Month: October 2013

The Photo Gallery | Halloween

We are in sunny Santa Barbara, California, this Autumn. It’s the first time in well over a decade, certainly in my children’s lives, that we’ve been in the northern hemisphere for Halloween. It always irked me that New Zealand chose to follow the commercial line of Halloween, and ‘do it’ on 31 October (in the spring!) when really it would be much better in the Autumn, around April time. There are no pumpkins available in spring, only pineapples (which make a fun substitute for a jack-o-lantern). I always preferred holding a ‘Bright Light Party’ to welcome the return of the light, rather than Halloween, but still let my children partake in neighbourhood, community fun too.

This year we are overwhelmed with plentiful, plump, pumpkins and it is wonderful for the children to enjoy carving them out. We are going to spend the night of Halloween at a friend’s home, but have been enjoying some pre-Halloween events already.

Our carved pumpkins

The local climbing club had a lovely family event, including the traditional ‘apple bobbing’ that I fondly recall from my childhood and there are plentiful ‘pumpkin patches’, where fun, rides and entertainment is mixed with buying your pumpkins.

I took these photos the other day, on a typically sunny day, when the children were playing dress-ups. The youngest two played ‘Princesses’ for much of the day, whilst I was scrap booking with my eldest daughter, who momentarily joined the ‘photo shoot’ dressed as a self-described ‘red thing’.

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I like to remember our loved ones that have passed on at this time of year, more like the Mexican tradition, and there is plenty of that cultural influence here.

With the darkening nights, of the northern hemisphere autumn, I am enjoying lighting candles and it is fun to have events building up to Christmas. Normally, in the spring of New Zealand, I am busy in the garden at this time of year, wanting to embrace the return of light evenings and make the most of the long days to be outdoors.

This year I am trying not to dwell on missing the light evenings, and make the most of twinkling lights and candles as the days are shorter. We arrived here in August, so at least we had a good dose of long, light days, but my body is still rebelling and thinking it should be light till 9pm!

Anyway, ‘Happy Halloween’ however you spend it! xx

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Things I’m Loving

A few snippets of life from the past week that have brought a smile to my face…

A sunset enjoyed with my family (except not all the children were happy to be at the beach… but it meant a lot to the man of the house and I!).

Sunset with my family

Seeing one of my children with her nose in a book (technology, of which we are heavy users, is a heavy competitor, so it’s always extra great to capture a moment like this!).

Nose in a book

Seeing my 10 year old and 3 year old learning about the affect of acid and alkaline, using red cabbage water as the indicator. They tested various house hold ‘ingredients’ from orange juice and lemon juice to sugar and baking soda.Alkaline and Acid experiment with red cabbage

Plump, wonderful pumpkins to celebrate the season!

Pumpkins

Which were quickly carved by the children of the house…

Miss 10 sets to carving her pumpkin

Having New Zealand friends around mid-week, that joined the man of the house on this work experience here in the USA. Most of them are based in San Francisco so it was wonderful to have them here in Santa Barbara and make the most of their wonderful company. We lit the outdoor fire pit and toasted marshmallows to celebrate, as well as necking a few ‘choice’ drinks 😉

Marshmallows toasted to celebrate Kiwi friends in the house!

Discovering new places, the ‘Maritime Museum of Santa Barbara’, where there was something to entertain each of my three children for at least an hour.

Testing their navigation skills at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

fun at the maritime museum, Santa Barbara

Getting in some extra help, as currently having three bright children home schooled is quite a challenge! We now have a tutor that comes a couple of times a week, to work with the older two, and a singing tutor that comes once a week, to continue our eldest daughters absolute love of singing and teach our Miss 7 the stepping stones to developing her voice.

Thankfully there’s a piano in the house we are staying, so Miss 7 is continuing to teach herself to play, with my assistance when she asks!

Finally, we loved the first rain in months this past week – an excuse to light the fire for the first time, though we didn’t really need the warmth, it was still a lovely moment to share with the children.

First fire of autumn

Linking up at ‘Catalina’s Cottage’ this week for…

Happiness is RAIN for Kiwi Kids in Santa Barbara, California!

We arrived here in early August. It’s nearly Halloween, end of October, and today, for a couple of hours, we had PROPER rain! We’ve had a couple of hours of attempted rain only once in the past three months. This was real rain, that created hundreds of circles on the surface of the swimming pool, chilled us in a delightfully, refreshing manner, revived and refreshed us, excited us. My three daughters ran out side as soon as I told them the news… and dived in the swimming pool. Simply wonderful!

Rain in Santa BarbaraI ran around in the rain, loving the feel of it dripping down my neck, wetting my clothes, as I watched them. The vegetation came alive, reminding me of New Zealand in a down pour, it’s lush bush luminescent in a multitude shades of green.

rain dropsThe children made whirlpools in the spa, their spirits restored by the freshness of the rain, like flowers blooming in a desert.

whirlpools in the rainWe’re living in a place where rain is infrequent, where sunshine days average 300 a year, so rain is a blessing and a joy. We shall look forward to our next celebration in a downpour with great excitement and anticipation!

rain drops on the surface of the pool

Some sunsets feel too good to see alone | Prose for Thought

I took a walk, alone, on a Friday evening,
after a week of being with my three children, every hour of every day.

Alone, by the sea, I walked along the beach,
past couples entwined and groups of friends sharing drinks,
past people walking their dogs and jogging on the sand.

Sunset Miramar Beach 1

There wasn’t anyone else alone, completely alone. Just me.
The only company I had was my small pocket camera.
The one thing that everyone on that beach did share that evening,
was a mutual appreciation, for the incredible glow of the sky,
as the sun dropped over the Pacific Ocean.

It didn’t seem right to hold all my feelings and thoughts inside my head.
The beauty of the sky and the colours projected on the ocean,
and break waves rolling gently on the sand,
created too intense a feeling to contain within my one body.

Sunset Miramar Beach 2

It was one of those sunsets that makes a person feel very small.
A sunset that’s better shared.

I leant back, against a sea wall, behind which stood a prestigious property.
It wasn’t like the beaches I’m used to in New Zealand.
It was beautiful, all the same, but there were properties bordering upon its beauty,
encroaching on the natural beauty with their man-made finery.

I didn’t feel like I belonged.

Sunset, sea wall, Miramar Beach

The setting sun seemed to be pulling me out,
with a longing, to beaches thousands of miles away.

I was glad of the wall against my back.
It’s firmness gave me comfort,
though I’d sooner have had the touch of a lovers hand
pressed on the small of my back.

I’d sooner have been the couple out on the water,
sat on their paddle boards, limbs touching,
watching the sunset from their serene vantage point.

There were no others out on the water but them
and a yacht, silently anchored.

Couple on boards enjoying the setting sun

My silence was overbearing.
I needed to let out a sigh, a gasp,
some sort of vocal appreciation for what my eyes could see.

I needed the warmth of my lovers hand to hold.
My children’s silhouettes to watch,
dancing against the backdrop of the red sky,
as they dodged the waves.

This was a sunset to share with the people you love.
A sunset that with all its beauty held a tinge of sadness too.

© Sarah Lee, October, 2013

Prose for Thought

Weekending It! All action!

Having the man of the house home at the weekend gives us family time to get out and really explore this place – and we certainly had an action packed weekend of it!

The man of the house

Whilst the rest of us were barely awake he headed off for an early morning paddle board, returning back mid-morning for a quick appointment with a lady from a tutoring business, as we’re organising tutors for our older girls in some key subjects, to compliment their ‘natural learning’.

Then we all headed out for a family time of biking along the beautiful Cabrillo Boulevard in Santa Barbara, to the marina area for lunch.

We found a great cafe called, ‘Endless Summer’, right next to the Maritime Museum. It was the most relaxed, family lunch we’ve enjoyed in a while. A perfect setting, beautiful scenery and a fantastic, affordable, children’s menu (win, win!).

View over marina from Endless Summer Cafe

After lunch, and cycling back towards the central town of Santa Barbara, we enjoyed a little browse in the ‘Funk Zone’, where we found a gorgeous antique shop, jam packed, from floor to ceiling, with treasures, as well as a cute little surf museum.

Funk Zone Santa Barbara

After a busy morning, we went home for an afternoon rest before visiting friends in the evening.

Sunday was another action packed day.

We decided to head south to Santa Monica Pier and the fairground there.

Santa Monica Pier

We all had a fabulous time, with lots of rides to keep our youngest child amused, as well as the older ones.

Fun at the Fair

 

Santa Monica Pier

Just as we were heading back to the car, for drive home to Santa Barbara, we saw a man with two snakes! Our Miss 10 would so love a pet snake, but our rental agreement wouldn’t allow it – not to mention we wouldn’t be able to take a snake back to New Zealand with us! It was a dream come true for her to hold the snakes. She did so well holding the weight of two rather large snakes – combined weight of 60 pounds!

Miss 10 and 2 snakes!

On the drive back, as the sun began to sink low in the sky over the Pacific Ocean, we stopped at a huge sand dune, over looking a beautiful bay.

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean

Of course sand and children are always a fun mix – especially when sand is banked up very high for climbing up and running (or rolling) down.

Sand dune fun California

Next time we pass we’ll have to make sure we have a boogie board in the back, or a piece of cardboard… it reminded me of an adventure Dan and I enjoyed on Fraser Island years ago – boogie boarding down a dune into a lake!

Sand dune fun

We got home just after sunset and whilst unpacking the car (looked more like we’d been away for a week!), the man of the house got in the pool with the children. Just when I thought we were done for the day, and steering towards bedtime, a Suzy Cato DVD inspired an experiment with purple cabbage on the different between acid and alkaline (fact sheet, thanks to Suzy, here). Being in a natural learning way, we embraced the moment and did a science experiment before bedtime (as you do!).

We all finally got to sleep – close to 11pm!

Miss 3 takes her Chumash Indian book and puts it into practice

I’ve been reading a lovely book with Miss 3 about the way the Chumash Indian people used to live in Santa Barbara ‘The Chumash Through a Child’s Eyes‘. The book compares their life to our modern day life in a lovely way that young children can comprehend. On one page is a Chumash Indian child helping his mother to cook, next to another page of a young boy helping his mother to cook in a modern day kitchen. The book shows how the pattern of our daily lives isn’t that different, but the way we do things has changed through tools and technology.

Whilst reading the page on cooking, my three year old decided to try and recreate the way the Chumash Indian cooked acorn flour.

Chumash Indian cooking acorn flour

First she looked for a stick, finding a skewer in the kitchen pantry. Then she looked for a stone to attach to the stick. We talked about how a stone could be attached to the stick. I suggested putting a marshmallow on the end of the stick, but Miss 3 rightly explained that a marshmallow is soft, not hard like a stone. She suggested they may have made a hole in the stone to put the stick in it – but we talked about how it would be hard to make a hole and perhaps they would have bound the rock to the stick (we used a hairband for this purpose).

Then we needed fire, to heat the rock.

Miss 3 brought me a candle and a lighter.

She then asked for a bowl. She gathered acorns from the garden and asked for water to mix the acorns in.

We acted out heating the rock and then placing it in the water to heat the water and help ‘cook’ the acorns – adding conventional flour to the mix.

This learning was led by Miss 3, with my role helping to facilitate, respond and observe. It was a joyful experience and an example of how natural learning frequently happens in the home.

 

Going with the flow of natural learning

There’s been some lovely moments in the home learning house here this week. We are meeting some lovely fellow home-schoolers in Santa Barbara, getting out and about, filling up pages of the diary and discovering lots of new learning opportunities.

To be honest, I don’t always know how any day will pan out. We are having more items in the diary to be on time for, but around that, we are going with the flow. Sunday morning we went out as a family to see the art and craft stalls along Santa Barbara’s Cabrillo Boulevard and ended up spending a couple of hours hula-hooping!

weekend hulahooping

Around the book learning (have to admit there hasn’t been a great deal of traditional learning this past week) there are random ‘dress up’ and impromptu ‘acting’ scenes cropping up around the house!

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There are trips out to climb and run at local playgrounds…

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Visits to our local Zoo, where our eldest daughter’s fascination with snakes can flourish (she was quite the snake charmer this week!)…

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And time together to talk over lunch, read books about pirate adventures and the secrets of the ocean deep…

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Whilst observing the numerous crabs scuttling on the rocks around the marina…

crabs on the rocks

Marina Santa Barbara

In the home our youngest daughter loves to paint and create. She is the one most frequently at my side, whilst her older sisters play and learn together.

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It’s lovely to have time for leisurely, healthy breakfasts with my three daughters every morning, as well as living in a house with a swimming pool to splash in every day. The children use it so much and our youngest, Miss 3, is now swimming the full length of the pool.

Breakfasts at leisure

We are exploring new places all the time and the man of the house, is all hands on in the evening, for instance one ‘school night’ this week he came home to a very active Miss 7 pleading to ‘go out’ and do something ‘exciting’! She researched a few options on the Internet, checked opening times and how far away the places were, and came up with indoor rock climbing and ten-pin bowling!

rock climbing in santa barbara

So there’s a few snippets from our week! Plenty to love, plenty of indoor and outdoor moments. Not quite as much traditional learning as my traditionally schooled self would like, but learning is definitely happening in its own natural way. The best part of this experience is seeing my three daughters gel with each other so richly. This time they are sharing is invaluable and the bonds of friendship they are making now will last them their lifetimes.

Fun at the Fair in the sunshine of Santa Cruz

“It’s ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach’ in the sun!” we both said in unison as the children ran around us in excited circles waiting for their tickets.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Old-fashioned rides blended with fair-ground games, candy floss and hot dog stalls were on every corner and the sound of screams, mixed with shrill laughter, filled the air. The only thing missing were trams and donkeys. On the expansive beach there were people in a lot less clothing than on your average day at Blackpool too, but then this was Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park in sunny California.

Swings

The symphony swings flew out in an arc over the beach, as the sun beat down on the beach below. Our seven year old daughter rode on the swings over and over again, whilst her oldest sister rode on the boardwalk’s landmark ride – ‘The Giant Dipper‘ – with her Daddy.

The Giant Dipper

Whilst the screams of excitement, intermingled with music and laughter, rang out from every direction of the boardwalk, our youngest, Miss 3, took a nap in her buggy. Her dreams filled with riding a friendly dragon, as her Mummy and Daddy smiled on with delight; as she pulled back on a lever to fly her dragon into a cloudless, blue sky.

Alice on the dragon ride

And whilst she continued to dream, I watched the smile on the face of one of my daughters. She was having the time of her life, riding on a car waltzer, making me reminisce on days when the fun-fair would visit the town where I grew up, in Hampshire, England.

Miss 7 having a blast!

There were some rides that filled my husband and I with less than pleasant memories from our younger years, but filled our two older girls with rapturous glee, calling out to go, ‘Again! Again!’.

Let's get dizzy!

The first time they rode the spinning machine of stomach churning madness I thought they’d come off green, with tears streaming down their faces! But their stomachs are obviously made of something stronger (that perhaps age makes worse!).

Happy to be spinning around and around!

They delighted in getting their Mummy and Daddy to go on the ‘scary’ rides with them – taking huge pleasure in seeing us cope less ably than them.

Crazy Surf

Thankfully we had the excuse of young Miss 3 to ‘cop’ out of too much stomach churning. As much as we still love a good thrill, we got equal pleasure from watching our youngest child’s face light up riding independently on boats, whales and ‘Pepsi’ delivery vehicles!

Alice on the whale

She rode a little boat with such concentration, truly believing her actions on the steering wheel would make a difference as to how the boat moved.

Boat riding concentrationAll the while the sun continued to beat down on the beach and fun on the boardwalk.

Santa Cruz beach

Whilst cuddly toys called out to be won…

Catching a prize

And ghosts were preparing to meet with their demise as our older two ‘ghost busters’ powered up for action.

Ghost busting

This was definitely one family adventure not to be forgotten. We’ll be talking about this for a very long time!

Loving – Finding contentment in the moment, whilst aching for New Zealand

Loving the time my daughters are sharing together. I haven’t seen my oldest two so close for years and our youngest is loving the constant interaction of having her older sisters around.

Sisters close through time well spent together

Loving the natural flow of our days, where ‘fitness’ is a swim in the pool, a bike ride to the village or a run on the beach. There’s no classes to dash to, or planned events, simply time for the children to be together and fill their time naturally – which they do with wonderful ease. Though of course they are missing so much from their lives in Wellington, New Zealand too. Our eldest misses her dance classes, her school friends and neighbourhood friends, her choir and singing lesson. At the age of ten, her friends are her world. As much as this experience here is wonderful too, she is keenly aware of missing the continuity of her happy life that she enjoyed so much in vibrant Wellington. The other children miss their close neighbours and friends. I miss my support networks and the friendships that have built up over the seventeen years we’ve spent living in New Zealand.

Where we are, right now, is a beautiful place, but the energy required to make it feel like ‘home’ is HUGE. Yes the weather is incredible here in Santa Barbara – but really that isn’t enough to trade up life-long friendships for and our children’s happiness! I can live with wind – in fact it makes me feel alive (the horizontal rain in the wind isn’t something I miss – but ‘all-weather gear’ helps to battle that!). Yes, the financial rewards of staying and career opportunities for the man of the house are incredible – but again – family, above all else, is so much more important and no value can be placed on that.

Family

So, in the meantime, we are taking each day as it comes. The girls are making the most of this time together as sisters. There is learning happening – but the children don’t call it that, until I point out that the game they’ve invented using a bingo wheel is maths, the songs they have written are ‘creative writing’ and the designs they made on a fashion App is ‘visual art and design’. They play board games, argue on strategy, practice their English grammar with games like ‘Mad Libs‘. They ask for my camera to take photographs of the lizards in the garden, they ask to go to the Zoo, so they can learn more about snakes (my oldest), I walk in on them reading a book at leisure or watching a nature documentary (or Merlin – a favourite at the moment).

When weekends come round, and the man of the house is on deck, we visit museums and parks, and their minds glitter with new interest and questions. During the week we make the most of places in our locality, learning happens everywhere. In the evenings, after work, their Daddy asks them maths problems in the spa pool.

Our youngest is learning the way the others did at the age of three, fast and enthusiastically, moving from cutting and drawing, painting and sticking, to counting her toy trains and ponies, observing sizes and shapes, letters and numbers, full of questions about the world about her, the animals that share the earth and where we are ‘in Space’. She is the best, out of all of us, at living in the moment. She stops to notice the flowers and asks to ‘Pick for Mumma’.

Flowers for Mumma

She sits with me in the garden and watches nature. She sees the woodpecker on the tree and the butterfly gliding overhead.

Woodpecker

We are trying to make the most of the time we have here, trying not to dwell on the aches in our hearts. I spent the first decade of our lives in New Zealand homesick for England, before finally recognising that New Zealand is actually where my home is – however much I will always ache for certain parts of England and the people I love who live there. Right now, I have a feeling of home sickness for two countries! I really don’t know how long term trailing spouses with children do it. I have absolute admiration for families working in diplomatic posts of three year durations at a time in various overseas posts.

This experience, for me, with children, is not at all easy, but I know we will look back on this time, the photographs, the happy moments and forget the pain and we shall feel proud of ourselves for giving this a shot. I can’t say how much I feel proud to be a Kiwi by residency and have three New Zealand born children.

This photograph I bought, whilst in San Francisco, last week, holds a lot of meaning to me.

America's Cup

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Linking up this post with ‘Things I’m Loving’ hosted as ‘Catalina’s Cottage‘ this week

Prose for Thought | Gliding in with the fall

Autumn in Santa Barbara is not like any autumn I’ve ever experienced. It feels like summer, minus the long, light evenings. But there is still a change in the air, however slight it may seem to this British born lass, used to living in windy Wellington, New Zealand, for well over a decade!

There are warm winds blowing in and shorter days. The friendly lizards aren’t so visible, when the sun hides its light. The blue sky still stays, with little variation, during the day. Clouds are something to be excited about – but rarely offer the same magnificence of the type we are used to – and rain is still something we’ve not seen in the past two months we’ve been living here.

But the season of ‘Fall’ is evident, in the plentiful pumpkins to be found everywhere, the harvest festivals and pumpkin patches (complete with bouncy castles and elaborate scare-crows) and, most mesmerising of all, there are Monarch Butterflies; drifting in from the western Rockies, over 2,500 miles away, to rest for the winter.

Monarch Butterfly

These incredible butterflies have always held me captivated – from when my children were young and we planted our own butterfly garden in New Zealand to encourage them to linger and repopulate on the Swan Plants we planted next to colourful flowers to attract them.

Now, as I experience my first autumn here in Santa Barbara, California, I am delighted to see them in the garden of the beautiful property we are currently staying.

I have had a tough time recently, on the mental health front, which I shan’t go into (though rest assured I shall soon be on the mend, thanks to wonderful friends, a great husband, caring neighbours and a kind doctor) and having a moment to appreciate these beautiful creatures really helped me this week.

I hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it xxx

Flying in with the Fall
Prose for Thought