January. What a month. Summer was here full-on, which also meant Summer vacation from school. It seems here in New Zealand, it’s rare to enroll your kids in day camp. Since many work places give lots of time off, most families travel in the month of January, or hole-up at the beach, and stay in a coveted Bach (pronounced “batch,” short for a “bachelor pad”), which is a small beach house. So how did we fill those long days of summer? The kids and I enjoyed sleeping late (8:30 am) and lulled away the first part of the mornings making and eating pancakes while listening to The Wizard of Oz soundtrack. We made regular trips to town visiting the library. We enrolled the kids in a week-long term of swimming lessons (30-minute lessons every day), and playdates with friends. In the middle of the month, we had our first visitor, my sister Natalie! I’ll save the highlights from that visit for its own post. What you’ll find below is how we spent the month of January, which alternately seemed interminable and a blip in our memory.
We started the year with some dress-up. These are some of the dress-up clothes that the kids got for Christmas. Mahia is wearing Thora’s red and gold queen dress, and Auric is wearing half of his Spiderman costume, his sister’s red cowgirl boots (not dress-up) and his new red cowboy hat.
That night, we attended a party up on one of Gisborne’s hills, which was perfect for watching the New Year’s Day fireworks. Before the fireworks started, the kids enjoyed a swim and the adults enjoyed the spectacle of an amazing sunset.
Then came the fireworks over the city. Happy New Year!
The next night, Sean and I did a sunset surf. This was the view coming back from North Makorori.
And then the next day started our first family camping trip up to Anaura Bay. Here’s a photo that didn’t make it into to that post.
As I mentioned above, I introduced the kids to The Wizard of Oz by way of soundtrack. We listened to it probably 10 times before we rented the dvd from our local dvd store, which was the way to go, given our youngest and his tendency to scare easily during movies. This way, even in the scariest of moments while watching the movie, he could be reminded how it would turn out.
Another highlight during January was experiencing the story of Peter Pan in full book-length. It’s a truly wonderful story that overflows with wonderfully wry humor as well as the bittersweet and poignant, along with the absurd and uncanny depiction of the collective imagination of children. If you’ve only seen the Disney version, you owe it to yourself to read this. Seriously, it’s probably going on my top-5 books I read in the last 6 months. (And I’ve read some doozies.)
Thora instituted an intra-family postal service. She writes notes to us and leaves them for us to find (on the computer, under the duvet in our bed, etc.). The message always requires a response that we then leave for her to find.
Cue breaking heart in 3… 2… 1… There. She always manages to bring you back from the brink, just when you’re about ready to start researching boarding schools. But all kidding aside, I love the way she takes to paper for her expression. Most of her feelings and antics have always been displayed through modern dance and theatrics, and still are. But with her growing confidence in literacy and handwriting comes a desire to tread over the themes of her life with paper and pen (and marker and scissors and glue stick). I LOVE the Pocock Family Mail Service!
Below, is a picture of Thora and her friend Campbell at the racetrack. It never fails to pluck at my heartstrings when I see the reflection of Thora’s future self shimmering there next to her 5 year old self. While taking this photo, I felt like I was looking into the future 10 years.
Thora continues to plan the various shows she longs to perform with her friends from Cambridge. During the first part of January, she thoroughly planned out the show that her friend Mia and she would perform upon their hypothetical visit. One day I walked passed the guest room which we rarely use, and found these outfits lying on the floor. I asked her what was happening and she told me that these were the costumes that she and Mia would wear for their show. (She commandeered the rainbow bracelets that her brother got from his Christmas show at his school.)
After the first of the year, an amazingly tall structure appeared in the park down the street from our house. On the side of it was printed the following:
This thing was mammoth and for around $25 the four of us got 4 rides. And let me tell you, it was intense! You climbed straight (!) up what felt like 4 stories. And once up there you gently swayed on the platform. There was guy up there hosing the down the slide so that you got a fast and slick ride. You sat down, scooted to the edge, and seemingly plummeted straight down. Here we are doing it!
And if you click on the photo above, it should take you to the photo album of some kids really going for it. One girl surfs down on a boogie board, and other kids launch themselves into the air, free-falling until they meet up with the slide again. While we were doing it, there were kids doing flips in the air off the platform. God, some kids are fearless! I couldn’t keep myself from screaming while riding down on my butt. I can’t imagine doing any tricks!
And while I’m showing videos, here are a couple more of the happy and surprising accomplishments of the kids this summer. First, Thora said goodbye to training wheels on her bike. Here it is happening. (Technically this is the 2nd attempt. I’m our family’s documentarian, for sure, but even I know when I need two hands! But it was basically just like the video below, except with significantly more squealing and weeping from me! So consider yourself spared!)
And Auric, the boy who would freak out when we try to rinse the shampoo from his hair, all of a sudden grasped the fundamentals of swimming!
January was very good to the garden. We got lots of sun and the tomatoes, basil and the sunflowers have been loving it! We harvested 6 cauliflowers, and then they were done. However, the broccoli keeps producing heads each time I lop a big one off! It’s been wonderful. Below, Sean is giving perspective to this picture of the second of our two sunflowers.
And the first big tomatoes appeared in January. The little, yellow pear-shaped grape (?) tomatoes came on in a serious way. We had a half dozen of those on each salad every night. But the big red ones also appeared. Here’s a typical night’s haul:
So of course that means my favorite nibble, homemade pesto on slices of tomatoes, sometimes on slices of herbed toasts.
I’ve also pickled quite a bit. When the cauliflower was in abundance, I pickled cauliflower and carrots and garlic in a striking tumeric- and cumin-heavy brine. And in addition to my regular heated refrigerator dill pickles, I discovered a great recipe for no-cook kosher dill pickles which I LOVED!
The size of my recipe was based entirely on the fact that I only had these two jars. And so my recipe quantities went like this: 1 large farmer’s market cucumber, 2 C. cold water, 1/8 C. cider vinegar, and (in lieu of a traditional pickling spice mix) pinch of mustard seed, pinch of peppercorns. From there, I followed the recipe. And they were easy and tasted exactly like crunchy kosher dill pickles. The only drawback: it took me less time to gobble them up than it did for me to brine them (2 days? 3 at most).
And finally we find ourselves at the end of our first New Zealand summer vacation. Was it really coming to an end? Part of me was relieved and impatient for us all to be going our separate ways each morning. The kids had reached the saturation point with each other, so it seemed that they couldn’t be in each others’ presence for more than 2 minutes before one of them would breathe wrong or look in the direction of the other and the bickering or all-out brawling would commence. But again, just as I would take to the computer to google “child labor farm New Zealand” they would go and do something like this: Thora reading to Auric inside the teepee tent.
Here it is, captured from above, and one of my favorite photos of the kids. The sheets are gently billowing around them. They’ve pulled a blanket and some pillows in there. And Auric looks on adoringly as his beloved older sister reads to him one of their favorite books, Olivia.
And we had one last lazy afternoon at the beach. (Here, Auric sports his shaggy hairdo for the last time.)
We all got prettied up for the first day of school. Notice Auric’s haircut. And I gave Thora a thorough untangling of her summer hair. And I put a dash of blue in my hair. We were ready!
On January 30th, Auric resumed at his preschool, (or “kindy” as they call it here), and Thora started Year 2 at her school. We had several attempts at the First Day of School photo, finally nailing it in the final frame below.
That night was our babysitting night, and like every other Thursday in January, Sean and I did another sunset surf (the bridge club was closed for the second half of December and all of January). We decided to drive up Kaiti Hill afterwards. This was the beautiful sunset we captured before heading home.
And this is the final image of January. Stay tuned for the post detailing the fun we had during Natalie’s visit!