plants vs zombies drawings

On the morning of Indie’s second birthday, he was introduced to Monster Trucks. A ten-minute Monster Jam video on youtube that became the catalyst of a year long obsession. He had always been interested in wheels, or rather, the rotation of wheels. He’d lie on the floor and roll his Hot Wheels cars across the carpet just to watch the motion of their wheels.

Jarrod figured that since wheels were so intriguing to him, he might like the giant wheels of a monster truck. Well, he wasn’t wrong…

hot wheels monster truck

Months later, Indie had a decent collection of monster truck toys, and wouldn’t go anywhere without them. Without ALL of them.

Somewhere within the bowels of a misplaced backup hard drive, there is a pictorial documentary of just how much monster trucks became a focal point of his life. Photos of Indie attempting (and succeeding through dogged determination) to climb a ladder at his favourite playground – with up to eight monster trucks in his hands. Freestyle tracks carved out of Narrow Neck sand..

Eventually – sometime during the age of three-ish – the monster truck obsession wore itself out. I admit I was relieved. Maybe now he’d take up a new interest! In something that wasn’t so… one-track.

But he didn’t. Try as we might to engage him in other interests, Indie floated lost in his own little apathetic world of Complete Disinterest In Most Things. He couldn’t engage in anything. And he was unsettled because of it.

Finally, one day – and I can’t remember how but I’m guessing it had something to do with Iron Man – we engaged him once again with… Superheroes! It revitalised him. Intrigued by flying metal suits, indestructible shields, and magical hammers. (As a family of Marvel fans,  this was an obsession we were all happy to jump in on. ;))

free comic day auckland

Angry Birds followed. First the app, then the little plastic figures with their catapults, which gave him hours of fun setting up intricate towers (we sacrificed our Jenga blocks for this cause) and finding the perfect place to set up his catapult and knock it all down again. There was real-life, physical play inspired by the game, too…

After that? Plants vs Zombies.

I wasn’t so rapt about what was a fairly pointless and brain-numbing computer game. But it turned out that game had its positive side effects. Inspired by the game, we planted flower gardens with Sunflowers and Snapdragons. Then once an interest in gardening began to take hold (for both of us) we moved to growing herbs and veggies. Because of that initial interest in a pointless computer game, Indie’s interest in gardening remains to this day. And, I became a gardener. Like, as a job. One I get paid for. As my regular weekly thing.

Lastly (on the subject of Plants vs Zombies that is) the game inspired Indie to draw. Intricate, amazing, packed with details… those drawings were stories in themselves.

plants vs zombies drawings

Minecraft followed. Connecting with him on both a creative and constructive level.

Almost all of Indie’s interests have originated from a movie or computer game, but they’ve tapped into other areas of expression and interest for him. They’ve resonated with him in a way nothing else has and enriched so many other aspects of creativity.

This can be hard for others to understand. Particularly for those who hear him talk non-stop about a computer game, without understanding that this interest has inspired him to create his own engaging ideas and concepts.

indies mazes
These mazes have been inspired by computer games, and contain trap doors and bad guys that have to be defeated before you can get to the prize

Bree also has a single driving obsession which she has carried with her since she was two and a half. She lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and probably even poops… Dinosaurs.

We created this garden specifically with Bree’s dinosaur play in mind.

No one ever blinks an eye at the fact that, nine times out of ten, all of her imaginary play, her drawing and her story telling revolves around dinosaurs. No one ever questions whether such a long-standing all-consuming obsession is healthy for her. And why would we question it? Dinosaurs are educational. Dinosaurs are science. Dinosaurs are history.

Some may question whether it’s healthy for most of Indie stories, drawings, and general thought processes to stem from movie and gaming related topics such as superheroes and Minecraft. These interests are unhealthy! They’re corrupting his mind! His attention span! His behavior!

On the contrary – and this is something I feel people find hard to believe or accept – these interests help him. These ‘pointless’ things have inspired in Indie an interest in science. And technology. And innovation. He dreams of a future where he can build his own flying suits. Where he can build robots that carry out certain tasks. Even where he builds his own apps or games. He doesn’t yet know the intricate details of ‘quantum physics’, but he has long dreamed of creating wormholes and portals into different dimensions.

Is that not educational? Is that not science? Is that not innovation? And is that any less valuable than Bree’s love for dinosaurs and paleontology?

One dreams of our planet’s history, while the other dreams of its future. But isn’t it just great that they dream?

rusting wheelbarrow

There’s inspiration to be found in the ordinary. Beauty to be found in the mundane. This is West Auckland street photography. Urban-rural style. And a shot at some exercise. If I’m lucky.

At the risk of sounding like I’m losing my mind, I’m pretty sure we’re in the grip of an arachnid alien invasion.

From Whenuapai to Herald Island, these spider webs appear to have sprung up overnight, and they’re everywhere. They were beautiful with the early morning sunlight shining on them and the remnants of frost still clinging to their gossamer strands, but once the sun shifted and the dew dried, they became virtually invisible.  Guess it was lucky that we came along at just the right time to catch the magic.

 

whenuapai photography

Remember Spiderman; with great power comes great responsibility.

 

In effort to get some exercise, break free of the weekly humdrum and find inspiration in my surroundings, I’ve been going on near-daily excursions around the neighbourhood and nearby suburbs. With a friend we walk and chat; venting and brainstorming as we go. While on the days that the dog accompanies me, she takes on the role of my personal trainer; pushing me to jog a few km – using her ‘aww gummon!’ eyes to drive me on whenever I start to lag.

 

herald island photography

Herald Island wharf and waterfront is particularly inspiring on a misty winter morning

 

It’s a dangerous thing to bring along my camera during these excursions. I run the risk of spending the entire day ambling at a snail’s pace while photographing every last little interesting thing that catches my eye, and then lugging home a memory card full of pictures I’ll likely never look at again – and all without achieving any kind of cardiovascular workout.

Walking the rural fringe of West Auckland is so much more interesting than driving. Everything inspires me. No really. Everything.

 

west auckland street photography

It’s ordinary. It’s every day. It’s depressing. It’s grotesque. It’s beautiful.

 

Take the way that cardboard McDonald’s packet stands out against a grassy Whenuapai berm, while a car blurs by in the background. It’s bleak. It’s ugly. It’s corporate-branded pollution. The fact that so many cars can whizz by without even noticing the McTrash is just a sad example of the blind-eyed self-centered bubble we as individuals live in. And all the while the consumeristic machine that is our society powers on towards its own destruction; contaminating everything that’s pure and natural in this world as it goes.

Or something like that.

I’m feeling a need to change something in my life. To pursue a new direction. I don’t want to spend the rest of my existence sitting before a screen. This outdoors thing is really quite nice.

While admiring the beauty in the mundane, I start thinking about whether or not I could plausibly make a living from selling photographs of spiderwebs, dead pukeko, or the interesting placement of an ancient wheelbarrow in an overgrown field. What could we call this? Urban rural street photography?

Then I stop and remember that the reason I enjoy photography is because it’s a hobby. Not something I’m trying to make any kind of living from. Thus there’s no pressure to be outstanding at it. No pressure to churn out photos that other people will want. I only need to concern myself about what I find interesting through the camera lens. Not what anyone else might perhaps possibly find interesting.

That’s not to say I won’t consider a photographic job opportunity should one come up. Let’s be real here. But maybe I should start practicing portrait or product photography, and stop admiring roadside weeds and rusting things.

west auckland street photography

First written: 28 August 2015. Published  25 April 2016
fairy wings

As well as a great opportunity to dust off the DSLR and photograph the kids chasing each other amid the last of the autumn Liquid Amber((for the record, I thought these were maple trees, but as google revealed, they’re Liquid Amber. It’s the spikey nuts that gave them away. ;))) leaves this afternoon, I lugged home a collection of leaves to photograph and convert into Photoshop textures and brushes.

autumn leaves

autumn leaves

 

I think Autumn is my favourite season, if for no other reason than that I love the way the leaves change colour as they get ready to fall. There’s something about the rich reds and, when you turn them over, antiqued tan of Liquid Amber trees in particular that I find incredibly compelling. And look at the luscious yellow of that Ginko! Sure, the leaf-litter would all become a bit much to deal with after a while… But I wish these beautiful trees were in our backyard. (The fact that they’re available at our local park will have to suffice!)

Meanwhile, a photo of my daughter sitting on a tree stump, making dinosaur impersonations, inspired me to create for her a set of leafy fairy wings in Photoshop:

 

Liquid Amber leaf wings created in photoshop new zealand Liquidamber leaf (not to be confused with Maple, as it turns out..)

 

 

In hindsight, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking, making fairy wings. If it’s not dinosaurs she’s obsessing over, it’s dragons. Think I’ll be whipping up some reptilian wings tonight. And perhaps I’ll post a tutorial here to go with it. (Of course, don’t hold your breath on that one.)

 

infinite monkey design

I’ve had an epiphany as to the inspiration behind my site graphics/colours: My immediate environment.

The wine reds come from the walls of our computer area. The shade depending on the cast of the light (an issue I found particularly problematic while trying to take a photo this morning.)

The weathered paper-look graphics with their coffee stains and ink splatters come from our worn out computer desk – complete with dark red hair dye stains and ever-present luke-warm cup of coffee. (Half-empty or half-full, depending on the mood of the day ;))

 

infinite monkey design

 

 

And then there’s the name, Infinite Monkey. This one has less to do with my ‘design style’ and more with my tendency to natter on incessantly in the hope of eventually producing words that make sense.

….Okay so maybe it does have a little something to do with my design style.

Opening Photoshop and mucking around with various brushes and overlay effects until I finally scrape together something half-way presentable, is akin to a monkey smacking away at the keys of a typewriter until it eventually flukes a proper word or two, isn’t it? (Yeah I know, really selling myself here…)

workdesk

I leave my desk for five minutes and come back to this?

 

workdesk

 

 

These two like to hang around my work space, offering advice while I’m testing out website layouts. I have an inkling that they’re trying to get me to take them on as paid staff. Good luck kitties – I’m not getting paid either at the moment!

Besides, Little Guy’s[1. That’s the one in the background. Aptly named because he’s little. And a guy.] idea of advice is to sit on my keyboard and drool into my coffee cup. Not sure what he’s trying to tell me (quit, perhaps?) but it’s not particularly helpful.

And that vocal little beastie in the front [1. Mogwai aka Moggie] is just waiting for me to take my seat so she can sit on my lap and shed fur all over my clothing. The problem with tortoiseshells, by the way, is that it doesn’t matter what colour you wear – nothing is safe from their fur. The ginger & white shows up on black clothing, the black shows up on everything else. *sigh* Can’t win.

In the days leading up to her 5th birthday, the Lily Bug grew increasingly anxious. As much as she was excited by the hype of her birthday (and the hope of her Trash Pack Street Sweeper wish coming true) she was terrified at what she would suddenly become, on the day of her birthday. Would she wake up and discover she’d grown into an adult all at once? Would she suddenly be too big to play with toys and run around a playground?

Despite our reassurances that she’d still be the same height on Feb 4th as she was on the 3rd, she had taken the notion of suddenly becoming a ‘big’ five year old to heart, and began waking from bad dreams in the night, refusing to sleep and even wetting her bed. It was only on the morning of her birthday when she woke to realise she was still a little girl, and made me measure her height just to be sure, that she finally relaxed – and got on with enjoying life through the eyes of a five year old. Which are, initially at least, very much like the eyes of a four year old.

Me on the other hand… I found it hard, really hard, to get excited about this particular birthday. These last five years have gone way way too fast, and no matter how much I may wish it, I just can’t seem to grab Time in my hands and stretch it out, to make it last longer.


Guy Smiley – can have his cake and eat it. Though, whatever else that is hanging out of his mouth, I just can’t tell you.
To be honest, the Teen and the Lily Bug don’t spend a lot of time together. You know how it goes with 17 year olds… They have their own life to live etcetera etcetera… But it was nice to see them hanging out for this special event – and I made sure to snap photographic evidence. 😉
The birthday girl longed for a T-rex cake, so I used our Xmas chocolate truffle recipe as it’s great for squishing into shapes. The Bug and I shaped the cake together, and she decorated it. Less a T-Rex, more a Dragon, but the process of its creation became the theme of our day and as well as being incredibly fun, it was a nice way for the Bug to relax and overcome her birthday anxiety. I suspect this will be a new birthday ritual for our family…

Monday kicked off with a stomach bug that has been systematically picking off our household, one after the other, for the past three or so weeks. I’ve been nervously waiting for my turn but so far I’m okay. Of course, this now leaves me slightly uneasy with the suspicion that everyone else in the family has an alien baby inside them, except for me, and now rather than celebrating the fact that I’m not a green-faced chunder wonder, I’m feeling a little rejected. Why am I not good enough for alien impregnation? Why can’t I experience a week or two with no appetite? Gods only know I could stand to shed a few kilos, and involuntary vomiting is so much easier than sticking my own fingers down my throat!

Contrary to what medical professionals may tell you, the best cure for alien impregnation (or ‘stomach bug’ if that’s what you chose to call it) is not plenty of fluids and bed rest, but plenty of fluids, loads of sand, a good smather of sunblock, and a spot of sunshine if you can happen to find some.

The weatherman predicts more sodden grey rain from Friday, so we decided to hotfoot it to the beach and make the most of the brilliant blue sky. Not a cloud in sight, and no wind whatsoever.

Of course, as soon as we set up our little afternoon camp upon the beach, the clouds began to roll across, with a large ominous black one hovering in the background (like a cleverly-disguised Mothership, keeping an eye on its human cocoons.)

Ignoring Mothership’s watchful eye, we had a great slice of afternoon. The kids enjoyed driving monster trucks through the sand and teaching their dinosaurs how to swim, being dragged through the super-low tide on a bodyboard and mowing their hands through the soft mud-like sand. 

Dear Lily Bug,

Last night, just before you fell asleep, you began to cry. I reached out to hold your hand, and asked what was wrong. You told me you didn’t want to turn five. You didn’t want to stop having Unicornie and Bolt to cuddle at night. I told you that turning five didn’t mean giving up your bedtime buddies, and you stopped crying – but only long enough to take a breath and start afresh.

“What’s up this time?” I asked.

“I’m afraid to be a big girl! I’m growing up too fast mum! I don’t want to start school. I don’t want to stop going to kindy. I love my kindy!” And again you erupted into sobs.

My heart broke for you, because I understood your fears – it’s hard facing the unknown, and most of all it’s hard that you have to step out of – and leave behind – your comfort zone in order to do so. I felt so sad that you carry these fears when you’re still so very young. How difficult it must be to realise when you’re only four and a half years old, that these are stages you’ll be leaving behind as you grow!

I wanted to hug away your fears but I couldn’t. I was pinned down by your little brother, who was clinging on to me in his own nearly-but-not-quite-asleep haze with a limpet-like ferocity. So I continued to reach across the gap between Guy Smiley’s bed and yours, and hold your hand, and talk you through it. Reminding you that it’s still a long time before you’re five and so you have lots of time left to enjoy kindy (and it broke my heart to say that too, because it’s not long at all, and I too would rather that things stay as they are now, than let you go!) and school will be exciting and fun…

And even though positioning you in one spot long enough to practice writing your own name requires a titanium backbone and a wee bit of bribery at times, I’m sure the teacher’s sharp voice will be more effective than mine… It’s not that I don’t have a sharp voice (which can probably be heard from four houses down when I used it) it’s just fairly ineffectual most of the time. And that trick of using a serious but quiet voice doesn’t work either, because neither of you can ever hear me over your own yowling.

Anyway, I digress.

The truth is, I don’t want to let you go to school either. I don’t. I try so hard not to think of next year because I want you and Guy Smiley to stay exactly at the stage you’re at now. Not forever. Of course I want to see you grow into the beautiful young adults I know you’ll become. But a dominant part of me can’t help but wish these next six months could last for at least another year and a half. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen. So I can only hope summer starts early this year, and we can make the most of your final months of being a pre-schooler, before February 4th shifts the tectonic plates of our comfort zones into a completely new formation.

Love always,
Mum

PS: At least my one consolation is that once you start school, we’ll you’ll be one step closer to total world domination. Whoo hoo!

Manutewhau Walk

We love our usual local West Auckland playground with its large reserve and native bush area, but it’s always way more fun to stumble across ones we’ve never been to before. Just the other day we tiki-toured down a few neighbourhood side-roads, and came across a new (to us) playground with a small scrap of bush to adventure through.

Manutewhau Walk

Manutewhau Walk

We had no idea where this track was going to lead us, and then it opened out onto our road! I’ve lived on this street 12 or so years, and never even noticed this particular slice of native bush. You know, despite the “Manutewhau Walk” sign and wooden walkway leading into it… (Admittedly, we’re usually paying attention to the larger reserve on the other side of the road.)

A couple of weeks earlier, a friend introduced us to Oakley Creek Falls – tucked away down an Avondale side-street where I never would have thought to ever find a forest. Or a Waterfall for that matter.

Oakley Creek Falls

Oakley Creek Falls

Seriously, people who think Auckland is all about traffic congestion, arsehole BMW-driving JAFAs & high-density housing, just really need to get out of the house more (And head out to West Auckland.)

auckland playgrounds

Fortnight in review: I even managed to get a pic of the Teen in here! Not that I took it myself, no she usually hides her face behind her hair and grumbles about how she’s having a bad face day whenever I wave the camera in her direction.