Monday, December 21, 2009

Ho ho ho!!!

Hello, my gorgeous readers, and Merry Christmas! I know, I know, it's not quite Christmas yet, but I'm in the spirit of things. Last year we were traveling pretty much the entire month of December so we didn't get a tree or do much in the way of gifts, and with it being summer here the season went by so quickly that it never quite felt as Christmas-y as I would have liked. (Incidentally, I thought Kiwis were quite Scrooge-y for not putting up Christmas lights on their houses until someone pointed out to me that it stays light until well past 10 pm right now so it's not exactly easy to find a time to turn them on ...)

Anyway, this year, being Zach's first Christmas and all, I've been determined not to let it get away from us too quickly. I actually ordered cards and had them in the mail by the first week in December. We have a cute little four-foot tree with some simple red and gold decorations and way more gifts under it than anyone has a right to hope for. We have entered the season of Christmas parties (barbecues seem to be the thing here) and Zach even attended his first kid's Christmas party at Chris's work. Zach was not impressed with Santa but had a wonderful time exploring all of the different kinds of fruit on display at the food table. (Have I mentioned how that boy can eat? Anything. Everything. All the time.)

As usual, the only sad thing is that we are not spending this Christmas with our families, but let's not dwell on that. Let's be happy. Photos. Photos make us happy, right? I've got some of those. We just got back from a quick trip to Central Otago with some friends and took a little stroll around Lake Hayes. Absolutely gorgeous and reminds us of everything we love about New Zealand.

Yes, I'm biased. But this boy is cute.

We forgot to pack Zach's backpack (say that three times fast) so little Z rode on Daddy's shoulders. Daddy may now need neck surgery, but Zach absolutely loved it.

Dads and Bubs.

Wishing you Christmas joy and a wonderful 2010! Lots of love to you all!!!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hello again ...

I've been a bad blogger. Such a bad blogger. Perhaps you have given up on me, faithful readers, and for that I could not blame you. My excuse is I only get about three waking hours each day when Zach is sleeping, and I tend to spend this time in a vegetative state on the couch. On the off chance someone is still checking this thing, I offer my most sincere apologies. And now I'll try to get you up to speed from the last three months. Bear with me!

1) The trip. What a fun, fun, fun trip to North America we had. (A million years ago now!) Five weeks of amazing times with Chris's family in Vancouver, my family in Texas, and dear friends in Georgia. Could not have been happier to see everyone. Zach was an angel baby on every plane ride and aside from a couple of rough jet-lagged nights he was a trooper.

Very strange ... I thought it would feel odd to be back in North America but it honestly felt like we'd never left. And then when we came back to New Zealand it felt like we'd never left here, either. Hard to explain.

2) Work. I returned to work 2 1/2 days per week. Chris is staying home with Zach two half-days per week, which leaves the boy at a very nice day care 12 hours per week (Three four-hour days.) I am generally fine with this. It's a nice place and the women there are lovely. He has smiles for his teacher when I drop him off and he looks perfectly content when I go to pick him up. It's good having two incomes and most days I find it refreshing to use non-mommy parts of my brain for a while. But other moments I feel like a terrible mother leaving him and I think everybody is judging me and I feel wildly jealous of stay-at-home moms. I suspect these conflicting feelings will not miraculously resolve themselves any time soon. Blah.

3) Swimming. Zach started baby swimming lessons in October and it has quickly become one of our favorite family pass times. After a few ambivalent sessions he now adores the water and happily kicks his legs and puts his face in the water. We feel very lucky to have facility as fantastic as Moana Pool nearby, where I can swim laps while Zach takes his lesson with daddy. Fun for everyone!

4) Thanksgiving. We just hosted an American Thanksgiving dinner for 18 -- yes, 18 -- people. I had a bit of a panic when I realized how the guest list had spiraled out of control, but it turned into a really funny, casual evening with people hanging out, eating and drinking on our floor. (Was glad I vaccuumed.) Fried turkey, pecan pie ... what more do you want?

5) Milford Track. Our friends Tom & Libby from the US recently came for a visit and Chris went with them on the Milford Track, a four day, three night hike described as one of New Zealand's (and the world's) best. I believe it was excellent, but you'll have to ask him.

There's more, of course, much more, as always. Zach is fantastic and hilarious and adorable and Chris has oodles of ridiculously cute pictures on his Flickr page, so hopefully you've been checking those while I've been a rogue blogger. I had good intentions to upload some new photos with this post but the site is being fickle, and I just don't have the energy. Next time, I promise.

I'm back on the blogging wagon again, and it feels good. You will hear from me soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Five weeks, four cities, one infant, tons of luggage

Well, devoted readers, we're off again!

Piggybacking on yet another conference for Chris, we are heading to North America for five weeks so Zach can visit his ancestral homeland and everyone at home can get a look at the boy. Could not be more excited to see all of our family and friends, enjoy some hot summer weather, and eat Mexican food that doesn't taste like ketchup. Also curious and a bit nervous about how the return to North America is going to feel after more than a year ... I'm finally at the point that New Zealand doesn't seem very foreign any more, and it makes me wonder how home will feel once I'm there. If that makes any sense.

Wish us safe & happy travels! I apologize in advance to the person sitting next to us on our 13 hour flight to Vancouver. Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do!

I leave you with a Zach and Livy pic. Blurry & washed out, but cute. Real cute.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Bureaucracy and natural disasters

Am I the only person who thinks it is completely insane to make babies pose for passport pictures? Maybe you shouldn't get me started.

Flying to Auckland today to get Zach's US passport from the consulate. Yes, we actually have to fly up there and show him off in person. Maybe you shouldn't get me started. (Some of you may be familiar with Chris's recent immigration snafu that necessitated a trip to Hawaii ... I'm a little tired of bureaucracy, these days.)

But we all know there's no fighting the man, so we've just got to roll with it and accept it as part of the cost of our jet-setting lifestyle. Zach's passport situation needs to be in order ASAP as we are coming home to North America for five weeks in August and could not be more excited. (For those keeping score at home, Zach is also a NZ citizen by birth and eligible for Canadian citizenship through his dad, but we decided to go for the US passport first for a number of reasons, which we'll not get into here ...) So, off to Auckland. Try to make a mini-vacation out of it. Maybe I'll get some more pictures for the blog, which has been sadly neglected as of late.

In other news:

1) Earthquake. You may have read in the news that the South Island experienced an earthquake last week, though fortunately damage was minimal. We had just put Zach to bed and were sitting on the couch when I noticed a water glass sitting on our table was starting to move. And then our 1970s granny-style light fixtures started to sway. Fun is certainly the wrong word for it, but since it was my first earthquake it was definitely exciting. Zach and the dogs slept right through it, so that gives you an idea of how mild it was from our standpoint.

2) Zach is now 12 weeks old and continues to amaze us & make us laugh. New Zealand has a program called Plunket which offers fantastic support for babies and new parents, including home visits by a nurse. At Zach's last visit on Friday, he weighed in at a whopping 16 pounds (the wee one is not so wee any more) and the nurse marveled at his strength and alertness. Perhaps she fawns on all of the babies this way, but as his mother I prefer to think he's just highly advanced. Like his mom.

I'll leave you with two recent tummy time pictures of the handsome devil.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

I'm on a train

Hello, everyone! I'm finally getting around to posting some photos from a train trip we took last week with Chris's parents on the Taieri Gorge Railway. This is a little four hour roundtrip train ride that takes you from Dunedin to Pukerangi in Central Otago, a very comfy way to see some nice scenery that is not accessible by car.

I rarely travel by train except during our visits to Europe -- train service is not very extensive in New Zealand and like most Americans I hardly ever used Amtrak -- but this reminded how much I like it. I like that you can stretch your legs, take in the scenery, buy some snacks and drinks, eavesdrop on the other people in your car. Not a bad way to go.

Caboose view

Chris and Maria enjoying the ride. We had the car to ourselves except for some very nice folks from Invercargill who could fairly be described as "rednecks." If there is anything I have learned in my travels: The accents may change, but rednecks are rednecks wherever you go.

Zach's first train ride. He was not so impressed by the scenery but definitely enjoyed the rocking motion, which lulled him to sleep almost instantly and kept him that way for most of the trip.

Butch documenting me documenting Butch

View from the window

Baby on the platform. He looks oddly at home here.

In other news, we had LOTS of snow yesterday, to the point that Zach and I were pretty much homebound and Chris went to work only because he walked as usual. Snow in June still boggles the mind, don't you think? Anyway, I took some pictures of the snow but still have trouble with uploading from our new camera without Chris's technical help. (I know, I'm hopeless.) So I'll work on that, but in the meantime picture us in a wintery wonderland.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Zach, 7 weeks

If this doesn't make you smile, I don't know what will.

I'm meaning to upload photos of our train trip with Chris's parents to Taieri Gorge ... stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Why, hello again!

Man. Where has the last month gone? (Answer: Feed, change diaper, sleep. Repeat.)

Zach is nearly six weeks old and absolutely perfect and gorgeous, as usual. He's getting HUGE and is in the 85th percentile for his age group in length and weight. A year ago, if someone told me their kid was in a particular percentile of anything I'd be like, "So what?" However, now that it's my kid and I'm the one who's feeding him, I find it terribly interesting.

We had a fantastic four week visit with my mom, and are now enjoying Chris's folks. I will say that having a baby in a foreign country makes you really appreciate your family. It's kind of weird -- on one hand, I've never been more disgustingly homesick and ready to stowaway on the first plane back to North America. On the other hand, so many nice people here in Dunedin have popped up to welcome Zach and make things easier for us that I have never felt more at home since we arrived here. It's a pretty complex situation. Lots of tears, both joyful and sad, and sometimes it's hard to tell which is which.

But enough of all of that. Let's look at some pictures. More are available on Chris's Flickr site; if you don't know how to find that and you want to see, let me know.

With Chris's folks in Moeraki. We went to Christchurch last weekend so Chris could run the marathon and Maria could run the 10k, and stopped in Moeraki on the way back to see the boulders. It's fun to remember that we did this race last year and unbelievable how much things have changed in the meantime.

Chris & Maria at the finish line. Zach is under the plastic tarp, bundled up in aboug 40 layers like the little brother from "A Christmas Story." Winter in Christchurch = Cold!

And now for some random Zach photos that I find amusing:


He loves, loves, loves the bath. He can be screaming his head off and then Chris puts him in the water and his whole body just relaxes and his eyes get all big. We need to take him to the swimming pool soon.

It's just cute. That's my kid.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Here he is!

So we've got big news. Look!

Zachary Thomas (Zach) arrived April 25, weighing in at a rather solid 8 lbs 7 oz (3.85 kg). (By the way, April 25 is Anzac Day, a national holiday in New Zealand akin to Veteran's Day. We've renamed it AnZach Day. Ha ha. Get it?)

We are, as you might expect, completely & totally in love with this guy. He is not only adorable but pretty sweet-natured and even-tempered. He's been a good eater and a good sleeper (for the most part). Everyone comments on his enormous hands and his strong neck.

It was a pretty easy birth (relatively speaking). We arrived at the hospital at 7 pm on the evening of April 24 and he showed up at 3:50 the next morning. I had said I wanted a natural birth but ended up getting an epidural and have no regrets except that I didn't get it hooked up sooner. (Hooray for epidurals!) The New Zealand public health system is certainly not perfect but overall we've been very pleased with the maternity care. It is very different than the US system in that most births are attended by midwives unless there is some sort of complication. The midwife then does regular home checkups with you until the baby is five weeks old, and our midwife has been wonderful about giving us advice and helping me with nursing. I could probably write a lot more about the differences between the two systems another time, but who cares about that right now? There are baby pictures to look at!

Me & Zach at the hospital:

Very proud papa. I'll be the first to admit that Chris and I have never been particularly child-oriented people, but it's unbelivable how natural it feels to be with your own kid. Chris has been an amazing dad from the very first moment Zach was born.

My mom is here from the US for a month to visit Zach and help us get settled. She flew in Monday and all three of us met her at the airport. Here are Zach and grandma getting acquainted:

We were not sure how the dogs would react to Zach, but so far they have been great. Livy is very interested in him and protective of him and whenever he makes a noise she runs over to sniff him, tail wagging. When the midwife comes over to examine Zach she sits right next to them like Zach's personal bodyguard. Owen seemed pretty oblivious that there was a new baby in the house for the first few days, but now he regularly comes over to give Zach a friendly sniff when we are playing with him. I think they'll all be good friends in no time, especially when Zach starts eating (and dropping) solid foods.

Zach cozy in his carseat ...

Giving grandma a smile. (Okay, so it's probably just gas, but it's cute, no?)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I know, I know ...

It's been a long time since my last post and some of you, devoted readers, are getting impatient. Sorry. I'd like to say it's because I've been so busy, but really there is lots to say and I've just been an extremely lazy blogger. Perhaps it is some pregnancy-induced phase. (I blame all of my shortcomings on being pregnant, these days. It is nice to have a scapegoat.)

Anyway, just wanted to reassure you that all is well. The Wee One is now more than 36 weeks along, which means less than four weeks until the due date! Crazy excitement! For a long time I felt sure s/he would go past the May 1 due date, mostly because Chris and I were both very late babies and I figured our kid would be the type to sleep in. However, in the past few weeks I've decided it's an April baby. We shall see.

S/he continues to be quite active and seems to be doing well. Our new favorite pass time is sitting on the couch, watching my abdomen move and bulge in different places as the baby shifts and kicks. It's like that scene from the movie "Alien," only sweet and endearing. I am rather balloon-like but generally feeling pretty great for someone this far along. (Sleep comes a little tough, though. I'm writing this at 3 am. Probably nature's way of preparing me for the months ahead.)

Will try to post more pictures very soon. (Chris just got a new camera and I'm a little afraid of it, though I suspect I'll will become proficient very quickly when it's time to take baby photos.) In the meantime, here's to healthy babies and easy labors ...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chop Chop

Look what we saw for sale in a Dunedin storefront the other day:

I thought maybe they were selling a whole bunch of US baseball jerseys, but this was the only one. I think it's some kind of sign.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi oi oi!*

We're back! We spent five days in Brisbane and the surrounding beach areas, and had a glorious time basking in the brilliant Aussie sunshine. Felt very fortunate (and more than a little guilty) that we enjoyed absolutely perfect weather while areas in the rest of the country were enduring horrific wildfires, floods, and record heat waves (116 F in Melbourne!!!) The Wee One traveled just fine, and seemed to enjoy getting some fresh air and relaxation time as much as we did.

Australia is a really big country -- roughly the size of the continental U.S. I think -- so it's impossible to see any more than a sliver on such a short trip. Trying to make generalizations about Australia based on five days in Queensland is kind of like saying you know all about America based on five days in Florida. That said, I was really surprised by the fact that the sliver we saw was so unlike anywhere I've been in New Zealand.

I would argue that it felt very similar to the U.S, but with kangaroos, koalas, and lots of stuff that will bite and sting you. (I went 31 years without a wasp bite. Three days in Australia, and I manage to step in a nest.) All things considered, though, I really like Australia. Sign me up for more.

Some pics for your viewing pleasure:

Surfer's Paradise, on the Gold Coast. It's kind of like Vegas, Miami and Orlando rolled into one, but on a smaller scale. If that makes any sense at all.

After Surfer's, we drove south of the Gold Coast to a resort in Kingscliff, a much quieter beachside town. Because most people seemed to stay by the resort pool for some weird reason, we generally had the beach almost all to ourselves. Sweet!

Christopher with his hardcore boogey board.

In Brisbane, we went to the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, where you can get up close to all kinds of Australian animals. Here is a napping dingo.

Little kangaroo!

Big kangaroo! Check out the claws!

Me & a koala named Petal. Petal was totally not in the mood for picture posing.

Napping wombat.

* A little background for those who don't get the title of this post.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

December Whirlwind, Part II

Okay, so it's February 1 and I'm just now posting pictures from our December trip with Dot. I'm off my game a bit. Sorry. If it's any excuse, we've just moved house (pictures of the house to follow shortly ... really ...) so things have been in slight disarray. More on all that another time.

In other news, we are headed this week for a short beach trip to Australia -- our last pre-baby vacation. Very excited for some sunshine and lounging time, although a pregnant lady in a bathing suit is likely to frighten some folks. Pics and details of that trip soon to follow, no doubt, but in the meantime, enjoy the second part of our South Island adventure:

Lake Tekapo. It's hard to explain the color of this water.

New Zealand cherries are PHENOMENAL, especially from the little roadside stands. After a month and a half of stuffing myself silly, I'm still sad the season is almost over.

We stopped by this bungee jumping center and watched people jump for a while. I like to pretend that I would jump if I wasn't pregnant, but really I am a big chicken. I don't think I will ever need that much adrenaline.

Sheep outside of Dunedin. Baaa.

The lovely Dot (aka Dottie P., Dorothy Anne, The Notorious D.O.T.) on Franz Josef Glacier. I should add here that aside from being an amazing photographer, Dot makes incredible salsa and is also the most talented white female freestyle rapper that I know. You really should invite her to your next party.

Franz Josef. To give you a sense of scale, the little dots in the center left of the photo are people in another hiking group.

Before we sign off, let's give a shout out to Dunners for being named the best city in New Zealand. You'd better recognize.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Let's talk about big ole bellies

25 (nearly 26) weeks. Is it okay to be terrified that the Wee One and I still have three months of growth to go?

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Kia Ora, Y'all" gets moving pictures!

I am not a tech-savvy person. Left to my own devices, I'd probably be writing this blog through a dial-up connection on my Commodore 64. Or typing it up and distributing it by fax.

Chris, on the other hand, is very tech-savvy. As I write this, he is actually sitting across from me reading an entire book on his iPhone, for crying out loud. So he occasionally clues me in on techie stuff, which I appreciate. And so should you, because thanks to him we got a Flip, which means we'll start having video. Which makes me feel very fancy.

Our first video feature is not from our new Flip, however, but from Dot's camera. One of our stops on the 2008 NZ Tour was the Franz Josef glacier.* Chris and Dot did a long day hike on the glacier, which they described as awesome but rather grueling. Because pregnant women are expressly banned from doing this hike and because we had driven a long way to see this damned glacier and I wanted a good view, I took a short helicopter ride over it instead. Amazing. And much easier than hiking for ten hours through icy crevasses, I dare say.

In any event, here is a little snippet of their footage the hike. There's no sound, as there will be when we use the Flip, but after all, it's a glacier. Trust me when I say there's not much to hear.


* Kiwis pronounce "glacier" as "glah-see-air" instead of "glay-sure." At the risk of sounding insensitive to cultural differences, this drives me absolutely insane.

Our awesome offspring

Here are the last ultrasound pictures of The Wee One that I promised you, devoted reader.



The Wee One is now 24 weeks along (full-term pregnancy is 40 weeks, give or take two weeks on either side). S/he is now approximately the size of a large ear of corn. And I am now approximately the size of a small bus. Chris, so far, remains normal size.

Friday, January 2, 2009

We'll take a cup of kindness yet ...

We're home and December whirlwind is officially over. We had an awesome trip with Dot, who flew home on Jan. 1. Since Dot is a professional photographer (among her many talents), I figured I'd wait to post pictures from her part of the trip until I get some from her, since her stash is almost certainly better than what I've done with my little point-and-shoot. So more photos are coming. Be patient.

In place of those photos, I thought I would write a little "Happy New Year!" post, where I would wax poetic about all of our experiences in 2008 and our hopes for 2009. Sitting here, though, I realize there is just too much to cover. Too much has happened, and we have too much to look forward to and too much to be grateful for. I don't even know where to start.

So for now, I'll just wish all of my devoted readers a happy and healthy new year. Here's hoping that 2008 leaves you with beautiful memories, and that 2009 brings you nothing but the best.