Saturday, August 11, 2012

Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Thursday August 9

POURING rain all night! But at least that means people slept late. Sofia did not wake until 7:20, and the boys shortly after. David stayed up late last night working because of the free WiFi, which at least means he could get some things done without us hovering over him.


The rain cleared up, and it’s quite a nice day now. 3:09 p;m.

We drove into town, directly to the Faraday Science Center. Which is closed on Thursdays. So we drove on to the National Aquarium. THis was the first time I encountered a “Special Needs Pass”. Basically I got in for free as Sofia’s support person! Very cool. So it cost only $38 for all five of us, rather than the $48 Family Pass plus $7 for an extra child.

The Aquarium was lovely. Small, especially by Boston standards, but really nice. A lovely tank had all the fish from “Finding Nemo” , and I found it oddly comforting.

I’m really sad today. When I logged in this morning, a friend told me about the sudden death of a young teen in Israel with DS. The DS community has lost a whole bunch of kids this summer, but for some reason, this girl really threw me. Perhaps because I am connected with so few Jewish children with DS. Perhaps because I have read the mom’s blog, “Beneath the Wings”, for several years now. But for whatever reason, I shall mourn for Ricki and her family.

So I hug my daughter tight (when she lets me!), and thank G-d she is healthy. And that her brothers are healthy (enough) too.

When we first got to the Aquarium, I had to get some coffee. The counter lady recognized a mom in need, and gave me a double shot. Ahh.

After the Aquarium, we drove back to the city center. The roads in that section are named after camous authors: Tennyson, Shakespeare, Emerson, Thackary, etc. And there were several blocks of pedestrian malls, with various shops. Nice.

We tried to eat at a lovley vegetarian place, but of course Micah could not find anything he wanted. So we went to a cafe down the street, which was yummy (although of course a little pricey). They make a gorgeous stuffed potato, with cheese and vegetables, delicious soups (Sofia had leek & potato, David had some chowder). Micah settled for fish & chips, and Sam had a Salmon Rollade. I also had a cheese & egg scone (shared the potato with Sofia). The boys had something called a Fluffy, which is a kid’s milk drink, with foam from the frother and chocolate and/or caramel and candies.

After lunch we strolled the shopping area. Sam bought a shirt, and I got some gifties for a few people. Also got myself a work-out shirt at a going-out-of-business sale. And we stopped at a candy store. The boys finally got to taste Twinkies! They’ve been begging to taste them, since they watched “Zombieland” (it’s a major plot line), but since they are not actually kosher, I do not want to buy a whole box. This candy store sold them individually. So we let them each try one. I also got some yummy fudge and a few other treats for the road.

We got back in the van and made one more stop, at the Classic Sheepskin Factory Outlet. ool, and you could see all the workings, but everything was still very expensive. Nothing much I wanted to buy.

So now we are leaving Napier. It wasn’t as impressive as we’d hoped. We’re going to try to get down to Masterton, which is a little over 3 hours, but we identified a few other stops along the way if we get tired. We’re trying to make Wellington in time for Shabbat. We’d like to take the kids to shul on Saturday morning.

I miss going to shul when we are on vacation. It gives structure to the week, and is a wonderful communal time, even when we don’t know anyone. The only shuls we could find are in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch (I know, that just sounds weird!). We left Auckland on Thursday, and were in the middle of nowhere on Shabbat. So hopefully we’ll make it to Wellington tomorrow.

Oh, and there’s absolutely NO sign of volcanic ash in Napier. Blue skies. Clear (ish).

10:00 pm Thursday


Yes, we made it all the way down to Masterton, and are staying at the most wonderful campground yet. Nothing fancy: right off the highway, and we are parked on the road because the grass is so muddy. But FREE LAUNDRY. In High Capacity, Energy Efficient, WORKING machines.

Remember last year, in Jerusalem, when we had the only apartment in the country without a washing machine? Didn’t I SWEAR I would never do that again? And yet, here I am, in a metal box on wheels, paying exorbitant prices to use washing machines that often don’t even work (last night’s was the worst, at $4 per machine and the driers required two runs).

So FREE LAUNDRY is really a big big big big deal for me! So far I’ve done three loads, and we plan to do more first thing in the morning.

The bathrooms are lovely, too. Instead of Gents and Ladies, there are a bunch of individual self-contained unites, like a home bathroom with shower. Our hosts tonight are Rodney and Jelena (ok, Farscape fans, I seriously did not know that Jelena was a real name!). Rodney just finished painting some of the bathrooms, so we have to use the ones on the far side of the building. But that’s ok, because that’s the same side as the FREE LAUNDRY.

It took about 3 hours to drive down from Napier to here. Gorgeous country. The area just south of Napier is wine country (although most of the wineries were closed for the winter), with gentle hills and lots of fields. But in the distance, we could see snow-capped mountains!

About two hours south of Napier, we passed through Dannevirke. A little taste of Scandinavia in New Zealand. Vikings everywhere, on all the signs, and most of the shops were in a variety of Scandinavian languages. I saw Copenhagen Square. It was very odd. Cute, but odd.

We stopped a while later at a grocery store in the middle of nowhere. Sofia and I had a lovely time shopping. She was very huggy, which is always fun. And New Zealand has a most impressive selection of gluten-free foods available in grocery stores and in restaurants. So I got cereal that all of them will eat (chocolate Os). Sofia tried to convince me to make gluten-free cupcakes, but really, this kitchen is not set up for it.

Got to Masterton a little after 7pm, and immediately (after putting in a load of laundry) started dinner. Tahitian Fish Stew: coconut milk, regular milk, butter, red pepper, and pieces of fish (Hoki, which I’ve never heard of before, but it was cheap and I checked to make sure it was a fins-and-scales fish [which would make it kosher]). Made buttered rice (and buttered pasta for Micah, who refuses rice). Everyone liked it!

Their tummies are all a bit unsettled when we got here, but hopefully they will feel better in the morning. Clean bathrooms help ;)

Saturday night, August 11

Well, that was a busy couple of days!

We did more laundry, and everyone took showers (except Sofia, because it was too cold out) in the morning, so we finally got out after 10:30. Drove down State Road 2, which is what passes for a major highway here (not even close!). Stopped to see “Stonehenge Aeroterea”, which turned out to be 1) closed and 2) some meticulously built thing for Wiccans and Druids and various Celtic groups. We did manage to see it, because we drove a little further up the hill. It was a gorgeous side ride, anyway.

So we meandered our way through farmlands and rolling hills covered with sheep and cows and horses and deer (yup, venison farms).

And then we hit the mountains. A long, long, curvy road up through a mountain range. Gorgeous, and slightly terrifying (at least this time we were on the inside track).

Near the top, there was a parking lot, so we pulled off and there was a hiking trail. Poor Micah was not feeling well, so he stayed in the camper and slept, but the rest of us took a hike. Up. And Up. And Up.

Sofia was doing great, and I had to force her to turn around half-way (going down was much more difficult). Sam and David went all the way up to the top of the ridge. Very cool!

It was a little after 1:00 when they returned, and we realized we had to book it to get to Wellington in time to get to the Kosher Co-op before it closed (2:30 on Friday). We made it, though, with about 20 minutes to spare. (And then I left my Visa card there; will be calling first thing Sunday morning when they re-open. Already left a message, too.)

After I got the kosher meat stocked up, we checked out the waterfront campervan park. Literally on the waterfront, kind of to the side of the parking lot down the block from the ferry. Powered sites and an “ablutions block” (toilets and showers), but no kitchen or laundry. I was kind of stressed about Micah being sick and having so much (frozen) meat to cook, so we ended up not staying in town Friday night, much to David’s initial annoyance (he calmed down way before I did, though!).

So we drove back out of town, to Hutt Park in Petone. Standard “Top 10” brand Holiday Park with all the amenities. We settled in, and I made a late lunch (kosher sausages, which they devoured).

After lunch we drove back out in search of a grocery store. This time we all went in, for the adventure. David is funny in a grocery store. He always wants to buy the oddest stuff, things we’d never actually use but that seem cool.

Got out, and back to the campground after dark (again, too late for Shabbat candles, bummer). Part of the reason we’d wanted to get to Wellington by Friday was for Shabbat. When we’d stopped at the deli, I had spoken with someone about what time services were.

Anyway, after a simple dinner of pasta, we all watched a movie on the laptop and got to sleep. Woke up early to get ready for shul. Made it in to the Orthodox shul before 10am.

A lovely building. Since it’s Orthodox, the men sit downstairs and the women sit upstairs. I took Sofia up with me. It was still early, so it was fairly empty, although it did fill up later. There was a bar mitzvah, with lots of guests in from around the world. The bar mitzvah boy read the entire parasha (which means he chanted the whole weekly portion of the Torah, in Hebrew - a tough undertaking - and he did really well). There were also a lot of Israelis (including the rabbi).

Sofia lasted about half the service, and then I took her outside to the playground. I did manage to get in some nice conversations with other moms, including a woman who teaches children with Autism. She asked interesting questions about Sofia; she said she does not get to see many kids with DS, and she’s curious about the differences between the disabilities. I told her that DS is “The Cadillac of Disabilities”, and she thought that was hysterical (so do I!).

Sofia did great on the playground, waiting her turn and saying “excuse me” if someone was in her way. She also had her Woody doll (from Toy Story), and that kept her amused all morning. At one point, she spotted a bicycle (the building is also a preschool) and helmet, and took them out to the courtyard. I have never seen her ride a bike like that! She did great!
The boys stayed in with David. Sam and David borrowed tallitot (prayer shawls). I was pleased that Micah stayed in the whole time. Sofia sat with them for the last few prayers (children younger than 12 or 13 are allowed in either section).

We did not stay for kiddush, although we were invited to do so, because Sofia was in a grouchy mood. Her skirt had gotten wet while playing, and she wanted to change.

So we left, and this time we did go to the waterfront campervan park. Got changed into more comfortable clothing, and started walking, in search of food and adventure. We meandered through the underground market, and Micah and I both got some cool necklaces. The boys have been buying bone necklaces, which are very popular Maori items (David has one from Tahiti). I got an antique necklace-watch, very pretty.

It took us a long while to find a place to eat, but eventually we had bagels and pizza. Then we went to the Te Papa National Museum of New Zealand.

Beautiful building, and looked like nice exhibits, but mostly I was busy chasing Sofia, who was busy checking out everything. Finally she settled in to one of the “discovery centers” (play spaces).

And that’s where I met Natalie. Of course I could manage to meet the only Persian-Jewish special needs mama from Long Island (with an Israeli husband) in the middle of Wellington!

We started chatting because of our kids; she’d noticed how well Sofia was doing (Sofia had found the computer games, and was busy “making lunch” on the computer). Her son has undefined delays, possibly Aspergers, and facial features that look similar to DS but without the chromosomal difference.

I love when I meet a kindred spirit. Ultimately, we left the museum with them and ended up going to their home for dinner (take-away fish and chips). They live about a mile and a half from the museum, so it was a nice walk. And just so nifty to be with another family with so much connection.

Micah had a blast, Sofia was comfy in her wheelchair. Sam was too nervous about the long walk back (the area we had to walk is by the government buildings, so on Saturday evening it’s fairly deserted). It was really fun.

We got back to the camper around 8:30. Sofia went right to sleep, and the boys not too soon after. I’m catching up on the blogging (since my laptop was used for the movie last night, I could not type). Bed soon.

We have the heat running, and I’m kind of afraid it’s gassing us. Stinky and my eyes water. But it’s very cold without it.

More Wellington city tomorrow. We’ll stay in the camper van lot one more night, and then get out of town on Monday. Hopefully I’ll retrieve my Visa card, too!