The Great Outdoors

As I’ve said before, our experience of public school thus far in the US has been, on the whole positive – so much so that we’re about to send the girls back to a public school in a couple of weeks. There is one area, however, where I do think New Zealand is doing a far superior job, and that’s education outside the classroom – and by that I don’t mean taking your maths books outside to sit under a tree whilst you do your sums.

The rationale for EOTC in New Zealand is outlined below:

“Students need to learn in a variety of contexts in order to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values required to enjoy a healthy lifestyle; take responsibility for their own safety; form positive and respectful relationships with their peers, their teachers, and the environment; and participate in the creation of safer communities.”

EOTC can take many forms, some of which the girls have experienced here in the United States – trips to the library, the fire station, local museums etc. But as yet I have seen no evidence of our wonderful programmes which get kids, even those in a big city, right out into nature, those wonderful school camps which I remember fondly both as a student and a teacher.

When we went back to NZ in June, Olive and Edie’s cousin was off on a three night camp with his class. I camped overnight at school as an eight year old, had a week long camp at intermediate (6th and 7th grade), and there were numerous other camps of varying lengths whilst I was at high school. As a teacher I was involved in some sort of camp, school or marae sleepover, every year that I taught. Admittedly there was a huge amount of work involved in the planning and preparation of these activities, and they require a high level of parental support and involvement, but they were so good for building a real sense of community among the children and parents. And, most importantly, for those children who would never get the opportunity to go camping, they still had the chance to experience the great outdoors with all its fun and challenges.

My observation is that, here in the States, this type of education is something that you choose to do, usually in the summer and you have to pay to do it. A quick Google search tells me that at the top end, you can expect to pay around $7,000 for a four week sleep away camp. That’s not to say that camp at school in NZ is free. There is usually a cost involved but there is a real effort to ensure that noone misses out and fundraising to cover costs is one of the learning experiences that becomes part of the process. And it costs nothing to go and hike a local trail!

Right…I shall now climb down off my soapbox!

Mindful of the fact that the girls might not get exposed to much camping/hiking style education at school, and also wanting it to be part of our family routine, we took the girls out for their first night under canvas a couple of weeks ago.

Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Home sweet home...it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Home sweet home…it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping - s'mores!
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping – s’mores!
Gym is what they do...everywhere we go!
Gym is what they do…everywhere we go!
The morning after...hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles...success!
The morning after…hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles…success!

We stayed in a campground at Three Creeks Lake near Sisters. We’d heard there was a good walk to do which started near the campground, but we didn’t want to jeopardize the good camping vibes we’d created by suggesting a five mile hike after packing up all the gear, so we made a visit to the Sisters Coffee Company instead!

Last Sunday we headed back to Three Creeks Lake to revisit the hike that had been abandoned in favour of caffeine. It’s called the Tam McArthur Rim and it promised spectacular views of many central Oregon mountains. The day, unfortunately, wasn’t particularly clear, but the temperature was cool – good conditions for an upward hike.

At the start of the trail...looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
At the start of the trail…looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
One intrepid little hiker...
One intrepid little hiker…
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers...
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers…
one of the aforementioned mountains...Broken Top...
one of the aforementioned mountains…Broken Top…
some very nice colours on the way up...
some very nice colours on the way up…
and a rather spectacular view from the top...
and a rather spectacular view from the top…
vast and somewhat eerie...
vast and somewhat eerie…
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us...
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us…
and he gave me this image...quite possibly the best photo I've ever taken!
and he gave me this image…quite possibly the best photo I’ve ever taken!
...more pretty colours...
…more pretty colours…
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed too...girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they'd climbed.
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed to…girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they’d climbed.

We’re off to Portland on Friday to hand in all our paperwork and have a tour round the girl’s new school – apparently there is an Australian family starting too, so we won’t be the only ones with funny accents!  The school registration person I spoke to was super warm and welcoming so am already feeling good about it.

Take care everyone. Thanks for all the supportive and encouraging words regarding our next adventure. It really means a huge amount to all of us to know that we have so much positive energy directed our way…please keep it coming!!

The Bend roundup…

Once again it’s been weeks between posts. The days are bulleting past with so much happening in our lives – this is the third time I’ve sat down to write this and I fear it’s going to be short on words but heavy on pictures..a roundup of sorts…things we’ve been up to. Stick with me though and I promise the closing paragraph will provide the big info…what next for the Croads!

We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp...
We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp…
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest...
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest…
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden...
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden…
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke...
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke…
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect...or in this case...pose for the camera...
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect…or in this case…pose for the camera…
then onto OMSI - Oregon Museum of Science and Industry...
then onto OMSI – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry…
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours...
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours…
met the world's tallest man...
met the world’s tallest man…
quite a sad story...he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties...
quite a sad story…he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties…
mingled with some germs...
mingled with some germs…
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland...
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland…
and did a bit more posing...
and did a bit more posing…
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair...
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair…
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend...
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend…
there was a rodeo queen...
there was a rodeo queen…
bucking broncos...
bucking broncos…
beautiful horses...
beautiful horses…
real live buffalos...
real live buffalos…
these two rodeo clowns...
these two rodeo clowns…
Yee hah!
Yee hah!
Ride 'em cowgirl!
Ride ’em cowgirl!
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend...
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend…
had our first family photo taken in a good few years...and it's our backs...photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute...as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster...because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
had our first family photo taken in a good few years…and it’s our backs…photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute…as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster…because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
on the way to Green Lake...stunning...
on the way to Green Lake…stunning…
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer...
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer…
Green Lake...one of our favourite hikes so far...
Green Lake…one of our favourite hikes so far…
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking...
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking…
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family...my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way...very proud Aunty...
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family…my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way…very proud Aunty…
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River...means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights...
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River…means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights…
just beautiful!
just beautiful!

Thanks for sticking with me. Whilst all the above activity was going on, we were navigating the changes taking place because of the sale of Taura Natural Ingredients, the company Richard works for. Many of you know that the whole reason we came to Bend is because of the impending sale of the company. As our VISA’s are tied specifically to Richard’s job with Taura we weren’t sure if we’d be staying or leaving when the company sold, so we came out West to see some more of the USA just in case it was our last chance to. Shortly before the girls and I headed to NZ, we found out that a large Israeli company had bought Taura and they were very keen for Richard to stay on in his role and they were happy for him to base himself wherever in the US he liked.

Whilst we have absolutely loved Bend, travel in and out of here is tricky and as Richard is on the road a lot we needed to be somewhere that didn’t add an extra day or two in travel time to every trip. We seriously considered San Francisco, but at the end of the day we have been won over by Oregon. In many ways it reminds us a lot of New Zealand, it’s less formal and conservative than where we were on the East Coast, the people are laid back and friendly and being on the West Coast puts us much closer to home – good for us travelling back to NZ and good for visitors too…hint hint!

So the big city of Portland is to be our new home. Our focus for the last few weeks has been house hunting and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we have bought a new home. It’s in what is known as the Southwest Hills area, about five miles from the centre of Portland.

our new digs...kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom...so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature
our new digs…kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom…so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature…
It was built in the 90's but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary...most kiwi looking home we've been in...
It was built in the 90’s but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary…most kiwi looking home we’ve been in…
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited :)
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited 🙂

So in just over two weeks we will be in our new – hopefully for longer than two years – home. Olive and Edie start school the day after we move in. It’s a public school which has an excellent reputation so we are all excited about it. There are a few nerves too – on all our parts. Just because we’ve done it so often doesn’t make it any easier and in some ways moving state is a bit like moving country – new driver’s license, new taxes, new insurance – but I shall refrain from moaning!

Our other big news is that we have invested in an organic candy bar company – American friends if you see OCHO on the shelves, give it a try.

Gotta love a company that asks when every family member's birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!
Gotta love a company that asks when every family member’s birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!

So that is all the news from us. Next couple of weeks will no doubt be a blur of packing and organizing as well as trying to make the most of beautiful Bend before we leave. It’s been a wonderful experience and we feel pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been living in each other’s pockets, with few breaks, for nearly five months and we still like each other! Please send us lots of love and positive thoughts as we embark on another big adventure!! On the Croad again!!!

Bent!

I think this is the fourth attempt I have made at writing this post! To be honest it’s usually a time of struggle or challenge that keeps me away from my little corner of the world wide web, but I’m happy to report that this time it’s down to being busy…to, dare I say it, embracing the very privileged moment in time we are experiencing. When Richard first floated the idea of this ‘sabbatical’ for want of a better word, I was quick to point out all the reasons why we shouldn’t do it – those of you who know me very well won’t be surprised by that at all. Change and I are somewhat uncomfortable bedfellows.

We have now been in Bend for just over six weeks and things are going well. Of course like anything, it’s not all wine and roses – I have on more than one occasion threatened to march Olive and Edie down to the local school for the last few weeks of the academic year – but all things considered, life in Bend is suiting us pretty well.

Before we made it to Bend, we did partake in a bit of a road trip, which is what this post was meant to be about when I made my first attempt to write it a month ago! Richard made the entire drive from east to west, whilst the girls and I did a wee bit less than that. When school broke for spring break we flew to Denver and met up with Richard and the tardis, aka our car, which was crammed full with all manner of necessary items…coffee machine, five bikes (!), scarves and sunglasses to reenact iconic moment from Thelma and Louise…you get the picture. We drove straight out of Denver and headed for Moab in Utah, an amazing drive which took us into landscapes that looked completely other worldly.

So many cries of "wow, look" as we journeyed further west.
So many cries of “wow, look” as we journeyed further west.

Our goal in Moab was to go hiking in Arches National Park, home to over 2,000 natural stone arches, and a place that was settled over 10,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.

Heading into the park to walk to Delicate Arch, the unofficial symbol of Utah.
Heading into the park to walk to Delicate Arch, the unofficial symbol of Utah.
Olive and Edie were great hikers, full of interest in the amazing environment.
Olive and Edie were great hikers, full of interest in the amazing environment.
Delicate Arch in all her glory.
Delicate Arch in all her glory.
The girls were a bit braver than I when it came to venturing out on the rocks.
The girls were a bit braver than I when it came to venturing out on the rocks.
At times it felt like being on another planet.
At times it felt like being on another planet.
The girls took every available opportunity for climbing rocks.
The girls took every available opportunity for climbing rocks.
Places I never thought I would get to :)
Places I never thought I would get to 🙂

From Moab we headed to Park City, home of Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. We had to pass through Salt Lake City on the way and I amused myself by counting Latter Day Saints church spires – there were a lot. (I’ve always been a bit intrigued by the Mormons. My mother used to disappear off to the Mormon church in Hataitai to do genealogical research, I was a huge fan of the show Big Love and I’ve read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven…and then there was the time my sister invited a couple of missionaries in when they came knocking on the door one day. But that’s another story!)

To be honest I was a bit underwhelmed by Park City…not a celebrity in sight! Still it wasn’t film festival time…I’m sure it’s quite the place then.

Spot of snowboarding with True Blood's Alcide...mmm...could have been persuaded to stick around Park City for that!
Spot of snowboarding with True Blood’s Alcide…mmm…could have been persuaded to stick around Park City for that!

Next up was Boise, Idaho, one of those places that I’d read about or heard mentioned on tv or in movies but never in a million years expected to actually be in. We were only there overnight but were quite taken by it…had a very cool cafe which is always the mark of a good town in our book.

We rolled into Bend on a Monday afternoon and set up home in our little house on the west side. Unfortunately we woke up the next day to the news that Richard’s mother had passed away so our first official day in Bend was spent sorting flights, accommodation and rental cars and getting Richard off to the airport.

With Grandmama in Byron Bay, December 2013.
With Grandmama in Byron Bay, December 2013.

The girls and I spent the week getting to know Bend, which required numerous trips to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods – Winchester friends will understand the great excitement at having both these stores in town! The girls even did an art class for a couple of mornings which enabled me to focus on getting my big projects finished for the two courses I was doing. Richard made it home in time for the final few hours of Olive’s birthday and we were able to start getting into the swing of life in Bend.

Nine years old!
Nine years old!

Owing to Richard having to head to Australia for a week and me having to get all my study complete, we didn’t properly start homeschooling until our third week in Bend. We are doing a very hybrid, make it up as you go along kind of approach! We are using the K12 online system for maths, spelling and history; blogging and corresponding with friends and family are our writing themes and, as Bend is located in an area of great volcanic significance, we are focussing on all things volcano related for science. Reading pretty much takes care of itself although I have insisted on a daily SSR time where only novels are allowed to be read – the graphic novel obsession continues unabated! PE is the easiest subject to work on – we’ve hiked, mountain biked, explored playgrounds and the girls do gymnastics twice a week, and Olive is trying out a kid’s running club this week. (In Bend you can get picked up from school by bus and taken to mountain biking class! You can guess how tough Richard is finding it to live here 🙂 I too am very happy to have found a great yoga studio and am starting each day with a 6am class. I didn’t think it would be possible to find a studio that could match Shine in Winchester but so far I’m loving it.) Olive and Edie’s foray into blogging revealed a need for speedier fingers on the keyboard so they are also doing an online typing program. We usually spend the morning working – 8:30am till 12, which leaves us the afternoon free to get outside and explore Bend’s fantastic outdoors, make trips to the library or meet up with our friends online. Or we bunk off school for a few days and head wherever Richard has to go for work – San Francisco anyone?!

We like to call it education outside the classroom.
We like to call it education outside the classroom.

We’ve decided to extend our stay in Bend and have found another place to move into at the beginning of July. Summer is the best time to be here and as everything is still a bit up in the air for us future wise, staying put for a wee bit longer feels like the right thing to do. The girls and I are making a trip back to New Zealand at the end of June…arriving in Napier on June 21st and leaving on July 6th. Olive and Edie are rather excited, Olive going so far as installing a countdown app on my phone which she diligently checks every day, “only 31 days to go Mum!”

I’d like to say a big thank you to wonderful friends and family who are supporting Olive and Edie’s letter writing. They get so excited when there is something just for them in the mailbox. Also thanks to those reading and commenting on their blogs. I suspect they are going to beat me to all the good stories! You can click here for Olive’s and here for Edie’s.

I think that’s enough for now. Once again I have written something which veers into essay-like proportions! I haven’t mentioned how hard it was to leave Winchester, how emotional it was, but I hope y’all know how special our time there was xxx

Until next time…