Long road trips fill me with an equal mix of dread and excitement. I mean check out the crazy crew I get to ride with for seven hours up country!
I must admit I've been rather remiss at sharing the driving on recent trips, that's probably because I'm far too preoccupied with Instagramming photos as we go, but with the need to drive late into the evening we took 2 hour turns to drive and the kilometres just dropped steadily behind us, arriving at Nana and Poppa's at just after 10pm. Which wasn't bad given we'd left at 3.20pm and stopped at Levin for petrol, Bulls to grab takeaways, and Waiouru for a wee stop.
Saturday after catching up with our dear friends Tracey and Dayne and a tour of the city in Poppa's Shuttle in the morning, we simply enjoyed the peace of the country, waiting for our Melbournian crew to arrive. Originally we'd been anticipating their 5pm arrival, but a delayed flight on Emirates turned this into an 11pm arrival instead. The time passed quickly enough though, enjoying the opportunity for some great conversation with Nana, Poppa, Sam and Alesha, all of us warding off yawns and putting matchsticks to use for our tired eyes until we saw the lights of the car coming up the driveway. Hooray!
And while we'd waited the day away, there was plenty of time for 2-over cricket. The boys are so quick to get the gear out these days, and will happily spend hours out in the field.
We even had a world-class cricket pitch going on - what with the brown grass and all.
We don't often visit here this late in summer, and it was fascinating seeing the land in all its different shades - this time parched and brown under cerulean skies.
The odd daisy and dandelion clock the only life breaking up the parched, dusty ground.
There is still plenty of life in the vegetable patch yet though.
A whole ice-cream container of cherry tomatoes making its way home with us.
There have been so many years of memories made on this here dirt mound. I still remember the day this 2 year-old stood on top of here singing in the cutest toddler-twang 'I'm da king o da carstil'. Where did those years go?
I'm always envious of Poppa's green thumb, especially at this time of year. And find myself wishing we lived a little closer to share in the spoils more often. I did manage to raid the lemon tree before we left though.
Apparently Poppas also make for great horsey rides, sore knees and all.
This wee guy is a very recent addition to Nana & Poppa's household after one of their other cats passed away just before Christmas. He goes by the name of Asher (think grey = ashes). Poor Markie couldn't get to grips with him being a he with that name (more used to Asha being a girl) and kept calling the kitten 'she' all the weekend, getting annoyed at me correcting him every five minutes.
Asher kept the boys royally entertained, and they were (in all honesty) far more interested in playing with the kitten than their new cousin.
He reminds us so much of our own cat, Murphy when he was a kitten. The lovely, gentle nature and the potential to be a big docile fluff ball as he gets bigger. Nana has always wanted a fluffy, grey cat (and she adores our cat Murphy because he's so cuddly) so after years of mostly having to take in waifs and strays, she was able to choose for herself.
After a day of simple relaxing around the house, come Sunday evening, we all bundled into Poppa's Super Shuttle - which is pretty handy for our growing clan (it can hold twelve), and headed into town to Sam and Alesha's for dinner.
This was Uncle Sam's first time holding Maia - I fear perhaps she is being mistaken for a rugby ball - but I guess he did spend all of the previous day in Auckland at a rugby tournament, so it probably was the most natural hold!
Poppa relaxed (and almost disappeared he was so camouflaged) into the new circular seat that Sam found on Trade Me and that had arrived that day.
It took our boys all of two minutes to find the racquets and balls and convince Uncle Nic to get out on the tennis court. They were still out playing after 9pm under the floodlights and I think would have played all night given the chance!
I spied some familiar artwork on the bathroom wall.
Alesha (here holding bub) put on a simply marvellous feed for us all - despite being full of a cold and busy with her bigger workload in her new role of Syndicate Leader at her school.
This night was the only night we were all to be together, so for a short while we paused and recognised the amazing achievements of Nana and Poppa celebrating their Ruby (40 year) wedding anniversary in a couple of month's time. A legacy for us kids to strive to.
Love this chalkboard, and the thoughts.
This little lady charmed the pants of us all the whole night long.
She is the most delightful mix of my brother and sister - with Nic's colouring and Kim's gorgeous eyes.
I can't recall ever meeting a more peaceful, contented baby. She is so happy just to sit and look around at the world going by. Perhaps that is partly the difference between boys and girls - I certainly don't remember my two being as settled and happy just to be.
And the bond between a mama and daughter so beautiful to see.
Nic was enjoying the opportunity for some down-time from his full-on police training course. He's a few weeks into the 33-week course, and in anticipation of his successful graduation (we believe in you Nic!) Mum, Dad and I have booked flights to go over for his graduation at the end of August.
Monday brought a visit to Sam's ever-expanding business. He has achieved a huge amount in the past five years, with stores in three Waikato locations and every time we visit the flagship Hamilton store, there is more being added, both in terms of scale and variety.
It's a great achievement for a guy just gone 30. Ever supported by his lovely lady Alesha and many long days and nights of sweat and tears to make it to this point though. He's a true entrepreneur (speaking from one who is much more cautious and risk averse), and it's been great to see how much this is a family business with Mum and Dad both involved too.
Mum had recommended we pop up the road after visiting the shop to Café Agora for a coffee. We were very surprised to find such a place in Frankton. I knew nothing about it before we went. But I could tell from the moment we walked in, it wasn't just any café.
There were signs everywhere that this place is about community and supporting worthwhile ministries. This is a place where people can do life together.
There's a kid's playroom and free fluffies for starters. When we arrived there was a number of different mums with small kids hanging out, so the place was filled with the lovely hum of chatter and kids playing.
The Foxton Fizz float was a hit with this guy. We all loved the jam jar it came in too.
Markie looks pleased as punch undertaking his uncle duties.
And it's hard to believe that it was only two and a half years ago that we met this gorgeous gal, and now it seems like she's always been a part of our lives. I feel incredibly blessed (having never had sisters) to now have 3 beautiful sister-in-laws in my life.
Nic is quite the connoisseur of Ginger Crunch and declared this Ginger and Pistachio Slice in a world of its own. For Mylo though, it's all about the cheese scones everywhere we go.
I was just thrilled to have the chance for more cuddles, especially as on this day Maia was wearing the cool T-shirt hooded dress we sent over when she was born.
Later that day, I even got to rock Maia to sleep in Nana's rocking chair for her afternoon nap. It brought back so many memories of our early parenthood days. But what was even nicer was to be able to hand her back to her mama afterwards!
These were the only photos we got of the cousins together, but I love this candid one of Mylo getting a happy smile.
Before we knew it, the long road home called. Nic and Kim were also heading off to Taranaki for the night to introduce Maia to Gee Gee, so we decided a coffee at Punnet Cafe, where we took Kim the very first weekend we met her, was a natural spot to bid farewell.
The fruity water was a hit with our fruit loving son.
Noah pulled out his mini movie book and read us all the movies on his bucket list.
The scones here didn't disappoint either. Fluffy and full of cheese.
Served on awesome vintage plates.
I even found rainbow bubbles in my coffee.
And then we hit the road home. Stopping for a Macca's in the gumboot capital of the country, Taihape.
I'd tried unsuccessfully to have a Georgie Pie over Christmas and finally got to relive the moment. It was somewhat disappointing and I think the chicken wraps at McD's are far tastier. And at $4.50 you expect a lot. Perhaps I should have just left the memory as it was - $1 pies somehow seemed much better value back in the day.
And so the daydream ended. As swiftly as it had come, it was gone again. After weeks of looking forward to this time, it was over all too soon.
But for the memories when I allow myself to day dream.