Month: January 2014

Things I’m Loving on the crazy home front

Being away in the UK for five nights, without my children, was a genuine, much needed break. Parenting 24/7 and home educating three active, bright and full on girls, in another country to their home, is exhausting and, as much as I love them and sharing so much amazing time with them, I totally needed a ‘mental health’ break 😉

The week before I went away my camera came out a lot more than usual. I wanted to capture slices of every day life with my daughters, to take stock of those special moments and cherish them.

So, here are a few moments I loved in that week…

  • Finger painting with Miss 3 and capturing the thrill and delight as she really let herself go and explore the texture of the paint on her hands and the way it spread on the paper –
Finger painting LOVE!
  • Creative inventions with some connecting rods
Creativity with connecting rods!
  • Dive bombing in the swimming pool –
Dive bomb!
  • Chilled out story time and naps with Miss 3 –
Nap time
  • Drinking white wine in the afternoon, as I had no where to drive (and I like to pretend I’m at a wine festival in Marlborough, New Zealand, from time to time – parenthood demands a strong imagination and lots of creativity!).
Story time and wine!
  • And these chocolates…. that ALL the family are devouring and loving!
Chocolates!

And after my amazing trip away (Part 1 here), they welcomed me home with a fabulous greeting (young Miss 3 even had ‘Welcome Home Mum’ written on her face with face-paints, courtesy of Miss 8!)!

Welcome home greeting!

 

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Joining in with Things I’m Loving…

I wholeheartedly believe that no matter what is happening in your life,
there is always something you can be thankful for… no matter how simple it is.

 

LA to UK for 4 days, sans children. A once in a decade trip! Part 1

It was my first trip away in ten years, without wearing my mother and wife ‘hats’. An old University friend in the UK was the carrot and after ten years of at home parenting (mostly as an expat in New Zealand), with only one night away (ever; and that was when I had two daughters, not three), it was a well overdue trip. It took lots of friendly encouragement from friends to give me the confidence, before hubbie gave me the final push – by booking the flight for me! There was no excuse now!

So it was, that I boarded the air-coach at Santa Barbara on a Thursday morning, to travel to Los Angeles and then fly to London Heathrow for a four day stay, wearing only my daughter, sister and friend hats. It seemed easier to fly ‘across the pond’ (the Atlantic) than it ever would have been to do a short trip home to the UK from New Zealand, our home of over fifteen years. Half the cost, half the distance, half the travel time.

The biggest ‘pull’ to living for a year or so in the USA with three children (for hubbie’s work), was knowing I’d be a little closer to my beloved family in the UK; so it was only right that I made the most of the opportunity. Hubbie insisted that they would cope without me (but I still employed someone to help out on the days he would be working from home – knowing full well that little work would be possible with the ever present zest of our wonderful Miss 3 and home-educated Miss 8 and 10!).

Boarding the air-coach was easier than I could have anticipated, with all three children being genuinely positive with their send off. There were no tears, no guilt trips, no desperate pleas to join me. So I stepped onboard with light feet and excitement, feeling instantly free of responsibility. A two hour coach trip, four hour wait at LAX and ten hour flight was ahead of me – time, more than I can remember having in the past decade, for reading, shopping, browsing the latest book releases, eating at leisure, watching movies and staring out of the window for some uninterrupted day-dreaming.

The flight was quiet, with almost everyone in the back third of the plane having a line of seats to themselves. There were hardly any children to remind me of my own (though one did pipe up about the time I knew my brood would be heading off to sleep in California – which resulted in me having a little sob!). I got those tears out of my system, sipped a wine, put on my eye-mask, plugged in ear-plugs and breathed deeply – I’d need all the rest possible – as I was due to arrive in London Heathrow at 11am (3am in California).

My agenda for the four day trip was a stay at my childhood home in Fleet (after landing at LHR at 11am and catching a breath of fresh air at the amazing Wisley Gardens), and a catch up with my best-friend, on the Friday night; a wedding on Saturday, at The Grove, Hertfordshire; a trip up to the Peak District to see my sister on Sunday; a return drive on Monday, from the Peak District in northern England to Hampshire in southern England, an evening watching Giselle, the ballet, at a cinema in Camberley (live screened, globally, from the Royal Opera House in London); before a 6am departure on the last day for my return flight.

I landed in LHR ahead of time and cleared border control and customs before my folks had even arrived at the airport to greet me (it was a lot easier to power walk from the airplane to border control without children trailing bags and needing toilet stops!).

My folks surprised me with a visit to Wisley Gardens, enroute to my childhood home in Fleet, Hampshire. It was just the fix my body needed after a long haul flight and six months of living under Californian blue southern skies, where I’ve only seen rain in two days! I was hungry for ‘real weather’, green grass, air temperatures that make a person feel alive, savoury foods and a proper cup of tea in a china cup! At Wisley Gardens I was immersed in historic architecture and gardens willed with familiar trees from my childhood in Hampshire.

Wisley Gardens, England

I borrowed my Dad’s camera and turned into an obvious ‘tourist’, finding excitement in what the locals would take for granted: Silver birch trees and pussy willows dangling over a river in flood, holly bushes and snow-drops, grass so green it was luminescent and watered only by nature’s hand, hellebores in flower and even a tree in blossom. I barely had a moment to think about my dear daughters in the USA, as I was so immersed in the moment!

Wisley Gardens, England

My senses were alive with getting a fix of nature, British style, and the fresh air was fighting off my jet lag with a brisk hand.

Wisley Gardens, England

 

Unfortunately the fresh air wasn’t quite enough to completely banish the fuzzy head of long-haul and a nap would be needed if I was going to manage to stay up till bedtime, so it was home to Fleet we went. My dear Mum tucked me up in bed with a hot water bottle, under instructions to wake me about 5pm.

A refreshing nap and I was ready to catch up with my best friend from school days. I wish I could have stayed up longer, but with a wedding to attend the next day, I needed some shut eye!

To be continued…

A letter to our dear sensory seeker

Our dear sensory seeking eight year old, how we love you so much.

You seek out love, hugs, contact & friendship with such openness; just like your appetite for food is varied and sometimes exotic. You are the one to take the craziest roller coaster ride, seek out thrills and push your body to the limit. You will plunge yourself into a cold pool and climb the highest tree you can find. You prefer speed and would travel around on roller blades everywhere if you could. You are always running, jumping, swinging off bars and dangling upside down. Your mind is always so busy, just like your body. You will talk to anyone you meet and love to engage new people in games.

Your laughter is intense and contagious. When you hurt yourself or feel scared or anxious you are equally intense, dramatic and just as loud as when you’re happy.

You feel everything with extreme depth. Sometimes we urge you to remove yourself from drama, but you are like a moth to the flame. No matter if something will scorch or hurt you, sometimes you cannot resist the sensory experience. Other times your instincts of fight and flight bring you crumbling to a halt. All rational thought can sometimes leave you and hinder you from trying something you’d like to do in your heart.

For a risk taker and thrill seeker you surprise us in your fears of some things that seem so mundane to others. You find structured classes or scheduled events hard to handle, as your spontaneous nature can’t hold emotions to a clock.

We find your company both exhausting and exhilarating; at times frustrating but mostly exciting. There is so much noise and movement around you. Your presence fills every room you walk into. We are constantly surprised, sometimes exasperated. We worry what will become of you, whilst at the same time trying to trust our instincts that all will be fine.

You are living and learning a path very much of your own forging. We are learning alongside of you, every step of the way – sometimes ahead of you; but quite often chasing your crazy tail!

Lots of love Miss 8. You really are an incredible, unique, special, noisy, energetic and vibrant young lady!

Celebrating your eighth Birthday by seeing the film ‘Frozen’, & celebrating with a ‘summer garden tea party’ afterwards, was perfectly befitting.

image

You are definitely a girl who is full of passion, with a deep love for her family and sisters and will make a mark on the world around you. You make friends wherever you go and make people feel excited and encouraged to explore the world with heady enthusiasm.

image

So, ‘Do you want to build a snowman?!’

Keep living life to the full beautiful. Keep feeling with all your emotions. I suspect you’ll leave the snowman building to your younger sister before long – whilst you take to the steep slopes and spin circles on the ice… But she’ll be catching up with you! And she is so fortunate to have your zest and energy as inspiration in her own life.

Hoping the rest of your ninth year is full of ample sensory excitement and happiness. You’ve done so well adjusting to life in California this year. We shall look forward to celebrating your ninth Birthday back at home in New Zealand.

Lots of love, Mum, Dad, younger sister Miss 3 (nearly 4!) and older sister Miss 10 & a half xxxx

It’s the little moments of parenting that make it worthwhile

When you get out of the habit of writing about the little slices of life, that make it worth living, it’s hard to know where to start. Everything I write, which means so much to me, will be trivial to others; but I share it all the same, as I’ve learned that there’s a wonderful community ‘out there’ of parents that make sharing worthwhile.

Through sharing I’ve met great, interesting, inspiring people. I’ve felt empowered to make changes and I’ve felt that reassurance of ‘Thank goodness I am not the only one’. It’s not until you are a parent, or spend a lot of time with children, that you can understand the complexities of trying to be the right role model, all the time. I never knew patience like I do now, after ten years of parenting. I can add tolerance, empathy, sympathy, an ear that listens (and sometimes requires ear plugs) and much more; that I’m too tired to think of (a normal condition of parenting) to the list.

I’ve learned, above all else, to try and take stock, every day – or at least once a week, of the little things that have made me happy, grateful, proud or loved. It’s all too easy to get hung up on the negatives (it’s a constant battle in my mind not to!), but writing a blog over the years – ‘Catching the Magic‘, and now here, has helped me to keep a positive focus (or at least stop me from sinking completely underneath the trail of mess that is childhood creativity and learning in full flow!). I often look back on all we’ve done and am so thankful that I found the energy to record all those little slices of positivity.

I gave up paid work to spend every moment with my children. I have loved living in the moment with them and have totally immersed myself in being in their worlds – but perhaps too much (indicative of the sneaky white hairs). I feel more and more, as my youngest reaches four, that though I still am occupied so much with the lives of my children, I need to once again take back a little of me. I’ve been happy, for years, to give and give, but now I feel the emptiness of not taking time to refill myself with the essence of what makes me a person. As my eldest turned ten I felt the need, more than ever, to be once again more of the ‘old me’; an independent woman that spent time working, volunteering, undertaking hobbies to further enhance my physical, mental and spiritual health. I need this change for me, but also to set an example to my ten year old, whilst also being there and constant for my youngest child and middle daughter, that’s recently turned eight.

Recently Updated416

Lately, I have really struggled to find any time to record the high moments of the week, or the desire, compulsion and motivation to do so. I nap when my youngest does, I sleep when my children sleep – they don’t hit the sack at night till around 10pm. I read a little, but that’s it. Writing, sadly, has left me. So, this post is the beginning of rectifying that. I doubt I’ll be as constant or diarise with such intensity. I don’t feel compelled to share the day to day moments as much as I used to – though it’s true that, on reflection, that’s what I enjoy looking back on. I don’t feel like spending hours putting photographs together in collages and tweaking them to edited perfection. But I do miss taking my camera and capturing a moment that might otherwise have missed.

Miss 10 rainbow looming

When I focus, with camera in hand, something else happens that changes my perception and depth of what my eyes naturally see. I feel immersed in a world of colour in a higher magnitude. I forget the washing, the piles of toys to sort and resort, the lunches to prepare and the dishes to wash. My perspective shifts when I practice being observant and my overall mental health is all the better for it.

Day to day happenings

This year, living away from our home in New Zealand, should – most would think – be all the more worth recording. But, with three children at home full time, and the pressure of making sure they are occupied, emotionally and physically well, happy and learning, is all consuming. The ‘big days out’ are photographed aplenty, but I don’t feel the need to write down every moment or blog about it – rather let the photographs speak for themselves. It’s the little moments, of every day, in the home, that are the ones I need to take stock of. The fairy gardens that our Miss 3 creates…

Alice's fairy garden

The progress she makes, with such delight, in her drawings…

Little moments of contented achievement in the home

It’s only now, with this momentary time of reflection (all be it with Miss 3 sat next to me, talking away, pulling my nose, giggling and asking if dinner is nearly ready) that I realise how much I need to make time to take stock (however interrupted it is). It is this time that makes me feel better about how I’m doing and how my children are faring. They have come to a new country for a year, leaving behind their beloved home, friends, hobbies and routines. They are all at home, after schools here in the USA seemed so different that thrusting them into a different system – just for a year – didn’t seem worth it. They are living and breathing life together, 24/7, and the way they have learned to get on and entertain themselves in a way that makes me so proud. The unity of our family feels stronger than ever (even if I feel a little frazzled around the edges at times!). We are doing okay.

Keep calm and carry on

It’s forcing myself to take stock that makes me feel more upbeat and helps me to pick up momentum in taking a positive outlook each week.

Miss 8 writing down her looming creations

I have felt so, so lost living in the USA, away from everything my children and I know. I have felt reflective of the past and full of questions about the future.

What I feel about my life and how I’d like to move forward is weighed upon, heavily, by the desires of my children and my husband. I must continue to think of my family and the best way forward for the whole, no matter how much my heart pines for something quite different in so many respects.

Taking stock of the little moments, that occur on any normal day, are what keep me sane and positive. I feel better for writing already. Time to ditch the laptop now and go ‘be in the moment’ with my family 🙂

Sarah x

New | The Photo Gallery

Hummingbird ornament in garden

New is the hummingbird sun-catcher, hanging from the tree.

New is the hummingbird feeder, dangling near by.

New is this scene, just for a year, in a house in Santa Barbara,

where all the nature is new to my eyes.

Hummingbird feeder

Time in this house, with my three children, is ample,

Sometimes it feels a prison, I can’t get them out,

other times it feels a welcome hide-away,

with enough distractions to keep me from venturing out.

Bird in the garden

My days are quantified with small achievements;

children fed and hydrated, stories read,

music played, a dance and a song –

A painting, a drawing, a swim in the pool,

dishes are clean, clothes all washed and beds made.

Water fountain in the garden

If I think any further, have a place to be at a set time,

it all feels too much. Anxious tears spring in my eyes.

Phone calls go unanswered, responded with a text or an e-mail.

Shopping is left to do on-line, or by my husband on the way home from work.

Bird in the garden

I just have enough in me, each day, to focus on the little things.

For now, that is all I have and that is enough.

So the new hummingbird feeder in the garden draws my focus –

It’s significance is magnified by my simple days.

Hummingbird in the garden

The sight of a bird, at the feeder or on a plant nearby,

flitting in the sunshine, with one purpose on its mind,

is my symbol of being in the moment, right now.

If I have to think past the moment, to the future, or question the past,

those tears spring again, and I feel down in my heart.

Hummingbird in the garden

So now, in this New Year, I shall focus on what is now.

Right here, every day, new in the moment.

It is enough, for now.

Hummingbird

© Sarah Lee, January 2014

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Back to better health & really ready for 2014

There’s nothing worse than flu to knock a person off kilter. It’s worse when the whole family, children and all, are affected. It’s forced us all to slow down and write off the first week or so of this New Year. The only silver lining for the adults, particularly me, has been a forced detox – as I felt too ill to even think about having a wee drop of red (I even went off coffee for five days!). Anyway, that is all now in the past. A few snuffles and coughs linger in the children, but (touch wood, cross fingers, do not let this blog post be a jinx!) we are on the road to recovery and can finally look forward to making this year a positive one of action and happy memory making.
Kite flying with Grandma & Granddad at Santa Barbara Beach
We’ve already made some gems, with so many happy moments cherished with Grandma & Granddad visiting from the UK – on the beach…
On the beach with Grandma & Granddad
And exploring at the pier…
Sea Center, Stearns Wharf, Santa Barbara

Having my dear folks over from the UK was an absolute blessing. The day we returned from our family holiday in San Diego (which wasn’t without illness either), hubbie had to travel to Cincinnati for a couple of days work. He was staying in the middle of no where, and his trip happened to coincide with the worse weather in a couple of decades. A ‘polar vortex’ descended on central USA and he just happened to be right in the middle of it. He made it there okay, thank goodness, but it wasn’t a surprise that his return was delayed (thankfully by only one night – it could have been much worse). Whilst he was away the flu struck me down. I was a shivering mess, alternating between feverishly hot to down-right freezing, unable to warm up, even under copious layers of blankets. It’s horrible being ill, but even worse when you are a parent and one’s own children are also ill. I was just so, so grateful my folks were here and well enough to do the supermarket runs, which kept us all well provisioned with healthy food and plenty of liquids.

We spent many hours in bed, or on the sofa, thankful for the pleasant surroundings of the house we’re staying. Granddad and Alice hung up the humming-bird feeder, which him and Grandma had given us for Christmas, and we sat by the window, sipping cups of ‘get better tea’, looking out for birds.

In the garden
In between supermarket runs, and making sure we were all resting up, they did get out for a couple of gentle walks and enjoyed exploring some of the local scenery in Santa Barbara. From on high, where the hand gliders launch themselves …
Hills overlooking Santa Barbara
To the coastline, where the bird life is plentiful and entertaining to watch – darting in and out of the surf and swooping low over the sea looking for a snack.
Hendry's Beach, Santa Barbara
We are now, thank goodness, looking and feeling brighter. We bid farewell to my dear folks today; they are on their return to the UK as I write, and are ready to take on this year with renewed positivity.
Goleta Beach, UCSB Lagoon

We will continue with our adventures in California until September and then head home to, much loved and missed, New Zealand. Our oldest is trying a new school, our youngest taking a look at a play-school and our middle daughter, who turned eight on Boxing Day, is carrying on in her own un-schooling way. She saw in her Birthday with a visit to the cinema to see ‘Frozen’ and a spin on the ice skating rink.

The evenings will get lighter and we have two summer’s in a row to look forward to. My first gentle jog of the year has been accomplished and given me the impetus to keep fit and healthy. I can finally feel, after a week of not feeling much positivity at all, that I’m ready to welcome 2014 and get it moving, onwards and upwards. This moving to a new country for a year, with three children, hasn’t been easy, though from ‘the outside looking in’ it all seems exciting. For us, the highs and lows seem more undulating, unpredictable and harder to ride at times. Each day, each week, each month, we look back, on all we have done, look at the smiling faces in the photographs, and take stock, whilst thinking – always – of our friends and home in New Zealand.

Miramar Beach, Santa Barbara
Hoping this blog post finds you in good health and spirits at the start of the year x

Twenty Fourteen in San Diego

We have seen in the New Year from the vibrant city of San Diego, where there is an abundance of attractions, activities and beautiful scenery. There is so much to do here that I already want to start planning my next visit. On the drive down we stopped a night at Legoland California, where all the children enjoyed an amazing time, from the ‘disco lifts’ and themed hotel rooms to the park itself, with rides and exhibits set in a wonderful natural setting, under deciduous trees, still hanging on to a few leaves, around waterways and over meandering bridges and pathways.

New Year’s Eve itself was a quiet one from the hotel, with stunning views – but an unfortunately timed sea mist rolled in to put a halt to the firework display that was on the agenda. Being one of the last places in the world to see in the New Year, after so many years of living in New Zealand – one of the very first places to see in the New Year, was a new experience.

Last sunset of 2013 from San Diego

By the time the sunset on New Year’s Eve in San Diego, we all felt more than ready to kiss farewell to the good, the bad and the in-between of 2013, and move on to 2014.

Our two youngest children, along with their Daddy, spent the sunset hours partying with new friends, from Vancouver, Canada, they had made in the hotel pool. They got invited to an apartment near our hotel – to meet the grandparents and had a wonderful time.

I stopped in the hotel room with my oldest daughter, who wasn’t feeling well – and still isn’t (hence my time to write a blog post today, whilst the rest of the family is out exploring San Diego Safari Park). Later in the evening we were joined by Grandma & Granddad, and enjoyed their company very much, over a few quiet drinks and Despicable Me 2 screening in the background. We were all asleep before midnight, but glad of the energy to greet the first day of 2014 without any sore heads!

New Year’s Day itself was a wonderful one for me. It was my turn to get out the hotel, whilst Dan did the honours and took care of our oldest. However, he did manage to get out for a few hours of fun – persuading Miss 10 to come out to Sea World for a couple of hours and then, later in the afternoon, to Belmont Park with Miss 10 and Miss 8.  We didn’t make the decision to visit SeaWorld lightly. It breaks my heart to see Orca, such as Tilikum, as well as any whales or dolphins in captivity and the continued breeding of these intelligent animals for the entertainment of people should be stopped. However, there is still room for SeaWorld – but they really need to move with the times.

Orca at SeaWorld

SeaWorld put on excellent attractions for children, with large scale climbing frames and activity areas, rides and educational exhibits. The entertainment by dancers, acrobats, actors and singers in the park is top notch (there is no need for performing dolphins really – as the people do such a class act!). Our youngest daughter loved the ‘Winter Wonderland’ and making her first snowman (not that this has much to do with the marine environment – other than perhaps experiencing a taste of Antarctica!).

Winterwonderland at Sea World San Diego

The SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund grants millions of dollars to conservation projects worldwide – and this is what SeaWorld needs to promote and get young people involved with. There needs to be more hands on conservation exhibits and educational displays, so that the actions of everyone can help to clean up and protect our oceans.

We have two more nights left in San Deigo, before driving back to Santa Barbara on Saturday. I’m hoping to get out to San Diego Zoo tomorrow, which Grandma, Granddad, hubbie and our youngest two daughters have already experienced with great reports back.

There is so much here in San Diego to see, besides the big parks, I wish I had more time to visit the Old Town, Little Italy and the Seaport Village. The USS Midway would be fascinating to visit too.

On our first morning here, I did venture out to the Seaport Village, on the recommendation of my dear Dad, to explore a wonderful cafe and bookstore (and much more!). It was my equivalent of heaven – good coffee, plentiful reading material, trinkets of all kinds to discover in every corner, seats in the shade and the sun, overlooking a meandering footpath, past a quaint duck pond and beyond, to the crystal clear harbour and ever blue, southern Californian sky. There was classical music playing to further stir the senses, and hideaway nooks inside to enjoy a quiet cuppa and be alone with ones thoughts – whilst being surrounded by the written thoughts of thousands of others. Just perfect!

Seaport Village, San Diego

Around the corner from the bookstore we discovered a beautiful, historic carousel, which had been lovingly restored in 1992. Hand-carved in 1895 this delightful attraction features 54 animals and two horse-drawn chariots. There is a sea dragon, giraffes, camels and a bear, as well as the traditional horses. Of course we had to have a ride on it, along with Grandma and Granddad too! It is so wonderful to have them visiting us from England.

So, a couple more days of holiday, before returning to Santa Barbara. Our oldest daughter is going to start a little private school and give it a go, whilst our other two daughters will still be learning from home. We have made no definite plans to stay in Santa Barbara beyond the year, or to return to New Zealand. Our current lease on the house, that we are renting in Santa Barbara, runs out in September, so we’ll make some decisions around May this year, depending on so many factors and the feelings of everyone in our family of five. It’s good to know our home in Wellington, New Zealand, is being well looked after by a good friend.

The biggest word for our family this year is ‘open’ – the continual drive to be open to new experiences, opportunities, people and adventures. Letting the tide take us!

Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and wonderful year.

Sarah x

Kissing goodbye to 2013