Friday, November 29, 2013

project 365: october edition

It's FAAaaaalllll!

One of Stefan's many extraordinarily adorable expressions.

Well THIS is embarrassing. But for the record, this DISASTROUS CRAP PILE is a picture of PROGRESS. Formerly Kumeu's room/Lowell's work out room/the office/random storage room is being overhauled and transformed into simply Stefan's room/the office. I'm ALLLLMOST finished, then I will most certainly post some before AND after pictures so you're not traumatized forever after witnessing THIS disaster.

A visit to mommy's old work stomping grounds, and fun with the always entertaining Michelle!

His hands were necessary stabilizers, and it was short-lived at best... but Stefan started sitting up on his own!

Cool. Dude.

Dins with Uncle Ryan, Auntie Julie & baby Elise!

That 70s kid.

The beginnings of Fraser's Man with the Yellow Hat costume. Such a fancy pattern sketched on newspaper, wouldn't you say?

It was time that Fraser be acquainted with the Man with the Yellow Hat!

Fraser simply couldn't resist snuggles while we were attempting to get a photo of Stefan in his fancy little suit from Auntie Marti & Uncle Lando.

Reconnecting with our good Uni friend, Elaine, and her littlest cutie! Too bad Ashley and badminton courts weren't also present because I think Elaine & Carlynne could use a little reminder of who rules the court. Hmmm girls?

Stefan's half birthday!

Twin cousins Stefan & Finola. 6 months and 4 months (and I'm preeeetty sure Fin is the same size as (if not bigger than) Stefan hehehe)!

Oct 13! Carlynne and my birthday! And here is Carlynne with her beautiful little family.

On our birthday, I woke up to a flower/Starbucks card arrangement... 100% from the brain of Lowell. If this is what 31 looks like, then I like 31!
Little side note. Carlynne and I were together for the first birthday in six years. Woot! And not only that, but THE WHOLE STINKIN FAMILY WAS HOME! And Rachel of Rachel Joyce Photography took some splendid pictures...

Cool. Now back to the pictures that I took...
I happen to think this is an adorable picture of Stefan and auntie extraordinaire!

Uncle Craig and his two biggest nephews... precious!

Just plum cute. And LOOK. You can see HAIR!!!

It was, like, reeeeally cold in the bathroom (oooor, Stefan was just modeling Fraser's old hat that he grew into). And FYI. With the exception of one rather accidental poo (by Fraser), that potty in the background remains unused (don't judge)!

The G grandboys in the adorbzies vests that Uncle Dan & Auntie Carlynne scored from a cute little French shop in Quebec.

After lamenting about losing the carrier I was borrowing from Chels (cuz she had the AUDACITY to have another baby! haha... I forgive you), Carianne surprised me with an Ergo carrier which I quite do love. I wear it more than I wear clothes. No wait, that was a lie. But I do wear it a lot. And Kumeu also loves it because it means I can handle both kids on my own at the not-stroller-friendly dog run!

Trip to the dump... sick sick sick. If seeing THAT load of crap doesn't encourage increased recycling, then I don't know what would. GROSS. And also stinky. And LOUD. Sick.

Fraser frequently requests that Stefan join him in his crib ("Stefan inna crib!") and they proceed to kiss, zerbert, giggle, and have a merry ol time!

How convenient that I have this very willing little helper!

Eek! Cuteness alert! Can't get enough of those baby blues (or in this case, baby blue. singular).

Fraser often announces "belly time!" and insists that he and Stefan have some good old fashioned tummy down bonding time. Then he usually shoves Stefan's side as to force a roll over situation, and proudly declares, "Stefan roll over! Mommy! Look at that! Stefan roll over!" Also, funny that Fraser ALWAYS says "belly time" when we only ever say "tummy time". Little Enstein here seemingly made that connection himself!

On the days that mama should PROBABLY pull herself together (or at the very least, wear PANTS), this is how it gets done.
Auntie Shareen joined us for a park date! 8:30am on a sunny (albeit nippy) morning, and we were the only homosapiens roaming the earth... or at least the playground. I can't be the only one surprised by this.

Some very important learning is happening here. Although truth be told, I'd rather he learn the gardening stuff, because I'm a pro at (and enjoy) the lawn stuff, but the gardening stuff? Not so much.

Look how on the ball we were- getting pictures BEFORE Halloween (i.e., before the snow). The Man with the Yellow Hat and one of his two Curious Georges!
For Carianne's birthday, we took pictures of her with her handsome little man, Liam. I'm just going to go right on ahead and toss up a few more photos from this shoot as this pair is just too perfect.

My world has become much larger now that these two can BOTH ride in a cart! AND they both enjoy it... let's hope this good fortune lasts.

Fall, meet winter. Winter? Fall.

I spontaneously went a little crazy with the hair scissors. Initially, I stopped myself after a few ill-placed chops, but once I noticed the raging mullet that I had unintentionally formed, I fully committed to the short do. Anyone else think he looks ready to head off to school now?

Snow! Note the wet chin... a healthy combination of drool and snow. So far, Fraser has barely actually PLAYED in the snow- he rotates around the yard scouting out new snow piles to EAT. Luckily for him, I had just cleaned up 25 mounds of poo (for real- I counted) the day before the snow came... phewf.

Nico & Fraser aka Curious George and the Man with the Yellow Hat!

The whole crew. The Man with the Yellow Hat, two Curious Georges, and the cutest banana there ever was.

The end!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

the welcoming church.

When we lived in NZ, our faith and church family were paramount to us. Not that they aren't now, but when we were foreigners moving to a new land, finding that 'connection' was of utmost importance. I'm a homebody by nature, and had you seen the way I- a grown, married professional- embraced my mommy sobbing as we were ready to head through security before flying to NZ, you would gain some perspective as to how vital it was for us to find a place to belong. Like, ASAP.

Before leaving for our Kiwi adventure, Lowell researched churches in the area that we would be living/working near. We contacted a church that stood out to us- Northwest Baptist Church- and were put in contact with Pastor Andrew, who was in charge of pastoral care. We exchanged detailed emails about family and life with one another, and he kindly extended an offer to not only pick us up from the airport, but to stay at his home until we found something more permanent. We knew the moment we had spotted him at the Auckland airport that we had hit the jackpot. His face radiated genuine kindness and was plastered with a huge, warm, welcoming grin. He wasted no time to take us on a little tour, and we were just thrilled with his excitable conversation and amazing accent (love the kiwi accent). Before long, he brought us to his home to meet his equally kind and genuine wife, Kay. They enfolded us, brought us to church, introduced us to their friends and family, and even introduced us to the place that we would call home for the next several months- a quaint cottage in Kumeu, Auckland (yes, that is why our dog is named Kumeu!).

Chillin with Andrew & Kay and two of their kids: Josh & Joanna.

At the church, we were introduced to Libby who hastily invited us to her home group. We eagerly accepted the invitation, and several friendships were born. We invested in many relationships, and Thursday evenings became our favourite times as that's when we would meet with our new friends. On the weekends that we weren't gallivanting up and down the mouthwateringly beautiful countryside, we were also welcome to spend time with them (as well as, of course, attending church!). Heck, the gals even threw me a surprise birthday party- complete with flowers and mini sandwiches (my fave)!

Lance & Natalie invited us to spend Christmas with Nat's family, and MORE lifelong bonds were built. Nat's parents became ANOTHER set of New Zealand parents to us: Mama & Papa Gw.

 Imagine that... in a brand new country with NO blood relatives, and we managed to snag not one but TWO sets of adoptive parents. We embraced these relationships, and Lance & Nat even joined us for a week while we were in Australia.

Lance & Nat had never been out of NZ, so we made sure to give them a super Ozzy Awesome welcome to Oz!

Just a tiny piece of evidence that we had a lot of fun together. Like, a lot.

People at work also took special care to befriend me even though they knew I would only be there temporarily, and that meant the WORLD to me. All of these people have left lasting marks on us, and we can't talk about NZ without including the PEOPLE. Yes, NZ is a beautiful country filled with adventure and fun, but it really truly was the people that we fell in love with. (And also the kiwifruit chocolate.) We often say that if we hated our families and money (wages left a little something to be desired), we would have stayed there permanently.


Fiona is one of those special friends that meant so much to me. Her door was always open for coffee and conversation, and I LOVED those moments with her. Fiona, Michael and their kidlets moved to the States, and now they're in the process of relocating to Australia. They have been on both the giving and receiving end of church reception.... and they've seen it all- the good, the bad, and the ugly. As such, Fiona has some wise words for church-goers and ways they can make newcomers feel welcome.

Here in Lethy, we don't go to a mega church, but it's a big enough church that you don't always know who is new and who has been there for 25 years, so the greeting thing is fairly important. I can not tell a lie, though. Because of Lowell's limited vision, we dread (like, dread) the greeting part of the service. You know, the part where you turn to those around you and welcome them.  The thing is that the lighting is often low (which means Lowell sees nothin... like, natta), and I'm pulling double duty- trying to genuinely greet those around me WHILST guiding Lowell's hand towards someone's outstretched hand, whispering to him which direction to face, and generally trying to make it all feel like a natural/normal interaction. What? No visual impairment to see here (ha)! So despite the angst that this time stirs up in us, we try... we really do!

I'm just going to go right ahead and link to Fiona's post here. Keeping in mind that it was the Fionas of this world that kept me SANE in NZ... I'd heed her advice. Right here. Well said, Fi, well, said. :)

PS- MAN I miss NZ. And by that, I mean yes... the people. And also the chocolate.