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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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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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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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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.
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Dollar Diet: The cost of keeping feet shod

This week bought its usual share of expenses, most of which were not a surprise.  I went to the dentist for an initial check-up and will have some work done in a few weeks time.  Our dentist is very reasonably priced so it’s not going to blow up our bank account.

I bought some seedlings for the first time in ages because I just hadn’t gotten around to planting seeds over the holidays.  The weather has been so terrible that pretty much every good-weather day was spent out and about making up for the bad days.

I went to a cafe as a treat, and I must admit I find this a hard habit to break at times.  It’s really interesting though, because it highlights my ‘need’ to have a treat.  I’m working on where this may have come from, because it is a strong impulse.

I went with friends to the lovely Ashley Park (petting zoo, picnic area) , and had a great time feeding the animals and watching the children enjoy themselves.  I think Ashley Park is really cheap compared to similar places, and I thoroughly recommend it.

I bought Sausage a bookcase for her room, as she has more space now Chip has vacated his cot for his big boy bed.  Sausage, like all children, has various trinkets and treasures that seem to multiply overnight.  Due to lack of space they would invariably end up on her dressing table or the floor, but now they are nicely corralled into the bookcase.  I found a small, low bookcase which I think is made of rimu at a second-hand store for $45.  This is a bit pricey for the size of the bookcase, but I’d rather have that than the MDF options that were available.  It has the bonus of being low enough to fit under most windows, so it may come in handy if we ever move house.  Which looks likely in a  year or three.

Our biggest expense was shoes for the children.  They both outgrew their shoes at the same time, so inconsiderate of them.  Finding decent shoes in New Zealand is a problem.  I often have to source mine online, which I don’t like as I do prefer to shop locally when possible.  Most department stores here get cheap shoes from Asia which a) don’t fit properly and b) fall apart if you so much as sneeze in their direction.

Fortunately we can find good shoes here in Whanganui for children, although they are two or sometimes three times the price of the cheap shoes.  My tots trash their cheap shoes really quickly, so it is a false economy to buy them.  Buying the more expensive shoes saves us money in the long run as they withstand all that play quite well.

With Sausage, we’ve often needed to buy two different-sized pairs of shoes because she has a club foot.  Even though her foot has been treated successfully, it will always be smaller than her other foot.  In her case her foot is one size smaller than the other, and in some people it can be up to three sizes smaller.  As you can imagine, buying two pairs of $80 shoes that she’ll grow out of in a few months gets me right in the wallet.  Not to mention have to chuck out the two shoes that are perfectly fine!

Fortunately one of our local stores has a great range of Bobux shoes.  They are quality, NZ made shoes that are recommended by podiatrists.  At the visit this week, I discovered that they hold Sausage’s feet so well, I didn’t need to buy two sizes.  Her smaller foot is totally fine in a slightly bigger size.  Phew.  Oh, did I mention the shoes were on sale?

I got Sausage a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of sneakers, and Chip got a pair of boots.  He is almost out of his sneakers, so I’ll be back for more soon.  I reckon tots only need three pairs of shoes: a good, serviceable pair that they can play in and that might do for a special occasion, a pair of sneakers, and gumboots in winter/sandals in summer.  And that’s extravagant in many countries.

So yeah, buy quality.  You know this.  A good pair of shoes will outlast several cheap and nasty pairs.  I think it’s getting harder and harder to find goods that quality these days as brand names are no longer an indication of something well made, but that’s a rant for another time!

This week I saved money by:

  • Staying home a lot.  I pottered around the house and garden with Chip.  He spent an hour and a half playing in his sandpit or watering the plants the other day!  Which is 2.7 years in toddler time.
  • Packing lunch and snacks when out/at work
  • Having an at-home date night
  • Baking (I made a THM cheesecake, which was terrific, hooray!)
  • Meal planning
  • Inventing whanau night.  Our friends hosted this week’s dinner, and we bought a side and dessert.  It’s a fun and simple way to catch up on a weekly basis.

Next week will involve lots of jam and chutney.  I have a surfeit of plums and grapefruit.  Yeehah!

 

 

I am not affiliated with Ashley Park or Bobux shoes in any way.  All opinions are my own.  They both rock.

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Thank heaven that’s over!

I know I am not alone in feeling like 2016 was like an awful, dastardly  cousin (twice-removed) who is never mentioned in polite company.  I am pleased to shed the year-that-was and feel somehow lighter now that I am faced with a blank slate new year.

2016 definitely had some great happenings, but I had a dreadful flare-up of my autoimmune disease which left me with little energy and a pile of unwanted weight. Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve I handed in my resignation at work.  I greatly enjoyed the job – and my colleagues – but my little family has 3 tricky years ahead and it felt like the right thing to do.

This year D will be taking two papers a semester to complete his theology degree, and working enough hours to support us financially.  It may seem counter-intuitive to quit a job, when our income will drop (more on that later) but it is a sensible decision for me.  D will swamped with assignments and exams, and won’t be able to be as hands-on with the children.  I am happy to pick up the slack, but being an HSP I need breaks, which my little job cut into.  Like many jobs in the non-profit sphere, I worked much more than my paid hours in order to deliver a first-class programme.  So this year I find myself instead with a few child-free mornings to myself as Chip is starting kindy, meaning it will be much easier for me to be ‘on’ the kids in the afternoons and evenings thanks to those breaks.

In 2018-19 D will begin an internship with a church and then be ordained as a minister.  Our income will drop significantly, but if you make mega-bucks as a church leader then there’s something wrong!  In anticipation of leaner times ahead we’ve decided to live off what D will make as an intern this year, and save the extra money he makes at his current IT job.  This will leave us with a good cushion.  In this spirit I will be resurrecting the Dollar Diet, so expect weekly updates on my frugal efforts.  These updates really do help to keep me accountable.

One thing I aim to stick to resolutely is throwing my hat in the No New Clothes for a Year ring.  As the main clothing buyer for our family, this means everyone.  I’m quite confident that my tots will have plenty of great clothes to see them through 2017, thanks to hand-me-downs and savvy bargains I nabbed last year.  I have a closet of great clothes I aim to fit back into, and I know I have plenty of outfits for any occasion.  And D?  He’s already got a hefty collection of novelty print t-shirts to keep him clothed until the next decade so he’ll be fine too.  If you want to use your resources more wisely or stop a shopping habit, the Facebook group you will find at the link above is a great source of support and encouragement.

Towards the end of the year I started to get a bit more vroom again, and I aim to stick to the Trim Healthy Mama plan to shed the weight I gained last year, and more hopefully!  I know the plan works.  I can’t really explain why I drifted off it last year other than my AI flare-up sapping my motivation, but I’m back in the saddle again.  I’ll also be using some of my free time to exercise by doing a mix of walking, running and HIIT.

We ended up ringing in 2017 with an impromptu, low-key BBQ.  It was lovely. Great weather, great food, superb company.  We had a toddler disco, complete with a countdown at the respectable time of 9pm.

backyard-tots-in-tawhero

All set to party (note D’s famous ginger beer on the deck)

toddler-table-tots-in-tawhero

Toddler chow (I can say with complete confidence that the wine did not belong to a toddler)

toddler-disco-tots-in-tawhero

J and Sausage invent a new type of lying down dance

I guess you could call my plans for 2017 resolutions, but to me it feels more like getting back into a good groove.  I’ve done all these things before.  I enjoy living this way.  2017 is going to be a great year!