McLeish Times … December 2014

Wednesday 17th

Turns out I drew the short straw to write this letter again. Funny, I don’t remember when we held the draw, Naomi must have done it while I was at work.

I’m still working for SBS – 3½ days per week, and still loving it. I spend these days playing with data, keeping it all lined up neatly and ready to provide whatever information might be required. When I come home I unwind by… playing with data – fantasy basketball and managing our finances to ensure that I never again need to go out to work 5 days per week.

Actually I say “unwind”, but there is not really anything I need to unwind from. It is interesting and occasionally challenging, but mostly it is fun and the most stressful thing is not having enough time to do everything I want to do in just 3½ days.

I am still also a casual employee of AMP, but I think they have forgotten. I still have their computer and an email address which I keep an eye on, but I have not actually done any work for them since the middle of the year. I could see this coming which is why I increased my SBS hours up from the 2½ days I was doing last year, and will probably settle on 4 days sometime next year.

This all leaves a bit of time free for my home duties, which ideally would be a bit of lawn-mowing, heavy lifting and jar-opening… but Naomi has Quinn for all that now – hence I find myself nudged into letter-writing.

Friday 19th

Abel turns 2 today. We are all excited about his presents, but he is probably more excited about ‘doose’ (a.k.a juice). We used to drink juice every weekend – a tradition we started a few years ago as a sort of protest when milk became more expensive than juice – but recently we have gone back to our earlier tradition of juice at special occasions only.

Abel really likes ‘doose’ so would have been very disappointed by this decision, if he was able to understand it, but it passed through with no tantrums from anybody at all (not that I wasn’t tempted).

Anyway, so Abel is 2 and is easily the most destructive force we have experienced in this family. As an example, I will tell you about a set of bowls… Naomi did not particularly like these bowls and so these 6 bowls sat in the cupboard taking up space. Then Naomi hit on the idea of using them for toddler/infant meals, surely they would not survive. Between the ages of 1 and 3, Toby was unable to break a single bowl and great was the consternation. 14 months later, Abel has finished them off. Ironically, Naomi mourned the passing of the last bowl, I should not have been surprised.

Tuesday 23rd

I just had my last day at SBS until 5th Jan, so the holidays are over … one of the main jobs I have now is to complete this letter (hopefully by Christmas) and I haven’t mentioned many of the family yet – time to pick up the pace.

Bonnie (now 20) has been home since around the middle of the year, having done a short course in graphic design to see whether it is her thing. It is. She is heading back to Christchurch around the end of January for 1 - 3 years of further study.

For the first month after getting back she was mostly sorting out her stuff and her room. Then she got two jobs and has been working 60+ hours a week for the last few months. Monday – Friday she is a fulltime beekeeper, and in the weekends she does 4 milkings at a nearby dairy farm.

This shouldn’t leave a lot of time for anything else, but there is still plenty of texting and facebooking going on. Come to think of it, I should stop her section there – if you want to know more about what Bonnie is doing, just look for her online.

Wednesday 24th (late)

Oh dear. That was a busy day. But now it is time to carry on with the 2015 New Year letter… (see how I subtly shifted the goal posts there).

I haven’t mentioned yet that I have been in charge of music at our church since early last year. I bring it up now so I can talk about Quinn.

Quinn’s confidence and ability with music continues to impress us. I introduced him gradually to playing in church – trying to ensure it was a positive experience – always making sure he had plenty of warning about which songs we would be doing etc etc. Now he is happy to handle whatever is thrown at him. He is like my right hand – so much so that I feel less confident if he is not there!

Quinn is 16 now, so he is aiming to get a learner drivers licence soon. He continues to make great strides in music, maths and fixing stuff (seriously.. fixing stuff is part of our curriculum).

Lily is 13 and has matured a lot (again). The difference from 11 seems huge to me. This year she has been having professional lessons in violin after 2-3 years of just fiddling about (haha). She started out quite being quite old compared to others at her level with this teacher, but she has made really good progress and I enjoy listening to her now. If you know me, and know violin, then you will understand what a big deal that is – there are few things more excruciating than a violin in the wrong hands.

Quinn and Lily recently read a book called “Do Hard Things” on Bonnie’s recommendation. It challenges/inspires teens to challenge themselves. Lily decided she wanted to raise enough money to build a well in India ($1,600), and Quinn is helping her. They have done a lot of busking in town, and Quinn has been doing even more paid work than usual around home. Next year they will be organising some work they can do for other people – another “hard thing” I think. I’m really impressed with both of them. Personally, I hate doing hard things – but then I am writing this – so maybe I’m growing up too.

It has just passed midnight. Merry Christmas – I’m going to bed.

Saturday 27th

Well, I knew it was the 27th, but I had to check to see if it was Saturday. Isn’t it glorious when you don’t need to know what day it is.

I’ve been trying to think what I can say about Elliot – something that hasn’t already been covered in previous letters. Not only does Elliot dislike change, he also seems to be changeless. He is 11 now. For Christmas we gave him Lego, again. It was the perfect present, again.

Elliot is becoming more aware of Naomi’s dislike of his computer obsession. I don’t think he was specifically thinking about doing a “hard thing”, but he did challenge himself to a month without using any of his allowed time playing computer games. 4 days to go. He learns Japanese on the computer too, and I suspect he has been doing that a bit more often than required... Also I find myself being watched on the computer even more than usual. He is far from cured.

Sacha wants a horse. If she had been lucky enough to have parents who were less determined NOT to have a horse then she might have achieved it by now. I think she is beginning to realise that her mother and I will never have a horse, and therefore she will need her own piece of land, and probably a driver’s license. She has not yet fully appreciated how much money she could end up sinking into this project, but she is a very determined girl and this horse idea has lasted a while already.

Sacha is 9 now and she is having to make do with birds that stun themselves on the windows, and hedgehogs that fall in the cattlestop. She does have a sheep called Sparkles, but I don’t think having an animal is really what she craves. Acquiring MORE animals is where it is at.

Sacha is about to start violin. We don’t yet know whether this is a genuine desire or just big sister envy. At least we already have the instrument. She got binoculars for Christmas which was a well-received gift – fitting nicely with a recent obsession for spy games and her latest one for bird watching.

New Years Eve

We have been staying at Riverton since Sunday night. Monday and Tuesday were great days for beach things, but we have been stuck inside today. It is still raining and probably none of us will bother staying up for midnight.

Toby is 4, and has started to like the sea, which is great relief. Last year he was extremely cautious and being shown up by one year old Abel who would charge into the surf whenever possible. This year the tables have turned… so it wasn’t so much that Abel was brave – he just had no imagination last year.

Toby likes books and puzzles and imaginative games. He learned to read this year – the earliest of all our children. He is definitely a quick learner, but I think he is helped a lot by the willingness of Lily and Quinn to teach him things too.

The worst time of day for Toby is bedtime – he regularly breaks down at the dreaded moment when he realises the day has ended for him. He is fine once he is in bed, so I think he just hates the interruption of his plans.

Naomi has been wondering what I might have to say about her. It seems she has had very little time for herself this year (again) with the demands of the family plus her bees and gardening and sheep. So I think she wants to be reminded of some of the highlights. This year she has:
• Saved a lamb’s life by hauling it out of a ewe (for the first time)
• Grown lots of lettuce and started on tomatoes and cucumber in the greenhouse that I finally caved in and bought for her.
• Tamed and redesigned a steadily increasing amount of the section here at Riverton and at Drummond.
• Looked after all of us superbly.. from the now adult daughter who has become intolerant to gluten, honey, and living with 8 other people, to the 2 year old who still breast feeds and wakes her up every night.
• Continued to be a most wonderful wife.

Till next time… Blessings to you all. From Paul.

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