The Xmas newsletter has been a tradition in my family for a long time; my Grandma and Grandad would have xmas cards strung up over the counter in their kitchen with an array of newsletters from various friends and family. As time has moved on in my own family, the xmas newsletter became an xmas email, often summarising the year that had been; what crews my dad had coached, where they had been on holiday, a short snippet on where my brothers and I were living, what we were doing and finished with the fact that over the holidays my parents (and whoever else) could be found at our usual camp site, at the Wanaka end of Glendhu Bay Motor Camp.
Alex is also one who is keen on tradition (and her family have been receivers of Xmas newsletters from their friends), so now that we have a family of our own, I thought I’d start the tradition of a Xmas blog prompted from the images in my Instagram Feed. Because let’s be honest, if it wasn’t on the gram, did it really happen?
January started very relaxed and quiet in Whangapoua, with Alex surviving the heat with her own internal heater (a baby); keeping cool, without the help of an ice cold cider, was a high priority. I spent most days falling off the surf board. We couldn’t help but feel as we left the beach and drove along the Hauraki plains, that life as we knew it was about to change. We had a never ending list of things we needed to buy for the impending (home) birth of our baby (which didn’t happen as Alex went into labour early), a desire to renovate part of our small house and a drive to travel and go overseas (which of course was up in the air after finding out we were pregnant in mid 2017). It was full on save-to-spend mode, and a bit of painting was done around the house. Thankfully the end of January brought on Anniversary weekend and a trip back to the beach for one final sleep in and relax before our world changed forever. Heading back to work early on the Tuesday morning Alex and I vowed that despite having a new Baby, this time next year we will have lived outside New Zealand, a decision that proved to be both super challenging but equally rewarding and developmental to both of us.
February came around fast, we managed to enjoy our final Valentines day together just the two of us. We planted a vegetable garden (and had the ongoing battle trying to keep out white butterfly), I recorded my most successful podcast to date with the Carnivore; Dr Shawn Baker and we made the most of the extended summer weather. With March coming around quick we decided to get Billies’ room ready prior to our trip planned to Christchurch to meet my Niece for the first time. Alex was feeling unsure about flying so late in her pregnancy and “what if she went into labour away from our midwife?!”
Anyway, the renovations continued. Armed with the orbital sander borrowed from our neighbour (a builder), I set about removing all the snot coloured paint from the walls. Come Sunday arvo, we closed up Billies’ dusty room, left the drop sheet on the floor and we drove to Auckland to Alexs folks place to stay the night and be close to the airport, ready to fly to Christchurch in the morning. Now, I don’t know if it was the white tail spider in the passenger seat as we drove to Auckland that had Alex leap into my lap or if Billie just didn’t want to go on a plane, but at 3a.m that morning, Alex’s water broke in bed. After a short stint in the bath, Alex’s mum drove us back down state highway one (I’ll let your imagination set the scene – hypobirthing didn’t apply in the car) to Hamilton for the birth of our little girl; Billie Rumi, at 8:49pm on the 26th of February, weighing a petite 6lbs 2oz/2.78kg. All parties slept like a log that night. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried tears of joy before, but that day they certainly flowed like waterfalls.
Needless to say March was a blur – the first 2 weeks Billie just slept and the following 2 weeks (when I went back to work) sleep deprivation began to set in, so our memories are scratchy. According to Instagram I managed to get out four more podcasts, eat breakfast, do some exercise and have a good crop of Kale and Spinach from the garden.
April; reality hit, we were struggling, this was when we decided to make two contradictory decisions. Firstly: we took my work up on the offer to fill the position in Thames and Waiuku and live at Alex’s parents for more help. Second: we took an offer to move to near Byron Bay to fulfil our goal to live overseas near the beach. Before moving we renovated the bathroom, as mentioned in my Haere blog. Thank goodness for helpful family and Neighbours. At the eleventh hour we had the bathroom completed and our possessions moved to Pukekohe!
May; for me this consists of getting up early to try have a moment, to try get in some movement and try shock my system into being ok. The rest was driving to work, making it through the day, trying not to panic when txts from Alex would come through, and getting home to nurse Billie through colic for 2-5hours. Cue inconsolable screaming baby every.single.night. Our worst night was three hours of broken sleep. Life with a baby isn’t as blissful as you’d like to think!
Thankfully dinner was made by Alexs’ folks and our washing got done, the rest was about surviving. Somehow I recorded more podcasts (what was I thinking). It also meant D-day was fast approaching, adding to the stress levels. Billies’ passport was in our hands 16 or so hours before we were due to fly, both of our cars hadn’t sold and we were relying on this to have some cash for our $10,000 move!
Somehow on the 25th of May getting up at 3:00AM we packed up two cars and boarded a plane to Australia with a 3 month old who had just had tongue-tie surgery 2 days before. After a day of mayhem and a few hiccups we settled into an empty house with 3 suitcases, a duvet and Billies Bed and slept on a blow-up mattress. We were beyond exhausted and had nobody to call on for help, it was still survival mode.
June; who knows. Long days and nights, I joined Crossfit and the rugby club to have some semblance of a previous life and endeavour to meet some people and build a tribe. We survived.
July; Alex’s mum came to visit, we got a table and chairs, a couch to sit on and our stuff finally arrived from NZ. We could do this.
August: how am I 30? How am I a dad? and how do we live in Australia? Life is weird. We begin to gain confidence in exploring, Alex began to meet more people, and I began to settle into work. My mum came and visited in time for my Birthday. Billie began to be more capable of day trips. My birthday was enjoyed at Harvest Cafe with mum, I’m not sure who enjoyed the slow cooked lamb shoulder more; Us or Billie. Mums week ended too fast and we were on our own again, but not for long.
September: I flew a helicopter! I don’t know what it is about choppers, maybe something to do with deer recovery or hearing about Hannibal Hayes and Tim Wallis or maybe just Richie McCaw, but learning to fly helicopters has always been a fascination and quiet obsession. So this was the most incredible way to bring in my 30th thanks to Alex, friends and Family. The Rugby season ended disappointingly without any silverware for the first time in 4 seasons but it meant I was free for visitors and Alex got me back on weeknights and Saturdays. Alex’s sister Olivia and Boyfriend Sam came to visit us, bringing more joy to the cool places we begin to enjoy; like The Farm, as we could share them with others. Surprise visits from Gemma Major and Luke Taylor also added to a stellar month, topped off by Alex’s 27th Birthday.
October started with a bang, Alex’s parents arrived and I managed to catch up with good friends at a conference up in the Gold Coast. Billie became more settled and into a more manageable routine, we had more time in the day to comfortably venture out, weekends began to be about where could we go, what could we see. From Byron and Newrybar, to Killen Falls and strolling along the beach, to drinks on the beach with new friends in Lennox head and a trip to Keegan Smith’s Farm, it was all go.
November saw us have a whirlwind trip to Invercargill to look at a job/business opportunity. Sometimes you look back on things (story of this year basically) and go, “I don’t know how we did that.” The trip involved getting up at 4am local time and drive 1 hour to fly out of Coolangatta at 6am their time. The flight flew us to Sydney and on to Queenstown. Here we were met by good friend Thomas Paterson and we drove the 2 hour trip to Invercargill (My home town). After an hour nap in the car, it all got a bit much for Billie (who had been a trooper all day!), but then we witnessed one of life’s beautiful moments… 2 seconds after screaming the car down just north of Centre Bush, we decided to have a break on the side of the road. Billie was intrigued by a weeping willow tree, walking over to it, I decided to shake one of the branches, to which Billie let out the loudest giggle time and time again and we all felt much better to resume our drive south. We checked out the city of Invercargill and Billie met my Grandparents, who are still doing well in the home they built when they were married. Then, at my Auntie and Uncles place, Billie took a fond liking to chickens.
And so it’s December: the heat is almost too hot to handle here without air con (think 90% humidity some days and 24 degrees at 8am…) and I have started trying to train 5 days a week with CrossFit. The podcast will be up to 57 episodes before xmas. Unfortunately we won’t be making it back to NZ, but will spend Xmas day with some of the kind people we have met in Ballina. We miss everyone so much, and have come to the realisation that family and friends, our tribe, are so important. We often feel saddened Billie misses out on all your love, but at the same time we hope we have given her a start in life that shows that anything is possible. She has been able to spend a lot of time outdoors enjoying the bush, sand and ocean, plus lots of walks on the path opposite our house that goes on and on along the seaside and through bush (where Alex has seen 10 snakes!)
This is going to be a time in all our lives that we look back on with awe and a little bit of confusion.
We are back in NZ on Valentine’s day for a friends wedding in the Coromandel and are staying just under a fortnight (or only flying one way to NZ if Alex gets her way haha) to have Billie’s first birthday at Alex’s parents. We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and know that we think about you all everyday!!
Lots of love and prosperity to everyone.
Ryan, Alex and Billie xoxo