Food and Wine Tour on Waiheke Island

Friday, 5 February 2016

When my girlfriend Sarah was in town over the Christmas period for a visit, I decided to treat us both to a wine tour of Waiheke Island. We've both shared many a wonderful conversation over a bottle of wine in many different countries over the years, so it seemed like the perfect thing to do with one of my favorite people in the world. 

Waiheke Island is really special to me, as it is also home to one of my most beautiful memories of this country - our wedding day - nearly eight years ago now. 

After some careful research, I decided to book us on one of the food and wine tours on Ananda Tours, which seemed to have the best fit as to what I wanted for our afternoon on our island. I opted for The Essence of Waiheke Wine Tour, which included a visit to three vineyards on the island, tastings at each, as well as a two-hour lunch stop at a restaurant of our choice. 

View of Cable Bay Vineyard
The vineyards were chosen on the day by our guide according to seasonal availability, from a list of about twelve vineyards. We can also include ferry tickets in our online booking, and collect them from the ferry terminal just before departing the city. 

The booking process was easy, and we were well looked after from beginning to end. Our guide met us at Matiatia Ferry Terminal upon arrival, and we embarked on our trip in a large, comfortable air-conditioned bus designed for the tours. The vineyards chosen for us on the day were Jurassic Ridge, Obsidian Wines as well as Stonyridge Vineyard.

Lance Blumhardt, founder and winemaker of Jurassic Ridge
I'd never heard of Jurassic Ridge before, but it turned out to be our favorite winery visit. A small family-owned vineyard situated in the historic Church Bay of Waiheke Island, Jurassic Ridge focuses on natural and sustainable wines made with organic principles and minimal intervention. Not only did we have the pleasure of tasting some truly special wines here, we were also able to learn about them from the winemaker Lance Blumhardt, himself - a truly remarkable man with a background in both medicine and geology, who's now making remarkable wines. 

I bought several bottles of the Jurassic Ridge Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2011 here, an absolutely delicious and lively drop with good acidity and balance, made in a style similar to the French Sancerre, which is without a doubt one of the best Sauvignon Blancs I've ever had in New Zealand. I also splurged on a bottle of 2009 Montepulciano, which was rich, complex, vibrant, and could probably age for a whole decade more should we not be leaving the country in three weeks and having to clear out our pantry.

Ms. Sarah and I
Obsidian Vineyard
Our next stop was Obsidian Vineyard, which coincidentally was where The Husband and I ordered our wines from for our wedding day, although back then it was called Weeping Sands. I'd never been to the actual vineyard as we ordered the wines through a tasting back at our wedding venue, so I was really excited to be at the vineyard in person. 

Obsidian Vineyard Tasting Area
Although the name has changed, the wines are still fantastic. We tasted a lovely series of red and white wines in the warm afternoon sun accompanied with cheese and crackers, and I loved the rustic and cosy setting of the cellar door and simple wooden tables and benches that blended right into its natural environment. 

I couldn't leave this vineyard without buying a bottle, and left with a 2013 Cabernet Merlot Malbec Blend, which really did remind me of the red wine we had at our wedding - rich in deep red fruit characters as well as pleasant cedar and oaky flavors, ending with a long, lingering finish and a silky mouthfeel. 

My Happy Place
Obsidian 2013 Cabernet Merlot Malbec
Our last official stop was Stonyridge Vineyards, and this was probably my least favorite simply because it was also the largest and busiest one, although the setting of the vineyard was the most beautiful. There is a huge cafe on site, which the other two didn't have, perfect if you're looking to indulge in some good food alongside your tasting.

This establishment however, felt rather touristy to me, probably due to its popularity and this is certainly for due reason. However, I simply preferred the smaller, more intimate tasting venues where you actually got to study the wines at length and speak to the winemaker. Because we were out in the gardens away from the crowd, I couldn't actually bring myself to focus on the wines we were tasting as the view was just so lovely!

Stonyridge Vineyard
MudbrickVineyard and Restaurant
I'd opted for us to have lunch at Mudbrick Vineyard and Restaurant, which has to be pre-booked when yore booking your tour and for good reason! Sarah and I were dropped off shortly after our time at Stonyridge, where I was surprised that we got to do another tasting with our lunch.

This was again a large, busy establishment, in an absolutely beautiful setting. There is a main restaurant, and also a smaller bistro out on the courtyard, which was where we sat to share our Vineyard Platter - an absolutely delicious plate full of all my favorite nibbles - prosciutto, salami, prawns, ceviche, cheese twists, roasted vegetables, meatballs, with a garden salad and some locally made bread.

Vineyard Platter
Wines at Mudbrick
We sat out in the beautiful courtyard for over an hour enjoying our food, more wines, and catching up on conversation and friendship. At the assigned time, we were promptly picked up and taken to the ferry terminal to catch our ferry ride back to Auckland.

It was a perfect day on the island, and all in all, an easy, wonderful tour that I would recommend to anyone looking to do something a little different in New Zealand. Waiheke Island is a renowned wine region, though probably not as well known on an international level, and I consider myself blessed to have such special memories of this place and to have the pleasure of tasting so many beautiful, artisan wines over the years.

First NZ Rosé Day

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Tomorrow, the 5th of February, marks the first New Zealand Rosé Day as Kiwis are gearing up to celebrate the summer tipple, Rosé. New Zealand Rosé Day is one highlight of the Dare to Pink #sipnzrose campaign, a collaborative initiative including 25 top New Zealand wineries. It is a unique campaign that celebrates the pink drink that’s trending in the country at the moment.

The competitive spirit is on, as each winery will vie to win votes for their Rose on NZ Rosé Day and throughout the month of February. Rosé lovers can vote for their favourite pink drink online at to win $500 to buy their own favourite pink accessory of the season.

Participating wineries are: Akarua, Allan Scott, Ara, Aronui, Esk Valley, Judge Rock, Left Field, Middle-Earth, Moi Wines, Murdoch James Estate, Pasquale, Peter Yealands, Q Wine, Snapper Rock, Soho, Spade Oak, Spy Valley, Te Pa, The Sisters, Thornbury, Toi Toi, Two Rivers, Villa Maria, Whitehaven and Wooing Tree.

Kiwis can share their photos of #roseoclock by using #nzroseday & #sipnzrose. For more information on the initiative visit

So which rosé will you be drinking tomorrow?

Auckland Botanic Gardens

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

This past weekend was Auckland Anniversary weekend, which meant The Husband had the Monday off work. On a mission to experience and create as many memories of Auckland as possible before we leave, we decided to head to the Auckland Botanic Gardens to meet up with our friends Mike and Yaz and their lovely little boy Zak for a play-date.

It's been many years since we've been to this park. I'd forgotten how big and lovely the gardens are. Located in Manurewa in South Auckland, it's a bit of a drive from where we live on the North Shore, but ever so worth the effort.

The Auckland botanic gardens is 64-hectares of beautiful space, complimented by lakes and gorgeous foliage and flowers, well-maintained and well-loved, with plenty to see and do. There is also a growing collection of large scale outdoor sculpture by New Zealand artists, and several trails you can choose to follow including a kids trail which combines a scenic walk with some activities along the way.

A modern and elegant visitor's centre is located right at the entrance, where you can get maps and information on guided walks and etc. before you embark on your visit.

We decided to walk along without a map and just go wherever our hearts (or the path) leads. Our friends whom we were meeting up with were far more familiar with the park than we are and able to guide us to where we wanted to go to without any difficulty. Unsurprisingly, the only destination we really had in mind was the Children's Garden. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how wide the pavements are and how easy it was to walk around. Our kids were mostly able to run free without many obstacles in their way. I'd just keep an eye out for the water features and some of the rockier paths, especially if you don't want a soaking wet child within minutes! (Or bring a change of clothes, which we didn't.)

The children really enjoyed the Potter Children's Garden, which was where we ended up spending most of the morning. Nolan would not leave the site of the water pump and wheel and stood mesmerized for a good, long while, watching the water pump out of the spinning wheel. 

There were plenty of things to see, touch, learn and explore, and also plenty of benches and areas to rest, which is always a good thing in parks. We found a cosy, shaded space within the children's garden to stop and have our morning tea. 

If you haven't packed a picnic, there is also a cafe located right by the entrance to the park with view out over the gardens. Another great option especially if your children are a little older, as they can play right in the courtyard outside under your watchful eye, while you enjoy a glass of wine after a lovely walk!

The flowers were beautiful and in full bloom. I wished we had more time to focus on them and actually read the little notices and study the flowers, but unfortunately my attention was fully on keeping two little boys from wandering off on their own or getting soaked in the water fountains and streams. 

Nevertheless, it was lovely to be able to walk through such beauty and greenery on a cloudy Auckland morning, made all the more stress-free because the kids were so entertained and captivated by everything they saw. Yes, even gravel on a footpath. Especially gravel on a footpath.

Entrance to the park is free, which is absolutely wonderful. If we lived closer we would surely be there every other weekend. As the day wore on, the park quickly filled up with many families just out for an easy stroll, admiring the sculptures, dining at the cafe or having a picnic in the park. However, it never felt crowded, even with a double stroller, a huge nappy bag and two toddlers underfoot. 

If you take a look at their website, there is also guided walks on certain days, live music and workshops organized throughout the summer months if that's your cup of tea.

We didn't walk through all the gardens as the kids were getting tired by noon. In fact, we probably only scrapped the surface of what there was to see and discover. I'm kicking myself that the thought of visiting the gardens with the kids, occurred to us only weeks before leaving Auckland, when we could have had a whole year to enjoy and discover it!

Nevertheless, we had a really good time, and the children thoroughly enjoyed the freedom of being able to run around (mostly) unrestricted. I'd definitely recommend a visit to the gardens, with or without children, the next time you find yourself sitting around at home wondering what to do! 

My struggles with motherhood

Thursday, 28 January 2016

A few weeks ago, I posted a 'status update' on my personal Facebook page, which seemed to strike a chord with many of my mummy friends. Here's what I wrote:

"Does anyone else struggle with being a SAHM as much as I do even after nearly four years? I love my kids but I don't love not knowing who I am apart from being a mum, or having a life that revolves around two toddlers every day. We're moving soon and I know my focus will once again be on making sure the kids are settled, and then taking German lessons. Having a career of my own, or pursuing my own dreams and desires will come last, IF I even know what career I want at this point or what dreams I still have. Nothing seems to fit anymore. I'm not the writer I once was, or the editor, or the wine consultant I once dreamed I could be. Neither am I happy being 'just' a mum, although all my mummy friends would probably agree that it is the toughest job in the world! Anyone else feeling as lost as I am?"

After posting this up, and being surprised by how many of my peers feel the same way, The Husband and I had a long chat about our future. About what we want out of life. What it'll take for us to feel contented. You know, trivial stuff. 

With our upcoming move, we have inadvertently created for ourselves an opportunity to hit the reboot button so to speak. To start anew. We're not tied down to a house, a job, or even a city. Right now, the only thing we know for certain is that we'll be staying with my in-laws until we find work in a city we'd like to live in. And by we, I've always meant The Husband, knowing that it'll be extremely difficult for me to find a writing/editing role in English, in a field that I'm interested in, with only a basic knowledge of German. There's also the question of money. The Husband is likely to bring home a higher salary than I am, having been a SAHM for the past four years, and in my specific industry. 

And so we talked. About my feelings of motherhood. What I want to do with my life. The Husband suggested that I try to look and apply for any job that sounds interesting to me too. He said that as long as I made enough for us to get by, he's happy to stay home with the kids, to get them sorted into kindergarten, arrange for appointments with doctors and therapists for Liam, and get our home into a comfortable state, wherever we move to. Once they're happy and in a routine, he can start to look for something too, either part-time or full-time, whichever fits our lifestyle then. In a way, this makes more practical sense than him having a full-time job and me trying to get the kids and our lives and home sorted, with my limited German language skills. 

On the surface it seems like a good plan. A chance for me to build a career again after four years of being in the backseat. A chance for The Husband to spend more time with the kids, perhaps re-consider what his dreams are and how he can achieve them as well. All provided, of course, that I find an English-speaking job in the first place, which is a whole other story.

But then it occurred to me that no matter what I do, there's a part of me that will always feel like I'm missing out. I love my kids to bits, but in all honesty, if I have to take care of the both of them all day on my own, it drives me up the wall. By 9am, I've probably yelled three or four times. By 10am, I'm screaming and sometimes swearing (even though I try really hard not to!) at them. By 11am, I'm counting the minutes till I can put them down for a nap. Some days it feels like I can't breathe from the minute I wake up until I put the kids to bed in the evenings, which comes with a huge sigh of relief that I've made it through another day. 

It sounds awful I know. And you're probably wondering, why is it so bad? I ask myself that too. Am I a bad mother for not loving to stay home with my kids all day? For not wanting to nurture their little minds and play their silly games and zoom cars all over the sofa with them? I carry with me a constant guilt that I'm just not doing enough, not being enough, and I'm not proud of myself for struggling to look after my own children. 

Back when they were attending their respective childcare centers, even for just a few hours, three days a week, I was certainly a better mother, to me at least. I had more patience with them when they threw their fits and had meltdowns. I was kinder. I didn't yell so much. I was able to cook more creatively for them, plan meals, with time to do grocery shopping on my own, run errands, keep the house clean, and not mind so much when they make a mess - because it wasn't all day, everyday. Heck, I missed them the minute I dropped them off at daycare sometimes, although I always relished the few hours I got to myself each time. 

Now that I'm on my own with the two of them, there is no reprieve. There is constant trying to keep them occupied and entertained without resorting to the TV too much. Feeling guilty when I do resort to the TV, because I'm trying to cook while Nolan is clinging to my legs and Liam is pulling utensils out of the kitchen drawer. Getting angry when after all that effort, they throw and smear the food around, which I then have to clean up. Cleaning, constantly. Tidying up toys, constantly. Reading the same stories over and over. Answering the same questions over and over. Breaking up fights over and over. Taking 20 minutes to get them ready (nappy change, clean clothes, shoes, sunscreen, snacks, stroller) just for a quick trip to the store to get a bottle of milk. 

I'm not a crafty person and I don't enjoy making play-doh for instance, or building things, or creating things for my kids to play with. Any creativity I have tend to come out through writing, which is a solitary act, and from playing the piano, which I hope to share with them one day; but for now, it's hard for me to think of things to do with them on a daily basis that'll keep them stimulated and entertained. If I leave them to their own devices, chances are they start fighting within 15 minutes, and a lot of it has to do with Liam's behavioral issues and developmental delays, which is definitely an added stress. Thankfully they do like being outdoors, but there I'm faced with another challenge, and I'm not talking about the weather. Unless it's a fully enclosed area, which is really hard to find, I'm not comfortable taking both Liam and Nolan to a park or playground on my own. If I do, I tend to spend the entire time in a state of stress, trying to keep them near me and not wandering too far, yelling for one child and then the other, before typically giving up after 30 minutes and dragging them both back to the car kicking and screaming. 

Of course, on the flip side, I also know how lucky I am. I get to be there. I get to be there for hugs and kisses, to feel pleasure when I watch them playing well together and learning from each other. I've always been the one taking Liam for his therapy sessions and watching how much he learns and benefits from them. I get the satisfaction of preparing them a healthy meal that they enjoy (when that happens). I get to be the one they turn to all the time for cuddles, or when something hurts. I get to read them books. I get to see their sleepy faces light up every morning when I walk into their bedroom. I get to laugh at their silly antics and witness every moment of their day. I understand their babbles more than anyone because I know every part of their lives. I'm their person. I am a witness to every moment of their lives, and I know that if that's ever gone, I will miss it with a breaking heart. 

I already felt a glimpse of it when I started working full-time for a short while back in July last year, and when they attended daycare full time. Suddenly, Liam was singing songs I'd never heard before. Suddenly, I had no idea what my kids were seeing, hearing, learning, without me. And it didn't feel good. I felt like I was missing out. 

I'd like to say that I know where I'm going now, that I have words of wisdom for any of you who are in the same shoes. I'd like to say that I've since had a 'lightbulb' moment of how to live my life so I get to be the mother I want to be, the mother my kids want me to be, while being able to live my dreams and do something meaningful, stimulating and inspiring in my life apart from being mum. But the truth is, I don't. And I don't think I ever will. 

Once you become a mother, a part of you is suddenly carved out, which belongs to this tiny person or persons, that you can never have back. Your happiness will always be secondary, even though you still have selfish wants and needs. There will be a constant struggle between how much you give and how much you keep of yourself. And of course, once you think you've got it all figured out, the dynamics change and continue to change as the kids grow up, and start to grow away from you. 

At the moment, I have decided that I will look for jobs in Germany. I will see if it leads me anywhere. If it does, I may be brave enough to take it. To reverse the roles with my husband for awhile and see if that's a better solution for our family. If it doesn't, I'll have to be content with my role as a SAHM, and I know it'll be easier because the kids will be in kindergarten for at least half the day, and it won't be like the past few months have been. I will have other things to focus on, like learning German, finding my way around a new city, building a home, and hopefully meeting some like-minded people and making some new friends along the way. I'll have my writing. Perhaps one day in the future I'll have my music again too. 

So really this post is simply for all the mothers out there. We truly do have the hardest, and sometimes most rewarding job in the world. And we can only do our best, which has to be enough. 

Whatever my faults are, whenever I get angry or impatient and yell at the kids, whatever activities I don't do with them or places I don't take them to because I can't cope beyond the walls of our house, the constant guilt I feel about needing more to my life - it washes away when they curl up on my lap every evening. When they ask 'mummy, where are you?' the minute I'm out of their sight. With every giggle and every hug and when I see their beautiful faces deep in peaceful sleep each night, I know that they feel loved, they feel safe, they're contented, they're happy. And so, despite my own struggles, I must have done something right. For now, that's enough.

Ostro, Britomart

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

On my birthday last month, we went to Ostro - a Josh Emett restaurant located at the Britomart Precinct in Auckland's CBD. For those not in the know, Josh Emett is a Michelin-star New Zealand Chef who has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay.

My parents were visiting for a few weeks, and they're both huge seafood fans, as am I. A quick search on Google told me that Ostro, with its sophisticated interior and sweeping sea and city views, was the place to go for some fine Kiwi cuisine with a focus on seafood. According to one website, 'the bar and brasserie features a raw bar which stocks fresh New Zealand seafood while the kitchen serves up modern twists on traditional kiwi food'. Sounds wonderful to me!

Ostro Seafood Platter
We certainly weren't disappointed. The space is elegant, polished, spacious and bright. It was already noisy with diners when we arrived at 8pm, but a prior reservation saw us seated next to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering a panoramic view of the harbor across the street.

Service was quick, friendly and attentive. We started with the Ostro Seafood Platter (but of course!), which was a two-tiered delight filled with everything a seafood-lover would want - prawns, mussels, oysters, ceviche and shellfish, as well as a soft and creamy fish mousse that came accompanied with some grilled sourdough. Meant for two people to share, it was a sizable portion and made for a wonderful entree for the four of us.

Beef Carpacio
Prawn and Miso Salad
Being the greedy pigs we were, we also ordered a plate of Beef Carpacio, which was dressed with a delicious anchovy mayonnaise, as well as a Prawn and Miso Salad that looked simple but tasted absolutely refreshing and wonderful. I loved the edamame beans in there, which added a nice crunch to the dish and a beautiful, nutty flavor.

Crispy Skin Akaroa Salmon
Roast Duck Ravioli
For mains, I chose the Crispy Skin Akaroa Salmon in a hot and sour broth, which again was an utter delight. The fish was tender and flaky, the skin perfectly crispy and the hot and sour broth was absolutely flavorful and made for a refreshing, Asian twist to the traditional kiwi version of the dish. 

Dad's Roast Duck Ravioli was served on some parsnip puree, with pickled pear and crackling. You can order this as an appetizer or a main portion, and he opted for the smaller serving, being already quite full from our entrees. The ravioli was cooked beautifully, with plenty of meat in the soft and silky pasta skin.

Roast Canterbury Lamb Rump
The Husband's Lamb Rump on a cashew nut paste served with sweet vine peppers, olives and anchovies was also a winner. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth tender and juicy, and the dish was well-balanced with plenty of beautiful, seasonal flavors that worked well together.

Fisherman's Soup
Mum who was still nursing a bad cold, opted for the Fisherman's Soup, which turned out to be just what she needed. With more fish, prawns and mussels served in a beautiful, flavorsome hot soup that came with some grilled sourdough for dipping, it was the perfect dish for a stuffy nose as well as being a nice, light option after a big entree.

Dinner ended with desserts of a Chocolate Lava Cake and a Creme Brûlée. They weren't as exceptional as the entrees and mains had been, but were still delicious nonetheless, and made for a wonderful ending to a perfect dining experience. 

The food is on the more expensive side, but the quality and inventiveness of the food, attentive service and wonderful ambience at Ostro certainly makes this a worthwhile experience, especially on special occasions. I'm glad I had the chance to try it once! 

Ostro Seafarers Building
52 Tyler St Britomart
Tel: +64 (09) 302 9888

The invisible disability

Monday, 25 January 2016

A week ago, I read in the news about a lady who suffers from Crohns disease, being abused by a man in a wheelchair as she parked in a disabled carpark because he didn't think she was 'disabled'. This really hit home with me, not just because I know people who live with this disease and they're some of the bravest, strongest people I know, but because I know all too well that not all disabilities are visible.

Liam, who turns four in March, is an all too present example. At first glance, he seems like a typical child. He's friendly and adorable, smiles and greets everyone he meets, gives cuddles freely, walks and runs (even jumps now!), eats on his own, and loves being outdoors. He can also say many words and is starting to speak in short sentences. He also knows the lyrics to full songs and can carry a tune pretty darn well. He absolutely LOVES being around people and he's a natural comic. All in all, he's a joyful, inquisitive and loving little boy.

BUT, he's a little boy who also flaps his arms when he gets excited or agitated. He tires easily as he suffers from low muscle tone and it's taken him nearly two years to master going down a slide as his little body just isn't strong enough, which his 20-month-old brother instinctively learned in weeks. He is far smaller in height and weight than his peers and often gets mistaken for a two-year-old. His speech is still indiscernible to most but those closest to him. He obsesses over things (like Thomas the Tank Engine, certain foods, having things in his possession in a certain order and grouping) and if it doesn't go his way he has terrible meltdowns. He is sensory-seeking on his hands and constantly needs to touch or hold something, while being sensory-averse from his neck-up, so touching his face to put on sunscreen or brushing his teeth is a daily battle. He has a wandering tendency, and will wander away the minute you let him walk by himself, without any regards to where you are or who he's with. He has a heart defect. He may not ever be able to live independently. He will need aids to help him through school and therapies for many years to come. But you won't know all these just by looking at him.

You see, Liam has Williams Syndrome, a rare neurodevelopment, genetic disorder, which I sometimes also think of as an invisible disorder. This is because most people don't know what Williams Syndrome is and have never heard of it. We certainly haven't until Liam was diagnosed three years ago.

His disability is not obvious, not until you realise he's a nearly four-year-old child and not half his age. Not until you know him. To the outside world he seems like a regular child, and sometimes that's a double-edged sword. Because some days, it's easier to go through life with a child like Liam when people can look at him and immediately see that he's not 'typical'. That he has a disability. You receive more understanding, more kindness, perhaps even more help from those around you, when people understand that you're struggling more than anyone to hold his trashing body when heading to your car because he wants to walk on the street, and you're not just an unfit mother holding her child by brute force, although it may look that way. That his anxiety from not having a cookie in his hand right that very minute, resulting in a screaming child in the middle of a supermarket, is not a typical toddler tantrum but a deep, stressful event that you have sometimes no control over.

When they see you struggling to lift and seat your growing child into a shopping trolley that's getting too small for him, people may understand why you still persist to do so, rather than judging you for not being able to get your child to walk alongside you. If others could see his disability right away, they won't question why parents like us sometimes have the use of a disabled carpark, because as Liam gets older sometimes that becomes necessary. It cuts out the distance from where you're parking to the place you're entering, which may be crucial with a child who wanders, who doesn't have the ability to focus or listen or understand simple instructions. Who do not understand danger and have no concept of strangers. When he gets too big for a stroller and have to walk on his own, it may help to minimize any potential incidences if he only has to walk a few metres to the door rather than across a whole carpark where there are plenty of distractions along the way.

You see, some disabilities are not visible. But people are always so quick to judge, and that is one tough lesson I had to learn too, in the course of parenting a child like Liam. Because you never know what lies beneath the surface, what someone else is struggling with, what reasons a person have for doing what they do. You never know why someone who looks able-bodied from the outside is parking at a disabled carpark. Sure, there may be people in this world who'll take advantage of a situation. People who abuse the system and that's unavoidable. But rather than letting a negative judgement be my first response, I'm learning to practice kindness first. Because at the end of the day, that's all that matters. That's all I want for my child when he faces the world on his own. To be met with kindness, in every situation.

His disability may be invisible, but over time I've come to see that as a good thing. Because people see HIM first. They see him, and not just a child with Williams Syndrome or whatever other diagnoses there are out there. They see Liam. Without immediately attaching any preconceived notions before he's even said a word. They get to know him, as a loving, fun, curious and cheeky little boy, and having Williams Syndrome is simply another part of him. And that's the way it should be.

A day at the Auckland Zoo

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Our good friend Deb, wanted to treat us to a day at the Auckland Zoo. Even when we were just living around the corner from it four years ago, I've never actually been in it, and now that the kids are old enough to recognise and name animals (their favorites are giraffes and elephants), I thought it would make a great family day out. It'll also be a good chance for us to test the waters by having the boys out for a longer period of time instead of rushing home in time for their lunchtime nap. 

We've been on a pretty strict schedule with feeds, naps and bedtimes over the past three years, mainly because it's worked so well for Liam. But he doesn't really have an afternoon nap anymore (even though we still put him down for a rest at the same time everyday) and Nolan will really nap anywhere if he's tired, so we decided to give it a shot.

Entrance to the Auckland Zoo
The baby giraffe was adorable!
We arrived bright and early, to an extremely hot and sunny morning at the zoo. The children immediately got out of both strollers and wanted to run everywhere. I lost count of the number of times we yelled Liam and Nolan's name this morning to get them to stay near us. Thankfully, there were no mishaps apart from a little scrape of Liam's knee, and they were mostly well behaved, which basically translates into no screaming and kicking meltdowns. We call that a win in this family.

Father and son
With our beloved 'Aunty' Deb
Can you spot the elephant?
It was a really, really hot day, which made walking around quite uncomfortable. Thankfully the kids didn't seem fazed by the heat, and we tried to find shady places to rest wherever we could.

The zoo was a lot bigger than I expected, and really quite beautiful with plenty of grassy areas to rest and have a picnic, spots for kids to explore and play, plenty of beautiful animals to look at and learn about (although I'm still not sure how I feel about the whole animals in captivity thing), quite a few cafes and ice-cream stands, which was perfect for a day like today, and plenty of benches to sit and rest!

Found a little rocky nook to explore
A traditional Maori carving
Graceful otters! Wished I could jump in too!
Mummy, look! A wheel!
An old boat to explore 
All in all, it was a really wonderful morning and a pretty awesome zoo! We didn't get to see all the animals or explore every part of the zoo, but the boys certainly had a good time, and so did we. If the boys were older, we'd definitely have stayed longer, packed a little picnic and probably stayed for the day.

As it is, we went home after a little midday snack as the boys were getting really wired tired, and the heat was getting to all of us. Nolan fell asleep in his stroller as we were walking to the carpark! 

Pretty in pink 
I never visited the zoo much as a child, but it really is a wonderful, child-friendly, family activity. No one really cares if your child is running around or in the way (it's just what children do at the zoo!), there is so much to see and learn about, children naturally love looking at animals, and a zoo with great facilities like the Auckland Zoo makes it an easy, stress-free day out. 

Animals also have a way of helping you to tap into your inner child. I loved the elegant giraffes, laughed at the orang-utans who'd covered themselves with big sacks to protect themselves from the scorching heat, and was amazed to see a Kiwi-bird for the first time after living in New Zealand all these years! And yes, they're magnificent creatures!

Lemur aka King Julian 
So much to see and do!
We're definitely visiting many more zoos in our future me-thinks. Thank you, Deb, for adding another wonderful memory to our Auckland scrapbook!
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