Monthly Archives: April 2017

Easter in NZ

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America has this reputation that bigger is better.  If you have traveled overseas, then you know that not all countries serve their food on plates that can fit your Thanksgiving turkey and Costco is a phenomenon pretty unique to us Americans.  And so I shouldn’t have been surprised that Easter down under wasn’t what I was used to.  I have been in Germany for Easter and while it isn’t as commercial as it is in the good ol’ US of A, it was definitely a marker that spring had sprung and that is pretty exciting when winter means days go by where the sun never shows its shiny face.

But it’s fall here.  Celebrating Easter in fall, so strange!  Easter is the biggest holiday in church calendar, and it was obvious that that was the case at the little church next door as well.  They had services and vigils from Thursday through Sunday.  But that didn’t mean that there was all the “to-do”that I expected.

My trusty friend, Sophie, who was visiting from Australia became my go to gal for all things “Easter Down Under”.  First question, “what do you guys wear for Easter?”  Because I can’t imagine dressing up in new spring dresses, it wouldn’t seem right.  But do they dress up like we dress up in fall colors like we do for Thanksgiving?  Nope.  You just wear your normal everyday clothes, no dressing up necessary.  Well, that was just too difficult for me, and so we got dressed up and went to church.  Despite the build up to Easter with services the 3 days prior, everyone was there in there REI-type attire and kids in mismatched leggings and t’s.

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Easter attire was a necessity for me

After church, when we all gather in the hall for morning tea, I asked a few folks what their plans were for the day.  Nothing special.  Just a normal day.  That is so interesting to me, because the school holidays start on Good Friday.  No school or government office is open on Good Friday, not Easter Monday.  And then the schools are off for the next 2 weeks.  So, while we commercialize Easter and make it a big money maker, many of our schools have actually gone away from having their spring break back up to Easter.

Lastly, Easter baskets are for collecting eggs from your egg hunt, and not used like a Christmas stocking that gets filled on Easter morning.  Children receive chocolate eggs from grandparents and/or parents.  Some are giant like we see in the stores, and others are sold like a dozen eggs.  But for the actual egg hunt they hide small foil wrapped chocolate eggs, not the plastic filled eggs.  While I haven’t traveled the island to see if this is how it is done with everyone, this is what we experienced at Clover’s music class and at the end of the Easter service at church.  And my trusty friend for all things Easter Down Under says that is how egg hunts in Australia go as well.  Thanks Soph! 😉

There was definitely a sense of freedom this holiday for me.  Being away from home, I felt free to break tradition.  Among my 10 pieces of luggage and 5 carry-ons, you would think I would have room to fit 3 plus Easter baskets, but no.  An unopened jar of mayo and cocoa powder took precedence apparently.  I put in an order with the Easter bunny to deliver to Nana and Papa’s before they left Annie’s bunny mac n’ cheese and bunny crackers (Thank you Annie’s brand for being my “stuffer savior” for 6 years now with your bunny mascot) as well as new slippers for the girls.  So while Tatum was worried that the Easter bunny wouldn’t know where she lived, he delivered.  Easter morning surprises and an egg hunt at the church, and we were good.  The rest of the day was a fly by the seat of your pants kind of day and we ended up going on a walk and having lunch at the Botanical Gardens where we huddled under 2 umbrellas at our outdoor table as it started to rain quite heavily for about 20 min.  Luckily it let up before we had to walk home.

While we did miss our annual neighborhood Easter gathering and celebrating with family, (Brian’s parents were here, so we weren’t totally alone which was nice.) we were happy to participate in some new Easter traditions for us. Nathan hosted a Seder, modified because of two 3 year olds and a 1 year old, which was followed by watching Prince of Egypt. And then, on Good Friday morning Sophie made delicious homemade hot crossed buns. Yum!

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My middle is not so little

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My sweet middle had a birthday this month, and though we have been busy with friends and family visiting, I felt like I need to take a moment and tell you about this special girl. Somehow she is 7.  Ever since she was born she has been my baby and not in a hurry to grow up. She was the latest of the 3 to walk and she wouldn’t hold her own bottle even when she was very capable. Nw at 7, I can say that she still just loves being a kid and is in no hurry to grow up.  When Brian called Clover his baby the other day, Clover said, “I’m not your baby.  Tatie’s your baby.”  Even Clover is on to it.

If you have more than one child, then you know this isn’t about favorites.  I can’t have a favorite, but I try and recognize their unique personalities and to foster those.  While I think she is totally amazing, I do feel sometimes that isn’t always obvious to everyone that knows her. She is just fine letting Piper take over a conversation and Piper is very happy to do so. She can also be quite silly, too silly even, especially around visitors and this can just be annoying.  But (you knew I was going to say “but” didn’t you?) if you can spend time with her, she has the most amazing things to say.

Tatum is so passionate.  It is funny because my friend Bettina bought Tatum a book called Tatum and her Tiger and it is about the character, Tatum being so passionate and that is why she has a tiger. The boy who is silly has a monkey, and so on.  Anyway, it couldn’t be more accurate.  She speaks with such passion about the funniest things, like using the toilet after someone else because the seat is sooo warm (true story). She is also passionate about animals and bugs and insects. This girl has a future in becoming a vet or being an expert on rollie pollies, because I think there just might be a need. These are pictures just from our few days on the South Island.

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Getting a little llama lovin’.

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She found something intriguing, not sure what it was.

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She wanted a picture of every mushroom we passed on our hike.

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Transferring this jellyfish to a pool she and Piper made for it.

When people ask what Tatum would like for her birthday, I can just say she likes every trending fad that is marketed for 7 year olds.  I would prefer that she was into her American Girl dolls more, or that she wouldn’t lose things and keep them a bit longer, but that’s not the case. So for 2 birthdays now, I have told people what she actually “wants” for her birthday.  This year she got Pokemon cards, and lots and lots of Shopkins and Beanie Boos.  You know those classic toys that you hope to save for your grandkids…or not.  Let’s just say she is the perfect target for those in advertising and marketing of toys.

Tatum is our cuddler. She likes holding hands, and snuggling up on the couch. Most mornings I wake up to her sitting under a blanket on the couch with Brian. She is our early bird. At least once a week she’ll ask for a sleepover. And this girl can never have enough of a good thing. Sometimes it comes across as ungrateful, but now I think she’s just trying to milk the most out of the situation. The other day Brian took her to get a coffee and she got a “fluffy” (milk foam with cocoa sprinkled on top). Tatum said when she finished, “I wish I could have two fluffies.” That is how it goes with her. Why not at least try, right?

Tatum you are such a good big and little sister and we couldn’t love you more. Your joy is contagious.

Sundays and School

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We have found ourselves attending two very different types of churches here and both have served their purposes in providing community.  Arise is a massive church on the charismatic side.  I had looked up churches before going, in hopes that someone would help us out with housing.  I found Arise and it seemed like everyone in Wellington goes there.  My friend Skylar from California connected us with her cousin who married a Kiwi.  They attend Arise and so we planned to meet them there on our first Sunday.  Well, we did meet them, and then we met another family who we happened to have a mutual friend in California.  Small world!  That connection has made all the difference.  I joined a mom’s group and have made lots of mommy friends who I can guarantee on seeing twice a week.

We also wanted to attend the church right next door to our house though.  The fact that it is next door seemed like it would be easy to get there 😉 and I hoped that it would be a good connection to our neighbours.  The kids LOVE it!  It is tiny, maybe 20 adults on a Sunday morning and anywhere from a half a dozen to a dozen kids.  Being so small, the kids get to partake in so many aspect of church.  Our first Sunday there, Tatum was the one carrying the candle to the altar for communion.  After the service, the congregation meets in the hall for “morning tea”, a.k.a. tea, coffee, and snacks.  The church has also become where the kids practice piano and take lessons from one of the members of the church.  The sanctuary is open daily and so, a few days a week, after school we head over for a bit of piano practice.

Now to tackle the subject of school.  Wow, there is so much to say.  School has been such a great experience for Piper and Tatum (okay, mostly Piper). It is very individualised because school starts when you turn 5 years old, as in on your 5th birthday or the day after, you start going to school. So especially in those beginning years, there is a range of abilities. We just had parent conferences and Tatum’s teacher felt she was a little behind in reading from where she would be for almost turning 7 and finishing 2 years of schooling (not concerned or anything, but just an observation). I told her, “Yes, but she hasn’t completed 2 years of schooling. She is turning 7, but she didn’t start school until she was 5 1/2.”  I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach year 1 students and getting newcomers in all year!  Everything is differentiated, just like we are taught to do in the classroom, but it doesn’t necessarily play out that way in the schools I am familiar with (not an easy task either).  For instance Piper has her own spelling list for her level and she moves up to a new list at the end of the week if she gets her words right.  I don’t know how many lists there are or how the teachers even conducts a spelling tests with so many different words, but they do!  I love it because it makes each child feel successful and challenged where they are.

One of my favourite things is the big/little buddy thing. I know a lot of schools do it, but here I love that the big buddy is in charge of planning an activity for their little buddy. So unlike how most schools do it.  I am more familiar with the teacher saying “we’re going to being doing this Christmas bingo today with our little buddies” or something like that. At their school, the big buddy picks out a book to read to their little buddy on library day and some time during the week they have time to plan an activity around that book. They can bring supplies from home or use the supplies at school. I think it puts the responsibility on them and I like that.  Piper is an amazing big buddy as she loves to be creative.  Tatum’s big buddy is named Bruno, and while he might not be as creative as Piper, who doesn’t love the attention of a big kid on campus?!

The big/little buddy thing just highlights how they view kids in general I feel like.  There is a lot of responsibility given to the students.  At first I found it frustrating because Tatum was coming home everyday and telling me that her teacher said she need this A18 notebook or a “book bag” (which is not a backpack), and it all was so foreign to me.  I felt that it was causing stress on Tatum.  If we knew what a “book bag” was or what the different sizes of notebooks meant, it would’ve been fine.  But we didn’t.  Tatum was actually in tears just this Monday because “school makes her have to be too responsible”.  It’s a hard lesson, but I know it is worth it.  Piper’s teacher is a bit more experienced and flexible.  She let’s Piper use a college ruled notebook, allows her to do the “column method” in math, and doesn’t try to change the way she writes in cursive (just says that it is very curly 🙂 )because she realises that Piper needs to do what will work for her when she goes back to California.

Their teachers are amazing and think highly of the girls.  Though I worried a bit about how Piper would adjust after being home for 3 1/2 years she has fit right in and made friends.  Tatum went to a birthday party this weekend and Piper got an invitation for a party just yesterday.  Which reminds me of another thing!  They wear the same clothes multiple days in a row.  Tatum gave her friend Indy a Billabong shirt with the bear flag and it said “California Girl”.  We were excited to see Indy wearing it to school on Monday and then she wore it again on Tuesday.  Piper has tried to do the same over the past month or so, and I said no.  I wear the same clothes 2 days in a row, if I don’t plan on seeing the same people, but it seems that, in my American mindset, it is like a cultural faux pas to let kids wear the same things to school.  It isn’t just the students, the teachers too!  Tatum’s teacher wears black and white stripes every day.  She probably has 6 outfits and whether it is a dress, skirt, or shirt, it is black and white stripes.  I saw her on a Monday, and then on a Wednesday and she was wearing the same clothes.  Not sure about Tuesday, I wasn’t there.  Piper said her teacher, Jane, does the same.  I don’t know why this seems so odd to me but it does!

Another oddity is the twin thing.  There are tons of them first of all. I just learned that IVF is covered once if you qualify.  We live in an area with older parents, so possibly that has something to do with it also.  Anyway, the twins are encouraged to live separate lives.  They aren’t in the same classes, and though I thought it was a big deal that Piper invited a girl to her party not knowing she had a twin sister in the other class, it is actually common.  The party that Tatum went to was for her friend Indy.  Indy is a twin, and her sister, Milly, is in the other class.  They each had their own invitations.  It said on their that it was a joint party with Milly, but gifts for Indy only please.  Just something else that I noticed.

Well, it is time for me to go.  Time for me to go get the girls from school now.  I have been trying to finish this post for over a week now.  It’s all over the place, I know, so sorry about that. 🙂