This is an area to discuss the things I've done to support my relationships with my two children, things I've discovered about different forms of school in the United States and New Zealand, and any other random things we've done together.
The move to Auckland should have hit the kiddos harder than Keith or I, but honestly, they've kind of been our rocks. I know that sounds COMPLETELY backwards, but we're the ones freaking out over every little difference while they get excited about every new thing and want to take pictures of everything and giggle about the new things they are seeing. It's been kind of nice. And it constantly reminds of us of why we wanted to move in the first place--to give our kids new experiences and live within another culture.
One of the big changes for the kids has been that right now is the middle of the New Zealand winter. Which means it's the middle of the NZ school year. However, we're not being mean mommy and daddy right now--I just reached out to the area school last night to set up a meeting to discuss starting them off in school. Hopefully in at least 3 weeks. I don't want to burn them out on school already.
The other adjustment for the kids: winter doesn't mean snow here. It means rain. Lots of rain. I think it's been sunny for a total of 3 days while we've been here. Which isn't horrible. It's actually been kind of nice. We came over just as Colorado was starting to hit some warm days and we went back into a fall-type weather. I've already been warned that summer's here are toasty and humid, but at least we didn't jump right in to that. We've got some time to get acclimated.
Since it's just been me and the kids at home during the days, we've been checking out some local parks. Best part about parks here: they have all the old fun toys on the playgrounds that were ripped out because they were "unsafe" from when we were kids. You know, like monkey bars and see-saws. And the kids are totally tearing them apart. We drove by a park the other day that had this huge rocket-ship monkey bar thing in it--Keith totally flipped out! Apparently they used to have one like it in Boulder when he was a kid that got taken away. As he put it: it was totally not safe, but we have to bring the kids over here! They'll love it!
We also took the kids to the Sea Life Aquarium in Auckland. You can tell it's one of those places school kids here go to all the time and it's completely cheesy for them, but the kids loved it--it's on the bay on the East side of the city, so you get to check out the Port and it's all underground, built into the hill. They have an underwater tunnel for the shark display and we got to see the sharks get fed while we were there. I totally had a Jaws flashback. But the kids loved it. They also do a seahorse (or sea dragon) rescue which included videos of how they rescue the seahorses from Milford Sound and how they carry babies (the dads do it, not the moms!). I've never seen so many seahorses in my life--it was pretty cool. But my personal favorite--the penguins!!! We're so close to Antarctica here--they have a penguin rescue center that I am pretty sure was the basis of the Happy Feet scene where they end up. I felt like a kid again--I freaking love penguins!!!
We also had an outing to the Whatipu Campground and the beaches around it this past weekend--we did a quick hike through the caves around the marshes there before we got rained out. Planning on going back to check out the beaches soon! Amazing that we can go from city to rainforest in roughly 30 minutes. Or from one side of the island to the other in under one hour :)
I know I'm not the only parent already overwhelmed by having the kids back in the house full time after school let out. I see it all over Facebook right now. And since I'm in single-parent mode for a bit, I've been feeling it pretty hard. Ladies out there with travelling partners, I seriously do not know how you do it AND get your hair did/makeup on/look generally fabulous by 7am, but I really need to know your secret.
For me, we spent the last couple of days at my parents house repacking all of the things we need to take to New Zealand with us and each picked out two sets of clothes and a set of PJs to rotate through so we don't mess up my packing perfection. After 2 days, we're all annoyed with this. Instead of repacking, however, I bought my kids some new pants at Target today (sale!!!). Their clothes are so much easier to put into those bags later, I tell ya. And it got us out of the house for a bit.
We had to run back to our house this week to get our Visas (yea!!!) and they got to meet up with their cousins for several hours at Chuck E Cheese. I loathe that place with a passion, but even I remember thinking it was a mini-Disney when I was their age. They killed almost 5 hours there with their cousins. It was magical. We had a two hour drive back to my parent's house after and they BOTH passed out for the entire trip and went to bed on time that night. I'm up now writing this (just about 8am) and they are both still sleeping. Bliss :)
One of the things I've heard over and over regarding our move out of the country: "kids are resilient, they can handle anything". I agree and I've raised my kids to be adaptable and resilient. However, that doesn't mean they don't feel stress from the adults in their lives and don't revert back to less-desired behaviors when they feel it. Case in point.....
Soon after dad (the husband) took off for another country, the kids have been picking at each other and doing whatever they can to push each other's buttons. I, of course, am a mess because I am now a single parent AND my parents are watching me try to parent. But with grandparent glasses on (you know, "Oh, honey, are you crying? Let me get you more ice cream"). They would never judge me for my parenting skills, but grandparent view and parent view are definitely clashing a bit right now.
It took me a day to realize they weren't just being super-annoying; they were upset and saw that I was upset. Rather than upset me further, they were taking it out on one another. How enlightened of me, right? Now, what to do about it?
I waited until the next uncommon outburst from my kids. Didn't take long. Happened to be my son and daughter, who have separate places to sleep right now, fighting over who got to get tucked in first by mom. I started by getting ridiculously frustrated, then realized my freak out was because they were freaking out. So, I stopped my blow up and pulled them both into the same room--the one I was sleeping in with my daughter. I sat them down and asked them both to explain to me why they needed me first to tuck them in. Typically, they don't have this issue. And they both told me they were scared. Not of the house, not of the rooms (they've been in them a lot). But because I was scared.
So, I asked them what would help. Lo and behold, my son said he'd like to sleep in the room with us. I was a little shocked (he had definitely started going through some tween "leave me alone, I don't need you" type stuff just a few weeks ago), but I asked my daughter if that was OK and she was happy with it. So, we all piled into the same bed: him at the foot of the bed, us with the head of the bed.
I'm not saying this will fix all of those transition times in our children's lives as they age, and it definitely wasn't super comfortable for me. But, listening to my kids and working with them at their level sure made us all feel better the last couple of nights. And kind of made me feel like a genius. Until the next thing comes up, of course.