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10 points to me, I survived the school holidays

The winter school holidays were a little tough this year. The small lad was lamenting the absence of his besties, The Twins. He was hoping they would come to NZ again this year, like last year, but we never heard a word from the family despite our constant emails. Kind of rude if you ask me, but I guess you aren’t asking me! I tried to acknowledge his feeling without letting him mope around.

Some love the school holidays, I do and I don’t. I love not having to make lunches, I love not having to get someone up and moving early in the morning. I love the lack of schedule. People with several children complain about their kids fighting when they have too much time on their hands, but having a lonely only is harder to deal with IMHO. The only way I know how to manage having no siblings to play with, no friend invites or meet ups is to keep him busy, no grandparent input. I kept him busy, but scheduling down time too.

One thing I always used as a gathering activity when I was an Occupational Therapist for the Otago Youth Wellness Centre, was a puzzle. A big one, 1000 pieces at least. We set it up on the table and would leave it there, as each of the kids arrived they would sit and try to place pieces, it was our opportunity to catch up with them, see how things were going. Puzzles are wonderful activities to move in and out of, because conversation is not the focus you can talk when you want or stay silent.

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I got a big puzzle from the supermarket one morning and thought it would be a good activity for Mac and I to work on during the holidays. We found our ‘Warbird Rally’ puzzle from the Country Road series by Ken Zylla  and we got to work on sorting the edge pieces out first and putting the perimeter together. Mac remained very focused and determined. I noticed that he because frustrated when a piece he thought should have gone in a certain spot didn’t fit but that’s all part of the learning that comes from doing a big puzzle. We completed the puzzle in 3 days, with Daddy joining in to complete several sections.

Never underestimate the power of a puzzle.

Usually during the July school holidays the city puts on a lot of activities for the kids calleds KidsFest, some free, some not. BUT they fill up FAST. I didn’t get the booklet about it until the last day of school so when I called the places Mac wanted to try everything was booked out already except horse riding and trampolining.

Our first activity was horse riding. Mac LOVED it, now as a mother I think GREAT he had a good time, wasn’t hurt and it filled in some time doing something outdoorsy…. but as an OT I think WOOOOOOOOOHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…. horse riding is amazing for postural control, which supports good penmanship – something my aspie boy struggles with. As an OT I am also thrilled about him having contact with animals because he so desperately wants to have a pet.  I was surprised that this mild mannered boy within a very short time was solo, reigns and all.

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We had to do a bit of babysitting so for the second week we had Olivia on the Monday, we went to a play as a family on Monday night, Bailey came with us. Tuesday was our rest day of blobbing and watching movies, then Wednesday -Friday we had Bailey staying and Livy staying on Friday.

I took Bailey and Mac to Orana Park on Wednesday. They had maps with the feeding times for each of the animals so I got them to pic two animals in each category and we made a point of going to those feedings. It was a long day but fun.

we saw Monkeys

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Meerkats

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Otters

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Black and White Lemur

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Giraffes, the kids got to feed the Giraffe too. Which they thought was super dooper cool.

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Barnyard friends like this little cutie

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and a llama and a bunch of alpaca

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This wild little beast is a Tasmanian Devil. weird right?

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A little unnerving to have this big cat on the opposite side of water from us. He looks to be sizing us up as his next meal.

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The rhino with the backwards horn was entertaining

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My favourite area was the New Zealand alpine bird and native bird aviaries.

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zoo9The leopards were a big hit though.

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feeding the rainbow trout thrilled them too

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Our next KidsFest activity was Trampolining. Both the kids loved it but again as an OT the proprioceptive feedback prompted me to sign him up for term long lessons.

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community | sandy scultpures and giraffe stalking

I love community events, and Christchurch is abuzz with them during the summer time. I love the buzz in the air and the energy of others out and about enjoying the ambiance with their whanau’s also. It gives me warm fuzzies to know that my children can enjoy activities beyond the plug-in drugs of the electronic world.

And free! who can complain about that?!

Saturday we popped along to the sand sculptures competition on New Brighton Beach. I didn’t bring the right lens with me so I wasn’t able to capture the entirety of the sculptures in the way they deserved, but here is a sampling of what was on display. I was expecting it to be a little more dramatic, as other years have been apparently, but it was still great to be a part of it.

There are some super clever people out there! Mac enjoyed the different creations and who can complain about spending some time on the beach?!

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The on Sunday, we went giraffe stalking, say WHAT?!

Over the last several months there has been a campaign going on in Christchurch called STAND TALL.  Local artists have created beautiful artwork

How it works

  • Businesses, community groups, charities, education establishments and individuals have sponsored the blank Giraffe sculptures – the canvases.
  • Artists, well-known and undiscovered, young and old, were invited to submit their designs. The best designs were selected by sponsors to feature on the Christchurch Stands Tall sculpture trail.
  • 48 local schools were also able to sponsor and decorate their own Giraffe calf sculpture to feature on the trail, and each will be theirs to keep after the event.
  • 49 Giraffes – 2.5 metres high, are on display around Christchurch and surrounds for 12 weeks forming a spectacular sculpture trail for all to enjoy.
  • At the end of the public art exhibition, in February, the large Giraffes will be auctioned so we can all be part of raising money for local charities and turn the city’s Summer of fun into a helping hand for those who are in need.

The beautiful painted giraffes have been on display in strategic places throughout the city for the last couple of months. 3 weeks ago they were gathered up and brought back into to be touched up before they are auctioned off to raise money for 4 specific charities. As a last farewell, they were on display to the public at a local golf club. Mac and I went along on Sunday afternoon. It was well attended and we even had to line up for 30 minutes before getting in. I couldn’t get any good photos of the big giraffes because of the crowds, but we enjoyed the little guys just as much. Mac’s school decorated a small giraffe thanks to the generosity of one family at the school who bought one to be painted. I couldn’t get a good photo of it because of the wrong lens, too many people issue. But you can see him here in all his stripped paintedness.

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It was a wonderful treat to have the giraffes in the city over the summer, I will miss the excitement of spotting them in the city.

I love Christchurch, summertime is the BEST in this city.

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journal | last camp of the season | Okains Bay

I love New Zealand

I love being with my family in New Zealand.

I love the freedom of camping in New Zealand without predatory mammals and rodent scavengers getting into your food lol.

We just spent the last few days camping, which maybe the last camping trip of the season. Over the hill and down the road is a beautiful little bay called Okains.  We camped in the biggest tent in the world, thanks to our friends Kathryn & Kenneth who graciously allowed us to borrow it.

I love me a good camp site and this spot was the bomb bo diggety. True story. Look at the size of this plush accommodation, awesome right?! Mac kept saying “this is bigger than our house!”

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Mike, Mac, Olivia (our grand daughter) and I had the very best time together. It’s really important to me to build family memories. I want my children to know that I was willing to make choices for them, to build happy memories for them and show them the beautiful world I brought them into. And now that I have the chance to be with the next generation, I want my grandchildren to know me, to be a part of my life in a very big way and to know I will make a choice to spend time with them too. I loved my grandmother, she was one of the most influential women in my world and I am determined to be a woman of influence in Olivia and Bailey’s worlds. I desire to encircle them with goodness, laughter, options and adventures so we can break the negative angry cycle in our family, I can’t think of a single thing that has more potential for good that I could accomplish in my life than being a catalyst for change in my family. One day they too will make choices to love with their whole hearts because of it!

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Okains Bay is a small bay on Banks Peninsula, it’s about an hour 15 minutes from Christchurch. The road to Okains Bay is windy and hilly but nothing that any self respecting kiwi driver doesn’t know how to handle. Windy and hilly are our normal!  And besides that, the bay is absolutely worth the effort! I wouldn’t say it’s a drop dead gorgeous bay, it’s pretty average for New Zealand standards..but a combination of delightful elements add up to make it a phenomenal family getaway.

This shaky video is showing the beach environs of Okains Bay, our happy place. You will have to click the pause button to stop it from replaying…I can’t figure out where to turn the autoplay setting off yet.

I’ve always been an early riser, I love my mornings of peace and quiet (and if I was really being honest here I would tell you that I feel quite protective of my mornings and don’t like it when one of the family wakes up early and my quiet is interrupted lol) but every now and again I wish my menfolk were up and about to share this beauty with me.

Each morning started with glorious morning light coming through the trees. When you love light, as I do….you can not help yourself; you have to leap from your hammock and grab your camera. I am okay with this odd addiction of course, there are worst things in life than being addicting to gorgeous light. Maybe next time I will wake them to enjoy it with me!

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Our daily routine went pretty much like this . simply put…wake. play. eat. beach. eat. chillax in hammock. beach. eat. chillax. beach. bed. repeat the following day.

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I am certain anyone could benefit from following this routine a few weeks a year. Although some things I noticed about this routine is, kids don’t get it. Chillaxing in hammocks for long sunny afternoons is not.their.thing. hammocks

So we took TOYS! The rocking horse, blocks, books and a few other toys to keep them entertained. We arranged the hammocks forming a box boundary they were NOT to move out of while we were in the hammocks, should one or both of us fall asleep. This arrangement worked perfectly and highlights the wisdom in getting organized to relax! lol But who knew her favourite thing to do would be to sit in the front seat of our car waving out to every passerby and shouting BYE at the top of her lungs.

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Mac enjoyed the flying fox (zipline) at the small park when he wasn’t in the water.

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But really, it’s all about the beach right?

Beach by day…

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and  by NIGHTolivia, okainsbaysunset

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Spending time in the outdoors with these loves is one of my greatest blessings. I can’t think of a single place I would rather be. I am so grateful I get to have this choice.

At some point on the last night my husband announced “This is now one of my favourite places in the world” If you have been lucky enough to travel as much as we have, and seen as much as we have seen…(which really isn’t a lot compared to many of my friends)  it brings this statement into perspective. This is a HUGE claim of a favourite place, HUGE!!!

I get it.

I loved every minute of the relaxing days doing not much at all. But still…my heart did a little leap, because maybe, just maybe… if he falls in love with NZ enough, he will want to stay!

and that would be the best thing ever, for me and his boy!


 

Okains Bay Campground is pretty well appointed, with clean bathrooms, including showers ($2 for 4 minutes – takes $2 coin only), a laundry with freezers (need a freezer bag from the office), handy kitchens with cook tops, ovens, fridges, kettles and toasters. The costs are very reasonable – $12 adults, $6 5-15 and Under 5’s are free. The hosts are super friendly and went above and beyond helping sand stuck tourists campers out & on their way again.

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If you are looking for a camping getaway…give Okains Bay a try, a little slice of heaven over the hills and down the road. Be warned though, because it is so close to Christchurch it is often VERY busy during peak times like the Christmas holidays (which in NZ means the kids are off school from mid-dec to beg. Feb) . You do need to make reservations to stay at the camp ground and they have a 500 people capacity. There is an office for the camping ground on your left after driving through the little township. You stop here to pick up your peg and pay for your stay. Once you get to the camp ground it’s a bit of a free for all finding a spot.

The thing about Okains Bay is the beach is a relatively safe beach, if ever such a thing can be said about a beach. Safe to me means it’s not known for rips, the surf is light and there is a gentle slope into the water, no sudden drop off which makes it pleasant for the kids. If you have kids you will know enjoyment ensues when everyone can just get on with uninterrupted discovery. There is also an estuary river on the side that feeds into the beach, a popular spot for kayaking and riding the lilo!

Get prepared…bring toys, cards, beach badminton, a ball…anything to keep them entertained while you continue to rock a way the hours in hammocks or sun your buns on the beach.  Again, be warned… there is no internet reception in this area. SO streaming Netflix movies is out of the question! lol

If you are photographically inclined, the evening golden hour lighting is divine!

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and a quick shout out for the morning light too, YUM YUM YUM!

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Christchurch | hiking | Kennedy’s Bush Track

The Kennedy’s Bush track is a track of my youth. I have been up here many times and each time I am reminded of how much I love this area, it’s waves of golden grasses and rocky trails.

The day started in a typical Christchurch kind of way ‘threatening’ rain, but turning blisteringly hot instead. My hiking companions today were this cutie. Mac – 8 years old. Hiking machine.

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although not ALWAYS happy about it. (lego and binoculars help!)

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a great deal of hiking peace and quiet can be accomplished with the addition of a set of binoculars. Brilliant idea to bring them along daddy!

blog4Hiking companion #2 daddy – after a little coaxing, he came. He wasn’t expecting it to be quite so hilly, which meant PAIN ++ for him. Sad.

 

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His poor knees/back couldn’t cope with the hike so once we made it up to the top (summit road) we ate lunch and Mac and I hiked back down to the car.  We drove up to the Summit Rd to get Mike. It took us an hour 20 mins before we got there to pick him up. He was happy to see us and the Gatorade we brought. It was a HOT day.

The track is good, wide easy walking mostly. It is hilly, although with enough flat bits to make it totally pleasant walking. It wasn’t an ordeal at all for the smallest hiker among us. You will be sharing the track with mountain bikers also, it’s a popular track for them too.

There isn’t a lot of shade on a hot day though. So water water water is a must. There are often livestock along the way that you need to walk through. This time it was bulls, usually it’s sheep. The track is closed during lambing time.

There are also several gates to climb, using the stiles. Of course the standard rule of thumb when walking on rural property is to leave gates how you found them. Don’t shut them if they are found open, don’t leave them open if found shut.

Scenes from along the track

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Journal | Mother-Son glamping.

Every year for the last 5 I’ve taken my young lad on a mother-son camp.  Just like I did with his brother 20 years earlier. Many happy memories have been created over the years under the stars with these gentlemen!

So when my friend Diane mentioned they were camping at Lake Benmore in January I invited our family to tag along. And boy am I glad we did. In the end it was just Mac and I camping with them but I think it’s safe to say with all the luxurious camping convenience on their side of the campsite….we were experiencing ‘glamping’ for the first time.

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And I am addicted.

The drive to the McKenzie Country area is stunning, past Lake Tekapo and the stone church

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Past Lake Pukaki and it’s majestic backdrop of Mt Cook (NZ’s tallest mountain) The colour is because Lake Pukaki is fed by glacial melt. Glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. It’s always so stunning to me.

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 I always say that anyone that learns the art of photography is blessing their kids photographic history. I laugh as I go through my mothers photos from when we were kids. They are bad. really really bad. heads cut off, awkward stiff poses and unflattering moments caught. Mac won’t ever have to suffer that kind of embarrassment. But sometimes you just have to capture the traditional parent-taking-photo-of-kid pose…just cos every photographers kid should at least see what their imagery COULD look like. Ah!, look at those arms hanging awkwardly at the sides. look familiar?

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onward to Twizel, then Lake Benmore.

I wouldn’t say it was an easy drive – it’s just TOTALLY worth it – fo sho’!

This shingle road was very worn and it was best taken at 50+kms an hour or under 20 kph. First time I chose 30 kph – horrible choice. The bumps shook the steering wheel right out of my hands. The car sounded as though it would shudder apart at any moment. Although driving in shingle at higher speeds brings it’s own kind of safety concerns, it really was much easier on the car and occupants sitting between 50-60 kph.

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So what is there to do at Lake Benmore?

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This, lots and lots of this…

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and this

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There aren’t a lot of amenities there, just a flush toilet. But with the lake just metres away, who needs hot showers? lol

It was so very very relaxing

We went walking

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and fishing

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and bought gawdy hats with very wide brims (and had to swap when he got overheated)

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we worked hard

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all day long

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seeing cloud hearts

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sunsets

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and fantails

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Best camping trip EVER! And because of the awesomeness I’ve spent the last two weeks on trademe looking for a BIG tent to buy! and btw…next time, we’re taking DADDY!