A Word From Wendy

Sunday, September 17, 2006

One Year On

Over the last few weeks we have recalled lots of special moments as we celebrate anniversaries relating to our departure from England. Our conversations around the dinner table have been like this - "it's a year today since we said goodbye to so and so, it's a year today since the shippers came in and packed our stuff. It's a year today since the cats were flown out and then it's a year today since we flew out."
Well finally today we were able to say "it's a year today since we, myself, spouse and fils 1, 2, 3, & 4 first put foot on New Zealand soil". We had no jobs, no home, no schools, no family here, no friends and no permits. But we did have each other. And we had faith, that this was where we were meant to be.

365 days later, we have challenging and interesting jobs, fantastic schools, a family home, residency and lots of wonderful friends. We also have a range of adopted "family" who have kindly reached out to us. I am thankful to our families and great friends back in England who have prayed for us and had kind thoughts for us during this time and for all those who have made us so welcome here in New Zealand. I am so proud of spouse, who has achieved so much this year and enabled all that has happened, to happen. He worked so diligently to find a job which was our key to qualifying for residency. Spouse has continued to work so hard to provide a secure life for the family and has gained promotion and respect at his work in a very short time. How lucky we are to have such a dedicated spouse and father who strives to give his family the best opportunities he can. I am also incredibly proud of the girls and the huge achievements they have made in this past year of our new life. I am so thankful to them for putting so much trust in us that we were doing something we hope will benefit us all in the future. The fils left behind all they had ever known, family, schools they loved, special friendships and guinea pigs! They have made a wonderful job of adjusting and have slotted in so well to Kiwi life. Of course they won't forget their old schools and still have places in their hearts for their friends, but they have been so strong and have never complained. All four fils have approached life, and situations where no one and nothing was familiar, with such enthusiasm and zest. Their smiles and laughter and love of life has often carried me through those days when thoughts of far away friends loom up and tear at your heart.

I have not once doubted our move or looked back and wondered if we did the right thing. We are here, we are happy and most importantly, we do have each other.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Rural Realities

Well we now have another house move under our belts - our third in 10 months and now find ourselves happily settled in our first kiwi home of our own. Spouse has worked his socks off ferrying our trash and treasure between the old house and the new and faithfully working through the never ending list of jobs that need doing. The fils seem delighted with their new bedrooms and had their newly painted walls plastered in blue tac and posters within hours of taking possession. Decided to hold my breath on what damage was being done because I realised I quite like their taste in rugby players!!

I know I keep going on about this, but everything just feels so good and I have been feeling on a tremendous high. I am sure it must have something to do with the amount of sunshine we now get. I was driving to a meeting this week and just couldn't believe that this is our life and we don't have to go home! It was toasty warm in the strong winter sunshine, not a cloud in the brilliant blue sky, stereo up full blast and me singing along at the top of my voice to Simon & Garfunkle's Mother & Child Reunion! Sad maybe, but it certainly gave me a lift.

We continue to marvel and find so much pleasure in the quirks and differences we come across everyday. A typical example is just one day earlier this week - whilst walking across the playground in the morning with the kids on the way to their classrooms we bump into a mum with a 4 day old squealing orange piglet in her arms, nonchalantly kissing goodbye to her son as if every mum should have one! I then go to a friend's house at the end of the day to collect fils 2,3 & 4 who had been playing there and discover them giving swimming lessons to 6 tiny ducklings in the bathroom sink, who had been orphaned by their mum in a road accident. Very quaint and I guess to be expected living in the country. What gave me a good laugh though was the memo waved in my face by fils 1 later that evening as it was so untypical of the memo's brought home from their previous schools in the UK. In the efforts of fundraising for the class, a deer had been donated and helpfully butchered by one of the parents. The teacher was therefore offering marinated venison steaks at a very competable price! Not for me, but thought spouse would probably enjoy cooking it up on the BBQ. Not sure if I can risk purchasing it for him though - fils 1 tends not to give anything up that finds its way into the depths of her school bag and I don't want to discover a portion of deer conjealed to her pencil case at the end of term!!

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Growing Kiwi's

Oops, time is whizzing by and I realise our lives have been so full that I haven't had the time to post comment!

This has been a busy winter term (I still find it very odd to describe June as winter), with all kinds of activities and events for the girls. I find myself, like many a mum, scooting round from one activity to another. But the difference here is that instead of the traffic holding us up, we are stopping for cows crossing the road or to buy mandarins or tomatoes from a cart at the bottom of somebody's driveway - much more of a fun way to get held up in our view!

I have become an expert at building a fire but nevertheless miss the central heating, especially first thing in the morning. Oh how we were spoilt when all we had to do when cold weather threatened was flick that switch. For the first time in her short life, fils 4 does not want to get up in the morning, much preferring to snuggle down with her luke warm hot water bottle and fake a coma. Fils 3 is now an expert at getting dressed under her duvet. She carefully lays her next day's clothes beside her pillow so enabling her to not have to emerge from her warm bed in the morning until she is fully dressed. Fils 1 appears 10 pounds heavier each morning, winning the prize for who can wear the most layers and fils 2 just tries to get away with making us believe she has hibernated!

Most days we are soon warmed up by the winter sun and the pace of life between rugby, soccer, ballet and church. The kids appear to becoming more Kiwi as each day goes by as their English accents disappear and they even have to hesitate to remember how they once spoke. The NZ accent seems to roll off the tongue more naturally now. There was never any hesitation when it came to supporting the All Blacks, long forgotten is the euphoria of watching the Lions win the Rugby World Cup. Yes as I watch them all enjoying the fun of picking their own Kiwi fruits from the vines of our friend's crop, I realise that we seem to be growing our own!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Who Needs Breakfast at Tiffany's?

Coming from the Northern Hemisphere, we are used to buds and blossom in May. But we have discovered that May is none the less beautiful here in the South where we are now experiencing autumn. I don't think I have ever seen such a range of autumn colours as we see now on the trees and bushes surrounding us in our new environment. Last weekend I was up quite early, having breakfast before any of the girls and spouse were stirring. It was for me a rare quiet and serene moment. I had planned to catch up on the previous weekend's paper before tossing it in the recycling bin, having been too busy to glance at it before. But instead I was entranced by the amazing colours of the leaves blowing gently on the trees. As well as various shades of green, we have reds, oranges, browns and yellows that are utterly stunning. We also have an abundant bird population and during my time of serenity I witnessed swallows, song thrushes, tui's, plovers and blackbirds going about their morning business. Our newly resident kingfisher came for a visit on a branch right outside our window and the fantails were performing their delightful dances on our patio. We have paradise ducks in the field beyond our garden and I love to listen to their odd quacking which is a new sound for me and to watch them splashing in the water puddles. The sun was shining through a window on one side of the room and and a gentle rain was falling outside another window on the other side of the room. So to add to my golden atmosphere, I was then able to witness an impressive rainbow. I was quite lost in the luxury of the incredibly beautiful sights and sounds around me, and have never wished for breakfast to last so long. Then suddenly, "MUM, where's my other slipper?" "MUM, can I have scam (scrambled) egg for breakfast?" I was whisked back from my brief spell in paradise in the blink of a sparrow's eye as fils 3 & 4 charged into the room with only the energy a child can muster so soon after emerging from sleep. Ah well, it was heaven while it lasted.

This weekend I was lucky enough to experience another 'special' breakfast. It is Mother's Day here in NZ and although I alway express my wishes to the girls not to feel under pressure to have to make a big thing of it, I am not going to discourage a cup of tea in bed and a bar of chocolate. And that is exactly what I got, together with a bag of wonderfully cute pictures carefully drawn by fils 4. I had been dreading tea at dawn and that awful pretence of being so very grateful for the chance to drink tea in bed at 6am on a Sunday morning when all you really want to do is shut your eyes and enjoy the fact that the alarm is not going to go off. ( My poor parents had to endure many of their 'special' days by being forced to eat burnt toast at a very uncivilised time of the morning with me and my brothers sitting around their bed proud as punch for dreaming up the idea of serving breakfast in bed and managing to get it together for them before they were awake!) But luckily, having had visitors and therefore a late night for everyone the evening before, my tea came at just the right time, giving us the luxury of a bit of a lie in with enough time to get to church. Spouse got tea too and we were delightfully serenaded by fils 4 as she stood at the foot of our bed in her fairy pyjamas singing her 'made up song' for Mother's Day which included all families in the world, the countryside, and roads, and the moon and the stars. Yes I was reduced to tears. Tea in bed was followed by a lovely family breakfast (out of bed) for which I had to play no part in preparing or clearing up. What a great start to my day.

This week we received the fantastic news that our application for residency here in NZ has been granted. We have many reasons to feel blessed and are grateful to all those who have supported us and prayed for us on our journey to this point. I for one, look forward to many more special breakfasts here in this wonderful place we find ourselves - and even the odd one at dawn too!

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

The last few weeks have whizzed by and fils are settled back into their second school term of the year. I love the school holidays and they always pass too quickly. These Easter holidays were no exception and although fun, there was certainly no time to rest or sit and gather dust.

Fils 4 turned five at the end of last term, so for her it was a mixture of sad farewells to kindergarten and eager excitement counting down sleeps to her party. Having been used to her celebrating her birthday in spring in England and therefore never being able to rely on good weather, we were prepared for an equally unpredictable experience for her NZ autumn birthday party. But the day turned out to be fantastic, blue sky and very hot sunshine. For the first time that spouse and I could remember, we were able to entertain with the games and food outside. Fils 4 insisted she only wanted to invite one poor boy, amongst a gaggle of girls. We steered the fun away from too much girly stuff wondering how he would cope and to his credit, he didn't seem to notice and managed to survive the afternoon without having to play with 'My little pony' or have his nails done! The party was declared a success by fils 4 and spouse and I looked forward to the last child leaving and the opportunity to flop in the sun with feet up and glass of cool white wine in hand. Alas, our fridge was bare of anything interesting for grown ups to drink and we had chosen a bank holiday to have the party so shops were closed. I had been too busy shopping for party stuff that I had overlooked the fact that spouse would need some sort of alcoholic pick me up, after spending an afternoon organising party games for a bunch of lively five year olds. I had been up until midnight the previous night blowing up balloons and baking 'pink' food and then up again at the crack of dawn to shove cubes of pineapple and cheese onto cocktail sticks which wasn't successful because the cheese was splitting down the middle. A friend called in at 7 am to drop something off and found me desperately trying to squeeze it together around the stick and helpfully said "oh you can't use that brand of cheese for cocktail sticks, it always splits down the middle". Pineapple on sticks surrounded by clumps of cheese (no longer in carefully measured cubes) on the plate had to suffice. Anyway, after all this, I too had been looking forward to a treat at the end of the day and was dismayed to learn that spouses spin around the village (which ironically is surrounded by vineyards) in search of a bottle of Pinot Gris had resulted in nothing more exciting than warm orange juice. But, hoorah for friends, who have had similar experiences! When the parents of one of the party guests came to claim their offspring they turned up with a coolly bag containing ice cold beer and the much desired Pinot Gris. So the day ended with us all having an extremely civilised time out on the patio until the sun went down and chilled glasses in hand whilst the children, ours and theirs, happily made up their own fun and games without requiring any organisation from us!

Only fils 2 missed all this as she was away for a few days on a camping trip with her church youth group. She returned home extremely exhilarated and happy having had a wonderful time, but also tired, hungry and eager to flop. We then announced to her that we were all off on a camping trip, as a family to try out our new tent that we purchased from her teacher. We did allow her one night in her own bed before setting off to explore the area north of us. Again, we were blessed with beautiful warm and sunny weather and discovered an ideal camping ground along the pacific coastline. We certainly had not expected long white sandy beaches and bright blue sea in the middle of autumn. The girls were delighted to embark on one of their favourite pastimes since coming to New Zealand, of shell collecting. So by the time spouse and I had erected the tent, they returned with pockets full of unusual and pretty shells. They didn't think it so exciting when, after exclaiming how delightful they were, we made them take them all back to the beach and put them back again. Stating the fact that "wouldn't you want to ensure there are plenty of shells around for your own children to gather in the future", does not really mean much when you are only 5, 9, 12 or 14 and want to decorate your bedroom with them. Anyway, we survived our experience under the stars and found lots to laugh about whilst continuing to marvel in the beautiful surroundings we now find ourselves living amongst. The journey was enlivened, as we find it often is over here, by a collection of weird and wonderful giant roadside objects. We all find these find these great fun to spot and look out for and often wonder, as we whiz by, what the story is behind their appearance. This journey was no exception as we came across wooden alpacas placed in the middle of a high street, a graceful swan made out of car tyres at the top of a hill, and what appeared to be a zebra in the middle of a field of cows! As we approached home again the girls became a little quiet as they remembered what they had experienced as we were packing up to leave for our trip. The end had finally come for one of the neighbour's cattle in the field adjacent to our home, as the local butcher turned up to shoot it and prepare it for the freezer right there in front of us. We had all known it was going to happen at some point and the girls were all aware of the reason for them being there. But they feed and talk to the cows, and have given them all names, so when it eventually came to his demise, there was some wailing and shedding of tears. They soon got over it though and were all fascinated enough to want to watch the whole spectacle and then forgot all about it in the excitement of our camping trip. As we arrived home, fils 1 who had probably been the most upset, summed it up as only a child can. "Oh well, one down, two to go!"

Roll on the next school holidays!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bin There Done That

Since the beginning of our organisation and subsequent move to New Zealand, with four kids, four cats, all our furniture and our worldly goods, spouse and I have dealt with numerous companies and institutions whilst closing down our life in the UK and setting up our new one over here. Some good experiences, some not.

How nice then to have our faith justified in the art of customer service. What we have just experienced was so amazingly helpful and efficient I felt I had to shout about it. We brought everything with us from the UK, even my kitchen refuse bin. Those who know me will know it wasn't just any old bin, but a very good (and expensive one) purchased after we had our new kitchen installed. It was something I was extremely pleased to own and therefore came along with us and thankfully made the 12000 mile journey intact, unlike many other items unfortunately (but that's another story). All was well and the bin fitted nicely into a new space in our NZ kitchen and carried on serving us well by efficiently gobbling up our mounds of rubbish. Until one day last week when fils 1 was rather heavy handed and slammed the lid down a little to harshly. Alas the catch was broken beyond repair and a bin with a lid that won't stay shut is no use to us in a rural house full of creatures. Eg. spiders, flies, mice and ever hopeful for a snack, cats. So I immediately turned to the wonders of the web and having typed in the name of the bin manufacturers, I was given the name of a company called Kruger Trading who are based not too far from us. I got on the phone and Marissa, who I spoke to was so eager to help us out. Without any fuss, she organised a new lid to be delivered and hey presto it was sitting on top of our own well traveled bin in less than 18 hours from telling her of our problem!! Thank you Marissa, you certainly offered us the ultimate in great customer service. I couldn't have coped for very long with a copy of the Yellow Pages sitting on top of our bin to keep the lid closed! So if anyone needs to purchase or replace an item of kitchenware, you know where to go.

This has now prompted me to write about another experience of a well transported piece of kitchenware from a company called Lakeland Plastics in the English Lake District. We had a butterdish which was made a bit like a thermos with a double skin to keep the butter at a constant temperature. It was sitting on our kitchen counter, full of butter, when our shippers arrived early one morning to pack up all our stuff. Anyone else who has been through this will know what I mean when I say they are quick! And woe betide anything that is left lying around for them to wrap up. (Our travel documents and papers disappeared in this way and were eventually found after undoing and re sealing about 30 boxes at a time when we had nothing better to do - not! But that's also another story). Anyway, after washing up the breakfast things, ready for packing, I turned round to empty and wash the butter dish, but it was too late. Having made an enquiry to the extremely speedy packer if he knew of its whereabouts, he pointed to a a dozen large cardboard boxes all marked "kitchen items". So that was that, our breakfast butter was on its way to New Zealand and there was no escaping. During the three months between packing day and the arrival of the container at our new home in Auckland we often wondered about the process of what the butter would go through, being churned about on the sea during its long journey, and how it would look, and smell when eventually opened. Fils 2 was the one who came across the butterdish first as we unpacked one box after another. "Look, I've found the butterdish" she yelled, "hold your noses!" I told her not to open it until the whole family was gathered around, always eager to witness a ghastly sight, and spouse had camera in hand expecting the butter to crawl out. After a frustratingly slow countdown by the fils, the lid was whipped off to reveal a perfect normal block of butter innocently sitting in its insulated butterdish that had done its job and kept it at a constant temperature for over 12 weeks. Spouse insisted on trying a little on a cracker to prove it was still edible and the irony being, it was NZ butter that had made the journey home. Well done Lakeland Plastics, your product certainly lived up to its description - and still does.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Crying Over Lemons

Another personally significant moment this week was when I picked my first home grown lemon from my tree which I got for Christmas. This is definitely something I would not have done back in the UK and it brought tears to my eyes. No, not from squirting juice in them, but for the fact that I am able to grow my own lemons for my early morning hot lemon drink.

As a kid we had a couple of apple trees in the garden which have left many nostalgic memories. All those late summer days of inching precariously along the branches to reach the biggest juiciest ones whilst parents hovered down below with pillow cases and vegetable colanders to catch them. Never mind about catching us, we would have needed a duvet cover to catch us, but as we still used sheets and blankets in those days, we had to trust our balance. Our parents obviously thought it was worth the risk to get at those apples before the birds did!

I can vividly remember too all those little apples that dropped off well before they were fully grown. As kids we made up endless games to play with them. One of them was to hit them with a tennis racket against the wall of the house that backed onto our garden. We thought it was great fun but the owner of the house wasn't so impressed when the newly painted pebble dash was given a polka dot look with all the little brown marks the splattered apples made. It did wonders for improving our tennis serves though!

Then of course there was the excitement of finding the worms burrowed down those little brown canals as we ate them and all those times we spending peeling and chopping them for the sunday apple pie and the numerous little freezer bags we loaded up to ensure we were never without apple pie in the winter. We gave away bags to the neighbours, bags to the church, and bags to the scouts. There was intense pressure with my brothers over who could produce the longest piece of peel and who could manage to peel the whole apple without a break in the skin.

Yes there was never a dull moment when the apples arrived but sadly they have now succumbed to a garden makeover and as in many other gardens around the country I imagine, they have been replaced with water features and large shiny blue balls that serve no purpose other than to sit on the earth amongst the rockeries looking extremely alien.

One day I hope I will have another apple tree, and oranges and maybe peaches too, as they are all possible to grow here in NZ. But for now, I am extremely satisfied with my little lemon tree and its small but much appreciated bearing of fruits. But they're no good in pies!