It is quarter past 10 on New Year's Eve and pouring with rain here in Inglewood so some brave souls are outside setting off their fireworks already. What's a couple of hours between friends? Happy New Year Everybody!
Over the years Paul and I have always intended to send Christmas cards with a Christmas letter. Recently, we succumbed to the fact that we are "busy" parents and so duly tried to send out an email instead--you know what I'm talking about. The generic letter with obligatory photos and updates that are intended to keep everyone on your email list "informed" as to what is going on in your lives. I've always struggled with the fact that if anything, they just skim the surface or worse, are a brag-fest. Note to all: I do love getting those emails, I really do. I read them and love to feel informed on what is going on in people's lives. I always appreciate the effort people go to in writing them. I just find it so hard to get started on them myself. First, it's the font. Then it's the font size. Then it's what order do I write things in, and what do I leave out in order to make it fit one page of A4? Too many decisions and I find the end result very unsatisfying. So this year, it's the blog effort. I shall email the link to all and sundry, and if they don't decide to read it, that's absolutely fine. After all, when I blog, I'm writing for myself first and foremost anyway.
So 2011 began as it ended: a fondue feast and lots of wine. Only the location and people involved have changed. At the beginning of the year we were celebrating New Year's with friends and family in Canada, so enjoyed a traditional fondue with my sister's family. It was a special time. On our way back home to New Zealand we enjoyed three fantastic days at Disneyland in L.A. They say it is the happiest place on earth and they are not wrong. I can still remember that feeling of awe and wonder as I walked through the gates and saw all the colours and beautiful things with the joyful music playing from somewhere overhead. I long to return and I know that every single person in my family feels the same way.
The school/work year started up again in February 2011: Paul teaching all levels of Maths at Boys' High for the 14th year, Sam in year 4, Madeline in year 2, and Violet and Abigail enjoying the last of their pre-school days. They turned 5 on the 31st of March and started school the next day without a second thought. If any two children were ready for school, my girls were. And so was their mother! They started school on a Thursday (not a tear was shed by any of us) and I was working on the following Monday. I had a week of relieving at the high school and then a good stint of relieving at St. Pat's to follow. I felt like I wanted to make the change to teaching primary and was fortunate enough to have a good relationship with my kids' principal who gave me the opportunity to get my feet wet. I loved it. Eventually I was given a permanent relieving position at St. Pat's, teaching one day a week in the senior class. It's been such a privilege to work with a wonderful class of kids and obviously, a huge thrill to be so involved in my own kids' school. And because I've been relieving rather than working full time, I've had plenty of time to walk my dog, go for coffee, go shopping, walk my dog, read, write, go for coffee...get the picture? It's been a good year!
It's been a fantastic year for the kids too, don't get me wrong. Sam has enjoyed his involvement in Cubs and has continued to show his talent in speech-making, named runner-up at the school speech competition this year. Considering that he was competing against kids in years 6-8 as well, this was a huge achievement. He has the advantage over everyone in that he can memorise things very quickly. He is known for reciting stories and facts that he's heard...over and over again. He's just been given a Guinness Book of World Records...you can imagine how I feel about that. But yay for Sam, he knows how to put that information to good use. He is also a prolific reader, which is a "yay" thing for his mum, the English teacher.
Madeline has had an excellent year in Room 2 of St. Pat's. I've had the privilege of teaching her and she's a completely different kid at school--quiet and shy rather than bossy and loud. I reckon every parent should have the opportunity to be a fly on the wall at school; it will tell them a lot about their child. Having said that, one quality in Madeline which is common at school and at home is determination. Although it can be frustrating at times when she is determined to make something work but is not quite getting it, I am thankful she has this quality. She will succeed in everything she puts her mind to. She went from reading below her age at the beginning of the year to being well above her age by the end. Honestly, I cannot count the number of chapter books that have thrilled her recently. Such a relief, to have another fantastic reader who loves books. She has also shown quite a talent for drawing and art and proclaims even now that she wants to be an art teacher one day. I intend to foster that enthusiasm.
Violet and Abigail started school on the first of April and have slotted right in to life in Room 4 at St. Pat's. It became clear fairly early on that Violet was catching on very quickly in both maths and reading. Eventually I realised why she was my most troublesome (said in the nicest possible way!) child; she was just so darned clever! And probably very bored! So school was certainly the best place for her and she has thrived, winning the principal's awared in her second term and achieving well above her age in all areas of the curriculum. In fact, we've had to face the fact that next year Violet and Abigail will be split so that Violet can move up to the year 2 class in order to be extended. She'll still be a year 1 and Abigail will move to that class later in the year, but in February we will have four children in four different classes at school. Recognising Violet's cleverness and wit has also made us appreciate her a lot more, especially for her confidence. You can always count on Violet to get things going!
Abigail has shone in different ways. If you need someone to help you, or to clean something, Abigail will be the first to volunteer. She'll finish the job and she'll do it well. If you want a picture beautifully and carefully coloured for the grandparents, Abigail is your girl. She is deliberate, careful, caring and exceedingly sweet but also cheeky and at times very very funny. It is not hard to fall in love with our Abby. It is however hard to get her to try something she's not sure of, especially when it comes to maths and reading. Funnily enough though, she's our go-to girl for anything daring like going on a roller coaster or riding the biscuit behind a boat on holiday. I guess there are different levels of confidence and if anything, Violet and Abigail are complete opposites. But twins. Go figure.
All three girls have dabbled in netball and recorder lessons this year as well as ballet for the second half of the year. Paul and I have made a philosophical decision not to put our kids into too many activities. Believe me, it's not easy when you see other kids given this that and the other opportunity. A little bit of self-doubt starts to creep in that we might not be doing the right thing; that our kids might be missing out. Peer pressure of the adult variety actually (and since this is my blog and not a generic letter, I can say what I like!). But then we just have to look at our kids playing outside, building forts or creating games on our high-performance see-saw (you'd have to see it to believe it) with their friends, and we remember why we made that choice. Kids have to be kids first. They can become accomplished later. But for now, when there are so many social, physical and intellectual demands on them during the day at school, why not let them just play afterwards, instead of carting them here there and everywhere? I know we're not wrong and I know that our kids are growing up fantastically. I am extremely proud of them, if you hadn't noticed.
Paul has continued to teach Maths at Boys High and take on the Christian group and the Cross Country team. The latter is his passion and he's achieved some great results with those boys. The best thing however is that it really isn't about the running results for him; rather, it's about giving a number of youth the opportunity to be part of something that is greater than themselves. I know with absolute certainty he's made a huge difference in many boys' lives. The running results are important too of course and the exciting thing this year is that a team of six of his runners has been chosen to represent New Zealand at the World School's Cross Country in Malta. So he'll be off to Malta with his team and a NZ delegation for two weeks in March 2012. Did I mention it was in Malta? That's in the Mediterranean. Enough said about that. Another opportunity has opened up for Paul next year at school and he will be in charge of leadership at Boys' High. It's something he does so well within his own team so I'm sure he will relish the opportunity to work with boys across the wider school population.
So we look ahead to 2012 and wonder what it holds for us and all. Hopefully a sun-drenched (as opposed to rain-drenched) holiday in the south island in a week's time. We'll be camping in Kaiteriteri while Paul's parents stay in a holiday home nearby. They'll be escaping the earthquakes and aftershocks which still persist. So hopefully no more earthquakes for Christchurch in 2012. Hopefully our kids continue to excel and enjoy life while I continue to find the balance between work and play. Hopefully we survive while Paul is away in Malta (the Mediterranean!). Hopefully Paul thrives in his new leadership position at Boys' High and has an exciting working year. And most of all, I hope that 2012 is a fantastic year of relationship-building between friends. Because that is the most important thing of all.