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Day trips from Whanganui: King Edward Park, Hawera

When a suitable day arises, most folks in my town, Whanganui, like to head over Palmerston North to shop (hello, K Mart) and make use of the great facilities that bigger cities have.  Me, I like to head in the opposite direction.

duckpond KEP 2 totsintawhero

There’s loads to do in South Taranaki; you’ll only need a few minutes on Google to find something that will float your boat.  I am easily pleased.  I love parks, the beach, museums, libraries and art galleries, and a good cafe or two.  My kids are following in my footsteps as going to a museum is their idea of a good time, but long road trips are not.  However, they can be placated by the promise of a great playground along the way, and that’s what brought us to King Edward Park in Hawera, this time around.

We passed through Hawera on our way to New Plymouth, but Hawera itself is definitely worthy of a day trip.  Along with King Edward Park, you could check out the incredible Tawhiti Museum (although it has the most frustrating opening times, check their website before you go) or stick with nature at Goodson Dell and Naumai Park. 

But I digress, back to the park!

King Edward Park has something for everyone.  Cool play equipment, a duck pond, manicured lawns and flower gardens, free BBQs, plenty of picnic tables, and tennis courts.  We spent a good couple of hours here and I’ll definitely go back with my family in summer.

pirate ship KEP totsintawhero

playground King Edward Park totsintawherotoddler play totsintwahero

Chinese garden KEP totsintawhero

Entrance to the beautiful Chinese garden

KEP flora 5 totsintawheroKEP totsintawheroKEP flora 3 totsintawheroKEP flora 4 totsintawheroKEP flora 1 totsintawhero

Thanks Hawera!

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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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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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Free time…

My regular readers will have noticed my lack of posts of late.  There’s a couple of reasons for this.

I’ve been asked to take another class at my work (I am a parenting educator, and am now facilitating a woman’s group) so that’s been keeping me busy.  I absolutely love my job – it really is my dream job.  I get to work with people, see them have light-bulb moments, and hopefully leave them feeling more empowered than when I met them.  I work two mornings a week, and that’s been a great balance at this time of my life.

And then there’s my back.

My back has never been that crash hot as I have scoliosis (a slight curvature of the spine), but I really damaged it during labour with Chip.  I thought I was recovering from last month’s vacuuming-o-doom incident, when I re-hurt it and spent several nights not getting much sleep from the pain.

I eventually admitted defeat and took myself to the doctor to get some painkillers, because sleep and I are BFF’s and if I don’t get enough I’m like this:

My doctor’s visit left me in tears and really angry (I cry when angry, it’s sooooo annoying).  I’d never seen met this one before, and she was very nice – but she said really unhelpful things like ‘Don’t lift anything and go easy on the housework.’  I snorted and muttered something about the fact that I have two toddlers and lifting them, like a million times a day, was part of my job description.  She nodded sagely and said ‘Yes, it’s hard.’

No enquiries as to what help might be available to me, or any practical suggestions as to how one manages to not lift a 20-month old in and out of his car seat/pick him up when he falls over for the 12th time that day/respond to his request for cuddles/put him in his cot/take him out of his cot; let alone any suggestions about how to keep my house clean while not actually cleaning it myself.  I already try to do all these things carefully – getting down to their level, bending my knees etc, along with back-strengthening exercises but it clearly isn’t enough.

She also said I needed to ‘get serious about losing weight’ without actually making any enquiries as to my diet and exercise habits, weight-loss history, or anything.  I was too upset to do anything other than nod, but I wanted to scream ‘as if I haven’t been trying to lose weight for EVERY FUCKING DAY OF MY LIFE SINCE I WAS 16, YOU BITCH’.  You know, because if you are fat, all you do is sit on the couch and eat pies.  I guess she’s never read my blog.  🙂

For the record, being fat is not the cause of my back pain.  I know being overweight doesn’t help, but the cause was having a damn baby.

Anyway, enough ranting.

D and I have taken the sensible-but-expensive option to help heal my back – get a nanny.  Albeit, a temporary one.

We are fortunate enough to know a nanny who is between jobs, so she will be caring for Chip for the next few weeks while I focus on getting my back in tip-top shape.  We are also fortunate that we can afford to do it!  I’d rather not have to, but I really can’t see any other way of being able to give my back the rest and recovery it needs.  Not the best for our bank balance, but forking out for doctor’s visits, physio and painkillers isn’t cheap either.  I’d rather fix the problem than box on.

It’s never worked having someone watch my kids while I am present, as they naturally run to me when they need something.  So I will be making myself scarce while she’s here.  After finalising things with the nanny, I suddenly thought ‘what on earth am I going to do with myself?!’  I will have a month with lots and lots of free time.

I couldn’t think of how to possibly fill it.

But of course once the shock of actually getting some to myself set in, I realised there are a zillion and one things I could do.  Like swim and do yoga to help my back.  Write.  Go for walks.  Visit a friend.  Make a craft.  Obviously parkour is out of the question ( 🙂 ) but I have no doubt I will find the time whizzes by.