Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas

We went through the motions of Christmas, but it just didn't feel like Christmas. Maybe it was the swim suits next to the Christmas displays in the stores, maybe it was the lack of Christmas lights on houses because electricity is too expensive, maybe it was that the sun goes down at 10 pm which made it impossible to watch for Rudolph's nose before bed, maybe it was that we went super simple with only three gifts each instead of the mounds of presents (which was such a good thing), maybe it was the non traditional homemade pizza for Christmas eve dinner since we did our big dinner on Christmas day with the missionaries, maybe it was that I spent all Christmas day cooking, cleaning and packing instead of lounging in pajamas, maybe it was that Christmas got overshadowed by the amazing trip we had planned for the day after. Maybe it was a little bit of everything. It wasn't bad, besides a few bouts of homesickness it was a really good Christmas. It was just....different.

The Christmas jammies were not so much christmasy since they are impossible to find here, but they were happy and Ryder's new one eyed smile whenever I pull out the camera definitely makes me happy.

 the nativity was just about as reverent as it looks

Jayden tried so hard to spot Rudolph's nose. He wants so badly to still believe and I hope he holds on for as long as he can.

Her glory days are almost over. She was good to us.

These cookies came from the Chinese Church welfare basket we found on our porch. Now I know money is tight, but we're not that poor. Maybe they're just trying to recruit us?

Christmas morning, the excitement is tangible.

Christmas crackers in their stockings. When in New Zealand....

the package from my parents was the main event. I can't explain how exciting it is to get a piece of home. Deodorant, mascara, children's tylenol, ramen noodles, beef Jerky and so many other novelties, it really was the best. Especially the zip drive filled with stories of my dad growing up that he would tell us as bedtime stories. Priceless.

I thought the mess would be small since we had so many fewer presents this year. Nope.

the remote control helicopters were a hit, and sometimes quite literally. Case in point: Kylie in the picture below.

Ryder is obsessed with firemen. More particularly, Fireman Sam.

He thought he was big enough for a pocket knife so that he could whittle some wood. Mostly I just like to say the word "whittle". He's only cut his finger once, so I'd say we're doing good.

And one of Maddox's favorite presents was this framed self portrait that he requested I make. He was helping me work on a gift for Judy and was so jealous that she got a framed cross stitch. He tried so hard to cross stitch a picture of himself but after about the 16th knot he gave up and dropped some not so subtle hints that he would really want it finished for a Christmas present. I mean, how could I not. He loved it. Loved it so much it already broke, but no worries, scotch tape is like magic to him.

I made our traditional cinnamon roll breakfast that we shared with Judy and Pete then it was off in a tornado of cooking, cleaning and packing as we headed off on our next adventure. A very merry Kiwi Christmas!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Summer debut 

I won't lie. It's depressing when our summer temperatures are colder than Phoenix's winter temperatures.  I thought if we could just get through the long cold winter then we would be rewarded greatly with a long hot summer.  We do have some beautiful days that just feel my soul with sunshine, but it seems like for every warm day we get about 3 days of cold. Right now I have my electric blanket on and that's just messed up.  But it takes the rain to appreciate the sun and I was so grateful that we were graced with its presence on our first official day of summer break. It was obvious where you could find us. Flying kites, digging in the sand, chasing beach balls, collecting shells and living on beach time without a care in the world. Kylie said days like these are a dream come true and I would have to agree.

Kylie hanging out with her new friend. As you can see, she's thrilled. The beach was virtually empty and this lady decided to plop her beach towel down no less than two feet away from us. Usually people see a mom and four crazy kids and head in the complete opposite direction, so this kind of had me baffled.  She would just shake off any sand Ryder happened to throw her way and continue with her sun bathing.

Wrapping it up 

The school year has quickly come to an end. I still can't believe we've been here for 6 months already. Maddox's class performed in a Christmas program. I live for these things, they bring back such fond memories of my elementary school days before holidays became a four letter word in the public school system. As you can imagine, it was adorable.  

I spent two days straight baking Christmas goodies for neighbors and friends. Sometimes these boys "helped" me. Or in other words, they ate the chocolate chips like dog food.

And this girl grew up over night. They decorated the gym all fancy and had the teachers serve dinner to all the kids graduating from primary school. Such a fun idea and such a special night for her.  She was facetiming her friends all afternoon long trying to decide what to wear, how to do her hair, what shoes to wear, what jewelry went best, if she should wear felt like she was getting ready for prom.  My favorite part was when she came home, we sat on her bed and talked about everything from the food she ordered to the boys that liked her and everything in between. Sometimes it makes me sad, like really sad, that she doesn't have a sister (actually, that's what she asked Santa for Christmas), but I love that we have such a close relationship and hopefully I can help fill that sister shaped hole in her heart.

I love our long drive way, it gives the boys plenty of room to burn all that pent up energy from rainy days.

This was the last day of school assembly, I loved the kapa haka songs they performed it seriously gave me goosebumps.  I love that they are exposed to such a beautiful culture, it's something they'll look back on with fond memories. It's a part of them now.  Not to mention, we are fully prepared for the next ward talent show when we return to the states. And that is the entire student body sitting there on the floor, I really love how small and intimate the school is.

This is Mrs. Dean. I loved her, Jayden loved her, and most importantly she loved Jayden.  Jayden knows how to turn on the charm, particularly with the grandmotherly figures. I think it's fair to say he was one of her favorites. One student from each class gets chosen at the end of the year to receive a certificate and $30 gift card and she chose him.  He bought roller blades.

I really love how all of the classrooms are covered with artwork.  I was sad she had already taken down her Christmas decorations, when I showed up for the parent teacher conference earlier in the week I felt like I had stepped into Santa's workshop. It made me wish I was a kid again and made me so grateful my kids have this experience here.

Unfortunately Maddox's teacher was sick the whole last week of school, but this is Mrs. Gray who teaches them on Wednesdays and is in the class helping out several days a week.  He'll also have the same teacher next year so there will be more photo ops in the future. It was hard for me to send him all day, but he absolutely loves it so I can't be sad anymore.

I'm so glad Kylie has made such great friends here. It was sad for her to say good bye (some tears were shed) because some of them were going to different intermediate schools and some of them were staying behind.  They combine all the grades so year 1/2 are in a class together, along with 3/4 and 5/6. I'm not entirely sure why and not entirely sure how it works, but Kylie's just glad her and Jayden are 2 years apart otherwise they would have been in the same class.  Kylie's class was buddy classes with Maddox's class and they were able to do so many things together, it helped make the transition to school easier for him.

This is Mr Lynch, Kylie was so embarrassed that I made her take a picture with him because he's a boy.

One of the cute year 5's that she became friends with.

They had a half day the last day of school and I sort of got a little depressed when the weather was rainy and freezing. Instead of going out and celebrating, the boys watched tv all afternoon while Kylie and her friends hung out. Besides a few cameo appearances in their home video as a Santa who died from eating poisonous soup, I mostly just laid on the couch. I told them I had a headache, but the truth was I was in a funk and I couldn't kick it.  That seasonal affective disorder is a real thing. I notice my mood is greatly influenced by the weather, I try not to let it get me down, but sometimes it does.  Thankfully the sun finally came out. The girls set up a spa for Judy and I and somewhere between the raspberries, shoulder massages, nail painting and Judy's laugh, I kicked that funk right square in the pants.  I'm determined to make this a good summer. Rain or shine.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Behind the scenes

Do you know what's fun? Making your kids (and husband) take family pictures not once, not twice, but three times. It's even funner to stack your camera on shoes stacked on towels stacked on a picnic basket and use a self timer. Or it's loads of fun when strangers walk by and feel sorry for you and offer to take your picture but end up cropping off feet and heads. He was even Asian, and I thought all Asians knew how to use a camera (it's okay, I'm practically Asian so I can say that). That's what I like to do for fun. But at least we ended up with a winner. Even though it looks like I barely ran into place in the last second. Because I did just barely run into place in the last second. And even though Ryder had to sit on Jason's shoulders because he was petrified that the waves would sneak up behind him. And even though I had to photoshop some serious wind blown hair. And even though Kylie and Jayden both thought his shirt looked like a girl's shirt (and now that they mention it, I may just have to borrow it). And even though Kylie had already un-accessorized because this was a last ditch effort for a decent shot.  But we got it, so a very merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine. 

This was the first attempt. Ryder was a dreamboat, I mean seriously, I could die a thousand deaths just looking at that face. But the scenery just didn't ooze New Zealand and the exposure and lighting were weird. It was sort of a last minute throw together photo shoot based loosely on a dream I had (I wasn't kidding when I said I lay in bed at night thinking about photography).  The kids (and Jason) were thrilled when I announced we were doing retakes.

Have you ever seen a cuter face? Or a bigger head?

This is the spot I really wanted to do it at, it's my favorite place in Christchurch, but even at 7:30 at night the sun was still too bright.

Loved the golden light from this angle, but the uphill was just too much for my little makeshift tripod to handle. There was a bench that I wanted to use as a tripod but this couple occupied it the entire time. I got so close to asking them to snap a picture for us, but then I thought maybe they were sitting there celebrating their engagement, or discussing the death of a loved one. Or maybe it's their first date. And we all know nothing ruins a first day more than strangers asking you to take their picture because they're too cheap to hire a photographer. Or at least buy a tripod.

But at the last minute I convinced them to let me take one more photo and I'm so glad it turned out. And they were rewarded with a nice dip in the ocean.  All's well that ends well.