Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Labor Day Weekend 

Three. That's the number of public holidays the States have had since we've been here and zero is the number we've had.  So we decided we needed to go big in honor of our first New Zealand holiday and rented a house in Hanmer Springs with our friends (by now it's safe to assume that when I say "our friends" we all know it's Julie and her family, since they're our only friends).  Road trips here are so much more enjoyable, that's not to say the kids don't fight and scream, but at least now I have beautiful scenery to look at while I gaze lifelessly out the window and try to zone them out.  

We spent the first day at the hot springs. Those blue skies are deceiving, it was wicked cold.  The wind was howling and I'm pretty sure I tasted death when I climbed out of the hot pool and every inch of my body was whipped with an icy wind. I would love to come back when it's warm outside because the kids couldn't get enough of the slides and Ryder's huge grin every time he went on the lizard slide will be forever etched in my memory.  The BYU game just so happened to coincide with Ryder's grumpy time so it was a win win when Jason took the two littles back to the house and I got to sit with Julie in the hottest of the hot springs and people watch while the kids knocked themselves out on the slides until it started raining.  And raining and raining and raining. We spent the evening watching movies, eating popcorn and staying up well past a decent hour.

The next day we went hiking up Conical Hill.  It was a beautiful forest trail that got brownie points for being sheltered from the wind.  The view on top was gorgeous and we had the best table with a view for our picnic.  But did I mention it was cold? I didn't think so.

We got back to the car thinking it was a pretty productive day and realized it was only like 1:00.  We went to a park but I finally cried uncle and huddled in the car with Kylie to escape that nasty wind.  We weren't sure what would be worse, braving the cold or braving 7 kids cooped up in a house for the rest of the day with nothing to do.  I sat there thinking that the two days I spent preparing for this trip wasn't worth it. The lower the temperatures dropped, the lower everyone's mood got. Much to the dismay of the kids we decided to make one more stop at the Hanmer Forest trail and luck was on our side.  The winds died down a little and the sun was doing its thing and the kids frowns turned upside down and I found my moment that made it all worth it as we ran around playing tag, red rover, duck duck goose and a game of Bobs and Radishes orchestrated by Maddox.  We wrapped it up with some races before the rain started up again. I'm more of a park bench kind of mom, I love sitting back and watching the kids play without having to actually exert any real energy, so I surprised myself with how much I loved running around with them.  It's funny how we spent all this money at the hot springs (they were not cheap!) and all this time planning outings and the highlights of the trip were the spontaneous moments like running in the field and booty shaking in the kitchen with all the girls and Macklemore. The day ended on a good note with a BBQ and a sun that graced us with its presence long enough for the kids to run around outside like wild banshees.

The house we stayed at was pretty old it's only redeeming quality, besides being able to fit 11 people, was this tree fort.  Until Ryder fell off the ladder and reenacted how he fell head first into the mud to anyone who was willing to watch. Poor baby.

After three nights we packed it up and headed home, but by now it is expected that a trip home is not just a trip home. 

We stopped at Frog rock (can you see it??) and explored around for a little bit.

And then our friends took us to a swimming hole that they found earlier in the week.  My only regret was that I never had anything like this when I was younger.  It was amazing.  The water was freezing and it was still jacket weather outside but it didn't stop the kids.  I can't wait to come back here when it's hot outside.

The snorkel set Maddox got for his birthday is just as much for me, I mean seriously, watching him walk around with it is the gift that never stops giving.

We pushed our luck with one last spontaneous stop at the beach. The kids were tired and grumpy and begged to just go home, which made me all the more determined to prove that they would have the best time ever and thank us repeatedly for stopping.  We got fish and chips, hauled all the towels and bags through the sand, got all situated and were met with the full force of the wind. Jason and I took one look at each other and called it quits. You win some, you loose some.  Although there were some losses along the way (including my favorite kitchen knife that we got as a wedding gift that I left behind to which Kylie responded "wow, you know you're old when you get sad about losing a knife"), but over all it was a winning weekend. Winning indeed (no reference to Charlie Sheen implied).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A birthday to remember 

I don't know about Jason, but this is my favorite birthday that he's ever had. Friday night we went out for dinner and found a decent Mexican food joint, which was a good omen if I've ever seen one. We rented a movie for our first time ever since we've been here, we actually went hog wild and got three ('cause ya know, they had to twist our arms to get 3 for $10 instead of 1 for $8).  The next morning was his traditional sausage egg burrito breakfast then we hit the road to Arthur's Pass.  On the way we stopped at Castle Rock Hill, which is not just a stop along the way but is a destination all on its own. We're talking serious kid heaven material. If the colossal amount of pictures doesn't prove that it was amazing, then nothing else will.

Maddox found us the perfect picnic spot. He searched long and hard but found the perfect patch of grass that met his specific criteria. We ate chicken croissant sandwiches (ya know, a step up from PB&J for the birthday boy) then sang happy birthday (but not too loud because that would be embarrassing to a certain 11 year old) and enjoyed homemade from scratch lemon cupcakes. This is quite notable since it's my first ever homemade from scratch cupcakes. And they were divine.

Honestly, my favorite thing in the whole entire world is to sit back in the sun, soak up the view and watch my kids play.  It was hard to pack up and leave, but I knew good things lay ahead.  Like REALLY good.  We hiked up to Devil's Punchbowl falls and were awestruck. 

Waterfalls are so mesmerizing and the power is frightening. You could hear the roar before you even begin the trail and once you're up there you can barely hear each other speak.  We were drenched by the mist and just stood there soaking it all in. Literally.

Kylie found one dry corner of the lookout platform and was so sweet to keep Ryder out of the water. Mama was too busy taking pictures.

They spent a good chunk of time throwing rocks and sticks into the waterfall.  Which soon turned into throwing boulders and tree trunks, because watching stuff get washed down a roaring river just never gets old.

We took another trail to some different falls which were far less majestic and a bit anti-climatic, but it's never a bad time when you get to explore in nature with the family.

They took these rock throwing challenges very seriously. Loved their level of excitement.

Gosh, I really could never get tired of seeing these smiling faces.  Let it be known that this is the first hike that we didn't hear a single complaint. Maybe we'll chalk it up to wearing the right shoes, or maybe it's because Jason said that was all he wanted for his birthday. That and some deodorant, not the roll on kind but the $13 stick kind. It's the small things in life.

On the way home we stopped at Flock Hill which is just down the road from Castle Rock Hill and just so happens to be where they filmed the scene for the final battle of Narnia.

Not to be confused with the Sound of Music.

Another amazing day come and gone.  So grateful for this birthday boy who sacrificed so much to make this dream here a reality. Happy birthday, Jay, love you!