The last few weeks have whizzed by and fils are settled back into their second school term of the year. I love the school holidays and they always pass too quickly. These Easter holidays were no exception and although fun, there was certainly no time to rest or sit and gather dust.
Fils 4 turned five at the end of last term, so for her it was a mixture of sad farewells to kindergarten and eager excitement counting down sleeps to her party. Having been used to her celebrating her birthday in spring in England and therefore never being able to rely on good weather, we were prepared for an equally unpredictable experience for her NZ autumn birthday party. But the day turned out to be fantastic, blue sky and very hot sunshine. For the first time that spouse and I could remember, we were able to entertain with the games and food outside. Fils 4 insisted she only wanted to invite one poor boy, amongst a gaggle of girls. We steered the fun away from too much girly stuff wondering how he would cope and to his credit, he didn't seem to notice and managed to survive the afternoon without having to play with 'My little pony' or have his nails done! The party was declared a success by fils 4 and spouse and I looked forward to the last child leaving and the opportunity to flop in the sun with feet up and glass of cool white wine in hand. Alas, our fridge was bare of anything interesting for grown ups to drink and we had chosen a bank holiday to have the party so shops were closed. I had been too busy shopping for party stuff that I had overlooked the fact that spouse would need some sort of alcoholic pick me up, after spending an afternoon organising party games for a bunch of lively five year olds. I had been up until midnight the previous night blowing up balloons and baking 'pink' food and then up again at the crack of dawn to shove cubes of pineapple and cheese onto cocktail sticks which wasn't successful because the cheese was splitting down the middle. A friend called in at 7 am to drop something off and found me desperately trying to squeeze it together around the stick and helpfully said "oh you can't use that brand of cheese for cocktail sticks, it always splits down the middle". Pineapple on sticks surrounded by clumps of cheese (no longer in carefully measured cubes) on the plate had to suffice. Anyway, after all this, I too had been looking forward to a treat at the end of the day and was dismayed to learn that spouses spin around the village (which ironically is surrounded by vineyards) in search of a bottle of Pinot Gris had resulted in nothing more exciting than warm orange juice. But, hoorah for friends, who have had similar experiences! When the parents of one of the party guests came to claim their offspring they turned up with a coolly bag containing ice cold beer and the much desired Pinot Gris. So the day ended with us all having an extremely civilised time out on the patio until the sun went down and chilled glasses in hand whilst the children, ours and theirs, happily made up their own fun and games without requiring any organisation from us!
Only fils 2 missed all this as she was away for a few days on a camping trip with her church youth group. She returned home extremely exhilarated and happy having had a wonderful time, but also tired, hungry and eager to flop. We then announced to her that we were all off on a camping trip, as a family to try out our new tent that we purchased from her teacher. We did allow her one night in her own bed before setting off to explore the area north of us. Again, we were blessed with beautiful warm and sunny weather and discovered an ideal camping ground along the pacific coastline. We certainly had not expected long white sandy beaches and bright blue sea in the middle of autumn. The girls were delighted to embark on one of their favourite pastimes since coming to New Zealand, of shell collecting. So by the time spouse and I had erected the tent, they returned with pockets full of unusual and pretty shells. They didn't think it so exciting when, after exclaiming how delightful they were, we made them take them all back to the beach and put them back again. Stating the fact that "wouldn't you want to ensure there are plenty of shells around for your own children to gather in the future", does not really mean much when you are only 5, 9, 12 or 14 and want to decorate your bedroom with them. Anyway, we survived our experience under the stars and found lots to laugh about whilst continuing to marvel in the beautiful surroundings we now find ourselves living amongst. The journey was enlivened, as we find it often is over here, by a collection of weird and wonderful giant roadside objects. We all find these find these great fun to spot and look out for and often wonder, as we whiz by, what the story is behind their appearance. This journey was no exception as we came across wooden alpacas placed in the middle of a high street, a graceful swan made out of car tyres at the top of a hill, and what appeared to be a zebra in the middle of a field of cows! As we approached home again the girls became a little quiet as they remembered what they had experienced as we were packing up to leave for our trip. The end had finally come for one of the neighbour's cattle in the field adjacent to our home, as the local butcher turned up to shoot it and prepare it for the freezer right there in front of us. We had all known it was going to happen at some point and the girls were all aware of the reason for them being there. But they feed and talk to the cows, and have given them all names, so when it eventually came to his demise, there was some wailing and shedding of tears. They soon got over it though and were all fascinated enough to want to watch the whole spectacle and then forgot all about it in the excitement of our camping trip. As we arrived home, fils 1 who had probably been the most upset, summed it up as only a child can. "Oh well, one down, two to go!"
Roll on the next school holidays!