Alaska distilled

We returned from the States July 31 and I’m just managing to get photos up of the second half of our vacation in Alaska, which could be distilled as “Fish and Cousins.”  At least they aren’t fishy cousins!

About a year ago Jeremiah’s oldest brother, Ben, moved with his family from upstate NY (where we grew up) to Sterling, Alaska.  Ben and Jeannette have 13 children, so in the interest of travel efficiency we decided to make Alaska Hub Shaw, and asked Jeremiah’s parents and siblings if they could join us there.  Plus, July happens to be Salmon Season in Alaska….

Our friends Mark and Maria drove all the way to Anchorage to pick us up in their campervan, which became our home for the next two weeks. We stayed with Mark and Maria when we came through Alaska five years ago on our way to New Zealand.
They live in Soldotna, a town 15 minutes down the road from Sterling.

I’ve never before experienced a road trip in a campervan–it’s quite a luxury to relax on the bed in the back while the miles slip by and someone else drives. Thanks Mark!

On our way out of Anchorage we stopped at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center where all manner of Alaskan animals are kept, some destined for re-introduction into the wild, and others enjoying a long-term home because for some reason or other they’ve become unfit for wild life. We happened upon the bears at feeding time, both brown bears and black bears. A brown bear was chomping on a whole (plucked) chicken, bones and all….it certainly gives a good demonstration of not only its appetite, but also the power of its jaws.  Once arrived in Sterling, we parked up the campervan outside of Ben and Jeannette’s house along side the campervan where Nana and Papa (Jeremiah’s parents) were staying.  Maria even lent us her car, so we were all set up for both a place to stay and for transport–super generous!

We caught up with Mark and Maria a few times, this time at Kenai River Brewery. Maria is about as interested in breweries as the kids, but Mark is a big brew fan.

Over at Mark and Maria’s house for dinner one evening, we admired all their Alaska artwork on their walls. They have amassed quite a collection since we were there five years ago. It’s neat to see how they celebrate their local community, whether it was in Owego, NY (where we met them) or whether it is in Soldotna, AK.

It’s been two years since we’ve seen all the cousins, and we studied names ahead of time. I’m from a family of only four, but I remember appreciating if people could get our names straight. Here (left to right) is Andy, Boaz, Luke, Nathaniel, Ben (father), Mercianna,

The nice thing about a huge family is that “running the kids through the showers” doesn’t actually involve me doing any showering. The olders are quite capable and paired up with the youngers, resulting in clean scalps without any input from Aunt Molly. Uno with the youngers was a civilized affair, turns taken and rules followed. Uno with the olders was a contact sport, I’ve never seen the game played quite like it! But then again, I never had brothers.

Speaking of never having brothers…my own mother always warned me about water fights with boys, and watching the shenanigans of this crew I can see why. Talk about escalation. Ben and Jeannette remain as peaceful as Buddha though the war may rage around them. I suppose as a parent you would have to, to preserve one’s sanity. It brings up an interesting question about child rearing–is it better to let kids feel the natural consequences of their actions (if you throw water at your older brother, he will drag you face first into the frigid Skilak lake), or to intervene and attempt to teach a less-natural-but-more-wordy way of dealing with conflict? I don’t know.

The adults, enjoying the water show.

Naomi had a great time with Elizabeth (three years old, same as her) as well as with Mercianna, who is a little older than Milo.

Naomi is stubborn. Surprise, surprise. Sometimes when something doesn’t go her way, she just stops in her tracks and refuses to walk. With my uncooperative back I couldn’t carry her, but often Merci would come to her rescue.

Despite being rough with one another, the big boys were really sweet with the little ones. Here Naomi is perched on Elijah’s lap.

One evening we brought our kids into town, and Caleb, the oldest son, came along.
We stopped at the town market and wanted to have a wander with the kids, but ours were crabby and just wanted to sit in the car and watch the tablet. “If you come out,” Caleb wheedled, “there might be something nice like ice cream.” He treated them to the ice cream truck, and afterwards happily sat in the car with them watching Octonauts. That’s a pretty special 18-year-old!

S’mores with cousins, definitely an experience to treasure.

POPCORN and s’mores, to be complete. There’s quite a gang of popcorn thugs! Clockwise from the hat are Levi, Luke, James and Nathaniel.

One evening we went on a hike with some of the olders. Well, Jeremiah and his sister Missy went on a hike, I puttered along behind the gang nursing a sore back and hoping that the loud crew ahead of me had cleared out the bears from the vicinity of the trail. How in the world are you supposed to tell the difference between a grizzly bear attack and when he starts to eat you? ? Wouldn’t missing an arm be a bit too late to start fighting back? This helpful sign was at the trail head.

There is some fantastic hiking to be had in the Chugach Range, and originally Jeremiah and I had planned to take a couple days away and explore….but my back going bad just before our travel put a kibosh on those plans. However, I did make it up this far along the Skyline ridge.

Here’s the hiking crew at the top. On the way back, barreling down the trail, they nearly ran headlong into a bear. Fortunately it was a black bear and not looking for trouble, and it moved off.

Jeremiah spent quite a bit of time fishing, both with the cousins and his dad, and with our friend Mark. The reds weren’t at full tilt until nearly the end of our trip, but here he is with his three-fish-a-day limit out of the Kenai River.

If only every day dawned blue like this….

Barbara Lavallee is an Alaskan artist who I love. Her characters look so cheerful and full of happiness and wonder. Here’s her take on salmon season in Anchorage. Pretty spot on for Soldotna too.

Papa (Jeremiah’s dad) is not really much of a fisherman, but even he squeezed into a pair of waders and got into the action. He even managed to catch some salmon, eventually!

If you are an Alaskan Resident you play under different rules than the sport fishermen. You are allowed to “dip net,” or stand in the river with a giant net scooping up salmon as they migrate up the river. As “head of household” you are allowed 25 fish, and 10 or 15 more per additional person in the house. In other words, you can fill up your freezer. I have an enduring memory of the dip netters at the mouth of the Kenai from visiting 5 years ago with Mark and Maria. Mounds of fish heads on the beach. Children running and playing in the frigid ocean water. We made a pilgrimage back to the site this time, and though the fishing wasn’t quite as lively, it was still a sight to behold.

Someone was well on their way to bagging their harvest.

Alaskan residents from the interior come to the coast and set up camp to get their yearly quota of fish. Jeremiah thought it looked like fun, camping with a purpose. To me it looked cold, fishy and uncomfortable….but if the kids had buddies and it was a family tradition, I guess I could imagine it.

The beach had a tide-line of scales. The level of fish carnage made me wonder how any managed to get far enough up stream to spawn.

When Jeremiah asked me what I wanted to do and see in Alaska, my number one desire was to see salmon spawning. To that end we made a pilgrimage to the Russian River, to a well-known viewing spot at some falls. Sure enough, the fish were jumping. They’re crazy! They launch themselves up these waterfalls, crashing into rocks and getting swept back down in the current. A bunch were stacked up in the pool below the falls, scales turning brilliant red. I took a little video. It probably won’t look as exciting in replay as it was in person, but for me seeing these energetic fish was definitely a highlight.

The walk to see the fish was about 5 miles round trip, and the kids did great. Here’s Aunt Missy with Elizabeth and Naomi.

Nana and the kids, at the fish waterfall.

My other obsession was glaciers. Portage glacier was accessible with a boat tour, and we dragged the kids along. Glaciers are receding rapidly, they won’t be as easy to see in the future….but the kids don’t grasp that. Neither do the Alaskans, apparently, who drive massive trucks and don’t bother about recycling.

Cheese! Nana, Papa, Aunt Missy, and us at Portage Glacier.

Cheese again! This one is Exit Glacier, and one of the most interesting things about it is that along the access road to the tourist parking lot are signs that show the end of the glacier in the late 1800s and through the 1900s. It’s been shrinking rapidly. It feels a bit funny to be posing with big grins in front of what is essentially an endangered species, gleefully ignoring the rising ocean and the part we just played in it, flying half way around the world on a big jet.

Homer Spit is about two hours from Sterling, the halibut fishing capital of the world. Ben has a beloved boat he dragged to Alaska all the way from NY, and he had been working on getting it going the whole time we were there. Just at the end of our visit the engine was given the thumbs up and all twenty of us hove off with two campervans, a boat, a truck, a car and a ton of fishing gear for an overnight at Homer.

I think it’s a challenge packing for a camping trip for our family–I was very impressed with the logistics Jeannette managed to get her crew fed and bedded down in Homer.

The boat was launched promptly upon arrival, and a contingent went out in search of halibut.

Moms and youngers stayed back on the beach, admiring the boats….

…..walking around the spit….

…and chatting while the kids played. I haven’t spent a lot of time with Jeannette before this trip, but this time we really enjoyed each other’s company, talking about families, relationships, children, husbands…the stuff of life.

No halibut on that first run, but they came back with a good haul of salmon.

The next morning a second shift went out early and this time they found halibut.

Here’s the less glorious part of fishing–cleaning fish. None of the kids were that keen, but the dads did their duty and packed all the fish away.

The local authorities at Homer provide very nice fish cleaning stations and big bins for disposing of fish scraps. I suppose if the scraps are left around it becomes a major bear hazard. I think all these unsavory parts go to the land fill…..tells you we live in a country where people have plenty to eat.

So there we have it, Alaska distilled. Cousins.


Cousins and Fish!


Michigan lake

“Hey, do you think there would be a lake house somewhere near Chicago where we could go for a week?”  We were in the planning phase of our trip, trying to figure out a Hub Harro, and come up with a vacation plan that would be fun for all involved.

“Chicago is on Lake Michigan, honey,” my mom reminded me.

In the end my parents found a house to rent on Diamond Lake, about an hour southwest of Kalamazoo, not the big water of Lake Michigan but a warmer, tamer lake surrounded by vacation homes.  My three sisters made arrangements to come, and my uncle, aunt, and cousin from Chicago came for the weekend as well. A regular family reunion!

The house was a sprawling lake cottage, built in the 1800s and added on to ever since, a comfortable wood-paneled abode (with wifi and Netflix!), with nooks and crannies for everyone.

A short walk down the road was the shared beach, warm and safe for kids.

We had told Milo not to bring his soccer ball to America, that surely Aunt Becky would have one, so imagine the dismay when we woke up on our first morning in warm summery America and we couldn’t find a ball to kick around. Easy fix for that, suburbia has plentiful shopping. The Diamond Lake house had a generous expanse of grass for lawn games.

Big Lake Michigan was less than an hour away, so we took a couple day trips there. I love the sand dunes near the lake. I have great memories of jumping down sand dunes in my younger years, and though my back wasn’t giving me leeway to do much besides hobble, I still like the mountains of sand we had to slog through to get to the water.

The Harro family always pockets a ball to toss on the beach, a tradition I need to rekindle with our little family. “Woof!”

Hugs from Abi!

Down there at the end of the table is my uncle Ted, Aunt Gretchen, and cousin Duncan. They treated us all to lunch at this fantastic little cafe, after our play at Lake Michigan. We used to call Uncle Ted “Uncle Visa.” In my younger years, he was one of the uncles who would splurge for treats, and pay with his credit card. Those were the days when my parents, ever slow to adopt technology, still budgeted in cash, and we assumed paying with plastic was reckless. I have this distinct childhood memory of going with him to the grocery store to buy ice cream, analyzing the prices for half gallons, and advising him which was the cheapest. “Yes, but this one is the BEST,” he said, reaching for some fancy creation in a round pint container, and flashing his Visa at the cashier.  Quality matters.  Good life lesson, Uncle Ted, thanks!

The day after our Lake Michigan trip Uncle Ted rented a party boat on Diamond Lake–it fit all of us simultaneously! Captain and first mate there.

Lounging on the boat!
There’s Milo, cousin Duncan, Aunt Gretchen, Dara (Aunt Susanna’s partner), Aunt Susanna, and Omi.  

There was a shallow section of the lake where boats anchored and swimmers jumped out into the warm water. Naomi fell in love with Aunt Kelsey’s sun glasses.

Milo turned out to be quite the tepid swimmer. He complained of being hot when we first arrived in America (head plus humidity is something new to him), then had no tolerance of even mild water chilliness. So he lounged on deck, surveying the rabble below.

After that first sunny weekend we had quite a fair bit of rain while we were there. Warm rain, gentle with no wind, very different than we get in New Zealand.

We did puzzles, read books, and watched DVD’s of James Herriot, TV shows from the 1980s. We all knew the stories and how they were going to end, as we’ve read the books and seen the shows countless times before, but that doesn’t diminish our enjoyment….another peculiarity of the Harro clan.

Aunt Rebecca and Aunt Kelsey played kids’ Cranium several dozen times, until Milo declared himself the master of the frog jumping challenge.  

One morning Rebecca and I took the kids to a little local playground, dodging the rain drops.

Those grain elevators make a bit of an unusual backdrop for a playground.

Every American summer vacation includes s’mores!

S’mores in all their gooey glory.

We had a couple beer tasting opportunities, much to Jeremiah’s delight. The craft brewery scene seems to be doing well in the States.

Our 12th anniversary rolled around while we were there, and we went to Bell Brewery in Kalamazoo to try a flight of their beer.

The owner of Bell Brewery has collected paraphernalia from all over the world to decorate the pub. That Wedding Ale was one of my favorites–it had honey in it and you actually tasted the honey in every sip.

We went to Lake Michigan another afternoon, this time to a town beach (hence the crowds). It was the strangest weather I’ve ever seen–fog off the lake, but very hot out. Almost like steam. It was bizarre.

There’s a carousel at this beach, and ice cream stores…and we visited both.

There are few things that I miss about America, besides family. On this trip I was reminded about fireflies. They’re fantastic. This picture doesn’t do them justice, of course, but imagine a grassy field at dusk alive with gently fluorescing dots gently streaking around. And that’s completely normal, a part of every warm summer evening. Sorry NZ glow worms, you’re out-shone.

Chicago Harro Highlights

I felt like gripping Jeremiah by the shoulders, staring him in the eyes, and declaring “THIS is why I’m the way I am.  See?  I’m NOT weird.  For my family, this is NORMAL.”

Jeremiah and I are from the same town.  I could have seen his family home across the river if the trees weren’t so thick.  We’re both Americans, similar socio-economic class, each with two parents playing basically traditional roles in the household.  Yet sometimes my “normal” seems so different from his “normal” that I wonder how cross-cultural marriages ever survive.  The family of origin sets our expectation of how a spouse is “supposed” to act and react.  And there’s nothing like a family vacation to pull that into focus.

Our parents and siblings used to all live in upstate NY, and visiting the families was relatively straight-forward.  But now that the kids have grown, both our parents have gotten rid of the big family houses.  Jeremiah’s folks have moved up to a cabin in the Adirondack mountains, and mine have moved to a little two bedroom in Chicago near my mom’s parents.  Our siblings are scattered hither and yon.  This family get-together was going to take more effort than in previous years.

We opted to try and create a “hub” for each family, and have the remaining family members come to us.  The first two weeks of our trip we spent with the Harro family.  We started out in a suburb of Chicago with my parents, then went to a lake house in Michigan that my parent had rented for a week, where my sisters living in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts came to meet us.  Hub Harro.  

Chicago is a big city. The greater metropolitan area has 9.5 million people,the third largest city in the USA. That’s more than twice the population of whole of New Zealand. My parents live an hour train ride from the downtown area, and one of the first evenings after we arrived, my sister Rebecca, Jeremiah and I took the train down town to a food festival called Taste of Chicago. We hit the city right at pedestrian rush hour. The gleaming sky scrapers towering over the hurrying suits and ties certainly reminded me that we weren’t in friendly little NZ anymore.

At Taste of Chicago we promptly lost (or had stolen off us) a strip of food tickets, but we did enjoy the best people watching of the whole trip. Inner city folks are just so colorful, and my plain jane brown hair with unfashionable shorts and sandals don’t hold a candle to the creative decor the locals flaunt. I was too scared to ask anyone to actually pose for us, so unfortunately I haven’t got photo examples of what I mean.

I did, however, get a portrait of these two dudes, who were casually hanging out in the park eyeing up the crowds. I even had the nerve ask them who the heck they were, and why they were carrying all the military gear. Apparently they’re part of the Chicago police force, just there in case any terrorist decides to try something. “If you see us running, you just run the opposite way,” they advised us. Yes sir.

The food festival was set up in a park on the Lake Michigan shore, with big impressive buildings being engulfed by big impressive clouds. Also a novelty, the summer evening stayed warm. I had told kiwi friends before we left that I was looking forward to being WARM, and the Chicago summer didn’t let me down.

This is my mother’s garden, with their cozy house beyond. They live around the corner from my grandparents, and visit them daily.

Naomi admired the garden, and so did dozens of folks that came through on a garden tour. My mom has kept a pretty flower garden for as long as I can remember, and my dad appreciates it as well. It’s not the English formal garden style that many Kiwis favor, more the whimsical cottage garden that I grew up loving.  And with the heat of a Chicago summer, stuff was growing FAST.

We were back in Chicago for a couple days after the Michigan lake house, and spent another day in the city, this time with the kids. Lucky chicky, getting a ride from Abi.

Maggie Daley park in down town Chicago is similar to Margaret Mahey playground in Christchurch, but bigger. I was glad we had a high adult-to-child ratio here, seems like it would be an easy place to lose a kid in all the fantastic tunnels and towers and slides.

Trump Tower. It’s real. It’s gleaming. And it’s sitting proudly along the picturesque Chicago Sanitary Canal that was so polluted that its direction of flow was reversed so that it no longer enters Lake Michigan. Hum. Neither  of our families talk much about politics, so we actually heard far less about Trump and his tweetings while in America than we do while in New Zealand.  It was a refreshing break.  

Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream for all. Do you know that they don’t sell kiddy cones or even single scoops? If I had been smart I would have paid for a double but asked for just a single for the kids. But maybe the realization that one CAN have too much ice cream to eat is a healthy thing for kids.

Back in suburbia we went to spray parks (Aunt Becky loves spray parks).

And we went to playgrounds (Aunt Becky loves playgrounds too).

Aunt Kelsey baked with the chillens.

And bought them cool sunnies.

We ate family dinners (those are Harro-sized portions, most definitely).

And generally enjoyed being a family unit. Grandparents rock.




Flying with kids

“Oh, you’ve just been back to America–how did the kids do with the travel?”  It’s been the most common question since we returned to NZ from our one month trip to the States.

I have to admit, flights with the kids are easy now that they are both enthralled with screens. While watching they will proclaim neither hunger nor fatigue. They will watch like zombies to the exclusion of all else. It’s magic.

Our flight from Christchurch to Auckland was mid afternoon, and rather than sit around the airport for six hours waiting for our evening flight to Los Angeles, Jeremiah organized a bus into Auckland. We hit up a couple playgrounds for the kids.

This one had an under-water theme.

The Sky Tower in Auckland (designed by BECA, the company Jeremiah works for) is an iconic landmark.  Naomi insisted on wearing that faerie skirt for the trip!

We purchased our first ever airline upgrade for the overnight flight to California–the “sky couch.” Little flaps under the seat snap up and make a sleeping platform, a concession for my bad back, but the kids liked it too. It’s still in “cattle class,” but it revolutionizes the overnight trip.  Of course, the kids only slept once we turned off their personal movie screens.

We sent my mom a heads up on the quantity of luggage we were toting by way of a photo of our car on the way to the airport. I like the idea of traveling light….but I also like the idea of bringing presents back to family and friends, and then returning with new clothes from America. We were definitely NOT traveling light.

We certainly felt like we were traveling heavy when we got to Los Angeles and the walk from terminal 1 to terminal 7 was approximately 1.2 miles. Actually I have no idea how far it was, but it was long enough for us to appreciate that we were not in little NZ anymore.

“Welcome” and “US Customs and Border Protection” don’t normally go hand in hand, and the friendly verbage lost a little of its bounce as we descended the one-way escalator to the LONG winding line with attendants shouting “keep moving, don’t stop!”
We joined the queue of babbling humanity awaiting entrance to the USA, and at long last, as we are neither terrorists nor illegal immigrants, we made our way through and on to our last plane to Chicago.  

What happened to June?

It’s been a long time since we hiked with our friends to Rod Donald Hut.  What happened to June?

It rained.  It was cold.  My back turned bad again, suddenly and for no reason.  We prepared for our month-long trip to the states.

This is what Zealandia Horticulture looks like on a foggy winter’s morning. I puzzled my boss by quoting the old nursery rhyme that seemed appropriate to the day: “One misty moisty morning, when cloudy was the weather, I chanced to meet and old man, all dressed in leather. All dressed in leather, with hair upon his chin. “How do you do?” “How do you do?” “How do you do again?”
The grow lights for the hydroponic plants look cozy, which is not an empty promise. The biomass boiler keeps that part of the greenhouse at a comfy 18 C.

Other parts of the greenhouse are unheated, and the frost decorates the glass. A frosty morning promises that a good sunny day will follow, far better than a slightly warmer but grey day.

Winter is a good time for fire-building. One of the hunting brotherhood set this competition up–because what is a gathering of guys without a competition? They had identical lathe-smoothed logs to start with, which they reduced to piles of kindling with axes. Fires were to be started with flint, and the winner was the first one to burn through their string. Jeremiah won. It’s good to be married to a pyromaniac.

The last of the leaves fell from our Japanese maple trees. I procrastinated raking them, and in the end the wind blew them off the grass and into the nooks and crannies of the porch.

Milo had rugby practice at 4:00 every Wednesday. Look at that, there WERE a few sunny days in the mix, as documented by photography.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. Naomi is fearless in her climbing. Fortunately, she’s also quite capable.

Luckily for little siblings, there is a playground near the rugby field. This picture was taken on the winter solstice. I guess winter is not so bad after all.

This is the classic Kiwi way to spend the winter, in full puffy attire sucking on hot drinks INDOORS. We’ve been shopping hard for a house that we can buy and make warm, but haven’t succeeded yet.

Speaking of Naomi, we celebrated a major accomplishment with a flower-topped cafe treat–the end of night time diapers. Hurray! No nostalgia over the diaper phase.

Naomi has started the birthday party circuit–this one was princess themed. Parents were encouraged to dress the part as well, but I didn’t see any other dresses among the adults. My garb wasn’t queenly enough to be blatantly a dress up, so I spent the party feeling awkwardly unfashionable for either group.

Even Milo got into the dress-up mode. This will be a good picture to pull out on his 21st birthday.

Here’s Milo in his normal clothes, proudly bringing his school classroom’s tuatara on a trip to the grocery store.

A week before our flight to the USA my back got all tight, and I spent a couple days laying on the couch hoping it would resolve itself peacefully. It didn’t, and instead developed into the same squashed-nerve pain as last year. Jenny cat appreciated the quiet day I had at home, the first time I’ve ever sent the kids to school and stayed home myself.

It was an interesting experience, staying home without the kids. Milo walked home himself at 3:00, and Naomi even got the preschool bus home at 4:15. I’ve craved alone time without the kids home for ages, but when it actually came down to it, I didn’t like it. Not that laying-on-the-couch time is that desirable…but it was a good reminder that I do like the kids and their company after all, and I should cherish the last year+ that I have Naomi home before she starts school.

A tramp with our Weatherproof Brits

“I know a really great hut, up on the Banks Peninsula, an easy walk in for kids–want to book it for a weekend with the families?” It was probably three months ago that Ian suggested the plan. This particular DOC hut is so enormously popular that it has a booking system, so you must lock in a weekend trip well in advance, and you can’t reschedule in the event of rain. Good thing we were going with the Weatherproof Brits. Come rain, hail, cloud or shine, they will cheerfully follow through with the plan.

First off, one must wear one’s best pink attire for hiking. Fashion makes for happiness.

It doesn’t matter that the pink gets covered up in red wet weather gear–it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
These totara trees aren’t flexibly blowing in the wind. They are permanently deformed, buffeted by near constant wind until only the shoots that emerge on the leeward side survive.

It was only an hour’s walk to the hut, but the blustery sky was starting to glower and spit, and it was good to duck inside–still warm from the previous residents.

The kids carried in fire wood and we stoked the pot belly stove all afternoon, watching clouds envelope the hut until it felt truly remote.

It turns out that logs make good fort building materials, and the kids contentedly set up shop. Adults drank coffee, I knitted on a hat.

I baked rolls for dinner. I like the Pittsburgh stove, a little reminder of home, and warm winter houses. I like New Zealand, really I do, but the home heating is furnaceless, mired in the dark ages of single pane windows,and uninsulated floors.. It was a treat to make a room warm enough to comfortably wear short sleeves.  The windows in the hut are better than those in our house.

Jeremiah baked ziti for dinner. Our English friends had to google ziti during our email planning to figure out what it was. “Lazy man’s lasagna,” we described it. It was yummy, again done on the Pittsburgh stove.

The composting toilet was very civilized, and didn’t smell, despite heavy usage. The only improvement I’d suggest would be to turn the window to the view side.

Bed time for Bonzo. We put the younger kids to bed in the top bunks and took out a deck of Quiddler and a bottle of beer for the evening.

Emma said we were the noisiest family she has ever shared a room with. Jeremiah snores (clearly), and apparently Naomi and Milo talk in their sleep. I slept through nearly all of it.

The stars came out during the night and the next day “dawned clear and fresh as could be, blue sky and never a cloud, with the sun dancing on the water.” Now we could fully appreciate the view from the hut windows.

A short walk into the hut means we can really go luxurious with the breakfast. Sausages and eggs with cinnamon rolls (again, complements of the wood stove).

Here’s the whole gang, ready to roll out in the morning.

A family weekend, enhanced all-round by the company of friends.

Capable kids

It’s fun when your kids are good at stuff.  I mean, I spend so much energy worrying about how my kids are BAD at stuff (manners principally) that it’s a relief to be happy about something.  Proud of something, even….though I know that their skills have little to do with my influence.

Still, I’m proud that our kids are damn good bikers.

Naomi is 3.  Three!  Plenty of her peers are wobbling around on training wheels.  She’s negotiating hills and turns for 10 kilometers of trails around McClean’s Island bike trails, out by the Waimakariri River.  Milo made it an extra 5 kilometers.  I think we’ll be doing some multi day family bike trips next summer.

I’m also proud of Milo and his rugby.

I complained bitterly (in my head) about the start of the sports era.  “I’m NOT a soccer mom!  I’m not a good cheer leader.  I don’t want every Saturday consumed with sports.  I don’t bring orange slices and granola bars to practices.  THIS IS NOT MY ZONE!”

But actually, it has not been all that bad.  I’ve met a mom that I can exchange a few pleasantries with on the side lines.  I’ve even enjoyed watching the kids run around the field.  They’re funny.  They sometimes run the wrong way.  Do you know how confusing it is to switch end zones half way through the game??

And it turns out that Milo’s good at rugby. He’s focused. He’s competitive. He’s coordinated. And at this age, that makes him good.  He won Player of the Day after one game, and Player of the Month last month.  

Go kiddo.