Ps. Franz Josef and the Fox

I mentioned in my last post that we were in search of glaciers but hadn’t yet found them. Yesterday and today we did.

Amazement and wonder.

Yesterday, the whole crew hiked up to a jawdropping view of the FJ and got some excellent college knowledge from Big Phoebe on glacier science along the way.

Today, Brendan, William, Holly, and I had the adventure of a lifetime ice-climbing on the Fox Glacier, which we reached by a thrilling helicopter ride. Consider several more bucket-list items checked.

I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

William getting vertical… Followed closely by the courageous Holly.

Abesailing! Or, who goes up must come down.

The ice formations were breathtaking.

As was the form shown by all four of us on the ice…

I’ve always thought one of the best things about adventuring with your kids is that you have no choice but to be brave, so they won’t be scared either. This time, I’m pretty sure they were the ones being brave for me!  Whatever the formula, it worked. A truly awesome experience.

The Answer Is Yes, Yes, Yes, . . . and Yes

To those of you who have sometimes asked, “Isn’t it a pain moving around all the time?”  “Isn’t it hard being away from your nice house?” “Don’t you all get exhausted?”

The answer is YES. A definite yes to esch of these questions.

And I think we were all feeling a bit of that exhaustion after we finished up at another laundromat and then packed up to leave the west coast “town” of Punakaiki (pop’n <50), on our way to the even smaller village of Whataroa, at the base of Nz’s glacier country.

All of our stuff, jammed into the 2001 Nissan El Grande we bought the day we arrived in NZ and will, hopefully, sell before we depart.

All of our stuff before we jammed it into the El Grande, which we affectionately call “Ol’ Dusty, Ol’ Beaut.”  Plus Brendan doing some exercises to warm-up for the task.

The inside of the house we had rented in Punakaiki.  It was literally falling apart.  See the ceiling example below.

Brendan marveled that the owners were bold enough to charge rent for the place.  At the beginning of the trip, I may well have refused to stay here.  (And I’m not even showing you the single bathroom we, all 7, shared.)  This time, though, we took to heart William’s comment when we arrived, “Well, it has everything we need.”  

Which it pretty much did.

B, a little exhausted, from the pack-up and the push-ups, but keeping his eye on the (left side of) the road, as the rest of us try to catch first glimpses of  the famed Franz Josef Glacier.

No glaciers today, but we did see the river flowing off the glacier.  Pretty cool. Literally.

William apparently pretty tired too, perhaps worn out from yesterday rescuing Coco, myself, and our nearly sunken double kayak from the Pahoara River (embarrassing Alex story better addressed in a future post).

Of course, the ultimate question is whether the perpetual packing up, constant moving around, frequent crankiness, and sometimes creepy adventures in budget accommodations–PLUS having essentially three outfits to wear for an entire ten months–is worth what we get in return.

Again, a photo replay of the last few days provides the answer.

Sunset at Punakaiki’s Pancake Rocks last night.

The walk we took earlier in the evening among the sandstone formations of Truman Track.  We didn’t actually see any blue penguins, but you could tell they were close.

Another spot on the beach, this one where cousin Phoebe and I started our day with some yoga…

And more than all of the beautiful places we have been so lucky to experience…

A new, grown up friendship with this amazing cousin, who wasn’t even born when Brendan and I attended Bowdoin College up the road from her parents’ home in Maine.  Now we count Phoebe Walsh (aka Phoebe of Maine, aka Big Phoebe) as a good friend and companion in adventure, as well as the source of many of the amazing photos you’re now seeing on the blog. 

Though not this one, which shows a can of Pinot Noir, she and I recently enjoyed on a backpacking trip.

Tons of wonderful time with this handsome guy who I don’t see nearly enough of at home, as much because of his hectic schedule as mine.

Helping teach this little lady to tie her shoes (in between watching waterfalls), something I have no memory of doing with the others.

Watching Holly, who seemed to be growing up way too fast at home, have lots of room to goof around with her big bro…

…while also continuing to become the very cool person she continues to be.

And building the 48th sandcastle of the trip with my magical Coco, each one better than the last.

There are also the small things.

When we arrived at our Whataroa house, which is in fact a double-wide trailer…

we were met with a wonderful surprise…

Our first dishwasher in New Zealand!

  • Until now, we’ve been doing dishes the old fashioned way.  Wash, rinse, and dry made for some good family bonding. Still, this modern convenience was an exciting and welcome development. And this was actually Coco’s genuine reaction.

It’s amazing how it takes a trip around the world to help you, and your kids, appreciate what really matters at home.

Big Phoebe

Big Phoebe here, with some reflections on my interesting spot within the Walsh-O’Brien gang.

It’s fun toeing the line between kid and adult. I’ve always been Phoebe, but now I get to be Big Phoebe. I also get to be a Walsh, first cousins with Alex. I’m 22 years old and I just graduated college, which means, although I’m only seven years older than William, I can swap stories of college with Alex and Brendan.


So, how am a mix of parent and kid? Well, I love sunscreen. I’m a sunscreen enthusiast, and I get the task of slathering it all over little Phoebe while she squirms away. Also, I’m a journaling fanatic. The kids just loveee when I excitedly announce that after dinner would be a great time to reflect on our day. Normally I write with the kids, but sometimes I help Little Phoebe practice her spelling. Once, she wrote “Hot Chocolate” down for that day’s events.


Which brings me to the next contrast between parent and kid. The kids love Cadbury drinking chocolate; the parents love coffee. I love coffee with a bit (a lot) of chocolate in it. It’s hard growing up. Oh, and I love ice cream. I am 100% in support of always getting ice cream and, I won’t tell you whether it’s the kids or the parents, but I’m not alone. We were introduced to some amazing ice cream here: you pick a berry, or three, and they mix it with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt into a softserve spiral. So good.


With all that sugar, we expend a lot of energy. The parents run, and I ran (once), and I join them in a two minute plank. Alex and I do yoga sometimes. The kids and I climb all over the Takaka’s house bouldering wall, run down sand dunes (actually, the entire family does that), and jam out to Taylor Swift (a lot).

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In addition to Taylor Swift, the kids and I spent a quality evening replaying hits from the 2000s. This threw me back to middle school dances and cross country pump up jams, reminded William of second grade carpools to hockey, and had Little Phoebe extremely confused. Unfortunately, I cannot relate with Alex and Brendan on their college music choices because I am not cool enough.


Fortunately, although I toe the line between adult and kid, New Zealand is the perfect place for all ages. For example, Little Phoebe, Alex, Brendan and I had an amazing day exploring a spectacular beach with sea caves and seal pups.


Yesterday, Alex, William, Holly, Coco and I returned from two and a half days of fun but challenging tramping on the Coastal Track in Abel Tasman National Park.

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Earlier, in Wellington, Phoebe, Holly, William and I equally geeked out at the science museum.

We are all able to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls, stunning sunsets, adorable sheep (Phoebe and me more than some), and chill Kiwi attitude.

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It’s a perfect place (sand flies aside), and I couldn’t ask to be part of a more perfect family.


~ Big Phoebe