holidays

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

 

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

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…

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

LOVING our New Zealand neighbours being here with us in the USA!

They arrived today! Our wonderful New Zealand neighbours. Our children are ecstatic and it’s magic for us adults to see them all together. Their ages span from three to ten, but all five children (three of them being our crazy girls) are like a little family in their own right. They mix up play between them all and have so much fun together. We have yet to get a photograph of them all together (any attempts are faced with silly faces, ducking behind pillars and under tables, diving under the water or behind a Christmas tree… sigh!).

We left sunny Santa Barbara at 9.30am this morning and arrived in a rainy Disney just after midday. The sight that greeted was beautiful Christmas poinsettias and the biggest, twinkling Christmas tree in the entrance room of Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. Very magical indeed!

Christmas is BIG at Disney!

Within half an hour of us arriving at the hotel, our dear friends arrived (we’d arranged a limo to pick them up at Los Angeles Airport after their long haul flight from New Zealand).

I was relieved the drive wasn’t as bad as I’d anticipated (imagine the worse and it can only be better – right?!). With only Miss 3 as my passenger in my lovely turbo VW red bug (the other two drove in comfort with their Dad – who I tailed most of the way through LA), it was a surprisingly relaxed drive. She slept half the way, and spent the remaining half of the journey happily taking in the scenery.

Arriving at the hotel

The drive down started with the beautiful coastline south from Santa Barbara towards LA, in glorious sunshine…

Leaving sunny Santa Barbara

– before hitting the outskirts of LA and five lanes of highway in each direction (that’s when I refrained from being a speed demon, leaving my husband to chase my tail, and took time out to follow his tail through the heavier traffic and lane switches to keep us in the right direction for Disney!).

Our first afternoon together has been so much fun and it’s as though we’ve never been apart. Our friends had incredible stamina to stay awake till 10.30pm pacific time here (after not getting much sleep on their long haul from NZ). The children even all managed a swim in the hotel pool at 9.30pm!

I’m now signing off, as this Disneyland stuff takes a lot of stamina (whilst my dear hubbie is still out in the park – with our two eldest daughters – and it’s close to midnight!). He sent this pic and I can’t WAIT to see this with my own eyes tomorrow!

Disneyland castle

Good night from here, sweet dreams and may all your wishes come true!

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Linking this post up with my lovely friend Meghan in Wellington, New Zealand, who really makes the most out of life.

Country Kids in California

Driving up the West Coast of California, north from Santa Barbara, we made a pit stop at a place in the country called Avila Valley Barn for a ‘Fall’ experience Californian style.

fun on the farm

The youngest of our family was the most enthralled. She tore into her roasted sweetcorn with the appetite of a cowgirl that had been working hard on the ranch all day (well she had ridden a pony for the first time in her life, as well as tackling some hale bales).

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She’d had a go at being a scarecrow, along with one of her older sisters too. They did a pretty good job!

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The array of fresh fruit and bright, natural colours from all the lush foods of the farm was a feast for the eyes. If time had allowed we would have taken a ride on a tractor trailer to see more of the farm, but one of our group wasn’t keen to stay for long (let’s just say hay, farms, flies, animals and smelly doo doos are not our eldest child’s favourite things!).

Pony rides, pumpkins and flowers

I couldn’t leave without snapping a pumpkin pic (Miss 3 tried to lift the largest she could find too – insisting we take one along on our road trip up to San Francisco – but we managed to escape without an orange friend!).

Pumpkins California sunshine style

A perfect stop to celebrate the season of Fall here in California (though it felt like a hot summer’s day to me!). I live in hope that our eldest child will one day not be so disabled by her ‘super senses’ and be able to enjoy the beauty of life on the farm (I too recall finding the overpowering smells too much for me as a child). Thankfully, she understood how happy the visit made her younger sisters and was quite content to wait in the comfort of the air-conditioned car with her Daddy for a spell.

We drove on up to Monterey (our stop for tonight) with a happy family in the car, enjoying the scenic drive and admiring the farm workers in the heat of Californian sun.

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Joining in with….

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall