Thursday, July 23, 2009

Good to be home

Here it is. What you've all been waiting for. A kind of wrap up of the New Zealand year (which ended 6 weeks ago!) mixed with a "how are we settling back into the US" theme.

New Zealand was good and bad. Luckily, the bad was first so looking back, our memories are mostly positive. The first few months were cold and rainy and we weren't settled in yet - just starting to meet people but not a lot of friends. And I feel like for almost the first six months, we were still buying things that we needed for the house and for Lilly, so it was still a period of transition, and an expensive one at that. But we gradually met some friends, and getting used to the lifestyle. We figured out the layout of Auckland, and we began traveling a lot outside of the city. I loved getting in the car (or plane) and leaving Auckland; there was something symbolic to me about fleeing - probably that I still wanted to head straight back to the US at times. But we survived, and in the last few months had a great time. Lilly became the most popular girl in her preschool class, Jon and I found a group of friends who we loved, and then... we moved back home.

Since we've been back, we've been overwhelmed with things like the huge size of Target stores, the big portions at Atlanta Bread Company, and the wide variety of "stuff" you can buy anywhere. I was shocked, when we went to buy a new potty for Lilly, that there are about 20 different models we could choose from. Plus more online. And things like electronics and clothes, are so cheap! Cars are so big! Roads are so wide! Seriously, these are the things that are shocking Jon and I, and making us feel incredibly overwhelmed, wide-eyed, and culture shocked.

And our house... which we hadn't seen in 12 months... I think we had forgotten what it's like to live in America, and what our house was like, and how much stuff we had, and how comfortable it all is, etc, etc. Our experience in NZ was pretty much having the bare minimum, partially because we were there for a short time, and partly because everything was so expensive, but also because there is less "stuff" generally, and it doesn't seem like people are buying things just to have them. Not so, here in America, where a store like Bed Bath and Beyond can convince a person they need wicker baskets for storing toys, and certain shaped bowls just for eating fruit. We are definitely grateful for all we have here in the US, but some of it does seem excessive - we probably own over a dozen pillows, and they are all fairly new and in good shape. And don't get me started on TV... besides the fact that there are a gazillion channels (and we just have regular cable!), and that there is *always something interesting to watch, we are super-impressed by DVR, because we can now always watch anything we want. It is (from a sheltered Kiwi girl's perspective) mind blowing. Ya'll don't understand because you haven't been away from it; but trust me. I won't even get into my newfound fascination with frozen dinners. :)

My point on it all? I'm not sure. New Zealand was nice, we had a good experience overall. Being back in the US is really nice, and feels so much more like home, although we're now getting used to life here all over again. One thing I've noticed that might be symbolic: in New Zealand, I wore jeans every day. On Sundays, I'd occasionally wear a dress or nice pants to church; but most days I was in jeans. Here? I've barely worn jeans at all. I'm wearing dresses, skirts, shorts, accessories, jewelry... I think that, even when I really liked New Zealand, I didn't feel comfortable there - I was an outsider, with a strange accent, and even though everyone was totally friendly, I was trying to blend in, to hide a bit. Back here, I'm ready to stand out; I have much more confidence. Either way, it's nice to be home. But I still miss my friends in New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


My camera is broken, so at least I can partially explain my recent lack-of-blogging on that. (The new one is already ordered and on it's way; once I receive it next week I will promptly wrap it so that Jon can give it to me for my birthday present. :) )

In lieu of adorable pictures, I thought I'd just give you a few "snapshots" of what we've been up to. *Edited to add that I just uploaded some pics from a couple weeks ago.*
  1. My cousin Christopher's wedding, June 27th. Of course it was great catching up with family, and I always love a good wedding, but the highlight of the weekend was Lilly's reaction to everything. She had the BEST time! It started with the ceremony - we were lucky that Lilly just got back from Disney World. She was totally in "princess" mode, and since brides are obviously princesses in their dresses, as soon as I whispered we were watching "Princess Lisa" get married, she sat quietly through the entire ceremony. Of course she had to wave a little to the princess and her prince while they were exchanging vows (she was so used to waving to Cinderella from the week before!). And then the wedding reception... she had the best time ever dancing and boogying. She swayed and twirled to the slow songs, and danced hard to the fast songs, learning new moves along the way. At 11:30 pm, we literally had to drag her from the dance floor.

  2. Lilly's adjustment to moving back: Lilly is back at Malcolm Cole daycare, and she loves her teachers and friends. She's totally used to the house again, and she loves her new big girl room (princess themed, obviously) with a big girl bed. The only side effect to her adjustmend is the same thing that happened when we moved to NZ, or when we do major traveling: Lilly has become a picky eater, to control part of her environment. It's not so bad, as she is eating something in every food group (for example, she likes chicken nuggets, cheese, yogurt, peas, raw carrots, bread, cantaloupe, grapes, etc); but she randomly doesn't like a certain favorite food one day, and yet at other times she'll want to experiment.

  3. Little Gym. Her new favorite place to hang out on the weekends. She loves the songs and the equipment and the activities. It's amazing to see her back here, a year+ later, when the last time she was there she couldn't even walk yet, and now she's running. Her very first class, she volunteered to walk the balance beam in a demonstration, and she did great. Last week, we celebrated her boyfriend Jack's birthday there, and at one point they were holding hands walking around a circle together - super adorableness. :)

  4. CHEEEEEESE! We have a little ham on our hands! Her new hit trick is putting her arm around us and saying "Cheese!" like she's posing for a camera. Doesn't matter if there is a camera involved or not, but it is a little helpful if we are actually taking her picture.

  5. Fridays After 5. The free Charlottesville concert at the Pavillion behind my work. We've gone the past 3 weeks, and she loves standing down in the front and dancing hard. She's such a little groupie. Funny thing is that the rest of the weekend she is recognized everywhere we go!

  6. 3 versus 2. While Lilly has never had a "bad" age, 3 is such a fun age so far. She is more grown up, understands so much, and seems to have more common sense. She humors me by sitting with me each night before bed so we can watch parts of Full House together, and at my request copies the cute "Michelle" parts. And then I humor her by watching a few minutes of America's Got Talent. Sometimes we watch a few minutes of America's Funniest Home Videos, which she seems bored with until people get hit with balls or bats - then she laughs hysterically. Also, she's more easy going in getting dressed, brushing her hair, etc. She's saying a lot more too (yesterday she said "Go away" to me!).

  7. Smartie pants! We are complete slackers lately in "teaching" her things like letters and numbers and colors, etc, but she is a sponge and picks things up naturally. Today, I realized she can read/word recognition "Sesame Street" and "Fall." Actually, fall is kind of random because there was a book about seasons at the doctor's office, and she was looking at it herself, and on one page there was "Fall" with a bunch of leaves underneath and a man raking them. And Lilly looked at the page, saw the word fall, and said "Ohh!" and put her hand over her mouth, like she does if someone falls down. There was nothing in the picture to make her think the guy was falling besides the word (b/c it actually looked like he was just standing there). So clearly, she's a genius. :) And, when we count to 10 or sing ABC's she totally says/sings it with us. She's starting to learn her shapes, although she clearly prefers circles (which she calls "round").
  8. Good night! Like I said before, Lilly is now sleeping in a big girl bed. She was ok with it, although the first few nights she got up and wandered around. Since she can easily open any door, we got her a gate for her room. When she wakes up in the morning, she opens her door but can't get past the gate. So she stands there and shouts "Hello!" It's actually a great morning alarm for me. If I don't get her right away, she shuts the door and starts reading books. After she's finished, she opens the door again and shouts "Mama!" This time she means business, and I go get her. She is SO cute at night when we put her to bed. First we read her a book or two, and then she lies down and we tell her a story. We've been working on memory/cognitive skills, so I either tell her what happened to her that day or a story from her past, or retell a storyline from Sesame Street/High School Musical. Sometimes we go over what we'll do tomorrow, or when she'll see family members soon. I think it's very important because since she's at school all day and we don't have much time with her, it opens the door of communication with us, and is such a special time. Sometimes she anticipates what's coming next, and tells me (like when Big Bird sits on Elmo's tricyle, she goes "bam" and claps her hands together because, of course, he breaks it). Anyways, we then turn on her music and she's pretty relaxed and goes right to sleep. It is definitely my favorite part of the day with her.
We're definitely having a good time together. Lilly is so very charming, and she wraps her daddy and mommy around her little fingers. Nothing better than her wonderful kisses and hugs!