Easter in NZ

Standard

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.

17952856_10211063046564835_1941505463946483630_n

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!

Advertisements

My middle is not so little

Standard

IMG_7452

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.

IMG_8048

Getting a little llama lovin’.

IMG_7938

She found something intriguing, not sure what it was.

IMG_7935

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

IMG_7932

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

Standard

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. 🙂

37 going on 3

Standard
37 going on 3

We had a lovely day celebrating Clover’s 3rd birthday.  There was a playgroup on the morning of her birthday and so we brought cupcakes and a candle.  It felt like an instant party with friends and all.  After school we discovered a nearby indoor pool with a kiddy area and waterslide.  The older girls saw some school friends there, so that ended up being really fun for them.  The plan was to order fish n’ chips takeaway for dinner since Clover’s most favorite food is French fries, but we insist that she has to eat something else besides just fries.  She says, “in New Zealand you call French fries chips”.  We ate dinner, sang and had cupcakes, and played pin the tail on Peppa Pig.  We all enjoyed the day and, to be honest,  it made me want to make an effort to have family parties more often.

IMG_0203

Two was not terrible, and I am hoping that I don’t have a “three-nager” soon like I did with her older sister.  Clover is a “go with the flow” kind of gal and I feel like she has grown up so much just since being in New Zealand.  Because she is the youngest and there are 4 and 7 years between her and her sisters, she is quite babied by all of us.  We are probably creating a monster.  I’ll let you know soon. 😉 She beats on her sisters, kicking them or hitting them over and over even when they say stop.  Not to be vicious, just to be annoying.  When I walk into the room, she hugs them and kisses them and says she’s sorry.  Clover loves numbers and talking about numbers, but the context is always quite interesting.  She’s adjusting to this new business of being 3 and is quite confused because she has been 37 since November.  17352087_10210780733947196_517042900042124225_nEver since I had my birthday she has said she is 37 as well.  She kept saying that she would be 35 on her birthday but seems to have decided against it.  The other day when someone asked her how old she was, she hesitated and said, “Ummm, uhh, a gwey (grey) number” referring to her #3 silver mylar balloon.  When her sisters were commenting on how her hair has grown, they asked her how long her hair was she said, “$60”.

If I could freeze time and remember her right now, this is what I would say about Miss Clover.  She does not like chocolate, but loves lollipops.  She is an animal lover and talks in a high voice when she sees dogs on the street and has to be warned every time not to pet any dogs without asking the owner.  She loves to do everything her sisters do and refers to them as “my sisters” which is of course darling.  “Are we going to pick up my sisters today?” and cute sayings like that.  She uses the words “her” and “hers” for “your” and “yours”, which can get confusing sometimes when she hands me a marker and says, “that’s hers” and even more confusing when she says that to Brian.

I can’t count on my memory to remember all of her cute ways, which is why I have to write them down.  So, thank you for bearing with me.

Tuned out and turn off

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.

img_6572

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.

img_6689

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

img_6681

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