My new blog, ‘Pacific Plate Brit‘ (www.pacificringlife.com) is up and running! All ready for our new adventure living in Santa Barbara, California, USA! We departed Wellington, New Zealand, on Wednesday 7 August.

We’ll be living in the US for around a year and then take our time travelling back to New Zealand at the end of 2014, in time for Christmas southern hemisphere style!

I will periodically copy some posts from Pacific Plate Brit to this blog, but for updates it’s better to visit me here.

Please come over and say ‘Hello’ and follow on bloglovin’ if you so desire – just click on the badge to follow:

Follow on Bloglovin

Nice to think I’ll still be living on the same plate on the planet – just the other side of the Pacific! See you there xx

I took a walk, alone, on a Friday evening,
after a week of being with my three children, every hour of every day.

Alone, by the sea, I walked along the beach,
past couples entwined and groups of friends sharing drinks,
past people walking their dogs and jogging on the sand.

Sunset California

There wasn’t anyone else alone, completely alone. Just me.
The only company I had was my small pocket camera.
The one thing that everyone on that beach did share that evening,
was a mutual appreciation, for the incredible glow of the sky,
as the sun dropped over the Pacific Ocean.

It didn’t seem right to hold all my feelings and thoughts inside my head.
The beauty of the sky and the colours projected on the ocean,
and break waves rolling gently on the sand,
created too intense a feeling to contain within my one body.

It was one of those sunsets that makes a person feel very small.
A sunset that’s better shared.

I leant back, against a sea wall, behind which stood a prestigious property.
It wasn’t like the beaches I’m used to in New Zealand.
It was beautiful, all the same, but there were properties bordering upon its beauty,
encroaching on the natural beauty with their man-made finery.

I didn’t feel like I belonged.

The setting sun seemed to be pulling me out,
with a longing, to beaches thousands of miles away.

I was glad of the wall against my back.
It’s firmness gave me comfort,
though I’d sooner have had the touch of a lovers hand
pressed on the small of my back.

I’d sooner have been the couple out on the water,
sat on their paddle boards, limbs touching,
watching the sunset from their serene vantage point.

There were no others out on the water but them
and a yacht, silently anchored.

Silent on the sea at sunset

My silence was overbearing.
I needed to let out a sigh, a gasp,
some sort of vocal appreciation for what my eyes could see.

I needed the warmth of my lovers hand to hold.
My children’s silhouettes to watch,
dancing against the backdrop of the red sky,
as they dodged the waves.

This was a sunset to share with the people you love.
A sunset that with all its beauty held a tinge of sadness too.

© Sarah Lee, October, 2013

“It’s ‘Blackpool Pleasure Beach’ in the sun!” we both said in unison as the children ran around us in excited circles waiting for their tickets.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Old-fashioned rides blended with fair-ground games, candy floss and hot dog stalls were on every corner and the sound of screams, mixed with shrill laughter, filled the air. The only thing missing were trams and donkeys. On the expansive beach there were people in a lot less clothing than on your average day at Blackpool too, but then this was Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk Amusement Park in sunny California.

Swings

The symphony swings flew out in an arc over the beach, as the sun beat down on the beach below. Our seven year old daughter rode on the swings over and over again, whilst her oldest sister rode on the boardwalk’s landmark ride – ‘The Giant Dipper‘ – with her Daddy.

The Giant Dipper

Whilst the screams of excitement, intermingled with music and laughter, rang out from every direction of the boardwalk, our youngest, Miss 3, took a nap in her buggy. Her dreams filled with riding a friendly dragon, as her Mummy and Daddy smiled on with delight; as she pulled back on a lever to fly her dragon into a cloudless, blue sky.

Alice on the dragon ride

And whilst she continued to dream, I watched the smile on the face of one of my daughters. She was having the time of her life, riding on a car waltzer, making me reminisce on days when the fun-fair would visit the town where I grew up, in Hampshire, England.

Miss 7 having a blast!

There were some rides that filled my husband and I with less than pleasant memories from our younger years, but filled our two older girls with rapturous glee, calling out to go, ‘Again! Again!’.

Let's get dizzy!

The first time they rode the spinning machine of stomach churning madness I thought they’d come off green, with tears streaming down their faces! But their stomachs are obviously made of something stronger (that perhaps age makes worse!).

Happy to be spinning around and around!

They delighted in getting their Mummy and Daddy to go on the ’scary’ rides with them – taking huge pleasure in seeing us cope less ably than them.

Crazy Surf

Thankfully we had the excuse of young Miss 3 to ‘cop’ out of too much stomach churning. As much as we still love a good thrill, we got equal pleasure from watching our youngest child’s face light up riding independently on boats, whales and ‘Pepsi’ delivery vehicles!

Alice on the whale

She rode a little boat with such concentration, truly believing her actions on the steering wheel would make a difference as to how the boat moved.

Boat riding concentration

All the while the sun continued to beat down on the beach and fun on the boardwalk.

Santa Cruz beach

Whilst cuddly toys called out to be won…

Catching a prize

And ghosts were preparing to meet with their demise as our older two ‘ghost busters’ powered up for action.

Ghost busting

This was definitely one family adventure not to be forgotten. We’ll be talking about this for a very long time!

Loving the time my daughters are sharing together. I haven’t seen my oldest two so close for years and our youngest is loving the constant interaction of having her older sisters around.

Sisters close through time well spent together

Loving the natural flow of our days, where ‘fitness’ is a swim in the pool, a bike ride to the village or a run on the beach. There’s no classes to dash to, or planned events, simply time for the children to be together and fill their time naturally – which they do with wonderful ease. Though of course they are missing so much from their lives in Wellington, New Zealand too. Our eldest misses her dance classes, her school friends and neighbourhood friends, her choir and singing lesson. At the age of ten, her friends are her world. As much as this experience here is wonderful too, she is keenly aware of missing the continuity of her happy life that she enjoyed so much in vibrant Wellington. The other children miss their close neighbours and friends. I miss my support networks and the friendships that have built up over the seventeen years we’ve spent living in New Zealand.

Where we are, right now, is a beautiful place, but the energy required to make it feel like ‘home’ is HUGE. Yes the weather is incredible here in Santa Barbara – but really that isn’t enough to trade up life-long friendships for and our children’s happiness! I can live with wind – in fact it makes me feel alive (the horizontal rain in the wind isn’t something I miss – but ‘all-weather gear’ helps to battle that!). Yes, the financial rewards of staying and career opportunities for the man of the house are incredible – but again – family, above all else, is so much more important and no value can be placed on that.

Family

So, in the meantime, we are taking each day as it comes. The girls are making the most of this time together as sisters. There is learning happening – but the children don’t call it that, until I point out that the game they’ve invented using a bingo wheel is maths, the songs they have written are ‘creative writing’ and the designs they made on a fashion App is ‘visual art and design’. They play board games, argue on strategy, practice their English grammar with games like ‘Mad Libs‘. They ask for my camera to take photographs of the lizards in the garden, they ask to go to the Zoo, so they can learn more about snakes (my oldest), I walk in on them reading a book at leisure or watching a nature documentary (or Merlin – a favourite at the moment).

When weekends come round, and the man of the house is on deck, we visit museums and parks, and their minds glitter with new interest and questions. During the week we make the most of places in our locality, learning happens everywhere. In the evenings, after work, their Daddy asks them maths problems in the spa pool.

Our youngest is learning the way the others did at the age of three, fast and enthusiastically, moving from cutting and drawing, painting and sticking, to counting her toy trains and ponies, observing sizes and shapes, letters and numbers, full of questions about the world about her, the animals that share the earth and where we are ‘in Space’. She is the best, out of all of us, at living in the moment. She stops to notice the flowers and asks to ‘Pick for Mumma’.

Flowers for Mumma

She sits with me in the garden and watches nature. She sees the woodpecker on the tree and the butterfly gliding overhead.

Woodpecker

We are trying to make the most of the time we have here, trying not to dwell on the aches in our hearts. I spent the first decade of our lives in New Zealand homesick for England, before finally recognising that New Zealand is actually where my home is – however much I will always ache for certain parts of England and the people I love who live there. Right now, I have a feeling of home sickness for two countries! I really don’t know how long term trailing spouses with children do it. I have absolute admiration for families working in diplomatic posts of three year durations at a time in various overseas posts.

This experience, for me, with children, is not at all easy, but I know we will look back on this time, the photographs, the happy moments and forget the pain and we shall feel proud of ourselves for giving this a shot. I can’t say how much I feel proud to be a Kiwi by residency and have three New Zealand born children.

This photograph I bought, whilst in San Francisco, last week, holds a lot of meaning to me.

America's Cup

____________________________________

Linking up this post with ‘Things I’m Loving’ hosted as ‘Catalina’s Cottage‘ this week

Autumn in Santa Barbara is not like any autumn I’ve ever experienced. It feels like summer, minus the long, light evenings. But there is still a change in the air, however slight it may seem to this British born lass, used to living in windy Wellington, New Zealand, for well over a decade!

There are warm winds blowing in and shorter days. The friendly lizards aren’t so visible, when the sun hides its light. The blue sky still stays, with little variation, during the day. Clouds are something to be excited about – but rarely offer the same magnificence of the type we are used to – and rain is still something we’ve not seen in the past two months we’ve been living here.

But the season of ‘Fall’ is evident, in the plentiful pumpkins to be found everywhere, the harvest festivals and pumpkin patches (complete with bouncy castles and elaborate scare-crows) and, most mesmerising of all, there are Monarch Butterflies; drifting in from the western Rockies, over 2,500 miles away, to rest for the winter.

Monarch Butterfly

These incredible butterflies have always held me captivated – from when my children were young and we planted our own butterfly garden in New Zealand to encourage them to linger and repopulate on the Swan Plants we planted next to colourful flowers to attract them.

Now, as I experience my first autumn here in Santa Barbara, California, I am delighted to see them in the garden of the beautiful property we are currently staying.

I have had a tough time recently, on the mental health front, which I shan’t go into (though rest assured I shall soon be on the mend, thanks to wonderful friends, a great husband, caring neighbours and a kind doctor) and having a moment to appreciate these beautiful creatures really helped me this week.

I hope you enjoy reading this, as much as I enjoyed writing it xxx

Flying in with the Fall

Prose for Thought

What a trip! Exhausting with three children and a husband working hard int he office Monday to Friday! It wasn’t a holiday, but most certainly an adventure and an experience – with some amazing sights either side of the working week and a couple of incredible weekends either side.

The drive back, from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, was broken up with a two night stop in Monterey Bay. Unfortunately it took us a little longer than anticipated to do that first leg – so many accidents and half of San Francisco leaving the city for a weekend away made the driving painfully slow.

We arrived in Monterey as the sun was setting and pulled in at Summerland Beach, attracted by the large sand-dunes. It’s often the half an hour stops on a journey that stay in the mind the longest.

Summerland Beach

All the traffic was soon forgotten and the stresses washed away….

Sanddunes

Our hotel for our two night stay in Monterey was close to the waterfront, had a pool to keep the children happy and room service to keep the parents sweet. We checked in about 8pm and were in the swimming pool within ten minutes. The children finally got to sleep… they always do… eventually! Must have been about 11pm.

In the pool

On the Saturday we visited the incredible aquarium in Monterey – the best we have ever seen and truly never to be forgotten. As well has having the most beautiful aquarium tanks showcasing wonderful, exotic and breathtaking sea-life, there are also plenty of hands on learning exhibits for children to learn about ocean life. I will have to write a special post on our visit another time.

In awe

The location of the aquarium, set on the Pacific Ocean, in the most spectacular scenery, abundant with sea-life and bird-life, completed the perfection.

View from Monterey Aquarium

The beauty of the natural environment continued, as everyone promised us it would, on our drive down the Pacific coast back to Santa Barbara. There were so many similarities to New Zealand. We found ourselves remembering stunning drives along the west coast of the south island, as well as the breathtaking coast drives on the east coast of the south island – filled with equally abundant marine life.

Pacific Coast California Big Sur

Elephant Seals dotted the beaches and whales made their migratory journey south.

Elephant seals

The landscape was rugged, with the winding road teetering on the edges of the cliff, leaving a defined cut.

Where the road had been carved out there were geological layers laid bare, exposed to tell the story of the earth; reminding us of driving through the central plateau of the north island of NZ.

The stop offs were stunning. If we’d had more time, and more pliable children, we would have lingered longer, had a drink, enjoyed the road stop cafes and live music (we did make pit stops – but flies were a problem in one place and ’stinky seaweed’ smells in another…).

As we got closer to Santa Barbara we pulled up at a beach to fly kites and cover each other in sand, before the last hour of the drive.

Kite flying on the beach

It was with relief we pulled in at our ‘home’ in Santa Barbara. It is a stunning home, but not our home and all of the children said as much in their own ways, which touched me deeply.

Our three year old said, ‘Mummy, how many nights now here, before we go back to Wellington? I do love it here though.’

Our ten year old said, ‘I don’t feel the same way that I used to feel when got back to our home in Wellington after a trip away.’

And our seven year old said, ‘Mummy, it is nice here, but I don’t feel like I am back home’.

Nevertheless, it is great to be back and have time to get reacquainted with all our belongings that only arrived from New Zealand three days before our road trip away.

The older girls have played together all day, from riding on their bikes down the lane by the house and swimming in the pool, to board games of Dragonology and ‘Bingo’ games! They’ve dressed up as knights and ran around the house brandishing swords and shields, whilst young Alice has played with everything imaginable – from play dough and matching games to painting and imaginary games with ponies and trains. We’ve swam in the pool and sang along to songs. I haven’t managed to get any of them out to the local supermarket so I could stock up on washing powder and essentials – but they can wait!

Our minds are busy digesting all that we’ve seen and done this past week. It’s good to have ‘down time’ after a trip away!

It’s going to take me a while to sort through the hundreds of photographs and get them printed off for the older girls to add to their scrap books (which should then keep them busy for a while!).

Next »