Thursday, September 30, 2010

who cares about a pot of gold?!

our house

"It's been a long, cold, lonely winter" - or at least a long, cold, rainy winter. I heard this morning that New Zealand hasn't seen a winter as rainy as this one has been since they started keeping track in 1973. If my math is correct (and it often is not), that means that it has been at least 37 years since winter has been this depressing in New Zealand. I think we had more rain this winter than they've had those 37 winters put together. No one here can think of 2 consecutive clear days in the past 4 months. I actually can't think of a single day that was clear from start to finish.
And then - this rainbow. Just when I was almost wishing the Lord would just officially send another flood and end it all, He set the sign of hope, the sign of His promise, in the sky once again and...He never lies. Five straight days of sun and warmth. Richard and I couldn't get over this rainbow. We'd never seen anything half as perfect in the American sky! It's the kind of rainbow you drew in bold colors as a child, before you realized that "rainbows" are usually just "faint fragments" that never have leprechauns sliding down them. This photo doesn't do justice to the intensity of the colors, nor can this post do justice to the lift in our collective spirits.

So, on the first day of this warmth and sun, we grabbed the girls and drove as quickly as we could to someplace, anyplace, where we could enjoy the "magnificent natural beauty" of New Zealand that we've heard so much about. We were not disappointed. The stunning scene above was about a 30 minute drive from our house - a petting farm situated on a mountain. As we hiked upwards (slowly - at the pace of a 14 month old) we fed, rode and petted every sort of beast, starting with piglets and chicks at the waterfall-studded mountain base and finishing at the summit with yaks and Texas longhorns. It may have been one of the top 20 most perfect days of our lives.
seriously cute lamb (or kid - we're not very good at that yet...)

the main attraction for our girls was
... a bug.  naturally.

Richard's spirits were so fine and free
that he had a deep heart-to-heart with an 
American elk. 
I think they discussed the Steelers. 

I was giddy enough to impersonate the emu -
AND let Richard photograph it

at the peak. 
happy smiles because we made both girls walk 
the whole time (a super-early bedtime was in the bag!)

At the moment, we're in the midst of a lovely 2 week school break. These breaks are our main planning time for the coming term, but also afford us opportunities to explore a bit. We're hoping to make one more excursion this week and then dive into the final term before summer break. This week we're also hoping to feature two "guest bloggers" - a couple of the youth have agreed to share a bit of their experience of youth group thus far and we're looking forward to their posts! Hopefully they can share their unique perspective on what this mission offers them ... without talking too much smack about the "Americanisms" that provide such endless fodder for humor among our youth. But I doubt it. So brace yourselves, brace yourselves. You have no idea what we endure - but you might be about to find out.  

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

american-kiwi dictionary

There are as many versions of the English language as there are countries that claim to speak it. As the Kiwi version of the English language is much more British than the American version, I will humbly admit that their take on my native tongue is probably more faithful to the original. We've been here for 4 months, but some of the sayings here still sound quite strange to my ears. I'm still not used to how they say that something is "different to" something else (rather than "different from" - for example, "The way Kiwis talk is different to the way Americans speak.") Maria, parroting her Kiwi teachers, is now asking to use "cella tape" to hang things up - I always pause before I realize she wants Scotch tape. Redheads are called "gingers" here (pronounced with a hard G as in "goat": Ging-ehr). Gingers are mercilessly teased and are the butt of unending jokes. And while I am used to all units of measurements being unfamiliar - kilograms, kilometers, liters, and Celsius - still, it was a shock to step on the scale at my last midwife visit and see that my weight was being offered in both kilograms and STONE. I weigh 8 stone! I could not get over the hilarity. 

Then there are whole genres of unfamiliar terms. Especially related to eating.
 Food Dictionary:
American term - Kiwi term
grocery cart or buggy = trolley
ground beef = mince
shrimp = prawns
cookies = biscuits
sweet potato = kumara
granola = muesli
red pepper = capiscum
raisins = sultans
jelly = jell-o
jam = jelly
candy = lollies
ketchup = tomato sauce
afternoon snack = afternoon tea
 (even if no hot drinks are consumed)
yummy/yucky = yum/yuck
(this meal is yum! oh mine is yuck!)

This list could go on indefinitely. A trip to the grocery store is confusing, to say the least. It also seems like the highest word of praise that can be lavished on a meal here is that it is "nice". If you serve someone spaghetti and they exclaim, "Oh - this pasta is nice!"
you really have climbed as high in your culinary skills as you could possibly ever hope.  Don't try any of your American overstatements here about "Delicious! Fantastic! Scrumptious!" Just keep it simple and sincere. 
School lingo is different here. 
America - New Zealand
pre-school = kindie
high school = college
12th grade or senior = year 13
math = maths

Ditto for all things baby/children.
prenatal = antenatal
stroller = pram
whining = whinging (winj - ing)
diaper = nappy

And lastly, so as not to belabor the point, clothing.
sandals = sandals
flip-flops = jandals
sweater = jumper
bathing suit = togs

A final point, not so much an item of clothing, but an accessory -
worn by travelers - a small pouch strapped about the waist -
the pouch rests either in front or behind the wearer....
I cannot write the American term for this item
because it is SO highly offensive here -
suffice to say that if you travel Down Under, don't forget your...
bum bag. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

a happy freckle

Today we were scheduled to see Shirley to check on Freckle. She had told us on Friday night that if we still had a little beating heart today, then the prognosis would become much more positive. However, when we saw her today, we could not pick up a heartbeat (or even any definitive sounds of fetal movement). We had gone there full of confidence and hope and it was devastating for me. I felt sure that at 12.5 weeks (days away from the end of the first trimester) no heartbeat and no fetal movement were very bad signs. Richard was still full of confidence and hope. Shirley encouraged us not to give up, but again refrained from giving us unfounded confidence.
We had three hours to wait until the ultrasound technician had an opening for us. It felt like much longer. But, in the end, our patience was rewarded a hundredfold. Freckle was jumping around, totally refreshed from his long afternoon nap deep in the recesses of the womb, very VERY much alive and well. I can't thank and praise the Lord enough for giving me this same child three times now. Naturally, we hope that this is the end of the "exciting" period of the pregnancy and that the following months are very boring and routine. We were very grateful to be totally surrounded in prayer by so many people during the past week and we know that all those prayers contributed to the very happy ending to our story. Thank you to everyone who prayed for us, wrote us wonderfully personal & encouraging emails and showed such concern and love for us and our unborn baby.

Friday, September 10, 2010

a hope for life

Last night during Tahu, it became obvious that something was terribly wrong in my body and that our baby's life was threatened. We rushed back to our home to call Shirley (our midwife) and the seriousness with which she directed us to get to the hospital only confirmed our feelings of fear and heartbreak.
I cried, and Richard prayed, most of the drive and we were both grateful and surprised to realize that Shirley had come to meet us there. While we waited for the doctor, she asked questions to get a better idea of what might be happening, and finally concluded that things looked pretty serious.  She prayed for and with us in the triage room before getting her Doppler out. "I don't want to give you false hope," she cautioned, "because there is a very good chance that you may lose your baby tonight, but I have seen miracles in worse situations." I don't think my heart was very open to a fragile beam of hope at that moment.  She turned her Doppler on and a strong little heartbeat sounded on it - I don't know which of the three of us was the most amazed. I was also baffled. It actually seemed impossible. A little hope took hold firmly in my heart.
The doctor was able to use ultrasound to let us see what was going on. Again, impossibly baffled, I watched my baby happily flipping, wiggling and spinning around, oblivious to the drama on the outside. Twenty minutes prior, I was sure - beyond a doubt - that this child was lost to me.
The conclusion, based on the scan, was that a part of the placenta was tearing or detaching. The doctor cautioned us that either the site would heal and our baby would continue to grow (in which case we would be watching for adequate growth) or that the damage would become more extensive and the entire placenta would detach. She said our chances were about 50/50.
We're asking for prayers. We are hopeful and peaceful - even joyful - the child that was dead to us is alive again and there is tremendous hope. To go from that kind of abrupt heartache to instant proof of life was nothing short of astonishing. We're also taking the doctor's caution seriously and Richard has not so much as permitted me to sit up straight all day. So our prayer is for grace and peace and hope - and for the ability to completely surrender to God's plan. If the Lord's will is that this child lives, we pray that his life may glorify God. If the Lord wills to take him directly to Himself, we pray that his departure may serve the purposes of the One who loves him best. Our hope is for life.

On a sidenote, since these events unfolded during a Tahu evening, Bernadette was sleeping and Maria was delighting in the company of her absolute favorite New Zealander, Katie, who kindly babysits for us once a week. So our children's well-being was completely remembered by Divine Providence. However (and about this I really would like to have a word with God at some point) I was arrayed for a skit, with my hair spray painted neon orange, thick layers of makeup and facepaint caked on my skin, and a ridiculous assortment of Maria's dress-up clothes, play jewelry and silly accessories covering my body. Even in the state I was in, I absolutely refused to go to the hospital like that and took the fastest shower in recorded history before we left. While it seemed like the most egregious, incongruous, unthinkable anomaly at the time, this bit of the story did provide excellent comic relief for us, Shirley and the nurses, once we had ample proof that our baby was ok.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

lighthouse retreat in photos

I forgot to mention yesterday that we also didn't realize that we had scheduled the
 retreat to end the day before midterms began. So this 
is what these students were doing instead of studying.

The retreat campsite is situated on the top of beautiful green hill
with a view of the mountains and lake. We spent lots of time
outdoors enjoying the natural beauty.

The theme of the retreat was the Lord's Prayer. Talks and small groups examined the
meaning and application of key phrases such as:
 "hallowed be Thy Name"
 "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done"
 "give us this day our daily bread"
"Forgive us our trespasses AS we forgive those who trespass against us"
(although here, they say "sins" instead of "trespasses")

Every good speaker needs a good prop

The boys cooked dinner for the girls AND set the table artfully, 
note the tasteful banana centerpiece....

There was also time set aside for praise and worship music, game playing, private
and collective prayer, attendance at Mass in Rotorua (where our youth led music),
plenty of eating, bonding and good fellowship. 

fathers' day faux pas, etc...

Tonight's post is a hodgepodge, starting with the earthquake in Christchurch. We've had a number of email and Facebook queries about our proximity to the quake and we are thankful to be able to assure all that not only were we quite far away from it, but that there were no deaths at all in Christchurch, which is a great good, especially considering the strength of the quake. There are ongoing aftershocks and extensive damage continues to accrue, so prayers for the people of Christchurch are well-directed.

That weekend we were in Rotorua, on retreat with Lighthouse. It was the first retreat we have had to pull off alone (literally alone - Richard was the only adult present from dinner time on Saturday until departure Sunday afternoon) and there were some of the minor glitches that will inevitably flow from the chaos of that kind of adult-teen ratio....$55 worth of meat and milk forgotten at baking pans destroyed in grass-sledding paddocks left open during manhunt....the Eucharist almost left behind in Rotorua....those sorts of things. All stressful, none catastrophic.
There was also an awkward cultural glitch. We arrived here at the end of May. June followed - and in June, Fathers' Day. I could not find a Fathers' Day card for Richard in any store. Puzzled, I asked someone, "Do you celebrate Fathers' Day here in New Zealand?" I was told that the holiday was observed, but minimally. Case closed. We moved on. It never occurred to us that perhaps it was observed on a different date. It never occurred to us that perhaps we had planned the Lighthouse retreat to fall on Fathers' Day. It was only when we were calling parents, days prior to the retreat, seeking help with cooking and transport, that we learned our misstep. Suffice it to say that there were many lessons learned for next time. Still, the retreat was far from a total disaster and we're sure that the Lord will bring good fruit from it.

Actually, this whole week brought on a new burst of observations of further cultural differences between the US and NZ. The lady in the deli department gave me precise instructions on how to make a proper sandwich: 2 slices of buttered bread, 2 slices of luncheon "sausage" (what we would call lunchmeat or coldcuts) and a generous squirt of "tomato sauce" (imagine sort of a very thin and sweet ketchup substitute) in between the "sausage".

That same afternoon the man at the laser tag facility phoned and asked me for my email address. Sounded easy enough: "KellydotSealyatGmaildotCom" - but I was met with puzzled silence. "Dot?" he asked, uncertainly. "Um, yeah - dot. Like period. You the end of a sentence?" He did NOT know. He tried to clarify, "You mean like a dash? or an underscore?" I tried to clarify, " a little tiny dot that you put at the end of your sentence..." Suddenly, he got it, "OH! You mean FULL-STOP!"  I guess I meant "full-stop" - but I've only heard that phrase in black and white movies about telegrams. KellyFULLSTOPSealyatGmailFULLSTOPcom is just a real mouthful. But, when in Rome....

And then, lastly, today, two antenatal appointments. I had an 11:25 appointment for a "scan". I arrived at 11:20, was fetched by the tech herself at 11:23 and at precisely 11:25, my scan began. At 11:33, it was over. I was handed a DVD compilation of multiple shots of my wriggling two and a half inch baby whose perfectly human profile and insanely tiny feet captivated his eldest sister. (Maria had a front row seat for the ultrasound and sagely informed the tech that the baby was a boy and she was going to name him "Freckle").

Immediately after the scan, I popped across the hall for blood work. The nurse was really friendly and efficient and nothing seemed at all unusual until afterwards. I was sitting there holding a little ball of gauze to the puncture site. I checked to see if I was still bleeding - when I saw that I wasn't, I got up to dispose of the gauze. The nurse offered to take it from me - and it was at that moment that I noticed that she was NOT wearing gloves. A nurse had taken my blood without any gloves. Without Universal Precautions. And now she offered to touch my blood-spotted gauze, still without gloves. I said lightly, "Oh, I don't want you to have to touch this - I'll just throw it out myself." In the back of my head I was remembering every poster I've seen in US labs and doctor offices reminding me of my American RIGHT to tell my health care professional to don gloves. As if reading my mind, the nurse cheerfully said, "It's not like in the States, eh? We don't have to wear gloves like I reckon you're used to." But I really wasn't thinking of ME - I was truly thinking of HER. She told me that although she doesn't like wearing gloves, she does at the hospital and that actually there is currently a movement in NZ for Universal Precautions - but that patients are offended if the nurse puts on gloves because it might imply that they "have something". This was not my first time noticing how much more hygiene-obsessed Americans are, but it was perhaps the most powerful example. It occurred to me how crazed we must seem to those less preoccupied with such matters. But I can't dwell on it too much here - I've only got a few minutes to squeeze in my second shower before I collapse into bed. Goodnight to all! Until next time.