Dangerous activities 
My bum hurts. I fell over while ice skating, attempting to push Sarah on her skating frame with one hand. It worked a lot better if I held the frame either side of Sarah, but then I had to skate very wide in order to avoid her wildly kicking feet. I tried to encourage her to skate alone, but she didn't manage to make more than a metre of forward progress after randomly waving her feet in all directions.

Rachael had her party today, so we all went ice skating, followed by McDonalds, accompanied by six screaming girls plus two quieter Scandinavian ones. They could skate quite well, but then they've had more exposure to ice!

We lost a calf this morning. The gate got somehow left open, and several wandered out on the road. One got hit by a truck. It's an automatic gate, controlled from three different places, and we think two people activated it at once, thus leaving it open.

Nearly finished the project at work. If someone tries to change the spec one more time, I think I'll chain them to my chair and make them do it!

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The birthday zone 
Sarah's sixth birthday yesterday. She had 4 friends round to the party, and Bronwyn made everything pink. By the evening the P word was deemed to be inappropriate. But they had a great time, quite a feast, and Claire turned up with some helium balloons. Pink, of course.

Next week it will be Rachael's birthday, and we're going ice skating on the Saturday. Rachael's really looking forward to it. We missed the usual afternoon tea for Sarah today, because otherwise it's going to be one continuous birthday party!

Bronwyn has been looking for a job for most of the year, and had to go through the process of renewing her practising certificate. Well, she had a really goo interview with an agency last week. They've yet to check her references and make a final decision, but it looks like she got the job. So now she's got to keep her phone by the bed so they can ring her up at 7am to send her to a random childcare centre. Should be fun.

Meanwhile, I've been working flat out to complete a project that was due a week ago. Nearly there, but nobody's been able to test it yet. We've had quite a lot go into this latest version, so I can predict some fun once the schools get hold of it!

Sigrid enjoyed her day out in Auckland with Kristine. They had no map and very little apart from hand bags, but Sigrid had done all the planning beforehand, and it obviously worked out! Kristine left us with a beautiful painted wooden spoon and a card, which I'll hang up on the wall shortly. Very nice gift for just a weekend, and we hardly saw her!

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Going in circles 
The doughnut machine got returned, but because Bronwyn had left the lawnmower in its usual spot, they put the doughnut machine in Bronwyn's spot. We were off on holiday. So now Bronwyn's car doesn't fit in the garage. I moved the lawnmower back to it's proper spot. Yesterday, Bronwyn's dad arrived with ten bales of hay. Two bales went out in the paddock, and the other eight got put in the doughnut machine spot so we can feed the calves when Bronwyn's parents are away. So we're not quite there yet.

You might have heard about the tornado that went through a local shopping center this week. We're all fine. Bronwyn's sister often works in a building nearby. She wasn't there that day, but all her friends saw it. The student nurse who tried to resuscitate the one fatality and gave first aid to the others used to go to our church - her dad said she'd been in TV at least three times. She's fine, but it must have been quite an event. I commented to Sigrid that she's done the earthquake, the tsunami, and now the tornado. We'll probably get some flooding shortly, and then she just needs the volcano. Usually the youth group do that one once the snow's good.

Managed to survive the week without spending too much. Also went and paid for a library book that went missing. I had searched the house for it several times. Hours later, Bronwyn found it, on the windowledge by the door, waiting to be taken back. There's also been a DVD missing for about 5 months, but last week they found it in the shop! I think we're slowly getting there.

Sigrid's friend has been up with us for the weekend, and they're planning to spend all of Sunday touring Auckland on the buses. There's hardly any buses between here and the outskirts of Auckland, so I'm taking them in early, and picking them up late tonight. New Zealand doesn't have rural public transport. It pretends to, but not in any useable form!

Sigrid has made some focaccia bread for Bronwyn today, since it's Mother's day here. Bronwyn doesn't know about it yet - it's out in the kitchen waiting...

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Rotorua sits right on top of a hotspot, and the town smells continually of hydrogen sulphide. In addition, it was really wet on the first day, and my shoes and socks got wet, and started to smell. So did Rachael's feet. Then I managed to splash petrol on my trousers. So it was quite a smelly week. But it was all worth it.

Sigrid had a great time at the youth camp, and appears to have survived without injury or hypothermia. We picked her up on the way down. Just about managed to squeeze everything in the car.

We did the museum on the first day. It used to be the old bath house, and you can go down into the basement and see all the pipes. There's also a cinema. They call it a cinema. They don't tell you about the earthquake simulator in the benches. Or the other special effects. Quite an experience.

We then visited some of the local thermal areas and geysers. It's a little unnerving standing next to a drain hole in the street with steam and a hissing sound coming out of it. We went to Wai O Tapu and the Lady Knox geyser, which they set off every day with a block of soap. It looks really corny with froth pouring out the top, but it quickly turns into a proper fountain. We also went further south to Orakei Korako (or something like that) where there's another thermal valley. It's smaller, but less people, so it was more peaceful.

Add in the gondola, the luge, the Paradise Valley wildlife park and you've got quite a packed week. Rachael wanted to do a Zorb (rolling down the hill in a big inflated ball) but she was too small for the harness in the dry version, and didn't like the idea of the wet version where they let you slide about in a few inches of water. Plus it was $45 a roll, so we gave that one a miss. We dropped in on the Hobbiton movie set on the way back, and Sigrid went out on the tour while we had lunch. Attempted to break into the Ngatea water gardens, but they're closed on Fridays. Got home, rather tired.

School tomorrow. Not planning anything today. I think we need time to recover!

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All quiet on the western front 
I spent the day down at Mystery Creek setting up for the youth group camp. We had seven tents, five marquees, ten benches, two sofas, the doughnut machine, the coffee machine, the football table, the pool table, three banners, a camoflage net and an army jeep. Plus a five foot cross which I'm sure will feature at some point during the weekend. Our group is joining up with the other Baptist youth groups in the West Auckland area, hence the Western Front theme (they managed to bag the far western corner of the main camp). I was limping for several days afterwards, and saw tent pegs every time I closed my eyes.

I understand there's also a bouncy castle...

Sigrid and Venla have been at the campsite since Thursday, and we'll pick up Sigrid on Monday and head off to Rotorua for the week. I'm guessing she'll be tired, and in need of a good wash. But I hope it's all worth it.

It's also ANZAC day tomorrow, so before picking up Sigrid, Bronwyn will take the girls to the Waimauku parade. I'll be off with the band at the Swanson and Helensville parade, or at least the first half.

A piano arrived last week. It used to be in this house, and Bronwyn's mum borrowed it to learn to play. I understand it travelled across the farm on the pick up truck. It came back to its original resting place in a removals van, and Rachael has been learning to play. Rachael's also getting quite reasonable on the ukulele, and can do a decent rendition of "He's got the whole world". I was planning to teach Sigrid too, but she's had about two days to do homework, and won't see the piano again until next Saturday!

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