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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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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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Toddler Advent (so far)

I’ve been rather quiet on here as I have been unwell (every now and then my thyroid likes to throw a wobbly), and I’ve also been spending my evenings making Christmas presents.  I’ve enjoyed doing some crafting, but the photo books for my children are doing my head in – I swear the site I am using got a sadist to design its photo upload system…

Anyway, Advent and all things Christmassy are in full swing in our Tawhero household.  Sausage is absolutely loving it, and Chip is irresistibly attracted to the shiny bauble on our Christmas tree.  I’m grateful that my efforts to explain what Christmas is really about to my almost-three-year old have paid off.  This year she knows who everyone in the Nativity story is and can sing most carols off my heart (although she may have got some of ‘The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy’ a tad wrong…I caught her singing “Oh YES! Beavers.  Oh YES! Beavers..”  She means ‘believers’.  I laughed waaaaaay too hard at that).

Sausage chose a gift for a less fortunate child (who is bound to love the Frozen doll Sausage picked out), which she happily handed over to a local charity.  It must have stuck in her mind, because the other day she said to me ‘Mummy, let’s give my small clothes to a baby that needs them.  Some children don’t get any’.  Heart-melting.

We’ve been making crafts related to Bible readings about Jesus.  Simple but great fun.

 

Getting the hang of advent calendars took a little while, especially as she shares one with her brother.  I was gobsmacked to see these in one of our local Warehouse stores (sort of like Target for my overseas readers):

DSCN8423.JPGYou almost never see any Nativity-related things in the shops here – it’s nothing but snow, reindeer and Santa.

And I was even more surprised to discover the shop sold these:

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This cardboard cut-out Nativity set was absolutely perfect for Sausage to put together, and she was most particular about who was grouped with who.

My tots are inundated with advent calendars this year as my mother discovered my Aunt was going to get rid of a lovely felt one, so she rescued it and put some fun gifts in it for the children.  Sausage has grasped the concept that one day is ‘her day’, and the next day her brother gets to take the gift.  They get so excited about this calendar.

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Sausage taking out one of the gifts

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Chip enjoying one of his gifts (a whistle)

 

St Nicholas day was a big hit.  We read books about him in the weeks leading up to it, and then on the day the children got chocolate coins in their shoes in memory of this remarkable man.  Of course, chocolate for breakfast is pretty much their best day ever!DSCN8464

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A traditional Dutch Taai Taai (aniseed bread) in the shape of St Nicholas

We’ve been lighting candles on our Advent wreath during dinner, and that has been HUGELY fun for the children.  Sausage loves to blow them out, and waits rather impatiently for us all to finish eating.  ‘Are you finished yet?’, she will cry as you take your first bite of food…

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It doesn’t get much more exciting that this when you are 16 months old

We have a plethora of Christmas books telling the story of Jesus’ birth.  Each one is delightful in its own way, but my favourite is our copy of  The Christmas Book by Dick Bruna (Dutch author of the Miffy books) as it has a wonderful inscription from their Oma and Opa to my husband and his little brother.  A real family taonga (treasure).

There is more fun to come in the next two weeks – a couple of parties, making presents and going caroling around the streets with our church.