Wednesday, June 25, 2014

365 days

June 24, 2013. I had stars in my eyes as I stood admiring the wall murals of silver ferns and sandy beaches while waiting in line at the Air New Zealand terminal. While my eyes were filled with stars, I turned to see Kylie's filled with tears. She ducked into my shoulder and I held her close as she begged to just go home. I began to wonder if we were making the wrong decision. It wasn't the first time I thought that, and it wouldn't be the last, but I'll never forget the guilt I felt wondering if I was being selfish for wanting to uproot our family and rip them apart from the only life they've ever known all in the name of adventure. Those first few weeks were a daze as we survived on nothing but spaghetti, suckers and a whole lot of faith. One year later, Jason looks more relaxed, my hair looks lighter, Kylie's hair looks longer, Jayden looks like he has more freckles, Maddox looks like he has grown taller and Ryder no longer looks like the diaper clad, baba hanging out of his mouth baby that he was. But the changes aren't only physical, we've all grown and changed in so many ways on the inside as well. These are just some random thoughts for my journal about life in New Zealand over the past 365 days. Some are things I've mentioned before, so just humor me.

-I love how kind and considerate everyone is here. You never see road rage or people flipping out at the cashier or waitress. It's nice to be surrounded by common courtesy and people who are quick to smile and say hello.
-I love how safe it is here, seriously cops don't even carry guns. Every time I hear about mass shootings or child abductions in the states it gives me anxiety to think about going back to those nights where I would lay in bed worrying that I was hearing noises, or be scared to let my kids out of my sight, or be a little nervous to go to public places such as sporting events or even the mall or movie theaters.
-holidays are so low key here. It's weird not seeing the stores and houses decked out for every single holiday. I miss it.
-We've dealt with some pretty heavy topics involving people we're close to and it has been hard. I don't like that my kids are exposed to some of these things, but at the same time it has made them become more empathetic, compassionate, appreciative and realize how the choices we make affect our lives. Things like abortion, drug addiction, domestic violence, rehab, alcoholism, divorce, children put into foster care, statutory rape, runaway teens and child abuse. There's times that I've felt like I'm in the twilight zone. Having a conversation with a man covered in nothing but a towel and tattoos as he recalls his dad forcing him to try drugs at 8 years old. And that awkward conversation where I'm like, so sorry child protection services just took your child, but I've got chocolate eclairs!
-I still appreciate the simple life. I've loved the chance to scale back and not be so caught up in the latest fashion, the latest home decor, the latest technology. But at the same time I am busy pinning home decor like a boss on Pinterest. I miss having a nest to fluff and a home to make my own.
-I love that kindy is free. I'm not going to like paying for preschool when we move back.
-Paper products are scarce here. Real dishes are used more than paper plates during events, like at the school dance they use real glasses while somebody in the back is busy washing all night to keep the supply up. At picnics or functions you bring your own dishes then take them home to wash them. I miss those Costco packages of paper plates that were taller than me. But I'm also realizing where they're coming from, Americans are pretty wasteful.
-Everybody swears here. It makes me sad that even Maddox knows what the "f" word and Kylie's teacher frequently swears in class. It's not out of anger, it's just so common. Hell and damn aren't considered swear words so it always catches me off guard when one of our primary kids says "dammit".
-Our kids are a lot less spoiled. Our neighbors were junking an old desk and mirror, it was in pretty bad shape but Kylie was so excited to get it and has taken care to decorate it with tinsel and Christmas lights. The only other furniture in her room, besides a bed, is a plastic bin that doubles as a dresser and night stand. But she doesn't complain and they are learning to really appreciate what they have. Jason recently took her to McDonald's on a daddy date and she was hesitant to order fries with her drink because they cost $3. Bless her heart.
-I like how things are so close. All my errands are on my jogging route, I can pick up a prescription, drop off a movie, return a book at the library and pick up a loaf of bread at the dairy. The basket under the jogging stroller has come in very handy at times. I'm also really going to miss running at Hagley park. It's just so peaceful being surrounded by nothing but trees and my thoughts.
-I absolutely love the work/life balance. I'm going to have a hard time going back to life as a single mom when Jason works like a dog.
-I really like falling asleep to rain. We have a metal roof and it is such a soothing sound.
-I love that the kids are getting exposed to a different culture. Every time I go to an assembly at the school I get goosebumps when they sing God of Nations and the kappa haka songs.
-The kids haven't picked up on the accent quite like I had hoped, but I catch them using a lot of kiwi words and phrases such as: ay, good on you, sweet as, jersey, rubbish bin, maths, swimming togs, lollies, morning tea, a wee little, heaps, oy, all sorted, car park, rugby boots instead of cleats, shifting instead of moving and when they ask for a rubber they mean an eraser. Maddox has started pronouncing been and again as "bayne" and "agayne", he also sometimes pronounces water as "wotuh" and Tuesday as "chuesday". And I love when he writes "mum" on the pictures he draws for me.
-I've gotten used to all the eggs being brown, and I've even gotten used to them sitting on the shelves in the grocery store and not the refrigerator, but I don't think I'll ever get used to the feathers and poop I sometimes find on them. Sometimes farm fresh isn't best.
-driving is good, Jason and I have both only turned into on coming traffic once. I'm actually kind of nervous to go back to driving on the right side of the road. I'm getting used to all the roundabouts, but I still can never park straight in all the tiny parking spaces.
-We've enjoyed getting to know the missionaries and having them in our home a lot more often. Several of them are from Arizona so it will be fun to meet up with them in the future.
-I spend atleast $200 a week on groceries and by day 5 the cupboards are bare.
-I love the diversity. I can't pronounce the names of half the kids in Ryder's kindy and I love peeking at the different foods they all bring in their lunches. Some of the teachers comment that Ryder's peanut butter and jelly sandwich is so American, and all along I thought PB&J was an international laguage.
-The schools here are so fun. I love that the walls and ceilings are covered in artwork and they have opportunties to participate in a variety of activities. Right now for winter sports Kylie gets bussed to a gym where she takes a gymnastics and tramp class, next term she gets to do ice skating while Jayden is busy with soccer and basketball. They also take swimming lessons during the fourth term, they've had cricket competitions, dance competitions, rugby and cross country races. The school camps were a lot of fun and their no homework policy gets two thumbs up from the kids. On the other hand, I miss seeing work being brought home and knowing what they're learning as I help them with their homework. I really hope they won't be behind when we move back, but at least they're developing a love for school and learning.
-The weather is still something I'll never get used to, my eyes are constantly on the ever changing sky trying to anticipate its next move. I've learned that it's possible to be hot and cold at the same time. There's a hole in the ozone above New Zealand making the sun super intense, so sometimes when it's out it's like, "hide yo kids, hide yo wife!". But we also have these bitter cold southerly winds so the two together give you a work out as you take your jacket off and on repeatedly. We're all pretty familiar with weather teminologies like nor'wester, easterlies, spitting and sun showers, whereas in Arizona it was called "wind" and "rain". I like the seasons, but at the same time the seasons here aren't clearly defined. There are still really cold days in the summer and really pleasant days in the winter. I miss the constant sun. You can take the girl out of the desert, but you can't take the desert out of the girl.
-I feel like the highs and lows have been a lot more noticeable here. When it's good, it's really good. Saturdays at the beach, climbing trees in the park and exploring this amazing country. But then we have weeks on end where we're trapped inside a cold empty house with nothing but electronics to keep us entertained. It's depressing at times. I would say the normal every day life was better in the states, but we've had a lot more extraordinary experiences here.
-I think the temporary mindset has hindered us. Knowing we'll only be here for two years has held us back from investing ourselves fully, we still always have a foot in the US door.
-I've really loved baking and cooking more since we've been here, and I've gained 5 lbs as proof. We've been eating really well, if I do say so myself.
-I miss vacations being relaxing, a break from all the cooking and cleaning. Instead I spend a few days before hand baking food to take with us then, as tradition would have it, we stop at the grocery store where everyone waits in the car while I stock up on a week's worth of groceries to take with us. Besides fish and chips and pizza hut, eating out is too expensive and a lot of the places we stay are so remote. Some of the places we stay at also require that you bring your own bedding. Packing sheets, washing sheets and making beds isn't my idea of relaxing.
-We haven't been clothes shopping in an entire year. Or paid for a haircut. All our jeans and shoes have holes in them. I can't wait to go shopping when we go back to visit, although I'll have no clue what the latest styles are. I'm trying not to just let ourselves go, but I won't lie, Ryder is usually wearing pajamas to school pick up.
-Being here has motivated me to explore our our own back yard when we move back. I can't believe how many amazing places are in Arizona that we've never been to (Antelope Canyon, Tombstone, Havasupi Falls and the world's best preserved meteorite impact site just to name a few. It's about time we revisited the Grand Canyon as well).
-This country really is as picture perfect as pinterest promised me it would be. I've seen enough beauty in the past year to last me a life time. I'm so grateful we could be here sharing this experience and growing together as a family. This has been such an incredible experience, challenging and harder than I had imagined but also more rewarding than I had planned. So grateful we get to call this beautiful country our home, but I've also realized how much my heart still belongs in the states. I'm just learning to take the good out of everything, live in the moment and appreciate how lucky we truly are.

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Our fifteen year anniversary was terribly romantic. We ate leftover lasagna, drove carpools and hosted a house full of girls primping for the school disco before settling in with a movie on the laptop under the electric blanket. Earlier in the day Ryder and I also surprised the stud muffin at work with some muffins, and he had arranged for my Julie friend to babysit while we snuck out for a little lunch date. Shortly before we were going to leave we received some heart breaking news that a dear sister in our ward had a heart attack and passed away. Moving so far away from family and friends can be a scary thing, but Shirley's warm embrace and kiss on the cheek that first Sunday put all my fears to rest. We would be loved. I counted myself lucky to be assigned as her visiting teaching companion. She loved all five of the sisters we visited, it was not just a numbers game for her. Even when one of our sisters asked to have her name removed from the church records she still insisted we visit her because she loved her. She suffered from severe arthritis but whenever I could tell she was in pain, she would always respond with a smile on her face, "never mind me, dear". She always called me "dear" and started every text with "hello dear". She served and loved unconditionally and I consider myself blessed that I had the opportunity to get to know her and have her in my life. Julie was understandably devastated by the news, so of course we cancelled our lunch plans and instead sat eating our grilled cheese sandwiches alternating between trying to not be too sullen on our anniversary or too jovial after the death of a sweet friend. We also got engaged on the same day as the Columbine shootings. It's a good thing I'm not superstitious. Our actual anniversary was more or less just a normal day, but we've booked a bungalow on a private island in fiji for October to really celebrate, so don't feel too bad for us. But it's these "normal" days that we'll look back on fifteen years from now with fond memories. Chopping bok choy and singing Sara Bareilles while Kylie sits on the kitchen counter taking selfies. Maddox making duck beaks out of bread slices while Jason referees wrestling matches. Just like I look back with fondness on our life fifteen years ago. Special occasions called for chicken breasts smothered in a McCormick gravy mix or the Sizzler buffet. I took great care decorating our little apartment, wrapping artificial ivy around our floor lamp and decorating the shelves of our hand me down entertainment center with silk flowers. And a heart shaped frame with a picture of us at Magic Mountain. All of our furniture was laminate wood, mostly Shopko specials. The only artwork on our walls were a framed Vegas caricature and snowboarding posters. Our toilet seat had one of those fuzzy seat covers. All the old married people I knew had one, so I thought it was standard protocol. Jason ripped the "no soliciting" sign off our front door after he got a job selling cell phones door to door. We had matching Skechers boots. Date nights consisted of dollar movies, the Grilled Pepper, tennis and homemade milkshakes. Sundays consisted of 3 hour naps after church, long motorcycle rides in the canyon and Rook game nights with our newly wed neighbors. He taught me how to snowboard and wakeboard and took me to Disneyland for my first time. You know what, it was a pretty good way to start this life together. And it just keeps getting better. Spending the past fifteen years by your side has been a good place to be. Love you, Jay!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Around here

It was a fantastic week. Kylie's cell phone and itouch got stolen out of her back pack at school. And I drove for 4 miles with someone's tater tot vomit in my hand until I could get a napkin. And then this happened. Oh, and some little hands cut a not so little hole in the custom drapes that will drain their college fund to replace. Yes, a fan-freaking-tastic week. Jayden broke his arm a few days after his birthday and now a few days after Ryder's birthday we find ourselves sitting in the exact same chair in the exact same waiting room waiting for the exact same results. I really hope this isn't a trend.  He is finally starting to gain his confidence and feel comfortable at kindy. I am able to leave for about an hour, which gives me just enough time to go for a run or browse the video selection at the movie store without him trying to sneak home every copy of the Grand Theft Auto video game (what can I say, he has a thing for cars). When I went to pick him up today I found the teachers trying to console an unconsolable boy with an abnormally bent forearm after falling off the slide. It broke my heart right in two. He was so worn out from all the tears that he fell asleep on me in the waiting room. I felt guilty for enjoying it, but this boy is not a snuggler. He wants me to be in close proximity at all times, but wants and needs are two different things. Today he needed me. It was a rough afternoon for this poor boy, his eyes welled over with tears every time he recounted the story and he won't let anyone get close to his cast because they might touch his bones.  Broken arms call for an entire day in bed with unlimited movies and snacks, surrounded by all his favorite trucks and sheets full of crumbs. We're both milking it for all it's worth.

And a few other items of business that I want immortalized forever in the blurb book: Dress up days at school are like Maddox's Superbowl. He spends weeks preparing and stressing over the perfect look. The night before the big event he made a special shelf next to his bed to hold all of his accessories then came out of bed no less than 17 times to ask my opinion on the direction his eyebrow should go, how to manage an eye patch and eye brow on the same eye, how to talk with the mustache on, what shoes to wear and etc, etc, etc. He decided against wearing the gold earring. He was worried kids would laugh at him. Said the boy wearing peel and stick eyebrows. He did make a mighty cute pirate, though.

 We've met some really cool people while living here, like a friend of a friend who stayed with us for a night while she was on her 14 month bike tour around the world. I have loved keeping in touch with her and following along on her incredible journey. This is another family that I am so grateful we have had the opportunity to meet. I thought we were adventurous to move across the world for two years, but these guys make that sound like a walk in the park. They sold everything and left the states with their two girls and a few suitcases as they embarked on an indefinite adventure. They started in New Zealand and have found "work aways" where people will let you stay with them in exchange for work, or they've found house sitting opportunities. We met them at church and after being here for a few months they have moved on to Australia then maybe Southeast Asia, or China. They don't know where they'll be in the next few years, months or sometimes days. What a challenging way to live, but also what an incredible experience they are having. They stayed with us for a few nights after their house sitting stint ended and before they headed up north and it was so good having them in our home. It just makes me sad to think that we might never see them again, but hopefully our paths will cross again some day!

May wasn't all that bad, but I knew we were pressing our luck with all that sun. June has been nothing but cold and rainy since day one. Some of us prefer to crank our electric blankets all night while others prefer roughing it  indoor camping style with a sleeping bag under the covers and a beanie.

It is painful getting out of bed in the morning, especially when you can see your own breath. Fortunately we're rewarded with some pretty amazing sunrises. The sunsets just don't compare to those in the desert, but these sunrises are mighty fine

Maddox is at it again. Kylie and I were working on her science fair experiment while Maddox was conducting his own experiment involving hot water and spaghetti noodles in a water pitcher, filtering water through a cloth like Bear Grylls, making a fishing pole out of a bobby pin, stick and a rope and then fishing for said water filtering cloth. Not sure exactly what he was trying to accomplish with his experiment, besides flooding the kitchen, but it kept him busy and happy.

This is the ugly side of New Zealand. We go on these amazing trips then pay for it dearly with the laundry. It's not so bad in the summer, but in the winter it takes a good solid two or three days for anything to dry and with only one drying rack it takes weeks before I can get caught up on the vacation laundry. And half the time the clothes smell like mildew.

Kylie has enjoyed Young Women's and it is nice that Jason is in Young Men's so they can be there together and so that he can take pictures like this of her.

We're doing a vacation baby sitting swap with our good friends, the Tovey's. It was our turn to watch their kids for 7 nights while they went on a cruise. I have to admit that I was a little nervous to be a mother of 7 for a week, but it went really well. They're so well behaved and helpful and the kids loved staying up all night whispering. I also had the chance to dust off my teaching degree since they do homeschool. It went well, but I have a new appreciation for anyone who homeschools their kids, I don't know how they manage that on top of all the other mommy duties! So that's a few of the highlights from the last month or so, I can't believe we're already in June and already coming up on our one year anniversary!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Healthy competition

It's fun to see how each of the kid's personalities have developed and how different they are. We tried one season of T-ball for Maddox a few years ago and I have a picture of him yawning on the pitcher's mound, sitting in outfield and running in the wrong direction. Sports just aren't his thing. And that's okay. Jayden on the other hand, he thrives on competition. Everything is a competition. And it is fun to see him compete because he gives it his absolute all. I love the determined look in his eye and his will to never give up. They had a cross country meet at school, he ran with tears in his eyes and a side cramp, but he kept on running. He didn't place as well as he wanted to and beat himself up about it for days. It's hard trying to teach him that it's okay if he doesn't win at everything and that he should be proud of himself for trying his best and not giving up. He is hardwired to win and that's what gives him his drive, so I can't fault him on that.

The race was during Jason's lunch break and I love that he is so close that he can pop over and be a part of things like this

He's also playing soccer for winter sport at school and is right at home. It was no surprise that he got placed on the A team, he has worked hard and deserves it. They play during school so Ryder and I made an afternoon out of it, complete with suckers and fruit snacks. It was a fun game to watch, Jayden scored two goals and their team won. He is also playing basketball after school. Rain or shine he is out running suicides with the team. Every morning he uses an exercise app on the ipad to hold a work out session in our family room with the little boys. Watching Ryder do the wall sit is kind of the cutest. I'm proud of his hard work and determination, I can't wait to see where it takes him in life.

Let's pause to appreciate this righteous mullet. Like I said, they're all the craze at their school.

Monday, June 09, 2014


I was unloading the dishwasher as he sat on the floor by my feet. "I love you, you're my sweetheart" he said, followed up with the kissy sound. I turned to tell him thank you and meet his kiss. But he wasn't talking to me. He was kissing his big yellow dump truck. I thought it would be really difficult to see my baby grow another year older, but I'm not going to lie, the twos gave me a run for my money. I am enjoying seeing his personality develop, the way he makes sure Jason doesn't leave for work without kissing me, the way he exclaims "your hair!" the minute I pull my bangs back with a bobby pin, the way he insists on putting his pajamas on around 2:00 every day, or the way he is relieved when he sees me getting my pajamas on because he knows I'll be home with him the rest of the night. I still get a little lump in my throat when I see delivery room pictures, and the thought of never holding a newborn baby that is all my own is still something I haven't wrapped my brain around yet.  But two days in and I am already liking this three business. He wasn't quite exactly sure what a birthday was. He knew it involved presents. He already found the sand toys hidden in my closet and quietly closed the bathroom door while I was cleaning the shower the other day so that he could sneak downstairs and open them without me knowing. I knew exactly what he was doing, but I let him anyways because he was so excited and because it bought me some quiet cleaning time. It was no surprise that the first thing he wanted to do on his birthday was open presents. He got trucks, cars and more trucks and cars. It's pretty much his world right now. We kept his day real simple, you know, we can't be setting the bar too high now. If he asks then the trip we just came back from was in honor of his birthday. We made rainbow pancakes, Jason took the boys to McDonald's for lunch while Kylie and I alternated between working on his cake and her science fair experiement. For the record, I have never claimed to be a cake decorator. We hung out and played cars, watched movies and had a sausage sizzle for dinner. But my favorite part of the whole day was laying with him in his bed that night. The only sound was the rain outside and the hum of the television downstairs, and a distant siren to which Ryder concluded that someone had broken their leg. I watched as he rubbed the three strands left of his blankie tag across the bridge of his nose, stopping ever so often to spin the wheels on his new tractor.  I tickled his tummy and felt the goosebumps across his little belly. I thought about the day he was born and the first time I held him. I almost forgot what he looked like and I made a mental note to look through his baby pictures the next day. It was just a special moment. I am so grateful for this boy in my life and I hope he always knows how deeply he is loved. Happy birthday baby boy.

I realized that without thinking I had put the cars on the Euro side of the road. Not sure what this means...

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Oldies but goodies

We woke up to the bluest of blues, which is a mighty fine way to start any day. About five miles down the road and we found ourselves in a thick fog. Maddox said it looked like we were in the olden days with everything in black and white. And the smoke billowing out of the chimneys of every little country home we passed felt Little House on the Prairie-esque.  It just hit me as funny that one person would wake up and think what a gorgeous day it was and then their neighbor down the road would wake up to a gray sky and think what a crummy day it was. Then I spent the next 10 miles having deep thoughts about perspective. Because what else do you do when driving besides take an unhealthy amount of tree pictures and create life metaphors. And eat salt and vinegar chips. But my meditating also led me to realize that there can be beauty in the crummy too, I mean, foggy landscapes are just downright delicious.

As much as I was enjoying the fog, I was glad to see blue skies once we got back to the east coast. Jason and I loved the jet boat ride in Queenstown so we decided to let the older kids go with Jessica in Hanmer Springs. But really we just found a good coupon, I mean we loved it but not full priced loved it. They were a little nervous but had the best time, it's quite the thrill as they get within a foot of the cliff face and spin on a dime. The little guys were sad they couldn't go, but they got a sucker so ya know, it was pretty much even.

We went to the hot springs afterwards. Despite the sunshine it was still so cold outside, I mean I showed up in a swimsuit, flip flops, and a long wool winter coat. And the whitest legs known to man. I think I turned a few heads, but not for the normal reasons that you would turn heads at a swimming pool. The hot water was heavenly, but you couldn't fully enjoy it because you knew in the back of your mind that eventually you had to get out and eminent death was waiting. And because the sulfur pools smelled like you were sitting in the middle of an egg salad sandwich. Maddox and Jayden both happened to find their good friends from school here and had the best time hanging out with them. Eventually we did have to get out and I swear it took two whole days before we finally warmed up. The place we stayed at was less than stellar with its cold cinder block walls and dated rooms. No one dared lay down and relax on the furniture so we spent the evening with all of us lined up on the edge of the bed watching The Voice. And then we were kept up all night by the man coughing on the other side of the wall. You win some, you lose some. On the spectrum of places we've stayed, I would say this falls somewhere between the "butt bed" cabin and the haunted attic where we put all the porcelain dolls in a separate room while we slept. It's all part of the adventure.

But a trip to Kaikoura can cure any bad night's sleep. We've been here a few times already, but seeing the seal pups swimming and playing in the stream and waterfall is something that can never get old. It is unbelievably unbelievable.

We pulled off to the side of the road and had a picnic. Thankfully the scenery dulls the taste of your third straight day of PB&J. It's hard to convince the boys to stop exploring long enough to eat, so Jason usually ends up following after them and feeding them bites in between shell finding and cave exploring.

The peninsula walk is one of my favorites. Gorgeous views on top and teeming with wildlife on the bottom.

Just look at all those seals down below. The only problem is that they're just not quite as cute and cuddly as their baby counterparts. But it is still pretty amazing to see wild life out in the wild, even if they are smelly and grumpy and growl at you if you walk too close or give them the wonk eye. So don't give a seal the wonk eye.

My favorite tree, I have like ten pictures of this tree. Or so Jason says.

To say we had a good time with Jessica would be an understatement. It was so fun to have her here on our turf, sharing this amazing country and growing just a little bit closer (maybe closer than she would have liked at times :), and we loved the excuse for a repeat visit to some of our favorite spots. It's always sad to say good bye, but knowing that we'll see her in a month when we go back to the states for a visit made it a little bit easier!