Sunday, May 30, 2010

the life

We've only been here four full days, but it feels like much, much longer. We've met with both youth groups (there is one for junior high and one for high school) and the kids we met were FANTASTIC. They, like all the parishioners we have met, were just filled with love and excitement and welcome towards us. They radiated energy and enthusiasm for the Church. It's been an interesting dichotomy, because we had heard so much about the friendliness of New Zealanders (they call themselves Kiwis, and henceforth, so shall we). What we are experiencing though is that walking down the street, Kiwis are much more reserved than Americans - much less likely to smile, say hi or be engaged.  However, if there is a reason to interact with us, they are amazingly personable and warm. We've found no exception thus far.
Then there are the funny differences in lingo. "How are you going?" is a common greeting. We're asked daily if we're "sorted yet". "Good on you!" is a frequent exclamation. "College" is high school. This section could go on and on indefinitely. 
Our girls are having trouble adjusting to the food, which is very different. How different can baby food taste, one might wonder, but Bernadette won't eat it. Maria is trying to convince us to let her survive on cookies (biscuits) and pink milk -and she's almost succeeding because it seems that every time we turn around it's tea time.  Cooking our normal food is challenging since the ingredients themselves are different. We can't find seasoned breadcrumbs, stuffing mix is simply crumbs and looks actually like breadcrumbs, ground meat is chewier, etc... Popular ice cream flavors include: Hokey Pokey, Boysenberry Swirl and Orange Chocolate Chip. There does not seem to be "economy size" of anything - laundry detergents, for example come only in tiny cartons.

We are settling in, learning to drive on the "wrong" side with very different road rules, trying to get "sorted". It's fun living at the church and being right in the heart of all the activity - coupled with having 3 housemates, it really has provided a genuine experience of community to plug right in to. We like that. It is also a bit chaotic, of course, and we're trying to create some routine and structure for ourselves as much as for the girls. Now that we have already jumped into the work, there is a bit of extra chaos, but seeing it in action this weekend was energizing and ... we're ready!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Zealand!

We are here! We arrived yesterday morning at 7:30 am and it has been an overwhelming blur ever since. We are jet-lagged, sleep-deprived, culture-shocked and disoriented in every possible way; we've experienced (and our girls along with us) every possible emotion from exhilarated gratitude to horrified sadness about the reality of this move.
The travel itself was hard on the whole family, but particularly Maria and Bernadette. Now that we are here and getting more settled in by the hour, they seem to be slowly returning to their old selves. Maria is a bit put out about New Zealand "red juice" (grape juice) and Bernadette has not bathed in days due to her maladjusted sleep schedule.
Richard and I are struggling to get unpacked, settled in, adjusted to the time and cultural differences, help the girls, get to know parishioners and staff, learn how to grocery shop & comprehend the rules of driving on the "wrong" side of the road...just some of what we're immersed in at the moment.
It is good to finally be here - after all the preparations, all the prayer, all the snafus - we are here. We did not really grasp the magnitude of our undertaking until it began to truly unfold, and truly, the job is bigger than the man (and woman). Please pray for us in a special way this first week, and we continue to pray in gratitude for all of you (now with a bittersweet tone as we feel the first pangs of homesickness!)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

packed and ready

 6 pieces of luggage to check, 3 carry-ons, a diaper bag, the laptop in its bag, a stroller. Life crammed into 11 bags. And then the empty house - life emptied out of it. Our renters will be using the furniture, but all traces of the Sealy family have been erased. The hours of work these two photos represent... we can't estimate.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the week in review

Sunday May 16: Maria turns 3! Happy Birthday Sproutie!! Wonderful party at Aunt Jan's.
Monday May 17: Kelly's parents, Hop Pop and Yowee arrive from NY for a farewell visit.
Tuesday May 18: Bernadette develops a massive ear infection. Her first. 6 days before we spend 19 hours in airplanes! The pharmacy loses her prescription - twice.
Wednesday May 19:
10am: Our mortgage company informs us that the terms of our loan do not permit us to rent out our  house! Our options are: 1. not go to New Zealand at all  2. back out of our rental agreement and sell our home instead  3.  refinance our entire mortgage through another lender in 5 days!
1pm: Our insurance company alerts us that there may be an exception that the mortgage people can make if we have lived in our house for at least 3 years - they ask if we have. We realize that we closed on our house on May 25 of 2007, which means that our departure date leaves us living in our home for precisely 3 years and not a single day more.
2pm: The mortgage company says (snaps. yells. fusses.) that there is no such clause in our contract. Alas. 
4pm: Richard gets connected to a supervisor's supervisor at our mortgage company and has the following conversation (well, something quite similar).
Richard: We've made every payment on time! We have impeccable credit!
Supervisor's Supervisor: Listen, there are absolutely no possible exemptions in your agreement.
Richard: We're going away as missionaries.
SS: Sir, there are no exceptions.
Richard: We'll only be gone for 2 years, just under 2 years, really.
SS: I'm sorry, but....wait, hold on a moment.....well....(abrupt drop of harsh attitude)....I'm looking up your file right now....hmmmm....I'm seeing....well, it looks like you seem to have made all your payments on time....and that you have impeccable credit. AND...I'm seeing here, yes, it says that you're going away on missionary work - it says that you'll be gone for less than 2 years....Okay, I'll tell you what - we'll give you a 2 year exemption, how about that?
We're not sure what exactly happened in that office, but we know that the Holy Spirit was there in a big way for us. Praise God.
9:30pm: Richard's beloved Xbox gets the "red ring of death". Kelly interprets this as God's crowning blessing of the day. Richard interprets it as the ultimate act of spiritual warfare in the entire New Zealand Preparations history.
Folks, it's not even Thursday. We're not sure we can handle any more excitement! And the next 4 days before we leave will include, in order,  Kelly's brother flying in from Oregon, a joint Sealy-Gradale family dinner party in our home, our attempt to sell our 2001 Altima (with only 2 working windows and a completely busted keyless entry system), Kelly's sister driving in from Connecticut, packing up the rest of the house for storage - including the entire kitchen, Maria's 3 year pediatric check-up, our farewell party, final packing of suitcases, cleaning and moving the beds out of the house. We need prayers and we need them bad. And yet, it is relatively calm....relatively. Considering all that is going on. Well, maybe it just feels that way at this moment since both girls are asleep and the house is quiet.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

a crisis of cleanliness

This just in - there will be NO BATHTUB in the rectory in which we'll be living for the next 2 years. While priests can probably go years and years without taking a bath, my daughters cannot make it through six hours without needing one. And bath time is their favorite activity. And this is what babies look like after a meal, for those of you who are not parents.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

May Madness

The insanity has begun! Our house looks like (insert any cliche about a house in total chaos, it will still be an understatement). There are piles of paper strewn across every flat surface, detailing tasks that must be done over the next 2 weeks. Our to-do lists have spin-off to-do lists. A veritable mountain of Rubbermaid containers filled with "stuff" partially blocks the front entrance to our home - undoubtedly a fire hazard.  Empty cardboard boxes, waiting to be filled, stand resolutely in every room. Phone calls to insurance companies and utility offices and banks are underway - spawning forms and documents arriving daily with the mailman. Drop-off trips to St.Vincent de Paul have become the main family outing. "Ship? store? shed?" has become a mantra while gazing at individual objects in the general disorder. Plus, there is the hacking cough shared by all 3 females in the house.
Moving to New Zealand wrecks havoc with the automated phone trees of any given utility company or small business. Even when the live operator finally comes to your rescue, she has no field in her automated computer system for entering "New Zealand" as your destination.
To add to the chaos: Maria wants to "help" pack boxes, so she shoves anything laying around into any non-sealed box. Can't find the car keys? your sandwich? any toothbrush? yeah....probably jammed into the deepest recesses of any one of the ubiquitous boxes.  Thankfully, Bernadette has not the slightest concept of what the heck we are doing nor does she groove to the "help" concept yet, but it does just so happen that she is in that developmental stage where babies love to empty items out of a container. Boxes are containers. I think you can follow the chain of logic here. I JUST PACKED THIS BOX TEN MINUTES AGO! WHY IS EVERYTHING BACK OUT OF IT????
And then there is Richard. He was told by the missionaries in NZ how much the teens will read about the faith. How few Christian books are available to them down under. How deeply they have been moved and inspired by the scant titles which they have been able to peruse. And so, he made up his mind that we will simply have to bring almost every single Christian book we own to New Zealand. (Mind you, we both studied theology and are avid readers.) Then he realized that this idea made no sense, after all, many of them would be inaccessible to youth. Instead, his new and improved plan: bring almost every Christian book we own PLUS buy $500 worth of new books written specifically for teens! Anyone who has even the foggiest concept of the shipping costs to New Zealand may grasp the enormity of this undertaking.
Dear reader, you may guess that today's frazzled entry was written not by Richard, but by Kelly. Had Richard written it, he might have shared his shock at the amount of the girls' books and clothing that his wife desired to bring. Perhaps he would have referenced his confusion as to why his beloved spouse feels the need to stockpile mascara for this missionary endeavor - do they not sell cosmetics down under? and if not, would that not be so much the better? Furthermore, why does moving to a foreign country suddenly inspire Kelly with the ineffable desire to abandon disposable diapers in favor of cloth?
Yes, it is mad here. There is much to do. And the hardest, biggest task of all is simply trying to wrap our minds around the truth that 3 weeks from today we will be standing on New Zealand soil, all of this behind us, and we will be engaged in our very first efforts with the youth of St. Thomas More. THAT is truly overwhelming.