26 June 2016

Getting to Opotiki

We left Auckland on Thursday morning.  Patti and Michael accompanied us on the train to the downtown travel plaza.  This was good because it turns out despite being at our lowest stuff level yet, we cannot walk and carry all our belongings and our children in one trip.  We said goodbye to Patti and Michael and climbed aboard the double-decker bus on a crowded street corner.  On the one hand, awesome - a double-decker bus.  On the other hand, why the hell were we taking a bus? Did I not remember the last time we took a bus?

The first leg of the journey went quite well.  Bear was distracted by the ipad for a good portion of the ride, and then crawled into my lap and fell asleep. There was a bit of poor planning in that we had not brought any snacks - we were expecting the bus to stop for breaks but it did not.  So we were a bit hungry when we arrived for our transfer in Rotarua.  It was raining quite heavily when we stopped, and the attendants helpfully unloaded our suitcases onto the curb in the rain.  Benjamin shuffled all four suitcases and various backpacks from the shiny double-decker bus with bathroom to the 10 passenger van circa 1982 that was provided for the second leg of the journey.

Meanwhile, I supervised Bear's use of the restroom.  After guiding him through washing his hands, I went to change the baby and discovered that we had what is technically known as a "poopsplosion," on our hands.  I had stripped the baby and was in the process of wiping her down with wet wipes on the floor of the restroom when Benjamin knocked on the door to let us know the bus was leaving.  I sent Bear out with Benjamin, slapped a diaper on the baby, and dashed through the rain hauling a car seat.  We made it to the bus.  Wet, hungry, and possibly still streaked with a bit of baby poop, but we were on the bus.

This is going to make great cover art for his second album.

Blurry bus selfie!

We arrived in Opotiki with family-wide critically low blood sugar.  Thank goodness the bus stop is also a cafe.  We had time to stuff our faces and become slightly more human before my new coworker met us and brought us to our house!

I cannot begin to convey to you how exciting it is to have our own house after living in hotel rooms for a month.  I am so pumped to spend more than three nights in one place, to unpack my clothes into drawers, to sleep in a separate bedroom from my children.  The house is great - it's so big we actually sort of don't know what to do with all the space.  THREE bedrooms? It's insane.  Also, my coworkers are super sweet and set it up for the kids with some books and toys.  And our beds were made.  And there is food in the fridge.  

Bear's bed and books.

They even covered the outlet in Bear's room.  Who is cutting onions in here?

Pax approves of the bedding choices.

We spent the weekend familiarizing ourselves with the town (all four blocks of it!) and doing some shopping for housewares. We signed up for library cards and explored the local grocery store.  We did mundane, not-on-vacation type things - and it felt great.

On Monday I start work and on Tuesday Bear starts school.  I still get that nervous first-day-of-school feeling - for myself and for Bear.  But we are both so very ready for a routine.
This is going to be good.

I think we're going to like it here.

Opotiki has a train. Bear declares we can stay. 

At the library, playing with antiques.

So close to crawling!

Listen, sometimes you need some possum and goat bodies.  

Breaking news!

Pax LOVES watching her brother. 

Q: Is the fridge small or is the celery big?
A: Yes.

Ready for tandem skydiving.

Being a less litigious society, New Zealanders can still enjoy the Jolly Jumper.

Playing together

Octopus pie!

22 June 2016

Reunited! Three Days in Auckland

Awesome playground in Mt Eden

Benjamin and Bear are here! They arrived early Monday morning and Patti, Pax, and I met them at the airport.  

Bear did really well on the plane - he slept most of the time.  So he arrived full of energy.  While Benjamin chased down some luggage, Bear and Patti and I played "picnic," which involved purchasing overpriced airport snacks and enjoying them on the tile floor next to the luggage cart.  I took Bear to the bathroom, which was full of college girls applying makeup and brushing their teeth.  They spotted him and squealed "Bear!" and gave him high-fives.  He's been in the country under two hours and already has a fan club.  

Bear inducted Patti into his fan club very quickly, despite his near-comical inability to remember her name.  He latched on to her at the airport and pretty much demanded her attention the rest of our visit. 

Patti and Bear leaving the airport
Being separated from Bear was very difficult for me - not because I have trouble being away from him at all, but because I didn't know how long it would be and so I could not offer him the reassurance of telling him when he would see me again.  Once I knew we would be together again soon, I was able to relax.  And I tried to use the remaining time we spent apart to store up energy for him, to strategize about how to manage his "energetic spirit."  I resolved to have fair, firm boundaries.  I resolved to use firm touch to help his sensory regulation. I resolved to stick to a sleep schedule for him and be more patient with him and to support Benjamin better in his parenting.  Right.

Bear arrived on this island and I immediately felt like I was drowning in energetic preschooler again.  I had spent our time apart trying to think of how to better parent as a team, but Benjamin was checked-out - he was dealing with jet lag plus the cumulative exhaustion of entertaining Bear for a week on his own.  I wanted to actively engage with Bear, but I still had the baby weighing me down like an anchor when I wanted to run after my boy.   

Thank God for Patti.  She held hands crossing the road and baked special bread and told the "volcano story," 300 times in a row.  She seemed to be tapped in to some well of spectacular grandma-energy, and kept things stabilized while I remembered how to parent two children and Benjamin remembered how to be awake in the day time.  

Hanging our at the Friends Centre

On Tuesday we joined the Auckland Quakers on their famous Tuesday Morning Walk - we explored the area around One Tree Hill.  It was overcast but gorgeous.  Winter weather here is wet and windy, so it feels colder than it really is.  And even in winter there are fruit trees and tropical flowers everywhere. On the way up I carried Pax and Benjamin carried Bear.  On the way back I double carried  - talk about a work out!

Wednesday was wet and we all had trouble getting going for the day.  Of the many things we wanted to explore on our last day in Auckland (for now) but none of them were particularly good rainy day options.  Eventually we settled on just riding the train.  In New Zealand AT means Auckland Transit - basically a metro, but cleaner and quieter and with extremely friendly and helpful employees.  Of course Bear had an awesome time, and I really enjoyed spending time with Patti. (Benjamin and Michael both stayed at the Centre to get some rest.)

We finished out our day with dinner out with Patti and Michael at a brewery that had the best children's play area I've ever seen.  Basically, if this place existed in the US, I don't think us and our parent-friend tribe would ever leave.  They even had a cider on tap that was quite delicious.

So - the Flawless Planners are back together again and reasonably rested up.  We've enjoyed our time in Auckland and especially with Patti and Michael, and we are excited to get to our new home.  

Friends Centre still life. Bear 2016.

"I see you." Bear 2016.

"Group Portrait" Bear 2016. 

Bear and his Bear

Benjamin demonstrates how to use the climbing structure

One Tree Hill - apparently the one tree has recently been cut down.

The Tuesday Walking Group!

Michael in the mist

Here's some of those sheep we heard were everywhere.

Kiwis know how to do coffee

The best walking groups end with tea.

Playing under the table at the Friends Centre

Serious geography talk

(She can only crawl backwards ... so far.)

Bear's "City Feast"

Bear at the Mt Eden train station

So clean!

Fact: Babies love breweries

Thank you so much, Patti and Michael! Come visit us soon!

20 June 2016

Exploring Auckland with Patti

On Sunday, Patti and I took a double-decker bus downtown to explore Auckland a bit.  Patti suggested it, saying she's "a sucker for a walk along a waterfront." We are so compatible it's crazy - I too am a major sucker for a walk along a waterfront.  As is my mom.  I seriously cannot wait to introduce them.  Michael has been under the weather, so he didn't feel up for joining us on our adventures, but we did get to hang out around the breakfast table this morning and the dinner table last night.  He is Papo to his grandkids and shifted effortlessly back into this persona where Pax was concerned.  

Patti and I had a great time, walking along, poking into lots of shops to just look at things, oohing and ahing over the scenic views and the funky little green spaces.  From what I have seen, Auckland reminds me of Seattle - it's not just the fish market and Sky Tower/Space Needle - they both also have this kind of professional hipster vibe going on.  They also both have a strong coffee game.  Definitely both A+ cities.  

I am really excited to see my guys (they arrive tomorrow morning!) but I have also really enjoyed getting to know Patti and Michael.  With Bear around I often find it hard to focus on adult conversation and engage and get to know people because he requires a lot of attention/energy/redirection.  So I am grateful for the opportunity to get to know them with a little more breathing room.  

When I lay in bed, the song that ran through my head was 'One More Sleep 'Til Christmas' - that's exactly what it feels like. 

Finally found good pie!

Auckland waterfront

Sky Tower

Art by the playground

Patti inspects the sculpture


This fish market was so fresh - the raw fish actually smelled good.  

Papo and Pax conversing

Seen on my walk to the grocery store.  I don't even know.