Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Baby, You're A Firework

I'm coming up on my 2 year anniversary in New Zealand. Man, it's a been a busy and exciting two that's for sure. The physical beauty of this country continues to take my breath away on an often daily basis. The day this picture was taken, I had just walked to the beach to get some fresh air with Hazel and Thurston and voila - a school of dolphins. They were jumping up, twisting, turning. and bobbing in and out of the water. It was truly magical. 

With my anniversary approaching, I've been thinking about all the things I'm use to now, but culturally are really very different than life back home. Take trampolines for instance. When I was growing up, I knew maybe one kid that had a trampoline and that was definitely their claim to fame. Here, it's like every other house has one so it's more like the American equivalent of being divorced or having a butterfly tattoo on the small of your back.

Did you know we don't tip here? You won't see a sign like this, but it sure would be funny if you did:

It took some getting use to but I actually really love it. When you see a price on a menu, at a shop, at the salon, etc. tax and tip are already included. As someone who has made many a rent with tips I always appreciated those who help support my fancy bourbon and massage habit, but it's great having that tipping pressure removed from situations. So now if my hair dresser tells me she broke up with her boyfriend and is going to India to find herself  I don't feel the need to make a hefty contribution to her ashram stay and can just give emotional support for her book, "Eat, Pray, Blow Dry- How I Helped Change the World One Haircut at a Time. "

The negative side of this no tipping thing is that customer service can really stink. There are different kinds of bad customer service - there is the general bad attitude kind, the I hate my job and now you must pay for it kind, the no matter what you say I'm going to repeat the few lines I've learned and act like a machine even though I'm human kind, and the I have no idea what's going on, but I do actually work here and at least I'm nice kind. NZ customer service usually falls in the latter from my experience. It can be a little crazy making but I usually have other things to worry about, like this little ladybird:

It's ladybugs to Americans and ladybirds to Kiwis.

And a dog is called a dog. There are so many different words for things that I just pick and choose which ones I like best. Patriotic I know. For instance, Kiwis call flip flops jandals. Jandals doesn't do it for me so I stick with flip flops. Ladybird, that's pretty cute so I'll go with that. On the Halloween front, people do celebrate it here but nothing like the US. They do the trick or treating part but that's about it and it's only been in the past few years that it's really done.

What Kiwis do celebrate is Guy Fawkes Day. It's an old English event celebrated on the night of November 5th with bonfires and fireworks. What this means in New Zealand is that from Nov 2nd- 5th you can buy fireworks, but only on those three days and the rest of the year it is illegal. So during that time you see pop up shops selling fireworks all over the city.

We were in the Coromandel during one of these legal days and got to see quite an impressive fireworks show from the balcony of our bach.

Adam and I just pretended it was the 4th of July and sang our best Lee Greenwood, "God Bless the USA" to each other. When we weren't doing that we were out exploring places like this:

Oh and this:

Cathedral Cove is pretty incredible. It is a very photographed spot so I had seen tons of pictures, but to be there felt really special. Hazel especially enjoyed the water taxi ride to get there. Another highlight of the weekend was a visit to New Chum's beach. You have to cross over a stream and do a little hike to get there, but it was worth it.

It was gorgeous and of course not too many others there to compete with.

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I've gotten use to the lack of people. Auckland is nicknamed "The Big Smoke,"which always makes me laugh as I don't see it this way at all, however the more time I spend in NZ  the more I see how truly rural and underpopulated that the rest of the country is that I understand how it could get this reputation.

Speaking of rural, not too long ago we went on a little family outing to the Kiwi Valley Farm Park . I'm not sure if it was more for Hazel or me as ever since moving here I have wanted to give a bottle to a baby sheep, since I learned that is something you can do. I got a baby goat instead, but good enough. We did get to pet the baby sheep, which was pretty sweet.

Awww babies. There was so much cuteness  at my friend Michelle's baby shower. It was such a lovely afternoon and I had the honor of being Game Master. Is that a title? I don't know, it is now.

 Before she know it she will be spending her days like this:
Working the playground circuit around Auckland, 'cause that's what we do.
We also celebrate birthdays. Adam recently turned another year older. At this point I've just stopped giving him presents and cook for him instead. What did Adam want for his special day? Chicken fingers. Shocking I know. And homemade honey butter yeast rolls. And chocolate cake.  I swear we do eat vegetables in this household, apparently just not on Adam's birthday. So I made his birthday heart attack and he loved every last bite. I can say this since he didn't actually have a heart attack. If he had had one I would have to start the Birthdays Against Chicken Fingers Foundation and you would all have to donate and warn others of the perils. But he survived and judging from this picture is working as a bodyguard in his free time.
And Hazel is teaching herself to read:
Maybe at this rate, she'll have her own blog.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Anchors Away...er Aweigh

Well I survived another international flight with a baby. Hazel has logged some serious miles in her 9 months on this earth. Man, feels like I've know her for so much longer then that, but I guess that's what happens when you grow that human inside you, spend all your time caring for their well being, and follow it up with wiping poo from their backside numerous times a day. And that people, is how you create intimacy. Don't say I never shared any of my professional wisdom with you and for free.

The flight to the US was indeed long and I won't bore you with any of the details, like how many times my arms went numb and tingly or how 10 minutes feels like an hour when you are in the air with a child, honestly she did great and is kind of a superstar traveler.

The only thing worth mentioning about the actual flight is the magazine article I managed to read in a Woman's Day left on the plane. For those of you not familiar with said publication, imagine anything that makes you proud to be a woman and then picture the opposite. Anyway the article was about a young boy wanting a sex change. His mother told this story about him - " I remember, age three, he was watching a cartoon about a magic man on the moon and he said, "Mummy, do you think the magic man can take my doodle off so I can have a 'gina like the girls?"

If you were having a bad day, it's officially over.

Unless you are Emirates Team New Zealand and you might still have a case of the blues. I had no idea I could get so into sailing until this most recent America's Cup. It was truly exciting.  Kiwis are crazy for sailing and America's Cup is HUGE here. Many Kiwis we talked to were very surprised to find out how not a big deal it is back home. Adam and I totally got into it, watched all the races, and were Team NZ all the way. Unfortunately they lost in the end, but wow what a regatta. Productivity was certainly down in NZ during what was the longest race in the Cup's history.

But back to our trip home, it was great. Ahh it's so freaking amazing to see people that actually know you and do fun things with them. I got to go to Napa:

Take Hazel to the mountains:

See a Falcons game, catch up with so many dear people, and a slew of other things that would take too long to list. I also managed to drink a milkshake every few days. It was awesome. Almost as awesome as this pit stop one evening. Can anyone say late night date night?

A special shout out to our friends Josh and Patricia who flew in from Philly to see us. Our little girls loved each other.

Anyway, we were crazy busy and it often feels like there is never enough of us to go around, but that's just kind of the deal. I think everyone who lives the expat life or even just far from home, experiences the frenetic energy that accompanies a trip back, and it is exhausting. Luckily it's mixed in with moments of great joy, periodic relaxation, lots of people we love, and built in babysitters. And comic relief in the form of one particular trip to the pool.

We attempted to take Hazel for a dip with Adam's family and cousins that were in town and after finally getting everyone to the same place, a feat in itself, we are told the pool had just been closed because some kid did his business in the wrong office, if you know what I mean. Everyone then gets directed to use the indoor pool. This is when my ship sails, but Adam stays on and comes back later to report that shortly after the party got moved indoors that the inside pool closed because some kid took a crap in that pool too.  I can't make this stuff up people. Needless to say, I did not return to poop pool as it would be called if it was on say Scooby Doo.

We did manage to take Hazel for a swim in Knoxville and she loved it. The cool thing about going back in American summer is that you get to go enjoy it and then come home to New Zealand and have summer be right around the corner. Unfortunately what I also came home to was a bout of conjunctivitis. Haven't had that in years. When I went to see the doctor for my eye a conversation like this happened.

Me: "So, I have conjunctivitis. Is that the same as pink eye?

Doctor (woman with thick eastern European accent): Oh red eye, oh yes it can be but no.

Making mental note that from here on out I will just refer to it as Valentines Day eye

Me: Is it contagious?

Doctor (please read in accent for full effect:) "I don't think so. Not very much."

Alrighty then. Reminds me of that time I got a little bit pregnant.

Despite that and Hazel catching her first cold, it's been nice to be back. I mean, after all, this is what I'm coming back to.

We did have a window of health a couple of weeks ago and took a little road trip to the Mount, aka Mt. Maunganui/Tauranga. Such a lovely little spot and we had a great night out on the town with some new friends. That sounded weird, like we're swingers or met them online or something, but we didn't.  It was a fun weekend. Check out the view from the top:

It's a perfect place for a quick weekend getaway from Auckland. 

Room with a view:

Hazel enjoyed the café scene:

Still so much of New Zealand left to explore. Where shall we go next? Probably the same question the guy that owns this boat is asking himself.

a yacht called A
$350 million dollar yacht currently docked in Auckland harbor.

Good thing our offspring isn't too spoiled yet and prefers simple modes of transportation:

*Top photo by AK Vogel

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

This time tomorrow night I will be flying the friendly skies. Let's hope they are friendly at least. On occasions when they have not been, I have been know to impulsively grab the person's hand next to me whether I know them or not. In the moment it's comforting, then it's just awkward. I imagine for the person who is unaffected by such turbulence it is just awkward the entire time. And gross. My hand sweats profusely when I'm nervous. Thank goodness I don't get nervous very often.

Luckily, I am travelling with my two favorite people who will provide great distraction should turbulence hit. And this one should keep me pretty busy.

Like 12 hours busy. And that's direct. We start our US Tour in San Francisco followed by stops in Atlanta and Knoxville. I will be there for the whole month of August - yipeee! I have so much to do to get ready for our trip that this post will have to be short and sweet. It's been a quiet couple of months so I'll just hit the high and lowlights.

Highlight: Celebrating 2 years of wedded adventure with my groom.

On our actual anniversary we went out to dinner and even got to take the fun car. Heaters going, top down, one of the best feelings ever I might ad. Cruising over the bridge, blaring Robin Thicke's, "Blurred Lines," AKA " You're a Good Girl." Would be my summer anthem if it was summer here. Such a blast. I temporarily forgot I had a child, in the best way possible. Then I came home and remembered I had a child, in the best way possible.

Lowlight: Watching an E special where Mark Curry (yes Hanging with Mr. Cooper) has a shaman come in to do some sort of exorcism on him in his fancy California home. I don't know if watching this or the Hoarders where they extracted not one, not two, not three, but four dead cats from a woman's home made me feel worse about how I'd spent my time.

Highlight: A "Christmas in July" birthday party that had a snow machine. I'm pretty sure I heard Santa's sleigh bells. It was that good.  My picture, not so much, but you get the idea.

Lowlight: Crying in the back corner of a mall on a wheelchair ramp because the store I had gone to the mall for no longer existed. Sleep deprivation. will. break. you. down.

Highlight: Realizing I don't need to use the wheelchair ramp and have so much to be thankful for and now crying tears of joy. Sleep deprivation. will. make. you. crazy.

Highlight: Discovering Dante's Pizza in Ponsonby Central. I think we've been there  four times in the past month. Yum. It's the real deal. Think A16 in San Francisco or Antico in Atlanta, it's that kind of pizza.


Hazel Hazel Hazel. This girl is getting into everything and growing up so fast. She has two adorable bottom teeth and crawls ev-ery-where. She is a cheeky little bugger and oh so much fun.

Sunny days at the park:

She is a swinging fool too:

A trip to the Wintergarden in Auckland Domain.

See you soon America!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

S is for Surprise

They say home is where the heart is, but after a recent trip home I say home is where I can dress like a homeless person and still feel good about myself. I realized this on my first morning back when I came to breakfast looking like Christmas meets 1996 and had a souvenir t-shirt baby. My vanity prevents me from publishing a picture of me in said outfit, but trust me it was fantastic. In that shabby no chic kind of way. So instead I'll just show you a picture of what a 5 month old baby looks like:

It was so wonderful to be back. Hazel and I decided to surprise my mom for Mothers Day, which was a lot of fun and I'm quite impressed with myself that we pulled it off. I couldn't have done it without my brothers, who helped with the trickery. My Dad pulled a little surprise on me by showing up at the airport to greet us, which was super nice.

The trip was a little bit of a last minute decision as Adam was going to Vegas for work and I thought about being here alone and then had the brilliant idea to hitch a ride, so to speak, to the West Coast. And by hitch a ride, I mean purchase a pricey international fare like everyone else that lives abroad and wants to go home. It was totally worth it.

Adam and I flew together to San Francisco, but I did the domestic legs and the return with Hazel on my own. I know, I know, flying internationally with a baby is on everyone's bucket list.

I gotta give it up for Air New Zealand again though. They were awesome. We reserved a bassinet seat, which meant that our seats were in the bulkhead and right after takeoff the flight attendants installed Hazel's bassinet.

It was great, mostly because she actually got to sleep which meant we got to sleep too. Convenient, as sleep has moved to the top of my favorite things to do list. Ok, who am I kidding sleep has always been one of my favorite things to do. The supply and demand ratio is just not in my favor these days so, it's at the extra top of the list.

Going from Air New Zealand to domestic in the US, though, is like going from first class to first arse. I fortunately had some nice people next to me and some helpful crew members. An example of helpful in this case would be giving me a plastic bag to put Hazel's clothes and my own in after Hazel had a massive poo explosion on me." Infant in arms" for 5 hours. Let's get this party started. Oh yeah, she just did.

It really was great to be back. I got to see so many people I love from old friends to extended family members. I even got to introduce Hazel to her 102 year-old great grandmother on Adam's side. Everyone was ecstatic to meet and see the new baby, especially my niece and nephew.

I stopped in SF briefly to catch up with friends. Man I miss those peeps. Apparently I was having too much fun to remember to take any pictures but imagine me surrounded by ladies I love and very happy. Being away from friends and family is one of the hardest things about living in a different country. Especially now that we have this little one.

Going back to the States is a reminder in some ways of what we are missing and in other ways what we aren't. I was shocked at how over stimulating I found the airports and mall to be. I just kept thinking why are there so many shops and people everywhere and look at all the racks of clothing, this is surreal! That is the beauty of living in a different country, it gives you a new perspective. How sad if I was unchanged by this expat experience.

Just the other day I was watching The Voice Australia and was delighted to learn that people on this side of the world apparently pronounce the word albino (you know the people that look like they need to get a tan but can't) as al-bean-o. As Americans we pronounce it al- buy-no. So the past few days I've gone around the house singing "you say albino, I say albeano....tomato, tomahto."

Another thing that makes me happy we live in NZ is that stuff like this happens.  A note on the door of our local Fish N Chips shop -

Anyway, point is I did love being home, but I also loved coming back here to New Zealand. Even if it meant returning to winter.

You might remember that Kiwis aren't too big on central air and heating so it's back to long johns and nights by the fire. How cold does it get you might wonder. That I can't tell you, you'll have to check your farmers almanac for those kind of details, but I'll tell you it's cold enough for me to lay awake the other night wondering if they make a giant flannel onesize for adults. Seriously this kept me up for a solid ten minutes . Hey don't blame me for trying to stay warm and keep the flame in my post baby marriage alive.

Hazel is doing well and while the trip home was great the transition back has been rough. Holy guacamole that baby had some jet lag. That plus teething at the same time. I'm still waiting for a bartender to come up with a drink especially for such an occasion. The show must go on though. And thank goodness the show recently had a 3 day weekend. It was the Queen's Birthday and we celebrated by ferrying over to Waiheke Island for the day. Waiheke is beyond picturesque and packed with tons of vineyards, rolling hills, and beautiful beaches.

We met up with our good friends, Andrew and Adrienne, for a little last hurrah. Unfortunately for us they are moving back to Canada. We had lunch at Poderi Crisci, a delightful winery and restaurant that temporarily makes you feel like you are in Italy, instead of the beautiful wine island in the middle of New Zealand that you are actually on. We did the "Italian Long Lunch" which as the name implies was long, but it was also incredibly delicious and filled with many courses and yummy wine. If you are a local it is a must do. Speaking of all this delicious food, Hazel recently had her first taste of the good life. Mmm rice cereal.

This new role of mother is still something I'm figuring out. It's kind of a weird yet wonderful club to be apart of. Thankfully, the actual mothering part comes very natural to me. It's funny, though, if you had told me a few years back I would be living in New Zealand and a stay at home mom making her own baby food I probably would have laughed. Life is funny that way.

Life is good in that way too.

Just a place I enjoyed my coffee the other morning. How did I ever get so lucky to live in this paradise?!