Tuned out and turn off

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If you were to ask me the best part of being in New Zealand, you might be surprised by my answer.  It is not the wild outdoors, though I love that, nor is it the pristine coasts that stretch on for miles.  Though I love that too.  My answer would be the same if I were here, or in Kentucky or even Antarctica.  I hate being cold though, so I don’t have a huge desire to go to Antarctica.  And let’s be honest, the great outdoors help.  They definitely make the transition easier.  But what I really love is that I have a free schedule.  It can be lonely, but lonely mostly when I spend too much time thinking about it.  It is also so freeing.  I can leave my phone home all day and not worry about missing a text, remember those days?  It wasn’t that long ago that you didn’t have a phone probably.  You would go somewhere, enjoy yourself and not worry if someone was trying to get ahold of you or not.  For the most part, no one is trying to get a hold of me, and I am okay with that.  I can’t ever get this back.  This is a season, a season that is only here because we are the newbies.  I want to see this as a gift.

I feel like I know the goodness that can come from this experience, and perhaps, I can see it as good since I know it is not for forever.  My heart felt worried about being lonely when we first arrived, but as the first month passed in what seemed like a flash, I realized that June is going to be here before I know it.  The worry eased, as well, when I felt like I knew what to expect from Brian and his new schedule.   Perhaps next week it will be back, but for now I am relishing our short time here.  It is freeing to spend time with Clover and not have the phone ringing or dinging for a message.  Interesting enough, I left my phone in the U.S. and life is still going on.  It is going on for me, and it is going on for all of those people in my contacts list despite the fact that the phone is in a drawer somewhere at home.  It is making me rethink how I want to use the devices we are so attached to.  Is it necessary to have a sound go off when a texts comes through or can it wait?  Can I have a designate time in the day that I check emails?  This little gadget which was sold to us with the hopes of making our life easier can complicate things so much!  And so, while you are waking up early just to get a few minutes to yourself before the kids wake, I am over here twiddling my thumbs.  Okay, not really, but my house is getting picked up and cleaned more regularly.  I have had time to paint and write on my blog.  I was invited to coffee, and was able to say “my schedule is open, any day!”  Here I am.  Being still more.  Reading more.  Praying more.  Sleeping more.  I love sleep 🙂 . And most of all I get to be present more.  That is a gift.

the present

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written in the summer of 2012, but might be just what some of you with littles need to hear.

So, I know this isn’t news to anyone, but I really want to enjoy my kids and soak up this time because I know it isn’t going to last.  I’m getting sentimental these days because my baby is starting school and I don’t know where the time has gone.  I mentioned in my Mr. Just Right post that we were considering homeschooling.  And even though I was extremely critical of homeschooling 8 or so years ago, I have grown to love the idea of getting to be a teacher to my own children.  However, we have kind of (still afraid of saying definitely) decided to send Piper to kindergarten.  I could always homeschool starting in 1st grade and this way  I will have a year with my little Tater tot to do fun stuff with just her.  It really is the only time I could have this opportunity.  I get caught up sometimes in change and turn into a sentimental sap pretty quickly.  And then sometimes I get caught up in the future.  Where are we going to be in 3 years?  Are we going to have more kids?  I am okay with staying, I am okay with moving.  I am content with my 2 girls and would be happy to have more too, but I JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT THE PLAN IS!  I am not so okay, content or happy with the unknown.

I’m kind of a believer, not always a follower, of Eastern medicine.  You may wonder where I am going with this, but trust me there is a connection.  I love looking at the body holistically and learning about how foods and different things affect our well being.  So I have been reading the New York Times best seller, Clean.  It’s very interesting and informative and that is the detox that I am currently on.  Now whether you would never do a detox or would never pick up a book, I think there is a lesson learned.  In his “Yogi” ways, the author began talking about meditation and the “energy of life” and it was so interesting!  He said (not exactly in these words) think about your hand, put your attention on your right hand, don’t stop reading, you don’t even have to look at it, but put your attention there.  Feel the temperature, and the edges of your fingers.  Feel if there is dampness or if it is dry.  Your hand was always there, but you weren’t feeling it.  You weren’t aware.  You only became aware once you put your attention there.  Your hand becomes your experience the instant you put your attention on it.  Now listen to this part!  “So we can conclude that wherever your attention is at any given moment will determine your experience at that moment.  The total experience of your life is the sum total of every one of those moments…When your attention is flowing into your hand, it stays in the present.  Your hand is right here in the now.  It’s not the thought of the hand, past or future.”

Whoa.  I don’t want that to be me!  I don’t want my reason for missing out on the here and the now to be because I am too focused on what happened and what’s about to happen.  I want to love them for the stages and ages they are right now.  We know that worrying about the future is fruitless.  There are so many unknowns and things out of our control that can disrupt the plan, but lingering in the past is just as bad.  Obviously we know this when we are dealing with unforgiveness and resentment, but I think even in the small ways of wishing and willing that my babies would stop growing and changing robs me some of the joys they can bring me right now, at this moment.  

10

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It’s a common theme with my blog posts.  How could it not be, I have 3 young “ish” kiddos. THEY GROW UP WAY TOO FAST AND HATE IT! It’s Piper’s birthday today, but not just any birthday. She’s 10! Ten years old, double digits, a decade! I have been a mother for a decade already? My little baby, my sidekick in Germany, the little girl I sent off to kindergarten just the other day is 10 and turning into a young woman more and more each day. The girls are at school right now and earlier today Clover and I watched this Netflix documentary Precious Puppies for a bit (this is not a recommendation, it’s kinda cheesy). Anyway, I am a bit emotional today I guess over Piper being 10 because I was getting bummed that the puppies are only cute and little for a couple of weeks. None of it seems right. I started getting philosophical and started hoping that in heaven we aren’t tied to this time and space continuum and maybe puppies can stay puppies forever! Except that doesn’t help me now with this whole getting older business. I am still getting gray hair and my first born is now 10.

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On a more positive note, I am so proud of her. She has done extremely well to transitioning to life here in New Zealand and to being in school. She has made some friends and invited a few over this afternoon for pizza and pazookies. She also got to celebrate with the Paulsons last week where we jumped off bridges, went luge racing and she, Tatum and Jude went zorbing, a NZ invented adventure where you are tossed down a hill in a giant hamster ball.

The days were sometimes long, but the years have definitely been short. Our next decade together will be watching her go from my girl to my friend.

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Brian made her a “10” pancake. She said she wanted to take a selfie with her pancake. 😁

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Tatum made her this abalone necklace and she told Tatum to sit on her lap for the picture. Sweet.

My whanau

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You may or may not know that this is not my first time living in New Zealand.  When I was 21 years old I came here all alone on a cross cultural internship and lived with a Maori family.  I was a clueless young girl who came to live with a New Zealand family that sounded somewhat British to me on the one phone conversation I had before coming.  I knew the father worked with the Maori people and that he wanted to help them and empower them.  I didn’t, however, know that he was Maori.  Auntie and Uncle (as that is what I had to call them) picked me up from the airport.  I was so confused.  I wondered if the person I spoke to on the phone sent these people to pick me up.  We had fish and chips and I was still wondering who they were.  I guess at some point during the two hour car ride to their house, it dawned on me or I figured out that this Maori fellow driving was who I talked to on the phone and who I would be living with.

It was seriously the hardest thing I have ever done.  Living in another country all alone with a family that was not my own.  I lived on a farm In. the. middle. of. NOWHERE!  Seriously, if you don’t know where the middle of nowhere is, it is called, Ruatoria and it is 2 hours from the nearest grocery store and no one goes there because it is out of the way of anywhere you might be going.  But over time, these people (who live in the middle of nowhere) became my whanau, my family.  That same year, 2001, 3 of my “brothers” came to the states just days after I moved into my first apartment and I sprang it on my friend and roommate Misty, “Hey are you cool with 3 guys staying here for a few days?” And she was!  They also crashed Brian’s pad for a few nights.  In 2005, Brian and I came to NZ and he fell in love with the land and with the whanau as well.  It seemed like a real life paradise to us and we wondered if those feelings would change if we were to come back now with kids.  And so we came back in 2015 with 3 kids in tow and we still loved it!  It was then that we started looking for opportunities to stay here for a longer period of time and here we are!

But life is different in the city of Wellington.  It is a wonderful city, but my heart is still tied to my Maori whanau.  I love that my kids have “cuzzies” here and that I am an aunty to many.  I love their culture and their pride despite the hardships that come when Europeans put a flag in the ground and claim the land as theirs.

And so, we were so excited to take the kids to the Kapa haka national championship the other day.  The Kapa haka is a traditional Maori dance that is maybe most known for their war dance.  Their rugby team, the All Blacks, begin each game with the haka to intimidate the opponent.   Different dances tell different stories, some joyous, sad and some of course, fierce.  I am definitely not an expert on the subject, but it was one of the most memorable experiences I had my first time here.  The high school was having their kapa haka competition and it was then that I had the traditional Maori meal, hangi, where meat and veggies are wrapped in leaves cooked in the ground for hours.  The kids were so excited to watch the competition and I was so excited that they had a hangi and fry bread!  Tatum and Clover go their face painted in the traditional way with a ta moko (chin tattoo).  Clover was dancing around and even would imitate the men with her tongue out and slapping her legs.

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I wasn’t sure if the festival was going to be cheesy or legit, but when my whanau kept messaging me about the performances that they had been watching on the telly all day, and telling me that they were stoked that I was giving my kiddos a taste of the Maori culture, I knew this was for real.

 

Home is where the ❤ is

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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

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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