Ski bunnies - part one

Day One

Ahhh it’s so good to be here again. I feel a strange affection for this little shack in the middle of the North Island. The cladding has been completed and the house is warmer, even though it has never been cold. It heats very quickly and the layout certainly lends itself to efficient heating, as the fire heats the water and all the bedrooms are off the main living area, so the bedrooms are warm too.

Skiing – Turoa. The family wakes at 5am, long before the 6am alarm and early morning ski report. The still-warm embers from the night before are stoked and the fire roars into life again, quickly making our wee home warm and cosy. The kids are relaxed and having fun, tv-less, playing lots of board games, and make-believe games. They occassionlly argue with each other, but I am relaxed that this is healthy too as they learn interpersonal skills and conflict resolution; big terms for normal family life.

Breakfast is taken in sittings, and thermoses are filled with coffee and soup to take up the mountain. The ski report makes us hopeful and reluctant in the same five minutes but it’s worth the drive up the mountain road to take a look. Once there it looks promising. It’s not actually as cold as some days we have been here, and for some of the day it’s actually very sunny and hot.

Zoe and Jack venture off with the big people after lunch leaving me to concentrate on Ethan who needs a bit of confidence building without comparing himself to the others. Within a short space of time, he has relaxed and attempts jumps on the beginner slopes. He is much less of a daredevil than his brother, and I think will enjoy skiing in a much more relaxed fashion. He will be a cruiser, while Jack looks for the next big thrill. They will both cause me heart ache. It’s lovely seeing Ethan so relaxed. He is laughing and being slightly crazy, finding his sense of humour, and shows off for me.

Poor visibility is only a problem right at the end of the day for those who venture right to the top of the mountain – seeking adventure. Courtney comments that “It’s lucky we know the mountain or else we may have gone off a cliff” provoking a guarded smile from me as I wonder how serious that comment is. I am in awe of my daughter’s conviction that she ‘knows the mountain’ at 14 years old.

Struggle to stay awake past 8.30pm, and head off to bed. The soccer fans among us venture off to a local pub to watch the Phoenix play. I question their stamina but they are determined.

Day 2

Day at home for those 5 foot and under. We will eat and play games for most of the day before going off in search of high flying adventure in Ohakune.

The Big people attempt the mountain again but by lunch time give up and venture off in search of hot pools. Reluctantly, as we had such great plans ourselves, we meet them at Tokaanu hot pools. Way too warm and soporific – drains the life out of us, so lucky we makeit home alive. Early to bed again. This is great!

Day 3 – Sunday

Little people stay home. Mad clean up in anticipation of onslaught of two more families in this modest home. At some point tummies start rumbling and we decide to go for a walk in the rain and check out the local cafe. It was fantastic, super friendly and the four of us had a lovely breakfast and walk. Given the opportunity my kids have the most lovely conversations. They are becoming independent, its lovely to ask them questions, hear what they have to say and their own opinions on things.

Welcome our new roommates in the afternoon and our skiers home. Farewell the family members returning to Wellington and venture off to the supermarket to buy dinner. It’s a crazy time as the six adults and ten children bounce off the walls and settle into rooms and people, but we soon slip into a comfortable acceptance of each other and start our few days of relaxed eating, drinking and merriment. I love it. I am happy and relaxed, away from the relentless rhythm of everyday life, work, demands, school, exams, etc etc. Why we do it this way I will never know. It is teh scourge of western middle class. Must change that some day. I am sure I really love it deep down or else I wouldn’t do it! But this is great, taking time out, taking stock, watching my children grow.

Day 4 – Monday

Whakapapa. Weather forecast suspect, but as usual we live in hope and venture out anyway. Cold, but not as cold as our worst days, and plenty of intermittent sun. It snows. Beautiful big flakes that we catch on our tongues, pleasantly fairytalesque. Absolutely love it. Ethan grows more confident every day. Today, mastering the chairlift by himself seems to boost his sense of ability. Courtney switches between spending time skiing with her brothers on the learner slopes, enjoying their new found ability and venturing off further up the mountain. One of the families who have come skiing are beginners so we help them wrangle ski gear and kids. Perfect day. I think to myself that teaching other children to ski is much more enjoyable than teaching my own, but at some point I realise that always had three to teach at the same time which may have distracted from the enjoyment a little. One is much easier. Go figure.

Anita makes her divine creamy chicken curry. When ravenous everything tastes so good an we consume the meal as though we have never eaten before.

The biggest trick we have learned is getting the kids into bed during the happy exhaustion before it flips to hysterical sobbing. It’s an art. The older kids are in the kitchen doing the dishes, another enjoyable moment – capitalising on the camp-like moments, where even chores are fun. The adults will finally sit and drink port, and play cards and the whole world will be a very happy place – there is something very satisfying about being happily exhausted, folding yourself into a chair with good friends and not thinking about work, and life at home.

Day 5 – Tuesday. No skiing today. Turoa is closed, Whakapapa is not friendly. I think the latest report had only Happy Valley open and it won’t be charitable. We have done washing, vacuumed, read, played on laptops and iPods.

Finally have lunch and venture off in search of fun and adventure. Hike around Lake Waipounamu, between Whakapapa and Turangi. Takes about an hour and a half and was quite lovely. The youngest of us is four, such as great way to get fresh air, tire out the kids and adults and enjoy NZ’s unique landscape. Back to Tokaanu Hot Pools again, where Lorraine goes dizzy and faints. Would pursue further reasons for why this may have happened except for the sign in the woman’s changing rooms entitled “To Prevent Dizziness and Fainting”, so we decide it must be a fairly regular occurrence. But it provides a little excitement for about 10 minutes and gain me the title “Drama Llama” - long story. Considering the other titles are ‘mentally retarded llama’ and ‘big fat mama llama’, I consider myself to have gotten off lightly.

We drive around for some time looking for somewhere nice to eat in Turangi on a Tuesday evening, which is surprisingly difficult, only to travel back to Tokaanu and perturb the owners of a casual ‘diner’ type restaurant with our 16 patrons at short notice. While there, no other patrons show up so we may be their big sitting of the year! Food enjoyed by all so that’s a success. On the way home, Aaron and I end up with only Ethan in our car who takes advantage of the undivided attention, and time to chat. He articulates concern about friends at school, and we listen to his worries, and asked pertinent questions that allow him to see that he indeed has good friends at school that he likes very much, are kind to him and he enjoys being with. Moving right along to other big questions about life, he asked if Jesus and God are the same. Aaron smiles and shakes his head and looks at me amused, as if to say “ok big shot, you’re on” . The gauntlet is thrown down and I rise to the occasion with grace and sound argument. Ethan seems appeased and cuddles into me, his world once again secure in the knowledge that the big things and the little things do have answers, somewhere. Hopefully I’ve handled that one ok. Aaron points out beautiful big stars in the sky, and we all watch the bright lights of the snow groomers moving slowly over the pitch black mountain. Apparently Mars is visible tonight with the naked eye but we can’t see it. It reminds me how important it is in families to have one on one time with each child so they are heard in the general hubbub of busy life.

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