Thursday, October 10, 2013

Hector goes to Willowbank

Today, we took a trip to the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve with our little Tuatara.

The reserve winds through 7 hectares of bush inside Christchurch city boundaries. Hector was very keen on the ducks.

We were very lucky to get to the Gibbon enclosure right at feeding time, where we got to watch momma, dada, and their son eat their fruit and vege.

The gibbons were much tidier with their eating than Hector. 

The Heritage New Zealand section included sheep, cows, peacocks, pigs, horses, even donkey rides. Unfortunately, Hector was too small to ride the donkey, but we did get to see lots of baby lambs, piglets, and chicks.

We then moved onto the Wild New Zealand section of the reserve. Here we found an actual Tuatara, some geckos, and lots of different birds, including two Kiwi birds in a darkened enclosure.

Of course, amongst those birds was the clever and outgoing Kea. We were greeted at the entry to the enclosure by one kea who kept trying to steal the crackers from the bottom of the buggy.

After our awesome visit, we climbed back in the car and drove home. I look forward to coming back here again and again to teach Hector about all the cool critters we have in New Zealand.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Lessons in Parenting #510 - The Nobility of Sugar

One year old today!
Today, we celebrated Hector's first birthday. The day began with a good pile of presents to be opened and a plate of banana pancakes (unfortunately, without maple syrup due to a temporary shortage in our household - hint hint). We then migrated back to the lounge in order to play with the great new birthday toys. After some playtime and some food prep, we suited up and went for a bike/run to encourage a lengthy morning nap.

After returning, we finished getting the food ready for the party. There's something so satisfying about a table heaving under the weight of platters of beautiful and delicious food. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, there was something not so delicious hiding in plain sight. But, ignorance is bliss, and we continued on happily with our preparations.

Soon guests started to arrive and the party got into full swing. Kids running back and forth between the front yard and the table of food, adults sunning themselves on the deck with drinks and talk, and ribbons of music wafting throughout. Finally, we decided it was time to bring out the cakes. Yes, plural. We decided to go all out for our first born's first birthday and bake two cakes. The first was a healthy, baby-friendly, sugar-free banana, blueberry and pineapple cake shaped like a dinosaur with sugar-less and naturally dyed icing, the second, a traditional carrot cake with traditional cream cheese icing.

Party time!
At this point, I am sure most of you can guess where this story might be heading, but do continue reading. You wouldn't want to miss the object lesson at the end.

Everyone gathered out on the deck and we carried the cake out to Hector where we all sang the traditional anthem of happiness and birth. While he didn't manage to blow out the candle, he did smile and grab a strawberry from the dinosaur cake - so things were looking pretty good on the cake department. We then took a knife to the cakes and served up some birthday cheer. While I cut up servings, Stephen tried to get Hector to eat some cake (the baby-friendly one of course). This resulted in some serious refusal, which we put down to simply not being hungry. So I continued handing out servings of cake until all had received some. I finally sat down with my own serving and had a go at the baby cake.

Fortunately, we had two.

It was awful. While the cake was pretty ok, the icing was horrid. Whatever possessed me to think that cream cheese, kiwi fruit concentrate, and parsley juice would make a suitable icing had long since left. It was bitter and down right nasty. Not what a birthday cake should taste like. Not even remotely. It was at this point that I realized birthday cakes are meant to be sweet, tasty, and indulgent. No matter how much I believe the health of my child is paramount, the odd indulgence in refined sugars and unpronounceable chemicals will probably not only not harm him, but help him develop a healthier approach to food overall. The funny thing is I already believe this for myself, so why wouldn't I assume the same for my offspring. Well, the best answer I can come up with is that having children does strange things to your mind.

Object lesson: Do NOT use parsley to dye icing and unless needed for specific dietary requirements, cakes should have a little bit of naughtiness in them. While making healthy food for my baby may seem noble, it is far more noble to provide him with a tasty, well-balanced, and fun selection of foods and teach him to make good choices. I mean, you only get one birthday cake a year (unless you are Hector and your parents make you two, but one is really crap, so it doesn't really count, thus we are back to one).

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Holidays with Daddy

Last Friday was Stephen's last day of the third term. Three-quarters the way through the school year and the weather was warming up, just in time for a holiday. We decided to fill it with as many adventures (and thesis work, don't worry mom and dad) as possible. 

First up, was dad taking the make-up swim lesson.

Next, we took a picnic to the Botanic Gardens, where we searched the grounds for escaped wild animals behind wee doors.

And today, we headed out to Taylor's Mistake to hike out to Godley Head.

After a tasty lunch of sandwiches and fruit salad, we turned on the GPS and searched for Hector's first geocache.

Which we found shortly thereafter. We traded a wee candle for some shiny red beads and headed off for number two.

 Eventually, we made it back to Taylor's Mistake and wandered along the beach. A great start to the holidays. Now, we just have to plan and throw our first birthday party for wee man.

Friday, September 20, 2013

A day in the life . . .

Hanging out in the lounge with all the toys.

There are also many opportunities to dress up as favorite literary characters - here we see Hector dressed as a dragon.

We often move to the kitchen for part of the day where mom makes food and Hector empties drawers.

He is also becoming very adept at getting himself a snack.

Playtime in the craft room is generally just as messy as playtime in other parts of the house - just more colourful.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Steps

Hector has been pulling himself up for ages now. Pushing furniture around the house and following the walls everywhere. We have been just waiting for him to push off from the walls and start walking. And, well, now he's done it. One or two steps to start, but he's quickly getting into it and now stumbling across the lounge to mama or dada (or after the cat).

Thursday, August 8, 2013


On Friday, July 26th, Stephen and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. We also realized that while we were married in Whitehorse, Yukon, surrounded by friends and family, we have never celebrated an anniversary there. Perhaps someday we'll plan a trip to line up with this, but this year, we decided to celebrate our first anniversary as a family of three in a quieter way. So we planned a picnic on Quail Island, in Lyttelton Harbour.

We set out after Hector had woken up from his morning nap and drove round the harbour to Charters Bay. This was as close to the island as we could get, without sinking in knee deep sand. After our previous experience with Hector in the canoe, we decided to just make a wee padded area for him to sit on the bottom of the boat. That way he could lie down if he needed to or come for cuddles. This was all well and good, except babies don't understand the idea of boats and the need to stay in the middle so you don't fall in. In the end, Stephen paddled Hector and I across the bay to Quail Island. It was a lovely paddle.

Upon arrival, Hector was plopped down on the sand which he commenced to eat with great gusto. A few moments later, he let out an almighty burp - which Stephen postulated was due to the calcium carbonate mixing with stomach acid forming carbon dioxide. Further research is required to verify this hypothesis. Obviously, more trips to Quail Island are needed.

We then popped Hector in the backpack, grabbed our posh picnic and headed up to the top of the island in search of some sun.

The optimal solar sight was soon found on the grassy lawn in front of the visitor centre, so we threw down our blanket and set out our lunch. Prosciutto, crusty bread, fresh pesto, stuffed pimentos, truffle cheese, Italian sodas, panaforte, and hand made chocolate truffles indulged our taste buds and filled our tummies. It was a gloriously beautiful lunch in an absolutely wonderful location. I can only imagine how different it will be come summertime and there are other families enjoying the same thing.

Hector and mom enjoy the last of the lunchtime sun before it disappears into the bush on the other side of the lawn.

Hector and dad read up on the history of Quail Island - from resource cache, to farming home, to quarantine site, to leper colony, this place had it all.

With lunch just a full feeling in our stomachs, we wandered back to the canoe, packed up and headed out. The tide had gone out a little, so there was some dragging to get it afloat, but we were soon back out on the water. 

Back at home, we pulled our tasty venison shanks from the slow cooker (best thing ever) and sat down to a delicious anniversary dinner. After retiring to the lounge, we sprawled out on the floor and settled into some playing before Hector went to bed. Unfortunately, in the immense haze of fun we were all having, Hector managed to slap the front of the pellet fire and burn his poor wee hand. (it was on at the time). And so our day, having been so wonderful, was now a screaming, crying mess of hurt. Cold running water, panadol, and a call to the health line got us out into the car and off to after hours (it being 8pm by now). Apparently, everyone likes to go at that time and the place was packed.

Two hours later, we were home with a sleeping, bandaged baby, and two much more relaxed parents. We tucked Hector into bed, poured some champagne, and celebrated our first anniversary as a family.

P.S. Hector's hand is all better now.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Back in town

With the demolition progressing, more and more of the city has been opened up. Last week, we went back into the city to see how it was looking.

The coolest thing is the amount of art that is everywhere. We especially enjoyed Chris Heaphy's planted whare.

We then progressed down to new New Regent Street. More shops have opened up there and we enjoyed a delicious cup of tea and piece of cake in a cool new cafe called Rekindle which takes old wood and re-purposes it into new furniture.

Some shops were still closed, but again, the art kept things happy and vibrant. Auntie Dai's dumplings look especially varied and friendly.  

Another cool piece of moveable art at these sets of cathedral arches set up on an empty lot. It was pretty amazing how they transformed the bare gravel lot into a sacred space just with the application of some beautifully milled wood.

As we returned to our car, we watched as others around us enjoyed the bright and varied fence art, as well as the ever changing show put on by excavators and demolitioners at work. It was great to see life returning to our battered city.

Hector goes to Canada

On our whirlwind trip across Canada we made several stops. The first one was in Winnipeg, where Hector met his Uropa. He also met his Aunt Krysti, Uncle Brian, and cousins, Kieran and Mallory.

The weather was fantastic so there were lots of picnics and time outside. Unfortunately, Hector was no match for the ferocious Manitoba mosquito population and ended up with red welts all over him. But tunnels made it all better.

Next, was Toronto, where Hector met his Great-Grandma. While the stop was brief, we had an awesome family dinner with my mom's sister and her family.

Next was Kingston, where we gathered to welcome Dups into the whanau. Here we are gathered round for a bed time story.

Here we are decked out to help celebrate the nuptials. Hector had a blast crawling around meeting everyone's shoes - he especially liked the sparkly ones.

One of the best things about our trip was the switch in seasons. This was most noticeable in the food available. Hector loved being introduced to strawberries, raspberries, cherries and all the other gorgeous summer fruits grown in Southern Ontario.

Probably the most important part of the trip was time with whanau. It was awesome to see Stephen and his brother doing their dad thing.


Kingston boasts a great splash park which we took full advantage of in the lovely warm weather.

Our final destination was a quick visit to Whitehorse. We visited Stephen's dad's grave with Hector and made sure we shared lots of stories.

The other important visits we had were with friends, old and new. Hector had great fun with Isabella, my close friend, Ceilidhe's little girl. 

We even got up to see dad's first art exhibit. Hector had a very enjoyable morning interacting with the various pieces of stone, camping equipment, and wood representing a campsite.

One our way back home, we took a day to hang out in Vancouver. The weather was beautiful, so we went to Stanley Park and the aquarium.