I’m a Daydream Believer

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It seems that I blog A LOT about my kids and how fast they grow up and blah blah blah.  And if I am not blogging about that then it is about technology and the likes.  So I guess in keeping with the theme here I go again.

I’ve been reading this book called Solitude and now that I think about it, earlier this year I read a book called The Art of Stillness.  The thing that strikes me is the idea that we like to call in our house (thanks to a podcast Brian listens to) as “brilliantly bored”.  We underestimate the power of daydreaming.  Many big companies (i.e. Google, can’t get much bigger than that) understand the power of “free thinking” and have incorporated this idea into their work hours.  Give them time to have no task, no distraction even and that is when you will experience your lightbulb moment.

Given enough solitude and enough time, the mind…explores problems with curiosity and openness we might never choose to entertain.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.  We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  Einstein believed that the daydreaming mind’s ability to link things is, in fact, our only path toward fresh ideas. 

The style of thinking that our schools train us to use always silences the bizarre or unpopular ideas that the daydreaming mind might try on.

And my favorite quote (so far, I’m not even halfway done yet and still I feel inspired to write what I’ve gleaned!)

True wandering requires a long leash.

-From Solitude by Michale Harris

Sometimes we pat ourselves on the back when we say, “go read a book” or “go play outside for 20 minutes, then you can play a game on the iPad”, but the very idea of do this and then you can have screen time makes the leash quite short.

You guys, I have this amazing 12 year old (and 8 and 5 year old, but not when it comes to screen time.  When it comes to screen time, only the 12 year old is amazing 😉 ) . Anyway, we have all decide to make habit trackers for the new year.  Each month we list some (8-12) habits we want to work on and and check the box each day if we have succeeded.  My avid reader, who rarely uses a device, wrote less screen time.  So far for the month of March she has two boxes without a check.  When I asked her about it she said she watched a movie at a friend’s birthday party and I don’t remember what the other one was.  But anyway, she’s my new inspiration.  If she thinks she can do less, then I can definitely do less.  Now my middle, she’s a different story.  She has wanted an iPad for every birthday and Christmas for years.  The other day she asked if she could watch a show.  I told her no and instead she did this.img_7324

Now we’ve got an awesome speaker when we’re blasting The Greatest Showman (because apparently they will NEVER get tired of it).  Anyway, talk about encouraging!  I was like, “Alright, you are never going to watch a show again because this is awesome!”  Okay, I’m kidding.

Let me just say, I am so grateful for technology.  I live so very far from family and we chat like we are down the street via text and videos.  We have two laptops, two iPads and three iPhones in the house.  It sounds ridiculous.  It is ridiculous.  The kids go days without screen time, but I can’t say the same for me.  They can’t use a device without me knowing what they are watching or what app they are playing and there are no devices in any bedroom.  I won’t sleep with a phone in my room, we have a good old fashioned $10 alarm clock to wake us up.  It’s worth the investment. 🙂 .  I write this stuff because I spend a lot of time reading and have attended seminars about brain development and addiction and pornography and so on and so on.  I am not judging, but I am passionate.  I believe you can take your kids to a meal and not need to give them a device.  If they get antsy, bring pick up sticks and play together while you wait for your food.  There are options.

Reading about solitude and how technology has taken that away and so on and so on was swirling around in my head, and then I got to thinking, I was the kid who spent hours in front of a screen a day!  In 1989 it wasn’t a computer or a phone, but the box television.  My parents had divorced, my mom worked full time and I passed the minutes of the afternoon watching Alvin and the Chipmunks, Muppet Babies, Small Wonder, Looney Tunes, and Chip n Dale’s Rescue Ranger to name a few.  Seriously, I probably watched all of those shows in a single afternoon.  Somehow, I also made time for Super Mario Bros., the only game I had for our Nintendo.  Before my parents divorced, we lived in a neighborhood where we were always outside playing with the neighbors.  After the divorce we lived in an apartment that had very few kids around and no adults were home until dinner time.  We were your typical latch-key kids suddenly.

I grew up going to the beach occasionally and vacations were minimal, but when they happened they were to the mountains or to the river where my dad could fish.  But other than that, we were nature deprived.  We spent our free time going to the mall or the movies.  Good ol’ suburban fun!  I was 32 years old before I learned that Orange County, my home for my entire life (minus my first 3 years) had waterfalls you could hike to.  And my first memory of watching the sun set was in college.

And YET, get this!  I am not condemned to being a junky with my face still stuck in front of a screen.  There is hope!  My life isn’t ruined because of too much screen time!  You can change habits if you want.  There is a world waiting for you to discover it and if you do, you just mind find out that you LIKE it.  What a different experience my kids will have.  I don’t know what they will choose when they are out of the house, but their childhood memories will be ones spent going to the beach, bike rides, sunsets, hiking and the like.  Brian goes out nearly every night at sunset.  Sometimes he is rushing off from dinner, other times, we all ride down, sometimes even with bunnies in tow.  Occasionally the timing seems bad and one of the kids is annoyed and asks why Dad always has to go down to the beach.  To which I responded “You don’t know what a privilege it is to watch the sunset until you can’t.  We lived two years in Germany and I could think of one time that I saw the colors of the sky change and the sun going down and I had to drive to the top of the mountain to do so.”

This week I tested myself with a few different challenges each day.  Once day I did not check social media.  Another, I left my phone in the car and played at the park with Clover.  And one day took a book to get my blood drawn.  Not big things, but little things to make sure that I am still in control.  That the screen doesn’t control me.

“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children’s memories, the adventures we’ve had together in nature will always exist.”

-From Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv (such a great read!)

 

 

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The Greatest Showman has forever changed our life

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Seven months ago we embarked on a family trip that we had been dreaming about for years.  We had bought a new 12 passenger Sprinter with the intention that our “semi” cross country trip would finally be happening.  When the opportunity for us to move to New Zealand became available, the one thing that was holding me back from being “all in” was that I knew that if we didn’t do the trip before we left then I wasn’t sure it would ever happen.  I think somewhere between Arizona and Colorado, Brian bought the sound track to The Greatest Showman and from then on it became the theme song to our trip and, at that point, our future which was just about to change…drastically.
Some people long for a life that is simple and planned
Tied with a ribbon
Some people won’t sail the sea ’cause they’re safer on land
To follow what’s written
But I’d follow you to the great unknown
Off to a world we call our own
Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go
We’re walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We’re walking the tightrope
Never sure, never know how far we could fall
But it’s all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope
With you, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
With you, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh
With you
Mountains and valleys, and all that will come in between
Desert and ocean
You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream
Always in motion
So I risk it all just to be with you
And I risk it all for this life we choose
Oh man!  So sappy huh?
We were having the greatest time connecting with family.  I couldn’t have guessed that our trip would be so fulfilling and life giving.  I thought we were crazy, and I know a lot of you did too, to pack up our house and travel for a month before moving overseas.  It was crazy, but boy am I glad we did.  Everywhere we went I felt like I was teaching my kids the importance of family.  We saw amazing things, like having to slow down because there was a bison blocking the road!  And did crazy things, like somehow I found myself in the arena at a rodeo!  But the most amazing thing was showing them the value of family.  We like new places, we enjoy adventures, but we love family.  They talk about our trip often and the highlights for them are not staying the teepee or going to Yellowstone.  Their highlights were the people.
So with every word to every song engrained in my mind, I felt so confident walking into this great unknown.  I would be moving to a place where there would be no family, but hoped that we had instilled in the kids that it is still something we value, even though we are making the choice to move.
And then, BOOM!  We moved here, and I felt that I had bought into the romanticized lie.  This tightrope business is hard stuff and gave me false confidence.  I had wanted to write about our road trip after we got back, but things were crazy and then we were here in New Zealand and then I felt like I couldn’t because I wasn’t in a good place.
But now, now I am here, in the same place, but it’s good.  It’s weird how that works.  I can see that things happen for a reason.  I can see that there will be mountains and there will be valleys.  I have a hard time seeing the mountain when I am in the valley, but that’s normal I think.
After being here for 6 months, our family finally went away for the weekend.  The Greatest Showman was playing loudly and the windows were down.  It is summer again, and we were on the road…again.  With a smile on her face, Piper said, it reminds me of our trip this past summer. And all I could think of was that the last 6 months have been quite the adventure.  It has not always been easy, but it has been worth it.  I was finally ready to  share about this adventure that we call life.
P.S.  A million thank yous to all the family that made our trip so so memorable.  You don’t know what it meant to us.  We LOVE you and miss you tons!  And to our family in friends that were close by, we love and miss you too.
P.S.S. I documented the trip on Instagram if you haven’t seen the pics.  @perfectpieceoftime
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11

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Christmas break marks a big change for Piper.  She has been working at the cafe a few days a week since the new year.  She is only 11, but this marks a big change as I know that from here the work and the responsibilities will just build on what all started at the beginning of 2019.  Who would’ve thought that 11 would be such a big year?  When I think back to being 11 now, I guess it was big for me too.  I left my catholic school and started public middle school.  Started my period.  (So fun to start right when you are the new kid at a new school! Ugh!) And at 11, I also made a pact with my best friend that it would be the year that we kissed a boy (that didn’t happen until I was 15 though. 😉 ) . Piper turned 11 eleven months ago now and what an (almost) year it has been.  My little shorty isn’t so short any more for one thing.

She had decided that she wanted to teach a class on book binding to other kids her age.  She told her friends and asked me to post it on the neighborhood Facebook page.  Well, there was so much interest that we capped the class at 10 and she will be having another class in the near future!  I was so proud of her watching her prep for the class, while also fitting in her surf lifesaving summer program and working at the cafe.  Oh and a run with her friends!  Yes, the kid who has always hated running has decided that she wants to do the 10k in April and has started training.  She wanted me to help with the art class but ONLY when she asked me.  I was nervous for her, but the kids really enjoyed it and some 11 year old boys told their parents that Piper was a great teacher. 🙂 . So sweet.  Now that she is making money, we made an appointment to get her a bank account here.  She was so cute, the night before she asked, “Should I dress nice?”  I thought she was talking about for work the next day and so I said, “No, but maybe don’t wear shorts since you will be carrying hot drinks.”  (Remember, this is the child who ended up in the burn center).  And she said, “Not to work, but to the bank.”  Precious!  Maybe 50 years ago, that was a thing, but now I told her to just get ready for work and that was also fine for the bank.

Our move has provided so many unexpected joys.  This morning Brian and I went on a hike without the kids and he said it almost feels like Piper is a character in a book.  It’s like she is the American Girl: Girl of the Year character.  What’s her story?  Piper is an 11 year old girl who has just recently moved to New Zealand so that her dad could pursue his PhD.  She is homeschooled and was sad to leave her friends and family back in California.  Little did she know that new opportunities and adventures await her in New Zealand!  She gets a job at the cafe across the street a few hours a week and gets the chance to teach art classes to the kids in the area, which she loves!  To see how Piper handles these big changes, you’ll have to read the book! 😉

Piper has always seemed so old.  Even when she was a little pipsqueak in Kindergarten, she acted so grown up.  This isn’t a good or bad quality, it is just the way it is.  Tatum has always enjoyed being little and doesn’t want to grow up and that is just great too.  But this move has been so great for her as well.  She is 8 years old and is a free bird!  The other day I went to pick her up from surf lifesaving camp and there she is walking home with the neighbor on her own.  The town is just over 2km end to end and 1km from the beach to the edge of town.  We live smack dab in the middle which means the kids can go to their friends house and vise versa whenever they want.  These changes were on the horizon for Piper even back in the US.  I would send her to the store for milk and so on.  But I try to tell Tatum how lucky she is that she gets to live the childhood that my parents did.  Her memories will be playing with friends until it gets dark.  Riding bikes to the forest and making hideouts, and finding just enough coins to get an ice cream at the dairy.  For these moments of childhood I am grateful.  For Piper to have her last years of childhood so carefree and for Tatum to have discovered a new found freedom with her bike and her sister is a gift that I didn’t exactly expect.

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Piper’s first job

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Book making class was a success

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A Christmas Letter

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We started the year off with a few new pets from Christmas and THEN we made the decision to move to New Zealand.  I got a baby tortoise named Rocco, and Tatum and I got guinea pigs, Taffy and Cinnamon. We went from only having Frankie to 4 pets!  Mom got a job working at a winery. It was a cool location in San Juan Capistrano, with an old house and an active train tracks. We would smash pennies on the tracks when we were there.  For Christmas, we all got passes to Knott’s Berry Farm. I love Knott’s, they have the best roller coasters, so I decided to celebrate my 11th birthday there. In March, Clover’s 4th birthday was at the park with a yummy rainbow cake and later that month, we went to Arizona with Grandma, and without dad to celebrate Aunt TT’s 40th birthday.  In April, Clover hit her head on our fireplace and got stitches on her forehead and Tatum turned 8. Tatum had a Kit Kittredge American Girl mystery birthday at one of our favorite beaches, Crystal Cove. We had the party at one of the historic cottages and stayed 2 nights. On Tatum’s actual birthday, we went to the beach and Tatum and I got baptized.  Once May came, everything got crazy with moving, garage sales, selling furniture, cars, everything, gone! The saddest thing was that we couldn’t bring our dog to New Zealand. It cost $8,000 and a long time in quarantine. In June, my cousin Christian’s adoption was finalized which was exciting. But we also had a lot of our “lasts”. Tatum and I had our last piano recital.  She played the national anthem and I played Eidelweiss. We had our end of the year homeschool show where Tatum sang “You are my All in All” and I memorized and recited Longfellow’s very long poem “Paul Revere’s Ride”. I had my last gymnastics, which was really sad because I had been going there since kindergarten. And all three of us ended June with our ballet recital. June 30th was the craziest day!  We had to be out of our house and we had two shows for our recital that day! That night we stayed at my Nana and Papa’s house and on July 1st it was bye-bye California, Hello Roadtrip!

We built bunk beds in our 12 seater Sprinter van and packed all the stuff we would need for a 7,000 mile and month long road trip.  First stop, Arizona where we said goodbye to our big family. Tatum belly flopped right off the high dive at the pool! Jade, Grandma and our family stayed at a waterpark hotel with the rest of our family.  It was so hot, 120F, that it melted the a magnet off of our new car! We celebrated the 4th of July with my 2nd cousins and great grandparents. From there, we headed to Colorado by way of New Mexico. We saw my mom’s cousin and enjoyed the beauty there.  We woke up early one morning and drove 12 hours through flat, unchanging Kansas to Missouri to meet my mom’s aunt at an epic fireworks show. We met more 2nd cousins and got to ride in a horse drawn carriage to the Gateway Arch. We also spent 2 days on my cousin’s boat wakeboarding and swimming in a 70F lake.  On our way out from Missouri, we got a tour of where my great grandma was born by my mom’s uncle. We drove through an Amish town and saw people riding buggies down the street. That night, we stayed in Hannibal on the Mississippi River where Mark Twain was born. Next stop was Wisconsin to see my dad’s family. We stayed at my great aunt’s house with her grandkids (more cousins!)  We had a BBQ where got to go on a hayride, and went to an island in the middle of the Mississippi River where the homestead of my great great grandpa’s house was and got eaten alive by mosquitos. Then we swam in the mighty Mississippi river. One night, we also went on a paddleboat pizza cruise on the river. We left Wisconsin and drove through South Dakota and saw the Badlands and Mount Rushmore and stayed in the adorable tiny town of Wall.  Our next stay was in a teepee by Devil’s Tower, with an amazing view. From there we drove to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. On our way to our camp, we got stuck behind a bison in the middle of the road. We camped in the middle of nowhere by a beautiful river one night and in a prairie with a view of the Tetons another. It was breathtaking. In Yellowstone we swam in a swimming hole heated by hot springs. Montana was the place I was most excited about to visit because I had such good memories of there.  On our way, we stopped and swam at a crystal clear lake. We got to our family’s house on my cousin Brooklyn’s birthday and went to the rodeo. It was super cool and our first rodeo. Then I got to sleep on the trampoline with her and her friends. I didn’t go to bed until 4am! I probably saw 25 shooting stars! The next day was Savannah’s birthday and we spent the day at a lake that had clay cliffs where we made bowls that we hardened in the sun. Like every other stop it was sad to say goodbye but we were headed to some more cousins in Idaho.  There it was more fun swimming and also tubing in the creek near their house. We celebrated my dad’s birthday there. Our last stop was Twin Lakes, my favorite place in the world which we have been going to since I was 5 with our friends, the Coopmans. We spent the days tubing, fishing and playing on the beach. It was the perfect ending to our trip. Our last two weeks in America were spent with our friends the Paulsons. They hosted a going away party and afterward, the dads took all of us to toilet paper our friends’ houses! We love America, but it was time for us to say goodbye to everything we knew and go to New Zealand. By Piper

 

We arrived in New Zealand the 18th of August.  I expected our town to be a lot smaller but it still is pretty small.  There are thousands of farms and everywhere you go, you see green grass and trees.  There are a lot of forests. There is one with an epic playground in the forest called, Middle Earth, and on the walk there you go through a fairy garden there is an obstacle course that I’ve gotten really good at.  Almost every day we walk to the beach. There are so many shells, bones and driftwood. You can walk forever on the beach. Cars and horses are also allowed. There is also a super fun river that we play in that goes into the ocean.  It is cool being able to walk to the forest and the beach. At first, we didn’t fully like our house, but once we got our Ninja Line up it was A LOT better. Then we got our bunnies and made our house a lot more homey. We hold our bunnies almost everyday now.  We have a garden and had like a 10 pound cabbage and a little too much kale, but no worries, our bunnies like kale.

All of a sudden God answered our prayers for a friend and we met Fern.  Now we play with her almost everyday. She was raising a lamb named Lulu who is so cute.  Then Fern introduced me and Piper to another friend, Courtney. Now we are friends with both of them and all of us are making up a dance.  We’ve also met our next door neighbor, Brian, who is 7. We play with him everyday. Fern told us we should join Scouts. So we did and it is so fun!  Once we lit a fire in a volcano made of sand. We also went abseiling, cooked pancakes on a coffee tin, and the best part was getting pulled on a mat by a tractor in a pasture.  Whenever you fell off you got covered in cow poop. We had a blast! Piper and I have joined a soccer team and Piper scored a goal. Not only soccer, but all three of us joined gymnastics.  Everyone looks forward to going. I LOVE New Zealand and I hope you do too. By Tatum

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A Christmas Carol

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I love Christmas carols, like old hymns that have been sung for hundreds of years.  I can do without any of the songs played on the radio station KOST, and definitely can’t stand Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is You.  When it becomes decided that songs with any sort of religious content become offensive, you hear the same playlist of 12 songs over and over and I’m usually over hearing Christmas songs at the stores before December has even begun.

But there are so many songs I LOVE!  I won’t get into all of them, but O Holy Night is pretty high up on the list.  I love the verse that says

Truly He taught us to love one another

His law is love and his gospel is peace

I’m reading the book Everybody Always right now and love the simplicity of it.  It is as simple as the lines from the Christmas carol above.  Can we just work on loving one another?

I’ve concluded we can be correct and not right.  Know what I mean?  I do this most often when I have the right words and the wrong heart.  Sadly, whenever I make my opinions more important that the difficult people God made, I turn the wine back into water.  I’m trying to resist the bait that darkness offers me every day to trade kindness for rightness….Pick the most controversial social issue of the day, and you’ll find passionate voices on all sides.  The sad fact is, many of us have lost our way trying to help people find theirs…

We don’t need to spend as much time as we do telling people what we think about what they are doing.  Loving people doesn’t mean we need to control their conduct…Loving people means caring without an agenda.  As soon as we have an agenda, it’s not love anymore…

There’s no school to learn how to love your neighbor, just the house next door.  No one expects us to love them flawlessly, but we can love them fearlessly, furiously, and unreasonably… 

The other book I am reading at the moment, my fictional book, is A Christmas Carol.  Like how I titled it A Christmas Carol?  You thought it was just about the one carol didn’t you? ;).

Scrooge is being visited by his dead business partner, who we learn was pretty “Scrooge-like” as well, when he was alive.  He appears to Scrooge to give him a warning and share his regrets:

But you were always a good man of business, Jacob, faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

Business! cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again.  Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business.  The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.  

This town is small, and just like in a big city, there is hurt and pain and happiness all mixed up here.  The single moms are my business, the family wrecked by suicide is my business, the kinda creepy guy who walks intently down the street is my business, the little boy who wears dresses and told Clover that he knows the “F” word and “shit” and says it all the time, is my business.  Not out of obligation, but out of a firm belief that this stuff about love is truth.  It makes me think about the “ABOUT” section that I wrote 7 years ago on this blog.  Life is short, what are we doing with this tiny blip that we are here for.  If we break it down to a day, it is an even tinier blip. But still, it is the perfect. piece. of. time. to love your neighbors and to make that your business.

Oh and one more thing.  Have grace.  You’re not going to get it right all the time.  I’m not going to get it right all the time.  I believe this stuff about love, but I may not always act the way I should.  Have grace.

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Journey

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For 14 months our family has been praying about where we should live.  A year ago we wondered if it was California or New Zealand, then it was praying for a house in Wellington, and then when we landed here it was a question of do we stay at the beach or still try to get back to Wellington.  I am happy to say that, for now, we can close that book and will not be praying about housing for some time.

Back in July we were contacted by the vicar and his wife of the small church we attended in our neighborhood in Wellington.  They were looking to buy a second home and wanted us to live in it and be a part of their community again.  They were attracted to our desire to live in community with those around us and wanted another family to journey with in using the church to reach out to the local community.  We were honored to say the least!  And felt excited that an opportunity had come up that would allow us to be back to a familiar place.  They put a few offers on some houses and each time they were outbid.  Meanwhile, my kids were adjusting to life here at the beach where they have the freedom to explore and ride around the town and most importantly, they had made friends.

As time went on, after my first weeks here where I was angry that critters were living in my attic, I started to just plant roots instead of waiting to see if the Wellington option would work out.  And then, what to my wondering eyes should appear!  Not a miniature sleigh, but a beautiful house in Wellington with the hopes that our family would occupy it.  I felt confused by this, because we were in a good place, and no one wanted to move.  We prayed and wanted to be willing to move, but if you asked us, we were happy here.  I had the chance to live in the nicest and biggest house I have ever lived in, and yet, suddenly, I realized it’s not about a house.  We shared our uncertainty with this couple, and as you can imagine, I was nervous.  They had just done the most generous thing and we were not sure if we would accept the offer.  At one point, Catherine told me that her mum had a vision of the house being a lifeline.  She said, “When I saw you that day at the playground you needed a lifeline and I didn’t have one to offer you.  And now I am throwing you a lifeline and you aren’t taking it, and I find that very interesting.”  And while her husband thought that was a bit frank, and personally, I think Brian did too, it was the thing I most needed to hear.  It became clear that we weren’t in need of a lifeline.  If this house is intended to be a lifeline I definitely wouldn’t want to take that away from the person or family who desperately needs it.

Since we tend to teeter on the fence, we asked them to tell us when they would like a final answer and they gave us five days.  I was happy to know that we wouldn’t be sitting on this decision for 5 months as we had about the move overseas.  Knowing that we weren’t in need of a lifeline helped us be at peace with telling them, with certainty, two days later via email, that we were going to stay at the beach and that we can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.  We still had planned to chat at the 5 day mark, but since we had an answer we wanted to let them know about it as well.

Another pit in my stomach as my phone rang for our FaceTime call.  I hoped that they would be gracious with us, but would understand if they were disappointed as well.  God is so so good and what they thought was their plan B was His plan A.  There is a young man, 18 years old, who used to attend the church, but the family had moved back to Tonga and had been living their for the past 6 years.  He had come back and was looking for a house to rent for his mum, dad, grandmother and younger brother to come live in and no one would take him seriously.  His race and his age and his financial situation made it difficult for him to be able to rent something.  The family had pretty much given up on the idea of moving back to Wellington.  Little old grandma, with the faith of a giant, said, just give it a few more days, I feel that something is about to happen.. When our friends, approached the young man, not knowing any of this part of their story, he said, This is a miracle!

God doesn’t owe us His perspective on things, and we don’t always get to see how things will work out, but what a blessing to the 4 of us, Brian and I and our friends, Paul and Catherine, in Northland, to be able to take this journey together since July.  It has been no doubt confusing at times, but what an amazing ending to know that this idea of a lifeline, was God-given and intended for a family desperately in need.  And the idea of going back to the familiarity of Wellington is exactly what I needed to get me through my first weeks here, even if it never were going to become a reality.  The young man’s name is Brian.  And so we joked that they probably were hearing from God that the house was for Brian and that he will be coming from another country.  It was just a different Brian!  I am so happy that I got to be a part of this journey and see God’s hand at work in very tangible ways.

So if you need me, you can find me here in Waitarere.

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Deferred Gratification (and other growing pains)

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Our family is getting used to a new norm in so many ways.  One way that makes itself evident on a nearly daily basis is the fact that money is tight! I grew up without extra and have memories of running out of toilet paper.  I hated running out of toilet paper.  I also would get new Keds-type shoes at the beginning of the school year.  Notice I said, “Keds-type” because they were really from Target or Payless.  And after some months my toes would be curled in there desperately needing a new pair, but that would have to wait until money allowed.

We have lived frugally on one income for the kids’ entire lives, but we are always well stocked in the toilet paper department and I will not let them wear shoes that are too small for them even if they love them still.  (Bunions!) Things are different now, but we chose “different” and I am aware of that.  This isn’t a call for sympathy or anything like that.  We sat down with the kids and went over finances with them.  Wait, that’s a lie.  Actually, Brian sat us all down and went over the budget and finances with us.  For the first few weeks we wrote everything expense down.  The kids got to visually see the number decrease.  And then. Bam!  On Sept. 16, Brian said, “Just so you know we have $80 left.”  All kinds of ugly was bubbling up inside of me.  I don’t like doing hard things like this.  I spent years of my childhood being poor.  I don’t want to do this again.  Other thoughts were, why did we come here?  Life was good back home.  And lastly, I guess I won’t be getting the bookcase I had my eye on for $40.  Deferred gratification sucks.

Miraculously, with the help of my first born probably, we looked at it as a challenge and tried to see if we could make our food last.  One day we went to the store and we had $30 left in the bank.  I just needed a few essentials that could go a long way.  I also had $17 in my wallet.  I wasn’t totally paying attention to how much I was spending, which is actually interesting, I wasn’t anxious or nervous or anything when I got to the front.  The lady said that my total was $47.  I had exactly enough money to buy my groceries!

We have some emergency money, and I knew I could delve into that if I needed to and I was pretty sure I was going to need to.  The days kept ticking away without us having to get bread or milk or anything.  It became a game and somehow we made it to payday!

The kids were invited to go skating with a friend and they had to use their own money.  We found some coins and were all able to enjoy a kiddie cone at the dairy across the street one warm Sunday afternoon after working hard in the yard.  The kids have a job on Friday to wash a car and earn $5 each.  I’ve taught them Solitaire and Sudoku and our evenings are now spent playing these games.  For the first time in their life, we aren’t able to treat them in ways that cost money and yet all of their needs are met.

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Tatum asked me the other night, “What was our budget in California?  I feel like we could get whatever we wanted.”  I would have never thought that they felt that way.  Honestly, we went to great restaurants, but only on kids-eat-free nights or during happy hour.  We found cool stuff to do, but usually we only went if there was a special or a free day.  I only took them to the movies on Tuesdays and Wednesdays when they played for $5.  I let them buy useless junk if we were at a garage sale and it cost me a few coins.  I knew I was making the most of our money, but they could only see the extravagant life they were living.  And I guess that was the point.  I wanted them to feel like they weren’t lacking anything, while still living frugally.  I cringe now as I just wrote that.  I don’t know if that is healthy or not, but it’s the truth.

You may be wondering why I am sharing this.  Why I am letting you in on a conversation about my finances?  Because by the grace of God it only took me a few days to feel the blessings in these growing pains.  It has been SO good for the kids to see that everything costs money and that there isn’t an endless supply.  I would have never chosen to teach them this way, but hey here it is!  Brian and I are both missing our drinks, both alcoholic and caffeinated.  I think that going out for a drink became an easy date, cheaper than a meal, especially when we were here last year.  So many great cafes!  But the drinks are a definite non-necessity and it is where we feel it the most, especially if the day is cold and gloomy, and I wish I could be sitting in a cafe or if the kids have been especially difficult and I want to end the day with glass of wine.  Wow I literally just sighed as I wrote that.  This is not for forever, dear self.  The second gift that has come from this, empathy!  I am feeling for those who are living in poverty and who are living paycheck to paycheck.  We want to live within our means, and right now that technically means we are below the poverty line.  Luckily, we know that if an emergency occurred, we could pull money out of savings.  And in other good news, I can start subbing this week!  I pray that we can be wise with our money even as our monthly income increases.

The hardest goodbye for the kids was their Boston Terrier brother, Frankie.  They also had to re-home their guinea pigs and tortoise.  So, with the move we promised them they could get bunnies, something they have always wanted.  Another gift that our budget has brought into our lives is the gift of ingenuity.  As soon as we got here, they were ready for bunnies, but it was another case of deferred gratification and a lot of ingenuity.  We got all the bunny books out at the library and researched rabbits.  Piper designed a hutch based on what she read they needed.  And with the scrap wood we had in our backyard and other random stuff we found on the property, they built (with the help of their dad) a hutch that is pretty awesome that only cost them some nails.  Two days ago, after weeks of waiting for these particular bunnies to be big enough, they got their bunnies!  I may have not bought a new hutch if we were on our old “budget”.  I may have looked on Craigslist or Marketplace or something.  But to see them make this hutch out of nothing was pretty cool and they are pretty proud of it too.  I mean it looks like a shanty town hutch.  The wood is mismatched and whatnot, but it is cozy and roomy for our two new furry friends.  Okay, scroll down for some seriously cute bunny pics.  Piper’s is Cali (short for California and Tatum’s is Cottontail.

So, how do I end this?  Embrace challenges.  Maybe God is trying to teach you something.  If you’re like me your initial reaction is anger and I turn into a grump, but don’t stay grumpy, look for an opportunity to see how the challenge can be used to refine you.