Month: August 2013

Things I’m Loving

Merry-go-rounds and sisters

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Sunshine and convertibles

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Pretzels and chilled drinks

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Shopping areas with architectural flair

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Sea creatures and an inquisitive child

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Water fountains and wishes

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New cafes, tastes and children who are willing to try
(at least two out of our three are!)

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Joining in this week with the wonderful Meghan of ‘The Adventures of MNMs’,
from our beloved home of Wellington, New Zealand, with –

First impressions | School life in America

School commenced for two of our three children yesterday. Our ten year old has been attending school in New Zealand for five years and, apart from a somewhat dissatisfying, unchallenging experience in her first three years, she has pretty much excelled. She thrived at a private girls school she attended for the past two years and performed well above average in all subject areas, even as the youngest in her class.

Our seven year old had a terrible experience in her second term of schooling in a public school and we were all dissatisfied, as a family. As she was under the age of six at the time – and school is only compulsory at the age of six in New Zealand – we withdrew her. Then we heard about the possible move to America and decided it was better to home educate up until the move – little did we then know that the whole deal would take a year and a half to get to a point when we could actually move countries (we were initially given the impression it would be a few months!).

Anyway, here we are now in America.

Our unschooler – as we were enjoying child-led learning in our home with a wonderful group of natural learners – thrived in a home environment, socialising with other home learners. Her reading is well above the average for her age, as is her mathematics. She enjoyed various science experiments, played creatively and freely, without time constraints, along with her natural learner friends, came up with stories, plays and poems under her own drive, and read books with a lot more interest than her traditionally schooled older sister. Also, as she wasn’t confined by ‘time’, if she was avidly into a particular book she would read till midnight, knowing there was no rush for a bell the next day. She thrived.

On her first day at a proper school, here in America, she was naturally nervous – but her natural personality is outgoing, chatty, confident with strangers in shops, cafes, museums, enquiring, unafraid to try new tastes, physical pursuits and so on. She has hit gold with a wonderful, experienced Grade 2 teacher. Further more her teacher is one of those special ones that has always continued with her own learning and is very up to date with modern times, technology and teaching methods. Win, win! It looks like this school experience will be perfect for her, at this stage in her education, and of great benefit to her social nature.

Now, our other daughter, the high achiever, from a traditional, private, girls school, walked into a very different scenario. A mixed class of 10 and 11 year olds, non-uniformed, who all knew one another. There was no prior warning about standing up and pledging allegiance to the flag… (whereas Miss 7 was given prior warning and provided with an explanation as to why students in America did this). Miss 10, in contrast, was surrounded by students that suddenly stood up like robots and hand on heart started singing – she was left thinking, ‘What the f*ck?!’.

She also found herself with a teacher who was aghast at Miss 10 loving snakes and spiders (turns out – none of us knew this – her teacher has a spider phobia – oops!). Then there was the health and safety notices – which Miss 10 found totally over the top – coming from adventurous New Zealand, where calculated risks are a normal part of life – they even have fully equipped carpentry benches in pre-schools for three and four year olds – yes, hammers, saws, nails… (and I never heard of an accident). Children in New Zealand run barefoot, climb trees, jump in water holes, and are encouraged to test their own physical boundaries. The only people that blink an eye when a young child runs on the beach in their ‘Birthday suit’ are the foreign tourists.

Love this video ‘Frosty Man and the BMX Kid’ – sums it up nicely 😉

Plus the teacher was doing the ‘strict’ thing – which is understandable given it was the first day and there were probably a few personalities in the class that needed the ‘don’t mess with me’ message – unfortunately Miss 10 found her style abrupt and loud (and Miss 10 dislikes conflict, loud noises etc.).

Furthermore, Miss 10’s avid interest of watching film documentaries and passion for ‘Minecraft’ was met with disdain and a comment of, ‘Books are best’. Miss 10’s reaction was to maturely bottle in the tears, frustration and annoyance for the entire morning and then, only in the comfort of a private environment, let it out. She was devastated. The whole experience hit her with a sledge hammer of what she’d given up in New Zealand and the amazing friends she has there.

We are going to enjoy our time here (Dan and I would be really loving it, but happy children make happy parents… and until they are all settled, we shan’t feel top notch).

We shall meet with the school, the school counsellor, try and make it work for Miss 10 – but we don’t wish for her amazing education in New Zealand to be undermined and if the wrong teacher for her doesn’t work out, then we will stand by our daughter and ensure she retains her love of learning – even if we have to do online learning (which I am very pro-doing – hubbie a lot less so – as are the grandparents – that live in the UK; it’s not as though they really know what we are going through as we’ve been raising our children entirely single-handedly for the past decade in New Zealand). The biggest concern for hubbie and the grandparents is that ‘Sarah won’t cope’ – because I’m on antidepressants (and have been for over a decade). The truth is, I can cope. With exercise, medication and a happy family I am fine. It’s when I feel, in my heart and gut, that one of my children is genuinely not happy that the mother bear instincts in me cry out – not out of ‘protecting’ and ‘wrapping in cotton wool’, but of being my child’s advocate in an adult world and setting an example that the system isn’t always right and not to be accepted blindly – but, at times, worked around – even if many people see it as ‘radical’.

Of course she will be persuaded to give the school another chance and we will ask her to give us a full ‘pros and cons’ write-up of schooling in America for a year versus online learning – and then we shall discuss further.

We are not dictators of our children’s future – but here to guide them, let them feel confident to express themselves and know that their voices are listened to and respected.

The Photo Gallery | Pets

This week’s theme on the wonderful ‘Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers blog is ‘Pets’. We’re away from our home in New Zealand and not able to keep pets right now, but there’s some cute little geckos here in Santa Barbara that are very entertaining…

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And there’s a whole new birdlife to get to know, which our Miss 7 has been trying to identify.

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Our little Miss 3 is delighting in all nature and enjoyed a lovely visit to the Ty Warner Sea Center, reminiscent of our visits to the lovely Marine Education Centre, in Island Bay, Wellington, New Zealand.

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Whilst Miss 10 is fascinated by snakes and has been enjoying the range on display at the Santa Barbara Zoo.

So, whilst we are away from home we shall simply have to enjoy nature – in all shapes and forms – as ‘our pets’!

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Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

The days before routines return

Tomorrow school starts for the year. Two of our three children will start at a new school, in a new country, in a completely different hemisphere. Our Miss 10 is coming from a private girls school in Wellington, New Zealand. Our Miss 7 is coming from a couple of years of free-spirited ‘natural learning’ (home schooling, but without the feel of school). The transition to the well respected local school, they will be going to whilst we’re living in the USA, will be interesting.

The school itself is fantastic, with a teacher to child ration of 1:17, specialist music, art, science and computing teachers. A great library, awesome technology available, wonderful open grounds and a strong community supporting the school. As parents, we couldn’t ask for more – but do expect a few bumps in the road as the girls adjust from over six weeks of travelling, being at home, hanging out with their beloved three year old sister and enjoying late nights with us and leisurely lie ins way past 9am every day.

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The past week has been so relaxed, going with the flow, eating and drinking when individuals feel like it, that it’s really going to be quite hard to get used to the routines initially…. but, we will hopefully get there without too long a transition (who am I kidding – it’s going to be an emotional, psychological nightmare!).

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I’m just so relieved we have beautiful beaches to escape to and restore our sanity in the evenings. I shall be driving off into the sunset for a stress busting run on the beach several times in the next few weeks (or giving my arm a workout opening bottles of wine with a corkscrew… so out of practice since New Zealand turned to screw tops eons ago!), or simply hanging with my man and enjoying the laughter of our cute Miss 3 in the balmy evenings. No need to check the weather forecast here in Santa Barbara – it’s all sunshine, blue sky, heat and repeat (and if it does ever rain I shan’t be running for cover – far from it!).

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Exploring new ground: Labyrinth

Running a new trail, no preconceptions

Following the track, as long as it runs.

Uphill legs are taken without knowing

Desire to explore overriding exertion.

Unexpected surprises of nature –

Cross the path ahead, & sour in the sky.

A labyrinth of trails, for mind and soul –

Prick the senses, revive the body.

© Sarah Lee, August 2013

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Discovered this labyrinth by chance on a new trail today. It reminded me of how uplifting it feels to explore new ground, be surprised by new nature and to run without knowing where the path will lead. I’m going to enjoy discovering Santa Barbara and its surrounding country.

More information on the location of my run today can be read about on ‘UCSB Campus, Lagoon, and Beach‘ and ‘Lagoon Island Labyrinth | Earth Research Institute‘.

A Week of Firsts in Santa Barbara: The Good & The Bad…

It’s been a week of firsts here in Santa Barbara.

First time for driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road; first purchase of a brand new car (a very nice 2014 Acura MDX) in America (serious paper work!), with the driver’s seat on the left hand side; first time dinging a rental vehicle three times in one day (well, it was called a ‘DODGE’ – so I figured I’d test its ‘dodge’ ability… unfortunately it didn’t dodge the school secretaries car very well, when I parked up for our first school visit!); and first visit to Santa Barbara Zoo (where Miss 7 saw a snake for the first time, and is feeling a lot less freaked now she understands a bit more about them, besides – she has other things to worry about… her new class, at a new school, has a pet tarantula named ‘Harry’!). Santa Barbara Zoo By the end of the week (I am still miffed at me writing this on a Thursday evening in California, whilst my good friends in New Zealand are well into their Friday ‘avo and my folks in the UK are fast asleep, in the early hours of Friday morning) I will be the owner of my first American bank card and have visited a doctor for the first time in the USA .

Unfortunately, I will not have discovered my first proper Latte since leaving the shores of New Zealand a few weeks ago (it feels like we’ve been away for months!), but my first tastes of local beer and wine have been favourable.

My children have sampled their first fish and chips Santa Barbara style (the chips get a thumbs up – but we’re yet to find fish that compare to our favourite Island Bay, Wellington, takeaway) and had their first close encounter with some of the native wildlife – namely pelicans, storks and cute little geckos. Santa Barbara Beach We’ve enjoyed our first social gathering of new friends (still waiting till 4th September to move into our house of residence for the year, but we did have a lovely spot for socialising, up until Tuesday this week.. now we’re in a little place on a housing complex – but it’s free – so not complaining… just thinking how to spend the money we’ve saved – have my eye on a little Californian sunshine convertible that would suit my hippie style nature!).

Enjoyed my first delicious smoothie and relieved to be discovering refreshing places to cool down and take a rest (especially when Miss 3 decides to conk out for an impromptu nap!)… gives me a chance to day dream on my dream car (ha, ha!)… really don’t think I am skilled enough to be trusted with a brand new, sparkling motor! Smoothie and daydreaming.And we took our first steps, as a family, on ‘Miramar Beach’ (kind of nice to have a local beach with the same name as one of our favourite Wellington peninsulas!). Miramar Beach, Montecito, Santa Barbara

Friday evening will be spent at the new schools ‘pre-term’ gathering – which will be another first – a ‘Mustang Roundup and Family Picnic’, complete with a band and country dancing… Yee Ha!!

Next week will be one of even more firsts… as Miss 10 starts a new school, in a new country, in a new hemisphere… and Miss 7 gives school a go – after a couple of years ‘natural learning’! I am going to find it so strange, as I’ve had all three of my daughters at home with me for at least six weeks now. Little steps…!

The Photo Gallery | World Photography Day

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To my dear husband,
A special photo I took today. A moment in time. The marking of a new chapter in our lives. We are going to have an amazing time here, I am sure of it, especially once we are properly settled. We are so fortunate to have been blessed with wonderful childhoods in England, an amazing married life in New Zealand – bringing our three New Zealand born daughters into the world, and now this new opportunity for adventure and discovery in California.
I love you. We are both strong. We work so hard to give our daughters our devoted time and attention.
We will be fine in this new place we have called ‘home’ – for however long – and we WILL find and make MORE time for you and I too 😉  xx
Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Prose for Thought | First Touch of the Pacific

It’s been just over a week since we landed in L.A. We are settling in, doing all the usual necessities of any new expat; setting up bank accounts, getting ourselves some wheels, getting to know the money, the shops, the food and become accustomed to the climate (which, as we already anticipated, is very favourable).

We’ve only been in Santa Barbara for four days. It will be a few weeks before we move into our rented accommodation for a year. In the meantime we are staying in temporary accommodation. This week we are staying in an incredible home. It feels so much more than a holiday home. The shelves are filled with books. The tables are weighed down with appealing ‘coffee table’, highly illustrative, hardbacks. There are ornate candle holders all over the house, complete with pillar candles and a handy lighter to bath the rooms in a soft light of evening. There is every utensil I could imagine needing in the kitchen, televisions with cable aplenty and a swimming pool and spa in the gorgeous garden (green thanks to irrigation – it is clearly evident here where the land is and isn’t irrigated!).

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This week, without wheels of my own to get around (and hubbie out at work) I have been ‘house bound’. Though this occasionally frustrates me (with three children to attend to), it really is the best place I could imagine spending a week with my children. Their skin is already turning olive in the sun and I practically expect them to grow fins, given the hours they are spending in water. My youngest, at three, isn’t yet safe unsupervised in the pool – so I am spending a large portion of my day in the water too!

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The only time I’ve been out of the house is a brief visit to see the sunset by the beach.

I am used to living within walking distance to the sea and was desperate to hear the waves. This poem is about my love of the ocean and how it connects me to the places and people I love. My thoughts are very much with central New Zealand this weekend, after they have been experiencing yet more earthquakes xx

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Linking up with the wonderful….

Prose for Thought

The Photo Gallery | Relax

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She naps, I read, her older sisters are happily playing. For a moment I enjoy the still. No one asking when breakfast, lunch or dinner is ready. No one asking where socks are or how to work some technological gadget.

A voice inside tells me to ‘relax’ and enjoy this moment. After weeks of preparing to move countries and now, having moved, waiting to move into our house and for our container of belongings to arrive, I need moments like this to relax. To stop and hear my own breath over the sounds of my three children.

In the late afternoon, when my husband returns from the office, I am given the opportunity to head out for a jog. I hear my breath stronger than ever. I feel free, so alive, so calm inside and return with a smile. My muscles are quickly soothed with a plunge in the pool and I feel the most relaxed I can be, soothed from the core.

Yet, on other days – when moments to relax are rare – I reach the evening and take a different tonic to relax – just a little, to wash away the tension from within…

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Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

First Impressions #1

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People are genuinely friendly here on the Californian coast – not a single, ‘Have a nice day!’, with a cheesy grin, yet to be encountered. People have time to help, and sometimes go out of their way to help with advice or assistance in a store or cafe – especially when they hear we are fresh arrivals!

We are quite a novelty; British parents, coming from New Zealand with three Kiwi born children. We are going to have to get used to answering the same questions every time we meet people – or hand out cards with answers to FAQ’s.

Unchanging sky of blue. Quickly learning that my British (& New Zealand) disposition to talk about the weather is something I shall have to ditch, unless I wish to sound very repetitive and obvious, ‘It’s another lovely day!’ … But then maybe I could come up with one hundred different ways to define ‘sunny blue sky’ and all the subtle blends of that – like the Eskimos describe different types of snow.

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Dry, desert like vegetation, palm trees, succulents. This is now the norm. Little rain here makes for a different landscape to the lush, vivid greens of New Zealand.

I am looking at spiders with more hesitation than in NZ, unsure yet of how to distinguish a poisonous species from a ‘safe’ one. The children are keenly interested too and I believe knowledge is power. So when a new species is encountered we are quick to ‘Google’, learn and discover!

I find myself looking at a treehouse with the fear of it harbouring a snake. Probably overly cautious here in the suburbs, but nevertheless…

We are enjoying the warm weather wardrobe. It’s so nice to walk around wearing little clothing!

There is a wonderful abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables here in Santa Barbara – and a good organics range too. If it wasn’t for the temptation of the Californian wines and craft beers I would be living exceptionally healthily (but then, everything in moderation!).

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