I haven't updated in a while because I have actually been staying in one place (for the time being anyway)! Instead of bouncing from one adventure to the next, I hopped off my tour bus at a Honey Shop on the major highway heading south, right smack dab in the middle of farm country. I am staying with one of the only contacts I knew in New Zealand before I set off on my journey: my sister's "Scottish sister." How does that work? Well, I'm not sure what else to call her, but my sister spent 6 months living with Meg and her family in Scotland while they were in high school. Now Meg lives in the outskirts of Palmerston North with her husband and four kids on a dairy farm, and she invited me to stop in for "as long as I would like." Little did she know I would actually take her up on this offer and stay for just short of three weeks!
The accommodation is lovely: a flat to myself with a huge bed, plenty of room for my nightly yoga, way more couches and overstuffed chairs than I would ever need, my own bathroom (or "toilet" as they're called over here), and even a little kitchenette (as if I would ever need to use it with all the food provided in the main house!) The flat is separate from the house, both of which are nestled at the end of a long gravel driveway. Outside my window is the paddock that belongs to Misty, the pony, and behind that is the chook house. In just about every direction, there are various paddocks occupied by Jersey (brown) cows, that are rotated around depending on the day or time. The driveway branches off to loop around the house and the rest turns into the "track" that leads up the family farm to the cow shed, where the milking takes place.
I have very much enjoyed getting to know the family and have tried to approach my stay here just as I would if I were couch surfing or WWOOFing: by doing what I can to earn my keep. Childcare, dishes, gardening, and feeding the chooks are just a few examples. Todd is off working the farm a lot (the cows do need milking twice a day) and Meg is that mom that has it all together. Yes, the baby may be rolling on the floor trying to eat paper while the two year old is throwing a fit about getting her hair done, the four year old is refusing to eat her breakfast, and the seven year old is still in bed (despite needing to be at the bus stop - a few kilometers away - in the next five minutes), but somehow Meg retains her composure and it all works out in the end. Now, I may not be the best morning person, but I know how to brush hair, change a "nappie" (diaper), pour some cereal, and certainly read storybooks, so I have been trying to lend a hand wherever and whenever I can! Life can be quite busy with four kids, and yet Meg has made a point to invite me places and provide time to explore the area as well. It's been great to be around kids again (and has very much reminded me of - and makes me miss - my nannying/babysitting days in Pennsylvania). I do, however, still appreciate being able to "give them back" at the end of the day! :)
Joshua is the older brother that everyone looks up to. He is inquisitive and perceptive, though his attention span is somewhat short at times. He is good with his younger sisters, and puts up with their attention when he wants to, though sometimes needs his space because he is the oldest and the only boy. He loves his sports (cricket and hockey) and goes to a small country primary school.
Eilidh (aye-lee) is next in line, and has quite a strong personality for a four(and-a-half!)-year-old. She looks up to her older brother and loves spending time with him, but also takes on an "older sister" role at times by helping to look after the two little ones. Eilidh is excited to start school when she turns five and is eager to learn how to read (though has not quite grasped the concept of using the words on the page and often tries to "read" books by remembering the story). She is creative and has ideas for a new project every day (but always wants help to make sure they come out the way she imagines). She loves animals and often asks daddy when she can ride her pony next.
Yulana is the latest addition to the family and is about seven months old. She is adorable and cuddly and I have very much enjoyed getting to see her learn and grow. Her siblings enjoy helping to look after her, and she is always watching everybody. I have had the pleasure of seeing her learn to sit up on her own, start eating big-people food, clap her hands, and become extremely mobile, rolling around on the floor and getting into all sorts of things. She is a little young to have specific interests, but she likes anything she can put in her mouth and it is quite hard to feed her unless she has an extra spoon in her hand!
The other night, the kids were pretty riled up for some reason and the bedtime routine of tea (dinner), bath time, pyjamas, bed was not happening as quickly as it should, so after doing some dishes, I lent a hand with the kids as well. I got the girls all dried off after the bath and encouraged them into their PJ's (Eilidh asked me the next day if people from other countries called them PJ's because that's not what they are - apparently they are jammies in this house!) In order to get them in bed, I offered to read bedtime stories (which are not always a nightly routine, but more of a reward for good behavior or read when there is extra time in the day) if they promised to settle down and go to sleep. I read one book in each of the two kids' rooms and they worked like a charm. It may have been a bit later than usual, but the kids were content and seemed to settle down fairly quickly. When I returned to the family room where Todd was reading the newspaper and Meg sat nursing Yulana, Todd greeted me with his dry humor, saying "Well done, Nanny" without even looking up from the paper.