Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter with grandparents

First off, hunting jelly beans

A tradition that was passed on from when I was a kid.

Then to the baskets

This year the "baskets" were actually new rain boots!

Fun for all!

Time for church

And then company for dinner

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

10 year anniversary trip

We are back from 2 amazing weeks in New  Thanks to my wonderful parents not only babysitting our FOUR children, but they OFFERED to do it!  It all started about 9 months earlier with my mom saying they would babysit and let us go on a 10 year anniversary trip.  Our one week turned into 2 weeks and we decided we needed to travel as far as we could go, since two weeks will probably not come up again!  :)  So, we did it and it was amazing!

Above are from our first stop in  This was the biggest city in the country.  We did a lot of walking, a tour on the inner harbor, enjoyed the city as we got through our jet lag.  We also did a tour that took us all around the city, including the beach and the rainforest.

Below, the first two pictures were a fire art show we caught while we were in town.

We took a tour bus from through a town with a glowworm cave.  Seriously, tiny little glowworms hanging in an underground cave.  It was very dark, so the only picture we have is coming out of the cave on a little boat..that's the lower left picture.  Our tour ended up in Roto.rua.  The next beautiful town.  I loved walking around this town.  Not sure why, but it was tiny and sweet.  Below was the best ATV ride EVER!!  This wasn't in our plan, but when we had a free afternoon due to our white water rafting getting moved in the time, we booked it.  (oh, rafting pictures may have to be their own post one day....I have like 40 of them and since they are in a series, there is no way I could post just one!!!)  Anyway, we called the place for "quad bikes" and they booked us....just the two of us.  So no cheesey little tour where you're going slow on someone's rear it was full steam ahead and amazing!!!  We had asked to go on the mud tour, but the guide wasn't sure he would find enough mud to make it worth it.  So, they didn't charge us, but we found mud!  And it was awesome!  We each got nice and stuck in one place and man, that really got us more than Richard!

Above, in the lower left pictures was one of the MANY mudpools all around town.  Kind of crazy.  There was just this park with tons of bubbly mud, steaming, and often quite stinky!  The lower right picture is sunset at their beautiful lake!

The next set of pictures are from a native dinner and show we went to.  It all started with their cultural dance, then teaching us about their customs (like housing, food, games, and so on), on to the cooking portion, a show, and then dinner! 

Next stop was  I also really liked this town.  It wasn't super big, but cute, and lots of beauty to it.  The land was soooo green and the water was soooo blue!  Seriously amazing!  They had a gondola that went up the mountain.  So after walking around the city the first day, we took the gondola up for a night view.  (the above pictures)

Below was our jet boat ride.  Super fun and fast ride through a canyon.  The drivers would zip you around, really close to the canyon walls, spin you around in a 360, got us super wet, and quite a blast!

After that we headed back up the mountain on the gondola, this time also going up a little more to the luge!  Picture a bobsled on wheels on a paved track!  I think we bought the pass to do it 6 times each. Super fun...and almost as fun watching other people go down it for the first time or two!  :)  Again, beautiful views with green everywhere and bright blue waters!  We finished up that day with a zip line down the mountain.  I think it was 6 ziplines.  They even showed up how to get yourself upside down, which I loved.  It wasn't one of those zip lines with lots of rules!  :)

Our next day we took a bus ride to the Sound.  Now, this was highly talked about and everyone said it was a must do.  So looking on a map, as the bird flies, it didn't seem too far away.  Little did we realize until mapping it, you had to go the long way around a huge lake and then an even longer way around a mountain range.  It was something like 5-6 hours to get there!!!!  We did NOT realize that!  Now of course, the nice thing about the 5-6 hour drive was, even though it was on a bus, these tours will stop at beautiful places, like a waterfall on the side of the road or a beautiful mountain site.  You know, those places you always see cars pulled over to stop and take in the beauty.   So, our bus did this, which was nice, but also part of the reason the trip took so long.  Plus, like I said before, you always stop for morning tea...and that's like a required 30 minutes.  I think this one even stopped at a local fruit stand!

So, when we get there, we take a cruise that leads us out to the Tasman sea.  And it was filled with waterfalls...the set of pictures below, that is the bottom left picture.  Plus the rainbow was when we got super super close to the rocky mountain side and the bottom of a waterfall and we were able to see a double rainbow...if you look close.  We saw seals, we saw dolphins....and we were told this was one of the most beautiful days...ever!  Apparently it rains, a LOT!  The tour guide on the boat said he has been doing this tour for 2 years and this was only the 4th time there had been such beautiful, clear blue skies!  So, after the cruise, many people got back on the bus for the long ride back.  But we were scheduled for a flight back!  YAY!!!!  It was supposed to take 30 minutes, but our pilot asked if we minded if  he took the long way because again, such a beautiful day!  So, we flew for abour 40-45 minutes and saw some of the most amazing sites of the ENTIRE trip on this flight.  The view from above....the ocean, the mountains, the fiord, the glaciers, the was amazing!!!!

These pictures below are from our flight back to town!

Next up was another bus ride. At this point, bus rides were beautiful, but also just a point of transportation.  Everything was kind of far.  But, like you can see from the set of pictures below, the top left picture...we would stop and see some beautiful sites!

Probably the only disappointing part of the trip is that we drove all the way to one town.  The plan was for the next day to take a helicopter flight to the top of a glacier and do a hike!  Unfortunately, the clouds were SO low that entire day, that every single helicopter was grounded.  We kept trying to reschedule and we would be rebooked, only to try again and the clouds were still too low.  So, the main thing to do here is visit glaciers.  So, we hiked to one.  And hiking we did.  I think we walked about 3 miles to get to the spot where the hike started.  Then it was something like a 45 minute hike to get to the viewing point of the glacier.  Unfortunately, we couldn't step foot on it, as the mountains and rocks surrounding the actual glacier were unstable and not safe to get any closer...but we got to the point where we could see it.   That's what we went for, so we did it!  (lower left picture was the base of where we could see the glacier).  Then we had to hike back!

We also saw a kiwi bird here.  Starting off on this trip we didn't realize it would be so hard to see a kiwi bird.  We learned that these birds have a tough life being flightless and most babies do not make it to the age of 1, so they have several habitats around the country that help get the birds to the age of 1 and release them in the wild.  So, we had 24 hour access to one and we visited either 3 or 4 times!  :)  The habitat was nice, we learned quite a bit and got to spend a lot of time just watching the little guys in the dark, run around their little woods!

Our last few days we spent doing a little more traveling, this time by train to get to our last stop of  This town was still extremely devastated by a couple of earthquakes several years ago.  Our tour guide mentioned to us that they aren't that fond of car parks, it's just that everywhere you see a car park, it used to be a building.  Something like 70% of their downtown has been demolished.  It was really so sad!  And you could tell they were struggle.  Especially talking to the next company that we did the jet boat tour with.  They had big business plans right before the earthquakes to grow and now, their business is just dead because tourism really dropped.  But here we went on an excursion on a truck through a farm land.  Finally got to see a bunch of sheep and continue to learn about the culture.  We even had a private driver back to town and we got to talk a lot about just life in their country in general.  I think Richard really enjoyed that part.  Especially discussing things like the education system!  But after the farm land tour, we had a wonderful lunch provided by them and off to another jet boat!  Again, tons of fun.  A little different than the last one.  That's up in the front row, in the yellow jackets, next to the driver!

The whole trip was such an odd break from reality!  To wake up and only get myself ready.  To take un-interrupted showers!  To sleep in (only semi since we kept a pretty packed schedule).  But one day I did even sleep 11 hours.  CRAZY RIGHT??  No strollers, no diapers, no naps (well, adult naps maybe).  No lunches to pack, no homework to do, no driving from activity to activity.  It was really strange.

One day we were on an excursion with a family of 4.  It was just us and them.  We watched with a little bit of awwww, as we missed our kids, seeing this amazing experience they were giving their children.  They whispered to us, don't feel bad for one minute for doing your vacation without your children!  :)  LOL!!!  We stopped on one of the many morning tea breaks that they schedule.  Richard and I sat at a little cafĂ©, sipping our coffee, splitting a pastry of some kind.  Just relaxing.  While the family was next door, at the park.  The parents chased the kids, pushed them on the swings, never sitting down, never taking a minute to themselves.  Now, I love a vacation with my family...but I did adore my vacation with my husband!  It was so nice to soak up so much peaceful one on one time with him!

We missed the kids a ridiculous amount.  We talked about them constantly, thought about them even more.  We were lucky enough to video chat with them, I think 5 times thanks to wifi!  We had unlimited texting with my mom too.  So, we were able to get some good updates and also know they were in good hands with my parents!  Everyone seemed to do really well, even Rinley.  Thanks to some go with the flow grandparents. 

Coming home was a sweet welcome!  The kids very much missed us, as we very much missed them.  They were all asleep when we got home and we went into each room to just stare at them.  Two weeks is a REALLY long time to be away.  Especially since I'm with them pretty much 24/7 with an occasional girls nights (which does happen often thanks to hubby)!  It was a little tough to get back to reality.  Thankfully my mom stayed a couple extra days.  We were worried they'd be packed and leaving at midnight when we arrived home from the airport.  But they seemed to survive so well, they are even taking on a long weekend over the summer...phew!  :)  Rock star grandparents!  And one of the greatest parts is the bond that was formed with the kids.  They miss Nana and Papa!!!