Friday, May 11, 2012

How do you measure a year?

Our sweet boy T turned 5 this week.  It's crazy to believe he's 5 and ready to join in on all the "big kid" stuff like school and .....well, that's about it.  He's excited to start school in the fall but I think the shock will come when he realizes he's not in the same class as his older brother who'll be in the 3rd grade!  I'll let that one play out in August.

So driving in the car on the day of his birthday we had quite the conversation:

T: "Mom, I don't really feel like I'm 5."

Mom: "Well, what do you have to do to feel 5?"

T: "I don't know, I just don't feel 5."

Mom: "Do you think you can run faster? (Cuz that seems to be the measure of all amazing and new things like a new pair of shoes or a blender.)

T: "I don't think so but I can try to race Maddox.  I bet I can win for sure."

Mom:  "Then you'll really feel 5 I bet.  You also must be a little taller so you have that going on."

T:  "Hmmm, but I just don't feel it."

Mom: "It's your birthday all day so you have a full day to 'feel it'."

(Silence, silence.)

Ah, I made some sort of sence to a new 5 yr old, so I thought

T: "Maybe if you got me an axe I could try to cut down a tree.  That would make me feel 5"

Mom: "Well, maybe for a birthday present."

T:  "Yesssssss."

He is such a funny kid.  Where does he come up with this stuff?  This little boy has such an imagination and sense of humor that is unique to the other kids in the family.  We love his energy, his excitement for new things, his smile and his laugh.  I love that he is who he wants to be and doesn't care what the world thinks.  Just take a look at multiple his outfits he spends many, many hours in.  If you don't believe me ask any cashier at Target, Albertsons, the Pizza store, AT & T cel phone store, Rite Aid,  the Post Office, Elementary school and Costco.   And that's just been a few places we've been this week.

T at 3 yrs old
T at 4 yrs old

Dressing up at school.

New Birthday "outfit".

 We love this little guy and hope he never changes loving who he is or who he dresses up to be.

*Disclosure - T did NOT get an axe for his birthday.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sweet Home California

It was sad to say good bye to New Zealand, a place we have been happy to call home the past few months. Many tears were shed as we had to say good bye to the people we have come to know and love so dearly, the places we have become so familiar with and the sites we have had the pleasure to see. My heart aches just writing this thinking back of what fond memories I leave behind in a place that has been such a tremendous blessing to each of us individually and as a family. I know I will never be the same and I hope that I won't be because of the personal experiences I've had there.

But we will also look back at all the fun times we had and the laughs we've made together. I'm happy to have kept this blog just for our family if for no one else. It’s a family journal of our journey we had together in a foreign land.

What I will remember is the 5600 plus miles we drove together all over the North Island seeing as much as we could and loving our time together. With that came many tired moments in the car.

I'll miss how no matter where we went or what we did, Walker some how in his infinite ways seemed to find a stick to carry around with him.  Not sure why, not sure what it did for him but he sure does love a good stick of any shape or size.

I'm going to miss Abby's amazing group of friends and how well they all treated each other.  I will miss how they showed respect for one another and how they gave her more confidence in herself in the short period of time we were there.  I'm glad she met these wonderful and precious girls whom she will always be friends with. 

But alas, we are home and ready to start our lives here again in Cali.  And what a better way to kick things off than with the first snow cone of the year!  Life can be good no matter where you are.  It's who you're with!

Thursday, April 26, 2012


Are you a fan of "The Lord of the Rings" movies and are you looking forward to "The Hobbit" coming out in December?  Do you know everything about the movie and its characters?  Do you know every frame of the movie?  Do you know every background image, the set and what props were use and where they were placed for a number of scenes?  If not, then you weren't the guy on our tour this week when we went and visited Hobbiton!

Not too far from our house is the set of "The Shire" or "Hobbiton" where they filled parts of "The Lord of the Rings" and now the new movie coming out soon, "The Hobbit". It was such a cute and magical little place full of so much color. This land is as incredible as all the landscape in NZ and I can see why Peter Jackson chose this site in and aerial search when looking for site for his movies.

The land is owned by some local sheep farmers and they were asked to use their land because it most resembles Middle-earth. The farm had already contained the "party tree" that was placed in front of the lake that was already there as well. The design crew had to do little to the area to create the hobbit holes in the hillside. Currently there stands on 42 hobbit holes that have been left by the movie crew for tours.

Party Tree

The Green Dragon Pub


Bilbo Baggins Home

The kids loved walking around and pretending they lived there. The houses, benches, ladders, water wells and see-saws were just their size. Cordell and I on the other hand were the town giants. I was mesmerized more by all the small accessories outside the homes, in the window seals, in the garden, the tree swings and every thing around the grounds. The different colors of each home and doors were so bright and vibrant. If they replicated just one of those homes for a playhouse to set in a backyard they'd be on every child's (and mother's) wish list for Christmas I'm sure! Maybe even the guy who was on our tour!  Do you think he already has one in his back yard?

Couple of hard workers

 I see a summer project at hand.  Anyone have a hammer and a saw I can borrow?

And sadly that is where our journey has come to an end.  See you all soon.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Fast Falls and Lights Out

The past two weeks the kids have been on a school break between Term 1 and Term 2.  What do you do for two weeks in a foreign country with all the kids to keep everyone entertained?  Oh wait, it's New Zealand?  Have we forgotten what we've done so far?  There is plenty to do and amazingly enough still more to do!  While dad was at work we spent the time hanging at home, going to the indoor pool, the movies, making sandcastles at the beach, visit a neighboring town for lunch and some gelato, have a sleepover (with each other), go to the park, having picnics, going on hikes and of course the library.  It was a pretty full two weeks.

On the last weekend before they went back to school we went to Lake Taupo, the last of a few places still on our list to visit.  We are glad we did.  It's only about an hour away (like most places from where we live).  It is a huge lake that sits in the center of a volcano.  The weather is changing here as it's the beginning of fall so we didn't engage in all the activities that the lake has to offer had it been summer.  Our main purpose in going there was to see Huka Falls.  You can either drive to the top of the falls and enjoy the view or be a little more adventurous and go by jet boat.  Can you guess what we did?


 We spent the rest of the day walking around town, looking at the shops checking out some other small sights along the road on our way home.  It was a fun day and something new to see and do.

Sunday came and it was good as always.  We had the opportunity to speak in the Ward we have been attending for the past 3 months.  Cordell did a great job and I did alright I think.  It was interesting because when we got there they told us there was no power in the building so there would be no working microphone or lights.  Good thing they have huge ceiling to floor windows or it would have been quite the experience to speak/yell in the dark.

I have to say that when we first left for NZ we sort of expected to be "needed" in a Ward here.  That they could use our experience that we've had in some way and our testimonies and love for the gospel to help the ward in any needs they might have.  Well, I found that to be completely opposite that very first Sunday.  According to one missionary who's been here for a very long time, this ward is one of the strongest in the stake and one he's served in so far.  It is this Ward that has served me in my needs and my family's needs while we have been here.  It is the people and their love and acceptance that have welcomed us so easily.  It's their strong love and faith in the gospel that builds me up.  The amazing Sunday School lessons that I've missed over the past years (because of being needed in other callings) and the humble R.S. lessons that has reminded me what the gospel is all about.  It is through this and other experiences since being here in NZ that has hopefully started to help make the change in me that I so desperately have been searching for.

When we say that we are going to miss New Zealand there are many MANY reasons why.  My heart is full of so much love and respect for this country, the people and all that I've learned, felt and hopefully have grown as an individual and a family.  I will forever be indebted to this country and my Heavenly Father for giving us this incredible opportunity that has been more than we could have ever hoped for in more ways than one!  It will be hard to leave but now comes the test of taking what we've learned here and using it in our lives back home.  We are excited to see what the next chapter will look like in our lives.  Change is good when it's done in His hands.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Digging for Fun!

I'm sure I've said this before about our weekends here but THIS past weekend was truly an incredible one!  I'm still being amazed at the things we are discovering for the first time here in New Zealand.  This country is constantly surprising and amazing me with its boundless beauty and activities to be had.

We visited the Coromandel Peninsula this weekend.  It's an area full of towns, beaches, rivers, and of course attractions to see.  The first on our list (which has been on our list since we got here) was to visit Cathedral Cove in the small town of Hahei.  Cathedral Cove a.k.a "Narnia beach" is where they filmed a part of the "Prince Caspian" movie.  The cave was used as the tunnel through which the Pevensie children first re-enter Narnia in the movie version of "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian".  There are many locations throughout NZ where they filmed all the "Narnia" movies but this one was on our route for the weekend.  It was breathtaking! 

Cathedral Cove is known for the shape of the cave having it being shaped like a large Cathedral from the wind and ocean currents over the last hundreds of years.  The beach itself has some of the clearest water, rock islands within swimming distance to cliff jump off of, a small waterfall to play under and tons of overhanging trees for shade and climbing.  Another great beach with all its variety that NZ offers.

Inside Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove.
Running through the cold waterfall.

The next morning we got up really early and made our drive to another beach down the road.  We had to be there at 7:00 a.m. because that is when the tide was low.  Why did we have to be there only when the tide was low?  Well, we went to a place called Hot Water Beach and let me tell you what, it was just that!  Here's what you do.  You walk to a specific spot on the beach and start stepping around until you feel hot sand under your feet.  At that moment you start digging with your shovels.  As you do water starts to rise up filling the hole with warm water from underground hot spings.  Now, depending on where you hit, it's either going to be cold (which means you need to find another spot and dig again), warm or HOT (and get out of there!). 

We found a great spot and started digging and digging, trying to build a wall to keep the warm water in and the ocean waves out as it started to rise and come in to some of the pools of other people around us.  Some pools were warm and one that was right behind us was actually boiling.  At times we had to get cold water from the ocean to cool our pool down.  It was the most amazing thing we've seen and done here.  Hard to say because we've done some AMAZING things but Hot Water Beach is one that I must say was so fun to do for the entire family, built teamwork and unity among every one on the beach as we all started to help each other and it was fun being out early in the morning with the sun coming up in all our little warm pools.

Walker and Dad digging away.
Everyone enjoying their hot pools.

After that beach we hopped to ANOTHER one called Hahei beach just to walk around for a while to kill some time.  Glad we did because it is yet another beautiful and fun beach.  There were long stretches of pink sand and  rope swings just hanging there waiting to be played with.  The locals were loading and unloading their boats in to the ocean with their tractors without a fee.  We've seen this many times before but just had to put it in here.  So different from having to pay a fee at a State Park, waiting to use the dock like everyone else, overcrowding and what not.  This way there is plenty of space for everyone!

A boy enjoying the swing!

Hold on tight!

Even dad got in on the fun!


Just park your tractor on the beach.
Loading up the boat.

On the way home we stopped in the town of Paeroa, famous for where our favorite drink L&P was created.  L&P stands for Lemon and Paeroa after all.  The city is proud of it.  It has flags lining the streets, city signs and the famous L&P Cafe with the largest bottle of L&P on display.  As tourist and lovers of the beverage we just HAD to stop!
If only they sold a bottle this big, my kids would be in heaven.

That pretty much topped us off!  It completed a great beach filled weekend in all their varieties.