30 October 2009

Prepared or Paranoid?

This morning at 8.10am we had a power cut. All of a sudden everything stopped, the quietness was strange... no background hum of the fridge, no TV, no radio, no beeps, no clocks. Silence.

All of a sudden we were cut off from the world, phones dead - the only sound were alarms going off all over the neighbourhood. Mr G was already out to work and Dash had gone off around the corner for a lift to school with his mate Oscar.

It was just me, a still-poorly Princess and Scrag at home.

And it got me thinking about Mr G's Emergency Plans a.k.a Tsunami Supplies a.k.a Earthquake Kit a.k.a Volcano Box. What if this were one of those events... and we were all on our own? Would I know what to do?

Mr G had been nagging me for months to start collecting tins and things after the Civil Defense people starting running ads on TV: Get Ready, Get Through

He kept saying, We are sitting ducks here in New Zealand, you know. Auckland is built on volcanoes, we're surrounded by water on all sides... the Pacific Ring of Fire (earthquake zone) runs right through the country! It's a matter of when not if.

And like a good procrastinator I did nothing. It'll probably never happen, I thought.

Have you started getting our emergency supplies yet? he'd ask.

Um.... well....

Then while we were in the UK we heard the dreadful news about the Tsunami in Samoa. That's pretty close to home, and some friends of ours even lost family members in it.

Mr G said, Right that's it. When we get home I'm going to get the emergency supplies. I'll do it myself (said the Little Red Hen, and he did).

To top it all off, we landed at Auckland Airport just in time to hear a Pilot asking the girl behind the Duty Free counter: "So what time is the Tsunami due to hit today???"

What the???!! Auckland had a Tsunami warning and we were back just in time!

OK, turned out to be a false alarm. But as Mr G said, Sitting Ducks.

The very next day, off he went to Pak'n'Save (still jetlagged) and came back with beginnings of our Emergency Box.
He says he's not Paranoid. He's being Prepared. Hope for the Best but Prepare for the Worst.
And I think I agree with him. I'll be adding to the box from now on... more cans, more water, gas ring & cannisters, lighters, candles, spare batteries... because you just never know do you?


Click Here for GeoNet: The website which monitors Earthquake and Volcanic activity in NZ

Click Here for Get Ready Get Through: The Emergency Preparation brochure and checklist
28 October 2009

Call Me Dory...

You know, Dory from Finding Nemo? The blue fish with the short term memory loss?

It's a nickname my hubby calls me regularly when I have forgotten something (yet again) or done something that only a dufus-head would do more than once...
Like taking three kids to Pak'N'Save at 4pm on a Friday afternoon to pick up some supplies for the Long Weekend. That place makes me crazy at the best of times. What was I thinking???

Of course the mayhem, noise and crowds caused me to begin a meltdown...

After I mouthed mean names at a guy who crossed the road right in front of me at snails pace, my 6-year-old told me: "Mum if you only get madder it'll only get worser..." Stopped me in my tracks that did.

Dory! said my hubby after he arrived home from playing a nice relaxing round of golf. Why would you do that to yourself?

Why indeed?

On the upside, sometimes short-term memory loss can come in handy. Like, if you tell me your secrets I promise I won't spread them. Your secrets are safe with me. I won't even remember what you've said in the morning. There may be a faint hazy echo of something, but not enough detail for any kind of juicy gossip. Scouts' Honour.

Then again, the downside... I sometimes forget who I've done what with. Like one time I was raving to a friend about a great movie I'd seen recently and wondering why she was looking at me funny.

"Have you seen it yet??" I asked.

"Um, yes... actually I saw it with you, remember???"

Oh. Oops.

See? Short-term memory loss!

So if I happen to forget your name / birthday / kids names / phone number / deep dark secrets please don't hold it against me. It's just one of my unavoidably annoying personality quirks, nothing personal against you at all.

Just put it down to my Dory-ness, and please forgive me.

P.S. I went to see Julie & Julia on Monday night with my friend Meg. It was great. So in case I forget... Julie & Julia was great. I saw it with Meg.
27 October 2009


Miss Fab (a.k.a.Princess) is lying on the couch in her pyjamas. It's 10.30am on a Tuesday morning. School has started but Miss Fab is not there - because she is poorly.

Scrag is conked out in his cot. It is only 10.30am in the morning but he is not rambling around kicking balls and riding trikes. He is nighnighs, because he is also poorly.

It's a great word that. Poorly. Sums it up, paints the picture so well.

Whether you're puking your guts out, running a fever, have a ringing headache or just "under the weather" - you're poorly.

Thankfully we don't have any puking, just fevers and ringing headaches. Little children off their food, and preferring to lie around and sleep than play. Definitely genuinely Poorly.

Of course Dash didn't want to be left out. Oh No. When he realised that his sister was going to be staying home today, he began coughing and sniffing, limping and complaining.

Was I convinced by his theatrics?? Nuh-uh. No way.
Hypochondriacs?? I can smell them a mile off.

Because... ahem, I know all the tricks. Because... ahem, I used to be one.
(Used to be??? I hear Mr G snorting in my ear.)

OK, well there was the time I was about 11 years old. I really really wanted a day off school but by this time my mum was wise to my theatrics, and sent me off to school despite my best efforts. I was riding my rickety old bike down the road when my devious mind conceived a brilliant plan. I would race back home, throw my bike down on the driveway, race into the house heading straight for the loo and proceed to fake-puke. This would surely convince mum I was sick...

Bingo! The plan worked to perfection. Mum knocked on the toilet door as I was flushing it, and said all concerned - "Oh dear you'd better get back into bed."

I limped back to my bed trying not to smile. My triumph was short lived, however.

Within 10 minutes of snuggling back under my blankets, my tummy started gurgling, and actual nausea set in. Suddenly I found myself dashing to the loo and puking my guts out for real.

I don't know what caused it. God's idea of a practical joke? "You got what you asked for..." or just a coincidence??

Whatever, it freaked me out enough that I never tried that trick again.

I didn't give up the theatrics completely though.

School in my early teens was rough for me. Any excuse would see me trying for a day off. A general feeling of blah-ness would be amped up and turned into complete weakness and inability to walk as I dramatically collapsed on the floor to show mum I really couldn't go to school.

Mum was not impressed but she sometimes gave in with great annoyance, slamming my bedroom door shut after she vehemently laid down the ground-rules: "I'd better not see you out of bed today... Don't think you're going to get up and watch TV... If you're sick, then you stay in bed all day and stay out of my way!"

No sympathy there. She was a hard woman in that respect. Now I sympathise with mum. This was her only kid-free time. She didn't want some pesky hormonal teenager lurking around making demands. I get that.

But I think part of my hypochondria was because I wanted to be fussed over and nursed. (As well as the fact that I was being picked on at school and had no friends - What can I say I was a lonely nerd-bookworm!)

So I try to be kind and sympathetic and soft on the kids... when they are actually sick. I try to be the kind of Mummy-nurse that I wanted when I was a kid.

Maybe that's why Dash is a bit of a Drama Queen, faking being poorly. Maybe my softy softy ways make staying home a bit too attractive?

Whatever, my career as a hypochondriac has equipped me with a nose for genuine illness and a built-in alarm for fakers.

All it took was a promise of a Lunch Order and off Dash went to school, happy as a Clam.

After all, I did feel sorry for him just a teensy bit. See? I'm a softy.
22 October 2009

I'm Planning Ahead (for once)

I wrapped my first Christmas presents today. Bought and wrapped.
Are you crazy?? It's still October!! I hear you say.

Ahhh yes, but you see, I have been here before. Sitting comfortably in October thinking that December 25th is still a long way off. I have been lulled, in years gone by, into a false sense of time-security.

Before I know it November is upon me, with the whirl of Wedding anniversaries and birthdays, party planning and birthday buying, celebrating and cake-making. November is a total wipe-out for me.
And then before I realise what's hit me it's December. And I am forced to scramble madly with the hordes, braving shops full of crazed Christmas Shoppers, racking my brain trying to figure out what to buy everyone.

Then comes Christmas Eve and my dreams of sitting in the flickering candlelight with stockings hung, presents wrapped and Carols playing as I sip wine with my hunny and soak up that magical Christmas Eve tingle... well forget that.

Instead I am stage whispering threats of cancelling Christmas to children who won't sleep as I watch the clock tick closer to midnight and realise that all my prezzies lay hidden unwrapped in every nook and cranny.

By midnight all's quiet but I have a stiff neck, a sore behind and blurry eyes from trying to stubbornly wrap gifts by candlelight. I have also spent Christmas Eve alone because Mr G has been furiously wrapping his gifts to me in another part of the house, after his own Christmas Eve dash.

Not this year.

I am enforcing a wrap-as-you-buy policy. All presents will be wrapped and labelled as soon as they are bought. No more Christmas Eve wrapping frenzy.

I am now this very minute patting myself on the back for thinking ahead and snapping up some red-light bargains in K-Mart's post-Christmas clearout. Oh yes! I got rolls and rolls of quality wrapping paper and fancy labels for (drum roll) 40c each!!

So don't look at me funny for starting my Christmas shopping in October. If I was truly well-prepared I would have been snapping up bargains all year (like my mum does).

Speaking of my mum, I am also patting myself on the back because today I booked tickets for Mum and Dad to fly up and spend Christmas with us! Woohoo! This will be the first time ever that we have had my parents at our house for Christmas. And it will be so special after Dad's Heart Attack and surgery (he's doing really well, BTW).

We have some credits left on a travel voucher Mr G won a while back, so, yippee! Christmas with my Folks!

My mum instilled in me the love of making Christmas special. Even when we had no money she hand-made gifts for us; she would spend days, weeks cooking, baking special Christmas treats. And now I get to have her in my home, to show her that her legacy lives on. I am well stoked. And looking forward to Christmas!
20 October 2009

Two Hundred

This is my 200th Post. Thought I'd mark the milestone with a look back at my favourites. If you haven't been reading me long, here's a selection of some earlier posts you may not have read, so we can get better aquainted...

Duh!: I am really really not a morning person...

My Journey: In case you don't know it

Housework Woes: Because we all have them...
Wardrobe Wars: A different kind of Fairy Tale...

25 Random Things About Me: Just in case you were curious

The Mysterious Case of the Missing Phone: Every word is True, I swear!

Butterfly Wings: I love this one

Somehow I never seem to run out of things to say on my blog. Which is odd, because my hubby complains endlessly that I don't talk to him enough. He tells people: "If I want to know what's been going on at home i have to read the blog..." And he's only half-joking. Sad but true.

My Blog never interrupts my train of thought, or asks me for "just the headlines" (BLOKES!)? I can ramble on and don't have to worry about someone else butting in.

Ah, blogging is bliss for me. I can't believe it took me so long to discover blogging! Well, you can't get rid of me now; me and my Blog are here to stay. Here's to the next 200 Blog Posts!

What's your favourite?? (doesn't have to be from my list)
19 October 2009

Nearly Halfway to Eighty

Today is the 19th of October 2009. In one month exactly I will be turning.... arrrggghhh! 40!

That's right. on the 19th of November 1969 I was born in St Helen's Hospital, Mt Albert. My mum laboured for 30 hours and we were both lucky to be alive. She reminds me every year of her mammoth effort to bring me into the world. I guess even after 40 years some memories will remain just as vivid.

The funny thing is that after years of wandering all over New Zealand with my family, and all over Auckland in my flatting days, I am now settled in the same suburb I was born in. Funny huh?

Thinking back over the last 40 years (*gasp* is it really that long??) it's amazing to me how fast time has gone, how much I have done and where I have been.

Here I am turning 16 in 1985. Seems like only, well, not exactly yesterday but I can still remember it very clearly. The cake was Mum's special Chocolate Cream Gateaux. Yum. (Mum always made a fuss for us on our birthdays. I get that from her.)

When I was younger I thought 40 might as well be 80. Over-the-hill, boring, no longer an actual person, just a grown-up.

Isn't it funny how your perspective changes?

I knew so much when I was 20. Oh yes, I had all the answers and I was going to make a difference in the world.

Now all I know is that I don't know much at all. Things are not as cut-and-dried at 40 as they were at 20. I think I have made some small difference in the world in my time here, but now that I am a grown-up I know that every dream comes at a price.

When I was younger I found my value in what I did and what I accomplished. Now I know that our value comes from who we are and who we love.
Mothering is the most important thing I have done. All my youth and community work was valuable, but at the end of my life it's how I've done as a mum that will most concern me.

On my deathbed (OK, getting maudlin now) I hope my kids are there around me, maybe even with families of their own (I hope they are still talking to me; that we are friends).

Here is a photoshop version of what I might look like in another 40 years. Oh Man!

Only another 40 years until I'm 80??? I guess I'm halfway there, on the downhill slide... even *eek* middle aged?? Based on the speed at which the last 40 have sped by, it's going to be no time at all.

Oh my.
18 October 2009

What I've Learnt from My Halloween Dilemma

I hate hate hate upsetting people. I hate when I realise I've hurt someone's feelings. It makes me feel literally sick to my stomach. Am I a people pleaser?? I am ashamed to admit it, but Yes. That is one of my vices.

So when had we this little dilemma recently about a fifth birthday party (with a Halloween Theme), I was torn between my knee-jerk aversion to that particular festival, the feelings of my good friend, and my daughter's potential disappointment.

And what did I do? Did I do the confident gutsy thing and approach my good friend and have an upfront conversation with her?? Did I remind myself how cool she is and that as an up-front person (like my hubby) she would prefer to just be told??


I poured out my confusion in a blog post, my online thought-processor. I asked for the thoughts of my blog-friends to help clarify my thoughts.
And I forgot that my blog posts pop up on my Facebook page.

Duh! A mutual friend read the post, put two-and-two together and rang my other friend, before I had a chance to go to her myself. Before I had even figured out a decision.

My friend rang me and said, "Why didn't you just talk to me??"
Even my hubby said, "Simone, I have to say that the way you handled this made me cringe..." Oh man!!! :(

Blogging about it helped me in other ways though (even though I really regret that I didn't just talk to my friend first).
A number of your comments really helped me clarify what to do.
  1. Find agreement with my hubby, whatever the final decision.
  2. Discuss it with my daughter and see what she comes up with; let her help make the decision  
Now that was a Radical Thought for me. Discuss it with her??? Let her help decide?? Radical!

Why? Because when I grew up my well-meaning (lovely) parents were of the old-school, common to their generation. They became Christians when I was five, and were full of youthful zeal: If in doubt, Ban it. Burn it. Avoid it.

My Enid Blyton Folk of the Faraway Tree book was taken away (burnt) because it had magic in it. Santa Claus was not welcome at Christmas. Easter Eggs?? Nope (pagan fertility symbols!) - here's a new kitten instead.

Of course I am not taking this extreme approach with our kids. Actually Mr G is more black&white than me, and he wasn't raised as a churchgoer, but became a Christian when he moved to NZ.

I think childhood needs a touch of fairy dust magic, the lovely stuff that fuels good imagination and dreaming, like the Tooth Fairy and Santa's Elves. I've held a Fairy Party, my hubby dresses up as Santa every Christmas Eve and who cares what shape your chocolate comes in??

But my approach to other things (like scary cartoons) was automatically of the ban-it/avoid-it type. And I hold to that. My kids have vivid imaginations (like me) and have even been known to have nightmares after accidentally watching a graphic of planets colliding on the evening news.

This is really the first time that a decision about what to expose my kids to hasn't been as clear-cut for me.

Talking with my friend really got me thinking (as well as feeling really really stink that I had caused her to feel paranoid about her chosen party theme, taking some of the edge off it for her. Man I am so sorry for that.)

She put the question to me (very nicely): "How would you have felt if I said to you, but Simone, my daughter can't attend your Royal Ball party because don't you know the origins of Balls were Orgies??" Fair point.

Take it a step further, don't put up a Christmas Tree (because they were originally used to ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune) and in fact avoid celebrating Christmas altogether because it falls on a Pagan festival (Solstice)??? Perish the thought! I love Christmas.

 Mr G and I sat down and talked about it all. We came to a new point of agreement on a couple of things.

1) The kids don't need to know all the ooky spooky stuff that comes with the origins of Halloween at this tender age. At this stage our real objection is (a) the safety aspect of Trick or Treating and (b) the Ugliness/scary/gory factor in many of the costumes and decorations. In the end that's what separates Halloween for me from other festivals.

 2) From now on we will always involve our kids in decisions that affect them. We can't shield them from the outside world forever so our best chance of them growing up to make good choices in life later on is if they learn to make good choices from an early age.

So Thank You my friend (and so sorry my clumsiness caused you distress). You have really got me thinking and I promise next time, I will not be a scaredy cat chicken girl. I will come and talk to you first. Before I blog about it!

Our Decision: To Go or Not to Go?
After my talk with my friend I was reassured that the decorations, games and activities were all going to be cutie cute and not scary. But, as she said, there was no way for her to control how other guests may dress up. Can't guarantee no scary/gory costumes.

Mr G and I sat down with Miss Fab and laid out her options. We said we preferred if she didn't go, but if she did go to the party it would be with Mummy and dressed up as something nice. Maybe we could do something special with her friend at a later date, instead?
Her big blue eyes welled up with tears and she said, "Well, I think I have to go to her birthday party because it's not fair if I don't go. She's my best friend in the whole world!"

I explained to Miss Fab that we couldn't control how other kids might come dressed up, so she wanted to see what she could expect at the party. "Can you look it up on the computer, mummy?" she asked.

I googled "kids halloween parties" and up popped lots of pictures. Some kids were dressed cute, but then - oops - a scary one or two. Miss Fab backed away from the computer and said firmly,
"Mummy I think I do not want to go to the party after all. I do not want to see anybody dressed up scary."
"Are you sure??"
"Yes! Can we ring up and tell them I won't come, but can we do something special with her instead? Like can she come over for a tea party and we could get dressed up? Could you make us some cupcakes?"

I could not believe it. Sorted. Simple. All that anxiety for nothing. Just talk to the kid! Talk to my friend!

I got myself all twisted in knots over nothing. But I learnt a whole lot in the process.
14 October 2009

Wordless Wednesday: One of THOSE Mornings...

Tuesday morning, 8.37am. The Human Air-Raid Siren has been sounding all morning. Ears are ringing as the siren continues to wail... "Waaa-oooh! Waaa-oooh! I can't find my shoes / my top / my bag..." We make it to school after the Bell but thankfully the teacher hasn't taken the Roll yet. Even more thankfully I make my exit...

... and return to a scene of devastation. Indeed it seems that a bomb has gone off in my home. Cornflake-crusted highchair trays, bibs, bowls and empty bottles sprawl across my kitchen bench. Last night's dishes wait patiently to be rescued.

Blankets tumble across unmade beds, tangled with PJ's and other random messiness...

...wild beasts seem to have taken over...

I turn my back on all of it. I make myself a cup of coffee and retreat to the back porch with my little guy. I practise my self-portraits as we snuggle in the sunshine...
...sharing grapes and Crazy Face cookies...

Snuggling my sweet little boy is so much better than housework. The mess will still be there later. I'll get to it... eventually.
12 October 2009


Here's one for you...

Your good friend is having a birthday party for her daughter. This child is a special friend of your daughter's. I'm talking close. Best Buds. Kindred spirits almost.

As the birthday falls on Halloween, that's the theme your friend has chosen. You are a somewhat conservative Christian; your friend is not a churchgoer, but is a wonderful person and you highly value her friendship.

In your family you don't acknowledge (let alone celebrate) Halloween. It's dark history and symbols of witches and ghosts etc go against your beliefs and values.

When you hear the theme for the party your heart sinks. Your husband thinks it's a no-brainer: No way is your kid going to the party, he says. You'll have to find a way to explain it to your friend.
But you are torn. Your lay awake at night trying to figure out what to do, what to say.

Do you...

  1. Stand staunch and refuse to let your kid go to the party (risking hurting and offending your friend whom you care about very much)
  2. Explain to your friend your reasons and hope she understands
  3. Explain to your child why she can't attend her best friend's birthday party and hope she understands
  4. Ask if you can take the birthday child out on another day (somewhere special to celebrate her birthday) so she doesn't miss celebrating with her friend
  5. Let your child attend the party (but not the trick-or-treat part?); let her dress as something "nice" like a Princess
  6. As well as (5) explain to your child your family's beliefs about Halloween; allow her to attend the party but stay with her (after you've convinced your husband)
  7. Plan a trip to visit the Grandparents that weekend to avoid any awkward explanations
  8. What's the big problem?? Send the kid! It's only a party and it's all in fun

I know there are a range of views out there, even amongst Christians. Some deeply committed Christians have no problem with Halloween as they see it as just a harmless bit of fun and far removed from its Pagan roots. Also it something of a cultural thing - Halloween is a big thing in America, but is relatively new here.

Christian readers, what would you do??

Non-churched readers... if you were the one throwing the party, how would you feel if your Christian friend said her daughter couldn't attend because of their family's beliefs?? Would it affect your friendship with that person? Would you feel judged? Or would you understand and respect their opinion?

I would love to hear your thoughts...
If you want to leave a comment but aren't sure how to... click here for a step-by-step guide
09 October 2009

Home Again

I am sitting at my own computer in my own room in my own house. We arrived back yesterday after a long 48 hours of travelling... all in one peice. Again the kids were amazing.

A six-hour sleep in a hotel room in Dubai kept us all going for the longest (17-hour) leg to Brisbane. The kids slept on the plane, but not all at the same time (so no sleep for the grown-ups). When they did all finally conk out at the same time it was the Brisbane-Auckland leg! They were still all fast asleep long after the plane had landed and all the other passengers had disembarked. We were the last ones off the plane.

A lovely day greeted us; but as I write this it's raining and a little chilly. The blossoms are out but Summer is still a way off. Daylight Saving has already happened here, so we look forward to longer days.

Walking in the front door of our house was strange. Everything seemed different; larger or smaller. Like it was slightly unfamiliar - a house remembered but not lived in for a while.

When I stood still, it felt like the room was moving around me; the air was liquid and I was swimming in it. I guess it's the jetlag??
The two days travelling felt like being in limbo. We lost all sense of time. I felt like we had travelled between worlds, not just countries. When we arrived back we couldn't work out what day it was.

We all got a good night's sleep - Miss Fab (a.k.a. Princess) had to be woken up at 11am. She slept 16 hours!

Now she's off to play with her friend Ruby who she greatly missed (she was the only one who asked to come home to New Zealand... because she missed her friends) She's wearing her Scottish Kilt today - it looks so sweet.
I'd better go and drop her off but in the meantime hello NZ. It's nice to be home.
06 October 2009

So Long, Farewell

The sun has set on our last evening in England. Tomorrow we fly home to New Zealand.

As I write this I have a funny nostalgic lump in my throat; this has been a trip to remember and treasure forever. The four weeks feels like eight; one month? More like two. We have done so much, been so many places, spent time with so many wonderful friends and family.

Man, it's so hard to say goodbye!
Last night Mr G took us all out for dinner; 21 family members. Winnie's siblings and their kids and partners. We made a merry crowd. The restaurant was a perfect cosy little Italian place in West Jesmond called Avanti. As I looked around the table, I was struck by how these wonderful people aren't just Mr G's family now but they truly feel like mine too.

They love our kids. Again I had a lump in my throat and a soppy smile on my face as I watched...

Miss Fab cuddling up to Aunty Irene...

Scrag snuggling Uncle Alan...

Dash wrapping himself around Uncle Phil and Cousin Sam...

The kids feel so loved and accepted (or should I say adored??) This place feels like another home now.

The expense, the effort, the hard work - all worth it. Mr G and I agree that you simply can't put a value on what we have gained by coming here... what the children have gained. And we are also amazed at how much family an only-child from a single-parent family can have.

Tonight we went for one last fish'n'chip supper with Aunty Irene and Uncle Alan; they took us to the beach at Blyth (where I took the top photo of the cute beach huts). Cousin Cath came too with her man Stu (who plays football, so Dash is well impressed). One last play at the park, one last game of footy, one last hug, kiss, photo...
Then we went to say farewell to Great-Grandad. More hugs, tears, photos.

Here's Uncle Alan & Aunty Irene with Grandad at his window, waving. I turned around from taking this to see Scrag, in daddy's arms, waving and blowing kisses. Precious.

So thanks to everyone in the UK who has welcomed us with open arms and made our trip so memorable...

The Newcastle rellies:
Grandma Winnie for giving up your flat while we were here and being such a wonderful granny and ma-in-law
Uncle Alan & Aunty Irene for taking so much time off work and showering our kids with unconditional love
All the cousins, aunties and uncles who showered our kids with £££'s and gifts, played football and gave cuddles and kisses.
Great-Grandad... for being so cool and for eventually remembering who I am (and for saying I look better now than last time you saw me... bless you!)
Uncle Phil for teaching Dash magic tricks and letting him snuggle you... and Sam for not being too cool to be kissed and hugged by a 6-year-old (Carolyn... your card made us cry xx)
The Haltwhistle crew for giving us a special day (special mention to Aunty Margaret and long-suffering cousin James)...
AJ and Vic; Maya and Andy... for being true friends although half a world away; and for your wonderful hospitality

The Scottish rellies, especially...
Aunty Sandra & Uncle George for your generosity and putting up with our noise and mess
Uncle Jack for travelling from Holland
And Cousin Libby... for being so sweet and such a lovely girl.

We love you all!
It's not really goodbye, it's just see ya later. Cause we'll be back before you know it (don't groan like that! It's a promise not a threat!)

Anyway, there's always The Blog... Now I know y'all read it! And remember, there's always a bed at our house for any of you who want to see New Zealand. Come on over!

Now it's off to bed in readiness for another mammoth 30-hour flight... think of me won't you??
See you all on the other side.

Did You Catch them All??
Here's a a list of all the stories about our trip. Catch any you missed...

Och Aye the Noo

The final part of our UK trip took us North to Scotland. It was something of a reunion for Mr G with his father's side of the family. If you've been reading my blog for a while you'll know that Mr G's dad, Rab, passed away suddenly of cancer in December last year. His passing has brought us closer to his side of the family, many of whom Mr G hadn't seen in over 15 years... and whom the rest of us had never met.

The kids practised their Scottish accents as we drove, "Och aye the noo! Och Aye the noo!" became "how kind are you!" and there was some debate over which saying was the right one. I had to try very hard to keep a straight face as I put them straight.

About 10 minutes over the border, the countryside changes. It goes from picturesque countryside to raw and rugged windswept hills. You can't help but know you are in Scotland. It looks and feels different.

We stayed with lovely bubbly Aunty Sandra (Rab's sister) and Uncle George, north of Glasgow on the outskirts of the ship-building town of Greenock where Rab grew up. Aunty Sandra's house was something of a mansion (woohoo!) right on the waterfront where the River Clyde meets the sea.

We had 180o views of the harbour and hills. We even spotted a submarine in the channel! Two days of wind and rain gave us a taste of the Scottish chill, now that autumn is well on its way. I nipped outside in bare feet to snap this photo, and by the time I got back inside my feet were totally numb! I guess I'm starting to see why people in this part of the world look at us funny when we go barefoot.

We had a lovely surprise when we arrived - Rab's older brother Jack had come over specially from Holland to be with us! (That's him on the right) Many were the late nights, hilarious were the stories Uncle Jack and Uncle George told, loud was the laughter... and ouch! those early mornings with those three noisy early-rising bairns were tough!

We were re-united with our Scottish Great-Grandad (Rab's father, who is 80+). And yes, that is Mr G wearing a Celtic football top. He plans to buy a kilt next time we visit.

We went to FunWorld one rainy day and met up with Rory's cousin Claire... and (wahoo) her 8-year-old daughter, cousin Libby! The kids were stoked to have another kid around.

Libs came for a sleepover and Aunty Sandra got them all playing Twister. Hilarious! (Aunty Sandra is very patient and a great sport).

Libby and Dash got on like a house on fire. They even look alike, dontcha think??

Mr G snapped this one when they weren't looking. Sweet.

Mr G also snapped this one, early the next morning. Yep, we were up before the sun. Again.

The kids have started to turn a bit feral in the last week or so. All the attention, treats and excitement has gone to their heads. That and/or they are really knackered and ready to come home.

I can understand that. We have travelled over 2500 miles in our giant Peugot van. That's a lot of kms. Don't ask me to convert it!

It's been really tough getting the kids to sleep at night, with them sharing a room and keeping each other awake.

Speaking of houses on fire, one night after 15 attempts to get the eldest two to sleep, I had closed the bedroom door for the noise (for Dash) and left a lamp on for some light (for Princess). Sure enough after 10 minutes, Dash appeared in the doorway complaining of a funny smell. Yet another attempt at procrastination I think, but thankfully I went to check anyway.

As I climbed Aunty Sandra's stairs I noticed a burning smell that got stronger the nearer I got to their room... In the corner was the lamp I had left on - the burning smell was coming from some PJ's that Dash had draped over the lamp to make the room darker. The PJs had turned black and were smouldering. I hate to think what could have happened...

Of course none of this bad behaviour or drama relates to that sweet little Scrag. He has been a great sleeper, a happy little soul and a perfect traveller who has melted hearts wherever we've been. Aside from his new bad habit of drinking the milk out of his cornflakes bowl, I cannot complain about that wee bairn.

We left with hugs all round and promises to keep in touch on FaceBook and Skype. The world is a small place these days.

We travelled South on this road that Mr G had worked on during his Engineering days.

"Look, son, I helped build this road!" Daddy bragged proudly to Dash.

"OOOhhh really? Hey Dad, do you think Newcastle United will get back up to the Premier League this year??"
Don't worry, my honey, I was impressed. It was a lovely straight road.
Click for the last part of our Journey: So Long, Farewell