We bonded in the mother's lounge over our frustrations with breastfeeding. Little did we know that our mutual lack of lactation (see what I did there?) would bond us for life. Our friendship continued to grow over shared grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup lunches, dollar store vienna sausages, mysterious pilates farters and Mary Kay parties where we gave each other the wonk eye as we ran our fingers through our toes after being instructed to give ourselves a foot massage. She was my first mom friend and I was so grateful to navigate the unknown world of fenugreek and playgroup politics with this girl by my side. Madison was also Kylie's very first friend, they don't have many memories of those early days since we moved before Kylie turned 2, but over the years they have formed their own bond as we've visited each other and kept in touch. We were so excited when they told us they were coming to visit, they live in Seattle so we don't get to see them often and we couldn't wait. Her husband was running the Auckland marathon and her two oldest kids were able to participate too as they logged the 26 miles over a several month period then finished the last leg as they crossed the finish line in Auckland. How cool is that?? They spent time exploring the north island then it meant so much that they took the extra trip down to the south island to spend the weekend with us. It was so awesome seeing them, seeing our kids reunited and sharing the beauty of our world with them. They spoiled us rotten. I mean this girl gets me, cinnamon bears and mascara. But they also brought so many other toys and treats, it was more than they're even getting for Christmas. Seriously. For reals. We only had two days with them so we wanted to pack in as much as we could. But first we had to recreate some old photos they had dug up and brought with them. I mean, that hair. The bigger the hair, the closer to God. While I'm typing this Ryder is practically in tears over my hair in that picture, he keeps yelling at me to change it. He also won't believe me when I tell him that's Kylie and not him. They do look the most similar out of all our kids.
I know this is like the 5th time I've posted pictures of Castle Rock Hill, but humor me. Nature's playground just never gets old and sharing it with people we love, well, it just doesn't get better than that.
I spy with my little eye, a meditating monk. Zen at its finest.
You get a sense of the scale of this place when you spot tiny little people
And then we headed down the road to Cave Stream Reserve. The kids did this hike with Jason and the church youth group last summer and absolutely loved it. They were so excited to take their friends here. It didn't quite go as planned. In the spring there is run off from the snow so the water in the cave is not only ice cold but a lot deeper and swifter. Jodee and Beckham opted out as soon as they felt how cold the water was, and thankfully I had the little guys as my get out of jail free card. The other kids were hesitant but put on their bravest face and headed into the pitch black. I thought to myself how nice it will be to use this as a learning experience, to see them do something hard and come out on top with smiles on their faces and no trace of regret. Instead they came out with teeth chattering, tears streaming down their face and the resolve to never EVER do anything like this again. We thought it best at that point not to tell them that the cave was used for ritualistic burials and we also saw a dead rat at the exit while we were waiting. Rats, ghosts and bones would not have gone over very well. They ran into a couple in there who were completely stuck, it really is a blessing that they found them because who knows what would have happend. Seeing the lady a little freaked out scared the kids and made them feel that they were in danger. Helping the couple through the rest of the cave really slowed them down as well, they were in there for a good 45 minutes and on the verge of hypothermia by the time they got out. But it was an adventure they won't forget, that's for sure. We had plans to visit Devil's Punchbowl Falls next, but we opted to go home for hot showers and an adult date night. It was a good choice.
The next morning we took them to a few of our favorite parks then went to sacrament meeting. They wanted their kids to see what church is like in a different country. It can definitely be interesting at times!
We ate lunch in the church parking lot then took them to Taylor's Mistake. They can't come to Christchurch and not go to Taylor's mistake. We lucked out to have such great weather. We ended the night with a sausage sizzle with Grandma Judy and some left over fireworks. It was sad to say our goodbyes, but with friends like this I know we'll stay close no matter the distance between us. Friends for life are hard to come by, so grateful we found them.
*Lily, thanks for your sweet comment! It came through my email but didn't show up on the post, strange, and I wasn't sure the best way to reply, so here it is :). I'm so glad you can share similar experiences, coming here as expats is such a unique and incredible experience. And we actually just booked tickets to Wellington in January, we can't wait! If you have any "must see" places there (the museum is definitely on our list, the kids can't wait to see the Colossal Squid :) I would love any advice you might have. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, I would love to hear from you!