Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kiwified


It's official - we're becoming Kiwified.
How do I know this?
- I no longer bristle uncomfortably when the lovely ladies at our local New World tease out my life story, flick through my magazine and comment on the latest gossip, and remark on the products I'm buying, all while processing my groceries. What at first seemed weird and intrusive, feels quite normal now, and their happiness is infectious. I always leave the supermarket with a smile on my face (even though the bill is usually quite scary).
- The kids say: 'Sweet as!" local slang for "Cool" or "Fab". And C. calls thongs 'jandals'.
- C. hardly ever wears shoes and it no longer bothers me. (He fits in with his mates).
- I've become quite the demon driver. You have to be to survive Auckland traffic (and pedestrians for that matter!)
- I no longer have hysterics when the kids go crazy in parks and playgrounds. I'm resigned to the sight of roundabouts, monkey bars, climbing frames and slippery slides now. Sure, they come home with a few more scratches and bruises than they used to, but there have been no serious injuries yet. (Touch wood).
- And here's the big one: I'm starting to like the accent!
Some things take getting used to though.
- The kids are constantly nagging me to let them walk to and from school on their own, because so many of their friends do. Call me a helicopter parent, but at 8 and 6, crossing busy city roads (with the aforementioned crazy drivers), alone? That's not going to be happening any time soon.
- The kids are constantly nagging me to let them take public transport on their own. Again, because so many of their friends do.
- And I'm amazed at how many children their age are left home alone until their parents get home from work.
I guess Auckland feels a lot like growing up in country Queensland did. When I was a girl, Mum would often nip out to the shops and tell us to lock the door and not answer if strangers came knocking. We rode our bikes to and from school on our own. We played on equipment now deemed dangerous by Australian authorities, understandably leery of legal action. And no real harm ever came to us. (Unless we were naughty and Mum got the strap out!)
Of course, Auckland's city centre is much like any other city - full of busy workers, impatient drivers, dusty streets, drunks, drug users and homeless people. But move just a few kilometres away, and the pace is more relaxed, the people friendlier, and life that little more laid back than we're used to back home.
And luckily, we like it.






Weeeeeeee!






C. being sick after one too many spins on the roundabout. Would you believe he got straight back on?


One of the playgrounds at school. The kids use these like slippery slides.











Er no, it's not an instrument of torture, it's part of the playground.












Sunday, March 29, 2009

A change of season

We’ve been enjoying the cooler weather so far, with mainly crystal clear days, and chilly mornings and nights.
The novelty has not been lost on the kids, who, growing up in Brisbane, had never really been exposed to changing seasons. (At home it’s hot, damn hot, and stinking hot!)
“Mumma, why are the leaves changing colour?” Harmonie exclaims regularly, before jumping into a pile of them with delight. (Luckily, we don’t need to worry about the dangers of snakes here. Needles though, might be another matter!)
And the discovery that she could see her breath at school the other morning, sparked much huffing, puffing and laughter.
When the cooler weather struck, I was reminded how fast the kids have been growing. Pant legs are suddenly too short, tops and jumpers too tight. So we picked up Husband after work the other night, and headed out for an emergency shopping expedition.
C. was so happy with his new raincoat/jacket that he’s been practically living in it! Missy got a few new things too. Only Husband and I missed out!
At home, we’ve been continuing our taste testing of all things Kiwi. Join us on our culinary adventure...

Like Father, Like Son...
C. takes after his Dadda and loves to cook. Here, he's making Breakfast Tortillas.










The proof is in the eating!













H's new dress says: I Dance Till I Get Dizzy.
So true! (Thanks Nana!)





Apple and Feijoa juice
(Feijoa is also known as pineapple guava)


We tasted these in the supermarket the other day, and since the kids loved them, I bought some to accompany the roast I did the other night. Delicious! (Much nicer than Kumera Chips!)


H. enjoying the kids' current favourite ice-block here, Goody Goody Gum Drops.


They consist of bubble-gum flavoured ice-cream with lollies inside and covered with chocolate. All part of a balanced diet...)


L & P, the national drink. Made with underground spring water from Paeroa, it's like lemonade but more refreshing. Luckily for me, there are sugar-free versions too.






Showing off their new warm clothes.





Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fancy a Hot Cross Bum?


I'm still loving Auckland, where a trip to the supermarket is always an adventure.
Spotted some really funny spelling mistakes the other day and allowed myself a chortle.
Hot Cross Bum anyone? (After all, the Easter Bummy will be here soon...)
How about some beef mice? (Damn, must be fresh out of rats!)












There's always something happening too. Tastings of ice-cream, cheese, wine, beer and fizzy drinks. Free cheerios for the kids everytime we go to the deli. And face painting. (Well, sometimes).


And there are always new tastes to experience. Pinky is a popular chocolate bar over here. It's basically chocolate with a sweet pink goo in the middle. So of course, there are Pinky Easter Eggs. They have pineapple-lump ones too.






And the other day, we found and tried Kiwi Berries.
They're like soft miniature kiwi fruit, without the fuzz, and are totally delicious. Even nicer than Hot Cross Bums!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Flu, Fire and Rain


The Little Dude finally went back to school today, after nearly a week off school thanks to flu. We've both been miserable together, with red noses, hacking cough, and aching bodies, heads and faces. Though overall the kids have been healthier since we moved here, Husband and I certainly seem to be coming down with more bugs more often. And when we do get sick - any of us - it certainly hits us hard.
Hence, we're making an effort to be healthier: getting plenty of exercise, eating well, and drinking less alcohol. (Yep, even wine. Haven't you noticed there have been no Wines of the Week lately?)
However, yesterday at the supermarket, my love for a bargain found me purchasing a bottle of Montana Pinot Gris, which came with a free keyring. And since Husband had just been been awarded with a pretty important and hard-to-get qualification for work, there was cause to celebrate. (He's so clever!)
The wine, blended from Gisborne and Hawke's Bay vineyards, was aromatic and delightfully pineappley (is that a word?) It was accompanied by K's famous Japanese Curry and steamed rice. Perfect.
Best of all, Husband chose to toast his achievement with a NZ beer, so there was more for me!
In other news, we're constantly being caught out by Auckland's impulsive weather!
For example, as we left for work and school this morning, the sky was clear and blue. By the time we reached school, a few minutes away, it was raining. "Just a sun shower" said K hopefully. By the time we reached K's work, another five minutes on, the skies burst! Rain hammered down, traffic became chaotic, the skies turned dark, and there was flash-flooding all over the roads. It was horrid!
Just two hours later, the skies cleared. Now we're having a sunny summer-like day, without a cloud in the sky. By this evening it will probably be hot and humid, and the kids will be pestering me for a swim!
As I type this blog, sirens are going off and we're surrounded by fire engines and fire fighters. The building at the front of our complex houses several companies, as well as a gourmet kitchen which runs regular cooking classes. Apparently, someone left the stove on overnight and the place caught fire.
The building was evacuated, with the workers all hanging around on the lawn outside our townhouse while they waited for the all-clear.
What's really funny is that I was completely oblivious until the plumber arrived to fix our broken loo (that's another story!), and brought me up to speed on the drama unfolding just outside our door. Looks like I'm so used to sirens going off in the city, that I tune them out.
Maybe I'm turning into a true Aucklander?
Note: It did turn out to be humid and warm that night. Talk about Four Seasons In One Day ...





Sunday, March 15, 2009

A not-so-lost weekend

So, we were supposed to go for another glorious stay away at a bach this weekend.
The Getaway Angel must have been looking after us, because halfway between planning our weekend, K. mentioned casually that he felt like he was coming down with something.
Having lost a deposit the last time we planned a weekend away due to sickness – this time the Princess’s – I decided I’d leave booking until the last minute, so we could make sure all would be well.
It was a good call. Because, as it turns out, K. was fine, but at 5 am on Friday, a moaning, shivery, pale-faced C. woke me with a raging fever, aches and pains, and sore throat.
So instead of packing up and heading to the car, H. was packed off to school, while C. spent the day mostly in bed, even having two daytime naps – which was so unlike him, we knew he was ill! I felt gradually worse myself during the day, and by evening knew Number One Son had thoughtfully shared his illness with me (having crept into bed with me the night before, while K. was still fighting battles on WOW. Sneaky monster!)
So the pair of us spent most of the weekend watching kids’ TV and DVDs, shivering, sweating and/or napping in our beds, while H. and K. went shopping, bought in snacks, and enjoyed quality computer time together. Every so often C. would pipe up miserably: 'I'm sorry Mumma, that I gave you my sickness.' And I would lie that it was perfectly okay.
Best of all, H. stayed well away from C. (meaning no fighting), because as she pointed out: 'I don't want The Sickness!'
Okay, it wasn’t exactly a weekend away, but I guess some pretty important Family Bonding went on anyway!
It's just another Auckland sunrise
(best if sung to: It's just another Manic Monday by the Bangles.)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Happy little campers

This week, Missy’s class enjoyed a Camp Day. It was kind of 'The Camp You Have Without Having A Camp'.
Basically, they did all the fun stuff involved with camping, without the trauma of parents and teachers having to stay overnight.
The teachers put out a call for parent volunteers, and I was happy (kind of) to lend a hand.
Though I love my kids, spending time with other peoples’ offspring has never been a strong point. But gradually, the rugrats and their desire to have me join in on events like these, have converted me. I love that working part-time gives me the opportunity of getting involved, and learning more about their teachers and friends. Who would’ve thought it? Maybe I’m finally turning into a real Grown-Up Mumma?
Tents were erected, marshmallows were toasted, and a variety of feel-good outdoor activities enjoyed – parachute games, swimming, potato and spoon races, and a treasure hunt. With a sausage sizzle for lunch, and a movie and ice-block in the afternoon, the Grade Two kids were certainly happy little campers.
That evening? Missy slept well, and I did too, after a few medicinal wines. (Well, I had the wine. Miss H. had milk!)
I love our Auckland school. There are a huge variety of schools in NZ, and we were lucky to find one which is warm and caring, a lot like the school they went to back home.
In NZ, every child apparently has the right to attend a school close to where they live. The idea being that they can walk there if they want to, make loads of friends in the same neighbourhood, and feel more a part of the community.
And I love the idea too, except that it can be stressy for parents, because you can only send kids to certain schools if you live in the right 'zone'.
For example, when we moved here, we had to find a place to live which we could afford, which was convenient to work, but also was near a good school. And now, because the property we're renting is going on the market soon, we are faced with having to move again before the end of the year. And there is no way I want to uproot my kids again and take them to yet another school!
Clearly, we will be moving heaven and earth not to move … at least not far away.
Here are some of the things I love about our Kiwi school:
- Our kids get to drink filtered cold water throughout the day. (Unlike the crappy first state school my eldest attended in Brisbane, where the cranky teacher wouldn’t let them drink in 36 degrees celcius temperatures! That was one of the reasons we turned to a small private school in Brisbane…)
- The kids get to call teachers by their first names – even the principal. They get lots of hugs too! - There is no tuck shop. Kids can order healthy Subway sandwiches if parents haven’t had time to prepare a packed lunch, and it’s delivered later in the day. There are no cookies, pies, sausage rolls, home-made cakes, supposedly-healthy ice-blocks or the like. My kids get Subway at school once a week if they are lucky. And the system totally ends the pestering-for-money for treats at school drop-off in the mornings.
- Exercise is a priority. The kids exercise at school every day – swimming three times a week for H, twice a week for C. First thing each morning, there is Jump Jam (like aerobics to the latest hits) for H; C. does a more grown-up workout including stretches and running.
- Kids are not just allowed, but encouraged to climb trees! The playgrounds are challenging, fun, and for this Mum, slightly scary. (Would you believe they still have monkey bars? Really high monkey bars?) And once they hit grade 5, the kids learn to ride unicycles!
- All the teachers have laptops, and parents can communicate with them by email during the day. I just got an email from C’s teacher, telling him to get well soon and hopefully she’ll see him on Monday. (He came down with flu this morning).
- There’s a healthy attitude to food. Though foods like chocolates and lollies are banned, there are still fundraising days about once a term where they can buy a treat, like ice-blocks, home-baked goodies, or in the case of Missy’s camp day, toasted marshmallows and a sausage sizzle.
- The Maori culture is incorporated into daily school life and is part of the curriculum, in a way that indigenous culture is not celebrated back home. I love listening to our kids singing and speaking Maori, and that they can help me when I'm stuck with difficult pronunciations.
Sometimes I feel it's tough on the kids, having to learn two lots of vowel sounds and words, but then I guess it's no different to learning any other language at school either!
- Our school has kids (and teachers) from more than 20 different countries on the roll, so C. and H. are learning a healthy respect for and appreciation of other cultures, before official lessons even begin.
- They don't wear a uniform. Now usually, I'm all for uniforms. But in our case, it saved us a load of money when we arrived here, (having just shelled out big time back in Brisbane), and it also means the kids get plenty of wear out of their clothes.
The kids wanted me to share a few photos with you ...





Ready for school...





The leafy grounds





One of the many murals around school created by the children themselves












C's classroom has the latest in state-of-the-art furniture for kids. The ergonomic chairs are flexible and help support their growing bones.

They keep their books and pens in this file which lifts out when they need them






H. was so excited I could help out at Camp Day! Here, she's eating a sausage sanger for lunch.





Tents for Camp Day








Toasted marshmallow squashed between two biscuits. Missy declared it delicious!


Potato and spoon race - an interesting take on the traditional egg and spoon.






Sunday, March 8, 2009

Don't drink and fry


I've said it before and I'll say it again - shopping is always an interesting experience in Auckland.
Spotted in the meat section was this interesting piece of marketing: Don't drink and fry. It's a nod to the number of casualties across New Zealand, particularly in the warmer months, when Kiwis throw a couple of mussels, prawns and sausages on the barbie, crack open a few beers, and suddenly have a fire on their hands!
On a more positive note, we're still enjoying the outdoors and fitting in plenty of outdoor exercise while we can before the cooler weather begins in Earnest. A walk in Auckland is always interesting,
because you never know what you might stumble across. Spotted in Ponsonby: An ad for a missing unicorn... Missy immediately was hopeful we would find it!
On Sunday, we did something which we haven't done for a while, and went out for breakfast. The kids are loving Auckland food, as you can see here! (That's C. tucking into bacon and cheese omelette and grain toast).
Later, Miss H. had a date at a birthday party for one of her school friends. The mum had organised for Kids Party Nails to take care of the activity, which involved a beauty therapist coming in and painting the very excited posse of girls' fingernails. There were also other nail-themed activities, and the kids all took a goodie-bag home of
fingernail polish and the like. Looks like, we'll have a high standard to live up to for the next
round of birthdays!




Paradise for little girls




























The finished product - H's painted nails.








Overwhelmed with happiness!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I can jump puddles!

Summer is officially over, and we knew it on the weekend, when a front of wet, windy weather covered the North Island.
“Mumma is it getting to night time?” H. kept asking, gazing in wonder at the bleak skies. We couldn’t even see the Skytower!
A visit to the park was out of the question, and we didn’t fancy going anywhere in the car. But with kids bouncing off the walls, I decided on a novel idea: A walk in the rain!
The wind had died down by mid-morning, and you would have thought I’d suggested a visit to the zoo, the kids were so excited.
Umbrellas and shoes were fetched in record time, and before we knew it, we were walking up the hill to Ponsonby.
H. kept jumping and shrieking with happiness every time the wind threatened to carry her and her umbrella away, Mary Poppins-like. And C., wearing his funky wheel shoes and skating in the wet, couldn’t get the grin off his face.
I couldn’t believe such a simple activity could give them so much pleasure. But then, these are true blue Queensland kids, where rain is a limited commodity!
As well as puddle jumping and screaming, we did something we’d been meaning to do since we moved here: Joined the local library. It’s in a rambling old building, and the kids’ section is incredibly warm and welcoming with big cushions, comfy chairs, a couple of colourful tables, and giant toys scattered around the place. We spent a pleasant hour or so, reading books and choosing a few to take home.
C. also grabbed a couple of Playstation games, while Missy contented herself with a DVD – perfect for a rainy weekend.
On Sunday, no one felt like cooking, so we broke with tradition. Instead of our usual Sunday Roast, Husband, accompanied by a beaming H. picked up some takeaway from our favourite fisho, Oceans, at the Auckland Fish Market.
I swear, the fish practically jumps from the water and into the fryer there. It’s delicious!
C. has developed a great fondness for NZ snapper and terahiki, and demolished his dinner with relish. Actually, who am I kidding? We all did.
During the week, I’ve been continuing my exploration of Kiwi foods. (By the way, the Flattos? Juicy, sweet, and very yummy. But I think I prefer the normal-sized peaches, much easier to peel for fussy kids).
Anyway, doing the shopping, I spotted this spiky strange fruit next to the watermelon and kiwifruit. It was labelled “Kiwiana” so of course, I bought one to try.
We haven’t tasted it yet, but I’ll let you know!

Missy spotted these at the fish market.
"Poor lobsters," she told K. "They look sad. Can we take one home and eat it?"

Hmm...somehow I don't think being eaten is going to make the lobsters any happier!