New beginnings

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.

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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

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

An expat Christmas twice over, with some outdoor fun

Any expat will understand that Christmas (that is if it is a holiday that means something to you) is hard away from your home. This year, our first Christmas in Santa Barbara, California, USA, could have been twice as hard – particularly for my British husband and I. We spent our growing up years, till our early twenties, enjoying Christmas festivities in the UK. From then on, we adapted to life in New Zealand – and brought three New Zealand born daughters into the world. We learned a whole new way to celebrate Christmas, southern hemisphere style. We adopted new family traditions, whilst telling our children how we grew up celebrating Christmas in the winter of the UK. We spent hours on Skype with family half a planet away, celebrating Christmas morning, whilst we finished our Christmas Day and turned in for bed.

Christmas become one we celebrated around the BBQ and picnic table in the garden, rather than the dining table in a centrally heated home, and we quickly ditched vegetables for salad, turkey for chicken on the BBQ, and christmas pudding for pavlova. We kept the mince pies, exchanged glazed cherries for fresh strawberries and blueberries. We left Christmas dinner till the evening, and spent lunch at the beach (if the weather played in our favour – southern hemisphere summer in Wellington, New Zealand, isn’t as dependable as Bondi Beach, Sydney, or tropical Queensland, Australia!).

In New Zealand, with daylight beyond 9pm, we ditched fairy lights for mirror balls, that caught the sunlight, and decorated the garden with bunting and wind socks.

This year, in Santa Barbara, we were placed in between, with darkness at 5pm we could go all out on the fairy lights, but the blue sky of sunny California by day allowed us to enjoy some fun outdoors, by the pool and in the sunshine – a mix of both our known worlds.

Of course, family and friends really are what make for a merry Christmas, and we could have easily felt lost this year. Thankfully my dear folks come over from England, arriving a week before Christmas Day, to help aid the festive spirit and make us feel grounded in our new abode. Our children have thrived having the grandparents for extra company. The man of the house took time off. It has been all about family, fun and making the most of every moment. We felt in the present, not weighted down with ‘what might have been’. We dived in the swimming pool, soaked in the spa, lunched at the golf club and enjoyed the festive lights along Santa Barbara’s ‘State Street’.

Christmas in Santa Barbara 2013

Christmas has been wonderful this year, despite being away from our home in Wellington, New Zealand. We have felt more connected, in a strange way, being geographically placed between the UK and New Zealand. We have enjoyed the extended celebrations of being a good 20 hours behind New Zealand’s Christmas celebrations, 8 hours behind the UK and finally seeing in our own Christmas. Instead of making us feeling further away, the time differences have allowed us to watch the unfolding events of dear friends and family, and then enjoy our own. It’s been different, of course, but not difficult.

We are feeling so much more positive about what the New Year will bring. Change is never easy, but it brings unknown surprises, lessons and strengths. For everything we miss, we have gained. For everyone we miss, we are thankful for the modern day world keeping us connected and the memories of great times we’ve shared with them. For everything yet to be, we are more positive and feel stronger to adapt and be flexible. Bring on the New Year… which we are seeing in with my dear folks in the vibrant and beautiful city of San Diego!

Wishing you all the best for 2014 too and hope it brings with it positivity, good health, happy days and plenty of memorable moments.

Sarah xx

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Now go check out the outdoor fun that so many other wonderful folk have enjoyed over the past week….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

A place with no real weather | Prose for Thought

Dare I say, ‘I’m getting used to this place’?

Where the weather barely changes –
apart from the length of light in a day.
Where clouds are cause for exclamation –
and rain is a rare, yet welcome, distraction.

I’ve come from a place that knows big weather,
where a person learns to dress in layers.
Four seasons in one day are quite the norm –
and umbrellas are found frequently torn.

Where the wind rushes through the changes –
faster than the met office can print pages.
People look to the sky and feel the air –
their bodies move with elemental care.

We’ve been here four months and seen rain twice,
I still open the curtains and exclaim –
‘It’s a lovely day, look at that blue sky!’

My British upbringing has strong roots.
My mother’s voice still whispers in my head,
‘Get out in the sun, make the most of it!’

My children are quicker to embrace the new.
Responding to my pleas to ‘get out!’ with,
‘Mum! It’ll still be blue tomorrow!’.

We can plan parties outdoors, without care –
I can let go of ‘Plan B’, in the past I wouldn’t dare!
There are no need for things to weigh everything down,
tarpaulins, indoor venues and frowns.

Do I miss the drama and surprise?
Do I miss the spontaneity –
of going with the weather, changing plans,
in a moment, day by day, hour by hour?

Do I miss the smell of the air after rain?
Days when a walk down the road was a battle –
when the warm car, or cafe, held great appeal,
from where I could wait out the storm and watch –

Maybe I do, maybe I don’t –
Most days I’m happy to wake to the blue.
But in a vacuum of sameness –
do I really feel alive?

Maybe I need to find new ways to feel –
let go of my emotional tie to weather –
go with the sameness and embrace it.

It won’t be forever, this time, this place.
There will be years ahead in lands of weather.
For sure, I’ll look back and yearn for this –
So, come on girl, get used to it!

There are far more important things in life,
than harping on about the weather!!

© Sarah Lee, December 2013

Santa Barbara

For anyone that doesn’t know me – I’m British born, but have spent the past seventeen years living in Wellington, New Zealand. I am currently living in sunny Santa Barbara, California, where there isn’t really any ‘big weather’! My British roots and my time living in ‘windy’ Wellington have made me rather ‘weather focused’… so living somewhere without ‘big weather’ is taking a little getting used to (as lovely as it is too!).

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Prose for Thought

Prose for Thought – Rain in the Black of Night

It’s been months since we’ve had consistent rain in Santa Barbara, Southern California. As much as I adore the sunshine, I do miss the ever-changing weather of our home in Wellington, New Zealand. Last night, and this evening, we’ve had proper rain – that lasts for more than an hour and leaves real puddles behind!

I thought the rain was definitely deserving of a little poem 🙂

Rain in the Black of Night

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Linking this poem up with these wonderful people at –

Prose for Thought
&
Lyrical

A little bit of loving and an action plan

It’s a strange feeling living in a place without commitment, with three children in tow. It’s all very well saying, ‘Live in the moment,’ but to really immerse in a place one has to put out a lot of energy. Whilst nurturing friendships in our country of origin, we also have to open up – and encourage our children to open up – to new people as well. There have been moments, for certain, of  ‘being in the moment’, but they are sometimes short-lived and interspersed with drama from one child, or another. Nevertheless, they are moments, however short or fleeting, to be embraced, savoured and clung to with every cell of our beings.

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This week has been one of sending out e-mails to homeschool groups, singing tutors and dance schools (the two latter pursuits for our eldest daughter).

There’s been much researching on the Internet as to various educational opportunities for our school aged children and delight in seeing the various opportunities, of private tutors and the like, available. But all this takes time, research, work, and patience. All of which, us adults respect and understand, but in the meantime our children need happy engagement in ‘the now’.

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There’s been the excitement that this choice makes in being able to travel when the man of the house travels – (a week away to San Francisco has been planned – we leave a week on Saturday – driving up the Pacific Coast, from Santa Barbara to San Francisco, taking a weekend, either side of the working week, to enjoy the sights).

Us adult expats (a couple from the UK, having lived 15 years in New Zealand) are now practised in being open to new contacts, friendships, acquaintances and passing moments of inspiring exchange with fellow travellers on life’s journey – but we need to focus on teaching our children to open up. Our younger children – aged 3 and 7 – are much more accepting of this. Our oldest – who is 10, finds this harder. She has left behind an environment, school and friendships that she was comfortable in. She was ‘game on’ for this adventure – but is finding the adaption the hardest. Nevertheless, she’s a trouper and will definitely pull through. She has our love, time and focused attention. All will be well (so we repeat, over and over, to ourselves!).

Once she’s engaged in a new dance school, found a singing coach and has a couple of hours dedicated ‘computer programming’ time with her Daddy (she’s a keen Minecraft learner and has got to the stage where she wants to learn JAVA to start creating her own mods!), she will be fine.

We have an action plan, that includes inviting our ‘gated’ neighbours, in this prestigious area, over for an ‘open day’ at our home. We can hear them playing in pools through the trees – but can’t see them or easily see them to say ‘Hello’ in passing. It’s kind of nice living in a slice of private paradise – but our children need to feel they can play with the neighbours, like they used to do in our friendly nook in Wellington, New Zealand.

We are so fortunate to have online connections to dear friends back in New Zealand through Skype and e-mail, but the children need children their own age to play with too. As much they love each other (and fight at times… siblings!), they still need to have that ‘mix’ of other children, apart from their own family ‘bubble’. Nevertheless, the past ten weeks or so of family intimacy has been of benefit to family harmony, rather than a hindrance. There is definitely more acceptance and getting along, more tolerance and give and take. There is plenty of laughter and harmony ‘in the camp’! Whether it be chilling in the warm spa in the evening, or ‘bombing’ each other in the swimming pool!

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Hubbie and I definitely need a little more ‘couple’ time. Our children, between the three of them, burn the candle from 11pm to 5am – there isn’t much time for private relations (so to speak!).

Though this photograph looks the epitome of a perfect ‘couple moment’ at dinner… it was taken by one of our three children – in a fleeting moment, whilst dinner, in a beautiful restaurant, was hurried so as to keep everyone happy and not disturb fellow diners in the prestigious ‘upper village’ of Montecito!

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We have three double beds in the house we’re leasing (but with five of us, there had to be some sharing – and currently it’s oldest child sleeping solo – middle child choosing to share with man of the house, youngest wanting to be close to her Mama). We are so hanging out for our personal belongings to arrive off the container from New Zealand – most importantly Miss 3’s futon and Miss 7’s single bed. Finally hubbie and I will be able to have a few hours of ‘snuggle’ time (all I can say is, ‘I’m darn grateful for the ‘walk in wardrobes’ – that are more like ‘bedrooms’ – as they make for perfect ‘quickie’ spots!!).

Enough already!! Take a break, have a coffee (thank the heavens for sending us a place in Santa Barbara that serves a wonderful Latte!!).

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We are surviving (the climate does make that pretty easy). The people are friendly (just not easily accessible with the long driveways and gates!), the local convenience stores are laden with delicious delights (but it’s not the same as popping down ‘The Dairy’ in Lyall Bay barefoot, or grabbing a full strength, cuban bean loaded, latte, at the ‘Diamond Deli’). We are finding our way (and making our heads ache with inevitable expat comparisons of one life from another). Where there grass is greener, it also has patches that forever need watering…

No place is perfect, but the more we move about the more we learn – and, more than anything else, it is the people you know that make the place. xx

And, there’s always yoga!!

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New country, new species, new discoveries

We’ve seen the groundhogs, (also known as woodchucks), playing peek-a-boo, we’ve stopped in our tracks as a little (or not so little) lizard dashes across our path (or up a wall of the house) and we’ve noticed the colourful, varied birdlife and numerous damsel-flys and dragon-flys. Living in a new country offers great opportunity for exploring and last week the girls and I visited the lovely natural history museum here in Santa Barbara, to learn a little more about all the wonderful new species we are coming across. We had a very interesting time and a fun visit.

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At the museum there is a wonderful collection of insects that can be found around Santa Barbara (some of them we hope not to see in a hurry!), as well as a fabulous exhibition explaining the migration of the monarch butterfly, which come to Santa Barbara, amongst other places, to rest over the winter months (more information on the Ellwood Butterfly Preserve here and the Coronado Butterfly Preserve).

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We are familiar with this beautiful species, as it frequented our summer garden in Wellington, New Zealand, and we loved to plant flowers and ‘Swan Plants‘ (a species of milk weed) to attract them to stay and lay eggs, but we’ve never seen them in such numbers – so definitely a ‘must see’ whilst we are here!

The museum itself is located in a beautiful area, with plentiful outdoor exploration spaces – of particular appeal to children and families. The girls thought pulling a chord to discover how long a blue whale is was a lot of fun (and amazing too!).

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They also spent time enjoying the nature discovery areas – where there are large bamboo poles for fort building, rocks to climb on and a water course – offering plentiful learning opportunities! They spent a while toying with little wooden boats on the rapids, filling buckets with water and working out how many they could carry using a pole, rather than just their two hands, and making the water pumps work.

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And whilst they played around the water course, a very friendly, inquisitive squirrel scampered down from the trees to watch us too!

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We very much enjoyed the opportunity to explore and learn both indoors and outdoors at the museum. Next time we’ll have to take a picnic and stay for longer (there are vending machines, but that’s all).

Finally, I must add this write up on the mineral exhibition by my eldest daughter – a lovely piece of expressive writing;

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A Cave Filled With Minerals

I was treading carefully through the dark room filled with exquisite minerals and crystals including ruby and pyrite. In the dark room filled with riches there was an old abandoned mineshaft filled with amethyst and more priceless gemstones.

As I left the abandoned mineshaft a group of rocks captured my attention, out of the corner of my eye. 

On a small information board I spotted a small red button.  I was curious to what it was, so I pressed it.  After about 5 seconds an ultraviolet light appeared and instantly the once old, and not colourful rocks, became a cascade of fluorescent colours. My neon green top was not nearly as bright as these rocks, but there was one especially that captured my attention; it had the same pattern as a bright green and black poison dart frog, it even looked like one!  I had a look at what it was called, as I was curious to know, I have to say it had such a ridiculous name, it was called a ‘Williamite’! 

Finally it was time to leave and return to our home.

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Linking this post with the wonderful ‘Country Kids’

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Decisions made & always some things to love!

What a crazy couple of weeks we have had here. We’ve finally settled into the house we’ll be based in for a year. It’s very pleasant here – the climate, the people, the environment – tick, tick, tick… but after spending over a decade of our lives making New Zealand our home, we don’t have our hearts in starting all over again. This time here is definitely an ‘adventure’, an ‘experience’, a ‘temporary thing’, not a permanent move, for sure (but then I’ve also learned to never say, ‘Never’… so who knows how we’ll feel in a year’s time).

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We have made a few big decisions this past week. Our eldest daughter, who is ten, was very committed to her schooling in New Zealand and so we’ve decided to continue with the NZ Curriculum and sign up to the Te Kura Correspondence School. Our middle daughter, age 7, is continuing with natural learning using the fabulous ESA Publications – such as ‘Start Right’, along with online learning on the likes of ‘Study Ladder’, ‘Mathletics’, ‘Sum Dog’ etc. Our youngest daughter, age 3 and a half, is happy living life and learning as she goes – every day is something new for her and she has a beautiful spirit.

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All this means we can travel with the man of the house on his various business trips around the USA and Europe over the coming year. We can be flexible with our learning and still feel a connection to our friends and the education system in New Zealand. Everyone is happy (and I’ve find a place that serves Latte just how I like it!).coffee French Press

We are beginning to make friendships and the climate here is very convivial to outdoor entertaining. There’s a positivity in our family that feels very hopeful, after the bleak feeling that felt so heavy. Adjustments take time. There will be peaks and troughs, but we are feeling more hopeful that the troughs won’t be deep or long lasting.

With such strong characters in our family, how can life not be interesting?!!

Three wise monkeys

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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.