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Parenting, Travel

The Place I call Home – A New Zealand Travel Blog – Northland in a Campervan Part 1

May 29, 2020

Northland, unsurprisingly, comprises the uppermost tip of the North Island of New Zealand. Northland is perfect for exploring in a campervan. It is long and narrow, and the drive takes you through ancient forests and along stunning coastlines. Northland is rich in history and culture, both Maori and Pakeha (European), and it has its own micro-climate.

This New Zealand campervan trip around Northland marked our first family adventure in a campervan. This trip gave us a taste of the freedom a campervan can offer us, and the beautiful spots we could discover only in a home with wheels. We were hooked.

The Kauri Coast Highway

We picked up our Maui campervan in Auckland and headed north. A helpful hint here, if you are spending your first day in a campervan, don’t plan to travel too far. Limit yourself to a few hours of driving, planning for stops, and schedule plenty of time to set up for your first night in the new campervan.

Our first break was at Kaiwaka. This charming little town is definitely worth the stop. To stock up on cheese from the Kaiwaka Cheese if nothing else! A creamy blue to accompany a cold glass of wine with a beautiful view at the end of a day’s travel?

We continued to follow the Kauri Coast Highway, a scenic detour from the main Twin Coast Discovery Highway. Heading off the main highway is our modus operandi. Throughout our Northland trip, we managed to spend only a few hours on the main four-lane highway. By staying off the main highway we could stop in the little Bays for lunch on the waterfront, explore ancient Kauri forests and stop at roadside stalls for fresh fruit and vegetables, artisan sausages, and cheese tasting of course!

We spent our first night at the Pine Beach campground at Kai Iwi Lakes, parked up on the waterfront. We could make dinner whilst watching the girls played on the sand. There are also fantastic walking tracks, including a walk around the lake (30 – 45 minutes) or a walk across the dunes to the surf beach. Unfortunately, we only planned to be here for a night, so we didn’t get a chance to explore the area. It is a common theme of this trip that we should have doubled the amount of time spent in every location.

Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest

The next day we followed the Kauri Coast Highway through the ancient and stunning Waipoua Forest, home to the famous Tane Mahuta. Tāne Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living Kauri tree at over 51 meters high!

According to Maori mythology, Tāne is the son of Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother). Tāne was the child that tore apart his parents’ parental embrace. His growth broke apart the embrace of Ranginui and Papatūānuku, to allow space and light in between them for life to flourish. Tane Mahuta is regarded as the parent to all living creatures of the forest.

Logging of native trees drastically depleted Kauris from the 1820s until its ban in 2002. Kauri Dieback Disease now threatens the few giants that remain. For this reason, when you enter a DOC managed forest in New Zealand you will be asked to clean your shoes.

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Tane Mahuta
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Hokianga Harbour and a history lesson

The Kauri Coast Highway then took us through to the Hokianga Harbour where we stopped at Opononi. Arriving at Opononi is like stepping back in time. A place where the pace is slow and the people are down to earth. There are amazing views, wharves to fish off, and stunning picnic spots.

Next, we headed to Rawene to catch the Rawene Ferry. My husband appears to love ferries and will schedule them in wherever he can. Its all part of staying off the main Highway I guess…

Rawene is one of the oldest European towns in New Zealand. Unfortunately, this charming and quaint historical village was not built for campervan parking…

Rawene is however home to excellent cafes, galleries like the Boatshed Gallery, and the historic Clendon House. Clendon House is a heritage house where the Treaty of Waitangi was signed. The Treaty is the founding document for the New Zealand settlement by Europeans. The Treaty traveled throughout New Zealand and was signed in numerous locations. 

One surprising thing I learned on this trip is that one of my ancestors actually signed the Treaty of Waitangi (as a settler), and potentially acted as an interpreter. Maybe not something to be proud of given the interpretation issues with the Treaty, but still fascinating history.

Ninety Mile Beach, the beach that is not ninety miles long!

We spent our second night in Ahipara, staying at the Ahipara Holiday Park. This wasn’t our first choice, but it was a lovely, clean holiday park. And the girls had a surprise the next morning with an Easter Egg Hunt in and around the campervan (we were finding Easter Eggs for days… silly Easter Bunny didn’t count how many eggs she hid!).

The main attraction at Ahipara is Ninety Mile Beach. Which, incidentally, is not ninety miles long! Ninety Mile Beach is a renowned surf beach, and famous for its sunsets. The beach itself is actually an official highway. As novel as it is to take a drive down the beach (which we couldn’t do in a hired camper), I didn’t enjoy the vehicles roaring past whilst trying to explore the beach with two young children.

Although Ahipara is an adventurer’s paradise, it wasn’t somewhere I’d rave about for a family with young children. However, as a gateway to the Far North, it was worth the stay.

The Far North, lighthouses and spirits

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Cape Reinga
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Cape Reinga, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

The Far North is where it gets really fun! We headed to Cape Reinga, the (mostly) northernmost point of New Zealand. The Cape is home to the famous landmark, the Cape Reinga Lighthouse, and a lone Pohutukawa tree. It is also (arguably) the most significant spiritual area for the Maori people. The Cape itself marks the departure point for Maori spirits, the point from which Maori wairua (spirit) return to their traditional homeland after they die.

I cannot stress enough how sacred this area is. It is well marked. Yet when we were there a tourist was assisting her son to pee in the bushes. There are public toilets. Please don’t be that tourist.

We spent the night in the appropriately named Spirits Bay at the Kapowairua (Spirits Bay) DOC conservation campsite. To get to the campsite we had to detour down a long dirt road, but it was well worth the extra drive. This is one of those areas we would not have been able to explore without a camper/mobile home.

Spirits Bay had an eery (yet comforting?) feeling about it. Oddly, I’m not the only one to think so. When researching for this blog, I found an article that included Spirits Bay in a list of New Zealand’s eeriest spots. Legend has it that, at night, spirits can be seen moving down the beach toward that lone ancient Pohutukawa tree on the tip of the Cape, and then suddenly disappearing. I didn’t see any spirits, but I certainly didn’t like being out on that (beautiful) beach on my own!

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Spirits Bay
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Spirits Bay, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Te Paki Sand-Duning Adventures

Time for a bit of fun? How about sandboarding down the GIANT Te Paki Sand Dunes? The sand formations, vegetation and continually moving sand really make you feel like you are heading into the desert. Hire the boards on-site. Don’t bother trying your bodyboards. Pay the $10 for a specially designed and waxed board… it is worth the money.

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Te Paki Sand Dunes
New Zealand Campervan Travel
Giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, a New Zealand Campervan Experience

Next, it is time to head south again. Where there are plenty of adventures to be had, wine to be tasted, wild Kiwi spotting, and stunning scenery to enjoy. In Part Two of this Northland blog we will be enjoying Matauri Bay and the Bay of Islands… more to come!

This article does not contain affiliate links. Any recommendations are my own honest accounts. I will not receive any commission from any of the recommendations I have made in this article. However, I will have helped support the New Zealand tourism industry post-Covid-19 lockdown.

#travellocal #supportNewZealand #tourismNewZealand #NewZealandCampervan

This blog is part of The Place I call Home Series, a #NewZealandTravelBlog.

lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

The Iconic Yellowstone NP – An Amazing Journey Series

September 6, 2018

Yellowstone took my breath away. I thought it would be a great place to travel.  But it well and truly surpassed my expectations.  Another iconic stop in our Amazing Journey that will be etched in my heart, and in my children’s memories, forever.

Planning your trip to Yellowstone

When it comes to planning your trip to Yellowstone, its best to remember there are distinct areas and themes – geysers, wildlife, hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  There is so much to see and do and you could easily spend a lifetime exploring the park.  In fact, people do.  Our fishing guide was a retired scientist who, together with his wife, spent every summer in their RV at Yellowstone – working and exploring.  There is always something new.

The sheer size of the park makes it difficult to get around.  There can be hours of travel between these areas.  Particularly if you have bear jams, or snow, or traffic!

The other thing to consider is the season.  We were there in June, and it snowed.  A lot.  Luckily we had a cabin, but the poor tents suffered.  And it was freezing – meaning the iconic Grand Prismatic was just a huge bowl of steam.

My biggest regret at Yellowstone?  Only allowing three days.  The iconic Yellowstone could be a destination all on its own.

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Lamar Valley

We entered the park from the North East Entrance, straight into Lamar Valley.  This worked well logistically, as the Lamar Valley was quite isolated from where we were staying at Lake Yellowstone Hotel.  It also meant we got to explore the Bear Tooth highway on the way into the Park.

Yellowstone NP has abundant wildlife, but the Lamar Valley is particularly recommended for wildlife spotting.  The Valley is home to bison, black bears, bighorn sheep, elk, grizzly bears, mule deer, pronghorn, and wolves.

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One of the first things that struck us about Yellowstone, before we even spotted the animals was the smell.  We couldn’t pick it, but the air just smelt like fresh herbs.  It turns out it was wild Thyme.  You can spot it in this photo, the wild Sage and Thyme are growing like grass and the smell in the air is just amazing!

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Next time – I’d love to allow for an early morning at Lamar Valley in the hope of hearing to the wolves’ cries and spotting a few bears!

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Canyon Visitors Centre and the Junior Ranger Programme

With the weather turning, we decided to spend a few hours at the Canyon Visitors Information Centre.  It was a great place to explore, to get out of the weather, and to plan the rest of our stay at Yellowstone.  The girls also signed up for the Junior Ranger Programme.

Having visited a number of the United States National Parks, I have to say how impressed I was with the Rangers, the helpfulness of everybody, and the incredible Junior Ranger Programme!  On signing up the girls were given booklets to work through, learning about the Park, its history, the environment and how to look out for the wild animals.  The girls learnt so much on this trip, through hands-on experiences that they would never have had in school.

On completing the Junior Ranger Programme the girls were duly sworn in by the Rangers and given their badge.  What an amazing programme!

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

As the Grand Canyon was on the way to our cabin at Lake Yellowstone Hotel we decided to stop in for a quick visit and hike down to the Lower Falls Brink.  I didn’t quite know what to expect, but it was breathtaking.

One word of caution, this hike is steep.  But we managed it with the family, so you should be fine with a modest level of fitness.

Unfortunately for us, it started snowing about now so it was a quick hike UP the hill to the carpark.

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Lower Falls Brink

And the view from Artists’ Point.

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View from Artists’ Point

Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin

The next day, we awoke to MORE snow.  But it did make for beautiful photos, and a good day to explore the Old Faithful Inn.

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Around Lake Yellowstone

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The Old Faithful Inn made a great spot to sit with hot chocolates and wait for ye Old Faithful.  IF we had more time, I would have loved to have taken a tour of the building and learnt more about its history.  Another free tour put on by the Rangers.

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The Old Faithful Geyser is a must see.  If not just because of its iconic status, but also because you are guaranteed to see it go off.  There is a great sightseeing spot on the deck of the Old Faithful Hotel (hot chocolate in hand!).

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Old Faithful

Grand Prismatic

Unfortunately, the Grand Prismatic was full of steam, and we couldn’t really see much at all.  Apparently, it happens when it snows.

And to top it off – the parking was next to impossible.  We were at Yellowstone in June, in the shoulder season.  The traffic and parking in July would be extremely difficult.  Unfortunately, Yellowstone doesn’t run shuttles like some of the other National Parks.

This is Yellowstone though, and there are plenty more bubbling mud pools, geysers and steam pits to explore.

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Mammoth

Miss M was getting exhausted with the long days, so we decided to head over to the Mammoth Hot Springs area.  It was a good hour and a bit drive so it gave her a chance to have a snooze in the car (this became a routine on our trip – early starts, late nights, and afternoon naps for our 7-year-old…).  But it worked.  See, a smile!

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Lake Yellowstone

Luckily it had stopped snowing by day 3 when we had pre-booked salmon fishing on Lake Yellowstone!  I’m not really a keen fisherperson, but how could you not go out on Lake Yellowstone?

Although the fish weren’t biting we learnt a lot about the history of the lake and heard stories about the old zoo on the island and the rogue that built it.  We even spotted early morning wildlife out for a stroll, as well as native Eagles flying low over the lake.

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Eating and Sleeping in Yellowstone

In terms of the accommodation, you can book this a year out.  I thought we had plenty of time, we didn’t. We were lucky and managed to get the last cabin.  Given there were no cancellation fees, I would book as soon as you possibly can, even if you need to change later.

Although the cabin had no cooking facilities, there was a fridge and with a little creativity, you could self-cater.  We had stocked up with plates, bowls, knives, forks, cups etc at Walmart, as well as food supplies.  We were able to self-cater with cereal for breakfast and picnic lunches.  For dinner, we had pre-made salads and cold meats.  We rewarded ourselves on our last night with dinner out at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel!

A trip to Yellowstone wouldn’t be complete without hanging out in one of the iconic lodges.  We took the ooportunity to relax, and have a cocktail, while waiting for dinner at the Hotel.

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Catching up with diary entries at Lake Yellowstone Hotel

The Hotel offered fine-dining US style, amongst power cuts.  I tried Buffalo (these are not Yellowstone Buffalo, they are farmed for the purpose).

And we got to enjoy the views … well, we did after I asked to be moved (they initially tried to put us in an obscure corner where the children couldn’t disturb their other guests … not my style, our girls have table manners and we were there to enjoy the surroundings as much as the next guest!).

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Fine dining at Lake Yellowstone Hotel – even with children!

Lake Yellowstone and Fishing Village

The sun has finally come out for a beautiful drive around Lake Yellowstone on our way out of the park.

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Next time?

Yellowstone is an absolutely amazing and iconic destination.  We crammed in a lot for our short timeframe. They were long days and we were all exhausted, but it was absolutely worth it.

I’m not sure I’ll get back to Yellowstone anytime soon, it is quite a hike from New Zealand.  But maybe one day Hubby and I will be the oldies parked up in the staff RV village working and exploring the park :).

This blog is part of the Amazing Journey Series.

Five years ago we re-evaluated our lives and our goals after the sudden loss of my mother in law.  We vowed to slow down and to enjoy life with our small children.  We got outside and explored.  And we travelled.  This Amazing Journey series documents our journey through Canada and the US, provides an insight on travelling with children, local destination tips and tricks, and, of course, gives an Accountant’s perspective on making the most of your holiday dollar. Earlier entries are here:

The Mickey Mouse guide to the value of money – saving for the dream family adventure

4000 miles, 5 weeks and 2 kids – an amazing journey series part 1

It all starts now – an Amazing Journey series – part 2

Vancouver with two children, walking shoes and the man flue – an Amazing Journey series – part 3

Bear Spotting in Jasper National Park

Icefields Parkway

Lake Louise and Banff National Park

Bear Tooth Highway

Coming up – RV Life…

Accounting 4 Chaos #Yellowstone

 




#Yellowstone #YellowstoneNP #Bloggerlife #Travelblogger

Parenting

I am the happiest person in the world!

August 30, 2018

Tonight at bedtime my daughter said to me “Mummy, I’m the happiest person in the world, happy, happy, happy!”.

“Why are you so happy?” I asked her.

“Because I have the best Mummy in the whole wide world!”.

Well.  I didn’t expect that one.

I haven’t done anything special.

Thinking back on the day:

  • I made her cry this morning when she was mucking around and we were trying to get out the door.
  • I confiscated her special toy when she refused to put a jumper on.
  • She had to go to after-school care while I worked.
  • Hubby picked her up, made dinner, asked her how her speech went and was generally the primary caregiver for the night.
  • I finally got home after the girls’ dinner, just in time for the Girl Guides run and bedtime.

So what did I do to deserve this?

I was just me.  I gave her cuddles, showed her I loved her and was there to tuck her into bed.  And that was enough.

As much as we feel the guilt of being away from our children, and the tug of that invisible umbilical cord, us Mums need to stop beating ourselves up about our “failures”.

Just being there, being present and in the moment, is enough.

We are enough.  We can be happy.  Right here, right now. Be in the moment.

Take care,

XX

Accounting4Chaos #Mummyguilt #happy



 

lifestyle, Parenting

Blogging failures – when a Technophobe tries to blog!

July 27, 2018

It’s Friday and it’s time to celebrate the weekend!!  Unfortunately, I’m still doing Dry July so I won’t be seeing in the weekend with the traditional Friday night glass of wine (OK, the reality is it’s probably more like a bottle!)

I’ve been back at work this week after our beautiful holiday in Taupo.  Here’s a little snapshot (proper blog to follow shortly):

Accounting 4 Chaos #travelblogging

Miss M and I exploring Taupo whilst Hubby and Miss T are off skiing without us…

I’ve also been a bit quiet on the blogging side.  But truth be told, there is a reason for that!

Continue Reading…

lifestyle, Parenting

Parenting failures – when things don’t go to plan

July 17, 2018

If you’ve been following along you will know that it is currently school holidays in New Zealand.  If you’re new to this blog, welcome!  Anyway, it is currently school holidays, and I’ve got a week off work to spend with my girls.

It all started out great, with traditional hut making and sleepovers, and a touch of roller skating…  And that is where it started to go wrong (unbeknown to me).  Miss M was complaining of a sore wrist after a fall on the roller skating rink.  She could still move her wrist in all directions, bend her fingers, and do everything else a wrist is supposed to do.  So we decided to put an ice pad on, and give it a day or so to settle down.

A few days later and the wrist was still sore.  The X-Rays revealed a sprain.  The Doctors were a little more concerned.  And this is the result:

Accounting 4 Chaos Parenting Failure #parentingfailure #parenting #rollerskating #failure

(She is not in pain by the way).

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Budgeting, Parenting

School Holiday Device Free Fun!

July 15, 2018

I was so proud of the girls today.  We managed to have a great day, without devices – wet and windy wild weather and all.

After a treat for breakfast (bacon and egg baps, with coffee from the cafe around the corner for Hubby and I), I took the girls roller skating.  Although Miss M has been skating before, she is still very much a learner, and this was Miss T’s first time on a skating rink.  After a few false starts, they had a ball.  They raced each other and the clock.  There were “musical spots”, “show off your tricks” (i.e. manage not to fall over), and skating “limbo” (not surprisingly, the tiny tots on wheels won this one!).  A hurt tailbone and a sore wrist later, they can’t wait to come back!  All for a $2 entry fee!  A bit of frugal family fun for my new better budgeting segment I think.

The girls – in a good mood – even helped me with grocery shopping on the way home.  Well, not sure if “helped” is the right word, but they certainly took it upon themselves to fill up my trolley for me…

After lunch we did the traditional childhood thing and had the neighbourhood children over for an afternoon of hut building, playing board games, making a banana cake for afternoon tea and pizza for dinner.  Followed of course by ice cream sundaes.

Somehow we have been convinced that the neighbour should stay for a sleepover.  They dragged the spare TV into the hut, snuggled up in the piles of cushions and blankets under fairy lights and sheets and watched a movie.  And that is where they are now.  In the hut, on the floor, snuggled up in blankets and cushions.  Not quite asleep.

Building childhood school holiday memories.

XX

Accounting 4 Chaos school holiday #schoolholidays #schoolholidayfun #frugalfamilyfun


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lifestyle, Parenting

It’s the holidays!

July 14, 2018

It’s school holidays!  Well, to be fair the girls have been on holiday for a week already, but have been at school holiday programme.  NOW I am also on holiday for a week!

YAY!

Bring on a week of sleep ins, lazy mornings sipping coffee in the sun, reading blogs.  Movies with the kids.  A trip to the skating rink.  And a few days in Taupo.  A touch of prawn fishing (I will have to explain that one more when we do it!).  And Hubby may even take the girls skiing.

I have also set myself a few blog goals:

  • I’m writing a guest blog on ‘teaching your children the value of money’, I have timed this to get it done on my week off.
  • I want to get my ‘subscribe’ button working.
  • I’ll keep you all up to date with our holiday adventures 🙂

And of course there are a few boring jobs to do around the house.  I’ve already cleaned the linen cupboard.

Have a great week!

XX

Accounting 4 Chaos #schoolholidays #taupo

Lake Taupo winter holidays (a few years ago)

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Parenting

Thirteen candles – walking on egg-shells and dodging land mines

July 8, 2018

There were thirteen candles in our house this week. Officially a teenager in the house.  A milestone duly celebrated with even more teenagers for a teenage sleepover!!

All whilst I’ve pledged not to touch a drop of alcohol for Dry July!  Luckily for me, a compassionate mother has sponsored me a “Golden Pass” so I can commiserate the upcoming teenage years with a well-deserved glass of red wine.

So what are we in store for?

The metaphor of conquering Everest in the wrong shoes springs to mind [Rachel Halliwell on the terrible teens] 

To me, the most surprising thing is how much my 13-year-old resembles her two-year-old self.

Like her two-year-old self, she is prone to tantrums because she cannot find the “right” shoes or the pants she wants to wear are in the wash (absolutely my fault, washing should be a same-day-service, oh, and I should be a mind reader and ensure that whatever has been dumped on the bathroom floor appears clean on the day she wants it!).

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lifestyle, Parenting, Travel

11 unforgettable days in Canada!

July 4, 2018

Canada is an absolutely stunning country.  It has wide open spaces and turquoise blue lakes, surrounded by the snowy caps of the Rocky Mountains.  There are hot springs and local breweries, poutine and bear jams.  It is an ideal place to explore and grow as a family.

This itinerary covers the sights, history and culture of Vancouver, and gets you out into the Alps, exploring the lakes and away from the crowds.

#Canada Accounting4chaos

Spirit Island

Continue Reading…

lifestyle

A Pledge for Dry July

July 1, 2018

I’ve signed up for Dry July!  I have pledged not to touch a drop of alcohol for the month of July, and I’ve signed up for the Dry July fundraiser to raise funds for people affected by cancer.

Not only am I looking forward to the health benefits of not drinking for a month, but I’ve also lost too many people I love to the hideous illness.

I was 18 when my father rolled his truck on his way home from work.  The first few cars drove past him, thinking he was a drunk driver.  But the truth was, he had suffered a stroke.  He was flown in the rescue helicopter to Auckland where emergency surgery kept him alive.  We arrived in the early hours of the morning, baby brothers in tow, to find out the cause of the stroke was a brain tumour the size of a golf ball.  Dad was given two months to live.  Three days later my youngest brother turned five.

Continue Reading…

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