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Life lately, in reverse

Let’s go back in time.  We’ve been enjoying some unseasonably good weather lately, so Chip and I kidnapped D and took him to Kowhai Park for lunch.  Beats sitting in an office!  It’s days like this that I love being a stay at home parent, able to take full advantage of sunny weather, and being the master of my day.  It’s not all sunshine and roses, of course, but these days make it all worthwhile.

Chip had his third birthday, and was lucky enough to have three parties!  He had a very long list of loved ones that he wanted to come to his party, but our house isn’t big enough to fit more than 12 people comfortably.  He had a little party with some friends (easiest party ever, fish and chips, glow sticks and a few games), and I hosted a lunch for family.  Chip’s great-aunt made him the cool biscuit cake pictured above.  Chip goes to a playgroup with my Mum, and he also had a little soiree there!

Before that, was my birthday.  Here are two of the lovely gifts I was given this year:  Harry Potter Scrabble (so much fun!) and a drawing by a church friend of mine.  So blessed.

D and my brother playing HP Scrabble.  Just recording for posterity that I won…

 

Before that was the school holidays.  We had loads of fun, but the holidays felt super-long.  We had several play dates and outing with friends.

Sausage at Helentown Museum, Murrayfield

 

This miraculous photo of my two children looking and smiling at the camera at the SAME time was taken at Virginia Lake

We also went on an absolutely marvellous trip to Taupo to take part in the Taupo Winter Festival.  It was fan-flipping-tastic!  I highly recommend it to anyone, and especially for families.  Most of the events are free or quite cheap, and it made for a fun and frugal holiday.

Taupo can be an expensive place, but I managed to find a good holiday home which gave us our third night free.  Just as we were leaving for Taupo, a massive storm swept through, leaving huge dumps of snow.  This was the first time my kids had played in snow.  They had a ball.

The festival had a light show (free), an ice slide (free or $5 for 3 slides and cutting the queues), a giant snow globe ($5, they were setting up as we arrived, and our children got extra time because D helped shovel snow!), street performances, a giant colouring competition and so much more.

 

Free Pancake Breakfast, part of the festival

 

Not all our doings were frugal, like this trip to a restaurant

 

The festival was packed with performances like this one, The Biggest Little Circus

D and Chip enjoy the FREE ice slide

Sausage slides solo

Chip enjoyed playing in the giant Snow Globe 

 

This face says it all

D and I at the light show

I don’t know where she gets these poses from…

Colours are for everyone

While there, we also stopped at a place called Mind Junction, which is sort of a sciency place.  It was very over-priced but had lots of cool stuff.

 

There were several optical illusion exhibits

 

The highchair at our holiday home was put to good use

 

More posing, this time at Virginia Lake

Lest you think that life is all joy, joy, joy, here’s the reality of life with kids.  Before the holidays I was stuck at home with sick kids for two weeks!  Chip got sick first and wasn’t too bad, but then Sausage caught it, and was off kindy for a fortnight.  Here she is, too tired to colour in and do a sticker book (‘my arms are too tired Mummy, you do it’).  Sausage is massively into Tintin at the moment, and I was extremely grateful when a friend lent us his box set of the TV series.  She watched it all, as she had no energy for anything else!

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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 11, a frugal St Patrick’s Day celebration

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

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

Green chrys

I got a huge bunch of green chrysanthemums for $3

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

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

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

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

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

     

I’m looking forward to next year already.

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Tawhero Tots Snapshot

cheeky tots in tawhero

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

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

artist tos in tawhero

Sausage, 4 years old

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

Age: 4

Occupation: Pre-schooler

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

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

Favourite toys: Her toy lamb, dress up clothes

Favourite TV shows: The Octonauts, Thunderbirds are Go!

 

boy tos in tawhero

Chip, aged 2 and a half

Name: Chip (again, not really)

Age: 2 1/2

Occupation: Toddler

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

baking tots in tawheroawww tots in tawhero