Friday, 6 November 2015

Random Thoughts

So I realized it has been some time since I have updated the blog.  I don't have one central idea/theme to write around today.  Instead I will just bore you with some random thoughts ;)

We have spent almost every Saturday driving around looking at land and then spending time on the beaches.  Our weekends are definitely spent in ways that we dreamed of having with our children.  The beaches are beautiful. The kids spend hours hiking around the "bush" at the beach.  There is nothing dangerous in the woods (i.e. bush) here so the kids can run quite care free.  We find shells, rocks, flowers etc.  At my favorite beach there is a river that runs into the ocean that is perfect for the kids to play in.  It is a very shallow river, up to the kids knees at the deepest point.  I will post some pictures at the end of the blog.

People keep asking if we are ready to come home.  To be quite frank, we miss our friends and family more than words can express but we do see ourselves staying here long term.  There is something special here for raising a family.  It is unbelievably safe and kids are the focus of the community.  It is still a very conservative thinking area in regards to raising children.  Children are allowed to remain innocent for much longer.  I also appreciate that people with liberal views and conservative views live here in harmony.  They can each express their opinion without becoming angry or violent.  They just agree to disagree and to allow each other to think as they feel led.  It is a very mature way of handling differences of opinions.  They can remain friends but agree to disagree.  It is great!

Another big thing that has changed in our family is that Jeremy has much more time at home on week days.  He was commuting a total of 3 hours a day back in Atlanta.  After driving in Atlanta traffic, one does not come home relaxed.  We had a beautiful home in Atlanta but the quality of life was not what we were after there.  We have found it here and are thoroughly enjoying it.   Do I wish we were closer to friends and family we left... YES.  Do I wish it was easier for friends and family to visit.... YES.  However, in the big picture of things what is important right now is quality time with our children.  They will be grown and gone in a blink of an eye.  We are living in a place that allows us to have great quality time with the kids.  God has also blessed us with some new friendships here that are growing.  They will never be able to replace the friendships we had in Newnan but they do help heal our hearts and longing for relationships.

Johanna is now fully engaged in a Montessori school.  She loves it and so do we.  She goes 5 days a week 8:30am - 1pm.  I am so impressed with the school and so happy that she gets to attend for FREE!  The boys are still doing great in their school.  They are putting on a school wide play this month.  They are doing Pilgrim's Progress.  They had a "sport's day" this last month.  They did all sorts of olympic type sports at a stadium in down town.  It was a beautiful day and the boys loved it.

Life is different here but we are definitely settling in.  Yesterday was Guy Fawkes day.  It is a "holiday" in a very loose term.  They just set fireworks off at night.  You can read about the remembrance day here.

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks...

Jojo being Jojo


Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Settling In To A Home

To say the last few weeks have been stressful is an understatement.  It has been very unsettling, for all of us, not to know where we were going to be living long term.  We have moved into our rental home that we leased for 6 months with month to month after that.  We LOVE it!  It feels like home.  We have bought beds, a couch, tv and dining room table.  We all feel so much better now.  Each of the kids ended up with their own room which I wasn't really excited about.  I am really surprised how much better they get along now that they each have their own space.  The kids have spent hours each day playing soccer outside.  We have a nice back yard for being in the city.  It has a large drive way with a gate at the end so the boys use that to play games.  There is a playhouse outside which Johanna and Tucker enjoy.  The neighbors are extremely friendly.  A lady from a church down the street brought muffins by the other day to welcome us to the neighborhood.  We are truly enjoying it.  There is a bus stop right up the street where Jeremy can catch the bus to town.  His work is about an 8 minute drive.  He walks part of his commute but walking the whole way took 40 minutes and that was heading down hill.  

The kids are on holiday for two weeks.  Between each term (they have 4 terms a year), the schools break for at least 2 weeks.  However, after next term they break from mid December to mid February for their summer holidays. Jeremy has been able to take the kids fishing twice and Tucker caught a nice size trout.  If you don't know, New Zealand has some of the best trout fishing in the world.  For those who know Jeremy, you know this a huge deal to him!  He LOVES fishing.  

Our days are easy going now that we are in a home.  I hang out laundry every morning if the weather cooperates.  I actually really love hanging out laundry.  We try to go to the park at least once a day too.  The kids spend a ton of time outside which is quite different than what we were doing in Georgia.  God is showing us blessings each day.  God has clearly spoken to my heart this week.  This is a hard transition, being so far from our friends and family, but it is definitely where we are suppose to be right now.

I will post more pictures of the house once we are all settled in.  Here are a few for now to ease your curiosity ;)

Part of the backyard

This style of window is throughout the house

Playing in yard

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Not All A Bed Of Roses

Lest you think I am not being transparent, I thought I should share the trials we have faced along with the good things.  Finding a place to live has been beyond challenging. The rental housing market is difficult and quite expensive here.  I found what I thought would be the perfect house for us and put in an application. The agent indicated that the house had been empty for some time. The agency became very hard to work with and later I found out they had a reputation for being difficult. They lost our application and called us for another one. Then after couple days, when we followed up, they said they would let us know as soon as they knew something. We did not have much time and needed to keep looking. Finally they came back and said the owner had decided to sell the house.  I was sure that was the house for us but God had other plans.  

I began searching again with Johanna and nursing Annabeth in tow.  The only time you can see houses is from 9-5 on weekdays!  It was quite stressful on all of us.  I found another home that again seemed like a good fit. The parking wasn't ideal and the bedrooms small but the view was awesome and the living space great. The agent was sure we would have no problem moving in on Monday.  I found it on Friday.  This was perfect because our corporate housing was over on Wednesday and paying $300/day to stay there was not in our budget.  On Monday late afternoon the agent called and said, to her surprise, the owners didn't want to rent to us because we had kids!  This is not common thinking here.  We were shocked and under pressure!  Tuesday I began the mad hunt again with Johanna and Annabeth in tow. I found this older home owned by an older couple who lived two houses down. The couple was amazingly, sweet and kind, so I thought. The husband was a bit goofy but I thought it was fine. The house was older but it would do for now.  They allowed us to move in on Tuesday. We moved over some items on Tuesday. Wednesday morning we woke up, I checked us out of the place we were staying and moved us over to the house. I started cleaning the house.  It was really quite dirty which is not normal to find in NZ rentals.   While cleaning I noticed mold on a wall. I took a picture and sent it to Jeremy. He wanted us out of the house immediately not knowing what type of mold it was. It was especially concerning because Annabeth was with me.  We had to give three weeks notice to be out of the contract. So Jeremy decided we would just go ahead and give the three weeks notice and lose the money. When he approached the people, the man turned into "Mr. Hyde".  It was scary.  He told Jeremy that Jeremy was lucky he was not dead!! When we asked other Kiwis if this was normal behavior, they said no it was very threatening and you could actually call the police. We just wanted it settled and done, with no more drama. Eventually they agreed, via email, to call it even with the three weeks pay. This was what we were legally obligated to pay.  Rent is done by the week here.  Jeremy and I were beyond worn-out and stressed. A house we had looked at earlier was so kind and offered their townhome to us to stay in until we found a place. Jeremy's work offered to pay the cost of the town home ($1800 for two weeks).   This same couple's house was still available for rent  and we decided to rent it for 6 months.  It is a nice house except the bathroom isn't ideal and it is farther from Jeremy's work than we wanted.  However, Jeremy can take a bus.  It will be a good safe location.  Through this difficult time, I did learn something. 

We had visited a church one time and the people at the church found out the troubles we were facing. They were so kind and offered so many things to us. Even finding us housing if we couldn't find anything. I really learned that the body of Christ is around the world and that they help serve each other no matter if they know you are not.  It was amazing to see the provision God supplied including Jeremy's work paying for more temporary housing without us asking.  

Since our struggles with housing, Jeremy has talked to the bank and we know that we will buy or build in the next year or so. Renting is quite costly here. It has been a trying week to say the least.  Through it all we are once again assured of Gods provision and love.  

This past weekend we did go to a museum. It was a lot of fun and the kids enjoyed it.


The butterflies were everywhere and would land on you. 

Each of the kids got to do this!

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Learning to trust in NZ

A friend asked me what the hardest thing to adjust to was in New Zealand.   I really had to think about it.  There is so much I love about Dunedin.  Outside of missing friends and family, I think the hardest thing has been adjusting to how freely they allow kids to play/run.  For example, at school there is no checking on who is picking up the kids.  People can come and go freely into the school.  There is a teacher on the playground at recess but the area the kids can play in is huge and there is no way the teacher can monitor it all.  It is a bit overwhelming for me since I come from a place where not even at churches can just anyone wander into the kids section and pick up a kid without a security check of some sorts.  I think I have a bit of PTSD from living in a place where you had to keep your eye on your kids at all times, even in your own front yard.  I was always watching and wary of any strangers in playgrounds, etc.  I am having to learn to trust more and to give the boys more freedom than I would have ever given them in Georgia.  Today the school takes the kids swimming at a public indoor pool.  Swimming lessons are part of the curriculum.  I must admit I am a bit anxious about this activity too.  I am really being tested in the area of trusting people with my children.

The boys are enjoying Liberton Christian School SO MUCH!  The teachers are extremely sweet and the school is a good fit for the boys.  Such a relief to have them settled in somewhere.  I am a bit anxious not being involved in their schooling so much but I know this is where they are suppose to be.

New Zealanders do speak English but there are different phrases and words used.  They have a very sweet language.  Instead of "STOP" signs, they have signs that say "Give Way Please".  It is more like a yield then a stop.  The strangest word we have heard so far is "togs".  The principal told me the boys should bring togs on Thursday for swimming.  She than laughed and said "that is definitely a New Zealander" word.  It is their word for swimsuit.  They call hugs, "cuddles".  Even adults will say to one another give me a "cuddle".  They refer to children as "wee ones".  I actually really love the way they speak.  The people are amazingly kind and friendly.  They also use the phrase "how lovely" or "lovely" a lot.  The phrase "good on ya, mate" means good job.  There is a lot we are learning.  They tell me there is a big difference between the Aussie English and the New Zealand English.  I am unable to distinguish it as of yet.  :)

Today we will get our "new to us" vehicle.  It is a Toyota minivan, similar to the Sienna but a bit smaller.  I am excited to have our own vehicle that will be a bit smaller than the bus I am driving now.  It is quite difficult to parallel park the vehicle we have had the last few weeks.  The space inside is nice but it will be good to have a smaller mini-van.

Today is the anniversary of my dad's passing.  September 2, 2005 at 5pm will forever be etched in my mind.  I can see him now and feel as his spirit left his body as we stood around him.  I miss him more than these words will be able to express.  He was my rock, the compass in my life.  He was my sure foundation this side of heaven.  I think the part that hurts the most is that he never met Jaden, Tucker, Johanna or Annabeth.  I know he would have loved on them and it breaks my heart that they have no grandfather to show them grandfatherly love.  However, I know that God's plans are greater than my own and one day this will make sense.  I know my dad would be proud of me and would want me to live life to the fullest.  He would be excited about the adventure we are on and would probably have joined us for some of it :)  I am beyond blessed to have had such a loving father who I had a very deep and meaningful relationship with throughout my life.

 First day of school
 Jaden was so excited about his first day at Liberton.  He was very happy :)
Trying to capture the beautiful view I have from our apartment.  Pictures just don't capture it.  The dark blue in the upper right is the Pacific ocean.


Saturday, 29 August 2015

Houses, Cars, Parks and Schools - oh my

WHEW - What a week!  This week was filled with house hunting, car shopping and school decisions.  As many of you know, I was pretty set on homeschooling.  I had made contact with a private christian school prior to our move.  Once we arrived we thought we would give it a try.  The kids were in desperate need of making friends.  The social structure here is very much around the schools.  The private school was extremely reasonable and the older couple who run it are quite intelligent.  After the boys attended their first day, I found out about another christian school in the area.  I visited it and I was blown away!  This is what they call an integrated school.  The government provides everything except for the building.  Each family pays a small yearly fee to cover the building costs.  For the 2 boys, the cost is $2000 per year!!  So cheap!!  The school is allowed to teach from a christian perspective and can reject any curriculum that goes against their beliefs.  The state has no say in what they teach.  It is a very interesting setup.  Jeremy's co-worker had sent his kids to that school and highly recommended it.  After speaking with the principal we were told they were over their enrollment size by 4 students. She said she would speak with the board and see what they could do.  I was expecting to be told they could not take the boys till December when their older students graduate (school year starts mid Feb and ends in mid Dec.).  The principal called me today (Saturday) and said she reviewed the classes and they had room for the boys and would love for them to start Monday.  I spoke with the boys and they wanted to start on Monday.  I was shocked, I thought they would at least want to go back to the old school and say goodbye.  This is very out of character for them but made my decision for them to start at the new school on Monday much easier.

This city is filled with awesome parks for the kids.  There are all kinds of cool playground equipment.  One park has a huge zip line that they love.  Another park has a octopus "swing" that is made out of tires.  They use recycled tires in all their playgrounds.  They have a composite they make out of tires that is used as cushioning under all their playground material.  It is extremely soft and cushy.  We are all enjoying time at the parks.

One interesting thing Jeremy noticed at work is that they have tea time at 10 and 2:45.  They do this also in the schools.  Jeremy started his job this week and he likes it.  He says the people there are extremely intelligent and he knows he will be challenged in a new good way.

Car shopping is interesting.  They import the cars from Japan so some of them actually only have Japanese displays and voices.  It is quite funny.  We think we found a van we want.  Car size is difficult here as the minivans are exactly that mini.  We will barely fit in a minivan.  We will figure it out but it has been interesting.

We are definitely ready to get settled in our own place.  Hoping we find the perfect place soon.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Stepping Back In Time

New Zealand (Dunedin) is quite different in some ways than I expected.  They are more up to "speed" than people led me to believe.  Their internet is not slower, they have mobile coverage almost everywhere and it is a very modern city in many aspects.  However, there are some things that are "behind" the times.  The first thing we noticed were all the "honesty" boxes as you drive through the countryside.  People selling honey, manure, organic veggies, etc will put a box outside by the product that says "honesty box".  This is where you put your money.  We have seen some of these quite close to the city too.  Nice that people would be so honest in this day in age.  Another thing that is a thing of the past in urban America is pumping gas before paying.  I also spotted an actual telephone booth today with a phone inside!

We went to church this morning and then headed to the Botanical Gardens with an elderly couple who were so kind to invite us to their church.  The lady is the head master of a christian school we are considering for the boys.  We went to the gardens and got "fish & chips" and ate on the lawn.  The kids played soccer and ran on the playground.  It was a really great time.

We also took a drive today and found an area that we absolutely fell in love with.  It was rolling green hills and on one side you could see the ocean and on the other side you could see the Southern Alps covered in snow.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.

It was another fun filled day with little TV and lots of outdoor activity!  Just the way we want to spend our lives in NZ.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Peninsula Drive and hike

Today was another gorgeous day.  We took the kids to the end of the peninsula.  There is a huge group of Royal Albatross that breed there.  This is also where you can see the penguins.  However, we found out you have to make reservations for the penguins and pay to see them.  We had  a great day with the kids hiking and enjoying the coast line.  We have come to LOVE our BOB stroller.  It can take on any terrain and is a great way to keep Annabeth out of the cool wind.  Jaden asked me to pull out his tooth while we were there.  He waits till they are hanging on by a thread.  I have been worried he was going to swallow it in his sleep.  We met a sweet Indian couple from Baroda (the place we visited last year) and exchanged numbers.   They are also new to Dunedin.  One of the many things I love about NZ is the food that is available for “fast food”.  So many healthy choices for us and the kids.  It is so tasty too.  Today I did something I would never have done in the U.S.  We had hiked down to the beach and Jaden had to use the bathroom.  I let him and Tucker go up together ahead of us.  I feel quite safe here in NZ and have noticed that people are extremely kind and helpful.  I know it is not perfect here but there definitely is a different level of safety that I feel here.  Our life here is very different than it was in the states.  We have spent hours just hiking around and playing outside.  They have some really cool playgrounds.  I am hoping that we can live a much healthier life here in NZ.

View along lower road driving out the peninsula

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Arrived in Dunedin

Today we woke to a beautiful view.  It was dark when we arrived yesterday so we didn’t see the full extent of the view we had from our temporary housing.  It is absolutely breathtaking.  I don’t feel pictures do it justice.  The kids and us were up at 5:30am due to the time change and us still adjusting.  Hope our neighbors didn't hear us.  We had to go to the bank today to setup our accounts.  One thing I truly have enjoyed is the level of customer service in NZ.  It is how the US use to be.  True quality customer service is a rare breed, in my experience, the last few years in the US.  I noticed it straight away when we got on the Air NZ to here.  Kiwis tend to be very friendly and helpful.  When we were getting on our flight to NZ, a guy saw how much Jeremy was having to carry (they don’t allow gate check ins so we had to check our strollers)  he quickly stepped over grabbed a bag and asked which row we were sitting in.  It was a very kind gesture.  Over and over we heard people say how great Dunedin is for raising a family.  We are currently staying in the city and it is beautiful but we agree we want to live out a bit.  Even living out a bit is only a 20 minute commute for Jeremy.  Big improvement from the 90 minute commute he was doing in GA.  The kids seem to be doing fine.  They are excited to see the penguins.  There are lots of playgrounds in this town so we took them to one today.  It is cold here but I am actually enjoying it.  Jeremy was told today that he dressed like a true kiwi; shorts and long sleeve top.  Dunedin downtown reminded me a lot of European downtowns.  One great thing is there are a lot of diverse restaurants here J  I even saw fresh flowers being sold on the street.  Jaden’s big excitement for the day was seeing his “first street performer”.  It was a girl singing with her guitar.  She was quite good.  We bought a few groceries and the groceries are definitely a lot more expensive here.  However, we saw a BOB stroller for cheaper than what we paid in the U.S.  We will begin to search for a permanent home soon.  The biggest hurdle for us right now is adjusting to the left side driving. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Going to New Zealand

I need to make a very clear disclaimer.  I am NOT a writer.  This blog will have tons of grammatical errors that I will not catch while editing.  My major in college was Mathematics.  Please overlook the grammatical errors and try to get to the heart of the message.  This blog is meant to share my family's journey moving to New Zealand and our life in New Zealand.  I will start with some background information.

In 2015, Jeremy and I decided that we wanted to start pursuing our desire to live abroad with the kids.  There were multiple reasons for deciding to pursue the desire.  It would be an injustice to my readers to say it was not partially due to the political climate that was in the US at the time.  We have very strong beliefs about rights for families and parents to make decisions based on personal beliefs.  We saw rights being taken and threatened each day in the US and thought it would be a good time to live abroad and see what would happen in the following years.  With these thoughts, we started to research countries we would be interested in moving to and living in.  We wanted the freedom to home school, if we chose to continue doing so, and we wanted the freedom to make medical decisions for ourselves and kids, specifically regarding vaccines.  We came up with a few countries and decided to look for a job in New Zealand first.  No rhyme or reason to our choice, we just thought it would a place that would make an easy transition for the kids.  Having worked overseas, I thought it would take years for Jeremy to find a job and consequently us move.  Jeremy started updating his resume and looking for jobs late February/early March.  By April, he had 2 interviews lined up with 2 different companies in NZ.  Even with this, I thought there was no way he would get a job quickly.  After interviewing with both companies, Jeremy was offered the positions in June.  I was in shock.  I just had a baby June 3rd and the thought of moving overseas seemed insurmountable.  Thank goodness God had given me such great friends with great organizational skills and drive.  I couldn't have accomplished this move without them.  We sold our rental property the first week it was on the market.  Our residence sold the first day it was listed.  We sold both cars, no issue.  We sold most of our household items.  We packed up two 5x5x5 crates and shipped them to NZ.  Our visas processed in record time.  Our visa adviser told us it would take 4-6 weeks to process visas.  Jeremy’s was applied for first and it came back approved in 2 weeks.  The visa adviser was in shock it happened so quickly.  The rest of our visa applications were then sent in.  They were approved in ONE DAY!  This was unheard of!  It truly was amazing.  A process that our visa adviser had never seen processed faster than 4 weeks was completed in 2 weeks and 2 days.  The move became really "real", quick.  I spent weeks preparing for the move but not processing the move emotionally.  The week before the move, the emotions came on strong.  The thought of leaving the friends that God had put in my life was overwhelming and I began to grieve as if someone had died.  How could God want me to move my young family across the world so far away from my mom, my sisters and my friends!  God made it very clear that this was his plan for our family.  EVERYTHING fell into place with no pushing from our end.  All the doors were wide open even to the smallest details. 

Today as we arrive in NZ, I am in awe of God’s provision and calling.  He had prepared the way.  We had too much weight in our carry on luggage and we would have had to pay hundreds of dollars to take it but God provided an agent who waived the fee.  The kids were wonderful on the 12 hour flight from LAX to Auckland.  We had great seats with room for them to move. 

I don’t know what God has in store for us.  I do know it hurts more than I can express to leave the ones I love and I am so close to.  I am excited for the adventure but pray God brings me close friends soon.  Some one asked me what I was worried about the most in moving my family to NZ.  It is not about the house, schooling for the kids, climate, culture etc but I worry about finding friends that can help fill the expansive chasm in my heart right now.  I feel so much pain and agony in the thought of never living with those same friends surrounding me again.  It hurts to my very core.  Today I truly realized how blessed I am to have such a hurt.  Because this hurt means one thing, I have been blessed to have been so close to so many beautiful, encouraging, loving women.  Many long for this type of friendship and I have been given many.  I will treasure those friendships forever.  I will rest in the knowledge that I will once again live with those woman when we enter eternity.
Annabeth was not happy in the carrier so we held her A LOT during our travels.

The boys managing the luggage (each bag was 50lbs and each carry on  15lbs).  They each pushed a cart

Johanna tired of the traveling