Wednesday, July 31, 2002

I am not sure quite where I left off, but we spent a good bit of our time and mental energies last week preparing for our 2 weeks of holiday on the South Island. I also spent some of Thursday and Friday running around trying to make the rest of our stay in NZ legit by obtaining an extension to our 3 month visas. It looks fairly easy to get but cross your fingers as they now know where we live and our original visas are up before we even get back north – except for Pete – will he still be in the country when we return?! Phyllis and Dave took a day to get in some sightseeing and maximized their $8 all day bus and ferry pass with trip downtown for lunch at SkyTower and a ferry ride to Devonport and back. I wasn’t used to having 2 little guys all to myself all day! We headed back to Jumping Beans which is back after “Term Break”. Aidan loves going. There is a baby class about 15 minutes after his ends for children Quincy’s age. He was all for us staying. He rather enjoyed being the only big kid around! It was interesting to see what all they had going on for little ones. I was actually rather impressed. They really have their act together especially as everything comes out of an returns to a regular sized van. They pack a lot of equipment in and it all converts and does multiple duties. The kids were both rather pooped afterwards as Aidan’s started at 11.30 and Quincy’s ended at 1.30. Aidan had snacked so I decided to drive them both down for a nap. Aidan resisted in a big way despite being tired. He outlasted me at over an hour’s drive at which point Quincy was back awake from me yelling at Aidan! At least the drive was scenic… And there are next to no traffic lights or stop signs in our suburb and surrounds. Nanma & Pop were a big help watching the boys Thursday and Friday so that I could do the visa stuff, make hotel reservations etc. Pop took Aidan (and Quincy although apparently he didn’t realize it!) to a little music / movement class at the community center. I think they both had a lot of fun. Pop has had a little shadow with Aidan. Or perhaps it is the other way around (at Aidan’s insistence). Both grandparents have also had a lot of potty duty which they take in good spirits. Aidan had gone a month or so no accidents then one night last week peed in bed (and I was sharing the bed but he kindly only wet his side). And then our first night traveling he fell asleep on way home and peed midway through the night without fully waking and had several accidents the second day although has been dry all day today (after being put back in pull-ups – just in case…). He knows right away and it is just a dribble but… Too much excitement?

Have I talked about the sinks and toilets here? Restroom sinks tend to be quite shallow front to back with separate hot and cold water taps. Sometimes only 6” deep. Useless! The toilets on the other hand are quite nifty in that they often/usually have 2 levels of flush available. You can figure that one out. Only use the larger amount of water when really needed.

We started our “adventure” Saturday morning when we were picked up in a minivan of the same make that we were going to rent and we headed to the airport. And all our bags and passengers fit!! We had been concerned… We flew Air New Zealand. Didn’t have to show ID to board plane or get boarding pass. No questions about packing our own bags… They offered to carry our backpacks on board for us as we had the 2 kids. Then on board (and not that big a plane – 737 or so) we were told where the child changing table was and offered help with nappies (diapers) bottles etc if needed. They helped install Aidan’s carseat and brought him a nice entertainment/activity book and colored pencils. Really really nice. And a very pleasant trip down with coastline and alpine views. It was election day – fancy, a Saturday not Tuesday! And all election garbage had to be removed by midnight Friday so no more banners on the street corners lingering on. So civilized.

We had bright clear sunny weather for our arrival in Canterbury region, Christchurch city. We were all most impressed with our drive into town from the airport. The taxi driver (lately a truck driver) informed us that we were going through the “upper crust” part of town. I quite like some New Zealand architecture and some of the houses I thought looked quite nice. They do a great job here with having doors and windows open up completely to the outside (ie our kitchen room has 4 doors across that all fold back along a track so that the whole wall disappears). Guess that makes sense since they don’t bother with air conditioning/heating of any kind! There is also a bit of a European sensibility about some of the aesthetic details that is pleasing. Some use of more high tech materials – metals and tensile fabrics – even in residences that are well used and appropriate. Christchurch is also known as the most English of all NZ cities and that was also apparent in the architecture and a bit more formal gardens we could see. It looked to be pancake flat unlike Auckland with its 48 volcanic hills. It is on Canterbury Plains – and they are Plains! We stayed in a nice Motel (motel means full stocked kitchenette and usually separate bedroom here) with very short walk to city central. Our hostess recommended that we head to the Arts Centre in the old University buildings. Sounded a bit odd to us but we decided to try it out. We walked past the River Avon and saw a “punter” poling his passengers along (think Venice Gondola) under the weeping willows. We spied the Cathedral. The University campus is quite nice and in the old English type stone architecture. There was a street performer that interested Aidan as we arrived and a outdoor market adjacent filled with crafts. We grabbed some Lamb Kebabs for lunch and sat and listened to a folk singer (sort of – very nice) in the sun. I picked up some bread from a van, blue cheese from another (smaller) van, and some fresh fruit from a stand for the next day. We then toured through some of the buildings which have been turned over for crafts. We saw wood and bone workers, bought fudge, ogled the fine knitted wear, looked at the leather – you get the picture. There was even a kite place to have fun in. We then set off to find sign of Rutherford – a famous Physicist that went to school there a bit before turn of century (I think). The Physics Building hosted a crafts store and clueless woman. Not far away we did find the “hundred dollar man” exhibit (guess which bill he is on). Mostly it showed rooms like would have existed in his time and a lot of replicas of his medals (many many) and didn’t explain too much about what he actually did that made him so important. So don’t ask me – I don’t really know. Then we enjoyed dinner at vegetarian & seafood restaurant Dux Lux (I think) right there. Very good. Aidan passed out on the stroll home.

It is colder and definitely a bit less daylight hours in the day than up north, but so far the weather has been pretty reasonable during the day especially with the sun out. Probably high 40s or so. Nanma & Pops new ski gloves seem overkill at this point, but they are keeping warm!

Sunday morning bright and early we headed out of town to the train station. At 9 sharp the Tranz Alpine departed for our trip across the plains up into the mountains and across Arthur’s Pass. What a beautiful trip! The plains are quite attractive in their own right as we passed through a patchwork of agriculture, sheep, cattle & deer fields with the snow capped mounts looming ahead. There was a viewing car right behind ours – exhilarating! Bitingly cold though with the speed of the train whipping the wind past. Aidan called it the Rumble Room – it was a bit too loud for him. We crossed 4 viaducts (bridges) and went through 19 tunnels. Through some of the trip we are in a fog zone in the valley we passed through – it was quite shallow in it’s depth (and I had seen it or something similar from the plane in isolated paths the day before) and we could at times see blue skies above. Inside the fog though all the plants including the trees were frosted – really spectacular. So we were probably trading some nice mountains for the pretty trees. There was one place that is a large sheep station – you could see hundreds of them framed by the frosted trees, disappearing off into the white distance. The train got us in a few minutes late at 1.45 into Greymouth at the mouth of the Grey River.

After a snack adjacent to the Jade Gallery we headed south to Shantytown. This coastal stretch is known for its jade (or greenstone as it was called here). I didn’t know that jade is found in boulders – cut them open and hope that there is jade inside and that it is of good quality… it has often been found in the streams and even on the beaches. Back to Shantytown. You can pan for gold – seemed like a silly idea to us to have your hands in water in the cool temperatures of late afternoon. But there are a bunch of buildings that replicate what you might find at the time of the gold rush (just a tad later than California’s). It was quite well done and we had the place almost to ourselves. We also got to take another train ride – only 15 minutes. It dropped us off at a sawmill that wasn’t working on Sunday but had displays explaining the process. We closed the place down at 5 and then headed south 40 km to Hokitika and our motel the Jade Court. We had a 2 bedroom Motel room this time (previous night was 2 separate rooms). We decided to implement the couples without kids dinner plan. Phyllis & Dave when first while we tried to settle the boys. Surprisingly difficult given their lack of naps and early arousal that morning! Café de Paris was the restaurant of choice. And a good choice it was Phyllis! Pete & I had our turn around 8.30. Afterwards we stopped off at the edge of town to check out the “largest above ground Glow Worm colony in the southern hemisphere”. They are actually flies although spend 75% of their year long life as larva. They glow in all stages and are often found in caves – they like cold damp places. You park by the side of the road then follow (grope along) handrails up a slope into the dell. The trees almost completely shut off the light above from the stars. The worms are stationary and look a bit like stars except you can tell there are tree branches in front of them. We had to go back in the day to see what it looked like. The dell is surrounded by fern clad vertical slopes where we think the worms are, but no sight of them by day. It was pretty cool. There was also a little walk up a slope with vistas out over the seemingly unending shoreline.

This morning we got off to only a 10 a.m. start. Pete & Dave enjoyed a nice kidfree (well Quincy napped) breakfast at the same place while Phyllis, Aidan & I ate our delicious muffins outside in the sun. We finished about the same time and then headed to visitor center. We just made it in time for the noon eel feeding show at Water World. 60 eels, quite a few around 2 meters in length. Diver wears steel mesh gloves to protect his hands from their teeth – and his wet suit looked a bit nibbled on. What a job! A small aquarium but rather nice in spite of or perhaps because of that. I left the crew there for a bit and went and check out the craft stores. I watched glass being blown and saw jade being carved. And spent a little money… We had a snack before heading out to town. I kept shoveling a few bites into Aidan while the other adults headed off to a church as it is the anniversary of Dave’s death.

The drive south to Franz Joseph Glacier is about 140 km. Very scenic with snow capped mountains to the side and sometimes ahead. We crossed quite a few creeks/rivers. They are rather small but have huge spanning river beds lined with rocks (glacier??). We wonder how often the water stretches the full width. The hills and farm land on this narrow stretch between mountain and coast is very green. They get A LOT of rain thanks to the mountains. We saw a lot of deer farms. Not something you see back home. The kids both got in a nap on the way to the Glacier. We took a short (20 min supposedly) walk to Sentinel Rock for a view and a few informational signs (showed previous extent of advancement and retreat of Glacier). Interesting, but we have all seen other glaciers. These are special in that they are very fast flowing and come down pretty close to sea level (300 m) in a rather temperate place/latitude. Dusk was upon us as we hit the first really twisty roads of our trip on our way to Fox Glacier area where our motel awaited.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

Quincy weighed in at 15lb 1oz Wednesday. So almost a pound in a month. Seemed like he was really getting heavy to me. I came home and charted it on his chart - and he is still well below the last chart line of 5%... So I have 2 lightweights. How come my back doesn't agree with that statement?! Quincy the last 2 days has made a real effort to get into coordinated crawling. He is now belly off the floor almost all the time altho still often forearms instead of hands in front but up onto knees in the back. He is also quite fast regardless of his rollypolly state. He has amazing body control and really can keep that head from hitting floor or other objects. He now sits quite well when placed in sitting position as long as he doesn't want to head forth and crawl after something which is usually the case. I picked up a highchair of sorts for him - it sits on a regular chair but has a tray so I can get a little distance between him and the table (ie my food). I found that a fennel stalk is a great pacifier for him - he likes the taste and will work on it for quite a while but it is solid enough that although he can shred the end with his 5 little teeth he so far hasn't been able to get off any chunks. I gave him some cornbread tonight. He really enjoyed that although not that much actually made it into his mouth. It allowed me enough time to finish up MY cornbread... Will be interesting to see how it goes in predominantly restaurants over next 2 weeks in South Island. Wish us luck!
Our latest bedtime ploy - Aidan sleeping with Quincy! He is willing to go down with little fuss if we let him go to sleep in our room with Quincy. Bad news here is that he likes to have physical contact with Quincy. He starts off by immediately holding hands and sort of climbs into crib and puts his head to Quincy's. Very sweet. You would never guess that big bad brother who is always taking toys out of Quincy's hand and sitting on him etc would be so loving. Too bad that it has an over 50% wake up Quincy factor... The first time he did it I did see both boys awake and staring at each other and as I closed the door I expected to shortly hear Quincy cries. They never came. They have on other days however. Quincy is getting enough solids now that he seems to be going about 3 hours between feedings. A big plus for me but still midnight, 3 and 6 a.m. are not alot of fun to wake up to. I have joined Aidan the last few days to keep him in his bed and to sleep in. Pete wakes 6.30ish and then I get woken for the day - unless I am downstairs with Aidan with door closed... So I have gotten to sleep in til after 8 this week! So I haven't needed naps - but then again Aidan hasn't been willing to take one either...

Monday, July 22, 2002

Quincy had his first fall off a bed. We were downstairs (in room under him) caterwauling out I've Been Working on the Railroad (his favorite) when I heard him start crying. When I went in - I didn't see him! Turns out he made for the 6"x6" open space between bed, nightstand, and crib. He was on the floor below, wrapped around the bed leg. He didn't seem too unhappy about the fall - more that he couldn't go any where. That night I watched him make a beeline right for that area again. Seems he didn't learn much! I think he wants either the lamp or it's cord on the nightstand. Today after nap I watched him crawl into his crib (set 4 or 5" below bed level and a couple inches from bed) and then try very hard to pull himself up on edge toward nightstand and later opposite end - about 12 - 15" up - no success fortunately. He then managed with a bit of work to haul himself back out and up on the bed. He is a determined little boy! And now quite fast. He still mostly crawls on his belly using forearms to pull himself forward - but he uses both arms instead of just left one now. He is also spending a fair bit of time up on his knees too now. He can also sit fairly well if put down in that position - at least until he decides he wants to head off for something else. He also enjoys propping himself up on his left side - reminds me of studies of nudes reclining from late 1800s in art class. He has remarkable body control and can control his head so that when he rolls around or falls his head doesn't bang down but instead comes down very gently.
Monday was supposed to be a rainy day - although it was gray we didn't have any drops until we were snug in our beds as it turned out. But I pursuaded Nanma & Pop that they should stay nice and dry with us and go shopping. We stopped off at Craft World (not a place to buy craft supplies as Nanma first imagined but a place to buy NZ made crafts). Nanma and I stocked up on gifts for friends/family. We then headed back to Botany Downs Mall / shopping center where they have the large bookstore with tractor on the ceiling, train that runs around track battery powered, and a decent cafe beside all of this. We then found an outdoor store and managed to stock up on a few essentials like good gloves, thermal underwear etc for our trip south this saturday. Aidan asks daily - are we going to the snow now?? Nanma and Pop declared it a good outing at our return at 4 p.m. The boys both passed out as we neared home and the grandparents decided that was a good idea and joined them in slumber land. Quincy had the shortest nap, then I woke Aidan. Surprisingly all our racket didn't wake the other two! Fortunately while they all slept I got a chicken and some root veggies in the oven for dinner.
Don’t think I remembered to mention one incident of our Rotorua trip. As we drove into town we saw several areas with steam rising up from the ground and the odor as we went by was not that pleasant. We shortly pulled up outside the museum and gardens to get our bearings. Pete headed off for a short walk. Phyllis announced that she would change Quincy as he clearly needed it. You can probably guess where this is going… I am sure I looked quizzically at her and indicated that I didn’t think that he needed a change. Sure enough, sulphur was the cause of the stink. To get us back he presented us with 4 poops the following day!

Pop arrived bright and early Wednesday morning. He was apparently waiting for Pete and Phyllis when they arrived before 7 a.m. They stopped off in our little village and picked up some still warm from the oven croissants. Quincy was in my arms when they came in. You should have seen his head whip around when he heard that new voice. Aidan was delighted to have a new addition to his audience. He took a bemused I’m sure Pop on a long tour of the house. He spent probably 45 minutes just explaining all the contents of this computer room/mezzanine – as far as I knew it just had a desk, computer, and changing table! But he managed to point out my reading glasses and who knows what not (I was listening with only half an ear from the kitchen). He later went on to show Pop the contents of Nanma’s case from on her dresser even to explain that she uses lipstick and this is how it opens and this is how she puts it on! I didn’t even realize that he had been in there to observe this ritual. Pop brought with him our longest string of calm sunny weather. He was quite impressed with our situation here – house, village, Auckland. I dropped Pop and Nanma off down in Mission Beach for brunch and a walk back to our village and house. I took Aidan off to Jumping Beans – I thought. Oops – doesn’t start til next week! We did have a rain cloud come through that day – just as I was walking Aidan down to our designated lunch spot (Atomic Café with the sandbox). He was not happy about the distance we had to walk although he was well protected from the weather with rain boots, rain coat and his own umbrella.

Thursday we got off to a very late start. It was our second day to not have enough hot water to shower (except Pete!!). Apparently a few years back the electric companies made a move to take over control of people’s hot water heaters. They have a relay on ours and when there is high “load demand” they can shut you off for 5 hours. And this can be at 7 a.m.!!! Barbaric. So it is Russian roulette every morning – will it be cold or hot today… I have told Pete he is on a strict water ration. So Nanma didn’t get showered and dressed til after 2 or so and Pop around 6 after waking from a nap. I have a few photos of them out on the patio with the kids. Aidan was extremely grumpy when he got up – much too little cumulative sleep. I had the bright idea of letting him loose with some colored water and a bunch of dishes and spoons. A hit!! At the end of the 3 or so HOURS he happily played he was able to tell you how to make green, purple and orange! I don’t think it has really stuck with him as he had to rediscover how he made that purple…he very much likes the game and asks for it a lot.

Friday the lot of us (excepting working Daddy of course) headed back to the zoo. They have a nice area called Pridelands where they have several types of animals in same large enclosure – giraffes, ostriches, antelope etc. They were all off exhibit! Fortunately they were allowed back in before we left the area and we got to see them amble off towards their snacks so it was interesting. And before they showed up some loose roosters were having a crowing match to Aidan’s fascination. We also heard very loud noises from across the zoo. We headed off in search and discovered the Gibbons. Their calls are supposed to be heard up to 1 km away – I believe it! A cloud and breeze came by and I pushed the crew on to lunch time. I took them all back to Atomic Café where Nanma and Pop joined me in my favorite roasted root veggie on greens salad with a Trim Mocha Latte.

Saturday we had a van reservation for Waiheke island – the largest island around here at 23 km long and 93 or so sq. km. It is a bit over ½ hour ferry ride through the bay – very attractive. The car rental guy recommended a specific vineyard for lunch – and as it was nearing lunchtime that sounded attractive. We stopped at a beach or two and did a bit of scenic driving on the way. The vineyard is called Te Whau (pronounced like ‘fowl’). A beautiful building perched on the crest overlooking the harbor to one side and Auckland on the other. They have a very limited production – you have to be a subscriber or visit the vineyard to try their wine. I rate it one of the 2 best meals we have had here. They only serve lunch as I understand the family currently lives below the restaurant and have a couple of young girls. I read in their newsletter that Wine Spectator is including them as one of the worlds best restaurants for wine loves in August issue. Pop and I had seared tuna, Pete had lamb chops and Nanma had salmon – Aidan (with Pete’s help) had some very yummy sausages. Quincy wanted food… After lunch we headed off to do the back loop around the rural part of the island. They didn’t tell us that it was a dirt road! Very attractive though. Pop had wanted to see some sheep – and got his wish. We just missed the 5 p.m. ferry by a few minutes – it was still there as we pulled up but we had to get rid of car etc – so we stopped and got coffees while waiting for 6 p.m. ferry. Too bad we missed the sunset ride. We all then hopped on a bus for home – the younger 4 of us had our car parked a short way out of town. The elder two continued on to our village and had dinner sans kiddies.

Sunday I turned a blind eye and drove the crew out to breakfast and a visit to One Tree Hill (missing any trees at all on top currently). I say turned blind eye as there wasn’t room for everyone PLUS Quincy’s car seat… A nice breakfast – Quincy slept through it !!! The park was very enjoyable. It is the largest park in town with the possible exception of the Auckland Domain. There are also quite a number of sheep and cattle in various parts of the park. Other parts have attractively landscaped walks. We even saw a little troup of men practicing their medieval fighting skills with broadswords, lances and shields. We also saw people out bar-be-queing. We noticed on Waikeke Island – they had flat stainless cooktops that have gas heat source underneath that you start with a push button on the side. No fuss no muss! After checking out the playground we headed home to drop off Nanma and Pop and pick up salad fixins for a bar-be-que at Pete’s co-worker’s house. There were 3 families and 3 other children (a little older than ours). It was enjoyable but not overly memorable i.m.o. I was surprised to learn that I have taken better advantage of some of the things available to children than the native’s wife who said she’d been there 2 years (they have a 4 yr old).

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Well, it has been a while! I would like to ask who my audience here is. If you read this, drop me an email at please. I know Ginette can be counted on and sooner or later my parents… and Phyllis and Dave are now with us here in NZ. Pete has yet to read any blogger accounts.

Aidan’s bedtime / sleeping is a disaster – he NEEDS to have someone with him now at night every night. I think we have had one night in this house he spent completely alone. He always said he NEEDED someone but we tried to convince him he just WANTED someone. He truly is fearful though of something. Usually he says a Wolf. No matter how much we explain and he says he understands that there are no wolves in this country, it doesn’t stop the fear. What really brought it home for me was one night when both Pete & I declined to lay down with him for very long (until asleep that is), I offered that he could go sleep up in our bed for a while with Quincy (who is in co-sleeper next to bed). He took me up on the offer. When we got up there he asked me if Quincy was going to protect him!! Rather funny to think of sleeping Quincy protection someone! So, guess we’ll hope that once we are home again we can leave these fears behind (and develop new ones I’m sure). Also I plan to move Quincy in with him which may be a big help to perhaps both of them. Now need to figure out how to stop Quincy waking almost hourly…wanting to eat.

Aidan has a new friend “Boa Buddy” for the pool. He has squashed him enough around that house that Boa has a slow leak. Boa is 6’ long or so and serves as an inflatable “noodle” in the pool – thus can keep Aidan floating. Aidan loves it and we stand on the bottom and use both hands to vigorously splash Boa away from us so that we can then go swimming after him and pounce on him. Aidan has come A LONG WAY from where we started. He is continually blowing bubbles just for fun. The goggles also purchased give him a sense of security too. He still won’t put his head under, or his goggles, but we are getting there. He now automatically kicks when in the water and also does his “wheels on the bus” hands. He can’t add bubbles and maintain the 1st 2 – he seems stuck at 2 out of 3, but he’ll get there. Unfortunately we had a substitute teacher he didn’t like but Clare should be back next week.

Aidan is quite the little maid in training. Or do you call them cleaners? If he sees a drip of water on the kitchen floor he runs off to bring back the mop to clean it up. One night he spent well over ½ hour on his hands and knees wiping the floor with a rag. He also likes to use the brooms and has become proficient with the small dustpan and brush. He was using the big broom to brush down the windows in the kitchen this a.m. – needs work on window cleaning concept, but… We have been getting a chuckle out of it all.

Don’t know how much I have reported on our recent sight seeing. Not much I don’t think. We have had very soggy couple of weeks although we seem to be into a sunny stretch now that is showing up for the next 10 days on (we’ll see!). A couple Saturdays ago we decided to head to Rangitoto – the big island (volcano) we see when looking out our windows. We headed off to the ferry and it started to pour. And I mean pour. We weren’t able to SEE the island any more. Phyllis was just going to drop us off and then head home and buy our tickets to South Island at travel agent. She and Pete thought that a trip to the island seemed like a horrendous idea so we stopped at Starbucks instead. I have enough experience here to know that everything does blow through, and the weather report was actually for generally good weather. Sure enough, before our coffees were finished the sun was shining and we could see what would have been our ferry heading across the water. We stopped off at a lookout point and enjoyed some sun before heading to travel agent, butchers etc. I stayed home and let Quincy have a nice nap and Pete & Aidan caught an afternoon ferry. I understand they had a nice time – took sort of a tractor pulling a open traincar like thing up the hill to near the top of the hill. You can walk it, but probably not recommended when you have a dozy toddler you have to carry! They gave me a call when they returned and I met them for dinner. Aidan was so sleepy that he was actually great – he let us have a nice conversation and he quietly sang in between bites we offered him.

Last weekend Pete decided he could make it a 3 day weekend so we headed off to Rotorua. Also a bit of a preview of what travel might be like in South Island where we will need to log 4 or so hours in the car on quite a few days. Rotorua is a geothermal area about 3 ½ hours south of here a bit higher in elevation on a big lake. It is also the center of Maori culture – at least there are still a lot living there and they now make their livings catering to tourist (although reportedly they have been doing that ever since Europeans first appeared). It turned out to be our first really great weather weekend – hardly even a cloud in sight. It was colder than here by almost 10 degrees C and should be a preview of what some of the South Island temps are like – manageable but gave us ideas for what we need to pack. It is very scenic drive there and back – we came back along the motorway and have to say that was very attractive. Very lush green hills and blue waters and lots of sheep/cows/deer. We drove out same way as we headed to Coromandel and the view of the Coromandel mountain range (if they are considered mountains?) was very pretty off to our right beyond the green hills. The kids did great in the car both ways to our delight. We do have to spend some time singing to Quincy. We need more songs for our repetoire! Phyllis has a few new ones for us. Quincy’s favorite seems to be I’ve Been Working on the Railroad (we have sung that one a lot around here) and Aidan is fixated on Old MacDonald right now. He even had trains and planes on his farm!

We got into Rotorua itself and were surprised to find “NO” vacancies posted everywhere. We actually had our eye on a place on another little lake over – 15 min or so out of town. We gave them a call and they said they had a lot of room. I guess there was still school break people in Rotorua. So besides driving, stopping for lunch, finding our hotel by the Lake, and dinner, we didn’t do much. The hotel had a trampoline that had Aidan all excited. And ducks and swans in the lake to enjoy. We had to drive into Rotorua for meals though. We left it a bit late for breakfast in the Aidan and had to endure food cranky Aidan. After our protracted (but good) breakfast at Fat Dog’s we headed to check out some geothermal & Maori stuff. We decided to kill 2 birds with one stone and went to a Maori village – where they are still clearly living – that had a bunch of hot springs and a geyser etc. We listened to their concert in the meeting house which was very enjoyable. They started off with sort of war chanting which Aidan didn’t like. Quincy was fascinated throughout. They did a Maori version of Hokey Pokey using the Maori names for body parts with full audience participation. We then were shown around the village by a native. It was very interesting to hear him tell us how they use the hot springs in their daily lives – the steam vents for cooking meat, the hot pool for veggies, diverted water for baths. He said most of them don’t have hot water in their houses as they even use the natural water for doing dishes – just run out and pick up a pot full and take it home to use in the sink. It did smell a bit – that yummy sulfur smell. He said the food ended up tasting great though thanks to the various minerals in the water. We could understand how these guys had a pretty cushy life comparatively a few hundred years ago. We got to see the geyser going off for a long while – it is a fairly active one apparently. We also got to listen to explanations about their wood carvings – quite interesting I thought. Pete missed it as he was off on a potty break with Aidan. (Who is 100% potty trained at this point – even at night – no accidents in weeks).

Pete was interested in going up the Skyline Gondola to the top of a not too tall hill (in my opinion). They had a “family luge” track he was interested in trying. He and Aidan did it twice – once the easy and once the medium one. Pete said it was fun. Phyllis, Quincy & I waited at the bottom – poor move on our part. It was open to outside (cold) and only one little bench to sit on. And Pete had the car keys… Quincy took a quick nap and I scoped out the Rainbow Springs facility (while toting Q) next door.

Then we headed for mid afternoon snack. Then onto the Polynesian Spa in center of town. We had to use the Family Pools area. They had a chlorinated pool that was warmed – but it was essentially outside although there was a roof over head. Ditto for changing rooms – burr! I am not sure the temp in F degrees – but probably high 40s at that point. There were 2 hot pools we could use – both adjacent but under the stars. The stars were magnificent too with Milky Way very very visible. It was all a bit cold for Quincy so we got our after maybe 45 minutes but Aidan & Pete swam on. Boa and goggles were with us. There was also a water slide Aidan enjoyed with Daddy catching him at the bottom. I didn’t hear but reportedly Aidan’s screams were a thing to behold when finally dragged out quite a while later. Quincy and I were inside in the gift store area…

The next day we were back to Fat Dog (dinner had been there too) for breakfast. Then onto Rainbow Springs for Farm Tour, Wild Animal area, and Bee Talk. Quite nice actually. 45 minutes of Farm presentation. They showed us how to milk a cow (and kids got to try) and got to pet a big big bull, they sheared a sheep – looks like a lot of work. A “strong eye dog” tried to herd 3 of the sheep with little success. Old experienced ewes were stomping their feet at her and at one point put themselves behind a pen opposite her and she couldn’t get them out. She is only about ½ way through her 2 year training. You had to feel sorry for her! They had another dog – a Huntsman I think – New Zealand breed that is good at barking at the sheep to move them alone – not good for detail type work I don’t think. We should have some cute photos of all that. We also saw butter churned etc. The animal tour was good too – lots of native species and wild trout (area is known for their trout – and you can’t buy them, only catch them). We theoretically saw Kiwis in the nocturnal house – but it could have just been a brown bump too. All in all we spent several hours there and then headed off back to home. We stopped for late lunch 45 minutes out then drove rest of the way while boys mostly slept.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Quincy is 7 months old and saying “mamamamama”. Aidan was 18 months before he got around to saying mama (although he had close to a dozen terms for vehicles under his belt – priorities). I wasn’t sure Quincy was going to get around to real sounds – he has been so busy with pterydactyl (sp?) cries and raspberries and coos – lots of vowel sounds. He has practiced a “v” sound before but that isn’t listed anywhere in the baby books… Phyllis heard him first today – and I thought it was just a grandma hearing thing – but then I heard the “mmm”s with my own ears later.

Aidan is into week 2 of swimming daily. He and I “warmed up” again first. Back to the toddler pool – SOOO warm! A bit much really. I had him lift his arms up over his head (and not hold onto anything) so he could realize that he really truly could stand up all by himself (we have talked about it a lot and his feet are on the bottom but he has always had FIRM grip on something or someone). I think this gave him real confidence as he headed into the lesson. The teacher was great – best yet. She did a lot of songs (with swimming activities) with Aidan and Matthew – another timid boy. Aidan is now putting nose in water when doing bubbles – shocked the heck out of me. He didn’t initially want to go over with Clare (where is Spencer?) but it worked out fine. I bought a swimsuit today afterwards – I have been wearing a pregnancy one I had and it takes several days to dry. Ick. I am such a different size and shape these days! Oh well.

Quincy opens his mouth wide now when being fed. A relatively new trick. He was really needing to be chewing on things today – I haven’t noticed that much of a NEED before – usually it was more like – hmm, how does this taste. Went to a burger place near Pete’s office for dinner (Pete has sort of been craving them). Quincy would have loved to get his hand on one – or a fry – or the milkshake – or… he was only content when bouncing (and being bounced) while standing in my (or others’) lap. Tiring!

Rain rain go away come again another day... we did see rainbows though...

Friday, July 05, 2002

Quincy is not sitting independently (he is quite stable when sitting on a lap but I think he wonders what it will do for him when there isn’t a dining table in front of him…) but the last couple of days he has started to prop himself on one forearm (his left of course) and is sort of on his side to get some height to play with things with his right hand. I THINK this may be his way to lead into sitting. He is getting pretty good at holding a crawl position for a while and of course rocking. He has also figured out how to maneuver himself quite quickly to where he wants to go. Too bad he is mostly interested in the VCR on the low shelf below the TV! Also any electrical cords he can see… And of ESPECIAL interest is anything his brother is playing with! Puzzle pieces, little boats, little people, paper, books, you name it. Aidan has decided he should tell Quincy NO very loudly or else just hit him. Hmm. Think I may need to read one of those sibling books… Quincy is chowing down his food quite well especially anything with the fruit purees in it. He has the fasted hands on the block – I have to move all items on dining table much further out of reach than you imagine he can get to – because he can. You turn your head to talk to someone and your plate is hanging halfway off the table. Paper napkins head right into the mouth. And oh! That shiny silverware! Speaking of silverware, Aidan loves a utensil we have named “spork” – it is mostly spoon shaped but with tines cut out of one end. Very good toddler item. I plan to find some to take home. I had seen them before as a fast food plastic utensil but we have them here in our house in stainless. Quincy’s poops are turning more into big boy poops – thanks to the solids I’m sure. And he tends to go 3 days or so between. I still remember once a week Aidan!

Did I mention that tooth #3 – front upper on left side – first appeared on July 1? It is fully through and getting a bit more prominent every day. Teeth #4 & 5 were visible today the 5th (top right 2). I used to give Aidan liberal doses of Tylenol whenever I suspected toothache, but I tried giving Quincy Tylenol once for a fever – he hated it and promptly threw up everything he had eaten so I haven’t tried again. Perhaps his waking every 2 hours at night is related to teething… I can hope!

Quincy has also been clapping for a few days. Very cute and he can do it hard enough to make a sound. He is obviously understanding certain words by his reactions. He is still smiling at his brother although that reaction is harder for us to understand as Aidan gets more and more rough with him. How many times can you say “please don’t sit on him” “please don’t bang that on his head” ?! No wonder Quincy is anxious to crawl!

I have Aidan in swim lessons at theYMCA every weekday this week and next (school break here). He was the only kid in his class this time and will be joined by one other next week. The teacher has been great but Aidan was getting more and more fearful and quite resistant to blowing bubbles in the water. I decided to take him in Thursday before class while Phyllis played with Quincy on the sidelines. For some reason the toddler pool wasn’t warm enough so we were moved to the Leisure Pool. It has stairs down instead of a ladder – a big hit with Aidan. Also flat surround where he could jump in – the Toddler Pool sides slope slightly to discourage jumping I would guess. So I would reward him with a jump in after blowing on the water. Then after his lesson – which went fairly well for a change – we hit the hot tub. There he was voluntarily blowing bubbles. Friday I also went in with him before class. Phyllis did water aerobics while we distracted her (we were in same pool) and Quincy was shunted off to the Creche (not popular – a manager ended up walking him around the pool area showing him the sights which he liked – they said to bring him back though!). When Aidan’s class came along he was an entirely different kid than the one who had been showing up earlier in the week. He even let the teacher pull him around while he just held on to a couple of “noodles” – on Wednesday he had to keep one hand gripped tightly on Spencer at all times even though he was in a pool he could stand up in – the Leisure Pool is 3 or 4 feet deep so no standing. Then in hot tub afterwards I couldn’t stop him blowing bubbles! Thursday and Friday he got to shower with Nanma afterwards – a hit.

Thursday night Phyllis took care of the boys while we headed to a 4th July Winter Escape thing organized by KPMG. A bit weird – at a place that was Western in theme down to a bucking bronco ride. We understood starting time to be 6.30 to 7 but at our arrival at 7.15 we thought we had the wrong night. Dinner wasn’t until 8.30 and it was cook your own steak! No bar-b-que sauce either. We bowed out 9.30 or so when the broncho riding had begun – I think Pete wanted to make sure he didn’t have to take a turn! Fortunately also Thursday Pete’s project took a turn for the better.

We have purchased our tickets to head to South Island. We all head down on 27th to Christchurch and mosey on over to Queenstown – hoping to take in a few glaciers and lots of scenery on the way. While in Queenstown area we hope to get on a Lake and Fjord or 2. Pete will head home the following Sunday while the rest of us continue with a bit more (and leisurely) sightseeing. We will hook up with Pete again in Christchurch the following weekend and then head home. Planning has occupied quite a bit of our free time of late. Aidan really fights going to sleep and was up (and crying) til about 11 last night when I finally let him sleep on floor in my room as I was going to bed and didn’t want him waking Quincy. He is still worrying about Wolves coming in although he intellectually does understand (now) that there are no wolves in this country (although you have to wonder what he thinks a country is…). He really wants someone to sleep with him. Well, I need to do some more trip planning now. Bye!

Monday, July 01, 2002

Don't think I ever reported back about our visit to the Plunket Nurse for Quincy's well baby visit. He has now joined his brother in the "3rd percentile" in weight - and about the same at this age in height at around 30%ile. The chart stops at 5% so I think 3% is just euphamism for off the chart. Funny cause to me he still looks chunkier than Aidan when young. Our Dr at home said he was starting to mimic Aidan's chart and guess he was right! We'll stop by again at end of July for another weigh in. But meanwhile we decided we better let him eat at night if he wants. And he is getting stuffed with as much mush as we can get in him! Up to 3 meals a day. He mostly just wants whatever we are eating but he's doing pretty well on his stuff. We are very happy to have Phyllis here to help with him as he is a terror at mealtimes and all hands are needed!
Got some pictures put on a disk – but unfortunately they didn’t get all of them on for some strange reason so I’ll have to go back tomorrow – missing are all of the pics from this past weekend. Did have some nice pictures of last Saturday. We headed over to Mount Eden volcanic hill. Pete had slept in and then had a late breakfast, but by the time we headed out my tummy was already rumbling. We thought we might want to walk to the top. I took one look and thought that we should save Phyllis’ and my knees for another day and drive up to the summit instead! And then thought that maybe poor little Aidan was hungry and needed lunch… So Phyllis and I left Pete & Aidan playing in a playground while we walked sleeping Quincy down to Mount Eden Village to suss out a place for lunch. We made plans for them to drive down and meet us at the Post Shop – but forgot to say what time! We did meet up for a nice (although slow) lunch. Then with full bellies we headed to the top of the hill for a windy view over the city. The Mount is a fairly perfect cylinder and there was a nice circular crater in the middle. All covered with lush grass. It is used as grazing grounds but we didn’t see any cattle or sheep. Aidan suggested “maybe they already took the cows back to the zoo mommy”. A city kid or what?!

This past weekend was our first (long awaited!) overnight trip since we arrived in this country. We chose to visit the Coromandel Peninsula – the base of which is about 90 minutes from here. The first town, Thames, was a bit of a bust. It wasn’t particularly scenic and we had a so so lunch thanks to one of our guide books (don’t believe all you read!). It did have a lovely church we visited with natural Kauri wood interior. While there Aidan had to do his first poop of the day (there were to be 2 more!!). They lent us a key to the building next door. While there I noticed that the Hall was set up for what looked to be Christmas dinner! Down to a Christmas tree in the center. Guess people are looking for some mid-winter festivities. Down in Queenstown (South Island) they have started a Mardi Gras week which will be in a couple of weeks. I noticed a local restaurant advertising their mid-winter “Christmas” dinners.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t the greatest. It looked pretty good right up until the peninsula where the clouds seemed to be gathering. I drove us over the ridge – theoretically past nifty pinnacles but we couldn’t see very far. Phyllis and I did enjoy the scenery anyway while all 3 boys snoozed in the back. Good thing or Pete would have been feeling a bit woozy from the curves. We managed to time it to Hot Water Beach for low tide (about 4.30) although I had thought low tide was a bit earlier. It was a nice beach – and quite long. We knew there was supposed to be an area where you could did down at low tide and hit hot water and make yourselves little hot tubs out of the sand. I dug a hole – no water at all! There was a cluster of people far off – so we headed that way. Turns out the hot water is in very specific areas – we saw basically 2 zones quite close to each other where people were successful. In between if you dug you got cold water. It was really really hot! Just 4” or so down and you really wanted to be using your shovel instead of your hands to dig. We didn’t strip down but did enjoy watching those that had. Very interesting phenomena.

We cruised up the road for another hour or so to Whitiangia (sp?) at dusk. Here in NZ “motel” means place to stay with rooms that have full kitchens and come in Studio, 1 or 2 bedroom varieties. Some look like 1 star places though. We passed a place Waterfront Motel that appealed although then stopped off at another that had a ***** designation. Pete panned it and we headed back to 1st place. A hit! One suite with one room with King bed and the other with 2 twins. And fronting on the waterfront. There was also a very nice restaurant a block along – On The Rocks. Aidan slept for his first time on a twin bed. We pushed it against the wall and he didn’t fall out. I had actually found him on the floor next to his bed at home the night before – sound asleep. He also went to bed with no protest – 1st in a long time – Nanma sang to him and they thanked the Lord for all the good things that happened that day and I think having her share the room was a big plus. He always plaintively asks “will you sleep with me?” or now “who is going to sleep with me?”. In the morning we were sitting on the sort of enclosed porch area. Aidan came bouncing in “I locked the door”. We didn’t take him seriously or at least care – it was a sliding door. But we were looking in – or out! Nanma was showering but soon came to our rescue. Phew! Who would have guessed you could lock a sliding door and then close it and have it latch? We didn’t. It was my first full night sleep in over a week and a half – much improved my disposition! [Quincy is back to waking sometimes as often as 5 times in a night] [I meant to tell the Bed Story a while back – I was hating our bed upstairs and kept complaining about it to Pete – very hard. I found both beds downstairs to be quite nice. I finally decided we must be sleeping on a boxspring. When I investigated I discovered that we had a Sealy Posturepedic – but it was upside down! We were sleeping on the bottom – might as well have been a boxspring! Pete actually did sleep on a boxspring – wood slats with only a thing cover over them – one semester in college – so guess he isn’t too picky! I have been much happier since we turned mattress over.]

In the morning we shared banana bread bought the day before and leisurely got up. (Enjoying the whirlpool tub, watching the waves break etc). I then had the foresight to take us to Café Nina for a Mocha Latte and a Savory Muffin (feta & bell peppers this time). They advised against route 309. The guide books had made it sound like a pretty reasonable route across the hills to Coromandel although mostly unsealed (aka gravel). After a couple of locals said “it’s a real adventure!” and especially in the rain… we went the other way. We saw a lot of Cala Lillies growing near streams. Also palm trees, Silverfern trees and Papyrus to go with the Norfolk Pines and logging type trees. Lots of diversity in plant life as it is so temperate. And of course lots of green grass grazing hills. A very nice drive over to Coromandel about an hour away. There it was a very wet afternoon. We retreated to Uma Café for a scrumptious lunch – they had a nice blackboard that Aidan couple draw on – a big hit. I was impressed with the little galleries we saw – much more interesting local art & crafts than I have seen since being here. We then headed out to Driving Creek Railroad – a narrow gauge railroad a guy put in to haul clay for his pottery. It starts at the pottery area and heads up to a look out point. I was very impressed with it – I hadn’t had much in the way of expectations though. They have put in a few bridges and did a couple retaining walls out of bottles and have some pottery sculpture scattered here and there. They have also been busy planting native trees and plan to leave the 60 acres to the National Trust when the owner dies. I found the engineer/driver to be quite entertaining in his commentary but didn’t realize til just before we got off that Phyllis and Pete were missing most of what he said. Phyllis has also had trouble understanding the Doctor (when she went in for allergy shot) and the bakery folks. The train had a roof but no enclosures at the sides and of course the 50 minutes we were on the train were when we had the hardest rain of the day. Thank goodness for Phyllis’ poncho that we laid across our laps! We ended up fairly dry at the end. The poor driver had to get out quite a lot as there are 5 switchbacks where the train changes direction and he has to manually change the track and then head to other end of train to drive. He didn’t even have rain gear on! He was a bit soggy by the end. We got to the top – clearly it would have been a spectacular lookout point on any other day – and across on a ridge at about our height – crack went lightning. Have to say I was happy to head back down into the trees! Ironically the sun came out as we got back to the end of the line. We had beautiful weather as we headed out of town and drove back along the west side of the peninsula to home. At least we got to enjoy some of the famed views. All in all a nice “adventure” (as we sold it to Aidan).