There are 2 things that I will miss the most about the schools here.

1. uniforms (they look so sharp in them & there is no fight about what to wear in the morning)

2. year round schools

The kids go to school all year with a short summer break (6 weeks). They have 4 terms per year (school year starts in Feb.) that are a total of 10 weeks each. In between each term they get a 2 week “holiday.” It is fantastic. By 10 weeks everyone needs a break & usually families all holiday together somewhere fun. It sort of forces you to plan a vacation or travel together which is excellent for families. If you can’t travel or take off of work then there are heaps of holiday programs that you can put the kids into that are super fun! My kids were on holiday a few weeks ago. The first week they were in tennis camp & the 2nd week we went on holiday to the Coromandel Peninsula (home to one of the top 10 beaches in the world)! We have the nicest friends here who offered us their bach (vacation home) for the week. It was wonderful!!! To get there we had to drive 2.5 hrs. around some very windy & narrow roads. However, those roads happened to be overlooking the ocean so it was totally worth the drive. Every now & again the 2 lane roads would become one lane (even on bridges) so it was a bit scary but a VERY beautiful! Chase was getting a little car sick so right when we got off of the mountain we pulled over so he could get out & get some fresh air. The nicest Kiwi man ran out of his house to see if we were ok. I told him what was going on & a few minutes later he came back out of his house with an orange drink for Chase. Reason # 3,003 why I LOVE the Kiwis!

The first day we arrived we decided to go to Cathedral Cove. This was the location where The Chronicle of Narnia: Prince Caspian was filmed.  We packed a picnic lunch & had to hike @35 min. to get there. It was unbelievable! There was a giant cliff going out over the ocean that was open underneath. You could walk from one side of the beach to the other under the cliff tunnel. We stayed there & played at the beach for hours.

The 2nd day we went to Hot Water Beach. It was amazing as well (but what place isn’t amazing here??)  In certain spots under the surface of the sand, there is geothermic activity  that makes the water boiling hot . We bought a big shovel & dug our way to the hot water. The kids absolutely LOVED it!  It was sort of a chilly day that day so we stayed in our hot tub until the kids fingers & toes turned to prunes:)

The 3rd day we woke up it was raining. No biggie – it rains here everyday so we thought it would surely pass over but not a chance!  So, we spent the day being lazy – playing cherades, watching movies, & drinking hot chocolate. It was a relaxing day that we all needed but would never have taken unless it had rained – thank you, rain! The  very last day we were there was really special. On one of my runs I had come to an area called The Reserve.  To get there you take a short hike down a windy path and finally end up at the beach. When I got to the beach it was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! The water was calm like a lake & very blue. A few feet down the beach there was a rope swing where you could swing out into the water. We surprised the kids on the last day & took a picnic lunch down to our new secret spot. You should have heard them squeal when they saw the rope swing. It was such an awesome morning on the beach there. Ellison found so many starfish that she could not keep count of them & Chase would not get off the rope swing. We were so sad when we were packing up the car to go home. It really was a magical place & a perfect holiday for the Brays. A big shout out goes to Jeremy & Anna Stanley for letting us use their bach! Chase said it best –  “that was the best holiday I have ever had in my whole life!”

On a side note…. After we returned from holiday & started to get back into the ‘ole routine of school, etc,  is when my first wave of homesickness hit me. I was honestly not surprised at all when I started to miss some of the familiar things & people back home. After all, now that we are pros at moving I kind of know what to expect. I generally LOVE the novelty of a new place, new & exciting things to do, etc. for the first few months. Then by @ 3-4 months when I start to feel settled is when the homesickness starts to kick in. I start missing the little things – my YMCA workout buddies, Target, my car, the grocery store, knowing where things are & how to get places easily, & everything that is familiar to me.   But really what I miss most of all is the people who know me the best – the people who I can just be myself with – my friends & my family. However, from experience by 6 months I am cruising again & loving it. By 9 months it feels like home & by 12 months it’s time to go & I cry like a baby b/c I have to leave. SO, when this first wave of homesickness hit me it came with great familiarity. Thankfully I knew it would be gone as soon as the first 70 degree day hit….and I was right:)

Cathedral Cove

the cathedral

just a teeny little rock on the beach

my babies:)

my kids call these “poopie birds”


what an awesome playground for the kids!

this makes me so happy:)

American redneck baby

the 2 naughties

a wandering hobo from Canada took this picture for us & then tried to hitch a ride… ha ha!

the hot tub!

hard at work

time to go home

my boys

every kid’s dream




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  • joanne ellison - I can hardly believe how breathtakingly beautiful that place is. The children look so grown up. Especially Ellie!! What an unforgettable year this is for you all. Miss you though!

  • Caroline - Wow! I am so sad we are not going to be able to come visit. Y’all look wonderful and I miss you lots!

  • Maggie - Oh my goodness, beauty beyond description for sure!!!
    Hope I am so sorry you had your wave of homesickness but so grateful for all of the time you have been able to spend together. Remember the early years of residency when you thought you couldn’t make it another day. You have endured so much and now you are right in the midst of the rainbow!!! We miss you all so much but LOVE your updates and seeing all the pictures that warm our hearts and make us smile!!
    Keep enjoying the beauty and excitement of your opportunity, knowing your loving family and friends are loving you from a distance and eagerly awaiting your return!!! Love you so much, Maggie

  • anne - love this post. we miss you! but such a crazy beautiful place you’re in. funny how you know the stages. i just want to squeeze that peyton! love the mommy and crew pic. framer!