Tag Archives: Family

Saturday morning at the Farmers’ Market


It was SUCH a grey morning, and is now a grey day.  The sort we lived with for six winters in London, I’ll never forget them.  Grey that is impenetrable and lowers the sky so you feel you could touch it.  I learnt in London not to let this spoil my day.  So with various options put forward to the boys, they picked to scooter to the Farmers’ Market, choose a favourite lollipop, walk through the native bush, and home again past the playground.  I hoped the market would bring a little colour to our day and the scoot a hit of endorphins for my screen obsessed sons.

Through the park
Through the park
Riccarton House and the Farmers Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers’ Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers Market
Riccarton House and the Farmers’ Market

Through the park, over the stream and wind through a few quiet streets and we emerge into the grounds of Riccarton House which is home to the Christchurch Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.  It’s also one of the original farms of the early settlers, the Scottish Deans brothers, who built their original cottage here in 1843 using wood from the surrounding bush.  Their original cottage is still here, it’s now the oldest building on the Canterbury Plains.  The Deans brothers kept their little cottage, and built the Victorian and Edwardian mansion (it survived the earthquakes, though still undergoing repairs) Riccarton House in 1856 with subsequent significant additions.

The farmers market has started with a mere handful of stalls, which was a great disappointment when we first visited as we’d been used to the thriving Borough Market in London.  But over the years it’s grown to a bustling hive of producers with their wares.  There are strict rules surrounding who can have a stall and where their produce can come from.  Personally I’d love to see more stalls with food you can eat as you browse, and a few more seats would be good too as the riverbank can get a little damp…

At markets my preference is to slowly browse the different stalls and taste as I go.  The boys however (no longer restrained to prams) prefer to head straight for the lolly stall, taste one, choose one and head away to eat.  I managed withstand the grumbling to buy eggs and apples from my favourite stalls, but couldn’t stand it much after that.  I love that the eggs are free range, the apples are organic, both are local and both are cheaper than the supermarket!  We also adore the pastry perfections that come from Bellbird Foods, and the Pain au Chocolat is our favourite – pronounced correctly of course not with a kiwi twang.

We’ve been walking round the loop track in Riccarton Bush since the boys were little as it’s a totally different environment for them, in the middle of our city.  In 2004 it was fenced to keep out predators and now has a thriving native bird population.  The boys take their binoculars to keep an eye out for them.  There’s a caged door entry which intrigues the boys, and then they follow the little path round.


We headed home to stop for a play in the playground and a ride on the leaf sculpture in the park.  It’s called ‘Serenade’ which is appropriate as the leaves look as if they’re dancing, with a bit of effort you can push it round. After all that we hadn’t even noticed that it was a very grey day.


The beach in autumn

Solo sandcastle
Solo sandcastle

I don’t know about you but I find the beach in summer is often hot, and sticky, sandy (of course), FULL of people and the last straw is often trying to find a car park.  We tend to surf in summer and walk in winter and in autumn we play.

Hanging houses and arty shipping containers
Hanging houses and arty shipping containers

We’ve had a stunning run of autumn weather these last couple of weeks with chilly mornings and sunny days and marvellous afternoons.  So on Sunday we headed to our favourite playing beach, Sumner.  Sumner has been hit pretty hard by the earthquakes and the raw damage is still evident to some beautiful homes once perched on the edge of the cliffs, now literally hanging off them.  Lines of shipping containers have been brought in to protect the main road to Sumner, and these are now the site for an art exhibition in the form of canvases stretched over a container.  Clever, as they’re pretty ugly.

photo 3-91

The boys and I took their best buddy and headed across town.  The aim of the afternoon was to make sandcastles, well that’s what I wanted to do, but boys being boys, were keener to dig holes and ‘quarry’.  The littlest one and I made a small sandcastle, then I left them to it, digging happily away.

The littlest one and the ball
The littlest one and the ball

Being autumn the wind soon became chilly so after a while we headed back for ice creams – there’s always such a good selection with cones, and licked away watching the kite surfers.

Next time you’re wondering what to do on an autumn afternoon try the beach – it’s often better than the height of summer.

Seashore treasures
Seashore treasures
Three friends
Three friends

Hunting for…The Big Egg Hunt NZ

Have chocolate and bikes - will hunt!
Have chocolate and bikes – will hunt!


The Big Egg Hunt NZ is fun event is being held down under for the first time, here in New Zealand.  100 eggs have been hidden in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and on Saturday the boys and I set out to find a fair few of them, and consume some chocolatey goodness at the same time.

The Big Egg Hunt was first held in London in 2010 and combined fun and fundraising for charity.  Next year hunts will take place in London, Dublin, New York and New Zealand.  The Big Egg Hunt NZ is to raise funds for Starship Foundation (a charity which supports our national children’s hospital here in NZ).  Each egg has been designed by top NZ artists and at the end of the hunt they will be auctioned off on Trade Me (our version of E-Bay), with 20 of them being auctioned at a gala evening.

With a host of sponsors, the principal one being Whittaker’s Chocolate, the aim is to find as many eggs as you can and enter the competition.  Prizes range from peanut slabs through to a gold slab (rumoured to be worth in the region of $300K).  You can do this by either texting in the unique code found on the plinth of each egg, downloading an app (this is what we did) or follow the directions on specially marked blocks of Whittaker’s chocolate.

The boys and I decided this was the perfect activity for a gloriously sunny autumn afternoon and set off on our bikes from the Botanical Gardens, in the centre of town.  To make it even more fun, we took along a specially marked block of Whittaker’s chocolate, and for every egg we found, we ate a square.

The first eggs we found were handily in the Botanical Gardens and I think Egg #82, Insecta Egg, with the butterflies and insects has to be my favourite.  I would happily have that sitting on a plinth in my garden.  Each egg is mounted on a plinth which has a biography of the artist and some talk about the inspiration for their egg design.

The app turned out to be a little temperamental, so at our next stop at the Museum, the helpful guide offered us a good old-fashioned paper map for the egg hunt which turned out to be much more reliable, but she wouldn’t give any clues as to the locations of the two eggs hidden in the museum!  We hunted, and found them.  Despite being large, they were surprisingly easy to miss amongst all the other exhibits.

The next eggs were at Cathedral Square which was the heart of our city, but is now dominated by the ruins of our now fought over Cathedral.  My eldest son struggles to see the remains of the earthquake destruction and didn’t enjoy the cycle through the empty streets, but the youngest one didn’t mind a bit, and in fact enjoyed the traffic-free streets.  Cathedral Square turned out to be quite lucrative as there were four eggs there, therefore four pieces of chocolate!  We followed the map and found the eggs and stopped and played and looked inside buildings.  The new Transitional Cathedral, commonly known as the Cardboard Cathedral provided a warm welcome and another egg.

Our last stop found that two of the eggs had been thoughtlessly damaged and were being removed as we tried to check in with our app.  Despicable damage to such a fun event for a worthy cause.

All chocolate consumed and happily tired boys we cycled back to the car.  They boys reckon it was loads of fun and are keen to do it again next year.

The Big Egg Hunt will run 21 March until 22 April in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.  Until the app is reliable, I recommend using the paper map (available online) and texting in your entry.

Parenting the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

My two lovelies
My two lovelies

The tricky business of parenting has cropped up in a few conversations I’ve had recently.  Each person sharing a very different story about their parenting journey.

Today I was on the phone to my TelCo and the woman on the other end of the line was telling me about her 20month old, and how she’s all of a sudden developing likes and dislikes that she’s expressing loudly.  I pointed out that I remembered at about that age my own parenting changed from mainly meeting the child’s needs (food, comfort, sleep) to shaping their behaviour with boundaries.  “This is where you really start to parent and it gets tricky” I said, “And you’ve got to try and stay one step ahead of them from now on” I counselled.  “You’re right!” she exclaimed, “I’ve never thought of it like that.”  We happily ended our conversation, and she went home to ponder how best to tackle this next stage of her parenting journey.

Waiting outside the classrooms at that end of the day I was chatting with a school-mum whose daughter’s ninth birthday is this weekend.  She happily told me about how delighted she was with the person her daughter was becoming and how much she was enjoying her.  She said that the hard years of parenting were paying off and she was looking forward to the years to come, with understandable apprehension about the teenage years.

And at the swim meet another mother was having a hard time with her youngest; a pre-schooler with a huge amount of energy who did not appreciate being curtailed to the edge of the pool to watch his older brother race.  She and I were chatting about how kids can drive you mad at times, and that she was looking forward to him growing out of that difficult to please, full of energy, don’t want to sit still phase.  We went on to talk about disappointment (in that not everyone can come first in a swimming race) and how actually it’s not such a bad thing.  We all have to deal with it in our lives, and kids need to learn how.

Later, she emailed an article she’d read called  ’10 Common Mistakes Parents Today Make’ and having read it, it got me thinking that Kari Kampakis might be on to something.  I’d discussed this very thing at camp with the teachers and their observations that kids these days are over protected from life’s disappointments and aren’t as resilient or as independent as they could or should be.  They’re building a lot of life skills into the curriculum as parents just aren’t teaching their kids these vital skills anymore.  When the ice-cream falls on the ground, don’t buy another, but share in their sadness.  It’s hard, but it’s life.

I realise now that the disappointments and hard life lessons my boys are currently experiencing, I cannot protect them from, but I can help them live with them, because you know what, sometimes, like for Alexander it can be a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and his wise mother says “some days are like that”.

Here are Kari Kampakis’ 10 common mistakes, but I do highly recommend reading the full article.

1.  Worshipping our children

2.  Believing our children are perfect

3.  Living vicariously through our children

4.  Wanting to be our children’s BFF

5.  Engaging in competitive parenting

6.  Missing the wonder of childhood

7.  Raising the child we want, not the child we have

8.  Forgetting our actions speak louder than words

9.  Judging other parents…and their kids

10.  Understanding character

The wonder of childhood
The wonder of childhood

Watch what you say…kids and body image

The swimmer
The swimmer

A couple of weeks ago my eldest son won his school age swimming race, and being the very proud parent I of course had my iPhone camera in full swing.  Later I showed him the photos I’d taken and he immediately, and with genuine disapppointment said ‘Oh, I look fat’.  Now, I’m pretty sure he’s not fat, and to try and reassure him of this, I have in fact taken him to the paediatric nurse at the hospital and had his height and weight measured and they were both on the same percentile curve, which she explained was exactly what was needed for a healthy body.  But he doesn’t believe us.

These ‘I’m fat’ or ‘I need to go on a diet’ comments have been cropping up regularly for the past few months and it got me thinking, where did he get this idea from? and how can I make him realise that he’s a normal healthy 9 year old boy?

Over the past year I’ve been losing weight, very slowly, so of course there have been comments I’ve made on how I look, why I’m exercising more than normal, what I eat, and especially when I eat things I perhaps shouldn’t.  Over the past few months my mother has lost a LOT of weight and the difference in her body shape  is dramatic.  She has been discreet and far less vocal about it, but nonetheless the two boys have noticed that Granny eats different meals.

Having become aware of careless talk about what’s healthy, fat, and loosing weight I started to listen to conversations in the extended family, particularly around meal times, and there again it is – comments about how much they eat, what they eat, what it will do to them.  When I delicately suggested that this was happening, the well-meaning grandparents were oblivious and said ‘But we’ve never told them they’re fat’ – missing the point completely.

I read an article that made the rounds on Facebook called  How to talk to your daughter about her body and then read another quite interesting one contradicting it.  Read them and see what you think.  I also read an article on Huffington Post about eating disorders and boys, and the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (US) say the hidden count could be 30% of people with eating disorders are males.  Many boys start out wanting to achieve physical perfection and then spiral down into full blown eating disorders.

In just a few minutes a day...
In just a few minutes a day…

This started to ring true to me as over the summer holidays more tv time was had and when the kids programmes run out on free view channels, (Sky bless them, has 24 hour kids programmes without inappropriate advertising) informercials follow, and what do they advertise? Well apart from skin cream, exercise machines. And who advertises them? Rippled male chests and promises of just a few minutes a day and you can look like this.  Who advertises underwear on the billboards and magazines? More rippled male chests.  So, without me realising, my son has been subjected to an unrealistic image of what the male body ‘should’ look like.  He just doesn’t seem to realise that this is physically impossible for a child his age, and realistically unreasonable for anyone who has a social life and a job.

So, the combination of my unknowing comments about my own weightless, extended families well meaning comments on healthy eating, and images of rippled male chests has all contributed to my child genuinely thinking he is fat, at 9 years old.

My plan? It’s two-fold, firstly beginning with me.  I’ll explain; Marie Claire are fronting a campaign called #whywait, after research showed that the average Australian woman only likes her body at the age of 45 – that’s ten more years of self-dissatisfaction for me…  Stephanie Rumble, mum-from-school and fashion stylist challenged her Facebook followers (March 10th post) to list the things they LIKE about their appearance and to share them either online (I did!) or with their nearest and dearest.  I thought this was a great idea and well suited to my problem so over breakfast I talked about it with the boys and told them what I liked best about my body.  The aim is to get them thinking about their bodies positively, by modelling it myself.

Now we’re into term time and the rippled chests selling exercise machines are no longer part of our lives (we have a no screen rule on weekdays), so I’ve reduced that influence, and now that he’s surrounded by other 9 and 10 year olds kids, there’s  more ‘normal’ around him.  The rest is up to me – I need to think about what I say and how I say things about my body, and what we eat and I’m gently trying to encourage the boys’ extended family to be mindful that the things they say can be interpreted by small boys differently from how they’re intended.

Next time you want to say ‘Gee my bum looks big in this’ perhaps don’t, or next time you hear a well meaning grandparent say ‘my goodness you’ve eaten a lot, be careful you don’t get fat’, perhaps suggest that the child’s portion size be put on the plate for them, rather than letting the child’s eyes dictate how much their stomach will eat.  Oh, and in case you didn’t know – infomercials aren’t for kids!

Having been shocked at how easily my son has developed a warped sense of self, I’m now trying to put it back to rights.

I’d love to hear of any similar experiences, or advice?

Family motto: Run your own race

Does your family have a motto? Nope, didn’t think so.  I’ve never even thought about it let alone put one into action.  But having bumped into a friend whose family has one, this year will be different.

As you do, this friend and I were chatting about our kids, the new year, and their respective schools.  We got onto the topic of competition between kids in an academic sense and she told me about her family’s motto which is: ‘Run your own race’.  Having never come across a family with a motto, it got me thinking.  I reckon it’s actually a really good idea, and particularly for my boys their family motto is very appropriate, as both of them have their own difficulties which make school learning (and life) hard.

So, this year I’m going to take her family’s motto on board for my family. We will ‘run our own race’, working hard to be the best we can be as individuals without competing with others. Because it’s our life and our race.  This won’t fit those who thrive on competition, but for us it’s perfect.