Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods and a dead bull. 
It's been about three weeks since my last post! Plenty going on. I've been in Rangiora this week, which is about 20 minutes north of Christchurch. This was for the national conference of the youth work organisation that I'm involved in. It was a really full on week.

We set off just after 5am, and took the plane down. Due to the ash from the volcano in Chile (which has been round the earth twice and popped in to say Hi) all flights on JetStar had been cancelled. Air New Zealand was still flying, so we were fine.

Plenty going on at the conference. In particular, we heard about the events that had happened after the February earthquake. The ministry of education had been so impressed by the ability of the youth workers and churches to support the local schools that they had offered funding for three of the four remaining schools without a youth worker. All three schools accepted within a week. We gathered round the Christchurch youth workers and prayed for them; they're pretty tired.

We were supposed to go home on Wednesday night, but we were booked of JetStar this time, and all flights were still cancelled. Fortunately we were staying in someone's house, and they were off on holiday all week. We had with us another girl who had made it down from Auckland by bus, ferry and train (she got a certificate for it), and was now trying to work out how to get back. Plus another guy who joined us on Wednesday because he'd been stranded too. Hope they made it. Meanwhile, we rebooked on Air New Zealand on a flight to Hamilton (about two hours south of home) and made it back on Thursday night.

Many thanks to Rob who took us to the airport, and gave us a tour of Christchurch on the way. It was curious at first; the roads were still littered with sand and silt from the June earthquake. Things slowly began to dawn on us as we continued into the city. The roads became increasingly buckled, and the houses began leaning at odd angles. Chimneys and walls were down. By the river I saw one building that had one corner over a metre lower than the others. It looked like it was falling into a hole. The houses were almost all deserted. In the central city, many buildings had been left exactly as they fell, particularly in the inner red zone. We stopped and looked at one particularly demolished street, and prayed for a few minutes.

Yet there were plenty of signs of hope. I'm not sure how people will cope if there's another earthquake, but there were cars driving by, and businesses opening up (I understand the parking wardens are back in force next week) and people generally just getting on with life. About 5000 people are thought to have left though.

Meanwhile, it's been wet. Really wet. Bronwyn's parents have been off on holiday in England for a few weeks, so we've been all helping out on the farm. Bronwyn managed to jam the gearbox on one of the tractors while trying to round up the cows. Allan retrieved it, and left it in our garden. So we're now the proud gardians of a tractor.

The bull wasn't well, and we called out the vet. She pulled out a load of mushed up grass from his mouth and gave him penicillin. However, he dropped down dead this week, so the vet has been out again for an autopsy. Apparently he was insured! We've also had the dog down at the vet, after Bronwyn noticed a red lump protruding from her rear. Turned out to be a huge hormonal growth, so she's had an operation and a complete hysterectomy. She's fine, but we're not allowed to make her run for a couple of weeks.

Rachael is looking forward to going to the Girl Guide Jamboree next year, which happens to be in New Zealand. She's been saving up (and blackmailing us for money). They did a fundraising event recently - we all went to a rock climbing place for the evening. Sarah managed to get about six metres up, which is not bad for her age. Rachael managed to get to the top on the children's section. I managed the beginner adults' section, but struggled on the "Easy" adult routes! The harder routes were all graded, with some looking practically impossible...

Think that's about enough for now. Better put another log on the fire.

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Sigrid has been on her mid-stay camp, and is looking very tired. I've been in rehearsals with the brass band most of the weekend. I've had a very full week at work too.

It's not really half way for Sigrid yet. But it already feels like she's been here a very long time. She's very much at home, and there's been no complaints whatsoever.

Brought home a cornet from the band for Rachael to try out. She's managed to make some sort of noise, which is a good start. Once she can play a scale, she's good enough to join the junior band.

The band is sounding a lot better. The national contest is coming up next month. I'm practising in the car, doing tonguing exercises and buzzing tunes. Just not while waiting at the lights...

Sigrid's been through mock exams at school, and is still breathing. She doesn't actually have to come away with any qualifications, but she wants to do well in English.

It's wet. Really wet. I cleared out the leaves from the gutter so at least most of it went down the right way. The farm is pretty waterlogged. At the band hall, someone's dug a little trench to take the water out to the ditch at the road. It was so deep it was threatening to overwhelm the septic tank.

Dataview has now officially merged with Watchdog, who specialise in internet filtering for schools. We had a little celebration last week. They work on the ground floor, and we're upstairs. It's going to make some things easier, because we'll have enough staff for us to be able to specialise, rather than running around trying to fix all sorts of things and not really doing anything well. It's going to be interesting.

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Clogged up 
Almost all of us have had colds this week. I'm just about recovering, Rachael's been off school for a couple of days, and Sigrid has been too. We're running short on tissues and cough medicine. The temperatures have dropped quite a bit. My work was planning to give me a flu jab. Not sure I'll need one now!

Sigrid's ball dress has arrived from China. Bronwyn bought her a matching eye mask. Now she just needs some shoes. She's really excited, although currently she's not got the energy to show it.

Bronwyn's been busy - she's going through leader training for the Girl Guides plus lots of other activities, and she did a day at her old childcare centre this week. She also managed to walk up to the top of the hill along the road and back, which must be at least 4 km, with a walking stick. Not bad going.

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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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