family

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

 

A family reunion in North Wales

‘Pack the wet weather gear!’ everyone warned – and, as we drove from Lancashire to Pwhelli, on the coast of Northern Wales, the brooding clouds suggested we’d need them. Hills and castles appeared and disappeared as we drove the winding roads to our destination, Hafan Y Mor Caravan Holiday Park. But we need not have worried. It was as though Merlin had waved his wand, sending the dark clouds scurrying away. Blue sky opened up above us and the forecast looked heaven sent.

In fact, we were incredibly blessed – with a week of glorious sunshine and temperatures on a par to California. Jelly fish on the beach signalled sea temperatures warmer than average (even warmer than California!) and we welcomed the cooling spray of water guns, fired by our cheeky daughters.

We booked two, six-berth, caravans to accommodate our family, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. It was quite the reunion for my husband with his side of the family (my sister & her man did manage a quick visit too)!

We spent an amazing week together, making memories to last till the next time (which sadly isn’t as often as we’d like – flights from New Zealand to the UK are hard work and time consuming – not to mention costly!). We celebrated a Birthday; played endless games of badminton, tag and football; ran around the camp and down to the beautiful coastline with sweeping views over the Snowdonia National Park.

The cousins, a mixture of ages, came together like old friends and spent hours trying their hand at various activities like archery, go-karting and aqua jets in the swimming pool.

Our only wish was that we could have stayed longer – and maybe booked a few more caravans for my side of the family too!

Linking up with…

Magic Sunday visiting Santa Cruz

After driving up from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz on Saturday evening, we woke on Sunday morning ready for some fun at the beautifully set Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

We spent a morning enjoying the sunshine, rides and thrills of the fun-fair.

Couldn’t believe Miss 4 wanted to go on the Haunted House ride! She spotted it as we rode the ‘Sky Ride’ over the boardwalk and insisted we go on it. She really surprises me sometimes. Her older sisters joined us and it was actually quite entertaining, rather than frightening – though I had my hand ready to hide her eyes if anything was too much!

Santa Cruz boardwalk

The funnest children’s ride was ‘The Speedway’. It didn’t look much at first, but once the engines roared it sped off, slow and gentle on the straight, but taking the corners at a great pace. Great entertainment and amusement for the parents watching on!

Santa Cruz Boardwalk

After a couple of hours well spent we hit the road again, heading up to San Francisco. We made a pit-stop at a place called ‘Dave & Busters‘ in Milpitas, to rendezvous with a friend of our older daughters – a friend they’d met online via Minecraft!

Dave and Busters

It was a fun meet-up and her parents were so lovely. We ended up heading to their place afterwards for a quick splash in the pool, where all the children had such a great time together – as us ‘old folk’ enjoyed a good chatter.

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We arrived in San Francisco as the sunset, looking forward to Monday being a holiday, thanks to Memorial Weekend here in the USA and not having to bid farewell to the man of the house.

Arriving in SF at sunset

Great to have a change of scene from Santa Barbara – as lovely as it is there – it’s a little ‘quiet’ for us and we do love a bit of action!

The Photo Gallery | Happy – Finding ‘Happy’ at Disneyland California!

Guess where we are?

Known as ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’!

Disneyland!

This visit I am the happiest I’ve been visiting Disneyland California, and it’s not just because of the dashing man by my side (though of course he is a big part of the reason!).

Me & hubbie at Disneyland

It’s also because our Miss 4 has finally reached the magic height of 40 inches, (corresponding with me reaching the age of 40!) which enables her to go on so many more rides!

She stands proud and tall when asked, ‘Can I check your height?’, with a look of determined confidence. She is now able to ride all of our favourite rides in California Adventure Park, like Soaring Over California, Radiator Springs Racers and Silly Symphony Swings. In Disneyland she loves the newly reopened Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Star Tours!

Here she is, between our friend Frances, visiting us from New Zealand, and her Daddy, preparing to go on Soaring Over California:

Soaring over California

Our friend Frances being here is another reason to be super duper happy. We have three adults to three children and everyone is getting to have fun! Hurray!

Miss 8 and Frances hanging out in the lobby of the Disneyland Hotel:

Disneyland Hotel lobby

Frances having a laugh with some flashing ice-cubes that landed in our drinks at the wonderful Blue Bayou restaurant on Monday evening! Fabulous food, wonderful company and superb setting:

Blue Bayou ice cubes

I’m so happy to be dining out and soaking up the good vibes. We had an incredible table for dinner this evening, overlooking the fun of Paradise Pier.

Dinner overlooking Paradise Pier

What a view!

California Adventure

Our older daughters are super happy, now they know the layout of the parks so well, that they feel confident to run onto rides, as ‘single riders’, skipping the long lines of people waiting to ride together. We stay at a cafe nearby, enjoying a drink, whilst they ride to their hearts content! They must have been on California Screamin’ over a dozen times!

We are even managing to get our oldest daughter, Miss 10, to make the occasional appearance in front of the camera, so long as its a ‘Selfie’; those are all good in her book.

Selfie with Miss 10

And Miss 4 is super happy to have her wish to become a mermaid finally come to fruition – at least in painted portrait form…

Alice the mermaid

We have all week here and the weather is scorchio’, the swimming pool inviting and the cocktails…. ahhhh, so happy!

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Linking up with lots of other ‘Happy’
over at ‘The Photo Gallery’ at Sticky Fingers blog this week:

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery

Can’t wait for the man of the house to be home!

He’s been away three days, but that feels like ages when we’re living overseas and all in the house together every day. The girls and I have kept ourselves busy and are thrilled that he’s coming home tonight (though we’ll be fast asleep when he creeps in around 1am!). It’s his Birthday today and the first one we’ve never celebrated together as a family, on his actual Birthday. The good news is he has all day tomorrow off to celebrate! So, until then, whilst you are driving home to us, here’s a little pre-Birthday greeting…

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.

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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.

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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

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

Merry Christmas from Santa Barbara!

Christmas in Santa Barbara is a wonderful place to be, with sunshine and blue sky by day, and a festive feel by nightfall at 5pm.

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Every tree trunk along State Street is snaked in white fairy lights, the shop windows and restaurants are decorated with class, style and an abundance of sparkles.

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There is nothing tacky or over the top, this is a place of distinction and class. The atmosphere is happy, not hurried or overwhelming. There are no pushy shoppers or crowded streets, but there are plenty of smiles, groups of singers, trumpeters and festive balloon makers. Even the bronze statues are happy (well a good candy stick can do that!)…

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It has been a really lovely place to be in the festive build up and that’s even without participating in any of the various events that have been listed in the local paper. We’ve simply enjoyed being together and sharing this time, first with our NZ friends at the beginning of the month and now with my dear parents visiting from England.

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We’ve also had seasonal colds and coughs, to slow us down – but that’s to be expected, with temperatures reaching highs in the mid-twenties (degrees C) by day and dropping below ten at night. Pretty pleasant weather by all accounts here!

The final days building up to Christmas have been all about spending time together (sharing germs and swapping hankies!), drinking jolly good red wine (medicinal of course!) and wrapping presents in locked rooms. We are all very much looking forward to sharing Christmas Day with all the merriment that comes with family life, three excited children and wonderful Grandparents.

For me personally, having my parents here with us is the best present of all. I would have felt quite lost without them.

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As it is, we feel as though our Christmas has been stretched out as we share, via the Internet, the celebrations of friends in New Zealand and Australia, and then wake Christmas morning to be 8 hours behind our UK family and friends. We shall be the last to celebrate this year, quite a novel feeling after over a decade of being the first in the world to get a visit from the man in the red suit 😉

So, Merry Christmas to all, wherever & however you are celebrating xx

 

The Photo Gallery | ‘Selfie’

Me in California

Sunshine smiles in California. This is me looking happy on a good day. A day before we started to try and integrate two, of our three, children into a new school, in a new country. A day after getting a lovely new vehicle to cruise around town in – a sunshine red VW Convertible. A day after I’d been out for a run along a scenic cliff-top over looking the Pacific Ocean.

We’ve since moved into a house that we’ve leased for one year. It’s a beautiful house, fully furnished, with a swimming pool – a ‘paradise’ in a warm, sunny climate. At home the children’s voices are happy. They keep themselves entertained, with little outings and plentiful good food to help themselves to when they feel hungry. But, it’s not our home, our house back in New Zealand. It’s a gated house, like most of the other properties surrounding us in this affluent neighbourhood. We can hear other children playing – but can’t see them. It’s not the same as our friendly, close knit neighbourhood, where we had lived as a family for seven years, in Wellington. We are missing our home, our routines, our friends, our local ‘haunts’. We are trying to live each day positively – but there is a sense of ‘holding back’ from all of us, a knowing that this is only a temporary stay in our lives.

It would be easier to be on the road travelling, moving from one place to the next, in some ways. Perhaps that is the solution. We use this house merely as our base. We embrace the online public school opportunity that is available here in the US and travel as much as we can, accompanying the man of the house on various business trips. This is a time of finding our way, our pace, deciding on how best to focus our time whilst we are here.

I need to feel that smile, that was from the heart last week. I need that smile to sparkle in my eyes and override the well of tears that seem to rise all too easily when the integration into a local school feels at ill with our family. Thank goodness for options is all I can say – now to choose the best fit for us!

Sarah

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Joining in with….

Sticky Fingers Photo Gallery