Tuesday, July 28, 2009

that pumpkin

Jed and i planted these organic pumpkin seeds and entrusted them to the wonderful Hew the housesitting friend while we were based in Fiji a month. They survived and thrived on our baking hot deck and I helped Jed plant them out in the garden and every day we’d watch their progress. Jed was proud. He’d take visitors by the hand and drag them down to show them. It got very exciting when the fruit started developing and Jed carrying the pumpkin up to the house was a big day.

This pumpkin lived on our outside table since harvest time. In pride of place, where we could see it every day. It’s been sat on, painted, been used as a weight many a windy night, caressed many a quiet moment and it even survived the big feelings of being rolled off the table. (Jed wanted to see if it would roll, fair enough, exploring is his job afterall)

And last week brought another big day in the life of pumpkin. Or ‘punk punk’ as Jed used to call it in his younger days. Cuttin’ time!

Pumpkin soup, warm pumpkin quinoa and spinach salad, pumpkin pizza and still half a pumpkin left. Wondrous things, pumpkins. Easy to grow, they store for months and months without preserving, taste great and you can cook them in so many ways. Oh yes, and some varietys survive heavy attentions from little people for months and still make it to the kitchen for eating. I love the connection to what we eat by growing it. I love that Jed learns where food really comes from.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

buddha in captivity

She was so serene and wise looking, one hand resting on a round tum, the other fingers reaching out to touch Jed's, their eyes meeting. Jed turned around and said ' Mama, look, like the buddha, she buddha'.

Call me a radical but i never thought i’d see the day i would go to the zoo. Other than to lobby for better conditions (or freedom) for the animals or stage an anti-fur demo. Then i became a mama. It does strange things to a person. Jed and i went on an adventure into town and went to the zoo. I was torn between absolute awe at those beautiful creatures and feeling very honoured to be up close and somewhat personal with them, and then deep sadness that they weren’t in the wild. I am a freedom freak, partly reformed, but still...i feel for them. I talk about how we humans treat animals with Jed. Hopefully in a simple way that is pertinent to the moment.
I still go around about whether the educational aspects or saving species through breeding programs arguments really justify animals in captivity. Gut feeling? Probably not. That didn’t stop my mouth from dropping open to be a metre away from that glorious mama tiger having a nap in the sun, or laughing our asses off at the elephant taking the hose off its keeper to give itself a drink and the keeper a wee squirt, or share a look of wonder many many times that morning with my son. Perhaps the important thing is that we do ask these questions and keep talking about it. One of those paradoxes i am learning to make my peace with i guess. Or perhaps deciding if i CAN make peace with it. Hmm. Deep thoughts for a very tired person.

Friday, July 24, 2009

oh excitement (of the sewer's variety)

I bought this fabric to make part of a Jed birthday present but it seems fitting to use a snippet here.

Oh excitement. A new love in my life. My sister had kindly lent me her machine. I embarked on sewing all manner of things immediately, including a wee range of little kid trousers. And then she started making noises about repossessing it and it responded by skipping stitches. Turns out she’s never used it since buying it off trademe and well, shame on my empty pockets but i didn’t want to get it serviced. So, i looked and looked and bid wisely on the aforesaid trademe and found this wee beauty. For a snippet of what i’d seen in the stores. He he. Not sure why that is such a thrilling feeling for me, but it is.

One sewing machine cover. With pockets to stuff those vital little sewing bits.

Rules upon taking ownership of ‘new’ machine, is to sew something for myself first. I dug through my modest fabric stash (re-purposed fabric mainly) and used the hideous plastic cover the machine came with as a model for the new sewing machine cover. It sews like a dream. It’s owner needs some more sleep to be as good, but you get that.

Ta da!
A brother 2500. I had entertained fantasies of a metal bodied professional machine (and overlocker, and, and..) but reality prevailed. This does all i need - for now.
About those small person trousers: Just hemming the first batch. Stay tuned. Most of our clothes are second hand but i do buy the occasional special thing new. I have a tall small person and i tired of seeing his ankles peep out of every pair of trousers. I kept hearing friends winge about not being able to find toddler trousers that accommodated a nappy when necessary, were comfortable to wear and hardwearing and were groovy looking. So, i have taken it up on myself to create them. I need to generate some income from home so i can continue to be present for Jed and this is one way i can do that. (Then there are the bags. But more about those later.)

Ahem, busted. Ours being a small house, i pack my sewing stuff away after each session and yes, i take over my son's wee table and chairs as a workspace when he sleeps. Hey, you do what you can.

Jed now has enough mama made trousers to see him through the winter. He gets to wear the prototypes. Trousers aside, i have a pile of fabric and BIG plans.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The zone

One of the artist's in residence...deep in the zone in his 'studio'
I love setting him up with what he needs and stepping back to give him space and see what unfolds.
We got a new-old easel/blackboard/magnetic board, add a bit of duct tape and we're away. I love duct tape.

Just need to find cups that fit into the holes. We are using recycled coffee cups until then.

It was the longest ever stint using brushes..then the hands go in.

mmmmm, painting
I love the creative process. Whether it be baking (with a little creative elaboration weaving in and out of the recipe – of course!), painting, sewing, writing (especially writing) even gardening or building a hut can get me in the zone. The zone. That place you go when you are completely absorbed in creating. I find as i make something, anything, the world drops away and as i work, so do the frustrations and any tension i carry. My shoulders loosen, my neck falls into its correct alignment, my back straightens up. It’s a kind of yoga.

Jed does it in play. Pretty much anything can get him into the zone - exploring the feeling of bubbles in the bath, painting, watching a bug, eating. He and the other small people in my life are great reminders of the importance of dwelling in the zone from time to time. We adults forget the healing potential of the zone. I certainly can get caught up in the logistics of mamahood.

Every evening after i come downstairs from bearing witness to Jed’s descent into sleep, i am usually tired. If i start making, creating, or dreaming up the next project i get a second wind of energy that refreshs and carries me into my own time. I sleep better.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

if i still lived at Twin Oaks

In deep fatigue again with these nightwakings and very very early morning starts, i fell into a little wondering this morning....about how my life would be different if i still lived at Twin oaks community.

I would have peaceful regrowth woods and river instead of wild bush and wilder beach for a daily backdrop and...

...I would have intimates in my life who i have known since the early nineties. I would also have more access to dear friends who are like tribe to me. I still miss them.

...Jed would have people he is close to as primaries (people who, as part of Twin Oaks’ labour system, spend chunks of time with the kids of their choice which counts as part of their weekly work quota). I would like Jed have more of those safe special connections with other adults.

tupelo coffeehouse - art, music and theatre of an evening

...In hard times, there would be support and understanding for us. This is a biggie. I wonder about how different those difficult first months/year might have been, with meals made for us, with other women friends close by and people to love and hold the babe while i caught up on much much needed sleep.

...I would still be in contact with Willow, who i co-parented as part of the Star family until he was about three.

...I would have had more incentive to resolve a major relationship breakup and possibly, hopefully begun a beautiful friendship. (Always painful to do in intentional community. I was emotionally burnt out and chickened out of this one, no offence meant at the bravery of chickens)

the TO pond in summer

...awareness of different family structures and gender issues would be more a part of daily life for Jed and come from others too, not just me harping on.

...there would be a vibrant social scene at the doorstep if i wanted it (and Jed would be not far away if he needed me at night) – instead of me having to drive over the hill and opting out because i’m too tired.

...i had the best worklife ever when i was based at Twin Oaks, giving workshops, speaking engagements, cooking for the community on Fridays, wood delivery, kidcare, organising events...i could still have some aspects of that while being a very hands on mama. Impossible in NZ and with the support i have and living in what i have come to call ‘isolationist culture’.

want a bike? take a bike!

...active music, rituals and creativity and craftiness and wild dancing and dressing as we please and togs not required to swim in the pond or the river.


...jed would have built-in relationships like siblings with the kids in the community to eat, play and learn with. There’d be more parents to share homeschooling with.

...there’s the whole ‘it just makes sense’ ecologically to live in community thing.

...and it is safe. I guess our wee beachside ‘village’ is fairly safe too but there is something about walking the paths of Twin oaks in the dark and feeling curious about who is coming the other way, rather than fear that i haven’t found outside of intentional community.

Okay, so there’s poisonous snakes (which i happen to love), living on the poverty line (but what more do you need when you have everything?), the small fact that i burnt out from taking too much on when i lived there. There is having your say but still relinquishing some control of major decisions in honour of the desires of the majority of the commune. Hmmm. I found that hard sometimes. And having to deal with conflict within community and not being able to ‘go home’ at the end of the day to get space.

But then there’s the hugs and the loving, free bikes, sauna, extensive libraries, darkroom, 17 shared vehicles, a lot of laughter, watching the kids grow up, plenty homegrown fruit and veg, madge’s cheese, walking the land, the parties like nowhere else, wearing a sequinned balldress (when else do you get to wear one?!) while working in the hammocks office and the people. The people.

I am not dwelling. Nor do i have any regrets. I love my life today. I admit, it needs a little tweaking. I am not as inclined to run from the hard work of tweaking these days. I left Twin Oaks in a hurry and one day i will share it with Jed and make my peace with leaving.
I carry a piece of my time at Twin Oaks with me always. I love knowing a life like that is possible.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Yesterday I had one of those days where i found myself saying ‘don’t’ more times than i feel comfortable with. I am tired. My patience (and i was famous for my martyr-like marathon winning patience)has stretched thin, to a shadow of its former self. I am trying to do more things with Jed around than i have attempted before. And two and a half years of not sleeping through the night and at the tail end of a chunk of waking up at 5am. These are long long days. Magical, eye-opening, adventure ridden and creative days, but long days. Having said that, tired is no excuse for being a grinch.

Sometimes i catch myself saying ‘no’, or ‘don’t’ and rethink. Mostly i take it back and explain to Jed why. Sometimes i am channelling my mother, or society in general. Most times i am happy for Jed to explore whatever it is he has picked up. Most times i am happy to risk a potential mess for him to figure out how to open the soy milk and pour it himself, or feed the cats, or fingerpaint with spaghetti sauce. It is only mess after all. I am daily glad we don’t have carpet. This is not to say that i have no boundaries. Oh no! I certainly do. No way is there climbing or sitting on the table when there’s food on it. For one tame example. No playing ball with the cats is another. I believe children need consistent boundaries to feel safe and be able to explore fully. I try and choose a positive twist to my admonishments. It helps. I may say,’ hey, i love the movement and colours in that drawing but i would like you to draw on your paper not on mama’s manuscript next time’. For example. Ahem.

Today i asked Jed to stop running the taps (we are on rainwater here) to save water. He kept going and turned around saying ‘mama, don’t shout at me, i am only playing, i’m exploring’. And you know what? Our water tank is full. There will be no drought this winter. It did look like cutting edge play. And what he said really threw me. He totally got it. To Jed, shouting is anything other than a calm voice. My voice was over the top for the situation. It made me think hard about what tones of voice i use with him, with the rest of the world.

Hmmm. I am going to try to sit and meditate when he first goes down for his sleep. I need to step back a bit and get some perspective. I am not getting my long chunks of time to create and think and just be. But i can do this for myself. Take twenty minutes to just be. Breathe. I have been doing this since i was 12 years old. Funny how i forget what feeds me when i most need it. Having that time to sit or do tarot grounds and centres me. It helps hone my self awareness, my mindfulness again. I need to remember to check in with myself during the day and take those micro breaks of breathing deeply and just tuning in – in between wrangling poster paints and lunch.

I am thankful to Jed for the reminder.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

a peek into our day

This piece of multi-coloured patched loveliness is Jed, Pema and I's new best friend. A large blankie, lined with soft flannelette fabric. Beautifully made and recently acquired from Trademe. Perfect for snuggling into and reading books in front of the fire.

Our dining table gets appropriated as craft space on a regular basis. Often with my work on one side and Jed's creations theoretically on the other side. I envy those with rumpus rooms and studios. Sigh. I am thinking of my fabric drying out from being drenched with tea by a certain small craftster. Neh, it's only mess. One of our motto's. It's only mess.

A little pumpkin loving. It's been sitting on our bench for a few days and we are about ready to cut into it. We have plans. Big plans. But not yet, still enjoying it whole. Jed planted those seeds and we watched it grow all summer. Kind of grown attached to it.

Our much neglected garden. There are vegetables and herbs in there, really there are.
We found a wonderful basket at our last rummage in an opshop and it has become our treasure basket and is perfect for a trip down to the garden to pick parsley, rocket and the tastiest broccoli you ever did taste.

The basket of joy. Made of all natural materials, it carries shells from the beach, seeds, feathers, herbs, lemons, vegetables and strange rocks. Twenty cents for a good time.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

let's go retro

There is a definite kind of order to the tangle of goodness.

Lets go retro on Swanson Rd in West Auckland is a treasure trove of retro goodies. I got a tip-off that she had a corner of old fabrics so i dragged a friend along for a Saturday fossick.

Reminds me of my nana's cupboards.

It's a wander through the ages.

The shop is mainly old stuff but also stocks some great local artists and crafters that are inspired by kiwiana/retro. My camera is either being cantakerous or has upped and died so i can't give you the full picture but you get the idea.

Aha! The fabric stash! Emma having a dig.
You know, i walked out emptyhanded (of fabric)...i love the joy of a good few dollar find in markets or op shops and having it all layed out for me felt a little like cheating. Sigh. That, and i was trying to not spend. Much.

Hours could be spent. And, although very reasonably priced, much money could be spent. A dangerous place for sure! (Those two things - hours and money - being in rather short supply at the moment). But a wonderful place nonetheless. And a welcome contrast to much of the rest of my weekend, which was spent at play with the boys and deep thinking about what kind of world Jed may grow into adulthood in and how i can make a difference parenting from home. No big answers yet.

PS: Lets go retro also stocks World Sweet World. It's all about MIY. Check it out.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

loving that beach

i don't mean to brag but, for a west coast nz winter, we sure have been getting alot of glorious sun...
...and i mean pure blissed out gorgeous days with hardly any wind and warm warm sun (did i mention the sun yet?) and buttnaked little people running wild in those sand dunes and splashing in the streams.

[And people, that sure beats the two and a half solid months of rain that last winter featured...yup, try that with a walking non sleeping small person afoot...THAT was grim]

We've been down to the beach many many times in that last ten days and you just try and keep that wee fella out of the water...

Or from hijacking his best mate's beach gear.

Or from flying keio's kite.
Happy happy.

The story goes like this (i was far away in fabric or thrift world but i hear this from two reliable sources): Jed and his dadda found a bug in the sand. It dug a hole and buried itself. So, when a hole was dug later on... Jed jumped in and started burying himself. When asked what he was doing: 'i'm a bug'. Sometimes big people are a bit slow. Being a bug is a very intense thing. It involves being alone and much digging and patting of sand.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

fabric porn (not for the fainthearted)

retro yumminess - for a few dollars off trademe.co.nz

My nana was a seamstress and lived in those days when it was the norm to sew your own clothes. Especially your children’s. My own mother followed suit and made many of my sister and I’s clothes. I will be forever haunted by a red terry towelling tracksuit she made me. During my teenage years i seriously contemplated purging the family photos of any evidence me wearing it. (My sister had a matching one) Now i think it’s cool. I wonder which of Jed’s handcrafted or thrifted clothes he’ll remember. Or more to the point, how he will remember them...ahem!

a treat (yes, even if it is cheap, it can still be called a treat)- marimekko fabric - i am dreaming up a bag...

Sixteen years of gypsy life meant no fabric stash. I would recycle clothes and grab what i could for specific projects. Apart from my 4 years with a manual Singer sewing machine, i mended and created clothes by hand. I sold a line of hats, hand painted t-shirts, re-purposed old found jeans into purses, bags and hats. A big bonus of being nested in one place now is that i can have a sewing machine. Yahoo. Working on a line of active little people trousers in all that spare time i have and uber excited about finding new bits of fabric for my growing stash. I live over the hill and far away from shops and can go oooh a month sometimes, without going into town so a stash is a darn good idea for me. Nothing like it when you have a great idea for a project at 8pm and no fabric to create it with...arghhh. I like to re-purpose hideous clothes into beauty and in my book (happily co-governed by my principles and my shallow pockets), cheap is good but free is best.

thanks em for this HUGE birthday piece of immaculate condition retro fabric
I got a tip-off about this fantastic fabric sale on the 18th July –fabricabrac – but, darn it all, its in Wellington’s Brooklyn. I was salivating looking at the pictures of last years fabricabrac. Its looks like a truly fabulous day out for the likes of craft crazy me. Hey, does someone with more spare time want to organise one in Auckland? Preferably out West....i’d be there. With bells on.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

new zealand night visitors

a weta on our deck

- Weta
- Moreporks (or Ruru in Te Reo)
- Full moon
- The ginger menace

First two are iconic NZ creatures -often found at night. Second two are found worldwide.

We had a baby weta living in our bathroom for weeks. It came in through the window from the bush and just decided to set up house. I scooped it up and re-homed it three times (much to jed’s disgust, he wanted it to stay) and it kept coming back. Unbelievable. Bit unsettling sharing your bathroom with a weta. Have you seen those spikes? On one memorable evening i found it perched just under the rim of the toilet seat. Let’s just say i hope never to feel the touch of weta antenna in the same way ever again. After almost getting squished in the box of bath toys, it left. Jed looked for it for weeks. Gone. I wonder if the visitor we had on the deck last night was it all grown up.

Morepork’s (a kind of owl native to NZ)wake up and start their calling just as Jed is going to bed. They like to sit on a branch directly outside his window. They are a key part of his daily rhythym. When i ask him what woke him up in the night, eight times out of ten, he says...moreporks.

The moon is the moon. Beautifully full at the moment. Worth a trip out to the garden to view and marvel at, best done in pjamas with Dadda and holding own torch.

The ginger menace is a cat. Often the cause of angry sounding cat fighting at night. For a long time if jed heard shouting or felt someone was angry he’d come close and say ‘ginger menace, mama’. I named it the ginger menace because well, my imagination has a tendency to run wild. For awhile there we’d only get a glimpse of a ginger feline streak as it fled. Then we saw it: teeny cute looking ginger thing with a green collar. But the name stuck.
We passed a pet shop in town the other day and jed said ‘ooooh, look mama, baby ginger menace’. Yup, a tiny ginger kitten.

Monday, July 6, 2009

riding it for all its worth

Busy morning at the fire station. One happy Jed. He got to pull the siren button. ‘I’m a siren man, mama' .
Now, he sleeps. I look at his peaceful face and leg it for the door.
I go downstairs, nimbly avoiding the pile of cd’s and eco magazine on the stairs.
Put kettle on. Quickly knock back this morning’s sunflower seed bread dough and put it in the oven.
Avert eyes from the pile of dishes and pj’s strewn on the couch.
Make tea. Make eyes go all soft focus when pointing in direction of half eaten toast and tea cup on the table.
Drag out sewing box and finish pinning a project for sewing later.
Ignoring phone (sorry love) i run upstairs to computer, before i crack and do something utterly crazy like put washing on or do those infernal dishes. Because HE’S ASLEEP. This is sacred, quiet, handsfree time for ME. These are my moments and i have learnt to ride them for all they are worth. I try not to do anything i could do with Jed afoot (or helping). This respite in my 6am-8pm days (and on call at night) could get cut short at any moment, i know that. I am at peace with that. This is being in the now. Just me, sounds of the surf, the birds, the keyboard or sewing machine and space to think. Ahhh

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Some international mama’s have been asking me about playdough lately...you NZ mama’s are likely in the know already.

We got into making and shaping bread dough at Steiner playgroup but i wasn’t making bread at home as much as Jed would like. Then we came across playdough at the play specialist’s playspace at Starship Hospital in Auckland. I had to peel Jed away. She gave me a recipe and we’ve had playdough in the fridge ever since. Much fun to be had and very easy to make. It lasts for a very long time if kept in the fridge, although admittedly ours is getting a little hairy now Jed has diversified his play with it. Likes it squishing between toes, he’s just learnt to make ‘noodles’ by rolling it between his hands, and my favourite, ‘look mama, like a sunset art’, smeared across the big glass doors at sunset. Last week he tried to get the cat to walk across it to see what her pawprints look like.

deep in noodle making

I try to keep toys simple and natural. (As per the article about us in the NZ Women's Weekly last year, of all publications, my nana would've been proud.)
However, as Jed gets older our plastics have burgeoned a bit. These playdough implements were $4 off trademe, including postage. They came well loved but perfect and they are certainly getting a workout.

'look mama, like a sunset art'

Neighbour has absconded with my playdough recipe (from memory i think the same ingredients only i added boiling water instead of cooking it) but i found this one in the Moving to learn book which a friend swears by.

Playdough recipe:

2 cups flour
4 tablespoons cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 cup salt
2 cups water
Add food colouring if you want. (It’s the only thing we have additives/colouring in)
Mix all ingredients together and cook over medium heat, stirring gently until thickens. Place dough on a piece of waxed paper and let it cool. Store in air tight container in fridge when not in use.

Green happiness.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Imagination -it's a beautiful thing

Day one: a tractor!

I love the way Jed’s mind works. I love the way being with him changes the way i see the world.

The world shifts, allows more light and possibility in, becomes more expansive and when his words fail him in explaining it, i love the way his hands and body enact what it is he sees or feels. I love the way he wants to bring me into see what he sees. My world is richer for him. So much richer.

An upturned old wooden rocking chair in my room has been upside-down being a rescue boat for a few weeks. The other night Jed put this little chair and stool (these look familiar?) on the couch, started driving and called me over to ask ‘mama, where levers?’

It’s a tractor! All of his own making. I love it. All i said in response was, ‘hmmm, i wonder what you could use as a lever in here?’ and opened the kitchen utensil drawer.

Day two: dreaming on the job - levers in action

Day three: Our resident viking at work. This morning it was a fairy.