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Free things to do in the school holidays

Parents definitely fall into two camps when it comes to school holidays: they either love them or loathe them.  I love the school holidays, especially being able to sleep in a bit longer and not having to nag my tots to get out the door in time for kindy.

Filling in the time over the holidays can be tricky.  It can be an expensive exercise to keep your tots entertained for two weeks if you want to give your kids all the bells and whistles, but it’s perfectly possible to have lots of holiday fun for free.

tea party

Here are some ideas for free things to do during the school holidays:

  1. Get into the great outdoors.  Weather permitting, visit your local playgrounds, parks, and hiking trails.  The beauty of small children is they can turn a 20 minute walking trail into a two-hour odyssey where every rock is overturned on the hunt for slugs and slaters, leaves are used for fans, fairy umbrellas and swords, and new pathways will be created where no pathway has been before.
  2. While you’re outside, go on a scavenger hunt.  Some great tot-friendly printables can be found here, here and here.  If the weather is rubbish, as it frequently is during the school holidays, take your scavenger hunt indoors.  You can find a printable for a colour scavenger hunt here, a shape hunt here, and for kiddos who can read, a genius make-and-find hunt here.
  3. Make a craft from your existing supplies or from things in your recycling bin.  Pinterest is your friend!
    A fun way to make an egg carton dragon craft. Great Chinese New Year craft for kids and fun way to craft with recycled materials.

    make this here 

     

    Marble Run game made for elementary students. Could be used for classroom management or as a reward.

    make this here

    Build a mini city for your child's toys and figurines with this recycled paper towel roll craft.

    make this here

  • Play dates with friends and family.  This is by far my favourite way to pass the time during the holidays.  I get to catch up with my mates while my kids get to play with their friends (and their toys!  Other people’s toys are way more exciting than your own) or just be with their family members who love them to pieces.  Win win.
  • Check out the free programmes run by your local library, museum or art gallery.  Heck, even our local shopping mall runs free kids events. In my town over the holidays kids can build robots, build a cardboard maze, make bug-related things, learn printmaking, bookbinding and more!
  • Check out your local library, museum or art gallery.  Even if they don’t have a kids programme, they are always well worth a visit.  Ditto any other free tourist attraction in your town. Full Length of Man Sitting on Floor
  • Create an obstacle course in the backyard.  If your kids are older, make it into a competition for the fastest time.  Again, if the weather is rubbish, take the fun indoors.  My kids LOVE jumping from seat squab to seat squab as we pretend the floor is ‘lava’.
  • Make a movie together.  If your kids are older, have them come up with the storyline and script.  If they really get into it, this project could take several days.  With little ones, film them doing their favourite things, get them to sing and dance for you, or simply film them throughout the day and play it back to them.  They will soon get hooked at seeing themselves on the big screen.
  • Bake.  If your tots are under three, assemble the ingredients before you begin.  Trust me on this one, they cannot wait.baking tots in tawhero
  • Go to the beach.  Even in the middle of winter, my tots love the beach.  They love getting mucky, building structures out of driftwood (one of our local beaches seems to attract driftwood like you wouldn’t believe), and making sandcastles.  Take spare clothes, towels and a thermos of hot chocolate.
  • Visit a farm.  If you are lucky enough to have farming friends, ask if they would mind a visit from you and your tots.  My tots like nothing more than being put to work feeding the animals or ‘helping’ around the farm.
  • Have a dance party.  Put on your favourite tunes or dance along with GoNoodle on Youtube.
  • Go for a walk/scooter/skate/ bike ride.
  • If your kids are bored with your local playgrounds, go to a school playground instead.  My nearest school is locked up like Fort Knox, but there are many schools in my town that welcome families to use their grounds outside of school hours.  Our favourite school playground has fake roads, a long bike track, plenty of asphalt for scootering, lots of picnic tables and shade, a sandpit and several climbing structures.
  • Have a picnic somewhere unexpected: your bed, under the kitchen table or trampoline, or at a local spot you’ve never visited before.
  • PJs and movie day.
  • If you have the ingredients lying around, make an ice cream sundae buffet.  
  • Give 2s and under paint brushes and a bucket of water and invite them to ‘paint’ the footpath/outside of the house.
  • Have a fancy tea party for your kids and their favourite toys.  Dress up to the nines and play waiter.  Even better, play at being a terrible waiter who spills/drops/forgets everything.  bright, cloth, drink
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I think a change is gonna come…

I’ve been rather absent on here for a couple of reasons.  One, life just got busy and I didn’t have the headspace for Tots in Tawhero.  Even churning out a small post can take upwards of an hour.

Reason Two – we will be moving soon.  This news threw us for a bit of a loop.  D is in his last year of theology studies, and will begin a two-year internship before he becomes ordained as a fully-fledged reverend.  While we were super-excited about this change in career, we were hoping to be able to remain here in Whanganui for the internship.  But it hasn’t worked out that way.  We were given the options of several places in the South Island (we currently live in the North Island, overseas readers) that are looking for ministry interns, and were told to rank them in order of preference.

This really made my head spin, as some of the options were places I had never visited before.  Pre-internet, I suspect this would have made my ENFJ(oh yes, I am such a planner) head explode, but within a few days, thanks to Google, we had a fair idea of where we want to end up.  I can’t reveal where until meetings have been had, and contracts have been signed, but I think we’ve been given the best opportunity for D to grow as a minister, and for us as a family.  We’ve definitely had the feeling of being in good hands, both in terms of the people who make the internship decisions, and in God’s.

I will continue blogging here until we move, but then this site will be redundant as my tots will no longer be in Tawhero!  I plan to start a new blog once we’ve settled in to our new town, but the focus of this blog will be less parenting stuff, and more…well, I don’t honestly know just yet.  Because quite frankly, I’m over parenting blogs.  When I started blogging several years ago, there weren’t so many parenting blogs, but now they are everywhere.  I followed many for a while but have unfollowed most of them now.  Many parenting blogs are divisive and fuel the fires of the mummy wars that I see raging around me.  Breastfeeding vs bottle-feeding, attachment vs ‘babywise’ etc,  the vitriol meted out at those who dare to have a different opinion can be astonishing.  I am saddened by the nastiness that women (because let’s face it, most parenting bloggers are mums) can display towards one another.

I realised with no lack of cringing, that I was contributing to this in my own small way.  Many times I think we parenting bloggers put stuff out there just so we can have others go ‘Oh cool, well done you’, and thereby justify our own decisions as being the ‘right’ way to do things.  Some bloggers have rabidly loyal followers who pounce upon anyone who dares to question anything the blogger has said.  And it’s brutal.

So while my new blog will have some kiddo-related stuff in there because I have kids in my life, it’s not going to be the main focus.  It will be just Angela, doing Angela things.

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Three

My baby is now three.

Three!

 

Blowing out the candles on the Mainly Music ‘cake’

People kept saying to me ‘Gosh, that’s whizzed by!’  Nuh-uh.  Two felt loooooooong.  Chip is a challenging kid who keeps me on my toes.  He has oodles of energy, much of which is spent testing every boundary known to toddler-kind.  Chip has a strong personality with big emotions.  He can be exhausting and exasperating, AND hilarious and cheeky in equal measure.  Many times I have thought ‘It’s just as well you are so cute!’

From about 2 and a half, he went through an aggressive pushing and hitting stage that seemed to go on forever.  And truth be told, he’s not quite out of it yet.  But hey, he’s three.

Receiving a gift on his birthday

 

Over the past few weeks the changes in his behaviour as he moves into his ‘threenager‘ year are quite pronounced, and rather delightful.

I CAN DO IT!  Chip is a very independent guy, but he has cranked this up full dial.  He currently runs about our house with a chair so he can get things from the fridge or cupboards himself, and – most fun of all – turn the lights on and off.

WHY? This is his favourite word.  Every. Single.Thing. must be questioned.  ‘Okay, it’s time to go.’  ‘Why?’  ‘Oh look, it’s raining.’  ‘Why?’  ‘Do you want peanut butter or jam?’  ‘Why?’  ‘I think Mayor Goodway from Paw Patrol is definitely on psychotropic drugs.’ ‘Why?’  You get the picture.  If you have a bad case of the whys in your house, hang in there!  Sure, it’s weird to have your every utterance questioned, but it doesn’t last long.  And also, this is how they LEARN.  Don’t interrupt that, even though it makes you want to have a nice lie-down in a sensory-deprivation tank.

YES, I HAVE HEARD OF THE THEORY OF RELATIVITY.  Three-year old’s KNOW stuff.  They’ve got skills, man.  Any attempt I make to teach something in his orbit of interest is met with a scornful eye-roll and groans of ‘I KNOW that, Mummy’.  And if I get my backhoe loaders mixed up with my excavators, he will be sure to point it out.

Just for the record, this is a steamroller

WHY, INDUBITABLY, MY DEAR WATSON!  Chip was an early talker, but just lately his conversational skills have increased in fluency.  He’s capable of speaking in quite long sentences, and telling reasonably complicated stories that generally involve bad guys getting their comeuppance.

I’M SUPER, THANKS FOR ASKING.  Like most three-year old’s, imaginary play now takes up a lot of Chip’s play.  He likes super-hero stuff – although I don’t yet let him watch Batman/Spider-Man etc because it’s too dark and violent.  He likes to be Maui (from Moana), and Optimus Prime (from Rescue Bots) but is equally into Bob the Builder, Fireman Sam and Postman Pat, those everyday, working-for-a-living heroes.  A favourite book is The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man, by Michael Chabon, which I highly recommend to parents if you want a giggle.

Image result for awesome man

Thanks, Whanganui District Library!

MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DISORDER.  Chip announces ‘I want rice bubbles for breakfast’, or ‘I want a drink of water‘ and then howls forlornly when presented with said item.  ‘I don’t want rice bubbles!’  ‘I didn’t ask for water!’  No amount of reasoning with him that Mummy, Daddy and his sister all heard him ask for it, will persuade him otherwise.  It must have been Not-Chip.  And do not get me started about the theatrics if we give him the wrong cup, or cut a sandwich the wrong way, or even worse, cut his bread at all.  We have managed to alleviate some of these tantrums by simply fostering his independence (see above).  I allow him to cart a chair around so he can help himself from the fridge and cupboards.  I even purchased those pouring containers for storing cereal so he can easily fix himself breakfast.

 

Ah, three.

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Best-Ever Baby Shower Activity

Hi gentle reader,

Sorry for disappearing for a while.  Life got rather busy, and I’m glad to be out the other side of it!

In the midst of the chaos, I threw a really fun baby shower for my friend A-M, who was having her third child.

tea time tots in tahwero

The baby shower was the perfect excuse to bust out my tea set

I wanted to celebrate because A-M is someone who tends to keep in the background, and she is someone who gives, gives, gives to others.  She is a quiet hero who deserves a fuss made of her!  I also think that every child deserves to be celebrated.  You know how it is, the first baby gets a massive party, and by the time you’re on kid number three or four, no one cares as much.  A-M also had a valid reason for needing a shower: her other two children were born in the opposite season, so she had no warm stuff to pass down to this baby.

I’m going to share a secret.  Most baby showers make me cringe.  I find games like name-the-baby-food, guessing how big Mama’s belly is, and what-poop-is-that (I kid you not, someone invented a game where you smear different chocolate bars into a nappy!  Such fun!) quite demeaning.  I just feel like, I know it’s a bit of fun, but really?  That’s the best we can come up with?

However, showers that focus on supporting the Mama have such a different feel.  Some friends here have a tradition of gifting a bead that is then taken with others to make bracelet or necklace.  The beads can then be used as a focus tool (a bit like a rosary) during birth – a beautiful reminder of all the friends who have your back.

So it was with the second sort of shower in mind that I arranged A-M’s little party.  I invited A-M’s 4-year old daughter, and my own daughter, as I think there are so few female-celebrating spaces in my culture.  Sausage and J were so excited about the party, and they definitely had a ball.  I had an activity in mind that I knew even 4-year olds could do…

I had a few little things for everyone to do while they mingled and had something to eat.  I printed out a calendar for people to guess the due date (A-M’s mother won), and provided a pack of newborn nappies to write words of encouragement and put a smile on A-M’s face during those 2:00am feeds.  We also played ‘Name the Baby’, as A-M and her husband had been unable to agree upon a name.  I still can’t believe they didn’t go with my suggestion of Agamemnon

name the baby tots in tawhero

My piece de resistance, was sparked by an idea I saw on Pinterest, where people had used Sharpies to sign their names on a onesie for the baby.

I remembered seeing self-adhesive fabric squares for sale at one of our local dollar stores, and thinking at the time, ‘What on earth would you want that for?’

Now I know.

Here’s how to create a fun baby shower gift that is made with love, and very, very practical.

I downloaded cute images from the internet that I thought would be great shapes to decorate a onesie with.  I put them on card, used them as a stencil on the fabric, et voila!

my onesie tots in tawhero

Seriously, how cute it this???

I bought enough onesies for each guest, and got them in different sizes, just to be even more useful.  I got a wide selection of adhesive fabric, put out the onesies and stencils and told the guests to go for it.  I made a variety of stencils that had nothing to do with princesses or any other gendered stuff that gets shoved down our throats by clothing retailers.

stencils

Some of the stencils I made

Oma lends a hand

Oma lends a hand

hard at work tots in tawhero

creative juices flowing

We had a wonderful time crafting together, and everyone wanted to do something like it again (tote bags, next time?).  The results were beautiful, and now A-M’s baby girl has several one-of-a-kind onesies made with love.

Sausage with A-M

A-M, and Sausage with her creation

oneise tots in tawhero

Onesie love

Between the decorated onesies, and the other fabulous gifts the baby received at her shower, she is going to be the best-dressed baby in town.

So there you have folks, a cringe-free, practical and fun baby shower activity.  And for my Dollar Diet followers, it’s frugal too.  The packs of fabric cost $3 each, the cardboard for the stencils I had to hand anyway, and I got several of the onesies second-hand (in mint condition).

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Dollar Diet: Week 3, a binge

Last week was in no way frugal as the kids and I took an impromptu trip to Wellington.  I needed a change of scene, and D needed some peace and quiet, so when I found a decently-priced holiday home on-line, I went for it.  We had two nights away and had a great time.

I’d been thinking about taking my tots to Bug Lab, an exhibition on right now at Te Papa.  I wasn’t sure if it would be too scary for my tots – who love bugs and insects – but the entry fee wasn’t too pricey ($20 for Sausage and I, Chip was free) so even if they hated it I figured it was worth a try.  The exhibition was amazing.  My tots did get a bit scared as it’s not every day you see insect models that are the size of a small car.  Sausage still enjoyed it and we spent a good half an hour looking around.  Chip got scared, but was content to play with the interactive stuff outside of the bug ‘lairs’, and of course he loves the rest of the museum.  If you’re an NZ parent who is thinking about taking your kids, I wouldn’t recommend it for under 4’s.  School-aged kids, heck yeah.

I’m looking forward to travelling by bus to Te Papa in the future so I don’t have to pay for parking.  At the moment my tots are too little to walk from the bus stop to the museum (a reasonable distance), and the thought of taking our stroller, backpack and two tots on a bus gives me a panic attack.  Anyway, another time perhaps.

We caught up with several friends on the first night, and it did my soul good to see some of my favourite people all at once.  We kept it simple, fish and chips from the local takeaway, and had some vigorous Donald Trump discussion around the dinner table.

We took my plane-obsessed son to Wellington airport.  It cost a little for parking, but it was worth it to see his excitement.  Even Sausage enjoyed it.  We followed it with a trip to Lyall Bay beach.

airport-tot-in-tawherobreach-tots-in-tawhero

I got little sleep the first night, as it was Chip’s first night ever in a bed.  He fell out twice.  Fortunately there was a spare mattress I was able to put down on the floor beside him.  Anyway, the upshot was I was so tired the next evening I was too knackered to cook, as had been my original plan.  I couldn’t face greasy takeaways again, but I managed to find a local Indian place that delivered.  Chip slept just fine that night.

In fact, once we got home he decided he wanted to sleep in his ‘big boy bed’.  He’d been rooming with his sister, and we’d been using his bedroom as a playroom and spare room for guests.  I’m delighted that he’s transitioned smoothly from his cot to his bed, but it has meant springing for a new duvet/sheet set so there is a spare in case he wets through/when one is in the wash.  I have bought second-hand bedding in the past, but it ended up having fleas in it(!), and I can’t bring myself to give it another try.  I managed to get him a duvet, duvet inner and sheets for $60.  Chip fell out again once this week so we used the pool noodle trick from Pinterest as a bed rail.  It was only a few dollars.

We’ve been enjoying all the sights and sounds of Whanganui’s best event: the Vintage Weekend.  Our city is host to all things vintage – cars, fashion, music, boats, a soapbox derby, planes…you name it.  I was feeling in rather a party mood – it is my favourite time of year – so we bought lunch there rather than take it with us.  D and I got some expensive sandwiches, but as they were pretty much the best sandwiches we’ve ever eaten, we’re okay with that.  The beauty of this weekend is that most things are low-cost or free, and it really is a joy to participate in.

Anyway, after all that spending I did make some honest attempts to limit any more.  This week:

  • I packed lunches and snacks, including when we were on our trip.
  • We’ve stuck to our meal plan and used up leftovers.
  • I included free activities on our trip, such as the beach and a visit to a friend.
  • We enjoyed a free lunch out using a gift card.
  • Although there were loads of things we could have spent money on at the Vintage festivities, we settled for a traction engine ride (a gold coin), a ferris wheel ride ($3) and entry to the family zone where free games, activities and bouncy castles were available (gold coin).  Looking around at the amazing car collection or listening to bands playing cost nothing.
  • D and I enjoyed a date night at home, watching The Mask of Zorro.  Love that movie.
  • We had our first whanau night.  My brother has been coming over for dinner once a week for ages, and now we’ve expanded this to include our friends who recently moved here.  One week the guys will go off to Toastmasters while the kids play and my friend and I have a chat, and on the non-toastmasters night we will play board games.  We’re alternating who hosts, and we all contribute to the meal.  Simple and fun and much cheaper than a restaurant!
  • We went on some free outings in Whanganui.  The kids and I went with friends to Gordon’s Reserve and Kowhai Park.  Hours of fun for zilch.
  • Swapping childcare to get a break.  My daughter gets on well with my friend A-M’s daughter, J.  J came over for an afternoon so her mum could get a break.  (It ends up being a break for me too, as the girls play so nicely I barely see them.)  A-M had Sausage for a few hours the following day.  Both times I was able to get loads done on a sermon I was writing.
  • I managed to get 3 sets of summer pyjamas for Sausage for $4 each.  I couldn’t find any in Chip’s size but I will keep a look-out.  I buy for the following year at the end-of-season sales and save big.  Even though I am not buying a single item of clothing for anyone THIS year (none of us need a thing!), I am still practising the frugal habit of buying ahead for next year.  I save huge amounts of money doing this (along with buying ahead second-hand, accepting hand-me-downs and going to clothes swaps).

 

This week has left me feeling rather a sham at frugality!  But I guess I am grateful that we have the money to go on impromptu trips.  Next week will definitely involve belt-tightening and getting back to basics.

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Dollar Diet: Week 2, a frugal birthday party

This post is late as last week ended in a flurry of birthday party, broken arms, sermon writing, special visitors and planning a spur-of-the-moment trip.

The week was mostly spent hanging out with friends, and D went back to work.  One of my best friends A-M recently moved to Whanganui with her family so we’ve had loads of fun spending time with them.  Our kids are close in age, and our four-year old’s are particularly firm friends (most of the time).  Oh, did I mention that Sausage turned four????  Before I get on to the party details, here are some of our frugal happenings:

  • D took lunch to work
  • I packed lunch and snacks for the kids and I, if out and about
  • The kids and I did free stuff, like play dates and parks
  • We used up our leftovers
  • I hung out at home with my BFF, R who helped me prepare for the birthday party, and survived it.
  • R, A-M and I had an extremely rare night out with just the three of us.  We worked out it was 16 years since the three of us had been together like this.  We had a great time, and kept the cost down by going out for drinks and a snack after dinner.

Er, I can’t think of anything else because my mind was frazzled by Chip ‘breaking’ his arm.  He was mucking around on our trampoline with D and then lots of crying and ow’s ensued.  They weren’t sure if the arm was broken (he hurt the elbow area) but they strapped it up and Chip was back to his frenetic self in a couple of days.  He was very proud of his sling and displayed it to all with a loud ‘I got hurt!’  We took him back this week and it turned out not to be broken, so phew.  I am incredibly grateful for the free health care children receive in New Zealand.

Birthday party time!

4th-birthday-2

My beautiful Sausage is now four.  She is most definitely in pre-schooler territory.  She’s long and lanky, and is a funny, confident, easy-going kid who you can actually reason and negotiate with.

As her birthday is in January (summertime in NZ) I have her birthday party at home and let the kids rampage around our massive back yard.  I try to keep it small and simple, but she’s still at the age where parents and siblings come along too, so it always ends up being bigger than I think.

I’ve whinged about it already, but our summer sucks.  It’s been the worst one I can recall, and naturally it rained on Sausage’s birthday forcing us indoors.  Still, we had a lovely time and I spent a whopping $40 on the whole soiree, which includes party food and drink, the birthday cake, decorations and prizes.

As is often the custom in New Zealand, some friends and family offered to bring a plate of food, so that saved quite a bit of money (and prep time).  R and I made a vege and hummus platter, popcorn, egg and ham sandwiches, cheerios and sausage rolls (requested by the birthday girl).  The food from other people meant there was more than enough to go around.  Drink was juice leftover from Christmas (we don’t normally drink it) which I dilute with soda water.  Kids love it.

I saved money by making the cake myself.  I talked Sausage into having this easy cake.  I had my BFF here the night before Sausage’s birthday which is usually when I’d make the cake.  I wanted to maximise my time with R, so I opted for easy, easy, easy.  I made the cake her favourite colour (pink), and put a big 4 on top using sprinkles.  She loved it and everyone said it was delicious (I don’t eat sugar, so I don’t know!).4th-birthday

Professional cakes can cost upwards from $100 dollars.  I consider it a waste of money to buy a cake, when my child loves the cakes I make just fine.  It makes my wallet cringe when I see the elaborate cakes people seem to be buying these days.  I bought $6 worth of sprinkles (most of which weren’t needed in the end, so hit me up if you want some) but otherwise we had all the ingredients in our pantry already.

Sausage also requested ‘Tunip cupcakes’.  For months leading up to her birthday.  Tunip is her favourite character from the show ‘The Ocotonauts’.  Tunip looks like this:

tunip_prof

Not overly complicated I guess, but would certainly require lots of different colours for the icing.  I knew I would have little time and limited fondant colours so I did the next best thing.  I found some free Octonaut cupcake toppers on Pinterest, and iced the cupcakes blue.  They were just as popular as the birthday cake, and Sausage was thrilled with them.  I didn’t get any decent pics I’m afraid.

Decorations were limited to some balloons given to Sausage, streamers we bought in the Netherlands that we put up for parties, and a couple of purple tissue balls ($4) which will likewise be used again.  I don’t do themes, and won’t unless my tot asks for it.

For the first time ever for a birthday party, I bought disposable plates and cups.  I hate these things, but there were several wee ones present and we don’t have enough kid-friendly crockery to go around.  I bought recyclable things, including paper straws.  Someone had given Sausage the party whistles previously, and I managed to get matching stuff.  We have some left over, so expect to see them next year too!

party

We played two games – Pass the parcel, and pin the carrot on Olaf – and I purchased the prizes for peanuts.  One prize was a tin Star Wars lunchbox, and another was a decorate-your-own-mask set.  Simple.  My mother made some beautiful gift boxes for each child to take home, and these were extremely well-received.

Sausage was given some amazing gifts, some of which (like a make your own wand set, so cool!) I have purloined to bring out on a rainy day.

I learned two things:

  1. Outside parties are so much better for my floors which looked like a cake bomb had exploded on them and,
  2. You can never rely on old Mother Nature.
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Our journey to Christmas

Phew, we’re almost there.

Every year I decide to do less in the lead up to Christmas, and every year I still get exhausted!  Getting the flu (I know!  It’s summer, for goodness sake!) hasn’t helped, but we have had a lot of fun during Advent.

Sausage helped put up the tree.

tree-totsintawhero

Her brother was supposed to help too, but he chose to pack a massive tanty so he got packed off to bed.  Toddlers.

The advent calendar has been a huge hit, as always.

Chip has managed to respect the rule that we only open one bag a day.  Kudos to him, because patience is soooo hard when you are two.  I filled the calendar with a chocolate each and a note about what Christmas-related thing we’d do that day.  Note to self: do not choose cheap wrapped chocolates from bulk bin ever again as they mostly get spat out by picky toddlers.  Despite not liking some of their ‘treats’ the kids don’t seem to care, and are still excited to see what is in the bag each day.

We haven’t always managed to do the calendar activity each day – mostly due to sickness – but my tots aren’t old enough to care, let alone remember.  I have found that thinking ahead to prepare the calendar had really helped with being organised for Christmas.  I finished my shopping ages ago, and only have a few consumables left to make.

St Nicholas Day was very exciting, and Sausage shared chocolate coins with her class at kindy.

We have been very involved in our church Christmas events.  A float telling the real Christmas story has been lacking in Whanganui’s Christmas Parade for several years, so this year several churches from several denominations got together to make a float and participate as a group.  One of the leaders from my church spearheaded the amazing design of the float, and she said the children’s ministry leaders from each church had such a great time organising this event, that they plan to meet regularly to share resources and pray for the churches.

float-2016

Waiting to march

The parade was wonderful.  Sausage, my mother-in-law and I had a ball with our church friends, and it was such a joy to see the thousands of happy faces lining the streets to watch the parade.  The weather was perfect, and it felt so great to have joined forces with other like-minded folks to do our bit to share the Christmas message.

We also supported our church’s annual Nativity play.  Chip refused to participate.  He can’t sit still for more than two minutes so his being in the play was always going to be a long shot.  However, he did help by handing out invitations to the local community.

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Sausage was an angel again, and I warned the minister that she will probably demand a speaking part next year!  She loves an audience.

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D has been incredibly busy dealing with Christmas lights.  For the past three years, we have entered Whanganui’s Light Up Your Home competition.  Households and businesses compete to win prizes, and a map is published so the community can go around looking at the lights.  D’s brother, an electrical engineer, has been in town so the two of them tried something new with the lights this year.  They spent hours, but it was definitely worth the effort.

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Chip helping D with the lights

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The finished product (complete with Christmas people mover…)

It’s hard to get a decent picture!  There are more lights in the trees and around the house and fence, but the main feature are the flickering camel and star lights.

We have never entered to win.  We enter because we know the delight it brings to the many families who venture out each Christmas.  I have an especially fond memory of piling into our van with my family, my aunt and her friend to look at the lights, singing carols at the top of our lungs.  I think at one point my Auntie was singing out of the sunroof!  Anyway, going to look at the lights became a family tradition, and it’s lovely to think we are play our part in carrying on that tradition for other families too.

The past week really threw me for a spin though.  I have said NO to anything that was a ‘nice to do’ but not essential to do.  Despite this mantra, this week was crazy-busy with several MUST-GO-TO events.  We had Sausage’s kindy’s end of year concert on Thursday night, immediately followed by Chip’s playgroup Christmas party Friday morning, and Sausage’s BFF’s birthday Friday afternoon.  Argh!  I was so exhausted I couldn’t attend the birthday party, but fortunately D took the kids.

My exhaustion turned out to be the flu, but even still, it was frazzling.

End of year Christmas parties really are a bugbear of mine.  I’d like to be able to say ‘sod the lot of them!’ but my tots are old enough now to a) know that these parties are happening, b) are expected to participate (e.g. the kindy concert) and are c) important to my tots.  I do get frustrated at the mandatory $5 gift from Santa at every.single.one.  Why???  It’s not like these privileged children won’t get a gift come Christmas day.  I was really pleased that our Playcentre decided to do away with this and instead gave families different options on how to give to people in need.  Go Playcentre!  I know I’m a grinch, but I reckon if more organisations and workplaces shelved Secret Santa and gave to charities, so much more light and love would be spread around at Christmas.

*Steps down from soapbox*

On a brighter note, I’ve been so chuffed that one of my best friends has moved to Whanganui with her family.  They were living in Auckland, and decided they wanted a better lifestyle for themselves and their children.  It is beyond cool to have them in the same town.  Their children are similar in age to mine, and are the closest thing to cousins my children have.  We’ve done loads of stuff with them already, and I’m sure many adventures await.

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My tots playing doctor (with paintbrushes) on their ‘cousin’ J

These friends gave Chip a disco light for Christmas, so it is party time at our house until we can party no more (bedtime is at 7pm, after all).

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The rest of Advent is somewhat quieter.  Workplace lunches for both D and I.  Seeing the lights with friends.  Gathering with church friends on Christmas Eve.  Playing as many Christmas carols as I can possibly squeak in.

On that note, I will leave you with the words of our friend Rev. Malcolm Gordon, who recently composed the wonderful song, Hey Mary, which you can listen to (and buy) here.  And the video is here.  It’s based on the annunciation in Luke’s gospel:

‘Hey Mary, there’s an angel in your house!’ 

Said, ‘Mary have I got some news for you.’ 

‘You seem to think you’re nothing much but Heaven’s coming close enough to touch, yeah!

Hey Mary, God is coming here through you!’ 

‘There is no such thing as ordinary now God is here. 
Every life and breath is blessed, you never know when God might appear.’

 

This Christmas I wish you peace.  Peace from the busyness, the shopping crowds, the parties and to-do-lists.  I wish that you can find pockets of peace for yourself, to rest, and to reflect on the miracle that is Christmas.

Merry Christmas!