February 23, 2008

Not A Museum Kind Of Kid

Take a close look at this picture from the excellent Auckland Maritime Museum. There's me, sitting in the machinery room of a giant steam crane. I'm checking out the machinery, reading about the boat, wondering what it must have been like for the men who worked here, trying to figure out how everything works. And there's Jerry, just on the other side of the wall, eyes intently focused four inches in front of his face on his Nintendo DS. This picture is a perfect example of our differing approaches to museums. I like to take the "look-around-and-learn" approach, while Jerry takes the "play-video-games-until-we-leave" approach.
I can't say I'm thrilled about our differences. I would much rather have him happily by my side, sharing my excitement. But, as Jerry has told me time and time, again he's "just not a museum kind of kid."

The way I see it, this leaves me with three options:
1.) Don't go to museums. (Not much fun for me.)
2.) Insist we go to museums together and force Jerry to follow along with me. (Not much fun for Jerry and definitely no fun for me--listening to a constant barrage of complaints is one of my least favorite ways to spend a day.)
3.) Go to museums together and park Jerry in one place where he can play his DS while I explore the galleries.

With option three we both win. Jerry gets to spend his time doing something he finds worthwhile and so do I.

I have to say, a year ago I would have been appalled by this arrangement. I would have thought (as many people might) that as a mother who has taken on the job of educating her child at home it was my responsibility to see that he learned something from our outings. After all, what a terrible waste to be surrounded by all that knowledge and not take any of it home.

But the truth is, he's much more likely to take something home from our museum visits when he takes it with a willing heart. And even though he does spend a great deal of his time at museums playing his DS, there are times when he is drawn in by a particular exhibit and ends up learning a lot. As a matter of fact, there are museums we go to where the DS never sees the light of day (Zeum in San Francisco, for one, and any kind of Science Center).

For me, it's more important to have a pleasant day (and a good relationship) than to waste my time trying and cram knowledge down Jerry's throat. Still, I don't keep interesting information to myself. If I come across something that might interest Jerry, or if I find something I especially like, I'll guide him to it. Sometimes he'll linger a while and sometimes he'll go right back to his game. Unschooling has helped me to accept both choices.

It doesn't come naturally for me, though, this acceptance. Many times (though less and less frequently as deschooling does its work) I have to make a conscious effort not to show signs of irritation when he's not interested in something I find fascinating. But what would I gain by getting irritated or by taking the standard approach and forcing him to "enjoy" the museum (never mind the fact that forcing enjoyment on anyone is impossible)? I would get a son who thinks I don't care about what he wants and I'd end up angry and annoyed. Instead we both end up enriched by our (somewhat different) museum experiences and we end the day knowing our feelings have been honored.

So, even though I always feel like a bit of a fraud when I offer parenting, homeschooling, or unschooling tips, I can offer this advice with confidence: if you have a child that's "not a museum kind of kid" forget about your preconceived notions of what a trip to the museum should look like and take the hand-held video game (or your child's preferred activity) along. It's not going to kill anyone, your child can't help gaining something from the experience, and you'll pass the day free of complaints--okay, almost free of complaints. But it'll be good. Trust me.

February 20, 2008

Loads Of Photos

Here's Jerry at the bus stop near the Sky Tower. Jerry and I went to the top but I forgot to bring my camera. It was really nice though. You can see water everywhere, Auckland is pretty much surrounded by it except for one narrow place where you can see mountains. People more adventurous than me can walk around the outside of the Sky Tower or even jump off of it. New Zealand is famous for these kinds of hair raising adventures. I'll be keeping my feet on the ground though. No bungee jumping or sky walking for me.This is downtown Auckland from the top of Mt. Eden, one of the many volcanic cones scattered throughout the city. This is the crater on Mt. Eden. You can't go down into it, though. Too bad because it would have made for some fun hill rolling. If you look close you can see that someone has actually gone down into it and written their initials using stones.And these are the cows on Mt. Eden. Yep, cows in the middle of the city.This is Mt. Victoria (another volcanic cone). Mt. Victoria is in the suburb of Devonport. We spent an afternoon wandering around the little downtown area. They had a nice used bookstore where I bought an autobiography of Sir Edmund Hillary called Nothing Venture, Nothing Win. Hillary was a Kiwi explorer, much respected and loved, who died recently. In the foreword to this book he writes:
The heroes I admired in my youth seemed to possess abilities and virtues beyond the grasp of ordinary men. My desire to emulate them was very great but I never succeeded in approaching their high standards. Fearful at heart in moments of danger, I found it difficult to produce the calm courage of the heroic mould. Having a certain rude strength, I lacked the quickness of hand and eye of the natural athlete. Well meaning enough and with a desire to help, I made few sacrifices in noble causes.

I discovered that even the mediocre can have adventures and even the fearful can achieve. In a sense fear became a friend--I hated it at the time but it added spice to the challenge and satisfaction to the conquest. I envied those who in success clung to a measure of peace and tranquility--I was always too restless and life was a constant battle against boredom. But the compensations have been great--certainly more than I deserve. I had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship.
This is Jerry on his own adventure up the slopes of Mt. Victoria. He took the high road.
Warren and I took the low road. This is the low road with Rangitoto Island in the distance. It's Auckland's youngest and largest volcano, but at 260 meters it's not all that high. Here we are at the top.And here's Jerry inside the "disappearing gun" at the summit. There was a fort up here in 1885.
We explored the eerie concrete bunkers underground. This is Warren and me inside the largest of the bunkers.
Back in Devonport we found a popcorn machine.We had to try it out, of course. We'd never seen a popcorn machine like this before.Mmmm. Good.
This is Jerry and his new friend Isaac (making a silly face) on Sunday night at Isaac's house.
Here's Isaac looking out at Goat Island just after our arrival.
This is on the beach across from Goat Island. We were there with Isaac's family and another family (also homeschoolers). It was a lovely day and Isaac's sisters declared Goat Island their favorite beach in the world. This is Goat island from the glass-bottom boat. You don't get to go onto the island. You just swim around it. Apparently there are hundreds of "Goat Islands," so named because goats would be left on them as food for shipwreck survivors.
Here's Jerry on the beach.
Here's a photo from the unschooler's park day yesterday. Jerry really didn't want to go but I insisted. We both ended up having a really nice day. The people were so welcoming and it was very relaxed. I felt right at home. Jerry played with some of the kids but spent most of his time watching and talking to an 18-year-old boy from the neighborhood who was riding his skateboard on the ramp there at the park. He was very sweet and didn't seem to mind Jerry 's company at all.And here is the view from our hotel again. Things are definitely looking up.

February 19, 2008

Sweet Relief

Good things are happening here. I don't have much time to write about them because we're heading out to a "Socialsing in the Park" event for unschoolers today and Jerry is out of clean underwear and I need a shower and the dishes need to be washed and I need to get directions for taking the bus and--you get the picture. I just wanted to give you a quick rundown of what's been going on.

1. I bought Jerry a moonstone and told him it would help with his homesickness. According to the all-knowing internet, Moonstones are supposed to "help one to feel less overwhelmed by personal feelings and allow one to accept new beginnings." He's keeping it in his pocket at all times now and says it's doing the trick. Of course, it first started to work it's magic when...

2. We spent Sunday night at the home of the fabulous Middlemas family (a walking endorsement for unschooling if ever there was one) and went to Goat Island with them for their son's 11th birthday on Monday. Warren was with us for dinner at their place on Sunday and we got to meet some of their extended family and homeschooling friends. We had a great time. Then Monday we drove north and were able to see some of the countryside on our way to Goat Island Marine Reserve, where the fish come right up to you in the water. We were treated to a trip on a glass-bottom boat and learned how to identify the fish we'd been seeing in the water. Then we stopped at the Warkworth Honey Centre on our way home and had a snack, watched the bees doing their thing, and bought some beeswax candles and honey.

3. We've been spending more time running through the hallways of our hotel and exploring places we haven't seen yet. We went to the gym and had a five minute workout and went swimming in the lap pool instead of the usual outdoor pool. We even spent about 30 seconds in the sauna.

4. We've gotten a couple Pay (through the nose) Per View movies at $14.90 each, throwing fiscal responsibility to the wind.

5. We finally have a video rental card thanks to the guy we'll be renting the house from. He's letting us use his. So yesterday we rented five DVDs.

6. We've been laughing more.

7. Jerry actually agreed to go out to dinner last night so we walked around the Viaduct and decided we would go on a boat trip on an America's Cup-type yacht. That should be really fun. I'm hoping to go tomorrow.

8. Our schedule is really filling up with fun places to go and people to see and meet. (We're going to meet Shell today at the park!!)

9. We're moving into a house in six days and then we'll have more internet access, better television stations, and a cute little neighborhood to call our own. We're going to get a scooter for Jerry once we get there and maybe borrow a couple bikes to make getting around more fun.

So all in all we seem to be moving in the right direction. I have lots of pictures to share but they're all still on my camera so I'll have to post them later.

We're off to the park!

February 16, 2008

Patience: This Is Only A Test, Or Is It?

First off the good news. The England cricket team is staying at our hotel. Not that I care about cricket or even hope to understand why on earth they keep running between those sticks. But the players are awfully cute.

Okay, there's more good news. I'm alone. No, get your mind out of the gutter! Not alone so I can take advantage of the handsome men. Alone so I can recharge my batteries. And let me tell you--my batteries are pretty low.

Why are they so low? I'm glad you asked. They are low because I've had to use every last ounce of patience in my body, and even pull some out of thin air (who knew you could find patience in thin air!?) in order to deal with Jerry's super duper whopping case of homesickness. He's having such a hard time.

I'd say about five nights out of the eight that we've been here he's cried. But the night before last was the worst. He was hyperventilating and hitting himself (something I've never seen him do before) and even hitting Warren. It was just awful.

Jerry ended up slumped on the floor of his bedroom saying he felt like he would lose his mind if we didn't go home. Warren ended up angry in another room with the door shut. And I ended up sitting with Jerry wondering what on earth I could do to help him through this.

Jerry went to summer camp for three weeks last year and the first week and a half was really tough for him. He was very homesick. I nearly went to pick him up but the woman that runs the camp said she'd seen kids that needed to go home and Jerry wasn't one of them. I decided to see if he'd warm up to it. He did and now he can't wait to go back this summer.

So I asked Jerry what had made that first week at camp bearable and he said his counselor, Nick. Nick just listened, Jerry said, and really felt his pain in a way that "a parent never could."

So I promised I would do my best to listen and help him work through his homesickness. I didn't talk about making the best of our situation or being in a really cool place or any of that.

When Jerry finally calmed down he wanted me to tell his dad he was sorry. He expected his dad would probably want to apologize too and asked if I would tell Warren to come talk to him in the bedroom.

Warren said no. He was that angry. Now this made me really angry but I didn't say anything. Well, I said I thought he should try to remember that he is the adult, then I went back to Jerry and made up an excuse for why Warren wasn't with me.

It was tough. I felt like I was walking a very thin tightrope. I knew that Warren had every right to feel angry and I needed to allow him to have his feelings the same as I was allowing Jerry to have his. But I felt Warren's feelings would ultimately damage his relationship with Jerry so it was hard to just let them be. I did though. Maybe I should have tried to talk to him more about it at the time but Jerry really needed me to be with him so I left Warren to his anger, poured Jerry a glass of water with some Rescue Remedy, and read him a story.

Warren did end up coming into the room later but I don't know what was said. I left to get ready for bed. I only know that the following night Jerry was aware that his feelings, which were perfectly legitimate, had made his dad angry.

The next night we almost had an encore.

Warren had gone out to a rugby game. (That's another sport I just can't wrap my head around. Why do they keep going once the guy with the ball is down?) So it was just me and Jerry at home. We watched a little television then Jerry started to talk about missing home, got teary and started hyperventilating again. I was prepared to let him go through the feelings again but then he started talking (almost yelling) to me in a way that I really didn't like. He was looking at me like he hated me so I stopped him and said "No. We're not doing this again."

He looked at me with the same piercing eyes and said "So much for being a good listener."

That hurt. But only for a second because I realized being a good listener doesn't mean you have to let someone talk to you in a way that you don't like. I said as much and he said "sometimes I wish you never were my mother."

You'd think this would really sting but I knew how much pain he was in. I just said, "I'm sorry you feel that way." But then he came over and gave me a hug and cried and said sorry and I said I didn't actually believe him anyway. How could he not want me as a mother?

I told him he was going to have a bath (I had tried asking the night before and he'd said no) and started to run the water. While the water was running he started to hyperventilate again. He said he thought he must be losing his mind. He was clearly frightened by this surge of emotions. Then something clicked for me.

He's going through puberty.

He was homesick, yes. But he was also dealing with emotions that were far more powerful than he'd ever experienced before. All of a sudden I knew how to talk to him about what was going on. I explained that at this time of his life his emotions would sometimes get the better of him. They'd probably be really strong and swing from one pole to the other but that's perfectly normal. That's puberty. He's not losing his mind. He's 12. And yes, he's homesick. And that's okay. We'll figure out a way to work through it.

Throughout all of this I was so thankful for the unschooling philosophy. I don't know how I would have handled these situations without starting from a place of honoring Jerry's feelings--all of them--but I'm pretty sure it would have been disastrous. It allowed me to honor Warren's feelings, too. And even though I still felt angry at him, I didn't yell or tell Warren to stop feeling that way. I knew if I was honoring Jerry's feelings, Warren's had to be honored too.

So last night Jerry had a bath and showed me how you can transfer air from one glass to another under the water. He tried to float on a Ziploc bag full of air and checked out the effects of various amounts of air and water in the bag. I read aloud from the first chapter of a The Sea of Trolls. We watched a Chris Rock movie in which he was elected the first black president of the US, and talked about the historic election that was about to take place and how Obama wasn't much like the character Chris Rock portrayed. We made brownies, then we went to bed.

At one point this morning I realized I'd surprised myself these past few days. I'd shown much more patience than I knew I possessed. But then it occurred to me that this is probably just the beginning. The patience, what was in me and what I had to draw from the air around me, that I'd used this past week was probably just a drop in the hat compared to what I'll need to get through the next five years of parenting.

I almost cried. Will someone please tell me it's not going to be like this for the next five years?

February 14, 2008

Where Would You Play Your DS?

Would you could you on a swing?

In a restaurant?

Near a tree?

Yes I would! I would, I say!
I would play it here or there.
I would play it anywhere.
I would play it in the car, in a house, on a boat.
I would play it on a plane, on a train, or with a goat.
No matter where my parents drag me, I'm in my own DS tote zone.
Why, Sam I Am, oh Sam, I say, I'd even play on a volcanic cone.

February 13, 2008


I was going to write about what a great time we've been having--and we have, really. But I'm feeling kind of low. It's 10:00 and Warren is still at work. That's not unusual but he called about two hours ago to say he was leaving work (which is about 15 minutes away) and then got caught up in some drama (yes, there's even drama behind the scenes) and he's still not here. If I don't expect him to be here I'm fine with his absence. But when I think he's coming home I look forward to it, so when he doesn't show up it's really disappointing.

I think I'm just in a funk today. Even watching the boats on the water was making me sad. I was standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes as about twenty sailboats drifted back and forth across the water. It's meditative, in a way, watching them move in sync like that, until you start to think about how the people on the boats are actually on the boats, probably with friends, and you're standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes and all your friends are an ocean away and your husband is still at work and your son is homesick. See, I told you I was in a funk.

I shouldn't be. We actually had a really nice day. We took the bus to Parnell, which is the neighborhood we'll be moving to on the 26th. We went out there to go to an art supply store (bought a really cool silk screening kit) and then walked around the neighborhood. We'll be renting a wonderful little house at the end of a cul de sac there. It's going to be a big improvement over the hotel. The hotel is nice but it's still a hotel. We'll be near a big public pool, a huge park, lots of shops and cafes and a cute little bookstore.

Oh, and I haven't had a chance yet to tell you about our wonderful day on Monday. We were invited to spend the day with a homeschooling family about a forty minute bus ride away. It was so fun! There were two families there, actually, both with boys close to Jerry's age. He had a really nice time and Marcia (our hostess) and her friend Anita made me feel right at home. We're going back out for dinner on Sunday night with Warren, then Jerry and I will spend the night so we can get an early start on a trip to Goat Island with them the following morning. Goat Island is supposed to be really beautiful for snorkeling and diving so we'll be doing a bit of snorkeling. We're both looking forward to it.

Next week we'll be going to an unschooler park day. I'm really looking forward to that, too. I know I have a lot to look forward to. I guess I'm just a little homesick.

February 11, 2008

Mutiny At The Hotel

Okay, mutiny may be a bit strong, but there's definite unrest. Jerry has said he's not going to walk or take the bus anywhere anymore. End of story. During the conversation leading up to this declaration I started out by acknowledging that it's hard to be away from home but said we would get to see lots of really cool things. He said he doesn't care. I took a calming breath. I said it's only temporary. He said a week is temporary, three months is not temporary. I said "Actually, by definition three months is still temporary," but he said he doesn't go by "definition." I took another deep calming breath. I said when we find ourselves in situations that we don't like we should first determine if the situation can be changed. Our current situation can't be changed because we can't afford to rent a car here and even if we could we don't have a place to park it. Once we've determined there is no changing a situation we need to find ways to accept it. To look on the bright side. He said there is no bright side to walking and taking the bus. I forgot the calming breath and said there is a bright side ecologically speaking and by the way there are children all over the world whose families cannot afford a car for even one day let alone every day and they have to walk everywhere all the time and they're lucky if they can afford to take the bus. He said next time his dad gets a job on location he is not going. "Period." I said "Well, if you don't want to go anywhere you can always stay here with a babysitter." He didn't say anything. I took a deep breath and stayed beside him on the couch for a few minutes trying to think of the right thing to say. (You know, something that doesn't start with "Listen you little ingrate...".) All I could come up with was "Well, I don't know what to say," which I said. Then I came to my computer and started writing.

Midway through the previous paragraph he came over and gave me a hug and said, "I think you understand how I'm feeling." I said I did. And I do. It's no surprise to me that he's not a fan of self-propelled or public transportation. He never has been. I had hoped, however, that we'd make it through the first few weeks before he flat out refused to go anywhere on foot. His constant refrain the past two days has been "Can't we take a taxi?" Mind you, we're not walking huge distances. Today he wanted to take a taxi three blocks. I think I'm going to have to come up with some kind of compensation in return for his cooperation. Something like I'll go swimming with him if he walks somewhere with me. Anyone have any ideas?

February 10, 2008

A Warm Welcome

We had a really nice first weekend here in Auckland. I have lots of pictures and news to share but I'll start out with the best part and get around to the rest later in the day. Cate invited us to have pizza with her family and a few friends on Saturday night. It was the best possible way to start our stay in New Zealand!

We started out with brie and crackers, home grown olives, wine, beer and other goodies
while the kids set up Jerry's Guitar Hero (and tried to avoid being photographed).
Then the kids went for a swim. There's a big age difference between Jerry and Cate's kids but they were so good to him. They really made him feel welcome.
Jerry was in heaven.
That's Cate's husband after their son tossed him into the water. It must be kind of scary when your baby boy gets big enough to throw you in the pool. It's really funny for onlookers, though.
We had pizza for dinner, more wine, lots of laughs. The kids continued to battle it out on Guitar Hero. For dessert we had the most delicious ice cream with fresh summer fruits. I wish I had taken a photo of the fruit--it was beautiful. At the end of the evening Jerry just wanted to know one thing. "Can we come back tomorrow?"

February 9, 2008

Auckland - Day One

It's Sunday morning here (I've been waking up at the crack of dawn) and I'm absolutely overwhelmed by the fabulous hospitality extended to us by Cate and her family. Our first Saturday in Auckland couldn't have been better--but first I'll catch you up on Friday.

After Warren picked us up from the airport he took us to the hotel and showed us around the area a bit. Our hotel is right in the middle of Auckland's business district next to the Sky Tower. At first I was disappointed because the apartment looked so drab (it looked much better on the hotel website) but as soon as we were unpacked the place felt much more like home--not our home yet, but a home none the less.

This is Jerry's room in the midst of our unpacking.

Warren showed us around the neighborhood then headed off to work. Jerry and I spent the day at the hotel. Jerry played with some of the surprise toys and games I had packed for him and set up his Play Station (yep, we brought it along). I slept, organized, reorganized, drank lots of tea, watched the boats in the harbor and made lunch. Then we both went down to the swimming pool. There were two really sweet girls from England at the pool that Jerry ended up playing with. They couldn't wrap their heads around the fact that he was a boy though. They kept calling him a she. He didn't seem to care. It happens to him all the time actually and he just rolls with it. He still doesn't want to cut those locks.

Back at the hotel room we had dinner then I sat on the deck and finished reading Coraline (Yes, definitely freaky but really good!) while Jerry made a stop motion film of a flower coming to life. It was so good and I was really looking forward to posting it on my blog but just as he was about to save it his computer froze and the file was lost. He didn't react too badly but about two minutes later he was crying because he was missing his best friend and wanting to go home. I tucked him into bed, gave him a head massage and he drifted off to sleep. Warren got home around 9:30 and we had some wine, which completely knocked me out, and then drifted off to sleep ourselves.

So that was day one. I'm going to go ahead and post this and write about day two later. I'll have some great photos to share with you from our evening with Cate and exciting news about a possible move to the suburbs!

February 8, 2008

Our Apartment In Auckland

This is me trying to take a photo of our living room and Jerry getting in the way. I like it though. You can see a bit of our view out the sliding glass door.

I've zoomed in on the best part of our view here. This was taken Friday afternoon just as the work day ended and people were heading out of the harbor in their sailboats. Apparently Auckland has more boats per capita than any city in the world.

This is me enjoying a cup of tea on our balcony. Can you see the "Hurry-up-and-take-the-picture look in my eyes?" Wait don't look too close! You might see my wrinkles, too.

And this is our view at dusk.

We've Made It To Auckland!

I take back everything I said about the Fates trying to keep us home. I nearly did it all on my own. I thought the plane left LAX at 10:00 p.m. When I arranged for the car to pick us up for our 10:00 flight the latest time they could arrive was 6:15. I thought this was way too early but I went with it. We weren't exactly ready when the car arrived to pick us up, but after one broken glass on the kitchen floor, a few tears from Jerry (thanks to my reaction to said glass on the floor) and a hastily eaten dinner (by Jerry--I was running around like a maniac) we managed to leave by 6:30. Finally we could relax. Jerry and I almost fell asleep on the ride to the airport we were so wiped out and relieved.

When we got to the check-in counter at 7:20 there were very few people in line, which confirmed my impression that we were REALLY early. We breezed through and checked our bags with no trouble at all. Since I hadn't eaten we went to the (pitiful excuse for a) food court so I could grab a bite. I wondered how much time we had before boarding so I checked our passes. They read "Boarding time: 19:30. 19:30? For a 10:00 p.m. flight? What time is 19:30 anyway? We kept coming up with 7:30 and kept recalculating because why would a 10:00 flight board at 7:30?

I decided to forgo the food and get to the gate on the off chance that they really were boarding us two and a half hours early. When we got there every seat in the boarding area was taken and they were pre-boarding!! So much for early. The plane left at 8:30! 8:30!!!! I could not believe my luck. We actually made it onto the plane and so did our luggage--and I never sweat it once since I had no idea we were late. Phew.

And then, believe it or not, my luck held out because one of the things I was looking forward to (and forgot to put on my last post) was going to the Antarctic Center in Christchurch. I was really hoping I'd get to talk to one of the scientists that works out there. Lo and behold, who should be sitting next to me on the plane? Not a scientist, but a member of the National Guard who has, for the past eight years, been stationed (off and on) at the South Pole!! Can you believe it?! So I pestered him with questions about how many people lived out there. What kind of people were they? Did they have to build houses differently to keep out the cold? Was there an actual town with buildings and roads? Did the scientists, civilians and National Guardsmen and women intermingle or did each group keep to itself? Here's what I found out:
Some of the front doors on buildings are like those restaurant refrigerator doors.
The planes that land there have skis on the bottom for landing and take-off. (The guy I was talking to works on the heating and cooling systems of these planes).
From about October to February there are roughly 1200 people living there. The rest of the year about 20 people stay on.
The civilians that work down there come from all walks of life. They are old and young. Some of them might be there to avoid paying taxes (hmm, should we consider relocating?). Some of the "hippies" might be there to avoid bathing.
The buildings there are on stilts because the ground gets higher every year, which, the guy said, "proves Global Warming is a crock." (Hmmm, I wonder what the scientists say.)
There are three types of animals: penguins, seals and some scary sounding scavenger bird with a four-foot wingspan and razor sharp talons that tries to take your food away (kind of like a gigantic nightmarish seagull).
There is no road going from one side of the Pole to the other. They want to build one but some "hippies" in Washington are trying to stop it because they want to keep the area in its natural state. (Imagine that.)
They all drive full-size Ford pick up trucks because Ford supplies all the cars.
There are two bars at the South Pole. I forgot to ask their names.
The South Pole is a glacier and it moves a little every year. (I can't remember which way).
They don't allow visitors.
It's only about an eight hour flight to the South Pole from Christchurch.
It's 11,000 feet above sea level. Weird, huh?

I might have to do some fact checking now, but how cool is it that I got my wish!? Okay, so he wasn't a scientist but I'm not going to be picky. And now Jerry and I have a jumping off place for research about the arctic! The cramped seats and the turbulence were practically bearable thanks to the arctic fun facts provided by my neighbor.

And then we slept, and we landed, and went through customs and it was all over. It was such a relief to see Warren and to step out into the perfectly warm salty air of Auckland.

As we drove out of the airport a huge sign on the side of the road read, "Do it, in Auckland."

I'm not exactly sure what it is but....Okay!

February 6, 2008

Leaving Today

Today's the day. And in spite of what appeared to be a determined effort on the part of the Fates to keep us home, we will be flying down the freeway towards LAX by 6:30 p.m. Okay, maybe the Fates didn't intend to keep us here but they sure threw a few nails on the road. First of all, my grandmother went into the hospital with pneumonia on Sunday. Rainy weather kept us from our planned Legoland trip anyway, so we ended up spending the afternoon at the hospital. Then I cut my finger on a can of dog food--really badly. It's on the knuckle of my right index finger so I can't bend my finger. And my mother pointed out that I would probably require a tetanus shot. So, on Tuesday morning, the day that we were supposed to be starting the six hour drive to Sacramento to deliver our dog to my parents, I ended up waiting around for a phone call from my doctor so I could find out when my last tetanus shot was. Things started looking up though because she called by 10 to say I was in the clear. I'd had one in 2002. Then it took us eight hours to make the six hour trip because there was snow on the Grapevine (the pass between Southern and Central California) and road construction in two spots along the way.

Today, though, we're home safe. My parents are taking care of their grandog, Patsy. My Grandma is recovering and will probably be moved out of ICU today. (She promised not to die while I was away and if anyone can outmaneuver death it's my grandma.) I can bend my finger a little more than I could yesterday. I have a tax appointment with our accountant and I'm moderately prepared. Our laundry is done and ready to go into suitcases. And two excellent friends have offered to help with any lingering tasks that I can't finish before we leave (which I will probably have to take them up on). So, all is well.

Jerry's really conflicted about the trip but he's been a big help to me. He's looking forward to seeing his dad, going in the hotel pool, hitting the beach, and riding in a Zorb.

I'm looking forward to seeing Warren, to being finished with all the preparations for leaving, to traveling in New Zealand and the surrounding area (Australia and possibly Fiji!) and to meeting new friends. I've joined a NZ Unshoolers Yahoo! group and we've already been invited to meet or stay with some of the locals, in addition to meeting my blogger friend Cate. Oh, and just today fellow blogger Shell, who lives in Auckland, invited us to meet her family as well.

We have much to look forward to!

February 1, 2008

A Normal Family

Well, I know I said I was going to neglect my blog but something happened today that I wanted to write about. Jerry had a complete meltdown. He sobbed and sobbed and said he didn't want to go to New Zealand. He just wants his dad to come home and he wants to be a normal family with a normal dad that's not gone all the time. I said his dad didn't really go away all that much, but Jerry said he wasn't talking about when his dad was away. He meant when he was home. He wants a normal dad that's at work half the time and at home half the time, instead of at work 3/4 of the time and at home 1/4 of it. He kept saying over and over "I just want to be normal." It was so sad.

This was the first time he's ever really talked about how he feels about Warren's work. I listened and did my best honor his feelings. In the end, he pulled himself together and we went out for lunch. Later we talked about being normal and whether or not there was such a thing. I said I thought normalcy was way overrated anyway. He laughed and said maybe there were some normal families that wished for an abnormal life like his. I had to agree.

I'm ashamed to say I did not, in any way, miss the fact that, as heartbreaking as this scenario was (and believe me, it was), he was doing fractions.

Blog Neglect

I just wanted to write a quick post to say I'll probably be neglecting my blog for the next week or so. We leave for New Zealand in five days but three of those days we'll either be at Legoland or driving to or from Sacramento to take our dog to my mom's. I haven't even started to pack--let alone do the laundry so I've got my work cut out for me. I did manage to go salsa dancing again last night, though, and I can still walk today so I must be doing something right.

By the way, did I mention that I hate flying? I always expect the plane to crash. That's why I don't like to fly without Jerry. For some sick and twisted reason having him die in a plane crash with me seems better than leaving him without a mother. I know. I'm ridiculous. Now that we're getting so close to the flight I can't sleep at night which is making me tired, which is making me forgetful. Twice in the last week I've called someone and forgotten who I called when the person finally answered. I also went to the market with Jerry to get food for lunch and then came home and forgot to feed him. It was only when I told him I had made appointments to get our hair cut and we needed to leave right away that he said. "Uh, mom. We went to the store to buy food so we could eat it."

But soon we'll be in New Zealand and we'll have nothing to do but enjoy each other's company, explore a beautiful country and meet new people. I just need to take a deep breath and remember that. Ah. I can't wait.