Updated: Sep 28, 2021

I'm writing this from the hotel we are quarantining in, which has a huge window looking out over industrial warehouses near the Auckland Airport. It feels surreal that two days ago we were pacing the hallways of the San Francisco airport with three trollies worth of baggage and two kids in a stroller wondering if we would even make it here at all.

Our airport shuttle was waiting outside when we zipped the last of our belongings into our suitcases at our old house in SF. Ari's high chair still had chunks of avocado on it, and our house was littered with things here and there that we had decided to leave behind last minute. Thankfully a good friend had agreed to help clean things out before our tenant moves in next week. Our movers had taken all our furniture away a day before, and I was sweaty from dismantling the kids portable cribs and deflating the air mattress Isaac and I had slept on for two nights. We threw away many huge garbage bags of food from the cupboards, and put a mound of items on the street for junk pickup. Moving has a way of generating trash. On our way to the airport our phones buzzed. Our United flight to LAX – where we planned to get on one of two weekly Air New Zealand flights to Auckland – was delayed. We'd given ourselves a seven hour layover in LAX just to be safe. But when a second notification came through saying they were taking our aircraft out of service and would work to find a new one for our flight, we panicked. If we didn't make that LAX connection to New Zealand, this move wouldn't happen. MIQ (managed isolation and quarantine is required of all travelers into NZ) spaces were booked out through the end of the year, and we'd had our reservation to go into quarantine on Monday secured for months. Not making it wasn't an option if we wanted to move to New Zealand this year.

(Above: Hauling our stuff around SFO trying to figure out what to do.) We plugged Jude into the iPad and let Ari roam free at the United check-in counters and hopped on my laptop to see if there was another flight we could book that day to LAX. There were first class seats on one with Alaska Airlines for $1200. It was refundable, so we booked it, reasoning that money wasn't an issue in this circumstance – we HAD to make that Auckland flight. Meanwhile, I chatted with United to see what was going on. That's when I realized our two flights were not connected in their system – our bags would go to baggage claim in LAX. We'd have to pick them up, transfer to the international terminal, check back in with Air New Zealand, and go through security again. With kids and the flight delay that just wasn't an option – it would take hours. We'd have to do that if we took the backup Alaska flight, which was also a big downside of that option. While both kids napped in our stroller (a miracle), I convinced a super friendly United agent to connect our flights. Now we just had to decide if we trusted them enough to get us to LAX. When they said a new aircraft had been located and we would take off (five hours late), we decided to stick with them and cancelled the Alaska backup flights so at least we wouldn't have to pick up bags and check in again. Fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, we hadn't been able to actually check in to the Air New Zealand flight. Their online check in system was down and they had no counter at SFO. United couldn't get us boarding passes for it, even though the flight was a code share. We'd have to get to the gate counter in LAX before the check-in window closed two hours before the flight. If we ran, we reasoned we could just make it. Well, we did. Barely. We forced the kids into the stroller and raced over a mile to our gate where we finally got our boarding passes and even had time to drink a beer before boarding. What a day.

Back in San Francisco the pandemic had felt like it was nearly over. Everyone we knew was vaccinated, new cases were low, and businesses operated almost normally again. We had stopped wearing masks when we left the house or went to the playground. But getting on our flight to New Zealand felt like entering a war zone. Eight armed police officers lined the walkway onto the plane, and I heard them saying our names and checking off a list as we passed. We had shown several pieces of paperwork before boarding, including our reservation for Managed Isolation and Quarantine, as well as all of our COVID test results. The woman in front of us in line had issues with some of this paperwork and her hands shook as she spoke with them. Luckily, all of ours were in order. After an hour and a half sitting on the crowded plane waiting for everyone to get processed through, we were off. The kids were screaming and tired (it was 11:30pm, way past bedtime) but I dosed our toddler with kids Melatonin gummies and eventually we got them both to sleep.

It wasn't the best way to kick off our trans-Pacific adventure. Isaac and I both felt like we'd run a marathon. And this was just the beginning. We still had a 13-hour flight ahead of us, several long lines and hours waiting to go to an unknown quarantine facility, and 14 days there before we were "free" to go see family and be in the outside world. There's a lot to say about MIQ, where we are right now. I'll share more in another post. But the important thing is that we made it here, and even though it's a bit prison-like in MIQ, we are happy to be here all in one piece.

Arriving at our MIQ assignment just outside the Auckland airport.

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

The house is all packed up, movers come this afternoon. I got a free hour this morning while the kids were out and walked to our favorite cafe to get the same drink I always get and to sit at the same tables we have always sat at, and write something about what this past month has been like. It’s been stressful, it’s been exciting, it’s been all the things. We're at the edge of an ending and a new beginning. It's emotional.

I recently told Isaac, “The week we move will probably be the most stressful week of our lives.” And so far it has been. Our garage and front gate got broken into over the weekend. Nothing was stolen, thankfully, but it sucked up a lot of our time. Then our moving company called to tell us they don’t have a container for us, due to a Covid-related shortage of shipping containers. When they asked if we could push our move back by a few weeks, we said “no way!” and they managed to get a storage company to pick up our stuff (at our expense ugh). It’ll add a month to the already 8-12 weeks we’ll be waiting for our belongings on the other side. To top it off, last night I dreamt I tested positive for Covid. (Our tests are tomorrow, let’s hope it goes well in real life.) So yeah, it’s sizing up to be the most stressful week of our lives. We still have an 8-hour layover in LAX and a 13 hour flight to Auckland ahead of us, plus two weeks in managed quarantine at a hotel someplace in New Zealand (we’ll find out where when we land). Perhaps the hardest part about it is being a parent though it all. Isaac and I both try to be as real as possible with our kids. I want them to see our joy and patience, but also to see us cry, see us angry, and see our frustration too. But I struggle with anxiety, and that’s the one thing I don’t want them to see – I don't want to make them anxious too, no kid needs that. It’s been an effort this week to keep my calm for them.

There’s nothing on our fridge right now except a single index card with six words written on it. They’re our “family values.” We made them before Jude was born in an effort to align on how we wanted to raise our kids, and these six words have been the foundation on which we formed our dream of moving to rural New Zealand. (You can see them below, with a seventh I added as a joke this week. Everything falls apart when we have under-slept!)

The process of coming up with them was simple: we sat down and discussed what mattered to us and what didn’t, then we narrowed it down to the few most important things. We have held our life up to these values over the past few years and asked ourselves if how we spend our time, and how we’re raising our kids, measures up to them. It’s one of the reasons Isaac left his career to be a stay-at-home dad when Jude was a baby. When I was working a lot and my focus was on career and money, these values are what led me to think about quitting. They’ve also guided us in making traditions for holidays and birthdays for the kids.

As a parting gift, my good friend Ginger gave me a necklace with each of these values on it. I’m wearing all six of the pendants today as a reminder of the light at the end of this tunnel: a life rich with alignment to what is important to me and to our family. These words will be my anchor through the tough few weeks to come.

Last night after I tucked the kids into the travel beds they are sleeping in, in their mostly empty rooms with my lullabies echoing off the bare walls, I sat down in the kitchen and cried. I’m excited for what’s coming, but also so deeply sad to leave the people and places I love here in San Francisco. At the center of this move, there’s a lot of sadness for me. I've always found that you've got to let go of something old in order to gain something new, and it's so hard.

But at this precise moment everything is pretty wonderful. This matcha latte from our local cafe is as delicious as it always has been, the air is crisp, and I have this rare hour to myself to reflect. I hope I can remember that this is how we’ll get through the coming few days – one breath and one moment at a time.

Goodbye San Francisco, you'll be missed...

Updated: Sep 28, 2021

Between goodbye trips to visit my family members, we have been cranking full steam on the tiny house design. We locked in the layout after a bunch of futzing around, and moved right along to the details. And whoa, are there details. As expected, building a house is far more complex than I realized. Which is precisely why I started re-reading the book below, "The Builder's Secret." In 2013, my brother-in-law picked this off the shelves of a used bookstore for me as a gift. His inscription in the front was such a good reminder back then to keep this dream alive that I held onto it – I usually donate books when I'm done with them and only have a dozen on my shelf.

It's a series of stories about regular people who built their own homes, from single mothers to retirees to the author himself, who was a school teacher that picked up a hammer on weekends. It's already reminding me that we can do this. After all, we're just as capable as other people who've built their own homes, we'll figure it out.

Despite being exhausted after getting the kids in bed, our evenings have been spent researching siding materials (or "cladding" as they call it in New Zealand) and figuring out what we can buy here in the States ahead of time. Packing some supplies in our container when we ship it is a cheaper way to get things to the island than shipping from Auckland. Without further ado, here is a rendering of the main floor plan below (not including lofts). The shower room is a work in progress, and some windows need to be pushed a few centimeters one way or the other, but overall this is pretty much it. In some ways, I think this design will serve us better than the 800-square-foot apartment we are currently living in (and which was not designed for a family of four).

Speaking of which, we have outgrown our apartment SO MUCH that I had surprisingly no problem showing potential tenants around last week. I thought that process would be too emotional for me – this being the place Isaac and I picked out together, and both our boys' first home. But we found a delightful tenant and I can't wait to hand her the keys end of July. I keep reminding the boys that home isn't a place, it's wherever we are all together. I'm such a nester and a "house person" that it took me nearly 38 years to really learn that myself. Hopefully my kids can grasp that lesson sooner than I did.

Four more weeks of this view from our SF front door.

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