Friday, April 20, 2012

kelly, welly....belly

It's been five years since I've had a day off. I've had some afternoons to myself and a few more evenings - but never, not in five years, an entire child-free day. It must be starting to show. Richard finally insisted - he rolled out a map of New Zealand and told me to pick any destination for a day of complete solitude and adult-centric selfishness. All he asked was that I not do anything crazy to my hair while gone. For once, submission was sweet and natural.

I picked Wellington. Wellington (aka "Welly") - the capital of New Zealand- is located at the southernmost tip of the North Island. By car it would be about a seven hour (Rich driving) or eight hour (Kelly driving) drive. I flew. Sixty minutes, up and down. Armed only with a map similar to the one above - and the vaguest list of things I might want to see (with even a vaguer sense of where these attractions might be located), I touched down at my destination and immediately set to work finding the absolute most important item on my list. And I found it. Straight away.

This, my friends, was it. A calzone. Actually, two calzones. Massive ones. And I ate every last bite. Best meal I've had in two years - no comparison. Being a New Yorker, I used to think I had it tough in Pennsylvania when trying to find an edible pizza. But New Zealand suffers from an astonishing and absolutely tragic dearth of Italians. When I rushed to the door of the Pizzeria Napoli in Wellington yesterday and scanned the lunch menu, I saw a word that made my heart leap, then flutter, then tremble. Calzone. I hadn't seen or heard the word it in two years. I had forgotten that such a thing as calzone existed. Okay, I'm embarrassed to keep going on about it. I'll move on to other highlights now. 

I explored Te Papa museum. I rode the cable cars. I was impressed with the electric busses. I saw the Beehive and the Supreme Court. I loved the architecture and the bizzarre layout of the streets and alleyways. Every time I approached the waterfront it started to drizzle, so I retreated every time. I intentionally skipped the Weta Cave of Wellywood. I only glimpsed the ferry to the South Island. I saw the art galleries and window-shopped the Bohemian wonderland of Cuba Street.  As I took a photo of the beautiful old building pictured directly above, a City Maintenance worker passed by and quipped, "Yup, take a good photo now because that's going down in the next quake!" 

cable car ascent to the vantage point overlooking Wellington
(bear in mind that it's mid-autumn here)

Then I tried to see the Cathedral. It was one of the things I most wanted to do while in Wellington. I had pictured myself quietly sitting in a beautiful large church, with no time restrictions and no interruptions. I had brought Magnificat, a notebook and pen. But actually getting to the Cathedral turned out to be extremely difficult because it was not marked on any maps. Everyone I asked knew only where the Anglican Cathedrals were. I did have Rich's iPhone with me - but I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to use it to find a Cathedral. Finally, I decided to just be content with seeing the Anglican Cathedrals (which were on the maps). First I saw Old St. Paul's - the original Cathedral of Wellington. Then I walked over to the new St. Paul's. When I saw the pastor there I realized that he would definitely know where the Catholic Cathedral was. He did. It was just a few steps down the road. I ran up the stairs of Sacred Heart Cathedral only to find every last door tightly shut. It was like coming home only to discover oneself locked out. At this point I'd been walking all over Wellington for five straight hours, three months pregnant and without sitting once since my Italian feeding frenzy; I could nearly have wept. I called Maria. I mean Rich. I just wanted to check how the girls were doing on their day without me. Answer: fine. They took turns on the phone happily dobbing in their Papa for his every little transgression of the day, down to the last sweet he had given them. (Lesson: when you take a day off, take the day off.) 

stained glass window in Old St. Paul's 

Impressive native timber interior of Old St. Paul's Anglican Cathedral

Interior of the modern Anglican Cathedral 
(...I think they should have stuck with the original!)

Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral -
the site of wailing and grinding of teeth

Final thoughts....The people in Wellington were amazing. It's truly the friendliest, most hospitable town I have ever visited in my life. Even the technology is hospitable (electronic displays inside the busses show where the bus is in real time and its upcoming stops; digital displays at bus stops alert riders how many more minutes until each number bus will arrive, etc...) But the people outdid the machines. Every time I pulled out my little street map, the nearest stranger stopped instantly and asked me very kindly what they could help me find. Every time. If I popped into a store and asked for directions, the clerk left the counter, walked out to the street with me and walked a bit of the distance while giving me directions for the remainder. My seat mates on the plane (going both ways) were Wellington natives and asked me heaps of questions about myself, the States and my experience of New Zealand with great warmth and interest throughout the entire hour's journey. On the way down, I sat next to a sweet, great-grandmother who was delighted to learn I was a Christian and gave me her number in case I wanted to pop in for coffee anytime. On the way home I sat with an immense Maori financial lawyer who asked me about everything from my opinion of the most important American president of the past 30 years to the Kardashian sisters. We both agreed that the sisters - well, reality TV in general - are not the finest of American exports to the international community.  

the "beehive" capitol building

But the lady in the EGG maternity shop belongs in a "friendly" category of her own. I needed a pair of maternity jeans, so I took advantage of my child-free status to browse. I found a few possibilities and popped into a dressing room, but had to go back out into the store proper to see a mirror. Now this EGG saleslady was even friendlier than all the other friendly people I'd encountered that day. She was chatting and chatting and finally asked with a motherly smile if this was my first pregnancy. When I said it was my fifth, her jaw nearly hit the floor. But her shock was nothing compared to mine. Suddenly, her hand shot out like a cobra, grabbed the elastic waistband of my jeans and yanked it firmly down. Her other hand simultaneously hooked my shirt and pulled up. Then she pronounced, "But you have absolutely NO stretch marks! I don't believe it!" Man, I didn't believe it either! Kiwis simply don't behave like this. And I'm American. A New Yorker. I'm used to people doing some really out there stuff. But this was a first for me. Even my closest, oldest, American-est friends have never abruptly bared my belly. Nevertheless, I could hardly be offended as she instantly lavished effusive compliments and praise upon me, my figure, my youth and all the other things about which a multiparous woman feels somewhat insecure. But still, it's a memory that will linger for a bit. Perhaps even long after I've forgotten most of the other details of my visit. No, no, never mind - I'm never going to forget that calzone. EVER.

New Zealand's Supreme Court
(the "scaffolding" isn't - it's art)

Monday, April 16, 2012

glancing backwards

One of the things that most "helps" Rich and me to undertand just how long we've been here in New Zealand is to remember what our kids were like at this time two years ago (just before we left to come here). We're about a month away from departure -again. Two years ago at this time we were about a month away from departure as well, but things in the family were very different.

April 2010
age - 2 years and 11 months 
(just about the same age that Bernadette is now)

April 2012
age - 4 years and 11 months

She's lived half of her cognizant life in New Zealand -
but has crystal clear memories of the States. 
Over the past two years she's cultivated a persuasive Kiwi accent
 - one she can turn off or on at will -
(and she always turns it on to horrify/amuse her grandparents)
She's always clearly understood that NZ was temporary (not "home")
so she's not distressed about leaving - I believe the transition will be smooth for her. 
She's most looking forward to seeing her grandparents, 
getting a pet cat, and having a pink bedroom.
I know Maria will have definite memories of New Zealand for years to come & 
I think she'll most miss the youth group kids, the beaches and the ubiquitous livestock.

April 2010
age - 9 months 
(and darn lucky to have survived 9 months of death holds from her proud sister)

April 2012
age - 2 years and 9 months

She's lived most of her life in New Zealand and hasn't the foggiest memory of the States. 
Nevertheless, I'm confident she'll transition very well (other than the flights). 
If Maria says that America is filled with
grandparents, kittens and pink bedrooms -
well, that's all Bernadette needs to hear. She's stoked.  
I'm not sure how much of New Zealand Bernadette will remember. 
I'm not sure how much of last week Bernadette remembers. 
We'll see. 

April 2010

(obviously, there was no such thing)

(but there WAS such a thing the following April.....)

April 2011
March 26, 2011

April 2011

April 2011
it's hard to believe that a year ago at this time, 
we were blissfully, ignorantly unconcerned about Joseph's liver.  
In fact, I only had the vaguest idea that he even had a liver.
I couldn't have told anyone the function of a liver.
It goes to show what ONE year can bring, no less TWO!

April 2012

The little man has lived his entire life in New Zealand. 
He wasn't even an official US citizen until he was four months old.
He'll transition just fine and won't remember a thing about his first homeland -
but I have a feeling he'll come back one day. 
But it better just be for a short visit. 

Richard has encouraged me to write some posts reflecting and looking back on our mission time - the highlights, the lessons learned, the "essence of New Zealand". I'm going to try. I'm not sure that I'll really understand it at all or have proper perpective on it for many years. But we have six weeks left here and our future beyond that is still veiled. So it seems that even the Lord wants us to reflect a bit on the past - and live in the present. As these two years have wrought astonishing physical growth in our children, they have been no less filled with changes for Richard and me. For starters, we're going home with twice as many children as we came with. And beyond that....well, that's another night's post. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

the lent report, 2012

Afternoon. Holy Saturday. Lent in its final hours. All the resolutions, all the goals - now is the hour of truth. Fear not, I have no intention of doing a report on how my personal journey went, except to lament the irony of opting to give up my most essential "pregnancy survival foods" on Ash Wednesday, only to find myself very much with child some little while later.....

No, what I want to review is my cheerful list of Lenten suggestions for families with young children. I do read some blogs that make it sound like it's so easy to be perfect. That's not fair. Real life is a little more complicated. So in this real life Catholic house, this is how those Lenten traditions played out - in spite of (and because of) our very best efforts.

We did the Lenten cactus. It didn't seem to make much of an impression on the girls. Halfway through Lent, one of them (neither's confessing) quietly planted two dried beans in the cactus' tiny pot. Despite the fact that I only watered that poor cactus maybe twice, those beans did sprout and they were the highlight of the cactus' presence - at least in the opinion of my daughters.

The accidental Lenten caterpillar never turned into a butterfly. He turned my pregnant stomach (repeatedly) - and then one day, when I came in from gathering laundry, I found that my sweet, delicate, compassionate, beautiful little daughters had taken out the kitchen scissors and cut that caterpillar in half. His green slime was oozing like mad and my gentle Bernadette was "stwisin (squishing) him up" while Maria watched, enthralled. In so many ways the caterpillar was an epic Lenten Fail.

The girls each freely gave up their favorite and fanciest dress for forty days (except for one Princess Themed Birthday Party we attended). This stage-one mortification was a sweet success and both girls are very excited to wear those dresses again tomorrow morning. Their tiny sacrifice will definitely enhance their sense of joy and celebration associated with tomorrow's liturgy. Yay!

St Patrick's Day was truly a smashing success. Green muffins, green juice, enthusiastic chatter about St. Patrick,  excitement about the Irish music. They loved praying the Breastplate of St Patrick (with hand motions) -  so much so that both girls kept requesting it as family prayer for the next five or six nights.

is it just me, or does babyseal have really gigantic feet? 

St. Joseph's Day - Fail. Big time. My plan was to honor St. Joseph the Worker with a family volunteer/work project followed by homemade cream puffs. But I was so completely nauseated - and so very, very, exhausted - that I instead paid grudging homage to the anti-saint, Joseph the Shirker, and laid in a pathetic heap on the couch for much of that day. I completely forgot the cream puffs altogether, even though I had just learned how to make amazing homemade whipped cream.....
Real life.

Holy Thursday.  The girls helped me make unleavened bread from scratch. We were having a blast, following the easiest recipe on the face of the planet. We kneaded a cup of flour with 1/3 cup warm water.  We were just about to "flatten into little pancakes and bake 2 minutes each side at the hottest temperature your oven will get. When cool, brush with olive oil and coarse salt" - when a huge-normous cockroach emerged from nowhere and began prodding his spine-chillingly long antennae into the dough. I would not have handled this well even if I didn't have morning sickness. I screamed. Maria screamed. Bernadette screamed (even though she thinks cockroaches are awesome). I pulled both girls off the counter and we all clung together making girly noises of horror. Luckily our very own personal Clark Kent was on hand. WHOOOSH! His red cape flashed through the kitchen and that evil cockroach was blasted off into another solar system. Then our hero flew off to apologize to the office staff, who had been enjoying their peaceful morning tea on the other side of our thin kitchen wall.

unleavened bread, 
cockroach optional

We started over. The matzos came out delicious. But maybe I went a little heavy on the salt. They tasted almost like a NYC hot pretzel. And it was easier than messing around with play-do. The lamb was a whole different story. I had hoped to serve lamb with bitter herbs for our supper, but they turned out to be all bone and fat, so next year I need someone to teach me how to pick out a proper cut of meat. We ate what few tiny scraps of meat there were - and then Rich made twenty of the Emergency Chicken Nuggets from the freezer. Superman saves the day twice in twenty-four hours.

After the meal, we showed the kids this video:

They liked it. A lot. Then Richard washed our feet. That was awesome. I knew the girls would love it, but I was pleasantly surprised to see a smile spread slowly on Joseph's little face as Papa splashed warm water on his toes. Definitely a highlight of the evening. It was really profound for Rich and me as well. It was a poignant reminder of our roles in marriage - this living image of Christ washing the feet of His Bride - and of the Bride's submission.

Good Friday. I always desperately want Good Friday to be this amazing vigil of solemn reflection and holy musings. Instead, the whole family was sort of grumpy. Joseph has three molars coming in, but the rest of us didn't really have as solid an excuse. I did overhear Maria explain sagely to Bernadette, "Poor Mama. She has our new baby in her tummy. When ladies have a baby in their tummies they are really angry." I thought, Oh wow, Kelly, you have SO GOT to pull it together. Later Bernadette had an epic meltdown at church and refused to go to the children's liturgy program for Good Friday. Sprawled all over my lap, she then fell into the most deeply unconscious sleep I have ever seen a child enter. Perhaps Joseph's pre-predawn teething-waking-screaming thing is taking a toll on all of us.

Holy Saturday. Today we dyed eggs. Thirty eggs. They're gorgeous. I feel happy and joyful just looking at them.

Cockroaches, don't ruin this for me.....

Wishing all a beautiful, joyful, hope-filled and holy Easter!

With love from the Sealy Family

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Jesus loves me AND my swagger

thanks to sophia for photos!

The last major task of our missionary endeavor has been accomplished - but Rich and I don't have enough alert brain cells between the two of us to have really processed that truth yet. This past weekend, we were privileged to be a part of the third annual SetFree Youth Conference. Much like last year, Richard was highly involved in all the pre-game shenanigans. For almost a full year, he has been participating in frequent & intense meetings; helping to select and secure the main speaker, the musicians, the venue; assisting in PR & advertising & fundraising; arranging technical and logistical necessities during the conference itself - and more! But this was my very first year being involved in any way. Last year I was busy with a very new newborn and didn't even catch a glimpse of the conference. So this year it was a treat to hang out at the conference for two of the three days (with all my kids in tow) and I got to be one of the speakers.

5 highlights from the weekend:

#1. Righteous B, the tattoo-covered Catholic hip-hop artist from the States, was the headlining speaker.
Righteous B (aka Bob Lesnefsky) and his wife, Kate, who attended with him, left their six children with grandparents in order to come give this retreat. The youth LOVED him. LOVED LOVED LOVED him! He performed some of his own music, but mostly he gave a series of powerful talks on different aspects of conversion and faith. His everyday work back home is with Dirty Vagabond, a ministry he founded to work with inner-city teens, pinpointing and evangelizing street leaders in gang and drug infested areas. He really understands young people, the culture and how to communicate the Gospel with humor and passion.

#2. Awesome music! We had a huge band, including Roby Curtis of the internationally acclaimed Australian Christian band, emmanuelworship, supplying us with fantastic praise songs all weekend long. The youth got way into worshipping through music and really let loose!

#3. About 200 teens (plus young adult leaders and adult speakers) attended the three day conference (and kept 14 priests - including the Bishop - busy hearing Confessions for an entire hour on Saturday night!) This was our highest attendance yet, as well as our most enthusiastic crowd ever. Many described the weekend as "life-changing" and "the best weekend of my life".

the weekend's ubiquitous Righteous B tee

#4. The venue was a beautiful Christian conference center located about 10 minutes from Hobbiton, in the heart of breathtaking green cow paddocks and post-harvest corn fields. The Kaimai mountains rose along the horizon and the sun shone warm and bright all three days, despite the autumnal patterns the weather has otherwise followed of late. My favorite part of the whole weekend was taking a walk alone with my three children down a quiet country lane, chasing butterflies, talking to bold calves close enough to touch, and drinking in the pristinely verdant landscapes.

#5. The last major highlight that I can tap out in my still-exhausted state - seeing young people experience the beauty and power of the Lord, many for the first time. This retreat is designed primarily as a conversion experience, and indeed, it accomplished its purpose for many youth. For those who came with an already-established friendship with Jesus, that was certainly deepened. There was a palpable enthusiasm about God and a real sense of joy and hope. Pray that this will not be a fleeting and soon-forgotten high, but the beginnings of something lasting and deep in the lives of many of the youth. 

SetFree 2012 Recap video
the 'sacred towel' to which Fr. Michael refers, is Richard's towel, 
which he was forced to share with his ordained roommate