Monday, August 31, 2009

How to survive in a family of three kids...

Three kids get off the school bus all talking over one another to be the first to tell me how their day went. They make it into the kitchen abandoning shoes, school-bags, water bottles, hats and socks on the way. They see three plates in a row with three slices of yesterdays birthday cake.

One child grabs the biggest piece and eats half it in one huge mouthful.

Another child grabs the next biggest piece and starts to lick the green icing from the top before deciding they desperately need to go to the toilet. But will the cake be safe while they are gone?

The last child nearly gets knocked to the ground by the one racing to use the toilet and this is shouted out by a clever pair of lungs...

"Don't eat my cake, I have licked ALL OVER IT!"

Now that is how you survive in a family of three kids!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Oz Tag

Sian is in her schools all girl Oz Tag team and today they participated in an all day 5 match marathon competing against other local schools.

I was a driver helping to get them to the Rugby ground. It gave me a chance to watch this low contact version of the sport for the first time.

Each player had a belt with two "tags" hanging from it. The tags are attached with velcro.

The aim of the game is to tag players in the opposing team to prevent them scoring a try.

To tag them you just need to catch up with them and pull hard on one of their tags tearing it off the belt and then throw it on the ground.
The player then returns to pick up their tag and has to pass the ball on to a team mate.

It certainly is a better game for girls than the full-on-face-in-the-mud Rugby Union and makes for prettier daughters without crooked broken noses and cauliflower ears!

It was a hot day and they coped brilliantly, sitting under the shade of the trees and drinking loads of water between games. By the end of the day we had renamed them "Undefeated" because they won every match!

Go Joeys!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Book Week 2009

Every year in school the kids have a book week. The finale of Book Week is the "out of uniform" day where they dress up as their favourite book characters. I needed to leave for work at 6.30 this morning but Rhiannon needed help with her hair. She wanted me to make it look like Pippi Longstocking and she didn't trust Byron to do it!

And so I had a busy 6am start to my early day and left the kids in the capable hands of Mr B to carry on and get them to school on time. He did a great job and even stopped to take some photos for me so I could see how great they looked.

Sian was dressed as Marty the Zebra from Madagascar (complete with home made mask printed off from a google search!)

Rhiannon was Pippi Longstocking

...and Gareth was Ben10 (another home print job!)

Thank goodness for Google, the printer and a great husband!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Pear, the Mushroom, the Kumquat and the Angry Man.

I hate supermarket shopping with my kids. There is nothing worse than dragging three reluctant kids up and down the supermarket aisles while trying to remember what 6 things I have come in for. Unless of course we go straight from school on a hot sticky afternoon when they are more tired and grumpy than normal. So today being a hot and sticky afternoon I knew it wasn't such a great idea to head to Woolworths but I only needed a few things, just a basketful...

The silver lining to shopping with three kids is the 6 extra hands they come with to carry the extra things that overflow out of the basket. They asked could they choose a piece of fruit each. I was happy to let them as it kept them distracted for a few minutes. Rhiannon chose a pear, Gareth a huge mushroom (?) and Sian a tiny kumquat. Ten minutes after walking in the supermarket door I walked out with 6 bags, 3 happy kids and headed for the car. Success!

As we got into the car a couple were walking across the car park towards us. They were having a disagreement. I looked at them and I judged the man instantly. He looked a bit rough, unshaven, tattoos down his forearm. His voice was raised and irritated by whatever the lady had said to him. I worried a bit for her. You hear so many bad stories in the news every week. Domestic violence, road rage, people using fists instead of words to sort out their differences. She looked up and into my eyes, she looked OK but I decided to wait a moment before driving off just in case.

They walked behind my parked car and I waited to see them reappear in the other wing mirror but they didn't. Then he knocked on my driver window. I jumped. He had squeezed in the narrow gap between me and the next car, his face was close against my window and he was pointing at me. "Hey you" I know that I looked terrified. I clamped my hands on the wheel wishing I had started the engine so I could pull away. "Hey you" he shouted again through my closed window. "You left a bag of groceries on the ground behind your car" I opened the door and sure enough the bag of milk was still on the ground next to the boot. He grinned "You looked like you were scared for your life there" She grinned at me too, they held hands and walked on. "I was actually" I grinned back "Thanks"

Note to self: Don't judge a book by its cover.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Magnolia Envy.

Is Magnolia Envy a real condition?

I swear it is because I went to a friends house for the first time this weekend and she had about 200 Magnolia trees running along the side of her garden.

OK so I am prone to occasional exaggeration, I'm Irish, I'm genetically predisposed to it, but really, she had at least 20 of the most magnificent trees just overladen with beautiful huge Magnolia flowers.

If I could have uprooted one of those trees and slipped it into my handbag I would have run for the car whooping with excitement. To hell with the friendship, I would have had one of these magnificent beauties to gaze upon as I forgot that my friend Pauline ever existed.

Sorry Pauline, but you have to admit they are worthy of Magnolia Envy. Next time I come visit watch out, I'm bringing my super-duper-big-hold-everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-handbag!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Cocktails / Mocktails!

We are still trying to keep that Rarotongan excitement alive so we did a supermarket shop and invested in some tropical vivid coloured fresh fruit juices, paper umbrellas and mini watermelon and set up the Baynham Cocktail/Mocktail bar!

Now that the kids have gone to bed it might be time to get out a bottle of rum and make the mix a bit more tropical!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rugby Mania!

This weekend has been a real RUGBY one. Yesterday Gareth's team played their final match of the season at their home ground. It was a draw so everyone was a winner (I will not mention the try that we all thought Gar got that was disallowed. It is not important. He is only 6 and we are not the kind of parents to get worked up over a child's sporting event)

Today we drove to Sydney to watch an International Rugby Union game. It was the Australian Wallabies playing The New Zealand All Blacks. What made it more exciting and more special than any other big sporting even we have ever been to before was the fact than some of the kids from Gareth's local rugby club had been pulled out of a hat to play a mini match on the pitch before the main teams played.

A group of families connected to the club travelled in cars and by bus to Sydney and cheered them on as they played their hearts out. What an honour to play to an almost full stadium of 80,225 people!

Go The Roo's!!!!

Another fun moment of the day was when Sian was interviewed on the big screen in the pre-match warm up. I have a movie clip that I took on the camera but I need Mr B's help to shrink it small enough for the blog. Check back in the next 24hours and hopefully it will be HERE!

I think I did it all by myself! Can you see it?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bushfire season

Bushfire season is the name given to the height of the Australian summer, when temperatures hover in the high 30's and often hit 40+ degrees. This hot dry weather coupled with winds and lightning strikes makes the risk of bushfires higher than normal. We are still in Australian winter so when we saw thick smoke billowing into the sky near our house this weekend we assumed there must be a house fire.

As we got in our car to drive to Sydney we got closer and closer to the smoke. We realised that an area of bushland less than 1 kilometer from our house was burning. We counted 3 Fire Engines and multiple Firefighters still using hoses on the burning trees. The area of bushland was running behind a street of houses and some of the burning trees were actually in peoples back yards.

We had so nearly bought a block of land to build on across the road from where the fire was but had changed our minds at the 11th hour to the land we are now living on. It is still only 1km away but there are less trees directly around our house.

We have seen many news reports on bushfires since we moved to Australia but have never actually driven along a road where the trees are in flames. There has beeen nothing in our local news this morning about any injury or loss of houses so hopefully it was minor in it's damage.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A non-blogging week...

I've been very slack with my blog updates since we returned from our holidays last week. I tried telling Byron that there was nothing exciting after the magic of the holiday and he provided me with a list of things that I could have blogged about if I had wanted to! I guess he is right (as always!)

So here goes... Last Tuesday I celebrated my birthday. I was working that day so I was up at 6am and in the car by 6.30. I decided to wait until the evening to look at my cards or else I would just spoil the reading of the messages by rushing through them. I was nearly bursting when I finally opened my first card at 7pm! We had gone out for tea so I could escape the preparation and tidy up. Heaven! Byron took great pleasure in telling me I am no longer in my mid-thirties but am now nearing his ripe old age of 40. All this because I turned 36! I think he has a cheek. I think 36 still counts as mid thirties. What do you think?

Last week also was the week that the last of the tradesmen trampled their way through our flood damaged house. They put replacement carpets in the three downstairs rooms that had been bare concrete since the flood happened over 6 months ago. Oh the joy of walking on fluffy soft floors!

We caught up on a few health checks last week too. Gareth and Rhiannon had their final booster immunisations against meningitis. Sore arms but boxes of Smarties helped. The next day they were furiously scrubbing the Smarties away as we had our 6 month dental check up. We all got the thumbs up for clean white cavity free choppers so a big sigh of relief until another 6 months time.

And so now I feel a weight off my shoulders. I have shared the mundane details of our last week with you, Byron will stop nagging me and I will try to get back to the massive mountain of ironing that threatens to fall on me at any moment. Watch out on the news for a quirky news story about the mother found buried under 3 tons of crumpled laundry some day over the coming week. It will be me!

Beauty and reality

She walked out of the school playground a little bit frazzled. It had been an early start and she hadn't wanted to get out of bed. The kitchen was still a mess from the half emptied suitcases. The holiday seemed like a lifetime ago. The hallway had been cluttered with furniture that was dumped there while the flood replacement carpets were relaid. They had made it to school slightly late and missing a hat on the very day the head teacher was doing a uniform inspection.

She was tired, tired from a week of work at the hospital, nursing and tending to the needs of strangers while her own family ran around in chaos. The fridge was empty. She needed to do a grocery shop. The ironing mountain was waiting at home, she knew it would avalanche on her as soon as she would open the front door. When had life become so complicated?

She often daydreamed about a reality TV show host appearing on her door step, de-cluttering her house, organising her kids wardrobes, imagined sitting down for a cup of tea in a spotless kitchen knowing that there wasn't a single item of dirty clothes in the wash basket. That every school shirt was ironed and hanging in the right wardrobe.... bliss!

She breathed in deeply and carried on walking. Not quite ready to get in the car and head to the supermarket she decided to walk a little. She was a story teller at heart, like her father before her, and there was a story she wanted to tell someone. A story about a small school on an island in the middle of nowhere with the same name as this Australian school. A story about a little nun who had welcomed her with a big hug only a week ago. An Indian nun who over the next hour realised she had a connection to the Australian nun that lived next to the school. And so she set out walking through the gum trees to this nuns house, time wasting and delaying the realities of her busy day ahead.

She stepped off the path and walked between the tall gum trees. The brittle leaves crunched under her feet releasing their eucalyptus scent into the air. The sounds of the school melted into the distance and instead she heard bell birds in the distant bushland. The sun was warm on her skin and she closed her eyes as she walked. Smell the roses she thought, Slow down and smell the roses. Be thankful for small things. Appreciate the beauty around you. She felt her heart lighten. She was having an Australian moment. A moment where the beauty of the Australian landscape, so different from the Irish landscape of her childhood, warmed her soul, made her so glad for her new life.

As she walked on eyes half closed, a smile on her lips, the warm sun on her skin she breathed the morning eucalyptus air deeply into her lungs. She felt happy. And then it happened, she walked straight into a monsterous spiders web. It was huge. It left sticky strands all over her face as she screamed and wiped furiously hoping the spider wasn't crawling over her head. Australia is great she thought but it has its realities too. The nun wasn't home so she brushed herself down, sighed and headed off to Woolworths and back to the reality of her messy house.


Thursday, August 20, 2009


Feeling a bit like a helium balloon that has slowly deflated and is gathering dust behind the sofa.

Home from our holidays. Tired already from work. Tripping over half unpacked suitcases and avoiding the massive mountain of laundry....

Unmotivated to blog about anything except to tell you how unmotivated I am to blog.

Bah Humbug!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Black Pearls

The Cook Islands are famous for their salt water black pearls. The women here mark their wealth by the size and number of these shimmering dark grey pearls around their necks. The pearls are graded on their size, shape, colouring and perfection. There are pearl shops dotted around the Island and you can also buy them from stalls in the market.

They have baskets side by side with pearls ranging in price from $5 through to $300 each!

You wouldn't want to pick one out and forget which basket it came from!

Rhiannon and Sian after much deliberation at the souvenir keyring/pen/paperweight stalls finally decided to buy some black pearls as mementos and gifts for their special friends in Australia.

I asked Rhiannon if I could take a photo of her pearls when we got home to our house. She was very suspicious of whether I would lose them or not so I had to promise her $10 each per lost pearl. That is double what she paid for them so she agreed with a grin on her face.

I am now a nervous wreck and need to get back to our house to lock them in the safety deposit box before I misplace them!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Underwater Peter

The snorkeling here in Rarotonga has been one of the most memorable experiences of our holiday. The kids started off by having some free snorkeling lessons in the safety of the swimming pool wearing wetsuits, snorkels, masks and flipper all supplied for free by the resort. They were shown how to use the snorkels and how to blow out water from them after diving down to touch the bottom of the pool. It didn't take long to build up confidence.

The staff member who taught them is an inspirational young man called Peter. He is cheerful and enthusiastic which you kind of expect from staff at a holiday resort. The one thing that it took us a couple of days to notice was the slight limp he has when walking. It turns out that he was in an accident a couple of years ago which resulted in his left leg being amputated. He hasn't let this stop him do anything and he sat down and talked to the kids about it telling them that if they are really determined then nothing can get in the way of their dreams, even if they need to change their dreams like he has had to. It has been a real eye opener for the kids seeing someone so young be so positive after such a life changing event.

Peter took his prosthesis off and got in the water where he carried on the snorkeling lesson to a bunch of mesmerised kids.

After a break for lunch we all went snorkeling in the sea. There is a shallow clean lagoon around the shore so there are virtually no waves and loads of amazing fish to swim with.

Rhiannon got a free waterproof case with her digital camera last birthday so we used it lots to take photos of the fish and us from the fish's viewpoint!

The kids wouldn't leave Peters side and one by one he swam around the coral reefs with them showing them all the different starfish, sea-slugs and the many types of fish.

I think when we go home we will find ourselves talking about the fabulous underwater experiences and the inspirational Peter.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Market Day.

Saturday in Rarotonga is market day.

All sorts of things are for sale to the background noise and music of traditional dancers and singers.

There are stalls with fresh fruits and vegetables.

Shirts in every colour of tropical print under the sun.

Homemade dresses.

Freshly cooked foods, cold coconuts.

And finally, a man with a chair and a sign " Shoulder massage $10"

How could I resist, especially as I had already spent the last few days swallowing migraine tablets to keep a nagging low grade migraine at bay. Oil was poured from an old plastic coke bottle and without me having said anything about my head within minutes the mans hands had stopped over the knot in my right shoulder. He prodded and poked and worked on the knot and areas of my scalp with the sweet smell of the brown coconut oil until I was floating somewhere up in the sky looking down on the hustle of the market. One last squeeze of my scalp and he bent down and whispered "God Bless You" in my ear leaving me headache free and covered in goose bumps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

St Joseph's school.

Today our bus ride into town took a detour down some side roads and we passed a local Primary School called St Joseph's. The kids all go to St Joseph's Kilaben bay in Australia so it was a novelty to see a school in the Cook Islands with the same name.

We went for a walk later on and stopped outside the school for a photo. As we stood in the foyer and looked at the notice board a nun walked out of the office and greeted us all with a hug. We explained who we were and why we had wanted to see her school.

She took Sian and myself off to the Year 6 classroom and brought us in. Sian was brought up the front and got to say hello and tell the kids about her year 6 in Australia. The class were learning about Australia that day so it was a real coincidence we had turned up. The kids were lovely, all very smiley and welcoming.

When we said goodbye and went back to find Byron he was having a very animated chat with another male teacher. It turns out that as they had talked this teacher asked Byron more specifically where we came from and within minutes they had worked out that the staff of this tiny school had travelled to World Youth Day in Sydney last year and had stayed in OUR St Josephs school! What an amazing coincidence.

We took their email address and said we will send them on the photos that we took at their school and also some photos from our St Joseph's when we get home. WE came out of the school with a real grin on our faces and a spring in our step. It feels so good to be seeing a little more than just the tourist face of the Island.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The far!

Our first week here in Rarotonga has been great. We have chilled out and done a lot of activities here that we hadn't expected to.

The weather has been a bit mixed so we have been joining in on some of the resort activities to pass the time on the cloudy days and making the most of the beach on the sunny ones.

The activities have not been karaoke, bingo and other hug-a-stranger types that we have experienced on other holidays.

They have been more about learning about the Island culture and traditions.

We have learned how to climb coconut trees (Watched NOT participated!) Woven hats and baskets from the palm leaves, learned some basic Maori, dyed our own sarongs and made flower head-dresses.

Just in case this sounds too wholesome for you we have also drank one of every cocktail on the menu (TWICE!) and the kids have become expert gamblers, well they placed $2 bets on the hermit crab races and won $30!

I have taken hundreds of photos and have been delighted with my little netbook. I have been able to download photos at the end of every couple of days and spent a little time editing them which will save me a huge job when I get home.

At night we usually return to our house about 9pm and the kids get ready for bed. Our house is one large open plan room so it makes it tricky to stay up too much later chatting while the kids try to sleep. We brought lots of tea lights and have spent time sitting upstairs on the deck drinking wine, watching the stars and listening to the sea. It has been quite windy every night so when the night lights all blow out and we start shivering that is when we call it quits and fall into bed ourselves.

I don't know where to start with picking some of my favourite photos so am just putting up a random mixture to give you a taste of what we have been up to...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tropical Breakfast

One of the things I am enjoying the most here in Rarotonga is breakfast!

It is a long buffet table with loads of tiny pastries, croissants, and the most amazing assortment of fruit ever. Star fruit, melon, fresh coconut slices, pear, apples, grapefruit, papaya, Star apples, grapes... the list goes on and on.

There is a moist oat based cereal called "Bircher Mueseli" which we argue over every morning. What is it made of? Oats soaked in fruit juice? Yogurt? Will we be able to make it when we get back home? Even if we do the view is unlikely to be quite so spectacular!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Happy 40th Birthday Mr B!

Happy 40th Birthday Mr B!

Today we sat up on the balcony to open all Byrons presents and cards while breathing in the fresh sea air and overlooking the morning waves lapping the shore outside our house. It was magical. He was delighted with all the good wishes from friends and family.

After breakfast the kids went crab hunting with the Moko Kids Club along t
he beach and Byron and myself went for a long walk along the beach. It was white sands stretching out as far as the eye could see, coconuts rolling around at the waters edge and blue, blue shallow water lapping at our feet.
A time to walk quietly, talk and stop for the occasional kiss without the kids yelling "Euugghhh!" in the background!

After lunch we were booked in to a "His+Hers" massage which left us both a bit spaced. Nothing for it then but to sit on the balcony with a bottle of chilled champagne and sip away the next couple of hours!

We arranged a birthday cake to be made for him and itwas brought to the table after our evening meal. It was a great end to a brilliant day!

Happy Birthday Mr B! You're looking good for an old man!

Birthday Message from Mr B!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Put the kettle on!

I'm sitting beside the pool in Rarotonga, NetBook on my left, cappuccino on my right and logged on to the resorts wireless Internet. I have kept track of our adventures over the last few days and am going to try to publish them in one big upload. So put the kettle on and join me with a cuppa to catch up on the adventures of the Baynhams abroad!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Worship and Relaxation

After the longest Saturday in my life, finally, it is Sunday! In the Cook Islands it is a day of Worship and relaxation. When in Rome do as the Romans do. We jumped out of bed, put on our smartest clothes (no bare arms, no bare legs!) had a quick tropical breakfast and waited for the Church bus outside reception.

There are a few churches on the island but the two that the bus goes to are the large Christian Church and the tiny Catholic St Mary's. We decided to go to St Mary's today. It is linked to St Josephs Primary School which is the same name as the kids school in Australia. We got there early and watched two island girls of a similar age to Sian get ready to Alter Serve. We said hello to them but they were very shy. Half the small congregation looked like visitors and half were islanders. The Mass was in English and involved song after song with occasional prayers in between!

The singing was truly amazing. The first hymn was a familiar one we sing at St Josephs in Kilaben Bay. There was a mixture of hymns in English, traditional cook Islands language and The Beatles! We sat in the same pew as some of the Islanders and when wishing peace instead of lots of handshakes there were big hugs and kisses all round! Poor Byron looked a little outside his I-am-not-a-regular-church-goer-and-never-plan-on-being comfort zone! I pressed record on the sound mike of my camera during one of the songs and it captured a 60 second sound clip. I have no idea if I can upload it here at some stage. It would be great if I could but it might have to wait until we are home from our holiday to sort out.

After Mass our bus driver was waiting for us and brought us to the Christian Church to wait
for their service to finish. We were invited to join them in a tea, coffee, sandwiches, cakes and fruit feast. It was so welcoming and generous of them. Not just the quantity of food but the effort that had gone in to making the homemade sandwiches and cakes. When we talked to some of the visitors that had been at the Christian service they strongly recommended we try to go next Sunday. They said it was 90% in the Islanders language and the songs were deafening! It gave a fantastic insight into the tradition and culture of the Rarotongans that you cant get from walking around a resort.

And so, home to the second half of our day, Full time Relaxation!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Date Line Deja Vu

How bizarre. Yesterday was Saturday and because of the date-line we woke up again this morning to another Saturday! Last nights trip off the plane was interesting... We hit some pockets of turbulence and Sian went a few shades of green before grabbing for the travel sick bag in the seat pocket. After that mini drama we got off the plane into the tiniest airport you have ever seen! It was one large room with huge wooden pitched roof. a little old man was playing songs on a ukulele and customs staff stood behind bamboo tables checking and stamping passports. The Duty Free was a small table with a hand drawn sign!

We were greeted by ladies in traditional sarongs who put flower necklaces around our necks and men in tropical shirts who handed us bottles of cold water and took our bags off us and showed us to our coach. Within a short drive we were at the resort and walked into a beautiful reception with low lights and champagne glasses of cold orange juice. We were walked to our little beach house and even though it was 2am the first thing we all did was run down to waters edge to feel the water on our feet. We had arrived!

We woke up to the sound of waves crashing on the beach outside our door. The kids were the first to wake and were kneeling on their beds by the front window big eyed at the sight of a white beach with a line of islanders with rakes "manicuring" the sand! We unlocked the door and they ran straight down to the waters edge. Byron wanted a hammock so our first priority was to find him one! Out came the first of the Newtons birthday presents, a "Fedora" straw hat, it made him look the part. Maree and John, this photo is just for you!

After he had chilled out swinging between the palm trees we went shopping in the resorts gift shop. We saw some very vibrant Hawaiian shirts and decided that if he was going to wear his "Newton" hat then he needed a suitably complimentary shirt... One quick family conference later and we picked out a fabulous red hibiscus print! We have made a holiday rule that he has to put it on every evening for cocktail hour! There were more than a few turned heads when he walked up to the bar to order:

Me: Ultimate Toblerone (Rich blend of Baileys Irish Cream, Frangelico, 42 Below Manuka Honey Vodka, Chocolate, Cream, Fresh honey and crushed nuts)

Mr B: Day Dreamer (Melon Liqueur, Southern Comfort, Absolute Vodka, Mango Juice, Grenadine)

Sian: Liquid Sunshine (Pineapple and Orange juices with a Cranberry Glow)

Rhiannon: Bounty (Coconut and Chocolate Milk with Ice-Cream)

Gareth: Cheeky Monkey (Banana and Chocolate milkshake with Ice-Cream)

I like this holiday tradition! I'm going to set my watch to 5pm and take out the battery!

Plane journey part two.

We are nearing the end of our second plane journey from New Zealand to Rarotonga. The transfer between flights sounded seamless. The airline would transfer our big cases from one plane to another and all we had to do was pass the three hours between flights shopping in Duty Free. No problem to me I thought! Except it was. We walked from the arrival area along the corridor to the International transfer. The cheerful staff told us we just needed to go through the security/x-ray/checking for liquids saga again. No problem because we had had confiscated all forbidden items in Sydney, or had we? The customs man spied the bright garish yellow plastic bag in Byron's hand. It contained a 1 liter bottle of an expensive Scottish Whisky that we had treated him to in the Duty Free in Sydney. It had been exempt from the 100mls liquid rule because it had been bought within the safety of the airport. What no-one thought to check in our case (and the case of many other families) was that once we landed in New Zealand and tried to board a different flight the bottle then fell foul of the 100mls rule. The only solution was letting the very cheerful customs man confiscate it, find some whisky enthusiasts, sit down and have an impromptu party, or more sensibly have Byron go through the customs arrival system step foot on New Zealand soil and re-queue to re-check in to the Rarotonga flight and have the Whisky taken off him and checked into the main luggage hold. Option one was out, option two, Byron did actually try, even going so far as to ask the customs man what time his shift ended, but eventually option three seemed the sensible choice.

We said goodbye to Mr B, his passport, boarding card, all our New Zealand cash and his 1 litre bottle of classic single malt. The customs man advised me to go through security with the kids and camp out in the Burger King upstairs. We watched Byron as he went through the Arrivals doors with a spring in his step and wondered if we would actually ever see him again?!

I walked into the x-ray department and found it empty and four customs officials ready to search us. And search us they did after Gareth set the alarms off by walking through the metal detector with a small toy car in his hand. Yes, maybe we looked suspicious, or maybe word had spread about the dangerous Baynhams but I got the full on "spread your arms and legs Ma'am"

I had explosives wands passed up and down and in between all sorts of places as the kids stood watching wide eyed. Next came the computerised explosives detector where I was rubbed with a small piece of tape and it was fed into the machine to find minuscule nano bits (?) of explosive. I held my breath as the machine thought about whether to make my day a good one or a very interesting one. Luckily I had avoided playing with fireworks this morning and we finally got the nod to go through. I was able to breath again. That is until Gareth stepped into my spot and spread his arms and legs and looked up with big twinkling eyes and said "Me next?!" It was a great ice breaker and the lady laughed and said not today, she said he looked pretty harmless and we could head on to Burger King.

We thought we were in for a long wait for Byron but with all the time spent in security he walked up shortly after us. He had not had that straightforward a time as the customs officials were very suspicious of him checking out when he was due to be on another flight so soon. After much persuasion and another offer to just sit down and drink the Whisky they let him through and he was able to rejoin us. And so we find ourselves on our final leg of our journey to paradise.

The plane is just starting its descent and my ears are beginning to pop. We have just passed the International Dateline and now instead of being Saturday night it is once again Sat morning, we have just officially gone back in time. Good bye and next time we talk we will be in Holiday Mode!

Plane Journey: Part one.

We got off to an early start this morning. We joke with Byron that he likes to check in hours ahead of the suggested time but he compromised on a 4am start leaving us plenty of time to do the 2 hour drive to Sydney airport. The last time we flew Gareth was not quite 3 years old and we had a baby buggy and all the extra bits and pieces that travelling with a toddler entailed. This time seemed so much easier with three kids who don't run away while you are trying to find your boarding pass. The thing that had changed was the airport security. Understandably, since the terrorist events of recent years, the level of checks were hugely increased. We were bombarded with messages warning us about no liquids over 100mls in our hand luggage. We warned the kids to be on best behaviour as we passed through the different customs checkpoints. They were really well behaved and pulled their little mini suitcases on wheels behind them as we snaked our way though the queues.

When we got to the x-ray machines we had to put Sian and Rhiannon's small pot of eczema cream into a zip loc bag. When Sian heard us talking about it she suddenly remembered that she had the monster sized tub in her wheelie suitcase. The staff confiscated the big tub and asked us for a prescription or Dr's letter for the little pot. We didn't have one but because Rhiannon's eczema on her face had flared up red and angry that morning they let it through. As all this was being discussed Byron's mobile phone started ringing. He held it tight against his ear to try to hear who it was and didn't hear the customs staff telling him to turn his phone off straight away. By the time he was warned for the third time in no uncertain terms to terminate the call NOW and still wasn't listening I had to shake his to tell him he was close to having security haul him away. We still have no idea who was calling to say hi but they nearly ended our holiday before it began!

We were feeling a little flustered by now and put all our bags on the x-ray conveyor belt. Byron set the alarms off because he forgot to empty his coins from his pockets and by now the customs staff were looking less than happy with our whole family. It wasn't a surprise then when Sian's bag flagged up a security alert. They went through it item by item and found a shower gel in it which she had packed herself. They threw it in the bin next to her and re x-rayed her bag. By the time we reclaimed all our bags and got the go ahead to proceed to the next point it was too much for Sian who got very upset at the whole thing. I think it was very overwhelming for the kids seeing how serious the whole process of customs checks are even though we appreciate that they are necessary. It was a relief to get to the boarding gate and hear our flight called over the loudspeakers.

The kids have found it so exciting boarding the plane and gripping each others hands as the plane built up speed down the runway. We have spent the last couple of hours snacking on remarkably good airline food and will be landing in Auckland soon. Ooops! There goes the flight announcement to put away all laptops, iPods etc. Perfect timing, New Zealand here we come!