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Things to do in Whanganui: Waitahinga Trails (alternative title: I’m just wild about Harry)

The Waitahinga trails are a 40 minute drive from Whanganui, and are 12km past Bushy Park Sanctuary (the road past the sanctuary to the trails is unsealed, FYI).  The land has been owned by the Whanganui City Council for many years, but it is only recently that the trails have been developed for all to enjoy (thanks Whanganui Tramping Club, you guys are awesome!).  The forest is a mix of old and regenerating flora, and in most parts you will be serenaded by tuis, piwakawakas, riroriro, cicadas, and the occasional hive of bees.

There are several trails, rated from easy to moderate.  I took the longest route to the Waitahinga Dam and found it challenging in some parts (more on that later), but mostly fine for my level of fitness.  The tracks are very well marked so there is slim chance of getting lost.

There are two easy trails – the Picnic Dell and the Chicken Run – however, to get to the start of the trails you have to walk up a ruddy great hill, so I would only recommend trying these on foot with your more active toddler.  The road to the dell is fine for strollers etc, but you will need muscle power to get that stroller up the hill.

The Chicken Run is a 30 minute loop walk that has two vista points (where you can see Mts Ruapehu and Taranaki) and is suitable for school-aged children and older toddlers.

The other tracks can be done as shorter walks, but most people will take them all in getting to and from the Waitahinga Dam.  The dam is located 250m lower than the start of the track, which means after you get there, a decent climb back UP awaits you.

The Okehu track takes you through gorgeous bush, and then it is recommended to take ‘Tom’s Ridge’ down to the dam, and ‘Harry’s Ridge’ back up.  Of the two, Tom is shorter but steeper, while Harry meanders its way back in a more leisurely fashion.

Tom’s Ridge looks newer, and the track is -for want of a better word – quite rooty.  I know, tree roots in a forest?  How very dare they!  Anyway, what I mean is, this section of the trail can be a bit tricky due to the roots, so you do have to watch your step.  I definitely recommend wearing boots for this walk.  I didn’t find Tom too challenging until the last 100m or so when the track suddenly plummets down.  This part of the ridge is less dense with bush, meaning fewer things to hang onto.  I was quietly terrified by the steep, slippery incline and ended up having to turn myself around to climb down, clutching onto roots and saplings when I could.  But I survived.

At the bottom of the hilly slip-o-rama, it is a short walk to the dam.  I made it from the carpark to the dam in 2 1/2 hours.  I’m a cautious walker (and by that I mean, I’m a naturally clumsy person, so whilst walking solo, I take my time lest I should break a leg and have to be ignominiously rescued…) but I’m surer more nimble folk could do it in two.  Anyway, here is the dam:

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Beautiful, isn’t she?

It’s a wonderful spot to just sit and marvel at Creation, and I had the place (and indeed the track) all to myself.  The dam was once the source of Whanganui’s water and is absolutely worth the trouble of getting there.

And then, there’s Harry.

I so enjoyed this part of the trail.  It’s pretty steep in places, and being mostly uphill, takes more time than Tom (it took me just over three hours to get back to the carpark).  The occasional steep part aside, Harry wanders calmly back up.  There is a wonderful area called Spaghetti Flat which is filled with supplejack, and really does look like tree-made spaghetti.  I ran into several families of goats (unless it was the same group stalking me?) along here.  From there you enter the Rimu walk which then rejoins the Orehu track, taking you back to the carpark.

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I found the last 15 minutes of the Orehu track to be hard slog, and was relieved to see the end of the trail.

What a great day!

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Three

My baby girl turned three the other day.  Three feels like such a milestone.  You know, you blink a couple of times and the next thing you know your kid is starting school.  Blink some more and they are a grunting teenager incapable of speech longer than monosyllables; one more blink and their room is empty as they venture fresh-faced into the world.  But I digress.

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Sausage: the threenager

 

In many ways she is still the same – extroverted and friendly, articulate and dramatic.  But over the course of the year she has learned to sing (often in tune!) loads of songs off by heart, climb up our slide, use the loo, share occasionally, give people cuddles when they are sad, sleep in a big-girl bed, dropped her daytime nap, diagnose serious health conditions (“your heart is loose, you need a plaster”), and actually grew enough hair to warrant a haircut.

She snuck in some ‘threenager’ behaviour a few weeks early, dissolving into tears over matters like getting the wrong spoon, making a mistake while drawing so it became ‘ruined’, and if you ask her what she did today she will answer with world-weary insouciance:”nothing”.  I can’t wait to see what hilarity unfolds over the next year, if this is any indication of what’s to come.

Her birthday was similar to last year’s, in true Dollar Diet style – morning tea in our backyard, with the paddling pool and slip ‘n’ slide.  But this year there was more playing with her friends, more collaboration and negotiation amongst the toddlers (‘caring and sharing’, reminds her friend N, who is four), more excitement over presents and cake.

In two weeks time I will become that heretofore mythical being – a kindy mum.  Sausage cannot wait to start ‘school’, as she calls it.  We’ve gone to her preschool to use their playground over these summer holidays, and each time she is disappointed that her teachers are not there.  She is more than ready for kindy, and I’m sure she won’t be the slightest bit perturbed at spending a few mornings away from her brother and I.

Here’s to being three.

 

What else can I look forward to with a threenager?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

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November & December

So a while back I took a leaf out of my guru Gretchen Rubin’s book Happier at Home, and assigned myself twelve areas of my life that I wanted to focus on.  How could I make these areas of my life better or add to my happiness?

I love Gretchen’s approach; she doesn’t take ‘health’ and decide to radically change her diet and assign herself a gruelling exercise regime.  Instead she focuses on a few practical things that could make that area of her life better.  Check her book out, I thoroughly recommend it, and it might just change your life.

In November the area I chose to focus on was Spirituality .  I am a practising Christian, and my faith is a very big deal in my life.  But God can get a bit left out at times when life with my two tots gets crazy, so I wanted to carve out more time to spend with God.

My goals were to:

  • memorise a scripture a week
  • prepare for Advent
  • read a couple of Christian books
  • have daily devotions

I didn’t think these goals were too lofty, but I bombed out of two of them.

Daily devotions are not a problem – I actually managed to cement this into my morning routine well before this monthly challenge began.  I read Scripture and a devotional over breakfast each morning, and often spend my exercise time in prayer.  D and I pray together every night since the day we married, and it’s a lovely way to end the day.

I was more prepared for Advent than I’ve ever been, thanks to running an Advent study at my church.  I ran the study throughout November, rather than December because my study was all about going into the Christmas period mindfully and trying to eschew the consumerist spectacle that it has become.  I made the resources for the study myself, which meant I had zero time to read any Christian books, but I probably read the equivalent of a couple books while doing research for my study, so I’m gonna call it a win.

I failed to memorise a scripture per week, but then I have trouble remembering my own phone number so perhaps it was a silly goal in the first place.

In December I kicked my monthly challenge’s butt.  This was my ‘family traditions’ month.  I decided what I wanted to do with my tots to celebrate Christmas, and had a good think about what else I want to hold as special days with my family throughout the year (Waitangi Day, Matariki, Easter and Parihaka Day to name a few…).

My goals for December were:

  • Teach the children Christmas carols and the Christmas story
  • Prepare them for St Nicholas Day and Advent
  • Make presents with the children for them to give away
  • Donate a gift to a child in need
  • Decorate the house

We ended up decorating the house super-early as Sausage missed being in our town’s Christmas parade due to illness.  She had a great time helping me decorate the tree, and I got my hands on some not-too-cheesy fake greenery to decorate our mantelpiece with.

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My MIL found a great Christmas carol CD which I pretty much played on repeat for the whole month (fortunately I love carols, I know it’s akin to torture for some people).  Sausage knows most of them by heart (she will recite Away In A Manager whether you want her to or not), and I suspect Chip knows them all too, if he could say more than one word at a time.

Sausage really ‘got’ the Nativity story this year, and that the point of Christmas was to celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  Both kids LOVED lighting Advent candles – so much that we have carried on and are having candlelit dinners each night now!  You can read more here for specifics about Advent with toddlers.

Chip was too little, but Sausage made biscuits which we gave away to friends and family, and she chose a gift that a charitable organisation here ensures goes to a child in need.  Some lucky girl woke up to Elsa and Anna dolls, which Sausage picked out and willingly handed over.

So far I have found some monthly challenges easier than others (January is possessions…) and am looking forward to cracking on with the next challenges.

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I like to move it, move it…

Last year I shared my resolutions for 2015 and how I was going to keep them.  For the record, I kept two out of three, which I reckon is pretty darn good seeing as the majority of people fail within the first few weeks of the year!

The resolution I failed to keep was to do with writing regularly.  I blogged away quite contentedly over 2015 but probably only wrote a few hundred words of the novel I need to get out of my head.  And I’m okay with that.  The truth is that writing my novel required the sort of mental energy I simply didn’t have after a day spent running around after my two tots (who are only 18 months apart in age).

This year I couldn’t be faffed with any of that resolution malarkey.  Sure, I will try to bash out that novel this year, but if that doesn’t happen again, well there’s always time when my kids have left home, right?

I do however, love the clean slate that the new year brings, and I like to be very intentional about how I live my life.  Before 2015 came to an end I toyed with the idea some bright spark had of having one word to describe how I would like 2016 to unfold.  Many people do this, using words like ‘passion’ or ‘travel’ or ‘breathe’ etc.  I couldn’t narrow it down to one word, so I am greedily using two.

Outside and Move.

They kind of relate to each other in a way, but aren’t quite the same, if you follow me.

I am not a naturally outdoorsy sort of person, but being a stay-at-home-mum means I suffer frequent bouts of cabin fever.  After spending far too many sunny days indoors at various playgroups I decided last year I had had enough of INSIDE.  I wanted OUTSIDE more than Michael Schofield.  Outside is still my mantra for 2016.

This year I will continue on with only turning up to certain playgroups if the weather is really rotten, or if there is something special going on.

I also want my kids to know that the world doesn’t stop just because it’s raining.  This year I will buy rain trousers like my tots have so I have no excuse to not be outside in all sorts of weather too.  We have wetlands  and reserves around Whanganui that are perfect for exploring any time of year, no matter the weather.

Sausage will be attending a Forest Kindy one day a week this year, which I hope will help her learn her own physical boundaries (she’s not a high energy kid) and instill respect for our environment.  And I want her to have a grand old time just playing!

Anyway, the upshot of it is, I want my kids and I to be outside as much as possible this year.  Now, it’s all very well to have good intentions, but I need to take certain steps to make sure they happen.  One was coming up with a list of outside things to do as a family.  This grew into sort of a ‘family fun day’ list so I drew up this:

bucket list 2016

Not all of these things are outside, but most of them are.  And most of them are free.  We have already ticked one off (which funnily enough, was one of the inside things to do, har har.).  I’ve put the list in a prominent place in our kitchen where it calls to me like the Sirens calling to Odysseus.  ‘Come on Angela, have fun Angela.  Let’s do all the fun things NOW’.

Having it in my face is the perfect recipe to get me to actually schedule all these things.  By schedule, I don’t mean I will sit down an assign specific dates to x, y and z, but rather if we are at a loose end I can see what’s left on the list to do, or if we have a free weekend and the weather cooperates we can choose what to do.

MOVE is related to how we do things.

We finally bought a bike trailer, so I can take the kids on the myriad of little trips needed each week, and I get some incidental exercise.  It means we can finally sell the second car we don’t need.  Our ‘outside’ family trips will get us moving, and hopefully our kids will get the message that moving and challenging our bodies  is a natural part of life.

D and I are going to take a dance class (rock and roll) this year.  D has excellent rhythm for a bloke and he didn’t run screaming when I made the suggestion, so this bodes well.

D kindly bought me a Fitbit, which after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book on habit formation, Better than Before, I decided would suit my personality as a way to monitor my exercise.  And flippin’ heck, does it what!  I LOVE it.  I have friends who also have Fitbits and beating their number of steps everyday is so much fun.  My Fitbit has made me aware of how sedentary I can be at times (like when sitting down to write a blog post), and I can use it to track my daily exercise sessions, my sleep and my eating too.  At any given time you may now see me marching as I cut up veges for dinner, or dancing around like a loon with my tots, singing “Must beat J, must beat J”.

In fact, I need to get my steps in now, so see ya!

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Christmas at our house

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had a peaceful Christmas.

Despite going into Christmas quite mindfully – thanks to running an Advent study at my church – the lead up to Christmas was still all hustle and bustle.  There is simply just too much happening in December.    Every single organisation I am part of had a Christmas party.  Every single one.  I eschewed some, and went to others out of a sense of obligation – which I thoroughly intend to stop doing this year.  I have nothing against Christmas parties, I swear; I just wish that some of these groups would think “Hmmm, December is a loco time of year for most people.  Let’s have a welcome back party in the New Year instead!”

There were some great Christmas moments though: watching Sausage in the Nativity play, Sausage really getting the Christmas story this year, going carolling through the streets with my church, celebrating D’s new business with his business partner and family, gathering together with friends on Christmas Eve to reflect on the birth of Christ, and filling up the sacks I’d made my tots with gifts.

 

D spent the last bit of Christmas Eve doing this:

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A wonderful Christmas gift from Nang-Nang and Grandpa

…while I waited for the children to finally go to sleep so I could sneak in with their presents.  Christmas morning was a blur of wonder and delight for our children.

The trampoline has been hugely exciting and I’m not sure who enjoys it more – the kids or me! (Such a good workout.)

As always with children, here’s what else has provided great entertainment:

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Yes, that’s right. The box a gift came in.

We enjoyed having friends visit for several days and saw in the New Year with them, which involved a BBQ and a hotly contested board game.  The weather was gorgeous, the company par excellence, and the rambunctious, happy children running around our backyard completed the recipe for a great New Year’s Eve.

 

Happy 2016, from my house to yours.

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