Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Endless Summer

We have had the best summer here in NZ, locals say they can't remember the last time we had a summer like this one. It has been day after day of perpetual sunshine, beautiful waves and happy shoeless children. We have taken full advantage of the weather and been to the beach almost everyday. Some days two or three times. The kids enjoy going to the beach after school and meeting up with friends for a boogie board, surf, or just a play in the waves. The weather is great news for those of us who enjoy spending time in the water, but not so great for the farmers who rely on the rain to help support their livelihood. The Island was declared a drought zone, the most widespread drought they have seen in 30 years. There was  a fire ban as well as  a water ban these past few months. The usual lush, wet landscape now has some brown areas peeking through.  
It is April 10th as I write this and the water temp still feels like February, but there is a little bit of a chill in the wind, and the smell of fall is in the air. Fall in the states brought about college football games,  apple cider, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Fall in NZ is a warmer wetsuit, puffy jackets, rugby and extra cups of tea. 
We had a busy summer with family out to visit. Brad's parents were here for two weeks in January, my parents came out for the month of February, and then Brad's step mom and half sister were here the beginning of March. I love having family/friends come and visit us. We are so spoiled with where we live, it is so easy and fun to be able show off this beautiful country.

Mom and Dad and I snuck off to the capital city of Wellington for a few days .  

So lucky to be able to spend a whole month with Mom and Dad!!

Heading in to freezing cold waterfall with Aunt Maggie!
Cold but happy they braved the waterfall as well. 
Grammy Joan, Owen and Skyler
Brad and Maggie

Checking out the swell
Skyler has taken quite an interest in surfing this summer. She has gotten quite good and is keen to go out everyday if the swell is on. She has won a few competitions along the way and is wanting to continue her surfing throughout the winter. She makes us proud with her tenacity,  determination and bravery. There have been days she is out surfing that I myself would not of considered going out because the waves are so big, and it would of scared me to death!! But out she paddles to try and catch a few waves, even with the waves beating her up she still manages to ride a few. Brad and I go out paddling boarding whenever we get a chance. Brad is quite good, and I still spend a lot of time in the water swimming next to my board. I WILL get good at this sport, I just need a few more years!!
She made the local paper because she won the year 7 intermediate  school surf competition. 

The celebrity being interviewed by the local paper. My favorite quote she said was  "the reason she likes to surf is  the feeling she gets when she is riding a wave."

Skyler proudly showing off her first place certificate. 

Oakura Boardriders surf competition. 

Oakura Boardriders Surf Team

Having a night swim and a night surf. 

We have had many gorgeous sunsets this summer.

First day of school. Sky is a year 7 and Owen is a year 3.

Lindsey's first day of  High School. This is the only picture I was allowed to take on the day. 

Lindsey and her horse Buddy. Lindsey is very passionate about animals and just enjoys being around them. She is riding once a week, but we are about to up it to twice a week, and consider leasing her a horse as well. Not sure what we are about to commit to, but feel the urge to encourage her to explore her passions just as we do the other siblings. Yes, it would be so much easier (and cheaper) if she wanted to be a basketball player or cross country runner. However she happiest in the presence of animals and since we cannot have pets in rentals, we have to look outside for her to get her fix. 

We went camping with some good friends and spent the afternoon at the 3 sisters. A beautiful part of the coast that has beautiful rock formations. It is a natural kids playground, they wanted to spend more time playing but with the tide starting to come in, we had to get off the beach. 

Kiwi entertainment. A hill at the campsite, where kids of all ages slide down on their bums , screaming the whole way. It got better at night as some parents felt the need to partake as well, it was some good people watching!!

Mt. Taranaki from about 100 miles away. 

These are the year 7 and 8's who just had an athletics day (track and field). Keep in mind the tracks here are made by a lawn mower, and the field is just a dry grassy area. The track is by no stretch of the imagination mowed to specifications. There is quite a sharp turn at one end, and a little bumpy in some stretches. Some of us notice these minor inequalities to the track but most do not, especially the kids. They go out and do their best, bumpiness and all.
The  kids are just finishing up term 1 of the new school year. It has been an active term filled with many outdoor activities and sporting events. Some of the activities have been Beach Clean up day, year 7 and 8 swimming competition, year 7 and 8 athletics day, year 7 and 8 surfing competitions, and the Weetabix triathlon. And next week the older kids have their outdoor adventure week and they will be doing everything from Mtn. biking, canoeing, a mud run and dam dropping. Brad and I both signed up to help out with the week of events but we are especially looking forward to the dam dropping! All of these activities that I just listed happen during the school day. Now keep in mind that some of these activities cover their PE curriculum. They do not have a PE teacher, nor a music teacher nor an art teacher. Their grade level teacher is responsible for covering those parts of the curriculum. The other events are just part of the reason that the kids love going to school here in NZ. School here is not just about reading, writing and math, it is more about developing a well balanced child. And in order to do that emphasis must not only be placed on academics but also the social and emotional well being of each student. And how does a school do that? They have fun, they do not stress out the kids with a bunch of homework or all the standardized test the kids back in the states are required to take. They let the kids go down to river for the school day, pick up some trash and have a sausage sizzle with their friends, or they let them go and compete in a triathlon during school hours, because they understand the benefits. It has taken me close to two years to understand this and appreciate it. But we see the benefits of this school system every day and not just  with our kids but our friends kids. Most of them are just happy, well adjusted, confident kids who are not afraid to try new things. And really what more could you want out of your kids? 
Skyler getting ready to hit the water for the year 7 and 8 swimming competition. 
Our friend caught us a crayfish, and this is what he looked like before we ate him. It was delicious, a lot like a lobster but sweeter, and more flavorful. 

Camping with our good friends the Bishops.

Check out the price of this American chocolate.

 Skyler turned 11 last week and we had her friends over for a minute to win it party. No one had ever heard of these games, so it was a huge hit for the kids. The kids loved the Oreo game and the toilet paper rolls on the arms the best. I think it has caught on in the village and  hope to hear of some more parties developing as a result.

The Oakura kids representing the school at the Puketi Puffers trail run over the weekend. I did my first 7 km trail run, and have found a new hobby. Running on a narrow, windy, and hilly trail through the rain forest was exhilarating. It has me hooked and I am already looking for my next race. The kids did a 2km, and had fun as well. 

Owen about to enter the water for the Weetbix Triathlon.

Skyler trying to stay warm before her swim. 

All 103 Oakura students (300 students enrolled at the school) who did the race.