Saturday, November 29, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

I missed my gravy dish. And the pine cone name card holders. And a Fall tablescape. And black Friday ads spread across the family room floor. And the scent of turkey mingled with my Gold Canyon pumpkin spice candle filling the air. And Christmas music being drowned out by the clanging of spoons and the whir of beaters and sisters laughing and cousins chasing each other around the house. I missed being home for the holidays. And I think that's perfectly okay. New Zealand will have her turn to be missed, there will be plenty of weekends in the future when I'll be itching to go explore, and many long drives to California when I will yearn for the beach to be in our back yard, and countless times that I'll look out at the sagebrush and cactus and ache to be surrounded by green. But for today I missed the silly little things and the bigger things too. I just missed being home. But celebrating another New Zealand Thanksgiving was good. It was different, but it was good in it's own way. I loved how excited our neighbors and friends were as they looked forward to the event. Judy took the entire day off of work so that we could cook together. We ran back and forth between our houses, borrowing dishes, using each other's ovens, sharing ideas and tasting recipes. I had Jason bring back some canned pumpkin and butter flavored crisco from the states, making pumpkin pie from scratch was a once in a lifetime event that I didn't care to repeat. We hosted about 30 friends and neighbors, each bringing a dish and a warm embrace. We had stuffed chicken (no $90 turkey this year) next to the venison. Potatoes next to the kumara. Pumpkin pie next to the pavlova. Jello salad next to the brandy snaps. I loved seeing our two cultures mixed together to create one delicious meal. Kylie came up with a Thanksgiving quiz which was entertaining and enlightening. Like, did you know the Mayflower was originally used to ship wine? Grandma Judy said she would have been first in line to board. Like last year, we had everyone write down three things they were thankful for then we read them out loud and tried to guess who they belonged to. I love this new tradition and I love how heartfelt and choked up people became. No matter where you live, no matter what you celebrate, having a chance to reflect on all that you have to be grateful for is really a beautiful thing. Happy Thanksgiving.

I love how the missionaries are keeping such a safe distance from the girls :)

Sorry, Megan, the one picture we got of your whole family and Rob had his eyes closed!

I wish I would have taken more pictures, especially of the people that were there. I was more in a enjoy-the-good-food-and-good-company mood than I being-stuck-behind-a-lens mood. And that's okay.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The Ryder Years

Kylie knew the entire pledge of allegiance when she was 2 years and 3 months old. I kid you not. We have it on video. I don't say that to brag, more of an observation at how different not only my parenting style has been with each of my kids, but how different each of their personalities are as well. The one on one time that I had with Kylie before Jayden was born was filled with mommy preschool, paper mache globes, file folder games, quiet time boxes, educational programs, princess dress up and our Thursday outings to the mall to sing songs with Dewper, the overstuffed prairie dog. The preschool years with Jayden were a bit different. He could care less about learning the letter of the day or making thumbprint caterpillars. He loved trains and games and donuts. So we spent our days building train tracks, playing countless games of Candy Land and going on donut dates to Basha's at least once a week. Maddox came along and he was all about the crafts. Every day I had to be prepared with a new and innovative craft project to keep him busy. He never really was interested in cars or trains, but give him an empty shoe box, some scissors and pipe cleaners and he was in heaven. And now it's Ryder's turn and all he wants to do is be in the great outdoors. He could live at the park all day every day, rain or shine. First we ride scooters, then we swing, then we drive dump trucks around moving piles of wood chips. Parks, trucks and anything with wheels is all it takes to make this boy happy. It really is a treasure to have those precious preschool years alone with each of the kids. A chance to spend time exploring in their world with the things they love and to watch their unique personalities develop. I love this age. They are so innocent, have the cutest voices, give the juciest kisses and carry on the most entertaining conversations, like what steps to take if their brother were drowning in a toilet. One thing I love about being a mom is that I get a chance to know these little people in a way that no one else in the world can. To know that Ryder likes the tags cut off every shirt, or that Maddox needs six items in his lunch box because he is six years old, or that Jayden has to sleep with his shirt off, or that Kylie likes to eat tomatoes like apples. And it is critical to know who likes the crust cut off and who prefers it on. But beyond that, a chance to know what their joys, fears, secrets and dreams are. These kids of mine are pretty rad, what a blessing it is to be their mom. And what a gift it is to have these few fleeting preschool years alone with each one of them.

Like I said, Ryder is obsessed with anything with wheels. One day I surprised him with a trip on the trolley. He reverently entered the car as if he were walking on holy ground. He sat there so timid and shy, but with a huge smile on his face the entire ride.

We spent another day at the Airforce museum. His eyes grew wide as we examined each plane up close, paying special attention to the missile launchers, and he buried his head in my shoulder whenever we came across a mannequin dressed as a pilot.

I picked him up from kindy one day with a picnic packed and an adventure planned. He was pretty ticked that the adventure didn't involve swings, but we laughed at "ducky mo-mo" who hogged all the pretzels then got caught up in a game of hide and go seek in the most enchanting forest. Okay, I know that sounds cheezy, but gimme a break, that tree is nothing short of enchanting. And then of course we had to stop at a park with swings on the way home, because he would never forgive me if I didn't.

His scooter has replaced the stroller. It's liberating to no longer be pushing anything, but it stresses me out at the same. I just follow behind him in amazement at how grown up he is looking these days and in utter fear that he is going to go plowing into an intersection.

He could live at the skate park. Riding down the ramps with the wind blowing through his faux hawk, a look of fear in his eyes and a smile of pride spread across his face. If there's older skaters there then he likes to talk very loudly about them like they can't hear him. "They need to put a shirt on!", "Look, he just crashed!" and "I think he's too scared". Nothing like a blow to your ego from a three year old.

Every Tuesday is Pak n' Save. He still asks for mentos at the checkout and he still asks to wait by the heating oven and warm up while I get the milk. This time the fire alarm went off and we had to evacuate the store and entertain ourselves by pushing every button in the car while we waited for the fire department. So far the fire alarm has gone off and we've had to evacuate a grocery store, the church and the YMCA. Kinda weird.

The rest of our days are filled with trips to the library, where he is more interested in playing the computer games than reading books, going to the museum, running errands, building block towers, building car ramps out of books, reading stories in my bed, building cars out of legos, lots of fruit snacks, lots of back tickles and lots and lots of Curious George. These days are golden.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Friends for life

We bonded in the mother's lounge over our frustrations with breastfeeding. Little did we know that our mutual lack of lactation (see what I did there?) would bond us for life. Our friendship continued to grow over shared grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup lunches, dollar store vienna sausages, mysterious pilates farters and Mary Kay parties where we gave each other the wonk eye as we ran our fingers through our toes after being instructed to give ourselves a foot massage. She was my first mom friend and I was so grateful to navigate the unknown world of fenugreek and playgroup politics with this girl by my side. Madison was also Kylie's very first friend, they don't have many memories of those early days since we moved before Kylie turned 2, but over the years they have formed their own bond as we've visited each other and kept in touch. We were so excited when they told us they were coming to visit, they live in Seattle so we don't get to see them often and we couldn't wait. Her husband was running the Auckland marathon and her two oldest kids were able to participate too as they logged the 26 miles over a several month period then finished the last leg as they crossed the finish line in Auckland. How cool is that?? They spent time exploring the north island then it meant so much that they took the extra trip down to the south island to spend the weekend with us. It was so awesome seeing them, seeing our kids reunited and sharing the beauty of our world with them. They spoiled us rotten. I mean this girl gets me, cinnamon bears and mascara. But they also brought so many other toys and treats, it was more than they're even getting for Christmas. Seriously. For reals. We only had two days with them so we wanted to pack in as much as we could. But first we had to recreate some old photos they had dug up and brought with them. I mean, that hair. The bigger the hair, the closer to God. While I'm typing this Ryder is practically in tears over my hair in that picture, he keeps yelling at me to change it. He also won't believe me when I tell him that's Kylie and not him. They do look the most similar out of all our kids.

I know this is like the 5th time I've posted pictures of Castle Rock Hill, but humor me. Nature's playground just never gets old and sharing it with people we love, well, it just doesn't get better than that.

I spy with my little eye, a meditating monk. Zen at its finest.

You get a sense of the scale of this place when you spot tiny little people

And then we headed down the road to Cave Stream Reserve. The kids did this hike with Jason and the church youth group last summer and absolutely loved it. They were so excited to take their friends here. It didn't quite go as planned. In the spring there is run off from the snow so the water in the cave is not only ice cold but a lot deeper and swifter. Jodee and Beckham opted out as soon as they felt how cold the water was, and thankfully I had the little guys as my get out of jail free card. The other kids were hesitant but put on their bravest face and headed into the pitch black. I thought to myself how nice it will be to use this as a learning experience, to see them do something hard and come out on top with smiles on their faces and no trace of regret. Instead they came out with teeth chattering, tears streaming down their face and the resolve to never EVER do anything like this again. We thought it best at that point not to tell them that the cave was used for ritualistic burials and we also saw a dead rat at the exit while we were waiting. Rats, ghosts and bones would not have gone over very well. They ran into a couple in there who were completely stuck, it really is a blessing that they found them because who knows what would have happend. Seeing the lady a little freaked out scared the kids and made them feel that they were in danger. Helping the couple through the rest of the cave really slowed them down as well, they were in there for a good 45 minutes and on the verge of hypothermia by the time they got out. But it was an adventure they won't forget, that's for sure. We had plans to visit Devil's Punchbowl Falls next, but we opted to go home for hot showers and an adult date night. It was a good choice.

The next morning we took them to a few of our favorite parks then went to sacrament meeting. They wanted their kids to see what church is like in a different country. It can definitely be interesting at times!

We ate lunch in the church parking lot then took them to Taylor's Mistake. They can't come to Christchurch and not go to Taylor's mistake. We lucked out to have such great weather. We ended the night with a sausage sizzle with Grandma Judy and some left over fireworks. It was sad to say our goodbyes, but with friends like this I know we'll stay close no matter the distance between us. Friends for life are hard to come by, so grateful we found them.

*Lily, thanks for your sweet comment! It came through my email but didn't show up on the post, strange, and I wasn't sure the best way to reply, so here it is :). I'm so glad you can share similar experiences, coming here as expats is such a unique and incredible experience. And we actually just booked tickets to Wellington in January, we can't wait! If you have any "must see" places there (the museum is definitely on our list, the kids can't wait to see the Colossal Squid :) I would love any advice you might have. My email is, I would love to hear from you!