Home is where the ❤ is


imageFinally some pictures of our home. Here is our living room, with an ugly forest greet futon as a couch, and some very 70s pukey green velvety chairs on the other side that you can’t see. I decided to put my duvet cover over the futon to make it cheerier in there. I found the cute wrapping paper/poster at a pharmacy and with wash tape “framed” it. I got some cheap frames and am figuring out how to get pictures printed. So hopefully soon it won’t just be our lone family picture on the wall.

Our dining room and living room. A little valentines decorations with washi tape. Gotta love the washi. I brought a tablecloth from home, but was washing it. There were so many pictures hanging in the house and kind of randomly put on the wall all over. I have a closet full of the pictures we took down and the bedding we took off, but there is still more to do. I bought two more posters to hang today.

imageBye bye old pictures and funky bedding.

And here are the rooms! Piper loves her room and here’s is a trundle under her bed for Clover. Tatum is loving having her own room and has her own bathroom too! Our room needs a little tlc, but we are mostly happy that the kids have made their space their own and are adjusting well.


That’s the front, right smack dab between a beautiful church and Domino’s pizza. The row of shops is the center of our village. There are 6 shops and  3 of them are pizza. Directly next door to Domino’s is Pizza Hut. 🙂 There is a little market squeezed in there somewhere and Piper loves being able to go up there by herself and grab me something we need for dinner or to drop something in the mail.

Taste of Wellington


I can’t get over how beautiful the surroundings are.  Hydrangea bushes 8 feet tall grow like weeds everywhere.  The botanical garden is just a short (but very steep!) walk from our house and gorgeous beach is about a 15 min. drive.  I always found New Zealand to be beautiful, but I had never been here in the summer.  I wondered if it was so green because it was winter, kind of like California’s hills turn green, but then back to brown in the summer.  But no, it really is so beautiful!

Brian left on Thursday to stay over night at a nearby marae (a traditional Maori religious/community building).  img_6331So after only two nights in our new home, the girls and I were on our own.  Clover and I ventured to a nearby park and that night, Piper and Tatum and I had a sleepover.  While I was excited to have the big kids in school and have special time with Clover, the reality hit me on Friday afternoon that hanging out with a toddler can be lonely.  I went through this with Piper, and again with Tatum when Piper started kindy, so deep down I know it will all work out, but I started feeling anxious about being lonely.  Anxiety is a weird thing.  I wasn’t lonely yet, but worried, that I would be lonely in the future.  That put me in a bad mood.  That afternoon we had a meet and greet at the Fulbright offices and I was still in a bad mood.  The hard part of being a newbie was showing its ugly face. Mingling with strangers for 2 hours and trying to think of meaningful things to say is hard work! So between the mingling and the anxiety, I was ready for our 3 day weekend.

Waitangi Day (a day celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, NZ’s founding document) is today, which means no school! We spent Saturday cleaning, which was almost torturous since it was a gorgeous day outside.  The house had a musty smell when we moved in and so we wanted to air everything out and do a deep clean since we are staying awhile.  We sprayed all the mattresses with a vinegar solution and put them out in the sun for a few hours, changed all the bedding to ones I brought with us, and vacuumed the baseboards and carpets.  So after all that hard work, we left and discovered this gem of a beach!


On Sunday we went to a church in the city that was recommended to us and that some relatives of our friends in CA go to.  While we planned to meet this family, the Bairds, I was not planning on meeting anyone else.  But as I was picking up the kids, a woman approached me and said, “Do you happen to be Brooke?”  We also have a mutual friend in California, and I was given her name and contact, but never had the chance to actually contact her yet.  Jen heard someone say we just arrived from California (She is from Huntington Beach and married Kiwi) and wondered, if we were the family our mutual friend Vanessa was talking about.  She invited us over for lunch today and we had a great time as did our kids.  I made chickpea curry that I brought over, and then when I arrived, I found out they are vegan.  Couldn’t have planned a more perfect dish!

After church yesterday, we headed to another beach and ended up having so much fun playing in the river that fed into the ocean.  The river was more desirable than the ocean since the was protected from the wind.  I loved watching them play and explore in their suits and sunhats.  Sunhats are a staple in the summer and they are looking like true little kiwis.  I laughed when the kids came home from school the first day saying the teacher said they needed to bring their sunhat tomorrow (no baseball type caps, must have a full brim).  There was no sun!  But when it finally came out this weekend, it is intense!  They say the hole in the ozone layer above the island makes for a more intense sun, and I’m telling you it’s true.  While the temperature hasn’t been more than 72, it has felt much hotter.  And poor Clover got a sunburn yesterday.  I brought wet suits and rash guards for the other two, and now it is on my list for Clover.  After dinner, thanks to a very late sunset, we headed to the botanical gardens up the street.  Seriously dream like and the park was so fun!


This week will be busy taking care of business: getting our bank account set up, possibly buying a car, and finishing up around the house.  I can’t wait to show you pics of our place.  Hopefully coming soon!

48 hours

48 hours

After the ordeal of getting to LAX with the protests taking place on Sunday, I am happy to say that the flight and our first 48 hours have gone quite smooth. Tatum amazes me. We arrived at 5:30 in a new country and strange house, and a couple hours later, Tatum goes to sleep in a room all by herself downstairs while the rest of us are upstairs. I figured they would share a room like they do at home, but Tatum wanted her own room, and the available room was downstairs. Everyone slept well and the next morning it was the first day of school of a brand new school year. They were excitedly making their lunches, picking out hairstyles and their outfits. We then walked them to school in “windy Wellington “. It’s supposed to be summer, and yet I don’t think the temps ever made it into the 60s yesterday with gusts of wind 50 mph. However, many of the kids were dressed like it was 80 degrees.

I knew Tatum would be great and meet friends easily, but I worried about Piper. She is an introvert and won’t make a huge effort to make friends. But surprisingly, at pick-up, she told me she had made 3 friends and Tatum told me about one friend that she met. The teachers are on a first name basis with the kids. (Interesting considering that they seem so formal in other areas.) Piper’s teacher Jane and Tatum’s teacher, Emma, had only wonderful things to say about them at the end of the day.

Piper told me that at recess kids were using a tree stump as a stage and were making up songs and rapping. She said she went up with Laura and her friend because they needed someone else. I was so proud of her for coming out of her shell and making friends. But as I write this, I’m now hoping their songs were appropriate! 😬 I’m a little bit of a worrier when it comes to my kids’ innocence. Ok, 2 more hours and Piper will be home and I’ll ask her.

The weather has been less than ideal considering that it is summer. It actually makes Germany seem like they have great summers. It has only been two days though, so we will see. The forecast calls for “fine weather” on Saturday. There was supposed to be an all school picnic/pool party today, but it was cancelled due to rain. I’m guessing that we won’t be wearing many of the summer clothes that we brought.

Today Brian left for an overnight orientation, so Clover and I got our first taste of what life will be like just the two of us. We stopped at a thrift store on our way back from dropping Brian off. Slightly nerve racking driving on the opposite side of narrow streets with a two year old wanting to talk to you the whole time and wanting me to look at everything she is doing. She told me that she doesn’t have any toys at her “Ooo Zealand house”, which isn’t true, but I let her pick out some anyway. We came home and she helped me put some clothes away and then we played hide and seek. I am really excited to have this time with her. Piper was an only child until she was three. Tatum and I had a year together when Piper was in kindergarten and now I get some special time with Clover.

Here are a few pictures. A view from our living room window after the first day of school, downtime for Piper coloring a picture, “I want to make memories all over the world”, and their first day of school pic

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye


Summer is here, and while we love summer (because what’s not to love?  Oh yeah, high temps and no a.c.  Well, other than that.)  it sure is a marker of the passing of time.  I officially have a 4th grader and a 1st grader.  In a few years from now, I will think 4th grade is so little, but for me, right now, it feels so big.  The passing of time is so weird.  We have a newborn baby and immediately, we can’t believe how big they are getting.  At 4 weeks old, we are already seeing that they are growing and changing.  And don’t get me started on 1st birthdays.  It is like 2 different kids in the period of a year.  A tiny newborn who can’t lift her head to a little tot who can (possibly) run around and talk.  And because I know nostalgia can be a distorted lens to view life through, I try to embrace and love the here and the now.  But for a moment, I will reflect on this last school year.

First Tatum.  She didn’t love school at first, but she ended up making some great buddies and made the best of it.  I tried to include her in our nature and fine arts group sometimes, since that will be here circle of friends next year.  Plus, one of her best buds is in the group.  For the end of the year “Final Curtain”, she and her friends sang “Take me out to the ball game”.  Have a look!

Piper.  Wow!  We’ve truly enjoyed each other!  She is so gifted and I am so glad that I have been able to foster her talents.  She struggles with spelling and I struggle to stop pointing out her weakness.  But she has a memory like you wouldn’t believe.  She loves history and has a true understanding of the timeline of historical events.  In fact, at the moment she is reading the Children’s Encyclopedia of American History…for fun.  For her final curtain she performed a monologue from the book “Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies! Voices from a Medieval Village”.  Check out her accent and her memorization skills!  Unfortunately, a call came through right when I was about to hit record, so it is missing the first few seconds.

So long kindergarten.  Farewell Mariners Elementary and Mrs. Boyd!  We will forever cherish our memories there, but look forward to our adventures that await us this next school year.



A few of my favorite things


I wanted to post this on Facebook, but thought it would be too long. So I am back to blogging after a very long time. There are so many things I want to share and have attached links if you are interested!

For Piper’s birthday last year I bought her a set of watercolors that is super portable and great for taking on our nature outings. The brushes hold water, so you don’t even need to bring a cup to clean your brush! She loved it and so did I! So, we ended up all getting one and taking them on our adventures down under last summer. It makes the best souvenir because #1, we are spending time observing and soaking in our surroundings, #2 it’s handmade, and #3, it is all bound together in a nice journal making it easy to keep for forever! We brought them to Vietnam, got our friends hooked and had so much fun touring around and painting! We were in the center of the bustling old town of Hanoi, would throw out the monkey mat and sit and paint. Fun for all ages! Truly! Tatum’s might look different than mine, but we are all able to take part and we have all improved our skills in the past year! Another of my favorite things, the monkey mat. It is thin like tent fabric but offers a nice barrier for when you are out in nature or in a big city. And it zips up nicely into a little pouch!

I just got this new book by John Muir Laws from my totally amazing hubby! I showed it to him on Amazon and then last night I came home to this! He’s a keeper for sure. The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is a beautiful book that teaches you how to start a nature journal if you have never done it and techniques for those that want to improve. This year I have incorporated painting and journaling into many of our subjects. It truly has been one of my highlights!  Here is Piper’s work on blackberries.  We learned about the importance of bees, and how they transform from flower to berry.  Oh, and Clover helped with this one which is why there is a big green patch that she decided to use to write her info. 🙂

Photo on 6-3-16 at 4.22 PM

This is what I came home to last night.  Put a smile on my face and made today a fun day as we explored some new techniques.  Also, Teaching From Rest!  I have heard so much about it and am excited to read it!

This is what I came home to last night. Put a smile on my face and made today a fun day as we explored some new techniques. Also, Teaching From Rest! I have heard so much about it and am excited to read it!

Here are our pictures of the red bridge in the old town of Hanoi Vietnam.

Here are our pictures of the red bridge in the old town of Hanoi Vietnam.

Piper's painting of the 12  Apostles in Australia, Tatum painted pumpkins at Tanaka Farm, and Kaikoura New Zealand for me.

Piper’s painting of the 12 Apostles in Australia, Tatum painted pumpkins at Tanaka Farm, and Kaikoura New Zealand for me.

Our first attempt at a bird after some tips from our new book.  We also used embossing to show the veins in leaves and blended lots of colors to work on color matching.

Our first attempt at a bird after some tips from our new book. We also used embossing to show the veins in leaves and blended lots of colors to work on color matching with colored pencils.

Apologies for the poor quality pics, I am using my computer. I knew if I didn’t finish this right now, it might never get done! Oh and one last thing! We get our journals from the Bee Paper Company. I use a 6×6, but Tatum’s is a bit bigger until she is a bit older and has better fine motor skills.

Leaving on a jet plane


I am about to do something crazy, something really crazy. I am about to get on a plane with my 5 and 8 year old, leave my hubby and 18 month old behind and fly to Vietnam. Some of you know me well, but may not even know this. I guess I worry what people might think or say. “You’re going to leave your baby? I could never do that.” “What if something happens?” “Didn’t you just get back from Australia and New Zealand?” “You’re leaving again?!?!” I get it. I get anxious thinking about leaving my sweet babe behind, but I get more anxious thinking about flying solo for 18 hours with a baby and not my right hand man. (Plus, hubby didn’t want her to go.) I get anxious thinking about the possibility of something happening, but the reality is “something” can happen anywhere. It could happen on the way to the grocery store. And yes, I did just get back from an amazing vacation with my family, but this is different. This was the hard work of me and my 8 year old raising money through garage sales, lemonade stands ($71 on July 4th!), washing dishes at the trendy donut shop up the street.
But there was a nudging. Something that couldn’t be ignored. We know some folks who go and offer support to Americans serving in other countries. My hubby said, “Wouldn’t it be great if they could go visit the Fizzies (our term of endearment for our friends 🙂 ) And I said yes, but then I thought, why can’t we do that? Why can’t we be those people. Sure they would be blessed to have a stranger come and offer help and support, but how much more so to have a dear friend? And so the saving began, and when the ticket prices were ridiculously low, we snatched them up. So yes, there is some sacrifice involved, but how worth it is it to sacrifice for the sake of friend? Her daughters and my daughters are sweet friends and they don’t know we are coming. How worth it it will be to see the looks on her girls’ faces when they see my kiddos. How worth it it will be to be able to chat and have a good friend on your couch in your house, seeing your world? I know how worth it that is. I know how much it meant to me to live in Germany and to have visitors. Yes, I loved coming back and seeing familiar faces, but there are so many people to squeeze into a short time, there are family obligations, and so on. But when my friends and my family came into our world, saw our apartment, our grocery store, our life!  Those are sweet memories that I truly cherish.

Stay tuned for the video of their reaction when they see us!!!

Round 2


Do you know what today was? Today was “Meet the teacher” day for #2. Three years ago, I was anxious and depressed over sending #1 to school and now I am anxiously awaiting stepping into the same classroom with the same wonderful teacher with Tatum. I know she will soak it all up. Tatum is so social and loves meeting new people. While on our summer travels she met a friend at a cafe in Australia, and in New Zealand she went to two different schools and made friends. On our way home our flight was delayed and she found a girl to play with in the airport. School; piece of cake. I know it will be a transition having to get out of the house early with food for lunches and having to be back to pick her up at a certain time. But it’s not for forever and the benefits seem to outweigh the costs (otherwise we wouldn’t send her!) So here’s to kinder, my silly, friendly 5 year old!
IMG_2078She dresses herself most days if you couldn’t tell.  The first day of school will be different.  Maybe not the 2nd, but for sure the first. 😉

In my post about Back to School Blues 3 years ago, I wrote about my crazy two year old, and now she has lost some of her crazy. I am happy that “remember we only color on paper” is not something I say on a daily basis any longer, but sometimes I miss her crazy. I see her strive to be a good girl and sometimes I worry that she tries too hard and is looking for approval. She compares herself to her big sister and wishes she could be like her. “Piper always remembers her water bottle and I don’t. I try to, but I forget.” “Does my hair look good? I think this hair bow looks good even though it is Christmas. Does it?” “Piper always finishes the dishes before me.” I am so in love with this child that I don’t want her to feel in adequate. It is just amazing how deeply a parent loves each child even though they can be so different! I LOVE that #1 is obedient and understands that you sometimes have to do things you don’t want to do for the greater good. And I LOVE #2 who is not that way, but who is super social and can entertain her baby sister and make her crack up. And then there is #3, just a cutie patootie who hasn’t busted out her challenges yet (besides teething right now and being needy), and of course, I just LOVE her to pieces too! My mom’s mom had 6 girls and my dad’s mom had 12 kids. I would just have to assume that each one is so different and yet so deeply loved.
Sweet girl, may you go off to school knowing that you are so loved! ~Your biggest fan
IMG_2072Tatum with her Christmas hair bow.  No wonder Cloves cracks up.