Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Home maker or more?

Today is overcast and cold and my mood is reflecting the day.  I am feeling restless and bored and while I am happy in my life, I'm sitting here wondering is this it.  I have turned into a homemaker/earth mother of my own making and while I am proud that I now make all the kids snacks and there are no pre-packaged biscuits or additive ridden foods in our pantry, is this all there is?  The kids are now happily settled in school and I am left feeling like everyone has a place to go in the mornings except for me.

So I am sitting here, watching the bunnies hop around the yard and I wonder, what could I do?  I have always wanted my own business, but what?  I have many grand ideas that seem far fetched, one involving bringing Dan Murphy's to New Zealand but while a good idea, probably not realistic.

My Mother, in her infinite wisdom, tells me sternly never to under value my role as homemaker and I agree. However, I need some other mental stimulation and a challenge, I have mastered muesli slice and anzac biscuits and I want more in my day.

So it is my mission to find something that drives me and gives me a passion.  I want something that is mine and makes me feel proud that I did it.  But what??  Watch this space....

Saturday, May 7, 2011


I have written many sad posts that have not been easy to read so I decided it was time to write a happy one that summed up the last few weeks.  The time since we moved into our new home has been so wonderful.  There is so many things I love about living in New Zealand and in our new home.  Here are some them in a happy summary of what makes me smile at the moment.

I love that when we turn out of our house and onto the road that runs past our house, the Port Hills are to the left at the end of the road and to the right the Southern Alps loom up to meet you.  They are both impressive and everyday is a different view of these mighty mountains.  Some days they are covered in deep snow that gleams in the sunlight, the next day they can be green again and the snow nowhere to be seen.  In New Zealand you really get 4 seasons and they can all be in the same day.  At the moment there are the most stunning colours in the trees with the leaves are changing colour for autumn.  The reds, yellows and oranges make a patchwork across the landscape that is so beautiful.  The days have a chill to them and you have an inkling of the season to come.  I just hope that when it does arrive, I am tough enough to cope with it and don't huddle inside like a sook sitting on top of the fire!

I love that to get to our local library, the supermarket or anywhere, I need to drive through beautiful countryside.  Fields of horses, cows and sheep are now the normal and the kids no longer think it strange to see them.  We are in a rural landscape that is refreshing after living in a built up city for so long.

I know it is obvious, but I love our new house!  Not only is it great to be back in a house we own but it is a great space.  The layout and the way the house works is fantastic.  I love that to get warm we need to light a fire, there is something special about sitting by a roaring fire, we are trying to convince ourselves we are not pyromaniacs.  The only downside is the amount of garden, it is huge, we are just happy we didn't buy the 4 hectare block!  With almost 2500 square metres of grounds, keeping up with the weeds and the grass is time consuming!  It is like painting the harbour bridge.

Along with the normal weird New Zealandisms such as chilly bins (esky) and jandels (thongs) my favourite is a trundler (shopping trolley).  It makes shopping seem like a friendlier and more pleasant experience.   Just a side point that makes me smile each time I go to the supermarket.

The biggest happiness in moving here and the last few weeks is Mia.  She is a different girl and is so happy.  She is now your typical 6 year old, no more fears, no more terrors in the night, just loaded with her own opinions.  She has made me think I might I have imagined everything that happened after February 22nd.   I had arranged to see a psychologist for her to work through the feelings and emotions but now feel like a fraud keeping the appointments.  It is like feeling sick, making an appointment to see the doctor but feeling fine when you walk into their office.  I'm not complaining though!  I just hope that it continues, to see her so relaxed and confident is wonderful.  Now I can just enjoy the usual arguments a mother and her 6 year old have on a daily basis.

So these are just a few of the things that are making me smile and giving me hope for the future.   Hopefully without jinxing myself, it seems our new life is back on track.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

From Bogey Boards to Tractors

What a huge change to our lives the last couple of weeks has been.  We have learnt the hard way what stress is involved when you choose to buy a house and complete the whole process in under 3 weeks.  We decided for the sanity of all involved we needed to move out of Sumner and distance ourselves from the constant reminders of the earthquake.

Having made this decision, the hunt for a new house in a location that was as safe as you could be in a city prone to earthquakes, began.  We wrote lists of what we wanted and realised we needed and wanted a complete change and what more of a change that to go rural.  We found a lovely house on a huge block that had the benefit of being a quick drive to Richard's work, a short walk to school and the village and within a small community of young families.  From seeing the house for the first time and signing the contract we settled and moved in only 17 days later.  Madness!

We packed up and sadly said goodbye to Sumner.  It was sad to leave the place where we had been so happy and where we had already made so many friends. The memories will always be with us, we fell in love with Sumner and this was one of the reasons we felt so happy to move to New Zealand in the first place.

Having said that, we were so excited about moving into our own house again.  A place where we could put up our photos that have lived in a box for over a year, have a pet without asking permission and feel like we could truly relax.  I had forgotten what a wonderful feeling it is to have a place of your own.

I was so lucky to have my Dad arrive on the day we moved in.  In the madness and chaos of the move, he arrived and helped us get sorted and unpacked, I could never have done it as fast without him.  Apart from his wonderful help, I had forgotten how much I missed having him around, it was very hard to say goodbye to him at the airport 10 days later.  This is definately the down side to living here, missing my Mum and Dad. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't convince him to make the move. I'll keep trying!

Our house is starting to resemble a home and the boxes have all disappeared now.  We are learning about ride on mowers, types of firewood and how to look after almost 3000 sqm of land.  The girls got their birthday present early with the addition to the family of 2 lop eared bunnies and George is happily exploring his new home.

Our lives have changed again and while we are starting again in some ways, it is easier and we have faith that we can do it a second time.  We have chosen a quiet neighbourhood with lots of families, we are surrounded by kids and mostly they are around the girls age.  They all go to the same local school and after school, the kids disappear to play dates around the area.  The girls are relaxed and happy for the first time since that fateful day in February and that is such a relief.  I am so grateful that we had the ability to give them back a feeling of calm and safety that was missing after the earthquake.  Mia is still having a hard time and adjusting for the 3rd time is not coming easy so we try and take each day as it comes.  This is a whole new blog, one I will write when I have the time and strength.

But we are very lucky and extremely happy in our new, lovely home.  I hope this has filled in some gaps of communication over the last few weeks while we have been frantic and unreachable.  Hope you like the photos below.  Lots of room for guests and the reservation book is now once again open, for the second time.

Our new house - 9 Aberdeen Rd Prebbleton.

The massive pile of firewood I moved by hand.

Rich and Amy learning to drive

Mia and her bunny Clover

Our backyard 

Friday, March 18, 2011


For me this blog has turned into a much needed therapy session, for which I am terribly sorry.  Lately life has not been that easy and this helps just a little.

Before Mia arrived I had a miscarriage.  It was a terrible time like it is for everyone and like most, I blamed myself.  So when I became pregnant with Mia, I worried constantly.  Every time I went to the bathroom, I was petrified of finding blood, I worried that something would be wrong with her, it seemed I never stopped worrying.  And when she did arrive, she would not feed, was a very bad sleeper and was just a difficult baby.

So now I wonder, did all this worry, cause her to be the person she is today?  Our life since returning from Hanmer Springs has gone from bad to worse.  She did not go back to school, she was so terrified of me leaving her that she could hardly breathe.  She will not go to sleep at night unless I am there and it takes hours.  She is angry and aggressive, she is scared and won't let me out of her sight for long.  What have I done to her by bringing her here?  Her worry is like a blanket that she never takes off and it is weighing her down.

Worse than all this, all of which I can understand and deal with, is her negative mindset.  I do not understand how she can be so pessimistic. I am trying to get her counseling at the moment but she is convinced there is no point, nothing can help and she is not interested.  She will not listen to anything I have to say.  I start to talk to her and I can see her turn off and tune out.  She does not want to hear me and I am afraid that she does not want to feel better.  I stopped talking at her and started asking her questions.   She is unwavering in her arguments and won't hear anything positive or helpful.  She has gone from feeling scared in this house, to being scared in Sumner to now being scared in New Zealand.  I use reason, science, persuasion and even bribery, nothing works. 

Tonight she told me she wants to go back to Sydney where she was happy.  She doesn't want to live here and if that means living without us, then that is the way it has to be.  It was the worst feeling in the world hearing that she would be happier living without us.  I had no argument and was completely speechless.  My whole world is to love and protect her and Amy and I feel so deeply sad that I have caused this much pain in her world. 

My very wise and wonderful friend, Robin in Norfolk taught me that whatever you envisage you make for yourself.  I fully believe this, if you ask the universe for a wonderful life, it will come.  A positive mind can do wonders.  I have always tried to instill this in Mia and I feel like I have failed today.  She will not listen and will not try.  She is so caught in a state of inner fear that she has shut off from me.  I cannot reach in to help her and I am so scared that I cannot do something to help her.  She has always been stubborn and single minded and when she makes up her mind about something, then that is that.  If you attract what you think, god help her. 

I am so physically and emotionally exhausted, it feels like I am feeling my way in the dark.  I am tired from lack of sleep, jumpy waiting for the next aftershock and her reaction and worried about how best to get through this confusing time.  I was putting all my faith in the move to a new house, that that would make her more relaxed and ease her fears, but I think I was wrong.  Now I am lost, what do I try next.  If only she would listen and try.  As I tell her, there is no point worrying about something that may never happen.  My words fall on deaf ears. 

Monday, March 14, 2011


We came back from Hanmer Springs today and back to reality.  I decided last week that we needed to get away from the city and the constant shakes that had us all on edge so I booked a long weekend away.  Hanmer Springs is a stunning little alpine village only a 90 minute drive from Christchurch but it could have been a thousand kms away, it was a perfect spot.  It was quiet and restful and best of all there were no shakes.  You could see the girls visibly relax and I was relieved to see them stop worrying.  Even the sound and feel of the odd truck going past on day one was enough to see them tense up, that was gone by day three.  We visited the hot springs, went to the animal farm and went on walks, it was bliss.

But I should have remembered, you can never run away from your problems.  Mia was unhappy to come home and wanted to stay even before we left.  Coming home to Sumner made her old fears return so fast it was like we had never been away.  For some reason, mother nature times her worst aftershocks for bedtime and tonight was no different.  I had managed to coax and persuade Mia it was safe and she needed to go to bed.  An hour later she was up and worried about returning to school tomorrow.  No sooner had we got her back to bed, a 3.8 hit directly underneath our hill.  She was screaming and shaking by the time we got to their room, completely terrified.  Poor Amy had been asleep and was shocked and scared with no idea what was happening.  Now with both awake and scared, there was no way to get them back to sleep easily.  Finally at 10pm, with me lying on the floor until they fell asleep, I could get some down time.

Every parent worries about their child, it comes with the swollen ankles of pregnancy, I understand that. But this recent worry leaves me feeling helpless.  Mia has always been a worrier.  She has always had fears and panic attacks. She is not a naturally positive person.  Until now, her fears have been small childhood worries like performing in a school play or being in a busy crowd - fears that can be explained with steps to overcome them.  This is not something that can be given a guaranteed answer to ease fears.  I can't say, "Don't worry we won't ever have another earthquake" or "Everything will be fine now, the big one has come and gone." I can't give her the guarantees I know she is looking for.  I have always had the answers for her before and this time I don't.  I tell her the experts say that is it, no more but my assurances are not heard when she feels the ground move, even for a small aftershock.  It is the not knowing when the next shudder will come that has you on edge, all of us, just waiting. 

Adults, young and old, were terrified by the earthquake, but we have the resources to call on, to reason and to understand the science, how can a 6 year old deal with this and move on?  I want to help her by giving her knowledge and talking about it.  I was hoping that going back to school tomorrow and being with her friends would help.  But how do I know I am doing the right thing and not scaring her more.  I am her constant at the moment and she will not leave my side, I give her love and hugs and reassurance and hope that that will heal her. 

I have stopped fearing the aftershocks, their wobbles don't scare me, but I am constantly on edge waiting for them to come and worried about the effect they will have on Mia.  She is fragile and my need to protect her is at an all time high, I don't feel like I am doing my best at the moment.

We are in the process of buying a house, a very exciting move and will mean we move from Sumner to a semi-rural area that was not affected by either earthquake.  We are counting down the sleeps and Mia is beside herself in anticipation of moving.  It cannot come soon enough and I am hoping with it comes that same relaxation we felt in Hanmer Springs.  I want her to go back to being a kid, with kid sized worries.  Ones that hopefully I can deal with.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A confusing time

I feel great sadness and with that sadness, comes great guilt.  I moved to New Zealand feeling nervous about finding a new home that I would love as much as the one I left, I was nervous about meeting new friends and finding a place for my family.  I had found that in Sumner.  Great town, welcoming people and a wonderful environment for my family.  And then Tuesday 22nd February happened and all that changed.  We now don't feel safe in our lovely town and beautiful home, our friends have left and the area is deserted.  However, we are the lucky ones.  We did not lose someone close to us, we still have a home (even though it has more air conditioning) and Richard still has a job.  We are lucky and the guilt that accompanies that luck is extraordinary.  I feel spoilt that I still have a home and family when others don't. Yet I am still sad that we are leaving this stunning place where we felt so welcome and at home. 

I am sure that we will find new friends and fit into new communities and in time all will be well.  For now I am just sad when I look out of our window onto the beautiful view of what might have been.  The people of Christchurch have this same fate, of starting again from scratch.  It is a long road but one that must be travelled by everyone.  No one is untouched by this catastrophe.  But my mantra has become,  we are lucky,  I keep telling myself that every day.  I just hope that the guilt soon disappears.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Getting something off my chest. By Richard

7 days ago our world changed.  I can recall being on the phone to a friend back in Sydney waxing lyrical about how beautiful it is living in Christchurch.  Then a series of events unfolded, each of them strange, each of them leading to a life changing event.

The council car park we use had a queue to enter, something which I had not encountered before so began to navigate the one way system to find a park.  Oh how grateful I am now that my car was not in that car park.  Incidentally the car park in under the art gallery where the emergency response is being run from, the building you would have all seen on tv.  Still on the phone to David, I cruised the streets seeking the elusive park until I found a spot outside an historic building.  This is where the second strange event occurred as the parking meter would not accept a credit card or the SMS payment system.  Still on the phone, and at 10 minutes to 1 pm, I hung up from Dave to work out what was going on.

This is when the thunderous roar approached and chunks of the building, each the size of a soccer ball were landing a few feet away from me.  Instinct said run, so I fled into the street, not aware of cars, in fact, only aware of the roar.  I ran up hill and then down hill as the road moved beneath me made it difficult to even move.  All the time, more rubble fell, everything flexed.  For what seemed an eternity, I was at sea riding the waves as natures anger passed under my feet.

When it stopped there was not silence but screaming.  People were flooding out of buildings covered in dust, a few with blood spots on heads and arms.  A small child was screaming hysterically and being comforted by his mother who was trying her best to be strong.  Being only a few hundred meters to the council offices I thought best to head there to see if I could be of some help.

Turning the corner, I walked quickly into a thick dust cloud.  Another aftershock and it became impossible to walk straight but again, instinct made me keep pressing forward.  More people were exiting buildings, sobbing, screaming, lying on the ground in shock.

I got to the council office and liquefaction was pouring through the pavement right on the steps as the workers flooded out.  Tiles on the floor had popped into the air landing several meters away.  In shock myself, I was standing next to a very shocked mayor, who has now become the face of this tragedy.  Again, another aftershock, we all stumbled at the force and witnessed the building next door flex.  It's cracking was very evident but people were gathering beneath it, also in total shock.  The mayor and I scream almost together "move away from the building".

Something inside said "Amanda and the girls" so I turned and made my  way back to the car.  I feel an awful nagging guilt I did not stay but knowing my wife and children were part of this and would be scared was a driving force.

In the car, radio on, messages came flooding in of devastation in the city.  Then the worst news - the epicenter was in Lyttleton, only a few kilometers from our house.  I sat in traffic, alone but together with thousands of other people wishing for a speedy exit from the city.  I called her mobile, home, the mobile again, never able to get through.  I tried to call our office, I tried Australia and her parents and could not get through.  Facebook was the only means of communication and hoping she may, for some strange reason, check there.

I moved maybe 500 meters in 1 hour as the city was gridlocked.  After 90 minutes, I finally spoke to Amanda to hear she and the girls were safe.  The relief in our voices overwhelming - I knew they were in the epicenter, she knew I was in the devastated CBD.

The traffic moved slower than a sleeping snail.  The road was flooded with liquefaction, buildings had crumbled.  The worst part was being on a fly-over when another aftershock hit.  The bridge moved up, down, left and right with me holding the steering wheel with white knuckles.  Surly this was my time, the bridge was about to collapse.  With enormous relief, the shock passed, the bridge held firm.

Once onto the Southern Highway, I began to move more freely, and the closer I got to the mountains, the quieter the streets became.  Huge holes in the road, boulders from collapsed cliffs, cars crushed, houses shattered.  People standing in shock trying to deal with what had happened.  Driving through Sumner and seeing what nature had done to our beautiful village really hurt.

5 hours after the quake, I finally got to the emergency area at Van Ash school and bear hugged by Amanda.  Mia and Amy were running around with their friends, almost unaware of the situation we were in.  Our neighbors, staring into space, hugging each other, seeking solace in any way they could.

We drove up to the house to determine we would not stay for the night so drove back to the village to see who we could stay with.  It was a ghost town, shattered houses left to fend for themselves as the owners sought an escape.  An emergency meeting in the car, a phone call and off to Rollerston we went.  It was the best move we could have made.

The rest we have been updating on facebook.  We are so lucky.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The wonderful people of Christchurch

Through all the terrible sadness and pain of the last few days, we are immensely reassured by the wonderful people of Christchurch. The help and compassion shown is overwhelming. We drove through the suburbs yesterday to get back to Sumner and were stopped by a lady who had driven hours to hand out food to people passing. She gave us fresh eggs from her farm and kind words of support. Another man had secured a huge water tank to the back of his truck and was driving through the worst hit areas filling up bottles for people. Farmers have been coming into the city to dig silt and liquefaction from peoples houses. Even a student army has sprung up to help anyone who needs a hand to clean up, it now has over 10,000 members and they are doing an amazing job.

Strangers have come together to help and support each other. People who have lost everything are still trying to help others in need. Although there are some terrible low lifes that take advantage of the mayhem to steal and cause havoc, they are in the minority. The people of Christchurch have shown such strength and resilience in coming back from such a terrible catastrophe, I am humbled by them.

After the previous earthquake, they are now experts at rebuilding their city. Roads are being patched, water restored and power lines rebuilt. Richard is at the house today, fixing up the damage and has rung to say we have power again! The happiness in small things is incredible.

This horrible experience has taught me what is truly important in our lives. When we needed to run, I didn't think about possessions or belongings, it was just the girls and Richard. Even Mia said, "let's just go, we don't need anything, everything that is important is in the car now, everything in the house can be replaced but we can't." The help and support given by strangers has restored my faith in people.

It has been less than a week and the city is on its' way. I have no doubt that with these incredible efforts Christchurch will be built again stronger and more united than before. Reading the paper this morning, I was touched by a child's comment. She is a 2.5 year old from Auckland watching the news on TV, she turned to her mum and said "Christchurch fell down. Christchurch is crying." That summed it up for me perfectly.

A day that changed us

Tuesday 22nd changed the lives of so many in Christchurch and our family have come out of this extremely lucky. As a form of therapy, to talk out the stress of the last few days, I am putting it all down here.

I was alone at home at 12.51pm when a quake, centered at Lyttelton only 2kms from us hit. The shaking started and intensified with an almighty speed, the noise in the house was deafening and while I tried to run and get out, the stuff flying out made it almost impossible. While the TV smashed to the floor, china and glasses came flying out of cabinets I knew I had to get out and quickly. I made it to the door and ran around the corner to the neighbours, I had never met this woman but she hugged me and held me tight and told me it would all be ok. I have no idea what I would have done if she hadn't been there. She organized me and my friend and neighbour Zoe so that we could think and function enough to move, we were both frozen. Jumping in the car we headed in convoy down the steep hill that we live on, trying to get to the school to get our kids. As I entered the school, I heard Mia before I saw her and we just grabbed on to each other, I have never been so happy to see her and never wanted to let her go again. My next panic came with Amy, she was going on her first playdate with a friend from Kindy. I had the mothers phone number but no address. I drove as fast as I could through streets cracked and warped and boulders the size of small cars all over the road, to get to the kindy. I was lucky to catch them as they evacuated and get her address. Again the road from kindy to Julie's was a mess. I passed Redcliffs school, located under the towering cliffs, it was now surrounded by rock slides and ruin. A house next door had a boulder that had come down from above and squashed half the house, the other half was on fire. When I arrived at Julie's house I ran up the stairs to find a pile of rubble, the chimney had fallen through the house and the side walls had collapsed. I could hardly breath thinking Amy was buried in there. I ran along the street asking people if they knew what had happened to the people inside, that is when I turned around and saw Amy running towards me. I have never cried so hard, my baby was safe. Julie was driving the girls home when the quake hit. A boulder larger than her car came crashing down in front of her and instead of stopping she moved, narrowly missing a second massive rock that fell where her car would have been. She was so lucky, I could not believe how close I had come to losing Amy. All this time, I had been trying to reach Richard. The phone lines were down and all I knew was that he was in the city at a meeting. Listening to radio reports, I knew the city was one of the worst areas, my family was still not safe. Finally after 2 hours, I managed to speak to him and he had made it out. He was on his way into a meeting when it hit and just knew he had to run and get out, his instinct served him well and probably saved him. Standing on the street with rocks and bits of buildings falling around him, he watched first hand the destruction of the city. It wasn't until 5pm that we met up at an emergency centre in Sumner. Finally after 5 hours I had all my family back together and I never wanted to be apart again.

At this time we headed back up the hill to our house. We were stunned at the damage all around us and when we arrived at home, it was a shock. The bricks around the garage and front of the house had moved and were loose, walking around the house we saw that the back wall of the garage had completely collapsed. Inside it looked like a madman had gone loose, throwing the contents of the house out of cupboards and upending all the furniture. There was glass, smashed plates and food everywhere. The girls rooms were destroyed with their specials things smashed to pieces. I am glad they stayed in the car and missed seeing the devastation. We decided that it was not worth the risk of staying and ran around in a frenzy grabbing anything and everything and throwing it in the back of the car. We had no idea where to go and all I wanted was to get out of the city, Richard was quick thinking and called his boss who lived 25 minutes out of the city. He welcomed us with open arms and make us feel secure for the first time since this nightmare began.

As the news started to come in, we couldn't believe the force and the strength that this had generated. I was in such shock that I couldn't stop shaking or shivering, Richard was my strength, I would not have made it without him. We decided to stay until the weekend when hopefully we would have an idea where we could stay. Staying out of the city where we had water and power and a normal life felt so surreal and in complete contrast to what was happening, the feeling of guilt was incredible.

On Wednesday morning I went back to the house with the girls to pick up more of our belongings and clean up. Driving back through the devastated suburbs was distressing and the closer we came to home the damage became worse. Gaps in the road a meter deep, huge boulders everywhere and peoples homes completely destroyed. While there were people moving about and emergency services starting to clear up, it was eerily quiet. The Christchurch wind that is always present was gone, it was so still and the ground continued to remind us of it's presence with many big aftershocks.

The death toll continues to rise while a city of amazing people try to rebuild and start again. We know how lucky we were and are reminded of this everyday. The displaced and grieving are many, we have a roof over our head and are a complete family. Our days are spent trying to reassure the kids that it will be ok and that we are safe, not an easy thing to do when we have no idea if it will happen again.

It seems that the house is ok and not as bad as we initially believed, as we explained to the kids, the timber frame (the bones of the house) are fine and the brick veneer (the clothes) have been shaken off. While most would accept this, Mia has taken one look at the village and the mess there and is against moving back into the house. She is willing to walk away from the school and friends she loves, she is so scared. When the quake hit, she was in the middle of lunch, without us and knew she needed to run and escape, but the force meant she kept falling. She was terrified and surrounded by screaming people. I can completely understand her terror and reluctance to move back, especially as the village still looks and feels like a war zone.

We have gone from taking one hour at a time to going day to day. This city and it's people have a long way to go but I have no doubt it will be done together. The help and support strangers have given each other is incredible. Unfortunately this is the sort of disaster that unites people and Kiwis are no exception. The radio has been broadcasting phone calls from people offering help of all kinds to strangers - water delivery, beds in homes, whatever they can offer. It is humbling and wonderful what people can do for others, if only it was a worldwide effort.

I cannot say thank you enough for the love, support and messages from everyone back home and around the world. It has helped us feel connected and to know that we are not alone in a place of complete chaos and panic.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Our first day trip - Akaroa

The crazy bunch on a day trip.
The decision to go on our first day trip did not initially come about as a desire to explore but to send our kids to sleep.  After many late nights, the girls were extremely grumpy and tired and the only thing that would end the foul moods was enforced rest.  So strapping them into their car seats we set off.  How grateful we were to the kids because it was a beautiful day and a wonderful drive.

We left home and wound our way through the leafy suburbs of Cashmere and Westmorland, lovely areas that hug the hills.  It was a stunning day and as always, locals escape outside and it was busy with cyclists, walkers and kids playing in local parks.  From our house all the way to Akaroa - 1.5 hour drive, 94 kms - there is not one traffic light!  I just realised this and it amazed me.  Sorry for the diversion.

We left the suburbs and hit true country through Tai Tapu and down through the Banks Peninsula.  The road runs directly under the craggy cliffs of the hills and rises next to the car on one side while on the other is the flat Canterbury Plains that stretch into the distance.  By now true animal spotting was happening from the back seat, the joy of seeing cows, sheep and horses has not worn off yet.  However the lure of an ice-cream for girls who sleep sees Amy close her eyes and nod off - one down, one to go.

The countryside changes dramatically as you turn a corner and you head into the lush mountains that circle the ancient volcano.  The road gently winds its way up and over the mountains and brings you into the sheltered harbour of Akaroa.  It is so beautiful and best seen on a clear, sunny day, so we were very lucky.  The village of Akaroa is small and is influenced by the original French settlement of 1840. The street signs are mainly French and the buildings are quaint and tiny, it is like visiting an old world village except that the shops sell beautiful arts and crafts and the restaurants serve the best of modern NZ cuisine.

We had a wonderful lunch at a cafe, that served the best BLAT sandwich I have ever had, yum!  A gentle walk along the main street and down to the wharf ending with the promised ice-cream concluded our trip to Akaroa.  It was a great day and ended with both girls sleeping all the way back home.  A perfect end to a great day.  I think there will be many more day trips in store for us over the coming weeks and months.
Slightly more composed.

Coming down into Akaroa Harbour.

The crater surrounding the harbour

Amy fast asleep with her favourite book.

The beautiful countryside.

A philosophical note

When we made the decision to move to New Zealand we made the decision to not only make a change in location but in the way we live our lives.  That meant lowering stress and living a more relaxed life.  However, it is harder than I thought it would be.  That made me ask, do we and people in general, seek out stress in our lives?  Do we need it?  Most people claim to want a stress-free lifestyle but is it possible?  Would we allow ourselves that induldence?  Could we live that way?
When we first arrived we had residual stress from our old lives in Sydney - trying to get our bond money back from nightmare landlords, trying to get our belongings from an incompetent  shipping company and settling in to new surroundings.  With time slipping away and those original issues resolved, would stress be a thing of the past?  Not likely!  I am sure that elements of everyday life bring with it stress, it is unavoidable.  The kids, running late, meetings, getting dinner on the table ect, ect but why do I choose to increase it more than necessary?  With those initial stress factors gone, I looked for something else that bought more stress.  We decided that we loved it here so much that we would look to buy.  That in itself is stressful, but we took it a step further and decided we would buy land and build.

Now this may not sound so bad, but our plot of land was at the top of a volcanic hill with a wonderfully, sloping angle thrown in for good balance.  All the builders that took a look, drew in their breath and you could see the dollar signs adding up behind their eyes.  The stress of wanting to make this work while not spending a fortune was building.  The thought of rock blasting and excavation, coupled with an undefined cost before we even started to build sent me into a panic.  Most sane people would call it off instantly but it took me slightly longer, maybe I'm a slower learner. I got there in the end and realised that if it was stressing me now in the planning stages, the build would have put me into overload.

Maybe due to impatience or needing to include a level of stress in my life, I haven't put the house situation out of my head.  I did learn that building in our desired location was difficult and expensive so we have decided to buy a house ready made by people who have gone through the stress for us. 

So while waiting until later in the year would make sense, I am doing it the other way and starting now.  Why I'm not so sure, maybe the fear that I'll miss out on that perfect house if I wait.  But whatever happens I am determined to take it easy and not stress.  I want to exude that calm, peaceful, relaxed persona that I see in others.  I don't want to be late in the mornings and rush kids to school or wedge in homework while cooking, cleaning and folding washing in the evening.  I am sure it can be done, I have hope that one day I will look like that woman in Home magazine with a pristine house and kids, dinner made, ironing done and bread made for the morning. 

But deep down, I know this will never happen. I'd miss the stress and who am I kidding, the woman in the magazine has a team of stylists, cooks and slaves to make her look like that - I'm not even sure the kids are real!  So for now, my hope is to look at life a little differently and try to reduce the rush and stress wherever possible.  I have realised that like most things in our lives - it comes from me, I make it happen so I can make it go away.  Taking one day at a time, lets see what happens....

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Feeling at home

A weekend drive in the hills behind the house

The kids and Rich freezing it out for a picture

The view across the Port Hills to Lyttleton

Our favourite cafe, Joe's Gararge

The girls are braver than I - swimming at the beach

Amy disappearing into a tidal pool
Is it possible to feel so completely comfortable in a new place and fall in love with your new home so quickly? We have now been here only a week and a half and already I feel like I have found a place for myself in the world.  I sit here writing this looking out across Pegasus Bay to the Pacific Ocean and I feel calm and happy and content.  The wind has come up this afternoon and it has caused big rollers to  storm in towards the beach.  The sun is setting, and the wispy clouds have turned a pale pinky, orange shade. I am sure it is raining over the Kaikoura Mountains  and out over the sea as it has a misty, fuzzy look in the distance.  Even though the weather is less than calm, it soothes me and leaves me feeling that I am in the best place in the world right now.

I have landed in a beautiful part of the world where life is calmer and more relaxed and people are not as skeptical and time-worn as Sydney. It is refreshing to find people who say hello walking down the street in the village and wave to you as they drive past.

Today the girls and I heading down to the beach and spent a couple of hours collecting shells, running up and down the beach and playing is tidal pools left as the tide went out to sea.  It was amazing, the beach was busy with kids playing, dogs barking with sheer joy at being able to run and play in the surf and people wandering along enjoying the day.  What a wonderful way to enjoy the day.

This afternoon we met our first neighbours, thanks to my friendly 4 year old who insisted that we walk to the neighbours below us and say hi.  I am pleased I did because they are lovely.  Zoe has 2 girls and a boy Amy's age. The girls are both older and Mia was in awe of these big girls, following them around like a puppy dog, very cute.  So I feel we are on our way to setting in and meeting the neighbourhood.  I was given the neighbourhood rundown, the information on the school and an introduction on how wonderful life is in Sumner. 

Amy started kindy this week and loved it.  In true Amy form she settled in easily and wasn't fussed when I left 2 minutes after arriving. Her only comment was, "Why are you still here?".  I hope Mia is as easy next week.  Our life is developing a pattern and a rhythm that I am loving.  It is slower and easier without being frustrating.

When we arrived I had in the back of my mind that this was temporary and we would be going back to Sydney in the future.  Maybe this was because of the move to Shanghai which was a disastrous move or maybe because we had made such amazing friends in Sydney.  Whatever the reason, when we left Sydney I was sure we would be returning in a few years, like this was a short term contract.  However, now I know this is where I should be.  I feel connected to this place and I feel like I have come home. 

The next step is finding a permanent home for us - I am working on it, so stayed tuned....

Thanks for reading and for posting comments, it is wonderful to hear from all of you.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A unique experience today

Today I took the girls to see Tangled at the movies.  For convenience we decided to go to the theatre in Sumner.  It is the only suburban cinema in Christchurch still operating after 70 years so this gives you some idea of content of this blog. 

It is very small for a start - approximately the width of a medium sized house and as you enter you are struck by how small it all is on the inside.  A narrow, short hall takes you to the single box office where Dot sits behind her perspex. She and her husband, Harold run the cinema and while she issues the tickets, Harold tries to talk you into a snack from the candy bar.  They are both in their 80's and love their theatre so are more than happy to provide a review of the movie you are planning to see without being asked.  They chatter away about the weather, what is showing and all the while asking us a million questions.  After politely declining the candy bar we head up the hall to the theatre and take our seats.  Mia is amazed by how small the theatre is once inside - no bigger than our lounge room.  The seats are massive and have a tendency to eat you by folding you back up once you have sat down - even worse for small children who don't have the weight to hold them down.  The kids are used to borrowing booster seats at the movies to help them see, so once settled I headed back to the candy bar to ask if they had them.  "Of course" says Harold and off he goes to the room behind the box office.  He returns with 2 purple, silk cushions 20cmx20cm and about 1cm thick and asks if I can kindly return them at the end as they came off their couch. Very sweet, even if they are useless.  The kids loved them.

We were surprised by the number of people who turned out to see the movie - all young kids from about 7-15 years with some older people mixed in.  As it got dark some kids got a bit silly and before I could do a shhh, an adult at the back called out "If that's you Bill Johnson, your mother will hear about it, now be quiet."  To be followed by someone else with "Is that you Wendy, what are you doing out today, I thought you had to work, fancy a cuppa after the movie?" and so the back and forth conversation went in the dark until the movie started.

As we left, and returned the pillows, Dot and Harold bid us farewell and made us promise to return soon.  It was a wonderful experience of stepping back in time to a simpler life in a village where everyone knows you.

The box office at the Hollywood 3 cinema in Sumner.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Settling in

Mia on the Sumner Esplanade with Cave Rock behind

Rich and Amy at Cave Rock

Amy cleaning her shells at the beach

Joes Garage in Sumner - best brekkie and coffee ever!

The view from our lounge room, not bad!
Each minute that I spend here confirms that we have made the right move.  Our first weekend was magic!  No other way to describe it, the weather was stunning, it was friendly and laid back and even the kids were happy the whole time.  You can't ask for better than that!

Richard took time out to garden, something he has been wanting to do ever since we saw the house for the first time.  The girls joined in planting new herbs, vegetables and flowers and watering everything in sight.  We now have a beautiful herb garden by the back door that has all our favorite herbs and the vege patch has potatoes, carrots, chillies, broccoli and lettuce.  We are on our way to eating from our garden and I like the sound of that.  It is very dry here and while there are not water restrictions in place, they are thinking of bringing them in for the first time in 13 years.  Lets hope it rains soon!

After a frantic day of stocking the house on Saturday, we gave Sunday over to the girls so they could plan the day.  And what a great job they did!  Sumner has possibly one of the best cafes I have been to called Joes Garage.  It is a place for locals to drop by, passing cyclists to stop for a big brekkie and families to catch up.  We stopped by for a late breakfast on the deck in the sun before strolling down to the beach. 

Sumner beach is broken in two by Cave Rock, a volcanic rocky outcrop in the middle of the beach.  It is a light grey sand beach which was so different from what we were used to, the kids thought it was very special. I didn't when they walked it through my new car a short while later.  We spent the rest of the morning walking along the beach and collecting shells and driftwood for a wooden vegetable basket that Richard wants to make.  It was lovely!

So our first weekend was fantastic and made me wish we could have this and have brought our friends with us!  It would have made it complete.

To top that off, Richard started his new job today and I don't know which one of us was more excited!  It has been wonderful for the girls and me to have him around but it was time for him to return to work and so I was pleased that he had a great first day.

I have Amy starting Kindy next Monday and Mia starting school the Monday after and then I will start to explore this beautiful city and the surrounding areas.  Stay tuned for more...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

How to all started...

My life had a rhythm and a flow. It was predictable but it was a good life.  All that changed when my husband Richard lost his job last October.  They say most people can last on their savings for 1-2 paychecks and they are probably right.  It was incredibly stressful and a time that tested our relationship in so many ways.  After countless job interviews and almosts and then thanks but no thanks, we had to question what we were doing.  One night after a very small bottle of wine, I threw a stupid question out there - "Why are doing this to ourselves, maybe someone out there is trying to tell us something." Now I am not one of those "the universe is talking to me" kind of people, but it seemed like this was an us as a family at a cross roads in our life where we had an opportunity to make a change. 

That comment made by a very tipsy woman was taken literally by Richard and before I knew it he was looking at jobs, houses, schools, commutes ect.  It started to sound good - a life slower, relaxed and in a stunning environment.  Why not, I'd be stupid to turn it down and before I knew it I was getting excited about a life in New Zealand. 

We researched Auckland and realised that was just moving from one large city to another (I know it is smaller).  If we were going to make this change - why not make it a big one.  We chose the South Island and Christchurch for its' beauty and location to everything in the South Island, it is small and friendly and seemed like a complete change to what we were used to. 

Without either or us ever having been to Christchurch, we applied for jobs, looked at schools and made appointments to view houses and flew over at the start of December not knowing if we would love it or hate it.  Of course, like most people we loved it - it is a beautiful city with friendly people and so much to offer.  We secured a house and school and decided we would move - the only thing we didn't have was a job. 

Luckily, that was our new year's present.  Richard had applied for a job with Christchurch City Council and after completing a very long online application knew he had no chance of success.  A week later, he was informed he had made it through to the second stage and had to complete an online test.  Even more convinced of failure after completing this mammoth exam, he made it through to the final stage and was offered the job.  What a surprise and a great one at that.  This amazing city is aiming at zero landfill and the job is to work with the company that gives new life to the masses of rubbish that plague any city.  Turning glass, plastic and other waste into something useable again and educating companies on how they can follow suit. It is so nice to get paid to do something you are passionate about and it good for our planet.

Now was the hard part, to leave an amazing group of friends, an incredible school that the kids and I loved and my family.  We moved to Lane Cove at the start of 2010 thinking it would mean being closer to the school but never believing it would be a life changing move.  I don't think it would have been if we had moved anywhere but Cogan Place, quite simply the best street on earth!  Even writing this makes me sad thinking of the street.  It was one of those streets where your neighbours turn out to be great friends and a Saturday afternoon can end up with everyone sitting on your front lawn, having a wine and nibbles and playing street cricket.  It was incredible and the best 11 months I have ever had living anywhere!  So leaving was very, very hard and I haven't even touched on Currambena or my parents!

Saying that, we did get on the plane of the 14th January and fly 3 short hours to start our new life.  And here we are.  All this rambling bought me to this point. We arrived yesterday and knew instantly that we had made a move for the better.  I bought a car on the internet (stupid I know except this is Christchurch we are talking about) and was sure my deposit had ended up in Nigeria or we would be driving away in a wreck, instead we were met by the most wonderful, honest and generous used car salesman you could ever meet and were given the keys to a fantastic, almost new Subaru Forester (pronounced Su-baar-ru).  Amazing, it restored my trust in humanity! 

The house we rented sits above the small, seaside village of Sumner.  A stunning town that looks out over the ocean with quaint little cafes (serving the best coffee Rich has ever tasted) and has a perpetual holiday atmosphere.  From every room in the house we have a view down the valley to the village and the ocean beyond.  Even the kids have not missed the beauty with Mia commenting that going to the toilet is so special because of the view you get when sitting on the toilet. 

Today was spent running around getting all the necessary ingredients to set up an empty house.  You know it's going well, when after 5 hours of trudging around the city and different shops with the kids in tow, they aren't whinging "When are we finished, I'm bored".  We are all set up and now all we need is the furniture.

So I am sitting here writing the first of many blogs, watching the sun setting over the ocean.  The light is touching the water and highlighting the mountains, the clouds are swirling in, forming amazing images and I have a glass of Marlborough Sav Blanc in my hand.  My life has taken a massive turn and I am, right now, loving it!  I will let you know how it goes....