes, he doesn't want to make just pancakes.


***

It's starting to get more interesting at school!


(I ended up running from class to preschool today because we were so much into doing math that no-one noticed it was way past lunchtime, and my time to pick up the kids.)

***

The summer has arrived.













***

7th of March we're getting the keys. Two more weeks!

Christchurch's wildfires

In 2012-2014 I lived in Gebbies Pass near Christchurch and was well aware of the fire danger around the area. It's something we discussed several times with our neighbours, knowing that living uphill (on a steep slope) from an overgrown patch of pine forest meant that if there was a fire and the forest caught ablaze, the houses would probably go, too.

What the place looked like during a wet spring, with everything green.

On one occasion where there was a fire a few kilometres away and we woke in the morning to a smoky haze surrounding the house, we actually started quickly packing up, ready to leave, before confirming that the smoke was from far, far away.

Incidentally, the second place I lived in Christchurch in 2014-2016 was Cracroft, a small valley suburb in the bottom of the Port Hills.

A lot of you probably know where I am going with this.

Christchurch's Port Hills are currently on fire and it feels eerie to me that as I am scrolling through the photos on the news website, I actually know some of the people on them. Worsleys Road was part of our suburb, I know some of its residents, and so both places that I used to live in, in Christchurch, are closely connected to the current wildfires, making me very... emphatic, I guess, towards what's going on. (In fact, if I were still living in Cracroft, our house would be within the evacuation zone, meaning, I'd very likely be lodging with some friends or maybe at a motel at the moment.)

Not that there's much I can do from where I am sitting at the moment, in Invercargill, behind my kitchen table though.

Random things on a Thursday

The same gymnastics hall where my kids go for a weekly rough'n'tumble playing session runs similar classes for adults, twice a week.

And I'm not talking about gymnastics here - not the 'organised' kind, anyway. (The gym does run those, but I'm not attending one of those classes.) What I'm attending is a casual, twice-a-week, come-if-you-like session where people who aren't gymnasts come so they can learn things.

It feels awesome to have found it. I basically finish an hour and a half of 'doing stuff' (trampolines, mostly) and leave the building knackered out to a point that I don't even want to walk up the two steps to my house when I get back, but already I am looking forward to going again next week; and I've actually got blisters on my wrists from the trampoline.


It's like a... Maria bliss. I get to use a well-equipped gymnastics hall, do it in my own time, not even have to share it with that many people and when I arrive, my trainer asks me, "So, what would you like to work on today?" and then he teaches me those things.

Like... huh?

Awesome :)

PS. And by the way, yes, I do struggle to use my neck and muscles in general the next day.

***

The first week of school means running through basic math principles so our tutor can gage where everyone is with their math skills, and make sure that when we get into architectural plans there isn't anyone lifting their arm up and asking, "Uhm, excuse me, but what's a pythagoras?"

Which means that for the moment I do assignments the likes of "Little Johnny mows lawns at 50 cents per square metre".


It's like being back in high school.

***

The Kid has asked me to make him a tiger tail for the longest time, so last week I walked into a second hand shop with the idea of buying an orange t-shirt that I can cut sleeves off, and then making those sleeves into two 'tiger tails'. One for The Kid, one for The Girlie.

And I did.

I really did make those tails.

But in addition to those tails I also got The Kid 1) an entire tiger costume and a 2) tiger-shaped hat because, well, second hand shops sell cool stuff and it's only a few dollars, so, yeah: here's what you can see in our home quite often now.



***

I know it's only the beginning of the school year, so it's probably going to calm down a lot, but... Invercargill is actually quite a lively place with all these students milling about.


I like it!

***

I have given notice on our current rental house. On the 7th of March we are getting the keys to our new home.

!!!

Quantity surveying: first day at school

I started school yesterday.

Because architectural techology and quantity surveying both "sit" under the same department and in part, we even share some of our classes, then for the introductory day - yesterday - they had us all in the same room. Easier and more effective, I guess.

Part of the introduction involved meeting most of our tutors who would tell us a bit about themselves and what they were going to teach us.

One of those guys was a man who would teach architectural technology students manual drafting, as in, creating building plans with a pencil, on a large drawing board, on paper - as opposed to AutoCAD or ArchiCAD which is drafting on a computer screen and is taught by another person.

It's one of those classes I would be very interested in taking, except I can't - not this year, anyway. I have other classes at the same time, and I am trying to keep school to minimum this year anyway whilst my son is only just settling into school and could do with my support; but I will probably try getting onto it another year. I have passion towards manual drawing (I had very basic classes on that in high school, and I still "doodle" houseplans in my diary when I sit in doctors' waiting rooms and such) and besides, the guy who teaches it came across like a very cool character!

He was introduced by my main tutor as a guy "who is probably the best you could find in Southland and Otago", and he sounded like that, too. Picky, strict, but with a sense of humor.

I liked the guy straight away.

Which is why in the end of his talk, I asked him: so, say I show up on Thursday morning and my class isn't on that day because Graham is ill or whatever. Would it be acceptable, given that you guys will be right next door, that I come join your class for that day, given that I am at school anyway and haven't got else to do? 

I assured him that I understand the concept of him being there for the actual enrolled students, so even if I did join I wouldn't be allowed to bug them. (But would it be okay for me to drop in? You know, sometimes? See what they do, maybe learn a thing or two?)

His answer made me laugh.

He said that, sure, as long as there is a spare board available and I don't disturb the class, I am allowed to drop in. However - and that's the bit that made me grin, and then laugh - I may not enjoy it very much because being a quantity surveying student my brain probably works much differently to the ones of architecture students.

He said - and he grinned whilst saying it, too - that if buildings were designed by quantity surveyors rather than architects, we would live in cities of box-shaped cubes. They're easier to build, and cheaper. There would be no Sydney Opera House, he said, and no *mentions two other buildings I am not even aware of*. They're two very differently approached disciplines, and require people with two very different approaches. A quantity surveyor is there to keep the projects within budget and effective, an architect is there to bring passion to our living environments.

Quantity surveyors need to be very good with math, he said, so I may not find the drawing board very enjoyable; but I can try if I wish.

I laughed. "Thanks for that!" I said and he laughed, too.

I bet I will drop in more often than he expects me to.

;)

In reply to Melissa

I cannot comment on Melissa's post Raising Kiwi Boys - The Good, The Bad and The Muddy since I haven't got a Facebook account. But! If I did, I'd say this:

Nix would either get along really well, or REALLY not get along, with my daughter. The loud, exasperatingly independent, talkative and stubborn little monkey who both makes me want to cry sometimes and at other times gives the most wonderful hugs... until she runs off on another adventure, ready to spill things on the carpet, rip wallpaper off walls, pick dirt out of plant pots, feed Lego blocks to our dog and just, generally, impose destruction. Except, whilst doing that she will wear pink tutu skirts and will occasionally go kiss her toys, saying to them loudly, "I love you!" A fascinating character, basically, and amen! to having a child like that second - because if I'd had her first, I'm not sure I would've had another one.

The joys of parenting

The wonderful time when all the washing is caught up with - nothing in the washing machine, nothing in the laundry basket, nothing on the line.

All 45 minutes of it.

Happens about once a year and in true celebratory style, feels like a massive achievement not to be underestimated.

#one_day_I_will_wash_less_than_ten_loads_a_week_but_it's_not_today_yet

And may I get an amen for 7 pm when the kids are in bed and the house is finally quiet. What an absolute bliss!

And what an absolute mayhem 5:30 pm can be.

Amen.

That sneaky little urchin

The Man has a pair of socks with colourful prints on them.

I guess The Girlie likes them, because today I found them stashed away in The Girlie's sock drawer.

***

I put The Girlie's purple pants in the laundry basket, ready to be washed tomorrow.

I guess she disagreed with it, because about ten minutes later, as I was looking through her wardrobe, I found... her purple pants neatly put away on the pants shelf.

***

And don't even get me started on the screaming she does when I take off her pink dress and try putting it in the washing machine. "NOOOOOOOO!" she screams bloody murder, trying to rip the dress away from me, and I have to explain, yet again, that she cannot wear that same pink dress all the time. We wash clothes occasionally, I say to her, it'll be nice and clean again in a day or two.

But no. "NOOOOOO!" she continues screaming, "I wanna wear it!!! I WANNA WEAR IT NOW!!!"

***

When people see us and say to The Girlie, "Oh, you look so much like your mummy!" I get a little grin on my face and think to myself, yeah, sounds about right.

Grandmothers, love your granddaughters, because they'll revenge your daughters - as one of my mom's friends used to say.

I think she's doing pretty well at the moment. I mean, I'm not keeping score, but... there's definitely my genes in that thing, given the stories that have been told about my childhood, and the stuff that she does now.

I.
Myself.
No.
Now!

These are probably the four most used words in her vocabulary, and she's got a pretty extensive vocabulary given her age, by the way.

Welcome to parenthood

I dedicate this post to all the people who are thinking of having children.

***

It was about 3:30 PM when me and The Man woke from our leisurely Sunday nap and I thought to myself, what an ideal day for napping. Hot and humid, it had been well deserved by all.

I felt awesome.

Somewhere in the other room, we could hear The Kid tinkering away with something, playing quietly on his own, and I said to The Man, isn't it cool to have children old enough that when they wake up from their nap, rather than scream out, "Mom! Dad!" they keep themselves busy so that their parents can have time to wake up too.

The Man agreed. The Kid is such a wonderful kid, after all, and it did feel awesome to be able to lay in bed and come to it, gradually.

Eventually, we got up from the bed though and The Man started walking down the hallway towards the toilet so he could empty his bladder.

And that's when I heard it.

"Dear gods!?" The Man shouted from down the hallway somewhere, "What are you doing!?" and I thought to myself, man, this oughta be good. I walked down the hallway, too, and looked around expectantly.

And then I saw it.

This quiet "tinkering" The Kid had been keeping himself occupied with had, in fact, been The Man's bike in the laundry room. The Kid had taken off the bike's chain, had spread black oil around his face and his forearms, there was oil on the door and the walls, gritty oil spread around the floor.

We marched him in the bathroom and started cleaning him up, but mind you: The Kid has both legs in a cast at the moment. He is not allowed to get wet. 

And so imagine me, and The Man, cleaning him up with wet wipes and water, and shower gel.

It was a two-man job, and it took a while.

***

Once it was all done I said to The Man, hey, do you also find it amusing how we'd been talking in the bed how wonderful it is to have kids who are old enough to go play on their own when they wake up, and meanwhile, he'd been doing this.

***

Kids are awesome.

So totally, totally awesome.

Almost there

The part of the house buying process where money is starting to leave bank accounts. Today about $1,000 went for the home insurance, next week about $1,400 is going to go to a lawyer. There are retirement funds we are going to empty to pay for this privilege, and savings accounts we've already moved over to checking so we can access the money.

By the time all is said and done I expect there will be less than $5,000 to our bank accounts, but we'll have a home, and a very manageable mortgage on a more than 20% deposit, so we're just going for it, full steam, and one day I will be able to pronounce, "We've bought a house!"

But until then, I don't dare say it. I won't say, "We've bought a house!" until my name is on that property title, and all of this is over, even if on the fence of that house already hangs a large sign, SOLD!

Because even now, it's still not straightforward. I needed to sign the insurance contract today before we could proceed to buying, but insurance wouldn't give out a contract to more than 30 days ahead of time - and our timeline is 35.

But I couldn't wait. There is another person wanting to buy the same house, and if I wait any more days, our offer is going to expire and theirs is going to win, so I just said to the insurance, fine, we're doing 30! and they ran it past some of their supervisors, and agreed to go ahead - essentially giving out an insurance contract on a house I won't know for sure I will have in 30 days yet - and now I am waiting to hear back from the seller's end if they would move the date closer, because once timelines are given to retirement funds for withdrawals, dates cannot be changed, they're set.

As in, set.

And, basically, one day we are going to have a house.

But not yet.

Soon.

Wow this thing is more involving than I expected.

The cheeky little urchin

In an attempt to convince my daughter to poop on the toilet I have struck a deal with her: if she does it on the toilet, I give her a scoop of ice cream.

But she's an intelligent little bugger, isn't she.

So yesterday we were having stew for dinner, and she didn't like it. "No, yucky!" she was exclaiming, "Me no like! I don't want (s)teeeeeeew. Yucky!" And after a bit of that whinging she suddenly goes quiet, gets that "A ha!" look on her face, starts grinning and says to me: "I get ice cream! I want poop on the toilet." :D

And promptly gets down from the kitchen table, marches off to the toilet and squeezes for all life to get poop out.

And I look at her and cannot help but think, "You cheeky little urchin :)."

A story I wrote

I am part of an Invercargill writers' group that meets every second Wednesday. An interesting bunch of people!

Last time a writing assignment was put out: that everyone should write a story about two friends who have a "patch" of something between them, and how over the years that "patch" has influenced them and their relationship. Over the next few meetings those stories are going to be discussed.

Mine was discussed yesterday.

Given I am such a... non-fiction person: I read minimal amounts of fiction (as in, less than one fiction book a year! :/ Though I do consume loads of non-fiction of all sorts: blogs, feature articles, architecture books...) and I almost never write fiction (last time I can remember doing fiction was in a university assignment, ie year 2007), I was intrigued with how it would turn out.

Well... I think it actually turned out pretty well :). Full of typos and changes of tenses, but still!

PS. It was funny how these Invercargill writers had never come across a concept of a tree between two houses used for climbing from one window to another. But had this writers' group taken place in Sweden or Estonia where many children have read Astrid Lindgren's the children of Bullerby, I bet most of them would've said, oh, it's like that Bullerby tree!


A STORY THAT I HAVEN'T EVEN TITLED

The tree has stood there for as long as they can remember. 

In fact, it has stood there even longer than that: the previous owners had it planted when the section was still in one lot, and once they'd subdivided and sold, and new houses were built, it had still been left to grow. For over thirty years it's grown, to a point where now there is a tree smack-bang in the middle of a fenceline, sandwiched between two houses only 6 metres apart, and if it weren't for the boys it would've been taken down years ago.

But it hasn't, because it's a blessing - in disguise, but blessing nevertheless.

The tree - as it's affectionately know amongst the families, THE tree - reaches its branches in through to one window and out to another. It's like an air-bridge, a direct line of traffic from one upstairs bedroom to the other, and boys use it as such. Rather than walk down the stairs, out the house, onto the street, in through the other house, up the stairs and into the bedroom, they just open their window, climb onto the branches, cross the tree and knock on the other window to be let in.

But here's a thing: recently a couple of things were noticed that have made the tree somewhat... suspicious to the families. It hasn't held its leafs that well any more, it's had several attacks of worms on it, it's been, generally, just looking kind of "out of it". That's why one of the dads looked into talking to an arborist and seeing what they say.

And that's where the problem lay.

The tree is ill. It's been ill for a long time, but no-one's noticed it until this year when the final stage of damage has been starting to show through the loss of leaves etc, and the fact of the matter is, the tree is on its way out. There is nothing anyone can do about it other than to take it down to spare it the fate of being taken down by wind instead and damaging the houses as it does.

It's treated like a tragedy, which from the point of view of the boys, it is, too. For over ten years they've been clambering its branches, ignorant of the blessing that has been bestowed upon their friendship by this magnificent being. Or... ignorant is not the right word, actually. Oblivious. Unsuspecting. Kind of like children whose parents die young and who before that had never even thought of parents being able to die young and leaving them behind, but who do, and now they're, like, "Huh?"

The boys are aghast. All sorts of replacement options are talked through, from cable-driven trolleys, kind of, to playground-like wooden towers connected by a climbing pole, to planting a new tree which would not grow big enough until their own sons - if they ever have any - are big enough to use it, and even then it's not sure its branches would point in the right directions, which is to basically say, the thing is treated like a tragedy and it is not an overstatement that it is because... it is. A tragedy.

From about two weeks time they'll be, when wanting to see each other, have to walk down the stairs, out the house, out the gate, onto the street, in the other gate, in the other house, up the other stairs and occasionally, they'll even be allowed to mutter under their breath that why do people even need fences to keep each others dogs out of each others gardens but... let's leave that for someone else to boil over because the saddest part of this story is actually yet to come.

***

It does not become apparent until years later that the downfall of this friendship had its beginnings in an old, rotten tree. And how would it? The boys, diligently, walked each others staircases and used each others doors like the rest of the normal people do, and continued their friendship, for a long time.

But it wasn't the same. Ever since that tree came down, it just never. Was. The Same. Again.

Never.

In bits and pieces, their relationship to each other deteriorated, and relationships with other people started to take over instead. In small increments, almost too little to even bother adding up, it would - would add up, over time. They would want to go see each other but not bother making the trip because it's too late in the day, or too early, or they don't feel like putting shoes on but the tarmac on the street gets sticky when the sun's hot. They'd think of spending time together, but they wouldn't - time and time again.

And then, of course, the inevitable landmarks of modern people's lives would intervene, too, like they always do. The boys would graduate high school and head off to different universities, as you do, and set up lives in different towns, as you do.

And maybe, in the end, it wouldn't have made that big of a difference. Even if the tree had been left standing, healthy, and provided that air-bridge for two boys, ages only two months apart, who loved knocking on each other's window for yet another mischievous enterprise - maybe it wouldn't have made a difference, because from the day the tree came down they only had three more years left in their homes before heading off to universities and lives changing ever-more-rapidly anyway.

But...

But...

As Tom stood on the street, looking towards the two houses that had, by now, been sold a long time ago, whilst both the boys respective parents had headed off to different retirement homes, he couldn't help but tear up and mutter under his breath angrily because... whilst that tree had been standing, it had been a light to his life, especially if overlooking the fence maintenance due to constant movement of the bloody tree as it grew - it had been a light, and he'd never pictured himself standing on the street, old and weathered, with Jason dead, and thinking, you f*ckin' tree. Maybe, if you'd been standing for just a five or six years longer, maybe Jason would've headed off to a different university, or not taken up that f*ckin' surfboarding, or just...

Jason's dead. And you f*ckin' tree.