Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Poppy's first six months

Unfortunately the hormone high wore off after a couple of weeks, but fortunately it seemed a bit pointless to panic that I didn't know what I was doing by that point as I'd managed not to break the baby so far, so thought I'd better just carry on! As it turns out I absolutely love being a Mum. I still have that "this is what I was meant to be doing" feeling and am slightly disappointed that I didn't start ten years earlier, I could have five by now! I'm already thinking I want two more, I just have to convince Ben :0)

Family life is action-packed: Christmas was a bit of a disaster as we failed on the food front, Poppy was a bit off colour and I got puked all over, but a few cocktails cheered us up; Ben's mum came to visit in March and we all had a lovely holiday together in Northlands; having a baby is what it took to be accepted into the kiwi clique and we now get to attend gatherings where we are the only Brits; Erin and Rebecca continue to feature heavily and come over every week for pizza night; we also have tonnes of new friends who also have babies and see lots of Nancy, Lance and Eli. Ben's postcard business continues to grow and his IT job is going well. I'm half way through my maternity leave and don't know yet whether I'll be going back in November or not.

Poppy will be six months old in a few days. She's a wonderful age; she smiles and laughs and loves cuddles and playing, she sleeps well but she can't move around by herself yet, so there's only so much trouble she can get herself into! She's just learned to roll over and is lying on the floor practicing that skill as I write. She does a lot better when she has a disposable nappy on as the bulkier cloth ones act a bit like stabilisers! She's cooing and making lots of noise, but not really babbling yet (that's when they use consonant sounds like gaa gaa, maa maa, daa daa etc rather than just vowel sounds; aaaahhh, eeeehhh etc). She's showing signs of teething; she's dribbling lots and rubbing things on her gums, but she doesn't have any teeth yet.

She looks a lot like Ben now (only much prettier!). She's got very blond hair and still has the big blue eyes she was born with. Unfortunately she seems to be following the Gourley's on the average height and slightly tubby factors but who can tell how she'll end up. She has super chubby cheeks and a gorgeous big gummy smile and gets to wear incredibly cute outfits :0)

It seems the question that people are always asking is "Is she sleeping throughout the night yet?" and the answer is "no", but she is a good sleeper. She goes to bed at 6.30pm and often doesn't get up until after eight in the morning, so it's not surprising she usually needs a couple of feeds in that time (so do I!). As much as I'd rather not get up in the early hours of the morning, it only takes about ten minutes to feed her and then she goes straight back to sleep. So I don't mind too much and there is something quite magical about those sleepy night-time cuddles, as during the day she's usually too wriggly these days to get a good one!

She has been breast fed all the way through and still spends a lot of time on my boobs! She has repeatedly refused to take a bottle (even of expressed breast milk) so Ben has gotten away very lightly on the getting-up-at-night front and I really can't be away from her for more than a couple of hours. But it feels like a small price to pay for knowing that I'm giving her the best possible start in life. I've recently started giving her some solids but so far it just makes her gag and puke!

Poppy and I have quite a social life! I was a bit worried that I was going to go stir crazy being at home all the time, but as it is I have to try and make the effort to stay home some times. We go swimming and do a baby programme and meet up with friends and of course go on lots of dog walks. (Although Poppy seems to be on pushchair strike at the moment - that girl has far too many opinions for one so young - I can't think where she gets it from!). I thought it would be boring having only a baby for company but as it turns out she's far more fun to play with than other babies! ;0)

Here are some of her favourite things to do...
  • lie in the hammock with me and watch the leaves blowing on the trees 
  • play with her glow worm toy which lights up and plays a tune and is apparently the funniest thing ever! 
  • watch Ben blow bubbles and try to pop them (often with Twpsyn's assistance!) 
  • have me sing the same songs over and over again (she's the only one in the world to enjoy my singing!) 
  • dance around the room and while her mum and dad leap around like lunatics! 
Twpsyn loves Poppy. She's going to have a fabulous immune system because he regularly licks her in the face! He's incredibly gentle with her. In fact, we think that he thinks she is a "Gently", as that's what everyone shouts at him whenever he goes near her. I bet when he's out and about he tells the other dogs "We've got a Gently at home now, it's my job to look after her!". He often sleeps outside her room when she's napping and walks beautifully along side her buggy.

On the whole Poppy has been a pretty "easy" baby (so far). She gets grumpy when she's tired, won't take a bottle, can't keep her solids down, makes a fuss when she's in her pushchair and feeds ALL the time! But we've been really, really lucky; she's healthy, she's happy, she sleeps well, she eats well and she's a delight to be around (well most of the time) and she's brought something wonderful into our lives. It hasn't all been plain sailing. We had a rough patch when she was about three months old when her sleep went awry and I slightly lost the plot! But with the support of Judy (my midwife) and Nanna (Ben's Mum, Pauline, who was visiting at the time) we sorted it out and proved that even when things go wrong we can still manage.

Being a mum has certainly changed me, hopefully not beyond recognition, but I am definitely a lot softer now. I always used to cry at all the animal rescue programmes but now I cry about anything to do with babies too! I feel a lot more content and capable of coping with whatever life throws at me. I'm really excited about the future; What will Poppy turn out like? How much more will our family grow? What adventures will we all have together? When will I be a grandma?! But I'm also making the most of the present. Everything changes so fast and I don't want to miss a thing :0)

You can see more pictures by following this link

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Poppy's Arrival

I'll start with the ending and then I'll tell the story of how we got here...

Poppy Seren Smith was born at 11.47am on Monday 28.11.11, in Tauranga Hospital, weighing a healthy, but not as massive as anticipated, 8lb 06oz.

And this is how it all happened...

My pregnancy progressed in a happily uneventful way, but by the last couple of days I was feeling pretty tired and of course enormous. I spoke to my Mum who revealed that I had been born 17 days late and decided it was time to take matters into my own hands. So there was drinking of raspberry -leaf tea, eating of pineapple, lots of walking, 'hot baths', 'hot sex' and on the evening of 27.11.11 Ben and I headed out with friends to an Indian restaurant for a much talked about labour-inducing 'hot curry'.

Unfortunately I didn't get to eat the thali I'd been looking forward to because half way though the starter my waters broke. One minute I'm in a restaurant chatting and munching on an onion bhaji and the next I'm sitting in a puddle, with water running down my legs! There was much panic among our dining companions as they desperately wanted to call someone who would "know what to do". But we calmly informed then that we knew what to do and Ben even suggested we stay and eat our curries. Had I not been sitting in a pool of amniotic fluid I may have been tempted but the entirely unfazed "don't worry about it madam, it happens all the time" Indian waiter packed us up a take away and we headed home.

We called Judy, my midwife, only to discover she was already at the hospital with our friend Nancy, who later gave birth to little Eli Adolph (but that's her story to tell).

At about 1am my contractions started and very quickly they were lasting a long time and very close together. It was a hot night and we had all the windows open so I was a bit concerned that the neighbours might think that we were having very noisy sex, but once I vomited a few times I imagine that they realised that that wasn't the case after all! We called Judy again around 4.30am and having been home for an hour and a half's break after finishing a twenty-four hour stretch with Nancy she was straight back out (bless her) and arranged to meet us at the hospital.

At the hospital I got into the birthing pool and the world became a much nicer place again. The water helped massively with the pain and my contractions slowed down to a much more manageable pace. I must admit I was a bit peeved when they started to get really sore and frequent again as I thought maybe I was going to be brave enough to push this baby out without any pain relief. However, it wasn't to be. My contractions were so close together I just couldn't get my breath back in between them and when I found out I was only 7cm dialted (you need to reach 10cm to give birth) I decided to opt for the epidural.

Now in my mind once I decided that I was going to take the drugs then they would just give them to me and that would be that. But apparently that's not how it works. Unfortunately I had to get out of the pool so that I could be prodded and poked about on the bed and being out of the water made the pain much harder to manage. The baby's heart rate had to be monitored for twenty minutes, the anesthetist called, various needles and tubes inserted and that half an hour or so (they tell me that's how long it was) seemed a VERY long time. Fortunately by this time I was puffing away like mad on the gas and air and was completely off my head! I could hear what was going on around me but in my drugged up mind it meant all kinds of weird stuff and had nursery rhymes and computer game graphics from my childhood mixed in with it. Some of the time I was laughing away and at one point I thought we were back in our house. I then became convinced that the doctor was with-holding the drugs from me on purpose and true to form was swearing away at him. Ben tells me his favourite quote is when I shouted out "I'm not a statistic"!

It was immediately apparent once the epidural finally did kick in as I was lying on the bed surrounded by doctors and nurses and I looked up, noticed the time and sent Ben off to call our mates to make sure they'd look after our dog for us! By now I was completely pain-free and after a little cry and apology to the midwife for "taking all the drugs" was feeling great. Unfortunately the doctors were becoming increasingly concerned by my raised temperature and the baby's erratic heart beat. There was some discussion as to what to do and finally the call was made that one way or the other the baby needed to come out now.

I was given the option of trying to deliver naturally or opting for c section and said I wanted to try to push her out. Because the chance of needing an emergency caesar was so high if I couldn't push the baby out I was prepped for surgery and wheeled though the corridors into theatre. Once in there I seemed to be surrounded by a whole fleet of scrub-donned doctors, nurses and students and being naked with my legs up in the air I did wonder if the audience of about fifteen people was entirely necessary, but to be honest I had other things on my mind. (Ben was so impressed with the comment that someone made about him looking like George Clooney in his scrubs that he stole them and brought them home!) I think some of the doctors were pretty keen to go straight for a section but I'm eternally grateful for the fantastic support and encouragement of my midwife and the hospital midwife and their calls of "Let's get this baby out!" So with Ben counting me through my contractions, despite being able to feel very little of what was going on down there, I managed to push my little girl far enough down for her poor little head to be grasped by giant salad servers and Poppy was rudely dragged into the world.

Ben tells me he was somewhat horrified by the tiny, bright blue, bug-eyed, slimy creature with a cone shaped head that was dumped on top of me and his first thought was that I'd given birth to an alien! She was whisked away as she wasn't breathing and Ben went and watched whilst she was encouraged to take her first breaths and then he cut her cord (he's still got the scissors).

So that was how Poppy came into existence and she spent the first day of her life lying naked on my chest while I was stuck in bed waiting to be able to move my bottom half again. And that was five days ago. I stayed in hospital for three nights and apart from the to-be-expected crappy food have nothing but good things to say about the whole experience. The midwives were amazing and I honestly feel that I've learned more in the past few days than I have in the past few years. How to breast feed, how to bath a baby, what a hungry face looks like, how to hold a baby without breaking 'it' and most importantly of all, what it means to be a mother.

During one of my nights in hospital I had something of a profound experience. It was late at night, I hadn't had much sleep, I'd managed to settle Poppy and I was lying in bed trying to get some rest before the feeding cycle started again in just a couple of hours time. My body was relaxed and tired but my mind was filled with a deafening chatter, chatter, chatter as everything that I had just been though whizzed around and around my head. I took some deep breaths and tried to bring myself back to the breath, ground myself in the present and quieten down the all noise (all that good slightly hippy stuff!). I then experienced a feeling which was like I was being wrapped up tightly in a big, warm 'blanket of well-being'. I wondered to myself "was that just in my head?" Because it felt like a very physical sensation. A little later I felt my boobs filling with milk and as they did so all my insides tightened up and started to move back into place. It didn't hurt, it felt like a strong hug or maybe wearing some of those big 'Bridget Jones' pants. It's very normal to feel very emotional as your milk comes in as you get a big surge of hormones and it often makes people cry, hence the term "the baby blues". And here I was lying in bed crying my eyes out (quietly so the lady in the next bed didn't hear me) and all I could think was "I'm SSSSOOOOO happy, I'm SSSSSOOOOO blessed, this is what I was meant to be doing!" I know... it sounds pathetic and I'm at a loss to explain how I feel about my baby girl without resorting to the same old cliches. But "blessed" is not a word that is frequently used in my vocabluary and it's not being used lightly here. I truly feel blessed :0)

Ok, so enough with the gooey stuff. We're home now and already the whole labour experience is slipping from my mind, which is why I really thought I should get it out now. The same cannot yet be said for Ben though. He was incredible throughout the whole experience and having him and Judy there meant I felt completely safe the whole time. However it seems that witnessing the event was more traumatic than actually feeling it (and to be fair he did have a lot less drugs!), so with mention of "the next one" Ben's response was "You don't have to do it again Babe, we can just have puppies from now on".

From the first moment he saw Poppy Ben has been smitten (well not counting the whole alien thing), he can't stop looking at her and is already well and truly in love with her. The poor thing has already had her picture taken a hundred times! My bond has been growing more gradually. About three days in I said to Ben "Is she getting cuter and less Gollum-like now or am I just more used to her?" He showed me a picture of her from her first day with her scabby misshapen head and forceps marks down her face, "she's definitely getting cuter".

So does she look more like me or Ben? Who knows? She looks like a baby to me. Have a look at the photos and see what you think. Ben's Mum says she thought she looked like Ben as a baby, but then when she had a look at an old photo she realised that she doesn't at all! My Dad thinks she looks like me, but then I guess he would. She's got fair hair (it's too early to tell if it's ginger!) and big blue eyes, like Ben (but they might change colour yet), she's got the Smith long legs but not the big head. So I guess we'll have to wait and see. Of course we think she's the most beautiful baby in the world but I think we can blame instincts for that!

It's lovely being at home. Twpsyn is coping with all the changes after getting over the initial disappointment that the baby wasn't actually a treat for him to play with! When he first saw me, or more to the point smelt me, he went a bit loopy licking and rubbing himself all over me. Even I can smell the breast milk so it's no wonder he can. I don't know whether he was trying to make me smell familiar again or lay a bit of a claim to me or what, but he's already completely settled down  and lies watching me breast feed. I've got no doubt he's going to be a fantastic "big brother". The cat however, hmmm, maybe not. Poor neglected Dotti :0(

Ben has been amazing, running around after me as I spend hours confined to a chair with a baby on my boob and Erin has been fab too. Poppy, so far at least, is a very settled baby and is making it all seem pretty easy. Plus I'm still high on all the hormones! Last night I had another big hormone rush which was so strong it made me feel all 'blissed out' and giggly. And just to prove that it's not all in my head, despite the fact I didn't move or make any noise and was just lying in bed in the early hours of the morning, as it happend the dog completely uncharacteristically came running in from the next room, tail wagging, all excited and was all over me, no doubt joining in the hormone party! Now I don't know how long this stuff lasts for, or more to the point how to prolong it, but I'm definitely enjoying it whilst it's here. If this is the pay off for the bruised nipples then breast-feeding really is the best thing in the world and maybe I'll turn into one of those slightly disturbing women who has a five year old still attached to her tit!!

So that just about brings you up to date with the happenings of the past five days. It's hard to believe it hasn't even been a week and now the whole world is a completley different place, or at least it seems to be. I know everyone tells you that having kids changes your life blah, blah. I knew all that. I knew there would be sleepless nights and dirty nappies. I knew I'd feel confused and overwhelmed. I just didn't get how much love I could feel. I was worried I wouldn't love the baby as much as I love the dog. But it turns out I still really love the dog I just have a whole heap more love in me than I knew about.

Okay, I'm going to stop now as I'm starting to make myself feel sick!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Tauranga 2011

We've been particularly slack about keeping the blog up to date and it's been almost a year since I updated it. But then I guess that's real life rather than exciting travelling adventures. Mind you, that's not to say that life has been boring, or that we haven't had any adventures, they've just been the more stay-at-home sort of adventures!

Last Summer was a pretty hectic one. It started in November with Ben and I heading off on our first road trip for a while :0) We went down to the Taranaki region, which is the bit that sticks out on the west of the North Island, and really the last part of New Zealand that we haven't explored at all.

We started with a few days in New Plymouth, the highlight of which was doing some hiking on the mighty and picture perfect Mount Taranaki. Even in Summer the extinct volcano top is covered with snow and you can see the majestic peak for miles around. We camped in a gorgeous spot over-looking the sea and relaxed in the sun.

We then drove around the 'Surf Highway' exploring the wild, deserted coastline and ended up in the city of Whanganui. After that was the big adventure where we headed off on a three day canoeing trip through some of the most unspoilt rainforest in New Zealand. We hardly saw another soul the whole time and canoed by day and stayed in huts built by the side of the river by night. One night was spent alone in a Maori marae, in the middle of nowhere, which felt like a real privilege.

The whole trip was a fantastic experience, but I must admit we were pretty happy to see the guy who came to pick us up waiting on the side of the river on the end of the third day, and even happier to be driven back to civilisation for a hearty pub meal.

The next exciting even was the arrival of Ben's sister Zena, her husband, Ian and their kids; Freya and Charlie, to stay for Christmas. they had a fantastic time exploring the North Island in a campervan and we loved having them to stay. It was a fun, chaotic Christmas, with much laughter shared by all. The kids best bit seemed to be hanging out with Twpsyn (our dog). He followed them around the whole time and they all fell in love with each other :0) I think the kids loved body boarding on the beach nearly as much though!

Shortly afterwards my folks arrived and again the dog was centre of attention! It was lovely to have Mum and Dad see our new house and for us all to relax in the garden in the sunshine. One family outing was a trip to the local horse races, which is called "the trots". The horses pull their jockeys in little carts and are not allowed to run - only trot. We put on lots of one dollar bets and it seemed that Mum and Dad won every time, whilst the rest of us came away skint!

We're definitely more settled now and have made some wonderful friends. Erin and Rebecca are particularly close and have both come to live with us at various times, so we've all spent a lot of time together. Some of the fun stuff we've all been involved with include; a big music event, a trip to Auckland to visit Maree and an agricultural fair (they're a big deal over here!), where I fell in love with the piglets even though Ben wouldn't let me bring one home :0( We went to a particularly tragic festival, which despite our best efforts to have fun just couldn't live up to the 'Smoothie Summer'. Also we've taken the dog away camping a few times and have been on countless 'pack walks', with as many friends with dogs as we can muster!

Mind you, when it comes to Twp it hasn't been all fun and games. Unfortunately he's got problems with his joints (trust us to pick a defective pup!) and had to have an operation to put some pins in his knee to stop it dislocating. He may need to have the same op on his other back leg at some point, but hopefully not until we've had time to save up for it! He's still a happy, bouncy, not-so-little fella and we love him loads. He's grown into quite a handsome dog, although he does have a grumpy old man face :0)

Dotti the cat has got a bit braver and will at least occasionally walk past the dog, or will sit half way up the stairs and glare down at him whilst he whines at her. But despite Twp's best efforts they're a long way from being friends. Maybe in another year or so!

Unfortunately we received some very sad news at the beginning of the year that Ben's Dad was unwell. Ben was able to fly back to the UK for a few weeks to spend time with his Dad and the rest of his family, before Peter passed away. We are very sad to have lost him but grateful that Ben had the opportunity to say goodbye and to pass on our very happy news, which we know meant a lot to him.

Our happy news being... We're having a baby :0) So it's all change from here. She (yes, we know that "she" is a she!) is due on the 28th November 2011, which makes me six months pregnant and getting bigger by the day. We've been gradually acquiring everything we need including a bigger car so the dog has been demoted from backseat to boot travel and I've become a second-hand-baby-stuff bargain finder extraordinaire! But most importantly we've been getting used to the idea of becoming a family. Ben is very excited and now I seem to have passed through the denial and terrified stages, with the assistance of my happy hormones, am really looking forward to meeting our daughter too :0)

I've only got 12 weeks (and counting) left in work and am taking a year off. In fact I may not go back at all as my only option may be to go back full-time. But that's a long way away yet so we'll see what happens. Nancy, a good friend from work is also pregnant and we'd like to go back on a job share, but who knows.

Ben's postcard business is going brilliantly and his images are for sale virtually all over the North Island now and soon to be expanding into the South Island too. He's worked incredibly hard and it looks like it's starting to pay off. Plus he's got some geek work for a local web development company, which is great as obviously my income is going to come to an end soon.

Pikitia Postcards - New Zealand Postcards and Photography

We've got lots to look forward to, including another visit from Ceri for the Rugby World Cup next month, and we've all got tickets to go and see Wales play. Then of course we'll be caught up in the whirlwind of new parenthood, followed by the next round of visitors. So I'm sure 2012's blog updates will include plenty of photos of the little one (one of the advantages of having a photographer on hand!) and we look forward to sharing some of the highlights of the next chapter of our lives with you

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Going up in the World

We are residents of "The Hood" no longer and are now living in a much posher part of town. It's filled with old folk on mobility scooters, with their small, fluffy, white dogs! Our new house is lovely. It's sunny and open and has a big garden for the pup to happily cavort around in. We love living here and are really excited about the Summer to come when we can have loads of barbeque's and evenings sitting in the evening sun drinking wine :0)

It feels like it's been a long Winter, but I guess by UK standards it hasn't been all that bad. It was a lot less cold than last year and we've had plenty of sunny, fine days all the way through. The last month has been really rainy though and it's been dead stormy the last couple of weeks. It sounds like the roof's going to blow off and our lawn is covered in grapefruit that have blown off the tree. We can't even give them away fast enough to keep up. I know I should be making them into marmalade or something but I'm not quite that domesticated yet!!

Twpsyn is of course still the centre of our world's :0) He's seven and a half months old and a whopping 26kgs (nearly 4.5 stone) already. His feet are still too big for him so I guess he's still got some growing to do. He's entering adolescence and so has the odd moment of rebellion but is generally pretty good. One all of our favourite things is to go on "pack walks" with all our friends with their dogs. Ned is his favourite doggy-friend. He's the size of a pony and Twp follows him around adoringly. You can just tell he's thinking "I want to be like you when I grow up" :0) He's about to start "advanced" obedience classes but he's definitely still a "work in progress" and would rather run around with other dogs than do what we tell him to!!

We had our first dog holiday, which was fab. We stayed in a little wooden cabin on a huge farm in Colville, North East Coromandel, and did loads of bush walking and exploring. We all loved it and have lots of dog-friendly camping adventures planned for when the sun comes out. We had a dog-less trip away too (Erin dog-sat for us) in Auckland, where we stayed in a flash hotel because we had vouchers to use up (we obviously wouldn't pay to say in a four star hotel!!). We made the most of being in the city and had lots of meals out and drinks in swanky bars and stuff. It was lovely but we both agreed that we enjoyed hanging out with the pup in a log cabin in the sticks more than hanging out with the swanky folk in suits in the big smoke. Mind you we made the most of the all-you-can-eat breakfast. In fact I had to have a lie down afterwards!!

We've finally (after being here a year and a half) found some friends who like to party. We even went to a fancy dress 80s party recently. I can't believe how much I loved wearing purple leg warmers and pink ear muffs!! Ben looked like a member of GLC in his shiny shell suit :0) Erin even found a rara skirt. One of the many highlights of the evening was when she opened a bottle of champagne and then stuck her thumb in the top to try and stop it spilling. Of course, instead what she succeeded in doing was squirting it all over herself. Classy :0) The trouble is I've acclimatised so well to the kiwi-style early nights that the big nights out kill me now!

Another fun thing we did was go to see a Wales v All Blacks rugby game. I borrowed a Welsh rugby shirt and went clutching an inflatable daffodil! Surprisingly, the Kiwi rugby fans were all really quiet and seemed genuinely horrified by all the shouting and singing of the Welsh. I didn't let it deter me though! Other than that we've been making the most of our new abode and having lots of dinner parties. Now when I say dinner parties, what I actually mean is having people over two at a time because you can only fit four around our tiny dining room table!!

Our other big news is... We have a cat now too :0) Dotti belongs to Bob and Jane who own the house we're in, so she was an added bonus! She's not your regular cat though. She spends about 20 hours a day in bed (our bed) and for most of the time is actually under the covers! She's a bit lardy, I presume bacause she doesn't move much! She hates the dog and avoids him like the plague. I'm sure he only wants to be friends, but admittedly his friendship might involve putting her in his mouth! Fortunately the cat spends her time upstairs and the dog downstairs, so she just has to run the gauntlet past him a couple of times a day!!

So what else should I tell you about? I feel like it's been a quiet few months but then it has been Winter time and everyone 'round these parts goes into semi-hibernation! Work's fine, I won't bore you with the details. And we're still hopeful for Ben's postcard empire :0) He's keeping busy with photography and computing work and has moved his office home, so I'm jealous as he gets to stay home with the dog much more than I do!

We've got a holiday planned for a couple of months, have Ben's sister and her family coming for Christmas, then my folks are back again in January. But they all sound like future blog posts so I think I'll say goodbye for now. We miss you all but are still loving life in New Zealand :0)

Photos can be found here, here and here!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Twpsyn the Wonder dog

Ben's residency finally did come though so, as promised, we went to the SPCA shelter and got ourselves a dog. We got what we were told is a black Labrador cross puppy, but he definitely has more than a little bit of staffie in him! Mum and Dad were still here when we got him and they decided that he is, in fact, a wonder dog and we would have to agree :0) It was hilarious seeing them with him being like proud grandparents and giving us a blow by blow account as to what he had been up to in our absence. Both Ben and I have totally turned into dog bores and very rarely talk to anyone about anything else! I've been reading loads of books about dog training and being the "pack leader" and we've been taking him to obedience classes too, so it really has completely taken over our lives. Our social lives now even revolve around going for "doggy dates" with friends who have dogs too!

He was about ten weeks old when we got him which makes him four months old now. We've called him Twpsyn, which for those of you who don't know, actually means "stupid" in Welsh. But I keep trying to explain to people that it's not quite as mean as it sounds because it's kind of a term of endearment. Anyway, no-one over here knows what it means so I've started just telling people it's a Welsh name! As I said we think he's the best dog in the world, but then we are a bit biased. It only took him a few days to get the house training thing sorted and he's always come when he's called and all that. We've taught him all the usual sit, lie down, stay stuff and we've even got him doing a few tricks like rolling over and "crawling". He's a bit too boisterous at times though and presumes that everyone is his best friend so goes bowling over to them. He's really strong already so we're working on getting him walking properly on a lead. It's amazing what you can achieve with the assistance of a few sausages! As you'll see from the little video he hasn't quite mastered fetch yet though :0)

We're pretty strict with him and I think it's needed really as otherwise he would think he's the king of the world. He's mostly pretty good but had a mini rebellion the other day when he decided to sit on the sofa which he isn't allowed on. He kept defiantly getting back on it despite being shouted at and sent to his bed! At least he's over the weeing-on-everyone's-feet stage now! Apparently he's at the equivalent of the "terrible twos" in human terms so I'm really not looking forward to the teenage years :0/

He's a very lucky dog as he hardly ever gets left home alone. We have a yard that we can shut him in when we need to but most days he goes to work with Ben and hangs out with him in his gallery. On the whole it works really well but Ben has been a bit grumpy about having to put up with Twpsyn's farts. I think it's just karma! I take him for a walk after work and because weather has been awful lately I've often been seen heading off down the road in a big rain coat and my purple flowery wellies!

Because we live in "the hood" (i.e a fairly rough, by New Zealand standards, part of town) Twpsyn has gone down a storm with all the local pit bull owners! I don't like to tell them we were after a big soppy lab and weren't expecting the muscly little monster we ended up with! It's really funny, I now love rotties and staffies and dobermans and stuff whereas I would never have wanted one of those before. Our favourite TV programme is now "The Dog Whisperer" and I have a new dream to work in a dog rehabilitation centre and run around with a pack of savage-looking dogs!!

Friday, 2 April 2010

The Badgers come to Town!

It's Easter and the clocks go back this weekend so I keep expecting the Summer to end. It's starting to get darker in the evenings and it's a little bit cooler than it has been, but I just spent the day walking on the beach in my shorts and jandals (flip flops)! The Summer has gone on forever :0) I can't believe it, it's been sunny here pretty much the whole time for the last six months... six months... How amazing is that? I'm not looking forward to the Winter and will no doubt do loads of moaning about the fact that our house might as well be made of cardboard for all the warmth it keeps in, but will try to remind myself that it's only going to last a couple of months and then I'll get another fabulous Summer. Whoop whoop :0)

The Badgers (aka my parents) have been with us in New Zealand for a couple of months now and I think that they're learning to love it as much as we do. We've been away on loads of adventures together including a weekend in Whangamata chilling out on the beach and involved in lots of lake themed activities... We've been camping on Lake Tarawera, spent a few days on the Lake edge in Taupo and have done a four day tramp (hike) around Lake Waikeremoana. That's the first really long hike that Ben and I have done and it was good to have Mum around to organise us all and do all the cooking and Dad to carry the heavy stuff :0) It's pretty amazing being so far into the wilderness that it's a couple of days walk out. We had a bit of rain but it was clear on the day we got the best views so we didn't mind too much. The rain didn't stop us swimming in the lake either, even though it was freezing, but seeing as that was the only way to wash it seemed like the right thing to do. Ben was pretty unpopular with a stroppy South African lady who was one of the others sleeping in the huts with us, as he kept her awake with his snoring! I must be immune these days as I slept like a baby :0)

We had a big barbecue so that Mum and Dad could meet some of our friends and because we don't actually have a barbecue our friends, Colum and Claire, with a very plush house had it at their place instead! Loads of people were there and it's lovely to think that we've made so many good friends even though we've been here less than a year. I, of course, lowered the tone by getting really drunk and loud and ended the evening puking in the neighbours garden! Fortunately I made it back to our house and puked in our neighbours garden rather than theirs. That sort of behaviour is far better tolerated in the rough street we live in than their posh one!!

So what else have the last couple of months involved for us? Well... I made sure that Saint David's Day didn't pass unmarked and made some coconut ice welsh flags, which believe it or not were completely eaten. I am, after all, a baking queen these days. I've even mastered Ceri's carrot cake recipe. Ben had a birthday too and I got him a beach volleyball because we've both been playing in a team all Summer. Now admittedly we haven't won a single game, but we are definitely a lot better at it than we were to start with. I was terrified of the ball for the fist few games and ended up covered in bruises but now I actually enjoy it :0) Anyway, how else would you want to spend your Tuesday evenings but jumping around on the beach in the evening sun?

Other significant events include Erin's party to celebrate her gaining her residency, which couldn't have been more Kiwi as it involved drinking, a barbecue and men in gum boots (wellies) shooting at things! Also... Michelle and Phil are due to have a baby any day now, Ben is off photographing the Jazz festival as we speak and we're heading up to Auckland for a few days next week. Mum and Dad are off doing their own thing on their bikes for a while and will be heading back for my birthday at the end of the month before going home.

Finally the big news is... we're going to get a dog! I'm so excited I can hardly contain myself :0) Our landlady has agreed to let us get one and now I can hardly think of anything else! The problem is we need to wait for Ben's residency to be confirmed before we get one and we just don't know when that's going to happen. It could be any day now or not for another few months. It's so frustrating I could scream! But I guess as long as they actually say yes in the end then that's the main thing. But as soon as we get that all important passport stamp we will be headed to the local pound and getting ourselves the biggest, mangiest, three-legged, one-eyed, smelly, old dog we can find :0)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Adventures with Bethan and Ceri

The day after Ben's folks left us Bethan and Ceri (friends from Cardiff) arrived, so it's been one-in-one-out 'round here! It was fantastic to have them here. Fancy travelling to the other side of the planet to come and see us. I love them! We all went away together "Road trip - HONK, HONK!", so it was a holiday for all of us . Beth and Ceri were a but disappointment by my inability to stay up all night drinking, but even they embraced the early-to-bed-early-to-rise Kiwi way (with the assistance of jet lag!) and I'm sure the trip made of for it in other ways.

Our first stop was Tutukaka where we did some scuba diving on the Poor Knights Islands. The water has warmed up loads since Ben and I did our training so it was a much more pleasant experience. There was loads to see and apparently I don't breath very much, so I got to stay down underwater twenty minutes longer than everyone else! We saw sting rays and all kinds of other fish that I can't be bothered to learn the names of! The whole thing was made even more entertaining by the frequent puking into paper bags of Bethan. Bless her. Fair play though she still struggled into all the gear and joined in. I would have sat miserably in the corner if it were me but then I think she'd have done anything to get off the rolling boat!

Next we headed up to Pahia and explored the Bay of Islands by sailing boat and sea kayak. Look at us go with all our sporting activities! I can assure you that there was more than enough beer drinking and pie eating to balance out any healthy activity though :0) Whilst we were there we stayed in this quite plush (by my standards!) place with a pool and stuff (only because they'd messed up our booking so we got upgraded!) so then when we arrived at our next stop in Hihi Beach the hideousness of the shack that awaited us was intensified. The highlight for me was watching Ceri sweep the dead flies out of his bed!!

We then drove all the way to cape Reinga, the most northern tip of New Zealand. Beth thought we were taking the piss when we told her that we were planning on driving all day to go and see a lighthouse. But she soon found out that we weren't! We also found a beautiful deserted little beach for our picnic lunch and trekked over some massive sand dunes. The idea is that you rent boogie boards and slided down them, but when we got there the lady with the boards said we were too late, so we just had to run about on them instead. Beth turned into the abominable sand monster when the sunblock she had covered herself in turned to glue and caked her from head to toe in sand!

Hokianga Harbour was lovely and the Treehouse, where we stayed, my favourite. Ben and I decided that we want to live in a tree house :0) It was a gorgeous place to chill out among the rainforest. The scenery on the west coast is pretty different to the east, much more wild and rugged, with hardly anyone about. Until, that is we stumbled upon some sort of mini festival on the beautiful Kai Iwi Lakes. Definitely a spot that's on my "must go back" list.

The final stop on our little road trip (HONK, HONK!!) was at Goat Island (where there are no goats and never were?!) at a lovely little campsite, that I immediately fell in love with (partly because dogs are allowed and although we don't actually have a dog yet I am still fairly obsessed with the idea of getting one!). However it did lose something of it's shine when we were kept awake half the night by an accordion playing Frenchman (he may as well have been wearing a blue and white striped jumper and a string of onions!).

So after nine days of adventuring we headed back home to Tauranga. Ben and I went back to work and Beth and Ceri headed off for a few days by themselves and immediately checked into a four star hotel. Anyone would think that not everyone wants to stay on campsites with flies in the beds and accordion playing Frenchmen!! They came back to be sent off in style by a meal out with all our "new" friends and a drunken night out (yep I even stayed up past 9.30 for the occasion!!)

View more photos here!