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School holidays on a budget

Phew, the school holidays are over and I survived!

Thomas train tots in tawhero

That face!  Melts my heart.

The first week of the school holidays was rough as it coincided with Chip deciding that 4am was a really good time to get up for the day, and I re-injured my back.  I am not a great parent person when I’m tired and sore.  I turn into Crabby McShouty.  Fortunately we managed to get Chip back into a more normal wake up time, and my back didn’t take long to get better.

Last year I put my extroverted daughter into her kindy’s holiday programme (4 days) as after a week’s holiday she would be bursting to get back there.  This year the hideous cough o’ doom left her tired and run down, so a complete break was in order.

Holidays and fun are in our budget, but even so, I don’t go overboard.  We manage to have a great time for free or cheap.

On Good Friday Sausage and her friend J made an Easter craft, which can then be used to tell the Easter story.  I have lost the link to it, but I found it on Pinterest.  The great thing about it is we can use it again next year.  Sausage really started to get the Easter story this year, I was quite impressed with her ability to remember who was who, and who did what.

Easter craft tots in tawhero

Busy crafting

I also took my tots to an Easter Egg hunt that was a fundraiser for one of our local playcentres.  It was brilliant.  Rock hunting is all the rage here (I’ll post on that soon), and children had to find five rocks which were then swapped for a bag of marshmallow eggs.  The children were also allowed to keep their two favourite rocks.  Here’s an example of what I mean:

Sausage got her face painted, and my tots loved the egg and spoon obstacle course and bouncy castle.  All of that for a $5 entry fee!

I am queen of the day trip.  I like nothing more than getting out and about to explore.  So it was off to the Coach House Museum again with friends.  My machinery-mad son loves clambering on to the tractors, and this museum will probably be a school-holiday must-do for years to come.  (My photos turned out to be completely rubbish, sorry E!)

I had a ‘girl’s day’ where my friend A-M and I took our daughters to the Fantasy Cave in Dannevirke.

Fantasy Cave tots in tawhero

Sausage and J

I don’t know who enjoys the Fantasy Cave more, me or the kids.  It is old-fashioned, low tech goodness, and well worth the visit.  At $10 entry fee for myself and Sausage, it’s a bargain too.  The girls LOVED having a day away from their annoying little brothers and getting Mummy all to themselves.

We went with friends to visit Owlcatraz, a bird park in Shannon.  If I’m honest I was rather underwhelmed by the place, but it didn’t help that it was pouring with rain while we took our tour.  We did manage to get a cute train ride there which was a highlight for the kids.

Owlcatraz tots in tawhero

All aboard the Owlcatraz Express

 

I also took my tots on several free outings to playgrounds and reserves as we were blessed with fantastic weather.

sliding tots in tawhero

Westmere Lake tots in tawhero

Playing hide and seek.  Mum’s seeking skills: Ninja Level

butterfly tots in tawhero

We took two mini-breaks which were very frugal.  The first one was an over-nighter to attend a dear friend’s 21st birthday.  We stayed at a beach house that belongs to family friends, which only requires us to make a donation to cover power etc, so it’s a very cheap option.  The weather was stunning the entire time, which meant we had an absolute ball at the beach.  It was too cold to swim (which is almost every day in New Zealand waters), but the kids relished the opportunity to get sandy and mucky in their clothes as they played on the shore.

Beach boy tots in tawhero

Waitarere beach

Our next mini-break was a scheduled holiday at Foxton Beach on the Kapiti coast.  Last year we only had one week away together as a family, which was just not enough for D and I.  This year we’ve resolved to take more little breaks throughout the year to rest and recharge. Foxton Beach is a perfect destination for us while our kids are little as it is only an hour away.  We found a cheap holiday house online, which comes with the use of bikes, and a whole bunch of games and toys.  We prefer to stay at holiday houses because we get an entire place to ourselves so that our noisy kids don’t bother anyone, and we can cook what we like quite easily (taking our own food cuts costs dramatically).  They are also often a much cheaper option than a hotel or motel, and in some cases, even cheaper than camping.

toys tots in tawhero

Other people’s toys are so much fun!

The house is right next to a forest and is therefore in a very quiet and peaceful spot.  After a quick walk through the forest we got to some sand dunes where my tots spent over an hour doing this:

sand slide tots in tawhero

sand angels tots in tahwero

sand angels

Another reason we like Foxton Beach is that it is close to friends.  We caught up with two groups of friends on a day we knew it was forecast to rain.  Our tots were so happy to see their friends, they didn’t mind being cooped up inside.

friends tots in tawherohappiness is reading a book

Anyway, school holidays: done and dusted.

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A plague on both your houses

Hello gentle reader, I have returned.

My tots and I were struck down by what we call the ‘plague o’ doom’, namely a cold/flu type virus that leaves you wiped out, and gives you a 50-cigarettes-per-day cough that goes on and on and on.  Seriously, it’s been over a month now.

Long-time readers may be thinking, man this chick gets sick a lot.  You’re right, I do.  Unfortunately it is one of the biggest bummers about having an autoimmune disease.  AI suffers can often be prone to catching anything going around, get it worse, and take longer to recover.

It is also a reflection of life with small children, who seem bound and determined to catch every illness possible in order to have kick-ass immune systems later on in life.

So AI sufferers, I see you.  Parents of diseased-ridden little people, I see you.  Feel better soon.

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Resurrection Sunday Prayer

Here’s my prayer I read at church this morning.  Happy Easter!

Christ is risen!

He is risen indeed.

 

Yahweh, we come before you on Easter Sunday, the most significant day of celebration for us, your followers.  Although many hundreds of  years have passed since the first Resurrection morning it is still so easy to see ourselves in the Easter story.  We, your people have learned much, and yet so little.

 

We are the crowd on Palm Sunday, hearts full, cheering for Jesus when times are good.  It is easy to have faith, to believe and to be thankful when everything’s going right.  Father, forgive us for how quickly we turn on you when things go wrong.

 

We are Judas, for many of us have done or said terrible things to people we love that we come to regret.  We have schemed and betrayed, we have been false.  We have presented a bright smile when our hearts were filled with treachery and deceit.  Many of us are still selling out our fellow man in the pursuit of money.  Mother, forgive us.

 

We are the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane, sleeping while so many around us are in peril, or in need of our support and comfort.  Father, forgive us when we fail to see what is happening around us, for when we do not respond as we might.

 

We are the soldiers in the garden of Gethsemane, bringing swords and clubs to quash rebellion, even when that rebellion speaks of nothing but peace.  We are quick to assume that those who seek to live differently to us are dangerous, and that those who challenge our society are wrong.   Mother, forgive us.

 

We are Peter denying Christ, when we feel embarrassed to admit we are a Christian; or when we fail to speak up when a workmate disparages religion as being for the weak-minded; or when we feel like we don’t have all the answers so we shy away from debating the tough questions from those who don’t know you.  Father, forgive us.

 

We are Pilate, confused and unsure what to do, going with the wishes of the crowd, afraid of their anger.  We do not always do what is right when the circumstances around us mean that doing right is hard.  Mother, forgive us.

 

We are the mocking soldiers when we fail to see Jesus in the face of the mentally ill lady muttering violently to herself on the bus, or the tattooed Black Power member, or even in the angry, orange hue of Donald Trump.  We fail to remember that all are worthy of your love and grace, and that we all have that God-spark within us.  Father, forgive us.

 

God, with every Easter I wonder why the symbol of your followers is the cross, that bringer of pain and death, when I wish it was the empty tomb instead, with its promise of new life and hope.

 

Help us to be like the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb, who were so struck by the power and might of Jesus, that they fell down immediately.  Help us to see you at work in this world.  Help us to be so amazed and awestruck by your creation that we fight to protect its splendour, and help us to be inspired to join in when we see people being your hands and feet to those in need.

 

Help us to be like the women at the tomb on that Sunday morning, so full of joy that we tell others about you, even when we are not believed.

 

Help us to be like the men on the road to Emmaus.  Open our eyes to the truth around us, help us to see what you need us to see, help us to recognise Jesus every day.

 

Christ is Risen!

He is risen, indeed.

 Copyright: A Gordon 2017
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Dollar Diet: Week 11, a frugal St Patrick’s Day celebration

This was not the most frugal week ever as we had not one, but two special occasions.

Isn’t that just typical?  Nothing much for ages, and then everything happens at once.  This year D and I decided to make a special deal out of St Patrick’s Day; and we were also privileged to see two beautiful people get married.  I had a great time at both events, enjoying the company of some of the people I love the most.  Special occasions can mean you spend more money than usual, but they don’t have to break the bank.

Green chrys

I got a huge bunch of green chrysanthemums for $3

Now I have a few kid-free mornings, I have more energy to entertain and to put more effort into celebrations.  I think celebrations and traditions are vital for families: they teach a child their family history, culture or religion; traditions help instil a sense of belonging, they help mark the passing of the year, and can bring generations together.

D and I are pretty intentional about what cultural or religious events we do or do not observe.  For instance, we don’t do Halloween, and Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy don’t visit our house.  But Christmas and Easter are still a big deal, so are Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and birthdays.  We also have our own traditions that are special to our family, like our family and whanau nights, breakfast in bed on your birthday, and Gordon ‘sandwiches’ (someone yells ‘Gordon sandwich!’and we all have a group hug).

This year we want to mark a few ‘Saint days’.  While St Patrick’s Day has largely morphed into a cultural holiday of craic and drinking rather than a religious observance, I am more than happy to mark this day, and for my children to learn about the life of St Patrick, and indeed, about other key figures in Christian history.

I put together a fun St Patrick’s Day party on a shoestring budget.  Here’s how I did it:

  • Make it potluck.  This is the norm in New Zealand fortunately!  I provided the main dish of Beef and Guinness stew, along with peas, green apple spritzer, and lime jelly.  As is often the way, we ended up with a feast.  Soda bread, scalloped potatoes, lamb, an all green salad, and several green desserts.                                                                green
  • Keep decorations simple.  I am not an OTT, decorate-anything-that’s-nailed-down sort of person, but I do like to put up a few special things to signify that it’s special event time.  I had some green card left over from Christmas cards my kids made, so I made some shamrock bunting.  I also found some lovely Irish blessings online, and put them up around the dining table.  Some green flowers reduced to clear were the finishing touch.  I decorated the children’s table with shamrocks and wrote their names on their place setting (Big hit!  Plus I strategically seated my son far, far away from my friend’s son who he likes to pick on, I dislike this phase).  The best thing is I can re-use the bunting and blessings in the years to come.
  • all set tots in tawheroblessingkids table tots in tawhero
  • Make it meaningful.  I spoke one of the blessings over the group as our grace before the meal.  After the meal we all sat down to watch the excellent BBC kid’s show Let’s Celebrate.  If you aren’t familiar with this show, it follows children as they celebrate cultural and religious holidays (They look at ALL faiths too, which I appreciate).  They have a great episode all about St Patrick’s Day which follows two girls in Northern Island as they get ready for the day.  Let’s Celebrate always goes into the history and meaning of each event, and this bit is acted out by kids.  It’s gorgeous!  You can watch the St Patrick’s Day video on YouTube here.  It wasn’t only the children who learnt a lot from this episode, many of our guests didn’t know much about St Patrick.
  • Unleash the craic!  I don’t think anyone does a party quite like the Irish.  To their credit, all our guests played along with my shenanigans.  We wores green, played Irish music in the background, D led us on the guitar in old-fashioned sing-a-long, and we played a hilarious ‘Minute to Win It’ game I found on Pinterest, called the Shamrock Shake (which I now can’t find to link to it, sorry).  Basically you fill a tissue box with balls (or plastic eggs in my case, which I have for Easter), tie it over your bottom, and shake, shake, shake to see who gets the most eggs out.  It was very funny, and even my 2 and a half year old got the gist of it.

     

I’m looking forward to next year already.

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Tawhero Tots Snapshot

cheeky tots in tawhero

The majority of my tot snapshots are like this, blurry little beings who won’t keep still

I thought it high time I gave you an update on my tots as this blog is often derailed by my ramblings on other matters.  So here goes!

artist tos in tawhero

Sausage, 4 years old

Name: Sausage (not really, just a silly nickname)

Age: 4

Occupation: Pre-schooler

Likes: Singing, dancing, saying ‘potato’ as if it’s a rude word, reading, kindy, climbing things, stickers, princesses, fairies, ponies, pink, sea creatures, insects, cats, pretending to be a cat, dress ups, torches (flashlights), clothes, Frozen, painting, the trampoline, her friends, tomatoes, chocolate.

Favourite books: Burglar Bill, Sleeping Beauty, The Three Billy Goats Gruff

Favourite toys: Her toy lamb, dress up clothes

Favourite TV shows: The Octonauts, Thunderbirds are Go!

 

boy tos in tawhero

Chip, aged 2 and a half

Name: Chip (again, not really)

Age: 2 1/2

Occupation: Toddler

Likes: Heavy machinery, planes, toys cars, toy heavy machinery, books about heavy machinery, the sandpit, sandpit toys that are play heavy machinery, running, using his bottle like a pacifier which drives me crazy, saying ‘helicopter toilet’ as if it were terribly rude, watching heavy machinery, playing ‘Daddy Jump Jump’ on the trampoline with D, pointing out heavy machinery on car trips, his grandparents, our 5 year old neighbour N (who has lots of heavy machinery toys), and painting pictures of heavy machinery.

Favourite Books: Planes, Monster Machines, The Monster Book of Tractors.

Favourite toys: his soft toy reindeer and hippo, combine harvester, bi-plane.

Favourite TV shows/movies: Thunderbirds are Go!, Planes, Planes: Fire and Rescue, Cars, Cars 2.

 

In the photo above by the door, the kids are watching the lawnmower man. Because, heavy machinery.

It’s never a dull (or quiet) moment with these two…

baking tots in tawheroawww tots in tawhero

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Dollar Diet: Week 10, Use it up

This week was a very good week in our frugal Tawhero household.

te manawa 1 tots in tawhero

Sausage and Chip mucking about at Te Manawa museum, Palmerston North

A couple of bitterly cold mornings found me digging out our winter clothes, which then in turn sparked me to go through ALL my clothes.  I tossed some, ruefully packed some away that don’t fit because I’ve put on weight (gah!), and generally gave everything a good once-over.  I realised I had a serious ‘hole’ in my wardrobe – namely a decent pair of jeans that fit properly – so I toddled off to buy a pair.  I didn’t find anything second-hand, but I managed to get a great pair at one of our local stores and my loyalty card gave me 30% off.  I’m not quite sure how that happened as I hardly ever buy from that store, but I’ll take it!

The weird thing is, it’s like sorting out my wardrobe has given me a new lease on life.  It galvanised me into action, and I was a busy beaver most of the week, especially where saving a buck or two was concerned.

I woke up with a migraine on Wednesday (yay) and generally felt nauseous and yuck for almost the whole day.  I’d postponed whanau night, which then left me with the dilemma of having to cook.  It was very tempting to get a takeaway, especially as D wasn’t around that night, but I said to myself ‘nay young Angela, you’re on a Dollar Diet.  Gird your loins, girl.’ [I really do talk to myself like that, I swear.] I rifled through our freezer and was grateful that I almost always have a few heat and eat-type meals in stock.  Crumbed fish, I thank thee.

I was ruthless about eating at home and using up what we had.  When we ran out of bread on Friday (and it was too late to make some), I didn’t nip out to the shops to buy a loaf.  I whipped up a tuna pasta salad instead, easy-peasy.  I finally found a use for the tin of applesauce that had been sitting in our cupboard for ages (turns out your two-and-a-half-year-old will just love it and basically just eat that for his dinner).  Two bananas and half a pear that were starting to turn got baked into banana bread.  Slightly-manky-looking veg got thrown into a shepherd’s pie.

banana bread tots in tawhero

Only half the banana bread survived long enough to make it into the photo, RIP BB.

I’d bought two packets of malt biscuits (they were on special) as a treat for my children.  They turned up their nose at them because they like a different brand.  Toddlers!  No amount of persuasion worked and now I was stuck with two packets of biscuits that I wouldn’t eat myself (too sugary).  I did however have whanau night, our minister’s ordination (such a big deal, yahoo!), and my FIL and S-MIL come to visit, all within days of each other.  So I made my family’s fudge cake recipe that has been lovingly handed down from generation to generation.  Okay, so from my auntie to my brother and I…

Anyhow, it was a brilliant choice.  Fudge cake keeps well for several days, everyone loves it, and you can eke it out if you cut it into bite-sized squares.  One batch did all three occasions.

The kids and I had a grand outing this week, which barely cost us a cent.  My mother very generously paid for the tots and I to go to a Peppa Pig stage show over in Palmerston North.  It was so. much. fun.  I’m not sure who enjoyed it more, me or the kids?  Bing bong boo, I say!  The tots behaved beautifully – even though it was Chip’s first-time at a show.  Chip was obsessed with Daddy Pig, screaming with delight every time the porcine father appeared on stage.  It isn’t the sort of thing our budget normally allows, and I was very grateful to my mum for treating us.

We topped the day off with a trip to their favourite place in Palmy North, Te Manawa.  Te Manawa is a wonderful, free museum that is pretty much paradise to my children.  It is an incredible yes space, with so much that children can play with, sit on, create with and touch.

Te Manawa 2 Tots in Tawhero

One of the playrooms at Te Manawa

The weekend found us with two sick tots on our hands.  Sausage with a cold and Chip with a vomiting bug.  Such is the reality of life with two small children.  My MIL offered to watch them for a bit on Sunday afternoon.  I leapt at the chance to actually leave the house!  (Hello world, I missed you.) D and I went to the library, and then bought a drink and muffin each at a cafe, where we sat and read our books in blissful, sickness-free peace.  A lovely date!

reading party tots in tawhero

Reading party for two 

What frugal wins did you have this week? Chime in below

 

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Dollar Diet Week 9: Of Plums and Pancakes

After our extravagant holiday to Great Barrier Island, D and I recommitted to tightening our wallets.  Our holiday was two years in the planning, but even so, holidays have a way of making money slip through your fingers like water.

We have some short-term goals, like a possible wedding in Australia to attend (I have my fascinator at the ready, R…), saving for further studies/possibly moving towns, and a long-term goal of, well,  just saving as much as we can.

Despite a dentist bill, we had a pretty frugal week.

  • I made plum jam, which we enjoyed on pancakes for Shrove Tuesday.  Easter is a big deal in our house, and it was a fun way to signal the beginning of Lent with my tots.  I keep seeing pancake mix on special at my local supermarket, and throw my hands up in despair that such a product is even required (okay, so my hand-throwing is metaphorical, lest I be known as the crazy supermarket lady).  I mean, come on, pancakes are almost as easy as making toast.

plum panccakes tots in tawhero

  • I went pine cone gathering at a local pine-treed spot for us to use as kindling this winter.  The pine cones are an excellent source of fuel for our wood burner, and are absolutely free.  For 15 minutes worth of effort (which including scrabbling up a steep bank) I netted two bags of cones.  I’ll be going back for more.

pinecones tots in tawhero

  • We packed our lunches and snacks when out and about, and entertainment was our weekly whanau night, and an impromptu BBQ (with the same friends) at the Bason Botanic Gardens which have free gas BBQ’s for the public.                                                   Bason gardens tots in tawhero

 

  • I attended my local free gym a.k.a. the great outdoors.  At the moment I am relishing my kid-free mornings, and after I’ve dropped Sausage off at kindy I take the top track at Virginia Lake.  It takes me 30 minutes and is just like doing a HIIT workout as the track has very steep sections, undulating sections and quite flat sections too.  I come home in quite a sweat.  I don’t meet a lot of people on the track – which suits me fine as I like peace and quiet when I’m exercising – but I’ve been stunned by the number of elderly people who are on the track too.  I hope to be as sprightly when I’m their age!  The only downer is my faithful running shoes finally gave up the ghost after long service, and now I have the task of finding some that are actually decent.  Quality shoes are so hard to come by!  If you have any recommendations, do let me know.