Going, going, (almost) gone!

We’re on our way to the States: our house is under offer, we’ve traveled to Auckland and have had our Green Cards approved, and tomorrow, Lord willing, we fly out to New York.

The last few weeks have been a super busy time, and a bit of an emotional roller coaster. So much to finish off, so little time. So excited to go, so sad to leave. So many lasts (for a while — not forever!). So many things falling into place at just the right time. So much to be thankful for. Too many goodbyes. So much grace.

Last week Thursday the packers came.

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(Some left-over balloons from Marica’s birthday party the previous weekend in the midst of all the packing mess!)

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Thursday night the tummy bug came for Ben.

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We said goodbye to our house.

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We said goodbye to friends and family (and I didn’t take photos of nearly half of them, which I regret) and had many lovely meals and visits, which we’re so thankful for.

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And for a bit of (embarrassing to us) fun, here’s a song Ben and I wrote about our move and that we played at the Hoyt reunion in January.

Next time I hope to send you all an update from the Big Apple!

Gearing up to go

The last few weeks have gotten exponentially busier as we’re getting ready for our move back to the States. It is strange how something can feel so unreal even in the midst of the busyness. I have days where it’s almost a surprise to me when people ask when we’re leaving. “Leaving? What do you mean? Oh yeah…” But I work a bit that way: get things done that need to be done, and process it all later.

This past weekend we had our garage sale, as well as the last open home for our house. Our car is also sporting ‘for sale’ signs, and the couch I’m sitting on right now is for sale on TradeMe. It feels a bit like my whole life’s for sale at the moment, ha!

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We’ve had many opportunities to have some lovely last catch-ups with friends and family, and that will continue until we leave, with the diary all booked up. Ben and I just continue to marvel and God’s blessings to us — undeserved grace overflowing into every nook and cranny of our crazy lives through many wonderful people and opportunities and material things too.

Wednesday is the deadline date for offers on our house. It will be interesting to see what comes our way! Thursday and Friday the packers come, and on Monday we fly out to Auckland. It’s all go!

On being home

So yes, as Ben informed you about 2 weeks ago, we’re back in Christchurch! I can hardly believe it’s been two weeks, because it’s been so busy with unpacking and getting right into things here.

We were given a wonderful and warm welcome home. There were friends and family who met us at the airport, and a very clean home and tidy garden waiting for us. My parents have been fantastic, working so hard here with lots of help from friends, not only before we came but afterwards helping us unpack too.

My friend Miriam had organised a whole basket of groceries for us,

and we had a fridge and freezer full of food and meals (I’ve only cooked once since we’ve been back!) from friends and family. My mum’s a fantastic cook, and to have had a whole heap of meals made by her in the freezer and eating at their house the first few days we were back was great. A real taste of home, you could say.

Being back is filled with mixed emotions. Mostly it just feels really strange, as if we’ve just woken up from a 2-year long sleep, as if our time in the States was just a big blurry dream. Things here are just the same as always, and yet subtly different (sometimes not so subtly,  like all the many buildings that used to be there that are gone after the earthquakes), and it’s those subtle differences that make it weird.

It’s been great reconnecting with people — lots to catch up on — and I do enjoy the fact that people can just visit without having to plan a visit 2 weeks in advance. New York distances sure made just popping in for a visit nigh to impossible.

Ben’s getting into the work here, having to readjust to working from home again, and the perks and challenges that that brings. The kids seem to have handled the transition well, and Esther is getting used to the idea that she’s going to sleep in the same bed (oh, I forgot to mention the beautiful white bunk bed with matching bedding and dressers my parents got the girls as a welcome home present, so lovely!) for the foreseeable future. She’s starting preschool next week for two mornings a week, and we’ve gotten into the routine of doing homeschooling work with Marica again too.

I won’t deny it, I’m very glad to be back. But I also can’t deny how much I miss the States. I don’t feel quite ready for the change, but there’s no time to get ready! — I just have to jump into life here whole hog! I thought that two months on the road would work well as a transition, but if anything it just made me more attached to the States — it’s such a vast and beautiful country.

It’s been pretty grey and dreary with rain almost every day since we’ve been back, and our yard is turning into a bog.

I was about to feel miserable about all the grey the other day when this beauty brightened up the day:

Anyhow, we’re now close to being all unpacked and settled. I just need to unpack my music books, some ornaments and little bits of junk that usually live in my bedside table, and hang some pictures on the wall and I’ll feel all moved in! Then it’s just a matter of time to get my head moved into the routines of Christchurch life. Once I do that, I hope to resume posts about the rest of our roadtrip — I have some really amazing photos to share. The photos aren’t so amazing, it’s the subject matter: things like Garden of the Gods that I went and photographed before and during sunrise, Arches National Park, Monument Valley, oh boy, there’s some good stuff there. I look forward to sharing it all with you soon, hopefully!

A few post-earthquake photos

This is my last post about my trip to Christchurch in January. It’s about time, I think! This post is largely for our US readers who have expressed interest in the earthquake side of things back home.

A few months after we moved to New York City, Christchurch experienced a 7.1 earthquake. Despite the magnitude, there were surprisingly no casualties and people were hopeful that this might just be a one-off occurrence. But aftershocks kept coming and on February 22nd 2011 a 6.3 shook the city, this time killing around 183 people and destroying even more buildings and infrastructure in the city.

Since then, the city has seen a lot of change — people have changed, the cityscape has changed and many people have suffered loss or damage. And yet it seems that people are trying to put on a brave face and a can-do attitude and you can see this in the way that little coffee shops sprout up on empty plots of land that used to have buildings that you struggle to remember what they looked like, and in the likes of the new Cashel Mall, a temporary mall made out of fancied-up shipping containers.

I have to admit that I had some reservations about going back for our trip and having to experience a bunch of aftershocks, as well as seeing our city so changed. As it was, we were very blessed to have only a few aftershocks that we felt, and the shock of the damage wasn’t so bad because so much of the rubble has already been cleaned up. Some folks here in the States have expressed interest in seeing what things look like there now, so I thought I’d share a few photos from my time there. It’s interesting to note that some parts of the city seems as if it has had no damage at all, and other parts have been really hard hit.

We are very thankful that our house has sustained only very minor damage — some piles from our foundation need fixing, and some cosmetic damage, of which this is the worst.

We really have nothing to complain about!

That pile of rubble used to be an old church.

Brick fences have to be propped up.

The new Cashel Mall, made with modified shipping containers.

I love how empty spaces that used to have buildings on are prettied up.

The World Buskers’ Festival was on again this year and we saw one of the shows as we were walking by.

Temporary is the key word here.

There are all sorts of fancy designer shops, one with these shoes. I took a photo of them just for Ben, because I know he’d kill to have a pair of those red and black snake leather ones.

There has been so much demolition going on — everywhere in the city centre there are just these empty plots of land where buildings have already been demolished.

Buildings are being demolished or fixed as engineers advise.

Most buildings get red (demolish), yellow (restricted entry), or green (safe to enter) signs.

The Sumner area near the ocean has sustained quite a lot of damage from the actual earthquake as well as landslides, as you can see in the photos below:

Containers line the road to keep landslides from the cliff at bay.

The roads that were one flat are now a bit, uh, wavy.

But Sumner is still beautiful, and not everything is broken!

I love people’s initiative and taking something that looks like an obstacle and turning it into an opportunity. These little cafes have sprouted up on land that used to have other buildings on it that had to be demolished. I just think this is really great.

And you see a lot of that kind of attitude in the people of Christchurch. They’ve been through a lot, and seem to want to put a good face on a hard year and a half. I admire them for that.

Marica turned 5

How is it that they go from this…

to this…

so unbelievably fast?

Too fast, that’s what. I’m sure someone’s been speeding up the time.

Marica turned 5 in February, but when we were in New Zealand, my mum (Ouma to the kids) threw a birthday party for Marica. What fun!  Ouma made an amazing cake with a Liewe Heksie theme and we had the party in a marquis tent in front of their house, which my sister Angelique helped me to decorate.

Marica got a whole lot of really nice presents. Thanks, everyone!

Check out Liewe Heksie’s fantastic house. Mum spent days crafting the fondant decorations. The end result was really amazing!

Liewe Heksie and Blommie kept nice guard over the flower cupcakes.

There were some games, like pass the parcel,

which has the fun results that boys sometimes get girl presents!

It was a windy day so a game of Catch the Bubbles went down really well. We had 3 great older girls who came over to help with the party and the games, and they were just fantastic! Thanks, Annemarie, Danny and Anneke!

I don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to buy party noise makers, but the kids enjoyed them!

Oh, just look at my adorable little nephew! Tyson is my sister Angelique’s son, and he’s the sweetest, happiest baby I’ve ever met.

The party was aptly concluded with a piano solo from Marica that she had practised (and made up) for days beforehand.

Thanks, Ouma, for throwing Marica such a lovely party! She talked about it for weeks afterward.

Reconnecting with friends and family

When the girls and I were in New Zealand, we had quite the social time visiting friends and family. The kids got so used to going out and visiting people that if we had the odd morning where we weren’t going out they’d ask, “aren’t we going to visit someone today?”

Well, let me introduce you to some of them. I’m going to try to squeeze 3 weeks into one blog post, which is crazy I know, but I’m finding it hard to get the time to blog! Sorry if I leave anyone out, and sorry if I included anyone who’d rather be left out!

We stayed with my parents, and it was great to spend time with them again. The kids got nicely spoiled with getting to have breakfast in Ouma and Oupa’s bed while watching kids’ shows on TV!

We had many nice evenings together, we went to the pool a couple of times, out for coffee,

and even to the beach. It was a very special time just to be together again!

I got to visit with my sister, Angelique, and met her son Tyson for the first time. He is one really cute kid! So cute I forgot to take a picture.

I caught up with my friend Miriam a couple of times, and somehow managed not to take a photo either of those times.

I also caught up with my friend, Elrike, who also happens to be my sister-in-law. :-) Actually, I would consider all my sisters-in-law to be not only family but also friends, which is pretty special. I visited all of my Christchurch sisters-in-law, and neglected to take photos of all of them. Shocking, I know.

Hmmm, anyone else notice a theme here? Some days I remembered I had a camera, other days I didn’t… no rhyme or reason to my madness. So, here’s an honorary list of people I love dearly and had a great time visiting with — so great a time that the photos got forgotten: my sisters-in-law, Veronica and Alexia, my parents-in-law, my friend Marcelle, and I’ve probably left someone out.

Luckily Elrike had a nice photo of the girls at her house. It’s not hard to see that these kids are related, is it?

I DID take some photos! Here are (quite!) a few:

We went out one night for dinner to McDonald’s with Bevan, Elrike and their to cute girls. As you can see from Bevan’s serious disposition, he and Ben are related. Maybe they’re related to the reflected apparition of Ronald McDonald too.

The girls really enjoyed playing with their cousins again. To Esther they were all pretty much new, but she got the hang of things pretty quickly.

Here are the girls with their cousin, Juanita:

And their cousins Estelle and Hendrik, who happened to have his second birthday while we were there:

We visited the Davy’s farm and while I had some good conversation with Mrs Davy, Marica reconnected with Blitzy, our old dog, who has apparently turned into a vicious possum hunter. Go Blitzy!

Mr and Mrs Davy have a pig farm and we had a little look at some of the cute piglets that will be nicely fattened up to be turned into bacon. Who knew bacon could be so cute and taste so good?

I visited with Margaret and her family. They’ve unfortunately had quite a lot of earthquake damage to their house, but thankfully it’s all fixable.

I had a great time catching up with my friend, Anne, her husband Henry and their daughter Amber.

Henry and Anne have a very impressive vegetable garden. It’s prolific, exceedingly tidy and has more stuff in it that you’d think possible. And they’re very generous with their produce too — here they were digging fresh potatoes with the girls for us to take home. Those potatoes were very yummy!

Marica and Amber have known each other since they ‘met’ at a Plunket group when they were 3 and 4 months old. Over that time they’ve developed a special friendship, as have we with Henry and Anne.

We had a delicious breakfast with Kelly and Phillipa, whom Ben boarded with for 2 (?) years in Masterton.

Just look at this: waffles with strawberries, cream and maple syrup. Yum!

I have to just add this photo too of our pastor with Esther on his lap. The Holtslags had dinner at my parents’ house the weekend before we left, and Esther seemed to take a liking to pastor Holtslag. He patiently played ‘dressing the doll’ with her while she played ‘undressing the doll’ for ages. When the time came for them to leave, and we waved goodbye in the driveway, Esther said, “Tatta, Pappa!” To which I replied, “That’s not Pappa!” Esther then emphatically said, “IS Pappa!” Oh dear, I almost cried! Perhaps three weeks is a bit too long for a two-year-old to be away from her Pappa!

A full time of socializing, as you can see! But SO worth it. Thanks everyone for hosting us and putting up with us — we’re looking forward to settling down again in Christchurch and to see more of you all.