Rory Gardiner's Webpage

26, Jan, 2011

Wednesday 26th January 2011

Sam and Rory have had some fantastic experiences over the past two weeks.  I am glad they had the opportunity to do so, but I couldn’t find any peace until they were home, and we were all together under the same roof. 

Sam spent four days in New Plymouth on the Sport Taranaki holiday programme.  He had a fantastic time.  By Friday he was exhausted, sunburnt, and had blood shot eyes.  It was full on every day with over 24 sports and games on offer.  Uncle Guy works at Sport T and when I picked Sam up on Friday I couldn’t help but wonder how his job can be called a job as he was giving as good as he was getting in a water fight with a bunch of kids, and during the tug of war!  Rory was away from home for five days at Camp Quality.  The Central Districts camp was based in Stratford this year, with a pirate theme.  Rory’s courage continues to blow me away.  He has an internal strength far beyond his age.  He showed only enthusiasm about attending the camp.  Not once did he show any apprehension or fear.  I didn’t want to probe him to see if he had any reservations because I didn’t want to put any negative ideas into his head.  It was the first time he had spent a nght away from Sean/I since he was diagnosed.  Rory helped me pack his bag, and then got on the mini-bus in Inglewood.  His companion Mike met him in Stratford and was with him the whole time he was away, 24/7.  I don’t trust anyone with Rory but Mike did an outstanding job and didn’t let us down.  He was there steadfastly supporting and encouraging Rory.  Rory thinks the world of him.  Mike txted us each night to let us know Rory was ok.  Mike said the biggest achievement for Rory on camp was coming out of his shell, so he could participate fully in what was on offer.  Over the five days the children took part in many activities; farm visit (sheep shearing, 4WDing, quad bike riding, slippery slide, tractor driving, milk tanker visit), sports games (egg and spoon race, tug of war, cricket, blind soccer, rounders, bouncy castle, frisbee, kite flying), army jeep rides, helicopter ride, swimming, pirate activities (treasure hunt, puzzles, sword fights, skits), fireworks, zoo visit, train ride, scavenger hunt at the museum, YMCA visit (obstacle course, climbing wall, sports games), Festival of Lights at Pukekura Park, craft and plaster craft (he decorated models for Sean, Sam, Colt and I, and made us sit down with our eyes closed when he unpacked his bag), rides in Mustangs and V8’s, and a night time disco.  All of the planning and organising (transport, catering, accommodation, information), companionship and medical care (nurses) was done by volunteers at no cost to the families.  It is a phenomenal effort.  You only have to read the Camp Quality daily newsletters, look at the photos, and be in the presence of the children and their companions, to understand what a significant event it is in the children’s lives.  We drove to Stratford on Sunday to pick up Rory so we could see for ourselves.  Camp is a parent-free zone and we knew little about what was planned.  I felt a bit like an intruder when we entered the mess hall where everyone was gathered for prize giving.  There was a strong sense of acceptance and unity among the 60 children and their companions.  When Rory saw me he made his way down to the back of the hall.  I knelt down to hug him and burst into tears.  The whole five days he had been away had been trying for me.  There was a feeling of amputation, like I was missing something significant, and a fear it wouldn’t return.  It was good to feel him real in my arms.

Colt continues to do what babies do.  His night waking is creeping towards get-up time (4-5am) some mornings so it isn’t worth going back to sleep.  He has started to follow our voices with his eyes, and smile.  We all delight in wasting time to see if we can get him to smile for us.  He has been nicknamed ‘Colt baby’ by his two year old cousin Mikayla who delighted in coating him with black Taranaki sand at the beach.  It is hard to wash off!  I have started expressing milk in anticipation of returning to work, and Sean has been encouraging Colt to learn how to suck from a bottle.  We have had some lovely cards and presents from Mrs Wily, the Limby-Miller household (Happy Birthday Lewis), and Auntie Olwyn and Uncle Sid.  Thank you all. 

We have continued with our adventures.  Sean has been a bit debilitated with a sprained ankle (we thought he had fractured it), and I finally got out my problem back molar (even the boys thought it was gruesome).  We have been to three new places in the past fortnight.  We walked the Cardiff Walkway along the Waingongoro River.  The bush was full of kamahi and fuschia.  We followed the track to the lookout over surrounding farmland, and our ever present maunga.  The boys had a swim in the river downstream from two weirs.  We have started taking an interest in the history of the areas we are visiting.  The track comes out at the site of NZ’s first butter factory, and there is a ram and a sandtrap on the river, part of its operation.  A slice has been cut away from the cliff opposite the car park.  It shows, with an interpretation board, the geological history of the area i.e. eruptions of Mt Taranaki, and Taupo.  We drove north to Pukearuhe and tramped the short loop of the Whitecliffs walkway (6.5kms, 4 hrs).  The track winds its way up (and up) through farmland to Mt Davidson.  We heard bellbird and saw a mob of goats.  It was a sweltering hot sunny day, and the view was impressive.  The track then drops down into the bush (there were lots of steps) to meet the Waipingau Stream and a swing bridge.  The track continues north through the bush (up and down) to Tongaporutu (14ms), but we followed the stream out to the coast where we had a picnic.  Colt seems comfortable in the front pack.  We came out on the beach under the White Cliffs.  They are high and imposing, you feel very small and insignificant in the scheme of things.  They boys had a swim in the sea on the way back to the car while I fed Colt in a cave out of the sun.  On the way home we stopped at the memorial marking where Revered Whitely, and several others, were massacred towards the end of the Taranaki land wars.  On Saturday we visited the mouth of the Waingongoro River with the Ornithological Society.  The rocky outlet is visited by a surprising diversity of birds, including a Large sand dotterel and Pacific golden plover.  On the walk back we picked wild blackberries which I made into a crumble.