Spreading our wings

Until this year, I had taken Kramstable in to school every day that I went to work. In his early days at school, I’d stay until the bell went and we’d read stories, look at work he’d been doing, and talk to his classmates, their parents and his teacher.

As the years passed, the time I stayed with him decreased, until by the end of last year I was seeing him to the door of his classroom, and he’d be off. I think by Grade 4, I was one of not many parents who would actually go into the school with their child, but I really liked it. I liked seeing his classroom, looking at what he’d been doing, and catching up with his teacher.

But it was time for a change, and at the end of last year Kramstable said he didn’t want me to come with him to school any more. I knew this was coming, because most of the other kids weren’t being walked into school, but I still felt I like I was losing something that had been a big part of my life for six years.

He said I could walk him to the school gate, so that was OK; I’d still have a chance to go in if I needed to, but I had a feeling that as this year moved on, his drop-off point would get further and further away.

It did, but it happened so suddenly – only two weeks into term – that I’d not had time to recover from not going in with him, before he asked me to leave him at the end of the street.

Ok. That was unexpected.

And last week we’re walking from the bus stop, and we get to the place where Slabs had dropped Kramstable off the day before.

He says, “I got dropped off here yesterday. Bye.”
That’s even more unexpected. I say, “I think I’ll walk with you a bit further.”
We walk on a bit to the next intersection, him skipping ahead as always. We stop and look for cars. I say, “Don’t you want to be seen with me?”
“No,” he says, and starts to cross the road. “Bye.”
“See you this afternoon,” I say, feeling incredibly sad, but also slightly amused.
I watch him cross the road safely, and he’s on his way.
“Bye,” I say to myself.

I know that he has to become independent. I know it’s my job to equip him so that he does become independent. I know I’m not going to walk him to school forever. I’ve always known this, but it’s never been real until now.

Of course he’s not going to want to be around me forever. He’s growing up and, as he grows, he’ll need me less intensely than he has done. And that’s the way it has to be; the same way I needed my mother less as I grew up; the same way every child does.

But he’s been the main focus of my life for so long – over ten years – and it’s hard to accept that this is changing, and changing fast. He has depended on me, and I’ve given as much of myself to him as I’ve had to give.

I feel like I’m bonded to him in a way I can’t imagine being bonded to any other person, because he’s my son. He has made me laugh, made me cry, made me so very grateful and feel so very blessed. I can’t imagine life without him.

It strikes me now as I’m writing this that I’ve spent his whole life making him ready for when he’ll be able to leave me and make his own way in the world, but that I’ve done nothing to make myself ready. It’s a minor thing, leaving him to walk a bit further to school. It’s such a small thing, but it symbolises so much more than that. I wasn’t prepared for how much this would hurt.

The worst thing in the world would be for me to be clingy and to deny him the freedom he needs. To try and stifle his growing independence. He needs to grow his own wings and fly. And while I’m so proud of the young man he is becoming and I love watching him learn and grow, I am also feeling deeply, intensely, painfully his gradual transformation away from the boy he has been. The boy that called me “Mummy”, the boy that would always hold my hand, the boy that was happy for me to come into school so he could show me what he’d been working on.

I cannot, will not deny myself this pain. I acknowledge it. It is real. I accept it as part of the transformation that I too must go through over the next phase of his life from being his provider and his care-giver into a role of adviser, supporter and (I hope) positive role model. Perhaps it hurts so much because it’s such a slow transition that will continue over many years to come. I can’t just rip the bandaid off and have a fully functioning adult before my eyes. I wouldn’t want to be able to do that. We have a wonderful journey still ahead of us.

He’ll still need me, even if he thinks he doesn’t. I treasure every moment he wants to involve me in what he’s doing, perhaps even more so now than when he was younger, because there are fewer of those moments these days, so they start to mean more.

And it occurs to me that, while he is still the centre of my universe, his decreasing reliance on me gives me my own freedom to focus on becoming the person I want to be outside of being “Mum”. So while this awareness doesn’t lessen the pain I feel, at the same time it inspires me and fills me with enthusiasm for how I might create my own future. In loosening the apron strings, I’m making room for my own wings to grow.

As I’m trying to figure out how to end this post without rambling on uncontrollably, I scroll through Twitter. This quote from Maya Angelou appears in my feed:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty”.

It seems highly relevant right now. The destruction of the old, the massive upheaval and transformation, and the eventual recreation into something new and beautiful.

2011 FOLIO 19 Butterfly

Even though there’s no actual end to this transformation – Kramstable won’t wake up one morning and be a butterfly, any more than I will – this quote still rings true in relation to the changes I’m going through. People say that it’s heartbreaking and difficult to let go, but it’s hard to convey to someone else how much it hurts until they experience it for themselves.

I’ve laughed and made jokes about how this has affected me, and have tried to carry on. I think that mostly we’re expected to accept this type of change, because our job is to prepare our children for the “real world”. There isn’t anything in the job description about taking time to reflect on different stages as our children move through them and to acknowledge how we feel.

I know it’s part of the job, but I’m not an automaton, I’m not a position number. I’m a person, I have feelings, and the process of letting go is upsetting me.

I think there’s value in acknowledging any kind of transition like this, rather just sucking it up and pretending we’re ok when we aren’t. This is the first time I’ve sat down and acknowledged how I really feel about it, and I’ve been surprised to find out how much it’s deeply affecting me.

It’s not the first time that a transformation has been painful, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. But I’m ok with this. I’m grateful to have had an experience in my life that has meant so much to me, that moving on from it hurts this much.

Advertisements

Challenge 4: Activities 21-27

I think I missed a few days after Day 18 (Thursday) when I did three activities (18-20) and learned about the Edamame Threat.

Day 19: I was home with a sick boy, so the thing I had booked to do that day didn’t happen. I had to reschedule.

Day 20: That was Saturday. I can’t remember what I did on Saturday.

Activity 21: Approach someone I met once a few years ago and reintroduce myself.

This was an opportunity activity, because I hadn’t planned to do it, but the chance came up so I went with it. I was at an event and saw someone who I follow on Twitter and who I’d met several years ago, but I wasn’t totally sure it was her. I kept staring at her to try and figure it out, and felt really awkward. Finally she and I were in each other’s vicinity so I took a deep breath and said hi. Turns out it was her and we have a brief chat.

Fearometer: 5/10. I was pretty nervous.
How I felt before doing it: Nervous and that only built up the more I thought about doing it.
How I felt while I was doing it: Awkward at first, but we had common interests so it was fine.
Would I do it again: I have introduced myself to random Twitter people in the street if I’ve interacted with them a bit, so probably. Depends on the person.

Activity 22: Get an outstanding medical check
Won’t go into details here, but in 2013 I was asked to get medical clearance so that I could do something I’d wanted to do. It has taken me this long to make the appointment.

Fearometer: 2/10 I was only slightly worried that maybe there would be some issue that had cropped up that I wasn’t aware of
How I felt before doing it: Just wanted it to be over. Doctor was running late. I had 30 minutes to get through. (Lesson for #fixwhatbugsyou – the doctor will always be late, even if you call to ask whether they are on time and are told they are. Take a book. Write a blog post. Don’t waste time with the trashy waiting room magazines. They will rot your brain.)
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once it became apparent there wasn’t anything to worry about.

Would I do it again: Yes

Activity 23: Have a Tarot reading
This has been something on my wanna do list for ages, but I never knew how to go about organising this or what to expect. I know a little bit about the Tarot but felt very awkward about having a reading because I’m not an expert and had no idea what I might find out.

On Twitter earlier in the week one of my friends said she had had a reading and that the person doing the readings, Jodi, was giving away 20 free readings (she still is – click the link to get in touch!) to help her make sure what she was doing all worked before she went into business. I felt a bit awkward asking someone I’d never interacted with before if I could be one of her guinea pigs, but she was happy to sign me up and, striking while the iron was hot- before I could chicken out –  I set it up for the next day and we connected over Skype.

It was amazing, and I’ll write a fuller post on this a bit later because it’s inspired an upcoming challenge. The thing that grabbed me was the insight into my situation that Jodi and I read into the cards – she calls it a ‘collaborative reading’ –  and it left me feeling like I was completely on the right track with what I was doing. There are so many things that are coming together about this situation right now, I feel like a little step I took about a month ago has started to build momentum. Ad it also manifested in an unexpected way a couple of days ago, which assures me I am doing the right things and is pushing me to keep going.

Fearometer: 6/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous about what might come out of the reading. Scared about connecting to someone online I’d never interacted with before.
How I felt while I was doing it: More and more relaxed as time passed. Jodi was very easy to talk to and I was really grateful to have had this opportunity.
Would I do it again: Absolutely

Activity 24: Go to the accountant and get my tax done
Oh the dreaded tax time. I’m not sure what I was worried about. I keep good records and most of the information gets downloaded into the ATO site anyway, so it’s really no big deal. I mainly needed to go to the accountant to get some advice on the disposal of some assets. That sounds serious. It’s not. It ended up being under $50 on a section of the tax form I never knew existed. It’s all done now and I’m expecting my snappy $80 refund any day now.

I’m almost embarrassed to put this in as a year of fear activity.

Activity 25: Ask someone for something they have no obligation to give me or expectation that I might ask for

Fearometer: 4/10. I always get a bit nervous asking this person for something
How I felt before doing it: Nervous

How I felt while I was doing it: A bit more anxious as at first they didn’t know exactly what I was asking so I had to explain myself again
Would I do it again: Probably if my desire for a thing outweighs my nerves

Activity 26: Ask to exchange a product I bought that’s the wrong one
This is a silly thing to be anxious about doing, but I always dread having to go back to a shop and ask to exchange something. It’s not as bad if the product if faulty but if I’ve stuffed up and bought the wrong thing because I didn’t check what I needed first, I feel like a bit of an idiot.
Fearometer: 2/10
How I felt before doing it: Nervous that they would say no, you got it wrong, suck it up buttercup
How I felt while I was doing it: Fine once they said yes
Would I do it again: I guess so.

Activity 27: Secret squirrel!
Activity completed. I am annoyed to have been put into the situation that made this activity happen, but it’s done now.

Photo of the week. Me 10 years ago. Who needs a professional when you have a self-timer and a black velvet sheet to throw over the book case right? Seriously I wish I had had some lovely pregnancy shots done, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and less than three weeks after this picture, boom, all over.

BW1 huge_retouched

 

 

Challenge 4: Facing Fear – Days 8-14

I’m not going to write about everything I do this month, but I have done something outside my comfort zone every day this week. Some weren’t very far out, baby steps, so I think maybe i need to start ramping it up a bit in the second half of the challenge.

Activity 8: Introduce myself and talk to someone new at school

Following on from saying hello to new people at school last week, on Monday I had an opportunity to introduce myself to one of Kramstable’s classmate’s grandmother. We were waiting in the classroom to go with the class on a walk to an off-site program, so I went over to her and said hi, introduced myself, found out who she was and told her who I was before the teacher introduced us.

After my experiences of the last few days I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll always feel uncomfortable doing this, but that it’s a lot more uncomfortable to be in the same place as someone and not know who they are, than it is taking this step.

So far it’s been ok because it’s been one-on-one interactions. I’m not so sure about doing this in a more populated environment, such as a party, meeting, “networking” event or conference. I remember attending a work conference with a colleague some years ago and was amazed at how she simply walked over to people, held out her hand and introduced herself. I was tagging along like a terrified shadow, too scared to say anything.

I mentioned this to her at the time, and told her how impressed I was that she was doing this and how easily she was doing it. She told me that she was terrified, but had made a decision to meet people because that was the point of being at the conference in the first place, so she basically took a deep breath and just did it. I did not.

Perhaps I need a conference to go to so I can ramp this challenge up a bit.
Nooooo!

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 2/10

How I felt doing it: Nervous and a bit awkward.
How I felt after doing it: Glad I’d taken the initiative before the teacher introduced us.

Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 9: Call someone about something I would normally email them about

We got a letter from the council a few days ago about some work they are planning in our street. It’s not exactly clear (at least to me, non-town planner with plan-reading skills of approximately zero) exactly what’s proposed and why it’s changed from what we understood the original plan to be. There was a contact name in the letter if we needed further information, who we could call or email. I was going to email, since that’s normally my easy way out of dealing with an issue, but decided to actually speak to the person instead just to challenge myself a bit.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 4/10
How I felt doing it: Nervous, but I was asking for information, not asking for anything to happen or be changed, so I talked myself out of the nerves. Sort of.
How I felt after doing it: Annoyed because the contact person wasn’t the person that could answer my questions so I had to call the “expert” the next day.
Would I do this again: Well I have to don’t I?!

Activity 10: Request at work

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 7/10
How I felt doing it: Nervous because I couldn’t slot the point I really wanted to make into the conversation.
How I felt after doing it: Annoyed because I didn’t say what I wanted to say. So I didn’t complete the challenge.
Would I do this again: I will try again.

Activity 11 Make an appointment I’ve wanted to make for ages

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 2/10
How I felt doing it: A bit nervous about making the call, but the lady I spoke to was very nice.
How I felt after doing it: Relieved at having made the phone call but still anxious about the actual appointment.
Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 12: Go on a school excursion with 100+ kids

I’ve been on heaps of school excursions and they’re always fun, but I always get a little bit terrified of going because I become responsible for other people’s children, who I don’t often know very well. It’s scary trying to keep a group of 25-30 kids together while you’re walking to the venue and crossing busy roads and, while the teacher is ultimately in charge, you’re there to help them and make sure nothing goes horribly wrong.

This time was particularly scary as it was a reasonably long walk to the venue and it was a huge day with hundreds of kids from schools all over the place there. It gets easier to manage days out as the kids get older, but this was the biggest thing I’d ever been involved with.
I really needn’t have worried so much. I had a group of eight kids to watch over, I had another parent with me and the teacher floating between groups. So it was pretty chill in the end. All I had to do was gently guide the kids back on track if they looked like they were drifting away and make sure they didn’t wander off. It all went smoothly and I’m not sure what I was worried about.

20160812 FOBI 22

Maybe it’s just a little stage fright that comes with being made Responsible (and charged with reporting back to the teacher if any kids misbehave). Maybe it’s the same excitement/nerves I get before I do anything a bit unusual and isn’t really fear at all.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 3/10
How I felt doing it: I had a great time. I didn’t lose any kids. I learned stuff.
How I felt after doing it: Glad I did it.
Would I do this again: Yes.

Activity 13: Write a post about a difficult subject on my blogT

his was one of my standard posts about a book I’d read as part of my 24 books in a year goal. It was Arianna Huffington’s book Thrive, and I focused on the subject of death and how she wrote about how no one speaks about it.I wondered if I should post it because it’s not a comfortable subject. But it’s my blog and it’s about what I’m learning – so if what I write doesn’t connect with anyone, that’s fine.

Fear-ometer rating pre-challenge: 4/10
How I felt doing it: Worried I might be writing about a touchy subject that might be upsetting.
How I felt after doing it: Wondering if anyone had actually read it.
Would I do this again: Yes.

 

Activity 14

Completed

Don’t pay the ferryman

Don’t pay the ferryman
Victor Harbor, Australia

Victor Harbor, Australia


And so the predicted bad weather came upon us like torrential rain and gale-force winds, and we were safely tucked up in a cabin at the caravan park feeling not the least bit sorry for the people in campers. It really was foul weather and we were grateful that it hit after we’d done the almost 400km drive to Meningie. Because it would have sucked to have been driving in this.

We had breakfast in a cafe the town (and the carrot, turmeric and bacon soup was very nice) before we left. I was interested in the wood carving across the road, which was by sculptor Ant Martin from the nearby(ish) town of Millicent. It’s a 6.4 meter high pelican being fed a Murray cod by two children, and is said to symbolise reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and European settlers.

And then we were off on the (relatively) short drive to Victor Harbor (no u) on the Fleurieu Peninsula. We had to cross the Murray River at Wellington East. The ferry (which is operated by the SA Government free to punters) isn’t so much a boat as a motorised bit of road that floats back and forth across the river once there are enough cars to go. In our case, three. It was a strange experience. We were on a ferry but we hadn’t left the road!

We passed through some (of many) wine districts on the way but decided not to stop. Actually we did stop in Langhorne Creek, but the winery we’d wanted to visit wasn’t open, so we kept going. We had a brief stop at Middleton Arts & Crafts before finally getting to Victor Harbor.

There’s a lot of funfair rides and attractions set up for the school holidays and Slabs and Kramstable had a go on the dodgem cars. Unfortunately due to the wind, the ferris wheel wasn’t going because that would have been cool to go up above the town. The horse-drawn tram, which is a well-known attraction of the town also wasn’t running today because of the weather, which was disappointing as that’s one of the things that Slabs had seen when he was planning the trip that had made him choose here as a stop.

We had lunch at Nino’s Cafe, which seems to be a bit of a local institution, and were glad to have arrived and ordered just before a party of 14 kids and 16 adults arrived. The pizza was really good. As was the wine. What? Right, back to the story.

Kramstable had seen a brochure for the Cheeky Ratbags Play Cafe in the tourist centre and said he wanted to go. He has been great on this trip. There hasn’t been a lot of specific kid stuff for him to do and he’s put up with being dragged around to things he hasn’t necessarily been interested in himself and has had to sit in the car for very long stretches. This part of the trip was for him with the school holiday stuff happening, and the shithouse weather has put paid to a lot of that. So we took him out to the play centre and he had an absolute ball. It was great to see him enjoying himself with absolutely no constraints (even if I did have the worst headache and had forgotten how loud kids can scream when they’re having fun).

After we checked into our hotel we went for a wander over to the SA Whale Centre, where there are some fascinating displays, including a actual whale skull that is oozing whale oil and smells quite vile. There’s a interesting 3D presentation on whales, as well as an exhibit on the work of Sea Shepherd. Kramstable had fun fossicking for fossils and pretending to be eaten by a shark.

We’d missed the last Cockle Train to Golwa, so we wandered through the town before coming back to the hotel to rest up before dinner.

I did a quick walk around the harbour and had a look at the Encounter Poles, which is a monument commemorating the meeting of Matthew Flinders and Nicolas Baudin in 1802 in Ramindjeri Ngarridjeri Waters, presenting three worlds and three cultures, connected through wind and water.

And it was a very very nice dinner, topped off with some lovely local wine. I think I rather like South Australia.

Jousting with fire

Jousting with fire
Ballarat, Australia

Ballarat, Australia


Our plan for today was to spend the day at Sovereign Hill in Ballarat. I can remember going there on my Grade 4 school trip and really enjoying it, so I imagined that Kramstable would love it. Despite him saying how much he liked History as a subject, he didn’t seem especially keen to go and find out what life was like in the actual olden days (as opposed to what he sees as the olden days – when I was a small kid, because we had black and white TV).

Aunty T had said that Sovereign Hill turned into a bit of a mud bath when it was wet, and the morning forecast was for rain, so we decided that Kryal Castle might be a better option. We told Kramstable that we’d be going to “the castle” instead of the goldfields, and he was so excited that we knew it was the right choice.

I’d been there too on my Grade 4 trip and I can remember thinking it was great. I don’t remember much about it, other than the torture chamber, so it was pretty much like going there for the first time. I think there have been a few new things added since I was there – it was built in the early 1970s and underwent a major upgrade in 2013.

First up was a walk through the Dragon’s Labrynth, which tells the story of the castle, the missing children and the dragon Ushnagh. We then wandered up to the archery range where we all attempted (with varying degrees of success) to fire some arrows. I’m not expecting a call up to the Olympic archery squad any time soon.

One of the highlights was the horse trials, which involved two knights on horseback going through their paces, including jumping over some pretty serious flames. It was pretty impressive stuff.

We also made our way through the maze, and watched one of the Wizard’s gorgeous apprentices concoct some fascinating potions from ingredients such as dragon ash, goblin eyes and pixie wings (the dragon ash comes from dragons who have died naturally and turned to ash and it’s taken with the permission of the dragons, and the pixie wings are shed like snake skins – not removed from living pixies).

It didn’t rain but it was cold. I think the max for the day was 8 degrees, so after a couple of hours we’d had enough ( we decided to give the torture dungeon a miss this time) and we headed into Ballarat for lunch. It’s a pretty town with some beautiful old buildings and apparently quite an interesting arty side, so I’d like to come back and spend some more time there wandering around, because that’s my favourite thing to do in new places. Lunch was ok, apart from having to send my meal back because it was cold in the middle. They fixed it, replaced it and were very apologetic, so I was happy with that.

After lunch and a flying visit to the tourist centre (my other favourite thing to do in new places), we took as side trip to Red Duck Brewery, a Mecca for craft beer lovers. It was very hard to limit ourselves because many of their beers are limited releases and so only available for a short time. We were very excited to see that the “Amon Ra”, one of their series of Egyptian bread ales, was there. We bought a nice little mixed stash that will see us through the first few days of the road trip.

And then we headed back to Bacchus Marsh to spend some time with the family. They treated us to a nice dinner and some board games, which was a lovely way to end the day.

Day 12: Dunedin days

Day 12: Dunedin days
Dunedin, New Zealand

Dunedin, New Zealand


Dunedin. I love it. I’m currently sitting here drinking my very last Wanaka Beerworks Cardrona working out how I can stay here and not go home.

OK I know that’s not going to happen.

We had a great day. This is the only place apart from Christchurch that we haven’t been part of an endless stream of tourists. In fact we probably stand out because we are tourists!

Our first activity this morning was the Otago Museum. It was really cool. There was so much we didn’t see that we would have loved to have seen and could easily have spent the whole day there. Our main focus was the kids activity area, with a lot of interactive science things that Kramstable (and we) loved.

The main attraction was the butterfly enclosure, which was the only part of the museum we had to pay to get into. It’s a 30 degree tropical house (so not that much warmer than the outside temperature today) with heaps of butterflies and some small birds.

One of the highlights was the release of some of the newly emerged butterflies. When they emerge from their cocoons, they sit for a while until their wings dry so that they can fly. We saw quite a few newly emerged butterflies in the incubation house. The staff in the butterfly house check them over and then if they’re ok, put them into a basket and release them at various times during the day.

After the heat got too much for us, we went back to the main part of the museum and had a look at some of the exhibits about the Maori and the other people of the Pacific. Some of the other highlights were the Sir Edmund Hillary exhibit and the World War I nurses exhibition. Two hours was definitely not enough.

The museum is close to the Otago University, which had been subject to the threat of a mass shooting today, so there was an increased police presence in the area, but most people seemed to be going about business as usual. I think the bigger concern would have been high temperatures and forecast strong winds, and the associated fire risks.

After our museum visit we headed out to the Otago Peninsula to Larnach Castle. It’s very cool. It’s New Zealand’s only castle – technically not a castle but a manor house – apparently it was the thing in those days to make your home took like a castle, which is what William Larnach did in 1871 when he built this place.

It’s now owned by the Barker family, who have restored it and opened it to the public – all the entrance fees go towards maintenance and further restoration. It’s a fascinating place, and Kramstable was really excited to be here because he’d never been to a castle before.

It’s a great building and the views from the tower are wonderful. The gardens are also amazing, very well maintained and there’s even an Alice in Wonderland section. We had lunch in the Ballroom Cafe; the Ballroom was built by Mr Lanarch for his one of his daughters for her 21st birthday.

After lunch we drove back to Dunedin (a drive with spectacular views) to have a look at Baldwin Street, the world’s steepest street. With temperatures at 26 degrees we decided we weren’t going to climb up to the top. Just looking at it was exhausting, so we headed back to the motel.

It then cooled down abruptly. A bit of time to wander around the city and take photos of the beautiful buildings (in the rain, which hopefully assisted the fire fighters). Oh and call into the Green Man Brewery.

We had dinner at a Scottish restaurant called Scotia, which was a definite improvement on last night’s dinner. I wish we could stay longer in Dunedin, but it’s not going to happen this time. I know now that I have to come back!

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown

Day 8: Freaking out in Queenstown
Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown, New Zealand


Queenstown is beautiful, but mega-touristy. It reminded me of Strahan but times 100. We got petrol. It cost $112 to fill a 70 litre tank. I’ve never paid more than $100 for a tank of petrol before. Eeep!

We had a list of cool things that might be fun to do today. We’d already checked out the gondola and luge last night, and decided that was one thing we had to do. We weren’t sure how the weather would hold up, so we thought we’d do that first. It was a fairly short walk from our motel to the gondola station, where we bought tickets for the gondola and 10 luge rides – which was actually cheaper than getting nine rides. We figured we’d sort out who would do what rides once we got up there.

The gondola ride was pretty cool. Great views of Queenstown. We had coffee at the top before heading over to the luge. We had to pick out our helmets first and then jump on the chairlift to the top of the hill where the luge started.

When you go on the luge, you have to start off on the blue track, which is the scenic track that is suitable for anyone over 110 cm. Kramstable and I could do this one! Before your first ride you get some instructions on how to manoeuvre the luges, so that you have a vague idea of what you’re doing before heading off down the track. It was heaps of fun!

We did two runs together (sort of) on the blue run, then Kramstable and I did a last run on the blue (he was too short for the red run), while Slabs braved the red run. We generously decided to let him have our last ride on the red run, while we had a walk around and found a photo vantage point along the run. We then spent a seriously stupid amount of money on photos of us on the luge because we couldn’t take any ourselves, and it’s not like we’ll be back any time soon to do it again. (This excuse can justify anything!)

Back down the hill (mountain?) on the gondola and onto the Fear Factory – New Zealand’s scariest haunted house – which Kramstable had been looking forward to all trip and way before we even left. He and Slabs had been onto their website and found out everything about it. It was pretty much all Kramstable had been talking about since he’d found out about it. He was so excited! I was pretty much terrified that I’d be the one to call “chicken” and be pulled out and wasn’t even sure I wanted to go in.

However, I wasn’t going to let a 9 year old defeat me, so I took a deep breath and went in. It was pretty cool. I think being at the back was an advantage because the horrors that sprang out got Slabs, who was in the lead, first. I say no more. Go do it yourself. Kramstable was terrified. We survived.

We had lunch at the Atlas Beer Cafe because beer. It has a hand pump. It has nice beers and does good food.

After lunch we went to the XD Dark Ride, which is two different experiences – a 3D roller coaster where we went through a canyon and I hate rolller coasters so why the hell did I agree to do this, and a 3D Zombie killing game (Kramstable picked the game from a choice of three), and yours truly is such an awesome zombie shooter that I won. It might be the first time I have, or will, ever win a shooting game, so you need to mark this day somewhere.

Finally (exhausted and dreading the credit card bill) we went to the Odyssey Sensory Maze, which we’d found out about last night. That was heaps of fun and really cool. If you like balloons and mirrors you’ll love it!

During the afternoon I managed to get some updates on the AFL grand final. Two years overseas on Grand Final day, two wins to the Hawks. Where am I going to go next September to keep the winning steak going?

We had a really nice Malaysian dinner at Madam Woo (fabulous laksa), found the perfect tacky souvenir and headed back to the motel room to read the Famous Five with Kramstable.