Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Honey, do we still have kids?"

A legitimate question: "Honey, do we still have kids?" The last week has been so busy and so full of people and activities that our children have been kept entertained without us. It's been heavenly. Strange, but heavenly. But because of the strange, I made sure we had some time as a family today. First though, our anniversary and Christmas

Our anniversary on the 23rd at the Sidney Pier and Spa was magic. An afternoon to ourselves at the hotel, going out for dinner (seafood!), breakfast in bed and a visit to the spa in the morning made it pretty perfect. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Christmas was a lovely family time. The kids exclaimed on numerous occasions, "this is the best Christmas EVER" and it was definitely more about being with their cousins and grandparents than it was the cool toys. All the Lego in the world pales in comparison with having an older cousin who is equally into Lego. I've loved listening in on Sam's conversations with James and you should have seen our boy's face light up when the latter told him about the Lego store in Downtown Disney!

And in the days after Christmas it's been a blur of shopping (shoes and pumpkin spice lattes!), visiting and, well, lots of eating unfortunately. I've got some work to do when I get back! The highlight was going to Island View Beach as a family this afternoon and playing on the logs and in the rocky sand with the kids. It was really nice to share one of my old haunting grounds with my children and also to spend some time with them on our own again. There was a massive stack of driftwood logs on the shore and we literally lost the children. Sam created a camping game where there were rooms and tunnels between cabins and that was all that was needed for our children to disappear into his imaginary world. I loved every minute of it and hope the sun will shine so beautifully for us again tomorrow.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Trees and Gingerbread on Day 3

All 8 Mackey Grandchildren at mum and dad's house.

The combined Mackey creation--a Canadian Gingerbread house with a few Kiwi additions

Building our house

Madeline and her gingerbread man

Gingerbread men in progress

A group of us on the Inner Harbour on a beautiful day outside the Laurel Point Inn

Canadian Gingerbread Harrod's. Yes, it is made entirely of gingerbread.

Another house, even more elaborate

Dominikovich family on the Inner Harbour, Victoria

Cousin Megan with the girls at the Harbour. Okay, it was a very nice spot and deserved several photos!

Christmas Tree Walk at the Empress Hotel

This post is primarily for my Inglewood friends: look what we did today! A Christmas tree walk in downtown Victoria at the Empress Hotel! The difference was, well, a hang of a lot more trees, but also that they didn't black it out...which was a good thing I think because you could see all of the decorations without straining the eyes. It was a beautiful setting and our family was joined by friends the Nordstroms, Stewarts, and some cousins. We then walked/drove along the harbour in downtown Victoria to the Laurel Point Inn where we first stopped for some photos along the water. It was a stunningly beautiful day with even some heat in the sun (still raining over there?). We dragged ourselves (actually, just Sam) away from the raising and lowering of the Johnson Street Bridge to go see some gingerbread houses on display. Again, this is for my lovely Kiwi friends, to show for once and for all, that gingerbread making is indeed a Canadian thing. Some pretty incredible edible talent on display.

By the time we were through the displays it was nearly mid-day so we headed back to the grandie's house for some incredible edible talent of our own. My sister-in-law was waiting for us with the kids' two cousins to decorate some men and houses together. My sister's girls were also there and Grandpa was very quick to seize the photo opportunity of all the kidlets together. It was indeed special to see them bond so quickly and work together on their projects. Everyone was pretty impressed that the kids waited until the houses were finished and only then did they ask if they could eat some lollies. The pineapple lumps and jaffas were a hit by the way. A brief visit with my brother after he finished work made the afternoon pretty perfect.

Which was followed by a fun evening of dinner at the Nordstrom's with the Stewarts. They each have three children so with our clan added to the mix, it was a pretty full house. A fantastic playroom came in handy and the children were wonderful together. (mental note, one thing I'm going to take away from this trip is the need to get more organised at home: modular storage appears to be the key.) A lovely visit and it is no surprise that the children went straight to sleep tonight. I'm not far behind.

Tomorrow holds more excitement: the children are going ice skating with Paul and friends. I am going to decline the opportunity in order to get some things done (and to be honest, sometimes a girl's got to say, "enough is enough!") Better still, tomorrow is our 15th wedding anniversary and Paul and I will be celebrating at the Sidney Pier and Spa hotel. Dinner, massage, a room for the night. Needless to say, I won't be blogging tomorrow night!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Shopping and Swimming on day 2

After being wide awake counting numerous sheep last night, I was pushed and prodded out of bed at 8:30. The kids were still asleep and Paul was the one pushing and prodding. Jumped in the shower and joined my sister and parents for a coffee downstairs before our pre-arranged shopping trip. Wasn't long before the boot (trunk--do as the Romans...) of Dad's Town and Country was full to the brim of goodies. Mostly for the kids but a few little treats for myself and Paul. I've discovered which shops to avoid and which ones I must return to...soon...:) Mum treated us to lunch at Red Robin and I had a Club House sandwich and refillable ice tea. Copious trips the restroom later and we finally finished our shopping...7 hours after starting.

Meanwhile, Paul took the kids to the pools with our Niece Megan and some friends. Paul was reaquainted with over-zealous protocol in Canadian pools ("Excuse me Sir, you need to be within arm's reach of your children!"). I'm guessing that means if it weren't for Megan helping out, he would have needed three arms. Or perhaps if he could just be one of those elastic men and could stretch himself to go in three different directions...but anway, then when it came to the slides, apparently he wasn't allowed to go down with the children (how does the arm's reach rule apply there?) and so he had to convince the girls to go down by themselves. Naturally, the first thing I heard when I arrived home was, "Mum, MUM! I went down the slide!" times three. Very cool. And they had a blast with their new friends Noah, Maia and Markus, and I think there may have been some others there, but as yet, Paul and I still have some catching up to do.

I forgot to blog yesterday: a quiet day at the house with the grandparents and then a fabulous meal with our friends and a great visit while the children played together.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Long Haul even Longer, Arriving in Canada

Vancouver Aiport, still in summer clothes but Grandpa had gifts!

Kids trying out their Olympics Gear and famous red mittens

At the airport with Grandpa, looking a bit jaded

What an adventure! Saturday the 16th we noticed several flights out of New Plymouth were cancelled due to the foggy misty rain that had set in from the north. Sunday, our day of departure, we woke up to heavy rain and didn't think there would be a problem. Logging onto the website at lunch I noticed that the flights had all been delayed in the morning and I rang Air NZ at the airport to get a clear picture of things. Unfortunately, the guy I talked to was a "glass half empty" kind of guy. It was only luck that brought those planes in, chances were 50/50 the flights were going to get through, and visibility was next to nothing. The panic set in, as it was already 12:00 pm. A quick call to our travel agent and she confirmed, if we missed our flight out of Auckland, we were up the creek as far as getting to Canada. She advised us to get in the car as it just wasn't worth the risk. So get in the car we did, as quickly as possible and managed to leave 1 Becklands Place by 1:45, cutting it fine indeed. Thankfully we were blessed with clear roads all the way until the Auckland Expressway which was anything but express. Arrived at Auckland International at 6:00 pm and a friend of ours was there to collect our van.

On the plane at 8:45 pm and we were told the 13 hour flight was actually only going to be 12 hours 15. It was an awesome flight, although none of us slept much. Watched a lot of movies though! The girls were thrilled with their selection and Sam enjoyed the games as well. Arrived in Vancouver at 12:02 pm local time. Got off the plane quicksmart, seasoned travellers that we are and knowing that at Vancouver airport the queues at customs are diabolical. Our plan worked and we got through very quickly, only to have to wait quite some time for our four bags (apparently we pack light for a family of six--little did they knew we'd packed a bag inside a bag to stock up for the trip home!). Waiting in the meet and greet spot was Grandpa and Auntie Marilyn who lives in Vancouver. I was extremely proud of the children who gave big hugs straight away and thanks to Skype, were not at all strange with Grandpa. He had Vancouver Olympics gifts for the children which were a huge hit. Fantastic clothing which will be worn often.

After a little visit at the airport with Auntie Marilyn (thanks for the photos!), we drove the half hour to the ferry, and made it easily for the 3 pm crossing to the island. It was a beautiful sunny but oh so cold afternoon in Vancouver. Think going up the Maunga to see the snow, but with no snow. Very thankful for the kids' warm gear and thinking Paul and I will have to find that shop or something similar for ourselves! I had forgotten how cold winter can be, spoiled as we are in the Naki. The kids didn't even know what mittens were! The ferry trip was uneventful unless you count Violet's behaviour (just a little over-tired). Abby enjoyed some special grandpa time and I think they've got a bit of a bond now. Arrived at Grandma's house at 5 pm to be greeted by my sister and her family as well, who stayed for a meal that night. Lovely to be here, to finally relax and had a great night in our beds. All of us slept in until 9 this morning. Fantastic!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Paul's 40th BBQ in the Rain

The Cake made by Sheryl Hamilton

I presented Paul with a photo-book of his first 40 years and the guests each signed it for him.

Bridget, Joy, Del

Joy, Liz, Del, Janis, Margaret

The kids table--I couldn't even fit them all in my photo. Must have been nearly 20 children eating in my lounge. The carpet under their table was unbelievably spotless. Not sure how they did that! Then I discovered the bedrooms...

Michelle, Sarah, Andrew, Scott

Friends gathering over good food and good conversation

Helen, Mark, Jen

What's a fork or two among friends anyway? My head was so full of stuff these last weeks, and because not everyone RSVP'd to Paul's party, I had no idea how many to expect. I did think ahead to borrow SOME forks and knives from a friend but we could have done with more...and then there were the spoons. Thank goodness for Penny who showed up with plastic spoons for her dessert! Our bbq was soggy but a few hardy blokes braved the elements to keep the birthday boy company and with a baked ham and a plethora of salads, plus cake and desserts we were very happy partiers. It was a great occassion and speaking for Paul I know that he is feeling very blessed to have so many good friends.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sunset on St. Patrick's Prize-giving

What a blessing, our little school and parish on Standish Street, Inglewood. What a thoroughly enjoyable mass and prize-giving, and what a perfect send-off for the year 8 students going off to high school next year. The magnificent sunset over the maunga was a poignant end to a wonderful night.
We were pleasantly surprised to see our two little Shamrock's recognised this evening. We were very proud to see Sam receive a certificate for leadership in his role in the student council this year. And Madeline was the first student called up for the Catholic Character Award, being the year 1 student displaying all the virtues of the school. She received her first Bible, which is such a blessing because she's been so very interested in reading this year. Mrs. Theyer's paid a fitting tribute to the three leaving year 8 students and capped off the evening with a video album of photos throughout the year, to the tune of Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Fantastic. The tears were streaming down my face and I still get choked up thinking about it. All the children then received their reports for the year and a gift from Mrs. Theyer's, a touch-screen solar calculator which was "very cool." And finally, before supper in the hall, another special treat for all the children in the shape of a Mr. Kool van waiting for them outside. Again, fantastic.
I continue to be overwhelmingly grateful for this fabulous little school, but especially to God for opening up my eyes to the fact that a change was needed and this change would be good. Not just good though. In a word: fantastic.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buster's First Professional Clip

Buster got a haircut today. For the first two years of his life he's had to deal with me and a pair of very sharp scissors. Fine around the face but not so good around the you know what! Well, one day our lovely neighbours were having their dog groomed and the mobile dog service popped into our driveway thinking Buster was Roxie. She's a terrier and he's a Spoodle, but anyway, you could forgive the mistake. Or, was it actually a cunning plan? Because sure enough, after a brief chat, he had our business. Best $60.00 I ever spent! What they could do in half an hour with a set of clippers compared with what I could do with a pair of scissors...and the results speak for themselves. Yes, the kids came home and first asked what I had done with Buster and where did I get the shaved lamb, and then laughed and laughed when they discovered it was indeed Buster. But ultimately, a very happy and admittedly skinnier dog. And, as I always say after I cut the kids' hair, "it'll grow back...won't it?"
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Unusual Bookmark

I just discovered this in my kitchen. I do recall this morning, rushing around to get the children ready for school that Madeline was looking for a bookmark. Apparently she had been read "Green Eggs and Ham" to her sisters and needed to mark her spot. Bless. And this really is a continuation of a great achievement for Madeline: on the weekend I was woken early early to the sound of "Mum! I can read "Green Eggs and Ham!" That's nice dear, now go back to bed. How wonderful though, that the world of books is opening up to our little girl and even more wonderful to see her so excited about it. We already have Sam, nine, reading a chapter book a night and working through as many Rauld Dahl's as he can find. We may be living in an electronic age but nothing will replace the magic of reading a good book in bed.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Toilet for Tea

Something about this set up tickled my fancy this morning. It was either Violet or Abigail, probably Abigail and she had obviously sneaked the furniture out of Madeline's room to play with in the lounge. I found it like this, set up on the sofa. I can only imagine what was going through her head as she found three chairs to go around the dining room table and had to look around for a fourth. Aha, a toilet! That will do! The most obvious solution to a four-year-old.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Round the Mountain Road Trip

Me and the kids at our first destination: Wilkie's Pools

Me and two characters (aka Violet and Abigail)

More theatrics, looking out over South Taranaki from Dawson Falls

Seen this before? Violet and Abigail on the swings at Opunake Beach

Sam (ditto)

Madeline (ditto)

Sam and Madeline exploring Opunake Beach together

Abigail with her birthday cake creation

Voila! The birthday cake creation masterpiece!

Heading up to the Cape Lighthouse

The Cape Lighthouse

Paul and the kids in front of the lighthouse (most disappointed that they couldn't go in).

The view of the Tasman from the Cape Lighthouse

Pigeons also enjoying the view.

Looks like we're pretending we're away on holidays: the children slept together in Sam's room last night, and with another beautiful day blossoming ahead of us, we hit the road. Our route was fairly well planned and relied on our first stop: Eltham cheese shop. Finally found it in a roundabout way and with the chilly bin loaded, we headed up the mountain, to Dawson Falls precisely. A quick bite of a muffin and we were off, not to the falls themselves but up the mountain to one of our favourite spots, Wilkie's Pools. Now, if you know Violet and that she starts whining after five steps, you'll see that it was a huge achievement that we actually got there. She's in training, working on her endurance at the moment. Not for Cross Country next year, oh no: Disneyland in January! We thoroughly enjoyed the tramp, especially the adventurous river crossing and the pools themselves were spectacular as always. An hour twenty round trip brought us back down for a homeade bread, cheese, butter and ham picnic. Accompanied by chocolate yoghurts and Coke for Paul and the kids. But no coffee for me: all thermosed up and left behind on the bench! Pity, that.

After a pit stop at the lookout (and the toilets, yes) we were off again and wound our way down to Opunake. Found a lovely playground and a must-re-visit campground on the beach for an afternoon of fun and relaxation. Nice little place, but no obvious coffee shop, except for the mainstreet "tea rooms." I'm too much of a coffee snob to try them out for the black stuff. Back in the van and the next stop was the Cape Lighthouse further along the coast. The children loved seeing a real live Lighthouse, but were so disappointed to discover they weren't actually allowed to go in it. I think they had visions of a tackling ghosts and hearing old sea stories all night, ala Berenstein Bears.

Back on the road and heading towards home, all feeling rather jaded. We took a wee jaunt up the road to see Lucy's Gully, knowing we'd have to go back another time for an actual walk. We also missed the Stony River, so that's on the list for next time too. Drove through Oakura at dinner time only to discover that our favourite Wunderbar is now generically named something like "Oakura Restaurant" and decided that was a no-go. With no hope of gourmet pizzas on the beach, we pressed on towards KFC. I know, I know, but I had a coupon in my pocket, and to be honest we all wanted to get home. Home indeed, for very fast fast-food on the patio and the exhausted children were quick-smarted off to bed. Feet up on the sofa, computer and memory card in hand, and wouldn't you know it, the coffee is still hot! What a great day.