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When to abandon the Dollar Diet

I have just emerged from a week-from-hell.  I was a bit blind-sided by it, particularly because I survived having a reflux baby (mostly) intact.  You’d figure I could deal with a bit of screaming, right?

Both my tots came down with a bug.  Sausage was coughing so badly I thought she was going to hack up a lung and she needed antibiotics.  Chip came down with what I think was a different bug (joy) and was snotty, running a temperature etc.

That wasn’t the worst of it.  There were tears, shouting, screaming, pleading and whining – and that was just from ME.

Both my tots were so out of sorts that I spent most of last week being whined, screamed or tantrumed at.  Sausage wailed over the smallest request, while Chip threw some epic tantrums that lasted well over 40 minutes.  It was exhausting.  Oddly enough, it’s really hard to be a great parent when you are worn out and worn down, and I admit to completely loosing my cool on more than one occasion.

Sausage seemed much better by Friday, so I took her to a nature playgroup that we attend.  BIG MISTAKE.  The group walked down quite a steep hill.  Sausage was okay, but slow and not really enjoying it.  She completely lost the plot when she realised we’d have to walk UP the hill, and it took me more than 20 minutes to cajole my hysterical toddler to walk up the hill because Mummy could not carry her all the way.

Chip has been waking multiple times in the night, so D and I found ourselves running on empty yet again.

At times like these, the only way through is kindness.  To ourselves, and to each other.

As someone who has had severe burnout I simply must take care of myself, lest my body decide to revert back to its stressed-out state.  Most burn-out survivors never fully recover, and our bodies love to overreact to any sort of stress.  Kindness to oneself is the best way to prevent a relapse.

We were supposed to join in our local Christmas parade, but it was a very wintry day.  I reminded myself that even though Sausage seemed better, given her hysterics the day before she most definitely wasn’t, so we’d have to give the parade a miss.  She was disappointed not to go, and I was inspired to do something kind – we put up our Christmas tree.  I have never put the tree up quite so early, but it made her extremely happy.  So happy, she likes to hide behind the tree and pretend it’s a talking tree.

D and I were kind to ourselves and abandoned the Dollar Diet for the weekend.  We got lunch from a sandwich bar one day.  The next day, D was in a particularly bad mood so I suggested we go for a walk around Virginia Lake.  It was just the thing to perk him up, and he treated everyone to afternoon tea at the lake cafe.

D is so kind to me that he is giving me a weekend all to myself, even though he is very tired himself.  We have friends with a holiday home near the beach, so I will be retreating there to rest in the peace and quiet.

We tried to get to bed early, and just got on with the absolute basics of life.  Cleaning, cooking and caring for our children.

I’m happy to report my tots are on the mend, and we had a calm and peaceful day yesterday.

 

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Advent for Toddlers

I’ve been running an Advent study at my church.  I couldn’t find any resources online that were quite what I was looking for so I developed my own.  The upside of this is I am approaching Advent much more mindfully than I usually do.

Last Christmas I was just emerging out of the reflux baby fog when it was like blam!  Christmas is here!  I felt that I hadn’t prepared my toddler properly.  I didn’t even teach her any Christmas carols, and other than reading a few nativity-related stories she ended up being a little confused as to what Christmas was all about.  Was it Jesus who left her a stocking at the end of her bed?

This year is going to be different.  Here’s a round-up of what we will be doing:

  • Learn Christmas carols.  We’ve already started playing Christmas music at our house, and I’m playing a mix of traditional Christian carols, and more modern songs like ‘Jingle Bells’.  Sausage is picking up the songs quickly, and Chip currently loves to spin around and around to ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas’.
  • Celebrate St Nicholas Day (Dec. 6).  There is Dutch heritage in our family, so this is a nice nod to that.  We don’t do Santa, but I am happy for my kids to learn about St Nicholas who was a real, and inspiring person.  Our tots will wake up to a few chocolate coins in their shoes in memory of St Nicholas.  (We tell them the coins are from us by the way.)
  • Open an advent calendar every day.  Growing up my brother and I took turns opening our calendar.  It was hugely exciting, and after a few years I figured out that if I opted to go second, I would be the one who got to open the double doors on Christmas Eve.  Oh the anticipation!  Anyway, I have a beautiful calendar from Germany which will do the job nicely.
  • Read from the bible and make a simple craft each day.  I really love this idea.  Sausage and I will be doing this while Chip sleeps, as he wouldn’t a) sit still to read more than a page of story and b) will want to eat the crafts.  Now I can understand that doing a craft or activity EVERY day may seem rather overwhelming, but these crafts are seriously simple.  Most of the supplies I have to hand, and my hope is that they will help solidify some of the messages in the Bible readings.
  • Light an advent wreath.  We have a wreath with different coloured candles: green for hope, yellow for joy, red for love, blue for peace, and white representing Christ.  Show me a toddler who doesn’t like candles.  No really, show me.
  • Buy a present for a less fortunate child.  Oh man, if there is one thing I want my kids to know, is how blessed they are.  They have it so good, compared with many other kids.  Sausage is not quite three, so there’s a limit to how much she will actually understand, but I plan to chat about some children not getting presents at Christmas, and will take her to choose a gift for a little girl like her.  I’m guessing Paw Patrol will win on the day…
  • Make gifts for others.  The other thing I want my kids to know is how good it is to GIVE.  We will make some very simple and frugal gifts (cookies etc) to give to some friends, family and their play group leaders.  We’re also going to make our own wrapping paper and cards this year.

 

This may seem like a long list, but most of these things either don’t happen every day, or don’t take more than an afternoon to complete.

At 16 months, Chip obviously won’t be so involved, but I’m sure he will enjoy eating chocolate coins, singing carols and watching us light the candles.

My tips for celebrating Advent with toddlers are:

  • Keep it simple.  An advent calendar, a decent story book on the nativity story, and a simple carol like Silent Night are all that’s needed if your December looks frazzling already.  Christmas doesn’t (and shouldn’t) have to be filled with all the bells and whistles that our consumerist society says it should.
  • Get good books and a decent kid’s Bible.  This is true for children’s literature in general, but wow, some children’s books are appalling.  With many Christian books aimed at toddlers, the language is often too advanced (try explaining what a prophetic dream is to your toddler!  This was in a book about Joseph and his coloured coat…) or the concepts are too complex.  We love the Rhyme Bible Storybook for Toddlers, and the Jesus Storybook Bible is also highly recommended.   Both my tots love Scripture Union’s Christmas Bible Storybook.  Hands down, their books win my award for Most Appropriate Use of Language.

jesusstrybookbible.jpg

christmas bible story book.jpg

  • Don’t be too ambitious.  Your toddler isn’t going to grasp that Christmas isn’t all about the presents for a while.  But now is the perfect time to create giving traditions so that they become a natural part of Christmas for your child.
  • Play to your child’s strengths.  If your child loves books, read the Bible and other Christmas books to them.  If they love crafts, make some Advent crafts.  If your kid won’t sit still for more than five seconds, make a game of tossing a ball to each other to count the days left until Christmas.

 

Wishing you peace, love and fun as we move into Advent.

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Trim Healthy Thursday: Keep on movin’

I have been chugging along pretty well on the Trim Healthy Mama lifestyle, but my fitness hit a snag a couple of weeks ago.  I tore a calf muscle landing on some uneven ground while out running, and despite resting it for a few days, it continued to hurt whenever I tried to exercise.

image credit

I plan to do the Tongariro Crossing in a few short weeks, so not be able to exercise put quite a dampener on that plan.  After a week and a half of having to abort my exercise plan each time due to pain, I decided to see a physiotherapist as I need to keep moving.  He was brilliant, and I have strict instructions involving heat pads and stretching I must follow to the letter.  Until I am given the all-clear to carry on with my running/hiit/stair-climbing routine I have started swimming and cycling instead.  I hate spending money on exercise (gyms are not for me), and at $5 a pop my local pool isn’t cheap.  At least it’s only for a week or two as the prognosis for my injury is good.

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Dollar Diet: Swapsies

I’ve been a bit quiet of late due to sick children and leading an advent study at my church.  Sausage has come down with a virus, but the advantage of having a kid who is only fit for sleeping and watching TV is that I get a chance to blog.

We’ve been a little spendy of late, but some of it has been in the cause of getting chickens.  D put together a coop, which we plan to move around with a run so our chickens can live the good life, and keep the weeds down around the place.

Chickens are go!

Chickens are go! D putting the coop together.

We hope to pick up some chickens this weekend.  I already have some ridiculous names picked out for them.

I spent money on new pyjamas for the kids, but I did get them at 50% off.  If I could have gotten them second-hand I would have, but decent pyjamas are actually quite hard to come by at charity stores.  They tend to be quite battered or missing either the top or the bottom.

D spent money taking me with him to a Chamber of Commerce dinner, where local business owners can network.  As D’s business is new, getting his face and name out there is important – especially in a small city like ours, where word-of-mouth recommendations are key.  We hit it off with the couple at our table and had a really fun night.  I relished the opportunity to get dressed up, eat a fancy dinner, and talk with adults!

We have however, continued to be frugal whenever possible.  I attended a clothes swap recently which was a tonne of fun and my word, were there some stylish threads to be had!  I got rid of a whole pile of clothes which were gladly snaffled up.  I gained several tops and cardis in the next size down (which I am tantalisingly close to getting into, come on THM), because I know that I will need them in the next few months.  I also picked up this fabulous dress.

Spoils of War

Spoils of War

I absolutely love the print; it’s William Morris-esque, and that’s a good thing.  Anyway, clothes swaps are simply the bees-knees for people on a Dollar Diet.  Update your wardrobe for free, reduce your carbon footprint, and give the fast-fashion industry the fingers.  What’s not to like?

I have been trying to bake more – which isn’t always easy with my active wee boy under foot – but I’ve managed to make pikelets and THM muffins so far this week.  None of which remain after being gobbled up quickly.  Fancy Chamber of Commerce dinners aside, our entertainment has been going for walks, hanging out with friends or pottering around at home.  Much easier on the pocket than cafes, movies or the like.

My biggest challenge coming up is Christmas.  I am making a dress with a digger on it for Sausage, while D is making Chip a busy board.  We try not to go overboard with gifts for our kids at Christmas, but I do have quite a few friends I give gifts to.  I could tell them I’m not doing gifts this year, but part of why I embarked on the Dollar Diet in the first place was to stretch my creativity.  I have a couple of low-cost gift ideas in mind, and will share what I came up with after the season has passed.

As part of my Advent study, I have been looking at the consumerist nature of Christmas, and it has made me even more mindful that usual to not get sucked into the buy, buy, buy mentality of it all.  Many people overspend, some go into serious debt, while others run themselves ragged preparing an elaborate feast for Christmas day.  The pressure to have the ‘perfect Christmas’ is intense, and completely nuts.  So I will be sharing some ways to reclaim Christmas and enjoy a meaningful holiday over the next few weeks.

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October Family Month: How I did

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that just prior to turning 40 I decided to ‘take stock’ and set myself twelve monthly challenges to complete in different areas of my life.

August was an absolute dismal failure, September was a bit meh, but October?

I absolutely nailed it.

My challenges aren’t ridiculously hard, makeover-my-entire-life sort of stuff.  I choose three or four things to do in the area of my life that I am focusing on.  I make them specific, I write them down, and I DIARISE them so they actually happen.

October was Family month.  This month I decided to focus on my immediate family and my side of our extended family (not that I don’t love my husband’s side, it’s just they are a bit more scattered than mine).  My goals were:

  • Have a ‘day of fun’ with my husband and tots
  • Spend an afternoon hanging out with my brother
  • Have a family meal with my extended family
  • Complete some tasks I set myself for marriage month in August.  See here for why this month bombed.

Early in October D and I took the kids to Dannevirke to visit their Fantasy Cave.  Dannevirke is about a 1&1/2hr drive from our home town, and has all the makings of a great family day out.

The Fantasy Cave is simply wonderful.  It doesn’t take more than an hour to go through it though, so I would recommend tagging something else onto a trip there, like we did.  We first had a picnic lunch at the Dannevirke Domain on Christian Street (about 1 min away from the city centre).  Dannevirke gets its name from the Danish settlers who developed the area in the 1870s.  The town has capitalised on its heritage, and has a Viking theme all over it.  The domain has a great playground, complete with its own Viking ship.

Vikings ahoy!

Vikings ahoy!

This part is more for older kids, and as you can see, there is plenty for them to climb on.

The toddler area is fabulous – and, most importantly – it has shade!!!  (Very lacking at Whanganui playgrounds.)

Shadecloth. Brilliant.

Shadecloth. Brilliant.

Chip and Sausage having fun at the toddler's area

Chip and Sausage having fun at the toddler’s area

There are plenty of picnic tables, rubbish bins and trees nearby.  On the other side of the domain are beautiful gardens and a fountain.

But, back to the Fantasy Cave.  The photos below aren’t mine as you aren’t allowed to take photos while inside, but these are from accredited websites.

The Cave was created by locals about 20 years ago, originally as somewhere the children could visit Santa.  But it blossomed into so much more.  The cave meanders over several levels of a large building, and has displays of well-known nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  There are a lot of animatronics, and huge amounts of detail in every vista, so you could spend quite some time looking at each one.

If you have a kid who just has to touch something, this is not the place for you.  My almost-three year-old surprised me by sticking to my command of ‘look with your eyes, not your hands’.  She was so delighted with the place, exclaiming each time she spotted something that caught her eye.

Chip really enjoyed it too, although restraining him from touching things was much trickier.  You can’t take buggys into the cave, so D had to carry Chip around.  Just as well he’s so strong and manly, eh?  Now Chip is even more mobile, I can’t see myself taking him there again until I know he can keep his hands to himself.  Sausage is still asking to go back six weeks later, so I think we’ll have to go on a special Mummy-Daughter road trip.

My brother has had an incredibly tough time in the past year, and I don’t often get to spend time with just him.  With D’s help, I took him out for an afternoon of fun.  He had no idea what we were doing, but went along with his hare-brained sister nonetheless.  We saw Bridge of Spies, which was absolutely fantastic.  I have no idea how closely it resembles what actually happened (it is based on a true story), but it remains the best movie I have seen this year.  My brother and I found it gripping, and the cast is superb.  We followed it up with a slap-up lunch and a good, long chat.

My parents, brother and my family have been having dinner together every Friday night, which has been lovely.  I get a kick out of the loving relationships my tots have with my folks, and I’m sure all the love and attention has helped them develop into the friendly extroverts that both my kids are.

D finally managed to get away for a couple of days on a retreat.  He didn’t do much but sleep, eat and read, but came back refreshed from his time away.  D is an introvert so time by himself to rest and re-energise is important, but incredibly hard to get at our stage in life.  Juggling both kids by myself was tiring, but being able to give D a break was priceless.  I believe that giving each other permission to practice good self-care is a key ingredient to a good marriage.

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Toddler Milestones (that you won’t find in parenting manuals)

My son just had his 15-month assessment with Plunket.  Before each appointment I take some time to write down what they’ve been doing of late, and I am always struck by just how much they have accomplished in a few, short months.  Since his last visit, Chip has learned to walk (and run!), started talking (lurt=light, ooof-ooof=dog, pump=heat pump, baby=baby…), and has five new teeth.

While these milestones are huge, I think the little ones that often go by unnoticed are just as important.  Like realising I hadn’t had to put a dribble bib on my daughter in quite a while, or that my son was capable of holding onto our swing unaided.

Here’s a glimpse of what my 15 month-old boy and 2 & 3/4 year old girl are up to.

15 month old:
  • Trail of destruction.  At this age, nothing is safe.  Your toddler has a compelling urge to empty the contents of any sort of container they find, be it the washing basket, a box of tissues, your 3000 piece puzzle, and your water bottle.  10 seconds after you cleaned up their last mess, you will turn to find this in their wake…

  • Ouch!  At 15 months most toddlers have no concept of what it means to physically hurt someone.  My son thinks that getting Mum/Dad/Sister to say ‘ow’ is hilarious.  It’s so funny that he currently likes to hit us (not hard) and say ‘ow’, followed by lots of giggles.  Obviously it’s our job to teach him that hitting and hurting anyone is not okay, but don’t be surprised if this is a lesson that takes a while to learn.
  • The Moving Finger.  (Kudos to anyone who gets that reference).  Your toddler wants to know the name of absolutely everything.  Their index finger goes into overdrive as they point to whatever it is that they are interested in.  It’s cute the first few times, but after the 1,675,234th time, it gets a tad draining.  But hey, everyone needs to know what a book dust-jacket is called, right?
  • Water, water,  everywhere, nor any drop to drink.  If you want to keep a 15 month-old amused, just add water.  At this age, they are like hippies strung out on LSD…water is like, soooooooo amazing, man.  Chip likes to stand at our bathroom sink and splash water merrily, play with the plug, splash some more, figure out how the plug fits in the plughole, splash some more, tries to eat the plug, splash some more, tries to turn the taps, splash some more…He’s been known to do this for up to 20 minutes at a time, which, as everyone knows, is 2.3 weeks in toddler-time.
Two and three-quarter years:
  • James Joyce got nothin’ on me.  If you want long, rambling, stream-of-consciousness stories, then bend an ear towards your almost three year-old.  Sausage can tell unbelievably complicated stories, that are dripping with pathos, and filled with a colourful set of characters.  Unfortunately, almost none of the plot points will be connected to each other, so you may find yourself knee-deep in snow on a rescue mission at one point, only to be abruptly swept away to an in-depth treatise on ‘how I don’t like beans any more’.  You have been warned.
  • Welcome to my world.  Following on from rambling conversations, you will be invited to enter into dimensions that you never knew were contained in your ordinary house.  My yoga mat makes an awesome ‘tent’, post-it notes scattered randomly on the floor become a hopscotch game, my parent’s fernery in their backyard becomes a fairy castle that Grandpa is not allowed to enter, and a fallen tree branch becomes a ferocious dragon that requires calling for a knight to slay it.  Phew.  And you thought nothing ever happened on your street.

    accurate portrayal of your toddler's brain (image credit)

    accurate portrayal of your toddler’s brain
    (image credit)

  • I am not [insert child’s name here]!  Anyone who hangs out with us at the moment will know I have spent the last THREE weeks answering to ‘Dashi’, who is a character from The Octonauts – a British cartoon that Sausage loves right now.  She is ‘Kwazii’, Daddy is ‘Peso’ and her little brother is ‘Pinto’.  God help you if you get that mixed up.  This sort of pretend play is lots of fun, but it’s funny how much I miss being ‘Mummy’.

What are your tots getting up to right now?