Archive for the ‘outings’ Category


January 18, 2014
Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the "sea storm"

Babess & Fainjin are impressed by the “sea storm”

The sea is rough, and full of shredded kelp. The sand is covered in kelp too. Where the seawall is storm-damaged from earlier this year, debris has washed across the road – just a little, not dangerous. The sea is roaring rhythmically, crashing on rocks & sucking at the sand. The wind is chill, but the sun is fierce too, I can feel it burn. I don’t think we can stay here as long as I’d like.

But it’s rather like finding yourself unexpectedly in the middle of a poem.

© UpsideBackwards 2014.


Monday, lovely Monday

December 30, 2013

The Monday between Christmas and New Year is the best Monday of the year, I reckon.

The girls slept in. Fainjin, true to form, bounded out of bed early, got dressed, brought the paper in & played quietly with the Lego while the rest of us lazed.

Eventually we all got up.  There was no rush, and we’ve recovered enough from the pre-Christmas stress build-up to relax into the day.  The paper told us of interesting things happening in town, and we needed to scout the post-Christmas sales for Fainjin’s birthday this week, so off we went.

We scouted sales, walked along the waterfront, marvelled at the sunshine, complained about the wind, collected some free lollies from an activity that couldn’t run properly due to the wind, climbed some rock walls that were just sitting there asking for it, slid down again, looked at various cafe menus, and ended up at a burger chain for lunch.

Babess managed to lock herself in the loo, which caused about 10 minutes of consternation for me and the staff and random strangers who came in while we were trying to get her out.  Eventually she managed to slide the bolt back all by herself and was freed.  The staff were (if possible) even more sympathetic when she emerged, looking so tiny and red-eyed and tearful and snotty and scared.  Free icecreams were dispensed, with apologies on both sides and many thanks on ours.

We found a holiday drawing workshop going on and joined in, the kids happily drawing cartoon characters for an hour, then they’d had enough so we wandered off again and The Dad and I sneakily ordered tea and coffee in a cafe while the kids played nearby.  Eventually they noticed and started demanding even more food and drink, so we came home.

I set them to work in the garden, where they happily harvested a decent haul of raspberries and strawberries, and helped pick sweetpeas.

After all that, we came inside to escape the heat and settled with quiet games and books and so on.

Truly, the best way to spend a Monday that I can think of (except maybe the getting locked in the loo bit).

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they'd got all there were to get...

These are the berries I picked *after* the kids reckoned they’d got all there were to get…

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Getting in early

October 3, 2013

This afternoon we spent nearly an hour in a large toy-and-book shop, just looking.  There was a big sale on, lots of interesting displays, and the children could hardly contain their delight.

They like to pore over toy catalogues when they arrive with junk mail, and divide the contents among their imaginary hoards.  “I’m having that, you can have that one…” – all completely fictional, but most enjoyable nonetheless.

So walking around a shop where you could touch most of the merchandise, or even just see it life-sized, was a heavenly experience for them.

Babess particularly liked a certain set of toys.  “Mum, for my birthday, can you get me this one?  And this one over here?  And I really like this one…” she gushed, to the amusement of a nearby stranger.

“Your birthday is in June… I’ll try to remember which ones you pointed to,” I smiled.  The stranger met my eyes and laughed.  Babess was supremely content.

When we got home, she wrote her birthday list.  The word “birthday” was spelt correctly… but “prppl pone” is still understandable.  (purple pony, in case you’re not used to reading 5yr-old).

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Beating the “what can we doooo”s

July 24, 2013

After a couple of days pottering at home recovering from the school term, the kids (and I) were starting to get a bit antsy.  So we had a super-busy day in the city as an antidote.

We went into town quite early in the morning, and ran a couple of errands before heading to the library.  We returned some books and hung out there for about an hour.  Babess found lots of books she could read by herself (amazement and joy!), and so did Fainjin, so they spent the time taking turns to read to me.  Pearl buried herself in the (children’s) historical fiction shelves and despite my pleas not to borrow any bricks emerged with half a dozen very heavy books she needed to read.

We emerged into bright sunshine and found a good spot to eat the morning tea we had brought with us, staring down the pigeons who thought we might share.  Then we went and bought tap shoes (the smallest possible) for Babess, who glowed with pleasure at the thought of the noise she will now be able to make in her dance classes.

After that there was more shopping to do, some craft supplies for a planned school holiday project, and we started to think about lunch.  Pearl had a great idea and we ended up getting picnic bits and pieces from a supermarket and sitting on the waterfront to eat.

Babess and Fainjin particularly enjoyed watching the boats while we ate, and Babess said sadly at one point, “Poor Daddy.  He can’t watch the boats while he eats.”  Then she turned to me and added, “I know why.  He’s at work.”

We spent the afternoon at the museum exploring and learning-through-play, and very noisy it was there too.  A good long walk around the waterfront cleared any remaining cobwebs, then we were all very grateful for a cafe afternoon tea while we waited to meet The Dad for the trip home.  I was especially grateful because the cafe was generous about refilling my teapot with hot water!  They were also very good at small-child-placating, having only one “butterfly cake” left, but surreptitiously adding a candy butterfly to another cake so no-one would miss out.  We’ll be back.

We all managed to stay awake for the drive home and dinner, but Fainjin and Babess were in bed and fast asleep before 6:30pm, and they didn’t wake up until after 8 the next morning!  I mapped it out and realised we had all walked about 6km over the course of the day, plus the running around playing here and there too… that’s a lot for little legs!

Operation Avoid Boredom: success.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Hands off

May 14, 2013

Babess went with her daycare on a trip today.  “Where did you go?” we asked her.

“We went to the museum,” she informed us gravely.  “And do you know what we had to do there?”

“No,” we answered.  Perhaps they had done craft activities there, participated in one of the interactive displays, “dug up” the dinosaur “bones”?

“Not touch anything!” came the answer.

Rather an old-fashioned museum visit then.  The Dad and I shared a grin.  We think the teachers are very brave to take half-a-dozen or more preschoolers on a museum visit at all!

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Easter 2013

April 6, 2013

Easter this year was a five-day weekend for schools.  Usually it falls in the school holidays, but this year is too early for that, so the Ministry of Education in its wisdom made Easter Tuesday a holiday as well as the public holidays of Good Friday and Easter Monday.

The Dad and I both took leave on Tuesday, which was especially nice as we had two young American friends visiting.  But after a five-day weekend full of children, chocolate, visitors and exploring, I was very ready to go back to work for a break!

For Easter dinner (Sunday lunch) we had a traditional lamb roast, complete with pavlova dessert – something I only make when we have overseas visitors!  After that no-one felt like doing much, so it was a very quiet afternoon.

On the other days we explored and showed off our area and the capital city, having fun ice-skating, walking in the gardens, visiting the observatory and finding the best places for unusual/quirky but affordable souvenirs.

The children will solemnly swear to you that the Easter Bunny did not visit our house.  This is because there was no egg hunt.  We don’t always do egg hunts, and this year the bunny was thwarted by children who woke up late in the evening, in the middle of the night, and early in the morning.  The poor rabbit never had a chance.

But never fear, there were eggs!  We try not to go overboard, but even so this year there was a Kinder egg each, some home-made marshmallow eggs (thanks Nana!), some commercial marshmallow eggs, a few caramel and creme eggs collected from various places who were giving them away, and little solid chocolate eggs intended for hunting but which never got hidden.

I think Babess got the best Easter gift, though – a family at daycare contrived to give each child a little potted orchid!  She is very happy to have hers sit alongside my collection, and is looking forward to the day it flowers.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


February 28, 2013

There’s no Boys’ Brigade for Fainjin this term, to his immense disappointment, and this leaves him at loose ends on days that Pearl has choir.  We have fallen into a routine of taking her to choir, then running whatever nearby errands we (I) might have before settling in at a favourite cafe for a fluffy and a lemon slice.

This morning I reminded Fainjin of our “date”.  “Shall we go to the library later, and then the cafe for a lemon slice?” I asked.  He was very enthusiastic.

“I’m going to choose a book that Pearl will like, and then I will choose one for me!” he said, “And then we can have a lemon slice, it’s so yummy!”  He gave me a great big hug, and I was happy that he knew what was planned for the afternoon.


Then I heard him run to Pearl.  “Pearl!  I’m going to the library and I’m going to get one book that you will like, and one book that I can read.  Mum and I are going to the library today and you’re going to school!”

Pearl immediately protested, and I jumped in.  “Fainjin, you’re still going to school!  We’re going to the library after school, when Pearl goes to choir, remember?”

His face crumpled and he wailed as the truth sank in.  I felt both mean and a bit bewildered.  I never meant to give him the impression he was getting a day off school!

Luckily, he cheered up again fairly quickly, and had a great day at school as it turned out.  And afterwards we went to the library, got some books for them both, and had a lemon slice at the cafe.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

Guo Nian – Welcome the Water Snake

February 24, 2013

“It’s the Chinese New Year Festival today,” I noted.

Babess gasped.  “I have to go to that!”

I grinned at her.  “I know you do, sweetheart.  We’ll go, as soon as the jobs are done.”  She has been talking about Chinese New Year for a number of weeks now.  They’ve been studying it at daycare, making lanterns and flags and dragons and reading books about New Year and China.

The kitchen floor was vacuumed, and then she washed it too!  She also made a great effort to tidy her room.  While the older children were still squabbling about their jobs, Babess and I took the bus to the festival.

We saw lion dances and dragons, lots of colourful costumes and lanterns, everyone smiling and having a great time.  It took us a while to find the food, and by then the rest of the family had caught us up.  We feasted on dimsums, pork buns and stir-fried rice, and bought paper dragons for the kids to play with at home.

Babess liked the red lanterns hanging everywhere, and there was a stall selling little ones, not expensive.  “I want one for my bedroom,” she explained, “because there used to be a terrible monster called Nian, and he would eat everything! Especially children! But he doesn’t like red, so he’s scared of red lanterns and goes away.”

The lady selling the lanterns was impressed with her grasp of the traditional story (and so was I – I hadn’t known all that!), and so I bought her a lantern which is hanging in her room.  She was delighted.

(I must add, she’s not scared of Nian – she knows it’s a story, but enjoys pretending to be frightened).

Happy New Year!

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

A long and winding road…

February 2, 2013

Yesterday we were looking for a family outing that would amuse us all for several hours without being too hot and/or windy.  We’ve had stunning weather for nearly 10 days now, rather warmer than we’re used to, and we knew we would need shade if we were outdoors all day.

We chose to go to Staglands, in the Akatarawa valley between Upper Hutt and Waikanae.  None of us had ever been there before, although we’d heard good things about it.

We had a fantastic day!

It’s lucky none of us get carsick, because from either end it’s about 20km of narrow curving road to get there.  It’s a pretty road, a mix of bush and farmland and river valley depending on which side you come from.  All the same we were all glad to arrive at the reserve.

I was surprised to see ducklings, I thought February would be a bit late for them as I am used to seeing them in September, but ducklings there were in abundance.  In fact, there were lots of babies – chicks, lambs, fawns, guinea pigs, piglets, even trout!



The kids were so excited, they wanted to run along all the paths to see what was next.  We had quite a job to convince them to look around and appreciate what was right in front of them.

There are several aviaries, holding a great variety of birds from budgies to an albino peacock to native kea and weka.

We had bought some trout food and some animal food, and the kids really loved feeding things – although Babess found the lambs a little bit aggressive.  They expected to be hand-fed, and kept nudging her when she wanted to scatter the feed on the ground in front of her.  All the kids loved feeding the trout, and combined their pocket money to buy another tub of trout food later.  Fainjin was most impressed by the eels.

Babess & The Dad feed the trout

Fainjin surveys the pond for eels

Fainjin surveys the pond for eels

An eel comes up for some food!

An eel comes up for some food!

The other highlight was “Kids’ Corner”.  At a bend in the river there is a swimming hole (too cold and deep for us even in this golden weather), and beside it a rope swing.  On the bank there is a flying fox and a little obstacle course for kids.  We spent a long time here.

Only Fainjin was brave enough to attempt the flying fox

Only Fainjin was brave enough to attempt the flying fox

A perfect family relaxation spot

A perfect family relaxation spot

The kids took turns on the rope swing and amused themselves by throwing stones into the river to hear the splosh.  The Dad and I tried to show them how to skip the stones over the water, but it was apparently more satisfying to throw big stones into the deepest part you could to make a loud splash.

At one stage The Dad and I sat to chat on a rock a little upstream from where the kids were playing and a peacock strolled right in front of us to go for a drink.

We had taken our own lunch and found a lovely picnic spot among the many available.  Babess was a bit put out because we chose a table and chairs instead of sitting on a blanket so it wasn’t a real picnic, but she recovered soon enough when I brought out the boxes of raisins and individual packs of chippies (left over from Fainjin’s birthday party!).

After lunch we revisited our favourite spots at a more leisurely pace.  Then we had afternoon tea at the cafe before taking the long and winding road towards home again.

I’m sure this will be a favourite place to return for family days out.

Note: this post is not sponsored in any way.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.


The end of nap time

February 1, 2013

We visited a farm/forest park today, and had a wonderful time.  I hope to have a longer post on it with photos tomorrow.  But for now, a quick story:

As we walked along one path through the trees, we heard a rooster.  “What’s that?!” Babess seemed quite shocked.  “It’s a rooster,” I told her, and managed to point it out hiding in the bushes.

“Did it say cock-a-doodle-doo?” she asked in a puzzled voice.

“Yes he did,” I agreed, wondering what was so mysterious to her.

“But why did he do that when everyone’s already awake?”

Ahhhhh.  I tried to tell her that roosters can crow at any time, but she gave me a witheringly disbelieving look.  After all, in all her story books, roosters only crow at daybreak.

“Perhaps someone’s just finished their naptime then?” I suggested, and she agreed that that must be it.

© UpsideBackwards 2013.

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