As well as returning to Dargaville to spend some more time with Wayne and Teresa, our family was eager to return to visit our good friends the Langs. While we spent weeks with them in June, our girls developed special friendships with the Lang girls. Brioni and Bethany forged a special bond and Aisha and Faith call each other “best friends”. During the time we’ve been apart, Brioni and Aisha have devoted much of their artwork to the friendships that they developed at the Langs, and I’ve constantly been asked how to spell the Lang girls’ names so that Brioni or Aisha could label the characters in their drawings.

Aisha's drawing, July 2011
Last month, Aisha drew this picture of our family playing with the Langs at the playground. Katrina and I are pushing Tahlia and Delaney on the swings, Aisha and Faith are going down the slide, Brioni and Bethany are on the other swings and Shanay and Calista are sharing the see-saw.

We arranged to meet Katrina and her four daughters at the Taha Awa Community Gardens in Dargaville. Katrina is also currently caring for two extra boys while their parents travel overseas. So we got to meet James (7) and Sam (18 months) for the first time.

At the boat park, Dargaville, August 2011
We met the Langs at the riverside park where the main feature is a large boat playground.

Playing at the playground, August 2011
Faith pushes Brioni and Aisha on the anchor swing.

Taniwha at Dargaville Riverside park, August 2011
I love the mosaic at this park — this creature is a taniwha, a water monster of Maori legend.

Calista, August 2011
Katrina brought a number a number of scooters and ride-on bikes for the younger kids, and ours loved being on wheels again!

Katrina, August 2011
Katrina is full of smiles with the children out in the sunshine!

Bethany, August 2011
Bethany is always so energetic and ready for fun.

Faith, August 2011
Faith is delighted to be reunited with Aisha.

Shanay, August 2011
Shanay has been a bit under the weather, but it meant that I shared some nice cuddles with her.

Tahlia, August 2011
2yo Tahlia has grown up heaps in the weeks that we've been away.

James, August 2011
7yo James is adventurous but careful to keep an eye on his little brother.

Sam, August 2011
At 18 months, Sam isn't walking fully yet, but he moves *very* fast!

Bethany and Faith, August 2011
David gave Bethany and Faith a good ride on the anchor swing.

Initially, Aisha and Brioni were a bit stand-offish — certainly belying all their mushy friendship talk while they were apart from the Langs. But with a bit of time, things soon got back to normal — Faith and Aisha were off and running, leaving Brioni to play by herself or with the other girls.

David was a constant attraction for the children. Katrina and I found we could sit comfortably on a park bench in the sun, and the kids would flock around David as he entered into their games or took them on expeditions to the toilet block. (Thanks, David!)

David with ten children, August 2011
Eight of our children (and two strangers) started following David around the park.

David was also the responsible adult supervising the children who ventured away from the park and close to the river. When some of the kids started walking out in the mud, David decided to stay on terra firma and filmed the sticky, mucky result from the safety of the riverbank.

Faith Lang in the mud, August 2011
This is the moment when Faith realised she had ventured too far out into the mud and couldn't move any further.

Faith and gallant James, August 2011
James came back to extend a hand to Faith to help her out. Much to her distress, Faith ended up needed to leave her [brand-new] gumboots behind in the mud.

Before we parted company, we congregated around the truck, and I fed sandwiches to whoever was hungry. The kids also expressed gratitude for a little jam on folded bread which goes to show that they’re so easy to please! It was early-to-bed for our children that night — they were worn out with the vigorous play and friendship-building.