Special Day

Our free wheeling 11 year old!

Our oldest daughter has just turned 11 and she celebrated in sunny California (her first ‘summer’ Birthday – as she was born in the middle of New Zealand’s winter – on a particularly wild day in Wellington!). She has grown tall enough to have her first proper bike, with gears and all that jazz, for cruising around. She very much wanted a retro style bike, with a large saddle, mud guards and room for a basket. She’s not keen on mountain biking, but definitely needed some gears for when we get back home to hilly Wellington, New Zealand.

On the morning of her Birthday she slept in – way past midday – finally waking at nearly 2pm in the afternoon (she’d spent the night before on Skype with her New Zealand pals), giving her Daddy plenty of time to go and pick up her new bike. She woke to her sisters greeting her in bed. They had been so excited to see her open her presents and waited very patiently all morning. The afternoon was a wonderfully relaxed one, with the girls all cruising on their bikes down the lane by the house. We ate a very late brunch and celebrated in the evening with a wee cake. Miss 11 was quite overwhelmed (in a good way) at her bike.

Birthday wheels for Miss 11

I was reminded of my own first ‘big bike’, a white racer that I rode throughout my teenage years all around the country lanes of north Hampshire, in England, where I grew up. I have so many fond memories of Sunday bike rides with my Dad and sister (usually with a pub stop for lunch, a coke-a-cola in a glass bottle with a straw and a packet of salt ‘n’ vinegar crisps!). It was wonderful to have those wheels and the freedom to visit friends. I kept my bike well into my University years and spent my first holiday with Dan, my now hubby, cruising around the Isle of Wight on my bike. We spent a week cycling up and down the hills of the beautiful island off the south coast of England, a short ferry ride from Southampton, and camping in a wee tent.

I could see in my daughter’s eyes the significance of this new set of wheels, how she envisioned herself biking around the bays of Wellington and along the waterfront (on those stunning sunshine days – probably not in a howling southerly!). It’s the perfect bike for her.

A few days after her Birthday she ventured out a little further on her bike, enjoying an evening ride with her Daddy around the streets of Montecito in Santa Barbara. The first of many rides!

She also celebrated her Birthday with a visit to a super duper cinema at ‘Muvico Thousand Oaks‘, where she watched Transformers 4 (she loves all things science fiction) in 3D and sat on a ‘D-BOX‘ seat! Her eight year old sister and Daddy joined her. They thought it was amazing and the ‘D-BOX’ seats were a huge hit! 

She’s done so well this past year, having to leave the school she loved in Wellington, New Zealand, to live in California, USA, for a while. She was so brave in making the move. She has missed her friends and school very much, but coped brilliantly. The ‘icing on the cake’ of her Birthday celebrations was the news that we will be flying back to her home in Wellington, New Zealand, in early October this year – just in time for ‘Term 4’ at the school she loves and to be a part of her dance school’s end of year show. She’ll then have the long summer break before starting Year 8 in 2015. She’s so thrilled and the sparkle in her eyes and smile has totally returned.

Top Dad | Father’s Day 2014

He’s Dad to three daughters. He gives his all to connect with them individually. They each have very different personalities, that take a lot of skill and energy to work with! They demand his energy, time, humour and patience – and, most of the time (!), he wouldn’t have it any other way. He gets home from work and leaves his work-hat at the door. He’s so good at putting on his ‘Dad hat’ with a genuine heart and mind. If he does have to catch up on work he tries to wait till later at night… though his daughters can quite easily, between them, burn the candle at both ends! He needs his coffee and was very deserving of breakfast in bed on Father’s Day, 15 June, this year!

Happy Father's Day!

Miss 10 (nearly 11), his oldest daughter, is a fan of all things science-fiction and Minecraft. She’s not into sport much, but loves to dance and sing. She shares a love of music with her Daddy. She isn’t one for hugs and kisses. She’s hard to comfort when upset. The best tonic is laughter and a light-hearted distractive approach – which her Dad is the best at. She doesn’t seek out attention, but will withdraw to her room and independently entertain herself for hours and hours. Her two younger sisters are much more verbally and physically demanding of their Dad’s attention – so Dad has to make sure he schedules special one on one time with his oldest daughter. He’s so good at this. He’ll take her out to watch the latest movie or play a board game with her. Sometimes they fire up the Play Station and play ‘Sing Star’ together.

Happy Father's Day

Miss 8 and a half, the middle daughter, is very boisterous, doesn’t have a volume switch, is extremely physical and attention seeking. She has unstoppable energy that can be exhausting and draining at times – as well as uplifting and inspiring. She is constantly testing her body to see what she can physically achieve. She’ll be in the swimming pool, seeing how far she can swim underwater, doing headstands on her surf board, egging her Dad on for a game of tag or a session down the ‘batting cage’ or at the climbing wall. When she does sit down she’ll still fidget, or stand on her head whilst watching something on the TV. She likes history, reading and writing songs. She’s a deep thinker and often anxious about the world’s problems and how they affect us as a family, and her as an individual, this can cause some in-depth, impromptu, late night, conversations!

Miss 4 years and 4 months adores hugs and is very loveable. She is definitely a sensory seeker, like Miss 8. She will try all types of food, even spicy. She has a very easy going personality with an imaginative and creative mind. She loves to cuddle up with her Daddy and chitter, chatter away to him about what she’s been up to. She also loves to splash about with him in the swimming pool and be carried high on his shoulders. She’s still small enough for her Daddy to throw her in the air and give her ‘Daddy rides’. She giggles and laughs with a big heart and smile.

Miss 4

And then, there’s his wife! What a man to handle three unique daughters and still find some time to be attentive to his wife.

He’s a very caring, attentive and generous man and his daughters adore him (as do I) x

A beautiful weekend in Monterey

We drove into Monterey on Friday evening, after a stunning drive along the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco.

Beautiful Bay on the Pacific Coast Highway enroute to Monterey from San Francisco

If time had permitted we would have stopped a while to enjoy the many picturesque, sandy bays. Some of the bays were carved deeply into high cliffs, with difficult access making them even more appealing to explore. The quiet, remoteness of some of the bays reminded us very much of New Zealand.

We stopped at one bay, which curved along the edge of the highway, to watch some incredible kite surfers catching the prevailing wind.

Kite surfer catching some air!

I often carry a small kite or two in my holiday suitcase (along with a ball, pens, paper and a couple of electronic gadgets!) and this was a perfect place for a quick fly.

Miss 4 didn’t need to run with her kite to catch the wind at this spot; on the contrary she had to cling on tight or lose her kite! I’m just glad the kite wasn’t any larger – as I’m sure she would have flown with it!

Miss 4 holding on tight to her kite

After a quick breather (literally!) we climbed back in the car, along with a burned log that Miss 4 insisted on carting along with us. She was hoping to make a driftwood house, like some we’d spotted earlier on our drive, but nature hadn’t delivered any to this particular beach.

When we arrived at Monterey we were all pretty tired and ready to relax. The beautiful Intercontinental Hotel, which hubbie had booked us into for two nights, was a perfect place to chill – and we had a room with a view.

We didn’t have much on our agenda for our brief visit to Monterey. We had all day Saturday, before driving back to Santa Barbara on the Sunday; though there was one place which was an absolute ‘must do’ and that was the incredible Monterey Aquarium.

It’s not like any other aquarium we’ve visited. The sheer magnitude of the tanks has to be seen to believed. There is a whole kelp forest, which can be viewed on a number of levels, along with an ‘Open Sea’ tank, where you feel like you’re right there, in the midst of all the action.

It’s really like having a glimpse into another world.

As well as these spectacular large scale exhibits there’s also plenty of hands on activities for younger children to learn about the ocean environment, alongside touch pools and smaller viewing windows on particular species and different environments.

And there’s the most incredible and fun jellyfish exhibit.

A very incredible place indeed!

What’s more, the waters surrounding the aquarium are absolutely teeming with life. Hubbie went to find a bottle store, to pick up a celebratory bottle of bubbles for our 15th Wedding Anniversary, and came across a beach of seals!

He did eventually return with a bottle of bubbly (after a slight Forrest Gump style detour!), along with some food from Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. opposite the hotel.

A wonderful weekend with great memories.

Now, go visit the wonderful Coombe Mill in Cornwall, England, for some beautiful outdoor fun… 🙂

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

San Francisco’s Pier 39

With three children a visit to San Francisco’s Pier 39 wasn’t something we could skip on. We’d been to San Francisco before and the attractions on the pier were quite the highlight of their last visit. The moment we told them we were accompanying Daddy, on another business trip to San Francisco, they were amped about visiting the pier. The older children love the thrill of the 7D Experience and were particularly excited to hear that a LaZer Challenge had opened there (which they ended up topping the leader board on).

Young Miss 4 loves the Carousel – as do the older girls; especially as there’s a self-spinning tea-cup – which they love to spin as wildly as possible, with the chief aim of making Mummy and Daddy feel icky (delightful daughters we have!).

As well as the beautiful Carousel, the pier itself has a wonderful ambiance. There are always street performers and buskers. The choice of places to dine, or simply grab a snack and people watch, is abundant. The physical setting of the pier is also what makes it so special – overlooking the beautiful bays of San Francisco, out toward the Golden Gate bridge, with Alcatraz making an unmissable feature on the sweeping vista.

And a visit to Pier 39 would be incomplete without saying a quick ‘Hello’ to the resident population of Sea Lions that call the waters around the pier their home.

There is also a lovely ‘Aquarium of the Bay’, which we enjoyed a great visit to. It’s not spectacular, like the incredible Monterey Aquarium, a few hours drive south of San Francisco, but it’s very well laid out, with excellent exhibits. Definitely a perfect place to spend an hour or two.

Miss 4 absolutely delighted in all the exhibits, particularly loving the touch pools. We timed our visit perfectly for Miss 10 too – as a Californian King Snake was out of its exhibit for visitors to stroke! It was beautiful. Miss 10 wishes she could have one as a pet – but, for obvious reasons, snakes aren’t allowed in New Zealand (there’s enough invasive introduced predators as it is!).

The sea otters at the end of the aquarium were very delightful too, which populate the coastline of the Californian coastline – and are easy to see in the waters around Monterey.

Finally, Pier 39 was the spot where hubbie and I celebrated fifteen years of marriage – along with our three energetic daughters. We dined in a sports bar, by the carousel, where the children could play the arcade, whilst we enjoyed a quick drink in peace. Happy children, happy parents. Win, win!

It wasn’t the most decadent of places to celebrate – but we knew we had a weekend lined up in beautiful Monterey, staying at the superb Intercontinental, to look forward to. Feeling very blessed indeed!

Country Kids – more like ‘Spy Kids’!!!

Okay, last weekend we had a blast. I turned forty in style, celebrating in Santa Monica, California.

Santa Monica

My daughters LOVED the beach gym that brings the community and tourists together for some active fun.

Beach gym Santa Monica

There were some serious gymnast types, flexing muscles on the ropes and swings cirque du soleil style. I was in awe of their strength and flexibility (also made for nice eye candy in the background of the holiday photo snaps I was taking of my children!).

Eye-candy in the background!

My children were amazing too (aren’t children always?!).

Hanging around at Santa Monica beach

I tried… but alas, it’s been too many years since I accomplished monkey bars – but if I had that set up on my door-step I would totally be enthused to get back to that place in my childhood when monkey bars were my best friend!

And they had swings that were super sized for adults to actually fit their arses in and feel like a kid all over again! Yes!!

Me going HIGH on the swings!

This video features a snippet of hubbie having a blast, as well as Miss 3 swinging ‘Tinkerbell’ style (and Miss 8 & 10 showing off their incredible strength!)…

And if you’re in for more action then here’s a video that my Miss 8 put together using iMovie (she threw together video clips from the past fortnight, not just shots from Santa Monica beach, but the video tells its own story… and what I’m living in every day with her being at home ‘unschooled’! What an active lass indeed – and yet, she can still read, write and do maths – just prefers to do it all standing on her head x ! )…

Hope you’ve found some outdoor fun to enjoy in your neck of the woods this past week. I didn’t manage to keep up with my children on the monkey bars, but I have ran my first half marathon in just over two hours (with a sore ankle to boot!), so I’m now feeling amped for chilling out a little, before running some more to earn my wine (just hoping the frozen pea and elevation treatment will work magic on my ankle!)!

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Linking up this post with the amazing Country Kids at Coombe Mills, where you can find tons of inspirational posts from folks who enjoy outdoor fun and action with their children!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Loving turning Forty in Santa Monica!

My Facebook feed was flooded with lovely messages of ‘welcome to the club’ and ‘forties are the best’ this weekend. It’s been like reliving turning eighteen again, as I’ve watched friends slightly older than me party into their forties and then, last weekend, it was my turn.

It was a fabulous weekend away in Santa Monica, staying at a beautiful hotel overlooking the beach and pier. We shared the weekend with a really wonderful family, that we know from Wellington, who are also living here for a spell, but hold New Zealand in their hearts as their ‘forever’ home. Their gorgeous 4 year old son is a very close friend of our Miss 4 – and their relationship got a little closer at my 40th dinner celebrations… (he proposed!!!!!!)….

So, there’s me feeling like a really old lady, having a daughter get engaged (ha, ha! ‘Watch this space’!) on the same weekend I turned forty… and yet, I felt so ready for this ‘milestone’ Birthday. Of course, I decided to face it head on, battle style. There was no way I was going to head into my forties without a fight. I signed up for a half marathon several weeks before and am running it on 10 May, three weeks fresh from turning forty. After spending my thirties breeding, nappy changing and breastfeeding, it’s great to enter my forties at a new stage in my life. My children are no longer babes and it’s exciting to be ‘growing’ with them (though of course my growing taller days are way behind me – just have to keep on running to keep up with them and earn my chocolate, cake and bubbly!).

Anyway, a fabulous weekend and I don’t feel any need for deep reflection on this milestone Birthday, I’m just so grateful for my health, my family, my friends and living a peaceful life with freedom of choice, that’s full of possibilities.

Thanks dear friends for all your lovely messages. I really do feel fabulous at forty and am looking forward to the adventures this decade in my life will bring.

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Joining in with…

Writers Workshop | Easter

This Easter we are far away from our home (though home, for my husband and I, is forever split between the UK and New Zealand). By home, I mean our literal home, the property we own and have lived in for eight years. Our little patch of New Zealand, on Wellington’s south coast. The place our children call home. The place they were born. The place they love, talk about, and currently miss very much whilst we are living in the USA.

Whilst Wellington, New Zealand, is bathed in an autumnal glow, we are in California, where spring is moving toward summer. For the first time in a decade we are in the northern hemisphere for Easter. We are celebrating in the spring. The last Easter we celebrated in the northern hemisphere was in England, with my family, with our oldest daughter, who was then only nine months old. We enjoyed a wonderful holiday in beautiful Falmouth, Cornwall (blog post over on Catching the Magic) and then had a fabulous reunion of family and friends around the week of my 30th Birthday (photos here).

This year, Easter Sunday corresponds with my 40th Birthday; and I’m quite glad the focus will be placed more on the children’s collection of Easter eggs around the swimming pool, than my growing number of smile lines and grey hairs. But hey, I can still do a head stand, so my old noggin isn’t doing too bad 😉

Headstand on turning forty!

We are spending the weekend away in Santa Monica, hanging out with friends and their children. We anticipate lots of play in the swimming pool, fun at the fair-ground on the pier, and a few pleasurable glasses of wine (that’s after I’ve run my scheduled 12 miles on Friday evening … only 24 days to go till I run the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon to raise funds for brave Elijah!). I can’t say I’m looking forward to running 12 miles on Friday, but I’m sure I’ll be on a high and very proud of myself afterwards. It will be the longest I’ve ran yet. Just 1.1 mile short of what I will have to run on 10 May. I’ll definitely feel proud to finish the half-marathon at the beginning of my forties (I know some friends have ran a full marathon, or more, on the cusp of their fortieth, or at a much earlier age – I really can’t imagine being capable of that – but who knows… maybe for my 50th!!!!).

Anyway, back to Easter and how we’ll be spending the weekend (the turning forty thing is obviously trying to overshadow the real importance of the weekend; which for my children will be chocolate, fair-ground rides and playing in the pool!). We shan’t be dipping and colouring our eggs on Easter Sunday, though we have been doing plenty of that this week (as well as baking some scrumptious cookies and adorning the windows with paper-towels, dipped in dye, to make the windows glow with colour), but will definitely be celebrating love and light on Sunday.

Scrumptious

I shall personally be grateful for my life thus far, blessed with mostly good health; a wonderful family; three happy, healthy, children; and a life richly filled with choices, opportunities and freedom. And, my wish this Easter, is that more people in the world could have this.

Happy Easter!

xx

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Joining in with….

Mama’s Losin’ It

Things I’m Loving | A Pirate Lunch that rolls on all afternoon…

Ahoy me hearties!

It started with a treasure hunt, through dinosaur den, bamboo forest and pirate hideout; before quickly rolling into pin the tail on the tic-toc croc and find the gold doubloons in the sand.

Treasure hunt

There was blue jelly with orange boats sailing the high seas, a water melon doubling up as ship and a chocolate cake pirate hat, inspired by the Disney ‘Jake and the Neverland Pirate Party‘.

Pirate ship melon boat

The afternoon was full of pirate dancing and walking the rock (since we did’t have a plank). There was barely a dry pirate in sight.

Walk the rock!

Miss 4, our ‘Pirate Princess’ was delighted that her dashing pirate companion, Ollie, was there to ride the high seas with her; whilst the older pirates checked on the rum supplies and tried to keep the inflatables afloat in a storm of giggling, wriggling, little pirate limbs.

Pirate friend

Miss 8 and 10 led the younger pirates in their treasure hunting and game play, whilst practicing their knot tying skills on any unruly little scallywags (not that anyone was really a scallywag – a pirates were on top form – we were just glad the life-sized cardboard one on the front door didn’t come to life!).

Alice and the pirate

A pirate lunch should happen more often on a Sunday afternoon me thinks. Aye, it was pure gold me hearties!

Linking up with my friend Meghan at ‘The Adventures of MNMs’ for…

Loved celebrating four years of our youngest daughter being in our lives!

We are so very blessed to have Alice in our family. She has spent her first four years sharing her happy zest for life with us and bringing us all so much joy. There’s been no need to rush her off to kindergarten when we were in New Zealand, or a preschool whilst here in California, as she’s always had plenty of activity in the home with her sisters, neighbourhood friends and family. She’s a chatty, friendly, sociable girl who has sooooo much love to share.

Alice the Princess!

We enjoyed a fabulous day of fourth Birthday celebrations with her over the weekend; from a morning of present opening and playing, to an afternoon of splashing in the swimming pool, running on the beach and finishing up with Birthday cake. Nothing was planned, everything just flowed.

She loved her special day and kept asking, again and again, ‘Am I really four now?’.

She kept checking to see if anything about herself had changed, along with her age. She thought that she’d be a different size or have to sleep in a different bed. I recall her older sisters asking similar questions around this age. She was almost a little worried about turning four, saying, ‘I’m happy being three, but I do like Birthdays!’.

It was hilarious when the man of the house got the kayak in the swimming pool and she togged up in a life-jacket for a ‘high sea adventure’! She loves the water and her biggest accomplishment this year has been learning to swim.

High sea adventure in the swimming pool with Daddy!

Her energy throughout the day was wonderful and she just about managed to stay awake for some Birthday cake, after meeting me on the beach, after my jog, for a little workout of her own! We drove back home, with the top open on the VW, to keep her awake. She crashed pretty soon after blowing out her candles and devouring the icing off her Birthday cake!

Her good friend here, Ollie, couldn’t make her actual Birthday – but we are looking forward to a bit of party fun, pirate style, this coming weekend with him!

Miss 4 lives in a world of imagination and creativity.

On any given day she could be a princess, a vet, a doctor, a zombie (older sister’s & Minecraft!)

Face paint is frequently requested and she asked me to turn her into a puppy dog the other day – to surprise her Daddy on his return from a three day business trip away (she wanted to ‘pretend’ she was a new pet in the house).

Alice puppy dog facepaint

She plays with her toys in such creative, imaginary ways, making up stories with her dolls, or dinosaurs, cars, trains… she’ll pick up sticks, leaves and acorns for various props, anything to hand makes a story really!

It’s such a joy to have her around. Formal schooling is not something in her mind or ours right now. To be honest, there’s little need, as she’s thriving with natural learning of numbers, letters, art and the beginning of writing. She joins in science experiments with her sisters, builds and creates with blocks, lego, magnets and connecting rods, she sings and dances every day and is always on the go physically. Everything she needs in life is here, at home, with family and friends. This time in her life is full of magic, limitless possibilities in her imaginary worlds and living in the moment. We love you Alice Rose xxxx

Happy Birthday Alice!

Birthday celebrations for the man of the house in Santa Barbara!

The first half of this week saw the girls and I home alone, with the man of the house away on business. We kept busy – as always – with a blend of rainbow looming, baking, roller blading, swimming and yoga. We treated ourselves to a meal out in Santa Barbara, prepared a few surprises for the man of the house on his return (he was away on his actual Birthday) and we were so happy to hear he’d got himself Thursday off work to spend with us! So, a belated day of Birthday celebrations we enjoyed! We kicked off with a Birthday breakfast at the Summerland Beach Cafe. Delicious!

Breakfast at the Summerland Cafe

After a cheery feast we headed over to ‘Lookout Park‘ in Summerland. It’s a lovely park, with a playground, volley ball pitch, BBQ areas and a stunning lookout over the coast, with easy access to the beach.

Lookout Park, Summerland

Our visit was a little short-lived, after an accidental collision of heads between two our of girls, but happiness was soon restored at home, with a rest for some, and some dive-bombing in the pool for others, before we headed out for an afternoon of activities at ‘Golf and Stuff‘ in Ventura.

Golf and Stuff, Ventura

Our man of the house enjoyed some game play, whist his daughters danced and played.

Golf n Stuff, Arcade, Ventura

We rounded up the day with cake, of course, and a few good beers (thanks Grandma & Grandad). A happy man of the house indeed and us girls were so delighted to have him home. We love you our dear ‘Man of the House’ xxxx

Birthday celebrations for the man of the house!