Children

At home with my folks, Hampshire, England

It’s been a fortnight since we returned from the UK to the US. We are heading back to New Zealand to live at the beginning of October, but for now we’re in limbo; between the two places we love.

I haven’t felt like writing anything much, but have tried to fit in a little reminiscing about our trip. It’s bittersweet to write about the times we shared with our wonderful family and friends whilst in the UK: On the one hand, the photos and memories make the trip linger on and make everyone we love there feel closer; On the other hand, I’m thrown against the wall of reality – that we shan’t see them for a year or so, at the least, and we are about to move even further away again – back to New Zealand.

On every trip back there are always so many people we don’t manage to meet up with; as well as all the wonderful reunions I write about. I haven’t seen many cousins, aunts and uncles in well over a decade. The UK is my home of birth, but not my children’s home. They were born in New Zealand and, as much as they’ve enjoyed this time living in the US, are looking forward to getting back there.

I am forever torn in two – trying to be positive for my children and their future (for sure they have an amazing life in New Zealand and a wonderful future with so much freedom of choice and opportunities), whilst feeling guilty at not being there for my folks. I feel driven to write down all the events, both big and small, that make up the passages of time; clinging on to them to protect them from fading. However faded those memories become they will live on in photographs and the love that we shall always feel in our hearts.

So, this is what it is; a place where I can write about the times we have shared and safeguard them in some small way.

Our last week in Europe was spent with my Mum and Dad in their Hampshire home.

My dear folks with their youngest granddaughter, Alice

It’s where they have lived for thirty-five years and where I grew up. My best-friend, from when I was 11, still lives a few houses away and many of my other school friends have stayed and are seeing their own children pass through the schools we went to. The week was one of spending time with people that have touched my life throughout the years and still mean so much to me. I caught up with friends over coffee, at local pubs, even at a new trampoline centre (anything to keep the children happy!).

Old University friends of both my husband and I (yes, we met way back then… at Southampton University) came together. We shared memories, talked of our different life journeys – the happy and sad parts that combine to make life’s rich tapestry – and looked forward through our children’s eyes at what is yet to be.

We took a day trip into London with my folks and our children, walking through the parks and admiring the sights steeped in history. Hubby took our older two children to the theatre to see ‘Phantom of the Opera’, whilst I spent a lovely afternoon boating along the river Thames with our youngest daughter and my folks.

The week came to a close on a Friday. Our flight scheduled to leave Saturday afternoon. The last day was spent sharing my best friend’s celebration of her youngest son turning ten. She kindly invited us to share the ‘football party’. It was lovely to see her sons and my daughters getting on so easily.

In the afternoon one of our nephew’s, Michael, came down from his University digs, along with his lovely girlfriend, to spend the evening with  hubby and I. One of the binding memories of our visit to the UK this time round was how our daughters enjoyed the company of their older cousins – they were reunited with all but one of their six cousins. All their cousins are boys, and most are a fair bit older, but the bond of family made their union easy.

Michael, Sophie & Alice

Likewise, the bond between Aunts and Uncles and the girls, their nieces, was lovely to see.

Seeing my sister and having the chance to head out for a run with her was a special highlight for me (yes, I’m still running – before wine… have to earn it now I’m forty!).

My sister and I

The memories will live on in our hearts forever xxx

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Linking up with ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers

 

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

An active week in Santa Barbara – and yes, I am running a half marathon…

Between the game play (Minecraft), the crafting (Rainbow Looming) and all the preschool arts and crafts (baking ginger-bread men, sand play, painting, imaginary story telling and so on…) there’s been a lot of action in the house in California this week. My New Zealand born children have been energised with slightly cooler temperatures and rain (yes, rain!). We took a trip to the the local zoo in Santa Barbara (we signed up for annual membership, since we are here for a year) and spent a few hours enjoying some action, with a touch of animal education – but mostly ‘physical education’!)…

We also visited a fav park – Goleta Beach Park, for a kick around, as well as a park near the Zoo – where we played ball-tag, baseball, climbing and anything that stretched a limb!

Opposite Santa Barbara Zoo park

After my 8km run on Monday (in training for a half-marathon – my first – in May) I was on ‘cross fit’ day – so certainly got my exercise in – in a round about way! Why a half-marathon? Well, I’m turning forty in April, so it seemed the right thing to do – plus I’m doing it for a very good cause (yes, I need the motivation!). Also, the run is in ‘wine country’ – the ‘Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon’… aye, I’m no saint!

Monday's run

Oh and, whilst I’m at it, I did a decent run on Friday too (which was followed by reading Facebook updates of forty something friends in NZ completing a half-marathon in Wellington… which resulted in me signing up to do one – inspiration through Facebook – it’s real!).

Friday night's run

The run on Friday was swiftly followed by a vegetarian curry (thanks hubby and the wonderful curry house ‘Tamira Santa Barbara‘ that made it). Sunday, I should have gone for a run – but had friends around for a pirate shin dig (but that’s another post), in honour of our youngest lass having just turned four (didn’t seem real till we’d celebrated with some ‘Kiwi’ mates!). A pirate shin dig wouldn’t have seemed right without a few drinks to wash down the salty BBQ food.. ahem… (any excuse) so I indulged as any pirate would (given the chance) and set the world to rights (on the running front) on Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday were followed with lots of planking, squatting, yoga moves and gentle weights throughout the day – combined with multiple trips up, down, round, square and figure of eight; chasing dirty laundry, plates, children and chaos. And now, Wednesday night, I sit listening to the wonderful (and extremely rare) sound of rain thinking, ‘I really should have gone for a run today as I’m drinking far too much wine!’. Tonight, along with drinking wine, has been a fun one of putting out multiple rain catching containers with Miss 4 (she obviously recalls the drought in Wellington, NZ, of summer 2013, which I wrote about here and here, over at ‘Catching the Magic’), baking gingerbread men (she found the cookie cutters, whilst emptying a large plastic box – to use for rain collecting, and decided baking was the needed… and boy am I glad she did… as I sit here typing, wine fuelled, with the munchies!) and drinking rain water (well, wouldn’t you if it hadn’t rained more than 3 days in six months?!… never mind the water might be polluted!).

So, there you have it. A little post for the week to link up with the lovely active folk over at ‘Country Kids‘ who make the most of the weather in the wonderful UK, whatever it may be, and get out with their children to enjoy a bit of action x

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

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

Moments of happiness with friends from NZ on Santa Barbara’s Waterfront

It’s been a lovely week shared with friends. We returned from Disneyland on Tuesday evening and have been enjoying a quieter time back at the house in Santa Barbara. The children have been playing in the pool a lot and we’ve had a couple of trips out and about, including a gorgeous little boat trip in the marina on the very cute ‘Lil’ Toot’; one of many lovely attractions on the waterfront.

Lil Toot, Santa Barbara

It’s so great to have our New Zealand neighbours here with us. In the above photograph I am sat next to my Miss 3, then my lovely neighbour and her son, Master 6, and then my daughter, Miss 7. Master 6 has an older sister, Miss 10 (same age as our eldest), and unfortunately we couldn’t persuade the older girls out of the house for our little waterfront excursion (but it was the day after Disneyland – so they were a little jaded!). They had a great time having the house and pool to themselves, whilst we enjoyed the company of the younger children.

The sand-dunes were, as always, a great attraction for the young ones. They adored running up them and jumping down, trying to take off in the air as they flew down the sand. The man of the house watched over the play and added to the thrills, whilst my friend and I watched on.

sanddunes by the marina

After our play in the dunes we headed to Stearns Wharf and the lovely Ty Warner Sea Center there.

Ty Warner Center

 

It’s a great little place of learning. There were some children demonstrating how to extract goo from kelp and there were lots of questions and gasps of amazement at how the seaweed extract is used in toothpaste and ice-cream.

Upstairs in the centre is a lovely jelly-fish exhibit and opportunities for children to make their own puppet shows, or just enjoy a quiet read.

Ty Warner Center

 

The visit to the pier was made complete with ice-creams, a few squashed penny souvenirs and a rather freaky, larger than life onion ring – that the man of the house wished could be the ‘One Ring to Rule Them All’… as in his three daughters behaving themselves 😉

One rather large onion ring

 

 

 

 

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Things I’m Loving

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

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

Sunset with my family

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

Nose in a book

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

Plump, wonderful pumpkins to celebrate the season!

Pumpkins

Which were quickly carved by the children of the house…

Miss 10 sets to carving her pumpkin

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

Marshmallows toasted to celebrate Kiwi friends in the house!

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

Testing their navigation skills at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum

fun at the maritime museum, Santa Barbara

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

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

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

First fire of autumn

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

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

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

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

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

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

rain drops on the surface of the pool

Prose for Thought | The anxiety of separation

Her face was just like all the rest,
on pick up time at three.
The adrenaline that had twisted thick,
buried for a spell.

The anguish of the morning,
the torment of the night.
The constant torture of anxiety,
that steals family time.

It even creeps upon us at weekends,
when we’re trying to forget.
She tosses and turns every bedtime,
needing a parent’s close presence.

Her body sending messages,
of chemical potency.
Turning her stomach into iron knots,
her mind into a throbbing ball of pain.

There is no magic book of answers,
even the professionals are surprised.
The magnitude of her anguish,
the irrationality of her mind.

Her body in full fight or flight,
yet the predator is not what it seems.
There is no need to do either,
but her mind is plagued with doubt.

© Sarah Lee, 8 September, 2013

Goleta coast, Santa Barbara

Anxiety BC | Separation Anxiety Disorder

Prose for Thought