Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The evil Egg cartons - part 3 - by Liam

Basically I am a normal house cat named Ollie and I am in a recycling bin in the kitchen of my house with an egg carton behind me, an angry egg carton. I turned around just in time to see it winding up to do a strong and painful egg carton swing. It gave me a tremendous whack on the head which was enough to make me run as fast as any Olympian sprinter cat. After retreating ten feet from the seen of battle I glanced back to see the egg carton smiling in the recycling bin. Well so much for that battle.

Don’t get me wrong. I did have more successful attacks, like the time I attacked one from the inside. I used the same approach as before except no paper bit my tail and I did it at night. When I got to the top of the recycling bin I saw an egg carton sleeping soundly with its mouth wide open. For some reason it stank. Maybe it carried rotten eggs? Who knows? It started to stretch. I knew I needed to act and fast. I leapt into its smelly mouth and disconnected the top of its body from the bottom. I did not retreat fast enough and the smelly one's pal gave me another whack on the head. After retreating I thought things over. Maybe the egg cartons had learnt their lesson? I decided to test my theory. The egg cartons did not even dare look over the edge of the bin. I had conquered the egg cartons and made the house safe!!!
The end.

Thanks to Ollie, who let me take photos of him and sat in my lap while I typed (although he chewed me half the time).

Keep watch for the next book, A Lovely Life.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The World is Watching

Doug here - yes, I do exist ;-)

Carolyn & I are watching the US election with great interest. We're avid readers of US news websites and we get CNN, Fox News & CNBC on our satellite TV, but we also follow the election in the NZ newspapers and TV. I've read that this election is almost being followed as closely by foreigners as it is by Americans (here's a good article) and from what I see here in NZ, I think it's true. There's no doubt that US economic & political policies have huge impacts on people around the world.

US's reputation has taken a beating in all corners of the world this decade, and this corner is no exception. But I sense that the tide is turning with this election. Regardless of who wins the election this November, it appears that Americans may be able to look beyond race, sex and religion when it comes to picking their next leader. For a country that prides itself in being open minded and being a meritocracy, it's always amazed me that the US is one of the few developed nations that has always elected a male leader from the majority race and usually from the majority religion. The "best" the US has done to this point is elect one Catholic leader. But seemingly out of nowhere, we've now got a Catholic , an African American , a Mormon , a woman and a Baptist minister all in serious contention. This is really exciting. This is historic.

We've only been living in New Zealand for three months now but we like what we see when it comes to its protection of minorities' rights. Yes, there's lots of controversy around how the Europeans took control of the country from the native Maori, but today all official government business is performed in two languages (English & Maori) and Maori customs and language are taught in the public schools. A woman current holds the country's position of Prime Minister, and until last year, a woman held the CEO position of NZ's largest listed company (Telecom NZ). In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing nation in the world where all women had won the right to vote. Even the construction signs have women worker symbols on them as you can see from the photo above that I took today on my drive into town. The country still has a ways to go though when it comes to separation of church and state (see our Bible Study entries of last month)...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The evil Egg cartons - part 2 - by Liam

The egg cartons entered the story two days after my arrival. By then I had memorized all the humans’ names except mine. I thought they called me Ollie. The biggest was Pop or Doug, the second largest was Carolyn or Mom, The second smallest was Liam and the smallest was Colin.

The egg cartons lived in the recycling bin. The humans would put them in the recycling bin and leave them there for around a week before taking them to a place unknown to me. They expected me to keep them under control.

It was not an easy job because egg cartons are very tricky little things. One whack on the head can hurt quite a lot. On one of my many attacks the very thing happened to my poor head. I was trying to catch the colony by surprise by sneaking up from behind. My plan worked well. I got within striking range with out being spotted. I pounced into the recycling bin landing perfectly on an egg carton. Before I had the chance to wipe it off the face of the earth, a piece of paper hit my tail. Hard. I turned around to give it a taste of its own medicine, forgetting the egg carton completely. After dealing with the paper I remembered the egg carton………..To be continued

Friday, January 25, 2008

The evil Egg cartons - by Liam

I decided to write about Ollie the cat. Colin and I got him for Christmas. He is black with a little white fur. I wrote it based on his actions from his position. This is it.

Book one
It was two maybe three or for days after my arrival in the Kirkpatrick’s house and I was searching the house for anything moving when out of the corner of my eye I saw the evil realm of the egg cartons. Last time I messed with it, one attacked me. I barely escaped.

I am guessing you want to know the whole story so I will tell it to you right from the start.

It all started one morning. I woke up in a dark cardboard box with two holes in the sides, not very luxurious for a cat.

I immediately checked for signs. I suck my nose through one of the holes. Nothing except for some cat food. My keen ears picked up a human saying “There is a cat in the house.”

I meowed reeeeealy loudly. I could hear many human feet getting closer and closer.

Next thing I knew I was being held by a small human the other humans called Liam. I loved the attention.

The whole day I attacked the wrapping paper that was over populating the house fast. I got very little help from anybody. After biting down on the paper I learnt that paper is not the most appealing thing to my taste buds.

To be continued…soon

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Some of the ducklings are back

At the end of December, we discovered eight ducklings motorboating around the pond. We were so excited that we posted a slide show of them on our 31 December blog entry. Then the ducklings disappeared. We didn't see them for about 3 weeks. Yesterday, they were back. Well two of the ducklings and the mom. Six ducklings are gone. Whatever is getting them can swim or fly, because they live on a small island in the center of the pond. Our neighbor suggested a stoat or weasel is the culprit.

The picture above shows our the two remaining ducklings.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A movie recommendation for you

I have a movie recommendation for you. Okay, it may not be a date movie, but if you have children ages 7 to 12 or so, or if you want to see a film shot in our new neighborhood, go see Water Horse: Legend of the Deep. Liam and Colin really enjoyed the story. Doug and I enjoyed seeing the scenery. The story is based on the legend of the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, but much of the filming was done around Queenstown and Glenorchy, within a couple miles of our new home.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

All moved in (a wee bit of unpacking to do)

Friday, 18 December

The truck with the rest of our stuffed arrived. Uncovering the damage continued. I will never buy a highly polished piece of furniture again. Anyone who has seen our dining room table knows that was just begging for a scratch with its high gloss surface. I admit it was a dumb piece of furniture to buy in the first place. Well, when we unwrapped it, scratches were the least of our worries. Pieces of gauged wood fell out of the wrapping paper. We are now definitely going for the hopefully ever-popular distressed look in our new home. At 5:30 pm the movers climbed into their truck and left. The boys’ playroom is already inches deep in LEGO® pieces. We are happy to have our new home to ourselves and to start settling.

Saturday morning, we were having our first real breakfast at home. There was a knock at the door. Amusingly, all four of us rose from the breakfast table together to answer the door. We haven’t had many visitors yet and all of us were curious to see who was calling. It was Brian our new neighbor. He was holding a huge box. I was thinking maybe my parents or Doug’s sent a Christmas package and Brian had been holding it for us. No. Brian had actually found the box down on the main road into Queenstown. It was one of our moving boxes and he recognized our name. Hmmm…I wonder how many more boxes are scattered between here and Denver?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Move - Day Two

Thursday, 17 December

The second day of the move was slower than the first. For one thing the rest of our stuff was in transit from Christchurch. The supervisor reached his allowable driving hours on the road back to Queenstown so he had to stop for the night. I was relieved. I much prefer to have him sleep and arrive tomorrow than for him to drive exhausted.

We spent the day unpacking. We shouldn’t have been surprised with what we found after the debacle of a packing job by the movers in Denver, but until we opened the boxes and unwrapped our belongings I had guess I had forgotten. I am fairly convinced that the movers just ran around our Denver house and randomly threw our belongings in boxes. Some items, like the mop and brooms, were carefully wrapped. Other more fragile pieces had no protective wrapping at all. At first, I was furious. The fact that I am literally on the other side of the world from our Denver moving company is probably a good idea at this point. As the day wore on Doug and I began to see the humor, the absurdity. My underwear was packed among the copper oil lamps and flowerpots. We brought everything from our home in Denver, including our trash and recycling. Luckily, there is recycling service here too. Today’s picture shows Doug’s silk ties. The packer must have removed them from the hanger, held them like a bunch of daisies and then wrapped them tight around the middle with packing tape. What was he thinking?

We keep reminding ourselves stuff is stuff, not worth getting worked up about. It’s not the stuff that irks me, however, it’s the lack of care. I am not going to name names, but anyone in Denver planning a move, email me and I will tell you which moving company not to use.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Ruby Girl

Enough about the move for now. This morning Liam wrote a blog entry he wants to share.

Liam typing.

Yesterday Mom and I went out on Ruby, the station horse. I rode in the front of the saddle while Mom rode on the back. Mom brought along some carrots to feed to Ruby. As Mom got on the saddle Ruby turned her head around and almost stole one of the carrots. Ruby is a very large horse. Mom and I took the long route to the riding ring. It went past the Alpaca, the other horses and the end of lake Dispute. When we arrived at the riding arena Mom took of the saddle we where riding on and put on the junior saddle so I could ride ruby around. At first I walked ruby around in circles and then got her to change directions and trot while Mom held the lead line. After around ten minutes of riding with the lead line Mom took it of. I did a couple of laps in the arena and on all of them ruby stopped at the gate. Mom said “today try to get Ruby past the gate with out her stopping.” It took some time but I did it. When we got back to the house Colin gave me the most jealous look. I smiled back. I would love to ride with Mom again.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Move-in Day

Wednesday, 16 December

Our move-in day is a bit of a blur. Here are a few moments I remember.

We woke early, packed our last couple of possessions and waved a hasty good-bye to the shoebox apartment.

We drove out to the new house to leave Doug to meet the movers. As I drove back into Queenstown to drop the boys at school we passed the moving truck. The boys were thrilled. They spent the rest of the drive talking about all their stuff that would be waiting in their new rooms.

The dirt road up to the house was too narrow for the moving truck so the movers had to shuttle loads from the semi to the house in a smaller truck, which slowed down the unloading process.

The day was going okay until early afternoon when the supervisor of the moving crew mentioned that about a third of our stuff was still in Christchurch (a seven hour drive from our house). He suggested that sometime next week we would receive the rest of our stuff. After some discussion between Doug and the supervisor and a few phone calls, the supervisor headed back to Christchurch for the rest of our stuff. He plans to return tomorrow afternoon.

We seemed to have half of everything, like a mattress but not a bed frame, or half a bed frame. The good news was we were able to find blankets and sheets so we were all able curl up for the night.

When I picked up the boys from school I picked up Fergburgers and fries. We had the classic first night in a new home picnic on the floor among the boxes!

I am exhausted after a day of moving and I didn’t even do the heavy lifting. I truly don’t know how these guys on the crew move homes every day of the week. They have no need for Pilates or the gym on the way home from work.

Pictures of the move are boring. Instead, here’s a slideshow of our local harrier that silently patrols the hillside.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

I know it sounds too cliché to be true

Monday, 17 December

Since we closed on our house this morning and we move in on Wednesday, I guess now is the time to tell a bit about our new home. I feel almost silly saying this, because it sounds like a complete cliché, but we have moved to New Zealand and will be living on a sheep station. Right now little lambs dot bright green hills.

After closing on the house, we threw a load of stuff into the car. Packing everything in suitcases wasn’t possible because I hid the boys’ Christmas presents in the suitcases. We headed out to the house with a first load of stuff from the shoebox apartment. We almost felt the event was staged. We drove up to the house; baaing filled the air. As we unloaded the car we could see lambs and moms leaping and bounding down the hill into a pasture below the house.

Luckily, we are not “running” the station. Doug and I are short on those skills at the moment. There is a farm manager. Residents like us live on the station and can participate or not with daily farm activities. Who knows what the future holds…Doug a stationman tending sheep? I am sure crazier things have happened.

Oddly, we don't have a shot of Doug and any sheep yet. I promise take one and upload it for your viewing pleasure. I've included photo taken the day the lambs were culled.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Auntie Jean’s Birthday

Sunday, 16 December

A howl to the moon for my kindred spirit yogi gallop with the wind blowing through your hair crazy auntie – I am part of you, I love you.

On a more civilized note, we had a yummy BBQ at Liam’s classmate’s house tonight. The family has three boys so all the kids raced around while the adults chatted. Again, another step towards Queenstown feeling like home is making friends and finding common interests. We had great time. Liam and Colin seemed both thrilled and relieved that their old parents were making friends too.

Moon photo: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jandals and Togs Season

Saturday, 15 December

We really have been having trouble getting too much in the traditional Christmas spirit. We move into our new home six days before Christmas so all four of us are counting down the days to move-in as much as to Christmas. We haven’t decorated the Shoebox apartment because we will be gone before Christmas and we have all our regular Christmas decorations arriving soon. The boys have made some Christmas projects at school, which are prominently displayed in the apartment. The boys also have advent calendars propped up on the table to remind us of the season. Another weird factor is that nothing feels like Christmas. The weather is warm. The sun sets at bedtime. The overdone store displays and Christmas tunes wafting from every door along the street aren’t happening. Instead everyone is sprawled in togs and jandals (translation: bathing suits and flip-flops) on the banks of Lake Wakatipu. There isn’t the same frantic quality to the season that I remember from the States. Christmas is coming, but no frenzy is necessary. I think I like this more laidback, summer-break approach to Christmas. I actually feel quite holiday liberated. We are picking and choosing a few favorite traditions and ditching the rest. We don’t a traditional tree this year, but the boys aren’t bothered in the least. I have fleeting moments when I start to work up my own frenzy about how Christmas should be and look, but then Doug and the boys say they don’t care so I let go. I know that my siblings won’t believe this entry, because usually I am the rabid Christmas tradition hound down to the last detail.

We did do one thing to get in the spirit. We bought tickets and attended the Shotover Jet Remarkables Christmas Spectacular. We decided to get tickets just two days before the event and it was almost sold out. The spectacular was at the Queenstown Events Centre and, even being the new kids in town, we saw lots of new friends. Actually going anywhere in Queenstown without seeing someone we recognize is almost impossible, which is saying something because we know very few people. The night was silly and fun with lots of song and dance performances. There were also traditional Christmas carols the audience sang along with the performers. The winner of the New Zealand Idol was part of the production. We didn’t recognize him, but he seemed to be a big deal. Three hours was a bit much for Liam and Colin and most of the other kids. Liam and Colin joined the steady stream of kids flowing in and out of the auditorium to play on the grass and return for another performance. The highlight of the night was Santa, of course. He arrived in the auditorium in a Shotover Jetboat. All evening Santa’s progress was updated to the audience. We were warned when he got stranded and then when the jetboat finally picked him up. After the performance everyone headed out onto the cricket field behind the centre to say good-bye to Santa. He left by helicopter. I carefully scanned the crowd as Santa was taking off. I can say with certainty that Doug was the most excited kid out there watching Santa hovering over the field and then disappearing beyond the horizon!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Doug and Carolyn become regulars of the Queenstown Internet café scene

Week of 10 – 15 December
Without a laptop, Doug and I spent lots of the week hanging out a various Internet cafes. Luckily, Queenstown has quite a few and we even found one with Macs. We were madly trying to work on health insurance applications and more tax and financial stuff. Without a computer all the little details we usually just did on the Internet became a hassle, like no Skype for phone calls. Doug had been using the internet to monitor currencies as we prepared to transfer funds to close on our new house. We survived. We just missed our little Mac.

I did observe most of the Internet café clientele was a tad bit younger than us. Strange what people will pay to do on a computer. I watched some poker action. One gal, older than me, spent several hours one evening playing solitaire. I kept thinking a deck of cards would have been much cheaper. Almost everyone was wearing headphones, except me. This whole new world for me to observe was distracting.

We did find time to take do some hikes and I practiced yoga. We hiked up to the top of Queenstown Hill and I showed Doug the Basket of Dreams. I have hiked up the hill several times. I wanted to share this mystical spot with Doug.

On the side of the trail as the basket first come into view is a little plaque inscribed:

The Basket's spiral of steel
follows you
to reflect
to draw inspiration from the mountains, lake and from those who are with you,
to dream
for the future.

Time flies, eternity waits.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Once I peed on my head

Sunday, 9 December
We’re driving home after picking up Liam’s buddy for a playdate. This the first friend Liam has invited over since he started school in Queenstown. Liam, his new buddy Mitchell and Colin are in the back seat. I am not paying to close attention to their conversation until I hear Colin say, “Once I peed on my head.”

What? Why? Poor Liam. He’s just trying to establish himself as a normal kid with his new friend. And, here comes his little brother recounting how he peed on his own head last summer on a road trip to Texas. Liam is mortified that he has to claim Colin as his own brother.

Colin, on the other hand, looks fairly pleased with himself. He has at least made a name for himself, even if it is a totally weird and gross name. He also has the full attention of both older boys.

I spend the rest of Mitchell's visit trying to distract and occupy Colin so that Liam can try to hang out with Mitchell without the little brother factor. I had tried to invite a buddy for Colin too. Unfortunately, those plans fell through.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I have the feeling we are not the first Kirkpatricks in these parts. Otago is full of Scots that have immigrated to New Zealand over the last couple of hundred years. We haven't met any other Kirkpatricks, but the lake makes us curious...We wonder after whom the lake was named? If we figure it out, we'll let you know. Anyone out there know the answer?

The lake is just up the road from our new home. We were out exploring the area on 24 November and took a few pictures of the Lake Kirkpatrick sign. These photos were on our small camera and luckily not uploaded. I found the little camera in the backpack, forgotten during the move. We salvaged a few more pictures despite the crashed hard drive. Yeah!

Friday, January 11, 2008


At the end of November Doug somehow linked up our blog so that we could track numbers of readers by city, state, and country. We were amazed and thrilled. We have readers from five continents, 15 countries and 20 US states. Who would have thought?

The most amazing part has been connecting with our blog readers. We get advice, hear our friends travel plans and past adventures, and most importantly, we keep in touch with family and friends – old friends and new ones we’ve made along our way. We started this blog to share our travels with family and friends and to have a family journal of our immigration experience from the US to NZ. Doug and I wanted the boys to have an memory book, of sorts, to remember this time in their lives. What we didn’t anticipate is that we are connecting with more friends and family on a more regular basis than we did before we left the US. The four of us are thrilled when we hear from family members, old friends, colleagues, college, high school, junior high, elementary and preschool buddies…the list goes on and on. The blog has become a much more intimate experience than we expected. It has also reached further then we ever anticipated. It is our journal, sounding board and web of connection to the world beyond our home.

Truly, thank you for the support and keeping in touch.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Hey little sheep, you want a piece of me?

As I was perusing old photos for last night's blog entry, I came across one taken by Colin in 2005 that I thought I would share with you.

At the time of the photo we were staying at Whitestone Cottages in Methven. Colin celebrated his 5th birthday twice! August 5th was his birthday in New Zealand and we skied Mt. Hutt. August 6th was his birthday in the United States and we hiked the Rakaia Gorge Walkway. Colin's birthday present was a digital camera. Colin immediately headed outside and began to document the life and behavior of the Whitestone sheep which fascinated him. Today's photo was one of the first photos ever taken by Colin.

Unbeknownst to Colin, Doug and I followed Colin outside as he went to investigate the sheep. Colin walked right up to the fence, looked eye to eye with an old woolly sheep and said, "Hey little sheep, you want a piece of me?" Doug and I burst out laughing. I am not sure where Colin learned that phrase or if he knew what it meant.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No, I don’t think we are completely crazy

Friday, 7 December

Photograph: Liam, Doug and Colin - Akaroa, 2005

Warning: This entry is a long-winded, rambling trip through my convoluted mind. Feel sorry for Doug who has gone through this whole thought process with me more than once, usually when he's trying to sleep.

No we aren’t crazy. This is a dream that we’ve had since 1990. Back then it was nebulous. We knew we wanted to travel and see the world together. Doug even applied for a scholarship to do a post baccalaureate year studying in Eastern Europe, which we ended up not doing. Then jobs, my masters program, Doug’s first masters, and his second masters preoccupied our time and thoughts. Two babies preoccupied our thoughts even more. We became comfortably settled in Denver.

Only occasionally would I have nightmares that this was my life permanently. I would wake up thinking, is this it? I want to see the world. Maybe I was a late bloomer and didn’t get into enough trouble or maybe because I didn’t spend a semester of college backpacking through Europe, I feel I still have exploring to do. Actually I have always liked exploring, now I am able to explore more globally. The amazing thing is I get to share these adventures with Doug, Liam and Colin by doing them at this stage.

Four years ago, my parents offered to babysit Liam and Colin so Doug and I could take a trip together, alone for ten days. We jumped at the opportunity. We decided to visit some place that we would be less likely to take Liam and Colin. We chose Patagonia, Chile. While trying to figure out our itinerary, we were frustrated with how much travel time was needed to reach our destination. Doug joked we could get to New Zealand faster. Actually we could. We realized we could get all the way to New Zealand with less travel time which meant more hang out and exploration time. So we headed for New Zealand and the trip was more amazing than we ever imagined. We rode horses along Golden Bay at the top of the South Island. We skied at Treble Cone outside of Wanaka. Kiwis that we met were laid back and interesting. We also met lots of people from around the world, some just passing through and others decades long residents. Doug and I both thought now here’s a place we could live, all of our favorite activities and fun people. We enjoyed it so much that we brought the boys back the next August. Watching the boys tumbling down the hillside of the Lake Hawea Station, we started to think seriously about immigrating to New Zealand. I realized I wanted my boys to grow up rough and tumble out-of-doors, in a culture that cherishes the outdoors. We then began to think seriously. We had talked often about wanting the boys to see another perspective beyond the US. Immigrating to New Zealand, combined our goal to give Liam and Colin the opportunity to live outside the US with an truly incredible natural environment. We found the New Zealand Immigration website and realized we could actually immigrate under the skilled migrant category because Doug and I are both engineers.

At this point we began to move from dreams to action. I returned for a third visit to New Zealand. I went by myself because Doug had more limited vacation time and flying one of us was also cheaper. I visited many communities from Queenstown on the South Island to Kerikeri on the North Island, driving much of the country in between. I had left the US with a shortlist of towns to consider. I met interesting, friendly people. I was invited to dine in Kiwis' homes. I made many new friends and contacts. So we actually do know a few people in New Zealand. I asked an endless flood of questions of each person I met. I found traveling alone made meeting people easier. Sitting by myself at a restaurant, I would just start up a conversation with some unsuspecting victim. One night I traded an unfinished pizza for a glass of beer with a group of college students working a tour boat in Akaroa. Next thing I knew we had maps collected from their cars spread out on our table and they marked a route for me to travel across the North Island. I noted with amusement that each of them recommended for me to visit their own hometown as the perfect place to raise my boys. I flew to Wellington and began to follow their suggested itinerary. Along the way I even helped teach a math class, when visiting one school in Raumati South. One of my favorite communities was Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, south of Auckland. There was a fabulous independent school there, the Matahui Road School. I could easily picture the boys there and I was ready to jump right in myself in whatever capacity I could. I showed up at the school on a Sunday afternoon to see if it looked like a place I’d want to visit on Monday morning with school in session. When I arrived a campus workday was underway with parents, students and staff building a new patio. I hung out for a while and then headed into town to find a place to stay. Within an hour there was a knock on my hotel door. One of the families, actually the chair of the school board, had tracked me down and invited me to dinner. They were a wonderful family with three boys. Over the next couple of days exploring the area, they taught me a bit about kiwi fruit farming and Kauri trees. Doug and I looked them up on our next visit to Katikati the following March. They came close to convincing us that Katikati was the place for us to settle. We hope they will visit us in Queenstown someday. These encounters were not isolated, but examples of the warm, friendly people we met. I knew that New Zealand was where we should make our home. I just couldn’t narrow down where without Doug’s help! As I traveled I would find a place to stay with internet service. In the evenings I’d surfed the web to see what towns and communities were on the road ahead of me. I’d make a list of numbers and addresses of schools, realtors, and interesting sites. Each morning before I took off for the day I video-conferenced with Doug and the boys to report my findings from the day before and let them know in which direction I planned to travel. Then, I would head out for another day of discovery. Doug was a tad frustrated when I returned home to the States with a longer shortlist. I hadn’t ruled out any towns and added one, Katikati, during my travels.

We returned together March/April 2007 and did a more focused tour of New Zealand. However, Doug too had trouble narrowing the possibilities. The trip started in Katikati, which he loved like me. The people were just as interesting, eccentric and friendly as my last visit. We stayed at The Point Vinestay. Our hosts, Anne and Kerry Guy, were incredible. They drove us around the area, planned outings for horseback riding, and scheduled appointments with realtors. We barely had time to sleep. We definitely made time to eat because John and Ann were also incredible cooks. We discovered our new favorite fruit, feijoas. Yum. I won’t spoil the surprise by describing them, just go get some and enjoy. It is by far my favorite place that I have stayed in New Zealand. An amazing setting on the bay, but John and Ann are exactly what you dream hosts will be. John had Doug and I in hysterics one day. He drove us around to look at some houses that he thought would interest us and as he put it, “weren’t quite on the market yet.” We arrived at the first house and rang the doorbell. No one answered so we headed on in the house. Then out comes a guy in his robe with a thick accent and he bellows, “John, you never call before you drop by.” He then gives a big laugh and leads us on a tour of his home and property. He is Croatian, so we also spent a long time asking about his home country, a place both Doug and I want to visit. The rest of the real estate tour with John proceeded in much the same manner and lasted most of the day. Doug was also impressed with the Matahui Road School and could envision Colin and Liam there.

We ended our trip in Queenstown and Wanaka on the South Island. This region captured our imagination four years ago. It still enthralled us. I truly felt panicked the first time we flew back to the States from Queenstown. At the time I thought, I might never return and it felt like it should be our home. I had this weird hollow pit in my stomach, the same feeling I have whenever I leave Ojai.

So I rehash our journey and the whole thought process in my mind again and again to remember why we have literally moved around the world to a place where we don’t know anyone. Thus far, I have always reached the same conclusion; this is an experience of a lifetime for all four of us even though each of us will have a few rough, lonely patches as we adjust. And, we are not completely crazy. We were just looking for a wee adventure. We wanted Colin and Liam to see another perspective of everything.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Are we crazy?

Thursday, 6 December

Sometimes, I ask myself are we crazy? We quit our jobs that we both enjoyed, sold our house, took our kids out of a school that was perfect for them, packed all of our belongings, left our close-knit families, said good-bye to fabulous friends and dropped into a place where we know not a soul. Forget not knowing anyone in New Zealand, we don’t know anyone in this hemisphere. Our life in Colorado was more than comfortable. We had everything we needed. I haven’t calculated exactly how many thousands of miles away we are from home, but I can feel that it is far. The distance feels especially far because Liam and Colin have always celebrated Christmas with at least one set and sometimes both sets of their grandparents and a smattering of aunts, uncles and cousins. What are we thinking?

Monday, January 7, 2008

Grrrrr...Bugs and Bears

Wednesday, 5 December – The Ugly Bug Ball

Today the Junior Program, the year 1 and 2 classrooms, held the Ugly Bug Ball to celebrate the end of the Bug Research Unit.  The ball took place on the old tennis court. Parents sat on the grassy hill above the court to watch the performance.  We clustered around the trees to escape the intense sun.  I can’t keep from smiling at the sight of hundreds of little people in large sun hats.  The flower image always comes to mind at the sight of them.  The tulip-heads were back.  Sitting in rows by classroom, they looked like a wild and unruly flower garden swaying to and fro, bobbing up and down.  We lost all the Bug Ball pictures when the hard drive crashed.  So sorry.  You'll just have to close your eyes and imagine the bright spring-time colors and little bodies strutting their stuff.

Each class performed a dance.  The first group paraded and sang, “The ants go marching two by two, hurrah, hurrah.”  They had us in stitches because there was always one odd ant rushing to find a partner.  One class gave a very modern dance-like interpretation of flower pollination.   I know I am prejudiced, but Colin’s class rocked.  They turned up the heat with a hip tune and some fast paced moves.  Colin's class was divided into caterpillars, bees, spiders and butterflies.  Colin was thrilled to be a bee and proud of his aluminum foil helmet and fuzzy antennae we made out of yarn and bendy straws.  Whenever I attend a school production, I have a sense of participating in an age-old tradition.  I remember my performances and sitting through my siblings’ shows.  Now another generation, my own son, performs.

While we were at the Bug Ball, Liam was having a rougher day.  He’s facing the challenges that Colin struggled with two weeks ago and that both Doug and I remember from childhood.  Actually, I would guess, that all of us have probably faced similar challenges at some point, being the new kid on the block and wanting desperately to fit in and have friends.  Keeping composed to the end of the school day is all he can handle right now.  By pick up, Liam’s face is flushed and when I ask about his day his lower lip starts to quiver.  I try to explain to Liam, as I did to Colin, that soon he’ll just be one of the normal kids, not the new kid.  Asking him to be patient doesn’t make him feel any better right now.

The big, protective momma bear lurking inside me wants to yank both boys out of their new school, put us all on a plane, fly home and place them back in their comfortable and familiar life in Denver.  My other half and Doug remind me that learning to cope in uncomfortable and unfamiliar environments is an important skill.  I know that we all, Liam and Colin included, grow through challenge and pushing outside our comfort zone.  The momma bear, however, doesn’t care about growth.  She just wants her babes smiling and content. Grrrrr…

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Monday, Monday

3 December

Okay, at the moment I give up – this health insurance thing is complicated. Taking a few minutes to write a blog entry will be a welcome relief.

Liam, Colin and Doug are off for a little after school cricket practice together. They are all three trying to retrain their baseball pitches and swing. They have just returned to say a Kiwi gentleman passing by stopped to give them a few, much needed pointers. He explained the one-two-three step and how to hold the bat. Cricket seems to represent our new Kiwi life. We have jumped into life and school. We really don’t know the finer points, but everyone we meet seems willing to give us pointers.

Tuesday, Tuesday, 4 December

The tempo of our family life has completely changed. I don’t know if we had to come half way around the world to accomplish these changes but our move to New Zealand coincided with other changes in our lives, namely Doug and I both quit our jobs. I had only been back to work for a year and a half since Colin had entered full time school. Doug began his career as an equity analyst the year before Liam was born. Doug left for work before the boys awoke and returned after they ate dinner. Family dinners were reserved for weekends. Usually I fed the boys and then Doug and I ate together once the boys were in bed. Now Doug is home for breakfast, he sometimes has time to play cricket after school, and we all cook and eat dinner together. At the moment, the pendulum has swung to the far extreme. Eventually we will most likely find a middle ground. Once we are settled in our new home in the New Year, Doug’s work responsibilities will increase. Hopefully we will reach a balance. I know the boys and I cherish seeing Doug more often in the daylight. Over time we will see if it is just our inexperienced perspective, but there does seem to be a better balance between home and work here than in the States.

I have personal and selfish benefits that accompany Doug’s lifestyle changes. So the changes in Doug’s schedule are at least three-fold for me. I spend more time with Doug, my sons spend more time with their pop and I have the freedom to pursue early morning activities. Since childhood, I have always preferred to wake up and head out for exercise. My preference for early morning activity probably stems from heading to the barn every morning to feed my horse and muck out my stall as a child. The whole day feels better when I exercise first. I have more focus and energy. When the boys were really little, I strapped them into the double stroller and gave each boy their own bag of frozen bagel pieces to gnaw on as I power walked with the rising sun. Then they became too big for stroller rides but too small for power walks, and Doug was gone at work so I couldn’t leave the house. I can now take an early morning yoga class several mornings a week while Doug makes breakfast and gets the boys ready for school. I have found a wake-up yoga class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I can sneak out just before the rest of the household awakes and I am back to take the boys to school.

I have never been in a yoga studio with such an incredible view as the Unity Yoga studio. We greet the morning with sun salutations facing out across Lake Wakatipu, which is bathed in the same soft light that fills the studio. While I am supposed to be moving inward, I find myself mesmerized by the sunlight creeping down Cecil Peak on the far side of Lake Wakatipu. I swear I can balance in tree pose better than ever before when I focus my gaze on an old wooden yacht moored beyond the wharf.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


The Weekend,
1 - 2 December

At 8:45 in the morning, Liam had a cricket match against Wanaka. Colin had cricket practice during Liam’s game. Doug let me sleep in and carpooled to the cricket events. I was feeling creaky and sore. Strange we slept on all those rock hard beds through Turkey and Greece, but my ribs start to get creaky once we are back sleeping on a regular mattress. Hmm… don’t know.

The middle of the day was a disaster. The boys are sick of shoebox apartment life. The only entertainment they seem able to find at the moment is tormenting one another. I wouldn’t mind so much if they just tormented each other, but they are in the same room with me or very close by so that I have to listen to the endless heckling. Doug and I realize that to get through the close quarters for the next few weeks, we will just have to get out and do anything. The problem is once the boys descend into a funk, we almost have to carry them out the door. Ugh.

I felt relief, tinged with just a tad of guilt, as I headed out to my late afternoon yoga workshop (I was almost running out the door! A little time to meditate, breathe and focus inward… with no whining). While I focused on my breathing, Doug took the boys on a forced outing to explore Queenstown, followed by Fergburgers and a movie. The change of scenery seemed to do all of us loads of good. When they picked me up from yoga three hours later, all of us were smiling and ready to reunite.

Getting to know some yogis here in town is making Queenstown feel one step closer to home. The end of class ritual at Unity Yoga is tea and biscuits. I am not sure if this is a tradition at all studios in New Zealand, but I enjoy the few moments to chat at the end of class as we sip our tea – so friendly and civilized. For US readers, biscuits are cookies.

Sunday, December 2

Liam and Doug are at the NZ Open golf tournament for the day. Colin and I have the day to ourselves. We did the grocery shopping and bought supplies to make Colin’s costume for the Bug Ball on Wednesday. Colin called and invited his school buddy Aurum over to play. We decided today was the perfect day to have a friend to play because Liam is gone. Having playdates is another step towards making Queenstown our home. Because the boys are so close in age, when one of them has a friend to play the other brother always joins the group. Both Liam and Colin cherish the opportunity to have a playdate without their bother’s input. With only one small set of Legos, a backgammon board and a deck of cards for toys in the shoebox apartment, we headed to the park on the lake in the Queenstown Gardens. I am sitting in the shade on a park bench writing this blog entry, listening to the jetboats, and watching the steamboat dock. Tourists stroll past to walk in the gardens. From my bench, if I raise my eyes I am looking straight up at the Skyline Gondola that climbs up the hill behind the boys’ school. The Earnslaw now chugs out of town back across the lake. There are downy drifts of cottonwood several inches deep all around my bench and the playground. They are irresistible. I grabbed big handfuls and tossed them in the air as did Colin and Aurum and about half a dozen other people passing by my bench.

When I picked up Aurum this morning, I chatted for a while with his mom. It is fun to finally get to know some of Colin’s classmates and families. We had what started as a typical introductory conversation. She asked where we were from in the States and I asked how long she’s been in Queenstown. She asked what Doug and I did. I said I was a teacher and Doug was a portfolio manager for an international mutual fund. She was also a teacher, like me, and her husband was a skydiver. Not a plumber, dentist or something of the sort, but a professional skydiver. I told Doug whatever he does for his next career must sound more exciting so that we can fit in here. Everyone we meet seems to have much more exciting occupations. One guy is a pilot, the next is a skydiver and the next has a monster truck business. The education and finance worlds just aren’t sexy enough.

We must be settling in because we did the same thing two weeks in a row, Sunday dinner in Arrowtown. We ate outside and watched two P40 Kitty Hawks doing loop-de-loops over the golf course and town.

P.S. Does anyone want to come and visit? We’ll trade room and board for a night on the town. Doug and I are ready for a date night. Our next goal is to find a babysitter…

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Sespe Capital

Friday, November 30

Today Doug and I started a New Zealand company, Sespe Capital Ltd. More details on the company once we are settled in out new home in the New Year.

Our inspiration for the company's name came from our own connection to the Sespe Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest that is adjacent to our high school, The Thacher School. Doug and I started "going out" in May 1985 on a week-long horse packing, called an Extra-day Trip, in the Sespe with my father, sister and some of our best friends from Thacher. Here's a photo of the two of us from that long ago camping trip. I expect most Thacher Toads have spent a night or two sleeping on the dusty Sespe floor, watching the stars, smelling the sage and resting tired sore legs from a long day's ride.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

My New Sport

Liam speaking (and typing).

Cricket is a lot like baseball except for the time amounts. Majors’ games can last up to three days and my games are around three hours long. It gets pretty boring.

Cricket games have innings like baseball, but in baseball innings are over when there are three outs and in cricket innings are over when all the players have batted. In my league we do one innings.

Cricket talk

Bowler - A bowler bowls the ball to a batter.

Wicket - Wickets are three poles in the ground. If the bowler hits the wickets the batter is out.

Wicket keeper - When the bowler misses the wickets, the wicket keeper fields the ball.

Backstop - Backs up the wicket keeper.

Innings - Plural is always used even if it is a single innings.


Ball - A little harder than a baseball.

Bat - A bat is three sided. The hitting side is larger than the other two.

Batting pads - When you are batting you have to wear very hot pads all over your body for protection against the rock hard balls.


There are no gloves allowed except for the batter and the wicket keeper!


White shirt, white pants, white socks and a hat.

I am thinking about not playing cricket next year and playing golf because I went to the New Zealand Open golf tournament. It was pretty cool, but it is my next blog.

To see positions of players, use the diagram and the key.

Key for Cricket Field Diagram

1 (Red) = Wicket keeper
2 (Red) = Backstop
3,4,6,7 and 8 (Red) = Fielders
5 (Red) = Bowler

9 (Green) = Non-batting batter
10 (Green)= Batting batter

Boundaries and Wickets
11 and 12 (Yellow) = wickets
13 = boundary line
Dim lines =lower grass

p.s. Carolyn here now. I just found a blog entry that should have posted 8 December, titled "Good On You, Colin and Liam." I was writing about the 15-16 November, the boys first few days of cricket. There is a link to photos from Liam's first game. I am not sure why it wasn't posted already.